Title: Secret Heart
Summary: Draco had long ago admitted to himself that he'd fallen in love with the tiger, but he still refused to admit that he'd fallen in love with the man. That admission would simply cost too much.
Total word count: ~4,100
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's notes (if any): bryoneybrynn, I hope you enjoy it!
Beta(s): Thank you to the always wonderful sesheta_66 for beta and wednesdayjones for britpicking. Also a huge hug of appreciation for romaine24 for much handholding and brow wiping.
"Oh, bloody hell, not again!" Draco railed when he saw the two annoying Aurors at his front door.
Ron and Blaise both exchanged knowing smirks.
"Fine," Draco huffed indignantly. "Bring the beast in. I've finally managed to repair the furniture from the last time he was here anyway. I was getting a bit bored."
With a flick of his wand, Ron lifted the huge cage that held the sleeping tiger, manoeuvring it through the wide door and down the hall to the sitting room.
"What happened this time?" Draco asked as he plopped ungracefully onto his lush new sofa.
"Er," Ron began hesitantly, glancing again at his partner. "A chase in Muggle London."
"In Muggle London? He turned himself into a tiger to chase down the bad guys in Muggle London?" Draco huffed. "Idiot."
"Well," Blaise added with a grin. "He did catch them."
Ron's chuckle earned him a severe glare.
"Oh, good. Well, as long as Wonder Tiger caught his man, all is right with the world." Draco huffed again and stood with a flourish, his long, purposeful strides taking him to the drinks cabinet to pour himself a tall glass of whisky.
"A bit early to be drinking, isn't it?" Blaise sniggered.
"Fuck you, Zabini. It's not early enough. You should have owled ahead and I'd have been drunk before you arrived."
"Oh, come on, Draco. It's not that bad. He'll change back in a week or two. You know the Manor's the only place safe enough to keep him."
Draco didn't bother to offer the two men a drink. They were obviously still on duty – not that he would have anyway, under the circumstances. "What about Hogwarts? Plenty of room there for him to roam."
"Sure, Malfoy, a three hundred pound tiger roaming the school, terrorising schoolchildren. No harm could possibly be done."
Blaise punched Ron in the shoulder to shut him up. "Draco," Blaise said more calmly, "you're the only other Animagus tiger in Britain. You can handle him, right? You've proved as much. And you owe him, remember?"
"Yes, yes," Draco answered with an annoyed wave of one hand as he used his other to down the contents of his glass and pour another. "How many times do I have to babysit the beast before I've paid for that blasted life debt?"
Blaise grinned and moved to where Draco stood, taking the glass from his hand. "You know the drill. He'll wake up in a few hours and he'll be hungry."
Draco huffed and fell dramatically onto the sofa, throwing his arms over his face with a groan.
"We'll come round later to check on him. Just let us know if he tries to eat you, all right?"
After ignoring several chuckles, the whoosh of the Floo signalled their departure and Draco lifted his head, trying to muster enough animosity to glare at the sleeping tiger. He couldn't quite manage it. He might be able to fool everyone else, but he couldn’t fool himself.
A rush of pleasure surged in his gut at the thought of having Harry all to himself again. Even as an animal, he was more exciting than anyone Draco had ever known. He only wished Harry would remember it when he turned back into his old self. They weren't sure why he couldn't; Granger had said something about being in a suspended state between his Animagus form and his human form, but Draco didn't put a lot of stock in that theory.
With a flick of his wand, he unlocked the cage waiting for any sign that the tiger was regaining consciousness. It was taking too long, and Draco wasn't really known for his patience.
He transformed into the beautiful Siberian tiger that he had grown to love and stalked toward the cage, nudging the door open with his nose. The cage was too small for two tigers, Draco knew, but he didn't really mind the close quarters. He let his animal instincts take over, sniffing and licking until the gorgeous yellow and black stripped tail flicked and large paws batted at him affectionately. It was an odd feeling, this metamorphosis from human to feline. The strange mixture of human intelligence and animal power was intoxicating at the worst of times, but at moments like this, it was almost overwhelming.
