Title: The Kneazle Who Came for Christmas
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco (pre-slash), Ron/Hermione, terribly minor Harry/OMC
Summary: Banished from his home during the holiday season with only his wand and the clothes he's wearing, Draco has no choice but to take on his Animagus form and hope someone will take him in.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): UST, wanking, minor violence, flangst
Epilogue compliant? Non-epilogue compliant
Word Count: 7893
Author's Notes: Title adapted from The Cat Who Came for Christmas by Cleveland Amory. Special thanks go to my beta!
Draco slunk through the streets of London, lamenting how low he'd been brought. After yet another row with his father over his sexuality, Draco had been thrown out of the Manor in disgrace. His mother had been horrified, but she was unable to sway Lucius from his reckless course.
With only his wand, and the clothes he'd been wearing, Draco had Apparated to London in hopes of finding someone to take him in for a few days, until his father's temper cooled. Pansy would have been Draco's first choice, but she was currently in Italy on her honeymoon with Blaise. In an unfortunate coincidence, Blaise would have been Draco's second choice. There was Nott, of course, but Draco didn't trust him; he was too cunning for Draco's peace of mind. Greg had fled the country with his parents after the war, and Draco had lost touch with him. Daphne might take him in, but Draco didn't think he'd get out again without marrying her.
Draco shivered. It was December, and he was cold even though he had resorted to assuming his Animagus form. All blood Malfoys were Animagi, a fact that they kept well hidden from the Ministry. Being unregistered gave them a distinct advantage in times of need, such as now. Draco's Animagus was a kneazle, but not even his thick fur could keep him warm enough to suit. In addition, he was hungry. Draco raised his nose and sampled the air. There was food nearby; he could smell it. Draco trotted along the pavement, following the enticing scent.
A dog charged at him, barking and snarling. Draco's fur bristled as he leaped out of the way. The dog was brought up short by its leash and collar. Draco hissed at it and continued on his way. Eventually, he found himself outside the door of a local pub. He could hear voices and laughter from within, and the smell of fish was making his mouth water. Ordinarily, Draco would have spurned pub fare, but hunger left him little choice.
Draco sat outside and considered his options. He could resume his human shape, of course, but the Muggles would find his manner of dress odd, and he had no money. He could Confound the Muggles and purloin some food, but Draco didn't want to draw the attention of the DMLE. Draco could remain in feline form and attempt to wheedle some food out of the Muggles. That seemed to be his best choice, and the one least likely to land him in trouble.
A Muggle lumbered out of the pub. Draco moved forward and meowed at him.
"Go on with ya!" grumbled the man, aiming a kick at Draco.
Springing out of reach, Draco hissed at him, itching to hex the man as well. Perhaps procuring food wouldn't be so easy after all. Draco sought refuge in the shadows of the building, where he hunkered down and shivered. As he contemplated his predicament, a familiar figure ambled out of the pub.
Harry Potter whistled a cheerful holiday tune as he strolled down the pavement. Draco had no idea if Potter's appearance represented good luck or bad, but right now, he'd take all the luck he could get. Silent and stealthy, he followed Potter, trotting along to keep pace.
Gaining admittance to Potter's home was absurdly easy. Draco simply waited outside for a full ten minutes, and then began meowing at the door. When Potter opened it, Draco tucked his tail and lowered his ears, hoping he looked as pitiful as he felt.
"You poor thing!" cried Potter, bending down to scoop Draco up in his arms. Draco suffered himself to be manhandled, and the small shiver that shook his body was completely involuntary.
"You must be freezing," said Potter, bustling into the house with Draco cradled to his chest. He took Draco into the kitchen and used a festive holiday tea towel to carefully dry Draco's paws. Potter then carried Draco into a cozy living room and settled him on a comfortable, if garish, sofa before the blazing hearth.
Had he been human, Draco would have sighed in relief. Instead, he turned three complete circles on the sofa and settled down, tucking his still-cold paws beneath his chest to warm them.
Potter sat next to Draco and stroked the fur along his back. It was both pleasing and annoying, but Draco tolerated it. He didn't want to be cast outside once more. Potter's fingers ruffled the fur at Draco's neck.
"No collar," he observed. "Still, a handsome bloke like you must belong to someone."
Draco's whiskers curled upward at the compliment. He was a handsome kneazle. He had long white fur that was tipped with silver, and his tail was a marvelous plume. His eyes were more blue than gray in this form, but still worthy of a Malfoy.
Potter's fingers continued stroking Draco's fur. "I'll ring the neighbors in the morning to see if anyone is missing you," he said. "In the meantime, I'll find you something to eat."
Draco's ears perked up at the mention of food. Not wanting to give himself away, however, he remained on the sofa when Potter got up and left the room. Mere moments later, an enticing aroma wafted past Draco's nostrils. His nose quivered, and he jumped down from the sofa and traced the path to the kitchen.
