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Harry Potter and the Future He Doesn't Really Want, Thanks.

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Harry woke from a dream about a future he didn’t want with a heavy nosebleed and a tiny cat asleep on his chest, rising and falling with his breaths. He was sprawled across a faded red corduroy sofa that went with exactly none of the other furniture in Luna’s plant-filled living room. It was very soft though, which he appreciated in something he had been using as a bed for the last several weeks. The cat was soft too, along with being slightly mean and yet-to-be-named, although she was often referred to by Luna as ‘That Constant Source of Misery and Distress.’ Harry had laughed when she’d first used the moniker but then felt guilty about it pretty much every time since.

Harry tried to be gentle when he pushed her off his chest, propping himself up slowly onto one elbow. She hopped down to the floor, watching him balefully for a second before meowing pointedly, in a way that said forget this happened, we aren't friends. He made a face at her, which then transformed into a wide, jaw-cracking yawn. Harry felt very much as though his brain had melted sometime during the night. With his head spinning he lay back down again, screwing his eyes shut and regretting ever opening them in the first place. Harry hadn’t felt this rough in forever. A part of him revelled in that familiarity, but only for a second before he shut it down. Just because his entire life had been turned upside down and the contents thoroughly shaken out didn’t mean he wanted pain as a fucking constant.

It was about then that Harry realised that his nosebleed had been distracting him from the fact that he felt like throwing up. He carefully reached out a searching hand for anything nearby in which to contain it, trying to keep his body as still as possible. The hunt was ultimately futile and he hit upon three different ferns before he came to the conclusion that he might just have to make a run for the bathroom if he wanted to avoid Luna’s wrath. Not that he’d ever seen Luna in a mood even close to wrathful, but throwing up on even one of her numerous plants would probably do it.

The regularity with which this had been happening probably should have prepared him for a vomit-related scenario, but he couldn’t work up the energy to be angry at himself right now. Harry did however spare a second to mull over the fact that he could apparently feel the difference between classes of ferns now. That wasn’t… sad... exactly, but he was pretty sure it was somewhere very far away from being cool. Or in any way useful. Maybe if Neville dragged him to a Herbology pub quiz? He made a mental note to check at some point if they were even a thing.

Harry sank further into the cushions and weighed up the various pros and cons of ‘vomiting on his own chest’ as opposed to ‘fainting as soon as he stood up.’ Done with sulking, the cat jumped back onto the sofa and this time settled on his feet. Decision effectively made for him he took several very deep breaths. They might have been calming but he wasn’t sure yet. They weren't making him feel any worse though, which was the main thing. He groaned internally. Then he groaned outwardly, because he thought he might as well and then there was always a chance that Luna would hear from her room and come to his rescue. The cat proceeded to lick his foot in a contemplative manner. Harry proceeded to resign himself to his fate in an admittedly similar but much more angry manner.

Luna’s cat was obsessed with him and he suspected it was something to do with the fact that she never remembered to feed it and Harry did. Actually, it was only Luna’s cat by sheer virtue of the fact that it had turned up in her apartment on the day she'd moved in and refused to leave. Much like himself, he supposed. Luna, to the shock of just about everyone who knew her, was not a cat person. And as she’d told Harry multiple times, just because I’m too brilliant a human to put her out onto the street does not mean she’s my responsibility. This was usually followed by look, now you’ve got me assigning gender to animals or and it’s your turn to buy wine. Harry loved living with Luna but he had to admit she had a very bad memory when it came to whose turn it was to buy wine. Not that he could refuse her all the Merlot she could drink, being that she actually was a brilliant human, and especially when he was sleeping on her sofa rent-free. Plus she was very good about not telling anyone he was here, which he loved her for.

So, apart from the occasional cat related argument and a pretty massive amount of money spent on trips to the off-license, Luna was probably the best roommate he’d ever had. Not that that was a very high bar, since for most of his life he’d lived with A) The Dursleys - no question, the worst, B) a dormitory full of Gryffindor males - a step up from the Dursley household but often dismal, and C) his best friends in a tent in the woods - which would have been genuinely pleasant if Ron and Hermione hadn’t been in some weird, never-ending relationship limbo at the time. And if they hadn't been on the hunt for parts of Voldemort’s soul.

Harry’s nose had thankfully stopped bleeding by the time Misery and Distress had stopped licking his foot and moved onto her own. He was also pleased to note that the sickness had abated somewhat, and it seemed as though he was no longer in any immediate danger of fainting. Harry was used to the whole mess by now but it didn’t make it any easier. This waking up with his body on the verge of breaking business was getting pretty fucking old, pretty fucking quick, he thought to himself. And then he repeated it out loud because he had always liked the way that phrase had sounded, and because his skull was still feeling fuzzy and screwed-on-wrong.

This time it seemed saying things outside of his head had paid off, and he heard Luna utter a muffled "You’re still here?" from her bedroom next door.

“Luna, could I borrow you for a minute please?” He called, ignoring her question.

