Kneazle in Hiding
by Healer Pomfrey
All recognizable characters belong to J. K. Rowling, and I am not earning anything by writing this story.
I am not a native speaker of English. Please excuse my mistakes!
"Is there anything I can do about it?" Harry asked in desperation. "I need to finish my seventh Hogwarts year."
The Healer shook his head, eyeing the young man with sympathy. "I am sorry, Mr. Potter, but there is no known cure yet."
Harry let out a long sigh. 'What am I going to do?' he thought, panicking. Right before he had finished Voldemort off, he had been hit by a dark spell. He didn't even know who cast it; however, the curse infected him with Magica Influenza, an extremely rare magical disease. Whenever he used magic or someone cast a spell on him, he developed flu like symptoms. The symptoms appeared within minutes and lasted several days, during which he was too weak to even cast spells.
"If I might suggest something," the Healer brought Harry back to reality, "Apart from the possibility of living in the Muggle world, you might feel better in your Animagus form, provided that you're able to transform immediately after doing magic. However, you would probably still be affected by the illness."
'Oh right, I told him,' Harry remembered when a sudden thought crossed his mind. "Excuse me sir," he queried, "would it go away if I, for example, de-aged myself to a baby?"
The Healer gave him a sharp look. "This, Mr. Potter, is beyond my knowledge. I can try to find some more information concerning this illness, and you might be able to do some research in the Hogwarts library in case you decide to return to Hogwarts for your seventh year. I will give you a letter, which you need to hand over to Madam Pomfrey as soon as you arrive at Hogwarts."
Harry thanked the Healer, and an hour later, he was released from the hospital after two weeks of tests and recovering from all the magic that had been cast at him. He returned to Grimmauld Place, which fortunately was in walking distance to St. Mungo's, where he spent the rest of the day pondering his situation, before he made a decision.
'I will return to Hogwarts, but not as a student. Instead, I'll go in my Animagus form. Fortunately, no one except for the Healer at St. Mungo's knows that I am a cat, and I can hide from everyone, whilst I'll be able to do some research in the library during the nights. Maybe I should try to make Snape take me in, so that I can also check his potions books for information about Magica Influenza. I don't know if he likes cats though. Well, I'll try, and if he doesn't, I can still go to McGonagall. I need to become someone's pet in any case, because otherwise, Mrs. Norris would throw me out of the castle very quickly.'
Harry glanced at his wrist watch. It was eight o'clock in the evening. 'So I have time enough to go to King's Cross and catch the night train to Hogsmeade,' he thought. 'Too bad that I can't apparate, but it would take too much magic, especially if I have to transform right afterwards.' Throwing his robes over, he left the house and changed into his Animagus form. If anyone noticed the black Kneazle cat with green eyes run through the streets of London, they wouldn't find anything abnormal, because he looked like a normal Muggle cat and only witches and wizards would know that he was a magical cat.
At the station, he changed back into his human form, bought his ticket and boarded the train, feeling feverish and all over sore from the transformation as he let himself sink into a seat by the window. 'I hope I'll wake up when we reach Hogsmeade' was his last thought, before he drifted into an exhausted sleep. By the time he woke up, it had already become light, and from the scenery outside the window he knew that they would reach their destiny soon.
As soon as he reached the platform, he once again changed into his feline form, realising that he felt less bad than after his transformation back to his human form in the evening. He dashed from the platform and through the streets, which were still lying quietly in the early morning sun. Sighing in relief as he reached the familiar Hogwarts grounds, he pondered where to go. 'If only Hagrid were still here,' he mused, feeling very sad at the thought of Hagrid and Remus, who had both lost their lives in the war, just like Dobby and Hedwig. He let out a long sigh. Still feeling a bit sick, he decided to lie down and take a nap next to the lake.
The sun stood already much higher in the sky when he woke up to the voices of other cats nearby.
=Let's enjoy the peace and quiet as long as we can,= a tabby cat said with a Scottish accent, spreading out in the grass not far from Harry.
=Only a week is left until the dunderheads come back,= her companion, a black magical lynx replied, letting out an annoyed miaow.
'That sounds like Snape, and the tabby cat must be McGonagall,' Harry realised, suddenly feeling very excited. So far, apparently none of the teachers had noticed him; however, he suddenly drew their attention to him when he let out a series of sneezes.
