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There were many things Harry considered harder than minding Neville’s shop in Alfriston while Nev was off traipsing in the Amazon in search of the cackling coconut groves. Harry’d written Divination essays; he’d looked after Blast-Ended Screwts; he’d suffered six years of Snape’s enunciation; he’d even defeated a Dark Lord.

However, he was reconsidering the above list as—for the third time this week—silver-haired Mrs Embres pinched his cheek and blabbered about her granddaughter.

‘…Ortance is a beauty,’ she explained, holding the telepathic tulips Harry had sold her. ‘She’s back from Beauxbatons and looking to make some friends. Perhaps I’ll tell her to stop by the shop. Would you like her Floo address? You can pop your head in anytime and have a chat, she’s a lovely girl.’

Inwardly, Harry cursed Neville for neglecting to warn him about his sweet but pushy customers. Outwardly, he plastered a smile on his face and decided to take drastic measures. ‘She sounds great, but, actually, girls aren’t my thing. If you know what I mean.’ He fervently hoped she knew what he meant so she’d stop badgering him.

 Indeed, she raised her eyebrow. ‘Oh, I see.’

Harry braced himself for a frown of disapproval or even a hint of homophobia, but he was disappointed on both counts. ‘My brother owned a gentleman’s bar back in the 20s,’ Mrs Embres smiled. ‘He told me all the stories. Come to think of it, my sister-in-law’s nephew, Charles, is—’

The silver bell tinkled. ‘A customer!’ Harry exclaimed loudly, turning towards the door, which revealed—

Malfoy.

Mrs Embres took his arrival as her cue to leave. ‘I’ll stop by on Tuesday and perhaps bring you Charles’s Floo address?’ She gave Harry a meaningful smile as she left; the meaning being that she wouldn’t stop until he caved, and Harry wondered how far Neville’s admonition that “the customer is always right” stretched.

In the meantime, he had to deal with Malfoy, the last person Harry expected to see in the placid village that Neville had set up shop. Telling himself it was due to curiosity because he hadn’t seen the man in over three years, Harry spent a quiet moment examining him, as if he could tell by visual cues alone what the man had been doing all this time. Not that he cared what Malfoy had been doing. Harry just wanted to have something to tell Ron and Hermione when he saw them at the weekend. In the end, his examination proved futile: Malfoy looked as expensively dressed, aggressively hair-styled, and disdainfully bored as he always did. The fact he’d grown to be rather fit was something Harry decided to omit from his future conversation with his friends.

Malfoy had taken in the wild disarray of flowers, the Snarfalump pots and the budding Mimbletonias, the fire-spitting orchids and the whispering dahlias before his cold, arrogant eyes settled on Harry. ‘I’ve been told a horticultural genius owns this shop. Have I been lied to so shamelessly?’

Once a git, always a git. ‘Neville’s out of the country for a month,’ Harry said. ‘I’m looking after his shop. Do you want anything?’ Harry hoped Neville would never find out how rude he’d just been. He’d impressed upon Harry the need to be polite to customers, although he’d neglected to mention if this rule applied to former school rivals.

‘Why else would I enter this establishment? For the pleasure of your company?’

Harry counted to five and reminded himself that politeness was a virtue. Then he opened his mouth and said, ‘Will you tell me what you want or do I have to read your mind?’

Malfoy sneered. ‘As if you could. Anyway, I have to be somewhere posthaste so here’s what I need: I’ve been told you carry a rare type of roses…’

‘The golden ones.’ They were an extravagance Neville kept only for his wealthiest customers, of which there weren’t many. In fact, Malfoy was the first person interested in them since Harry had been working there. ‘How many?’ Harry called as he walked to the cabinets in the back wall and removed the Impervious spell keeping the flowers fresh.

‘How many do you have?’ Malfoy asked.

Harry popped his head around a silver fern. ‘They’re a hundred galleons each.’

Malfoy raised an eyebrow. ‘So?’

‘We have nine.’

‘I’ll take them.’

Harry brought the flowers over. They were truly something else; the colour of their petals was almost liquid, shimmering in the sunlight streaming through the shop window. Even Malfoy looked satisfied as he examined them.

