Harry walked through Diagon Alley, looking for the new coffee shop everyone kept talking about. He didn't really care about keeping up with new trends, but he did love coffee, and his Peck’s Prodigious Percolator had broken the day before. Plus, he'd already had one too many, "What?! You've never been to Azure Cup?!" reactions when he informed people he hadn't yet been, so it was a perfect time to try it.
Harry pushed the sleeve of his Auror robe up to glance at his watch. He'd be late for work if he didn't hurry up.
It was a cool morning, and Diagon had that rush-hour feel to it, half-asleep witches and wizards moving about more quickly than they seemed to prefer. One witch passed him, yawning, with a mascara wand applying makeup to her eyes as she walked. One wizard in traditional business robes walked by, his wand hovering next to his ear blaring a morning report of Gringotts exchange rates. Harry rolled his eyes. He hated people like that, who didn't consider that maybe not everyone around them wanted to hear about the Galleon-Pound-Euro exchange rate while they were walking to work.
Harry saw a queue up ahead. Though the queue stayed orderly, the waiting people all looked antsy. Some of them were checking their magic-powered mobiles, others were reading the Prophet. One witch was scolding an iguana.
Harry craned his neck to see what they were waiting for. His eyes just made out an inconspicuous sign that read "Azure Cup Coffee." Was this the queue for the coffee shop? Merlin! He'd never make it to work. But he'd come all this way…
"Excuse me," Harry said to the wizard who was bringing up the rear of the queue. "Are you waiting for the Azure Cup?"
The wizard, who was wearing a pair of glasses with blue-tinted lenses, raised an eyebrow. "It's just Azure Cup. Not the Azure Cup. There's no article."
Harry only just refrained from rolling his eyes. He hated these hipster trends, and this coffee shop might turn out to be the worst of them all.
"Keep the queue moving," a voice drawled from behind Harry, and he realised that he'd lagged behind pretentious Blue-Lens at the same moment he realised that the voice behind him belonged to no other than Draco Malfoy.
Harry closed the gap in the queue and turned to Malfoy. "Er, good morning, Malfoy."
"Potter," he greeted airily.
Malfoy was wearing a tailored set of business robes and looked like he was about to prance off to a corporate job where he would go about the daily grind of wringing every last Knut out of lowly peasants. He looked like the wizard equivalent of the man on the Monopoly box.
Harry sighed. This coffee better be as good as people said it was.
"Potter, quit staring at me. You're holding up the queue."
Harry turned with a start and realised he had been holding up the queue, then stepped behind Blue-Lens. The queue was moving quickly, even if it was preposterously long. A moment later, Harry stood at the doorway, in the awkward position of being the one who had to hold the door open. He tried to hold it with his foot, but it slipped and hit him in the shoulder.
Malfoy, the git, snickered.
Harry didn't say anything.
"You're not going to make some asinine comment about how you haven't had your coffee yet?" Malfoy asked in a low voice. "Everyone here at this time of day is constantly making jokes about how they haven't had their coffee yet."
In truth, Harry had considered making a comment to that effect—but only because he really had not had his coffee yet!
"My percolator broke," Harry said.
"Poor Potty," Malfoy responded, but his tone seemed amused.
The witch in front of Blue-Lens, whose iguana sat obediently atop her shoulder, was now ordering.
"What's good here?" Harry asked, for something to say.
"Everything," Malfoy answered, as if Harry should've known that already.
Blue-Lens approached the barista. "I'd like a triple cappuccino—dry. You do know what a dry cappuccino is?"
The barista, who looked to be about twenty-five, smiled a customer service smile. "Yes, sir."
"Good," he sighed. "With hemp milk."
Harry snorted, wanting to make fun of Blue-Lens to Malfoy. Fuck, he needed to get out of here if he felt like bonding with Malfoy of all people.
Blue-Lens moved to the side, and Harry approached the barista. "Good morning," he said with a smile, hoping that he wasn't about to get the "Oh my god, it's Harry Potter!" treatment.
Luckily, she was a world-weary barista, and said no such thing. She looked like a struggling artist, Harry thought, with her tattoos and her artsy hair. He wondered at the difficulty of working such a low-wage job, and was overcome with a feeling of compassion.
"What can I get you?" she asked. Behind her, three giant coffee pots gurgled merrily, and an espresso machine shot steam out at odd intervals. Another barista gathered drinks (that were prepared magically) and sent them Levitating to waiting customers. A sign on the wall read, "NEW! Try the Mood Mug: It's a coffee that reads your deepest java desires and transforms its taste into what you most crave!"
Harry wanted a mocha, because he loved putting syrups in his coffee, but he knew the sugar was bad for him and he knew Malfoy was standing behind him, about to judge his order. "A medium coffee to go, please."
Harry reached into his pocket, fishing around for some coins. When would wizards finally learn the joy of credit cards? he wondered for the umpteenth time as he pulled out a handful of Sickles and Knuts.
"That'll be one Galleon," the barista said.
One Galleon for a coffee?! Good Merlin.
But Harry wouldn't take his outrage out on this barista, working a food service job. He reached back into his pocket to pull out a Galleon, then moved to the side to wait for his drink.
He tried not to appear like he was watching Malfoy order, but he watched all the same.
"Good morning, Wren," Malfoy said, smiling in a way that struck Harry as arrogant. "The usual."
Harry couldn't have stopped the loud snort from escaping his nasal passages if he had sealed off his nostrils with a Sticking Charm. The usual. Why was Malfoy always such an incredible prick?
Malfoy turned towards him slowly, one eyebrow raised. "Is there a problem, Potter?"
"No," Harry said, not wanting to make a scene that would inconvenience the barista named Wren.
A to-go cup soared through the air on little cardboard wings and bobbed in front of Harry's chest. He grasped it, but felt stuck to the spot, still staring at Malfoy, who was in the process of paying one Galleon six Sickles.
"Sir, did you need something else?" Wren asked, looking at Harry over Malfoy's shoulder.
"Er, no. Thank you!" Harry said, turning around and fleeing out of the cafe.
"Well," Harry announced, and Hermione looked up expectantly from the paperwork at her desk, "Malfoy is up to something."
