I’m writing to apologise for my cruelty and arrogance throughout Hogwarts, as well as for my reprehensible actions during the war.
I do not write because I expect forgiveness. Rather, I thought you deserved an apology.
Harry was going to write back, until he learnt that Malfoy had written word-for-word the same letter to both Ron and Hermione.
He threw out Malfoy’s letter and forgot about it.
The first time Harry saw Draco Malfoy after the trials was at Zacharias Smith’s bizarre country manor house party.
It was nine months after the war, and everyone was a bit on edge. Smith, agent of chaos, had invited their entire year group, and the Slytherins came, the bastards.
Everyone was a bit weird that year, anyway. By ten p.m. Neville was getting head from Parvati Patil in the kitchen in front of a cheering crowd. Harry retreated to the empty library and wondered whether he was a washed-up old man.
“Oh!” said Draco Malfoy, upon opening the door. “It’s Harry Potter!”
His eyes were so dilated they were almost black, his face was pale and thin, his cheeks pink. He floated gracefully into the room, half dancing, with a strange, open expression.
“Malfoy,” said Harry cautiously. He was trying this new thing where he didn’t hate people. It wasn’t going well. He hated everyone.
Malfoy approached, still looking dreamy and beautiful, like some sort of woodland elf.
“I wanted to explore,” he said. “I can’t believe you’re here.” He made a gentle laughing sound. “You killed the Dark Lord.” He did the strange laugh again. It didn’t sound right, as if he had temporarily forgotten how to do it. “You saved the world. Can I massage your hand?”
“You’re high,” said Harry.
Malfoy looked surprised.
“Yes,” he said. “Can I tell you something?”
“What are you on?”
“MDMA,” said Malfoy. “Lots and lots. I like your hair. Can I touch it?”
Harry shook his head and sat cross-legged on the long wooden table. Malfoy exclaimed.
“Sitting! Yes! What an excellent idea—ha, ha,” (the same laugh again, where he seemed to say the words rather than do the deed). “Isn’t this strange? Can I touch your hair? You tried to kill me.”
“Don’t touch me.”
Malfoy’s eyes widened. He was utterly, bewitchingly lovely, and his long tapered fingers went to his smooth cheeks.
“I’m annoying you,” he said, sounding grief-struck. “Should I go?”
“No,” said Harry. “I like you better, on MDMA. Maybe you’ll tell me all your secrets.”
Malfoy shook his head, smiled.
“Ha, ha. I am not to be taken advantage of!”
“What did you want to tell me?”
Malfoy had started massaging his own calf and seemed quite distracted.
“Are you sure you don’t want a massage? It feels so good.”
“I’m sure,” said Harry. “You said, ‘Can I tell you something?’”
Malfoy’s hands went to his chest, his face open and sincere.
“I don’t know if I should tell you. It’s a secret.”
“Do you still hate me?” asked Malfoy.
“No,” said Harry. “At least. Not intellectually.”
“Oh,” said Malfoy sadly. “But emotionally.” His fingers worked gently at the collar of his shirt. “A lot of people hate me. They send letters.” He looked up. “It scarred.”
“Sectumsempra. It scarred.”
This was turning out to be a truly nightmarish party.
“Snape said it wouldn’t,” said Harry.
“Want to see?”
“I don’t want you to take your clothes off, no,” said Harry, although he was keenly aware that this was a lie. But he hadn’t even told Ron that he might be bi, so he certainly wasn’t going to risk Draco fucking Malfoy finding out.
Malfoy shook his head.
“I don’t have to— look—”
He took out his wand and cast a quick Finite Incantatum.
Scars gashed across his face. Painful, angry, red scars, one running across his eye, warping his eyebrow—it seemed a miracle that his eye itself had survived— the other running down the side of his cheek.
He looked like a slashed painting.
Malfoy was watching Harry’s reaction closely.
“I know,” said Malfoy, when Harry couldn’t speak. “It’s ugly.” He cast the glamour spell to cover them up, so quickly and easily that Harry knew he must cast it every day.
“You—you’ve been hiding it, all this time?” asked Harry.
Malfoy laughed (ha, ha,) and nodded.
“It’s ugly,” he said again. His eyes grew childishly sad. “Ugly.”
“Can I touch your hair?”
“Okay,” said Harry, but as Malfoy reached forward, the door opened.
“Draco!” said Dean Thomas.
“Dean!” cried Malfoy in delight. He jumped from the table, and took a running leap into Dean’s arms, wrapping his long, thin legs around Dean’s torso.
“I was looking for you,” said Dean, in a similarly daydreamy voice.
“I just had a deep, meaningful chat with Harry Potter,” said Malfoy.
“That’s amazing,” said Dean. Harry watched on, feeling rather dazed. Dean hoisted Draco up on his hips. “Remember where we were this time last year?”
Draco nodded. His eyes were too big for his face.
“I think about it all the time,” he said. “All day, all night, all day, all night…”
“Me, too,” said Dean. “Do you want some gum?”
“No thank you. Oh!” Malfoy jumped down from Dean. (You have a nice body, he told Dean. You do, too, said Dean.) He turned to Harry. “I didn’t say thank you.”
“That’s fine,” said Harry hastily. He did not particularly want to prolong time spent with this intense, elfish version of Draco Malfoy. He was still reeling from the shock of having disfigured him.
“I would be in Azkaban now,” said Malfoy.
“Can you imagine?” asked Dean. Malfoy shut his eyes and shook his head.
“Yes,” he said. “It will make me sad, I don’t want to be sad.”
“Do you want to kiss me?” asked Dean.
“Okay,” said Malfoy, cheering right up.
“I’m going to check on Ron and Hermione,” said Harry decisively, and left the room. Not before hearing Malfoy sigh contentedly into Dean’s mouth, however, or Dean saying “your lips are so soft…”
I had no idea my curse had—
Harry screwed up the parchment and threw it away.
If I had known about your face—
Not that it makes it any better, but the scars aren’t actually ugly—
Sorry about cutting up your face—
Obviously I didn’t mean to fucking disfigure you, I had no idea, is there anything I can—
Can we speak in person? The coffee shop near the Ministry, tomorrow evening at 6?
Malfoy didn’t answer.
Not sure if you got my last letter, was hoping we could have a chat. It’s about what you told me at Smith’s party.
When that, too, provoked no response, Harry decided there was no point in putting it off any longer. He had to apologise, more for himself than for Malfoy. He was going mad, thinking about Malfoy saying “ugly” and glamouring his scars.
I can’t tell you how sorry I am about the Sectumsempra. I was sorry anyway, even before I knew about the scarring. I had no idea what that spell meant and I was terrified when I saw what it did to you. I wish I could undo it. If there’s anything I can do to help with medical bills or whatever, please let me know.
That very afternoon, Malfoy wrote back.
Thank you for your apology.
It was another year before Harry saw Malfoy again. He heard about him before then, however.
“…and then Malfoy showed up dressed as a Russian Czar and started knighting everybody, it was wicked!” said Ron.
“He is fun at a party,” said Hermione.
“He’s Malfoy,” said Harry.
“Why don’t you come out with us sometime?” said Ron, as if Harry hadn’t spoken. “You never get out.”
“I get out,” said Harry.
“Going to work doesn’t count,” said Ron.
“I like my work.”
“I’m sure Harry will start socialising when he’s ready, Ron,” said Hermione.
“I’m socialising! I socialise all the time!”
“Eating bagels at our flat every other Tuesday isn’t a social life, mate,” said Ron.
“Neither is getting plastered with Draco Malfoy every weekend,” said Harry, and Ron blushed. He had been drinking a lot. So had Hermione. So had most people, it felt like.
Finally, Harry agreed to go to a house party with Ron and Hermione.
Terry Boot lay naked on the dining room table. Eloise Midgen snorted coke off his stomach.
Everyone’s gone mad, thought Harry. Completely fucking mad.
There was a large balcony. He sat down on a stoop, tucked out of sight, and decided to wait twenty minutes before leaving, so that Ron wouldn’t berate him the next day.
Five minutes later, Draco Malfoy floated slenderly onto the balcony, clutching Michael Corner’s hand.
“You’re so hot,” said Michael. “I love fucking you.”
Harry made a small, agonised sound, but neither of them seemed to notice.
“Look, stars,” said Malfoy. He was on MDMA again; Harry could tell from the dreamy quality to his voice.
“What did you want to tell me?” asked Michael, starting to massage Draco’s hand. Michael was clearly off his face as well.
“I love you,” said Malfoy.
Harry put his head in hands and sighed, resigned to his fate.
Also, he was kind of fascinated.
“You’ve never said that before,” said Michael.
“I think it, all the time,” said Malfoy.
“How come you’ve never said?”
“Talking,” said Malfoy, as if that was explanation enough.
“But you will talk, someday,” said Michael. “About the nightmares.”
“Ha, ha,” laughed Malfoy. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
They kissed. Harry wanted to die.
“Do you want to talk now?” asked Michael. “Would that be easier?”
Malfoy shook his head.
“It will make me sad,” he said. “I don’t want to be sad.”
“But sometimes you have to be,” said Michael.
“No, no, no,” said Draco. “Not me, not ever, ha ha!”
“You worry me,” said Michael.
“Shhhhh,” said Draco. “We should go dance.”
“Okay,” said Michael readily, and they vacated the balcony.
“Even Draco Malfoy’s found love,” complained Harry.
“Well, no offence, mate, but he puts himself out there, you know?” said Ron. It was the second Tuesday of the month. They were eating bagels.
“If you call dropping Molly five times a week ‘putting yourself out there’, then yeah, he does.”
“I think he varies his drug use, actually,” said Hermione. “Although he does like his coke.”
“Why do you know so much about Draco Malfoy’s drug habits?”
“We just see him a lot, Harry.”
“More than we see you, to be honest,” said Ron. “You know he comes to Neville’s movie nights?”
“You’re all fucked in the head. All of you. Eloise Midgen, too.”
“We’re not suggesting you turn into a party animal, Harry,” said Hermione. “But we go to the pub on Fridays. Couldn’t you come to the pub?”
“I go over my case notes on Fridays,” said Harry.
Hermione tactfully changed the subject.
It was another year before he saw Draco Malfoy again. It was at Zacharias Smith’s country manor house.
“Why doesn’t anyone fucking LIKE me?” asked Smith, wandering drunkenly through the halls. Harry, who had taken MDMA for the first time an hour ago and was beginning to feel great, grinned.
“It’s because you’re a dick,” he said helpfully.
“Everyone loves Malfoy, and he’s a fucking Death Eater!” said Smith.
