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Harry dreamed he was running down a very long road and was hot, tired, and dusty. He came to the end of the road and halted in front of a crystal clear lake and tried to jump in and swim, but as soon as he did that, the water disappeared and he crashed into the ground, hitting his face painfully. As soon as he got up, the lake reappeared and he tried to drink, but once more the water vanished and he remained terribly thirsty and hot. He felt like he was burning up . . .there was furnace inside him and he was on fire . . .

All of a sudden he woke up and his throat was aching and dry as a desert. His jaw hurt like blazes too, so much so that he could barely open his mouth to moisten his lips with his tongue. He was terribly hot and he thought he could hear the heavy panting of some large animal. He swallowed hard, tears pricking his eyes, and slowly turned his head.

His eyes met a pair of huge golden ones and he nearly jumped out of his skin!

"Eee . . .ahhh!" was all he could manage, for there was a giant snow leopard standing over him, peering worriedly into his face.

Wraith huffed, wrinkling his nose, and Harry could swear the blasted cat smiled. The boy shivered, because for some reason he was cold as well burning hot, and reached up a hand to stroke the big cat's face.

Wraith purred, nuzzling Harry gently, sniffing him. Almost immediately, the cat rumbled agitatedly and then blurred into Professor Snape once more.

Severus placed a hand on Harry's forehead, and that single touch confirmed what his leopard senses had already told him-Harry was running a fever and was quite sick.

Harry groaned at the coolness of Snape's hand. "Dad?" he managed, it hurt to talk. "Why am I so hot?"

"You've got a fever, as I feared. How do you feel besides that?"

"Awful. I hurt everywhere and my jaw's killing me." Harry told him, not feeling like playing the stoic hero for once. He felt thoroughly miserable and he wanted Severus to do something to make him better. He could feel every bruise he'd gotten when he had banged into the rocks in the rapids and his lower jaw felt like he'd taken a Bludger to it. Probably looks like it too, he thought, wishing he could see himself, but there was no mirror in his bedroom, only the bathroom. And he did not feel like trying to get up just yet.

Severus ran a finger down Harry's chin, and the child whimpered, though Severus didn't even put pressure on it. "You need some more ice and another poultice," Severus said. "Plus a Fever Reducer." He summoned a vial of the green potion to the bedroom with a snap of his fingers.

Harry eyed the potion reluctantly, knowing it was disgusting and dreading taking it, as always.

Severus bent over him, casting a diagnostic. "Deep breath. Another. Good."

Harry did as he was told, but the last deep breath brought on a spate of coughing.

Severus frowned. "You've got a good deal of fluid in there, son. Not full blown pneumonia yet, but it's looking that way. Luckily, I've made up some drafts for decongestion and Breath Ease, so you can start them right away." He waved his wand..

Two more potions popped up on the nightstand, along with a glass of water and two straws.

Then Severus called, "Rellah, come here, please."

Rellah appeared in a cloud of sparkles. "What do you need, Master Sev? Is Master Harry awake yet?"

"Yes, and I need you to get me some ice for his jaw and make up a warm poultice again, if you don't mind."

"Not at all, sir." Rellah clapped her hands and a bag of ice wrapped in a towel appeared in her hands. "Here you go. I shall make the poultice quick as a mouse can scurry." And with that, she was gone.

Severus gently placed the ice on his son's jaw, which was swollen and discolored a lurid black, green, and purple.

Harry sighed in relief, for the ice numbed the worst of the throbbing ache.

"Hold that there for ten minutes, Harry. By then the poultice will be done and you should be able to open your mouth enough for you to drink the Fever Reducer with a straw."

Harry moved his head slightly to indicate he understood.

After ten minutes his jaw was pleasantly numb and Rellah returned with the poultice. The combination of the ice and the heat relaxed Harry's jaw muscles sufficiently to let him open his mouth somewhat and reluctantly take Severus's potions with a straw.

He made horrible faces after drinking each one, Severus ignored him, however, and simply handed him a glass of water to sip.