Potter laughed upon seeing him. "I should have known you'd smell food," he said, setting a small dish on the floor.
Draco inched forward. Potter had opened a tin of tuna and dumped the contents in the bowl. Draco was more accustomed to salmon, but he was too hungry to turn his nose up at Potter's meager offering. Draco began to eat with dainty care. Hunger was no excuse for poor manners. The tuna tasted surprisingly good, which Draco attributed to the fact that he was ravenous. He finished the tuna, polished the bowl, and then paused to lick his muzzle.
Potter laughed at him. "You must have been hungry," he said. Potter put the bowl in the sink and filled another with water from the tap. He set it on the floor in front of Draco and took a step back.
Draco sneered. He did not drink tap water out of bowls. He only drank water that had been imported from the French Pyrenees and served in crystal goblets. Nevertheless, he was thirsty, and he was in no position to be choosy. Draco bent his head and lapped up some tepid water. It would suffice.
When he'd had his fill, Draco sat back and began washing his paws and face. It was a revolting habit, but one he was compelled to perform as a kneazle. Draco could only hope he wouldn't be stuck in this form for long.
"I rang all the neighbors, but none of them was missing a cat," said Potter.
"He's a kneazle, Harry," Granger pointed out. "I doubt he would belong to any of your Muggle neighbors."
"He must belong to someone," Potter insisted.
"I dare say he belongs to you," said Granger. "Familiars have been known to seek out their witch or wizard, and it may be this one was meant for you."
"I'm not certain I'm ready for a new familiar," sighed Potter.
"It's been years, Harry," Granger said gently. "It's past time you got another one. You'll always miss Hedwig," she added, "but a wizard needs a familiar."
Potter turned a speculative eye on Draco, who had been listening to the conversation from his perch on the sofa. "Do you really believe he's my familiar?" Potter asked Granger.
Draco was incapable of rolling his eyes in kneazle form, or he would have done so. Potter was fortunate no enemy of his had thought to use such a simple ploy to gain entrance to his home.
"It's a possibility," Granger said in reply.
They continued talking, and Draco felt his eyes grow heavy. The compulsion to nap was strong when he transformed into a kneazle.
"...Malfoy is missing?"
Draco was instantly alert.
"All I've heard is that his mother has been asking after him," Granger was saying. "Apparently, his father isn't concerned as to his whereabouts."
"Why did old Lucius throw him out of the house?" Potter asked.
Granger leaned close and lowered her voice, as if they were in a public place instead of the privacy of Potter's house. "Ron told me that Dean said Zacharias told him it was because Malfoy is bent," she whispered.
The end of Draco's tail began to flick back and forth. They were talking about him, and he was unable to speak up on his own behalf.
Potter sat back and drummed the fingers of one hand on his knee. "I always wondered," he mused.
"Don't you mean hoped?" teased Granger, reaching over to poke Potter's shoulder.
Draco's tail stilled, and his ears came up.
"He was a bit of alright in school," Potter conceded.
"Harry, you were obsessed with him!" Granger giggled.
"I was not obsessed with him," denied Potter. Inexplicably, a dull flush had suffused his cheeks.
Draco's whiskers curled up in satisfaction. So, Potter had once fancied him, had he? That was an interesting revelation.
"What am I to do with a kneazle?" Potter asked in an obvious attempt to change the subject.
Granger shrugged. "Give him a name," she replied.
Potter had been trying various names all morning. None suited Draco, and he refused to acknowledge Potter's fumbling attempts. Granger had warned Potter that kneazles were particular about the name they would accept, which is why Draco had been spared Potter's first attempt. Fluffy was not a name Draco would respond to. Ever.
Potter was sitting on one end of his hideous sofa, while Draco was curled up at the other end.
"Godric?" Potter tried.
Draco's ears went back. This was an insult no Malfoy should have to bear.
"Come on," wheedled Potter. "It's a strong, solid name."
Draco refused to look at him.
"You're a foul-tempered devil," Potter grumbled. "I should name you Diablo."
That one piqued Draco's interest. Diablo contained a few letters of his actual name, and it was somewhat flattering. He looked at Potter and closed one eye in a quick wink.
Potter's resulting laugh sounded more relieved than humorous. "Diablo, it is," he said.
Draco had spent the first night at Potter's sleeping on the sofa. The second night, however, Potter unexpectedly scooped Draco up and carried him up the stairs with him. He deposited Draco on the bed, patted Draco's head, and went through the other doorway into what Draco presumed was an en suite bathroom. The sound of running water confirmed it.
Potter had left his bedroom door ajar, and Draco contemplated simply leaving. However, he was curious about his unwitting host. For that reason, Draco hopped off the bed and prowled around the large bedroom to inspect it. The bedroom was decorated in tasteful shades of green, blue, and ivory. There wasn't a hint of burgundy or gold, which surprised Draco. Perhaps Potter hadn't been fond of his school colors.
