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The Epilogue That Life Forgot

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Harry shut the heavy book with a frown. It wasn’t the size of the tome that made his brow crease in distaste... although if you added up all seven volumes, his unauthorised biography did weigh in at roughly the size of Hogwarts: A History. And it wasn’t the inaccuracies that bothered him so. Oh, half of it was rubbish to be sure, and the Squib author had fought a losing battle with her caps-lock key, but it was certainly better than that vile Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore that Rita Skeeter had cranked out.

But no, Harry’s unease was caused solely by the last five pages. This — Harry flipped back to see what she’d called it — this "epilogue" bore the same omniscient voice as the rest of the book. He could forgive the earlier parts because that was history. More or less. But this last section was set nineteen years after the end of the war, which was — Harry did a quick calculation on his fingers — fourteen years from now. By the year — Harry did another quick calculation — 2017, he was supposed to be married to Ginny and have three children. And if that was supposed to happen, then he had better get cracking.

And therein the problem lay. He liked Ginny, but not like that. They had tried dating, in Hogwarts and then after the war, but it seemed they just worked better as friends. Besides, he was only — Harry’s fingers flexed but he remembered in time — twenty-three years old. He’d had quite a bit more experience than the Squib author had given him credit for — he had been rather a star during the height of the DA, and Cho had not cried, thank you very much — but even so, he was in no mood to settle down just yet. Besides, the thought of having children so young was rather appalling. Wizards lived far longer than Muggles, and why they would marry so young was beyond him.

"She’s rubbish at maths," Hermione consoled him during their weekly Sloane Street shopping expedition.

And maybe she was, but that wasn’t really the point.

"But I don’t think I want to marry Ginny, now or later. I mean, sure, I’d like a family someday, or even just one special person, but Ginny …" Harry’s voice trailed off as he admired a man-purse in the window of Louis Vuitton. Well, all right, it was more purse than man, he supposed, but it had a long side pocket that would be perfect for his wand. He turned back to Hermione with a thought that made him shudder. "That would be too much like marrying Molly, don’t you think?"

His friend just huffed indignantly. "I don’t know what you’re so bothered about. She’s got Ron and me married off and with kids, too."

Harry was taken aback by her spleen. One of the few things the author had gotten right was the sexual tension that had plagued his two best friends even before they’d known what to call it. "But … you are getting married, aren’t you?"

"Sure … probably … someday. But this makes it sound like all I’ll be doing is raising kids. What about my career?"

Harry frowned; now that he thought about it, all of their careers had been left hanging in limbo. Did that mean that he wouldn’t be an Auror fourteen years from now? For that matter, did it mean he and Ron would be driving Muggle cars? Harry’s frown grew. Ever since he had discovered magic, Muggle vehicles had never held much interest for him. Although maybe if it was an enchanted car, like the Weasleys’ Anglia … yeah, he supposed that would be all right.

His mind floated to an image of Oliver Wood in a muscle shirt tinkering under the hood of his magical car, and he hardly noticed that Hermione was still raving on about the essential nature of her work with magical creatures until he caught some important words. "What do you mean? What’s an AU?"

"An alternative universe. One possible future out of many. Stargate," she added when Harry still looked confused. And that made sense; Harry couldn’t count the number of times he’d feared that Daniel might be trapped forever in a world without Jack. "In magical terms, an epilogue doesn’t have the same finality as in a Muggle book. It’s no more definite than a Magic 8 Ball that says ‘Signs Point to Yes.’ In other words, it’s about as accurate as anything else in Divination."

Hermione huffed her disdain for the field, contributing more examples of its inaccuracies, but Harry’s attention had already floated away. At that moment it was fixed solidly on the window display at Kenneth Cole, where the mannequin wore the exact muscle shirt that Oliver Wood wore in his fantasy. It winked at him, and Harry grinned back.

* * *

"Bore-ring!"

Draco Malfoy, bane of Harry’s existence and inconceivably the Ministry’s best Auror, flipped distractedly through the pages of the final book. "Merlin’s goitres, Potter, could your camping trip be any more tedious? As if anyone would want to read that. ‘Today we sat by a tree. The next day we walked to the lake.’ I think the only details she omitted were when you relieved yourself. Of course, I’ve a ways to go yet, I’m sure it’s coming. Hope springs eternal."

