December 15, Monday
It was on the night of the 15th of December that the cat appeared on Harry's window sill, meowing so shrilly and raking its nails on the glass as if it had done something to personally insult him.
Its neatly brushed and short fur was a pure white with strawberry blond spots and its tail was rather long. Harry only noticed because when he opened the window to give the cat a scolding, the cat had jumped inside his living room and raised its nose and bum up in the air, as if haughtily reprimanding Harry for not letting it in sooner.
No scolding was given that day because Harry was too flummoxed to do anything other than watch the cat as it pranced around his living room and jumped on his furniture as if it owned them.
Finally, after deeming the room worthy of occupation, the cat situated itself on one of the throw pillows on the couch, curled up on itself, and closed its eyes.
Harry stared at the cat bewilderedly for a few more seconds, before he shook his head in amused exasperation. He closed the window and sat next to the cat, going back to his position in front of the telly before he was rudely interrupted.
The cat didn't even crack open an eye as he did so.
In hindsight, he really should have expected that the cat would bring him trouble when he tried to pet it and got a vehement hiss in reply.
Or when he tried feeding it the canned tuna that had been sitting in his kitchen cupboard for the past five months and the cat had given him a dry look as if telling him that 5-months old canned tuna was an affront to its senses.
"It's all I have," Harry let out defensively, waving dismissively towards the opened cupboard and its (lack of) contents.
The cat sniffed delicately in the air, about-faced, raised its bum up in Harry's face and promptly walked away.
Harry had half a mind to cook the infernal feline for dinner.
Instead, he opted for a more human course of action: He made himself a tuna sandwich.
December 16, Tuesday
It was on the early morning of the 16th that Errol crashed into his window rather spectacularly.
The scratches of the cat from yesterday were still there, visible on the glass, just below the cracks that Errol had just created. Harry slid the window to the side and let the poor bird wobble in to land on his carpeted floor.
"Don't you think you ought to retire, mate?" Harry asked in pity as he kneeled down to untie his letter from the owl's legs.
His concern got him a reproachful look from the owl and a sneeze from the cat on the couch that suspiciously sounded like a snort.
"Just a suggestion," Harry muttered, unrolling the parchment.
He wandlessly and distractedly Accio-ed the container of owl treats and set it in front of Errol as he started to read Hermione's neat script inviting him to a small Christmas get-together at their house that upcoming Sunday.
And by 'their', Harry meant Ron and Hermione's because ever since they got married last May, Harry's thought of all their possessions by the collective term as 'theirs'. After they got together during the war, Harry started to regard them as this inseparable unit. He had even come to the point where he would privately describe their little friendship as ‘him and them’ although he'd outgrown that childish bitterness of his and started to regard their strong relationship with awe and just a little bit of envy, the kind that was due to the yearning to have that kind of relationship one day.
Thankfully, they weren't joined at the hip and went through their careers independently. Hermione established herself a respectable position in society as a renowned and distinguished Acquitor for House Elves and Other Creatures, and Ron became the youngest Auror to also become an Animagi Instructor ever.
Harry, through a series of fortunate events and a lot of visits to St. Mungos, landed himself the position of Head Auror after five years on the job. He also managed to survive two years of having Draco Malfoy as his partner, a feat that he considered more amazing than the former, considering he spent the first trying not to murder the man in his sleep and the second trying not to shove him against a wall and snog him senseless.
On his good days, he liked to think of how good his self-control was that he hadn't done any of the two yet. On his bad days, he'd look back on his life choices and wonder what he did to deserve falling in love with possibly the most infuriating (but also undeniably the most gorgeous, most hard-working, most dedicated and most hilarious) man in the whole world.
The sound of wings flapping snapped him out of his stupor and he realized belatedly that Errol had just left his flat after markedly decreasing the contents of his container of owl treats.
The little bugger.
December 17, Wednesday
It was on the morning of the 17th that... well, nothing really happened on the morning of the 17th, it was just that Harry was keeping count because it was on the 10th that Draco and Ron left for this mission together and that was seven days ago and really, Harry was Draco's partner, wasn't he, so why did Kingsley have to pair Ron and Draco up for this one?
He vaguely remembered Kingsley explaining something about pure blood and Dark Magic and reconnaissance or something, which was why he required two specific purebloods to go: Draco for the Dark Magic thing, and Ron, the only one of them who knew how to transform into an Animagi, for the reconnaissance thing.
The Head Auror in Harry had agreed then, but right now, lounging on his couch in his flat during his day off, the Head Auror in him was nowhere to be found and all that was present was moping and restless Harry who had been distracted during that meeting with the shock of Draco having another partner other than him after two years. It didn't even matter that the arrangement was just for that single mission or that the 'other partner' was his best mate, because Harry was Draco's partner so why would Kingsley just do that?
And how could Draco accept being assigned another partner so easily? As if their history of scathing arguments and childish Wizards' Duels for their honor meant nothing to him? As if he had all but forgotten their numerous name-calling and verbal rows before they matured into friendly insults done out of social obligation to one another?
Harry could admit that he was more irritated with Draco than Kingsley. But he was most irritated with himself for being irritated with Draco over something so embarrassingly childish, especially since he was Head Auror and Head Aurors are supposed to be mature and serious and understanding that some missions dealing with pure blood magic needed pure blooded wizards to work on them.
He sighed loudly into the silence of his flat. The couch underneath him shook as the cat jumped off it in surprise at the sudden noise.
Then, realizing that the source was just Harry, glared reproachfully at him.
Harry shrugged guiltlessly. His flat, his couch. He could sigh as loudly as he wanted.
With a huff, the cat turned its head away from him and left the living room to climb up the stairs.
Harry watched it go with amusement, debating on whether to follow so that he may put a halt on his immature musings.
He decided against it though because he still wanted to indulge in his 'immature musings' and ire towards one Draco Malfoy a bit more.
He quickly regretted that decision, however, when a loud crash sounded from the second floor.
He was gone from the couch in a flash and a pop. He reappeared in the bedroom on an intelligent guess, which was soon proved correct by the drawer of his bedside table unhinged and on the floor, its contents thrown all over the carpet.
