Title: A Most Impractical Cat
Author: drachenmina
Prompt: #3: Bellatrix finds a kitten in the back garden. She just doesn't know that it's Harry Potter in his Animagus form.
Pairings: Severus Snape/Harry Potter, Lucius/Narcissa, Bellatrix Lestrange/various, Ron/Hermione, Draco/Hermione (unrequited - at least as yet!)
Rating: NC17
Word Count: ~12,400
Summary: AU. During the horcrux hunt, Harry goes to Malfoy Manor in his guise as a cat to try and find Helga Hufflepuff's cup. Things do not go according to plan.
Warnings: mention of het, (very) mild BDSM, bestiality and the poetry of TS Eliot.
Author's Note: I'm sure it didn't start out quite this cracky... Huge thanks for the beta go to the wonderful gintonic.


A Most Impractical Cat

Harry picked his way delicately through the imposing manor gardens, his paws wet with the morning dew. He started as one of Malfoy's bloody pet peacocks gave its godawful cry. He felt very alone.

The next minute, he was wishing he'd stayed alone. Footsteps were coming his way, crunching along the gravel path. Harry turned towards them, seeing a pair of female feet come into view. He looked up, and up again at their owner, wishing he didn't feel so bloody small in this form.

Great. Just what he needed. It was Bellatrix Bloody Black. Well, Lestrange, really, but that didn't sound so good. There was a word for it: illiteration, or something. Probably. It was too late for him to hide - and anyway, it wasn't like she was going to recognise him in this form. He hoped. He padded resolutely on, trying not to look as spooked as he felt.

"Pretty Kitty! Come to Bella, little pussycat, now don't be shy!" Bellatrix was crouching down to look at him, making clucking noises with her tongue. Harry wasn't sure what to do. He could make a bolt for it - but if he let her stroke him a bit, maybe she'd let him into the house? It wasn't like he'd be able to work the door handles on his own. Reluctantly, he made his way to her, tail twitching nervously.

"There! Who's a pretty girl, then?" To his horror, Bellatrix didn't just stroke him; she picked him up and cuddled him to her ample, sallow bosom. He squirmed in her grasp, trying to ensure that as little of her skin as possible was in contact with his fur. Damn, she had an iron grip! "There's my precious. Mummy will take good care of you."

She strode off briskly towards the manor, Harry rocking queasily in her arms.

..............................

"What on earth have you got there, Bellatrix?" Lucius sneered, obviously not a cat person.

"Pretty little kitty. Isn't she lovely? I'm going to look after her."

"Are you sure it's a she? It'll have to be spayed, anyway: the thing's half grown and I'm not having the manor turn into a bloody cats' home. I'll fetch B R Barella's Care of Magyckal Pettes; it can't be much different from doing a Kneazle."

Under his fur, Harry's blood ran cold. She wouldn't - would she? He decided then and there that if anyone tried hexing his bits off, he was changing back to human and taking his chances.

"No! Nasty man! He shall not touch you!" Bellatrix practically spat at Lucius, who backed off in distaste. "If my kitty wants babies, she shall have them! Yes she shall, my precious!" Harry was so relieved he almost didn't mind Bellatrix nuzzling into his fur. "You're my baby now, my precious kitty. They won't lock you up until you're barren, no they won't."

She glared at Lucius. Looking oddly sad, Narcissa came over to stroke Harry. "Of course we won't do anything to her without your consent, Bella. Come with me, I think I know where I can find something for her."

Harry let himself be carried off by Bellatrix as she followed her sister, just glad to be getting away from Lucius and his bloody castration complex. He was half expecting to be taken to the kitchen, so he was surprised when they went into what must be Narcissa's bedroom. She rummaged around in a drawer, and then turned with a triumphant smile. "There! I knew I still had it. Let's put it on her, she'll look adorable, and then everyone will know she's not just a stray, too."

It was a collar. It was actually quite tasteful (well, duh, thought Harry, this was the Malfoys after all, not a bunch of bloody chavs); the diamonds encrusting it not at all flashy. But still, a collar? Harry supposed he could endure it if being Bellatrix's pet allowed him free run of the house. And although he thought it unlikely that she was still in possession of the cup, it couldn't hurt to have a really good nose around her quarters just in case.

He felt a bit of a tingle as the collar was brought over to him. Was that thing magical? Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, after all. He squirmed in Bellatrix's grasp, trying to get away. "Petrificus Totalus," she trilled. Harry's struggles forcibly stopped. He was horrified. Who the hell went around petrifying pets?

Bellatrix slipped the collar on, and Harry found he could move again. At least the bloody thing hadn't strangled him or anything, which he'd been half afraid of. He cringed as she held him up to the mirror to see his reflection. Urgh. It really did make him look like a girl. It could have been worse, he supposed. She could have tied a bloody pink bow around his neck. Or a bell, which would have seriously hampered his spying activities.

She carried him off to her room, crooning softly, "I love little pussy, her fur is so warm, and if I don't hurt her she'll do me no harm..."

Harry catfully resisted the urge to puke.

...............................

It hadn't been supposed to be this way. All those weeks ago, when they'd thought up The Plan, it had seemed so simple. All three of them would come along in their animagus forms. It'd be almost like the Marauders again, but with a much more serious purpose: the location and destruction of one of Voldemort's horcruxes.

They knew Bellatrix Lestrange had had Helga Hufflepuff's cup in her Gringotts vault. They also knew it wasn't there any more. Why would she have moved it, if not at Voldemort's command? It made sense that he had wanted to keep a closer eye on it and had ordered her to bring it to his base of operations at Malfoy Manor.

So The Plan was, in essence, that they would use their animagus forms to infiltrate the manor and find, and destroy the cup. If they managed to off Nagini at the same time that could only be a bonus.

It hadn't quite worked that way. Hermione, who'd been the first to master the transformation, of course, had been distraught to find her animagus form was large, brown and ruminant: in short, a cow. Particularly when Ron wouldn't stop laughing, although he stopped soon enough when he realised just how little use a bovine form was for espionage activities. It wasn't like she was going to be able to sneak up on anyone, was it? And they were pretty sure Malfoy wouldn't allow farm animals within fifty feet of the manor.

Ron's form had been even worse. He'd been on his own when he managed it, and it was by only the lucky chance of Hermione walking into the room and seeing the halibut flopping morosely on the rug, and having the presence of mind to cast an Aguamenti charm until he'd stopped panicking long enough to transform, that had saved it from being a fatal achievement.

If anything, Ron had been even more upset than Hermione. "What use is a bloody fish? It's not even an ornamental fish! You'd think with hair like this I could have managed a bloody goldfish!" Although quite how they were supposed to sneak even a goldfish into the manor to spy on the Death Eaters, Ron didn't seem to have considered.

They'd had to pin all their hopes on Harry, which had left him feeling (a) a strong sense of déjà-vu and (b) like it might be better if he didn't manage the transformation at all. But he couldn't disappoint the others, and eventually (having made sure they were both in the room with him, he wasn't going to repeat Ron's near-death experience) he'd felt he was as ready as he was ever going to be, and transformed.

The first thing he noticed was that the floor was a lot nearer. So, at least he wasn't a cow. Or a stag either, he thought, vaguely disappointed. But what was he? He opened his mouth to ask, but what came out was, "Row?"

He was a cat? He twisted round to look at himself. Sleek, furry, black flanks (at least he wasn't bloody ginger then, he thought with relief, and a guilty look at Ron) and at the end... yes! There was his tail! He'd always wanted a tail! He swished it experimentally. It felt a bit weird, like he was waggling his bottom at Ron and Hermione.

"Oh Harry! You did it! And you're lovely!" Hermione bent down and stroked him. Harry shivered in delight at the frankly sensual touch of hand on fur. He sniffed at her hand. She'd been at the chocolate again. Despite claiming to be on a diet. "You're a Jellicle cat, Harry."

