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Owl Was Well

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Magic could be a fickle thing—this, even the most well-bred of pure-bloods would grant you. It could destroy, it could create—it could heal, it could maim. It could reveal truths, it could deceive, and as often as a spell worked exactly the way it was meant to, it also went horrifically haywire.

Animagecraft, Draco had learned through the course of his studies, was no different from any other branch of magic in this respect. It was perhaps a bit trickier to manage, requiring more dedication (or else desperation) to master than your average charm or jinx, and came with a whole host of regulations dictating its application. But it was, in the end, only magic—and thus a tool that could undo you or elevate you, depending entirely on how you wielded it.

The worst thing about being an Animagus, you see, was the fact that, after lengthy spell preparations that were entirely too time-consuming and convoluted, you didn’t even get to choose your form.

The best thing about being an Animagus, though, was that you never had to choose your form. It was always precisely what you needed, decided by your innate arcane humours and the needs inherent to the witch or wizard casting. Not everyone was capable of placing such trust in magical energies, but for the faithful, for the hopeful—for the achingly desperate—it always worked out in the end.

Which brought Draco here, to the Owlery atop the West Tower of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Now, he wasn’t meant to be here. Not in the Owlery, and certainly not at Hogwarts, where from his current vantage point through one of the dozens of open windows pockmarking the tower he could see several dozen black-robed students aimlessly milling about the Courtyard far below, appearing not unlike a recently trod-upon anthill.

But he was here, all the same, because some mad Dark Lord had decided his conquest of the wizarding world couldn’t wait one damn year, so what had been meant to be a welcome finale to years of education wasted on parlour tricks and outright hogwash had instead turned into a year-long siege under the thumb of Death Eaters so foul a Dementor would’ve spat their soul back out.

So Seventh Year had come…and Seventh Year had gone, the only light in the fog of war Draco could cling to being his Animagecraft studies, attempted under the guise of being his seventh-year thesis topic.

“And why have you chosen to explore the field of Animagecraft, Mr. Malfoy?” then-Headmaster Snape had asked Draco, who had sat there in the old Potions study and felt very small and very vulnerable and very exposed, because there was a fucking war going on out there, and who could concentrate on banging out that final half-inch of parchment for your Divination essay under these conditions? “And pray, do not lie to me. I’ll know.”

Draco had swallowed, drawn himself up in the best imitation of his father in his prime he could muster, and lied through his teeth. “A well-rounded CV will be key to ensuring I can find a good foothold in…whatever is to come next, Sir. I’d like to have options. A leg-up, if you will.”

Snape had nearly stabbed his quill through the parchment, so quickly had he scrawled his signature on the application—and then sent it sailing off to McGonagall for final approval as the Head of the Transfiguration Department. “I’m expecting smart decisions from you this year, Mr Malfoy. You’ve always been a clever student. Do not disappoint me.”

Draco liked to think he’d kept his word—he’d kept his head down the entire year, and every moment outside of the farcical demonstrations that had passed for lectures under the Dark Lord’s educational regime had been spent holed up in the deepest, darkest corners of the library, surrounded by towering tomes that shielded him from prying eyes as he poured himself into his Animagecraft studies under McGonagall’s reluctant tutelage.

Perhaps she might have been more eager to mould his young mind had he been forthright in explaining his reasons for pursuing Animagecraft in the first place—but it was best for the both of them that she assumed he meant to use such magics to mischievous ends…rather than to simply escape this ridiculous, stupid war. Really, how was the Dark Lord going to find him if he turned into a field mouse and scampered into a crack in the castle walls? Or a sea snake and went to live with the Merfolk in the Black Lake? It was hardly the noblest of ways to ride out the war—but no one would ever accuse him of being a Gryffindor.

His studies had been abruptly cut short, though, when a horrifically disfigured Harry Potter had jumped him in his own parlour and fucked off with his wand, and then when he’d convinced his mother to loan him hers so he could complete the final stages of the spell, the whole bloody war had crested on the castle grounds, and he’d nearly been reduced to so much ash on the wind by a carelessly cast Fiendfyre curse.

Which was all to say he’d necessarily been a bit delayed in finalising his ‘thesis research’, and so it had only been two months back—well after the war had wound down and any real need for an Animagus form had passed—that he’d completed his training. “You’ve come this far, Mr Malfoy,” McGonagall had said with her lips in a thin, tight line. “Unless you think perhaps Animagecraft might not serve you quite as well now as it might have six months ago?”

And though Snape was dead and the war over (gods above and below, he hoped) and his family’s reputation in shambles, the veiled accusation had stung fiercely enough to goad him into chewing on that revolting mandrake leaf for a month and standing about in an open field on the moors waiting to be struck by lightning.

Which was how he’d wound up here, in the Owlery: a place Draco Malfoy did not belong—but to which his handsome, sleek, white-as-death Barn Owl did.

It was, by any and all accounts, a much more respectable form than the field mouse or sea snake, Draco had to admit. Ubiquitous in the wizarding world, he would never stand out or be a source of curiosity or suspicion. One could likely not have asked for a better form for being able to while away the hours, unremarked, large enough he needn’t fear any predators but small enough he would draw no attention. He was, on consideration, glad he hadn’t been allowed to choose his form—he’d fucked up enough choices in his life, it was nice to be relieved of the responsibility for once. And trusting to fate had served him well in this instance.

