1. Tabby to the Rescue!
A/N: I read 'The Tabby Cat and The Boy Who Lived' by Sky Renae Snape and it inspired me to write my own version. I showed it to her and she insisted that I go ahead and post it, so here it is. Obviously, since I'm writer and Sky isn't, there will be substantial differences between the two fics. I would encourage you to go read Sky's fic as well as mine, but she has taken it down.
A tousle-haired teenaged boy looked up from spreading mulch in the garden of Number 4, Privet Drive and spotted a cat crouched underneath the car in the driveway. He shrugged and went back to what he was doing. It was a late afternoon in early July and the boy was lonely. He missed his friends, he missed his school, he even missed his teachers. A sallow, hook-nosed face framed with greasy black hair appeared in his mind's eye and he grimaced. Well, not _all_ of his teachers. He glanced at the cat under the car. The cat was hidden in the shadows and he couldn't really see the markings. He sighed and spread the last bit of mulch before standing and stretching. He winced when his back twinged and rubbed the back of his neck. Sighing, he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and mopped his face. It was too bloody hot to work outside, but his relatives obviously didn't agree. Stuffing the handkerchief back into his pocket, the boy picked up the bag of leftover mulch and carried it to the garden shed. He lingered in the welcome coolness until, "POTTER!"
The boy groaned and left the garden shed. He dragged his feet as he walked to the house, trying to delay the inevitable. However, when he finally stood in front of his uncle, he met the man's small glittering eyes squarely with his own bright green ones. "Yes, Uncle Vernon?"
There was a smack and the teenager found himself sprawled on the floor, his cheek stinging. "Don't you give me any cheek, Potter."
The boy carefully got to his feet, resisting the urge to touch his cheek. "Yes, Sir."
"Now, down to the basement with you," the large, beefy man told the skinny boy.
"Yes, Sir." Without another word, the boy spun on his heel and headed for the basement. At the top of the stairs, someone pushed him from behind, sending him sprawling down the steps. He looked up in time to see the door close at the top of the stairs. He sighed and dragged himself to the cot in the corner. In a cage nearby, a snowy owl hooted softly as he curled up on the cot. "It's alright, Hedwig. It wasn't too bad today. At least I was outside." As the boy slowly drifted off to sleep, he didn't notice the cat peering in through the window at him.
* * *
The sleek silver tabby rushed to Wisteria Walk with almost unseemly haste. She barreled through the cat door of Number 8, skidded on the kitchen tile, and came to an abrupt and ungainly stop against one of the cupboards, startling the old woman standing at the counter, who happened to be pouring cat food into a bowl. "Min! What's got into you?"
The tabby got to her feet and changed into a tall, thin woman with black hair coming loose from the bun she normally pulled it into, square spectacles that were slightly askew on the bridge of her narrow nose, and wearing emerald green robes that were a tad mussed. Her lips were pressed into a thin line and she was visibly trembling from a combination of suppressed rage and fear, clenching and unclenching her hands into fists. "I'm sorry, Bella, I didn't mean to startle you."
The other woman smiled and made a clucking noise with her tongue as she set several bowls of cat food on the floor. Half a dozen cats came running into the kitchen from various parts of the house and converged on the three bowls. "I understand, Min. Let's go into the living room to talk."
'Min' nodded and followed 'Bella' into the living room, smoothing her robes and attempting to do the same with her hair as they sat down a couch in front of the fire. When the ebony strands refused to be smoothed back into the bun, 'Min' made a frustrated noise and pulled out the pins holding the bun in place. "I don't suppose you have any tea?"
"I always do, Minerva, you know that," 'Bella' gave her friend a strange look.
Minerva pulled a wand out of her pocket. "May I?" 'Bella' nodded. Minerva waved her wand and two cups of tea were soaring into the room, one for each woman.
Minerva plucked hers out of the air and took a sip. 'Bella' was a bit more hesitant, but eventually did so as well. After taking a sip, she looked at the other woman. "Well, Minerva?"
Minerva kept her eyes on the brown liquid in her cup. "Well what, Bella?"
"Why did you come tearing into my house like that? It isn't like you at all." There was concern in her dark green eyes as 'Bella' studied her companion closely.
Minerva closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath before setting her cup on the low table in front of the couch. "I've just come from Privet Drive, Bella."
'Bella' stared at Minerva. "And?"
Minerva's dark blue eyes were haunted when she looked at the other woman. "And they're beating him, Arabella. They're beating Harry."
