“What the hell is that?”
“It’s a cat, Ron!” Hermione said scathingly.
“That’s one evil-looking cat,” he said as he stepped back behind his sister.
“Harry, he’s...lovely. I can’t...thank you enough. You really didn’t have to get me anything,” Ginny fumbled, not really knowing what to say about this gift Harry bought her. Privately she thought Ron was right. She hadn’t got a good look at her gift yet, since it was still in its carrier, but based on what she could see through the bars over the opening, this creature was unlike any cat she’d ever seen before in her life.
“You can say that again,” Ron murmured.
“Ron! Honestly,” Hermione huffed. “I think it’s sweet that Harry bought Ginny a cat. Don’t you think it was sweet of Harry? Ginny!”
“Ye...yes! Yes of course. Thank you, Harry. Thank you so much, he’s...darling,” Ginny said, still somewhat shocked.
“Harry, Ginny just thanked you for the cat.” Hermione poked him in the side again.
“Oh, er, yeah, Ginny, you’re welcome. I...I’ve got to go do...do that thing I said I had to do. I’ll see you lot at dinner,” Harry said as he raced up the boys’ stairs.
Ginny stared down at the cat carrier on the table once again.
“What the hell did you do to Harry, Ginny?” Ron asked, unable to contain his smirk.
“Me! What did I do! I didn’t do anything!” Ginny spun towards her brother, frustrated because she wasn’t too sure what had brought on Harry’s sudden generous urge herself.
“You must have done something. Why else would he have given you that...Hermione, are you sure this is a cat?”
“Of course, it’s a cat! And this isn’t a punishment, Ron! Harry just wanted to do something nice for Ginny.”
“So he gets her this! Gee Ginny, you’d better hope you never make Harry mad at you. I wouldn’t want to be around to see what he’d get you if he were mad,” Ron said and then backed further away from the carrier as something that sounded like a growl emanated from it.
“Honestly! I think it’s sweet that Harry wanted to get Ginny a gift.” Hermione huffed again.
“But why, Hermione? Why did Harry get me this… this...cat?” Ginny asked, as she too backed away from the carrier. A single black paw was now protruding from the bars, but when it hung there limply, Ginny let out her breath.
Hermione seemed to hesitate before she answered, which only served to intrigue Ginny more. Harry had acted quite oddly at breakfast this morning, even though by recent standards that wasn’t saying much. Hermione insisted that Harry’s most recent strange behaviour was due to the tension of his extra training and their upcoming N.E.W.T.s. Ginny wasn’t convinced this was true but didn’t argue with Hermione since she knew a losing battle when she saw one. She crossed her arms and waited for Hermione to answer since she also knew that prodding the Head Girl would lead nowhere.
“Well...I don’t know if I should really tell you. I mean, it’s not my place, and I’m sure Harry would want to tell you. Actually, I’m surprised he didn’t tell you himself, and I have no idea what he had to do upstairs because he didn’t mention anything that he had to do today while we were in Hogsmeade. But I guess he wouldn’t mind. I mean it’s not like he hasn’t already given you his present. But all the same, maybe I should...”
“BLOODY HELL WOMAN! WILL YOU JUST SPIT IT OUT!” Ron bellowed.
“Ron! Language! I don’t understand...”
“Hermione! Just tell her! Why on Earth would Harry buy this...this...this thing for my sister?”
“Ron! I don’t appreciate...”
“Hermione, please,” Ginny begged. “You can argue with my brother later. I’m sure it will be the highlight of both of your nights, but please, for the love of Merlin, just tell me why Harry bought me this cat.”
“He wanted to make you feel better,” Hermione said quietly.
“He wanted to make her feel better so he buys her a deranged-looking cat?” Ron interjected. “For crying out loud, Hermione, it’s got fangs!”
“Fang, Ron! Singular! One of its canines is a bit overgrown and it’s...”
“Hold on!” Ginny called, stepping between Ron and Hermione and holding up a hand. “He wanted to make me feel better?”
“Well, yes. He wanted to make you feel better,” Hermione said quickly, as if she were afraid she was going to say too much and wanting to get it out before she thought better of it.
“I still don’t understand, Hermione. How is getting me this...” Ginny gulped. “Getting me this cat supposed to make me feel better? And what am I supposed to feel better about?”
“Errol,” Hermione said softly and then bowed her head.
Ginny stood there looking between Hermione, her brother and the cat carrier that Harry had just presented to her. Her throat was tightening dangerously, but she wasn’t going to cry! She had promised herself she wouldn’t cry anymore, but before her mind heard the words she felt the tears on her cheeks. Carefully picking the cat up out of its carrier and hugging it to her chest, she walked slowly up the girls’ dormitory stairs.
It had been at least two hours since Ginny had come into her dormitory and closed the hangings around her bed. She was grateful that none of her dormitory mates had come to ask about her or her new pet.
Her new pet.
Wasn’t that just like Harry? He’d gone out of his way to do something sweet and caring and screwed it up royally. Now that her gift was out of its carrier and lying on her bed fresh from a bath, she knew her initial impression that this was no ordinary cat was indeed correct. It was a Siamese, if the tan colouring offset by an almost black face, tail and paws were any indication, but huger than the typical lithe form that breed normally took. Its lower body was swollen like a bloated bag, soft and squelching, which swayed and sagged between its hind legs. Its ears were permanently folded back, giving the dark face an invariably annoyed expression. Its eyes were blue and glittering, seemingly full of evil purpose, and larger than expected. Indeed the entire face was broad rather than pointed, and protruding from the mouth was a single fang.
“What on Earth was he thinking? Can you tell me that much?” she asked the cat.
