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It’s not every day that Harry trudges through muggle London with a broken record player in his arms. In fact, today is the first time he’s had to deal with this particular situation, and he’s sincerely hoping he’ll never have to deal with it again. He’d apparated as close to the tiny shop as he could, but the trudge from the alley to the door seemed especially long in the inclement weather. Next time Ron’s stupid record player breaks, he’s going to have to get it fixed himself.

Harry sneaks another annoyed glance at the darkening sky, wrinkling his nose as a drop of water falls on his arm. He isn’t sure if a drying charm would salvage an already temperamental muggle machine and he only hopes he doesn’t have to find out.

The repair shop is lit up with buzzing fluorescent lights and it smells like all the garages Harry’s ever been in, the walls lined with old tvs and refrigerators. Arthur Weasley would love it in here, all the strange, dirty parts and outdated machines. Above the cracked linoleum countertop is a sign that reads “Greg’s Repairs” in bright red font, the paint a little chipped. Harry slides the record player onto the counter, giving the bell on the counter a little ding as he scuffs his shoes on the dirty tile.

“Coming!” a voice yells from the back, and Harry looks up at the rows of faded pictures that line the back wall as he waits. They’re all yellowed and curling at the edges, photos from the shop’s opening and of fancy looking refrigerators behind smiling people in clothes long out of style. A song Harry doesn’t recognize seeps from the back room and thunder rumbles outside. Harry runs a hand through his hair, letting himself feel washed out.

Harry is examining the graffiti on the countertop (a smiley, a shark, what looks like a penis) when he hears the slide of a curtain and a soft, strangled noise. Harry looks up and promptly has to clutch the counter for support because there’s a ghost in the doorway and he knows him.

“You,” Harry says almost accusingly, blinking in the too bright lights. “What are you doing here?” The name feels strange as it rolls around in his head, intensely familiar and alien all at once. It has so much attached to it, so much irritation, anger, and some overwhelming attachment he still hasn’t shaken.

Malfoy, winter pale and spidery thin, stares at him, blinking and looking almost affronted by his presence. “Is that your record player?” he asks finally, in the face of all logical responses, taking a few stilted steps forward and resting his hands on the counter. All of Harry’s questions make his blood pulse faster, and he can’t get any of them out, feels like he has cotton in his mouth and nothing tangible in his brain. Malfoy shouldn’t be here in the middle of muggle London, shouldn’t be staring at him like he’s resigned himself to all of this already, like Harry’s presence is tiresome.

“It’s Ron’s.” Harry replies, positive that he’s hallucinating, that this is some bizarre dream and he’ll wake up in a cold sweat. It’s less awful than the ones he normally has, but what’s a new kind of psychosis at this point.

“Weasley was always fascinated with muggle technology,” Malfoy says slowly, running his hands over the top of the record player. His tee shirt is a little too big for him - white and slouchy with the sleeves rolled up - and it makes something feel wrong in Harry’s chest. Muggle clothes look strange on Malfoy, but Harry thinks in a flash that it might be a good kind of strange.

“Yeah,” Harry says, all of his words catching and failing. Harry hasn’t seen Malfoy in the years since the trials and he doesn’t look all that different, maybe less emaciated, maybe a little older behind the eyes. He glances down at his arm, at the faded outline of the Mark and tries not to grimace, although he knows Malfoy notices the movement.

“What’s wrong with it?” Malfoy asks, eyes focused on the machine instead of Harry.

“Its spinning too slowly,” Harry says, noting the way everything Malfoy does is quieter than he ever remembers him being. Still so regal, but more understated now, like all his fire has faded to embers. Harry almost wishes for that spark back, for the return of the drawl that used to ring so loud in Harry’s memories.

“It’s probably an old belt. They get stretched out,” he says. Every time he opens his mouth, Harry gets the distinct feeling that he wants Harry to know that he doesn’t care, about the record player or anything to do with him. Harry knows that years ago he’d have snapped out the words, that it would have held all the subtext of ‘how could you possibly not know that.’ Years ago, Malfoy wouldn’t have been caught dead in a muggle repair shop. Things change.

“Can you fix it?” Harry asks, because he doesn’t know what a belt is in the first place.

Malfoy nods, leaning against the counter and looking at the record player. Harry feels a swell of that old irritation, feeling almost annoyed that Malfoy isn’t glaring at him or teasing him or being a miserable shit. He’s given up the game and Harry doesn’t know what to do about it. “Yeah, I can do it now.”

“Cool,” Harry replies with a nod, resisting the urge to lash out. He can be civil and cool if Malfoy can. “How much do I owe you?” He sneaks a look at the rain, frowning at how much it’s picked up since he walked in.

“About forty pounds, including the cost of the belt,” Malfoy says. “You can leave and come back, it’ll take twenty minutes at the most.”

Harry is pretty sure Malfoy doesn’t want him to stay, but he doesn’t want to deal with the rain so he lingers at the counter for a moment. “I’ll just wait here, if that’s fine?”

Malfoy shrugs, the clunk and ring of the cash register loud in the quiet shop. He looks oddly at home here, and Harry is still stupefied by all of it. He remembers combing the newspapers for news about him in the aftermath of the trials that sent his father to Azkaban. He remembers the pictures, first of the courtroom where Draco’s eyes were sunk too deep into his skull and then the blurry ones in the gossip rags where he kissed boys and his hair was too long. He disappeared a few months after that and Harry knew it would be too much to go searching for him. His obsession (he calls it by its name, now) never went that far.

“There’s a chair over there. I’m going to take this apart in the back,” Malfoy says, voice tepid and smooth. His drawl isn’t mocking like it used to be, and Harry feels off balance without it.

Harry wants to ask if he can watch, but he doesn’t, just walks over to the armchair and falls into it. There’s a duct tape patch on the arm and he picks at it as Malfoy scoops up the record player and brings it to the back. Harry still has so many questions, all inane and important and battering around in his skull.

He thinks briefly about texting Hermione, but she’s at work and texting her would make all of this real. He’s in a repair shop and Draco Malfoy is behind the counter and somehow that doesn’t surprise him as much as it should. He allows himself to consider that maybe he’s been waiting for this sort of thing to happen for the last three years.

Fifteen minutes slide by as Harry watches the rain turn the pavement to puddles and he hears Malfoy clear his throat before it feels like the time should be up. “Should be all fixed,” he says, looking uncomfortable behind the counter. “I put it in a plastic bag so it won’t get wet.”

“Great,” Harry says, heaving himself up and pasting on a smile. “It was nice to see you.” Even as he says it he knows it sounds moronic, but he’s trying to be nice for reasons he can’t completely articulate.

“Oh,” Malfoy responds, reaching up to fuss with his hair. “Yeah.”

Harry has questions but he doesn’t ask them, even though they’re burning in his throat, and maybe he’s not as fiery as he used to be either. There aren’t any words that convey both that he’s sorry about everything and also that seeing Malfoy makes him feel like he’s eleven again. There’s no way to ask ‘don’t you feel like we’re somehow connected, like we were points of symmetry on different sides of the same line?’ or ‘wouldn’t things have been different if you hadn’t been such a self-obsessed prick or if I’d just taken your fucking hand?’

“Thanks for fixing it,” Harry says, picking up the record player and holding it to his chest.

“It is my job,” Malfoy replies, and Harry imagines that maybe there’s a glimmer of something other than resignation behind it.

“Thanks anyway though,” Harry replies, and he knows he doesn’t have any excuse to exist here any longer so he trudges out, not minding the rain as it gets in his hair.

When he brings the record player back to Ron, he doesn’t mention anything about Draco.

 

xx

 

Harry tries to leave the repair shop behind, visits kids in St. Mungo’s and leads seminars about Defense Against the Dark Arts and searches for that fluorescent calm but doesn’t find it. Ron plays Bowie and The Rolling Stones on his record player, they drink cheap wine and talk about Hermione’s promotion.

“She’s going to be the minister one day, I’m telling you right now,” Ron tells Harry seriously, as Hermione swats at him with her magazine.

“I don’t care about being minister, I can do so much more in the Muggle Relations branch,” Hermione replies, swirling her wine around and frowning when Ron puts his feet on the coffee table.

Harry’s mind drifts back to the muggle repair shop, to Malfoy, quiet behind the counter. He almost wants to bring it up, but he doesn’t think he can do it without all his strange feelings bubbling up into his mouth.

“That’s what all future ministers say,” Ron counters, and Harry raises his glass in agreement. Hermione shushes both of them, but there’s a pleased blush to her cheeks and they all know she loves it.

“Says the best auror I know. Head of the department in a few years, you’ll see,” Hermione teases, and Harry raises his glass to toast it even though his own failure as an auror still makes his chest feel tight sometimes. He never liked it, it only made him feel nervous and lost and made his nightmares even worse. Still, the failure of it stings sharp because he was supposed to be the best, was supposed to keep everyone safe. He pushes the feeling down.

Harry thinks maybe he needs to drink more, or there need to be more people in here so Ron and Hermione don’t notice the way he doesn’t always react the way he’s supposed to.

“Mum started in on the Christmas jumpers yesterday,” Ron begins, and Harry is grateful that they’re finally talking about something he can smile about without it feeling like a lie.

“I’m hoping for a blue one this year, although that purple snitch one from last year was truly fantastic,” Harry says, thinking fondly of the chunky, scratchy, purple creation. He has to wear a button up underneath it, but it’s the warmest thing in his wardrobe.

“She outdoes herself,” Hermione agrees. “I feel like every year she’s knitting for three more people.”

“She’s making one for Ginny’s new girlfriend now, they’ve been dating for what, 3 months?” Ron scoffs. “You didn’t get one until we got engaged!”

“They’ve definitely been dating for close to a year,” Hermione corrects. “And the poor girl isn’t out to her parents, it’s lovely of Molly to knit her something nice.”

Ron makes a face and mumbles ‘engaged’ grumpily under his breath, but doesn’t press the issue. Harry tries to look properly empathetic as Hermione goes to flip the record.

He stays long enough to get buzzed and kisses both Ron and Hermione on the cheek when he leaves. He takes a cab so he doesn’t splinch himself, an idea already forming in his brain as he watches the street lights slide by. It’s not even that late, but their hangouts aren’t as rowdy as they used to be. He has the sneaking suspicion they’re getting old, but he still doesn’t have any better idea of what he’s actually supposed to be doing and that’s a little worrying.

None of this is new anymore.

 

xx

 

He thinks about it during the week, mulling it over as he finally gets his laundry done, as he makes pizza for the third night in a row, as he tutors a few kids who are struggling with their expelliarmus spells.

Friday evening, he finds himself at a secondhand store buying an old, broken radio. He wants to pretend that it isn’t a conscious choice, but it was out of his way and he knows he’s doing it for a reason. He doesn’t go to the repair shop immediately, waiting until Saturday morning to trudge through the bustling streets.

There’s a stout woman at the counter when he walks in, and there’s a horrible moment where he’s sure that he’s made up the earlier encounter. It seems silly in retrospect, considering how Malfoy has always felt about muggles, and yet he can’t convince himself that it wasn’t a hallucination.

The woman at the counter - Belinda, her name tag says - is ringing up another customer when he enters, but she catches his eye before he can slip back out the door, and so he at least has to ask her.

He waits patiently in line, examining the now familiar walls and the ripped up armchair where he sat and watched the rain.

“What can I do for you, love?” Belinda asks, looking expectantly at the radio in his hands.

Harry feels nervousness swoop deep in his stomach. If he asks about Malfoy, he can’t pretend it’s just a chance encounter, and if he doesn’t, he might convince himself that none of it was real. They’re both awful choices.

“Do you know if Ma-” he pauses, taking a jerky little breath. “Draco? If Draco is here today?”

She gives him a look that somehow conveys that she sees through him, although he’s not entirely sure what he’s hiding. “He’ll be here in about an hour, he usually works weekday mornings. Are you his friend?”

Harry blanches. “We knew each other back in school.”

She smiles wide, laying her hands excitedly on the counter. “Friend from school! Lovely! He’s so private, can’t get him to say a damn thing.”

“Yeah, that’s like him,” Harry replies, although he doesn’t truly know what Malfoy’s like anymore.

“How about your radio?” She gestures to the cumbersome machine in his arms.

“Yeah, oh yeah,” Harry says, stumbling over the words as he pushes the radio onto the counter. “It’s not playing.”

Harry can’t tell if Belinda knows this is all an elaborate excuse or if he’s just being paranoid. “I’ll take a look at it,” she says kindly, and he nods.

“I’ll be back in a few hours probably,” Harry says, shuffling his feet on the still dirty floor and trying not to look as idiotic as he feels.

“Alright, hun,” Belinda says as he slinks back out, feeling found out and nervous about everything. He’s not entirely sure what he’s looking for but a run down repair shop is a better lead than he’s had in years.

It’s close to overcast, the smallest bit of sun slipping between the clouds as he hides inside a coffee shop and has a latte to try and make himself feel less like he’s swimming. It makes him jittery, but he doodles hearts and stars and a few planets on the napkin and feels a little more centered.

Stuck in the warmth of the coffee shop, he answers all the emails that have been stuffing themselves into his mailbox. Luna texts asking if he wants to grab dinner with her and he sends back an enthusiastic agreement. Hermione tells him that Ron has learned how to fold paper cranes and is now leaving them everywhere.

All his limbs are where they’re supposed to be, but there’s a tear somewhere that burns with Draco’s name, old wounds and something stronger taking him back.

He trudges back into the repair shop after picking his way through a blueberry muffin and waiting long enough that he’s sure it isn’t weird. He’s briefly worried that Malfoy isn’t going to be here, that he’s going to have a working radio and nothing else to show for it.

Fortunately, his fears are unfounded, and he spots Malfoy at the counter as he goes to open the door. He lingers there for a moment, watching the way Malfoy pushes his hair out of his face, black long sleeve shirt rolled up to his elbows. Malfoy has always moved strangely, he remembers that from school, something that he used to qualify as hovering between graceful and sinister. He still moves like that, but quiet fits more than sinister does.

Malfoy looks up when Harry comes in, and Harry wishes he would give anything more than the smallest nod. The shop is empty and Harry feels a little bit brave, so he walks up and smiles and asks about the radio. This sort of thing feels like a battle, but he’s fought his fair share of those.

Malfoy reaches behind the counter and pulls the radio out. “Belinda said there wasn’t anything wrong with it, it just didn’t have batteries.”

“Oh,” Harry replies, and Malfoy just watches him. Harry thinks there might be a hint of amusement in his eyes, possibility the snide kind, but he’s probably imagining it.

“Weren’t you raised by muggles?” Malfoy asks, leaning up against the counter. He might be teasing and he might just be making fun of him, but either way, Harry feels like his heart might beat out of his chest.

“It’s been a while,” Harry replies, feeling like he’s about to be found out. “I got it at a secondhand shop, I couldn’t figure it out.”

Malfoy just looks down at the radio and then back at him, and Harry speaks again before Malfoy can say something too cutting.

“Weren’t you raised by wizards?” Harry asks, tapping on the counter and watching as Malfoy avoids his gaze. “Most pureblood families don’t teach courses in radio repair, or so I’ve been told.”

“No, you have to sign up for those special,” Malfoy responds, pushing the radio across the counter. Harry can’t tell if he’s annoyed or amused and doesn’t know which one he hopes it is. He doesn’t know when Malfoy started being so hard to read. “Take your radio.”

“How much do I owe you?” Harry asks, pulling out his wallet.

“Nothing,” Malfoy responds. “We didn’t have to fix anything.”

“Oh,” Harry responds, feeling a little lost. Malfoy has a bemused expression on his face, like Harry is the most bizarre thing he’s come across in ages.

“Save your money and buy yourself a couple of double A batteries,” Malfoy says, running a hand through his messy blond hair. He’s stopped wearing it slicked back and Harry isn’t sure when that started but it looks good on him, like he’s not so tightly wound anymore.

“Sorry for wasting your time,” Harry says, sliding the radio off of the counter. Malfoy frowns but doesn’t respond. Harry heads out, radio tucked under his arm.

 

xx

 

He picks up batteries from the hardware store and slides through stations and static until the early hours of the morning. He wonders if Malfoy’s awake and wonders if he’s been thinking about Harry, stupid Harry who doesn’t know what batteries are and can’t fix anything anymore.

 

xx

 

It takes a month before Harry can work up the courage to go back, and he still doesn’t know entirely why he does. Malfoy has always felt a little like a shard of glass rubbing against his lungs, now more than ever, even after all of the truly complicated pieces have been mostly sanded out.

He finds a tv at the same secondhand shop, one of the big, old ones that he has to struggle to carry, and when he gets it home he breaks the screen in with a hammer. It’s almost therapeutic, smashing the glass until it’s shattered and all over his kitchen floor. He sweeps the refuse into a pile, waters the houseplants on his windowsill, pulls on a scarlet jumper, and heads out.

The street is quiet in the early November gloom and Harry wonders if this is the universe’s way of telling him to turn around and go home.

The bell rings as he pushes in and Malfoy’s at the counter, looking soft in a gray jumper and a beanie. As Harry approaches the counter, he can see the frayed cuffs and the spot of grease smeared across Malfoy’s jawline, and he likes the way he isn’t half as pristine as he used to be. The only thing better than pristine is the way it rubs thin and goes to shreds.

“Back again,” Malfoy says, leaning on the counter with an unreadable expression. Harry thinks he used to be better at reading Malfoy’s emotions, all his petulance and scheming so obvious, and wonders if maybe Malfoy’s gotten better at hiding them. He has a worrying suspicion he was never as good at figuring him out as he thought.

“I broke my tv,” Harry says, and he knows how stupid this is but he’s beyond stopping himself anymore. He feels like he’s been giving himself excuses to talk to Malfoy since forever, and at least he can recognize that for what it is.

Malfoy peers at it, pale eyebrows knitting together as he does. “Did you take a hammer to it, then?”

Harry just stares at him for a long moment, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights.

Malfoy’s eyebrows raise and he shrugs. “Well, that’s new.”

“It fell,” Harry adds belatedly, but Malfoy just gives the smallest of laughs, a quiet exhalation that’s seems to surprise him.

“And did you push it? Into a hammer?” Malfoy replies, giving Harry a hard look. Harry wants to cross his arms over his chest and ask Malfoy why he can’t let him get away with anything, but he’s not willing to revert to childish antics just yet.

“Accidents happen,” Harry replies with a shrug, and Malfoy looks for a moment like he might laugh again. “Can you fix it?”

“Probably. B definitely can,” he says, examining the shards of glass. He seems like he’s about to say something else but pushes it down, and Harry wants to ask but he’s too afraid of the response. “I’m going to take it to the back, it’ll be a few days before it’s be done.”

“Okay, yeah, of course,” Harry replies, trying to find some of his daring back. He doesn’t know why he feels so afraid, why Malfoy’s hands make him feel terrified, why his lips make him feel like he’s going to sink into the linoleum. “Could I maybe-” He stops, gathers himself, and tries to be brave again. In the safety of everything, he’s forgotten how. “Can I see the back?”

Malfoy blinks at him and for a moment Harry thinks he’s going to say no, but then he shrugs, lifting the tv up and carrying it through the blue curtain without waiting for Harry to follow.

There’s something cheerful and pop-y playing and he has to smile at the thought of Malfoy working dourly as it plays. Malfoy sets the tv up on an enormous wooden table in the middle, scrawling out a Post-It Note and sticking it to the top of the tv.

“It’s nice back here,” Harry says. Everything smells vaguely of burnt plastic and the whole place is covered in detritus, but Harry has the vague feeling that someone knows the order to it. He wonders if Malfoy does.

“It’s not too bad,” Malfoy replies, picking up some scattered screws and setting them in a plastic container before sliding onto an old bar stool with a cracked sparkly-red cover. “So are you going to tell me why you’re here?”

Harry freezes, hoping that he doesn’t look too comical. “Because I break things?”

Malfoy laughs, and it’s derisive but Harry isn’t completely sure it’s directed at him. “I’m not an idiot. What do you want out of this?”

Harry splutters for a moment, wishing they could go back to when Malfoy was pretending all of this was normal.

“You could have just cast a Reparo. I thought the record player was a coincidence, lord knows you have no idea how that works. It wouldn’t have worked on the radio, it wasn’t broken, you’re just ridiculous, but you broke this one.” He pauses, purses his lips and gives Harry a searching look. “On purpose.”

“So what if I did,” Harry replies childishly, crossing his arms and daring Malfoy to say anything.

“So what indeed,” Malfoy replies, leaning back and resting his feet on the rungs of the stool. He’s wearing muggle shoes, ragged old Converse instead of his old loafers, and their apparent age is more startling than anything else. He wants to know how long Malfoy’s been hiding here, and why.

“I don’t know why I’m here, honestly,” Harry says, looking at his own shoes because watching Malfoy’s expression is more masochistic than he feels like being. “I didn’t expect to see you that first day, if I was looking for you it wouldn’t have been here.”

“Were you looking for me?” Malfoy says, and it sounds accusatory but there’s something light behind it, like genuine curiosity.

“In a way,” Harry says, more honest than he’d like. “You did disappear.”

“So did you, in a way,” Malfoy replies easily. “You’re always so two dimensional in the papers. The-Boy-Who-Lived, hero, legend, full stop.”

