The Way of the Squib
The Way of the Squib
a Harry Potter fan-fic
a sequel to "Squib Wizard"
Chapter 2 of 4: A Fate Worse Than Kittens
Everything in this story really belongs to J.K. Rowling
Mounted on their brooms, Harry Potter and Colin Creevey went soaring up towards the distant entrance hall ceiling. I stood in the entrance hall far below the boys, unable to believe what I had just done. I’d really given Potter and Creevey my permission to fly their brooms through the Castle corridors! At night! ‘Against the Rules’ did not even begin to convey the enormity of my crime!
Peeves was hovering in the air over my head. From the look of him, he was also having trouble believing what I’d done. The poltergeist’s eyes were as wide as a house-elf’s.
Peeves and I watched the boys as they paused at top of the stairs leading to the fifth floor. They hovered for a moment. Then, with Potter leading, they flew through the door and out of our sight.
Peeves found his voice. "Shall I start handing out detentions, then?" the poltergeist asked me, indignantly. "Shall I start punishing students? Filling out forms? Get myself an office?"
"What are you going on about, Peeves?" I muttered.
"If you’re going to start making mischief, then what am I supposed to do?!" Peeves fumed.
"I’m not making mischief! I’m trying to prevent it!" I snarled.
The sound of yowling cats increased in volume. Potter and Creevey had apparently herded the band of felines back towards the main staircase. With a cacophony of bouncing echoes, the cats surged down the stairs. Whooping and yelling and generally making as much noise as the cats, Potter and Creevey both went into heart-stoppingly steep dives.
"If you’re preventing mischief, what’s all this?" Peeves yelled over the noise.
"Shut UP!" I growled, trying to catch sight of Mrs. Norris among the other cats.There she was, visible in the midst of her troop of admirers! I estimated their number at around twenty cats, at least!
"Good shot, Colin!" Potter shouted, as Creevey dropped a large, white tom.
"That makes six for me, Harry!" Creevey exulted. "I’ve nearly caught up to you!"
"Not quite," Potter called back, "I’ve got eleven now!"
"Er... I guess that’s twelve for you, then," Creevey said, as Potter quickly Stunned a rusty-red tom.
"Stop making so much noise!" I bellowed up at them, through cupped hands. "Between you and the cats, you’ll wake up the whole bloody Castle!" My shout echoed off the vast, high ceiling. I cringed, putting my hands over my mouth.
"Sorry!" they shouted down to me in unison. Potter’s voice was husky and deepening, while Creevey’s was still very young and shrill. Even more echoes filled the entrance hall.
The cats, with Mrs. Norris leading, swept through the door leading to the third floor. Potter and Creevey raced after them. The two toms that they’d just Stunned were left behind, resting quietly on the stairs.
Peeves started to cackle wickedly, his mood brightening. "Oh, what fun this is!" he gloated. "Maybe I should tell the Headmaster! It would be for your own good, really. Then again maybe I shan’t. His Headship might have Snape beat you bloody this time and you’re bloody enough already."
"Poor Filch," he added with gleeful false sympathy. "So many bites and scratches! What’s the matter? Didn’t Mrs. Norris and her friends like having their fun interrupted?"
Overcome with laughter, the poltergeist flew up towards the third floor, following the boys and the cats.
The boys, the cats and the Poltergeist were all moving very fast. But I was able to keep close behind them, thanks to my Doors. Everywhere I looked I seemed to see another Stunned tomcat.
Good! Each one down meant another ruffian who would not be able to pursue my sweet girl! Unfortunately, Hogwarts Castle seemed to have an endless supply of male cats! For every cat Stunned another one seemed to join the chase.
Grimly, I thought about what Creevey had told me about the Muggles called `vets.’ Did these Muggles also practice their barbarism on the males of the species? Most likely they did. It was easy to guess what a vet must cut off to "fix" a male. As much as the thought made me wince, I almost wished that Creevey could fetch a vet for me and set the Muggle loose on the Castle’s toms.
I was in the library corridor. The mob of cats must have changed direction because they were running towards me now. Ah, I’d been hoping for such a chance! When Mrs. Norris came into view I sprang towards her. Making a lucky catch, I grabbed her away from the circle of her admirers!
My sweet cat promptly became a bundle of claws and teeth in my arms. Yelling in pain, I was forced to let her go.
Then I had to throw myself flat on the floor as Potter and Creevey came speeding down the corridor, straight at me. The boys were flying extremely low, less than three feet above the floor.
I could hear Peeves’ obnoxious cackles of delight.
