Disclaimer: All recognizable characters and fictional places do not belong to me; I am merely borrowing them for playtime before I (respectfully) put them back. Thank you JKR, for allowing such things to happen.
Thank You: As always to BSC_AG and Allee. You know the many thousands of reasons why. :-)
Story Summary: A month after the Granger-Snape wedding, Crookshanks is still adjusting to the changes this has wrought in his life.
Story Warnings: Crookshanks has insisted that I include the warning "mention of previous feline torture and deliberate trauma." I will let you decide whether or not you think it's true and whether or not that's a bad thing. ;-D
Story Dedication: This story was written for and inspired by Snapify52 who has claimed it as her prize for snagging the 100th review for The Lucky Ones. She requested a story with SS/HG, Family, Crookshanks, and a House Elf. Hope you enjoy, Snapify52! :-)
OF FELINES AND FAMILY
Their names were Ghost and Kritta, and Crookshanks disliked them both immediately. Ghost for obvious reasons. She was soft—almost white—gray with black spots, sleek, pretty, and pure. Crookshanks wouldn't have minded sharing a house with another feline, he thought, if she had been dumb, or at least part dumb. Like his mistress and her more recently acquired mate, he generally preferred to be the most intelligent being of his kind in the general vicinity.
He, like they, did not like to think of himself in such terms, preferring to believe that he was perfectly happiest in intelligent company. The truth was, however, he intensely disliked the idea of another familiar in the house who carried the possibility of being smarter then he, and suspected his mistress and her mate felt the same about other humans. Their family was one most comfortable in its superior intellect.
Whose idiotic idea it was to bring a full blooded kneazle into his territory was still a mystery, but Crookshanks had resolved to himself that they were in for a very nasty surprise one morning when he did find out. Perhaps a present of a less-than-freshly-caught garden gnome in their bed? He considered the idea for a moment, stretching and flexing his claws into the new leather of living room couch.
You aren't supposed to do that. Ghost admonished in her bossy little voice. She was barely more than a kitten, and he resented that she felt that she had the right to tell him what to do. He knew he wasn't supposed to be doing that. That was the point, wasn't it?
Under the pretense of stretching, he stuck his arse up in her direction, and flexed his claws again, letting out an exaggerated purr of contentment. A couple of scratch marks were left gouged into the leather, he noted with satisfaction.
Croooooks! He heard the anxious mental bleat from behind him, and was pleased. If he were especially lucky, he might be able to shift the blame of the now marked leather onto the sweet-faced newcomer.
Kritta is going to be so angry. So are They.
As if making They angry was the world's end as she knew it. And he had been told that the Purebloods were so aggressive. XXX rating,* his fluffy tail. As for the house elf...good. If he made Kritta angry, too, all the better. Kritta's introduction to the family had been a week ago, to his mistress' dismay and her mate's amusement.
"Kritta?" He had said, his eyes alight with malicious glee. "You should call your friend, Harry. Perhaps Kreacher can meet Kritta and then they can have little House Elf munsters together," he snarked, before diverting his attention back to his paper.
"If that is what Master is wishing..." The little elf said with surprising dignity, considering her deplorable grammar and pillowcase attire.
"Severus, this isn't funny!" Hermione stared at the little elf in clear distress. "I've always been against owning House Elves! Lucius Malfoy knows that. I know you say he's your friend, but he still does his damnedest to make me feel uncomfortable when you aren't around to see it, and this...! This is just flat out insulting me."
"It's a wedding gift, Hermione, not a slap in the face. Narcissa probably picked it out, it's not like she sent you a book on marriage counseling. That was one of your friends, as I recall. And yes, it most certainly is funny. Come on, Kreacher and Kritta? Really?" His overly dry tone of voice made the names sound even more ridiculous then they were.
"She, Severus. Not it. The house elf is a she. Honestly, you have the most awful sense of humour. I suppose you want to name our firstborn 'Beastie' to match?"
The man didn't bother lifting his face from the paper he was reading. "Hardly. I was thinking Dolores, of course. After your favorite instructor. Unless it's a boy. Then, of course..." He let his voice trail off and leered at her.
"Severus!" His mistress actually stamped her foot. "Stop teasing me and help me sort this out!"
