Cat, Rat, and Dog
A/N: Last chapter, Sirius's poor brain hurt from all the questions and Wormtail was decidedly unhelpful.
But first, I have to find the bloody Map.
I turned, a cloud of doom hovering over my head as I walked the passageways to get back to the Gryffindor common room. I feel pity on anyone who dares try to approach me. Still, who kidnapped Lily Evans? And why the newt wasn't it Snivellus? He should still be listed as a prime suspect, if I had anything to say about it. I wish we had some sort of lead. How could we get a lead? And if Mrs. Norris is in my way again, I'm kicking her, no matter that she's Filch's cat and he's drawn up some sort of stupid rule about not manhandling his pets. It might be my only way to vent my frustrations. And it might possibly get me a detention for May fifteenth.
This is not a good day. I can't believe we lost ruddy Evans. My poor brain is working overtime now. How could a cat disappear this thoroughly?
CHAPTER THIRTY TWO: Lily
I groaned as I stirred for the first time. The blackness was gradually receding. Where was I? What had happened? Oh, rats. I'm a cat. Right. I squinted my eyes as I looked in front of me.
Why am I in a cage?
Is this—Who's office is this? I've never been here before. Er, I think. It's tiny. Hang on, is this Filch's office?
I knew he was up to no good when he was trying to get me to come with him. That's the whole reason I put up the fight in the first place. But to knock me out, and take me away and lock me up in a cage? That's a bit extreme, don't you think?
I stretched, grimacing as the pain shot from the bump on the back of my head. My last memory was coming back in full force.
I was sitting, lashing my tail in impatience, waiting for Sirius and James to catch up to me so I could run ahead a step further. It was my newest avoidance tactic, and it seemed to be working rather well. At least, it had let me escape James's arms and the inane conversation. One factor I particularly liked was that the two Marauders didn't seem so concerned about where exactly I was at every single point in time; they trusted me to wait for them to catch up before disappearing again. But it did keep me waiting impatiently for long stretches of time, thus giving me plenty of time to think, which was one pastime I did not want to pursue.
So, it had some definite pros and cons.
Suddenly I was grabbed from behind and I let out a low hiss, turning my head to see who had grabbed me.
"C'mere, sweet. I need you in my office."
What the newt? Filch randomly picks up cats and tells them to come to his office? Is this his way of setting up a play date for Mrs. Norris? Oh, please, tell me this is a bad dream. I don't want to know what Filch does to cats he brings to his office.
Let me down! Now! I shouted at him from inside my head.
I scratched at his arms, trying to get them to release me. It had worked with both Sirius and James, but apparently Filch's self-preservation is not as high a level as theirs. He tightened his grip, squeezing me uncomfortably around my middle. Is he trying to break one of my ribs?
"Bloody spoiled kitten," he muttered.
This was calling for drastic measures. I had no clue what he had in mind when he first made this move, but I was not sticking around to find out.
I think I just discovered a new least favorite option of how to spend my Easter holidays. The Marauders are now my second least favorite and much more preferable than this possibility.
I started flailing around, catching my claws on his robes, face, and neck. The robes, especially around the shoulder area, I shredded pretty well, and my scratches on his face and neck were starting to bleed, throwing drops of blood onto the floor of the corridor when he shook his head to get his filthy hair out of his eyes. Where I scratched his arms, it was starting to look a little raw, but I hadn't maimed him enough to put me down yet, apparently.
He growled at me and grabbed the scruff of my neck with one hand, attempting to keep me at arm's length. I, however, was in battle mode, and trying my best to hurt him just enough that he would let me drop, and I could run back to James. And Sirius. They could hex Filch in revenge for me.
I only screamed aloud once, when I noticed that Filch had used his free hand to grab a mop handle and was raising it above his head. Then, I could remember no more, only blackness.
Now, I thought, taking the time to observe my surroundings fully and thoroughly, how to either get out, or get word to the Marauders and have them bust me out of here…
Filch had left. His office was a verifiable mess, but I assumed that was not unusual for the caretaker. Merlin knows he has enough difficulty cleaning the castle, let alone his own office. Bits of parchment sticking out of several drawers, the floor littered with detention notes and assorted prank items, it was not tidy by any definition. I supposed that the prank items were ones that he had recently confiscated and was now investigating to see exactly how they worked. I recognized Peter's fanged Frisbee, and had to snort remembering his feeble protests when Filch had commandeered the item in the Charms corridor. Had that only been two weeks ago?
How much had changed since I'd been turned into a cat. I shook my head, amazed, and winced, again. Note to self: I really shouldn't shake my head.
Laying back down, I let my gaze drift over the office again before resting on the only other living thing in there.
It was odd to note that her gaze was just as attached to me as mine was now to her.
