“Well,” Percival said, with more than a touch of forced cheer. “Isn’t it nice to be out of the house?”
Credence didn’t seem to agree. His face was positively sulky as he poked at the rapidly melting ice cream in front of him--a plain vanilla sundae with all the toppings left off, except for a whip of fresh cream.
“It’s too cold to eat,” Credence said. “I don’t think I like it. I like normal cream better.”
Percival sighed. Credence was always like this when made to wear clothes. Once he’d tried a concealment charm but that hadn’t gone very well at all. Concealing an absence of something, such as clothing, was a hit-and-miss affair. Unfortunately for the perceptive--as a certain elderly neighbour had discovered--it was only a flimsy disguise and easily seen through. She’d screamed loud enough to wake the whole block and Percival had had to quickly engage in some extremely tricky memory extraction.
“I can’t keep you at home all the time,” Percival explained. Again. “It can’t be healthy. Even for a house cat. You need fresh air.”
Credence perked up then. Percival saw his ears twitch, even hidden under his woollen cap. “Can we go to the Park?” he asked.
“As long as you promise not to hunt the birds,” Percival said. “It would be nice if I didn’t have to Obliviate anyone this time.”
“It was a gift,” Credence said, looking hurt. “Because you’re my Owner and are very kind and good at taking care of me.”
Percival rubbed his temples to hide his wince at the word ‘Owner’. But he managed to smile as he replied. “Yes I know,” he said. “I’m your Owner. I promised to take care of you and that’s what I’m going to do.”
It had been three whole months since Credence had arrived on his doorstep unannounced, wrapped up like an elaborate birthday present--there had been bows where bows really should not have been. A mail order catboy, highly trained in the arts of pleasure and with the biggest cock Percival had ever laid eyes upon. And, most appallingly of all, apparently a raffle prize for a MACUSA house elf fundraiser he couldn’t even remember buying tickets for.
He couldn’t have paid attention to whoever sold them to him--no one expected to actually win the prizes, did they?--or he definitely would have remembered that the grand prize was a live-in half-human pet bred to satisfy the baser whims of witches and wizards. And who on earth thought that was an appropriate prize in a workplace raffle?
For, of course, Credence had been the grand prize. Human pets were beyond the reach of everyone except the most wealthy--even Percival would have had to have scrimped a little to have afforded his price. And all his colleagues seemed to know that he’d been the lucky winner--even just yesterday, as he prepared to leave the office for the weekend, suggestive glances had followed him wherever he went. Abernathy had even dared to wish him a pleasant weekend in a tone that made Percival consider bringing him up for insubordination.
The popular belief seemed to be that Percival needed to lighten up and have some fun. Perhaps they were right. But Percival was of the opinion that a pet-cum-concubine was not a great solution, however big his dick was.
And owning one was quite different to how people imagined. To them, it was just a subject for nudges, winks, and Halloween costumes. Maybe, for the more interested, a topic of specialist magazines. It didn’t involve feeding them, or finding somewhere for them to sleep, or trying to persuade them into normal wizard clothing so once in a while they could actually leave your apartment. In short, it was not something which had ever held Percival’s interest and yet, here he was, looking after a pet of his very own.
Right from the start, Credence had been frighteningly willing to please. And then, when he’d realised Percival didn’t welcome his rather forward advances, he’d become more and more withdrawn. He’d tried to cover his nakedness, because Percival had complained about it, and cringed away whenever Percival had to pass him by. He made a nest in the corner of the sitting room, out of clothing pilfered from the laundry hamper, and would peer accusingly out at him when all Percival wanted was to sit in peace and read.
It had been when Percival had finally given up and stared right back that he’d realised how cruelly he’d acted. Credence’s gaze had immediately turned frightened, even terrified, and he’d hidden himself quickly out of sight. In a very short while, Percival had come to realise that it would have been kinder to have taken him to bed and thoroughly used him for what he was intended, than to have shunned him so completely.