=Bless you,= the tabby cat said kindly. =I didn't even notice you. You're not a normal cat, right? Are you a Kneazle cat? What are you doing here at Hogwarts, by the way?=
=Yes,= Harry replied. =I'm sorry for intruding. I was just looking for a place to stay and rest for a while. I lost my home in the war.= 'Which is not completely a lie,' he consoled himself.
=You seem to have caught a cold,= McGonagall said, giving him a sharp look. =Severus, do our potions work on cats?=
=It's not a cold,= Harry hesitantly explained, =I'm sick because I was hit by a dark spell.=
=Our potions might work on cats, but it would be necessary to know what exactly is wrong,= the lynx said thoughtfully.
'I can't tell them any more; otherwise, they'll know that I'm an Animagus and not a real cat,' Harry thought and remained quiet.
=Severus, why don't you take him with you? I think that you're in dire need of a familiar anyway,= McGongall suggested, causing Harry to inwardly smile. =We are Animagi,= the Headmistress continued, =humans, who can turn into cats.=
'I really seem to be lucky today,' Harry thought and replied, =Thank you so much for your kindness. I am Felix, by the way.=
=Very well then, Felix. Would you like to come with me?= the lynx asked surprisingly gently. =I can't promise that I'll be able to help you, but you may stay with me if you wish. You'll at least find a lot of rats in the dungeons.=
Harry/Felix thanked the lynx profusely and followed the two cats into the dungeons, glad that Snape walked in a comfortable pace in comparison to how he used to stride along the corridors in his human form. 'I hope he won't find out who I am; otherwise he's going to use me as potions ingredients,' he thought as he made himself comfortable in front of the enormous fireplace that seemed to be the centre of the professor's living room.
=Felix, stay put for a moment,= McGonagall told him. =This is the warmest place in the dungeons, and Professor Snape and I often rest here, when we are in our feline forms.= She arranged a few cushions around Harry that felt cool and comfortable, before she stepped aside and transformed into her human form. She gently cradled the small cat into her arms, before she turned to the Potions Master, who had transformed back as well. "His paws seem a bit warm," she said in apparent concern. "Do you think you could cast a diagnostic spell?"
Snape shook his head. "No Minerva; if he has been hit by a dark curse, any magic cast on him could aggravate his condition even further. Just from a look into his eyes you can see that he is ill; I suggest that we just give him a fever reducer and wait how he feels later on." Seeing that McGonagall nodded her consent, he strode into an adjacent room, 'probably his lab,' Harry mused. When the professor came back, he brought a small bowl near Harry's mouth.
Harry sniffed, shivering at the smell of the dark green liquid. However, Snape pressed the bowl against his mouth, causing him to automatically swallow the cold and badly smelling fluid.
"Well done, Felix," McGonagall commended him, while Snape replaced the empty bowl with another one, filled with a light yellow liquid.
Harry obediently swallowed, noticing the effects immediately. 'That must have been Pepperup potion,' he thought, letting out a grateful "Miaow."
During the next few days, Professors Snape and McGonagall spent several hours each day with Felix. While the smaller cat was sleeping, the tabby cat and the lynx often talked about their lesson plans and other topics concerning the re-opening of Hogwarts after the war. When Harry was awake, the teachers told him about Hogwarts and about the war, which the famous Harry Potter together with a lot of brave students and other wizards and witches had finally ended a few months ago.
'Thank Merlin they don't know who I am,' Harry mused, surprised when the Potions Master spoke about him with acknowledgement instead of ridiculing him like he had always done in the past.
=Tonight, the students are going to come back, and since we have to teach classes in spite of being Headmistress and Deputy Headmaster, we won't have so much time to relax in our feline forms anymore,= the lynx told Harry one day. =I believe that perhaps we should bond to each other. If we do so, we'll be able to communicate through telepathy, which will be convenient if you get yourself into trouble, while I'm in class.= He carefully licked the smaller cat's chin, gently removing a small rest of cat food from Harry's fur. =Felix, would you like to become my familiar?=
'If he ever finds out who I am, he's going to kill me,' Harry thought and shyly nodded his head, uttering a small, =Yes please.=
=I need to cast a spell at you,= the lynx warned him. =You might get sick again.=
=I probably will,= Harry replied, =but it's all right.= 'I'll have to get used to it, and I really finally have to begin my research.' =Sir, would it be all right if I roamed the castle during the nights when everyone is asleep?= he asked hesitantly.