‘Terrific quality,’ he admitted as if it pained him. He signed a Gringotts order for the flowers and then pulled a slip of parchment towards him. As he was writing on it, he spoke, not looking at Harry. ‘I’d like you to make a bouquet and—no, hold that thought. I’d like you to go find someone with taste to make the bouquet, and then deliver it to this address with this note.’

Harry crossed his arms. ‘It costs extra to find someone with taste.’

Malfoy folded the note and pushed it towards Harry. ‘I’m aware. We’re a rare species. Actually, I don’t trust anyone you might find.’ Harry rolled his eyes. ‘I’ll give Theo an owl to drop by; he’s good with these things.’

Malfoy eventually buggered off, taking his insults and his cologne and his stupid hair with him, and Harry stewed in irritation for a while at Malfoy’s consummate arrogance until the belligerent begonias started fighting and he had to go and separate them. At least, he reasoned, hands full of aggressive stalks, he got a good sale out of it.

When Theo arrived half an hour later, he was much easier to talk to after the initial awkward exchange of ‘sorry your father died in prison’, ‘that’s alright, he was an arsehole and my mother and I are better off for it.’ Theo chose some green leafy branches and a dark, almost black, sweet-smelling orchid to create the bouquet, and it looked spectacular; even Harry could see that.

Picking the flowers up carefully and sliding Malfoy’s note in the middle, Harry followed the apparition coordinates and arrived at a crumbling mansion by the Devon coast, where Astoria Greengrass, a young woman in all-black with large gold-rimmed glasses, rolled her eyes at the bouquet and passed it with scarcely a glance to her sister.

 

Harry thought that had been it. Malfoy had come and gone from his life like a comet, and if Harry spent ten—OK, twenty—minutes in the shower that night picturing him naked while stroking himself, well… that was nothing to lose his head over. Curiosity, really. In the first few months after the war, Harry had often wondered what the Malfoys had been doing—besides escaping prison and keeping all their assets—but as the years passed, he’d put Malfoy Junior out of his mind. It really wasn’t fair of Malfoy to show up and impose himself on Harry’s consciousness again, Harry reasoned, while he touched himself and imagined wiping Malfoy’s stupid smirk off his face by sucking his cock. A bit of an unorthodox method to wipe smirks off faces, granted, but Harry hadn’t slept with anyone in a while. A man had needs, after all.

To his surprise, the next day Malfoy returned. Harry had been in the back room with a cuppa and the latest Quidditch Today issue when he heard the bell ring.

‘Missed me?’ Harry asked.

One side of Malfoy’s mouth curled up in amusement, but he quickly suppressed it to return to his bored drawl. ‘The bouquet was well-received,’ he said, proving he’d been clearly lied to, if Astoria’s reaction was anything to go by. ‘I’d like to send another one; same recipient. Something different this time.’

Harry had no idea about these things, but nothing was more different from those posh golden roses than the cheeky daisies which were as informal as it went, judging by the language they used even around customers.

‘They’ll do,’ Malfoy said. ‘This time I’m going for something…’ he let his gaze travel Harry’s face, ‘…rumpled. You may create the bouquet.’

‘Honoured to be trusted with such a task.’ In Harry’s opinion, Malfoy deserved the mocking.

Malfoy wasn’t amused this time. He signed his Gringotts order on the counter and turned to leave.

‘Did she tell you she liked the flowers?’ Harry didn’t know why he opened his mouth. Curiosity, probably.

Malfoy gave him a considering look. ‘Her mother told my mother. That’s how these things go.’

These things?’

‘Courtship, Potter. I’m looking to get engaged.’

Harry swallowed. ‘Oh. Right. Of course.’

Harry created the bouquet absent-mindedly, full of thoughts of Malfoy getting engaged. Sure, it was fairly early in life if you’d asked Harry, but who knew what these posh sorts were thinking. He was so busy contemplating how Malfoy was making a life for himself—marriage, possibly children to come; he probably even had a real job—that he combined the cheeky daisies with some hydrangeas that were extremely prudish and didn’t take well to the daisies’ swearing, and so he had to start again. By the time the bouquet was ready, it was almost evening and he apparated posthaste to the Greengrass mansion. A geriatric elf led him through untended gardens and a cheerful orchard to a table where Astoria took tea with her mother, a woman with eyes colder than the iceberg that sank the Titanic.