The cat didn’t answer.
“Fine, don’t answer me. I know what he was thinking. He was thinking that hose-pipe Ginny needed something to make her forget she’s an owl killer, that’s what he was thinking.”
The cat raised the bristles over one of its eyes at her.
“Oh, he didn’t tell you. I guess I should, this way you can make up your own mind about wanting to stay around me.” Inwardly she wondered what she was doing, talking to a cat. Of course, Harry wouldn’t have told the animal anything. It was wretched enough as it was.
The cat yawned.
“Lovely. First of all, my name is Ginny. Well, actually it’s Ginevra, but use it and die.” She smiled at the cat and the cat seemed to smile back. Or perhaps it was a smirk.
“And well...I kill owls. No, I take it back, I’ve only killed one owl. His name was Errol. And I sent him on a mission, and I told him under no certain terms he was to wait for a response and head straight back to me. And...bless his heart, he did exactly what I told him to do.”
She choked and for a moment considered simply dropping the subject. She was talking to a cat, after all; it wasn’t as if he was intelligent and could understand what she was saying. But the cat prodded her with its paw and she continued on.
“Well, he came back, and well...” She paused and sniffed. “He died. Right in my arms. He held his leg out to me and hooted with pride and then he died. I shouldn’t have ordered him to come right back. He was too old. I was being selfish.”
The cat gave her a look as if to say, “Is that the best you can do?”
“Excuse me if that’s not evil enough for you. It still...bothers me. And of course, Harry had to be there when Errol came flying at me on the Quidditch Pitch. And he had to see me blubbering on and on. Then the next day at breakfast when the morning mail came...I don’t even want to think about it.”
The cat yawned again.
Ginny picked up the cat and looked closely at him. “You know, by your colouring you should be a Ravenclaw, but that attitude tells me you’re pure Slytherin.”
She would have bet her last Knut that the damn cat smiled.
The next morning Ginny found herself suffocated by a very heavy snoring ball of fur.
“Move over, you pillow hog,” she said as she pushed the intruder away from her face.
The cat turned and scowled at her.
“Good morning to you. My, my, aren’t we happy and chipper this morning. Or maybe you just want another bath like the one you had last night?”
She would have bet Ron’s last Knut that the cat gave her the two-finger salute. It had assumed a rather odd position for a cat – it was sitting on its hind legs the way a human would.
“Don’t get shirty with me. You needed a bath. You had purple gunk all over your face, and I’m sorry to say, but you stunk to high heaven.”
The cat saluted her once more.
“I think someone needs to learn manners, but first you need a name.” She smirked at the cat. “Let’s see, with those legs of yours, you almost look like you have boots on. How about Puss-n-boots?”
The cat reached up with one dark paw, and tugged at the ribbon that Ginny had tied around his neck last night. It took only a few tries, but soon he held it in his paws, looking up at her with eyes full of evil purpose.
“Hmmm, don’t like that do you? Well how about Mr. Kibbles?”
The cat held up his free paw, extended one claw and placed in on the ribbon.
He dug the claw into the ribbon.
He ripped the ribbon in two.
“Oh my, my. Mr Big Old Scary Cat Who Knows How To Rip A Poor Defenceless Ribbon. How do you like that for a name?”
The cat coughed up a hairball onto the ribbon.
“Oh, now you’re just being disgusting!” She took her wand and with a muttered “Scourgify” cleaned up the mess.
The cat raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, you’d better watch it. My great-grandfather was a taxidermist. I know some dead useful spells.”
The cat gulped.
“That’s better,” Ginny smiled. “Ok, back to names. How about Fatty Lumpkin?”
The cat got to its feet and walked toward Ginny. It climbed onto her lap and then stood on its hind legs. Once again, it extended the one claw from his right paw. Slowly it tapped her nose.
“Listen here, you, remove that paw this instant or you’ll find yourself minus a body part. An important body part. One that might mean I have to call you Mrs Whiskers after I remove it.”
The cat growled and slunk off to the opposite end of the bed.
“Damn, you are one evil cat. Evil cat. Evil. Cat...hmmm perfect!”
“Morning all,” Ginny said brightly as she sat down at the Gryffindor table.
“Morning,” Ron said as he shovelled a piece of toast in his mouth.
“Ginny, listen about the cat,” Harry began nervously.
“Oh, Harry, listen. I’m sorry about yesterday. I was just...a bit shocked really. I like him. He’s...different,” Ginny replied in all honesty.
“No, really Ginny, you don’t have to pretend,” he said as he turned and scowled at Hermione. “It’s just that...I thought you might like a pet of your own. Not that I wanted you to think I was replacing Errol. Because I wouldn’t do that. I mean, well, I got you a cat not an owl. And I only got you a cat because I remember Ron said...”
“Oh, no, don’t you dare blame that thing on me,” Ron protested around a mouthful of toast. “I said she was a cat lover, not a mangy, one-fanged wonder lover.
“Ron, there is nothing wrong with that cat. He just needs some love, attention and possibly a diet. And Harry knows Ginny can provide that, isn’t that right, Harry?”
Harry glared at Hermione before he turned to Ginny. “I just thought you’d like a cat,” He said, blushing. “And I’m sorry if he’s not what you would have picked.”
Ginny could have sworn he added, “He’s not what I would have picked either” under his breath as he shot another angry glare in Hermione’s direction.
“Harry, really, it’s okay. He’s not all that bad. We sort of...bonded last night and this morning.” She squeezed his arm gently and mouthed a thank-you.
Everyone focused on his own food for the next few minutes until Hermione spoke up.
