November 1, 2009.
It was time.
Harry knew it was time.
The Owl Post Office was something of a nightmare with its long queues, frazzled workers, and inconvenient hours, and the cost of owl rentals had become a significant portion of his monthly spending. The London branch outside Diagon didn’t even have enough owls sometimes due to the increase in mail orders as a result of the recent selection of London as the new headquarters for AmazonWiz.
Besides, Hermione had told him it was time, or at least suggested as much when he asked to borrow Pigwidgeon for the purposes of owling Kingsley the massive flesh-eating tri-toed mole-slug he’d bottled up in a jar of mint sauce.
So, it was probably time. He shouldn’t be accidentally getting tri-toed mole-slug pus on any owl’s feet besides his own.
Harry took a deep breath and marched up to the storefront of the Diagon Alley Magical Menagerie.
Bravely, he opened the door. Because it was time.
It… wasn’t time.
“Welcome! Oh, Mr Potter, sir! What can I help you with today?” a large toad-like fellow greeted him in a bellowing voice before Harry had even got the door open and stepped inside. The cacophony of animal sounds was nearly as loud, and Harry wanted to plug up his ears. Various creatures were snorting, flapping, and hopping about in their cages, adding to the chaos.
“Er, one owl, please.”
“An owl! Why yes, yes, of course! An owl!”
Harry shifted uncomfortably. Peering around a little, he saw a bin full of multi-coloured Pygmy Puffs. He thought they might have been singing, but they were all going about their many different songs in decidedly different keys. It was… a lot.
The shopkeeper must have seen the direction of his gaze, because he tapped the side of the cage with his wand. “Har, har! Silly buggers!” he said, as all at once they began humming “Deck the Halls” in full harmony. It was barely November.
The man watched him eagerly, seemingly waiting for a response.
“Bravo?” Harry tried. He peered in closer. One Puff was a riot of different colours, staring out the window humming an entirely different tune to itself—"Winter Wonderland?”—and an image of Luna danced through Harry’s head.
“Bravo! Yes, bravo, Mr Potter says! Har har.”
Harry cringed. “So, an owl then?” The Pygmy Puffs returned to their own individual songs until the shopkeeper tapped the bin again and they all started in on “Let it Snow.”
“In a hurry? Of course, of course. What sort of owl? A grand Eagle? I've a solid fellow out back. Or a speedy Barn? Maybe a beautiful Snowy—”
“No!” Harry yelped. “Not—Not one of those. I’ll, uh, take the first one.”
“Fine choice, a fine choice indeed. I’ll bring him right out to meet you.”
“No need. I’ll, er, meet him later. You can just wrap him up to go. Oh, I guess I’ll need a cage, too. Can you just deliver everything? Some food and treats, I suppose, too. I’ll just—Here, I’ll just give you my address, and you can bring everything he might require?” The sooner Harry got out of there the better.
“Well, I suppose I could put a blanket over the cage to keep him warm when we bring him by. If you’re sure you don’t want to see him…” The man hesitated before laughing jovially again. “Skirting protocol? A man after my own heart. Har, har.”
“Har huh?” Harry asked.
“The owl must approve the wizard, Mr Potter! But I'm sure in this case…”
“No, no.” Harry took a deep breath. “I can do it. I’ll meet him.”
“Right then! I’ll just pop round the back and bring out Hadwiger.”
“Hadw—wait. Wait. Stop. I can’t. I… I can’t.” Harry turned back toward the shop door. He had to get out of there; he couldn’t do this. How could he have ever thought he could? “Sorry, sorry,” Harry called, making his way to the exit. But in his rush, he wasn’t quite paying attention to his elbows, because he bumped right into the Pygmy Puffs, knocking over their bin, and spilling dozens of pink and green and blue and yellow fuzzy poufy little puffs everywhere. “Oh! Blimey,” Harry said. “Sorry! Right, I’ll just help…”
He quickly righted their cage and got down on his knees to collect the Puffs, which were starting to scatter in all directions. The one that reminded him of Luna was already halfway underneath a set of stacked cages with rabbits inside. As the shopkeeper started scooping the rest of the Pygmy Puffs, Harry lay down on the cool stone floor and reached way back to collect the Luna Puff. After grabbing a dust bunny on his first try, his second attempt proved more successful, and he dropped the humming Puff back into the cage with its companions.
Peering under the other bins and shelves and cages to check for any others, Harry came up empty. It seemed they’d gathered them all. In the process of standing again, he found himself looking into a pair of large green eyes.
Harry blinked and looked further into the cage. It was possibly the ugliest cat he’d ever seen. White with uneven blotches of dark brown, it was shaved, with yet another pale tone underneath, and it had a round face that looked crumpled like a wet dishrag. It was incredibly scrawny and in its current state seemed to most resemble a little alien from a children’s program on the Muggle telly. A smelly little alien that looked to be missing half an ear, Harry amended to himself, continuing to rise to his knees after inhaling its rather pungent scent. He hoped it was just the cat litter.
“Miaow.” This time it seemed like more of a statement.
Harry looked back at the creature. “Er, Miaow.”
The cat came to the front of the cage and stuck a paw out. It had about seven toes on it.
“Oh, don’t mind him. Har, har. Not even magic, that one.”
Harry looked at the paw, still extended through the cage, then back at the cat’s face. Harry wasn’t sure what the cat wanted. Maybe the shopkeeper had trained it to shake for treats, like Neville’s crup. Except… the cage was all dusty, and it was far at the bottom of the stack of cages filled with cute little rabbits. Probably no one even saw it down there when they came in the store.
Harry gently took the paw and gave it a little shake. “Hello.”
The cat flexed its claws and made a little snuffle sound, startling Harry, so he pulled his fingers away quickly.
“Miaow,” it said, after its paw was back in its cage. Then it trilled a little and began to sniff at Harry. It sneezed, and Harry felt his arm get sprayed with cat bogeys.
“Right, as I said, don’t mind him. He’s a rather nervous creature, and far too old—going on eleven now—no use for a chap like yourself, and not a lick of magic, as I said. I should put him in the clearance bin with the leftover cages and toys from last season. Or maybe I should find some Muggles to take him in. So, then, your owl? I also have a chipper little Scops, a dandy of a fellow. Likes to—”
“No thank you.” Harry found himself watching the cat as he wiped his arm off on his trousers.
It cocked its head at Harry, staring at him. “Miaow.”
“So you’ve said.” Harry replied. He turned to the shopkeeper. “He hasn’t… he’s not been in that cage for eleven years, right?”
“I inherited him with the shop a year back. Don’t really know when he arrived. Likely magical and non-magical cats were breeding during the war. Were you interested in a cat, Mr Potter? I’ve a beautiful Himalayan we just got in, with a knack for retrieving misplaced wands. She’s a blue-eyed beauty and trained to discreetly eradicate hairballs into a kerchief.”
“Definitely not. No, just wondering, is all.”
“I’ve also got a handsome Siamese trained to monitor house-elf productivity.”
“No. No, thank you.” Harry frowned. The alien cat came to the front of its cage and put its front paws up on the bars. Harry found himself gently petting its seven-toed paws.
“Why… why is its face like that?” Harry asked. It looked so unhappy.
“Har har har,” the shopkeeper laughed, except Harry hadn’t actually been making a joke.
He studied the cat as it turned in circles in its cage before flopping over in a heap. “Does it have a name?”
The shopkeeper shrugged. “I call him Squib.”
Harry was liking the shopkeeper less and less.
His knees were beginning to hurt on the stone floor, so he got to his feet, feeling a little bad about leaving the cat in the loud, chaotic menagerie without the trappings of a decent home. It looked like it could use a nice bed and more than the one little toy with its stuffing torn out and feathers long gone. And a real name. It wasn’t the cat’s fault it didn’t have magic.
He didn’t even like cats. He didn’t dislike them, per se, but he wasn’t overly fond. But he wanted to help it. And suddenly he had an idea.
“How much?” Harry asked. “For the cat.”
The shopkeeper frowned. “It’s not magic.”
“I know,” Harry said. “But I know someone who will take good care of it.” Hermione had always loved cats. She could love the ugly critter, and Rose and Hugo would have fun with a pet. Except Harry remembered then that Hugo was allergic. They’d found out last summer when they visited Bill and Fleur’s house to see Fleur’s new little rescue tabby.
Right, well, it wasn’t like he could adopt a cat. Maybe he’d ask Molly.
“I’ll probably be back soon. For an owl. Not a cat,” Harry clarified as he got to his feet. He felt his chest tighten as he did so. Maybe tomorrow it would be time to get an owl. Or maybe in another year or two.
“Any time, Mr Potter, sir! We always have them on special for a fine lad like yourself! Har har.”
“Right,” Harry said, growing more displeased by the moment. He thought of the poor cat again, with its half ear, which was still plenty enough ear to listen to the incessant and unbearable har-har-ing. Maybe that’s why the Pygmy Puffs sang—so they didn’t have to listen.
Harry looked back, and the cat had tucked itself all the way back in the corner of its cage. It looked sad. It looked so, so sad. Even sadder than Harry felt.
“I can’t,” Harry told it.
It turned away toward the dark corner of its cage.
November 2, 2009.
“Hello, Harry,” Hermione said when her head popped up in Harry’s Floo. “How did it go?”
“It wasn’t time, Hermione.”
“Oh, Harry,” she replied. “I understand. But, you see, Pig is now afraid of condiments and anything green.”
“Green? Tri-toed mole-slugs are orange.”
“The mint sauce.”
