Students arrived at last, keeping all of the professors busy. Harry and Draco had little time for socializing, and just when Harry thought they were finally making progress towards real friendship. They had bonded over Snape’s memory, each sharing their thoughts and feelings about the man. Though Harry had not looked forward to doing the work necessary to clean up Snape’s office, he was glad for the opportunity it provided to get to know the new Head of Slytherin House.
On his way to the Great Hall, just about a month into the school year, Harry spotted Draco’s blond head above the rest.
“Oi! Malfoy,” he called out.
Several students turned around to look at Harry curiously.
“Professor Malfoy,” he corrected himself. But the other man still didn’t turn around. He tried again, without success to get Draco’s attention.
“Draco!” Harry shouted.
At last, the Slytherin stopped and turned around. Harry could see that he had a thin cord in his ear. He had obviously been listening to his portable Wireless. Draco pulled the tiny earbuds out of his ears.
“Did you call me?”
“Sorry. I didn’t know you were listening to something.”
“Oh,” Draco looked down at the device in his hand. “It was an interview with Gwenog Jones and Finbar Quigley. The Harpies are going against the Bats in a couple of weeks, October 23rd. Should be an exciting game.”
“Still following Quidditch?” Harry asked.
“Who isn’t?” Draco retorted.
Harry smiled. There was one more point of interest the men shared.
“Maybe we could compare thoughts on the Quidditch teams this year,” Harry suggested. “I’ve always been a Puddlemere United fan myself. And, of course, the Harpies as well, because of Ginny.”
“Yes, I’ve actually seen her play.”
“I have season tickets,” Draco said. “It’s one of the few things to which I treat myself. You should come with me to the Harpies/Bats match.”
Nodding fiercely, Harry replied, “I’d love to. I haven’t been to a match in ages.”
“Then it’s settled,” Draco smiled. “Going in to supper?”
The pair resumed walking to the Great Hall. The corridors had thinned out, allowing the men to set a leisurely pace.
“You know, I feel like I still owe you for our trip to the Leaky Cauldron. And now you’ve invited me to Quidditch. Let me make it up to you Saturday night. I promise I won’t get so buggered that you have to apparate me back again.” Harry hoped his invitation sounded casual and unrehearsed, despite that fact that he’d been trying to find a way to get another night out with Draco.
Draco shook his head. “No.”
“Oh,” Harry didn’t know how to respond. He’d just been asked to accompany Draco for an outing. He wasn’t expecting to be turned down.
“I mean, I’d like to, but I already have plans,” Draco elaborated.
“Oh,” Harry said again, relieved that it wasn’t an all out rejection. He looked expectantly at the other man for an explanation.
“I . . . have a date,” Draco answered.
“Oh.” Harry was beginning to wonder if he would ever come up with an intelligent response. Something aside from ‘oh’. “Another time, then,” he said, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice.
By that time, they had reached the head table and proceeded to take their respective seats. All throughout the meal, Harry wondered what sort of man Draco would be dating. He found himself feeling more than a twinge of jealousy. The two had been getting on so well, and he was sure there was some sort of attraction. Well, there was on his part anyway. But he reminded himself that Draco didn’t even know Harry was gay. And unless the man was a glutton for punishment, he wouldn’t be carrying a torch for a straight man. Harry sighed heavily.
“Everything all right dear?” Sibyll Trelawny asked, her eyes appearing to bug out behind her thick glasses. She placed a sympathetic hand on top of Harry’s. “Trouble with love?”
Harry raised his eyebrows. He’d never had a tremendous amount of faith in her psychic abilities. How could she have known what he was thinking about?
Reading his expression, she said, “No, Harry, I can’t read your mind. It was in your tea leaves, remember?”
“What? Oh, yeah.” Harry recalled humoring the witch before the beginning of the year with a reading of his tea leaves. She told him he would never find true love until he removed the mask he wore to protect his heart, and fully accepted himself as he was. Only then would he find the love of his life. It sounded a bit generic to Harry, although he understood the personal meaning for himself. He thought the advice could apply to just about anyone, and dismissed it.
