Actions

Work Header

The Light That is Blinding Me

Work Text:

- - -

Harry pulled his cloak tightly around himself, hood raised to hide his face.

He made it to Flourish and Blotts unnoticed, and let out a small sigh of relief that he’d made it without being harassed by anybody for an autograph or a photograph. It had been ten years since the war, but people somehow hadn’t tired of him yet.

Flourish and Blotts was thankfully quiet, and Harry had chosen late on a Friday evening for that reason. Most people wanted to go home after a busy week at work, rather than head for a shop they could visit over the weekend.

It was so quiet in the store that he could hear the soft rustle of pages turning as customers looked through the books, and the tapping of the shopkeeper on the counter.

He headed straight to the fiction section, running his fingers across the soft leather bindings of the books on the shelves as his gaze studied the names on the side. Gully, Habbershaw, Hannoy, Heath

“Excuse me,” Harry said as he approached the counter.

The woman behind the desk looked rather bored, twirling her greying hair around a finger as she eyed Harry distastefully for disturbing her. Her gaze jumped to his scar and her demeanor instantly changed, smiling as she leaned over the counter eagerly.

“What can I help you with, Mr Potter?” she asked, fluttering her eyelashes.

“I’m looking for a book by Sebastian Hawthorne,” Harry said, taking a step back as the woman all but lay on the counter in an attempt to be close to him. “There’s usually several of his on the shelf but I can’t find any.”

“Hmm, Sebastian Hawthorne,” the assistant murmured, drumming blood-red painted nails on the countertop as she idly flicked through a large book with a single hand. “Oh yes, we had some complaints so we’re no longer stocking his novels.”

Harry stared. “Complaints? What complaints?”

A pit of nausea settled in his stomach, growing worse as the assistant simply shrugged non-committedly.

“Because of the homosexual content,” the woman finally stated in a hushed tone, “parents didn’t want their children picking up such alternative literature and asking questions.”

“What question could they possibly want to avoid?” Harry asked icily. “Except one filled with hate?”

“Mr Potter?” The assistant furrowed her brows, and in the quiet of the shop her voice was much too loud.

Harry could feel the eyes of the other customers on him, and somehow the silence was more deafening than the assistant spewing second-hand bigotry. His breathing began to quicken, his fingers trembling as Harry found himself the centre of everyone’s attention; exactly what Harry had been trying to avoid.

“Forget it,” he muttered, pulling his hood back up and leaving the shop without another word.

With his robes disguising him, Harry could return home unnoticed and ignored, exactly the way he liked it.

- - -

Ginny and Luna’s home always had an inviting but unusual mix of smells to it; incense, and spices, and sea salt.

Their cottage was right on the coastline, a pretty little thing with white walls and a thatched roof. Ginny was cooking Moroccan tonight, with cumin and ginger and turmeric.

“You look unsettled, Harry,” Luna had said when he’d arrived. “I’ll get some frankincense burning to help.”

Harry admittedly did feel less anxious since settling in, but that could also have been because of the large glass of red wine that Ginny had poured Harry.

“Are you ready to tell us what’s bothering you now?” Ginny asked as she served up a Moroccan beef stew, along with freshly baked bread. She’d become quite the accomplished cook over the years, and she and Luna could always be counted on to come up with something not typically served at British tables.

Harry allowed himself a moment to breath against the warm bread, inhaling the delicious scent before he answered.

“It’s nothing awful,” Harry shrugged, absently tearing a chunk of bread off with his fingers. “Flourish and Blotts have stopped selling Sebastian Hawthorne’s books because people said they didn’t want their children exposed to it.”

“What?” Ginny exclaimed, her spoon falling to the table with a clatter. “That’s blatant homophobia.”

“I know,” Harry said, nodding and dropping his bread all together so he could run his fingers through his hair . “I tried to argue but…”

“But you struggle with that sometimes,” Luna finished, fixing him with a kind smile. “It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, Harry. It’s sad, isn’t it, that people still think being queer is a bad thing?”

“It doesn’t make me sad, it makes me mad,” Ginny retorted. “That’s so messed up. I swear, you and me, Luna, let’s go to Flourish and Blotts tomorrow and kiss in front of everyone.”

“Kissing you is always nice,” Luna giggled. “But kissing amongst dust is not so nice. Hmm, have you ever been to York, Harry?”

Harry blinked, still barely used to Luna’s tendency to abruptly change topics despite knowing her for so long, shook his head. “Neville always says the only good part of Yorkshire is Leeds.”

He grinned, making Ginny roll her eyes. “Loyal to his home city, isn’t he?”

“York is lovely,” Luna continued, “and there’s a delightful bookshop there called Rainbow Reads and it’s entirely queer. It sells Muggle books mostly, but it’s run by a wizard and there’s a magical section there. I’m sure you’ll find Sebastian’s novels there; you really do like his books.”

Hawthorne’s novels were Harry’s guilty pleasure. They were cliche and cheesy, and entirely sappy, but they were wonderfully romantic and so easy to get lost in. There was absolutely nothing in there that could be considered offensive or inappropriate for children, but if Harry could get the books elsewhere then he wasn’t going to fight Flourish and Blotts to re-stock them; he’d much rather given his money to a non-bigoted business.

“I think I may take a trip to York,” Harry declared. “After all, I’m sure Flourish and Blotts don’t want my grubby bisexual hands all over their products—just think of the children!”

Ginny laughed so hard she almost choked on her bread.

- - -

York, though it was technically a city, lacked the heaving, hectic bustle of London. It was much more quaint, filled with tourists and university students, and cobbled streets led towards the large Minster that looked down over the city.

As far as cities went it was a pretty one, and Harry felt quite at ease as he strolled down boutique-lined streets. The bookshop that Luna had directed him to was not far from a street called the Shambles, which looked like the Muggles’ answer to Diagon Alley, with crooked buildings narrowly lining a stone paved street.

The words Rainbow Reads were scrawled in bright coloured writing on a wooden board, the shop itself small and crooked and cosy. He pushed the heavy door open, a bell jingling as he did so.

The shop was much smaller than Flourish and Blotts, with three tall shelves of books at the front, and another room at the back that looked distinctly more magical, with floating balls of light and a poster of a phoenix tacked to the wall.

Harry’s gaze fell to the counter where the shopkeeper sat hunched over a book. His eyes widened; Harry would recognise hair that white blond anywhere, and his suspicions were confirmed when the man glanced towards the door.

“Potter?” Malfoy exclaimed, just as surprised as Harry felt.

Although his presence was unexpected, Harry thought that Malfoy looked good. His face was as sharp and pointy as ever, giving him a kind of quirky handsomeness, and his pale face and white hair were complemented by the jet-black jumper that Malfoy wore over his lean frame.

It took Harry a moment to notice that Malfoy was wearing thin-wired glasses. Harry favoured a thick black frame—Hermione had helped him upgrade from his free NHS spectacles—but Malfoy pulled off the thin-wired look well. It made him look intellectual and aristocratic, which was what Malfoy was, and Harry couldn’t deny that Malfoy had aged well over the last ten years.

“Hello,” Harry said, giving Malfoy a polite smile. There were no other customers in the store, and Harry felt a strange sense of homely comfort of being just him and Malfoy together. “I didn’t know you wore glasses!”

Malfoy scowled. “Really? You see me for the first time in a decade and instead of asking how I am, the first thing you point out is my glasses? And they’re reading glasses, for the record.”

As if to emphasise his point, Malfoy plucked the glasses from his face and folded them neatly in the hem of his shirt.

Harry swallowed heavily, eyes instinctively following the path from Malfoy’s sharp collar bones pressing through the thin, grey fabric of his shirt, and down to his lean chest.

“Sorry,” Harry shrugged, not really sorry at all. “Er, I came here for a book, actually.”

“Yes, that’s generally what people do when they come to a bookstore,” Malfoy said with a smirk, relaxing from his previous anger.

“Luna pointed me this way, actually,” Harry said, ignoring the hotness that had struck his cheeks. “I went to Flourish and Blotts to pick up Sebastian Hawthorne’s new book and was told that they’re deemed too inappropriate to sell there anymore.”

Malfoy snorted. “Ah, yes, such degenerate filth. They’ve done you a favour at any rate, Potter; at least you won’t shop at that fucking pit anymore.”

Harry wasn’t sure why, but hearing Malfoy swear got him hot under the collar. He tugged at his coat, and gave Malfoy a strained smile.

“I have some of his new novel in stock,” Malfoy pressed on, oblivious—or ignoring—Harry’s attempt at playing it cool. “I’m half-way through, and I think it’s his best one yet.”

Malfoy held up the book he was reading to show Harry the cover, which was adorned with the customary golden scrawl of Hawthorne’s name.

“Really?” Harry asked eagerly. “I didn’t think he could beat The Cursebreaker’s Foil.”

“That’s a good one, yes, but this is better,” Malfoy smiled.

Harry picked up a copy of Hawthorne’s new book and grabbed a bookmark off the tower on the counter, the design on the bookmark mirroring the bisexual flag.

Harry handed over his money, and Malfoy gave him his purchases, but Harry found himself lingering in the shop, not quite willing to leave though he had no reason to stay. He liked Malfoy’s shop and how peaceful it was compared to the world outside. He liked the open queerness of it, how bright and vibrant the books on the shelves and the posters on the walls were, and he liked the look of the man standing behind the counter.

“Is there something else you wanted?” Malfoy asked, frowning slightly as he watched Harry hovering by the doorway.

“Yes, I...where’s a nice place to go in York?” Harry blurted out. “I’ve never been here before.”

Malfoy’s expression softened. “Go down to the river; it’s a nice walk and there’s places to sit and enjoy the view. Oh, and stop off at Betty’s on the way for coffee and cake; suck up the queue because it is worth the wait.”

Malfoy gave Harry directions and sent him off on his way, Harry having no excuse to stay in the comfort of Malfoy’s shop any longer.

Harry eventually made it to the river and found himself a bench, settling down with a takeaway coffee cup in one hand and his book in the other, and allowed himself a moment to appreciate the beauty in front of him.

The river was wide and had pretty boats floating slowly down it. Tall, glamorous houses and apartment blocks sat on the other side of the bank, looking down onto the dark depths. The air was chilly with the November breeze, and he took a grateful sip of his coffee before setting it down on the bench beside him so he could turn the page of his book.

Malfoy had been right; the wait for the coffee had been worth it.

He soon lost himself in the new world that Hawthorne had created, the story as wonderfully crafted and compelling as ever. Harry wasn’t much of a reader, but Hermione had given him one of Hawthorne’s novels after Ron had accidentally picked it up for her rather than the murder mystery she’d requested.

Harry hadn’t thought he would like reading about an Auror falling in love with a crime suspect—who turned out to be innocent in the end, naturally. It was dreadfully sappy and romantic, but Harry couldn’t help but love it and dreamed of having his own fairytale romance one day.

He’d had good relationships, certainly, but all of them had finished without a happy ending. He’d dated Ginny for almost a year at the end of the war, but they’d both been hurting and hadn’t been good for each other at the time. Ginny had ended up going travelling with Luna after their break up, and when she returned six months later she was very happy and in love with Luna, and Harry was thrilled for them both.

He’d dated Oliver Wood for a while, too, but between Oliver’s Quidditch practices and Harry’s shifts at St Mungo’s they hardly saw each other. He and Oliver were still good friends, but they hadn’t worked out either.

Harry’s most meaningful relationship had been with Susan Bones, whom he dated for two years and was considering proposing to when Susan announced she’d been accepted for a job at a law firm in Singapore. They’d both agreed they didn’t want the other to have to make sacrifices in their careers—Harry didn’t want to leave St Mungo’s, but he certainly didn’t want Susan to give up her dreams either—so she’d moved to Singapore alone.

He didn’t regret any of his relationships, and he considered himself lucky that his break ups had been clean and mutual. There’d been heartbreak, of course, but his broken heart had healed and he was fortunate to keep his old loves in his life as friends.

But the fact was that Harry was twenty-eight now and he still hadn’t had his dream romance and happy ending.Everyone told him it would happen one day, and Harry tried to have faith that it would, but all he could do until then was lose himself in the worlds of characters who always got a happy ending.

Harry took another sip of his coffee. Malfoy really did have impeccable taste.

- - -

“That looks beautiful,” Harry said cheerfully, holding the brightly painted drawing of several stick figures at arms length in front of him so he could truly appreciate it. “Your best yet; shall we pin it on the wall somewhere?”

Adeline nodded, beaming brightly. Harry grasped the handles of her wheelchair and passed her drawing back to her.

“You keep a good hold of that,” Harry told her, wheeling her over to the large wall at the end of the ward that was covered in drawings and paintings done by children who were staying there.

Adeline reached forwards so she could press her painting to the wall—magic helped it stick automatically—and she sat back proudly as she considered her work.

Harry smiled fondly at the wall.

Pediatric Healing wasn’t the easiest of jobs, especially on an emotional level, but he loved what he did. When he’d started Healer training he’d never planned to work with children, but after he got placed there on rotation he realised he didn’t want to be anywhere else.

St Mungo’s was the one place where Harry never felt anxious, his need to help others overriding that. He was responsible for the health and safety of dozens of poorly children, and his heart wouldn’t let his brain put them at risk by making him second-guess his decisions or make hesitations at critical moments.

The ward he ended up working on full-time was for children who had long-term illnesses, some of which were terminal, and Harry made it his goal to make sure their lives were as happy and fulfilling as they could be despite the circumstances.

“Great work, Addie,” Harry praised. “It looks fantastic up on the wall.”

Adaline giggled. “Do you really think so, Healer Harry?”

“Absolutely,” Harry confirmed as he wheeled Adaline over to the ‘lounge’ area of the ward, where the children could gather if they felt or were able to get out of bed on any given day. It was close enough to the beds so that the children who weren’t able to get up would still be able to hear and join in with the others. “Shall we draw another picture?”

Adaline hummed thoughtfully. “Can you tell us a story?”

Several other children perked up at the mention of a story, and Harry could never say no to that many eager and hopeful faces. He didn’t have to do health checks for another ten minutes, so he pulled up a bean bag and waited for the group to gather around him.

Harry smiled at them all, tapping his feet on the pink, fluffy carpet that had been ‘anonymously’ donated to the ward. He glanced over at the suspect of the purchase, Healer Pansy, who was sat with little Betsy, painting her nails on her bed.