“Oh. Sorry.” He hoped she didn’t get many green missives.
Hermione nodded. “Look, it’s okay. We’ll figure out another solution. You don’t have to get an owl. It’s only that my legal briefs come on that official light green Ministry letterhead… but that’s okay. I will—well, I’ll just get them delivered through other means.”
“Actually, I think I have a solution. I stopped at the Muggle post office this afternoon and rented a post box and bought some stamps. I’m just going to use the Muggle post and see how that goes for a few months.”
Hermione bit her lip. “I don’t know.” She turned her gaze sharply to Harry’s right. “Harry, what is that?”
“Oh. That’s a cat.”
Hermione looked at him sharply. “A cat? Why is there a cat in your house? Oh, is it an Animagus? Who is it?”
“No, it’s just a cat.”
“Why do you have a cat? Step back, I’m coming over.”
Harry backed away from the hearth as Hermione came through, and, passing him by completely, went straight to the cat and scooped it up. It looked at Harry with huge green eyes. Harry shrugged at it.
“Good heavens, it needs a bath.” She cast a quick Scourgify. “That’ll do for now. So why do you have a cat?”
Harry found that very hard to explain. “Er.”
Her face softening, Hermione asked, “Whose is it?”
“It’s mine, I guess,” he said, watching as Hermione soothed the scraggly animal.
“What’s its name?”
“I call it ‘Cat’ for now.”
“Merlin, you’re a strange-looking fellow,” she said, presumably to the cat and not Harry himself.
“I don’t really know how it happened… I went in to get an owl, but I couldn’t. And he came home with me somehow… seemed inevitable after I gave the shopkeeper several Galleons for him.” Harry sighed.
“Oh Harry,” she said. “Do you even want a cat?”
“It’s not magic,” Harry added. “The shopkeeper was going to try to give it to some Muggles even though it’s meant to be in the magical world.”
She looked at him.
“And it’s not had a proper home in eleven years.”
Hermione’s eyes grew shiny and she blinked a few times. “Of course, of course you should have a cat. Just look at him. It’s a him, isn’t it? Just look at him. He needs a name. All creatures need a name.”
“I was thinking maybe Albus Severus.”
“No, not… I mean, a good name,” Hermione clarified, scratching the cat’s head, which the cat accepted with good grace. “Like Leon or Vigo.”
Harry shifted a little. “Maybe I just need to think about it.”
“That might be best. How many toes does this cat even have? Oh, did you give it food and water?” Hermione buried her face in cat’s fur and made funny noises, and the cat’s alarmed wide-eyed look quickly returned.
“You get used to it,” Harry told the cat, before leading Hermione into his kitchen to show her where he’d set a plate with some kippers on it and a saucer of milk. Cats loved fish and cream; everyone knew that, and he planned to make sure his was fed well. Cat had already eaten a portion of the fish.
Hermione looked at him. “I guess you’ve never had a cat. All right. We can do this. I’ll help you.” She handed him Cat. “I’m going to make sure Ron and George are okay to watch Rose and Hugo when they get up from their naps, and then you and I are going shopping.”
“Not to the Menagerie,” Harry said firmly.
“Not to the Menagerie,” Hermione agreed. “Merlin knows we wouldn’t want you coming back with a crup too.”
“Har har,” Harry said.
November 7, 2009.
“Ron said you got a cat,” Ginny said by way of greeting. “Can I come see it?”
Harry stood back and opened the Floo. “Hey,” he said when she popped out of the fireplace.
“So where is it?”
“I don’t know. We didn’t exactly know you were coming.”
“He’s probably sleeping in the sink again. He usually sleeps there during the afternoon.”
She followed him up the stairs to the loo. Hermione had told him it wasn’t good to Accio the cat all the time, so Harry had taken to learning where the cat could usually be found. Even though Grimmauld Place had lots of hiding spots, the cat only seemed to like a specific few.
“Why’d you get a cat? Ron said you were meant to get an owl—mother of Merlin!” Ginny startled when she saw the cat. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Nothing’s wrong with it! Now quiet or you’ll wake him up.”
“But why does it look like that?”
“The Animal Healer said its fur would grow back eventually,” Harry said. “He needed a home, and I have lots of space. I don’t even mind him that much anymore.”
“Huh.” Ginny looked closer.
The cat, who had indeed been woken by the noise, studied her with large eyes. “Miaow,” it said plaintively.
“What’s his name?” She moved closer.
“Figg,” Harry said.
“Fig?” Ginny sounded doubtful. “Like its face?”
“You’re thinking of a prune. He’s named after someone I knew growing up,” he explained as Figg stretched luxuriously, showing off his many toes on the counter top.
“Demelza Robins had an extra toe. The Chaser?”
“I remember. Figg can’t play Quidditch… he doesn’t have any magic. But he does chase things sometimes. Like Kreacher, and this little toy flying Snitch I got the other day.”
“That’s a start,” Ginny said. “Will he let me pet him?” she asked, petting him.
“He might fuss, but I think he really likes being touched and held close in spite of himself.”
“I’m sure he does,” she replied, her voice a little funny. “He’s a mess,” she said after a while, still holding him in her arms. “But I can see why you like him.”
“Yeah,” said Harry. “I guess I do.”
“Mrow,” said Figg, placing his paw against her cheek.
November 17, 2009.
“Oh, hey, Luna,” Harry said as they crossed paths near the Ministry.
“Hello Harry!” she said brightly. “And who is your friend?”
“This is Figg,” Harry explained.
She bent down to pet him. “He looks very fashionable in that leash. Though he will also look elegant in green.”
“Why would I get him a green leash?” Harry asked.
“You wouldn’t, of course.” Luna smiled brightly. Her purple scarf hung low to the ground, and Figg’s interest in it was immediately apparent.
“Miaow,” said Figg, weaving around her ankles and nudging at her scarf.
“Where are you off to?” Harry asked Luna. “We were just taking a walk to go check our mail.”
“I’m to have lunch with Draco,” she said. “He likes to have lunch together on Tuesdays. Would you like to join us?”
“No thank you,” Harry replied quickly. “They don’t usually allow cats in a restaurant.”
“We’re eating in the park. Everyone is allowed in the park.”
Harry laughed nervously and backpedalled, giving Figg a pat to buy some time. “Isn’t it cold to eat outside?”
“I like the cold,” Luna said. “It’s my second favourite.”
“What’s your favourite?”
“The warmth, of course. Well, I should be going. I think it might flurry this afternoon. It was nice to meet you, Figg. I thought I might make a new friend today.”
Figg nudged at her hand, and she pet him a few more times. It was something Figg had only previously done to Harry himself, so Harry was strangely proud of Figg’s accomplishment. Almost as proud as when Figg had found a crumpled bit of paper last week.
“It was good to see you, Luna,” Harry offered as she stood once more.
“Good to see you, Harry. Would you like me to pass a message to Draco?”
Harry chuckled, though it was painfully obvious that it was forced. “No, no, that’s okay. I… No. Just enjoy your lunch.”
After much starting and stopping he and Draco had finally been out on a few dates—or what Harry hoped were dates—after work. They’d been assigned to a special project together for Kingsley, and at first, they ate together because the job required many late nights and extra hours. But then Harry had found out quickly that he liked Draco—rather a lot, in fact. And he thought Draco felt similarly.
They’d even almost kissed the one night, or at least, Harry had wanted to. They were celebrating the completion of the project over dinner, and Harry found himself thoroughly enjoying the conversation and company, and they’d sparked in that rare way. And afterward, outside, Harry had sort of leaned in a little and Draco had leaned back, and Harry had thought maybe, maybe… but then Draco had cleared his throat nervously, and Harry stepped back—and the moment dissipated into the misty early October night. They’d parted a little awkwardly, and that had been that. Their work project together had ended, and he had no real excuse to see Draco again. He’d gotten up the nerve to Firecall once, but Draco hadn’t answered, and he didn’t try again. It made Harry sad to think about it, which he did quite regularly. And Figg, it turned out, was a good listener, provided Harry didn’t mind that Figg cleaned his bottom sometimes while Harry talked.
But there was no reason to tell Luna all of that while standing on the street corner in the cold damp air. So he didn’t, and she bid him goodbye, humming “Let it Snow” as she skipped away afterward, Figg looking on.
“It’s pretty cold, Mister Figg,” Harry said, scooping up Figg from the cold cobbles. “Your paws must be freezing. Why don’t I Apparate us home. We can have a snack and maybe play with your feather toy. We can check our letterbox another day.”
Figg purred and buried his face in the crook of Harry’s arm as they Disapparated with a pop.
November 20, 2009.
“Hermione!” Harry called frantically, Apparating directly into her kitchen. “Ron? Hermione?”
He heard shuffling and mumbling coming from the far end of the flat. “Hermione?” he tried again, heading in that direction.
“Harry! Stay… I’ll be right out.” She sounded flustered.
“Hurry,” Harry urged, hearing Ron groan in response.
“Okay, okay, just a moment.” Hermione emerged from their bedroom a few seconds later. Her hair was a fright, and she was clearly still buttoning the final buttons on her top.
“This better be a real emergency, Harry,” Ron called after her through the bedroom door, which Hermione had quickly shut behind her. “My parents have the kids.”
“Sorry,” Harry apologised loudly. “I wouldn’t… but Figg’s gone missing, and I can’t find him anywhere.”
“Did he get stuck in the broom cupboard again?”
“No, I checked all the cupboards.”
“Behind the sofa?”
