Draco’s coffee has gone cold again. He sighs and pushes the cup and saucer away, toying with the idea of going up to the counter for a replacement. In the end, though, he stays in his seat, drawing his wand and casting a half-hearted warming charm that makes the coffee leap momentarily out of the cup as though astonished to be receiving some attention at last.
Draco doesn’t drink it. He hadn’t wanted it when he’d ordered it, and he rarely wants the muffins or cakes or slices of toast that he orders on other days, but he does want to sit here at this table and, in order to do so without arousing suspicion, he has to at least try to look like a normal customer of Harry Potter’s godforsaken coffee shop.
In all likelihood, he left ‘normal’ behind a long time ago, and he certainly hasn’t been doing himself any favours by spending almost all of his lunch breaks here. It’s been months now; he can’t remember how many exactly, nor can he remember what he used to do with his lunchtimes before Potter opened the cafe. And that, Draco is almost certain, is all Potter’s fault.
Draco leans back in his chair and fiddles with his scarlet napkin as his eyes are inevitably drawn back to the man behind the counter.
“I’ve got a plum tea that’ll go really well with that,” he says, smiling at the young lady at the front of the queue.
Draco scowls. He’s like that with all of them, the new Potter. Not like the Potter he remembers from school, from all of five years ago. Not argumentative and angry and full of everything that makes Draco want to explode with rage and frustration. Well, if Draco is honest, the frustration is still very much present, but he’s not sure he can pin that on Potter, because this Potter, with his coffee and tea and cake and his little round tables and his wonderful-smelling steam and his apron on all crooked... this Potter seems to possess something, some unnameable quality, that draws Draco in.
He isn’t sure why Harry Potter wants to spend his days serving hot drinks. He has never asked, because he and Potter have never spoken, save for their brief daily exchanges in which Draco orders something he doesn’t want and Potter tells him how much it is, even though Draco already knows and always has the correct change ready. The odd ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is thrown back and forth over the counter, Potter always smiles, and once, on a particularly wet day, he had asked Draco if he needed a towel. But that’s it, and Draco had, of course, politely refused.
Now, as he sits at his table with his lukewarm coffee and his ridiculous, pointless, confused reserve, he cannot for the life of him understand why he did that. Why he didn’t say, ‘why, yes, Potter, I’d love a towel, and while you’re at it, would you like to go out some time?’ or, strike that, why he didn’t just vault over the counter and kiss him until every last shred of their stilted formality dissolved in the steam from Potter’s gleaming coffee machines.
Because, god... he wants. He wants all of it. He wants the messy hair and the kind green eyes and the strong hands and the toast crumbs everywhere, and all he knows how to do is sit and not drink his coffee and not eat his cake and watch helplessly as Potter flirts good-naturedly with every customer that walks through the door. Every customer except him.
It is, without a doubt, insane, and he suspects that if he had an ounce of self-esteem in him right now, he would leave.
“So, I bet you’re good with your hands, aren’t you?” says the irritatingly handsome man at the counter, flashing Potter a slow smile that makes Draco’s fingers tear through his napkin.
Potter blinks. “Er... yeah, I suppose... I do alright. I make some of the bread we use here but my friend—”
“Yeah, ’cause I was thinking... a man who’s good with his hands is worth two in the bush, right?” the customer says, leaning on the counter now and inching his fingers across the polished marble.
Potter’s brow wrinkles in confusion and Draco can’t blame it. The man is making no sense whatsoever, and worse than that, he is attempting to make slimy moves all over Potter. Draco glares, shredding the napkin into pieces under the table.
“Erm... yeah, absolutely,” Potter tries, stepping back and pasting on a smile. “So, what can I get you?”
The man’s grin widens and Draco winces, sensing that Potter has somehow inadvertently played right into his hands. Someone coughs, dragging Draco’s attention momentarily away from Potter, and he sees that the elderly woman who is second in the queue has begun to take exception to the way that the seduction attempt is getting in the way of her hot beverage. Draco likes her immediately.
“You can get me any way you want me,” the grinning man murmurs, just loud enough for Draco to hear. “Why don’t we—”
“Wow,” Potter interrupts, lifting a hand to rake through his hair. He shakes his head. “I don’t think we’re... I just want to know what you want to order, okay? I’m not looking for a date or anything... in fact, I’m—”
The man laughs. Behind him, the old lady sighs loudly. At his table, Draco sits, heart pounding, fighting hard against the quite irrational urge to leap up and intervene.