“So, Ginny, have you named him yet? I have a wonderful book of animal names in my room. If you want I’ll nip upstairs for it,” she said in her matter-of-fact tone.
“No need, he’s got a name,” Ginny said with a smirk.
“Oh wonderful, what’s his name?” Hermione asked.
“Cattivo,” she said.
“Cattivo? That’s an interesting name,” Hermione said with a look towards Ron as if she was waiting for him to explode. Ron simply snickered.
“You can call him Cat for short,” Harry said, sounding rather relieved. “Just like Pig.”
“I suppose,” Ginny said as she looked over her notes before class hoping to hide her smile.
“Ginny, what kind of name is Cattivo?” Hermione asked.
“Italian? Interesting. Ron, don’t you think it’s odd, er...interesting that your sister gave her cat an Italian name?
Ron winked at Ginny and said, “No, actually I think it’s perfect. I never did tell you about our family’s Italian connections, did I?” he added to Harry and Hermione. “They’re on Mum’s side. It’s where she got Ginny’s name from in the first place.”
“Well, I’m off. See you at lunch,” Ginny said as she made her way from the table, but not before she heard Ron say add, “Cattivo is Italian for ‘meat hook’. Suits him, don’t you think?”
Ginny had to laugh. Her brother could be just as evil as she.
“Ginny! What did I tell you about missing Quidditch practice! I told you that we need to practice at least three times a week. Hufflepuff have a half-way decent team this year, and we need to be at our best!” yelled Ron.
“Listen here, you may think you’re Oliver Wood incarnate, but I’m in no mood. And if you want to yell at someone you can start with the cat-giver over there,” she fumed as she pointed her finger at a wide-eyed Harry who was sitting two seats over, scribbling furiously at some essay or other.
“Oh no, not again,” Ron said, laughing through his annoyance.
“Oh yes, AGAIN!” Ginny seethed. “You listen to me, Mr Let-Me-Get-Ginny-A-Cat-So-She-Can-Feel-B
“Ginny, all you have to...” Hermione began.
“Stuff it, Hermione! I’ve locked him in my room. I’ve locked him in his carrier. I’ve used binding spells. Nothing will stop him from coming to Potions, which in turn means Snape won’t stop giving me detention! I just had detention with him three days ago! That damned cat flicked Colin’s porcupine quill into his cauldron before he got the Healing Paste off the flame. And just like the Boil-cure potion, the damned thing exploded.”
“Ginny, be realistic. He’s just a cat, he couldn’t possibly...” Hermione tried once again.
“Hermione, I’m going to say this one more time. HE IS NOT A NORMAL CAT! He thinks. He plots. He tricks. And most of all, he’s EVIL!
“Hold up, you didn’t have Potions today,” Ron said suspiciously.
“Of course, I didn’t have Potions you dunderhead; you lot had Potions.”
“So why did Snape give you...OH… OH!” Ron broke off and began to laugh hysterically, pounding Harry on the back as he proceeded to fall onto his chair. “Good show mate! Good show.”
Ginny glared at Harry who was now hiding his face behind Quidditch through the Ages – he was holding the book upside down. A hard kick on the shin seemed to get his attention.
“What. Did. You. Do?”
“I sort of...him...but...never...after all...cat,” Harry said, his barely rising above a whisper.
Ginny had her wand pointed at Harry’s face so fast that both Ron and Hermione jumped.
“Excuse me, but I didn’t hear you,” she said icily.
“It was a joke, honestly. I didn’t think he’d listen. I mean he’s a...”
“WHAT DID YOU DO?”
“Well, he came to class with us. He didn’t do anything, he just sat there,” Harry began.
“Yeah, except for coughing up that hairball on Malfoy’s shoes. That was brilliant,” Ron added.
Harry glared at Ron and turned a pleading look on Ginny.
“Go on,” she said calmly, which only seemed to scare Harry more.
“Anyway, he came to class like he usually does. And except for doing foul things to Malfoy he just sort of sits there and...I don’t know...watches.”
“I think he has a thing for Snape,” Ron said, working hard at keeping his face straight.
“Oh please. He’s a cat, Ron,” Hermione interjected patiently.
Ginny folded her arms across her chest and tapped her foot. Harry got the message to continue.
“I sort of told him that if he followed Snape after class he’d find out where he lived. I was joking, Ginny. He’s a cat. It’s not like he’d know what to do!” Harry said defiantly.
“What part of ‘HE’S NOT A NORMAL CAT’ DIDN’T YOU UNDERSTAND?” Ginny bellowed as Harry slunk back further into his chair. “He did exactly what you told him to do. He followed Snape back to his room and...”
“Snape gave you detention because the cat followed him,” Ron said incredulously.
“No, he gave me detention because when he got back from lunch he found MY CAT sitting on his bedside table.”
Harry blanched as Ron howled with mirth.
“How can he blame you? It’s not like you let him in, Ginny. We don’t even know where the teachers live,” Hermione said matter-of-factly.
“I don’t, but my cat does. And he knows the password.”
“Hermione, try and follow me. He. Is. Not. A. Normal. Cat. Snape said he changed the password after he kicked him out and just before dinner he found him in his room again.”
“You don’t think he’s an Animagus, do you?” Ron asked nervously.
“No, I had Professor McGonagall test him. He’s all cat,” Ginny said scathingly.
Just then, the portrait hole opened and none other than the cat in question sauntered in. Alone.
Ginny pointed her wand at him. Sparks flew out and several smacked him on his hindquarters. The cat made an odd sort of noise somewhere between a meow and a snicker and walked up the girls’ stairway, his tail swaying high in the air.