So, a compromise had been reached. Credence had been given a new collar--a replacement for the crass sugary-pink one he’d been sent with--on the understanding that he would listen to instructions, not pester Percival endlessly with sexual overtures, and allow him plenty of peace in the evenings. This had immediately mollified Credence--he became noticeably cheerier, especially once Percival made it clear that though he might frequently hear the word ‘no’, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t sometimes hear a ‘yes’. And he’d proved deeply susceptible to even the smallest amount of affection. A kind word and an ear rub and all Percival’s previous sins had been forgotten.
The collar had helped greatly. It had been an absolute non-negotiable for Credence, who had sniffily explained that only strays didn’t have one and that that shame was great indeed. Percival suspected that was nothing more than a story told to little kittens to keep them in line--unless there really were throngs of feral pets slinking around Central Park after sundown--but Credence believed it and that was what mattered. At his request, Percival conjured him a mirror and he spent a full half hour curled up in his nest, tilting his head this way and that, so as to make his new silver bell tinkle and admire how it sparkled in the light.
After that, they’d managed to get along very well--Credence had kept his promises and had settled down to what seemed to be a contented existence. Once Percival had stopped saying ‘no’ and started saying ‘yes’ things became even more pleasant--besides being extremely skilled, Credence’s enthusiasm and enjoyment were quite genuine. He’d purred loudly, happily curled up in Percival’s bed, for at least an hour after the first time, which had certainly helped Percival feel a bit better about his own weaknesses.
The problem he had was with the idea of Ownership--it just didn’t sit right with Percival. He found their unusual situation much easier to bear when he viewed Credence as an eccentric and unusual roommate. But, admittedly, there were aspects of it which he really enjoyed--perhaps a little too much. It was good to come home to a warm welcome each evening; even better to savour a glass of single malt while Credence wound himself round Percival’s legs, swishing his tail lazily through the air. Best--or, perhaps worst--of all, were the times Percival allowed him to stretch out across his lap so he could be petted. With cut crystal glass in hand, he would survey the expanse of flawless pale skin spread out beneath him and feel a commanding thrill to know all of it belonged to him. It was an extremely dangerous feeling; a slippery slope he resisted as much as possible.
For there was no escaping it--Credence’s absolute commitment to Percival’s pleasure, however willingly bestowed, remained unquestioning. Anyone could have bought the winning ticket and Credence would have to have behaved exactly the same as he did now, regardless of who it had been. The simple fact was that Percival could change his mind about Credence, but Credence couldn’t change his mind about Percival.
Slowly, over the past few weeks, he’d been trying to help Credence understand this but with little success. With the exception of his sleekly-furred ears and tail, Credence appeared exceedingly human but he could behave with all the perverse logic of a true cat.
His latest plan was to expose Credence to more varied experiences--spending all of his day in Percival’s apartment and with only Percival for company was not going to help and meeting a few more people would allow him a chance to develop some perspective. The trip to the diner had been intended to be just such an opportunity but Credence had spent nearly all of it being sulky and disinterested, right up until he’d remembered about the Park. Then he’d been distracted by his melted sundae, discovering it was very much like ordinary cream but sweetened and flavoured with vanilla, and had drank it straight from the glass. So the only opportunity Percival had found there was to test his newly-formed hypothesis that if he pretended everything Credence did was perfectly normal, everyone else would believe it too.
Thankfully, Credence was much less conspicuous in the Park. Though there was much more to interest him, he behaved impeccably, keeping pace at Percival’s side exactly as instructed. His gaze might’ve chased little birds, fluttering leaves, and reflected rays of sunlight about, but no other part of him did. His cattishness was neatly disguised, too--in addition to his cap, he wore a long heavy coat to keep his tail in check and a scarf covered his collar. No one, except for the most discerning of enthusiasts, would have been able to recognise him for anything other than a lovely, if slightly gauche, young man.
The people they passed held little interest for Credence unless something about their dress appealed to him. Though he hated the constrictions of clothing, even in the softest and warmest of fabrics, he was fascinated by the things regular people choose to wear. Especially if they were brightly-coloured.
“That man has a red bowtie,” Credence said, as a young and suitably handsome man walked past. “I’ve never seen a red bowtie before. Is that a usual thing for human men to wear?”
