"Merlin, what is this smell? Did that Weasley brood visit here again?"
"I distinctly remember discussing with you that referring to them as a 'brood' or implying anything negative about them is not appreciated here."
"You talked. I didn't listen; I thought that was clear back then?"
Rolling his eyes, Harry turned around, facing his new client of the day. "Apologies," he drawled and crossed his arms. "I should have realised your ears were too full with feathers that day to be able to hear what I was telling you."
Grey eyes narrowed. "I feel like that can be considered speciest; not very nice of you," Draco chided him, still lingering near the doorway. His eyes had a particular silver sheen to them today, which Harry had come to associate with the blond wizard having been pissed off by someone.
"You being a dick isn't very nice of you either," Harry smiled thinly. "What's got you in a mood this afternoon?"
Draco scowled and stopped imitating a statue near the door, marching over towards the low bed. "Pansy tried asking me out again. You'd think after so many times she'd get the message," he sneered, dropping down heavily onto the mattress.
"Maybe you should give her a chance?" Harry suggested, putting the last vial with the scented oil back onto the shelf. "She might surprise you."
"Perhaps you should give that Weasley girl another chance, hm? I'm sure she can surprise you too," Draco smiled poisonously sweet; his fingers clawing around the edge of the mattress.
Harry grimaced and glowered at the other man. "Times like these remind me why I didn't like you at Hogwarts."
"Aw, did I hit a nerve?" Draco smirked, but the edges of it were tight, showing he was more bothered by Pansy's request than usual.
Sighing, Harry walked over, stopping right in front of him. "You still haven't found him or her?" he questioned, his gaze trailing over the large, bright white wings taking up the majority of the space on the bed.
The tips of them fluttered and Draco clucked his tongue. "Obviously not. If I had, I wouldn't be here now, would I?"
The dark haired man didn't let himself be deterred by the sharp tone of voice. "How bad is it?" he inquired instead, studying the rigidness of the wings with critical eyes.
"Moving them hurts and I can't keep them hidden for more than three hours at a time," Draco replied stiffly, glaring down at the floor.
Worse than usual, huh?
"Would you mind if I used one of my lotions on them? That will help with the cramping more than just a massage would," Harry suggested, going through his mental list of lotions which might be the best suited for the other man.
For a short moment it looked like Draco was about to refuse, but then he nodded resigned. The wings must be really bothering him then, if he couldn't even think of a jab aimed at Harry's potion skills.
It did tell him which lotion would be best suited, though.
After retrieving the small vial, he walked around the bed and halted behind the left wing. The feathers on this one shuddered slightly underneath his gaze and Draco hunched his shoulders somewhat.
"Let me see the lotion first," he demanded; some haughtiness returning.
Wordlessly Harry handed the vial over his shoulder once the wing lowered a bit and he heard the blond wizard audibly sniff when he removed the cork.
"Chamomile?" he asked bemused.
Harry hummed, accepting the vial after it passed Draco's inspection. "Helps with cramping muscles and it smells a lot better than most potions do. Nice scents tend to help with the relaxing process better as well," he explained.
Draco just grunted, apparently unable to find fault in that explanation, and quietened down when Harry slathered lotion on his hands before carefully running them across the left wing, cautiously seeking out the muscles and avoiding snagging at the pure white feathers. He'd rather not avoid a beak or a sharp talon at this close range. The room lapsed into silence as Harry set about deeply massaging the wings, working out the cramps and soothing the tense muscles, falling into the rhythm they both had become accustomed to by now.
To everyone's surprise – including Ron's and Hermione's, who actually might have been the most shocked out of all of them – Harry had decided against joining the Aurors three years ago. He also hadn't become a Quidditch player like many teams had been hoping for, nor a Healer as Saint Mungos had wanted, or even a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher as McGonagall had hinted at several times.
