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      How to get sorted   10/05/2017

      To find the Sorting Form, click on the "Sort Me!" tab at the top of the page.    Before you go to fill out the form, make sure that you have a username that follows our rules. If you don't, your form will be rejected. You can change your name once yourself, by going to Account Settings -> Display Name. If you've already used your one change, you can request a name change in this topic. Be sure to read the first post in the topic carefully so we can get you updated without any back and forth.   Don't rush to answer the form! There's no prize for sending it in first. Please take your time and fill out the form thoughtfully, so the hat will have the information it needs to put your character in the right house.     Calendar: Sorting Form appears: Thursday, October 5th Sorting Form closes: Friday, November 3rd (No forms will be accepted after this date) The Sorting Ceremony closes: Sunday, November 5th, about 10am Central Time You find out your new house: Sunday, November 5th, 11 am Central Time First day of the new school year: Monday, November 6th   (For reference: Central Time Zone includes Chicago, Illinois)   How to get sorted:   1. Register with a name that follows our rules. The registration agreement explains the rules about names. You can also find them in the Rules.   2. Remember you may only send in one form total for this school year. If you send forms in from multiple accounts, we will not sort ANY of them. Then we have to feel bad about not sorting you. Don't make us feel bad, please.   3. Click on the Sort Me tab and fill out the sorting form as thoroughly as possible. The better we understand your character, the more likely we can put you in the right house. See "How to use the form" below if you're confused. For some in depth information on each house, please check out this topic on sorting. (Note: After you fill out the form, a copy will be PMed to you. Please save that because we delete them from our system after sorting.)   4. Wait for a PM from the Sorting Hat. Be patient, it could take a few days. If you don't receive a PM from the Sorting Hat within 4 or 5 days, contact one of the moderators.   5. If your form is: Accepted: Congratulations! You should now go post in the Sorting Ceremony topic in the New Member resources forum. This is very important. This post is where you'll go to find out what the Sorting Hat had to say about you. Don't skip this step! Rejected: Don't worry, you can still be sorted. Be sure to read the reasons for the rejection carefully, then edit your form (just click on the Get Sorted! link again) to fix the problem. Once you've done that, you can send the form in again. 6. That's it! Once you've gotten your acceptance letter AND posted in the Sorting Ceremony, you're all set. You'll find out where the Sorting Hat put you on Sorting day when you can check the Great Hall for the edited Sorting Ceremony.   How to use the form: The form is pretty straightforward and user friendly. Here are a couple tips: You don't need to fill the whole thing in at one sitting. You can finish one page at a time and save it. Then finish the rest later. Don't use your browser's Back or Forward buttons. Use the buttons in the form to Navigate.  If you don't fill out all the questions on a page, you can't save or move on. If you don't meet the word number requirements in the In Depth section, you can't submit the form. Use the "Check Word Count" buttons to see how many words you've used. If you fill in the wrong answers on the quiz page, you won't be able to submit the form. After you've submitted the form, you can't access it anymore. But if your form is rejected, you'll be able to see it again with your old answers still filled in. Still have questions? Ask here.    Note: Section I: Short Answer Please include a brief explanation with each answer. I'd like to remind you all to include an explanation with all the short answer questions. The answers to those questions aren't very useful for sorting unless you explain them.   Otherwise, we don't have enough information to sort you with. (Translation: we'll have to reject it.)     Many thanks as always to Arianna Wright for her hard work revising and updating the form and to Faraz Memon for initially coding it many years ago. <3
Hedwig Lane-Foley

All cats are grey by night

11 posts in this topic

October 3rd, 2036

 

She found the cat half-buried on the uppermost shelf. Carl, Sr. Mngr had assembled his nest with meticulous care: uniforms flinched from lost regions of their closet; pantyhose and glittered fishnets looped between spoons, Deval’s missing moke doll, and a garden hose. There were towels, too, still wet and moist-staining at the ledge of the wood; club numbers and well-kept ticket stubs; fairground masks and photographs—the demon only surfaced where he’d rested his head against one lone pair of coveralls.

 

Hedwig had been sent to fetch blankets before leaving for a Quid match. Hedwig had technically found blankets?

 

“Diiiiiiiiict.”

