With stuffy nose and grimy skin, dust covering every inch of his body, Harry sat on the dirty wood floor of the attic at Grimmauld Place and stared grimly at the horde of junk surrounding him.
“Harry?” Hermione’s shout echoed through the rafters of the rotten old house, followed by the clunk of footsteps up the stairs.
He shouted down to her, “Attic!” and then stood, glared at the mountain of broken and rusted old pureblood crap that had managed to pin him into one corner of the room. How had that happened? He had come upstairs to sort through and get rid of things. How had the collection gotten bigger?
It was breeding. Sentient. Planning to do him in in the night. There was no other explanation for it.
Grimacing, Harry turned side to side in a vain attempt to find a clear path back to the door. Seeing none, he sighed, abandoned all hope of a graceful exit, and stepped long over a mound of boxes and dishes and document sleeves and preserved house elf hands and cursed artifacts and family photos. His legs spread in a near-split that threatened to bust the crotch of his ratty old jeans wide open, and something crunched underneath the sole of his shoe as he attempted to balance.
“God, it still looks awful in here, doesn’t it?” Hermione murmured, unaware that her voice would carry well enough for Harry to hear. “What’s he been doing? I thought he was going to clean this place up.”
“Give him a break,” Ron said, and Harry appreciated the defense. “He’s only been back for a couple weeks.”
“He’s been back for three weeks,” Hermione corrected. “And he’s barely left the house. He’s been shut up in here all alone. He should have made more progress by now.”
Wobbly and inelegant, Harry crossed the rest of the room in three more long strides, narrowly avoiding busting through a painting but fully stumbling and bumping into a shelf with an old bird cage on top. A dozen petrified Cornish pixies, little glass beads where their eyes had been and mouths pulled into wide rigor mortis grins, all dressed in tiny, delicate tea party attire, tumbled onto his head. Ugh. Those were horrifying. He flinched and swatted the macabre dolls away. A few more steps and he was free. He threw the door to the attic open wide and hollered down, “I can hear you!”
The top of Hermione’s bushy brown curls bounced into view as she came up the stairs. “Hi Harry! It’s so good to see you! It’s been too long!” The pleasant chirp of her voice was tight and fake, and Harry glared at her as he held the door open. She ignored him and strode into the attic like she owned it. “What have you been up to? Have you been working on the house? It looks better! It looks like you’ve been – OH DEAR GOD.”
She gasped, clamped a hand to her mouth, and stumbled backwards as she nearly walked right into a tidy row of severed, desiccated house elf heads.
Ron caught her by the elbow and held her upright while Harry smirked.
Fake politeness dropped (it never was something Hermione could maintain for long…she was never at home in the high society tendency to kill-with-kindness, and instead preferred to kill-with-righteous-fury-and-superior-facts), she whirled on him. “Harry, it looks awful in here. What the hell have you been doing for the past three weeks?”
“I know! I know it looks awful in here.” Harry gestured widely to the dusty old mess all around them. Three weeks in, and he really should have made more progress, he knew. The house on Grimmauld had been sitting vacant for the three years after the war while Harry lived with the Weasleys for a while, then Ginny for a while, then slept on Ron and Hermione’s couch for a while, and then travelled for a while. Now, Harry was back and ready to settle down in one place for longer than a while, but the house was overwhelming. Kreacher had retired to Hogwarts and the house decayed more and more as it stood empty. “I’ve been drowning in Black family heirlooms! It’s awful! I don’t know where to start!”
Hand on her hip and glint in her eye, Hermione took stock of the room around her and declared, “Start with a rubbish bag and a trip to the dump.”
Ron nodded. “Or a couple of vanishing spells.”
Hermione glanced at him, thought lines crinkling her forehead. “Don’t vanished objects tend to reappear in odd places?”
“Sure.” Ron shrugged. “But then it wouldn’t be Harry’s problem anymore. It would be the problem of whichever poor sod woke up to find house elf heads scattered round his garden.”
Hermione snorted a laugh and rolled her eyes, but insisted, “We’re not doing that.”
“I can’t just get rid of it all,” Harry said.
“Why not? That’s what we did the summer we were all living here, when we started to clean it out.”
“I know, but…” The words caught in Harry’s throat, the real reason he was having so much difficulty cleaning out the dark, broken old home his godfather left him. It was sentimental and foolish, but it paralyzed him. Unable to look at his friends, he muttered, “That was before.”
“Oh, Harry.” Hermione softened, understanding rushing through her in an instant. “Sirius didn’t leave you this house so you could feel trapped and surrounded by all the things he hated. He hoped you’d be the one to finally make it feel like a home.”
“I know. I know he hated most of this. But what if he didn’t hate all of it? What if some of it’s important? What if some of it is stuff he would want me to keep? I’ve never had things before. Family things.” Harry shrugged and said to his shoes, “I can’t just throw it all out. It’s not right.”
Hermione looked at him sadly, her brown eyes gentle.
“You could take it to an antique shop,” Ron said. “A good antiquer could tell you if something has history and is worth hanging on to. And they could help you sort through and sell the stuff you don’t want.”
“That’s a really good idea,” Hermione said, only a mild tone of surprise.
Ron smirked. “I have them once in a while.”
She smiled back, and while they flirted and made eyes at each other, Harry stared at the mountain of junk and considered the option. It wouldn’t be perfect. Going through the things he knew belonged to Sirius would still be hard. But an antique shop could help him make practical decisions about what to toss and what to sell. “Yeah, alright,” he said. “I’ll find an antique shop to take some of this stuff to.”
“There’s one that Mum goes to, a few blocks off of Diagon Alley. Does really good work, she says. The shop owner is…” Ron trailed off and cleared his throat. Harry noticed the way Ron’s eyes skittered away from his own, refusing to make contact and darting nervously about the room, but he didn’t think much of it. “Well, he takes a bit of getting used to. But Mum says he’s really good at his job. She’s gone there a few times. I can get you the address.”
“Yeah, that would be great. I just need a bit of expert help.” Harry could deal with whatever surly old man ran the antique shop. Anything was better than living like this, smothered by dark memories with no end in sight. “I’ll sell some of it. Throw some away. Get it all cleared out. Make it a home.”
Ron and Hermione shared a look, then smiled and nodded. Hermione crossed her arms over her chest and peered at the row of house elf heads. Disdain and horror tightened her mouth. “What do we do with them? I don’t suppose an antique shop is going to want to appraise and sell them off.”
All three of them grimaced and stared at the wrinkled old heads.
“Bury them?” Ron said. “Cremate them maybe?”
Another moment of silence stretched out before a rather horrifying question popped into Harry’s mind, and he asked it quietly. “Where are the rest of their bodies?”
“Ugh! Oh, god!” A vicious shudder ripped along Hermione’s spine. She scrunched her eyes shut and backed away from the house elf heads. “That’s completely barbaric. Come on. Let’s please get out of this room.”
She pushed past them and stomped down the stairs.
“We’d better go calm her down before she gets herself worked into a rage and sets the house on fire.” Ron clapped Harry on the shoulder. “I’ll help you bury them in the garden later.”
“Yeah.” Harry grimaced as he glanced back at the house elf heads, and then once more at the pile of junk that would soon find its way into new homes. Or the dump. Or buried in the garden. “Thanks.”
It was raining on the day, a week later, that Harry finally dragged himself and a box full of junk to the antique shop Ron recommended. The rain had caught him off guard, the mildly grumpy overcast sky suddenly saturating into a menacing gray storm, and his hastily cast Impervius charm wore thin under the deluge. The mucky puddles he splashed through as he ran across the cobblestones of Diagon Alley sprayed up under the layer of the spell to soak his jeans with muddy brown water. The charm held over his face at least, and kept his glasses clear enough to spot the store. Fuzzy in the afternoon rain, the shop he was looking for had a simple wooden sign with a flourish of gold writing: Fine Collectibles and Antiques.
And not a moment too soon.
Harry twisted the brass knob, shoved through the squeaky wood door, and tumbled into the shop’s entrance as a cheerfully tinkling bell overhead announced his arrival. With the door closed, the roar of the rain outside faded to a background murmur, and the golden glow of the lamps made the place feel immediately warm and welcoming. For a moment, Harry stood panting and tried to shake the water off his hands and wipe his soaked trainers on the entrance rug. Merlin, he must look a right mess.
“Welcome to Fine Collectibles and Antiques.”
The posh, prim, overly polite voice set alarm bells clanging through Harry’s head. Something in Harry’s body, in his muscle memory and conditioned responses, knew that voice with such intensity and immediacy, that he was tensed before he could even recognize why. He jerked, his fingers twitching for his wand, and jolted when he locked eyes with the owner of the voice, nothing between them but a stretch of empty shop floor and a decade’s worth of bad memories.
Face impassive, chin held up at a proud angle, Draco Malfoy stared at him and asked, “What can I assist you with today?”
For a few seconds, all Harry could do was stare, blink, open his mouth like an idiot, close it again, and stare some more. His eyes darted from side to side and confirmed that yes, this was indeed an antique shop; all around him were dishes and porcelain figurines, stacks of books and tastefully displayed furniture. The shop was cluttered but organized, everything clean and well cared for, everything elegant even when forgotten.
And then there was Malfoy, dressed in serene dove gray robes and a blue waistcoat, looking prim and put together as he stood in front of the sales counter and stared at Harry as if he were any other customer who had walked in off the street. A pinch of tightness around his eyebrows and a slight flare to his nostrils indicated a well-hidden disdain, but the look was horribly impersonal. It was a common look. A common disdain. The sort of look Malfoy would have given to any other vagabond who tumbled into his shop in unwashed denims and dripped rainwater all over the floor. It lacked all of the scorn and hatred and passion Harry had come to expect from him, and was a far cry from the expertly-crafted, specially-for-Potter sneers and scowls Malfoy normally threw his way.
Harry didn’t like it, this polite, distant aloofness. In fact, he hated it. It felt unnatural on Malfoy. Almost as strange as the discovery that Malfoy now, three years after the war, worked in a shop.
“This is…?” Harry stuttered over his words, cleared his throat, and looked around once more to confirm yes, he was in the right place, no he had not fallen into some weird muggle TV show where his friends would jump out and prank him. His friends. The owner takes a bit of getting used to. Dammit, Ron had known! He swore to get revenge later and tried speaking again. His voice came out a bit higher and squeakier than intended, but the words made their way into the world, and so Harry counted it as a success. “Is this your shop? You run an antique shop?”
“Yes.” Malfoy nodded politely, so terribly politely, and plucked a business card out of his waistcoat pocket. In a few quick steps, he crossed the shiny wood floor, the boards squeaking under the sure tread of his black shoes. He held the card out to Harry, who took it and then proceeded on with his bewildered-blink-and-stare tactic. It was an elegant business card in matte black with gold lettering: Draco Malfoy, Purveyor of Fine Collectibles and Antiques, and then below that the shop address.
Malfoy took a step back and folded his hands in front of him. “Welcome to my shop. I buy, appraise, and facilitate the sale of rare and high quality collectibles, antiques, and art. My name is Draco Malfoy. Is--”
“I know what your name is, Malfoy!”
Unfazed, Malfoy blinked and continued on. “Is there anything in particular I can assist you with today, Mr. Potter?”
“Oh, so you do know who I am?” Harry huffed a disbelieving, frustrated laugh and shook his head. “What is going on? Did I get hit on the head?”
“If I had to guess, I would say, vigorously and repeatedly. It would certainly explain a lot about you.” Malfoy’s tone was so civil, his face so smooth and blank, it took Harry a moment to realize he was being insulted. Something about the universe clicked back into rightness when a moment before it had been so wrong. Harry grinned, still bewildered, as Malfoy turned away from him and walked back to the counter. “Although if you mean recently, I can’t see how you could possibly expect me to be able to answer that question.”
“There you are.” Harry snorted a laugh, part sarcasm and part genuine amusement, and felt no pain at the prickling scrape of Malfoy’s words. Mild insults felt more right than false civility. “Good. I was worried for a minute that you’d been polyjuiced or body snatched or something.”
Malfoy tossed a coy smirk over his shoulder, but then stepped behind the counter and lifted himself with professionalism once more. “Do you require antiquing services?”
“Yes.” And though Malfoy’s professionalism was back in place, the hint of his old self made Harry feel steadier on his feet, like he knew the ground. He approached the counter. “I have antiques.”
“Delightful,” Malfoy said in a monotone. “And what would you like to do with them?”
“Uhh…” Harry shrugged.
Malfoy sighed and closed his eyes, looking thoroughly put-upon.
“Well, I don’t really know what my options are,” Harry said in a rush, defensive. “I’m cleaning out my godfather’s old house and there’s loads of stuff there. I came here because I need some help in sorting out what’s junk, what’s worth selling, and what’s sentimental that I should hang on to.” He stopped himself and shook his head. “Not that you can help me with that last one, but the first two. I could use help with the first two.”
Malfoy stared at him, gray eyes unblinking and severe. Harry stood firm under the scrutiny and glared back, though he felt blustery and tempted to scuff his shoes against the floor.
Malfoy blinked, softened, and looked away first. “I can help you with that. With all three of those goals, actually.”
“All three of them?” Harry asked. “How could you know what I should keep? Because I really don’t care about antiques or anything. I would only care about them if they were important to my godfather. I don’t think you can--”
Malfoy interrupted him. “Have you ever heard of object resonance?”
Harry sputtered and blinked. The air was still and quiet but for the gentle tinkling of a glass wind chime hanging in the corner, dancing to its own breeze. “No.”
“In addition to appraising antiques, I offer a service called Resonance Readings,” Malfoy explained, his voice stiff but confident. “I can tell you who owned an object, and can read the imprint of any particularly strong memories or feelings associated with that object.”
“Oh,” Harry said.
That was interesting.
That was rather brilliant, actually.
Malfoy stared at him as if he was trying very hard not to question a customer’s intelligence. “Yes.”
“Okay. I want to do that, then.”
“To the entire collection, or…?”
“No, no, definitely not.” Harry shook his head. “Just to a few things. I’ll need to go through everything.”
“Right.” Malfoy nodded. “Well, as for the other objects, I can appraise each and tell you approximately how much it’s worth. You can then decide to hold on to things, sell them on your own, or toss them. In some circumstances, when I think the object would complement the inventory in my shop, I might buy them from you at value to sell here. And in special circumstances, if an object would be of particular interest to one of my contacts, I might arrange the sale for you. I charge a commission on those transactions, of course.”
Harry nodded along, only a little bit lost. “Of course.”
“In some circumstances,” Malfoy continued on, his words quick and a bit stilted. It took Harry a moment to realize he sounded nervous. “I might recommend you pay the additional fee for a Resonance Reading, because sometimes knowing the emotional history of an object can increase its value to certain collectors. You are, of course, welcome to refuse any such additions.”
“And…” Malfoy swallowed, glanced away from Harry, and licked his lips, his pink tongue darting out and back into his mouth in the blink of an eye. He sniffed. Pursed his lips. Made a little clicking sound with his tongue. “Well. I suppose that’s everything.”
Definitely nervous. Why? “Great.”
“Do you have any questions?”
Harry had a lot of questions, but none of them relevant to the process of selling antiques so he shrugged and shook his head. “Seems pretty straight forward.”
Malfoy nodded and swallowed again. “Do you need recommendations or referrals from past clients?”
“Doesn’t seem necessary.”
“Oh. Alright then.” Malfoy paused for a long moment and Harry wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. Hesitant, Malfoy asked, “Will you be using Fine Collectibles and Antiques for your antiquing needs, then?”
Harry peered at him. “Obviously, yeah. Why do you think I’m standing here?”
“Wonderful! Yes. Of course.” Malfoy looked noticeably relieved, though the difference was subtle. A minor loosening of the muscles around his mouth, the smoothing of a fine line across his forehead. It was strange, Harry noticed. Strange, because back at Hogwarts, Malfoy’s emotions had been big and dramatic. He had learned to hide them. He explained, “It’s only just that…I thought…well, it doesn’t matter.”
It clicked and Harry nodded. So that’s why he had looked nervous, that’s why he had rambled on with a technical sales pitch. He was trying to prove himself and expected rejection. “You thought I wouldn’t want to work with you.”
Malfoy shrugged, an elegant lift of one shoulder. “I had rather expected that you would prefer to find someone else, given our history.”
Harry slowly, deliberately shook his head. They had both grown up and hating Malfoy seemed more trouble than it was worth. The thought that he could walk out and find someone else had never crossed his mind. He had been too busy worrying about why Malfoy was being so polite. He was still a bit worried about that, but now it made sense.
“Well, thank you for your business. I have worked hard to build this into a reputable establishment, and I appreciate your patronage.”
Cynical, Harry smirked. “Yeah, and it wouldn’t have looked good for you if the Savior of the Wizarding World stormed out of your shop.”
“Precisely. Now, Mr. Potter--”
“Potter. Just Potter. Don’t make this weird, Malfoy.”
“Alright, Potter.” Malfoy quirked an eyebrow and bit the T’s of Harry name with just a bit too much force. A hint of a rise, a hint of a reaction. But still so cool. “The first thing you’ll need to do is bring in items from the collection so I can appraise them.”
“Oh! Right! I’ve got that, right…” Harry reached in the damp pocket of his jeans, fished around, and pulled out a tiny cardboard box. He set it on the counter in front of Malfoy.
Malfoy pursed his lips and blinked at the box no less than three times. “What is that?”
“Antiques? I shrank them so I could transport everything more easily.” He waved his wand and returned the box and its contents to their rightful size.
Malfoy closed his eyes and sighed out his nose. His jaw clenched. “Right. Well then. Let’s see what we have here. Is this the whole collection?”
“Oh no. Not by far. I’m cleaning out the whole house. This is just a sampling.”
Malfoy made a noncommittal noise and lifted one eyebrow, but Harry couldn’t tell if he was pleased to have so much business coming in or annoyed that he would have to interact with his old rival more than once. Harry stood back as Malfoy folded down the cardboard flaps and rummaged through the box. “Let’s see what we have here.”
One by one, he pulled the items out and set them on the counter in what quickly became three piles. A dish and an ugly little gnome figurine in one, some napkins in the middle, and a tea cozy and troll leg umbrella stand in the third. His face was impassive and he stacked and sorted quickly. “A lot of variety here. Would you say this is representative of the collection as a whole?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Harry said as Malfoy picked up a yellowed old lace table runner, rubbed the fabric between his fingers, came to some conclusion, and placed it in the first pile. “There’s a lot of mismatched stuff.”
“Yes, and a lot of variation in the quality,” Malfoy murmured as he reached for the next item in the box. One of the creepy little stuffed pixies, with glass eyes bulging out of preserved skin, a tiny little straw hat tied onto its head. Malfoy stared at it for a moment. His upper lip curled the tiniest bit with a hidden sneer. He stared hard at Harry and held the offensive thing aloft. “This is a dead pixie.”
It almost sounded like a question.
“Um…yeah?” Harry flushed under the unblinking glare. “There’s a whole set of them. And they’re all dressed up. I thought they were…I dunno. Dolls? Or some weird old…collectible?”
“No.” With a flick of his wrist and a look on his face that insisted Harry was a complete idiot, Malfoy tossed it into a rubbish bin behind the counter. His fingers twitched like he wanted to wipe them. “Just a dead pixie.”
“Well, how was I supposed to know that?” Grimmauld Place was full of dried out creature parts. How was Harry supposed to know that was just creepy old Black Family stuff and not creepy old pureblood wizard stuff? And for Godric’s sake, it was just a pixie. Harry wondered how Malfoy would react to the house elf heads. Bet those would get a rise out of him.
Malfoy paid Harry’s blustering frustration no more attention and brushed him off with a cool wave of his hand over the third pile. “These are useless. I recommend you toss them.”
That pile included the troll leg umbrella stand, and for a second memories of Tonks tripping over that hideous thing and laughing gave Harry pause. But it was a momentary hesitation. He nodded.
“These items, I will need to examine more closely.” He nodded at the second pile, and then moved on to the first. “These have some value. So let’s talk about these for a moment.” He picked up the dish, old white with an ugly purple floral pattern around the edge. “Do you only have the one of these?”
“No, I’ve got a whole set of them. Dishes, teacups, serving platters. I just brought the one to show you, but there’s probably fifty things with that pattern.”
“Really? Well…” Malfoy was calm and professional as he handled the dish, turned it over to point out and explain the artisan’s mark on the bottom, and gave him the approximate date of craft. Harry’s attention glazed over a bit, lulled by the gentle, sure murmuring of Malfoy’s voice. He really did sound terribly posh. Why was he being so damn polite? And how could someone possibly know this much about antiques? Harry nodded along until Malfoy said, “Bring the whole set. If it’s in good quality, I’ll purchase it from you to sell in my shop. I’ll give you seven hundred galleons for it.”
Harry’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head at the mention of the small fortune for an old stack of dishes.
“Now! Let’s talk about this. This is by far the most interesting thing you’ve brought me today.” A hint of excitement lifted his voice. Finally, something other than posh aloofness, finally something real! Malfoy plunked the little gnome figurine down on the counter in front of Harry. “What do you think of that?”
The little porcelain statue was a lumpy brown garden gnome, it’s potato head turned up smiling serenely at the sky, wearing a pair of bright green polka-dotted wellies. “I think it’s ugly.”
“Mhm. How much do you think it’s worth?”
Something about the brightness in Malfoy’s eyes made Harry want to play along. “Two sickles and a pat on the head?”
“In most circumstances, you wouldn’t be far off.” He picked up the ugly little figurine and held it in the palm of one pale hand. “This belongs to a line of figures crafted in 1903. The artist made exactly one hundred pieces, each of them unique depictions of gnomes, for some terrible reason. They’re ugly, they’re badly crafted, and generally worthless. But!” A familiar smirk tugged at Malfoy’s mouth. “I happen to know two very wealthy, very fervent collectors who are both determined to obtain all one hundred of these. Each of them has about half of the collection. So, if you would permit me to reach out to them and let them know this is for sale…”
“And maybe mention to one that the other has made a generous offer…” Harry smirked back and nodded. It was a sneaky Slytherin tactic. Underneath all the professionalism, the real Malfoy was still in there. Maybe hidden. Maybe changed. But still there.
“Precisely, yes.” The smirk was tiny, well contained. “Shall I arrange the sale?”
“Yeah. Do it. Sounds like fun.”
“Very well.” Malfoy drew in a breath and schooled his face clear of any reaction, blank and smooth once more. Harry fought down the completely ridiculous urge to hex him or shout at him. “Come back later this week with the rest of the dishes. I’ll have an answer on the gnome collectible for you by then. And I’m available whenever is convenient for you for the resonance readings.”
“Great.” Harry stood rooted to his spot on the floor of Malfoy’s shop, even though it felt like he was being politely dismissed. Part of him raged at the thought, and his throat clenched and burned as he waited for Malfoy to respond to him. Look at me. Come on!
“Thank you for your patronage, Mr. Potter.”
That was all. And he was back to being Mr. Potter. His shoulders slumped and an ugly, disappointed knot twisted in his stomach. Alright then, Harry knew how to tell when he had lost a round…even if he hadn’t known until losing that they were playing a game at all. Scorned, Harry gathered up his things, gave an awkward wave that Malfoy ignored, and left the shop.
Malfoy had been painfully, bizarrely polite, and he treated Harry as if he was anyone else, leaving Harry on edge and unsure throughout the whole visit.
Perhaps it was an act. It had to be! The real Malfoy had to be there, lurking under the surface.
He had to be.
Because the alternative was that Malfoy had forgotten. Forgotten about them, their history, that grease fire energy that had always crackled between them. Forgotten about Harry.
And Harry knew he shouldn’t care about what Draco Malfoy felt about him, but he hated that thought. They were supposed to react to each other, dammit. It wasn’t fair, after everything, that Malfoy should be able to forget him so easily.
Thoughts of Malfoy hounded him for the rest of the day, all through the afternoon and until dinner time, when Harry stomped up the stairs of Ron and Hermione’s London walk-up, his arms full of carry-out curry. At their door, he sighed and walked into the flat without knocking.
“Hey Harry!” Hermione shouted from the bedroom before he’d even shut the door.
Seated on the plush, patchy old couch (which Harry was rather fond of, having slept on it for a few months after breaking up with Ginny), Ron looked up at him and greeted with a, “Hope you brought food.”
“Obviously I brought food.” Harry kicked off his trainers and left them piled with Ron and Hermione’s by the door. He plopped the bag down onto the rattling little card table they used as a desk/dining table. Ron and Hermione both had good jobs – him as a junior auror and her as a deputy official in the Wizengamot Administration Services office – but London was expensive and their small flat had a multi-purpose theme; the cluttered living room also functioned as dine-in kitchen, office, and library; the bedroom was both bedroom and library; and the bathroom was bathroom and library. Hermione shoved stacks of books into every available cranny of the space, and Ron found clever ways to turn them into semi-functional furniture. The coffee table he currently had his feet propped up on was eight short stacks of hardcover books with a thin board of sanded, stained wood laid on top. It was a mess, but it felt like home and Harry loved it.
Ron hopped up from the sofa and trod across the space, expertly avoiding bashing his shins on any wayward clutter. He grabbed three plates from a cabinet over the sink while Harry glared at him and whined, “Though I shouldn’t have brought anything. You don’t deserve it, you absolute troll.”
Ron paused for a moment and stared at Harry with a thoughtful, skeptical look. Then he smirked. “You went to the antique shop I told you about.”
“Hermione! Get out here! He finally went to the antique shop!”
“Ohh!” Hermione twisted her hair up into a messy bun as she hurried to join them. “Did you see Malfoy?”
“You too?!” Harry clutched his heart and sank under the weight of their betrayal. “You both knew and you didn’t tell me? You are traitors to the cause!”
“What cause?” Hermione asked as she loaded biryani onto a plate and elbowed Ron to get at the naan.
“The cause of friendship and loyalty and warning me who owns shops so I don’t look like an idiot in front of Draco sodding Malfoy!”
“We’ve never been able to stop you from doing that, mate.” Ron shrugged. “Did it go badly, then?”
“No. It was actually…normal. Like, weirdly normal.” Harry finished putting food on his plate and settled into his regular spot at one end of the couch. Hermione took the other end and Ron sat on the floor with his head against Hermione’s knee. “He was polite. It was terrible. Malfoy is not supposed to be polite to me. And since when does he run a shop?! I mean, it’s Malfoy! Does your mum really go to him?”
Ron nodded as he ate. “Why wouldn’t she?”
Harry suddenly felt as if he were living in an alternate dimension, where Draco Malfoy was polite and no one cared about how he used to be or what he’d done. Not that Harry wanted to drag all of that out. But it was weird! “Because it’s Malfoy! He tried to kill you!”
“Yeah, but he was shite at it. Wouldn’t recommend going to him if you need help with murder. But there are some things he’s good at.”
Harry stared at his best friend, bewildered. “Like?”
Ron shrugged and continued to speak around mouthfuls of food. “Like how to sound like a ponce. How to look like a ferret.”
Hermione added, “How to get punched in the face.”
“How to get punched in the face, yes.” Ron gave her leg an affectionate pat. “And antiques. He’s pretty good with antiques.”
Antiques. And getting a rise out of Harry, apparently. Harry slumped in his seat and fell quiet. That was something he had always been good at. But it used to be that Harry had been good at getting a rise out of him in return. Either Malfoy had moved on, or Harry had lost his touch. It shouldn’t bother him so much. But it did. It made him feel ignored. Left behind.
“Look, mate, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I thought if you knew in advance, you wouldn’t go.”