Once he had rid himself of the awful taste, Harry felt a little better. Then he tried to sit up and found every muscle in his body ached like hell.

"What are you doing?"

"Bathroom," he said softly.

"Put your arm around my waist," Severus ordered, assisting his son to his feet. He half carried Harry down the hall.

He waited outside the door just in case Harry needed help, but the boy was stubborn and managed to walk out the door into Snape's arms.

"Back to bed, fledgling," Severus said, and this time he ignored Harry's murmured protest and picked him up.

The boy was still thin as a reed, despite all the nutritious meals Rellah had been feeding him. Snape supposed it was Harry's body type and perhaps metabolism as well. For Harry certainly ate like a typical teenager now. He tucked his son back in bed, ordered him to keep the poultice on for a few more minutes and then sleep if he wished.

Harry did as he was told for once, though he did ask for toast, Rellah brought him some along with a cup of beef broth, and practically fed him it. Harry ate all he was given, then Severus reapplied all the salve to him once more and at last Harry was able to surrender to sleep.

The Potions Master smoothed the hair from his son's forehead and sighed. "I'll give him a Pain Reliever when he wakes up again. It's not wise to mix that and the Breath Ease. Will you look in on him, Rellah? I'll be brewing some more medicines in my lab, I'm going to need them."

"Of course, Master Sev." the woodkin agreed. She banished the empty vials and the straw and plate. "Don't worry about him, I'll keep watch on him."

Severus retreated to his lab then, and left Rellah to her cleaning and Harry-minding duties.

* * * * * * *

 

 

Harry was a very sick child over the next three days. His cough worsened, and Severus was now dosing him twice a day with his potions and feeding him a steady diet of soup, bread, and various cups of tea and juice. His fever went up an down and refused to leave, the only thing that seemed to be healing were his bruises, even the awful one on his chin. Otherwise he felt extremely weak and inclined to sleep, when he wasn't coughing phlegm out of himself.

He had a huge box of tissues and a small garbage bin next to his bed and by mid morning it was nearly filled with tissues. Severus was in and out of the bedroom, monitoring his son and when he wasn't doing that he was mixing up new drafts, stronger ones, to combat the congestion in his son's lungs. He would have neglected his own wellbeing, but the woodkin made certain the wizard ate and slept for a few hours, Severus had learned long ago that arguing with Rellah was futile, for she was as stubborn as petrified wood and immovable as a mountain when she set her mind to it.

But on the fourth day, Harry began to rally and was able to sit up in bed for longer than an hour and eat more solid food, though he couldn't chew very well yet and Severus gave him books to read and logic puzzles to solve while he was confined to his bed. Harry took his confinement better than he had in the past, when he used to whine and complain until Snape longed to shake him. Perhaps that was because he understood now that rest was essential to his recovery.

Sometimes Severus would change into Wraith and stretch out on the rug beside Harry's bed, and the boy would trail his fingers in the leopard's thick fur. He loved the softness of the frost and onyx pelt, and Wraith didn't seem to mind Harry stroking him over and over. He would purr loudly and nuzzle Harry's hand if he quit petting him sometimes. Once, Harry woke to find the big cat stretched out across the bed, his head upon the boy's knees, as if trying to keep his son in bed by any means necessary.

Harry was uncertain how much the leopard understood, so he always spoke to Wraith as if he was still Severus, and never acted as if he were a mere animal. When Wraith transformed back to Severus one evening, about five days after the river disaster, Harry finally got up enough courage to ask Severus about his Animagus form.

"Dad, when you become Wraith, do you remember everything like you do as a person?"

"Mostly. I know, or rather a part of me knows, that I am also Severus Snape, but the greater part of my mind is a cat's, meaning that I feel what and how a cat feels, and react that way as well. Though I retain enough memories to know who friends and enemies are and my family. I am not totally a snow leopard, Harry, I still feel human emotions and urges, and can think like a human if I have to."

"Oh. And can you understand English too?"