Harry.” This had been uttered in a sarcastic tone that he’d never quite get used to hearing from her, but filled him with glee, and only really happened in special, woken-from-sleep cases, “It’s four in the morning.”

“I know, I know. But I had another of those weird dreams and I thought you’d like to hear about it?” His voice was hopeful. This particular dream wasn’t something he wanted to deal with by himself. He couldn’t even think about it by himself. Somewhere in the back of his brain he thought saying it out loud might make it seem less scary.

You’re a weird dream,” she replied, apparently speaking into her pillow, muffled but still loud enough for him to hear. Harry laughed, then winced when the movement caused a dull ache in his head. Luna's floor creaked as she got out of bed.

As he listened to her weave her way through the foliage in between her bedroom door and where he was lying, Harry stared up at the dark blue ceiling. Luna had been bored one very rainy afternoon and made Harry go with her to the hardware store nearby. They'd come home with their feet soaking wet from mis-cast umbrella charms and then spent the rest of the day painting. Some of the blue had dribbled and dripped down from the ceiling onto the walls, in thin lines that they hadn't ever bothered to get rid of. Luna had also painted a sun, directly above where his head usually rested, laughing the whole time. Her feet balanced on the arm of the sofa as Neville held her thighs. He frowned at it. Harry hadn’t really been aware that Luna could do irony until then.

Eventually Luna turned up at the foot of the sofa and looked down at him, also frowning. She was wearing a Chudley Cannons t-shirt that came down to her mid-thighs. Her hair was loose around her shoulders. He eyed her suspiciously.

“You didn’t-- is that my top, Luna?” He hadn’t been able to find that particular one for a few weeks and he missed its presence desperately. It reminded him of Ron's bedroom, of the Gryffindor dorm, of the frantically moving Quidditch posters above Ron's bed. “I’ve been looking for that.”

“No, it’s Neville’s,” she replied, looking down at her front consideringly, “Ron gave it to him apparently and I’ve no idea why he doesn’t like it. Orange is one of the best colours,” she paused delicately, “Did you know you’ve got blood on your face?”

“Orange is definitely in the top five. And I know about the blood, yeah,” he said absently, then sighed a bit. The t-shirt was still missing then. Something dawned on him. “Wait, is Neville here right now? I thought he was supposed to be staying at his Gran's.”

“Yes, he slept over. I texted you about this last night, you know.” He reached under his pillow with one arm and dug out his phone. It was out of battery. Harry held it up to show Luna, who rolled her eyes but said nothing.

“I’m sorry," he said, "This phone is a piece of shit. Is he awake?”

“Yes! He’s fucking awake! This apartment is the smallest in the world and I can hear everything you're saying!” Neville called from Luna’s room, sounding very disgruntled. “Can I come and talk as well? Or is this some sort of secret roommate meeting? Because if it is then you’re being much too loud about it.”

Harry started laughing, and Luna only looked conflicted for a moment before she joined in, with her hand across her mouth. Neville groaned audibly and said something that sounded very much like hate you both. 

Harry yawned again and sat up, in his own opinion managing it with aplomb, only feeling the tiniest bit like he was going to keel over. At this he tried standing up as well, Luna watching him apprehensively, and that was achieved with the same level of success. Harry stumbled unsteadily over to the kitchen door on the opposite side of the room, legs shaking, taking a detour to the entrance of Luna’s bedroom. Neville had every part of his body buried under the duvet except for one knee and he said nothing when Harry invited him out and asked if he wanted a cup of tea, only stretched a bit before collapsing onto the mattress again.

“He will,” said Luna, from where she was now perched on the arm of the sofa as far away from the cat as possible, her ankles crossed, “And so will I please, Darjeeling if possible. I think we've still got some.”

Harry nodded slowly, still mindful of his head, and gave one last look at the Neville-shaped mound of bunched-up fabric. Harry sincerely doubted that the conversation about to ensue would be one that Neville was fully prepared for, judging by the look of him. He dodged a hanging basket on his way into the kitchen, wrinkling his nose as the yellow flowers started whispering to one another. Probably about him.

Ever since moving in with Luna a few weeks ago (asking to stay one night after helping her with a shopping trip to Sainsbury’s and not going back to Grimmauld Place again, except for clothes. And one time, candlesticks) she had been helping him with the Weird Future Problem. That was the agreed upon term, but sometimes, just to himself, Harry referred to it as the 'Why The Fuck Does Trouble Follow Me Literally Everywhere I Go' Problem. Although that was a bit wordy to say out loud. He was honestly sick and tired to death of weird stuff going on in his head without his permission, and he had thought, at least, after Voldemort’s demise that might be one thing he could count on not happening anymore. Apparently it was not to be, which he should have been prepared for, because when had things ever really gone the way he wanted them to go? 

