"You have a dog," Draco observed in a very level tone the first time he entered Potter's flat; spots of heat flared high on his cheeks, coaxed there by the chilly weather. The dog was a large, handsome shaggy thing that bounded happily around Harry, claws skittering on the wooden floor. It leapt up to stand on its hind legs, nearly bowling Potter over as it placed its wide paws flat on his chest.
"Yeah," Potter said, low and easy, as if they hadn't just had a very uncomfortable dinner a few moments ago: full of shadowed pauses and conversational sandpits just waiting to drag a person into oblivion. Couldn't talk about Hogwarts; not about their families either; definitely not about the community sentencing that Draco had completed a few years ago, part of the agreement for reduced-prison time; and certainly not the topic of Potter's rumoured romantic involvement with people-who-were-not-Ginny-Weasley. Draco hadn't tasted one bite of the nice meal, his shoulders held rigid under the weight of the stares from the nearby tables.
He had accepted Potter's awkward invitation only because it was, in general, a very good way to rebuild his social standing. He wasn't sure why he had agreed to come up to Potter's flat afterwards.
"His name is Morris," Potter said now and the dog--Morris--let out a happy-sounding bark. Morris looked at Draco as if only now realizing that there was someone else standing there in front of the closed front door. "That's Draco, Morris," Potter told the dog. Morris barked again, fluffy tail blurring from side to side.
Potter walked towards Draco and Morris followed, brown gaze brightly trusting and curious. As soon as they were close enough, Draco held out one hand, palm up and Morris gave his fingers a few curious sniffs.
"He's nice," Draco said to Potter, not quite sure what to say. It was, apparently, the right thing to say, for the furrows between Potter's thick eyebrows lessened and the corners of his lips curled upwards very slightly. Draco allowed himself a small smile in return. "How long have you had him for?"
Potter ruminated, lips pursed, head tilted to one side as he stared down at Morris. The dog gazed back up at him, tongue hanging out in a wide doggy grin. The dog's entire expression was fairly melting in adoration. When Potter rubbed the scruff of Morris' neck, the dog was obviously transported in delight, eyes half-lidded.
"Five years?" Potter wondered out loud. "That sounds about right. Seamus found him abandoned up in Bristol. Think he's got a bit of Crup in him, he ate seven of my shoes when I first got him."
"You owned seven shoes, Potter?" Draco asked, because he can't not say things like that, no matter what they said in group counselling, no matter how much his offender manager advised him about being...well, less a Malfoy. Draco hadn't known what to think of that priceless comment, really. All he's ever known for twenty-seven years on this good earth was being a Malfoy.
Instead of glaring at him or freezing him out, Potter rolled his eyes. He seemed a bit relieved, actually. "Fuck off," he said, and his smile grew a bit more. "I've more shoes now than I know what to do with."
"And yet," Draco retorted, feeling near dizzy with an emotion that felt very similar to what was on Potter's face at the moment, "you chose to sport what appears to be your finest pair of trainers to dinner tonight?" He let his tone slant upwards, mocking but not mercenary. He was done with all that...mostly.
Potter huffed. "They're comfortable," he answered and his smile was in full bloom. Morris leaned against the side of Potter's leg and gave Draco a very long, very measuring stare.
"You have a cat," Potter said, flatly. This is a bad idea, Draco thought, wondering if there was a spell which would allow one to kick oneself. Surely there was; he would have to research it. This was after their fifth dinner together. On their fourth, they'd had an argument over Pansy. Mostly hissing at each other, for they had been out in public again. Potter, despite his heroic tendencies, actually wielded words like a sabre and he was quite able to cut Draco to the bone. Not to be outdone, Draco had parried as deftly as he could and had managed to get in a few hard jabs himself. Inevitably, Potter had stormed out of the restaurant. The pop-flash from the paps had galaxied in his wake, and Draco was left scowling at the white tablecloth covering the round table.
He'd called Potter the day after and apologized. Completely without prompting from his offender manager; Draco was proud of himself, actually. Potter had offered his own apology as well. He had accepted when Draco invited him out to another meal, and then up to his flat.
As soon as Potter stepped inside, his gaze zoomed in on the large pile of white fluff on Draco's sofa. Phoebus lifted his gorgeous head and an unholy light gleamed in those slanted eyes. Yes, Draco confirmed internally, very inadvisable.
Draco motioned to one of the armchairs, for Phoebus was a complete scoundrel who was sprawled across nearly half of the sofa. Since living on his own, Draco had learned at least five very brisk cleaning charms, and had modified one in a futile attempt to control the many white strands of fur which constantly materialized out of thin air onto every surface; at least the chair he pointed out appeared mostly strand-free.
