“Has anyone seen Crookshanks?” Hermione clambered through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room, a look of panic on her face. “He’s been missing for hours.”
Harry looked up from where he was attempting to do his Potions homework. “Maybe he fell asleep somewhere?”
“I don’t think so.” Hermione frowned. “I’ve looked in all the usual places.”
Ron sniggered. “This is Crookshanks we’re talking about: friend of stray dogs, companion to werewolves. I suggest you try the not-so-usual places.”
Hermione bit her lip. “I’ve tried those, too.”
Harry realised his friend was very close to crying, and knew she’d be embarrassed if that happened in the common room. “Erm, how about we look at the—” he lowered his voice, “map.”
“Do animals show up on there?” asked Ron.
Harry thought back to last year when Professor Lupin had told him he’d seen Peter Pettigrew on the map. But he supposed Animagi didn’t really count as ‘animals’. “Mrs Norris!” he exclaimed suddenly, causing Ron to jump slightly. More quietly, so as not to be overheard, Harry continued, “She shows up on the map, so Crookshanks should, shouldn’t he?”
“Only one way to find out,” said Ron, getting up from his seat.
Getting the map from Harry’s trunk, and whispering, ‘I solemnly swear that I am up to no good’, took only a few minutes.
“What on earth is he doing in the Slytherin Dungeons?” asked Ron.
“How did he get in there?” Harry mused. “Do animals need a password?”
“You don’t think they’re torturing him, do you?” gasped Hermione.
They all paused, staring at the name on the dot next to Crookshanks’. “Who is ‘Gertrude’?” they exclaimed in unison.
“I don’t remember a Slytherin named Gertrude.” Ron looked puzzled. “Not that I pay much attention to those gits, anyway.”
“I wonder why there’s no surname listed. That’s really weird,” said Harry thoughtfully, tapping the parchment as if to make a last name magically appear.
“I don’t care,” announced Hermione, “as long as we can rescue him. Let’s get the Cloak.”
“Er...do you really want us to go right into the Slytherin common room, just to get your cat?” Ron asked, pulling a face.
Harry could almost see the steam coming out of Hermione’s ears at Ron's thoughtless statement. “You can stay here, if you like,” said Hermione frostily. “After all, you’ve never liked my cat, despite him helping us to uncover Peter Pettigrew!”
“But I just said—” protested Ron.
Hermione spun around and flounced off in a huff whilst Harry retrieved the Invisibility Cloak from his trunk. “Come on, Ron,” Harry said quietly. “She’ll get over it when she sees you’re coming to help.”
Ron followed Harry down the stairs and through the opening hidden by the Fat Lady’s portrait, muttering under his breath as he did so. Catching up to Hermione who had finally slowed her pace, Harry asked, “All three of us aren’t going to fit under the Cloak. How are we going to do this?”
“Well, I need to go in to call Crookshanks,” said Hermione.
“And one of us has to go in as well, in case something happens.” Ron and Harry eyed each other.
“You go, Harry. I’ll wait outside and stop anyone who wants to enter.”
“How will you do that?” asked Harry.
“Fred and George aren’t the only ones who can think up cunning plans, you know!”
“How did you guess?” Ron grinned, and Harry rolled his eyes.
Luckily for Gryffindor’s House-points tally, which certainly would have taken a beating had Ron actually hexed or Stunned anyone, they arrived at the blank stone wall where the Slytherin entrance was situated just as the door concealed in the wall slid open. A rather smug-looking Crookshanks exited with his tail in the air. Hermione immediately scooped him into her arms for a cuddle. “What have you been doing, Crookshanks? I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”
Crookshanks merely purred.
On and off over the following weeks, Crookshanks went missing for hours at a time. A quick check of the Marauders Map would generally find him in the Slytherin common room, more often than not accompanied by the mysterious Gertrude. As the Gryffindors were not exactly on good terms with their Slytherin counterparts, they were finding it quite difficult to discover the identity of Gertrude. Hermione had even started looking up charms in various library books, to see if there was a way of identifying those Crookshanks associated with by somehow tracking the fur he shed; perhaps she could cause it to glow faintly blue on people’s robes. However, after casting the charm, the only robes that glowed in the proper manner were those belonging to Pansy Parkinson. Unfortunately, she couldn’t be Gertrude for the simple reason that they’d seen her on the map at the same time as Crookshanks had been in the Slytherin common room; apparently she was smooching Malfoy, as they were in the third floor broom cupboard together for a suspiciously long period of time. And, as Ron said rather facetiously, there was only so much time one - or in this instance ‘two’ - could spend looking for brooms in a cupboard of that size.