The first time he had slept after the Battle he had woken up from the most vivid dream he’d ever had in his life. In it, Ginny had broken up with him one bright day at the Burrow. They had been sitting outside the house on a sweltering afternoon, sun beating down on his skin, grass soft on his back where his shirt had ridden up, a glass of very cold apple juice sweating where he rested it on his belly. The chattering sound of the wheat field nearby ringing in his ears. She’d said to him him: this isn’t working and I know this is difficult for you. He woke up with the feel of cold apple juice on his t-shirt from the jolt of sitting up too quickly. After that he kept having the dream, on and off, until a week later it had happened in real life and all he could think was I should have seen this coming, dream or not.

It was two days after the breakup that Luna had asked for his help moving things into her new apartment in Muggle London. And he had gone, eager for any distraction, eager to leave the stifling heat of Grimmauld Place. Its dusty rooms and endless, creeping corridors. Harry had taken one look at the flat and exhaled, releasing a breath he hadn't even known he'd been holding.

There was Luna; bright smile in a scottie-dog print sundress and yellow sandals, the sound of your favourite song given human form. There were the huge open windows in the living room, letting in the sunshine and the sounds of traffic and the sounds of people outside laughing. There was the smell of the pavement baking in the heat, and rosemary and tomato from the pizza place downstairs. There was Neville smiling at him shakily and holding a bright green fern (the first of many). There were the shiny, dark-wood floorboards that Luna explained had taken her days to sand and re-varnish by hand, and you’d better be careful if you take your shoes off Harry, they’re very slippery. There was do you want to come with me to Sainsbury’s? It’s a supermarket, Neville can’t because he’s getting dinner with Dean. There was Yeah, sure Luna and Where do you want these biscuits? and Would you mind much if I slept here tonight? And then there was Harry sleeping and sometimes not sleeping on a sofa for several weeks. And then there was Harry somehow becoming responsible for a cat that seemed to hate everything else in the entire world except for him.

Harry had dreamt of a car crash on the street outside the good sushi place, then watched it play out two days later in front of his eyes. That had been a bad weekend, one of his worst, which was saying something. Neville and Luna had alternated between tiptoeing around the place where he was curled up on the sofa and sitting with him, as he watched TV and ate chocolate digestives. Luna with her head on his shoulder and Neville holding his hand while they pretended to watch Star Wars but really just muted it and listened to Harry talk about how fucking unfair things were, and how fucking guilty he felt to think that when he was alive and whole and here talking to them and pretending to watch Star Wars. They stayed quiet and Harry knew they didn’t know what to say, which was alright since he wasn’t sure he would do any better in their position. Eventually Luna had asked, very quietly, if he wanted to talk to Ron and Hermione and he had replied, equally as quiet, not yet. Then he cried a little bit and hadn’t since.

After the Battle it became difficult to watch Ron and Hermione together. They were sad most of the time (everyone he knew now was sad most of the time) but they were less sad when they looked at each other and Harry didn’t know quite what to do with that. He guessed, in a resigned sort of way, that he was jealous of them. Of what they had with each other and the fact that it was Ron-and-Hermione now, sturdy and unshakeable, a lived-through-the-war relationship that had a whole future that wasn’t so close to his anymore. A future running parallel with his own but not so tied up with his, the way it used to be. Maybe after some time had passed he would feel better about that. Now though, so soon after the fact, he felt like something had been ripped away from him and left a gaping wound in his whole life. He knew it was irrational, but he still felt it. He felt it when he sat across from them at dinner in the Burrow, or when they walked up to sleep in the same room in Grimmauld Place. He knew they felt it too, a pressure that came from his stare, and he knew that they'd probably felt some relief when he slipped away, told them he was staying at Luna’s and that he would call them, then never got around to it. He didn't know when it had become hard to talk to them. 

Even though the dreams had started while he was still living at Grimmauld Place, he didn’t realise they were prophecy until one came true. By that point he was itching to escape anyway, the thing with Ginny solidifying what he already felt. It was easy not to tell them about it, when he thought about their reaction. He knew they loved him, and he probably loved them more than anything else in the world, but they made him tired sometimes. It wasn’t their fault that Hermione’s well-meaning questions and Ron’s infallible ability to misunderstand any given situation made him exhausted, but it happened anyway. It wasn’t easy to tell them things like it used to be. Nothing was like it used to be.

One evening he had been half-watching Broad City and half-watching Luna paint his nails mustard yellow. Neville had just left to get them dinner; Lebanese food from a restaurant ten minutes away, and his stomach had been rumbling. ‘Luna?’ he’d asked, almost whispering, almost hoping she'd not heard him. But she'd looked up from where she'd been carefully applying the polish to his index finger, blinked a few times in a silent question.

He’d told her, then, that he had dreamt about his breakup with Ginny, that it had felt different from any dream he’d had, that he'd been able to remember every single terrible detail when he'd woken up. Then he'd told her about the other dreams he’d been having; a car crash outside their sushi place, a delay on the underground that made them miss the start of a film, her card being declined in a shop in Chinatown when they’d been trying to buy milk sweets. She'd tilted her head to the side, squeezed his forearm, and told him to keep her updated. Then she'd started on his next nail. 

