DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
It was a one of those nights that might just make it into a newly revised edition of Hogwarts: A History, though the bribery needed to ensure the co-operation of the participants was such that no amount of galleons would ever be quite sufficient for them to divulge the meeting that took place in a secluded, out of the way corner of, The Slug and Swan. A newish Wizarding pub had set up shop on the very corner of Knockturn Alley and Diagon Alley, and it was one of those odd times when a long standing vacancy had suddenly been snapped up. The owners were unknown and it was nearly always empty, yet it seemed to flourish in such a way that whilst it looked neat and tidy, an odd odour; a cross between stale urine and rotten fruit, permeated around its perimeter. None of the other shopkeepers could ever quite understand that, The Slug and Swan held within its walls the tirades and rants of those not blessed by a smooth Animagus transformation. Oh the members were secretive, but if one was to dig for information in all the sneaky, ill spoken places, the selective nature of The Slug and Swan was all too easy to discover.
One night, not long after most of the locals had taken to the idea that like The Shrieking Shack at Hogsmeade, this pub was haunted. The chattering, raucous behaviour had to signal some sort of paranormal meeting house and the less said about it, the better. Had any of the residents of either Diagon or Knockturn Alley chosen to investigate the regular weekly occurrence of these noises, they would have surely dined out on the knowledge that tucked away in this neat, but rancid establishment, was a lone Witch and seven Wizards with secrets that they wanted no one to EVER know. All it took was for one brave soul to test the new Nika 2004 broom and inadvertently over correct his turning circle, thus allowing a perfect view of the proceedings, as well as the untimely transformation of several of the occupants into their more recognisable magical forms. Resting on the self-hovering charm applied to the new broom, Aethel (last name unknown), a poor unfortunate sod, whose parents wished to hark back to the days of the Founders, gained a recorded scoop unlike any other.
It was quite simply discovered that the truth of the pub meetings was far stranger than fiction...
"Fred, George, cut it out! If you want to pick fleas and ticks off each other, at least do it as monkeys. It's just too gross to watch brothers pick through each other's hair – and don't even think about scenting yourselves. I still can't get rid of the fact that this place smells like a centuries old urinal."
"Spoilsport," George muttered, only to be rewarded with a glare.
"Fair go, Hermione," Fred started. "We don't pick on you when you waddle."
"I do not waddle. I amble. There's a difference – a BIG difference."
"So when your arse rocks from side to side and your tail feathers bob up and down – it's an amble, not a waddle? Gotcha, Hermione. So if that's an amble, what's a waddle?" Fred knew he was pushing the envelope, but it was too much fun to wind Hermione up and watch her explode.
"Never mind, smart arse," Hermione countered.
"Ooo – the Dodo swears," Ron interrupted, but a quick look at Hermione's face and the red tinges heralding a major dummy spit stilled whatever else he was going to add.
"I'd be careful, Ron. I know a few zoos that'd be more than happy to have a male of breeding age to prop up dwindling numbers...and you needn't look so smug either. Orang-utans only seem to mate once. Once a year and then only once...then they slope off and do whatever it is that male Orang-utans do without any company. I'm guessing that it's probably fairly similar to what human males do when they're all alone..."
"Ouch, fair go, Hermione. That's cruel. All I was going to say was..."
"Never mind what you were going to say, Ron and can you get your hand out of 'there'. None of us for a moment believes that's where you hide your wand when you transform."
"I'm supposed to be good with using tools," Ron muttered quietly, more to himself than anyone else.
"I'll pretend I missed that, Ron. What were you going to add?"
"I wonder where Harry and Draco are? They should be here by now, not to mention Neville and Severus," Hermione asked more to herself.
Severus had promised to have a sloth-like swim around their large tub, but sometimes he got caught up in the slow, stalking movement and completely forgot the time.
"How is lover-boy, Hermione? Does he go slow and easy like a sloth or fast and furious like a Slytherin with a bone to pick? Do you have a special, 'secret' waddle that only he gets to see?"
"Never you mind, Fred Weasley. I might just place that advert I was thinking about in the Daily Prophet and see if any old Organ Grinders want two monkeys for the price of one."
Fred mate, we should never have told her that we had an odd penchant to carry a little tin cup and collect knuts for nuts", George said. "Now shut up before she makes good on the threat."
"Righto," said Fred, who in the meantime had lifted up his left leg and was vainly trying to run his teeth along the inside of his thigh. One look from Hermione was sufficient for him to give up on that idea and sullenly sit whilst trying to will the itch away. It wasn't working.
"Oh for Merlin's sake! Just scratch your bloody leg and get it over and done with," Hermione huffed.
'Hey, Granger! Your bloody cat nearly got me this time. Took off part of my tail he did, and it was only that he smacked himself in the head trying to get under the sideboard at Grimmauld Place that allowed me to escape. I've even got scratch marks on my arse!"
"Are you sure those marks aren't from Harry getting a little too enthusiastic", asked George with a sly grin?
