“Ouch! Stop that!”
Harry cried out, interrupting the quiet conversation he had been having with Ron and Hermione in the Gryffindor common room. As his startled friends looked on, he bent over from his seat on the sofa and scooped up a sleek black cat in his arms. Harry held it up to look straight into the creature’s dark, dilated eyes, a stern frown upon his face.
“Bad Severus! I’ve told you to stop biting my toes!” Harry scolded. The cat, clearly unimpressed, glared back impassively while Harry lifted his legs off the floor, crossing them tightly to hide his bare feet.
“Uh…” Ron began, before being silenced by Hermione’s surprised cry. “Harry! When did you get a cat?”
“I didn’t,” he replied, plopping the animal down beside him. “It sort-of got me.”
The cat yawned, then clambered into Harry’s lap to settle in the well made by his legs. Harry absently stroked a hand down the cat’s long back and was rewarded with a low, rumbling purr. Looking up, he found his friends once again staring at him, mouths hanging open.
Ron swallowed, then asked, “Uh…’Severus’, Harry? You named the cat you didn’t get ‘Severus’?”
It might have been the heat of the Gryffindor fireplace that caused Harry’s face to redden. “Sure. Doesn’t he look a bit like a Severus?”
“A Severus, Harry?” Hermione laughed. “How many do you know?”
“Well,” Harry began as he scratched behind the cat’s ears. The purring grew louder, Severus nudging Harry’s palm with the crown of his head in appreciation. “There’s just the one but…they look a bit alike, don’t you think?”
“But where did he come from?” Hermione asked. The inquisitorial gleam in her eyes told Harry she wouldn’t let go of this until her curiosity had been sated, and he gave a small sigh.
“No idea. He started coming around over the hols, and he’s been sitting with me whilst I revise. He’s good company, you know – well, except for the biting thing. And the other thing.” Harry scowled again at the small form in his lap. The cat glared back through slit eyes, then stretched out his forearms on Harry’s leg and began kneading his paws against the soft corduroy.
“Hey!” Harry pulled the cat off his lap and unceremoniously deposited him on the sofa cushion next to him. “No!” he said with a firm wag of his finger, but by that time Severus had launched a full-scale assault on Harry, butting his head up under Harry’s hand and rubbing his long torso along the boy’s arm and leg. When no response was forthcoming, Severus flopped down on the cushion and rolled onto his back, mewling in supplication. Harry rolled his eyes and began to gently scratch the cat’s belly, evoking yet another soliloquy of purring that made him smile in spite of himself.
Ron and Hermione exchanged a glance.
“The other thing?” Hermione asked.
“He likes to leave, er, gifts for me. To clean.”
Severus rose up to sit on his haunches, his tail slicing the air behind him as he looked at Harry’s friends with a predatory glint.
“Like…” Ron said, “mice and things?”
Harry laughed ruefully. “Not quite. He’s a good cat, though. Warm.” He shrugged. “Cuddly.”
Hermione reached out a tentative hand and gave Severus a quick stroke down his bony back. Although the cat refrained from hissing, his eyes narrowed at the gesture, and she pulled her hand back quickly as the cat set to bathing himself with rough tongue.
“Uh-huh,” said Ron, who had been watching quietly. “Seems cuddly, mate.”
“He is,” Harry insisted, dropping his feet back down and resting his elbows on bony knees. As if to prove the boy correct, Severus leapt gracefully to the floor and began weaving his lithe body in and around his legs, rubbing up against Harry in what appeared to be a small orgy of pleasurable sensations. “See?”
“Harry,” Hermione said, a question in her voice. “You don’t suppose – "
He looked up to find a puzzled expression on her face. “Don’t suppose what?”
Severus stilled, his ears twitching. His eyes narrowed again as he seemed to take in the girl; then he gave Harry’s bare toe another nip and turned tail, slipping stealthily into the shadows.
“OW! Bastard!” Harry yelled at the retreating figure, then turned back to find his friends staring at him again.
The black cat emerged from the portrait leading to Gryffindor Tower to find a stern tabby staring at him from across the corridor. She padded over, her green eyes never leaving those of the midnight form, then sniffed delicately at the dark fur. What she smelled there caused her to let loose a dangerous growl deep in her chest, and the black cat answered with a low hiss, his own hazel eyes flashing wide in his narrow face. Curious, the tabby circled her companion whilst he waited patiently for her verdict and when she was satisfied, she gave her companion of clipped nod and trotted away.
The black cat watched her go, then stole down the staircase that led to the dungeons.