In the kitchen, Harry boiled the kettle and took three mugs down from the top cupboard that he could barely reach. He thought -not for the first time- about moving them all down to one he could access easier. Then, not for the first time, he resolved to do it later. He rifled through their tea drawer in order to find the Darjeeling that Luna had asked for. She hadn’t wanted it since they’d got some Chai from a speciality tea shop near Covent Garden so it was buried in the far back, next to some ill-advised mixed-fruit flavour shit that Neville had bought when he’d been drunk. Harry flicked the box disapprovingly. He washed his face in the kitchen sink while the tea brewed, then gingerly gathered all three mugs before stepping back into the living room, kicking the door shut behind him. The orange glow from the streetlamp outside the windows gave the whole room an eerie feel, it seemed larger than it was, more dark corners. As he neared the sofa he saw Neville wrapped in Luna’s entire duvet, spread out on one of the bigger armchairs. Luna was sitting on a cushion on the floor beside his feet, her head resting against his thigh. Harry handed them their tea to quiet thanks and put his own on the coffee table. He fell back down onto the sofa with a sigh, stretching his arms above his head and rucking up the duvet with his feet.

Luna was the first to speak. “I haven’t told anyone about it, Harry,” she said, either not knowing or not caring that a statement like that might invite questions.

Neville sat up straighter in his chair. “About what?” He looked down at Luna and then across at Harry. “About what?” He repeated. Harry could hear remnants of suspicion in his voice, leftover from the war. Harry had been hearing it in most people's voices lately.

Harry sighed again, stretched again, then braced himself for how ridiculous he was about to sound. “I can see the future?" Neville opened his mouth to speak but Harry continued in a rush before he could. "It happened for the first time right after the Battle, I have no idea how. It happens when I’m asleep, like, I dream about it. I dreamt about Ginny breaking up with me.” Neville had been there for the aftermath of the car crash day, but had probably just thought Harry was having a small breakdown. He hadn’t asked any questions, just as Harry hadn’t volunteered any information.

Neville was quiet for a moment. Then, “That’s… not normal.”

Harry laughed, and he tried to make it sound not-bitter but wasn’t sure he succeeded. “You don’t say?”

“No, not like, in a mean way. It’s just-- it doesn’t usually happen like that, does it? It doesn’t just... come to someone, out of the blue. There are ways of looking into the future but they all involve trying to look into the future. It doesn’t just happen randomly, except for the prophecies, but this sounds different. What are the dreams like?” Harry stared at Neville, somewhat speechless. Sometimes he forgot people didn’t panic when he told them things. Sometimes he had to remind himself that Neville was a war hero. Harry also had to remind himself, time and time again, that people were probably used to weird things occurring around him.

“They’re not like normal dreams. It’s like I’m actually there. Sometimes I have control over what I say, sometimes I’m just… trapped. Moving and talking like normal but not having any control over what happens. It’s fucking awful." He thought of the one time he’d woken up and hadn't been able to move. It had lasted for a full five minutes, until the grating siren of a passing ambulance had snapped him back into his body again.

“He gets nosebleeds afterwards, sometimes really bad headaches.” Luna informed Neville, who wrinkled his nose, silent.

“It feels exactly how you think it would feel, parts of your future trying to force themselves into your head at the wrong time.” Neville and Luna both grimaced when Harry said that, in sympathy.

“Have you told Hermione?” Neville asked. “Only it seems like she’d know quite a bit about stuff like this. Being that she knows quite a bit about everything.”

“I’ve only told you two.” Harry said, suddenly fiercely missing his best friend. “I think I might have to, though. Soon. But I want to do some research first.”

“What kind of research? Book research? You could try the library at Grimmauld Place.” Luna suggested.

Harry shook his head. “No, like, field research. I want to know if I can change it.” Luna looked confused and he tried to think of a way to put it. “Remember when I had that dream about the tube delay? It hasn’t happened yet, and I want to see if we can avoid it.” The dream about her card getting declined hadn’t happened yet either, neither had scores of other things, tiny things that he hadn’t thought worth mentioning. It seemed more important now to be in control, after what he’d dreamed of tonight.

Harry finally reached for his forgotten cup of tea on the coffee table, where it rested on an out-of-date copy of Time Out London. There was a pile of Metro and Guardian newspapers on the ground and he propped his feet up on top of them. He always brought them back when he’d been reading them on the tube. Riding the trains late at night hadn’t been something he’d grown out of.

There wasn’t a lot of floor space available in Luna’s apartment. The majority of it was taken up by her plants, with paths running through them like animal tracks. One from Luna’s bedroom to the bathroom, intersecting with the one from the sofa and chairs to the kitchen. There were rugs covering most of the places where they walked, Luna had been right about the slippery floors and Harry had fallen over three times before they took a trip to Ikea. That might have been the weirdest day of Harry’s life.

