All Muggle AU - Crookshanks takes a liking to Hermione's new neighbors. Not that Hermione is complaining.
Hermione juggled her bags, trying to unlock her door left handed. She gave a small grunt of satisfaction when the handle turned and she kicked the door open, wanting nothing more than to spend her Friday evening with a glass of wine, G. M. Weasley's newest trashy romance novel, and a long hot epsom bath after this horrible day. Her tea had to be thrown out after mice had eaten through it, Malfoy was once again taking credit for all the hard work she was putting in, and Umbridge was, as usual, making her life as absolutely miserable as legally allowed. Ten legal memos had been assigned at 8:00 a.m. and were due before Hermione left in addition to the three briefs already due before 5:00 p.m. It was enough to drive a girl to drink.
Setting her bags down on the counter and pulling her coat off, Hermione dragged herself into the bedroom. She refused to spend another minute in her restrictive work clothes. It was 1999 and her employer still required that women wear skirts, hose, and heels every day, even on the so called 'casual Fridays.' All the men were allowed to come in polos, vests, and jeans but the women were given a stern talking to if even one hair was out of place. Every day she dreamed of being able to drop her heels onto Umbridge's cluttered desk and tell her where to shove her tacky ceramic kittens. Unfortunately with the high flat prices in London she was stuck until she could find an opening that paid just as well.
As she made her way into the darkened door, Hermione tripped on a cloth mouse and stumbled into the dark room, banging her shin on the edge of her bed before she was able to catch herself.
"Bloody cat!" She cursed, rubbing at her shin. If she didn't love the beast so much she would have taken away his toys in an attempt to teach him a lesson.
Two years ago, Harry and Neville had given her Crookshanks in an attempt to help mend her broken heart. Theodore Nott had been her forever and a picket fence candidate, the man she thought was about to ask her to move in with him. As it turned out, what he really wanted was someone taller, with blonde hair, and a better set of assets. So in their attempt to help Hermione get over one male they'd decided to gift her another, only this time one that wouldn't break her heart chasing after a newer model. Of course it was easy for Harry and Neville to think she'd get over him quick enough. They'd finally gotten together in secondary and neither had experienced a broken heart quite like this.
The cat was out of the bag, so to speak, when Neville had confided to her three weeks after she received the cat that Harry had been so frazzled from the latest murder case to come across his desk he'd completely forgotten her birthday. Panicking at the realization that he'd forgotten for the first time in twenty-three years, Harry had grabbed the kitten out of a garbage bin outside of the restaurant in a panic and ran to the restroom to scrub the poor thing clean before Hermione or Neville showed up.
Surprisingly, the kitten had been exactly what Hermione needed in her life right then. No longer could she work through the night, sleeping under her desk and living off of her co-worker's questionable take out. Now there was another creature that relied on her for food, entertainment, and bathroom duty, something Hermione quickly found was required of her as a pet owner. And the fickle yet unconditional love did wonders for her ego. The cat followed her around the apartment constantly demanding her attention and refusing to let her out of his sight. He even went so far as to sit on the edge of the tub while she showered despite his natural hatred of water.
And he was always waiting up for her, even when she returned much later than his regular feeding time of 8:30 p.m. Even when she was late he still followed her through the apartment, only he took great care to openly ignore her by sitting on the highest surface he could reach and staring just to her left.
He was an odd one. But he was her odd one.
Hermione grabbed the closest tee shirt and pajama pants she could find – a matching Spice Girls set meant for teenagers that was given to her as a gag gift at the company's Secret Santa exchange. Even thought it was covered in garish patterns and clashing colors it was still the most comfortable thing she owned. And to complete the look she slipped on a pair of sock covered in cats and the words "Crazy Cat Lady" written along the toes.
Now that she was properly attired for a nice, quiet evening at home Hermione padded into the kitchen to put away her groceries. As usual it consisted almost exclusively of tea, biscuits, and cat food. She'd long ago given up caring what the shop employees thought of her and embraced the title of 'Crazy Cat Lady' wholeheartedly. She'd even gone so far as to asking any employee near her the most ridiculous questions she could come up with regarding cat food and tea, once even going so far as to ask what wine would pair nicely with the salmon and carrot puree.
And speaking of cat food, where was Crookshanks? He'd never hidden from her like this before. His preferred method of showing his displeasure was to ignore her from the top of the ice box or slipping into the refrigerator to dig for cheese.
"Crooks, where are you?" she called out to him. "It's time for your dinner."
Hermione glanced around the corner of the kitchen only to be met with silence. Odd. Perhaps the can opener would draw him out. A buzzing noise filled the apartment as she began to open the tin and she glanced over her shoulder hoping to catch a glimpse of him. Still no Crookshanks.
He had to be somewhere in the apartment. He was far too lazy to leave it. When Hermione had the bright idea to walk her cat he flopped down on the pavement after five minutes and refused to budge and dragging him along the pavement made him more lethargic. It wasn't until she'd carried him back to the flat did he show any signs of movement. The minute she set him down on the couch he jumped down and began to play with one of the many toy mice that littered her floor.
