A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity!
Win a DATE with HARRY POTTER!
At this years fourth annual New Horizons charity auction
and gala there will be a most rare and unusual item up for bid,
a Date with the hero of the wizarding world, Harry Potter!
This is the first time our young hero has been single during
the auction and has offered the dinner date as a way raise funds.
All the eligible young witches and wizards are no doubt jealous
of those lucky few who have invitations to this exclusive event-
“Are you reading that thing again?” Pansy sighed as she swept into her living room, flopping down on the cream coloured couch beside Draco.
“No,” Draco said blandly, his eyes drifting down the rest of the article he almost had memorized by now.
Pansy leaned into his arm, “Would you win Potter?' she asked.
“You mean if I was even going? No one is going to give a former death eater an invitation.” He frowned, folding the paper in half so he couldn't see the article but couldn't bring himself to put it down.
“But would you?” Pansy asked, and before he could answer she held up a square of ornate card stock.
Draco's eyes widened, “Is that-?”
“It is,” Pansy said smugly, “It's Astoria's plus one. It took me weeks to convince her to let you have it.”
Draco's breath caught in his throat and he reached for the invitation.
Pansy twitched it back, “Draco,” she said quietly, “I will only give this to you if you win that ridiculous Potter date.”
“Otherwise, I will be going with my lovely girlfriend who invited me in the first place,” Pansy said sternly.
Draco's voice came out strangled, “Win? You expect me to just go and-”
“Bid on Potter and win. You're certainly not lacking in funds, you need to stop being a coward.”
He flinched. “Potter has never and will never care for me,” he said, the words were almost physically painful to speak out loud.
Pansy sighed, “Then find out. You'll never have another chance like this, Draco. Once you know, you can move on and stop sulking.”
“Malfoy's don't sulk,” Draco said peevishly.
“This one does,” Pansy said elbowing him in the side and then moved the invitation back in front of him.
Draco took it hesitantly, running his thumb over the gold embossed filigree around the edge.
“And just so you know,” Pansy said casually, “if you don't win this auction Blaise, Astoria and I will make you suffer.”
Draco swallowed hard and nodded stiffly.
Pansy patted his arm, “We're all sick to death of seeing you pine after that ridiculous Gryffindor. This will be the end of it, yes?”
He gripped the invitation tighter, “Yes.”
Draco shifted his shoulders as another bead of sweat crawled down his back. His dress robes were new, black accented with silver embroidery and so stiff, he felt as if the robes had been constructed around him and sewn in place. He looked down at the round placard about the size of a dinner plate in his hand, marked with the number 134. He hadn't raised it once this evening.
Draco looked back up at the stage and felt more sweat slip down the small of his back. Potter was standing on the stage looking even more awkward than usual. This whole auction thing hadn't been Potter's idea if his appearance was anything to go by, his hair was even more of an absolute mess than it was normally and he was wearing plain black dress robes that were at least three years of out fashion.
The bidding had been going on for ages now. It had started at one hundred galleons and had moved quickly at first but soon the bidding pool had narrowed down to six and then four and now there were just three at the front, a man, a young woman and an older woman. They were only moving the bid up by the minimum and then would glare at each as they raised their number into the air.
The bid went to eight hundred galleons and the young woman shook her head and stepped back, her shoulders slumping in defeat. That left only the man and the older woman. Draco was standing by the wall out of the way but he was fairly certain he recognized the last two bidders, the man was an investment manager in Gringotts, Franklin, maybe. Draco had spoken with him a few times, he was very dependable and quiet. He never won any of the big accounts but his investments were always very solid and safe. Draco would've never expected him to be someone with an eight hundred galleon interest in Harry Potter.
Draco wasn't as certain about the woman but he thought she might be the owner of The Prophet, he couldn't recall her name. He frowned to himself, a date night exclusive would be a very solid investment for the paper, or maybe she was just another Potter groupie. Draco despised both possibilities.
“We have a bid of eight hundred and twenty galleons, will anyone go eight and thirty?” Granger asked, her eyes alight. She had obviously never expected the bidding to go so high.
Draco watched the two at the front, his heart pounding so hard in his chest he almost couldn't breathe. Franklin shook his head.
“Eight hundred and twenty, going once!”
Draco's hands shook, he forced himself to take a deep breath.
“Eight hundred and twenty, going twice!”
He raised his number and it flashed blue over the heads of the crowd, “Nine hundred galleons.” He said, projecting his voice to carry and feeling immensely grateful his father had coached him mercilessly on public speaking from a young age.
All eyes turned to him, followed by a wave of whispering.
“Nine-” Granger stuttered in disbelief. She narrowed her eyes as she recognized him and she said stiffly, “Nine hundred galleons!”
Potter straightened his shoulders, staring at Draco with an intensity that made him shiver.
“Do we have nine hundred and ten?” Granger called out.
The newspaper woman raised her number and then glared back at Draco.
“Nine hundred and ten! The current bid is at nine hundred and ten galleons,” The relief in Granger's voice made Draco bristle, “Nine hundred and twenty galleons? Anyone want to bid nine-”
Draco raised his number, “One thousand galleons,” he drawled.
The whispering instantly swelled to shouts intermixed with hissed conversations.
When the newspaper woman snapped around to stare at him, Draco raised an eyebrow. He leaned back against the wall, needing the support more than he would ever admit, carefully keeping his expression cool and blank. He wasn't going to let any of them see him sweat now, even though the truth of it was there was enough moisture under his robes they were fast becoming a second skin.
Granger flourished her wand and a loud bang went off, startling everyone into silence, “The bid is at one thousand galleons, does anyone want to raise it to one thousand ten galleons?”
Draco saw the hesitation in the newspaper woman, she glanced back at him, then up at Potter. She slowly raised her card and it flashed a garish magenta.
“One thousand and ten galleons! One thousand and twenty?” She looked straight at Draco, her expression strangely resigned.
Draco clenched his jaw, he'd be damned if he lost now or let that weasel of a woman win anything over him. He flipped his number up, “ Two thousand galleons.”
There were no shouts this time, only shocked silence, the whole room seeming to hold its breath.
The newspaper woman glared at him with a vicious hatred and Draco knew that the Prophet would never have a good word to say about him again, not that it had been complimentary before. Her bidding number crumpled in her hands and then in a fit of pique she incendioed it into ash.
“Two thousand galleons,” Granger's faint voice echoed through the room, “Will anyone bid two thousand and ten? Two thousand and ten anyone?” she paused and the silence that followed was uncomfortable, “Two thousand galleons, going once.”
Draco held his breath.
“Going twice,” She paused.
Everyone was watching with the rapt fascination of an execution.
Granger took a deep breath, scanning the crowd without much hope, “Sold! Dinner with Harry Potter, to bidder one hundred and thirty-four for two thousand galleons.”
The applause that followed was stilted and quickly died out. Draco felt more than a few scathing looks aimed his way and pointedly ignored them. He had a great deal of practice.
Granger cleared her throat, “All auction winners please come to the stage! All second place bidders should also stay and provide their information, should the winning bidders fail to pay their bid within a week you will be contacted!” She put on a bright and only slightly strained smile, “Thank you, for making the fourth annual New Horizons charity auction a success! If you wish to make a donation we have attendants near the doors and under the banners at the side of the hall. Remember, all donations are for a good cause and are tax deductible!” There was a weak patter of laughter at the non-joke, “We have an open floo and side-along apparation available for those who have had too much to drink. Remember, splitching can happen to you! Don't drink and apparate! Have a wonderful evening!”
Draco remained leaning against the wall, waiting for the crowds to thin and, so that when he did finally stand, his knees wouldn't give out under him. The large ballroom was almost empty by the time he went to the small table tucked in the back of the room. Potter was sitting on the edge of the stage, swinging his legs idly back and forth. Up close, Draco saw that Potter's robes were even worse than he had thought, they were wrinkled and starting to grey from being washed rather than being properly spelled clean. He was also wearing the oldest, ugliest pair of trainers Draco had ever seen. He supposed they had probably been white once.
Granger glared up from her paperwork when Draco stopped in front of her, her mouth pressed into a tight thin line of distrust.
Draco felt it was quite uncalled for. For the last five years since the war was over, he had been very careful to be a well behaved, law abiding citizen. He even refrained from hexing people back when he was attacked on the streets, no matter how badly he wanted to. He was quite proud of himself for that.
“Would you prefer coin or a cheque?” He asked calmly.
“Coin,” Granger's tone was challenging, “Gringotts takes too long with cheques and transfers.”
He raised an eyebrow. Did she think he would bow out because of something like that? More likely she simply wished to inconvenience him. He took a small drawstring bag from his pocket that was connected directly with his small personal safe back at the manor, “How would you prefer to do this, Granger?”
She pulled out a bottomless vault bag and Draco was mildly impressed that she had managed to convince the goblins to part with one for even an evening. She put a counting charm around the mouth of the bag. Draco dutifully tapped the side of his wallet and murmured the spell words, tilting it over the vault bag and watching a stream of golden coins pour from one bag to the other until the counter ticked up to two thousand.
