Harry didn’t believe Ron when he told him, thinking he was joking, maybe had a few pints too many - but it would seem he’d been serious.
Harry is standing in front of the door, staring in disbelief at the shiny sign, polished to the brightest, proclaiming this to be the office of the Wizarding World’s only Magimeterologist.
The name is ridiculous. Harry doesn’t know why they even bothered hanging the sign - it’s virtually impossible to find this room. The only reason Harry did is because he is Harry Potter and people here feel they owe him something. It’s annoying, even many years after the war, but sometimes it has its advantages. For instance, when he wants to politely inform this incompetent moron that he is sick of the constant rain.
It didn’t bother him at first, the rain was soothing and the gentle sound of it against the window welcome. This changed rather quickly and after a week, Harry has had enough. The intrusive tapping grating on his nerves, the thick fog dampening his mood. Harry is done. He can’t take another day of rain.
Determined, Harry knocks on the door, the sound reverberating in the narrow corridor; filling it and growing in the empty space.
There isn’t even a hint of acknowledgement for a long time. Before Harry can contemplate knocking again, an imperious voice comes from within, telling him to go away. Harry snorts - he would know that voice anywhere.
Ignoring the instruction and his manners, Harry opens the door and enters.
Despite having recognised the voice, Harry does not expect this. Malfoy is sitting in a huge, purple armchair, his legs neatly folded under himself, hair a tousled mess, back straight and familiar grey eyes glaring at him over the cover of his book. He is pale; paler than Harry remembers and paler than can be healthy; he cannot help but notice the dark shadows under his eyes, how bony his hands seem and gaunt and haggard his face looks. Malfoy looks half dead.
“Potter, I thought you had fled the country to play with Dragons?”
Harry raises an eyebrow at Malfoy’s amused drawl. He doesn’t know what he had expected after not seeing the git for years, but one insult at least, some obnoxious name-calling, maybe a derisive sneer. Instead he sounds humorous, waiting patiently for an answer. Harry doesn’t know what to do with that.
Malfoy is right however - Harry did flee to Romania. Running away from the death and destruction he witnessed, from the press invading every aspect of his life, from the expectations placed upon him. It was the best option at the time, the only option, if he wanted to maintain his sanity. Harry left and never regretted the decision.
Dragons are magnificent beasts, utterly fascinating and worth devoting a lifetime to; but Harry missed England, missed home. So, he came back and was graciously and enthusiastically welcomed by the minister. He took a position in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, advising in everything remotely Dragon-related.
It’s boring, monotonous, drains all his energy and chips away at his joy, paper cut by paper cut. Home isn’t what he expected either, his friends - while glad and happy to have him back - are involved in their own lives, built while he was away and without planning him in. Bitterly, Harry sometimes catches himself thinking they became people he doesn’t even recognise. It makes Harry feel incredibly lonely, the cold logic of this development not helping matters either.
However, being here - seeing Malfoy blush and scowl under his scrutiny, hearing that posh voice of his and meeting his eyes - Harry feels alive again. It fills him with the same heady exhilaration he felt when facing a Dragon, knowing one wrong move means certain death.
Harry has won over every Dragon yet - this one would be no different.
With a cocky smirk on his lips and a swagger to his hips, Harry walks further into the room, closer to where Malfoy is still clutching his book. It’s an endearing sight, the stubborn frown on his face, the purse of his lips.
“I did, it was lovely. But it’s true what they say, there’s no place like home.” Harry is as close as he can be without crowding Malfoy, close enough to see how small he looks against the broad back of his chair, how frail. But Malfoy, either unaware or uncaring of how vulnerable he appears, continues to frown at him.
“Well, don’t let me keep you. You know where the door is.” He gestures towards the door Harry closed behind himself, arm crossing the invisible line, the border between the world and the chair he’s pressed himself into, quickly pulling it back into safety again. He is skittish, like a kitten, but simultaneously as stubborn as he was in Hogwarts.
Harry hasn’t even been here five minutes yet, but he knows he cannot walk out of that door again, can’t forget Malfoy again, can’t leave him here; buried deep in the twisting and turning architecture of the ministry, hidden away and never meant to be found.
“I might have no pure-blood upbringing, but I do know that proper etiquette dictates you offer a beverage to guests.” Without waiting for a response, Harry walks towards the kettle he saw in the little kitchen and starts the water, preparing them each a cup. They are beautiful, delicate with intricate patterns, but obviously not from the same set, not matching in anything but their purpose. Riffling through the shelves, Harry realises nothing in Malfoys small collection of china and cutlery truly matches; although, each piece is well-loved, emitting a particular and undeniable warmth.
“Do you not have any biscuits in this? Nevermind, found them.” The biscuits are high up in one of the shelves, a ladder Harry doesn’t need, placed before it on the ground. Harry wonders at the sight while waiting for the water to boil.
Malfoy always had a sweet tooth, his mother’s care packets were legendary for how much sugar they contained, so the assumption that he has biscuit with his tea isn’t too far a leap. He might be smaller than Harry - who finally grew some in past years and was now almost as tall as Ron - which would make the ladder a necessity. What Harry can’t figure out; is why they were up there to begin with. Why place something you enjoy, somewhere you can hardly reach?
Before he can question Malfoy on it, the kettle whistles, interrupting his thoughts.
Malfoy still sits in the chair, tracking him with wary eyes. When Harry places tea and biscuits on the coffee table next to him, Malfoy has not moved at all apart from having shut the book, placing it on the table as well. Harry smiles at him as he sets everything down, watches Malfoy grab one of the cups and cradle it against his chest. It must be scorching hot, but Malfoy absorbs the warmth, inhaling the smell with a blissful smile on his face. Harry observes Malfoy, mesmerised at how he forgets everything existing outside the little bubble he has built for himself, outside the cup of tea and revels in the simple pleasure of it.
