Draco Malfoy stood at the entrance to the Ministry’s Voices for Orphans fundraising gala staring at an array of place cards.
He hadn’t wanted to attend, but his mother, as well as Pansy and Blaise, convinced him it was necessary. Narcissa reminded him that it was his responsibility in the wake of Lucius’s death to represent the family in wizarding society. Pansy and Blaise pointed out that he could hardly expect to gain a position of import if he couldn’t socialise with people in power.
“It’s been three years since the war, darling,” Pansy had said, placing her hand on Draco’s lap. “Get on with it. Plus, you are pitifully lonely. It’s unbecoming. Go make some friends.” Leave it to Pansy to be on his case about having no friends; it was entirely her fault for having moved to Rome with Blaise.
So here he was, in royal blue dress robes, his platinum hair falling across his forehead. The place card in his hand read, “Mr Draco Malfoy, table 5.” A few cards away (after Laurent Montblanc and Chester Myles), Draco saw “Mr Harry Potter, table 5.” Well, fuck. Draco’s famously poor luck was manifest this evening.
Draco arranged his features and strolled to table 5, where Weasley, Granger, Longbottom, and Lovegood were already seated. Excellent; it appeared that the sage organisers of this function had seen fit to seat him with his Hogwarts cohort. He had expected to be sat with some old Slytherin biddies. He knew how to charm the old Slytherin biddies—this crowd, he was not sure.
“Good evening, Granger. Weasley. Longbottom.” Draco nodded at them. “Luna, you’re looking sparkling this evening.”
Luna, wearing a chartreuse gown, gave Draco a bright smile, which he returned. After the war, decimated with guilt over what he had and hadn’t done, Draco visited Luna and apologised for her incarceration in his home. Luna, in typical fashion, immediately forgave him. She patted his cheek and said, “It was fairly awful. And I’m sorry that you were stuck in the house, too. I imagine the dungeon was somewhat nicer than the rest of the house at that point.” Draco had looked at her, astonished, and allowed her to tell him how she and Mr Ollivander had passed the time in the dark dungeon. She had, it turned out, invented a whole series of riddle-based games. “Mr Ollivander was a Ravenclaw, of course, so he appreciated the riddles. Under other circumstances, it would have been quite nice. I should send Mr Ollivander an owl. Would you be interested in coming over for riddles? You’re not a Ravenclaw, but you’re quite clever, aren’t you?” And looking at her wide, genuine eyes focused on his, Draco had started to believe that maybe there was still a place in the world for him. After that, he visited Luna’s house twice to solve riddles and eat dirigible plum tart. It was surreal.
“Draco!” Luna enthused, “I’m surprised to see you seated at this table. It’s nice that the organisers have such premature optimism about post-war reconciliation.”
Draco didn’t know how to respond to that, so he smiled. Unfortunately, Luna was flanked by Longbottom and Weasley, so Draco could not sit next to the friendly face at the table. He sat down next to Weasley, who was nearest.
Weasley stiffened. If Draco wasn’t nervous, he would’ve found Weasley’s face amusing. Weasley looked, first, like he wanted to draw his wand. Then his higher intellect (if one could call it that) won out—he visibly struggled to keep his face in a semblance of neutrality. “Malfoy,” he managed. Longbottom raised his wine glass genially, but said nothing.
Granger, bless her, had not forgotten her manners. “Good evening, Draco. I hope your mother is well.”
Draco did not want to discuss his mother, but at the moment he was grateful for any superficial topic of discussion. “Yes, thank you. She’s enjoying a holiday in Nice at the moment.”
Granger began to discuss a controversial announcement about werewolf rights the Ministry had made a few days ago. Draco registered appropriate outrage at the poor treatment of werewolves. These days, he took every opportunity to show his evolution on progressive issues. Not that he was being disingenuous—he really had evolved on these issues. One doesn’t live the better part of a year locked in a manor with an insane genocidal megalomaniac without seeing the error of one’s (father’s) ways. But one must be strategic about publicising newfound virtues in this post-war world. Virtues, after all, were not private affairs.
But throughout Granger’s (now quite impassioned) discussion, Draco’s eyes flitted to the entrance, where he knew that a certain Dark Lord Vanquisher should be appearing.
Good Merlin. He thought he was through his Potter-watching days. He heard his mother’s voice saying, Don’t count your hippogriffs before they’re hatched.
Too true, he answered the subconscious internalization of his mother, too true.
Just then, as if on cue, Potter appeared in the doorway. A few photographers materialised in the vestibule, snapping photos before an event official shepherded them away. Potter was in public-image mode. He smiled broadly, clapped important wizards on the arm, and graciously responded to simpering fans. Eventually he managed to collect his place card and meander to table 5. Draco found his old prickliness at Potter’s fame returning, but he took a deep breath and managed to retain his visage of respectable aloofness.
“Malfoy. What are you doing here?” Potter said gracelessly.
Draco opened his mouth to respond, but Granger, of course, inserted herself into the conversation. “Hello, Harry. Draco here was just agreeing with me about the werewolf initiative.”
Granger continued right on talking about werewolves, but Potter turned and gave Draco a suspicious look. Granger touched Potter’s elbow, guiding him to the seat next to hers. Her redirection worked, and Potter turned to wrap his arm around his best friend. Potter joined the werewolf outrage, complaining about a bloke named McKinsey in Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.
The evening continued, for the most part, uneventfully. Potter made a speech that managed to ruffle no feathers—he somehow talked for ten minutes without saying anything. Draco was begrudgingly impressed. He idly wondered whether Granger had written the speech. A moment of excitement spread through the room when one of the elder Weasley brothers (the scarred one), who had overindulged in the Firewhiskey cocktails, knocked over an elderly witch. Ron left to help his brother to the Floo and Hermione pulled Potter onto the dance floor, leaving Draco at the table with Longbottom and Lovegood.
Longbottom smiled soppily at Lovegood and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. Ah, so apparently they were a couple. That was…fitting.
Lovegood leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table and placing her chin in her hands. “Draco,” she intoned, “tell me everything new about your adjustment to the post-war world.”
Merlin, but Draco was tired of the word “post-war.” He would be happy if he never heard the phrase “post-war” again. In fact, the entire prefix “post-” could be eradicated from the English language, as far as Draco was concerned.
If anyone else at the table had asked that question of Draco, he would have told them exactly what to do with the “post-war” rhetoric. But Draco didn’t hate Luna. He tolerated her quite well. Oh, who was he kidding? He felt nothing but affection for her.
So he answered, crossing one long leg over the other. “Not much has changed since I last saw you. I’ve been trying to convince my mother that I don’t need to move back into the manor. She’s been on me to move back in since my father died, but I haven’t been back since the end of the war. She hasn’t, either, for that matter. She’s been in London and various places in France for the past three years.”
Luna nodded sagely. “The wrackspurts in the manor are the worst I’ve seen.”
Longbottom looked back and forth between Luna and Draco with blatant confusion on his face. It must be odd to see your partner chummy with an ex-Death Eater, Draco mused. Draco decided to take pity on Longbottom.
“Longbottom, I’m not sure you know that Luna and I became friendly after I told her how sincerely sorry I am on behalf of my family for her suffering during the war. And in that vein, I’d like to apologise to you, as well. While you weren’t a prisoner in my cellar, I was a complete arse to you for all of school. You have my permission to hex me and call me a vile miscreant, right now. Or whatever you think will make a small start at getting even.”
Longbottom cracked a jaunty smile. Salazar, one’s mind reeled to consider that the little kid with the toad had grown so good-looking. He was still chubby, but in a way that fit his stature and personality. His hair had darkened over the years to the point where it was now a medium brown, cut short on the sides, longer and wavy on top. He looked at home in his skin and radiated ease. No wonder he was in Witch Weekly as often as not, even if he wasn’t Draco’s type.
Draco tried to ignore Pansy’s voice sounding in his head, And what exactly is your type, darling? Messy hair, scar, penchant for Expelliarmus?
“If Luna is calling you Draco, you have to call me Neville.”
Well, that wasn’t exactly a declaration of forgiveness, but it would do. “Certainly, Neville.”
Granger and Potter, red cheeked and out of breath, approached the table for a drink of water. Potter really had no right to look as fit as he did. His hair was as disheveled as ever. His glasses were still the height of unfashion—only in an insane twist of ironic fate, Potter-style glasses had become the height of fashion. He was shorter than Draco, but broad-shouldered, with delicious-looking golden brown skin, and he gave off an intense aura of strength and power. All in all, he looked exactly like he did in each issue of Witch Weekly. Damn it all to hell, Draco had hoped those photos were magically enhanced.
Potter shot Draco a look. But before Potter had a chance to say anything, Granger pulled him back onto the dance floor. Typical. Granger had been getting Potter out of scrapes for nearly a decade now. Though Draco supposed he shouldn’t cast aspersions, since Potter had been getting him out of scrapes—if one can count uncontrolled Fiendfyre as a “scrape”—for nearly as long.
A house-elf approached the table offering a choice of coffee or tea. Draco accepted tea, which prompted Neville to ask, “Say, Malfoy. Don’t you miss the old traditional magical teas?”
Draco frowned. “The drink or the ceremonies?”
“Well, both. Everything is coffee these days! I swear, within a year someone is going to lobby for a Starbucks in Diagon Alley. You know I’m pro-Muggle, but being pro-Muggle certainly does not mean that I have to be pro-Starbucks. We’re British! We’re British wizards! We should be drinking tea! Magical tea! Not sugary machiatto frappuchas in a paper cup!”
Draco privately wondered how much Neville’d had to drink. But Neville’s tea enthusiasm was contagious.
“You’re right, Neville.” Draco set his cup down. “I believe it’s the American influence. I don’t know what is wrong with those American wizards. What do they need so much coffee for? If they’re that tired, they should calm down their schedules or something. Or in extenuating circumstances, a Wideye potion would do.”
“Or even an infusion of aconite, well prepared,” Neville countered, leaning forward. “It’s Americanisation, Draco. It’s Starbucksification.”
Luna put her hand on Neville’s and said, “Neville is very passionate about magical teas. It’s his inner herbologist talking.”
“Do you work in herbology now?” Draco asked.
“I finished my herbology mastery a couple months ago. Still deciding what to do next.”
Just then, Potter approached the table and sat next to Luna. Neville smiled at him. “So Ron came back and rudely stole your dance partner?”
“The nerve on that man,” Harry said, grinning, “stealing his fiancé for a dance.”
“I’ll dance with you in a minute, Harry,” Luna offered, “when Neville’s done inaugurating Draco into his Cult of Tea.”
Potter turned and offered Draco a small smile. “Ah. Did he use the word ‘Starbucksification’ yet? I keep telling you that’s not a word, mate.”
Draco smiled, trying to look as cool and collected as his father always had. “I think Neville’s right. The English magical tea traditions have really died out.”
“Yes,” Neville said, punctuating with his hand. “Exactly! The traditions are endangered—like manticores. Luna and Harry have never been to a proper magical tea. Tell them, Draco.”
Draco blinked. He hadn’t been to a proper magical tea since his great-aunt Walburga died. “It’s a pleasant affair. The tea itself is usually a blend of magical herbs and tea leaves, and the food is superb. Generally the magical effects of the tea are enough to render Apparition home inadvisable. My father used to tell the story of Brutus Malfoy drinking so much of an alihotsy infusion that he had to be taken to St Mungo’s.”
Neville’s eyes gleamed like the kneazle that caught the pixie. “Well then the alihotsy infusion wasn’t properly prepared, mate. You need a herbology master for that job. It might seem like overqualification for a job preparing teas, but with alihotsy in particular it’s absolutely necessary. Have you ever had an alihotsy infusion? I had never had one until last year, as I wasn’t allowed any as a child when my gran still hosted magical teas.”
Draco, despite himself, was interested. “I haven’t. I haven’t seen alihotsy infusion on offer in over a decade. I haven’t even thought about it in years.”
“By the sapphire in Rowena’s diadem, Harry,” Luna announced with the air of a person who had already heard everything there was to know about the proper preparation of alihotsy, “that’s our cue to hit the dance floor.” Harry stood and took Luna’s outstretched hand. “Do you know the horklump shuffle?” Luna asked.
“Er, afraid not,” Harry admitted as they walked onto the dance floor.
Neville did not look up as they left the table. “You have to try the alihotsy. It’s outrageous—way different than a potion. It’s fascinating, how the same herbal ingredients can act differently in potions versus infusions. I wrote my thesis on it. A Laughing Potion made with alihotsy will make you feel drugged, out of control. A properly prepared infusion of alihotsy has a lightness to it.”
“Is it possible to quantify the different effects of the potion versus the infusion?” Draco asked. And what had become of his life? He was voluntarily talking potions theory with Longbottom.
“You can use certain diagnostic charms on a person to see some effects, but there hasn’t been much academic interest. I keep meaning to ask Flitwick what he thinks.”
“You know, just last week my mother wrote me about the excessive number of coffee shops she saw in the wizarding area of Nice, yet not one proper magical tea to be had. She has taken to frequenting Muggle tea rooms for proper tea. Can you believe what her parents would’ve said?”
Neville chuckled. “Narcissa Malfoy goes to Muggle afternoon teas? Oh, she must be so sad to see only insipid assam on the menu.”
“She makes do, Longbottom. We all have our trident to bear.”
At this, Neville laughed—a real, Gryffindor-bark laugh. Draco smiled. Longbottom was clearly desperate for a Pureblood friend, even if he didn’t realise it.
A few days later, Draco sat in the living room of his flat entertaining Pansy and Blaise, who were visiting from Rome. When they moved, they promised Draco they would visit him monthly. More than he would admit, those visits were the bright spots in Draco’s life.
Pansy was telling an animated story about a waiter while Draco and Blaise sipped wine and snacked from a tray of cheese. An unfamiliar owl tapped at the window; Draco rose to let it in. “Accio owl treat,” Draco murmured, but he was paying attention to the letter, not the treats, which sailed directly into Blaise’s head.
“Bloody buggering hell, Draco, watch what you’re doing.”
“Sorry,” Draco said with a wry smile.
“If you manage to off me with a pack of owl treats, I doubt the Ministry will believe your story.”
“Oh, ha, ha,” Draco responded.
“Who’s it from, darling?” Pansy inquired.
Draco stared at it for a moment, then passed the letter to Pansy.
Dear Mr Malfoy,
It would be our pleasure to host you for tea at Longbottom Estate on Saturday, May 12, 2001, at four o’clock in the afternoon. Kindly inform us of your attendance at your earliest convenience.
Augusta and Neville Longbottom
Pansy looked up. “Explain.”
“The dolts at the Voices for Orphans function sat me at a table with the Gryffindor heroes.”
“Oh, Draco,” Pansy said, with as much genuine sympathy on her face as you would expect from someone learning that a loved one had Vanishing Sickness.
“It was honestly fine,” Draco countered. “Lovegood was there and that helped break the ice, and Granger is socially capable. It was only Potter and Weasley who didn’t quite know how to react. In any case, I talked at length with Longbottom about traditional magical teas, of all things.”
“Oh, Salazar,” interrupted Blaise. “What I wouldn’t give for a proper magical tea right about now. My grandmother used to serve an infusion of nettle and dittany that could turn any person’s skin ten years younger.” He stared wistfully into the distance.
“Well, that’s exactly it. Neville is concerned about the loss of traditional magical teas.”
Pansy crossed her legs. “My great-uncle used to serve a marvelous mandrake bark oolong. Family legend tells that it healed my grandmother’s stiff joints. But darling, I’m surprised Longbottom is interested in pureblood customs.”
Draco grinned, leaning back on the sofa. “Longbottom wants me to try his alihotsy infusion.”
Blaise leaned forward. “Oh ho!”
Pansy frowned. “Draco, that’s a bit much. Longbottom isn’t…hoo hoo for haha, is he?”
“Pans, honestly. He’s a herbology master. He knows how to brew it.”
“All I’m saying is you don’t want to end up like my dear aunt Gertrude, in St Mungo’s because of an ill-advised alihotsy habit.”
“Noted,” Draco replied with a twisted grin.
“Well, in any case, Draco, tell Augusta Longbottom to expect you for tea, and thank her kindly for thinking of you,” Blaise directed. “If any old wizarding families are in the good graces, it’s certainly the Longbottoms. Did you see the recent feature in the Daily Prophet all about Augusta, the elderly witch, during the war? Dueling an Auror into a bed at St Mungo’s, going on the run, and fighting valiantly in the Battle of Hogwarts? And Skeeter can’t close her mouth about Neville, of course, summoning the Sword of Gryffindor and beheading the snake like something out of Muggle cinema.”
“Yes, Draco, you simply have to go. I wonder what they want.”
Draco pressed his lips together. “Easy for you two to say,” he said tightly. “After having run off to Italy rather than face post-war society. Damn it, I had been trying not to say ‘post-war.’”
“Well, of course it’s easy for us to say,” Pansy smirked. “We don’t want to deal with it. That doesn’t mean we’re wrong.” She pointed a manicured finger at him. “You know we’re right. And when we return to Rome tomorrow, we will still be right. You’re the one who chose not to run away. Unless you want to come back with us—which you know I highly encourage—you’ve already made your decision about tea with the Longbottoms.”
Draco sighed dramatically, then tightened his lips upon hearing his father’s voice in his head, Cease your histrionics, Draco. Amazing how a person could be dead for two years and still manipulate and shame his son.
Draco looked at Pansy. “But what about Potter?”
“Oh, Draco. Tell me you’re not still obsessed with Potter.”
“I am not obsessed. I was never,” Draco insisted. Blaise scoffed. Draco glowered at Blaise and continued, “I’m simply not sure if I can handle afternoon tea with him.” Draco swallowed, willed his brain to stop thinking about Potter—Potter who was straight even if it seemed like he was no longer with Girl Weasley, Potter who had been ignoring Draco ever since the war trials.
Pansy replied, “The Longbottoms know better than to invite Potter over for tea the same day as you. They may be frighteningly Gryffindor, but they are not without social grace. Not to mention that they don’t want their sitting room destroyed by an impromptu duel.”
Draco stood at the door of Longbottom Estate. He took a deep breath, cursing Pansy and Blaise. Leave it to them to get him into this situation only to run back to Rome, forsaking him to this doorstep with no moral support. He knocked.
Augusta Longbottom opened the door. She was tall, her white hair knotted elaborately on top of her head, and she wore maroon brocade robes. “Mr Malfoy,” she greeted, “How nice of you to join us. Do come in.”
The house was elaborate and old fashioned, but unlike the manor, it was not imposing. Unlike the manor before the war, Draco corrected himself—he had no idea what state the manor was in now, but he was certain it was no longer “imposing.”
Draco made pleasantries and followed Mrs Longbottom into the sitting room, where Neville greeted him. A large table held an elaborate spread of tea. A three-tiered serving dish contained finger sandwiches, scones, and cakes. Two ornate silver tea pots sat, bouncing slightly, ready to pour. When Draco sat, a bone china cup soared through the air and floated patiently in front of his sternum. He gently grasped the cup out of the air and admired the manticore pattern on the cups.
“These tea cups are exquisite,” Draco observed.
“Thank you, young man, they were commissioned by my sister Enid in the early thirties,” Mrs Longbottom replied. “We have two types of magical tea today, both blended by my grandson. I assume you’ve heard he recently finished his herbology mastery. Top of his class, you know. He has already published three articles in Herbology Today. Not that it’s a surprise—our family has a long history of academic achievement.” Neville looked embarrassed.
Draco smiled and inclined his head.
“Would you prefer black tea blended with wormwood and shrivelfig, or an herbal infusion of lemongrass and umbrella flower?” Neville asked.
“The black, thank you,” Draco said. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, the larger of the two silver teapots shuffled across the table and into the air, pouring him a cup. The smell was strong. Oh, his mother would be so jealous when he owled her about this.
“How do you take it, young man?” Mrs Longbottom asked.
“Milk, please,” Draco answered, and the dainty pitcher sailed through the air and poured a small measure into his tea. A silver spoon flew into the cup and stood with the handle pointing straight up until Draco grasped it and stirred—back and forth, never in circles, dear, his mother’s voice echoed in his head. “A bit more,” he said, and the pitcher dispensed another measure of milk into the cup. “Perfect,” he said, stirring (back and forth), and the pitcher flew back to the table.
Neville said, “Two sugars, please.” The sugar dish obligingly shuffled close to him, the spoon dispensing two measures of sugar into his cup.