Granger turned in her chair and a goblin appeared from behind the stage to take the vault bag. Draco supposed that explained how she was allowed to use one. She and the goblin were immediately embroiled in paperwork and Draco was ignored, no doubt on purpose. With nothing else to distract him, he was forced to look at Potter.
His chest clenched painfully tight when he met Potter's startlingly green eyes. Potter at least had the decency to look embarrassed when Draco caught him staring. Draco wished he could tell if there was a blush under that luminescent brown skin.
“Err,” Potter hesitated, “This is a bit weird to say, but thanks for winning the auction. I don't think I could have stood it if Chisme Ruido had won.”
Draco's eyebrows twitched up, “So that's her name? Irritating woman.”
Potter's mouth twitched, “Yeah. She owns the Prophet, though” Potter ruffled his hair, looking guilty and nervous, “She won't take this very well.”
Draco shrugged with practiced nonchalance, “She knows better than to try and slander me. I have a lawyer on retainer for just that reason. It won't stop her from rehashing my past, again.”
Potter smiled ruefully, “They do seem to like tacking 'former death eater' on your name.”
He felt his breath hitch at the thought that Potter might look for mentions of him in the paper as Draco did him. He quickly pushed the idea away before he got his hopes up.
“Sorry, that was- I didn't mean-”
“To be quite so tactless?” Draco offered without any bite.
Potter rubbed his neck and looked away.
Eager to dispel the awkward atmosphere Draco waved a hand languidly, “No matter. I'm quite used to it. What's that saying-? It's water off a quaillard's back.”
“What's a quaillard?” Potter asked.
Draco suppressed his initial instinct to insult Potter. He took a deep breath and went with the safe answer, “A semi-aquatic avian that sports scales along the underside of its neck and stomach that are very useful in the making of a variety of potions. Its call sounds like a frog.” He abruptly closed his mouth before he started rambling.
“Oh,” Potter blinked and offered a tentative and appreciative smile, “Never heard of them before. The muggle saying is water off a duck's back.”
“If our Care of Magical Creatures Teacher wasn't so fixated on creatures that could kill or maim, we might have learned about quaillards in school,” Even as the words left Draco's mouth he was suddenly petrified by the thought that he had overstepped and ruined everything before it could even begin.
“That's Hagrid, for you,” Potter laughed.
Draco relaxed into a faint smile and Potter looked almost startled at the change in his expression.
“Right!” Granger dropped back into her seat and pushed a rather lengthy contract across that table at Draco, “So, your winning bid entitles you a meal with Harry Potter. The reservations are in two weeks, Saturday at seven. The dinner is at a muggle restaurant, the location of which you will be owled the day prior. There is a dress code, you will need to wear a muggle suit.
“No other people are permitted to join you. If you reveal the location of the meal to the media or any other parties, Harry's obligations to the dinner are void. Likewise, you may not pressure Harry into any sort of business or news ventures. All other stipulations are in the contract,” she held out a quill.
Draco took it from her and carefully skimmed over the paper, “May I have a copy of this?” He asked, nib poised over the bottom.
“Of course,” Granger nodded stiffly.
Draco scrawled his signature across the bottom, feeling the faint tug of a binding magical contract. He would send his lawyer the contract to be on the safe side though he doubted Granger would ever do anything duplicitous. It's not as if she knew he was going to win after all.
Granger duplicated the paper and handed him the copy with a nod, “Thank you for your donation, it will do a lot of good for those still recovering from the war.”
“What she means is your bid was more money than we made from the rest of the auction combined,” Potter said.
“Shut it, Harry,” Granger grumbled as she gathered up all her papers and slid them into a small beaded bag.
Draco let himself catch Potter's piercing gaze once more before he left, “Have a good evening.” he said politely.
Potter waved, “See you in a fortnight.”
Draco glanced back and gave him a tentative nod.
“I, for one, am terribly proud of you, Draco,” Pansy said, leaned over the arm of the plush red velvet armchair sitting on the edge of the tailor's work area.
Draco rolled his eyes, letting his arms drop as the small neat old man moved his measuring tape from Draco's chest down to his legs, “You're not my mother, Pansy.”
She snorted, “Oh heavens no! If I ever had a child like you I'd have left you out in the cold to die of exposure.”
“Charming,” Draco said blandly, he glanced down at the old man, “I will need a suit in nine days time, will that be possible?”
“Jasper is a miracle worker,” Pansy said confidently before he could answer, “That's why I brought you here.”
The old man, Jasper, didn't look up from his work, nudging Draco's leg to measure his inseam, “I foresee no problems with that time frame.”
Draco took the opportunity to admire Jasper once more. He was just a short old man with fussy grey hair but his suit, with its many layers all carefully fitted and tailored, did things for the man. It created lines and shapes that made Jasper look tall, long of leg, and impossibly elegant despite the fact that he could only have been five, eight at most. Draco had seen muggle suits before but none that looked like Jasper's. One look at the older gentleman had stolen all the hesitation from Draco when Pansy had steered him into the shop.
Jasper stood, folding up his measuring tape and nodded to the other chair beside Pansy's, “I shall return momentarily.”
Draco dropped into the velvet chair and stretched out his legs with a sigh. Even being in the shop, knowing what he was getting the suit for, sent a thrill along his nerves. He laced his hands together and squeezed.
Pansy stood, sliding their chairs against one another so she could lean over and put a comforting hand on his arm, “Don't fuss about it Draco.”
“Easy for you to say,” he muttered.
She smiled at him like he was daft and shook her head, “It's your dream date. What's to worry about?”
“But it's not. I paid for the privilege of a dinner across from Potter, he probably won't even talk to me,” his hands started shaking slightly and he pressed them between his knees to still them, “I'll be lucky not to end up with a broken nose by the end of the night.”
“He spoke with you after the auction. So, it won't be that bad.” Pansy said. “If you really think it's doomed from the start you're hardly going to enjoy it, are you? Just relax and play out your weird little fantasy.”
Draco half smiled, “Oh really? And what is my weird little fantasy?”
Pansy rolled her eyes and shrugged, “Fuck if I know, probably something utterly sappy. Really, if people knew what a gormless romantic you were your reputation would be in tatters.” She sniffed, her lip curling in distaste, “Pining after the same rather unappealing boy for years? Dreadful. After this date you can have a good cry, we'll all get together to get utterly pissed and you'll be able to move on,” She patted his arm, “I've met the perfect man for you. His name is George, he's greek.”
“You are a true friend,” Draco drawled sarcastically.
Jasper returned with a rack full of suits and impatiently waved Draco back to the center of the room. He held up suit after suit, shaking his head at most of them and narrowing it down to five different suits in several colors, “Which do you prefer?” He asked coolly.
Pansy tapped her finger on her lips, “I think... the pale grey, with a blue shirt to bring out your eyes.”
Jasper nodded, “And a tie in the same grey. Sir might also consider a waistcoat in white rather than a matching piece. ”
Draco had to agree, the colors were good on him but well... “Yes, that I will put a rush on that suit in particular but I think I should like all of them.”
Jasper smiled faintly, “Yes, sir. And would sir be interested in viewing more waistcoats and dress shirts to further extend his wardrobe?”
“I would,” Draco said, flicking through the rack of clothing.
“Well, if nothing else you'll come out of this whole thing looking fabulous,” Pansy tittered.
Draco raised an eyebrow and conceded, “There is that.”
Draco stared at himself in the mirror, minutely adjusting the grey tie for the thousandth time, forced himself to walk away and went to his desk where he checked the letter that had the address of the muggle restaurant again. He twisted around to check the tempus he had cast earlier and then recast it to make sure it was correct. It was an hour before the reservation. He had promised himself to leave at a half an hour. Only thirty minutes more to wait. Only.
Draco checked the letter again, rereading the apparition coordinates that he already had firmly memorized which were a ten minutes walk from the restaurant. So if he left a half an hour before the reservation he would get there twenty minutes early, which would not be unseemly but if something were to go wrong he would have that twenty minutes as leeway. He was pacing. He stopped himself and squeezed his hands together. He went back to the mirror.
He straightened his tie, tugged on his white waistcoat, smoothed the collar of the pale blue shirt and turned his head in the mirror to check his hair in case a strand had moved in the last five minutes of frantic pacing. He was still too thin, too sharp and far too pale, but looked he looked fairly good, as good as he ever would.
The door cracked open and Jasly his house elf stepped inside with a bow, “Master Draco? Harry Potter is here to see you.”
Draco froze. He flicked his wand and recast his tempus. He wasn't late. Unless he had been told the wrong reservation time?
“Where is he?”
Jasly stepped back from the door, “In the entrance hall.”
Draco checked his appearance one last time and hurried down the hall. At the head of the stairs, he saw a flash of black hair and slowed, stopping at the top step.
Potter was standing near the bottom of the tall curving staircase looking up at one of the many Malfoy family portraits scattered around the vast estate. His hair was... neat. It was tight on the sides and pushed back from his forehead in a neat sweep, the loose curling strands giving his hair an enviable natural height. That was enough to render Draco speechless but Potter was also wearing a black blazer with a thin black tie and a green dress shirt the same colour of his eyes. He looked stunning.