“I checked everywhere, really. I called his name and put out food and Summoned him even though I’m not supposed to, but he’s really not anywhere.”
Hermione’s eyebrows furrowed, and the concerned look had returned to her face. “Right. Okay, I’ll come help. Just one moment.” She rapped lightly at the bedroom door. “Ron, I’ll be back in a few minutes. I’m sorry. Just stay there.”
“Not like I have much choice!” Ron called out, his voice muffled through the walls.
Hermione’s face reddened. “Er, Harry, just… if you could give me a moment.” Hermione swished her wand a few times in the direction of the bedroom. “Okay, let’s go,” she said, when she was finished.
“Sorry, Ron!” Harry called back behind him.
Ron let out a strangled groan in response.
“He’s fine,” Hermione said, as they quickly Apparated back to Grimmauld Place.
An hour later they found the small opening that led from Harry’s cellar and out into Greater London.
November 20, 2009.
“Well hello, and who are you?”
Leaning down, Draco Malfoy pet the fuzzy head of the gorgeous cat that had darted up onto his doorstep as he’d returned home. It wore no physical tag, so Draco flicked his wand, but the cat had no magical signature either, which was curious, because if it wasn’t of the magical world, it shouldn’t have been able to see his house at all.
“Miaow,” the cat replied.
“I concur,” said Draco. “You absolutely need your fur back in this weather, poor kitty.” He cast another quick charm, and the cat’s coat grew back quickly, filling in to be thick and long and luscious, as Draco expected. “What a beautiful cat you are with those gorgeous spots, and just look at those green eyes,” Draco said. “But who do you belong to?” He looked around, but few people were outside at night in November, and those who were hurrying down the pavements of Kensington weren’t paying any attention to him or the cat. He cast a quick identification spell to no avail. It looked healthy and well-fed, like it belonged to someone, so he wasn’t sure what to do; it was far too cold for a cat to be outdoors when it wasn’t accustomed to being there.
“Aparecium,” he cast, in case the cat was identified in some other way than a customary magic signature. The cat just looked at him, no other markings or changes evident. “You’re not an Animagus are you? Reparifarge!”
The cat remained very much a cat, but now it looked plainly at Draco’s front door.
“I can’t take you in,” Draco said. “We have to find your owner.”
“Miaow,” it said. “Miaow.”
Draco looked up and down the street again, but no one seemed to be looking for a lost cat. He’d never seen a long-haired purebred like this lounging in a neighbour’s front window either.
A woman was walking quickly down the street looking especially frantic, so Draco called out as she approached. “Hello, have you lost your cat?”
“I don’t have a cat,” she returned, passing him without a further glance.
Draco scooped up the cat and walked a bit further down the pavement with it.
“Have you lost your cat?” He asked the next fellow who hurried along, but the man just shook his head. The cat jumped out of Draco's arms and made its way back up onto his front step, Draco not far behind.
“I suppose we must take you inside until we can find your owner. We’ll knock on some doors in the morning when it’s light, and I’ll set a ward to keep alert for anyone searching nearby. In the meantime, we’ll get you some food, and I can also teach you a few tricks to help you manage those unruly eyebrows. Would you like that?”
Draco interpreted the cat’s expression and ankle weaving as enthusiastic consent, so he picked up the cat and went inside.
After Transfiguring various dishes and other household items into cat bowls and litter boxes, Draco set the cat up with some boiled chicken and rice and good clean water with the help of his house-elf. The cat, obviously quite hungry, devoured the food and then promptly sicked up, but Draco delicately Banished it without a word; they’d begin training on proper manners in the morning. After it had taken care of its various business (Draco didn’t ask, and he’d already assigned Topsy to maintain the litter box anyway), it curled up in the corner behind the armchair by Draco’s roaring fireplace.
“Make yourself at home,” Draco offered belatedly, secretly pleased to see the cat seemed relatively comfortable—timid, but warm and fed. Draco hadn’t had a cat since he was a child. His mother had always had at least three, at least until they all ran away when the Dark Lord had taken up residence. This cat, a stunningly gorgeous magical purebred, reminded him of them, though its lack of magical signature was still a mystery.
The cat watched him sit in his favourite chair and they sat in the silence for some while. Eventually, Draco said, “Since you won’t tell me your name, I’ll have to give you one. How does Lady Kensington seem to you?”
The cat cracked an eyelid at him.
“Then Lady Kensington it shall be.”
November 21, 2009.
“Pansy,” Draco said when she answered his Firecall.
“Draco,” Pansy said.
“Are you busy?”
“Terribly,” she said, looking bored where she lounged on her chaise.
“I met someone last night.”
“So did I,” she replied, yawning. “I’m exhausted.”
“Let me guess; they’re still there?” Draco asked.
“Mm,” Pansy said, the corner of her mouth curving. “Sleeping. She was too hot to kick out before we had another go.”
“When you’re done, do you want to come over?”
“I’ll have to cancel my plans.” She stretched languidly.
“What plans?” Draco said. “I could use some advice.”
“Unless he’s still in your bed, it can wait until tomorrow. I’m not sure I plan to finish with this one anytime soon.” She gestured toward her bedroom.
“She’s under my bed, actually.”
“Under your—She? A witch?” Pansy straightened. “You don’t like puss—”
“Don’t be crass.” Draco cut her off. “Besides, I might like this one.”
Pansy’s mouth hung open a fraction too long before she snapped it shut and stood up. “I’ll be over in an hour.”
Draco raised his eyebrow. “Is that long enough?”
“Gabrielle is efficient with a wand.”
“Enjoy,” Draco said. “Come over when you’re ready. I’ll leave the Floo open.”
He ducked back into his sitting room and found that Lady had emerged from under his bed and had followed him into his sitting room.
“Shall we get you some breakfast?” he asked. “And then we’ll work on your grooming. Those nails could use a trim, and then perhaps we can do something about that breath.”
“Brrrrrrtt,” said Lady, following a few steps behind him to her food dish.
Draco was casting toenail shrinking charms at Lady when Pansy burst through the Floo, causing Lady to dart behind his sofa.
“All right, where is she,” Pansy said. “I want to see her.”
“You’re going to scare her away.”
Lady peeked her head around the corner of the couch. “Mew?”
“Do you want to come and meet Pansy?” Draco asked.
“What?” Pansy asked. “Who are you talking to—oh my god, Draco Malfoy, you are an utter pillock. I rather hate you right now.”
He laughed, and Lady ventured out further. “Pansy, meet Lady Kensington. Lady, Pansy.”
“Oh, all right,” she said, picking up Lady and looking her over. “Well, just look at you. You’re certainly proof that kitties don’t need to be shaved to be beautiful.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Daft bint,” he said affectionately. “So, are you seeing Gabrielle again?”
“Perhaps,” Pansy said. “I haven’t decided yet whether to cancel our plans for tomorrow.”
“Might be nice to keep them,” Draco suggested lightly.
Pansy flipped Lady over in her arms to pet her stomach, and Lady began purring loudly. “Maybe,” she agreed. “So, are you going to make us coffee or are we just going to stand here?”
Draco smiled and led her into the kitchen, where she sat down at the table with Lady, who quickly vacated Pansy’s arms in favour of a vacant kitchen chair. Draco set to work putting the kettle on and grinding coffee beans, watching Lady head back onto Pansy’s lap not long after.
“She doesn’t have magic?” Pansy asked eventually, picking up the cat again.
“Doesn’t seem to. Weird, though, because she was sitting on my doorstep when I got home last night, which means she’s from the magical world.”
“Squib? Oh, ow!” Pansy quickly let Lady jump down. “She dug her claws into my arm.”
“You okay?” Draco asked. “That’s unlike her.”
Pansy was fine, so Draco continued pouring the hot water into his French press and set about gathering some mugs.
“Are you going to keep her?”
“I don’t know. I hadn’t planned on a cat, of course, but I suppose I wouldn’t mind, except that she belonged to someone, though obviously not someone who knew how to properly indulge her as she deserves. You should have seen her!” After seeing the disastrous state of Lady’s eyebrows and whiskers, Draco couldn’t imagine the appalling grooming habits her previous owner must have likewise had. Eventually he added, “Though I’m not sure how to find her owner without a magical tag.”
“So don’t. She seems happy enough here. And she’s finally distracted you from mooning over—”
“Don’t say his name. I can’t believe I even thought for a moment that I liked...” Draco set coffee down in front of them and took a seat.
Pansy just sipped her coffee. “Oh, did you want me to agree with you?” she asked at last.
Draco sighed and reached over to scritch Lady’s head, since she had popped it up over the table from the chair nearby. “I can’t just keep her. Even if she’s obviously happy here. I might fix her ear later today; it’s an easy enough spell and we talked it over, and she seemed amenable.” Lady jumped down off the chair and wandered over to the little windowsill and hopped up to look out. “She likes the warm sun. Well, and the birds,” Draco explained. “She talks to them in these little chirps and clicks.”
Pansy looked at him.
“Oh, fuck off,” he laughed. “So I enjoy her.”
Pansy pointedly Banished a cat hair that had landed in her coffee. “Well, you won’t be happy if you don’t at least try to find her owner. Put an ad in The Prophet or post signs in the Owl Post Office.”
“I know. I’ll have to.” Lady hopped off the sill and wandered over to Draco, sitting at his feet and immediately beginning to clean her nether regions by the breakfast table. “Clearly, we still have a lot of work to do while we wait for a response. But don’t worry, Lady. If your previous owner was dreadful, I promise I won’t make you go back.”