Hermione's forehead crinkled with confusion. "What? Why?"
"I ran into him getting coffee this morning," Harry began, gearing up for a good rant.
"Oh!" Hermione exclaimed. "You finally went to Azure Cup! Isn't it good?"
The coffee was, indeed, delicious. Harry wished it wasn't, because that would better fit his mood.
"Yes, but Malfoy. He laughed when the door hit me."
Hermione's face was unreadable as she crossed her legs behind her desk, a pile of towering paperwork beside her. "I would've laughed at that."
"And then he placed his order and he ordered 'the usual.' Who does that?"
"I mean, plenty of people," she said. "I always assume that they're craving human companionship and a feeling of being known and knowable."
Harry picked up his cup and took a long sip. The coffee was complex, bitter but smooth, and Harry was sad that the cup was nearly finished.
“He’s such a prick,” Harry said. “Calling me names, like we’re back on the schoolyard."
Hermione raised her eyebrows. “He acted towards you like he did at school?”
“Well no,” Harry said. “But I find his chumminess with the barista and his ordering ‘the usual’ obnoxious at best and suspicious at worst.”
Hermione pinched her nose. "Harry. Honestly. I'm pretty sure he is merely one of these people who thinks their very specific coffee order, like 'double latte extra foam', is somehow a meaningful part of their identity, and the fact that a barista knows this part of them as their 'usual' gives them a thrill of belonging."
Harry's mouth open and closed a few times without words, his niggling annoyance at Malfoy still running through his blood.
"In any case," Hermione continued, for some reason not wanting to continue talking about Malfoy's coffee habits, "Robards has assigned us a new case. We have a meeting in five."
The day after that, Harry set his alarm.
The queue outside Azure Cup was a bit shorter than the last time he visited, and Harry fell into the queue, eager to see the place again and to savour his morning cup. The witch in front of him wore a tall pointy hat, the type that made Muggleborns snicker and say, "I'll get you my pretty!" She was Levitating a bunch of tarot cards in the air around her head. The cards danced around, changing places, until finally a card with two naked people on it that read "THE LOVERS" rose higher than the rest, higher even than the tip of her hat. At that, she swore, and, grumbling all the while, with a wave of her wand, collected the cards in a neat stack.
The queue advanced, and Harry was suddenly able to see a flash of white-blond hair in front of the witch with the pointy hat. Of course, he thought. He couldn't possibly get a coffee without the inconvenience of running into Malfoy. At least his suspicions about Malfoy’s mysterious “usual” had faded somewhat.
Harry found that seeing Malfoy made him feel two things: a desire to make Malfoy as annoyed to see him as he was to see Malfoy, and a desire to act like a fourteen-year-old idiot. Unfortunately for Malfoy, these two feelings went together, so Harry reached into his Enlarged Auror pocket, rummaged around past the Shrunken file of paperwork, a Chocolate Frog, and a cursed set of teeth he had forgotten to turn in to Misuse, until he found the box of Tic Tacs. He poured a few of the orange candies into his left hand, selected one with his right, ate those remaining in his left hand, and threw the single Tic Tac at Malfoy's head.
It bounced satisfyingly off the back of Malfoy’s blond head. A posh hand adorned with rings came up to touch his hair, and he turned around. When his eyes landed on Harry, they rolled skyward. "What the fuck, Potter?"
The witch in between them looked back and forth at them, shuffling the cards in her hands all the while.
"Would you like a Tic Tac, Malfoy?" Harry asked, feigning politeness.
"What, pray tell, is a Tic Tac?"
The witch, a smile on her face, turned to Harry. "You can go in front of me," she offered.
"Oh, I couldn't possibly," Harry said. "I'm sorry!"
"No, I am the one who couldn't possibly stand in between you two for the length of this queue," the witch insisted.
At this, Malfoy heaved a put-upon sigh and stepped behind the witch, letting her go first. She flashed him a grin and waved the deck of cards in his face. "Indeed, indeed!" she cackled.
Malfoy turned to Harry, looking mutinous. "You've hit me in the head and lost me my spot in the queue. Are you trying to ruin my day, or is that just a nice side benefit?"
"Oh, I was trying," Harry said with a smile, and poured some more Tic Tacs into his hand.
The queue moved forward, bringing them inside the cafe. A wizard in a window seat played a harmonica, while two witches near him worked on a crossword puzzle that shone in the air like a hologram. Harry watched as Malfoy's eyes were drawn to the puzzle.
"Fourteen down," Malfoy said, stepping closer to the witches, "Oleo."
One of the witches looked up. "Thanks!" she said, then waved her wand to add the letters to the squares.
"What is oleo?" Harry asked as Malfoy stepped back into the queue in front of him.
"Butter alternative. The puzzles are always asking that clue. Ridiculous, really."
Harry stared at him. Life seemed suddenly, palpably surreal.
"Er, so how's life?" Harry asked, feeling like a moron as he said it.
Malfoy's face was impassive—Harry wondered how much Malfoy-family training went into being able to keep one’s face so expressionless. Or maybe it was the product of Slytherin training, not Malfoy training.
"Fine," Malfoy said, turning to face front.
"You work at Gringotts, right?" Harry asked, constitutionally unable to keep his mouth shut around Malfoy.
"You work with Bill, right?"
"Is he still on leave?"
At this, Malfoy sighed and turned around, apparently resigned to conversation. "Bill is still on leave tending to his small humans. Which means I have twice the work, which means I really need my morning pick-me-up."
"I should take Teddy over there to play soon," Harry mused. "It's been awhile since I've seen Vic and Dominique."
"Why are you talking to me?" Malfoy asked, and he looked honestly perplexed.
Harry shrugged. "I felt like it."
They were near the front of the queue now. Tarot Pointy-Hat was just placing her order.
"And you?" Malfoy asked, looking curious despite himself. "How's life for the Saviour?"
Harry shrugged. "Fine. Good." Harry nudged Malfoy's elbow to let him know it was his turn to order. From his place behind, Harry could hear Malfoy greet Wren and again order his usual.