Draco swallowed hard and looked down at himself. He nervously buttoned his jacket closed before placing his hand on the banister and walking down the stairs with a practiced calm he didn't feel in the slightest.
Draco said coolly, “I was under the impression that the dinner reservation was for seven,”
Potter's head snapped around. His eyes widened and he stared at Draco as if hypnotized.
It made his heart race and Draco wished for the millionth time that he wasn't so ridiculously affected by Harry-sodding-Potter.
Draco's brows twitched upwards, “Potter? Is something wrong?” he asked, descending the last step and crossing the remaining distance between them.
Potter jump like he had been stung and shook his head briefly, “Sorry, what?”
“I understood that the reservations were for seven,” Draco repeated stiffly.
Potter swallowed hard, “Right. Erm, they are.”
Draco sighed, “Then why are you here?”
“To pick you up?” Potter said hesitantly, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
Draco blinked in surprise, “I wasn't aware that was part of the arrangement.”
“It's not,” Potter went to run his hand through his hair and pulled it back at the last second, nervously curling his fingers into a loose fist at his side, “I thought- ….I thought maybe it'd be nice?” He shifted his weight again, “It's been five years andmaybe we could... we could...” He floundered and bit his bottom lip.
Draco couldn't remember ever seeing Potter so anxious, it was strangely calming. He let out a breath he hadn't been aware he was holding and felt some of the tension leave his shoulders.
Potter sucked in a breath. “A fresh start!” he finally managed to blurt out with an impressive amount of enthusiasm.
Potter chewed his bottom lip again which was already looking chapped and much abused, putting Draco in mind of other things those lips might have been doing. He forced himself to look away before he flushed; unlike Potter, it would show starkly on his pale skin.
He remembered Pansy's suggestion to pretend, which had seemed stupid at the time, but it seemed no more foolish than Potter's fresh start. Nice indeed. Why not indulge in the dream for one night?
“To a fresh start,” Draco held out his hand, his other arm automatically crossing the small of his back out of habit. Potter hesitated for a moment before shocking himself back to reality and take his hand. Potter's hand was large and strong and Draco could feel callouses that were strangers to anything his own hands had ever known.
Feeling bold, Draco asked impulsively, “May I call you Harry?”
Harry's eyes widened, “Sure, that would be, I mean it's my name so- It's fine.” Harry took a deep breath and continued more certainly, “Would Draco be alright?”
A pleasant little shiver went down Draco's back at hearing Harry say his first name, “Yes, I would like that,” he smiled faintly.
Harry eyes widening slightly and his throat bobbed as he swallowed hard.
Draco shook his head in mild amusement and looked Harry over again now that he was closer. His faint smile grew to a grin, “Jeans and trainers?”
“They're new,” Harry said quickly, looking away in embarrassment, “The dress code was just for a jacket and tie so I- well...”
The jeans were new, well fitted, in blue so dark they were almost black and paired with new red and white canvas trainers. Draco let out a huff of amusement, “It suits you. You look very fine indeed.”
“That sounded like a compliment,” Harry said faintly.
“It was,” Draco raised an eyebrow, “Shocking, I know.”
Harry let out a relieved laugh, like a bubble had been popped somewhere inside him, “I was half afraid you'd end up dressed like a bit of a clown,” he tensed and then blurted hurriedly, “What I mean is, a lot of witches and wizards have no idea how muggles dress so when they try and blend in.. it, er, can be,” he swallowed hard, “....a mess.”
“Yes, I do recall seeing a few quite tragic outfits myself on occasion,” Draco said, “Quite frankly, it might have been a complete disaster if it wasn't for Pansy introducing me to a quite patient and talented muggle tailor.” He looked down at himself and felt another little surge of pride, “It is quite remarkable what muggles can make without magic isn't it? I have to say I'm fairly enamored with all the different pieces and styles one can get for a suit.”
“Pansy Parkinson?” Harry's brow furrowed, “You're still seeing her?”
“She's a good friend. Her girlfriend arranged-” Draco broke off before he admitted to the depths of desperation he stooped to to have this opportunity. He went on without missing a beat, “Pansy is seeing Astoria Greengrass? She was three years below us.”
Harry shrugged but seemed more relaxed.
Draco cast tempus for probably the hundredth time that day, “Shall we go?” He nodded towards the time.
“Uh, sure. This place has anti-apparition wards around it right?” Harry asked.
Draco nodded. He was keyed into the wards and could apparate out of them if he pleased but he was in no hurry. They walked side by side out of the entrance hall and down the long sloping path to the gates, white gravel crunching underfoot.
Neither of them spoke and the silence would have been almost comfortable if it weren't for Harry's anxious fidgeting with his jacket and hands.
“Is something the matter?” Draco asked.
Harry twitched guiltily, “Oh, no. No, in fact, everything is very... nice.” he finished lamely.
“Nicer than you expected I gather?” Draco said, one side of his mouth curling up bitterly, “Were you expecting the hedges to eat you? Or perhaps to find the walls painted with blood? And to complete the picture I would be dressed in all black with a whip or something equally dreadful and tasteless?”
Draco looked over at him.
Harry shrugged, “If you were looking to suggestions for something dreadful and tasteless.”
“Yes, a scythe, why not?” Draco smirked.
Harry smiled faintly, still looking off balance, “The grounds do look nice and the house. It doesn't look like, er, like before, much at all.”
Draco stared at Harry and then raised an eyebrow. He appreciated the fact that Harry was going out of his way not to offend but since he managed to stick his foot in his mouth anyway it felt like a bit of a lost cause. He paused at the gates and looked back to the Manor, the grey stones rising over lawns manicured to green velvet with perfectly shaped hedges and immaculate rose bushes that were always in bloom. A few windows in the Manor glowed with light but the building seemed sedate and quiet in the growing dark.
“When I was young, my parents would throw massive balls and dinner parties nearly every fortnight,” He said, his voice distant with memory, “It seemed to make to building come to life, floating candles and fairy lights, sparkling wines on silver trays moving around the room as the guests danced, twirling and laughing in a swirl of colorful silk robes and heady perfume.” He took a deep breath, “The war took all that away, tainted it. For a long time, I felt that-” the name stuck painfully in his throat but he forced it out, “-Voldemort living here killed the Manor. I wanted to burn the whole place down.”
“But you didn't.” Harry said.
“No, I didn't,” Draco smiled ruefully, “Can you smell dark magic, Harry?”
He jumped a little at the sound of his name, “Smell it? Not really. I think?”
“I can,” Draco sighed reaching out towards the gate and watched them swing open at his touch, “Come on,” he gestured for Harry to follow as he stepped past the black wrought iron and through the wards surrounding the vast estates.
“What does it smell like?” Harry asked, hurrying to catch up.
Draco's lip curled at the memory, “Sharp and metallic. It's not noticeable at first but it accumulates. It made me quite nauseous.”
“But then, the manor?” He gestured back at the quiet building, “It must've reeked.”
Draco nodded, “Bleach.”
“Bleach?” Harry repeated blankly.
“A muggle cleaning solution, it gets rid of the smell. Bleach also smells quite unpleasant but at least it fades over time.” Draco paused, “It also made the stonework brighter than I've ever seen.”
A smile crept onto Harry's face, crinkling the corners of his eyes, “So the manor isn't dead anymore?”
“Only sleeping, I think,” Draco said softly and then asked, “Shall I side-along us or would you prefer to do it?”
Harry hesitated, the dimming light of dusk picking up the gold undertones in his skin and highlighting an expression of nervousness, for what Draco did not know. He reached out and wrapped a strong hand around Draco's forearm, “You side-along us.”
Draco took a deep breath, the heat of Harry's hand was like its own sun. “Hold on,” he said, his voice rough and beyond his control. He took comfort in the fact that apparating would hide how much a single touch effected him and they disappeared with a pop.
I changed a few things, like the flowers, but otherwise, the restaurant in this story is a real place! It's called the Clos Maggiore and it's in Covent Garden in London, it's absolutely gorgeous.
I hope you like the chapter, I just feel so nervous about my writing recently.
Harry stumbled when they landed in the narrow alleyway and Draco caught his wrist before he fell, steadying him.
“Thanks,” Harry said breathlessly, his hand pressing over Draco's for a brief moment before they both let go.
“Yes, well,” Draco cleared his throat nervously and sniffed, and instantly regretted it, “wouldn't want you to end up smelling like piss would we?”
“Probably against the dress code,” Harry said as he headed out of the alley.
Draco chuckled, “Yes, probably.”
Harry turned around so abruptly Draco nearly ran into him.
“Yes? Something the matter?” Draco raised an eyebrow in mild annoyance. Eager to get out of the stinking alley, he stepped around Harry and out onto the sidewalk. Overhead the street lights were flickering on with a weak yellow light.
“Are you really Draco Malfoy?” Harry asked following him.
Draco eyebrows rose and he crossed his arms over his chest.
Harry shifted his feet, “You have to admit that you're acting very- very Un-Malfoy like,” he leaned forward.