Harry glared from across the room. During working hours, the open-plan office bustled with noise and activity and he could usually get on with his work without Malfoy preoccupying too much of his thoughts — at least once he’d trained his eyes to avoid the office’s only window (the git had of course snagged that prime real estate). Unfortunately everyone else had gone home for the evening and Malfoy … well, Harry wasn’t sure why Malfoy hadn’t crawled back under his rock. Unlike Harry, whose desk was stacked with case files two feet high, his colleague appeared to have no greater purpose than annoying him with snide comments about the Horcrux hunt.

"Wait until you get to the end," Harry taunted. "You go bald."

"I what?"

Harry snickered as enraged fingers flew to the last page. He watched the narrowed eyes flit lightning-quick across the words, then widen a bit. But instead of the explosion Harry expected, Malfoy started laughing.

Falling-out-of-his-chair, rolling-on-the-floor laughing.

Harry scowled. "Most people don’t find premature hair loss that funny."

Malfoy struggled to catch his breath. His cheeks were flushed pink, his eyes wide and moist, and he couldn’t shake the smile that filled half his face. Harry thought it made him look softer than usual. But his words came out as the same old Malfoy.

"Don’t be absurd, Potter. Haven’t you ever heard of Fabio’s Fabulous Root Balm?"

"What’s so funny, then?" asked Harry, genuine curiosity trouncing his instinctual desire to ignore Malfoy.

The smile grew impossibly wider. "Just you … and the Weaselette …" His words were swallowed in another choking guffaw.

"What?" Harry demanded, glowering as Malfoy wiped his eyes.

"Well, it’d be like marrying your mother-in-law, wouldn’t it?"

It was too close to what Harry himself believed, and far too close to his innermost thoughts for his childhood nemesis to know. "What do you mean?"

Malfoy blinked, still smiling, but sobering as surprised understanding took hold. "Stars, Harry, I knew you had mother issues, but really."

Harry felt the jolt that he always did whenever Malfoy used his first name, like the rug was being yanked out from under his feet. Clinging to comforting belligerence, he retorted, "I hardly think you’re one to talk about mother issues."

Malfoy drew himself up, his smile all but gone. Harry wondered if it was his imagination that the room had just gone cold. "At least I’ve faced mine," snarled Malfoy, crossing the space between them with a predator’s intent. In no time at all, he was looming over Harry’s desk, hands firmly planted in between his files. "At least I don’t go around pretending I’m happy doing what everyone expects of me. Do you really think the Weaselette can give you what you want? What you need?"

Even though he wasn’t dating Ginny anymore, the impulse to defend her was still strong. It should, in fact, have been stronger than his traitorous tongue, which instead of telling Malfoy to piss off was asking — with a voice that definitely did not crack, no — what it was that he needed. While the words were still hanging in the air, Harry saw Malfoy’s expression change. The air between them still felt cold, but heat flared in his eyes, the lick of a flame that darted out and struck Harry, rendering him silent.

"What you need, Harry, is someone who makes your heart race when they enter the room, even before you see them. Someone who’ll make your skin tingle whenever they’re close enough to touch… who’ll make your mouth feel like cotton wool until you’re dying to take a long, cool drink off their lips."

Harry’s swallow almost stuck inside his parched throat. Outbursts like this weren’t unusual from Malfoy — hadn’t Seamus called him oversexed just last week? — but they never failed to make Harry uncomfortable. But no more uncomfortable, he hastened to remind himself, than he would feel if it was Hermione or any of his friends saying these things. No, actually, Hermione saying this would be much more uncomfortable.

Although she’d never stare at him so intently while she said it, as if she knew a secret that Harry didn’t. And she’d never make him quite so grateful to be sitting down behind a large, solid desk.

At last Malfoy leaned back, wearing a smug grin. "Besides, face it, Potter, unless my gaydar’s on the blink, you’re as bent as Father Kieron." Harry must have looked confused — his brain was still twisting itself around the image of Malfoy watching Hollyoaks — because the next thing he heard was, "You do know what gaydar is, don’t you?"

