Author's Note: Hi, back again. This little plot bunny was determined to come out and play, or should I say plot kitten. So, I am dedicating it to the BeST. Zarathustra46, with whom I have collaborated on many occasions, for her ability to see where continuity jumps the rails and the carriage of good sense goes spinning off into limbo-land. Nathan, beta extraordinaire, whose diplomatic skills have made sure I haven't killed anyone for ages, (ah well, these pleasures must wait.) And last but not least Eleanne, the Wicked Bunjhiny of the purple pen who is just as cat-owned as my Severus, and loving it.
This story is not slash, not romance, just a one-shot for the pure joy of having a kitten invade your life. In fact, I might even have to declare it humorous, if it wouldn't cause a few people to have heart attacks. Anyway, as always, comments most welcome but flames will be met with extinguishers, be assured. LOL. Sorry, not a new chapter, just a fix-up that has no bearing on the story.
Everybody Wants to be a Cat.
Harry giggled. At least, he would have giggled but it came out as a cross between a gurgle and a purr. The small, coal-black Abyssinian cat with brilliant emerald eyes stuck his cold nose under the lank black hair in front of him and added a rough tongue lick for good measure. There was a snorting snore and a low snarl which made Harry skitter across the heavy duvet and slip off the bed to the floor with a yowl of sheer mischief.
"You damned nuisance! Augh! Cat spit! How old are you, you wretched cat?"
Harry sprung up from the floor using his claws to climb the high bed, then pounced on Severus' knee, before leaping onto his shoulders. Harry's very long tail wrapped around the older man's neck as he head-butted the ample nose, rubbing his jaw over Severus' slightly stubbled cheek. A long thin finger came up to chuck him under the chin and Harry melted into purring compliance, sliding bonelessly down the slope of Severus' chest to lie on his back in the bony lap. "You are a self-indulgent hedonist, you know that?" he snorted, stroking the furred belly presented to him before scooping up the adolescent cat as he rolled out of bed.
Harry the cat continued to purr and snuggle, right up until Severus turned the shower on him. Letting out a squawk like only a wet cat can, Harry transformed mid-twitch sliding in human form down the long, thin carcass, trying to hide from the warm water.
Severus smirked, using the flat of his hand to slap the lean flank pressed into his thigh, holding him under the water until he was soaked. Harry squeaked and truly giggled as he wound his arms around his guardian's. or perhaps his 'staff's', neck. He butted his head into Severus' chest, licking a drop of water off the pale coffee coloured skin with the flat of his tongue.
"And that makes me the bloody idiot that puts up with you! Behave, creature!" Severus sniffed reaching for the shampoo and dumped a handful on the unruly hair under his chin. Harry purred contentedly as the long, thin fingers dug into his scalp, massaging and cleansing before angling the shower head to rinse away the suds. They had a deal; Harry would shower in the regular manner without fuss and Severus would make sure he was clean as quickly as possible. Curled brown fingers, already sprouting black hair, dug into the sparse muscles along the Potion Master's spine as they finished their shower and flicked off the taps.
When a fluffy towel was dropped on his head, Harry fell backwards, shrinking and changing until he lay on his back, hind feet clawing and raking as he bit the white fluff in an excess of high spirits.
Severus sighed and picked up the cat, towel and all, scrubbing and wrestling until he thought the young animal was dry enough to dump onto the duvet again. The tussle for the towel went on for a few more minutes before Harry let go and turned his back, bending to lick and smooth his thick black fur while Severus dried himself and dressed for the day.
"Well, are you coming, you horrid creature?" the Potions Master demanded as he held open the chamber door.
Harry refused to move from his perch on the bed and all the cajoling in the world would not bring him to heel. Severus huffed indignantly before marching over but the illusive creature sprang away and leapt onto the dressing table, clawing at one of the drawers until Severus opened it a few inches with a sharp, huffy snap. Harry slid into the drawer and disappeared into the dark rear recesses; the scrabbling and scratching continuing, making Severus cross his arms and tap his foot. When the adolescent cat emerged, he held a collar in his mouth and spat it into the Potions Master's hand with a decisive flick.