Minerva drew her knees up to her chest and buried her face in them, overwhelmed by memories for the moment. Arabella scooted closer and touched a shaking emerald-clad shoulder. Minerva lifted her head and stared at Arabella with tear-filled eyes. Arabella silently opened her arms and Minerva clung to the other woman, sobbing into her shoulder. Arabella closed her eyes as she held her friend, cradling her as she would a small child. "Shh, Min, shh. It's over now. He can't hurt you anymore."
It was a long time before Minerva stopped crying and even longer before she finally pulled away. "Thanks, Sis."
"Anytime, Sis," Arabella replied with a sympathetic smile as Minerva pulled out a handkerchief and blew her nose. "I think you should go to bed now."
"What about Harry?" Minerva asked, mopping her face. "We can't leave him with the Dursleys."
"Albus will think of something, Min," Arabella assured her sister. "Right now, you need to sleep."
Minerva sighed as she tucked her handkerchief back into her pocket. "Yes, Mother."
Arabella smiled again. "Bed, now."
Minerva nodded and climbed the stairs to Arabella's guest bedroom. When Arabella followed fifteen minutes later, she wasn't surprised to find the sleek silver tabby curled up at the foot of her bed. She sighed and stroked the cat. "This one time only, Min."
The cat purred in acknowledgment. When Arabella crawled under the covers after changing into her nightgown, the cat curled up against her stomach.
* * *
Harry was rudely awakened the next morning when his cot was upended and he tumbled to the concrete floor. "Up, Boy, you have chores to do."
"Yes, Sir," Harry replied, struggling not to wince as he got to his feet.
Grabbing the boy's upper arm, Vernon steered him up the stairs. Harry bit his lip to keep from crying out as he stubbed his toes on more than one step. When they reached the top, Vernon shoved Harry through the kitchen door to land in a heap on the floor. "Make breakfast, and mind you don't burn it, Potter."
"Yes, Ma'am." Harry got to his feet and shuffled over to the stove.
"Hurry up, Potter." Dudley barked from his seat at the kitchen table.
When Harry didn't reply, a clout around his ears sent him tumbling to the floor. "Show your cousin respect, Potter."
"Yes, Sir," Harry stood up and continued making breakfast. He almost longed for the half-fear; half-respect his relatives had shown him the previous summer. At least he hadn't been knocked on his bum every time he turned around. He knew he didn't have much of a choice, though. Because Aunt Petunia was his mother's sister, he was protected from Voldemort so long as he returned to Number 4 Privet Drive at least once a year. How long he had to stay at Privet Drive was determined by Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He hoped it wouldn't be too much longer before he could leave, but he refused to tell any of his friends about getting beat up. He'd been beat up before he'd learned he was a wizard. He could handle it this time, too. He had to. He didn't want his friends in any danger because he couldn't handle a little pain. He'd survived worse and he would survive this. That resolve made, he returned his attention to making breakfast. Since his back was to the window, he didn't see the cat peeking through it at him.
* * *
When Arabella had woken up without the silver tabby curled up beside her that morning, she'd assumed that Minerva had gone to Albus Dumbledore about the fact that the Dursleys were beating Harry. She was startled when a silver streak burst through the cat door, skidded on the tile floor, and crashed into the cupboards as she was making breakfast. "Min, don't you think you would have learned by now?"
The cat didn't even look up at Arabella as it set something it had been carrying in its mouth on the floor and changed back into Minerva. This time, she was wearing a pair of black trousers and a dark blue blouse. "Shut up, Bella."
Arabella's eyes were fixed on what Minerva had been carrying in her mouth. It was a mouse and it wasn't moving. "Is that--"
"Shut up, Bella," Minerva repeated through gritted teeth as she pulled her wand out of her pocket, stepped back, and pointed it at the mouse. In moments, the mouse had been replaced by an unconscious teenage boy with messy black hair and a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead, clad in shabby clothes that were far too big for him and a pair of round glasses that had been broken. His face was bruised and battered and Arabella could tell that he was having difficulty breathing. Minerva tucked her wand back in her pocket and carefully rolled the boy onto his back. "Harry?"
He didn't stir. "Min, what did you do?"
Minerva's eyes were steely when she looked up at her sister. "They would have killed him, Bella. I couldn't wait while we contacted Albus and asked him what to do."
"Well, now what do we do?" Arabella demanded as Minerva checked the boy for a pulse. "Albus won't be pleased with you."
"I don't care," Minerva shot back, carefully picking Harry up. "He may be the Boy Who Lived, but those Muggles don't care."
Arabella watched helplessly as Minerva carried Harry up the stairs and, presumably, to the guest bedroom. She went into the living room and, pulling some Floo Powder from the jar on the mantel, threw it onto the fire. "Albus Dumbledore."