There was an easy chair in one corner with a small table beside it and a reading lamp behind it. Several books were stacked on the table, leading Draco to believe that Potter must actually read in his spare time. The bedroom also contained a heavy oak dresser and a free-standing mirror. Draco paused in front of the mirror. His fur was sticking up. He began to fastidiously smooth himself.
Potter walked out of the bathroom and chuckled. "Had I known you were so vain, I would have named you Malfoy," he joked.
Draco halted his ablutions with one paw midair. He wanted desperately to demand what Potter meant by that quip, but his current predicament made that impossible. Draco turned to aim a sneer at Potter. He found himself staring instead.
Potter was ready for bed, wearing only a pair of red and black flannel pyjama bottoms. His feet and chest were bare, and his nipples were peaked in the chill. Suddenly, the prospect of sleeping on Potter's bed seemed much more appealing.
Potter was seated at the small table in his kitchen with a pile of items on one side and gift wrapping paraphernalia on the other. He was attempting to wrap presents, and he was hopeless at it. Of course, Draco wasn't helping by batting at bits of ribbon and making a nuisance of himself. Draco felt compelled to attack small, shiny things in kneazle form, but he also enjoyed driving Potter spare. It was a win-win situation for him.
"Stop that, Diablo" Potter scolded when Draco knocked a spool of ribbon off of the table.
Draco hopped down and batted at the spool with one paw, causing the ribbon to unravel even more.
"Argh!" cried Potter, swooping down to rescue the spool from Draco. He began winding the ribbon back onto it, and Draco stood on his hind legs to swipe at the dangling end. He succeeded in snagging it with a claw and undoing all of Potter's work to rewind it.
Potter snatched it back and picked Draco up around the middle. He carried Draco to the parlor, set him down and closed the door firmly in his face.
Draco sat back on his haunches and blinked at the affront. How dare Potter dismiss him in such a callous manner? Draco rose on his hind legs, wrapped his forepaws around the door knob and began to rattle it. When that didn't bring about the desired result, he began to caterwaul at the top of his lungs.
After only two minutes of Draco's dreadful serenade, Potter cracked. He came rushing back to open the door and release Draco from solitary confinement. Draco stalked out of the parlor, tail swishing to indicate his displeasure. He clawed Potter's ankle on the way by.
Potter was in the kitchen, so, naturally, Draco was in there as well. It was his task as a feline to demand food whenever a human entered the kitchen. Potter absently poured a small dish of cream and set it on the floor. Draco fell on it with relish.
"I have some baking to do," Potter said. "You'll need to stay out from underfoot." He spoke to his kneazle quite often. Draco found it odd that Potter spent so much of his time alone. He had thought the hero would be out in the eye of his adoring public, basking in his fame. It was somewhat sobering to realize that Potter seemed to eschew the glory and instead preferred to stay at home, engaged in menial tasks.
Potter began removing various items from his cupboards while Draco finished his cream. He sat back and licked his whiskers. As Potter lined things up on the counter, Draco hopped up there for a better look.
"No, Diablo, get down," Potter said absently. He gave Draco a nudge, and Draco jumped down with an angry hiss. He disliked being thwarted.
Draco leaped onto one of the kitchen chairs to observe the proceedings. A kneazle's life was rather boring, and most anything qualified as entertainment. Potter began humming holiday tunes to himself as he worked. He measured ingredients and added them to a bowl, mixed them together with a noisy Muggle appliance, then added some more ingredients and employed the Muggle device again.
Draco's nose twitched as he examined the scents, identifying flour and eggs, sugar and vanilla and other ingredients. The process reminded him of Potions, and Potter seemed to be enjoying himself. Then following was the tedious task of rolling out the dough, cutting it into interesting shapes, and placing the shapes on a baking pan. Potter opened the oven, allowing a wave of heat to waft out. Draco's body angled in that direction. He loved warmth, especially in this form.
Potter exited the kitchen without a backwards glance. Draco considered following him, but the heat emanating from the oven was irresistible. He curled up on his chair for a nap.
It seemed Draco had barely closed his eyes before Potter came bustling back into the kitchen to remove the biscuits from the oven. The scent was enticing, and Draco longed to sample one. He jumped down and rubbed his body against Potter's leg, leaving a fine coating of white hair on Potter's black trousers.
"Meow?" asked Draco, politely requesting a biscuit.
Potter only laughed. "These aren't for you," he said. "I doubt kneazles like biscuits." He began to hum again as he rolled and cut more dough and slid a second batch of biscuits in to bake. He ambled out of the kitchen again, leaving Draco alone with the freshly baked biscuits.
