Chapter: VI. Artie
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Harry/Draco (intended); others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Rating: PG-13
Chapter Warnings: Voyeurism, sort of.
Chapter Length: 3400 words
Chapter Summary: The Magical Menagerie shopkeeper casts a Silencing Charm, Harry chooses the proper channels, and Draco gets a weekend visitor.
Beta: None. Read at your own risk.
Note: This is a CYOA fic styled after the 乙女ゲーム/Otome game genre. There will be a poll at the end of each chapter, and readers' majority vote will decide the POV character's actions for the following chapter.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
[Previously, Harry decided to investigate the shrubbery.]
Harry was still hesitating when he heard a loud yelp from the decorative hedge next to Magical Menagerie. The shrubbery was at chest-height, but he was able to peer over it on tiptoes.
A ginger cat cowered in a corner of the enclosure formed by the hedge, its eyes trained on a pair of gnomes. The ground around the cat was littered with small stones. As Harry watched, one of the gnomes raised its arm, aimed, and threw a stone. It bounced off the cat's flank, drawing a hiss and causing the animal to try and retreat deeper into its corner.
"You stop that!" Harry yelled at the gnomes, who immediately scurried away into a little tunnel through the shrubbery.
As Harry touched the hedge, the part he'd been careful not to lean against swung inward, and he walked in to crouch down next to the shivering cat. Which, upon closer inspection, turned out not to be a cat at all; it was a Kneazle cub, maybe two months old. It had probably got out of the pet shop somehow, and the gnomes had judged it a predator and tried to drive it off.
Harry offered a hand for the Kneazle to sniff to prove that he wasn't a suspicious person, but the animal ignored it and leapt up into his lap.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Harry muttered, a bit pleased. "Let's take you back to the shop---"
The bell over Magical Menagerie's door tinkled, and Harry ducked down instinctively even though he wasn't doing anything wrong.
"I'm sure she'll agree," Malfoy was saying.
Harry's earlier seething resentment bubbled forth again. The Kneazle's ears pricked up, and he looked up at Harry as though searching his face for a reaction. Harry made a shushing gesture. Walking in off the street to confront Malfoy may have seemed like a good idea, but popping out of a hedge with a cat in his arms would've looked far too strange. The last thing he needed was for the Malfoys to complain that Harry was illegally spying on them.
"They're extremely loyal dogs," Zabini said. "But they're not great at Muggle identification..."
Their voices receded, and Harry left the hedge enclosure, carrying the Kneazle into the shop. He hadn't been in here since Hermione had bought Crookshanks, but the place smelled just as foul as he remembered.
"I'm sorry, but we're--" the shopkeeper began, but then she looked at Harry. "Oh, you're... Welcome to Magical Menagerie!"
Harry did his best to smile back. "I found this little guy outside -- one of yours?"
The shopkeeper's eyes widened. "Artie! How in the world--?"
"If you're going to install a cat flap, expect a cat to go through it," said a sullen boyish voice. "This place stinks, you know."
Harry peered around the shop. "Who was that?"
The shopkeeper scooped Artie out of Harry's slackened arms. "Artie," she said. "I thought I warned you not to do that in front of other people."
"Why not? He's okay, I can tell. Plus your tension levels dropped fifty per cent the minute you recognised him."
Harry blinked at Artie. "The cat... is talking?"
"I'm not talking, you bozo. My physiology doesn't allow me to produce the same range of sounds as an ape can."
"Your brain physiology shouldn't allow you to process human language at this level," the shopkeeper snapped, hoisting Artie up and examining him from both sides. "Yet here you are. Why are you covered in burrs?"
"He was attacked by a couple of gnomes," Harry said. "I found him in the hedge enclosure."
"Aw, why'd you have to tell her that? I was going to say I was attacked by hellhounds. Now you made me sound uncool."
The shopkeeper deposited Artie in an empty enclosure next to the register and turned to Harry. "I'm really sorry, Mr Potter -- he's still very young."
"Harry's fine," Harry said. "But is a Kneazle supposed to -- whatever it is he's doing, if not talking?"
"Artie was the ninth in his litter," the shopkeeper said. "The ninth Kneazle in a litter usually has special abilities, but telepathy is rare; the last time it happened was fifty years ago somewhere in Australia."
"I bet that was my good-for-nothing father," Artie muttered.
"Shut it, you," the shopkeeper said. "Your father is a perfectly respectable Kneazle from a Bulgarian kennel."
"Oh, and I'm not respectable? You're awfully rude."
