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Let him lead me to the banquet

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Mabel Northrop.

Draco writes the name at the bottom of the list. Her husband will be beyond irritated that he’s not invited, but the last time Draco saw him, sweaty and red-faced at the bar at the Opera House, his obsequiousness had put Draco off for life. Mabel, on the other hand, is interesting and capable. A publisher who capitalised on a new demand for young adult fiction in the wizarding world, with a sharp eye for trends that kept Crispin House’s books flying off the shelves at Flourish & Blotts. Merlin only knows what she sees in the man.

He counts the list again. Twenty four. Two tables of twelve set side by side in the medieval stone barn, decorated with tasteful lighting and a new sprung-wooden floor. The perfect size to make dinner feel opulent, and yet exclusive. Impossibly exclusive.

Draco counts the names again to be sure.

He thinks back to the very first time he did this. Still mourning his mother, he sat listlessly at her desk, turning the pages of her diary. Hoping for some sort of insight, some way to understand why she’d left him after everything they’d been through. But her handwriting seemed stilted and foreign to him, the notes of a stranger. He flipped ahead through the blank pages until an entry caught his eye. December 22nd, Solstice Banquet.

The tears that had eluded him in the days since he’d found her body flowed freely then, as he thought about the one dinner that had always been her favourite. Year after year: carefully planned menus, the gardens lit up with floating candles to illuminate the longest night of the year, warming charms that let the guests meander out into the snow-tipped gardens with glasses of heated elven wine. The way she’d sat, right there, at that very desk, poring over the guest list, penning names on to gilt-edged invitations. Where other hostesses used Scriveno to get their invitations out quickly, Narcissa never compromised on penmanship: the party began with the invitation, she always said.

When Draco was little, she’d let him have a spare one to play with, and he would try so hard to write as neatly as she did, practising carefully with his quill on a scrap of parchment first so as not to mess it up.

As a child, the night of the Solstice dinner he’d always been allowed to stay up a little later. To see the guests arrive in their finest robes, ushered into the dining hall where soft music and the tinkling of glasses made it seem like a fairy wonderland.

As a teenager, Draco had always affected boredom with the whole endeavour, but looked forward to his friends coming over, tucking themselves away in Draco’s rooms with smuggled flasks of firewhisky and, later, joints of gillyweed, their parents none the wiser downstairs.

It had always been a night that seemed somehow outside of time. Where the hours lasted longer than they should. Where everyone was on their best behaviour, wearing their most beautiful clothes. When his mother’s smiles seemed entirely genuine.

“Malfoys have hosted the Solstice Banquet for seven generations,” she would say to him each year, as if this was new information. “It is our great honour and privilege to carry on this tradition.”

Seven generations. So many things brought to a halt.

He smudged at where his tears had spilled onto the page, causing the entry to bleed a little. And decided then and there this was one thing that wouldn’t end with him.

What a disaster it was, he thinks now with a laugh. He did everything exactly as his mother would have, planning the menu with careful attention to every detail and tradition. He had the right wines brought up from the cellar and the ceremonial linens brought down from the attics. After the War, the Manor had been cleansed from ridgeline to foundation by Ministry cursebreakers. The house elves had spent a full month repairing the damage, restoring tapestries and heirlooms. But in advance of the banquet Draco sent them through again, changing out carpets and drapes, polishing windows until they shone. He was determined that there wouldn’t be an ounce of dark magic to be detected anywhere.

But in the end none of it mattered. The only families to accept the invitation were purebloods who had studiously avoided getting caught up in “all that trouble,” and could now studiously ignore Draco’s family involvement. The women murmured condolences as they greeted him, pulling him into too-long hugs that left their cloying perfume all over his robes. The men seemed to be looking around the Manor as if there might be something for sale. The food was perfect, the wine sublime, and the whole thing was so frightfully dull that it made a keen ache start somewhere in Draco’s chest. These shallow, awful people, who were somehow managing a mere six months after their whole world was nearly destroyed to pretend as if nothing had happened. As if Draco’s father wasn’t rotting in prison and his mother broken-hearted in the ground.

It was only after he showed the last couple to the door, sagging against it in relief, that he noticed the silver bowl on the side table, an ornate, shallow thing, edged with ancient runes. He’d never paid it much attention before, and now he stared at it in shock. It was full of small cloth bags of galleons. He began to empty them out. A lot of galleons. A tightly scrolled note spilled out of one of the bags and he unfurled it.

My apologies, Draco. Our Solstice donation to Narcissa’s charities was, of course, a little more significant in the past, but you’ll understand how circumstances have changed. —Arabella Cogge.

He had forgotten completely. In recent years he’d been far too hungover the day after Solstice to emerge from his room much before noon. But as a child, his mother had let him stack the coins in neat rows for her while she counted them. Draco looked at the pile of money in the bowl and began to dream of what he could do with it. And when he finally settled on a plan, he knew that terrible evening was only the beginning. The very next day he contacted an estate agent and put the Manor up for sale.

Now, Draco lives in a fourth floor flat in Vertic Alley. A new building, completed after the War as the more traditional Diagon was being restored and wizarding interest in Muggle ways of life was at its peak, with stainless steel appliances spelled to never show thumbprints and high charmed skylights even though his flat isn’t on the top floor. It’s not particularly spacious, but it doesn’t really matter. When Draco starts to feel claustrophobic he heads to the Farm.

The Farm was Blaise’s idea, really. When Draco started to discuss his plans, Blaise pointed out that hosting dinners in restaurants was never going to be interesting enough to encourage his really sought-after guests to say yes.

“You’re saying I should have kept the Manor?”

“Absolutely bloody not,” Blaise snorted in disbelief. “I don’t care how many elves scrubbed that place, no one wants to go there.”

“Then where?”

“Somewhere wizards will feel comfortable, but somewhere that’s undeniably Muggle.”

Which is how Draco found himself fidgeting in the passenger seat of a Range Rover three weekends in a row while a Muggle estate agent drove him around the Cotswolds looking at listed heritage buildings, until they pulled into Rotherhithe Farm and he knew immediately that he was on the right track. The agent had rambled on and on about the thirteenth century house and the barons who had owned the place through successive generations. “The first Viscount Harcourt was probably the one who installed the second floor over the great hall,” she said, but Draco wasn’t listening. He was taking in the way the house and its buildings, squat stone tucked into the countryside, felt so similar to a wizarding property and yet didn’t have a trace of magic. It was when she showed him the barns, stone buildings over a thousand years old with heavy, beamed roofs, that he knew this was the place. “They’ve been hosting weddings here,” she said, her heels clacking on the cobbled floor. “But you could turn it into another guest house…or…”

“I’ll take it.”

The property, underfunded by the Council that owned it, and having passed through a sort of half-life as a museum and working farm for children to visit, needed a great deal of work. On his first foray into the nearest village Draco hired Jack, a builder who seemed to find him terribly funny. “Don’t know where you grew up, lad,” Jack would say, whenever Draco did something that revealed his lack of knowledge about Muggles, but he always said it with a smile and always explained himself, and for that Draco was unendingly grateful. Draco bought himself a pair of ridiculous rubber boots apparently called Wellingtons and got an absolute crash course in being outside the wizarding world as Jack brought troops of men through the property to replace rotting boards and rusted roofing iron, re-tiling bathrooms and demolishing broken pavers. Jack was calm and practical, and showed Draco how to look up the property in the records of the local historical society, turning down Draco’s more fanciful suggestions in favour of a sympathetic, elegant restoration.

“I need to speak to your friend the squib chef,” Draco said to Blaise over drinks a few weeks later.

“Harrison?”

“The famous one. He’s famous, isn’t he?”

“I’ll say. Muggles go absolutely insane about his food. His restaurants are booked out a full year in advance. He barely even bloody cooks any more. Has a telly show.”

“Yes. Introduce us.”

“I thought you were a renovator now,” Blaise arched a sarcastic eyebrow. “You’re back on this idea about the dinners?”

“I’ve never been off it.”

Blaise helped himself to the last olive from the bowl between them, giving Draco a speculative look. “You want to exorbitantly charge the elite of wizarding society for dinner and have them surrender their wands to you of all people while doing it?" When he put it like that, it did sound a little crazy.

“It’s about taking people outside the magical world for a night,” Draco said, trying not to sound defensive. “It’s about showing them something they’ve never seen before. Giving them an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have. I’m not charging them. Dinner’s going to be so good they’ll gladly hand over their galleons.”

Blaise just shrugged and scrawled Harrison’s number on a cocktail napkin. Draco felt an absurd burst of pride that he not only owned a phone now, he also knew what to do with it.

He met Harrison in a cafe in Kensington. They were interrupted twice by people asking for his picture.

“I’m planning a dinner, for charity. As you know, we’ve suffered through a terrible conflict,” Draco looked around at the other patrons. This hadn’t been the best idea. Harrison was clearly too recognisable for them to discuss his plans in peace. “I would like your assistance.”

“You’ll help me cook a…” Harrison leaned in and lowered his voice to a whisper, “wizarding dinner?!” His whole face lit up with excitement, and Draco hurriedly waved his wand under the table to cast a Muffliato. “God I’ve wanted to do this for so long. I have so many ideas. You won’t believe what we’ll be able to do. I want to be able to suspend the yolk of an egg outside the white and then poach it that way. We can do that right? It’s surely just a ….”

“No, no,” Draco cut him off with a horrified wave of his hand. “Not a wizarding dinner,” he hissed. “A dinner for wizards.”

Harrison looked confused.

“I want you to do your normal ‘magic’. No actual magic.” He rushed on, trying to combat the crestfallen expression that had overtaken the young chef. “But you’ll be extremely well paid, and I need your help designing the kitchen. Whatever...appliances...you need, I’ll have installed.”

