Harry stepped off the subway platform and ascended the stairs to street level, blinking like a mole emerging above ground after months in the darkness. There was something disorienting about hurtling through tunnels underneath a city, strangers packed in a wobbling car like sardines in a tin, speeding along the metal rails with nothing to grasp except a square inch of shiny pole. It wasn’t that the feeling was unfamiliar. Harry had ridden the tube loads of times in London. In fact, it could be said that he had developed a mild fascination with that particular mode of transportation. He supposed that Muggles, were they allowed to experience such things, would argue that Apparition or the use of a floo were much more terrifying and bewildering ways to travel, but Harry begged to differ.
The thing about Apparition was that it was over in an instant. The weightless, contorting feeling was jarring, but you barely had time to ponder what was happening before you reached your destination. On the other hand, aeroplanes and trains required a blind trust that bordered on madness. Strangers boarding a subway car and putting their faith in an unseen driver, enduring one another’s company in close quarters for an indeterminate amount of time, had a sort of endearing quality about it. To Harry, it exemplified what was great about humanity, although perhaps he was seeing lofty romanticism where there was none. After all, people were just doing what they had to do to get by, and public transit had more than its fair share of nuisances. Nevertheless, Harry had always found an incongruous comfort in it. During the summer when the war began to brew like a vortex of storm clouds, before he learned what a Horcrux was, Harry had taken to riding the tube up and down London at all hours. It was a worthy distraction, a hypnotic momentum that worked at the time.
Harry bristled and stepped to the side as a couple of shoulders butted against his. No, it wasn’t really the ride that had been disorienting. Harry suspected the culprit was the fact that he was in an entirely new city starting a new life chock full of uncertainties.
The station was just down the road from Washington Square Park. He chose to walk through the park rather than around it. While it was teeming with people, it was less chaotic than the street. The greenery and people leisurely enjoying the waning days of summer soothed Harry and put a smile on his face, his worries taking a backseat for now. He strolled past a huge fountain, children running along the wide edge where many people sat reading, basking in the sun, or taking pictures with each other in front of the gushing streams.
It was a relaxing scene Harry tried to preserve in his mind’s eye, but the peaceful image dissipated as he approached the edge of the park. The intimidating façade of the NYU campus loomed ahead, purple banners that bore the name of the university hanging from the stone sides of several buildings. He had reached his destination. Harry took a deep breath, clenching and unclenching his fists where they hung at his sides, and stepped back into the fray.
Harry collapsed on the mattress in his small bedroom. Listed as “apartment style” or not, the rooms of Third Avenue North left something to be desired. Not that Harry needed much space. Merlin knew he had dealt with much worse in his young life, and he had learned enough from Hermione’s exhaustive research to know that having this suite all to himself was a rare privilege for a freshman in college. Being a wizard had its benefits, and NYU had an arrangement with the Wizarding-Muggle relations branch of MACUSA that allowed for cooperation with a few universities in the states. Young members of the wizarding community who wished to attend Muggle university following their graduation could apply to this new program. Harry supposed its existence was evidence that the post-war effort to improve Wizarding-Muggle relations had found its way across the pond.
Harry knew it was because of this that he was able to skip some of the more common hardships of college life, specifically the part where one had to learn to live with roommates selected by a random lottery that, as he understood it, often resulted in cruelly mismatched pairings. While Harry’s Hogwarts days had given him fond memories of rooming with friends, he didn’t feel equipped to do that with an unsuspecting batch of people who knew nothing of his traumas. It was a constant tug of war inside him: the need to be close, to find solace in the companionship of others, and the need for isolation. Finding the balance after the war was a difficulty he hadn’t anticipated. Harry never expected to be so… changed.
He glanced around the room; the space was so clinical. No personality on the bare walls and plain white blinds covering the windows. Harry had never been much for decorating (probably a side-effect of living as an unwelcome guest in his own home for so long), but these rooms clearly needed it.
It was an extension of the theme of the day. Despite already having registered for classes, there were a million other tasks to complete before the semester began. Getting his school ID, his books, and everything else he needed had been so perfunctory. It had more in common with a factory assembly line than the thrill of rushing into the shops on Diagon Alley or boarding the Hogwarts Express. Every building he entered was lit by harsh fluorescent bulbs instead of the muted glimmer of floating candles and wall sconces. Harry didn’t realize how much he’d forgotten about the atmosphere of non-magical schools.
