Out of the Bag
Snape fic (gen) This story was written as part of my obligation to the Severus Snape Fuh-Q-Fest. Thanks to TillyTilly for beta.
It was a small vanity, one she allowed herself in an otherwise almost austere life, a small pleasure, and she purred in anticipation of the applause she would receive. She was vain enough, and proud enough of her achievements, to still glow a little at the gasps of amazement from the class. She curled her paws under her chest and waited, calmly meditating on the upcoming lessons and what she would teach the students today. Intrigue them with the possibilities of animagus transformations and they would be open to all possibilities, even though they had to start at a much lower level.
It was almost ten minutes until this class started. First years. She had to impress them with her skill, fascinate them with the possibilities of transfiguration, hold their attention to fill their minds, but she still had these few minutes to enjoy the sun on her fur and the slight breeze from the window in her whiskers. Her purr ratcheted up a notch.
A commotion in the hall broke her meditation, and she turned to hear the scuffle and slide of a student running, ducking into the classroom, followed by mocking voices coming from further down the corridor. A young boy slid into the classroom, looking behind him with the furtiveness of one avoiding being seen. She recognised this one; the unkempt hair, sly looks, and stealthy movements. He came in and threw his school bag on the floor before sticking his head around the door, probably checking he wasn't being followed.
She curled a furry lip and wondered if this Slytherin boy was causing trouble and trying to escape from justice. If so, she'd soon put an end to that. This one was a problem. So bright, so promising, yet such an utter failure in her class. She couldn't work out why. He did so well in potions, had no problem in charms, managed to get top grades in nearly every subject, but seemed completely incapable of even the most basic transfiguration spell. He'd started off promisingly with matchstick into needle, a perfect needle on his first attempt. But as soon as they started to work on beetles, it all fell apart. He'd flatly refused to even attempt to turn his hedgehog into an ashtray, claiming he couldn't, so why should he try? He'd lost his house some points and earned himself a detention for his lack of manners, but it hadn't moved him. And she'd been unable to penetrate his sullen attitude.
All of her attempts to reach him had been met with silence or even outright rudeness. She'd never had to deal with such an ill-mannered student in the all years she'd been teaching.
He backed away from the door on silent feet, gliding into the room, glowering at some inner torment. She had the impression he'd hold himself with formidable presence when older. He stopped and stared at her, and she was surprised to see an expression that could almost be fear in his eyes? Afraid of cats? How could any wizard be afraid of cats? But no, he rushed up to her and she was stunned to feel herself swept up and pressed to his chest as he hurried across the classroom to the window.
"I don't know what you're doing here, cat, but you'd better get out of here fast!" he said softly, pushing a window open and she found herself dropped unceremoniously out onto the school grounds. She sat on the ground, quite discombobulated, as he shut the window behind her, and was thankful her classroom was on the ground floor instead of in the Gryffindor tower. She pawed her whiskers back into place, and gave herself a few peremptory licks to get her nerves together before leaping up onto the window sill of the classroom next door, trotted through its empty desks into the corridor, pushed open her own classroom door and went up to the front of her classroom.
The young boy was unpacking his books onto a desk at the back, and she gave him the evil eye as she leapt up on to her own desk again.
Damned Slytherins, throwing cats out of windows. She made a note to herself to deduct points from him when she made her grand demonstration later. He would be suitably chagrined to find out that his cruelty to animals was experienced by a Hogwarts professor!
"You stupid animal!" He had seen her and again he swooped in and scooped her up.
This time he got out of the window with her, putting her on the ground and bent down to point at her with one long finger. "Look, I don't know why you're here, if she summoned you or whatever, but it doesn't matter. If she catches you, she'll kill you!" he explained earnestly. "Are you one of those cats that understands what's being said?"
She stared at him, but made no effort to show understanding. Now she was curious. Who would kill her?
"Go!" he stomped his foot near her, and she took a step back. "Rah! Rah! Run!" he shouted and waved in her face, and again she moved a step back, but didn't run.
"Look, cat, if she finds you, she's going to turn you into a pot or a hat or something ridiculous, and you'll be dead. Do you understand? She'll get one of us to kill you! She kills everything! If she can make her students kill hedgehogs, do you think she'll hesitate to kill a cat? Do you want to end up as a cushion? Do you want that? Are you that stupid?" He made shooing motions again, trying to push her away. She was quite stunned as he gave her a firm pat on her backside, trying to get her to leave. She turned around and gave him a glare, hissing just a little. "If you don't go," he raised a hand, "I will hit you! Do you understand, cat?"
She glared at him, eyes narrowed.
"I will!" he started to lower his hand as if to carry out his threat. "I'll hit you!"
She stood her ground and he swore under his breath. "I thought felines were supposed to be intelligent. Don't you have even a modicum of self-preservation? She turns stoats into feather boas! You'll be dead!" He stood up, dropping his hand. "Oh, see if I care. I don't care if one more cat gets turned into something stupid. It's your own fault for being stubborn."