“I’ve been around, you’re the one who dropped off the face of the Earth,” Harry replies, the truth in Malfoy’s words ringing in his ears. There’s an eerie undertone to all of it, an implication that Malfoy knows that there’s more to him than that.

“What would you have done after the war?” Malfoy replies, and it’s a genuine question. “If you were me?”

Harry realizes there’s only one real answer. “Hide.”

“Yeah,” Malfoy responds with a shrug.

“This is a good place to hide,” Harry says quietly, and he hopes Malfoy understands the implications of that statement. Some part of him wants permission to hide here too.

“It’s perfect,” Malfoy replies, and Harry keeps accidentally meeting his eyes.

“Listen, Malfoy, I-”

Malfoy snorts, a grin cracking his face open and exposing his always too-sharp teeth. “Pull me out of a fire and I’m still Malfoy to you?”

Harry blanches, words stuck in his throat and Malfoy laughs again.

“I’m just joking around.” He grimaces. “Not sure how I feel about that.”

Harry tries to find his words back and but can’t seem to find the right ones. “I can’t begin to figure you out.”

Malfoy, maybe Draco, shrugs. “Maybe I don’t want you to, Mr. Hero complex.”

Harry watches him for a long moment. “I like that you assume this isn’t selfish,” he says, because he isn’t deluding himself into pretending that he’s trying to save Draco. He’s coming here because he wants to fix whatever’s wrong with himself.

“Is it?” Draco asks, looking a little pleased and a little sad.

“Mostly,” Harry replies, sagging against the table.

“Cool,” Draco replies with a shrug. He’s all lazy shoulders and his sweater falls low enough to make the cut of his collarbones evident. “I’m all about selfish.”

Harry furrows his brow at him. “I can’t tell when you’re kidding and when you aren’t.”

“Me neither,” Draco replies easily, looking up as the bell rings. “Customers, Potter. Best be off.”

“Save me from Death Eaters and we’re still on a last name basis?” Harry teases a little aggressively, following him back through the curtain into the fluorescent light of the shop. There are certain moments from the war that stick out to him and that’s one of them, the fear in Draco’s face as he mumbled that he couldn’t be sure whether or not it was Harry.

“Didn’t save you,” Draco replies, pushing up his sleeves and greeting the customer.

“You did,” Harry replies.

“Think I could recognize you just by your eyes?” Draco replies, waiting as a girl lifts a record player onto the counter.

“I could recognize you by yours,” Harry replies, stepping out from behind the counter before Draco can reply. He can play battle of wits with Draco, and he doesn’t have to think about how this time it’s so much lighter. “See you next time I break something.”

“Indeed,” Draco replies, and Harry likes that he finally sounds a little unsure.

As he pushes out the door, he finally manages to identify the feeling that’s been pushing around in his gut since he got here.

It’s been years since he’s talked to Draco Malfoy, and somehow, he’s missed him.

 

xx

 

When Harry comes back a few days later, there’s a woman standing near the counter who doesn’t look like she belongs there. She’s wearing shiny little heels and her hair is neatly cropped, and by the time Harry realizes who she is, it’s too late to leave.

She turns when the bell rings and Harry finds himself staring into the pinched face of Pansy Parkinson.

“Harry Potter?” she asks, surprise and confusion flashing across her heavily done up features. She looks almost the same as she did at school, but there’s a crease that’s grown above her eyebrows and she looks capable, like she could organize his life with a snap of her manicured nails.

“Hello, um.” He means to say more but nothing comes out. He starts to turn, nearly has his hand on the door when he catches Draco’s gaze from behind Pansy’s head. He looks just as afraid as Harry does, his gray eyes overwhelmed and sad and Harry suddenly wants to stay.

“Draco?” she asks slowly, looking back at him like he’ll explain. Harry realizes, under this newfound scrutiny, that he doesn’t know what he’d say if he had to.

“Potter has a newfound interest in muggle electronics,” Draco says blithely, leaning nonchalantly on the counter. All that’s left in his expression is casual indifference, everything else carefully hidden behind this new mask, and Harry wonders when he learned to do that. “Coincidence is a strange thing.”

Pansy nods, still moving slowly, watching them both like she doesn’t quite believe it. “Well, that’s lovely then,” she says brightly, and Harry has the sense that she’s snatching words from thin air. “I’m glad.”

Harry nods enthusiastically and Pansy looks more lost than he’s ever seen her. Standing here with both of them is odd, the knowledge of all the things they did and didn’t do weighing heavy in the air. He wonders if they have nightmares like he does, if they regret choosing the wrong side and if they regret it for the right reasons. He hopes they do, but he’s always had too much faith in people.

“I’m going to head off, it was nice visiting with you, darling.” Pansy gives Draco a quick peck on the cheek, a gesture much subdued from the hugs she used to fling at him.

“Bye, Pans,” Draco replies, a warmth in his voice that Harry’s never heard before.

She gives Harry a look as she leaves, hazel eyes meeting his before she slips out.

“She’s grown up,” Harry says without thinking, walking slowly over to the counter.

Draco raises his eyebrows. “That’s generally how time works.”

Harry shrugs. “I just mean like, she seems put together. That’s more than some of us can say.” It’s an admission, but he hopes that maybe if he gives, Draco will too.

“She is put together,” Draco replies, and Harry knows there’s something under that but he doesn’t think Draco is going to let him see it. “Your tv is fixed.”

“Awesome,” Harry replies, thankful that they’re still pretending this is about that.

“I’ll get it from the back,” Draco says, turning to disappear behind the blue curtain. Harry doesn’t follow even though he wants to, picking up a sharpie and doodling a flower on the counter as he waits. He likes that everything here is a little worn, close to broken or recently fixed, but still usable. He thinks that might be part of the reason he feels so comfortable here, because he identifies a lot with that.

Draco appears a few minutes later, tv in tow. It looks better than when he brought it in, the screen new, the box clean and shiny. “I cast a few cleaning spells on it,” Draco explains quietly. “I do that sometimes, I don’t think it’s cheating.”

“How much do I owe?” Harry asks, pulling out his wallet. He thinks that talking to Draco Malfoy might become an expensive hobby, but he can’t imagine why he would have assumed anything else.

“Nothing,” Draco replies, looking at the counter. “I cast Reparo on it.”

“You took it from me even though you knew you were just going to go use Reparo on it?” Harry asks.

“It sounds weird when you say it like that,” Draco grumbles, stepping back from the counter to cross his arms. “I just didn’t want to waste glass on something you broke on purpose.”

Harry doesn’t argue with him, just picks up the tv and wishes he could stay longer. He wants to let Draco in, to trust him even though he has no reason to. He wants to ask Draco questions and have the answers make sense.

“Thanks then,” Harry replies, knowing even as he leaves that he’s going to make up an excuse to go back. He’s idiotic, he fucking knows.

The bell rings decisively as he leaves the store and he’s making his way back down the street when a voice startles him.

“You want to tell me what the fuck you’re doing with him?”

He turns, careful not to drop his tv, facing Pansy as she stands behind him, arms crossed.

“Well?” she prompts, taking three clicking steps so she’s nose to nose with him. He’s suddenly grateful for the buffer the tv creates between them.

“It was honestly a coincidence, I didn’t know he worked here when I first came in,” Harry replies, the words sounding ridiculous on his tongue. He doesn’t know how to justify his actions to her because he can barely justify them to himself.

“Oh that’s likely,” she scoffs, pursing her magenta lips. “Why can’t you just leave us alone? I think we’ve been punished enough, don’t you?”

Harry fights to find words but can only stand with his mouth open as she continues, fiery and bold. “He doesn’t need you coming here and ruining his life. It’s over, you and your shitty friends can go.”

She crosses her arms over her chest, her voice dropping to something even more dangerous. “You weren’t the one who had to take care of him every fucking night he drank too much, were you? Or did you just watch it unfold in the fucking tabloids like everyone else? And now that he’s finally starting to be okay again you’re back? I don’t fuck-”

“That’s enough, Pans.” It’s Draco, a hand resting on her forearm, posture perfect, mouth in a thin line. “You’ve done enough, love.”

Harry feels like all of his insides have been scooped out, like he’s the one whose been hit with a hammer until he falls into pieces on the kitchen floor. The tv feels too heavy in his tired arms and he can’t move anymore.

“I just don’t understand why he can’t leave you alone,” she says, aggressively wiping her eyes like if she doesn’t let the tears get out she won’t really be crying. “I don’t want to lose you again,” she says, her voice falling to a desperate hiss. “You two have always been so toxic together, I don’t know why you can’t just stay away from each other.”

The numbness has started in Harry’s fingers and it’s growing over his shoulders and pressing in on his ribcage. She’s right, he knows she is, he and Draco have only ever hurt each other. Draco was awful and he was stupid and they should know better by now.

He doesn’t know why he can’t stay away, doesn’t know why seeing Malfoy like this makes Harry want to comfort him, makes him need to be comforted. He looks at Pansy’s face, red and blotchy with anger and something more desperate, maybe love, looks at the sidewalk that gives him no answers and at the passerby pretending not to stare.

He looks at Draco, and finds something familiar in his eyes, a gray intensity that he understands only because it’s how he feels. The tv slips from his fingers and crashes to the ground, the sound echoing in the narrow street.

He looks down at it, at the newly shattered screen and the concrete where it lays and apparates away before anyone can say anything else.

Everything is shattered and he doesn’t know how to fix it.

 

xx

 

Two days later, the tv appears in front of his door, repaired and pristine.

 

xx

 

It’s a windy Tuesday when Harry apparates back to the shop, another radio under his arm, this one only picking up static. He thinks he should talk to someone about this whole thing, maybe invite Hermione over to lunch and tell her that he’s consorting with the enemy, but he’s a little afraid she’d tell him to stop.

He can’t shake everything Pansy said about them being bad for each other, knows that it still holds too much truth. He wants it to be better, even though he’s not sure why.

He peers into the window, finding Draco at the counter in a navy blue jumper, a hint of a smile resting on his face. There’s something calming in his movements and Harry likes watching him organize the desk space and push his sleeves up when they fall down.

Harry pushes through the door, smiling when Draco looks up. “Do you think you could fix this for me?”

Draco tilts his head to the side like he’s puzzling Harry out. “I’m sure we can.”

Harry slides the radio across the counter, feeling like something has solidified between them. He isn’t exactly sure what it is, but it feels comfortable and warm and Harry wants to keep it. “It’s only picking up static.”

“I’ll bring it to the back,” Draco says, picking up the radio and heading through the blue curtain. He doesn’t look back, but Harry follows anyway, hopping up on the enormous wooden table as Draco puts the radio away. “Belinda does all the tv and radio stuff, she only lets me fix the record players.” He dusts off his hands, always deadpan. “They don’t explode if you fuck up.”

“How’d you learn to fix record players?” Harry asks, swinging his feet since they don’t quite touch the ground.

Draco shrugs, leaning up against the wall. Harry is suddenly aware of Draco’s body, of the sharpness of his shoulders and legs that are almost too long to be proportionate. He can’t remember ever being so interested in the way someone’s waist dips in and he wants desperately to reach under his jumper to feel the warmth. He has the bizarre desire to make sure Draco has a heartbeat.

“It’s really intuitive, it’s like a puzzle,” Draco begins, his fingers worrying the hem of his jumper. He has a lot of nervous ticks now: feeling the hems of his shirts, touching his hair, running his fingers over the Mark. It’s kind of sweet to watch, like he’s trying to comfort himself. ’“One of the girls I met doing community service had one, she taught me the basic stuff. That’s how I got the job here.”

“Did you like it?” Harry asks, then clarifies. “Doing community service?” He remembers the trials, remembers testifying in the Malfoys’ favor, or at least in Draco and Narcissa’s. It’s possible that Narcissa saved him purely out of familial concern, but the fear in her voice still haunts him.

“I got off easy, it wasn’t about liking it,” Draco says with a shrug, rubbing his hand over the place where the Mark is, almost like he doesn’t realize he’s doing it. “But yeah, it was okay.” He goes quiet for a moment and Harry doesn’t interrupt his silence. “It was actually really nice being around muggles because the whole wizarding world hated me.”

“I didn’t hate you.” Harry doesn’t know why he says it, even though it’s true. He can’t remember the last time when hate was the only thing he felt towards Malfoy, when the feeling wasn’t tinged with a million other things like pity and sadness and anger.

Draco laughs, that derisive laugh that, the more Harry hears it, the more certain he is that Draco is directing it at himself. “You’ve never been my biggest fan.” He shrugs, a smirk on his face that feels a little wicked. “Never been yours.”

“I did also think you were evil and conniving,” Harry says, raising his eyebrows so it’s a challenge. They’re talking and it’s incredibly bizarre, but it feels right somehow, like they’ve healed some of the rift between them.

“I am conniving.” Draco leans his head back, smiling wryly at Harry, who feels his stomach flip. He thinks it’s the first smile he’s ever gotten out of Draco, maybe ever, and he wants to make it happen again. “Merlin, how is it that neither of us ended up dying? You’d think with how hard we tried to kill each other, one of us would have figured it out.”

“I got pretty close, nearly had you in the bathroom in sixth year,” Harry replies, and it should be serious but he has the vague feeling that they’re both taking the piss. Everyone tip toes around death now and it makes Harry want to grind his teeth and scream. It’s like they don’t remember that fear of the name increases the fear of the thing itself. It’s like if they don’t bring it up then maybe it didn’t really happen.

“You did,” Draco replies. “I still have a scar.” He makes a drawing motion down the center of his chest and finds a hint of his old drawl back. “Very heroic, a hit with all the blokes.”

Harry laughs, the way he trailed Draco that year suddenly absurdly comical. “Heroic isn’t exactly how I remember any part of that situation.”

“I’m not exactly known for my bravery, there’s a reason I wasn’t in Gryffindor,” Draco replies with a half smile.

“I almost got placed in Slytherin you know,” Harry offers, then feels ridiculous for it. He doesn’t know why being around Draco makes him want to tell all his secrets,

Draco raises his eyebrows. “Wouldn’t that have been exciting.”

“That’s a word for it,” Harry replies. “Imagine if we’d shared a dorm. You’d have strangled me in my sleep.”

“Not if you strangled me first,” Draco says, and there’s something in his eyes that Harry can’t place. He thinks Draco might feel the same thing he does, a soft ghost of things that never were, that specter that whispers that maybe they need each other now, that they’re the only ones left who understand.

“Maybe we would have been friends,” Harry says quietly, even though he knows it’s ridiculous.

“Of course not,” Draco replies, looking at him like Harry’s a child who’s done something lovely and amusing. “I was a pompous prat and you were the golden boy.”

“I could have helped you,” Harry says, and Draco laughs again.

“Not even Dumbledore could help me,” Draco replies, going subdued. He reaches up to fuss with his hair again and Harry wants to stop his wrists and do it for him. He wonders if Draco’s hair is as feather soft as it looks. “Let’s not pretend I was anything other than terrible.”

Harry nods, because he had to say it, even though he knew Draco would shake his head and tell him no. He supposes they’ll never know how it would have been different, never be able to go back again and save each other. He knows his eleven year old self wouldn’t believe any of this, because Draco was just as awful as Harry was oblivious, but they’re both wiser now.

“So you really fancy blokes then?” Harry asks, cringing even as it comes out. It’s not his business but curiosity always gets the better of him.

Draco laughs again, it seems like he’s doing a lot of that lately, and shakes his head like Harry has failed to surprise him once again. “Everyone always gets to that question. Apparently if you make a gay spectacle of yourself in Witch Weekly people want answers.”

“It wasn’t a gay spectacle-” Harry tries to protest, and Draco waves him off.

“Oh it was. I can’t imagine how much I would have enjoyed it if it were someone else’s life,” Draco says, sounding sheepish but not sorry. “By the time I figured out what I liked, the war was in full swing. Not much time for boyfriends.”

Harry feels a queasy sensation of knowing more than he should and it only makes him more curious. He knows he doesn’t need any of this information but he wants it, and he doesn’t want to think about why.

“You’ve never dated anyone?” Harry asks, trying to sound nonchalant. He doesn’t think he succeeds, but Draco doesn’t make any snide comments about it.

“Not that my romantic entanglements are any of your business...” Draco replies, eyebrows high on his forehead. Harry feels a little like he’s been chastised, but it doesn’t sting so he doesn’t mind. “But no. No proper boyfriends.”

Harry doesn’t know how to reply, doesn’t really know the protocol for newly gay ex-enemies, so he just looks at the floor.

“What about Weaselette?” Draco asks, then seems to reconsider it, waving his hand dismissively even as he amends it. “Sorry, her name’s Ginny or something?”

It’s Harry’s turn to roll his eyes. “You know her name, Malfoy, don’t pretend you’ve forgotten.”

“Old habits die hard,” Draco replies, non-repentant. “I thought I saw a few articles speculating about a break up.”

“Yeah that happened,” Harry replies, looking at the ceiling so he doesn’t have to meet Draco’s eyes.

Draco inhales the smallest bit and Harry won’t look at him. “You still love her?”

“No,” Harry replies. Their relationship collapsed like an old house, their arguments rotting the floorboards and the way he couldn’t understand her tearing the walls from their moorings until it collapsed around them. “I really ended up hurting her actually.” Draco doesn’t reply and Harry makes an effort to explain. “She wanted more from me than I could give her and I think it really bothered her that she couldn’t fix me. It was awful, Ron didn’t talk to me for a month.”

Harry hears the door chime and looks over at the blue curtain, feeling absurdly affronted that life would intrude on them. Draco heaves himself up from the wall and straightens his jumper, walking past Harry and through the blue curtain. On his way past, he runs his hand absently across Harry’s forearm like he’s trying to comfort him, and phantoms of the touch remain even after he’s in the front room.

Harry can hear the sounds of the cash register from the back, a man’s voice and Draco’s reply, in return. Harry feels faint, feels like he’s on the cusp on something that he’s too afraid to put words to. He thinks if he doesn’t leave soon he’ll do something stupid.

He pushes through the curtain as a balding man pushes a tv onto the counter, Draco scrawling something on a sticky note.

“I’ll be back to pick up my radio,” Harry says, and Draco nods. Harry wants to linger forever but he can feel panic setting in for reasons he doesn’t know if he wants to explain yet.

Harry can’t begin to read Draco’s expression so he leaves the store as fast as he can, not looking back even though he wants to.

 

xx

 

Harry’s having tea with Hermione, and a mental crisis, among other things. She’s been chatting with him about the outreach project they’ve been working on to help muggleborn children’s parents better understand their children’s world and he keeps getting distracted by the feelings building in his gut.

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong or do I have to wring it out of you?” she asks finally, setting her cup of tea down with a decisive clink.

“Sorry?” Harry asks, lifted out of a mental tangent involving duct taped chairs and an intangible feeling of safety.

“You’ve been distracted all afternoon, I’m not an idiot,” she says, giving him an appraising look. She hasn’t gotten any less perceptive since they left Hogwarts and years of living with Ron has made her even better at calling his shit. If he’d wanted to keep his secrets he should have stayed far away from her.

Harry can’t begin to come up with a lie to tell her, much less figure out how to make it sound convincing, so he just blinks at her above his cup of hibiscus blend.

“Don’t look at me like that,” she says, her expression going soft. “I just want to make sure you’re okay. When you get weird I get worried.”

“I’m fine,” Harry replies, picking up a biscuit and then setting it down again with a sigh. He knows he should tell her, that she’d probably have some brilliant advice for him. He’s just vaguely worried that her advice might involve being rational and leaving Malfoy alone. “You can’t tell Ron.”

Her eyes go wide with excitement and she pitches toward him. “Is this about Ginny?”

“No, nothing like that,” Harry replies, feeling uncomfortably like he’s not going to be able to tell her about this without it sounding beyond strange.

She nods, biting her bottom lip. “Why can’t I tell Ron?”

Harry shrugs, taking a guilty sip of tea. He can’t imagine Ron’s reaction, but, considering he was the only one to be just as suspicious of Draco as Harry was, it probably won’t be pretty. It’s not like Harry has any justifications for his actions to persuade him. “I’ve been talking to Draco.”

Hermione blinks at him for a long moment, teacup suspended halfway to her mouth. “And by talking do you mean exchanging friendly words or stalking and harassing?”

Harry goes pink. “Both.”

“Good lord,” Hermione says, taking a long drink from her cup. “I wish I was more surprised honestly. Can’t you leave the poor boy alone?”

“Poor boy?” Harry asks indignantly, breaking a biscotti in half like it personally wronged him. “You punched him in the face!”

“That was a long time ago and he deserved it,” Hermione replies primly, tying her hair back so it stops falling in her face. “The war was hard on everyone, you know he and his family lost everything.”

“He was a Death Eater!” Harry replies, even though he knows better than that at this point. He feels like he’s doing something wrong, knows on some level that he is, but Draco doesn’t seem to mind.

“He was a scared kid and we both know that,” Hermione reprimands. “Not that that excuses his actions or how much of a general prat he is, but I thought you were better than this now. What do you want with him anyway?”

Harry blanches, remembering when Pansy had phrased the question, unsettled that he still doesn’t have an acceptable answer. He’s beginning to formulate one somewhere in his subconscious but it makes him feel guilty and doesn’t make sense. “It’s just weird, after having him be such a big part of everything I was fighting against for him not to be around anymore. I feel like I’m not-” He pauses, sifting through his words. “I feel like I need him somehow?”