"Of course I do," Harry growled, wishing it sounded a bit more growly and a lot less whimpery. He picked up a nearby file, no idea which one but it hardly mattered, as long as he could study it intently. "Now sod off, Malfoy. Some of us have lives and don’t want to be here all night."

Although the words swam circles before his eyes, he didn’t look up from his file as Malfoy shrugged. And if maybe he peeked at Malfoy’s backside as he walked across the room, there were no one around to see.

* * *

"What’s gaydar, Hermione?"

The muscled man queued up behind them chuckled. "If you don’t know, sweetheart, I’ll be happy to show you."

Hermione flashed a chagrined look at the stranger before answering, "It’s a kind of a sixth sense that someone is gay."

"Oh." Harry nodded, although he still didn’t quite understand. But his questions had to wait until Hermione had handed over their tickets and they were inside the theatre. It was packed inside, but fortunately he didn’t sense any magical auras; without a Confundus Charm he’d never have squeezed up to the bar before the show began. A few minutes later, two plastic glasses of wine in his hands, Harry manoeuvred Hermione to a relatively quiet spot. "So … this gaydar thing … is it like a charm revealer?"

Hermione took a quick sip from her drink before shaking her head. "No, it’s not magical. Anyone can have it. It’s just … something you have. You just know." She frowned curiously. "Why do you ask?"

Harry really didn’t want to share the context of their conversation, but he knew he wouldn’t get any more information from Hermione unless he came clean. "Malfoy might have mentioned it the other day," he admitted. "He, um, he said that he had it."

Hermione’s quiet snort startled Harry. "Yes, I imagine he would do."

"What do you mean by that?"

She looked at him with surprise and pity. Harry wouldn’t have thought that combination was possible, had it not been one of her more frequent looks. "You really don’t have it, do you, Harry?" He shook his head. "Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll figure it out when it matters."

And that answer was nearly as indecipherable as Malfoy’s behaviour. "Figure what out?" he started to say, but he was interrupted by a voice booming across the lobby. "Ladies and gentlemen, Wicked will begin in five minutes, please take your seats..."

 

Several hours later, Hermione looped her arm through his as they joined the slow shuffle to the exit doors. "I’m so glad that you came with me, Harry. I’ve wanted to see it for ages and I could never convince Ron to go."

"Oh sure," he replied, his eyes still wide from the spectacle he’d just witnessed. "It was brilliant. I think I really like musicals."

Hermione just smiled, her look knowing.

* * *

Weeks of rain and no sign of stopping left all of London feeling soggy, and all the Aurors looking a little worse for wear. Harry draped his cloak over his chair and cast a drying charm, but it seemed to have little effect. At least his files had the standard DMLE protective spells that kept the ink from running as he dripped on them.

"Neptune’s waterlogged balls, Potter, you look like a drowned rat. Have you never heard of Repelling Charms?"

Harry glanced over to make a crack about Malfoy’s appearance only to find that he couldn’t. Unlike everyone else in the Ministry, Malfoy looked completely dry and crisp. And more fit than he should have as he … well, lounged really would be the only word for it, although lounging wasn’t something that you’d think would be possible on Susan Bones’ desk. But Malfoy had managed it, with his arse planted on the desk, an elbow propped on the in-tray, and one long leg dangling off the edge.

And Harry was staring, but only because the tip of Malfoy’s wand was pointed directly at him.

"Exarescio," he chimed, and just like that, Harry was dry and more crisp than he’d been even before leaving Grimmauld Place that morning.

"Thanks," he murmured, taken aback by this unexpected show of kindness.

But of course Malfoy had to ruin it before his wand was even put away. "Don’t mention it. Your fiancée came around looking for you. Probably best not to let her see you looking quite so bedraggled. She might come to her senses."

"My what?" It took a minute for Harry’s thoughts to catch up, and then he glared. "She’s not my fiancée."

"Think that discussion can wait for when you don’t have a case?"

Harry spun around at the sound of his boss’ voice, colouring slightly to see Ginny standing beside him. She wore her badge from the Department of Magical Sport as well as a bemused grin.

"Mr. Malfoy," Kingsley continued, "if you have a moment…"

He turned back to his office, but was interrupted by Ginny. "I think Harry should come too." To his inquisitive look she answered, "He has connections on the team."