“Then ask me something only I would know,” Draco sighed impatiently, “and please be succinct, we have a reservation to keep.”
Harry tugged at the bottom on his jacket, his brow furrowing with indecision. Finally, he took a deep breath and said, “In sixth year what were you doing in the bathroom?”
“Ah, the hard questions,” Draco felt a knot of tension lodge itself between his shoulders but he straightened his back and answered anyway, “Weeping, in quite a revolting manner. Then I believe we both overreacted quite badly. I tried to crucio you and you nearly killed me. All in all,” he said with acid sarcasm, “one of the highlights of my life. Does that satisfy?”
Harry swallowed hard and Draco took the opportunity to straighten his cuffs. He ran his thumbs across his smooth silver cuff links and closed his eyes, exhaling slowly and trying to breathe some of his tension out with the air.
“Yes. Sorry,” Harry said, his words sounding strangled, “I never did apologize, I meant to- to apologize, not to hurt you, I didn't even know what the spell did but I used it anyway and- and I am really sorry.”
Draco rolled his eyes but felt mildly pleased that Harry even felt the need to apologize at this point. He decided to take his own reparations, reaching out and carefully pushing back a few locks of black hair that had gone wild after their rocky landing. Whatever product Harry had used to tame his ridiculous hair was surprisingly light and only made the thick black strands feel slightly damp as if he had just stepped out of the shower.
“Apology accepted.” Draco said, looking from Harry's hair down to his eyes, the green colour muted to a dark jade under the street light. “I find the scars to be quite dashing, actually.” He gestured down the sidewalk languidly and started walking down the street towards the restaurant.
Harry followed him, “So it did scar,” he said, stuffing his hands in his pockets with a guilty look on his face.
“Yes, it did,” Draco said wearily, he shook his head slightly and went for a dry joking tone, “You're going to have to be far more charming than this if you want to see them.”
Harry glanced over at Draco and ducked his head.
The restaurant was beautiful, with tall, open ceilings and chandeliers that looked like vines wrought from bronze. The main room was filled with booths of dark red leather and large round tables covered in pure white tablecloths. The large room opened into a conservatory of nearly the same size. The walls leading into the conservatory were covered in healthy vibrant green ivy. The conservatory was ringed with wisteria that climbed up the trellised sides and ceilings, blooms of purple and white hanging down over the tables and were lit by strings of fairy lights.
“Do you have reservations?” The dark-eyed young man at the front asked.
“Er, yes, under Harold Evans,” Harry said with a stiff smile.
The host nodded, “Harold Evans, two for the conservatory. This way please,” he took two menus and gestured for them to follow him through the restaurant and into the fragrant conservatory. They passed tables of couples smiling, holding hands and whispering to one another and were directed to a small round table near the corner of the room.
The host placed a small menu card before each chair as well as a wine list, several pages long, “Your server with be with you shortly,” He said with a smile and quickly returned to the front.
“I'm quite impressed,” Draco said sliding into the closest black, cushioned chair.
Harry followed suit looking around nervously, “Hermione picked it. If I'm being honest, I'm a bit out of my depth.”
Draco ignored that bit of low hanging fruit just begging to be insulted and asked, “Evans?”
“My mum's family name,” Harry explained.
“And Harold?” Draco teased.
Harry ducked his chin, “Hermione made the reservations not me, alright?”
“Oh,” Draco smiled wryly, “So you wouldn't prefer to be called Harold then?”
“Don't,” Harry said with an exasperated smile.
Draco bit his lip and looked down at his hands with his heart in his throat. He wasn't sure if he'd even be able to speak and felt, quite stupidly, that he might die happy after having that smile directed at him. Because it was a smile that seemed like it came from a place in the future, a settled comfortable dismay said over a cup of coffee in a shared kitchen that they-
Draco shook his head and picked up his menu to push his mind away from what Pansy would have called sappy drivel. It was one night. He had to keep reminding himself that, just one date, just one night.
“Hello, I'll be your server tonight,” A young woman with light brown hair pulled into a tight bun said as she stopped in front of their table, “Will you be drinking any wine tonight? Or perhaps I can interest you in a cocktail?”
Draco glanced across the table as Harry slumped down in his chair, obscuring his head by holding up the small menu like a shield.
He smiled to himself and glanced over the wine list, “We'll have a bottle of... the Saint Clair sauvignon blanc will do.”
She nodded, “And your starters for the evening?”
“Any preference, Harry?” Draco asked.
Harry squirmed slightly in his seat, “No seafood.” He looked up at Draco with a faint pleading expression.
Draco smirked and scanned over the menu, “The confit to start for me and... I think the quail for my companion.”
“Have you decided on your main course?”
“No, not yet,” Draco said.
She slipped away with a nod.
Harry let out a heavy sigh and let the menu drop.
“They don't bite,” Draco teased.
“I've never been to a restaurant this fancy before,” Harry said without any of the defensiveness Draco would have expected, “Would you- I mean what do you think, for the main courses?” He gestured to the menu.
Draco smiled at Harry before looking back down, “How do you feel about lamb?”
“Good!” Harry said with relief, “Lamb is definitely good.”
Draco nodded slightly, “And I think, I shall have the duck,” He sat the menu to the side and relaxed back in his chair. The server returned a few minutes later to take their orders and was followed closely behind by the sommelier with their wine. Draco listened politely as the man described their wine and poured a tasting into each glass. Draco watched with amusement as Harry nervously copied what Draco was doing and did his best not to laugh as their glasses were filled and bottle left on their table.
“It's good,” Harry said.
Draco nodded as he took a sip, “I thought a younger sweeter wine might be more to your liking.”
Harry's brow furrowed slightly, “Is that- Is that an insult?”
“It was not meant to be,” Draco responded carefully, “I simply choose a wine I thought you would be comfortable with but I would not find equitable to horse piss.”
Harry sputtered a laugh halfway through a sip of wine and nearly upset the glass.
Draco smiled with pleasure.
Harry's smile relaxed, “It's strange, you not insulting me. I suppose it shouldn't bother me as much as it does. That's why I thought you might not be, you.”
“Would you rather I insulted you?” Draco raised his eyebrows.
Harry looked bemused, “When you put it that way...”
“I have to admit there were a few times I was sorely tempted,” Draco said taking a sip of wine.
“But then why didn't you?” Harry sat forward slight in his chair, his brow creased, “Do you want something from me?”
Draco felt his chest tighten at the implication as Harry went on.
“It seems like everyone wants something from me. I suppose that even includes you now,” Some of the light seemed to leave Harry's eyes as he looked away.
Draco tried to explain through the lump of panic growing in his throat, “I only want what I paid for, a dinner with Harry Potter.”
Harry's chewed his bottom lip, his hands wringing together in his lap. He still wouldn't look at Draco as he spoke, “I didn't think you went in on the hero of the wizarding world crap. You, of all people, I thought wouldn't-”
“I don't I-” Draco interjected quickly, “I shouldn't have put it that way. I'm not interested in dinner with Harry Potter, I'm interested Potter, who pulled me from the fiendfyre and spoke up at my mother and I's trials.” He felt his face getting hot and fixed his gaze firmly on the stem of the wine glass as he twisted it back and forth between his fingers, “The Harry who could have kicked me when I was down but helped me up instead.”
“Oh,” Harry said faintly.
They sat in silence for several moments. Draco did his best to calm himself down, unwilling to look Harry in the eye when he was liable to flush red as a tomato if he did.
Harry broke the silence, his words quiet, “You helped me by not identifying me at the manor.”
Draco smiled sourly, “Hardly such a grand thing. I'm simply a coward, incapable of killing anyone.” He finally convinced himself to look up and found Harry studying him with a quiet look to his features. Draco swallowed hard and said as lightly as he could manage, “We should really use a muffling spell if we're going to be so brazen about these things.”
Harry jumped a little in surprise, glancing around them. Luckily, of the two tables beside them, one was empty and the other was utterly absorbed in its own conversation. Draco watched as Harry eased the tip of his wand from his sleeve and covered their little table in a wordless muffialito with a tiny succinct movement.
From there, the conversation was further derailed by the arrival of their starters.
Harry regarded his small dish of quail breast and salamis with trepidation, “This is it?”
Draco smothered a smirk, “It's not your average pub fare. If they've done their job well, each bite should be well worth the small size.”
Harry glanced from his plate to Draco's, “Yours is even smaller.”
Draco carefully cut into the small chargrilled round of aubergine and took a small measured bite, sighing into the complex medley of flavors all cooked to perfection. Truly, Draco felt he never gave muggles enough credit, they were always surprising him. For all their disadvantages, they did so many amazing things.
“Can I try yours?” Harry asked, “You can have a bite of mine as well.”
Draco looked down at his plate a carefully created another perfect bite on his fork, with all the little elements in place and held it out to Harry. When Harry reached out to take the fork Draco pulled it back with smirk, raising an eyebrow teasingly.
Harry gave him a deadpan look, “Really?” but he leaned forward anyway and let Draco guide the fork to his mouth.
