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This is the time of day – or night – Harry loves the most. It's one in the morning, the house is silent, the curtains are drawn. The room is in darkness except for the circle of light under his work lamp. Nothing outside this circle exists. This is his entire world.

He needs the absolute focus that comes with working at night. The lamplight glints on his tools, on the loupe and on the myriad tiny parts that will eventually make a whole. On an ordinary night he loves it, but tonight something is wrong. His focus just isn't there.

Harry pushes his chair back and rubs at his eyes. He might as well go to bed for all the work he's getting done tonight. But before he does, he pulls out a desk drawer and picks up a sheet of parchment, frowning down at it.

 

REQUESTED ITEM: 1 family wall clock.

SPECIFICS: Wood casing. Weight driven. Three hands (gold).

LOCATIONS: Manor, Château, Garden, School, Tea Time, Travelling, Apéritifs, Mortal Peril.
Two blank locations for later additions.

PHOTOGRAPHS FOR CLOCK HANDS: Pls find photos attached to form.

CLOCK FACE: Mother-of-pearl.

MAXIMUM PRICE: None.

 

Harry makes a face and puts the order form back in the drawer.

"Château," he mutters. "Apéritifs! No price ceiling."

That's not what's bothering him, though. It's not the most opulent or snobbish request he's seen by far. Since he started making clocks ten years ago, he's made several items for the rich and famous, at home and abroad. No, what makes him unable to focus is the name at the bottom of the sheet.

 

REQUESTER: Draco Malfoy.

***

The first clock Harry made was for himself, purely as a hobby project. He had always loved the Weasley family clock showing the whereabouts of the various family members. Now that he had a family of his own, he wanted a Potter clock.

He's the first to admit it's not the prettiest clock in the world. The back of the casing has a hairline crack because he hadn't thought to dry out the wood properly, the location plates are a bit ham-fisted in their execution and the clockwork tends to be too fast, but it's a decent first try.

"It's splendiferous, mate!" Ron said when he first saw it and thumped Harry on the shoulder. "Not pretty? Remember ours? This one's a beauty."

It's not just the idea of keeping track of family that appeals to Harry. It's the merging of the two worlds, his two worlds, that gives the whole thing a symbolism that pleases him. The Muggle world and the wizarding world made him who he is, he created his family, he built the clock. There's the Muggle craftsmanship of the clockwork and casing, there's the spellwork for the trackers and the family member hands. He likes making all those small parts come together, work together, make a whole.

If only he could do the same with his family.

When it was obvious Ginny and Harry wouldn't be able to save their marriage and Ginny moved out, she asked him – no, ordered him – to remove her hand from the clock.

"I don't want you to know where I am at all times."

Tired of arguing, Harry pointed out mildly that he wouldn't know where she was at all times. He'd only know if she was at Home (which he already knew she wouldn't be, at least not their home at Grimmauld Place), at The Burrow, Work, School, Travelling, Lost or in Mortal Peril. "And if it's that last option, I'd like to think I'd come to your aid whether we're divorced or not."

Ginny's lip trembled a little at that, but she pressed her mouth into a hard line to hide it. "Remove it."

He did, but everyone else is still on there: James, Lily, Al. Teddy and Andromeda. Harry himself. But with Ginny gone and the children's hands all pointing to School, Harry's face on his clock hand looks as lost as the location it's pointing to.

***

Harry can't sleep. His mind keeps going back in time to that strangely aimless, unfocused period after Hogwarts, before he married Ginny. The time in-between, when Harry had felt suspended in thin air. Like a joyless magic trick.

They'd had a bit of an on again, off again relationship and eventually they'd taken a break to think. Ginny was away with the Holyhead Harpies. Harry busied himself refurbishing the House of Black, and when that was done he roamed Muggle London, trying to figure out who he was and what he wanted in life.

There was a whole Muggle world he didn't know very much about, and maybe he didn't belong there anymore, but he wanted to find out for sure. He wanted to see what he'd missed. So he went to sports games and concerts, cinemas and bars, museums and bookstores, and surprised himself by loving it.

One rainy autumn afternoon he walked slowly through the rooms of the National Gallery past paintings by Picasso and Cézanne, van Gogh and van Eyck, Caravaggio and Monet. In the Turner room he stopped to admire The Fighting Temeraire, and when he turned around he saw a man on the other side of the room that made him draw a breath – someone who looked familiar in an impossible way... No, it couldn't be. Not in Muggle London. Not dressed like that. He was looking at a Gainsborough on the opposite wall and had his back turned, but when he walked slowly to the next painting, Harry had a glimpse of his profile. It was definitely Draco Malfoy.