His own cup still untouched, Harry’s eyes follow Malfoy’s movements as he brings the cup even closer to his face, taking a tiny sip of his tea. Harry didn’t think anyone could make drinking tea look this beautiful, this heavenly.
“This is surprisingly good, Potter.” The compliment - as close to a thank you as Malfoy is likely to give - makes Harry grin, something flutters in his belly, a feeling that he hasn’t sensed in a long time.
“Harry.” He doesn’t know why he says it, the name is out before he decided on it, before he even realises, he wants to hear Malfoy say his name. “Please, call me Harry.”
Malfoy stares at him, a small frown wrinkling his forehead and Harry finds he wants to smooth it out. He doesn’t know what it is about Malfoy, everything in Harry screams to protect him - from harm, from sorrow, from anything that prevents his smile, his laugh. Harry steadily holds his gaze, doesn’t try to hide or disguise anything, letting Malfoy see everything there is to see in his eyes and come to his own conclusions.
After what feels like ages of consideration, Malfoy gives a sharp nod, hides his smile behind his cup. “Alright, only if you call me Draco.”
Taking this as sign that he is welcome to stay, Harry drags a chair from the desk closer, settling himself opposite Malfoy. Harry doesn’t bother hiding his own smile.
They sit in silence for a while, sipping their tea and eating biscuits. It’s pleasant. Harry doesn’t feel the usual restlessness when he sits down for too long, nothing but peaceful satisfaction as he watches Malfoy - Draco - delicately licking his fingers free of chocolate. The gesture holds an innocence Harry didn’t think it could, absent-minded and unconscious as it is.
Eventually, with his tea almost gone and Draco eating the last of the biscuits - stealing it right from Harry’s hand, smirking at him - Harry remembers why he came here in the first place. “They tell me you are responsible for the weather around here.”
Draco’s eyes flit up to his, his whole body going rigid, and he visibly shuts down, turning away from him. His words are clipped and sharp when they come. “That would be correct. Unfortunately, I cannot help you, this is the weather. Buy curtains if you don’t like it.”
Harry doesn’t like this at all, how quickly Draco curled in on himself, how dismissive he became. “You don’t even know what I want yet.”
“Don’t I? You want it to stop raining. Well guess what, Potter, you are not the only one. I get tons of complaints every day, the Minister himself wrote me to fix it. Why else would you be here?” Draco’s tone is cold, his words accusing. Even then, despite the sheer hostility Draco exudes, Harry can’t help but smile - he turned back around to talk to him. Harry is aware this is an absolutely ridiculous thing to be ecstatic about, but he doesn’t care.
“Yes, Draco, I came here to complain about the rain. Then I changed my mind. I made you tea and brought you biscuits and didn’t bring it up once. I think it’s safe to say I got distracted when I found out it’s you making it rain. I came for the weather, I stayed for you.” Harry winces at his word choice, it’s sappy and corny. Draco blushes and softens again, snuggling back into the chair, holding the now empty cup.
“That’s disgustingly sweet of you. However, it doesn’t change anything - I cannot help you.” At Harry’s encouraging noise he grimaces but continues. “It’s linked to my emotions, to this office. I have no control over it whatsoever.”
“That sounds like a stupid system, what about when you are not here? Do they just have no weather then?” Harry knows he asked the right question when Draco flinches, an almost invisible movement, almost imperceptible but undoubtedly there.
“I simply don’t leave.” His tone is forcefully light, the smile fake and painful. Harry looks around again, sees the kitchen, the closed door that probably leads to the bedroom, the bookshelves filled to bursting. This is where Draco lives. In an office, a small one, far off other people or literally any sort of civilisation. Nowhere to go have a fun night out, to get some fresh air, to buy some groceries.
Harry stares at him, horrified, and Draco sighs before explaining.
“They could hardly send me to Azkaban, after the war, after you yelled at them. So, they restrained themselves to taking everything I had, everything I valued, everything that made me and told me to go and be free, live a good life and prove they made the right decision in giving me a second chance.” He gives a short laugh, bitter and ugly, before resuming his tale more subdued and muted.
“It didn’t work, of course. I didn’t have anything, nowhere to stay, no one to recommend me, no one who even cared. So, I ended up back here, arrested for loitering when I sought shelter for the night, and got a job offer. They needed someone to control the weather and I was desperate. I took it and kept it. And now, here you are.” Draco is silent, staring into his cup, lost in thought. When he suddenly looks up, eyes piercing Harry and pinning him into place.
“Is that what you wanted to hear, what I am doing here? How the mighty have fallen - came to laugh, did you?” Draco’s voice is entirely void of emotions, no accusation, no curiosity, no anguish. Harry just shakes his head, answering the question and shocked at the revelation.
Draco is still looking at him, eyes blank, when he sets his cup down, reaches for his book and opens it blindly. “I would like for you to leave now, Harry. I am very busy.”
Harry doesn’t point out that that is a lie, not even a good one, limiting himself to a short nod. He doesn’t want to go. “Yes, of course. I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time. I’ll be back another day.”
He meant for it to be reassuring, to let Draco know he would not leave him here, lonely and alone. A promise of help, should he want it.
Draco smiles politely, fake and hollow. “I have no doubt you will. Have a lovely day.”
And then Harry is back where he started, standing in front of a door, staring at the shiny sign reading ‘Magimeterologist’, the corridor now dark, narrow and empty.
Harry cannot forget about Draco, all alone, shut away in that shoe box of an office. It has been five days now, five days in which Harry did nothing useful, five days in which he didn’t go back, five days in which it continued to rain.
At first it was nearly sunny for once, Harry had smiled in smug satisfaction at being the cause of it, at lifting Draco’s mood. But the weather changed quickly, returning to rain worse than he had seen so far.
