Title: Of Kneazles and Kings
Beta Reader(s): ckofshadows
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Summary: This is about The Boy.
This is about The Boy.
In the beginning, I realize, I thought it might be about me, this sad little tale, but I was mistaken. I play a significant, though rather minor role, and I readily admit I am fine with that; it is a happy mistake. The Boy is much more important than myself, ever so much. I've come to terms with that. No regrets, none at all. You see—
We're not supposed to become attached; we're not bred that way. We serve a purpose, me and my kind, and I was fine with that for a very long time. Me and My Lady, studying at Hogwarts, getting by, winning every Gobstones match, making a few friends here and there, graduating and moving on, hoping for the best, and yet—and yet.
Tobias. He didn't figure into my plans for her at all, but then, I am not her Guardian, only her Kneazle. She has loved me, all these years, I'm sure of that, but she loved Tobias (The Man) even more, though Merlin knows I've never understood why. She broke my heart when she chose to marry him, to leave the Magical world behind, though she will never know as much.
We're not supposed to have such emotions.
There's something wrong with me then, I suppose.
I've come to terms with that, too.
The Boy was born in the small hours of the coldest night of the year. He came into the world scrawny and red-faced, crying piteously as My Lady moaned and bit into her pillow and did her very best to push him out, out, into the cold and unfriendly Muggle world. The labour was long and difficult, as if The Boy was reluctant to emerge, and who can blame him? I myself have hated every moment I've spent away from Magic. A local midwife helped ease his passage while The Man drank himself almost comatose in the kitchen. Finally, hours after his birth, The Man made his way to the bedroom, his footsteps heavy, his face lined and disappointed.
"He doesn't look very—" The Man said right away, the first thing he did say.
"He's fine," My Lady said.
He's Perfect, I thought, though I didn't know why, not at first, anyway.
The Boy was wrapped in a thin, dingy cloth and placed beside My Lady, who cuddled him and nursed him best she could, though it was so very, very cold, and Tobias was so very, very cold as well.
I could feel the Magic the moment The Boy opened his dark, dark eyes. It was stronger than I ever imagined, and took me completely by surprise. He knew I was there — the connection was undeniable — and he knew I could understand, knew I would be there for him, as long as I was able. I almost hated him for it, but at the same time I knew it was my duty. I tried to move closer, to investigate, but—
"What are you doin' in here?" The Man caught sight of me, his face twisting into the ugly sneer I was so familiar with. Normally I steer far clear of him, but so entranced was I with the baby, he caught me off guard. One heavy, calloused hand gripped the fur on the back of my neck, jerking me up and away.
"Tobias?" My Lady said.
"Jus' the damn cat," he snarled as he tossed me from the room.
The Boy, quiet and still until that moment, started to wail hysterically.
"You're scaring Severus," My Lady said, but I knew better.
My whiskers twitched.
He was special from the start. Normally I cannot abide small children, but this one was different. He fairly crackled with Magic; both myself and My Lady saw it straight away, though The Man knew nothing, of course. He assumed My Lady left all that behind when she chose to marry him. So, just as he had no clue she still practiced Spells every single day while he was at work, he was oblivious to the Magic rolling off his son in bright, exciting waves.
My affinity with The Boy grew each day. When I walked in the room, his head turned in my direction. If I approached, he stopped wailing, instantly. His first smile was aimed directly at me. Eventually, even The Man tolerated my existence because it brought a small amount of peace to the household. My Lady would nod and beckon me, ever so slightly, and The Boy's dark, dark eyes would brighten, ever so slightly, when he caught sight of my ginger fur. I would settle by his side, push my nose into his neck, lick once or twice and purr, if I felt so inclined. The Boy would sigh and smile contentedly.
Happy, I could hear him think.
Yes, I thought in return.
The Boy grew, of course, as boys do, but this one was scrawny and pale, like hellebore kept too long from the sun. His narrow face was pinched, his expression sour and worried. I, of course, knew exactly why he looked that way, but what was I to do? All I could offer was a soft place for him to land on the dark days.
There were a lot of dark days.
"Iphigeneia," he would whisper against my head. "You're my only friend."
I would lie by his side for hours as he read or played quietly with the few toys he had. He was a gentle boy, a smart boy, and I couldn't understand why anyone would want to hurt him.
Later — much later — he would refer to himself as a Prince.
To me he would always be a King.
There was always violence in the house, long before The Boy came, but it seemed to grow worse after his arrival. Perhaps The Man couldn't stand attention being diverted from himself; perhaps he knew, in some way, that My Lady and The Boy had forged a connection of their own, one based on love and the sharing of Magical qualities. But, I was able, in my small way, to provide some level of comfort over the years, when the yelling got too loud, or the slaps too hard. The Boy would run to his room and I would follow without question. He always waited for me to slip inside before he closed the door.
He would grab me about the neck and pull me close, too hard and close for comfort, but I suffered gladly. He needed someone, something, anything warm and solid and soft in this hard, unforgiving landscape. My Lady tried, I know, she did try, but even she couldn't always soothe the pain.