His "Row?" was closely echoed by Ron's "Uh?"

"Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats are rather small;
Jellicle Cats are merry and bright,
And pleasant to hear when they caterwaul."

She huffed at their blank looks. "It's T S Eliot. Honestly, don't you ever read poetry?"

"You really want me to answer that, 'Mione?" Ron was incredulous.

"Row!" Harry had agreed, fervently.

...................................

Harry had managed to escape to the garden for a bit, and was nervously chewing at some grass.

He'd been here days, and still hadn't found the horcrux. Ron and Hermione had to be worried about him. Maybe he should try and slip out, apparate back to Grimmauld Place, and report. Even though there was nothing to report.

It shouldn't be too risky, right? Bellatrix was closeted with the Dark Lord, doing whatever it was she did with him and Harry really didn't want to think too closely about that. She wouldn't miss him for hours, and he could easily be back before then.

Coming to a decision, Harry scampered down through the gardens. He'd have to stay in feline form until he got well away from the estate, but he was pretty fast in this shape so it shouldn't be a problem.

At last Harry reached the iron gates signalling the end of the Malfoy fiefdom. His slender body would slip through the bars easily.

Except it wouldn't. Harry found he was simply unable to set one paw outside Malfoy property. It must be that bloody collar - it must be spelled to stop anything wearing it from leaving! He might have known the Malfoys wouldn't risk their pets escaping! There was nothing for it, he'd have to transform here and take it off.

Harry looked around nervously. If he was spotted, it could be very bad indeed. But there was nobody in sight, so he took a deep breath, focussed himself, and transformed.

Except he didn't. Trying not to panic, Harry made another attempt. And another. He was stuck! Damn Narcissa and her bloody pet jewellery! Rattled, he made a frantic attempt to claw the thing off, but succeeded only in spending an uncomfortable few minutes hopping about with one front paw stuck inside the bloody thing.

Defeated, he padded morosely back towards the manor. How the hell was he ever going to get out of here?

Prowling agitatedly in the drawing room, Harry wasn't feeling too good. What the hell had he been thinking of, eating that grass? Cats were meat-eaters, they weren't meant to graze! His stomach felt decidedly peculiar. Just then, Lucius walked into the room. Harry's stomach lurched, and unable to stop himself, he threw up right in front of him.

Lucius, predictably, was absolutely furious. He banished the mess with an enraged flick of his wand and then turned to Harry, who was cringing back against the sofa. "Sully my carpet again, precious," he hissed "and Nagini will be having a furry little treat for dinner tonight!"

Harry fled.

....................................

The next day, there was an unexpected visitor. Well, unexpected by Harry; he was pretty sure Voldemort and the Death Eaters had known he was coming. Harry had a feeling Voldie discouraged people just dropping in unannounced, probably with multiple Crucios.

It was Snape, taking time out from being Hogwarts headmaster. Harry felt his spirits rise. If he could only get the man on his own, he might somehow be able to get through to him who he was, and get him to take that bloody collar off!

He knew Snape was on their side, of course. He hadn't wanted to believe it, but when McGonagall had showed the three of them Dumbledore's pensieve memories, he'd had no option. Actually, once he'd had time to think it through, Harry had felt pretty sorry for the bloke. It wasn't like the poor bastard had that many friends, after all; having one of them order him to kill him couldn't have been much fun.

In fact, after further thought, Harry wasn't feeling nearly as fond of Dumbledore as he had been. He'd agreed to save Harry's mum for Snape, and had failed - but then he'd still expected Snape to spend his life making up for his one early mistake of joining the Death Eaters. OK, so it had been a pretty big mistake, but still. Snape wasn't the only teenager in the world who'd fallen in with the wrong crowd. And it wasn't like the right crowd had ever been all that welcoming.

Harry felt a familiar twinge of filial guilt about that.

It turned out to be almost impossible to get Snape on his own. Didn't these bastards trust him? Harry was getting increasingly frustrated - and worried. He eventually resorted to stalking the man so closely (hoping he wouldn't catch hell later from Bellatrix, who'd been shooting him jealous glares) that he was able to dart into the bathroom with him when the man went for a piss.

He averted his eyes politely when Snape was actually pissing, of course - the whole point was to let Snape know who he was, so he didn't want Snape thinking Harry Potter was just gagging to check out his equipment.

He had a feeling Snape wouldn't be too pleased about that.

Although it was definitely tempting... Harry sneaked a peek. Bugger. Too late, Snape was already fastening his robes.

Anyway, how the hell was he going to get his message across? Harry cursed McGonagall for insisting they didn't tell Snape anything more than was absolutely necessary: it would have been so much simpler if Snape already knew he was a cat animagus.

Then he remembered they hadn't even told McGonagall. Oh well.

As Snape was drying his hands, Harry stood up on his hind legs and clawed his way gently up the man's legs. Snape's mouth twitched, and he leant down to stroke Harry's head. "You do seem rather taken with me, cat. I don't recall having used catnip in any potions recently, so it must be my sunny personality you're taken with."

Harry was intrigued. Snape, making jokes about himself?

"Row," he began. Snape actually smiled.

"I believe Bella's mistaken about you. You're actually a boy, aren't you? Poor thing, having her fuss over you and call you Precious. That's hardly a name for a self-respecting feline."

"Row," Harry agreed.

"I think I shall call you Erastes."

"Row?"

"Given your youth, Eromenos would be more appropriate, of course, but it hardly rolls off the tongue."

Harry decided he'd just have to ask Hermione what the hell the bloke was on about. If he ever managed to get back to her, that was. "Row," he began again, more urgently this time.

"Mmm?"

Just as Harry thought he might be about to get somewhere, the door opened. It was Lucius. Hadn't he ever heard of knocking? Harry was sure it had to be rude to burst in on people in the bathroom even if you were an upper-class pureblood. He hissed at Malfoy in frustration.

"Not a cat person, Lucius?" Severus sounded amused.

"No," agreed Lucius with a sneer, and a glare in Harry's direction. Cowed, Harry slunk under the cast-iron bathtub.

"Severus, as you know, the Dark Lord is... not best pleased with my family, at present. Will you give me an oath that you will protect Draco, should it be necessary?"

"And why should I do that?"

Lucius moved closer. "In memory of times past, perhaps? We were once... close, you and I." Harry watched in amazement as Malfoy's hand reached up to stroke Snape's cheek.

Snape moved away sharply, leaving Harry feeling a curious mix of relief and disappointment he couldn't quite analyse. "You are wasting your time, Lucius."

"You will not help me?" Harry almost felt sorry for Lucius then, seeing the desperation in his eyes on behalf of his son.

"I have already sworn such an oath to Narcissa. You know, Lucius, I had thought that married couples communicated, once in a while? Clearly I was mistaken."

Lucius was visibly relieved. Harry thought it a little strange he didn't ask Snape how Narcissa had persuaded him to swear the oath, but after all, he supposed Lucius knew Snape better than he did. Or else just didn't care.

Malfoy smoothed his features into the bland mask he habitually wore. "Come, Severus, the Dark Lord awaits."

And to Harry's crushing disappointment, they walked out together and he was unable to see Snape privately again before he left.

...........................................

Having nothing else to do, Harry settled into a routine of napping by day, and prowling systematically around the manor by night, searching for that bloody cup. All whilst avoiding Bellatrix and Lucius as much as possible.

He'd finally worked out how he could open doors - internal ones, anyway - by jumping up and swinging on the handle. If they'd had knobs on the doors he'd have been really stuffed. Bellatrix seemed to think it was cute, and didn't mind him going walkabout.