Kingsley hesitated, then nodded. "You too, then, Harry."

The three followed Shacklebolt into his office where he magicked a file folder toward them. "Miss Weasley has been kind enough to share the latest lab results from the Puddlemere team. Malfoy, I think you’ll find them very interesting."

Malfoy edged Harry out of the way, already reaching for the file, his languid posture completely forgotten. "I thought the potions lab ruled out Felix."

"They did," answered Ginny. "They found high concentrations of delphinium, but no traces of any other ingredients. Then they cross-referenced the samples from Falmouth and Tutshill..."

Malfoy flipped through the parchments and frowned. "Palm leaves and goblin fingers? But you wouldn’t get this concentration unless it was magnified somehow…"

"Like with a spell component…" chimed in Kingsley.

Ginny nodded. "All they’d have to do is claim they’ve been out for Chinese."

Malfoy’s eyes widened in admiration. But Harry looked from one to the other, completely lost, growing increasingly disgruntled that they were in on a secret that he didn’t know. "Wait, what?"

"They’ve created a virtually undetectable performance enhancer, Potter," Malfoy explained, clearly impressed. "And right before the Quidditch World Cup."

"Britain can’t afford any fallout from the international wizarding community right now. The Minister is in some very delicate negotiations. We need to close this case fast."

"Wait, goblin fingers?" asked Harry. "Shouldn’t we call Madam Szilagy?"

The Department of Magical Creatures liaison had come down hard on the Auror Department the last time she’d been left out of a goblin case. Harry was sure that she’d demand to be involved in this. But instead of agreeing, Ginny and Malfoy were both looking at him, Malfoy with overblown pity — "You never heard a word in Potions, did you, Potter?" — and Ginny like she would a child — "Goblin fingers are an Asian fruit." They caught each other’s eye when they finished, and Harry was surprised to see a flash of camaraderie there. "Why is he here again?" asked Malfoy.

"He’s friends with Oliver Wood," explained Shacklebolt.

"Oh really?" Malfoy’s mouth twitched. "I always suspected that Potter liked Wood."

"They’ve known each other for years, Draco," Ginny said.

Malfoy’s smile grew. "So you’re saying he’s very familiar with Wood."

Clearing his throat, Shacklebolt derailed Harry’s glare. "I’m putting the two of you on this case. Malfoy, you need to act like an adult. Potter, you need to find out what Wood knows about this potion. Do whatever it takes, but we’ve got to stop it."

* * *

Sometimes cases were just what you’d think they would be: breathtaking chases, dramatic stand-offs, a confession that tied up all the loose ends. More often, though, cases were just paperwork - just mountains of dull, tedious paperwork. This was one of those cases. A brief meeting with Oliver Wood confirmed that he was every bit as dashing as he had been at Hogwarts — he was even wearing one of those turtlenecks that Harry thought made him look like a classic movie star. However, he claimed to know of no illegal potion use among his teammates, even under truth serum.

Harry wondered if this case really needed investigators at all. It seemed like the kind of case that would only be broken if someone could figure out how the chemical compounds worked. It was the kind of analysis that had always bored Harry, and it was almost a welcome break from the monotony when he and Ron came back from lunch to find Malfoy lounging on his desk.

At least until Malfoy opened his mouth.

"So did you propose to the Weaselette yet?"

Harry glared. The nickname didn’t sting as much as the reminder of his supposed fate.

Malfoy, of course, was relentless. "Did you know that the collective noun for weasels is a ‘confusion’? How apt is that?"

Harry’s first instinct, a throwback to their days at Hogwarts, was to hit him. Ron raised a hand and stopped him.

"No, it’s true, they do. Like a school of fish or a business of crows. It’s called a ‘boogle,’ too."

"Actually that’s kind of cool," Harry admitted. "What do you think they’d call multiple Potters?"

Before Ron could hazard a guess, Harry heard Malfoy mutter, "Bloody distracting."

 

Harry started to notice that Malfoy was always around. Always lounging. It would have been annoying, except Harry realised he kind of liked looking at Malfoy. It’s not like he liked Malfoy or anything, he just liked looking at him, the same way as he had liked looking at the Quidditch posters on the wall of his bedroom. It was completely different.