Today ended in an angry storm that was a spectacle to watch and a hit like a knife to his heart. Preferable over the rain, numb and uncaring going on in the background, allowing people to forget and ignore. No, the storm made them sit up, take notice.
It finally gives Harry the push he needed. He has no plan, no clue what to do or even what he wants, but five days later, Harry stands in front of the door again.
He holds take away in one hand, the bag heavy since he couldn’t decide on what to buy, or what Draco would like. His other hand is raised to the door, stopped short of knocking.
If he knocks, Draco will tell him to leave. Harry could, of course, totally ignore him like the last time and enter anyway. But he doesn’t want to establish that pattern, doesn’t want to give Draco the impression that he can’t be trusted, can’t listen. Losing faith is easier than earning it back; moreover, Harry doesn’t have the time or patience for the long winding process of regaining something Draco gives so easily, so trusting, right now.
If he doesn’t knock, things could end up much the same, showing he has no respect for Draco’s space or his decisions.
Harry has worked with dragons long enough to know there really is only one option. He knocks.
The silence this time feels even longer than before. Anticipation bubbles up in him, building and climbing, making him shift and clench his hands.
Finally, Draco calls him in.
With a sudden rush of excitement, Harry opens the door, falling right through it and into the room. Draco sits in his armchair, nose in a book, not even bothering to look at Harry. That’s alright, Harry will work for his attention. Closing the door carefully, he takes measured steps toward Draco, suppressing his giddiness and forcing himself to wait until he is acknowledged.
Draco continues to stare at the same page for five minutes, eyes unmoving, hands white where they grip the book. He hasn’t changed at all, exactly the same as the last time Harry was here, evoking the same protectiveness and care in him. He can’t read Draco like this at all, not when he refuses to look at him, refuses to lower his walls.
“Draco -” Harry doesn’t know what he wants to say, all he knows is that he can’t bear the silence anymore. The word breaks a dam in Draco, causing him to snap the book shut and glare up at Harry.
“What could you possibly want, Potter?” He spit the words out, fury emanating where, a few seconds ago, there was nothing. Harry makes a conscious effort to smile at him, holds his eyes and lifts the bag.
“I brought you dinner, I hope you haven’t eaten yet.” He waits for Draco to say something, to tell him to go away or accuse him of something, but Draco glares at him as if he didn’t hear him at all. Shrugging, Harry moves to the kitchen, placing the bag on the coffee table in passing. Draco will tell him if he isn't wanted.
When he turns back, he finds Draco warily inspecting the bag, gingerly opening it to peek inside. It’s an adorable sight, heartwarming and making him smile. Draco is precariously seated in the chair, leaning forward and holding himself with one arm.
Taking care not to startle him, Harry places the plates on the table, sitting at the chair still standing where he put it the last time. Draco could have removed it, banned it back to its original placement, but he reserved it, waited for Harry to come back and claim it.
“It’s curry, mostly. I didn’t know what you liked.” Draco doesn’t look at him, doesn’t say a word, he simply takes one container out and transfers it onto his plate. With a sigh, Harry fills his own plate. He tries to tell himself that being here, that Draco let him back in, is enough. But it’s not, and he knows. He wants Draco to look at him, to smile or snarl at him, to react to him.
They eat in silence, until Draco suddenly puts his plate down and turns a pointed look at Harry, instantly getting his attention.
“You didn’t come back.” It’s not an accusation, not a question, not an expression of grief. It’s nothing more than a statement, plain and simple. It makes Harry feel guilty nonetheless, terrible.
“I didn’t.” Draco flinches at the blunt words, the brutal honesty. Harry continues before Draco can say anything, “I’m sorry for that, I should have come sooner. But I’m here now. Let me make it up, please?”
Draco stares at him, calculating. Thinking he will be thrown out, Harry pauses until Draco gives him a tiny nod and picks his plate up again, going back to his food. The atmosphere is lighter now, and Harry feels his excitement coming back in full force. Draco has given him a chance - he will make the best out of it.
“Do you like the food?” Draco hums, smiling at him but doesn’t answer. The smile is enough to make warmth bloom in Harry. He returns the smile, watching Draco practically inhale his food.
“What do you usually eat? Do you cook?” For a moment Harry thinks the question is too intrusive, too private, but Draco answers without hesitation.
“No, I’m not the best cook. Terrible, actually. Growing up with people cooking for you does that. I get food from the cafeteria, though I would think even I could do better.”
That explains why he is so thin then. Harry wouldn’t eat either if all he has is cafeteria food. He tried it once, on his first day here, and decided he would never do so again. He goes out for lunch, explores the nearby cafes and restaurants.
Perhaps he should bring something for Draco, too. Better yet, maybe he should bring Draco! He could show Draco his favourite places, could try new things together with him. If he is honest, he is sick of eating alone anyway and Draco’s company would be more than welcome.
Draco hasn’t left this office in the last years, not that Harry knows of – surely, he would like to leave this place. But then, he might be overwhelmed too. If he spent the last years alone, being confronted with so many people will be a shock.
Harry should continue to bring him food, slowly letting him get used to his presence, establish that he is safe, before asking more of him. Watching Draco here, sitting in that chair, hair falling in his face is not exactly a hardship either.
Spending his lunch breaks with Draco quickly becomes the highlight of Harry’s days. He doesn’t bring the same thing twice, making sure it is a surprise each time. Draco was suspicious at first, eyes narrowed at him when he returned the day after he brought him dinner.
Nonetheless, after another week of him showing up at the same time, Draco has tea ready for him. The thought always makes Harry smile, that Draco looks forward to these things as much as he does.
There is, of course, one simple way to find out if Draco feels the same excitement - a short glance out of the window is all it takes to get a peek at Draco’s soul. Harry tries not to, though. It feels wrong, like reading his diary. Spying on something he isn’t supposed to see, doesn’t have the right to see. However, he can’t fully ignore it, the rain still falling most of the time, sounding like fingers tapping on the glass, begging to be let in - it breaks Harry’s heart. All he can think of is Draco alone, up in that room with nothing to do. No one to talk to, lonely, forsaken.
