The Curious Cat
The Shroud of Pandora
Chapter Nine: The Curious Cat
Anya looked up from her ledger as the bell above the doorway chimed. "And this is the Magic Box." Giles said, leading in his three houseguests.
Willow quickly glanced aside from her book on resurrection spells to make sure the door to Buffy's old training room was closed; Sirius was hiding out in there because they couldn't risk Giles' British family recognizing him as a wanted fugitive. Tara nodded; she was standing with her back to the door. Everything was prepared.
"Everybody, I'd like to introduce my family." Giles smiled. "This is my sister, Helen Granger, and her husband Alexander..."
"Please, call me Alex." Alexander Granger interrupted.
"...they're both dentists. And this is their daughter, Hermione."
The fifteen-year-old's eyes finally stopped darting about, and Giles was surprised to see her right hand emerge from her bag for the first time. "Pleasure. And this is Crookshanks." She smiled, opening the wicker basket.
The huge orange tabby cat leaped out, streaking across the room to Willow's table, sniffing around her feet. Giles nodded. "Well, these are my... friends and colleagues, Anya Eriksdottir, Alexander Harris,"
"Call me Xander."
"...Tara Maclay, Willow Rosenberg, and Dawn and Buffy Summers."
"Hello. I'm Buffy. And you are?" Buffy asked, in an oddly flat tone.
Willow whispered, "We covered that already, Buffy."
"Right. Where's Spike? I miss Spike."
"Not here." Willow smiled, as Crookshanks began prowling across the room toward Tara, nose to the floor as if he was a bloodhound.
Hermione reached back into her bag. "I wonder what Croo..."
Just then, Buffy's eyes rolled back in her head and she fell back into her chair, stiff as a board. Willow sighed, "Oh, no. But..."
Dawn looked up. "What is it, Willow?"
"She doesn't react well to certain things. But..."
Tara spoke up, while Crookshanks wound his way through her long skirt's folds. "There couldn't be any of that in here right now, could there?"
"Not that I know of." Willow said, narrowing her eyes at Giles.
"Don't look at me."
Which was real easy, as Crookshanks picked that moment to loudly begin pawing at the training room door. "What's back there?" Hermione asked.
"Hmm?" Anya said. "Just a storage room."
"Then you won't mind if..." Hermione trailed off, striding across a room and wrenching the door open left-handed, with a word breathed under her breath. Tara stared at her - that door had been locked, hadn't it?
Willow watched in silent horror as Crookshanks darted through the door, and Hermione glared at Tara enough to get her out of the way. Soon enough, Hermione had disappeared into the back room as well.
Apparently, though, Hermione hadn't recognized Sirius. At least, she didn't come right back out of the training room screaming 'Murderer!'
"It's a nice shop you have here, Rupert." Helen said. "Reminds me a bit of this place in London..."
"Yes, Hermione's favorite booksellers', Flourish and Blotts."
"Never heard of it."
"Neither had we, until about four years ago, wasn't it?"
Alex Granger nodded. "Yes, just about."
Just then, Hermione emerged from the training room.
With Sirius Black, cradling Crookshanks in his arms.
"I can't believe the coincidence!" Hermione said. "Did you know Sirius Black was here?"
"What? Who?" Giles said.
"Sirius Black. I mentioned him in my letters, didn't I, Uncle Rupert? Oh, maybe I didn't. He's a friend... I've been spending my spare time for the last two years trying to prove him innocent. And then... about a month ago, he went missing."
Tara said, "S-s-s-sirius has been h-h-here about a m-m-month. Mr. Black, does this mean you're g-g-going h-h-home?"
He nodded. "Yes. Hermione's just going to call the airlines about a second dog carrier."
"You c-c-can't fly in one of t-t-those!" Tara protested.
"I can make do. I am a wizard, after all." He smiled. "Maybe we'll even make it in time for Harry's birthday..."