He ran to the windows either side of this classroom and slammed them shut before crawling through the window of her classroom and closing it behind himself.
She walked until she was out of sight of her classroom, turned back into her human form, opened the window, crawled through, turned back into a cat and trotted back to her own room, weaving through the legs of some of the other students that were just now arriving.
She didn't make it to her desk though, not this time. A firm hand grabbed the back of her neck and dragged her over. The boy mumbled as he picked her up by her scruff, "You're not getting killed, cat. Not if I can help it." And she found herself being unceremoniously stuffed into his school bag.
She yowled in protest.
"It's your own damned fault," he hissed. "I tried to warn you, but you wouldn't co-operate. Now you can just stay there until class is finished." He pushed her head in, jamming her against the pointy corners of books.
"What are you doing, Snape, talking to yourself?"
"Shut up, Black."
"No one else will talk to you, I guess you need your invisible friend."
"Shut up, you fool. Mind your own business!"
She heard a scuffle and the unmistakable sounds of boys preparing to hex themselves silly, and finally she had had enough. Using a paw to open the bag she turned herself swiftly human again, stepped out of the bag and walked calmly to the head of the class. Here were her gasps and her adulation, but she ignored it. She could do the demonstration properly in the next class. This time around she simply disregarded it and started her lesson.
She could feel his eyes boring into her and she made no eye contact. She knew she'd see the hatred, the resentment. She'd humiliated him. Inadvertently, yes, but she had, and a fragile prepubescent boy ego was so easily bruised, so easily collected resentments and hurts.
She passed out hamsters, tiny little balls of fluff on each desk. One by one they disappeared, replaced by inexpert replicas of perfume bottles. Hairy bottles. Bottles that squeaked. Bottles that wiggled away. One fell off a desk and broke during another scuffle between houses.
The boy of course, didn't even attempt it. She didn't expect him to. His feet were firmly dug in, his pride was hurt, his hair hung down hiding his face, and his hamster stubbornly remained a hamster.
The class was over and students filed past, leaving their work on her desk as she had requested. Young Pettigrew put the pieces of his glass on the corner of her desk with a nervous expression before ducking out after his friends.
"Master Snape, please remain behind," she requested, in a tone that brooked no argument.
Pettigrew's friends sniggered, thrilled to see a Slytherin being detained. She wasn't too proud of them for that.
"Please, take a seat," she gestured, and a chair obediently walked up and placed itself in front of her desk.
He sat, sulky, glaring at her still. She noted that he could hold that anger a long time, it glittered in his black eyes undimmed. He said nothing, waiting for his punishment for stuffing a Hogwarts professor into his school bag, or a reprimand for failing yet another class assignment. She held out her hand and he put the small ball of twitching fluff in it. She put it back into the cage she had with her.
"I would like you to remain while I mark these assignments. It won't take long and I'll give you a note to take to your next class." She picked them up, naming students and talked about the finer points of each transfiguration, noting the good and the bad, how she gave extra points for filigree on the glass, how she took away points for bottles that still had pink little feet. She could see the anger in his eyes flicker into just a tiny note of pain as the feet wiggled.
"James Potter, perfect marks, of course," she said, holding up a tiny crystal bottle, in Gryffindor colours.
He glared death at the bottle.
She took her wand and touched it to the tiny red and gold glass bottle, and with a ping like a fingernail against a window, in her hand sat a tiny white hamster instead. She put that back into the cage.
He sat up a little straighter, and she noted some of the anger fade away.
"Brian Gosswine... I shall have to deduct points for squeaking. Don't you think?"
Another ping, and another hamster went into the cage. His eyes followed keenly.
"I have no use for more perfume bottles, but there is no need to waste perfectly good hamsters."
"And that one?" he finally spoke, pointing to Pettigrew's effort.
She picked up the pieces, gathering them in her hand. "Reparo." It formed into an imperfect, lopsided bottle, which she easily transformed back into its original form. The hamster shook itself and groomed its face brusquely. "If you repair them in their transfigured state, you can return them to their original state unharmed."
He stared at her intensely. He had no fear of offending her and no fear of any punishment she could hand out. "You should have told us that right from the start!" The anger was still there, and his voice wobbled just the slightest bit. He was still embarrassed. Embarrassed now not to have realised.
"Yes, I should have." She was pleased to see him relax just a little bit. He needed that small victory. "In the years that I have been teaching, you're the first student to have brought that to my attention. I think we have both learned something important today."
He nodded sharply, a pleased glint in his eye now that she had admitted this and given him not only his victory, but an acknowledgement that he was, in this way at least, somewhat unique.
"Dismissed, Master Snape. I will expect your marks to improve dramatically in the future." She handed him his note.
He said nothing as he left, school robes billowing around his small body.