“Hmm,” Harry murmured, picking up a pile of plastic books with vibrant illustrations on the front and shifting through them. “What do we fancy today?”

They settled on Cinderella in the end. Harry had realised there was a distinct lack of Muggle books when he’d first joined the ward, and as the children were all under eleven they were magic-raised, which meant after Harry introduced Muggle books they found them new and exciting.

The children listened intently as Harry read, even the children in the nearby beds. He had to stop reading on a number of occasions to answer questions—how ugly are the ugly stepsisters? Is the fairy godmother a fairy or a witch? Is the footman an Animagus? What does Prince Charming look like?

Harry paused, realising the book didn’t give a description of the prince, other than the fact he was charming and handsome.

“Well,” Harry said carefully, an image springing to his mind of how Prince Charming might look. “Tall, of course, and handsome. Blond hair as white as snow, and striking grey eyes...and he wears glasses.”

“Glasses?!” Betsy exclaimed from her bed. “Prince Charming doesn’t wear glasses!”

Pansy snorted.

“Only for reading,” Harry said hastily, face flushing red.

By the time Harry finished his shift he was exhausted and was ready to go home and have a nice, long soak in the bath...perhaps burn some frankincense because Luna was probably onto something with that…

He slammed the door to his locker shut, jumping when he saw Pansy lounging behind it.

“Jesus, Pansy!” he exclaimed, clutching a hand to his chest as his heart hammered wildly beneath it. “How many times have I told you not to do that?”

“A lot,” Pansy answered with a shrug, “but I do what I like.”

“Isn’t that the truth?” Harry muttered, but he gave Pansy a sly grin.

“So…” Pansy purred, hooking her arm through Harry’s as they left the locker room. “Who’s this handsome blond man you’ve got on your mind?”

“Who says I’ve got anyone on my mind?” Harry answered quickly, but he knew it wasn’t true, and he knew that Pansy knew that, too.

“Fine, don’t tell me,” Pansy huffed, before giving him a smug smirk. “But, if you don’t...well, the only tall, grey-eyed blond who wears-glasses-but-only-for-reading that I know is Draco Malfoy, so unless you say otherwise I’m just going to have to assume it’s him you’re thinking of.”

Harry didn’t answer, pursing his lips as he desperately tried not to think about Malfoy again. He hadn’t been able to get Malfoy off his mind since he’d run into him at the bookshop, and even though the attraction was purely physical—mainly physical—Harry found himself as smitten as a teenager.

“No!” Pansy gasped, stopping dead in her tracks which almost sent Harry tumbling over in the process. “You fancy Draco?!”

“Fancy isn’t the word I’d use,” Harry said carefully. “I’m not twelve, for one thing.”

He grinned, bearing the light slap Pansy subjected his arm to.

“But you’ve not seen Draco for years,” Pansy stated, tapping her chin with a pink-painted nail, “or have you seen him and not thought to tell the mutual friend you both have in common?”

“Are we friends?” Harry teased. “Or are you just the pushy colleague that works with me?”

Pansy considered the question. “Both. Just like you’re my friend, and also my annoying colleague who avoids his emotions using humour.”

“I don’t have any emotions to hide,” Harry defended. “I went to York to buy a book from a shop that Luna recommended, which ended up being Malfoy’s, and I thought he was quite fit; that’s all.”

“Hmm,” Pansy murmured thoughtfully. “You know, I quite fancy going to York now; did you get to try Betty’s? Let’s go on our next day off!”

- - -

When Harry was eighteen and beginning his Healer training, he was horrified when he heard Pansy would be part of the student team. As far as he was concerned, Pansy had no bedside manner, no patience, and no kindness.

By the time training finished four years later, Harry was over the moon to hear that Pansy would be working with him as the two newest recruits in the pediatric department. When it came to Healing, Pansy was wonderfully talented. She simply had a way of putting the grouchiest patient at ease, was understanding and calm, and was determined to make the patients as comfortable and happy as possible.

That wasn’t to say she wasn’t sarcastic and gossipy off the wards, but as Harry got to know her he found that their sense of humour was perfectly compatible; some of their colleagues eventually started to refer to them as the ‘sass twins’.

Harry considered her a friend now, and he laughed sharply as Pansy described the rather hopeless sounding man she’d recently been on a date with.

“And would you believe, I went to the kitchen to get us some wine, and when I came back he was naked on my sofa!” Pansy exclaimed loudly, rolling her eyes as a lady at a nearby table tutted. “Oh, don’t be such a prude!”

“He was naked?” Harry questioned, trying to distract Pansy before she started a fight with a Muggle stranger. Betty’s was a posh tea room, and he imagined they frowned upon customers fighting inside it. “Why was he naked?”

“He saw it on some Muggle tv show,” Pansy said, lowering her voice. “Apparently it works two out of three times in getting somebody to sleep with you.”

“And did you?” Harry teased.

Pansy scoffed. “Of course; you should have seen his body! And he was rather more likable when he shut his stupid mouth.”

After they finished their meal they stepped back out onto the streets of York, linking arms as they huddled under a bright pink umbrella together. The rain had cleared away a lot of the tourist crowd that Harry had experienced last time, and they were able to have a much more leisurely stroll through the cobbled streets.

“I must go and see Draco while we’re here,” Pansy stated, giving Harry a sly smirk. “It would be rude not to, don’t you think?”

“Not if he doesn’t find out,” Harry grinned, but he reluctantly allowed Pansy to lead him down the familiar path to Malfoy’s shop.

He allowed Pansy to step inside first, taking a brief moment to try and flatten his hair just a little bit. Despite the umbrella his hair and coat were still damp from the rain, so he cast a discreet drying charm over himself so that he might look at least somewhat presentable.

Not that it mattered, because it was only Malfoy. Harry was definitely not trying to look good for him.

“Hey,” Harry muttered awkwardly as he stepped into the welcoming warmth of the shop, the brightness inside almost blinding compared to the dull, dreary scene just outside.

Malfoy’s shop felt homely and relaxing, and the familiar stab of anxiety that had been bubbling in Harry’s stomach that he usually felt when he was out in public ebbed away.

“Potter,” Malfoy greeted curtly, scowling when Pansy hopped up onto his counter. “Get your arse off there, Pansy; that’s where I eat.”

“Eating on the job, you naughty boy,” Pansy tutted, giving Harry an overt wink. “Hmm, is there an Ann Summers in York, Draco? Yes? Excellent; Harry, I’ll be back soon. Just wait for me here.”

Harry, who’d been carefully studying Malfoy’s lean, black-clad form, snapped his gaze to Pansy.

“Can’t I go with you?” Harry asked, feeling his heartbeat quicken as he looked back over to Malfoy. Malfoy was smirking, his lips as red as an apple and as wicked as the Devil.

“I’m going to buy lingerie” Pansy stated, stressing the last word. “You can’t go with a lady you’re not sleeping with to buy lingerie.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t bite, Potter,” Malfoy drawled, beckoning him over with a crooked finger. “Not unless you ask me to, at any rate.”

“I know what you’re like, Malfoy,” Harry retorted. “All bark, no bite.”

“You can test that theory out, if you like,” Malfoy teased. “I’ll even let you sit on the counter, if you like.”

“Fuck you too,” Pansy murmured, flipping Malfoy the finger on her way out. “Try not to kill each other while I’m gone, dearies.”

Harry shook his head in amusement, hopping up onto the counter just because he could. He somehow had a feeling that Pansy had planned on ditching him with Malfoy the second she told Harry they should go to York together.

“So, how far are you?” Malfoy asked conversationally as he took a seat behind the counter.

Harry twisted around to see him, swallowing heavily when he saw the elegant glasses resting on Malfoy’s nose once more. It really wasn’t fair how good Malfoy looked in glasses, looking like a university lecturer dripping in money compared to Harry’s artistic-hipster-living-in-a-studio-apartment vibe.

“How far…?” Harry frowned, realisation dawning on him when Malfoy pulled out the same book he’d been reading last time. “Oh, not too far actually. The day after I got it I had six shifts in a row; today’s my first day off.”

“Whatever did you do to Pansy that meant you’re forced to spend your free time with her?” Malfoy exclaimed, peering over the rim of his glasses at Harry in a way that was supposed to look stern but instead had Harry pulling at the collar of his coat as he felt his cheeks flush.

He shrugged his coat off, folding it haphazardly over his lap as he stretched his arms above his head. Malfoy looked away quickly when Harry glanced back at him, a pink tongue dabbing out to wet his lower lip. Harry’s eyes followed the movement, pulling his own lip between his teeth.

“I like Pansy,” Harry shrugged. “Don’t tell her I said that, will you?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Malfoy assured. “Even I’m not that cruel.”

Harry grinned. “I love your customer service skills. What did you mean anyway when you said you eat at the counter?”

“It means, Potter,” Malfoy answered with deliberate slowness, “that I take an item of food and place in my mouth and-”

“I’m aware of the concept of eating,” Harry cut in, looking at Malfoy pointedly, who seemed to be holding back a smirk. “I meant why don’t you go your office?”

“Do I look like I have time to go to the office?” Malfoy retorted. “I’m the only person who works here, apart from a Saturday where I have just one member of staff to help me. I’m simply not busy enough to hire anyone for the rest of the week, and I can hardly hire Muggles on account of all the wizardry books and charms I have in the place.”

“I feel for you,” Harry said with genuine sincerity, tilting his head curiously as he watched Malfoy idly turning a page of his book. “I work with other staff, but the shifts are twelve hours and non-stop; I’ve done nothing but work for the last six days, but at least I get six days off now.”

“And you’ve dedicated one of those to spending time with Pansy and myself,” Malfoy smirked. “Living the highlife, I see.”

Malfoy’s words sparked an idea in Harry, and he tapped on the desk eagerly to capture Malfoy’s full attention.

“You live here, right? Care to recommend a good hotel?”

- - -

The bed and breakfast that Malfoy pointed Harry in the direction of was a quaint little place by the riverside run by an elderly couple who fussed over Harry the moment he walked in to ask if they had any rooms available.

As Harry sat in their dining room, looking out at the rays of winter sun dancing across the dark depths of the river, he found his thoughts drifting to Malfoy. He hadn’t thought of him for years, not until a few days ago when he’d run into an adult, professional Draco Malfoy who wore sleek black clothes and reading glasses and was a far cry from the haunted teenager that Harry had known years ago.

He supposed it made sense that Malfoy had changed; after all, Harry was also no longer himself a haunted teenager but a grown man who only had a small number of demons lingering. Luna claimed his anxiety issues were a manifestation of his natural positivity trying to push out the negative magic he’d drawn into himself during the war; Hermione claimed it was a natural, chemical response to trauma and that burning incense and wearing charms wasn’t going to fix it.

Besides, Pansy turned out not to be so bad once Harry got to know her, so it only stood to reason that it wouldn’t hurt to give Malfoy a chance. So, after finishing his homemade Full English—better than Mrs Weasley’s, though he’d take that secret to the grave—Harry made his way to Betty’s and picked up two cups of coffee and a sweet pastry.

It was still early morning, and the sun shone brightly down on the cobbled streets. Though he preferred the lower crowds of York in comparison to London anyway, he preferred it even more when it was just him and a handful of students and inner-city workers travelling down the winding streets. There was nothing overwhelming or claustrophobic about early morning York, and he took his time looking at the shop displays of stylish clothes, stuffed animals, and glimmering jewellery.

The November air was chilly enough to make his breath come out in frosty bursts of air, and he was grateful for the takeaway coffee cups warming his hands. He caught a glimpse of his reflection as he stepped towards the door of Malfoy’s shop, spying pale cheeks and a rosy red nose. He rubbed it surreptitiously, but it only served to make it redder.

Shaking his head in amusement, he pushed the door open and listened to the familiar jingle of the bell above. Malfoy glanced up, eyes widening slightly as he realised who had come in.

“You again?” Malfoy murmured, giving him a teasing smirk. “You’ll be giving Granger a run for her money if you can read this fast.”

“I’m not here for a book,” Harry said, making Malfoy quirk his brow. Harry blushed, realising that most people went to a bookshop with the express reason of buying a book and nothing else. He raised one of the coffee cups as on offering. “I thought I’d treat you to a Betty’s coffee, you know, for recommending me such a great bed and breakfast.”

Malfoy eyed the cup greedily and stepped out from behind the counter to get it. As Harry handed the cup over their fingers brushed, and Harry found Malfoy’s fingers like ice. He bit his lip, watching as Malfoy took a grateful sip of coffee, gaze following the line of Malfoy’s throat as he swallowed.

“Fuck me, that’s good,” Malfoy murmured, closing his eyes for a moment. “I might have to start recommending you things more often if I get rewarded for it.”

“I got you this too,” Harry said, holding up a paper bag with the deep red Betty’s logo printed across it. “I really do love the bed and breakfast.”

Malfoy smiled widely, the first genuine one that Harry had seen on his face. It lit up his features, grey eyes glowing like silver.

“Potter, you didn’t...chocolate and orange! Did Pansy tell you what I liked?” The blissful look on Malfoy’s face as he bit into the biscuit made Harry feel indecent, like he was intruding on something intimate.

“No,” Harry said, clearing his throat at the high tone his voice had unwillingly taken on. “I mean, no, Pansy didn’t tell me. You just struck me as the type.”

“Good taste in books and food,” Malfoy drawled, looking at Harry pointedly as he sucked a finger into his mouth to lap up melted chocolate. “I wonder what else you have good taste in.”

Men, Harry supposed. Though he wasn’t sure if Malfoy counted as good or bad taste; he could be like something that looked good on the outside but tasted sour.

“Me and Pansy went to Betty’s afternoon tea yesterday,” Harry commented, unable to watch Malfoy’s expressions as he ate the biscuit any longer in case his cheeks remained permanently stained red. “It was nice, but I think we offended some old ladies.”

“Pansy’s always offended old ladies,” Malfoy quipped. “You, on the other hand...I thought you’d be the kind to help them cross the street and save their cats from trees.”

“Only on the weekends,” Harry said seriously. He hopped up on the counter, taking a sip of own coffee and welcoming the warmth in his throat. “I’m afraid on the weekdays I’m simply encouraging people like Pansy.”