“The whole world’s gone mad,” said Harry, and slipped away. He wanted to find Ron and tell him what a great friend he was.
The house was huge. He opened door after door, getting progressively higher, and soon he couldn’t hear the sounds of the party at all. He was lost. He was alone. He opened a door, and Draco Malfoy was sitting on the window seat of a pretty blue bedroom, smoking a cigarette through the open window.
“Draco Malfoy!” cried Harry. He was delighted to see him. Draco! He could say sorry in person now. The words were loose in his mouth.
“Potter,” said Draco.
“I’m sorry about your face,” said Harry. “I had no idea. How come you wear the glamour? It’s so warm in here. Can I have a cigarette?”
“You’re high,” said Draco.
“Dean Thomas gave me some. You’re friends with him. Isn’t that weird? Because you kept him locked up in your dungeon all those months? It must be weird.”
“Does he have any more?” asked Draco.
“No,” said Harry. “I feel good. I feel so good.”
“Is it your first time?”
Harry nodded, and it felt so lovely to move his neck that he kept doing it. Draco huffed a quiet laugh, a real one, the first Harry had heard from him in years. Or maybe ever.
“Let’s get you back to the party,” he said.
“I wanted to talk to you,” said Harry. “I wanted to say sorry in person.”
“No need,” said Draco.
“Can I see them again? The scars? Without the glamour?”
“No,” said Draco.
“Do you hate me?”
“No,” said Draco. He stubbed out his cigarette on the outside of the window sill and threw it conscientiously in the bin. “Come on, then, Potter. Let’s find you some music to dance to.”
He crossed the room, opened the door. Harry followed him to the corridor. It was long and empty.
“Race you!” said Harry, and started running. Draco ran too. They hurtled down the corridor, and Harry reached the end first. “I win! Like quidditch. We should play quidditch!”
“No,” said Draco. “Merlin, you’re fast. Come on.”
“Why do you wear the glamour?”
“Why do you think?” asked Draco.
“Is it uncomfortable?”
Draco moved his head, noncommittal.
“It itches,” he said. “Like wearing a wig.”
“Have you forgiven me?”
“I think everyone’s through here,” said Draco. He led them to some stairs. Harry sat on the bannisters and started to slide down, but his balance was all funny and he almost fell. Draco’s hands flew to his waist, steadying him. “Hold on,” he said.
He cast a few charms.
“Okay, now you can do it.”
Harry slid down the bannisters, invisible walls on either side of him preventing him from falling. At the bottom of the stairs, Draco lifted him down.
“You’re strong,” said Harry. “I think I’m bisexual.”
“Okay,” said Draco.
“Haven’t told anyone yet.”
“You’re gay. Don’t your parents mind? Did Voldemort hate the gays?”
“I haven’t told my parents.”
“Would they mind?”
“The main hall is this way,” said Draco.
“Let’s race again,” said Harry.
They did. This time Draco won.
But when they got to the main hall, there was no one but Neville, asleep on a couch, and a couple making out in the fire place.
“Where is everyone?” asked Harry.
“Gone to bed,” said Draco, frowning. “It’s nearly five. I don’t know why Dean let you drop so late.”
“Dean will be up,” said Harry.
“Yeah, let’s find him,” said Draco. Harry followed him to the kitchen.
“Your hair’s a nice colour,” said Harry.
“Where the fuck is Dean?” Draco asked the empty kitchen.
“I’ll send a patronus!” said Harry. “Expecto patronum!”
He was so happy that he didn’t have to think of a memory. But his magic was all funny, and what came out was a dazzling but unshaped white mist. It quickly dissipated.
“Remember when I cast a patronus at you in third year?” he asked Draco.
“Why did you do that? Dress up as a dementor?”
“Let’s go back to the main hall.”
“Send Dean a patronus, I’m too high.”
“I can’t cast one.”
Harry laughed. It came out all strange and breathy and delighted.
“You would have, if you had been in the DA. Remember how you caught us?”
“Are you sober?”
“Yes,” said Draco, rubbing his eyes. “Why aren’t you? Dean didn’t pressure you into taking anything, did he?”
“No, I’ve wanted to for a while.” Harry stared up at the light and twirled around until he was dizzy. Draco caught him by the elbow and stopped him knocking into the table. “My parents are dead.”
“Fucking hell,” said Draco.
“I’m the age my dad was when he died,” said Harry. “Twenty-one. I’ll be older than my father, next birthday. How old is your father?”
“Fifty-three,” said Draco. He was filling a cafetiere with hot water.
“I hate him,” said Harry. He giggled. “Ooops. Trying not to hate people anymore.”
“Let’s go back to the main hall,” said Draco again, taking the cafetiere and a mug and walking away.
“How come you’re sober?” asked Harry, trotting to keep up with him. “Aren’t you always on drugs?”
“Fuck off,” said Draco, Malfoyishly.
“I’ve upset you,” said Harry, feeling awful, awful, awful, stupid—
“It’s fine,” said Draco, touching his arm lightly. “It’s just a sore point.”
“Sorry,” said Harry. “Are you annoyed now?”
“Are you tired?”
Harry felt sad.
“Will you go to bed?” They had reached the main hall. Neville and the couple had disappeared. Although Harry still felt wonderful, he didn’t like the idea of having to feel wonderful all by himself.
“No, I’ll stay with you until you come down.” He muttered something else. Harry caught the tail end of it: “…hurt yourself.”
He flicked his wand at the record player and electronic music began to play. Instantly, Harry started to dance. It felt great, amazing, good. Draco poured out the coffee into the mug, drained it.
“Dance with me,” said Harry.
Draco danced next to him, small, jerky, uncomfortable movements. Harry watched him happily. Draco’s pretty hair shone in the early morning light. He was so very, very handsome. Had he always been that handsome? Probably.
“Can I kiss you?” asked Harry.
“Are you sure you want to?” asked Draco.
Harry nodded enthusiastically.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I’ve thought about it before.”
“Okay, then,” said Draco. Harry came close, pressing their bodies together. Draco was so lovely and warm and hard all up and down. His lips were soft and the kiss was perfect, marvellous, magical.
“It doesn’t feel very sexual,” said Harry.
“Maybe not to you,” said Draco.
“Maybe I’m straight,” said Harry.
“I never get turned on, when I’m on MD,” said Draco.
“How often do you do drugs?”
“Not that often,” said Draco. “Five times a week, tops. Unless it’s someone’s birthday.”
“It’s just a social thing,” said Draco.
“Where’s Michael?” asked Harry. Draco looked away.
“How should I know?”
“He’s your boyfriend!”
Draco stared at him. His eyes were so pretty. Harry tried to see where the scars were but the glamour was too perfect. He couldn’t make them out at all.
“You think I would let you kiss me if I was still with Michael?”
Harry couldn’t stop moving because it felt so nice.
“I don’t know,” he said, shifting on his feet, moving his head. “You’re not a very good person.”
Draco stared at him some more.
“You should drink a glass of water,” he said, after a while. “Come to the kitchen.”
“I like the music,” said Harry.
“You’ll get dehydrated. It’s important, Potter.”
In the kitchen, Harry dutifully drank the water Draco gave him.
“Can I kiss you again?” he asked, when he was done.
Harry was sad.
“Was I bad at it? I’ve never kissed a boy before.”
“No,” said Draco. “You were very good.”
“Then why not?”
“Let’s go back to the main hall,” said Draco.
“BROOMS!” said Harry. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed them before! Brooms! “Let’s fly!” He grabbed one and raced out of the kitchen door, into a courtyard.
“No, fuck, no, Potter…!” Draco chased after him. He tried to grab the broom from Harry’s hands. It was such a fun game. Harry was too quick for him. He skipped around the courtyard, holding the broom just out of Draco’s reach.
“You are too high to fly, Harry!”
“Don’t be so boring,” said Harry, laughing.
The broom slipped out of Harry’s grasp. But there were more brooms! Loads! Just propped up by the kitchen wall!
“Harry, stop, I beg of you…!”
“Come on,” said Harry. “Fly with me!”
Draco bit his lip and thought for a minute.
“Give me a second,” he said. He cast several charms on one of the brooms. “Okay. We can fly together on this one, and it should be safe enough. That way I can keep an eye on you.”
Harry liked the idea of wrapping himself around Draco’s warm body, so he agreed. He clambered up behind Draco and held tight around Draco’s waist. He kissed Draco’s neck as they took off.
“Sorry,” he said, after he’d realised what he’d done.
“It’s fine,” said Draco. “You can keep doing it.”
So Harry kissed Draco’s neck, and Draco steered. Draco flew low and slowly through the cool morning mist.
“Remember the last time we flew like this?” asked Harry.
“Yes,” said Draco.
“This is better.”
“I’m glad I saved you,” said Harry.
“It’s what you do best, isn’t it, Saviour.”
Harry shook his head into Draco’s back.
“Not everyone,” he said.
“No,” said Draco, so quietly that Harry could scarcely hear him.
“Not Dobby,” said Harry.
“A free elf,” said Harry.
Draco’s shoulders were moving strangely.
“You knew Dobby,” said Harry. “I buried him myself. I don’t speak about the war usually. Hermione says I should see a mind healer, but I don’t have the time, who has that sort of time?”
“He walked in on me looking at a picture of—someone, once,” said Draco. “Dobby. I shouted at him while he banged his head against the floor. He hated me.” Draco paused. “I’ve never told anyone that before.”
“I already knew he hated you,” said Harry.
Draco shook his head and stopped talking. His breathing was strange.
“Are you crying?” asked Harry.
“It’s the wind,” said Draco.
“I’m sorry about what happened last time I saw you cry,” said Harry, tightening his grip around Draco and nuzzling his back with his cheek.
“Michael broke up with me yesterday,” said Draco.
“You loved him,” said Harry.
Draco didn’t answer. The broom had slowed, and Draco’s shoulders shook and shook. Harry hugged him tightly.
“What happened?” he asked, after a while. Draco’s shoulders stopped heaving, and the broom sped up.
“I think I see Dean and the others,” he said.
He was right. The mist had shifted to reveal a glade, where Dean and maybe fifteen other people were dancing and singing and making out. Draco landed softly and removed the spells keeping Harry on the broom.
“Draco!” cried Dean, springing forward to hug him. “Draco! I forgive you, you know that, right?”
“I know,” said Draco, “you’ve told me before. Thank you.”
“I forgive you.”
“You left Potter all on his own, back there. It’s his first time. He could have hurt himself.”
