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Kneazle's Kitten

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The cat sat stiffly high on the wall. Well… it was not an ordinary cat. If anyone with even a drop of magical blood was around, it would be recognized as a kneazle and subsequently left alone to do its thing. It was widely known in the wizarding world not to get in the way of a kneazle, else risk getting scratched or worse. The magical species of a cat was a vicious predator, unforgiving of any perceived slight, liable to exact revenge sooner or later on anyone foolish enough to offend him or her. And Merlin saves anyone who touched their kittens without permission.

As such, a kneazle was a perfect form for a witch, currently intently observing the ongoings on the ordinary muggle street below her. It was fortunate her favourite student trusted her with the exact location of her mundane sister and her family. Privet Drive, how quaint. These muggles were quite an unimaginative bunch in naming the places. Boring name for the boring street in the boring neighbourhood. And that begged the question if it was wise to leave a magical child here of all places.

When she heard the rumours about the events of the last hours, she didn’t delay and came directly here, half-hoping, half-praying, she was wrong and her esteemed colleague wouldn’t do what she suspected him to do. Alas, she was right, as it turned out in the next few minutes. 

The kneazle almost lost her balance and fell from the wall when Hagrid arrived on the flying motorcycle that had the audacity and a certain amount of craziness of Sirius Black written all over it. The contraption made horrible noises in the quiet night, as Hagrid landed it none too gracefully right in the middle of someone’s lawn. It was a wonder he didn’t wake up the entire street with the way he parked the motorcycle.  

The animagus was embarrassed to admit, she was a bit preoccupied with Hagrid’s arrival, and missed the moment when Headmaster made his appearance. The old wizard used one of his myriad little inventions to put out the lamp-lights and the muggle street engulfed with the darkness. Thank Merlin, the kneazles were blessed to see perfectly in the dark, so she used it to her advantage and watched closely the exchange between two wizards.

The large man spoke briefly with Professor Dumbledore, handing him over a little bundle, before leaving again on that noisy contraption. The witch in her animagus form leaned over to take a better look at the moving pile in Headmaster’s arms, and almost fell victim to the gravity. At the last possible moment, she regained her balance and hissed when she realized her worst fears were becoming true.

With the toddler’s parents dead, his godmother hiding under Fidelius and his godfather currently wanted for questioning about his part in last night’s tragedy, Dumbledore was going to leave him with his last blood relatives.

Suddenly, the old wizard looked around, scanning the muggle street suspiciously, as if he sensed her watching him from her perch. The kneazle slunk back in the shadows to avoid being found out, cursing silently her curiosity. The wizard's eyes briefly flitted over her hiding place, fortunately without lingering there. Satisfied, he was alone, Headmaster waved his wand in a complicated manner over the child sleeping fitfully in his arms.

The multicoloured tendrils lit up the dark street. Professor weaved them around one of the houses, before tethering the wards on the poor child’s magic. The kneazle hissed angrily at the old man’s audacity. The little boy’s skin shimmered for a while as if fighting against forceful bonding to the wards. The child sniffed, several tears falling down his cheeks, as his juvenile magic lost the fight against the seasoned will of the adult wizard. With another blinding flash, the darkness enveloped the immediate surroundings, hiding the old wizard and the child from the sight of the mundane people. 

“Good luck, Harry.” Dumbledore wished upon the child, as he carefully put him on the porch of that unassuming house. His work was done. Without any further delay, he turned on his heel and with a soft pop disapparated. In the next moment, the lamp-lights flickered on, chasing away the lingering shadows.

The kneazle seethed at the recklessness of the old wizard. How dare he. How dare that senile fool to abandon a defenceless baby in a muggle neighbourhood in the middle of a cold November night. Was it so hard to ring the door and deliver the child directly to his new guardians’ custody, if he insisted on leaving him here at all? 

Oh. No. No, for Merlin’s sake. The kneazle refused to entertain that train of thought and focused rather on the problem at hand. The poor child was drifting under the sleeping charm, unaware of his most likely unwelcomed arrival at his last relatives' doors. The heightened instincts were prodding her to do something about the situation. And the time was running out, as the first windows in the muggle houses lit up, signalling the arrival of the morning.

It isn’t right to leave Harry here. The animagus meowed and made a split decision. The kneazle jumped down, changing in a mid-leap into a severely-looking woman. Minerva McGonagall had never allowed any man to dictate her decision and she certainly wouldn’t be starting now. The witch briskly walked up to the little boy, snatching him from the porch and unceremoniously disapparated, never to return. 

Minerva hid her too-recognizable face under the cape, as soon as she apparated near the Leaky Cauldron. It was one of the downsides of long years spent teaching in the most prestigious wizarding school in Britain. The witch entered the pub purposely and navigated through the rowdy crowd with a predator's grace. Her sensitive hearing caught the snippets of conversations between the wizards and witches riotously celebrating Voldemort’s defeat, just before the wall leading to Diagon Alley closed behind her. Fine hair on the back of her neck rose, and if she was in her kneazle form, she would be hissing at them for the uncouth manner the people were celebrating the death of her favourite former students and their orphaned child.

Looking down at the little boy in her arms, she shook her head in disgust. The Boy-Who-Lived? What nonsense. Who had ever heard about a toddler defeating an adult wizard, a dangerous dark lord to boot, and escaping only with a scar? Really, the magical people nowadays were lacking common sense. It was more likely his parents, Lily perhaps, did something, considering Sowilo carved on the child's forehead. The dverger would be able to tell her more, for a right price of course, if she was inclined to pursue the matter. She was more worried about black magic radiating from poor Harry; it was rubbing her kneazle side wrong. 