Harry's eyes scanned the sign with the offerings, and when it was his turn he smiled at Wren and ordered a vanilla latte, then stepped next to Malfoy to wait for it.
"Have you ever ordered the Mood Mug?" Harry asked, gesturing to the sign.
Malfoy turned a fraction towards Harry. "Do I look like I would order something called a Mood Mug?"
Harry shrugged. "Maybe. What's your usual?"
Malfoy raised an eyebrow. "That's not important."
"Come on, what is it? Like, five shots of decaf espresso with foam, extra hot, and a dash of cinnamon?"
"Who the fuck would drink that?"
"I dunno," Harry said. "I'm just trying to figure out why you won't tell me."
"It's not that I won't tell you. It's that it's not an interesting topic for conversation."
That had to be the most suspicious thing Malfoy had ever said to Harry, and that was saying something. But with age, Harry had got at least a bit better about dropping things, so he changed the subject.
"Break any good curses lately?"
Malfoy sighed, crossing his arms over his chest. "You insist on talking to me, despite my clear indifference, and the best you can do is 'Break any good curses lately?'"
Harry grinned. "What? It's interesting. I like curses. They’re like, dangerous enough to be thrilling, but not as intense as trying to catch a person breaking the law. You need to be smart, but you're kinda like a lone ranger."
One of Malfoy's eyebrows arched, and Harry couldn't help but notice what a nice eyebrow it was—slightly darker than the blond on his head, shapely. "Did you just call me a 'lone ranger'?" Malfoy asked, his voice impossibly posh.
"It's true, isn't it? Curse-breakers usually work alone, even though it's really dangerous. Or do you not know what a lone ranger is? It was originally some kinda Muggle show, I think."
"It's true," Malfoy said, finally starting to talk. "I am a lone ranger. Which is exactly how I like it. I could never work at a place like the Aurors, where everyone gets randomly assigned to work with other obnoxious people."
Neither of them mentioned that Malfoy could never work at the Aurors because the Aurors would never have him.
"Don't you get lonely?" Harry asked.
Malfoy opened his mouth to answer, but just then a to-go cup flew over on paper wings. When it hovered in front of his hands, the wings transformed into a sleeve. Malfoy grabbed his drink, said a terse, "Take care," and walked quickly out of the cafe.
As Harry waited for his vanilla latte, he thought about Malfoy, wandering around Gringotts, no one to talk to but a bunch of goblins, saddled with extra work while Bill was on parental leave.
When they landed on the beach, Teddy let go of Harry's hand and ran towards the house screaming "Vic! Dodo! Viiiiiiiiic!"
Harry sent his Patronus ahead to tell Bill and Fleur he would be right inside, then took a detour to Dobby's grave. It'd been awhile since he visited, so Harry brushed the sand off the rock that served as Dobby's grave marker. He sat down for a minute next to the grave, listening to the crash of the waves.
Harry Potter is a great wizard, an echo of Dobby's voice sounded in Harry's head. Harry pressed his forehead into his hands and took a deep breath. He didn't much feel like a great wizard these days. He felt lonely despite all his friends, untethered despite his job and house and responsibilities, unfulfilled despite all he'd accomplished. And somehow, he was fixated on Draco Malfoy, as if it were 1996 instead of 2006.
"What am I even doing, Dobby?" Harry whispered, but there was no answer except for the crash of the waves.
After a minute, he stood and walked into the house. Everyone was in the kitchen. Fleur had Dominique in a sling that magically adjusted to hold the baby in whatever position was needed (currently, the baby was breastfeeding), Victoire was at the table with crayons showing Teddy her drawing, and Bill was buttering toast triangles for the kids.
"'Arry!" Fleur said, coming forward to wrap him in a hug. Harry smiled, trying to pretend he didn't find it odd to be hugging over her bare breast, hearing the little sucking noises that Dominique was making. Harry wanted to be the type of person who was easygoing about bodies and nudity and sexuality, but he had to fight his initial reactions to win that easygoingness. One thing among many for which he liked to blame the Dursleys.
"Uncle Harry's here!" Bill enthused, clapping Harry on the shoulder and doling out toast. Bill looked exhausted.
The next second, Harry had an armful of Victoire, who hopped up onto his hip with no warning, wrapping her little arms around his neck and planting a kiss on his cheek. Harry felt his body relax with the warmth and love that the affection gave him, and he thought to himself wryly that he must be touch starved if he was getting warm fuzzies from a slobbery toddler kiss. He squeezed her back. "Victoire! I missed you!"
"Uncle Harry, look!" She pointed at her picture. "I drew magic!"
Her picture showed two stick figures holding lines that Harry presumed to be wands. One of the wands was shooting a rainbow out of the end, and there was an anthropomorphised sun in the top right corner. "It's beautiful," Harry said.
She wriggled out of his grasp and began whispering with Teddy, who had somehow already eaten all of his toast. Teddy grinned, and the two of them ran out of the room.
"Don't go outside without asking!" Bill called after them. "Have a seat, Harry. Fleur just made a pot of coffee."
Harry sat, happy for a cup of coffee, as he hadn't had a chance to go to Azure Cup before Teddy arrived. A pretty blue cup flew through the air, landing on the table in front of him, and Harry grabbed the pitcher of cream from the centre of the table and poured some in.
"Victoire has been drawing constantly," Bill said, sweeping the crayons to the side as he sat with his own cup. "There are crayons everywhere. It's driving me a bit crazy, if I'm honest."
Harry smiled. "That happens when you're home with them all the time, eh? When do you go back to work?"
"I've got two more weeks, then Fleur is taking another two months."
Harry sipped his coffee and let the happy warmth of Shell Cottage seep into his soul. Dominique finished nursing, and the sling immediately adjusted so that she sat upright, facing her mother, but she twisted her head around and reached for Harry. "Ga!"
Fleur smiled. "She wants to get out. Do you mind?"
"Course not," Harry said with a smile. He loved holding Weasley babies. Fleur unhooked the sling and handed Dominique to Harry.
There was a crash. "I'm going to go check on that," Fleur said. Dominique grabbed at Harry's glasses, so he took them off and handed them to Bill for safekeeping. Dominique reached for Harry's hand, guiding his finger to her toothless mouth, and began munching on it.