“Ginny,” Ron asked cautiously, “did that cat...” He swallowed. “Did that cat just call you Ginevra?”
“You and that menace to society!”
Ginny looked dumbfounded at the outside of her dormitory door. How could they do that to her? They’d been friends for the past six years. They never turned on one another. Never. Not even during her first year she reminded herself with a shudder.
“Until YOU that is,” she hissed at her feline companion. “This is your fault, you know. You and that yowling you’ve been doing for the past three nights. Jumping on whoever has fallen asleep. What’s got into you anyway? Why don’t you go over to Slytherin and pay Malfoy another visit? The detention would be worth it.”
Ginny pounded down the girls’ stairs into the cold, dark common room. She looked around for a smouldering fire to stoke but found none. Sitting down on the nearest sofa, she huffed again as she hugged herself, trying to keep warm.
“At least they threw my pillow and blanket out with...Where do you think you’re going?” she asked the cat.
The cat didn’t answer. It just looked at her and then up the stairs and then back to her. It didn’t take her long to get the idea and follow.
Ginny didn’t bother to knock. What was the point of giving him any time to react? She rolled her eyes as she saw the seventh-year boys jump and cover themselves.
“Ginny! I’m not dressed!”
“Put a cork in it, Neville. It’s not like you have anything I haven’t ever seen before.” From the corner of her eye she saw a pair of curtains close.
“Hey, Ginny, I’ll light your fire,” Seamus said leering at her legs.
This comment caught Ginny off guard until she remembered she was wearing an oversized T-shirt that Charlie had sent her with “Dragons Light My Fire” written on the back. She turned to roll her eyes at him and then continued towards her goal.
“Hey! That’s my sister, Seamus. You’d better watch your step or she’ll get her cat after you,” Ron said jokingly.
Said cat then jumped up onto Ron’s bed and seated himself in his odd human way right in the middle of Ron’s pillow.
“Get off there, you mangy beast,” Ron protested. Just as he was approaching the cat, the feline extracted its favourite claw and tapped Ron’s pillow while glaring at the redhead.
“Ginny! Do something about your...” Ron didn’t finish because Ginny shocked him by ripping open Harry’s bed-curtains.
“Whoa! Harry’s getting some action,” Seamus roared. Ginny’s cat hissed at him and Seamus took a step back and shut his mouth.
Ginny looked down at Harry Potter’s serene and most definitely not sleeping face.
“Ginny, he’s sleeping,” the now dressed Neville said.
“Yeah, and my cat is sweet and innocent. Get up, Harry.”
“I think he took a sleeping draught,” Dean added nervously.
“He’ll need one after I get through with him. Either you get out of that bed on your own or I help you out. Which is it?” she growled as she pulled the covers from his body.
“Ginny, he could have been starkers! What’s this about?” Ron asked while keeping one eye on the cat.
“I’ve been kicked out of my dormitory. I need a bed to sleep in and I’ve picked this one,” she said, flashing her brother her sweetest smile.
“Ginny you can’t...”
“Potter, get your bloody cat-giving arse out of that bed right now or you’ll rue the day you ever gave me that beast!”
“Ginny, can’t you go sleep with Hermione?” Ron asked pleadingly.
“No, why should I? It’s not like it’s her fault. This is all his fault.”
“How is it my fault?” Harry had finally found the courage to open his eyes and speak.
“It’s your fault because you gave me that cat.” She pointed to Ron’s bed where the cat was now grooming himself as if he didn’t have a care in the world. “That cat has kept me and my dormitory mates up for the past three nights. Now my dormitory mates have kicked us both out. If the cat hadn’t caused a scene, I’d still have my bed. If you hadn’t given me the cat I’d still have my bed. Either way it’s your fault. NOW GET UP!”
“But it is Hermione’s fault! She’s the one that forced me to buy that… that thing!” he pleaded with her.
“Oh please,” Ginny scoffed.
“She did! This is all her fault. Go toss her out of bed,” he said defiantly.
“She made you decide to buy me a pet?”
“She forced you to go to Hogsmeade that day?”
“No, I was...”
“She pushed you into Melton Mowbray’s Parrots, Pets and Creatures for All Occasions?”
“NO, but if you’d...”
“She pointed her wand at you and used Imperius on you?”
“Of course n-...”
“She stuck your hand in your pocket and made you take your money out?”
“She dragged you back to school and made you give me that cat?”
Ten minutes later Ginny found herself snuggled deep in Harry Potter’s warm, comfortable bed as the other occupants of the seventh year dormitory cowered within their own curtains. She hoped Harry had found a comfortable spot in the common room.
Just as she drifted off to sleep she heard her brother say, “Budge up, you great, hairy lump.”
Looking out the common room window, Ginny sighed sadly. It had snowed the night before, and the grounds looked like a winter wonderland, a wonderland that Ginny was destined not to see. Once again, Ginny had detention and once again, it was with Professor Snape. Ginny had secretly thought that the greasy-haired Potions professor might have a crush on her. After all, she had spent at minimum of two nights a week in detention with the man since October. That had to be a new school record she thought. Unfortunately, she knew if she asked he’d give her detention for cheek. Part of her was grateful. Her Potions grades had shot up lately – not that she’d done badly in the past –but high marks in N.E.W.T. level potions never hurt anyone. Now her day would be complete if she could rid herself of that cold, clammy feeling she carried with her. But that too was not to be, and there was only one person to blame for that and he was coming down the boys’ stairs this very moment.
“Hi, Harry,” she said, plastering a bright smile on her face.
“Hey, Ginny, are you ready to go to Hogsmeade?” he ask stupidly.