“’s fine,” Harry muttered.
“Are you going to go back?” Hermione asked.
“Yeah.” For all his griping, he knew without question that he was going back. He would go back for the antiques, and because Malfoy could help him with Sirius. And also, maybe a little bit, because he had something to prove. “Like I said, it was fine. Civil. He seemed to know what he was doing. And he can do this thing where he reads memories from objects.”
Ron and Hermione both nodded knowingly, sympathetically.
So that was why they had sent him to Malfoy’s shop.
“I’m going to have him do that on the stuff that belonged to Sirius,” Harry explained, though needlessly, because apparently his friends already knew. “To help sort through what I want to keep.”
Ron and Hermione both agreed this was a good thing, and to break the tension Ron asked, “Still think we’re traitors to the cause?”
“No.” Harry rolled his eyes. “But I do still think it’s weird. Malfoy owns a shop.”
“And you are a rich lay-about.” Hermione smirked. “That is a bit of a twist, isn’t it?”
Harry smirked back but refused to meet her eyes. They’d had this argument more than once before he’d left on his year abroad, and he knew that though they might joke about it, his lack of direction bothered his rooted friends. It wasn’t that Harry didn’t want roots. He just didn’t know what he wanted them to be. Now that he was back from travelling and still had plenty of money, he would figure it out. He wasn’t worried. Hermione was.
She changed the subject, thankfully. “He’s had the shop for about two years now.”
Malfoy. Back to Malfoy and his shop.
Without him having to ask. As if she had known he would go home and wonder.
“Had a lot of trouble getting it open. I remember hearing that the business licensing and permitting offices were giving him a hard time and making him jump through a lot of hoops.”
“And he had his front windows smashed in a couple of times, once he did open,” Ron added. “That was why Mum first went in, actually. It was right after Narcissa died, when that happened with the windows. And with Lucius in jail…well, you know how Mum feels about strays. She was prepared to walk away, but she said Malfoy was polite and helped her find a nice engagement gift for Percy and Audrey. So she kept going.”
“And he’s been very active on the Diagon Alley Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He comes to all the shop owner meetings, and he’s not afraid to stand up to the idiots who use house elves for free labor or who ban muggleborns from their shops.”
None of those things computed with the Malfoy he knew, but if Hermione was saying it, it must be true. “Okay. Why are you both trying so hard to convince me that Malfoy is so great?”
“Not great,” Ron said. “Still think he’s a git. But normal. We just don’t want you to think he’s up to something.”
“Yeah.” Hermione nudged him with her foot as she stretched out on the couch. “Don’t make it weird.”
“I won’t make it weird!”
And he wouldn’t. Because Malfoy was the one who had started it off weird. Anything Harry did was just following Malfoy’s lead.
Dusty late afternoon light poured out of Sirius’ old bedroom as Harry slowly pushed the door open a few days later. He stepped inside and shut the door behind him just as slowly, leaning against it after the latch clicked into place. It was still and quiet in the bedroom, warm and soft and frozen in time. Muggle posters of girls in bikinis on the walls, stacks of textbooks and folders of parchment, a chest full of old toys, boxes untouched for years in the cupboard.
He had been putting this off for a couple of days now.
It felt too final.
But he knew it was the right thing to do. Slowly, his hands gentle and reverent, Harry boxed up the artifacts that marked the early life of Sirius Black. He didn’t take everything. A couple of worn books. A soft black leather jacket hanging in the wardrobe. A few toys and childhood things from a forgotten box in the back of the closet. Some Hogwarts-era notebooks. In all of this, there had to be something, something that Harry could touch and look at and feel connected to his godfather. Something with memories that would make him feel like he knew the man better. Some little bit of Sirius he could hold on to.
And let the rest go. And then move on.
With a sigh, heart heavy and weary, Harry closed up the box and carried it downstairs. He set it on the dining table, next to a second box full of the dishes Malfoy wanted to buy. He’d have to resize everything to get it to Diagon tomorrow.
Briefly, he considered loading up another box of potential antiques from the detritus around the living room. It would all make its way to Malfoy’s shop sooner or later. It made sense to bring another batch.
But no. It didn’t feel right, to bring all that dark, ugly crap along this time. He would give the things from Sirius their proper due, give himself time to process and say goodbye, and then he would continue with the clean out.
The fact that this next shop visit would be him, Malfoy, and memories of Sirius felt surreal. Too intimate. Shaky. Baring himself like that would be uncomfortable.
He would have to make up for it by bringing the most absurd, foul paraphernalia he could find the next time around.
“House elf heads, Malfoy,” Harry muttered to the dim house. “This time, we do Sirius. But next time? You’re getting a box of house elf heads.”
When Harry walked into Fine Collectibles and Antiques the next afternoon, Malfoy stood behind the counter with a pair of tweezers and an old clock and ignored him for two whole minutes.
His hands made tiny, deliberate movements across the gears, his neck bent down at a sharp angle that made a few soft locks of his white blond hair fall around his eyes.
At first, Harry cleared his throat, but that did nothing to break Malfoy’s concentration. Then, he decided perhaps it would be rude to break Malfoy’s concentration, so he stood awkwardly to the side and peered around the shop. Then, he got annoyed and frustrated that Malfoy could ignore him so easily, could go so long with Harry standing there and not even look at him. For a full minute, Harry glared at the blond git and his stupid long, pale fingers. He was half tempted to knock over a shelf or to start chucking gnome figurines at his head just to get a reaction. There was no way Malfoy could ignore him then! He’d have to—
“Thank you for your patience,” Malfoy said in a breath as he stood and brushed his hair back into place. He closed the clock he had been working on and set it to the side. “Welcome back to Fine Collectibles and Antiques.”
Harry narrowly swallowed down an insult, the angry red frustration that clung to the tip of his tongue. He cleared his throat. “Yeah.”
“How can I help you today?”
“I…” Harry sputtered. As if Malfoy didn’t know? As if he hadn’t told Harry to come back? Merlin, was he doing this on purpose to drive Harry mad? “I…you said…dishes. I brought…”
“Ah! Yes, the Petrinov classical era dish set! And I have an update for you on the Smithwick gnome collectible. Both of my contacts were very interested and went back and forth with counter offer after counter offer. It got a bit testy. But highest and best offer came in at sixteen hundred galleons.”
“Sixteen hundred…what?!” Harry was too shocked by the sum to remember he was annoyed.
Malfoy quirked an eyebrow, one corner of his thin mouth lifting in a satisfied smirk. “Hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty of assuming the offer was satisfactory. I completed the sale on your behalf.”
“Yeah, that’s great.” It wasn’t great. It was insane. Only a crazy person could pull off a sale like that. Much as he hated it, Harry had to admit that Ron was right. Malfoy was good at antiques. He pulled the box of dishes out of his pocket, placed it on the counter, and resized it. “Anyway, there’s those.”
Malfoy took a moment to inspect the lot and then pronounced, “These are in lovely condition. You still wish to part with them?”
When Harry nodded, Malfoy launched into another technical antique sales spiel, hopping over details in a quick, soothing voice. Harry found himself nodding along, signing a form, and then accepting a Gringotts transfer slip for the money from the dishes and the gnome, minus Malfoy’s commission. All terribly polite and proper.
What that was concluded, Malfoy dropped his eyes and reached for the clock again, and Harry’s heart sped up. “Well, if that’s everything Mr. Potter…”
“No.” He wasn’t going to lose this time. He wouldn’t let Malfoy dismiss him so easily. “Actually, I brought another box. I was hoping you could do those resonance readings on a few things.”
Malfoy blinked and stared at him but quickly forced a smile. “Of course. If you’ll please accompany me to the back room, we can get started.” He walked past Harry to the front and flipped the store’s open sign to closed. At Harry’s confused look, he explained, “These readings can be emotionally taxing for everyone involved, so I prefer to perform them in private without interruptions.”
“Oh. Yeah, that makes sense,” Harry said, though one lone rusty warning bell, left over and unused since their school days, clanged in his head at the thought of going with Draco Malfoy alone anywhere. He ignored it and followed Malfoy through a blue velvet curtain to a small but cozy back room. A counter with kitchenette ran along one wall, cluttered with a kettle, mugs, and supplies for tea. In the center of the room stood a coffee table and a green sofa – an old fancy looking one, with dark wood accents that curled along the arms – set atop an intricately patterned rug. From the ceiling hung a mock-up of the solar system, each of the planets a heavy ball circling a yellow-red sun with snaking tendrils of glass fire. All of the planets were detailed, swirls of color done in blown glass. Mars and Saturn were both missing.
“Tea?” Malfoy asked.
Harry refused on instinct and then immediately regretted it but couldn’t change his mind without looking dumb as a mountain troll.
They sat on opposite sides of the couch (which was more comfortable than it looked) and Harry placed the box of Sirius’ things on the table between them.
“You understand how this works, yes?” Malfoy asked, and then launched into another speech before Harry could answer. He explained the process and reminded Harry that it wouldn’t be like seeing memories in a Pensieve. Malfoy would be able to pick up on any strong memories imprinted on the object, might even be able to feel some of the sensations of those memories, but there wouldn’t be anything to show Harry. It would all be filtered through Malfoy. Harry just had to trust Malfoy was telling the truth.
“Anything in particular you’d like to start with?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Harry said, and the words felt strange and thick in his throat now that they were about to begin. He had the sudden urge to grab the box away from Malfoy and run with it, to keep everyone else’s hands off his godfather’s things, but he fought it down. He grabbed the leather jacket out of the box and held it out. “Here. Start with that.”
Malfoy held the soft black leather gently in his hands and stared at it for a long moment, his eyes running over the edging on the pockets, the silvery glint of the zip. He drew his wand – the hawthorn wand Harry had returned to him after the trials. “Alright. Let’s begin.”
As he moved his wrist in a gentle curl, Malfoy whispered the words of the spell. A silvery mist poured from his wand and shimmered over the surface of the jacket.
And then Malfoy gasped, jerked forward, and threw his head to his knees with a strangled groan that sounded as if he might retch.
Harry froze. That was wrong. That couldn’t be right. Something was wrong! Hands trembling, he reached out to touch Malfoy’s shoulder but flinched it away. “Malfoy? Shit, are you okay?”
Malfoy waved him away, sucked in a shaky breath, and sat up. His gray eyes were wet and wide and his hands clutched at the jacket as he drew it close to his chest and held it there. “Apologies,” he whispered in between panting breaths. Harry sat back and watched, his own anxiety clenching and trembling through the muscles of his core, until Malfoy had steadied himself. “This has a lot of memories on it. They hit me all at once and some of them are quite intense. It was a bit overwhelming.”
“A bit?” Harry nodded. “Yeah.”
“Alright. I’ve got ahold of all of them now. Let’s go through them one by one. I’ll start with the earliest.” Malfoy closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the couch, the pale column of his throat extended and bare. He spoke in a voice just louder than a whisper, a soft seashore hum that sounded at once relaxing and reassuring and sad.
“He didn’t buy it for himself. It was a gift. From your grandparents.”
“My grandparents?” Harry interrupted.
“Your father’s parents,” Malfoy said, and he paused for a second to let Harry ask another question.
Harry didn’t. Already, this felt stranger and more surreal than he had expected. The grandparents he had never known had given Sirius this jacket? It was a lot to take in. There would be a lot of memories to cope with. Harry leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, and breathed and felt and listened.
After a pause, Malfoy went back to his story. “He worked all summer that year that he moved in with them and saved up every knut to buy himself this jacket. Just before he could buy it, though, your grandmother surprised him with it. She told him that parents were meant to spoil their boys once in a while. He cried as he put it on. Just a quick blur of tears that he blinked away. But he hated himself for it later, that he had cried in front of her. He couldn’t help it because he had spent so long feeling like he had no family, and that was the moment he realized just how much the Potters loved him.”
Harry’s throat felt thick with emotion but he smiled at the memory. For a second, he felt his own eyes blur and hated himself for it, for getting emotional in front of Malfoy, who would surely mock him for it.
But Malfoy was calm and reserved. He didn’t seem to notice Harry at all, once he got talking.
Malfoy hummed to himself and tilted his head to one side, his eyes closed, as he pulled out the next memory. “He was wearing it the first time he ever kissed someone. It was a Hogsmeade weekend during sixth year, close to Halloween. Everyone else was in their robes, but Sirius strutted into town wearing muggle denims and his leather jacket, and he knew he looked like hot shit even though he didn’t feel like it. Her name was Marlene. They kissed behind Honeydukes. She tasted like sweets. He cared for her a lot. Could have loved her. But he was too angry, back then, to be able to love someone without hurting them.”
Marlene. He knew that name. Must have been Marlene McKinnon, who had died fighting for the Order of the Phoenix. Had they ever reconciled? Sirius had been so alone for so much of his life.
It took another minute for Malfoy to sort through the memories and find the next one, but when he did, he smiled to himself. “He bought a motorbike.”
Harry grinned and nodded.
“Just after Hogwarts. Merlin, he loved that thing. He rode it everywhere. Every time, he would zip himself up in this jacket, a packet of cigarettes in one pocket and his wand in the other, and he’d hop on the bike and just…” Malfoy waved his hand. “Go. Go anywhere. Go everywhere.”
God, Harry knew that feeling. He knew what it was like to feel like the world was too close, like if you didn’t get out, get out right now you wouldn’t be able to breathe. He had spent a lot of time after the war flying with no destination in mind, just him and the broom for hours.
“He was still very angry at first. Weaving in and out of traffic. Turning too fast around corners. There’s a lot of memories like that. And then, little by little, the memories on the bike change.” A tiny whisper of a smile brightened Malfoy’s face. “There’s someone sitting behind him, along for the ride. He finally let go of some of the anger. Learned to love without hurting. He stopped going so fast around the corners.”
Someone with him on the bike. Oh. Harry blinked back the emotion that welled up within him at the discovery that Sirius had had someone, had loved someone. That he wasn’t alone all of his days. He needed to know that, Harry suddenly realized. He needed it like he needed air, to know that alongside all the pain and hardship, Sirius had known happiness too. Harry sniffed and cleared his throat. “Was it Marlene again? Or someone else.”
“No,” Malfoy said. “Remus Lupin.”
The name hit like a blow. “What?”
“I can feel both of them on the jacket. Very strong imprints.” Malfoy was quiet for a moment, and a line creased his forehead as he searched the memories. “It was an incredibly tender thing they had. Fragile. They were afraid of hurting each other. They rode that bike together every night for a while, and with the wind in their hair and their arms around each other, it felt like they could make it. If they just ran fast enough, together, they could have it all. They could beat the wave they both knew was coming to take it all away.” Malfoy shook his head and his mouth curved in a sad smile. “But only while they were on the bike. On solid ground, it faded and they knew better.”
“So they were…” Harry pressed a hand to his mouth and cleared his throat. “They were lovers? They were together?”
“They were in love, but I don’t know that they were lovers. For as often as Sirius wore this jacket, I don’t see as much as a kiss in the memories.”
A whimper threatened to leak from Harry’s throat, and only force of will and a refusal to show so much emotion to the particular man sitting next to him kept it in. He pressed his face into both hands to force himself back together, but the discovery hurt. It made him ache all over, like punching an old bruise that hadn’t fully healed yet.
They loved each other, but they weren’t together?
Sirius had been so alone. Remus too, although he found happiness with Tonks and Teddy, unbearably short though it had been. But Sirius…Had Sirius really never had one perfect, unbroken thing in all his life? Had he ever had a single moment of real happiness?
After, Harry thought. Maybe after. After Azkaban. They had lived together for a while, the two of them, after. Maybe then.
Harry found himself begging to the past. Please let them have had that. Let him have known happiness with the person he loved, if only for a little while.
With the man he loved.
Harry had had no idea. His mind couldn’t help but flash back to when he had discovered his own attraction to men. How alone he had felt. His dead weighed heavy on him in those days, and he couldn’t help but wonder what they would say, if they would have been just as disappointed as some of his living. Merlin, he would have given anything to know that Sirius would have supported him, that Sirius and Remus both would have understood.
Harry took a breath and collected himself. He felt shaky and worn. But strangely fulfilled. Connected.
Malfoy was staring at him, his gray eyes bright and focused, his face impassive.
Harry cleared his throat. “Sorry.”
Maybe not completely impassive. Maybe just a touch concerned. “It’s a lot to take in. Do you need a break? We can continue later if you prefer.”
“There’s more?” Harry asked, eyes stunned wide. “On the jacket?”
“Oh yes,” Malfoy said with a breath of laughter. “Quite a few more memories.”
“He wore it the first time he ever met you,” Malfoy said without hesitation or preamble, his gaze locked with Harry’s. When Harry’s mouth fell open with the information, the intensity, Malfoy blinked, looked away, and spoke to the air. “He came to the hospital and sat in the waiting room for hours. When finally they let him in to meet you, he took one look at you and burst into tears. He didn’t get angry at himself for that one, though, because he was too happy. Your father started crying too. And then your mother told them to both to shut up before they made you cry.”
Surprised, Harry snorted a laugh and pressed his hands to his face. Malfoy smiled, though whether at Harry or the memory, he wasn’t sure.
“He got to hold you, and he could not even think, couldn’t say words. He was an absolute mess. He had no idea it was possible to love someone so immediately. He was around a lot while you were a baby. When you got a bit bigger, he would carry you around inside the jacket. He’d tuck you into the front of it and zip it up so you were snug against his chest. He’d take you for walks like that. Go to the store. Your mum used to joke that the jacket was his kangaroo pouch.”
Harry leaned back and listened with a grin, his eyes watery.
God, what they could have had. Should have had.
“There are a few more strong memories.” Malfoy paused and looked at him, and he still looked polite and professional, but there was deep concern in his eyes, in the lines of his mouth. It was the most intense, the most real Harry had seen him look in years. “They’re awful. This is going to be hard for you.”
That could only mean one thing. They’d reached it already? The unpleasant end?
Harry grit his jaw and nodded. Every muscle in his body tightened as he braced for the impact he knew was coming.
Malfoy spoke slow and clear, his voice calm and unwavering, as he told the story of Sirius’ worst night. “He wore it to the house the night they died. He rode up on the bike, his heart and his mind both running a thousand miles a minute. Part of him still believed he might be able to make it in time. When he landed and saw the roof blown off, it was like the world fell out from under him. He fell to his knees and vomited on the street, but before he was even done retching he forced himself up and ran to the house. And there at the door was Hagrid, carrying you out. All he could see was you. He didn’t know how it could be possible, that you had survived, but he knew in that moment that he would be everything you needed. That he would get through it for you. He reached out and tried to take you, but Hagrid wouldn’t let him. He begged for you. Begged. But nothing he said would change Hagrid’s mind. Dumbledore’s orders. And that was the moment his world truly ended. That was when he knew that he was a dead man walking, that he had been killed along with Lily and James. When you were gone, he went inside. He couldn’t cry. Couldn’t feel much of anything. He sat beside your father and held his hand for a long time but couldn’t think of a word to say. He went upstairs to your mother and kissed her forehead.
“And then he went after Pettigrew.
“He hunted him down like a dog. Single minded. For three days, he didn’t eat. He didn’t sleep. He hunted. Pettigrew’s final surprise shocked him so much, he really did feel as if he had lost his mind in that moment. Part of him shattered. He was still wearing the jacket when they dragged him to Azkaban. They stripped it off of him. And that’s where the memories stop.”
Harry stared at the floor, not seeing it, his breathing shaky, for a long moment. He knew. More or less, he knew how it had happened.
It didn’t make it any easier to hear what Sirius had gone through.
An awful ending. And so few happy memories along the way…
But a few. A few brilliant, bright ones. And this jacket had been with him through all of it. It was part of him. It was his life, for better or worse. It was the legacy of everything he had lived, imprinted in the leather.
They sat side by side, separated by a chasm of sofa and silence, as Harry found places for all the memories and put himself back together. Another shop keeper might have reached out or tried to comfort him. Malfoy didn’t. He sat still and separate. He might have been ignoring Harry. Might have been. But he wasn’t. Harry could feel it in the stiff line of Malfoy’s spine, in the deliberate fold of his hands. He was waiting. Giving space. Giving Harry what he needed. This afternoon with Draco Malfoy, intense and calm, reading personal memories off an old jacket was absolutely the strangest of his life. And Harry was grateful for every single painful, honest second of it.
Harry wiped his eyes and nodded. “Thank you.”
“Of course,” Malfoy said, as if it had meant nothing. As if it was just his job. The dismissal infuriated Harry after the intensity of what had just passed between them. But then Malfoy gave a quick, sardonic smile and shook his head as he passed the jacket back. “Leave it to you to throw something like that at me without any warning. You never did know how to do things by halves. Good to see you haven’t changed.”
“I’ve changed. Just not in that regard.” Harry gave a lopsided grin and a shrug. He accepted the jacket and held it close. “I didn’t know there would be so much on this.”
“You have other items you want read. Would you like to come back another time?”
“I’m up for it now if you are.”
Malfoy raised one eyebrow. There. That looked like the real Malfoy. “Suit yourself.” He reached for the next item in the box.
They spent two more hours in that back room as Malfoy performed readings on the rest of Sirius’ things. Several of them had nothing to offer. A few of them had only nasty memories from childhood, and Harry refused to keep those. But a few things were worth holding on to. In the end, he packed back up two more things to go with the jacket. The first was a Hogwarts notebook full of prank memories and handwritten notes, some of them from his dad. And the other was beautiful glass baby mobile of stars and moons. It had hung over the crib when Sirius was a baby, was one of the first things he could remember seeing, and when he’d been a small child he had insisted on giving it to Regulus so his brother could see the stars too. It was a lovely memory, and though it might be sentimental Harry thought perhaps one day he would hang it over his own children’s cribs.
He left Malfoy’s shop that evening feeling thoroughly wrung out, and rightfully so. But it wasn’t a broken or a tattered feeling. It wasn’t the sort of feeling that could drive him to get on his broom, or Sirius to get on his bike, and take off. Not the sort of broken, lost, and fraying feeling that had pushed him to run off and spend a year wandering on the other side of the world. No, sad and strange as the day had been, he ached but he felt settled. Like something had been put to rights, though it had bruised along the way.
And not just with Sirius. With Malfoy, too. The intensity had felt right, somehow. They were supposed to be intense. It’s how they had always been. Intense. Harry didn’t want anger between them anymore, but there had to be something. And the tiny cracks in his professional demeanor made Harry feel sure Malfoy’s aloofness was an act. He hadn’t been forgotten by the one person who had always made him feel more strongly than anyone else, for better or worse. He hadn’t been left behind. Somehow, he would get Malfoy to admit it.
On the street outside the shop, Harry paused and looked down at the box under his arm. It was light with the few things from Sirius he had kept. On a whim, because it also felt like an act of putting something to rights, he pulled on his godfather’s leather jacket, zipped himself up in the strong fabric, and smiled as he walked home.
The Floo roared to life in the other room and footsteps stomped down his hall. “Harry? Where the hell are you?”
It was Ginny, come over unannounced.
Harry wiped the sweat and the dust off his forehead and walked out to meet her. “What are you doing here?”
Bossy and familiar, Ginny pushed him out of the way and trudged into the living room, which Harry had spent the entire morning and most of the afternoon cleaning. The rubber soles of her beat-up trainers squeaked on the freshly mopped floor. With dramatic ennui, Ginny huffed and collapsed bodily onto the old sofa, a cloud of dust puffing out around her. “I’m bored!”
Harry glared at her and tried not to laugh. “So? How is that my problem?”
“It’s your problem because you sent my girlfriend off to Tanzania for three weeks!”
“I didn’t send Luna anywhere! She was going with or without my help.” And it was true, but to be fair to Ginny, he had played a significant role in Luna’s latest expedition. She had been determined to travel with a team of explorers working on nundu conservation in East Africa, but had been short on funds. “I just made sure she had the money to do the work she wanted to do.”
“Yes, you sent her away from me! And now I’m alone for three weeks!”
“You’re a big baby.” Harry shoved her legs to one side and sat down beside her on the couch. The fabric of her t-shirt rode up over her low slung jeans and revealed a few inches of toned, freckled stomach that Harry couldn’t help but stare at for a moment. Not out of longing or desire. Just appreciation. Maybe a tiny bit of regret. They never would have worked, but he still knew enough to know that Luna was lucky. They both were. Much as it surprised everyone at the start, Ginny and Luna had both ended up where they needed to be. So had Ron and Hermione, with their jobs and with each other. So had Neville, with Hannah and the house with a big garden they had just bought together. Everyone had settled and found their place and their person and their purpose so quickly.
Harry was the only one left drifting. But he was young. It was okay to drift for a while, right?
He brushed off his own creeping unease and asked Ginny, “Why aren’t you at work?”
Ginny scoffed. “Why aren’t you at work?”
Harry glared at her.
“Sorry. That was a low blow.” She rolled her eyes and heaved herself up to sit properly – at least as properly as Ginny could sit, with one leg tucked under her, her knees open wide. “Have Ron and Hermione been giving you shite about that?”
“They were pretty good about avoiding the topic when I first got back. But now Hermione can’t help herself. She brings it up every time I see her.”
“Are you going to get a job?”
“Oh god, not you too.”
“I’m just asking!”
“Well.” Harry shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“You know why we ask, right?” Ginny nudged him with her foot. “We’re all worried you’re going to fuck off again.”
Harry’s throat clenched shut with a thick and sudden lump. It was so Ginny, to say something like that. To be so brutally blunt and honest, to say exactly the thing everyone was thinking but scared to say out loud. That honesty was why, even after everything went bad between them, they’d still been able to build a friendship. “I’m not going to fuck off again.”
Ginny blinked at him and pushed her hair out of her eyes. She’d cut it short and choppy sometime after he’d left, and the pixie cut suited her, made her look strong and feminine. “What are you going to do then?”
“I’m going to…” He couldn’t quite answer that. He hadn’t thought about it in detail, had only made the decision that he would do something. For now, that was enough, wasn’t it? He gestured wide around the room, which still looked decrepit and dusty even after hours of cleaning. “I’m going to clean this place. Get settled here.”
“Get settled here? In this horrid old house? In London, the city that you hate?”
“I don’t hate London.”
“Harry, you hate London. Every problem you and I had in our relationship was made worse when we moved to London. It’s too loud and big for you. It makes you anxious and miserable.” She sat up straighter, her words more animated. “Last time you tried living here, you got so overwhelmed you had to fuck off to a monastery in Nepal! And then even that was too much, so you left and sent months backpacking and boning your way through the Himalayas!”
“Boning my way through the Himalayas?” Harry snorted and rolled his eyes. Of course he had hooked up with people during his travels, but it was hardly the sex-crazed wilderness orgy Ginny was making it out to be. “I was in the middle of nowhere. There were more yaks than people.”
Ginny waggled her eyebrows. “Kinky.”
“Did their long ginger hair remind you of me?”
“Yeah.” Harry sighed wistfully and gazed at her. “Every night I’d make tender love to a yak and think, just like being with Ginny.”
“Oi! Rude!” She screeched a laugh and punched his shoulder much harder than necessary. Harry chuckled to himself and rubbed at the new bruise.
“Look, I didn’t actually come over here to judge your life choices, or lack thereof. I really am bored, and I’ve barely seen you, so I’ll say this last thing and then you can find a way to entertain me.” She paused to give Harry a chance to nod, and when he did, she explained things in a way that felt blunter but also more helpful than they would have been coming from Ron or Hermione. “We’re all glad you’re home. But we really want you to give this a real chance. Right now, you’re forcing pieces to fit that aren’t going to fit just because you think they’re supposed to. You’re in a house you hate, in a city you can’t stand, with nothing to look forward to, all alone. Is that really what you want? It’s okay if it’s not. But you have to give yourself a chance to figure it out. And right now, it seems like you’re setting this up to fail so that you have an excuse to fuck off again.”
