Norris was still asleep when I awoke, just before dawn. I slipped out of the room and found a quiet spot where I could watch the sun come up and have a think.
I felt a bit down, to be honest. What had I achieved, with all my big ideas of quests and noble actions? Not much.
Siri was on the run, probably being hunted by Dobermans. I knew he was innocent but, even if I talked to McGon-yowl, no human was going to take my word.
Fine, I'd found out about the rat but what use was that to anybody? I hadn't caught him and now he was gone. On the other paw it probably wasn't that important, I supposed. After all, what danger was he to anyone? He probably wouldn't survive a week out in the wild. No, he was a nothing in all of this; about as much use as a glass scratching post.
I'd helped Gordon, though. He was still alive, and free. That was a bonus; some good had come of all of it. Maybe we'd meet up again one day, and share a rabbit over old times.
Come on, Gorgeous! I gave myself a good shake and washed my face. You aren't ready for your basket and minced food yet! There's still a whole world out there to own...and Norris to go on patrol with. She's got you to herself every night now, without any distractions. Lucky molly!
Sometimes you need to give yourself a good talking to, don't you? After all, I am only one cat – and not even divine (at least, I don't think so).
Now, where had this servant of mine got to? I thought I'd better go and check my room. If she wasn't there I decided to find Mcgon-yowl and see what had happened.
Obviously everybody had decided to get up early today.
The first human I met – sort of human – was the werewolf, though fortunately he'd changed back. He was in a worse state than I was; face battered and huge bruises around his neck. Even so, I felt my fur rise and started to back away from him.
Then I took a good look at him. If anything, he looked even more frightened than I felt, but it was mixed with something else. He looked ashamed.
'I'm sorry' he said, 'but I swear I didn't hurt anyone.' He bent down as if to give me a tickle behind the ear but then stopped and stood up again. 'I'm sorry. I'm going away. Now.' He walked off, without looking back.
I felt a bit bad for him, and considered going after him, maybe even rubbing against his leg but...he was a werewolf, after all, and they are what they are. Probably best not to.
As I went into the school, I came across the old man – the one who'd given the talk when Siri attacked the portrait. I'd never worked out who he was. He wasn't around much, but gave the impression he was quite an important tom.
'Good morning, Gorgeous. I trust you are recovered?'
That stopped me in my tracks. Not only had he used my correct name, but he'd spoken to me in cat. I nodded, a bit surprised.
'You did well last night' he continued. 'Both Mr Black and Bu...Gordon got safely away. Your mother would be proud of you.'
I nodded, again. This tom gave me a strange feeling, a bit like the Batty Professor, but different. How did he know all these things? Maybe he could answer my question. 'But what about the rat?'
He smiled and gave me a kitty treat he found in his pocket. 'None of us can know the future, can we?' He didn't sound convincing, I have to say. 'But, purrhaps what happened will turn out for the best. Now, I suggest you get along to your room. Miss...your servant had to spend the night in the hospital wing, but she will be released shortly - quite well - and will probably be pleased to see you.'
I nodded, for the third time. Talking to him was hard. But, as he walked off...
'Please...Sir.' He turned back to me. 'As you can understand me, would you be able to explain a couple of things to Fl...my servant.'
He looked at me with a hint of a smile on his face. 'I don't think so. The human mind, even one as good as your servant's, can accept many things, but talking cats is not one of them. It is better we do nothing.' Then he laughed, as if rather pleased with himself. 'Or, at least, we do not do little.'
No, I can't see what was funny about it either. I'd had quite high hopes for this one, but he turned out to be just a human after all.
Fluffy, as the old man had suggested, was incredibly pleased to see me.
'Oh, Crookshanks!' she squealed, running over and hugging me. 'I was so worried about you, but we got attacked by Dementeds, and I passed out, and then we got taken to the Hospital Wing and then we had to...Hairy and I ...and he...'
She stopped gabbling and gave me another hug. 'Why am I telling you all this? It's not like you can understand me, is it?
I decided that purring and giving her a lick under her chin was probably the best thing to do.
She tickled my belly; I think she might have been feeling a bit guilty about leaving me. 'Now, you have a nice lie down and I'll bring you some breakfast.'
This was more like it. Quests and adventures were all very well, but they couldn't compete with a good servant. As I stretched out on my bed I thought about the summer ahead with Norris; sunshine and butterflies to chase, and shady trees to lay under...and warm, moonlit nights.
And that is how it was, for a few days.
We were laid on our favourite ledge, looking out over the grounds bathed in moonlight. The day had been hot, almost unbearably so, but that had now faded to a gentle warmth. Purrfumes from the flower beds, stirred by zephyrs of breeze, drifted across to us. It was one of those moments in your life when you are totally and completely happy.
I should have known.
'So, tomorrow's the day, then?' I couldn't quite catch the emotion she had in her voice.
'Why? What's happening?'