Draco looked at the door and back at the biscuits. Twice. Unable to help himself, he resumed his human form, snatched a warm biscuit from the pan and ate it in three bites. After a steady diet of tuna and cream, this was a delightful treat. Draco nudged the remaining biscuits to conceal the empty space, banished any crumbs he may have left, and transformed into a kneazle once more before jumping up on the chair again.
By the time Potter returned to the kitchen, Draco was innocently dozing.
Draco had never participated in decorating the Manor for the hols. The house-elves did it, and that was that. Potter, however, preferred to do his own decorating, and Draco found it quite enjoyable, indeed. There were garlands to chase and attack, ornaments dangling from the tree that simply begged to be batted at, and tinsel everywhere. Draco was in kneazle heaven. If he had a knut for every time Potter yelled, "Diablo, no!" Draco could have afforded his own flat in London.
Draco had to admit that Potter's decorations, mundane as they were, added a festive atmosphere to the house. It made Draco long for home, where the Manor would be awash in the holiday. He wondered if his mum was still worried about him and whether or not his father felt guilty for disowning him.
As Draco was feeling sorry for himself, Potter sat on the sofa with a cup of cider in hand. He patted the cushion next to him. Draco wasn't a cuddler, neither as a human nor a kneazle, but he rose from his end of the sofa and padded over to Potter anyway. Draco draped himself across Potter's legs and allowed Potter to pet him.
"I'm glad you're here, Diablo," said Potter. "I never realized how lonely this house was until you showed up at my door. I feel as though Christmas came early," he added, scratching one of Draco's ears.
Draco's body vibrated, and a rumble sounded from his throat. He was startled, and the noise stopped abruptly. Potter's hand resumed stroking along Draco's back, and the strange sound came again. Draco realized he was purring. The sensation was both odd and soothing, and so Draco relaxed and purred away. He was content, and that was a far cry from where he'd been mere days ago.
"Any word on Malfoy?"
Draco, who had been dozing on the wide kitchen windowsill, looked up at the sound of his name.
"Mrs Malfoy has asked us to look into his disappearance," said Weasley, "but so far, nothing has turned up." Weasley and Granger had arrived at Potter's house for a visit. They had brought food with them that tantalized Draco's nose with savory aromas.
Draco gathered that Weasley had joined the Aurors, and he found it amusing that the ginger toss pot had been tasked with investigating his mysterious disappearance.
"Why are you worried about Malfoy?" Weasley asked. He didn't wait for an answer before shoveling another forkful of food in his mouth.
"I know him," Potter replied nonchalantly. "He may be a gigantic prat, but he's always been there, you know? Life wouldn't be the same without him."
"You're still carrying a torch for him, you mean," scoffed Weasley.
"I never fancied Malfoy!" Potter denied, his face reddening. "Why do you both think that?"
"You never took your eyes off of him at school," said Granger. She offered Draco a small bite of cheese, which he ignored with disdain.
Potter threw his hands up in the air. "He was always up to something!" he cried. "I didn't dare take my eyes off of him!"
"Be honest, mate," said Weasley. "Ginny could have stripped naked and danced a jig in front of you, and you wouldn't have noticed her if Malfoy was anywhere near."
"Ronald!" admonished Granger, slapping her boyfriend's arm.
"Well, it's true," he mumbled.
"I didn't have eyes for Ginny, because I was as bent then as I am now," said Potter. "I just hadn't realized it yet. Ginny forgave me a long time ago."
"Are you seeing anyone, Harry?" Granger asked, steering the conversation in a less contentious direction.
"No, not since Michael," Potter replied, fidgeting with his cup of tea.
Weasley grinned at him. "You're in luck, mate," he said. "Charlie is bringing a friend home from Romania on Sunday. Not a boyfriend, or so he says. You can meet the bloke when you come for dinner."
"Thanks, Ron, I'll keep that in mind," Potter said.
Draco's ears went back. He rather enjoyed the idea of being the object of Potter's fancy, and he wasn't pleased at the prospect of sharing Potter's admiration.
On Sunday, Potter bid Draco goodbye before stepping into his Floo and calling out, "The Burrow!" He vanished with a whoosh, leaving Draco alone in the house.
Draco immediately went to the Christmas tree and smacked an ugly ornament out of the branches, watching in satisfaction as it shattered on the floor. Belatedly, he realized that being left on his own meant he did not need to remain in kneazle form. Draco dashed up the stairs before changing back to himself. He heaved a gusty sigh and stretched up on his toes, arching his back until it popped.
"Delsie!" Draco called aloud.
One of the Malfoy house-elves appeared with a faint pop. "You is needing something, Master Malfoy, sir?" she asked.
Draco nodded and began ticking items off on his fingers. "Tell my mother that I'm fine and to call off her search for me," he said. "I don't want to compromise the person I'm staying with. I also need a change of clothing and some of those iced biscuits Father favors during the holidays."