Her mate gave an aggrieved sigh, folded his paper with a rather resigned, longing look, and finally addressed his full, patronizing attention to his wife. "I'm not sure what there is to sort, Hermione. We got married, and when that happens, people give gifts. One of my oldest friends gave us a gift. To send it back would be rude, not to mention insulting to the Kritta—"
His lips quirked in amusement that he'd managed to get one more rise out of the play on words. "To give her clothes would be horribly cruel; it's not her fault, after all—"
Kritta had started weeping loudly at this, and started pitifully begging. "No clothes, please no clothes, Master! Kritta is good, loyal, hardworking House Elf! Please! Kritta will find Kreacher if yous wants!"
"No one's giving you clothes!" Severus ground out, trying to talk over the little elf. "And you certainly are not being ordered to...procreate with Kreacher! Hush, now."
Kritta's wails cut off abruptly as she slapped both hands over her mouth and stared up at her new master and mistress with terrified eyes. Hermione and Severus stared back, not sure what to do.
The man's eyes snapped to him, and Crookshanks swore he saw them gleam evilly. "Kritta," He said seriously. "I'm making it your official responsibility to take care of the cats. Make sure they always have food, water, the box is clean...and so is he."
Her eyes shined with happiness. "Kritta can do that!"
Crookshanks had had just enough time to see his mistress smack her mate on his arm before he was forced to make a mad, undignified escape from the now maniacal intruder intent on bathing him.
He had been bathed. It had been horrible. Ghost's tail had twitched in the way that meant she found it hilarious. Kritta had petted her, cooing that she was a pretty, pretty cat. He really, really hated them both.
So really, it was Ghost's own fault if he got her in trouble. She had dared to twitch in amusement at his ignominious bathing; for that, she must suffer. Even better...Crookshanks eyed his little bane with calculation. Perhaps he could get her dirty. Really, really dirty. Then she could enjoy the terrifying experience of being hunted down and bathed. Kritta was ruthless in her responsibility. The little monster could apparate and wasn't afraid to do it.
I hate it when you get that look! Ghost managed to look forlorn, always a strange and horrible look for a feline. It always means you're about to get in trouble. Then you're sulky and awful to be around, and it's all your own fault.
Crookshanks felt himself bristle. There she went, talking down to him again. Flour, he decided. She was named Ghost after all. And it was a devil to get out, even if one didn't have his...fluffiness. He eyed her compact form and felt slightly self-conscious. Nose twitching, Crookshanks evaluated himself, and decided he was certainly not overweight. He was healthy and fluffy.
And she was absolutely getting floured. The problem was how. In the meantime, however...
There's the most glorrrrious patch of sunlight up here. He said to her, stressing the glorious with an audible purr. It was true, after all. The room's only window offered the precious patch slanting directly across the top of his favorite perch. There was nowhere else in the house where one could find such a comfortable loafing area so strategically placed. You can have it for a while, if you like. He offered magnanimously.
Ghost's round green eyes widened even more, and he saw her whiskers quiver in astonishment. Really? You'll give it to me? Her tail twitched in excitement that she couldn't quite repress. I thought...and I thought...
What? He asked, falling back on his cranky persona. Didn't want to overdo it, after all.
The gray kneazle looked up at him self-consciously. I thought you didn't like me.
He gave her a wounded expression and leaped down to the floor, clearing the way to the sunshine on the couch back.
Eagerly, she clambered up and curled up into an insufferably cute little bundle, directly in his patch of warmth. Crookshanks glanced at the grandfather clock that was only barely squeezed in between two of the room's eight bookcases.
Three o'clock. Right on time for Saturday afternoon tea. Punctual to a fault, his mistress' mate entered the room first, mug in hand, and settled himself in his usual place on one end of the couch. His mistress followed several minutes later, her face all but completely hidden by her book, her own mug of tea tilting dangerously from inattention. For a moment Crookshanks was worried she wouldn't notice, but sure enough, as she passed the couch...
"Ghost!" The feminine yell lifted the small ball of fur almost straight off the couch in fright, before she skittered away from the frightening horror that was an angry Hermione Snape. Her mate set down his selected book with astonishment and actually gaped at her, a sight rare enough that Crookshanks couldn't help but stare.
"Hermione! What is wrong with you? Your damned cat sits there all the time!"
