Written for the Second Harry Potter Gen Ficathon.|
Prompt: Mrs. Norris. What is up with her? Who or what is she, and how did she come to be connected to Filch? (for that matter, the question of what the heck Filch is doing at Hogwarts may apply, too, though is not a requirement for this story). Condition: she must not be an 'ordinary' cat (note: JKR recently mentioned on her website that Mrs. Norris is just an ordinary cat...but for the purposes of fulfilling this request, I?m sticking my fingers in my ears and going "la la la.")
As The Wand Chooses The Wizard
"Mrs originated as a contraction of the title "Mistress." The term was originally applied to both married and unmarried women."
Patricia Eleanor Norris Smith was the youngest daughter of the junior branch of the Berkshire Smiths. She was a slight girl of eleven summers, with dun-coloured hair and large pale amber eyes.
She was also a Squib.
In many wizarding families, the birth of a Squib passed with as little comment as possible, for what family would want to admit to such a weakness in their bloodline? The fact that no pureblood familes were free from Squibs was irrelevant; the polite fiction that the birth of Squibs were a rare occurence had been maintained in the wizarding world for centuries.
As would have been true in most wizarding families, The Smiths would most likely have tried to ignore the existence of their non-magical daughter entirely, especially since she was born an entire generation after the last of their older children, had it not been for the fact that Patricia Eleanor was one of a set of twins - and that her sister Madeline Victoria, who showed signs of magic from the moment of her birth, simply refused to be separated from her sister.
During childhood, the closeness of the two girls was not a problem. Patricia and Madeline were educated at home, of course, and while Patricia couldn't actively participate in the magical training which Madeline was receiving, at all other times, the two girls were inseparable.
The trouble began when Madeline received her letter from Hogwarts.
The girls had known for a very long time that the start of Madeline's formal magical education would mark the start of their separation, and after they both understood why Patricia couldn't attend Hogwarts, they begged their parents to keep Madeline home instead. After all, in 1919 there were many wizarding families who believed that the development of young ladies was better served if the girls were kept home and away from the dubious influences of some of the more...colourful of the Hogwarts instructional staff. However, the Smiths - while very traditional in most ways - were quite forward thinking when it came to the education of females, and so they immediately accepted the offer of a place at the school for their magical daughter.
"Oh, look at the lovely little rats!" Madeline exclaimed, clapping in glee as four white rats danced together in a pink cage in the center of the shop. "Do you think Mum will let me bring one to Hogwarts if I tell her it's my familiar?"
Patricia shrugged her shoulders unhappily and leaned against the counter at Magical Menagerie. "Might do. Personally, I don't know what you see in those things."
"Well, what would you buy then?"
Patricia was just about to say she wouldn't be bothered about getting any pet, when she felt something brush up against her ankles. When she looked down, a cat with grey fur and striking orange eyes was weaving in and out between her legs. "This cat, I suppose," she said, pointing down at her feet.
Madeline sniffed. "It looks like it has some sort of...condition."
"It does not," Patricia said indignantly, picking up the grey cat from the floor. It was true that the fur was a little less...furry than she'd seen on most cats before, but that didn't mean that the poor thing had a condition!
Madeline leaned in to get a closer look, and the grey cat immediately hissed at her, then hopped out of Patricia's arms and disappeared.
"I still think that cat had a condition," Madeline said dismissively, before skipping off to see if her mother would buy a rat for her.
The day after their visit to Diagon Alley, Madeline, feeling contrite about the way she'd treated her sister, had suggested to their parents that maybe they could buy the cat as a gift for Patricia so she wouldn't feel so lonely when it came time for Madeline to leave, but when the Smiths allowed Madeline to make inquiries, the owner of Magical Menagerie just frowned and said that he didn't have any grey cats - with or without orange eyes.
One week later, Madeline took the Hogwarts Express to school, and Patricia was left all on her own at home.
Two weeks later, the grey cat showed up outside Patricia's bedroom door.
All that evening, Patricia played with her new friend, but she worried about what her parents were going to say when they saw that a cat had moved into the house. As it turned out, Patricia's concerns were for nothing, since the moment her parents appeared at her door to tell her to go to sleep, the grey cat disappeared.