When the house-elf left to do his bidding, Draco ventured into the bathroom of one of the spare bedrooms. Potter's en suite was more lavish, but Draco didn't want to risk using it. He stripped off the clothing he'd been wearing since being banished from the Manor and Vanished them. Draco then turned on the shower and stepped under the hot water with a sigh of pure delight. He soaped his body, shampooed his hair, and then soaped again just because he could.
By the time Draco stepped out of the shower and wrapped himself in one of Potter's fluffy towels, Delsie had placed a fresh outfit on the sink, along with a plate of biscuits and a note from his mother. Draco dried himself and got dressed, then took the biscuits and the note into the sitting area of the spare bedroom. As he nibbled on the treat, he read his mother's message. She expressed relief to have heard from him, and she implored Draco to come home and work things out with his father. Draco made a scoffing sound. His father was far too bullheaded to ever compromise, and Draco wasn't about to spend the rest of his life wed to a witch he had no desire for; far better for him to remain at Potter's until he could figure out what to do.
Draco finished the last biscuit then returned to the bathroom. He flicked his wand about, drying up any excess water that remained from his shower. He tossed his damp towel in with the rest of the laundry, Vanished the biscuit crumbs, and then wandered back downstairs. Draco paused when he saw the shards of the ornament he'd broken. He thought about cleaning the mess up but elected to leave it. Potter should know that kneazles hated to be left alone.
Draco would have liked to remain in human form, but he realized he'd pushed his luck far enough. Instead, he transformed into a kneazle once more and hopped up on the sofa for a well-deserved nap.
It was evening before Potter returned home. Draco was most displeased, and he berated Potter loud and long. Draco followed Potter through the house, meowing and thrashing his tail.
"Did you miss me, Diablo?" chuckled Potter. He picked Draco up and cuddled him against his chest.
Draco's ears went back.
Potter only laughed some more. "Come along," he said, putting Draco down. "I suppose you'll be wanting your dinner."
Draco wasn't hungry, thanks to the biscuits he'd eaten earlier, but there was no sense letting Potter know of his duplicity. As Potter puttered around opening a tin of tuna, Draco sidled close to examine the scents clinging to his trouser legs. He smelled a heady mix of people and food, along with the more subtle scents of evergreen and the fresh outdoors.
Draco was suddenly quite homesick. He wanted to be at the Manor, surrounded by family, friends and food. Draco didn't realize he'd vocalized his distress until Potter turned to look at him.
"You're not going to be sick, are you?" asked Potter, studying Draco intently.
Draco swished his tail disdainfully.
Potter bent and picked Draco up again. "There's no need to scowl at me," he said. "I missed you, too, Diablo." Potter began scratching Draco's ears, eliciting a purr from Draco.
"That's more like it," Potter smiled. He gave Draco a final pat before setting him down once more. "You eat your dinner," said Potter. "I have to clean up that ornament you broke. Don't think I didn't notice that, you devil."
That night, Draco was roused from his slumber at the foot of Potter's bed when the bed began to shake beneath him. He was momentarily frightened until he realized the source of the motion. Potter was having a wank. Draco jumped off of the bed before he could be forcibly dislodged. He hopped up on the chair and watched from a safe distance. Potter, the little prude, hadn't thrown the covers back, so Draco's voyeurism was mainly of the aural variety. Potter was groaning in delight, and Draco was also treated to the sound of flesh against flesh as Potter wanked.
Draco yearned to join Potter in that big bed and give him a proper seeing-to, but he didn't want to give the hero a heart attack. Draco hopped down from the chair and headed to the open door, intending to give Potter some privacy and himself time to cool down. As Draco stepped into the hallway, Potter moaned.
Draco paused. It had sounded as if Potter had moaned 'Malfoy' in the throes of pleasure.
When Potter began to clean like a dervish, Draco became suspicious. He followed his host around, being a bother until Potter began to talk.
"I don't have time to play, Diablo," said Potter. "I'm having guests over this evening, and I need to be sure the house looks presentable. Ron and Charlie won't care, but Hermione definitely will. Plus, I want to make a good impression on Dorin."
Dorin? Draco wondered. That wasn't a name he recognized.
"Hermione is trying to play matchmaker," Potter continued as he bustled about, straightening things with flicks of his wand. "Dorin is handsome, but he seems a shade too intense for my taste. He's only here over the hols," said Potter. "It's not as if we can embark on a romantic relationship."
Draco meowed once, sharply. I thought you fancied me, he wanted to protest. How dare Potter bring a strange bloke into the equation? Draco expressed his displeasure by swatting some of Potter's holiday decorations off of the coffee table.
Draco loathed Dorin on sight. He was handsome in a swarthy manner, with dark hair and dark eyes to match. The Romanian bloke also seemed far too suave, and it was readily apparent that Potter found his attentions overwhelming. Draco made sure to stay close to Potter, prepared to defend him should Dreadful Dorin try something dastardly.