 

Hedwig and The Cat got on as much as oil could be expected to comply with water, or else a sword find its sheath when it was held by a drunk. One false move… But Carl was never one to miss his mark, and Hedwig, whatever her virtues, lacked literal claws for retaliation. Today, however, Carl seemed disinclined to his violence. Hedwig reached and he stilled. She lifted from the belly, careful not to fall where she'd perched atop the laundry bin—“Bleeding cat”—and again he complied, nothing more than a whispered mewl eclipsed between Hedwig’s bicep and her forearm. The fur was damp, but the skin was—

 

“Satan’s Boggart is officially out cold,” she declared. “Or, is cold? Both?” Carl’s paws kneaded (unscratching) against her elbow. His eyes were tensed but his body felt swollen, grapefruit-shaped to the weal of a bludger bruise. Not without gentleness, Hedwig removed her own scarf to swaddle him. Their cat (alarmingly) did not protest.

 

“Haven’t seen him in weeks,” she said, “so I dunno—” where he’s been, or what he’s been up to, what he might have eaten, or why he’s even come home? Carl, Sr. Mngr was a variable houseguest: dependable in that he loved Dictys, but often absent because Hedwig also loved Dictys, but Dictys loved her more because she wasn’t a cat, Carl; you’re a cat, so get over yourself and just move on already. Still, Hedwig wasn’t so interested in playing into such dramatics—today? tomorrow? ever, anymore?

 

She edged off from their hamper one-handed, cautious of the larger step. “Feel.” She sat and held Dictys’s hand to her cheek and then to the underside of their grey cat’s chin, which was so, so small: no bigger than the cap off of a lid of puffed toothpaste. Carl was bone cold.

 

“That’s not normal,” she decided, because Hedwig was good at knowing things, except that Hedwig hadn’t been good at knowing anything lately. Her grip curled lightly along Dictys’s thumb. Carl’s whiskers tickled against their skin like damaged breathing. In, out—     then in again.

 

Her eyes were wide as she watched it, dark, the gaze shimmering. Meeting his own, she asked, “Is it, love?” Carl’s body felt fettered with dust.


Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley
date )<

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Life sometimes felt like waking in moments—the crisp clarity of an early morning with the window open and a breeze along your spine, impermanent but lingering. Blink and you are on the street where fire hydrants rain kisses on the flowers in your arms. Blink and you are among friends, laughter cracking your ribcage over another unnecessarily dirty joke. Blink and you are standing at the hamper, hand touched to a woman’s glowing cheekbone, and you love her. You love her.

 

Dictys would have kissed her if it were not for the cat’s dramatics. Carl, Sr. Mngr was cold, as if he’d sneaked into the fridge again to finish the shrimp. His hand stayed but the temperature didn’t let up. He leaned down and nuzzled his nose to Carl’s side. The cat purred, swollen belly rising and falling like a beach ball in the tide. “He’s…” Nearly four years had passed since Dictys met his part-time pet. Eyes locked across a dark night, pupils reflecting dim streetlights, one of them had been pissing in a potted plant. It was actually distressing because Carl appeared wholly incapable of such debauchery now. Glancing up, Dictys answered, “Let’s go to the clinic.”

 

He brushed Hedwig’s knee and tilted his head toward the fireplace. Downstairs, commotion flooded in different tones—a poltergeist’s joyful cackle and two yapping dogs chasing a tennis ball. When he and Hedwig appeared with the cat, Ember immediately grinned. “Not now, Ember. We’re going to Morgan’s.”

 

OoooOooOohhh.”

 

Dictys scowled. “You stay and walk the dogs, as agreed, or I won’t tell you where Belladonna keeps the ping pong paddles.” Merlin knew why the poltergeist wanted her hands on those. He tugged on Hedwig’s elbow when emerald flames roared in the fireplace.

 

“You kiddies don’t get your jammies mixed up okay!” Ember howled as the world shifted before them in a dizzied blur.