He smiled at Sibyll. “I don’t seem to have much luck in that department.”
“You will dear. You’re a fine, handsome young man.” She patted his hand and leaned closer. “Any wizard would be lucky to catch you.”
Harry wondered if Trelawny misspoke or if she meant to use the word wizard rather than witch. She often said things that, to Harry, were odd. Before he gave it a second thought, the dishes and food began to disappear, indicating the end of supper.
Harry made his way back toward his chambers afterward. He had planned a floo call with Ron and Hermione that night, but other than that, he had no real plans for the weekend. He wished he had suggested that he and Draco go out that night, since it was Friday. If he suggested it now, he would appear too eager.
As he stepped into his room, he took out one of the books Hermione had given him to read over the summer. He knew she would ask about it, and he wanted to be able to say that he had at least started it.
Harry awoke with a start to Hermione’s voice, calling from the fireplace. He’d fallen asleep reading the book she gave him. To his dismay, he’d only gotten to page twenty-three.
“Hi Hermione.” Harry sat up and spoke into the flames. “You caught me napping,” he chuckled with embarrassment.
“Oh, I see you’re reading The Life and Times of Alfred Woolvington,” Hermione grinned. “How do you like it so far?”
“Um, great,” he lied. Frankly, it was so boring that his mind wandered off into more interesting places. He’d promptly fallen asleep to dream about kissing a certain pair of Slytherin lips.
“He’s fascinating, isn’t he? I can’t imagine how long it took him to identify thirty-one different types of magical ferns,” she said excitedly.
“Oh, well, I haven’t gotten that far yet. I’ve been very busy getting my classroom together and helping Draco with Snape’s old office. And then once the students arrived--”
“Draco? As in Malfoy? Don’t tell me he’s the new Potions professor,” Ron butted in.
“Oh, did I forget to mention that last time we spoke?” Harry played dumb. He knew he didn’t.
“It makes sense Ron,” Hermione chimed in. “He’s always been good at potions and he’s Slytherin.”
“And a Death Eater,” Ron quickly added.
“Ex,” Harry clarified. “He’s really quite different than we remembered him in school. I suppose we all are. Anyway, we have to work together, so it’s in our best interest to get along.”
“And you helped him do something with Snape’s office?” Hermione questioned.
“Yes. It was a mess,” Harry told them. “Professor Slughorn used the sixth floor quarters as his own. Snape’s were pretty much abandoned. Some of it was hard to go through.” He decided for some reason to leave out the journal he and Draco came across. He wanted to keep it private between only them. “I wish I had known the real Snape before he died. I wish I’d thought better of him while I had the chance.”
“Harry, none of us knew. Only Dumbledore did. There was no way we could have known what he sacrificed or how brave he really was,” Hermione pointed out.
“I know.” Harry lowered his gaze. “But it was nice to go through his things with D-Malfoy. He respected the man, and Snape’s possessions meant something to him. It also showed me another side to Draco.” Harry forgot to refer to his formal rival the way they usually did, by his surname.
“Well, watch your back anyway, Harry,” Ron warned.
The three carried on conversation for a few more minutes before Harry realized that he was free the following night. Though he was hoping for a Saturday night out with his coworker, he would gladly settle for time with his best friends.
“Instead of this floo call, why don’t we all meet tomorrow night? I’ve got no plans and it’s been ages since we’ve seen each other in the flesh.”
“Great idea Harry,” Ron said. “Where to? The Leaky Cauldron?”
Hermione wrinkled her nose. “That place is always full of drunks. Can’t we go to The Three Broomsticks or someplace in muggle London?”
Harry smiled to himself at Hermione’s comment. He had been one of those drunks she talked about. “Whatever you want Mione.”
“Three Broomsticks then,” she said. “Say, seven o’clock?”