Draco had a vivid memory of the afternoon teas of his childhood. At Aunt Walburga’s, the currant scones were delicious and the house-elf would usually take Draco to Sirius and Regulus’s rooms to play with old toys while the adults enjoyed the strong magical infusions. The adults would speculate in quiet voices about what had happened to the Dark Lord. Draco suspected that magical teas had dropped off in part because people—on both sides of the war—did not want to sit around guessing about Voldemort’s whereabouts, and it was impossible to avoid talking about in that sort of venue.
Mrs Longbottom stared intensely at Draco. Draco cleared his throat. “This is lovely, Mrs Longbottom, thank you. It’s been well over a decade since I’ve had such a nice magical tea. It’s not possible to buy magical blends in Diagon Alley anymore, is it? Not since Davies of Appleby closed, is that correct?”
Mrs Longbottom sighed. “That’s right, Mr Malfoy. It’s been a comfort to watch Neville enjoy the old traditions and take up brewing. There’s nothing like a cup of this blend for a pick-me-up in the afternoon.” She turned to Neville. “Neville, this blend is perfect. I think you’ve got the ratio of wormwood and shrivelfig exactly right. Much better than the blend I used to get when your father was young.”
“Thank you, Gran. I’m glad you like it.” Neville was quiet, but smiled.
Draco sipped his tea. It really was delicious. He could just taste the slight bitterness of the wormwood, but it was offset nicely by the shrivelfig. He looked up and noticed that Mrs Longbottom was still staring at him; she seemed to be sizing him up. Right. He was not as practiced at winning over old Gryffindors as he was old Slytherins, but he figured that flattery and apology were probably effectual with all old ladies.
He set his cup gently in the saucer. “Mrs Longbottom, I would like to apologise on behalf of my entire family for the harms you suffered during the wars. Of course, the Longbottom family is famously resilient, so perhaps my apology is redundant. But if it was in my power to erase the actions of my father—and even more so, the actions of my aunt—well, I want you to know that I wish I could. I hope our families can reconcile, especially now that my father and my aunt are gone for good.”
Augusta Longbottom did not smile. Draco had no doubt that if one of them started a duel, she would have him in a full-body bind within a minute. She pressed her lips together and nodded once. “The past is in the past. I have no desire for you to suffer your entire life for the mistakes of your parents.” She looked at Neville. “You boys have your whole lives ahead of you. You both need to move on.”
She stood and walked towards Neville, placing a kiss on top of his head. She turned to Draco. “Good afternoon, Mr Malfoy. I will leave you young men to discuss topics that are not of interest to those of us who have seen the far side of seventy.” She walked briskly from the room.
Neville let out a sigh. “My gran. Er, sorry if she made you uncomfortable.”
Draco grinned. “It’s fine. I quite like her.”
Neville’s shoulders relaxed. “Me too, but it took me the better part of eighteen years to appreciate her forthcoming severity.”
Draco’s spirits were high. Almost alarmingly high. He didn’t usually feel so lighthearted in social situations. “I feel a bit like I’ve been hit with a Cheering Charm. Is that the tea?”
Neville’s eyes lit up. “That’ll be the wormwood. It’s not too bitter, is it? But there’s enough to induce a faint euphoria. The shrivelfig masks the bitterness.”
“Salazar,” Draco replied, laughing, “It’s so good.” Draco was finding it difficult to suppress giggles. Neville laughed back, looking proud.
“Listen, Draco,” Neville said, a bit anxious. “I’m thinking of opening a magical tea shop. I would make all of the tea blends and act as resident herbologist. It would have the full traditional magical tea service. I think our society needs this. We need a place to go where all different witches and wizards can get together, outside of work. Bars are good for that, but it’s not the same and doesn’t reach all of the same demographics. You can’t take your gran to a bar. Well, maybe someone could, but I certainly could not. We need intergenerational, interclass, interhouse socialisation, and we need to solidify and promote the parts of wizarding culture that are worth preserving. We need Gryffindors and Slytherins—everyone. I’m imagining it as a place where my gran and your mother would be as comfortable as a group of people our age. No coffee. No blasted chai lattes. No flat whites.”
Draco was stunned. He didn’t think any of the Gryffindors were smart enough to realise the importance of what Neville was saying. He smiled. “I completely agree with you. It’s a great idea.”
Neville smiled, then sighed and set his cup on the table. “I’m just going to speak plainly. Are you interested in going in on it with me? I need someone with business sense, and money to invest, and a deep knowledge of pureblood traditions. And not only that, it will be important to show that, you know, just because of the post-war shite, we don’t have to lose our culture. The magical tea culture is awesome. We can’t let it die. And I can’t do it alone.”
Draco was gobsmacked. He opened his mouth, closed it. Paused. “Me? Why not Weasley? Or the other Weasley? Or Luna?”
“Well Luna is going to be in on it, but she doesn’t have the business sense. Or the money, or the connections. Ron and Ginny have their own lives, and anyway, if they were the owners with me, we would be sure to alienate potential Slytherin clientele. And people who were neutral or on…the other side of the war. We’ll be more successful and draw a bigger clientele if you are in on it. The Slytherin types are not going to be eager to go to a new Gryffindor establishment right now, even if it’s about traditional wizarding culture, you know?”
Fuck, Longbottom was right. His vision for the tea shop was about unity and celebrating wizarding culture and traditions, teaching the muggleborn wizards about the parts of wizarding culture that were worth preserving. But they couldn’t do that without buy in from the purebloods; it wouldn’t work if any groups felt alienated. But if Longbottom, Luna, and Draco were the proprietors—well, that would be a different story.
Neville started talking again. “And you’re not doing anything else, are you? I thought you might be happy for a project like this.”
Draco bristled. “Is this about pity, Longbottom? You think the sad ex-Death Eater has nothing to do with his time now that the war is over?” He didn’t know why he was allowing himself to get defensive. It was true that he was bored and didn’t have any idea what he wanted to do with his life. But it still hurt to feel that Longbottom was lording it over him.
Neville’s eyes widened. “No! No, Draco, not at all. I am not pitying you. I really think that we would be much more likely to succeed if we worked together. I just meant that you wouldn’t have to quit a different career to say yes. The opportunity cost is less, or something. Is that offensive? I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be offensive.”
Fuck, now Neville looked like a kicked crup. There was a time when Draco had reveled in putting that look on Neville’s face, but that time was long over.
“Right, okay. It’s fine. I understand.” Draco’s mind ran through all of the considerations related to Neville’s proposal. “What about Potter?”
Longbottom looked confused. “What about him? What does he have to do with anything? Harry’s knowledge of tea consists of knowing that he likes his PG Tips with milk.”
“I mean, won’t he be mad? That you’ve decided to work with me? He has assiduously avoided me since the trials.”
Neville picked up his tea cup and took a sip, looking inquiringly at Draco. “Harry is a good friend. He will support me. But also, I don’t need his permission for stuff. This isn’t his thing—tea itself or the shop. He’ll be fine.”
Draco shook his head slightly, thinking that Neville underestimated the strength of Harry’s reactions to Draco. But he considered the proposal. Opening a magical tea shop with Longbottom and Lovegood. Reviving British magical tea traditions. Providing a place for reconciliation between different factions. Restoring the Malfoy name. Giving his mother back her beloved magical teas. He might even convince her to move back to London. And Neville was right—what else would he do with his time? A project. A project that would allow him to drink more of this wormwood shrivelfig tea.
Draco laughed. “Okay, Longbottom. Let’s do it.”
Three weeks later, Draco sat on the sofa at Neville and Luna’s flat. It was on an artsy street in Bethnal Green, the third storey of a three-storey walk up. It had no Floo connection, but did have a landing outside the door that was secluded enough for Apparition. The flat itself would be quite nice with a renovation; as it was, the bones of the place were shabby. But that didn’t matter much. It was stuffed with plants, the ceiling had been spelled translucent above the dining area, and every wall was covered from floor to ceiling in bookshelves stuffed with books and knick knacks. In the sitting room, there was a bright orange shag rug. A low purple table sat in front of an upholstered floral sofa. It was insane, and blinding, and unlike the homes Draco had spent his life visiting. If he was honest with himself, he loved it, though he would never have chosen any of it for his own place.
Luna sprawled on the other side of the sofa, looking through a book on magical tea traditions. She was wearing a dress with a befuddling all-over print that Neville explained was something called “droids” from something called “Star Wars.” Every few minutes she turned the book 30 degrees to the left, or 90 degrees to the right for a few seconds, and then back.
Draco sat with a large piece of parchment and a quill, calculating expenses. They had found a location for the shop in Diagon Alley, and he was researching to make sure the price was reasonable.
Neville walked in levitating three mugs of tea. The mugs were Muggle, and would give his mother heart palpitations. Neville’s mug had a cartoon plant wearing sunglasses and read, “IT’S PARTY THYME.” Luna’s mug featured a unicorn and read, “I DO WHAT I WANT.” Draco’s mug read simply, “PISS OFF.”
Draco inspected the mug, bemused. “Did you buy this specially for me?”
Luna looked up from her book. “Hmm? Oh, that’s Harry’s mug.”
Draco’s face fell. “Of course it is.” He took a sip. Standard Muggle tea. “What are we drinking, Neville?”
Neville grimaced. “PG Tips. We can’t very well afford wormwood infusions before we even get going,” he said sensibly. “We need a name,” he groaned, sitting down. “I hate coming up with names.”
“I love coming up with names!” said Luna. “How about The Thestral and the Skrewt?”
Neville sent a meaningful look towards Draco. Draco smiled and looked down at his parchment. Merlin, he did not want to be a part of telling Luna that her name was…decidedly inappropriate.
“You don’t like that,” Luna observed. “Is it because thestrals are misunderstood? How about The Plimpy’s Toe?” Neither Draco nor Neville answered her.
Draco looked up. “How about an anagram of our names?”
Luna’s eyes sparkled. “Ooooh, I love anagrams! Even if it is a little bit Voldemorty. Good idea, Draco.” She raised her wand and LONGBOTTOM MALFOY LOVEGOOD appeared in shimmering letters in the air. She waved her wand. OOLONG BOTTOM MADLY OF GLOVE. She looked up. “Oolong Bottom? That’s tea related.”
Neville and Draco laughed. “Luna, I really don’t think so, love,” Neville said. “Try again.”
MOOT GO ALONG TOMB FOLLY DOVE.
“No tombs,” Draco demanded.
MOLDOVA OBLONG MOTTLE GOOFY.
Luna looked up. “Oh, that’s it. Moldova’s. And no one else will ever know, but Neville, you’re Oblong. Draco, you’re Mottle. I’m Goofy.”
“Hey!” Neville resisted.
“Sorry Longbottom. You’re Oblong now,” Draco drawled. “But why am I Mottle?”
Luna gave him a look and blinked her big eyes. “Because mottle means a spot or blotch. You’ve got a blotch on your arm, just there.” She flashed him an innocent smile.
Draco stared at her unblinking for a moment. Neville failed to suppress a snicker. Finally, Draco sighed. “Fine. I’m Mottle.”
“Anyway, Moldova’s!” Neville yelled. “I love it!”
“Moldova’s Magical Tea,” Draco tested. “Yes, it’s perfect.”
Luna stood, twirled around in a curtsey, and sang, “Thank you, I like it too,” as she waved her wand and the letters disappeared. Neville caught her waist and danced around the room with her.
Draco smiled, and looked down awkwardly at his parchment. It was strange to be the third wheel to Longbottom and Lovegood. It was strange to be around loving couples, period. Well, except Blaise and Pansy—but Blaise and Pansy acted exactly the opposite of Oblong and Goofy in every way. He would have to distract himself with maths.
A loud knock came from the door. Neville broke away from Luna, laughing, and answered. “Harry!”
Oh, Merlin. Draco stiffened.
Potter walked into the room and stopped abruptly when he saw Draco sitting on the sofa. “Malfoy.”
“I didn’t know you would be here. I, uh, just got some of the scones Luna likes and thought I’d drop by. I should’ve owled first.”
“Don’t be silly, Harry,” Luna said, wrapping Potter in a big hug. “You never have to check first before coming over. You know you’re always welcome here. You can even come in the middle of the night while we’re asleep, just come on in. I’m sure you could dismantle our wards in about three seconds.”
Potter gave Neville an apologetic look that seemed to convey that he had no intention of breaking into their home in the middle of the night. Draco wondered when he had become so expert at interpreting Potter’s facial expressions.
“I’ll just be going,” Potter said preposterously.
Draco sighed. “Potter, don’t be a prat. You don’t need to leave on my account. I promise I won’t give you any of my Dark germs.”
Potter squirmed. “Okay,” he said slowly, “If you’re sure.”
“Do you want some tea, Harry?” Luna asked. When he nodded, she bounced off to the kitchen. Neville showed Harry into the sitting room. The table was covered with books on herbology, tea, and magical tea traditions. There were scraps of parchment littering the floor. Harry dropped onto the orange shag rug and, with a quick glance at Draco (which Draco presumed was supposed to be subtle), Harry picked up a book and thumbed through it.
A steaming mug sailed through the air and bobbed in front of Harry. It was rainbow striped and said in block letters, “NOBODY KNOWS I’M GAY.” Potter looked at the mug and yelled into the kitchen, “Luna! Where’s my PISS OFF mug?”
“Draco’s using it! Is there a problem?”
Potter looked up at Draco, a mixture of exasperation and amusement on his face. Draco raised one eyebrow. Potter grabbed the rainbow mug out of the air and yelled back, “No!” Then he looked at Draco and said, “Oh, piss off, Malfoy.” But one corner of his mouth was turned up in a smile. Draco turned back to his calculations.
Luna came in carrying a tray. “Cucumber satay,” she announced. Neville looked at her adoringly and kissed her head. Cucumber fucking satay? Draco looked up at Potter, who looked at him. Each of them tried to conceal their incredulous smiles. Then Potter seemed to realise he had just shared a moment with Draco, and his face shuttered, turning into a scowl as he looked away. Draco rolled his eyes.
Neville sat on the sofa and put three folders on the table next to the cucumber satay. “This is a list of ministry permits and certifications we will need. Some are fairly straightforward, about occupancy and the like, others are more rigorous because they need to make sure the infusions aren’t going to kill anyone. Don’t get me started on that, whoever they send to test the safety of my infusions is going to know about 10% what I do about infusions and I expect it will be a total sham. But we have to do it anyway. They also need to decide which teas are okay to serve to minors. The second folder is a list of places we can source herbs and teas that we can’t grow ourselves. Most of the magical herbs we need grow well here, but some need different climates. I have lots of connections from herbology school, so I’ve listed those there. The third folder is the preliminary menu we’ve been working on. Draco, how is the money stuff coming?”
Draco put his pages of calculations on the table. “It’s going well. I spoke to the goblins at Gringotts and figured out how this works. We open an account in the name of the shop, then I make a loan from the Malfoy vault to the shop. Once the shop starts making money, the goblins will, for a hefty fee, administer salaries to the three of us and any other employees we hire, and then make payments to the Malfoy vault to repay the loan. But the loan is long-term and low-interest, so it should all work fine.”
Luna smiled. “Excellent. Thank you for being so generous, Draco.”
Potter was staring at Draco, bewildered.
“Oh!” Luna exclaimed. “Draco, your birthday! It was Tuesday, right? Happy birthday!”
“Oh, yes. Thank you.” Draco didn’t let on that he’d spent the entire day alone. The extent of his birthday celebration had been receiving a three-line letter and a fancy quill from his mother. He had collected fancy quills as a child, and no one had ever bothered asking him if he was still interested in them. He was not. He’d even written exclusively with Muggle biros for a year; he still got the quill.
“I’ve made you a cake,” Luna said, “One second.” She jumped up, pulling Neville into the kitchen to help her.
Draco looked over at Potter. He sighed. “Look, Potter. For Merlin’s sake. Are you always going to be this awkward? Because I am going to be with Neville and Luna a lot now, and they are your good friends, and this is just….I know you hate me, but can we please just be adults now?”
Potter looked up, annoyed and confused. “I don’t hate you. You’d know if I hated you. It’s just…weird. This. How can we just—pretend this isn’t weird? Ignore what happened?”
Draco sighed. “I’m pretty sure none of us are ignoring what happened. In fact, Luna just made fun of my dark mark not five minutes before you got here. Luna and I have been friends since shortly after the war. I’ve apologised to her. More recently I apologised to Longbottom for being an arse in school. I think you know more than most that my activities in the war were…my heart was not in them. So what do you want? Sadly I don’t have a time turner. You want me to formally apologise to you?”
“Well, thank Salazar for that, because you were a right git to me all through school, even if I was a prat to you. I’ve gotten expert with the apologies, but that might be too much even for me.”
“So that’s it?” Potter blurted.
“We all just,” Potter spluttered, “hold hands and sing kumbayah? Should we make s’mores?”
“What in the fiery cauldron are you on about? What is a s’more? No, Potter, we’re not going to hold hands and sing, this isn’t a blood magic ritual.” Potter’s face was blank. Draco tried again. “Look, what we’re going to do is something productive. Moving on and pursuing a business venture that will help heal the magical world.”
“Tea,” Potter deadpanned, “will help heal the magical world.”
“Precisely, Potter. Keep up. It’s like you’re not even British.”
“He’s right you know, Harry!” Neville called from the kitchen.
The discussion of the social healing power of tea was interrupted by Luna levitating in a cake. It was decorated with snakes and flowers and a fiery “21” floated over it. Luna began a loud rendition of “May the Good Wizard Find the Rainbow,” which Neville and Potter joined, though not with her level of enthusiasm. Draco was supremely uncomfortable. At the same time, though, he felt warm and like he had people—friends?—around for the first time in ages. He smiled and Vanished the fiery 21 with his wand. Luna clapped.
Neville waved his wand and four slices of cake sailed onto plates. The cake was delicious, if a bit unusual. Was that a chunk of kiwi?
After a bite of cake, Luna observed, “You know what we need to convince Harry about the importance of magical teas? We need to let him have some of Neville’s wormwood shrivelfig tea.”
Neville laughed and a scheming look graced his face. “I have some of that batch I messed up with too much wormwood. I think you’re right—that’s exactly what Harry needs.”
Potter looked alarmed. It was really entirely too adorable. “Too much wormwood?” he exclaimed. “No, thank you, Nev. I’d rather avoid a trip to St Mungo’s.”
“Don’t worry, Harry, it’s perfectly safe. It’s still like only 20% of what it would take to cause negative effects, and toxicity would take more still. I have an advanced degree. Seriously.”
Potter did not look convinced.
“Yes,” Draco said, smiling, “It’s fine. Though I doubt the ministry would approve it for the tea shop.”
Potter relented. Luna clapped her hands, and Neville jumped up and prepared the tea. When they each had steaming mugs in front of them, Potter stared at his suspiciously for a moment before saying, “Fuck it. Cheers!” He raised his “NOBODY KNOWS I’M GAY” mug into the air for a toast and then took a sip. “Wow. It’s bitter, Nev.”
“I know, I told you—this is the batch I ruined. It’s usually less bitter. On the bright side, this is more wormwoody.”
“Cheers, Oblong, this is really good,” Draco said grandly.
“Oblong?” Harry asked, confused. The others burst into uncontrolled laughter.
They spent the rest of the afternoon drinking inadvisable—if not strictly unsafe—amounts of wormwood tea, feeling euphoric, and being altogether silly.
Draco, through fits of wormwood-euphoria-induced laughter, looked at Potter. The ice, if not broken, was at least cracked.
The next several weeks passed in a flurry of signing leases, filling out Ministry paperwork, and cleaning their new space in Diagon Alley. Neville had also been busy preparing teas and lining up contracts with suppliers. Luna had been ordering supplies and furnishings for the shop and planning for the opening. Draco had been making visits to Gringotts to get all of the financial affairs in order, and he had also traveled to visit his mother and some of her friends to ask their opinions about magical teas.
Neville asked Potter, Weasley, and Granger to help one Saturday with the finishing touches on the new space. There was still work to be done, but Draco was starting to visualise the finished product, and he loved the way it was turning out. Glamorous. Traditional, but with enough modern touches that no one could mistake it for something out of Walburga’s time.
In the past weeks, Draco and Potter reached a detente of sorts; they griped and snarked at each other constantly, but without any real malice. Neville and Luna had gotten used to this, but Weasley and Granger hadn’t been around as much, because they had what Potter referred to as “real jobs.” Potter did not work. At least, he didn’t work in any standard way, though his calendar was always filled with charity work, events, and helping at the tea shop.
“Potter, for the love of Circe, stop blasting the wood,” Draco drawled. “We’re using delicate charmwork here. You’re going to blow a hole in the wall, and this is mahogany.”
“Fuck off, Malfoy. You’re such a git. You can do the delicate charmwork yourself, if you like.”
