A/N - This story tied for third place in the Highly Unlikely Challenge; place Snape in a highly unlikely situation, and keep him in character.
Here, Kitty, Kitty...
Snape stomped into the teacher's lounge, sweeping the few occupants with his glare. It was Holiday break time, and the school was fairly empty of both students and staff.
"You were looking for me, Minerva?"
"Severus, yes. Have a seat?" Professor McGonagall waved him toward a chair without much hope.
"I have a few potions brewing, and no wish to melt my best cauldron. Is there something you needed?" He didn't bother to keep the impatience from his voice.
She braced herself. "It's about Amos Skeegans' pet."
Severus held up a hand. "No! I have told you before, I am not wasting my time on some damn cat. If you will excuse me, I believe I am the Potions Master at this school – not some bloody veterinarian. It is unfortunate that Hagrid is away, but if the cat is that ill, I suggest you put it out of its misery."
McGonagall took a deep breath and reminded herself that this was what she wanted. "That is precisely why I wished to speak with you, Severus. We feel that destroying the little creature is for the best, but, well, none of us have the heart to do it. We were wondering if you..." She held her breath and waited for the blast.
When it came, it was carefully controlled and icy. "So. Now I am the official killer of kittens, am I? New job for an old Death Eater? Right up my alley?" He wheeled on the Charms professor. "You're Skeegans' Head of House, Flitwick, why don't you do it?"
Professor Flitwick shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but didn't speak. The room was very quiet.
Snape glowered at them each in turn, but they held their silence. "Damn it all!" Snape's voice was barely above a whisper. "Of all the weak-willed, spineless... Where is the animal?"
"In the Common Room." Flitwick was visibly relieved.
"Password!" Snape barked at him.
Snape snorted, and in a swirl of black, he was gone.
The occupants of the room released their collectively held breaths.
"I hope you're right about this Minerva." Flitwick wiped his damp forehead with a large colorful handkerchief.
She looked stubborn. "The man is not that cruel." The others avoided her eyes. "He's not!" She summoned herself a large whiskey. "If he does kill the little thing...well, perhaps it is for the best, but I'm betting the challenge will get him."
Hooch looked up and grinned. "How much?"
Snape passed through his lab, adjusting the heat under one cauldron and putting another potion in a holding charm, then headed for the Ravenclaw Common Room.
"Bloody waste of my time." He waited impatiently for one of the moving staircases to move back to where he needed it.
"Killing kittens now, are we?" The portrait to his left sneered at him. It was a particularly annoying picture – a distant relative of his.
"For once in your life, hold your tongue," he muttered without much hope.
"Oh, how the mighty have fallen." The man cackled.
"Sod off." Snape stepped onto the stairs, and left the laughter behind.
Snape grumbled the password, and entered the Ravenclaw Common Room. It was empty except for a very small first year huddled on the hearthrug. A small towel-wrapped bundle lay on a cushion in his lap, and he was crying noisily.
"What is all this noise about? And what is this rubbish?" He poked at a blanket-lined box with the toe of one boot.
The child let out a squeak of alarm, and scrambled to his feet, terror showing in every line of his body.
"P-Professor Snape! What are you doing here?"
"I'm doing what your spineless Head of House cannot. Give me that animal."
The boy tightened his grip on his pet. "No, please, Professor, don't kill him."
Snape felt a flicker of irritation that that had been the boy's first thought. Not that he wasn't right.
"The beast is sick. There is no point in wasting time over it." He reached for the little animal, and circling its tiny rib cage with his long fingers, took it from the boy.
"Please!!" The boy reached for him, but stopped short of touching his arm. Lucky thing for the little brat.
"Five points from Ravenclaw for raising your voice to a teacher," he barked at the boy.
Why wouldn't the boy give up? He gave the quivering child his best classroom glare.
"Please, don't make him suffer, sir," the boy whispered.
Oh, fine. Now he was a torturer of small, sick animals as well as a murderer of children's pets.
