It was a knock. Harry's pretty sure it was a knock, but when he opens the door, there's no one there.
He's about to close it when he hears a plaintive mew and looks down.
"Oh," he says. "Hello."
There's a cat on his doorstep. Maybe it's hungry. He drops into a crouch. "You don't look hungry." It's skinny, but more slender than starving. If anything, it looks well cared for, even pampered. "Are you lost, then?"
It's a pretty cat. Pure white and clean, with short, sleek fur and pale eyes. Harry pets it, the back of his knuckles stroking its head.
He expects it to arch into the touch, but it doesn't. Instead, it flinches away.
Harry rises to his feet. "Okay, mate. See you, then."
He shuts the door.
It comes back the next day.
"You gonna let me pat you this time?" Harry asks it.
It sits on the doorstep and stares up at him with slanted grey eyes. Harry bends his knees, drags his knuckles tentatively over the cat's head in a touch the cat barely seems to tolerate.
"Don't you have a home to go to?"
Third day in a row, and the cat is back. It yawns, stretches. Gives him a condescending glance, then, quick as a flash, darts past Harry's legs and into the house.
"Hey!" he calls after it.
When Harry offers the cat food, it turns its nose up at it. Instead, it spends the next few days exploring the house on Grimmauld Place.
It tends to turn up after breakfast. It's always gone by dinner. Harry lets it in, but somehow it gets out on its own.
There are parts of the house Harry hasn't explored fully. Perhaps there's a broken window somewhere.
"I've been adopted," Harry says. "Apparently I have a cat, now."
He met Hermione for lunch at a tea shop in Diagon Alley. She keeps glancing at her watch. "A cat? What kind of cat?"
Harry shrugs. "A white cat?"
She lifts an eyebrow and smirks. "Narrows it down." She looks at her wrist again. "I've got to dash, sorry. My lunch break is almost up."
Harry walks her back toward the Ministry. "How is work, then?"
"Repetitive, you know, entry level. Recently got a pile of new animagus registrations to file, though. Never guess who was on the list."
Harry finds the cat in the kitchen, curled up by the fire.
"You know," he says. "I might have expected a ferret. Probably wouldn't have let him in the house, though."
The cat lifts its head, glares at him.
"Suppose I should be thankful. You could have murdered me in my sleep."
It stands up, stretches, curls up again.
"So why are you here? I don't do anything interesting enough to warrant spying, also, bit pointless spying when you're on the public register."
The cat stands up again, stretches, and transforms before Harry's eyes.
Draco Malfoy reaches for the ceiling, yawns, then his arms fall to his sides. "I'm not spying on you," he says. "I came to retrieve my wand."
"Oh, right," Harry says. "That'll be why you came right out and asked for it, oh, wait, cat's can't talk. Do you think I'm stupid, or did you knock on my door and then chicken out?"
Malfoy lifts his chin, which only serves to make him look pointier. "If you must know, yes. I lost my nerve, but you were already at the door. I couldn't think of anything else to do."
Harry puts the kettle on. "That explains the first day. Doesn't explain the fact you bloody well moved into my house. Tea?"
"Yes, thank you," Draco says. "The Manor is a nightmare. You really can't imagine."
"I think I can." Harry remembers, vividly. Bellatrix is gone now, Voldemort, too, but it must be a dark and dreary mausoleum, with only terrible memories.
Harry finds some biscuits in the pantry, and they drink tea, and the atmosphere is not much different to when Draco was a cat, except he accepts what Harry offers him now.
"I bought a ton of cat food," Harry says. "Bugger if I know what I'm going to do with it."
"There's a stray living in your back garden. He's a bit shy, but you could leave it out overnight."
"Huh," says Harry. "He's an actual cat?"
"You're friends, then?"
"He tolerates my presence, I think. I'm still getting used to how this works, you know."
Harry shrugs. "Just want to make sure there won't be a battle over territory. Don't want you to start spraying all over my house as you work out your boundaries."
Draco drops his teacup into the saucer with a clatter. "Excuse me?"
Harry chuckles. "So. As long as you're not pissing in corners—I will rub your pointy nose in it—you're welcome to stay. You can take your pick of bedrooms. Oh, and your wand is on the dresser in the parlour."
"Isn't that what you want?" Harry asks. "You're here morning till evening, I figure you go home for dinner, but since I won't be offering you cat food again, you might as well eat here."
"You're suggesting we become—?
"Flatmates, yeah." Harry collects the cups and saucers, drops them in the sink. "But I'm not your bloody house-elf. You pull your weight."
Draco blinks up at him. Then he nods furiously. "Yes. Of course." He stands, lifts the plate of biscuits, and hovers, as though he has no idea what to do with them. "Thank you."
"Pantry, behind you," Harry says. "And you're welcome."