He was now certain the horcrux wasn't in her room, which was hers alone even though her husband was staying at the manor too. It seemed to be some sort of upper-class thing. Lucius and Narcissa had separate bedrooms too, although they still shagged: Harry would never forget the night he crept into Narcissa's bedroom after midnight to find her spanking her husband and roughly buggering him with an unfeasibly large black dildo, while he cried, "Harder, Cissy! Harder!" and she knelt there in her crotchless knickers with a bored look on her face. Maybe he could get Ron to Obliviate him some day.

He was leaving Voldemort's chambers until last, particularly after seeing Bellatrix sneak in there more than once after dark wearing a flimsy negligee and a lascivious smile. She was shagging Rabastan too, and even, on occasion, her husband. For the life of him, Harry couldn't work out what they saw in her.

Although fair dues, all the blokes were pretty unattractive too.

..................................

It was almost night time. Bellatrix walked into the room in a loose dressing gown. She'd obviously just had a bath (or been shagging someone, Harry thought sourly).

"There's my precious, precious girl! Come to Mummy!" She smiled, making Harry feel queasy. "Mummy has a treat for you."

Harry was starving; she hadn't fed him all day. So he padded dutifully over to the couch she was reclining on. Maybe he could just grab whatever it was and run.

"Come and sit on Mummy, precious."

Bugger. Harry jumped up resignedly onto her lap. She settled back with a giggle and pulled him up to rest between her wobbly breasts, which had been revealed as the gown fell open.

OK, if it was milk she was offering, he was out of there. Her breasts seemed enormous at this angle, each one bigger than Harry's head. If they ganged up on him he wouldn't stand a chance. She shifted position, making Harry lose his balance.

Claws came out reflexively and he watched in horror as one of them raked a deep scratch across Bellatrix's left breast. She stared at the thick, red droplets of blood appearing in a line. "Bad kitty!" she screeched, and suddenly Harry felt her talons grip him and he was flying across the room, until -

Crunch.

When he woke up, his leg was in agony, closely rivalled by that of his head. And it appeared to be raining on his face. Big fat drops that tasted salty when one fell in his mouth. Another fell on his nose, making him sneeze, which was a very bad idea as it made him feel like his head had just exploded.

Harry opened his eyes cautiously. Bellatrix was holding him in her arms, crying.

"My poor, poor precious! Mummy didn't mean to hurt you, no she didn't. Mummy's so very, very sorry." Bellatrix stroked him some more, and then seemed to decide if he was awake, he must be OK. She set him down on the floor experimentally.

Harry took one staggering step, and then collapsed on the carpet. One of his back legs didn't seem to be working any more. What the hell was he going to do now? Would she take him to the vet, or just shoot him?

She did neither. She simply strode to the door, and with an ear-splitting screech, called "DRACO-O-O! "

.....................

Draco was practically running when he arrived. He'd obviously had occasion to learn that it wasn't a good idea to annoy Bellatrix, Harry thought through his haze of pain.

"Yes, Auntie?" he said, puffing a bit.

"Poor Kitty has had a fall, Draco my love." Her eyes turned threateningly dark. "Fix it. "

Draco looked at her, considering. "If I do, what will be my reward?"

Her flirtatious smile made Harry want to gag. "A kiss from your Auntie?" She ran a finger down his chest, and giggled. "Could be more than a kiss, my pretty young love."

Harry was beginning to half wish she'd killed him. This, he did not want to witness.

Draco seemed made of sterner stuff, however, smiling at his aunt as he answered, "I'm very tempted, Auntie, but how about we just remember that I helped you? In case one day I need some help?"

Bellatrix actually seemed to approve of this. She gave a short cackle. "Oh, Lucius has taught you well, hasn't he, my pretty? Very well. I shall owe you."

.......................

Draco took Harry back to his room, for which he was grateful - the further he got away from Bellatrix, the happier he'd be.

"Now, let's have a look at you. You know, when Mother insisted I study healing charms, I had no idea I'd end up mending batty Auntie Bella's toys after she'd thrown them out of the pram. "Had a fall" my arse. You're lucky she found you that collar, precious, at least it'll stop her hexing you."

Harry pricked up his ears at that. So... magic wouldn't work on him when he was wearing the collar? That meant Draco would have to take it off to heal him. He'd be able to transform... Crap. He'd be able to transform, in front of Draco's eyes, into a broken-legged man with concussion. Yep, that'd help. Draco would be bound to take pity on him then: after all, it wasn't like he was the sort of person who went around stomping on your face when you were petrified...

He'd have to wait until after Draco had healed him. Surely he'd get an opportunity then?

Draco placed him carefully on the bed then, as Harry had hoped he would, removed the collar. Yes! Harry couldn't stop his breath quickening in excitement.

Draco frowned. "Hmm, we can't have you fidgeting while I heal you. Petrificus Totalus.

Crap, crap and double crap. What was it with this family and petrifying dumb animals? Harry fumed internally.

Draco did, at least, seem to know what he was doing with the healing charms. Harry's leg felt better immediately. His head still ached, but it was bearable. His heart started to thump as he realised Draco would be removing the Petrificus any time now. He had to be ready... Harry could have screamed in frustration when, instead of pronouncing a Finite, Draco just fastened the collar around his neck. Oh, he could move again, the collar's magic cancelling the Petrificus nicely, but he couldn't bloody transform. "Row-ow!" he wailed, mournfully.

"Well there's gratitude," humphed Draco.

Bugger. He needed to stay on Draco's good side if he wanted to keep out of Bellatrix's psychotic clutches. "Row?" he said, winningly, rubbing his face against Draco's hand. It worked. Draco smiled. "You may as well stay here for a bit, cat. I'm damned if I'm going to call you Precious, though. Auntie gives me the creeps, always cooing about her "precious"; she sounds like that deformed house-elf creature from Lord of the Rings."

Despite himself, Harry was intrigued. Draco knew Lord of the Rings? He wouldn't have expected Draco to sully himself with something so Muggle as films.

Harry had watched the trilogy with Hermione one weekend when they'd all needed a break - Ron had been banished from the room after he'd kept muttering, "This is rubbish! Elves don't look like that!" and "You're a wizard! Just apparate out of there!" Privately Harry thought he'd trade in Kreacher for Legolas any day. Actually, come to think of it, Draco wouldn't make a bad elf himself, with those pale, pointy features and white-blond hair... Harry realised he was this close to finding Draco attractive, and stopped that train of thought hurriedly.

Draco settled down with a book about what looked like particularly nasty Dark hexes, and Harry curled up on the bed beside him. After a while, Draco's hand came over and started to stroke him. Harry could feel his headache melting away.

He knew he'd hate himself for it afterwards, but as he relaxed into Draco's caresses, Harry couldn't help it. It just felt too, too good.

He purred.

......................................

After that, Harry spent as much time as he could in Draco's company. He was the only person there Harry felt he could trust not to kick him or castrate him.

Draco seemed to spend a lot of time in his room. It looked like he was just as keen to avoid Voldemort and his minions as Harry was. He seemed lonely though - Harry thought it probably hadn't been his choice not to go back to Hogwarts with his friends. Voldemort probably wanted to keep him close as a constant reminder to his parents of what disobedience would cost them. He just sat up there, reading books, practicing charms and hexes, and talking to Harry.

"You're lucky, you know. All you have to worry about is your next meal."

"Row," said Harry, although he was actually thinking that Draco, as usual, didn't know the half of it. Bellatrix, as a pet owner, was a bit all or nothing. Either he had her full attention, or he didn't exist. He'd soon learned to make the most of his meals when he got them; it was a bit like being back at the Dursleys' really.

He'd tried sneaking into the kitchens a few times, but house-elves, it seemed, did not like pets. They couldn't hex him, of course, but the collar didn't stop them from emptying the dishwater onto his head if they caught him trying to steal food. And he'd had a near miss with a particularly viciously thrown onion.