"Yes. I retain my language skills, though I can't respond the way a human can. An Animagus is a creature of two worlds, Harry, the trick and skill is to learn how to balance them so you are not driven crazy by the animal instincts and impulses and yet remain with human intelligence. That is why Animagi are so rare, son. Not everyone possesses the necessary discipline or patience to learn how to balance a dual nature. Or the magical aptitude. A strong gift is required to assume another form."

"Do you . . .do you think I could do it?"

Severus frowned and did not reply for a long moment. Harry fought to keep from biting his nails in impatience. At last his father said, "Yes, you have magic enough to transform, I think, but you lack the discipline over emotions and self-control you need to maintain the form without becoming overwhelmed." Harry looked crestfallen. "But that does not mean you cannot acquire the discipline and control. That is why I keep stressing you need to think before you act and quit being so impulsive. Because only through self-control can you master your baser instincts and your magic as well."

Harry sighed. "I understand, but it's so hard . . ."

"Yes, well nothing in life is ever easy, fledgling. Anything worth doing is hard, son. You simply have to decide if what you want is worth the effort. If it is, then you need to grit your teeth and keep at it until you succeed. I wrestled with my own demons when I was your age, Harry. I had the devil of a temper-"

"Had?" His son arched an eyebrow. "You still have one, Dad."

"True, but now it's controlled. When I was younger, it wasn't, and it brought me no end of trouble until I made up my mind to bring it under control. It took me years, but I finally succeeded and my temper does not rule me, the way my father's did him." He gave his son a semi-stern look. "Otherwise you'd have not been able to sit down for months, you incorrigible brat."

"Whatever you say, sir," Harry said, pretending meekness.

His father was not fooled. Those Sorted into Gryffindor were anything but meek. "Don't give me that, Harry. Your meek as milk facade might fool Dumbledore, but never me. What is going on in that head of yours, mister? Because I know you, you're planning something."

"I'm not, honest!"

Severus just stared at him. "And Quirrell was a saint. If it's anything to do with trying to summon an Animagus form, I'm going to tell you this once and only once. Do not try ANYTHING without me, don't go looking for information, or incantations, because you're not ready to cast that sort of spell yet. It requires a degree of concentration and control you haven't mastered yet and if you so much as speak a syllable of a shapechange spell, I will break my own rule and wallop you till you howl. An improperly cast Animagus spell can result in you becoming trapped in one form or inbetween forms and once that happens you could be stuck that way forever. It's happened to many a foolish apprentice before."

Harry gulped. "I understand, sir."

Severus fixed him with a sharp glower. "Don't test me on this, young man. I will not grant you any leniency, not with this. I cannot afford to, for as an Animagus, you must have full control over your emotions and your mind, without exception, otherwise your first transformation could be your last. So keep that in mind and if you are truly serious about learning to be an Animagus, you will practice controlling your impulsive streak and take the punishment I'm going to give you once you're recovered as a learning experience."

"Huh? But Dad, I almost drowned. Isn't that enough of a punishment?" Harry wheedled.

"If you were any other child, I would say certainly and more than enough. But you, fledgling, court death like a pretty girl courts kisses, and so I have to give you other consequences to ensure you remember to think before you act. It's your own fault, boy, so quit looking at me like I'm an ogre. You have a perfectly good head on your shoulders, if only you would use it for something except a battering ram. By the end of my punishment, you may be prepared to receive instruction in Animagus forms."

"You'd teach me?" Harry's eyes were shining.

Snape nodded. "If I thought you were ready."

"I will be," said his son, and his face was lit with a quiet determination. "Who taught you, Dad?"

"Professor McGonagall," answered the older wizard. "She tutored me relentlessly until she was sure I wouldn't kill myself transforming. Or once I had transformed, I wouldn't lose myself in the animal's mind."

Harry smiled to think of his father having McGonagall as a teacher. Then he resolved to do as Severus had said and practice controlling his impulses. The first one being the urge to whine about his upcoming punishment, whatever it was. Ever since he had discovered that his father was the magnificent cat that had saved him in the Forbidden Forest, he had longed to become an animal at will. And if discipline over mind and emotions was what it took to persuade Severus to teach him how to become an Animagus, Harry would do it. But first he would sleep, for he was still worn out from fighting the bronchitis he had developed.