They ended the call with Harry feeling excited about seeing his friends. It would take his mind off Draco and his date the following evening.
Nearly falling backward from the force of Hermione’s hug, Harry squeezed her back. When she finally let go, Harry shook hands with Ron and gave him a pat on the shoulder.
“It’s been far too long, Harry,” Hermione said as she sat down at a table across from him and Ron. “We didn’t even go out for your birthday.”
“Birthdays never meant that much to me, Mione. And it’s only been since June.”
“Well, four months is a long time, considering we used to see each other every weekend before you started at Hogwarts,” she pointed out. “By the way, how is it going this year?”
“Good. Not much different from last year. Except for the Potion’s professor, of course.” He wanted to kick himself for opening up the conversation to a subject he was hoping to avoid with his friends. He didn’t want to be in a position to defend his new friend for fear of revealing his true feelings.
“Speak of the devil, literally,” Ron sneered and nudged Harry. Hermione turned around .
Harry looked up to see Draco walking in. Their eyes met briefly before a very tall man with shoulder length brown hair approached Draco and held his hand out to shake. Tearing his gaze from Harry, Draco directed his attention toward the other man, smiling politely. He took the offered hand and was gently pulled forward as the tall brunette kissed his cheek.
“Oh, it looks like Malfoy is here on a date,” Hermione commented.
“Great pick, Hermione,” grumbled Ron.
Rather than take a table, Draco and his date left the pub. Harry was torn between being disappointed at Draco’s exit and being glad he didn’t have to watch him canoodling another man.
“I guess Malfoy’s gotten over the flack about him being queer. And a sick one at that.”
“Ron, you don’t really believe all that rubbish Rita Skeeter wrote about him , do you?” Harry questioned defensively.
“Why not? There were enough men willing to spill their secrets. At least some of it had to be true.”
“Really Ron,” Hermione sighed. “She’s notorious for fudging facts and even outright lying.”
“I’ll bet most of those men didn’t even know Draco,” Harry added.
“All right, all right. The two of you don’t have to gang up on me. I don’t care what the pervert does with other queers.” He took a swig of lager.
Hermione crossed her arms over her chest. “You don’t have anything against homosexuals, do you Ron?”
Laughing, Ron replied. “No. I definitely don’t have anything against them. Not my hands, not my legs, and especially not my arse.” He shivered dramatically. “Why on earth would a bloke want another bloke when he could have a soft, curvy beauty like Hermione.”
She blushed at Ron’s crude compliment.
“She is a beauty,” Harry agreed. “But she’s already got you. The rest of us are out of luck.” He had considered telling his friends about his sexual predilections. But that had been before Ron made his comments. Harry decide to leave well enough alone for the time being.
“You’ll find someone Harry,” Hermione smiled sympathetically. “In fact, there are a couple of young women I work with that might--”
Ron cut her off. “Harry doesn’t need to be set up.”
“When was the last time you had a date?” Hermione questioned. “Even Malfoy seems to be more social than you.”
“Uh, well, I don’t know. I’ve been busy.” Harry wasn’t about to tell them about his latest foray into the world of the muggle bar scene. In reality, it had only been about a month since he had a date. Well, not a date exactly. More like an encounter. But that was all Harry ever had. It had been good enough for him. Up until Draco Malfoy showed up at Hogwarts, Harry didn’t think he wanted any kind of commitment.
“Too busy for love? Harry, you’ll never find a nice girl and have a family if you don’t put yourself out there. Don’t you want a family?”
“I do. I think I do,” Harry replied.
“Let me help you,” Hermione begged. “Who are you going to meet at Hogwarts? You need to be introduced to new people.”
Trying his best to keep the smile from his face at Hermione’s rhetorical question, Harry said, “I’m fine on my own, Mione.” Though he was thinking that he’d met the perfect person at Hogwarts.
“But my friend Althea and you would get along so well. Please? Just go out with her one time.”
“Maybe she won’t want to go out with me,” Harry said.