Beside the sofa where he slept there were stacks of books, all Muggle, mostly novels but with some history books scattered throughout. His laptop was pushed under the coffee table, perpetually out of charge, much like his phone. There were ceramic bowls filled with loose change, candlesticks he’d brought from Grimmauld Place at Luna’s request, empty coffee mugs with dried flowers. It was cluttered and messy but clean and bright and it felt like home. He was working up the courage to ask Luna if he could replace the current sofa with a pull out bed.

They drank their tea in silence for a few minutes, resting and comfortable. Maybe Luna had told Neville that being questioned made him feel anxious. The city outside the window seemed quieter than usual, the street outside was bare except for the occasional group of drunk teenagers walking home or to the next party. Harry could hear the wail of a police car in the distance and shuddered, he thought about how it was the worst sound in the world.

“Harry.” Luna was looking at him over the rim of her favourite Batman mug. “What was last night’s Weird Future Dream about?” Harry could hear the capitalisation. Luna was the only person other than Hermione who could do that, he thought fondly.

“Luna.” He looked at her over the rim of his own favourite mug, it was pink and had ‘Worlds best sister’ printed in a swirly font on the side. It was from one of the markets on Brick Lane. He studied a chip in the handle. “I’m not sure I know.” He looked at Neville, who smiled when he caught Harry’s gaze. His hand was on Luna’s head now, and he was curling her hair in between his fingers. Harry felt a hot spike of jealousy run through him, but when he shook himself the feeling disappeared.

The sun was just starting to rise, it didn’t feel real, them sitting here together at this hour. Harry felt like he could say anything and it wouldn’t have happened when the sun had fully risen. They were both looking at him, not expecting anything, not rushing him. He wanted to fall asleep again. Harry glanced at the houses on the opposite side of the road and he could see the reflection of his streetlamp in their windows, repeated over and over. The cat jumped onto his lap and he put his hand on her back, feeling her fragile spine through fragile skin. Harry, still staring out the window, staring at the sky now, told them.

He opened his eyes and stared straight ahead of him at an open window, it was pitch black outside and Harry couldn’t see the stars. He blinked a few times and took stock of which parts of his body he could still feel. His head was fuzzy, in a recognisable way, and he could sense a slick warmth sliding down his face. Dripping from his nose, over the curve of his lips and off his chin. His hands were fisted in sheets, and he knew, somehow, that he was sitting on the end of a bed. He felt silk on the back of his bare thighs and thought about how he’d never slept on silk sheets in his life. He knew this was his own bed, in his own bedroom, even though he’d never seen this place in his life. His eyes focused on a line of paint above the window like the lines in Luna’s living room, and he felt something inside himself unknot. Luna had been here, he was sure. Harry looked upwards at the ceiling, up at a whole galaxy of glow-in-the-dark stars, some of which were moving. He smiled. He thought of Luna. There was a print of a Klimt painting beside the window, above an ancient-looking chest of drawers. Harry didn’t know how he knew who Klimt was.

Harry was slowly regaining the feeling in his legs, but there was a silence in his ears that was absolute. Then, suddenly, he felt a weight on his knee, and looked down to see a hand resting there, cool and pale and soft. The fingernails were neat. Then there was the gentle touch of two fingers under his chin, tilting his head to look into the face of their owner. Then Harry couldn’t breath. He wanted to crawl backwards but his body wouldn’t let him move. All he could do was look at Draco Malfoy’s face, at the furrow between his brow where his eyebrows were caught in a worried-looking frown, at his mouth as it moved, saying Harry and then something he couldn’t catch and then Harry and then fuck. The hand under his chin dropped away only to softly wipe what he could only assume was blood from under his nose. The Malfoy he knew would never. Harry wanted to wake up. Malfoy bent down, kneeling beside the bed. He was wearing a grey t-shirt that was clearly too big for him and a pair of loose boxers in a garish tropical fish pattern. Boxers that Ron had bought Harry last Christmas. The t-shirt had ridden up and Harry eyes focused, quite without his brain's permission, on the expanse of bare skin. With a rushing noise, he could hear again.

“--ening, Harry? Can you hear me? Fuck. Should I call Granger? Harry snap the fuck out of this or so help me I’ll strangle you right now.” Malfoy sounded worried. More than that, he sounded panicked. Harry’s hand, moving of it’s own accord, reached up to touch the lines on Malfoy’s brow, smoothing the skin there. Malfoy deflated and then flashed him a smile, soft and tired. “Oh, thank fuck. You fucking scared me. I was this close to calling an ambulance. I still might, unless you fucking say something you arsehole.” Harry didn’t need an ambulance, he knew exactly what this was. Thrown by the familiarity with which Malfoy spoke to him, he shook his head. “Not good enough,” said Malfoy.