Instead he had become a massage therapist – and not just any regular one. He'd specialised himself in helping magical creatures and people who had a magical creature inheritance. For everyone else, this particular career choice seemed to have come out of the blue, but Harry remembered the days after the full moon in which Remus had barely been able to move because of how tense and cramped up his muscles had become after enduring the change. He remembered a woman in Saint Mungos, who'd been part Mer and who'd complained that her legs stiffened up so much after letting go of her tail that she couldn't move for days. The Mediwizard's response had been to prescribe a simple pain killing potion, which wouldn't have been much of a help judging by the woman's face.
It had led to Harry realising that while the medical world seemed to be fairly on point for witches and wizards in general, it usually couldn't do much for magical creatures or those with a magical creature inheritance. Somehow he had come up with the idea to become a massage therapist then, wanting to do something useful for a community who mostly was ignored by the Wizarding society.
A lot of people had laughed straight into his face when he'd explained why he wanted to learn certain massage techniques. Others had declared him crazy for wanting to do something that might not even have a chance of succeeding, so new was his particular field. There had been others still, trying to persuade him to drop his decision and enter their field instead as a regular Healer.
He hadn't listened to any of them. He'd shouldered through the regular massage lessons, then had followed classes which studied the anatomy of magical creatures in more detail than they had covered during their Care of Magical Creatures classes. He'd learnt how to adapt his massage techniques to suit the specific needs of his clients and had studied Herbology in more depth in order to apply that knowledge to create lotions which would help relax his clients even further.
It had been a lot of hard work and a lot of long days spent studying the subjects he thought he could incorporate in his new profession, but two years later had seen him opening his own business. The magical creature community had been wary of his profession at first and he'd spent more time reviewing his notes and adjusting lotions the first four months than actually treating clients.
But then Leia, a woman with a lot of influence in the community and who Harry suspected possessed the Succubus heritage even if she had never confirmed what she actually was, had followed a series of sessions with him and from then on, he started to get more clients. He could only assume that Leia had been so happy with his work that she had spread word about his business, ensuring that the others were aware that Harry actually knew what he was doing.
He didn't blame them for doubting his skills or his intentions, though. Considering how some of them had been treated in the past by Healers or Mediwizards and Mediwitches, they had every right to be suspicious when his business was established.
He couldn't complain about his clientele now, though. Now he sometimes had barely any time to do some reading, all because so many people had flocked to his business, requesting his help.
Giving the right wing one last firm squeeze, ignoring the light shudder travelling through Draco's body, he stepped away and swiped a towel from the nearby cabinet to remove the excess of lotion.
"Feeling better?" Harry requested, studying the wings from a small distance now.
He nodded. The tips of the wings drooped now, the rest of the large appendages resting limply along Draco's back. He wasn't sure how long the reprieve would last this time, but at least for now he'd managed to massage the cramps and the tenseness out of the muscles.
"Yeah, you've done your magic once again," Draco muttered, sounding half delirious, half asleep.
Harry hid a smile, secretly proud that his massaging techniques were that good that it managed to even make the uptight Malfoy sleepy and relaxed. That was not an easy feat, he knew, because Draco liked to be in control at all times. As a matter of fact, Harry still hadn't completely got over the shock of Draco willingly visiting him over and over again in an attempt to relieve him from the pain.
"I'd say I'd love to see you again, but that would be bad form in my business," he said cheekily, walking over to the sink to wash his hands properly. He'd used some simple Cleaning Charms in the beginning, but they never managed to give him that clean feeling that real water did.
"You caring about bad form? Now that would be a first," Draco snorted, a bit more awake now.
"You're sure you want to insult the only one who can help you out?" Harry asked mildly, drying off his hands.
"Please, like your hero-complex would allow you to let me suffer when I show up next time," Draco smirked and got off the table, ruffling his wings a little. He flapped them twice, sending several papers flying off the desk, and then they disappeared, leaving him looking like any other regular wizard.
Harry had yet to figure out whether the wings were somehow completely absorbed in Draco's back or whether they just turned invisible.
"If you show up next time," he corrected the blond, raising an eyebrow. "When you find a suitable partner, you won't need my help anymore."