“Really mate?” Ron raised his eyebrows at Harry’s ridiculous suggestion. “You’re the fucking Chosen One. What bird in her right mind wouldn’t want to go out with you?” He shook his head in disbelief. “You’re too modest for your own good. You could get anyone you wanted.”
Anyone? Harry wondered. Sure, lots of witches were impressed by his heroism during the war. But Draco wasn’t sucked in by the drama. He knew Harry was just a regular bloke deep down inside. A plain, ordinary bloke. No match for the suave, sophisticated pureblood.
“Ron’s correct,” Hermione said. “Besides, I’ve sort of already mentioned to Althea that the pair of you have a lot in common.”
“Mione, why did you do that without talking to me first?” Harry complained.
Looking a bit sheepish, Hermione continued. “After speaking with you last night, the idea just popped in my head. All I’m asking is one evening with her. She’s quite pretty.”
Ron leaned closer to Harry. “Actually, she’s fucking gorgeous. And stacked,” he said in a hushed voice.
Hermione kicked him under the table.
“Ouch! What was that for? I’m trying to talk her up to ‘im.”
“Leave next Saturday free,” Hermione said. Her tone told Harry that it was less a request than an order. He glanced at Ron for support.
“Best to just go with it,” Ron shrugged.
Harry sighed and nodded. “All right.”
The three friends spent the rest of the evening munching on pub grub, beer and lemonade. Harry made sure not to overindulge in order to apparate back to Hogwarts in one piece.
Within an hour of arriving back to his chambers, Harry received Hermione’s owl informing him that he did indeed have a date planned with Miss Althea Bridgewater for the following Saturday at eight o’clock. Hermione chose a muggle restaurant called Blue Fish and provided walking directions from the Ministry, since the restaurant was nearby.
Harry sighed heavily and flopped back on his bed after replying that he would meet the girl. He didn’t want to lead the poor girl on, but Hermione left him little choice.
Thursday following his night out with Ron and Hermione, Harry was beginning to regret his decision to let Hermione set him up on a date. It had been a long week and the students, particularly the higher years, were getting distracted by a Halloween dance planned at the end of the month. Halloween had always been one of Harry’s favorite holidays at Hogwarts, so he understood. But it didn’t make his job any easier. Worse, the faculty had to chaperone the dance. Harry always felt awkward at dances, the worst having been the Yule Ball Fourth Year. He supposed it must have had something to do with being uncomfortable around girls. And dancing with them was somewhat objectionable.
Glad that his classes were over for the day, he made his way to the Great Hall for supper. He was a little early, but he brought a copy of the Prophet to read in peace before most of the students arrived.
Engrossed in an article about a series of robberies, Harry didn’t notice Draco walk in until he was almost to the table.
“Oh, hi,” Harry said with a small smile.
“I’m not disturbing you, am I?” Draco asked. When Harry shook his head, he sat down next to Harry. “Extra hungry today, Potter?” he joked.
“I just didn’t feel like fighting the crowds tonight. The students are driving me crazy,” he admitted.
“So it’s not just me?” Draco laughed. “All the kids want to learn about is potions to help them with their costumes. Whose idea was it anyway to have a costume party?”
“I guess I don’t mind the party so much,” Harry said. “It’s all in good fun.”
“Well, I think I’m going to need a few shots of fire whiskey at the end of this week.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed.
After a pause, Draco asked, “How about that pub night you owe me?”
“I’m visiting Pansy on Friday night, but I’m free Saturday night. If you can control yourself this time,” Draco teased.
Harry smiled at the prospect. “That’d be brilliant.” Then he remembered that he already had plans. His smile dropped. “I can’t. I forgot I have a . . . date, that night.”
“Oh. I didn’t realize you were seeing anyone.”
“I’m not. Hermione set me up with one of her friends from work,” Harry answered glumly.
“Well don’t look so excited,” Draco chuckled.
Harry sighed. “I know Mione means well, but I think I can choose my own company. I wish she’d just leave it.”