Harry gave up, and mimed writing on his hand. Malfoy looked at him for a long second, then nodded once and stood up gracefully, striding over to the chest of drawers Harry had previously noticed. He opened the second drawer down and pulled out a yellow legal pad and a black pen. He crossed back over to Harry, flipping through the notebook for a blank page before handing it over. The pen was a Mont Blanc fountain tip and Harry didn’t know whether to roll his eyes or to stab himself with it. He settled for the former. At this, Malfoy gave him a look. It was a look that was obviously practised and obviously familiar. He and Malfoy had looks, Harry thought, and this suddenly seemed like the hardest thing to deal with. It was so fucking intimate, the way that Malfoy said his name, the way he was dressed. The way he moved in what was clearly their bedroom. Harry wondered if you could go into shock in a dream.

I don’t need an ambulance was the first thing he wrote. Please don’t call Hermione was the second. He tilted the paper so that Malfoy could see it. At this he huffed with impatience and moved to sit next to Harry on the bed, their shoulders pressing together. “You need to promise me you’ll book an appointment with a Healer for later today, or a Muggle doctor. Either. I know you think you’re indestructible but that wasn’t a normal nosebleed. You couldn’t hear me.”

I don’t think I’m indestructible, Harry wrote, stung.

“Not the point. Not the fucking point. Just say yes, you stubborn shit.” Malfoy said, in a fond tone of voice that was totally at odds with the words coming out of his mouth. Harry didn’t know what to do. Out of ideas, he wrote I promise on the paper, and Malfoy breathed a sigh of relief beside him. Harry could feel it on his cheek.

This hasn’t happened before? He wrote, before he could stop himself. As soon as he’d done the dot of the question mark he knew it was a mistake.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean? No. This hasn’t happened before. Has it happened before? Is that--” Malfoy cut himself off, seemingly lost for words. He was frowning again but this time Harry didn’t touch him. It doesn’t matter, I just still feel weird. Malfoy looked at this and then at Harry again, he shook his head and opened his mouth to say something.

That was where it ended. Harry’s tea had gone cold by the time he finished, not once looking either of them in the eye. Luna and Nev were shocked into silence for what seemed like a full minute. Harry was wary, he knew exactly how this would go with Ron and Hermione, but Luna and Neville were uncharted territory as far as he was concerned.

Then, Neville spoke. “You’re telling us--” he cut off after this, shook his head sharply. “You’re telling us that you had a dream about the future in which you had a dream about the future. And Malfoy. Malfoy. I don’t know what to say mate, I didn’t even know you liked guys, let alone...” He trailed off and then laughed, but his laughter sounded angry. “Fucking Malfoy, Harry. You can’t.”

“I know that, Nev. You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know. That's why I just said I need to find out if I can change it. Trust me when I say that I was exactly as shocked as you are.” Harry scrubbed through his hair with his hands, it was getting too long again. He wanted to end this. “Not about the guy thing, but… the Malfoy thing. Obviously.”

“Obviously,” Neville echoed, looking faintly amused. Harry rolled his eyes.

“Do you know how far into the future that was?” Luna asked slowly, her face impassive and more serious than he’d seen in a long while.

“No, Luna, I’ve no idea. I think-- he looked exactly the same, except for the clothes, I didn’t see a calendar or anything.” He replied, thinking desperately back to his dream. “He talked about Hermione like he knew her.” Harry couldn’t get his head around this fact either. That Malfoy might voluntarily speak to Hermione, that Hermione might do the same.

Luna just hummed and looked thoughtful, her eyes closed for a split second and then flashed open again. “I think that maybe now you’ve seen it, it might not happen. Do you know what I mean? The future isn’t set. I can’t really explain where I’m going with this, I’m too tired, sorry Harry.”

Harry thought about what she'd said. Could he have stopped Ginny breaking up with him? He supposed he probably could, on that day, if he had realised at the time what was happening. He could have never gone outside with her, or never gone to the Burrow. It would have happened eventually, something told him it was all but inevitable. This thing with Malfoy though, that could be different. Harry couldn’t imagine any future of his with Draco Malfoy in it. Even having seen it. It was one outcome out of many possible outcomes, and he clung to this. He would make the cinema on time. He and Luna would buy milk sweets using cash. He wouldn’t have anything to do with Draco Malfoy.

 


 

Five miles away from where Harry, Luna, and Neville were talking quietly in a flat just off Brick Lane, Draco Malfoy had just tripped over. He knew it shouldn’t be funny and he knew he’d probably ruined these trousers, but Pansy couldn’t breathe with how hard she was laughing and he couldn’t help but join in. It had been ages since he’d heard that sound and he couldn’t believe how much he’d fucking missed it. So if falling over was what it took, it was a sacrifice he would gladly make. Draco Malfoy had never been one for sacrifices, he was still getting used to them.

It was just him and Pansy now, everyone else from his year in Slytherin had either buggered off abroad or were still living in Wizarding Britain. A few days after the Battle, with his father back in Azkaban and Draco and his mother under temporary house arrest in the Manor, the family lawyer had turned up with an offer from the Ministry. He could go to Azkaban for one year or he could have his wand confiscated and be banned from all magical establishments, be banned from Hogwarts and a magical trace put on him. He wouldn’t even be allowed to apparate. Only allowed to return to his family home. A review of the terms after five years. At one point he wouldn’t have hesitated, but he’d seen what Azkaban had done to his father and he knew what it would do to him.