Harry nodded and sighed, because her words hit him hard. “I’m not going to fuck off again,” he said, and he very much wanted to mean it. But some days he wasn’t sure that he did.
She stared at him in kind, unblinking challenge. “Then why haven’t you gone to see Teddy yet?”
The question was like a hot iron twisting up his guts. He had to look away, had to blink to clear his eyes. He had meant to, had wanted to. He had a whole bag full of presents that he’d collected on his travels for his three year old godson, just sitting in his room, waiting to be gifted. But every time he thought about going over to see him…
“Because I think you haven’t gone to see him in the month you’ve been home because you know deep down that you’re gearing up to leave again.”
There it was.
Ginny always went for the kill. She never held back. It was one of the things he loved most about her, and one of the things that had made it impossible to be in a relationship with her.
Harry sucked in a shaky breath and pressed at his eyes under his glasses. Guilt swirled through him like a storm. He managed to whisper, “I don’t want that. I want this to work.”
“It will,” Ginny insisted, “if you stop forcing things to fit when they don’t. We don’t want you to just tie yourself down. We want you to feel connected. Not trapped. But also not lost either. You see what I mean?”
Harry nodded and forced sound out through the lump in his throat. “Yeah.”
He did know what she meant. And he knew she was right.
What he didn’t know was how to fix it. He knew he needed roots. And caring for those roots wouldn’t be a problem, once he found them. Harry knew how to love well, knew how to commit to something. It was figuring out what he wanted those roots to be that was giving him difficulty. He didn’t want to just latch onto whatever passed in front of him, like he had done after the war.
But Teddy…Teddy was a good place to start. Family was always a good place to start when you needed something to hold on to.
That was why getting those memories from Sirius had been so important to him.
“Yeah, I know. You’re right. I know you’re right.”
“So you’ll go see him?”
“Yeah, I’ll go see him.” He swallowed down the lump in his throat and hung his head, his hands draped between his knees. “I’ve been trying, you know. To connect with what’s important in my life. I had resonance readings done on some of Sirius’ old stuff.”
She reached out and brushed her fingers up and down along his arm. “Yeah? How did that feel?”
“Sad. But good too. Like…” Harry struggled to find the words to explain what he was doing and feeling, because it was so much more than just keeping an old jacket. It was about keeping memory alive and learning to carry it rather than drown in it. “Like I figured out how to hold on to the right parts of him. So I’m not scrambling for anything I can reach. I can let the rest go and hold on to what’s important.”
“That’s good. I think that’s a good step.”
Harry nodded and sat alone with his thoughts for a moment. She was right, that he was drifting. But it wasn’t so bad as she seemed to think it could be. He wasn’t sitting in the house alone all day. He had things going on. Sort of.
He hesitated on telling her for another moment, but then told her, “I have a new hobby.”
“Oh yeah?” Ginny’s eyebrows perked up at the announcement. “What’s your new hobby?”
“You can’t tell Ron and Hermione. They wouldn’t approve.”
“Oh, Harry.” Eyes sympathetic and sad, she reached out and laid a hand on his thigh. “Harry, sweet man. Are you learning to become an animagus so you can fuck wild animals? Because that’s not a hobby. It’s a sin.”
Harry snorted a laugh and shoved her away as her compassionate mask immediately cracked into a fit of ugly giggles. “Merlin’s balls, Ginny, no! That’s disgusting! You’re such a git!”
She straightened and slipped into seriousness with deft precision. “White collar crime? Pygmy puff fighting ring? Heroin? Competing in Harry Potter look-alike contests under a false name?”
“Well what else could you be doing that Ron and Hermione wouldn’t like?”
“Bothering Malfoy,” Harry mumbled.
“What was that? I can’t hear you.”
So Harry shouted, “Bothering Malfoy!” And then added, quite unnecessarily, “Draco Malfoy, that is.”
Ginny stared at him and blinked. And then she leaned forward and smacked him upside the head. “That’s not a new hobby, you wanker! You’ve been doing that for years! Practically going pro by now!”
A hot blush burned Harry’s cheeks. “Yeah, okay, that’s fair. But I haven’t for a few years!” Were it Ron and Hermione, this would be the moment that Harry would have to explain that he wasn’t a crazy person, that he wasn’t obsessed, that this wasn’t unhealthy. But because it was Ginny, all he had to explain was, “Anyway, I have a new method. It’s funny.”
“Oh, please, do tell!” Ginny rolled her eyes.
“Actually, you know what? You’re bored, right?” Harry stood up from the couch and brushed off his grungy jeans. A puff of dust surrounded his head as he stood and he coughed it out of his lungs. Merlin, this house was hard to get clean. “Come with me. You’re going to help me do something. I have a quest for you.”
Ginny squealed, her eyes twinkling, her red hair bouncing around her ears. She leapt from the couch and bounded across the room on the balls of her feet, light and lively as a jackrabbit, the grin on her face too wide to be safe. “A quest! Yes! I love a good quest! Let me at it, Harry. What do you need? Do you need me to knock down a wall? I’m on it! Give me a hammer!”
“Gin, no.” Harry shook his head and followed her. “Why would you knock down a wall?”
Ginny shrugged. “Because Luna is in Tanzania and she’s ninety percent of my impulse control.”
“Luna is your impulse control?” Harry’s mouth fell open. That couldn’t be right. Merlin, could that be right? Was that really how their relationship worked? “Are you seriously telling me that Luna I-turned-our-bathtub-into-a temporary-home-for-an-orphaned-grindylow-and-now-it’s-been-six-weeks-and-we’re-still-taking-sponge-baths-in-the-sink Lovegood is your impulse control?”
She laughed, grinned, and nodded. “It’s pretty messed up, right?”
It was messed up, and he laughed about it along with her, shaking his head. But, to be fair, maybe Harry could see that. Luna’s energy was soothing and calm. She was a rocky stream trickling through a sunlit forest, she was floating on your back in the ocean and gazing up at a wide sky. Ginny was a solar flare, a victory parade, a catastrophically gorgeous fuck-up at the fireworks factory.
Fuck, sometimes he missed her so much it burned. Not the romance. But the closeness. The brilliance of her. It ached. Another bruise he forgot he still had throbbed in his heart.
And he let it, because like with Sirius, the ache meant it was healing.
“Alright, what’s my quest? What are we doing?”
“Your quest…” Harry grabbed a cardboard box off the floor and handed it to her. “Is to search the house and to fill this with the most ridiculous, hideous, awful antiques that you can find.”
“To annoy Malfoy?” She stared down into the box, but then her eyes went wide and she nodded. “Oh, because he runs that antique shop now!”
“Exactly. Grab whatever you think will annoy him.”
She smirked. “Speaking of poor impulse control…”
And in an afternoon of blunt honesty, it was the most on the nose thing she had said all day. Harry threw his head back and laughed, because he grasped her insinuation right away. They didn’t talk about their break-up often, didn’t like to revisit the ugly old details, but damn if she didn’t just hit the nail on the head. “God, we never stood a chance! We were awful for each other when it came to that.”
“Still are!” Ginny laughed with him fully. “If you’re always hyped, and I’m always hyped, then who is driving the impulse control train?!”
“Luna and Hermione!”
“See, they should never leave us alone. This is what happens. Now I’m with you on some ridiculous quest to Bother Malfoy.” She walked toward the hall, carrying the empty box along with her. “Why are we bothering Malfoy, again?”
“Because I have no chill and Luna took all of our impulse control to Tanzania.” They made their way up the stairs to start in the parlor, which Harry had barely made a dent in yet. “And also because Malfoy used to be the same way around me! No chill. No impulse control. But I ran into him again and he’s acting really weird. Like he barely knows me. He’s being polite and stiff and boring. Like he’s better than me, or something. I’m trying to get him to slip up.”
Ginny looked thoughtful and a little bit amused, like she knew something Harry didn’t. For a second, Harry thought she would ask questions – questions he, quite frankly, didn’t know how to answer because he knew this whole thing was nonsense, and because he knew it would mean admitting to feeling lost and alone, left behind by his perfect friends, left behind even by his former-Death Eater sniveling little brat of an ex-rival.
But she didn’t.
“Got it, Captain. I won’t let you down. I’ll find the most disturbing antiques in this house.”
“Really? You don’t think I’m acting crazy?”
“’Course you are.” She smirked at him, though her eyes were fond and gentle. “But it’s just bothering Malfoy. There are way worse hobbies you could have. Like fucking wild animals.”
Harry snorted. “That’s a resounding show of support.”
They tore the parlor apart together and sorted through the antiques, setting aside the most heinous ones in a special pile Harry would save for Malfoy. He laughed and talked with Ginny. And all afternoon, in the quiet moments, he smirked to himself because he couldn’t help but wonder what Malfoy would think of the conversation they’d had about him. Would he appreciate the conclusion Ginny had come to? Draco Malfoy: Better than fucking wild animals! Harry laughed to himself and fought back a grin. That would surely get a reaction. Harry could practically picture it: Malfoy’s eyes would go wide while his mouth would pinch tight, a bright pink blush would stain his cheeks, and, in all his perfect pureblood posh-ness, he would look utterly scandalized. He would have to snap at Harry then.
Well, that was one approach. Perhaps he could try to channel Ginny next time he went into Fine Collectibles and Antiques, and act as vulgar and uncouth as possible. He filed the thought away for future consideration. For now, he would stick with his original plan of bringing Malfoy the most heinous antiques possible. Harry was willing to bet it wouldn’t take much to get Malfoy to crack.
Malfoy was busy with customers the next time Harry stepped into Fine Collectibles and Antiques. A group of little old ladies with fluffy white hair and pearls draped over their long, loose robes cluttered around the till and clucked at Malfoy.
His eyes flicked up when he heard the bell, saw it was Harry, and turned back to the woman in front of him with a smooth smile. No greeting. No acknowledgement at all.
Fine. Harry smirked to himself. Malfoy wouldn’t be able to ignore him much longer. Not after he saw the very fine collectibles and antiques Harry had brought in for appraisal. He strolled through the store and wandered into an aisle arranged with antique weapons, which were much more interesting than antique tea pots. He browsed the collection and listened in on Malfoy’s conversation with the little old ladies.
“Thank you so much, dear! You’ve been so helpful. And such a handsome young man! Isn’t he handsome, Gertie?”
“He is quite a looker!” Gertie agreed, and Harry snorted to himself.
“Ladies, you’re too kind.” Malfoy smiled and tried to usher them towards the door. “Thank you so much for your patronage, and--”
“I have a granddaughter who would just love you!”
All of the ladies cooed and nodded and agreed that Gertie’s granddaughter would be a perfect match. Harry silently laughed to himself and craned his neck to peek between the shelves for a better look.
Malfoy was a perfect gentleman as he bowed his head and guided them to the door. “I’m sure she’s a lovely girl, but I’ve never been particularly taken in by feminine wiles.”
Gertie blinked at him, her mauve-lipsticked mouth falling open. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
A smudge of blush crept up the back of Malfoy’s neck.
One of Gertie’s companions leaned in close and loudly whispered through the fur of her ermine wrap, “It means he’s a homosexual, dearie!”
“Oh!” Gertie’s eye glinted with glee and she pointed at a friend in a purple cloche hat. “Ethel’s got a grandson you would like!”
Ethel nodded. “I do! Jeffrey! He’s a fine lad!”
And in a flurry of preening and clucking, the little old lady brigade swarmed Malfoy and extolled Jeffrey’s many fine virtues. Malfoy stood his ground and smiled sweetly, but his hands were tense at his sides and not one of them would let him get a word in to politely refuse their matchmaking.
Harry smirked to himself, shook his head, and decided to help poor swarmed-by-old-ladies Malfoy out. He grabbed the nearest thing off the shelf in front of him, which happened to be an ornate dagger, and walked to the end of the aisle. “Excuse me, how much for this?”
Malfoy pounced on the opportunity like a drowning man on a pool floaty. “A wonderful choice, sir! I’ll be right with you. Ladies, thank you for your business!”
Three wrinkled old lady faces fell in disappointment as Malfoy strode away from them, but they carried themselves and their purchases out to the street. When the bell chimed and the door shut behind them, they left a soft and heavy quiet behind in the warm shop. Standing before Harry in a set of simple navy blue robes, Malfoy sighed long through his nose. A little line creased the space between his fine blond eyebrows.
Harry smirked. “You’re welcome.”
One of those eyebrows lifted dramatically and Malfoy’s mouth tightened. He stared hard at Harry for a moment and then turned away with a swirling of his robes. “Whatever for? Jeffrey could have been the love of my life.”
Harry barked a laugh at the unexpected snark, but it vanished the second Malfoy stepped behind the till. All professionalism and good pureblood breeding, he forced a smile and asked, “How can I help you today, Mr. Potter?”
Malfoy had a nice mouth, Harry realized with a jolt as he watched the fake smile tug its way into place. Full pink lips with a perfect Cupid’s bow curve on the top. Every other feature on his face was angular: long nose, sharp cheekbones, too-high forehead, too-pointy chin. That mouth was too lush for the rest of his face.
“I, uh…” Harry lost his train of thought. Good question. What was he doing here? Other than staring at Malfoy’s soft mouth and wondering how to make harsh words come hissing out of it. For some reason. Merlin. He cleared his throat. “I brought more for you to appraise.”
Harry set the first box on the counter, and as Malfoy quickly emptied, checked, and sorted each item, anticipation built in Harry’s core. He felt good about his chances today. Malfoy was already on edge from a tiring encounter with the little old ladies, and he had already let one mildly snarky comment slip through. At the bottom of the box, Harry had hidden a truly awful, hideous antique. Something no reasonable person would ever bring in for appraisal. Malfoy would take one look at it and crack. There was no way he would be able to hold back from insulting Harry’s intelligence and calling him a blind idiot. This would be the day!
As Malfoy reached for the last item in the box, Harry fought hard to keep his face neutral. The shit-eating grin that threatened to crack his mouth wide open would undoubtedly give him away.
This was it. Everything else was sorted, linens and cutlery stacked into three piles. There was only one thing left in the box. With careful hands, Malfoy lifted out the small case, bound in red leather, which was Harry’s piece de resistance. Ginny had found it in a crate of holiday decorations, and if this worked he vowed to buy her a drink.
Malfoy flicked open the little latch and creaked open the case. He blinked once. Twice. His jaw tightened. His nostrils flared. And then he gingerly lifted one of the six small items out of the case and held it at face level.
The tiny gray hand, its fingers long and brittle, dangled on a cheerful green silk ribbon and swung gently side to side. Malfoy held the end of the ribbon pinched between his thumb and forefinger. With each delicate twist, a little bell, attached to the base of the ornament, jingled.
“And this is…what, precisely?” His voice was thin and strained.
Innocently, Harry said, “I think it’s a Christmas ornament. Like, to hang on a tree.”
“Are you certain of that? Because to me, it appears to be a desiccated house elf hand.” He stared hard at Harry, daring him to argue.
“Oh.” Harry narrowed his eyes and tried to look earnest and confused. “Are antique Christmas ornaments not traditionally made like that, then? I grew up muggle, so…”
Malfoy shook his head too many times and his lips parted as if he had something to say.
Say it! Come on! Snap at me! Harry silently urged him on. Everything about Malfoy, the tenseness in his shoulders, the twitching of one of his eyes, screamed that he was annoyed. Harry was so close to getting a reaction, so close!
But then Malfoy pursed his lips and swallowed down whatever snide comments had nearly slipped through. Controlled and deliberate, he said, “Mr. Potter, I understand that you are not an antiques expert, so let me give you some helpful advice. The…” Malfoy searched for a word and delicately settled on, “dried body parts you keep finding around the house are not valuable antiques, nor are they steeped in any known tradition. They are the remnants of an unfortunate and macabre quirk unique to the Black family. Should you find any more items like this in the future, you would do best to simply dispose of them.”
“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t realize.” Harry let his face fall. The round wasn’t over yet. He had one more ace up his sleeve. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the second box while he shook his head and explained, “I guess you don’t need to look at any of this, then?”
Eyes wide, Malfoy sputtered and leaned back away from the counter. “What is--? I hardly think--”
But Harry resized the box and opened the lid before Malfoy could get a full sentence out.
A dozen mounted house elf heads tumbled out of the box and onto Malfoy’s counter. Their dried, mournful faces stared up at him and he stared back, eyes wide and watery. A muscle twitched in his forehead and his mouth hardened into a fierce scowl.
The look was so venomous, so sour, Harry nearly laughed out loud and ruined the whole game. That was a look he remembered well. The sort of look Malfoy wore just before snapping insults about Harry’s hair or intelligence or blood lineage.
“So…” Harry laid the act of innocence on thick and blinked his eyes owlishly. “These aren’t antiques, then?”
Malfoy was going to break. All the old tension was there, bubbling right under the surface.
But then he sucked in a long breath and said, “No. I can see how one as inexperienced in the world of wizarding antiques could make such a mistake. But no. They are not.”
And the moment was gone.
Son of a…
Harry reigned in his own reaction as well. He listened and nodded along as Malfoy bought a set of candlesticks from him, and then helped him dispose of the rest.
He had thought for sure the house elf bits would work. They were easily the most repulsive collectibles in Grimmauld Place. But it was fine, he told himself as he stomped out of the shop, mildly fuming. Fine. Harry would just have to come up with something else.
For his next visit a few days later, Harry tried a new approach. With reflection, he could see where he had gone wrong with the house elf parts. They were shocking, yes, but not ridiculous enough. Malfoy had always thought Harry was Lord of All Idiots, so Harry needed to run with that. He needed to find the most absurd thing that no person in their right mind could possibly think would ever be a real antique, and he needed to commit to selling his utmost belief in it.
So he waited until Ron and Hermione had gone to work for the day, then broke into their apartment and stole their cat.
No, not stole. Borrowed.
“Don’t worry, Crookshanks,” Harry said reassuringly to the cat as he approached Malfoy’s shop. “Just a quick adventure, and I’ll have you back before Hermione even knows you left.”
“Mrooow.” Crookshanks wailed from inside the carrier, a mournful sound of acquiescence and all-hope-lost.
“It’s not that bad,” Harry muttered as he twisted the knob and stepped into Fine Collectibles and Antiques. “Don’t be dramatic.”
Crookshanks grumbled, but argued no further.
The little bell chimed a welcome, and the floor boards, with their polish worn dull in a patch around the door by the tread of visitors, squeaked greetings under his shoes. Mid-morning sun pooled and warmed the little shop, and set the silver and gold collectibles gleaming. It was a familiar scene by now, and one that Harry had somehow grown fond of.
But it was empty.
No one answered.
He stepped deeper into the shop, mild annoyance creeping up his spine. If he had brought the cat all this way for nothing…
At the counter, a new sign sat next to the till. In fancy script and frame, the message advised, This shop does not deal in dead creatures, in whole or in part. Thank you for your understanding.
Harry snorted a laugh to himself, proud of his accomplishment. Malfoy hadn’t cracked yet, but Harry had definitely gotten under his skin.
A sound from the back drew Harry’s attention, and he pulled open the blue curtain without hesitating. “Malfoy, are you here?”
“I’ll be with you in a moment, Mr. Potter,” Malfoy said from atop a ladder. He was attaching a thin metal hook and chain to the ceiling with one hand, and levitating a ringed glass ball with the other, his face tense with concentration.
Not a ringed ball. Saturn. Harry stayed quiet and watched the tight grit of Malfoy’s jaw, the flexing of the tendons in his forearms, as he maneuvered the planet into place with the rest of the glass solar system.
When it was done, he sighed and relaxed, even smiled to himself a little bit, and that tiny, proud smile did strange and wondrous things to his face.
And to Harry’s pulse. Maybe he shouldn’t be trying to bother Malfoy. Maybe he should put some energy into making him smile.
“Thank you for your patience.” Malfoy climbed down the ladder, shrunk it, and stored it in a drawer beneath the tea supplies.
“No problem.” Harry nodded up to the planets and sun. “That’s really nice. But where’s Mars?”
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
At Harry’s puzzled look, Malfoy explained, “This set was crafted by one of my ancestors. She was an artist, and this was one of her loveliest creations. She blew, and shaped, and colored the glass all by hand.”
“Wait, so you’re related to the person who made this?” Harry asked, a bit awed. He didn’t have anything his family had made. He barely had anything they’d owned at all. To have something as beautiful as this planet set and to know it was crafted by someone in your family, someone with your name and history…Harry didn’t quite know how that would feel, but he imagined it must be nice to feel so connected like that, to have someone reach through time and tether you with a gift. Nice to know where you came from, and to see the complexity of the people who came before you, to know them as more than just names on parchment.
“Jessamine Malfoy. She was my great, great grandmother. She made this in 1893.”
“But Mars and Saturn got lost?”
“All of it got lost, actually.” Malfoy glanced at Harry, and there was something hesitant and shy in the look, like he wasn’t sure if Harry was just humoring him or if he actually wanted to hear. But he must have seen the true interest on Harry’s face, because he shrugged and explained, “Jessamine was married to a lout with a gambling problem. He got drunk and wagered away the whole set, just after she finished it. She was devastated. The pieces got separated, ended up with various wizarding families all across the continent. It’s taken me a few years to track them all down, but, finally, it’s almost complete again.”
“Except for Mars.”
Malfoy nodded. “And I have no leads. There hasn’t been a documented sighting of it in at least forty years. It vanished. But I’ll find it.”
Harry stared up at the glass planets and then over at Malfoy, who looked soft and wistful, and he felt a sweet and lonely sort of ache he couldn’t name.
The warm, hazy moment was broken when Crookshanks wailed, “Mooow.”
Malfoy flinched, blinked, and looked down at the carrier. “Did you get a cat?”
“Oh, no!” He shook off the odd feeling of displacement that had overcome him and recommitted to his purpose. Bothering Malfoy. Although, he had to admit that talking to him like this was rather nice, it was strange and unsettling territory for them, and bothering would be more fun. “I was actually hoping you could tell me more about him.”
“I…” Malfoy’s brow creased and he sputtered while Harry unzipped the carrier and heaved out the cat-shaped ball of ginger fluff and despair. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“He has a sort of mysterious past. He was already at least twelve years old when Hermione adopted him, and, well, it would be nice to know some more about him, you know?” Harry held the cat out and left Malfoy no choice but to take him.
Crookshanks, for his part, went limp and dangled pathetically in Malfoy’s startled grasp. While Malfoy sputtered and blinked and blushed, he adjusted his hold and gave the cat more support. Crookshanks promptly buried his squashed face into the crook of Malfoy’s elbow so he might avoid seeing the injustices of the world.
Malfoy asked, “And you think I would know about him because…?”
“He’s at least twenty years old.” Harry maintained eye contact and forced himself not to laugh through sheer force of Gryffindor stubbornness. “Old enough for you to know something about him, right?”
“I…uh…” Malfoy gaped like a betrayed, bewildered fish and stared down at Crookshanks and then back up at Harry.
So close. This situation was too absurd for Malfoy to keep his cool. It had to be!
Harry pushed on. He let his face fall in dismay and thought for a moment. “Oh. Is twenty not old enough? How old does something have to be before it becomes an antique?”
Malfoy stared at Crookshanks, his eyes glazed, and then cleared his throat. By the time he looked back up at Harry, he had schooled his face into his pristine, aloof shopkeeper look. Very different from the wild break Harry had been hoping for, and very different from the hesitant, soft openness he’d worn a moment before. Harry’s stomach twisted and regret flashed through him at the loss. With no hint of reaction, Malfoy murmured, “Twenty-seven is when cats become antiques, I’m afraid. Bring him back in a couple of years, and I’ll be happy to help you.”
And he plopped Crookshanks back into Harry’s arms.
Dammit! No no no!
Harry forced back a frustrated snarl, flashed a chipper grin, and said, “Great! Will do, Malfoy! Thanks!”
It wasn’t until he was back at Ron and Hermione’s, sneaking Crookshanks some extra treats for his troubles, that he realized he had forgotten to give Malfoy the actual box of antiques he had brought in for appraisal.
The day after Luna got home from her research expedition, Harry found himself walking up the flower-lined, fairy-lighted, overgrown pathway to the Weasley-Lovegood cottage. He’d spent the entire day cleaning and dusting and stripping wallpaper and packing up piles of garbage and antiques, but still, after all of his work, Grimmauld Place looked dank and dreary as ever. Every day that Harry spent there, working his hands numb with no sign of improvement, the more he began to resent the house. It hated him; that was clear. No, not hated. It was indifferent to him. He was so insignificant to the house his godfather left him that it couldn’t even bother to drive him out. It simply ignored all of his working and cleaning and then spawned new grime while his back was turned.
It left him tense and uneasy, with a twitching tightness in his spine that insisted maybe things would be better if he…did something. Something needed to change, but Harry didn’t know what. After years of everyone needing him, nothing he did seemed to matter or have an impact anymore. He couldn’t clean up Grimmauld Place. He couldn’t bother Malfoy! So earlier that afternoon, in a fit of frustration and a frantic need to be useful, he had smashed together cocoa powder and eggs and flour into something resembling a cake. And yes it was lumpy and lopsided and the homemade buttercream frosting had melted off one side of it in a wet glop, but dammit, it tasted good and he was bringing it to Luna.
Determined, Harry forced a hopeful, mildly deranged smile onto his face and marched up to the bright teal door with the yellow sun doorknob. Cake in both hands, he kicked at the door with the toe of his sneaker until someone came to let him in.
“Harry!” George shouted with a grin, and he opened the door to let a festival of cheerful noise and bright colors flood out of Ginny and Luna’s home. Harry grinned back. “Good to see you, mate! Come on in. Everyone else is already here.”
Inside the little cottage, a parade of his favorite people swarmed around to hug him and say hello, and the atmosphere was dizzying but Harry felt settled in it. Every wall had been painted by Luna, murals of swirling color depicting suns and flowers and forests and animals that stretched floor to ceiling and bled one into another. Potted plants floated in corners and up by the ceiling, and they draped long tendrils that snuck down and curled their vines through Harry’s hair in greeting. Ginny’s old broom, painted to look like a leaping dolphin, hung over the fireplace, surrounded by framed family photos of Weasleys and Lovegoods and all of their friends.
It was so unquestioningly Ginny and Luna’s space, their home, and their energy radiated from the walls and made Harry feel bright and clear. He loved this place. Loved it as much as he loved Ron and Hermione’s crowded little flat. All of them had homes that suited them, that extended their warmth and spirit into a physical place that felt like walking into their hearts.
Would Grimmauld Place ever be that place for him? Would it ever give his guests an undeniable sense of Harry, a feeling of connection to him?
Something unpleasant threatened to bubble up within him, but he forced it down. He would just have to work harder to make Grimmauld Place a home. That’s all there was to it!
The crowd parted and Luna floated towards him in a loose blue dress and bare feet, her long hair tumbling in blonde waves behind her. She wore a pair of wooden earrings carved in the shape of giraffes and a hint of pink sunburn on her nose and cheeks – all additions from Tanzania, no doubt. She pulled him into a tight hug and held him there for a long moment. “I missed you.”
He smiled into her hair. “I missed you too.”
“But we’re both home now.” She pulled away and looked him over with a small smile. And then she spotted the cake. “What is that?”
“For you!” Harry presented it to her. “I made you a welcome back cake.”
