Prompt #1 - a very long scarf
First of December – Some Things Never Change
“Oh, the weather outside is frightful,” Harry sings to himself as he crawls into the dusty cupboard in search of the box of decorations. “But the fire is so delightful...”
“Chance would be a fine thing,” Draco says, stepping over him on the way to the shop floor.
Inside the cupboard, Harry grins, then sneezes three times in quick succession and hits his head on the sloping ceiling.
“Bugger.” Gritting his teeth, he wraps his fingers around the handles of the wooden box and withdraws from the cupboard, dragging the box out into the light. “No one said you couldn’t light a fire, Draco.”
Draco appears in the doorway that connects the shop to the staff area. He folds his arms and gazes mutinously down at Harry, who is now kneeling on the floor and rubbing his head.
“That’s not true. You said I couldn’t,” Draco says.
Harry looks up at him, exasperated. “I said I’d rather you didn’t light one yesterday afternoon when the shop was absolutely stuffed full of customers. I didn’t say you couldn’t light one ever again, and besides, the idea of me being able to tell you not to do anything is pretty ridiculous.”
Draco snorts. “I doubt today will be any quieter. There’s already a queue out the front.”
“Good job you’ve got your scarf, then, isn’t it?” Harry says, opting to stop poking at the sore spot on his head and scramble to his feet instead.
He levitates the box and floats it ahead of him into the shop, prodding Draco aside and flicking at his long, stripy scarf as he passes. A recent addition to his friend’s usually rather sombre wardrobe, Harry secretly thinks it makes Draco look like a cross between Doctor Who and Molly Weasley. Not that he’ll tell Draco that. He hasn’t a death wish, and besides, there’s something about watching Draco stalk around the shop with the bizarre, stripy garment whipping behind him that makes Harry smile.
“Leave my scarf out of it,” Draco says, flicking light into the lamps and brightening the early morning gloom. Harry watches for a moment as he walks around the shop floor, straightening stacks of broomstick lacquer and boxes of Bludgers, then turns back to his decorations with a smile.
He knows what’s coming and he waits for it as he withdraws a string of lights and begins to untangle it. It’s always the same at this time of year, ever since they took over the shop together and moved into the flat upstairs, and Harry began to impose his love of the festive season on his beleaguered colleague. The flat has yet to be decorated, but by the end of the evening it will be draped in lights and sparkles and little painted wooden creatures, and Draco will be pretending to sulk, but not trying very hard.
He won’t give in, of course, but Harry knows him too well these days. Their friendship is easy, based on surprisingly well-matched temperaments and a healthy respect for argument-for-the-sake-of-argument. They have had things out—it feels like centuries ago now—argued and accused and forgiven over drinks and broomsticks and the late-night curries that have now become an institution. Draco likes the sort of thing that makes Harry’s tongue burn and his eyes water, while Harry prefers to try whatever is new and different, gamely ordering ‘chef’s specials’ and relishing Draco’s cringes as he picks through the mysterious ingredients. When he’s not experimenting with curries, Harry tends to take over their shared kitchen, cooking up the traditional and the unusual with equal enthusiasm. Draco, while obsessively clean and tidy, doesn’t complain about the mess nearly as much as he used to, and Harry has to admit that it’s nice to have all of his pans and utensils washed and stacked away for him.
The flat, like the shop, is very large with big round windows and high ceilings, and provides plenty of space for two people who are used to one another’s company. Moving in had just made good sense—they are right in the middle of everything they could possibly require in Diagon Alley, and there is no need to set foot outside to reach the shop, something Harry is especially grateful for during the winter.
As Draco pulls up the shutters with a loud clatter, Harry gazes vaguely into the near-darkness of the street. It’s snowing again, and there are indeed people queuing outside. He opens his mouth to tell the miserable bugger to let them in but he is cut off.
“It’s too early for decorations.”
“Every... single... year,” Harry sighs. He picks up a glittery star and speaks into it: “Yes, this is officially Draco Malfoy’s seventh year of complaining about the Christmas decorations going up too early. I’ve been Harry Potter, at Quality Quidditch Supplies, Diagon Alley, London...”