‘Just leave them there,’ Astoria said, gesturing carelessly to the tabletop, and Harry did, and left.

This became a daily routine. Malfoy would show up, choose a bunch of flowers and have them delivered to Astoria, who in turn betrayed a complete lack of interest in them.

‘How come Astoria?’ Harry asked Malfoy one day, while wrestling a robust Snarfalump tentacle into a pot. Malfoy was arranging his bouquet—something he’d started doing himself these past four days—and Harry stole some glances at his long fingers tying a ribbon around the flowers. He certainly had deft fingers, Harry would give him that.

Harry’s showers had got longer these past four days, too. Coincidence, surely.

‘How come Astoria what?’

‘It’s just… her sister seems to like the flowers more. She was in our year. Why don’t you court Daphne?’

Malfoy didn’t speak for a long time. ‘It wasn’t my decision which Greengrass to court,’ he said in the end. ‘Or which person in general.’

Harry wasn’t sure what to say. ‘So if it was your decision, who’d you court?’

Malfoy’s shoulders tensed.

‘You don’t have to say if you don’t want to,’ Harry assured him, although he burned to know.

Malfoy cleared his throat. ‘I haven’t given it much thought. I guess… Malcolm Baddock would be a possibility.’

‘Malc—oh.’

Oh, indeed. Harry had no idea Malfoy liked men. He thought of Malcolm—two years below them in school, currently an actor. Malfoy’s eyes burned in defiance as they met Harry’s, as if daring him to say something. Harry wanted to reassure him that he didn’t mind; he liked men too! So he came out as well. ‘Don’t blame you,’ he said casually. ‘Malcolm’s dreamy. The best combination British and Japanese genetics could create.’

The tension seeped out of Malfoy, who gave him a rare smile—for the first time it seemed honest. ‘We shared a kiss once at school,’ he said, his voice low. ‘If—well, if life had been different, we might have hooked up. Now he won’t return my owls.’

Harry saw nothing to it. ‘He’s famous now, isn’t he? He’s always on the cover of Witch Weekly with his floppy hair and his perfect abs.’ The fact Harry had kept several of those covers under his bed was no one’s business.

Malfoy turned to his bouquet and fixed the little bow. ‘He’s famous, I’m a pariah; that’s life, I guess.’

After Malfoy had left and Harry had delivered the bouquet and then endured another one of Mrs Embres’s visits, Harry locked up and trudged up the stairs to Neville’s flat where he was staying. He mulled Malfoy’s words over and over as he grabbed some leftover curry from the cooling box and a beer. I’m a pariah. Malfoy’s tone, his quiet admission, stirred some compassion in him, which was an unusual feeling to be having towards Malfoy. Lust was not much different to irritation; both got Harry’s blood boiling and made him want to lay his hands on Malfoy, although in rather different ways. But this—this was new and affected the chest region rather than the trouser region. Harry didn’t like it.

Later that night, he pored over Malcolm’s magazine covers and decided that he wasn’t all that, not really. His nose was too small and his abs were definitely fake.

As for Malfoy, Harry was never someone who could leave well alone. The next day he got right to the point. ‘Why are you courting Astoria if you—’

‘If I prefer people like Malcolm or Blaise to her?’ Malfoy said, choosing the prettiest blushing violets.

‘Blaise?’ Harry asked.

‘I’ve no choice, Malfoy continued. ‘The Greengrass family enjoys a healthy reputation on account of them not joining the Death Eaters. However, they need money. The father spends all his time in the casinos, the wife in the boutiques. Our marriage will benefit both of the families.’

‘So it’s a business transaction,’ Harry said.

‘Precisely. But customs must be obeyed.’ Malfoy gathered the blushing violets into an elegant bouquet and slipped his usual note in it.

‘You’re doing a lot for your family,’ Harry said. ‘Like back when—Back then. You did a lot for their sake. And you’re still doing it.’

Malfoy said, ‘So did you, Potter. You defeated a Dark wizard for what he did to your family. How is it any different to what I’m doing?’

‘You’re giving up your life,’ Harry insisted.

Malfoy actually laughed at this. ‘So did you.’