"Okay, sir. I'll practice my control. Once I wake up." Then he yawned and turned over and slept.

* * * * * *

 

 

By the end of the week, Harry was fully recovered from his injuries and sickness. It was then that Severus revealed the punishment he had devised to keep his reckless son under wraps for the time being. He led Harry into his study, where he sat him down in front of his desk and stood over him, wearing what Harry called his "You're in Severe Trouble, Young Man" look, that always made his son feel like hiding somewhere in a deep dark hole.

"Since your actions have proven to me that you can't be trusted out alone without a keeper, Mr. Snape, you will now stay inside under either my eye or Rellah's for an entire week. You will have several chores to complete during this time, including scrubbing dishes and the bathrooms and assisting Rellah with whatever she requires. I believe a stint of peeling potatoes and hulling acorns and walnuts will teach you a lesson in patience. If you go anywhere out of our sight, you must tell us exactly where you are going, and you are not to be out of our sight for any more than ten minutes, unless it is bedtime. Speaking of which, you now actually have a bedtime, and it is eight-thirty sharp."

"Eight-thirty!" Harry blurted. "But sir, that's a bedtime for a little kid."

"Exactly. Which was just how you behaved, like a disobedient little child who needs to have adult supervision at all times. You don't like it? Next time don't go riding down rapids and nearly drowning. Be thankful I'm not making you hold my hand when we go outside to weed the garden and pick vegetables, young man."

"Hold your hand?" Harry repeated, aghast. He couldn't believe Severus had actually threatened that. Just the mere thought made him blush furiously, even though there was no one to see them save Rellah and some of her relatives. "No, sir, please. I'm not five, Dad."

"Then perhaps you ought to start acting like it. Am I understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"Now then, your first chore will be to come with me into my lab and wash and dry all of my beakers for me. After that, you'll do some spring cleaning with Rellah. Oh, and one more thing. Any sulky attitude and you'll double your punishment."

"Yes, sir." Harry said. "Guess this means no Nimbus."

"It does."

Severus turned and walked out of the study and Harry rose immediately and followed.

This punishment was awful, but Harry knew he deserved it and resolved to accept it with as good grace as he could manage.

But his eyes nearly fell out of his head when he saw the rows upon rows of beakers he was supposed to wash and dry.

"All of those?" he cried in dismay. "There must be like five hundred in here."

"No, one hundred and fifty-two. Well, I would suggest you get started, young man. Gaping like a dying fish never got anything clean. The soap is in the cabinet under the sink."

Harry bit back a groan and took some empty beakers and began to wash them, regretting he had ever taken the canoe out that day. And this was only the beginning.

* * * * * *

 

After lunch, where Severus relented a bit from his stern demeanor and actually smiled at his son, Harry was left to help Rellah, and the normally cheerful woodkin was rather curt with him and showed him how to hull acorns to make acorn flour, which was a prime ingredient in Rellah's famous bread.

Hulling acorns was tedious, but Harry soon discovered that the sameness helped him focus better on his task and he began to see the genius behind Severus's punishment. Bad as these chores were, they also were making him focus in a way he'd never had to before. Harry knew that such things were paramount to becoming an Animagus and he squelched the whiny selfish part of himself and concentrated on the task at hand.

The worst part of the punishment however was not the chores themselves, but being stuck inside for the most part and also having to report everything he did if he wasn't in view was really testing his resolve. He felt like he was in the bloody army. The impression was reinforced by Severus's "Report, Mr. Snape!" every time Harry had to go and do something, like fetch wood for the fire or go to the bathroom.

But he managed, by much gritting of his teeth and meditation, to accept his punishment with good grace and learn from it. That was, after all, the whole point of it.