“Yes, alright... must you always remind me of how time is passing?” Draco snaps, peering out into the gloom.
“Must you always complain about my baubles?” Harry says, floating the star into the air so that it hovers above Draco’s head.
“I must,” Draco mumbles without turning around. “She’s still there, you know.”
Harry goes to join him at the window with a string of lights around his neck.“So she is,” he sighs, pressing his nose to the glass in order to get a better look at the dark figure huddled against the cobbles just outside the window.
Her long, black hair is dotted with snow as it falls across her face, and the scruffy little dog that never seems to leave her side is curled tightly on her lap, shielded from the worst of the weather by skinny arms clad in worn black wool. Harry sighs. He has tried talking to her several times now, ever since the first day he found her and her dog curled up in their tatty sleeping bag outside the shop. It’s been almost a week now and not once has she done anything but jump at the sound of his voice and shrink further into herself.
“It must be freezing out there,” he says. “I’d take her a cup of tea but I’m afraid I’d give her a heart attack. She seems to be terrified of me.”
Harry doesn’t need to turn around to know that Draco is giving him a look. He can feel it.
“Truly terrifying, that’s what you are,” he says, letting out a small sound of exasperation as he notices at last that there is a star hovering above his head. “A man to strike dread into the stoutest of hearts. I’ll open up, shall I?”
Despite the early morning rush, Harry manages to quite comprehensively imbue the shop with the festive spirit by the time lunchtime rolls around, taking advantage of the quiet moments—and, to some extent, Draco—to line the shelves with lights, dangle stars from the ceiling and sprinkle fake snow around all of the standing displays. Draco grumbles like he always does, but serves the multitudes knowledgably and with impeccable manners; he manages to sell three Firebolt X2s in the space of an hour whilst simultaneously fielding more compliments about his sodding scarf than Harry can count.
When Draco dashes out into the snow to fetch their lunch, the compliments continue. Now, though, they are aimed at Harry, and accompanied by requests to know just where the wonderful scarf came from.
“I have no idea, sorry,” he says over and over again, staring desperately at the door and wondering how long it really should take to buy two toasted sandwiches and two cups of coffee from the cafe across the street.
By the time Draco returns, covered in snow, Harry is beginning to feel irritable. One look at Draco’s cold-pinked face and trembling fingers, though, and his frustration melts away. He can’t explain it—it’s just something about a wet or hungry or cold Draco that brings out his protective instincts. It is, of course, ridiculous, and he tries to fight it down as hard as he can, but he finds his voice coming out rather softer than he had expected when he tells Draco to shut the door on the wind.
“This lady has a fashion question for you,” he adds, and the woman at the counter clutches her wrapped Quaffles to her chest and turns to Draco expectantly.
Draco blinks. Shivers. Sets the coffee cups and sandwiches down on the counter and turns to the lady, scarf pulled tightly around his neck.
“Fire away, then.”
Amused, Harry turns to the next customer in line. “You know, that’ll go a lot further if you keep it somewhere cold,” he tells the young man as he takes his money and puts his tin of broomstick polish into a little bag for him. He loves the smell of the stuff; one whiff takes him right back to the Hogwarts broomshed, and it’s all he can do to resist unscrewing the metal cap and having a sniff.
The man laughs. “Don’t think I’ll have a problem finding somewhere cold at the moment!”
Harry grins and passes him a handful of Knuts.
“It’s too bloody early for Christmas decorations,” says a broad man with a moustache that immediately puts Harry in mind of his Uncle Vernon.
“Excuse me?” Harry says politely, unable to resist flicking a sidelong glance at Draco, who is sipping his coffee with a rather amused expression on his face.
“I said, it’s too bloody early for all this Christmas rubbish,” the man repeats, gesturing at the stars and lights with a meaty hand. He gives Harry a disapproving look and drops a package of Keeper’s gloves on the counter in front of him.
“It’s the first of December,” Harry says lightly, picking up the gloves.
“Christmas starts earlier and earlier every year,” the man gripes, stuffing his hands into the pockets of a perfectly-pressed beige cloak. “When I was a boy, there wasn’t any of this nonsense...”