He was in jeans and a thin, dark green wool jumper. The soft rubber soles of his suede shoes made his steps noiseless. He looked calm and relaxed with his hands in his pockets, very different from the way he'd looked at Hogwarts or Malfoy Manor – or the Wizengamot, where Harry had seen him last.

Harry had a quick, heated debate with himself whether to slip out of the room unnoticed, but he'd never been one to back down from a challenge. Instead, he sauntered across the room pretending to look at the painting Draco had just left, inching closer until they were standing side by side.

"Of all the places in the world," Harry said in a low voice, "this isn't where I'd expect to meet you."

Draco started visibly when he saw who it was, and a blush began to bloom along his cheekbones. For a long moment they just looked at each other. "I could say the same to you, Potter."

To his own surprise, Harry smiled. He nodded towards the painting in front of them. "You like Gainsborough?"

Draco was still trying to blink the surprise from his eyes. "I prefer Turner."

Harry's smile lingered. "So do I."

Draco did look different, and it wasn't his Muggle clothes or the fact that he was older. There was something in his eyes, in his whole demeanour. No insecurity, no belligerence, none of the old contempt towards the world in general. He looked calm and firm, like he had finally come into his own.

"Look," he said, "we're obscuring people's view. Want to go for a coffee or something?"

The suggestion was so unexpected that Harry laughed.

Some minutes later, they sat looking at each other across a table in a café.

"What are you doing in the Muggle world?" Harry asked, stirring his coffee. It didn't need stirring; he needed something to do with his hands.

One corner of Draco's mouth went up. "You've been itching to ask that ever since you came up to me."

"Maybe. You're different."

Draco looked down at his jeans. "These are great, actually. Never thought I'd say that."

"I didn't mean the clothes. You look… as if you know who you are."

That made Draco look up. He nodded slowly. "Observant of you, Potter. I think that's true."

"And you're someone who likes going to Muggle museums?"

Draco smiled. "Art museums – or art and music in general – aren't exclusively Muggle. Look at Monet, for instance. Or Turner. Look at the way they paint. They're wizards. Just like Beethoven and Mozart were wizards."

Harry blinked. He wasn't sure if that was true or if Draco was having him on.

Draco grinned. "That's not why I go, though, or why I'm in Muggle London. I like being here because even if I know who I am no one else does, and no one here cares what I do."

Harry sighed and leaned back on his chair. "Tell me about it. But for me, it's more than that. I grew up partly in the Muggle world but I only knew it as a child. I want to get to know it for real, as an adult. Make it my own." He took a breath and smiled a little at Draco who was listening intently, his eyes on Harry's. "I have no idea why I'm telling you this."

Draco took a sip of his black coffee. "Why not? Don't you think it's about time we got to know each other? Properly, I mean. Now that we're not... teenage monsters anymore."

Harry laughed. If this was the new Draco, he could definitely get to like him. "Monsters is right. Being a teenager would have been horrible enough even without all the… even without…" He swallowed. "Without the war and everything."

Draco was studying him with a slightly puzzled look. "You said I look like I know who I am. Don't you? Know who you are, I mean."

Draco was forthright, if nothing else. Seemed like Harry wasn't alone in being observant.

"Hitting the nail on the head there, Malfoy. I feel I never had the time to find out who I was, who I was, in all that mess. That's what I've been trying to do ever since. Everyone knows who I am but me. I know, cry more. But there it is."

He expected Draco to taunt, but it didn't happen. Instead, Draco placed his hands on the table with his palms down. "I think we need something stronger than coffee. Let's go find a bar."

***

They did find a bar, and a restaurant after that, and it was hands down the best evening Harry had had in a long time. When they left the restaurant it had stopped raining but the pavement was still wet, reflecting the lights from shop windows and bars. It was Friday and people were standing in clusters outside the pubs, smoking and laughing.

"Do you want to go somewhere else," Harry said with a shiver of nerves, "or would you like to come back to my place for some Firewhiskey?"

It could be an innocent question and then again it might not be. All through the evening he'd been looking at Draco's stormcloud eyes, at the blue veins on the inside of his wrists, at the way his mouth stretched when he smiled, and he wasn't ready to let go yet. They had loathed each other all through Hogwarts, they had almost got each other killed and then they had saved each other's lives. One thing was certain: they had never been indifferent towards one another.

A thousand thoughts drifted by in Draco's eyes, but all he said was: "Firewhiskey sounds good."

They never had any Firewhiskey that night. When the door closed behind them and they stood in the darkness of the narrow hallway at Grimmauld Place, they both knew why they were there. Harry took a step forward, pressing Draco's back against the wall, and they breathed against each other for a moment before Harry leaned in for the kiss. Draco's hands found Harry's hips and Harry pushed up Draco's jumper, already fumbling with his belt.