He couldn’t stop thinking about that Epilogue, though. Hermione insisted that it was just one possible future, like Trelawney saying he would die a horrible death, but Harry couldn’t shake the fear that this was more official, more ... predestined.

At least Ginny wasn’t acting any differently around him. He’d owed her dinner since the Chudley Cannons shocked everyone — except Ron and Ginny — by upsetting the top-seeded Wimborne Wasps. On Friday morning, he got his first interdepartmental memo. The outside had a tiny sketch of a cannon firing on a wasp, and the wasp being crushed beneath the weight of the cannonball. Inside, Ginny had written:

Time to pay up, Harry. Free tonight?

He had taped Coronation Street, but Hermione had already spoilered it for him, accidentally revealing that Richard had confessed to Maxine Peacock’s death. He could wait another day to see it.

Sure. Got anywhere in mind?

Somewhere nice. I want to wear my new dress.

Without hesitation, Harry scribbled down his suggestion.

Brews & Stews?

He twisted his answer into an aeroplane and launched it toward her department, already knowing what her answer would be:

You’re joking.
I have a new dress.
What about Gwydion’s?

The chic new restaurant was the talk of Diagon Alley; the Daily Prophet’s restaurant reviewer had even proclaimed its chef "le roi des chefs et le chef des rois." Every witch and wizard in London wanted to go there to see and be seen.

Isn’t it expensive?

He doodled a pile of Galleons at the bottom of the memo, then spelled them to disappear and reappear in a cycle.

When the memo came back, the coins were still there, but now there was a cannon firing a tiny cannonball at them. They exploded and he saw her message.

Terribly.
And how many times have I let you off your bad bets?

It was true, she had always been very forgiving. He owed her this. But he had to try one last thing:

OK.
Just worried we can’t get reservations for tonight.

When he got her reply, Harry knew she had won.

YOU ARE HARRY POTTER.
OWN IT.

Sure enough, when he floocalled Gwydion’s, a reservation had just come available "due to a last minute cancellation." Ginny smirked. "I told you they’d find a table for the Boy Who Lived."

Ginny’s disdain for his celebrity comforted Harry. Surely she would be as sceptical of the Epilogue as he was. He decided to bring it up over dinner and they could laugh about it together.

Or maybe, he thought as the maître d’ led them to their table, maybe Ginny hadn’t read it yet. And if not, should he bring it up? What if she was upset by the idea that they might be dating? Or worse — Harry buried his face in the menu — what if she thought it was true? What if she thought they should get married right away?

Harry peeked over the top of his menu. Ginny looked quite pretty in a stylish froissé top. She was gazing around the dining room, paying no attention to him. "I knew it was popular but this is unbelievable." No, he decided, he definitely wouldn’t mention it tonight.

"Everyone’s here," she continued. "There’s Roger Davies, of course… and I think that’s Diadema with him. You know, the supermodel on cover of Spella Weekly, you liked her hat. And there’s Mrs. Zabini and husband number eight… I guess it’s not Zabini anymore, is it? Ooh, and there’s Heathcote Barbary from the Weird Sisters. He looks so old! I can’t believe I used to fancy him…"

Ginny went on, but Harry’s attention was fixed on one person only: Malfoy. The view to his table was obscured by an effusive floral arrangement, but even so his white-blond hair stood out like a beacon. He was with another man — another extremely fit man, Harry noted. Someone who was tall, with arms so big they stretched the fabric of his shirt to breaking point, and the way his dark hair flowed over his broad shoulders made Harry think of a river of ink cascading over boulders. Malfoy was most likely making a fool of himself, if the way he leaned over and stroked the other man’s arm was any indication. His hand eventually left to signal for another bottle of wine, but Harry noticed that it was soon back, all touches and flattery.

"That’s Silver Bellamy," Ginny said, following Harry’s sight line. "Mum’s mooning over him. He’s in that sappy movie with Hyacinth de Havilland. And" — she dropped her voice to a whisper — "Witch Weekly said that he started out as a gay porn star."

Harry twitched. "I wonder what Malfoy’s doing with him."

