A/N – This is a story in (probably) three parts, the other two may be some time in coming though because they haven't actually been written yet. Unbeta'd so any mistakes are my own, sadly though Harry Potter isn't. Enjoy!
Harry sighed for what seemed like the hundredth time that hour and forcibly blocked out the insults that Snape was throwing at him. He had been given detention by Slughorn for completely mucking up the potion they'd been making in class. Unfortunately for Harry, Slughorn had been called away halfway through the detention and had left Snape to take over. So that was how he found himself here, remaking the potion while Snape took the opportunity to criticise everything he did. He was also starting to feel hungry as dinner in the Great Hall had begun half an hour ago and Snape was showing no signs of letting him go.
'The guy's probably having a field day,' Harry huffed to himself as Snape compared him to his father once more. The Gryffindor was used to that now though and it didn't bother him as much anymore.
'The worst part,' Harry thought, his hands clenching around the knife he was using to chop ingredients, 'was when Snape insinuated that he had no family to love him, no one to care about him.'
Harry couldn't help but feel that this was true, especially since Sirius had died the previous summer. He knew the Weasleys considered him family but it wasn't quite the same; selfish though it may seem, Harry wanted someone just to himself. There were so many people in the Weasley family that he tended to get forgotten about in the mix. Sometimes he just wanted to feel close to someone; loved unconditionally.
Harry sighed again, feeling very sorry for himself, and dumped more ingredients into his cauldron. Too late he realised that he had added bat's eyes instead of newt's eyes and all he had time to think was 'Oh Merlin, not again!' before thick black smoke started billowing out of the cauldron and liquid spurted all over him. He could vaguely hear Snape's voice berating him through the mists of his senses before the world went dark.
Snape was just getting properly into his stream of insults when he was interrupted by the smoke seeping into every corner of the room.
"Potter! Can't you do anything right?" he snarled angrily as he attempted to clear the room of the smoke.
Muttering to himself about the incompetency of the boy he failed to notice what had happened to the brat. It wasn't until he instructed Potter to clear up the mess he had made of the cauldron that he turned to look at the boy. His dark eyes widened in shock at the sight in front of him.
Potter was sitting on the ground choking back sobs with tears streaming down his face. However, that wasn't what had made the spy lose the sneering mask he had kept up for years. No, what had really shocked him were the two small black furry cat ears nestled in the boy's hair that twitched in time with his sobs.
Strangely, Snape mused inwardly (he was incapable of forming words yet), it seemed that Potter hadn't noticed the addition to his body, as he continued to sob uncontrollably.
"I don't know what I'm doing..." Harry mumbled between his sobs, "Everything always seems to go wrong...people will die and it will all be my fault," he finished as he scrambled to his feet and ran out of the classroom, still crying hysterically.
Snape blinked owlishly as he caught a glimpse of tail as the boy left. He felt, though he would never admit it to anyone, a bit concerned about the boy that everyone's hopes rested on. With that in mind, he strode off to find the headmaster.
Harry raced all the way to the Gryffindor dormitory and flung himself onto his four-poster bed. He spent a while sniffling face down into his pillow before he calmed down enough to realise what he had just done. His face was torn between heating with embarrassment and going deathly pale with horror at the thought of Snape witnessing his breakdown. Snape, who guarded his own emotions so well that most people assumed he just didn't have feelings. Not that Harry agreed with them, he liked to think he had got to know Snape better during the disastrous occlumency lessons of last year and he could understand why the potion's master shielded himself from pain by seeming unfeeling. After all, people can't hurt you if they can't get close to you.
Thanking Merlin, that Snape had held him back over the start of dinner so that no one else had witnessed him tearing through the corridors in tears, Harry went through to the bathroom to splash water on his face, feeling slightly off-balance.
It wasn't until he looked up into the mirror that Harry realised with some amount of terror the full extent of the situation he was in. Furry Ears! He looked down at his backside and found the reason his balance was off. Whimpering softly and trying to ignore the appendage that had added itself to the base of his spine, he reached up in disbelief to touch one of his newly acquired ears.
Stroking the fur gently, Harry couldn't help but wonder what it would feel like if it was someone else's hand doing it. A hand larger than his own with long tapered but strong fingers teasing the soft fur, the thought sent a shiver through him and he moaned before sliding to the ground in despair.
What on earth was happening to him!
A knock at the door stopped any further trains of thought that Harry may or may not have wanted to follow.
"Harry, my boy. May I come in?"
Harry mumbled an affirmative and looked up to see Dumbledore entering the bathroom and peering down at him with worry evident in his eyes.
"Are you alright, m'boy?" the headmaster asked.
"Alright!" Harry exclaimed, some of his usual spirit returning.
"I have an extra pair of ears..." he said, gesturing up at his head, "... and a tail!" Said tail apparently had a mind of its own and flicked Harry in the face.
Dumbledore chuckled, the twinkle back in his eyes and all signs of worry completely gone.
"You know," he said conspiringly. "With the state Professor Snape was in when he came to fetch me, I thought there was something seriously wrong with you. Why, he looked quite shaken."
Harry felt a brief stab of surprise that Snape had been openly concerned about him. It warmed him until he processed the rest of what Dumbledore had said. Nothing seriously wrong! He opened his mouth to say something but he headmaster cut him off before he could even start the first word.
"Now, let's get you over to Madam Pomfrey, see if she can spread anymore light on the situation." He smiled at Harry kindly and motioned to the door.
Harry lay curled up in a ball on one of the beds in the hospital wing and tried to take in what Madam Pomfrey had told him. She had tried everything she could think of before deciding that his extra body parts were most likely permanent. Apparently, Snape had tested the remnants of the botched potion and had come to the same conclusion.
Speaking of the snarky potion's professor, when he had been up to deliver the news earlier his words had lacked their usual venom. Harry had to wonder whether Snape – if it were true that he was on the light side, which Harry was more than inclined to believe despite everything – was concerned about the sanity of their Boy-who-lived; anxious not to cause another breakdown like before. The gryffindor scoffed at the thought; Snape had never cared about his celebrity status as the Chosen One, why would that change now?
Strangely, that knowledge filled Harry with hope. He had always been just Harry to the potion's master, albeit with shades of his father included. Maybe Snape would still treat him the same way now that he was part cat.
"Bloody Hell, mate! They weren't kidding were they?" Harry looked over to see his two best friends standing by the entrance to the hospital wing. Ron stood stock still with his mouth slightly agape.
"Ron!" Hermione hissed at him, eyes widening meaningfully at the red head. She turned and approached Harry slowly and said,
"Dumbledore told us after dinner, no one else knows yet but I don't expect that will last long. Are you alright?"
Harry started to reply the negative but something made him pause and think about it.
"It's not too bad actually. I mean the ears are fairly obvious but I can control the tail now, look." He demonstrated by twirling it around in the air. "Madam Pomfrey says I'll have some cat-like qualities. Not sure what they'll be though, seems I'm a bit of a unique case."
Hermione smiled at him encouragingly as he said this. Ron reached forwards, hesitated, and then proceeded to pat him awkwardly on the arm.
"Good to see you're coping, mate."
Harry blinked at him and saw Hermione trying to hide a smile.
"Thanks, Ron," he said. A huge weight lifted from him as he realised that his friends weren't bothered by his change.
A/N – Please review, any suggestions for later chapters or this one are welcome.