After a moment, Albus' head appeared in the flames. "Ah, Arabella, good morning."
"Albus, I hate to disturb you, but Minerva's gone and done something rather rash," Arabella informed him, worry etched on her features.
* * *
He groaned as something cool and wet was placed on his forehead. "No, I'm sorry, I won't do it again, I promise."
"Shh, Harry," a familiar voice replied as someone squeezed his hand reassuringly. "I'm not going to hurt you."
"Who?" Harry asked, trying to open his eyes. He managed to open the left one and stared at the woman sitting in a chair beside the bed he was on. "Professor?"
She smiled sadly at him. "It's alright, Harry, no one's going to hurt you."
"Why, Professor? Won't Dumbledore be mad at you?" Harry was too weak to do anything more than stare at her.
The stern professor he'd come to know over the past five years appeared. "Don't ask questions, Mr. Potter. You need to rest."
"Rest," Harry murmured, letting his eye fall shut. "That sounds so wonderful."
As he drifted off to sleep, he felt the cool, wet something on his forehead be replaced by another cool, wet something.
* * *
Albus brushed soot off his robes and looked at Arabella, who stood nearby. "Where is she?"
"She took him upstairs," Arabella replied. "Probably to the guest bedroom."
Albus nodded and headed up the stairs. He'd known Minerva and Arabella for years. He'd attended their each of their weddings. When Minerva had run from her husband, she'd run straight to Albus and confessed everything to him. He'd been there for Minerva all through the divorce proceedings, giving her the support she'd needed. He'd helped comfort Arabella when her husband had died, offered her the job of watching over Harry to help ease the pain a little. He knew Minerva would not have interfered without a good reason and he was determined to find out before he made any decisions. He reached the guest bedroom and knocked softly on the door. When Minerva opened it, she didn't seem surprised to see him. "I knew she'd call you."
"May I come in?" he asked, matching her quiet tone of voice.
Silently, she opened the door and stepped aside. He stepped past her and approached the bed. Harry was stretched out on his back, a damp flannel on his forehead. His clothes were rumpled and torn, but at least they were clean. He drew in a deep breath when he saw the bruising on his face and arms. He could only imagine what the rest of his body looked like. He slowly sank into the chair and watched as Minerva moved forward and changed the flannel on his forehead.
"What happened, Minerva?" he asked quietly, watching as she carefully unbuttoned Harry's shirt and moved it aside. "What did they do to him?"
Her voice was quiet as she told him what she had witnessed...
* * *
"Boy, get me some coffee," Vernon barked.
"Yes, Sir." Harry turned to the coffeepot and poured a mug of the black brew.
"I want some orange juice," Dudley announced once Harry had set the mug of coffee in front of Vernon.
"Yes, Dudley," Harry answered through gritted teeth.
The next minute, he saw stars because Vernon had slammed his fist into his face. "Show Dudley proper respect, Boy."
"Yes, Uncle Vernon." Harry wasn't even on his feet when Vernon's beefy fist plowed into his stomach, sending him sliding across the kitchen floor on his back, crashing headfirst into the cupboards. As his vision dimmed, he heard a window shatter, followed by a heart-stopping yowl as a sleek silver tabby landed on the floor between him and the Dursleys.
Harry didn't see the cat become Minerva McGonagall, but the Dursleys did and all three stared at her. "You're the bloody cat from fifteen years ago."
Vernon started towards the witch, but she pulled out her wand and pointed it at him. "Don't tempt me, Dursley. You've no idea how important this boy is."
"That boy," Vernon spat the word as if it left a nasty taste in his mouth, "has been nothing but trouble ever since he was left on our front step. Why couldn't one of you _freaks_ take him in, instead of saddling us with him?"
Minerva's eyes glittered dangerously. "You're toeing a thin line, Dursley. Don't cross it."
"Oh, am I?" Vernon sneered, his contempt for Harry and the wizarding world in general overriding his common sense. "What are you going to do to me? Turn me into a toad?"
Minerva gave him a feral grin. "No, that would be far too kind. Have you ever seen a cat when it's caught a mouse?"
The blood suddenly drained from Vernon's face. "You wouldn't--you're not allowed--"
"Just because I'm not allowed to doesn't mean I won't," she snarled, struggling to control her temper. She waved her wand. "Upstairs, all three of you." Petunia and Dudley obeyed her immediately, leaving Vernon to face her alone. "You, two, Dursley."
"What are you going to do with him?" Vernon growled.
"What I should have done a long time ago," she spat, "take him away from here."
"Fine," Vernon replied, "just so long as we don't see him ever again."