Hermione frowns, tapping her foot against the wood floor while she considers her answer. “I don’t really understand what you mean, Harry.”

He sighs and when he answers it’s the closest thing he’s come to the truth. “I don’t think I do either.”

She fluffs up her ponytail with her hand, letting out a sigh. He can see the cogs turning in her mind as she tries to think up a way to fix all of this. She’ll be trying to cobble together a solution as soon as he leaves, he already knows this, and he hopes she reaches one.

“I just want you to be okay,” she says finally, in that voice he used to hear so often, back in the tent when it was just him and her. It’s affectionate and authoritative but he can sense the tremor underneath that alludes to the fact that she doesn’t always know what to do no matter how hard she tries to hide it.

“I am okay,” Harry replies with a tired smile.

“Just be careful. With him and with you.” She smiles at him, a stray curl sneaking out of her ponytail like it has a mind of his own. She’s grown up so much since they left school, all of the energy she used to put into bossing them around going straight into her job. He can still see all the insecurities that barely bother her anymore and is sure she can see the same in him, which is just as comforting as it is terrifying.

“I will,” he replies, taking a sip of his tea and knocking her foot under the table.

She smiles back, going on a tangent involving the new curtains they’re picking out for the baby’s room, and lets the subject drop. Harry’s grateful for it, even though he knows she’ll bring it up again at some point. He’s just glad that he has her, feels a little safer with her words ringing in his ears.

 

xx

 

Harry is watching through the window as Draco dances to something. He can’t begin to figure out what it is, but his lips are moving and he keeps bopping around behind the register. It’s weirdly endearing, and Harry just watches him for a moment, laughing as he plays drums on the counter.

When Harry finally pushes through the door, he’s greeted by a rush of pop music that Draco pauses almost guiltily as soon as he hears the bell ring. There’s a buzzing from the back and the occasional clank of metal and Harry wonders if Belinda is back there fixing something.

“Don’t stop on my account,” Harry teases, liking the way Draco’s cheeks go a little pink. Harry remembers vaguely that he’s always been like that, going rose tinted whenever he felt anything too strongly. Ron’s the same way - tomato colored at the slightest bit of embarrassment - and it’s always amused him endlessly.

“How much did you see?” Draco grumbles, straightening like he’s trying to look aloof.

Harry laughs, drumming on the counter with his fingers, and Draco purses his lips.

“What were you even listening to?”

“It’s this muggle band,” Draco says, looking tremendously guilty, even for him. “ABBA?”

Harry suddenly realizes that the tune he’d caught a snippet of had been nothing other than Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! and has to fight down a laugh. “And how on earth did you end up an ABBA fan?”

Draco glowers, pulling the sleeves of his jumper down over his hands and leaning on the counter. “One of my friends plays them constantly, it gets in my head.”

“Which Slytherin has been playing classic swedish pop music and how didn’t this get out sooner?” Harry presses, because honestly, Goyle bumping to Dancing Queen is funnier than anything he’s pictured in a while. “I would have crashed more of your parties if I’d known.”

Draco looks at the floor, shuffling his feet. He lets out a sigh like Harry’s being a tax on his emotions. “One of my friends from community service really likes them. She’s a squib but lives as a muggle, does a lot of volunteer work.”

“Oh,” Harry replies, feeling a bit foolish. He supposed he shouldn’t be surprised that Draco managed to make friends, he’d always had luck with it in the past, and yet it’s still somehow surprising. Harry always had the paranoid suspicion that Draco had bought all of his companions.

“I know, Malfoy friends with a squib, do try to suspend your disbelief,” Draco says tiredly, tracing the flower doodle on the counter with his finger.

“This is probably going to sound worse, but I was honestly just surprised that you could make friends,” Harry says, then feels immediately like a twat.

Draco just blinks at him for a moment, apparently unfazed. “I’m extremely charming you know, it’s not my fault you never noticed.”

“You were also elitist as fuck,” Harry replies, crossing his arms.

“Just smart,” Draco replies, and Harry can’t tell how serious he’s being. “I tried to be friends with you and you’re only a half blood. Pureblood culture is just as much about power as bloodlines.”

“So you’re still out for power?” Harry asks, feeling suddenly bare even though he’s the one who can’t leave Draco alone. He supposes he’d always wanted power too, loved the way magic gave him a way to be in control, gave him something to be other than the boy under the stairs. It’s different, but still the same.

“I work in a muggle shop,” Draco replies, refusing to meet his eyes. His eyelashes aren’t long but they curl just a bit at the end, soft and dark blonde. “Do you really think I’m out for anything?” He pauses and Harry waits for him to speak again. “I’m just trying to be like, myself or something.”

“Is it working?” Harry asks, because he’s still finding a version of himself that isn’t tainted by war. He knows he’ll always have those bleeding colors on his canvas, but he doesn’t really know how to make it look anything but awful. He’s getting there, but it’s slow, always.

“I think so,” Draco replies. “Do I seem like me?”

Harry appraises him, the same blonde hair in a different haircut, the same thin wrists in a different jumper. He remembers the cutting words and the same quick witted snark, this time just a little less mean. Draco still looks at him like he’s ridiculous but sometimes he looks guilty and sad and he does surprising things, speaks revelations like they’ve always been true. “I don’t think I knew you properly before.”

“I don’t know if that’s encouraging or not,” Draco replies, straightening like he’s pulling himself out of the conversation. “Let me get your radio, might as well pretend you’re here for a reason.”

Harry stiffens, but there’s no malice in Draco’s words. Draco disappears behind the blue curtain and Harry looks up as an older man shuffles in. He’s always surprised to find other people in this sanctuary, even though logically he knows this is just a shop. It feels like more, he can’t explain it.

Draco returns with the radio, greeting the man with his customary cordiality as he rings Harry up. “That’ll be fifteen pounds, there was a fried wire we had to replace but nothing too bad.”

“Awesome,” Harry replies, digging the muggle bills out of his wallet. “Thanks for fixing it.”

“No problem,” Draco replies. He knows that to anyone, they wouldn’t even look like acquaintances and it’s bizarre that they ever could have gotten there.

“Thanks for not kicking me out,” Harry adds cheekily, and Draco just cocks his head.

“Don’t make me have to,” he replies, and doesn’t soften it. Harry feels like he deserves that. When he leaves, the sun is beginning to set, and he walks the way back to the alley deep in thought. He’s beginning to understand that Draco is becoming a fixation again, that somehow or another they’ve circled back to a strange amalgam of what they used to be, where this time, Harry tries to get under his skin and Draco stays ambivalent and elusive. He wonders when Draco’s going to stop humoring him, when he’ll give up the charade and tell him to stay out of his life.

When he returns to his flat, the tiny one near the place wizarding London meets muggle London, he places his new radio on the table next to the old one, muggle news rumbling from the tinny speakers until he falls asleep in his armchair.

 

xx

 

Harry starts in on the newspaper every morning before his coffee habit, the muggle one next to the wizarding one on his doormat. He likes to sit crouched at his kitchen table in his too short pajama pants, sipping coffee as he skims the articles of the day. This particular day, one headline makes his blood run cold, stilling his coffee mug halfway up to his mouth: Lucius Malfoy Dead in Azkaban.

He lets out a sigh, skimming the article, something about unknown causes, something about the toll dementors have on the body. Harry feels a sharp pang of sympathy for a man he never had any warmth for.

He thinks about Draco, the flippant boy in tidy robes who wanted to be just like his father, and he wonders how new Draco feels about any of this. Maybe he hates his father, maybe he feels free. Harry looks at the picture, a sympathetic, severe shot of the Malfoys where Draco looks to be about thirteen, all done up and posed like a family, and thinks it’s not as simple as that.

The desire to visit Draco at the store flits idly through his head even though he doesn’t think he’d be welcome. He wonders if Draco is even there today or if he’s off with his mother, planning all of the complicated ceremonial things that come after death.

Harry thinks that when he dies, he’d rather just be turned to ashes and be done with it.

 

xx

 

Harry comes back to the repair shop a week later with nothing in his hands and finds Draco at the counter, paler than before. Harry can’t hear any music and Draco isn’t dancing, just slumped against against the counter, doodling something on a notepad.

He looks up when Harry comes in, circles under his eyes like he hasn’t been sleeping again. “Find more things that need fixing?” he asks wanly, adjusting the beanie he’s thrown haphazardly onto his head.

“I just came to give you my condolences,” Harry says, feeling suddenly awkward.

Draco blinks at him, exhaustion and confusion mingling in his expression. “You’re such an aggressively good person,” he says finally, refocusing on his doodling.

“I just, I know how hard loss is,” Harry says, plowing through the earlier comment. He’s not an aggressively good person, he’s a mediocre person trying aggressively to live up to everything.

“I thought you hated my father,” Draco says with a hint of his old drawl. He feels distant and Harry thinks he might be trying to hide his hurt. He never knew how Draco’s relationship with his father really was, although he read articles in the aftermath of the war that alluded to abuse and cruelty. He thinks it might have just been complicated.

“Rumor was that you hated him too,” Harry replies, and it’s more callous than he intends. Draco just shrugs.

“The papers say a lot of things about my family,” Draco says, pressing the pen hard against the stack of paper. “Most of them aren’t true, but if we’re just a normal family it’s just so boring.”

“I get that,” Harry replies, because he’s been fighting with the media for years.

“Of course you do,” Draco says, his voice silky and quiet. “I don’t know how you managed.”

“What?” Harry asks, unsure whether or not Draco is being cruel.

“Your parents,” Draco clarifies. “I don’t know you managed without them.”

Harry doesn’t answer for a long moment. “Didn’t really manage, but I had a lot of people who cared for me. Molly, mostly. She’s been like my mum.”

Draco nods, not even bothering to wrinkle his nose at the mention of Mrs. Weasley. “You were raised by your Aunt and Uncle though, that must have helped.” He asks, still doodling, still refusing to meet Harry’s eyes.

Harry scoffs, letting out a quick, angry laugh. “You know I slept in a cupboard, right?”

Draco glances up, quickly, just long enough to catch Harry’s gaze and drop it again. “Everyone always made it sound very fashionable.”

Harry shakes his head. He’s never kept it a secret, but it was a part of him no one ever really wanted to know about. “Abusive childhoods are usually the backstories of the villain, not the hero.”

“I had no idea,” Draco says, and it’s not pitying, just quiet and understanding. “My parents were lovely to me.”

Harry watches his pale fingers as he sketches, a pattern of geometric shapes in black ink that doesn’t form anything.

“At least, they were when I was young. Even my father.” He sighs, tugging at his beanie and leaning back from the counter, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this.”

Harry shrugs. “I want to know.”

“Why?” Draco presses, his jaw set.

Harry shrugs again, always at a loss. He tries to scrape some semblance of a reply together, wants to come up with something that could justify any of this vague feeling of wanting. “I think part of it is because you don’t really care if I like you or not. You’re honest.”

“That’s fucked up,” Draco replies, fixing him with a hard gray stare. Harry wants to press his fingers into the hollows of his collarbones.

“Yeah, a little,” Harry admits. “But like, most people wouldn’t say that to me because I’m this weird hero figure. You’ve never thought that, it’s nice.”

“You like that I don’t like you?” Draco replies, leaning up against the back wall.

“Something like that,” Harry replies, feeling sheepish. He doesn’t know why he always ends up spilling so much, why he keeps giving and giving in the hopes that Draco will give him something back.

“Well that’s too bad,” Draco replies, his stare challenging. “Because I do like you. So. That’s that.”

“You do?” Harry asks, feeling something swoop in his stomach that’s more than nerves.

“Of course I do, you fucking idiot,” Draco replies, looking put out about the whole thing. “You’re impossible not to like, it’s infuriating.”

“Oh,” Harry replies. “Oh.”

“Oblivious as always,” Draco mocks, returning to his doodling.

“I’m not oblivious,” Harry protests, even though he knows he so often is, and is cut off by the appearance of Belinda pushing through the curtain with a television in her arms.

“Hello boys,” she says, sliding the tv onto the back counter and wiping her hands on her jeans. “Everything alright up here?”

Harry wonders how much she’s heard, wonders how much even makes sense to her. He knows Draco probably hasn’t told her anything about himself but Harry thinks she might have the quiet perceptiveness gifted to many gray haired women.

“Just talking,” Draco says with a sigh. “Do you think I can go on my break?”

“Of course, love,” she replies, affixing Draco with enough sympathy that Harry is sure she knows about the death of his father.

“Thanks,” he replies, sliding around the counter and heading for the door. Harry gives Belinda a wave as they leave, following Draco out onto the sidewalk, shivering in the chill November wind.

“I keep remembering this one time,” Draco begins, blowing warm air on his hands as he sags against the brick wall. He squints up against the cloudy sky, even the gray light too bright. “I was five and I’d just gotten my first proper broom, right? And I’m flying around in the garden, and mum was pruning the roses and father kept tossing snitches for me to catch. It seems weird to think about her pruning, but she used to love that rose garden. Wouldn’t let the gardener touch it.” When he breathes out his breath curls in the air like smoke, like he’s a dragon with flames licking at his lips. “And I finally brought one of the snitches back and he laughed and tossed it right back out again, but mother stopped and clapped and I knew he was really pleased with me.”

All of Harry’s words feel inadequate, so he just scoots closer to Draco on the brick wall so their shoulders are touching, hoping that’s close enough to comfort. Draco jerks at the touch, looking over at Harry in surprise, before facing forward again, resting back against Harry’s shoulder.

“It’s really weird to realize that your parents are just people,” Draco says, shifting to pull his hands into the sleeves of his jumper. “I don’t know what that was like for you, but it’s always been so odd to realize that they were just trying to do their best.”

“I didn’t know anything about my parents until I went to Hogwarts,” Harry says, because not asking questions was one of the many rules the Dursley’s had implemented. “That was really odd to deal with. I wish I could have known them, it’s so awful having that taken away.”

“I’m sure,” Draco says, leaning his head against Harry’s shoulder like Harry does to Hermione when he’s drunk. “My parents were the best part of my childhood, truly. It wasn’t good later, but it started out that way.” He takes a breath, it catches, and he tries to take another. “Everything is so fucked up.”

“Yeah, I know,” Harry says, and it’s comforting, but it’s also a truth. Voldemort is gone but the scars aren’t. His hands tremble some mornings and he can’t always shake the feeling that he’s being followed, that Voldemort is going to come back even though he saw his body fall.

Draco’s body shakes just the smallest bit and Harry knows that he’s crying, or trying not to, but he doesn’t say anything. There are a few wandering passerby on the street but the moment feels incredibly private and he doesn’t want to shatter it. Harry feels the warmth of Draco’s shoulder through the thin black fabric of his jumper and hopes Draco can feel his.

They stand like that in the fall chill, Draco’s head on Harry’s shoulder until Harry gets the courage to reach an arm around Draco, pulling him into his side. It’s the most they’ve ever touched, he realizes belatedly, and suppresses a shiver.

Draco doesn’t protest, just lets himself be held in a rare moment of docility.

A few leaves rustle in the gutter and the muggle world pays no mind to them, to two lost boys holding on for dear life.

 

xx

 

Harry comes back and pretends it out of habit. He doesn’t have anything to fix but he deludes himself into thinking there’s nothing wrong with that. He can hear ABBA playing from the back but Draco is nowhere to be found, the store lit and still. Harry lingers at the front, rethinking his decision to come here. He’s killing time before he has to visit the children’s hospital, and he doesn’t know why he picked this place instead of a coffee shop where he couldn’t cause any trouble, but he’s here and so it’s too late to talk himself out of it.

The curtain rustles and Draco appears from behind it, his fingertips dark with grease, undereyes dark with lack of sleep. “Back again.” There’s a tiredness there that wasn’t there when he first started coming, and he hopes it’s the kind that comes with death and not with him.

“You don’t sound surprised,” Harry says. He hopes that Draco wants him here, but he honestly can’t be sure. He can’t get Draco’s earlier comment out of his head, that he’s impossible not to like, and it’s the only thing remotely near reassuring.

“I’m not,” Draco says, leaning on the counter. It’s not the worst Harry’s seen him, nothing compared to the gaunt shell he was in sixth year, but his hair sticks up in the back and his cotton tee shirt is wrinkled. “Still haven’t found anything that needs fixing?”

“I had a few minutes so I thought I’d say hi,” Harry says, even though it’s not enough to explain this. Draco already knows he’s ridiculous and that’s beginning to be okay with him.

“Hello, then,” Draco replies, leaning on the counter and watching Harry like he’s supposed to make the next move. Harry can’t remember any conversation ever feeling more like chess.

“What are you working on?” Harry asks, gesturing to the black grease smeared across the tips of Draco’s fingers.

“Record players,” he responds, then takes a slow breath like he knows Harry is expecting more of an explanation. “This one needs more lubricant on the spindle.”

Harry, despite himself, giggles, earning himself the most withering of disparaging looks.

“That’s literally not even funny,” Draco replies, reaching up to fuss with his hair and streaking it black in process.

“You’ve got a bit in your hair,” Harry says kindly, then smirks.

“I can’t believe I’m being forced to listen to this,” Draco replies with a long suffering sigh. “I’m going to get back to work if you don’t mind. I want to finish this before I clock out.” He leaves the counter, his hand on the curtain when he turns around, looking like he wishes he wasn’t doing it. “You can come in the back if you want.”

Harry grins, following Draco into the messy back room. Belinda is in there too, welding something together, and she stops to wave when he comes in.

“She thinks you’re a good influence on me,” Draco says, sliding primly onto a duct taped stool. “Not sure where she got that idea.”

“Couldn’t tell you,” Harry replies, leaning against the table and watching Draco examine the machine.

“Harry?” Draco begins, not looking up from his work. “What do you even do?”

“Stuff,” Harry replies, feeling that same squirming guilt in his stomach. It’s the question he’s been asking himself since he stepped down as auror. The charity work takes up most of his time - giving talks at schools and letting sick kids think he’s some kind of hero - but it doesn’t feel like enough. “I’m visiting a hospital later today, actually.”

Draco makes a noise halfway between a scoff and a laugh. “Saint Potter never fails to be applicable.” He sobers, sneaking a look over at Harry. “That’s good of you.”

“It’s the only thing I know how to do, honestly.” He looks over at the wall, his voice dropping so it can barely be heard over the metalwork Belinda is doing. “I was bad at being an Auror. I wasn’t used to making my own choices and it used to be make me so anxious. I used to like, I don’t know, shut down? Everything reminded me of Voldemort and of dying. I hated that I couldn’t do it, but I just couldn’t.”

Draco stills beside him, quiet for a long moment before Harry feels a hand rest on top of his. Draco only lets it hover there for a few moments, snatching it back like he’s terrified.

“You always seemed like you knew what you were doing,” Draco says, wiping his hands clean on a dirty rag and sliding the pieces of the record player back together.

“A lot of people made choices for me,” Harry replies, rubbing at the grease spot on the back of his hand. “And I was really lucky honestly.”

“I guess we both were,” Draco replies. “Which is pretty fucked up, considering.”

“It really is.” Harry glances down at his watch, irritated to find that he only has a few minutes to get to the hospital. “I have to go, I hate being late for these things.”

“I understand,” Draco replies, sliding off the stool and carrying the reassembled record player over to a different counter.

“Of course,” Harry replies, finding himself lingering. He doesn’t know why he does this, why leaving Draco is always so difficult.

“Do you think maybe-” Draco stops, heaves a sigh, looks at the ceiling, then looks back to Harry. “I would like to come with you.”

“Why?” Harry asks, then kicks himself for not just saying yes.

“Because I thought it would be nice,” Draco replies, suddenly prickly as he turns.

“Oh,” Harry replies, then fights to salvage the situation. “Is it okay for you to leave work?”

Draco shrugs, surveying the mess on the table with a critical eye. “Honestly, I’m here more than I need to be. Belinda lets me hang around.” He leaves Harry by the table, interrupting Belinda’s welding to ask her. She gives Harry an enthusiastic smile halfway through that reminds him starkly of Molly, and Draco comes loping back over, grabbing a set of keys from the workbench and shoving them in his back pocket. “I’m out early.”

“Great,” Harry replies, suddenly overwhelmed by how ridiculous all of of this should be. In the store, it doesn’t quite seem real, but taking it into the real world means that people could see them together, means that maybe this is actually something.

They walk the street in silence and it feels awkward even as Harry tries to pretend that it’s fine.

“I usually apparate from here,” Harry says, leading Draco into an alleyway. Out of the wind it’s not quite so cold, and Harry takes his hands out of his pockets. “Hold onto me?”

Draco nods stiffly, letting Harry grab him and keep him close, apparating to just outside the hospital. They stumble away from each other, their proximity making nerves crawl up Harry’s spine. Draco is warmth and soft cotton and he smells like mint and spice and he tries not to attach intimacy to the moment. He leads Draco inside, realizing belatedly that he doesn’t have any idea about whether or not he’s actually to be trusted.

He sneaks a glance at the man walking next to him, noticing the way he tugs his jumper sleeves down over his hands and the shiftiness to his movements. Years ago, he would have labeled the behavior as highly suspicious, but it only reads as anxious now.