"Watch your mouth, monkey," Draco countered as he moved further into the room and took a seat gingerly near Hermione. "At least I'm a field mouse, not a monkey with a penchant to piss into his hands and then rub it all over himself."
"It's my own unique scent...I can't help it if that's what my species does," George shot back across the room.
"If it's your own 'unique' scent, then why do you feel the need to share it with the rest of us on a regular basis?"
Ignoring any retort that either twin could think of, Draco gently reached into his pocket and pulled out the dark grey Axolotl. Strange how it had that greenish tinge to its skin, but then Harry always was one to advertise his near death experience as a baby. Obviously the tinge was algae, but sometimes you never could tell. Transforming suddenly, Harry reached into his right trouser pocket to retrieve his glasses. It was a cruel twist of fate that his Animagus form was even blinder than his human form.
"Gods I hate that sensation. It feels like I've been pulled backwards through a cat flap," Harry started.
"...And you would know that because," George asked?
"Crookshanks – that's how. I rescued Draco this afternoon and then because my Animagus form is dodgy, I just transformed suddenly. I started to right myself when Draco pulled me through that bloody cat flap. I know I can regenerate bits of myself, but what if I'd transformed minus half my head?"
"Well," Draco started. "The Death Eaters would give Riddle the flick and make Crookshanks their new master. It's an odd bit of irony that all of us were trying to outwit Voldemort as potential new spies and ran foul of the idea that the animal picks the Wizard. I suppose the one thing I should be grateful for is that I'm not a ferret."
"Unless of course a field mouse being eaten by a Hedgehog named Neville holds some particular fascination for you," Ron started, but one look from Harry was enough to stop any further exploration of Draco's 'other' near miss.
"Ouch! Longbottom, pull your quills in now...or else," came the booming voice of a pissed off Potions Master. "Why you can't simply skulk in here like the rest of us, I'll never know?"
"Because my Gran would never let me live it down. What sort of Wizard finds himself as a hedgehog, particularly when I was aiming for something useful like an owl or a badger?"
"I'd hazard a guess that it'd be the same sort of company here tonight. Right all?" Harry said with a tinge of disgust that he was a near-sighted amphibian, instead of something majestic and useful. He'd be fine if Voldemort decided to wage the Final Battle near the lake at Hogwarts, providing it was warmed to a temperature between fourteen and twenty-five degrees Celsius. If not, just like everyone else in the room, he was pretty well fucked – strategy wise that was. He was pretty well fucked the other way too...but that was a side issue he really didn't want to share.
"I can just see the commotion if I transformed in front of everyone, Neville. Half the fighters would be trying to kill me for potions ingredients and the other half would be trying to capture me and sell me to the highest bidder, who'd then kill me, dissect me and discuss me. One more dead Dodo coming right up," Hermione finished sarcastically.
"At least my dear, you'd be at the final battle. It would have been over for three or more years by the time I managed to show up," Severus countered.
"Oi, Severus. You missed the bit about them smelling you coming three years before you showed up," Fred countered.
"I'd watch it, Weasley. If they'd smell me, they'd smell you. I can't help it that my form normally lives upside down and grows fungus on its back. At least I can claim to not be able to shoot straight as a by-product of my transformation. You two deliberately piss on yourselves."
"Yeah, well at least we can move faster that a tree ring," George added. "After all, if the attack takes place near the Forbidden Forest, you'll be a slow moving snack for just about everything."
"Settle all. So as this is our last meeting for a while, when do you propose that we meet again?" Hermione queried.
Tempers were starting to get ugly, but they all needed to practice individually, or they'd be no use to any strategic discussions regarding plans for the defence of everything; themselves included. It was an odd quirk of magic that had seen each of them skiting about their ability to transform, and it was that same quirk that turned around and bit each of them squarely quite near their individual egos.
"Sure, whatever, Hermione. Just keep your bloody cat tethered, or you can explain to everyone; Dumbledore and McGonagall included, just how Harry and I ended up as a bit of live prey for Crookshanks."
"Hey, what's that at the window," Ron asked?
The sounds of muffled cursing from inside and outside ended the tale for this reporter and it has been confirmed that The Slug and Swan went on the market the next day. All that is needed now is confirmation that the participants were who I think they were.
(Temporarily seconded to the Extinct Animagus Transformation/Potions Research Unit at the Ministry of Magic.)
Please read and review, even if it's to confirm in my own mind just how warped I am. ;)
AUTHOR NOTE: It's rather amazing really. I opened the hutch to release the, At Any Moment!Bunny, when out popped, 'some things are better left alone!Bunny'. Written quickly and with a minimum of sleep as an original idea for the possible Animagus forms of some of the HP characters.
Many thanks to LeoGryffin, Stellar Snape, Shiv 5468, Lillith Janvier, La Enamorada, Scattered Logic and Real Dedanaan for their comments. I'm glad you all enjoyed it. Now mostly corrected and a few tidbits added. :D
Unbetaed, but awaiting Dame Niamh's critical eye.