THE PROFESSOR'S CAT
After Severus Snape has an unexpected midnight visitor, his quiet, well-ordered life at Hogwarts becomes considerably more complicated.
There it was again.
Professor Snape paused in his task of marking a Potions test and listened. After a moment of silence, he heard a soft scratching sound, that seemed to be coming from the door of his office. He swung around and stared at the door. He had expected that perhaps a rat or mouse had found its way in, but there was no sign of any creature. He was about to turn back to his marking, when the scratching started up again. It seemed to be coming from the other side of the door.
Snape frowned. It was well after midnight, and there should be no students at large in the dungeon hallways. He got up and strode to the door. If there were any students out of bed at this hour, they would shortly be regretting their escapade. But when he opened the door, there was nothing to suggest that any students were lurking in the shadows. He glanced up and down the hallways, and was about to close the door and resume his work, when he happened to glance down.
There at his feet was a kitten, black save for a white tip to its tail, with its round golden eyes fixed intently on him. Well, that explained the noises; it was probably the offspring of one of the cats that lurked around the castle. Snape shrugged slightly, and began to close the door. As if this was a cue, the black kitten suddenly darted forward, past Snape's feet, and trotted into his office.
“No you don't!” Snape muttered, and made a grab for the little cat. It appeared to take the gesture as an invitation to play, because it reared up on its back paws, batted at Snape's hand with its front paws, and then skittered backwards, just out of reach. Snape grabbed at it again, with the same result. He paused and regarded the kitten with irritation. The kitten gazed back, its white-tipped tail twitching.
Snape suddenly made a lunge for the kitten, but it skipped out of the way, dashed across the office, and disappeared behind a large, heavy bookcase. Snape was starting to become more than a little annoyed. He had several tests still to be marked before he retired for the night, and playing hide-and-seek with a kitten was not making things go any faster. He picked up a lamp from his desk, and used it to illuminate the narrow gap between the wall and the bookcase. It was very dark back there, but the kitten's eyes reflected the light, and Snape crouched down and reached for the cat. Without hesitation, the kitten sank its needle-sharp teeth into his thumb.
With a muttered oath, Snape withdrew his hand quickly, and examined the neat row of puncture marks, already oozing tiny beads of blood. Snape's stock of patience - never very great to begin with - ran out abruptly. He reached for his wand, pointed it behind the bookcase, and said, “Accio kitten!”
Nothing happened. Snape frowned, and peered into the narrow space once more. He moved the lamp, trying to catch the reflection of the kitten's eyes, but there was nothing. Snape glanced at the door of his office, still standing open. Perhaps the kitten had dashed out of the office after biting him. He paused and listened, but there was silence in the office, and in the hallway outside. He picked up the lamp again, and made a quick search of his office, even trying to Summon the kitten again, but there was no sign of it.
He closed and locked the office door, and decided to call it a night - he would have time to mark those last few papers before breakfast next day. He unlocked the inner door, which led to his bedroom, and went in to prepare for bed. By the time he had changed into his nightshirt and got into bed, he had put the evening's events out of his mind entirely.
When Snape woke next morning, the kitten was curled up asleep on the pillow beside his head.
* * * * *
Snape turned a page of the Daily Prophet, then paused. He had a strange feeling of... what? It wasn't an awareness of magic being performed. Nor was it the nagging sensation of some task left unfinished. It was more as if... he was being watched. He put down the newspaper and looked around. After a moment he shook his head slightly. He was in his office, alone, with the outer door locked. He picked up the newspaper again, telling himself that there was no possibility that someone was watching him. And yet...
He let his gaze sweep the room, frowning. Surely he was imagining it. And then he saw it. The pair of eyes peering at him over the carving that adorned the top of the bookcase. Round, golden eyes, beneath a pair of pointed black ears.
Snape threw the newspaper on the desk and stood up, frowning with annoyance. He'd taken the kitten outside that morning, and left it near the greenhouses. His door had been securely locked all day, and had been open for no more than a few seconds when he returned to his office after supper. Surely he would have noticed if the kitten had followed him in.