For the next seven years, Patricia and the grey cat, whom Patricia had taken to calling Mr Prewett, were constant companions. Patricia thought it odd that neither her parents nor her sister, on her increasingly rare visits home, ever mentioned seeing the cat, but in her heart of hearts Patricia thought it was nice to have something that was just for her alone. Something that made her special. Mr Prewett seemed to understand everything she said and to know just when Patricia needed comforting, and Patricia couldn't have wished for a better friend.
And then one day, Patricia couldn't find Mr Prewett anywhere. She looked in every room in the house and all around the grounds, but it was as if he had simply vanished. Patricia was so desperate, she was almost ready to ask her parents whether they'd seen her secret friend, but when she went in for tea, her mother looked at the state of her clothes in horror and said she 'looked a fright' and 'what was she thinking' and 'we don't have much time.'
"What is it, Mum?"
"Your sister's leaving ceremony is today, of course. Don't tell me you'd forgotten?"
Patricia had forgotten, but she wasn't going to tell her mother that - not with the state her mum was in.
"No, of course not, Mum. When are we going?"
"In just a little over an hour. Your father will be Apparating the two of you to the gates of the school. And Patricia?" her mother said. "There will be many important people there today. Try not to be too...conspicuous, will you?"
As it happened, there was no reason for Mrs. Smith to caution her daughter about not making a spectacle of herself. Neither before the leaving ceremony, nor at the special tea after did a single member of the wizarding community pay the slightest bit of attention to the young Squib in their presence. Madeline didn't even spend any time with her own twin, despite having been the one to demand that Patricia attend the leaving ceremony with the rest of the family; she was far too busy flirting with every young wizard in sight.
Patricia was standing off to one side of the refreshment table, holding an empty glass and trying to pretend that she didn't mind being ignored, when a grey-haired gentleman appeared beside Patricia and handed her a full glass of punch.
"You looked thirsty," he said.
"Thank you," she said, taking the glass from him. Strange, she thought, how callused the man's fingertips were.
"So," the man said. "Have you given any thought to what sort of work you want to be doing?"
Patricia sighed. "I wasn't part of the leaving ceremony. I'm...I can't do magic."
"Didn't ask whether you could do magic," he said, raising his eyebrows. "Asked what you were going to do with your life."
"I hadn't really...I haven't actually given it any thought."
"No, you haven't, have you?" he said. "Well, when you do decide to think about it, you might consider talking to that feeble looking man over by the podium. See? Wearing blue robes and bald as an egg?"
Patricia giggled. "Who's he?"
"Armando Dippet. He's the headmaster of Hogwarts. Rumour has it there might be a housekeeping job coming free in the near future."
"How do you...."
"Don't you worry about how I know, Patricia. Just remember what I said."
She wanted to ask the old gentleman how he knew her name, but when she turned back, he was gone, and Madeline was heading her way.
"I can't believe you were talking to that crazy old man!" Madeline said when she reached Patricia's side. "He didn't threaten you or anything, did he?"
"Threaten me?" Patricia said, her eyes widening in alarm. "What do you mean? Who is he?"
"He's the caretaker at Hogwarts and he hates everybody!" Madeline said. "He used to have this horrid tabby cat that followed him around everywhere, except I think it just died, rotten thing, and he's always threatening the students when we're just having fun! Mr Prewett's just awful!"
In one of the appendices to Hogwarts: A History is a chapter  discussing the long line of Squibs who have served faithfully as Housekeepers and Caretakers at the castle. Toward the end of the chapter, is the following footnote:
[17c] As Burtos Q. Wickelstaff reminds us in his recent study on shapeshifting, it is not possible for a Squib to become an Animagus. While rumours persist that the castle ghosts occasionally observe the non-magical employees of Hogwarts transforming into cats - and that these transformations seem to take place quite frequently as the Housekeepers and Caretakers near retirement age - sensible wizards and witches will, of course, know that these rumours are nothing but foolishness.Neither chapter 68 nor footnote 17c have ever been read by any wizard or witch, not even Hermione Granger.
It's so easy to ignore Squibs.
Celebrations marking the defeat of Grindelwald had been going on for two days now, but Argus had refused to accompany his parents to Diagon Alley. What would have been the point? Nobody his own age would play with him - he know that right enough - and he wouldn't even be able to see the magical fireworks.
As soon as his parents Disapparated, Argus went outside and...yes! There was that cat who had appeared from nowhere earlier that day. At least she seemed to like him.
He thought he'd call her Mrs Norris.