“Are you okay?” He whispers as they walk towards the front desk, and Draco nods stiffly, ever the best pretender.

The desk girl gives him a shining grin when he approaches, one that dips briefly with confusion when she spots Draco, but returns with full force. “Hey Harry, missed you. You’ll be in the blue wing today, charms gone wrong, that sort of thing.”

Harry nods, signing in on the clipboard she pushes over the counter. “I brought a guest, is that okay?”

She nods cheerily, and if Harry wasn’t watching for it, he wouldn’t notice the way she keeps shooting cautious glances at Draco. “Of course, it’s not a problem.”

“Perfect,” Harry replies, only realizing that he’d been anxious as he heads for the elevator.

“She knows who I am,” Draco says idly, like it doesn’t bother him, and Harry wonders if that’s an act.

“So what?” Harry replies stubbornly, jabbing the elevator button. He’s always hated the way everyone acted like they knew everything after the war ended and her nerves only made him angrier. He knows the story was sensationalized, painted in black and white, but it still makes him angry.

“You know what,” Draco replies, aloof as he leans against the wall. He’s untouchable and Harry wants to go back to their fluorescent sanctuary where things almost made sense.

“Whatever,” Harry replies, biting back harsher admonishments. I didn’t even have to take you, you don’t have to be like this, he grumbles internally. He grits his teeth, trying to drum up as much cheerfulness as he can as he steps out of the elevator. “Just stay out of trouble, please.”

Draco makes an insubordinate little noise, but doesn’t protest, and Harry ignores him, opening the first door. The child in question has a spout for one arm and a handle for the other, and appears to be the closest thing he’s ever seen to a girl-watering can hybrid. She positively beams when he comes in, huddling shyly under her covers.

Most of them react like this, smiling brightly at him and hiding under their blankets, overwhelmed in their excitement. He doesn’t think that’s ever going to stop feeling bizarre, because it’s so odd to think that his existence could inspire that reaction.

“Hello,” he says, pausing at the edge of her bed. “Can my friend and I sit?”

She nods enthusiastically, the side of her watering can arm sticking out of the blankets.

“What’s your name?” He asks, sitting gingerly on her quilt, glancing over at Draco, who’s lingering by the door like he isn’t sure where he’s allowed. Harry pats the quilt next to him, but he shakes his head and doesn’t move.

“Delia,” the girl says, dissolving into giggles. She makes an effort to compose herself, wriggling up in her bed. “Your scar doesn’t hurt anymore, right?”

Harry reaches up, running the pads of his fingers against the skin. He likes the kids because they don’t tip toe around him, are willing to poke at his scars and grin through it. “Not anymore, no. Not for years now.”

“Not since you defeated Voldemort!” she says, eyes widening, not in fear but rebellion. He knows they’ve all been told by their parents not to say that word, but it’ll never hold the same chill it held for his generation. It’s terrifying that the memory can lose it’s pain that quickly, but maybe it’s better that way.

“Not since then, no,” he says. “So what do you get up to? Are the nurses any fun?”

““They’re okay.” Delia scrunches up her nose. “They don’t know how to fix me yet though. Tried everything in the book, mum says.”

“It takes time,” Harry says. “My friend Hermione got turned into a cat once and that lasted ages.”

“Hermione Granger got turned into a cat?” Delia asks, her eyes widening.

“Part girl, part cat. She was horribly embarrassed about it, but it wasn’t all that bad,” Harry says, smiling at the way Delia hiccups a little when she laughs. There’s a noise from the doorway, and Harry glances over to find Draco watching them, eyes transfixed on Delia.

“How did she turned back into a human?” Delia asks.

“She just had to wait it out and eventually she turned back,” Harry says. “This was when we were at Hogwarts together.”

Delia’s eyes light up and she tells him that she’s going to go there, her little watering can arms shaking with excitement. It’s not an overly interesting conversation, in fact, he’s had similar ones hundreds of times over, but he knows that for these kids, he’s the only person they’ll talk to all day that isn’t a nurse, that to them it’s the most riveting thing in the world. When he’s there, he feels like he’s making something better, but explaining it to everyone else makes it sound hollow. There’s no way to pretend that it’s better than being Head Auror and no one believes him when he says it.

They leave Delia’s room a few minutes later, making their way through a few more rooms, visiting a boy whose body keeps flickering in and out of existence and a girl in a full body cast, Draco quiet and regal but for a few errant laughs at things the kids say. Harry’s leaving the room of a girl with skin reminiscent of couch cushions when he realizes he’s lost track of Draco.

Harry sighs, surveying the hallway for any clues. He continues down the row, peering into doors until he hears the murmuring of voices from a room down the hall. At first, he’s not entirely sure it’s Draco, the soft voice sounding barely like the man he knows.

He peers inside, trying to observe without being noticed, and catches a glimpse of Draco’s blonde hair and a dark skinned girl with flora growing out of her skin. He lingers by the door, trying to catch snippets of their conversation.

“They’re very pretty really,” Draco says. “I quite like the roses.”

“They itch,” she replies. “It makes it impossible to sleep.”

“That’s awful,” Draco says, and Harry can feel the sympathy in his voice, the sincerity taking him by surprise. “Do they give you anything for it?”

Harry leans up against the wall, avoiding the eyes of a passing nurse as he listens in.

“Yeah, only works sometimes though,” she replies, a scowl in her tone.

“Do they smell like real flowers?” Draco replies, and Harry recognizes him trying to take her mind off the hard parts. Harry has the vague suspicion that Draco might actually be good at this.

“Yeah,” she says.

“May I?” he asks, and there’s a giggled yes. Harry peers inside, watching as Draco raises her hand and smells the pink bloom like a gentleman would kiss a lady’s hand. “It’s lovely. You don’t even need to wear perfume.”

“I can give you one, if you want,” she says, reaching up her arm and pulling off a flower. Draco gives her a quiet smile as she hands him the flower.

“Do you think it would look better in my hair or tucked into my collar?” Draco asks, twirling the stem in careful fingers. He’s wearing a smile that Harry doesn’t recognize, much softer without all of the gore and malice it used to hold.

“In your hair,” the girl says, grinning when Draco tucks it behind his ear.

“I could make you a flower crown probably,” she says, giving him an appraising look.

“But then you wouldn’t have any flowers left for yourself,” he replies.

“That’s true,” she says, worrying at a daisy growing up from her wrist. “Although I do have quite a lot.”

“You do,” Draco says with that smile again. “Have you thought about pressing them?”

“What?” the girl screws up her face, using her hand to push the daisy down against her skin. “Like, press?”

Draco shakes his head. “Not exactly. There’s a thing called a flower press, if you put flowers between the pages the flowers flatten and dry out so you can use them for stuff.”

The girl brightens. “And you can just keep them? They don’t wilt?”

“Nope,” Draco smiles. “You take all the water out. My friend Pansy sometimes sends me letters with flowers pressed in them.” He pauses, tracing a pattern on her blanket. “Do you know what the flower code is?”

The girl shakes her head. She’s hanging on his words and Harry is reminded of the way Draco used to be able to hold a room. He had a energy about him always, although he can only remember it being used for petty intimidation.

“It’s a secret language that lords and ladies used, where they’d send messages by giving each other flowers. Pansy used to send me camellias all the time, they mean good luck.” Draco says. “You could send your friends back home messages with flowers.”

The girl brightens up. “Can you tell me what all of my flowers mean?” She holds her hands out expectantly, and Draco laughs, startling Harry, who can’t remember that sound ever being genuine.

“Not all of them, I don’t have my codebook with me, but I can probably do a few,” Draco says. “Daisies mean purity and innocence.” He reaches over to her cheek, where a spiky white flower is curling up into her hair. “White clover means think of me.”

“Are you just making that up?” she asks accusatorially, and Draco shakes his head. “Ask one of the nurses to get you a flower code book, they’re all in there.” He pauses for a moment. “Harry, I know you’re out there.”

Harry jumps, sheepishly opening the door. “Sorry I was just,” he shrugs. “You know, listening.”

“Eavesdropping on me, what else is new,” Draco replies, but it feels like they’re sharing an inside joke more than anything else. “Claudia, you know Harry Potter right?”

She nods, peering around Draco with curiosity. “Hi Harry, I’m Claudia.”

She looks less nervous than some of the kids he meets, maybe because she looks to be a little older than the others, edging closer to eleven or twelve.

“Nice to meet you. You were talking to Draco?” he asks, coming up next to the bed but unsure if he’s allowed to sit. Draco doesn’t scoot over, just watches him with an almost wry amusement.

“Yeah, he was telling me about my flowers,” Claudia replies. “Did you send flower code letters to Hermione and Ron?” She grins when she says the names, and Harry thinks he’s always going to be surprised by the way these kids say his friends names like they know them too.

Harry shakes his head. “Nothing that fancy, although they used to send me things from the wizarding world when I was stuck at my aunt and uncle’s.”

He drops these details, throws in details about his life, realizing as he does that Draco doesn’t know any of it, that he’s one of the strangers Harry’s known the longest. Claudia tells him about her owl back at home and Draco stays more gentle that Harry’s seen him, speaking to her like she’s his younger sister. They finish in her room and head up and down the halls until they’ve visited everyone, Draco falling quiet again as they go. It’s only when they’re walking back towards the front desk that Harry brings it up again.

“I think Claudia really liked you,” Harry says, unsure how to broach the topic.

“She’s been in here for months now,” Draco says in leu of a reply, looking out at the graying day. November has crept in cold and windy, and Draco is always woefully underdressed. “They keep running tests but the flowers are so much a part of her body they’re having trouble taking them out. It hurts her to try and fight them.” There’s a pause. “The nurses think the flowers are going to take her over.”

“Oh,” Harry says. “That’s awful.”

“Quite,” Draco replies, subdued.

They take the elevator in silence, Harry sneaking glances over at Draco. He doesn’t have a coat or gloves, and Harry wonders if he could get Hermione to knit him one of those daft hats she used to make for the house elves. He doesn’t think Draco would be overly amused by that.

“Did Pansy really write you flower notes?” he asks, even though it’s probably not his business.

Draco nods. “We communicated with bouquets during the war. Mother thought we had a courtship, that was quite a surprise for her.” He pauses, sticking his hands in his pockets. “Begonias still make me feel ill.”

“Begonias?” Harry asks, and Draco nods, but doesn’t offer an explanation.

The girl at the counter is chipper when they sign out, and Harry promises he’ll back soon as they walk into the front hall, shuffling their feet as they figure out how to say goodbye.

“I’ll see you back at the shop,” Harry says tentatively, trying to look nonchalant about it. There are no reasons anymore, he almost doesn’t care.

Draco nods, looking overly prim. He swallows and Harry watches the movement of his neck and thinks he might finally be losing it. “Thank you for permitting me to come.”

“It’s no problem,” Harry says quickly. “You’re good at the whole cheering up thing.”

Draco shrugs. “I’ve had practice.”

“I’m sure,” Harry replies. “Thanks for coming with me. It’s easier not being alone.”

“Yeah, I know,” Draco replies, that almost smile lighting on his face. Harry has the strongest urge to hug him, to make him laugh again, to acknowledge that this is so much more than it is at this point. “Bye Harry.” He blinks as the name leaves his mouth, and disapparates before either of them can say anything about it.

Harry considers whispering a goodbye into the empty air, but disapparates before he can indulge the thought.

 

xx

 

Begonia - Dark thoughts, beware

 

xx

 

When Hermione and Ron show up at his house with a bag of holiday trim, Harry is in the process of cleaning. Or rather, he’s watching a muggle crime show on the old tv and thinking about cleaning, which is nearly the same thing.

“When was the last time you did your dishes?” Hermione asks, tapping her foot on the tile as she appraises the pile of plates near the sink.

“Two days ago? Maybe three?” Harry replies, and Hermione cringes.

“You even have a dishwasher, there’s no excuse,” she says, setting her bag down. “You clean the dishes and I’ll put up the Christmas decorations. We’re going to make this place look festive, damnit.”

Harry almost laughs at her severity, but he’s fairly sure she wouldn’t take too kindly to that. He trudges over to the sink in his sweats as she levitates a garland up above one of the door frames and tosses an ornament in Ron’s direction. “You know it’s not even December yet, right?”

“Harry, I don’t have time for your lack of Christmas spirit right now,” Ron says, grabbing a Santa hat from the bag and putting it on his head.

“It’ll be December soon,” Hermione adds cheerily, rummaging through the bag and pulling out a glittery snow globe. It had been a surprise the first year she came traipsing into his house with a bag of tinsel and garland, but Harry’s come to accept it. Hermione knows he wouldn’t bother doing it himself and she knows how strange the holidays are for him, in that they remind him both of family he has and family he’s lost.

Harry scrubs at the dishes, setting them in the drainer to dry. He knows they’ll sit there for at least another day before he bothers to put them away, but it’s a start. “Sunday is my cleaning day. It’s Saturday, so technically you’re here on the worst day.”

Hermione rolls her eyes. “Ron and I clean up every night after we come home from work.”

“It’s true,” Ron replies, rummaging through the bag. He’s letting Hermione spearhead the decorating job, which is probably wise. “Our home is fucking mint. Clean as hell.”

“Oh fuck off,” Harry replies, even though his friends have fallen into something close to domestic bliss. Hermione is coming up on five months pregnant and they already have the baby’s room neatly decorated in yellow and pale green.

“You just have to clean a little bit a day,” Hermione says as Harry wipes down the counters. His apartment is starting to get a small film of grime all over it, although he supposes with the amount of time he spends here it should be a little more tidy. The place is a lot to tackle all by himself.

“What are the radios for?” Hermione asks, running her hand over the knobs of the one in the front. “They look really old.”

“You’re not turning into my dad, are you?” Ron asks, peering in from the kitchenette.

“Not as of yet,” Harry replies. “They’re just cool, I guess.”

Hermione narrows her eyes at him and Harry tries to look innocent as he moves the stacks of newspaper that have accumulated on the couch.

“Harry, I’m taking out your trash for you,” Ron yells from the kitchenette. “Because I am a shining example of a good friend and I care deeply about you.”

Harry rolls his eyes, letting Ron traipse down to the dumpsters with a bulging trash bag. As soon as the door closes, Hermione rounds on him. “The radios wouldn’t have anything to do with a certain Draco Malfoy, hmm?”

Harry stills, wondering if it’s safe to try and deny it.

“You wouldn’t believe who owled me last week,” Hermione continues, looking extremely menacing for someone who’s untangling garland.

“I’m sure I won’t be able to guess,” Harry says weakly, carrying the newspapers over to the recycling pile.

“Pansy Parkinson,” Hermione replies, and Harry’s heart jumps up into his throat. “She says that you’ve been following Draco to where he works, at a muggle repair shop, and that yesterday, when you were supposed to be at the hospital, you two went somewhere together.” Hermione says accusingly, stopping to give him a piercing stare.

“I did go to the hospital,” Harry replies, focusing on the straightening so he doesn’t have to meet her eyes, which he can feel searing into his shoulder. “He asked to come with me, so we went.”

She drops the garland, dropping all pretense of decorating. “You two went to the hospital together? That’s it?”

Harry shrugs. “It was perfectly innocent.” He doesn’t really want to defend himself against this, but he doesn’t really have a choice when Hermione looks like she’s close to strangling him with the garland.

“Well then why does Pansy thinks you’re trying to hurt him?” Hermione counters, crossing her arms. “He messes you up Harry, he’s always made you do stupid things.”

“Why would you believe her over me?” Harry asks, feeling guilty and childish all at once. “You don’t have to worry about it, we’re like, working on things.”

“I didn’t press when I first found out because I thought you had it under control,” she says slowly, leaning against the table and watching him. It’s an intervention and he wants out. “But Pansy wouldn’t owl me if she didn’t have a good reason and that worries me.”

“It worries me too,” Harry replies honestly, because Draco terrifies him, but it’s a good kind of adrenaline rush. “But like, he’s more than he used to be? There was this girl, and he was lovely to her, she gave him one of her flowers and he wore it behind his ear the whole visit.”

“You don’t have to defend him to me,” Hermione replies. “I just never thought I’d have to be the one reminding you that he’s not just anyone.”

He hopes by the end of this he’ll have answers for her, that he’ll have something to tell Ron and reasons to give to Pansy. He hopes he’ll be able to tell Draco why it’s so important that he keeps coming back. Draco’s just not just anyone, that’s the point.

Harry doesn’t answer her and Ron comes back a short time later, the mood a little quieter even as he tries to crack jokes and tease them both.

When they leave, the apartment feels warmer with the ghosts of their presence and the garlands shimmer in the low light. Harry sits in his armchair with his old radio, thinking of flowers and disasters.

 

xx

 

Draco is outside when Harry stops by, watching the sky like it might fall onto him, and he doesn’t notice Harry until he clears his throat to make himself known. Draco’s still not wearing gloves, a beanie perched on his head but barely covering his ears.

“Evening,” Draco says, not bothering to look over.

“What are you doing?” Harry asks, following Draco’s gaze but only seeing the sky.

“Looking for snow,” Draco says with a sad little tilt to his lips. “Weather said there’d be some, but I don’t see any.”

Harry moves to stand beside him, sticking his hands in the pockets of his jacket. “Pansy owled Hermione yesterday. Apparently we’re worrying them.”

“All we ever do, really,” Draco replies wryly, scuffing his shoe across the sidewalk. “Going to Granger, she must be beside herself.”

“I was a little worried Hermione was going to kill me,” Harry replies. “Although I don’t know if the plan was to strangle me with garland or hug me until I suffocated and died.”

“Both sound unadvisable,” Draco replies.

“Are you on break?” Harry asks, peering into the lit up shop, the light from the window bleeding onto the dark sidewalk. It’s barely past four, but it gets dark so early that it feels like evening already.

“No, I’m off.” He’s quiet for a moment and Harry watches the warm swirl of his breath and not his lips. “I’m getting picked up, one of my friends is having a show in her apartment.”

“That sounds-” Harry stumbles over his words, still so unaccustomed to the way Draco has seemed to slide into muggle life, even as Harry is so alienated from both worlds. Draco’s good at everything and that shouldn’t be as surprising as it is. “It sounds really lovely, actually.”

Draco glances at him, snapping his face back towards the road when he realizes Harry’s already staring at him. “I agree, yeah.” He watches the cars as they bump down the street, headlights flashing over them in pale white like spells. “Did you bring anything to fix?”

“No,” Harry replies, and barely even feels sheepish anymore. He thinks if Draco didn’t want to play this game he would have sent him away a long time ago.

“I see,” Draco replies, a shiver running through him. Harry almost offers him his scarf, but he can’t imagine that Draco would accept it. “Any grand plans for you tonight?”

Harry looks down at his feet. He doesn’t have any plans, because Friday is Hermione and Ron’s date night, Luna won’t be back from her research trip for another day, and Neville is drowning in marking. He doesn’t really have anyone else. “Probably making pasta. For myself.”

“Pasta is good,” Draco replies evenly, and Harry can’t help the smile that creeps across his face.

“Pasta is great,” Harry replies, and almost misses the answering smile that flits across Draco’s lips.

One of the cars slows to a stop in front of the building, a rusty old thing with an engine that reminds Harry of a small plane. The window comes down and a girl with faded blue hair sticks her head out. “You ready, babes?”

Draco smiles at her as he detaches from the wall, pausing to give Harry a quick glance. “Do you think you- If you don’t, you know, have any plans, I mean other than pasta- You’re definitely welcome?” He grimaces, sweeping his hair out of his eyes, and Harry can’t remember ever being so transfixed by anything. Draco has a funny pleading look in his eyes and it reminds him of the bathroom in sixth year and of the first time they locked eyes and Harry’s nodding desperately.

“Great,” Draco says, sighing deep and starting towards the car. He comes around the passenger side and opens the door, motioning for Harry to take the back seat. “Ellen, this is Harry, it’s cool if he comes, right?”

Harry pulls the door open and slides into the backseat, half afraid that the door will fall off when he slams it shut. It quivers a little but the car doesn’t combust, which he takes as a good sign.

“Nice to meet you Harry,” Ellen says, sneaking a glance at him in the rearview mirror before she jerks the car into the drive. “I’m Ellen.”

“Hi,” Harry says, the little charisma he has deserting him. “It’s uh, nice to meet you too.”

“You two are the saddest sad boys I’ve ever seen,” she declares, turning up the radio, which is almost certainly playing the Spice Girls.

“I’m not feeling that sad?” Harry says tentatively, at which Draco lets out a quiet snort-laugh.

“Ellen thinks it’s funny to call me a sad boy. She says all sad boys look emaciated and wear jumpers and that it’s not an emotion but a lifestyle,” Draco says, raising his eyebrows at Ellen, who looks tremendously pleased with herself.

“I do like jumpers,” Harry says tentatively, because they’re soft and cozy and an absolutely delightful invention.

“See, you are a sad boy,” Ellen replies, and Harry can’t tell if she knows who he is or not. He suspects that Ellen is Draco’s squib friend, but calling him a sad boy doesn’t mean she knows he defeated the dark lord and he doesn’t know how to address that.

“I don’t completely understand it either,” Draco says kindly. He looks more relaxed in the semi-darkness and Harry notices the way the light makes his sharp features a little softer, like he’s blurring into the night.

