The Hogwarts grounds were still chilly this May, but Harry's thighs were deliciously warm. He had a small white cat curled up in his lap, purring in that traction-engine way cats have when they're not quite grown. Harry smiled besottedly down at his pretty tomcat, taking a moment to be silly and in love while no one was looking. His fingers paused for an instant in tickling behind the cat's ears, and he instantly had his hand butted impatiently.
"Sorry, Draco." Harry resumed petting him, running a hand down Draco's spine. He watched Draco's reaction in amusement: the grey eyes slipped closed and his back arched, pressing into Harry's touch. The purr that burst out of him had his chest vibrating against Harry's thighs, and had Harry grinning.
"There, you like that don't you?" Draco turned to look at him with a distinctly unimpressed look on his furry face. Harry suppressed a laugh, and cooed, "who's a sweet cat, then?"
Claws sank into Harry's thigh, bypassing the denim with contemptuous ease. "Draco!" Harry yelled, tugging Draco's paws up – careful even then, to not be too rough with this smaller version of his prickly boyfriend. "I was only joking! And you should be glad to have someone who's willing to spend all this time stroking your ungrateful little self!"
Draco's ears flattened, and his grey eyes narrowed into spiteful little slits. He hunkered down, ready to pounce and maim with those wicked claws: Harry winced in dread.
Then he quite visibly changed his mind; he was probably, Harry thought irritably, concerned about losing his best source of petting. He gave Harry one last look of feline contempt, then padded around in a circle and curled up in Harry's lap once more.
Harry smiled helplessly, and stroked him.
Draco soon fell into a doze, as they lay amidst sunlight warmth and the smell of heather. Harry lost track of time, grinning down at the little cat as he began to dream: Draco's paws were moving, and his whiskers twitching. No doubt he was dreaming about eviscerating some poor vole – or perhaps a Hufflepuff.
Noise came from the castle – distant yells. Draco made a small, complaining noise and put a paw over his eyes, hiding from the noise. Harry was so busy thinking embarrassingly saccharine thoughts about his feline boyfriend that he didn't even notice the yells getting louder until Ron was ten yards behind him.
"Harry!" Ron yelled at the top of his voice. "You won't believe what – "
"Shush," Harry scolded, half-turning to look at his enraged friend. Ron looked very tall from this position, and his face was as red as his hair. "Draco's trying to take a catnap." Draco was already shifting on his lap.
Hermione groaned at this as she caught Ron up. Harry thought it was because of the awfulness of his pun, but then Ron started yelling again. "So he's here! I'm going to kill him, the nancy little bastard – "
Ron leapt forward, transforming as he did so. Ron had become an Animagus at the same time as Draco, and his form was uniquely qualified for chasing Draco down:
A scrappy little terrier.
Shrill yaps filled the air like thunderclaps. Draco jumped so high he practically levitated, and next moment he was a white blur running as fast as he could. Ron chased him over the grass, yapping all the time. Then Draco vanished into the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest, running to escape the dog, and Ron followed him unrelentingly.
There was a moment of near silence, while Harry sat in shock and Hermione gave the world in general her McGonagall look. Then Hermione snapped, "well come on," and the two of them were running after their errant partners.
Ron was still barking furiously, and following the sound wasn't hard. Racing after Ron and Draco was – they'd gone quite a way. Harry's feet pounded against the ground with the same frantic rhythm as his heart pounding in his ears. Hermione was left behind as he ran ever faster, panic splintering through his chest. Ron was angry, and all his instincts would be telling him to rip Draco apart –
He skidded into a clearing, and instantly felt the tension slip from his hardened muscles, his shoulders drooping in relief. Ron was standing at the base of a birch tree, yapping away; and Draco was standing smugly on a branch about six feet off the ground, looking down at Ron with unmistakable glee. Harry was quite sure he was thinking jump, doggie, jump!, the great prat.
He'd never been so glad terriers couldn't climb trees in his life.
Hermione ran into the clearing, panting and clutching at a stitch. "Thank... goodness," she gasped. "I'll take him away, Harry, don't worry."