"Of course, you have to put up with Auntie Bella cooing over you. Makes me want to vomit, to hear her going all gooey over her precious. I think I'll call you Macavity. That's a much better name for a cat. It's from a poem, you know."

Harry thought it sounded like something you had to go to the dentist for, but he rubbed his cheek against Draco's hand and purred, all the same. Actually all these names he was being given made him wonder if he'd end up with multiple personality disorder, talking to himself. Still, as long as he didn't answer himself, he'd probably be OK. Definitely.

Draco was speaking again, sounding a little despairing. "He pits us against each other, you know. And uses us to threaten one another. Father has to do what he says or I get punished; I have to do things or Father suffers. Mother he mostly ignores. I don't think he really likes women - he only tolerates Auntie Bella because she's as insane as he is."

"Row," Harry sympathised. He meant it, too.

........................

The next time Harry went up to Draco's room, there was a present waiting for him: a catnip scented mouse that Draco charmed to run around the room.

"Row-ow!" Harry thanked him profusely. It was one of the nicest presents he'd ever had! After he'd worn himself out chasing it, he lay happily on Draco's bed, purring.

Draco was looking more cheerful than he had done for ages, Harry thought, although there were still deep black circles etched under his eyes. He got something out of the bedside drawer, and lay on his stomach next to Harry. "Let me show you something, Macavity." To Harry's shock he held out a photograph of Hermione. It looked like it had been taken at school, probably without her knowing as she was facing away from the camera. She was smiling and waving at someone out of frame.

Was Malfoy planning something evil for Hermione? God, how was Harry going to get out of there and warn her?

"She's beautiful, isn't she? And strong - she hit me once, you know? And so clever. Too bad Father would disown me if I had anything to do with her. That's if the Dark Lord didn't kill me first." Draco sighed.

Harry was stunned. Draco fancied Hermione? He looked suspiciously at the catnip mouse. He was going to have to lay off that stuff if it made him hallucinate crap like this.

Draco rolled over onto his back. Still holding the picture of Hermione with his left hand, his right hand crept beneath his robes, and began to move rhythmically. "Mmm-mm. Oh yes. Yes. Merlin, that's good. Yes. Yes! Hermione!"

Too horrified to even speak, Harry scrambled off the bed and slunk away into the night.

This was all so, so wrong.

That night, Harry twitched feverishly in his sleep, dreaming of a naked Draco, on his hands and knees on the bed while Hermione, dressed as a dominatrix, spanked him with a large, leather-bound poetry anthology.

He awoke to Bellatrix's face pressed close to his, her foul breath invading his nostrils and her anxious voice crooning, "It's all right, my precious, Mummy's here."

He put his paws over his eyes and rowled in despair.

........................................

Next day, Harry prowled the gardens, making sure of his territory. Bellatrix was off with the fairies (or possibly the Lestranges) so he was having to catch his own breakfast. Again.

There was a nice, juicy robin on the lawn, hopping about moronically, pecking at things here and there. Harry crouched down and went perfectly still, tail quivering imperceptibly. He bided his time, waiting, waiting... yes! He pounced. Suddenly little robin's breast was looking a whole lot redder, Harry thought smugly to himself.

It was just like catching the snitch, only better, because you got a tasty meal out of it too. Harry crunched away happily.

Suddenly, a flash of movement caught his attention. Harry narrowed his eyes to little slits. If it was another cat, they were dead meat.

It wasn't. Cats weren't that tall, and they certainly didn't billow like that. Harry's tail shot straight up into the air. It was Snape! He was back!

.....................................

The room Snape was given was set at the end of the west wing, a long way from the other bedrooms. It was probably so he'd be close to the potions laboratory. Or maybe he just wasn't posh enough to mingle with the Malfoys.

Amazingly, the door wasn't locked, and Harry was able to open it with his swinging-on-the-handle trick. It worked a lot better on doors that opened inwards.

Harry padded in cautiously. Snape was sat in an armchair, staring darkly into the fire. There was a discarded copy of the Prophet beside him, and a half-empty bottle of whiskey in his hand. Heart in his mouth, Harry mewed at him softly, then daringly placed his front paws on Snape's lap.

Harry blanched as Snape's breath hit him like a solid wall of alcohol. Snape was drunk! In fact, Harry decided, as the dark eyes gazed at him with an uncharacteristic lack of focus, he was absolutely paralytic.

Harry was annoyed. What the hell did Snape think he was playing at? He was a spy, for god's sake; he couldn't afford to let his guard down like this!

"A cat may look at a king, hmm? Or a Prince, perhaps. I was one of those, Erastes." Snape sighed. "I think he might have loved me then. Loved the Prince. Never love anyone, now."

"Row?" Harry asked, confused.

"The boy." Snape laughed without humour. "The Boy Who Died. Harry Potter, Erastes. Perhaps curiosity killed him, hmm, what do you think?"

Harry was stunned. Snape thought he was dead? Why?

"Row?" he said, more insistently this time.

"They asked me, you know. If we had him. He'd been gone so many weeks." Weeks? He'd been here weeks? Harry realised with a start that he must have been: if Snape was staying here, it must be school holidays.

"They don't talk to me much, Erastes. Only when they must. Nobody does. I don't blame them. Maybe he'd have talked to me. Maybe. He knew, you know. I didn't think he did, but he knew."

"Row?"

"What it's like. To be the outcast. Unwanted." He took another swig from the bottle, narrowly missing Harry's head as he swung it to his mouth. "I used to think that Tom knew. That's why I followed him, at first. But he didn't know. No, that's wrong. He knew. But he didn't care."

Strong hands lifted Harry onto Snape's lap. He'd never realised just how long and agile Snape's fingers were before. The man could strangle him with one hand if he wanted to! Weirdly, the thought made him feel safer rather than more vulnerable. He purred as those hands stroked him with just the right degree of pressure.

Snape belched. Harry flinched as the whiskey fumes hit his face.

"Yes," Snape said suddenly. "I am indiscreet. But you, Erastes, are a cat." Snape nodded at that, as if he had made an important point, then rose, tipping a surprised Harry onto the floor. "I'm going to bed."

Walking around the chair and table with the exaggerated care of the very, very drunk, Severus took the few short steps to the bed. Stripping off his robes and dropping them to the floor, he didn't even bother with pyjamas or a nightshirt, but climbed straight in.

Harry hesitated, then jumped up beside him. He desperately wanted to reassure Snape, but couldn't think how to do it. Maybe he'd think of something in the morning. He crept closer, and curled up next to the man. A moment or two later, he was surprised to feel an arm flung over him as Snape snuggled closer.

Harry settled down, preparing to sleep, but suddenly Snape spoke again. "It is polite, Erastes, to undress when one comes to bed." And to Harry's delighted disbelief, he reached over and unfastened the loathsome collar.

Harry was so stunned it took him a moment to react. He was free! Hurriedly, he transformed.

Snape's face was a picture. And not a particularly attractive one. Harry couldn't blame him: there he was, cuddling a cat, and suddenly he found himself in bed, naked, with a boy he'd always hated. Harry pushed down the memory of what Snape had been saying before. The man had been drunk, and anyway it didn't seem all that relevant, what with Snape glaring daggers at him. Harry began to seriously worry he was going to get hexed.

"You." Snape gasped.

"Er, yeah, me." It felt strange to be speaking in human again. "Yeah, I'm, um, not dead."

"You were... you listened..."

"Um, yeah. Sorry about that."

"Damn you to hell, Potter! Must my every humiliation be witnessed - no, be caused by one of your cursed family?" Well, at least he was sounding a little more sober now; although to tell the truth, Harry was a bit hurt that Snape wasn't looking happier about his unexpected survival.

