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Animagi: Cat Tales by MonkeyGirl
Chapter 1: The Bet: Never Knew He Had It In Him
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To say that Minerva McGonnagall was surprised would be an under exaggeration. Her entire Animagus class, had not only succeeded in becoming fully qualified animagi, although, so far only Mr. Malfoy had taken the potion and even she found the soul animal of Malfoy particularly apt. To specifically say they were fully qualified was a bit of a misnomer, she thought as she watched the chaos in her normally ordered classroom, they had the potential to be fully qualified. Malfoy was the one to be currently taking the Animagus potion, where he would learn to find his for. Rather surprisingly, to the Gryffindors, he wasn't a ferret. Which, Minerva surmised would please Mr. Malfoy no end. The cloud beside him though wasn't forming beyond a vaporous feline creature, no specific markings or attributes yet. It was most bizarre.
Severus Snape regarded his godson with an amused look. Between Minerva and him they had decided that the seventh years, or rather 'eighth' year students should have a bit of fun. He himself had only recently discovered his Animagus form, which to his rather profound surprise had turned out to be a rather large, and aggressive black panther. Heavily furred and sleekly muscular, he was, according to Minerva remarkably handsome for a giant fur balled lump of a cat. Personally Severus thought that the tabby professor was slightly jealous of his form, something he'd proved after he had chased her up a tree.
"Draco, try to focus, close your eyes and be patient for once in your life," Severus ordered, not unkindly. The nightly freedom of running in his new form had done wonders to mellow the usually tetchy professor. So much in fact that several of his Slytherin first years had proclaimed him their favourite professor by far. Something that had both horrified and pleased Severus no end.
"Yes, Uncle Sev," Draco scowled. Draco however was not in any way mellowed, except perhaps to Harry, who he had decided that after saving his life three or four times during the final battle wasn't such a bad sort for a Gryffindor. Draco closed his eyes, and cleared his mind. He so desperately wanted to join Severus on his nightly runs, he loved his godfather more than his biological father. Draco had learnt the hard way that love, not blood defined a relationship and that his father, for all his claims of caring for Draco was more than happy to gift his only son and heir to the Dark Lord on a silver platter all tied up in a pretty green bow. Literally.
"Draco, son of my heart, open your eyes," Severus' gentle voice interrupted Draco's musings. Draco opened his grey eyes and turned to the prowling feline cloud by his side. Except that it wasn't prowling, nor ill-defined anymore. It was a massive and thickly furred snow leopard. It's large tail was rather bushy, and it's pelt was marked with dark grey rosettes. But it was the eyes that grasped the entire classes attention, the eyes were polished silver like the moonshine on a still lake. Coolly independent and fiercely penetrating, those eyes looked right into your soul.
"Excellent work, Mr. Malfoy, if you wish I can excuse you from class so you can work on your transformation in private with Severus. Large cat transformations are notoriously tricky." Minerva watched as the young Malfoy was led out by his godfather, the class hadn't said anything about their relationship, which she was pleased by. Severus had mellowed, but certainly not that much! "All right Mr. Weasley, you are next."
Ronald Weasley shakily drank the potion he'd just made under Severus' direction, he felt particularly scared, he didn't want his souls animal to be horrible or scary. Nor did he want it to be embarrassing. Nonetheless, Ron screwed up all his Gryffindor courage and focused on releasing his souls animal. He opened his eyes, peeking at the mist before him. Surprised, but delighted he watched the russet Labrador bound around him in joyful exuberance. Ron laughed in pure delight, his soul was one happy puppy, if only Padfoot was around still, Ron was certain that he and Padfoot would have had great fun, barking and playing. Ron smiled at his fiancé Hermione Granger as she watched the joyful dog indulgently. Harry Potter, his best friend was grinning happily.
"Well done, Mr. Weasley, you may wait over there for me while the rest of the class find out their soul animals. Miss. Granger, why don't you go next, I'm sure Mr. Weasley is dying to know your soul animal," Professor McGonagall smiled as she directed Ron and his shadow puppy to the opposite corner of the room. The labrador retriever truly was a good match for Ron, vastly loyal, and exuberant it was the best of the canine friends.
Hermione Granger stepped up and downed her potion in one, she was calmly confident, after all, what could go wrong? Hermione watched as a great mist swirled about and gathered at her feet, out of it stalked a hissing Bengal cat, her light brown coat fading into cream on her belly with her pelt covered in black clouded markings. Great, glowing, burnished golden eyes slashed over the crowd. Hermione squeaked in surprise, and watched her soul animal settle to crouched position as close to Ron as she could get, the labrador bounded over to it and suddenly wrapped his paws around the cats neck and shoulders. The cats rumbled in a happy purr as the dog began to clean her face. Hermione blushed and ran over to Ron, where he bundled her up and quickly kissed her. Both Ron and Hermione ignored Harry as he grinned broadly at them.