At week's end Harry had scrubbed the house until it shone, peeled a whole bushelful of potatoes and learned how to preserve them from Rellah, ground and chopped myriads kinds of nuts till his hand were sore, washed all of Severus's beakers, weeded the garden with Severus, and done various other chores, all of them designed to develop focus, discipline and concentration. They were tedious and aggravating but they served to make Harry think about his actions and realize that he had indeed been foolish and reckless and to resolve to never do something like that again.

When Severus called him into his study that Sunday night, Harry said quickly, "Dad, there's something I want to say before you start talking. I know I already said I was sorry before about scaring you to death and all, but this time I want to tell you I'm sorry for being a dumbass and not thinking about how dangerous it could have been before I took the canoe out. Everything you said about me was true and I didn't like it, but I'll try and do better next time." He drew in a deep breath and added, "And I know that all those chores weren't just punishments, sir, they were meant to make me think, to teach me how to focus and concentrate, even though they were boring and a real pain in the bum. And umm . . .that's all."

The elder wizard raised an astonished eyebrow and was speechless for a moment. Then he smiled and said, "Now there's a true apology given by someone who is serious about becoming an Animagus. Now I can teach you."

Harry nearly shouted with glee. "Really? Thanks, Dad."

"I wouldn't thank me just yet," Severus chuckled warningly. "Because now you have extra reading to do." He indicated three large volumes on his desk. "I want you to study all three volumes before we begin ."

Harry took them. One volume was called Connecting With the Animal Within, another was called Animagi Through History, and the last was titled Betwixt and Between: A Warning for Would-be Animagi. "Should I take notes, sir?"

"What do you think, Mr. Snape?"

"Definitely," his son replied, looking at the books with an eager gleam in his eye that he had never had before.

Harry spent the better part of his days and nights immersed in the three volumes, proving that once he set his mind to it, he could devour books and retain information as well as Hermione. The first was a rough guide to figuring out what animal you were spiritually compatible with and a basic concept for discovering your Animagus form. The second was a history of Animagi, from their origins in ancient Egypt to the present, and the third was a series of cautionary tales that made Harry's blood run cold. For all the tales were of students who had woefully disobeyed their teachers or masters and attempted Animagus shape without being ready and had become hideously trapped either in a partial animal form, or in a combination of forms, or lost within an animal form forever.

After reading that book, he understood with crystal clarity the danger Severus had spoken of and vowed to follow Snape's instructions without fail, completely and utterly. They also had advanced meditation in the evenings, and Severus taught Harry how to painblock.

"You may need that skill one day, should you ever find yourself in a duel to the death. Also, when you shift for the first time, you'll hurt once you change back, and this will help you bear it. After the first time, though, it will be easier."

The ritual for finding an Animagus form was a simple one-you fasted and drank nothing save water and went alone somewhere to meditate for three days, chanting the same incantation over and over. If you were focused and had enough power, you would be able to summon the spirit of your Animagus form. It was an intensely private and personal moment and if you succeeded, you never forgot any detail of the spirit quest.

But it was another two weeks before both Severus and Harry determined that he was ready to attempt the ritual. "You must find a place that is safe before you attempt the trance, you'll know when you get there if it's the right one." Severus instructed on the morning of the third fast day. "Then remember to initiate a level two trance and start chanting and the rest is up to you, son. Good luck." He hugged Harry hard. "Remember two things, the first is don't forget to take off your clothes, because once you've connected with your spirit guide, you'll most likely transform and you don't want to rip your clothes to shreds. I'll teach you how to transform with clothes on later. And second, not every wizard succeeds at this, Harry, and if you don't you can try again next month. Either way, I'll be proud of you, fledgling."

The middle of the month when the moon was half full was considered a good time for a young wizard to seek his spirit animal form, according to the history book Harry had read.

Harry hugged his father back, feeling a warm glow spread through him at Severus's words, which were not ones he uttered lightly. "Thanks, Dad. See you soon." Then he turned and set off across the meadow.

He was feeling a little light-headed from not eating, but it really wasn't too bad, he was used to skipping meals and going without food for two to three days when he'd lived with the Dursleys, so he could ignore the clamoring of his stomach. He had a water bottle and his wand and that was all. He walked without knowing quite where he was going, through the meadow and into the woods, traveling parallel to the Silmareen for twenty minutes before his feet led him away and deeper into the forest.