They stumbled up the stairs to the bedroom. Harry kicked the door closed and leaned against it, pulled Draco to him and kissed the pale neck. Draco's head fell back, his eyes closed.

"Sure you want to do this?" Harry murmured against Draco's collarbone.

A breathy laugh. "Am I sure? I've wanted this… oh god, don't stop… I've wanted this for years."

***

Later, somewhere between night and morning, Harry took Draco up to the brand-new bathroom on the top floor.

"I think you'll like this." He whispered a spell and the roof slid open.

The sky had cleared after the rain, and they lay in the steaming tub with Draco's back on Harry's chest as they watched the stars.

"Right now," said Draco sleepily, sliding a hand down Harry's arm, "life's pretty perfect."

And Harry could only agree.

***

They'd spent practically every minute together over the next month, because they knew even then that it was only temporary. Soon it would be over, and they wanted to get the most out of it while they could.

Then Ginny finished her Quidditch, Astoria came back from her travels around the world, and it was time to grow up and live in the real world. Time to step into the conventional roles that the world had prepared for them.

***

 

Harry has another go at Draco's clock the next morning, and this time it works better. He doesn't even need the circle of light under his lamp to be able to focus. Perhaps his thoughts of Draco last night worked like an exorcism, and now that it's done with, he can get back to business.

He works in a kind of trance. His tools obey his fingers, his magic flows. After ten days the clockwork is done, the casing is coming to life, and it's time to start on the clock face. He wants to make it beautiful.

The order form asks for mother-of-pearl. It seems a little out of character for Draco to want something so conventional and muted, and Harry can't help wondering if it only was because he couldn't think of anything else. Actually, Harry has a great idea for it, but it's much more spectacular and consequently more expensive, and even if there's no price ceiling he can't go against a requestor's express wishes. He needs to send Draco an owl.

While he writes the note he does wonder if it's merely an excuse to contact Draco, make him respond, but waves the thought away. It doesn't matter if it is or not.

He stares into space and taps the quill against his lip before he finally writes:

I have an idea for the clock face. Part of it will be mother-of-pearl like you asked, but I'd like to make it a bit more ornate than you may have meant for it to be. Take a look at my drawing and let me know what you think.

Waiting for the reply makes him ridiculously nervous. He paces the house, drinks more coffee than is good for him and taps his fingers on the windowsill as he looks for the owl.

When it arrives, the message simply says: I trust you.

***

Harry has travelled to see clocks all over Europe – he's seen the astronomical clocks in Prague, Bern, Rouen, Copenhagen, Lund. He's seen the mechanical dragon clock in Blois and the peacock clock in St. Petersburg. He'd love to make Draco a clock inspired by the ones he loves the most.

With the help of Tower & Thorne, the jewellers in Diagon Alley, he creates an intricate dial with golden dragons that yawn and stretch, leap and breathe fire. It makes him smile and it makes his heart pound, because anyone who looks at it will see that it's made with love.

Once the dial is finished, it's time for the final step: the hands.

Draco has only asked for three.

Harry sits by his desk with the photos in front of him. Narcissa is beautiful, dignified and a little stern. Scorpius looks the viewer in the eye with an openness his father has never had. And Draco… Harry swallows. Draco looks as lost as Harry does on his own family clock.

There's no clock hand for Astoria. Harry remembers Hermione telling him about the Malfoy divorce a couple of years ago – how the hell she knew about it he has no idea.

Having two people close to your heart is far better than having none, Harry tells himself, but the implied loneliness of Draco's life still tugs at his heartstrings. An idea begins to form at the back of his mind. It's not without risk and perhaps it's a little presumptuous... He needs to sleep on it.

***

Time is the strangest thing. It can be fast or slow; rush like a river or stick like treacle. Seconds, eternities... sometimes they're the same.

Time is the great healer, people say, and it's true that time has healing powers. Like phoenix tears.

But more importantly: it can be turned back.

***

When Harry wakes up the next morning, he is all determination. Presumptious or not, he'll go ahead with his idea. Worst case scenario: Draco will hate the clock and be furious. Well, Harry will survive that, he supposes. He'll be no worse off than before. Best case scenario…. better not dwell on that. It's too much like wishful thinking.

It's not ego that makes him add a Harry hand to Draco's clock. He only wants Draco to be a little less lonely.

When the clock is finished, Harry scrutinises it one last time to see that there are no cracks or chipping or skewed parts. After a final polishing charm, everything looks perfect. It's without a doubt the most beautiful clock he's ever made.

***

Harry is half asleep on the sofa with a Firewhiskey and The Quibbler when the doorbell rings. Yawning, he smooths his hands over his hair and runs down the stairs to answer the door.