Draco watched the various emotions flit across Harry's face, enjoying the intimacy of the moment, hoping maybe his actions had goaded Harry into reciprocating. He felt a wash of pleasure as Harry did just that, awkwardly balancing a bite of quail and mushrooms onto his fork and holding it out with defiant triumph.
Draco leaned forward, wrapping his lips around the fork, slowly sliding his teeth along the tines as he pulled back. He never took his eyes off Harry, watching as Harry's lips parted with a sudden intake of breath and his eyelashes fluttering across his cheek. The papers had never reported on Harry Potter having any interest in men but right then Draco could pretend he might, rather than it being embarrassment or shock.
Harry looked down at his plate, taking a hasty bite to give himself something to do.
Draco sat back and ate the quail without really tasting it. Sipping from his wine and watching Harry over the rim of the glass.
As the silence began to stretch in discomfort Draco broke it, saying, “I can't say I've ever seen your hair looking so neat before.” He dropped his elbow on the armrest, tipping his wine glass in slow lazy circles so the wine inside swirled around the bottom, “And here you spent all our time in school with it looking like a doxy nest.”
“I take it back,” Harry said ruefully, “I don't miss your insults.”
Draco quirked his eyebrows silently.
“Well...” Harry said, setting his fork down, “I got the idea to start researching my family tree a bit, the Potter side. My Grandfather, Fleamont, was the most famous since he invented Sleekeazy's Hair Potion so I figured I'd start there,” He sighed and finally relaxed enough to sit back in his chair. “It turns out the ministry had a copy of his formula journal archived and let me have a copy of it.”
“Acquired some tips, did you?” Draco said, his tone somewhere between teasing and sarcastic.
Harry narrowed his eyes briefly and then went on, “Anyway, I was looking through it and in the margins of one page he had written down a modified hair potion recipe and it was labeled For Potter's Only.”
“And you brewed it?” Draco asked.
Harry shot him another glare, apparently interpreting the comment as an insult to his potion brewing skills.
Draco endeavored to look as innocent as possible, which was likely a lost cause.
“No,” Harry said shortly. “Hermione helped me.”
“And the potion finally tamed your horrendous hair,” Draco gestured to Harry absently.
Harry nodded and cleared his throat, hiding a smile behind his hand.
Draco felt himself start to smile and rolled his eyes, “Go on then, tell me why it's for Potter's Only.”
Harry grinned, “Well, if anyone else uses it, their hair turns purple-”
“Purple?” Draco echoed, raising an eyebrow.
“-and smells strongly of anise. When Luna tried it she also sprouted clover flowers so we think maybe it has strange effects on blonds, or it might just be Luna. No other blonds wanted to try it after that.”
“Shocking.” Draco said flatly, trying to smother a grin, “Can't fathom why.”
Harry shook his head with a rueful laugh, “Want to be a test subject? You would look great with purple hair.”
“I always look stunning,” Draco smirked.
“Yeah,” Potter murmured into his wine glass; so softly, Draco couldn't trust his ears in what they heard.
Draco swallowed hard, feeling himself start to flush and stared determinedly at his plate, taking smaller and smaller bites in an effort to keep his hands busy, until there was nothing left and he was forced to set his fork aside and sit back. He refilled and reclaimed his wine glass as the next best defense.
“So about that smelling dark magic thing,” Harry said, “Can you smell any other kinds?”
Draco shook his head, “No, though when I say dark magic, more specifically, I can smell any kind of... violent, might be a better word, magic. For example, I can smell blasting spells like confringo as well. Violent magic used upon an object smells more earthy and when it's used on a person it's more metallic.” He wrinkled his nose in recollection.
“I've never heard of someone being able to smell magic,” Harry said.
Their conversation paused as the server removed their dishes and then quickly retreated.
Draco scoffed, “It's not exactly like being a Metamorphmagus is it? My family has never really made the ability known, mine especially. Father was very displeased.” He refilled his glass and topped up Harry's absently, “I was especially sensitive to the smell when I was young. Just stepping inside certain rooms in the manor made me retch.”
Harry traced the edge of his wine glass distractedly, “Is it rare? Does anyone else in your family have it?”
“Rare?” Draco's eyebrows quirked up in thought, “Hard to say since it was never documented in family records. My father doesn't have it unless he simply never told anyone. My grandfather Abraxas could smell charms. Apparently, they smelled fruity, to him at least. He told me once that his aunt could smell an animagus from a mile off.” He sighed, “I've taken to calling it Odoranturmagus, to amuse myself.”
Harry smiled suddenly as if it were pulled from him without warning, “To amuse yourself,” he echoed quietly.
“One has to keep busy,” Draco said dryly.
Harry nodded, his smile softening into something gentle.
Their main courses arrived and they both focused on the meal which was really too good not to. Draco reserved a bite on the side of his plate and offered it with a wordless gesture. Harry scooped up the bite of duck and replaced it with a slice of lamb. Draco glanced up to share a warm look with Harry that felt unbelievably comfortable.
“What have you been doing? For work. I mean, if you have to work at all.” Harry said as he cut through the tender lamb.
“I would not have necessarily needed to work, no.” Draco picked up his glass and sipped it absently, “The Malfoy's were stripped of all their property holdings except the Manor lands and half our liquid assets in war reparations. Mother and I could have lived off the rest, with care.”
“So you are working?” Harry asked, “It's hard to imagine you with a job.”
Draco narrowed his eyes and nudged Harry's leg sharply under the table, making him jump in surprise.
“As I was saying,” Draco sniffed, “with Father in Azkaban for ten years it fell to me to take care of-” he huffed faintly, “-everything, really.” He frowned slightly and took a bite to give himself time to organize his thoughts. “Just the Manor requires a lot of work. The lands ringed by the fence are a small fraction of the whole grounds. Much of the surrounding farmland is a part of the manor property, leased to farmers for centuries now. And only liquid assets were seized, all our investment funds and business partnerships needed managing. It was a case of learning while leaping.”
“Not just lying around eating grapes on long fancy couches?” Harry joked.
Draco curled his lip, “I'm not overly fond of grapes.”
“Apples then,” Harry corrected.
Draco cocked a smile, “I'm flattered. I wasn't aware you knew.”
Harry glanced away, looking flustered, “We spent a lot of time at school harassing one another. You probably know my favorite too.”
“Treacle tarts,” Draco said embarrassingly fast, “Unless it's changed since then.”
“No. That's right,” Harry shifted in his chair, biting his bottom lip absently.
Before he could get absorbed in staring at Harry's mouth, Draco continued, “I've improved enough in that last few years to make a few investments of my own. One investment I'm particularly excited about is a new experimental potions lab, called Panacea, that came up with a new wolfsbane potion.”
Harry leaned forward in his chair with interest.
Draco wrapped his smile around the edge of his wine glass as he took a sip. “Without my funding, best case scenario they would sell the potion at such a high price few could have afforded it, especially not those who needed it most. Worst case scenario they would have folded entirely. I gave them the money they needed, provided the stipulation that they kept their prices at the bare minimum profit margin. There was some protest on that part,” Draco said with disdain. “But low profits are not an issue when it comes to a stable customer base. It will take a lot longer to recoup losses but it's-” he hesitated, “-the right thing to do.”
He was almost afraid to see Harry's expression. The last time he had said something like that, about trying to do the right thing, the man had laughed right in his face. It had been an auror. They still checked up on him twice a year like they were just waiting for him to slip into old habits. As if he had ever had the nerve to do anything more than follow orders, and badly at that.
“It's- good. Yeah. I've never thought about...” Harry's brow furrowed, “I do a lot of fundraising and charity work, and the auror stuff of course, but I've never thought about helping people like that.”
“There are a lot of opportunities if you know where to look,” Draco said.
Harry picked up his wine glass and took far too big a swallow. Draco wondered how he could even taste it like that.
“What's the new potion do? I know wolfsbane potion makes it so a werewolf doesn't lose it's human mind when it transforms,” Harry said.
Draco started to answer and then paused until the server took their plates away. “It has the same effect. It's simply easier and cheaper to brew than the original, requires less per dose and can be brewed up to two weeks ahead of time without the risk of spoiling.” He tapped the side of his glass absently, “The original potion's main component is wolfsbane which is quite toxic even to non-werewolves thus it can only be brewed with the utmost care. Too much and you make a poison, too little and you simply have a sick angry werewolf. The new potion replaces most of the wolfsbane with a measured amount of colloidal silver. Muggles make the stuff and sell it as some sort of cure-all sham but it's actually quite fantastic for brewing. It's very stable.
“Panacea's main focus is exploring muggle substances like colloidal silver and seeing if they can be used in potions. Turmeric is showing a lot of promise as a component to healing potions.”
“Wow,” Harry said quietly.
“I do need to convince them to set up a separate apothecary branch to their lab. Splitting their attention between brewing and experimentation is ruining the efficiency and potential of both,” Draco said absently.
“If you needed another investor-?” Harry said tentatively, “I mean, if I'm going to start somewhere that seems as good a place as any.”
Draco blinked in surprise, “You want to invest in Panacea?”