Normal is what you wanted, Harry had chided himself as he queued for his ID. A dark-skinned girl with amethyst-colored hair that faded into lilac had smiled at him, and he weakly returned it. Everyone was eager to talk and connect, but all Harry wanted to do was fade into the wallpaper. Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea after all. He could practically see Hermione’s discerning look from across the ocean.
Harry sprang up from the mattress. Moping in his room on the first night wouldn’t do. There was a whole glittering city at his disposal, waiting to be discovered. Not to mention thousands of new people to meet, people his age who were also alone and floundering and looking for friends. Harry walked to the front of his suite and opened the door, allowing the laughter and muddied snippets of conversations from other rooms to filter in. He glanced down the hallway. Many of the doors were open, students congregating in little clusters here and there. Everyone looked so happy and carefree, the exact opposite of the stinging tightness Harry felt creeping over his chest. In a room diagonal from his, he saw the girl with the purple hair from earlier, her head leaning against the open door as she nodded at something someone was saying, her boot-clad foot propped on the edge of the doorframe. She looked up and caught Harry’s eye. She waved to him, and Harry froze.
Wave back say hello do literally ANYTHING, you berk.
Harry felt cold sweat beading on the back of his neck, his heart racing as he gripped the doorframe, the force of it sending shooting pains through his fingers. He quickly retreated into his room, inadvertently slamming the door behind him. He sucked in a long breath, gasping for air like he’d just emerged from under the Black Lake. As he closed his eyes, he timed his breaths. In for three, out for three.
Wonderful first day.
He’d already alienated the only person to extend a hand in anything resembling friendship. He probably seemed like a basket case. Rationally, Harry knew there were thousands of freshmen on campus and countless more students in the university as a whole. That was part of the appeal. Disappear in the crowd. Go somewhere no one knew the name Harry Potter, where the moniker wasn’t a title of immense weight like a millstone around his neck, a name that should be his but no longer felt like it belonged to him. It wasn’t even a name anymore. It was a concept, an ideal people ascribed their own perception and significance to, something for strangers to pin their hopes and aspirations on that baffled Harry and made him want to shrink into himself, dissolve until there was nothing left.
Here was his chance to do that, to become something entirely separate from what the wizarding world had assigned him without his consent. So why couldn’t he just open the door and do that?
Harry sighed heavily and curled into a fetal position on the carpeted floor. He didn’t even have the energy to seek out the bed and drape it in sheets. His things had been delivered before his arrival, but unpacking boxes sounded like a Herculean task. Besides, he wasn’t sure how much of a comfort the bed would be, unfamiliar and stiff as it was. Harry cast a cushioning charm and drifted off, lulled to sleep by the muffled chatter of joyous voices just beyond his door, voices that were comforting from a distance but paralyzing up close.
When Harry woke, he was groggy. He’d migrated to the bed at some point in the night, not bothering to lay anything over the mattress other than a pillow he’d wrenched from a box marked “bedroom.” His body felt heavy, that aftermath of anxiety-laced sleep he was accustomed to by now. It always felt like he’d been running marathons during the night, pounding the proverbial pavement of everything that plagued him in his waking hours instead of getting the respite most people did overnight. He lay still for a moment, contemplating staying in bed for another few hours.
“Not today. You’re not fucking doing this,” Harry announced to the empty room, rising to a sitting position before sliding off the bed. He busied himself with his usual morning routine in hopes that the grounding rituals of getting ready and the invigorating power of the hot shower spray might shake him from his funk. It worked well enough. The vestiges of yesterday’s mood distressed the edges like clouds threatening to eclipse the sun, but Harry swatted them away, pushing down every misgiving that bubbled up.
Harry gave himself one final look in the mirror, finger-combing his unruly hair before rolling his eyes. Why he even bothered was a mystery. His hair was practically sentient. It would do what it wanted to do, immune to any attempt to tame it. Grabbing his keys and wallet, Harry left the suite, determined to set off in search of breakfast.
However, as soon as he closed the door, he heard the sound of a key turning in a lock a couple of doors down.
All right, time to make up for yesterday. You can do this, Harry.
Harry lifted his head, his lips upturning in a smile as he prepared to greet his neighbor. That smile quickly turned into a look of pure terror.
There is no way in bloody hell I am awake right now.