They exercised their usual reacquainting ritual, Harry nuzzling against his whiskers, grooming him with his rough tongue and sharp teeth. It was pure ecstasy for both cat and man, and Draco relished every minute of it until a loud roar signalled that Harry was hungry.
Sad to relinquish the comfort of the warm body, Draco backed out of the cage, Harry lumbering after him, nudging him along to speed his descent.
Draco changed back reluctantly, calling for a house-elf to bring the freshest meat it could find. He knew the tiger wouldn't approve. Harry liked fresh meat in this state, the kind only a wild animal could appreciate. Draco understood this better than anyone. Some of his fondest memories were of hunting in the Malfoy forests by Harry's side. It was exhilarating to watch the other tiger stalk his prey with such precision, and then pounce with miraculous speed on the unsuspecting meal. Harry was more generous than a tiger should be, always willing to share the tastiest parts with his partner in crime.
Mimsy popped in holding a steak almost as large as the elf's head. His eyes were wide with terror as he stared at the large cat. Draco waved his wand and the slab of meat sailed from the elf's hands onto the floor at his feet.
"It won't be long, my ferocious pet," Draco said affectionately as he scratched behind the tiger's ears, eliciting a purr from deep in the animal's throat. "Later we'll go into the forest and catch a nice plump fox, all right? But this will have to do for now."
The tiger rubbed his head against Draco's hip, almost bowling him over before reluctantly tearing into what, for him, would be a mere snack. Draco chuckled.
Damn, how many times had they done this now? Eight, maybe nine? Every time Harry would promise it would be the last and every time Draco's heart would break just a little more, realising that what they shared as tigers, they could never share as men. Camaraderie, understanding, intimacy, love. Draco laughed at the last thought. He'd long ago admitted to himself that he'd fallen in love with the tiger, but he still refused to admit that he'd fallen in love with the man. That admission would simply cost too much.
Draco cracked one eye open and reached for his wand, prepared to hex whoever had interrupted his peaceful slumber, be it friend or foe.
"I guess he hasn't changed back then?" Weasley asked with that insufferably crooked grin.
Glancing down at the sleeping tiger draped across his legs on the magically enlarged sofa, Draco smirked. "Obviously not, Weasley. It's only been three days."
"Yeah, well he's been working on it. I'd kind of hoped he'd have sorted it out sooner this time."
Draco nudged the tiger so he could regain some blood flow in his lower body. "Looks like you were wrong."
Ron sat in the chair farthest from the sofa, knowing better than to get too close. When Harry was in this form, the only person who could safely be near him was Draco. The idea pleased Draco more than it should.
Harry stretched his wide mouth, opening in a great feline yawn before hissing a warning in Ron's direction.
"Oh, stop it," Draco scolded as he sat up. "He's not going to hurt you."
The tiger stretched out possessively across Draco's lap, nuzzling his head underneath Draco's arm, making him chuckle. The weight should have crushed him, but Harry had a way of balancing just right, so Draco only felt cocooned in his presence, safe and protected.
"He's not going to hurt me either. At least not today," he added, trying desperately to keep the affection he felt for the tiger out of his tone.
"Well, then, I was just checking to see if you needed anything," Ron said as he stood to leave.
"Yeah, I could use a fresh bottle of Glenlivet if you're running errands," Draco answered with a perfect smirk.
"Oh yeah?" Ron answered. "What year?"
Ron snorted as he stepped into the Floo. "You'd be lucky."
Draco looked down and grinned at the ferocious tiger whose eyes were dancing playfully. "So, you think you can manage to stay awake long enough to take a walk?"
Harry stretched and bounded off the sofa, nudging Draco up with his large nose. He pushed the tiger away playfully before turning back into his Animagus form. If he didn't get the beast outside soon he'd find a new cushion torn to shreds.
They lumbered to the door, Harry nipping at him impatiently the entire way. As soon as they exited the confines of the house, Harry took off in a run toward the forest. So, it's a game of chase, is it? Draco thought with a wide animal grin that would have probably made Weasley wet his trousers. The chuckle came out as a loud roar and Draco took off after Harry at a trot.