Turning on his heel, he left the Common Room and headed back toward his dungeon sanctuary. What the bloody hell was he supposed to with the thing? He supposed he could just pitch it in the trash. The kitten stirred in his hand and let out a small squeak. He lifted it up and studied the limp animal. What was wrong with it, anyway? He cast his mind back to the discussions that had gone on around him in the teachers' lounge. A respiratory ailment, certainly, coupled with a possible nerve disorder? He studied the skinny, pathetic animal. Probably had parasites as well.
He tucked the kitten into the crook of his arm and continued on his way. What was so difficult that the others hadn't been able to cure it? There was a supply of remedies for the common ills suffered by most of the students' pets, why had they failed this one? He stopped under a torch, and examined the kitten more closely. He didn't know much about animals, but any fool could see that the kitten had an ear problem, not a nervous disorder. Hagrid had picked a damn inconvenient time to be on leave. He turned toward the library. Heading straight to the Restricted Section, he was intercepted by Madam Pince.
"You can't bring that animal into the restricted section!" She hissed at him.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I said," she repeated with her best librarian glare, "you can't bring that animal into the restricted section!"
"You're right." He pushed the kitten into her hands. "You hold it."
He turned his back on her look of horror, going deep into the stacks.
An hour later, he tucked some notes into a pocket, retrieved the kitten from the nest Madam Pince had made for it with her sweater in the bottom drawer of her desk, and stalked back to the lab adjoining his rooms.
He checked to make sure his potions were not in danger of spoiling, and looked at the kitten. It lay on its side with its eyes closed, barely breathing.
"Waste of time," he groused as he started gathering the ingredients for the potions for which he had found directions.
He looked at the kitten again, stretched out on his workbench.
"In the way," he muttered to himself as he removed a new pair of boots from their box and filled his hot water bottle. He adjusted the warmth for the cat's higher body temperature, placing a permanent warming spell on it. Putting it in the box, he covered it with a towel and put it by the hearth. He set the animal in the warm nest and frowned at it.
The potions didn't take more than two hours to make. He carefully cooled them, and fetching the little animal, eased a couple of drops of the first one into its mouth with a pipette. The kitten gagged and spit it out. He tried again, holding its head back, and stroking its throat until it swallowed.
"There you go. That wasn't so hard, was it?" He had no idea he was speaking out loud as he coaxed a bit of the other potion down its throat as well. He then swabbed out the infected ear as best he could before dripping in a bit of another potion he had gotten from his stores.
He held the limp little body up and studied it. "There. I think that will be enough torture of tiny defenseless animals by the evil Potions Master for now." He headed for the box by the fire. "I will continue with your punishment later." He eyed the kitten for a minute before returning to his work.
Four hours later, he dosed the kitten again.
At midnight, the kitten was strong enough to stand and squawk. He pureed a little leftover roast beef, mixed it into a paste with some cream and offered the kitten a gob of it on the end of a finger. The kitten attacked it hungrily, purring loudly. He gave it some more, frowning as it wolfed the food down.
"Slow down. If you throw it back up, you're out on your ear." The kitten gave a garbled meow of gratitude.
He gave it another dose of potion, put a confining spell on its box so it wouldn't roam, and retired for the night.
The kitten greeted him in the morning with lusty cries of hunger. He scooped it up and dropped it gently on his worktable. The kitten started batting at his cupful of quills while he rummaged in a drawer. Finding the small green bottle he was looking for, he read the label carefully.
"Today," he announced as he picked up the little animal, "we poison you."
He plunked the kitten on a scale, ascertained its weight, figured the dosage, and squirted some liquid down its throat. It barely stopped purring. He gave it more of the other potions as well, and once more put drops in its ear.
The box was emptied of its bed, and lined with some shredded parchment. The kitten complained bitterly at being confined, and after about three minutes, Snape put a Silencing Charm on it. He sat at his desk grading essays and waiting. Within two hours, the kitten had thrown up half its weight in worms, and defecated the other half of its weight in more parasites. Nose wrinkled in disgust, Snape performed a cleaning spell on the box.
"Disgusting creature." The kitten meowed.
He made it wait another hour to be sure it was finished expelling the parasites before feeding it again. It purred happily as it ate.
"Serve you right if you choke," he groused.
He put the kitten's bed back to normal, and provided another smaller box of shredded parchment for its other needs.