“No, actually I’m not.” She continued to smile.
“Okay, we can hang around until you’re ready, no big deal, really.”
“Oh see, that’s where you’re wrong, Harry Potter. Dead wrong.” Her voice was deadly calm.
Damn, she was a good actor. Anyone with lesser talent would have burst out laughing at the look of cowardice on The-Boy-Who-Lived’s face.
“Sit,” she commanded.
“Would you like to know why I’m not going to Hogsmeade today, Harry?” she asked, not giving him a moment to answer. “I’m not going to Hogsmeade because that lovely gift you gave me keeps on giving.” She kept on smiling, but her cheek muscles were beginning to get sore from the effort.
“And what a sweet cat he is, too! He keeps giving Professor Snape a reason to give me detention,” she went on. “He must feel that my Potions prowess is not up to the same level of that of the love of his life, that being our dear Professor Snape, by the way.” She watched straight-faced as Harry tried to find a comfortable position in his chair as he looked up towards her.
“Now normally I would be extremely upset about this, since it’s the last Hogsmeade trip before Christmas break. But I’ve come to cherish my detentions with old Snape, and I was smart enough to do my Christmas shopping by Owl-order this year.” She smiled again and cheered inside at the nervous twitch Harry had seemed to develop.
“But I am extremely upset because today would have been a very good day to go to Hogsmeade, especially since I am in dire need of some essentials.” She continued to smile and Harry began to sweat.
She held out a slip of parchment for him to take.
He didn’t move.
“Take it, Harry. It won’t explode.” Her sweet was smile still in place.
He moved his head back and forth indicating he wasn’t going anywhere near that parchment.
“Take it.” Her smile broadened. “Or I will make your life every bit the living hell that mine has been for the past three months.” Her smile was now so wide she thought her face would crack.
Slowly he extended his hand and took the parchment from her. Even more slowly he opened it up and let out a gasp.
“No way, Ginny,” he said nervously.
“Yes way, Harry.” She kept smiling.
“N-no, y-you can’t make me,” he stuttered.
“Yes, I can. But if you insist I’ll just hurt you.”
“But I can’t!”
“You can and you will.” She narrowed her eyes, allowing her smile to slip at last, and it was then that she knew he now saw her wand neatly at her side.
“Do you know what it’s like to walk around a cold damp castle with cold damp knickers Harry?”
He didn’t answer.
“Well! Do you?”
“N-n-noo!” he stammered, looking rather frightened.
“Well, I do! Thanks to your present I am currently walking around in damp knickers. Why do you think I’d do that?”
Harry’s mouth was working, but no sound was coming out, and he blushed more deeply than Ginny had ever seen.
“Because that cat decided to shred each and every pair of knickers I own during the night. The only pair that survived were the ones I was wearing, and I had to wash them this morning. Now I don’t know about you, but I still can’t do a decent enough drying charm on lace. Last time I tried, I nearly set something aflame. So the choice was either damp knickers or no knickers at all. Which would you have chosen?”
Harry crossed his left leg over his knee and shifted once again. He swallowed hard and pulled at his shirt collar. If she hadn’t been so angry she would have enjoyed the torture she was inflicting.
“Oh, it gets worse, Harry, it gets worse. Not only did he ruin my knickers but he went after my bras too. Now you probably don’t know enough about girls to know this, but I don’t wear one to bed, so I didn’t even have a dirty one to wash this morning. Now that would have been lovely, walking around in a wet bra too!” She wanted to burst out laughing when he choked and then took a good look at her.
“Don’t even try and sneak a peak at me, you pillock! I have one on! I found it on the bottom of my trunk. Lucky for me it’s only two sizes too small.”
He had the good sense to look mortified and he shifted once again.
“Now, you listen to me. I’m walking around in damp knickers. I’m being suffocated by my own bra. I’m due in Snape’s detention in ten minutes. And it’s all due to the present YOU got me. If you don’t go to Gladrags, give the sales witch that note, and bring me back new undergarments, I’m going to get pneumonia and I’m going to die. Then you’ll have to explain to my mother why her only daughter is dead and why it was entirely your fault. And believe me, I’ve already left a note. She’ll know exactly who to come to for answers.”
She huffed and started to walk away when she remembered something else.
“Don’t forget to pick up a new copy of Hogwarts: a History. If Hermione sees what he did to her copy they’ll be no consoling her,” she said tersely.
“Hey! Shouldn’t Ron get it? After all, he’s the one that gave the cat the idea in the first place,” he huffed.
“He can’t. He’s in detention with me,” she said with a smirk.
“How did that happen?”
She stopped and shook her head. At least this detention was worth it. She turned towards Harry and gave him a genuine smile.
“My cat sneaked into the Slytherin common room and made his way to Malfoy’s dormitory, where he proceeded to turn Malfoy’s trunk into his own personal litter box. And for reasons known only to him, the little beast lined the bottom with Ron’s Chudley Canon’s T-shirt.
She sashayed towards the portrait hole, just before she went through, she turned to see an extremely flabbergasted Harry.
“Have fun in Hogsmeade, Harry,” she said cheerfully as she gave him a slight wave and childlike smile.
She laughed all the way to the dungeons.
“I’m telling you, Hermione, that greasy git doesn’t know how to brew that potion,” Ron said sarcastically as he, Hermione, Harry and Cat walked into the Common Room, where Ginny was already relaxing in the most comfortable chair by the roaring fire. The others stopped where they were, not noticing her at first, but Cat went straight over to her and climbed into her lap.
“Of course he knows how to brew it, Ron. He was just testing us,” Hermione said.
