Warning (highlight to view): None.
Word Count: 1950
Summary: Troubled by a familiar problem, Severus makes a friend in his spare time.
Disclaimer: This work of fan fiction is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made from (and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by) the posting of this fan work.
Her face scratched and bleeding, Madam Pince strode past Severus in the corridor, one arm outstretched, clutching a struggling kitten. "No!" she said firmly. "No! No! No!"
Shite, Severus thought, turning on his heel to follow her. "Where are you taking Sou—that kitten?"
"Away where, Pince?"
"That's Madam Pince to you, young man," Pince snapped, "and to answer your question, I'm taking this little monster away from my face, my books, my—"
"Goodness! What's happened, Irma?" Filius asked, as he approached them.
The kitten ceased struggling and curled its hind legs and tail under its body, mewing piteously.
"Let me just tend you," Filius said, swishing his wand in the direction of Pince's face.
At once, her wounds disappeared and she started, almost dropping the kitten. Severus took that moment to relieve her of her burden.
Cradling the kitten against his chest, he told her, "I'm certain you've other things to which to attend than this kitten," before sweeping past her, ignoring the call of his name.
Once safely inside his office, he looked down into the kitten's green, unrepentant gaze and said, "Soulless, that was completely unacceptable behaviour! I told you to remain here!"
"You say that every time! What if one of the staircases had attacked you?" Severus asked, moving towards a large basket behind his desk and kneeling before it. "What would you have done, then?"
By way of answer, Soulless hopped out of his arms and began attempting to nurse from his mother, a fluffy white Kneazle who looked up at Severus and hissed as she swatted at the kitten.
"Don't take that tone with me. It's not my fault you can't control your spawn, you ungrateful—"
Tap! Tap! Tap!
"Damn it," Severus muttered, rising to sit at his desk. "Enter!"
The door opened to reveal Charity Burbage. "Pardon me, Professor Snape, but did you just take a four- to five-week-old ginger kitten from Madam Pince?"
"Why in Merlin's name would I have done that?"
Severus sighed. "It's not my kitten. It belongs to her highness there," he continued, inclining his head towards the basket.
"Oh, aren't you just the most beautiful mama!" Charity exclaimed, clapping her hands like an excited school girl.
"Don't! She's not friend—"
He stopped speaking as Charity reached down and stroked the Kneazle's head while moving Soulless to the nearby kibble and water dishes.
"I imagine it helps if one speaks softly," Charity said, favouring Severus with a warm smile.
His breath catching, Severus found himself wishing that she wouldn't look at him like that. How was a man supposed to maintain his professional demeanor when a female staffer insisted upon smiling in that . . . that disturbing way at him? He didn't like it. He didn't like it at all.
"Is the bitch yours?" he demanded.
Charity shook her head. "Really, Professor Snape. Mama Kneazles are queens, not bitches."
"You know very well that I meant—"
"And no one owns a feline being," Charity interrupted him, although she addressed the now-purring mama Kneazle, "do they, dear?"
Severus frowned. "Did you need something, Professor Burbage?"
Charity rose, her smile contracting into an impish smirk as she did so. Severus forced his gaze from her mouth.
"Actually, I believe I might be in a position to help you . . . with your familiar problem."
"I have no problem."
"Oh, but you do, Professor Snape. It's against school policy to keep unaltered familiars on the grounds."
"But I couldn't have left her in the library! Pince hates Kneazles."
"Yes, so I've learned," Charity answered, her eyes crinkling merrily. "When did you find her?"
"Two days ago, trying to drag that ginger terror of hers into the Restricted Section."
"That explains why Highness doesn't like you, as well as her kitten's return to the library. Has she tried to escape you at all?"
"Repeatedly," Severus replied, not sure that he liked Charity taking it upon herself to name his Kneazle.
"I'm afraid that you've been keeping her away from the rest of her kittens."
"What?" Severus asked, standing abruptly.
"Don't worry, Professor Sna—"
"Oh, call me Severus—and get to the point!"
"It seems that Uncanny Familiars has the other wee ones well in—"
"Are you telling me that a book is caring for kittens somewhere in the castle?"
"I'm trying to," Charity replied mildly.
Severus cleared his throat, ignoring the heated tips of his ears. "Take me to them at once."
A savage, feline growl and Madam Pince's shouts greeted Severus' ears as Charity led him into the Restricted Section.
"Oh, dear," said Charity. "Perhaps we should have brought Highness."
"And who is that?" demanded Pince, from somewhere in the back. "Another of these flea-ridden, book-destroying creatures?"
"Highness does not have fleas!" Severus exclaimed, rounding a bookcase. "I treated her, my—Merlin!"
Severus was astounded to see three kittens nursing from an animated, three-dimensional portrait of a large female Kneazle, who seemed to be resting atop what had to be Uncanny Familiars.
But that Kneazle is part of the book.
Given Gamp's Law, there was no way that the book should have been able to sustain the kittens for any amount of time, let alone for two days, but before Severus could consider the matter further, the portrait Kneazle caught sight of him and hissed as if daring him to try to take the kittens from her.
Pince turned to glare at them, as well. "This is your fault, isn't it? You're always messing about with things that don't concern you!"
Ignoring her, Severus moved to examine the titles on a nearby shelf.
"What are you doing?" demanded Pince.