 

He did not think in his hurry. Palm burned against an iron gate, he hissed. Morgan wasn’t home. They could go back; they could go anywhere else. He leaned politely forward and recited: “Baneberry, Asphodel, and” (frowning) Monsieur “Thistle.” The gate retreated to either side, and he stepped through. As expected, it was empty, except for Monsieur staring murderously from his perch on the banister. “He’s not here but I’ll mirror him.” He dug in his sweats for the mirror but faltered when something glinted from the coffee table. “Of course, he left it here.”

 

He threaded through his hair with a tense hand. A slender, spotted cat jumped on the sofa and nudged his arm, looking suspiciously at the bundle in his girlfriend’s arms. Sighing, he slipped the beanie off and plopped it on Asphodel’s head.

 

“Hey,” Dictys said when he turned to Hedwig, brown following the edge of her unsmoked eyes. “Carl will be all right. Inferi don’t die.” He kissed her forehead. “Let’s wait in the other room.”

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Asphodel, Baneberry, Thistle

 

“Slovenly fool.” Thistle meowed, gazing down at Baneberry with eyes of molten orange from his high perch atop the couch.  It was rare for the thick-coated cat to break silence.  Silence, Thistle thought, was the best way to way to build tension.

 

And fear.

 

But there were a select few who were allowed to hear the divine majesty of his voice; those he’d paw selected to live and serve in the new world he would create from the ashes of the old.

 

At his words, Baneberry struggled to move, wiggling wildly from where he was laid sprawled out on the kitchen floor.  Alas, his fatty mass was too great, and the large cat quickly decided that it was better to bear the brunt of Thistle’s insult than stir from rest.

 

Good, Thistle thought, he knows his place.

 

If only Asphodel would follow suit.  He’d fallen for the healer’s soft praises and gentle touches and premium cat food, forgetting the horrors of their past abandonment.  In time he’d remember and come crawling back to the fold, but for now… for now he took up space on the nearby staircase, curled up and blissfully asleep as he waited for his healer’s return.

 

Pathetic, Thistle thought.  Thistle never dropped his guard.

 

That’s why he was the only cat ready to face the intruders forcing their way into their home in a wash of flames that bathed the living room in bright green light.

 

Thistle’s fur stood on edge.  His claws extended.  His alarming, orange eyes grew wider.  This was his domain.  The unwelcomed would be made to take their leave.  By force, if necessary.

 

The first, Thistle remembered clearly: a brown-haired human that the healer seemed both fond and fearful of.  It was a strange juxtaposition of emotions that made no sense to Thistle, who only knew the feeling of unquestionable superiority.

 

He had with him a woman who was dark of both eyes and hair.

 

Baneberry, ever the traitor, immediately rose with renewed strength from his spot on the floor when he heard the man’s voice from the kitchen.  With an excited ‘meow’ he padded across the floor until he was within reach of the humans legs.

 

Pathetic, Thistle thought as Baneberry rubbed himself against the man’s legs.  The gold chain he’d taken to wearing around his neck glinted in the muted light shining through the front window.

 

All three cats stilled in their curiosity, however, when they realized a third guest had snuck into their midst.

 

Baneberry immediately started meowing jealously, pawing at the man’s legs as if to claim more of his attention.  Asphodel too began meowing loudly from across the room, though his cries were clearly worried alarm.

 

What hussy have you brought into my domain? Thistle thought, back arching as his alarm and anger grew more intense.

 

---

 

Morgan was out buying cat food, if anyone cared.

 

Not the most exciting task by any means, but the cupboards were empty and nothing roused you from quiet tranquility quite like two very needy cats making hungry crying noises while the third glared at you from the doorway.

 

A brown bag hovered at his side as he fumbled in his pocket for his keys.

 

He did not like what he saw when he finally got the door open and stepped through the threshold.

 

He heard the cats first, mewling loudly in a way that suggested they had gotten over their collective hunger and moved on to something new.  Next he saw Dictys; surprising, though not unusual by this point.  He could only assume that if Dictys had entered his home while he was very much out of the house an emergency was probably in progress.

 

Morgan was about to ask when a second individual caught his eye.

 

Hedwig Lane-Foley.

 

Morgan squinted.

 

She looked… considerably less like broccoli.

 

… It was a praiseworthy improvement to her appearance, even if she did look slightly haggard in this particular predicament.

 

Dictys Ator and Hedwig Lane-Foley.  Standing in his living room.