“Oh?” Malfoy purred, hopping up onto the counter beside Harry. “Maybe we should go together and you can encourage me to do bad things.”

Harry flushed—again. He didn’t think he’d ever been so close to Malfoy; he could smell the spicy, gingery scent of his cologne that felt warm and inviting. He found himself leaning instinctively into Malfoy, more aware of ever than the two inches Malfoy had on him.

Harry had always like the idea of a male partner being taller than him, but being tall himself meant he didn’t always get his wish.

“You don’t need any encouragement to be bad,” Harry pointed out, giving Malfoy a sly smile. “But perhaps you could give me some pointers.”

The corner of Malfoy’s lips quirked upwards, his body shifting so his knee brushed Harry’s. He opened his mouth to say something, but it fell shut when the door creaked open and the bell above the door jingled.

They hastily jumped off the counter, straightening their clothes as two women with brightly coloured hair walked in, hand-in-hand.

“Thanks for the coffee, Potter,” Malfoy said. “I’ll see you around.”

- - -

Malfoy’s shop was shut on Sundays, and by the afternoon Harry found himself thinking of ways he could go and see Malfoy without looking like he was stalking him. He’d been to see him the last couple of days bringing Malfoy coffee and buying a book while he was there, but there was only so many times he could visit Malfoy without seeming desperate.

He’d been to the York Dungeons that morning and had to leave only a quarter of the way round. It was a tourist attraction so he thought it would have been enjoyable, but the darkness and the gloomy atmosphere brought back memories of the war and his cupboard, and he’d had to run out one of the exits with his heart hammering in his chest and his fingers trembling violently.

He wished Malfoy’s shop was open just so he could lose himself in the warmth and comfort of it. His fingers were still shaking a little bit now, a common lingering effect of his panic attacks; he wound them in his hair and tugged hard, bowing his head and squeezing his eyes shut.

He jumped when a the telephone on his bedside table rang out, breaking through the consuming silence.

Sweaty fingers grasped the receiver as he held it up to his ear. “Hello?”

“Sorry to bother you, Mr Potter,” said Matilda, the woman who owned the bed and breakfast with her husband, John. “But there’s a gentlemen here to see you; a Draco Malfoy.”

Harry’s heart jumped eagerly in his chest. “Tell him I’ll be right down.”

Malfoy was leaning against the wall in the reception, his pale face and hair glowing brightly in contrast with his black peacoat and jeans; even the scarf wound tightly around his neck was jet black.

“Hey,” he greeted, rubbing his black leather gloved hands together. “It’s fucking freezing out there.”

Harry grinned. “You look it!”

“Exactly!” Malfoy nodded. “So you have to say yes when I ask you if you want to go for a walk with me.”

“A walk in the ice storm?” Harry teased, despite the hopeful yearning in his chest that Malfoy had come out of his way to spend time with him.

“It’s beautiful by the river,” Malfoy said with an elegant shrug. “I thought you’d be used to the cold after all those years we spent in the Scottish Highlands, or are you getting thin skin as you age?”

“Shut up,” Harry hissed, shaking his head and laughing. “Let me grab my coat then and we’ll go.”

His coat was a yellow duffle coat, gifted to him by Luna who said that wearing yellow created happy vibes, and his scarf was a rainbow one hand-knitted by Hermione years ago to celebrate his coming out—she’d included white clouds as tassles just to show she could, or so Harry assumed.

Harry didn’t usually care what people thought of his clothing choices, but he couldn’t help but feel a bit over-the-top compared to the sleek and stylish Malfoy—especially when Malfoy smirked at the sight of his scarf.

“Real cute, that,” Malfoy smirked. “Did one of your patients knit you it?”

Harry flushed. “Hermione. I’ll tell her to make you one if you like it, or do you only wear black?”

“Not quite,” Malfoy said. “I also have some very dark navy items in my wardrobe.”

Malfoy was right on two counts; the weather was freezing, and the river was beautiful. There was a thin layer of frost on the ground that crunched pleasantly beneath their boots, and the sky was stark grey against the dark rise of the buildings.

Hardly anyone else was travelling the riverside path, save for a number of dog walkers who cheerfully said hello as they passed them by. Harry felt his lingering discomfort from the morning fading away as he strolled by the river with Malfoy, the calm, dark depths of the water soothing his nerves.

“So have you found York to your liking?” Malfoy asked conversationally. “I know it’s no London but-”

“It’s much nicer than London,” Harry cut in. “London is too…”

“Overwhelming?” Malfoy suggested, and Harry nodded. “I chose to live in York because it’s big enough to hide yourself in, but small enough that you don’t get completely lost.”

Harry’s throat felt tight, and he stopped for a moment to close his eyes and breathe in the crisp winter air. When he opened his eyes again Malfoy was stood closer than Harry had realised, something unfamiliar shining in the grey of his gaze.

Harry smiled, taking in a deep breath as Malfoy stared at him as though seeing him for the first time.

“So whereabouts do you live in York?” Harry asked, looking away from Malfoy as he felt an ache tugging at his heart.

Malfoy jerked slightly, as if he hadn’t expected Harry to speak. “Me? Oh, right...there.” He pointed to the top floor of an apartment complex on the other side of the river. It was so close to the river that the bottom of the building dropped directly into the water, and was as sleek and stylish as Malfoy was himself.

“It’s nice,” Harry said. “I bet the view’s fantastic.”

“It is,” Malfoy agreed. “You go back to London tomorrow, yes?” At Harry’s nod, Malfoy continued, “Can I take you out to dinner, then? You’ve been treating me to coffee for the last few days, so I’ll treat you to the best restaurant in York. Not that I’m trying to one-up you; that’s simply a bonus.”

Malfoy smirked, and Harry grinned back widely.

- - -

The heel of Harry’s boots clacked over the cobbled streets of York as he ran through the winding streets, chest aching with his refusal to stop and just breathe for a moment.

He was already forty-five minutes late for meeting Malfoy, and as he didn’t know many safe Apparition points in York he’d been forced to land far from the restaurant.

Malfoy knew Harry would be late, of course. Several hours ago Harry had received an urgent call from St Mungo’s asking if he could help with an emergency. Harry had told the hospital yes, and sent a note to Malfoy telling him where he was going and that he might be a little bit late.

Thankfully the child had pulled through and would go on to make a full recovery, but it was Malfoy who Harry felt for now; forty-five minutes was definitely more than just a little bit late.

He almost toppled forwards as he stopped with a start in front of the restaurant, spying Malfoy who was leaning against the window of the building with his arms folded across his chest. A small queue of people were waiting outside the restaurant, all of them, like Malfoy, dressed in sleek, smart clothes.

Harry hadn’t had time to go back to the bed and breakfast to change and had come in the clothes he rushed to the hospital in, which happened to be torn jeans and an oversized grey jumper that he liked to hide his hands inside the sleeves of.

The door staff and waiting patrons looked him up and down with disdain but he paid them no heed, focusing entirely on Malfoy.

“I’m so sorry,” Harry apologised breathlessly. “The injuries were worse than we thought and I didn’t get a chance to message you to say I’d be later than I said, so I rushed here as fast as I could but-”

“It’s alright, Potter,” Malfoy said, unfolding his arms and stepping away from the window. He turned to the door staff, narrowing his eyes. “Although,” he added, raising his voice, “this place gave our table away, despite the fact you were only late because you’re a medical professional saving children’s lives.”

“I’m sorry, Sir,” one of the door staff began, but Malfoy turned his head away from them and held a hand up in between them.

“Yes, you’re very in demand and you just couldn’t squeeze two people in,” Malfoy muttered derisively. “So you’ve said. It doesn’t matter, anyway, because my friend and I are going to go and eat somewhere much better.”

He offered his arm to Harry who stared, giving Malfoy an amused smile as he looped his arm through Malfoy’s.

“Well,” Malfoy said with a satisfied smirk, “shall we, Potter?”

Malfoy led him through the streets of York without a second thought, a destination clearly already in his mind.

“So where are we going?” Harry asked as he struggled ever-so-slightly to keep up with Malfoy’s fast pace. “I’ve seen at least three Pizza Huts in the city centre.”

“We are not going to Pizza Hut, Salazar,” Malfoy muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I thought there might be hope for your social standing, Potter, but I guess not.”

Harry grinned. “Frankie and Benny’s, then?”

“I swear, Potter, one more suggestion off you and we’ll go to fucking McDonald's,” Malfoy said, fixing Harry with a meaningful look. “I said somewhere better, did I not?”

“But I thought you said yesterday we were going to the best restaurant in York,” Harry pointed out. “How can we go somewhere better?”

“Think about it,” Malfoy smirked. “I said somewhere better, but I never specified a restaurant. I hope you like French food, because I do, and the chef gets to pick the food.”

- - -

Malfoy took Harry to Marks and Spencer to buy some groceries before they returned to his apartment. Harry had never liked Marks and Spencer; the last time he’d been in one it was when he was a child and accompanied by Aunt Petunia, who was exactly the kind of person who shopped there.

Harry supposed, though, that if Malfoy was going to shop in any Muggle supermarket then it would be the posh, upper-middle-class one.

Malfoy navigated with aisles with ease, pulling items off the shelves with confidence like he’d had a dish in mind the second he walked into the shop and knew exactly what went into it. Harry couldn’t help but notice he was going for expensive versions of products, too, rather than the bog-standard stuff that Harry would have gone for.

Somehow, as the shopping basket got heavier, it was no longer in Malfoy’s hands but in Harry’s.

“Do you drink white wine?” Malfoy asked conversationally as he browsed the glass bottles. “Certain reds can work with the dish, but a nice white will bring a lot more of the flavour out.”

“Definitely.” Harry nodded as though he knew everything there was to know about what wines went with which foods. “How could we not go for white?”

Malfoy shook his head, smirking knowingly at Harry. “Quite right. Would you like to select a wine that goes nicely with Blanquette de Veau?”

“I would love to,” Harry grinned. “I definitely know what Blanquette de Veau is and which wines go well with it, but I’ll let you make that decision tonight.”

Blanquette de Veau ended up being a veal stew with mushrooms and carrots and pearl onions, all in a creamy sauce. It smelt delicious, at any rate, the scent wafting invitingly through Malfoy’s small apartment and making Harry’s mouth water.

Harry sat at a tall, high-backed chair in Malfoy’s kitchen, which was adjacent to an open-plan living room. It was decorated simply, with hardwood floors, grey walls and cream furniture, accented with hints of silver. Much like Malfoy himself, the entire apartment was stylish and modern, and though it was small it made up for its size with stunning views of the river and the city.

Malfoy looked relaxed as he cooked, working the kitchen like he belonged there. He’d rolled his sleeves to his elbows to reveal the creamy expanse of his forearms and the lingering pink lines of the Dark Mark. Harry found his gaze drawn to it, unable to stop himself, and he looked back up at Malfoy, guilty, when Malfoy cleared his throat.

“It’s alright,” Malfoy said with a shrug. “I could cover it up, but it reminds me of who I used to be and how I’ve moved on from that. I’m ashamed of what I did, but I’m not ashamed of who I was because it made me who I am today.”

Harry swallowed heavily, eyes falling to the Dark Mark once more. “And who are you today?”

“Me?” Malfoy repeated. “I’m a man who lives on the fringes of the Muggle world and the wizarding world because I don’t truly belong in either. I’m a gay man who could have married the woman my father wanted me to simply to carry on the family name, but instead I told him to go fuck himself and opened a queer bookstore. I’m somebody who’s done bad but strives to be better, and even though I can’t walk down Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade, I’m not bettering myself for them—I’m bettering myself for me.”

Malfoy’s steel-grey eyes glistened with emotion, his voice heavy with passion. Harry could feel his sincerity, and could almost feel the pain that Malfoy carried with him, and Harry felt pride that Malfoy was able to try and move on regardless. Harry knew how difficult it was to carry around demons, and he reached across the kitchen counter to lay his hand on top of Malfoy’s comfortingly.

Malfoy gave him a strangled smile, hastily pulling his hand away and averting his gaze down into the saucepan.

Harry smiled too, flexing his fingers where he could still feel the warmth of Malfoy’s skin.

“So, how did you end up selling books anyway?” Harry asked with genuine curiosity. “I didn’t realise you were such a book lover.”

“I didn’t use to be,” Malfoy admitted. “Basically, after the war my parents fled to France and I wondered how I could say ‘fuck you for everything’, and really show I meant it. So I started selling off all the possessions of theirs that I could, which ended up being a lot of books. They sold really well and I was left with all this money from the sales so I thought about what I could do with it to take my fuck you even further.”

Malfoy paused to take a sip of wine, smiling around the rim of his glass. “It happened to coincide with the time I came out as gay, and when I received the angry letter from my father telling me how I was letting the family name down, it all came together. As nobody would hire me I thought I could create my own employment while simultaneously pissing off my father by opening not just a bookshop, but a queer one. I’ve come to enjoy owning the shop, though; angering my father is just an added benefit.”

Harry could just imagine Lucius Malfoy’s face when he found out what his son was doing with his life, and Harry wasn’t sure whether to be amused at Lucius’s horror or feel angered by it. He settled for a combination of both.

But, Harry thought as he tucked into the dinner that Malfoy had prepared, if the bookshop didn’t work out, Malfoy would definitely make it as a chef.

- - -

“You seem very refreshed,” Pansy commented as Harry arrived for his first shift back at St Mungo’s. “Had a nice time in York, then?”

Harry nodded. “It wasn’t so bad. I walked by the river a lot and ate good food, and I-”

“Did you and Draco shag?” Pansy interrupted, waggling her eyebrows suggestively.

Harry choked, spluttering as he banged his fist against his chest.

“Shag Malfoy?” Harry repeated incredulously. “No! Of course not! We’re just friends! I think we’re friends, at least. God, that sounds weird.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Pansy said dismissively. “Friends schmends. Why didn’t you shag?”

“I don’t think either of us wanted to,” Harry pointed out, even though it wasn’t entirely truthful.

But just because Harry found Malfoy attractive and wondered about being in bed with him didn’t mean that Harry actually wanted to anytime soon. Malfoy had grown up a lot and they were at least civil with each other, if not potentially friends, but Harry had really only just started to get to know Malfoy properly, and he wasn’t the kind to just fall into bed with somebody.