"Um, Snape?" Harry said cautiously. "Sobriety potion? Then we can talk, yeah?"

Glaring at him all the while, Snape reached into the bedside cabinet for a vial. Halfway through, it seemed to occur to him that he was naked, and he turned an unpleasant shade of puce and pulled the blankets around his chest angrily.

Harry felt guilty; he knew Snape hated being exposed to public eye. Or Potter eye, even. But what else could he have done? And it wasn't like Snape had anything to be ashamed of, really, his chest was actually quite nice - bit on the skinny side, yeah, but Harry didn't mind that. It was fat that turned him off, always reminded him of Uncle Vernon and Dudders.

Harry realised with a start that he was ogling Snape, which he was pretty sure was an offence punishable by death, dismemberment and a whole load of other nasties if caught, so he looked away hurriedly.

.................................

Snape seemed a lot calmer after the potion had taken effect and Harry had told his story.

"The cup must be in Voldemort's personal possession. Having recalled it from Bellatrix's vault, he would not want it to be out of his keeping."

"So how do you think we should go about getting it?"

"Your animagus disguise was not a bad plan, although I would recommend you enter his presence only when his attention is diverted elsewhere. He is not above legilimising an animal; his paranoia has grown greatly in recent times."

"Bugger."

Snape looked at him sharply.

"I'll have to go in when he's shagging Bellatrix, won't I? If that's what they actually do - I mean, the bloke's got no nose; stands to reason there might be some other bits missing, doesn't it? I'm going to need one hell of a lot of memory modification after this is all over, you know. Or some serious therapy."

Snape muttered something that sounded suspiciously like "Muggle claptrap!"

"Well, no time like the present, I suppose," Harry muttered resignedly, and jumped off the bed.

"Wait, you idiot! We have made no plans for after you steal it!"

"Well, I have - get in, get it, get out. We'll destroy it back at headquarters."

"Potter, what do you think will be the result of the Dark Lord finding one of his horcruxes has disappeared?"

"He'll be a bit miffed?"

"He will be a damn sight more than miffed. And as this is Lucius's house, it is likely that Lucius will be blamed. I cannot allow that."

Harry was annoyed at that. "What, because you two used to be so close? "

Snape's face flushed angrily. "No, you idiot. He will take his revenge upon Draco, to punish his parents all the more severely. I have sworn an oath to protect that boy - and even had I not, I would not willingly see him Crucio'd into madness by that psychopath. We must at least attempt to get him to safety first."

Harry was surprised to find he was actually quite sympathetic to that idea. He'd got almost attached to Draco; all the time he'd spent hiding out in his room. And he'd given him his lovely catnip mouse, too - that'd been really thoughtful.

"Well, OK. Um, if we're not doing anything tonight, could I, um, stay here? As a human, I mean? It's just that it's been so long since I've slept in this form... "

"Very well. You may sleep in the chair."

"But the bed's huge." Harry made kitten-eyes. He was gratified to see it still seemed to work in his human form.

Snape humphed, and rolled over. "But spell your clothes clean first."

Harry looked down at himself. Hmm. His clothes did look rather as though he'd been eating in them, sleeping in them, and washing them in his own spit for the last few weeks. He muttered the charm, and climbed into bed

..............................

When Harry awoke, it was to something prodding him in the back. To his disappointment, it was merely Snape's finger. "Get up. You need to change back into a cat before anyone comes in."

Harry transformed back mid-yawn. He could have sworn he heard Snape mutter, "Show-off."

As he padded to the door, Snape called him back. "We need to put your collar back on."

"Row! "

"Don't be an idiot. I have modified the charms so that you will be able to unclasp it yourself by visualising the word, Alohomora. I assume that you have some rudimentary ability in non-verbal spells?"

"Row!"

"Well, then."

..............................

After a day disappointingly devoid of any cup-hunting opportunities, Harry padded back to Snape's room that evening.

"Row?"

"Very well." Snape locked the door behind him, and warded it, at which Harry dropped what he'd been carrying in his mouth, and transformed.

Snape frowned at him. "Won't Bellatrix miss you?"

"Nah, she's gone off for a threesome with the Lestranges, I think."

"In that case, you may explain to me why there is a deceased rodent on my carpet."

Harry coloured. When he'd been a cat, bringing Snape a present of a dead mouse had seemed perfectly natural, but it was making a lot less sense now. "Um, staying in character?" he hazarded. He changed the subject hurriedly. "So, have you had a chance to talk to Draco? Persuade him he needs to take a nice long trip for his health?"

"These things take time, Potter. It has to be set up in a way that will seem acceptable to the Dark Lord."

"Right, I suppose." Harry yawned. "Mmm, time for bed, I think." He started to climb under the covers.

"Potter, what are you doing now?"

"Getting into bed."

"This is my bed, Potter. Don't you have a basket to go to?"

"Hey! We slept all right together last night, didn't we? And this is my only chance to be human for a while. It can't be healthy to stay in your animagus form too long."

"Worried you'll get worms?"

"I'm more concerned Bellatrix'll have another epi and break the other three legs." Harry muttered.

"She did what? " Harry was slightly floored by Snape's aghast expression.

"Oh, I scratched her by accident, so she chucked me into a wall - broke a leg and gave me concussion. It's no big, Draco fixed me fine."

Snape was silent a moment. "You'd better not snore," he muttered at last, as he Noxed the light. Harry grinned, and crept under the covers. After a moment, a thought occurred.

"Hey Snape? Why don't you call me Erastes any more?"

Harry could just see how Snape coloured blotchily in the moonlight. "It would not be... appropriate, now that I am aware of your human status."

"Why not? I mean, it's not like I know what it means. Or the other name, the one you said would fit better but not sound so good."

"Eromenos," Snape muttered under his breath.

"Yeah, that's the one. So what do they mean, anyway?"

"Nothing, Potter, which I would wish to share with you."

Harry tried another tack. "Hermione always reckoned I had a crush on the Half-Blood Prince, you know."

Snape gazed at him levelly. "I'd wager it didn't long survive your finding out his true identity."

"Well, no. I mean, I thought you were a murderer, then."

Snape looked like he had a headache. "Potter, I am a murderer."

"No you're not. Not really. Not at all, in fact. I saw Dumbledore's memories - you didn't want to kill him."

"The rest of the world, Potter, will judge my deeds, not my intentions." Snape seemed resigned.

"So sod them." Harry rolled over, which incidentally brought him a bit closer to Snape. "I always thought you didn't care what people thought of you, but you do, don't you? You care a lot."

"Shut up, Potter." Snape sounded terribly, terribly tired, so Harry let him sleep.

...................................

After that, Snape didn't make a fuss about Harry sleeping in his bed. Harry just turned up at Snape's door every night, and stayed.

Of course, that wasn't without its own problems. Harry was far from being unaffected by the presence of another warm, male body in bed with him. He was only human, after all. Except when he wasn't, of course.

The bed was huge. And Snape always slept right on the furthest edge, which Harry was sure couldn't really be comfortable. Still, he did worry a bit that he might wake up one morning to find himself humping his morning erection against a horrified Snape.

But as Snape invariably awoke, and got up, before Harry, it hadn't been a problem so far.

If Harry was perfectly honest with himself, he was a bit disappointed by that.

..............................

Harry crept towards Voldemort's suite. The Death Eaters were having a meeting (he could hear the screams from here) and even though Draco hadn't been got to safety yet, there was nothing to stop him reconnoitring, was there? He nosed the door open, and slipped through. Now, where would Voldie keep a cup? Harry padded towards the bedside cabinet, and sniffed it cautiously.

Suddenly he sensed, rather than heard, a horrible sort of slithering, followed by an angry hiss. Bugger, bugger, bugger! The bloody snake was still here! Trust it to pick today to skive off a meeting!