Beside the mess, the cat, with its shoulders tucked in and its eyes closed with a pleased expression, was sitting on a photograph – one that Harry recognized immediately, even if one edge of it was all that he saw.
"I can't believe you found that," Harry muttered, cheeks a bit pink. He sat down on the floor and leaned against the bed as he slid the picture out from underneath the furry animal.
In response, the cat quirked an eye open at him, but Harry ignored him in favour of gazing at the picture with a grin.
It was a picture of Draco, taken during one of the Ministry functions. Seamus, Charms Expert and Charmed Novelties Dealer, had recently figured out a way to charm a Muggle polaroid camera to produce wizard photographs then and made it a point to take candid portraits of everyone who attended.
Draco's, however, wasn't so candid. He had seen the camera just as Seamus pressed the button and so the picture came out with him looking surprised and then scowling. He also looked very, very sleek in his black and emerald green robes and his hair gelled back neatly.
"Gorgeous, isn't he?" Harry murmured, a soft grin curling his lips upwards in spite of himself as he tilted the picture towards the cat.
The cat cocked its head to the side, wide eyes peering curiously at him instead of the picture.
Harry's grin widened as he turned the photo back to face him. He peered at the scowling face on it. "Still a pointy git though."
He set the photo back down on the floor and waved at it, as if offering it to the cat. "And since I'm rather infuriated with him right now, you can sit on his face all you want."
The cat’s nose wrinkled.
Harry shrugged unrepentantly.
On the afternoon of the 17th, Harry Potter decided to go shopping for Draco’s Christmas gift because Draco was the only one left in his list who he still had no idea what to buy for. His gifts for Ron and Hermione, as well as for his fellow Aurors, were easy enough to think about and buy but Draco’s was different. He felt pressured to choose a gift that Draco would really, really like, and it was hard choosing a gift for someone who never had trouble getting anything he wanted.
Before leaving the flat, he opened a can of tuna and left it on the kitchen floor, telling the cat, “I’ll be out a bit to look for Draco’s Christmas gift. Help yourself.”
The cat was a peculiar creature. It never ate the food that Harry presented it with (not that he stopped trying, like now) nor did it ever stay the night. Harry reckoned that the tuna he kept in his cupboard really was already past the expiration date. He also theorized that the cat really was the old lady’s upstairs, and just liked traveling down to his flat during its free time.
Whenever he’d leave for work, he’d leave the window open just slightly so that the cat could wiggle in and out as it pleased.
Harry didn’t mind. The cat had become a welcome presence in his flat that he’d even started considering the cat as his. (Old lady’s or not.)
One of the cat’s ears perked up and the cat jumped off the couch in the living room to trot towards the tuna. One whiff and it turned away with a scowl though.
“Picky,” Harry muttered in amusement, standing up to search for his thick robes. He left the tuna on the floor though, just in case the cat decided to return to it later in the day.
However, the cat, surprisingly, followed him out of the flat.
So it was on the afternoon of the 17th that Harry Potter, covered with a Glamour charm, and his cat travelled to Diagon Alley in search for the perfect gift for Draco Malfoy.
Harry was saved from a whole afternoon of racking his brain for where to go next because as soon as they entered the overcrowded Diagon Alley, the cat started off in a brisk walk, looking behind only once at Harry, as if making sure he was following.
Amused, Harry let the cat lead the way.
He was surprised that the cat was dealing well with the hustle and bustle of Diagon Alley. It was more rowdy than usual what with thickets of people doing their Christmas shopping all at the same time, but the cat gracefully evaded people’s legs and only hissed once at the kids who nearly stepped on its tail.
As they passed by store after store, Harry ticked off all the things that he wasn’t going to buy for Draco. Quills were too impersonal, a broomstick might be too much, he didn’t know Draco’s sizes to buy him clothing, sweets wouldn’t do unless they were from Mademoiselle Coco’s in France.
He was so busy window shopping that he nearly tripped over the cat as it suddenly halted into a stop. He looked down, amused when the cat let out a big, silent yawn.
He was even more amused when the cat trotted off to the nearest doormat, which was conveniently the doormat of… Obscurus Books.
A book! Draco would like that, wouldn’t he? He vaguely remembered Draco talking about the latest book on defence spells that had just been recently released.
Harry grinned proudly at the cat which was now curled up on the doormat. “Good job, cat.”
The cat’s repose was short-lived, however, as a customer from inside opened the door outwards, making the cat leap up in surprise and run behind Harry’s leg.
Harry bent down and scooped the cat in his arms, cradling it in his arms as he entered the warmth and quiet of the bookstore.
“Don’t scratch,” he warned, but it was either the cat didn’t take very well to being carried or being warned because the cat leapt from his arms, nearly knocking over the table that held the books for the window display. The table, thankfully, kept upright, but one of the books, however, fell from its stand.
“Sorry!” Harry said quickly as the witch behind the cashier sent him a glare. He smiled nervously at her and at the one other customer who turned to look before picking up the book that had fallen.
It was a crimson tome, lined with golden text that read: The Magick of Defens by Sir Gauvain of Orkney.
Harry blinked at it. This was it. The book that Draco had talked about once or twice.
Harry smiled to himself, pleased. Well, what do you know.
He looked back at the table and another book caught his eye. It was a thick one that had a black cover and a striking resemblance to one of his books in sixth year: the Half-Blood Prince’s Potions book.
Herblore: A Collection of Volumes I-IV by Hildegard von Bingen.
He didn’t think that Draco did much of Potions anymore, what with being busy with Auror fieldworks and paper works, but he still remembered how passionate the blond was for the subject back during their Hogwarts days. (At least, when Draco wasn’t busy being a prat or insulting Harry’s hair.) He remembered how he’d let his eyes travel to Draco Malfoy during class, a habit that translated into situations even outside of class and still persists to this day, and be confused at how could anyone listen so aptly to Snape with such dedication.
Quidditch and Potions. That was what Harry saw Draco loved most during their school days.