“Said the actress to the bishop!” Neville interjected from across the room. Everyone ignored him; for some inscrutable reason, he and Luna had been watching the new Muggle show The Office.
“I would like to do it myself, thanks.” Draco elbowed Potter out of the way.
“As the actress said to the bishop!” Luna sang. Neville laughed.
Weasley and Granger kept shooting each other glances. At one point, Granger raised an eyebrow and Weasley had to leave the room in a fit of laughter.
“What?” Potter said. “Hermione?”
“Nothing,” she said, unconvincingly. “I am just a little tired of hearing you two bicker.” She had a smudge of dirt on her nose, and was tying her hair back in a scarf.
Luna smiled and suggested, “Harry, can you and Draco go work on the charms and wards in the storage area and the back room? You’re best at wards.”
For a moment, Potter looked like he was about to complain about being banished to the back room. But Potter never really crossed Luna, and he agreed. Draco suspected Potter didn’t enjoy charming the wood, anyway. Potter’s magic was like a tsunami; it must be difficult to tame for precision tasks.
Draco sighed and led the way to the back rooms. There was a storage area, a tea preparation area, an office, and the kitchen. “Let’s do the cooling, humidity, and preservation charms in the storage area first.”
“Okay,” Potter said stroppily, and they worked in silence. “Where are your friends? Are Slytherins too good to do some unglamorous work to help a friend?”
“No,” Draco sneered. “They all gave up after the war and left the fucking country. Thanks for bringing that up.”
Potter put his wand down on the table and turned to Draco. He looked confused, and narrowed his eyes a bit. “Seriously. Why are you doing this? You’re not trying to hurt Neville and Luna, are you?”
A hot swell of anger surged inside Draco; he could feel the heat spreading across his shoulders and up to his cheeks, which he knew must now be red. “Potter, are you out of your damn mind?” he seethed. “I have given my money, I have given my time, I have been here every fucking day working my arse off. Did it occur to you that I might actually agree with Neville about the importance of keeping the good wizarding traditions alive? That I might actually agree with him that this could go a long way towards bringing people together?”
Potter stared at him, blinking. “You actually want to be doing this?”
“Why the fuck else would I be doing it? Yes. And as you just so kindly pointed out, it’s not as if I have any friends or family around to socialise with. Pansy has been yelling at me for years to ‘put myself out there.’ Well, here I am, ‘out there’ or something. I am the only one of my friends who was brave enough or stupid enough to stay in England. Even my mother is gone. I have to do something.”
Potter gaped at him. “Er. Oh.”
Draco turned away, taking a few breaths to calm himself down. He should not have exploded like that in front of Potter, though the imbecile certainly had it coming. The Lucius in his head whispered, You will never succeed if you cannot control these histrionics. Fucking Lucius. “Histrionic” had been his favorite word to use while chastising Draco.
When he looked back, though, Potter was smiling. “Okay,” Potter said, raising his arms to conciliate, “I get it. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed you so hard. Er, thanks for telling me all that.”
Potter responded well to Draco’s histrionics? Interesting. Wouldn’t Draco like to throw that in Lucius’s face. He spared a moment to imagine Lucius watching, disgusted, from the afterlife.
Potter turned back to his work. “Sorry,” he said again. “I shouldn’t have interrupted you to question your motives.” Then Potter fell quiet while he worked.
Potter had both hands raised in a complicated wand movement for the preservation charms. Draco saw a mark on Potter’s left hand, white against his brown skin—a scar?
“What’s that scar on your hand?”
Potter looked at Draco, then down at his hand, then back. He sighed and held his hand out to Draco.
Draco hesitated, then grabbed it. In a perfect replica of Potter’s awful handwriting, the scar read, “I must not tell lies.” Their magic crackled like static where Draco’s fingers touched Potter’s hand. Draco let go and looked up at Potter’s face.
“Umbridge,” Potter said. “Blood quill.”
“Fuck,” Draco responded. He and Potter couldn’t get through five minutes without one of them saying something utterly calamitous. Of course Draco had to ask a question that implicated himself and his role on that bloody Inquisitorial Squad. “I hated that woman.”
Potter snorted. Draco didn’t know what else to say. Sorry I joined a fascist club dedicated to your downfall? Merlin fuck.
So Draco turned away, concentrating on his humidity-stabilizing charms.
Potter’s silence became loud. Why wasn’t Potter talking to him? Salazar, this was worse than the bickering. Did Potter think he could come into the back room of Draco’s establishment and then proceed to ignore him? Draco had never tolerated being ignored by Potter, and he wasn’t about to start now. He considered throwing a hex, but Neville and Luna would not be pleased with that. Draco decided that since it was nearly lunch time, he could be an adult and secure Potter’s attention while also addressing his stomach.
“Potter. Would you like to get some food? I’m hungry.”
Potter looked up, surprised. “I could eat,” he said.
Draco decided to extend an olive branch. “It’s almost your birthday. You pick how we spend our break; I’ll pay.”
“Popcorn,” Potter said, after a moment, with a challenge gleaming in his smug eyes. “Let’s go to the Muggle cinema. I want popcorn. And maybe some Coke.”
That absolute wanker. He was trying to bait Draco into saying something rude about Muggles. Draco didn’t know anything about Muggle cinemas. What was Coke? But damned if Potter was going to succeed at ruffling him.
“Great,” Draco said with a competitive smile, “Lead the way.”
Potter’s face was priceless—he had not expected Draco to agree. “Alright,” he said, “Let me just grab my stuff.” But he didn’t move.
Draco held out his arm in an “after you” gesture.
Potter scrunched his nose and said, “Are we really going, or are you playing chicken?”
“Do I look like I’m pretending to be a chicken? What the fuck are you on about?”
Potter finally laughed. “Okay, okay, let’s go.”
Draco held out his arm. “Side-Along me.” Probably the best way for Draco to show Potter that he could be trusted was for Draco to trust Potter. Which was easy enough, really. What’s a little Side-Along Apparition after a Fiendfyre broom rescue?
Potter looked surprised, but grasped Draco’s forearm firmly, magic crackling again, and Apparated them to an alley in Muggle London. “The cinema is down this way,” he said, and they began walking.
It was weird, walking with Potter. When had they ever walked somewhere together? This was probably the first time, though they had known each other for a decade. It was hot and sunny, and Draco subtly pulled out his wand and cast a sunshade charm on each of them.
Potter blinked. “Thanks.”
“I always feel bad for the Muggles having to wear those preposterous sunglasses. I almost broke the Statute of Secrecy once to shade a baby in a pram. But, seems foolish to risk getting on the bad side of the Ministry.”
Potter laughed. “Really? Worried a Muggle infant would turn you in to the Ministry? I always forget to cast a sunshade charm, even on myself.”
“Ugh, it’s like you’re not even a wizard, Potter. At least I can exercise my desire to cast sunshade charms for unsuspecting people on you, then, without breaking the Statute.”
Potter laughed again. “Here’s the cinema. What do you want to see?” He looked up at a board with titles and times on it. “Manly men racing cars, philosophical thing about robots, silly blonde girl studies the law, dinosaurs, or humans fighting a planet inhabited by apes?”
Draco stared blankly. “What is a robot?”
“Right,” Potter smiled, “Simpler choices: fighting, testosterone, or comedy?”
“Okay,” Potter said, with a bemused look. They walked up to the ticket booth. “Two for Planet of the Apes, please.” Potter paid with his Muggle money, and Draco gave him a galleon.
Potter pushed it back. “It’s too much,” Potter claimed.
“Just take it, you git, it’s your birthday and I said I’d pay. And I’m rich.” Potter eventually took the galleon.
They walked inside the building. “Okay,” Potter said, “cinema primer: we go in and pick seats. They will turn the lights off, don’t freak out. First I want popcorn. Are you hungry?”
A few minutes later they settled in their seats. It was so cramped; what were these Muggles thinking? The popcorn was good, though. Draco took a sip of the drink called Coke that Potter bought for him. He nearly spat it out. “That is…revolting.”
Potter laughed. In a low voice, he said, “Is anyone watching?”
Draco looked around. “No.” Potter pulled out his wand and cast something at the Coke. Draco tried it again. “Beer. Better. You couldn’t have gone for a nice elf-made wine?”
“I only know how to get beer. Ever so sorry for the inconvenience,” Potter joked.
The lights dimmed. No, they didn’t dim, they fucking went out. If Potter hadn’t warned him, Draco may have Apparated directly out of there, Statute be damned. “Why the fuck do they do that?” he hissed.
Potter leaned over. “It does seem excessive, really.”
Potter’s arm kept hitting his; the armrest in between their seats was laughably small. Draco really did not want to be butting arms and shoulders with Potter for this entire movie. Well, he kind of did want that, but he very much wanted to ignore that desire, so it was unwelcome bumping all the same.
“Think I can manage an Undetectable Extension on the armrest?”
“Stop whinging,” Potter whispered, “And stop talking, or the people around will yell at us. Terrible etiquette, Malfoy, honestly.”
Draco smirked at him, then made a point to stop talking. It was difficult, really, because he wanted to comment on every little thing. Why was the sound so loud? Why were they being bombarded with what looked like advertisements? Why was the floor sticky? What was the name of this attractive Muggle actor? How did the Muggles use their camera things to capture pictures that didn’t exist in real life, like these apes? What was a spaceship? The line in the film where someone said, “Everything in the human culture takes place below the waist.” What were Muggles’ views on interspecies relationships? Were all movies this long?
All the while, Harry’s warm shoulder and arm pressed against his own. Oh, Merlin—had he just thought of Potter as “Harry”? This close contact was dangerous. It was very important to keep all Potter-related emotions—with the exception of anger, frustration, and annoyance—buried deep below the surface. The two of them were entirely too close in too dark a space.
The movie was entertaining, though, and Draco was charmed with the Muggles’ “special effects.” When the film ended and the lights came up, the Muggles around them stood and gathered their things. Draco turned towards Potter, eyes bright, and said, “How do they make it without magic?”
Harry explained as best he could, but he didn’t know much about Muggle film-making. He stood up and waited for Draco to follow. Draco followed him out the theater and into the street, peppering Harry with questions about the movie. Eventually he launched into his own analysis.
“It’s as if the Muggles know, on some deep level, that they need the help of the magical world to prevent these sorts of atrocities from happening. We could easily have taken down those apes with a few well placed Bombardas. Potter, you could’ve done it single-handedly; you’re powerful enough. And yet they invent whole fictional worlds to compensate or worry about these scenarios because they feel vulnerable and threatened.”
Draco finished his rant and looked at Harry. Harry’s lip quirked up in a look of pure amusement and his eyes sparkled. Draco’s breath caught in his chest as he realised that he had put that look on Harry’s face. Oh, Salazar.
“So,” Harry said, smiling, “you enjoyed the Muggle sci fi movie.”
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed it. It was interesting. And entertaining. And a sociological experiment.”
Harry just looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
Draco looked straight ahead and smiled. “Fine, Potter. I admit it. I enjoyed it.”
“Good, let’s do it again some time,” Harry said.
Draco looked over at him. “Okay.”
“I’m going to go home,” Harry said, yawning. “I’m knackered. I’ll see you tomorrow at the shop.” He turned, and Apparated away.
Draco stood in the middle of the sidewalk of the Muggle street, staring at where Harry had been. What in the fiery cauldron was all that about? He walked awhile, thinking of apes and popcorn and armrests, before Apparating to his flat.
The next morning, after finishing business at Gringotts, Draco Apparated to Moldova’s. “Hello?” he called. When there was no answer, he muttered, “Homenum Revelio.” The charm indicated that someone was in the back garden. Draco walked through the storage room, out the door, and into the garden Neville had hidden in the back alley of Diagon Alley.
As Draco walked into the garden, he felt tendrils of plants reach towards him; one brushed his cheek. Plants of various colors, shapes, and sizes were stuffed in the garden. He found the whole thing a little creepy, even though he knew these plants were safe.
Neville crouched over a giant pot; all of the plants in the garden leaned in his direction, as if he was the sun at the center of a very green solar system.
Neville looked up. He had a smear of dirt across his right cheek. “Draco! Look how great all my plants are doing!”
Draco surveyed the garden; the plants were flourishing. “They look amazing,” Draco said. “When you have a moment, I need your signature on this Gringotts form.”
“Oh, sure, let me just…” Neville trailed off as he Scourgified his hands and Conjured a quill. After the form was signed, Draco Levitated it to the table inside and sat primly on the ground near Neville.
“Do you have climate charms out here?” Draco asked, wondering at the warm and humid conditions in the garden.
“Yes!” Neville enthused. “It’s almost as good as a greenhouse now. There are humidity-increasing and heat-stabilizing charms. Not to mention the slew of soil-fertility charms I had to perform. The soil back here was like a pack of dust before.”
“You’re really good at this,” Draco observed, looking around.
“Don’t be so surprised, mate,” Neville joked.
“Oh, I wasn’t. You just make me feel like I don’t have any real skills.”
Neville frowned. “You’ve got your own skills. I could never deal with the goblins or understand the politics between different potential groups of customers.”
“Mmm,” Draco hummed. He noticed silently that his alleged skills couldn’t do anything as worthwhile as bringing life from dust. He missed the feeling of accomplishment of doing good work in school; getting an O on a Potions assignment, Transfiguring an animal. Draco sat in silence for awhile as Neville worked on his plants.
“Hey, Neville,” Draco said, leaning his head back and looking into the grey sky. “Do you think Potter will ever stop being suspicious of me? I’ve been doing all of this here constantly and he still…” Draco trailed off.
Neville sat back, abandoning his plant. The plant reached out for him forlornly for a moment, if a plant could be forlorn, before it gave up on him and settled back in its pot. “The thing you have to understand about Harry,” Neville began, wiping his arm across his face and smudging the dirt there, “is that the war is part of his identity.”
“Well, obviously. And for you and for me, too.”
“No,” Neville shook his head. “It’s not the same. The war is an important thing in my life, but it’s like a thing that happened. An important thing, but a thing that happened. It’s not like that for Harry. It’s…who he is. He doesn’t want it to be; he doesn’t want to be a war hero or the Saviour. He wants to be left alone. But even when he’s left alone, it’s still who he is.”
“I don’t understand.”
Neville sighed. “He didn’t know he was a wizard until just before Hogwarts. He didn’t know anything about who he was. And then, starting from that year, he knew that Voldemort was out to kill him. He never had any childhood—first he was being abused by horrible Muggles, then he was the number one wanted person in a war. There’s no ‘life outside the war’ for Harry. The war is, like, tangled up in everything, in his whole life, in the way he approaches people, friends, work.”
“So you think he’ll hate me forever because I was on the wrong side?”
“No,” Neville smiled, “You’re not listening. He doesn’t hate you. You asked when he’ll stop being suspicious. And he will—Harry is a forgiving person. I think he just needs enough interactions with you now, enough good memories, to replace the old stuff.”
Draco wiped his hand across his forehead, which was now beaded with sweat. “He keeps trying to catch me saying something bad about Muggles.”
“Well,” Neville said with a matter-of-fact voice, “Isn’t that exactly right? He forgives you for what you did in the war. You might not see that, but I do. You’d believe it if you saw the way he treats people he thinks got off too easy in the trials; he doesn’t treat you like he treats them. He forgives you for being an arse to him at school, too, I’d wager. The thing he originally hated you for was being mean to his friends. For calling Hermione slurs and for making fun of Ron for being poor. He could never forgive you for saying something like that about a friend now. Harry can forgive a lot of things, but he could never forgive you for being a bigot now.”
Draco watched the clouds float across his frame of vision. “I’m not,” he said. It came out more like a whisper than he wanted it to.
Neville reached a bulky arm to awkwardly pat Draco’s knee. “I know. But it’s harder to convince people of that if they have evidence to the contrary.”
“That evidence is old,” Draco replied, his voice defensive.
“Harry can’t just forget it because it’s old. You have to show him.”
“How does one show the Saviour something like that?”
“You already are.”
Draco took a deep breath and expelled out all the air. He turned to Neville. “Need any help?”
Neville grinned. He handed Draco a pair of earmuffs and sent him to repot mandrakes.
The following Saturday, Draco approached the shop in the late morning. The plan was to work for a few hours before throwing a birthday party there for Harry in the evening. He opened the door and was bombarded with music. He walked inside, the beat shaking his body. Granger and Harry were shooting cleaning charms around the main seating area while they danced and sang—but that was not singing. That was—talking, rhythmically. It was seriously weird. Harry grabbed Granger’s hand and twirled her around. They both laughed. Granger leaned towards him shimmying and sang, “I’m useless, but not for long.” Harry laughed as he sang back, “The future is coming on.” Harry’s hair was crazy and his eyes were so green and his face was all crinkled up with pure happiness. Draco wanted to run. He couldn’t, with this, what could he, how could he—.
Harry spun around. “Malfoy!” he laughed and stopped dancing.
Draco suddenly felt overdressed. There’s no such thing as overdressed, his internal Narcissa told him, lamely.
The song—with its frankly erotic beat—was still playing. How could anyone dance to this in any way other than grinding? Draco’s treacherous mind really wished that Harry was still dancing to that sinuous beat. Harry was a terrible dancer, of course. But this music was somewhat appropriate for terrible dancing. Draco, naturally, was an excellent dancer, but he didn’t know how he would dance to this. Well, he didn’t know how he would dance to this in a way that was appropriate for the eyes of minors. He didn’t know how he would dance to this without immediately making it clear to Potter what he’d like to do with him. Alone. In a bedroom.
Harry broke Draco out of his stupor by telling Granger to finish up because he and Draco had to go deal with a furniture delivery.
Draco, still in a bit of a daze, followed Potter out of the room. “Happy birthday,” Draco offered.
Harry looked back at him. “Thanks. You’re coming tonight, right?”
“I don’t know,” Draco teased with a raised brow, “Are you going to play that ridiculous Muggle music?”
A look of anger crossed Harry’s face. Fuck. “Stop fucking saying shit about Muggles,” Harry menaced. “I know you liked the movie. So stop being such an arsehole.” He crossed his arms across his chest.
Draco raised his arms in a defensive gesture. “Relax, I was joking. The music was good.”
“Don’t say it at all,” Harry said, still serious, “if you’re joking.”
“The ‘Muggle’ was just a descriptor. The music is ridiculous, and I like it, and its ridiculousness has nothing to do with the fact that it’s Muggle.”
Harry stared at him, assessing. “You’re serious. You didn’t mean it as a slur against Muggles?”
“Because, Draco, we can’t be friends if you’re going to do stuff like that. I’m serious.”
“I’m being serious! I will expunge the word Muggle from my vocabulary entirely. Is there a standard politically correct way to refer to them? I am dead serious. I don’t know what I am supposed to say. Non-magic people? No, that’s not person-centered language. People without magic?”
Draco sniffed defensively. “I read, Potter.”
“You mean you read Hermione’s interview in The Quibbler.”
“Maybe I did.”
Harry smiled at that, though it looked like he was trying not to. He shook his head. “You can say ‘Muggle.’ Or at least, I think you can. You might want to ask Hermione.” He paused. “You’re not taking the piss.” It was not a question.
“No,” Draco said, “I am not a bigot anymore. Or at least, I’m actively trying not to be. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still have to figure out how to speak about things properly.”
Harry cracked a small smile. “You can say ‘Muggle.’ Just don’t use it…derogatorily.”
“Ok,” Draco said. “Put it back on.”
“Put what back on?”
“That song, you daft git.”
“Oh. I don’t have the CD—that’s like the Muggle phonograph. Hermione and I charmed the CD player to work without electricity. But it was playing on the Muggle radio. So we’ll just have to wait for it to come back on the air. Unless you want to go with me to Fopp to buy the Gorillaz CD.”
Draco’s eyebrows drew close together, a look of annoyance crossing his face. “Potter, stop taking the piss. I’m actually trying here—I can’t believe you’re making fun of me.”
Harry looked surprised. “What are you on about, Malfoy? I’m not taking the piss.”
“You think you can make me believe that Muggles are strangely obsessed with non-human primates? It’s not going to work.”
“Planet of the Apes. Gorillas. Come on. You’re trying to trick me into being bigoted! You want me to call Muggles like, unevolved, or something. Is that it? You absolute wanker.” Draco was well and angry now. “Well it’s not going to work! I know that Muggle culture is not entirely primate-based!”
Harry stared at him for a moment, and then dissolved into laughter. He doubled over. Draco shot him a murderous look.
“Draco, seriously,” Potter laughed. “We somehow stumbled upon the only two primate-related Muggle pop culture things in existence.”