Pansy tutted. “You boys keep telling yourselves that.”

Getting back into the hectic swing of the hospital was always easy, no matter how much time Harry had off. He relished in being able to focus on his work and lose the anxiety that he carried around with him, squashing it deep down so he couldn’t feel it.

Most of the children were delighted to see him, and Harry would be lying if he said his heart didn’t ache when their small, fragile faces broke into smiles for him.

It was part way through his shift, while Harry was doing medical checks around the ward, that the door opened and a hospital administrator walked in with a tall, blond figure trailing behind her. Harry’s eyes widened at the sight of Malfoy, the black of his clothes standing out like vibrant ink against the canvas of the white hospital walls. He smiled warily at the children who were all watching him curiously, before inclining his head at Harry in greeting.

Harry glanced at Pansy, who looked just as surprised as Harry felt at Malfoy’s sudden appearance.

“This is Draco Malfoy,” the administrator announced. “He’s a volunteer who’s come to read to the children.”

That got an excited murmur out of the kids, and those who were able to immediately made their way over to the reading area. Harry, Pansy, and the other Healers on the ward helped the children who wanted to join in but couldn’t make it there themselves, and once they were all settled Draco pulled out a battered, well-used copy of Tales of Beedle the Bard.

“How’d you get him to do something nice?” Pansy asked him in a stage whisper. “Are you sure you two didn’t...you know?”

She winked, and Harry rolled his eyes affectionately.

“We didn’t you know,” he teased, gaze falling back to Malfoy who’d started reading The Fountain of Fair Fortune to the transfixed group. “I had no idea he was coming here.”

Harry moved to sit with little Betsy, who was listening with rapt attention from her bed.

“Draco’s nice,” she told him seriously after Malfoy finished the first story. “You like him, Healer Harry, I can tell.”

Harry smiled fondly at her. “I do,” he agreed, “but what makes you say that?”

Betsy giggled. “Because! He looks exactly like your Prince Charming.”

- - -

Harry knocked on the front door, smiling when it opened to reveal Hermione.

“Harry!” She beamed, pulling Harry into a hug.

Every time Harry saw Hermione their hugs got more and more awkward as her pregnant belly grew. She was almost eight months pregnant now and had just started maternity leave, which she’d been resisting for as long as she could—she’d even offered to work from home, but her boss wouldn’t hear of it.

“How are you doing?” Harry asked as they pulled away, hooking her arm through his as they strolled towards the kitchen.

“Pregnant,” Hermione answered gruffly. “Back pains, sore feet, frequent heartburn...need I go on?”

“I get it,” Harry said, sharing a grin with her.

The others were already gathered in the kitchen; Ginny and Luna were sat with Rose at the table, while Ron stood by the stove, watching over a pot that smelt deliciously spiced.

Ron had left the Aurors when Hermione became pregnant with Rose three years ago and split his time between George’s shop and being a house-husband. Ron loved staying at home to watch Rose and cook, and he’d surprised Hermione before their wedding by getting in touch with her Nigerian grandparents and learning recipes from them so he could cook Hermione food from her family’s homeland.

“Hey, mate,” Ron greeted, turning around so Harry could see his custom-made Chudley Cannons apron that clashed horrifically with his hair.

“Hey,” Harry smiled, kissing Rose on the cheek before taking a seat opposite Ginny and Luna. “It smells great in here. What are we having?”

“Asaro,” Ron said. “Also known as yam porridge. I even got some goat meat from the butcher’s in town.”

Ron was proud of his cooking abilities, and Harry was pleased that Ron had found something he was good at and didn’t compare himself to other people in.

“So, Harry,” Hermione asked as Ron served up bowls of the appetising-looking food. “How was your trip to York? I hear there’s a lot of history there; I’d love to see the Minster and walk around the old city walls. They have a decent sized art gallery, too, don’t they?”

“Er, sure,” Harry answered; he hadn’t been to any of the places Hermione had mentioned. “I just relaxed mostly. It’s a really nice city; I think I’d like to go back sometime soon.”

“Did you see much of Draco while you were there?” Luna enquired dreamily, fixing Harry with a knowing look. “He’s why you stayed, isn’t he?”

Harry stared, absently thumping Ron on the back as he started to choke on his food.

“Draco Malfoy?” Ron exclaimed as soon as he could. “You saw the ferret while you were there?”

Harry nodded. “He has a bookshop there. I got Sebastian Hawthorne’s new book from him because Flourish and Blotts don’t sell them anymore.”

“So did you just see him the once, or did you see him more like Luna implied?” Ginny pressed, eyes glittering with mirth.

“We...may have hung out a few times,” Harry said, trying to sound as casual as he could manage. “He’s not so bad nowadays.”

“He bullied us for years, let Death Eaters into the castle, and took the B-L-O-O-D-Y Dark Mark,” Ron pointed out exasperatingly, sparing a look at Rose who was still too young to spell.

“Yes,” Harry agreed, “and I told myself that if he showed any signs of being like he used to be then I wouldn’t bother with him anymore, but he’s really made and is continuing to make an effort to improve himself. He’s actually quite witty once you get to know him, and he likes Sebastian Hawthorne, too!”

“Merlin, this is like the time you told us you’d befriended Pansy Parkinson all over again,” Hermione muttered, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“And you all get on great with her now!” Harry pointed out. “Kind of. You manage to act civil towards each other at any rate. All the gossiping about outfits and hairdos is done behind each other’s backs.”

“Yes, because who wears a leather mini-skirt to a birthday for a two-year-old?” Hermione cried, evidently still not over Pansy’s attire for Rose’s birthday the year before. “But I suppose you’re right; Pansy is a lot more tolerable than she used to be, and if she can change, Malfoy can too. Are you going to see him again?”

“Yeah?” Ginny added. “Do you like him, or do you like like him?”

“We’re not twelve,” Harry retorted with an amused grin. “But I guess I like like him, a little bit.”

His cheeks flushed red as Ginny wolf-whistled.

“I dunno, mate,” Ron said, looking into his bowl darkly. “What if he’s just acting nice to trick you or something? You always fall fast and hard for people, and apart from that sleazy first girlfriend of yours, you’ve been lucky enough to fall for people who haven’t taken advantage of that.”

“F-U-C-K off,” Ginny muttered, kicking Ron’s leg under the table.

Ron shot a grin at her, which she quickly returned.

“But seriously, Harry,” Ron continued, “I don’t want you to get hurt if Malfoy decides to play games with your heart.”

“I don’t think he is,” Harry murmured, touched nonetheless by Ron’s protectiveness towards him. “I mean, he even turned up as a volunteer at the hospital the other day, and I never told him to do that. Pansy didn’t either; he did it on his own initiative.”

Ron and Hermione shared a glance, the look they shared every time they thought Harry was doing something unwise.

“I think it’s sweet,” Luna murmured, sending Harry a gentle smile. “You have a big heart, Harry, and somebody like Draco needs that. He needs somebody to look past his history and love him for the man he is today, and you need somebody who will love you so deeply they fill the holes that Voldemort left in you.”

The table fell silent, and Harry felt something clog in his throat. He dropped his gaze to the table, not daring himself to speak.

“Well,” Ron said finally. “I guess if Malfoy makes you happy, Harry, then you should go for it.”

“Absolutely,” Hermione agreed. “We want more than anything for you to be happy, and if the person who makes you happy is Malfoy then we’ll accept that.”

“Thanks, guys,” Harry murmured softly, heart clenching in his chest. “So, er, Ginny, Ron—who do you think stands a better chance at making the Quidditch Finals this year? The Harpies or the Cannons?”

Harry made it through the rest of the meal without having to talk about himself, which was exactly how he liked it. He should have known it was too good to last, and he resigned himself to talking about his emotions when Hermione gestured for him to come and talk with her privately before they all left.

“The gala at St Mungo’s is in a few days,” Hermione stated once they were alone. “Are you sure you’re going to be alright going?”

Harry’s stomach instantly twisted with nerves at the thought of the event, but he forced a reassuring smile onto his face.

“I’ll be fine, Hermione, don’t worry,” he murmured, twisting his hands together. “Really,” he added when she looked at him disbelievingly. “It’s not like I can’t go, anyway.

“I’m sure your boss would understand,” Hermione mused. “But if you feel anxious or upset at any point, I want you to come straight to me or Ron, alright?”

Harry smiled at her maternal instincts. He often joked that Hermione and Ron took to parenting Rose so easily because they had had practice with him, but he didn’t think it was actually far off the truth.

“I will, but I’ll be fine, Hermione, really,” Harry said. He leant in to kiss her cheek. “I’ll see you there.”

- - -

The conference room at St Mungo’s had been transformed into a glittering palace for the gala, with a shining diamond chandelier hanging over the centre of the room casting streams of silver light across the crowd. A band played jovial music for couples and groups of friends to dance to, and a table full of snacks and appetisers made by the finest chef in wizarding Britain kept the non-dancers occupied.

The large glass tower near the front of the room was gradually filling with silver gemstones, representing the amount of donations that people were making to the hospital’s fund.

The gala was for a good cause and had been planned with the utmost care and detail; people were smiling and entirely carefree as they enjoyed the night. Seeing their happy expressions made Harry feel even more rotten that he couldn’t bring himself to join the crowd in their enjoyment.

Harry’s stomach had been in knots thinking about the event for the last few days, and now that it was finally happening the feeling had increased tenfold. He’d found himself a safe place in a corner of the room, pressing himself tightly against the wall so he could at least be confident nobody could attack him from behind.

Harry knew that logically nothing was going to happen to him at a St Mungo’s fundraising event, but his emotions clouded his logic and always made him wonder ‘but what if?’ Hermione told him it was a very natural response to his PTSD, which manifested itself in Harry through anxiety.

But while it was all well and good Hermione telling him that he had a mental illness and couldn’t help how he felt, that didn’t stop the twisted, uncomfortable feeling in his stomach, or the tightness in his chest. It didn’t stop him being so fixated on the crowd that the figures eventually blurred together, leaving him feeling like he was outside of body and watching on through somebody else’s eyes.

A voice murmured something next to him, the words indistinguishable to him as Harry watched his gaze focus on a tall, bald man in a suit, panic coursing through him even as the man turned around to reveal normal features.

The Horcruxes are gone, Harry tried to convince himself. The Horcruxes are gone and so is Voldemort.

The voice spoke again, and a hand landed on Harry’s shoulder.

He jumped violently, hand instinctively flying to his wand, which he aimed at the stranger, heart racing in his chest as familiar features underneath a blond head of hair came into view.

“Potter?” Malfoy asked cautiously, tone gentle. “Harry, are you alright?”

The use of Harry’s first name coming out of Malfoy’s mouth broke Harry’s trance just enough for him to realise what he was doing, and he laughed humourlessly as he stared at his wand shaking in his trembling hand.

He lowered his wand and gave Malfoy a strained smile.

“I’m great,” Harry said, blinking heavily as he tried to figure out where his voice was coming from; it certainly felt somewhere far away from him. “I’m...maybe I’m not so good, but I’ll be fine.”

“Do you want me to get somebody?” Malfoy asked with concern. “Granger? Weasley?”

“No, no,” Harry muttered, shaking his head and dropping his gaze to the floor, the tightness in his chest the only thing he could feel in his body amongst the numbness. “I’m, er...I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Malfoy sighed, gingerly moving his hand towards Harry’s and carefully linking them when Harry didn’t pull away. Malfoy’s fingers around his felt real, and Harry instinctively tightened his hold to get more of that feeling.

“Come on,” Malfoy murmured, leading Harry out of the conference room and into the too-bright hallway of the hospital. The white of the walls and the tiled ceiling hurt Harry’s eyes and made him think of ghostly train stations; his spare hand flew to his chest, desperate to feel the beating of his heart to prove he was alive. He focused on the steady beat, almost falling to the floor in relief when Malfoy tugged him into the hospital garden.

The cold air instantly helped bring awareness to Harry of his bare skin, the freshness of the breeze helping to unclog his lungs from the suffocation of the crowd. Malfoy sat them down on a bench, and Harry found himself falling against Malfoy’s side, drawn to the realness of him.

“Harry,” Malfoy’s voice said, somehow distant and close all at once. “You’re alright, Harry; I’ve got you here with me.”

“Mm?” Harry glanced at Malfoy, bringing his fingers up to brush through the vivid white strands of Malfoy’s hair. They felt soft against his skin, and he curled his fingers around the strands, closing his eyes and breathing in deeply, inhaling the spicy, gingery scent of Malfoy’s cologne. “Just keep talking, it’s helping.”

Malfoy spoke, at length, about everything and anything; his shop, Sebastian Hawthorne’s books, how he was wondering about getting a cat, what he and Pansy ordered at a restaurant a few days prior...Harry let him talk, focusing on the sound of his soft, crisp voice, the scent of his cologne, the feel of his hair, and his arm around Harry.

Harry could feel his breathing settling and the shaking of his fingers stop, and the ache in his chest faded as he gained more and more awareness of the rest of his body.

“Thank you,” Harry murmured, opening his eyes again and gazing up into the sharp, beautiful face of Draco Malfoy. Harry’s heart clenched again, but in a good way, and he smiled shakily. “Thank you, Draco.”

- - -

Neville’s garden shop was in a quaint little village that was made up of a single road lined with pretty stone-brick cottages. The village was lush and green thanks to Neville’s dab hand at gardening—or so the Muggles believed.

Pansy, in her leather-look trousers and leather jacket, got a few distasteful looks from some old ladies who were out walking their dogs. Pansy simply blew a pink bubble with the gum in her mouth, waggling her eyebrows at them until the old ladies looked away, affronted.

“I don’t know why you brought me here, Harry,” Pansy scoffed, wrinkling her nose. “I feel like my grandmother, if only she hadn’t been a bigot who got banned from Muggle settlements for causing nuisance-level terror.”

“She sounds a treat,” Harry murmured, shaking his head. “But I needed you here so you can help me choose something I know Draco will like.”

“Oh, Draco now, is he?” Pansy purred. “You are a smitten boy, aren’t you? But honestly Harry, flowers are a touch too romantic if you want a shag. Just turn up to his apartment with a bottle of Tequila and wear a trench coat with nothing underneath but some saucy lingerie; works everytime.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Saucy lingerie and Tequila is reserved for second dates,” he deadpanned.