"Oh, so now we want a collar, do we? Yesterday, a mere collar was so far beneath 'our' dignity that I am still wearing the scratches to prove your ire!" The tall man moaned and complained even as his fingers moved nimbly to fasten the soft, emerald studded leather around the thin neck. "Not too tight? Very good. Can we now go down to breakfast? Oh, thank you so much!" he drawled sarcastically as the cat jumped down. Prancing out, with tail in the air, Harry held his head high and led the way.
Shutting the door with a decisive snap and a shake of his head, Snape followed the nuisance out into the corridor.
"You are the final Horcrux, Harry," the voice pronounced and Harry sprang awake with a snarl, tail flared, claws out. Though his nightmares had become less frequent since the end of the war four years before, they still hit hard, sometimes even when he was in cat form.
The class of first year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws all looked up suddenly from their cauldrons, eyes focussed on the small black cat standing on their Potions Master's desk, hissing and spitting at the air. Severus shook his head and strode forward, robes billowing as he swooped to scoop Harry up and hold him close, long fingers stroking the ruffled fur smooth as he turned and snapped at Mr Harbolt for allowing his cauldron to boil unattended.
With no thought for place and time, Severus flipped open three buttons on the front of his inner robes and allowed the ruffled little cat to slip into the warm, safe darkness and snuggle against his shirt. He could feel the tiny cat heart pounding, the small creature panting in fright. He surmised the dream must have been a terrifying one. Sighing deeply, he returned to supervising his class as the trusting creature in his shirt finally settled down and went back to sleep. The nightmares were no longer a dominant feature of the small cat's life but still they occurred at times. There was nothing Severus could do except soothe the little creature, and keep him safe and warm.
"Any change, Madam Pomfrey?" Medi-wizard Tobias Johnson who had been assigned to the Harry Potter case asked, as he arrived at the Hospital wing in readiness for Mr Potter's annual check-up and strode over to Madam Pomfrey's desk with a very put-upon air. The green-clad healer had been appointed by the head of the Spell damage ward and was tasked to make one personal visit every year to check on the progress the war hero had made. Every time he came the Potions Master was there, sneering and glaring in a most disconcerting manner. He did not appreciate the black clad man's presence but had no option but to tolerate it as his patient would not even enter the room unless the Potions Master was present.
The Potions Master snapped irritably as he strode through the infirmary doors. "Of course not! Everybody wants to be a bloody cat, especially the Boy-Who-Lived-To-Be-a-Pain-in-my-Arse! Well, are you coming?" he asked, glancing over his shoulder.
The black cat slunk into the ward, his tail flat and low as he scurried behind Severus' legs and peered up at the two Medi-personnel with an interrogative miaow. Madam Pomfrey smiled, patting the bed encouragingly but not hopefully.
"I have fish treats for you," Healer Johnson coaxed, bending to hold out one of the aforementioned fish-shaped treats.
A curved set of scimitars lashed out. The healer yelped and dropped the treat which was immediately raked behind the safe buttresses of Severus' boots.
Hiding a smirk, Severus bent and grabbed the long, thin cat by the scruff of its neck and hoisted it up to eye-level.
"Manners, Mr Potter," he intoned and the cat curled up like a small kitten dangling from its mother's mouth. Shaking his head, Severus dropped Harry, rather more gently than it looked, onto the bed and stroked his fur smooth while the Medi-wizard sucked his abused fingers and studied the sleek creature now sitting proudly with his tail wrapped around his paws.
"He looks healthy enough," Healer Johnson said begrudgingly.
"For an Abyssinian," Severus added morosely, scratching the nearest ear and was rewarded by Harry catching his finger in his paws as he rolled on his back and began to suck the end of the digit, grooming the fingernail carefully. "Oh, stop that, you idiot, you don't know where it's been."
The cat yowled playfully and sprang up, landing on Severus' shoulder and pushing under his hair, peering out at the healer from the opposite shoulder to hiss softly at him.