“You’re going to kit out a kitchen just for me to cook in?”

“Well, hopefully it won’t just be you. If this works, I plan to make it a regular occasion.”

The owner of the bespoke kitchen store in Naunton nearly wet himself when Draco showed up with Harrison in tow and said “let him have anything he wants.” And he has to give Harrison credit, the farmhouse kitchen is a marvel. A cast iron Aga sits side-by-side with two enormous professional ovens. The deep sinks of the scullery have been matched with catering dishwashers. Everything is exactly as it needs to be to turn out a perfect, Michelin-starred meal. And every one of the three Muggle chefs who have cooked there since have said so.

Harrison helped with the connections after that first dinner, introducing Draco to all the right people as the representative of some individuals who closely guarded their privacy. Most of the chefs and sommeliers seemed unfazed, used to being hired by celebrities or Middle Eastern royalty whenever the price was right. And with the current galleon-to-pound exchange rate, the price was definitely right.

Draco agonised over that first guestlist, carefully choosing the kinds of witches and wizards who would be so fascinated by the absence of magic, and so impressed by the culinary talent on display, that they would rave to all their influential friends.

And so now he’s the proud owner of a beautiful country property, still being carefully restored, where once a month, a very select group of guests surrender their wands and gather for one of the most remarkable meals of their lives. Tasting menus, matched flawlessly with hard-to-source wines, which demonstrate over a succession of courses the very best that Muggle cuisine has to offer. And all he asks in return is that they reach deep into their Gringotts accounts.

Draco calls for Beely, who pops into the room with a crack. He'd given clothes to the Manor's house elves on the day that it sold to an American witch looking to spend, but Beely had insisted on sticking with him, Merlin knows why.

“This is the guestlist for August,” he says, running his finger down the names one more time. “Can you prepare the invitations?” The elf nods and reaches for the parchment, but Draco pauses, as he does every month, before uselessly adding a final name to the list.

Harry James Potter.

~

Harry wonders if it’s possible to ward a house against a particular owl.

He figures it must be. Hermione has set all sorts of mail-related wards on Grimmauld Place to redirect or destroy fan-mail, howlers, offers of marriage, suspicious packages. The fussy, expensive-looking invitations that the Malfoy owl brings once a month apparently don’t fit into any of those categories. Harry refuses to get a treat in the hopes of pissing it off so it never comes back.

They’re always the same. Edged in gold, the ink practically announcing itself as having cost more than a week’s worth of groceries. The smug little inscription, A generous donation to charity will be gratefully accepted at the conclusion of the meal, at the bottom.

He tosses this one into the insipid fire he has burning in the sitting room, which manages to neither warm the room nor bring light to its dingy corners. Harry’s more or less given up on ever feeling warm in this house.

He had plans, has plans, to fix it up a bit. At least to throw out all the old crap and maybe clean the grime off the windows. Buy a sofa that’s not stained. It will be a project; something to tackle. Molly keeps offering to come round and help, but there’s an overbearing feeling to that idea that Harry’s not ready for. He’s entirely capable of doing it on his own. And he wants the house to feel like his, not what someone else imagines for him. He’ll get started on it soon. He’s just taking a few weeks to himself. Months, he supposes, now. He’s earned that, though. After everything he’s been through. If the Aurors don’t want him, then, that’s fine. It’s not like you have to pass a psych evaluation to get through the training for any other kind of job. At least, he’s pretty sure you don’t. He can’t really ask Hermione because he hasn’t told her he failed, yet. Just that he needed a break. He will tell her, of course. But only when he’s feeling up to the ensuing lectures about seeing a mind healer, and the pile of Muggle books she’ll insist he read about “post-traumatic stress” or whatever she calls it.

Harry looks at the invite curling into ash in the grate.

Donation to charity. What fucking charity? The Restoration of the Bloody Malfoys to the Upper Echelons of Wizarding Society Benevolent Fund?

Although he supposes there’s only one Malfoy left now. It’s not like Lucius is ever seeing the outside of a cell. And Narcissa… Harry pours himself another finger of whiskey. He’d vaguely intimated to Andromeda that he’d join her and Teddy for dinner this evening, but he doesn’t feel like company any more.

And the gall of Draco fucking Malfoy hosting a Muggle dinner, of all things. He thinks about the last gushing write-up he saw on the Society page of the Prophet, which he takes great pleasure in using to line his new owl’s cage. Nothing better than letting Lancelot take a shit on Pansy Parkinson’s byline. All the dinner guests take oaths of secrecy, apparently, because what could be more pompous and over-the-top than that, and yet somehow Parkinson still manages to publish blind items hinting at the famous Quidditch player or chart-topping singer who might have been in attendance at Malfoy’s magic-free farm.

Harry snorts in disgust. A fucking farm. The whiskey burns at his throat.

The worst part is that, oaths of secrecy or not, Harry knows for a fact that Malfoy’s found a way to host the most stuck-up version of a Muggle dinner possible.

Last month he’d been trailing after Hermione while she ran some errands between classes. He likes the feel of the library at the Wizarding College of Law, even if the idea of opening a textbook again makes him itch under the skin. She needed to drop something off at her parents’ dental clinic on their way to lunch and got distracted talking to her father. Harry never begrudges her that. Getting her parents’ memories restored had been her single biggest achievement and Harry knows how sensitive Hermione is about maintaining their relationship. So he was happy to sit and flip through magazines in the waiting room for a bit.

He wasn’t even reading them, really. Just looking at the pictures. And Harrison Keily is really fucking fit, which is probably why the photo of the chef jumped out at him. Curly brown hair held back in a headscarf and the sleeves of his chef’s jacket rolled up to expose tattooed forearms. The photospread was at a country estate. Old stone buildings set in acres of manicured green. A creek winding its way to an old mill wheel. Harry remembers thinking it looked really peaceful. And so he started skimming the article, reading about Keily fitting out a full commercial kitchen at the restored house for some reclusive rich guy. And then Harry’s heart started to race.

He read faster and faster, through the description of the elusive benefactor’s plans to host regular charity dinners. How the world’s top chefs were being wooed to come for a single night to cook “the meal of their lives.” How absolutely no-one knew who the guests were.

“It’s the TED Talk of fine dining,” Harrison Kiely was quoted as saying. “No budget, no constraints. You get to do your very best work for a single meal.” The interviewer kept trying to draw him on who was behind it. Gwyneth Paltrow, perhaps?

“You got the blond part right,” Keily answered with a laugh.

Harry snapped the magazine shut and swore loudly enough that the clinic receptionist gave him a disapproving frown.

The worst part is Harry’s got no idea why Malfoy keeps sending him invites. He’s never replied to a single one. And if the whole dinner is as exclusive and sought-after as the Prophet keeps breathlessly reporting, then presumably the only reason Malfoy wants him there is in his capacity as the Chosen One. So, really, he can fuck right off.

Harry doesn’t care about Draco Malfoy’s redemption tour. And he’s certainly not going to help him with it.

~

Draco finishes an email to Melissa confirming her plans for the Halloween feast. She’s the one who decorates the barns for each dinner and he wants her to steer clear of fake pumpkins and plastic ghosts, scared off by the incredibly tacky decorations that have been going up in the village stores. The computer seems so easy now. He’s come a long way since his first ‘Internet for Beginners’ class surrounded by blue-rinsed pensioners at the local library.

He looks at the guestlist sitting beside his keyboard. It’s good. The heir to the Firebolt fortune, Jock McKenzie. A healer whose advice show on the WWN has made him an instant celebrity. Cynthia Callister, whose photos modelling a risqué new line of robes have everyone talking. Beside the list is the pile of grasping messages that people send him practically begging for invitations. Scions of old families who would never have returned Draco’s owls in the post-War months now write these awful, embarrassing pleas. It’s not that he’s punishing them by ignoring them, he’s just not interested. They represent an era that’s over, as far as he’s concerned.

Outside the window he can see Jack loading tools in his van. He always stays until last, even on a Friday.

The guestlist is flawless, but Draco’s still acutely aware of the people who are missing, the ones he’s never brave enough to invite. He always invites Potter, of course. He’s the most important wizard in Britain, and he’s always, always, going to ignore the invitation, so it’s a formality more than anything. But there are so many others who he thinks about. Who he owes, not that a bloody dinner does anything to fix that. But what does anything he’s been doing at the Farm matter, really, if he can’t make it up to the people he hurt.

He closes his laptop with a sigh and wanders outside, his boots crunching on red and gold leaves. Jack slams the back door of the van closed.

“All done?”

“Yeah, the copper piping will be delivered on Monday. We’ll be able to start on the guest house then.”

Draco nods. “Can I offer you a drink? There’s some … beer, I think, in the scullery fridge.” He feels stretched thin. Doesn’t want Jack to leave and for him to be alone with his past.

Jack gives him an odd look, and a small smile. “Sober six years, but I’ll join you for something else.”

Draco doesn’t understand what he means, which Jack takes in his stride, walking inside with Draco to sit at the big oak-topped kitchen counter, explaining about addiction and recovery and “working his steps.” It’s when he gets to step nine that Draco puts his tea cup down and leans forward to listen even more intently.

“What if people don’t want to forgive you?”

Jack nods. “That’s why it says you make amends except where it would injure them or others. Sometimes it’s easy, you know? Repaying money you owed, or fixing something you broke when you fell down their stairs. But sometimes whatever you try might makes things much worse. Open old wounds.”

Draco thinks about Luna Lovegood, sitting hunched in the dark of the Manor’s cells. He rubs tiredly at his eyes. The last of the light is fading and he feels heavy, like there are weights around his ankles and across his shoulders pulling him down.