Pansy shrugged.

“Besides,” Harry continued. “I don’t want just a shag; I want something more than that...God, I am smitten, aren’t I? But these flowers are just to say thank you—it’s not a romantic gesture, at least not necessarily.”

“What do you need to thank him for?” Pansy asked curiously, stopping just outside the door to Neville’s shop and reaching out to tug Harry’s sleeve to stop him going forwards.

Harry didn’t answer straight away, and he gnawed his lip as he watched Pansy’s face go from intrigued to concerned.

“Harry?” she pressed gently. Her brown eyes glittered as she put two and two together. “Did something happen at the gala last night? I knew I should have checked on you but I got distracted and-!”

“It’s fine,” Harry said quickly. “I, uh, got into a bit of a state and Draco helped me through it. I feel stupid about it now; I was a right mess, but he was really good about it all.”

“I told you that you didn’t need to go!” Pansy sighed. “You’re either an emotional masochist or just far too noble for your own good.”

“A little bit too noble, but more of a physical masochist than an emotional one,” Harry retorted, forcing himself to grin.

He found himself touched that Pansy cared so much—she didn’t often show her soft side—but it was just him feeling guilty that he made her feel concern towards him.

Harry and Pansy made their way into Neville’s shop, the fragrance of the flowers overwhelming in a sweet way. Flowers of all shades were set out vibrantly around the small room, like a carnival had exploded inside.

Neville’s head popped round the door to the backroom, his round cheeks rosy red. His face broke into a smile as he spotted Harry and he stepped out fully, brushing muddy hands on his cream apron. Harry felt Pansy stand up straighter beside him, as her hand flew up to flatten her hair.

“Harry!” Neville beamed. “Er, Pansy? What can I do you for?”

“I’d like some flowers to say thank you for somebody,” Harry explained. “Do you have any suggestions?”

Neville hummed thoughtfully. “There’s a few flowers that can express gratitude: agrimony, dwarf sunflowers, and deep pink roses. Let me just get some from the back so you can see.”

“Harry!” Pansy exclaimed after Neville vanished again. “You never told me Longbottom had gotten so hot!”

“What?!” Harry cried, slapping a hand over his mouth at his volume. Talking lower he added, “I didn’t strike Neville as your type.”

Pansy’s type tended to be tall, dark, and handsome, rather than sandy-haired men with round stomachs and a scruff of beard.

“Exactly,” Pansy said wisely, nodding pointedly. “Longbottom may not be supermodel attractive, but he has that wholesome-and-would-make-a-good-father-and-husband vibe. I’m not ready to marry quite yet, but I’m twenty-eight now, which means two years of dating with great sex and weekend getaways, and then we go on some exotic holiday where he proposes but I panic and run off, saying I’m not ready but really I’m hurt when he doesn’t come running after me...only to have him make some grand, sweeping romantic gesture later that makes me realise I want to say yes to his proposal. Then there’s another two years of wedding planning, so I’m thirty-two by the time we’re married, I pop out a couple of kids, and we’re still under fifty when they go off to Hogwarts so we’re still young enough to go on cruises and couples-only resorts in the Maldives.”

“Wow,” Harry said. “That’s very…specific.”

“Every little girl dreams about her wedding, Harry,” Pansy stated with a roll of her eyes.

Neville thankfully re-emerged then, clutching three types of flower. One was a green stem with bright yellow flowers on it, another a sunflower but in miniature, and the last was a rose with petals that were deep pink in colour.

“Hmm,” Pansy murmured. “The agri-thing is ugly, and the roses are pretty but a little bit cliche and Draco would appreciate more consideration than that.”

Neville’s eyes bulged. “Draco…Malfoy?” he asked weakly.

“That would be the one,” Pansy answered before Harry could. “Harry’s got the hots for him.”

“I don’t-” Harry tried to protest, but it was Neville—not Pansy, surprisingly—who cut him off.

“Wouldn’t you be better off going round to his with a bottle of something? Tequila?”

“Thank you! That’s what I said!” Pansy exclaimed. “You’re a smart boy, Longbottom. And you’re a florist, so I bet you’re good with your hands, too.”

“Pansy,” Harry muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Topsay lirtingfay.”

“Uckfay ouyay,” Pansy retorted smoothly, raising a single, elegant brow.

Neville blinked in confusion.

“I think I’ll go for the dwarf sunflowers, please,” Harry said, giving Neville a kind smile.

They were pretty flowers, and Harry thought Draco was pretty, so that had to mean he’d like them, surely. Pansy didn’t argue at any rate, and even though that may have just been because she was batting her eyelashes at Neville. Harry pretended not to notice.

- - -

Harry headed to York early, the only people on the streets in a hurry as they made their way to work. It was December now, and with it came cold air that left Harry’s breath coming out in bursts of white steam. His fingers curled around the takeaway coffee cup tightly, craving the warmth it offered.

The bell above the door jingled as Harry stepped into Draco’s shop. Draco didn’t look surprised to see Harry, and he smiled at him in greeting.

“I hope you got that coffee for me,” Draco said, rubbing his pale hands together and blowing into the gap between them. “It’s fucking freezing today, and Warming Charms are deemed unnecessary for my business and therefore not allowed.”

“Here,” Harry said, thrusting the coffee cup towards Draco. “It’s not Betty’s, but it’s salted caramel so that should make up for it.”

“Damn, that’s good,” Draco murmured blissfully after he took a sip, closing his eyes and wetting his lower lip with his tongue.

Harry swallowed hard, gaze drawn to Draco’s plump, red lips that begged to be bitten. He settled for drawing his own lip between his teeth, tugging at the sensitive flesh.

“Uh, I got you something else, too,” Harry stated, pulling the shrunken flowers out of his coat pocket and—after a quick check that there were no Muggles in eyesight—tapped them with his wand to return them to their original size.

Draco’s grey eyes widened at the sight of the dwarf sunflowers, bunched together and wrapped in bright yellow paper tied with green ribbon.

Harry held them out nervously, feeling his face flush red. He averted his gaze to the floor, heart hammering wildly in his chest as he listened to Draco’s footsteps approaching.

“Sunflowers?” Draco murmured softly. “How did you know? These are my favourite.”

Harry looked up in pleasant surprise, and found himself taken aback by the serene smile on Draco’s face as he reached a finger out to tenderly touch the vibrant yellow petals.

“My family and I used to holiday in Italy a lot,” Draco continued. “Our villa was right by a field that was filled with sunflowers; they always remind me of happier times.”

He took the bunch from Harry, laying them down on the shop counter while he took a ball-point pen and transfigured it into a clear vase. Draco took great care in opening the packaging, removing it gracefully before placing the sunflowers daintily in the vase and filling it with water.

“They’re beautiful,” Draco said, studying the flowers one last time before turning back to Harry. “Thank you.”

“Actually, I got them to thank you,” Harry admitted, scuffing his boot against the floor. “You know, for helping me at the hospital gala. I know I was a mess and I’m sorry you had to deal with me, but I appreciate that you did.”

Draco shook his head. “Only you would have a saving-people-thing but feel guilt when people try to save you. You weren’t a mess, Harry, but you definitely needed help in that moment. Had somebody said something to upset you?”

“No,” Harry answered with a sad smile. “I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but I’m not good with crowds. I, er, get pretty bad anxiety and if it gets really bad I end up getting panic attacks or disassociating. I know it’s stupid—it’s been ten years since the—war but I still keep expecting Voldemort to come jumping out at me.”

“That’s not stupid,” Draco said sharply. “Voldemort was a bastard and I hate that even a decade after he’s gone he’s still fucking up people’s lives. Why did you go to the gala if crowds trigger your anxiety? I’d have told them to go fuck themselves.”

Harry rolled his eyes affectionately. “Yes, but you don’t work there. It’s for a good cause, and people are more likely to attend and donate if they know the Saviour will be amongst them.”

Draco clicked his tongue. “Is there any point me telling you how wrong that is, or have you heard it all from Granger and Weasley before?”

“And Pansy,” Harry added. “I know I could help myself more, and it’s my own fault for not trying but-”

“That’s not true, either,” Draco cut in. “You have a mental illness; they have a tendency to cloud our logic.”

Harry didn’t miss Draco’s use of the word ‘our’, but he wasn’t going to push Draco to talk about his own issues if he didn’t want to. He settled for smiling, his heart clenching in his chest as he studied Draco’s face: his smooth features, his metallic grey eyes glistening with emotion, his determined, angry expression—angry for Harry, not at him.

“I-” Harry began to say, words faltering as the bell over the door jingled, almost deafeningly loud in Harry’s Draco-focused world.

A nervous looking teenager entered the shop, stealing Draco’s attention.

It didn’t bother Harry, though, because he could leave happy, knowing without a doubt that Draco cared for him. That made Harry feel really good.

- - -

Saturday morning Harry woke to a buzzing coming from his fireplace. He groaned, rubbing his eyes with his fists as he dragged himself from his bed, and pulled on the hoodie that he’d thrown onto the floor after this shift the night before.

He ran a hand through his hair in a hopeless attempt to make it look somewhat presentable before throwing Floo powder into the fireplace to answer the call.

Draco’s face appeared in the emerald flames, his lips quirking into an amused smile.

“Were you in bed?” he asked, raising a brow. “I didn’t realise Healers ever got a chance to have a Saturday lie-in.”

“They do on their days off,” Harry grumbled, covering his mouth as he stifled a yawn. “I didn’t think small business owners got chance to make Saturday morning Floo calls.”

“They do if they have staff to cover them,” Draco stated, lips still curved in amusement. “I’ve given myself the whole day off, actually; there’s a queer book festival over in Manchester and I was going to check it out. I know you’re not great with crowds, but I wondered if you might want to come with me. It’s an entirely Muggle affair, if that helps you at all.”

Harry nodded. He’d reacted particularly badly at the hospital gala because he’d worked himself up for days beforehand, which had put him on the brink of breaking down before he even got there, whereas he felt mostly alright at that current moment. Besides, he hated missing out on things because that always meant his anxiety would win—even when it broke him down, it made him feel better later knowing he’d given it a fight.

“Sure, that sounds fun,” Harry smiled, heart jumping in his chest at the prospect of spending the day with Draco. “Let me shower and get changed and I’ll come over.”

Harry rushed to get ready, choosing his most oversized jumper to wear. The bagginess and the too-long sleeves let Harry hide himself in the soft fabric—Luna had even torn a hole at the end of each sleeve for him so Harry could shove his thumbs through them and keep his hands covered. The cream coloured cotton fell past the edges of his denim jacket; he fumbled about in his bedside drawer to find the blue and pink bisexual flag pin, which he attached to the collar of his jacket.

Giving his appearance one last check in the mirror—he never double checked his appearance—Harry Apparated to Draco’s apartment. Draco was waiting for him, clad in his usual black shirt and trousers. His thin-wired glasses were tucked into the collar of his shirt, and a small smile graced his face as his eyes landed on Harry.

Harry felt his face flush as Draco’s gaze gave him a slow, appreciative look up and down, followed by a nod of approval so slight that Harry wondered if Draco had done it subconsciously.

“You clean up well,” Draco murmured, running a hand through the perfect quiff of his blond hair. “Never would guessed you woke up under an hour ago.”

“I’m not a morning person,” Harry admitted. “The more sleep I get, the better.”

“Yet here you are with me,” Draco drawled, smirking. “Do I dare to feel honoured?”

Harry matched his expression with a grin of his own. “Well I don’t make exceptions unless I have a good reason to.”

Draco’s eyes flashed, and he offered his arm for Harry to take. “Shall we?”

Harry hooked his arm through, eyes squeezing shut as Draco Apparated them. He steadied himself before he opened them, blinking as he found Draco watching him carefully, his red lips parted and eyes wide.

Draco quickly shook his head and looked away, a pale pink tinge colouring the paleness of his cheeks. Harry found himself smiling, and he gestured for Draco to lead them to the book festival, making no move to disconnect their arms.

Draco took it in stride, walking confidently arm-in-arm with Harry. It felt wonderful to Harry, like something out of a Sebastian Hawthorne novel. He hadn’t even kissed Draco and wasn’t completely sure that Draco liked him back even if he was pretty sure he did, but there they were, going to a queer book festival together and looking like they were meant to be together.

The festival was inside a hotel, in a red-carpeted conference room with lanes of tables set up with books as far as the eye could see. Rainbow flags were strung up on the walls and hanging off the edge of tables, making the room bright and cheerful.

A small crowd had already gathered, and Harry clutched Draco’s arm tighter, grateful for the comfort of the human contact. He turned the fingers of his other hand inside his sleeve, his thumb playing with the frayed edges of the hole in the cotton.

“You alright?” Draco asked, glancing at Harry and frowning.

Harry nodded, giving him a small smile. “Mostly. I’m fine, though, really. Besides I’ve nearly finished Hawthorne’s book so I want to find something else to read.”

“I have a perfectly good bookshop you can buy from,” Draco scoffed. “And, because I’m oh so generous I may even be persuaded to take alternative forms of payment from you.”

Harry’s heart jumped in his chest, so hard it almost burst through. He grinned despite the flush growing on his cheeks, determined not to let Draco fluster him so easily.

“Maybe we’ll have to practice,” he suggested slyly, “see which alternative payment you like best.”

Draco opened his mouth to retort and then closed it, repeating the motion so that he looked like a gasping fish. He eyes widened, staring at a point behind Harry, and a surge of panic ran through Harry, twisting his stomach until Draco’s face broke into an excited grin.

“Harry!” he urged in a stage-whisper. “Harry! That’s Sebastian fucking Hawthorne over there!”

Harry spun around, excitement joining the lingering fear that had settled inside him. His heart was racing so fast he could hear it in his ears, his face splitting into a grin as wide as Draco’s as his gaze fell on a tall man with greying hair and a face that Harry had seen on the inside of books covers more than once.

“It’s really him!” Harry gasped. “Oh God, he’s coming this way!”

“Stop staring and smiling, you’ll freak him out,” Draco said through gritted teeth. Harry glanced at Draco out of the corner of his eyes, finding that he was also staring and smiling.

“Hi!” Harry said loudly as Sebastian approached, closely followed by another man who had a goatee and half-moon glasses. “Er, sorry,” he muttered hastily when Sebastian looked towards them curiously. “We’re big fans of yours.”