 

… This was awkward.

 

The cats made it slightly more awkward.

 

“…. Can… I… Help… You…?” Morgan asked slowly and carefully, grabbing the hovering bag of cat food and pulling it firmly to his chest.

 

It occurred to Morgan that he was currently trying to shield himself behind a wall of cat food.

 

… Whatever, he deserved this one small comfort.


Edited by Morgan Kilmarnook

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The cats descended in waves: brushed at their ankles, nails bit to jean tips and fabric gaps in her open-marked shins. Hedwig stepped to avoid them, cushioned herself against Dictys’s side, swearing as Carl, too, began yowling at the onslaught. Had she been given enough time, Hedwig could have imagined this moment going much differently (with or without the suggestion of pyjamas). Still, she would have never thought up something like this, with the Ming vase, plate of gelatine, and homicidal mop end their host had somehow fashioned into house pets.

 

“Is this clinic harbouring Inferi of its own?” she asked. They guarded their house well enough for comparison. Hedwig could understand the instinct partially, at least. She, too, harboured some animal makeup of protectiveness—

 

Can I help you?

 

—because Hedwig Lane-Foley did not exist in the blink-spurt of moments. Even in a haze, her mind moved in continuum, the slow-wedeled track of a sled in fresh snow. Here you are now, and here you were then, and these are the ways you may split into moments beyond it. Her eyes hooked to the other through the glistened expanse (her senses moved left, then methodically right): the floors had been recently cleaned; there was a scent, even in the city, which smelled of high altitudes and needles of pine; then, at the doorway, the sharpness of elbows, a suit just recently pressed, trim eyebrows, and an unfurling of his glossed and nearly black hair.

 

“Morgan.”

 

Hedwig withdrew from her boyfriend’s proximity. Her kneecaps popped, sprung forward with a ready made step, and Carl had come with her. She closed their distance in respectable time. Only a meter from his person, she stopped—then, presented between them like some risen Messiah, Hedwig raised her arms outwards and declared, “Look at this cat!”

 

Carl, Sr. Mngr had become… Carl, Sr. Manger? “Flack.” Swearing only one sin lesser than sacrilege, Hedwig tried it all again. “I mean, because he’s sick?" she said. "At least, we think he’s sick, or else...” Right, well. “Bloody-arsed shrewts.” In her default, Hedwig preferred an outside mask when dealing with strangers. She felt it best to filter her signals through the awestruck blow of her body’s first impressions: an impassioned tight mouth of its hush-hush smirk; all laughter, and clever-met lines, and nothing of the woman outside of it. In Hedwig’s openness, she’d simply forgotten to be anything other than frank.

 

Her voice kneeled against a softness of concern. “Like, Healers check animals, right?” Hedwig held their cat close again (he was still so, so cold). “Like vets do?” The witch could never remember it. But, “Dictys said we should come, and he trusts you, so I…” She faced him. Walking away was always a double-edged sword in how distance could worry at the edge of their separateness, the occupation of a body (contained) in that muzzy of space. Atoms, divided; her own enclosing of muscles and quiet-lined skin. Still, there was a benefit to seeing less of him but also seeing more. At this angle, Dictys looked blanketed in the crushed-hues of the Alley's evening light. From the window, night somehow illumined against the whiteness of everything else. She could see him: standing, and waiting, and whole.

 

You love this person, and this is a person they love.

 

Hedwig placed Carl (this was all gentleness) across Morgan’s kitchen table. Freed, she addressed the man again, “I want you to look at him, too.” The only issue: Morgan was currently shielded behind a brickwork of cat chow. Hedwig touched his right hand where it held the bag, but her nails did not bite (no actual claws, remember?). Instead, their oval shape fell like Autumn leaves against his wrist skin: orange misted to the untried ground.

 

“Please, Morgan.” She breathed. “Do you mind?” It did not unnerve her.

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“They’re sweet,” said Dictys, smiling to Baneberry looping a figure eight around his legs. He ignored Monsieur completely.

 

There was a sigh on his skin, and he glanced to the opening door. A leaf’s shadow shuddered at the other man’s cheek, softly lit by a city waking. Green eyes crinkled at him, and he tasted air.