Pausing, Lady looked up, one leg still over her head. “Mrow.”
Pansy raised an eyebrow. “What a lady.”
Draco rolled his eyes at her.
“It wasn’t a criticism. You should see it when Gabrielle—”
“Lady, we may have to heal all of our ears after this story,” Draco said.
November 22, 2009.
“Yes?” Draco looked at Blaise’s face in his hearth. Draco had just gotten back from posting signage in the Owl Post Office and calling The Prophet, placing an ad to run for the following three days, when Blaise had Firecalled.
“Pansy said you brought home some bint.”
Draco sighed. “Really, Pansy?”
He heard laughter emanating from the Blaise’s end of the Firecall.
“All right, fine. I’ll introduce you.” Lady had been otherwise engaged stalking and chattering at a bug, but he found her easily enough and brought her back to his sitting room fireplace for Blaise to see.
“She’s there now? Wait—you mean. That’s…?”
“Yes,” Draco said.
“Pansy, you twat!” Blaise said turning his attention away, and Draco heard additional cackling in the background.
He put Lady down and shut the Floo.
“Ignore them, little Ladyface,” he told her. “They’re ridiculous and have no appreciation for a fine feline such as yourself. Now, shall we practice your piano playing? I have treats.”
“Miaow,” Lady said, who ultimately forwent the piano lessons due to an untimely case of the zoomies.
December 1, 2009.
“Hello, Draco. Oh! Hello there!” Luna greeted Lady, who approached Luna without hesitation. Luna crouched and gave Lady a few thorough pets. “You must be much warmer now. I knew you’d look good in green,” Luna said, delighted. “And I rather like your little scarf.”
“I’ve always worn green,” Draco replied, puzzled as he looked down at the deep green jumper he wore. “It’s cold outside for a cat. I thought the scarf would help.”
Luna laughed brightly and stood up. “Lunch?” she asked.
“Lunch,” he confirmed. “I brought curry, enough to share. Our usual spot?”
“That would be lovely. It has the best view of the Snorkacks, you know.” Draco briefly wondered if Lady could see them, because he certainly never had.
When they reached their favourite park bench, she cast several warming and drying spells over it as he put a blanket down for Lady and set out the simple but delicious meal that Topsy had packed. Soon after, they tucked in as Lady fought with the blanket wrinkles Draco spelled to move about for her.
Eventually Lady hopped up on the bench between them and sat down in the style of a Muggle hen. It was a habit they’d not yet been able to break, though Draco held firm to the traditional belief that pure-bloods should cross their legs while sitting. They’d get there eventually.
“So, have you talked to Harry yet?” Luna asked eventually, halfway through her curry.
“I can’t see what good would come of it,” Draco said. He’d sent Harry a letter when he hadn't heard from him for a few days after their last date, but Harry had even changed his address according to the Owl Post Office. It had been returned to Draco via Muggle Post as undeliverable and asking for a stamp, which made no sense since Draco’s was right on the back in its customary deep green wax.
“Don’t you think he would want to know?”
Draco jabbed at a potato and popped it into his mouth. “I’m not sure what else needs to be said.”
“Oh,” said Luna, chewing thoughtfully. “Perhaps that you have his cat?”
Draco choked on a mouthful of curry. “Excuse me?”
“Harry’s been looking for it. He is quite lonely if you ask me.”
Draco sputtered, still trying to clear his throat. “But… I… I put an ad up and posted… that’s impossible.” He put down the rest of his curry, suddenly very finished eating.
“It must seem that way,” Luna said. “Especially after you’ve got to be friends.”
“We’ll never be friends,” Draco said bitterly. “Not after this last time.”
“I meant with the cat,” Luna said gently.
Draco scooped up Lady and hugged her fiercely until she squeaked. “I won’t give you back to him. He’s an utter arse. And he wouldn’t take care of you like I can.” He buried his face in her fuzzy coat, her accidental breakfast snarf and barf entirely forgotten. “He’d never appreciate you the way I do. You wouldn’t have run away if he wasn’t awful, would you have? No, you wouldn’t.” Draco stuck his nose in Lady’s fur, unable to help himself from pressing a kiss atop her head.
Luna just looked at him, and Draco felt her sad blue eyes all the way down in his heart. He gave her a pained look in response.
Eventually she said, “I’ve brought puddings. Blueberry, lavender, and radish tartlets.”
“I… all right,” Draco said, quite unwilling to put Lady down to try Luna’s latest culinary concoction. Somehow, he managed just enough of a free hand to take one, finding it to be one of her more pleasantly edible creations. Eventually he let Lady settle on his lap as he finished the tart.
“I can’t believe it,” Draco said, keenly aware of his heart yet again, thanks to Harry Potter. “He always wins.”
“Oh, Draco,” Luna said kindly, “This is a regular park, not a Quidditch pitch.” She took his hand and leaned her head on his shoulder.
“Then why do I feel bludgeoned?” He straightened Lady’s scarf, renewed Luna’s warming charms, and they sat together for some time, Lady snuggled up on his lap, breathing steadily, in and out.
December 2, 2009.
Harry’s doorbell rang on Thursday evening, and when he opened the door, he found Draco standing on the other side. His heart jumped in his chest.
“Here.” Draco said, holding out his arms. “If you lose her again, I’m keeping her.”
“What?” Harry asked, his eyes darting down for the first time to the lump in Draco’s arms. Harry took in the familiar face—though the long fur, Christmas jumper, and earmuffs were new, it was obviously—“Figg!” he exclaimed, taking his cat back and holding him close.
“Figg,” Draco said distastefully.
“Yes, Figg,” Harry said, holding him and petting him and squeezing him tightly. Harry had been so, so worried, but there hadn’t been a single lead on Figg’s whereabouts in weeks. “Where did you find him?”
“I found her on my doorstep.”
Harry found that a bit too convenient. “Is this some joke? First you ignore me, then you steal my cat and dress him in strange clothing.”
“Yes,” Draco said, standing there in his casually elegant way. “The evil Death Eater stole your cat then returned her groomed, trained, and healed. Or do you prefer your animals to be naked and missing most of an ear?”
“I got him like that,” Harry said. Fuck, Harry had missed him—just as much as the cat.
Draco had cut his hair, and he looked really good. The look of the beautiful scarf around his neck made Harry want to grab it and pull him in and kiss his downturned mouth.
“Is Kingsley still happy with the—”
“Yes,” Harry said. “He loves it. You should come work for the Ministry all the time. At least we could be friends again then.”
At least that, Harry thought, clutching Figg to his chest. He’d missed Draco so much.
Figg burrowed his face into the crook of Harry’s arm.
“I never heard from you,” Draco said, looking unusually vulnerable in his posh coat and charcoal trousers. Then he made a face. “I suppose it was never going to work.”
“I—” Harry hadn’t meant that, not at all. Draco’s eyes were glassy bright, and his cheeks and nose were pink in the cold. He imagined his own were too. He hadn’t even bothered with a coat when the doorbell had sounded. “Look, I should get Figg inside. Will you come in?”
“No,” Draco said. “I don’t think I can do this. Just… take good care of Lady. She never picked up on the importance of chewing with her mouth closed, but at least now she asks to be excused before leaving the table.”
He abruptly stepped forward and gave Figg a surprisingly loving caress. Figg gave Draco’s hand a little lick, and Harry caught the anguish that appeared in Draco’s eyes as it happened. It was a look that Harry felt deep, deep in his chest. “Be good,” Draco admonished, before whirling around to Apparate away without another glance.
“Draco—” Harry called to the empty spot where Draco had stood. “Wait,” he added softly.
He stood there in the cold for a minute before he realised he needed to get them both inside, but eventually, he and Figg were inside by the fire, Figg warm and snuggled on his lap, purring away. Harry couldn’t stop petting him.
Figg looked so different now, all furry, and Harry couldn’t figure out what on earth Draco had done to Figg’s eyebrows, but otherwise, it looked as though Figg had been well cared for. He’d have to find a way to thank Draco, even if Draco clearly didn’t want to sort things out between them. Harry would have to start fresh in terms of packing away the rest of his feelings about Draco after seeing him again, but Harry could do it. He’d done worse, and at least he had Figg back safe and sound.
“Are you ready to take that ridiculous jumper off?” Harry asked Figg.
“Miaow,” said Figg, who jumped down from his arms, allowed Harry to peel off the offending reindeer-adorned article, and proceeded to weave around Harry’s legs, purring for the rest of the evening. Figg wouldn’t let Harry out of his sight, and Harry was happy to lavish him with treats and praise for hours on end.
December 6, 2009.
“Ron?” Harry called out as he entered Ron and Hermione’s sitting room that Saturday morning. “You awake?”
“Oi!” Ron called. “In here!”
“Good morning, Harry,” Hermione greeted as he joined them in the kitchen. She was sitting on the floor putting shoes on Rose, while Ron was feeding Hugo a little bowl of mushy baby cereal as he simultaneously ate his own breakfast.
“Cereal?” Ron offered, his mouth full of it. He swallowed and wiped the milk from around his mouth with his sleeve.
“Sure,” Harry said, picking up the box. “Magically delicious,” he said, giving Rose a grin and little tickle.
“You know where the bowls are,” Hermione said.
“I’ve just had an idea,” Ron said to Hermione. “Think I could make this mush into a Portkey and get it into Hugo’s mouth through magic?”
Hugo clamped his mouth shut, eyes wide. Giggling, Rose pretended to swish a wand towards her brother’s mouth. “Alohomora!” she said.