"This coffee is great," Harry said, though it wasn't as good as Azure Cup. "I didn't have any yet today and I think I was feeling it."
"We drink so much coffee," Bill groaned. "I don't think I even taste it anymore, I just chug it like it's medicine."
Harry laughed. "You two make it look easy," he said, which was kind of a lie but it seemed like an encouraging thing to say.
Bill smiled. "Thanks. I can't wait to get back to work, though. I love the kids, but it's hard for any one person to be home with them all day."
"Speaking of work," Harry said, bouncing Dominique on his knee. "I ran into Malfoy."
"Oh yeah?" Bill asked, then he winced. "How badly did he seem to hate me for leaving him alone?"
Harry laughed again. "Only a tiny bit." He took another sip of coffee, then put the cup down far out of Dominique's reach. He gently pried her mouth off his finger and tried to distract her with wiggling fingers, instead. "How is Malfoy, these days? Do you two get along okay?"
Bill's eyes searched Harry. "Yeah, we get along fine. Draco's good at his job, minds his business. Wait, why? You're not investigating him, are you?"
"What?" Harry said. "No! I just ran into him at Azure Cup—that new coffee shop. He was ordering a suspicious drink, that's all."
"A suspicious drink?" Bill asked, laughing. "I didn't know there was such a thing as suspicious coffee."
"I mean," Harry said, feeling like a fool and with no idea what to say, "it's suspicious only because he won't tell me what it is." Dominique leaned forward, nuzzling her little head into Harry's chest.
"He's pretty private these days, Harry," Bill said, setting his cup on the table. "He has to be, I think, what with the way people treat him because of the war. I'd just leave him alone, if I were you."
"Yeah," Harry said, rubbing his hand on Dominique's back and hoping it wasn't obvious to Bill that he was using the baby to distract himself.
"Hey," Bill said, pushing his seat back from the table. "Come look at this addition I just put on Dominique's room—you'll love the Quidditch mobile I hung."
Harry smiled and grabbed his glasses. "Okay." He took a deep breath to prepare himself to see the photo that hung in the upstairs corridor of the four Triwizard champions—Fleur said she needed to guard against forgetting—and followed Bill towards the merry children's voices.
The queue didn't extend out onto the pavement as it did during the weekday commute, but there was still a wait, and the place was filled with a more diverse crowd—parents keeping their children quiet with processed sugar, a group of cackling witches who must all have been over a hundred years old, a surly goblin drinking what looked to be a chai latte, a harried-looking wizard writing furiously with a peacock quill.
Harry joined the queue and let the rich smell of coffee and the slightly bizarre atmosphere of the cafe wash over him. The music playing today sang, "I love coffee, I love tea, I love the java jive and it loves me." Wren stood at the counter taking the order of the person at the front of the queue.
Just as Harry began to smile and feel his shoulders relax a fraction, he heard a weary sigh behind him and turned to see Malfoy standing, arms crossed.
"Potter. Are you stalking me?"
Harry gestured at the queue. "I was here first!"
"Aren't there other coffee shops you can go to?" Malfoy asked.
"Aren't there other coffee shops you can go to?"
"I've been coming here for months! You just showed up!"
"My percolator broke. So much for Peck’s Prodigious Percolators being 'permanent and imperishable.'" The words felt stupid as they tumbled out of Harry's mouth. Malfoy stared. "Because," Harry continued, "their jingle. You know."
Malfoy sighed. "Fine, whatever, let's just order our drinks."
A tingling annoyance creeped up Harry's spine. "No, you know what, Malfoy? No. I refuse to act like this with you anymore. This place is great. We're adults."
Malfoy pushed Harry backward to fill in the space he’d left in the queue.
"We're adults," Harry repeated. "Would you like to sit and have coffee with me?"
Malfoy looked like he’d just spotted an erumpent wearing a top hat tap dancing through the cafe. "Have coffee. With you. Now?"
"Sure, now. It's Sunday. We don't have work."
Malfoy opened his mouth, then closed it. "Fine."
"Well I'm not going to force you!" Harry said, annoyed at the lack of enthusiasm.
"Yes, alright," Malfoy said, seeming to build himself up. "Let's sit and have coffee."
Harry looked around the cafe. "There's a free table next to the veela over there. If you don't mind. You know how no one likes to sit by them."
Malfoy turned to look. A group of otherworldly-gorgeous women sat around a table with a pot of tea, the tables around them all conspicuously empty. "We can sit there."
Though he couldn't be certain, Harry was about 80 percent sure they'd just told each other they were gay. They walked and sat at the table and watched as a male waiter, eyeing the veela warily, nudged a female waiter and pointed her in the direction of Harry and Malfoy.
She came over and smiled. "Good morning. What can I get you?"
Malfoy opened his mouth to speak, but Harry cut him off. "Do you have a menu? I'd like to look at what you have." She waved her wand and a menu wrote itself in the air between them, obscuring the veela from view, then she left to give them a few minutes to peruse the menu.
"Have you had their muffins?" Harry asked. "This ginger cardamom sounds interesting."
"Potter, what the fuck are we doing?" Malfoy said suddenly, leaning forward on his elbows. "Really, I want to know. Why are we chatting muffins? Do we chat muffins now?"
Harry's brow furrowed. "It's not that deep. We're having coffee? I can't keep seeing you without feeling curious about how you are. We have too much history to ignore each other—I don't want to ignore you. So we can have coffee?"
Malfoy's face was entirely unreadable. "You can't ignore me."
"Well, no." Harry was old enough to not give a shit about this. He refused to be embarrassed. "Can you ignore me?"
Malfoy's lips pressed together so tightly that they disappeared from his pointy face. "I suppose not. I've not had their muffins. If you've not had breakfast, you should eat something with protein. The crustless quiche is quite nice."
The crustless quiche? That sounded nowhere near as good as a muffin, but now that Harry had asked, he felt he ought to eat something healthier.
The waiter arrived back at their table. Harry smiled and ordered the crustless quiche and a mocha with whipped cream.
Malfoy said, "I'll have my usual. In a to-go cup."