Draco wasn’t sure if his face was pouting or angry, but he could feel heat there. It wasn’t fair! He was trying so hard!
“Seriously.” Harry managed to stop laughing. “Ok, sorry, I’m not making it up. We’ll go to the music shop later and I’ll show you. Actually, let’s get that CD before the party tonight, yeah? I’m tired of the Weird Sisters.”
Draco, still suspicious, hesitantly responded, “Alright. But first we need to unload the delivery of furniture for the main seating area.”
For the next few hours, Draco and Harry helped the delivery wizards (“Making Deliveries Charming since 1978!”). When they were through, they were tired and dusty. The furniture was posh and beautiful, with top-of-the-line charms preventing smells and dust and stains. It looked incredible.
“Thanks for the help, Potter,” Draco said, looking around appreciatively. “My mother will approve.”
“Well if Narcissa approves…” Harry laughed. “Let’s go get that CD before we go home to change for the party.”
“Oh, are you planning to change?” Draco said, eyebrow raised superciliously. “I assumed you would show up just like this. Sweaty t-shirt, dust bunnies in your hair. You look better than usual, really.”
Harry rolled his eyes, grabbed Draco’s wrist, and without any warning, Apparated them to an alley. “Wait,” Harry said, and pulled his wand. “Your definition of ‘work clothes’ is…interesting. You can’t go in like that.”
Draco was wearing wizarding trousers and a shirt topped with a set of smart, casual robes. Harry waved his wand a few times, leaving Draco in a pair of ripped denims and a green t-shirt with a Slytherin crest.
“Honestly, Potter? A Slytherin shirt?”
Harry looked pleased with himself. “Well I want to make sure you’re comfortable whilst blending in with the Muggles.”
Draco sighed, but didn’t object. As he turned and walked towards the street, he felt a stream of magic hit his head. It sent tingles down his spine. He reached for his hair; it felt spiky. He whirled around and shot Harry a look. “POTTER!”
Harry laughed and hurried out of the alley. “Come on, Malfoy, we need to find Gorillaz.” He led the way into a strangely triangular building. Muggles stood around looking at little squares—the CDs, Draco presumed. Harry led them to a sign that said “New Music,” where thousands of small rectangular boxes were arranged alphabetically. Harry headed to the “G” divider and quickly located the CD he was looking for. He grinned, and handed it to Draco.
Sure enough, it was called “Gorillaz.” With a z, for some reason. Draco didn’t know Muggles used alternative spellings; he thought that was only Americans. Draco was tempted to insult the artwork on the CD, but he thought Harry might think he was making fun of Muggle culture again. Even though the lackluster artwork reflected poorly only on those musicians, Draco thought, not on Muggles generally. Still, he kept his mouth shut.
Harry paid for the CD with Muggle money and handed the album to Draco as they walked back to the alley to Apparate. “Here.”
Draco pushed it back. “I don’t even have a machine to play it. You take it.”
“Okay,” Harry said. “See you in about an hour or so? I’ll give you a galleon if you show up in that shirt.”
Draco scoffed. “When flobberworms fly, Potter.” Harry laughed and Apparated away. Draco turned and, with a pop!, found himself in his flat.
He looked at himself in the mirror. He looked like a Muggle punk. Punk was the right word, was it not? He needed to read up on these things. On apes and Gorillaz and spiky hair.
Maybe while he was at it he could find some sort of Muggle pop culture reference to monkeys to prove to Potter once and for all that Muggles were suspiciously fixated on primates.
“I cannot in good conscience let you out of the house with your hair like that,” the mirror sneered at him.
Draco rolled his eyes. It was time to shower and dress for the party. Oh Merlin. He needed to get Harry a gift. What kind of gift does one get for Harry Potter?
Two hours later, Draco walked into Moldova’s wearing casual wizard clothes and carrying a copy of Curious George with a red bow on it.
Ginny Weasley and Granger stood inside the door talking. They stopped and looked up at Draco. He wanted to run, but his internal Narcissa scolded, A Malfoy always fulfills his social obligations, dear.
Thankfully, Neville came over and patted Draco on the shoulder. “Draco! Welcome! Come on in. Luna is preparing drinks, and Harry is over by the food, I think.”
Draco looked around the tea room. It looked great. The tables had been cleared out, but the walls were perfectly ornate gold, and the magically charmed carvings on the wood trim had turned out exquisite. Someone (Luna, he guessed) had charmed the light to look like a disco ball was turning.
There were a couple dozen merry people in the room. Draco spotted Harry talking to Finnegan. Draco’s breath hitched in his chest and he had to take a moment to swallow. Harry looked so good that he made one want to start using food descriptors. He looked—good enough to eat, or delicious, or delectable. He evoked words like lick and bite and suck. Draco could not, at that moment, think of any way to describe Harry that wasn’t related to the sense of taste. Was this why people said “sex on a stick”? Fuck, this was bad.
Harry wore a pair of dark jeans, actual shoes (Muggle, from the looks of it, but not dirty trainers), and a grey shirt that fit his shoulders perfectly. His green eyes stood out behind his glasses. Wait, his glasses were different. The frames were more rectangular, wider, and a dark color. They suited him. The Prophet would probably run a front page story—“Speculations on Potter’s New Specs!” or “The Chosen Frames!”
Harry looked up and saw Draco staring at him. He smiled and seemed to excuse himself to Finnegan. Suddenly the Curious George seemed like a horrible idea and Draco wondered if he could Vanish it and just pretend to have come empty handed. But it was too late—Potter came over, eyes on the book.
“You brought me a gift.” Harry flashed Draco a blinding smile.
Draco felt like his insides had turned to mush, but luckily his pureblood manners operated at a subconscious level. He held out the book and said, “Happy birthday.”
Harry took the book, his face inscrutable. He stared at the book for an unreasonably long time. Should Draco say something? Did Harry get the joke? Waiting for Potter’s reaction felt like the most difficult thing Draco’d ever done. Well, since the war, anyway.
Harry finally looked up, elated. “Draco! I love this! I suppose I concede that Muggles are at least a bit obsessed with primates. But also, I’ve never had a children’s book. I remember hearing people talk about Curious George. I…” He trailed off.
Draco didn’t know what to say—Potter had never had a children’s book?
He was about to ask about this, but Harry kept talking, in a lower voice now. “And thanks. For making it clear that you don’t hate Muggles.” His eyes twinkled. “Did you go to a Muggle bookshop? Did you get Muggle money?”
Draco smiled in a way that he hoped looked enigmatic. “Not talking about it. Happy birthday.”
Behind Harry, a gaggle of Gryffindors were dancing. Well, Draco supposed that was something they would use the word “dancing” to describe. “What are Weasley and Granger doing?”
Harry looked over his shoulder, and laughed. “I think they’re attempting to vogue.”
The music playing (not the Gorillaz from earlier, but Muggle from the sound of it) had some brass in it. Granger—Hermione Granger—sang aloud, “Picture this, we were both buck naked, banging on the bathroom floor!” Weasley grabbed her around the waist and yelled, “How could I forget that I had given her an extra key?” The two of them were flushed and laughing. Twin Weasley was standing against the wall behind them saying “It wasn’t me” at intervals over a Sonorus. That Gryffindor who had done the Quidditch commentary (who was bloody gorgeous these days, Draco noticed) was dancing with a former Gryffindor Quidditch player whose named Draco couldn’t recall. The Ravenclaw Patil was doing some sort of twisting move with the Hufflepuff Finch-Fletchley. (They were squatted down nearly at the floor.) Harry watched the scene, laughing loudly.
Ginny ran up and threw her arms around Harry’s neck, planting a kiss on his cheek. Draco’s heart rate sped up, and his face felt a bit hot. “Harry!” she said, “Muggle music party was a perfect idea!”
Harry smiled and said, “It was kind of Draco’s idea.”
Ginny looked up at Draco and nodded, “Malfoy.” Then she turned to Harry. “Gwenog picked out your gift, so I know you’ll love it.” She looked back at Draco, appraisingly. “Malfoy, you should go flying with Harry. Ron never has time, and Gwenog and I are never around, but I know Harry misses it terribly even if he won’t admit it.” Just then Gwenog Jones—the captain of the Holyhead Harpies!— came up, grabbed Ginny from behind and pulled her onto the dance floor, nuzzling her neck.
Draco turned to Harry. “Girl Weasley is with Gwenog Jones?”
Harry quirked his eyebrow in amusement. “Seriously, Malfoy, don’t you ever read the papers? Or even Witch Weekly? It was quite a scandal when the story broke, with Gwenog being 13 years older and all. The last issue of Witch Weekly had a big photo spread of the two of them groping each other in swim suits. Swim suits! It was hilarious.”
“I wasn’t sure if you were still with her. Aren’t you…jealous?”
Harry looked surprised, then a bit uncomfortable. “Oh, right. No, it’s been a long time. It didn’t really work out with Ginny, after the war. And. Look, I. Um.”
“Spit it out, Potter.”
Harry took a breath. “I’m bisexual. I…like men. Sexually. And women.”
Draco stared blankly. “Oh.”
“I’ve tried to come out to the public, but…” Harry let out a sigh of air and rubbed his hand over his face. “I tried to give an exclusive interview to three different papers, but each time I wrote a contract stipulating that I had veto rights if I didn’t like how they wanted to write it. First the Prophet wrote that I was coming out as gay, and wouldn’t change it properly. Then Witch Weekly wrote this piece that, I swear to Merlin, sounded like an invitation to every witch in England to try to convince me that I’m really straight. Then Quidditch Quarterly wanted to do a feature, and they tried to write this thing that made me sound like an insatiable sex maniac. I am going to do a feature for the Quibbler, but honestly I am so annoyed and disgusted by all of it that I needed a break before doing that with Luna.”
Draco blurted, “So the ‘NOBODY KNOWS I’M GAY’ mug….”
“Neville bought that for me after I vetoed the Witch Weekly story.” Harry smiled. “Anyway, I’ve had a few sort-of relationships with blokes recently. But no one now. Christ, I haven’t had to actually say all this out loud in a long time.”
Draco exclaimed, “You—” then, “WHO?”
Harry laughed, amused. “You know, Malfoy, most people say something like, ‘I’ll always support you, Harry,’ or ‘Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me.’ You ask who?”
Too curious to be embarrassed about asking, Draco raised his eyebrows to emphasise that he would not let Harry ignore the question. Draco’s brain was resolutely saying how could it be anyone but me over and over, and every once in awhile his mind helpfully repeated Harry’s voice saying the words insatiable sex maniac.
Finding his voice, Draco drawled, “I’m just curious, Potter. Curious George, you know.”
Harry ran his hand through his hair. “Okay, um. There was Terry Boot—the Ravenclaw. And Lennox Campbell.”
“From the Montrose Magpies?”
“Yeah. And then Seamus’s cousin Callum. That’s it.”
“You dated the seeker of the Montrose Magpies,” Draco deadpanned.
“Yeah.” Harry gave Draco a small grin.
In a voice that was entirely too breathless and shocked, Draco said, “He is so fit!” As soon as it was out of his mouth, Draco clapped his hand over his mouth. Harry’s eyes widened. Lennox fucking Campbell. How could Lennox fucking Campbell date Harry? Draco was fairly certain he would never again be able to say “Lennox Campbell” without adding an expletive.
“Are…” Harry looked curious. “Are you straight?”
“Oh Merlin, no. I thought you knew. Everyone knows. Last time we were at the Ministry, my mother outed me to the Minister, of all people.”
Harry burst out laughing. “No she did not!”
“I swear to Salazar. Shacklebolt did not know what to say. He sort of patted my shoulder and said, ‘Steady on, son.’”
Harry laughed again, a bright sound that did things to Draco’s stomach. This was bad; this was very bad.
“So your mother…” Harry wrestled with how to finish his sentence.
“Isn’t a raging homophobe?” Draco finished. “No, she is very accepting. My father…would’ve been a different story. One good thing about his being dead is that I never have to hear his reaction to that particular news.”
Oh, fuck. Draco had forgotten that Harry’s parents were also very much dead and Harry probably very much would like to hear their reactions. Most people probably did not find it so easy to make fun of the fact that their parents were dead. “I mean, fuck, I’m sorry, Potter, I didn’t mean to…”
But Harry waved him away and grinned. “It’s fine. I understand. Lucius dodged a Cruciatus there.”
The music changed to a new song with a catchy beat. The Weasley twin was still Sonorused, and now he was saying “La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,” and the singer continued with, “I just can’t get you out of my head.”
Luna floated up to them with two violently green drinks in her hands. She was wearing a short frilly pink dress with black combat boots. “Harry! Draco! Here you go! I present you with the signature cocktail of the evening, The Harry! It’s exactly the color of Harry’s eyes, isn’t it, Draco?”
Draco took the drink. It was the exact color of Harry’s eyes. Draco could pick that color out anywhere.
“Thanks,” Harry said. “What’s in it, Luna?”
“Nevermind,” she said airily, waving her hand, “just drink it. I promise there aren’t any potions in it.” She left before they could inquire further.
Draco took a sip. Merlin. It tasted like…absinthe? That’d explain the color, too.
Harry recoiled after his first sip. “Is that—licorice?”
“I think it’s absinthe. We can’t escape wormwood these days.”
“It’s kind of good,” Harry said, after another sip. “Why do you think Luna chose this drink as The Harry?”
Draco took another sip and thought for a moment. “It’s a good drink, anyone would like it, but it doesn’t go down easy. It’s powerful. And it’s pretty.”
Harry’s mouth dropped open. Oh, bollocks. Draco should not have said that. He felt his cheeks go red.
“I mean,” Draco said, “ask Luna.” He smiled lamely.
Harry smiled, but had to leave when Seamus and Dean approached him to settle a bet about something that had happened in fifth year. Harry patted Draco on the shoulder as he left.
Draco was left reeling in the middle of the party. (“I just can’t get you out of my head,” the speakers blared.) Harry was bi. He had dated Lennox bloody Campbell. He hadn’t known that Draco was gay. And Draco had inadvertently sort-of revealed his feelings by means of describing an absinthe cocktail. Fucking hell.
And what was that shoulder pat Harry just gave him? Was it like that three-pat thing men did to signal their heterosexual departure? What did this mean? Harry couldn’t hit Draco with the three-pat! This was outrageous! Harry should punch him in the face, or snark at him, or push him up against the wall and ravish him. The three-pat. Honestly.
Draco took a large sip of The Harry.
Across the room, past the insanity on the dance floor, Draco spotted Theo Nott—a Slytherin! He was standing with the Gryffindor Patil. Carefully holding his Harry aloft, Draco wound his way through the crowd to them. “Theo,” Draco greeted.
Theo looked up. “Oh, hi Draco.” He held his hand out towards Patil. “You know Parvati.” Theo’s arm was around Parvati’s shoulder, his fingers fiddling with her spaghetti strap.
“Hi Parvati,” Draco said.
“Malfoy,” she responded flatly, but without malice.
“How have you two been?” Draco asked politely, satisfying his internal Narcissa.
Parvati finally smiled, dark red lipstick looking stunning against her brown skin. Her long black hair was shimmering with some sort of glitter or tinsel. “We’re engaged!” she nearly squealed. “And Theo was recently promoted at the Ministry; he’s in the Administrative Registration Department, you know.” Theo grinned at her, though he looked a bit embarrassed at her boasting.
“Congratulations on your engagement,” Draco said.
“And Parvati just graduated the top of her class at Oxford Magical Law,” Theo put in. “She’s managed to secure a position interning at the Wizengamot.”
Draco’s eyebrows shot up. “At the Wizengamot? Wow, Parvati. Congratulations—that’s really impressive. What’s your sister up to?”
“Well, she’s home now for a summer holiday. Grinding against Finch-Fletchley at the moment, looks like. But she moved to America. She’s teaching Charms at Ilvermorny.”
Draco continued with small talk about their former classmates for a few minutes. He told them about Moldova’s Magical Tea and Neville and Luna. Parvati regaled them with interesting stories about members of the Wizengamot. But Draco took his leave when Theo seemed to be having trouble restraining himself from reaching directly down Parvati’s top.
He wandered aimlessly on the edge of the party for a minute. This was really weird. All of these people, except maybe Theo, had hated him during school and during the war. They had moved on as best they could, and were now treating Draco…how were they treating him? Neutrally, he supposed. Probably the best he could ask for, at the moment.
Except Harry. Harry wasn’t treating Draco neutrally. He never had.
A new song was playing as Harry emerged from the crowd next to Draco. Draco turned to Harry, his forehead scrunched up in question. “Is this song saying, ‘Do you want to sleep with me tonight?’ in French?”
Harry laughed. “I think so, but I’m sure your French is better than mine, you swot.”
“It seems the Muggles have a much more progressive take on sexuality than my pureblood family.”
Harry laughed again. Merlin, but he laughed a lot. It was so nice, and so un-Slytherin. “I wish I knew what my parents would’ve thought,” he said, “Though I suppose my mum was only 19 when she got pregnant with me, so they can’t have been too uptight, eh?”
Luna came by with a tray of The Harrys. As she walked through the crowd, the glasses zoomed off the tray and into the hands of anyone nearby who was empty handed. Draco grabbed one and started drinking. “So, Potter. Why aren’t you an Auror?”
Harry tensed. Fuck—that must’ve been the wrong question. Draco had only wanted an easy topic of conversation. Harry sighed and sipped his Harry. He ran his hand through his hair. He sighed again. “Let’s go outside, ok? I can’t think with this music.”
Draco followed Harry to the garden behind the shop, the music screaming—“Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya dada”—after them. The relative silence of the alley was deafening. The air felt shockingly cool.
Harry ran his hand through his hair again and leaned back against the brick wall. Draco mimicked his movement and shoved his free hand into his pocket. The plants seemed to stir to life for a moment, peeking their leaves towards Harry and Draco, before realizing it was not Neville and settling back down against their branches.
“You don’t have to talk about it,” Draco said, “If you don’t want to. I was just trying to make conversation.”
“Nah, I don’t mind talking about it,” Harry replied. “I just didn’t want to scream about it over the music in there. I went through a year of Auror training after the war. There was no way I could’ve gone back to Hogwarts, you know? Kingsley let me in Auror training without NEWTs as a ‘special exception.’ It was…awful. I think I had—have?—PTSD.” Harry looked at Draco. “Do you know what that is? Muggle diagnosis?”
Harry didn’t ask why. “I would have panic attacks. Not in the dueling or anything, that stuff was easy for me. But I couldn’t—the real cases. I honestly couldn’t handle the stress. I would, I dunno, see Sirius, dead. Remus, dead. Tonks, dead. Fred, dead. Nagini, attacking me as I jumped out a window.”
Draco listened and watched Harry intently, but didn’t talk. He noticed how Harry’s eyes crinkled in pain discussing his lost friends.
“I quit at the end of the year,” Harry sighed. “They would’ve kicked me out if I hadn’t. Or Hermione would’ve come up with some way to hex my office so I would’ve had to quit. She saw that it was killing me.”
“Do you miss it?” Draco asked, curious. He couldn’t imagine that Harry would be content with not being always in action, the Gryffindor hero. “I mean, do you miss what you thought it would be?”
Harry turned his head to look at Draco and smiled. “Honestly? I don’t think I ever really thought I would be an Auror. I thought I should act as if I was on the path to becoming one. And then, I thought, I’d die.”
Draco had a brief flashback to that horrible moment in the final battle when everyone thought Harry was dead. “But you aren’t dead.”
“Nope.” Harry smiled. “Do you ever just feel like you don’t know what to do, because you always thought you’d be dead?”
“I don’t know,” Draco shook his head a bit. “I never really thought about it, but maybe you’re right. I thought for sure I’d be dead by nineteen. Sometimes I still can’t believe he didn’t kill me.”
Harry turned and grabbed Draco’s arm. He raised his glass and clinked it on Draco’s. “Hear hear! I actually did die. So, you know. I feel you.”
Draco’s eyes widened; his face drained of color.
Harry’s face contorted. “Oh, right. Shouldn’t have said that. This is the part where people freak out. Lennox told me that he just couldn’t be in a relationship with someone who has as much ‘history’ as I do. Lennox says ‘history’ like it’s a nasty word.”
Harry said “Lennox” like it was a nasty word, Draco noted with some satisfaction.
A horrible thought came over Draco—Harry thought that people were put off by him. That he was too much. But Harry was not too much. Draco had to make Harry realise he was not too much. Draco may have had too much of whatever was in this outrageous drink, but he knew that it was imperative that Harry know he’s not too much. Not too much for Draco.
Draco pulled his hand out of his pocket, grabbed Harry’s hand, and squeezed. “Then Lennox fucking Campbell is an imbecile. But forget that. You died? How—are you okay?”
