Harry walks past the nondescript, unpolished oak double doors twice before finally pausing to peer at the little, dull brass sign on the wall - Department of Magical Theory and Research - and with a deep breath, pushes in.
It reminds him of the Hogwarts library at first, innumerable, towering shelves extending all the way up to the high ceiling, stacked with rows and rows of books, all of them, judging by their musty scent and cracked spines, centuries old. Reading tables line the walls on either side, grimy windows Charmed to let in weak sunlight, dust motes dancing lazily in each broad shaft of yellow filtering in.
It’s unnervingly quiet, Harry shuffling in quickly, looking around with his hand closed around his wand in his pocket as though he’s expecting to be jumped by a tome wielding old crackpot yelling ancient magical theories at him. There’s hardly anyone around though, just two witches poring over enormous, crumbling volumes at one of the tables, barely even glancing up at Harry as he hurries past, looking around desperately for that distinctive, bright head of white-gold.
Malfoy is sat right at the very back of the endlessly long room, and as Harry bursts out of one of the aisles, looking around rather wildly, having been slightly worried that he’d be forever lost in this maze of whispering books, Malfoy looks up from the long, curling scroll he’s scribbling on, eyes widening in genuine surprise at the sight of Harry before narrowing in characteristic suspicion.
“Merlin, this department is creepy,” Harry breathes, jogging over to him and throwing himself into a chair opposite Malfoy.
Malfoy doesn’t reply, staring at Harry over the rim of his slim, frameless spectacles like he’s a purple Erumpet wearing a vivid pink tutu that spontaneously appeared out of thin air to perform an energetic entrechat for his entertainment. Harry waves a hand before his face when Malfoy doesn’t even blink for several long beats.
Jerking his head back with an irritated scowl, Malfoy hisses, “Did you lose your way up to the DMLE?”
Harry grins. “No,” he says, drawing out the word. “I just needed to talk to you.”
Suspicion immediately intensifying, Malfoy tilts his head back to peer at Harry down his sharp nose. “About?”
Harry feels his face and neck heat slowly as he forces himself to talk. “Er... So, you know my boyfriend—?”
“Nobody knows your boyfriend,” Malfoy sneers lightly, “There are people who would pay in solid gold to find out more about this mystery wizard you’ve been enamoured with for the last year.”
“Er...” Harry flushes hotter, scratching the nape of his neck where he can feel sweat prickling, “Right. So... Um... Ginny was telling me how—how Parkinson always gives her the best gifts and Parkinson, apparently, always credits you with helping her pick them out. And, well--” Harry tugs at one earlobe, shifting in his seat, “I was—I was wondering if you’d help me...you know, pick a gift out for him—for my boyf—boyfriend.”
Malfoy’s mouth sags open, and he plucks his glasses off his nose to glare incredulously at Harry. “Are you on pain potions or are you simply inebriated?”
“What?” Harry says blankly.
“Why would you think it acceptable to ask me for help with something like that?” Malfoy asks irritably, hitching the trailing scroll up off the floor as he scowls and throws his quill into the inkpot like a dart.
“Why isn’t it acceptable to ask for your help, Malfoy?” Harry asks patiently.
“Why don’t you ask Weasley or Granger?” Malfoy drawls derisively. “They’re you’re friends.”
“So are you.”
Malfoy splutters quite wetly. “Excuse me?” he squeaks.
“Aren’t we friends?” Harry frowns, “We hang out almost every week with the rest of our lot. You helped me crack that case with that mummified dragon egg last month. We even eat lunch together somet--”
“But that’s all just work related,” Malfoy says.
“It’s not work when we’re all at The Leaky, though?”
Malfoy sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Okay, what do you want from me, Potter?”
Harry fidgets vigorously. “Er... Just, you know...gift ideas,” he clears his throat, “for my boyfriend.”
“And how am I supposed to give you suggestions without knowing a single thing about this lucky, lucky man?” Malfoy asks wearily but with a wry tilt to his lips.
“Oh, well, he’s, you know...” Harry stares at Malfoy a moment, “He’s really smart, I mean—Hermione thinks he’s incredibly intelligent and that’s...well, she’d never admit out loud to something like that unless it were true. And he’s...” Harry hopes Malfoy can’t see his cheeks pinken in the gloom of the room, “you know, handsome. Really handsome,” Harry adds rather feverishly.
Malfoy looks irritated again. “So buy him a mirror to admire his handsomeness in all day,” he snaps.