From there he walked for another twenty minutes until he found a sun-dappled clearing that whispered of peace and serenity and called to him in a way he had never known before. There he stopped and began to remove his shirt, pants, underwear, everything. At first he was horribly self-conscious and kept starting at every little snap and crackle, wondering if some woodkin or sylph was watching, but he resolutely pushed that away and continued until he was bare. He carefully folded his clothes and placed them in a pile next to him before he sat down crosslegged, took his wand, and began chanting the incantation that would reveal his Animagus form.

"By water, earth, air, and fire, above and below, I call to thee. Come forth, spirit of my heart, show me the way. By flesh, blood, and bone, and the magic that is my life, I summon thee, soul kin. Come to me. Come to me."

He chanted this, all in Latin, three times, and with each repetition sank deeper and deeper into a trance -like state, until by the end of the third repetition he was not even aware of what he was saying, for he had gone deep withing himself, flying down a silvery path amid night time stars, to the heart of a forest deep within a mountain. And his wand blazed with rainbowed light that washed over his still form, haloing him in a corona of brilliant colors.

* * * * * *

 

He did not know how long he had been wandering, for time had no meaning here. A long way, he supposed, for he was feeling the pinch of hunger in his belly and his legs were sore from climbing, but these were minor inconveniences. He had come here, to this place, seeking something, something that he did not know, but would find nevertheless.
The earth was cool under his feet and the air had a strange bite to it, it tingled, like the first touch of frost upon an autumn day. There was a bite of winter in the air, but he shrugged it off. He could hear birds calling through the trees, and the quick pad of a fox or a mouse as it raced for cover, but all those noises he brushed aside. They meant nothing.

Abruptly, the trees were gone and he faced a sunlit meadow, where deer browsed at the edge and rabbits hopped. He gazed thoughtfully at the graceful deer and wondered if they were why he had come.

But no, the deer were beautiful, worthy of respect, but they did not ease the longing in his heart.

Come to me.

Come to me.

That refrain echoed in him, throbbing in time to the beat of his heart.

He waited, feeling something tugging, pulling, twisting inside of him.

Until he sensed more than saw something at the edge of his vision.

He turned his head and found his gaze captured by a sleek furred shape with burning green eyes.

"You. You are what I've come to find," he said, and knelt upon the ground.

"Yes. I am you and you are me. We are one."

Then the great snow leopard came forward and licked his face hard, drawing blood.

There was a moment's pain and then he felt the connection inside him flare to life.

"Come with me. Hunt with me, run with me, feel the earth beneath your paws, the hot scent of prey in your nostrils. You are grace and power and beauty, you are leopard. Come."

He could feel the longing swell within him, all the secret yearning of his heart. This was what he was meant to be, to do. He wanted this, oh yes, he did.

And yet, he must not surrender all, a small voice whispered.

He took a deep breath, willing the screaming urge to stillness.

"I will come with you. I will hunt and I will run but I will remain myself."

The snow leopard paused, then breathed upon him, once, twice, three times.

And with that he found himself transformed, his body reshaped, and reformed, to echo the inner spirit of the snow leopard that was his Animagus form.

* * * * * *

 

The rainbowed light faded abruptly and a fuzzy shape arose and stretched, yawning, from the grass beside a pile of clothes. The snow leopard cub squalled in triumph and crouched, tail twitching.

Then he pounced upon a leaf whirling in the breeze, graceful and clumsy at the same time.

I did it! I did it! Harry shouted delightedly and his snow leopard body raced around the meadow, jumping and pouncing at nothing, in a frenzy of delighted ecstasy.

He was so much more swift, his reaction a hundred times quicker than a human's. Scents were sharper, more pronounced, he was drunk on the smell of a buttercup. His eyes saw colors for which he had no name, since he had never seen them before with his weak human sight, and others that he had names for did not matter. He flicked an ear, and caught the squeak of a mouse, somewhere off to the left.