"Yes, well, good job Miss. Granger," Professor McGonnagall said flustered, "I'm afraid you will have to join Severus and Mr. Malfoy in the adjoining room. Severus will be more help than I in maintaining order among you great cats, and despite Bengal cats being cats, it really is only three generations from being wild. She is liable to give you some trouble. Mr. Potter, you are next, I have a slight suspicion you may be hard to place." Minerva watched as Harry Potter nod at her sharply, his green eyes determined. Hermione stayed in place, wanting to see what her friends soul animal was.
Harry stood centered in the middle of the room, his green eyes focussed as he quickly downed his potion. After living a year on his own, he'd finally gotten his growth spurt, much to his pleasure and was now only topped by Ron by a few centimeters. Harry stood, his shoulders held loosely, and his eyes closed, while he cleared his mind. Harry couldn't help but smirk at the 'oooh's' and 'ahh's', he felt it was most satisfying. He cracked open an eye and took in the majestically aloof black Javan leopard by his side. The nose was wrinkled as the great maw scented the air. The eyes were a stunning emerald green with gold highlights. But it was the beautiful pelt that Harry was personally most impressed with. Inky black with black rosettes outlined on it, all in all, he was a magnificent creature.
"Oh, dear, ah, yes. Miss. Granger, Mr. Potter, follow me please, I really must explain to Severus," Minerva swept from the room, bizarrely flustered by the whole deal. The rest of the class was soon swept up in a muttering wave of gossip as to why McGonnagall was so worried about Potter being a leopard of all things.
Minerva swept into the adjoins room, Harry and Hermione traipsing after her, looking decidedly sheepish. "Severus?" Minerva addressed the giant black panther that was lazily watching Draco transform his hand into a large silvery furred paw.
The large cat shifted back, curiosity radiating from it, "Minerva, is there something wrong?"
"Mr. Potter would appear to be a leopard as well as young Mr. Malfoy. Also, with two new leopards, I'm sure you'll understand that I cannot leave them alone for even a moment, leopards being such violent and volatile creatures." Minerva stated at Severus' raised eyebrow. "I would prefer to leave the dealings of the big cats and such to you, as you have personal experience."
"Indeed, it would seem its my turn to babysit a pair of baby leopards, while you deal with the rest of the dunderheads next door." Severus smirked in amusement.
Severus though understood the need for such close supervision. Leopards, if not handled right, were the only known big cats to circle around their hunters to then hunt and kill said hunters. Leopards were incredibly stealthy and volatile creatures, easily prevoked they were also hard to calm down. And as such, really wouldn't respond well to a environment full of adolescent children.
Minerva's mouth twitched ever so slightly, the irony was not lost on her. Severus had been a particularly tetchy leopard. "Miss. Granger, however is a rather small bengal cat, she shouldn't give you half as much trouble as the boys." Severus raised and eyebrow and smirked at that, the bookworm was a bengal? That was interesting.
"Thank you for this, Severus," Minerva inclined her head before sweeping once more out of the room. Severus turned to his students.
"Very well, Mr. Potter, Miss. Granger, I am instructing Draco how to transform his hand into a paw, and only his hand to a paw, this is not a transformation to be taken lightly, understand?" Fixing the two teens with a piercing look he gestured for them to begin.
Harry quickly grasped what he needed to do, he, unlike Hermione or Draco wasn't afraid of his soul animal. If anything he longed for the freedom such a form would give him. Severus almost felt like Potter had done this before.
"Well done, Potter, ten points to Gryffindor," Severus said tiredly, he was a bit miffed that Harry had gotten the transformation so quickly, until he saw the glee and yearning? In the boys eyes. Dismissing it he instructed the teen to try his other hand, he couldn't even pretend to be surprised when Potter got it first go.
When Draco grasped the transformation he had whooped with delight, shooting Harry a triumphant look that was quickly swallowed when he saw Harry transform both hands to paws and back at the same time. Hermione also grasped the transformation around the same time as Draco, although she didn't yell, she did give a tight smile and continue in the same methodical way she had started. Severus was mildly surprised by the talent of the teens before him, Potter really was gifted, he was transforming his torso now with complete success.