“It’s Alohomora, not Alohomorah,” Hermione corrected, still working on the shoes.
Finding a clean bowl, Harry poured himself some of the sugary cereal. “Gave up on the Muggle aeroplane feeding method?” he asked Ron.
“Mummy, can I have some?” Rose asked.
“Some what, pumpkin?”
“Some MUSH.” She giggled.
“Well your brother sure doesn’t seem to want it.” Hermione said.
“Maybe later if you still want some,” Ron said. “This mush is for Hugo.”
“I would like mush now, Mummy.”
“Okay, Rose, let me finish tying your laces, and we’ll talk about the mush.”
“Harry do you like mush? It’s magically delicious!” Rose looked at him.
“I think that’s the cereal, not the mush actually,” Harry replied, swallowing his bite of cereal. “I can’t think of much that’s less magical than mush.”
“Mummy, can I have some cereal?”
“I think you’ve had quite enough sugar already,” Hermione responded. “But you can go play. Leave your shoes on though. We’re leaving soon.”
“Where are you all off to?” Harry asked.
“Hugo, please, one bite,” Ron begged. “Please, please, please.”
Hugo pushed the bowl away and ran a mush-covered hand through his hair.
“Two bites,” Hermione said. “Just two bites, then you can be done, and we’ll go to the park.”
“Is the park magic?” Rose asked, stomping around the kitchen for no apparent reason.
“Yes,” said Harry. “Definitely magic.”
Distracted, Hugo opened his mouth a bit, so Ron slid a spoonful of mush inside.
“Good job, buddy,” Hermione praised Hugo as she stood up from the floor and took a seat at the table. “Just one more bite. Now, what was I doing?”
“Make that one and a half,” Ron groaned as Hugo spit most of it back out.
Hermione looked at Ron and Hugo, then closed her eyes for a solid second and a half before turning toward Harry, “You’re welcome to come to the park with us.”
“Ah, no, thanks, I should get back to Figg.”
“Is something wrong?”
“Nah,” said Harry. “At least, I don’t think so. Actually, I guess I’m not sure. Everything was great for the last few days since he’s been back, but since last night, he’s just sort of… moped. He’s not playing much. And he didn’t seem to care about breakfast. He didn’t make biscuits last night, and he hasn’t acted crazy and zoomed around since yesterday morning.”
“Does he want some mush?” Ron asked.
“Ron,” Harry said, looking at the bowl of cold, lumpy, solidifying goop, “No one wants that mush.”
“I want mush!” Rose said, running over.
Ron stood, taking the mush with him to the sink. “Nope, all done. No more mush for anyone.”
Hermione went around to get Hugo down. He promptly crawled under the table.
“That’s my boy,” Ron said proudly. “Survives on less than three bites of mush daily plus cereal off the floor.”
“I want Floor Cereal!” Rose said, running over. “I want Floor Cereal, Mummy.”
“Why did we even buy these?” Hermione asked, looking at the cereal box. “Ron, you’ve got mush in your hair.”
“They’re magically delicious,” Ron and Harry both replied, as Ron started to clear the table, unconcerned about his hair mush.
“Mummy, I want—”
“I know, pumpkin. I know. Go get your coat while we clean up.”
Harry quickly drained the last of his cereal bowl. “Want help, Rose?”
“Yes. Yesyesyesyes yes!” She said, bouncing on her tiptoes, so Harry stood and let her lead them to their coat rack in the next room. He found the Rose-sized purple winter coat easily and began to put it on her.
“Who put Hugo’s shoes on?” he heard Hermione ask from the next room.
“Do you have mittens?” Harry asked Rose as he kneeled to zip up her coat.
She nodded and pulled unicorn gloves out of her pockets. He helped her put them on, as well as her rainbow scarf and hat. When they went back into the kitchen, Harry blinked. The table was cleared, everything put away, and Ron, Hermione, and Hugo all had coats, gloves, and shoes on. No one had mush in their hair. Hugo was sucking his thumb in Ron’s arms.
Mush might not be magical, but parents certainly were.
“Daddy, I want to go to the park!” Rose ran over and took Ron’s free hand.
“Certain you don’t want to come with us, Harry?”
“Nah, I’m good. I’m going to go spend time with Figg. It’s nice to have him back.”
Hermione nodded. “I’ll Firecall later when the kids are down for naps if you want?”
“Sure, but don’t worry about it. I’m sure Figg is fine. He didn’t seem sick, so maybe he just ate something he shouldn’t have.”
Ron nodded enthusiastically. “Remember when Pig ate that cork? He wasn’t ever the same.”
“He ate a cork?” Hermione asked, opening their front door and starting to shuffle everyone outside. “When did he eat a cork?” She looked back at Harry. “See yourself out?” she asked, and he nodded in response.
“Mummy, are corks magically del—”
“No!” Ron and Hermione replied in unison just as the door shut behind them.
Grinning, Harry quickly Flooed home to cheer up his cat and verify all his corks were accounted for.
December 12, 2009.
“Harry?” Draco said as he answered the door, quickly wrapping his arms around himself, his warm breath visible in the cold air.
“You broke my cat,” Harry said. “He was fine when I first got him, but ever since he came back, he’s broken.”
“Lady’s sick?” Draco asked, his face going pale. “Where is she? I’ll get my coat.”
“She’s—He’s—not sick. I took him to three different Animal Healers, and they all say he’s fine.”
“Then I fail to see the problem,” Draco said, the colour slowly returning to his cheeks.
“He won’t eat, he won’t play; he has just lain around giving me sad looks. He barely talks, won’t play fetch—you know how he likes to play fetch.”
Draco asked, “Are you throwing the right colour ball?”
“Yes,” Harry said. “Only ever the blue one.”
“Hmm,” Draco said. “Well, despite your most fervent accusations, and any rumours you may have heard, I don’t generally engage in the destruction of cats, so I sincerely doubt he’s broken. Frankly, I think the problem is a simple one. Lady misses me.”
“That’s… Figg wouldn’t… it’s not possible,” Harry sputtered, even though Harry knew better than anyone else that it was very much possible to miss Draco dearly. “He was only with you for what, two weeks?”
“Going on. And how long had Lady been living with you prior to that?”
“Er, three weeks?”
“If you knew anything at all, you’d know magical cats require a full month to permanently bond with their owners.”
“You’re making that up,” Harry said, eyes narrowing. He did his best to ignore how beautiful Draco looked in that simple moment.
“I admit it’s been contested by recent research and its surrounding literature, but—”
“Doesn’t matter anyway,” Harry said stubbornly. “That can’t be it.”
“Prove it,” Malfoy said simply. “Let me visit with her. Let’s see how she responds.”
“What, you want to just come into my house and play with my cat?”
The corner of Draco’s mouth curled up, just the tiniest fraction. “Was there something else on offer?”
“Fine,” Harry ground out, his cheeks pink from the cold and nothing else at all. “Come with me. You’ve got one hour.”
December 21, 2009.
“Hello, Mother,” Draco said when he arrived at the Manor.
“Hello, darling,” she kissed his cheek. “Thank you for coming by.”
He nodded. “You said you needed help?”
“Yes, you see, I ordered a new kettle from AmazonWiz, and it’s supposed to be voice activated, but I’ve been unable to get it to respond.”
“All right, let’s take a look,” Draco said, following her into the kitchen.
“Its name is Alexa,” his mother informed him before summoning her house-elf.
“How unfortunate,” Draco commented, flipping through the instructions that had arrived with the package. “Didn’t you have any choice?”
“None at all. Such a dreadful name,” she agreed. “Wanky, I’d like some coffee.”
“Of course,” the house-elf nodded. “Master Draco?”
“Yes,” he replied, still fiddling with the kettle. “White coffee.”
“It doesn’t run on ekeltricity, does it?” she asked, the horrifying thought causing her to pull a face.
“No, it’s magic. I think we just needed the right spell to get started.” He flipped through the instruction pages and tapped his wand to the base of the kettle as prescribed. “There we go.”
He cast an Aguamenti charm to fill the kettle. It gave a little twitch and burped loudly. “Is that supposed to be a good sign?” his mother asked.
“Why don’t you try talking to it?” Draco suggested.
“Alexa, excuse yourself,” his mother demanded. “Then boil water.”
“Boiling water,” it replied, beginning to bubble and steam. It belched again, though less violently this time.
“Impudent kettle,” she said, watching on. “At least it works now. Thank you.”
“Of course,” Draco replied, tapping his wand to turn off the cheeky appliance.
“Let’s have our coffee in the drawing room,” she said smoothly, leading them from the kitchen. Wanky joined them momentarily with their freshly brewed cups. “I didn’t know you took milk,” she commented.
“It’s a recently acquired habit,” Draco replied. “I had gotten some for Lady as a special treat, but then I gave her back, so I’ve been using the remainder in my coffee.”
“Ah, Lady. I would have liked to have met her.”
“Yes, well. I don’t get much time with her now.” Draco busied himself with his coffee, intending to change the subject, except then he looked up at his mother’s face, and it all came spilling out. “Lady began to miss be, so I visited her, and—”
“Yes, and she perked right up. But after a few days, she began acting poorly again, so I Flooed over to see her and she cheered up again. So now we’ve just put together a schedule. I visit her at Harry’s or take her on walks or bring her to my home for a few hours on Wednesday evenings and Sundays.”
“Oh, darling, she must have been despondent without you.”
“Yes, well, I love seeing her, of course, but it’s not enough, a few hours here and there. It almost makes it worse. I miss having her around.”
