Many, many apologies for the inexcusably long wait. And on top of that, this chapter is pathetically short! I really wanted to work the kinks out of the next bit before I posted, but I decided it had been FAR to long with out an update. So, consider this an appetizer, and I'll post a meatier chapter ASAP.


Nahual, Crookshanks, Hedwig, and (unfortunately) Pigwidgeon were having a conference in the owlry. Hedwig politely offered her guests some fresh field mice. Pigwidgeon offered some very mangled crickets.

Crookshanks' tail fluffed as he grimly informed the quartet of what he'd overheard from his human.

Nahual peeped unhappily. Why hadn't her familiar let her know he was in trouble?

Preening pensively, Hedwig suggested that perhaps he hadn't wanted her to worry. Their boy was very noble that way.

And stupid, Crookshanks agreed laconically.

Stupidly noble. Or nobly stupid.

Heywhat'sthatit'sathing! Pigwidgeon zoomed away.

Nahual covered her head with her wings, making small, miserable noises.

Hedwig pointed out that Harry was relatively undamaged (by normal Harry standards, at least) so they should look to the future, not bemoan the past.

Crookshanks commented Mrs. Norris would need to be neutralized. She was following her unfortunate human's example and had proven most unreasonable to his polite suggestions on appropriate behavior.

Where'sthethingIcan'tfinditthereitis!

Hedwig noted that Caesar was quite fond of cats and she'd mention this to him. Crookshanks ignored the massive eagle owl as he turned his yellow gaze on the trio.

CaesarlikesHedwig! Caes—oof! Pigwidgeon twittered unhappily under Caesar's foot. Caesar shifted his weight and ignored the tiny owl.

Putting on a brave face, Nahual commented that she'd made a few friends among some of Hogwarts older—and weirder—denizens. Maybe they could help.

---

Dolores Umbridge pressed her newly-minted High Inquisitor seal into the pink wax that sealed her letter. She knew that Lucius Malfoy would be very pleased by her glowing report on his son. A stack of similar reports waited for delivery for all of the parents of her Squad. Really, they were such a helpful lot. Smart enough to know which way the wind was blowing.

Really, Hogwarts was not as wonderful as everyone made it out to be. It was worn, dirty, old and more than a little naughty. Moving staircases, opinionated portraits, nosy ghosts, troublemaking poltergeists, and all sorts of other unpleasant and inconvenient things infested the place. It was hardly better than the Forbidden Forest. Really, she was fortunate to have been spared seven years here. Miss Lamb's Academy for Young Ladies had been more than enough. After all, who was the High Inquisitor? Not a Hogwart's graduate, to be sure!

She sighed indulgently as kittenish growling caught her attention. Her kittens gave her such joy (better than any real cat!) but sometimes they got quite possessive of their own territories. Snowball in particular could be quite aggressive, and Marmalade was forever wandering into the white Persian's English garden. The growl became an ear-piercing yowl, and Dolores turn in annoyance. She might have to put Marmalade away for a few days if he didn't…Dolores shrieked and tore Snowball's plate from the wall. She frantically shook the plate, the prize of her collection, helpless to stop the unfolding tragedy. With a final leisurely twist of its coils, the snake crushed a last helpless mew from the fluffy white kitten. Its eyes bulged and bloody foam drooled from its mouth, matting the white fur. While Dolores screamed and hammered the plate against her desk, the snake swallowed her beloved kitten, head first.

---

Severus ran pell-mell for Dolores's office. Her hysterical wailing and screaming through the inter-office floo had him worried about a prank gone awry—one that could be potentially harmful. The last thing they needed was for Umbridge to meet an untimely end on school grounds. He slammed the door open and found Dolores weeping and pointing at the wall. Glancing at the pink wall, he noticed something off about the collection of plates. As he peered more closely, a cobra rose from inside a knitting basket filled with balls of yarn and spread its hood warningly. There was not a single nauseatingly-cute kitten to be seen. Adders, boa constrictors, cobras, and even runespoors coiled in each plate, each with a suspicious bulge in its midsection.

"I turned around and one was eating Snowball," Dolores said tearfully, clutching a plate to her. "Then they were everywhere! They crawled and slithered out of the trees, the grass, the brick…that one came out of the teapot!" she said, her voice rising shrilly as she gestured at one of the plates.

Snape gingerly tapped one plate with a fingernail. It seemed someone was waking some of the castle's more…unpleasant defenses.


Fic recs: I'd like everyone to recommend a HP fic on FF . net that they think readers of this fic would enjoy. Frankly, so many on my alert list (looks guilty) have been abandoned that I need some good suggestions.

BTW, was anyone else PISSED OFF by Book 7? Good house-elf dies. Bad house-elf lives, and is 'redeemed'. What's left of Sirius's reputation is trashed. Harry marries Ginny (ick) and names his kids after two border-line sociopaths. Goblin steals sword of Gryffindor, but it's okay b/c that's their 'culture'. Lucius and Narcissa and Draco live happily ever after. Doloroes STILL doesn't get hers. Harry forgives the Dursleys, or at least Dudley. deep cleansing breath glad I got that off my chest.

Anyway, review please. Even though I'm a lazy bad author. Pretty please?