=Of course you may,= Snape replied, sounding surprised. =You may either use the cat flap in the back door leading to the herb garden, which I showed you the other day, or if you want to get into the castle or onto the grounds, you may use the front door. The wizard on the painting that is guarding the entrance to my quarters is Salazar Slytherin, the Founder of Slytherin House. You will be able to communicate with the lynx in the painting, and if you tell him the password, he'll be able to open for you. The password is 'Lily'.=
=All right, thank you very much,= Harry replied. 'Lily?' he thought in confusion but became distracted when the lynx changed into the Potions Master, who pointed his wand at him to cast the bonding spell.
'Are you feeling sick again?' Snape thought to him. 'Do I need to give you a potion? Don't think back to me if you're ill, because the use of telepathy would only aggravate your condition. Just nod or shake your head.'
Harry nodded miserably, sighing in relief when his symptoms eased after sipping the potion from the goblet that the professor held in front of his mouth. He let out a grateful miaow, before he succumbed to the potion and drifted off to sleep.
From the following night onwards, he made it a habit to leave around midnight, heading to the library, which was always empty at that time of the night. He changed back into his human form, trying to ignore the fact that he was feeling ill from the transformation, and spent the next five hours reading books about magical diseases or potions. However, he did not find anything about Magica Influenza at all.
During the days, Harry was curled up in front of the fireplace in the professor's quarters, sleeping, while he often spent the evenings stretched out on Snape's desk, unobtrusively skimming the bookshelves, while the Potions Master was grading essays.
'I wonder if anyone is missing me,' he just mused for the umpteenth time, absentmindedly cleaning his paws, when all of a sudden the fireplace flared and the Headmistress stepped out.
"Good evening Severus, Felix," she greeted them, and Harry noticed that she seemed strangely agitated. "Severus, we managed to receive some information about Harry Potter's whereabouts," she said with an expression of concern. "According to Ms. Bones, he spent two weeks at St. Mungo's, from where he was released two weeks ago. We have no information as to why Mr. Potter was in the hospital though, since the Healers insist on their Healer's oath, which prevents them from revealing such information, even to the Mistress of Magic."
"Of course," Snape said, nodding. "So this proves that he still must be alive and either chose not to return to Hogwarts because of his own free will or couldn't come back because of health reasons, which I'd like to rule out, because in that case he would have been able to contact us, either personally or through the Healers at St. Mungo's."
"Severus, that is true," McGonagall said, clearly shocked at the thought. She let out a long sigh as she continued, "Molly and Arthur Weasley searched Grimmauld Place; however, there was no sign of Harry and no indication if he returned home after his stay at the hospital. I'm at a loss, Severus. It is so important that he finishes his NEWTs, but I have no idea how to contact him. The tracking spell we used on the school owl the day before yesterday just led back to Hogwarts, which could either mean that he is hiding somewhere in an unused part of the castle or that he has protected himself from tracking spells. I don't even know if he received my letters."
Harry inwardly sighed, thinking to himself, 'No Professor, after receiving several piles of fan post after killing Voldemort, I cast a charm around myself that prevents owls from approaching me.'
It was in the Halloween night, when he was hunched over a large tome, that two familiar figures scurried into the library. They stopped dead in their tracks upon his sight.
"Fred, do you see what I see..."
"... Are we delirious, George?"
"Hi," Harry whispered, smiling at the twins. "Please don't tell anyone that you saw me. Can you keep a secret?" he asked in spite of knowing for certain that he could fully trust the twins. Seeing both of them nod, he hesitantly told them about his problem and his research.
"We'll help you," Fred and George said simultaneously, looking at him with sympathy.
From that time onwards, the twins often came to see him during the night, especially in the weekends; however, a week before the beginning of the winter holidays, the three boys had not found any information about the Magica Influenza.
"Just so you know, we won't be able to do research for a few days," Fred told him one night.
"We're stuck in the hospital wing with the goat's flu," George added, sounding equally hoarse.
"We just snuck out to tell you that."
"Thank you for telling me," Harry said, sighing. "I hope you'll feel better soon, and I hope we'll find something soon. If we don't find anything by the end of the school year, I'm going to give up and just de-age myself. My life can't become worse than it is now."
Unfortunately, Harry caught the goat's flu from the twins, and a few days later, he felt so miserable that he spent day and night curled up in front of the fireplace. Snape noticed soon that Felix was sick; however, since this was not unusual, he merely gave him a fever reducer and a Pepperup potion, wondering what could be different this time that turned the potions inefficient.