Draco wasn’t under any illusions about his ability to cope with something like that. But neither was he under any illusions about the welcome he could receive if he chose to keep living in the wizarding world. He wouldn’t want to go back to Hogwarts, never mind the issue of him being let in or not. He knew that most people were going back, even his former classmates, they were calling it Eighth Year. Most people from other houses, that is. Slytherin was probably decimated at this point, only the younger years remaining. It made him angry when he thought about it so he tried very hard not to. In the end, it wasn’t much of a decision to make. He couldn’t go to Azkaban, he couldn’t live without magic, couldn’t live among muggles. One path was a little less likely to kill him though, so he took it.

He still had Pansy, who stayed with him a lot of the time. It had always been them and probably always would be. Plus, she didn’t really have anyone else. Together since they were children she wouldn’t let a little thing like banishment tear them apart. Sometimes when he looked at her his whole body hurt with how much he loved her, how much he ached for her to have everything she ever wanted. They weren’t in love but occasionally he caught glimpses of how easy it would be if they were. Now for example, drunk and laughing and falling over outside Harrods at four in the morning. Her face lit up momentarily in blue and red from a passing police car. It would be easy to kiss her now. Easy if either of them wanted it, that is. Draco was amazed at what he knew. Words like ‘police’ and ‘doctor’ and ‘escalator.’ Words that rolled off his tongue and sounded like a foreign language. Pansy’s lips were painted black. They smiled at him.

He smiled back, dizzy with the colours, then tried to stand and found that he couldn’t. They’d been drinking wine spritzers at the start of the night, he vaguely recalled, and then moved onto vodka as the evening progressed. That must be why he couldn’t feel his face. Pansy finally took pity on him and grabbed his arm, hauling him up, both of them stumbling back a few paces into the thick glass of the window display. She was stronger than her slight frame let on. Pansy let go of him and turned to look inside, sighing as Draco cooed at a pair of velvet trousers that were lit up with a dim spotlight. They were midnight blue and would look brilliant on him. He hadn’t realised he had said that part out loud until Pansy snorted with good-natured derision. He just smirked, not too drunk to realise she hadn’t denied it.

He lived a few minutes away in a tall, red-brick townhouse and back when he was still afraid to go outside, Harrods was the nearest place that sold food. It was obscenely expensive, all quails eggs and luxury chocolates and gourmet cheese, but money had never really been an issue in the Malfoy family. Cooking was, however, and Draco had done a lot of frantic googling while he learned the basics. Pansy had laughed airily, sat up on the counter drinking wine as Draco attempted to boil an egg, snarling at her when she dared to comment, snatching at her phone and threatening to boil it when she tried to take photos of him. I’d be impressed if you could manage it, honestly, she’d said. He’d had to go and lie down for a while.

Aurors had overseen his moving in. Two women had watched him, narrow eyed, as he tried to pack things from his room in the Manor. Officially, they were there to make sure he didn’t pack anything that could be described as a magical artefact. Unofficially, they were there to make him nervous. His mother was unhappy, sad and deflated in that big house. They closed up two whole wings together before he left. The bad ones, the ones that made them feel sick. The ones that had been all but destroyed. The portraits had seethed and hurled insults. Blood-traitor didn’t sting him as much as it used to. He didn’t know if he felt good or bad about that.

Knightsbridge was clean, tree-lined and leafy. He could stand in the middle of the park outside his house and not see houses or people. He could put his headphones in and not hear traffic or arguments or laughter or anything. Raised in Wiltshire and Scotland, Draco missed silence. At night in the Manor he could open his window and hear nothing. Nothing. Silence so oppressive he felt blanketed by it, safe in it. Silence so complete he thought he imagined it. It wasn’t so in Central London. He supposed he could have chosen another stately home, a non-magical one. Maybe one with farming land. When he felt like this he climbed up to the attic and out of one of the dormer windows. He sat on the roof four storeys up, the feel of the black slate tiles burning hotly through his t-shirt. He looked out across the city and thought about how somewhere in there, buried amongst the countless buildings, was Diagon Alley. It helped him breathe. He couldn’t go, but knowing it was there was enough. He didn’t know what he would do when it stopped being enough.

It was mid-May before he could stand to leave the safe enclave of the streets surrounding his house. He ventured into Belgravia, wide-eyed at the embassies and the luxury shops. He learnt words like ‘Christian Louboutin’ and ‘Hermes.’ He learnt how to use his newly obtained credit card. He went to Waitrose and bought things that weren’t quail’s eggs and truffles. He learned how to make pasta sauce from scratch. He was roped into conversation with his next door neighbour, a man called Alex who had three children and a husband and a very nice car who told Draco what his job was while Draco pretended to know what he was talking about. He talked to muggles in shops. He said things like keep the change and no that’s alright and I brought my own bag but still felt weird. It made him feel overbalanced and guilty on an hourly basis.

