Disclaimer: Once there was a girl who owned the rights to nothing, and that girl was me.
A/n: So I randomly found this oneshot buried in a pile of old files on my computer and didn't know why I never posted it. I fixed it up a bit and it is quite long, but hopefully worth it. And while I was fixing it up, I realized I haven't written anything Harry Potter in a very long time, which is very sad, so I'll need to do that sometime soon. In the meantime, enjoy this oneshot that I brushed the dust off of and shined up just for you on this summer's day. :D Lastly, this is sort of along the same lines as Sickles for the Poor, but not like an official sequel or anything. Anyways, enjoy!
Best In Show
Sirius and James were sauntering idly down the streets of a town called Chiender, which was situated in a little green valley several kilometers from James' house, on a hot summer day. Mrs. Potter had kicked them out of the house to get some fresh air, and the pair had made their way to the town in search of some air conditioning.
"I'm bloody bored." Sirius grumbled.
James sighed. "Me too. I wish Remus was here – he'd think of something."
Sirius shoved his hands in his pockets and kicked a rock down the sidewalk, trying desperately to think of something they could do. The problem with the particular brand of boredom that was currently plaguing the two boys, however, was that it was the extremely frustrating kind of boredom where one desperately wants to do something yet absolutely nothing is appealing to do.
"We could…" James began, then sighed. "I don't know."
"Food?" Sirius suggested.
"Drink." James nodded.
The two boys headed into the coffee shop coming up on their right, The Cocoa Bean. They each got a bottle of water and then James bought them a chocolate chip cookie to split, as either of them weren't really that hungry. They just needed an excuse to be out of the heat.
"This is dumb, Padfoot. We need something to do. I'm going crazy with boredom." James moaned.
"I wish Snivelly was around. I would be up to giving him a good hex or two." Sirius sighed.
James laughed. "That would be amusing."
They were quiet again and glanced around the coffee shop, hoping to see some sort of inspiration. A moment later, Sirius' eyes landed on a large bulletin board not too far away. It had a mass of papers and posters haphazardly tacked, stapled or taped across it's front, but one in particular was bigger and more eye-catching then all the rest. It had a brilliant blue border, and featured in the center was a lovely looking blonde woman with a sleek yellow Labrador sitting at her feet.
Sirius snorted. "Well, there's a Muggle dog show. If nothing else, I think it would be fun to go make fun of the people running and trying to keep up with their dogs. What do you think?" When he turned back to James, his friend's eyes were bright with mischief.
"What?" said Sirius uncertainly and eagerly. "What are you thinking?"
James' handsome face slowly curved into a wide smile. "Or… we could be in the show."
"What? Prongs, in case you haven't noticed, neither of us own a dog." Sirius said shaking his head. "Besides that, even if we could get one, it says it's today and that applicants have to be there by one in the afternoon at the latest. It's already after twelve – there's no way we could get a dog and train it in that amount of time, plus get there and get all their paperwork filled out."
James kept grinning like a fool. He cleared his throat a little and raised his eyebrows meaningfully at Sirius.
Sirius stared back for an instant, and then it dawned on him. He cracked a smile to match James and started laughing heartily. "This is why you're my best mate." He said.
"Excuse me?" James, to the untrained eye, the picture of innocence, tapped an important looking man in a dark suit on the shoulder. He was standing beside a large table, covered in papers and pens. Two important looking ladies were seated at the table, talking to potential applicants and their pets. "Sir?"
"Yes, young man?" The man turned and answered. "What can I do for you?"
"Is it too late to enter in the dog show today?"
The man pulled a shining pocket watch attached to a very long chain from his suit pocket and consulted it. "No, you've just made it. You better be quick with your papers, though. The show is going to start in less than an hour, and application time closes in about fifteen minutes." He smiled kindly and handed James several official looking pieces of paper and a blue ink pen. He glanced down at James' feet. "Where's your dog?"
"Uh, outside." James said. "Thanks, I'll be back."
James did, and was quickly seated on a bench near the building where the dog show was taking place, and also out of sight of the registration tent he'd just vacated. He supposed it wouldn't matter if they saw him filling the papers out with another person, but he was worried that if someone overheard that he was asking that person the questions, they'd get rather suspicious.
"Now, before we do this," said James. "You realize that if it is found out that you are in fact a human, we are insanely screwed. Besides being thrown out, and security being called, there's the whole wizard secrecy to Muggles, thing. Of course, lastly, we'd be in some serious trouble with the Ministry considering you're not registered."
"Neither are you." Sirius pointed out.
"Yes, well, I'm not competing in a deer and buck show, now am I?"