He refrained from using the word 'services'; he'd only uttered that word once before, but Draco had spent the entire session finding ways to make the word sound as dubious as possible. He wasn't going to give him that kind of ammo again.
"Sure, if I find someone," Draco said amiably and was gone before Harry could react to that.
He sighed and shook his head. "Whatever. I'm not that kind of therapist," he muttered and started preparing for his last appointment.
When he started his business, he'd never expected to count Draco Malfoy as one of his clients. Why would he have? They didn't run in the same circles and frankly, Harry hadn't expected to ever see him again after returning his wand. The war was over and they didn't attend Hogwarts anymore; there had been no reason for them to ever see each other again, except for in passing perhaps.
Two years after he'd established his therapy business, one D.M. had written him a request for a first session, mentioning aching muscles and a growing inability to properly turn his head. At that moment Harry hadn't thought anything special of it. People only using their initials to sign off for an appointment weren't that rare, especially if they were rather well known and preferred to keep their privacy.
It had been four years since the war had ended and he hadn't thought about the Malfoy family in all those years. He'd agreed to give D.M. a session and they had settled on a date and an hour.
When the day had come for D.M. to finally show up, Harry had nearly slammed the door shut in his face when he realised just who his new client was. He'd actually considered refusing to help him, because it wasn't like they had been on the best of terms to begin with, but a part of him had pointed out that wouldn't be fair to the other man. Clearly the sore muscles had been bothering the Malfoy heir enough to actually seek out his former school nemesis, so Harry had figured the least he could do was hear him out and give the session a chance.
The first session had been quite enlightening. As it turned out Malfoy was a Veela; his heritage having kicked in a day after his eighteenth birthday. They hadn't been certain whether he'd inherited the Veela gene, as it had bypassed both his parents and his grandparents, but obviously nature had other plans for the sole heir.
For three years there hadn't been any real issue to speak of, the Veela side lying dormant the entire time. As time passed, however, and Malfoy didn't find anyone to be his partner, his Veela grew restless. Veela weren't meant to be alone for the rest of their lives; the longer they went without a romantic partner, the more their body started protesting. It started with small twinges here and there at first, the type you felt if you made a wrong move. Those small twinges then turned into aching bones and cramping, tense muscles; the pain and misery growing gradually worse.
Malfoy had tried everything from charms to spells to potions, but none of them relieved the pain. Harry's business had been his last chance at finally getting some relief.
As soon as Malfoy had finished his explanation, his wings had popped into view as if he had no longer been able to restrain them, knocking over the chair and slamming a cabinet down. Harry couldn't say he had Veela as clients before; as a matter of fact the only Veela he knew was Fleur, Bill's wife, and she definitely didn't suffer from any debilitating pain.
While a part of him had rebelled against the thought of helping out Malfoy, remembering all too clearly the bullying and the taunts that had transpired in Hogwarts, a larger part couldn't refuse the other man. He'd made a vow to help his clients to the best of his abilities, no matter who they were – if that included his ex-school enemy, so be it.
The first sessions had been rather … awkward. Harry tended to either listen to music during his sessions with clients who preferred not to talk or just talked with them while relieving them from their pain. Malfoy had rejected the idea of music before Harry had even been able to suggest a genre they could both agree on, but he'd also refused to say anything. As a result, their first five sessions had been spent in absolute, awkward silence.
Until Ron's owl had arrived during their sixth session and Malfoy had been unable to keep his sneering comments about the Weasleys to himself. That had ended in him and Harry having a huge shouting match which had almost turned into an actual duel before Malfoy had stormed out of his practice enraged – after shrieking so loudly that the windows had shattered and Harry's eardrums had nearly been destroyed.
Veela definitely had a flair for drama. No wonder Bill was so willing to agree with everything Fleur said or did.
After that Harry had thought he wouldn't see Malfoy ever again. Sure enough, a month had passed by without the blond wizard showing up on his doorstep, demanding another sessions.
But then, at the end of June, a house elf had suddenly shown up in Harry's office, scaring the hell out of him.