She stared haughtily at me though the bars of my cage, her gray fur glistening in the dim light shining through the closed and barred window. Minutes passed in our little staring contest. Then she opened her mouth, her eyes never wavering.
"I shouldn't let you out."
The first words she had said the whole time I'd been there, thankfully translated from the initial mews and body language by my kitty brain. I shrugged, discouraged and disheartened. Did it matter? We were still in Filch's office. And, anyway, I never asked her to let me out.
"I shouldn't let you out."
Feeling a spark of curiosity at the repetition, I lifted up my head and meowed, "Why?"
She shook her head. "I shouldn't let you out."
"Are you feeling tempted to, or something?" I asked, quickly growing vexed as she wouldn't say anything else.
"I shouldn't let you out." She tilted her head. "What is that sound? 'Temped'?"
Finally! "Well," I paused. Why wouldn't her vocabulary be as advanced as the dog or the rat? Did cats have smaller vocabularies? I quickly scrambled for an explanation. "It's when you desire something you know you shouldn't."
"Oh, then, yes. I shouldn't let you out."
"But you want to?" I asked curiously.
She nodded. "I shouldn't let you out. The man put you in there. Nothing the man does is wrong. I shouldn't let you out."
This conversation was annoyingly cyclical. "Why did Filch put me in here?"
"Who?" she stared blankly.
"The—the man," I replied, trying to simplify my language to communicate with her. "Why did the man put me in here?"
"Rule breakers must be punished."
"But I didn't break any rules," I objected immediately. Honestly, fighting in proven self defense didn't qualify as breaking any rules. I should know. What with being Muggleborn, plus that little fact has kept Sev out of at least seven possible detentions that I know of. There may be more that I don't know of.
"Rule breakers must be punished."
Great. Just lovely. I got her stuck on a different, though equally aggravating, protestation.
"What did I do wrong?" I asked, hoping to lure her into a semi-normal conversation.
She shook her head. "Nothing."
What the newt? She knew I was innocent, that I broke no rules, and she's still supporting Filch. What was wrong with her? I eyed her warily. "Then who was the rule breaker?"
"Rule breakers must be punished."
"Who?" I persisted.
"Those boys. Rule breakers must be punished."
I stared at her, outrage sweeping through my little body. The Marauders got me put in a cage in Filch's office? What did they do? I should've paid more attention to what the actual prank was on Filch yesterday.
"How are you mad?" She relaxed her practiced haughty stance and took a hesitant step towards me, but still with narrowed eyes.
I honestly replied in spite of my fuming, "I'm not mad at you. Just at the Marauders for doing something to incite Filch to put me in here."
She stopped all movement and looked blankly at me. "What?"
Right. I exhaled audibly as I remembered to simplify my language. "I'm mad that those boys made the man put me in here."
"Oh. Rule breakers must be punished."
I sighed again. Having to speak in such simple terms, and to deal with the constant tedious objections, it was like talking to a child. Before I could restrain myself, I impulsively asked, "Are you young?"
"Not hardly a kitten such as you," she sniffed and turned her head, resuming that haughty poise, but for the first time, looking at something other than me—the polished manacles hanging from the ceiling. Perfect. I'd offended her by my thoughtless question.
"Please forgive me," I pleaded. Talking with her was better than speaking to no one, though only slightly.
She gazed back at me suspiciously. "How do you know so many odd words? I can't make sense of so much that you say."
I frowned, confused myself. "I'm not sure." I never imagined that the animal that Peter turned me into would have such a low tolerance for new vocabulary words.
"You speak like the cat that turns into a woman," she observed, shaking her head.
I met her eyes. Was she thinking of the same person I was thinking of? "Professor McGonagall?" I guessed, amazement flooding my face. How close did the two interact?
"See, you can make that sound that the cat-woman makes. And yet, I guess, just like the cat-woman, you don't fully understand this," she said as she launched into a series of noises: mixtures between meows, purrs, trills, and whimpers, ending with a snarl. I could barely catch the emotions of joy, frustration, anger, sorrow, and hope that underlay so much of what she said.
I winced. I wasn't the only one simplifying my language so that we could communicate. She just had not deviated until now. Well, at least my assumption on the vocabulary pitfalls was false.
"True?" she tacked on at the end, the only word that was fully translated.
I shook my head dismally, still feeling a twinge of pain at the movement and quickly stopping. "True. I hardly can catch the tenor of your emotions."
She stared blankly, waiting for me to realize something. My eyes widened. She was much better than I was at staying with a simplified language. If I was in my human form at this point, I would've blushed, embarrassed. I ducked my head, instead.
Overcoming the wave of dizziness that came with the motion, I corrected myself, "I almost understand what you are feeling as you say those things, but I don't understand what the sounds mean exactly."
"Don't feel too ashamed, you are yet but a kitten. You forget these things," she reassured me, visibly losing interest in her repetitious barriers.