She looked away for a while and then said, very quietly, 'You'll be leaving.'
'WHAT?' I spun round so fast I nearly fell off. 'What do you mean? I'm not planning on going anywhere.'
She looked at me with sad eyes. 'Everyone does. They all leave at the start of summer, and don't come back until September.'
'No!' But I had all my plans, and most of them involved the molly laying next to me. 'I'll stay!'
She shook her head. 'You can't. You have to go.' She tried to smile. 'You'll have all summer with your servant, and no doubt she'll spoil you rotten.'
'I'll be back though, won't I? It won't be that long, even though I'll be counting the days.'
'Count the days all you want' she said. 'But tonight, my love' she put her paws either side of my face and stared into my eyes, 'is ours.'
Everything was hustle and bustle the next morning as the kittens rushed around the room putting things into their trunks. The air was full of 'Have you seen my other shoe?' and 'Is this yours or mine?'.
At one point Parvenue fished a rather flimsy item out from under one of the chest of drawers and said 'I wondered where I'd lost these.'
Fluffy asked, in a voice that sounded a bit like McGon-yowl, 'How many possible places were there, Miss Petal?', and they all started giggling and screeching.
They departed just on time for Purrky – was it? - to bring me breakfast.
'The last one of the year' I said, trying to be cheerful.
'I'll miss it,' she said. 'It's the only thing I have to keep me occupied of a morning. Still, only two months and I can go back to 18 hours days.' I'd always thought that House Elves were meant to be timid little things.
Anyway, she had been good to me, and I thought I should maybe get her a little something, as a present. I didn't have any voles left, so what?
A ha! I don't have to search for inspiration; it just seems to come naturally to me. They never seemed to wear much, so maybe she'd like some clothes? I jumped into Rosemary's trunk, which fortunately she'd left open, and found a pair of socks. They were clean ones.
Just giving them to her didn't seem right so I decided to hide them under a bit of old parchment left laying in the corner. It would be such a surprise for her! It was a pity I wouldn't be there to see the look on her face when she found them but, still, she could thank me next time I saw her.
That'd be next year, two months...when I could see Norris again. Yes, it did sound an awfully long time.
Anyway, better get this breakfast eaten before it gets cold. I was just tucking in to the sausages when...
'Crookshanks! What are you...are you...?
I spun round to see Fluffy holding a dish of bacon. I looked back at the sausages and tried to appear surprised.
'Gosh! Where did they come from?' I said, as I tried to discreetly push them out of sight under the bed.
Fluffy picked me up. 'Have you been having TWO breakfasts ALL year?' I tried to look innocent. It normally works. 'No wonder you're getting chubby.' Pardon? 'When we get home you're going on a diet.'
'D...d...d...di...?' I suddenly felt very faint. Summer time, and the living will not be easy. I hoped she had a garden well supplied with voles.
Then everything was packed and Fluffy got my cage down from the top of her wardrobe. I think that's what purrsuaded me Norris was right, and I really was leaving. I just walked in to it when she put it on the floor, and lay down.
Far too soon, for my liking, we were all downstairs and I was being loaded onto a carriage. Looking back up to the school I could see a very small, sad, face in one of the uppurr windows. She half raised a paw, and then was gone. I was so tempted to break out, but it would have just caused a scene and we were on the move.
We were joined on the train, inevitably, by Honestlyronald and Hairy who proceeded to play lots of games of exploding snap – probably on the basis they knew I hated it.
Then Honestlyronald proved what a complete idiot he is. We were half way through the afternoon, just at the point where the journey has gone beyond tedious, when an owl turned up.
Well, I say owl. I've brought up bigger furballs.
The good thing was it had brought a letter from Siri, who confirmed what the old man had said. He and Gordon had got away and were hiding from the Dementeds. He seemed quite cheerful, which was good. He finished the letter by saying Ohron could have the owl.
Honestlyronald held it out to me. 'Well, what do you reckon?'
I took a long sniff. It smelled a bit insecty but...' Yes, if you roast it with a chestnut stuffing it should keep me going until dinner.'
I'm still waiting for it. Stupid boy.
As we got closer to London, and I started to fall into a stupor, Fluffy tried to cheer me up by telling all about mumandad, who would be waiting for us at King's Cross. I had no idea who he was, and not much interest in finding out, to be honest.
Then she told me how we'd be able to sit in the garden, and I could chase things and she'd throw a ball for me.
Two months. Two months without Norris.
I remembered a song my old servant use to sing. It never made any sense to me at the time, but now the real meaning became clear.
It doesn't matter whether skies are grey or blue
It's raining in my heart 'cause I can't be with you
I'm only living for the day you're home to stay
So it might as well rain until September
September, September, oh
It might as well rain until September
AN:"It might as well rain until September" lyrics by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.
Thank you to everybody who has read, reviewed alerted and favourited my squiggles.
Thank you, once again, to Euclidian for keeping me on track.