Potter sat down at the very edge of the seat, eyeing Phoebus very warily for a few beats before glancing away. Phoebus, the little shit, sat up even more. The cat then raised one leg in a feline plié and licked at his crotch. The utter cheek; Draco knew that he was plotting, because that was how Phoebus did life in general.
"Thought you were a dog person?" Potter asked in a slightly quavering manner, as if Draco had managed to disappoint him after so many years of hope. Draco frowned back at him.
"I don't mind dogs," he said. "We had dogs at the--" he broke off abruptly, because any mention of the Manor and Potter would go all twitchy. "When I was growing up," he managed. "But I quite like cats. I've had Phoebus for about three years now."
"Since you finished your community thing," Potter said, not looking at Draco.
Draco nodded, even though Potter's gaze was not upon him. "That's right," he answered, in a soft manner.
Phoebus stopped his very important grooming and stared at Potter again. Draco realized, for the first time really, that Phoebus' eyes were nearly the same deep green as Potter's. The large cat unfurled up from his boneless sprawl, and jumped to the floor. He ambled over to Potter, tail lashing lazily from one side to the other and paused, considering, at Potter's feet. Draco moved as swiftly as he could; he was upon the fiend just as Phoebus crouched, bum wriggling in preparation for a leap.
"Sorry," he said, a little out of breath. Phoebus squirmed in his arms, patently upset at being deflected from his goal. "He was going for a jump. Er, on your head."
Potter's eyes were very wide. He had leaned back in his chair when Draco had loomed over him suddenly, and his hands clutched the plush arms of the seat.
"Does that a lot, does he?" he quipped, blinking rapidly. His lashes were very long and soot-dark. Draco felt that if he touched Potter's face, those lashes would leave dark traces on his fingers. The thought, and nearly everything else in his entirety, froze under Potter's regard. Phoebus used Draco's inattention to lunge out of his arms and escape to the kitchen.
"Quick little bugger," Potter noted, grinning outright.
"Don't call my cat a bugger," Draco told him, but he grinned right back.
The first time they kissed, it was a bit of a disaster beforehand. They'd argued again, after their nineteenth date; this one was over politics, something Draco had told himself that he'd would never bring up in any situation, not ever. Not at work, not visiting his father in maximum security, nor talking to any of his friends. Yet, despite Potter's quiet presence, Draco had managed to get himself all heated up into discourse over the new election procedures for the Minister of Magic, and the haphazard campaigning for all the available posts in the new Wizarding Parliament. There weren't even established political groups, just proto-clusters with very nebulous platforms. Potter's face had been completely blank, looking down at his plate. He hadn't been eating his pasta, just twirling it on his fork.
"You know," he finally said after one very extended monologue from Draco regarding the complete mess that was the voters' list. "I'm just really tired of it all."
Draco sputtered, "What? How can you be tired of it?" It was all horribly managed, yes, but Draco thought it was an exciting time in this part of the magical world. It was all so different; it felt...right.
"I'm tired of everyone wanting my opinion on all those bloody candidates." Potter's voice was very low, and he still hadn't looked up from his plate. It was linguini, with squash and goat cheese. Draco had cooked it himself, looked it up on the internet and everything, and here was Potter, not even taking a bite.
Potter murmured, "Ron says I shouldn't show any overt support for any one in particular."
Draco raised his eyebrows. That was very sound advice indeed.
"Maybe they're not ready to be all democratic," Potter went on. "I mean, they've just barely gotten over a potential evil dictator, if you think about it. All the Ministers have never been voted in... just installed."
He said 'them', 'they'...as if he wasn't a part of this world. That sent a huge jolt of an intense, unnameable emotion through Draco, one he didn't want to sift through in detail right now.
"That’s why this is important," he snapped. "Everyone who is able to vote should do so. We should all take a greater interest in proceedings like these."
"Why are you so interested?" Potter raised his head and gave Draco a very speculative stare, green deep and quiet like an old forest. Draco thought, you should run for Minister. They'd vote you in before anyone could say ballot-box.
He didn't answer Potter's question. Instead, he countered with: "Don't you think you should be more interested in all these changes?" To his own hearing, his tone was strident, drilling. He winced internally as Potter's fixed expression melted into surliness.
"Don't you think," he murmured, clutching his fork in a fist, "that I've caused enough changes as it is?"
"You could very well do more," Draco snapped and immediately regretted not investigating the potential existence of a self-kicking spell. Potter flung down his fork, the metal clattering against the solid timber and stood up. His chair dropped backwards and he stalked away from the dining table, heading towards the Floo. In the space of a few beats, Draco considered letting him just go.
Then, he jumped up and strode after him, putting his longer legs to use so that he caught up with Potter just before he dipped his fingers into the urn for the Floo-powder.