Sirius smirked. "Yes, well… of course I get all that. Besides, this was you're idea. We just won't get caught."
"Obviously." James shrugged. "Just making sure you were aware of the danger of this endeavor."
"If it wasn't dangerous, it would hardly be any fun." Sirius winked.
James chuckled. "Indeed. Ok, we've got to fill these out quick. We're down to ten minutes before they close and we don't get in."
"Right. What's the first question?"
"'Name of dog.' "
"Well, don't put Sirius, whatever you do."
"I'm not that thick."
"No, that's my usual nickname."
"What about Orion?"
"My father? That would be smart."
"I was thinking your middle name."
"Oh. Well, don't put that either."
"He'd kill us. He will kill us."
"That could work. But I think it should be some thing that doesn't tie us to this, just in case. So let's not use any of our friends' names."
"What about… Rufus?'
"Are you kidding me?"
"Sirius, you need a name!"
"Ok, ok! Put…" Sirius looked around the streets and shops around them. He spotted an advertisement in the window of a local drug store, talking about Dr. Snuffles tissues – "Have a sniffle? Think of Snuffle!"
"Ok… Snuffles it is. Next question: 'Breed of dog'."
"Oh Merlin, I don't know. I picked one that looked like the Grim, because I thought it would be cool. Go with, 'mixed breed'."
James stifled a laugh and scratched down the answer. They went down the list of questions and continued filling out the form, having fun with some questions and being entirely truthful with others.
"'Does your dog, or has your dog ever had fleas?' " James looked at Sirius with a completely straight face. "Do you have fleas? Be honest now."
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "What do you think?"
James nodded. "Yes, then."
"Hey! Don't put that!"
James laughed. "I wasn't going to. Next, how about age?"
"Sirius, remember you're a dog. A large dog. Being seventeen is practically impossible."
"Alright then, put seven."
"'Has your dog ever attended any obedience classes?' Hah, I wish."
Sirius snorted. "I dare you to write that."
"'Has your dog been spayed or neutered?'" At this question, James burst out laughing and it was a good minute before he was able to sit up and breathe again.
Sirius wasn't much better off. "What are we supposed to put for that?" He asked when he'd regained his composure.
Wiping tears from his eyes, James said, "Yes?"
Sirius punched his friend in the shoulder which only sent him into another laughing fit.
Moments later, the form was fully filled out. While James ran it over to the man in the suit at the registration tent, Sirius made his way over to a spot hidden from all view to quickly change into his dog form.
"Ah, you made it just in time, young sir." said the man. "Give your papers to Gloria, who will go over them and verify that you and your dog are eligible for this competition. If you would like to take a seat inside the auditorium to my left – just through those wood doors there – then Helen will be announcing those contestants whose applications checked out and will be competing today. By the way, son, I'm Reginald Mulch. I'm the Head Judge and Organizer of this fine event."
James nodded while Mulch talked. Once he'd finished, James said, "Thanks very much. I'll go get Snuffles." He bit his tongue as soon as the words were out of his mouth, fighting hard not to laugh. The idea that he and "Snuffles" could be competing in a dog show alongside real dogs was almost too much to bear.
Almost half an hour later, the lady named Helen came out onto the floor of the huge auditorium with a large microphone and stack of papers. She cleared her throat importantly to get the attention of the audience and potential contestants seated in risers all around the floor.
"Welcome, everyone." Helen spoke in a very bland and falsely cheery voice. "I would first like everyone to give a big hand to Mr. Reginald Mulch, the man who has organized this event for the past twelve years running."
There was a smattering of polite applause. James yawned widely.
Helen went on to thank what felt like a hundred other people before she started reading out names of contestants who sprang from the risers with their dog in tow and hurried down to stand behind Helen excitedly.
"Ophelia McNalley and Rufus!"
A short, squat woman with gray hair made her way down to the floor. Rufus was an ugly bulldog who looked as old as his owner.
"Good thing you didn't go with Rufus as a name." James mumbled as everyone clapped.
Sirius the dog snorted and James took that as a noise of agreement.
"Roger Jones and Fluffy!"
A man who was very tall and very thin came down the steps near James and Sirius with a skinny poodle. He did not smile, and his dog had her nose lifted in the air as though she felt she had already won.
"Arainia Lewis and Ari!"
A pale, slim woman with long, sleek black hair, red lips, and a haughty expression came forward, her black stilettos clicking down the steps of the risers. Her shining black dog came with her, ears forward, seeming to be completely in tune with her master's every movement.
"Arainia and Ari are the reigning champions, four years running!" Helen said what was supposed to be an enthusiastic sounding voice. The crowd's applause did not grow louder, as James would have expected it to when a reigning champion was announced. However, just by looking at her, James did not particularly like her.