“I see. And has Harry been present when you’ve visited Lady?” his mother asked casually.
“Usually,” he admitted. Harry was often around, comfortable in his own home in his warm, ragged jumpers and denims and knit socks. He looked more relaxed in those everyday moments than Draco had ever felt in his life. Harry would sit there, across from Draco, with Lady belly up between them, seeking stomach rubs. Then he’d cast wandless spells to make feathers float through the air just above Lady’s head for her to bat at, and then he’d stay to talk with Draco when Lady slept, exhausted from Draco’s latest game—the unattainable laser point spell that he directed around with his wand for her to chase. “I… don’t mind,” Draco said at last, though trying to hide his feelings around Harry was a special sort of torment.
“Of course.” She settled her cup down in its saucer beside her. “Do you think it’s possible the answer would be to spend more time with them?”
Draco set down his cup with a clatter. “With Lady? I don’t know. Perhaps,” he said brusquely. He stood. “I should be going.”
“Thank you for your assistance with the kettle. I will see you in a few days. We’ll be eating Christmas dinner at about half one.”
“At Aunt Andromeda’s again this year?” Draco asked, pulling on his coat and scarf, and giving his mother a peck on the cheek as she nodded in affirmation. “Oh, actually, do you still have the box Alexa arrived in?”
“I suppose so. Why? Do you need it?”
“Only if it’s convenient,” Draco said, busying himself with the application of his gloves.
“No reason. Just…” Draco gave up all pretence. “Lady likes them. I’d like to have one about just in case she comes ‘round.”
His mother replied smoothly, “I’ll have Wanky bring it by this evening.”
Draco gave a nod of thanks. “I’ll see you Christmas day. Tell Alexa I said goodbye,” he said as he made his departure.
“Goodbye,” the kettle said on its own before burping again noisily.
December 23, 2009.
“Hello,” Draco said, a touch nervous, as he usually was in the few moments before Harry came to the door. He covered it by running his hand over the box he’d shrunk to fit in his coat pocket. Lady would get more use out of it at Harry’s.
“Come in,” Harry said, opening the door widely.
Draco followed him inside, admiring his physical form as he navigated his entryway. Every single movement and muscle was just so… Harry. Draco cleared his throat. “How is she?”
“Figg’s great,” Harry said. Turning back to Draco, he smiled. “I told him you were coming by. Tea?”
“Please,” Draco said, a few steps behind. Lady was waiting for him, miaowing loudly.
“Good afternoon, beautiful Lady,” Draco said, gathering her in his arms for a quick snuggle before she jumped back down and led the way with her adorable floofy wobble into the kitchen, where Harry was assembling their tea.
Looking around from where he had taken a seat at the table, Draco took the Christmas décor that newly adorned Harry’s home. It was not his own personal style—in fact, it was something of a mess—but Harry had clearly tried. “It’s… cheery,” he said eventually. “The decorations.” Lady jumped up on the next chair and put her paws on Draco’s leg, seeking his attention. He happily obliged.
Harry shrugged. “I found some things in the attic, and I don’t think Figg’s ever had a real Christmas.” He didn’t meet Draco’s eye as said this last part. “Probably never had his own presents or Christmas dinner or anything like that. So, I’m going to make sure he has a brilliant Christmas this year.”
“As is only right,” Draco commented, thinking the cat would be lucky to spend Christmas in Harry’s home, despite the plethora of multi-coloured fairy lights blinking on and off around them. Draco would forever be a white-only fairy lights type of bloke.
Lady gave his hand a gentle head bump, reminding him to continue his pets and scratches, thanks ever so.
Bringing over their tea and setting it down between them, Harry pulled up a chair himself at the table.
“She seems like she’s doing better,” Draco said to him.
“I suppose. It’s…better.” Harry hesitated. “She doesn’t like it when you leave.”
“Well we’ve tried having her stay with me, and she becomes correspondingly miserable within a few hours—for some reason I’ve yet to be able to understand.”
Harry grinned. “We’ll just have to move in together.”
Draco took a too large sip of his tea. “Very funny,” he said, though he felt suddenly warmer.
Still smiling, Harry sipped at his own tea, watching Draco over the top of his cup. “What do you think, Figg? Would you like to see more of Draco?” he teased.
Figg looked at Harry. “Miaow miaow?”
“Huh,” Harry said. “I suppose we’ll never know.”
“Enigmatic creature,” Draco responded, as Lady climbed onto his lap and put her front paws on his chest, proceeding to knead at his jumper.
“I mean, she’s clearly not a fan,” Harry said, his eyes sparkling.
Lady shoved her head against Draco’s heart. “You’re obviously not giving her enough attention.”
Harry laughed. “We just spent all morning playing fetch and then cuddling and getting brushies by the fire.”
“Brushies are an imperative,” Draco said, trying not to smile into his cup. “I’m glad she’s come to appreciate proper grooming.”
“She wanted to look good for your visit,” Harry teased, as though Draco hadn’t noticed immediately that Harry was wearing the jumper Draco always loved to see on him, deep green and worn, but just enough so, and seemingly so, so soft.
“Did she.” Draco cleared his throat and kept his voice as even as possible, knowing that he was intentionally wearing the slate blue cashmere jumper that flattered his frame—the same one that always caught Harry’s gaze when he didn’t think Draco would notice.
“It was either that or neither of us wanted to hear you lecture us on the importance of eyebrow grooming yet again.”
“We’re not all fortunate enough to have eyes green enough to rouse an army,” Draco groused. “Though you’re pretty close, beloved one,” he told Lady, while scratching beneath her chin.
“Oh, right, because your eyes are so terrible.”
Draco felt himself colour. “A trick of the eyebrows, I assure you.” He drained the last of his tea.
“Would you like another cup, or should we head to the sitting room?”
Replying that he was finished, the three of them retired to the sitting room, though upon entering the room, Draco started at the sight of Harry’s Christmas tree. There wasn’t a single fairy light or ornament on the bottom third, in great contrast to the overly busy top. “Did you run out?” Draco asked.
“Er, not exactly,” Harry said, coming up next to him and taking in the direction of his gaze. “Someone in this house found everything a little too tempting to play with.”
“You clearly need a hobby.” Why was Harry standing so close? Draco swallowed hard.
“It’s a good thing I’m not taller,” Harry agreed, grinning.
“Here, I brought something for Lady,” Draco said, Summoning the box from his coat pocket from where it hung on Harry’s coat rack and enlarging it to its proper size. “Here you go, sweet pea.” He set it by the fire, and Lady immediately climbed inside. It was a tight fit, but, the clever beast that she was, she made it work. She set about chewing at the cardboard edge, and Draco wondered if he should have wrapped the box. It certainly would have been more festive. Too late now, he supposed. And he had other properly wrapped gifts for her waiting for Christmas, which would arrive in just a few days now anyway. Turning back to Harry, Draco said, “Now, let me teach you a spell that every cat owner must know at Christmastime.” Overly exaggerating the wand movements involved for Harry’s sake, he said, “Protego Ornamentum.”
“Merlin,” Harry breathed, as everything decorative in the room glittered and glistened for a few seconds. “Do it again. That’s a good one.”
Smiling to himself, Draco coated the room in magic once again. Then he put his hand on Harry’s wand to show him how. Harry’s magic was palpable, and it stirred in him as the room shimmered around them. Fuck, Draco loved the holidays.
Draco was about to teach him another, one that would make it appear to snow outside the windows, which would likely please Lady and Harry alike, when Harry interrupted.
“Draco,” Harry said, his voice rough as he held Draco’s gaze, his green eyes dark and intense. “Would you like to visit Figg for Christmas?”
“It’s not the usual day,” Draco reminded him.
“I wouldn’t mind. He really likes you.” Harry came closer.
“I really like her too.” Draco did. So, so much. And Harry was so, so close.
“Yes,” Harry said, gently removing a piece of cat hair that had settled on Draco’s jumper near his neckline. “Good. How about Christmas Eve.”
Draco’s breath caught in his throat. After pausing only a moment, he said, “All right,” and took a small step back so he could think clearly. He desperately needed to think clearly. But then… he couldn’t help himself, regardless of the thoughts swirling about in his head; he wanted to be with Harry and Lady on Christmas. So, he said again, as much to himself as to Harry, “Yes, that will be fine. Christmas Eve.”
Trying to look everywhere but at Harry’s evergreen eyes, Draco eventually gave in and couldn’t resist meeting them; he found the sides crinkled happily. Harry Potter had eye crinkles and dancing eyes because of Draco, and Draco understood then that Harry Potter was just going to be the end of him, and Draco would enjoy every moment of it anyway. He really should have learned self-preservation techniques by now, yet here he stood—falling, falling, falling—his every defence be damned.
It was too much. He moved away, using Harry’s Christmas tree as justification, using magic to redistribute the decorations and fairy lights to cover it evenly, instead of being only decorated on top. Lady was snoring lightly in her box, so Draco Levitated her box to sit prettily below the tree. But then Draco realised he was hearing something else besides snoring. He turned to Harry, who was quietly watching him. “Harry, what is that noise?” It sounded like “Silver Bells” played on a tiny kazoo.
Harry paused and looked around, before a goofy grin lit his face. “Oh, that’s my Christmas gift for Luna. Do you want to see?”
“Merlin,” Draco said when he saw the multi-coloured Pygmy Puff. “It’s just like her. Though if you’ll let me just fix its eyebrows…”
December 24, 2009.
“Hi,” Harry said, “Come in. It’s freezing out.”