“They sound like they're doing good work,” Harry said with growing confidence, “I mean, Hermione's been working to repeal the werewolf legislation for years and hardly got anywhere with it. This new potion will actually help them right now. I don't know anything about investing but-”
“I could give you advice-?” Draco offered trying not to sound desperate but knowing his words came out too rushed.
“That'd be great.” Harry said with an easy smile that made Draco's heart race.
He knew it was stupid to get his hopes up but even seeing Harry on a professional basis was more than he had ever dared to expect from this evening. Pansy would be furious.
Their server stopped in front of their table with a new small menu, “Would you care to order a dessert this evening?” she asked.
Draco took the menu, scanning down the selections with interest. He looked at Harry who shrugged. “All of them,” Draco said looking up from the card.
“All of them?!” Harry choked through a laugh.
“Fine,” he sighed in dismay, “Just the strawberry and mascarpone millefeuille, vanilla cream cheese mousse, and the milk chocolate and hazelnut panna cotta.”
Harry laughed outright, “That's everything but the cheese plate and the sorbet!”
Draco had no interest in budging on the matter. He handed the menu back with a polite smile, “Those three will be fine, thank you.”
The server nodded and hurriedly turned away, hiding a grin behind the collected menus.
Happy Chocolate day!
I hope you like my silly little story and if you do, please consider leaving a comment, a note, a whisper of yon feelios. If nothing else, it seems like this sort of serious romance story isn't as well received or liked as my lighter fluffier stuff so it would be nice to know.
Have a wonderful day and thank you so much for reading.
This was the end. Draco looked down at the empty plates, watched Harry take the bill from the smiling waitress. Around them the tables were now empty, above the flowers bloomed, filling the air with sweet perfume, and inside Draco felt a little like dying.
He almost wished it had ended with a fight and a broken nose. Instead, it had ended with shared desserts and vague conversations about Harry's job with the aurors that he didn't seem to want to talk about in any detail. Perhaps, hair potions were as personal as he was willing to get. Perhaps, he had only asked Draco about his life to be polite.
It's only one night he reminded himself.
A date, bought and paid for.
“Ready to go?” Harry asked, standing from his chair.
Draco nodded mutely and followed suit, feeling numb.
They walked through the now almost empty restaurant. The staff cleaned the tables, the kitchen was quiet. They had stayed until closing.
Draco shivered when he stepped outside though it wasn't really cold enough to warrant it.
“Wanna get a drink?”
“I- What?” Draco turned on his heel.
Harry nodded up the street, “We passed a bar on the way here.”
“A bar,” Draco echoed dumbfounded.
Harry smiled faintly, “Is that a no?”
“Is that a n-?” Draco shook himself mentally and said carefully, “I... would not be opposed to such a proposition.”
He heard Harry laugh under his breath, “Come on.”
Draco followed him up the street feeling completely off balance. He finally managed to ask, “What's so amusing?”
Harry glanced over at him, a smile playing on his mouth, “Just, you know.”
Draco's brow furrowed, “...Do I?”
“Yup,” Harry said, shrugging his hands into his pockets.
Draco huffed faintly, “I'm almost certain you're capable of making sense.”
“Hey!” Harry laughed and elbowed Draco in the side.
Draco stumbled and glared at Harry halfheartedly.
The bar was, decent. At least it wasn't a dive. Light and sound poured out from inside.
Harry pushed his way to the front of the bar easily, “What do you want? He called over the noise, “beer, mead, more wine?”
Draco wasn't as familiar with muggle alcohol. He hazarded, “Mead, if they have something half decent.”
Harry rolled his eyes and shouted their order over the other voices then carried their drinks over to a small table against the wall.
Draco traced the edge of his glass and stared out at the crowded bar. His stomach was fluttering with anxiety. At the start of the evening, Harry said he came to pick him up to make amends. The dinner was an arrangement, a fantasy without meaning. This- This drink, this bar, he didn't know what it meant. Anxiety gnawed restlessly at his gut. He was terrified by his own tentative hope that his might mean something.
Since trying to engage Harry about his work hadn't resulted in anything Draco tried another tact, “Do you have any hobbies?”
“Hobbies?” Harry said blankly.
Draco sighed, “What do you do for fun, Potter? Surely there is more to your life than a job you won't talk about and charity balls where you spend most of your time looking uncomfortable.”
Harry smiled ruefully, “Yeah. I'd skip the balls altogether if I could but apparently, it's the only way to pry money out of old stuffy traditionalists.”
“Traditionalists,” Draco repeated with a sneer, “It's just a new way to say pureblood muggle hater without all the political baggage. I wouldn't think you'd be supportive of that absolute shite.”
Harry winced and took a deep draft of his beer, “Not really. Hermione thinks maybe the emphasis on tradition and culture, rather than blood purity, will help change their minds.”
Draco muttered, “I'm quite certain the only way to change that lots mind is with a hammer.”
Harry snickered and pointed out, “You changed your mind.”
Draco sneered coldly, “I was young and I learned the hard way. Their tradition is just another word for control. It always has been and it always will be.” He drank his mead which turned out to be a hydromel with very little alcohol and was far too sweet, with a generic commercial honey taste that lingered on the back of his teeth. He tried to steer the conversation back, “I asked about your hobbies.”
Harry shrugged, “Hang out with friends mostly.”
Draco narrowed his eyes and leaned back in his chair heavily as Harry once again avoided answering his question in anything but the vaguest terms. He finished the glass and stood up, threading his way to the bar and spent a good five minutes arguing with the bartender until the cocky fuck did his job and got him a glass of something decent. He came back to the table and sipped the nice dry, hopped mead more with satisfaction than any real desire to drink at that point.
A hand slammed down on the table and for a second Draco thought it was Blaise before he realized that was daft. The only thing the hand had in common with Blaise was the dark skin tone, the rest was decidedly feminine, and as he looked up, decidedly Granger. That and Blaise had been living on the continent for the last two years and was not due to visit for three weeks. To be safe he decided not to finish his mead and pushed the half-empty glass away from himself with the tip of a finger.
When Draco looked back at Harry, his expression was shifting from surprise to something with a lot more anger in it.
“Did you put a tracking spell on me?!” Harry asked in dismay.
Granger's brow furrowed, “Of course I did, Harry!” She gestured at Draco as if that said everything, but went on, “Did you really think I wouldn't when you were having dinner with him?”
Draco propped his head on his hand, “I resent that, you know,” he said blandly.
Granger turned to yell at him but Draco cut her off.
“I've been good,” he said, trying not to pout, “Five years!” He held up a hand with finger splayed for the counting, “I've been cursed at, spit on, hexed in the streets and I never- I kept myself to myself. Worked, kept my head down, tried to do the right thing even with aurors laughing in my face.” he dropped his free hand back on the sticky table and grimaced, pulling it back and rubbing his fingers together distastefully.
“Is Malfoy drunk?” Granger asked Harry in dismay.
“Hardly,” Draco drawled, “I cry when I'm drunk, thank you very much.”
They were both staring at him and Draco had to fight to urge to grab his glass anyway. He settled on just looking at it petulantly. He was buzzed, perhaps more than he was comfortable with in front of people he wasn't on the best of terms with, but not drunk. And he refused to be embarrassed about crying, it was a perfectly normal and healthy human response.
After a moment's pause Harry said, “I invited him for drinks. Thanks for worrying about me, 'Moine, but we're fine.”
“But it's Malfoy!” She hissed, pulling on her friends arm.
Harry looked at Draco, “He's alright,” he said with a funny little smile.
Draco pushed a hand nervously through his hair and had to look away, his cheeks feeling warm.
Granger gave Harry a significant look and he let her pull him to his feet and lead him across the bar. Draco watched, both their brows furrowed as they argued, mouths moving silently, all sound drowned by the raucous room.
Their conversation reached his ears as Harry walked back to the table, Granger at his elbow.
Granger glared at him and finally conceded, “Are you safe to apparate?”
“Only one glass of wine with dinner and one pint, so I should be,” Harry said, dropping back into his chair and to reassure Granger he added, “I'll call the Knight Bus if I drink any more.”
She took a step back, hands on her hips, “I'm not taking the tracking spell off, not until I know you're home safe.”
Harry sighed, “Fine.”
They both turned to watch her leave. Harry waved when Granger glanced back before going out the door.
“You only drank one glass of wine?” Draco asked.
Harry nodded, one eyebrow twitching up slightly, “I'm not a big wine drinker.”
“That means I finished the bottle,” Draco groaned and rubbed his temples, “Fuck.”
“I don't normally drink that much,” he tried to explain, feeling like an idiot.
“Oh, really?” Harry grinned.
“Yes, really, Potter!” Draco said vehemently, “I was just ner-” he froze on the word and then let it out with a resigned sigh, “-nervous.”
“You? Nervous?” Harry raised his eyebrows, “That's hard to imagine. You seemed very... confident all night.”
“I'm good at pretending,” Draco muttered, “I've had a great deal of practice.”
