Author's Note: The relationship between Severus and Minerva has always fascinated me, seeming as it does to be so much more than the mere formal alliance they would like it to appear. This is not intended as a romance fic, merely as an exploration of what two people on opposing sides of the same coin can mean to each other. I read a very good fic somewhere about Minerva comforting Severus as a cat during his school days, and I liked the concept that maybe she can only let herself relate to him in a manner that no one else will see. Thanks for reading. :-)

If Cats Could Cry.

She finds him lying on the hillside above the lake. He lies on his back, long legs stretched out before him in their filthy black leather boots, one arm outflung, the fist curled loosely about a broken wand. The sleeve of his black robe is torn, exposing scarred, translucent skin. She is glad that it is his right arm.

She approaches cautiously on little cat-feet, ducks her head briefly to nose at the outstretched hand. The wrists are delicate as a girl's, the long, tapered fingers slender and sensitive as a lover's or a minstrel's. It is only the palms that betray him, hard and calloused, scarred with the tiny nicks of thorns or silver knife. Her whiskers graze the cold skin, and she half-flinches, lifting her head away. She had always loved his hands.

She wonders who killed him, Ministry, or Death Eater, or Phoenix. She wonders, and is selfishly glad that she does not know. She wonders if he had time to realise, and marvels inwardly at the skill of whoever it was who had finally managed to get past his defences. Heavens knows that she never could, though she tried many, many times. Then again, it only had to happen once.

The tabby cat circles demurely for a moment, then springs lightly up to settle abjectly in the middle of his narrow chest. There is no answering movement, no world-weary hand, cynical, and resentful, and oh so familiar, to push her gently away. She had not expected one.

It has rained since he has lain here, is drizzling softly again now, and the fabric of his robes is sodden, cold beneath her crouching belly. He wears only a single outer robe, without the characteristic high-collared black undershirt, as though he had dressed only hurriedly when the summons came. His face, in death, is not beautiful, or angelic; she can discern no light of redemption shining through the dark features. He does not look, as Albus did, like a child in a pleasant slumber, nor yet like Filius, uncertain and afraid. He only looks dead. Only Severus, sneering and arrogant, the customary scowl still half-frozen between his eyes, the harsh lines still etched about his mouth, taut and pained, his lips parted, more sensitive than they had any right to be, in a soft 'o' of surprise. His eyes are open, glaring bitterly at the grey sky. Not empty and lifeless like Sybill's or Fabian's, but glittering black and full of pain. She cannot bring herself to hold the dead gaze.

Raindrops bead across his brow, pooling in the corners of his eyes and slipping down his cold cheeks like mocking tears. His lank hair is wet, tiny droplets meshed like beads of glass in the dark strands. As the cat watches, the rain drips mournfully from the black locks and from the tip of that ridiculous nose.

Shyly, tentatively, she brushes a damp tabby head along the line of his jaw, and presses her face into the hollow of his neck where the pulse is stilled now, is startled by the abrasive harshness of the dead, unshaven skin. Severus always remembered to shave. Always. The soft mew catches in her throat as she notices for the first time the extent of the grey that streaks his dark hair. Somewhere along the way, she realises, Severus had grown old.

She wonders how he died, who he fought for, for she does not recall seeing him in the fight. She wonders who he killed, his childhood friends, his old rivals, his own cherished students. She wonders, if he had lived, would Azkaban have claimed him, or would he even now lie, prostrate and remorseful, at the foot of the white tomb. She wonders if, in the end, he was traitor or martyr, and knows with utter certainty that he is glad to have died.

A hard, unfriendly wind sweeps the battlefield, and his cloak stirs fitfully, recalling an old, billowing terror. The guttering wind drives a squall of rain down the hillside, and the tabby cat hunches tighter into herself, flattening her ears against the wet. The dead man's neck looks strange and bare, and his exposed collarbone juts frighteningly beneath the pale skin. It looks so vulnerable, so naked, and she cannot recall ever having seen him without his high, black collar since he was a child. Her child. Her dark, precious child, her everything. Brother, and son; pupil, teacher, colleague; companion and lover and nemesis. Her little, white-socked paws knead at the rain-slick skin, her claws marking tiny pinpricks that draw no blood, for his body is still and cold, motionless beneath the tabby's desperate paws.

She realises then, truly realises, and her tiny, coral-pink tongue laps, caresses the protruding collarbone, tasting, not Severus, but only mud and rain. The purrs well from deep inside her, anguished, and hate-filled, and loving, and if cats could cry she would have been sobbing, but they can't, so she purrs and cries, and licks at the lifeless skin, and there is rain in her mouth, and in her fur, and in the dead man's unseeing eyes.