Ellen starts telling them about the first band that’s performing, some couple out of Bristol who play acoustic folk and make pottery, and it sounds delightful. It’s so far from anything Harry’s ever had, going from the Dursley’s to Hogwarts and straight into the war, and he feels strangely out of his depth. The phrase ‘can defeat the dark lord but can’t _____’ has become absurdly prevalent in his life.

By the time they’re let into the apartment, Harry feels restless, hovering at Draco’s shoulder. It’s lovely and warm inside, the walls covered in art and posters and christmas lights, and there’s a whole group of interesting looking people with messy hair who all kiss Draco on the cheek and give Harry welcoming handshakes and hugs. It’s overwhelming, because no one asks him for an autograph and no one wants a picture with him, and he feels horribly disoriented by all of it.

The band is setting up in the tiny front room and they’re both handed heavy glasses of wine and ushered towards the couch by a small girl with cornrows. Harry takes a tentative sip of wine, trying to steady himself as Draco sits down next to him, overly aware of how much their thighs touch.

“Are you okay?” Draco whispers, and Harry can’t tell if he sounds irritated or concerned.

“Are they wizards?” Harry whispers back, gripping the wine glass with unnecessary force.

“Ellen is a squib,” Draco replies, his voice almost gentle. “The rest of them are muggles.” He takes a quick breath and Harry can hear it pass his lips. “They don’t know who you are. Ellen won’t say anything.”

“Good,” Harry says, taking a shaky sip of wine. Draco looks at him strangely, a pale eyebrow arched up on his forehead, before he settled back into the couch and takes a gulp from his glass.

“You never liked the attention,” Draco says quietly, and it feels too intimate for this space but Harry doesn’t ask him to stop. “I liked it. It used to kill me that everyone paid attention to you and you didn’t even care about it. You were too busy saving the world and I just wanted people to like me.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry says tentatively, and Draco takes another decisive sip of wine and doesn’t say any more.

A tall willowy girl takes the mic before Harry can think of anything good enough to say, introducing the band with a happy little bounce before the couple take the stage, instruments in hand. It’s nice watching them play, only having to focus on the music and the warm presence of another person beside him, even if that person is Draco. The room feels a little too warm but it’s nice after the December cold and Harry wonders if this sort of thing could happen back in the wizarding world. He thinks his apartment has been quiet for too long, that maybe if he had other people to fill it, it would feel more alive. They play a short set, a few catchy numbers with picked guitar parts and pretty harmonies and then call an intermission.

Draco gets up for more wine and comes back a few minutes later with a lipstick print on his cheek and a tired smile. Before Harry can comment on the lip print, a brown haired man perches next to them on the edge of the couch, a cheeky grin on his face. Harry remembers being ignored by muggle children at best and harassed at worst but the man is smiling and warm like everyone else here.

“Hey Draco, who’s this?” He asks, his hair quiffed up high and his eyes bright blue.

Draco straightens, smiling back over at the man. Somehow it speaks of history more than friendliness and it prompts something in Harry’s chest that’s close to possessiveness. He pins it on nerves. “This is Harry, we knew each other at school.”

“Oh, fun!” The boy grins, reaching his hand out to Harry, who laughs at the absurdity of any of their schooltime interactions being labeled as ‘fun.’ “I bet you got up to tons of poncy private school adventures.”

“Oh always,” Harry replies with a smile and only Draco would understand the subtext, but the man smiles back anyway.

“I’m Jay, it’s great to meet you,” he leans forward, like he’s imparting a secret. “Draco’s so tight lipped about school, I want to hear about what he was like. Adriene thinks he must have been even more posh at school but I don’t believe it.”

Harry shrugs, trying to play it cool, like they didn’t go to a school for kids with magic, like he and Draco were anything like friends. “We learned mostly.”

Draco laughs under his breath.

“You two are so boring,” Jay pouts. “Did you play sports? You have the body for it.”

“Yeah,” Harry replies, then realizes that quidditch most certainly doesn’t count just as he receives an elbow to the side. “Just football mostly, I wasn’t that good,” he lies, drawing on his years of failed intramural sports as a kid.

Jay nods enthusiastically. “Did you watch the Premier League this year? Chelsea held their own which was fucking nice.”

“Harry’s from America, he’s talking about American football,” Draco offers before Harry can blunder through an answer, prompting Harry to kick him in the foot, because he doesn’t know anything about american football either.

“You’ve got the accent down mate, I wouldn’t even know,” Jay says. “Do you want to get more wine with me? I can teach you a bit about football if you like.”

There’s something in his tone that Harry doesn’t know how to field and he starts to nod uncertainly before Draco lets out a world weary sigh.

“He doesn’t play for your team, Jay,” Draco says, taking a very long sip of wine as Harry goes pink.

Jay starts, straightening back up. “Oh! Sorry mate, I thought that maybe-” he makes a vague hand gesture that goes from Draco, then to Harry, and then back to Draco again. “Draco didn’t say- but! Nevermind!”

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” Harry replies, knowing that his face has gone bright red even as he tries to be cool about it. Harry’s been hit on by blokes before, but he’s never had to actually deal with it, since fans are very different from earnest boys with blue eyes who want to give him wine and talk to him. It never really registered as an option, not with how Aunt Petunia said homosexual so similarly to the way she said magic.

“You don’t think I offended him did I?” Harry asks as soon as Jay makes a graceful exit into the kitchen, and Draco does that snort laugh again.

“You’re the most oblivious person I’ve ever met,” Draco says. “He started talking about your body and you started talking about football.”

“He told me I looked like I played sports,” Harry protests, feeling a little ridiculous about the whole thing. Draco looks endlessly amused with him and Harry doesn’t know how to deal with that sort of thing. “That’s not like, secret code is it?”

Draco laughs into his glass and Harry wonders if he’s trying to get drunk or if Harry’s imaging it. “Might as well be secret code. With the amount of people who try to sleep with you, one would think you’d be a little less idiotic.”

“It’s different,” Harry protests. “People just want to sleep with me because I’m famous. And they usually just yell, they aren’t like, I don’t know, nice and stuff?”

Draco pauses, glass to his lips, blinking at Harry a few times. “Harry.”

“What?” Harry takes a grumpy sip of wine, wishing Draco wouldn’t always look like he knew all the answers.

“You weren’t interested in him were you?” Draco asks carefully, and Harry doesn’t know what the correct answer is. Somehow an outright no feels like a lie.

“Oh god,” Draco says, heaving himself up. “More wine.”

“I wasn’t!” Harry scrambles to say, but Draco is waving him off and heading for the kitchen. Harry sits there quietly for a moment before getting up to mingle, wandering around the room and hovering on the edge of a group of girls talking about jumpers.

One of them notices and makes him introduce himself, and he’s telling them about Mrs. Weasley’s infamous christmas jumpers within minutes. One of the girls comes by with the bottle of wine, topping their glasses off even though Harry wasn’t planning on getting drunk.

“I thrifted this enormous cardigan last winter, it’s black and goes down to my feet, it’s honestly the warmest thing I own,” one of the girls says reverently.

“I got a space print onesie secondhand a few years ago. It was boys XL but it definitely still fits,” another one adds, and Harry is more than a little jealous. Everyone is so lovely here, nice in a way that isn’t asking for anything in return. Harry’s lost Draco somewhere in the house but he feels welcome and he doesn’t completely mind.

Someone takes the microphone and calls the next band up, three girls taking the stage, one on keyboard and the other two on guitar.

“Come sit!” A pink haired girl grabs him by the hand, pulling him onto the wood floor next to her with a grin. “I’m Emma by the way.”

“Hello,” he smiles back, crossing his legs. “I’m Harry. Draco brought me.”

Her eyebrows goes up and she makes a happy noise of recognition. “Oh lovely!”

Harry thinks she might be inferring something, but he doesn’t have the energy to correct her, especially not when Draco sits down on his other side with a stumble.

“What have you been drinking?” Harry asks, narrowing his eyes at Draco, who looks deceptively innocent.

“Things,” Draco replies, taking an insolent sip of wine. “I see you’ve made Emma’s acquaintance.” He pauses to wave. “Hello Emma.”

She giggles, waving back at him, and Harry is trying to process the situation. Draco is pink cheeked like he gets when he’s embarrassed, his hair a little mussed like someone’s put their hands in it. He keeps smiling, a soft genuine thing that’s becoming more and more familiar.

“We were talking about jumpers,” Harry offers as the band gets their instruments in order.

Draco peers around to make sure Emma is distracted and then replies. “Muggle clothing is a gift. So comfortable. Fuck robes. Fuck those weird hats.”

“I was wondering about that,” Harry replies, gesturing at Draco’s hoodie, Slytherin green but decidedly muggle.

“Well I am trying to pass,” Draco replies seriously. “Robes are not in. Robes are very much not in.”

Harry fails to stifle a laugh. “They really aren’t.”

“We could bring them in,” Draco replies. “This is a very trendy group, I’m very confident in my ability to sway mainsteam fashion.”

“I did see something about capes coming back,” Emma offers, rejoining the conversation. “It’s very glam rock revival.”

“I might literally be a genius,” Draco insists, and Harry lets it go when the frontwoman of the next band starts the set. They’re called Tin Girl Machine and they play songs that remind Harry of summer.

Draco is quiet beside him, tapping his foot along to the rhythm. Emma rests her head on his shoulder for a while and it feels like they’re real friends.

After the bands finish playing the party starts to disintegrate, and it’s a few hours later when Draco stumbles a little when he moves and kisses the cheeks of every new person he sees. Harry’s been watching him drink with an eerie deliberateness, and even though Harry’s pleasantly buzzed, he hasn’t tried to match him. He’d ask about it, but it’s not his place, because Draco is his friend and isn’t. It’s a strange line and he doesn’t know where they fall on it.

Draco is telling a laughing Ellen that she’s the best thing ever when she leans over and whispers to Harry. “Can you make sure he gets home alright?”

He nods even though Draco’s the one who brought him here, even though he’s not responsible for Draco drinking until he’s too wasted to apparate. “Of course, I’ll get a cab.”

“Wouldn’t want you two to splinch,” she says with a wry smile. “I’m going to start kicking people out, I have work in the morning.”

“Good luck,” Harry replies, turning to Draco who’s petting the shoulder of a bemused black haired boy. “Ready to go, Draco?”

Draco turns, affixing Harry with a pout. “It’s not that late, we don’t have to go.”

“Ellen has work in the morning,” Harry replies, reaching for Draco’s arm. He melts into Harry’s touch, barely even humming disapproval when Harry guides him towards the door. “And I have to go, Ron’s picking me up for brunch in the morning.”

Draco makes a face. “Boring.”

“It’s not boring,” Harry replies, letting Draco lean on him as they walk down the stairs and along the empty sidewalk. It’s chilly, but Draco seems too drunk to be bothered even as Harry shivers.

“Are you cold?” Draco asks, smiling down at him as they walk. Harry has to look away, the intensity in his grin too bright in the darkness. Alcohol makes Draco sweet and daring and it makes Harry want to touch him, though he’s not sure why.

“A little,” Harry replies, and Draco sidles closer to him, like he thinks his stupid body might make Harry warmer. They walk until they reach a busier street corner, bright night lights casting pink and orange shadows across their hands and faces. Harry hales a cab, realizing only after they’ve both piled in that he doesn’t know Draco’s address.

“Where do you live?”

“Why?” Draco asks, and already, Harry is sure he’s going to make this as difficult as possible.

“So you can go home,” Harry replies, resisting the urge to sigh deeply, sneaking a nervous look at the cabbie, who seems irritated at them already.

“I’m not taking you to my place,” Draco replies evenly. “It’s a mess.”

“I’m not coming in, you idiot,” Harry replies, sneaking a glance at the already running meter and gritting his teeth. “Whatever, we’ll go to mine, but if you’re pissed off in the morning that’s not my fault.”

Draco is silent as Harry gives his address to the cabbie and Harry has a sneaking suspicion that Draco’s pleased about the whole thing. Harry sneaks a glance at him, watching the way the streetlights catch on the platinum color of his hair, the flush of his cheeks and how he slumps against the side of the seat.

“You okay?” Harry asks quietly, and Draco tilts his head to catch Harry’s eye.

“Tired,” Draco replies, curling into his hoodie. He looks small, Harry is always caught off guard by how small he looks when his chin isn’t tilted so high. “Why aren’t you drunk?”

“Because I had an adult amount of wine,” Harry responds testily, but he can’t truly reprimand him.

“You should get drunk with me,” Draco replies, still staring at him from where he’s slumped against the car door. “We could get fabulously drunk together.”

“We’d probably end up dueling,” Harry replies, although he’s not sure he believes that anymore. There’s no hostility anymore but it feels odd to acknowledge that they’re something close to friends.

“No,” Draco replies. “Maybe. I bet I could still make you mad if I wanted to.”

“You probably could,” Harry replies, although he can’t think of anything Draco might say that would make him feel that old animosity.

“Would you like me to try?” Draco replies, and he almost looks devious, eyebrows creeping up his forehead, his mouth quirked.

“I don’t think so,” Harry replies.

Draco laughs. “Scared, Potter?”

“Yes.”

Draco just watches him for a moment through hooded eyes. “You should be.”

Harry doesn’t know how to reply to that so he stays quiet, staring out through the front window at the night. He wants to call Hermione, tell her that she was right and that he’s in too deep. Pansy’s words about taking care of Draco when he drank too much echo in his head and he wonders what it means now that he’s the one making sure that he gets home safe and doesn’t kiss anyone he shouldn’t.

Draco is silent for the rest of the car ride, his face pressed to the window as London flashes by. They arrive at Harry’s apartment a few minutes later and Harry pays the cabbie, helping Draco up to his flat with a hand on his back that he probably doesn’t need.

“Your flat’s nice,” Draco says when they get in, Harry turning on the kitchen light and clicking the kettle on. Harry shrugs, getting a mug down for himself as Draco hoists himself on the counter, crossing his legs primly in front of him. “Aren’t you going to make a cup for me?”

Harry gets a second mug down, marveling at the fact that Draco is in his kitchen, sitting on his counter top like he belongs there, asking for tea. He hadn’t even asked if it was okay to sit on, which is typical really.

“Didn’t Pansy say something about you not drinking?” Harry asks, rifling around his tea cabinet.

“No,” Draco replies, then scowls. “I don’t drink a lot anymore. Sometimes it’s just nice to not have to think about everything I do.”

“You normally think about everything?” Harry asks, watching the flames lick at the bottom of the kettle.

“Of course,” Draco replies. “It takes a lot of effort to be as perfect as I am.” He crosses his legs the other way, glancing out the window. “I don’t want to do anything wrong.”

Harry stops to look at him, no words coming to his lips.

“Not like, in a weird way, just like. I know people are scared of me. I know they think that I’m a monster.”

“You’re not a monster,” Harry replies, wishing Draco would just look at him. He’s playing around but Harry knows that he believes everything he says.

“Not in so few words,” Draco replies. “Decisions were made, some by me, some not by me.”

“Stop it,” Harry replies, shaking his head like that’ll make him stop. “You’re drunk.”

“It’s still true,” Draco sing songs, leaning back on his hands.

“You were nothing but lovely to me when I came in to the store the first time,” Harry replies stubbornly, remembering the way Draco talked like he was afraid to disturb the dust that had settled between them, how he never snapped or told him off. He remembers the look in his eyes when he’d told Pansy she’d done enough and how after that he couldn’t begin to stay away.

“You saved my mother and I from Azkaban,” Draco replies primly. “I couldn’t just be outright rude to you.”

“Is that why you’re being nice to me?” Harry asks, even though he knows that this has become something more than that, at least hopes it is. Still, the thought starts to trickle into his bones like ice and makes him more afraid than he thought it could.

“Harry,” Draco replies, soft like an admonishment. “If you could refrain from being an idiot for once.” Harry has the strangest sense that Draco’s eyes can see right through him.

Draco reaches out in his direction, twiddling his fingers and letting his head loll to one side. Harry hovers for a moment, fear washing over him before he takes Draco’s hand, letting himself be pulled too close. He can smell him - wine and cologne - and Harry is swimming in his own head.

He almost asks what Draco’s doing, but thinks maybe that he already knows and doesn’t have the energy to stop it. Draco puts a hand on his shoulder and tugs him closer, between his legs so his waist hits the counter.

“You do an awful lot of worrying,” Draco says, leaning down so their foreheads are pressed together and Harry can’t bring himself to pull away. Draco’s staring at him with those quiet gray eyes and he feels like nothing has ever mattered more than this.

“Yeah, I know,” Harry replies, his hand still clutched in Draco’s, the other holding onto the edge of the counter for dear life.

He lets his eyes close, lets himself be held, Draco’s free hand coming to the back of his neck and pulling him up into a kiss that feels like breathing in. Draco’s lips are softer than he thought they’d be and they taste like wine. He allows himself to acknowledge that maybe he wondered what this would be like, that he looked at Draco’s lips and thought about how they’d feel on his.

The apartment is silent around them and he can hear them both breathing, the quiet movements of their lips and he can’t pretend that this is anything other than what it is. There’s the knowledge that this is wrong, that it ruins everything, and then there’s the way that Draco holds him a little too tight like he’s afraid he’ll get away, the way that Harry feels safe for once.

Harry wonders if Draco will pretend that he doesn’t remember that he kissed Harry first, even though Harry was close to sober, even though Harry closed his eyes and waited for him to do it.

The kettle whistles in the background and Harry pulls back, blinking and flushed. Draco doesn’t let him go, just holds tight and blinks back, mouth half open, palms damp.

He’s beautiful and Harry has known for weeks that he’s beautiful, but has only just found the words for it. Draco says nothing, just watches him and dares him not to move even as the whistle stretches out in the dim kitchen. He looks tired and afraid but almost victorious, like he’s gotten something he wanted, like he’s winning. Harry is so gone.

“I think-” Harry clears his throat, trying to draw himself back into reality. “I think I have a crush on you.”

Draco gives him the smallest of smiles, loosens his hold. “Go get the kettle.”

Harry does, feeling the loss of Draco’s warmth with a sharp pang as he turns off the burner and pours two cups. Harry pushes Draco’s cup over to him, watching the fridge as they wait for their tea to cool.

Harry feels centered, calm even as he knows that this may not last. He can smell something oddly floral, maybe azaleas, maybe carnations, and tries to focus on the tile beneath his feet. He kissed Draco and the world didn’t implode around them. Maybe he fancies him, it’s whatever.

Draco comes down off the counter much later, and their cups are long empty, silence falling around them like new snow. He sets his mug in the sink and comes back to run his hand over the skin of Harry’s arm, leaving the kitchen without another word. Harry almost follows him but pauses to wash their mugs out instead, feeling sleepy and oddly domestic.

After he tidies the tiny kitchenette, he searches the house for Draco, finding him curled on Harry’s bed, the covers barely pulled over him. Harry wonders if he meant to fall asleep here in his clothes. Harry tries to pull the blankets higher over him, tugging off his shoes and leaving him to sleep in his street clothes. He almost lays down next to him, but thinks better of it, stealing a blanket and going to sleep on the couch.

Laying in the living room, stray blankets pulled over his shoulder, he nearly regrets not curling up behind Draco and tucking his face against the curve of his back. It’s not his place and Draco’s too drunk for him to take advantage of, but he still wants that closeness.

Alone, he drifts off to sleep.

 

xx

 

Ron is in his face when he wakes up. “Morning sunshine, nice to see you up and about.”

Harry lifts his head, realizing that in the foggy blur of last night he’d forgotten to set an alarm. “How’d you get in?”

“Your door was open,” Ron replies, and Harry cringes, then sits bolt upright when he remembers that Draco is most likely still asleep in his bed and that he’s dangerously close to having to explain the last few weeks to a certain Ronald Weasley within minutes of waking up.

“What time is it?” Harry asks, trying to keep his voice low, like maybe he’ll be able to get out of this without waking Draco up. He hopes dearly that Draco left in the early morning hours, that he’s really in an empty house and this won’t all implode on him.

“Ten thirty. Time for brunch,” Ron replies, entirely too loud for the morning.

“Okay, you wait in the kitchen, I’m going to get dressed,” Harry says, throwing off the blankets and picking up yesterday’s clothes from the floor, slipping into his bedroom in only his boxers, and scowling as Ron snickers at him.

The room is quiet, late morning light falling through the single window. Draco is wearing one of his shirts, Harry is sure, and the sheet is pulled up just past his torso. His hair is messy around his face and Harry almost can’t bear to wake him up. He’s still beautiful, Harry was almost hoping he’d forget that, or that in the morning the words would stop holding such weight. They haven’t, they still crush heavy on his chest.

Harry sits down on the edge of the bed, running his hand through his sleep rumpled hair. “Wake up. Draco. Wake up.”

Draco doesn’t stir and Harry jostles him ever so slightly until his eyes slowly open. “What?”

Harry shushes him and yanks his hand back, afraid to touch Draco’s still sleep warm body. “Ron’s here, I have to leave, you have to be quiet. Don’t leave until after you hear the door.”

“Oh,” Draco replies, rolling away from Harry and pulling the blanket over his shoulders. Harry lets out a long frustrated breath.

“Why are you wearing my shirt?” he whispers.