 

Malfoy had been coming to the shop for two weeks now. Not that Harry was counting. He was outside that morning, straightening the pots that lined the shop, thinking of nothing in particular, certainly not Malfoy, when he heard Mrs Embres’s voice around the corner. Third time in three days! Harry rushed inside, flipped the sign reading Be Back In a Jiffy! and slid through the bead curtain to the back room. It wasn’t very Gryffindor of him, he knew. But although he could fight injustice and bigotry and all that, Harry found that his defenses against well-meaning elderly ladies were seriously lacking. How do you fight the people who don’t mean you any harm? If Voldemort had tried to take over the world as a little old lady making kind but intrusive suggestions about Harry’s love life, he’d probably be ruling Britain now.

That day Malfoy didn’t come to the shop. Not at noon, his usual time, or at any other, unusual time. Not that Harry minded. He was aware—in a rational way—that courtship wasn’t a lifelong process; it was one with a very definite end. Malfoy would get engaged and he’d stop needing flowers. More of those chest-located feelings flooded Harry, but he made a valiant effort to ignore them. As he explained to Ron over the Floo, it was really a shame for Neville, because he’d be losing Malfoy’s custom.

‘Suuure, that’s it,’ Ron said and changed the topic to Ginny’s latest dating disaster.

The village of Alfriston had a river running through it in a hurry to meet the Thames. Harry often wandered there after he’d locked the shop. The Muggles paid him no attention and the wizard folk cared little about war heroes and didn’t bother him much. That evening Harry needed the walk; the flat felt too small and claustrophobic, and he was too unsettled to sit in one place. The river provided some welcome distraction and after a short stroll, Harry found an empty bench and sat down. Perhaps, he considered, he ought to find a real job, and maybe find someone to do some courtship of his own. Or just to shag; it’d been a while.

A heavy weight had settled over Harry, so he shut his eyes and focused on the sound of the river until a presence loomed behind him. His hand flew to his wand, a reflex he still hadn’t got over.

‘It’s me.’ Malfoy’s voice reassured him before he sat beside him.

Harry let go of his wand and marvelled at how, just a few years back, Malfoy announcing himself would be a threat and not reassurance. Harry slanted a glance at his grey suit, his ice-blue waistcoat and the loosened tie.

‘Going out on a date?’ he asked.

Malfoy stared at the river. ‘Coming back from one. I had an early supper with Astoria today.’

‘Your fiancée,’ Harry felt the need to clarify.

‘Soon to be,’ Malfoy clarified in turn. He pulled the tie off completely and undid a couple of shirt buttons. ‘She suggested a sushi restaurant; raw fish. Have you heard of the like? I don’t care for cold food.’

Harry enjoyed sushi, but he knew it was an acquired taste—Ron had hated it when he’d tried some. ‘Only good ol’ traditional British food for me,’ he’d said later, scoffing down a dish of lasagne and not realising the irony.

‘Japanese cuisine has other dishes besides sushi,’ Harry said. ‘I’m quite partial to it. There’s a restaurant here in the village that serves East Asian food.’

Malfoy didn’t make a comment. He was unusually quiet, and so they shared a moment of silence, listening to the softly singing river. Night fell. Harry felt full to bursting with… something. Malfoy fidgeted with the tie in his hands, and Harry worried his bottom lip.

‘Have you eaten?’ Malfoy asked.

‘I might get some takeaway on the way home.’ Harry’s pulse had gone a bit rabbity. ‘Want to join me? You can have just a beer if you’re full.’

Full?’ Malfoy sounded scathing and obnoxiously posh, which meant his spirits had lifted. ‘How could I be full after tiny bites of raw fish? I could eat a horse. A raw horse.’

 

They settled in the worn brown sofa in the flat above the shop. Malfoy’s presence in the living room made the space look shabbier than before; perhaps it was the crisp suit, way more formal than anything worn inside these walls, or Malfoy’s colouring under Neville’s too-bright lamp.

‘It’s… cosy,’ Malfoy said.

‘Not what you’re used to, I suppose.’ Harry spelled the food to plate itself. The smells of lemongrass and ginger filled the air, and Harry’s stomach gave a loud rumble.