"We'll need a basket," Severus told Charity, as he pulled down a large volume and began unbuckling the wide leather strap that held it closed.
"Oh! Of course," she replied, positioning herself just out of reach of the kittens' long-clawed guardian and Summoning one.
As soon as the basket was in Charity's hands, Severus opened the book, which began to growl.
Severus moved closer to Uncanny Familiars, and the animated Kneazle reared up to strike, tearing a page in Severus' book—which loosed what sounded like a loud, canine stream of obscenities in response. Puffing up in alarm, the Kneazle turned and dived back into her page, knocking the kittens off of it as she did so. Charity quickly scooped them up into the basket while Severus closed the barking book.
Before he could buckle its strap, however, Pince jerked it from his hands. "How dare you allow my books to fight?" she complained. "Now I'll have to spend the rest of the day repairing this one!"
"Need I remind you, Madam Pince," Severus replied quietly, "that there's no shouting in the library?"
Narrowing her eyes at him, she ordered, "Shelve that book properly and take those wretched creatures with you when you go!" before striding off.
"Oh, no, dear," Charity said, stroking the Kneazle's page, "you've done enough. Thank you. We'll take care of the little darlings now."
"Yes, good 'kitty'," Severus replied.
"Well, however the binder managed to incorporate actual Kneazle milk into the book," said Charity later, as she and Severus lingered over tea in his office while watching Soulless play with his litter mates, "I'm glad that he did."
Stroking Highness, who had finally consented to sit with him, Severus replied, "So am I, even though I've never seen any magical process to explain it."
"And how that annoys you," teased Charity.
Not wanting to seem churlish, for he had enjoyed his discussion with her, Severus replied, "At least the illustration feeding them was in the 'Standard Care and Feeding of Familiars' chapter rather than one of the others."
Charity shuddered. "Agreed. I can't believe how some people will treat animals. All those terrible 'training' potions!"
"So, Soulless wasn't with his litter mates when you found him this morning?" Severus asked, wanting to shift the conversation away from the subject of Dark potions.
"No, Ginger," Charity said, with gentle emphasis, "was crying outside the door to the Restricted Section. I let him in and followed him to Uncanny Familiars, where we found Madam Pince trying to extricate the other kittens from the book."
"Which didn't please Ginger," Severus said, nodding slightly in acceptance of Charity's having renamed the kitten.
"No, it didn't, and you know the rest. Ah, but in all the excitement, I never did congratulate you for figuring out how to free them. That was awfully clever of you."
Severus' mouth twitched, but he didn't smile. "I thought Mage Dogs would suit."
"Indeed it did," Charity agreed, inclining her head towards Highness. "You know, it never would have occurred to me before now that you're an animal lover."
"I wouldn't call myself that. I just . . . read a lot," Severus replied, carefully reaching for his teacup as two kittens rolled over his feet.
"What else do you do besides play hero to Kneazles and aggravate irritated librarians, Severus?"
Charity's voice was low and inviting, and she was leaning towards him, so closely that he caught the scent of her perfume upon the air.
"I write . . . write up my Potions research, of course."
"And in your spare time?"
"Who says I have spare time?" Severus asked, leaning back into his chair. "Teaching irresponsible brats takes up most of it—and now I'm in the temporary possession of Kneazles."
Charity sighed and sat up, primly brushing down her robes. "You're a very difficult man to get to know, but as you are the only single wizard near my own age teaching here, I think I'll just have to be bold—with your permission?" she asked Highness.
As Highness leapt to the floor, Severus said, "Charity, I—"
"Tolerate my presence, which is a start." She grinned. "But I was thinking that it might be lovely if you came to welcome it."
Severus' mouth worked, but no sound emerged. He set his teacup aside lest it rattle upon its saucer.
"As you've already agreed that I should assist you in finding homes for Highness, Ginger, Charming, Princess, and Snow, we'll be spending time together."
"Well, of course we will. They'll need to be properly socialised," Charity said, reaching out to remove Ginger from Severus' knee and placing the kitten on her lap. "No biting!"
Was he biting me? Severus wondered, as Charity continued.
"And we can't place them until they're better behaved, now can we?"
Rubbing his knee, Severus replied, "I suppose not, but—"
"So while we're training up the Kneazles—no clawing, either!—we might also spend that time teaching each other about ourselves."
Severus shifted in his chair and said nothing, part of him wanting to put Charity off, and part of him simply wanting her.
"Oh, I know you that enjoy your privacy, but you do long for companionship upon occasion," Charity asserted, gently setting the "playful" Ginger back on the floor, who immediately began biting one of Severus' boots. "You take your meals in the Great Hall, you attend all the Quidditch matches, and in no way do you seem to mind being in the 'temporary possession of Kneazles'."
Shaking his foot in a futile effort to dislodge Ginger from his boot, Severus warned, "Yes, but in spite of all that, I'm no more 'properly socialised' than this kitten is."
"Well then, would you allow me to offer a simple piece of advice?" Charity asked, leaning towards him again and smiling in her disturbing way.
Unable to tear his gaze from her mouth, Severus nodded, thinking, No.
"Never waste an opportunity to kiss a willing witch."
No, Severus thought again, as he caught the leaping Ginger by the scruff while leaning forward to press his mouth to Charity's. No, no . . . .