Missed you guys! My round two for Fanfiction Idol! Hope you like it...


1996

Minerva lay in bed, frowning at the ceiling of her bedroom. She was wide-awake, to her great dismay. It was nearly five in the morning, and though it had not been her night to patrol the corridors, she could not sleep. To be perfectly honest, she was too upset.

Something was happening to the Gryffindors—she'd seen no fewer than four students walk into her classroom with bandaged hands this week, with no explanation, save for a few tired excuses about parchment cuts and Potions accidents. She'd even tried to get the truth out of Dennis Creevey, who, of all of them, she would expect to speak up immediately, to no avail.

Minerva turned onto her side, glaring out the window. The early-dawn light was just barely beginning to glow through the thin curtain, overtaking the moonlight. Poppy knew nothing of the injuries, to Minerva's frustration, nor did Pomona, Filius, Severus, or even Albus, who was so distracted lately that he had to be reminded to leave his office for meals.

The truth of the matter, however, was not that Minerva had absolutely no idea of what was going on. For instance, she knew that Dolores Umbridge had everything to do with what was happening to the students, and that knowledge was like a hard lump of ice in her stomach. Nothing in forty years of teaching had ever irritated her more than this inability to retaliate on her students' behalf.

She frowned even more deeply as Dolores's toadlike, smug face floated into the front of her mind. Minerva would have to stare at that smirk in just two short hours, at breakfast. She had never hoped so fiercely that the curse of the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching post would hold true.

Now frustrated beyond belief, Minerva sat up in bed and reached for her spectacles, putting them on roughly and reaching first for her dressing gown, then for her wand, which she stowed in her pocket.

Thinking only of finally being able to curl up and sleep for at least a short while, and cursing herself for not thinking of it earlier, Minerva focused her mind, and—pop—when she opened her eyes again, the room was much, much brighter, and her bed was several feet above her head.

This was much, much better, she thought. Her emotions weren't as keen now, and she found that she could calm her mind much more easily. She stretched out her paws and leapt lightly up onto her bed, stretching her back before curling into a tight ball and closing her eyes.

After only a few moments, though, Minerva opened her eyes again, and sighed. She still couldn't calm herself enough to sleep.

Grouchy and rather annoyed, she hopped down from the bed and trotted quietly to the hidden door to her office, batting it open. She slipped through to her office and quickly opened the door—one of the first tricks she had taught her cat-self, and one that she couldn't deny being rather proud of.

Minerva looked right and left, seeing no one; the night patrol—Filius, if she wasn't mistaken—must have already gone to bed. She decided to go right, perhaps to visit the Owlery or someplace else that was quiet, and set off down the corridor.

It was a very cool spring morning, the early morning light just visible through the windows Minerva passed on her journey through the castle. It would probably be a very pretty day.

Minerva sighed and rounded a corner—then, quite suddenly, she skidded to a stop.

Curled on a windowsill halfway down the corridor was Argus's vile cat, Mrs. Norris. Minerva repressed a shudder and continued on her way, holding her tail aloft and her nose in the air, pretending not to notice the way the ugly cat's bulbous orange eyes watched her suspiciously.

Minerva could never help but feel distinctly well-groomed and pretty whenever she saw Mrs. Norris.

She continued on her journey, pushing the ill-mannered cat from her mind, and quickly found herself at he base of the steps to the Owlery. Taking a deep breath of the crisp morning air (and catching just a hint of the rather unpleasant smell of the Owlery), Minerva began springing up the stairs, two by two, until she came to the upper landing and leapt lightly onto the stone windowsill.

The sun was just barely beginning to make the sky pink, far off in the distance. If Minerva could have, she would have smiled. This was infinitely better than lying in bed, regardless of her mood.

A few of the owls who had returned from hunting rustled restlessly above her—a predator in their midst! Minerva rolled her eyes. Stupid creatures, she thought. Then she chuckled inwardly. No wonder Albus recommended her Animagus form; she was too naturally proud not to be a cat.

Suddenly, an owl gave a loud screech, and Minerva looked around.

A large, orange cat with an odd way of walking—like he was stretching all his limbs at once—was slowly ambling towards her, licking his lips.

Minerva made a sound of distaste and turned away, clearly sending the message that she wanted to enjoy watching the sunrise on her own. What would she want with another cat? She was a married—well, widowed—human woman.