While Draco was marveling at his claws as he unsheathed and resheathed them. Severus could understand the need to admire the claws. A leopards claws were rather like switchblades, dangerously sharp with five claws on the front and four on the back, they were an added weapon to an already dangerous creature. After all, Severus mused, a leopards entire body was a weapon. From the suffocating and bacterially venomous jaws, to slicing claws to the general all round crushing and battering body weight, the leopard was a walking killing machine.
Only Hermione was struggling, but that for her was simply going at the same rate Severus had. And Severus had been a remarkably dedicated student. But even he wasn't as good as the teens in front of him. Between the three of them he knew that they'd get it down, if not this lesson, then the next.
"Well done, shall we stop and have a break?" Severus suggested politely, comprehensively aware that there were three teens with claws before him.
"Sure, one second though, Professor," Harry said gleefully, getting that 'look' in his green eyes that said he was about to do something foolish. Unsurprisingly Harry focussed and then completely transformed.
It appeared, Hermione thought idly, that the potions don't really prepare you for the full size of the creature. It was massive. And handsome. Harry opened his mouth in a silent snarl, or... Laugh? He was laughing. Sure enough a chuffing growl rumbled out of his throat, his emerald/gold eyes sparkling with delight.
"Mr. Potter, transform, immediately!" Severus snarled angrily, his black eyes snapping with ire. Harry did so immediately, his head hanging and looking for all the world like he was already chastened. "Did I not tell you this was dangerous? Did I not warn you to make sure you were comfortable in the form first? Thirty points from Gryffindor for sheer stupidity! This is not some kitten, Potter, this is a large, violent beast. You must ensure you are safe first. You not only endangered yourself, but also Miss. Granger and Mr. Malfoy and myself! You will not do anything so foolish again!" Severus huffed at the boys apparent contrition.
"'M sorry, sir, I thought I could do it, so I did. I should've thought better." Harry apologized sincerely.
"Very well, you are forgiven. Oh and, forty points for congratulations for a successful transformation I guess," Severus said grudgingly. "I suppose you wish to dart into the next room and scare the dunderheads with a well placed snarl or two?"
"I would indeed, sir, if that's alright?" Harry asked excitedly, thankful his misdemeanor had been forgiven. "Although, perhaps after lunch, and do you think you could teach me to roar?" Harry was practically bouncing with delighted glee.
Severus shot him an amused glance, the boy looked like a child in a candy store, "I suppose I could be imposed upon in such a fashion."
"I wanna help," Draco whined plaintively. "I can transform too, by now I bet." Draco scowled mulishly.
"Then attempt to do so, Draco, but do not do so unless you are certain!" Severus cautioned his eyes worried. Please, he thought, please don't let him get caught because of a stupid school yard rivelry.
Draco merely nodded and concentrated, and then, much to his combined delight and surprise, a very large snow leopard stood in his place. Silvery furred, with great silver and blue eyes, Draco made a formidable leopard. Harry transformed next to him and chuffed a greeting at the snowy leopard. Draco rolled his eyes and reached out and cuffed the boy-who-lived. Severus concealed a grin. That was almost too funny. His mirth drained away at the sight of a familiar mark on the silver leopards left forearm. It was still there. The silver leopard noticed as well, and his eyes darkened with sadness and regret. Harry reached out and brushed the mark hesitantly with his nose, before swiping his tongue over Draco's ear. As if to say, I'm sorry.
"Okay you two, enough, if Miss. Granger is feeling up to it?" Severus paused to give Gryffindors resident know-it-all a chance to transform, which she managed. After more than a slight hesitation. "Excellent, forty points each for successful transformations. Shall we eat now?" Severus followed the hungry boys to the table where Winky had laid everything out neatly. Lunch passed quickly with little talk and a lot of rumination. Severus watched his two cubs, no, he shook his head slightly, Potter and Draco fight over the last sausage. He muttered something in audible about teenage boys which he heard added to by Hermione. Smirking Severus quickly laid out their plans for scaring the people in the next room. Harry grinned in delight before adding one last bit to the plan, something Ron had bet him to do ages ago...
Ron was lying on the floor lazily transforming his hand to a paw and back again, he alternated it between hands, memorizing the shape and feel of having paws. It felt a bit bizarre. He was just about to transform them again when he heard a strange yowling sound of a cat in trouble, before Ron could quite process what was happening, a smallish Bengal cat came streaking from the 'big cat room' as it had been dubbed. Ron was grinning broadly at the idea of Hermione beating the two boys at animagi training when she clawed her way, terrified into his lap. Whimpering at the feeling of claws sinking, rather mercilessly, into his legs, Ron nonetheless started to stroke the harassed cat soothingly.
"It's okay, Hermione," He soothed as he petted her.