“We couldn’t find him. We saw the sunrise! Harry! You saved my life! From Draco! And his dad!” Dean turned to Draco. “I hate your dad.”
“Got anymore MD on you?” asked Draco.
“Thought you were quitting?”
“We’re all out, sorry. Come dance with us!”
“I’m going home. Look after Potter, yeah? Don’t leave him alone again.”
“He saved the world,” said Dean. “Harry! I love you!”
Dean took Harry’s hand and led him to where a girl was doing a mesmerising dance with three lit wands. By the time she stopped, Draco was gone.
It took Harry two days to feel human again, but when he did, he felt better than he had in a long time.
He sent Malfoy a note, along with a magnum bottle of champagne.
Thank you so much for babysitting me the other night. I know I must have been incredibly annoying. I really appreciate it! Seriously.
Malfoy’s response came within the hour.
This, Harry deduced, meant “no problem”. Such a short letter seemed pretty clear evidence that Malfoy didn’t want to talk to him, but somehow, two days later, Harry found himself writing again:
How are you doing with the break-up stuff? That shit’s hard. After Ginny broke up with me I didn’t sleep for a week. Which was ironic, because my nightmares were a big part of the reason we broke up. She said I was just existing. Maybe that’s true? I don’t know, I haven’t wanted to think about it too much. I don’t want to feel angry all the time, and if I think I get angry? Does that make sense? I don’t know why the fuck I’m telling you all this.
I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone about the whole, bisexual thing. I’m not even sure if I am. I’ve never really acted on it. I probably won’t, to be honest. Just easier not to, I reckon.
Your secret is safe with me.
That’s a weight off my mind tbh. Not that I really thought— well, maybe I did worry a bit. No offence, but it is something you’ve done before. Go to the papers about me, I mean. They’ve calmed down about me recently, though. Probably because I don’t do anything anymore. That’s what Ron and Hermione say, which is really annoying, actually, because I’m a fucking good auror and that should count for something. I apprehended a Taiwanese poison-smuggler yesterday, for instance.
What do you do for a living? Hope you’re feeling better post-break-up, etc.
Malfoy didn’t answer that one.
Nor did he answer the next three letters Harry sent him.
But after the fourth, he wrote:
People are always telling me to Talk About It, too. They can get fucked.
And so began their unlikely correspondence. For every four or five lengthy letters Harry sent, Malfoy wrote him one back, never longer than one line.
In March, Malfoy sent him an unsolicited letter.
Michael and I got back together!
Harry stared at the letter for a long time. The exclamation mark. The fact Malfoy had sent it at all. It occurred to Harry for the first time that he and Malfoy might sort of be friends. He wrote to Malfoy in rather the same way someone might write to a diary, and Malfoy wrote back just enough to prove that Harry’s musings weren’t, in fact, lost to the void. But he still hadn’t seen Malfoy since that last party, over six months ago.
He could have, if he wanted to. Malfoy went out all the time. He was at every event, every party. But Harry couldn’t seem to leave his house except for work, or bagels every other Tuesday at Ron and Hermione’s. He tried sometimes, but it felt like he was underwater. That was why he’d decided to try drugs; he wanted to know if that would have made a difference. It had, of course, but it wasn’t exactly a sustainable solution.
Harry was weirdly unhappy at the prospect of Malfoy and Michael getting back together again.
That’s brilliant! I’m so happy for you! You guys seemed so in love. You’re really lucky.
I’d like someone like that. It’d be nice to have someone to come home to. Maybe I should get a cat. I don’t get lonely; I like my own company. I like being alone. It’s good, it’s freeing, really, no one to bother me or try to talk to me, or whatever. I like it.
Still though, it would be good to have someone to chat shit with in the evenings, you know? Like what you and Michael have. Super happy for you.
On Harry’s twenty-second birthday, Malfoy sent him a card. It was from the unlicensed Harry Potter specialty shop on Knockturn Alley. It had Harry’s scowling face on the front.
Happy birthday, wrote Malfoy. Try not to think too much today, yeah?
Harry was astonishingly touched, although he didn’t mention it in his next letter. He just described being dragged to the pub by Ron and Hermione; how someone had come over to him and wept and described in painstaking detail how their mother had died from complications after a Death Eater’s curse.
And people wonder why I don’t go out, wrote Harry.
For an answer, Malfoy sent a newspaper clipping. Death Eater Draco Malfoy Glassed In The Face By Angry War Victim, read the unwieldy headline. There was a picture of Malfoy, his hands covering his face, blood pouring through his fingers. The article noted that this was the fourth time Malfoy had been attacked that year.
Shit, wrote Harry. Are you okay???
Malfoy didn’t answer.
“Oh, he’s fine,” said Ron. “Stuff like that doesn’t scar, you know, not like dark magic.”
“It’s always quite upsetting when that happens,” said Hermione.
“‘When that happens’?” repeated Harry in disbelief.
“Well, obviously Michael tries to keep him safe, but he’s not always there,” said Hermione.
“Why don’t you keep him safe?”
“He’s all over the place, mate,” said Ron. “You try keeping tabs on Malfoy at a party. One time he ended up on a boat in Kuwait. We’d only gone to the pub to play darts.”
“So, what, he just gets beaten up by strangers all the time, and that’s fine?”
“I’ve spoken to the Ministry about it several times,” said Hermione. “They say things will settle down eventually. I don’t really know what else to do.”
“He was so drunk that night, anyway,” said Ron, biting into a bagel. “I doubt he even felt it.”
Harry had been writing to Malfoy for over a year and a half when Ron and Hermione convinced him to come to Hannah Abbott’s birthday party.
“People have chilled out a lot,” said Ron.
They had. They milled around, drinking from wine glasses. They seemed civilised, grown up. Harry was relieved, but he still felt awkward and out of place when they tried to talk to him.
He lingered near the snacks table, wondering when Malfoy would appear. Although, maybe he didn’t come to events like this, where no one was swinging from a chandelier. But no—there was Michael Corner, in the shadows near the bathroom, looking fucking miserable, actually.
And then the bathroom door banged open. Malfoy came striding out, gorgeous and sniffing conspicuously.
“Draco,” said Michael.
Harry didn’t exactly mean to spy on them.
“Michael, darling, hi! I love you! God you look good, fuck, I love you!”
It was nothing like his MDMA voice. Draco sounded bright and sharp, as if he was at the top of his game, except that he talked too fast.
Michael did not appear pleased.
“You promised,” he said.
“What do you want to do, darling, shall we talk about the war? You wanted to talk about the war, I’m ready, what do you want to know, ask me anything, darling, I’ll tell you anything!”
“I wanted to talk to you about the war earlier,” said Michael.
Draco laughed. It was sort of a real laugh—more real than the MDMA laugh had been, anyway, except that the cadence was off; it trilled a little too fast, like the heartbeat of a small bird.
“But we can talk now, darling, or we can dance, or we can go home and fuck all night, whatever you want, tell me who you want me to be and I’ll be him, darling!”
“I want you not to be such a fucking cokehead,” said Michael. Draco laughed again; high frequency, false.
“You’re cross because I didn’t share; I’m sorry, darling, I’ll get Dean to give you some—”
“Draco. Listen to me. You promised. You promised me we’d go home and talk.”
“We will! Let’s talk now; which ghastly thing shall we talk about first; have you ever tortured anyone? I have! Shall I tell you about it?”
“It’s not about the fucking war, Draco!”
“Isn’t it, oh, that’s good, what shall we talk about next, anything you like, Michael, I love you, you’re so good and steady and kind, you’re everything I want to be, when I grow up I want to be just like you, Michael, darling—”
Michael leant his head against the wall.
“I can’t do this anymore,” he said.
“Yes, it’s a terrible party, hasn’t everyone become boring all of a sudden, there’s a new club in Berlin that’s just opened, I hear they have an enchanted polar bear bouncer—”
“You never talk to me unless you’re on drugs. Not properly. At first I thought… but you never do. And don’t tell me you’re talking to anyone else, either, because I know you aren’t. I’m your only friend.”
“What are you talking about darling, why, I saw Goyle just last week!”
“You’re not even on first name terms with Goyle, for fuck’s sake! And as for Dean, when was the last time the two of you spoke to each other sober?”
“Dean! Let’s find Dean, he’ll give you a line or two, and you’ll cheer right up, darling, right up, then we’ll go home and I’ll make you see stars, I’m so good, aren’t I, so good for you, I love you, and you love me, don’t you, you love me?”
“I do,” said Michael. “I wish I didn’t. You’re a coward, Draco. You were a coward in the war, and you’re a coward now. You’re not a real person. You’re just a paper cut-out of a man.”
Draco’s high-pitched laughter was like machine-gun fire. Panic had started to leach into his expression.
“You’re too funny, darling; let’s find Dean!”
“I can’t fix you, Draco.”
“Of course you can, darling, you make me better, I’ll be good and steady and kind one day, just like you, oh God, when you left me, Michael, I thought I’d drown, I was so lost, I didn’t know who I was anymore—”
“You have no idea who you are. You don’t say what you mean unless you’re completely fucking blitzed.”
“No no no no no,” said Draco.
“You don’t even show your real fucking face to me, Draco, and if that’s not an apt metaphor for our relationship, I don’t know what is.”
“They’re ugly,” said Draco, “I’m much prettier this way, darling—”
“They’re you!” cried Michael. “It’s you I wanted, why can’t you see… oh, fucking hell, I should never have…I can’t…you’re breaking my heart…”
Dean came bounding over, not seeming to notice that Michael was on the verge of tears, and that Draco was snorting and tossing his head like a horse getting ready to run.
“Cheeky top-up, boys?”
“Draco,” said Michael, but Draco couldn’t meet his eyes.
“Go on then,” said Draco, and followed Dean into the bathroom.
Michael stared as they shut the door, then made his way out of the party, wiping his cheeks just once, quickly.
Harry walked home, stunned and empty-feeling. He had waited until Draco came out of the bathroom again, but one look at Draco’s huge, swollen pupils, at his chattering teeth, at his sniffing nose, had shown Harry that nothing useful could be accomplished that night.
He wasn’t surprised at how much he cared. He had known for a while, really. Their strange, one-sided pen-pal relationship had grown important to Harry long ago.
Draco didn’t have any friends, Michael had said, but he was wrong. Draco had Harry. Harry wanted to make sure Draco knew that.
I’m really sorry, but I overheard you and Michael fighting at Hannah Abbott’s birthday party, so I know you two have broken up or whatever. I just wanted to reach out and check if you’re okay?