Harry looked at Draco, surprise etched across his face. “Okay? Yeah, I’m fine now. All alive, and everything. Didn’t even have to split my soul or turn a stone or drink unicorn blood to do it. Just…came back. Physically, I’m fine. It’s the rest of it that’s a bit—a lot. Everyone treats me like I’ll explode or something. Like a ticking time bomb of PTSD. My friends worry. They exchange glances with each other like I can’t see. Or they walk away, like Lennox, because it’s just a lot to deal with. I dunno.”
Draco sighed. “That is the worst feeling. My friends and my mother couldn’t deal with it, so they all left. So I only get the glances and the pity occasionally; instead I get isolation that feels like confinement in Azkaban.”
Harry leaned his head back against the brick. “Am I a terrible person for being relieved to hear that you’re fucked up about it, too? I mean, my friends didn’t come through the war unscathed or anything, but they seem to have moved past it all a lot easier than I have.”
“Oh, Potter, I’m definitely still fucked up. I still have nightmares sometimes. Usually about Nagini—funny that you mentioned that, too.” He raised his glass. “To Neville!”
Harry laughed and raised his glass. “To Neville! Slayer of nightmare-inducing snakes!” Harry gave Draco one of his bright Gryffindor smiles. You could get a migraine from a smile like that. Draco couldn’t look away.
“Thanks for letting me talk about it. It’s nice to have a friend that gets it. Should we go back in and put on the Gorillaz?” Harry raised his eyebrows expectantly.
Draco laughed, and they went back into the din. Harry led Draco to the magically charmed CD player, and put on the CD they had purchased. Apparently the song was called “Clint Eastwood,” and Harry looked at the back of the case and pressed some buttons to get the correct song playing.
Luna came over and Vanished their empty drinks. “We’re dancing!” she said, grabbing each of them by the wrist and pulling them onto the dance floor. Oh, Merlin. Draco did not want to dance with Gryffindors (and a barmy Ravenclaw) to ridiculous music. (He congratulated himself on remembering not to call it “ridiculous Muggle music.”)
Luna reached up to Draco’s face and dragged her fingers along his jaw, then she threw her hand in the air and her other fingers dragged along the other side of Draco’s jaw. She was raising her eyebrows alternately, and making a funny face with her lips. Draco burst into laughter. Ugh, he was giving too much away, dropping his barriers. Lucius would be mortified.
Harry grabbed one of Luna’s hands and twirled her dramatically towards him. She bumped his chest, then leaned back in an exaggerated dip. As she rose, she grabbed the back of Draco’s neck with one hand and the back of Harry’s neck with the other. She looked at them appraisingly for a moment.
“Harry,” she said, “It’s really good that you told Draco you like to have sex with men. There are fewer Nargles, you know, when people are open and honest. That’s why people use the phrase ‘clear the air.’”
Harry flushed. Draco raised his eyebrows. Luna didn’t see these reactions, though, because she was gyrating lower and lower along with the beat.
(“It’s coming on, it’s coming on, it’s coming on.”)
Luna popped up to a stand and somehow managed to wrap Harry’s arm around Draco’s neck as she slipped away to Neville, on whom she began dancing in a way that looked more like a magical ritual or an avian mating ceremony than a dance. Harry, to Draco’s surprise, didn’t pull away immediately, and when he did he kept dancing, laughing.
(“Hero who appears in you to clear your view when you’re too crazy, Lifeless.”)
Draco’s neck felt hot where Harry’s arm had been on him. He bounced his head (that seemed like a safe “dance” move here) and bent his knees to the beat.
Harry, looking radiant, grabbed Draco’s shoulder and sang loudly, “I ain’t happy, I’m feeling glad, I got sunshine in my bag, I’m useless but not for long.”
Draco looked into Harry’s flushed face—he was dancing, without any reservation, like a moron, singing the words to this ridiculous song, with his eyes the color of that stupid delicious cocktail, and oh, Draco was done for.
(“The future is coming on.”)
In for a knut, in for a galleon, Draco thought, and grabbed Harry’s hand and twirled him around like Harry had done to Luna. Harry’s laugh made Draco’s insides feel like, something, like…the Great Thaw.
Draco awoke the following morning with a splitting headache (curses on The Harry) and with his brain helpfully singing “the future is coming on, it’s coming on, it’s coming on” (curses on Gorillaz). He grabbed his wand and Summoned a Hangover Potion without opening his eyes. He popped off the wax seal and downed the potion.
He was expected at Neville and Luna’s to finalise the menu. He flopped back on his pillows and threw his arm over his eyes while the potion took effect. His brain would not stop replaying the events of the previous day. Oh, fuck. Draco rolled onto his stomach and pressed his head into his pillow. He was helplessly, stupidly falling for Potter. He was stuck between being happy that Harry was not straight and disappointed that all of their interactions had seemed platonic.
He managed to get himself up and dressed. He had been visiting with his mother and all of her barmy friends over the past few weeks, gathering information about what they missed most about magical teas. His mother had talked for nearly two hours. (Though Draco couldn’t pretend that these visits had been all bad. He had quite enjoyed listening to his mother’s tales about her father, Cygnus, and how he had insisted that tea begin with a course of ginger puffapod infusion served with minced grindylow pies, even though his daughters refused to eat grindylow.) Draco’s head had been reeling when he left his mother. He finally had a distilled version of their opinions (and a liberal amount of his own analysis) on a parchment tucked into his robes. He needed to regroup with Neville and Luna to ensure that Moldova’s met the needs of the old guard.
He Apparated to the landing outside Neville and Luna’s flat and knocked.
The door flew open, revealing an enormous mass of blonde hair. “Draco!” Luna enthused, kissing his cheek. “Come in.”
Draco took his customary spot on the sofa while Neville summoned him a mug of tea from the kitchen. (This time he got “NOBODY KNOWS I’M GAY.”)
“Alright, mate, listen to this,” Neville said, enthusiastic. “For the herbal infusion blends: Nettle Shrivelfig, Wiggentree and Moly, and Lemongrass Umbrella Flower. Then for single origin herbal infusions: Mandrake Bark, Spiky Prickly Plant, and Alihotsy.”
Draco considered. “Sounds great. Let me check my notes, though—I think a few of the mad old ladies mentioned at least one type that you don’t have on there.” He unrolled the parchment and scanned it quickly. “Three people specifically mentioned a mint blend.”
Neville frowned. “We can do that. How about English Mint with Puffapod?”
Draco nodded. “That should do it.”
“Luna!” Neville yelled. She poked her head out from the kitchen. “What do you think about English Mint with Puffapod?”
“Ooooh, lovely,” she replied. “The mint will be cool and uplifting, and the puffapod will complement the taste and also offer digestive aid. A perfect summer brew.” Her head disappeared.
Neville nodded, writing it down on his parchment. “Perfect. What else, Draco?”
“What about the black teas? I have some notes on those.”
“Oh!” Neville’s eyes brightened. “Moldova’s Blend, which has some aconite to stimulate the senses; Wizard’s Afternoon Tea, which is the black tea with wormwood and shrivelfig you’ve had, Earl Grey Dittany, and Wizengamot’s Breakfast, which has a touch of gillyweed.”
“Gillyweed?” Draco looked surprised.
“It’s brilliant,” Neville said. “Just a touch, but it allows the drinker to take in a bit extra oxygen. It’s good for relaxation, alertness, headaches, all sorts of things.”
“Sounds good. I have a note here to make sure you have a black with dittany and a black with wormwood, but you’ve already got those.”
“Excellent. What else did they say?” Neville leaned back in his chair and crossed an ankle over his other knee.
“Mostly they have a lot of strong feelings about the order in which different items are served. And about which food items must be on offer—every single person I talked to insisted on eye-of-newt scones.”
“Seriously?” Neville inquired. “Doesn’t that seem helplessly old fashioned?”
“I was surprised, too. I’ve never eaten an eye-of-newt scone. Each time I saw them as a child I felt ill.”
Neville shook his head. “Me too, but Gran did serve them. Suppose we put it as optional so the younger crowd can avoid it?”
“Good idea. Here are the notes about the order of courses, though I think this is probably all in Mafalda Gamp’s Wizarding Etiquette and Rules of Politeness, so I think we’re covered.”
“Excellent!” Neville said. “Thanks for doing those meetings, Draco.”
Draco nodded in response just as Luna came in and settled herself on the couch next to him.
“Draco,” she said, as her big eyes twinkled knowingly, “did you have a good time last night?”
“Yes. Though no thanks to you for the drinks,” he drawled. “I had to take a Hangover Potion this morning.”
Luna shrugged serenely and looked into his eyes like she was performing Legilimancy. Maybe she was. “Have you told Harry yet?”
Neville shifted uncomfortably.
“Told Harry what, exactly?” Draco asked, fearing her answer. He took a sip of tea (the Earl Grey Dittany, it seemed) in hopes of hiding whatever expression was on his face.
Luna continued her intense stare, and inclined her head. “That you’re in love with him.”
Draco spluttered on the tea.
“Luna,” Neville said, “It’s okay if Draco doesn’t want to talk about this. You know how sometimes your forthrightness is a little too much for other people? I think this is one of those times, love.” He shot an uncomfortable and apologetic look at Draco.
Luna raised her eyebrows at Neville and turned to look at Draco. “Is it one of those times?”
Draco sighed, and set his mug down on the table. Draco really had a soft spot for Luna—that was the only explanation for what came out of his mouth next. “No, it’s alright, Luna. I…don’t think I’m in love with him, exactly.”
Luna frowned. Neville pressed his lips together. Draco looked back and forth between the two of them. “What?” he asked, finally.
“Nothing, mate. Not my place,” said Neville.
Luna, completely ignoring Neville’s cues to drop it, said, “Then what exactly is it? Because every time you’re together you look like you’re mentally undressing him. Or mentally playing a reenactment of The Wizard’s Surprise with Harry in the starring role.”
Neville choked back a laugh. “Luna!”
Draco knew he was red. Red as a Weasley. “Harry…Harry doesn’t…”
“Oh hush,” Luna interrupted, “if you’re going to tell me a story about how Harry doesn’t like you. Didn’t he tell you last night about his sexual orientation and his recent relationships?”
“And isn’t he spending lots of time with you, including when he doesn’t have to and when Neville and I aren’t around?”
Luna opened her hands like the case was closed. Draco turned to Neville, his eyes pleading for some sort of understanding.
Neville grimaced. “Look, mate, I haven’t talked to Harry about this. We’ve been friends for ages and I don’t want to talk about it behind his back. But honestly, there’s a vibe. And, just between us, because I think you need a little encouragement, Harry was completely obsessed with you in school. All of sixth year. It was insane. He would spend hours looking for you on his magic map. Ron was beside himself. We nearly staged an intervention.”
Draco stared at him. “His magic map?” He was losing track of this conversation.
“He looks at you the same way, you know,” Luna said. “The mental undressing, I mean.”
Draco dropped his head in his hands and groaned. Luna put her hand on his back and rubbed small circles.
“Feelings are fine, Mottle,” she whispered. “Feelings will get you a relationship, and companionship, and understanding, and orgasms.”
Draco groaned louder. Neville burst out laughing.
“What?” Luna inquired with an air of false innocence.
Later that week, Draco spent the morning in the back room of Moldova’s, sending owls to their various suppliers about contracts and rates. He’d been holed up all morning, and his neck was stiff from disuse. He stood and cast a Limbering charm. Much better.
Luna and Neville were at a culinary school interviewing chefs. Draco headed out into the main seating area, planning to walk somewhere to buy lunch. Before he left the hallway, he realised Harry must be there. Music was playing. When he reached the door, he saw Harry charming carvings in the woodwork on the far wall. Draco realised with a start that the person in the music was singing, “I wanna li-li-li-lick you from your head to your toes, and I wanna move from the bed down to the, down to the, to the floor.” The room was suddenly much too warm.
Harry looked up and smiled. “Hey. How are the contracts coming?”
Draco stared at Harry’s neck. Insatiable sex maniac, Harry’s voice said in his mind. And the music was now insistently banging, “Then I wanna, ah ah, you make it so good I don't wanna leave, But I gotta kno-kno-kno-know wha-what's your fan-ta-ta-sy.” Oh, Merlin. Draco did need to know what Harry’s fantasy was. Oh, Salazar.
“Oh, um, can you turn off the music?”
“Huh?” Harry said, “Oh, yeah, sure.” Harry waved his hand and the music stopped.
“Did you just—without a wand?”
Harry brushed it off. “No big deal.”
Like fuck it’s no big deal, Draco thought. What had Harry been asking about? Oh, the contracts. “Yeah, I sent out all the owls.”
“Oh, good.” Harry turned back to charming the wood.
“Honestly,” Draco sighed, his annoyance at Harry’s sloppiness momentarily overpowering his lust as he pushed Harry out of the way.
“Hey!” Harry said indignantly.
“You giant oaf, you’re doing this all wrong. You’re putting too much magic behind it. Watch.”
Draco swished his wand and the wooden fox that Harry was working on started to sniff the air. “If you put too much magic, it overwhelms it. A little magic injects personality into the carving. Imagine it as though you want your magic to be really concentrated, but just a small bit.”
Harry fixed Draco with an annoyed stare, but tried again on a wooden duck. The duck shook its tail and opened its beak.
“Better,” Draco said haughtily.
Harry rolled his eyes. “How would you like it if I criticised everything you do?”
“I don’t do anything in a way that leaves room for criticism.”
Harry puffed out a laugh, and Draco sat down near him on the floor. Harry set to work on a hippogriff.
Suddenly Draco felt very awkward in the silence. He felt nervous energy bubbling inside him; he had to fill the silence.
“Did I tell you about the visits I made to my mother and a bunch of her barmy old pureblood friends to solicit their opinions about Moldova’s?”
Harry looked over. “No.”
“Well, first I got an international Portkey to France to see my mother. I endured three hours of a lecture about how I was pursuing work in the ‘service industry.’ Then I endured an entire dinner during which she inquired about the possibility that I could provide her with a grandchild sometime in the next year. I reminded her forcefully about my lack of proximity to any wombs. Then she asked oddly invasive questions about Neville, and Luna, and you, and finally she allowed me to change the subject to magical teas. Once talking about magical teas, she did not shut up for three days. Don’t look at me like that; Malfoys are never hyperbolic. I think I heard about every major tea service my mother has ever attended in her life, as well as the standard protocol for tea at her home and at Aunt Walburga’s. Any respectable tea must have eye-of-newt scones, apparently, even though they are the most revolting food item that I have ever had the misfortune to see or smell.
“Then I went to go see Pansy’s grandmother in Pembroke. Doilies under every object in the house, I kid you not. Including under the legs of the table. She is 146 years old and told me about tea protocols in the mid-nineteenth century. Never mind that house-elves have been illegal as food since 1879, I got to hear all about the mince-house-elf pies they served at her mother-in-law’s teas in the 1860s. I learned that, in polite society, if one serves the biscuits before the sandwiches and the guest accepts, that means the two houses have just agreed to be joined in marriage. No wonder everyone I spoke with was so intense about the serving order.
“Then I went to see Vince’s mother Irma in Ireland. She regaled me with the nuanced differences between traditional Irish teas and traditional English teas. Did you know, Harry, that an Irish wizard will be put off by the English place-setting customs? Or at least they would have in the 1920s, from what I can gather. Mrs Crabbe told me tales of some sort of gangster-like Irish versus English tea war of the mid-20s. And I can’t be certain, because my knowledge of the old customs is tenuous, but I’m fairly sure that Irma made a pass at me. I got out of Ireland as fast as I could manage—you’ll understand, to keep my virtue in tact—and went directly to see Horace Slughorn.
“You’ll remember that Slughorn was never a big fan of mine, so the visit was distinctly distasteful. He did not want to talk to me, and I did not want to bribe him with crystallised pineapple. I mean, honestly. But eventually I got him talking about magical teas and he gave me a good overview about how teas had been functioning in society before they fell off in the 70s and 80s. Interestingly, he thinks the decline of magical teas had something to do with acid rain in the United States tainting the supplies of certain herbs. Of course, the first war was the Colloportus on the coffin, as people were too nervous to engage in the idle chitchat that is the staple of teas. They were too concerned about hiding, if they had been on Voldemort’s side, or worrying about where Voldemort had gotten himself to, if they had been on your side.
“Long story short, every person, including old Sluggy, believes that the return of magical teas—and by extension, the return of wizarding culture that we share inclusively with all magic people—will go a long way towards healing the rift in this post-war society. ‘Post-war,’ of course, being their term, not mine. They all used the word post-war, I made a note of it.”
About one sentence into this monologue, Harry had stopped charming the wood. He sat back on his ankles, staring at Draco with a look of undiluted amusement. When Draco finished, Harry had a small smile on his face. Oh, Salazar.
“So were magical teas inclusive before the first war?” Harry looked thoughtful.
“Well, interestingly, it was a custom shared by all of wizarding society. It cut across all the wizard social cleavages—rich, poor, Gryffindor, Slytherin, pureblood, halfblood, Muggle-haters and Muggle-lovers. You can tell that from the fact that Augusta Longbottom, Gryffindor matriarch, is just as invested in it as my mother. But as new magic came into the society, wizards did a bad job of sharing the culture with them. No one wanted to take Muggleborns to rigid traditional teas at their stuffy aunt’s house, especially after the war. But with Moldova’s, we will right that wrong, because we are going to be easier to love, and welcoming of all people who might not have a background of understanding magical teas.”
Harry leaned back. “Hmm. I wish I knew what my father’s family thought about all that stuff.”
Draco did not know, so instead he asked, “Did your Muggles ever take you to a Muggle tea service?”
Harry let out a loud bark of laughter. “Er, no. The closest they ever came was asking me to make them a pot of tea.”
“So you’ve never been to a proper tea? Not even a Muggle one?”
“No, guess not.”
“Then why are you here helping us with all of this, when you don’t even understand what we’re trying to do?”
“Well,” Harry shrugged, “you help friends when they need help.”
Draco stared at him for a moment. He knew Harry was generous, but how could Harry have the motivation to help them for months without any clear understanding of the goal?
“Potter. Go home and change. I’m taking you to Muggle tea.”
“Go change into nice trousers, a nice shirt, no shorts, no denims, no trainers, you can wear a jacket if you want….Do you need me to come dress you?” Draco was not being facetious; he honestly thought Harry might need help.
Harry rolled his eyes. “No, Malfoy. I do not need you to dress me.”
Draco raised one eyebrow. “Well…” he drawled, dragging out the vowel as he dropped his gaze pointedly to Harry’s ratty clothes.
Harry laughed. “Okay, okay. Sounds fun. Muggle tea. Meet back here?”
“Meet back here in thirty minutes, we’ll be right on time. We’re going to Claridge’s.”
Twenty-five minutes later, Draco waited in front of the shop, wearing a perfectly tailored Muggle suit. It was black, because apparently that was the Muggle fashion, but he paired it with a peacock blue shirt because, what the hell. It looked good with his gray eyes and blond hair.
Harry Apparated directly in front of him, too close, and they both jumped backwards. “Hi,” Harry said. “Do I pass inspection?”
He had changed into a pair of dark gray trousers and a pink button-down shirt. Potter looked good in pink. Really good in pink. It offset his brown skin just so. If Draco wore pink, it washed out his pale complexion, making him look ill. The fact that Harry was wearing something that Draco could never wear somehow made it look even better on him.
“You’ll do,” Draco said with a small smile. He grabbed Harry’s wrist and Apparated to an alley near Claridge’s.
They walked out of the alley toward the entrance.
“I’m surprised you would come to a Muggle place,” Harry said.
“Oh Salazar, Potter. Haven’t we cleared this up? I have nothing against Muggles. Here we are, about to go to the best afternoon tea in London, which happens to be at a Muggle establishment. Even my mother comes here, when she is in London. Though, give it a few months, and the best tea in London will be in Diagon Alley.” Draco smiled.
“Obviously,” Harry allowed.
They walked up to the host, and Draco whispered out of the corner of his mouth, “Confund him.”
“What?” Harry hissed.
“Just do it! We need to get a table.”
Harry darted his eyes around, then surreptitiously drew his wand. A blank expression crossed the host’s face.
“Good afternoon, sir. Two for tea. Reservation under Malfoy.”
The host started a bit, then looked down at his book and said vaguely, “Right this way, sir.”
They found themselves at a table covered with a white cloth. The armchairs were upholstered in a geometric print, and a giant vase of white roses stood in the center of the room. The high, white ceilings showcased beautiful chandeliers.