"Master Harry Potter needs to be comings with me now!" the house elf demanded shrilly, wrangling his long, flappy ears in his knobby hands.
"What? Where? Whose house elf are you?" Harry asked mystified, but snatched his wand off his desk nevertheless, trying to recall whether he knew anyone personally who kept house elves.
"Master Draco Malfoy is requestings your helps, Master Harry Potter, sir!" the elf tittered, his huge, dark brown eyes glistening wetly in the dying sunlight. "You is needings to be comings with me now!"
"Malfoy?" he muttered bemused. Why would Malfoy be needing his help? He hadn't seen the bastard in more than a month. What, did he think Harry was just going to drop everything for his poncey arse all because he suddenly needed help?
"Please, Master Harry Potter, sir, is very urgent!"
"All right, all right, already!" he hastily agreed, not wanting to deal with a wailing house elf on top of the long day he'd had already. "I'll go to Malfoy Manor. That's where he's staying, right?"
But the house elf shook his head. "No, I is takings you with me, Master Harry Potter, sir!"
The small being snatched his hand before he could react and the next second, he was lurched forwards it felt like, the world spinning so fast around him he had to close his eyes or risk being sick. When his feet touched ground next, he nearly fell forwards; his balance blasted to shit after that very uncomfortable way of travelling. It was odd; Dobby had taken him and his friends out of this manor during the war and back then the transport hadn't felt that uncomfortable.
Or maybe he just had had other things on his mind back then, which had distracted him.
"You is needing to help Master Draco Malfoy!" the elf insisted urgently, rushing towards a black door. He pushed it open, but remained standing near the entrance, bowing so deeply there was no way that position could be comfortable.
Still baffled as to what was going on exactly, Harry moved forwards, ignoring the curious looks of the Malfoy ancestors in the paintings.
The room he walked into was cloaked in various shades of darkness; the only glimpse of light coming through a small gap in the long drapes.
"Lumos," he murmured and inhaled sharply when the sharp glow revealed what the sunlight had been too weak to show.
Malfoy was curled up onto a large bed, his head tucked against his chest and his arms wrapped tightly around his legs. His wings were out, and folded in a weird position, lying criss-cross over each other as if they were frozen like that. The Veela laid there so unnaturally still that Harry feared for a moment that he'd come too late and Malfoy had died.
Then he saw him inhaling, the motion barely noticeable, and the grimace etched onto his face deepened, as if breathing hurt him somehow.
"Malfoy?" Harry whispered, for some reason not daring to raise his voice.
Malfoy didn't say anything, save for squeezing his eyes shut. His whole form radiated so much tenseness that it was starting to hurt Harry's own muscles to look at him.
Tense muscles – it couldn't be …
In just a couple of long strides he was next to the bed and bent down, holding his wand to the side so he wouldn't blind the other man with the bright light. "How bad is the cramping?" he demanded.
Malfoy just clenched his teeth, not answering him.
Harry thought for a moment, trying to figure out how he should proceed. If the pain was worse than before, he would need the extra help of his lotions to be able to help Malfoy; just a simple massage didn't look like it would suffice now.
"Okay, I need you to do something for me now," Harry said, keeping his voice calm and low. "If this pain is worse than anything you've experienced before, open your eyes now."
Eyelids trembled heavily, but then silver, almost luminous orbs locked onto his, burning brightly, and Harry swallowed, nodding. All right, so worse than before.
"I'm going to try to help you, but I'm going to have to use some of my own lotions on you. A regular massage isn't likely to help you now," he warned him. "Do I have your permission to send one of your house elves to my office to grab them?"
The nod was so miniscule Harry would have missed it if he hadn't been staring at Malfoy intently.
"Okay, I'll be right back." He went to turn around and go to the hallway where hopefully that elf would still be waiting, but an odd, muffled whimper stopped him in his tracks and he swiftly turned around, surprised.