For the next several minutes, he amused himself by pointing out quietly how similar the dogs were to their owners as they were called up.
Helen had called nearly fifteen or twenty names when she announced there was only one spot left. Other contestants seemed to be on the edge of their seats, nervous and excited, seeming to pray that their name was last on the list.
"James Potter and Snuffles!"
James jumped up. "We got in!" He shouted happily in surprise as he and Sirius bounded down the steps together. Some people laughed as "Snuffles" jumped and barked in circles around James' legs. Others, so disappointed that had not made it into the competition, left. There was one younger lady in particular, with her pet Chihuahua, who burst into tears and ran from the auditorium, her dog yapping annoyingly after her. Arainia Lewis narrowed dark eyes in James' direction, though he didn't notice.
While Helen finished addressing the audience about how the proceedings would go, Reginald Mulch guided the contestants and their dogs to the back room where they could prepare. He gave them all encouragement and pep talks, before going back out the front to join the other judges at the judges' table. The contestants stayed in the room until they were called out one by one, so they did not have much of an idea what was going on in the auditorium. The door that separated them was just sound proof enough that they could hear a male voice, presumably Mulch's, on a microphone, though they could not hear what he was saying. There was lots of applause and occasionally the crowd "ooo"-ed dramatically.
James leaned comfortably against the back wall, patiently waiting his and Snuffles' turn. He was not worried by whatever the judges had set for them to do, considering his dog was really a human in disguise.
Roger Jones stood stock still, staring into space and marched out of the room like a zombie when his name was called.
Ophelia McNalley paced incessantly and mumbled things under her breath, checking the time often, and sometimes asking the others small talk questions. Her bulldog Rufus slept contentedly on the floor and very reluctantly followed his master out when it was their turn.
Arainia remained set apart from the rest, her arms crossed carefully across her chest and a permanent look of "Don't even think about" etched across her features. It wasn't until all the other contestants had left the room that she spoke.
"What is your dog supposed to be?" she said in a very cool, clipped tone.
James turned to her. "Excuse me?"
She raised a carefully shaped eyebrow. "Your dog. What is its breed supposed to be?"
James was not appreciating this woman's tone. "He's mixed." He said defensively.
"Oh." Arainia said with a very infuriating mixture of disgust and arrogance.
"And what's your supposed to be?" James snapped. "Smart? Pretty? Because it's neither from where I'm standing."
Arainia's cheeks colored slightly as she straightened. She looked angry and ready to insult James badly when her name was called. Her nostrils flared a tiny bit as she shot him an icy look and exited the room.
James shook his head, took a deep breath to calm himself and wait.
Finally, it was James' turn. He left the room, Snuffles at his heels.
Once out the door and into the well-lit auditorium, James saw that an obstacle course of sorts had been set up. The object was for the contestant and their dog to start at one end of the course and make their way through it quickly and correctly. Once at the end, which was directly in front of the judges' table, the dogs were to perform several simple tricks. The standard commands such as sit, stay, heel, and roll over, followed by any fun or different ones.
James grinned and then proceeded to direct Snuffles as necessary. Over jumps, up small sets of stairs, up then down a teeter-totter apparatus, through a plastic tunnel, weaving between tight flexible poles, and so on. Snuffles did everything quite expertly except the teeter-totter, which he lost time on because he took too long getting over it. The crowd made cheering noises virtually every time Snuffles did something right, and "ooo"-ed each time Snuffles cleared a particularly high or long jump. Mulch commentated continuously in a tired and vaguely happy voice, saying aloud any point deductions if there were any. James and Snuffles lost some points on one jump because Snuffles knocked a bar off of it, but other than that James thought they had done fantastically.
When it came to the end obedience portion, James was positive he was about to knock the other dogs off the charts completely – especially Arainia's, no matter what her shining black dog had managed. Snuffles obeyed every command instantly and perfectly. He and Snuffles performed several tricks that made the crowd applaud like mad. The difficulty level of the tricks were extremely high for any normal dog but easy enough for a human as a dog, and James was pleased to see most of the judges gaping in open-mouthed amazement and amusement as they complete thier tricks.
When they were finished, Jamestook a bow. Snuffles bowed also, eliciting laughter from the people on the risers.
Since James was the last to compete, it was now time for the judges to deliberate. James stood off to the side of the auditorium, listening to the crowd chatting as the judges put their heads together and compared notes. Surprisingly, it didn't take long for them to come to a decision. Mulch stood with his microphone and quieted down the crowd.