It was by far better than the best game of Quidditch. Harry was all sleek muscles and animalistic fire. It was a magnificent sight and Draco could watch him for hours on end. Harry was much faster than he was, but would always let him catch up when he was ready to be tackled to the ground. They'd almost assuredly need another nap after this, and Harry would be certain to find a soft spot in the sun for them to stretch out in.
Draco could smell all the scents of the forest, the newly bloomed flowers, the mustiness of the grass after the morning's light rain, the fear of the small creatures hiding in their burrows as he and Harry lumbered past them. But mostly his senses were overwhelmed by the smell of Harry himself; the scent of strength and confidence that practically oozed from every pore was more intoxicating than any alcohol ever could be. The thought that this might be the last time they did this made Draco flop his head solemnly onto the warm grass. He would miss this more than he cared to admit.
The sound of the Floo activating made Draco look up from his book and glare. "Don't you people remember how to use the front door?"
Blaise grinned, his eyes darting uncomfortably to the tiger on the floor at Draco's feet. The cat was surrounded by shredded cushions, chewing on what had previously been part of an expensive dining room chair.
"But then you'd have to get up to answer it. Wouldn't that be a travesty?"
Draco threw the only remaining intact decorative cushion at the man's head.
"You try keeping up with this beast and tell me you wouldn't be exhausted. What are you doing here anyway? Weasley just checked up on him yesterday."
Blaise casually made himself a drink before sitting down, Harry watching him with narrowed eyes the entire time.
"I came to talk to you."
Draco arched a brow; Blaise was using that tone, which was never a good sign. Harry must have sensed Draco's discomfort because he abandoned his newly shredded toy and bounded onto the sofa next to him. Out of sheer habit, Draco scratched behind the tiger's ears and was rewarded with a soft rumble.
"Talk to me about what?" Draco asked nonchalantly.
"About Harry. Ron says he's been trying to sort out how to change back. It's very likely this will be the last time he gets stuck in his tiger form."
Draco shrugged, his fingers unconsciously gripping the animals fur as if to hold on to him. "What does that have to do with me?"
"It means this might be your last chance."
"My last chance for what, Blaise? To babysit the furry beast? Good riddance."
The man had the audacity to laugh. "Draco, you know you're not fooling anyone with all your complaints. Everyone but you and Harry can see how much you care about him."
Draco grimaced. He should have known Blaise would see right through his little charade. "Well, you're obviously all delusional. If I wanted a pet I'd get a nice Kneasel that didn't piss all over the furniture."
"Look, you can deny it all you want, but just do us all a favour would you? When he turns back and asks what he can do to thank you, ask him to take you to dinner."
Chewing nervously on his bottom lip, he looked down at the tiger whose head now rested heavily in his lap. If he thought for a minute that Harry would want anything more than friendship he would move heaven and earth to get it, but he wouldn't manipulate him into it. "Blaise," he said quietly, "if Harry wanted to ask me out, he would have done so by now. He's the Gryffindor, remember? The brave one. The one who rushes in where angels fear to tread."
"Fuck, Draco. Who do you think is always the first one to suggest I owl you to join us for drinks after work? Merlin, I think the only reason he's friends with me is so he can use it as an excuse to talk to you."
A sliver of hope blossomed in Draco's chest, but he quickly squashed it. Blaise was being a Slytherin, the master at manipulation that he was. It probably wasn't even true.
"Look, Draco, the man hasn't dated in almost two years. Every time his eyes catch someone at the pub they're tall, skinny, and very blond. He's just as stubborn as you are, that's all." Blaise paused for a response but Draco refused to give one.
"You know you like him," Blaise pressed, leaning forward in his chair.
"I never said that," Draco answered uncomfortably, pushing the heavy head from his lap so he could pour himself a shot of something to calm his now rattled nerves.
"No, but you never said you didn't, which means you do."