They broached several topics of trivial importance as they ate, such as the Quidditch league, the best broom on the market, the play Baddock starred in (‘heard really bad reviews,’ Harry said), and how to spell miso soup from the carpet (‘I’ll just ask Mrs Weasley tomorrow,’ Harry said, mortified at his lack of hand-mouth coordination, which had resulted in the embarrassing accident. And all because Malfoy had taken off his jacket).

Second beer in hand, they’d both mellowed enough to lean back on the sofa. Harry didn’t want to ruin the pleasant mood, he really didn’t, but his brain had different ideas. ‘Does Astoria know that you—’

‘I don’t think she cares. I don’t think it matters,’ Malfoy said in a very low, very flat voice. He shook his head. ‘I don’t mean to sound too harsh on her. Astoria has to be tough. Her father’s completely irresponsible, her mother’s an airhead, and Daphne, sweet as she is, is entirely too placid to take charge of their household. As the youngest, Astoria should have been the spoiled child, instead she’s the one running the estate and fixing her parents’ mistakes. She’s admirable, really. Just— not what I was looking for.’

‘You were looking for someone like Malcolm.’ Harry’s knee touched Malfoy’s, and Harry let it rest against him. He peeled the label off his beer. ‘He’s a bit of an airhead. I read his latest interview.’

Draco laughed. ‘Who cares when he looks so hot? Merlin,’ he rubbed his face with a hand, ‘I’ll go rabid within a year of marriage. It’s been ages since I had a proper shag.’

Heat coiled in Harry’s stomach. ‘Me too,’ he admitted. Casual like.

‘You don’t date?’ Draco shifted towards him.

The atmosphere in the room changed from lazy and mellow to something with sharp edges; something rising to a crest. ‘Not recently. Relationships can be a hassle. Sometimes,’ Harry said, mouth dry, ‘sometimes a man needs a shag, nothing more, just to get it out of his system.’

Malfoy’s eyes had gone dark. ‘Sometimes a man needs just that.’

Harry wasn’t sure who leaned in first, but he suspected it was him. It didn’t matter; what mattered was Malfoy’s warm mouth, soft and tasting of tempura and beer, wet and welcoming, tongue slipping sinfully inside Harry’s mouth and making him quiver. Harry hauled Malfoy closer, sending a container on the floor, adding wasabi to the previous stain.

‘Bedroom?’ Malfoy asked, voice breathless.

‘Bedroom,’ Harry said.

He was in a daze as they stumbled into the small, untidy bedroom. There was a lot of kissing and grinding and moaning, hands gripping hips, and tongues laving nipples. Malfoy threw him on his back, tugging Harry’s clothing off and then he stood and undressed, his eyes heavy on Harry’s cock, which Harry stroked idly as, one piece after the other, Malfoy’s clothing fell on the floor.

Malfoy naked was a sight to behold and Harry gladly beheld it. He had a good-sized cock, light golden fuzz on his legs and chest, and toned thighs. His quiff had been destroyed by Harry’s exploring fingers, a lock of hair falling over one eye. ‘I want to eat you,’ Malfoy murmured and Harry shivered and opened his legs a little more.

Malfoy knelt on the floor, murmuring a safety spell, shoved Harry’s thighs over his shoulders and bent his mouth to the task. His tongue licked Harry’s cleft, lapping at his arsehole and burrowing inside with short, fast jabs. He licked and lapped and swirled and thrust, while Harry writhed on the bed, his whole body on fire. He wished it would never stop, but at the same time, it wasn’t enough. Bucking his hips, he made some pleading noises asking for more, and Malfoy swiftly obliged. Crawling over Harry, he lined his cock and pressed in, and Harry gasped, a shudder running through him.

‘Never expected I’d be fucking you,’ Malfoy said, his breath tickling Harry’s neck. He thrust slowly, slick and hard inside Harry. ‘Never in a million years.’

‘I’m as astonished as you are,’ Harry said, wrapping his legs around Malfoy’s hips. ‘But sometimes a man needs…’

‘A man needs…’ Malfoy agreed, thrusting harder, eliciting moans from Harry and nipping at his neck as his hips grew more erratic, wild, and desperate. Harry clung on to him, sweat dripping down Malfoy’s back, and let Malfoy pound into him, slamming his hips deep inside Harry and drawing out a fast, explosive orgasm that made Harry’s vision swim.