And yet, predictably, Minerva felt the ginger cat hop onto the windowsill beside her. She rolled her eyes and did not look at him, but out over the grounds, where the sun was starting to spread gold light from the farthest eastern edge of the forest.

"Mrow."

The ginger cat moved close to Minerva.

She looked at him icily and gave him a scathing look reserved for misbehavior in her classroom. Then she turned and resolutely lifted her chin to stare at the lovely sunrise that was rapidly illuminating more and more of the grounds.

"Mrooow."

Did he really just have the nerve to bat her? Did this orange furball have no idea who she was? Minerva narrowed her eyes, laid back her ears, and hissed. Get away, now.

The cat did not oblige. Instead, he rolled onto his back and stretched himself before her. Minerva's jaw dropped. Thoroughly revolted, she turned tail and hopped off the windowsill, starting for the Owlery stairs.

She was halfway down the steps when a shadow overtook her, and the orange cat landed on his feet before her, still licking his lips and preening himself.

"Mrowowww," he purred, walking around her and flicking his tail beneath her chin.

Minerva was fed up. When he poked his squashed, flat face in hers again, she hissed and clawed him, taking advantage of his split-second confusion to make a leap for the door, bolting out into the corridor. She could hear the cat hissing and spitting behind her, and did not like to think of the stories she would hear of some poor student's injured cat, but kept hurrying down the corridor, coming to rest at the foot of a suit of armor.

Just as she was about to transform again, the orange cat appeared, though he did not seem to have taken Minerva's hint. And then, to Minerva's great horror, he began rubbing against her.

Minerva let out her loudest, angriest hiss yet and clawed at him, but to her shock, her anger was drowned out by a long, loud yowl, and both she and the orange cat turned around.

Mrs. Norris was stalking towards them, her eyes furious and her tail straight in the air. The orange cat had frozen, as though he believed that if he remained still enough, Mrs. Norris would not see him.

Minerva laughed inwardly and jumped lightly onto the plinth of the suit of armor, watching as Mrs. Norris, hissing angrily, circled the orange cat, who was looking thoroughly ashamed of himself. Mrs. Norris apparently had quite a bit to say to the cat, and Minerva watched in great amusement for several minutes before deciding that it was time to hurry back to her room and get ready for the day.

Mrs. Norris, however, had other ideas. The moment that Minerva set paw on the ground, Mrs. Norris leapt in front of her, her ears laid back as she bared her teeth

Minerva gaped at her. I didn't do anything! she tried to say, attempting to duck around Mrs. Norris's swatting claws. Minerva darted away, trying to get around Mrs. Norris, but had no luck—Mrs. Norris chased her.

For nearly ten minutes this went on, as Minerva tried to escape Mrs. Norris's anger (while the orange cat watched, apparently too chastised to even move from his spot on the carpet), before finally, Minerva realized that she was being an idiot.

In less than a second, Minerva McGonagall drew herself to her full (human) height, glaring dangerously down at both cats. The orange cat and Mrs. Norris both froze in fear, staring up at the formidable witch.

"Shame on you both!" Minerva cried, shaking a finger furiously at Mrs. Norris. "I've never seen such bad behavior! Disgraceful! Despicable!"


Ginny yawned, wandering slowly down the corridor from the Fat Lady's portrait, stretching as she tugged her robes straight, and mentally swore to herself never to play Truth or Dare with Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil again. She stopped at the landing of the staircase, where Hermione stood, staring across the atrium of staircases at the balcony opposite theirs.

"What's up, Hermione?" Ginny yawned, rubbing her neck.

Hermione did not look at her, but opened her mouth slowly, looking utterly nonplussed. She raised a hand and pointed. "I…I think…"

"Is that Professor McGonagall in her dressing gown?" Ginny asked incredulously, waking up immediately and hurrying forward to look where Hermione pointed.

Hermione nodded. "I think she's telling off my cat."

Ginny blinked several times, watching Professor McGonagall shake an angry finger at two very sheepish-looking cats, and then turned slowly to Hermione, who met her gaze at last. "Should we...er...tell someone?"

Hermione shook her head. "That would go well. 'Harry, you won't believe this story...' As if he and Ron don't think I'm already cracking up over O.W.L.s."

Ginny shrugged and nodded, turning back to stare at Professor McGonagall, who was now chasing after Mrs. Norris. "So. Breakfast?"