When Snape stood up, so did the kitten, stretching and yawning as if it had just woken from a nap. Remembering how futile it had been to chase the animal last night, Snape took out his wand, and pointed it. "Accio kitten!" The kitten zoomed across the room and landed on Snape's chest, hooking its claws into his robes before it could fall, completely unruffled, it seemed, by the unexpected flight through the air. It clambered up to Snape's shoulder, and rubbed its head against Snape's face, purring loudly.
Snape's lip curled slightly as he plucked the kitten from his shoulder. Others might find kittens to be engaging and amusing, but he found this one to be merely annoying. And now it would force him to make an unnecessary trip outside. Holding the kitten by the scruff of its neck, Snape carried it through the dungeon hallways, up the stairs, and out past the greenhouses to the vegetable patch.
He dumped the creature on the ground, half expecting it to attempt to climb up his robes again, or to make a dash back towards the castle. Instead, it sat down, quite unconcerned, and began to wash. Snape turned and headed back to the castle, pausing at the door to, to check that the kitten had not followed him. He saw the flash of its eyes reflecting the light; it did not seem to have moved from the spot.
Snape headed back down to the dungeons, making a mental note to check his rooms for whatever route the kitten was managing to get in.
* * * * *
When he got back to his office, Snape conducted a thorough search of his office, casting protective spells on any suspicious looking crevice or crack in the dungeon walls, then repeated the process in his bedroom. Satisfied that the rooms were now secure against any feline intruders, he walked back into his office.
The kitten was sitting on the corner of his desk, his head tipped on one side, as if wondering what Snape was doing.
Snape ground his teeth slightly, trying to contain his exasperation. He refused to let a little scrap like that goad him into losing his temper. He glanced around the office - the kitten must have got back in unnoticed, by whatever route it used, while he was still working to protect the rooms. Well, now that he had finished cat-proofing, he told himself, he could place the kitten out in the corridor, and put a spell on the door. As he reached out, the kitten chirruped and stood up, as if expecting to be petted. But Severus Snape was not a man known to be susceptible to the wiles of mere kittens. He picked it up and briskly deposited it outside in the corridor. His last glimpse of the kitten as he closed the door, was of the animal watching him with a puzzled air. He sealed the door against small animals, then resumed his interrupted reading. For the rest of the evening, he cast occasional glances around the office. He even conducted a search under the desk, and in likely hiding places, before he retired for the night, but it appeared that he had finally succeeded in banishing his unwelcome visitor.
* * * * *
"Ah, Professor Snape, there you are!” Professor McGonagall's voice reached Snape as he was heading towards the dungeons one evening. He looked up to see McGonagall approaching, from the stairs leading downwards, gingerly holding a grey bundle. “I'm glad I caught you, Snape,” she said. “Mr Filch just gave me these...” She indicated the bundle, which Snape could now see were socks. “He tells me that he's found a sock on the stairs leading down to the dungeons every day for the past three days now.”
“And what does that have to do with me?” Snape asked, a trifle impatiently.
McGonagall gave him a look that would have made any student - and most teachers - quail before her, but Snape merely regarded his colleague steadily. “Considering where they were found,” McGonagall explained, “it seems clear that they belong to Slytherin students.” She thrust the bundle into his hand. “Perhaps you could remind the students in your house to take better care of their belongings!”
Snape looked down at the socks, and frowned. One of them had a hole in the heel - and Snape suddenly remembered that one of the socks he had been wearing yesterday had a hole in exactly the same place. The socks certainly looked like his - though he couldn't imagine how they had come to be on the stairs - but he had no intention of letting McGonagall know that!
“I will certainly speak to my...” he began, but at that moment, a movement in the hallway behind Professor McGonagall caught his eye. Padding purposefully towards the stairs was a small black kitten, with a white tip to its tail... and what looked like a grey sock in its mouth.
Professor McGonagall frowned slightly. “Is something wrong?” she asked, starting to turn in order to see what Snape was looking at. Quickly Snape said, “As I was saying, I will deal with the matter immediately. Good evening, Professor McGonagall.” He strode past her, shoving the socks into his pocket.
To Be Continued...
Author's Note: The kitten in the picture was named Edwin, and he was one of a litter I was fostering. He was adopted into a very welcoming home, but I still have his brother, Victor, now six years old.