 

Someone said Morgan first.

 

“Hedwig,” Dictys murmured but did not continue as she removed from his reach, more distant than the room felt. Her cropped sweater lifted further when she raised Carl, but his gaze fixed to the largeness of her hair, as if it were a landscape itself, an extension to a room that was suddenly foreign.

 

Hedwig spoke, and spoke, crossing—that hallowed space of words unsaid; his, his, his, but (trust) fitted to the shape of her mouth anyway, leaving like dust, like birds, like things that don’t come back. He couldn’t take it back. It was not untrue. It was not-not real, but he couldn’t remember if he’d told her or if she just knew. It lodged between his shoulder blades, and he breathed through it.

 

“How can he resist a cat in need,” he quipped, quirking a brow. Dictys brushed her hand away as he pulled the bag from Morgan’s grasp. Setting it on a chair, he continued, mouth pinched with a counterfeit pout. “I wasn’t going to read you your horoscope, y’know.” He transfigured some tissue into three fluffy toy mice which scurried around the furniture away from cat paws. “But just in case: avoid making deals with centaurs.”

 

This did not rank highly among his break-ins so far, but there was still time to make it worthwhile. At the kitchen table, he unswaddled Carl, Sr. Mngr, who immediately rolled over howling. Are we sure it’s a ca-

 

Oh, holy Merlin.

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Somewhere in Morgan’s still fluttering heart, he knew a day like today would come.  He’d been hoping to put it off for as long as humanly possible, cowardly as that might be.  Unfortunately, Morgan could no more convince time to hold than he could the world to cease spinning.  Present circumstances would not give him the years he needed to steel himself for Hedwig Lane-Foley.

 

Morgan wasn’t resentful—how could he be resentful of someone who only existed in his memory as a barely there blur?  On the edge of his sightline at a table in the Great Hall, or as a voice echoing down the castle corridors, Hedwig had always been present, but never important.  When Morgan thought of her at all, he remembered a sharp wit and clever words and confidence bordering on brash.

 

In the space of time he had to process the situation, Morgan acknowledged that in a different time in different circumstances, he probably would have liked Hedwig.  As it was, between her hurried footsteps, the chorus of deafening yowling, and the look on Dictys’s face (what was that look?) Morgan simply felt… suffocated.

 

He took a breath.

 

How can he resist a cat in need,” Dictys asked, relieving Morgan of his shopping.  And so went the one remaining wall separating Morgan from the problem.

 

“With surprising ease,” Morgan replied primly, as though he hadn’t just adopted three homeless cats in the last year, angering his owl and prompting his friends to question the validity of his social life, “I’m no veterinarian.”

 

Like most things with Morgan, however, his actions betrayed his true feelings as he followed the couple into his kitchen, eyes lingering on the lines of Dictys’s shoulders.  Another wall.

 

Hedwig had placed the cat down on his kitchen table: a place where he would probably never eat again, depending on how this night unfolded.

 

Dictys took no time unswaddling their ill cat, then… silence.

 

Curiosity and worry crossed Morgan’s mind as he peeked over Dictys’s shoulder and…

 

Oh.  Oh.

 

“Well, your cat’s pregnant.” Morgan accessed unnecessarily while watching a cat chew through it's umbilical cord.  By this point, he was fairly certain both Dictys and Hedwig were in no immediate need of his commentary. “At least that changes this from an emergency to nature taking its course.”

 

The words were perhaps matter-of-fact, but his tone was a practiced sort of calm; one that was meant to keep others at ease.  Morgan’s own relief remained hidden.  Much like doctors, healers had specialties, and Morgan’s had always been medical trials and trauma.  Gyne was a whole different beast that he did not and had never desired to be a part of.

 

In this case, a childhood spent out in the boonies served him better than five years of training.  Plenty of farmland meant plenty of cats for mousing.

 

“Did she start nesting before you brought her here?” Morgan asked, eyes darting between Hedwig and Dictys as he took out his wand to summon an empty box from storage. “If that’s the case, she really just needs a comfortable place to lie down and be left alone.” He flicked his wand to floor, lowering the box to the ground.

 

Scissors were summoned next, his cutlery drawer flying open with the force.  He caught them expertly, flipping them over in his hand, extending them out to Hedwig handles first.