“Stupid git. Three feet on what we did wrong! How the hell are we supposed to know what we did wrong? He’s the one the screwed up the directions,” Ron fumed.
“He did that on purpose, Ron. He wanted us to think for ourselves, not just put blind faith in the recipe,” Hermione said, irritated.
“Harry, what do you...” Ron stopped speaking and stared over towards the fireplace.
“Ron, you look like you’re going to be sick. Are you okay?” Harry asked.
Ron tilted his head in the direction of the fireplace. He did look a little green around the gills. He’d spotted Ginny, who had to bite the inside of her cheek to stop herself from grinning. She reckoned her brother’s reaction was due to the affection she was currently showing her overweight pet.
“Ergh...Ginny, what are you doing? Don’t tell me you’re getting attached to that thing?” Harry said, with his own disgust written on his face.
Ginny looked up as she continued to stroke her cat.
“Hey, you got him for me, and...he’s not all that bad. Isn’t that right you brilliant little kitty?” she said in a sickeningly sweet voice as she rubbed the cat’s belly. Cat was sitting up in his usual human way, which gave her easy access.
“Brilliant little kitty! Did Fred and George send you Firewhiskey?” Ron asked accusingly.
“No,” she replied with a laugh, “of course not. I’m just sitting here enjoying my time off from school work. I finished all my homework last night and I’m free for the whole weekend.” She beamed as she now picked the cat up and touched his nose with hers. Judging from the look on its face, it wasn’t particularly fond of this demonstration of affection, but Ron’s reaction made risking her pet’s annoyance worth any consequences. It wasn’t as if things could get much worse.
“You’re not totally free,” Harry said, unable to hide his growing irritation. “We know you have three feet to write for Potions. That git did the same to your class. I just want to know why you didn’t warn us.”
“I couldn’t do that. If I had told you what Professor Snape had done...well, that would be like cheating on a test,” she said frankly. “Isn’t that right, Hermione?”
“Well, yes I...suppose. I mean it would have been nice to have some warning,” Hermione said hesitantly.
“But the sixth-years didn’t have a warning,” she said innocently.
“Yes, I know but...” Hermione was clearly at a loss at how to explain why cheating would have been acceptable in this case.
“Yes, well, it doesn’t matter, Ginny. You still have to do that paper for Snape. We all know you didn’t do it last night,” Harry said mockingly.
“No, I didn’t, and no I don’t,” Ginny rejoined as she started to rub the cat’s belly again.
“Everyone has to do it,” Harry said, clearly becoming more annoyed with her.
“No, not everyone, Harry,” Ginny replied with a smile. “Only those who got the potion wrong.”
“Like I said, you have a paper to write,” Harry gloated.
“Like I said, no I don’t.” Her smile broadened.
“You got the potion right?” he said, raising his eyebrows.
“Yes, I did.”
“You got the potion right and you didn’t even warn us about what Snape was doing,” Harry repeated.
“I couldn’t, I would have got detention.”
“So what!” he spat. “What’s one more detention to you? You’ve had them all year.”
“ONLY BECAUSE OF YOU!” she shouted back.
“Harry, mate, don’t get mad at Ginny. Even if she did warn us, it’s not like either one of us would have been able to brew it,” Ron reminded him.
“But that’s not the point,” Harry fumbled.
“What exactly is the point?” Ginny asked, arching an eyebrow.
“I... I don’t know,” Harry stammered. “And why are you petting that thing?” he added, sounding irritated once again. “I thought you hated him. What did he do, help you or something?”
Ginny simply smiled serenely and continued petting her cat.
“HE DID!” Harry accused. “He helped you, didn’t he?”
“Harry, please, you’re getting all worked up. He’s a cat, he couldn’t possibly have helped Ginny with that potion or any potion for that matter,” Hermione stated.
Ginny continued to smile and bit down on her tongue hard.
“He did,” Ron laughed, came over, sat down and actually petted the cat himself.
“Ron, honestly, you’re as bad as Har...Ginny he didn’t, did he?”
“Yeah, he did. Didn’t you, you wonderful kitty?” Ginny said sweetly.
“But...that’s not...he...” Hermione was at a complete loss for words.
Ron smiled and shook his head as he watched Ginny get up and walk over to where Harry was standing.
“Thanks, Harry,” Ginny said softly.
“For what?” he couldn’t hide the annoyance in his voice or the pout on his face.
“For my cat, of course,” she replied with a grin.
She stood on tiptoe as she kissed him on the cheek.
“Next time he helps me in Potions you’ll be the first to know,” she added.
She then walked away, up the girls’ stairs petting her cat all the way.
“I guess it’s my own fault, really. It’s not like I was very nice to him most of the time. I mean...I yelled at him and I punished him. Why wouldn’t he want to...”
“Ginny, what are you doing here?” Harry asked, looking around his dormitory. “Who are you talking to?”
“No one important, just myself,” she said as she wiped at her eyes.
“Hey.” He sat down next to her on Ron’s bed. “What happened?”
“I can’t find Cat,” she sniffled.
“Is that all?” he replied with a smile. “I’m sure he’ll be back soon. He’s a cat; he’s bound to wander.” He rubbed her back, comforting her.
She couldn’t help herself, but started to cry in earnest. She didn’t know who had initiated it, but she soon found herself in Harry’s arms. He held her and rubbed her back as she cried for the cat she had grown to love.
“How long has he been gone?” Harry asked.
“Over a week,” she sniffled.
“He hasn’t been in Potions?” Harry asked.
“No, I thought he’d be sure to turn up there. He didn’t come to my class. I asked Ron about yours and he said he hadn’t seen him,” she finished with a sigh.