"I don't think he likes you, Tobias Johnson," Poppy stated flatly as she cast the appropriate spells and checked Mr Potter's health against the chart she had begun to compile straight after he had returned to Hogwarts in his present form.
"Does he ever turn into a human any more?" Johnson mumbled around his still bleeding fingers and ignoring the Medi-witch's comments.
"Yes, most mornings, around shower time and sometimes at night if we are having something cats don't like to eat, such as treacle tart. The rest of the time he is my Pain-In-The-Arse Aristo-cat," Severus answered patiently, scooping the aforementioned animal off his shoulder and holding him in the curve of his arm to stroke him soothingly.
The Healer went away muttering and Poppy grinned at the small, satin-furred animal that trotted after her to her office for the expected cat treat. "You are a terror, Harry Potter, and definitely one of a kind. Now what will it be? Kipper snack or beef jerky strip."
Potter grabbed the dried meat treat and trotted back to his beloved Severus, tail and head held high.
"Sometimes you know, Severus, I get scared. I'm seventeen and have never been anywhere, seen anything. Yet, here I am being torn apart inside by a potion to separate the fragment of Lord Voldemort's soul from my own. Doesn't that strike you as a bit unfair?" Harry turned to face the man who had become his closest mentor over the past few weeks.
Severus studied the sharp-boned face looking so hopefully back at him, noting the weight loss and the dark under-eye circles, the nervous twitches and starts as his potions did indeed loosen the boy's soul from its anchors. Without thinking of the irony, Severus drew the boy closer and dropped a kiss atop the messy hair, smoothing it aside as he wrapped long arms around the narrow chest. "Life is just full of unfairness. The trick is… the trick is to endure and hope to Merlin it gets better later on."
"If only…" Harry muttered, far too cynical for his stated seventeen years.
Severus snorted. "Yes, if only…." He agreed softly.
"Harry James Potter! Get down here this instant!"
Harry James Potter - cat at large - lay on the wooden beam in the sunshine, only the very tip of his tail moving in a slow metronome pattern as he watched dust motes dance in the shaft of sunshine where he basked. Sometimes Severus could be so tiresome but Harry could ignore him, being a cat. Being a cat was so relaxing, no one expected anything except that he should not claw the furniture or poop on the carpet. In return he received all the affection he craved, food three times a day, and absolutely no responsibilities whatsoever. It was grand!
He could remember the first time he had thought about being something other than who he was. He'd taken the first dose of potion to separate the piece of soul Voldemort had stored in his scar and it was awful, more horrible than anyone ever imagined; the internal tearing apart of the very fabric of his being. Then Ron had started it.
"If you could be somewhere else, where would you be?" he'd asked in a desperate effort to distract his writhing friend.
"Anywhere but here!" Harry had gasped, almost laughing at the stupidity of the question.
"Yes, well, agreed, but if you could be anyone else, who would you be?" Hermione asked, trying to engage Harry and take his mind off the pain.
"I think I would rather be an animal, something good, maybe a dragon or a hippogriff," Ron enthused encouragingly.
"Nah! I would rather be something simple, like a cat; no responsibilities, sleep all day, get fed and patted and pampered … and no potions!" Harry had gasped wistfully, as another wave of agony swamped his reason.
"Got you, you wretched creature!" A large hand grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and Harry found himself most rudely hoisted into the air. He tried to lash out with his claws but stopped when the curved white blades were within a millimetre of the large hooked nose, only the actual pads dabbing the edge with a feather light touch. He was caught, fair and square; time to face the music, and the nutrient potion that supplied the things his catty form could not give to his internal human structure.
Severus muttered and mumbled to himself all the way down from the rafters of the Great Hall to the stone flags below. Holding onto the broomstick and the small cat body simultaneously was a bit of a challenge but he was getting better at it. Bloody Potter loved flying and never complained when he was taken on the wretched contraptions. In fact, as Weasley had commented, he probably engineered situations that forced people to come after him on broomsticks just so he could fly again. Climbing up to the top of the Great Hall when he was due to take his medicine was a favourite trick. Being retrieved by broomstick actually made him take his potion with less fuss.