"It helps a bit if you try to think of them as Bludgers with claws and teeth!" Potter was yelling.
"This gives me a whole new respect for Fred and George!" Creevey yelled back.
"Don’t play Quidditch with them... STUN them!" I snarled, just as a terrible wave of cold swept over me from behind.
"What... is... the MEANING of this?" demanded a rather dry, dusty voice. "Explain yourselves, all of you!"
Potter and Creevey both performed flawless hairpin turns and came back down the corridor to hover in front of the furious Professor. Peeves seemed to have disappeared.
"Erm, hello, Professor Binns," Potter said, breathlessly. "We’re trying to help Mr. Filch rescue his cat!"
"On your brooms?" Binns demanded, getting even paler and more transparent than usual. I couldn’t tell if it was from shock or anger.
"But Mr. Filch said we could!" Creevey piped up.
"Is this true?" Hogwarts’ only ghost-Professor asked me, sternly.
"Yes, Professor," I said, picking myself up off the floor. I turned around to face him, flushing with embarrassment.
Binns stared at me as if he’d never seen anyone quite so appalling on either side of the grave. "I shall speak to the Headmaster about you, young Filch!" the ghost said, coldly. "And I shall speak to Mr. Pringle as well!"
He turned and glided off down the corridor, in a huff.
"Who’s Mr. Pringle?" Creevey asked.
"He was the caretaker before Mr. Filch," Potter said. "Ron’s Mum and Dad were at school then. It was ages ago."
"He’s dead now," I said.
"Oh!" Creevey was wide-eyed. "Can Professor Binns talk to another dead person, even if they aren’t a ghost?"
Potter looked at me, questioningly.
"How should I know? It never occurred to me to wonder about a thing like that!" I said, with considerable irritation. Honestly, where did Creevey get these questions?
"Do you think he’s really going to fetch Dumbledore?" Potter asked me.
At least that was a sensible question.
"I don’t know. Don’t worry. I’m taking full responsibility for this," I said, glumly.
Potter straightened his glasses. He grinned at me as he ran a hand though his perennially messy black hair. "Well, the Headmaster isn’t here yet, and we haven’t rescued Mrs. Norris. Are you still with me, Colin?"
"Yeah, Harry!" Creevey said, with characteristic enthusiasm.
They took off down the corridor together like a pair of bolts shot from Hagrid’s crossbow.
"Remember! No playing about!" I yelled after them.
I asked red-and-gold to take me back to the entrance hall. I simply didn’t have it in me to chase the cats any longer. I would have to trust the boys to guard my sweet one’s honor. Someone had to finish scrubbing the floor, didn’t they?
The next time that I heard Hogwarts’ feline version of the Wild Hunt, it appeared that Potter and Creevey had pursued the cats up to the highest staircase. I could only distinguish a very few distinct cats’ voices among the yowls when they began to descend again.
When the chase grew close enough for me to see, I noted that Mrs. Norris was now accompanied by only two stalwart swains. One tom was large and black. The other tom was even larger with fluffy ginger fur and an oddly squashed-looking face.
Potter and Creevey were doing those heart-stopping steep dives once more, matching the cats’ breakneck speed. Potter fired a spell and Stunned the black tom.
"Only one more left!" I shouted. "What are you waiting for? Get him!"
Still diving, the boys exchanged a glance.
"Hermione may never forgive us," I heard Potter say, as he aimed.
It was then, just when I thought it was all over, that disaster struck. Peeves had not been heard from for quite a while. He must have been shadowing the boys, keeping invisible and enjoying the fun. But if Potter and Creevey were to eliminate the very last tom, the fun would be over! Peeves couldn’t allow that to happen.
He appeared suddenly, directly in the path of the boys’ flight. His arms were outstretched and he looked as if he intended to stay right where he was.
Potter swerved to avoid the poltergeist. Creevey, less experienced and probably tired to boot, crashed right into Peeves. The poltergeist had made himself very solid.
Creevey was knocked from his Shooting Star. The mousy-haired boy plummeted downward headfirst towards the stone floor forty feet below.
"Colin!!!" Potter shouted.
I was too terrified to make a sound. I was sure that the child would be killed! Sick with horror, I even forgot about Mrs. Norris. When she and the ginger tom reached the floor of the entrance hall and raced past me on their way over to the dungeon stairs, I didn’t even try to stop them.
The pair of feline lovers went dashing down into the dungeons, out of sight.
Moaning, I covered my eyes. Poor little Creevey was doomed! It was all my fault! I couldn’t bear to watch!