Decisively, Harry collected both of the books under his arm with a satisfied smile and set off to finding the damned cat so that they could drop by the Quidditch supply store for one more gift and then finally go home.
December 18, Thursday
The next day, the cat followed him to work.
As if it hadn’t had enough adventure yesterday in Diagon Alley.
Harry let it follow him to the nearest telephone booth and when the cat jumped inside after him, he thought about whether it was wise or not to let it enter the Ministry.
Then he shrugged. He was Head Auror. Why not?
So he dialled the correct number and off they were zoomed to the Auror Department of the Ministry of Magic.
Ten seconds later, he had to admit that it wasn't one of the wiser decisions he had ever made in his life because just after arriving at their destination, the cat took off into a run and sprinted into the crowd.
Auror reflexes had Harry running after it before he could even think about what he was doing. He thought about calling after the cat but realized he hadn't even named it.
He evaded people from the crowd, twisting and turning to get pass them, all the while keeping his eye on the damned cat. The cat turned a corner and Harry did as well a second later – only to stop dead in his tracks as he realized that the cat was nowhere to be found.
He turned around abruptly, intent on rounding on the next corner instead, and ended up colliding with a passer-by.
"Sorry –" he said, at the same time that the other person drawled, "What's got you so energetic this morning, Potter?"
And Harry really was a bad cat-owner because that voice was one that he'd know anywhere and one that could make all thoughts of anything else (for example, his cat) disappear anytime.
"Draco!" he exclaimed with a smile that he hoped wasn't too relieved and wasn't too ecstatic. “Since when have you been back?”
“Just today,” Draco said coolly, an eyebrow raised in amusement at Harry’s rumpled demeanour. “You look like you’ve been running a marathon.”
Panic returned as Harry remembered what he had been doing. "There's this cat..." he trailed off, uncertain how to explain his predicament, especially with Draco's expression morphing into one that told Harry that Draco was once again doubting his mental ability.
"...Cat," Draco repeated slowly.
"Yes. Cat. I'm looking for it."
Draco's eyebrows rose to his hairline. "Do you mean to tell me that there is a stray cat in the Auror Department of the Ministry of Magic and that you, Head Auror and Saviour of the Wizarding World—"
"Don't call me that –"
"— are looking for it?"
"Him," Harry said before he could stop himself.
Draco blinked. "What?"
"The cat's a male," Harry muttered defensively.
Draco just stared at him.
Harry shrugged sheepishly and self-consciously.
Draco sighed. "Alright. Him."
Harry looked pleased and grinned. "Yes. There is a stray cat in the Auror Department of the Ministry of Magic and I'm looking for him. Have you seen him?"
Draco looked at him funnily.
"Potter, would you like to join me for drinks later?"
Harry choked on his own saliva. "— What?"
Was Draco asking him out on a date?
Draco carried on as if it was a normal occurrence for Harry Potter to choke on his own saliva. "Drinks. You. Me. We need to have a heart to heart talk."
"Heart to heart? "
“Yes,” Draco nodded sagely. “I cannot be seen being partners with someone so powerful but utterly clueless on what to do with power. Harry, I hate to say this, but that’s not how you deal with power and social status. You are the Head Auror. You have cronies and minions to do menial stuff for you. Like looking for cats.”
“But he’s my cat,” said Harry’s traitorous tongue that seems to want no help or advice on what to say from Harry’s brain whatsoever.
Draco’s eyebrow rose once again in amused disbelief. “Your cat?”
Harry’s cheeks warmed. “Yes.”
“You’ve adopted the infernal creature?”
“He’s not infernal. Only sometimes. And not really but he comes by my flat really often that I now consider him as mine.”
Draco nodded obligingly. “And has he consented to that?”
Harry blinked in confusion. “To what?”
“To being yours.”
It was Harry’s turn to stare at Draco.
“You know what, Draco. I think I’ll take you up on that drink and that heart to heart talk. I cannot possibly be seen with someone who asks cats for their consent if they are amenable to be adopted.”
“Only barbarians don’t ask for consent,” Draco scoffed haughtily, but a fond smirk was on his face. “You’re a wizard, for Merlin’s sake. Accio the feline.”
“Only barbarians Accio felines,” Harry replied easily.
The smile that Draco sent him had him inhaling sharply and holding his breath.
“Anyway, I’ve got to deliver these to Kingsley. Good luck with your cat,” Draco said, stepping around him and walking away.
Harry released his breath.
Then, Draco turned back and called to him, “Seven at your flat tonight, Potter. I’m expecting high-quality wine.”
And then he was gone, eaten by the crowd, and Harry forgot to breathe again because he got stuck on the ‘seven at your flat’ part, which left him unable to care for the fact that he just agreed to treating Draco to high-quality wine.
A tug at his pants had him looking down and he exhaled in relief at the sight of his cat looking up at him petulantly, as if irked by the fact that Harry did not follow it.
“Come on,” Harry muttered, bending down with the intent to scoop the cat up in his arms. “I’m taking you to my office,” were the next words that he would have said but he only got through it half-way before the cat was sprinting off again to the nearest hallway.
Harry realized, with a certain amount of dread, that the hallway led to the cubicles of his Senior Aurors.
By the time he got there, the cat had already made a mess of Ronald Weasley’s desk. Ron was, thankfully, nowhere to be found, because his papers were strewn all over the floor and his chair was overturned.
“Don’t hex him!” Harry shouted in panic as some of the present Aurors already had their wands pointed in the direction that the cat was running to. “He’s mine, sorry, just carry on –“ he rambled as he passed them by, flicking his wand towards Ron’s desk.
Ron’s things quickly righted themselves back into place.
Another kind of dread washed over him when he saw the cat turn into a very familiar cubicle. Draco Malfoy’s. “Not there –“ he gasped out at the same time that the cat jumped up from the floor and grabbed on to the handle of the top drawer of Draco’s desk in an effort to climb up.
The cat gave a high-pitched meow and quickly leaped away to run for cover as the top drawer was pulled open and slid off its loose hinges, ultimately ending up clattering to the floor along with its contents.
Harry, as all the other Aurors, stared on in horror. Nobody messed with Draco Malfoy’s things.