If Harry had been suspicious before, he was now certain that Malfoy was an axe murderer. Harry's eyes narrowed, and as soon as the waiter was gone, Harry burst, "A to-go cup! When you could have ceramic! Are you an impersonator under fucking Polyjuice?! Or, oh my god, you're really that concerned with me not seeing what you're ordering. Is Azure Cup an illegal potions front? They’re giving you illicit ingredients in the coffee? Or they’re the dealer and you’re the junkie, and this is you ordering your fix?"
"Oh good grief," Malfoy said, dropping his forehead into an elegant hand. "It's not an illegal potions ring, and I am not under Polyjuice. Though you're quite right to assume that to-go cups are not very Malfoyish. My mother refuses to drink from one, and when I'm feeling passive aggressive, I arrive at the Manor holding one." Malfoy waved his wand to get rid of the menu. "Her nose crinkles satisfyingly every time."
"Why don't you want me to know what you're drinking?" Harry asked, eyes still narrowed. "You know what I'm drinking."
"Yes, and I bet the drink you ordered has about forty grams of sugar, and I'm judging you accordingly."
Harry's mouth fell open. "…What?"
"Nevermind," Malfoy said. "So. Potter. How's Auroring?"
"Is that meant to be an insult?" Harry asked, leaning back as their drinks flew onto the table, Harry's clattering as the cup settled in its saucer and Malfoy's flying over on its little to-go cup wings.
"No, it was meant to be a meaningless small-talk question about your work," Draco said, picking up his cup and taking a sip.
Harry decided to take his word for it. "My work is good. Hermione and I are partners and we enjoy the work and complement each other well. By that I mostly mean that she gets off on perfectly filled-out paperwork, so I don't have to do it."
"What do you get off on?" Malfoy asked, raising one blond eyebrow, his face amused and teasing.
Whoa. Malfoy was not supposed to—. What?
"Er," Harry said, picking up his cup and taking a sip. He closed his eyes, letting himself get momentarily distracted by the way the chocolatey bitterness of the coffee contrasted with the sweetness of the whipped cream. "At work? Which is what we're talking about. I get off on catching bad guys."
If Harry wasn't wrong, Malfoy's cheeks reddened, and he quickly took a sip of his drink, obscuring his face.
Oh, that—making Malfoy blush and calling his flirtatious bluff—that was good. Harry grinned, and found he wanted to make that blush happen again. Catching Malfoy off guard was good. "What do you get off on, Malfoy? At work, of course."
Malfoy took a long sip from his paper cup—long enough that Harry wondered if he was really drinking or merely buying time. When he put it down, he looked straight at Harry and said, "Cracking a code no one else can solve. Curses are like nuts—hard to crack. But I like to be the one."
Harry blinked. "The one?"
"The one to crack the nut. The hard nuts that no one else can handle."
Harry coughed on his mocha, spraying bits of whipped cream high into the air, which of course was the exact moment that their waiter arrived carrying his crustless quiche.
Harry grabbed his napkin, trying to salvage what was left of his dignity, while Malfoy thanked the waiter for the food.
As Harry managed to get his breathing under control and his airways free of sweetened caffeinated beverage, Malfoy smiled. "Everything alright, Potter?"
"I'm fine," Harry said, picking up his fork and cutting into the quiche. "But just to be totally clear. You're flirting with me, right? This isn't like, some strange Slytherin social ritual that I don't understand?"
"I don't know, Potter," Malfoy said slowly. "What do you think?"
Harry shook his head, laughing, and took a bite of the quiche. It was delicious, cheesy and spinachy. "Mmm," he said, gesturing. "The quiche is good."
"Yah," Draco said. "It's my standard order for breakfast, but today I ate at home."
For a minute, Harry ate in silence, feeling awkward as more and more time passed without either of them saying anything. He knew he was eating too fast, and Malfoy with his pure-blood table manners was probably judging him, but he needed for his mouth to be occupied. Eventually, he stopped and said, "So is there like, a type of curse breaking that is your speciality?"
"My job is general curse breaking, so I deal with whatever comes up," Malfoy said, "but my favourite is sentient curses."
"Sentient curses?" Harry asked, surprised. "That sounds…well, that sounds wicked, actually."
Malfoy snorted, then took a sip of his drink.
"Sounds difficult, though," Harry observed.
"When have you ever known me to enjoy things that aren’t difficult?" Malfoy asked, and it was Harry's turn to snort.
Whatever Malfoy was drinking was leaving a faint green tinge on his lips, but Harry didn't dare bring up the contents of his cup again—not right now, anyway, while they were tentatively getting along, possibly for the first time ever.
"And how are Granger and Weasley?" Malfoy asked, looking like he was putting supreme effort into politeness.
"They're fine," Harry said, "but I don't want to do small talk, that's fucking boring. Tell me about sentient curses."
Malfoy gave a small grin and proceeded to prattle on about sentient curses (many of them could read people's desires and adjust accordingly, so they required the Curse-breaker to Occlude while unraveling the curse) while Harry finished his quiche and mocha. Harry found that he didn't even have trouble coming up with responses and questions during Malfoy's story, because the conversation flowed naturally once they weren't trying to make boring pleasantries.
When Malfoy's story began to wind down, he gestured at Harry's lip. "You've got some whipped cream. Just there."
Harry's hand flew to his mouth. "I was just about to excuse myself to visit the loo, anyway. I'll be right back."
When Harry returned (face free of whipped cream), he stopped short: Malfoy was gone. On the table sat a bill, showing they owed 9G, 15S. On top of that, Malfoy had left ten Galleons and a parchment that said, "See you next time, Potter."
Harry could feel righteous indignation rising in him, heating his face and grinding his jaws together. Malfoy had left without saying goodbye, but much more importantly than that—he'd left a two Sickle tip for their waiter. That was nowhere near enough! Leave it to Malfoy, always an elitist arsehole, to undertip food service workers!
Feeling like a complete arse for having flirted with the maggot, Harry placed two Galleons on the table and left in a huff.
"Haz?" Hermione's voice called from far away. "We're upstairs, come on up!"