And so I missed seeing one of Harry Potter’s greatest catches. I didn’t open my eyes until I heard Creevey say breathlessly, "Brilliant save, Harry! Thanks!"
Potter had caught his fellow Gryffindor just six feet away from a very messy death. He was holding on to Creevey’s ankles with both hands, hanging upside down from his Firebolt while clinging to the broom with his knees.
A moment later, the boys were back down on the clean floor. I was so relieved that they were both safe that I could have embraced them. Fortunately for all three of us I was still too badly shaken by Creevey’s near escape to move.
"Wow!" Creevey kept saying as he Summoned his Shooting Star down into his hand. "That was so cool! I bet that no one in the history of Hogwarts has ever had a detention this cool! Right Harry? Right?"
Potter was as white as a sheet. I’d seen Alastor Moody like this, recently. So pale that his many scars were invisible. Potter was that pale. The famous lightning scar on his forehead seemed to have vanished.
As Colin continued to chatter and thank him, Potter looked at me. The expression in his green eyes made him seem almost ancient. No boy his age should ever look like that. It was especially shocking to see that look on a face that so resembled James Potter’s. James had never lost that devil-may-care recklessness in all time I’d known him. Poor boy, he’d always seemed to have faith that things would turn out all right in the end.
Not Harry. He knew how close to disaster we’d come. I could see the specter of poor, lost Cedric Diggory in his green eyes as he clapped Colin’s shoulder.
"All right, Colin?" Harry asked gruffly, the color slowly returning to his face. "You did some excellent flying yourself."
"But Mrs. Norris still got away from us!" Colin cried. "She’s with Crookshanks! I saw them running down to the dungeons! Do you want us to go after them, Mr. Filch?"
Faintly, echoing up the stairs from the dungeons, we could hear the two cats’ voices raised in triumphant nuptial bliss.
"No," I said, weakly. "Let them go, Colin."
His eyes widened. "Does that mean...? Oh! Hermione’s going to be a gran!! Isn’t that wonderful, Harry? Do you think she’ll be glad?"
"Yes, Colin. It’s wonderful. I’m sure Hermione will be very glad." Potter managed a smile.
"Your detention is over, boys. Thank you for all you did," I said. My voice was very faint.
A sudden shriek overhead made all three of us look up. Peeves had been hoping to sneak away unnoticed. He hadn’t been successful. The poltergeist was struggling helplessly in the grasp of the one being in the Castle that he truly feared.
A gaunt, staring ghost, covered in silvery blood stains, had Peeves firmly by the collar.
"Thank you, Baron," said a stern, clear voice. "You can leave the others to me."
Professor McGonagall was coming down the marble staircase, carefully stepping around the Stunned tomcats in her path. Her mouth was the thinnest of lines. The fierce look in her grey eyes made Potter, Creevey and me cringe.
"Professor Binns was on his way to the Headmaster, with a most interesting tale to tell," Minerva said. "As it happens, he met the Baron and me instead."
I did not know what the Baron was doing to Peeves, but it must have hurt. The poltergeist’s howls were audible from where I sat, in my broom cupboard on an upturned cardboard box.
Unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy a good gloat at Peeves’ expense at the moment. I was too busy yelling in pain myself.
"What is that stuff?" I gasped, when I could talk. "It STINGS!"
"Muggles refer to it as `iodine.’" Minerva told me, briskly. "And it was your decision not to go up to the hospital wing and see Poppy like a sensible man would have done, so you have no one to blame for this except yourself."
Finished with the scratches on my arms, she dabbed a clean cloth, dipped in iodine, on my gouged nose. I yelled even louder than Peeves. I was sure that the poltergeist could hear me, just as well as I could hear him.
"These wounds must be cleaned out. Some of these scratches are rather deep," Minerva said. She was holding my chin firmly as I tried to flinch away. "Very prone to infections, cat-scratches are. Don’t squirm about so, Argus!" Not looking terribly sorry for me, she began working at a long scratch under my right eye.
I cried out in misery once more. At least Peeves will consider us `even’ now. And he won’t want tonight’s events referred to, ever again, any more than I will... I thought
Potter and Creevey, both apparently familiar with the effects of `iodine,’ were watching me with sympathy. The boys were handing Minerva clean cloths whenever she asked. Minerva had already given all three of us a very stern Talking To. Even though I had admitted to her that the whole fiasco was my fault, she’d included the boys in her scolding.
"They should have known better than to listen to a man who had clearly taken leave of his senses!" she said, grimly.
Potter was still pale. "Yes, Professor," he said, quietly.