The only good thing was that at least Crookshanks kept coming back - usually in time for dinner, which Hermione sniffed at and said was ‘cupboard love’. As she first made this statement not long after their map-sighting of Malfoy and Pansy in the broom cupboard, Ron failed spectacularly at trying to hold in a laugh. Even Crookshanks managed to look offended at that.
The mystery was solved several weeks later. Hermione and Harry were waiting outside the Potions classroom, having arrived early for once, when Pansy Parkinson stormed up carrying a largish box. “Granger!”
Hermione took a step back in surprise, and Harry surreptitiously grasped his wand, holding it at the ready.
“What can I do for you, Pansy?” asked Hermione.
“Look what your cat did!” Pansy spat furiously, nodding her head at the box she held. “Can’t you control your animal? Or was it a deliberate plot on your part to infiltrate even the pureblood cats with your Mudblood nonsense?”
Hermione’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “What are you talking about?”
“This!” Pansy put the box down on the floor and whipped off the lid. There, nestled amongst what was obviously a set of Slytherin robes, were six kittens. Six exceedingly ugly ginger kittens, obviously part Kneazle, with rather familiar bowed back legs. The only things that differentiated them from Crookshanks were their strangely large ears (although they had his squashed facial features), and the fact that their coats were short and tightly curled close to their bodies. They looked alien.
Just then Ron arrived, strawberry jam and crumbs visible on his robes from a last-minute piece of toast, and peered into the box as well.
“Oh, they’re so cute!” gasped Hermione.
For possibly the first and last time in their lifetimes, Ron, Harry and Pansy were in perfect accord: Hermione was nuts. They looked at her as if she’d just announced she was leaving school to set up shop reading tealeaves.
“They are not cute, Granger,” ground out Pansy, “they’re an abomination. I’ll have you know that Gertrude is an award-winning Cornish Rex. My family has been breeding them since the 1950s, ever since the first cat of this type was born in our family barn. Gertrude was destined to breed with champions, and produce more champions, and look at what your mongrel has done!”
Harry had visions of Pansy and Malfoy displaying their own offspring at Future Death Eater shows, each holding a perfectly ugly kitten in one hand with a perfectly groomed child at their feet, and getting rosettes for Show Champion.
“Gertrude is your cat?” asked Ron, stupidly. “Not a person in Slytherin?” He turned to Harry. “No wonder we couldn’t work out who—”
Harry elbowed him to shut him up; they didn’t need to make Pansy suspicious as to how they knew the name Gertrude.
Hermione was making cooing noises at the kittens as Pansy stood looking on in disgust. “What are you going to do with them?” asked Hermione.
“What do you think?” glared Pansy. “The only thing to do is drown them.”
“You wouldn’t!” gasped Hermione. “You couldn’t!”
“Couldn’t I?” Pansy paused. “But if you’re so concerned, you can have them. Just don’t ever let me see them again, and don’t let your cat near my darling again, or I’ll hex you within an inch of your life - and he won’t have a life left. And you know I can do it!” Leaving the box at Hermione’s feet, Pansy departed. “Oh, I’d rather not see those robes again, either!” she called back over her shoulder.
“You know, I read about the Parkinsons of Padstow, Cornwall, in ‘Wizarding Families of Great Britain and Ireland’.” said Hermione, staring after Pansy. “Apparently they used to be dirt poor, but they made their money in ‘shipping’.” She gave the last word an odd emphasis. “They’ve been trying to get respectable ever since, and their cats nearly made them so. Although they’re still a bit of a laughing stock amongst the Pureblood families.”
“‘Shipping’?” asked Harry. “What’s so wrong with making your money in shipping?”
“It is if you stand with your wand raised above a cliff-top, mate, casting light into the air and pretending to be a lighthouse.” Ron grinned. “Mum told me about that. Said that the Parkinsons had always been in Slytherin - they’ve been doing underhand business in smuggling and such like for centuries.”