He grew comfortable with living in Muggle London, if not talking to people, and as he did Pansy did too. It was the end of June now and the city was hot on good days, stifling on bad ones. The garden at the back of his house was small but bright, with silver birch trees providing some respite from the harsh sunlight. They sat outside together that very morning and ate breakfast, Draco had tried his hand at an omelette. The french doors at the back of the house were thrown wide open and propped back with plant pots. The doors led into one of the living rooms, a huge space that ran from the front of the house to the very back. It was cool and shaded inside, the forest-green walls a soothing contrast against the blinding white of the patio stones. They spoke to each other softly and lazily, Draco watching bumblebees float from one flower to the next, Pansy with her eyes closed sipping orange juice.

It was a far cry from their current situation. He had been feeling unsettled all day and when Pansy had suggested they go out that evening he couldn’t say fuck, yes fast enough. He felt like he wanted to jump out of his skin. They used Uber and went to a bar in Chelsea where everyone had accents like his and everyone was rich. Before, it never really occurred to him that muggles could be rich.

A group of people their own age had tried to talk to him and Pansy, they were foreign students studying at Central Saint Martins. All of them were pretty and wealthy and young looking and they chattered amongst themselves in Japanese, laughing easily. Draco couldn’t remember the last time he had talked like that with his friends. Students in other houses in Hogwarts had and he used to think they were childish, laughing like they all knew the same secret. He was never jealous at the time but thought he might be now, in retrospect.

Pansy put both palms on the window and pushed herself backwards then started walking in the direction of his house. “Draco, I’m leaving you behind!” she called over her shoulder. He had to run to catch up with her, it was very undignified. She took his hand and threaded her fingers between his. “Food when we get back? We could get a takeaway.”

He frowned, thinking. “I don’t think anywhere will be open Pans, It’s four in the morning. I suppose I could make something if you want.” She laughed, apparently it came easier now she’d done it a few times.

“Babe, literally the only good thing about living in London is the access to food whenever you want it. How have you not worked this out yet?”

Babe?” He parroted, his voice mocking. “Merlin, you’re far drunker than I thought. Tell me, when was the last time you called me that? Third year perhaps?”

Perhaps?” Pansy replied in the same manner, her voice high. “You’re one to talk, you get about ninety percent posher when you’ve been drinking wine. I don’t even know how you manage it, frankly. And you stop swearing. It’s unnerving.”

“Fuck off Parkinson.” Draco said through laughter, with a grin that showed a lot of his teeth. It was her favourite of all his smiles.

“I could, you know, and then where would you be?” He wouldn’t be anywhere. He couldn’t imagine her not being near him. He couldn’t even think without her, probably. He didn’t say this out loud.

Instead he said, “Asleep I imagine, in my bed, like any normal person should be at this hour. You horrible wench.”

“We stopped using gendered insults.”

“Fuck, sorry.” She was right, they had agreed. “I can’t think of anything else.”

“Not my problem.” She sing-songed. He decided it was safer not to mention earlier in the day when she’d called him a dick for starting The Princess Bride while she was still in the shower. Films were weird. Muggles had places where you could go and watch them with other people, strangers. Maybe he could get Pansy to come with him later in the week.

They arrived on his front doorstep with no further incidents. As soon as they were inside and Pansy had kicked off her shoes she started for the kitchen. He followed, after picking her shoes up and putting them away in the cloakroom. Already on the counter were vegetables, chopping boards, and knives. He had no idea how she’d done it that quickly and Draco sighed as he envisioned the massive cleanup that would no doubt come after this. Pansy was rooting around in the cupboard under the sink and emerged, triumphant, with a deep saucepan. “Shakshouka!” she proclaimed loudly.

Draco blinked. “I don’t know what that means.”

“Me neither! It’s the name of a dish though. It’s basically the only thing I know how to cook apart from toast. Where are your eggs? Can you make me some tea? It looks like a dinner thing but you can eat it for breakfast.” She was looking around her as she turned one of the oven hobs on. Draco, still bemused, gestured to where the eggs were sitting beside the fridge and went to put the kettle on. Pansy piped up again, chopping a pepper very very slowly. “You can piss off now, I’ve got this. You’re going to cry with how good this is. Go put some music on or something.” She gestured with the knife still in her hand and he backed away slightly.

Draco decided to take her advice and ran upstairs to dig out his iPod. By the time he returned, the kitchen smelled like frying onions and Pansy had tied her hair in a ponytail high on the back of her head. He played Cat Power over the speakers and Pansy yelled at him until he put Manhattan on. They danced while the eggs were baking, she spun him around the kitchen, both still tipsy. The sun was just rising as they went out to the garden and sat on the edge of the patio to eat, the music still faintly playing from inside. Draco curled his toes in the dewy grass. He could already tell it was going to be a hot day.