“Twenty Sickles that the food served in the next drinking session is cat,” Frank Hartsman, Senior Auror, whispered to Gary Oldmoore.
“Alright, but you’re tasting it first, not me,” said Gary Oldmoore.
The cat neared the drawer cautiously, eyes narrowed and claws protracted.
“Oh, for the love of –“ Harry huffed out angrily. He whipped out his wand, fully intending to cast a body bind or a levitation charm on the feline, when the cat found an object of interest and patted it with its paw.
Harry had little time to see what it was before the cat sat on it, but he wasn’t the youngest Seeker that Hogwarts has ever had for nothing.
Quick eyes had him seeing that the object the cat was currently sitting on was a picture of him.
His picture. His. Harry Potter’s.
Kept in Draco Malfoy’s top drawer.
It didn’t even register that the cat was currently sitting on his face, looking satisfied and pleased, because Draco Malfoy keeps a picture of him in his top drawer.
Frank Hartsman leaned closer to Gary Oldmoore to whisper once more in his ear: “Did I say twenty sickles? I meant two galleons.”
“Alright, who broke him?” shouted a very irate Ronald Weasley thirty minutes later as he emerged from Harry Potter’s office.
“It was probably either Sir Potter’s cat or Draco Malfoy,” Frank Hartsman supplied from his cubicle helpfully.
A vein above Ron’s eyebrow twitched as he walked towards Hartsman’s cubicle. “I’m going with Malfoy, Hartsman, because I’ve never heard of Harry having a cat.” Also, because it gave him an excuse to pick a fight with Malfoy.
Hartsman nodded in approval. “Good choice. Gary’s still in the middle of looking for Sir Potter’s cat.”
Another twitch. “Hartsman, why is Gary looking for Harry’s cat? Don’t we have underlings for that? What’s the point of being Aurors if you can’t even make a shrimp or two to do your bidding?” Ron sighed dramatically.
Hartsman nodded again. “Exactly. That’s why I sent Gary to do the job.”
They shared a grin.
“How is Sir Potter?” Hartsman asked, eyeing the door that separated him from the source of Ronald Weasley’s ire.
Ron sighed once more, this time exasperatedly and with a roll of his eyes. “Temporarily incapacitated and possessing the attention span of a baby Kneazle, but he’ll live.”
“Ah,” said Hartsman. “That’s good to hear.” Then, because of his concern for the well-being of their Head Auror as well as his persistence to win those two galleons, it was with a small amount of hesitation that he dived head-on. “Sir Potter saw the picture that Sir Malfoy keeps in his top drawer.”
He watched as Ronald Weasley’s expression transformed from shock, distress, and then to a fearful resignation.
Ron stretched out a hand to clamp on his shoulder and squeeze it firmly. His eyes were grave as he looked straight into Hartsman’s eyes and imparted on his wisdom. “If you want to keep your job, Hartsman, you’ll speak none of this to anyone. Now excuse me while I go look for Malfoy…”
Hartsman could already practically hear the galleons jingling.
The first thing that Draco said when he Flooed inside Harry’s flat was: “I wasn’t joking about the wine, Potter.”
Harry had long since changed his wards to allow Draco in at all times, ever since he fell victim to a flu that he denied was a flu and that therefore evolved into a fever. He had spent one whole day asleep like a log in bed when he should have been slaving over papers in his office, a fact that was drilled into his head that evening when a very furious Draco Malfoy very bodily shook his shoulders and woke him up.
“While you have been snoring and drooling on your pillow,” Draco had snarled. “I have spent all day theorizing about your abduction by Scandinavian Goblins!”
The fact that Harry had felt all fluttery and warmed at Draco’s snarling (because that really meant Draco had been worried for him, right?) disturbed him enough that he realized he really was sick.
Behind Draco had stood Ron, shuffling nervously and not meeting Harry’s eyes, and up to this day, Harry still wasn’t sure whether to hex him for letting Draco in his flat or build him a shrine and start a religion under his name for letting Draco in his flat.
It was Draco who had decided for Harry that he change his wards and, well, it was an embarrassing truth that he had never denied Draco Malfoy anything ever since he found out he fancied him.
Harry shoved a bottle of white wine as old as the First Troll War in Draco’s face. “Only you would ask someone out for a drink and expect to be served high-quality wine. Most people are happy with plain ‘ol beers.”
Draco scoffed and waved Harry’s comment aside. He took his robes off and levitated it towards the coat rack. “I am not most people, and you –” he said, glancing at Harry from the corner his eye. “— are not merely someone.”
Harry felt his heart skip a beat. Was Draco… flirting with him?
And then Draco had to speak again and ruin the whole heart-skips-a-beat feeling. “You’re Harry Potter, Golden Boy, Saviour of the Wizarding World, The Boy Who Lived Twice, and I believe the recipient of many exotic wines from all over the world from his adoring and grateful people.”
Harry cringed. “I stopped listening when you said Golden Boy.”
The smile that Draco sent him was fond. Or at least it looked like it was fond. Harry wasn’t sure. Ever since he found out that Draco kept a picture of him in his top drawer, he had recalled their past interactions and constructed possible hidden meanings for each and every one of them.
“See?” Draco said. “We really should talk about you learning how to abuse power. It’s a requirement as Head Auror.”
“You’re incorrigible,” Harry muttered with an amused roll of his eyes.
“Mm-hmm,” said Draco distractedly as he took Harry’s offered wine and disappeared in the kitchen in his search for a wineglass. “You wouldn’t love me if I wasn’t.”
Harry choked on his own saliva yet again.
That was pretty much how the evening went. Draco was his usual snarky self and Harry was his usual lovesick, hallucinatory self – only worse, because everything that Draco did or said now sounded flirtatious in Harry’s ears, supplemented by his newfound knowledge of the contents of Draco’s top drawer.
They didn’t talk about Draco’s mission with Ron because Draco didn’t bring it up and Harry didn’t want to bring it up, because he still smarted from the fact that Draco had easily accepted another partner other than him.
