Harry hadn’t stepped foot in muggle London in nearly seven months.
The last time he had done so, it was when he had been dumped in the middle of the street by none other than Ginny Weasley. So understandably, it was with immense brooding and a fair amount of sulking that he had been convinced to join Ron and Hermione at a bar. ( A bar! A muggle bar!!)
He had spent nearly the whole morning scowling, as he had considered himself some sort of hermit nowadays. Unless, of course, you counted apparating in and out of the house to work as an auror at the Ministry of Magic. Harry, however, hardly considered that an outing. (Ron worked as an auror as well, but Harry had been ordered on a case which involved tracking three suspected dark wizards. This case had been going on for months, and Harry was so busy with it that he had only seen Ron in passing.) So, in retaliation, Ron had sent him eight letters. Eight letters with eight threats Harry just knew had come from Hermione's mouth—not Rons—and two howlers. The howlers told Harry in Hermione’s loud, angry voice that if he “ dare not set foot in that bar, she would have his ears on a platter, ready to be fried and served to his house elf .” She was starting to sound an awful lot like Mrs. Weasley. Harry figured that was due to the two years Hermione had spent living at the Burrow with the Weasleys after the war
Harry was now trudging down the street, away from the train station he had just left. His least favourite thing about going into muggle London was the inability to apparate wherever he wanted. Apparating in muggle areas often resulted in wizards landing on top of muggles, which Harry agreed was indeed very dangerous. The weather was less than pleasant, as the heavy clouds had spent their entire day dripping all over the city, and there for making Harry’s worn-down sneakers sopping wet. They squelched every time he walked, and it was with his arms crossed angrily that Harry stomped along the sidewalk. He thought about whether or not he had locked the door to 12 Grimmauld place. Not that it would matter, there was nothing of value there unless you counted the old house elf, Kreacher, as a treasure. (Harry was sure that nobody since Mrs. Black was alive thought that.)
Harry moped along the side walk, sending angry glances at all the muggles who bumped against his shoulders. They muttered half-assed apologies in his direction, not caring enough to look up and see the scowl on his face. His glasses were muddled with raindrops, and why he didn’t bring an umbrella, he would never know. It was three more blocks to the muggle bar, a place called Stu’s . Even the name sounded stupid and muggle to Harry, though he continued on, only stopping when a fat raindrop fell in his eye, causing him a mild panic.
He dodged around many umbrellas, passing by the outdoor seating of a few restaurants, their tables unoccupied due to the gloomy weather. The sky was darkening as Harry walked, he caught snippets of conversation here and there. He passed by a venue of some sorts, and he was shoved off the sidewalk and into the street by the long queue of muggle teenagers that stood outside. They were huddled together, grins on their faces, unbothered by the rain. He caught portions of their conversations as he struggled to make his way around them.
“Do you think she’ll sing songs from Yours?”
“No way! That’s such an old album, I’d be bloody surprised if we heard even the singles off that one!”
Harry rolled his eyes and moved away from the teens who were chatting loudly, it was no doubt a queue for a concert. The queue seemed to go on for hours, it stretched over at least two blocks before it curved around a building. Harry finally fell away from the kids in line and he moodily huffed at them, taking up the entire sidewalk, on the only day he has to get somewhere.
Harry was throwing minor insults around his head when he nearly walked head on into three girls who were standing to the side of the walkway.
“Sorry.” He muttered, ignoring their glares on the back of his head. He made to continue walking when he heard what one of them was saying.
“Did you see his post on Instagram?” One of the girls said, she was tall, her arms covered in bracelets.
“Who’s?” Another, shorter, with bright, unnatural, pink hair asked.
“ Draco Malfoy’s , obviously.”
Harry stopped moving, and turned to stare at the girls, his mouth open like a fish. They continued speaking, their backs now to Harry’s look of surprise.
“Oh!” The pink-haired girl squealed, “Yes. Do you think that boy from the other one’s his boyfriend ?”
“No way, Angie. He’s said on live sooo many times that he’s single.”
“Oh I do hope so. He’s only five years older than me.” The girl-Angie-said this in a dreamy tone, and Harry turned away.