Minerva’s face softened a bit when she saw the look on his face. "Well, there was no lasting harm done. As long as you and Colin both understand that tonight’s antics are never to be repeated again."
"Yes, Professor," Potter said.
Creevey nodded vigorously. "We’ll never do it again!" he said. Even he was looking a bit sober.
"I believe you. And I will not assign you a further detention. I shudder to think what Mr. Filch might have you do."
Ouch! That stung even worse than the iodine! I suppose I’d deserved it.
"I know we were lucky, Professor," I admitted, terribly ashamed. "But I wouldn’t say there was no lasting harm done."
Minerva looked at me in exasperation. "There are fates worse than kittens, Argus."
"I know," I whispered, looking at Colin, grateful that he was alive and well. "B-but..."
"Why are you so set against Mrs. Norris having kittens?" Harry wanted to know. "She’s not young but she’s not old either. She’ll take good care of them. It’s what cats are supposed to do. She must have had kittens before."
The boy deserved an honest answer.
"The last time she had kittens was years ago," I said. "It was before you came. During Percy Weasley’s first year. One of the kittens died. It was an accident."
The expressions of sympathy on the boys’ faces made my voice grow harsh. "That particular kitten was always too adventurous for its own good!" I said, angrily. I would never forget poor Mrs. Norris’s grief. She’d searched for her lost catling everywhere. Cried piteously when she’d found him.
"Well, these things happen," I continued gruffly. "Little animals are fragile. Life is unfair. At least I didn’t get completely ridiculous about it and weep like Hagrid would have done! Wouldn’t have brought the dead kitten back, would it?"
Minerva, Harry and Colin all looked at me, sternly.
It was Harry who spoke first, leaping to Hagrid’s defense. "Hagrid isn’t ridiculous!" Potter said, heatedly. "He might cry when something’s hurting him, but he gets over things! Hagrid wouldn’t be afraid to let Mrs. Norris have more kittens, if that’s what she needed to do!"
I glowered at the boy, feeling as if I’d been dosed with pepperup potion. Surely there was steam coming out of my ears. What impudence! The worst thing was.... he was absolutely right.
I looked away first, staring at the floor.
"What happened to the other kittens?" Colin asked.
"They went to good homes," Minerva answered him, smiling. "Heather Abbott, Hannah’s sister took the two little queens. Named them `Tansy’ and `Rue.’" Milton Bulstrode took one of the little toms. Named him ‘Agamemnon.’ Who took the other tom, Argus?"
"Cecily Brocklehurst. She named him ‘Merlin.’" I said, still miserable. "Mrs. Norris saw to the choosing herself. "
"Did the one who died have a name?" Colin asked me.
"No," I said, gruffly.
He was silent for a moment but perked up again almost immediately. "Do you think that Mrs. Norris will let me have one of this litter? I’d like a kitten! What do you think the kittens will look like? Will they be grey or ginger-colored? Maybe Mrs. Norris will let Dennis have a kitten too! That way my kitten and Dennis’s could stay together, like Hannah’s sister’s two cats! I’m sure that Mrs. Norris would let Ginny have a kitten. Ginny’s always wanted one. Mrs. Norris is very fond of Ginny. What do you think I should call my kitten, Harry?"
It was amazing. He’d said all that without even stopping to breathe.
Minerva had finished tending the last of my wounds. She stood up. "Off to bed with you, Harry. Off to bed, with you, Colin. It’s very late. Carry your brooms, mind you. There will be no more flying in the Castle!"
"Yes, Professor!" Colin chirped, still bouncing enthusiastically as he headed into the corridor. "Do you want to have a race, Harry? Don’t worry, Professor, I mean a running-race! Harry’s fast, but I can keep up. And I’m getting faster, aren’t I, Harry? Seekers need to build up their stamina...." Still prattling away, Creevey trotted into the hall.
Harry grinned at the smaller boy with both affection and exasperation. For a moment he looked older than his years again. Not careworn and ancient, simply old enough to understand that little creatures might be a bother but they were also very precious.
The look was gone in a moment, but seeing it took my breath away. Potter deserved my thanks for many things; for saving Creevey, for his hard work, for his insight, uncomfortable though it was. But, by the time I found my voice again, he was gone.
He and Creevey were racing each other up the stairs towards Gryffindor tower, brooms over their shoulders.
Minerva was smiling at me, her eyes bright. She’d seen Potter’s face too.
"I know," she murmured. "Sometimes the maturity in children can amaze me too. Almost as much as the immaturity in certain adults."
END OF CHAPTER TWO