“I’ve been reading your works for years,” Draco added, words coming out rushed and close together. “You made a lonely closeted boy feel less alone.”

Sebastian furrowed his brows, but he smiled regardless. “Thank you, that’s wonderful to hear. So I take it you two are...like me?”

“Of course they are, Sebby,” the man behind him said, jerking his head towards Harry. Harry flinched involuntarily, and the man’s face dropped. “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable, Mr Potter; I know this one hates it when people recognise him.”

“Not fans like you, of course,” Sebastian said quickly. “More so when people recognise me and proceed to shout homophobic slurs, which is how it usually goes. You’ll have to forgive my husband; he’s a veterinarian so his people skills are rather lacking.”

“Oh shush, you,” Sebastian’s husband teased, shoving his arm lightly. “The name’s Edmond, by the way; Ed.” He turned towards Draco. “And who might you be?”

Draco offered his name, and Ed pursed his lips. Draco’s face fell, and Harry prepared himself to argue on his behalf when Ed spoke again.

“Malfoy, huh? That must be rough. I’m a Flint, originally, but I was told in no uncertain terms that I was no longer part of the family when I came out. Purebloods are forgiving of homosexuality so long as you pretend to be straight and marry and make heirs and stick to having affairs on the side.”

“Yes, my parents and I aren’t on the greatest terms at the moment,” Draco grunted, jaw clenching.

“Flint?” Harry queried, sending Draco’s discomfort and laying a hand on his arm in silent support. “I think one of your grandsons or great nephews is dating my ex-boyfriend.”

Sebastian laughed loudly as Ed’s mouth fell open. “Grandson? I’m not quite that old, lad.” He grinned regardless. “That would be my nephew, Marcus. I heard he’d shacked up with a male Quidditch player.”

“So tell me, you two,” Sebastian asked eagerly. “Which of my books is your favourite?”

- - -

Harry and Draco ended up speaking to Sebastian and Ed for a long while, strolling around the book festival with them. Draco told them about his bookshop about which they were both intrigued, and said they were going away over Christmas but when they returned they absolutely had to take Harry and Draco out with them.

By the time they’d left the festival it was getting late so Harry and Draco caught some dinner at a Pizza Express—”this is an insult to Italians, honestly, Harry,”—and when Draco invited Harry back to his for some wine, Harry didn’t have to think twice before he said yes.

Being with Draco felt easy and comfortable, safe somehow. Harry liked Draco’s company: his witty humour and his snark, and the way he smiled when he didn’t think Harry was looking. Harry liked the steel grey of his eyes and the bright white of his hair, and how he had sharp, regal features that made him look like an ice prince who in actuality brought warmth into Harry’s life.

Draco was light, somebody who had been in darkness and shone brighter for it.

Draco unlocked the door to his apartment, leading Harry inside. His eyes instantly fell on the window where strings of Christmas lights were strung up, shining in red and green and blue and yellow, all around the frame. Harry could see more through the glass, woven round the metal bars of Draco’s balcony.

“I like Christmas,” Draco shrugged, a pale pink blush staining his cheeks. “They cheer me up when I see them.”

“It’s cute,” Harry smiled. “I like to see the human side to you. For somebody who owns a bookshop, you’re very closed up.”

“Or maybe,” Draco murmured, taking a step closer to Harry and reaching out to brush a lock of Harry’s hair behind his ear, “I just need somebody who knows how to read me. Wine, Harry?”

Harry blinked, finding himself disappointed as Draco stepped back. “Sure.”

He busied himself looking at the minimal decorations in Draco’s living room as Draco poured the wine, trailing his finger along the impeccably clean cabinets until he reached the shining, silver stereo—a Muggle one, rather than a wizarding wireless.

“You can turn it on, if you like,” Draco said smoothly. “Music helps me relax; that much is said on page two of my life.”

Harry switched the stereo on, the beat of Toto’s Africa coming out cleanly through the speakers.

“And where does your love of 80s Muggle pop get revealed?” Harry teased, joining Draco who sat seated himself on the sofa, placing their wine glasses on the table in front of them.

Draco’s face was lit up by the Christmas lights, his hair shining like a rainbow. Harry couldn’t help himself, and he brought his hand up to stroke through Draco’s hair, the strands soft against his skin.

He pulled his hand back apprehensively when Draco made a noise, only to find himself fixed with an intense grey gaze.

“My love of the 80s is on page seven,” Draco murmured softly, his hands settling on Harry’s thighs, warm and comforting, as he leaned forwards, pressing Harry backwards until he was hovering above him. Harry’s breath caught in his throat, heart pounding wildly in his chest as he gazed up at Draco, still illuminated by the Christmas lights, and realised he’d never wanted anyone else more. “And the page where you find out I’m a brilliant kisser is the one you’re on right now.”

Harry could have laughed at Draco’s cockiness, but then Draco leaned down and captured Harry’s lips with his own, kissing him softly. Harry moaned, wrapping his arms around Draco’s shoulders to pull him closer as their kiss deepened.

Draco’s weight felt pleasant on top of Harry, and made him feel safe and wanted. Draco’s lips tasted like sugar and cinnamon, and heaven, and Harry drank it all in greedily.

The radio continued to blare in the background. It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you; there’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do…

Harry closed his eyes, losing himself in the kiss. It was so easy to lose himself in Draco, to forget all the bad in his life and focus on the wonderful, wonderful being that was Draco Malfoy.

I bless the rains down in Africa…

- - -

Harry gazed up at Draco, taking another sneaky study of him while Draco concentrated on his crossword.

They hadn’t had sex, but Harry had stayed the night and woken up the next morning wrapped in Draco’s warm embrace. Harry had missed waking up next to somebody and sharing lazy Sundays together, so he was in no rush to leave and Draco didn’t seem to want to get rid of him, either.

Harry was sprawled across Draco’s sofa with his head in Draco’s lap and a book in his hand. It was one of Draco’s copies, written by a Muggle author whom Draco swore was almost as good a Hawthorne.

Draco’s hand came down to absently pet Harry’s hair, and Harry arched into the touch. Draco smirked, glancing down and peering at Harry over the rim of his thin-wired glasses; Harry flushed at being caught staring but refused to look away, biting down on his lip teasingly.

“You know,” Draco murmured, fingers continuing their motion through Harry’s hair, “when I said I wanted a cat this isn’t quite what I had in mind.”

“Fuck off,” Harry said without venom, sitting up only to find Draco pulling him back down. “You’re lucky you’re so comfortable to lay on.”

“I’m a man of many talents,” Draco smirked. “You’ve caught yourself a good one in me.”

“Oh, have I?” Harry laughed.

Draco nodded, curling his fingers around Harry’s jaw and running his thumb along Harry’s lower lip. “Definitely. But then, I’ve caught a good one, too—or mostly good at any rate. He could do with a hairbrush, but other than that...”

“Draco,” Harry murmured, sitting forwards and repositioning himself so he was sat on Draco’s lap, hooking his arms around his shoulders. “Shut up.”

Draco raised his brows and waggled them enticingly. “I think you may have to make me.”

Harry grinned, shaking his head before capturing Draco’s lips with his own.

- - -

Cheerful music of jingling bells rang out through the ward, soft voices singing of reindeers and fir trees and magic.

Most of the children in the ward would have to stay remain over Christmas, so the Healers all made an effort to make December as happy and joyful as they could for the kids and their families.

Harry had spent the morning dealing with a little boy who’d come over very poorly, so he was glad to spend the afternoon helping with the activities instead, as always balancing the worst part of his work with the best. It hurt to see the children in pain, but that only made it even more important to Harry to make them smile when he could.

They were making decorations for the ward, cutting and sticking Christmas trees and stockings, and making red and green paper chains to drape across the ceilings. Harry had taught them how to make paper snowflakes, having a vague memory of how to do it from Muggle primary school, and the children loved cutting into the paper and then unfolding it to see the pattern they’d created.

“The ward’s going to look fantastic when we’re finished,” Harry beamed, looking proudly at the children gathered around him at the circular table. “Our Christmas party is going to be the best in all of St Mungo’s.”

“Healer Harry,” little Betsy spoke up, her hands, face, and wheelchair covered in the bright pink glitter she’d used for decorating. “Is your Prince Charming going to come to the party?”

Harry almost choked in surprise but managed to hold himself together. Pansy caught his eye across the ward and she winked, causing him to flush.

My Prince Charming?” he repeated in a voice that was only half-strangled. “You mean…?”

“That blond man who comes in to read to us,” a boy named Raleigh answered. “Tessie and Jada said you fancy him.”

An echo of giggles went round the group, a few of the children pulling faces as they always did at the thought of adults fancying people.

“It’s cute!” Betsy defended sternly, before she too descended into giggles. “Healer Harry, if Draco is Prince Charming does that make you Cinderella?”

With the way the Dursleys had treated him, Harry being Cinderella wasn’t far off the truth, but Draco was many things and charming wasn’t one of them. He shook his head, smiling.

“I’ll ask him if he’ll come to the party, shall I?” he offered instead, subtly diverting the conversation away from him—he’d worked with inquisitive, no-filter children for long enough that he’d gotten rather good at doing that now.

He was answered with several eager nods and cheers of approval.

“Alright, alright,” Harry said with a smile, holding his hands up in mock defeat. “We better give some of our snowmen reading glasses then.”

- - -

By the time Harry had finished his paperwork and overstayed his shift to help the next round of Healers with a complicated procedure, he didn’t get chance to leave the hospital until gone seven o’clock. He’d been on his feet for thirteen hours, and though part of him just wanted to go home and relax in the bathtub, he found the option of visiting Draco far more appealing.

Draco would just be doing paperwork of his own before closing up the shop, so Harry Apparated straight to York city centre. He found that the more often he arrived in York, the more he was getting that pleasant heavy feeling in his stomach which he hadn’t felt since he left Hogwarts—like he was home.

Night had already fallen, bathing the streets in darkness, illuminated only by the red and blue lights of bars and restaurants. Without the sun the air was entirely devoid of any warmth, the bite of the frost breeze stinging Harry’s cheeks.

He walked almost on autopilot to Draco’s shop, the steps from the Apparition point to Rainbow Reads a familiar path to Harry by now. The blinds in the shop window were down but Harry could see a glimmer of golden light seeping through the gaps, casting a narrow beam along the darkened cobblestone pavements.

Harry rapped his knuckles against the glass, rubbing his freezing hands together as he waited for Draco to answer. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a flurry of movement at the blinds, and moments later the door clicked open and Draco appeared in the gap.

“Harry! I wasn’t expecting you tonight,” Draco said, ushering him inside and locking the door behind him.

“I finished work late and thought I’d come and surprise you,” Harry explained with a smile. “I thought I could treat us to takeaway or something.” Draco’s nose crinkled so Harry hastily added, “or we could get that dine in for two from Marks and Spencers.”

Draco nodded. “That sounds better.”

He reached for Harry’s hands and tugged him forwards, pressing their lips together softly. Draco was warm and Harry melted into the kiss, whining softly when Draco pulled back far too soon.

“You’re fucking freezing,” Draco bristled, before smirking. “Your nose is bright red; it’s pretty adorable, actually.”

“Adorable?” Harry repeated, not sure if he should feel flattered or offended. “I prefer the term fucking hot.”

“How about cute as a button?” Draco teased.

“I’ll pass on that too. But…” Harry’s face broke into a sly grin. “If you’re going to complain about how cold I am, how about you warm me up?”

“Yeah?” Draco purred, stepping nearer to Harry, forcing him backwards until Harry’s back met one of the bookshelves. Draco closed in on him, putting a hand at either side of Harry’s head and leaning so close that Harry could feel the warmth radiating from his body, and the spicy scent of his cologne wafting over him. “I think I will.”

Draco closed the gap between them, kissing Harry once more. Harry clutched Draco’s shoulders to pull him closer, moaning as Draco pushed his leg between Harry’s thighs; not quite the heat that Harry had in mind, but he certainly wasn’t complaining. Harry felt his cock swelling and he arched into Draco’s body, grinding against his matching hardness.

“Draco…” Harry murmured breathlessly against Draco’s mouth. “I want to...can I touch you?”

“Yes,” Draco hissed, reaching for Harry’s hand and guiding it towards the bulge in his trousers. “Can I…?”

Harry nodded, eyes falling shut as Draco wasted no time in pressing his warm hand against Harry’s aching erection.

While Harry was distracted, Draco’s lips trailed down Harry’s jaw and to his neck, kissing and nipping at the sensitive skin. Harry’s answering moan turned into a whimper as Draco slid his fingers underneath the waistband of Harry’s jeans to stroke him.

Harry arched into Draco’s touch, moving his own trembling fingers to unbutton Draco’s trousers and scramble at the fabric of his trunks to free his cock. Draco shivered as Harry wrapped his hand around Draco’s length, warm and pulsing under his hand.

“Fuck, you’re like ice,” Draco gasped, dropping his head to Harry’s shoulder. “Fuck it, don’t stop.”

Harry stroked Draco slowly, rubbing his thumb deliberately over the pink head, smearing pre-come across it. Draco grasped Harry’s hip with one hand as he urged him forwards so he could lower Harry’s jeans, and it was Harry’s turn to swear as Draco took him fully in hand.

Draco’s movements were faster, more aggressive than Harry’s, prompting Harry to speed up his own movements to match Draco’s pace.

Draco moved his head back up to rest his forehead against Harry’s, and when Harry opened his eyes it was to find Draco watching him with an intense gaze, his pupils blown wide. Draco’s lips were parted and rosy red, his breath coming out in short pants. Harry didn’t take his gaze off Draco’s, their mouths close together but not quite enough to kiss. Harry could feel the pressure building as Draco continued to stroke him relentlessly, and it was only when he felt his orgasm begin to wash over him that he averted his gaze, eyes falling shut as he came over Draco’s fingers.

Draco’s mouth closed over his, biting at Harry’s lips and kissing him hard enough to bruise as he spilled his own release over Harry’s hand.

“Fuck,” Draco murmured as he pulled away. “That was...fuck.”

“Yeah,” Harry agreed, grinning widely. “Fuck yeah.”

- - -

The hospital ward was filled with people: the children, their families and friends, and a small team of volunteers who were helping out the Healers. The decorations that the children had made were strung up across the room, making the ward look cheerful and festive, and Christmas songs rang out through a magically-enhanced stereo.