But they did entertain themselves with a little bit of gossip about their co-workers, particularly Hartsman and the underground betting system that he had set up which wasn’t so underground considering every Auror in the workforce knew of it.
“I have absolutely no idea why, but Woods informed me that the current bet is whether the food for the next night out with the Aurors is cat,” Draco said, nose scrunched up in disgust at the thought. He leaned back on the couch and loosened his tie.
Harry, who was sitting on the armchair beside the couch, wisely kept mum about his cat (who was nowhere to be found right now, which wasn’t a surprise because the cat never stayed the night in his flat anyway) making a mess of Draco’s desk. He also wisely ignored the bit of skin that was exposed by the loosening of Draco’s tie.
“Hartsman’s love for galleons is going to be his downfall one day,” Draco muttered as he took a sip from his glass.
Harry snorted. “As if you’d refuse a few easy galleons yourself,” he said light-heartedly.
“Please,” Draco scoffed, waving a hand. “Gambling is an art, one that Hartsman hasn’t mastered yet.”
“And you mean to tell me that you’ve mastered that art?” Harry asked, raising an eyebrow in amusement.
“Of course,” Draco replied, before a mischievous glint appeared in his eyes and he smirked at Harry. “Among other things.”
And that really wasn’t supposed to sound like Draco hitting on him or Draco making sexual innuendos but, dear Merlin, Harry needed to seek therapeutic help because it did sound like those things.
“Are you going to Ron and Hermione’s on Sunday?” he wheezed out in reply instead because if Draco really was flirting with him, it wouldn’t do to respond in kind since he had no idea how flirting worked and would probably just embarrass himself if he tried to attempt it. If Draco wasn’t, then the same reasoning applied.
It was best to steer the subject away.
If Draco minded, he didn’t show it.
“Of course,” he said, before narrowing his eyes towards Harry’s kitchen. “You’re going to have to bring that red wine from the Inquisition Era though, because I will not allow myself to drown in commoner’s beer during that commoner’s party.”
Harry knew that whatever insults that Ron and Draco still sent each other were mainly due to traditional obligation than any sort of real animosity, so he didn’t reprimand Draco for that. Instead, he accused Draco of another deed. “You went through my alcohol stash!”
Draco smirked. “I go through it every time I visit, Harry, just to ensure that you still have something exquisite to serve me with the next time I come here.” He raised the glass to his lips and looked at Harry from above its rim. “Unless you have something else other than exotic alcohol to entice me.”
Harry choked on the wine this time.
At least it was a step up from choking on his own saliva.
By the time that Draco left for the evening after bidding him a sweet farewell (“Remember to bring that red wine! Don’t tell anyone! I don’t want their grabby hands on my wine.”), Harry felt like a fifteen-year-old lovesick teenager again.
December 19, Friday
Therefore, when he and Ron met up that Friday for their obligatory lunch in the Regurgitating Rats, the first thing that he asked, with a whole lot of difficulty and speech blocks, was: “How do people… you know… flirt?”
Ron spewed his half-chewed food at him.
Harry, having expected that and being used to Ron’s table manners after years of being victim to them, calmly Scourgified himself. “You know, they didn’t mean the Regurgitating part here literally.”
“Your face makes me regurgitate,” Ron muttered as he wiped his mouth with a table napkin. He cringed. “This is about Malfoy, isn’t it?”
“No,” Harry said automatically as warmth bloomed across his cheeks.
Ron raised an eyebrow at the redness of Harry’s ears. “Right,” he said with a cough. “Malfoy or not, I’ve only ever flirted with Hermione for the past ten years, and, well, you know her.” He shrugged, nose scrunching up. “She’s not exactly susceptible to, ah, flirting.”
Harry nodded in brotherly understanding.
Then, Ron straightened himself up, looked at Harry in the eye, and imparted some more of his wisdom.
“You should ask Seamus.”
December 20, Saturday
The Floo flared to life and from the green fire came Seamus Finnigan, Charms Expert and Charmed Novelties Dealer, followed shortly by Ronald Weasley.
“Harry!” Seamus exclaimed with a beaming smile.
The cat on the couch popped a curious eye open.
Ron stared at the cat.
Harry, who had been in the middle of washing the dishes (because old habits die hard and Scourgifies can only do so much), popped his head out from the kitchen. He blinked at them with incredulity. “What are you guys doing here?”
“Ronald here –“ Seamus emphasized his words by giving Ron’s back a hearty clap. “—told me of your predicament.”
Realization crossed Harry’s face.
Seamus opened his mouth to speak once more but that was the same time that Ron pointed a finger towards the cat and blurted out, “This is your cat? The cat that wreaked havoc in the office?”
Harry shrugged sheepishly. “He didn’t wreak havoc. Just had a bit of fun. And yes. He’s my cat.”
Ron made a disgruntled noise, still engaged in a staring contest with the cat who had narrowed its eyes at him. “For how long?”
“About five days?”
Ron snorted. He looked away from the cat and shook his head. “Never imagined you to be a cat person.”
The cat huffed at him, before looking away as well and resuming its sleep.
Harry, intent on defending his cat-person persona, fully stepped inside the living room, exposing to everyone present the pink apron that he was currently donning.
Seamus eyed him appreciatively. “What they say about gay men and aprons are true,” he said with a grin before Harry could begin defending himself.
Ron coughed loudly, cheeks pink and expression a bit mortified.
Harry flushed heavily. “It was Ginny’s gift!”
“Ah, I remember.” Seamus nodded dramatically. “Hols two years ago, am I right? The year you told everyone you fancied ‘em blokes and Ginny got you a pink apron to greet your future hubby with. Dean and I made a bet with that ‘un. I bet three galleons that you’d more likely greet your hubby with only the apron on, if you know what I mean.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively. “I’m still waiting for the day that the three galleons will find their way to my pocket.”
Harry looked at Seamus in horror. “I’m not sure I’m comfortable with you guys talking about me in an apron,” he squeaked out.
“Oh, nonsense, Harry!” Seamus exclaimed, grinning as he walked towards the couch and plopped himself ungracefully on it, making the cat bounce slightly off the pillow it was curled up on. The cat hissed at him but he merely ignored it and continued. “We’ve talked a great deal about you, especially after you came out of your little closet. Specifically if you’d be open to a ménage à trois.”
