Disclaimer: Neither the world nor the characters belong to me. They are the property of J K Rowling, to whom I owe thanks for letting us use her creation to tell these alternate stories. The challenge belongs to whitetigerwolf, to whom I owe thanks for the idea that kick-started this story. I'll happily claim credit for the story itself, though.

Some Author's notes: Communication and language.

"Normal speech"; "Thoughts"; Lingua Felinarum; {Parseltongue}.

Chapter 7: Nine-tenths of the Lore

Harry woke the next morning and stretched. It had been five long days and nights that he'd been having those dreams. Rubbing at his ears, he turned to put his feet on the floor, sweeping his tail out from under the covers. The same covers which bunched and balled up as the person under them muttered "co-old," and went back to sleep.

The catboy froze. Carefully, he turned little by little, dreading what he was about to see, but at the same time wanting very much to see it. The blend of his own scent with the heady cinnamon and chocolate of Hermione, along with a rather heady, musky odour hung in the bed within his curtains. If he'd still been human, he wouldn't have noticed. Finally turning far enough to look at the lump in his sheets and blankets, he could see a very familiar black-furred tail, twitching back and forth as its owner lightly purred beneath the covers.

"Oh, crap," Harry thought, frantically trying to remember what had happened. After the shock of Ron's revelation, and mourning the fact that vital evidence of Riddle's misdeeds had escaped them, the young Gryffindors had returned to their common room, and then to bed. Harry remembered having that dream again, but there was a difference. A sense of... release? Was that the right word? The sense of belonging afterwards, and the dream fading into shadows. "What am I going to do if that actually happened?" Now that he thought about it, certain parts of him were tingling with a not-unpleasant sensation.

The whole argument within himself became moot when Hermione awoke, and paused mid-stretch. "This isn't my bed." She found herself wondering if that was good or bad. The bed smelled safe, and she turned slowly. Amber met emerald, and neither could look away. She realised she had nothing on, and wasn't bothered. Then she noticed Harry was wearing as much and found that thought much harder to dismiss. Turning her attention inward, she found no vast urge to get so close to him that they would almost be one.

She remembered vaguely being unable to sleep, and deciding to walk it out, then Harry's scent, and that was it. "Did my instincts take over? If they did, do I mind? Am I still purring?"

Leaning forward, Hermione nuzzled Harry's neck, and bit him there lightly, growling softly. My Harrrry, mmmine. Yes, she was still purring, but now he was too.

Yesss, he replied, and she wasn't the only one purring anymore. All yourrrs, Herrr-mmmy-honey kitten, all yourrrs. Hearing his pet name for her for the first time made her stop purring for a moment, then resume with double the purr. "However," he whispered, "now we have to get you back to your bed. You can use my cloak if you want, but I think you better collect your nightclothes first."

Between Harry's cloak and the pads on her feet, Hermione avoided detection on her way back to her room. As she was passing the first-years' room, she heard one of the poor things muttering in her sleep. Not that the catgirl could make out anything through the closed door, except for the occasional "no" or "don't", but it seemed that whoever it was was having a nightmare. As she turned away, she heard the one word that froze her in her tracks, someone's name: "Tom."

Cracking open the first-year girls' door, she looked for the girl who was having the dream. Hermione was surprised to see that the girl wasn't asleep. Instead she was sitting at a desk with a diary open in front of her, writing. She hissed for awhile, not unlike when Harry spoke to the snake at the duelling club, and then answered herself in a low mutter that Hermione had trouble making out. As the catgirl opened the door a little further, the redhead sitting at the desk spun about, knocking the chair to the floor, wand in hand. As the other girls in the room began to wake up at the noise, she hurriedly stuffed the diary into her trunk.

Hermione stepped back and continued on to her bed. It had to be a trick of the light. The girl, Ginevra Weasly if she was remembering correctly, Ron's little sister, couldn't have had glowing red eyes. Could she?

The students at Hogwarts were busy that Easter, reading up on possible career paths and what classes they needed to take for them. Hermione wanted to take all of them. Harry managed to talk her down, by virtue of promising to take the same classes as she did.

"Divination is a dodgy thing at best, and Muggle Studies is redundant," he told her. "You could probably teach that yourself. I'm with you for the rest, though. Care of Magical Creatures, almost essential for us, Arithmancy, sounds like magical math and Ancient Runes."