Harry opened his door and walked right back in, flattening himself against the painted wood after he shut it. He blinked hard. Day two, and already the disasters seemed to be in endless supply. What in the ever-loving fuck was Malfoy doing here? Surely he wasn’t –
Harry’s breath hitched as he heard a knock on the door.
The knock sounded again, more insistent this time and accompanied by a very familiar posh accent.
“Potter, obviously I know you’re in there. Don’t ignore me like an imbecile.”
“Sod off, Malfoy. I’m not opening this bloody door for you,” Harry spat, turning towards it as though he could see Malfoy’s characteristic sneer on the other side. There was a beleaguered sigh from the hallway, and a sound Harry thought might be the dragging of Malfoy’s fingers down the door.
“What are you going to do? Stay in there for the rest of term?” There was a bite to Malfoy’s words, but he also sounded tired in a way Harry recognized.
“Maybe,” Harry replied defiantly.
It’s what I’ve been doing so far. Might as well keep it up.
“You’re going to have to come out eventually, Potter. I imagine you didn’t come here to immediately fail out of university. Believe me, I’m not exactly thrilled about this turn of events either, but let’s not act like we’re fourth years.”
Harry frowned. It wasn’t like Malfoy to sound so… reasonable.
“For the love of Merl — please open this bloody door before someone walks by and sees me talking to it. I would rather not be branded as mentally unstable this early on, thank you very much.” Malfoy sounded impatient, his words clipped and harsh. While the thought of people walking by to see Malfoy ranting at a closed door made Harry smile, he also felt very silly trying to win this stalemate. With Malfoy living so close by, it would be impossible for them to totally avoid each other. Perhaps it was best to get it over with, even if this was the last way Harry wanted to start his day. If he was being honest, there was something oddly reassuring about seeing a recognizable face right now. Even if it had to be Malfoy’s smug, pointy one.
Harry took a deep breath and opened the door, stepping aside and grudgingly waving him in. Harry took this opportunity to really look at Malfoy. When he’d caught that first glimpse in the hall, Harry had ducked back into his rooms so fast, he didn’t have time to absorb what he saw. He looked Malfoy up and down now, his jaw growing slack at the sight. Malfoy was dressed Muggle. Very Muggle. He was wearing a slouchy black and white Galaxie 500 t-shirt under a lightweight cardigan and distressed black jeans with… were those Doc Martens?!
“What are you gawping at, Potter?” Malfoy asked with disdain, crossing his arms defensively.
“You! Y-you look — you look — ” Harry gestured at the length of his body helplessly.
“Nice to see you haven’t grown any more articulate over the last year. Trading in English for fluency in Neanderthal, are we?” Malfoy smirked, one pale eyebrow arching upward.
“Oh, fuck off! How do you expect me to react to — all of this!” Harry frantically motioned to Malfoy’s body again, unsure of how else to communicate how gobsmacked he was.
“Well, I couldn’t very well show up to NYU in full wizard regalia, now could I? What did you expect? Dress robes?” Malfoy rolled his eyes and leaned against the outer wall, crossing his legs at the ankle.
“I didn’t expect any of this! I didn’t expect you to be here at all!” Harry’s face reddened. How dare Malfoy ruin this for him! This was supposed to be his chance to escape, to reinvent himself, to take charge of his life. He wasn’t supposed to be beholden to his past here and certainly not to one of the thorniest parts of it.
“Look, as I said, I’m none too excited about the universe’s unforgiving sense of irony either. In fact, I’d like to reach across the ocean and strangle Pansy with my bare hands right about now because I’m certain the bloody bint knew — ”
“Parkinson? What does she have to do with this?”
Malfoy rolled his eyes again as though Harry were the biggest moron on the planet.
“She’s the one who told me about the — ” Malfoy cast a wary glance at the open door before shutting it, lowering his voice all the same. “ — program here and helped me apply.”
“I knew someone had to have helped you get in. Aren’t there only a couple spots at each school?” Harry glowered at him, and Malfoy’s eyes lit up with pure fire.
“Isn’t that rich? The bloody Golden Boy lecturing me about special favors. How, pray tell, did you get in?”
Harry’s hands twitched with the urge to punch that self-satisfied look right off the slimy git’s face. Who the hell was Malfoy of all people to question Harry’s right to be here? The arsehole was partly responsible for everything that had happened during the war, all the events that had contributed to his need to get the hell away from England as soon as possible.
“I’m not a fucking war criminal, am I? I’m not the one who has anything to answer for.”