“I woke up and threw up and so I needed to change,” Draco replies irritably. “You didn’t even set a glass of water out for me.”

Harry blinks at him. “You’re the one who fell asleep in my bed, thank you.”

“You didn’t wake me up and move me,” Draco replies, turning back over just to give Harry a peeved look. “It looks better on me anyway.”

“You’re much more difficult when you’re sober, I don’t know how I possibly forgot,” Harry snips, getting up to put on clothes and refusing to look at Draco as he does. He can hear Ron’s footsteps on the tile and tries to wiggle into his too tight trousers, tracking down a clean tee shirt and two matching socks.

“Have fun on your inane little lunch date,” Draco says frostily, reaching down to pull the comforter up and over him.

“I fully intend to,” Harry replies with just as much venom, shutting his door with unnecessary force when he leaves.

Ron raises his eyebrows at him as he laces up his shoes. “When’d you start talking to yourself?”

“This morning, evidently,” Harry replies, then grimaces. “Sorry, I fell asleep on the couch, I’m grumpy.”

“Clearly,” Ron replies with a laugh. “We’ll get you some scrambled eggs. Pretty sure nothing can be bad if you’re eating scrambled eggs.”

Harry smiles ruefully, following him out into the chilly morning without another thought to the boy in his bed.

 

xx

 

After brunch - which is delightful actually, Ron was correct about his scrambled eggs hypothesis - Harry does his grocery shopping and tries to put off coming home. He’s hoping Draco won’t be there, is hoping he is, and knows there’s no way he will be after Harry snapped at him.

Harry pushes his front door open with his hip, dropping grocery bags onto the floor with a series of dull thumps. He pauses, hands around a milk carton, noticing the sound of the tv coming from the living room.

“Hello?” he calls out, stashing the milk in the fridge and peering into the other room. He finds Draco sprawled out on the couch, Antiques Roadshow playing on the tv. Draco is drinking tea out of one of his mugs and he’s wearing pajama pants of Harry’s that barely skim his ankles.

Draco taking a sip of tea, looking disapprovingly at him. “Took you long enough to get back.”

“I thought you were leaving,” Harry says, then cringes at his lack of tact.

“For someone who has been very keen on being in my business, you seem awfully ready for me to leave,” Draco replies, looking thoroughly unimpressed. He redirects his attention to Antiques Roadshow, frowning at the rug the experts are examining. “They’re far overpricing that. The manor had one in the drawing room that we bought for half.” He seems to be making an effort at being extra-belligerent this morning, and if he weren’t camped out in Harry’s living room, he’d be worried that Draco was truly upset with him.

Harry sighs. “Are you drinking my tea?”

“Didn’t exactly have mine, did I?” Draco replies, and Harry flumps down on the couch next to him instead of arguing. “How was lads brunch?” He’s definitely making fun of it, but Harry isn’t going to reproach him.

“Scrambled eggs are the best,” Harry replies by way of explanation, watching an old woman talk about her family heirloom. It looks like a set of shitty plates, but Harry doesn’t know anything about antiques.

“Five to six thousand pounds,” Draco says, then focuses back on Harry. “That’s true.”

“Have you been watching Antiques Roadshow all morning?” Harry asks, knowing on some level that this is one of the most bizarre things to ever happen to him.

“Yes,” Draco replies, moving so his feet are underneath him and he’s curled against the side of the couch.

“Do you need a blanket?” Harry asks, and goes to get the big aubergine colored one down from the closet when Draco shrugs.

Harry drapes the blanket over them and watches Draco for any indication other than his quiet acceptance of the blanket that he cares about Harry’s presence. The plates are priced at four thousand pounds and Draco frowns even though he’s much closer than Harry would have been.

Draco guesses three more items and gets two of them right, and Harry tries not to stare at him. He finally speaks as the episode goes to commercial. “Are you upset with me?”

Draco purses his lips, nose stuck the smallest bit into the air. “Well you weren’t exactly pleasant to me earlier were you?”

“Ron was literally in the kitchen, what was I supposed to do?” Harry replies irritably, feeling a little guilty at the way he’d snapped. He thinks it might have had something to do with the how clearly the kiss still stings in his mind. They’re going to have to talk about it at some point, but nothing has ever sounded more terrifying. He’d told Draco he had a crush on him, like a fucking first year on fucking Valentine’s Day. The worst part is that it still feels true.

“Are you ashamed of me?” Draco asks petulantly.

“Did you want to have a talk with Ron Weasley in your boxers and my tee shirt?” Harry snips back, face heating at the image. They both know exactly it would have looked like and what it almost was.

“Not particularly,” Draco replies. “I just thought that after you kissed me a little courtesy and manners wouldn’t be out of the question.”

“Not sure what the proper conduct is for that, don’t think it’s outlined in Ms. Manners, thanks,” Harry gripes back, vaguely aware that another episode of Antiques Roadshow is starting. Why is Draco even watching it anyway? Why does he dance to ABBA when no one is looking? Why is he always so much? “Besides the fact that you kissed me!”

“Only because you clearly wanted me to,” Draco replies loftily, even as Harry notices the rosy flush to his cheeks.

“Oh please,” Harry replies, tugging at the blanket just to be petty. “Keep telling yourself that.”

“Just like you told me you had a crush on me?” Draco replies, scowling over at him from the other side of the couch.

Harry can feel himself going pink, tries to find anything that could masquerade as an excuse. “I was drunk.”

“Barely.”

“It counts.”

“Sure.” Draco crosses his arms, staring intently at the tv. “Three hundred pounds.”

A few minutes later, the blanket in question retails for ten thousand pounds and Draco stays completely silent.

“I don’t know why I said it,” Harry says quietly. “It just came out.”

A muscle in Draco’s jaw jumps and he’s quiet long enough for Harry to worry. “So you didn’t mean it.”

“I don’t know,” Harry says. “When I said it- I don’t know, I did I guess.” He can barely speak by the end, too nervous and tongue tied. Calling it a crush makes all of the feelings he didn’t know how to label make sense, they’re an explanation he knows everyone will believe, and they open up a whole new vat of problems he can’t begin to handle.

“But do you mean it now?” Draco asks, barely moving like he’s afraid to shock Harry out of whatever place they’ve come to.

“Maybe,” Harry replies, and it’s the truth. “I don’t like guys. I don’t.”

Draco sighs, fixing his hair self consciously and watching the tv like he’s actually paying attention to it. “Okay.”

“It’s just you, maybe,” Harry says, then cringes. “I don’t know, it feels better if it’s just you. I don’t know.”

“While I would like to believe I have the power to turn straight men temporarily gay,” Draco begins quietly. “You sound like you’re making excuses”

Harry’s feels absurdly like he might cry, because he hasn’t thought about it properly, but being bisexual, or something close to it, makes sense even though he wishes it didn’t. “I don’t really know how I feel.”

Draco shakes his head. “I wish I wasn’t having this stupid conversation with you.”

“Sorry,” Harry replies.

“I wish I hadn’t kissed you,” Draco says, more to himself than to Harry. It hurts, even though Harry would much rather pretend it didn’t make him feel anything. “I don’t need to be your experiment after all of the shit we’ve done.”

“You wouldn’t be an experiment,” Harry replies, realizing only halfway through what he’s implying. If he’s not experimenting, then this means something, that all of this is more than he’s trying so hard to pretend.

Draco finally turns to look at him and Harry holds his gaze defiantly. The feelings aren’t going away, just swirling around in his gut as he studies Draco’s gray-blue eyes. He wants to put his hands on Draco and that doesn’t make sense but it’s the only thing he has.

“I would prefer not getting hurt,” Draco says finally, quiet like he has to force the words out. “I’m not interested in wanting you more than you want me. I’m not going to do that to myself.”

“Draco,” Harry begins, but he’s cut off with a head shake.

“What are your feelings for me?” Draco asks in a clipped tone. He looks cold on the surface but there’s a vulnerability about him, and Harry knows it’s because if Harry doesn’t like him back then he loses again. Draco likes him, and Harry wonders how long that’s been going on. He doesn’t know how he could have missed it.

“I don’t know,” Harry begins, knowing the words aren’t good enough even as they come out. He feels that same niggling terror he felt when trying to talk to Cho for the first time and thinks maybe he should just stay out of relationships if expressing his feelings always makes him want to gouge his eyes out. He takes a deep breath, trying to do better so Draco doesn’t curse him, or worse, leave. “Well like, no, I do know, at least, a little.” He rubs the heels of his hands into his eyes until spots of color grow in the darkness, trying to find the right words for once. His mouth goes dry when he meets Draco’s eyes so he talks at the blanket, words slipping like wet leaves from his mouth. “You make me feel safe and I feel like you understand me and like I understand you, more than other people do. I feel deeply connected to you and I don’t know if that’s a romantic connection or if it just means that we’re like, meant to be close somehow, but I like being with you. So much. I meant what I said, I do have a crush on you. It’s dumb, but I do.”

“We don’t have to do physical stuff if it’s weird for you,” Draco says slowly. “I don’t need that from you, I just want to be like-” He coughs like he’s looking for a noise to fill the space. “I would like to be close to you too. When you yelled at me this morning I was going to leave but I didn’t really want to. I feel very calm here. This whole place feels like you.”

“You can stay here for as long as you want,” Harry replies, sneaking a glance at Draco. He’s worrying the edge of the blanket with his nervous fingers and his cheeks are blotchy pink.

Draco nods, barely looking up, and Harry turns to watch the tv as a man introduces an old engraved table. “Eight thousand,” Harry guesses.

“Three thousand,” Draco says a few seconds later.

It’s four thousand and Draco gets a victorious little smile on his face, and Harry thinks that he might just need more practice at this. Draco crawls across the couch and tucks himself stiffly against Harry a few minutes later. Harry loops an arm around him and feels him slowly relax, the tension falling from his shoulders as their bodies curl together, letting the afternoon slip into evening.

 

xxx

 

Draco goes to work wearing one of Harry’s shirts and the pants he’d worn the first night and his hair smells like Harry’s shampoo. Hermione is busy but Luna’s home and he meets her at the donut shop, mostly because he needs someone to remind him he isn’t losing it.

“Lovely to see you Harry,” she says, greeting him with a kiss on the cheek and a hug. She smells like herbs and warmth and she has a smattering of freckles on the bridge of her nose from her trip. “What’s happened?”

Harry narrows his eyes at her, wondering how much she already knows. Having an uncanny amount of information at her disposal has always been a specialty of hers and it’s never gotten any less disconcerting as they’ve gotten older. “It’s a little stupid, honestly.”

Luna shakes her head at him, a strand of bright red hair falling from her bun. “I can tell something’s happening, your aura has gone all funny.”

Harry glances self consciously down at his legs like there will suddenly be red light seeping from his skin. There isn’t, but that isn’t altogether surprising. “Yeah, things have been weird lately,” Harry mumbles. He’d called Luna to gripe about his personal life, but when he goes to say it out loud it sounds ridiculous and juvenile.

“They have,” Luna calmly tears off a piece of donut. She’s wearing one radish earring and it swings a little when she tilts her head back, the other studs in her ear glittering in the light. “There’s been a lot of solar activity. Often a harbinger of large shifts in our normative behavior.”

“Yeah, that makes sense,” Harry replies, even though reading solar activity is beyond him. She isn’t exactly wrong.

“I’ve been studying the effects of solar energy on society at large. There’s a clear correlation between appearances of the northern lights and change, it’s all very interesting.” Luna tells him. An authority has started to seep into her speech and Harry feels quietly proud of her and her absurdity.

“That’s incredible, Luna,” Harry replies and she smiles like she already knows. She tells him about how she can’t prove causation, especially without looking more closely at outside forces, but Harry thinks she’s brilliant anyway.

“So tell me about you,” she says finally, sitting back with the last of her donut and a sly smile. “Your text seemed awfully urgent.”

Harry makes a face, running a hand through his already messy hair. “I’ve gotten myself involved with someone. It’s disastrous.”

Luna laughs, her eyes going closed as she does. “Not sure it can be any other way with you.”

“My track record isn’t that bad,” Harry protests, although he knows it really is.

“Oh honey, please.” Luna gives him a familiar little head shake. “Who’s the unlucky person?”

“That’s part of the disaster,” Harry replies, then amends. “Most of the disaster, honestly.”

“I see,” Luna replies. “How about you tell me what’s happening first and then the person after?”

Harry’s sigh of relief is almost embarrassingly loud. “I don’t entirely know what happened, I found them by accident and then I couldn’t stop going back to see them.” He knows even as he begins that this isn’t going to make any sense, but getting any semblance of words out makes him feel a little better. “I didn’t think it was that weird, or any more weird than normal, and then we both got drunk and they kissed me and I told them that I liked them.” He cringes at the memory. “I think my exact words were ‘I have a crush on you.’”

Luna looks appropriately sympathetic, which does make Harry feel a little better, despite the fact that he’s not entirely sure how she’ll react when she figures out who he’s talking about. “And does your mystery person feel the same?”

“Conflicted and terrified?” Harry gripes, then amends himself. “Sorry, yeah I think so. We talked about it. Kinda.”

“Well thats good,” Luna replies. “Communication is vital in any relationship. Which might be why you’ve had so much trouble.”

“Thank you Luna, your honesty is ever appreciated,” Harry replies sarcastically, scowling when Luna smiles serenely over at him.

“I’m sure,” she replies. “And part of the problem is that whoever you’re interested in is somehow not a girl in the way that you’re used to?”

Harry splutters through his bite of donut and has to take a good twenty seconds to make sure he isn’t going to choke and die. “Why would you say that?”

“Gender neutral pronouns,” she replies. “You don’t often use those when talking about your romantic interests, so whoever you’re entangled with doesn’t use she/her pronouns.”

“Oh,” Harry replies, knowing even as he tries to calmly take another bite of donut that he’s turned bright red. “Yeah, that’s part of the problem.”

She smiles, looking extraordinarily pleased with herself. “So who are they?”

“You can’t make fun of me,” Harry replies, because if she laughs he thinks he might have to move to the forest and spend the rest of his life as a hermit. He has camping experience. He could probably do it.

“I won’t make fun of you, I know how difficult sexuality is,” she says, going abruptly serious. He remembers the first time that she mentioned, in passing, that she wasn’t looking for a romantic partner, and then added lightly ‘probably ever.’

“It’s not just that,” Harry replies, because liking a man wouldn’t be the end of the world, but Draco is more than just some guy. “You know him.”

She scoots forward in her chair, resting her chin on her palm. “We can twenty questions it if it’s easier.”

“Sure,” Harry replies, because he doesn’t think he could say the name without throwing up. He’s an idiot for thinking this could work and that everyone would just be okay with it.

“Did he go to school with us?” Luna begins, her blue eyes piercing as they study his reactions.

“Yes,” Harry answers, alarmed at how quickly the pool has shrunk.

She nods slowly, processing. He knows they never gave her credit for how smart she was, something in her lightness making everyone underestimate her. “Was he a Gryffindor?”

“No.”

“Ah,” she says quietly. “Of course.”

“I feel like such an idiot, I don’t know how it happened,” Harry mumbles into his hands. “It’s a complete disaster. We’re a disaster.”

“You’re perfect for each other, really,” Luna replies. “Gemini and Leo is a very interesting combination, you balance very well.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Harry replies, confused at the lack of explosion. “I thought you’d try and talk me out of it or like, tell me that I’m making a terrible choice.”

Luna shakes her head, looking pensive. “When I was being held at Malfoy Manor during the war, I received a series of small packages. The house elves would bring them down wrapped in little handkerchiefs and they would have a few candies or pastries wrapped inside. I think a few times there were a few flowers too, which was beautiful. I don’t know for sure that it was Draco, but I sent him an owl after the war asking him to thank whoever it was and he replied with a very polite apology and a few candies wrapped in a handkerchief. It was very kind.”

“What kind of flowers?” Harry asks, his throat closing even as he says it.

“Geraniums actually. Red ones, like the ones my mum used to plant,” Luna replies, a ghost of a smile on her face. “I wondered if he knew somehow.”

Harry shakes his head, getting his phone out to search. “It’s the flower code.”

“Sorry?”

“The flower code. He told me about it. Each flower means something.” Harry stares at his screen, scrolling until he reaches the Gs. “Comfort. That’s what Red Geraniums mean.”

Luna holds very still. “I never would have thought.”

“I know,” Harry replies.

Luna taps her foot, studying him. “Does he make you happy?”

Harry thinks back to the night before the kiss, watching Draco smile and tease everyone, thinks about how it takes a while to understand when he’s joking because he wears his attitude like a shield but his real humor is quiet and how he dances sometimes when people aren’t watching. Harry wonders if he asked nicely, if Draco would dance with him. “Yeah.”

“Then I don’t see why what anyone else thinks matters,” she replies with a delicate shrug, pulling her elaborate blue robes across her lap. “Although for the record I think it’s beyond time that you started using the energy between you two for something positive.”

“Energy?” Harry replies, raising his eyebrows at her.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” she replies easily, giving him a reassuring smile.

He does.

 

xx

 

During a presentation on self defense charms, Harry receives a text from Draco that reads ‘do you want your shirt back.’ Harry doesn’t remember getting his number, but it’s in his phone under ‘Draco’ followed by a dragon emoji, a green heart, and two green apples. Luckily the demonstration is nearly over, as thinking about Draco makes it infinitely more difficult to concentrate.

He had accepted the radio silence of the first few days after the kiss, trying to play it cool for a little while instead of barging into the repair shop, which had been his first instinct. He’s surprised that Draco had contacted him within the week, as he’d somehow assumed he’d be even more interested in playing it cool than Harry. He briefly considers that Draco isn’t scrutinizing his every interaction with Harry, but is sure he’s just doing a better job of concealing any neurosis than Harry is.

Harry texts him ‘I’d love it back, come to my house’ and regrets his forwardness almost immediately. He doesn’t want Draco to think he’s desperate, even though he knows he is. Wanting to see Draco as much as possible wasn’t such a big deal with when ‘as much as possible’ meant ‘maybe once a week.’

He gets an affirmative response and has to rush home to tidy up the place, knowing that he’s being obsessive even as he arranges the newspapers carefully on the couch. Draco’s already seen his flat but it feels important now, just like everything else, and he finds himself standing in front of the mirror trying to tame his stupid hair even though he knows it’s a losing game.

By the time the doorbell rings he’s tamed it into something that might pass as okay and he’s trying not to panic. It’s just Draco, but it’s sober Draco, and the Draco who curled up next to him for four episodes of Antiques Roadshow and kissed him on the cheek before he left.

He pulls the door open, revealing Draco in a crisp, clean sweater and a pair of emerald pants that look irritatingly effortless. Instead of saying hello, Draco squints up above his head. “Are you attempting a new hair style?”

“I tried,” Harry admits, embarrassed to have been caught.

“It’s better how you usually do it,” Draco replies, and Harry resists the urge to grind his teeth.

“Oh, you mean messy and ridiculous?” He replies, petulantly ruffling his hair to try and ruin it further.

“That’s marginally better,” Draco says, setting Harry’s newly cleaned shirt on the counter and attacking Harry’s hair with his fingers until it’s rumpled to his satisfaction. Harry can smell his cologne as he leans in and he wants to kiss him again, but he thinks introductions should probably come before that. “Honestly you shouldn’t bother trying to fix it.”

“Glad to know my hair is a losing battle,” Harry replies wanly, and Draco shrugs, looking pleased with himself.

“I wouldn’t say that you’re losing,” he replies, then tilts his head to the side. “Hello.”

“Hey,” Harry replies, memories of this kitchen, dark and soft instead of washed in afternoon light, are fresh enough to make his heart stutter faster.

“Well, anyway, enjoy your shirt,” Draco says offhandedly, then grimaces. “Fuck I’m dreadful at this.” He does an awkward little wave, trying to slide back out the door. “I suppose I’ll see you around then, when you have time to stop by the-”

Harry reaches for his arm, pulling him back inside. “Aren’t you going to stay a bit?”

Draco smiles slowly, curling back into Harry’s space. “I was hoping that you would ask.”

“Of course you were,” Harry replies, keeping his hand around Draco’s forearm as he leads him into the living room. He can pretend it’s for convenience and not because they’re holding hands if he keeps his fingers wrapped loosely around Draco’s wrist.

“Pansy is terribly suspicious,” Draco says, flopping down on the couch and pulling the eggplant blanket over his legs. He looks pleased about the whole thing, and Harry has the paranoid suspicion that he’s enjoying this ‘secret relationship’ thing quite a bit. He thinks he might be having trouble with the idea that Draco is interested in him at all. “Apparently she tried to visit the manor the day I was at yours and none of the house elves knew where I was.”

“What does she think you’re doing?” Harry replies, then feels like he’s overstepped.

“Certainly something more debaucherous than this,” Draco replies offhandedly. “Although I think I get points for fraternizing with the enemy.”

“Well thank god for that,” Harry replies, trying to ignore the sudden fear that Draco is only doing this because it’s secret and fun. Harry likes secret and fun, but he thought that their talk meant that maybe they could be something more than that. He might want commitment, maybe love and maybe forever. It’s a lot to deal with.

They fall into silence, and Harry tries not to be obvious that he’s staring. He just wants to kiss him, because with Draco’s mouth on his there’s no question of whether or not Draco really wants him.