On the sole occasion Minerva had levitated him down, Harry had bitten her thumb clear through to the bone. Now, once a week, they went through the elaborate ritual of climbing, flying, retrieving and potions consumption, with no more injuries, no more fuss. Sometimes the price was not too high for a quiet life.
The Final Battle raged around them, Ron to his left, Hermione to his right and Severus behind as curses flashed and flared all around them. A particularly nasty blasting curse almost threw them off their feet and, like the panto demon from Hell, Voldemort was there, standing on the small hill of bodies, his wand held negligently in his hand. "Harry Potter, well, well, well, and his faithful minions! Severus, my most trusted Potions Master, is this how you serve me at the end, with the double cross, or is it a triple cross? Or have you lost count now?" the snake man taunted.
"Your argument is with me!" Harry bellowed, his voice only just lifting above the cacophony of the battlefield.
"Oh, I think not. Because, you see, you tiresome brat, to kill me, you have to die first, which negates the prophesy and totally devalues your very existence. You are me! Join me, Harry Potter; join me as my Heir and we can be great together."
"'Oh, Luke, I am your father,'" Harry pantomimed in a parody of the last movie Hermione had dragged him to. "Shall I continue the melodrama? You are an idiot, Riddle, and your time is up. I know I am a Horcrux and I know I have to die before you can be killed, so let's not muck around, shall we? Avada Kedavra!" The green curse light flared as the young man very deliberately turned his wand upon his own scar, holding the tip steady with difficulty. Voldemort screamed 'No!' in horror as the sickly green light slammed into the boy's head. The backlash felt like a kick from a mule, something thick and black roiling away from the shuddering, fainting child. With heroic effort the wand turned, the boy was not dead but stunned beyond comprehension.
That was their cue, Ron, Hermione and Severus acting in concert with Harry, just as they had practiced so many times in the Room of Requirement. All four voices rang out in chorus, four wands forming a cone centred on the crumpling Dark Lord before them.
An explosion of green curse light met black roiling soul cloud as the cursed soul leaped to join its fragment. Again the Unforgivable rang out, the cone of light shattering the cloud's cohesion for once and for all time, incinerating it almost instantly. Then in a final, unheard-of effort that left the watchers stunned, the leading wand, held by the dying boy, reorientated on the slumped carcass. "Incendio!"
It was over!
Severus showered Harry, cleaning his hair and washing him down from top to toe. Harry was not much bigger than when he was seventeen and had defeated the Dark Lord, although now he was a lot fitter. Good food and lots of rest, a stable home and constant attention had finally given the young man some stability in his life. If only he would decide to be remain human instead of transforming into a cat. On the other hand, if Harry became himself, then he would probably leave home and where would Severus be then? Sighing, he sprayed away the soap and asked Harry to stay human until he had at least trimmed his hair and nails. Harry grinned and squirted toothpaste all over the sink, prodding at the lines of white paste with a curious finger. He allowed Severus to pick up his hands and feet, trim his nails and even sat on the toilet lid while Severus cast the hair cutting charm over him.
He miaowed in protest when Severus tried to make him dress in the robes he had placed on the counter but no matter how Severus tried, Harry refused to cooperate until the Potions Master was left with a handful of irate Abyssinian who sliced his thumb open before bolting out of the bathroom and climbing the bed curtains to sit and spit furiously from the top of the bedpost.
Throwing his hands up in defeat, Severus finished his own ablutions and carefully dressed in the rich robes he had chosen for today of all days.
"Now, Potter, you had better come down and make yourself respectable. Today is an important day in the lives of your nearest and dearest friends and I only wanted to make you understand just how important it is. We are going to the Weasleys and we are going to join in the wedding celebrations which have been postponed for so long. It would be nice of you to just be human for a few minutes, especially for Hermione. Would it really kill you, just this once?"