Suddenly he was ravenous, and crouched, belly low, and crept forward on silent paws.

He could smell the mouse, hidden though it was some ten feet away behind a small tussock. It's rich sweet scent filled his nostrils and he licked his lips silently and moved forward.

Closer and closer still.

The mouse did not move, perhaps it thought itself safe.

A quiver raced down his spine. He would teach it differently. He crouched low, almost dragging his belly on the ground, every muscle tense.

Wait. Wait.

NOW!

He sprang, claws unsheathed.

And missed, the mouse escaped by a hairsbreadth.

He gave a soft yowl of distress.

Then he padded back beside the clothes, sniffing and pawing at them.

They smelled . . .odd . . .but familiar. Mine. Mine.

He sat down atop them, his belly still grumbling annoyingly.

Then he recalled one place where he might get something to eat.

It was far, but there would be food.

He sprang up and trotted out of the meadow.

Some fifteen minutes later a rather worn and bedraggled snow leopard cub was standing on the back porch of Malachite Cottage, yowling impatiently and scratching at the door.

Suddenly he heard a soft huffing growl from behind him and he whirled, his fur all on end, to see a larger version of himself behind him.

His whiskers twitched and he hissed. Go away! This my place! Mine!

The bigger cat twitched his tail and gave a soft amused growl. Settle down, cub. It is both our place. Mine and yours.

He laid back his ears, and squalled angrily. No! Mine!

The big cat shook his head. Temper, cub. Come here.

The cub spat, but the command in the older cat's voice was impossible to ignore. He reluctantly crept off the porch and to the feet of the great leopard, whose paw was nearly the size of his whole body. Trembling slightly, he looked up into the big cat's face.  Was he in trouble? His ears lowered in apology.

Wraith bent his head and breathed gently upon the frightened cub. There now, little one. Do you not know me?

The cub sniffed. There was something familiar about this one. Something warm and comforting. He rubbed his nose into the bigger cat's chest and Wraith purred.

Yes. You are . . .my father.

Indeed. And you are sticky and full of burrs and need a bath. Wraith wrinkled his nose and suddenly the cub found himself pinned to the ground and a warm tongue washing him all over.

He wriggled and growled. No! Mrreow! I hate baths!

But he soon discovered it was futile to resist the older cat and the tongue groomed him throughly, much to his disgust.

There. Much better. Wraith rumbled, releasing his son at last.

The cub shook himself, indignant. Yuck! I hate baths! I'm hungry, Dad.

No doubt. I'll feed you in a moment. He gave the cub's head a last token lick and purred, Welcome home, Whisper.
Whisper? Is that my name?

It is. And I am Wraith.
Whisper cocked his head. My father. But . . .I had another name.
Yes. Can you remember what it is?

The cub thought hard. It was . . .It was . . .Harry. Harry James Snape.

And with that he felt himself shift and crackle and suddenly he was no longer a snow leopard cub, but an eleven-year-old boy. Blinking, he rubbed his eyes and looked around. "How did I get here? Wait . . .I remember . . ." He glanced around saw Wraith standing near him. "I was a snow leopard, like you, Dad. A cub." He was grinning from ear to ear. "I did it! I'm an Animagus!"

The snow leopard blurred and became Severus. "Congratulations, Harry. I had a feeling that would be your spirit form."

"You know what that means, right? It means we're spirit kin, according to the text I read." Harry said, pride and a heady sense of accomplishment sweeping through him. "I can't believe . . .I'm an Animagus!" He jumped to his feet, his green eyes glowing.

Severus chuckled. "And you're also stark naked in the middle of the garden, son."

Harry froze.

"Oh . . .err . . .I forgot . . ." he felt himself blush a deep red and then he turned and bolted inside.

Severus just stood there, pride warring with amusement.

Amusement won and he threw back his head and laughed. Oh, Harry! You really are something else!


 



Chapter End Notes:


Well . . .how did you like Harry's Animagus form?

next: While practicing his shifting, Harry makes a rather shocking discovery one morning in the meadow.

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