=Felix, what exactly is ailing you?= he asked in concern, when McGonagall and he joined the sick Kneazle cat in the morning of the first day of the holidays.
=I just don't feel good,= Harry moaned, feeling too miserable to care what he told them. =I think I caught some bug that wasn't caused by magic.=
=Severus, do you think we should ask Poppy to check on him?= McGonagall asked worriedly.
=I'm not sure,= the lynx replied thoughtfully.
=Please don't,= Harry croaked, =no magic.= 'Pomfrey might be able to find out who I am or at least that I'm an Animagus,' he thought, terrified.
=Very well then, in that case I'm going to take your temperature the Muggle way,= the lynx said, licking Harry's paws to unobtrusively check the warmth of his skin. =You feel very hot to the touch.
Harry weakly agreed, although he regretted it immediately when Snape, who was suddenly back in his human form, stuck something ice-cold into his sore right ear. Fortunately, it only lasted a second, before the device beeped and Snape pulled it out quickly.
"How high is it?" McGonagall asked, back in her human form as well.
"Nearly forty degrees," Snape said pensively. "I suspect that he caught the goat's flu that has been going around for a while. We'll try to give him the potion for that and a stronger fever reducer and check on him again tonight."
Harry obediently sipped his potions and curled up against the two professors' warm fur when they once again joined him in their feline forms. Unfortunately, in spite of the potions, his fever spiked during the afternoon, and he drifted from one fevered dream into the next.
The two older cats observed in shock how he began to thrash around and croaked, =No Fred, George, don't tell her. I know that Mione is good at research, but she'd tell Ron, and he is so keen on gaining fame that he'd give me out to the Daily Prophet just to attract attention. And if McGonagall knew, she'd take thousands of House points from Gryffindor.=
=Mr. Potter?= McGonagall queried in disbelief.
=Of course,= Snape said, sighing, and the lynx' tail angrily moved from left to the right and back. =Everything fits together. He vanished from the world just when he arrived here as a cat. He has the same emerald eyes. How could I be so stupid and not notice that? And why would he choose to stay with me? We never got along when he was in his human form?=
=Well,= McGonagall replied, trying to recall what had happened in the summer. =If I remember correctly, you invited him to come with you and become your familiar.=
The lynx let out a long sigh. =Anyway, we need to get his fever down.= He transformed back into his human form and fetched a few cold, wet towels.
Harry was pulled back to reality when he felt something ice-cold pressed against his neck. It felt very uncomfortable, yet soothing, and he tried to fight the hands, unconsciously extending his claws.
=No Mr. Potter, don't scratch Professor Snape,= he heard McGonagall say.
'Mr. Potter?' he thought, horrified. 'How did they find out?' He cracked his sore eyes open just a little bit and began to panic. Summoning his last energy, he jumped up and dashed away, towards the door that was guarded by Salazar Slytherin.
He did not even hear Snape say, "Don't let him out, Sal." However, he let himself sink on the floor in exhaustion upon realising that the door would not open the slightest bit. =I'm sorry, Professors,= he mumbled, burying his achy head under his front legs. He began to panic, feeling his head explode in pain due to his rising fever, when he felt himself being picked up by gentle hands.
"Easy Mr. Potter," Snape told him in a soft, baritone voice, gently stroking his black fur. "Don't make yourself upset now. I am not going to throw you out, and Professor McGonagall and I will still try to help you, which will be much easier now."
Harry felt too miserable to reply; instead, he unconsciously began to purr at the soft touch of the professor's cold hands.
"I'd prefer to have you back in your human form, because it would be easier to help you," Snape continued to speak as he gently laid him down again in front of the fireplace; "however, I'm afraid that your condition won't allow us to change you back at the moment."
The Potions Master made Harry swallow two more potions, and Harry sighed in relief as he felt the immediate effects.
=That's much better. Thank you so much for the potions, and sorry for hiding,= Harry said softly, shocked at how hoarse his voice still sounded.
=Shouldn't his fever have come down a bit by now?= McGonagall asked worriedly, turning to the professor, who was back in his lynx form.
=No, it'll take a few more days,= the larger, black cat replied shortly and rose from his seat, striding from the room without making the faintest noise.
Harry followed the black cat's every movement in a daze. =Professor Snape is a magical lynx,= McGonagall explained gently. =He can change his colour at free will, and he can move absolutely soundlessly.=
An instant later, the lynx was back, carrying a towel in his mouth. =Uncurl for a moment,= he softly admonished Harry, who automatically felt inclined to obey to the soft but strict voice. =Let's try this again. It might help to cool you down a bit,= the lynx said as he carefully adjusted the towel to Harry's neck, causing the small cat to shiver badly.