Ron choked on his own saliva. (It was an unfortunate truth that when you’ve been friends with Harry for as long as Ron had been, you start picking up his habits and even his unattractive responses.)
Harry’s face scrunched up in confusion because he had no idea what Seamus had just said, and Seamus howled in pain because the cat had suddenly embedded its claws through his pants and his thigh.
“Alright, so it wasn’t one of my brightest ideas ever,” Ron admitted after Dean had arrived to pick his whimpering boyfriend up with an embarrassed apology and a resigned sigh. He and Harry stood in front of the fireplace, looking at the spot where Seamus and Dean stood just a few seconds ago.
“No, it wasn’t,” Harry agreed.
Ron eyed the cat on the couch again. “Is keeping that cat one of your brightest ideas ever?”
“I’m not really ‘keeping it’,” Harry said, shrugging. “It comes and goes. It doesn’t even sleep or eat here. It just lounges on my couch a lot.”
“And skins your visitors alive,” Ron added dryly.
Harry grinned at him. “Hasn’t skinned you yet.”
“Let’s see him try,” Ron muttered under his breath, sending a glare towards the cat.
The cat’s ear twitched but its eyes remained closed.
Harry peered at Ron in confusion. “You really hate cats, don’t you? You and Crookshanks never were the best of friends.”
Ron tore his gaze away from the cat and sighed heavily. He donned the demeanour that he always uses whenever he is about to impart on his wisdom and clapped a hand on Harry’s shoulder, squeezing it firmly.
“In this world, Harry, there are two things one must always be wary of: cats and ferrets.”
Harry cringed. “Is this about Draco?”
“No,” Ron said automatically in pretty much the same way that Harry did just a few days ago when Harry answered the same question.
Harry’s shoulders drooped. “So this is about Draco.”
Ron sighed and decided to do his mate a favour and tell him what happened during his mission with Draco. “Remember that mission that he and I were paired off to?”
Harry nodded. He was still going to have to talk to Kingsley about that and about pairing off his partner with someone else. “Yeah, you spent more than a week on that mission. Did it go well?”
Ron’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “More than a week? We only spent six days there, Harry.”
Harry matched his confused expression. “But Draco said…” And then it hit him.
Ron and Draco left for the mission on the 10th. If they only spent six days there, then they should have been back by the 15th. But Draco had said that he only got back on the 18th…
It hit him why it hadn’t been a problem for Draco to agree to be paired off with someone else other than Harry and why Draco didn’t tell him that he’d been back since the 15th.
Harry’s heart fell. “I got it,” he said, sighing heavily. He raised a hand to rub at his temples, feeling like he had just swallowed a lump of lead.
Ron blinked at the sudden change in his mood. “Got what?”
“Draco doesn’t like me,” Harry muttered pitifully.
Ron’s jaw dropped. His eyes widened in alarm. “What – what – wait –“
Harry gave one big sigh and straightened his back. He smiled weakly at Ron. “Thanks, mate. I think I’ll take Seamus up on that offer, whatever it was he was offering…” he muttered, sighing again as he turned and retreated to the sanctuary of his kitchen.
More warning bells sounded in Ron’s head at the thought of his best mate engaging in a ménage à trois. He stared at Harry’s back dumbly, even as it disappeared behind the wall separating the living room and the kitchen, with absolutely no idea what just happened or how the conversation had turned into that direction. He didn’t even get to say what he was supposed to say about what had transpired during his mission with Draco.
He spent a good few moments gaping at the wall like a fish dying of oxygen until a hiss to his right snapped him out of his stupor.
The cat probably thought it was Ron’s fault that Harry’s mood had soured.
He hissed right back at the cat, before abruptly about-facing and stalking towards the fireplace.
He needed to talk to Hermione.
Before he yelled out his destination to the fireplace, he narrowed his eyes at the cat and scowled. “If Harry really does enter a ménage à trois with Dean and Seamus, I’m blaming you.”
December 21, Sunday
“Ginny, flirt with Harry,” Ron rushed out in a low voice as he narrowly avoided the Traveling Mistletoe (courtesy of George Weasley) and sidled up next to his sister in front of the food table.
The paper plate filled with a variety of desserts in Ginny’s hand toppled to the side dangerously as she exclaimed in a shrill voice, “What?”
Lavender Brown, who was sitting on the love seat beside the food table with Terry Boot, glanced over curiously.
Ron shot her a nervous smile that probably made him look constipated, before steering his sister by the elbow, efficiently leading her away from the plate of treacle tart that she seemed to be set on monopolizing if her hovering by it and emptying it slice by slice for the past hour was any indication.
“Hey!” Ginny huffed, glaring at him reproachfully. “That tart still better be there when I get back –“
“When Harry comes, he’ll probably avoid Malfoy like Quidditch players avoid bludgers,” Ron hissed out, purposefully using a Quidditch analogy to quickly send the point home to Ginny.
As expected, Ginny’s eyes widened at the thought of Harry doing a corkscrew dive just to avoid Malfoy. “Why on earth would he –“
“He just will,” Ron let out in a rush, eyeing Draco Malfoy who was by the punch table, eyeing the alcohol present with narrowed eyes. Ron knew better though. Draco had been looking at the clock at least five times per minute, a sure sign that he was waiting for Harry. Ron continued. “And when he does, jump in, flirt with Harry, and save the day, okay?”
Ginny’s nose scrunched up. She picked up the slice of tart on her plate and took a huge bite. “I’m over Harry,” she said through a mouthful. It came out muffled but being her brother gave you translating abilities. Ginny swallowed. “And he’s gay. And how will my flirting with him save the day?”
“Because,” Ron said, his panic at having his best mate enter a ménage a trois with Seamus and Dean taking over his nerves. “Malfoy’s going to throw a hissy fit and maybe they’ll finally stop rounding each other and actually snog.”
Ginny peered at him suspiciously. “Who are you and what have you done to my brother? My brother never would have advocated for Harry and Malfoy getting together.”
