On a stormy late afternoon in February, the little coffee shop Harry owned in Oxford was a warm and aromatic refuge, but most people were trying to hurry home before the snow got deeper. Then the door was flung open and some idiot in a big furred hat and long grey cloak posed in the doorway, declaiming:
Wylde wederez of the worlde wakned theroute,
Clowdes kesten kenly the colde to the erthe…
The snawe snitered ful snart, that snayped the wylde;
The werbelande wynde wapped fro the hyghe…
“Shut the door,” Harry said from behind the counter. “It’s snowing out there and the wind is wicked.”
“Precisely what I was saying. The snow is snittering snartly and the werbeling winds are wapping. Therefore I need tea, at once. Darjeeling.”
Too bad you came to a coffee shop then, Harry thought. He served a few types of tea, but his shop couldn’t specialise in everything, and fresh-ground coffee was the smell Harry loved. In his experience, people who were passionately particular about tea were unlikely to be satisfied by anything he could offer anyway. If this annoying person didn’t want – or notice – the choices on the menu, he could just go elsewhere.
At least the fellow had finally closed the door behind him, and was taking off the ridiculous Russian-looking hat and green scarf that had hidden his face. It was Draco Malfoy, which figured, somehow. Harry didn’t feel very apologetic informing him that the shop didn’t serve Darjeeling.
“But you must!”
“Or else what, Malfoy? Are you going to wap me from on high?”
That got Malfoy to glance up from the table where he’d set his book-bag and actually look at Harry.
“Potter!” His eyes took on a speculative gleam. “Wapping you might be rather entertaining at that.”
“What kind of coffee do you want, Malfoy?”
“I don’t, really. But you can give me the hot, wet kind. That tastes alright with milk and sugar, and keeps one from falling asleep.”
“A real aficionado, I see.”
“One chooses one’s areas of expertise, Potter. Which is perhaps why I will soon have a doctorate in Medieval Literature, and you are a…”
“Barista is the word, Malfoy. And you seem to have more need of my coffee than I do of your knowledge of medieval literature.”
“Reason not the need, Potter,” Malfoy said with an airy wave of his hand. “You simply don’t know what you’re missing.”
“Again – what kind of coffee do you want, Malfoy?”
“I leave it in your hands, Potter.”
Harry snorted and considered what kind of drink to make for Malfoy. Something pretentious.
But when he brought it over, Malfoy had his nose in a book and barely looked up. He sipped the coffee, frowned, set it down, pushed it away and – went on reading, pausing now and then to write in a notebook with a fountain pen. He ignored the coffee as it cooled.
Malfoy must have been truly absorbed in his book to pass up an opportunity to complain, Harry thought. He felt a little bad about having brought Malfoy something he clearly didn’t like. But only a little bad.
Other customers came in, shaking off snow and stamping their feet, and Harry was busy for a while. When he looked over, Malfoy was packing up his things. He left money on the table, more than enough, and headed for the door. As he opened it to leave, he looked back over his shoulder with a look Harry couldn’t read. Harry moved his hand in something that might have been farewell – or might have been just reaching for a towel to wipe the counter. He wasn’t sure himself.
“No, Malfoy. Why don’t you just go to the Ritz?”
“Are you this rude to all your customers?”
“No, only the ones who’ve been rude to me for their entire lives.”
“You can’t mean me. I didn’t even meet you until I was eleven.”
“You made up for lost time.”
“I was a gifted child.”
Spoiled rotten, more like, Harry thought. “What kind of coffee do you want, Malfoy?”
So Harry made something different. When he brought it over, Malfoy was absorbed in his reading again. There was an inkstain on the side of his nose.
Harry couldn’t help looking at the title of Malfoy’s book. “Sir Gawayn and þe Grene Knyȝt? What’s so fascinating about a green knight?”
“Well, there is magic. Themes like honour, chivalry, temptation, courage. And then, he’s GREEN.”
“Dresses like a Slytherin, so what.”
“Not just his clothes and armour, Potter. His horse is green. His hair is green. His SKIN is green. Overall enker green.”
“What’s enker? Some kind of ink?”