Finding no sign of her cat in her bedroom, Hermione returned to the living room to check under the sofa. A yellow piece of paper caught halfway under her door caught her eye and she went to pick it up. In the corner a scrawl of numbers were written in red ink and Hermione unfolded it hoping to find something regarding the whereabouts of her cat. Tight, looping handwriting in red ink did not disappoint.
'Your cat's broken into the flat, still not sure how he managed it. Keeping him here until you've returned. – Apt. 24B.'
Hermione glanced at the number on the door once more before giving it three sharp knocks. With any luck her downstairs neighbor hadn't thrown her cat out when they found out about his temperament. At the best of times her cat avoided everyone who wasn't her; at the worst of times he seemed determined to make as many enemies as possible. Hermione shifted her weight as time seemed to stretch on in the hallway. Glancing down at her watch she realized it was just after one in the morning, well after most residents had gone to bed. She was just about to give up and try again in the morning when the door was thrown open by a shirtless red-head who towered over her by at least a foot, his hair ruffled by sleep and his face stretched in a yawn.
Hermione snapped her eyes back to his face once she realized she was ogling him only to find that he was taking the same opportunity. His eyes roamed lazily down her body and she blushed when she remembered what she was wearing. A slow grin crossed his face as his eyes drifted up and Hermione crossed her arms in front of her chest hoping to hide the pop band from view. As his grin turned into a full-fledged smirk Hermione wanted to crawl back to her own flat and refuse to leave ever again, cat be damned.
"Can I help you?" he asked as he leaned one arm against the doorframe. All intelligent though flew out of her head as she began compiling a list of all the things he could help her out with around her flat. Her eyes flicked back towards his chest and she began to rewrite the list so that it was largely composed of things that didn't require a shirt.
As he stared at her, Hermione realized that an answer was required. "Cat," she told him. She shook herself mentally and tried to focus. "My cat. I'm here to pick up my cat. I'm in 14B, just above."
"Ah, come to pick up the infamous Thomas O'Malley then," he said. He walked away from the door and Hermione's head tilted as she noticed the back was just as attractive as the front. He disappeared into a room on the right and Hermione took a tentative step into the apartment.
"Er, yes. I suppose." She glanced around at the mauve painted walls and found them covered with a number of picture frames, each containing more freckled redheads. The bits that weren't covered in frames were taken up by blueprints and what looked to be chemical formulas. Hermione followed him around the corner, glancing into the dining area only to find a table covered in what looked to be a torn apart engine. "I apologize for this. He's never gotten out of the apartment once. Even if there's a bird on the landing he refuses to get up on the window sill."
Her neighbor chuckled and leaned against the counter. "Well he got out somehow. Managed to eat half my curry before I noticed he was there, the sly bastard. We tried to chase him down but he managed to escape us every time. George tore apart his room trying to chase him down."
Hermione's polite smile fell a fraction of an inch as she listened. We. Of course he was part of a we. A man that gorgeous wouldn't ever be anything more than a we for more than a week. She dragged her eyes away from his arms to look around the lime green kitchen but could find no sign of her cat. When he realized what she was looking for her neighbor laughed again and leaned forward to open up his icebox.
There atop a head of cabbage sat Crookshanks in all his orange furry glory looking for all the world as if he'd just eaten a tub of cream. And from the looks of the ice box, he probably had.
Hermione paused for a moment, unsure of whether this was a joke. "Why is my cat in your crisper?"
Fred grinned at her and leaned back against the counter. "That's what we've been trying to figure out all night. One of us will take him out and ten minutes later he's back in there."
There was that we again. That bloody, messy, untouchable we. It was just her luck that the first attractive, intelligent man she'd been around in a long time would be a we. It seemed as if Parvati and Lavender were right again. All the good men were taken and the rest were …. Well they were something that was escaping her just now. In all likelihood it would come to her at some random moment after she'd lost all context for it. Now, however, Parvati's Friday night wine parties for all the other bitter-thirty-year old singles in London was beginning to look better and better.
"Well, he is rather fond of cheese," Hermione offered weakly.
"Ha! George found that out quick enough. Once we threw the last of the curry out Georgie-boy got it into his head to make cheese on toast instead. Your man there ate half a block before we finally gave up and threw it in the freezer." At her odd look, he quickly added, "The cheese, I mean. Not your cat."
"Yes, that would be an odd place for a cat," she told him dryly. He quirked a grin.
Hermione reached into the crisper to grab Crookshanks, intent on trying to salvage something of tonight. "Well, it is late. Thanks ever so much for keeping an eye on him. I'll just grab Crookshanks and we'll be out of you and your boyfriend's hair."
For some reason her neighbor found her comment wildly funny and began laughing so hard he had to support himself on the counter. He was still laughing as Hermione closed his front door behind her.
It wasn't until she'd gotten back to her own flat that the second half of Parvati and Lavender's words of wisdom came to her: All the other men who weren't taken were insane.