Harry turned, and instinctively hissed back at the enormous reptile glowering at him a few feet away. Nagini looked surprised, although Harry was damned if he knew how he could tell. The snake yawned, so widely Harry could have sworn he could see right down to the tip of her tail.

What was it about yawns that made them so bloody contagious? Harry yawned back, unable to stop himself. Then she inclined her head curiously, seeming to relax.

Mental. Voldie was mental, Bellatrix was mental, it stood to reason the bloody snake'd be mental too. Harry took a few experimental steps. Would she let him carry on searching, now?

It seemed she would. Harry explored the rooms, sniffing at every cupboard, every drawer, trying to ignore the way Nagini kept attempting to intertwine their tails whilst flicking her tongue at him flirtatiously, until - yes! It wasn't a smell, but he could feel the thick, greasy sensation he'd learned to associate with the horcruxes. It was in a drawer in the bureau under the window.

Harry let out a long, low purr of satisfaction. As soon as Draco was gone, he'd be ready. He turned to leave the room, only to find himself face-to-face with the Dark Lord himself.

Harry blanched. Why the hell hadn't he been paying more attention? He tried to remember his Occlumency. But Voldemort turned to Nagini instead, and stroked her scaly head gently. "Found a friend, my pet?"

Harry took his chance. Flattening his ears to his skull, he barrelled out of the room like all the fiends of hell were after him.

..............................

Later that day, as he padded into Bellatrix's room in case she got too miffed that he was never around, he found a large dead rat in his food bowl.

He sniffed it cautiously. Bellatrix usually provided unidentifiable chunks of meat; apart from that one time she'd gone really doolally and given him cornflakes. He examined the offering more closely. There were fangmarks.

Was that snake bringing him presents now? Harry made a fervent mental note not to do anything she could possibly construe as encouragement.

He ate the dead rat anyway, though: there was no sense in wasting good food.

...............................

That night, Harry couldn't wait to get to Snape's and tell him he'd found the horcrux.

Snape, however, was disappointingly unimpressed. "The bureau is undoubtedly locked. Did you see any sign of a key?"

Bugger. "No."

"Hm. You will have to go in again and look."

"Couldn't I just magic the drawer open?"

Snape sighed, his expression clearly asking what on earth he had done in a past life to deserve being inflicted with this imbecile. "The Dark Lord, Potter, will undoubtedly have warded the drawer against forcible entry by any means magical or otherwise. You will have to locate the key."

Great. That was all he needed. Nagini'd probably think he'd accepted the rat and had come over to see what else was on offer.

As they climbed into bed, Harry was feeling randy, despite the track his thoughts had just been on (definitely not because of it, he told himself hurriedly). It was just that opportunities to wank had been few and far between lately - if there was a way for cats to wank, he hadn't found it yet - and he was feeling pretty desperate to get off. He cursed the Malfoys for being too bloody cheap to give Snape an en-suite bathroom like Bellatrix had.

On the other hand there he was in bed with a bloke who, if not the best looker around, at least wasn't totally minging. A bloke who'd as good as told him, a few nights ago, that he fancied him.

Harry snaked an arm over to Snape's side of the bed, and around the other man. He began to move his hand over Snape's chest as he shifted closer, pressing his erection into Snape's back.

"Potter, what are you doing?"

Harry grinned. "Staying in character. Again. Aren't cats supposed to have loose morals?"

"I, Potter, am not a cat. And nor, at the moment, are you."

"What, you'd rather I changed back and went and found a cat to shag? That'd be a bit kinky, wouldn't it? Hey, I wonder if my animagus form likes boy-cats or girl-cats?"

"Potter? Shut up."

"Make me?"

"Is that even possible? Short of a silencing charm, obviously, or murder, which is looking ever more tempting."

"You could, um, occupy my mouth with something else?" Harry cringed a bit at the corny line, and held his breath while he waited to see if it had worked.

Snape sort of sighed. "Just go to sleep, Potter. I assure you, you will be thankful for it in the morning. I am not what you want."

Harry considered this. What he wanted right now was to get off. And he knew Snape fancied him, so -

Bugger. He didn't know Snape fancied him. He knew, he realised when he thought back to the drunken confessions of that first night, that Snape loved him. He bit his lip. If he loved someone, he wouldn't want a one-night stand with them either.

He probably wouldn't want to listen to them talking about shagging other animals, come to that.

Harry got a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach. Poor bastard - Snape probably hadn't loved many people in his life, and one of them ditched him for calling her a rude name when he was upset, and the other one just wanted to use him for a leg-over.

Thing was, the more he thought about it, the more he wanted not just to get his leg over, but to get his leg over with Snape.

The man was incredibly brave - and clever. He'd been the Half-Blood Prince, for fuck's sake. Granted, he wasn't going to be on the cover of Witch Weekly any time soon, but he actually wasn't all that bad looking with his kit off. Dim lights helped, too. And his hands were lovely. Harry remembered them holding him, that first night. Remembered them stroking him.

He sighed, wishing they were stroking him right now.

He leant over, and kissed Snape softly and chastely on the shoulder.

"I shall be speaking to Draco about reducing your catnip intake," came the drowsy, grumbled reply.

........................................

The next day, Snape surreptitiously beckoned Harry out into the garden. Once they were well out of earshot of the manor, he bent down and murmured, "Matters are proceeding. I believe we shall have Draco out of here tomorrow."

"Row?"

"The Malfoys, as you may know, have some Veela blood. I have persuaded the Dark Lord it would be advantageous for Draco and Narcissa to act as emissaries to the Veela and attempt to enlist them to our Lord's cause."

"Row!"

"Thank you. Now, it is imperative that you discover the whereabouts of that key. And soon."

......................................

Making himself as small as possible, Harry slunk into Voldemort's suite. It'd been a stroke of luck that he'd seen old no-nose inviting Bellatrix to "attend" him in his chambers. He'd given them a while to really get into it, and now he was going in to look for that key.

Fortunately the lights were dim. Harry determinedly didn't look towards the room's occupants, knowing it was his eyes that were most likely to give him away by gleaming in the candlelight. Belly so low it was practically sweeping the carpet, he crept noiselessly through the bedroom into the sitting-room beyond.

Once inside he Alohomora'd his collar off and transformed. Key, key, where would he be if he were a key? There was no doormat to look under, no upturned flowerpot, and the top of the bureau itself was a key-free zone. If it turned out Voldie kept it on a chain around his neck they were stuffed.

Harry searched frantically. How much longer would snake-face be able to keep it up? He was older than Snape, for fuck's sake! Suddenly he stopped, restraining himself just in time from clapping a hand to his head with an audible slap. "Accio key."

The key flew gracefully into his hand, and when he looked in the direction it had come from, Harry noticed a discreet row of hooks on the wall by the door. In case of any possible doubt, there was a little wooden plaque bearing the legend "Keys" fixed just above them. He snorted soundlessly.

He'd be willing to bet a stack of Galleons that high there were no bloody wards on the drawer, either.

Still, now he knew where the key was, he could get out of there. Harry swiftly transformed, and was left with a dilemma. How the buggering hell was he supposed to get the collar back on by himself?

Eventually, he reckoned he'd just have to carry it in his mouth and hope nobody saw him before he got back to Snape's. That decided, he padded softly to the door and through to the bedroom, where he couldn't resist sneaking a peek at the action.

Talk about curiosity killing the cat. Harry stared in horror at the scenes on the bed. Voldie still had his robe on, but Bellatrix was naked and writhing in what Harry assumed must be ecstasy - although given who she was with... no, it was definitely ecstasy; agony usually involved more screaming, if Harry's far-too-extensive experience was anything to go by.