With that, he stormed from the room. Minerva knelt beside Harry and pulled him away from the cupboard. "Harry?" He moaned and stirred. "Harry, wake up."
His fluttered open and he stared up at her. "P-Professor? Wha--"
"I'm taking you away from here," she told him quietly. "Where are your things?"
"Smallest bed...room," he told her, struggling to breathe.
"Don't move," she answered before getting up and dashing from the room. It didn't take her long to find gather his things. She Transfigured all of them into rocks and tucked them into her pockets before hurrying back downstairs. Harry was still stretched out on the floor, his eyes closed and breathing shallow. She knelt beside him once more. "Harry?" He didn't respond. Fighting back the worry she felt at his lack of response, she pulled out her wand. "I'm sorry, Harry, but I have to do this." She Transfigured him into a mouse and tucked her wand back into her pocket. Switching to her feline form, she picked him up in her mouth and left Number 4 Privet Drive...
* * *
Throughout the tale, she had carefully tended to the bruises that had marred his skin, find each one and murmuring a healing spell. By the time she finished telling her tale, Harry's torso was free of bruises and his breathing was easier. She re-buttoned his shirt and changed the flannel on his forehead. Finally, she looked up at Albus. "I couldn't just leave him, Albus. If they'd kept on that way, they would have killed him."
Albus rose and pulled her into a comforting embrace, holding her as she let tears of pain and sympathy flow freely. "It's alright, Tabby. Although I would have preferred you had contacted me, you did right. If his own relatives will treat him like this, the protection won't work as well."
She pulled back and stared up at him, her face still streaked with tears. "What do you mean, Albus?"
He sighed. "I'll explain later. Harry is our main concern right now."
She wiped her face and looked at the boy. "I've done what I can for him, but I really think Poppy needs to look at him."
Albus nodded and handed his handkerchief to her. "I'll go get her. You keep an eye on Harry."
She nodded and mopped her face with his handkerchief as she sat down in the chair by the bed, watching over Harry. Casting a last, anxious glance at the boy, Albus left the room and headed downstairs to contact Poppy.
* * *
He could hear voices nearby, sounding anxious. "How bad is he, Poppy?"
"Not as bad as he could have been," a second voice replied. "It's good thing you know those healing spells, Minerva."
"Only because I've been through two wars already, Poppy," the first voice sounded a little embarrassed. "How long will it take for him to recover?"
"A couple weeks," the second voice sounded tired. "More if he doesn't take it easy. He needs to go somewhere quiet and remote."
"In other words, not the Burrow?" a third voice inserted, sounding amused.
"I'm afraid so, Headmaster," the second voice answered. "I know Molly loves the boy, but all the people would be too much for him at this point."
"I understand," the third voice responded. "But who will take him in while he recovers?"
"I will," the first voice spoke up.
Silence, and then the second voice spoke up. "Are you sure, Minerva?"
"Absolutely, Poppy." The first voice sounded firm.
"I don't see why not, Poppy," the third voice commented thoughtfully. "Would you mind some help, Minerva?"
"What kind of help?"
"One of the house-elves at Hogwarts has befriended Harry and I'm sure he wouldn't mind helping to care for the boy."
"Isn't he the one who would like nothing better than to tear Kreacher limb from limb?"
"The very same."
"Very well. It will keep the two apart, at any rate."
Harry finally managed to open his eyes and was surprised to see Professor McGonagall, Madam Pomfrey, and Professor Dumbledore standing in the doorway, talking in quiet voices. Professor McGonagall was wearing black trousers and a dark blue blouse; Madam Pomfrey was wearing a pale green summer dress; and Professor Dumbledore was dressed in a pair of khaki pants and a polo shirt. He watched as the three of them turned and approached the bed. Madam Pomfrey smiled when she saw that Harry was awake. "How are you feeling, Mr. Potter?"
"Better," he managed to croak. "Not sore anymore."
"That's good to hear," Professor Dumbledore commented with a twinkle in his eyes.
"Do I have to go back to the Dursleys?" Harry asked, looking up at their concerned faces.
Professor Dumbledore shook his head. "No, Harry, you don't have to go back to them ever again."
"Where do I go from here, then?" he asked anxiously. "And where am I, anyway?"
"You're at Arabella Figg's house," Professor McGonagall informed him crisply. "As for where you'll go from here: I'll be taking you to my home, where you can rest and recuperate."
"Thanks, Professor," Harry smiled gratefully up at her.
"You're welcome, Harry," she replied with a smile of her own. It made her look much younger.
He yawned then, feeling sleepy. "We'll let you rest now, Mr. Potter. Come along, Minerva, Headmaster." The three adults left the room as Harry slowly drifted off to sleep.