"I didn't say you weren't respectable; I just said your father is not a good-for-nothing." She turned to Harry. "His exposure to the human world makes him think he's a person, so he gets very--"
"I am a person," Artie said. "I have a personality, don't I?"
The shopkeeper sighed. "There you have it," she concluded. "He's a bit of a handful, and of course I haven't advertised him for sale since he needs a lot of training before he's fit to live with people."
Harry looked down in the enclosure, where Artie sat swishing his lion-like tail dramatically and staring demonstratively away from the two of them. He wasn't all ginger; in the brighter light of the shop, the brown flecks across his back were obvious. Harry caught himself wondering if Artie would get along with Crookshanks.
He wasn't thinking about adopting Artie, was he? He hadn't had a pet since Hedwig died.
"The people who were here before me," he said to the shopkeeper, shoving the thought away, "Why were they here?"
"For a look at the panther-pups -- we just got a litter in from Spain."
"Which one of them wanted the dog? Malfoy or Zabini?"
"Malfoy, though they tried to make it look like Zabini was the interested party at first. I guess they thought I won't sell the Malfoys an animal because of what they are."
"Why not? The dogs need families. I don't have to like my customers. I'm going to send my son to interview the Malfoy house-elves in a week to see if they're abusive. If they aren't, they can take the pup."
That was good enough for Harry. The Malfoys tended to mistreat just about everything that didn't have pure wizarding blood, so the puppies -- who seemed to have sensed they were being talked about and started poking their snouts out of the cage -- were in no danger.
"You sold Jacky to the Bones fellow without any interviews," Artie pointed out. "Hypocrite."
The shopkeeper flushed. "Settle down. I knew Amelia Bones since girlhood." To Harry, she added, "Jacky was Artie's favourite sister. He's still angry I sold her; that's partly why he's been acting up lately."
"Would you stop talking about me as if I'm not here? Also, tell this Harry character that those two hoity-toity blokes from outside smelled like liars to me."
Harry grinned. "Thanks, Artie. They smell like liars to me too."
"Have they done something wrong?" the shopkeeper asked, casting a Silencing Charm around the enclosure.
Harry shook his head. "Not that I know of. Thanks very much for your time."
"Not at all. I'm very sorry about Artie."
"He was no trouble," Harry assured her, exiting.
No sooner had he stepped away from the shop than the windows went dark and the sign flipped to "Closed".
Harry headed towards the Leaky Cauldron, his mind slowly returning to his earlier conversation with Ginny. Should he confront Ron when he got back to Grimmauld Place? Would there be any point? The outcome would've been the same had Harry been prepared for what was coming, but he at least could've avoided feeling like a blasted fool with his flowers and his false hopes. And besides, fine, Ron was Ginny's brother, but Hermione wasn't related to the Weasleys. She could've at least given Harry a cautious heads-up.
He walked quietly, head down, not quite lost in thought, but when he peripherally spotted movement in a cat's alley between two shops, his wand was out in an instant. He turned slowly and saw Zabini leaning against the wall, facing away from the street. Malfoy was on his knees in front of Zabini, engaged in an enthusiastic blowjob.
Harry cast an Anti-Apparition Charm on the area, sent a Silent Summons to Magical Law Enforcement Patrol, and coughed.
"Shit," said Zabini upon eye contact.
Malfoy scrambled up, whipping out his wand and attempting to Disapparate. When it didn't work, he turned to glare at Harry. "What's the meaning of this?"
"Public indecency is a crime," Harry said.
"What's the big deal?" Zabini asked. "It's not like anyone's around to see us."
"I can see you," Harry said. "And in a minute, the Patrol will be along too, so I think you should really put your pants back on."
Zabini did as instructed and turned to face Harry. "Come on, Potter, why d'you have to be a stick-in-the-mud about it? Like you've never done stuff like this."
"Not in a public space, no," Harry said. It wasn't true, but he and Ginny had at least been smart enough not to get caught. Besides, that had been before he'd officially become an Auror. "You're in training with the Department, shouldn't you know better?"
"Oh please," Malfoy spat. "Spare us the lecturing. This isn't even your area of expertise, is it?"
"You know I'm in charge of your family's file, Malfoy," Harry said.
"Fantastic," Malfoy said, rolling his eyes. "I'm sure you'll write a very entertaining report about this -- 'dear Big Shot So-and-So, Auror Harry Potter observed Draco Malfoy, Death Eater Scum, engaging in the Dark Art of cock-sucking' -- right? Why the hell were you following me around anyway?"
"I wasn't--" Harry began, but a crack of Apparition interrupted him.