“Come on.” Harry stood and held his hand out to her. “Let’s go walk around the castle. Maybe someone has seen him.”
Ginny wiped at her eyes again and then took Harry’s hand. She had a strange feeling that something had changed between Harry and her.
Cat hadn’t been to the Owlery, that much they could tell. The owls were peacefully perched in the rafters and the floor had an intact covering of droppings and feathers. It had taken weeks for the owls to calm down the last time Cat has paid a visit to them. It seemed no owl was safe from his stalking, not even the ones at the top. Filch had commented on how he had found Cat cornering a large, frightened barn owl on the very top rafter of the Owlery. No one could work out how Cat had managed to heave his bulk up that high.
The cat hadn’t been hiding out in the greenhouses either. Professor Sprout eyed Harry and Ginny suspiciously when Ginny made mention of her cat and helped them conduct a thorough search. It seemed the Venemous Tentacula had never fully recovered from Cat’s last visit. The spiky, dark red plant had stubbornly kept its feelers to itself, not even threatening the second-years, since the day of Cat’s visit. It seemed the plant had come out on the wrong end of a good game of tug-of-war and then had served as Cat’s mid-day snack. Professor Sprout became rather put out after remembering it had taken days to clean up the mess Cat had made on the greenhouse floor when the snack hadn’t agreed with him.
Then Ginny thought they might find Cat sleeping in the library, but it seemed Madam Pince had put a stop to his visits. After finding the cat curled up on top of pages shredded from various books in the back rows she put a Feline-repelling Charm on the door. It might not have been so bad, if he’d just opened the books and lain down on them. Cat had shown an uncanny affinity for some ancient tomes that hadn’t seen the light of day in decades. Madam Pince – and Hermione, for that matter – had not taken kindly to the abuse of the sacred volumes. After leaving the library both Ginny and Harry were thankful that Hermione had never found out what Cat had done to her copy of Hogwarts: a History. The poor girl might well have wound up in St Mungo’s, passing the time with Gilderoy Lockhart.
Ginny didn’t follow Harry into the hospital wing; she was sure Madam Pomfrey was still vexed with her. Ginny just served detention with her last week and there was no reason to remind the matron. Cat had an unhealthy habit of shredding sheets and he’d developed a taste for freshly starched sheets. Someone has apparently ratted her cat out to the furious matron, and Ginny found herself in detention. Ginny had been thankful that she’d seen her mother do that mending charm so many times, otherwise she’d still be there sewing up those sheets.
Two hours later Ginny and Harry found themselves in an unknown corridor down in the dungeons not far from their Potions classroom. They had gone to the most obvious places that Ginny thought Cat might be. It had been easiest to simply go to all the places that the damned cat had earned Ginny a detention. Harry had almost convinced her to give up the search when they found no feline evidence in the Potions class, but Ginny thought of one last place.
“Potter! Weasley! What are you two doing down here?” a voice startled them both. It was, unsurprisingly, their greasy-haired Potions professor.
“We weren’t doing anything wrong,” Harry said snidely, knowing that neither he nor Ginny were out of bounds.
“I didn’t say you were, Potter. I asked what you were doing here. Now answer me!”
“Sir,” Ginny began meekly, “Harry is helping me look for Cat. He’s disappeared and I can’t find him anywhere.”
“Just how long has he been missing, Miss Weasley?” Snape asked, a malicious gleam coming up in his eye.
“He’s been gone just over a week... I think,” she said, looking down at her feet.
“A week! I think any animal would be thankful not to have you as a mistress. That feline has been gone an entire week and it took you this long to decide to look for him?” he asked, his eyes glittering cruelly.
“I have looked for him!” she spat. “What do you know about cats, anyway? Cats like to roam.”
“Yes, and look what the result of all that roaming has been. He’s missing and you, Miss Weasley, now hold the school record for most detentions for a single school year and we’ve still got a term to go. Those twin brothers of yours must be proud. You’ve racked up more detentions this year than both of them put together did in any given year.”
“All that is beside the point. Just tell us if you’ve seen her cat,” Harry demanded.
“Watch your tongue, Potter, or you’ll find yourself in detention with Miss Weasley next Tuesday,” Snape said, a note of triumph creeping into his voice.
“Tuesday? Why do I have detention on Tuesday? I haven’t done anything!” Ginny yelled.
“Detention is the least you could do. Your cat has taken up residence in my suite. He joined me ten days ago and refuses to leave,” the professor said, although Ginny had a sneaking suspicion that it hadn’t bothered him that much.
Just then Cat appeared behind Snape and wove himself in and out of the Potions professor’s legs.
Ginny stared open-mouthed when they saw a ghost of a smile cross Snape’s features. It was gone so quickly, Ginny would have been sure she’d imagined it, if, out of the corner of her eye, she hadn’t spied Harry gaping right along with her.
“Here’s your pet, Miss Weasley,” Snape said harshly, as he turned and began to walk away. Ginny reached down to pick up a reluctant Cat. “I’d keep a closer watch of him or you’ll find yourself cat-less.” Snape turned back after a few steps and stared at Ginny and Cat. “Detention, Tuesday at eight.”
Cat shoved his back paws into Ginny’s chest in an attempt to escape. Ginny tightened her grip while she and Harry both stared down at him. He was now staring teary-eyed at the retreating Professor.
“Cattivo!” She almost smirked to herself as she used his proper name – she sounded just like her mother scolding one of her miscreant children. “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick. Don’t you ever do that to me again. Are you listening to me, mister?”