And speaking of dverger… Here she was, standing in front of the seat of their power in Britain, the Gringotts. The witch inclined her head in greeting and stuck out her wand arm towards the nearest guard, wandlessly activating a charm on her bracelet. Both dverger, previously supremely bored with their duties, went on alert. It wasn’t often, more like never, that a human magical was desperate enough to ask for the sanctuary inside the bank. Calling for an attendant, they ushered her inside the bank and forced the gates to close.

Just in time. Minerva sighed in relief, as she caught sight of a certain old meddler on the steps before the dverger, with a certain amount of glee, closed the gates directly in front of his overly large nose. Carefully holding little Harry against her chest, she briskly followed after the attendant through the twisting hallways to the door of her account manager. 

“Minerva Ross.” The stately dverger greeted her. “Let the piles of gold grow unhindered in your vaults.” 

The witch frowned. For decades, she urged the dverger to use her father’s surname in their dealings with her; with no avail. They continued to address her by her mother’s name. As one of few matrilineal lines in the wizarding world Ross surname had precedence over any other name she could claim. And after the decades of the squabbling, she was going to take up the mantle of Lady Ross. For Harry’s protection. Nevertheless, she should be gracious to her vault manager, even if he was finally going to get his way. “Vault guardian. Have our joint endeavours bring us the piles of gold in our coffers.”

Vakr steepled his fingers under his chin, silently taking in the witch, his eyes stopping at the child in her arms. Rising his prominent eyebrow, he asked. “What could the Gringotts do for you today, Lady Ross?”

Minerva sat down on the highly uncomfortable chair. She suspected the dverger used them as a deterrent for the wizards to stop them wasting their time. The time is money, as the saying went and the dverger took it literally. She would be paying through the nose for coming to see Vakr without an appointment. The little boy stirred in her arms briefly and settled back into an uneasy sleep.

Her severe face softened at the sight of the child. She looked up, suddenly determined to get her way at any cost. “I need you to arrange the custody of heir Potter to be given to me. I suggest you start with executing their will before Chief Warlock manages to force his way inside the bank. I suspect his agenda is to suspend the reading of late Potters' wills, as he already abandoned their poor child in the muggle world before I rescued him.” 

And that was probably the right thing to say because one thing dverger hated more than wizards, were wizards meddling in estate matters. In a flurry of motions, the relevant paperwork was brought in and witnesses summoned from his colleagues. As she said. The dverger were very efficient when it suited them. 

Vakr frowned. The documents were preliminarily sealed with the order of Chief Warlock, but the permanent seal needed Wizengamot’s approval. The witch was uncommonly lucky to seek the sanctuary within the bank before Mr. Dumbledore could finish the process and seal the wills until heir Potter 17th birthday. “Let’s see, if you are able to open the wills,” Vakr said and pushed the sealed pile of parchments towards the witch. 

Minerva adjusted the hold on the child, fortunately still sleeping undisturbed by the proceedings, used the tip of her wand to cut her finger. A drop of her blood fell on the parchments, and they started glowing softly. “Minerva McGonagall Ross.” She declared and the seal broke open, releasing the contents of the wills.

Vakr snatched the documents, quickly reading through them and making extensive notes on a spare parchment. Meanwhile, Minerva hummed a lullaby under her breath to little Harry, hoping he would sleep some more, through the more boring waiting. Vakr finally looked up from the paperwork and blinked at the witch still patiently waiting at his table. He cleared his throat and surmised succinctly. “Late Lord and Lady Potter made some minor bequeaths to several individuals that can be distributed at the later date, leaving the majority estate for their only child. As for the child’s custody... Lady Ross, as you are clearly on the list of possible guardians for heir Potter and you are willing immediately to assume the custody of the minor child in question, we may proceed.” The manager hesitated a little before making a suggestion. “If I may be so bold and recommend you to use Morgana’s Rites to adopt the child into your line.”

“Absolutely not. I’m not going in any way to replace poor lad’s parents in such a way. He had already lost so much.” Minerva resolutely rejected the option out of hand. It was unthinkable to her human side, although her more feral instincts were clamouring to claim the boy laying trustingly in her arms as hers.

“Not to replace, but add.” The account manager corrected her gently. The witch tilted her head, channelling the curiosity of her animagus form over what Vakr had in mind. “It’s the best way of making sure nobody would be able to contest your rights to the child when we take into account you are third in line after both of his godparents.”

Minerva thought it over once more. Unfortunately, Vakr was right. Every other option could be overturned at Wizengamot’s leisure. And she refused to risk it, as Dumbledore already showed he didn’t have the best intentions towards the lad. The Rites would make Harry literally her child. As it was an old blood magic ritual, it was irreversible and permanent. Reluctantly, she acquiesced. “Alright, Morgana’s Rites is it.”

Vakr smirked. He knew the witch was shrewd enough to see things from his point of view. He summoned Harry’s birth certificate and tapped the pen against the parchment. “Will you change the boy’s name? The Ritual might ask for it.”

Excellent question. His parents, Lady Magic rest their souls, were brilliant in magic, but less so in choosing the names. She looked down at the child in her arms, thinking over what she should name him. To her, he looked more like… “Hadrian.”