"I would first like to thank all the contestants and their wonderful dogs for coming today." said Mulch and smiled widely. The crowd clapped politely. "Before I announce the winner, I would like to remind everyone of the wonderful prize that goes to the winner of this event."
Ophelia McNalley, two people to James' left, whimpered and clutched her hands tightly. James raised his eyebrows, wondering just how many times Ophelia had competed and not won, judging by the way she mouthed the words of what the prize was as Mulch spoke them.
"The winner will receive a cloth first place ribbon, a gold trophy for display, a special decorated collar for their dog, a year's supply of dog food, plus five hundred dollars in prize money." Mulch sounded as though he had said those exact words about a thousand times, which judging by Ophelia's lip-synching, he probably had. "But I will not waste time rambling on, as I know you are all eager to hear the results."
Arainia glanced coldly over at James, who sent her back a mocking thumbs up. She turned away and lifted her chin as if to imply she was above all this.
"In third place, and the winner of a gold plated dish for their dog plus one hundred dollars cash…" Mulch held up a piece of paper and paused dramatically. "Roger Jones and Fluffy!"
The crowd clapped. Roger Jones impassively stepped forward and expressionlessly accepted his prize. His skinny poodle kept her head high in the hair, suddenly and forcibly reminding James of the haughty Arainia Lewis. He smirked.
"In second place, who will receive a book of gift certificates to Maude's Dog Grooming, Retreat and Spa, a fashionable leash courtesy of Calvin Klein, and two hundred dollars in cash, is…" Again, Mulch paused dramatically.
This is probably us, thought James, trying not to get his hopes up for snatching first place from Arainia.
"Arainia Lewis!" Mulch announced, sounding genuinely happy and surprised.
"Ha!" James said, though no one heard him because the applause was very loud.
Arainia looked quite shocked and angry but recovered quick enough that no one seemed to notice. She graciously accepted her prize. However, to James at least, it was quite clear she was anything but gracious or happy about her ranking. He grinned at her when she looked over at him with fiery eyes.
"Now, first place… the big prize… the one we've all been waiting for…" Mulch sounded practically giddy. "This is a new comer who surprised us all and turns out to be a real crowd favorite!" He laughed heartily which sounded more like a bellow.
Ophelia was bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet, still whimpering.
"First place goes to…"
James braced himself and hoped… Come on… let's have it…
"James Potter and Snuffles!"
"YES!" James punched the air and whooped while Snuffles barked excitedly.
Then a few people in the crowd jumped to their feet while the rest just applauded in a delighted manner. Ophelia looked absolutely crushed.
"Congratulations, boy!" Mulch said, shaking James' hand vigorously and patting him on the back heavily with his other hand.
"Tha- Tha- Thanks!" James managed as the hand repeatedly thumped the breath out of him.
"Your dog is truly exceptional." Mulch grinned and patted Snuffles affectionately.
James laughed. "That he is."
A few weeks later, after the boys had spent most of their prize money on Quidditch novelties, they were once again wandering through the town of Chiender. They were discussing returning to Hogwarts at the end of the month when a man in a suit came hurrying over to them. It took James a good moment before he remembered who he was.
"Hello there, son? How are you this fine day?"
"Uh, doing alright, and yourself?"
"Fine, fine, just dandy." Reginald Mulch, the head of the dog show beamed. "Good to see you lad. Did you spend your prize money well?"
James thought of the new broomstick in his room while Sirius thought of his new uniform. Trading the year's supply of dog food in for cash was going to buy all their new school supplies and then some. He grinned.
"Absolutely, sir. School supplies, you know."
"Brilliant!" Mulch clapped him on the back. He glanced down at the ground and around James' feet. "Er… where's that fine dog of yours?"
"Uh… he's… well…" James began, trying to come up with a reasonable excuse when Sirius cut in.
"Very tragic, sir. Poor thing got the gout. Had to be… you know. Put him down." He shook his head sadly and placed a comforting hand on James' shoulder. "He's very broken up about it still."
James hung his head mournfully.
"Oh goodness!" Mulch made a tut-tut noise and then patted James' back again. "I'm so sorry to hear that, son. He was such a lovely dog. Do accept my deepest condolences." He waved his hat slightly at the boys and bid them good day before going on his way.
After a few minutes of walking in the opposite direction as Mulch, James snorted.
"I didn't hear you offering any better ideas. It was the first thing that came to my mind."
"You could've just said I'd left him at home."
"Oh. Well. Didn't think of that, did I?"
They laughed heartily and headed home for supper.
A/n: Who knows if they actually could've gotten away with it, but it's a fun idea nonetheless, I think. Thanks for reading and reviews are LOVE.