Harry jogged up the stairs, following the muffled sounds of the voices and laughs of his best friends. He found them in their office, all of the furniture piled in the middle of the room and covered with a shimmering Shield. Two cans of paint sat open on the floor and a magical paint roller rolled along the wall, Hermione following behind it Vanishing its errors.
"Hey Harry," she said, squinting at the wall. "I told Ron we should buy the more expensive roller."
"It's working just fine!" Ron said, casting some sort of masking charm on the ceiling just in time to prevent the shoddy roller from getting coral paint splotches on the white ceiling. Ron turned to look at Harry, and when he did, he immediately cast a Stasis Charm at the roller, which hovered in midair on the wall. "What's wrong?"
"Malfoy!" Harry cried, throwing one hand in the air, which he immediately realised was probably more dramatic than he should be aiming for. He brought his arm down abruptly.
Hermione stuck her wand in her hair and came closer. "What happened?"
"Ran into Malfoy at Azure Cup—"
"Are you stalking him?" Ron interrupted.
Harry frowned. "Why was that your first conclusion? He could just as easily be stalking me!"
Ron nodded. "True. So he's stalking you?"
"No!" Harry said, sitting down on the floor and leaning against the Shield that was protecting their stuff from paint. "No one's stalking anyone! I don't think, anyway."
"Oh," Ron said, sitting down next to him. "So what's the problem?
"He—we sat and drank coffee."
Hermione gasped loudly, then grinned, looking pleased with herself for making fun of Harry.
Ron snorted and reached out to pat Hermione’s leg. Harry said, "Har, har."
She laughed, sitting down next to Ron. "I'm just kidding. What did he do?"
"He won't tell me what's in his drink," Harry said, holding up one finger. "Whatever it was turned his lips green. Two," he held up another finger, "he paid the bill only leaving a two Sickle tip on a ten Galleon bill. Three," another finger, "he left without saying goodbye."
"What, like he just stood up and left the table without saying a word?" Hermione asked. "That is odd."
"No, I was in the loo. He left a note."
"Well that's not so strange," Hermione pointed out.
"But he'd been flirting with me!" Harry said.
"Ohhhhhhhhhh," Ron and Hermione said together, sharing a look.
"Oh no," Harry whispered.
Ron and Hermione glanced at each other, then back at Harry, but didn't say anything.
"I like him, don't I?" Harry said. "I really like him, not just a little flirting, and that’s why I'm acting like an idiot. And I am a horrible person because I like someone who can't even tip a waiter properly!"
"I mean," Ron said, "if I was going to be worried about his being a bad person, I'd probably focus on the Death Eater thing."
Harry sighed. "But he wasn't, like, really a Death Eater. And he really did only tip two Sickles."
Hermione looked skyward. "Harry, if you like him, you really should just talk to him."
"But what about this suspicious green drink?" Harry cried. "Who orders something that turns their mouth green?! Is this like, taking the Slytherin aesthetic one step too far? You know my track record for being right about Malfoy is fairly high."
"There's lots of drinks that turn your mouth green," Ron said. "Witches Brew. Frog Fanta. Crocodile Cider. Burbling Sludge."
"Burbling Sludge?" Harry asked.
"What?" Ron asked. "It's good."
"Maybe he poisoned me," Harry said, leaning forward. "That would explain why I like him. Or maybe he is Polyjuiced!"
"Harry," Hermione said, reaching over to put her hand comfortingly on his arm, "Malfoy is not up to something. He's got Auror parole checking up on him every three months until 2008. You know this."
"Mate," Ron said. "Just like, ask him out." He winced as the words came out of his mouth.
"Can I really go out with someone who would drink Frog Fanta or Burbling Sludge?"
Hermione groaned a laugh and shoved a paintbrush in Harry’s hand.
The typical before-work crowd was queued up on the pavement, and Harry's eyes scanned the crowd for Malfoy's hair. Sure enough, there was Malfoy, near the back of the queue, and Harry walked straight towards him.
Behind Malfoy stood a witch who was supremely distracted by a metal duck figurine, which sat in her hand, mooing. She was casting spells at it—presumably to make it quack, although Harry had long ago stopped publicly making such assumptions, because he somehow always ended up looking like an idiot when he did so.
"Excuse me, is it alright if I cut in front of you to wait with my friend here?" Harry asked her.
She glanced up from her duck. "Sure." Moooo.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Malfoy hissed. “Is the Saviour cutting the queue? What about Gryffindor honour?”
"Why did you run away yesterday?" Harry demanded.
"I didn't run away," Malfoy said, turning to fully look at Harry. "I had someplace to be. I left a note."
Harry was tempted to bring up the tipping incident, but he didn't want to get into a screaming match in the queue for Azure Cup. For one, they were on the pavement in Diagon Alley and the Prophet would surely get it on film. Moreover, they might get kicked out of Azure Cup, and what would Harry do then?
So he didn't say anything.
"You're a pain in the arse, you know that?" Malfoy said.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do know that," Harry snapped back. "Pain in the arse when I'm trying to be—like with Snape—and when I'm just trying to be nice, too, apparently."
Malfoy pinched the bridge of his pointy nose. "Why can't you leave me alone?"
"Why can't you leave me alone?"
"I've been trying!" Malfoy said, his voice raising enough that the wizard in front of them, who was wearing head-to-toe leopard print, turned around to glare at them. "I've been trying," Malfoy repeated more quietly. "I've been trying to ignore you since the fucking war. No, since year six."
"Yeah, well, I've been trying to ignore you since I met you," Harry mumbled.
"Oh give me a break, Potter. We both know that's not true. Why would you be standing here right now if that were true?"
Harry sighed. "You're such an arsehole."
"Let me ask you this," Malfoy started to say, but his sparkling grey eyes were piercing into Harry's so intently that Harry, convinced Malfoy was about to cast Legilimens, raised a hand to cover his eyes.
A moment passed, then Malfoy's fingers grabbed Harry's wrist and pulled his hand away from his face. "What are you doing?" Malfoy asked, confused.
"I thought you were going to do Legilimency!" Harry hissed.
"You think I would perform Legilimency, without consent, on the Saviour of the wizarding world, on the pavement in Diagon Alley."