The cat’s head was still turned towards the corridor down which Snape had just disappeared. Ginny shook him to get his attention. He turned his head towards his mistress and did something that he hadn’t done since the first night they were together. He pulled out his favourite claw on his right paw and tapped Ginny’s nose. He looked longingly towards the corridor and then back to Ginny, his eyes pleading with her to let him go.
“You want to go with him?” she asked unbelievingly.
Cat retracted his claw and looked down the corridor again.
Ginny looked at Harry for an answer. She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes.
“I think you should let him go. If you try and keep him he’ll only get resentful,” he said softly. Then with a smile on his face he added, “I don’t even want to think about the trouble that cat would get you into if he were put out with you.”
Ginny smiled and sniffled at the same time. She looked at the cat and smiled again.
“Go ahead,” she said. “If you ever want to come back, you can.”
She put the cat down and the feline raced down the corridor. Ginny tried to control a sob, but couldn’t and once again she found herself in Harry’s arms.
Only a few moments had gone by when she felt something by her legs. She looked down to see Cat twining around her legs as he had just done to Snape. The cat looked up at her and Ginny would have bet Harry’s last Knut that the cat looked a little less evil for a second or two. It was a similar look to the ghost of a smile that had crossed Snape’s features just now. Ginny looked down and smiled back.
“Go on you, great big lump.”
The cat nodded, before trotting off down the corridor towards his new master, his belly swaying beneath him.
March found Ginny pet-less but not entirely alone. It was the last Hogsmeade visit before Easter and Ginny Weasley found herself walking towards the village. She supposed that her life had changed the day Harry gave her Cat, but it had changed even more the day Cat threw her over for Snape. Harry had helped her look for the mangy beast that whole day and never once complained. More than once she had found herself wrapped in his arms, as a matter of fact, that’s how she had ended her day too.
When the Hogsmeade visit was announced, Harry wasted no time in telling her that he wanted to take her. Now the two of them were hand in hand, walking towards the village, for the whole world to see. Her brother had been a bit put out when Harry said he’d like to spend the day alone with Ginny, but it had made her heart soar.
Ginny thought they’d head straight for Zonko’s or Honeyduke’s like the rest of the students, but Harry was leading her in a different direction. Before she knew it she was standing outside Melton Mowbray’s Parrots, Pets and Creatures for All Occasions (De-clawing, curse removal and limb retrieval a speciality).
“Harry, what do you need here?” she asked clearly confused.
“I wanted to get you something.” He was going red, and Ginny found it endearing.
“You don’t have to do that.” She could feel her own blush coming on.
“I know, but...well I never got to get you what I wanted last time so I thought I’d get it now that is if you want it.” He had said it all so quickly that Ginny had to concentrate so she could understand what he was saying.
“What did you want to get me?” She was confused.
“Well...I wanted to get you a kitten.” He stopped there; Ginny could tell he didn’t want to say anymore.
“But Hermione forced you to get Cat,” Ginny went on for him. “She probably told you that all these cute little kittens could get any home they wanted. And that poor old Cat would be stuck here just waiting for something caring and loving to come along and take him away. She probably told you that I had a soft spot for cats and I wouldn’t be able to resist him once I got to know him. Then I’ll bet you a Butterbeer that she said look what a wonderful pet Crookshanks turned out to be.” She had spoken in all sincerity.
Harry was staring at her, open-mouthed.
“Well?” she said, holding back her laughter.
“I owe you a Butterbeer,” he said as he squeezed her hand affectionately.
“Come on, let’s go to Zonko’s,” she said as she dragged him away from the pet shop.
“Wait!” He stopped and stared at her. “If you knew that it was Hermione’s fault the whole time, why did you keep getting mad at me?” He seemed puzzled.
“Oh please, like you don’t know that answer.”
Clearly, judging by the look on his face, he didn’t. She shook her head and laughed, giving his hand a tender squeeze.
“If I’d blamed Hermione she would have got all defensive and then we would have had a big row. Then Ron and I would have had an argument about it. Most likely, you would have got involved and not only would Hermione have been mad at you, but my git of a brother would have been also. Then Hermione would have stopped talking to me and most likely you. So really the best possible solution was to continue to blame you.” She smiled as she pulled him towards the joke shop.
“Wait, what makes you think I wouldn’t have stopped talking to you?”
“Oh, you and I are made of the same stuff. We’re too stubborn to give in and admit we’re wrong. You would have fought me to the bitter end.” She wanted to add that she could pick on him because he was a glutton for punishment and she knew that he'd always come back for more. But at this point in their friendship, she wasn’t sure how well he’d take it.
“I guess I understand.” He looked like he wanted to argue but then thought better of it. “Anyway I still owe you a gift, and this time I want to get you something that you really want and you’ll enjoy.”
“You mean that, Harry?” Ginny asked.
“Of course, anything you want.”
Ginny stepped up on tiptoe and brushed Harry’s cheek with a soft kiss. “You’re sweet,” she said into his ear.
Before Harry had the chance to blush, Ginny was off like a rocket, dragging him into the next street.
“Where are we going?” he huffed, trying to catch his breath.
“Gladrags. I hear they’re having a sale on knickers.”
A/N: Thanks go to David for his help with the name of the pet shop. The name also contains a Monty Python reference. The story’s title, “Ginny’s Gift”, has been used by permission, which was granted only as a result of a heinous combination of grovelling, blatant bribing and blackmail.
Cattivo, physically anyway, was based on Bucky from the comic “Get Fuzzy”. The lengthy description, however, owes a lot to Tolkien’s description of Shelob in The Two Towers. The resemblance was entirely intentional.
Cattivo does not actually mean “meat hook” as Ron pointed out; it means “evil”.