Shaking his head, Harry looks away from the window and back at the documents piling on his desk. All of which are extremely important and extremely urgent - which need his attention immediately. With a heavy sigh, he reads the letter again, not understanding a single word and having to start over several times before giving up, the rain loud in his ears and his mind.
He thought Draco would feel better with Harry visiting, that it would stop raining. He doesn’t, evidently, so Harry simply needs to do more.
This isn’t about the rain bothering him anymore, maybe hasn’t been since he saw Draco in that office. He wants to make him happy, make him smile and laugh, bail him out of the prison he let himself be contained in. It seems like a simple task - who wouldn’t want to leave? Although, Harry rather suspects it will not be that easy, Draco is too comfortable in that little part of a world he built for himself.
Another glance at the window strengthens his resolve - Draco is unhappy, and Harry will show him how much more pleasant his life can be. He doesn’t spare the paperwork another thought before leaving his office, intending to get Draco out of there.
Thankfully, no one tries to approach him on his way, his face set in unrelenting determination and his pace fast. People were always trying to talk to him, talking about Merlin knows what or just wanting an autograph. Harry isn’t the overwhelmed teenager he was when he left - he has learnt how to keep them at bay. He usually doesn’t mind the attention he gets since being back in England, if people are polite about it. His ability to scare people off comes in handy now. People back away from him, deciding this is not the day they need to talk to him. Good, Harry wants to get to Draco as fast as possible.
The closer he gets the fewer people he meets, and he feels anger rise in him again at proof of how deliberately Draco was shut off from everyone and everything.
Lost in his fury, Harry hasn’t realised he doesn’t have a reason to be here, until he stands in front of Draco’s door again.
Without the promise of a meal, it's different. Draco might close the door in his face, might throw him out, which is completely ridiculous! Draco would not do any of that, just because Harry arrived a little earlier than usual. The two of them will sit down and they will talk about nothing and drink tea, eat some of Draco’s delicious biscuits. Just like they do every time.
Before he can back out, Harry knocks.
Usually, Draco doesn’t take long before inviting him in, sitting in the chair and hiding his excitement behind a small smile. The silence does not sit well with Harry, makes him wonder what kind of visits Draco receives that he would want to avoid.
When Draco calls him in, his tone is distant and polite, lacking the warmth he welcomes Harry with. The fact that he is special makes Harry smile, smug and proud, more so than being the Chosen One ever did.
When he enters, Draco ignores him, refusing to greet him with that unique smile and doesn’t have tea ready. Harry knew he wouldn’t, but it still hurts, more than he thought it would. Pretending it doesn’t bother him - it’s not like Draco is snubbing him either, Harry is just a little early, so he doesn’t have a reason to brood in silence - he moves to sit in his chair. Draco still hasn’t looked away from his book, actually reading this time.
“Don’t sit there, this chair isn’t -” Lifting his head to glare at him, Draco stops short when he sees Harry. Anxious, Harry holds his breath, waiting for his reaction. Draco beams at him, closing the book and pushing the hair out of his eyes. He relaxes against the backrest of the chair, imposing and like a purple wall behind him.
“Harry, I didn’t expect you until later. Is something wrong?”
It hurts that Draco thinks the only reason Harry would visit him outside of lunch is when something is wrong. He tries not to focus on that, tells himself that it only means that he needs to do more, try different ideas.
“No, it’s fine. I missed you, I suppose, couldn’t wait.”
Draco blushes at that. It is an adorable sight and Harry vows to himself that he will cause it many times again, will be responsible for it again. Harry laughs, stands up to make tea and decide how he should discuss this.
He can’t steamroll Draco with his idea, can’t force him into agreeing to something he would rather not do. He needs to make him understand that what he is offering here is an option, not an obligation. This isn’t about Harry, it’s about Draco and his feelings, if Draco doesn’t want to do it, he will have to respect his decision.
Although, Harry sincerely hopes he agrees - he is sick of this office. There are touches of a home splattered here and there, but it generally feels functional, limiting more than anything else.
Handing Draco his cup, Harry sits down. Despite his reassurance, Draco looks worried. Grey eyes wide as he stares back at Harry, biting his lip in an unconscious movement. Harry feels bad for putting that expression on his face, and he fears it will only get worse.
“I had a question. Well, more of an idea, really. It is okay if you don’t want to of course, although I would love -” He is babbling, fumbling with his words and ultimately, not saying anything. This hasn’t happened in a long time; normally, Harry is calmer than this, surer of himself. Perhaps, it’s Draco - who is hiding a giggle in his cup; the one who always gets to him, who is the exception to every rule Harry has.
“Draco, would you like to have lunch with me?” The question rushes out of him, without his permission. Unsurprisingly, it’s only when Draco frowns at him, that he realises how daft he sounds. They already have lunch. “Not here, could I take you somewhere nice?”
Draco flinches at the clarification, backs away from Harry as far as possible, into the safety of his chair. Harry doesn’t know if it was the prospect of leaving here or if it was the way he asked. As if he, he was asking for a date. Which yes, would not be the worst thing now that Harry thinks about it. A date is very much something he wants, but the terrified expression on Draco’s face is enough to wipe that thought from his mind - for now.
“You can always say no, Draco. I don’t want to pressure you into doing something you would not want.” He keeps his tone gentle, voice low, not wanting to scare Draco further.
Draco doesn’t speak for a long time, sipping his tea and refusing to look at Harry.
Harry contemplates apologising, letting it go and never mentioning it again. It wouldn't be easy, but better than pushing Draco to something he doesn’t want. Before he can voice any of that, Draco faces him again. “No. I don’t want to do that.”