“No, it means bright green, grass green, the-eyes-of-Harry-Potter-are-upon-you green.”
The eyes of Draco Malfoy were upon him, grey and gleaming.
Harry shook himself. “Enjoy your coffee.” But when Malfoy eventually left, the cup was still full.
“Literature on what topic, Harry? Of course I’m familiar with a lot of the medieval laws on magical creatures. But if you want the literature on, say, medicinal plants, you’d be better off asking Poppy Pomfrey or Neville.”
“No, I mean stories, poems, plays, that kind of literature.”
Hermione frowned. “You know, I hadn’t thought about it, but that was entirely missing from the curriculum at Hogwarts. If I’d stayed in Muggle schools, I’d have eventually studied Chaucer, I suppose. But I don’t remember even seeing anything of that sort in the library at Hogwarts, unless you count that dreadful play, Hélas, Je me suis Transfiguré Les Pieds. Honestly, who would be stupid enough to transfigure his own feet?”
She cocked her head. “Why do you need to know about medieval literature, Harry?”
Reason not the need, Potter. “Just curious.”
“Hmm.” Hermione looked curious herself, but didn’t press it. “You could ask a reference librarian. They’re not all like Madam Pince, you know,” she added, seeing Harry’s less than enthusiastic expression. “Or ask Padma Patil. She’s opened a bookshop called The Raven’s Nest, and carries some things you’re not likely to find at Flourish and Blotts. I have to stop by there this weekend to pick something up, you’re welcome to come with me.”
“I finally heard about that book you wanted from the Czech Republic," Padma told Hermione. "It should be in next week.”
“Oh, good. And the one from Timbuktu?”
“The political situation there is difficult right now, and that order is delayed….”
“Timbuktu?” Harry asked.
“Did you know that 500 years ago, the most important part of Timbuktu’s economy was their trade in books?” Padma said. “Can you imagine a city like that?” She and Hermione both had dreamy looks on their faces.
“Awk!” A throaty gurgling croak interrupted them and a raven flew from some dark corner of the bookshop to land on Padma’s shoulder.
“This really is a raven’s nest, then,” Harry said as the bird fixed him with an intelligent eye.
“Yeah, I have to renew the bird-poo protection charms often, but it’s worth it. Don’t leave anything shiny laying about, she’s a thief, aren’t you, Cassia?” Padma smiled with amused affection at her bird. “Did you ever get another owl, Harry?”
Harry shook his head. Hermione squeezed his hand.
“I have to run off, but I think Harry wants to browse a bit. Thanks so much for placing the special orders, Padma.” Hermione waved goodbye and left.
“Are you looking for anything in particular, Harry?”
“Er, sort of. I want to read some medieval literature, but I don’t know where to begin.”
“Right, but there’s Medieval literature in French, there’s Latin…”
“English,” Harry said hurriedly. “It’s the only language I read.”
“Well, Chaucer is famous for good reason.”
“Is there something about a knight with green skin?”
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? Fascinating stuff, but much harder to read in the original, unless you speak a northern dialect yourself, perhaps. It’s alliterative, which makes it easier to look things up in the glossary, but still… Chaucer would be much easier to start with. And he’s so likeable. Funny and humane.”
She searched the shelves and found a copy of The Canterbury Tales that seemed to have just enough footnotes and glosses to be helpful.
“How did you learn so much about all this?” Harry asked.
“My favorite cousin is a Wizard-born Muggle. She went to Muggle schools and told me what she studied. She liked literature classes. I borrowed her books, and went on from there.”
Harry had never heard anyone mention a Squib in the family so casually. “Thanks, Padma,” he said thoughtfully, tucking his book under his arm.
“Awk!” said her raven. Padma smiled.
“Children who age out of foster care. They’re still awfully young to be on their own with no family they can rely on. I heard about a support organization they formed, and thought I could help out.”
Malfoy gave him an appraising look. “Give a bean. What does that remind me of… Chaucer! He’s always saying someone doesn’t care a bean. Potter, you’re reading Chaucer! For me!”
“It wasn’t for… I can read Chaucer if I want to!”