Draco shot Blaise a glare that would have frozen Fiendfyre. "It doesn't matter if I do or not. I'm not going to ruin a perfectly tolerable relationship with the man by making him feel uncomfortable. If he wants me, he knows where to find me. End of discussion."
Blaise sighed and stood to leave. "Fine, wallow in your loneliness until he finds someone to take your place, but don't come whining to me when it happens."
Draco wanted to hex him, but he knew Blaise was right. It was only a matter of time before someone else came along and swept the Saviour off his feet. And what would Draco do then? He was surprised when a comforting hand landed on his shoulder and even more surprised by the fierce roar from Harry as he sprang from the sofa.
Blaise stepped back quickly, looking nervously at the tiger now standing guard at Draco's side.
"Fuck, Draco, if I didn't know better, I'd say he was jealous."
"Jealous of you?" Draco snorted, somehow pleased by the thought. "We both know he's smarter than that."
Blaise cocked his head curiously. "Yeah? Well, that's the same look Harry gets when the barman at The Green Pixie flirts with you."
Draco waved Blaise away, refusing to listen to any more nonsense. If Blaise and Weasley weren't partners, he and Harry would never even see each other. The fact that they got along well on occasion didn't mean anything. Harry was pleasant because that was who Harry was and Blaise was an idiot to read anything more into it.
"Just think about it, all right? That's all I'm asking."
Again, he refused to respond and Blaise Flooed out with a huff. Draco looked down at his guardian protector and smiled. "What do you think, my striped friend? Do you think I'd ever have a chance?"
The tiger purred and Draco knelt down to run his hands along the animal's back. "If only you could remember," he whispered sullenly. "But you can't, can you? None of this matters when you turn back. You go back to being the man everyone adores. A man to be watched surreptitiously, admired from afar, dreamt about, but never touched." Draco rested his head on the tiger's warm neck, wishing for the hundredth time he'd open his eyes to find Harry looking back at him.
On the fifth day, Draco awoke with a panic at the loss of weight draped across his body. His eyes darted frantically, searching for the tiger, only to land on Harry Potter, stretched out in a nearby armchair.
Well, Draco thought sadly, that's it then isn't it? "Potter, I see you've managed to finally make it back to humanity."
Harry smiled sheepishly and Draco's heart flipped at how incredibly endearing that look could be. "Yeah. I didn't want to leave without thanking you."
Draco flung his legs over the side of the bed and stretched nonchalantly, hiding his disappointment. "Yes, well, you've thanked me. You should probably rush off to your little friends and let them know you're all right. They've been worried."
"No they haven't," Harry answered, making no move to leave.
Draco looked at him incredulously. "How do you know? You don't even know how long you've been here. It could have been months."
Harry glanced up, an odd expression on his face. "It's been five days." He stood up, startling Draco by changing back into the tiger and stalking to the bed, jumping onto it with all the grace the beautiful animal possessed.
"Fuck, Harry! What are you doing?" Draco swore once the shock had worn off. "Now it'll be another week before you—" His words died on his lips as Harry transformed back into ... Harry.
Draco stared into soft green eyes. "How?"
"I've been able to change back for almost a year."
"What?" Draco's voice quivered as the question seemed to get caught in his throat.
"I kept telling myself I wouldn't come back, but ... I couldn't help myself."
"Then you remember—"
Harry grinned, stalking across the bed on hands and knees. "Everything," he said softly as he captured Draco's lips in the softest kiss imaginable. Draco's gut churned. He wanted to push the man away and hex him into oblivion for playing him for a fool, but Harry's body was pressed against him and it was so warm, so comforting, so ... perfect, that he couldn't.
"So ... what Blaise said about you is true?" Draco asked, almost embarrassed by how hopeful he sounded.
"Every word of it, especially the part about the barman at the The Green Pixie. There were a few times when I was tempted to turn into a tiger just so I could rip his limbs off."
Draco smiled as a flash of jealous fire burned in Harry's eyes.
"But you were wrong about me being brave, not when it comes to this," Harry whispered. "I'm sorry for lying, but I ... I was afraid if you knew—"
"That I'd hex your bollocks to South America for pissing all over the carpets?"