 

“Just needs… a cat door.” He explained, offering a smile that he hoped was reassuring.  In times like these, doing something helped to calm nerves.

 

Morgan then glanced at Dictys, offering him a very different sort of smile as he swiped the newspaper up off his counter. “It’s time for you to get up close!  That could mean getting together with a partner, a pet or a friend.  Hmm…” he recited, reading out the other’s horoscope. “Better start rolling up your sleeves.  I hear these things are never wrong.” Morgan advised before he began shredding the paper for nesting material.


Edited by Morgan Kilmarnook

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From somewhere else, Morgan was speaking. Had Carl started to nest? “He was…” Well, she was… Again, there was the need for Hedwig to reset.  

 

“Carl can’t be pregnant,” she provided, also unnecessarily, given the literal and quite physical cat birth all three had unwittingly just witnessed, unfolding like the insides of an eggroll. At a lack of any explanation, however, or any reasoning, or else willingness to engage with just how or why she and Dictys could or would not have known their cat’s sex (it wasn’t exactly like you just sat a cat down and had it spread its legs, alright?—it’s not like people just do that, OKAY?), Hedwig said, “He’s supposed to be a boy.”

 

The kitten countered her case. Indisputable proof, unwound in a jelly-stick shlump from the bind of Hedwig’s knit. Carl (small) had already started to clean it. Her tongue (smaller) lapped efficiently, sound like soft rain against the platter of a skylight. The kitten’s ears (smallest) came ungummed from its shell-soft head, as Hedwig crouched to the table’s edge. The kitten was stickied in a colour near resin. The kitten was rat bodied and prowling uselessly with its anxious nose, sniffling, and covered with slime. Yet, against everything else, she heard the tiny-there bell of a first-cried mew (the smallest of all).

 

Morgan had smiled at her, and Hedwig smiled gratefully back, but she made no move to follow orders. She held the scissors in an upwards prayer, staying rooted by the tableside, unable to pick her vision from its glue.

 

“Hey.” Her voice (smaller still?). She lay her chin to the wood like a paperweight. “Hey there, Miss Sneaky. Something you wanted to share?” Carl dutifully ignored her, occupied with her motherly tasks—but Hedwig did not mind it. She couldn’t have fathomed what two-for-one special Carl had smuggled inside of her—irrefutably, now, her—in place of affliction. Acid reflux; the growth of a worm; some modest poison; an irregular houseplant. She’d thought— “We were so worried, you know?” I thought I might have hurt you, too.

 

“Had me babbling like some dying Jobberknoll.” Hedwig wouldn’t cry, but she could feel her eyes glimmering, like a sprinkler at the cleaving of sun. It was not sadness, or only that. Fractured, her mouth still felt bursting with light, and she smiled as she lifted back up—held that splintering hope behind the press of her hands, the clean metal of those scissors: yes; yes, she was definitely smiling—“Dict.” She looked at him again. It was a direction where the light could only get brighter. “Does this mean Carl is a purrrrr-ent now?” She laughed. Her nose scrunched to a button with mirth. 

 

In their peripheral, Morgan had shredded the majority of the daily news down to fresh mulch. With the box on the side, and his other assortment of cutting tools, it almost looked like he was organising an adult’s arts and craft night. Unexpected Cat Birth, DIY?

 

“Are you sure we can still move her?” she asked him. “Don’t worry if not." Hedwig’s life was, as ever, a patchwork of moments she could never predict. “It's our mistake. I’ll be sure to give your cat-birthing services only pawsitive reviews.”

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Dictys didn’t know what he was looking at, despite the very obvious and sticky conclusion. “Seriously.” Nearly four years had passed with this cat, and he still had things to learn. Secrecy wasn’t strictly a human trait, it seemed, but greater crimes have been committed by his presently birthing cat. See: Apiecalypse 2034, the thirty-two shredded underwear, that time Carl, Sr. Mngr abandoned Dictys and Dev in Navya’s fire. “You, little, skank.” Dictys grinned, the apparent bad Auror to Hedwig’s good. “Paw-five.” Gingerly, but quickly, he knocked his fingertips against a bubblegum pink paw.