The cat paused in his hissy tirade and cocked his head, ears rising slowly until bright green eyes peered down with a rather apologetic light. The long, thin body slithered down the heavy velvet curtains and a single paw tested the steadiness of Snape's shoulder before a very familiar weight settled across his shoulders and a long, sinuous tail wrapped around his neck. The long, rough tongue rasped a catty kiss onto Severus' cheek in silent apology.
"Very well, apology accepted. Do you want a collar? Don't tell me, the red and gold monstrosity Hermione sent you for your birthday? Merlin, I hate that thing!" Severus grumbled but retrieved the required accessory, placing it comfortably around the Cat-Who-Primped's neck before taking a handful of Floo powder. "The Burrow!"
Harry dug his claws into the shoulder of Severus' heavy robes and hung on grimly. He hated the Floo.
The war was over, the headlines in all the newspapers screamed aloud. People danced in the streets and celebrations were far greater than they had ever been when Voldemort was first defeated.
"The Boy-Who-Triumphed! Highlights of the Battle for Hogwarts on page 2."
"Voldemort is DEAD! See the story on page 3."
"Harry Potter, gravely injured, will he live again? See the story on back page."
"How is he?" Ron asked, tip-toeing with exaggerated care toward the bed where Harry lay completely still. Spells breathed for him, spells fed and cleaned him, spells kept him slightly elevated so that no pressure sores developed. Medi-Wizards from the Spell Damage ward conferred with Physical Trauma specialists and Curse Breakers argued cases with Dark Magic experts. None of them knew exactly what to do for the Boy-Who-… for Harry Potter who barely clung to life and had no reason to still be with them at all.
While the week-long celebrations raged throughout the wizarding world, a worried few faithful hovered near the bed in the private room, adding their magic when required, giving everything they had to support the boy they all loved and cared for.
"Not so good," Hermione murmured, clasping the hand he held out to her and trying not to weep in frustration as yet another day went past and Harry slipped a little further away from them. "It's as if he just doesn't want to live any more. How can we show him what he will be missing? That he has his whole life ahead of him."
Ron wrapped a long arm around her shoulders and hugged her close, burying his lips in her hair to hide his own despair. "He once told me he didn't want to be himself, he just wanted to be someone else, or something else." Ron chuckled, his voice breaking in the middle. "He said he wanted to come back as a cat."
Hermione laughed but it turned into a sob before she allowed Ron to help her to her feet and lead her out.
Some minutes later, a shadow detached from the wall and drifted to sit in the chair so recently vacated. A long, thin hand reached out and picked up a small, square hand with its medium-length, capable-looking fingers. So close to death, the nails looked purple and the healthily olive skin looked green in the unrelenting light of the Spell Damage ward. Thin pale fingers traced the line of knuckle and callous, brushing over his wrist briefly to check the thready, uneven pulse.
"Perhaps you would enjoy being a cat, something Asian, a Siamese or Burmese or, I know, a sleek, black Abyssinian, all fine bones and shining fur that lies flat and sleek," the velvet voice murmured gently as the hands continued to stroke. "Now that's a cat that I could relate to; very self-pleasing and independent, yet loving and mischievous. No responsibilities, just lie in the sun and eat when you please, sleep when you please. No demands on your time and a human servant to feed and groom you whenever you required it. Come to think of it, sounds like a life I might enjoy indulging in, myself," Snape added with a touch of humour in his voice.
He almost yelped when a rusty voice muttered. "Yeah, sounds like a life I could get to love."
"Harry the cat," Severus chuckled, ignoring the barrage of spells the boy's awakening had triggered. "Just the sort of hedonistic life you would go for, Potter," he teased without his usual bitterness.
"Can I live with you, if I'm a cat? Would you be my human servant and feed me fish and cream and let me lie in the sun?" There was a more serious note in the boy's voice than Severus was prepared for, but he answered honestly, ignoring the crush of wizards all trying to get into the room at once.
"Yes, Harry, if you were a cat, I would look after you and care for you for as long as you decided to be a cat."
The messy black head nodded slightly, the bloodless lips curved into a faint smile and the frail body finally gave up the fight to live.