Ron opened his mouth and closed it before making comments he knew he'd regret. If he'd actually said what had been on the tip of his tongue, he was certain there would have been an argument, if not a full-blown fight. They'd already had one of those this week, thank you.

Hermione had shared with he and Harry what had happened the morning after his solving the, ahem, riddle of Voldemort. Of course, to do that, she had to share why she came to be in that place, at that time and under her boyfriend's invisibility cloak. She had her eyes downcast as she whispered this, in a classroom that was empty but for the three of them. Ron had trouble believing her. Not what she'd done, that was par for the course as far as he was concerned: The Potter House motto was 'Nos non facimus normalis'*, wasn't it? No Ron had trouble believing his little sister could be the 'Heir of Slytherin'. First, she was a Weasly, and could trace her family's lines back before the founder's time, and second, her behaviour didn't match her normal pattern, as far as he could remember. "It just doesn't sound like her. What could change her behaviour like this?"

"There's loads of things, Ron," Hermione replied. "Imperius Curse, Compulsion Charm, even a badly applied Memory Charm could do it. The telling point is that none of these things cause the victim's eyes to change. The red glow is a tell-tale sign of..." here, the catgirl swallowed, "possession. And to make it worse, on some level, she has to surrender to the possessing spirit, or it shreds her own soul to make way for its own."

"So how do we end it?" Even transformed, Harry still had that 'saving people thing'. Hermione wouldn't have changed that for the world. "How can we save Ron's sister from this, this... violation?!" The last word was hissed, and at first sounded like he was trying to speak both lingua felinarum and parseltongue at the same time. He'd actually done that once, when his best feline friend had sneaked up on him while he was talking to Ron, and gotten a little payback for the times when he'd startled her.

Glancing down at the open pages of the book in her hands, Hermione replied. "It's not going to be easy. First we have to find out if the possession is a result of a free-floating spirit, or a bound one. Free-floating spirits, or spectres, once they have possession require extreme measures to remove. Bound spirits are easier, by destroying their anchor you destroy the spirit. That's all it says here, and it's about a tenth of the information we need." Looking up at the boys who were her friends apologetically, the feline girl went on. "This was the only book I could get to outside of the restricted section that had anything on the subject. I even waded through Lockhart's claptrap." Here she shuddered. Harry reached out and patted her shoulder in sympathy. "Not only was that a waste of time, he's claiming a time scale that would put him at five different places in the world at the same time! And the spells he claims to use,urgh, either don't exist or just don't do what he says they do. Remember the pixies?" Everyone nodded.

"Anyway, he's useless, we get it," Ron said. "So we've got to find out why she's like this. I doubt asking will work... wait, did you say she was writing in a diary?"

Oooh, noooo! Hermione yowled at the ceiling. She spent the next few minutes swearing in the feline language. Although Harry was the only one who could understand what she said in that manner, the tone was more than enough to get the point across.

"So, how go their lessons, Severus," Dumbledore asked of the potions master in his office. "Can they block their minds properly yet?"

Just the thought of trying to delve into the cat children's' minds started a vein on Snape's forehead throbbing. "They have developed mindscapes, detailed ones, with various feline predators and magical creatures to harry intruders, but they don't seem to have organised them well. A jungle of sorts in both cases, with ancient ruins half buried by the wilderness. I'd say they've been reading too many Tarzan stories. Or Kipling, but there's no such thing as too much Kipling."

McGonagall idly wondered how someone kippled. "They're fully comfortable with there new bodies, Albus, in case you were wondering," she reported before the old wizard could ask. "I believe they could hold their own in a fight on instinct alone, but that's not going to be enough. You're going to need someone to teach them better than I." She drew in a deep breath. No-one was going to like this bit. "Poppy has said they are fully active, and she supplied Miss Granger with the proper... precautions."

"On that note," interrupted Snape, "we were lucky, in a way. Had the hair Harry dropped into his flask been from the same cat as Miss Granger's, we would have two highly territorial catgirls fighting it out. I have traced the signatures of the creatures involved. Fortunately, Miss Bulstrode's cat was... friendly with one belonging to a fifth year. Expect kittens."

*(Latin: We don't do normal).