“You baked a cake?” Luna smiled as she took the plate and walked it to the kitchen. “You’ve taken up all sorts of hobbies!”
By the counter, Ginny – who had clearly spilled the secret – smirked and waggled her eyebrows at Harry. He rolled his eyes and refused to look at her.
“What sorts of hobbies?” Hermione asked as she snuck up on him and linked her arm through his.
“Baking!” Harry sputtered. “And…cleaning. And…interior…home renovation?”
Deadpan, Ginny said, “And bothering Malfoy.”
Harry glared at her. “You traitorous yak.”
“Oh.” Hermione nodded and stared thoughtfully down at her wine glass. “Got obsessed again, did you?”
“We kind of figured that might happen.” Ron clapped him on the back hard enough to send Harry’s teeth clacking. “Knew it was a risk when we told you about the shop. Just try not to be too weird about it, alright?”
“Yeah, whatever, right. Okay.” Harry shrugged off his friends and ignored Ginny snorting laughter into a beer bottle to focus on Luna. “Tell us about your trip! I want to hear everything!”
“Oh, it was wonderful!” Luna sighed. “I took loads of photos!”
At the mention of photos, George and Angelina and Neville and Hannah crowded into the kitchen with everyone else to watch a slideshow of photos and hear all about Luna’s encounters with nundus and elephants and all sorts of other wildlife.
When she had exhausted her supply of photos and stories, Luna led everyone back into the living room to show off her souvenirs. All of their friends flopped onto couches and mismatched chairs and cushions on the floor while Luna handed out gifts she’d collected for each of them. A bright beaded necklace for Angelina, a woven scarf for Hermione, a carved mask stylized like a lion’s face for Ron. To Harry, Luna passed a hand-carved rosewood sculpture, about a foot tall, and it was heavy and solid in his lap as he stared down at the detailing. It was a man, his body strong and elegant, who appeared to be climbing out of the bark of a tree. His neck arched and his long arm extended up to the sky where it tangled with the tree’s branches and his fingers got lost in the leaves.
It was beautiful. Enchanting. It felt solid and real and adult, unlike anything he had ever owned or bought for himself, and the thought of displaying such a lovely piece of art in rotten old Grimmauld Place seemed like sacrilege.
“Luna!” He smiled at her and held her eyes for a moment while his fingers traced over the smoothed wood of the man’s torso, then the rougher edge of the tree’s bark. “I love it. Thank you.”
“It reminded me of you,” Luna said simply, her eyes soft and knowing.
Harry knew Luna well enough to sense her thought process behind the gift: something about being rooted and new growth, reaching for something. And while he appreciated the meaning she had intended to show him through this art she’d found halfway around the world, more than anything he appreciated how much thought she had put into the gesture. Harry felt strange and fuzzy, unused to such authenticity.
“Oh, almost forgot!” Luna reached into her bag and pulled out another small item, which she tossed to Harry. “That one reminded me of you too.”
It was another sculpture, this one no bigger than Harry’s palm, and he turned it over to inspect it.
He snorted a laugh and closed his eyes after only a quick glance, but then forced himself to look again. This sculpture was a little man, his face very serious and stylized, holding a spear in one hand. The figure was naked and was sporting what had to be, by proportion, the largest cock in existence. The thick, swollen member jutted out from the little warrior’s body and hung down to drag the ground by his feet. Harry tried not to laugh too much, nodded, and said, “Thanks, Luna. You really know me.”
Hermione grabbed Harry’s hand and forced him to show off the gift. “Aw! It matches the one you brought her back from Nepal!”
“What did he get you from Nepal?” Angelina asked.
Luna drew a little metal figurine off the shelf in the corner and displayed it for everyone to inspect. The little silver woman held her own breasts up and spread her legs wide open to show off a pose from the Kama Sutra. He and Luna had always been able to talk to each other about sex and sexuality with comfortable freedom, and she had helped him work through his own sexual identity. Sex was something they connected on, almost like an inside joke, and he had thought of her as soon as he saw the little naked woman statue at a market in Kathmandu.
Angelina laughed and asked, “Harry, why would you get her that?”
“What?” Harry laughed, scandalized and amused. “She has an erotic art collection! It was a perfect addition.”
“You have an erotic art collection? Well, I suddenly find that I enjoy art!” George perked right up at that and stood up. “Come on then, let’s see!”
Luna laughed sweetly, completely unabashed, and led the curious group over to the shelf.
“We’ve got some really lovely things. Some of them, Luna made,” Ginny added. She pointed at a painting on the wall beside the shelf. “That one, she painted for me for my birthday. Isn’t that beautiful?”
Everyone peered at the painting, the muddled, soft swirls of peach and pink and white. Neville’s face scrunched. “How is that erotic art?”
Hannah nudged him with her elbow. “It’s a vagina.”
“Oh.” He studied it for a second more. “I thought it was an orchid.”
“It is. It’s both. It’s meant to be evocative.” Hannah smirked and rolled her eyes at him. “Honestly, you with your plants…”
“Sounds like you could spend a bit more time with Hannah’s plants, you know what I mean?” Neville blushed, Hannah laughed, and George smirked, but the cheeky look quickly vanished when Angelina bopped him on the head.
She glared at her boyfriend. “You’re not funny.”
“I am funny!” George insisted while Angelina tried not to laugh. “I have to be funny. Funny is my thing!”
“Yes, well.” Prim and proper, Hermione glanced delicately at the ceiling and then down to the floor. “Your thing isn’t nearly so big as Harry’s thing, if Luna’s gift is meant to be representative at all.”
Harry’s mouth fell open in a shocked grin, along with everyone else’s. George blinked a couple of times, grinned, and shouted, “Hermione!”
Hermione looked terribly pleased with herself, a tight little smile tugging at her mouth. She leaned towards Ron and whispered, “I made a penis joke.”
“I heard!” He wrapped an arm around her and kissed the side of her head. “I’m so proud of you.”
“What have we done?” Ginny threw her hands up and shook her head. “Look at us! Bad influences, all around! We’ve made a Weasley out of her!”
Hermione protested, “I wouldn’t say it’s gone quite that far.”
“Yeah,” Harry murmured. “Ron’s going to be the one to do that.”
Ron heard, nodded, and flashed Harry a grin, which Harry fully returned, because the thought of them getting married brought Harry as much joy as it would bring Ron and Hermione.
Hermione hadn’t heard the comment, though, and asked, “What are you two talking about?”
“Harry’s cock,” Ron said without missing a beat. He nodded to the well-endowed statue. “So it really is that big, huh?”
“Yep. Drags the floor. Have to throw it over my shoulder sometimes. Just ask your sister.”
“Oi!” Ron and George both yelled in unison, while Ginny, who had been whispering and smiling with Luna, snapped to attention.
“What? Oh. Harry’s cock? Yeah, it was that big. Terrifying. Made me a lesbian.” While everyone else laughed and cringed, Harry shook his head and tried not to blush over all the attention being paid to his perfectly-normal-sized-thank-you-very-much cock. Ginny winked at him and grinned.
“If it really was that long,” Luna said, “you could wear it as a scarf!”
“Or a belt!” Hannah added.
“Anyway! Do you want to see the rest?” Ginny beckoned everyone in and corralled them to a new subject. When she glanced at Harry, they shared a soft smile. Even now, she knew how to read him well, knew when he needed help diverting attention away from himself. “Come and look!”
Luna pointed at the collection on the shelves and explained the stories and meaning behind each of the little sculptures, charms, and paintings. At one item, Hermione pointed and asked, “Luna is that a dildo?”
She nodded, her face bright with excitement. “Yes, this is quite rare, actually!”
Everyone glanced at each other, wondering how a dildo could be rare.
Luna held the item carefully in both hands and showed off the long, smooth shape, the tapered top, the delicate carvings at the base. “This is hand-carved mahogany. Beautiful craftsmanship. It was made in Paris in 1791.”
Everyone in the group had the same basic reaction.
“It’s really lovely.”
“I didn’t know they made dildos back then?”
Luna nodded. “Toys have been a part of healthy human sexual expression for thousands of years. They made them of stone in ancient Greece, of jade in Han dynasty China. All sorts of things. They’re quite valuable now.”
They would be quite valuable, Harry thought. Handcrafted artifacts from a long ago era? Definitely expensive. Especially if they were in nice quality and as well made as the one Luna had on display. It was practically a piece of art. He wondered how she had managed to find it and pay for it. Harry had plenty of money. Maybe he could do a bit of searching and find her a few more for her collection. After all, Luna’s tastes were a bit odd, but Harry loved her and loved making her happy. Where would he even go about finding ancient artisanal sex toys? Probably some sort of…
They were antiques!
The beautiful, mahogany two hundred year old Parisian dildo Luna had in her house was an antique.
An antique that probably had a lot of memories imprinted on it. Oh!
Harry clamped his mouth shut and bit the inside of his cheek to keep from shouting. He had just had a brilliant idea!
It made so much sense! Everything else he had brought to the shop so far had one flaw in common: none of the items were real, worthwhile antiques, so it had been all too easy for Malfoy to disregard them. But something like this, a genuine antique, he wouldn’t be able to ignore! He would have to pay proper attention to it, no matter how embarrassing or infuriating. It was the perfect plan.
“Hey Luna,” Harry asked before he could think on it too long and come up with reasons against his brilliant plan. “Could I borrow that?”
The reaction from the room was immediate and violent, all voices overlapping in an onslaught.
“You can’t do that!”
“That is not on, mate!”
“OH GOD, HARRY WHY?!”
Immediately, Harry realized his mistake, panicked at their gross assumption that he wanted to use the old toy on himself, and corrected. “No, no, no! Not like that! I need it for Malfoy!”
This was not better.
“OH GOD, HARRY WHY?!?!?”
“NO, NO, NO.”
“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??”
“CONGRATULATIONS TO THE BOTH OF YOU, BUT THAT’S TERRIBLY UNSANITARY!” That last one was Luna, of course.
“No!” Harry’s face flushed hot red. Merlin, why hadn’t he thought through what he was going to say? In a fumbling rush, he explained, “No, it’s not like that! He runs that antique shop now and sometimes I bring him things to annoy him. That’s all.”
The group fell silent and stared at him.
Neville cocked his head to the side as if deep in thought. “I don’t know that that’s better, actually.”
“Yeah,” George agreed. “It might be weirder.”
Hermione sighed. “So that’s your hobby?”
“Bothering Malfoy. Yeah.”
Tight lines creased across her forehead and she pinched her eyes shut. “And…why?”
This was a disaster. Harry did not want to explain this to anyone, but couldn’t get out of it now. “To get a reaction out of him. He’s been ignoring me. It’s really weird.”
“Uh-huh, yeah, that’s the weird part of this.” Ginny smirked and shook her head, but fell silent when Harry shot her a look.
“Oh, mate.” Ron sighed and clapped Harry on the shoulder. “You really need a job.”
Though the comment was annoying, Harry couldn’t articulate to everyone exactly why he felt like he couldn’t get a job yet, or why he had invested so much energy into bothering Malfoy. He had reasons. He knew his friends would try to understand, but they ultimately wouldn’t be able to. So he ignored it, at least glad to change the subject.
But then Luna, her fine eyebrows pinched together in confusion, tilted her head and asked, “What do you mean? He already has a job. Who do you think funded all of my research in East Africa? He’s a partner on that project.”
“Yeah, and he’s a partner for Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes,” George said. “And how many other shops on Diagon Alley? I know you invested in several.”
Harry shrugged. “Three or four.” It was four, plus Wheezes. An apothecary that provided a new formula of low-cost wolfsbane for werewolves, the reopened Florian Fortescue’s ice cream parlor, a quidditch supply shop, and a book store. He didn’t think about them much, didn’t help with regular operations, but he had given them money and was glad they were doing well. After the war, Harry had been desperate to do something to help the world rebuild. It wasn’t much, but he had money and got it to good people who needed it. That wasn’t a job, though.
“All of your shops are doing well,” George said. “I know you’ve got to be making a profit.”
“Yeah, I mean, I have plenty of money coming in, but…”
Luna wouldn’t allow any buts. “See. He has a job. He’s an investor. Now let’s have cake!”
Hermione looked like she was going to argue, but then thought better of it and followed everyone into the kitchen.
Surprised, humbled, and warmed, Harry stayed put and looked at Luna. A little pinch of anxiety that had been bothering him for weeks seeped out of his body and drifted away. She had shut down the familiar criticism so easily. He was grateful to her, grateful to have a friend who, even when he was drifting and unsure, could still see his value and defend it. “Thank you.”
She smiled and nodded, her face serene and loving. And then she handed him the dildo. “Bring it back soon. And let me know what Draco has to say about it! I’d be interested to learn more.”
“Thanks, Luna.” He accepted it from her and stored it beside the other gifts she had given him. “Is this really weird?”
“A bit.” She shrugged and looked off into the distance as she wound her arm through his and led him to the kitchen. “But I’ve heard of stranger courtship rituals.”
Harry shook his head and refused to think too much about why he didn’t correct her.
“Now this is a…” Malfoy’s voice was tight and stilted. Though he stood primly behind the counter of Fine Collectibles and Antiques, a bright blush had already stained his pale cheeks.
“An antique Parisian dildo.”
“Right. Yes. You said.” Malfoy pursed his lips and nodded. “And you have this…why?”
“It’s Luna’s,” Harry explained again. “She collects them. Actually, if you could keep an eye out with your contacts or resources for any other antique sex toys, I’d appreciate it. Luna would buy things like this from you.”
“For her collection.”
“Yeah.” Harry tried not to laugh or smirk. Malfoy was obviously frazzled by the exchange and thrown off kilter. “For her collection.”
“Right.” Malfoy swallowed and stared down at the counter to consider the antique before him. “Alright. What would you like me to do with this today? This isn’t my specialization, but I could tell you a bit about the craftsmanship and the timeframe it was made.”
“Oh, no, she already knows all of that.” Harry fought with every ounce of self-control he had to say with a straight face, “I’d like for you to do a resonance reading on it.”
Malfoy’s eyes widened into two silver moons and his eyebrows shot up nearly to his hairline. A tiny waver of panic in his voice, he asked, “You want me to do a resonance reading on a dildo?”
Oh, Harry had him this time. He had him caught and caged, for sure! There was no way Malfoy would ever actually perform the reading. He’d snap before then. He was practically ready to snap now!
Harry bit his own lips to force them shut, to keep the triumphant grin from displaying too early and fluttered his eyelashes. “Oh. Is that a problem? Can you not do that?”
“Is it because it’s too old?” Harry asked as sweetly and innocently as he could, knowing that the accusation that Malfoy’s skills were limited would push him. “It is from the 1700’s, so I understand if it’s…” Pointedly, Harry glanced down at the sleek, slender dildo on the counter and then back up to Malfoy’s eyes. “Too much for you.”
The pink on Malfoy’s cheeks saturated to bright red and he ripped his eyes away from Harry’s. “I…no…not at all. I simply don’t understand why you want that service on this particular item?”
“Luna thinks it might have some historical interest. She wants to know who owned it. Who used it.”
He was going to give up. Any second now.
Harry pushed a little more. “Well, if you’re not able to do it…”
But Malfoy cut him off. With a sharp clearing of this throat, he pulled himself up to his full height—which was a couple of inches taller than Harry, braced his shoulders, and lifted his chin in a display of pride that was a bit ruined by the furious pink color of his cheeks. “No, Mr. Potter. I’d be happy to perform that service for you. That standard rate will apply, of course.”
Dumbfounded, Harry nodded. “Of course.”
This couldn’t be real. No way would he actually go through with it! This had gone on far longer than Harry had anticipated, and when Malfoy turned away to lead them into the back room, Harry allowed himself a giddy smirk. Oh Merlin, this was going to go so badly! The blow-out from when this finally reached a boiling point would be extraordinary.
Although, if Harry misjudged again and Malfoy didn’t snap…if he actually went through with it…He swallowed hard at the thought.
But no. There was no way Malfoy would go through with it. No way!
“Tea?” As he asked, Malfoy looked and sounded as posh as a man could possibly look while holding another man’s antique dildo.
“Sure!” Harry agreed for the sole purpose of dragging this farce out even longer, giving it more time to simmer. “I’d love a cup. Thanks.”
A moment later, Malfoy passed him a cup of tea, heavy on the milk, which was just how Harry preferred it. He blinked, but had no time to ask or wonder how Malfoy had known.
“You remember how this works, yes?” When Harry nodded, Malfoy said, “Wonderful. Then let’s begin, shall we?”
Harry had expected Malfoy to sit beside him on the other end of the couch as he had done during their last reading, but Malfoy surprised him when he instead perched in the winged armchair directly across. Harry hid another smirk. Malfoy must be nervous – too nervous to sit together on the couch. He wanted some distance. That must be it. How much longer could he keep this up? This was going to be too good! Malfoy was going to be so angry!
With a curl of his wrist, he cast the shimmering spell. Once the silvery shine did its work and gave him access to the dildo’s memories, Malfoy closed his eyes and drew in a few breaths. He was all tension and nerves.
Until, suddenly, he wasn’t.
And that was when Harry realized he had catastrophically miscalculated.
Determined and relaxed, Malfoy leaned back deep in the soft chair and spread his legs wide in a pose of decadent masculinity and comfort, propping one Italian loafer-clad foot onto the coffee table so that Harry had a full, uninhibited view of his crotch. Slow and sensual, he closed his eyes and tilted his head back, exposing the long, snow white column of his throat, pale blue veins visible under thin skin. He held the wooden toy in both hands and ran his fingers over the ends of it. His lips parted. His breathing picked up to quick, shallow little pants.
And then his mouth fell open and he moaned, high and breathy and completely unashamed.
Harry’s own mouth fell open in shock. Shit. This was not how this was supposed to go. Malfoy wasn’t supposed to actually go through with it! And he definitely wasn’t supposed to sit there moaning, with his head thrown back, putting on a show—
“Oh! Ohhh!” Malfoy’s body writhed and tensed, his back arched, and he bit down on that plush, thick lower lip as his mouth widened in a drunken, blissful smile.
Rational thought and protest fled Harry’s mind.
“Fuck,” he whispered to himself. Fuck, fuck, fuck. His own heartrate sped up and thundered in his ears, in his groin, and his jeans suddenly felt too tight, too constricting. Elbows on his knees, he leaned forward in his seat and watched.
“Quite a lot of memories.” Malfoy grinned, loose and lazy, his voice thick, and he kept his eyes closed, caught up in everything he was feeling. “This belonged to the Duchesse de Vinoy. She and the Duke were young when they married, and though they adored each other, he knew he would never be able to satisfy her in bed. He preferred men, you see. He gave her this as a gift on their wedding night, so she might see to her own needs.”
Malfoy laughed to himself, his hips rolling forward as his pink tongue flicked out to lick at his lips. “Oh, and she made good use of it! But she preferred to use it with her husband.”
Harry’s eyes flicked down, then back up in a panic, and then back down again. Malfoy was sporting a definite bulge, and Harry couldn’t stop himself from looking at it. The soft material of Malfoy’s tailored black trousers swelled and shifted as his cock grew and grew.
It looked long. Big. Harry’s mouth went dry and a rush of blood and delicious tension flooded his own groin.
“This memory is of the first time they ever seduced a man together. He was a sweet thing, who’d just been hired to tend their horses. Innocent and naïve. Had no idea what he’d gotten himself into.” Malfoy laughed, a wicked sound, and he ran a hand down the flat of his chest and stomach as he rolled into the touch, chasing more. “That first night, they took turns kissing him and undressing him, but then our Duchesse fell back and let the Duke take the lead. She lay down on the bed, the silk sheets cool on her bare skin, and she watched and touched herself as her husband bent that gorgeous, suntanned man over the back of the chaise and plowed him open. Oh, and he made the most gorgeous sounds while he was getting fucked, she was soaked just listening to them! She spread her legs wide and fucked herself raw with this toy while she watched them.” Malfoy’s face tensed in concentration and pleasure and his mouth fell open wide, his perfect pink lips swollen. “And oh! Oh, oh, it felt…feels so good!”
Across from him, Harry panted and trembled with the tension of holding himself still. It was too much. Fuck, Malfoy was completely debauched, with those noises, and those long fingertips just barely skimming over the bulge in his trousers, and that pink flush on his chest and neck, the messy strands of sweat-dampened blond hair tumbling into his eyes, and that perfect, wicked mouth, fuck! It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right, that Harry couldn’t touch, couldn’t participate, because fuck, he wanted to. If this was what Malfoy looked like, sounded like while performing a reading as a professional antiques dealer, then what would he be like in bed? Sweet Merlin and Morgana, Harry had never wanted to know the answer to a question more. He couldn’t fucking help himself; as subtly as he could, he pressed the heel of his hand hard against his own desperate prick to ease some of the throbbing pressure.
But Malfoy wasn’t finished yet. Oh no! Now that he’d been backed into it, the antiques appraiser seemed determined to fully inspect the item at hand.
Memory after memory crashed through him, and Harry watched, enraptured and rock hard, as Malfoy writhed and moaned and recited stories in filthy detail. Each memory was like a wave that built and built until it crested and fell, only to surge up again stronger with the next one. By the fifth memory, Malfoy’s voice was trembling, his hands were trembling, his whole body was trembling, dangerously teetering on the edge of something inescapable and massive that they both knew was coming. Harry could barely breathe.
“They both licked and fingered their lover open that night, but when he was ready, the Duchesse tried something different. While the Duke fucked the stable hand, she slicked this toy with oil and slowly…oh! Oh, so good, so slowly! Worked it into her husband’s arse. She knelt behind him with this, and…and…ahhh!” A high keening moan slipped from Malfoy’s mouth, the full lips that Harry couldn’t take his eyes off of, while Harry shifted his jeans and inched forward. Voice strained and frantic, his body tensed and begging for release, Malfoy gasped, “Oh fuck, I can feel all three of them at once! So tight, and so full, and…and…fuck!” Every muscle in his body reacted at once as Malfoy’s orgasm ripped through him, and he threw his head back, his hips bucking up to fuck the empty air. “Yes! Oh, yes, yes!”
Harry sat and watched it all, his body burning and shaking and screaming, his own cock still hard and unsatisfied.
As Malfoy came down off of his high, he took a moment to put himself back together: pushed back the hair that had fallen loose, adjusted his trousers, and reseated himself in a more proper position in the chair. It took Harry the same amount of time and effort to close his damn mouth.
The energy of what just happened still hung heavy and crackling in the air, like a lightning storm, but Malfoy ignored it. He displayed no shame, no embarrassment for the performance he’d just put on. But nothing else either. After everything, after all of that, he still managed to pull his prim shopkeeper demeanor back on right away, as if the reading had gone exactly as it would have with any other client.
And Harry couldn’t form a single coherent thought at the moment, but he knew enough to know that was absolute horse shite.
Malfoy cleared his throat and looked Harry dead in the eye, unblinking, probably all too aware that it made Harry’s cheeks burn and his cock throb. “Are you satisfied, Mr. Potter?”
Harry choked on the little shocked sound that nearly made it out of his throat and forced himself to nod. Because what else could he do? Admit no, and ask for a wank? That was definitely not one of the services offered by Fine Collectibles and Antiques. “Yes. Quite.”
“Wonderful.” Malfoy smiled, his mouth soft and dreamy, but his eyes sharp and cutting. “I’m so happy you’re pleased.”
Again, Harry couldn’t say anything.
One corner of Malfoy’s lovely, horrible mouth quirked up in something that looked awfully like a smirk. Harry’s stomach dropped at the same time as his pulse quickened, the looking giving him a sense of nervous dread and soaring arousal.
And that was when Harry realized he had been played. Dammit, he had been played well and thoroughly.
And curse Merlin, he didn’t hate it.
The smirk was gone when Malfoy held out the dildo and passed it to Harry. “Thank you so much for your patronage. Please, do come back to Fine Collectibles and Antiques any time you’re in need of my services.”
The seductively, predatorily hissed word sent Harry jumping up from his seat and hurrying out of the room, out of the shop.
“Oh, and Mr. Potter!”
Breathing hard, desperate to escape this viper’s pit he’d found himself in, he glanced back over his shoulder.
Casually, Malfoy told him, “Resizing charms really are terrible for antiques of such delicate age. If you shrink it, you’re liable to damage it.”
Harry grit his jaw, nodded, and left the shop without another word.
Out on the street, he had to stop to adjust his jeans and take a few breaths.
That had been unexpected. Wildly, deliciously unexpected.
How had he miscalculated so much? How had he lost this round so badly?
He had expected Malfoy – prim and proper Malfoy! – to capitulate quickly under the pressure of a request so inappropriate. But he hadn’t. He had called Harry’s bluff—had called it hard. Harry had started a game of chicken, and Malfoy won that game with flying colors and memory-stimulated orgasms.
He didn’t know how he lost control of the situation so thoroughly, but he knew two things. One: Malfoy was playing him. That show, those innuendos at the end…Whatever game Harry had started between them, Malfoy had finally decided to play back. It wasn’t the reaction he’d been going for, but a game of cat vs cat was much more fun than cat vs mouse any day.
Although Harry seriously hoped he had not just awoken a game of cat vs cobra.
Or maybe that wouldn’t be so terrible.
Malfoy did weird, twisted things to Harry’s brain. And body.
Which brought him to the second thing he knew for sure: he was in desperate need of a wank. He was going to go home right now and pull himself off to memories of Draco Malfoy, moaning and writhing and biting his own lip. And he didn’t know what that meant, but he could think about it later. After the wank.
Harry tried, somewhat successfully, to hide both his erection and the full-sized antique dildo he carried as he hurried back through Diagon. Cursing Malfoy with every step, he only hoped there were no paparazzi nearby.
Back at home, Harry tumbled through the Floo into the parlor of Grimmauld Place…and nearly landed on the group of friends who had snuck into his house while he was out.
“Uhh…” In vain, he tried to hide the dildo, but thankfully the emergency situation in his pants had calmed down a bit. “Hi?”
Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Luna sat on his couches and smiled cheerfully.
Considering what he had been planning and looking forward to for the moment he got home, the timing was not ideal. “What’s going on?”
“Intervention,” Ginny said.
“No.” Luna stood and walked to him. “Intervention is too harsh. Think of this more as…”
Ron and Hermione both cut her off. “It’s an intervention.”
Luna gave in. “Alright, fine, it’s an intervention.”
Bewildered and annoyed, Harry stared at them. “For what?”
“Your Malfoy obsession.” Before Harry could protest, Luna took his hand and led him over to sit on the couch between her and Ginny.
“Look, I appreciate your concern, I think?” Harry’s cheeks burned and his throat tightened, embarrassed and frustrated by the ridiculous overstep of his boundaries. “But you’re making a big deal out of nothing. I’m not obsessed with Malfoy.”
“No, you’re not,” Hermione agreed.
“Right.” Harry nodded, now even more confused. “Okay. Great, so that’s that, then.”
Hermione lifted an eyebrow and said, “You fancy him. That’s what’s going on. It’s not an obsession. It’s a crush. And we all think it would be for the best if you can admit that.”
“I…” Harry sputtered and tried to argue but the words died in his mouth, and the weight of the truth made his shoulders sink. Is that what was going on? The incident today made everything more confusing, but even without that, was that part of why he had been so focused on getting Malfoy to notice him? Because he wanted to be noticed by the handsome bloke he maybe fancied?
Was that what he’d always been doing with Malfoy?
Harry sighed and pressed his hands behind his glasses to rub at his face. Muffled against his palms, he admitted, “Yeah, maybe.”
Someone – Luna – laid a hand on his knee. “Do you need to talk through it?”