Harry picked up his pint and, finding it empty, sat it back down, “Why're you nervous?” He glanced at the bar like he was thinking of ordering another pint but took Draco's half empty glass instead, finishing it off in a few swallows.
“You.” Draco said simply.
“Me?” Harry smiled a confused little smile, “What about me makes you nervous?”
Draco sighed, “Just you.”
“Are you sure you're not drunk?” Harry asked.
Draco looked up at him, Potter with his green eyes and wild curling hair, smiling at him like they were close- close, somehow anyway... but they weren't.
Just one night, his traitorous mind reminded him, and his eyes began to ache. “Maybe, I am,” he lied and pressed the back of his hand over his eyes, leaning into his own arm and letting his sleeve pick up any stray tears.
“I guess we should call it a night,” Harry said.
Draco heard the chair scrape back as Harry stood and he let Harry's arm guide him upright.
He took Draco's hand and pulled it over his shoulder, “Hold on.”
Draco didn't get wobbly when he drank, at least not until he got to the black out drunk stage, but he held onto Harry. Harry's other arm circling around Draco's back to steady him and they walked out of the bar. Draco wobbled but only because the only thing he could focus on was where Harry was touching him, it made him feel more lightheaded than the fading alcohol in his system.
The air outside was cool, the sky muted to grey by all the muggle lights. Draco turned his head up to look at it, searching for the faintest glimmers of the brightest stars. Harry tugged him along down the sidewalk and Draco let himself be guided. They passed under a streetlight that buzzed loudly and flickered as they got close. A moth fluttered fixedly at the glass covered lamp, the yellow light turning the insect's brown wings white.
“Do you remember the fiendfyre?” Draco asked suddenly.
Harry shivered, “How could I forget?” he said softly.
Draco said to the stars, “When you pulled me on your broom, I could feel your heartbeat.” He looked over at Harry, “It was racing.”
“I was terrified,” Harry said in a yeah so? sort of tone.
“That was when I realized you were human,” Draco said, drawing in a deep breath of cold air and hoping it would clear his head.
Harry laughed, “What else would I be?!”
Draco smiled ruefully, “For a while, I thought you were something... more than human, and then for a long time I thought you were less... and then I thought you were more again, you had to be,” His brow furrowed, “but after the fiendfyre, I realized you were just as human as I was.”
“Is that good or bad?” Harry asked, trying to hold onto a joking tone.
Draco gave him a fond smile, “It was terrifying.”
Harry's brows rose and he had no response to give.
Draco went on, “You were human and yet you did, all the things you did,” he gestured broadly out in front of them, “even when you were afraid and with your heart racing. And that, made you the most amazing human being I had ever, will ever meet.”
“You said you weren't in on the whole hero worship thing.” Harry said accusingly.
“Hero worship?” Draco repeated, his brow furrowing with genuine amusement, “Hero worship?” he shook his head, trying not to laugh.
Harry stopped walking, pulling Draco to a stop with him, “What is it then?”
Draco said softly, “Your hair potion's wearing off,” He reached up slowly, letting his fingers brush through some of the loose curls pushing wild from their magical confines. Harry's hair felt thick and smooth against his fingertips. Draco wondered if he put this memory in a pensive if he could live in it forever.
He hurriedly pulled his hand back to wipe his eyes, blinking back tears.
“You really are a weepy drunk,” Harry said lightly.
“Yes,” Draco said quietly, “precisely so.”
Harry looked up any down the empty street, flicking his wand out of his sleeve and raised it into the air. Draco realized what he was doing just as the ridiculous triple-decker purple bus screeched to a stop in front of them.
“What-?” Draco gasped as Harry's arm tightened around his waist and pushing him up the narrow stairs leading into the bus. The inside of the bus was just as obnoxiously purple as the outside. Cushioned armchairs were haphazardly ringed around a small wobbly looking table. Draco stared at blankly in dismay.
“Come on, before they start moving!” Harry took him by the arm and pulled him into chair.
Draco had barely sat down when the strange vehicle gave a horrendous lurch and pelted down the street at a breakneck speed. Harry was thrown back into another chair nearby. Their chairs slid across the floor as they rounded a corner without apparently slowing down at all.
“Ever been on the Knight bus before?” Harry wheezed.
“No,” Draco said faintly gripping the threadbare arms so tightly he was surprised his fingers didn't creak, “Why are we taking this wretched contraption?”
“Well, I told Hermione I would if I had anything more to drink,” Harry said cheerfully.
Draco's brow furrowed, “A half a glass of mead? Really, Potter?”
There was an awful screech and Draco almost fell out of his chair as they swerved around another corner. Draco eventually had to close his eyes and hold on, occupying his time by fervently wishing for it to be over. Then the twists, turns, and horrendous squeezes were gone and when he opened his eyes again they were in the countryside, following long empty roads surrounded by farmland.
Draco pried his hands off the arms of the chair, pressing one over his thundering heart. If he had been drunk at all before, he was sober as a stone now. He felt nauseous and confused, which in turn made him irritable, “Why are we riding this metal deathtrap, Potter? The truth,” Draco pressed, “You've been drawing this out from the beginning and now you're not even being subtle.”
Harry brows twitched together and he looked out the dark window. “I guess... I've been trying to figure out what you want from me,” Harry said, “It was investing in Panacea, wasn't it?”
“In what?” Draco said blankly, a cold feeling flooding through him and making him feel slow.
Harry glanced over at Draco as he worried his bottom lip, “I'm slow, but even I know someone doesn't spend two thousand galleons without a reason.”
The gnawing nausea in Draco's gut twisted into a fierce ache. He realized with horror that he had- His fingers clutched his tie and shirt, crumpling the fine fabric. Draco looked down at his hand. It was shaking.
He had hoped- He had honestly thought that Harry was spending time with him because he enjoyed his company. Draco felt like a complete and utter fool.
“Stop the bus!” Draco shouted, lurching to his feet before it had even stopped moving.
Harry's hands braced on the arms of his chair, “What are you-?”
“Leaving,” Draco said simply, “I'm quite sober enough to apparate now. If you want to invest with Panacea I'll owl you their information. I'm certain you can figure it out or find someone else to assist you.”
Harry went to stand up and froze at the expression he saw on Draco's face, though what it was he saw, Draco didn't dare speculate.
“I will tell you why I won the auction,” Draco said hoarsely unconsciously edging backward towards the doors, putting his chair between him and Harry, “Then, I'm getting off the bus and going home where I shall drink enough to hopefully forget I ever said this.”
Draco desperately wanted to look out the window, the floor, his own trembling hands; anywhere but at Harry. He forced himself to look. Harry's hair was going wild, tumbling around his ears and over his forehead in curling loops. His green eyes were bright and too wide.
Draco took a deep breath, “You're a clueless fool with a terrible wardrobe, more bravery than sense and your hair is ridiculous-”
Harry frowned, “Wha-”
Draco went on doggedly, “Despite that, I find myself totally and completely infatuated with you.”
Harry eyes went wide.
“I knew it was impossible from the beginning. I just...” Draco shook his head roughly and turned away. “wanted one night,” He kept his eyes locked onto his feet as he clattered down the metal steps outside, walking from the black muggle roadway and into the tall lush grass running along the side. A moss-covered stone wall ran parallel the road and Draco followed it, stretching his stride until he was far enough away from the bus that apparition wouldn't effect it.
He pulled out his wand and disappeared with a crack.
Gravel crunched faintly underfoot as he landed at the top of the sloping driveway.
The air at the manor was cool and smelled sweetly of roses. Draco stood in the darkness and gasped it down greedily until some of the heat had left his face and his hands only shook a little. He was still squeezing his shirt with one hand, as almost an act of comfort now. Draco slowly unclenched his hand and absently smoothed the fine linen and silk by feel alone.
Light spilled over his back as the main door slowly creaked open, “Draco?” his mother called softly.
Draco took another deep breath before going inside, taking the door from his mother and carefully closing it behind them. “Good evening, Mother,” he said, feeling too fragile to pull his voice above a murmur, “is Jasley already off for the evening?”
Narcissa nodded, “I felt you come through the wards.” She was already dressed for bed, her blond hair, now heavily streaked with white, was pulled into a single long braid over her shoulder.
“I didn't mean to wake you,” Draco said crossing his arms over his abdomen and pressing his hands flat to his sides. “You can go back to bed.”
“I wasn't sleeping,” she said stepping close and touching his arm, “It didn't go well?”
Draco stiffened, “Did Pansy-?”
“It was in the papers, Draco,” Narcissa searched his expression, a pinch of worry between her eyes, “I'm sorry. He was always important to you.”
The last of Draco's resolve crumbled and he let his arms fall to his sides with a shudder. His mother wrapped her arms around his back, hugging him tightly. Draco leaned over to drop his head on her shoulder. He longed for the time when he could feel small in her arms, before the war, before school, before everything.
But that was selfish. Everything had led to Harry saving the world. Better everyone's happiness, than his own small petty desires. He had been selfish enough for one lifetime already. It was just as Pansy had said, he would grieve and move on. It was time.
She carefully stepped back and Draco wiped his eyes dry though he knew they wouldn't stay that way for long.