Jack gives Draco a long look.

“Usually, though, people really appreciate it. That you’re living right. That you’re trying to set things right.” He gets up, taking their cups to the sink and rinsing them. “I’ll see you on Monday,” he says, giving Draco a gentle clap on the back as he heads out the kitchen door to his van.

Draco sits quietly a while longer, and then goes back to his study. He looks up the steps Jack told him about on the internet, skipping to step nine, and reads as much as he can. Then he looks again at the proposed menu for the next meal and decides to start with Neville Longbottom.

~

Neville went back to Hogwarts after the War and never left, working on the repairs to the castle and then apprenticing to Professor Sprout. Anytime Harry sees him now he has dirt wedged deep under his fingernails and a beatific smile on his face. He once told Harry in a dark moment, too far in his cups, that he felt like he’d achieved everything he needed to in his life and had the right to do nothing more than hang out with plants if he wanted to. He said it in a way that suggested Harry might feel the same, but it left a rancid taste in Harry’s mouth.

Neville visits at half-term.

The kitchen is depressing, and there’s a weak autumn sun overhead so Harry levitates their coffee mugs as he shoulders the slightly warped back door open and they both avoid the broken back step to the garden.

He regrets it almost immediately. The whole thing is a wild, overgrown mess. Weeds have overtaken the pavers and there’s no sign of garden beds beneath unruly, overweight hedges and a riot of noxious choking vines that might as well be Devil’s Snare. He thinks there used to be furniture out here at one point, but there’s no sign of it now, so he perches awkwardly on a tree stump and avoids Neville’s horrified stare.

“I thought you were going to …” Neville murmurs, running a hand through a waist-high patch of wildflowers that have browned and died on the stems.

“I haven’t had time,” Harry snaps, looking at the sagging shed where Sirius’ motorbike is presumably rusting back to its parts.

Neville’s eyes narrow, but he doesn’t say anything.

“What have you been up to?” Harry asks, desperate for a change of subject. Anything to avoid the disappointment in Neville’s expression.

“I went to the Malfoy dinner last night.”

Whatever Harry was expecting, it wasn’t that. He chokes on his mouthful of coffee and has to cough repeatedly to clear his throat.

“What?”

“You know, these charity dinners he’s been hosting. At the …”

Harry waves a hand impatiently. “No, I know. Why the fuck would you go?”

Neville frowns, shoving a few branches out of the way to make room to sit on a low brick wall that presumably used to border...something. Harry isn’t sure what. “He wrote to me.”

Harry snorts. “He sends me an invite every month as well. Doesn’t mean I have any interest in going.”

“There was a letter, with the invitation. It was very detailed. Personal. He…” Neville pauses, scratching at his beard and trying to pull together his thoughts. “He asked for the chance to apologise, but he also said it wasn’t about him, so it would be okay if I never gave him that chance.”

Harry lets out a humourless laugh. Not about him. As if.

“If it wasn’t about him he wouldn’t be hosting a flashy fucking dinner party once a month, would he?”

He can tell Neville is biting his tongue.

“So, what. You went and ate poncy Muggle food in the middle of nowhere?”

It’s the mention of the food that seems to break a dam within Neville. His whole face lights up.

“Harry, that chef, what she did with the plants was incredible. Wild jasmine flowers, and wood sorrel, and … did you know gorse petals were edible?”

Harry stares at his friend in disbelief. “You ate ten courses of garden?”

“Well, not just garden. But, honestly. She made this spruce needle vinegar that went with mushrooms. And the fiddleheads.”

“What?”

“Fiddleheads. The furled up part of a fern frond, before it opens. Imported from New Zealand.”

“You can eat that?”

“Merlin, it was amazing,” Neville sighs. “She prepared them in this coconut sauce with galangal and …”

“Why would you want to?”

Neville snaps out of his food daydream with a start. “What do you mean?”

“Food is supposed to be nourishing. Comforting. There’s supposed to be a lot of it.” Harry twists his hands awkwardly in his lap. “Not a fucking fernshoot rolled up on a plate.” He doesn’t look up in case he sees the pity he expects in Neville’s eyes. “So, what, you’ve just forgiven him then? You’re mates now?” He wishes it didn’t sound so petty.

“We talked after dinner. It was a start.”

Harry’s bursting with questions. He wants to know what Malfoy could have written that would have convinced Neville to go in the first place, and he wants to know why Neville let him apologise when even Malfoy apparently didn’t think he had to, and he wants to know exactly what Malfoy said.

Harry says nothing.

They sit in a silence that stretches to become awkward. Neville drains the last of his coffee. “I should be getting back,” he says, as Harry reaches for his cup. Harry nods.

“I’d help you with this, you know,” Neville says quietly, taking a last look around the garden, but he doesn’t wait for Harry’s response before heading inside to the floo.

~

The invites keep coming. Month after month. Harry just ignores them. The sheer ostentatiousness of it all does his head in. In January, the Prophet reports that the entire menu was sashimi, which makes him particularly irate, because there’s no way anyone should be that excited about a meal of raw fucking fish in the middle of winter.

Harry spends his time at home, mostly. He sleeps a lot. Orders takeout, because he’s not sure about keeping food fresh in a wizarding house, and it’s not like he’s going to get Kreacher back from Hogwarts to ask. Takes Teddy to the park on a good day, watching him toddle in the grass on his fat little legs.

Hermione leaves off her lectures after Harry throws a particularly epic tantrum at the Burrow on Christmas Eve, which has everyone walking on eggshells around him. He feels a bit shamefaced about it and stumbles out an apology to Molly the next day. It’s not that he doesn’t know he’s out of line, it’s more that he’s spent his entire life being told what to do and he doesn’t need any more of it. So Grimmauld Place stays dank and quiet, and his friends visit less and less. They have studies to concentrate on, and jobs to go to, and Harry doesn’t have much of either.

Luna still appears every now and again, without warning. She always brings him a thermos of dandelion tea, which tastes like boiled grass, but he appreciates the gesture. This time, when he lets her in, she looks at the elf heads in the entry hall.

“We should take those down, Harry. Let them rest.”

Harry thinks the whole idea is distasteful, but he’s never had much luck saying no to Luna. He finds himself in the back garden as she clears a patch of earth with a series of quick spells, and they bury the heads side by side in the frozen ground. Luna murmurs some words from a poem that Harry doesn’t really understand and casts a decomposing spell on the stuffed creatures before wanding the earth back into place. There’s something soothing about the ritual of it, even if it seems like nonsense.

He says as much, as Luna pours his tea.

“It’s part of how we move on,” she says in agreement, passing him a steaming cup. Harry tries not to wrinkle his nose at the smell. “Minister Shacklebolt said the same thing last night.”

Harry looks up with a start. “Where did you see Kingsley?”

“He was at dinner at Draco’s house.”

The tea scalds the back of Harry’s throat. “What?”

“He’s really very good company. I did enjoy talking to him. So many changes he’s having to oversee in such a short amount of time. It’s a remarkable challenge.”

Harry’s ears are ringing. He feels a headache coming on. “You and Kingsley Shacklebolt were sitting around swilling champagne with Malfoy?!”

“Oh there was no wine.”

“What?”

“No alcohol at all last night. The chef insisted.”

“Well, that must have made a tedious evening even worse,” Harry snorts sarcastically.

“On the contrary, Harry. The entire menu involved cannabis.”

Harry makes a sort of strangled sound, but Luna doesn’t seem to notice.

“It was very clever, really. No wonder he’s won lots of Muggle cooking awards. He made a cannabis powder with coconut oil and sprinkled that on top of a rice cracker with pickled chiles and yoghurt. One course had these little milk spheres infused with cannabis, liquorice, and juniper berries.”

Everyone got high?!” Harry feels like he’s squeaking. “You just said the Minister for Magic was there!”

“Well, no one was more affected than they would have been after a few wines. The chef was very good. He’s from Oregon, in America, where it’s been decriminalised. The early dishes were much stronger, so that the effects started to set in toward the end of the meal. It was a very cerebral experience, Harry. You would have enjoyed it.”

Luna has never acknowledged people looking at her as if she’s insane and she doesn’t start now.

“It was sort of calming. I’m so used to everyone being so weighed down by all the fynnfeathers since the War, it was lovely to see them lift for an evening.”

Harry knows better than to ask, even when Luna notes that his own fynnfeathers seem particularly purple, a state he takes to be negative.

“I’ll paint a marker stone and bring it next time,” she says, as she skips down his front steps. “For the elves.”

When Harry turns back into the house it feels unaccountably brighter, as if the light is finally making it all the way down the corridor for the first time.

~

Draco is buoyed by the quiet progress he’s made. Writing the letters is hard, certainly, but the most difficult part is waiting. For that first moment when he can see the group of guests walking up the garden path from the Apparation point, lit by outdoor lanterns. For that first moment when he can see the person he’s written to and read the conflicted expression on their face.

Longbottom had been unsentimental. “Reckon once you’ve faced down a twelve-foot snake, dinner with your school bully is nothing,” he’d said, shaking Draco’s hand and shrugging off his apology. Katie Bell had wept a little, accepted his silk handkerchief, and then gone to sit beside the lead singer of the Perseids, blushing everytime the young rockstar had said so much as a word. Lovegood hadn’t let Draco say anything at all, drawing him into a hug as she shook her head, and then asking him a series of increasingly incomprehensible questions about the ley lines under the Farm.

He’s continued in this vein, month after month, crossing the names off in the little black journal he keeps beside his bed. And now there are only three left.

He writes to Weasley and Granger separately. The rest of the world might treat them as a matched set, but he needs to do this properly. Personally.