Malfoy was still in the same position, but long, sharp claws had overtaken his human fingers and one of them was lifted towards Harry; desperation lurking in bright silver eyes.
In spite of the fight they had had last time, Harry softened and he bent back down, murmuring, "I'll be right back, I promise. I'm just going to tell one of your house elves quickly what I need them to get and then I'll be back. I'm not going anywhere."
The desperation didn't dim, but the claw lowered again. It didn't disappear, however, and Harry had a feeling that wouldn't happen until he'd sorted out the mess that Malfoy's muscles had become in the span of less than a month and a half.
He hurried to the hallway, where the same house elf was still lurking about, and after giving him the list of lotions he needed, he went back to Malfoy immediately, rolling up his sleeves.
"This is probably going to hurt even more in the beginning, but bear with me, okay?"
He thought Malfoy would have made some sarcastic quip to that, but he remained silent, seemingly in too much pain to even move his eyes. Pressing his lips together, Harry kicked off his shoes and climbed onto the bed, steeling himself for what was going to be a very long night.
It took him the better part of the evening to get the wings to finally bend and relax completely; the muscles in them as taut as a string. Even with the heavy duty lotions he'd come up with, it took him a long time to work out the kinks in the wings and to get them to lie flat against the bed. They didn't disappear, but Harry didn't take the time to wonder whether that was because Malfoy was in still too much pain to retract them.
As soon as the last muscle in the right wing turned as flexible as the rest, Harry turned his attention to the rest of Malfoy's body, keeping up a steady stream of chatting about non-sensical subjects, like the last match between the Falcons and the Cannons or how the Weasley twins were developing a new range of sweets but were being mysterious about it, refusing to give any sort of information.
He talked about the upcoming Minister elections, about how Hermione was patiently waiting for Ron to get his shit together and propose to her, refusing to do it herself. He shared stories about his godson and the trouble he tended to land in if he remained unsupervised for even a little bit.
By the time Harry finally finished up, his throat was raw from all the talking he'd done and his eyes burnt with the lack of sleep. Merlin knew how late – or early – in the morning it was already.
But he'd succeeded. Malfoy was no longer a coiled up, tense mess, but sprawled across the bed, looking exhausted but relaxed; his wings draped limply over the edges of the mattress.
"You're an idiot," Harry couldn't resist telling him, sighing deeply. He slipped off the mattress and groaned when he stretched his arms, his back and neck protesting from the bent position he'd been in for the better part of the night.
"Right back at you, Potter," Malfoy mumbled tiredly.
"Don't wait until you're a mess to call in my help," Harry said; a note of irritation slipping into his voice even though he tried to hide it.
It was difficult not to be annoyed with the blond man, though, when the idiot had clearly waited too long to come to him for help. Who knew how bad he would have fared if his house elf hadn't gone to Harry for assistance?
Malfoy mumbled something too low for him to understand, so he snapped, "What?"
"I said, I didn't think you'd still want me as a client," Malfoy repeated stiffly; his gaze fixated on the ceiling.
"What? Because of the fight?"
Malfoy remained silent.
"You're a pain in the arse, Malfoy, but I'm not going to turn you away if you need my help," Harry said wearily, rubbing his face. His eyes felt gritty and he wanted nothing more than to drop down in his bed and sleep for a very long time. "Just so we're clear, though: next time you even think about insulting my friends, you won't even get the chance to do your dramatic exit, you bloody drama queen."
He didn't wait for a reply and left.
That night had been a catalyst. When Malfoy had shown up two weeks later, they had started talking about the new shops in Diagon Alley while Harry massaged the cramps out of his neck and shoulders.
They kept talking about everything that popped up in their minds and along the way they had gone from Potter and Malfoy to Harry and Draco. Harry wouldn't say they were really friends, but there was an ease to their interactions now which hadn't been there before.
Hermione and Ron didn't know about Draco. Even though Harry was not a Healer or even a Mediwizard, he took patient confidentiality – even in his business – very serious and so he never confided in them who his patients were. Oh, they knew he treated all kinds of magical creatures, of course, and Hermione was definitely fascinated by the broad range of species he was able to meet because of his job, but they didn't know the specifics. Harry didn't tell them and they didn't pry.