Stupid Mistress-Mate. Don't bring that up. Crookshanks glared balefully.
"Look at what she did to the leather! This couch is brand new. And bloody expensive! My parents are coming over for dinner tonight, remember?"
Severus frowned, and said irritatedly. "Just transfigure it, smooth it over. No one will notice. Least of all they."
His wife glared at him. "Just because they're muggles doesn't make them idiots. It will not look just the same, Severus Tobias Snape, and you know it! Besides, that's not the point. Your cat has ruined my new sofa!" She gave Ghost a look that promised holy retribution.
Ghost looked pleadingly innocent, which Hermione did not appear to believe.
Ahhhh. Bliss. Crookshanks lounged on the floor unobtrusively. Wouldn't do to be noticed.
You tricked me! Ghost's little face was the picture of betrayed trust.
Yes. Yes, he had. And just maybe she had escaped being floured and bathed as a result. He was feeling rather benevolent now that she was in trouble. It was rather nice to have little miss perfect pure-bred being the one yelled at, for once.
Unfortunately, it didn't last long. "Master, Mistress?" Kritta poked her head nervously into the room. She had mostly avoided Hermione all week, taking direction from Severus. While his mistress was (for the most part) unfailingly polite to the House Elf, it was no secret that Kritta made her highly uncomfortable.
The feeling was mutual, as evidenced by the House Elf's wary glance. "I hates to interrupt you, but pretty kitty is just napping. Is other kitty who does the scratches." She narrowed her eyes at Crookshanks. Her vendetta against him was as personal as his against her. One couldn't expect an intelligent creature such as himself to be forcibly bathed in a tub of water without a fight, could they? Crookshanks stood, and beans now spilled, made no secret that he was no friend to the house elf.
His mistress looked chagrined. Her mate looked smug. Ghost looked vindicated and wrapped herself sinuously around Hermione's ankles, looking for apology scratches. His mistress obliged, bending down to gently rub behind Ghost's ears. Her loud, dramatic purr was her equivalent of sticking her tongue out at him and he knew it.
"Sorry for maligning your cat, Love. Crookshanks can be awfully sneaky." Hermione murmured.
Ah-hah. Him. He was responsible for the demonic kitten from hell. One garden-gnome, two days dead, coming up.
His mistress turned her ire on him, and proceed to start scolding him. Crookshanks gave her an indifferent look, despite his feeling of general emotional abuse; stuck his tail in the air, and stalked from the room. Damn elf was going to get it. Maybe she should get floured.
Plotting, Crokshanks left the broken serenity of the downstairs library and headed to the upstairs study. The window sill was not nearly so comfortable as his couch, but at least there was sunlight there, and absolutely no kneazle kittens.
His nap was abruptly awoken a few hours later when the front doorbell rang. Must be muggles, then. The ward affixed to the floo to alert the house of incoming visitors sounded entirely different. Crooks meandered down the stairs to find his mistress hugging and welcoming her parents into the house. He liked Alice Granger. She always had a treat for him. Paul Granger, on the other hand, was a little harder to get around. He seemed to actually realize that Crooks was of higher intelligence then he pretended around Muggles.
It was probably because of that summer where he had carefully reprogrammed the remote on the telly to Big Brother: UK.Genius, show, that. Obviously, its creator understood a cat's role in life. To watch everyone else and judge.
Hermione had been blamed, but Crooks was certain that somehow, Paul Granger knew. Again, probably because Hermione had no real motivation. Darned telly stopped working every time she got near it. The one major drawback of a witch mistress.
Well. That was reality television, and this was Crookshanks' reality. As far as he was concerned, it was past time for Kritta to be voted out of the house. Today was obviously the night to make it happen. Mistress wouldn't want her parents to find out she had the awful creature, and if he could make her look incompetent, too...
Crookshanks mmrrrowwwed in pleased welcome and wound his way about Alice's ankles, rubbing his face against her calf. Better make sure Ghost knew Alice Granger was his now, first. Before she got any ideas in that obnoxiously cute little fuzzy head of hers.
Then she appeared, and Crookshanks was abandoned.
Alice Granger just left him mid-scratch to coo over the little gray kitten.
"Oh, my goodness, Hermione! Look at this sweet little thing! She's so pretty, aren't you? You're such a pretty, pretty kitty!"