Michael was bang out of order with a lot of what he said, but… you do seem a bit in over your head, mate. I wish you’d take a breather. The way you were last night, it didn’t seem like partying. It seemed a lot scarier than that.
I’m worried about you.
Draco, rather predictably, did not answer. Nor did he answer Harry’s next letter, nor the one after that.
Finally, Harry went to the Friday pub night, so he could ask Dean.
“Is Malfoy all right?”
“Haven’t seen him in ages,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“Apparently he ran away, or something. His parents called me up in a panic about a week ago. He and Michael broke up, and Draco just up and left.”
“I don’t know,” said Dean. “I don’t really know him all that well.”
Just let me know if you’re alive, wrote Harry. Please. I don’t even know if you’re getting these.
Except, his owl always returned without the letter, which suggested she had delivered it somewhere.
Nearly two weeks later, a postcard arrived at Grimmauld Place. It was from the British museum, but had been sent, bizarrely, from Minneapolis.
Harry continued to send the letters, but he never heard back from Draco again.
At twenty-six, Harry was made the youngest divisional head of aurors since the 18th century.
He walked out of the office that evening feeling strangely blank. He did not apparate home. He simply wandered out of Wizarding London into muggle London, letting his feet guide him. His mind was empty.
There was no one to celebrate with. He would see Ron and Hermione on Tuesday for bagels. He would tell them then. They wouldn’t be all that happy, in any case. They had both developed an unnerving habit of becoming cautious when Harry brought up work, because they didn’t want to get into another fight with him about it.
He got on the tube. He got off the tube. He walked through a park. He got on a bus. He walked some more.
“Show starting in ten minutes?” said an eager young boy wearing a full face of make-up, pressing a flyer into Harry’s hands. Harry nodded and the boy ushered him into a nightclub—a gay nightclub, Harry guessed, judging by the clientele. The boy pointed up some stairs. Was it stripping? Was it gay stripping?
It did, in fact, turn out to be gay stripping. It was a burlesque show. Harry sat at the back. He’d never seen burlesque before, but he had a feeling this particular show was not representative of the art form as a whole. It was wild. A woman came on in a swan costume and tore off all her feathers with her mouth. A fire dancer burned his paper costume to a crisp while it was still on his body. One act appeared to be a series of nightclub in-jokes that the crowded room all understood, but made no sense whatsoever to Harry.
It was dark, and Harry felt pleasingly anonymous.
“Youths and non-youths,” said the M.C., who had found different, inventive ways of avoiding saying “Ladies and Gentlemen” each time they came on the stage. “I now present to you, our headline act, the sublime, the sensual, Bellatrix Lestrange!”
The crowd erupted in cheers.
Harry had misheard. He was quite sure he had misheard.
A buzzing sense of anticipation had settled on the crowd, different from how it had been before every other act. Smoke curled out onto the stage. Eerie, otherworldly music began to play, and a black silk cloud took form.
The black silk was thin and gently undulating. It reminded Harry horribly of dementors, particularly when it became apparent that there was a person underneath, and that they were trying to get free, with unpredictable, fish-like movements. The entire thing looked as if it was taking place under water, and the more the creature beneath the silk struggled to escape, the clearer its shape became. It was tall, seemed to have long, jointless fingers, half a foot each, and it was supremely, unutterably fluid.
The music built, and suddenly, one of those long, knifelike fingers ripped its way through the silk. It widened the tear, more and more fingers appearing, and Harry realised that they really were knives, long, thin knives that had somehow been attached to smooth grey gloves, and then the creature tore free of the silk.
Harry realised three things, as the watery fabric pooled to the floor in dark folds:
1. Draco Malfoy was a burlesque dancer now
2. Draco Malfoy was the most dizzyingly attractive person Harry had ever seen, and
3. Draco Malfoy was no longer hiding his scars.
In fact, he had emphasised them. He had carved his face out with hyper feminine make-up, and slashed red lipstick over the top. He wore a costume that was more like armour than anything else, or skin; it seemed to be part of him. It made him look even more slender and elfish than he had at eighteen, on MDMA at Zacharias Smith’s country manor house party.
The music changed, becoming fast and anxious. Draco dragged the tips of his knife fingers over the lipstick cuts on his face and and they began to drip—it was a clever, subtle piece of magic.
He danced as if he were a creature from another planet. The crowd was spellbound, enthralled. Harry had the feeling that Draco could kill them all by simply continuing to dance until they starved to death.
Draco tore his off costume like a dragon scratching off its skin. By the time he was nearly naked, it seemed less that he had revealed his body than that he had peeled his body off, unearthing something vulnerable and private beneath; something more tender than muscles and skin.
He carved the knives up the horrible scars on his chest, over his Dark Mark, over the scars on his neck, on his face. He cut off his headdress. His waist length silvery hair tumbled free, and he was the most strange, beautiful person Harry had ever seen, utterly baffling, impossible to understand or make sense of. A blinding spotlight fell on Draco as he cut away the final scraps of costume. He turned sharply backwards before anyone could see him fully naked. The stage went abruptly black, the music ended, and the crowd roared its approval.
Most people had filtered away, but Draco still hadn’t come out. Harry spotted the woman who had done the swan routine talking to the barman.
“Excuse me,” he said. “Do you know where I could find Draco?”
The woman smiled widely.
“Are you a friend?”
“Yes,” said Harry, without hesitation.
“That’s wonderful! I’m Ursula. He never invites friends. He’ll be so pleased. He’s in the dressing room, I’ll show you.”
The dressing room was awash with boobs. Harry turned his eyes away from one formidable set of breasts only to be blinded by another.
“Draco!” said Ursula. “Your friend was floundering around outside waiting for you!”
“I don’t have friends,” said Draco’s unmistakably drawling voice. Harry had forgotten just how posh it was. “I have acolytes.”
Then Draco was standing in front of him, and all Harry could do was smile as if he had been invited and say “hey”.
Draco was still wearing make-up, including the lipstick scars, but now he wore a floor-length green dress, embroidered with dragons. His sleeves trailed to the floor. He half looked like a beautiful woman in her boudoir, half like an eccentric king in his dressing gown. The effect was confusing and sexual.
“Good show,” said Harry.
“I just wandered in. Small world.”
“Come to Mars with us!” said Ursula.
“It’s a tolerant late-night restaurant,” said Draco.
“Yeah, come,” said the fire dancer, and a few other distractingly naked people agreed. Draco was silent.
“Do you mind?” Harry asked Draco.
“Do what you want,” said Draco.
So Harry went to Mars with a crowd of burlesque dancers and Draco Malfoy dressed as a woman.
Draco sat a few seats down from him. His huge false eyelashes fluttered demurely as he smiled at his food. He didn’t speak much. Neither did Harry.
“How do you know Draco?” asked Ursula.
“From school,” said Harry.
“Aww, I can just imagine baby Draco!”
Harry didn’t know how to answer that, so he smiled awkwardly and ate a chip.
“Has he ever mentioned how he got his…” he asked later, gesturing at his own face to demonstrate the scars.
“Hey, Draco!” she shouted across the din. “How did you get your scars?”
“Not now, darling, I’m not in the mood.”
A general rumble of discontent rose from the assembled burlesque dancers.
“Come on,” said Ursula.
“Run out of ideas, have you?” asked Mark, the fire dancer.
Draco glared at Mark.
“Fine. Are you all sitting comfortably?”
Everyone laughed, but to Harry’s surprise, they fell silent. Draco leant forward on his elbows.
“The year was 1996,” he began, in a rich, dramatic, melodious voice. “New York. I was a cab driver.”
“One of those famous, 16-year-old New York cab drivers,” remarked a woman wearing an enormous headdress featuring a yellow submarine, a small-scale model of Guantanamo Bay, and a sign that said “America sucks”. Draco ignored her.
“A young man got into the back of my cab with a cat in a carrier.
‘Sir, we’re not allowed to transport animals,’ I said, for even then, I was a professional.
‘You don’t understand,’ said the man. ‘I’m taking him to the vet to be put down.’ He looked so distraught that my famously soft heart melted. He got inside, sealing my doom.”
“Do you lie awake at night coming up with these?” asked a woman who was still only wearing nipple pasties, a thong, and a metric ton of body glitter. The rest of the table shushed her. Draco waited until silence had fallen before continuing.
“Once the cab was moving, to my great dismay, the young man opened the cat carrier. The cat leapt forth with vim and vigour, instantly penetrating the drivers’ cabin. He had long, cruel claws, and he was deranged. His eyes— I swear his eyes glowed red. He was the Devil’s envoy.”
“Checks out,” said Ursula. “You’d probably sinned a bunch.”
“The cat clawed at my face—my beautiful face! And far from helping, the young man spurred him on! ‘Have your fun now, cat!’ he said, ‘Go, cat, go!’ In vain did I writhe with the feline beast. He was too strong for me. My beauty was forever compromised. The world lost its second Helen of Troy.” Draco paused dramatically. “And that is the story of how I got my scars.”
Everyone at the table clapped.
“That was an okay one, mate,” said Mark, “but you’ve still never topped the magic wand fight in a bathroom story.”
“And I never will,” said Draco, returning with sudden fervour to his hamburger. “Now fuck off with your nosy questions, the lot of you.”
The idea for this fic came to me when I saw this act by Scarlet Adams:
It's gorgeous, you should all give it a watch!
“I want to see you again,” Harry told Draco as they paid up.
“I perform at the club once a month.”
“Get coffee with me,” said Harry. Draco gave him a measured look and nodded.
“I’m free this weekend,” he said.
“Oh—I can’t, this weekend. I’m going to Wales to investigate a murder.”
“How the other half lives. I could do….Tuesday evening?”
“I have plans,” said Harry, automatically. Draco lifted one exaggerated painted eyebrow. “Sorry,” said Harry. “Work’s been busy. Er, could you do February 22nd at 7pm?”
“That’s in three weeks,” said Draco.
Draco looked extremely unimpressed.
“Fine,” he said. “We’re going to my local coffee shop. Around the corner from here. I’m not going anywhere near…your part of town.”
“Great,” said Harry. Draco nodded solemnly and turned to leave. “Wait!”
“One thing,” said Harry. “Bellatrix Lestrange…?”
Draco laughed. For a second he sounded happy.
“Don’t you think she’d be pleased?”
He shook his head, still laughing softly, and left.
I really, really liked your performance. You always were a bloody attention-seeker, so it makes total sense, really. It was amazing. I want to see it again.