“I don’t know.” Harry shrugged and avoided everyone’s eyes. “Yeah. I’m attracted to him.”
“What else?” Luna asked, and Harry both loved and hated her insight that there was more going on.
“I…” Harry sucked in a shaky breath and looked down at his shoes. He didn’t want to talk about this, didn’t want to say it out loud, but he wouldn’t lie to them. And besides, it seemed like they already knew something was going on with him anyway. “I’ve felt really lost lately. Some days, I’m tempted to leave again. Go somewhere else. I feel like…” He glanced at Ginny, remembering their conversation, and she nodded at him. “Like nothing fits right. Like nothing I do matters. And that’s not me, you all know that’s not me. But being around Malfoy is the only time I ever feel confident anymore.”
Ron asked, “Even though you said he’s ignoring you for the most part?”
“Yeah. It felt so wrong. It felt like something I needed to fix. Like something I actually could fix, because getting a rise out of him is something I know I’m good at.” Unlike everything he’d been trying to do with Grimmauld Place.
At that, Ron nodded. “Has it worked?”
“Yeah.” A little too well. “Not the way I expected, but he’s reacting now. He has definitely noticed me.”
Ginny and Ron both laughed a little bit while Luna and Hermione looked thoughtful and worried. Harry cut them off before they could start criticizing him. “Sorry, but why does this matter? Is this the part where you remind me that Malfoy was a Death Eater and I should want nothing to do with him?”
“No, not at all.” Hermione tilted her head and glanced at Ron, who nodded at her. “Quite the opposite, actually.”
“What do you mean, the opposite?”
His friends all looked at each other, exchanged meaningful glances that Harry didn’t understand, and seemed to come to a decision amongst themselves. Ron delivered the verdict. “Mate, we think you should go for it.”
In the beat of silence that followed, Harry’s eyes narrowed and his brain slowed. “Wait. You all actually want me to sleep with Malfoy?”
“No!” Hermione sounded scandalized, and she glared at him, insulted. “We don’t care about any random people you want to hook up with. We want you to date him!”
Date him? Date Malfoy?
But that was…
Suddenly, an image of Malfoy’s sharp white teeth digging into his soft lower lip while he bit back a moan flashed through Harry’s mind and the idea of dating Malfoy, of making him look like that often, didn’t seem so ridiculous at all.
“You have a lot of love to give, Harry.” Luna ran her fingers through his hair and stared at him carefully, with wide eyes that always saw more than he wanted her to. “We think a partner and a bit of romance would do you good.”
On the other side, Ginny nudged him. “We all want you to have a boyfriend for the same reason we want you to get a job.”
Oh. They wanted him tied down so he wouldn’t fuck off again.
Although, with the right person, Harry knew it wouldn’t feel like tying down. It would feel like connection. Like roots. Like home.
He shook his head and laughed humorlessly. “You all want me to get a boyfriend because you think I’m sad and I’m thinking about leaving again.”
“Harry.” Hermione was softer when she said, “Your greatest strength has always been love. You’re at your best when you are pouring your love into someone or something, and I think that’s part of why you feel a bit lost these days. We would love to see you settled down with someone, the right someone, because we know it would bring out the best of you and make you happy.”
Harry nodded a little bit but couldn’t quite look her in the eye. He did feel like that. He’d had trouble putting it into words, but he had felt like that for a while. Like all of the love and relationships that had sustained him during the war had shifted and changed and left him behind. She was right, that it had left him directionless.
“What you need,” Luna said as she wrapped an arm around his shoulder and scooted closer to him so their sides were pressed together, “Is to figure out where all that love in you comes from, find a way to fill that reservoir back up, and pour it into someone. And let them do the same for you.”
He looked at her, let her round blue eyes stare into his soul for a moment, and smiled a little bit. “I think I’ve been trying to do that. I’ve been trying to connect to the right things, anyway.”
“You definitely have been,” Ginny said with casual confidence, probably more to back him up and assure everyone else that Harry wasn’t so pathetic as they were making him out to be, but her validation was a comfort anyway. “I know that’s why you needed memories from Sirius, that’s why you’re trying to make a home. And I know you’ve gone to see Teddy a couple of times now, and you’re building him into your life. All of that is about reconnecting to where your love comes from. You’re doing the work. We would all like to see it grow into something brilliant for you.”
Touched and grateful and a little amused, Harry glanced at her and smirked. “And you all think that should be with Malfoy? You really want me to date Draco Malfoy, of all people?”
Ron and Hermione glanced at each other, shared a mildly guilty look, and then Ron said, “We maybe have a bit of a confession to make.”
Eyebrow raised, Harry glared at them.
Logical and precise, Hermione explained, “Well, we were talking when you first came home, about how we would love for you to meet someone special, and we talked a bit about eligible people we knew of who might be a good match. And…” She shrugged one shoulder. “Malfoy’s name might have come up. And the more we thought about it…well. We didn’t want to push you at all! But we decided that if the opportunity arose, we would point you in the direction of his shop and then see how things went. We figured the way you’ve always been with Malfoy, we’d know right away whether or not you were interested in him.”
Deadpan, Ron added, “And we knew right away that you were interested in him.”
“Wait.” Harry shook his head. He knew he should feel annoyed, but somehow couldn’t manage it. “The two of you plotted to set me up with Malfoy?”
The two of them look at each other, hesitated, and then nodded.
Ginny burst into snorting laughter and Luna tried to hide a smile behind one hand while Harry shook his head and muttered something about Slytherin-level scheming.
“Why Malfoy?” he asked them. “I mean, I know I’m drawn to him. He and I have always had something, some sort of weird energy. But I thought you guys couldn’t stand him?”
Hermione was sitting much more comfortably now that it was clear Harry was more amused and intrigued than angry at their meddling. “Well, first of all, he’s not the same person he was five years ago. He has changed a lot, and I’ve seen enough of him to know it’s real change, not just lip service. And then, once we could see that, it wasn’t hard to see why it made sense. Like you said, the two of you have always been drawn to each other. There’s always been passion there, for better or worse.”
“Yeah.” Ron nodded and shrugged a bit as he laid out a few reasons in a no-nonsense list. “Plus, he’s smart, he’s witty, he has a good job and is doing well for himself, he’s strong enough to challenge you just like you’re strong enough to challenge him, he values family, he’s just mean enough to keep you interested. You’ve got wicked chemistry. He’s good looking. It sort of just makes sense.”
All of this was oddly insightful, and Harry nodded along. It did make sense. All of it made a weird, perfect amount of sense, in a way that made Harry feel as if he should have seen it long before now. Hermione had always been a genius, and Ron had always noticed the obvious things that other people missed, and now that they’d let him in on the idea, dating Malfoy seemed like the most obvious course of action he could take.
He smiled to himself a bit and shook his head, trying to get used to the idea. Malfoy as his boyfriend, his lover, his partner. Malfoy laughing with Luna and talking politics with Hermione at gatherings. Malfoy going with him to take Teddy to the park, the three of them sharing ice cream. Malfoy sneering and playfully insulting Harry’s attempts to cook for them. Malfoy sharing quiet, proud smiles with him under a swirl of glass planets. Malfoy…Draco…in his bed, moaning, and touching and cuddling and snoring and waking up next to him. Draco fitting into his life like a missing piece.
Harry wanted it. Wanted him. Had all along.
Harry was falling for Draco Malfoy.
While Harry worked through his life-changing realization, beside him Ginny smirked at her brother. “You think Malfoy’s good looking?”
“Of course he is. And it’s for Harry, so I have to think about things like that. Harry’s my best mate, and the Savior of the Wizarding World! The man died for us! We can’t go and set him up with some goblin-faced mouth-breather, just because he’s smart and owns a shop. No! Harry deserves someone who is the whole package. Malfoy’s handsome. He grew into his face. He has good…” A bit worked up and defensive, Ron gestured both hands around his cheeks and nose. “I dunno. Good angles.”
“He does,” Hermione agreed. “And a very pert bum.”
“And a fucking gorgeous mouth,” Harry murmured, and all of his friends stared at him and burst out laughing. He grinned. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. Take action!” Ron said. “Is this settled? Are you going to stop bothering him and go for it?”
“Yep,” Harry announced without hesitation. “I fancy Draco Malfoy and would like to date him. Thanks guys. Good intervention.”
“Very successful,” Ginny agreed. “You put up way less fight than we expected.”
Luna hugged him and laid her head on his shoulder, and he leaned in closer to her, to breathe in the honeysuckle scent of her hair. “I’m so happy for you!”
“Don’t get too excited. I haven’t won him over yet.”
“When do you think you’ll go talk to him?” Ron asked. “The shop will be open for a couple more hours. You could pop in and ask him out for dinner tonight.”
“No.” Harry shook his head. “Can’t ask him out. That won’t work.”
“What do you mean you can’t ask him out?”
“It’s too obvious! I’ve put all this effort into bothering him at his shop. And today, he reacted to it and was trying to get a rise out of me back. He knows something is going on! If I ask him out now, it will look really weird.”
“You need a plan!” Ginny said. She sat up straighter and pulled her legs up to cross them beneath her on the cushion. “A new strategy!”
“Yeah. Yeah, a new strategy. I need to divert to make it look like this was the plan all along.”
Ron groaned and buried his head in his hands. “Or you could just ask him out?”
Everyone ignored him.
“What sorts of things have you been bringing in?” Hermione asked.
“Ugly stuff. House elf hand Christmas ornaments, pixie dolls, real ridiculous.” He purposefully left Crookshanks out of the list. “I could tell it was annoying him, but he kept trying to act really professional. And then today, I brought in Luna’s dildo and had him do a resonance reading on it.”
“Oh!” Luna beamed. “Did you learn anything interesting?”
“Yeah, it belonged to some French Duchesse. She used it to have sex with her gay husband and their bisexual lover. Pretty kinky stuff!” Harry gave her back the dildo and she stored it in her purse.
“Fascinating.” Hermione quickly changed the subject back to the topic at hand. “And how did Malfoy react to that?”
Harry bit the insides of his cheeks and felt a flush creep up the back of his neck as the memories of Malfoy – Draco – wanton and moaning, filled his mind. “You don’t want to know.”
Ginny waggled her eyebrows and Hermione tried not to smile.
“Anyway!” Harry explained before they could imagine too much on their own. “I tried to embarrass him, and he called my bluff. And then there was some innuendo. But all while he was pretending to be professional. So he was trying to get a rise out of me back.”
“Hmmm…” Hermione stared off into middle distance. “Malfoy always has enjoyed a challenge. Especially when it comes to competing with you.”
That was undeniable. Harry had to agree.
“I think you should keep doing what you’re doing: bringing weird things to the shop for him.” Hermione smiled a bit as she explained her plan. “But now, instead of bothering him or embarrassing him, the challenge you should pull him into is to see which of you admits feelings for the other first.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s good.” Ginny grinned.
“Okay.” Harry nodded. “How do I do that?”
“More antiques!” Hermione practically squeaked with excitement. “Bring him antiques that have really romantic, sensual, evocative backgrounds. Drop lots of hints, but leave it to him to rise to a reaction. It’s perfect! Because the antiques will show you’re interested in learning more about something he cares about, plus the messaging will be very clear, and it still creates the challenge of the game you need. It’s perfect!”
“It’s perfect!” Ginny and Luna both echoed.
Harry grinned and nodded along, the plan setting in his head. “It’s perfect!”
“It’s mental!” Ron groaned. “It’s barmy, and you’re all mad for thinking this is a good idea!”
“Nah,” Harry insisted, undeterred. “It’s perfect.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “You’re a loony.”
“Does this mean you’re not going to help?” Hermione asked him. “Harry’s going to need us to help him research and find the right antiques.”
Ron’s shoulders collapsed and he sank further into his chair. He grumbled, “Yeah, fine, I’ll help. I think Mum’s got some old family heirloom you could borrow.”
Harry grinned. “Thanks mate! Thank you, all of you! All of you are mental and way too involved in my private life, but I appreciate your help.”
Luna and Ginny both squished him in a side-by-side hug, Hermione looked glowing and pleased, and Ron trudged off to the kitchen, muttering something about ordering dinner to eat while they plotted Harry’s seduction of Malfoy.
Later, over a table full of noodles and dumplings, the five of them strategized and talked about potential antiques Harry could bring in. Though the room was too cold, and the walls were dusty and bare and hideously coated in patches of ugly green wallpaper, for a few hours while they talked and laughed the dining room at Grimmauld Place felt a bit like home.
From that conversation when his friends all decided to help him use antiques to seduce Draco Malfoy, forward, Harry’s life developed a strange but pleasant routine. Lunch with Teddy and Andromeda on Sundays, plus dinner at the Burrow every other week. Housework and cleaning and screaming at Grimmauld Place on Mondays and Wednesdays, followed by dinner with Ron and Hermione and Ginny and Luna. Trips to the park with Teddy on Thursdays. Visits to Malfoy on Tuesdays and Fridays. Rest on Saturdays. It had been sixth year at Hogwarts, the last time Harry had so much predictability, and he found he rather liked it.
Although he could do without the screaming at a dark, mean old house on Mondays and Wednesdays. While the house was less cluttered now, thanks to Harry’s many visits to Malfoy’s shop, it was still depressing and grim. Fighting with Grimmauld Place made him feel hopeless. It was an endless task. Like that guy who had to push that boulder up the mountain forever… Hermione would remember his name. The harder Harry worked on the house, the less it felt like home. At first, he’d had hope for the potential, and a belief that he could make it different. Now, though, after weeks of cleaning and sanding and scrubbing, the house stayed dark and grimy and rotten. Something wasn’t right and he couldn’t fix it.
But he couldn’t give up on it. He was Harry Potter, for Merlin’s sake. What would it say about him if he couldn’t even clean a stupid house?
What would it say about him if he walked away from the house Sirius left him?
Although, Sirius had once walked away from it too. And Sirius had left him other things, some physical, most not – things Harry could never walk away from even if he wanted to.
But he didn’t know where else he would go. So he stayed and dusted and shouted obscenities and curses at the walls.
All of the other parts of the week were good. Dinners at either Ron and Hermione’s place, or Ginny and Luna’s, where they would regroup and compare notes and research and plans to procure antiques with high Malfoy Seduction Opportunity Potential. (Hermione had made a list of heirlooms and artifacts they’d be able to get easily, and then ranked them all on a scale she referred to as the M-SOP). Sunday teas were a good chance to reconnect with Andromeda, and chasing little blue-haired Teddy around the park every Thursday, laughing until they fell over in the grass, quickly became a highlight.
But Harry’s favorite days were Tuesdays and Fridays, when he would visit Fine Collectibles and Antiques.
And Harry woke up with a smile on his face because today happened to be a Tuesday.
His plan – well, really, Hermione’s plan – was a three pronged approach. All three prongs were Hermione’s ideas, supported by their other friends, and agreed to by Harry. Firstly, he had to dress decently, but not too fancy. No more ripped up jeans. His heart fluttered a bit as he dressed, frazzled and on edge as he tried to keep all of Hermione’s rules straight. She had created a list, Harry’s Best Physical Features (Publically Acceptable Version), and had suggested he dress to accent at least three of them each time he saw Malfoy for maximum seduction potential. The group had then gone through and picked apart Harry’s appearance to find the best bits. (Specifically, the bits that were socially acceptable to show off, because after Ginny had spent several long, embarrassing minutes extolling the uncommonly lovely shape of his bollocks and insisting they had to be included, Hermione had been forced to create two versions of the list while Harry considered burying himself in Crookshanks’ litter box). It was a lot of rules to keep straight. After his shower, Harry dressed in a pair of fitted jeans Luna said made his arse, number four on the list, look especially nice, and a green button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up to show off number six, his forearms. The shirt was green to help accent feature number one, his eyes, after Ron, very grumpy due to the bollocks discussion, mumbled ‘Wear green, your eyes always look extra pretty when you’re in green.’
So, check, check, check.
Prong two of the approach was the antiques themselves. Each visit, Harry brought a box of actual antiques and collectibles from Grimmuald – partially because he needed to, and partially to keep up pretense. Hidden within the collection would be the seduction item of the day. Before Harry grabbed the box off the dining table, he dug through it one more time to find the necklace he already knew for sure was tucked inside. He ran his fingers over the scalloped edge of the silver charm and murmured to it, “Alright, here we go. Don’t let me down.” He then resized the box and tucked it into his pocket.
With a crack, he apparated onto the bright cobblestoned streets of Diagon Alley. Uncrowded at the early hour, only a few witches and wizards ambled up the walk, their gaits serene as they passed by the shops. Harry joined them at a more determined clip, his mind running through prong three of the approach: make a connection. In between antique appraisals, Harry was advised by his friends to actually talk to Malfoy and try to connect with him on a more personal level. Hermione had created a list (of course she had) of conversation topics that would let them get to know each other while avoiding sensitive subjects that would best be left for later. Harry had his plan all ready for today and he recited it in his head over and over as he made the short walk to the shop. Step one, step two, step three. This was going to go well. Nervous but excited, the smile he’d woken up with made its way back onto his face.
When the little bell over the shop door jingled, Malfoy stepped out from the end of one of the aisles. “Welcome to Fine Collecti—Potter.”
His face fell, his polite greeting crumbled into dust, and a bit of pink rose on his cheeks.
Poor Malfoy. It must be hard, going through life never able to hide a blush. Harry smiled at him, shy and fond. “Hi.”
With grace and good manners, Malfoy swept himself back into poise. “I didn’t expect to see you back so soon.”
It had been just over a week since the dildo incident, and just over a week since Harry had been in at all. He quirked an eyebrow and smirked. “Did you think you had scared me away?”
Maybe he had been hoping to. Maybe that had been what Malfoy hoped to accomplish with his little (big) demonstration: to drive Harry away from his shop for good.
But if that was the case, then why was Malfoy blushing now? Why was he hiding a smile that Harry could just barely see in the lines around his mouth? Why were his eyes so bright? No, that hadn’t been what he’d hoped to accomplish. Malfoy was glad to see Harry back, back to play more of their game, and Harry’s heart swooped like he was diving after a snitch with the realization.
Malfoy peered at him. “Why? Are you normally afraid of such encounters?”
“What, of antiques appraisals?” Harry chose to be deliberately obtuse in response to the bait. Merlin, this was so much more fun now that Malfoy was playing along! Although, Harry was about to change the rules of the game, and he hoped Malfoy could keep up. “No, not at all. I always appreciate your professional help, Malfoy. And Luna was really happy when I told her about the reading.”
“You told her about the reading?” Malfoy asked, surprised and delicate.
Harry smirked and nodded. He let Malfoy sweat for a second, watched the little bit of pink darken on his cheekbones, before Harry added, “My recitation wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as yours.”
“Yes, well, of course. You couldn’t be expected to match my professional quality.” Malfoy adjusted his tie and shirtsleeves. “I am, after all, highly proficient in the fine art of…antiques appraisal. Amongst other things.”
Harry swallowed hard and nodded. The other things Malfoy was no doubt highly proficient in were left unsaid, but every one of them flicked through Harry’s mind, and as Malfoy flashed him a quick smirk, Harry realized that was exactly what Malfoy had intended. But Harry wouldn’t be thrown that easily. He needed to get down to business. “I brought more stuff for you to go through.”
“Of course. Let’s have a look.”
As he had every time before, Malfoy unpacked the box and looked through each piece while Harry stood to the side and watched. Every other time, Harry had played his part silently. This time, though, he had a mission: conversation.
“So…how have you been?”
Malfoy paused for a second and glanced up from his inspection of a glass vase. “Fine. And you?”
“Good. I’ve been good.”
Without another word, Malfoy went back to ignoring him.
Okay, so small talk had been a failure.
Maybe he should just move right into the conversation he’d planned for the day. Dive in, like a Gryffindor.
With no preamble, Harry said, “You know, I’ve been meaning to ask. Why did you come to own an antique shop?”
“Needed a job.” Malfoy didn’t look up from the counter.
“No, I mean--”
“I know what you meant.” He still didn’t look up. A few long seconds passed in silence while Malfoy inspected a hand mirror, thick with gilded detailing on the handle. He came to a decision and placed it in a pile. Then, he glanced up at Harry, came to another decision, and sighed a little bit. “They took the Manor, along with everything in it. After the war. I’m sure you heard about that.”
“Yeah. I heard.” The hair on Harry’s arms stood on end and his stomach twisted. Ten seconds into their “safe” conversation topic, and already they were talking about the war! This couldn’t go well. But Malfoy seemed bare and honest, in the same way he had been while telling Harry about the glass planets. Harry listened.
“I didn’t want most of it, anyway. Bad memories. But there were some things…” He continued to work and inspect as he spoke, his voice low and clear. “I had heard about Jessamine Malfoy’s lost planets a few times, growing up, and I’d always been interested in the story. Right after the war, I couldn’t get her out of my mind. The name Malfoy had become a legacy of shame. But Jessamine Malfoy was a lovely person, and she dreamed and she created, and she put lovely things into the world. After everything else was gone, it seemed important, somehow, to find her art and bring it home. I had grown up around antiques and already knew a bit about how to navigate the market, how to track things down. I learned more as I went. And as I found each of the pieces, it was like…” Malfoy lifted a glass ashtray up to the light and peered through it. He placed it down on the second pile, though his eyes stayed up for a moment, focused on the lamp. “Like finding a bit of myself.”
Harry couldn’t speak, could barely move. In the soft air of the shop, he stood still and stared at Draco, watched his purposeful fingers lift and run along the fabric of a tablecloth, watched his lips part and close as if he wanted to say more, watched the clouds behind his eyes, though Draco carefully avoided looking into Harry’s.
“He took everything from me.” The admission was quiet and strong, delivered down to the countertop. It took Harry a moment to realize who Draco was talking about, and when he did an old familiar chill ran up Harry’s spine. “I know it’s foolish to say that to you of all people, you who lost more than anyone to him. But he did. He was like a black hole and he took everything. Both of my parents, my family, my home, my reputation, my childhood, my past and future, my heritage. He turned it all into something shameful.”
He stopped himself for a thoughtful moment and put the decoration he was holding back on the countertop, where it sat forgotten. Draco’s hands stilled on the wooden surface and he lifted his head to speak up into the warm light of the shop, although he still avoided looking directly at Harry.
“Some of it was already shameful.” He shrugged one shoulder. “But some of it wasn’t. I don't wish to hold onto every rotten old part of it. I am an antiques dealer, after all, and one of the first things you learn in the antiquing business is that not everything has value just because it's old. But some of it is worth holding on to, worth passing on. Some of the traditions, some of the history. Some of my family.” He took a breath and braved a glance at Harry, who stood transfixed, rooted, listening with every atom of his being. That quick brush of gray eye contact was thunder and sunshine all at once, and it jolted him but he instantly longed for it back.
Sad and quietly impassioned, Draco gestured out to the shop floor, to the neat rows of picture frames and linens and rocking chairs and every other nearly lost thing, carefully tended. “Everything here has a story - they're the stories of our people, of where we came from. Those people mattered, and they matter still. This is my way of taking it back, what he took from me. My way of reclaiming the past and choosing what to carry forward.”
“I think I know what you mean. At least a little.” Harry’s voice came out thin and strange. “When you did that reading for me, on Sirius’ jacket, it was like finding a little piece of me that had gotten lost during the war. And it seems silly, because I know it’s just a bit of leather, but that jacket is so important to me now.”
“Yes, and your wand is just a bit of wood with some feather in it.” With a kind smile, Draco said, “We give power to the things we touch. Our lives and memories get tangled up in the leather or wood or brass, and they continue on. It’s not silly at all.”
“Yeah.” A strange, unsettled feeling threatened to knock Harry off his feet. Somehow, in the past four minutes, the world had changed. “Thank you for telling me.”
Malfoy went back to his inspection and he looked down at the counter with a wide, warm smile. “Of course. Though, I imagine that was a bit more than you were expecting.”
Harry laughed a little at the understatement. “Yeah, well. You’ve always managed to be a bit more than I’m expecting.”
At that, Draco laughed fully, the sound warm and rich and sweet like treacle tart. Harry’s heart skipped three beats and then raced to catch up. Merlin. Why had Harry thought it would be a good idea to bother Malfoy, again? His goal should have been to make Draco smile all along. Smiling looked good on him. Laughing, even better.
It might have been the first time he’d ever heard a genuine laugh from Draco. Every other laugh throughout childhood had been sneering and mean, soured by a bitterness that looked like it would hold him forever. He seemed to have finally learned to let go of it.
“Well…” Draco flashed him a quick grin and then reached into the box for another item. “Perhaps you should stop underestimating me.”
“Is that what last week was about?” Harry asked before he could stop himself. “You didn’t like me underestimating you?”
Draco lifted an eyebrow and nodded, but the attempt at dignity crashed down around him in a burst of absurdity. He hid his face in his hands and hissed embarrassed laughter.
Harry cracked up too, finally allowed to react to the insane thing that had happened between them last week instead of dancing around it. For the first time, the two of them laughed together.
When he came up for air, Draco waved a hand at his bright red face. “I still can’t believe I did that.”
“Neither can I. I couldn’t believe it while it was happening!”
Harry wanted to focus every beam of his energy onto the moment happening between them, but diverted slightly when Draco lifted the last item out of the box: a dark jewelry box, filled with Walburga’s old things, plus the necklace Harry had specially hidden there. His core tensed a little.
“I knew you were playing some odd game with me, though Merlin knows why. You never make any sense.” Draco rolled his eyes and looked down at the jewelry box. “You brought in all those ridiculous things. And the cat! Trying to get a rise out of me, I think. Embarrass me, maybe. Since there seem to be no absurdities in this box, can I take that to mean you accomplished you goal?”
Hardly. Although today was good progress. Harry hadn’t given up, not by a long shot, and his new goal was a much more worthy one. Draco would soon realize they were still playing a game, but for now Harry would lull him into a false sense of security. “More like you called my bluff. Very, very thoroughly.”
Draco blushed again at that, and hid a laugh.
“You were so stiff and weird when I first came in. I didn’t like you ignoring me, so I was trying to get your attention, get you to react.”
Draco snorted—Malfoy actually snorted!—a sarcastic laugh. “My, how the tables have turned. So you got what you wanted?”
“I got a reaction. Not the one I was anticipating. But definitely a reaction!”
“So, no more body parts or cats or sex toys?”
“Nope,” Harry promised. “Just genuine antiques.” And it was true! But that didn’t mean Harry wasn’t still scheming.
Still smiling, Draco lifted the jewelry box. “This is going to take a bit of time to go through. I need to check the authenticity of each of the items. Jewelry can be finicky.”
“Oh. Okay.” Dammit, Malfoy better not be about to kick him out of the shop. The whole plan would be ruined if—
“Want to come to the back while I work on this? I’ll make you a cup of tea?”
The question sounded casual, but there was something so hesitant, so hopeful in Draco’s posture, hidden in his words, that every worry inside Harry immediately calmed. “Sure. I’d love to.”
Maybe he should just ask him out. Hey, Malfoy, would you like to get dinner with me tonight? It would be so much easier to do it that way.
Ugh, but no. That wasn’t any fun. And besides, Draco appreciated difficult things. Challenge and competition. Things that took effort. Harry wanted to put in the effort.
When Malfoy handed him a mug – clunky and modern, with blue and white stripes, very unlike the delicate china out in the shop – Harry remembered to ask, “Hey, how do you know how I take my tea?”
Draco sneered over his shoulder. “I spent six years stalking you and trying to get your attention. Are you really trying to suggest that you don’t know how I take my tea?” One of those pale eyebrows lifted, sharp and accusing.