“Well, it’s my shop and I like them,” Harry says in what he hopes is a non-confrontational tone. “And that’s two Galleons, twelve, please.”
“It’s whose shop?” Draco inquires at his side.
Harry smiles and ignores him. The man, still shaking his head, is picking up his purchase and stepping back from the counter, allowing an older lady to step forward and flash Harry a sympathetic smile.
“This is my best shop, Gran, ’cause it’s sparkly,” pipes a tiny voice and Harry has to lean right over the counter to see the little girl in her bright purple coat.
“Well, thank you,” he says, grinning down at her.
“You’re welcome. Please can I have a broomstick like Jarvis?”
The silver-haired lady looks helplessly at Harry, at the brand new broom in her hand, and back at Harry.
“Her older brother,” she says under her breath.
Harry nods and turns back to the little girl. “I’m glad you like my decorations, but you’re not quite big enough for a broomstick just yet. I promise you this, though—when you’re a little bit older, you can come back here and I will make sure you get a broom that is every bit as good as that one.”
The girl smiles, but there’s no mistaking her wistful expression as her grandmother pays for the broomstick.
“They do have some great toy broomsticks up at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes,” he suggests as he counts the change back into the old lady’s hand. “Just up the street.”
“Jarvis will laugh,” she says with the most mournful expression Harry has ever seen on such a tiny child.
“How about one of these?” Draco says, opening a box at the other end of the counter. Carefully, he balances a miniature Snitch on the back of his hand. “If you practise with this, you’ll be halfway to being a Seeker before you even get on a broomstick.”
The little girl watches, entranced, as the delicate golden wings begin to beat, and Draco skilfully catches the Snitch in his hand. Open-mouthed, she tugs on her grandmother’s sleeve.
“I can’t see why not,” she says after a moment, and she allows her granddaughter to drag her gently over to Draco’s side of the counter to buy the glittering little thing before she changes her mind.
When they finally leave the shop, grandmother weighed down with packages and little girl bouncing along happily beside her, Harry takes advantage of the momentary lull, taking his coffee and lukewarm sandwich over to the window and gazing out at the snow-covered cobbles as he eats.
“She’s still there,” he says, mostly to himself.
“I know,” Draco says. “I tried to give her your coffee but she wouldn’t even look at me.”
Harry turns and throws Draco the best dirty look he can manage through a mouthful of toast and cheese, but he knows that if the girl had ended up with anyone’s cup of coffee, it wouldn’t have been his. The thing is, Draco likes to maintain at least some semblance of his former sharp, ruthless, sell-you-down-the-river-as-soon-as-look-at-you image, and Harry decided a long time ago to just let him get on with it.
“No one knows who she is—I’ve asked around some of the other shop owners,” Draco says, crossing the shop floor to stand behind Harry and look out over his shoulder. “I suppose all we can do is keep trying.”
Harry nods, unable to fight down a small wave of shame as he finishes his sandwich and gazes down at the girl on the cobbles. She barely seems to have moved since the morning, though her dog now seems to have burrowed under the edge of her sleeping bag along with her.
“It must be freezing out there,” he says quietly.
Behind him, Draco lets out a gentle sigh that feathers softly across his cheek.
When the bell tinkles to announce another group of customers, they both jump.
“I need a full Cannons strip for an eight-year-old with very long arms!” cries a red-faced lady as she bursts into the shop, looking around wildly at the items on display.
“Don’t panic,” Harry soothes, setting down his coffee and sandwich wrapper. “We have all the league strips and lots of different sizes.”
“Oh,” the woman gasps, deflating slightly. “Oh, good.”
“How long are we talking about, exactly?” Draco asks innocently.
Harry rolls his eyes but the woman turns to him, expression earnest. “Oh, very long. He’s a rather odd-shaped child, I’m afraid. That’s a lovely scarf you’ve got on there, dear,” she says, suddenly beaming at Draco.
Caught somewhere between amusement and exasperation, Harry picks up his coffee and heads behind the counter, leaving Draco to deal with the woman and her tentacle child.
The shop is sparkling and festive, and, by the end of the evening, the flat will be, too.
Harry smiles to himself. It has begun.