Harry looked around as he took his seat. “Not for the hoi polloi, eh?”
“I should think not. It is the best tea in London.”
“Wait a minute,” Harry said, bristling suddenly, “this isn’t, like, bourgeoisie of the world unite, is it?”
Draco raised his eyebrow. “What are you talking about, Potter?”
“I mean, do the elite pureblood wizards think that they’re in danger of losing their position in society, and therefore think that they have more in common with elite Muggles—at Claridge’s— than they do with other, lesser wizards?” Harry gave Draco a look of undiluted disgust.
Draco huffed. “I cannot believe we are still having this conversation.”
“I’m not accusing you of that, Malfoy. I’m just wondering. Like for your mother, coming here.”
Draco considered Harry’s point. His mother loved coming to tea at Claridge’s, even if it was a Muggle establishment, because they had class and respected tradition and served a delicious tea. She felt dignified, and more like herself.
“I suppose it might be a bit that way for my mother,” Draco conceded. “Though it’s hard to blame her, since after the war she lost almost everything that had defined her life.”
Harry sighed and nodded. “So Moldova’s is going to be inclusive?”
“To anyone who has two galleons to spend on tea. We’re not a charity, after all.”
Potter looked displeased at the cost, but he didn’t press the point.
“And we’re going to make a special point to explain magical tea traditions to first-timers,” Draco said. “Lots of information on the menu as well as highly trained servers who are able to put the customers at ease, even if they’ve never had a wormwood infusion before.”
“So what are the differences between a Muggle afternoon tea and a magical tea?” Harry asked, reading the menu.
“Well, the use of magical herbs and plants in the infusions, of course. Muggle herbal teas have some therapeutic effects, too, but Muggles don’t have any real understanding of why. And because their herbs are grown and brewed without magic, the effects aren’t as strong. A Muggle ginger tea will help an upset stomach, whereas a magical ginger tea will stop a stomachache almost as quickly as a potion. I suspect Neville could talk about that for hours, if you’re interested.”
Harry looked up. “Huh. What else?”
“Well, a magical tea uses a very particular set of magical objects, like charmed tea pots and cups. And there are certain foods you would never find at a Muggle tea. For example, the old guard insists that we serve eye-of-newt scones, as I said before. They really are revolting; brace yourself for the first time you see them.”
Harry laughed. “Eye-of-newt scones? I thought you were joking when you mentioned that before.”
“I know. And, of course, magical teas usually result in people partaking of infusions that leave them quite a bit…loopy. In that sense, the effect of a magical tea is closer to the effect of a visit to a bar than to a Muggle tea. Although a person who has overindulged in magical tea will not be drunk, they might not be able to Apparate. The exact condition will depend on the infusion, of course. As you know, I’m sure, from listening to Neville, alihotsy can be extremely dangerous if prepared incorrectly.”
“Is it more like Muggle drugs?” Harry asked, concerned.
“No, not really. I mean, maybe, for some of them. It’s closer to taking a potion than anything else, of course, because the ingredients are similar. Honestly, it’s not really like anything in the Muggle world. You can’t get addicted to these herbs. It’s certainly far safer than alcohol or even potions. Health-promoting, even.”
“Hmm,” Harry said, thoughtful. “Sounds like they could be used in drug rehabilitation. I wonder if we could find a way to get them to the Muggles without breaking the Statute.”
“Now you’re thinking, Potter!” Draco smiled. “Give us a couple years to get Moldova’s going, and then we can figure out how to use the teas to help junkie Muggles. We’ll make a fortune and it will be altruistic to boot.”
Harry’s eyes sparkled. “That is a great idea. Only I don’t fancy getting it through drug trials. Or dealing with insurance companies.”
Draco shuddered. “Too true. Although a few well-placed Confunduses should get us through drug trials without riling too many feathers about the Statute of Secrecy.”
“You can’t just Confund Muggles all the time!” Harry laughed.
“Why not?” Draco smirked. “It’s easier on them. Kinder, even. If the Ministry has the herbs approved, they’ve already been through extensive wizarding safety tests. It would be cruel to allow the Muggles to repeat all of that work when we already know the outcome.”
“How do you know they act the same way on Muggles?”
Draco’s face fell. “Ugh, you’re right, Potter. When did you get to be not such an imbecile?”
Harry smiled. “I never was.”
“Never mind that though,” Draco waved his hand, “We’ll ask Granger. It’s still a good plan.”
Harry looked down at his menu. “This place is something. Listen to this description of the chicken. ‘The chickens are naturally reared Cotswold White birds, which are given space and time to develop to produce a meat with a flavour and texture perfect for our sandwiches.’ What a load of dragon dung.”
Draco smiled. “You are such a clod, Potter. Would you want to eat chicken that was not given space and time to develop?”
Harry read again. “‘Today, our delicious, hand-picked and hand-prepared teas are as fine, rare, and splendid as ever.’” He laughed. “Well, if they’re splendid as ever, I suppose I must try it.”
“You certainly wouldn’t catch me drinking a machine-picked, machine-prepared tea,” Draco said.
Harry laughed. “Oh, really?”
“I am a Malfoy, after all.” Draco was relieved to see that Harry recognised that he was being droll.
“Look, Draco, this tea has ‘a rich, verdant taste of buttered asparagus with a warm, rich aroma of popcorn.’” Harry cackled.
Just then, a waiter approached the table. “Good afternoon, gentlemen. Can I offer you one of our hand-picked teas?”
Harry had to hide his face with his napkin as he bit back a laugh. Draco, with a perfectly straight face, replied, “The second flush muscatel darjeeling, please. And for my friend…”
“Er, what’s the difference between the Rare Earl Grey and the Cornish Earl Grey?” Harry asked.
The waiter fixed him with a pitying look. “The Rare Earl Grey is a classic British tea. It is a clean and exceptionally bright infusion with exhilarating citrus notes. It is best enjoyed with milk or a twist of lemon zest. The Cornish Earl Grey is blended with the finest quality Assam and delicately flavoured with pure bergamot oil. It is best enjoyed black with a twist of lemon.”
Harry looked at Draco, bewildered.
“He will take the Rare Earl Grey, thank you kindly,” Draco offered. The waiter left.
“Those descriptions sounded exactly the same.”
“That they did, but I know you like milk in your tea, and he said the first one was for milk.”
“Oh.” Harry gave Draco an odd look.
A server delivered a tiered tray of sandwiches and pastries to the table. Harry bit into a scone before the tea had even arrived at the table. Never trust someone who doesn’t behave properly at table, Draco’s inner Narcissa chimed in, but Draco found he didn’t much care about Harry’s manners.
“Oh, my god,” Harry moaned. It was a moan. “These scones are so good.”
Despite his inner Narcissa, Draco grabbed a scone and bit into it. “Merlin, yes.”
“We need to figure out how to make these at Moldova’s.”
Draco could only nod.
“Pansy!” Draco yelled through the international Floo connection. “Pansy!”
Pansy appeared in front of the Floo, a bit out of breath. “What? Is everything okay?” She looked worried. She and Draco didn’t usually Floo call each other; they weren’t fond of idle chit chat and would rather wait to talk in person.
“No!” Draco shouted, nearing what Lucius would’ve called histrionics. “Everything is not okay!”
Pansy sat down, her legs tucked under her elegant wool pencil skirt, her bottom resting on red heels. “Out with it. Are you sick?”
“Worse. I think I’m in love with Potter.”
“Yes, Potter, keep up.”
“You think you’re in love with him.”
“Yes! I think I’m in love with him! Oh, who am I kidding. I am in love with him. With his stupid scar and his stupid messy hair and his stupid generosity and his stupid laugh and his stupid Gorillaz!”
“Stop. At the very least, cast a Thesauro charm to come up with an alternative for ‘stupid.’”
“Okay, okay.” She looked remarkably unsurprised. “I didn’t follow that last bit. Start from the beginning. How long of a story is this—should I go get a Firewhiskey?”
“He’s been helping with the tea shop. A lot. So he’s always around. And we went to the Muggle cinema and watched a movie. And Pansy—it’s dark in there and the seats are close. And he is very good looking, Pans. Have you noticed?”
“Hard not to, dear, what with his face plastered all over every periodical in Britain and many of them on the continent.”
“Exactly, so you know. He keeps making me think about how he would taste. And then we went to a Muggle music store, and a birthday party, and we danced. And he told me that he’s bi. And he didn’t know that I was gay!”
“Well that’s the first part of this story I’m finding surprising,” Pansy deadpanned. “How could he not know that?”
“I don’t know; I said the same thing. Oh. Oh! Pansy. He dated Lennox fucking Campbell.”
“The Quidditch Lennox Campbell?”
“My, my, Potter. Nicely done.”
“Pansy! You’re not taking this seriously enough! I am not calm!”
“Is there more to this story, Draco? Or is your freakout entirely without basis?”
“That’s pretty much it. Lovegood and Longbottom seem to think that I’m in love with him, and that he might be interested.”
“Well, you are in love with him.”
“Oh Merlin, Draco, I’ve just had the most fabulous idea.” She clapped her hands together. “When Lovegood and Longbottom decide to tie the knot, she won’t want to take his name, because she’s barmy and they’re progressive, right? So they should both take Lovebottom.”
“Pansy, I swear to Salazar, I will murder you if you do not concentrate.”
She looked at him, something approaching empathy in her eyes for the first time this conversation. “Draco,” she said kindly, “Why is any of this a problem? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds to me that it’s more like a dream come true than a crisis.”
“I…it’s so much, Pans. It’s too intense. Feelings all over the place. It makes me feel like I’m going to explode.”
Pansy’s mouth quirked into an understanding grimace. “Feelings.” She sighed. “Well, feelings aren’t necessarily evil, even if they often are.”
“Luna says that feelings will get me orgasms.” Draco buried his head in his hands.
Pansy laughed. “She’s not wrong. Well, of course one can obtain orgasms in any number of ways that do not involve feelings. But I have a hunch that if orgasms from Potter are what one is after, one must endure the feelings. He is a Gryffindor, after all.”
“What’s the worst that can happen, Draco?”
“He breaks my heart, I’m lonelier even than I was before all of this started, and work is awkward every day because he will inevitably be around.”
“Hasn’t that already happened, though, in a fashion? You’re nearly in tears in my Floo right now. You’re lonelier than you were before. Work is already awkward.”
Draco just looked at her.
“You can’t avoid the worst. So go get the good stuff. I don’t think Potter will turn you down. Neither one of you has ever been able to ignore the other.”
“No, I’m serious. Look at me. Every time you spoke in school, he noticed. Every word or motion you made, he responded. When you were broken beyond recognition in sixth year, he noticed. Most people did not, not even the Slytherins, and he was all the way across the Great Hall. He noticed. And you were the same with him. You’re gorgeous, and wealthy, and reformed. Potter has no hope of resisting your charms.”
Draco could feel his anxiety calming. “Thanks, Pans.”
“Don’t thank me. Go seal the deal, so that I can get detailed stories later.”
For the next few weeks, Draco made a point to talk to Harry as much as possible. They still bickered and snarked at each other, but they also went out to lunch. They made trips to the Starbucks behind Neville’s back. (Magical teas were lovely, but sometimes one just wanted whipped cream on top of glorified hot cocoa.) But mostly they worked together with Neville and Luna, getting Moldova’s reading for the rapidly approaching opening.
Draco trained hosts and servers. Neville entered a frenzy of tea and infusion preparation, including bagging teas that patrons could take home. Luna wrote descriptions for all of the teas and decorated the place with an odd assortment of flowers and plants. They all helped train the new chef, Ogden Macmillan (who was a distant cousin of the Hufflepuff Ernie). Harry finished readying the rooms, and then secured features about Moldova’s in several major papers. (Harry made Neville promise not to use the word “Starbucksification” during the interviews.)
One Friday in late August, the four of them sat around a table in the main seating area of Moldova’s, finalizing the tea menu. Luna had written descriptions of all the teas, and they sat around reviewing them.
Wizengamot’s Breakfast. A blend created exclusively for Afternoon Tea at Moldova’s. The blend has a unique depth of flavour that combines the power of an English Breakfast Tea with a satisfying touch of gillyweed. The flavour is rich and aromatic with a deep, malty finish. The gillyweed promotes oxygen intake. Perfect served without milk, partnered by a fresh warm scone.
Wiggentree and Moly. Top grade wiggentree with organic, Japanese moly. The moly is crafted by one of the most revered herbologists in Japan on his 200-year-old garden in Shizuoka. A rich, verdant infusion that will protect the drinker against dark forces.
Alihotsy. An extraordinarily smooth and rich herbal infusion with the flavour of lemon drops. This sweet, complex and full-bodied alihotsy is grown in a remote Sri Lankan mountain garden above the Ravanna Falls. Bright and vibrant, it is a most wonderful pick-me-up. Prepared to exacting standards by Moldova’s resident herbology master, it will cheer the drinker without causing mania. (According to the Warlock of Health, witches and wizards should not consume alihotsy if they suffer from allergies or magical sensitivities, or if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.)
“Luna,” Harry said, “These descriptions are brilliant!”
“Well, it was no trouble to copy the tone of the Claridge’s menu you swiped,” she smiled. “Though Neville made me remove some of my stories.”
“You can put the stories on the back of the menu, love, but we can’t have 500-word descriptions for each tea,” Neville replied. He stretched his arm around her shoulder and placed a kiss on her long blond curls.
“I think all that’s left,” Draco said, thumbing through the papers on the table, “is to write down the dress code.”
“What are you thinking, Draco?” Neville asked.
“I think we need to give two options, for both Wizard and Muggle attire.”
“Great,” said Luna, twirling a quill.
“So for the Muggle dress, formal smart casual?” Draco asked, looking up from a copy of Debrett’s.
Harry snorted. “What does that even mean?”
“Manners and etiquette are not a joking manner, you neanderthal,” Draco drawled with a small smile. He looked down at the book. “This book says among other things, ‘Women should make it clear that an effort has been made.’ I think Granger would murder us if we endorsed that sentiment.”
“Forget Hermione, I would murder you,” Harry replied, shaking his head.
“Read the description of the smart-casual,” Neville said.
Draco looked down and spoke in an exaggerated voice that made him sound even posher than usual. “‘For men, formal smart-casual requires a jacket or blazer, flannels, needlecord trousers, or chinos (not jeans), a shirt with a collar, not a t-shirt, and smart shoes, not necessarily lace-ups, but not trainers or sandals. A sweater may be worn if it is cold. For women, a smart day dress, worn with a jacket, is a safe choice. At more casual events, dress down a little – for example, smart trousers or a skirt, with a cardigan. Avoid wearing denim, unless it is immaculate and balanced with a tailored jacket and smart accessories. Also avoid high heels and wearing suits, as they look like business clothes.’”
Luna sang out a little “Hmmm.”
“What are you thinking, Luna?” Neville asked, putting his hand on her arm.
“We shouldn’t demarcate the dress code by gender. We shouldn’t tell women not to wear heels. If a man wants to come wearing a smart day dress and heels, he is more than welcome here.”
Harry smiled. “Hear, hear!”
“Alright,” Draco said, “a genderless dress code. So we say, what? Formal smart-casual, no denim or trainers?”
Luna nodded. “It’s better vague. I don’t think I own a single piece of clothing that fits that original description you read.”
Well that’s certainly true, Draco thought, thinking of Luna’s bizarre yet lovely assortment of dresses and flowy trousers.
“Is it the right level of formality?” Draco asked.
“Don’t look at me,” Harry said, raising his hands.
Draco sighed. “I need Blaise for this.”
Luna nodded sagely. “Let’s Floo Blaise. It’s worth the international Floo charge. That man always looks like he stepped off the pages of Warlock.”
“And I don’t?” Draco huffed.
“Oh, Draco. Sure you do.” Luna patted his arm. Neville laughed.
Draco knew that while his clothes were always expensive and immaculate—and therefore he always looked great—he didn’t take the same pleasure in matters of raiment as Blaise did. Blaise was a sartorial artist, and his own and Pansy’s bodies were his blank canvasses. Pansy lived for Blaise dressing (and undressing) her.
Draco laughed and set up the international Floo connection. “Blaise!” A few moments later the bottom third of beautifully trousered legs appeared in the flames.
“Draco!” boomed Blaise’s deep voice. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“I’m with Longbottom, Lovegood, and Potter. We’ve called to ask your expert opinion on the dress code for Moldova’s.”
“Ahhhh,” Blaise intoned, sitting in front of the fire. “You’ve Flooed the right wizard.”
“Excellent,” Draco replied. “Here are the parameters. Wizard or Muggle attire is welcome, and we don’t want to make it gendered. And we want to make sure someone with excellent but eccentric attire, like our own Luna, is welcomed by the description.”
Blaise looked off into the distance for a moment. “Take this down,” he said. Neville quickly grabbed a quill.
“Moldova’s welcomes both Wizard and Muggle attire. For Wizard attire, elegant afternoon or smart evening robes. For Muggle attire, smart-casual or business attire. For all guests, no shorts, denim, trainers, or sandals.”
Luna clapped her hands.
“That covers it, right Draco?” Blaise asked.
“Yes. You’re right that elegant afternoon or smart evening robes are appropriate. I was sitting here trying to choose between the two.”
“I’ll see you at the soft opening, in my elegant afternoon or smart evening robes,” Blaise said with a jaunty tip of his head.
“Ta,” Draco said, and cut off the connection. He turned around. “Think you can handle that, Potter? My offer to dress you is always open.”
“Ha bloody ha,” Harry said. But he was smiling.
The following Sunday was the invitation-only soft opening. Neville was nervous about the whole thing, and bustled around all morning asking questions and triple-checking preparations. Luna finally managed to hit him surreptitiously with a relaxation charm, which, though not exactly ethical, everyone was grateful for.
The two servers they’d hired, recent Hogwarts graduates, were subjected to a thorough inspection by Draco. Draco changed the hem of Tristan’s pants, the knots of their ties, and the color of Emma’s stockings. Tristan and Emma were a bit nervous, too, which was understandable since they were about to serve some of wizarding Britain’s most important people, including the Shacklebolts. It’s not every day one serves tea to the Minister of Magic. Draco sent them off with an order to have a cup of Neville’s English Mint with Puffapod infusion.
Luna flitted around fixing problems that only she could see, though Draco had come to trust her enough to refrain from questions about the value of whatever it was she was doing. She was wearing a powder blue dress that looked brilliant on her and made her big blue eyes sparkle from across the room.
Ogden was in the kitchen, bustling around with last-minute food preparations. He seemed blessedly capable of handling the pressure.
Yesterday, Neville had sat with the entire staff and made them all sample each type of tea, take notes on taste, and answer questions about each. Draco and Luna knew the teas and infusions inside and out, and by the end of the day, Tristan and Emma were up to speed. They didn’t know as much as the others, but enough to offer guidance to confused guests. Enough for now. Draco made a mental note to help Tristan improve his tasting notes. “Ummm, kind of bitter” was not going to cut it.
Draco’s day-to-day role during the tea service would be to oversee the servers and to smooth over any conflicts that might arise. In some ways this would be harder during the soft opening (with all of the important guests, many of whom had violent past relationships with each other) than it would during regular operation.
In addition to the Shacklebolts, Harry, Narcissa, Andromeda, all of the Weasleys, Granger, Blaise and Pansy, Luna’s father, and Neville’s grandmother, they had made a point to invite prominent members of each Hogwarts house, including the Diggorys, the Parkinsons, Aberforth Dumbledore, Tiberius McLaggen, Millicent Bagnold, and Mrs Zabini. A number of Hogwarts professors would be in attendance, including McGonagall, Slughorn, Sprout, Flitwick, and Hagrid. Rounding out the guest list were other proprietors from Diagon Alley, including Orpheus Fortescue, Madam Malkin, Tom from the Leaky Cauldron, and Mr Ollivander. All in all, an intimidating guest list for the young servers.
Harry was set to arrive with the guests, as he was to sit with the Shacklebolts in between a table of Slytherins, including Narcissa, and a table of Weasleys. “Thanks, mate,” Neville had said. “None of them will dare breach a Potter buffer.”
At the moment, though, Draco was feeling confident. He knew the teas were excellent and the preparations had been thorough. He and Luna would not become flustered by the important guests and could manage any problems.
The guests began to flit in at exactly 3 o’clock. Two Aurors stood outside the doors checking for dark objects and collecting wands. This was standard protocol for a function with the Minister of Magic in attendance, yet still the cause of much grumbling. Wizards don’t take kindly to giving up their wands. The only wands inside the tea would be those of the staff. Draco overheard Luna’s father grumbling that the wait and wand confiscation was “fascist usurpation.” Hagrid patted him on the shoulder—“Yeh know it needs doin’, Xeno.” Seating would certainly be easier when the Minister wasn’t in attendance.