Malfoy looked like he’d been slapped. He swiftly closed the gap between them, his scowling face inches from Harry’s.
“I deserve a chance to start over just as much as anyone. Yes, the Malfoy name is disgraced forever, but some of us actually showed academic aptitude during our time at Hogwarts. Some of us didn’t coast by on our charm or use our stupid fucking fame to pass potions. I assure you that I earned this spot, and nothing you say or do can take that away from me. Just — ” Malfoy paused as though considering his words and then backed away from Harry, his hand braced on the doorframe. “Just stay out of my way, and I’ll stay out of yours.”
“No bloody problem!” Harry called out as Malfoy walked away. After he heard Malfoy’s door slam shut, Harry left his suite. For the first time since his arrival, he wasn’t overcome with apprehension about being here. For better or worse, unexpectedly dealing with Malfoy had caused a curtain of rage to filter over top of everything else Harry was feeling. Perhaps that wasn’t the healthiest way to work through his issues, but Harry couldn’t be bothered to question it right now. Fueled by resentment and the hunger he’d been ignoring since last night’s debacle, Harry marched off to the nearest dining hall.
As he entered the crowded Third North Courtyard Café, Harry quelled the panic that rose like stinging bile in his throat. Ignoring the voice inside him that screamed go back, Harry instead focused on the persistent grumbling of his stomach. It was so loud, he was convinced people could hear it over the noise of the cafeteria. He strode up to the breakfast buffet, grabbing a plate and loading it with pancakes, eggs, and bacon. He then filled a cup with water, foregoing coffee altogether. Caffeine was like a flame to the gunpowder of his anxiety, and he didn’t need to make things worse.
He quickly scanned the brimming tables for a spot and found the girl with the purple hair sitting at the end of one long booth. Across from her was a dark-haired boy in a denim jacket. They were deep in conversation, but the rest of the booth was empty. He could handle two people, right? Besides, three sightings of that girl in two days must have been a sign from the universe.
After taking a few steadying breaths, Harry strode over, stopping in front of the booth. Both of them looked up at him, and Harry was relieved to see they didn’t seem annoyed, only curious.
“Hey… is it okay if I sit here?”
“Yeah!” they said in unison, scooting over to make room. Harry sat down next to the girl.
“Feeling better than yesterday?” she said with a knowing smile, tearing off a corner of pancake with her fingers and popping it into her mouth.
“Oh…” Harry looked down at his breakfast and suddenly didn’t feel hungry anymore.
“Goddamn, Gisele. Give the man five minutes before you chase him away!” the boy across from him said. Harry looked up to see a smiling face with bright blue eyes. He was handsome, his hair effortlessly wavy and styled in the way Harry wished his unruly mop would behave, his v-neck t-shirt framing his arms the way Harry wished clothes would complement his own body. He leaned back, an arm casually draped over the back of the booth.
“Sooorrryyy.” Gisele wrapped an arm around Harry and gave him a friendly squeeze. Harry relaxed into it. It was a surprise albeit a welcome one. She was wearing a rainbow patterned dress, large zigzag stripes in every color running across it. “My bluntness is both a blessing and a curse.”
“All I was trying to say,” Gisele put a piece of pancake on her spoon and flicked it at the boy, who laughed and dodged it, “is that we’re fuckin’ awkward weirdos here too, so like — ”
“You just called him awkward and a weirdo. You have known him for like two minutes.” The boy slapped his hand on the table and grinned at Gisele.
“That shit is affectionate! You know this!” Gisele clapped her hands for emphasis and threw her head back in laughter.
“Yes, my dear, but he does not know this. Try to ease a boy into our weirdness before you chase him away. That’s all I’m saying. I need friends, and you are sabotaging me right now.”
“Once he gets to know you, you’ll do that all on your own. I’m just giving you a head start. It’s a favor from me to you. Putting that honesty on the table.” Gisele put a hand on her chest and looked toward the ceiling in mock reverence.
“Oh my god, stop it. We don’t even know his name. I’m sorry we just put you in the middle of our ridiculous shit.” The boy turned to Harry and extended his hand. Harry accepted it and shook. “I’m Sebastian. Somehow, my parents named me this and had the audacity to be surprised when I turned out to be gay. In their defense, I do have a very deep voice and played way too many sports in high school. In Ohio, that passes for straight. You can call me Seb. This hurricane of insanity is Gisele.”