Sometimes, though, Harry wondered what they would say if they knew that he was on such good terms with Draco now.
Probably declare him insane – and he wouldn't blame them for that. Morgana knew he sometimes questioned how his life had turned out this way.
"I thought the time of giving presents had long since passed?"
Draco's non-sequitur comment had Harry frowning for a moment, his hands halting until the blond made a protesting noise. Rolling his eyes, Harry resumed massaging the base of the right wing, squeezing firmly into it.
Batting some feathers out of his face, he realised the cause of Draco's strange question. "Just idiots who think they can get a head start on Valentine's Day," he grumbled, glowering when he was reminded of the stack of presents he'd dumped into the garbage bin. He was still trying to decide whether he should give those gifts to charity or just incinerate them.
One would think after four years of refusing gifts from all those people, they would get the hint.
"Nothing in them that was to your liking?" Draco smirked, humming when Harry hit a good spot with the heel of his left palm.
"Please," Harry snorted derisively. "It's just dumb stuff given to me by people who don't know me at all. If they really liked me, they would put some more effort into their presents."
"High maintenance, are we? I thought I was the one with high standards here?" Draco chuckled lowly.
"I don't call not wanting a dozen of Seeker Weekly subscriptions being high maintenance," Harry retorted dryly, leaving the right wing alone and switching to the left one. "Nor not wanting twenty-five pieces of treacle tart. It's my favourite dessert, yes, but if that's all they know about me …" He shook his head and clucked his tongue.
"Call me high maintenance, but I want someone who's actually really interested in me and not my fame or my name, and who actually goes to the trouble of getting me thoughtful gifts. Is that so much to ask for?" he complained frustrated. "I think I'm being fairly reasonable here."
"You're expecting thoughtfulness from your empty-brained fans?" Draco smirked. "Now that's not being reasonable, Harry, that's just being stupid."
"Yeah, yeah, turn around so that I can get a better look at the bottom of your wing," Harry grumbled.
Just four more weeks until Valentine's Day was over and the stream of gifts would finally stop.
Just four more long, very long weeks.
He'd just sat down to enjoy his breakfast on Saturday when a Great Horned Owl landed on the windowsill, staring at him with large, piercing eyes.
"Now where do you come from?" he asked bemused and stood up to open the window.
The owl hopped onto the counter, holding out his paw regally. As soon as Harry had accepted the small box, the owl hooted softly and jumped back onto the windowsill. It spread its large wings and soared away into the grey sky, clearly being told not to wait for a reply.
Eyes furrowing, Harry stared down at the dark blue package, wondering warily whether it was yet another thoughtless gift from someone who thought they could woo the Great Harry Potter.
"Better get it over with," he sighed, figuring he could away give or throw it away later on.
After casting a couple of spells to make sure it didn't contain anything dangerous – one close call with almost being doused in Love Potion had been enough to make him wary of all unknown packages – he ripped the paper away and plopped off the lid.
His mouth dropped open in surprise when a dark leather wand holster greeted him; the material feeling flexible and soft when he picked it up. There were runes stitched into the leather and his limited knowledge told him they were meant to provide extra protection, ensuring his wand wouldn't get lost or stolen.
This type of wand holsters – ones carrying strong runes – were incredibly rare. He'd actually considered getting one of them, but had dismissed the idea, because it wasn't like he was an Auror or even a Duellist; professions in which holsters like these could come in handy.
Still, while he'd decided not to get one, he'd always thought it would have been very nice to have one, just in case.
Still marvelling about the holster, his eyes fell on a little note still left in the box.
'I hope you'll enjoy your gift. You look like you would appreciate one like this.
Your Secret Admirer'
Secret Admirer, hm? Now that was intriguing.
Someone had actually sent him a nice, useful gift; his interest was piqued for the first time in years.
Just who was this Secret Admirer?