"Yeah," Ginny snorted, "I wonder." Then she saw Harry’s face. "Wait, you’re serious."

Fortunately the waiter’s arrival offered a reprieve. Harry ordered an expensive bottle of burgundy to distract Ginny, and it worked. She was in a lively good mood through their dinner, their servers were impeccable, and the food was divine. Harry didn’t notice any of it. His thoughts were clouded with one thought. Could Malfoy be gay?

Just as their main course was being cleared from the table, Malfoy stood up and headed to the toilets. And just like that, Harry’s old instinct to shadow his childhood enemy was back. "Excuse me," he remembered to mutter to Ginny as he got up.

Harry found Malfoy in front of the mirror, looking himself over. He looked surprised to see Harry, and a bit pleased, too. "Potter."

"What are you doing here?"

"The same thing that you are: dining with a friend."

Harry shook his head. It wasn’t the same thing at all. He was there with Ginny, who was… well, Ginny. Ginny wasn’t at all the same thing as Silver Bellamy.

"Are you gay, Malfoy?"

Malfoy grinned crookedly. "One-hundred points to Gryffindor. You’re asking the wrong question, though." The voice, silky and teasing, held Harry in place as Malfoy moved toward him. With only a single step, he was so close that Harry could feel his breath. Malfoy reached out for the lapel on Harry’s blazer, as if he was going to wipe it off, but his hand stayed there. Harry could feel the press of his thumb against his chest. "The question you need to ask yourself" — his fingers slid down the inside edge of Harry’s blazer, trailing over his belt — "is why you want to know."

Malfoy’s hand dipped further, his palm pressed against the front of Harry’s trousers. "I’ve always wondered what would happen if I did this." Harry wanted to push Malfoy away, but his body was betraying him. The only thing interested in pushing was his cock that was at that moment trying to burn through his pants and get into Malfoy’s hand. Harry tried to shut it down with other thoughts. Of the embarrassment if someone were to come through the door. Of Ginny outside, waiting for him. Of Silver Bellamy and how Malfoy had touched his muscled arm and… no, that was a very bad idea…

Malfoy cackled. "So I was right."

His laughter broke the spell, and at last Harry was able to shove him away. He still wore a smirk, though, and Harry wanted to wipe it away by protesting that Malfoy knew nothing, that he had no right to do that, that there was absolutely no way that anything had happened or would ever in a million years happen. Instead what he said was, "I’m supposed to marry Ginny and have three kids."

Malfoy looked at him incredulously. "I’m supposed to marry too, and lose my hair. Do you really think either of those things will happen?" He shook his head. "I give up, Potter. When you get tired of giving the world what it wants and figure out what you want, let me know."

* * *

"And then he just left?" Hermione asked. She didn’t sound sleepy, considering that he’d rung her in the middle of the night. Harry guessed that Ginny had already talked to her.

"Yep. Not another word. He didn’t even look at me."

"What did you do?"

"What could I do? I had to go back out there, Ginny was still waiting. She was pretty mad at me, I think," he hinted.

"She was more confused, I think." Hermione sighed. "Yes, she flooed me as soon as she got home. She said you were gone for a long time. At first she was worried about you."

"Um, yeah." Harry grimaced at the thought of being left in a very awkward position, and what he’d had to do to relieve himself. "I wasn’t able to go back out right away."

There was silence on the other end of the line before a burst of laughter. "No," she cried, "I don’t want to know!"

He waited until her laughter subsided, then Harry asked the question that still weighed heavily on his mind. "Hermione, do you think Malfoy’s right? Do you think I’m gay?"

"You might be," she quickly answered. "Or you might be bi. It’s something that you’ve got to answer for yourself. But you know it’s okay, whatever you are, right?"

"I know that. I just… Malfoy really caught me off guard, you know?"

There was a thoughtful pause before Hermione said, "Honestly, I’m not that surprised. He’s been obsessed with you for years. I’ve always wondered."

"I’ve always wondered what would happen if I did this."

The memory of Malfoy’s words struck Harry like a rock, leaving him speechless.

"You seem tired," Hermione noted. "Let’s talk more tomorrow. Are we still up to visit Mum’s office?"

"Sure," Harry said. "I’ll ring you in the morning."