It hurts, unbelievably so, but Harry understands. No. Not really, he doesn’t, but he accepts that there are more factors to Draco’s decision than his desire to go out with Harry. “That’s alright, sad and disappointing but alright. Would you mind telling me why?”
This time Draco doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t look away when he answers. “It’s not because of you, please believe that. I enjoy spending time with you, I don’t want you to stop coming here. But I don’t want to go outside, don’t want to meet people who hate me and spit at me and think I belong in Azkaban.”
That is easy enough to fix then, though Harry hates that Draco is too scared to go outside - even now, years after the war. But Draco didn’t say he doesn’t want to leave, he said he doesn’t want to go outside. If Harry can provide him a safe destination and a way to get there, Draco might agree. Thankfully, Harry can do both of these things. Draco has a right to spend his breaks somewhere that is not here, Harry will make sure he offers what he can to let him use that right.
“I understand, but may I offer an alternative? Just one more thing, if you still say no I promise I will let it be.”
Draco tilts his head, considers, then nods. “What about my place? I’m assuming there is a fireplace here, or I can Apparate us. You wouldn’t need to go outside at all.”
Draco is already shaking his head, more violent than Harry thinks necessary before Harry even finished asking. “No, no, I’m sorry, Harry but I can’t.”
Honestly, he didn’t expect that. He thought Draco would agree, hoped he could get him out of here. Perhaps he asked for too much, too fast. Maybe Draco is plain not interested. It doesn’t matter why - Harry is disappointed.
“Okay, that is - it’s fine. Of course, it is! Totally fine. Excuse me, would you? I will be back by lunch.” Carefully Harry places his half-full cup of tea on the table, gives a fleeting smile to Draco and flees the room.
He ignores Draco calling out after him, too focused on leaving, on getting away.
Harry did not think it would hurt this much, didn’t think Draco would say no. He needs time to process this, to deal with the realisation that he would like to date again, Draco Malfoy of all people, and that Draco doesn’t feel the same. Or doesn’t want to date in general, but that is beside the point.
Harry goes back to his office, snarls at everyone stupid enough to even attempt talking to him and stares at the endless rows of text.
The rain falls hard on his window, pounding against the glass, a storm raging about.
Harry doesn’t know how to interpret that, what to do, how to feel. Is Draco angry he asked? That he left? Is he as confused as Harry? While watching the weather is very close to reading his diary, reading his thoughts would be infinitesimally easier than deducing them from the variation of wind and rains Harry has to work with.
When it’s time to get lunch for them, Harry hesitates. He wants to see Draco again, the only bright thing in his life lately, but he also doesn’t want to have to answer any questions, or face rejection. Regardless, Harry had promised, so he would be there.
The next steps - getting food, going back to the Ministry, going to Draco - happen in a blur, too slow and too fast at once.
Harry comes to hate these moments of uncertainty, standing in front of that darn door, waiting to see Draco again and building up the nerve to knock. It had not been that difficult when they had their lunches, when he knew Draco would have tea and smiles waiting for him. But the first times were difficult, as it is now, after Harry messed up by asking for too much.
“Come in already, Harry.”
He chuckles at the voice coming from inside, impatient and exasperated. He didn’t even have to knock for Draco to know he’s here. Harry opens the door to Draco, tea ready and smiling at him.
Harry smiles back, relieved things hadn’t change too much, that they didn’t have to stop this, and falls on his chair. Before he can apologise again, Draco shushes him.
“I am sorry for the way I acted before; I didn’t expect it. I have since come to the realisation, however, that I was too fast in my refusal. I think I would like to try.” Draco looks at him, chin raised and steeled for rejection, laughter possibly, but all Harry feels is an immense relief. Draco agreed. That is all that matters right now.
“That is fantastic! Thank you, I promise you will not regret it!”
Draco smiles at him, blushes, and occupies himself with the food Harry has brought.
Harry didn’t plan on cooking. He planned on ordering something, the way they had done every time so far. But then it occurred to him that he did that every time so far. Harry isn’t a terrible cook, enjoys it even, when he has someone to cook for, to cook with - so he decided, why not woo Draco with a delicious homemade meal instead? It sounded like a good idea a few hours back, when he had to buy everything he might need, not anymore.
He usually cooks simple meals when he’s alone, not bothering with anything elaborate or time-intensive and yet, for Draco, he did both. Unfortunately, he thoroughly underestimated how much time it would take - nothing is even close to ready.
This will be a horrible disaster. Draco will find him here, wearing this ridiculous apron, covered in sauce because fate seems determined to prevent him from making sauce without half of it ending up on him; while he complains about various foods and devices. Draco may never want to come over again when he sees Harry’s kitchen mishaps.
Perhaps, Harry should cancel, tell him not to come. He could make up an excuse, that he is sick, or that he can stop by with take away again. Yes, this is exactly - the floo chimes. Splendid.
“Harry, are you there?” Harry curses, lets the sauce fend for itself and goes to greet Draco.
Draco hasn’t moved from where the Floo spit him out; looking around the room with curious eyes, judgement clearly written across his face. Harry observes the space around him, trying to see it as Draco does right now - there isn’t much to see. He moved in when he got the job a few months ago, having little to no time to settle in yet. The boxes remain piled up and unopened, not one touch of personality in the entire room.
Draco looks out of place in it, too bright to be here, too warm. He belongs in that chair, a book in hand, tea sitting on the table. Compared to Harry’s empty flat, his office is home. Before Harry can lose himself in thoughts of his own home, his little hut at the Dragon Sanctuary, Draco’s eyes land on him.
“Harry! I was starting to think you forgot me.”
Draco is teasing, a smirk on his lips. Still, Harry rushes to reassure him.