Ron put both of his hands on Ginny’s shoulders and called on his low voice that he used whenever he was imparting on his wisdom. “Gin, there are some things in life that we must sacrifice for the greater good,” he said, at the same time that the Floo flared to life and out came a coughing, stumbling Harry Potter.
It was a testament to how used all their friends were to Harry’s Floo-traveling skills that all of them spared only a single glance and a quick greeting before going back to whatever it was they were doing. Only Draco abandoned his alcohol-perusing activity, abruptly about-faced, and marched towards Harry to grab his arm with one hand and Scourgify him free of soot with the other.
“Huh,” Ginny said. “Harry can’t avoid him like a bludger now when the bludger’s got a grip on you.”
Ron fervently prayed his sister was right.
His prayer was cut short when the fireplace blazed again and out came Seamus Finnigan, all impish grin and mussed hair. Ron stared on in horror. Seamus coming immediately after Harry? That was either coincidence or… Harry really did take Seamus up on his offer for a ménage à trois.
Ron felt all the warmth drain from his face.
He whimpered pathetically.
He repeated it again when Seamus winked at Harry and practically purred, “Nice doing business with you, Harry.”
Seamus was notorious for narrating his sexual experiences with his friends, and while Ron didn’t mind on most days, he absolutely didn’t want to hear sex stories about his best mate.
He just didn’t.
“Thanks, Draco,” Harry said with a grateful smile after Seamus walked away in search for Dean.
He wasn’t surprised when the first words that slipped out of Draco’s mouth were, “Did you bring the red wine?”
He rolled his eyes in amusement. “You only want me for my wine.”
Draco grinned at him unrepentantly, effectively sending the butterflies in Harry’s stomach into flight.
Harry let the momentous rush of adoration for the man in front of him encourage him to slip his hand in his pocket and take out an item. He shoved it in front of Draco before his nerves could get the better of him. “Happy Christmas.”
Draco blinked in confusion at the object in Harry’s hand.
A Golden Snitch.
He picked it up, eyebrows furrowed together. “This isn’t wine.”
Harry nodded patiently, heart beating furiously in his chest. “No, it isn’t. It’s my Christmas gift to you.”
If possible, Draco looked even more confused. “Just this?”
Harry flushed hotly, suddenly feeling insecure. He’d spent last night after Ron and the cat left wallowing in his misery like a kicked puppy before he decided to fix his things for the party and saw the Christmas gifts that he had prepared for Draco a few days ago. And just like that, kicked puppy became reckless dog as his inner Gryffindor gave him daring ideas (in the name of throwing all caution into the wind to get what you want) that his inner Slytherin ineffectively warned him not to follow (in the name of self-preservation to survive another day).
So he had Floo-called Seamus up immediately, ignored his quip of “Finally thought about that ménage à trois, ‘Arry?”, and commissioned him for a job all in a rush of Gryffindor bravery.
But now, with Draco’s disturbed expression, the Slytherin sense of self-preservation was winning.
“If you don’t want it, it’s fine. I’ve got another gift for you but I have to place it under the tree first –“ Harry rushed out, but stopped when Draco flicked his forehead with a finger. “Ow!”
“I didn’t mean it like that, you pillock,” Draco said with a sigh, but a smirk was on his face. He raised the Golden Snitch up to present it to Harry. “Thank you for this,” he said earnestly.
Harry’s cheeks still felt warm but he grinned back. “There’s an inscription.”
“Oh?” Draco rolled the Snitch around until he found the text between its wings. Harry held his breath as Draco read it, taking note of the sudden raise of both of Draco’s eyebrows as he finished. Harry almost didn’t want to hear what Draco had to say when the other opened his mouth to speak, but thankfully, Seamus chose that time to whistle boisterously.
“Mistletoe!” Seamus yelled gleefully.
Harry and Draco’s head automatically turned to look around the room, searching for the latest victims of the Traveling Mistletoe, only to realize that everyone in the room was looking back at them.
Harry felt his hands turn clammy.
Draco turned back to Harry and, slowly, raised his head to look upwards.
True enough, sparkling and floating innocently above them was a mistletoe.
Catcalls and hoots resounded from their friends and colleagues around the room. People from the kitchen, the second floor, and the terrace outside popped their heads inside the living room, expectant grins on their faces.
Harry was used to attention but somehow, this felt heavier than usual. He swallowed thickly. “I can talk to George to charm the mistletoe away…”
He was surprised when Draco whipped his head back to stare incredulously at him and said, “You really are an utterly daft twit, Harry Potter. Why would I –“
“Just kiss him, Malfoy,” came a venomous, panicked hiss from the far side of the room, which Harry recognized as Ron’s.
“Ron!” chorused two female voices scoldingly. Hermione and Ginny, Harry’s befuddled mind helpfully supplied.
Behind Draco, Seamus raised two thumbs up and waggled his eyebrows with a knowing grin.
The Gryffindor overpowered the Slytherin then, and Harry Potter finally kissed Draco Malfoy.
He had planned to pull back almost immediately, but Draco’s left hand took hold of his collar and crumpled the cloth in his fist at the same time Draco’s right, the one holding the Golden Snitch, wound around Harry’s waist to press against his back, effectively pushing their bodies flush against each other.
Harry made a pleased noise of approval when Draco’s tongue swiped at his bottom lip and plunged inside his mouth without so much a request for permission.
Cheers erupted from the whole household.
Ron, even though he looked a bit green in the face, finally allowed himself to sag against the wall and sigh heavily in relief.
After a few moments, after realizing that the two men snogging in the middle of the room wasn’t about to stop anytime soon, the partygoers all went back to their business, amused grins on their faces and shaking their heads knowingly.
When they pulled apart, Draco growled softly against Harry’s lips. “Finally.”
Harry felt warmth spread across his cheeks. “Whaddya mean finally,” he muttered, shoving Draco’s shoulder slightly, playfully.
Draco smirked, raising the Snitch in his hand back between their faces. “Is this what you meant by the inscription? ‘Kiss and I’ll tell’? Tell what, exactly?”