Draco nodded, his pale lashes sparkling in the streetlight, his nose and cheeks pinked from the cold. He handed Harry a bottle of wine and a dessert platter. He held on tightly to another small dish. “Don’t be greedy,” he said, “This is for Lady.”
Harry grinned. “Of course.” Gesturing to the goodies in his arms, Harry said thank you and led the way out of the cold and into the sitting room. Figg raced over to Draco immediately, as eager to see him as always. “Should I open the wine?” Harry asked, taking Draco’s coat, breathing in the scent of him in that brief moment of closeness.
“I thought it a pleasant custom to share a glass on Christmas Eve,” Draco said. He was wearing a button-down and trousers and a waistcoat, just as he had on their last date some months back, before it had all gone wrong. He was devastatingly handsome, and Harry ached to go to him and just touch him.
Instead, Harry said, “Stay with Lady; I’ll go find some glasses.” He was certain he had some around somewhere. When he was in the kitchen, he took a deep breath or two, and trying not to think about the Christmas gift he wanted to give Draco later, he Summoned the glasses. He didn’t know if Draco wanted to exchange gifts, but there was something Harry thought Draco needed to have, so Harry was going to give it to him regardless.
In just a few seconds, more than a dozen wine glasses of varying types came flying in from the storage cupboard in his largely unused formal dining room, and Draco appeared in the kitchen doorway as well, though Harry was certain he hadn’t accidentally Accio’ed him in real life—just once or twice in his dreams.
Draco was smiling at Harry with the different types of glasses floating about his head. “I guess I should have specified,” Harry said.
Taking pity on him, Draco selected two from the air, presumably those most appropriate for the red wine he’d brought with him, and Harry sent the rest of the glasses back to the cupboard whence they’d come.
Removing the cork with a handy spell Hermione had taught him once and putting it securely out of Figg’s reach, Harry poured generously, swirling the wine in the glass as Draco suggested after he recorked the bottle. The first sip of the beautiful red wine further warmed his belly.
“I brought a yule log, if you’d like to cut us each a slice,” Draco said of the platter he’d handed Harry upon arrival. “Lady won’t mind. I’ve already given her several generous slices of freshly roasted turkey, one of Topsy’s best dishes, so I assume she’ll be distracted for some time.”
“Oh, turkey is his favourite. He’ll go crazy for that… Wow,” Harry breathed, turkey forgotten, as he took the lid off the cake. “That’s… amazing.” The chocolate rolled yule log cake was covered in snowy sugar, intricate chocolate bark, and clusters of holly leaves and berries.
“Have you ever had a wizarding yule log?” Draco asked. “Tradition dictates that the log itself resembles the wood from the tree that matches the giver’s wand.”
“Yes,” Draco said. “And it is decorated by the fruit from the tree of the recipient’s wand type.”
“Holly berries,” Harry said, smiling.
The hawthorn and holly looked so nice together, just perfect, really. “And what does the side of roasted turkey represent?” Harry asked as Figg came into the kitchen.
“My undying love for this precious creature,” Draco said dramatically, putting down his glass and picking up Figg.
“Miaow,” Figg said, and stuck his seven-toed paw on Draco’s face. Draco reciprocated by sticking his face against Figg’s stomach and blowing raspberries.
“Merlin,” Harry said. “I’ll cut the cake and leave you two to it.”
Soon enough, Harry, Draco, and Figg had moved to the sitting room, where Harry had his fireplace roaring. It was toasty warm, and Harry felt that his cheeks were flushed from the wine and warmth and company. He sat close to Draco on the sofa, and Draco looked pleased at this. Harry nudged Draco’s knee with his while they ate their chocolate cake. It was every bit as delicious as it looked.
“I have gifts for Lady,” Draco said as they finished. He Summoned small wrapped boxes and enlarged them to their proper size. Immediately interested in the ribbons and bows and crinkly paper, Figg came over and began tugging at the wrapping. “I’ll help,” Draco said, sliding his finger through the wrapping paper. Harry couldn’t take his eyes of Draco’s hands. How could hands be so—wait. Why were they pulling out a ruffled green and white Christmas dress?
“Oh Merlin,” Harry said. “No.”
“Yes Merlin,” said Draco. “Oh yes.”
He tapped his wand on the outfit, then on Figg’s head, and before Harry knew it, Figg was wearing his Christmas dress and a big red bow on his head. It was the most ridiculous thing Harry had ever seen. His fur puffed out around the neckline and sleeves, and the dress poofed up in the back because of his floofy tail. Okay, Harry felt bad, but Figg looked hilarious, and he couldn’t help but laugh.
“Mrow,” Figg said, squirming in the white fur-lined dress puffed out by tulle. “Mrowww.”
Harry couldn’t stop laughing at the poor thing, and Draco seemed genuinely delighted. He scooped up Figg and started admiring him from all angles, cooing and laughing delightedly at the cat’s alarmed wide-eyed look. Finally, Harry took pity on Figg.
“Um, I’m not sure—” Harry started.
“Yes, yes, you’re right, of course. We should take it off. She’ll need it crisp and clean and ready for Christmas Day tomorrow.” Draco tapped the dress and off it came. Figg came over to sit by Harry after that, but Draco just went on to Figg’s next gift. “Here Lady, this one is from Santa!”
“Er, shouldn’t we have talked about this?” Harry asked. “I hadn’t told him about S-A-N-T-A,” Harry spelled. He had thought maybe eleven was already too old for Santa Claus.
Draco shot him a look. “Of course there’s a Santa Claus, Lady. Don’t listen to him. Now, come see your gift.”
He pulled something out of the box, cast an enlarging spell, and a giant multi-level cat tree appeared in Harry’s sitting room. It was huge, tan and green, taller than Harry himself, and it had a multitude of feathers and hanging toys and ramps and tunnels. “Wow,” Harry said. “That’s… Santa is very generous. We’re going to have to find somewhere to put it.” He looked around the room for a large enough spot.
Figg was just creeping over to investigate when Harry noticed the name inscribed above the door to the little wooden house at the top. “Figg Potter-Malfoy?”
Draco pinked, and Harry loved him so much. “Eleven is a challenging age. I don’t want to confuse her further. I’ll use Figg as her name going forward but only if you admit she’s female. Luna said she checked and told you days ago, you stubborn git.”
Harry chuckled. “I can live with that. Sound good, FiggyPudding Potter-Malfoy?”
Figg ignored them, her backside sticking out of a tunnel she was exploring on the third level of her new cat tree.
“Would you like more wine?” Harry asked.
“No thank you,” Draco said, getting to his feet. “Well, I suppose since we’ve finished presents… I should probably go.”
“No,” Harry said, standing and taking Draco’s glass and plate and quickly sending everything off to the kitchen sink. “No, please. Stay. It’s nice.” He gestured around to the fire and the Christmas tree and Figg’s rear end at eye level. “Stay.”
Draco held his eyes for a few beats before nodding. “Of course. Figg wouldn’t want me to leave yet anyway.”
Smiling, Harry agreed. “Definitely not. In fact…” He settled in closer, waving his wand through the room to dim the lights except for the Christmas tree fairy lights. He also turned on the wireless to quietly play some old-fashioned carols in the background.
“How traditional,” Draco commented. He cast a spell at the nearest window, and moments later snow began to fall.
“Now it’s perfect,” Harry said. “Since it’s Figg’s first Christmas, I just thought he—er, she—should get a proper taste.”
“She’s surrounded by people who love her, she has treats and toys, and she’s warm and safe. I think that’s pretty good as cat Christmases go.”
“It’s pretty good as all Christmases go,” Harry said. “But it wouldn’t have been nearly as nice without you.” Harry noticed Draco’s mouth was partly open, a tad pinker than normal from the wine. Harry wanted so badly to place his lips against Draco’s mouth, lightly, teasingly, gently, brushing just their lips together, once, twice, a third time, there in the firelight and fairy lights, with the gentle music and sound of Figg shredding her new home into tiny bits that Harry would have to clean up later. Harry wanted it all.
His eyes met Draco’s, and Draco was looking at him with the same desire Harry had to assume was mirrored in his own gaze. He licked his lips.
“Harry.” Draco’s voice was ragged.
“Happy Christmas, Harry.” Draco said in a quiet, almost reverent voice.
Harry leaned in slightly, his body moving on its own accord. “Happy Christmas—Figg, no!” Out of the corner of his eye, Harry spotted Figg’s little tell-tale shimmy that indicated she was about to take a fantastic pounce, but this time, not at ground level. Figg was clearly aiming to go right off the top of the cat tree and onto the actual Christmas tree itself, one of the moving magical ornaments apparently having captured her attention.
Harry made to stand up, but Draco held his arm. “Remember the spell I taught you?”
“I—yeah,” Harry said, looking at him.
Harry did, at first with horror, but then he began to laugh. Figg had indeed leapt onto the tree, but the spell Draco had cast and taught Harry during his last visit meant the branches turned bouncy, and Figg was bounced from branch to branch to branch until she finally jumped down the rest of the way, not a single ornament or light out of place afterward.
“Okay, that spell is better than I imagined.”
Draco smiled. “We had three cats and as many Christmas trees at holiday time growing up. It was a necessity. Actually, this reminds me… I got you a little something for Christmas as well.” Draco retrieved a piece of parchment from his pocket and unfolded it. “I had this worked up for you. It’s not much, but…” he handed it to Harry.
“I have something for you too,” Harry said, relieved.
“Open this first,” Draco said.