"How old must I be to remember?" I asked, feeling my dark mood descend upon me once more.
"There is no 'old'. There are kittens, such as you, and there are adults, such as me." I was jealous. She did the pointing with the paw thing so much better than I had done it when I was trying to communicate with Padfoot.
"How do you mark the switch, though?" I asked, curious still, my tail flicking.
"One's first litter of kittens. Or about seven seasons," she lifted a shoulder in a shrug.
"Seasons?" I repeated. I had never heard that term used to mark age, before. It makes sense though. I've heard the debates about cat years versus human years versus dog years, and that would help explain the rapid progression to adulthood in animals. Seven seasons would just be under two years.
She gaped at me, amazement marking her expression. "Surely you've noticed the cold turning warm, and the green emerging from the plants and the white growing smaller."
I nodded, the shooting pain having turned into a dull throb. "Of course—" I wonder how my fortnight as a kitten will affect my real age. Now that's something for the philosophical Ravenclaws to ponder.
"That is a changing of a season," she emphasized unnecessarily.
I tried to roll my eyes again. "Yes, I know."
She retreated into her customary stance, her tail twitching slightly at the tip. "I shouldn't let you out."
And we're back to that. How did we get back to that? I thought we had gotten away from her repeat cycle. We were having such a wonderful conversation, too. I silently mourned our brief companionship, before she drove me mad with her reiterations.
"But cats shouldn't be caged, either. You did no wrong. The man has fights with your boys, not you. You are a rule-keeper."
My ears twitched alertly. Well, at least now she was sort of talking herself into getting me out. I didn't object to that. But I had thought of another question she could help me with. "How long have I been in here?"
"A passing of the golden ball," she remarked offhand, seriously regarding me again.
I suppose that means one day. Wait, I've been in here an entire day? I groaned. What did Filch use again to knock me out so badly? Surely that effect didn't happen just by being hit upside the head with a mop handle.
"I shouldn't let you out." She dipped her head in a nod, acknowledging the truth of her statement. "But I will," she said proudly, surprising me with her verdict.
I hesitated. Despite her favorable assessment, I wasn't becoming enthused about my release at her paws. "Am I going to be able to get out of this place?" I asked, not really wanting anything more than an icepack on my now throbbing head.
She considered me thoughtfully. "Perhaps. I could let you out when the man is gone, and has left the door open."
"That would probably be best," I told her.
"Then we must wait," she said wisely. She sat back on her haunches, and turned her gaze unblinkingly towards the door.
I lay my head back down gently on my paws, closed my eyes, and half wondered if it was possible for cats to get concussions, and therefore I should concentrate on staying awake. That would really stink. I don't know if I can stay awake.
Mrs. Norris didn't seem too worried though, so I let oblivion take over and relieve the pressure of the headache Filch had caused.
Check. Item one: Hide the map.
Check. Item two: Tell Sirius.
Check. Item three: Laugh off any weird questions.
Check. Item four: But don't laugh when an ironic situation comes up.
Check. Item five: Take a deep breath if the subject comes up.
Check. Item six: Don't hyperventilate when others are discussing cats or Evans.
Check. Item seven: Just stop reminding myself that the cat is Evans.
Check. Item eight: Change the subject if it is hitting too close to home.
Check. Item nine: Don't look suspicious.
Item ten: Don't tell anyone the real reason for this list.
Check. Item eleven: Don't show fear of the cat.
Check. Item twelve: Do be very, very careful around Moony.
Check. Item thirteen: Don't talk or have any conversation with Dumbledore.
Check. Item fourteen: In fact, avoid Dumbledore completely.
Item fifteen: Never look at Evans directly in case her glare makes you feel guilty.
Item sixteen: Make sure not to call Evans "Evans" around anyone who is not Evans.
Check. Item seventeen: Don't let James figure out the cat is Lily.
Check. Item eighteen: Steal Remus's chocolate.
Check. Item nineteen: Don't let Snape corner me about Evans or the cat.
Check. Item twenty: Interrupt Remus's thought processes as often as possible to prevent him from realizing the cat is Evans.
Item twenty-one: Don't hide any list or the map behind my back. Find a better hiding spot.
Check. Item twenty-two: Help Sirius get detentions to make him happy and keep him helping me.
A/N: No theories? At all? I'm slightly disappointed. Hopefully this is enough of a surprise that you hadn't guessed it, but also I hope I put enough clues in to foreshadow this turn of events. Let me know how I am doing, please. I hope everyone enjoys this turn of events and I haven't mentally scarred you too much, yet. ^_^
Thanks to all my faithful readers for the reviews and the support. You really do have the ability to make my day! If anyone, and I mean anyone, has any ideas for Peter's list, go ahead and send me a PM or a review with your ideas. Cookies for reviewers!
Enjoy! And thanks for reading!