Crookshanks felt his hackles rise. That was the exact same thing Kritta had said. Obviously, Ghost was somehow brainwashing his family. This was war. Crookshanks laid his ears nearly flat against his skull, and plotted.
His mistress' mate was, oddly enough, the chef in the house. They had discovered very early on in their budding romance that she was absolutely lousy in the kitchen. Her mate had actually laughed when he had realized, a sound that Crookshanks hadn't actually heard until that point.
"Why, Hermione..." His low voice had come close to a cat purr. "More proof that you belong with me and not that idiot. You know he would have expected a domestic goddess. I, on the other hand...I happen to make an excellent lobster bisque."
He did, actually. Crookshanks had sneaked a taste later from the table after supper, when the man had rather firmly diverted his mistress' attention to himself. Crookshanks had been sure to later very visibly and vocally announce his approval of the dark, foreboding gentleman. His mistress had always taken his judgment very seriously. It was almost a pity that he had to get garden-gnomed, but it was his own fault, after all.
Tonight he had made some sort of breaded chicken with pasta and peppers. Not as elaborate as some of the meals he had made Hermione during their courtship, but the chicken itself smelled delicious. For a moment, Crookshanks was tempted to see if he could coax either his mistress or Alice Granger into feeding him some, but that would mean potentially abandoning a prime opportunity. Breaded chicken meant flour. Like the open canister of flour currently still sitting on the counter by the cutting board. Crookshanks gauged the distance from the ground to the counter, and leaped.
He landed with a bit of a thump, undershooting by just a hair. One hind paw floundered in open air for a moment before he found his footing. Delicately, he sniffed at the still fairly full flour canister, and let out a deliberate mrrrrrrow to gather the requisite attention.
As expected, Ghost padded in a moment later, her ears pricked and eyes wide.
Oh, Crookshanks! You are not allowed on the counter! Master and Mistress are going to be so upset! If you accidently get flour on you, Kritta will bathe you again! You don't want that, do you?
Crookshanks twitched his whiskers at her. Are you going to tell on me? He deliberately stepped further back onto the counter, making it difficult for her to see him. As he had hoped, she tentatively stepped forward, and lifted her chin, calling up blindly from the base of the cabinet. Just a little closer...
The little spotted kneazle looked torn between doing what she thought she ought and the peer pressure of trying to make the only other feline she knew like her. You keep mrrrowing so loud, Kritta will notice and I won't have to. She finally settled on.
As if to punctuate her words, the house elf suddenly cracked into being next to her. Oh, this was wonderful. He'd get both of them in one shot!
Suddenly, from the dining room, "What was that?"
"Oh, nothing mum, probably just the fire cracking," Hermione's voice sounded apprehensive.
"No, I don't think so, it came from the kitchen. I'll just go check, I need to refresh my wine, anyway, Dear."
"NO!" Hermione's voice raise sharply, belatedly.
Alice opened the kitchen door.
Kritta started yelling at Crookshanks in high, squeaky voice.
Ghost looked mortified, then horrified as she suddenly realized what was about to happen. Crookshanks, don't!
Crookshanks, an unholy look of delight in his eyes, batted the canister firmly off the counter.
He hit it harder then he realized. It puffed up in a surprisingly large cloud of white dust and went everywhere. The canister cracked and shattered on the floor. The flour was all over the hardwood, the counters, the stove, the house elf, the kitten, and Alice Granger's expensive looking pantsuit. Damn. He hadn't meant to get her.
She looked aghast, and very thoroughly covered.
Ghost was now (appropriately) completely white.
The House elf was screeching.
His mistress and her mate barged through the door, and Crookshanks felt a moment of fear. Not so much of his mistress, who simply looked mortified and a little teary, but of her mate, who looked ready to explode. It was a bad sign when he took out his wand like that. Crookshanks took a leap from the counter, and landed heavily in the mound of flour and broken glass, narrowly missing a streak of something that his mistress' mate aimed at him.
He scrabbled a bit on a shard of glass, and streaked toward the dining room, only to run into an invisible wall, face first. This time, the master's jinx landed, and Crookshanks felt his fur stand on end as a mild, stinging shock zipped through his fur.