“Would you like me to make you some tea or hot chocolate?” Narcissa asked.
Draco shook his head and let her take his arm and lead him up the stairs to his room.
“Can I get you anything at all?” She asked quietly, glancing into the dark room.
Draco managed a weak smile, “No, I'll be fine,” If there was anyone he was going to be exiled from the world with, he was glad it was his mother. Draco leaned forward and kissed the top of her head, “Thank you.”
She patted his hand as Draco stepped back, “You'll join me for breakfast won't you?” She saw him hesitate and amended, “Just tell Jasley when you wake up, we can have tea or lunch. Invite Pansy over. You shouldn't be alone.”
“Mother,” he sighed with exasperation.
She pursed her lips at him, “You stew, Draco. It's not healthy. I'll see you tomorrow,” she reached out to squeeze his arm one more time before heading further down the hall. She stopped right before heading around the corner towards her own rooms and called back, “There's dreamless sleep in your potions cabinet if you need it.”
He waved an acknowledgment and stepped inside, leaning on the door as it clicked closed. His rooms were still dark but a faint orange light leaked from the banked fire in the outer sitting room. He stared over at the fireplace, making out the outline of the table and array of chairs and the small couch in front of it.
Draco shivered. He felt empty and strangely winded as if someone had punched him in the gut. Biting his lip, he dropped his head back against the door with a faint echoing thud. His palms slid against the smooth surface, fingers curling, his nails scraped across the wood, too loud in the stillness. He let himself slide down until he was sitting on the floor, knees pulled tight to his chest.
Draco pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it over his eyes. Deep shaking breaths were the only sound he made, a habit learned after living in a house full of psychopaths. His other hand fumbled at his throat, pulling his tie loose and unbuttoning his collar.
A prickle went down his spine and Draco's head shot up so fast he smacked it against the back of the door. The wards had been triggered.
Draco pushed himself up, pulling his tie off and letting it fall to the ground as he pulled his door open and hurried downstairs. He knew what he was hoping, he also knew he was an idiot for hoping it at all. He wiped his face one last time and tried to fix his hair before pulling the front door open.
Harry was standing there, hand upraised to knock, blinking owlishly into the light. He also seemed to be completely soaked.
Draco stepped back, pulling the door further open to see Harry better. He was indeed dripping wet and, as Draco looked up, it was not, in fact, raining.
“What the hell happened to you?” Draco asked.
Harry cleared his throat absently, “I could ask the same thing about you.”
Draco was not going to answer that, it was quite obvious to anyone who had eyes what had happened to him. He raised an eyebrow and waited.
Harry looked down at his feet, they squelched as he shifted them, “I misjudged my apparition and, um, landed in a pond near the gates.” He pushed a hand through his wet hair which stubbornly flopped into even more of a mess.
“What do you want, Potter?” Draco asked quietly, feeling his throat go tight again. He looked away and blinked back tears.
Harry bit his lip, “I wanted to-”
“Draco? Who is it?” Narcissa called, her soft footsteps approaching across the floor.
Draco pulled the door all the way open so his approaching mother could see Potter in all his dripping glory, “Harry Potter,” Draco sighed, “He fell in the trout pond.”
“Oh,” His mother's hand went to her mouth, “those poor fish.”
Harry's mouth fell open, looking much like the fish he must have traumatized and, at that, Draco completely lost it. He laughed and laughed, until he was breathless and had to hold onto the doorknob to keep from from falling over.
“It's not that funny,” Harry grumbled.
Narcissa carefully hid her mouth with her hand and the smile that still showed in her eyes. She looked at Draco and seemed to come to some sort of decision, “Come inside, Mr. Potter, before you catch sick.”
Harry fumbled around in his pocket for his wand, “I should dry off first-”
“Oh, no, dear,” Narcissa cut him off firmly, “You'll ruin your clothes if you dry them now. Just come inside.” She took her own wand out and layered an impervious charm on the carpet.
“It would be such a shame to ruin them, seeing as it's probably the only nice outfit you own,” Draco said, still leaning on the door and feeling flushed from laughing so hard.
“Oh, shut it.” Harry said quietly as he stepped inside, trying to keep on the tiles on the sides of the plush runner.
“This way,” Narcissa said, heading back up the entrance hall in a way that said she had no doubt she'd be obeyed, “Draco, find something Mr. Potter can change into once he's cleaned up.”
Harry only hesitated for a moment to glance at Draco and then hurried after her.
“Yes, Mother,” Draco said, easing the door shut and waited a few beats before heading up the stairs as well.
He wasn't terribly surprised to find the door to his room open and the lights all lit. His mother was nowhere to be found. Draco went through the sitting room into the adjoining bedroom. A faint hiss from the ensuite bathroom told him that Harry was at that moment using his shower.
Draco took a deep breath and clenched his jaw, forcing himself to stay calm as he went to his wardrobe. Draco wasn't terribly fond of jeans but he had acquired a few pairs. He pulled out a black pair, as well as a pair of dark linen trousers in case Harry would prefer that and an assortment of shirts. He almost forgot to grab pants, throwing them on the top of the pile at the last moment. He eased the bathroom door open and floated the pile to the sink, not trusting himself to step inside.
Draco paused in front of his mirror and scowled at himself. His eyes were ringed with red and he was a rumpled mess. He pulled off his jacket and waistcoat, running a hand over the wrinkled fabric at his throat. A comb put his hair mostly back to rights but only more Sleekeazy's would keep it from falling in his eyes and he wasn't in the mood to mess with the thick gel.
Draco retreated back to the sitting room. There was a tray sitting on the table with two steaming mugs of spiced cider under stasis charms. Draco smiled faintly and shook his head. He stoked up the fire and threw a few logs on it to chase away the slight chill, settling back in the small plush couch and stretching his legs out.
He did his best to ignore how hard his heart was pounding. Draco threaded his hands together and squeezed until his joints ached. He watched the fire with forced interest and tried not to pay attention the sound of the shower turning off and the silence that followed. He didn't dare look up until he saw movement in the corner of his eye/
Harry was wearing the jeans, they were deliciously tight on him, rolled up on the bottom; and Draco's pale grey cashmere jumper, which was always loose on Draco, but fit across Harry's broad shoulders like a dream.
“I swear you've come back to torture me,” Draco groaned, shielding his eyes with one hand.
Harry took a few steps closer, stopping behind a chair and running his hands along the top. “I hope not. I'm pretty sure your mum would kill me if I did.”
Draco hummed noncommittally and dropped his hand but kept his gaze fixed on the fire.
He heard Harry take a deep breath, “I- I'm sorry for what I said on the bus.”
Draco clenched his jaw. He forced himself to shrug, “You hardly could have known.”
Harry moved around the chair and sat on the edge of the couch next Draco.
Draco sat up in alarm.
“I just don't get what someone as amazing as you would see in a mess like me,” Harry said.
“Amazing?” Draco's said incredulously, “I was a deatheater.”
“You were, and now you're managing an estate and business', investing and putting up with harassment, learning about muggles, appreciating muggles, and you look-” Harry's throat bobbed as his gaze traveled down Draco's body and back up to look him in the eyes with a ferocity that made Draco shiver, “-you're the fittest bloke I've ever seen.”
Draco's heart was thundering in his chest and he was certain he was shaking again.
“Whereas, I'm a disaster,” Harry gestured broadly at himself with deprecating laugh, “My life peaked at seventeen and now I'm just a mess, with a job I don't really care for anymore and no hobbies and-” he broke off with the shake of his head and looked down at his hands.
“As if attraction ever made any sense, Potter,” Draco said reaching over and taking Harry's hand in his, running his thumb back and forth over Harry's knuckles.
“Call me Harry,” he squeezed Draco's hand, “I liked it when you did. Why did you stop?”
Draco's movement's stuttered, “It was easy to pretend during the date.”
“And if it wasn't pretend?” Harry leaned over, pressing his shoulder to Draco's, “Will you go out with me, properly?”
“Properly?” Draco scoffed, “Your idea of a proper date probably involves fish and chips wrapped in newspaper.”
“Nothing wrong with fish 'n chips.”
“No there isn't,” Draco met Harry's eyes with a mischievous grin, “I know a good place near the river.”
Harry snorted, “You wanker.”
Before Draco could retort Harry leaned forward and kissed him. Harry's lips were chapped but tasted sweet, Draco could feel himself shivering against them. He titled his head to better fit against Harry's mouth, reaching up to rake his hands through wild black hair. He felt Harry's hand trace his jaw and slide down his neck, pressing his fingertips into the dip of Draco's collarbone. The kiss went on forever and yet seemed far too short.
Harry pulled back, eyes shining, “Invite me to stay the night,” he bit his bottom lip, letting it pull slowly free from his teeth as he smiled. “ And tomorrow take me to your favorite place on the river for fish n' chips.”
“Are you telling me what to do?” Draco said without much sting.
“Draco.” That was all Harry said and that was he needed to say.
“Stay the night,” Draco said softly, “and go out with me tomorrow.”
Harry's smile rivaled the sun, “Ok.”