Harry coughed in an effort to reduce his embarrassment. “Kiss it,” he said, trying to go for noncommittal.
One of Draco’s eyebrows rose in amusement yet again. “It? Not you?”
“It,” Harry said, shaking his head with a chuckle. “Then me after if you want,” he added shyly as an afterthought.
Draco laughed shortly. “Oh, I will,” he promised, as he raised the Snitch, specifically the part where the text was inscribed, to his lips. He watched, amazed, as the text dissolved, only for another sentence to take its place.
He burst out into another round of laughter.
right front pocket of robes.’
By the punch table, George Weasley narrowed his eyes at Seamus. “Did you just mess with the charms on my Traveling Mistletoe? I put magic-impervious charms on those.”
Despite his accusation, his voice held a tinge of proud respect in them.
Seamus grinned at him wickedly and pointed to himself. “Charms Expert, remember?”
“So,” Draco said after loudly clearing his throat. He peered at the clear, red liquid in his wine glass, eyes narrowing because his vision blurred. “This is some strong stuff. If I hadn’t kissed you, I wouldn’t have gotten this wine?”
They were sitting on the bench in the garden at the back of the house. Shrill and high-pitched Christmas music sung by the Wailing Witches resounded from the party behind them, but it was pretty easy to ignore with red wine from the Inquisition Era in their system and the length of their legs pressed warmly together.
Harry shook his head, only to wince because it made his head throb. “If you hadn’t kissed me, even if you kissed the Snitch, you wouldn’t have seen the message. But I would have given the wine to you either way, I s’pose,” he muttered.
“Pushover,” Draco said affectionately. “So the mistletoe was on purpose?”
Harry nodded and forgot how to speak because Draco had inched closer to him so that even their arms pressed together.
“Don’t need mistletoe to get me to kiss you,” Draco murmured, laying his head on Harry’s shoulder.
Harry let out a snort as he laid his head on top of Draco’s and closed his eyes. He sighed contentedly. “Apparently not. Just more wine.”
December 21, Monday
Harry stumbled into his flat later well after midnight with his head hurting all over. It didn’t matter though because he was still pretty much floating in the clouds after everything that happened that day.
The mistletoe worked! The Snitch worked! Harry’s plan worked!
Draco liked him!
With a happy sigh, he let himself fall down on his couch, only momentarily disoriented by the throbbing in his head that resulted from the movement.
Faint knocking from the window caught his attention and he cracked open an eye to peer at the source of the noise. The cat was tapping its paw on the glass.
Harry flicked a hand and the window slid to the side just enough to let the cat through.
Harry watched detachedly as the cat jumped inside his flat and proceeded to walk towards him. No, Harry thought, narrowing his eyes to get his vision to steady. The cat was wobbling.
He didn’t give it much thought though, especially when the cat jumped up on the couch to settle beside him and snuggle closer.
The heaviness of his eyes won over then and he let himself relax, thoughts of introducing his cat to Draco tomorrow drifting him off to sleep.
Harry woke up five hours later with a horrible hangover and the thought that he should talk to the old lady upstairs about feeding the cat too much because the cat was heavy.
He grunted and tried to shrug the weight off his side.
A low chuckle resounded in his ear.
“Not a cuddler, are you, Potter?”
Harry’s eyes shot open.
He was greeted by Draco Malfoy’s winning smirk.
Draco Malfoy. On his couch. Beside him.
Harry, as handsomely as he always did, choked on his saliva.
Draco’s smirk widened. He sat up, bending his neck from side to side to get rid of the cricks there that had formed during his uncomfortable sleep on Harry’s small sofa. “Hmm?”
“What – but – what –“
Draco leaned down to plant a kiss on Harry’s forehead. “Articulate, Harry,” he said teasingly, finally standing up from the sofa.
Harry sat up abruptly, still staring at Draco with wide eyes and a gobsmacked expression. “But… the cat…” he trailed off pitifully. “I fell asleep with the cat!”
“Mm-hmm. Yes, you did,” Draco replied helpfully, looking down at Harry with amusement on his face. He raised his arms up above him to stretch them, and Harry sat still, unable to resist being awed by the grace of Draco’s movements.
It was at this point that Harry realized that Draco was still wearing his clothes from last night – like him, since he hadn’t bothered to change when he came home five hours ago.
“But honestly, Harry,” Draco continued, smiling charmingly at him. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to sleep in animagi form?”
Back in the Weasley and Granger household, Ron was still half-sprawled over the messy dining table, his nightmares making him jerk from time to time and mutter in his sleep.
“Never should have agreed to Kingsley… Never should have taught that buggering Malfoy how to be an animagus…”
It wasn't that Draco had planned for everything.
He just wanted to
stalk spy on Harry a bit, see what he did during his days off, and then give Harry the shock of his life when the cat in his flat suddenly transforms into Draco Malfoy.
The joke was only supposed to last a day.
Curiosity killed the cat, he'd heard Granger tell her husband during one of their small get-togethers.
But that was a Muggle saying and when did Muggles ever get anything right? (The box with the moving pictures in Harry's living room, however, Draco could admit, was fascinating.)
And so Draco went to Harry's flat the next day once more as a cat. And the day after that.
And Draco had been immensely pleased to discover a photograph of him in Harry's bedroom, even if it was hidden under a pile of knick-knacks. When he first devised The Plan, he had no expectations, really. All he had was the intelligent guess and the hope (a lot of hope) that Harry held the same feelings for him.
The picture confirmed everything and gave him a confidence boost that no amount of his and Harry's flirtatious jokes (and they had a lot, mostly courtesy of Draco) could ever give him.
"Gorgeous, isn't he?" Harry had said.
Draco had to stop himself from abandoning his animagi form and snogging the man then and there.
Harry just made everything easy for him.
Going off to Diagon Alley to shop exclusively for him?
Of course he was going to push Harry in the right direction of the book he really wanted, but it was to his surprise (and touched delight) when Harry picked up a Potions book as well.
Draco was convinced this man was a keeper.
Thus started his Plan to Get Harry Potter for real.
But of course, who better to thwart his plan than Harry Potter himself?