On the slip of paper were the instructions for a custom spell Draco had worked up. It was a monitoring spell of sorts for Figg. When Harry was away, he could cast the spell, and a little image would sprout from his wand, and show him what Figg was up to. Harry loved it, half because it was so thoughtful, and half because if Figg ever got lost again, this would help Harry find him. And it would probably be loads of fun, besides being practical.
“Should I try it?” Harry asked. He read the spell again and tried the wand movements. “Felidae Revelio Figg!” Harry cast, and a cloudy stream of magic emerged from his wand. As the clouds settled into form, Harry could see himself in cloud form sitting with Draco just as cloud-Figg hopped up on the sofa between them, turning in circles as she tried to decide where to sit, just as she was doing in real life. Soon after the magic evaporated back into the air.
“It’s not much,” Draco said.
“It’s perfect,” Harry said. “I love it. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I thought you might find it handy.”
“Um, so stay here, okay? Let me go get your present.” Harry got up and went to one of the spare bedrooms, where Draco’s gift was tucked away.
“Come here, Lulu,” Harry called softly. Seconds later, the pure white blue-eyed long-haired magical Persian hopped up on the spare bed. He’d rescued her from a Magical breeder when it had been shut down by the Ministry for multiple violations a few days prior. “Are you ready to meet your new family? Draco is a good dad, and you’ll both be pale and stunningly beautiful together, and he’ll take really great care of you.” He picked her up—compared to Figg, she was incredibly docile—and carried her into the sitting room.
“She’s not wrapped either,” Harry said, handing her to Draco. “But Happy Christmas.”
“What’s this?” Draco asked, looking down at the pile of white fluff in his hands.
“That’s Lulu, but you can change her name. She needed a home, and I thought—you’re great with Figg, and you really like cats, so I thought… you should have a cat at home to make you happy. A magical one, for when you’re not visiting. And you could teach it to play music and maybe I could visit sometimes, or Figg and I both, and I know you’ll be a brilliant—”
Draco stood up and handed the cat back to Harry. “You are an idiot, Harry Potter.”
Harry looked down at Lulu. “You don’t…?”
“No, you stupid arse.” Draco Summoned his coat. It snapped into his hands, and Harry watched him start to put it on. “I have to go.”
Draco’s face had gone pale, his expression frosty, and Harry felt sick. Everything had been so warm and right, and now… now Draco was putting on his gloves, and he was going to leave, and Harry was the reason. He looked down at Lulu.
“Wait,” Harry said, as Draco pulled out his scarf. “You don’t have to take her. I’ll give her to someone else. I just wanted you to be happy all the time, and Figg makes you happy, so I thought…”
“You can’t just…” Draco made a frustrated sound. “Do you want to know what I want for Christmas? Figg. Figg and you.”
He looked so distraught, at Harry, at himself, at everything, but Draco’s words didn’t make sense to Harry. Harry’s head was spinning, and now Draco was turning a little green, clearly cross with himself. “So there,” he continued. “Now you know what will make me happy.” Draco looked so angry.
“Draco,” Harry said, because everything was catching up to him, and he had to somehow make Draco stay and take off his coat and gloves and sit down again—Harry could put the new cat away—whatever Draco needed, because he had to make Draco understand that Harry wanted him too. Wanted him for Christmas and every day after.
Draco finished doing up his scarf. “No,” he said decisively. “I have to go.” He turned to Figg, at once soft and loving again, petting her as she purred. It made Harry ache to see Draco nuzzle her head and speak to her gently. “Goodbye, sweetheart,” he told her quietly. “I’ll see you soon. Happy Christmas and enjoy your tree house. You could never ever be replaced.”
Looking back to Harry, Draco’s face closed off abruptly, and Harry wanted him back. He wanted it all back, but he didn’t know how to fix it. He just stood there, stuck, as everything went out of control around him.
“And as for you, give me that.” Draco took the cat from Harry’s arms.
“I thought you didn’t want—”
“Oh, of course I want her. She’s my present, and she’s stunning. But I’m very angry with you.” Draco held her tight, and she buried her head in his upper arm. “We’re going to go home and talk about how dreadful you are.”
Draco just sighed. “Happy Christmas, Harry. We’ll schedule another visit for Figg soon. Perhaps she’d like to visit me alone this time.” He tossed the Floo powder into Harry’s hearth and disappeared inside.
Harry watched the back of Draco’s pale head dissolve into nothing.
December 24, 2009.
“It’s open,” Draco said wearily, as Harry stepped through the Floo with Figg in his arms, not thirty minutes later.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said. “That… was probably not a good idea for a present.”
“No, it was not,” Draco said from his formal lounge. Lulu was seated beside him purring as Draco pet her lavishly. Figg jumped down from Harry’s arms and ran off, presumably to chase Topsy around the kitchen island.
Harry looked around at the room—all white lights, real garlands and silver beads, deep red bows and magical snowflakes coating everything to make it a winter wonderland. The giant tree was immaculate and elegant, covered in candles, and served to light the otherwise darkened room.
“Can I join you?” Harry asked.
“I suppose,” Draco grumbled, and Harry went and stood before him.
“Or maybe you should just join me. Move in. We can all be together.”
“Don’t be absurd,” Draco groused. “We’re not even together.”
“I’ll let you decorate for Christmas next year.”
Draco sounded pained. “You can’t say things like this to me.”
Pulling Draco to his feet, Harry moved them to stand beside the tree. Draco would barely look at him. “What if I kissed you?”
Draco shuddered. “Harry…”
“Can I?” Harry asked, his eyes on Draco’s.
He looked so uncertain, but slowly Draco reached his hand out and rested it on Harry’s jumper. It was trembling. Draco’s lips were parted in something like wonder as he looked at Harry’s chest, and Harry realised Draco could probably feel the thump of Harry’s racing heart against his fingertips.
Harry brushed his fingertips against the top of Draco’s other hand, and Draco took Harry’s hand in his.
“Draco,” Harry said softly.
Draco looked at his lips, then to his eyes, and everything in Harry stilled. Carefully, Harry raised his other hand and ran his thumb along Draco’s cheek, causing Draco to shudder.
“Harry,” Draco said, his voice thick with longing, and his eyes on Harry’s mouth.
“Shall I kiss you?” Harry asked again, his own voice low. He trailed his thumb slowly further down Draco’s jaw.
Draco licked his lips. “Yes, Harry,” Draco said, “Yes.”
Harry tilted his head and moved in slowly, Draco tilting his own head in return. Moving as slowly as he could, he closed the distance between them, breathing the same air as Draco before gently brushing his lips against Draco’s. Then he did it a second time, just as lightly.
Draco made a soft wanting sound, and Harry died a little. Kissing Draco, touching Draco… Harry might never get enough. He pulled away slightly to see Draco’s reaction, finding him flushed, his eyes hooded with obvious desire. Even as Harry pulled away, Draco leaned towards him again, as though on a string, unwilling to be stretch more than a few inches apart.
“Again?” Harry asked. “Because I can.”
Draco groaned and kissed him first, more firmly this time, and Harry wanted more and more and more.
Harry smiled into the next kiss, and Draco pulled back. “What?” he asked, his eyes narrowing.
“Are we together now?” Harry asked, running a finger down Draco’s forearm.
“Hmm,” Draco said, still a little shyly, despite the fact that he was making Harry fall apart. “Hold still so I can check.” He kissed Harry again, and Harry tried to stay still as requested, but Draco kept teasing Harry with his mouth, and it wasn’t long before Harry gave in and kissed him back hungrily.
Finally, Draco pulled away. “Yes, we’re together.”
Harry captured Draco’s lips in his, kissing him until he felt lightheaded. “Now will you move in with me?” Harry asked, pulling back to keep his mouth just out of Draco’s reach. Sucking in air, Draco wrapped his hands around Harry’s head and neck and pulled him in, closing the distance between them. Placing his hands on Draco’s waist, Harry continued kissing Draco, growing desperate as he gave into the desire that had been building for months; he’d been wanting Draco for so long, during dates and over cats and the many weeks of longing in between. Now, Draco was melting in his arms, his mouth open to Harry’s, and Harry never wanted it to end.
Harry pulled back at last, because something had caught his attention, a relentless buzzing sort of sound in his ear. “Draco, what is that noise?” he asked, leaning against Draco’s chest. Draco wrapped his arms around him.
“Mm. Do you see that ornament that looks like a multi-coloured bath loofah hanging on tree?”
“Yes,” said Harry. It was quite garish, honestly. “It… doesn’t quite fit with the rest.”
Harry extricated himself from Draco’s arms and peered closer at that ornament on the far side of the tree. It was… singing. “But—” Harry started. “But!”
“You really should stop giving people pets for Christmas,” Draco smiled.
“But Luna liked it!” Harry protested.
“Yes, well, she regifted it to me. She thought it would match my aura perfectly. And now I have a Pygmy Puff nest in my tree. Though I haven’t decided whether to keep it. I was thinking perhaps giving it to Pansy and Gabrielle.”
“Delacour? Fleur said they were moving in together.”
“That’s what Pansy tells me.”
“Then it’s okay to give pets as housewarming gifts but not for Christmas?” Harry teased. “Anyway, I think we should keep it. You, me, two cats, and a Pygmy Puff.”
“So it seems.”
“It’s a good thing Grimmauld Place is very large,” Harry said, pulling Draco in close as the Pygmy Puff began singing “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” Lulu came over soon after to twine between their ankles.
“Miaow,” Figg said, from her box beneath the tree. “Miaow.”