He hung up and wandered to the shower. He had a lot of thinking to do.

* * *

Harry glanced around the waiting room, at the frightened children and the fretful adults, and thanked the stars once again that he’d been born a wizard. Magical persons enjoyed generally healthy bodies, and that included their teeth.

"I’m sorry, Harry," Hermione apologised for the hundredth time. "I didn’t think this would take so long. I could leave Mum’s present with the receptionist..."

"No, it’s fine, you should say hello. We’ve got loads of time anyway. I don’t have to be back until three."

Hermione looked back at her issue of Hello!, several months old. She paused at Charlotte Church’s plans to ring in the new year with her family in Cardiff. "Molly adores her, you know. She swears she sounds like a young Celestina Warbeck."

Harry smirked as he picked up an even older issue of The Guardian and stared at the date. "Why is everything in waiting rooms always outdated?"

"Mum says it calms patients," answered Hermione, grimacing at a shot of a leathery-faced Rod Stewart. "She says they get too worked up reading about current events."

Even knowing none of the results would be a surprise, Harry thumbed through to the sport page. There a headline caught his eye:

UK's top sprinter in positive drug test
Dwain Chambers, the fastest man in Europe and one of Britain’s main hopes for an Olympic gold medal next year, has tested positive for a new banned designer anabolic steroid and could face a life ban from the sport… The 26-year-old Londoner seems certain to miss the games in Athens if he is found guilty of taking tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), which until last week was thought to be undetectable.
Sources familiar with the process have told the Guardian that traces of the drug were found in a urine sample that the European 100 metres champion and record-holder provided during an out-of-competition test at his training base in Saarbrücken, Germany, on August 1.

"Did you see this?" Harry said. Hermione nodded.

"Oh, I remember seeing that. It was a huge scandal. He had to return all his medals and got banned from the Olympics for life." She caught Harry's eye. "Why? What are you thinking?"

"I’m not sure yet," Harry said, but he could feel the gears in his head starting to turn.

* * *

"What exactly are you proposing, Mr. Potter?"

Shacklebolt’s confusion was mirrored on the faces of the wizards around him.

"Urine tests. Scientists can tell what chemicals are in your body by analyzing samples of your urine. If there’s an illicit drug there, it will show up. And if I’m right, any charms can be disabled by casting a removal spell on the samples before we send them to the lab." His explanation didn’t seem to help, so Harry tried again. "Basically, you pee in a cup, then it goes to the lab and they tell you what’s in it."

"Revolting," sneered Malfoy.

"I’ve heard of this," Ginny chimed in. "I saw something about it in one of Dad’s sport magazines — he’s trying to learn about rugby," she explained. "I just didn’t think they really meant it. Peeing in a cup? What if you miss?"

"And what if you don’t?" Malfoy asked. "Then you have to give your piss to someone whose job is to study it. That’s disgusting."

But Kingsley, after leafing through the articles Harry had collected, was convinced. "I like it. We won’t know until we give it a try, but it does sound promising." He shook his head. "Urine samples. I certainly never would have thought of that. Sounds like you do all your best thinking in the loo, Potter."

At that, Malfoy let out a deafening honk that could be heard across the entire department.

* * *

Harry’s idea worked. The lab was able to find traces of something similar to anabolic steroids, leading to the arrest of their suppliers and suspension of the entire Puddlemere squad. The DMLE complimented Minister Shacklebolt on his handling of the situation, who in turn thanked Harry. Malfoy still looked disgusted any time the subject of urine testing arose, but even he admitted that the case had gone well.

Things went back to normal, but they didn’t. Harry couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened that night at Gwydion’s, and even though Malfoy seemed to have cooled off, Harry spent more than one night alone in his flat reliving it. Things with Ginny seemed to have settled, too. She was even seeing someone new, and although Edmund Finch-Fletchley shared surnames with his older brother, he seemed to be a much more grounded guy, according to Ron.

And Harry, he took one more look at the epilogue to his unauthorized biography before vanishing it from the book. Hermione was right; these pages were no more certain than any other prognostication. He didn’t have to marry Ginny, or anybody else, just because this book said he did. And he didn’t have to carry on an ancient feud with someone he found increasingly enticing. The book might have helped to explain what happened at Hogwarts all those years ago, but it couldn’t say where they were going. Only Harry could decide that.