“Malfoy,” Harry whines.
“What,” Malfoy’s nose scrunches up in annoyance and Harry wants desperately to flick it, “Potter, I don’t know. Buy him...robes or something. I don’t know.”
“No,” Harry sighs, “He’s got this...amazing sense of style and I wouldn’t know the first thing about what kind of robes to pick.”
“You could just go by the kind of robes he already has,” Malfoy says dryly, raising an eyebrow. “Or you could just ask him, Potter. Merlin.”
“No, he doesn’t know,” Harry waves a hand, and then when Malfoy looks confused, “Oh, I mean, it’s a surprise gift,” he adds hastily.
“Is it his birthday?”
“No...” Harry shrugs, “I just...want to give him something.”
Malfoy’s nostrils flare and he impatiently tugs at his scroll again, almost ripping it. “He’s that special, eh?”
“I really like him,” Harry says, watching the way Malfoy’s long, dextrous looking fingers smooth down the parchment. “What should I give him?”
“Potter, why are you so convinced I’m the right person to help you with this?” Malfoy sighs tiredly, cleaning his glasses on his robes.
“I dunno, I just feel like you’d know,” Harry eyes him carefully for a moment, “What would you want to be gifted with?” Malfoy blinks up at Harry, glasses suspended halfway up to his face. “You know, if... If you had—had a boyfriend and he wanted to give you something...what would you like?”
“What the fuck does that have to do with anything?” Malfoy asks flatly, tossing his specs down.
“Just...so we might come up with ideas, Malfoy, don’t be such a prick,” Harry huffs indignantly.
Malfoy looks genuinely bewildered. “But you’d have to give him something...personal; something you know he’d actually like. How do my preferences play a part here?”
“They might, you never know,” Harry says lightly.
Malfoy shuts his eyes for a moment, looking thoroughly worn out. “I don’t know,” he finally says, flapping a hand carelessly. “A pot of Everlasting Ink – it’ll never fade – unlike whatever this has been written in,” he suddenly scowls down at the scroll, peering closely at the faded, slightly smudged old writing on it, “But that’s only if he invests a lot of time in researching and theorising magic, Potter, which I doubt,” he adds snidely. “There’s this amazing place in Diagon – sells the best dragon hide items; Self-Organising Folders, lightweight briefcases, handcrafted, bespoke shoes, you name it. You could simply go look around there actually, you’re sure to find something suitable.”
“What else?” Harry asks eagerly.
Malfoy frowns but sighs and bites his lip, staring thoughtfully at the table for a moment. “Does he wear formal robes a lot?” Malfoy tilts his head, “That store, Bejewelled, on Phoenix Street has a spectacular collection of jewellery for wizards too; you could get him a set of cufflinks or something? Oh!” Malfoy’s eyes suddenly brighten, sparkling excitedly, “They have these magnificent, gem studded cloak-clasps! I mean, they come only in gold or platinum, of course, but they’re really easy to fix and don’t tear holes in your cloaks?!”
Harry nods, gaze fixed on Malfoy’s pink mouth. “Yeah, those sound great. Anything else you can think of?”
“Potter, I’m working here,” Malfoy says, abruptly grumpy again. “And I’m all out of ideas. Take him to an expensive dinner or something if you can’t think of anything to get him. La Baguette Dorée in Wandsworth has excellent ratings.”
Grinning, Harry jumps to his feet. “Excellent,” he says happily and Malfoy looks more startled than anything else. “Thanks, Malfoy!”
“Whatever,” Malfoy mutters darkly, as Harry works his way through the maze of books again, mind whirring loudly.
Draco stares down at the array of items across his desk, brightly coloured gift wrapping strewn around at his feet.
The enormous pot of Everlasting Ink shines serenely through the translucent, blue glass bottle, faintly shimmering and promising perdurability. The Self-Organising folder is in jet black, aged dragon hide, edged with silvery-green, the clasp a solid silver button. The flat, rectangular, velvet lined box containing three cloak-clasps, one of them pure gold and inlaid with citrines, the other two in platinum inlaid with sapphires and emeralds respectively, glimmers smugly up at Draco.
For the enth time, Draco reads the messily scrawled note the parcels arrived with.
I hope these are to your liking. I dunno, I just tried to guess what you’d like best.
I made reservations at La Baguette Dorée for 8PM and thought I’d pick you up at quarter to. Does that work for you? Just let me know before six so I can alter the reservations accordingly.