“I want to kiss you,” Harry says, blushing even as the words leave his mouth. Maybe he’s a masochist, there’s another explanation everyone would believe.

Draco blinks over at him, a gentle smile alighting on his face as he crawls over to Harry’s side of the couch, situating himself between Harry’s legs. He runs a hand across Harry’s jaw, watching him like he’s trying to figure him out. “You sure?”

“Very sure,” Harry replies, pulling Draco closer with a hand on his hip. He’s not sure about all of it, too intimidated to ask for anything else, but he knows that kissing is great, that it feels like sparks and comfort and heat and that he wants to do more of it.

Draco smiles as he leans into the kiss and Harry can feel his heart beating in his ears, almost too nervous to do anything but close his eyes and let himself be touched. Draco’s lips are smooth against his and they tease his into compliance, hands curling up into his hair.

It feels safe and lovely and Harry wants his hands everywhere, running down Draco’s back and settling on his hips, not sure where he’s allowed to touch. It’s oddly innocent, even as Draco pushes his tongue into Harry’s mouth and tugs at his hair like he wants more of him.

Harry thinks he might be able to do this forever, pulling Draco from between his legs and into his lap so they can be closer. Draco pulls away for a moment to brush his hair out of his eyes and Harry presses kisses down his jawline and onto his neck and hopes that Draco knows they’re a request to love him back. He doesn’t ask if this is just a fling or if Draco only likes it because it’s a secret but he sucks the pale skin of Draco’s neck until he’s sure it’ll bruise and that’s good enough.

“Don’t expect I’ll be able to cover that up,” Draco says when he’s done, sounding a little breathless as he leans to press their foreheads together.

“Good,” Harry replies, more gruffly than he intends. “I don’t want you to.”

“Oh,” Draco says, pressing a kiss against Harry’s nose. “Can I give you one or will people ask questions?”

Harry frowns, hurt even though he doesn’t want to be.

“Did I do something wrong?” Draco asks, eyes going concerned. He pets at Harry’s hair with one of his hands and it’s soothing and gentle and Harry wants all of this. “I won’t do it if you don’t want me to, it’s okay.” It’s worse, because this side of Draco is soft and caring and wants to make sure he’s okay, and he doesn’t ever want to lose it.

“I don’t want to have a secret relationship,” Harry replies, unable to meet his gaze. “I don’t think I can do that, it’s not fair.”

Draco breathes out in one long huff, closing his eyes like that makes it easier. “You don’t want to be seen out with me, you’d never hear the end of it.”

“I don’t care,” Harry replies fiercely, bringing a hand up to Draco’s jawline so he can rest his chin on it. “I told Luna and she didn’t care. I don’t give a fuck about what anyone says.”

“You’re so brave,” Draco says, and Harry knows that all of his fears are unfounded. It’s so easy for him to forget that Draco seems to genuinely likes him, that it’s not about anything other than that. “You make it sound so easy.”

“It is easy.” Harry brings his face down so their foreheads are pressed together so Draco has to meet his eyes. Because Draco likes him and he likes Draco back. “We don’t have to tell the press or anything. Just our friends.”

“Are you sure?” Draco asks, watching him like he’s something strange and wonderful, gray eyes wide and afraid. He tucks his chin into Harry’s hand like he’s trying to hide, licking his lips. “What if we fuck it up?”

“I don’t think we’re going to fuck it up,” Harry says, even though all the odds are against them. He can’t imagine a universe where he wouldn’t want this, even though Draco is a prat sometimes and his arm is still dark with the mark. Those parts don’t really matter. “I really like you. So much.”

Draco smiles, finally, small and genuine. “You’re alright.” He leans in to Harry’s ear, whispering, his eyes shut tight. “I might like you a little.”

Harry smiles, wishing he could hold Draco tighter even as he tugs them together, their breathing loud in the quiet room. “Me too.”

Draco laughs softly and Harry grins into his shoulder. “It’s going to be okay,” he mumbles into the fabric of Draco’s sweater and is answered with a kiss pressed to the skin just below his ear.

Things are less broken than before.

 

xx

 

It’s Monday and the shop is quiet, so Draco is playing Does Your Mother Know and giving Harry disapproving looks when he tries to dance. Harry’s dragged one of the duct taped stools behind the counter and sits next to Draco as he doodles mountains and flowers on the notepad.

“Have you packed for America tomorrow?” Draco asks idly, shading some snow on the side of one of his mountains.

Harry nods, adding little sun at the top of the paper. “Yeah, I hope the talk goes okay. I feel so under qualified for those things.”

“Not sure how defeating one of the darkest wizards of our time makes you under qualified but okay,” Draco replies, kicking him in the shin to punctuate it.

“Yeah, I guess so, but I technically never graduated so there’s that,” Harry replies, kicking him back. “I wish I had, I probably wouldn’t have had such a hard time right after the war if I’d gone back to the dorms and finished my classes.”

“Quite,” Draco agrees, bopping his head to the music. “Hogwarts was a home to me, especially when things were less than ideal at the manor. If I had gone back I might not have... you know.”

“It was like home to me too,” Harry says, glancing over at Draco’s face and tracing the lines of concentration that form around his mouth when he draws.

A smile flickers across Draco’s face. “The Slytherin Common room was my favourite, everyone would lay out on the floor and do their homework right before exams and the seventh years would bring everyone treats and help you if you needed.”

“It was so cold though,” Harry replies, then clarifies. “I snuck in there once.”

Draco rolls his eyes. “What didn’t you sneak into, really. And it wasn’t cold if you knew how to use a warming charm or a blanket.”

“Or you could have just stoked the fire like normal people,” Harry replies, thinking of the soft lounge chairs encircling the Gryffindor fireplaces. The memory of the common room has always made him feel better about everything.

“Well if we’d turned up the heat we wouldn’t have pulled off dark and mysterious with such success,” Draco replies. “And I wouldn’t be so excellent at warming charms.”

“Of course, how could I forget the age old adage of ‘fuck comfort I’m a slytherin’,” Harry replies, the entrance of a customer with an old radio the only thing stopping Draco from biting back a retort.

Harry steals the doodle pad and makes little Gryffindor banners all over it as Draco rings the customer up in his cheerful work voice. Draco goes to put the radio in the back and scowls at Harry’s additions when he returns. “Terribly done, Harry. You’ve completely cocked up what was a lovely drawing.” Harry pretends not to notice the amusement in Draco’s eyes.

They’re quiet for a long moment, Draco singing along to ABBA quietly like Harry won’t notice if its not that loud, before he turns, affixing Harry with a strange look. “You’re aware that you aren’t actually under qualified, right?”

“Hmm?” Harry responds, looking up from the drawing.

“Just like,” Draco shrugs, looking through the windows instead of at Harry’s face. “You aren’t under qualified to give talks. I’m not sure if you know how good you are at that sort of thing.”

“What sort of thing?” Harry asks, squinting over at him.

“Talking to people. Like at the hospital. You always act like what you do isn’t of consequence, but you’re good at helping people like that and it’s very good of you.” Draco says, and Harry has the suspicion he’s trying to articulate something bigger than what’s coming out of his mouth.

“I mean, it’s really not, I don’t know how to do anything else,” Harry replies uneasily, unsure of how to proceed. He’d only started after being roped into it by Hermione on one of her crusades to help him get his life together and just never stopped. That doesn’t mean it’s good enough.

Draco shakes his head, turning to look at him. Harry feels like he’s been cornered and doesn’t know how to leave. “There, that’s exactly what I mean. You devalue it and that’s completely ridiculous because you do so much good? Volunteering at hospitals and helping kids cast spells is incredible.”

Harry stares at him, trying to connect what he’s saying back to himself even though it doesn’t seem to fit. He loves what he does, likes it better than paperwork and protocol and working with the ministry, but he’s so used to the pity other people gave him after he failed at being an auror that he doesn’t know what to do with this.

“That’s it, that’s all I wanted to say,” Draco says in a long breath, getting up to straighten the cup of pens even though there’s nothing about it that needs to be straightened.

Harry reaches out to still his hands, trying to find the right words. “Thank you.” He knows he’s shite at this, has never been able to articulate his feelings for anyone without feeling completely ridiculous and out of depth, but he wants to try for Draco. “Everyone expected me to do something like, really big and when I stopped being an auror it felt like a failure.”

“I think that what you do is much more important than being a fucking auror,” Draco replies. “But whatever.”

“Thanks,” Harry replies. “You’re good at it to too.”

“I know,” Draco replies, and it’s not proud. “You learn a lot about comforting people when everything in your life is falling apart. I’d prefer than people don’t have to feel like I did.”

“Luna told me about the little packages and the flowers,” Harry says, hoping it’s not a secret. “She didn’t know if it was you for sure, but she said you sent red geraniums and I know those mean comfort.”

Draco picks a pen out of the cup and drops it back in. “She wrote me a thankyou a few years ago. It meant a lot to me. I still have it.” He sighs deep. “It’s a reminder that I’m not a bad person.”

“Of course you aren’t a bad person,” Harry replies, because war changes people. Harry knows that.

Draco looks shifty, and Harry has the feeling that talking about his feelings is just as difficult for him as it is for Harry. “I’m still figuring out how to be a good person. It’s very strange, living with the fear that you’re going to slip back into that, that if you’re too cruel you’ll be awful again. It’s difficult when witticisms are your only emotional defense.”

Harry doesn’t understand it completely, wants to tell him that what he did doesn’t matter, even though he knows that it does. Draco’s reputation will always cling to him like spiderwebs because he has a history of cruelty even if it was thrust upon him just as much as greatness was thrust upon Harry. It’s all luck but it matters. “You’re good at being a good person.”

Draco shrugs. “I’m trying my best.”

Harry shrugs back. “Me too.”

Draco smiles, coming back around the counter, and they watch the cars sweep by in silence until Draco pushes his pinky up against the side of Harry’s hand, leaving it there until Harry gives in and goes to hold his hand, clasping it tight with chilly fingers.

 

xx

 

Draco is showing Harry how to change a belt in a record player, and they both know that Belinda knows something is up, but she hasn’t said anything and neither have they.

“It’s really hard, because you have to get the plate back on and stretch the band over the pin,” Draco says. “Hold it like this, you try.”

Harry leans over the machine, grimacing when he fits the plate in, but the band doesn’t wrap around the pin. “My fingers don’t fit,” he grumbles. lifting it back off and handing it to Draco, who pretends to look sorry for him.

“Poor baby,” Draco replies, sliding it over in a series of careful movements. “It’s about finesse.”

Harry scowls at him. “I don’t have time for this.”

“Draco, don’t be mean to Harry,” Belinda says, coming over to get a screwdriver.

“I’m doing nothing of the sort!” he protests, even as Harry beams. The front bell chimes and Belinda goes to get it, slipping out the front curtain as Draco casts a neat cleaning spell on the machine. “You can’t just expect to be good at everything, Saint Potter.”

Harry sticks his tongue out like a child, letting Draco kiss him on the cheek and then wrapping his fingers around Draco’s wrists and keeping him close.

“I’m at work,” Draco whispers into Harry’s ear. “It’s fortunate Belinda lets you hang around.”

“Very lucky,” Harry replies, kissing the bruise he’d left on Draco’s neck a few days ago. He’s wearing a scarf over it, but it’s high enough that it still peeks out.

“Hello boys!” Belinda announces, carrying a tv into the back room.

Draco jumps away from Harry, doing such a terrible impression of innocence that Harry can’t fight a wicked smile. “I assure you I can explain-”

Belinda cuts him off, setting the tv down at the table and waving her hands at him. “It’s not my business, just don’t get so distracted you forget what you’re supposed to be fixing.”

“I direct any and all blame to Harry, whose is entirely at fault here,” Draco says, and Belinda’s answering laugh echoes as she goes back out to the front. “That was less than ideal.”

“Maybe for you,” Harry says, not feeling overly repentant. “She didn’t seem upset.”

Draco rolls his eyes, moving the record player over to the finished area. “She’s exceedingly lovely, I’m not surprised.”

“You really like working here, don’t you?” Harry asks, because a muggle repair shop has always seemed like an odd choice, but Draco has never expressed any desire to leave. “You could probably do something else at this point, you could even volunteer with me if you wanted.”

Draco shrugs, setting another record player on the table. “I enjoy it here. And Belinda needs the help, she can’t be here every day. Her husband passed last year and she doesn’t have anyone to help her run the store, so I think she likes having me around.”

“But forever?” Harry replies, because Draco settled down somewhere quaint is a surprise.

“Maybe not forever,” Draco replies. “This shop is a safe place, always was. I want this.”

“I get that,” Harry says, because he remembers the first time he visited, when the shop felt like a place no one could touch him. “Is it hard to explain to people?”

“Pansy has been pestering me about a ministry position for years,” Draco confirms. “I think she’s used the words ‘real job’ about twenty times. Like anyone there would respect me, I’d be doing menial bullshit until I fucking died.”

Harry doesn’t know how true that would be, but he knows better than anyone how deep prejudices run. “This works for you somehow.”

“It’s surprising how things come together.” Harry has the distinct feeling that Draco’s also talking about him.

“It is,” Harry replies. “There’s some good in serendipity.”

Draco works on the record player, deconstructing it and placing the pieces carefully on the table, and Harry takes inventory of him. He has his sleeves rolled up and Harry can see the ghost of the Mark on his forearm imposed over the network of purpling veins. His nails are neat and cut short and he has smudges of grease on his hands that he doesn’t always wipe off. There’s a scar on his ring finger that Harry hasn’t asked about yet.

“Did you really find me here by chance?” Draco asks, fiddling with the fussy pieces holding the plate onto the machine.

“Yeah. Ron’s Dad gave him a record player last Christmas and it was convenient for me to bring it in since I don’t exactly have a desk job,” Harry replies with a rueful smile. “Can’t imagine how it would have gone if he’d brought it in.”

“Less kissing,” Draco says with the smallest quirk of a smile. “Probably. You can never really be sure.”

“Gross.” Harry makes a face, surprised by the pang of possessiveness. He knows these feelings are probably something they should talk about, the way that every time Harry kisses Draco he feels like it’s a request for more time and more love and how every time he thinks about Draco being with anyone else it makes him want to mark up Draco’s neck with kisses so everyone knows he belongs to Harry. He can do this communication thing, he’s not going to fuck this up. “You should meet him probably. Like, a proper meeting. As my boyfriend. Or something.”

Draco pauses, looking up at Harry with raised eyebrows. Harry feels idiotic but tries to power through it. Feeling conflicted and ridiculous seems to be a large part of maintaining this relationship, and if it means he can keep Draco close he’s just going to have to be okay with it. “Which one?”

“What?”

“Something or boyfriend?” Draco replies, in that aristocratic, clipped little voice that means he’s trying not to let his feelings show.

“Boyfriend,” Harry says firmly, even though he’s terrified, because he hates that Draco would ever doubt that he wants that.

“You’d really tell them?” Draco responds, pausing his work to look at Harry, who shrugs.

“I’m bad at double lives, I was a complete failure at occlumency. I can’t keep things separate, it all bleeds together,” Harry says and hopes it’s enough. And I want them to see you like I see you. I think you’re fantastic. The morning Ron almost found Draco in his bed still cuts too sharp and he knows he can’t hide this from them forever, even though he’s terrified things will turn sour afterwards.

He’s the one who crept into Draco’s life and fell for him, he has to pick up the pieces.

“I was always good at occlumency,” Draco replies, breaking Harry’s gaze to look up at the ceiling. “Compartmentalizing and lying are strong suits of mine.”

“Everyone needs a talent,” Harry says, relieved when a self deprecating smile flashes across Draco’s face.

“You’re very difficult to scare off, Harry,” Draco glances at him, and Harry doesn’t know what he’s hoping to find. “I suppose I’ll have to put in a little more effort in the future.”

“I personally don’t think you’re trying hard enough,” Harry replies, the humor barely propping it up, wishing he could kiss Draco’s sadness off his face. Harry’s put a name to the way that Draco drank and kissed his lips that night and told him he might love him and it walks the line between possession and attempted self destruction. “I want to be with you. You aren’t going to scare me off, I’ve faced scarier things than you.”

Draco dips his head in the smallest of nods, then studies the floor. Harry almost reaches over to touch him and bring him closer but he waits for Draco instead, like you’re supposed to do with wild animals and maybe storms.

He reaches for Harry’s wrist, holding it between his fingers and studying it with gray eyes fixed in concentration. “I’m going to tell you a secret.”

Harry nods, almost too afraid to breathe.

“Sixth year everything began to fall apart and I couldn’t pretend I didn’t feel things that I felt and that meant that I felt guilty and tired and that I had to acknowledge that everything I felt close to was changing. I couldn’t pretend that the family I loved was different from the family that killed people or that money and blood status actually mattered anymore. And I had to accept that much of the hatred I felt towards you was jealousy and desire.”

“What?” Harry asks quietly, sneaking a peek at the curtain to make sure they’re still alone.

“I was jealous of you and I wanted what you had,” Draco says, his tone even and his grip tight. Harry feels like he’s stepped abruptly into a very cold puddle or a rainstorm and doesn’t know how to get out, his chest compressing as Draco stares at him. There’s some of his old dignified tendencies and pride in it and Harry is crumbling in the heat. “I also wanted you. And now I have you, and I feel like I’m going to lose you. That me being me is going to drive you away and that’s why its so hard for me to believe that you’d want me in your real life.”

“I don’t think you can drive me away by being you,” Harry says, clearing his throat and fighting the blush on his cheeks. “I think everyone around me knew that my hatred for you was just a badly hidden obsession. It’s not really explainable for me, but I couldn’t leave you alone, even when I thought you were a prick.”

“You don’t think, you just feel,” Draco replies, the corner of his mouth quirking up. Harry can’t tell if he’s back to joking and doesn’t know which is scarier. Draco lifts Harry’s wrist up to his lips and presses a kiss against the soft, pale skin on the inside of it, keeping it there and holding his gaze until Harry feels like he should know something more than he did before it. He’s not entire sure what it is but it feels weighty and significant and a little bit like old magic.

Harry reaches for Draco’s arm, meeting his eyes as he raises it to his mouth. The Dark Mark, faded and gray, is stark against Draco’s skin and Harry presses his mouth to it, Draco’s breath catching in his throat as he does.

He lingers there, unmoving, then lets Draco’s arm slip back to his side. He feels out of control and when Draco grabs his face and kisses him it feels like the only real conclusion to any of this.

He presses his tongue into Draco’s mouth and backs him against the table, trying to wrap himself up. Harry wants to be closer to him, wants to protect him and wants to be devoured whole. Draco clutches at the collar of his shirt, shoving Harry away with a labored breath, shaking his head even as he rests his forehead against Harry’s. “You’re extremely distracting, go home.”

“Come and visit me after,” Harry says, pressing the shortest kiss to Draco’s mouth and pulling back to smooth out his shirt. “Sorry, fuck, this was so unprofessional.”

“I didn’t mind, somehow,” Draco replies, pushing his hair back from his face with a sigh. He looks flustered and Harry is never going to get tired of how that looks on him. “I’ll see you later, Harry.”

Harry nods, sneaks out through the curtain, giving Belinda a goodbye and an apology as he does, even as she shakes her head fondly at him. He wonders what she thinks of all of this, if she thinks they’re high school sweethearts back together or if she has some idea that their past tangles like underbrush and scratches like thorns.

Harry thinks he loves Draco, thinks Draco knows this. Thinks the love scares him.

Something about their conversation sticks on the back of Harry’s eyelids and every time he blinks he remembers the way that Draco looked when he said that he’d wanted Harry for ages. He feels like the universe has pushed them back together, like it saw them and thought maybe they deserved another chance.

He tidies and starts laundry and makes a cheese toasty and tomato soup and doesn’t worry even as the sky fades to lavender and then black. He’s comes up the stairs from moving the load into the dryer to find Draco at his doorstep, looking dejectedly at the door and shuffling his feet.

Harry walks up behind him, whispering a quick hey before taking both of his hands and resting his head on Draco’s shoulder.

Draco leans back into Harry’s embrace. “You planning on letting me in?”

“Was thinking about it,” Harry replies, untangling himself from Draco and leading them both inside. “I could make you a cheese toastie if you want, I was just eating.”

Draco nods, sitting on Harry’s counter like he did the first night. “Fancy.”

Harry starts heating the griddle back up, the silence hanging in the air. It’s farther from awkwardness and closer to newness, like they’re still figuring each other out. This feels like the oldest slow burn and yet they’ve barely been kissing for two weeks, throwing themselves into each other like bottle rockets or runaway stars.

“I’ve decided,” Draco begins, crossing his legs primly even as he perches on the countertop. “That I would like you to meet my mother. If we’re going to do this.”

Harry pauses, an unwrapped kraft single in his hand, a shock of fear rushing through him. “I already know your mother.”

“Yes I’m aware,” Draco says primly, and Harry wishes he wasn’t so endeared by the way all his old mannerisms come back when he pretends he doesn’t care about things. “Just be grateful my father has passed or I’d make you meet him too.”

Harry shudders at the thought but tries not to look outwardly revolted. He still doesn’t understand Draco’s feelings towards his family but he understands that it’s complicated and stronger than he knows.