Fortunately, Potter and his guests elected to sit around the dining table. Granger and Weasley were in attendance, along with Weasley's dragon taming brother and the Romanian bloke. They were drinking wine, eating nibbles and engaging in lively conversation. Draco took up a post beneath the table, intending to attack Dorin if he should attempt any foot play with Potter.
Draco maintained his watchfulness until he heard his name mentioned.
"...for Malfoy?" Potter was asking.
"The search has been called off," said Weasley, mumbling through a mouthful of food.
"Yeah, even his own family has washed their hands of him," snickered the other Weasley.
"What?!" cried Potter.
"Relax, Harry," said Granger. "Ron told me Mrs Malfoy called off the search because she heard from Draco."
Potter sighed. "He's okay then?" he asked.
Draco was touched. Potter sounded almost worried about him. Dreadful Dorin ruined the mood.
"Do not worry so about your friend," Dorin said. "I will help to take your mind off of him."
"Er, thanks," Potter responded. He began to jiggle one leg beneath the table.
Draco knew it was a sign of nervousness. Did the Romanian bloke make Potter anxious? If so, was Potter thrilled with Dorin's attentions, or dismayed? In either case, Draco didn't like it.
Eventually, Potter's casual little party broke up. Everyone said their goodbyes and headed for the Floo in the living room.
"We'll see you Christmas day," Granger said as she gave Potter a hug.
"Mum made you a new jumper," Weasley commented.
Potter grinned. "Brilliant," he said.
"See you later, Harry," said the other Weasley, clapping Potter on the back. He turned to his companion. "Coming, Dorin?"
"Not just yet," smirked the Romanian. "I thought I'd stay behind to give Harry a hand."
"That...that's not necessary," stammered Potter.
Draco's fur bristled. It was not a pleasant sensation, and it made him want to spring at the Romanian's face and claw his eyes out.
"Oh, but I insist," said Dorin.
Granger had the nerve to giggle. "You two have fun," she said before disappearing through the Floo in an emerald flash.
Potter and the Romanian were alone. Draco stepped between them and leaned against Potter's legs.
"Cleaning up won't be difficult," said Potter.
"Ah, but it is always more fun with two, no?" teased Dorin. "First, however, I would like another glass of that delightful cabernet."
"Yes, yes of course," Potter babbled. He turned away so quickly that Draco stumbled sideways.
"What a pretty kitty you are," cooed Dorin bending down to pet Draco. He halted with his hand in midair.
Draco's ears were back, and his tail was thrashing side to side, clear indications of his foul temper.
The Romanian straightened abruptly. His frown turned to a smarmy smile when Potter returned with two glasses of wine. They sat on the sofa, and Dorin sat too close to Potter for Draco's liking. He skulked under the Christmas tree to keep an eye on things.
Dorin began with innocent small talk, but he gradually began to move closer and closer to Potter until they were pressed together from shoulders to thighs.
When a hand gripped Potter's knee, he twitched and set his glass on the small table next to him. "Dorin," he began in a firm voice. "I appreciate your...attention, but you'll be going home in a week, and I'm not about to get involved in a long-distance relationship."
"Who mentioned a relationship?" murmured the Romanian, leaning closer to nuzzle Potter's hair. "One night with you is all I want."
Potter sighed but then seemed to gather his wits. "Wh-what do you mean?" he asked. "You only want a one-off?"
"Do you blame me?" Dorin's lips were now skating over Potter's neck, making him gasp and squirm.
Draco felt a growl rise in his throat.
"After all," continued the Romanian, "who wouldn't want to spend the night with the famous Harry Potter?"
He'd said the wrong thing. Even Draco knew that. Potter's eyes popped open immediately. "So that's all this is?" he demanded. "You just want to shag the Boy Who Lived so you can brag about it to your mates back home?"
"No, no, that is not what I meant," Dorin said in a pathetic attempt at backpedaling.
"I think you should leave," said Potter. "I'm not averse to the occasional one-off, but I don't appreciate being a notch on anyone's broomstick."
"You misunderstood me," Dorin said, pressing closer to Potter and placing a hand on Potter's bits.
Draco launched himself from his hiding place with an enraged screech. He landed on the Romanian and bit down savagely on the hand that was groping Potter. Dorin shrieked like a school girl and jumped to his feet. Draco clung to him with grim determination, sinking his claws into the bloke's flesh to hang on. He was grabbed about the middle and flung violently aside.
Draco landed on his feet and whirled around, ready to attack once more. He hesitated at the sight of Potter pointing a wand squarely at the Romanian.
"Get out," Potter said.
Draco's fur bristled anew at the deadly tone, and he sank onto his haunches and backed under the Christmas tree to hide. He could only hope Potter wasn't as angry at him as he seemed to be at the Romanian.
