The Owl and The Pussycat

(A sequel to The Werewolf, The Witch and The Wardrobe)


Minerva McGonagall stretched luxuriantly in the morning sunshine and – reluctantly – opened her eyes. Dawn was breaking over Hogwarts, it's fresh light rolling over the horizon and creeping insidiously into ever corner and corridor of the castle. It brought with it an end to the relative peace of night and a beginning of a new day - a day that would no doubt prominently feature Dolores Umbridge, whose overweight form made it impossible for her to be anything but prominent. And that was in addition to the usual headaches caused by impetuous, irascible students, badly behaved ghosts, mountains of administration and the ever charming Severus Snape. It was enough to make even the most dedicated Deputy Headmistress lose patience.

It's lucky I have a certain immensely enjoyable means of relieving stress.

But there wasn't time to think about that now. Minerva sighed heavily and slid out from beneath the arm that lay slung protectively across her hips. Her actions elicited a soft moan of protest from the other side of the bed and she smiled despite herself as she pulled on her tartan dressing gown.

You always did have trouble getting out of bed. It's nice to see that some things don't change.

In a brief moment of luxury she allowed her mind to drift back to the previous night. Barely a week had passed since Remus Lupin's first odyssey from Grimmauld Place back to Hogwarts. They'd spent a rather frantic evening trying to keep him out of sight of Umbridge which had culminated in the pair of them spending close to an hour locked in the staff room wardrobe. It hadn't been an entirely unpleasant experience.

As her lover regained his senses, she busied herself gathering up the discarded clothing that littered her bedroom floor: a faded cloak (his), green velvet robes (hers), patched trousers (his), skimpy black lace (hers, though he seemed to have derived the most pleasure from them)… if Umbridge had somehow evaded her tight security charm and burst in unannounced there would certainly have been no denying what it was they'd been up to.

And I wouldn't want to deny it anyway.

But there was no doubt that the Headmistress could and would forbid a known werewolf from entering the castle. Would she go so far as to have him arrested? Minerva didn't know. It was easiest for all if she remained unaware of his presence.

Behind her Remus Lupin cleared his throat and she turned to see him smiling at her in what he obviously hoped was a seductive manner.

"Come back to bed," he pleaded hopefully.

She paused for a moment, deeply tempted. Life at Hogwarts was fast becoming unbearably tense, especially since Albus' impromptu departure a few weeks before. To escape the oncoming day even just for a few minutes… but time was running short. Minerva's presence was expected at breakfast in less than an hour and before that she had to ensure Remus was safely away back to London and Grimmauld Place.

"No," she said firmly. Seeing his downcast expression she added in a softer tone: "we've talked about this, Remus. If Umbridge finds you here she'll know we're helping Albus and who's going to keep an eye on Harry if I get fired?"

She folded his clothes neatly onto a nearby chair then left him to muse on her words whilst she went into the bathroom to wash, smiling at the sight of the empty champagne flutes by the side of the bath that stood as testimony to their indulgence the previous night.

"Madam Rosmerta's finest ever-chilled brut," Remus had announced proudly as he'd handed her the bottle, "and fresh strawberries from Cynthia. Who, by the way, wants you to know that she's expecting to hear 'all the gossip' tomorrow, whatever that might mean."

She smiled at the memory as she carefully pinned her hair up. Cynthia, for all of the motherly front she put up, was a wicked tease. Her greenhouses hid a veritable treasure trove of highly tempting produce and the exotic jams, herbal teas and delicately scented flowers were all weapons for skilfully procuring information from her colleagues. Even Albus, who normally reserved his affections for the unflappable Poppy Pomfrey, was putty in Cynthia's hands when raspberry liqueur was involved.

All the gossip…

It'd be a while before Minerva heard the end of this one.

But it was definitely worth it.

"Minerva?"

In the mirror she saw Remus standing in the doorway with a stricken expression on his face.

"The invisibility cloak's gone! I've searched right through the bag and there's no sign of it."

"Gone?" Minerva frowned. "How can it be gone? Cloaks don't just vanish, even invisibility ones. It has to be there somewhere."

The cloak in question belonged to Alastor Moody. It was the better of the two he owned and he'd been extremely reluctant to part with it until he'd been convinced that Remus would treat it with the utmost care. Remus had used it yesterday to walk from the apparation point in Hogsmeade and to complete his errand for Dumbledore in the castle.

It was definitely here last night. And I'd have known if anyone had tried to come in whilst we were asleep.

Minerva discarded her hairbrush and went back to help Remus look for it.

Much to her immense dismay, though, a thorough search of the bedroom, the living room and the adjoining study took them almost twenty minutes but failed to turn up the cloak.

Where can it possibly have gone, Minerva wondered, and more importantly, how on earth is Remus going to get back to London now?