Turning, he ignored Ghost's pitiful meows of discomfort and betrayal as he madly dashed the opposite way toward the library, only to smack into another invisible wall. They were trapping him!
No, not quite. The cat door to the back yard was still available, he thought. He streaked back across the kitchen, heedless of the flour that was now firmly embedded into his own fur, and out into the relative safety of the outdoors. With luck it would take Kritta hours to catch him, and either way, there was no way Ghost was getting out of a bath.
The master had actually jinxed him! Crookshanks gave the kitchen door a glare, and watched as the man bent down carefully and used his wand to draw a locking ward around the cat door. Bastard had actually locked him out of his own house!
Now would probably be an ideal time to catch that gnome, he decided. It would give the thing some time to get nice and smelly.
He was allowed back in the house again nearly five hours later, after the Grangers had left and the mess had been thoroughly cleaned. Hopefully by the house elf, though Crookshanks suspected that it hadn't.
He had been bathed, again. Kritta had done it for the second time, and had been both merciless and vindictive with both the cat-shampoo and the brush afterward. He supposed this time he might have actually needed it, with flour and dirt and garden gnome on him. Still, it had been awful.
Ghost wouldn't even look at him. She looked pristine, as well, so he assumed that she had gotten her just punishment for crossing him.
On top of that, his mistress had scolded him, and her mate had merely crossed his arms, tapping his wand on his opposite bicep in a threatening manner.
It was so unfair.
Crookshanks sulked for a while, trying to coax one or the other human into giving him forgiveness rubs. Neither obliged. In a fit of pique he batted at one of Ghost's newer toys, sending the little bell-filled ball tinkling merrily. He chased it for a bit, pretending it was a bird, or possibly the master's foot.
Then he decided that the real thing would really be better.
He padded silently into their bedroom, fully intending to pounce on the master's foot until he was inevitably kicked off the bed. No doubt they would feel nostalgic at this game, and forgive him then. After all, it's not like he had meant to flour Alice Granger.
The bed looked so inviting, though, and he'd really had a hard day.
Crookshanks curled up at the foot instead, and slept.
And was dumped off the bed unceremoniously in the morning, when the master decided to pounce on his mistress. She didn't seem to mind. She never did. Crookshanks watched curiously for a moment, wondering what the appeal was, before his mistress noticed and chucked a pillow at him.
"Get out, Crooks! It's so weird when he just stares like that while we're—"
The man snickered and shut her up.
Offended, Crookshanks left for the study library. His mistress' bright aqua jumper was hanging over the arm of one of the chairs. And it had a very tantalizing snag. He shouldn't. He really, really, shouldn't. Especially after yesterday. Still...the lengthy piece of gently fluttering aqua was so tempting! Crookshanks glanced about tentatively, then batted at it.
Oooooh, that was nice. He batted again, then crouched behind the chair, stalking it. A rather magnificent leap later at it snagged on one of his claws. When he landed it was quite a bit longer, and looped rather beautifully around his paw. Crookshanks rolled, wrapping it about himself, then rolled again, creating a lovely little tangled knot to play with. On his back, he joyfully played with the yarn, not even bothering to notice how the sleeve on his mistress' sweater was now several centimeters shorter.
Oh, wonderful. Little miss perfectly adorable pure-bred had just seen him rolling about on the carpet playing with yarn like he was no better then thanthe idiotic beasts outside. No doubt she would find it hopelessly plebeian to be playing with yarn like a normal cat. And she was probably going to get him in trouble again. Embarrassed, he hung his head and glared at her as if it were her fault.
Her little pink tongue came out and licked her lips. She glanced at the bright yarn, and then back at him, her eyes wide. Is that string?
She paused for a moment and looked at it longingly. I love string! Can I play, too?
Well. Perhaps sharing a house with the little gray torment wouldn't be so awful after all.
A/N: Thanks for reading, please review! Prize Fic! Yay! For a picture of Ghost, visit Tychesong (dot) livejournal (dot) com -there is a picture posted on my May 13th posting.
Please go and check out (and compliment) SusanMarieR on her cover art for this story!
Susanmarier (dot) livejournal (dot) com / 8857 (dot) html
* For those of you unaware, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them rates the Kneazle as an XXX creature due to aggression. They are not supposed to be pets. :-D