As he’s done in each of the other letters, he closes by explaining a little of what the Trust has been set up to achieve, and asks them to think about ways in which he might be able to help with something they care about. He figures Granger in particular will have a list as long as her arm.

These letters are difficult to write, and afterwards he feels washed out. Overcome by ugly memories. He goes to find Jack and asks for a mindless task, spending the rest of the weekend stripping purple seventies wallpaper off the bedrooms in the guesthouse. Hot, sticky, and gratefully distracted.

~

The cartons of takeout are stacked to one side, and Harry is just thinking about clearing the plates when Ron drops his bombshell, so he’s staring at a cold smear of korma that a spoon has left behind on the table. Unable to quite process what he’s heard.

“What is it?” Hermione asks.

“It’s disgraceful, is what it is,” he seethes. “Malfoy treated you horrifically in school, Hermione. You were tortured in his home. Godric’s sake, how could you bear to set foot in his house, let alone sit down for dinner with him?”

Ron seems to be pretending the tension in the room isn’t ratcheting up to astronomical levels.

“But what a dinner, mate,” he says, ignoring the way Hermione’s eyes have narrowed at Harry. “Honestly, when the first few courses came out, I thought it was going to be ridiculous. Tiny little portions. Ice cream cones as big as your little finger, but filled with salmon?! Thought I was going to have to get a kebab on the way home. But I tell you what, ten courses later...couldn’t move, I was so full.”

He trails off. The ugly silence descends like a blanket.

“What gives you the right to judge?” Hermione says coolly.

Harry’s eyebrows fly to his hairline in shock.

“I’m serious, Harry. Sitting here in this mausoleum of a house day after day, doing absolutely nothing to deal with what we’ve been through. Nothing to move forward.”

Harry scoffs. He’s tired of this argument. Tonight isn’t the first time they’ve had it.

“Snort all you like,” she continues, her expression steely. “The fact remains that Draco Malfoy isn’t refusing to acknowledge his past. He’s working hard at it, every day. To make amends, to become a better person.”

“One dinner and you know all that then, do you?” Harry’s angry now, getting up to pace back and forth across the grimy stone floor of the kitchen. “He throws some fancy fucking fish ice cream at you, and he’s redeemed in your eyes?”

“There wasn’t any ice cream…” Ron starts to say, but Harry cuts him off.

“I don’t care what was for dinner! I care that you’re apparently all for cavorting with fucking Death Eaters now.”

Ron gets up, his full height suddenly looming large under the low-beamed kitchen ceiling. “You know what, I think that’s enough,” he says, his voice low and serious. “We didn’t come here to get shouted at.”

Harry looks at Hermione, whose eyes are bright and wet, but whose jaw is clenched tight, as if she’s refusing Harry the satisfaction of seeing her upset. He lets out a shaky breath, rubbing at his temple where it’s starting to throb. He wants to apologise to his friends but his words are all caught up and poisonous inside him.

“I don’t know what your problem is,” Ron says, placing a hand gently on Hermione’s shoulder, stoic beside her. “Draco sodding Malfoy is getting wizards to live like Muggles for a night, and he’s raising millions of galleons for charity while he’s doing it. Seems like a win to me.”

The fight is leaking out of Harry but he still feels so sour. “Yeah, what. So he can slap his name on a new hospital wing at St Mungo’s or something? Bask in all the glory?”

Hermione gets up at that, clutching her bag in front of her. She digs around in it for a moment, pulling out a parchment folder, which she slaps on the table. And then she takes Ron’s hand and leaves without saying another word. Harry hears the woosh of the floo and sinks back into his chair, embarrassed and angry and finding it hard to breathe. He gets a bottle of firewhisky from the back of the cupboard and goes upstairs. The dinner plates can wait.

The next day he wakes with a surge of anxiety that makes his toes curl under the covers. His head is thumping and he feels restless. He goes downstairs and finds a crumpled-looking packet of teabags in a cupboard and levitates the takeout boxes from the night before into the bin while he waits for the kettle to boil. There’s a pile of old Prophets and other bits of paperwork on one end of the table, and he sets to sending that towards the rubbish as well when he realises that the top of the pile is the folder Hermione left behind.

He slides it toward him and flicks it open. Inside is a set of accounts: rows of tiny numbers with ‘Rotherhithe Dining Trust’ printed across the top and the stamp of the Gringotts auditors at the bottom. A note is clipped to the first page.

Hermione,

As discussed in our correspondence, herewith is the annual report for the Trust. You will see that the approach I am taking is very much to make small, impactful grants that can make the most significant change in the most effective way. I look forward to your suggestions.

DM

Harry turns the pages slowly. The grants Draco has made are set out in careful detail, and the list is long.

The Casper Simeon Home for War Orphans

The New Beginnings Programme for Wizarding Addiction

The Felixis Trust’s trauma counselling programme

Most of them Harry’s never heard of, but a couple catch his eye:

The Albus Dumbledore Memorial Scholarship for children from non-magical backgrounds

The Lupin Endowment for Lycanthropy Studies

The Andromeda Tonks Fund for Fostered Children

It’s nothing like Harry had imagined. There’s no mention of the Malfoy name at all. In fact, a footnote on one page of the report even suggests that there have been other donations made anonymously where it was more appropriate to do so.

He slaps the folder closed and shoves it away from him. The pile of papers slides a little, and Malfoy’s latest shiny invitation is right there where Harry had tossed it. He thrusts his hands under his thighs, staring at it. The anxiety inside him feels like a living thing, moving around in his gut. He accios a quill and parchment and pens an RSVP, tying it to Lancelot’s leg before he can think about it too carefully.

Almost immediately he feels worse. Wonders if he can somehow spell Lancelot back to the house. He doesn’t know what to do with himself, and next thing he knows he's rushing out into the back garden, trying to get a proper lungful of air. He just needs something to do with his hands, he decides, and starts ripping out all the plants he thinks he remembers as weeds from herbology classes. He does it for hours, until there’s a towering pile of greenery wilting on the stone behind him, until his fingers are muddy and scratched.

Afterward, he sleeps better than he has for a long time.

~

Draco folds the Prophet and tucks it under the edge of his plate, smiling at Pansy’s latest glowing column, full of blind speculation that among last week’s guests at Draco’s dinner there had been a full Veela who was also a member of a European royal family. She’d actually been a minor duchess from Luxembourg, and was only a quarter Veela on her mother’s side, but Pansy’s exaggerations continue to assure him the very best guests with the very deepest pockets.

He butters an extra piece of toast as a second owl arrives, swooping in through the open window with a single roll of parchment tied to his leg.

At first, Draco assumes Blaise is pranking him.

There doesn’t seem any better explanation for finally receiving an affirmative RSVP on the thirteenth invitation he’s sent to Potter’s residence. But if it is a prank, Blaise has really mastered Potter’s unreadable scrawl.

He stares at the parchment.

It isn’t that he didn’t think it was possible, eventually. Especially given Granger hadn’t hexed his bollocks to a wall when she came to the Farm last month. But he thought he’d have time. To think about a letter. All the things he wanted to say. To plan.

Instead, apparently, he has only a few short weeks until Potter will be at dinner. Just the idea of it feels so exposing, like all of Draco’s insides will be on display.

He digs around in his bag for the draft menu, then shakes his head. It’s far too avant garde for this, he can already picture the expression on Potter’s face. He picks up his phone. “Let’s postpone this one until May,” he says to Harrison. “Here’s what I’d like to do next month.”

~

The gold-edged invite sits propped on the mantel, oddly bright in the dim light of the sitting room, and it catches Harry’s eye every time he walks past. It means he has to keep thinking about it. It takes up too much space inside him, which he resents even though he was the one crazy enough to accept.

So he tries not to think at all, and goes back to distracting himself with Grimmauld Place. He's not ready to put a name to what’s happening yet, but in the past week he’s cleaned the thick grimy layer off the windows by hand, shaken out the carpets with magic, and finally read the book Hermione left him on spelling and maintaining a wizarding pantry, although his Reparo on the broken back step won’t hold.

He doesn’t tell Ron and Hermione that he’s going to go to Malfoy’s. He knows that he owes them a proper apology, and he doesn’t feel like he can do that until he understands. Not that he expects to. He expects to be annoyed, and to have all of his suspicions confirmed, and then he’ll be able to tell Hermione that he was right. Though imagining that isn’t very satisfying, really.

Two days before the dinner the owl is back, bearing instructions. Apparation coordinates for the edge of the property. An explanation of the secure wand storage cabinet guests will find there. A reminder that the waiting staff are Muggle, and that conversation topics should be considered with this in mind. And at the bottom, Dress code: Lounge suit.

For a moment, Harry considers abandoning the whole stupid endeavour. It’s not like Malfoy has bothered to write him some sort of personal plea to attend, the way he seemingly has with everyone else. Harry could just not show up. That would probably stop the invitations from coming for good.

Lounge suit. Gods only knows what that’s supposed to mean. Harry picks at a loose thread on the knee of his jeans. Thinks about the pile of dirty laundry upstairs that sits beside the bag of clean clothes he dragged back from the laundrette last week. He’s pretty sure there’s nothing in the bag that would be appropriate for a posh dinner. But then there’s nothing in the dusty wardrobe except his too-small school robes and possibly a boggart, so that’s not going to work either.

He thinks about asking Neville what he wore, but the idea of telling anyone he’s thinking about doing this feels too hard. He’s the one who gave them all a piece of his mind for going at all. It makes his face feel hot and his skin too tight.

So he goes to a fancy department store on Oxford Street and lets a bored-looking sales assistant choose him a new outfit. A dark well-fitted suit, rich emerald tie, and a crisp shirt with a collar that doesn’t feel starchy. He stares at himself in the mirror, shoving his spectacles back up his nose. He doesn’t recognise the man looking back at him. Dark shadows under his eyes, unshaven. A haunted, unhappy figure trussed up in expensive clothes.