Harry sat back on his haunches and grinned. "Yeah, something like that. But then after Blaise left, what you said.... You have more than a chance, Draco. I've been an idiot to wait so long."
Draco shook his head; he should be furious, he knew. He should be screaming and throwing things and lecturing the man on what a complete arse he was. But the echo of that kiss was still on his lips, the kiss he'd fantasised about for months, years even. "Wouldn't it have been easier to just ask me out?"
Harry chuckled, changing back into the tiger to push Draco down onto the bed and nuzzle his neck with his huge nose. He turned back into himself, shaking his head. "I was afraid you'd say no."
Draco wrapped his arms around Harry, pulling him down and into another soft kiss.
"I might have," he whispered. "You're much cuter as a tiger."
"Yeah, but there are some things that will be more fun as men, don't you think?" Harry asked as his hands roamed down Draco's bare chest, skirting beneath the elastic band of his pyjamas.
"What? You didn't enjoy ripping the entrails out of helpless animals?"
Harry chuckled again, his eyes dancing with mischief. "Not as much as I'm going to enjoy this." His hand wrapped around Draco's cock and all thought of foxes and forests and sleeping under the stars raced from Draco's mind, replaced by the reality of what was happening. How many times had this happened in his dreams? How many times had he imagined waking up to a gorgeous dark-haired man instead of a beautiful striped tiger? Too many to count.
"Weasley and Blaise will be furious when they find out you've played them," he managed.
Harry snorted, the puff of air against Draco's neck melting his very soul. Harry's hand was both rough and gentle – the perfect combination of control and caution. It made Draco's entire body flush with need like he'd never felt.
"Who says they have to find out?" Harry whispered, his warm breath stripping away what little self-control Draco had left. He reached down to still Harry's hand for fear of coming right then.
Harry pulled back, his expression questioning, almost fearful, and Draco realised his brave tiger was just as scared of rejection as he was. He smiled encouragingly. "It's been a long time. I don't ... want it to be over too soon."
Harry returned the smile, relief sparkling in those brilliant green eyes. "It's still early and I don't have to go to work today ... or tomorrow for that matter."
The words surged through Draco's veins, thrilling him with the idea of having Harry all to himself – as a man, not an animal. To have the opportunity to fulfil even a few of the fantasies he'd had over the years.
When Harry's hand renewed its pace, Draco didn't stop it and when Harry's lips traced the curve of his jaw, then down to caress his collarbone, Draco couldn't stop it. It was pure ecstasy. Breath and wind and sun all wrapped into one neat little package, and when he came with a litany of incoherent groans, he managed to crack his eyes enough to see Harry staring at him with an emotion Draco dared not name.
"You're beautiful," Harry whispered, assaulting Draco's lips with all the passion the tiger gave to a good hunt and Draco realised that Harry and the tiger weren't so different after all.
He could feel Harry's cock pressing against him and all he could think about was how good it would feel to have Harry pound him to oblivion. To have him touch where it had been so long since he'd been touched. "Fuck me, Harry."
Harry pulled away and opened his mouth to say something but Draco cut him off. "If you ask if I'm sure I'll hex you. I've wanted this for too long to wait a second longer."
The smile that flickered across the man's face was greedy and predatory and it made Draco want to scream from the pure pleasure that Harry wanted him as much as he wanted Harry.
"Lube is in the drawer and ... it's been a while so—" Harry kissed him: warm, coaxing kisses that promised he'd be gentle, that he'd take his time, that Harry would never hurt him. Draco felt safer than he'd felt since he was an innocent child. It was an unspoken promise that Harry delivered ten-fold. By the time Harry pressed his cock into Draco's body he was begging, pleading with everything that he was and it was better than any dream Draco had ever had.
"Fuck, Draco you feel so good. I think I could stay here forever."
"Good," he answered, moving just enough to make Harry whimper. Harry didn't last long, but Draco wasn't inclined to complain. He finally had the man exactly where he wanted him and he had no intention of ever letting him go.