He hurried down the bustling street, his mouth still threatening to hang open all the way to the bar. When Harry reached it, he pushed open the door and momentarily forgot why he was rushing.
The bar was full of young people, many in jerseys, shouting up at a television screen with beers in their hands. He grimaced; muggle sports weren’t up to Harry’s standards ever since he’d been introduced to Quidditch. He scanned the room, spotting Ron’s flaming hair amongst the crowd, and pushed his way in.
They had managed to get a table near the back of the bar, and Hermione turned to grin at Harry as he took a seat next to Ron.
“Hi Harry!” She said, reaching forward to grab his hand. “How are you?”
Harry felt all his undirected anger fall away as he stared at the smiling faces of his two best friends. He suddenly felt guilty that he had ever doubted joining them in the first place.
“I’m alright, how are you two?”
Ron immediately dove into a story about how Charlie had brought a dragon's egg to the Burrow to show Ginny, and how it had hatched unexpectedly and nearly burned off Charlie’s eyebrows.
Harry laughed in all the expected places, asked the right questions, and answered them in turn. His mind faltered, however, to the conversation he’d overheard on the street. Draco Malfoy violently pushed his way to the front of Harry’s brain. He shoved all of Harry’s thoughts down and Harry kept finding his mind full of that infuriating sneer that Malfoy wore so well.
Harry, Hermione, and Ron drank their way into the night. They alternated buying each round for the table, and Harry kept wondering how his two best friends has acquired so much muggle money.
Approximately four beers later, Harry was ready to spill about the conversation he overheard in the street.
“So,” He started, looking from Ron to Hermione, a lopsided grin on his face.
The two of them leaned in, as though it was rare to hear a piece of new information from Harry. Given that he hardly ever left his house or work, they were right in acting that way.
“I overheard something odd on the way over.” Harry then looked at the table, feeling like he was spreading gossip.
“Well get on with it.” said Ron, his eyes interested and his mouth stretched in a smile.
“Er, I heard some girls talking about some...instant gran or whatever... “
“Instagram.” Hermione corrected. Harry didn’t know what she was talking about.
“It’s a phone application, Harry. For muggles. They take photographs of themselves or their food and post them for their friends to see.”
“Like Facebook.” Said Ron.
“I never used Facebook.” Harry shrugged, moving on.
“They were talking about, er, someone on ins-ta-gran.” Harry thought the word sounded unnatural, and he was having a difficult time pronouncing it.
Hermione adopted a knowing look in her eyes and she frowned, a crease appeared between her eyebrows.
“Harry, if you’re talking about what I think you are, he’s estranged from his family now and he’s created quite a name- “
“Who are you talking about?” Ron asked, interrupting Hermione. His face was morphed in confusion, showing misunderstanding of the topic.
Harry ignored him. “Why are girls on the street talking about him as if he’s famous?”
Hermione cringed, her head seeming to retract at least a centimeter into her big, bushy hair. “He kind of is , Harry.”
Harry blinked, his mouth dry as he blindly reached for his abandoned glass. “What do you mean?”
“More like who do you mean.” Ron muttered, his voice like a warped echo of Harry’s utter confusion.
Hermione looked apprehensive, like she didn’t want to upset Harry. “He gets paid to post photographs. Loads of people do it, but not many of them get the same amount of attention as he does.”
Ron groaned and lifted his hands to wave them in front of Hermione's face. “Who is paid to take photos!” He cried. Harry and Hermione both turned their heads toward him.
Harry said “Malfoy!”, while at the same time, Hermione huffed, “Draco!”.
Ron went silent, putting his hands back on the table. “Oh, that git. Still around, is he?” He sounded disappointed, like he was expecting someone more interesting.
Harry turned back to Hermione. “I thought he disappeared after the war.” He reasoned. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t wondered about Draco for the last three and a half years, he’d spent more time than he’d like to admit searching The Daily Prophet for articles involving the Malfoys. Lucius Malfoy had been imprisoned in Azkaban a few months after the war, but Harry knew Draco had gotten out of his trials unscathed, as Harry had spoken on Malfoy’s behalf during his trial.