On Friday it seems harder than usual to get out of bed. He lies there thinking about making a bacon sandwich but he doesn’t have bacon. Or bread. Eventually he pulls on yesterday’s t-shirt and jeans, glaring at the suit hanging in its carrier bag on the back of the door, and walks to the cafe on the corner. The coffee tastes burnt and the bacon has too much fat and the day feels too bright. The sort of sun London is unprepared for at this time of year, people crowded into parks and standing around outside the pub on the corner drinking in the middle of the afternoon.

He keeps telling himself he probably won’t go. Even as he stands under the weak shower in his ensuite and drags a comb through his hair. Even as he finds himself dressed in the new suit unaccountably early, staring at the clock on the kitchen wall and waiting for it to tick around to a respectable time. He thinks about putting his pajamas back on. If the bottle of firewhisky wasn’t empty, he probably would.

6:55pm. He reaches for his wand and takes a deep breath.

~

Draco greets his guests at the wide double doors to the Barn, thanking them for coming and directing them to help themselves to glasses of chilled champagne waiting just inside on an oak bar, decorated with jars of fireflies and twisted bowers of greenery.

Potter is last, of course.

Draco isn’t sure what to make of him. He looks well-dressed, his suit fashionable but subtle, and he’s clearly put some sort of effort into taming his still-ridiculous hair. Draco’s willing to admit that his obsession with Potter in school was at least partially a crush, but even with that bias he can tell Potter’s looked better. He looks tired, like he’s recovering from an illness. And possibly nervous, though that seems unlikely. Draco has the market cornered on all the nerves in the country right now.

“Thank you for coming,” he says, extending a hand.

Potter pauses for a long second, and for one horrible moment Draco is left there, hand out, feeling eleven years old all over again, but then he takes it. His grip is warm and dry, and he nods as he shakes it. Potter wears a lost expression, like he’s just found himself here all of a sudden and doesn’t know how or why. Draco’s heart sinks a little. Maybe Granger made him come.

“I hope you’ll enjoy the evening,” he soldiers on, trying to keep the tremor out of his voice. “I’d like the chance to speak to you afterwards, if you have time.”

Potter tugs awkwardly at his cuff, as if he’s not sure what to do with his hands, but he nods again and suddenly a waiter appears at his elbow, offering him a drink and guiding him into the Barn to find his seat. Draco takes a step in the other direction, out into the dusk, breathing in a large gulp of fresh air and leaning heavily against the rough stone wall for a second. This is really happening, he thinks.

Trusting that Potter hasn’t become any more of a conversationalist in the last few years, he’s seated him between two kind, vivacious guests who will not fawn over him at all. A world-champion Quodpot player who has just launched a charity focussed on physical education, and a children’s book author who produces gorgeous illustrated volumes about dragons. Draco seats himself on the other side of the table, a little further up, where he can keep an eye on him but they won’t be forced to converse.

He stands and taps his glass to get his guests’ attention, welcoming them again, and thanking them for coming.

“You’re all aware what a great deal of good these little meals are achieving, and I’m so grateful that you’ve been kind enough to join in this work.” As if the guests are doing him a favour and wouldn’t each have sacrificed a limb to be there. “This evening, our chef is Jonathan Stone. He specialises in reinventions of classic British fare, proving there really is a rich culinary tradition right here at home. Tonight I’ve asked him to indulge me a little. The tasting menu is a reinterpretation of a meal that holds a very sentimental place in my heart, and I’m sure in some of yours: the welcome banquet from my boarding school.” A murmur of appreciation spreads around the room. Draco finds Potter looking at him, his eyes bright and expression curious.

Draco raises his glass. “Let’s eat.”

The meal is as transcendent as he could have hoped. Stone’s roast quail and duck fat potatoes give way to tiny individual coils of roast beef and miniature Yorkshire puddings as light as air. Radishes and aioli sit alongside carrots in butter. The wines are sumptuous and full-bodied, and the conversation flows freely.

Draco finds himself glancing frequently at Potter, who starts the evening scowling and fidgeting with his cutlery, but gradually relaxes back into his seat, drawn into discussion with those around him. A small smile finally starts to edge up the corners of his mouth. Draco watches as he excuses himself between courses and makes his way out to the loo. His shoulders seem a little less slumped, but Draco is still struck by how wan he looks.

“I can’t believe he’s actually here,” the Vice-Chancellor sitting next to Draco leans in to whisper. Draco bristles, ready to say something to defend himself, but the florid man isn’t looking at him. “I mean, we’ve all heard the stories.”

Stories? Draco hasn’t heard the stories.

“I’m sorry?” he asks, trying not to let curiosity get the better of him. Make it seem like he just hadn’t heard properly.

“Oh you know,” the Vice-Chancellor waves his glass expansively, a droplet of red wine flying from the lip. “That he’s become a recluse, that he’s cursed...that he never recovered from the War.”

Draco finds himself bristling for an entirely different reason. He wouldn't blame Potter for never setting foot in Diagon Alley ever again given the way the Prophet had enthusiastically covered his every errand in the weeks after the War. People are so bloody entitled. Still, he watches more closely as Potter returns to take his seat, and an inexplicably warm feeling washes over him as he sees the way his eyes light up when the waiters set perfectly deconstructed treacle tarts in front of every guest. There’s just a hint of the boy he watched shovel dessert in his mouth in the Great Hall every day. Not that Draco was prepared to admit, then, why he was paying attention.

At the end of the evening, the staff wait with lanterns to walk everyone back to the path to the edge of the property. Draco has always told them there are cars stationed at a nearby road for his guests, and that he likes the mystery and the ambience of them walking from there. There’s no reason for them to suspect everyone will pop away magically, leaving their galleons in the silver bowl of his mother’s edged with runes, sitting beside the storage cabinet where they will retrieve their wands.

Potter lingers, saying goodbye to the Quodpot player, while Draco gives some final instructions.

And then it’s just the two of them, looking at each other cautiously.

“Let’s go into the house,” Draco breaks the silence. “Leave the staff to clean up.”

Potter follows him out into the cool spring night and Draco realises he still hasn’t said anything to him all evening. To cover his nerves he points out features of the main house, the stables, and the guesthouse where Jack has been working all week. They follow waiters carrying trays of glassware into the kitchen, and then Draco’s at a bit of a loss. He grabs a bottle of whiskey and two cut crystal tumblers and keeps walking along the corridor to the study where he usually works when he’s at the Farm. It has a wide desk under the window made from reclaimed wood, and a pair of leather club chairs in front of the fireplace. Potter sinks heavily into one and accepts the tumbler Draco offers. Up close, the dark shadows under his eyes look like bruises.

“Why dinner parties?” he asks. His voice, after so long, is a surprise. Pitched lower than Draco was expecting. More grown up.

“My mother,” Draco replies, sitting opposite him and savouring the smoky flavour of the single malt on his tongue. “She used to host a Solstice banquet each year for charity. It was her favourite.”

A look of understanding crosses Potter’s face. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Draco turns the tumbler around and around in his hand. “And I’m sorry. For so many things. I’m not sure what your friends have told you about what I’m doing here, but I would like the opportunity to make amends. If you’re willing.”

Potter downs his whiskey and extends the glass for Draco to pour him another finger.

“So you’ll donate money to things I care about. To make up for a being on the wrong side.”

Draco gives a rueful shake of his head. “Nothing will make up for that,” he says quietly. “But I was awful to you, in school. I did a lot of things I’m not proud of. I could blame my upbringing and the culture in which I was raised, but plenty of other people were raised the same way and didn’t behave the way I did. I was wrong. And I’d like to try and offer some small recompense.”

“I cut you open,” Harry says flatly, staring at the ash in the grate of the unlit fireplace. “How do I offer recompense for that?”

Draco’s heart rabbits in his ribcage. He hadn’t expected the conversation to go like this at all, and he has no idea how to respond.

“I was about to cast an Unforgivable, Potter. I think…” But Potter waves him away before he can finish the thought.

“I’m just saying. You’re not the only one with things to apologise for.”

Draco tops up their glasses again.

“Your mother saved my life,” Potter continues. “She loved you very much.”

Draco feels tears start to prick at his eyeballs, and he wants Potter to shut up. This isn’t how this is supposed to go. Draco’s supposed to say sorry. Supposed to grovel. Be careful not to open old wounds. Make amends. Potter isn’t supposed to be the one flaying him open all over again.

Potter takes another slug of his drink. “I thought you were just doing all this to be the centre of attention again. Surround yourself with the rich and famous, have everyone talking about you in the paper.”

Draco’s heart sinks. Of course he would think that.

“But it’s not really that, is it?” Potter’s eyebrows are drawn together over his bright green eyes. Studying him carefully. Seeing far too much. Draco desperately wants to take those crooked, childish glasses off his nose so he can’t. “You’re just doing what you’re good at. Hosting, socialising, whatever. You’re trying to do something significant with the skills you have.”

Draco feels so very vulnerable. Like he wants to cover his face with his hands. Potter downs his drink again. Draco wants to make some sort of snide remark about the quality of the single malt that he’s throwing back like it’s crappy shots of Ogden’s but he manages to refrain.

“I’m not sure I have any skills,” Potter murmurs quietly. And Draco has no idea what to say to that. The most powerful wizard in Britain is slumped in his study with his tie askew wondering if he has anything to offer the world. Nothing about this is as he planned.