'Feels good,' Harry mused, throwing the large cat a grateful look. During the following week, while the Kneazle cat was fighting the goat's flu, the Headmistress and the Deputy Headmaster spent as much time as they could in their feline forms, talking to the sick cat whenever he was awake.
One morning, Harry felt considerably better, which he told the other cats, who had once again spent the night with him to comfort him. =We're glad to hear that. Do you think you could transform back into your human form?= Snape asked in a soft voice.
=Do I have to?= Harry asked quietly, averting his eyes to the floor. 'I don't want to feel sick again so soon,' he thought, unaware that he unconsciously used telepathy.
=I understand, Harry,= Snape said surprisingly gently. =You do not have to transform. However, Professor McGonagall and I would like to speak with you.=
Seeing that Harry looked at them in expectation, McGonagall slowly spoke up in an equally friendly voice. =Harry, since you didn't come back for your seventh year, you might not be aware of the fact that we are lacking professors. There are a few of our seventh year students, whom I intend to hire from the next school year onwards. So far, I haven't spoken to any of them yet, although I have fairly clear plans. My intention was to ask you to become my successor as Transfiguration professor and Head of Gryffindor.=
=Shut up, Mr. Potter, and listen,= the lynx admonished him sharply.
=Sorry,= Harry uttered, slightly laying his ears back as he looked at the tabby cat again.
=I understand that you are in no condition to teach Transfiguration at the moment,= McGonagall continued; =however, I am willing to teach for a few more years, until you'll be ready, provided that you're interested. =Until then, you could either teach Care of Magical Creatures or spend your time doing research together with Professor Snape.= She cast Harry a questioning look.
=Thank you so much for your offer, Professor,= Harry said gratefully. =I'd love to teach Transfiguration; however, I don't know if I'll ever be able to do much magic again. The Healer at St. Mungo's suggested I live in the Muggle world.=
=Harry,= McGonagall replied, sighing. =Professor Snape is the best Potions Master Britain has ever seen since Salazar Slytherin. I trust that he will be able to find at least something to ease your symptoms enough for you to be able to actively live with your illness in the magical world if not find a cure.=
=I suspect that it is the Magica Influenza that you're suffering from?= Snape queried, quirking an eyebrow at the smaller cat.
=Yes sir,= Harry replied quietly, wondering why the lynx looked so contented.
=That's what I assumed from your symptoms, even before knowing that you were an Animagus. Therefore, I have already spent much time on the research during the last few months, and I can promise you that I'll have a cure for you by the beginning of the next school year.=
Harry looked at the Potions Master in shock, unable to voice his gratitude, disbelief and amazement.
=If you agree, you may remain in my quarters for the rest of the school year, so that I can help you to catch up with your studies,= Snape suggested. =If you're unable to take the magical parts of your NEWTs at the end of the school year, you'll still be able to take them as soon as the cure is ready, so that you'll be able to become Professor McGonagall's successor by the beginning of September.=
=Thank you so much, Professor,= Harry said warily, wondering if he was still delirious.
=Now Mr. Potter, would you allow me to transform you back into your human form?= McGonagall asked kindly. =Today is Christmas Day, and we'd like you to join us in the Great Hall for the feast if you feel well enough.=
Harry grudgingly agreed, although he was not very fond of the thought of getting sick again so soon. However, after Snape carried him into his guest room, declaring that it would be Harry's room from now on, and McGonagall transformed him back, Snape offered him a potion. "This is not the cure yet but a mere antidote, which I just finished last night. It should ease your symptoms greatly," he explained, giving him a sharp look.
Harry obediently gulped down the potion, looking up in disbelief when he felt completely well instantly. "Wow, thank you, Professor. This is absolutely fantastic," he said gratefully.
Snape smirked as he carefully placed the back of his hand on Harry's forehead, nodding contentedly. "Very well then, do you feel up to joining us in the Great Hall for a small Christmas Party, even if there might not be any presents for you, since no one is aware of your presence here?"
Harry smiled. "I already received my very best Christmas present," he said softly, before he climbed out of his bed and followed the professors to the Great Hall, feeling better than he had ever felt since the end of the war. 'This is my best Christmas ever,' he thought as he admired the wonderfully decorated Christmas tree.