"Hiya, Harry," said Cuthbert, the local Patrol watchman. "What'd they do?"
"Public indecency," Harry said. "I'll leave them to you."
"He's just bitter his girlfriend's leaving him for a Quidditch team," Malfoy said loudly to Zabini. "Can't stand other people having a bit of fun when he can't get any."
Harry felt like all his breath had been stolen. Even Malfoy knew? How? "What the hell do you know about Ginny?" he snarled, turning to face Malfoy again.
Malfoy smirked. "My friend Laura helped her get on the team, that's what."
Zabini put a restraining arm on Malfoy's shoulder; he looked alarmed. Come to think of it, hadn't Zabini snogged the Delamare woman in the middle of Hogsmeade? What kind of fucked up relationship were those three in, anyway?
But none of that had anything to do with the law, and Harry had to be professional in front of Cuthbert.
"They're all yours," Harry muttered, stalking off.
Harry collected today's letters from the Law Enforcement owlery and shuffled back to his desk. One of the letters was from Malfoy Manor, and Harry knew what it would contain. Cuthbert had decided to cite Malfoy for provoking an officer of the law in addition to indecency, which meant a mandatory written apology in addition to a stiff fine. The Patrol never passed up a chance to stuff the Ministry's coffers, after all.
I'm sorry you're an arse, Potter, the letter read. No signature.
Harry tucked it into the Malfoy file with a sigh. He could take this to Cuthbert and get him to escalate the charges, but he couldn't be bothered. Malfoy had lodged an illegal surveillance complaint with his boss already, and though Harry wasn't going to be disciplined -- since he hadn't, in fact, been following Malfoy at that time -- he didn't want to make any more waves. If the Malfoys stepped even an inch beyond the conditions of their sentencing, Law Enforcement would be on them like Jarveys on a gnome, but they weren't considered an active threat.
It still stung to think about the incident. He and Ginny had had an enormous row when he'd got Oliver Wood to agree to get her on the Puddlemere team; she'd told him she didn't need his help to get on a team if she wanted to. Yet she'd accepted help from someone who worked for the Malfoys? Sure, it made sense to ask someone who had gone to school in the States, but Harry couldn't help feeling like Ginny accepted the Delamare woman's help just because she was a woman too.
And why would a Malfoy lackey even bother offering help to someone like Ginny? If Delamare was friends with Draco, surely she would've heard all about the Weasleys with their pigsty of a home and so-called out-of-control breeding. Harry considered the possibility that Delamare had no idea what sort of person Draco Malfoy was, but it didn't seem likely: he'd called her a friend. It just didn't make any sense, and it infuriated Harry that it was none of his business.
He picked up the next letter; it was from the Magical Menagerie.
Dear Mr Potter,
Thank you for visiting the Magical Menagerie last week, and for returning our escaped Kneazle to the shop. I am writing to you to request that you consider adopting our Kneazle, Artie. He has taken a liking to you and has insisted I communicate that he would like to become your owner (please do not take offense; like all felines, Kneazles believe they own their humans despite understanding the concepts of trade and the value of currency).
We understand that this request is highly unusual, and of course we will not ask you to purchase Artie; if you do not adopt him, we will not be able to sell him anyway. We are very sorry inconveniencing you with this, but we hope you will consider this request. You may communicate your response via post or you may stop by the shop at any time during our opening hours to discuss this in person. Please be assured that regardless of your decision, the doors of the Magical Menagerie will always be open to you.
Harry set the letter down, grinning. Back at the shop, he hadn't let himself dwell on wanting to take Artie home, but as soon as he'd read that Artie liked him, he'd wanted to go and collect the Kneazle immediately. He'd made up his mind about Artie ever since their first meeting; he'd just avoided thinking about it.
Harry walked through the door to Magical Menagerie only to find himself face-to-face with Narcissa Malfoy. Draco was next to her, holding the baby Luce in his arms. He was studiously ignoring Harry.
"Mrs Malfoy," Harry said, bowing his head a little.
"Always a pleasure, Harry," she said, smiling slightly. "Good day."
As they left the shop, Harry noticed a pair of house-elves trailing behind them, carrying a small cage on their shoulders. His surprise must have been obvious, for Mrs James-Pilliwickle, who had come out from behind the counter to greet him, said, "Yeah, the interview went well. The Malfoy elves said they had been treated badly long ago, but ever since one of them escaped somehow, Narcissa Malfoy has forbidden even harsh words, let alone violence."