Harry remembered the pictures of Malfoy in the papers after the trails, the way his angular face looked sickly and tired. And he recalled the ones a year later, where his hair was starting to grow to his chin and he was photographed kissing boys in alleys and hotel lobby’s. Harry had stopped looking when it was reported that he had left Malfoy Manner, that Narcissa Malfoy had cut ties with her son. By that time, Harry had a new life and job to worry about, Malfoy was out of his hair then for all he cared. It had seemed like he’d dropped off the face of the earth.
“He did disappear, he moved to muggle London. He hasn’t been spotted in the wizard world in nearly two years.”
“So, he’s famous then, is he?” Ron asked, his voice unconvinced.
“Yes, I’ve seen him online. He has girls fawning over him.” Hermione said matter-of-factly. She reached across the table toward Harry, stretching out her hand and opening it for something. “Harry, give me your cell phone.”
Harry raised an eyebrow, but reached into his pocket to retrieve his phone anyway. He barely used it, there was no point in having muggle technology when he could use magic. Hermione had gifted it to him last Christmas so that he could text her, not that Harry ever did.
Hermione unlocked his phone with ease, he didn’t have a password, as he didn’t see the point. She tapped the screen a whole bunch of times, ignoring Rons protesting noises, until a few seconds later she slid it across the table toward Harry.
He looked down at the bight screen. The top read dracomalfoy with a little blue check mark. It said he had 3.7M followers, but those words meant nothing to Harry. Hermione pointed at the number.
“That’s how many people look at his photos, Harry.”
Harry made a quiet “oh” sound, and he continued looking at the page. He could see three photos across the top, and he clicked on the one on the left.
Instantly, Draco Malfoy filled the entirety of the phone screen. He was sitting on a couch, below an open window. His hair pushed off his face and his cheeks covered in what Harry figured was pink makeup. It reached to just below his eyes and covered the tip of his nose, making him look rosy, almost like he just stepped inside from a snowstorm. He was wearing a pinstripe suit jacket, without a shirt. A single silver chain hung down across his pale chest.
Malfoy’s grey eyes were only half open, giving him a sleepy, almost sultry look, and Harry felt he was staring through the phone screen into his soul. It made his insides twist uncomfortably. Malfoy’s jacket sleeves were rolled up, and Harry’s eyes were drawn to the spot where the dark mark once stood, black against alabaster skin. Harry couldn’t see it there, and he wondered whether it had been hidden by makeup or whether it had faded so much after years of disuse that he could no longer detect it through the small screen.
Harry slid the phone back toward Hermione. “So he left? To become a muggle celebrity ?”
Hermione let a small smile appear on her lips. “What did you expect? He’s been blacklisted in the wizard world, and muggles are easy to manipulate.” She shrugged, acting as if this should be common knowledge to Harry.
Ron grabbed the phone off the table, taking a look for himself. “You knew Malfoy was a muggle celebrity and you didn’t tell me? What kind of fiancée are you?”
Harry nearly spat out his drink. “ Fiancée ?! What?!” He snatched Hermione's left hand from its place in front of her on the table, raising it to his eye-level. There was a sparkly silver band encasing her ring finger.
“When were you going to tell me?”
Hermione and Ron shared a look, their faces growing uneasy.
Ron hesitated, “Mate, we tried to tell you-“
Harry scoffed, feeling a small seed of betrayal plant itself inside his stomach. “What were you going to mention it at the wedding? Or during the honeymoon?”
“Harry...we announced it at our dinner party, you were invited but you said you had too much work to get through.” Hermione said. She had a sad sort of smile on her face, her eyes shone guiltily.
“We had an article in The Daily Prophet and everything.” Ron explained gently.
“I haven’t read any news since... er...” Since Malfoy disappeared , Harry thought, but he kept this secret. “Since the last Death Eaters were sentenced.” He followed lamely.
Hermione grabbed Harry’s hand. “We’re sorry, Harry. It’s just been months since we’ve last seen you and Ron says you’ve been working separate from him for the last few months on a case and... and...”