"Good, then Draco can come down. I'm sorry about whatever he did, Hermione..."
Their eyes met, and they shared a moment of shared exasperation with their respective stubborn pureblood boys. Then they smiled, affection breaking through like the sun: so much stronger than any grey tinge that attempted to cover it. Hermione went over and coaxed Ron away with her particular brand of exasperated orders and clumsy persuasion. A few minutes later, Harry and the white cat were alone in the glade.
"Draco?" Harry called. He went over to the tree, and looked up. Draco was crouching, his small furry body held close to the bark. He looked at Harry with enormous eyes, and meowed.
Harry shut his eyes for a moment. "You've got to be kidding me." Then he opened them again to give Draco a very stern look, channelling his inner Hermione. "Are you telling me you can't get down?"
Draco opened his little pink mouth and let loose a low, piteous meow. His eyes were wide and beseeching. Draco was entirely aware of how cute his cat form was, and wasn't above using it to get his own way.
On the other hand, he looked truly pitiful stranded on that branch...
Harry shook his head helplessly and tried not to smile. "It's all right, you know." He held out his arms. "Just jump down. It's only a foot or so, and I won't drop you."
Draco gave him a suspicious look. "Draco, you trust me." His voice was certain as the tree itself, with its deep roots that had been growing a hundred years.
The next moment, Draco jumped, landing squarely in Harry's arms and digging his claws in. Harry winced and shifted his hands, holding Draco firmly. Slowly, his armful of cat relaxed a little, and Draco retracted his claws.
Still, Draco didn't change back. He was still trembling a little, and Harry guessed that, though he'd never admit it, Draco wanted to be able to hold onto him for reassurance. His warm paws were on Harry's shoulder, clinging on.
Harry turned and headed back to Hogwarts, holding his trembling bundle of fur in one hand, and stroking Draco's little white head with the other. He tickled behind Draco's ears indulgently, and smiled as Draco leaned into his touch. "Let's get you some tuna, shall we? The house elves like you when you're a cat. Maybe you'll even let me cuddle with my human boyfriend at some point tonight," he added, a little acerbically.
Draco scrabbled loose of Harry's grip, and jumped to the ground. The next moment, the little white cat vanished, and standing there instead was a boy with big grey eyes and ruffled hair and hands that were still trembling slightly.
Harry's face softened, and he pulled Draco into his arms: Draco would never allow himself to seek hugs as a human, but the big-eyed stare meant the same thing in either form. He wanted to be cuddled and stroked and generally made much of, and Harry couldn't be happier to do it.
"Maybe we should get you a collar," Harry said thoughtfully. "To keep track of you when you run off."
He could feel Draco's eyes narrowing. Draco's body was still shaking a little but it was tensing now, about to pull away from his hold.
"Never mind," he said hastily, putting the idea aside for the moment, and held on to his warm Draco. He smelt like expensive shampoo; it was nice.
"Harry, I don't need a hug." Draco's voice was flat – and a little muffled, because his face was pressed against Harry's collarbone.
Harry smiled indulgently, grateful that his expression couldn't be seen by his feline boyfriend – currently anxious, somewhat prickly and always wanting attention. "Of course not," he agreed. "You're a tough Slytherin type. You don't go in for hugs when you've been scared."
"But I'm a sappy Gryffindor," Harry added, tightening his grip as Draco started to pull away, knowing otherwise he'd wander off with his (metaphorical) tail puffed and be silly and on his dignity all night. "I like to cuddle, and being my boyfriend you'll put up with that. Yes?"
There was a pause, while Draco held himself a little stiffly in Harry's arms. Harry moved one hand up to stroke Draco's hair, and he actually felt the moment Draco relaxed against him, and stopped shaking.
"I suppose so," Draco said. "You're very lucky to have someone who's willing to put up with all this sappy stuff, you know."
Harry smiled uncontrollably, and dropped a kiss on Draco's head. "I am," he agreed, as Draco's head dropped onto his shoulder, letting him stroke the silky hair more easily. "Very lucky indeed."