 

His eyes trailed after a fading smile, unquivering and too loose. He imagined each nerve waiting for a sting. He would have asked why (wouldn’t he?).

 

“Dict.”

 

Night eclipsed the thought, like vapor after dark, its form edgeless, untraced. Brown eyes to his own, they glimmered but did not cry. Even now, he could see droplets as delicate as bird prints in the sand. They were gone, but he was here, laughing at Hedwig’s jokes, all purrrrrfectly terrible.

 

“Minus 1 heart for the nestling box. It’s appawling,” Dictys added, foot nudging the plain cardboard box. “Unfit for royalty.” The queen licked her court of one, and the kitten wiggled clumsily, mouth latched on a teat. “He’s mew-king it for all its worth.” He beamed with pride, throwing a wild glance from the kitten to Morgan to Hedwig. “I think they can handle it.” He snuggled the bundle in his arms as closely as he could without disrupting their bonding. The soft knit grazed his jaw. “Not quick like Apparating but twice as gentle.”

 

He lowered the new family into the box before lowering himself belly first on kitchen floor, sprawled in front of the cardboard. Dictys leaned his head back and peered up at Morgan. “Healer’s orders, right?” In their temporary home, Carl meowed again to welcome another slick furball. “Babe.” He patted Hedwig’s shoe and before she could answer, repeated, “Babe.” His palm opened for the scissors. “I wanna give them some windows for feng shui.”  

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“She can probably move on her own,” Morgan replied to Hedwig.  Pointless, as Dictys was more than happy to tend to Carl’s (an unusual name) needs as he carefully hoisted her from table to her newly renovated dream home.  Morgan didn’t complain.  As far as he was concerned, his kitchen table had just been spared further trauma, “It’s about safety and comfort.  If you think she’ll feel more at ease with windows, have at it.

 

“In the meantime, I’m going to go find a blanket that I’m not terribly in love with.  Back in a moment,” Morgan excused himself before exiting the kitchen.  He made it to the stairs in no particular hurry and the linen closet on the upper floor shortly after that.

 

Asphodel, who had by now grown tired of the toy mice, twined himself between Morgan’s legs.  Thistle, who had likely never fallen for the impromptu distraction, stared at him unblinkingly from atop the bed.  Baneberry’s whereabouts?  Currently unknown.

 

Problematic?  Only time would tell.

 

Morgan didn’t waste too much time searching his linens for a suitable blanket.  While he didn’t particularly dislike any of his possessions, an older blanket with faded colours and a pattern that clashed with everything was easy enough to find.

 

He wondered if it was too soon to return downstairs.  Perhaps it was just him overthinking things (again, again, again) but the atmosphere, though polite and easy, had also felt full of words unsaid.  Morgan thought it might have been him.  After all, he was the odd one out now that Carl was no longer in crisis.

 

… Now probably wasn’t the time to brainstorm excuses for his discomfort.  He could do that later.  In private.

 

Asphodel mewled sadly as Morgan trod away, but didn’t follow him down the stairs, no doubt out of fear for whatever madness was unfurling in the kitchen below.

 

“Did I miss anything exciting?” he asked, bending down to maneuver the blanket warmly around the cat and kitt…ens… “Well, that one’s new.”


Edited by Morgan Kilmarnook

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“Taking a side job, dearest?”

 

Dictys moved, and Hedwig felt her body follow in sway—fire-soot stomping the urge to lay across his back in parallel, a stamp-press of closeness, with all possibility of warmth. With some measure of decorum, at least, or else an awareness of circumstance (public, vaguely professional, and everything else), she settled for taking to all fours, forming a wall between their cat’s crib and potential intruders.

 

In her most respectable posh accent then (professional), Hedwig chose to narrate the scene. “Located at the hub of thriving feline activity, Mr Ator’s cat home benefits from Southfacing windows, newspaper bedding, and blah, blah, blaaaaaah.” No longer interested in the literal dramatics either, Hedwig slinked to her belly and nuzzled against Dictys’s shoulder. Again, somehow an act of restraint. “All purrsonally suited for a family of one Sr. Mngr and two plus kits.”