Dobby, Harry thought with a pang equal parts sadness and guilt. He hadn't visited Dobby's grave even once since the burial. And of course it would have been Narcissa who'd put a stop to the mistreatment of house-elves in Malfoy Manor. The more Harry learned about her, the better he liked her; just the opposite of her son.
But he wasn't here to talk about the Malfoys.
"I'll be happy to take Artie home," he said to Mrs James-Pilliwickle. "And I'll pay for him, naturally, as well as anything you recommend he needs to be comfortable."
"I hate to say I told you so," Artie spoke up, hopping up on the counter. "But I told you so."
Thirty minutes -- and a protracted lecture on caring for Kneazles -- later, Harry left the shop, carrying a bag full of Kneazle food, toys, and educational materials. Artie trotted alongside him, tail held high.
"Let's go and meet Ron, then," Harry said to Artie, turning towards the Leaky Cauldron.
"My best friend. We live together."
"Oh, I didn't know you were a lesbian. Whatever, I don't judge."
"Stop that, Luce, you'll hurt yourself," Draco called, scrambling after her on all fours.
She had started to crawl a week ago, and though everything in the house was covered with cushioning charms, he was still terrified she'd go headfirst into something pointy the first chance she got.
"Mistress Dorsey, no! You mustn't!" cried an elf's hoarse voice, but the very wet puppy trotted into the sitting room, gave a delighted yip at the sight of Luce, and proceeded to shake herself, covering the furniture, the elf, the baby, and Draco in tiny water droplets.
Luce squealed and crawled determinedly towards Dorsey, who lay in wait, tail wagging. In just a week, she'd grown to nearly Luce's size. When she matured fully, she'd be half as tall as Draco.
Draco sat down on the floor and wiped the water from his eyes.
"Young Master," said a second elf, "A visitor has come."
Draco checked the clock; Blaise was uncharacteristically early. "Show him in," he said, waving a dismissive hand, though the elf hadn't finished talking. "Luce, I say," he called, seeing her seize one of Dorsey's paws in a death-grip. "Gentle with the puppy."
It was a good job panther-dogs were the most patient of all breeds they'd considered; plus Dorsey had clearly determined Luce was the pack leader. Clever beast.
A pair of denim-clad legs that clearly did not belong to Blaise Zabini appeared in the doorway. Draco looked up and blanched at the sight of Potter, who looked dumbfounded. Also, he was holding a speckled ginger cat.
"Hello," Potter offered.
Draco gestured to the towel-bearing elf, who immediately whisked Luce and Dorsey away by Apparition. With as much dignity as he could muster, Draco rose, wondering why in the blue hell that stupid elf hadn't told him who the visitor was. Still, he couldn't let Potter know that he was surprised to see him.
"So what is this about?" he asked. "Is it now indecent to play with my sister in the privacy of my own home?"
"This isn't an official visit," Potter said, averting his eyes. The cat squirmed.
"And why did you bring a cat?" Draco added.
"Kneazle," Potter said. "He's, uh--"
"Oh, never mind the bloody cat," Draco snapped. "Why the hell are you bothering us on a Sunday?"
"I was actually hoping to speak to Mrs Malfoy, but the house-elf said she was out," Potter replied, starting to glower just a little.
Good. Maybe Draco could provoke him again. Then he could write another letter to the Auror Office; Draco was getting really good at writing letters.
"There's something personal I'd like to ask Laura Delamare," Potter continued. "And I was hoping you could provide me with her contact information, as it doesn't seem to be public record."
Draco's heart began a wild interpretive dance. He had considered the possibility of Potter wanting to find Laura -- of course, it had been utterly stupid of Draco to blurt out Laura's connection to Ginny that night, but he'd been so humiliated and angry it was a wonder he hadn't thrown the whole truth into Potter's face.
What was he to do? In a way, it was a good thing Potter had just missed his mother. She knew all about Draco's little game, of course, but it was Draco's game, and he didn't want to get her involved in it.
If he refused to cooperate with Potter here, he'd have to scramble to the continent and be Laura in case Potter decided to track her down officially. But he only had two weeks left of his six-month travel allowance this year. Either way, there was a real risk of Potter noticing that Draco Malfoy happened to be out of the country every time Laura Delamare posted a letter. He didn't think Potter would make the connection, but what if he did?
...just give Harry the same address he'd given Ginny.
...offer the information in exchange for something else.
...refuse to cooperate and ask Harry to leave.
...refuse to cooperate and demand Harry stop harassing Draco's family.
...investigate the shrubbery.
[V. Lorenzo's | ToC | VII. Ignition]