I made divisional head; remember I told you I had put myself forward for that? I don’t know if you read these. I guess I’ll find out. But I felt a bit miserable when I got the note telling me I’d got it. Weird. You don’t always have the reaction you think you’ll have to good things.
I’m nervous about seeing you. I don’t see people often.
Draco didn’t answer, which confirmed Harry’s theory that it had been years since Draco had actually read one of his letters. He was clearly living life as a muggle. It would be difficult for him to receive owls all the time.
Relieved from thinking about the recipient of his letters as a real person who might judge him, Harry wrote several more, about how uncomfortable he felt in his new role, although he was sure he would get used to it soon. He wrote about work, mainly, although occasionally he also wrote about how it felt as if something was missing, and he didn’t know what it was.
Three weeks passed slowly, despite how busy he was.
Draco leant against the wall of the coffee shop.
His long blond hair was half up in a little twisted bun. He had several cartilage piercings in one ear. He wore a studiously ratty oversized jumper, black slacks and brown oxfords that showed an expanse of white ankle.
Without his make-up, he was lovelier than ever. The scars stood out starkly on his pale face. There were traces of left-over glitter on his cheekbones.
“Hey,” said Harry.
“I don’t want coffee,” said Draco. “Do you want coffee?”
“Let’s go for a walk.” He pushed away from the wall and took hold of Harry’s arm. “Mind if we apparate? I hate walking in London.”
“That’s fine,” said Harry, feeling a little dazed.
Draco apparated them to a field with a small spring running through it, let go of Harry, and started walking. Harry took a second to orient himself, then raced to catch up.
“Congratulations of your promotion,” said Draco. “That’s a huge achievement. You must be the youngest divisional head in centuries.”
“You read my letters?”
“Was I not supposed to?” asked Draco, casting him a sideways glance.
“No. I mean, yes. I mean, you never answered, so I thought…”
“I think of them as a sort of personal, bi-monthly, Harry Potter-themed newspaper,” said Draco.
“You’re the only person I talk to,” blurted Harry.
Draco kept his eyes on the ground in front of him.
“You don’t know me, Harry.”
Harry didn’t know how to respond to that. They had scarcely talked since the era when they had fought on opposite sides of a war. But Draco had looked after him when he was vulnerable. Draco had fallen in love with someone Harry knew to be decent and kind. Draco had read hundreds of Harry’s letters and never once used them against him.
Harry felt as if he knew Draco through the gaps, through the silences.
“Shall I even the playing field?” asked Draco. “I feel as if I know you. Shall I tell you a story?”
They didn’t look at each other as they walked.
“Yeah,” said Harry. “Good idea.”
Draco didn’t speak immediately. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw him tuck his silky hair behind his delicate pierced ears.
When he spoke, it was in the same, rather affected voice he had used to tell the cat story.
“London,” he said. “2002. A cold evening.” He glanced at Harry. “A good story teller sets the scene.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Our hero is twenty-two and on a pretty savage cocaine come-down, the sort where you’re sure people can smell it on you. He is carrying a bag he packed while he was still high, that consequently contains very little of use. It’s getting dark, and he doesn’t know where he will sleep. He can’t go home, because then he would have to tell his parents that he’s heartbroken over a boy—he couldn’t keep it from them. It was hard enough the last time. Anyway, if he goes home, he’ll get more coke, and although that feels like a brilliant idea just then, he wrote some words on his hands, words the last person who loved him told him. So whenever he catches sight of his own hands, he remembers that he’s a coward, and a paper-cut-out sort of person, and that stops him from going back. Only he doesn’t know how to go forward. Am I boring you?”
“No,” said Harry. Draco nodded and continued.
“But this is Britain, and accents matter. He waits until he hears someone walk by with the same one as him. It’s two posh boys, about his own age. They look as if they’ll probably be called things like Milo and Archie. Our hero approaches them.
‘Excuse me,’ he says. ‘I need help.’
With a different voice, they would have ignored him, but he speaks like them, so they don’t. Class is different among muggles, but privilege always recognises itself.
‘What’s happened to you, mate?’ asks the one who looks like a Milo.
‘I ran away from home,’ says our hero. ‘I’m gay,’ he adds, because that might prove a deal breaker.
‘Oh, mate, that’s awful,’ says the one who looks like an Archie. ’Not the pouf thing. I mean. God. Have you got anywhere to stay? Where did you go to school?’
‘In Scotland,’ says our hero evasively. ‘I haven’t got anywhere to stay.’
‘Fettes? It must have been Fettes. I’m Hugo, and this is Benny.’
‘Draco,’ says our hero. Am I boring you, Harry?”
“So they just took you in?”
Draco looked bitter as hell.
“That was nice of them,” said Harry.
“They wouldn’t have taken you in,” said Draco. “Money breeds money. I don’t know what to make of it.” Then, suddenly hissing, vitriolic: “You should have fucking left me to burn.”
Harry knocked his hand into Draco’s, not taking it, exactly, but allowing Draco to take his if he wanted. He didn’t.
When Draco spoke again, he was calm.
“Hugo’s friend Clementine worked in an art gallery and gave our hero a job. It didn’t pay well enough for him to live anywhere, but Hugo let him live with him for free. They fell in love and lived happily ever after, the end.”
Harry was quiet.
“Well,” said Draco, his voice hard and cold. “Aren’t you going to ask me for the rest?”
“No,” said Harry. “Thank you for telling me that much.”
“You spent a whole year stalking me when we were sixteen, but you’re just going to let this slide?”
“That was ten years ago,” said Harry. “And I’m still kind of stalking you.”
“How did you find me?”
“It was accident. I didn’t come looking for you. I wouldn’t have done that. I remember how it felt when people used to try to pry me out of Grimmauld Place.”
“I’m not embarrassed about the burlesque dancing thing.”
“I don’t know why you would be. You’re great at it.”
Draco laughed and bumped his shoulder against Harry’s.
“You’re the first person to think Bellatrix Lestrange is a funny burlesque name. So far it’s been a personal joke, just for my pleasure.”
“I couldn’t believe my ears. Can you imagine what she would do if she was alive?”
“Yes,” said Draco grimly. He absent-mindedly traced the scar on his cheek.
“You look good,” said Harry.
“Fuck off,” said Draco, emptily.
“This, er, this whole outfit thing works.”
Draco raised his eyebrows and looked at Harry.
“Aren’t you just darling,” he drawled.
“Fuck off,” said Harry, and Draco laughed.
“So tell me about this Welsh murder,” he said.
It had been so long since anyone asked Harry about one of his cases.
By the time Harry remembered he had only intended to stay out for an hour, it had been dark for ages.
“I have some suspect files to read,” he said. “I should go.”
“It sounds to me as if you’ve already got the suspect. That farmer was sketchy as fuck.”
“Yeah, I mean, it was probably him, but I’ve got to be sure.”
“So dutiful. Well, let me know how it goes.”
“Will you answer? If I write?”
“Can we meet up again?”
“I’m not the one with the packed schedule, Harry.”
“I could do March 19th.”
Draco huffed a small laugh.
“Perfect,” he said.
Harry left with the uncomfortable feeling that he had disappointed Draco, somehow.
He didn’t mention that he’d seen Draco to Ron and Hermione. He rarely told them important things, anymore.
Draco stood outside the coffee shop on March 19th. His fingernails were painted green.
“St Patrick’s Day gig,” he said, when he caught Harry looking. “Walk?”
“Sure,” said Harry, and Draco apparated them to a pebble beach. It was cold.
“Why are you here, Harry?” he asked.
“You apparated us. Is this Scotland?”
“Don’t do that.”
Harry sighed. They had started walking automatically. The nice thing about walking was that it made it easy not to look at Draco. Looking at Draco hurt, for a variety of reasons, not least of which was the end of Draco’s story, where he’d been in love with someone else.
“I’m—I think I’m lonely,” said Harry. “And for whatever reason, I’ve been spilling my soul out to you for years, and you’ve never turned on me, when you must know how much a single letter would sell for—”
“I have plenty of money,” interjected Draco. “I probably would have sold one, if I needed to.”
“Oh,” said Harry. The wind blew straight through his coat. He felt practically naked.
There was a long silence. Harry didn’t know how to break it.
“My parents found me,” said Draco, as if he was answering a question. “About six months after I ran.”
Harry glanced over and was surprised to see that Draco was smiling to himself.
“My father found me the same way you did. I saw him from the stage—he was sitting in the front row, wearing… I mean, you know how he dresses… people thought he was an eccentric elderly gay man, perving on the goods.”
“I literally cannot imagine Lucius Malfoy at a burlesque show.”
“Believe it. He comes quite often.”
Draco tugged on a strand of his hair.
“Turns out, I rather underestimated him. Mother and Father are fine with it. All of it; with me. They’re fine with me.”
“Your father… supports your burlesque career?”
“It’s not a career, Harry.”
“It could be. You’re brilliant.”
“That’s what Father says. Old habits die hard, I suppose. He wants me to build some kind of muggle drag empire.”
“But you don’t want to.”
“I overheard Ursula worrying to Mark, once, because she didn’t have a blog, and she felt bad about it. He told her she didn’t have to… I think the phrase was, ‘monetise her joy’.”
“How… how are you, Draco?”
Draco pulled his hands into the sleeves of his jumper.
“Does Michael ever ask about me?” he asked, his voice thin.
Harry’s heart sank.
“I don’t see him,” he said, and then, because he was selfish, and because the fact had reassured some secret part of him when he heard it, he said: “He married Susan Bones.”
Draco laughed too loudly.
“That’s great,” he said. “She’s lovely. He must be—he must be really happy.”
“You’re not over him,” said Harry.
Maybe Harry would have written the letters to anyone. How could self-revelation make you like someone before you knew them? Wasn’t Harry just in love with the idea of being listened to in the right way? Maybe Draco was nothing but a blank space for Harry to drape himself around.
Except, Harry did know Draco. Draco had cried on a broomstick when he was eighteen, while talking about a dead house elf.
“Are you freezing?” asked Draco. “I’m freezing. Let’s go somewhere else.”
He didn’t wait for Harry to answer. He took Harry’s arm and apparated them to the top of a hill outside Edinburgh.
“This is shit,” he said, the moment they’d arrived, and he apparated them to a purple moor of heather. “I hate this,” he said, and took them to a deep blue lake. “I hate it,” he said—he wasn’t crying, but his face was scrunched up as if he was—he apparated them to a meadow full of daffodils. “I hate it, this is terrible—”
Draco let go of him and walked a few metres away.
Harry approached him slowly. He didn’t say anything. He just put one arm around Draco’s shoulders and rested their heads together.