Moooo. The witch behind Harry poked him in the back with the metal duck to get him to move forward in the queue.
"You know what, Malfoy, go ahead. You have my consent. Go ahead! Do it! Find out whatever it is you wanted to know. What are you, chicken?"
Malfoy, face satisfyingly red, lips pressed together in anger, pulled his wand and cast.
Harry had not expected Malfoy to actually do it, though in retrospect he thought he should probably assume that Malfoy would step up to a silly challenge if he issued it.
Malfoy in his brain somehow didn't feel incredibly intrusive, even though Harry was not Occluding at all (and was rubbish at it anyway), and Harry's thoughts about playground taunts brought to the forefront of his mind an image of Malfoy on a broom with Neville's Remembrall, which then changed into an image of Malfoy on a broom in front of Fiendfyre, which then changed into an image of Malfoy looking despondent at his trial, which then turned into an image of Harry's eyes being drawn to Malfoy at a Ministry event, which then changed into an image of Malfoy flirting with Harry over coffee just the day before.
"Fuck," Harry said quietly. "Stop, please."
Malfoy immediately pulled out of Harry's mind. "I'm sorry," Malfoy said, with absolutely no hint of taunting. "I shouldn't've—"
"It's okay," Harry said, pushing him through the door into Azure Cup. "It was my fault. I shouldn't have egged you on."
"Alright," Malfoy said, looking uncomfortable as he turned towards the front of the queue.
Harry sighed. "What were we even bickering about?" he whispered.
"I don't know, Potter." Malfoy didn't turn around. "Perhaps we ought to just stop talking to each other, because clearly we are quite bad at it."
Harry pressed his lips together, determined not to talk to Malfoy anymore, if that’s what he wanted.
The problem was, while standing next to Malfoy, Harry wanted to talk to Malfoy. There was a painting on the wall of a satyr, and Harry wanted to ask Malfoy about something he'd read about the use of Satyr magic in curses. There was a witch wearing a pair of earmuffs, each muff shaped like a stuffed pear, and Harry wanted to tell Malfoy it looked like the perfect gift for Professor Sprout. He saw two small boys sitting on the ground next to their mother's feet, one of them teasing the other, and the second punching the first in the arm, and it made Harry want to tell Malfoy he was sorry.
But Harry was a Gryffindor, and therefore extremely good at letting his stubbornness outweigh his desires, so he kept his mouth shut all the way to the front of the queue, through Malfoy ordering his bloody, buggering "usual," through telling Wren he was "fine thanks, and you?", through ordering a caramel latte with double caramel syrup, through standing awkwardly next to Malfoy waiting for their drinks, all the way until Malfoy grabbed his cup out of the air and walked out of the cafe wearing a stony expression.
As soon as he was gone, Harry slumped against the counter. A moment later, a cup flew in front of him. He grabbed it out of the air, watching with a touch of wonder as the little wings transformed into a sleeve, and took a sip.
Harry then promptly spit out the mouthful, spraying it everywhere. Green. Spraying green everywhere.
He looked at the side of the cup, where a quill usually scribbled the contents of the cup, but instead of reading "Caramel Latte," it read,
The Usual. Go talk to him and sort it out.
Harry looked up at Wren. She caught his eye and winked.
Well, there was nothing for it. Harry stormed out of the cafe, past the mooing duck and the bickering boys and out onto the pavement. He looked left, right. No obnoxiously blond hair.
It was Monday morning, 8:45am. Thinking he'd apologise to Robards later, Harry took off for Gringotts.
Malfoy must've been walking fast, because Harry didn't catch up to him and ended up standing in front of the bank. He sighed. He hated going into Gringotts, because every time he walked in, fifteen goblins simultaneously gave him the stink eye.
He took a deep breath and walked up the white steps to the bronze doors. He could feel the goblin standing guard staring at him, but Harry ignored him and walked inside. He walked through the second set of doors and (ignoring how every goblin in the marble hall turned to stare) he asked the goblin stationed there where he might find Draco Malfoy's office.
The goblin squinted. "You're Harry Potter."
"Yes," Harry said, closing his eyes in resignation, because he knew what would come next.
"Enter, Potter, but take heed, of what awaits the sin of greed."
The goblins really were unbearably tiresome.
"If you seek beneath our floors, a treasure—" the goblin paused for effect, "or dragon! That was never yours. Thief, you have been warned, beware. We recognise your hair. We will escort you to your place, and never take our eyes off your face."
"Yes, I'm well aware," Harry said. "Draco Malfoy?"
The goblin waved his hand, and a moment later another goblin trotted towards the entrance. "Harry Potter," the second goblin said. "Enter, Potter, but take heed—"
"Yes, I've heard it once already today," Harry interrupted.
"Please take the Dragon Thief to see Mister Malfoy," the first goblin said, and the second goblin narrowed her eyes at Harry before leading him through the hall and down a corridor. They twisted through a maze of doors and archways before finally the goblin knocked at a tall bronze door.
The door opened to reveal Malfoy standing there holding a to-go cup of coffee. Harry's coffee.
They both turned to look at their goblin companion.
"Right," Harry said. "Well."
"You can leave us, Grusta," Malfoy said with an easy authority that Harry wished he was able to emulate when talking with subordinates at work.
But Grusta didn't leave. "Mister Malfoy, I am sorry, but the goblin code states that we will escort him to his place," here she turned to look straight at Harry, "and never take our eyes off his face."
Malfoy looked torn between annoyance at the inconvenience and amusement at Harry's expense.
"Wren switched our coffees," Harry said bluntly, thrusting the cup out towards Malfoy. "Well, she switched our drinks, I should say, because what, may I ask, the fuck is this drink?"
Malfoy stood taller, glancing only for the slightest second at the goblin before turning his attention back to Harry. "It's green chia kombucha."
"Green chee—what?! It tastes like regurgitated jello!"
"That's the texture from the chia," Malfoy said, raising a hand to to rub his forehead. "Green chia kombucha."
"And what the fuck is that?"
"Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that is effervescent and high in probiotics. Chia seeds make things a touch gelatinous and are high in omega-3s."
Harry stared at him. "And the green?"