“Why are you shaking hands? I swear, you are such a dad.”
Seb put up a hand as though to block her from view and gave Harry a conspiratorial smile.
“I’m Harry. Much more boring name than yours.” Harry laughed, partly from nerves and partly because they couldn’t know everything his name evoked in the wizarding world.
“Aww, I think it’s cute. That might be the whole British thing though. It gives me major blinders. Everything that would make me vomit if an American boy said it is suddenly cute in that accent. I know it’s cliché as fuck, but I can’t help it.” Seb shrugged, and Harry laughed. It was sincere this time, no nerves to be found. The longer they bantered around him, the more Harry felt at ease. Their rapport was like a snug blanket.
“Let’s be real though, that’s because you’re a slut.” Gisele winked at Seb as she ate a forkful of eggs.
“Excuse you.” Seb playfully narrowed his eyes before turning back to Harry. “But while we’re on the subject…”
Gisele shook her head as Seb leaned forward, elbows resting on the table as he gave Harry a mischievous smile.
He ignored her and pressed on.
“Is my gaydar betraying me or are you one of us?”
“Er…” Harry blushed and ate a large bite of pancake to avoid answering that. It was denser than a pancake had any right to be. So far, dining hall food had little in common with Hogwarts fare.
“Okay, now who’s chasing away who?”
“Whom. You’re at NYU now. Crack open a book,” Seb joked, dodging another bit of pancake Gisele hurled his way.
Harry’s heart felt like it was beating in his throat. This was one of the benefits of being here, right? He could tell people if he wanted to. They wouldn’t care. No one here had preconceived notions of who Harry Potter was supposed to be. Besides, wasn’t it almost easier to tell a total stranger? The stakes were so much lower.
“You’re only half right,” Harry said quickly before he could lose courage. They took a break in their teasing of one another.
“Ahhh, the dreaded bisexual?” Although he was confused by what she meant, there was no malice in the question so Harry chose to latch on to that opening.
“Er, yeah, but… why are we ‘dreaded’ exactly?”
“Because no one’s safe! We can fuck basically everyone. Ultimate power move. We’re at the top of the sex pyramid, in my humble opinion.”
Seb rolled his eyes.
“And this is why you have no right to call me a slut.”
“Hey, I never said it was a bad thing! It’s just a fact.” Gisele shrugged and tossed her purple waves over her shoulder. “Speaking of that, here comes that blond you’re horny as fuck for.”
Harry looked up, wincing when he saw that it was Malfoy. He was cruising through the buffet quickly, cringing at nearly every item he saw before hesitantly selecting some eggs and an orange. As he picked up his tray and began to walk in their direction, he nodded curtly to Harry. Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes and simply nodded back. Malfoy took a seat with several good-looking boys who greeted him enthusiastically. It both surprised Harry and made him envious that Malfoy already had a table full of friends at NYU. He supposed that, just as no one here could possibly know Harry’s legacy, no one could know Malfoy’s faults and past mistakes either. Still, the thought of him effortlessly charming strangers into friendship was a baffling concept.
“Wait, you know each other? I was going to ask, but I didn’t want to be that idiot assuming the two hot British guys know each other just because they’re… well, hot and British,” Seb confessed with an apologetic shrug.
Harry blushed at the compliment, running a hand through his hair. How could he succinctly explain Malfoy without getting into a whole host of subjects he didn’t want to deal with?
“Yeah, we — er — we went to the same boarding school. He was an entitled prick, especially to me.” There. Short and sweet. Hopefully that was enough.
“Wow, imagine that. A pretty, skinny, rich white boy turns out to be a dick,” Gisele said sarcastically. Harry smiled. He liked her already.
“How did you know he was rich?” Harry asked.
“Oh, I have an excellently honed rich asshole detector, mostly because my dad is one of them. Everything I’ve heard come out of that dude’s mouth, even the way he walks,” Gisele gestured to Malfoy with her water cup, “is condescending as fuck. He looks like he’s judging everyone every second of every day.”
“That is spot fucking on,” Harry agreed with a laugh.
“Well, I don’t care if he's a dick. I only care about sucking his dick. Jesus Christ, he is the most perfect twink I have ever seen. And of course, he’s already made friends with the Calvin Klein model gays. They’re all so damn pretty. God, I hate feeling inadequate before noon,” Seb lamented with a frustrated whine.