But it wasn't old snake-face giving her the jollies, oh no. Nagini was on the bed too, and her tail... If Harry had known that's where that tail had been, he'd never have let it twine around his. Harry was transfixed in horrified fascination at the sight of that tail, thrusting...

As he pulled himself together and left, Harry fixed Nagini with a look of hurt and betrayal, the hussy.

Once he was a safe distance away, Harry sat down to give his tail the wash of its life, trying desperately to remove any trace of Bellatrix's... unmentionables that might have been transferred there from that trollop of a snake.

He'd almost finished before he realised he was washing with his tongue.

Thoroughly rattled, and not a little queasy, Harry bolted to Snape's room. Snape had barely shut the door behind him before he transformed. "Snape? Alcohol, now! I need to disinfect my mouth!"

Snape's eyes narrowed. "Oh? Might I ask where it's been?"

"No, because if I think about it any more I'll probably throw up. Whiskey, please?"

Snape harrumphed, but fetched the bottle and half-filled a glass. Harry took a hefty mouthful, swilled it round his mouth and spat it out into a pot plant.

"Potter, you do realise that is a very rare Circassian Shrivelfig, which you have undoubtedly just killed?"

"Couldn't give a toss. Or, if it's yours and not Malfoy's, sorry."

"It's Malfoy's."

Harry was relieved. "Deserves all it gets, then." He took another mouthful of the whiskey, and swallowed it this time. It was stronger stuff than he was used to, but he thought he could easily get to like the burn as it slipped down his throat. Snape sat down on the sofa beside him. As he poured himself a glass, Harry held out his own for a refill.

"Are you old enough to drink, Potter?" Snape asked suspiciously.

"Nope," replied Harry cheerfully. "But I won't tell if you don't." Shrugging, Snape filled his glass.

They sat there for a few minutes in companionable silence, gazing at the fire flickering in the hearth.

"Found the key," Harry reported, finally.

"Good." Snape didn't sound all that pleased, though.

"So I s'pose I'll be leaving here, just as soon as Draco's gone."

"Indeed."

"Will you miss me?"

"As the common parlance has it, Potter, "like a hole in the head"." Snape smirked.

Harry frowned. "You'd be pretty stuffed without holes in your head, you know. How'd you breathe? Or drink this stuff? 'S bloody good, by the way. Refill?"

"Thank you." Neither of them commented on how Harry seemed to have taken charge of the bottle.

"You'll have to stay here, won't you? On your own."

"Yes."

"That's sad."

"That, Potter, is my life."

"That's really sad."

"I refer you to my previous answer."

Harry grinned. "'S great, the way you talk. Like a book, or something."

"I am astonished that you would be able to make the comparison."

Harry's grin got wider. "Hey, I've heard of books. Hermione's told me about them."

"I am glad to hear that insufferable know-it-all does, after all, have some use - "

His voice was cut off as Harry leant over and kissed him. For a long moment, their lips were crushed together, mouths working, tongues searching -

And then Snape abruptly moved away. "You, Potter, are drunk."

"Yeah, but I'd want to kiss you even if I was sober."

"How can you possibly know that?"

"'Cos I've wanted to for ages. Ever since that night you turned me down. You know your trouble, Snape?"

"I have no doubt you are about to inform me of it at great length."

"Your trouble is, you think everyone hates you." Harry thought about that one. "OK, you're probably right on that one. Well, most people, anyway. The ones that know you." Harry blinked. "What was I talking about?"

"You were informing me of my shortcomings."

Snape had said "comings". Harry was very impressed with himself that he managed not to snigger. "Right. Well." He rallied. "You think you don't deserve to be happy." He leant over to look Snape in the eye. "But you do," he began earnestly. "All you've done for bloody Dumbledore, all the times you saved my life even though you hated me... Well. I think you'd deserve a shag even if I didn't love you - "

Any doubts over whether he'd really meant to say that were cut off abruptly as Snape grabbed him and kissed him, more forcibly than before. Harry moaned as that vicious tongue invaded his mouth, claiming it as new territory for the kingdom of Snape. Harry was joyful in surrender.

Harry's mouth was in heaven, but the rest of him was feeling sadly left out. He turned his body until he was pressing against Snape, practically on top of him. His cock, which had apparently got hard without informing him, rutted gleefully against the other man. "Fuck... "

"Bed. Now." If Snape was reduced to one-word sentences, it was probably a good sign, Harry thought fuzzily, as he was frog-marched across the room. He landed on his back on top of the bed, and Snape landed on top of him.

"Clothes?" he managed. Snape actually snarled, a wordless, animalistic sound that went straight to Harry's groin, and suddenly they were both naked. Mmm, that was much better. He pressed himself against Snape, but Snape wasn't happy. He moved, and suddenly their cocks were rubbing together.

Harry thought that was bloody amazing, but then Snape reached down and one of those strong, supple hands was wrapped around both their cocks together and Harry had no words to describe how it felt. Snape stroked them both, maddeningly slowly, and Harry thought for a moment he was going to die from it all, but then he was speeding up and gasping into Harry's face and Harry couldn't believe it, nothing had ever felt like this before, nothing, and he felt Snape's cock pulse and that was enough to take him over the edge too and he was coming, coming and he hoped it'd never end.

Harry wasn't sure if he'd blacked out for a minute, but when he opened his eyes, Snape was looking at him more tenderly than he'd thought anyone could ever look. Harry wished he could say something, let the bloke know how he felt, but he seemed to have forgotten all the words he'd ever learned so he just reached up and pulled Snape in for a kiss, and then they just lay together, entwined, until sleep overtook them both.

The next morning, Harry woke up with a crashing headache and a smile upon his face. It took him a moment to remember why, and then he opened his eyes, hoping for once to see Snape still in bed with him.

He tried not to let the disappointment get to him too much when he saw Snape was, as usual, up and dressed already.

"Potter." Was Snape avoiding his eyes? "Draco will be leaving today. You will, however, await confirmation from me before attempting to steal the horcrux."

"Right, then. I s'pose I'll just go find a ball of yarn to play with till then whilst pretending last night never happened."

Yep, definitely avoiding his eyes. "Potter. Last night was an aberration. I regret my lack of self-control. It will not recur."

Well that buggered up Harry's good mood for the day. "Why the hell not?" he demanded, annoyed.

"I do not wish to discuss this. It is time for you to leave."

"Fine!" huffed Harry, and transformed. He flicked his tail angrily at Snape as he left.


After he'd had his breakfast (bacon today; Harry wished he had a way of asking Bellatrix for sausages) and a nice soothing wash of his paws in a patch of sunshine near the French windows, Harry calmed down quite a bit. It wasn't surprising really, Snape reacting that way. Poor sod probably hadn't had too many morning-afters; it was only natural he'd be a bit uptight about dealing with them.

Harry would just have to use a little persuasion on him, that's all.

He purred, contentedly, thinking of all the types of persuasion he'd like to try.

.........................................

Harry was actually rather touched that Draco made the effort to search him out and say goodbye to him. For a moment he wondered if Snape had let slip his true identity - but then common sense reasserted itself. Firstly, Snape was far too intelligent to trust a Malfoy further than he could throw him, and secondly, if Draco did know it was really Harry who'd watched him wanking over Hermione, he'd have hexed him six ways from Sunday as soon as look at him.

"Goodbye, Macavity. Take care of yourself. You can go and hide in my room anytime you want to, you know? Any time Auntie Bella has one of her little turns, you head straight for it, you hear?"

As Harry purred gratefully, Draco gave him a final rub behind the ear, and was gone.

Time to go play hunt the horcrux.

....................................

First things first. Harry went to see Snape.

"I'm sure I need not tell you," Snape began - but I'm going to because I've met cockroaches whose intelligence I valued more highly than yours, thought Harry ruefully - "how vital it is that you retrieve the cup whilst I am in the Dark Lord's presence. He must not suspect me of having any involvement."