"Hang on, Potter." Draco grabbed his wrist, holding his hand away. Potter did a complicated twisting move with his whole arm and shoulder, yanking his wrist out of Draco's hold. Then, quite unnecessarily in Draco's humble estimation, he drove his sharp little elbow into Draco's stomach, just below his sternum.
"For fuck's sake," Draco wheezed as he collapsed to the floor, trying not to heave up what he'd just eaten. He slumped over on his side and lay curled up tight, the wooden flooring nicely warm against his side.
"I'm so sorry! Malfoy, I'm..." Potter knelt beside him, rubbing his hands over Draco's shoulder and neck in short, sharp movements. "Oh god, I just reacted, I'm so sorry."
Draco bit his lower lip so he wouldn't say anything accusing like, what luck that you didn't use your wand on me, remember what happened in that bathroom. When he rolled his eyes so he could look sideways up at Potter, he saw the memory of that day writ large in wide eyes. Potter touched his cheek with trembling fingers.
"I'm really sorry," he whispered, and a smile trembled across his full mouth. "See? I always make everything worse."
"No," Draco told him. "You really don't, Harry."
He reached up with one hand, a grimace tugging down the sides of his mouth because he still felt just a bit queasy. Harry's expression became even more stricken, but then that was washed away by a species of stunned curiosity when Draco cupped the back of his neck and pulled him down.
Harry was very warm, Draco had always thought; from the time they'd been kids and he'd seen him for the first time in the robes' shop. He remembered how intrigued he'd felt so over the strange little boy with the big eyes and the smooth brown skin. Harry seemed to fill the spaces he occupied with balminess, temperature rising with every step he took through life.
He was indeed as warm as he looked, Draco discovered as their lips met in a slow, careful press. Harry remained still for a few beats, as if he was trying to figure out just what was going on. When Draco licked at the seam of his mouth, he sighed, breath hot against Draco's lips and kissed back so desperately that Draco completely forgot about the pain in his chest.
He sat up, and Harry sat back on his heels; they sat there on the floor, savouring the taste of each other's lips. Harry's fingers plucked at the lush material of Draco's shirt, tugging at it so that it pulled out of where it was tucked into his trousers. His hands snuck under as soon as the shirt was free, fingers searching over Draco's ribs, his stomach, his chest: tracing over the fine lines of scars and thumbs brushing over peaked nipples.
A train of exclamation marks steamed through Draco's brain, huffing past every single station without a stop. He felt Harry's mouth move against his. He squeezed his lean arms and then let his hands slide down to lace his fingers through Harry's.
Harry yelped against his mouth and Draco jerked away. His ring, the one his mother had given him, might have scratched Harry, or maybe he had kissed him too hard...? He stared at Harry in a dazed manner, half-expecting to see him glower. For a long moment, he simply couldn't understand what he was looking at, he was still so heated from Harry's touch.
Then, once the realization hit him, he had to act fast so that Phoebus wouldn't stifle Harry. The cat had finally succeeded in his self-appointed mission to leap on Harry's head, the black hair nearly completely covered in a mountain of white fur: white fur that yowled stubbornly when Draco tried to yank him away.
"Wow, what the hell," Harry panted when Draco finally succeeded in prying Phoebus from his conquered post atop Harry's head. Imprisoned in a tight clutch, Phoebus managed to grab Draco's closest hand between two paws and attempted to gnaw his way to freedom. Draco, who had survived the Great Kitten Teething of Two Thousand and Four, had attained a very high pain threshold indeed. He simply gave the cat a warning squeeze and set him on the ground, shooing him away.
Harry had gotten a few scratches on his neck and cheek, where Phoebus' claws had gotten him. Not too deep, but Draco used a charm to disinfect the long welts and then another to hasten the healing of the skin.
"I've had worse, no worries," Harry told him in a chirpy tone. Draco took this as a very heartening sign. "Once Morris tipped me over a barrow. I wrung one ankle, sprained my wrist. He tried to drag me to safety, but I just got mud all over my arse."
Draco blinked rapidly at this blithe recount, and then snorted. He was still laughing when Harry kissed him again.
When they moved into the new flat together, Morris was exceedingly intrigued by Phoebus for about a half-hour. Phoebus was just as interested, but of course in the cat manner. This meant that there was a fair amount of attempted canine murder in a shockingly short amount of time.
(Draco wasn't too shocked, to be frank. Really.)
"You need to control that monster of yours," Harry told Draco. As he said this, he was sitting on the sofa, and Morris was in his lap. Morris was precisely fifteen times too large for Harry's lap, but neither of them seemed too concerned about this discrepancy in pet-human variables. Morris had his face tucked into the crook of Harry's neck, one eye peering out fearfully at the wide, arched entryway to the living area. Just inside the fancy opening was a stack of boxes they hadn't gotten to unpack as yet. Phoebus sat proudly at the very top of the boxes, his very own tower, haughtily surveying his new domain.