Draco greeted his mother with a warm hug; it was nice to have her in London. When the guests had made their way to the tables (and Rita Skeeter was flitting around the edges of the room under strict orders from Harry that she was not allowed to open her mouth, only to observe), menus appeared in front of each person. He noticed, as he walked around the room flashing his best aristocratic smile and making people feel important, that everyone looked eager and excited to be there.
Draco kept his eyes scanning the room to make sure that everything was going smoothly. Luna was on the other side of the room solving a small emergency. There had been a complaint about the seating (it appeared that Millicent Bagnold was upset she wasn’t seated with the current Minister). Harry was seated next to Kingsley with his back to Narcissa, the Parkinsons, and Mrs Zabini. The Weasleys took up four tables on the other side of the room and seemed to be in excellent spirits.
The servers quickly charmed the tea orders to the kitchen, which meant that it was time for a small speech. Draco, Neville, and Luna stood in the middle of the room.
“Thank you so much for joining us today,” Draco intoned. “We are so pleased to have you here with us as we revive and modernise the important tradition of magical tea.” He nodded at Neville.
“We hope you all enjoy the teas and treats,” Neville said, “and that these special infusions live up to your memories, if you’ve had them before, and that they dazzle you, if you’re they’re new to you.” He smiled in that sheepish-Gryffindor way of his.
“And we hope that we’ll see you back again soon!” Luna added with a wide smile. “Without any further wait, enjoy the tea.”
At her words, teapots appeared in front of each guest, and tiered platters of scones (eye-of-newt only where requested), sandwiches, and pastries appeared in the center of each table. The guests were delighted. Everything was the picture of elegance. The milk jugs and sugar dishes bustled around the tables dispensing their contents.
Neville made the rounds answering questions about the magical herbs and plants. He was entirely in his element, and everyone was charmed with him.
Draco found himself trying to intervene in conversations as some of the (mostly older) guests began to make vaguely anti-Muggle comments without realizing that they were doing it. He changed the subject when Zora Zabini proclaimed that the server Emma was “such a well-spoken Muggle-born.”
Not a minute later, Draco nearly sent a silencing spell at Pansy’s father, who was responding to Bill Weasley’s discussion about a recent instance of anti-Werewolf crime with a rant about “Werewolf-on-Werewolf crime.” Draco was spared the need to manage that situation when Pansy hooked her arm around her father’s and turned him away with an apologetic look at Bill.
McGonagall told Draco that she hadn’t tasted such lovely eye-of-newt scones since the early 80s, and a number of people at her table concurred. The younger crowd in the vicinity looked a bit nauseated, but managed to keep their mouths shut.
The first guest to show the effects of the magical infusions was Luna’s father, who seemed to be enjoying his alihotsy. He kept giggling every minute or so while listening to what appeared to be a very solemn story of Augusta Longbottom’s.
Neville came to stand next to Draco and whispered into his ear, “Zora Zabini's husband chose the Wiggentree and Moly infusion, which protects against dark forces. Think I should send some extra home with him?”
Draco chuckled softly and whispered back, “I don’t think we have enough in stock to do the trick, Oblong.” Neville laughed and made his way across the room to a beckoning Professor Sprout, who was beaming proudly like a parent at a child’s school graduation.
Draco’s eyes sought out Harry, who had chosen the Wizard’s Afternoon, the wormwood tea. Harry seemed to be acquiring quite a taste for wormwood. He seemed cheery and looked up at Draco. When Harry caught Draco’s eye, he winked. Harry Potter winked at him. Draco couldn’t help but grin back.
His attention was stolen away quickly, though, by Blaise, who was talking about Greg Goyle’s new baby son. Greg had married a Muggle woman and lived in a Muggle area of Manchester. Blaise was relating the news of their new arrival to Hermione and Ron. “Of course,” he said with a superior smirk on his beautiful face, “they named him Jack.” Oh, Merlin.
Hermione looked like she was about to chip a tooth, with the way she was holding her jaw. “And what, exactly, is wrong with the name Jack? I think it’s a lovely name.”
“Well, just that it’s the most common Mug—”
Blaise couldn’t finish his sentence, because Draco sent a Stinging Hex at his leg. He looked up, affronted, and Draco shot him a look that only one of his oldest friends would be able to read. His face was nearly blank, but he knew that Blaise would see a warning there.
“It is a name that is only common because it is such a good, strong name,” Draco said, coming up and putting an arm around Hermione’s shoulders. “How is the tea? Which are you drinking today?”
Hermione shot one last look at Blaise before she turned to Draco and gushed about the brilliance of the mandrake bark infusion. Over her shoulder, Blaise gave Draco a slight repentant shrug. Draco inwardly rolled his eyes. Blaise and Pansy’s first child would probably have a name that made even a moniker like Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore seem helplessly Muggle.
The next hour was a bustle of chaotic activity; mostly he got to hear the guests gush about how long it had been since they’d last enjoyed a magical tea and how nice it was to see the young people coming together post-war. Draco, valiantly, managed not to roll his eyes upon hearing the word “post-war.”
At one point, Pansy stood up and waltzed over to Draco. She hooked her arm in his elbow and whispered, “Darling, why haven’t you yet made a move on our resident Saviour? He’s been making eyes at you all afternoon.”
“I am working,” Draco hissed, with a smile on his face.
“I am merely saying,” Pansy said, smiling sweetly, “that it is important to me to know that my best friend is happy, and therefore it is important to me to know that you are well-shagged.”
Draco tried to get out of her grasp, but Pansy was amazingly talented at deflecting being shaken off of his arm.
He sighed. “Look, I’m going to do it. I’m setting the stage. I’ve been very busy with all of this and can’t really deal with the possibility of rejection on top of all the rest of it.”
She fixed him with a look. “You won’t be rejected, dear. You’ve been busy, but I can tell you that Potter has been staring at you like you’re an Aguamenti in a desert, especially since you shot that Stinging Hex at Blaise.”
“I’ll have to send Stinging Hexes at Blaise more often,” Draco said, smiling, and finally shook her off.
“I’m serious, Draco,” she said, as she started to walk back to her seat.
“I’m on it, mother,” Draco replied, keeping his face perfectly respectable. She pulled a face.
The Minister of Magic stood up and the room became obligingly quiet. “It is so lovely to see you all here today,” his deep voice boomed. “Slytherins sitting with Hufflepuffs,” he gestured, “Ravenclaws with Gryffindors. Our post-war society has come a long way in these last three years, and we are honored to be here today to witness this next step. I extend my sincere congratulations and appreciation to Mr Longbottom, Ms Lovegood, and Mr Malfoy. May the tradition of magical tea prosper for many years to come.”
Draco was getting so good at resisting the impulse to roll his eyes or vomit upon hearing the word “post-war” that he thought he should write it on his CV under “skills and qualifications”—“Well versed in stoically suffering the word ‘post-war,’” it’d say. Of course, Draco had never had a CV. Always remember what the Malfoy name means, inner Lucius drawled.
The guests clapped politely and took their last sips of teas. When the Minister and his wife stood to leave, the rest of the guests followed, queuing at the door to retrieve their wands and shaking hands with Draco, Neville, and Luna as they went. Pansy and Blaise each kissed Draco on the cheek and instructed him to come to Rome at his earliest convenience. Narcissa embraced him and told him how proud she was. Augusta Longbottom shook his hand firmly and clapped him on the shoulder. Professor McGonagall fixed him with an amused eye and wished him the best of luck.
Soon, all of the guests except Harry had filed out the door. Draco sighed and flopped down in one of the chairs.
“That went well!” Neville said merrily.
“Perfectly!” Luna responded. With a flick of her wand, Luna turned on the Muggle radio station. She and Neville began to dance around in celebration.
(“Looking back on when we first met, I cannot escape and I cannot forget, Baby, you're the one.”)
Harry sat down next to Draco. “Congratulations,” Harry beamed, “the opening was fantastic. You should’ve heard how much all of the guests were gushing. Everything was delicious. The old pureblood witches and wizards were patiently explaining the traditions to the young people and Muggle-borns! It was amazing! I saw Amos Diggory and Mr Ollivander reciting a magical tea poem, of all things.”
Draco smiled and sighed. “I didn’t even get to talk with everyone. It went by so quickly.”
“You were very welcoming. I’m sure no one felt slighted.” Harry smiled such a warm smile that Draco felt his chest constrict.
Draco thought of Pansy, and took a deep breath. “Hey, Potter. Want to go to the cinema tomorrow? No primates this time.”
(“You still turn me on, You can make me whole again.”)
Harry looked surprised, but—pleased? “Um, okay? I mean, yes. Yes.”
“Do you want to get dinner first?”
“Alright then,” Draco smiled, “I’ll pick you up at seven.” He stood up and walked into the kitchen to clean up, knowing that Harry was watching his back as he left.
The next evening, Draco stood in front of the mirror in his flat. He was wearing the Slytherin t-shirt Harry had Transfigured for him earlier that summer. He had cast a few stabilizing spells at it since then to make sure it didn’t revert back to its original form. He had on a pair of dark jeans and a pair of Muggle trainers. They were black slip-ons, something the salesperson in the store called “Vans” for something called “skateboarding.” Whatever, they were Muggle trainers, and he was sure if he could do anything to shock Harry, it would be to show up in these. They looked good with the jeans and shirt, too.
He drew the line at messing with his hair. His hair looked like it always did, falling loose across his forehead.
The mirror snorted. “You look like a Muggle, dear.”
“Yes, thanks,” Draco scowled. He hated this mouthy mirror. “That was my intention.”
Draco scrunched up his face, inspecting himself. It will never do to look like the rabble, darling, his mother’s voice sounded in his head. The truth was that he would be more comfortable in posh wizarding clothes, or even fancy Muggle clothes and shiny oxfords. But that wouldn’t do for going to the cinema with Harry. And he was only 21. Young! Alive! Not killed by that no-nosed bastard! He was going to act like it.
He grabbed his Muggle wallet and wand and Apparated to Harry’s door. This was monumentally stupid of him, wasn’t it? Harry sodding Potter. He couldn’t really think he could date Potter. Uncertainty washed over him in an enormous wave. But he thought of Pansy, and Luna, and even Neville, encouraging him. He thought of Harry’s bright laugh and willingness to spend time with Draco, even when they weren’t at the shop. Of Harry’s loneliness.
He hadn’t thought anyone else from their Hogwarts cohort could be as lonely as he was, but it was clear that he had been wrong.
Get on with it, you absolute arse, he heard Blaise’s voice in his head. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath to force down the panic rising in his chest.
Harry threw open the door, a big smile on his face. His smile faltered into something like shock as he took in Draco’s appearance.
“Is that the shirt I Transfigured? It didn’t turn back? And are those Vans?”
Draco raised an imperious eyebrow and gave Harry a small smirk. “I’m dressed like a Muggle. Did I do a poor job?” He loved that he managed to set Harry so unbalanced with a t-shirt and a pair of Vans. He knew he looked insanely fit—for one whose kink was casual Muggle, anyway. Let no one say Draco didn’t know how to play to his audience. Though he suspected Harry liked him in his posh wizard attire, too. Next time.
“Hey, Draco?” Harry looked suddenly uncertain, anxious.
“Is this a date? I just,” Harry started, his Brave Gryffindor face on. “I just need to know, I mean, either way.”
“Oh, Potter.” Draco let loose a truly devious smirk and let his eyes drag down Harry’s body. “This is most definitely a date.”
Harry swallowed, and his smile returned. He was wearing a black button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, revealing golden forearms. A pair of tailored jeans. A pair of black oxfords. Interesting. It looked like they’d inadvertently dressed more like each other. It had worked, though, if Harry was trying to show off his assets in a manner that Draco would respond to. He looked amazing. Then again, Draco thought, he’d think Harry looked amazing wearing a Chudley Cannons sweatshirt and ripped cargo shorts. Merlin forbid.
“So,” Harry said, his eyes crinkled with happiness, “we have to go see this movie called Glitter. It’s supposed to be terrible.”
“So why do we need to go see it?”
“Oh, terrible movies are incredible. We can make fun of it for weeks. Remind me to show you Troll 2; I have the VHS.”
“Shouldn’t you show me the first Troll movie first?”
Harry, inexplicably, gave a devilish smile. “I don’t think I want to explain it in advance; I just want to experience watching it with you.”
“You’ll have to trust me. You will be so entertained—I can’t wait to listen to you rant about it. Hopefully Glitter will be half as bad.”
“You are a strange hippogriff,” Draco said with a half smile.
Harry only grinned. “So where are we going to eat?”
Draco shrugged. “You can choose.” Oh, Merlin. If Pansy and Blaise could see him now; he never let them choose.
Harry’s face was taken over by a devious smirk. “Anywhere?”
It was a challenge. Circe knew Draco wasn’t going to back down. “Anywhere I can wear these clothes.”
“Muggle Curry house.” Harry raised his eyebrows, testing to see if Draco would react.
“Great. I love curry,” Draco replied. It wasn’t even a lie. His mother had started having the manor house-elves prepare curry after a trip to the magical area of Jaipur. Lucius had hated it. But damned if he was going to let Potter know that he had never actually been to a Muggle curry house. Not now that they’d started this amusing game of seeing how ridiculously Muggle they could get without complaining about it. “Lead the way.”
Draco honestly wasn’t sure how far he’d take the game of seeing how blasé he could be about Muggle shite. Curry house, sure. Cargo shorts, definitely not. The line was somewhere in between; he just wasn’t sure exactly where it was.
“There’s a curry house near the cinema up a few streets,” Harry said. “What’s your favorite kind of curry?” he asked, all faux innocence, clearly thinking he could discover that Draco didn’t really know anything about curry. Harry was not used to dealing with Slytherins.
Draco allowed his face to go blank. “Um, well. I’m no expert in curries,” he said.
Harry started to get a look of triumph on his face, but as soon as it started to appear, Draco continued, “But my favorite is aloo gobi. Then again, it’s hard to beat a well-prepared butter chicken, too. And I must have chutneys.”
Harry raised his eyebrows. “How do you know so much about curry? Please tell me Narcissa goes to Muggle curry houses!”
“Potter, I’ll never tell. And you’d better get over the idea that you can one-up me, even on Muggle matters. Look at my shoes, after all.”
Harry burst out laughing. Draco held his posh act, raising a pale eyebrow, causing Harry to laugh even harder.
“Here it is,” Harry smiled, opening the door.
The place was a hole in the wall, but it smelled amazing. The waiter brought out pappadum and chutney and left them with menus.
“Let me ask you something, Chosen One,” Draco said, trying to keep his face dead serious. It didn’t seem to be working, because Harry was already giving him a look that was half smile, half exasperation. “How spicy do you like your curry?”
“Oh no. You’re not goading me into a spice contest. I like it medium and you will not trick me into ordering anything hotter.”
Damn, Draco thought. He was sure to win that challenge; he knew charms for both making a dish more mild and calming down over-spiced taste buds. In truth, he liked a mild curry, but no one need ever know that.
“Fine,” Draco sighed dramatically. “And here I was thinking that you always rise to a challenge.”
“It’s not going to work,” Harry smiled placidly.
“Hey, do you think these Muggles grind their spices properly? The preground spices in bottles are absolute rubbish.”
“And how do you deal with your spices, put them in a diamond-bladed grinder or something?”
“No, you git. A mortar and pestle. Anything else messes up the essence of the spices. It’s just like the Muggles using the herbal teas but extracting like ten percent of the therapeutic value of them.”
Harry tilted his head. “You mean there are magical spices?”
Draco smiled, “Oh, you didn’t know that? Pathetic, Potter.” He tried to reach for the tone of disdain that had once been his standard with Potter, but he didn’t think he quite managed. “Most spices have magical components, especially if grown and handled by wizards. The stuff you buy preground in the Muggle markets has no magical properties, for sure. Not to mention the insipid taste.”
Harry looked amused. Draco was fairly certain that Harry was entertained by Draco’s rants. Which, honestly, was a prerequisite for dating Draco, because it could never work otherwise. He remembered his ill-fated “relationship,” if one could call it that, with Anthony Goldstein during fifth year. Anthony had turned annoyed and stony any time Draco started ranting. That had lasted about a week.
The waiter came to the table. Harry ordered saag paneer (medium); Draco ordered fish masala karahi (spicy). The waiter filled their water glasses and left.
“So,” Harry said, “where do you get your curry spices, then?” He was smiling. Merlin, his smile.
“The Manor elves make really good curry. My mother sent one of them to a wizarding family in Jaipur to learn after she fell in love with the food on a visit there. Lucius hated it, which I suspect was part of mother’s motivation for making it, and probably part of my insistence on loving it.” Draco smiled. “At my place, I grind whole spices with a mortar and pestle. I wish I could get magically grown spices, though. If Moldova’s goes well, we should expand into magical spices. Neville would love that.”
Harry was looking at him like he was a fascinating creature.
“What?” Draco said, smiling.
“Yes, Potter, what do you think, I sit around eating cheese toast all day?”
Harry put on a serious face and nodded. “Yes, Malfoy, that’s exactly what I was thinking.”
Draco smiled. “Do you cook?”
“Yeah, I like to cook,” Harry said around a mouthful of pappadum, “But I have to admit I have supermarket spice blend at my place.”
“Where’d you learn to cook? Weasley’s mom?”
Harry looked up. His mouth twisted down and he sighed. “The Muggles I grew up with—my mom’s sister and husband—used to make me cook for them. Though they didn’t like curry, so I suppose that’s why I prefer making it over the traditional British stuff they made me cook.” He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
Draco felt his stomach clench, but now was not the time to ask. “So my chances of getting you to make me a steak and kidney pie…” Draco trailed off, a grin on his face.
“Depends,” Harry said, mischievous, “what’s in it for me?”
Oh, Merlin. Oh, Salazar. Flirting Harry was good—excellent even—but they still had to go to the movies. They were in a Muggle curry house, where Draco couldn’t even properly respond to the flirting. Draco was sure his cheeks were on fire. He swallowed.
“That, Potter, remains to be seen.”
Harry looked him straight in the eye. “Come over for dinner sometime. I’ll cook aloo gobi for you.” The look on his face was not teasing, or even flirty, anymore. It was…earnest? Interested? A tiny bit apprehensive?
Draco smiled, and Harry’s face relaxed a bit. “Sure. But only if I can bring you a mortar and pestle.”
Harry leaned forward, a grin on his face, forearms crossed on the table. “Deal.”
The waiter approached the table, breaking their attention away from each other. He set the dishes in the middle of the table.
“Want to split these?” Harry asked, looking supremely comfortable. Draco couldn’t believe Harry was comfortable sitting here with him at a Muggle restaurant, flirting, and asking to share their dishes.
“Merlin, yes. Yours looks amazing.”
Harry obligingly placed a few spoons of saag on Draco’s plate and helped himself to Draco’s fish.
It all felt so easy. “Potter.”
Harry looked up, his mouth around a forkful of saag and rice.
“Why does this feel so easy? Shouldn’t it be hard?”
Harry tipped his head to the side, shrugged. “We already know everything bad about each other? You convinced me you don’t hate Muggles, you’ve been amazing with Neville and Luna and the tea shop? Why should it be hard?”
Draco let out a large blast of air and leaned forward on his elbows. “I was such an arse to you, even if you ignore the war. And you were an arrogant, above-the-rules arsehole.”
Harry shrugged. “Well, yeah. We were shits when we were literally fourteen. Who wasn’t? Actually, don’t answer that. I know a lot of people who weren’t shits when they were fourteen, but we were. Maybe that’s why it feels easy, because we were shits.”
“That makes less sense even than what usually comes out of your mouth.”
Harry smiled. “No, I just mean…we don’t have to pretend we weren’t. We’re not like that now, obviously. We’ve grown up. But all that’s just…there. I really don’t care you were an arrogant, posh arse at fourteen. And turns out, I think I like posh arseholes.” Harry flashed a devious grin.
Draco finished chewing, and smiled. “Maybe I like it, too. Merlin, but we’re fucked up, aren’t we?”
Harry laughed. “Maybe that’s the other answer. We’re both seriously fucked up. We spent our formative years being horribly used as pawns by adults.” Harry shrugged, his face looking a bit sad. “I get that about you. Other people…sometimes can’t, even if they try.”
“Are we talking about Lennox fucking Campbell again?”
Harry laughed. “No! Well, maybe a bit, but I wasn’t thinking of him in particular.”