“They were Wreckers, Harry,” added Hermione.
“Well at least we now know what Crookshanks was up to,” said Ron. “He was in love.”
Hermione picked up a kitten and began to stroke it. “They’re so tiny - their eyes aren’t even open yet. They should still be with their mother.”
“Hagrid will know what to do with them,” Harry said reassuringly. “But you’d better do it quickly. Who knows what Snape will say if you come to class with a box of kittens?”
“He may think up a potion that uses them in it - or maybe that’s what is in all those jars of pickled things!”
Hermione looked sick at Ron’s comment and, putting her kitten back in the box, she hurriedly placed the lid back on. “I’ll go now - will you tell Professor Snape I’ll—”
“Tell Professor Snape what, Miss Granger?” hissed the teacher in question from behind them. “And where, precisely, were you off to when you should be about to come into my Potions classroom?”
Hermione opened her mouth ready to launch into an explanation, but Snape forestalled her by grabbing the box. “Don’t bother with any nonsense, Miss Granger,” he snarled. “I know you’ll just be making excuses for whatever prank your friends have hidden in this box.” As he shook the box experimentally, two furry creatures suddenly launched themselves out of nowhere at him – one at his legs, the other at his chest region, landing on top of the box before moving to his shoulder and attacking Snape’s face.
“What the—!” he cried, dropping the box to reach for his wand and defend himself, his rapid – but noticeably inaccurate – spell casting interspersed with yelps of pain and unearthly yowls and growls.
Hermione dashed to the box of kittens, who were mewling in agitation.
“You grab Gertrude, I’ll get Crookshanks!” yelled Harry to Ron as both of them weaved about the hallway, trying to avoid Snape’s hexes.
A minute or two of scuffling ensued, where claws and jaws plus wands and fists were used with gay abandon. Panting slightly, Harry clasped a StunnedCrookshanks to his chest with one arm, his other hand wiping a trickle of blood from his cheek. “All right, Ron?” he asked.
Ron spat a mouthful of fur onto the stone floor, as he held onto an equally Stunned Gertrude. “Yuk, I hope I don’t get fur balls!” he announced.
“I presume you’re intending to clean that up,” drawled Snape from behind them as he rose to his feet. His face and hands were covered in bites and scratches, and his robes had countless rends in them. “I’ll restrain myself from deducting points from Gryffindor, if so.”
Harry, Ron and Hermione realised this was the only ‘thanks’ they were likely to get for helping rescue him from the two irate cats.
“I also hope that you will take these creatures – all of them – away from me this instant,” their professor continued, “and never let any of them into my sight again! I’ll expect you back in ten minutes. If you’re any longer it will be five points from Gryffindor. Each.” Professor Snape swept down the hallway, obviously off to tidy himself up and put some lotion on his wounds.
Ron put down Gertrude’s frozen form and Harry set Crookshanks beside her. With a murmured ‘Ennervate’ the cats returned to normal. Both animals immediately dashed over to where Hermione was reaching into the box to stroke the kittens. Upon finding their babies unharmed, they started to purr.
Harry glanced into the box. “You know, you’re barmy if you think those are cute, Hermione.” Crookshanks sank a claw into Harry’s ankle in retaliation, before returning to canoodling with his mate whilst watching their kittens.
“Well, I can see where the kittens got their looks from,” muttered Ron, shuddering as Gertrude smooched against Crookshanks, and getting his first real view of what a Cornish Rex looked like. “Blimey, if Mrs Norris doesn’t look like a goddess in comparison to that cat!” He stooped and picked up the box of kittens. “Come on, we’d better get the kittens to Hagrid.”
“Looks aren’t everything, Ron!” exclaimed Hermione, and they all made their way along the corridor as other students started to arrive, with Hermione and Ron bickering as they went.
Author’s Note: I found this story a month or so back, sitting on my hard-drive, long forgotten and not-quite finished. Well, with GoF recently coming to cinemas, it seemed as good a time as any to complete it and finally put it up where people can read it!
To see what Gertrude looks like, and to read a little bit about cats like her, please follow this link: Cornish Rex