Harry was pleased to see that everyone was smiling, and he’d even had a handful of parents already come up to thank him for helping to organise a party that made their children feel happy and normal. He wasn’t on shift and had come in for the party specifically, and seeing how happy his patients and their parents were was the only thanks that Harry needed; he was quite content to spend his free time at the hospital if it meant he could improve their lives further.

Ron, Hermione, Luna, Ginny, and Neville had all turned up as volunteers for the party, as they had for the last five years. The children came and went over the years, some in for much longer than others, but nearly all of them were excited to see the famous Holyhead Harpies Chaser, Ginny, and were fascinated by the bright colours of Luna’s unusual clothes and jewellery. Hermione, Ron, and Neville were all great with the children, too, telling them fun stories and jokes, and helped to keep the parents’ minds at ease, too.

“Draco couldn’t make it, then?” Hermione asked him as she helped him tidy up the dinner buffet so they could make room for the puddings.

“He had plans with Blaise and Theo already,” Harry answered, hoping that the disappointment didn’t show on his face. He respected that Draco had a social life outside of him, of course, especially as Harry had asked after Draco had already made his plans.

“Huh,” Ron muttered from beside him, before taking a large bite out of one of the leftover sausage rolls. “That’s convenient.”

To say Ron and Hermione were pleased when Harry told them he was dating Draco would have been a massive overstatement. They were certainly surprised, and tolerant of Harry’s choice, but each had made a point of telling Harry that he shouldn’t put up with anything bad on Draco’s end because Harry deserved better than that. Ron, in particular, seemed to be keeping an eye on Draco.

“He’d already made the plans, Ron,” Harry pointed out, raising a brow. “I wasn’t going to make him cancel.”

“Hmm,” Ron grunted. “But if I find out he lied just to get out of helping at a party for sick children…”

Harry shook his head, amused at Ron’s protectiveness over him. “If that’s the case then you’ll have to wait for me and Pansy to finish with him.”

“I notice she’s not here yet, either,” Ron said darkly. “Oh, guess what Neville said to me the other day?! He said Pansy came to his shop and she was ‘surprisingly pretty and charming’.”

“I guess she would be considered pretty if you’re into the conventional big eyes and big boobs thing,” Hermione added with a strained smile. “Don’t know if I’d ever use the word charming to describe her though.”

“You two are the worst,” Harry muttered affectionately. “Pansy’s helping the mystery guest get ready.”

Harry had taught the children about Muggle Christmas celebrations, and more specifically, Father Christmas. He didn’t know if it was because he’d been denied a proper Christmas as a child, but it was important to him that they didn’t miss out on anything. Similarly, when they had children on the ward who celebrated Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Yule, the Healers all banded together to ensure nobody was left out.

The puddings went down a lot more eagerly than the dinner, and there were almost no leftovers. Hospital rules didn’t often let the patients indulge their sweet tooths, so they were more than making up for it.

It was finally time for the ‘mystery guest’ to arrive, the children having no idea there was a mystery guest coming at all. Harry didn’t know who had volunteered to dress up as Father Christmas, and the other Healers were similarly in the dark because Pansy kept changing her story about who it was: a fashion model, a singer, her cousin, a strange man she’d found on the streets…

“Do you all hear something?” Harry asked loudly as the sound of jingling bells echoed down the corridor outside. “Shh, listen.”

The children fell silent, several faces breaking into excited grins as a loud ‘ho ho ho’ reached their ears, the doors swinging open to reveal Father Christmas and his sleigh full of presents. He was met with a roar of cheers and laughter, and a few happy tears on some of the parent’s end.

The man playing Father Christmas was slender, but otherwise was dressed up to look the part, in a red suit lined with white faux fur and tied with a black belt, and with a matching hat on his head. The man had a fake, bushy white beard strapped to his face, disguising most of his features.

It was only when Father Christmas looked directly at him that Harry found himself looking into familiar, steel-grey eyes.

Harry’s mouth fell open in a grin so wide it hurt, leaning forwards with his hands on his knees as Draco gave him a sly wink before turning his attention back to handing out presents to the children.

“Oh my God,” Harry exclaimed, unable to stop smiling. Little Betsy gave him a thumbs up from her bed, and Pansy, who was standing beside Betsy, blew him a kiss.

“Er, I guess I was wrong,” Ron muttered awkwardly next to Harry. “Bloody bastard turned out alright, didn’t he?”

“Yeah,” Harry smiled. “He’s alright.”

- - -

Draco let out a muffled moan as Harry kissed him furiously, pressing him against the door of Draco’s apartment. Harry tugged at the fake beard to get it out of the way, causing Draco to smirk into the kiss.

“Somebody’s eager tonight,” Draco teased, wrapping his arms around Harry’s waist and reaching his hands down to cup Harry’s arse. “I quite like it.”

“I. Can’t. Believe. You.” Harry accentuated each word with a kiss in between, grasping the soft fabric of the Father Christmas suit. “How long were you and Pansy sitting on that secret?”

“A good couple of weeks,” Draco answered, bucking up into Harry and grinding his erection against him. “But I’m really not in the mood to talk about Pansy right now.”

Draco gave him a sly grin, smirk only growing as Harry grabbed Draco’s wrist and pulled him over to the sofa, pushing him down onto it before climbing onto his lap. Harry straddled Draco’s legs, leaning down to kiss him once more as Draco’s hands returned to groping Harry’s arse.

“Very eager,” Draco reiterated as they broke apart for air. “Please don’t tell me you have some strange fetish for men dressed up as Father Christmas.”

Harry laughed, shaking his head. “God, no! Just a fetish for you dressed up as Father Christmas.”

“That’s still fucking weird,” Draco said teasingly, squeezing Harry’s arse.

“Oh, is it fucking weird?” Harry retorted, sliding off Draco’s lap until he was kneeling on the floor. He placed a hand on each of Draco’s thighs, looking up at him and biting his lip, watching as Draco’s pupils darkened. “Because I was going to suck you off, but if it’s too weird for you…”

Harry slowly began to rise from his knees, only to have a rough hand push him back into place.

“So long as you’re sucking me off, you can dress me however you like,” Draco drawled, looking down at Harry hungrily. “And has anyone ever told you how fucking gorgeous you are on your knees? Although I’m willing to bet you’d look even better with your lips wrapped around my cock.”

“Yeah?” Harry breathed, rubbing his palm over the thick bulge in Draco’s trousers. Draco groaned at the contact, making Harry’s lips quirk in satisfaction. “Want me to prove that for you?”

Draco nodded, lifting his hips up to help Harry shuffle the red trousers and his trunks down his thighs to free his hard length.

Harry wrapped his fingers around the girth, keeping his eyes trained on Draco’s as he gave the head a long, slow, deliberate lick. Draco shivered, biting down on his lip.

“Fuck!” Draco hissed as Harry trailed his tongue down the length of his cock. “Don’t you dare touch yourself; after you’ve sucked me off I’m going to make you come under my tongue.”

Harry took the head of Draco’s erection into his mouth, gaze not breaking away from Draco’s as he slowly swallowed his length down. Draco’s cock was heavy and warm in his mouth, soft, and silky, with a musky, salty taste to it.

Draco moaned again, fingers weaving through Harry’s hair and tugging hard at the strands. He bucked his hips upwards, pushing more of his cock into Harry’s mouth and using his grip on Harry’s hair to help move him up and down his length.

Harry kept his eyes fixed on Draco as he continued to suck and lap at Draco’s cock, until the grasp on his hair became impossibly tight as Draco let out a string of fuck, fuck, fucks, releasing his load in Harry’s mouth. Harry swallowed it all down hungrily, only pulling away with a wet pop when Draco was completely spent.

“I think I promised you a reward,” Draco said breathlessly as he cupped Harry’s jaw with his fingers.

Harry’s aching cock twitched at the thought, and he hopped up onto the sofa readily and allowed Draco to lay him down across it.

Draco smiled down at him, licking his lips hungrily. “Your turn.”

- - -

It had gone eleven pm by the time Harry got home on Christmas. He’d been to see Ron, Hermione, and Rose for the morning before working the late shift at St Mungo’s. He was exhausted now and was looking forward to crawling into his warm, soft bed.

He unlocked his front door and stepped inside, frowning when he saw a light on in his living room. He drew his wand as he padded cautiously towards the light, heart hammering in his chest as he approached.

He blinked in surprise when he saw a plate of food set out on the table and a familiar head of blond hair poking out from under a blanket on the sofa. Harry smiled, crouching down in front of a sleeping Draco, and gently brushed a lock of hair away from his eyes. Draco grumbled something in his sleep but didn’t stir.

Leaving him to sleep, Harry turned to his attention to the food on the table. A note rested beside the plate that read:

‘Harry, you work far too hard. I cooked you some Christmas dinner that is resting under a Warming Charm. If you’re ready for bed before midnight then wake me up, otherwise leave me the fuck alone until morning. Yours, Draco.’

Harry cast an adoring gaze back at Draco’s sleeping form, heart growing warm. Draco was surprisingly considerate, Harry had found; he liked to give—give the best—and Harry rather liked all the little gifts and gestures Draco bestowed upon him.

He tucked into his dinner, roasted turkey and buttery potatoes, fresh vegetables and crisp Yorkshire Puddings. It was deliciously tasty, as was always the case with Draco’s cooking, though Harry did find himself wolfing it down and not having time to appreciate it fully, partly because he was starving after his shift, but also because he wanted to talk to Draco before midnight.

Harry finished his dinner with fifteen minutes spare, crouching down in front of the sofa once more and pressing his fingers against Draco’s cheeks a touch more insistently than before.

Draco stirred, shifting in his sleep, and Harry shoved at his shoulder lightly.

“Draco…” Harry murmured softly. “Draco, I beat midnight.”

Metallic-grey eyes fluttered open, blinking heavily as they came into focus. “Harry?”

“Merry Christmas, you sappy bastard,” Harry smiled, curling his fingers against Draco’s cool cheek. “There’s still fifteen minutes left of it.”

Draco smirked, turning onto his side and throwing the blanket aside. “Merry Christmas, you ungrateful fucker. I can’t be arsed to go upstairs, so I hope you’re happy sleeping on a sofa.”

“Thank you for dinner, Draco,” Harry said softly, curling up beside Draco, who wrapped an arm protectively around his waist, “and for surprising me; it was nice to come home to somebody waiting.”

“Mmm?” Draco murmured tiredly against Harry’s neck. “You have a beautiful smile; I’d do anything to see it. Just, don’t go telling anyone I’m a hopeless romantic, will you?”

Harry snorted. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”

- - -

“Er, this is an interesting choice of restaurant,” Neville muttered as he looked around the dimly lit restaurant, eyeing the white-cloth tables with their silver cutlery and elegant candles. “Does, er, Malfoy know we’re here?”

“I didn’t ask you here to trick you into a date with me,” Harry said, and it was technically the truth. Harry had asked Neville out to trick him into a date with Pansy.

Harry hadn’t agreed to it at first, of course, but Pansy reminded Harry about the ‘wonderful surprise’ she had helped organise with Draco at the ward Christmas party, and so Harry owed her. All he had to do was get Neville to the restaurant and then wait for Pansy to turn up where she would take over.

Neville laughed awkwardly. “Good. No offence, Harry, but you’re not my type. Aren’t we going to ask for a table?”

He reached out to attract a waiter’s attention, but Harry hastily batted his hand away.

“Sorry,” Harry said, smiling innocently. “I just want to get a feel of the place, you know…”

Neville nodded understandingly, and Harry felt guilty for lying to him again, although his stomach was in knots so again it was only half a lie.

“Harry? Longbottom?” a loud voice exclaimed, and Harry could finally relax.

Pansy hurried over to them in a pink dress that clung tightly around her shapely curves. Her silver heels were so high she was almost as tall as Neville, who, Harry noticed with amusement, had gone bright red as he took in the sight of Pansy.

Draco trailed behind her, looking rather uncomfortable with the situation. He had also been unwillingly drawn into Pansy’s plan because, despite their shared efforts, Pansy wouldn’t listen to their advice of simply asking Neville out.

“I didn’t realise you two were coming here tonight!” Pansy exclaimed. “Draco and I have come for a catch up, too!” Oh, it would be a shame if these two lovebirds can’t sit together, don’t you think, Longbottom?”

“Uhh…?” Neville stammered uncertainly, but Pansy was already waving a waiter over.

“Hi, could we please have a table for four?” she asked, batting her long, false eyelashes at the man. “Thank you, darling.”

The waiter nodded eagerly, eyes dropping to Pansy’s cleavage until Draco cleared his throat and the man looked back up guiltily.

“Yes, Sirs; Madam—right this way.”

Harry took a seat at the beautifully laid out table next to Neville and opposite Draco, and they shared a bemused smile as Pansy reached her hands across the table, close to Neville’s.

“So, Longbottom,” Pansy purred, smirking as a flush spread across Neville’s cheeks. “You must accompany me to the bar; I’m dying to hear how you got into floristry.”

“Longbottom doesn’t stand a chance,” Draco said once he and Pansy were out of earshot. “When Pansy wants something she really goes for it.”

Harry nodded. “I was a bit unsure at first, given Pansy’s tendency to love ‘em and leave ‘em but…”

“But she told you about her perfect husband and father fantasy involving Longbottom?” Draco finished with a smirk. Harry nodded. “She told me, too. I don’t see the appeal, personally; I much prefer tall, slender brunettes with big doe eyes and oversized jumpers.”

“And me?” Harry said innocently. “I like blond men who hide their good hearts with arrogant charm and wit.”

“Oh?” Draco replied, rising slightly from the table. “I think I saw Cormac McLaggen over there; I’ll just go get him for you.”

Harry grinned, capturing Draco’s wrist with his fingers. “I’m happy with the blond I have, thank you.”

Pansy and Neville returned them, clutching a bottle of red wine.

“I hope you’re happy with this, Draco,” Pansy commented. “I know how much of a wine connoisseur you are.”

Draco took the bottle off her and brought out his reading glasses as he studied the label.

“Mendoza malbec? It will do,” Draco said. “Steak all around, then? Or pasta pairs well.”