“Fuck them. We’re gorgeous. They’d be lucky to know us.” Gisele winked and raised her water cup. Seb and Harry tapped theirs against it in a toast of solidarity.
“Okay, please don’t make fun of me, but… what’s a twink?” Harry shrank a little in his seat although he had a feeling they’d be charitable about his ignorance.
“Oh man, I never even thought about differences across the pond. I guess I just assumed Brits have the same bullshit objectifying hierarchy of gay categories. A twink is like… a young, skinny, mostly hairless, super pretty gay boy,” Seb explained, leaning forward. “And blondie over there is like — the ultimate example. Gorgeous as hell and obviously knows it.”
Harry cast his eyes toward Malfoy, squinting a bit to examine him with an intensity he hadn’t employed since sixth year. Was he gorgeous? Harry wouldn’t have gone that far. Nevertheless, while he hated to admit it, Malfoy did look somewhat good. Sort of. In that objective way one knows a painting is worth the commanding gallery price tag even if it isn’t exactly suited to their tastes. His clothes fit his body like they were made for it, hugging every slender line of his form. His hair was artfully tousled into loose waves parted to one side, the kind of style touted as “effortlessly messy” by glitzy starlets in magazines who probably actually spent two hours in a chair with a professional to get that “natural” look. His once sickly pallor was now a flawless alabaster with a bit of color restored to his cheeks. Who knows? Were he anyone else, maybe Harry would have been attracted to him. But Merlin knew that was impossible now. There was no way to forget Malfoy was Malfoy. Harry shuddered involuntarily at the thought.
“I don’t really know about British terms honestly. My best mates back home are painfully straight. I love them, but I can’t really talk to them about this stuff. I mean, they’re supportive and everything, but…”
Gisele and Seb nodded sagely.
“Totally understand,” Seb assured him. “We’ve all dealt with the Clueless Heterosexuals.”
“I’m sort of — new to it myself, if I’m being honest.”
His two new acquaintances shared a knowing smile across the table.
“Oh god, is it that obvious?”
“Well… yyeeeaahhh,” Gisele admitted with an apologetic smile.
“Your fellow queers can always recognize that wide-eyed ‘new gayby in the big city who just figured it out’ look,” Seb chimed in sympathetically.
“But don’t worry. We’ve all been there. Like I said, Seb and I are both totally awkward queerdos. You’re safe here.” Gisele patted him on the back, and for the first time since arriving, Harry felt like maybe it was safe here. Or, at the very least, it would be eventually.
“Gayby? Queerdo? I feel like I need a crash course in all this before I make a total arse out of myself.” Harry let out a slow breath. He was out of his element. Although he’d come to terms with his orientation over the past year, he still clearly had a lot to learn.
Seb and Gisele broke out into amiable laughter.
"Oh god..." Harry's head snapped up as he realized something he'd completely glossed over. "Wait so... if he's..."
Harry turned around, gazing none too subtly at Malfoy's table. Seb was right. Everyone seated there looked like a Neutrogena ad combined with a men's underwear billboard combined with a Vanity Fair photoshoot. Harry was certain his retinas would burn out if he stared too long.
"Fuck... I never thought Malfoy was gay." Even as he said it, Harry began to understand that it wasn't quite so unfathomable. After all, Malfoy had never dated anyone at Hogwarts. The closest he'd ever come was canoodling with an eager Pansy, but thinking back on it, Harry realized Malfoy had never returned her affection. He merely tolerated it like... oh Merlin... like it was a necessary, convenient deflection. Had Draco Malfoy been closeted their entire time at Hogwarts? God, if he never noticed something as earth shattering as that, despite a year of dedicated stalking, Hermione was all too right about how unobservant he could be.
"Oh yeah, he's a bonafide, painfully beautiful queer. Maybe that's why he was such a dick to you in school." Seb winked, and Harry frowned, not quite picking up on his meaning.
"You suffer from a bit of mental delay, don't you, Harry?" Even though they'd just met, Harry could tell from Gisele's smile that it was a good-natured ribbing. It put Harry at ease, making him feel like he was already inducted into their world of inside jokes.
"You have no idea. I hope you have some seriously saintly levels of patience."
“Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.” Gisele ruffled his hair, and Harry believed her. He ate the rest of his breakfast, a gleeful mood gradually replacing the fraught concerns of earlier. He even forgot about Malfoy’s presence looming behind him.