 

Malfoy hadn’t stayed the night, which made sense, all things considered. Harry ought to be glad he’d got a decent shag out of it and not really think about Malfoy or his future engagement much. So what if it’d been a great shag? More than great, it’d been fantastic. Harry had stroked Malfoy’s damp hair off his face when they’d finished; he kissed him lightly on the lips and the cheeks and the nose and Malfoy had chuckled. He looked different in bed with his hair messed up and the smell of sweat and come in the room. He looked like someone that fit nicely by Harry’s side—which was a delusion.

So Harry opened the shop the next morning, attended to the needs of a few customers, and at noon glanced at the clock, knowing it was pointless to hope.

The bell tinkled.

Harry raised his eyes at the door and his heart stuttered. ‘Hi,’ he said.

Malfoy radiated happiness held back by some nervousness. ‘I’m here for the usual bouquet,’ he said carefully. ‘What kinds of peonies do you carry?’

Harry showed him his range—pious peonies, polyamorous peonies and the customer favourite, poetic peonies. Malfoy picked three specialising in sonnets and set about creating his bouquet with the ease of someone who knew his way around the shop. Harry leaned on the counter and watched him. He’d no idea what to say. He’d no idea if there was anything to say.

‘Did you get home alright?’ he asked Malfoy.

Malfoy didn’t raise his eyes from his task. ‘I did.’ His fingers slowed and stopped. He still didn’t look at Harry when he said, ‘I wished I’d stayed. But… the way things are… you understand, don’t you?’

‘Not really,’ Harry gritted out. ‘I don’t understand why you sentence yourself to a loveless marriage, no.’

Malfoy’s face tightened. ‘Of course you don’t,’ he said with derision. ‘You’ve no idea what it’s like to be shunned. I might not care much about it, but it’s distressing for my mother. The life of balls and luncheons is all she’s ever known. And sometimes a man needs to do what’s right by his family.’

Harry seethed. He’d no idea why really, Malfoy’s words did make sense, but he seethed nonetheless, his fists clenched. ‘There are ways to repair your family’s reputation and typically you’ve chosen the easiest one. Just marry someone and wait for the reputation to fix itself, eh? No need to work at it.’

‘Fuck you, Harry,’ Malfoy said, face white. He abandoned his unfinished bouquet and made to leave, but Harry caught him by the door and grabbed his arm.

‘Sorry,’ Harry said. ‘I’m angry and I wasn’t thinking. I shouldn’t have said that.’

‘I’m angry, too,’ Malfoy said. ‘But things are the way they are.’

Harry lowered his voice. ‘I had a good time last night.’

‘Me too.’ Malfoy gazed at Harry, anger forgotten or at least out of sight, and he leaned in to kiss him. ‘I had a very good time.’

Harry pointed his wand at the sign: Be Back in a Jiffy! and dragged Malfoy in the back room, their clothes hastily pushed aside for a quick, dirty fuck against the wall. Harry sucked hard at Malfoy’s neck, marking him with his teeth and lips, while Malfoy rasped a litany of HarryHarryHarry as he came.

They kept at it for the next week. Malfoy would come around noon and they’d shag breathlessly in the back room, and sometimes Malfoy would come round in the evenings after Harry locked the shop, to have takeaway and fuck some more. He stayed the night now, but he left before dawn, with his clothes in a bundle and a kiss on Harry’s face—who always woke up and always pretended he was asleep. Harry still delivered the bouquets to Astoria, who he couldn’t do anything but hate.

Harry knew what a huge mistake the whole thing was, but he’d already fallen for Malfoy, so what harm would a few more nights do? What harm would it do to kiss Malfoy some more and inhale his intoxicating smell? What harm was it that Malfoy spent almost every evening with Harry and whispered things in the dark that he never alluded to in the day? Harry was in love and in pain, but he might as well get what he could while he could.

There was only one thing he was clear on: once Malfoy got officially engaged with Astoria, Harry would stop seeing him.

The engagement, Harry found out from the paper two weeks later, was to be held at the Manor the following day. He put the paper down and stared unseeing at the colourful, fragrant, whispering shop, the shop he’d come to love, his affection for it tainted now because he connected it with Malfoy and the thought of him made Harry bleed inside.

