I don't own Harry Potter.
Crookshanks sauntered slowly down the darkened hallway, tail waving lazily in the air as he took his time. Norris apparently wasn't in this wing of the castle tonight; too bad really. Once you got past the prickly personality, she was really an interesting conversationalist.
The silence in the corridor was punctuated by the creaks coming from several suits of armour ostensibly trying to get comfy so they could sleep, along with the occasional mutter or snore from a portrait. Crookshanks was used to the small noises during his midnight rambles and paid no attention to it at all, save to flatten his ears and hiss at a picture full of snoozing hound dogs.
Crookshanks froze suddenly as he rounded a corner; there was someone in the small, windowed alcove beside the sleeping statue of Wilfrid the Unworthy. Carefully, he padded over to the figure, leaping lightly onto the window seat beside the sitting person and fixing his yellow gaze on the curfew-breaker.
He was a student; Slytherin at that. Green was one of the limited colours in Crookshanks' gaze spectrum (a fact he prided himself on), and the student was dressed in green nightclothes that practically invited him to shed fur all over them.
The boy was looking out the window, and not at Crookshanks, and the cat decided to immediately remedy that situation; he could use a good scratch. He issued a loud, plaintive "Miaow!"
The boy's head whipped round at the disturbance, but he relaxed when he registered that the intruder was merely a cat.
"Hey there." The boy's voice was a bit hoarse, and he cleared his throat. "Keep your distance, cat. I don't need hair on my robes."
Crookshanks gave another, annoyed "Mraowr!"
"Oh shut it, you furry nuisance. I'm trying to think." The boy turned his head so that he could gaze out over the grounds again, but Crookshanks levelled a stare so intense at the back of the student's head it was surprising that there weren't two holes burnt right through the fair hair and into his head.
The moon came out from behind a cloud and bathed the two of them, cat and boy, in a pale, eery glow, washing all colour from Crookshanks' ginger fur and bleaching the green robes a pale mint. The boy chose this moment to shoot an annoyed glare at the silent cat, and Crookshanks took this opportunity to recognize exactly who this boy was.
The boy started a bit when a malevolent hiss issued from the large feline on the end of the bench; it was coupled with flattened ears and an enraged stare.
Crookshanks was sitting beside the chief tormentor of his beloved Hermione: the Malfoy boy himself.
After several minutes of staring, the Malfoy stared back out the window, muttering "Whatever," and leaving Crookshanks with a smug sort of feeling inside. It was obvious that the boy didn't recognize the cat as being in any way associated with Hermione; Crookshanks was fairly sure that he'd be dodging kicks if that was the case.
The Malfoy boy was always unaccountably horrible to Hermione. Crookshanks remembered several separate instances of being hugged fiercely by his girl whilst she raged and cried against the cruelty of her Slytherin year-mate. Crookshanks would always commiserate with her; he knew what it was like to be discriminated against: being half-Kneazle doesn't exactly score you points with either side of the feline species.
So Crookshanks, very quietly, padded closer to the Malfoy boy; close enough to surreptitiously sit on the edge of the boy's robes and spread bright orange hair all over the fine green material.
He repeated the "Inch closer and shed" routine several times, so that when the boy finally noticed the intrusion on his personal space, Crookshanks had nearly insinuated himself into the boy's lap.
"Ugh, stupid cat!" Crookshanks was shoved rudely off the bench, and onto the cold stone floor; never one to go down without a fight, the feline hopped right back onto the bench and commenced staring balefully at the Malfoy boy, who was furiously trying to get the cat hair off of his robes-- to no avail.
"Dammit, cat! Your fur's all over the place!" The boy narrowed his eyes at the feline who was nearly smirking at him. "Okay, that's it. Get out of here!"
Crookshanks neatly dodged the hand that tried to swat him off the seat and swiped at the offending appendage, eliciting a satisfactory yelp of pain from the Malfoy boy.
"Ow!" Four red lines now marched their way across the back of the boy's hand. Without warning, he lunged towards Crookshanks, intent on catricide.
Several minutes later, Crookshanks was seated in the exact same place, a look of malicious superiority on his face. The Malfoy now sported rakes and bite marks up and down his arms and on his hands; he was bleeding in several spots, breathing heavily and glaring.
Crookshanks took vindictive pleasure in the darkly enraged scowl being sent his way. He noticed in a detached sort of fashion that there were rips and tears in the boy's clothes, which were furrier than ever now.