"It's from algae. Or spirulina, or something."
"Oh, sweet Merlin's kinky pierced nipple." Harry began to laugh hysterically. "You are a—a—health nut!"
Malfoy crossed his arms over his chest. "May I have my cup please, and you can take your sugary death drink?"
Harry laughed even harder. "Malfoy. WHY would you drink that?"
"I like it!" Malfoy huffed. "It's good for digestion, and it makes me energetic."
"Why wouldn't you just drink coffee if you want to be energetic?"
"What, and develop an addiction to a chemical compound that tastes like Skele-Gro? No thank you."
"Oh my god," Harry said, pointing at him. "The quiche! Do you not eat muffins? Are you on the Atkins diet?!" Harry cackled, bracing himself on the doorframe to stay upright.
"Are you quite finished making fun of me?" Malfoy snapped.
Harry realised that Malfoy hadn't been laughing along. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. It's just—I thought you were up to something. I thought you were up to no good. I was suspicious and you were—you were like, vegan."
"Potter," Malfoy sighed. "You heard me recommend you eat eggs. At least make fun of me accurately. I would never be vegan. I am low-carb."
Harry began to laugh again, only stopping when he saw the goblin staring at him, impassive, judging, from the doorway.
"I'm still mad at you about the tipping thing, though," Harry said, suddenly more sober.
"What tipping thing?"
"You left a two Sickle tip on the bill yesterday!" Harry said, pointing his finger. "How could you do that? Do you know how awful it is to work in the service industry? No, no you don't. Do you know how much Wren and all the others probably get treated like crap, hit on by various customers, barely making enough money to make ends meet, getting yelled at about foam-to-milk ratios and other such rot! We'd been sitting there, talking, flirting, and then you go and do something like that—"
"—which makes me realise that you haven't changed a bit! You are just an entitled rich boy, running around making fun of poor kids, talking about your yachts and your real estate investments and undertipping baristas who are probably struggling artists!"
"Well, I won't stand for it, Malfoy! Someone needs to call you out on your shit, and if I am in the vicinity it is clearly going to be me!"
A long silence filled the room until Malfoy said quietly, "Are you quite finished?"
"The ten Galleons was the tip."
"I paid the bill with Gringotts draft."
"I paid the tip—the generous tip—in cash."
"Moreover, Potter," Malfoy continued, his face shimmering with amusement and elation at having the upper hand, "Did you not know that Azure Cup is a worker-owned co-op?"
Harry wanted to say what again, but he kept his mouth shut.
"Wren is perfectly comfortable and lives in a fucking estate in Wiltshire. She loves coffee and her work and coordinates the cafe's charitable contributions, which I donate my time to assist with because Gringotts financial planners take a hefty percentage."
Here, Grusta let out a high-pitched scoff, but Malfoy ignored it.
"And, about your comment about the baristas getting hit on, I once I saw an older wizard hit on Wren. The co-op's staff had placed such effective anti-harassment wards on the cafe that the wizard was ejected out the door—he landed on the steps of Flourish and Blotts!"
Malfoy took a step towards Harry, a smirk on his face.
Harry sighed, all of his righteous indignation deflating out of his body, taking his energy with it. He sat in one of the chairs in front of Malfoy's desk. "I'm an idiot."
"You're not an idiot," Malfoy said with a touch of “there, there” pomposity. "You're concerned about the world."
"No, I am an idiot, because I am only ever this unhinged when it comes to you. And other crushes, I suppose."
Malfoy dropped into the chair next to Harry's. "Did you just admit you have a crush on me?"
"Oh sweet Merlin," Harry said. "I will just go. Give me my sugary coffee—what did you call it, a death drink?—and I'll just go."
"Harry," Malfoy said. "I didn't say that I thought that was bad for you to have a crush on me."
Harry's head whipped to the side to see Malfoy sitting there, looking at him. Malfoy wasn't smirking or teasing or revelling in his superiority.
"I haven't scared you away?" Harry asked.
"I haven't scared you away?" Malfoy returned.
"Er, no," Harry said. "But we should probably talk about this so I can stop taking out my anxieties over my uncertainty on unsuspecting co-op workplaces."
Then Malfoy smiled, and it was a real smile, lighting up his stupid, pointy face and making Harry's heart flutter. "It's been nice, talking to you. I'm sorry I performed Legilimency on you."
"It's okay. I said you could, and you didn't see anything you didn't already know."
"What’s in there that I don't already know?" Malfoy challenged.
Harry, ever the Gryffindor even when under the watchful eye of grudge-holding goblins, leaned forward and pressed his lips to Malfoy's. Malfoy reached behind Harry's head, sliding his fingers in Harry's hair, and kissed back.
It was better than the sugary coffee would've been for waking him up.
Harry pulled back, an incandescent smile on his face. "I have to go to work."
"Can we see each other after work?"
"Did you want to go on a run?" Harry asked. "Seeing as you're apparently a health nut?"
Malfoy's face lit up momentarily, then fell when he realised Harry was only joking.
Harry shouted, "OH MY GOD, I KNEW IT! Do you run marathons?"
"Oh shut up, Potter. One must treat their body well. One must watch what one puts in one's body."
Harry opened his mouth to make a lewd joke about what he'd like to put in Malfoy's body, but Malfoy, with a smile on his face, pulled out his wand and whispered "Silencio" before Harry could say the words.
He pulled open the door, and there was Malfoy—Draco, he'd said to call him when they'd met after work yesterday—holding a box that read "Peck's Pour-Over: The Best Coffee Magic Can Brew!"
"Draco," Harry said. "What are you doing here? I thought we would meet at Azure Cup."
"Your Peck's Prodigious Percolator broke," Draco said, shrugging. "I bought you a new one. A better one."
Draco stood there, the early morning sun glinting off his hair, balancing the box on his hip, wearing a Muggle-style suit. The soles of his shoes were worn, and his hair was in his face.
Harry smiled. "But I was finally going to order the Mood Mug."
"Oh yeah?" Draco said, grinning. "And what is it you most want?"
Harry reached out to grab Draco’s wrist, pulling him inside. "Never mind about the Mood Mug."