A loud, rumbling growl echoed and rolled around the room. In the doorway stood a large black cat, Ron almost thought it was Harry except this one had no subtle rosettes hidden in its fur. No, this was the infamous form of Severus Snape. And he was terrified. The cat backed up, letting out warning rumbles and it was followed by another, larger black cat. Harry. The golden green eyes were fixated upon the potions master and Harry crept forward in the freeze frame walk of the hunting leopard.
It is the freeze frame walk that makes the leopard a successful hunter, leopards are able to remain stationary and motionless in any position while hunting, giving them a great advantage over their competition and it also makes them incredibly hard to spot amongst the dense leaves or grasses of their natural habitats. A leopard didn't even have to be on the ground to achieve this, almost singularly leopard trait, walk; a leopard could also use this walk in the trees. Allowing them to maneuver themselves above their prey to drop down suddenly and violently.
Severus backed up quickly, giving ground to the younger cat. It was then that a loud snarling roar rumbled from behind Harry. The silver cat truly looked like a ghost, his pale fur almost white was decorated by the ghosts of rosettes. Draco stalked forward, his attention though, was wavering between Harry and his godfather. Draco halted beside Harry, his silvery eyes darting between the elder leopard to the slightly more dangerous rosetted leopard beside him.
In a fight a leopard will almost go for the throat. It's the leopards secret to killing things. Strangulation. Almost always is the prey unharmed but for the throat being pierced and strangled. All cats use this method, although domesticated cats less so. But leopards are particularily famous for it.
It was Harry that made the first move, spinning around with remarkable speed Harry slapped Draco in the face, sending the large cat tumbling away. Severus used this distraction to leap at Harry. Unfortunately for Severus though, he forgot one thing. Unlike their cousins, leopards have a far more flexible spine. It's this flexiblity that allows the cat to fall from great heights uninjured and also allows it to almost double up on itself. Harry used this natural flexibility to twist around and tussle with Severus. Severus had his work cut out trying to avoid Harry's snapping and snarling jaws. Back peddling at great speed made the potions professor almost cartoonish.
In no way shape or form is a cat fight silent in anyway, Ron noted idly. Cats screech, yowl and howl while fighting. Leopards are no different, the cacophony that resulted from this tussle was deafening. Draco had by this point regained his feet and he happily threw himself into the fray. The snapping and snarling of the leopards was more than slightly terrifying, and the entire class watched the fight with trepidation.
Ron and the rest of the class backed up swiftly away from the roaring, snarling and yowling cats in front of them., as the tussling creatures fought their way across the floor.
McGonnagall started to scream at the cats, fighting her way throught the crowd to the fighting ball of black and silver fur in front of them. "Stop! Stop this instant!" She shrieked.
The cats paid her no mind, the free for all fighting raging with an almost frightening intensity. No one noticed that claws were sheathed and teeth didn't mark the pelts of the other leopards.
Minerva decided that enough was enough and pulled out her wand. Pointing it at the tussling creatures she let loose a jet of water, soaking the cats thoroughly. Of them all, only Harry seemed to appreciate it, he rolled over on his back and drenched his fur happily.
"Damn, I forgot rainforest leopards love water," Minerva muttered as she stared waspishly at her purring and chuffing student. "Mr. Potter, Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Snape, precisely what is the meaning of this?"
Harry cheerfully ignored his transfiguration professor as he stood. Chirruping slightly, he padded forward towards Mcagonnagall. With the cheesiest grin ever seen on a cats face, Harry shook himself, spraying the entire class with droplets of muddy and furred water. But it was Minerva McGonnagall who received the brunt of it. Minerva was drenched in leopard water. To say that she was displeased would be an understatement. Harry yawned then, apparently bored. But at the sight of his transfiguration Professors face he decided that he wanted to live and quickly darted out the door, the other two leopards following him with decidedly worried but gleeful faces.
"Mr. Potter!" Minerva screamed loudly, "You may be able to run now young man, but when I catch you, you are going to wish He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named finished you off!" Minerva let out an unearthly yowl and tore after her errant students and ex student. Leaving behind a dumbfounded class and highly amused Ronald Weasley.
The bet had been completely worth it, Ron decided happily. "I didn't know Harry had it in him. I owe him twenty galleons," Ron chuckled as he transformed himself into his Labrador and trotted out of the classroom. The class stared after him, utterly bemused.
A/N: Minerva's reaction to Harry and Draco being leopards is decidedly unhappy, originally I was going to arrange them as mates, but realistically it didn't fit. Not to mention that leopards can be darkly jealous, and volatile creatures, particularly when they are young. Which both fits the story better, and suited McGonnagals reaction.