Dorin's lips thinned, but he turned without a word and stepped into the Floo, calling out the name of the Weasleys' home before vanishing.
Potter exhaled and lowered his wand. He looked around the room.
Draco shrank back under the concealing branches.
"Diablo?" Potter called. "Are you alright? If he hurt you, I'll-"
Draco emerged from his hiding place with a tentative meow. He was immediately scooped up in an exuberant hug.
"Thank goodness you're okay," sighed Potter, face buried in Draco's luxuriant fur. He abruptly lifted his head and gave Draco an exasperated look. "That was very foolish of you," Potter scolded. "I thought you'd been hurt when that bastard threw you across the room like that." He began to stroke Draco's back, and Draco responded with a pleased purr.
"While I appreciate that you defended me, I can fight my own battles, you know," said Potter. "I'm not too shabby with magic."
No, thought Draco, purring away. Not shabby at all.
When Potter went to bed later that night, he cuddled Draco close and refused to let go. Draco purred in contentment until he fell asleep.
"So, what happened last night between you and Dorin?" asked Granger. She had arrived at Potter's house alone and was currently seated at the kitchen table with Potter while they ate some of Potter's iced biscuits.
Draco was reclining on the windowsill he favored, enjoying the morning sunlight that streamed in and warmed his fur. He was also shamelessly listening to the conversation from the table.
Potter grimaced. "He made the mistake of admitting he was more interested in my name than he was in me," he said.
Granger poured herself a fresh cup of tea and added some milk. "What did you do to his hand? It was bleeding when he returned to the Burrow."
"Diablo attacked him," Potter chuckled. "Apparently, my kneazle has better taste in blokes than I do."
Granger sent a shrewd look Draco's way. He responded by yawning widely and dropping his head to his paws. "Kneazles are very perceptive," said Granger. "Crookshanks always knew Scabbers was more of a rat than the rest of us realized."
"Dorin flung Diablo across the room," Potter grumbled. "That was when I told him to leave."
"Why, that bully!" cried Granger. "I'll hex him myself when I see him next."
Draco found it amusing that Granger was leaping to his defense. If she only knew...
"Don't bother," said Potter. "He's not worth it. Besides, he'll be returning to Romania on the 27th, and with luck, we'll never see him again."
"I was hoping you wouldn't have to spend the hols alone this year," sighed Granger.
Potter shrugged and reached for another biscuit. "At least I have family and friends to spend the hols with," he said. "Who knows where Malfoy ended up?"
Draco's ears swiveled forward.
"Still obsessed with him, I see," Granger commented wryly.
"I'm concerned," Potter corrected her. "I would be worried about any of our school mates who disappeared."
"And yet, you've never once wondered aloud what became of Goyle," Granger pointed out.
Potter bent his head. "Shush, you," he grumbled.
Granger laughed at him. "What would you have done had Malfoy shown up at your door?" she asked.
"I would have taken him in," said Potter.
"Do you reckon he would have made a more pleasant guest than Dorin?" Granger asked. Her eyes sparkled at Potter over the rim of her tea cup as she took a sip.
"I do prefer blonds," Potter admitted, "but that's not why I would have invited him to stay with me. It would have been the right thing to do," Potter huffed. "I know what it's like to be spurned by family."
"No need to get defensive, Harry," Granger tutted. "Had something happened to Malfoy, I might have missed him, too. I always enjoyed matching wits with him at school."
Potter grinned at her. "Not as much as you enjoyed punching him in the nose," he said.
After the Dorin Incident, there was a shift in Draco's relationship with Potter. Draco followed his host around more, and Potter reacted by lavishing attention and affection on Draco. After listening in on Potter's recent conversation with Granger, Draco couldn't stop thinking about Potter's claim that he would have taken Draco in, had Draco come to him in human form seeking shelter. He began to contemplate revealing himself to Potter. Draco's reluctance stemmed from his inability to understand altruism. In his experience, one never did a favor for someone else without getting something in return.
Late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, Potter gathered some of his wrapped gifts, shrank the pile, and donned his coat. "I'm going out for a short while," he announced to Draco. "I visit the orphanage each year with gifts for the children." He leaned down to pat Draco on the head. "Behave yourself while I'm gone," he said. "I don't want to find any more broken ornaments when I return."
He hummed to himself as he buttoned his coat and made his way to the Floo. Potter was gone in a flash of green, leaving Draco to his own devices. He approached the Christmas tree, now heaped with gifts underneath, and batted idly at a ribbon that dangled from one package. Draco was about to turn away when one of the tags caught his eye.
Diablo, it read.
Potter had gotten him a gift.
Draco stared at the gift. He looked to the Floo. He looked back at the gift.