Draco picked at his food in a way that surely would have resulted in a rebuke from his parents, but fuck it, Harry didn’t care about his table manners. “I know what you mean. I…tried to date. Once, after the war. It was…” He paused and tried not to shudder. “It was terrible. I told Pansy I was taking a vow of lifelong celibacy. She told me not to make the vow magically binding.”
Harry laughed, then sighed. “I tried to date a Muggle.”
Draco wanted to let out a bark of laughter at the idea of Harry—insanely magically powerful Harry, hero of the entire wizarding world—dating a Muggle, but he knew that Harry was sensitive about his feelings on Muggles, so he forced himself to be circumspect. “How’d that go?”
“It was a total disaster. She couldn’t understand a single thing about my life. Not about what I do, or how I grew up, or the context of any of the trauma I’d experienced. I would explain one thing, and then one minute later it would be another. She didn’t understand my fame, which I loved, but she couldn’t understand why I acted certain ways because of it. I swear, Draco, I could’ve spent a lifetime trying to explain myself and she still wouldn’t have understood in the least.”
Draco grinned. “So what you’re saying,” he paused dramatically, “is that the cultural disconnect between Muggles and wizards can be a strain on relationships, and that you can’t imagine having a relationship with a Muggle that would work out.”
“That sounds,” Draco said, wiping the corner of his mouth haughtily, “like something an anti-Muggle bigot would say, Mr Potter.”
Harry dropped his head into his hands and groaned. “I know. I know! I’ve felt awful about it for years.”
“Harry.” Draco reached across the curries and touched Harry’s arm. Harry looked up, his face contorted in self-hatred.
“That’s not bigotry. It’s just the reality of the human condition. You can’t be in a relationship with someone who can’t understand you.”
“But all these wizards I know who have married Muggles! How do they do it? Are they more tolerant than I am?”
“No, you git. They’ve had easier lives, probably, so they’re easier for partners to understand. Or, like my Aunt Andromeda, they had a distaste for our world and wanted to run as far away from it as possible. I can see how a Muggle could understand that well enough—a crazy, controlling family and culture that she hated and ran from. It’s a lot more complicated with you, or with me.”
“I suppose,” Harry said, still clearly bothered by his perceived bias. “Honestly, I don’t think I could even date a wizard from, like, America. They couldn’t really understand the context of the war and what it meant for me, and what I meant to everyone here. That would all be really comforting in some ways, but then something would happen and I would just feel alone.”
“Yeah,” Draco said. He took a bite of fish. It was true—it was hard to imagine an American or Muggle who could come to understand the horror that Harry or Draco had been through, what their families meant to the wars, the sacrifices they’d made.
“Hey,” Draco said, wanting to cheer Harry up. “Don’t be a prat and worry about your relationship prospects when you’re on a date with me.”
Harry smiled at that. “I am, aren’t I? How did that happen, exactly?”
“My irresistible charm. You haven’t been able to take your eyes off me since first year.”
Draco was being intentionally ridiculous, hoping to cheer Harry up with a show of pomposity, but Harry’s cheeks reddened. Interesting. Maybe he had hit the Erumpent on the horn. Salazar knew he hadn’t ever been able to take his eyes off Potter back then, even when it was in pure jealous anger and not in sexual desire.
A shout, and Draco’s head snapped up, hand on his wand. Harry had just taken a bite of Draco’s fish curry—his first bite, apparently, because he was fanning his mouth, his face was red, and his eyes were watering.
Draco’s mouth gaped open. He couldn’t help but laugh. “A little too spicy for you, there, Potter?”
“You are insane! I am going to die! How are you not dying?” Sweat beaded on Harry’s forehead.
Draco subtly drew his wand and cast the charm to cool off Harry’s mouth, then the charm to neutralise the capsaicin on Harry’s plate.
Harry stared at Draco, lips pursed. Draco stared back.
“Oh, okay,” Draco sighed, “I admit it. I ordered the super spicy one because I knew I could charm it mild.”
“You wanted to impress me with your manly spice tolerance.” Harry’s mouth quirked up, his eyes dancing.
“No. No. I was merely being competitive about the challenge I tried to get you to accept.”
Harry leaned forward, his face coming across the table. “You wanted,” he said, then paused and grinned, “to impress me with your manly spice tolerance.”
“I wanted to win a challenge, Potter, that’s all. Don’t get carried away.” Draco sat up straight and tried to level Potter with an imperious look. He picked up his water glass and took a sip.
Harry was still smiling. “For the record, Draco, I’m already pretty convinced of your masculinity, and if you wanted to prove your manliness to me, there are better ways than spice tolerance.”
Draco choked on his water. Actually choked. Bloody hell, was Potter trying to kill him? Pansy was going to be apoplectic when she heard this. She might actually pay him for a Pensieve memory of the incident.
Harry looked amused. “Alright there, Malfoy? Do you need me to cast Anapneo?”
By the time the words were out of Harry’s mouth, Draco had already cast it on himself. “You dirty cheat. You’re trying to kill me. With your…wiles.”
Harry leaned back, a terrible smirk on his face. He raised his hands, palms up.
“I’m going to get you back, Potter,” Draco smiled, “When you least expect it.”
“I look forward to that. Your threats have lost some of their sting since we were younger, you realise. The stakes don’t seem so bad.”
The waiter appeared with the check.
“I wish we were at a wizarding restaurant so we could Floo the leftovers home before we go to the theater,” Harry observed, after Draco sent the waiter away with Muggle money.
“We could Apparate back if you want.”
“Nah, forget it.” Harry smiled. “I don’t want to miss a second of this terrible movie. Do you know who Mariah Carey is?”
“No.” They walked outside and toward the cinema.
“Kind of like a younger Celestina Warbeck. She’s a superstar pop singer. She’s in the movie.”
“She’s an actor?”
“No…I think maybe that’s part of the problem?”
Draco laughed and shook his head. “Can you imagine if wizards made films? I can’t even imagine the insane things they’d come up with.” He glanced over at Harry. Harry looked happy, really happy, for once. Draco’s stomach clenched at the idea that maybe he’d been a part of that. He remembered, all too well, the many years Harry had worn a sneer whenever Draco was nearby.
Harry laughed. “No, I honestly can’t imagine. If we ever get bored in life, we can do it. How about a dramatisation of the Hogwarts founding? Or a fictional triwizard tournament? A Quidditch sports saga?”
“Or a remake of any wizard novel. Really, we’d make enough Galleons to satisfy a family of nifflers.”
“I don’t really know any wizard novels,” Harry said. “You’ll have to loan me some.”
“Sure. Mother will start a book club with you if she hears you want to read wizard literature. She’s constantly on my back to read more.”
Harry gave Draco an inscrutable look.
“I mean,” Draco said carefully, “if you want. I know my family doesn’t have the best…connotations for you.”
“That’s in the past, yeah? I’d like to see your mum again. She saved my life, after all.”
Draco smiled slowly.
“Plus,” Harry continued, “If you’re going to take me on dates and stuff, you can’t keep me from your mother forever.”
“And stuff,” Draco leered.
They arrived at the cinema. Harry bought the tickets and led the way to the theater. Draco sat down next to Harry and was immediately annoyed, again, by the armrest. He pulled his wand and Vanished it.
Harry’s mouth dropped open, but his eyes twinkled. Draco sometimes forgot how much Harry liked to break the rules. Harry’s penchant for breaking the rules was probably the reason they were both alive at the moment.
“Wanted to be closer to me, there, Malfoy?” Harry smirked, but settled comfortably into the space the armrest had vacated.
“That blasted thing bothered me the entire ape movie.”
Harry laughed. Draco stretched his long legs in front of him, under the seat in the row ahead. His arm, shoulder, and thigh pressed up against Harry’s. Harry was warm through his clothes.
Harry leaned his mouth close to Draco’s ear. “Muggle teenagers are snogging behind us.”
Draco could feel Harry’s warm breath on his neck. This movie was going to be torture. He raised his eyebrow and subtly looked behind them, pretending to scan the theater for someone. He saw two kids who looked no older than sixteen with their tongues down each other’s throats. He turned back around.
“Merlin,” Draco whispered back, “Think they’ll keep their trousers on?”
Harry snickered. “I wish I’d been doing that when I was their age.”
Draco was about to tell him that it wasn’t too late, but just then the lights turned off, the sound blared on, and he lost his nerve. Instead, he reached over and grabbed Harry’s hand. Harry twined their fingers together and squeezed. His hand was warm, his fingers shorter than Draco’s. Draco could feel the faint thrum of magic through Harry’s fingers.
Harry was looking at their hands, too. He looked up suddenly at Draco’s face, illuminated in the light of the previews on the screen. “You’re gorgeous,” Harry said with a smile.
Draco couldn’t help but smile back at him. “It’s just the t-shirt and the Vans. And you’re not so bad yourself, Potter.”
The movie started, and Draco welcomed the distraction. This whole thing with Harry was overwhelming. It was surreal, really, and exhilarating, and Draco was the happiest he’d been in years. But at the same time it felt so tenuous, like he couldn’t believe that it wasn’t about to come crashing down somehow. He needed a break from Harry’s intense green eyes and his compliments and flirting.
Draco concentrated on the movie. Oh, Salazar and Circe, it was awful. It made very little sense. Harry kept snickering next to him; at one point Harry actually snorted. Draco sent him a severe look that shut him up.
At some point Harry dropped Draco’s hand, and a minute later put his hand on Draco’s knee. Was Harry intentionally trying to distract him? Did he want Draco half-hard in the middle of a Muggle movie theater? That prat probably was doing it intentionally.
Well, two could play at that game.
Draco shrugged off Harry’s hand by crossing his legs, then put his own hand on Harry’s thigh, really much too close to Harry’s inner thigh to even feign propriety. Harry hissed in a breath of air and whispered, “Draco, you better stop right now if you want to see the end of this movie.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Potter. And you started it.”
Harry batted Draco’s hand away. Draco retaliated by grabbing Harry’s hand again. Merlin, but he wanted to keep touching Harry. It was better than alihotsy infusion for a shot of pure joy straight to the nervous system.
When the lights came back up at the end of the movie, Harry turned towards him. His green eyes sparkled. “Want to come back to mine?”
Draco leaned forward and smirked. “Whatever gave you that idea, Potter?”
Harry stood and pulled Draco up with him. “God, you’re an awful cocktease.”
“Only a tease if I wasn’t intending on following through with it, really.”
That seemed to break Harry. Harry glanced around at the nearly empty theater; there were a few people walking towards the door. He flashed Draco an almost predatory grin, wrapped his arm around Draco’s waist (Merlin) and without any warning, Draco felt the pull of Apparition.
They landed in Harry’s bedroom. Salazar, but Harry knew exactly how to turn Draco on. As soon as Draco stopped wobbling, he turned and grabbed Harry’s shoulders, pulling him in for a kiss. Harry pushed his whole body up against Draco’s and opened his mouth, letting Draco lick his tongue inside. Harry tasted like Muggle movie-theater candy. Draco pushed back against him, stumbling him into the wall.
Draco’s body was on fire. He had expected desire and lust and physical arousal. He had expected heat and intensity. What he hadn’t expected was a feeling of rightness. Of belonging. He hadn’t expected his magic to crackle in contact with Harry’s, surrounding them both in a haze of magical energy that lit his every nerve.
Harry groaned and pressed his lips to Draco’s jaw. “Gods, I’ve wanted to do this for so long.”
“Mmmm. Less talking, more doing,” Draco breathed, capturing Harry’s lips again with his own. Harry rolled his hips up towards Draco’s and, Salazar, that felt good. Draco hummed against Harry’s mouth. Their hard cocks pressed together through their jeans—Draco sent up a small thanks to Pansy for not allowing him to take his vow of celibacy too seriously.
“I can’t believe you’re wearing fucking Vans,” Harry said breathlessly.
Draco laughed. “I thought you’d like that.”
“Can I touch you?” Harry asked.
“Merlin, yes. You sound like a wet dream.”
Harry laughed as he fumbled with Draco’s jeans. “You look like a wet dream.”
Draco moaned as Harry got his trousers open and grasped his cock. Draco reached between Harry and the wall and groped Harry’s gorgeous arse. Harry seemed to like that, and moved his mouth down to Draco’s neck, his stubble scratching against Draco’s skin, setting Draco’s nerves even more alight.
Draco spared a lust-addled thought to consider the incredible impossibility of this—standing in Potter’s bedroom, his body on fire with Harry, his tongue in Harry’s mouth, Harry’s hand stroking him. The thought of it sent a jolt of desire into the pit of his stomach. How had they gotten here? Somehow it felt overwhelmingly right.
Harry was stroking Draco with more intent now, and sucking on his neck in a way that was sure to leave a mark. The feel of Harry’s firm chest against his, and Harry’s arse beneath his hands, and Draco couldn’t hold back the force of his orgasm. He moaned as he came in Harry’s hand, all over their jeans. Harry grinned against Draco’s neck.
“You look…Christ, Draco.”
Draco took a breath, calming his heart rate. He couldn’t even bother to be embarrassed that he’d lasted about one minute since they Apparated into the room. He looked at Harry, reached down to unfasten his jeans, and said, “I want to taste you. Can I do that? I want you to come down my throat. Can you do that?”
Harry groaned and looked like he was going to come right there, throat or no throat. “God, yes.”
Draco dropped to his knees and tugged Harry’s trousers and pants down, freeing his cock. Draco wrapped his fingers around the base and looked up at Harry’s face. Harry looked thoroughly debauched, his hair wild, his head back on the wall.
“You going to keep being a cocktease, Malf—” Harry’s words turned into a moan as Draco wrapped his mouth around Harry’s beautiful cock. He slid his mouth towards Harry’s body, taking in more, pushing his nose into Harry’s dark hair and breathing in a scent that was overwhelmingly Harry. Draco really had no idea what he was doing with this, it wasn’t as if he had done this more than a time or two, but Harry seemed to be enjoying it.
Draco had been so sure that Harry was uninterested in him—could never be interested in him. Even when Luna, and Neville, and Pansy had assured him that Harry was interested, he had never really believed them. He heard their words, he even changed his actions accordingly, but he had never believed it. Now it was clear that Harry was as far gone as Draco was, and Merlin, if anything in the world was a turn on, it was Harry, completely wrecked, trembling under Draco’s mouth.
Draco pressed his tongue firmly onto the underside of Harry’s cock, and Harry grabbed Draco’s hair and came with a shout and a tug on Draco’s hair.
Harry looked down as Draco swallowed and licked him clean. “Fuck,” Harry said, and slid down the wall to a seat next to Draco. He wrapped his arm around Draco’s shoulder, Draco’s head coming to a rest on Harry’s chest.
“We didn’t make it to the bed,” Draco observed.
Harry, still breathing heavily, turned to look at him and cast a wandless cleaning charm. “At least we made it out of the theater,” Harry laughed breathlessly. “Give me ten minutes and we’ll go again.”
Draco smiled. “I knew I liked you, Potter.” Draco leaned forward and kissed him, rough and possessive.
Draco woke up, disoriented, to sun shining through a window. He wasn’t in his flat. He was naked. He was being hugged, tightly, from behind, by an also very naked Harry Potter. He couldn’t help the smile that pulled at his lips.
He pressed his hips back into Harry. Harry stirred and pulled Draco even closer. Draco could feel Harry smiling against the back of his neck. “G’morning,” Harry mumbled.
Draco turned around. “Morning,” he said. “This is a good way to wake up.” Draco reached a hand to stroke Harry’s broad, golden back. Salazar, but Harry was gorgeous. Draco could look at him all day.
“Mmmm,” Harry agreed, and pressed his lips to Draco’s. “It’s opening day.”
Draco grabbed his wand off the bed table and cast a Tempus. “Yeah.” He smiled. “I need to be at Moldova’s in an hour and a half.”
Harry raked his fingers through Draco’s hair, causing tingles to erupt all over Draco’s skin. “Mmm, keep doing that,” Draco slurred.
Harry chuckled. “So we have time for a shower and breakfast.”
Draco cracked open one eye. “Shower, eh?”
“Definitely,” Harry replied, “In a minute though. I don’t want to get up yet.”
“We got so distracted last night we never even discussed that awful, terrible movie,” Draco recalled.
Harry smiled, blinking open his eyes. “Oh, Merlin, it was so bad. Worse than I expected, even.”
“It was syrupy enough to kill anyone who suffers from diabetes,” Draco drawled.
“What was with the insane gaping void of chemistry between the main lovebirds?” Harry was laughing now.
“Mhmm,” Draco agreed, still nuzzling his head into Harry’s fingers.
Harry continued, “It was a bland, soulless procession of clichés.”
“Yes. It was outrageously bad. It was fun. Let’s go see another movie soon,” Draco said. “So we can make fun of it, of course.”
Harry smiled. “Okay. But first, shower.”
The shower took much longer than it should’ve, but was commensurately more pleasurable. Draco wondered if it was a positive linear relationship, length of time in the shower with Harry on the x axis, pleasure on the y. Probably.
They dressed (Draco borrowing some of Harry’s nicer clothes that would do under his Moldova’s robes) and wandered to the kitchen to cook some breakfast. Harry flipped on the radio to the Muggle station they’d been listening to all summer and fried bacon and eggs. Draco made a pot of Neville’s Wizengamot’s Breakfast tea. (No exogenous cheer was required this morning, Draco figured, so no need for wormwood or alihotsy. But the ability to breathe a little easier from the gillyweed would be helpful for the jitters of opening day.)
“Are you nervous?” Harry asked a few minutes later around a mouth of bacon. The radio was playing guitar with some guys yelling, “I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby.”
“Not really,” Draco answered, considering. “I’m a little worried about our servers. I wish we’d had more time to train them, but they did okay at the soft opening. I need to make sure they understand the proper way to send orders to the kitchen. They weren’t quite getting the wand movements right. And Neville might need some reassurance this morning. He seems to get a little nervous, though he always seems to work through it. He is a Gryffindor, after all.”
Harry nodded. “Nev will be okay. He gets nervous before things, but then he’s always fine.”
“I’m not worried about Luna.”
“Luna’s pretty amazing, isn’t she?” Harry smiled. “You know, Luna was my date to everything before she and Nev got together. The only bad thing about their relationship is that I lost my default friend date.”
“Luna’s perfect,” Draco agreed. Then he lifted his foot to nudge Harry’s knee under the table. “I’ll be your default date.”
Harry looked up at him, a smile on his face. “Yeah? Good. You’d better.”
Draco laughed. “The Prophet is going to have a field day with this, you realise.”
“Merlin, yes,” Harry smirked. “We need to come up with a plan—the most outrageous way possible we can break our relationship to the wizarding world. It can’t be subtle. We’re going to need to think on it.”
“Maybe we can get George to make some fireworks that spell out ‘THE CHOSEN ONE IS BI AND DATING EX-DEATH EATER.’”
Harry laughed a warm, easy laugh. “I’m never going to get them to understand that I’m not gay now. Maybe I should just give up.”
“Eh, labels aren’t important. Unless it’s a Hogwarts house label. In that case, very important.”
“You’re going to be late if you don’t go, you Slytherin prat.”
Draco glanced up at Harry’s Tempus. Damn, he really did need to go. He stood.
The song on the radio switched. It was Gorillaz again.
“Hey,” Harry said, “come over after closing. I’ll make you that aloo gobi. You can drink wine and bitch about the opening while I cook. But you have to do the pestling.”
Draco’s stomach clenched. This scene he was looking at—Harry, over tea and breakfast, talking about cooking him dinner and listening to his rants—was all he wanted and had thought he could never have. Harry paying attention to him, laughing and open, challenging him, not intimidated by his antics (or histrionics, inner-Lucius pointed out), someone who would just roll his eyes and snark back. Harry, with green eyes that pierced into Draco’s soul and made him feel like every other person he’d ever looked at had been in grayscale while Harry was in vivid colour, like everyone else was haziness and Harry was perfect clarity. It felt like his entire life had been a story of Draco revolving around Harry, spiraling closer and closer until this moment.
Draco opened his mouth, then closed it again. He smiled. “Yes, let’s do that. I have to run.”
“Go,” Harry said, “I’ll be in later to help. Floo me if you need me to do anything or pick something up before I come in.”
Draco smiled, took two long strides over to Harry, leaned down and kissed him hard. “See you later.”
(“I ain’t happy, I’m feeling glad, I got sunshine in a bag, I’m useless but not for long.”)
“Bye,” Harry said, and snuck his fingers up to quickly pinch Draco’s nipple. Draco yelped and smacked him on the head.
Harry just smiled.
Draco turned and walked to the Floo as Harry turned up the volume on the radio.
(“The future is coming on, it’s coming on, it’s coming on.”)