“Married,” said Draco.
“About six months ago.”
“Fuck,” said Draco, his voice cracking.
“’s’fine,” said Draco. He took a shuddery breath. “He deserves someone good.”
“You’re so full of shit, Harry.” Draco wiped vaguely at his face, although he hadn’t actually shed any tears. “I’m fine, honestly. It was a fucked up relationship, anyway. I don’t even remember most of it. And it’s no fun, loving someone who’s ashamed of you.”
“He wasn’t ashamed of you.”
“Of course he was.”
“I think your memories of that time might not be all that reliable. Do you still…?”
“No. I’ve been more or less sober for over three years.”
“Oh, God, don’t.” He broke away from Harry and sat down heavily among the daffodils. “You’re fucked up too, you know.”
“I know,” said Harry, sitting beside him.
“Don’t you dare try to make me talk about it.”
Draco picked at the grass.
“I work at an art gallery,” he said. “You asked me once, what I did for a living. I didn’t have a job back then; just a death wish.”
“Do you still have a death wish?”
Draco’s jaw twitched, but he didn’t answer. Harry stretched out his pinkie finger so that it touched Draco’s. He counted it a win when Draco didn’t move his hand away.
“So,” said Draco. “When will I see you next? July? Or is that too soon? Have you room in your calendar for me before Christmas, do you think?”
Harry took a deep breath.
“How’s Tuesday evening?”
Draco looked up.
“I can do Tuesday,” said Draco.
“What do you mean you can’t do Tuesday?” asked Ron.
“Something came up,” said Harry.
“We see you twice a month, and now you can’t even manage that?”
Harry hated firecalling. His knees hurt.
“I’ll make it up to you,” he said. Ron scoffed.
“Sure. Great. Whatever. See you when you next have time, Harry.”
He shut off his floo, locking Harry out.
“Let me choose the place,” said Harry to Draco, that Tuesday, and Draco let him. He apparated them both to a wood he had camped in during the war. He had been too frightened back then to appreciate it.
“Where are we?” asked Draco.
“I don’t know,” admitted Harry. “I camped here during the war.”
Draco’s face went taut.
“I’m not going to…to ask you about it…but do you mind if…? Forget it.”
Draco’s eyes were curious.
“Do I mind if…?” he said.
“If I talk about it? Sometimes? Like, if it comes up?”
Draco shook his head.
“No, I don’t mind.”
“Cool,” said Harry. “Yeah. Er, good. So. How’s work?”
Draco nodded slowly, his eyes still fixed on Harry’s.
“Good,” he said. “Do you want me to ask you about it, Harry?”
“No. Maybe. No.”
Draco wandered a few trailing steps away.
“I bet you’re good at camping,” he said, and Harry knew exactly what he was doing. He wasn’t quite asking. He was maybe asking.
He was perfect.
“Ron was the worst,” said Harry. “Because he was used to three square meals a day.”
“What were you, on a diet?”
“No, just. You know. Mistreated as a child.”
Draco looked at him.
“Do you want me to ask about that?”
Harry shook his head.
“No,” he said forcefully.
“How did Granger fare?” asked Draco, as if he hadn’t just learn something appalling and shameful. “The humidity must have ravaged her curls.”
“She missed Ron.”
“Yeah, it was fucked up.”
He explained about the horcrux, how bad-tempered they had been, how hopeless. They walked aimlessly as he talked, so he didn’t have to look at Draco.
“But he came back,” said Harry. “So. That was what mattered.”
“Redeemed himself, did he,” said Draco.
“Completely? I don’t think that’s possible,” said Draco, and they weren’t talking about Ron anymore.
“I forgave him,” said Harry, carefully. “I understand why he did it, and I know he changed.”
“Suppose he had died while he was gone,” said Draco. He stared off to the side as he walked. “He wouldn’t have had a chance to—what I mean is, redemption is a privilege. It isn’t fair. Who’s to say my Aunt Bella wouldn’t have turned out to be perfectly lovely in twenty years, if the circumstances changed? Or—or Crabbe, for instance—”
He cut himself off.
“I don’t know,” said Harry slowly. “It’s complicated. But I love Ron, so I forgave him completely. Things don’t always have to be… fair to be right.”
His hands itched to touch the scars on Draco’s face, but he kept them still.
“My art gallery only sells oil paintings,” said Draco conversationally. “Oil, not acrylic. There’s a difference. But it’s actually not about the art. It’s a wife factory. Every three months one of my co-workers gets siphoned off by a billionaire art dealer.”
“God. Sounds terrible.”
“Not at all. I go to a lot of glamorous weddings.”
“Don’t the billionaire art dealers ever tempt you?”
“I dated one for a while.”
“I thought—aren’t you with Hugo, still?”
“Hugo? No.” Draco shook his head, like a horse shaking off flies.
“Was he so bad?”
“He wasn’t the problem.”
“I only ever went camping for the Quidditch World Cups. But to be honest, our tent was so luxurious that I doubt we really got the whole camping experience.”
So Harry let it go.
“Will you write back, if I write?” asked Harry, when they prepared to apparate back to London. Harry wasn’t free for another three weeks.
“No,” said Draco.
Harry nodded, trying not to seem all weird and obsessive and disappointed.
“I’d text you, if you had a phone,” said Draco. “Here.”
He gave Harry a slip of paper with a phone number on it.
Later, it occurred to Harry that he must have written his number on it earlier; must have put the slip of paper in his pocket in the hope that a moment would come when he could give it away.
“Harry…?” said Ron incredulously, when Harry showed up at Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes the next day on his lunch hour. He didn’t usually take lunch; he just ate a sandwich at his desk.
“Hey,” said Harry, hoping that if he spoke casually, Ron wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. “Do you sell those mobile phone things? The ones that work with magic?”
“Er, yeah? But I don’t have one, and neither does Hermione,” said Ron.
“That’s fine,” said Harry.
“Who are you planning on calling?”
Ron tried to hide his smile as he went to the stock room and got Harry a phone.
“Here you go, mate, on the house, as usual.”
“I’ve got the gold—”
“George would kill me if he found out you’d paid for anything.” He gave Harry the phone, showed him how to use it. “She’s a lucky girl, Harry,” he said.
Harry smiled awkwardly and fled.
HP: Draco Malfoy?
DM: Harry Potter?
HP: how did you know it was me?
HP: you’re a twat
DM: I’m delighted we’ve found a new medium through which you can insult me
HP: so it takes you 300 letters before you’ll write back to me
HP: but if I text you reply straight away?
Draco’s response came two days later.
DM: would you prefer I play hard to get?
HP: you’ve made your point
HP: how are you
DM: Bored at work. In fact, aren’t you at work?
HP: I just
HP: yeah no I should go
DM: you should
DM: think of all the Welshmen who might die through your negligence
HP: ok not all the people murdered in Britain are Welsh
DM: art dealer just walked in ttyl
HP: Draco wait
HP: what’s ttyl
HP: is it code
HP: is it something he’s wearing
HP: the art dealer I mean
DM: ttyl = talk to you later
DM: it wasn’t some weird sex thing, calm down
HP: I didn’t think it was a weird sex thing!
DM: good because it definitely wasn’t
HP: NOW I think it was a weird sex thing
HP: what does that mean
DM: oh sweet Harry
DM: there is so much you do not know
It was easier to text than to meet up. It took up less time, and so it made Harry less anxious, and actually it was effortless, really, to send Draco a quick text in the morning asking how he’d slept, and then at work he often had five minutes here and there, where he could laugh at the ridiculous photos Draco sent him.
There was a picture of big wheelie bin, for instance.
DM: my next act
DM: wheel me on stage
DM: slowly disgorge all the trash within
DM: audience awaits with baited breath
DM: when will the nudity begin, they wonder
DM: wheelie bin tips over, empty
DM: Draco Malfoy is a trash person
HP: that’s funny except you’re not a trash person
DM: the assembled bits of trash on the floor rise up as one
DM: they form a trash monolith
DM: slowly, with its sexy trash face, Trash Draco takes off one glove
DM: the crowd goes wild
HP: you know I’m trying to stop a gang of magical jewel thieves from cursing the crown jewels right
HP: you know that
HP: I’ve told you before
HP: my job is like, really important
DM: steaming Hot Garbage Draco bursts into flames
DM: no one’s ever seen anything like it
HP: this act would probably be great tbh
DM: look at you
DM: using abbreviations
DM: I’m proud of you
It was past midnight.
HP: you up?
DM: how may I be of service?
HP: can I call you?
Draco didn’t answer for ten minutes. Harry stared at his phone the whole time.
“I don’t get nightmares anymore,” said Harry, the instant Draco picked up.
“Oh good, I was worried you’d beat around the bush.”
“But sometimes I just lie in bed thinking of every stupid, awful thing I’ve ever done, and I just— they all come back to me in, like, this endless rush of, of, of things I hate that I did, and I have work tomorrow, and I just want to be able to fucking shut it off, you know?”
“What sort of thing?” asked Draco. It was intimate to have his voice in Harry’s ear.
“Just, you know. Shit stuff.”
There was a delicate pause.
“You can… tell me, if you want…” said Draco, and Harry suddenly knew what was making Draco so nervous.
“It’s not… the big things,” he said gently. “I feel remorse for…that…for the big things, all the time, but that’s not what this is.”
“Oh,” said Draco, sounding relieved.
“It’s stuff like… one time, this little girl asked for my autograph, and I was in such a bad mood, and I had blisters, but still, fuck, I was so rude—”
“What did you say?”
“I told her to get out of the way and barged past her. She cried, I think. I didn’t stop.”
“You monster. All right, my turn.”
“When I first met Ursula, I very insistently tried to find out where her parents’ second home was. She kept saying, ‘No, they just live in a flat in Peckham,’ and I kept saying, ‘Yes, but where do they summer?’”
“I did.” Draco’s voice went a little flat. “She’s never really liked me since then. Fair enough.”
“I think she likes you.”
“All right, what’s next? Did you spit on a war veteran? Brawl with a pregnant woman in the streets?”
Harry told Draco every one of his cringing memories, and Draco laughed at each one in turn. They vanished, boggart-like, at the sound of his laughter.
“I feel better,” said Harry, an hour later.
“That’ll be a hundred pounds, thank you very much,” said Draco.
“Thank you, Draco.”
“Go to sleep, Harry. You’ve got important work to do.”
“I know. You’re right. Thank you.”
He could almost hear Draco rolling his eyes.
“Good night,” said Draco, and hung up.