"Hello," says Draco Malfoy.

His breath is like a cloud and his black, silver-clasped cloak is adorned with miniature stars on the shoulders. It's snowing.

Harry steps aside, a little breathless. His heartbeat is loud in his ears. "Come in."

Draco removes his cloak, brushing off the snow. "I came to thank you for the clock." There's a hint of a smile when he looks up. "I knew you were home. The clock told me."

Harry closes the door. They're standing in the narrow, dimly lit hallway, just like that first time. So much has changed, but some things haven't. Draco's eyes are still the colour of stormclouds. Harry still wants to kiss him.

"Come on up."

In front of the fire, there's a long silence before Draco asks: "Why did you make that addition to the clock?"

Harry smiles, turning his whiskey glass in his hands. "I thought you should have more people in your life. At least, that's what I told myself."

"But?"

"But now I think it was for selfish reasons. Because I wanted to be back in your life." He lifts his eyes to Draco's, half apologetic. "The hand is easily removed if you don't want it there."

Draco shakes his head slowly. "No. I like it there."

Harry's heart begins to pound as Draco puts his glass down on the table and asks: "Do you still have that bathroom on the top floor?"

***

A while later, they lie in the steaming bath with Draco's back on Harry's chest as they watch the snow whirl in the sky.

"I've never been as happy as I was that month with you," Harry murmurs.

He doesn't care if it's too much too soon. He doesn't care if Draco doesn't want to hear it.

But Draco replies with a smile in his voice: "Neither have I."

This bathroom is one of the best ideas Harry ever had. Plotting to get Draco back into his life may prove to be an equally good one.

"Do you think we should give it another try?"

"Isn't that what we're doing now?"

Harry leans his head back and smiles up at the dancing snowflakes. He's warm all the way to his toes.

Draco adjusts his head on Harry's shoulder. "I remember the first time we were here. With the steaming water and the cold sky, and... and you... I kind of wondered whether it was all real."

"And now?" Harry asks softly. "Is it real now?"

Draco takes a deep breath. "I'd like it to be. Wasn't that what the clock was – an invite?"

"Hmm, yes. Yes, it was."

Draco's laugh sounds relieved. "You're many things, Potter, but subtle isn't one of them."

Harry grins. "Being straightforward is effective. I find it produces results."

"Why did you become a clockmaker?"

"Well, I wanted a family clock like the one the Weasleys had and decided to make my own. Then people began to ask me to make them one, too, and I enjoyed doing it. I still do."

"A friend of Mother's in France has one," Draco says. " 'A Real Potter Clock!' she told Mother in triumphant tones."

Harry laughs. "To which your mother replied that she had personally saved Potter's life, so without her there wouldn't be any clocks?"

Draco grins. "She could have, but she didn't. But it kind of made me want a Real Potter Clock for myself."

"Of course you did, and of course it had nothing to do with being a great excuse for contacting me. You're many things, Malfoy, but subtle isn't – mmph!"

Draco has whipped around to silence Harry with a kiss.

When they've settled back down, Draco asks: "Were you surprised by the order?"

"I was, a little. But it wasn't the most surprising order I've had."

"Oh? What was?"

"Dudley Dursley, my Muggle cousin, asked me to make him a clock."

The clock order had been a surprise in itself, but then Dudley had asked – slightly embarrassed, as if asking too much or exposing a weakness – if Harry would mind including hands for the Potter family as well. Harry had been genuinely moved.

"Dudley was horrible as a kid but he's actually a pretty decent adult." After a pause, Harry adds: "Much like some other people I could name."

Draco leans his head back so he can look up at Harry and says in his haughtiest, most drawling voice: "I have no earthly idea to whom you're referring."

Their lips are only inches apart and it's impossible not to lean down and kiss him. "You wouldn't."

The clouds are breaking up, swept away across the night sky, revealing a luminous bridge of stars.

"I added some things to my own clock, too," Harry says. "Come and see."

Barefoot and in bathrobes they pad down to the kitchen, leaving wet footprints on the stairs. They stand side by side looking up at the Potter family clock, where their own faces look back at them from the Harry and Draco clock hands.

There's a pause filled with heartbeat and breathing. Then Draco pulls Harry to him and kisses the damp hair at his temple. "I always knew you were soppy, Potter." He adds in a whisper: "Thank you."

Clock Harry and Clock Draco look pleased. Both of them are pointing to a newly added location: Where You Belong.

"Come," Harry says. "I think it's time for bed."

Draco's eyebrows go up suggestively. "Oh? Well, you're not often right, but in this instance I completely agree. It's most definitely time for bed."

~***~