“It must be a girl thing. Pansy’s constantly talking up some bloke or another to me. She says she only wants me to be happy.”
“Aren’t you?” Harry questioned before he could stop himself.
Draco shrugged. “I’m not unhappy,” he answered cryptically.
“What about that fellow from last week?” Harry couldn’t seem to stop asking Draco personal questions.
“Lorenzo? He was only someone from . . .” he trailed off.
“From what?” Harry prodded.
A light blush overtook Draco’s face. “Pansy signed me up for . . . a dating service,” he replied, rolling his eyes.
“Oh.” Harry was surprised. With Draco’s good looks, he didn’t think he ever had trouble finding companionship. “Hermione’s like her own one-woman dating service.”
Draco laughed out loud at Harry’s comment. “I hope she’s better at it than Wand Match for Lonely Wizards.”
“Not really. Lorenzo was no good?
“He was nice enough I guess,” the blond shrugged. “There was no chemistry. No . . . passion. We could barely carry on a conversation.”
Inwardly, Harry was gratified to hear that. He felt guilty for being happy that Draco’s date had been a bust.
“So what’s wrong with the girls that Granger sets you up with?”
What Harry wanted to answer was, lack of a penis. He was certain Draco’s eyes would have bugged out at that response.
He settled for, “Same complaint I suppose. They’re just not right for me.” As much as he wanted to confess his true preference to Draco, he felt he owed it to Ron and Hermione to tell them first.
“I’m curious what sorts of characteristics the Chosen One would require in a partner,” Draco smirked.
If Draco had used the word girl, woman, or wife, Harry would have felt that any answer he gave would be a lie. Because he said partner, Harry allowed himself to indulge.
“Well,” Harry pondered. He didn’t think he’d ever given it specific thought. But it was as good a time as any. “I think a good sense of humor is important.”
Draco nodded in agreement.
“Intelligent. I mean, not necessarily a genius or anything. It’s not as if I’m very smart,” Harry laughed sheepishly. “I’d like someone who has a mind of their own, but is willing to compromise. Definitely someone that doesn’t see me as a hero, but rather as . . . me.”
Raising an eyebrow, Draco said, “That’s a tall order right there. You are everybody’s hero.”
“Not to Ron and Mione. Not to the Weasleys,” Harry told him.
Draco nodded again. He understood that true friends saw the whole picture, not just a few famous, or infamous, actions.
“Fair enough, what else?”
“Passion.” Harry subconsciously licked his lips, causing the blond to smirk.
“That’s always a plus. It’s difficult to get going for someone without it.”
Harry reddened slightly. “Oh, uh, yeah. But what I meant was, um, passion about life. You know, something that keeps you excited, energized.”
“Anything. Not necessarily the same things I’m passionate about. But something.” Harry shrugged.
“And what are you passionate about?” Draco’s lip curled subtly.
“Quidditch, for one. And I’ve taken to writing.” Harry laughed. “It’s kind of funny. When I was a student, I hated writing essays. Hermione would always be on my case to get them done. Now that I have the time, I’ve discovered that I enjoy writing.”
“Really? What do you write?” Draco’s interest was piqued.
Flustered by the question, Harry evaded.
“Oh, nothing of consequence.”
Draco sensed Harry’s trepidation and temporarily dropped the subject.
“Hmm. So any other special qualities you look for?” He asked, continuing the interrogation.
Thinking a moment longer. “Someone who’s strong, but has a soft side,” he said quietly. “Maybe one that only I get to see.”
Their eyes met briefly as Harry realized that he’d described Draco’s best qualities to a T, prompting him to look away. He felt as though it was so obvious, Draco would know in an instant. However, the blond seemed to remain oblivious.
“Well, I hope your date is all that, then.”
Before Harry could reply, students began noisily filing in. Draco got up and went to his usual seat.
“Yeah,” Harry sighed. “Somehow I doubt that,” he said to himself.