Potter wouldn't be home for some time, Draco reckoned. He backed out of the tree and shifted into human form. Draco stretched and sighed before bending to retrieve the gift with his name on it. He carried it to the kitchen, where he skillfully slit the spellotape with a knife. Draco carefully parted the wrapping paper, although he doubted Potter would notice if anything was amiss. Potter wasn't the most talented gift wrapper. Once the paper had been pushed aside, Draco lifted the lid on the small box and raised his eyebrows in surprise.
Inside the box, nestled in tissue paper, was a collar. A collar. Draco's first reaction was to sneer, but his expression quickly grew thoughtful. He picked the collar up to inspect it. The item was made of fine leather in a deep, sapphire blue. Potter must be enamored of the color, and Draco had to admit it would look smashing on him. As a kneazle, that was. The collar had silver studs placed at regular intervals, and Draco knew enough of precious metals to recognize they were actual silver. At the back of the collar, opposite the buckle, was a name plate with Diablo inscribed on it.
This was a worthy gift. For a kneazle.
Draco was both thrilled and dismayed. Potter seemed intent on keeping his kneazle, but it was obvious he was growing too attached to "Diablo". Draco felt a twinge of guilt for his part in the charade. This ruse had to end, and the sooner, the better.
Nearly two hours passed before Potter returned home. He looked happy, and Draco had a sudden epiphany in regards to altruism. Potter enjoyed helping others. It was the characteristic that had enabled him to literally sacrifice his life to save them all from the Dark Lord. Voldemort's inability to comprehend Potter's willingness to do anything for others had been his downfall, but Draco's new comprehension would ultimately free him. He hoped. Potter may not be willing to forgive Draco's deception. However, there was only one way to find out.
"Time for bed, Diablo," said Potter. "Tomorrow is a big day." He turned to climb the staircase, and Draco trailed after him.
Draco waited until Potter was settled in bed before hopping up on the end of the bed to curl up near Potter's feet. He purred softly, lulling Potter to sleep.
Draco was waiting by the tree when Potter came downstairs on Christmas morning.
"Happy Christmas, Diablo," Potter said cheerfully. He was still in pyjamas, and Draco had the urge to go to him and snuggle against his chest. Potter sat on the sofa and patted the cushion next to him. Draco obediently jumped up to sit beside him.
"I got you a gift," said Potter. He scooted forward and retrieved the small package from its hiding place among the other gifts. He held it aloft, ribbons dangling, and Draco indulged Potter by batting at the ribbons. Potter laughed in delight, the sound happy and carefree. He opened the gift, encouraging Draco to paw at it as the wrapping was torn away.
Potter lifted the lid on the box and showed Draco the collar. "What do you think, Diablo?" he asked. "Do you like it?" He set the box on the arm of the sofa and stood up. "Let me get my camera, and I'll put your new collar on you and take your picture," he said.
As Potter was walking away, Draco transformed. He plucked the collar from the box and studied it in his hand. "Thank you, Potter," he said quietly.
Draco raised his head. Potter had frozen with his back to him. He turned around slowly, hand automatically reaching for the wand he didn't have tucked into his pyjamas.
It was all Potter said...whispered, really. Draco cleared his throat. "Happy Christmas, Potter," he said gruffly. When the silence between them became awkward, Draco tried again. "I hope you meant what you said about taking me in."
"You heard that," Potter said, tone flat and expression dazed. "You heard everything I said about you," he added. "You saw me wank!"
Draco pressed himself further back into the sofa cushions. Inexplicably, Potter began to laugh. "Er, Potter?" Draco said. "You've not gone mad, have you?"
"You're here," said Potter, removing his glasses to swipe at his eyes. "I was worried about you, and you were here the entire time."
Draco raised one hand to his mouth to nibble on his thumbnail, a bad habit from his youth. He forced himself to return his hand to his lap. "Are you angry?" he asked.
"I'm...I don't know, Malfoy," said Potter, tossing his hands up in the air. "I'm angry that you deceived me," he muttered, replacing his glasses.
"I was desperate!" cried Draco. "I had no one to aid me and nowhere to turn. Had I known you would have helped, I would have come knocking on your door." Draco was chewing on his thumbnail before he realized it.
Potter's eyes narrowed at him. "You've made a right pest of yourself for weeks," he said. "You even broke one of my favorite ornaments!"
"It was hideous," Draco muttered.
"What other mischief did you get up to, dare I ask?"
"I, erm, I nicked one of your biscuits, and I used the shower when you were gone," Draco confessed.
Potter's lips quirked in a reluctant grin. "What am I going to do with you, Malfoy?" he asked.
Potter seemed more amused than annoyed, and Draco's shoulders relaxed. He picked up the collar and twirled it around on one finger. "You could buy me a larger collar," Draco suggested, buckling it around his wrist. He looked up at Potter and grinned. "If you dare."