It was so easy, just to call Draco when he got home, and put him on speaker phone, and amble around his kitchen getting dinner, chatting about absolutely nothing.
“What are you making?” asked Draco over the phone.
“Just some roast veg.”
“God, I’m hungry. I don’t think I’ve eaten a vegetable since 2002.”
“Come over,” said Harry, before he could stop to think about it.
There was a long pause.
“Or don’t,” said Harry. “Whatever, it’s not a big deal.”
“Have you got enough for two?” asked Draco, hesitantly.
“I’ve got enough for about twelve, mate. Come over.”
“I’ll have to apparate; I haven’t got a floo.”
Harry told him the address. Five minutes later his front doorbell rang, and God, it was Draco, looking gorgeous and shy on his doorstep.
“Are you sure,” he said. Harry ignored him and went back to the kitchen, so that Draco was forced to follow. “Smells good,” said Draco wistfully.
“I’m not trying to be funny, but don’t you have like a million house elves?”
“I do, yeah,” said Draco, taking in Harry’s kitchen. “At least, my parents do. I couldn’t have one when I had muggle flatmates, though, and by the time I got my own place I was sort of…used to… Good Christ, is that troll-leg umbrella stand?”
“You like it?”
“It’s quite something, Harry.”
“You can have it, if you want.”
Draco made a horrible face.
“You’re too kind,” he said.
“No, really, I insist,” said Harry, smirking.
“I couldn’t possibly.”
“I won’t take no for an answer.”
“I’ll bloody hit you with it over the head if you offer it to me again,” said Draco. Harry grinned.
“Are you going to help me, or are you just going to lounge around looking pretty?”
Draco’s eyes flashed up at him. He frowned.
“Sorry,” said Harry, faltering.
“Give me something to chop, and I’ll chop it,” said Draco.
Of course, Draco wasn’t very useful when it came to kitchen chores. He kept getting distracted.
“Onion burlesque,” he mused. “The stage is a chopping board. I roll hideously forward. Slowly, I peel off my layers. Tear gas comes out of hidden canisters among the audience! By the time I’ve been fully unwrapped, they are weeping uncontrollably! The police cart my nubile, onion-y body off the stage!”
“Give that here. I’ll chop it.”
“I was doing it!”
“You were choreographing.”
“Don’t you have a house elf?”
“I like cooking,” said Harry. “Feels homey.”
Draco looked sideways at him.
“I suppose,” he said, and started making the long slices of red pepper do the can-can.
“Stop… slutting up my vegetables!”
“I will not have you using sexist terminology in my kitchen, Harry!”
Harry made a sound that was half exasperation, half delight.
“You’re useless. Go open a bottle of wine and sit,” he said. Then he froze. “Oh, fuck. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine,” said Draco lightly. “I like water.”
“I have… milk?”
“Water is good.”
“I’m really sorry, I just forgot.”
“It’s fine, Harry. People drink around me all the time.”
“Doesn’t it bother you?”
“No. Sometimes. The smell. It’s fine.”
“Do you miss it?”
“Is this meal solely vegetables, or is there to be some sort of carbohydrate?”
The next time Draco came over, Harry had stocked his pantry full of a variety of non-alcoholic drinks.
“Ribena? Sparkling apple juice? Coke? Diet Coke? Sprite? Lemonade? Iced tea? Orange squash? Waitrose Finest Apple and Mango juice?” he offered a bemused Draco.
“You went to Waitrose for me? I’m touched,” said Draco. He said it as if it was a joke, but he kept glancing over at the pantry, and he brought it up several times throughout the evening, You didn’t have to, usually people forget, I’m so used it, you really didn’t have to, that was quite thoughtful of you, Potter…
“I want to see you perform again. When’s your next gig?” asked Harry on the phone. He hadn’t got home until eleven thirty, so there was only time for a quick call before bed.
It hadn’t even occurred to him not to reach out to Draco.
“You won’t be able to make it,” said Draco. “It’s at eight on Saturday; you’ll be on patrol.”
“Oh,” said Harry. “Yeah.”
“I have later gigs occasionally, I’ll let you know next time.” Harry heard Draco stretching over the phone, and wished he could see it. “Although they’re always boozy disasters, I’ll be honest with you. I have a special act I do with a late night crowd.”
“What is it?”
“I play a drunk girl trying to buy a kebab.”
“I bet they love that.”
“What can I say, I’m the best.”
I love you, thought Harry, with sudden clarity.
It wasn’t anything he hadn’t known before.
His auror partner was a woman named Bianca Rosenthal. She stared at Harry when he asked her about patrol shifts.
“You want… someone else to do your shift?”
“Just on Saturday!” Harry paused. “Although I could maybe cut back on evening patrols in general, actually.”
“Harry. Wow. Um, yes. Totally. Let me just. Oh, Harry!”
To Harry’s great surprise, she threw herself into his arms and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Sorry, sorry, I’m just glad!”
“That I’m dropping a shift…?”
“Yes! Harry, you do know most people stop doing patrols after their second year on the job?”
“I know that; but I’m more thorough, so—”
“No, you can’t take it back. I’m putting the request through now. You’ll be out of here by seven every day, don’t argue with me.”
When Harry arrived at the nightclub, there was the same atmosphere of joyous anticipation as before. He hadn’t told Draco he was coming.
Ursula found him the moment he walked in. She wore her stage make up and a spangly dress.
“Harry! You’re so sweet to come, Draco will be thrilled. How are you?”
But Harry was choking.
He pointed at where Lucius Malfoy stood, impossibly straight in more ways than one, wearing a stern muggle suit.
“Oh, yeah, that’s Draco’s dad, Lucie. He’s such a sweetheart, have you met him?”
“Once or twice,” said Harry.
Lucius looked up, smiled openly at Ursula, and then caught sight of Harry. His smile instantly became false and strained.
Ursula took Harry’s arm and dragged him over to Lucius.
“You two know each other?” she said.
“Not well,” said Lucius, through his forced smile.
“Lucius,” said Harry. The anger he had expected to come did not arrive. This was the man who had nearly killed Ginny Weasley when she was only eleven years old. But Harry thought of Draco, musing about Bellatrix Lestrange’s potential redemption arc, and felt no anger at all.
“Draco’s doing his Queen of Tears act tonight, it’s sooo pretty,” said Ursula.
“I saw it in Brighton,” said Lucius. Harry laughed. He couldn’t help himself.
“Think it’s funny, do you, Potter?” snarled Lucius. “Here to jeer at my son?”
Harry forced himself to stop laughing.
“No,” he said. “Draco and I are friends.”
“Friends?” repeated Lucius.
“Oh, yeah,” said Ursula blithely. “Draco talks about Harry alllll the time.”
“Does he?” asked Harry.
“Ah, shit,” said Ursula. “Don’t tell him I told you that.”
“What does he say?”
“How long has this been going on?” asked Lucius.
“Years,” said Harry, although he wasn’t sure Draco would see it that way.
“Years,” said Lucius.
“How’s Cissy?” asked Ursula. “I wish she’d come again.”
“I’m sure I’ll be able to persuade her eventually,” said Lucius. “She’s rather old-fashioned, as you know.”
Harry laughed and laughed and laughed. Not even Lucius’ furious glare could stop him.
“What do you think of Draco’s stage name?” asked Harry, eventually. Lucius’ mouth drew into a long, thin line.
“Draco’s always had an irreverent sense of humour. Narcissa was not amused.”
“Oh,” said Harry, not laughing anymore. The lights went dark, and the show began.
Draco’s act was different, less ethereal, but equally lovely. He wore a crown made of tear drop crystals and a ballgown made of a special paper that disintegrated when water touched it. At first, Draco cried — although Harry could tell that he had used a charm to draw the tears out, because he had seen Draco cry before, and it was a much more heaving affair. Then, he thrust his hands into a bucket of water and ran them all over himself as he danced, until the dress and everything beneath it had been eroded away, leaving him only in some sort of diamante underwear. The lights dimmed, and Lucius clapped louder than anyone.
“Harry!” said Draco, in the dressing room. Then, more muted, “Father.”
“You’ve changed the lighting cues since I last saw it,” said Lucius.
“Yes, Draco. We aren’t American.”
Draco was instantly cowed.
“Yes. Sorry. I wanted to make it feel as if the stage is underwater by the end, do you think—did you prefer it before?”
“It’s good enough yet,” said Lucius. “I’ll speak to the lighting technician.”
“Oh, please don’t! You terrified him last time,” said Draco. He glanced at Harry. “I didn’t know you were coming, Harry, I would have—”
He didn’t finish his sentence, but he didn’t need to. He would have told Lucius not to come.
“Lucie!” said Mark, wearing nothing but a silk thong. He drew Lucius into a bear hug. “Come to Mars with us!”
“Not tonight, thank you,” said Lucius. “I’d better be on my way. We’ll talk more about the lighting, Draco.”
Draco nodded seriously.
“Bye Lucie! We love you!” shouted one of the naked women at the back of the dressing room. Lucius gave her an uncomfortable smile and left.
“Well, that was surreal,” said Harry.
“Did you think the lighting was shit?” asked Draco.
“I thought it was perfect.”
Draco didn’t seem to hear him. He shook his head.
“He’s right; it doesn’t work, the whole act is stupid, I don’t know why I still do it.”
“Draco. Chill out. He’s just your dad. That’s how he is.”
“You don’t know him,” said Draco, suddenly ferocious, and then he sighed, patting the base of his false eyelashes with one delicate finger. He was wearing what Harry recognised as a very nice set of sky blue dress robes.
“He seems all right, now,” said Harry. “Not saying I’m over all… all the stuff from before. I mean. I haven’t forgiven him. But he seems to care about you.”
Draco was packing away his crown into a bag. He shook his head.
“I’m such a dunce when it comes to lighting,” he said.
“Draco. It was brilliant. I loved it. The way the costume slowly disintegrated the more you cried? Amazing. Although I feel those people deserve to know that in reality, you’re not a pretty cry-er.”
Draco laughed a little at that, although his expression darkened.
“I’m not a pretty anything,” he said.
“You’re gorgeous,” said Harry quietly.
“Don’t patronise me, Harry.”
Draco spoke to the room at large.
“Look, are we going to Mars, or not? Because at this rate, the Russians will get there first.”
“So, Draco, how did you get your scars?” asked Mark, sucking on a milkshake. Draco smiled a wide, crocodile smile, but under the table his knee knocked reassuringly against Harry’s.
“Strap in, folks,” said Draco, “Let me spin you a tale.”
Harry went to Draco’s next gig, and his next. He soon saw what he was quite sure Draco did not: that Draco had friends, lots them, and that they loved him.