“Okay,” Harry says, pressing the bread onto the griddle with a sizzle. “I’ll meet her, that’s fine.”

“Excellent,” Draco replies, bringing a foot up onto the counter and tucking his chin onto his knee. “I’ll meet Ronald then.” He says the name like some strange animal he isn’t planning on touching.

“And Hermione,” Harry says, even though that’s probably pushing it. If they’re tempting disaster there’s no point in doing it halfway.

“Pansy,” Draco replies with a shrug. “You convince her to like you.”

“How am I supposed to do that?” Harry asks, wondering how he ended up involved with someone whose best friend would be fairly capable of murdering him. Although, he’s not sure he’d want a cross Ron and Hermione pointed in his direction either, so maybe they’re equal.

“Use your ever present charm and wit,” Draco says, then smiles crookedly so Harry knows he’s joking. “I won’t throw you to the sharks, I’d like you to be invited back.”

“So we’re really doing this then?” Harry asked, flipping the sandwich over and leaning against the counter to look at Draco.

“I’m not letting you get away,” Draco replies, examining his fingernails. “You’re mine now.”

Harry smiles, walking over to kiss him again. Draco smiles against his mouth and his fingers find their way into his hair, messing it up like he always does. Harry tugs Draco down from the counter so he can press him against it, hands on his jaw and the small of his back, always trying to love him harder. He thinks briefly that the shop wasn’t really the safe space and that it was Draco all along, even though none of that makes sense.

They kiss until the cheese toasties burns and when the smoke alarms go off Harry curses and runs to turn the stove off, swearing as he tugs his shoes back on and tries to wave the smoke away from the alarm, finally giving up and tramping downstairs with everyone else.

They stand outside with the rest of the building as the firemen come, shivering in the December cold and watching the spectacle unfold. The first lonely snowflakes of the year are drifting down into their hair and Draco holds his hand and complains about the cold damaging his delicate constitution, snickering at all of it: the world and the snow and maybe him too.

Harry kisses him just so he’ll be quiet.

 

xx

 

Harry has been invited for low tea. Harry has been taken to Diagon Alley and fitted in a pair of nice dress robes because he literally doesn’t own anything that passes Draco’s inspection.

“Don’t you go to charity balls, Potter?” Draco had asked incredulously as he surveyed Harry’s closet, a mish mash of skinny jeans and faded tee shirts, and the dress robes he wore to Ron and Hermione’s wedding. “These robes are awful. Simply abysmal.”

“Hermione said I looked nice!” Harry had protested, and Draco had let out a pitying sigh and whisked him to The Well Dressed Wizard to pick out something he deemed suitable.

Draco has arrived at Harry’s doorstep in a pair of dress robes with emerald piping with his hair slicked back like he used to wear it at school, a strand curling down artfully in front of his face. Harry, kindly, doesn’t tell him like he looks like a prat, as pissing Draco off is not what he needs to do right now and because he definitely still wants to kiss him so it doesn’t really count.

“Well you clean up decently,” Draco says, giving Harry an appraising look that lingers on his hair. “Perhaps we should have gotten you a hat.”

“I thought you liked my hair messy,” Harry grumbles as he lets Draco in.

“I like messing up your hair mostly,” Draco replies, still all business, then gives Harry a small smile. “Don’t look so petrified, you’re fine.”

Harry lets out a sigh and scrunches his face up. “I feel ridiculous. Dress robes for tea, honestly.”

“Mother takes tea very seriously,” Draco says, then tilts his head a bit to the side like he’s thinking of something else. “We indulge her.” He seems to shake the thoughts from his head, holding his arms out for Harry to take. “Ready to side along?”

Harry nods, wraps his arms around Draco and lets himself be pulled along. The first time they side alonged is sharp in his mind, and he remembers how quickly they’d jumped apart after, still so afraid to touch each other.

Harry untangles himself from Draco’s grasp when they land, finding himself in a posh sitting room, a vase of fresh flowers on the coffee table. They’re pink and he doesn’t recognize them. He wonders what they mean.

A kettle goes off in another room and Harry glances out the window, surprised to see a white picket fence separating this yard from the next. He doesn’t know why he expected Narcissa to be at the manor after everything, but this cottage with its pretty furniture and peeling wallpaper is still surprising. The room seems almost overfilled and doesn’t quite all match, and Harry thinks he might recognize a table from his brief time at the manor, like maybe all of Narcissa’s favorite things were crammed in this little room.

Draco reaches over to squeeze Harry’s hand, and he registers that they’re both equally nervous, which is the farthest thing from comforting.

“Mother?” Draco calls out into the house. “We’re here.”

“Coming, love,” Narcissa calls back, a clattering of china floating in from the kitchen. Her voice is familiar from the trials and before and Harry wants to hide or sink through the cream colored carpet. “Sit down, make yourself comfortable.”

Draco walks over to the loveseat and sits, quiet like he’s trying not to make any noise, all of his former bravado and snark gone. Harry knows he uses them as armor and weapons and yet he’s always surprised by how quickly they fall away. Harry cautiously takes his hand, feeling the immediate pressure of Draco’s fingers squeezing his own.

They wait in silence for only a moment or two more before Narcissa appears in the doorway with a tea tray, a lovely navy robe wrapped over her shoulders. She has her hair done, small tear shaped jewels pinned into the wrap of braid on her head, and she’s wearing a pale lip color like Aunt Petunia used to when they went out to dinner.

She freezes when she enters, blinking rapidly at them and looking in serious danger of dropping the tea tray. Harry realizes with horror that she hadn’t known it was going to be him, but before he can jump up and run out with an apology, she rights herself, sweeping over to put the tray on the table and extending her hand to him.

“Harry, lovely to officially be introduced after all this time,” she says pleasantly, a warm smile on her face. He takes her hand and, after shooting a panicked look at Draco for instructions, presses a kiss to the back of it. “Please call me Narcissa.”

“Nice to meet you too,” he says, hoping it’s the proper thing to say. He now understands Draco’s insistence that he get proper dress robes, even her posture makes him feel slovenly, and suddenly Draco’s manners makes infinitely more sense.

“Draco didn’t tell me you’d be the one calling,” she says, lifting the tea pot. “Lemon, milk, sugar, or honey?”

“Milk please,” Harry replies, not sure what to say to begin justifying himself as she pours the tea, adding a splash of milk to his and a few sugar cubes to hers and Draco’s. “He mentioned a boyfriend but I wouldn’t have guessed.”

“I may have neglected a few details,” Draco says, saving Harry from cobbling together a response.

“Indeed,” Narcissa replies, a hint of amusement in her eyes. “A smart match though.”

Harry resists the urge to ask ‘really’ as he picks up his tea cup.

“I’m pleased that you approve,” Draco replies, sounding shaky as he stirs his tea.

“Of course, dear,” she smiles, her eyes crinkling up at the sides like Draco’s do when he’s laughing. He has his mother’s eyes too, it’s a little unnerving. “I did wonder when you were younger, you were so flamboyant and you talked about the poor boy incessantly.”

“Mother,” Draco protests, going pink cheeked.

“I did think maybe it would be Pansy, but,” she shrugs delicately, apparently satisfied. “He’s much better than some of the other boys.”

“Mother,” Draco repeats, this time more strongly.

She smiles over at him, and Harry is almost sure she’s testing him somehow. He doesn’t know what the test is and doesn’t know how to pass. “How have you been Harry? I heard about the unfortunate business with you leaving the aurors.”

Draco winces, but Harry clears his throat and tries to come up with an answer, his earlier conversation with Draco still in his ears. “I mostly do volunteer work now, it’s a lot more rewarding than doing paperwork and rehashing the war.”

She nods, the jewels in her hair glinting in the light as her head moves. She has a way of listening that makes Harry feel like she’s never heard anything more interesting and it’s as fascinating as it is disconcerting. “Service, of course.”

“Harry and I visited St. Mungo’s together a few weeks ago to talk to some of the children there,” Draco says, his accent as posh as it was back at school. Harry notices that he’s sitting up straight and tries to fix his own posture, feeling like an idiot even as he does. “He does a lot of good work.”

“That’s lovely,” Narcissa says, giving him that warm smile again.

“I just spoke at a school in America about Defense Against The Dark Arts,” Harry offers, hoping it’s the right thing to say. “Their wand technique is so different from ours.”

“I studied in Manhattan for a few years after Hogwarts,” Narcissa says pleasantly, taking a sip from her cup. The set is fine, all delicate gold handles and pretty flowers, but there’s a chip on the side of Narcissa’s dish and he wonders how old all of this is. “They have such a brusque way of casting spells. I think they lose some of the finesse, really.”

Harry nods along, taking a sip from his cup as she continues her story, and the rest of tea goes much the same. Narcissa is fascinating, warm and shimmering in the cottage with too much furniture and the finest, chipped china. When they finally apparate back, after Narcissa gives them both a goodbye kiss on the cheek, Draco lets out a sigh like he’s been holding it for ages and he slides onto the kitchen counter still in his dress robes.

“I think that went okay,” Harry begins quietly, because Narcissa didn’t curse him and she even told him to join Draco for tea more often if he wasn’t too busy. He hoists himself up on the counter next to Draco, who’s resting against the cabinet like he’s thinking about becoming a permanent fixture there. “Hey.”

“I’m sorry about her,” Draco says quietly.

“She’s lovely,” Harry says. “It was lovely.”

“I know,” Draco replies, then turns to look at him. “She thinks if we can get dressed up and have tea then everything will be okay just like it used to be.”

“Ah,” Harry replies, suddenly understanding.

“She gets dressed up every time I come over and she does all the proper etiquette and wears her lipstick like we’re still at the manor,” he says, letting his head go to Harry’s shoulder. “Pansy and I are the only ones who come to see her anymore.”

“I’ll come too,” Harry replies.

“You don’t have to indulge an old woman’s fancies,” Draco replies harshly, and Harry knows it’s a front, because Draco’s nerves make sense now. He wasn’t just afraid that Narcissa wouldn’t like Harry, he’d been afraid that Harry wouldn’t like Narcissa, that he’d see the way she’d cobbled together something like a new life out of pride and the pieces of her old one and wouldn’t want to stay.

“Of course I do,” Harry replies. “She’s your mother.”

“I know,” Draco says quietly, staring at the floor.

Harry can’t think of anything to say that doesn’t sound too sappy, so he just leans against Draco and and asks him about his favorite kinds of tea until he’s teasing him back again.

 

xx

 

Telling Hermione and Pansy at once seems like a good idea until they actually get to the quaint coffee shop and find them chatting at a table like old friends.

“It appears that they’ve allied,” Draco says. “Of fucking course.”

“I’m getting a ‘just made a terrible mistake’ feeling,” Harry says, hovering at Draco’s shoulder. “I’m sure it’ll only be worse if we blow them off.”

“True,” Draco replies. “Do you think it would be possible to stage a tragic accident within the next eight seconds.”

“They’d see through it,” Harry replies, only having to mentally conjure an image of Hermione glaring at him to be sure that they wouldn’t be able to pull anything off in time.

“Might as well deal with it,” Draco says, pushing through the doors with a sigh.

“Feel like I’m walking into a lion’s den,” Harry mutters, following him inside.

“Poisonous snake pit?” Draco offers, leading them up to the counter and ordering something fancy and complicated. Harry orders next, hoping that their drinks take ten years and that they never have to go over and greet the girls. Unfortunately, their coffee arrives in minutes, and they have to trudge guiltily over to the table Hermione and Pansy are sitting at, looking alarmingly chummy.

“Hello boys,” Hermione says, looking more dangerous than Harry knew anyone so pregnant could look.

Chairs are pulled out, Harry sitting firmly next to Hermione as Draco takes his place next to Pansy, and Harry wishes furtively that he could hold Draco’s hand under the table to resist the urge to induce a fainting fit.

“You said you had something you wanted to tell us?” Pansy asks diplomatically, tapping her holiday green and red acrylics on the table. She looks just as put together and foreboding as she had back in the shop, her dark red lip stain closely resembling blood. He hopes it wasn’t anyone he knew.

“Yes,” Draco replies quickly, then seems to shrink back into himself. Harry glances over at Hermione, who he can’t remember ever looking less impressed with anything in her life.

“What we wanted to tell you,” Harry begins, trying to drum up his auror training regarding hostage situations and talking down criminals. “Is that Draco and I- Well we-Have kind of-”

Pansy blinks expectantly at him, her tapping nails increasing in volume.

“What Potter’s trying to say is that we’ve begun a kind of friendship?” Draco says, and it definitely comes out as a question.

“You called us down here so you could announce that you’re friends now?” Hermione asks, raising her eyebrows. “I think an owl or text could have done, truly.”

“You neglected to mention it over tea last weekend,” Pansy adds. “Unless this is a fairly new thing for everyone involved.”

Harry grimaces, finally spitting it out. Maybe Hermione and Pansy will kill them quickly. “We’re together.”

“Like, properly,” Draco rushes to add, eyes big and panicked. “It’s official and whatnot. Boyfriends.”

There’s a moment of silence, before Pansy smiles over at Hermione. “They looked terrified, didn’t they?”

“Just petrified,” Hermione agrees. “The nail tapping was an exquisite touch.”

“We know, boys,” Pansy clarifies, smiling even wider when she registers their shocked expressions. “Or at least suspected.”

“How on Earth did you know?” Draco asks indignantly, pouting at the both of them. Harry feels torn between crying and laughing.

“You invited both of us to coffee and told us you had an announcement,” Hermione says. “We’re not idiots.”

“The announcement could have been anything,” Draco protests indignantly. “What if we were cursed somehow? What if there was some horrible, dark magic thing going on and I was dying?”

Pansy and Hermione exchange a look and Pansy elaborates. “Well for one, I talked to Belinda yesterday and she had some interesting information for me. For another, you were suspiciously cheerful in your denial of my offer to set you up on a date with that delightful reporter boy.”

“Have you two been talking?” Harry asks, narrowing his eyes at the both of them.

“I told you she owled me, Harry. We were both very worried,” Hermione responds, taking a motherly tone with him. “We talked and Pansy managed to convince me that Draco had gotten his life together and I convinced her that you weren’t trying destroy Draco in some petty act of schoolboy vengeance. Which you aren’t doing, correct?”

“Of course not!” Harry replies indignantly, unsure whether or not to be pleased at the reaction or annoyed. He takes a long swig of his coffee, feeling completely ridiculous. “So technically, you both helped us out.”

“We’re just happy that you’re finally doing something constructive instead of trying to hurt each other,” Pansy says, giving them both a sympathetic smile. “Although Harry, let it be known that if you step out of line I will kill you.”

“That goes for you too, Malfoy,” Hermione adds crisply.

“Honestly this has been incredibly anticlimactic,” Draco says with a sniff. “I expected much more groveling and many more threats.”

Pansy raises her eyebrows at him. “That can still be arranged.”

The point is not pressed further.

 

xx

 

Ron is told the news over what should be a quiet dinner.

“You’re shagging Malfoy and you didn’t bloody tell me?” He replies at full volume, setting his fork down with unnecessary force. “I can’t believe this. You told me when you had a crush on my bloody sister and not Malfoy?”

“We’re not technically shagging,” Harry protests quietly, unsure if its wise to interrupt Ron mid-tantrum.

“I thought I heard you talking to someone!” Ron plows onward, completely ignoring any of Harry’s comments. “That morning! He was in your room, you sneak!”

“It wasn’t anything weird,” Harry replies grumpily, as Hermione giggles into her napkin.

“I am disgusted and appalled,” Ron replies, pointing a finger at Harry. “I never want to hear about your sex life. Ever.”

“Ron,” Harry protests.

“EVER!” He repeats, then seems to center himself. “God damn Harry. Malfoy? Really? How did you swing that?”

“He’s not so bad once you get to know him,” Harry says reproachfully. “He’s just like, quiet and funny.”

“Can’t say I’ve ever described Malfoy as quiet or funny but good on you, mate.” Ron seems to ponder for a moment. “Can I make fun of him at future family functions?”

“No hexing please,” Harry replies with a sigh as Ron grins at him.

“I’ll play nice with your new boyfriend,” Ron says, sing song-ing the last word, and Harry lets himself be teased. “You’re forgiven for your atrocious choice in men but only because Hermione’s on your side and she isn’t usually wrong. Sometimes she’s wrong-” Hermione reaches over and hits Ron on the shoulder without setting down the glass of wine she’s sipping. “But usually not.”

“Thank you Ron,” Hermione says sarcastically.

“No problem, Mione,” Ron replies, leaning over to give her a kiss on the top of the head.

Harry lets them squabble, feeling much lighter than before. He’s kissing Draco and nothing in his life has fallen apart, and that’s better than he could have imagined. It’s far from perfect, he hasn’t even seen where Draco lives and Pansy still scares the life out of him, but he wants this to be something, wants to put time and heart into it so it works.

He thinks that maybe it could.

 

xx

 

Harry picks Draco up from work the next day, watching him through the window as he fills out a form. He’s smiling about something and bopping his head so his blonde hair flops into his face. He’s wearing one of his too big sweaters and Harry wants to cuddle him so badly. He wonders what Draco’s opinions on cuddling are, if he’d let Harry be the big spoon. He thinks probably not, but it would be worth a try.

Draco looks up at the window, giving a little wave when he notices him. Harry pushes into the store, embarrassed at being caught. “Hey,” Harry says, pulling flowers out from behind his back. “I brought something for you.”

“So I see,” Draco replies, looking like he’s trying very hard to tamp down his smile as he takes them, giving them a smell. “Lilac, Phlox, and red Rose? How romantic.”

“I try my best,” Harry says, feeling a bit silly.

Draco just smiles and fills out the rest of the form, sticking it under the counter. “Okay, where are we going then?”

“Dinner? I make very good pasta with marinara from the can,” Harry replies with a cheeky smile.

“Twelve year old me can’t believe I’m about to agree to this,” Draco says with an eyeroll. “I hope there’s wine.”

“There’s wine,” Harry replies, following Draco into the back so he can get his coat “Not even the boxed kind.”

Belinda looks up from her work bench, smiling over at them. “Plans tonight boys?”

“Fancy date,” Harry says, just as Draco says “pasta and shite wine,” and she graces them with a cackling laugh.

“Sounds like a lot of fun.” She goes back to her work, humming along to the music. Draco and Harry walk out into the December chill, careful not to slip on the ice just outside the door. It’s a clear night and they take their time out on the street, watching the cars and the lights of the stores.

“What are you doing for Christmas?” Harry asks offhandedly, kicking a ball of ice down the sidewalk, arm looped through Draco’s. Draco is trying his hardest to protect the flowers and he keeps dipping down to smell them, although Harry thinks he might be pretending not to.

“Mother’s having Pansy and I over. Proper christmas dinner and then a few presents in the morning, it’s very low key,” Draco replies. “Much less of a spectacle than it used to be.”

“I’ll be at the Burrow, it’s become quite an event. They’re going to have to put an addition on the house just for Christmas,” Harry says ruefully, thinking of last time, when they’d used engorgio on the table and still ended up having another group eat on the sofas in the living room.

Draco rolls his eyes. “Leave it to the Weasley’s.”

“Watch your mouth or I’ll drag you along next year,” Harry says, only blushing a bit at the implication that this will last until then. Draco makes a face but there’s a sparkle behind it, and Harry thinks he would go with a bit of persuading.

“What about New Year?” Harry asks. “We could do something fun.”

“Pansy, Blaise and I usually drown the disappointments of the past year in champagne. Sometimes lovers make an appearance,” Draco replies, with a devious little grin. “Think you could handle it?”

“Very sure,” Harry responds, meeting the challenge in Draco’s eyes. He’s so invested in winning their little staring contest that he trips over the curb and Draco laughs at him.

“We could have a party,” Draco says ponderously. “Haven’t had a proper party in years.”

“You want to get all of our friends in the same room together?” Harry asks, then realizes that Draco is still looking thoughtful, like he’s actually considering it. “You’re serious?”

“Malfoys don’t joke,” Draco says airily, even though Draco is always being witty and sharp.

“Shut up,” Harry says, then “We could probably do it. New Years isn’t too close.”

“Pansy will lose it, I haven’t suggested a proper party since fifth year,” Draco says, smiling fondly. “She’ll have your whole flat decked out in streamers and glitter bombs before you can properly invite her in.”

“Sounds terrifying,” Harry says, and Draco nods his agreement.

“She’s basically the devil, but you know the saying: ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer.’” Draco says, and Harry resists the urge to roll his eyes.

“Is that what we’re doing then?” Harry asks, shoving Draco a bit.

“Of course, Potter,” Draco replies, hip checking Harry nearly into the street.

“The ultimate no homo,” Harry replies, and Draco snorts.

“Next time I shove my tongue down your throat, just remember that it’s pretty much the equivalent of a punch in the face,” Draco says, a wicked grin on his face.

Harry pulls him to a stop, pressing a kiss to Draco’s cheek. “Hope you don’t treat all your least favorite people like this.”

“Just you,” Draco replies, kissing him back, careful to keep the flowers from getting crushed. “You’re my least favorite, after all.”

It shouldn’t work like it does, they shouldn’t have been able to fix all the frayed wires and missing parts between them, and yet somehow, it works better than anything else Harry’s ever had.

Draco works at a repair shop, and they’re both broken things.