Harry stood by the bar and drummed his fingers at an uneven rhythm. Nervous, he kept looking at the door and ignored the way the bartender was rolling her eyes at him.
The pub's interior was different than what he was used to at the Leaky Cauldron. The walls here were brighter, the tabletops not scratched by wayward spells, no dingy portrait of the sea behind the bar making him seasick. While, yes, Harry enjoyed the vintage feel of Wizarding World architecture, it was nice being in a room where he didn't have to worry about random people recognizing him.
Ah, anonymity. Harry could get used to this feeling. He really should.
He checked the door again. He took a seat and swiveled from right to left.
The pub's evening crowd was settling in. Most of them, Harry figured, were near his age. There was a group of university-aged students in blazers taking over a booth; two men, one wearing a leather jacket similar to what Sirius once wore, were laughing as they played billiards; and a couple of girls in short dresses were giving their orders to a waitress. Harry wondered how many of them were having dates this evening if any of them were nervous about being so open in the public.
Music spilled from a jukebox in the corner that looked ancient to even Harry's eyes. He didn't recognize the song, but the bartender was humming along.
There was a cough nearby. Harry spotted a freckled, red-haired man sitting at the end of the bar. He was embarrassingly Harry's type, athletic and a brilliant smile. He took a moment to admire how the man's homemade jumper stretched over his broad shoulders, the clean line of his jaw and a full mouth that immediately sparked longing. He caught Harry looking and winked at his direction.
He took the seat next to Harry and their knees knocked together. His voice carried a slight West Country accent. "Waiting for someone?"
"Not anymore." Relieved, Harry reached for Gideon's hand under the bar top. Remembering where they were, away from lurking reporters and scheming ministry officials, he pulled his hand back and kissed his boyfriend instead. He smelled of clean-cut grass and broom polish, all signs of arriving straight from practice. "And that's my jumper."
"It's the only thing I had left in my locker!"
"Puddlemere's newest addition is a thief," Harry said, teasing. He ran his thumb over Gideon's knuckles, taking full advantage of how they could be so open without the fear of a sensational story being published in The Daily Prophet. Here in this busy Muggle pub, they could be boyfriends. No one wanting autographs from The Boy-Who-Lived or asking questions about the upcoming Quidditch season, just two men on a date for the what felt like the first time in ages.
For a moment, they looked at each other with unabashed smiles. It was like in the days after their first kiss back in Harry's Sixth Year, a whole new possibility opening up before them. They'd gone on dates in the Muggle world before, but that was when Gideon had been in school, usually by Harry sneaking him away from the campus. This was new ground for them, balancing work and personal lives.
A new chapter Harry could get used to.
"I thought you were going to order me a drink first," said Gideon. "Maybe pull my chair out for me and say that I look pretty." He flicked a strand of his red hair out of his face.
"You're always pretty." Harry pointed to the dartboard hanging from the adjacent wall. "Why waste the obvious when I can kick your arse at darts? Loser buys the first round of drinks."
"I bet we can think of a better incentive." Gideon was on his feet. He rubbed his hands together, a familiar competitive glint in his eyes. "I can't wait to crush you."