"Morris can eat Phoebus," Draco reminded Harry. "He can quite literally swallow him whole. I've no idea why he's so afraid."
Harry gave him baleful stare. "Mozzer here would never eat Phoebus. That cat would probably choke him on the way down, out of pure spite."
Draco opened his mouth to refute that claim and then closed it again. That sounded accurate.
"There, there," Harry said, trying to calm Morris, but the dog was now trying to scramble over his shoulder in pure panic. Phoebus had jumped down from his tower and was stalking right over to them. Morris landed with a thump behind the piece of furniture, the poor dear, and Phoebus jumped into the recently vacated lap. Prime real estate, apparently: the cat kneaded the top of Harry's thighs, protected by thick jeans, turned thrice about and then flopped down across his legs.
"What an absolute shit," Harry breathed, staring down at the purring cat in his lap. Draco managed to coax Morris from out behind the sofa, rubbing his soft ears and making gentle crooning noises. Morris looked up at him with his dark shining eyes and snuggled against his feet when Draco sat in an armchair right across from the sofa.
"You should really try eating him one day, Mozz," Draco advised the dog. "He would get stuck in your craw, but it might be worth it."
When Draco seriously considered running as the member of wizarding parliament for the Wiltshire constituency, Harry had been quietly incensed; so much so, that he simply left one evening, taking a few of his clothes and Morris. Draco told himself that he really didn't care. If Harry couldn't support him in this, then he really didn't need him.
Phoebus was of the opposite opinion. Every evening for the entire week that Harry and Morris were gone, he trooped all about the flat, bellowing piteously at the top of his lungs.
"They're not here!" Draco screamed back from time to time. "Just accept it!"
The cat did not accept it. The cat only stopped when Draco shouted, ears laid flat and eyes narrowed. Then he would start up again, yowling as he prowled, searching for Morris and Harry.
"Morris isn't eating," Harry said stiffly when he finally rang. "He keeps crying."
"That is unfortunate," Draco replied as coldly as possible, even though his chest felt tight at the way Harry didn't look directly in his face, gaze drifting to one side. "You could bring him over for a visit, I suppose. Phoebus really wants to see him."
"Oh, well. All right, for Phozzie," Harry said, using that ridiculous nickname, and cut off the call. He didn't come through immediately, not that Draco had expected him to. In a way, Harry was very much like Phoebus, proud and suspicious.
Draco predicted that he would arrive in about two hours. Just few minutes after that time-frame, the Floo blazed green and the flames swirled out around Harry's slim form and Morris' dark sturdiness. Morris greeted Draco with great fervour, jumping up in an attempt to distribute a great number of doggy-kisses across Draco’s nose. Then, Phoebus streaked into the room and tackled the dog, rubbing against the larger animal so much that Morris simply had to lie down on the ground and let the cat crawl over him.
Phoebus tried to lovingly devour Morris' jugular. Morris batted at him, cat-like, until it was clearly established that only so much nibbling would be acceptable, and no more. They curled atop the carpet together: Phoebus purring so hard that he sounded like an old, fault-ridden engine; Morris trying to groom him in a gentle manner, which, for a dog, wasn't that gentle. Phoebus clearly did not mind. His face was all scrunched up in pleasure.
"I really don't get why you're angry," Draco said, and Harry's lips tightened. "I'm trying to help other people."
Harry said, "I know that," but his arms were crossed over his chest and he still wouldn't look in Draco's face. "I just don't want you to you think you have to...to prove something to me, or whatever."
"That's ridiculous," Draco snapped and Harry's gaze blazed right at him. As usual, he was so shaken by all that lovely green that his mouth raced on without his brain giving the all-clear: "I want to make our world better. So you don't have to be the bloody Hero all the time. I just...want to make it better for you."
Harry's eyes were very wide, lips parted. On the ground, Phoebus yawned and snuggled even more into Morris.
"There's more to it, I guess," Harry admitted, looking away again. "I mean, apart from the fact that I’d have to be facing the media again. I just don't want them to have you. I know it's selfish, but they'll get to have you being all noble for them and you're mine."
"Who the hell's more noble than you, anyway?" Draco exclaimed, absolutely astounded. "You won’t have to talk to anyone at all, I promise. And… and you're mine. Er. As well." He stammered so much on that last bit because they'd never said I love you, but this was probably as good as they would get and--
"I love you," Harry said and Draco nearly stepped on Phoebus and Morris in his haste to take Harry into his arms, to kiss his mouth and feel him up and breathe I love you too against his warm, warm lips.
Phoebus was not pleased at all by nearly being trampled, but Morris snuffled against his ear before he could rise up and mete out punishment by claw. They settled back down, ignoring the soft murmurs and whispered promises.
They could shit in Harry and Draco's shoes later.