“And what?” Harry said bitterly, looking away from his two friends' sympathetic faces.
“And you never ask about our lives anymore.” Ron supplied, examining the surface of the table between them.
Harry frowned, “I don’t see how that would get in the way of something this big.”
“Mate, we only see you for minutes at a time.”
Harry stared moodily at his now empty glass. He didn’t know what to say. Harry knew he’d been a bad friend; it had happened after all the aftermath of the war was sorted. He found himself unable to leave the war behind. He had spent the last three years mourning his friends and family, feeling guilty for the pain he had caused. He was obsessed with the past, and anytime he saw his old schoolmates he couldn’t help but think about the pain he’d thrown upon them.
“I’m sorry.” He muttered, still refusing to meet either of his best friends' eyes. “It’s been hard for me.”
“We know it has, Harry.” Hermione gently rubbed her thumb along the back of Harry’s hand, letting him know she was understanding.
“We’re here for you, mate. Always have been.” Said Ron, and Harry knew that he meant it.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione left the bar a few hours later, making their way back to 12 Grimmauld place at Harry’s request.
He shimmied the door open with some effort, as it was beginning to stick due to years of disuse. It swung open with creak, and hit the wall behind it, resulting in a loud thump.
Immediately, the large portrait of Mrs. Black began wailing. Harry sighed, and Hermione and Ron clapped hands over their ears as they stepped over the threshold.
Harry kicked off his shoes and made to shut the curtains, noting Kreachers sudden presence in the doorway into the dining room.
“Hullo, Kreacher.” said Ron.
“You’ve still not found a way to remove the permanent sticking charm on that awful painting?” Hermione asked, shooting a weary glance at the portraits peering down with distasteful expressions at her in the dark hallway.
“No. I’ve tried everything, I don’t know that there’s anything that will unstick a permanent sticking charm, except maybe burning the entire wall down.” Harry joked, earning a small chuckle from Ron.
Kreacher was grumbling under his breath, something the three of them had grown very used to. “Master Harry wants to take down my dear old mistress. Master Harry wants to burn down 12 Grimmauld Place. Master Harry will not have a home or Kreacher to take care of him anymore.”
“No, Kreacher, I’m not burning anything down. Don’t worry.”
Kreacher turned away, his feet slowly taking him back into the dark kitchen.
“He still gives me the creeps.” Ron said, shuddering dramatically.
Harry lead them upstairs toward the drawing room, using his wand to flick the lights on throughout the old house.
The drawing room was as Ron and Hermione remembered it, though dustier. When the three of them had first stepped foot inside 12 Grimmauld Place, they had spent a number of hours cleaning it and ridding it of various creatures. Harry had barely stepped foot inside the drowning room since the war, and a thick layer of dust had settled over each surface in the room.
“Sorry, it’s not very clean.” Harry grunted, he stood awkwardly just inside the room. Harry hadn’t had guests in a long time, he wasn’t quite sure what to do with his hands.
Hermione grimaced, spying the old Black family tapestry.
“Kreacher hasn’t been cleaning in here?” She asked, her voice full of curiosity.
Harry shrugged, “He cleans some of the other rooms, but I haven’t been in here in so long that I told him to stop cleaning this one.” Hermione had this uncomfortable look on her face, and Harry knew it was because of her work with S.P.E.W. (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare). The society had really taken off, and Hermione had managed to get a large percentage of elves across the wizard world wages and vacations. Kreacher, however, would rarely accept Harry’s galleon offerings. He’d tried, as had Hermione, to pay Kreacher, but he’d been in the Black family for so many generations without pay that he typically refused.
Ron was busy examining the Black family tree on the far wall of the drawing room.
“This one has a permanent sticking charm too?” He asked, tracing a finger over one of the lines connecting families.
Harry made his way over, pushing an old chair out of the way as he went. He really needed to consider redecorating.
“Yeah, so do the posters in Sirius’s, I mean my , bedroom.”
Ron pulled a face, showing obvious distaste toward the permanent decorations. He then continued examining the family tree, pointing near the bottom at the Malfoy family.