Percival privately thought that if anyone wearing a red bowtie could ever be called ‘usual’, especially at two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, he would pack up and move to the loneliest part of North Dakota he could find, as civilisation itself must be coming to an end. “No, not usual,” he said. “Did you like it? He looked very striking, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” Credence agreed fervently. “Striking, yes. Especially with that red hair.”
Here we go, thought Percival. A perfect opening. “He looked like a nice sort of man, don’t you think? Imagine--in another world he might have been your Owner, instead of me.”
Credence wrinkled his nose. “Maybe,” he said. “But he’s not. You are.”
“But if he had been,” persisted Percival, “what would you have thought then?”
“I don’t know,” Credence said, with a careless shrug. “I’m sure he would be very nice. Maybe not quite as nice as you.”
“He might have been nicer,” Percival said. “Have you thought about that?”
Credence opened his mouth to reply but Percival cut him off before he could.
“I know you don’t like to say anything bad about me, but you can--I wouldn’t mind,” he said. “In fact, I’d prefer it if you told me if there was anything you didn’t like.”
“But there isn’t anything,” came back Credence’s immediate answer.
“The point I’m trying to make,” Percival said, changing tack, “is that anyone who walks past us now could be even nicer to you than I am. Or maybe the same amount of nice, but you might like them better. Just because you were shipped to my door doesn’t mean you need to settle for what I offer you.”
Someone shuffled past just then--a red-faced and rather out-of-breath old gentleman, followed by two small yappy dogs on a leash.
Credence visibly turned up his nose at the sight. “If you were like him I’d find it easier to say something bad about you.”
Percival sighed inwardly. “Good thing I’m not, then, isn’t it?”
Credence didn’t answer. Just ahead of them, a woman had unwrapped a stale loaf, and both Credence and the local pigeons had begun vibrating with anticipation.
“I think we’ll turn back now,” said Percival. “Come on, let her feed the birds in peace.”
“Oh,” Credence pleaded. “Can’t I just watch?”
“I don’t know,” Percival said. “Can you?”
Credence’s face crumpled into disappointed petulance--he knew he’d been out-maneuvered.
“Let’s go home,” Percival said, much more kindly. “And maybe you’ll get a treat for being good.”
As soon as they got home, Credence stripped off every stitch of clothing, stretched luxuriously, and slipped off to patrol his favourite napping spots.
“We’ve only been gone a couple of hours,” Percival called after him. “They won’t have changed that much.”
He gathered up Credence’s discarded clothes, left unceremoniously in the middle of the hallway, and sent them into the hamper. Then he poured himself a generous measure of whisky and walked into the sitting room, intending to settle down to read.
What greeted him was the sight of Credence plunged face-first into his pile of cashmere blankets, with his bottom half waving carelessly in the air.
Percival paused, then stepped around him to sit down. Credence flopped over onto his back and gazed up at Percival, lazy-eyed but clearly ready to spring at the slightest hint of encouragement.
Percival crossed his legs. “So it’s like that, is it?” he said, conversationally.
Credence slid closer and pressed his cheek to Percival’s knee. “You did say I could have a treat.”
“I was thinking of a sugar mouse.” Those had been a great hit when Percival had first had the idea--a child’s soft sugar candy, shaped like a mouse, which he would enchant to squeak and run about. “As you were so keen on chasing things in the Park.”
Credence said nothing, just stared up at him meaningfully. He was quite a vision--soft dark curls topped with even softer and darker ears, liquid eyes, and a smooth slope of pale shoulder. The rest of him was obscured by the sofa. Percival leaned forward to rub his curls. And also to get a better look.
“The choice is yours,” he said, and smiled. “Which would you like best?”
Credence smiled too. His hands stole slowly up Percival’s shins and came to rest on his thighs. Percival uncrossed his legs and Credence slipped in between them.
“Good boy,” Percival said, rubbing softly behind his ear. “Want to stay there or sit in my lap?”
Credence grinned and, in one smooth movement, leapt astride him. Percival put his glass aside and forgot about it until much, much later that evening.