“You’ve had too much to drink to Apparate. Why don’t you stay here?” The words are out before he thinks about them too carefully, and Harry’s sudden glance up at him makes it realises how it sounds. Harry looks surprised at the idea, but not shocked. “I don’t live here, but there’s a bedroom made up in case I want to stay. I didn’t have wine with dinner, so I’m fine to get home.”

“I’d live here,” Harry murmurs, looking back at the dark bay windows. “If I were you.”

“Maybe one day, when it’s finished.”

He shows Harry the room, where to find towels, and tries not to focus on the uneasy feeling he gets when he thinks about Harry Potter showering in his bathroom or sliding between his sheets.

He shakes his head to clear it, carries their glasses to the kitchen leaving them in the sink, and heads home.

~

When Harry wakes he feels disoriented. He’s warm, rested, and comfortable. The sheets don’t smell musty, and the pillow under his head isn’t filled with lumps. It takes him a moment to realise where he is. At Malfoy’s farm. In Malfoy’s bed.

He pushes up onto his elbows. Sunlight is spilling in past the thick curtains he’d left open, and his head is a little sore from the wine and the whiskey. He supposes there’s unlikely to be a hangover potion lurking around Malfoy’s magic-free house.

A shower helps the headache to start to clear. Harry re-dresses in his suit pants and shirt, rolling up the sleeves. He pulls the bed up carefully and hangs his towel on the rail. He needs to find the path back to the wand cabinet before he can go home, but without a wand he can’t send a Patronus asking Malfoy where it is. He pulls on his shoes and retraces his steps back through the now-empty kitchen and out the back door.

Standing in the yard, Harry can’t get over how fresh everything feels. He can hear birds and the murmur of water from the creek, and he’s pretty sure that sound in the distance is sheep.

“Hey, can you give me a hand for a tick?”

He spins around to find a short, sandy-haired workman in coveralls by the back of small truck.

“My lad was supposed to be here at nine, but I swear that boy hasn’t been on time in his life. I just need to get these joists inside.”

Harry nods and walks over, draping his suit jacket over the side of the truck. “I’m Harry.”

“Jack. Sorry, I know you’re not dressed for it, but it will only take a minute.”

Harry laughs, looking down at himself. “I was here for dinner last night.”

“Figured,” Jack says with a smile, looking past Harry at the main house. “Draco’s not up yet then?”

Harry blushes violently. “No, he’s not...I mean we’re not...he’s not even here!”

Jack shrugs, but doesn’t stop smiling, and turns back toward the truck, sliding one end of a thick wooden beam towards him and indicating for Harry to grab the other end. The wood is old and heavy. It has a history to it and feels warm under Harry’s fingertips.

“These are for the chapel,” Jack explains, as they walk past the stable to a part of the main house that seems almost like a ruin. “The wood was so damaged, I took them out and scarfed them.”

They lean the beam inside the small crumbling, stone structure.

“Scarfed?” Harry asks, curious.

“A woodworking join, when the wood isn’t as long as you need,” he points at the place in the beam where Harry can now see two separate lengths have come together. “French call this a Trait de Jupiter.” He runs his finger along the diagonal line and then wiggles it at Harry’s forehead. “We’re not so fancy. We call it a bolt-o-lightning join.”

Harry laughs, walking back with him to the truck to fetch another beam. And then another one. Jack tells him about the plans for the tiny family chapel. How they’re trying to restore it to its simple, original state, rather than anything too fussy. Shows Harry his sketches, explaining his plans for the timber.

Despite the hangover, despite the suit, despite the fact that Malfoy could appear at any minute, for Merlin’s sake, Harry is surprised to find that he feels comfortable. At home. “Hey,” he asks, as they stack the last of the beams. “If I wanted to fix a wooden step, where would I start?”

~

When Draco returns to the Farm at lunchtime, Potter is nowhere to be seen, but Jack’s there running bits of timber through a bandsaw and giving Draco an incredibly smug look.

“What are you grinning about?”

“Met your young man this morning.”

“He is not,” Draco splutters, remembering the look he'd exchanged with Potter last night as he tries to roll his eyes with disdain, although he can feel his face heating up with embarrassment. “Anyway. He came to dinner. I apologised. You won’t see him again.”

Jack just shrugs and pushes a fat bit of wood through the saw, which makes an obnoxiously loud screeching noise, and Draco covers his ears as he stalks inside.

He won’t see him again, is the thing, and neither will Draco. The bed is made and the ensuite is empty, and the only sign that Harry Potter was here at all are the two whiskey tumblers sitting in the sink.

Except that when Draco comes to the Farm the following Monday to send some email and to give Jack copies of the planning consents for the guesthouse, he finds Potter crouching in the sun by the chapel looking at a door that Jack has off its frame.

“What are you doing here?” He doesn’t mean it to sound like an accusation, but he also doesn’t know how to deal with Potter in a threadbare t-shirt and frayed jeans holding a block sander.

“Learning how to fix a stuck door,” he says, and sounds delighted. Jack laughs as he takes the paperwork from Draco and looks it over.

“Thanks—this has the number I need on it. I’ll call them now.” He steps away, holding his mobile up to his ear.

“What are you doing,” Draco repeats with a hiss. “You’re a bloody wizard. You fix a stuck door with an exsolvo.”

Potter shrugs. “This is better. The step felt better when I did it by hand.”

Draco’s about to ask what step he’s on about, but Jack is back, handing Draco both the paperwork and the phone, and by the time he’s argued with a planning assistant about minimum setbacks for another half an hour, Potter’s gone and Jack is up a ladder doing something else.

The following week it’s a putty knife and a sash window.

Two days after that it’s crown moulding and a mitre saw.

Gradually Draco gets used to the idea that his sanctuary seems to have been permanently invaded by this bizarre alternate universe Handyman Potter, who crunches around the gravel paths peppering Jack with questions. He wears worn-looking clothes, but a new pair of workboots, and has started keeping his too-long hair out of his face with a baseball cap.

“You don’t have to put up with him, you know,” Draco says to Jack one day, right in front of Potter who rolls his eyes and pulls a face at him like he’s still twelve years old.

“He’s fine,” Jack says, passing a heavy carton of door hardware to Potter from the back of his van. Draco tries not to pay attention to the way the muscles in his forearms flex under the weight.

And if Draco finds himself spending more time at the Farm, that’s got everything to do with the decisions that need making about the rooms in the East Wing, and the plans for the next dinner, and nothing whatsoever to do with the unseasonal heat wave that means Potter is occasionally shirtless. And he tells Blaise so over martinis when Blaise suggests otherwise.

“You want to shag him rotten, admit it,” Blaise says, pointing at Draco accusingly with a cocktail pick.

“I want him to wear clothes while he’s trespassing all over my property,” he retorts, which isn’t really a denial. “That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.”

Harry seems healthier, he can’t help but notice. His skin browns up in the sun and his ribs gradually appear less prominent. Not completely better though. One Friday he’s nowhere to be seen, although his cap and t-shirt are lying on a sawhorse by the kitchen door. “Where’s your little friend?” Draco asks Jack, trying not to sound too interested.

“He’s in a mood. I’ve got him stripping wallpaper. You always like to strip wallpaper when you’re feeling that way.”

“No one likes stripping wallpaper,” Draco argues back, but he takes a couple of cold beers to the East Wing around five and sits with Potter in the fading sun talking about nothing anyway.

~

Writing to Ron and Hermione is hard. Harder than it should be, Harry thinks. He’s let it go on for too long, and the gap between them has just widened and now it feels really difficult to bridge.

He’s in his sitting room with the parchment balanced on an offcut of ply on one knee. The light is so much better in here since he worked on the windows, fixing the broken sashes and re-roping them. Stripping off the flaking ancient paint and revealing the dark wood underneath.

Last weekend Luna had helped him banish the old furniture and pick out a deep, comfy corner sofa and matching armchair in a soft cream fabric. They’d laid down a bright new rug, and he’d had floo elves come to clean all the fireplaces. Each room he works in feels like his favourite. Last week it had been the kitchen, with the heavy wooden table and benches sanded and restained.

He starts the letter with the easy part, which is saying sorry. Explanations are much tougher. He doesn’t have the words to explain about going to the Farm and realising just how much progress Draco’s made since the War. Somehow it’s been different than watching his friends move on without him. A thin strand of their old competitiveness makes him feel like if Draco Malfoy of all people can do it, then he certainly can. But it’s more to do with the way being there makes him feel. The pace feels slower: the blue sky huge above him, all the greenery everywhere. There’s so much space; he feels like he can finally breathe.

In the end he keeps it short and says he’s doing some work on the house that he’d love them to see, and would they consider coming over for dinner on Saturday.

Hermione’s reply just says “We’ll see you then.”

It’s a start, he supposes. The most he can probably hope for. But now he’s nervous and full of extra energy and so he floos Neville and asks him to come down again. They spend a full afternoon hacking back the vines they’d had to leave the week before when it got too dark.

“This is great,” Nev says later, when Harry shows him to the guest bathroom to clean up. The new sink and tapware are gleaming. Harry has an irrational urge to point out all the mistakes he made. Where the tiles didn’t quite line up, and where he got the grouting a bit wrong near the shower, but Neville just gives him a hug for no reason, so he doesn’t bother.

The next day he goes back to the Farm, and as ever when he lands and takes in a deep lungful of air he feels all the tension inside him starting to uncoil. He walks up the path, startling a squirrel that shoots up a tree beside him, and he finds himself smiling. He’s surprised to find the house is a hive of activity, catering vans crammed into the turning circle and staff carrying racks of wine glasses to the barn. It’s been a month, he realises with a start. Draco must be about to host another dinner.