Neville would be back soon anyway. Harry wouldn’t have to stay in this flat and this shop with all the memories; he could go back to Grimmauld Place and fix it. Or travel. Or he could find a job; or—

The bell tinkled.  

‘Hey!’ Malfoy’s grin faded when he saw Harry’s expression. ‘You’ve heard.’

‘Not from you.’

‘I was going to tell you,’ Malfoy said. ‘I—’ More words weren’t forthcoming. ‘We’ll talk tonight, OK?’

It was easy for Harry to do what had to be done when he felt gutted inside. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Best not to.’

Malfoy started. He paled and his hands trembled a little. ‘I thought I’d see you for one last time…’

‘The last time was the last time,’ Harry said, even though he’d wanted a last night himself—until he’d seen the announcement, until he’d read the name of Draco Malfoy next to Astoria Greengrass in black and white on the paper.

‘I think it’s best if you left now,’ he continued, his voice as raw as his heart. ‘You’ve made your choice; this is mine.’

Malfoy straightened, his face impassive. ‘Sure.’ The croaking of his voice was the only indication of emotion. He paused for a moment, his eyes on Harry, but he said nothing and left.

The rest of the day was shit, which was to be expected. Harry had been Crucioed by Voldemort, he’d been apprehended by Snatchers, he’d starved in the countryside while on the hunt for Horcruxes, but nothing had hurt as much as this. Three more days, he told himself. Three more days until Neville came back, and maybe Harry could go to the Amazon himself. It certainly sounded far enough.

The trickle of customers dried out by early afternoon, which was even worse, as Harry would rather deal with Mrs Embres than stay alone with his thoughts, but the lady didn’t show up and by three o'clock Harry had enough of stewing in misery. He locked up a couple of hours early and decided to get roaringly drunk, which was still stewing in misery but with beer, and therefore more appealing.

Loud knocking on the door woke him up the next morning. He’d fallen asleep, drunk as a skunk, in an armchair in the back room. His neck ached from the uncomfortable position. The pounding on the door continued, matching the pounding in his head. Blearily, Harry established that it was around ten in the morning and he should’ve opened the shop an hour ago. He prayed to god it wasn’t Neville banging on his shop, wanting to be let in, but with Harry’s luck, it’d be either him or, worse, Mrs Embres.

He was wrong. Another familiar silhouette rattled the handle, backlit by the morning sun, and a pang of longing speared through Harry. His feet carried him stumbling to the door where he pulled down the wards.

‘Do you still need fucking bouquets?’ Harry asked, ignoring the way his heart rejoiced at the sight of Malfoy at his doorstep.

‘I did it,’ said Malfoy, coming inside. His eyes glittered in an odd sort of fever. ‘I called off the engagement. I— it’s done.’

‘What?’ Harry’s heart drummed fast, a ringing sounding in his ears as he tried to make sense of what Malfoy was telling him. ‘What about your family— your obligations?’

Malfoy pulled Harry close and leaned his forehead on Harry’s. ‘Sometimes a man needs to do what’s right for him,’ he said. ‘Sometimes that’s all a man needs to do.’ He brushed his lips against Harry’s and didn’t flinch back from Harry’s beery breath, which meant Malfoy must really love him.

‘How did your parents take it?’ Harry asked, his hands running over Malfoy’s face and body to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating.

Malfoy shrugged. ‘They’re… not happy. But they’ll get over it. Astoria’s a bit mad, but she’ll get over it, too. It was easier to go through with it, back when I had nothing in my life,’ Malfoy said. ‘But then I got to have you and I’ve fallen in love with you and I just couldn’t. I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing you again. Do you— do you still want to see me?’

Harry wished he’d paid closer attention to what Malfoy had asked, but the phrase “in love with you” slammed into him, knocking his breath out. His beer-soaked brain whirred with difficulty, but finally Harry allowed himself to believe that this was happening: Malfoy broke off his engagement, Malfoy loved him, Malfoy was here, in his arms. He wasn’t sure what Malfoy’s question had been, but he was sure of the answer: ‘Yes.’

Malfoy beamed and claimed Harry’s mouth, his hands pressing Harry flush against him.

‘Oh, Charles!’ the familiar voice of Mrs Embres drifted from outside. ‘Seems like we were too late. Harry is— Oh, dear… That’s— Good heavens, they’re—’