He decided to test this theory one night at Mars.
“Isn’t there a bar at the nightclub?” he asked Ursula, as he handed the waiter his menu.
“There is,” said Ursula.
“So why do you always come here?”
“Aw, you know, this is a bit more friendly for people who don’t drink.”
Harry looked around. Everyone at the table had wine or beer, except for Draco, who nursed a lime and soda.
“Most of you drink,” said Harry. “All of you, except for Draco.”
Ursula gave him a look that suggested she knew exactly what he was doing.
“Draco doesn’t like bars,” she said. “He never used to stay, when we went to the bar. So now we come here instead, and he stays.”
Harry smiled at his cutlery.
“You’re good friends,” he said.
“He’s a lamb,” said Ursula fondly. Draco glanced at her from across the table as she spoke, and she raised her voice. “We’re talking about you, Draco!”
Draco glared at them, flicked his hair bitchily over his shoulder, and turned to talk to Rain, the M.C.
“So,” asked Ursula. “Are you two dating, or…?”
“No,” said Harry. He fiddled with his paper napkin in his lap. “He’s not over his ex.”
“Hugo?” asked Ursula, sounding surprised.
“Aw, yeah, that was Hugo’s problem, too,” said Ursula. “Posh git. You know he once asked me why I still kept my Nan around? ‘We bought ours a cottage somewhere. She sends us cards.’ Turns out he meant his nanny, not his grandma.”
Harry, who could probably have listened to Ursula badmouth Draco’s exes all day, made a sympathetic sound.
The waiter put a plate of chips in front of Ursula. She fell on them eagerly.
“So he was with Hugo for a while, then?” asked Harry, sensing that Ursula was more invested in the chips than in the conversation.
“About a year, I think,” said Ursula. “Don’t get me wrong, Hugo was lovely. I don’t know that Draco would have kicked the drugs without him.”
“Oh,” said Harry gloomily. He hadn’t got Draco off drugs. Was Harry even lovely? Probably not. And Michael had been posh, too. Clearly, Draco had a type.
“Anyway, don’t give up,” said Ursula. “He’ll figure it out, eventually.”
“Figure what out?”
Ursula laughed and picked up a long chip.
“Chip challenge!” she exclaimed to the table .”Anyone got one longer than this?”
“I have, under the table,” said Mark lecherously, and everyone threw food at him, and Harry never found out what it was that Draco would figure out, eventually.
HP: you’re wrong about Ursula
HP: she does like you
DM: is that what you two were talking so cosily about tonight?
DM: you looked as if you were plotting a state coup
HP: they all care about you a lot
HP: they think of you as a good friend
DM: I don’t really have friends
HP: you do
DM: I suppose it depends what you mean by friendship
HP: people who love you
DM: flawed definition
DM: my aunt Bella loved me
DM: my aunt Bella ≠ my friend
HP: ok well
HP: I don’t know then
HP: but I know they care about you
DM: they’re essentially co-workers, Harry
DM: they don’t know me
HP: so no one can be your friend unless they know you
HP: but no one can know you because you won’t let them?
Draco didn’t answer for ten minutes. When he did, it was with a picture of a kitten cuddling several birds.
DM: HARRY HAVE YOU SEEN THIS
DM: THE INTERNET IS WILD
DM: CATS ARE THE NATURAL PREDATORS OF BIRDS
HP: you’re ridiculous
DM: new act idea
DM: I’m a sexy bird
DM: no wait
DM: sexy kitten, covered in birds
HP: I can already tell that this is a bad idea
DM: no hear me out
DM: I come on stage wearing a coat made of live birds
DM: I lure them off my body using crumbs of bread
DM: slowly revealing that my body
HP: do not say “is covered in fur”
DM: … IS COVERED IN FUR
HP: you realise that if they haven’t seen
HP: this EXACT picture
DM: everyone’s seen this picture
HP: you’re deranged
DM: you love it
DM: oh come on
DM: you do
HP: it’s late
It was increasingly difficult not to text “I love you”.
The first time Draco asked about Dean Thomas was also the first time Harry saw Draco’s flat. It was the kind of studio loft that wouldn’t have impressed someone if they didn’t know about London house prices; smallish with enormous high ceilings and windows. The main room of the flat was given over to Draco’s costume workshop. Harry resisted making a comment about the Dementor outfits Draco had made in third year, which in retrospect seemed like the inauspicious beginnings of a promising talent for sewing. The loft was accessible by ladder, and Harry could just about make out a low Japanese bed. There were a lot of plants.
“I don’t know about Dean Thomas,” Harry answered. “I haven’t seen him in years.”
Draco was fiddling about with tea bags.
“Is he alive, do you think?” he asked, casually.
“I’d have heard if he wasn’t,” said Harry.
Draco did not seem reassured.
“I’m sure I would have heard,” said Harry.
“Milk?” asked Draco, although he knew Harry’s tea preferences.
“Thanks,” said Harry.
“Some of the shit he and I used to do,” said Draco. He put away the milk and started wiping down his oven, which was how Harry knew he wanted to talk. Draco found it easiest to talk when he had something to do with his hands; something to look at. “I think back, and… do you know how many times I just bought random pills from strangers and took them without checking what they were?”
Harry didn’t say anything.
“Which was was, like, particularly reckless,” said Draco, scrubbing at his spotless oven, “given how many people want me dead, you know? And Dean was just as bad. He used to go home with the thuggiest fucking men. I’m astonished he wasn’t murdered.”
Harry took his tea from the counter and warmed his hands on it.
“I mean,” said Draco, “he was so fucked up after the war. It was ironic, really, that he was trying to work through it all with me, of all people… when I’m the reason…”
“He forgave you,” said Harry.
“Oh, yes. We got high together every night for four years, and every single time he told me he forgave me. Over and over.” He laughed again. “He didn’t fucking forgive me. He couldn’t. He was just trying to convince himself.”
Draco leant his hips against the hob, his head against the extractor fan. Harry approached slowly, slowly. Put down his tea. Put one hand on Draco’s shoulder blade.
“There’s this thing called Myspace,” said Draco abruptly.
Harry dropped his hand and hoisted himself to sit on the counter.
“What is it?” he asked, because he had a policy never to resist Draco’s conversation changes.
“Oh, it’s a brilliant internet thing. I don’t quite understand it myself, but I have to show you.”
So Draco brought over his laptop and showed Harry his Myspace profile and they didn’t talk about Dean again.
“Dean?” asked Ron. “You’ve come to the shop on your lunch hour to ask about Dean?”
Harry sidled by the cash register.
“Yeah,” he said.
“I mean,” said Ron, looking nonplussed, “he’s living with Luna. She’s been helping him get his act together. I’d say you should see them, but I know how you hate it when…”
“Yeah, I think I will. Thanks.” Harry paused. “Er, how’ve you been?”
“Good,” said Ron, carefully.
Ron didn’t tell him important things anymore, either.
“Everything going well with Hermione?”
“Yeah,” said Ron.
“Harry… are you seeing someone?”
Harry pulled a Draco and started talking about how amazing the internet was.
“So these… memes… all the muggles read them?” asked Ron, clearly utterly baffled by the direction the conversation had taken.
“Yeah, totally, they can’t get enough of them. Anyway, I’d better get back to work, see you around, take care!”
Dean and Luna lived in a farmhouse near Winchester. It was a sunny spring day when Harry visited, and they had tea in the garden. Luna looked exactly the same as she had at fourteen, and Dean looked about forty-five.
“It’s very nice to see you, Harry,” said Luna.
“Yeah, it’s good to see you, too,” said Harry, nervously watching Dean out of the corner of his eye. Dean’s feet tapped constantly, and he drummed his fingers on his legs, and his teeth were like old tombstones, all crooked and rotten.
“How’ve you been?” asked Luna.
Harry thought about saying that he’d been good, thanks, but it was written pretty clearly on Dean’s face how he’d been doing. Anything other than the truth seemed like needless cruelty.
“I’ve been really depressed for a long time,” said Harry. “Since the war, really. Think I’m coming out of it, though.”
“Wingflorps mature in our brain at around this age,” said Luna, nodding sagely. Dean made a snide laughing sound. Luna passed him a biscuit. He did not eat it.
“How long have you two been living together?”
“Four months,” said Luna.
“Just like old times,” said Dean sarcastically.
“I think it’s quite different,” said Luna serenely. “We’re not chained up in a cellar, for one.”
Dean made the snide laughing sound again.
“Er,” said Harry, “speaking of which, Draco Malfoy was asking after you.”
Dean jolted, spilling his cup of tea.
“Er, yeah,” said Harry.
“I thought for sure—he was so fucking reckless—I used to look at the obituaries—”
“He’s doing pretty well,” said Harry.
“I want to see him,” said Dean, leaning earnestly forward.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” said Luna.
“He’s been sober for over three years,” said Harry, guessing her concern. “Doesn’t even smoke cigarettes.”
“I have to see him,” said Dean. “I have to tell him I’m…”
Dean trailed off, seeming to notice for the first time that he had spilled tea all over himself.
“I’ll, er, I’ll check if he’s free,” said Harry, suddenly unsure whether it was a good idea for Draco to see Dean. Maybe they’d drag each other down again. Maybe Draco would feel betrayed that Harry had mentioned him.
“He’s okay?” asked Dean.
“You once told me you didn’t know him all that well,” Harry reminded him.
“I would never have said that.”
“Well I don’t fucking remember that, do I!”
“Dean,” said Luna, “Harry’s our friend.”
“I know!” Dean leant back on the garden bench, breathing heavily. “I know.” He looked at Harry. “Three years sober?”
“That’s…” Dean laughed. “If Draco can do it…!”
“Draco can do anything he sets his mind to,” said Harry coldly. Dean looked puzzled.
“I meant, because he was deeper in it than anyone else I knew,” he said. “Why are you two hanging out, anyway? Are you friends?”
“Whose house is this?” asked Harry. “Luna, did you buy it?”
“That’s what Draco used to do,” said Dean. “On a comedown. Deflect. He could never talk, once he was sober.”
“I bought the farm with the money I made from my literotica, Harry,” said Luna. “It’s very popular with the over-fifties.”
“Oh,” said Harry, wishing he hadn’t said anything.
“Before you ask, Luna and I aren’t dating, or married, or secretly pining for each other,” said Dean.
“I didn’t get that vibe, no,” said Harry.
“I think friendship is so much nicer than romance, don’t you?” asked Luna.
Harry couldn’t quite bring himself to agree.