The kitten poked around in the box of parchment, then hopped out. "You'll use that if you know what's good for you," he threatened in his best classroom voice. The kitten batted at his trouser cuff.
He was thoroughly engrossed in shredding the efforts of his second year class' essays with his quill when something attacked his leg with tiny pins.
"Bloody hell!" He reached down and carefully detached the kitten from the fine black wool of his trousers. He dangled the creature in front of his face by the scruff of its neck.
"I have killed for less," he growled. The kitten purred.
"Insufferable pest." The pest batted at his nose with a tiny paw.
He set the kitten on his shoulder where it played with his hair for a while before curling up on its precarious perch and going to sleep. Snape turned his head carefully to glare at it. Damn thing even purred in its sleep.
Late that afternoon, he dosed it and treated its ear one more time. As he carefully measured some of the potions into small bottles and labeled them clearly, the kitten chased a cork over the tabletop. He grabbed it just as it was about to roll off the edge, holding it up for inspection. It was still very thin, and ugly, but certainly alive, and likely to remain so.
"Nothing difficult about that, was there?" The animal opened its disproportionately large mouth and squeaked at him.
"Don't know why they had to waste my valuable time on such an insignificant matter. Imbeciles, the lot of them."
He stuffed the offensive creature in the large inside pocket of his cloak where it immediately tried to scramble up his shirtfront. Drawing a sharp breath as the razor claws pierced his skin, he reinserted the animal into the pocket, and cast a spell to keep it there. It wiggled for a few seconds before settling down to nap. He pocketed the three small bottles he had prepared, and headed out the door.
He found the boy in the library.
"Mr. Skeegans." He dropped into a chair next to the boy.
The child let out a squawk of terror.
"Silence!" Snape hissed at him. Reaching in his cloak he extracted the kitten and dropped it in the boy's lap. He ignored the child's stunned face, and lined the potion bottles up on the table.
"The creature has had all its medicine for today. This will start tomorrow. First potion, blue bottle. You will give the beast three drops, twice a day for two more days. Second potion, brown bottle. You will give two drops twice a day for the rest of the week. This," he held up the green bottle. "Two drops in its ear – its left ear, in the evening for four more days. They are clearly labeled; even you should be able to get it right." He stared at the boy with disapproval. Why did he sit there with his mouth agape like a landed fish?
"If you mess it up," he added for emphasis, "you will kill the thing. Not that it doesn't deserve it."
The boy looked at his purring pet, then back at Snape with starry eyes.
Snape scowled in disgust. "Have you got that clear? I will be very upset if you get it wrong and I find I've wasted my time."
Really, the boy looked mentally deficient. However did he get in Ravenclaw?
Snape headed for the door.
"Professor Snape!" The boy called quietly but urgently.
He whirled and came a step back toward the child. "What?"
"Th-thank you, sir."
Snape eyed him. "I think we'll keep this private, Mr. Skeegans. If I hear one word, you will find yourself in detention with Mr. Filch for the next three years."
"Yes, sir." The boy whispered.
Snape swept out of the library and down the halls in his best theatrical manner. Too bad there were no students about to scatter like leaves. Professor McGonagall came out of her classroom and fell into step beside Snape. He shortened his stride a bit out of courtesy, and they walked in silence.
"So, did the cat thing work out all right?" Her question was innocent.
He glared at her sideways. "You know how I hate to be manipulated, Minerva."
"Why Severus!" She pursed her lips to hide a smile. "I would never do that. That's Albus' job."
He frowned. "And you are his Deputy Headmistress with good reason."
They continued on in silence for a while.
"I purchased a bottle of Glenfiddich in Hogsmeade today. Would you care for a drink?"
"Splurging, are you?"
She tried, and failed to stop a smile. "I won a wager."
He gave her a narrow eyed look. "Do I want to know?"
They stopped in front of the door to her quarters. "How about it, Severus. Albus is back from his conference, and the students won't return until tomorrow. Shall we have some food sent up from the kitchens, and spend the evening getting well and thoroughly pissed?"
This time his smile was genuine. "Why not?"
After all, there was nothing waiting for him in his rooms.