 

There were definitely still just the two of them (the second somehow even smaller than the first)—although Carl was mewling enough to merit a third, and large enough, even in her persistent acts of hunger and subsequent fridge-theft, to push them onwards to an early foreclosure. Hedwig returned one finger to the paper edge of their burrowing forms, and continued to smile.

 

“I bet you two English breakfasts she has four,” she ventured. An English, and not a Welsh breakfast—woefully stripped of her laverbread and molluscs. A sacrifice, to be certain, to admit her boyfriend his Southern superiorities (and the tea, too, all black, and fog-drowning in sugar cubes and cream), but Hedwig could think of worse things to lose—and had done, so purposelessly.

 

1, 2… Their (small) heads pressing together, blind to anything other than nearness. 1, 2… Her own to his, too. The third came in a similar wave.

 

She hadn’t noticed when Morgan had left them, but she felt his return at the low of her spine, then again as he emerged above them (again, again) with consideration and skill. Hedwig had always admired the other's competence. It’s why she had always liked Morgan, in as much as you could like someone who existed in name without form, or else a body you could know without need for proximity. If she’d had any concerns about his past disappearances, they’d eased when Dictys had welcomed him back into his home. Not a cat’s; nothing cardboard or bendable or unreal. It had been Hedwig's mistake that she hadn't counted her own acceptance with the same black and white. 

 

“Domination plots, like usual,” she answered neatly, “but we also started a gambling ring for the kittens. I’m on the record for four.” Hedwig withdrew and sat back so that she could see him—and again, aware, at least, of some boundaries—since, if you hadn't connected the obvious dots, Hedwig Lane-Foley and Morgan Kilmarnook had a few more things historically in common than just good fashion sense and really great hair. She touched her index finger to her thumb. It did not unnerve her.

 

“You want in?” She asked, “Got something you’re willing to risk?” as a fourth kitten popped outwards into their communal existence.

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As Morgan moved away, Dictys listened to his footsteps, light and growing farther, taken to rooms he’s never been in. The steps creak like distant thunder, and there is a vibration in his chest, a tremor from the ground. Dictys cut windows from cardboard. He fenced the perimeter with circular, square, and triangular pieces. A pint-sized cat door came next. He wondered: what criteria did Morgan use to judge a thing as something you’re not terribly in love with?

 

[ ] Something you haven’t seen

[ ] Something you wouldn’t miss

[ ] Something you shouldn’t touch

 

Over ten years of acquaintance, rivalry, friendship, and more, and Dictys still guessed at Morgan’s thoughts as much as the number of freckles on the other’s skin. Morgan returned with a tatty blanket in orange and gray damask, tucking it around the little family. He’d expected the pungent odor of mothballs or bleach; it was neither.

 

“I’m on the record for five,” added Dictys, once he caught on to the conversation. He felt along the house’s paper edge as his girlfriend had, then over the blanket’s corner. The thin fabric was still soft. It didn’t smell like something unloved. He closed his eyes, cheek against his arm, and breathed. He was tired, wasn’t he? He could sleep there. The chorus of kitten meows lulled him, and a stray wet nose sniffed his knuckle. He chuckled.

 

A few minutes later, when he started suspecting he might lose the bet, Carl yowled. The cries rung with a sharpness that reminded him of broken teacups and cracked bells. He sat up and peered at the panting grey cat. Her tongue licked to the swell and the kittens to their lifeline. “Push, Carl.” He puffed his cheeks in imitation, though the feline’s narrow face remained pristine. “You can do it. Puuuuuush.” Carl did and did, probably oblivious to the stilled hearts around him. After twice the labor of the rest, the fifth appeared: the tiniest body lain across newspaper.

 

Dictys glanced at Hedwig. “This one’s Walnut.” Carl cleaned its outsized head, freeing white whiskers and dark fur from the sac. He scowled. “We can’t keep it.” Below, Carl had stopped, mouth turned to her previous four. Walnut did not move. “Carl.” He did not know what it was like to be a mum or dad. He certainly did not know how to compel a cat to be one. He leaned closer and watched Walnut, counting. Fingers folded into a fist, nails dug against a soft burn.

 

“Morgan,” Dictys said suddenly, looking up with dark eyes. “He’s not breathing.”

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