“Of course you can. And now you want to.” Malfoy beamed at him, and dropped his change in the jar.
“You missed me! I’m touched, Potter. I needed to look at some original manuscripts that couldn’t be removed from the library.”
“Not necessarily. And the illustrations are often entertaining.”
“Aren’t they saints and things, mostly, in Mug- … in medieval manuscripts?”
“There’s a wild and ribald assortment of things in the margins. Warrior rabbits. Arse trumpets.”
“Perhaps you’d prefer the picture of the flying cock monster?” Malfoy continued. “Or there’s one with a tree of penises.”
“No, thank you. I prefer my penises attached to bodies.”
“Your penises? How many cocks do you have, O Wonder of the Wizarding World?”
“Just the one, Malfoy. It’s been sufficient.”
“No one’s complained, eh? But you did say penises, plural – ah, attached to bodies, plural. So you’re fond of gay orgies, perhaps?”
“I’m not greedy, Malfoy. One man at a time.”
There was that gleam again. “Generous of you to leave some men for the rest of us,” Malfoy murmured.
Malfoy had just goaded him into coming out, Harry realised. And then come out himself. Abruptly Harry remembered where they were having this conversation about penises, bawdy medieval illustrations and gay orgies. He glanced around his coffee shop, but the other customers were contentedly sipping or chatting or reading. No one was looking their way.
Had Malfoy cast a wordless Muffliato, perhaps? Flying cock monsters indeed, Harry thought, looking back at his former nemesis with the dirty mouth. A very amused looking mouth, at the moment, with a smile that was teasing but – here was a change – not malicious. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was flirting with me. And now I’m staring at his mouth.
Harry shrugged, trying to look nonchalant, to speak coolly. “Let me know when you’ve decided what you want.” He turned away. From the corner of his eye, he thought he saw Malfoy’s smile falter.
“I know what I want, Potter,” Malfoy said quietly. “The question is what you’re willing to give me.”
When Harry turned back, Malfoy was making his way over to a seat by the window. He gazed out, an unguarded, bleak look on his face. The steely light of an overcast winter afternoon fell on his angular face with a harsh beauty.
A little later, Harry went over. “You never drink what I make you anyway,” Harry said. “I don’t know why you come here.”
“So I brought you something to eat instead.” He set the plate down.
“Treacle tart? Seriously, Potter?”
“Does it have to be serious to be good?”
A cluster of customers entered and Harry left to attend to them.
“How was it?” Harry asked when Draco was leaving.
But Harry noticed that he’d eaten it all.
“Can’t you just…?” Harry gestured as if he were casting Accio.
“Yes, but I try to limit magic use during business hours, because of the Muggles who come in. I can’t run this shop on wizarding clientele alone.”
“I understand. It’s the same with my coffee shop.”
“Did you enjoy the Chaucer, Harry?”
“Yeah, actually. I’m still reading it. But I need something special. Malfoy’s been showing off about medieval manuscripts he’s reading for his degree at Oxford….”
“Draco Malfoy is attending a Muggle university?”
“Yeah.” Perhaps Harry should have asked him about the reasons for that. “Anyway, I want to quote something as a comeback. Preferably from a language he doesn’t know, so it’s new to him.”
“If it’s in a language he doesn’t know….”
“He’s too proud to read translations. I’m not.”
Padma snorted. “His loss. I’m all for reading originals, but with all the languages there are in the world…. What kind of topic are you looking for, Harry?”
“Preferably, er, bawdy.”
Padma raised her eyebrows, but said, “Let me think….”
“Awk! Awk!” The raven flew and landed on a shelf in a back corner. Padma went to investigate.
“Brilliant, Cassia! I doubt Draco reads medieval Welsh. Dafydd ap Gwilym is a great poet and wrote mostly love poems. Some of his racier ones may not be translated in the printed anthologies, but you can check the internet – do you know how to use it?”
He could hardly wait.
Draco came into the coffee shop two days later. With admirable restraint, Harry let him get settled and brought him a slice of treacle tart. Then, grinning, he sprung his quotation.