“I can’t believe that stupid git is famous in the muggle world now. D’you reckon his parents would be proud? I’m betting they don’t know.”
Harry chuckled, following Rons outstretched hand to where Draco Malfoy’s name sat.
“I don’t think so. I reckon they’d say he’s tainting the Malfoy name by fraternizing with muggles.”
Ron looked curious at that. “Yeah, you’re right.”
Hermione approached the two of them. “It’s rather dusty in here. Shall we go back to the dining room downstairs?”
Harry and Ron turned. “Alright.” They said in unison.
They returned downstairs, to the dining room as Hermione had requested. Kreacher was there with tea and biscuits for the three of them.
“Master.” Kreacher muttered as he placed the tray in between them on the table.
“Thank you, Kreacher.” Said Harry, feeling grateful for the house elf. Harry was a horrible tea-maker, he liked his tea far stronger than Ron or Hermione did.
The three of them chatted until well after midnight, catching up on Harry’s last few months of reclusiveness. He recounted a few stories from the case he’d been on, while Ron caught him up on what had been going on with the Ministry outside of Harry’s work.
Around one o’clock, Harry sent Ron and Hermione off by floo, promising Hermione at least four times that he would quit hauling himself up in the house and get out at least once a week.
When Harry finally got to bed that night, he found himself unlocking his phone and drawn to Instagram.
Harry fooled around with the app for a while until he figured out how to change his settings, naming his account @ aurorharrypotter , because he had no idea what he was else supposed to call it.
He made sure to edit his account to say his name on the main page, and then Harry fiddled around until he figured out how to change his profile picture.
Harry had only three photos on his phone, as Hermione had gotten interested in still, muggle photos and she had taken a few on his phone a few months prior.
Once Harry was satisfied with his profile he messed around with the other buttons on the app until he found the search bar. Malfoy’s profile immediately came up, as Hermione had searched for it earlier, and Harry gave it a click.
Malfoy’s profile unfolded, and Harry noticed that he had posted something new since the shirtless couch photo Harry had seen earlier. He gave into his curiosity, clicking on it to make it bigger.
Malfoy was wearing all black in this one. He had on a black turtleneck below a different black t-shirt, and the picture cut off around his midsection. Malfoy’s hair was falling into his eyes, below which were a handful of small silver stars, scattered like shiny freckles along his cheeks.
Malfoy had a puppy-dog look to him. His mouth was folded into a pout, and his eyes shone charmingly.
Harry couldn’t help but think that maybe this was some doppelgänger of Malfoy’s but with the same name. Or a long-lost twin. Harry had never seen Draco make a face even close to the innocent, fragile one that was staring back at Harry from the screen.
Harry clicked back to Malfoy’s main account page, clicking things here and there that brought him to long lists of account names and pictures that seemed to be reposts of Malfoy’s own photos.
Harry noted the big blue button in the middle of his screen, and he clicked on it. It turned white, and read following . Harry looked at it in horror as he put two and two together, realizing he was now going to be in Malfoy’s list of followers. Harry was still staring at the screen, confused and slightly embarrassed, when a little red bubble popped up on the bottom of his screen. Harry clicked on it, mostly out of curiosity, and it brought him to another nearly blank page.
The only writing on the page read “ dracomalfoy started following you.”
Harry looked at it in surprise, then went to look at his own profile where his and Ron’s smiling faces peered up at him from the tiny circle that was his profile picture. It said 1 Follower, and when he pressed on it, the screen told him that his one follower was dracomalfoy with that tiny blue circle and white check mark. He’d have to ask Hermione what that meant.
Harry continued playing around with the app, and he spent a bit of time looking through Malfoy’s photos. He came across one of Malfoy in a striped shirt, and then one of Malfoy and a man Harry didn’t recognize. The two of them were wearing faded pink jumpers. It occurred to Harry that he’d never seen Malfoy in anything but black or Slytherin green.
As Harry continued to look through Malfoy’s posts (he had quite a lot) he started to get drowsy. It was nearing three o’clock in the morning when Harry finally fell asleep, his phone still displaying Malfoy’s Instagram profile, left forgotten beside his head on his pillow.