He’s giving instructions to a woman dressed in all black wearing a headset, who must be coordinating things for the evening. His hair is bright in the afternoon sun, cut shorter than it ever was in school. He’s grown in to his patrician features; tall, and striking. Accomplished. He looks up suddenly, as if he can feel Harry’s eyes on him, and gives him a small smile.

“I thought you’d abandoned us for greener pastures,” Draco says, passing a clipboard to the woman in dismissal and walking toward him. “Jack’s been missing you all week.”

“There’s a dinner tonight?” Harry asks, and immediately feels like an idiot, because that much is obvious from the boxes of produce being carted past them into the kitchen.

“Would you like to join us?” Draco tilts his head as he asks, giving a Harry an appraising look. “You’d be well out of your comfort zone. The menu is molecular gastronomy. But there’s a spare seat if you want it.”

Harry doesn’t like to ask what molecular gastronomy involves, because it sounds ridiculous, but he can also see that Draco’s hoping he’ll say yes, which leaves him unaccountably clenching his hands into fists and flexing them before he nods. Because he wants to see Draco relax and smile, and it’s definitely worth it when he does.

When he comes back to the Barn that night, wearing a new tie and having spent an unreasonable amount of time cleaning paint flecks out of his hair, he realises Draco might not have been telling the truth. There’s an extra place setting at the head of one of the two tables—twenty five guests instead of twenty four. But he gets distracted talking to a charming cosmetic healer about her research into repairing skin damaged by werewolf scars and forgets to tease him about it.

~

Hermione is surprised about the house. Ron is more surprised that Harry has cooked.

“This is bloody delicious, mate,” he says, shoving lasagne into his mouth. Harry laughs. The meal is simple compared to last night. He thinks about the reversed Baked Alaska, cold on the outside and hot in the middle. About sitting in Draco’s study afterwards over whiskey discussing the techniques the chef had used. The animated way he’d gestured as he talked about deconstruction and the way people perceive taste and flavour.

“You did all this by hand,” Hermione asks, picking at her salad as she runs her palm across the surface of the refurbished table.

“Most of it,” he shrugs. “I use magic to hold things together while I hammer, or support things while I’m sawing. But the techniques are all by hand.”

“It’s amazing, Harry. You should be really proud.”

He flushes, shaking his head.

“I really am sorry, Hermione. You were right, about everything. I was just so tired, and so angry all the time. I still am … some days. But at least I have an outlet for it now.”

“The repairs?” Ron asks, around a mouthful of garlic bread.

“No, I only work on the house when I’m in a good space. I strip wallpaper at Draco’s when I’m not.” The sentence flies out of his mouth before he can stop it. He bites at his lower lip, but it’s too late. Hermione’s expression is unreadable, but Ron’s jaw is just hanging open, half-chewed garlic bread and all.

“I went to one of the dinners a few weeks back,” he mumbles. “And then I met Jack. He’s the builder who’s restoring Draco’s place. He’s been teaching me how to do things.”

Draco,” Ron has managed to swallow now, but seems stuck on this. “Since when has he been Draco?”

Harry’s not sure, really. Some time in the last couple of weeks, he supposes, without him really realising. Maybe that time he’d felt all frayed at the edges and Jack had handed him the wallpaper steamer and pointed at the East Wing and he’d worked for hours, hot and sweaty, tearing at the strips of ugly mauve paper, and just as he’d finished Draco had appeared with cold beer and asked him exactly nothing about why he was there.

“I don’t know,” he says honestly. “At dinner last night I …”

“Wait, you went again? How many apologies do you need?”

Hermione nudges Ron’s arm with her elbow, and his head snaps to glare at her, but she’s still looking at Harry.

“It’s helpful, I imagine,” she says diplomatically. “Spending time in the countryside. Doing things with your hands. You look like you’ve had some sun.”

Harry nods, grateful for the change of subject.

“It’s one of the things I asked Draco to consider for the grants,” she continues, ignoring the way Ron is fidgeting in disbelief beside her. “Muggle techniques for dealing with depression and PTSD. I think we could learn a lot.”

It’s the first time she’s talked about this with Harry in a way that hasn’t left him feeling tense, his mental state judged and found wanting.

“What have you asked him to spend money on?” she asks gently.

He hasn’t, is the thing. Draco’s prodded him of course. But he’s been to two dinners now and everyone he’s talked to has such interesting ideas about what the charity could do. He doesn’t know how Draco makes up his mind.

“I don’t know yet,” he says. “Do you want ice cream? It’s a little bit melty.” Hermione is immediately distracted when he shows her the repaired pantry and gets lost in an explanation about how to improve the spells for the chiller shelves. By the time they leave an hour later Harry’s pretty sure they’re okay, even if Ron is still looking at him a little suspiciously.

~

One Wednesday Draco finds Harry bending a length of copper pipe outside the stables even though Jack is away in Spain on holiday, so against his better judgement he invites him inside for lunch.

Two weeks later Harry wanders into his study to tell him about a family of ducklings that have taken up residence on the little pond by the Apparation point and gives him an article torn out of the Quibbler about a magizoologist back from a journey to Iceland who he thinks would make a good dinner guest.

Draco’s not sure what possesses him the following week, but Harry’s just finished stacking a whole pile of lumber offcuts at the back of the barn that they’ll use for firewood, and it’s not like he’s paying him or anything so Draco suggests that he shouts him dinner at the Leaky on his way home. They argue about Quidditch and the candidates for the Wizengamot election and it’s just dinner and not whatever Pansy jokingly threatens to describe it as in her bloody column, with a fond gleam in her eye he doesn't want to acknowledge, before he suggests he’ll hex her into next week.

The Farmhouse sitting room has only been finished a week, and Harry has already claimed a thick Persian rug on the floor between the sofas. He persists in lying on his stomach on it while he’s reading, which Draco finds unbelievably uncouth. It makes him want to buy a bigger coffee table so there’s no space for Harry to lie there. Except it also makes Draco want to recline on the sofa alongside him while he does his work. Which is what he’s doing right now. It’s confusing.

“What about Lilah Eversleigh?” Harry says, not looking up from his copy of the Prophet.

“The heiress?”

“No. Well, yes. But not because she’s an heiress. She’s founded a Muggle startup, working with virtual reality. She has really interesting plans for wizarding entertainment.”

“Okay.” Draco adds her to the list.

Harry lays his head down on his forearms, his fingers pushing into the plush pile of the rug.

“You could get your own rug, you know. Nap on your own floor.” The sunlight is spilling in through the picture windows, and Harry closes his eyes, curling into the warmth like a cat.

“I’ve got a rug,” he mumbles, with a smile. “S’not as nice as this one.”

Draco chuckles, hitting send on another email.

“Maybe I could put one like this in my room instead of a bed. Finished it now except for the furniture.”

Harry doesn’t talk much about the renovations at Grimmauld Place, but Draco knows he’s spending far less time wandering around annoying Jack with questions about beading, and far more time annoying Draco by just being underfoot, so it must be nearly complete.

“You’re all done?”

“More or less,” Harry says, his words muffled by his forearm and slowed by his Saturday afternoon laziness.

“Well, I’m done,” he says, closing his computer. “Come on, slug. We’ll meet Beely at my flat and give her the guestlist and then I’ll shout you dinner at that Iranian place you like. I was supposed to go with Pansy but she’s been sick with the flu all week.”

He nudges Harry with his foot as he steps over him to get his things from the study and tries very hard not to stare at the place where his t-shirt has ridden up from his jeans.

Later, over lamb stew and smoked eggplant, Harry is laughing and insisting that Draco can absolutely not seat the WWN presenter next to the man he famously cheated on his wife with, and Draco realises they haven’t even talked about whether Harry will be there at the next dinner or not, because obviously he will. He’s been to the last three in a row and that makes Draco feel like something warm and bright is trying to burst out of him and spill all over the table.

~

The next morning, Draco’s owl looks absolutely flustered as she lands beside his breakfast, her feathers all ruffled and out of order. He strokes her gently as he unfastens the copy of the Prophet and goes to look at the window. The wards she’s flown through outside the flat are glowing and angry as Howlers strike them and disintegrate. Draco feels bile rise up in his throat.

He rushes back to the table and unrolls the paper. The photo of Harry and Draco is not that clear, as if it was taken from some distance away. They’re leaving Draco’s flat a couple of weeks ago, and as it loops, Picture-Draco puts a hand possessively to Picture-Harry’s back, who scowls. It looks like he’s cross, but Draco remembers the moment vividly, and the scowl was reserved for the idea that they’d be having dinner at a vegan restaurant.

The headline is an inch tall. MALFOY USES SAVIOUR TO SCAM FUNDS FOR “CHARITY.”

It’s a horrible hatchet-job, penned, no doubt, by Rita Skeeter. It insinuates all kinds of things about the financial propriety of the charity, suggests that Draco’s been breaching the Statute of Secrecy with his Muggle kitchen staff, contends that more of the money donated has gone on his own home renovations than anything else. And Draco wouldn’t care about any of it except that it says over and over again that he’s only made friends with Harry to attract more influential guests to his dinners.

Giving the phrase social climbing new meaning, it is clear to anyone with eyes that Malfoy’s transparent attempts to ingratiate himself with Mr Potter are nothing more than a clever way to fleece witches and wizards beneath a veneer of unearned respectability. No other guest has ever been invited to these profligate, wasteful feasts more than once, but Mr Potter, it seems, is now in attendance every month. Why else, one is forced to ask, would this be the case other than to persuade attendees to part with more of their hard-won wealth?

Draco feels like he’s choking. Harry will never believe that all of this is a lie. Why should he? No one else has ever been invited to his dinners more than once. He doesn’t have a good reason why Harry has. Not a reason he wants to discuss with anyone, anyway. Particularly not Harry.

