The old man came hobbling down the corridor towards the stern-looking woman as fast as his bandy legs could carry him, red in the face and panting from the exertion.
"PrÖ Professor McGonagall!" he wheezed. The whites of his eyes were shining with verve; he looked deranged.
"Argus? Whatever's the matter?" the woman snapped in her clipped Scottish brogue.
"It's Mrs Norris! She'sÖ she's gone!" The old man was distraught. Tears were beginning to pool at the corners of his eyes and his bottom lip quivered.
"Gone?" replied the Professor querulously. "Gone where? I hardly imagine a cat in her state would have gone far..."
"She's gone!" sobbed Filch, harder now. "Disappeared! About to have her kittens, too! She could have tried to have found a safe place in the Forbidden Forest and ended up as lunch for the Aramantula!" At this, Filch finally broke down, his shoulders shaking with grief, his face knotted in pain at his loss.
Minerva regarded him with sympathy. She considered providing a touch of comfort, deciding against it at the last minute, and instead patted his shoulder awkwardly a couple of times.
"There, there, Argus. She can't have got far. I'll spread the word to the heads of house immediately to begin a search."
The old man swallowed, looking up at the stern woman for reassurance.
"We will find her, Argus," she said kindly. Filch nodded in gratitude, wiping his eyes on the backs of his dirty hands.
I knew I was close, because the kicking had been more and more insistent over the last few days. I also knew I needed to find somewhere where I couldn't be disturbed. Strange, how the instincts of motherhood kick in, like a kind of autopilot.
I've never had a litter before, and I'm scared. I know my master is excited for me. He usually feeds me well, but he's been going all-out over these last few weeks with freshly caught trout, salmon and lashings of single cream. He's also padded out my bed with his ragged old sweaters, the wool coming apart at the seams. I know he wants to take care of me, but I won't be safe there. The whole school knows I am expecting, and they will want to pile into his dirty little office to look at the new arrivals. They will want to poke and prod, and cuddle and stroke. They will coo and sigh, and my poor darlings will be denied their rest in their first few days of life.
No. I canít let that happen. I know it will hurt my master to ignore his hospitality, but I have to do what's best for my litter. When they are strong enough, we will return to my master's open arms.
I have thought of a place where I can go in the castle for peace. A place where there will be no gurgling children. A place where there is quiet, utilitarian solitude. A place deep in the dungeons...
I had to be quick and stealthy, following the stern professor into his quarters. And that was no mean feat when heavily pregnant! I somehow managed to skitter straight through his legs and under his bed without him noticing. The professor wouldnít kick me if he discovered me, Iím pretty sure, but he would shoo me fiercely away back to my master without a second thought.
I saw his shiny leather boots pace across the thick green carpet, my eyes wide as I notice him start to undress. I watch as he removes his boots and then, piece by piece, his clothing gets thrown over the back of a chair. The stern, dark man flops on the bed with a sigh and turns off the lamp immediately. He must be very tired, dealing with those noisy, horrible children every day.
The carpet is luxurious but my instincts want to make a bed for the birth. Cautiously, I sneak towards the chair in the darkness, my ears pricked up, listening to the sounds of the manís breathing. It is soon deep and rhythmic, and I can tell he has fallen asleep. Creeping closer to the chair, I stretch out a paw and hook his thick black cloak with my claws, making it fall in a heap on top of me. I pause, holding my breath, checking the soft thud does not disturb him. His deep breaths continue, and I mentally sigh in relief.
The cloak is big and heavy, but I somehow manage to drag it under the bed using my teeth. It was quite tiring, but my work is not yet done. I begin to arrange it into a strange black nest, and when I am comfortable, I lie down on soft, expensive material, tired now from the effort, and begin the wait for what I know will soon come.
Suddenly, I feel a sharp jab in my side and I wince, trying not to cry out. The babies are kicking again, and that combined with the contraction is painful. I breathe fast and shallow through my nose, concentrating on staying as quite as possible in my new-found sanctuary. The last thing I need is to wake the dark man up.
Mentally, I try and count the amount of time between the jabbing pains. They seem to be happening every few minutes now, and I feel scared, here in the dark, all alone. I can feel a pushing from the inside out, and then there is a white-hot ripping pain between my legs and I cannot help but yelp.
The bedside lamp switches on. Shit, Iíve woken him up! But what can I do? I canít hide, and... Ahhhhhhhhhh it hurts so much! Iím yowling in agony.
I watch his bare feet swing off the side of the bed and stalk across the room, looking for the source of the noise. Although I can only see his feet and ankles, I can bet he has his wand out at the ready. Iím panting now, my little pink tongue sticking out as I gasp for breath before the next wave of pain. The first oneís head is nearly there, I can tell. Just one more push and... Owwwww!
The man hears where my cries are coming from and angrily mutters words I cannot understand, sending the bed flying across the room. Iím left vulnerable and in pain, my first born, bloody and writhing on his cloak, and I look up into the scowling face of the dark man, hoping he will spare me, hoping he wonít hurt me. I see his face change from anger to surprise, and then, strangely, to concern. He moves towards me slowly, lowering his wand, and I donít take my eyes off him for a second, panting and gasping from the exertion.
ďDonít be scared, Mrs Norris,Ē the man mutters soothingly, inching forwards. ďWeíve been looking for you all day, old girl.Ē
I watch his eyes drop towards the mewling mess that is my first born, and I see something that looks like pity in his eyes.
ďYou donít have to do this all by yourself,Ē he says in barely a whisper, and to my surprise, reaches out and strokes my head. I allow my eyes to close briefly at this touch of affection, until the next jolt of agony fires through my belly and I begin howling again.
Iím barely aware of the dark man lighting a fire in the hearth and bringing hot towels to my side as Iím concentrating on watching for the contractions that will signal that baby number two will arrive. I notice him pick up my first born for examination, watching him check eyes and mouth, and pulse. The little one mews silently and the man smiles, offering the kitten to me to lick. I manage to lap it carefully, my precious baby.
The dark wizard pulls up a chair and conjures a tumbler of amber-looking liquid. "Looks like this is going to be a long night, Mrs Norris," the man says as he sits back in the chair with a smile.
I continue to lap my first-born clean, thanking my mothering instinct for choosing such a safe spot for the birth.
* * *
Authorís Note: OK, I have no idea where this came from. I find the idea of Snape with a cat adorable, but writing a first person narrative from a pregnant Mrs. Norris is slightly insane, I will grant you. But it was fun to write :)