"I hate it here," he'd whisper to me.
"I'm going to get out."
I know that, too.
"The only things I'll take are you and my soldiers. And, mum, if she'll come."
Against my will I fell in love with him.
He learned about his Magic very early on and embraced it like a friend. I was overjoyed; he needed all the friends he could get.
Not infrequently he'd take My Lady's wand and old, tattered Book of Spells from the hiding spot beneath the kitchen floor, and kneel in his cramped closet, whispering to himself in the darkness. He couldn't do much, at first, but he learned terribly quickly, and by the time he was seven, he could perform a passable Duro and Engorgio. I was so very proud, though I was not ecstatic about my gigantic left ear; My Lady fixed it as soon as she saw and only frowned at The Boy for a moment. She, too, was so very proud.
There was so much yelling, so much anger. The Man slamming his fist against the wall, yelling, yelling! I never did understand why he would grow so angry, but it mostly seemed to be about Magic. Magic! As if anyone could be upset with its existence.
I just wanted The Boy to learn, to grow, to escape.
I just wanted him to be happy.
He befriended The Girl, and for the first time in my life, I was jealous.
I did not understand this emotion. I was not bred to feel—this way, and I knew it. And yet.
She was small and sweet and red-haired. She was smart and quick and she was fond of My Boy, but she was not in love with him. She could be cruel and cutting, as all children could be, but, he didn't see that, of course. He loved her so much it made my heart hurt. I wanted to tell him to run away, far away, but I knew it is pointless. He will love her for the rest of his life, though I'm sure she will love others just as much, and probably more so.
As I watched them together, playing and squabbling, running and sharing bits and pieces of their Magic with one another, I could only hope she treated him well, that she didn't break him, break his tender heart.
A Kneazle could only hope, yes?
I just wanted him to find True Love.
He cried often, My Boy. Over the years my fur became matted with his tears.
No boy should cry that much.
No boy should have bruises not caused by climbing or jumping.
He will receive the letter next year. I know this.
The Owl will come and will bring the joyous news, the same news that made My Lady so very happy so very many years ago.
The Boy will go, with My Lady's blessing, and he will be wonderful and successful and will conquer the Wizarding World and will have many friends and many loves and will live a long, happy, wonderful life.
This is all I wish, I think as I settle next to his twitching, mumbling form, late at night, night after night, his hand twitching, his mouth murmuring, his bruises still healing.
Happy, I think, as I purr and nestle and sigh and send him happy, peaceful thoughts.
I just want him to live a long, happy life.
My Lady tells him about Hogwarts and The Boy is filled to bursting with happiness. After that it is all he can talk about. We spend hours together, he and I, in his room, as he spins tales about what it will be like, how wonderful it will be, the adventures we will have together.
I love him like this.
Tobias hates me me. I think he's always sensed, on some basic level, my Magical properties, and on nights when he's drinking, he seems to sense my Magical connection with The Boy ever more.
"Damn cat!" he yells, and his foot connects with my side. The Boy howls, as if in pain himself, and leaps to his feet to come to my rescue. Tobias knocks him flat with a meaty hand.
The sound of low, steady sobbing fills my sensitive ears for hours after.
"I hate school!" he yells, throwing his books down. His face is twisted and hard, and tears threaten to fall. My tail stands up, my fur stands on end. I move closer, though he seems not to notice.
"Soon, Severus," My Lady murmurs, smoothing down the lank, black hair. "Soon, yes? Please wait. Please. One more year."
The Boy nods and buries his head in his arms. I can't stand it anymore. I jump up on the table, push my face against his sharp elbow. He looks up briefly and smiles, just a bit, but oh, my heart leaps. Oh, how I love this boy. He reaches out with one long, skinny finger, brushes against my fur.
Soon, I think. Soon.
He nods at me. He understands.
Soon you will be free.
"And, you'll come with me," he whispers.
I don't know how to reply to that.
I am very old.
By the time My Lady found me, chose me from a dingy storeful of mangy critters at the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley, I was older than I care to recount.
My time here is short.
You will do great things, I think, late at night as I study his still, sleeping form.
He smiles a bit, as if he can hear.
It's a dark, cold night and we all huddle by the fire for warmth. I am curled by The Boy's leg, but Tobias sits just behind. His heavy boot inches closer, comes in contact with my haunches, hard and unyielding. I look up, my yellow eyes meeting his black ones. Black like My Boy's, but so very, very different I can't even begin to compare. He leers at me. My Lady sits across the room. She is watching My Boy as he scribbles numbers in his book. He is a top student, a smart boy, a diligent worker. He will do so well at Hogwarts.
The Letter will come. I know it.
I will not be here to see it. I know that, too.
And, I will not make the journey with him, though I know he wants me to.
The foot inches closer, harder. I glare at him. Yellow and black. I am weaker than I've ever been, but it's fine, it's all right. My Boy is ready.
Any day, now.
I wonder how it will end.