"You think you're so smart, don't you, Cat?" The boy spat. "What'd I ever do to you?"
"Oh shut up. You don't even understand me." The boy shuffled around for a moment then settled back, holding a wand lightly in one hand. "Ha. Don't try anything funny now. I don't care that I'm not supposed to use magic in the halls: I'll hex you good."
Crookshanks arched his back and spat in response.
They remained like that for a bit: the boy pointing his wand at the silently menacing cat, before Crookshanks looked out the window dismissively, planning to ignore the boy for a while. After all, he really wasn't that much of a threat.
Time passed, and student and feline watched the interminable progress of the stars across the night sky, neither of them acknowledging the other, but just silently staring. The Malfoy boy's scratches ceased to bleed and crusted over with dried blood; Crookshanks fluffed his fur every once in a while to get it to lie 'just so'.
It must have been close to morning when Crookshanks gradually became aware of a hand stroking his back. Instinctively, he began to purr--softly at first-- then rising to an audible rumble as he was scratched behind the ears and petted on the back of the head.
The Malfoy boy still gazed steadfastly out the window, all the while petting the feline which he had cursed so vehemently several hours earlier. Crookshanks leaned into the boy's hand, purring louder. He had an idea.
"You're not so bad, are you, Cat?" The Malfoy's voice was a barely audible whisper, but Crookshanks, hearing it, got up and padded softly over to nestle beside the boy, purring all the while. There was a faint jingle, as the boy's hand came in contact with the hand-knitted collar Hermione had made especially for Crookshanks, complete with bell and Muggle identification tags for when they were home over the holidays.
"Hm." The Malfoy boy inspected the collar, and then the tags, muttering to the cat all the while. "So your name is Crookshanks, eh? Funny name for a cat."
Crookshanks shot the boy a daggered glare, but he missed it, being intent on the collar.
"Bloody hell... you belong to Granger?"
"So that's why you didn't like me..."
"Mmmrr." Crookshanks butted the Malfoy's hand, demanding attention, and the boy resumed stroking his ginger fur.
Silence reigned once again as they watched the sun rise slowly over the Hogwarts Grounds. Soon the earliest rising students would be up and about. Crookshanks watched with interest as several of the denizens of the Forbidden Forest scuttled back under the eaves of the great woods, driven back by the strengthening sunlight. It would be a very nice day.
The Malfoy boy yawned and stretched as much as the little alcove would allow, and Crookshanks yawned as well. He could hear the faint sounds of people stirring down the corridors.
The feline in question turned his flat face towards the boy, who had the oddest expression on his face.
"I...yeah." The boy looked at his arms; stretching had opened several of the scratches, which were leaking anew, then back at the feline, who regarded him solemnly. "I'm not gonna get revenge on you or anything for that. I dunno...I guess I sort of deserved it." He commenced scratching Crookshanks around the ears and under the chin once again.
"You're actually quite a decent cat, you know...never mind that your face is smashed in."
Crookshanks regarded the Malfoy with the haughtiest expression he could summon up.
"Not that it's a bad thing," the boy said hastily, "I just...yeah. Nice to spend time with you, Cat--er, Crookshanks." The Malfoy's voice was very soft, and there was something almost wistful in his eyes...
"Crookshanks, there you are! I've been looking all over...for...you..." Hermione's joyful expression froze as she saw just who was petting her cat. Crookshanks glanced up at the Malfoy boy; he looked as if he had been caught red-handed at a crime scene.
"Granger, I --
"Mrraiow!" Crookshanks interrupted loudly. He then butted the boy's hand once more, affectionately, before leaping down from the seat and trotting over to his Hermione, who scooped him up in both arms to cuddle him.
"I..." The Malfoy's voice trailed off as girl and cat regarded him; one with curious and guarded eyes, the other with an inscrutable expression. After a lengthy pause, Hermione spoke.
"Well...well, Crookshanks seems to...like you, so I suppose you're not--not all that bad." Then she turned and hurried off down the corridor, still cradling her cat.
The Malfoy boy stood up, his robes and pyjamas wrinkled and covered in ginger cat hair, dark circles under his eyes and a tired and disorganized air about him, too shocked and exhausted to do anything more than stand for several minutes.
Then, he slowly made his way to the Slytherin dormitory. He had a lot to think about.