"Yeah, yeah, I get it. Wait until you've got a watertight alibi."

"And then you must make your escape with it immediately."

"What, can't I even come and kiss you goodbye?"

Snape glared. "There will be no more kisses. We were not in our right minds last night. It will never happen again."

"Are you trying to tell me you thought I was crap in bed? Because, you know, from where I was it didn't look like it."

Snape got his you-are-giving-me-a-migraine look, but fortunately Harry was a firm believer in being cruel to be kind. "Look, I know you're not sure last night was a good idea, but I am. I want more nights like that. Days too, if you're up to it, I know you're not as young as you used to be - " Snape glared. Encouraged, Harry continued. "Look, months from now, when the war's over, we are going to get together. And see what happens. Got that?"

"Potter." Snape's voice was weary. "Months from now, when the war is over, I fully expect to be dead."

Harry felt a sharp pang at that, but masked it with a grin. "Nah, no way am I letting you off that easily!"

........................................

Three o'clock that afternoon. All the Death Eaters were in a meeting with Voldie which Snape had managed to engineer somehow or other, and little Miss Slutty-scales was also in attendance, no doubt flicking her tongue out at all and sundry, the harlot, so Harry had old snake-face's chambers to himself.

He padded through the bedroom; trying really hard not to look at the bed and remember the scenes he had been subjected to the previous evening. Why was it pleasant memories often seemed to blur, whilst horrible ones seemed permanently etched across the back of your brain?

Harry tried to replace the memory with one of naked Snape, wanking them both off. Mmm, much better. He wondered what it'd be like to have Snape fuck him. Or maybe, if Harry was really persuasive, Snape would let Harry top? Harry paused in his prowling, distracted by the vision of Snape on his hands and knees, his arse being rammed by Harry's cock.

Which rapidly morphed into Nagini's bloody tail. Aargh! Sodding snake!

Still, it was about time he got on with the job, really. Harry shook his head furiously to rid it of the images, and moved on to the next room.

It was almost too easy. Harry kept expecting Voldemort to spring out from behind the wardrobe, shouting, "Surprise! Avada Kedavra!"

Feeling a bit jumpy, Harry whipped off his collar and transformed. The key was in its place on the hook, and the bureau drawer opened easily. The cup was still inside, its bad-magic vibes stronger than ever now it was exposed to Harry's gaze. He shuddered. Sooner they destroyed that thing, the better.

Harry carefully placed the cup in the pouch Snape had given him and spelled the whole thing lighter so he could carry it easily in his mouth. Then he transformed. He had to leave the collar behind, but since he wasn't planning on wearing it any more that was OK.

Anyway, didn't all the best fictional cat-burglars (Harry snickered) leave a calling card? Something so the police would know who'd dunnit and how clever they'd been? A diamond-studded collar was a calling card with style.

Of course, any burglar who left jewel-encrusted items at every crime scene was probably going to go out of business fairly quickly, Harry mused. Maybe he wouldn't make a career out of crime, after all.

He padded cautiously to the door. The coast was clear, and he crept through the corridors of the manor until he reached the one leading to the back garden. He'd thought he'd have to change back to human to get out, but it seemed the house-elves had finally got around to putting in the cat-flap.

Harry raced down the garden away from the house, a streak of black and white furry lightning. All he had to do now was get away with it.

At length he reached the boundary of the estate, where a ha-ha was all that separated him from freedom this side of the manor. Harry scrambled down, then Alohomora'd the collar off so he could transform and apparate.

There was a sudden "Moooo!" from behind him. Harry turned just in time to see the large brown cow that had been anxiously chewing the cud change into Hermione.

"Harry! You're safe! Oh thank goodness. Are you all right?"

Harry looked around a bit, half expecting to see Ron in a fish-tank somewhere. "Yeah, I'm fine - and listen: I got the cup!" He brandished the pouch proudly.

Hermione ran up to him and, flinging her arms around him, apparated them both to safety.

..........................

Epilogue: Months from then, when the war was over...

Harry made his way up to the infirmary alone. Ron and Hermione were off with the Weasleys, celebrating Fred's lucky escape from a killing curse. It had been deflected in the nick of time by Draco Malfoy of all people.

Everyone had been astonished when he and his mum had returned to Hogwarts to fight for the side of the Light. They'd been slightly less astonished when they'd heard what Voldemort had done to Lucius in the aftermath of Harry's theft of the cup. Even Harry, who had actually thought it rather poetic justice, had winced when he'd heard about the Castration Curse.

Harry wondered with a shudder if there was a spell or potion to grow your bits back. After all, they could do it with bones, couldn't they? Still, thinking back to Mad-Eye Moody, maybe there were some body parts you just had to learn to live without. Harry sniggered guiltily. Maybe Narcissa had a strap-on Lucius could borrow. And in fact, thinking back to what Harry had unwillingly been witness to back at the Manor, maybe it wouldn't make that much difference to their sex life anyway.

Narcissa had acquitted herself well in the battle too - she'd snuck up on her sister just as Bellatrix had been about to AK Ginny, and had hit her with a stunning spell, which had freed Ginny and Mrs Weasley up to go and save Remus.

Tonks hadn't made it, which Harry was sad about, but Remus was taking the loss bravely. He'd even insisted on being the one to look after Narcissa during her husband's, ahem, indisposition, which Harry thought was awfully decent of him.

Arriving at the infirmary, Harry made his way to the private room at the back and stood nervously by the bed, waiting for what seemed like an age for any signs of life. Looking at the mess of bandages around the patient's throat, he thought furiously that that two-timing slut of a snake had been bloody lucky Neville had got to her first, after what she'd done to his Snape. Finally, his patience was rewarded as the dark eyes opened.

"You." It was almost a whisper.

"Yeah, me." Harry hesitated. "Um, I've got a present for you."

"Deceased rodent?"

"Nah, deceased Dark Lord, actually. 'Cept he was a bit too big to drag upstairs, and anyway I think Madame Pomfrey might have had something to say about it if I'd started bringing corpses into the hospital wing. Makes the place look untidy, or something."

Snape closed his eyes again, with what Harry hoped was relief. He took a deep breath, seeming to savour his first taste of freedom in more years than Harry had been alive for. "So what will you do, now you're deservedly hailed the hero of the wizarding world?"

"Well actually I'm kind of knackered. Takes it out of you, this hero stuff. I could really do with a kip." Harry grinned hopefully, and looked pointedly at the bed. He hadn't been a cat much for a while now; he wondered if he'd be able to pull off the kitten-eyes.

Apparently not. When Snape closed his eyes this time, he looked more pained than relieved. "Potter. You do not want what I can give you. Not really. And what I want, you cannot give."

Harry blinked. "That has to be the biggest load of bollocks I've ever heard! You think just because everyone's calling me a hero, I'll be running after everything in robes? I do have some standards, you know."

"What happened to experimenting with loose morals?"

"Yeah, well, been there, done that. 'Cept I haven't, but you know what I mean. Like you said, I'm not really a cat. I don't just want to shag everything in sight." Harry drew a deep breath. "I'd like to be with someone who knows what it's like. Like you do."

There was a long silence. Snape was visibly warring with himself. Harry wondered desperately if he should try kitten-eyes again, maybe it'd work this time...

"Oh, for Merlin's sake!" muttered Snape irritably, but with (Harry thought) the barest suspicion of a smile upon his lips, as he pulled back the covers with a shaky hand. "Get in."

Fin.



Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw--
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Voldemort, the Death Eaters' despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!

With apologies to TS Eliot.

For the full text of the poems quoted and/or abused, see the following: Song of the Jellicles
Macavity the Mystery Cat

Should there be anyone reading this who requires an explanation of the terms erastes and eromenos, it may be found here.