“How could I possibly? I got caught up in the kitchen but-” Harry was about to tell him not to worry about it, to take a seat and get comfortable and that he would be right back, but Draco ignores him. Following the vague gesture, Draco makes his way into the kitchen, dismissing Harry’s attempts to keep him in the living room.
Draco makes an odd noise when he finds the mess, walking in and looking around wide-eyed, unreadable emotions on his face. Harry stays in the door frame, warily watching Draco’s every move and waiting for his reaction.
Draco swirls around, a delighted grin on his face. “I assume you need some help here? Do you have another one of these aprons?”
Harry continues to stare at him, not even embarrassed about the bright pink apron Draco is making fun of, barely registering a word he says, too surprised to react. Draco stares back at him, not patient enough to wait for more than a few seconds before he shrugs and turns towards the stove, testing the sauce and humming. “That isn’t half bad, Harry, surprisingly. I thought you would order something again, but if you can cook this well, I insist you do it more often.”
Harry chuckles, he still cannot believe how effortlessly Draco moves in his kitchen. He wants to be there too, present, not just watching from the side-lines. He could definitely use a little help, and after Draco offered so kindly, how could he say no?
It turns out Draco isn’t much of a help. Too distracting, not even trying to help but flitting through the kitchen, carrying stuff around and smirking when he catches Harry staring. It’s a wonder Harry gets any work done at all, but it is the most fun he has had cooking since he last cooked for many people.
It’s nice, having someone here with him, fitting around him, taste-testing what he tells him to and changing it to his liking. Harry didn’t realise how much he had missed it. Apparently, all he needs to make this life here better is to have Draco in it.
Draco has already set the table when Harry turns to do it, everything ready for them to eat. Draco is sitting and looking at him expectantly, holding his plate up. Spoilt brat.
Harry smiles at him, loading the plate full. Draco is still too thin. Harry never understood it when Molly said that to him, but he gets it now. Draco snorts when he sees how much Harry served him, but he begins eating without complaint.
“So, Dragon Tamer. Everyone thought you would become an Auror.”
Harry startles at the statement, almost chokes on his food. Draco watches him with dispassionate eyes, not moving to offer useless slaps on his back in an attempt to help, waiting for him to deal with it and answer.
Harry takes a few sips of his drink, clearing his throat and buying himself time. It’s not that Draco has asked a difficult question, technically speaking he hasn’t asked a question at all, not really. Only that, Harry decided to work with Dragons mostly on a gut feeling. It isn’t an answer he can articulate well, and he doesn’t want to disappoint Draco with vague answers.
“Honestly, I thought so, too. Maybe because everyone expected it, kept telling me I would make a great Auror.” Harry never thought much about it, it sounds ridiculous out loud and this isn’t what Draco asked. Draco still nods, motioning for him to go on.
“It didn’t feel right, joining the Aurors, to keep fighting. I was so tired, I just wanted some rest, some peace. I lived with the Weasley’s for a while, not knowing where else to go and not trusting myself to be alone. But it felt like I was intruding their family, their grief, taking a place that wasn’t mine. When Charlie invited me to come with him to Romania, I didn’t hesitate - more than willing to leave. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did or to stay that long. I was happy there, truly happy.”
Draco is watching him, head tilted in that way he does when he doesn’t understand something.
“Why did you come back then? If you were happy?”
Harry laughs at the question, he asked himself the exact same thing.
“Because I felt like I was missing something, that I left something behind, that I had to return home.” Harry doesn’t know anymore why he came back, doesn’t understand the feeling.
“Did you find it?” Draco is full of curiosity, asking without judgement. Looking at Draco, sitting in his kitchen, still too frail, as if one strong wind could carry him away, Harry thinks he might have.
“Maybe. I need to make sure, though.” Harry quickly changes the subject, before Draco can ask further questions he can’t answer. “What about you, why didn’t you leave?”
Now it’s Draco’s turn to laugh, but it’s bitter, and he viciously attacks his food when he answers. “Where would I have gone? I had nothing to pay the journey with and nowhere to stay. Don’t you think I wanted to leave?”
Yes, Harry suspects Draco wanted a new start too. His house not his anymore, his parents dead, no one willing to give him a chance - nothing holding him here. But unlike Harry, he didn’t get away, didn’t escape. He was forced to stay here, accepting this so-called job that only is another form of imprisonment.
Harry feels like an arse for bringing it up. Draco is glaring at his food, his good mood from mere moments ago, ruined.
“I’m sorry, I should have realised -” Thankfully he is interrupted by Draco, he has no idea how to apologise for being insensitive without being even more of a prick.
“Let’s not talk about it, it’s done and can’t be changed now. Tell me more about your Dragons.”
Naturally Draco would want to hear more about them; he would have loved them too. The thought causes an odd sadness in Harry, a sudden realisation that Draco probably never saw one after the Triwizard Tournament. That he most likely won’t see one again, that he can’t just take Draco to Romania and show him. The best Harry can do is describe them, talk about them and convey as much as he can with words.
It’s no hardship, Harry loves talking about his Dragons, and he loves talking to Draco, but he wishes he could introduce Draco to them personally.
Harry has been working - focused and concentrated for once - when a bolt of thunder startles him, causing him to press the quill on the parchment with too much force and blotch out hours of work. It’s a huge mess. It stains his hands, the quill is broken, the ink soaking everything.
Harry doesn’t notice, too occupied frowning out of the window.
Draco’s mood - and with it the weather - has improved lately, the rain occurring less and not as insistent. Harry smiles foolishly - completely besotted, he was told by several nosey co-workers - whenever the sun breaks out over the sky as it gets closer to their lunch breaks. Which now often involved cooking and experimenting in Harry’s kitchen. There were, of course, days when it rained - Harry’s visits lessening the force of it but not stopping it. Draco seemed to be getting better.
This storm comes out of nowhere.
Harry supposes that this might be the nature of storms and rages, appearing all of a sudden, and blowing away everything else. But this time, he worries.