Damn. Harry looked away and laughed a little bit, because he did know, now that he thought about it. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he’d kept that information stored away. He shook his head and smiled against himself. “A fuck ton of sugar and a bit of lemon.”
The look on Draco’s face as he nodded, yes, was terribly smug.
“Although,” he said as he took a seat – beside Harry on the couch this time, and Harry’s eyes couldn’t help but flick over to the armchair he’d sat in last time. “If I knew that about you, then I should have known you wouldn’t react well to being treated like a normal person.”
Harry barked a laugh, too amused to be offended. “What do you mean?”
“I am a very respectable person these days, Potter!”
When Harry laughed and looked skeptical, Draco rolled his eyes and made an amendment.
“Alright, if not totally respectable, I am at least a boring person these days.” And that was also not true, but Harry let it slide. Draco whined, “I keep to myself and I’m polite to everyone. But then you come in! And are you content to be treated politely? No! You’re not! You throw a fit about it and start bringing in dead body parts and cats, and despite how hard I try to maintain some decency, the next thing I know I’m acting like I’m fourteen years old again! Thinking everything is a challenge, thinking every fight is a good idea, and coming in my pants!”
Thoughtful, Harry tilted his head to one side. “Did you do that often as a fourteen year old?”
Haughtily, Draco lifted his nose and said, “No more than any other fourteen year old boy.”
“Yeah, well. I’m not going to apologize for disrupting your peaceful existence. You’re much more fun when you fight back.” Harry grinned at the satisfied smile Draco tried to hide. “I am glad I started coming here, though.”
“Me too. You’ve brought me loads of good business.” He rolled his eyes and added, “And your visits have added some excitement to my days.”
They shared a look and a smile that sizzled more the longer it held.
Draco broke the moment. “Alright, Potter. Drink your tea, shut up, and let me work.”
Harry was happy to.
It did take a while for him to sort through the jewelry pieces. He cast charms to confirm the materials and quality, inspected them for maker’s marks, and studied the patterns to determine their ages. Several, he sneered at. One, he picked up and then dropped again as if it had burned him.
All the while, they chatted lightly and Draco explained what he was doing, but it was quiet and easy.
The necklace was near the bottom of the box, one of the last things Draco would inspect. As he neared it, Harry’s nerves jangled until he could barely think.
Carefully, Draco lifted the necklace from the box and let it hang in front of his eyes.
This necklace, a delicate silver chain with a thin charm, a silver and mother of pearl seashell with scalloped edges, had been borrowed from Mrs. Weasley. It had been a courting gift given from her grandfather to her grandmother, and it had a romantic message printed on the back. Hermione had ranked it only a four out of ten on the M-SOP scale, but they’d decided to try this one first, since it was easiest to obtain. Harry was determined to make it work.
“Pretty,” Malfoy said lightly, his eyes sharp and curious.
“Yeah, I liked that one. It didn’t feel like it matched the rest of the stuff.”
“No, not all,” Malfoy agreed. With a glance over at the jewelry laid out on the coffee table, all of it ornate and gaudy and dripping with dark red and black jewels, he said, “It’s much simpler than any of the other pieces. You have several very valuable pieces, here, by the way. I’d like to buy a few of them from you, and there are two others I think would be a good fit for a collector I know, if you’d allow me to facilitate a private sale. Those,” He pointed at two necklaces on the far end of the table, one of them the gold bejeweled monstrosity he’d dropped right away. “Are cursed. Not sure what one of them does, but the other, I know would take the head right off of anyone who put it on.”
“Yes, quite. I’ll send those off to a curse breaker for you and have them destroyed. This, though…” He inspected the little shell necklace again. “This has a very different energy. It’s much nicer.”
Time to make a move.
Harry scooted a little closer to Draco and gestured for him to turn over the charm. “There was something inscribed in runes on the back of that one. I don’t know what it says though. I never took Ancient Runes.”
Harry knew he did.
Draco accioed a little brass magnifying glass out of the drawer and fitted the contraption to his eye. Harry tried not to find the look too endearing and failed.
“It says…Though we part, my love, I shall always return to you, as the tide comes home to the shore. Oh, and there’s a charm on it, too! A sort of locator spell. I imagine this would have been part of a matched set. They each would have had one, and they could use it to find each other.”
“It’s beautiful,” Draco said simply. “I could do a resonance reading on this, if you’d like to know more.”
“No,” Harry said quickly. That was not the right direction for this conversation. The memories on the necklace were not happy ones; it was the message of love that he was supposed to focus on. Harry reached out to still Draco’s hand and brushed their fingers together. Draco looked at him, confused. As explanation, Harry shrugged a little and asked, “If it’s a set, where’s the other piece? Why aren’t they together?”
Draco’s face barely showed a reaction, but his eyes tightened and he understood. “That was insightful, Potter. You’d prefer to imagine a happy ending?”
“No. I always prefer to know.”
Harry smiled a little, and though he didn’t know why, though he knew it would darken the afternoon, he said, “Alright. Go on then.”
Harry watched as Draco cast the spell and held the charm in the palm of his hand. After a moment, he said, “A young sailor gave this to his wife, and he wore a ring that matched. Every time he had to leave her ashore with the children, she’d cling to this and call him home, and he’d always come back. One day, there was a terrible storm and his ship went down. The word in town was that everyone was lost at sea, and she wept, devastated to lose the love of her life.” So far, all was true. Harry already knew the story of Molly’s grandparents, how her grandfather had died long before Molly ever got a chance to meet him.
But here in the story, Draco paused and drew in a deep breath. “But little did she know, he had survived. He clung to a piece of driftwood and floated for three days and nights on the open sea. He grew thin and cold, so much so that the ring slipped right off his finger and got lost in the dark water. But he made it back. He crawled ashore and went home to her. True love prevailed.”
Shocked, Harry stared at him. The real end of the story was not so hopeful, and both of them knew it. There had been no miraculous reunion for the couple. But Harry had said he preferred the happy ending, so Draco had made one up for him. Why?
Simply, not accusing, but a bit awed, Harry said, “You’re lying.”
Draco held his gaze, his eyes intense and stormy gray, his face smooth and unknowable. He quirked an eyebrow. “Often.”
“Thank you,” Harry said, because nothing else seemed to fit.
Draco nodded and passed the charm back to Harry. “You should keep that one.”
“Yeah.” Harry stared down at the necklace and wondered what he had gotten himself into, what had managed to grow between them in an afternoon that had not gone how he had planned. Better in some ways, more authentic. Worse in others, less controlled. To at least try to get back on track with the flirting and seduction he was supposed to be playing, and because it felt right for the moment they’d somehow made together, Harry asked, “Do you believe in stuff like that? True love? Happy endings?”
Surprised, Draco laughed, a clear bell that cut through the heavy tension. “You are in rare form today! We’ve talked about the war, my motives…please, ask me about my father, why don’t you!”
Harry laughed along but wouldn’t look away or change the subject.
It didn’t take long for Draco to relent. “Yes. I do.” He watched Harry’s face for a reaction and then said, “You look surprised.”
“I guess I just thought you’d be more cynical. After everything you’ve been through, it would have been easy to stop believing in stuff like that.”
Mouth quirked with a funny little smile, Draco shook his head. “No, Potter, I haven’t given up on love.”
“Good,” Harry said, his voice thick and intense. Slowly, he reached out and brushed the backs of his knuckles over Draco’s shoulder, the touch light and fleeting, and just enough to lure Draco in. Surprised, unsure, he looked up. They locked eyes and Harry held the silver gaze, let the moment intensify and build and ripen. His eyes dipped down to glance at Draco’s mouth, and as Harry’s eyes brushed over them, as if reacting to a caress, Draco’s lips parted. Harry gave him an aching, hungry look, a tiny smile that was all promises and secrets. All of Draco tensed at the sudden, electric shift, and his bottom lip trembled. Harry murmured, “I’m glad to hear that.”
Draco was able to handle the intensity between them for only another few seconds before he wrenched his eyes away and sighed, his neck pink, his chest rising and falling with quick, unsteady breaths.
And Harry’s heart soared with jubilation and with fear, because he’d never known the scope of what could be between them was so massive. Today he’d glimpsed a universe of maybes he’d never seen before. Harry knew in that moment that though much of this visit had not gone as planned, he had won the round. The game was back on.
The game was a stupid idea.
Harry was losing. He hated losing!
It had started off so well! But Harry did not realize until his next visit to the shop that he had overplayed his hand. He should have expected better from the Slytherin Prince, should have known not to underestimate him, but Harry had felt so confident, he’d never expected that Draco would catch on to his new intentions so quickly. He also did not expect that Draco would do everything in his power to string Harry along, challenge his every move, and win every round of the game.
The first visit had gone beautifully. There was real connection, there was passion, there was a spark of something brilliant.
The next few visits, once Draco caught on, did not go so well at all.
Face to face at the counter, Harry laughed and chatted with Draco as he pulled out one of the last items in the box. This, an antique clock that Hermione had managed to track down and borrow from one of her co-workers in the Wizengamot, had an M-SOP value of seven out of ten, ranked highly for playful attributes as well as antique rarity. Rather than telling time, the clock measured attraction between two people. Harry’s hopes and confidence were high.
“Hmm…” Malfoy raised both eyebrows, appraising but not reacting much.
It was a valuable piece, and in nice condition. All Harry needed was an opportunity to “test it out”, and to let the blushing commence when it announced they were mad for each other.
But then Malfoy discarded the clock into the second, maybe valuable pile. “Silly piece of junk. Bit of a novelty, though. Could probably get some money for it.”
He reached into the box for another item while Harry’s plans all caught fire and smashed to pieces.
What? No! No, no, no, he couldn’t just—
But Harry couldn’t say too much either, couldn’t make a fuss! He wasn’t supposed to know anything about it!
“Why, what is it?” Harry managed to squeak out before Draco could fully move on to something else.
“A Matchmaking Clock. Popular entertainment at high society parties during the Edwardian era.”
“Oh?” Harry asked. Okay. This was good. Getting back on track. “What sort of entertainment?”
“Just a silly party game. Two people would hold onto these handles on the sides and an enchantment in the clock would reveal whether or not the couple harbored hidden feelings for each other.” He scoffed and rolled his eyes. “But they’re all rigged to always indicate attraction, so the ladies could giggle over their paramours, and the men could use the pretty lies as an excuse to bed women without proper courtship. Terribly heteronormative.”
Dammit, he was slipping again. “It can’t always indicate attraction, though,” Harry argued. “It would have to change things up sometimes, or else everyone would catch on that it was fake.”
Draco smirked at him in challenge. “Go on then. Take one of the handles.”
It was exactly what Harry had wanted, but he had a foreboding feeling that he had lost control of the situation and that Draco had firmly gained it. Palm sweaty, he took hold of the copper handle.
Exactly as planned, Draco took the other.
Exactly the opposite of planned, the look on Draco’s face was smug and predatory.
The handles on the clock whirled and spun with a buzzing click. Harry gulped.
When the spinning stopped, shimmering letters appeared on the face in red script: True Love.
It wasn’t too late. Harry could still make this work. He smiled, crooked and charming. “Clock says you’re in love with me.”
“Indeed it does.” Draco held eye contact too long and Harry’s mouth went dry. “Now watch.” He accioed something from the back room and it zoomed into his grasp. The object was small and gray, hooked to a green ribbon and jingle bell, and…
“Why do you still have the house elf hand ornaments?”
Draco shuddered. “Haven’t had a chance to dispose of them yet. But now I’m glad of it. Here.” He placed the dried out little hand on the counter so its brittle fingers rested on the handle of the clock. Then he crossed his own arms over his chest and took a step back. “Go on, then.”
With a dark anticipation that brutal defeat was on his horizon, Harry touched the handle. The clock spun. And then the words floated to the face: True Love!
Draco’s smirk was masterful. “Clock says you’re in love with the house elf hand.”
“Yep. Point taken.”
They finished the appraisal and transaction. As Draco packaged up the things going home with Harry, he plucked the stray house elf hand ornament off the counter and plopped it back into Harry’s box. “I wish the two of you every happiness.”
Son of a…
That round handily – awful pun intended – went to Malfoy.
So did the next round. And the one after that.
Harry was off to an extremely promising start this time. He and Draco had chatted and laughed together for a while before the appraising even began, and there had even been a bit of light flirting – from both sides! There was interest between them, definite spark, and the more time they spent together, the more they talked and got to know one another. Now if only Harry could get Draco to admit it and give in first!
After an offer of tea, they’d ended up on the couch in the back, talking and laughing and flirting and making an awful lot of eye contact while Draco worked his way through the box.
When he pulled out the surprise of the day, Harry started to sweat. He and his team had put a lot of work into this one. Luna had gone to great lengths to get ahold of it for him, and Hermione ranked this item as an M-SOP eight, high likelihood of seduction. The antique was valuable and rare, it had a sensual meaning, and when Harry got Draco to perform a resonance reading on it he would see memories of a great romance. It was perfect.
He was nervous.
Draco peered at the unassuming little porcelain plate, printed with an erotic poem. His eyes narrowed. He flipped it over to inspect the back.
And then placed it squarely in the reject pile.
Harry’s entire digestive track threatened to heave itself out through his mouth in surrender. Why? No! Why?!
“What was wrong with that one?”
“Counterfeit,” Draco said simply. He offered no other details, no explanation, absolutely nothing Harry could grab onto and build from. Instead, he picked up the next item and scanned it. And then the next. He looked serene, smiling faintly as he had all day by Harry’s side, so unaffected that Harry honestly couldn’t tell if the move to destroy Harry’s plan had been intentional or not.
“Anyway, as I was saying, the best place to go for…” Draco tried to pick their conversation back up, but stopped himself when he glanced at Harry. His face fell. “Are you quite alright? You look a bit pale.”
And the concern was so gentle, so honest, Harry knew the move couldn’t have been an intentional power play. They’d shared a wonderful afternoon, so this definitely was not a complete loss. Harry shook off his frustration and flashed a smile. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a bit tired. What were you saying?”
Draco smiled back and continued and they went right on talking and flirting and having a lovely day, abject failure notwithstanding.
As Harry gathered up his things to head home, Draco followed him to the door. He had enjoyed their afternoon together so much that his cheeks ached from smiling, and he knew Draco felt the same. He didn’t want to leave.
A brush of Draco’s hand on his wrist stopped him on the way out. “I’ll see you soon,” Draco murmured. His eyes were soft and brightly burning as he gazed at Harry, and the small smile on his lips was hopeful and shy and perfect, the beginning of something. His eyes flicked down to Harry’s mouth and then back up. Voice soft, a purr of a whisper, he said, “Harry.”
A goofy grin burst across Harry’s face, and he knew the tenderness he felt radiated off of him. After a long decade of nothing but last names and insults, to finally hear his given name caught on a breath between Draco’s lips for the very first time was a precious gift.
In a daze, floating on unicorn clouds, Harry left the shop, left Draco, and started up the street.
Draco had called him Harry.
Draco had said his name!
Draco had said his name.
Draco…had said his name?
Harry’s grin died a sudden, shocking death and so did most of the moment’s joy.
“Son of a bitch! That sneaky little bastard!” Harry hissed to himself as he stomped up the street.
It was a move! A power play! A counter against Harry! Because for the two of them, first names were a big, huge river to cross, and dammit, Harry had planned to be the first one to cross it! Shocking Draco by calling him Draco had been in Harry’s seduction plans, but Draco had edged him out! And considering how giddy and stupidly happy Harry had been about it, he’d nearly fallen face first into Draco’s trap.
Oh, and he was willing to bet every galleon in his Gringotts account that the plate wasn’t counterfeit after all. Malfoy had tricked him and then gone for the throat.
Harry needed a big move and he needed it soon. Because things were heating up between him and Draco, both of them obviously interested in something more. One of them would break and give in to the strange, brilliant thing building between them, and Harry was determined that he would not be first.
He would dive in face first immediately after, of course, and would get his hands and mouth and other things on every sneaky, conniving inch of the little bastard. But he knew he could get Draco to snap.
Determined and on-edge, Harry marched into Fine Collectibles and Antiques once more. No box this time. No other nonsense to hide behind. Just one perfect ten out of ten on the M-SOP scale antique, replete with maximum seduction potential and relevant romantic history. The gold and silver chalice he clutched in one fist had been nearly impossible to obtain, and the decision to go after it had led to more than one fight amongst the team, but they had pulled together and gotten ahold of it against impossible odds.
Now, Harry was going to use it to seduce Malfoy against what felt like those same odds, or he was going to give up on everything and walk headlong into the sea.
“Hi!” Malfoy smiled brightly in greeting, but the look quickly faltered when he saw the tense set of Harry’s jaw, the thin line of his mouth. “Everything alright?”
“I need you to appraise this.” Harry slammed the butt of the chalice onto the counter. “And do a resonance reading.”
Draco looked taken aback, maybe even a little afraid, but he said, “Alright.”
With careful hands and a series of murmured charms, Draco inspected the beautiful, elegant cup and found exactly what he was supposed to find. “The materials are authentic silver and gold. Extremely high quality. And exceptionally rare. The detailing in the filigree of the stem is extraordinary. As for the date…” He cast another charm and looked surprised when it completed. “This was crafted in the 1420’s, I believe. Where did you--?”
“What about the writing on the top? What does it say?”
Draco paused and eyed Harry, tentative and concerned. Harry made an effort to soften his features.
“It’s in Latin,” Draco said. The cup was primarily a gleaming, cool silver, with detailing at the base and a thin ring around the lip done in gold. The gold ring was carved with an inscription, which Draco translated. “Beat of my heart. Fire of my body. Friend of my soul.”
Draco stared into Harry’s eyes for a long, uncertain moment before breaking away. “My guess is wedding vows. A chalice like this might be used for religious ceremonies or for weddings. The words here are personal, intimate, sexual. So…romantic, not religious.”
“Do the resonance reading.”
Harry must have really thrown Draco off balance, because he didn’t argue or ask questions, didn’t even ask to move the reading into the back room. He pulled out his wand and cast the spell where they stood.
Eyes closed, he touched the cup and reached for the memories.
They worked their way through him, and Harry saw the ghosts of bliss and pain and love play out on the features of Draco’s face.
Harry had read the story behind this chalice and had felt moved by it, connected to it. For Draco to see the memories, to feel the sensations, must have been powerful.
Draco drew in a shaky breath and shared the memory in an emotion-filled whisper. “Two wizards. From rival families, who had been enemies for a very long time. As boys, they had hated each other. But they met back up again as young men, and everything changed. They fell in love. And it was awful, because their families were locked in a blood feud and had just raised banner men against each other for a war. Both of them were expected to fight, to face each other on the field of battle.” Draco’s breathing hitched and he pressed a hand to his mouth to keep the emotion in.
This was hitting him hard, right in the place where he carried all of his hopes and regrets, his past and his future. Watching Draco, Harry felt it to, and his vision blurred. He felt the connection to those two wizards, who were so like them so long ago, to Draco and himself as children, to the men they’d now become. All of it looped and tied together. The familiar threads in the story tugged at echoes in them both and set them thrumming with recognition.
Draco cleared his throat and went on. “They couldn’t bear it, couldn’t bear the thought of losing each other, or of hurting each other. So they refused. They snuck into a moonlit grove, the night before the day their fathers declared the world must end. It was just the two of them and a million bright stars to witness. They married. They cast a bonding spell to tie their lives to one another, drank wine from this chalice, and then made love on the cold forest floor to seal the ceremony. The next morning, at dawn, they walked out into the no-mans-land between the armies and demanded their fathers negotiate peace. It could have gone so badly. They were both so afraid, but held each other by the hand all the while and stayed true to their aim. And by the end of the day, the war was done. The families were united. History was changed, all because they were brave enough to love each other.”
Overwhelmed, Draco set the cup back on the counter and drew in a long breath. His eyes were wet and soft. “Harry?”
A question. A thousand questions. All of which, Harry wanted to learn how to answer. “Draco.”
Draco looked up and met Harry’s gaze. Raw, honest feeling flowed between them. No games. The message had come through loud and clear. Connection, roots, meaning. Past, present, future. “I--”
“Harry, shut up and kiss me.”
In half a heartbeat, Harry leapt over the counter that divided them, sending the priceless chalice clattering to the ground. His hands were on Draco, and then his mouth was on Draco, and nothing else mattered.
That mouth. Fuck, those lips were every bit as perfect as Harry imagined they would be. They collided gently and pressed together, Draco’s fists clutching at the fabric of Harry’s shirt, while Harry’s hands slid to cup Draco’s face. Crushing and soft, their noses squashed together, for a moment the kiss was nothing more than a firm press of mouth against mouth, of shaky, unbelieving breath shared against each other’s faces. Harry trembled with the rush of emotion that flooded him.
But then Draco shifted against him. Ever so slightly, he parted his lips, and Harry came alive at the touch. They kissed and let it deepen, let their tongues explore each other, and Harry stepped in closer, closer, closer still, until Draco was backed up against the wall.
Draco moaned into Harry’s mouth and rocked his hips forward.
“Oh, fuck, Draco.” Harry slotted a thigh between Draco’s legs and moaned as their erections pressed together through the fabric of their trousers. When Draco’s mouth fell open against his, Harry sucked that lush, pink bottom lip and nibbled on it until Draco groaned and bucked his hips. Their tongues slid together, teasing each other, and Draco’s fingers twisted into Harry’s hair.
“Harry! Oh!” Draco’s moan was high and throaty, his kisses quick and biting. His whole body rolled as he rubbed himself again and again against Harry’s thigh, shamelessly chasing pleasure, and Harry pressed his own erection forward in deep thrusts, but also shifted his leg to give Draco a better angle to rut against. “Harry, you stupid--” Another kiss. “Fucking idiot. Why--?” Kiss. A flash of tongues. “Couldn’t you just ask me out--” A kiss, deeper, and a moan as Harry sucked on his tongue. “Like a normal person?”
Harry moved from Draco’s mouth to press hot, open kisses along his jaw line and down his neck. Panting against his skin, Harry asked, “Draco? Would you like to go on a date with me?”
“Yes!” The yes turned into a long moan as Harry sucked at the pulse point on Draco’s throat. “Yes, you fucking lunatic, you--”
The little bell over the door jingled.
“Shit!” Draco slid down the wall and tumbled out of Harry’s arms before Harry could even process the sound. With his hair wrecked, his tie askew, his shirt untucked, his neck flushed, and his mouth pink and swollen, Draco threw himself into place at the counter and screeched, “Welcome to Fine Collectibles and Antiques!”
The poor customer blinked, taken aback by the overly enthusiastic greeting from an antiques purveyor who looked to have been quite thoroughly and recently kissed. She said, “Thank you,” before making her way into one of the aisles to browse.
Harry snorted a laugh. Draco slumped, but then looked at Harry and his shoulders started to shake with laughter too. “You absolute git. Look what you made me do!”
“Me?” Harry pretended to be offended. “You were the one who told me to kiss you!”
“I did no such thing. Now get out of my shop, you nuisance.” Draco grinned. “Meet me here at seven thirty.”
Before leaving, Harry swooped in and stole one more quick, luscious kiss. Draco melted against him. When they broke apart, Harry whispered, “See you tonight.”
Out of the shop, he practically ran down the street, too excited to walk, because finally, finally, finally! He had kissed Draco Malfoy! And they were going on a date! Finally, something felt right! Finally, he had accomplished something! This date had to go well. It had to be perfect. Because, however all this madness had started off, the more Harry spent time with Draco, the more it felt like new roots growing.
In the six hours between when Draco sent him away and when their date would begin, Harry hadn’t be able to stand still. Antsy and excited, he’d rushed to tell all of his friends, then rushed to shower and shave and dress, and then rushed to sit around and panic, waiting until it was time.
But when he walked back into Fine Collectibles and Antiques that evening, all of the panicking faded away, all of the shaky, jittery tension stilled. He took one look at Draco, all focused and put together as he stood behind the counter and closed up the till, and felt calm.
“Just a second, sorry, almost done, just have to count all of this out…” Draco didn’t look up at him as he murmured the unfocused greeting. His hands quickly stacked and counted galleons into little piles on the counter, but a slow smile widened on his face and he looked up in spite of himself. He grinned at Harry, bright and sappy. “Hi.”
Harry grinned back. “Hi.”
“Ugh.” Draco rolled his eyes and pressed a hand to his face, still smiling. “Hold on. You made me lose count. I have to do it all again. Go flip that sign to closed, would you?”
Laughing, Harry did, and then stood quietly by the counter in his normal spot.
Draco had really lovely hands – fine boned, with long, quick fingers. Harry stared at them while they worked.
It took another minute for Draco to count again, jot down a few notes, fill out a Gringotts deposit slip, and then drop the coins into a bank-linked safe. He locked the safe, then the till, and then looked around as if flustered and possibly forgetting something before he decided all was well. He looked up at Harry. “Okay. For real this time. Hi.”
Harry leaned across the counter and kissed him. “Hi.”
Starry eyed and dazed when they broke apart, Draco blinked. “Hi.”
Harry cracked up laughing. “You said that already. More than once.”
“Oh, shut up.” Draco waved him away and stepped to the other side of the counter.
Harry stopped him. “Wait! Real quick, I have something I was hoping you could take a look at.” He pulled the badge he had found in his old school trunk from Sirius’ jacket – his jacket – and offered it to Draco. “I found this collectible. I was hoping you could appraise it for me.”
“Hmmm…” Draco’s eyes widened and he bit and hollowed out the insides of his cheeks in an attempt to hide his surprised smile as he stared down at the familiar badge. In angry green letters, the message Potter Stinks shone up at him. He nodded, happy to play along with Harry’s game. “This is a very fine collectible. It shows extraordinary craftsmanship and charm work. The artist must have been quite exceptional. I’d dare say he stayed up all night working on this.”
“Did he?” Harry grinned, fond and cheeky. “I’d dare say he was a giant fucking nerd.”
Smirking, Draco eyed Harry and cocked his head in challenge. “I’d appraise this at ten million galleons.”
Harry laughed and pocketed the badge while Draco led them out of the shop and spelled the door locked. Out on the street in the soft evening light, Draco looked Harry up and down. “I like that jacket on you. Suits you.”
When Harry had dressed for the date, he’d gone casual – nice jeans and a fitted burgundy t-shirt. The jacket had been a last minute addition, and he was glad of it. They both knew the meaning behind it. “Thanks.”
“So where are you taking me?”
“Oh.” Harry grimaced and admitted, “I hadn’t actually thought that far ahead.”
Laughing, Draco scoffed. “No, of course you didn’t. You were too busy with all of your weird scheming.”
“Oh, you liked it.”
“Yeah, it was kind of fun.” Draco grabbed his arm and pulled him up the street. “Come on, then.”
Harry followed along, smile muscles hurting.
Draco took them to a cozy little Italian place, away from the Diagon Alley core and crowds. Not too fancy, the little restaurant had a row of red vinyl booths, music playing over the wireless, fresh flowers and a lit candle on each table. It was perfect, and when Draco looked questioningly at Harry for his approval, he said so.
When they sat down across from each other, menus in hand, Harry couldn’t help but stare. And stare. A fond, wild, disbelieving smile slowly crept up his face.
Draco glanced at him and gave him a look, the sort that insisted, you’re weird, but I rather like you anyway, and Harry chuckled.
“Is that something you’re going to do often?” Draco asked as he flipped open the menu. “Stare at my face and burst into laughter?”
“Sorry. I just can’t quite believe this is happening. It seems unreal. I mean, can you imagine what our eleven year old selves would say if they could see us now?”