“Who said anything about a date?” the man says lasciviously. “I’m single and hot, you’re single and hot... let’s do what comes naturally.” He shrugs, and Draco feels slightly nauseated.
Potter frowns, seemingly caught somewhere between disgust and puzzlement. His eyes flit around the shop as he thinks, and when they lock with Draco’s, something within them seems to flare into life. Something hopeful. Draco catches his breath as Potter holds the eye contact, searching and pleading and seeming to look further into Draco than anyone has ever before wanted to. After a moment, he folds his arms over his apron and regards the slimy interloper with something like triumph.
“Actually, I’m not single,” he says simply.
The man falters, clearly startled. The old woman lets out a small ‘hmph’ and shuffles her feet. Potter smiles hopefully at Draco, and Draco freezes. Every fibre of his cowardly, silently-observing, pointlessly-yearning being turns numb as he realises what is required of him here. He is going to have to pretend to be Harry Potter’s boyfriend.
“I hate you,” he mumbles at the remains of the napkin, and forces himself out of his chair.
With a mammoth effort, he channels every last bit of Malfoy training and stalks, straight-backed and careless, over to the counter. The man is broader than him but shorter, tanned and dressed in a tight shirt and jeans that make Draco’s long coat and scarf seem ridiculous, but his cheap, overpowering aftershave makes Draco’s nose wrinkle and gives him the disdainful confidence he needs to ignore the oaf and look straight at Potter.
“Did you need me, Harry?”
Potter’s smile, genuine and grateful, thaws Draco’s nerves in an instant. “I just wanted you to meet my new friend. Draco, this is... actually, I’m not sure you told me your name.”
The man stares at Draco, bewildered. “You’re...?” He sighs and shakes his head. “Fucking timewasters,” he mutters, and turns his back on Harry. Clearly humiliated, he makes sure to kick several chairs and slam the door on his way out. All of the nearby customers look up in surprise, and, as the old woman finally approaches the counter, a gentle buzz of intrigued conversation fills the cafe.
“What’s his problem?” someone wonders, and the old lady huffs noisily.
“An over-inflated ego and a severe lack of intelligence,” she announces, dumping her carpet bag on the counter. “Now, I’d like a pot of tea and a piece of that Bara Brith.”
“On the house,” Potter says, darting a glance at Draco before turning away to make up a tea tray. “I’m sorry you had to wait so long. Draco—wait a minute, will you?”
Draco halts, abandoning his attempt to creep back to his table. Discomfited, he waits by the counter, catching frequent flashes of green eyes through the cake display as Potter checks to see if he is still there.
When the old lady shuffles off to her table, Potter leans on the counter, stripy tea towel slung over one shoulder, glasses slightly askew. He bites his lip for a moment, making Draco’s fingers curl against his palms, then speaks.
“Thanks for rescuing me.”
Draco shrugs. “I would have done it for anyone.”
Potter smiles slowly. “No, you wouldn’t.”
Draco sighs. “No, I wouldn’t.”
“I was thinking,” Potter says, tone serious but eyes alight with amusement. “That bloke... he might come in again... it might be safer, you know, if we...” He flushes. So does Draco. “What do you think?”
Draco stares across the counter, stomach in knots. “Well,” he says at last, in little more than a whisper. “It would save me a lot of money on coffee.”
Potter grins, resting his hands on the shiny counter top. Draco reflects the posture back to him, and, after a moment, slides his palms across the surface until his fingertips touch Potter’s.
“Have you got to get back to work straight away?” Potter asks.
Draco shakes his head. He has no idea what time it is and he doesn’t think he has ever cared less.
“Good,” Potter says, lifting the hatch to let Draco through. He laces their fingers together easily and tugs Draco into a small kitchen. “Come on. I’ve got bread to knead. I wasn’t lying about being good with my hands, you know.”
“Is that so?” Draco murmurs.
“Absolutely,” Potter says, releasing Draco and plunging both hands into a slab of dough. “Look,” he says, holding up the stretchy mixture for Draco to see. “Expert technique, you see?”
Draco arches an eyebrow and perches on the edge of the floury table. He can wait a little longer.