He glances at the other mail the owl delivered. A note from Pansy is on top, and he snatches it up wildly.

I’m so sorry, darling. She only managed it because I was out sick. You know I would never have let it happen otherwise.

He does know that, but it doesn’t matter now. The damage is done. The wards flare at the window again, presumably defeating another Howler. Behind him his floo wooshes into life, and he spins around, irrationally expecting some sort of attack. But it’s just Blaise.

“Saw the paper. You okay, old man?”

“No,” Draco manages, his knees feeling weak.

“Why don’t you come through?”

Draco steps into the fireplace without thinking about it. Blaise makes him a strong espresso, and they sit at his kitchen island, Draco drumming his fingers nervously on the gleaming black marble.

“Just go and explain. Potter’s used to that stupid old witch’s lies.”

“What am I supposed to say?” He runs his hand through his hair frantically. “Of course I’m not using him, but what else can I say to explain why he’s there every month? I don’t even formally invite him anymore. He’s just there.”

Blaise gives him a wry smile. It makes Draco want to slap it off his face.

“Go and talk to him, Draco. There’s no reason to make yourself crazy until you know how he feels.”

It seems like a terrible idea, but it’s been a long time since Draco was someone who avoided his problems, so he Apparates straight to Grimmauld Place and raps on the door. It’s dark blue and very shiny, and he realises absently that Harry must have painted it recently. The knocker is a bright silver, and the mat underfoot is new. He’s just taking in the wrought-iron railings and the freshly dug look of the flowers in the crooked planter box under the window when the door flies open and startles him.

“Oh, Merlin.” Harry breathes, and he looks upset. Which is understandable, but leaves Draco feeling cold and unsure how to proceed. Harry’s hair is all over the place, and he looks like he’s pulled his sweater on backwards, but it could be that it’s just a very ugly, ill-fitting sweater. With Harry it’s always hard to tell.

“I need to talk to you …”

Before he can get anything out, Harry is dragging him inside by the wrist. The hall has polished oak floors and the staircase stretches up in front of him, lit by a skylight several storeys above. It looks nothing like the way the dark and gloomy entrance did during his Great Aunt Walburga’s era. Harry kicks the door closed behind them. “Sorry, sorry...the Howlers. I just.” He rubs at his temple as if his head is hurting and gestures for Draco to go into the front room.

“At my place, too,” Draco says glumly, sinking into a soft armchair. Harry perches opposite him on the sofa looking agitated.

“You weren’t at your flat. And I went to the Farm, but there was no one there. I looked everywhere. It’s a bloody big place, you know. Took me ages without magic.”

“I’m so sorry,” Draco says with a sigh. He hopes that this will be over quickly. Harry can rant and rave about what an awful, duplicitous person he is to take advantage of Harry’s reputation and station and then maybe Draco can just go home and crawl back into bed. He’ll need to cancel the next dinner, obviously. Try and work out a media strategy with Pansy. See if there’s anything to salvage.

But Harry just looks confused. “No, it’s okay, I mean, I was just worried. I couldn’t find you and the paper…”

“I understand.” Draco doesn’t really want to hear it. He wonders if he can save the charity by signing it over to someone else. Blaise, perhaps. He wouldn’t care about it in the same way that Draco does, but he’d be the right sort of person. Attract the right sort of attention.

“Understand what?” Harry blinks at him. “Draco are you alright? That old bat prints the worst fucking rubbish, and usually I just ignore it but I don’t want to this time.”

Now it’s Draco’s turn to be confused. “I’m sorry?”

“I’m saying I don’t think we should let it go this time,” Harry says earnestly, leaning forward to grab both of Draco’s hands in his own. “She doesn’t get to spoil this, Draco. You’ve made something incredible, and you’re doing really important work, and she doesn’t get to shit all over it.”

Draco feels suddenly overwhelmed, unable to think past the feel of Harry’s calloused hands holding his own and the way Harry’s stupid sweater is all caught up on his collar, and the fact that he thinks Draco’s made something incredible.

“Draco, while you were starting these dinners—bringing these amazing groups together, and showing them how extraordinary Muggle culture can be, and connecting these influential people in service of doing real good in our world—I was doing nothing. I was so lost, and so trapped by my past and what we’d gone through, and the last few months with you. Merlin, you’ve helped unstick me. You’re my own personal exsolvo. You’re such a fucking inspiration, Draco, and I’m not going to let you be brought low by that poisonous insect of a woman.”

He squeezes gently at Draco’s hands, and Draco’s afraid to take a breath, because if he moves even one muscle he’s sure this whole moment will dissolve around him.

“I want to make a statement,” Harry barrels on. “If you’ll let me, of course, only with your permission. I want to say that everything in that article is completely false. And that the charity is above reproach, and that the only reason I’ve been at the dinners more than once is because you want me to help. Because I want to help.” He seems to run out of steam then, hanging his head a little as he mumbles. “I do want to help...with the charity. If you’ll let me.”

Draco gets up, moving to sit beside him on the sofa. He reaches out to lift Harry’s head up so that he’ll look at him properly. There’s a faint flush across his cheeks.

“You’d really do that? Talk to the press?” Draco asks, finding it hard to hope that this is really happening. Harry hates the press. He hasn’t spoken to a reporter since the War, despite the very best efforts of every single media outlet.

“Yes!” Harry nods vehemently, his eyes flashing. “Of course I would.”

“And that’s why you’ve been coming to dinner. Because you want to help with the Trust? That’s the only reason?”

Harry shifts, looking away as he nods again. He’s always been a terrible liar.

“Well, I haven’t wanted you at the dinners because of the charity,” Draco says softly, taking Harry’s hand in his again and lacing their fingers together.

“No?” Harry asks, looking back at him in surprise, something sparkling and expectant in his expression.

“No,” Draco shakes his head and leans in to kiss him. It’s warm and slow and soft, and when Draco pulls back for a breath Harry’s eyes are bright, and his lips are red, and he looks so startled and happy that Draco just kisses him again.

And again.

It’s more than he could have hoped for. A reward he’ll never feel like he’s earned. This broken, beautiful, flawed hero, who’s been trying as hard as Draco just to put one foot in front of the other every day. Trying to carefully put things back together.

“We’ll make a joint statement, you don’t need to do it on your own” he says, quietly, pushing Harry gently back against the sofa and curling to lie beside him, one hand smoothing down the stupid sweater and fixing his collar. “Pansy’s been nagging me to do regular press anyway.” He presses his cheek to Harry’s chest, revelling in the way Harry’s arms come around him, holding him close.

“Okay,” Harry murmurs, and Draco feels the word more than he hears it. He looks around the room, at the newly-stripped floors and the whitewashed walls and the brightly coloured rug. Thinks about Harry coming back here from the Farm each day, his Farm, reinvigorated and filled with ideas. Wanting to fix things. About the slightly off-kilter planter box by the front door. He bites at his lip.

“You’re right, you know, your rug isn’t as good as mine.”

Harry chuckles, pressing a soft kiss to Draco’s forehead, one palm coasting gently down his spine. Draco suddenly wants to see it all. Every board Harry has sanded. Every nail that went in crooked. All the things he’s repaired, and painted, and brought back to life with the hands that are now holding Draco. He sits up, tugging Harry up with him.

“Show me your house, Harry Potter,” he asks, as he gets to his feet.

Harry’s answering smile is blinding.

~

Celebrity Homes

Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter share their gorgeous country estate

In this quiet Muggle community in the Cotswolds, none of the neighbours are aware that they live alongside two of the most famous wizards in the world. Rotherhithe Farm is an entirely magic-free property, meaning this reporter had to surrender her wand to an enchanted cabinet in the woods before walking up to the Farmhouse. “Trust me,” Harry Potter laughs, as he slips his own wand into one of the drawers. “If the Minister for Magic can manage it, you can too.”

It’s an oblique reference to the very famous guests who have made this same journey month after month to attend one of Draco Malfoy’s influential dinners. For over five years, first on his own and now together with his partner Mr Potter, Mr Malfoy has hosted the wizarding world’s elite for exquisite meals to raise funds, building one of the largest ever philanthropic foundations.

For the pair, the chance to spend time at this elegant historical property is a chance to step out of a world in which they are instantly recognisable. It’s a place of stunning beauty, and for the owners, it is comfortingly remote. “The privacy is nice,” Mr Malfoy agrees. “We get enough attention when we’re in the city.” Mr Malfoy keeps a stable of horses, and Mr Potter has turned one of the medieval barns into an enviable woodworking studio. The pair have certainly earned their peace and quiet. The Rotherhithe Trust made grants last year totalling more than fifty million galleons, and now employs a full-time staff of six.

The fifty-acre farm was full of dilapidated heritage buildings when Mr Malfoy acquired it, embarking on a multi-year restoration project with a team of local Muggles. It was while working alongside these builders that Mr Potter honed his own skills, put to use in the renovation of Grimmauld Place, the historic London wizarding home where the pair spend their time in the city. Award-winning interior designer Luna Lovegood and Hogwarts Herbology Professor Neville Longbottom, both friends of the couple, helped with the interior and landscaping design.

Originally envisaged primarily as a venue only for formal occasions for the Trust, the Farm’s generous acreage now has a genuine family feel. Mr Potter’s godson is learning to ride a bike in the yard while his grandmother Ms. Andromeda Tonks, Mr Malfoy’s cousin, looks on. The sitting room is filled with framed photos of friends and relatives.

Central to life on the Farm, as always, is food. The kitchen gardens produce beautiful seasonal produce, and as we sit down to lunch the table is laden with warm bread, organic roast chicken, and heaped bowls of colourful fresh salads. Mr Malfoy takes Mr Potter’s hand before turning to all of us and saying “Let’s eat.”