Softly, sweetly, Draco smiled. He hesitated for a second, but then reached across the table and wrapped his fingers around Harry’s hand. He looked down at the menu. “I think eleven year old Draco would have been very pleased to know we would end up as friends.”
All of the years stretched between them for a moment, bittersweet that through everything they should end up here, like this.
It was a perfect dinner. Draco ordered them a bottle of wine to share, and they talked and laughed over plates of pasta. During several weeks’ worth of visits, they’d grown more adept at talking to each other, and though silent pauses in the conversation throbbed with the strangeness of new possibility, they were mostly at ease. Both knew to avoid certain topics: Draco’s father, Harry’s lack of job and proper home. But other things, they could talk about for hours. Teddy was a favorite topic. Draco had grown close to his aunt and cousin over the past year, and his eyes were brilliant bright as he told Harry the story of the time he’d taken Teddy to visit a muggle zoo – a first for both of them. It struck a sad, lonely note in Harry to hear it, to think about the moments he had missed with his godson. With Draco.
But they were all here now. There would be more stories to make like that.
They shared a dessert, something rich and chocolatey, and walked back out onto the dark street. Under the golden light of a street lamp, Draco paused, glanced side to side to ensure they were alone, and pulled Harry in for a slow, sensual kiss.
They broke apart, Harry panting and dazed, and Draco rested his hands on Harry’s waist to hold him close. In a deep murmur, Draco asked, “Would you be interested in going somewhere more private to continue what we started earlier?”
Slowly, Harry kissed along Draco’s neck until he felt Draco’s chest lift with quick, panting breaths. “Yes. I would.”
“Should we go to yours, then?” The question came out shaky and breathy, distracted. “We’ve spent all of our time together so far at my shop. I’d like to see…”
“No.” Sick, gurgling panic rose up in Harry at the thought of bringing Draco back to his house. Ivory and moonlight and quicksilver eyes and all the other fine, precious things that made up Draco Malfoy had no business in the rotten, decaying corpse of Grimmauld Place. Thoughts haunted him of Draco sleeping in his cold bedroom listening to the pipes clang and the walls groan all night, of him showering the next morning in the grimy tub with the mildew stains and freezing water. No. No, that was awful. That wasn’t what Harry wanted to give him, wanted to share. Horrified by the idea, he pushed away from Draco a little. “No, sorry. I’d really rather not.”
Hurt and confusion flashed across Draco’s face, visible in a little twitch of his eyes, a slight downward turn of his mouth, but he schooled his features in an instant. “Alright.”
Harry’s throat tightened. “Sorry.” How could he explain all of his twisted, complicated feelings about Grimmauld Place? “It’s just not much to see, really.”
“Let’s go back to mine, then.”
Harry was so pleased to be walking beside Draco, to be heading back to his flat, that he didn’t even realize where they were going until they were outside the front door. Fine Collectibles and Antiques. “You live in the shop?”
Draco rolled his eyes. “I live above the shop. Obviously.”
Even in the dark, the shop was friendly and warm, all of the antiques settled in for a peaceful night. Draco led him into the back room, then through a door and up a narrow flight of stairs. At the top, he charmed on the lights and stepped aside to let Harry through. “Home sweet home.”
The flat was a small studio, old and a bit worn but with some charm, dull wood floors and exposed red brick along one wall. Draco had maximized the space and tastefully arranged the furniture: the bed with simple wrought iron posts, the small café table and chairs in the kitchenette, one bookshelf with neat rows of hardcovers. It was clean and inviting. And a bit plain. There was nothing about the space that felt like Draco. It had none of his wit, none of his refinement, none of his nostalgia. None of his Draco-ness.
“Nice place,” Harry said while Draco dropped his wand and wallet onto the counter.
“It’s alright.” He shrugged and his lip curled in a sneer. “I never intended to stay here permanently. It’s always felt a bit transitory, so I never bothered to decorate.”
Rather than continue this line of conversation, which Harry could relate to well, he smirked and approached Draco slowly. “I like it when you use big words, like transitory.”
Draco hummed a noncommittal noise and smirked back. “Does it impress your Neanderthalian brain?”
Harry groaned and wrapped his arms around Draco’s waist. “Oh, good one.”
Both of them laughed into the kiss that followed. Slow and caramel sweet, their lips met and sucked and released and then met again. The strands of Draco’s hair were baby fine and slipped through Harry’s fingers. Merlin, kissing Draco was incredible. It was his favorite thing. And now, they’d finally get to finish what they’d started that afternoon. Harry flicked the tip of his tongue along Draco’s lower lip, a question, and Draco answered by opening to him and letting him in his mouth. They both moaned, drowsy little sounds of deep contentment, and…
And then Draco pulled away.
He pressed one last quick kiss to Harry’s eager mouth, and then stepped back. “Wine?”
“Sure,” Harry gasped, his chest heaving like he’d just flown a quidditch match. They had waited all day! He’d thought they’d go at each other right away. But taking it slow was good too, and the pressure in his jeans swelled even more at the thought of sitting with Draco, watching the red wine stain his lips, letting the tension grow. That was better than good.
Draco handed him a glass and gestured for him to sit on the little cream-colored settee that separated the kitchen space from the foot of the bed. Beside him, Draco relaxed and moved close so their legs were pressed together comfortably.
“Don’t let me forget to give that back to you.” Draco pointed across the room with his wineglass. The priceless, irreplaceable antique silver and gold chalice, which Harry had promptly thrown on the floor and forgotten about as soon as kissing was mentioned, sat on the counter, next to a canister and the knife block. “You forgot it when you left earlier. I didn’t want to leave it in the shop. It’s far too precious.”
“Thank you.” Draco lifted his glass in mock toast and took a sip. “For bringing it to me, I mean. For letting me examine it. The memories on it…the story…it was beautiful.”
“I thought you might connect with that. I know I did. As soon as I learned the story, I thought of you. Those two wizards lived so long ago, in a completely different world. But still, they were so much like us. Rival families, trapped on opposite sides of a war…” Harry sniffed and shook off the line of thought. “Anyway. I’m glad you appreciated it.”
“Where did you even get it anyway?” He shook his head and pulled one leg up under him. Laughing, he said, “Wait, no. Start at the beginning. Where did you get all the romantic things you kept bringing me?”
Harry laughed and blushed and hung his head. He told Draco the whole ridiculous tale, about how his friends helped him track down promising antiques and borrow them. Draco had blushed red and looked mortified, but also threw his head back laughing when he found out that all of Harry’s friends had been in on the plot. One by one, Harry talked through how he’d gotten each of the antiques, and why, and Draco explained his own side of things, how he’d caught on to the plan and thwarted Harry every chance he got.
“So.” Draco had curled up beside him on the couch, his knees nearly on Harry’s lap. “How did you get that chalice?”
“Uhhh…” Harry looked away and laughed a little bit. That was a complicated story. “Ron got that one, actually.”
“So someone you knew there had it, or…”
“No, not exactly. It was kind of…” This wasn’t easy to explain. It was too absurd, and Harry didn’t want to sound like he was showing off. “Well, see, Hermione first found mention of it in an old book about same-sex wizarding couples throughout history. The story felt so perfect and reminded me so much of us, we had to try to track down the chalice. And we found it. In the Department of Mysteries.”
Draco blinked. “The Department of Mysteries? What kind of strings did you have to pull to get them to hand it over? Don’t tell me you had to sleep with the staff. Or—wait, no, I know. You walked in and said, Hi, I’m Harry Potter?”
“No. It was just sitting in one of their storage facilities, so…Ron borrowed my invisibility cloak and snuck in and…” The sneaking in had actually been much more difficult than Harry was making it out to be. Ron had practically performed a world class heist. “He took it.”
All of the light and amusement drained out of Draco’s face and he stared hard at Harry. “He took…” His mouth fell open and he looked over at the chalice. “Is that…is that stolen? Did you steal that? From the Department of Mysteries?”
“Well…yeah, but it’s not that big of a deal. We’re going to put it back,” Harry said, defensive, even though he wasn’t so sure that was the truth. It seemed a greater crime to leave something so beautiful, so meaningful, sitting dusty and forgotten in a Ministry closet.
Draco glared at him, bewildered. “What the fuck, Potter?”
No, no, no.
The sharp, clipped sound of his last name snapping from Draco’s mouth was a punch to the gut. He had to fix this. He didn’t know how to fix it. “Draco, I--”
But Draco was already up off the couch. Frantic, he crossed the room and stared at the chalice, his eyes wide and a fist pressed to his mouth. “Do they know that it’s gone? Does it have a tracking spell on it?”
“Draco, no.” Harry stood up too. “They’re not tracking it. It had been locked away for years!”
“But did you check? You didn’t! Did you?” Draco whirled on him. His cheeks and neck flushed pink. Not in a good way. Harry had watched that flush color Draco’s skin dozens of times and knew that pink was the color of his embarrassment, his amusement, his arousal. And his anger, he now knew. It was an awful discovery. “Son of a bitch, Harry! I’m an antiques dealer! What do you think would have happened if someone found out I had that here? At best, it would have looked like I was trafficking in stolen artifacts!”
“Fuck,” Harry whispered. It felt like everything in his body sank to the floor in dread and horror. “Fuck. I’m sorry. I didn’t--”
“I’m still on probation!” Draco shouted. “I could lose my business license! I could get thrown in Azkaban!”
“Draco, that’s not going to happen.” Harry reached for him. “Even if someone found out, you know I wouldn’t let that happen.”
Draco flinched and backed away from him a step, his hands flying up in a defensive, back off gesture. He refused to look at Harry and instead stared wide, angry, and damp-eyed at the floor.
Inside, Harry crumbled.
He watched helplessly as Draco scrunched his eyes shut and bit his lip in a desperate fight to push down his emotions, to hide them from view. When that didn’t work, he covered his face with his hands and sucked in a few deep breaths. In a strained, hissing whisper, he asked, “Why couldn’t you just ask me out like a normal fucking person?”
A chunk of Harry broke off and died on the floor. All of the broken, lost pieces he’d been trying to find and fit together crumpled apart and scattered, and he stood there, more lost than he had felt in years.
Why? Why had he done this? Why had it gone so badly?
Because he was broken. Because he couldn’t do anything right anymore. Because he couldn’t break the habit of burning things down for his own amusement.
Harry tried to apologize, said, “I’m--”
“No.” Draco cut him off. He wouldn’t look Harry in the eye. “I need you to leave. I need you to take your stolen goods and get out of here. Please. Go.”
So without another word, without so much as another look, Harry went.
Back to Grimmauld Place.
As he stepped through the floo and into the parlor, the sadness and rage hit Harry all at once. He roared his anger out, harsh and ragged, and threw the damned chalice across the room. The heavy cup clanged against the wall and clattered with a loud metallic echo, and it rolled across the floor.
No, no, no, that was wrong! What had he done? He rushed to pick up the precious cup, the symbol of love from two wizards who had reached out through time and touched him, who had, for a brief while, made him feel known and connected and part of something. He had failed them, had failed their legacy, but the chalice didn’t deserve any further desecration. Carefully, as if apologizing, he set the cup on a table and took a step back. He sniffed and rubbed at his eyes.
He was still angry, still hurting.
What he really wanted to take it out on was this stupid, horrible house. He wanted to burn it to the fucking ground, rather than sleep in it one more lonesome night.
He needed to get out. Needed to get out before he did something foolish. Something else foolish.
Before he could think it through or stop himself, he threw a handful of powder into the fireplace and shouted for Luna.
“Harry?” she asked. “What’s wrong?”
“Could I come through, please?”
She must have heard the sorrow and pain in his voice, because she stepped back immediately and asked no questions. Or maybe that was just Luna being Luna. She never asked questions before offering help.
He tumbled through the other side of the floo and spilled onto the rug in front of her hearth. As he stood up and dusted the ash off his good jeans, Luna waited across the room. She stared at him, her blue eyes wide and searching and worried. He stared back, saying nothing. And then it all came rushing up and he fought to keep the emotion down. Sympathetic and sweet, Luna rushed to him and pulled him into a hug. Honeysuckle flooded his senses as he sniffled into her nightgown, and she ran her fingers through his hair. “I fucked it up.”
“Come on. Come sit.” She pulled him into the colorful, mismatched living room. One of the floating ceiling plants reached down to brush his ear in gentle greeting. He sat down on the couch and Luna threw a knitted patchwork blanket around his shoulders.
The cottage was quiet and still. “Where’s Ginny?”
“She’s playing an away game tomorrow. They’re staying near the other stadium tonight.” She settled in on the couch next to him and scooted in close. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“I fucked it up,” Harry said again and sighed. He explained everything that had happened, every disastrous detail, and Luna rested her head on his shoulder and listened. “Fuck. Why am I like this, Luna? I feel so fucking lost. I thought things were going to be better. I’m trying to be better! But I’m just doing the same stupid shit I was doing right after the war: grabbing on to whatever’s right in front of me, not thinking about if it’s the right thing to grab on to. I fucking hate where I’m living, I hate not knowing what to do. Nothing I try to do matters anymore! And the worst part of it is--” Breathing shaky, dripping with emotions that had been building and poisoning him for longer than he wanted to admit, he sniffed, cleared his throat, and wiped away the tears that threatened to squeeze out of his eyes. “The worst part of it is, Draco really felt like the right thing. And I ruined that.”
Luna rubbed the back of his neck. “Are you so sure it’s over? Can you not work it out?”
“It was bad, Luna. It was really bad.”
She nodded a bit and then kissed his temple. “I’m going to go make you some tea. You’re sleeping here tonight.”
He didn’t argue. They sat up talking quietly together, sharing regrets and hopes and advice. By the time she kissed him goodnight and left him alone in the living room, Harry felt more calm but no less pained.
He laid down on the couch, but couldn’t sleep. Blurry-eyed, he stared up at the potted plants for a while, and then at the swirls of paint on the walls. After a while, he raided the stack of mail and magazines on the coffee table for something to read, something to take his mind away. Private correspondence from Charlie to Ginny, no, that was no good. A magazine about knitting. Boring. Junk mail. Bills. A travel flyer for Nepal? That was nostalgic. It had potential, so Harry settled in with it.
He flipped through the colorful pages, glancing at the glossy photos of sights in the familiar country. He missed it, sometimes. The rugged, snowy enormity of the Himalayas, the white and gold domes of the stupas fluttering with thousands of colorful prayer flags against a wide blue sky. Mostly, he missed the kindness and generosity of a country full of people who did not know him, didn’t know his face or his name. He had felt free there. Not happy, exactly. But safe. There was peace in not mattering.
He flipped the page for another picture, a brief blurb. A yeti. That’s something he had never seen during his travels. The magical community there protected the endangered creatures very closely, and it was almost impossible for outsiders to gain access to the preserve. Looking at the photos of the great beasts with their shaggy white fur, Harry wished he could have seen them in person.
As he flipped the next page, a letter slipped out and fell onto his chest. The seal in the upper right corner caught his eye. Langtan National Park Yeti and Magical Wildlife Refuge. Curious, he unfolded the letter and scanned it.
Dear Ms. Lovegood,
We at Langtan National Park Yeti and Magical Wildlife Refuge are seeking someone to join our Yeti conservation and behavior team for a short-term project studying Yeti non-verbal language and empathic magic. Your name was suggested to us, highly recommended by your colleagues at the Scamander Institute, as a candidate, and we are impressed with the nuance of your past work. We would like to offer you the position…
Luna was going to Nepal?
He scanned the rest of the letter. They were offering to pay her an excellent fee for a three month commitment in-country. It was an amazing opportunity for her, exactly the sort of work she was trying to do. She better be going to Nepal! Why hadn’t she mentioned it before now?
Oh, she was going to love it there. The colors and the festivals and the art…she would love all of it. And there were so many things he had to tell her about, so many things she should see. He had a lot of advice for her. He almost wished he could go with her.
Or did wish?
He held the thought in his head and let it settle to see how it felt.
Why shouldn’t he go?
After all, he had managed to fuck up every aspect of his life since coming back home. Maybe his return had been premature. Maybe he needed more time. Maybe he needed to put some distance between…
His eyes blurred again when he thought of Draco.
Fuck it. Why not?
“Sleep alright?” Luna asked when she trod into the kitchen the next morning.
Harry nodded even though it was a lie. She ruffled his hair and sat down beside him at the table.
He passed her a cup of tea that he’d made when he first heard her moving around in the bedroom. “Luna, why didn’t you tell me you got that research job with yetis? That’s really amazing! Congratulations!”
She smiled, sweet and sleepy. “Thank you, Harry. I only just decided I was going to take the position. I was going to tell everyone soon.”
“When do you leave?”
“End of the month.” She sipped her tea and breathed in the steam. “I’ll have to get lots of tips from you.”
“Yeah…about that.” Harry cleared his throat. His resolve to leave and his despair over Draco had only strengthened in the light of day. “How would you feel about me going with you? Not the whole time, of course. But I could help you get settled. And when you have breaks, we could see the country together.”
Luna’s face fell. Her eyes were sad and understanding as she looked him over. “You want to leave us all again?”
Harry hung his head. It was exactly what everyone had been afraid of, and shame crept up his spine. Sorrowful and miserable, he said, “I don’t think I’m cut out for this, Luna. I think I came back too early, or maybe I shouldn’t have come back at all.”
“You’ll do what you need to do.” Luna scratched up and down his back and leaned in close. “But let’s not make any rash decisions just yet. I know your heart is broken right now. Sit with it for a while. Try to find the right way to heal it.”
Later, Harry went home alone to the decaying house he hated and started packing for a trip. It wasn’t just his heart that was broken. All of him was broken, and the right way to heal it was to get away from everyone before he could break something else.
Two days later, a pounding knock on the front door shook Grimmauld Place to its bones and rattled the walls. When Harry opened the door, an impeccably dressed and rather irate Draco Malfoy pushed him out of the way and stormed in like he owned the place, his gray robes billowing behind him. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Bewildered, Harry gaped. “What?”
Disdainful and sharp, Draco looked around and took in the squalor of the house. His eyes stopped on the travel bag, stuffed to the brim and sitting ready in the hall. He zeroed in on it, walked up to it, and nudged it with the toe of one polished shoe. “So it’s true, then. I didn’t want to believe it.”
“So what’s true? Draco, what is going on right now?
Draco whirled on him. “I just got a floo call from Ginevra Weasley. She had some very interesting news for me, and though I didn’t want to believe her, I decided to come confirm it for myself.”
Harry grit his jaw. So that’s what this was about. Why would Draco care?
“You’re leaving? You’re fucking off somewhere? Were you even going to tell me? Were you even going to break things off with me before ghosting and fleeing the country?”
What? Harry’s eyes narrowed, annoyed and angry and confused and hurt. “What do you mean break things off? We weren’t even dating! You told me to go away! Whatever we had was already broken off!”
Draco’s eyes went wide and then very narrow. “We had an argument, you berk! This is how you deal with an argument? You flee the country?”
“It wasn’t an argument. It was…”
“You fucked up and I got angry. It was an argument. People have them.” Viciously sarcastic, Draco sneered and snarled at him. “When they care about the people they have them with, they work things out and resolve them. So considering your current actions, it is quite clear to me that I was not someone you ever cared about. And I’m a fucking idiot for not realizing it sooner.”
That was so far from the truth, and it broke Harry’s heart all over again to realize Draco didn’t know how he really felt. “No, Draco, that’s not--”
But Draco wasn’t hearing it. He could be brutal when hurt, and he lashed out when wounded. Harry knew that. It didn’t make the harsh words any easier to hear.
“There were so many signs along the way. How long did it take for you to try and have a genuine conversation with me? And even then, was any of that really genuine conversation? Or was it all a part of that stupid game you were playing? Was I just a game the whole time? I played along with you and we had our fun because I was foolish enough to think that at the end of it all you wanted what I wanted: something real. But no. I was just something interesting, something you could entertain yourself with until you got bored and ran off again. Reality hurts, I’ll admit, but I’ll get over it. Your selfishness is hardly the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. But fuck you very much for running off on Teddy again. Fuck you for abandoning him. Fuck you for treating him as if he’s something entertaining that you can just discard when you’re bored. He deserves better than that from you, and I know you know it.”
Panting with the anger and adrenaline of his venomous tirade, Draco paused to glare disdainfully at Harry. Crisp and cold, he uttered, “Enjoy Nepal, Potter.”
And then he pushed his way out the door and was gone.
Harry fell to his knees on the floor and buried his head in his hands.
He was broken. Utterly demolished. He was dust and ash, the rubble of a man.
Everything Draco had said…everything he had accused…it was all true. Harry hadn’t meant for it to be! Harry knew the thing growing between him and Draco could have been strong, but he had broken it. The worst part was that Draco thought Harry had never cared for him. He did. More than anything. But he was right, too, and it killed Harry that his rash decisions had made Draco feel uncared for.
Fuck, how could he have thought to run off on Teddy again? How could that have been his first instinct, to leave knowing that it meant leaving his godson?
All this time, Harry had known something was missing in his life. He had been lost, unsure, lacking confidence, and feeling left behind by the life that stepped so surely on all around him. He wanted to fix it. That was why it had felt so important to strengthen his connection to Sirius through the memories he’d left behind, to Remus through Teddy. Those things felt like foundation, and he’d tried. But still, there was a hole. There was a wound inside him that he didn’t know how to heal, a severed thread in the fabric of his soul he didn’t know how to reconnect.
But he needed to do it before he could find a home.
Harry sniffed and sat fully down on the floor with a heavy thud. He wanted a home, more than anything, and wanted someone to share it with. He wanted to know his place, his person, his purpose. Home was something he’d never really had. Not since he was a baby, with his parents.
Though Hogwarts had been the first time he felt like he belonged somewhere, it wasn’t the same.
Only Godric’s Hollow had ever been home, really.
The house the three of them lived in. The house that was still there, all these years later, froze in time. Maybe…
A strange and insistent thought awoke in his mind, and he couldn’t shake it. It felt more and more right the longer he let it grow.
He wanted to heal his old wounds and reconnect those severed ends so he could find a home. Maybe he had gotten things backwards. Maybe he had to go home in order to tie together all those severed ends, to root himself in what was important and then build anew.
He was not going to Nepal. That was absolutely certain, and he was grateful to Draco for the wake-up call. But unless he could find his center, align his priorities, he’d keep hurting himself and the people around him with rash, self-destructive choices. He had no illusions that he’d find a magic missing piece and unlock a new version of himself.
He would have to work to build it, bit by bit. He had to know where he came from, so he could choose which parts to carry with him. All of it swirled together in his head, threads of meaning tying themselves together. It was exactly like Jessamine Malfoy’s planets, like the message on the chalice from two wizards who lived centuries ago. It was like Draco, choosing to reclaim the things taken from him and build on them.
Harry had to connect his future to his past. And he had to know more about his past to do it. Those were the threads that had been severed, the frayed parts of him. Those were the connections he needed to make.
He didn’t know how to complete such a massive task. But he knew the place he had to start was Godric’s Hollow.
It took two days of sorting at the Ministry – figuring out which office, bouncing around to find the right people to talk to, filling out forms in triplicate, and a bit of yelling and some I’m Harry Potter posturing that he wasn’t entirely proud of, but which had been necessary.
Alone, he went home to his parents’ house. The little cottage was as he remembered it from his visit with Hermione during the war. Quaint and inviting, with a garden and overgrown tumbles of wildflowers, it would have been perfect if not for the fact that one corner of the roof had been blown off, left open to the sky and singed around the edges. Harry swallowed hard and stood at the front gate, staring up at it for a long, heavy moment. It wasn’t easy to look at. He knew what had happened that night from retellings and Dementor memories, knew Sirius’ side of things from the resonance reading.
What he didn’t know was what had happened in the house every day and night before that awful one. That’s why he had come here, and he felt sad but hopeful. He would learn about his parents through the things they’d left behind. He would know them. And that would help him know himself.
He walked up the path, stones crunching under his shoes, and pulled Sirius’ jacket tighter around himself as he approached. The wards at the door recognized him. He pressed his palm against the faded paint on the wood and watched as the pearlescent shimmers of the spell rippled around his fingers and then rushed out and away. The spells his mother and father set more than twenty years ago recognized them in his blood, in his magical signature, and marked him as a Potter. Someone who belonged here. The door’s lock clicked open.
Harry drew a long, shaky breath to brace himself.
And then he stepped inside.
It was exactly as they had left it. Nothing had been moved or taken from the house. Everything they had owned was left here, frozen in Ministry-suspended time as a memorial no one was meant to see or touch. Everything was left here for him.
The house was simply decorated. Tasteful and homey. A small living room off to one side of the foyer with couch and record player, photos on the walls still moving and smiling out to the empty room. He stood on the carpet and breathed and opened himself and waited. It would come. That sense of them would come. Just as he could feel the personalities and energies of Ron and Hermione in their home, of Ginny and Luna in theirs, some essence of James and Lily thrummed through this place and if he held still and let it find him, he would feel it.
Maybe if he looked for it. Maybe if he touched and held their things.
He skimmed his fingertips over a stack of records. Which ones had been their favorites? He sat down on the couch. There was a cigarette burn in one arm, covered by a throw pillow. Who had done that? Had they hidden it on purpose?
His throat tightened, unease tensing his muscles.
Maybe another room.
The kitchen was the same. Filled with things with liminal, faded meanings, the memories and life of them just out of reach. Stacks of tea and coffee mugs, some with silly patterns. Dishes still in the sink. Had they cooked often? Did they like to?
Harry stood still and forced himself to look, to take in the details, to try to find his parents in the cutlery and the curtains and the coffee mugs. But he couldn’t.
“Fuck,” he whispered to the dust motes dancing silently through the kitchen’s afternoon sunbeams. “Please. Some of you has to still be here. Please.”
A low level of buzzing panic rose up his core. He had to find them here. Had to be able to feel them. Trembling, he tore from room to room, touching the lost objects, staring at the walls and demanding meaning, searching for the spark of understanding that would let him know his parents and connect with them as more than just a story of sacrifice. He ripped through the clothes hanging in their bureau, rifled through books on the shelves, ran his hands over towels and blankets in the linen closet.
Nothing. Nothing connected. The house that was his home might as well have been empty, might as well have belonged to strangers.
In a storage closet, he sank to his knees and dug around in the back corners, desperately searching for something that would unlock the things he was supposed to feel in this place. A cardboard box labeled, Dad, collected dust, and he flipped open the flaps. Dad could have been either of his grandfathers, but the Ollivanders wand box on top told him this was a box of things belonging to Grandpa Potter, his dad’s dad.
His grandfather’s wand.
Would it react to him? Recognize their connection? Harry pushed it to the side and dug around for more, more potential. Old robes. Photo albums. At the bottom of the box, his hand brushed against something smooth and heavy and cold, something unusual, and he lifted it out.
He stared at the glass orb in his hand. Its rich red-orange color caught the light and absorbed it until the ball glowed.
So that was why Draco hadn’t been able to find mention of this anywhere for decades. It had been sitting in a box, abandoned and forgotten, in the back of the Potters’ linen closet.
Jessamine Malfoy’s last missing planet was heavy and solid in his hand. How had his grandfather ended up with this?
There was so much he didn’t know.
He wished Draco were here with him.
Harry stared down at the planet and all of the flight and frenzy went out of him. His body slumped as the angry energy fled. He sat on the floor and stared at Mars and felt lonelier than he had felt in a long time. He wished Draco were here. It had happened fast and without warning, but Harry’s heart knew that Draco was the person who belonged by his side in life’s lonely, tender moments.