Harry had never tried matching wine and food in his life until he started dating Draco, and though he’d never admit it, Harry didn’t think he’d ever go back. Draco’s recommendations always made for a delicious combination that brought out intense flavours in the food, which in turn complemented the wine perfectly. He’d introduced Ron to the concept too, who reluctantly conceded that Draco was a smart bloke, while Hermione could only agree that it sounded good in theory, unable to try it out for herself until the baby was born and eventually weaned onto bottle milk many months down the line.

Pansy led the conversations throughout dinner, as she had demanded Draco and Harry let her do. Harry didn’t mind so much, but he could see Draco straining to hold his tongue at points through the night. It was part way through dessert that Harry began to feel something buzzing near their table, and he frowned when Draco’s eyes widened in horror.

“Draco?” he asked uncertainly, a tightness growing uncomfortably in his chest. “What-?”

“The shop alarm!” Draco pulled a small metal object out of his pocket, which was vibrating violently as a small, red light flashed over and over. “Somebody’s broken in!”

The four of them stood at once, sharing a single glance—Harry hastily threw some Muggle notes onto the table for payment—before they hurried to the back of the restaurant and Apparated to the alley nearest to Draco’s shop. Draco immediately broke into a run, the other close behind him.

“Hey!” Draco shouted as they rounded the corner, the bells of the shop alarm ringing out. “Get the fuck out of here!”

A group of cackling figures wearing hoodies ran from the shop doorway, grasping baseball bats and tins of what could only be spraypaint.

The tightness in Harry’s chest was almost overpowering now, but he forced himself to follow Draco into the shop, swallowing heavily as he looked at the smashed windows and door. Inside was even worse, with books scattered across the floor with their pages torn out, the posters on the walls sporting crude, badly-drawn images of male anatomy, and spray painted onto the walls were various slurs.

Fags! Homos! Pervs! Freaks!

Freaks.

Harry couldn’t breathe. The tightness in his chest was too much, suffocating him as it squeezed his lungs. He clutched a trembling hand to his chest, shutting his eyes tightly as he slid down a wall and collapsed on the floor. He was going to die, Harry just knew it. He was going to die, gasping for breath like a...like a freak.

Voices were shouting around him, but Harry couldn’t understand the garbled words. He let out a gasp of pain as he desperately tried to bring air into his lungs, his body trembling violently.

A hand touched his shoulder, and Harry opened his eyes to see Pansy’s concerned face come into view.

“Harry...Harry, darling,” Pansy said softly. “Harry, you’re having a panic attack, okay? You’re going to be okay, I promise, this will pass. Let me take you back to my home? Harry? Draco, I’m going to take Harry out of here.”

“Okay, just...look after him, Pansy, I swear to Salazar,” Draco’s voice shouted somewhere distantly.

“Draco,” Harry managed to grind out weakly, eyes squeezing shut again as Pansy began stroking his hair.

“He’ll be fine, too,” Pansy promised in a hushed whisper. “Let’s go, Harry, I’ve got you.”

- - -

Harry woke up early the next morning, although he hadn’t particularly slept well to begin with. He’d been tossing and turning through the night and had not be able to sleep for more than an hour or two at a time without waking up. His mind had been a constant whir, nausea washing over him every time he thought about Draco and the state of his shop thanks to those vandals.

The guilt had been eating at him, too. He didn’t know why he had reacted so badly when Draco had needed him to stay strong, and even though Pansy had insisted that Harry couldn’t blame himself, he couldn’t find it in him to believe her.

He Apparated to York while the dark purple light of dawn still cascaded across the sky. Draco was in the shop, as Harry had expected, and he looked like he had slept even less than Harry, with dark circles under his eyes and what seemed to be becoming a permanent scowl on his face.

The windows and graffiti had been fixed and cleaned, magic no doubt having helped in that regard, but torn-out book pages still littered the floor, and shelves that had previously been filled with a rainbow of different books were now sparse and bare.

“Morning,” Draco said gruffly as he glanced up at Harry from where he was crouched on the floor, sifting through papers. “You look like shit.”

“I could say the same about you,” Harry retorted, crouching down next to Draco and placing his hand over Draco’s. “Draco, I’m so sorry-”

“You didn’t do this,” Draco cut in sharply. “Those little fuckers did, and as soon as I find out who they are I’m going to make them regret ever deciding their homophobic bullshit was okay.”

Harry nodded, trying to ignore the tightness in his throat. He couldn’t panic on Draco again, especially while Draco was managing to stay relatively calm despite his shop being vandalised.

“I need to apologise though,” Harry said softly. “I should have been here for you last night but instead I let my emotions get the best of me and-”

“Harry!” Draco cut in again, shifting his hand out from under Harry’s so he could cup his cheeks gently. “You have anxiety...PTSD; I’m not going to be angry at you for having a mental illness.”

“But I-” Harry tried to protest, but Draco wouldn’t hear it.

“It was an upsetting situation for all of us, not just me, and it’s understandable that you’d react so negatively. Trust me, I get it,” Draco sighed. “I can’t go many places in the wizarding world anymore without feeling overwhelmed by guilt and self-hate over the person I used to be; why do you think I mainly live in the Muggle world? I’m a better person here. But I get it, Harry, I really do, so don’t worry. Longbottom ended up being a big help anyway; don’t tell him I told you but he isn’t all that bad.”

Harry smiled weakly at Draco’s joke, sighing softly as Draco leaned in to kiss him tenderly.

“Don’t get me wrong, I am furious,” Draco added as he returned to sifting through papers, “but certainly not at you. And if you want to do anything to help you can try and collect pages from the same book and match them together. There’s too many books to do it through magic, and even though it’s a pain I’ll at least be able to salvage them afterwards.”

Harry nodded. “Anything I can do to help, I’ll do it.”

“Oh?” Draco purred, though his usual confidence wasn’t in it. “You are pretty good at sucking cock, and that’s usually a great stress reliever.”

“You might want to hold off on doing that for a while,” an amused voice said from the doorway.

Harry and Draco both flushed, and turned their attention to the door where Sebastian Hawthorne and his husband Ed stood side-by-side.

“Your friend Pansy got in touch and told us what happened,” Sebastian murmured as they stepped inside. “Those brats really did a number to this place.”

“You should have seen it last night,” Draco muttered darkly. “Luckily those Muggle shits didn’t consider they’d be vandalising a wizard’s shop.”

“Well, let us know how we can help,” Sebastian said sincerely. “We’re happy to do anything at all.”

“Except take over your boyfriend’s duties,” Ed added, nudging Harry’s shoulder playfully, which only intensified the heat in Harry’s cheeks.

Between the four of them they made a good start at separating the pages into different piles, and the efforts only got better when several of Harry and Draco’s friends arrived to help. They worked well into the afternoon, the job tedious but one that Harry was happy to do so long as it meant Draco could keep his stock and not have to be financially put out by the vandals.

A cautious knock at the door took them by surprise, especially when a nervous-looking teenager appeared. Harry vaguely recognised him as having come into the shop a few weeks prior looking for books on coming out.

“Er, hi,” the boy said quietly. “I heard about what happened; some boys from my school were on MySpace bragging about vandalising a...well they used a slur I don’t want to repeat...bookstore and I pieced two and two together. I wanted to see if I could do anything to help, and of course I can give you names if you want to press charges or anything.”

Draco stood, nodding eagerly. “Yes, yes, I want to press charges. Please, tell me everything you know.”

The relief in Draco’s voice was tantamount, and Harry felt happier just hearing it. It warmed his heart to know there were strangers out there who were willing to help, not people who almost felt obligated to simply because they were friends. It meant there was still good out there in the world, and that even though bad things happened, there would always be something good to piece things back together.

Never would Harry have guessed that Draco Malfoy of all people would be the one who would put the pieces of Harry back together, but Harry was glad he knew differently now. Draco was the light in his life, and he hoped Draco felt the same way about him.

- - -

Sebastian and Ed, true to their promise, had finally managed to get Draco and Harry to come on a night out with them. It was a Muggle gay pub in London, a simple brick building with no windows and a rainbow flag flying proudly above it.

The first thing Harry noticed about the inside was that it looked like any other pub, only with more rainbow flags strung up on the walls. The second thing he noticed was that he and Draco were the youngest patrons by far, most of the others looking like they were at least in their fifties or older.

“Hey, Seb, Ed,” the bartender greeted as he spotted them. “Who are these hot young things you’ve brought with you?”

The bartender was grinning, clearly joking, but Harry felt himself flush regardless.

“These are our hot young things, Kev,” Ed retorted. “Find your own. Get us the usual, will you, Sebby? Come on, hot young things, let’s find a table.”

Ed led them to a booth with tatty red leather seats. Harry slid onto the bench, Draco settling down next to him and throwing an arm around his shoulder. Harry leaned into Draco’s hold, resting his own hand on Draco’s knee.

“I’m glad you two finally gave into that tension between you,” Ed commented with a knowing smile. “Sebby and I knew you’d end up together.”

“How long have you two been a couple?” Harry asked curiously. He’d never met anyone queer who wasn’t already in his group of friends—he wasn’t much of a social butterfly—so he was intrigued by other stories; or rather, stories that weren’t sappy and sugary sweet romance novels like the ones he usually indulged in.

“It will be thirty-five years next March,” Ed answered proudly. “I read his first novel when it came out and adored it, so I wrote to him and we began exchanging letters for months before we finally met. I would say it was love at first sight, but I think I fell in love with him long before we ever met in person. It just felt right.”

“What felt right?” Sebastian asked as he placed four pint glasses down on the wooden table.

Draco crinkled his nose but took a polite sip regardless.

“I was telling these two how we got together,” Ed explained. “It all sounds horribly romantic when you say it out loud.”

“Oh!” Draco exclaimed loudly. “So am I right in thinking that the character Ted in Love Letters is based on your story?”

“That one’s one of my favourites,” Harry said with a smile as Sebastian nodded. “There was so much passion in it.”

“Because it was based on my own truth,” Sebastian murmured. “I know there are people out there who say my novels are overly romantic and corny, but I always believed that life as a queer man was hard enough already so surely people would rather read about our happy endings instead.”

“Absolutely.” Draco nodded. “Of course there were many years where I believed your novels were rather lacking in realism, but I’ve since found it actually is possible to be that happy.”

He glanced at Harry, who felt his heart jump at the intense adoration in those steel-grey eyes. Draco was beautiful, that much was true, but it was more than just on the outside. Draco had flaws, of course, and a bad past, but he was fighting constantly to be stronger and better, and Harry admired his strength and his determination.

Unable to resist, Harry leaned in to kiss Draco tenderly, biting his lip as he drew back and looked at Draco through his lashes.

Ed cleared his throat, causing Draco and Harry to jump apart, both flushing hard as they turned their attention back to an amused Ed and Sebastian.

“Oh, to be young and in love,” Ed said wistfully.

“So tell me, you two,” Sebastian drawled, leaning forwards eagerly. “How did you meet?”

“Well,” Harry answered, giving his best impression of a Draco smirk, “we were eleven and in Madame Malkin’s, and he insulted my only friend and reminded me of my bully cousin.”

“And Harry was an insolent, ill-mannered runt of a thing,” Draco added fondly. “We had some good times. Thank fuck we grew up.”

“I’ll say,” Harry agreed with a grin.

- - -

By the time they left the pub it was getting close to midnight, and the air was crisp and sharp outside. They Apparated back to York by the riverside, where the water looked inky against the black of the night sky. Windows were still shining brightly with Christmas lights wrapped around their frames, casting an eerie but beautiful glow across the stony ground.

Harry shivered as the cold wind bit at his skin, and moments later found himself with Draco’s scarf round his neck.

“I don’t need it,” Draco said with a shrug. “Malfoys don’t feel the cold, you see.”

“On account of your ice-cold hearts?” Harry teased, linking his arm with Draco’s as they walked. “I won’t tell anyone that you broke the mould.”

“I should hope you won’t,” Draco retorted smoothly, stopping all at once and making Harry stumble slightly. “Harry, I...I was thinking a lot while we were talking with Sebastian and Ed, and...well, I care about you a lot; more than I ever thought I would. I...I love you! And you don’t have to say it back but-”

“Draco,” Harry stated, cutting in. He smiled, never having heard Draco lose so much control, which was why it was so easy for Harry to say, “I love you, too. You’ve made me happier than I can ever remember being.”

“Yes, I have that effect on people,” Draco tried to jest, but his eyes glistened as he looked at Harry seriously. “You’re special, Harry. Not in the Boy-Who-Lived, or Saviour way, but in the Harry way. You looked past all the bad things in my life to see me for the person I wanted to be and who I’m striving to be instead. I know I, of all people, never deserved your forgiveness, and it means a lot that you gave me it and so much more.”

Harry threw his arm around Draco, pulling him close and leaning in until their foreheads were touching. Harry could feel the heavy rise and fall of Draco’s chest, and the slight trembling in his body.

“I’m glad I can make you as happy as you make me,” Harry murmured softly. “Truly.”

- - -

“It’s here! It’s here!” Draco announced cheerfully, a box filled to the brim with books levitating behind him. “Seb’s new novel!”

Harry and Draco had been out with Sebastian and Ed frequently over the last year, striking up a good friendship with them. Sebastian and Ed had taken them under their wing, deeming them youths in need of the wisdom of elders, but were mostly good fun to be around. Sebastian had refused to tell them a single thing about his latest novel, however, so Harry and Draco had no idea what to expect.

“What’s it called?” Harry asked eagerly, throwing his arm over Draco’s shoulder, watching as Draco opened the box up to see.

A History of Us,” Draco read aloud, flipping the book over to study the blurb. “Two lost souls reconnect after years apart. Could what was once a turbulent past become something more meaningful? Seb, you absolute fucking bastard.”

Harry grinned, reaching for his own copy of the book and turning the front cover to read the dedication on the inside.

To Harry and Draco,” it read. “I wish you all the happiness in the world, and I’m not just saying that because I used you as inspiration. You’re a romance novel come to life, and as an author of romance that’s saying a lot.

“So, let’s cancel our plans tonight,” Draco muttered with an amused smirk. “I’ll forego my date with you for a date with a book.”

“Same,” Harry grinned. “Bet I’ll finish it before you.”

“I doubt that,” Draco retorted. “But try, if you like; I’ll be waiting for you at the finish line.”