Severus gasped and was almost pushed out of his chair as the medical fraternity managed to get to the boy, too late, too late as always! The Potions Master was surprised to find a tear on his cheek as he managed to disentangle himself and rise to his full height. Brushing his robes off, he straightened and turned away only to be arrested by a faint miaow. There was a concerted gasp of horror as the Medi-wizards drew back and Severus was treated to the sight of a frail black kitten with huge green eyes staring imploringly up at him from the ugly yellowed sheets of the hospital bed.
After a lot of inquiries into Harry's ability to become a cat, the Ministry official in charge of Animagus registration concluded that Harry was not a true Animagus but had made the change in sheer desperation and an excess of uncontrolled magic, brought on by his spell damaged condition. There was quite a bit of paperwork to be completed before Severus became the guardian of one Harry James Potter until such time as The-Boy-Who-Triumphed was prepared to refute the guardianship, and relinquish him from being "enslaved" by a capricious black Abyssinian who grew stronger every day.
The Floo flared and a familiar patch of darkness stepped out onto the bright new rug at the Burrow. A barrage of kitty sneezes and hisses accompanied their entrance and Severus sniggered as he cast a Scourgify over them both. "And what part of 'hold your breath' is beyond your comprehension, Mr Potter?" he asked as the cat on his shoulders wheezed slightly.
"Severus, good to see you!" a voice boomed and Arthur stepped forward, hand held out while a plump redhaired whirlwind plucked the cat from his shoulder and hugged it tightly, stroking fur and ears flat with a happy hand. Harry purred and allowed the indignity of such treatment to continue as Molly gushed and exclaimed over him, carrying him toward the kitchen where she had a fresh bowl of cream set out already.
Severus shook his head and smirked as he greeted Arthur and studied the older man with a keen eye. "Big day, for you," he remarked as the host handed him a glass of very fine Firewhiskey.
"Well, after the twins eloped and Charlie refused to marry, then Ginny refused a big wedding, splashing out on Ron and Hermione was all Molly had left; and wallow in it, she has. Then there are all of Hermione's people, Muggles you know, fascinating! Had to get Ministerial permission to break the Anti-Disclosure laws just for this one day, and then there are all the unbreakable Anti-Disclosure spells to make sure the Muggles can't mention anything. Think yourself lucky you don't have a wife of decided ideas," Arthur confided, after glancing around nervously.
Snape held his peace.
"Professor? Did-did Harry come?" a smooth voice asked and the youngest Weasley who had blossomed into quite the beautiful young woman approached hopefully.
"Harry the cat came, certainly, but if you wanted the Boy-Who-Walked-on-Two-Feet, you are out of luck," Severus told her a lot more gently than he could have.
Her face fell. "Pity. We all thought…"
"You thought wrong. Miss Weasley … Ginny, Harry is a happy, healthy cat and nothing any of us can do will change that until he is quite ready to change. He had seventeen years of living hell and now he has had four years of self indulgence. I think we can afford to allow him a bit more time before we start pushing for change, don't you?"
She sighed. "When you put it that way… so, where is he?"
"Look for the kippers," Severus murmured into his glass and Ginny giggled as she dashed off.
The wedding was beautiful, the bride gorgeous and the groom nervous. The service was conducted by Minerva McGonagall, now a member of the Wizengamot in her own right. The old vows took on a new meaning when said in her soft rolling burr. Harry sat on Severus' shoulder, his tail wrapped around his neck and a constant purr echoing in his chest. It wasn't until the bride and groom were saying goodbye to their families before leaving on their honeymoon that the cat shocked all the Muggles by morphing into a small-statured human being, who smiled shyly and kissed the bride, allowing the groom to pull him into a bone crushing hug.
"Have a good life," he murmured in rusty tones before his expression turned mischievous and he licked Hermione's cheek. "Have lots of kittens, a Weasley-sized batch," he giggled as he shrank away, the black cat again curling up in Severus' lap with the self-satisfied air of a well-loved pet.