”You are a trouserful of wantonness.”
Malfoy choked on treacle tart.
Harry pounded his back for him and brought a cup of coffee to wash it down with. When Malfoy had composed himself, he turned to Harry. “Say that again.”
“You are a trouserful of wantonness,” Harry repeated triumphantly. But this time Malfoy held Harry’s eye with a slow smile. Then he tipped his chair back and regarded his own groin. Harry shifted awkwardly. Malfoy stood, turned, and craned his neck over his shoulder to look at his own arse.
“Why thank you, Potter.”
“It’s just a quotation,” Harry explained, but Malfoy didn’t appear to be listening. He was prowling slowly around Harry, blatantly checking him out.
“You fill your trousers quite nicely yourself,” Malfoy said, gazing at Harry’s arse. “And I do believe they’re getting fuller all the time,” he added, staring at Harry’s crotch.
Harry was starting to feel hot in all directions. “It’s a line from a poem!” he said desperately. “Medieval poetry!”
Draco’s eyes were dancing. “What is the name of this poem?”
Why hadn’t he foreseen this? Harry buried his hand in his hair. “The Penis.”
And then Draco was laughing, and Harry was laughing, and a jolt passed through him, warm as Draco’s eyes.
Unfortunately, there were other people around. Pesky customers who wanted things from him, and not the things he hoped that Draco wanted from him. Harry was restless and distracted as he waited on them.
Draco left his books in a corner and went for a fast walk, then came back and wrote feverishly. When Harry brought him more treacle tart to refuel, he talked excitedly about a break-through on his thesis. He’d gotten ink on his nose again.
“You’re cute when you’re manic,” Harry said.
“I – what?” said Draco.
Harry wanted to wet his thumb and rub that inkstain off. Among other things. He looked around. “Something’s come up,” he announced to the other customers. “The shop is closing early today. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
People drifted out. Draco stood. “Don’t you go,” Harry said.
Those gleaming eyes again, and laughter like the sun breaking through clouds, and Harry ran out of words. All his brain could supply was I want it. You want it. Let’s just do it. He flapped an apologetic arm at Draco’s thesis notes.
“That will keep,” Draco murmured, moving closer, heavy eyes on Harry’s mouth.
Harry made a helpless little noise and kissed him.
Somehow, between the kissing, they made it to Harry’s house, and his bed, and shed their trousers and everything else, and then there was just joyful sexy desperate sweet wantonness until they fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Bāna and Āsana trees
in full flower
bees shrill from joy
with drawn bow
moves at his pleasure
today through the forest
the love god
Harry shivered and took the book to the counter.
“Isn’t that a marvelous book?” Padma said, coming from the back of the shop. “I’ve decided to learn Sanskrit. So much of my cultural heritage and so much sexy poetry in that language! Is there anything else you’re looking for today?”
“Just advice,” Harry said. “Do you know a good place to buy a supply of high quality Darjeeling tea?”
“You are a force of nature, Harry Potter,” Draco said when they’d caught their breath. “Here’s part of a poem I learned. It’s another by Dafydd ap Gwilym, but no knobs in this one. This is you.” He leaned over Harry with shining eyes and recited.
Skywind, skillful disorder,
Strong tumult walking over there,
Wondrous man, rowdy-sounding,
World hero, with neither foot nor wing.
Yeast in cloud loaves, you were thrown out
Of sky’s pantry, with not one foot,
How swiftly you run, and so well
This moment above the high hill.
Harry grinned like a loon. “You think I’m yeast in cloud loaves? Why did they throw me out of sky’s pantry?”
“For stealing treacle tarts, probably.”
“It’s true what he said about my family’s part in the war,” Draco said quietly.
“The war’s been over for years. He doesn’t know you.”
“Partly because I haven’t been around the wizarding world much for a long time. I ran away from reactions like that.”
“Into a Muggle university, so clearly you’re not a Muggle-hater any more.” Harry’s voice softened. “That must have been such a difficult transition for you to make, Draco.”