If Draco were here…
But that was the answer, wasn’t it? The answer to everything.
If Draco were here, he could forge the connections Harry needed. He could look and feel and cast his charms and find all of the meaning hidden in this house, all of the memories waiting to be unlocked.
Carefully, Harry bundled Mars up and nestled it safely in a towel, and then he just as carefully put everything back in its place. He need to leave for a while. To think. There was a lot he needed to do, but couldn’t rush any of it, and he had to give himself time to sit with the pain and the questions.
He locked the door to the Godric’s Hollow home and went back to Grimmauld Place.
Harry waited and thought and felt for three days before he made any decisions, but once he made them he committed to them fully. There had been a lot of floo calls to make, a lot of appointments to schedule and things to check over, but his time in his parents’ house, as well as the fight with Draco, helped put everything into perspective.
He had gone to Godric’s Hollow hoping for connection, for meaning. But the house had felt empty. No more a home to him than Grimmauld Place.
It was the memories that mattered. Not the walls or the floors.
And if he could gather the memories, then he could carry them with him anywhere. There was no reason to stay in Grimmauld if it didn’t fit him right. Leaving the house behind was fine, because he would never leave Sirius behind. He’d carry him onward, always.
Sirius himself had tried to tell Harry that once.
Loss and pain had made it difficult to believe him until now.
So he packed his things and called a realtor and began his search for his place, the place he’d set down roots, the place that would say to anyone who walked in, This place is Harry’s. This is where his heart lives.
But there were things still to be done. Bits of himself still left to find and tie together. Wrongs to make right if they could be righted, apologies to issue anyway even if they couldn’t.
God, Harry hoped it could be righted. It would take time and effort and healing. Draco appreciated things that were challenging, things that took effort. Harry would put in the work, if Draco would let him.
When he walked into Fine Collectibles and Antiques, Draco was in his normal spot behind the counter, and the familiarity and comfort of the view caught Harry’s breath.
At the chiming of the bell, Draco looked up. His face was a polite mask as he looked at Harry, but his eyes seemed sad. Tired. “Hello.”
“Hi.” Tentatively, Harry stepped further into the shop. “Look, I know I don’t deserve it and I know you’d probably rather not see me. But can we talk? I’ll be quick. There are three things I need to talk to you about.”
Stiffly, Draco nodded. “Alright.”
“Okay.” Harry sighed and tried to relax his shoulders, his face. All of him was worried, tense. Draco’s face was similarly tense, on guard and ready to sneer, but he’d given Harry a chance to speak, so Harry took it before Draco could change his mind. “Okay, well first of all, I owe you a big apology. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being so careless and for bringing something here that could have put you in danger. I’m sorry for going so far overboard with the games and the scheming, for getting caught up in it instead of just being honest and telling you how I feel. And mostly, I’m really sorry for anything, everything I did that made you question whether it was real, that made you think I didn’t care for you. Because I did. I do. I really do. I’ve been so lost, lately, and you meant more to me than I was ready to admit, ready to handle. But I’m not leaving now. I’m not going to abandon Teddy, I’m not going to run away from you.”
Draco sniffed and looked down at the counter, his eyes soft and distant, his face unreadable. “Good. What’s the second thing?”
Not much of a reaction. But it could have been much worse.
Winning back Draco’s trust would not be easy. He couldn’t do it in a day. A simple acknowledgement of his apology was probably the best he could hope for right now, and Harry would take it.
“The second thing is, well…” Harry cleared his throat. “I know I don’t have any right to ask you this, but there’s something I would really like your help with, if you’re willing. Like I said, I’ve been lost. I’m trying to heal and connect to the things in my life that matter, and you have already helped me so much in that regard. I feel more connected to Sirius because of the resonance readings, and I feel more connected to Remus because I’ve tried harder with Teddy. And that’s all good, it’s a good start, but there’s still this big, missing piece. I need to connect with my parents. I need to know them as more than just names on parchment. Coming here, talking with you, has made me realize how much power there is in reconnecting with where we come from. The antiques, the things people touched…they’re important. And I want that with my parents. So I managed to get access to their old house. All of their things are inside. It all just got left behind, forgotten there. All of it’s just…”
Harry had to stop to blink and look away from Draco. He cleared away the lump in his throat.
“You went already?” Draco asked, a hint of concern in his voice. “To Godric’s Hollow?”
Harry nodded. “It felt so empty. I couldn’t feel them there at all.” He shook off the melancholy and recommitted to his purpose. “But you could read the memories. If you could come with me there, if you could walk through the house with me and do resonance readings – I’d pay you, of course--”
Draco’s mouth fell open and he stared at Harry in silent wonder. “You want me to go with you to your parents’ home? You would bring me there?”
Heavy, emotional meaning filled Harry’s eyes, his voice, as he told Draco, “I want you there with me more than anything.”
Draco drew in a sharp breath and looked away. “I thought…I…”
Harry thought back to the night of their date, when he had sickened at the thought of bringing Draco to Grimmauld Place. Bringing Draco to Godric’s Hollow, letting him walk by his side through the most intimate, sacred part of his life, felt right.
“Yes,” Draco whispered. The intensity in his voice assured Harry that Draco knew how much this meant, how important it was. “Yes, of course, I’ll come with you. I’ll do the readings.”
An enormous, heavy dread fell off of Harry and he breathed freely. “Thank you.”
“I close at normal time tonight. We could go this evening, if you’d like.”
“That would be perfect.”
“Good.” Draco looked a bit lost, a bit bewildered. “What was the third thing you wanted to talk to me about?”
“Oh, right.” Carefully, Harry reached into the bag he had slung over his shoulder, too worried for the object’s safety to resize it like normal. “When I looked through the house the first time, I found something that belongs to you.”
He handed Draco the last of Jessamine’s glass planets. Finally, after a century apart, her art had all come home, back to a family that remembered and honored her.
Shock and wonder and disbelief all stormed on Draco’s face, and his eyes glistened as he stared at the planet. He held it cupped in both palms. Harry watched his bottom lip tremble and felt at once perfect rightness and sad longing.
And that was all he had come for. Apologies, a favor, to return something lost. He wouldn’t beg or grovel. “I’ll see you this evening. Thank you, again.”
“Wait, Harry.” Draco stopped him from turning away. “You can’t just give me this.”
“Why not? It’s yours, Draco. It belongs with you.”
“I know. But you can’t just give it to me for free.” He looked Harry directly in the eye for the first time since Harry had come into the shop. There was passion and honesty in the look. “It means too much to me.”
“Alright,” Harry said. And he understood, because Draco appreciated effort, the need to work for things before being worthy of them. “Well, you’re the antiques appraiser. Tell me what’s fair and I’ll accept it. What’s it worth?”
A tense, strained moment passed in which Draco stared down at the planet in his hands. His lip quivered and he bit the insides of his cheeks, fighting down emotion as he tried to come to some vast and important decision. Finally, he whispered something Harry never expected. “A second chance.”
Awed, Harry let the words wash over him and change everything. “Really?”
Draco nodded. “For both of us, I think.”
Slowly, with care and thought, Harry crossed the space between them and laid a gentle hand on Draco’s arm. They shared a look and Draco smiled sadly. “I’m sorry too,” he said. “I shouldn’t have lashed out at you like I did.”
Harry shook his head. “I hurt you.”
“That’s an explanation. Not an excuse.”
“Harry.” The whispered name was a better I’m sorry, a truer I forgive you, than anything else Draco could have said. He looked down at the planet, then back up at Harry. “Thank you for bringing this home to me.”
Harry nodded and said, “Thank you for coming home with me.”
The smiles they gave each other were small and honest and hopeful. With a kiss and a world of promises, Harry left the shop.
“You ready?” Draco stood beside him on the pathway to his parents’ house. He took Harry’s hand in his own. Gently, he assured, “We’ll find the memories.”
It was what Harry needed to hear, that soon the house wouldn’t feel so empty and impersonal. Harry pressed his palm to the door and led them through the wards.
Everything was the same inside as it had been when Harry left a few days earlier, the same as it had been for the past twenty years.
“Where should we start?” Draco pressed an assuring hand to Harry’s back, and he could feel the warmth of the touch even through the leather of his jacket.
Harry glanced around. “Living room.”
Draco stood in the center of the room, his wand out, his posture dignified. Suddenly, Harry grabbed his wrist and stopped him from casting the charm. “Wait. I don’t want to hear any memories from that night.” Against his will, his eyes flicked over the spot on the carpet, just in front of the stairs, where he knew his father had fallen. He’d seen and heard enough about their deaths.
Intense and calm, Draco held his eyes and nodded. “I understand.”
And then all the room shimmered bright silver as the memory spell floated over everything and sank deep under the surfaces. Draco closed his eyes and let the memories wash over him. He gasped and then smiled. After a moment, his smile grew into a grin. “Alright. I’ve got them all. Anything in particular you’d like to know?”
Harry glanced around and then pointed to the couch. “How did that cigarette burn get there, on the arm?”
Draco laughed. “James, Sirius, and Remus all smoked. Lily did not, and she refused to allow it inside the house. Every time they wanted a cigarette, she would make them go stand out in the back garden, even in pouring rain or freezing snow. They all grumbled about it, but Lily wouldn’t relent. Sometimes, though, when she was out and they were alone in the house, they’d break her rules. Just for laughs, really, to make themselves feel rebellious. One afternoon, they were in here laughing and talking and drinking a few too many beers. It was Remus who missed the ash tray and burned a hole in the upholstery. They panicked, shouted, tried to cover it up. They were still panicking a few minutes later when Lily came home, and James and Sirius both immediately took the blame for it. She didn’t believe them for a second. They never could pull anything over on her. She glared at Remus and told him, If you ever smoke in my house again, I’ll rip your fuzzy little tail off. And Remus nodded, and said, yes mum. He kept his promise in the future, even when your dad and Sirius did not.”
Already, tears had sprung to Harry’s eyes. Already, the emotion threatened to overwhelm him. It was happy and hopeful, sad and mournful. So much gained. So much lost.
From there, he followed in a daze, a hundred different emotions swirling through him, as Draco walked through the house and told him memories.
From a picture frame on the mantelpiece, with a photo of teenage Lily beaming smiles with her arm thrown around a beautiful brunette girl’s shoulders: “This was from your grandparents on your mum’s side. They gave it to Lily as a gift for her sixteenth birthday, and she used it to hold a photo of her with her best friend. That’s Marlene. They were very close for many years. Marlene’s death hit her hard, but she made sure this photo had a place of honor in the home.”
Like Harry would find places to honor the dead in his own home, he knew. He hadn’t known they were friends, his mum and Marlene. Had they shared a dorm at Hogwarts? Had they gossiped about Sirius and James? Both of them wore cheeky, laugh-infested grins in the photo. Had they pulled any pranks of their own at school, to rival the lads? And when Marelene died, had his mum felt like a part of her insides had been scraped out with a tanning knife, the meat tossed out, her body left hollow? She had. Harry new she had because this, they had in common.
When he touched a painting on the wall of a pod of dolphins leaping from sea waves, Draco chuckled to himself. “They argued over this all the time. Lily thought it was tacky. James thought it was tasteful. Secretly, though, he thought it was tacky as all get out, he just liked to mess with her. She had quite a temper, your mum. She was fearsome when she got going. Your dad liked to do stupid things to wind her up, get her all flushed and make her stamp her foot and flare her nostrils. He thought she was adorable when she was annoyed. And…” Draco coughed to hide a laugh. “Well. Maybe you don’t want to hear that part.”
“What?” Harry asked.
Draco smirked. “He liked getting her worked up into a strop like that, and then taking her to bed.
Harry squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head, amused. That was maybe a bit too much information, but it struck a funny, happy nerve in him to learn that apparently he and his dad had the same taste in partners and took the same joy in riling them up. Draco smiled at him, coy and knowing, and Harry felt fluttery and warm and dizzy.
They looked through closets, through bookshelves.
In the kitchen, Draco picked up a sunshine yellow mug with blue polka dots on it. “This one was your dad’s favorite mug. He took his tea just like you do. Too much milk.”
And then another, and another, and another. As Draco spoke and touched and shared, he pulled memories from the objects all around them and sent them swirling back to Harry. Thread by thread within him came alive and lifted, reaching out their severed ends and weaving back together with the missing parts to form a whole. Ragged. Patchy. But connected.
It was a lot.
It was too much.
It was everything. Draco was giving him everything, and Harry wanted to give him everything back.
Head spinning, heart thundering, body trembling as all of the pieces of himself rejoined and found a place inside him, Harry felt like he might burst with it all. Draco spoke in a soft murmur, a soothing lull that wove and healed, and Harry needed him, needed to feel him, needed to know him.
Slow and purposeful, Harry approached Draco and pushed him back against the kitchen countertop. Draco startled, sucked in a sharp breath, and his eyes blew wide at the sudden but irrevocable change in the energy between them. He panted for air and opened his mouth as Harry advanced.
Arms strong around Draco’s waist and back, Harry kissed him. And kissed him, and kissed him, and might have died there kissing him forever. Hungry, needy, shaking, Harry massaged his mouth against Draco’s, and Draco met him kiss for kiss.
When Draco moaned, deepened, rolled into Harry’s touch, Harry stepped in even closer, shoving their hips together in a hard press that left them both groaning into each other’s mouths. Draco’s mouth fell open slack, and Harry kissed his chin, his nose, his cheek bones, desperate to taste and touch and know every inch of him.
“Harry…” Draco’s hands ran wild over Harry’s chest and stomach, down towards the line of his jeans. “Oh, Harry!”
“I need you.” The confession was simple, raw. “I need you now.”
“Bed,” Draco bit in response. “Bed. Now.”
Harry grabbed his hand and dragged them to the stairs, stumbling and kissing all the while. Draco pushed Harry’s jacket off his shoulders and let the black leather fall to the kitchen floor. A kiss. Moaning. Sucking on tongues. By the foyer, Harry had managed to undo Draco’s tie and send it fluttering away, and then his shaking, eager fingers undid button after button of his shirt in between kisses. Two steps up the stairs. Draco pushed Harry against the wall, the railing hard against the small of his back, the picture frames on the wall shaking in surprise. He plundered Harry’s mouth and slid his hands under Harry’s t-shirt, ripped it off, left it behind. Up. A few more steps. Biting and kissing and touching. The hiss of a belt as it slipped loose from Draco’s trousers. The grind of the zip on Harry’s jeans coming undone.
At the top of the stairs, they stumbled into the bedroom and kicked off their shoes and trousers. Harry paused and took a long enough breath to look at Draco’s nearly-bare body. Flat planes of pale, perfect skin stretched taught over lean, wiry muscle, small pink nipples, a light dusting of fine, silvery hair that darkened to gold as it trailed down and disappeared under the hem of his tight, black pants. Harry’s mouth fell stupidly open and his own cock throbbed at the sight of the tented fabric, the thick, heavy bulge straining to escape.
Draco smirked at him, but his own panting breaths and hungry eyes belied his aloofness. “See something you like, Potter?”
“Harry,” he growled. “Call me Harry.”
A challenge flashed bright in Draco’s eyes and that smirk grew into a predatory grin. “Make me.”
Harry was on his knees before Draco could blink, and Draco gasped.
Rough and loving and needy, Harry sucked kisses along Draco’s stomach, nibbled on meat of his lean inner thighs, and then slid Draco’s pants down along his long legs. Pink and thick, Draco’s cock sprung free of the fabric and jutted proudly in front of Harry’s face. It was perfect. Fuck, it was a gorgeous cock, just as gorgeous as every other inch of Draco, and Harry’s mouth began to water just looking at it. He wanted it. Wanted to taste it. Wanted it in him.
Harry looked up. Draco looked down. Their eyes locked. And Harry kept eye contact as he slowly widened his mouth and leaned forward.
“Oh, fuck,” Draco whispered.
Wet and gentle, Harry closed his mouth around the tip and suckled it. His eyes sank shut at the salty, musky taste of Draco, heavy on his tongue, and he pulled away with a wet pop. His eyes opened back up to Draco, intense and heavy-lidded, and he flicked his tongue over Draco’s slit.
“Oh, fuck…” Draco groaned and gripped Harry’s hair. “Fuck, Harry…”
Harry grinned at the victory and dove forward to swallow down Draco’s prick.
Draco made the most perfect, delicious little sounds of pleasure and surprise as Harry sucked him. He pushed down Draco’s foreskin, pressed the tip of his tongue into the slit, and throbbed as Draco whined and moaned. Harry took him deep, sucked the length of him, and let Draco fuck into the back of his throat with tiny, uncontrolled little jerks of his hips. Groaning, Harry fondled his own cock through the fabric of his boxers and sucked until he felt Draco’s legs wobble and go unsteady.
Quickly, while Draco was reeling in a heady daze, he stood and kissed Draco while walking him backwards. He pushed Draco down onto the bed, yanked off his own pants, and then crawled onto the mattress. The springs creaked beneath his hands and knees as he kissed his way up along Draco’s prone body – his knees, his thighs, his hip bones. Draco threw his head back and groaned when Harry licked and sucked at one of his hard, pink nipples. He was a man driven, with a desperate, heavy need to kiss and touch and learn every inch of his lover, to connect with him, to tie them together, now, now, now.
While Draco lost himself and writhed and sank into the pleasure of Harry’s touch, Harry cast a wordless charm and slicked his fingers. Still kissing, always kissing, he reached around and slid a finger up inside himself, groaning at the sudden, delicious intrusion. More kissing, Draco’s hands all over him, and then a second finger. He stretched and twisted and worked his hole open, but not too well. He wanted to feel every inch of Draco. Wanted to be filled by him.
He pulled his fingers free, kissed Draco again, and then pinned his shoulders down to the bed with both hands. Draco stared in wide-eyed, lust-blown wonder as Harry straddled him and lined himself up over his cock. With one hand, Draco gripped himself at the base and held his prick in place while Harry found the right angle. With the other, Draco held onto Harry’s flank, his fingers stretched possessively along Harry’s ribcage, calming him, claiming him.
Slowly, breathing heavy, they locked eyes as Harry sank down onto Draco’s cock.
Both of them moaned. Neither of them looked away.
The blunt, smooth tip of Draco’s head pushed in past the tight ring of muscle of Harry’s arse. Inch by inch, Harry took Draco into his body.
Fuck, it was so tight. So full. Draco filled him in a way no one else ever could, filled every hollow, empty part of him.
When he was fully seated, he paused and panted and let himself get used to the burning stretch, let himself get used to the feeling of Draco.
They watched each other in silence all the while.
Draco’s bottom lip quivered. The look in his eyes was pure affection, tenderness, and awe. He stared up at Harry like he was the stars, and Harry gazed back down at Draco like he was the moon, and for a long moment while they breathed and felt the world was still and quiet.
“Harry.” The name escaped Draco’s lips on a whispered breath.
Harry rocked and lifted his hips, fucked Draco slowly with a long, tight squeeze up Draco’s whole length before sinking back down again to fill himself thick. Draco groaned. Harry leaned down and Draco reached up and they kissed while they moved together, each long pull slow and building, Harry’s cock achingly hard between them as it bounced and rubbed against Draco’s belly.
Draco settled his hands on Harry’s waist and helped him lift and ride, bucked his own hips up to meet him and slam them together. Every stroke brushed against Harry’s prostate and he groaned, his head lolling lose as the feeling rolled through him. “Beautiful,” Draco murmured, his voice rich. “Harry, you’re so beautiful.”
Harry was too lost in the pleasure that built thick and molten in his gut, at the base of his spine, to do anything more than moan and rock and ride the perfect man beneath him.
“Oh, fuck…” Thin and breathy, Draco whimpered. The motion of his hips quickened to a near-frenetic, uncontrolled place. “Harry, I’m close. I’m going to…”
“Me too!” Harry gasped, and the feeling built rapidly in him. “Touch me. Draco, touch me.”
Those long, elegant fingers Harry loved to watch wrapped around his leaking cock and pulled. Harry groaned and bounced harder, working Draco, working himself, fucking down onto Draco’s prick and up into Draco’s hand, and Draco was everywhere and…and…
Draco moaned and dug his fingers into Harry’s side, his other hand tight and jerking around Harry’s cock, and he was coming, spilling himself, filling Harry up.
On the edge of desperate, Harry rode hard for a few last thrusts while Draco moved his hand, then he joined him in orgasm. Harry threw his head back and moaned up to the ceiling as his climax swelled through him, and he continued to lift and rock his hips as he squeezed and worked them both through it. His come burst out of him and he splattered creamy white fluid onto Draco’s chest and stomach.
Breathing heavy, they both stilled and caught their breath. They stared at each other, strange and wondrous feelings in their eyes. Then, Harry couldn’t help the tiny, disbelieving smile that quirked his mouth. Draco gave the same look in return, which made Harry feel even more blissful and bewildered, so he grinned, and then laughed, and then they were both laughing and collapsing onto each other.
They curled together side by side on top of the old comforter in his parents’ bedroom and let their eyes speak promises to each other.
Goofy and dazed, Draco grinned. “I can’t believe we just did that.”
“You can’t believe we just had sex? Or you can’t believe we just had sex in my parents’ bed, where I was probably conceived?”
Draco snorted a laugh. “That is a bit weird, isn’t it?”
Harry grimaced but quickly laughed, too happy and content and connected to what mattered to feel strange.
“Although, if it makes you feel any better,” Draco said as he rolled over and positioned himself in Harry’s arms. “You weren’t conceived in this bed. You were conceived in a toilet stall in the loo of the Leaky Cauldron during Sirius Black’s nineteenth birthday party.”
A laugh smashed out of Harry and he felt his cheeks heat. “What?!”
“I read the memory off the dress your mum wore that night. It’s hanging in the closet. This bed does have quite a few memories on it, though.”
Harry rolled his eyes and grinned, knowing full well Draco was trying to mess with him. “Don’t tell me. I don’t need to know.”
Draco stilled and looked up at him with a sweeter smile. “They were very much in love.”
And Harry smiled back, because it was another connection.
Later, they pulled on their underwear and continued through the house in a calmer, more leisurely way. It didn’t feel so pressing anymore. Didn’t feel like it would drown him. They sat on the floor in the dark for several long hours, into the night, and looked at old photo albums and artifacts by the light of a lumos.
Smiling and calm, they searched through the rooms and Draco told him stories about his family. An intriguing little metal and glass sculpture on the mantelpiece pulled Harry’s attention. He looked at it more closely. It was a little glass ball, about the size of a snitch, set on a gold pedestal decorated with intricate filigreed vines and branches. “Hey Draco? Could you do this one? It looks like something you’d have in your shop. Like an actual antique.”
Draco, the lithe movements of his near-naked body catching Harry’s attention more than the little artifact could, approached and inspected it. One corner of his mouth lifted in a smile. “Ironic.”
Harry blinked and tore his eyes away from Draco’s bare chest. “Why?”
“You spent all that time tracking down romantic antiques to bring to me, when you had an authentic antique courting gift sitting right here all along.”
“What is it?”
Draco picked up the little sculpture and held it up for Harry to see. “These are a pureblood tradition going back to the middle ages. This belongs to the Potter family and has for generations. Each generation, it passes to the family heir so he can give it as a gift to the person he intends to spend his life with. Your father would have given it to your mother, your grandfather to your grandmother, and so on, throughout the family. Perhaps for a thousand years.” He placed the statuette in Harry’s hand.
Awed and humbled, Harry held the cool metal, ran fingers over the smooth glass. He felt the heavy weight of all the members of his family, stretching out through time, who had held this and given it to the person they loved. All of them reached out and connected to him in that moment, and all of them filled him with a calm certainty. It was the simplest, truest thing in his life to smile and hand the sculpture back to Draco.
Sweet, tender shock softened Draco’s eyes, his mouth, as he looked down at the figure, then up at Harry. After only a second, he took it.
And with a flash and a joyous humming, the little glass ball filled with pure white light and floated up to hover a centimeter above the base.
They both stared at it. Harry asked, “What just happened?”
“I…” Draco shook his head. “Don’t entirely know. I think the familial magic is recognizing and approving of your choice?”
“Oh. Okay.” Harry nodded, still uncertain. “Shit. Did we just get married?”
“Salazar, I hope not. Andromeda will be very cross with us if we got married without her in attendance.”
“Yeah, and all of my friends will think I’ve gone mad. We’ve only had one date.”
“I don’t think we got married.” Draco’s voice was light. “I’m about ninety percent sure we didn’t get married.”
Laughter bubbled up in Harry. “I hope not.”
“Oh?” Smirking, Draco quirked an eyebrow at him. “Then what did you mean in giving it to me? You, who are so proficient at using antiques to send romantic messages? What did you mean by giving me your family betrothal gift?”
It was a challenge, delivered in love and teasing, but it deserved an honest answer and Harry wouldn’t fail. He braced himself. “That I’m falling for you, that we’re brilliant together, and that I want to be with you for as long as we want each other.”
Draco raised an eyebrow, the smile on his mouth soft. “And if that happens to be for the length of forever?”
Harry grinned. “Then we’ll remember to invite Andromeda to the wedding.” Draco laughed and blushed and looked pleased. The moment was right, everything was right, so Harry pushed on. “Oh, and I’m buying a house, by the way. I’ve scheduled some appointments. I’m ready to find my real home.”
“That’s wonderful, Harry,” Draco murmured.
Breathless, Harry nodded. “Move in with me?” He nodded down at the glowing orb in Draco’s hand. “Accept this, and move in with me?”
Draco pulled back and flashed him a cheeky smile. He lifted the sculpture. “I don’t know. This is worth at least twenty thousand galleons. I’ve never seen one in such good condition, and with its connections to you and your family…”
“Stop appraising antiques, antiques appraiser!”
Draco huffed and looked scandalized but he couldn’t fully hide his smile. “Harry, I cannot. This is who I am. Antiques are in my blood. You cannot change me.”
As he pulled Draco in close, Harry laughed and murmured, “As if I would ever want to.”
“Alright,” Draco said, his voice soft and tender and loving. “I accept both. This. You.”
Harry grinned a sunrise and kissed Draco with everything he had.
Their home is in the country, on the edge of a village with a park, little cottages ringed with flowers. It’s an old building, rich with history, with memories, with happiness and warmth.
The inside is crowded with beautiful, nearly lost things, carefully tended. Beside the front door, a soft black leather jacket hangs on a rack. A thick carpet in warm reds and yellows covers the dark wood floor of the living room. Plush couches and high, wing-backed arm chairs cluster together around a coffee table. Above, sunlight catches and dances on a set of glass planets and sun that hang from the high ceiling and swirl in gentle whorls of rich color. On the far wall, two portraits hang side-by-side: in one, an elegant blonde woman rests her hand protectively on the shoulder of a sweet, wide-eyed boy, and in the other a girl with hair like autumn leaves grins down at the chubby-cheeked baby in her arms. On the mantle, an orb on a golden pedestal floats serenely and shines clear, shimmering light into the room. Beside it, a gold and silver chalice holds a place of honor. Framed photographs of friends and family smile up from the end tables and the bookshelves.
The two men who live here share cups of tea at the kitchen table in the mornings. They sit on folding chairs in the back garden and watch the sunset over a glass of wine each evening. Often, a little boy with bright blue hair runs across the lawn and they chase him, laughing and tumbling together into the grass.
And everyone who steps inside feels it right away: This is Harry and Draco’s place. This is where their hearts live.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this, you could check out my other fic, or follow me on tumblr for a bunch of books, cats, and Harry Potter meta thoughts: http://norelationtoatticus.tumblr.com/