A week passed, then another. One day, Harry returned from work to find a dark-haired wizard waiting in the reception area. It was Silver Bellamy. He nodded to Harry and looked like he was about to speak when Malfoy appeared.

"There you are," Bellamy said. "I thought you were going to ignore me again."

Harry quickly ducked around the corner, but stayed within earshot. Or what would have been earshot, were the two men not speaking in such low tones. Harry wished he had some Extendable Ears handy. He had a pair in his desk, obviously, but nothing on him. Still, he was able to make out the name of a pub (the Magic Mushroom) and a time (eight o’clock sharp).

 

Harry arrived early, hoping to catch Silver Bellamy before he entered the pub. He hadn’t planned what he would do if Malfoy showed up first, but he was lucky for a change: Bellamy happened to be early, too. He recognized Harry at the door and smiled, and instantly Harry could see why he’d won the hearts of the wizarding world. For a moment, he almost felt guilty about lying to him. Almost.

After Bellamy had left, Harry took a seat, ordered a beer, and waited. It wasn’t long before Malfoy appeared. He clearly was surprised to see Harry.

"What are you doing here?"

"I have to tell you something," Harry started slowly, then let all his words pour out. "And I know you’re going to be upset, but I sent your date home."

Instead of looking mad, Malfoy just raised an eyebrow. He actually seemed amused. "You did what?"

"I told him you were needed on some critical Auror business. He seemed impressed."

Malfoy scoffed. "That’s not too hard. He’s impressed when there’s real parmesan instead of that canned sawdust you eat on your pizza." He sat down across from Harry and motioned for the waiter to bring him a beer. "Are you going to tell me why you did that?"

"I wanted to talk to you," Harry repeated.

"So you said."

"I’ve been thinking a lot since… over the past couple of weeks. And I think you might be right. I think I might be…" He stopped and started again. "I think I’m gay. Or maybe bi. But definitely not straight."

Malfoy smiled. He has a nice smile, Harry thought, and wondered why he hadn’t noticed that before.

"What was your first hint?"

The words should have sounded vicious, but they didn’t. Somehow, they sounded almost caring, and they made Harry want to offer a real answer.

"It’s hard to explain. But I’ve thought a lot about what you said, about how I need to stop doing what other people want. I do need to figure out what I want, but that’s always been hard for me." He looked up and saw Malfoy was still smiling. "You’re going to mock me for that, I know."

"Harry, the last thing I’d ever mock is trying to figure out how to be your own person." He looked at Harry, intensely scrutinizing his face as if he’d never really seen him before. Harry realised it felt odd to have Malfoy staring at him like this with no ill intent. It felt odd, and strangely flattering. Without breaking his gaze, Malfoy asked, "So are you going to finish that?"

Harry swallowed and shook his head.

Draco left a handful of knuts on the table and extended his hand. "Then let’s go."

* * *

"Stop it!" said Hermione, tossing a serviette at Harry. He ducked, narrowly missing daubing his chin with spaghettieis.

"What am I doing?" he protested.

"You’re still beaming. And you’re talking about Draco. And you’re actually calling him Draco. It’s really weird!"

Harry grinned. It was true, he had been talking rather effusively about his erstwhile enemy. Even treating Hermione to ice cream wasn’t sufficient payment for that. "Okay, okay, I’ll stop. What shall we talk about instead? Are you enjoying this fine weather we’re having?"

Hermione laughed. "Oh, you know I’m kidding. It’s just that I can’t remember ever seeing you so happy."

Harry couldn’t either. He didn’t even have words to describe the feelings he was having now, the sense that he was finally being true to himself and not worrying about anybody’s expectations. He didn’t know where this feeling would go, but not knowing was part of its wonder. "I guess you could say I found my gaydar."

"I’d say so!" Hermione agreed.

For a moment, the two of them ate their spaghettieis in silence. Then Hermione asked, "So what do you think about Professor Dumbledore then?"

Harry stopped with his spoon halfway to his mouth. "What about Professor Dumbledore?"

~ ~ ~ THE END ~ ~ ~