“It was, of course. People there thought I was very odd.” Draco shrugged. “But at least they didn’t hate me on sight. And clearly the beliefs I’d been brought up with led to very bad ends, so I thought I’d better try to start fresh. See what Muggles knew about magic, back in the Middle Ages when they still believed in it. Read the way they talked about Merlin and King Arthur. And then I just found I loved the poetry.”
Draco smiled. “And now here I am with a half-written thesis and a lover who used to be an enemy and then saved the world and then opened up a Muggle-ish coffee shop. Which won’t sell me a cup of Darjeeling. And what‘s your story?”
“I got tired of having targets on my back and cameras in my face,” Harry said. He’d wanted a refuge, he remembered, somewhere warm and friendly and good-smelling where he didn’t have to be alone. Once he’d assumed that meant a home with Ginny. When that dream faded, Harry had opened the coffee shop. Now, with Draco – perhaps the shop wasn’t so important any more.
“We’ve never talked about the war, Harry.” Draco looked much too sombre again. “I don’t know, sometimes, how you can be with me.”
“We can talk about the war if we need to,” Harry said. “But do we need to? You’ve said you changed your beliefs, and I believe you. I wasn’t a saint either. If we have to go back and apologise for every single thing…. There was something Chaucer said. Let me find it – I marked it.”
Harry rummaged around for his copy of The Canterbury Tales and turned to the Franklin’s Tale. “Here…”
For every word men may nat chide or pleyne
Lerneth to suffre, or elles, so moot I goon,
Ye shul it lerne, wherso ye wole or noon.
For in this world, certein, ther no wight is
That he ne dooth or seith som tyme amys.
Ire, siknesse, or constellacioun
Wyn, wo, or chaungynge of complexioun
Causeth ful ofte to doon amys or speken.
On every wrong a man may nat be wreken….
One must not chide for trifles nor complain.
Learn to endure, or else, so may I go,
You'll have to learn it, whether you will or no.
For in this world, it's certain, no one is
Who never does or says sometimes amiss.
Sickness, or woe, or what the stars have sent,
Anger, or wine, or change of temperament
Causes one oft to do amiss or speak.
For every wrong one may not vengeance wreak….
Love wol nat been constreyned by maistrye;
Whan maistrie comth, the God of Love anon
Beteth hise wynges, and farewel, he is gon!
Love is a thyng as any spirit free.
Wommen, of kynde desiren libertee,
And nat to been constreyned as a thral;
And so doon men, if I sooth seyen shal.
Love will not be constrained by mastery;
When mastery comes, the god of love anon
Beats his fair wings, and farewell! He is gone!
Love is a thing as any spirit free;
Women by nature love their liberty,
And not to be constrained like any thrall,
And so do men, if say the truth I shall.
“I wouldn’t even be reading Chaucer if it weren’t for you. And Padma. Did you know she has a cousin who studies literature?”
“Really? I don’t remember any other Patils at Hogwarts except for her twin. What kind of literature?”
“I don’t know. She wasn’t at Hogwarts, she’s a Squib.”
“Maybe we should have them over for dinner. We could talk about books. And TEA!”
“You can talk about tea. I’d rather talk to Cassia.”
“Is that her cousin?”
“No, her raven. AWK! AWK!”
“It’s your birthday in the summer, isn’t it? We could get you a bird. You used to have such a beautiful white owl.”
Harry blinked hard several times.
After a moment Draco spoke gently. “Maybe she had owlets before you met her, Harry. Maybe one of her great-grandchildren is out there just waiting for a good home with you.”
Harry managed a kind of a shrug.
“Come on. Let’s have some treacle tart,” said Draco.
“Sumer is icumen in,” Draco observed. “Lhude sing cuccu!”
Lines from a poem in The Peacock’s Egg floated through Harry’s mind:
beautiful with throat songs of
and singing of birds look
o you with beautiful limbs
He raised the sheet to see his lover’s beautiful limbs. “Who are you calling lewd?”
“It means loud, actually.”
“You are that. Lhude when you’re icumen.”
“Let me taste your untrousered wantonness,” Harry said. He took his lover in his mouth and sucked until Draco was incoherent.
Beautiful with throat songs of joy.