Leaving his ruined work behind, Harry makes his way towards Draco, glowering at every window he passes - watching as the storm worsens, winding tighter and building higher. Lightning strikes now, illuminating towering clouds, raindrops gathering at the windows.
Some people are staring, pressing their noses against the glass and admiring the spectacle; others are frowning at the tumult, casting annoyed glances at their curtains. No one is even sparing a thought to the person feeling this way. Containing this storm, being wholly consumed by it. No one is thinking of Draco, all alone in his tiny office, seething and screaming and unable to release the pressure.
Harry hurries his steps.
It might be Harry’s imagination, the memories of the storm raging, but the door practically shakes, the little sign, shiny as always but askew. A sense of dread overcomes Harry at that, creeping up his spine and spreading goosebumps over his skin. Harry didn’t doubt for a second that Draco will be in there, agitated and pacing, frustrated and angry, but definitely there, and unharmed. He isn’t so sure anymore.
Harry doesn’t knock this time.
Draco is here, ripping apart papers, hurling them onto the ground, spitting curses at them. The floor is covered in shreds, not fine and meticulously placed, but in huge chunks, torn apart in fury with no thought to the outcome. And yet, there are still more piles, waiting to be grabbed by angry hands.
The whole scene screams of mad, destructive wrath. The storm doesn’t do it justice.
It’s only when Harry talks to him, demands his attention, that Draco notices him, stopping dead and staring at him. Silence falls around them, crackling and tense, everything frozen.
Harry doesn’t know why, can’t explain it, but he walks farther into the room, towards Draco, standing motionless and watching him. He doesn’t pay the shreds any attention, all of it focused on Draco, on any sign that he isn’t welcome. It’s stupid, foolish, maybe even dangerous, but Harry is incapable of staying away. He can’t see Draco suffering and lost and not offer any comfort he can.
He doesn’t stop, not when Draco narrows his eyes at him, not when his mind finally wakes up and rings the alarms. Harry doesn’t care, Draco needs him.
Actively ignoring his mind’s useless advice and acting solely on instinct, Harry doesn’t stop until he is close to Draco. Close enough to see the sprinkle of freckles on his face, to count his eyelashes, to see the tears glistening, to feel him trembling. Harry wraps his arms around him, gathers him close against his chest and holds him tight.
Draco doesn’t move, doesn’t breathe, doesn’t make a sound. He is stiff in Harry’s arms, confused over the change in mood and the situation, at a loss of what to do.
Harry slowly starts to hum absolute nonsense, the radio charts, Mozart - he doesn’t know, it doesn’t matter. Softly humming, he strokes a hand over Draco’s back, rubbing small circles over the bones of his spine. He can feel Draco shake in his arms, taking stuttering breaths and muffling sounds in his shoulder. Harry brings his other hand up to Draco’s neck, placing it there heavy and warm, stroking his thumb over the nape of his neck.
Draco feels frail in his arms, too thin, bones disturbingly protruding. But he is also soft and warm, his hair smooth where Harry lays his cheek on it, smelling heavenly. Harry never wants to let him go, wants to hold him close forever, feeling his heartbeat, his breath, protecting him against the world.
The tension deserts Draco in a rush, leaving him to slump in on himself, only held upright by Harry. He is sobbing now, loud and ugly, free, burying the sounds against Harry’s neck and soaking his shirt with his tears. His whole body is wrecked by them, wave after wave going through him and leaving him desperately gasping for breath, clinging to Harry for something to grasp, anything at all to hold on to.
Harry doesn’t know how long they stand there: Draco breaking down, with Harry holding him up, doing his best to soothe him.
Slowly, Draco quietens down, the sobs becoming smaller and ending in a trickle of silent tears. Harry carefully sits them down, pulling Draco into his lap so that he would not have to sit on the hard ground. Draco still clings to him, hands holding his shirt in a tight-knuckled grip, face pressed against his neck. Harry doesn’t stop comforting him, pressing a kiss on his head, resting his chin on it.
They remain like that until Draco’s breath evens out, until his tears cease, until he squirms in Harry’s lap. Reluctantly, Harry lets him go.
Draco doesn’t go far, just leans far enough to look at him, meeting his eyes, still holding his shirt. His eyes are red from crying, his face blotchy, his nose runny. Letting go of his neck, Harry brings his hand up to Draco’s face, pulls his sleeve over his thumb and wipes the tears and snot away. Draco looks at him with wide eyes, lips cracked and slightly parted, a thousand unasked questions on his face. Harry presses a soft kiss on his forehead, lingering as long as he dares, enjoying the feeling of Draco’s soft skin against his lips.
Draco sighs, snuggling back against his chest and tugging his head under Harry’s chin.
“I requested to expand my lunch break today. I thought, since it’s the only break I have, I could get more time. Working through the others and gathering it all in one long break. They denied my request. Immediately. They couldn’t have read more than the headline of my plea before they decided.” Draco is merely stating facts, emotionally exhausted and unable to muster up the righteous indignation he did before, the fury that would be appropriate.
Harry, however… Harry is angry. Extremely angry. If Draco weren’t still holding on to him, he would march into the office of whoever is responsible for this and make them regret even taking this job.
He has meant to for a while now, but he didn’t want to step on Draco’s toes. Draco is a man grown, no less capable than Harry, of speaking his mind, and if he wanted to complain to someone, he would do so himself. But this crossed the line - it’s too much. Harry won’t accept this.
Before Harry can tell Draco, he continues. “I don’t know what I expected, they never look at my reports. I’m pretty sure the only reason I have to write them is so they can call this farce ‘employment.’ But I hoped…”
Draco doesn’t tell him what he hoped, and it’s not Harry place to pry.
Draco’s breathing slows, getting deeper and before Harry fully realises it - Draco is asleep, cradled in his arms, trusting Harry to keep him safe.