P. S. No, this isn’t a joke. Also, I don’t have a boyfriend.
When Draco marches into Potter’s office five minutes later, gifts clutched in his arms, Potter doesn’t look the slightest bit surprised.
Potter smiles at Draco – and blushes.
“Hey,” the prat says sheepishly. “Er... Are you here to throw those in my face?” he adds, eyeing the bottle, the folder and the box of cloak-clasps Draco is holding precariously.
“Accurate assumption,” Draco wheezes, still out of breath from stomping up all the way up to Potter’s office. “Are you mental? What is the meaning of this?!”
Potter juts his chin out, that look of aggravating stubbornness creeping in. “You’re a smart man, Malfoy. What do you think it means?”
“I—I don’t understand!” Draco splutters.
“Really?” Potter tilts his head, getting up and coming around his desk, stopping a few feet away from Draco, “You want to venture a guess?”
“You want to humiliate me,” Draco blurts at once, one hand tightening reflexively around the cool glass of bottle of ink.
“Wrong,” Potter says softly, taking a step closer. “Another guess?”
“You...want to--” Draco looks around wildly for a moment, “These are all hexed! You want to kill me!”
Potter actually rolls his eyes, the merest hint of an exasperated grin flashing across his lips. “Couldn’t be more wrong even if you tried to be more wrong,” he tells Draco, stepping even closer. “Any other theories?” He’s really close now, just inches away.
Draco’s heart nearly flies out of his mouth. “No,” he admits quietly after a breathless moment.
“Thank god,” Potter smiles, “You’re such a git sometimes, Malfoy. I like you so much.
“Excuse me?!” Draco asks shrilly. “You--?!”
“Oh, do catch up,” Potter sighs, rolling his eyes again, the glib bastard. “You got the note, right? Is 7:45 okay, then?”
“I don’t understand,” Draco repeats rather helplessly.
Potter suddenly smiles again, slow and wide and so warm. Plucking the items one by one out of Draco’s grasp, he sets them on his cluttered desk, all the while smiling at Draco with a rather sappy look in his eyes.
“I like you and want to take you out to dinner, Malfoy,” he says softly – and then he takes Draco’s left hand between both his own.
“Oh?” Draco quavers at him, staring down at where Potter’s hands are clasped around his own, the caramel of his skin stark against the nearly colourless white of Draco’s own, “And have you had yourself checked for that? Is it the result of a concussion, maybe?”
Potter laughs and it’s genuine and adoring and Draco wants to shriek hysterically because what is even happening right now?!
“Will you go out with me?” Potter asks shyly and Draco just gapes at him like a buffoon. “Malfoy?” he adds worriedly when several seconds later, Draco hasn’t answered him.
“To dinner?” Draco asks weakly.
Potter looks a little forlorn at that. “Well, yeah, to dinner, but also...” he licks his lips, suddenly nervous, “Yeah, dinner first, I suppose. We’ll—We’ll see where it goes from there.”
“You mean sex?!” Draco shrieks and Potter’s ears burn bright red.
“Merlin, could you not yell the word ‘sex’ like that?!” Potter says frantically, darting a glance at the door. “I—I mean, sex would be brilliant, of course, but,” he looks slightly panicked for a moment when Draco splutters, both their faces maroon, “I meant us! I meant, you know...like... A relationship,” he finally says rather lamely.
“You want to be in a relationship with me?” Draco asks blankly.
Potter, still blushing furiously, scowls. “What the fuck have I been saying all this while, then?!”
“You really don’t have a boyfriend?”
“No, that’s just something I made up to stop the press from linking me with literally anybody I was seen with!”
“And you want me to be your boyfriend,” Draco scoffs.
“If you don’t mind, then yes,” Potter replies boldly.
“What an idiot,” Draco whispers, turning his hand to lace his fingers through Potter’s.
Potter beams at him. “I know, right?” he chuckles, stepping even closer to Draco.
Draco smiles – he tries desperately not to, but he smiles, cheeks still warm. “No, you really are an idiot to want to do this,” he informs Potter.
Potter slowly slides an arm around Draco’s waist, looking as terrified as Draco suddenly feels. Their chests bump together and Draco feels the breath leave his lungs.
Draco licks his lips, inches away from Potter’s. “I... I’m an idiot too.”
There’s nothing idiotic about the kiss, though, and as their lips lock together, Draco wants to fill several volumes describing it and the instant, ecstatic explosions in his belly – preferably in Everlasting Ink.