“I am leaving England.”
Draco stares at him, teacup raised in the air, halfway to his mouth but stopping, grey eyes wide. Harry didn’t mean to tell him now. Especially in this way, blunt and unpolished, but here it is.
Draco recovers quickly. Buying himself more time by taking a sip from his tea, and another one, before firmly placing it down on the table again.
“I see. Missed your Dragons, I presume?” His tone is light, joking, but Harry sees right through him - he is hurting. This is the last thing Harry wants.
“I do, unbearably so. I didn’t think it would be this difficult here, but I realised England isn’t the home I remember anymore.”
“Did you find what you were looking for, then?” Draco seems honestly interested, wanting him to have found it so he could be happy again for when he leaves, but he is unable to hide the bitterness seeping through.
It’s strange to Harry, how Draco could just not know. He is sitting in that purple monstrosity again, legs folded up underneath himself, cup held against his chest. Yes, Harry found what he was looking for - it is better than he ever thought it could be.
“Yes, and I am confident I can take it back with me.” It’s a promise, even if Draco can’t understand it yet, is missing crucial information.
Draco’s entire face falls, so sad it stabs Harry in the heart like a knife. He looks lost and terrifyingly small, staring down into his tea, trying to regain control over his expression.
“Is this goodbye then?”
“I don’t want it to be.” And he doesn’t, won’t allow it to be, but now that he has to say it, the words feel too big for his mouth, clumsy, wrong. But he can’t go on torturing Draco like this because he is too cowardly. He is a Gryffindor, after all, where is the famous bravery when he needs it?
Pausing to find the right words, to gather his courage, Harry takes a deep breath. Draco takes this as his cue, forcing another smile on his face and waving his hand in a dismissive gesture.
“It’s all right, Harry. Truly. You don’t belong here, not anymore. Maybe you never did, always too wild to be confined here.” Draco smiled at him, slight and sad. “I will miss you. Do you promise to write? Take pictures of your beasts for me?”
It breaks Harry’s heart that Draco thinks Harry would be happy without him, would leave him here where he is neither content nor appreciated, utterly alone and miserable. Harry will have to work hard to make Draco understand that he will never abandon him, will always be there for him. Draco is stubborn, it might take a whole lifetime to convince him, but Harry is stubborn too. He smiles at the prospect, imagining their future together.
“I have a better plan. When I returned, I did it for the sole reason that I had a feeling that something was missing from my life - that I left something behind that I shouldn’t have. I thought it was my friends, my home. But after arriving here, I quickly learnt that I was wrong. I missed my friends, sure. And seeing them again was great, but they are not the reason I came back.” He pauses again, still looking for the right words and glaring at Draco when he opens his mouth to fill the silence.
“The only time I felt alive, truly alive, truly whole, were the hours I spend with you, Draco. What I was foolish and blind enough to leave here, was you.” Draco stares at him, shaking his head in an unconscious gesture. Harry goes on, before he loses his nerve.
“So, I am asking you now, pleading you to come back with me to Romania, to the Dragons.”
Draco says nothing, only stares at Harry as he rushes to add more, to reassure. “You could live with me or get your own hut if you wanted. We always welcome new people, and I’m sure you will find something you are good at and enjoy. We are looking for a healer for example, not that you would have to -”
In a flash, Draco’s lips press against his, stopping any more words from escaping.
Neither of them moves, sitting still, Draco precarious and wobbly where he half-landed on Harry’s lap when he lunged at him, Harry frozen at the unexpected movement. Draco must have surprised himself too, if his hesitation to move closer is any indication. Before Draco can regret this, can back away and apologise, Harry moves. He grabs his waist, tiny in his hands, and pulls him firmly onto his lap, holds him safe and presses his lips closer.
It’s awkward, too much pressure, Draco is not responding and Harry is worried he did the wrong thing, right when Draco comes to life. He wriggles around a little, getting more comfortable, making Harry groan, responding to the kiss. It’s better like this. Draco’s lips are incredibly soft, his hands running through his hair, holding on, Harry’s thumbs drawing circles where they rest on Draco’s stomach.
It’s still not quite right, their noses nudge against each other, Harry’s glasses pressing into both their faces, but he wouldn’t give this up for anything in the world.
Draco breaks away first, gasping for air and looking at him with astonishment. His lips are parted, and Harry has to force himself to look away from them, remembering how divine they felt against his. They had now turned pink and slightly chapped, temptation almost impossible to resist.
Tearing his eyes away is worth it when he sees how flushed Draco is, how dazed his eyes are. Harry imagines he looks similar - hopes he does, his hair is ruffled by Draco’s eager hands. The thought makes him glance at Draco’s hair, sadly unaffected - he will have to change that.
Draco is still looking at him, full of wonder and disbelief, clutching his hair as if scared he will leave. He is beautiful, utterly, breathtakingly beautiful.
Unable to stop himself, unwilling if he’s honest, Harry leans forwards to press a quick kiss on Draco’s nose. It makes him giggle - a sound Harry never associated with Draco but already longs to hear again - and glare when he realises the noise he made is most undignified. Harry does it again. Draco surges forward to kiss him once more.
This time Harry brings his hands up too, carding them through Draco’s hair, tilting his head how he wants it, Draco hums against him.
Nothing would make Harry happier but kiss Draco for the rest of his life. However, Draco breaks away again, forcing his head still, searching his eyes for something.
“Did you mean it, when you said that I could come with you?” There is a bright spark in his eyes, lighting up his whole face in a way Harry hasn’t seen before.
“Yes. Yes, Draco, of course! We can go wherever you want, see whatever you want to see.” Draco smiles at him, opening his mouth to say more, but Harry doesn’t want to talk - they have a whole lifetime to do that. He reels Draco back in, gladly accepting his laughter and kissing him breathless.