Now, it hadn’t been his idea to come back to Hogwarts in the first place; had he had any choice in the matter, he might have sought a discreet transfer to Durmstrang or even Beauxbatons to finish up any remaining coursework, and even with the restrictions placed on his movements, he felt confident enough in his grasp of the curriculum he could have managed at least Es on any N.E.W.T.s he chose to sit through self-study.

But no, the Wizengamot in their gracious magnanimity and grand wisdom had seen fit to direct him to return to Hogwarts and participate in the newly instated ‘Eighth Year’ course that McGonagall had established to allow former seventh-year students who felt they’d been deprived an adequate final year of education to get in one last hurrah. As his attendance was tied to his probationary terms, and since declining to return would have earned him a quick trip to Azkaban to share a cell with his father, here Draco was, talons curled around his favoured roosting branch as he peered from one of the windows out into the Courtyard far below.

It wasn’t all bad, of course. The Wizengamot hadn’t gone so far as to say which classes he was obliged to take, so he’d enrolled himself only in courses he could have passed with his eyes closed—which he often did, catching naps in the far back corners of his classrooms while the professors delivered droning lectures, generally being a bother to absolutely no one. He didn’t want to excel. He didn’t want to stand out. He only wanted to survive long enough to escape this castle and all its occupants—after which his future was wide open. Some might call it ‘empty’, but Draco liked to think he was only still considering his absolute glut of options.

And when he wasn’t napping away lecture hours or trying to get through meals as quickly and quietly as possible, he liked to come here, to the Owlery, where he could sit in calm, comfortable silence and have all the privacy he might like. The owls generally kept to themselves, only occasionally hissing or snapping at each other if one encroached on another’s roosting space, and given his sense of smell as an owl was virtually non-existent, the stench of droppings and old, mouldy feathers littering the floor didn’t bother him at all.

Occasionally, students would wander in, calling to their own owls or else waving down one of the official school owls to send messages, and Draco was content to ignore them, as they were content to ignore him.

This was, however, only until one lazy Saturday afternoon in late September, when he was up to his most favourite pastime of late: napping.

In retrospect, this entire mess might have been avoided entirely had he simply chosen a different perch to roost upon. As it was, though, he’d been too lazy to hop up a few more branches, well out of striking distance, and thus sat just within arm’s reach of the odd student wandering into the Owlery in want of a delivery bird.

“Oi. Psst, you there.”

Something poked him in the breast feathers, and he gave a start, wings flaring—it hadn’t struck anything sensitive, thanks to the healthy layering of down, but he was less than accustomed to being disturbed in the Owlery of all places.

“Oh, sorry. Hullo there—are you free, Mr…Ms? Owl?”

There, just beneath Draco’s perch and peering up through a pair of wire-frame glasses from beneath a messy shock of black hair with a fringe in desperate want of trimming, stood Harry Fucking Potter, still brazenly brandishing the wand with which he’d just stabbed Draco in an act of entirely unwarranted aggression. Only a few years ago and Draco’s father would definitely have heard about this.

Wings half-flared for balance, he carefully shuffled further along his perch with a halting gait, glaring at Potter all the while with a slit-eyed disdain that he hoped said fuck off. “Fuck off,” he hissed aloud for good measure, but Potter probably couldn’t understand that either, the thick-headed knob.

“Hey now, don’t be like that—all the other school owls are off on post runs, and I need a letter delivered.”

How that was Draco’s problem, he didn’t rightly know. Potter extended his wand again, and Draco snapped at it, wings extended in a threat display—and that seemed to spook Potter a bit. He held his hands up defensively, standing his ground.

“Easy, easy, geez…” His eyes lit up, an idea striking him, and he stuffed a hand into the pocket of his robes—coming out after much rummaging with a handful of what looked like multicoloured kibble. “Er, I haven’t got any owl treats on me, but I do have some…Bertie Bott’s? I reckon this one’s coconut—” He held up a white bean. “And this one…maybe cherry? Or chili pepper…” Gingerly, he took a step closer, his offering cupped in his palm. “It’s a little bit of a trek—southern England, if you can manage it. But I can have some proper treats for you when you get back? Only it looks like the other school owls are in use and—” He made a quick scan of Draco. “Doesn’t seem like you belong to anyone else? So? What do you say?”

Draco made a grand show of thinking the offer over before slowly, carefully picking his way back down the branch, closing the gap between himself and Potter’s open palm. He perused the proffered sweets, leaning forward as if to get a better look, then locked his soulless black eyes with Potter’s and promptly bit the shit out of the nearest finger he could find.

The Bertie Bott’s Beans went flying everywhere as Potter jerked his hand back, shaking it and spitting out several very choice words. If only the Prophet knew what a filthy tongue their boy saviour had on him.

Potter glared up at Draco, murder flashing in his eyes, and then showed him two fingers—one of which was now a lovely shade of purple-red with little bitty beak-shaped indentations. “Right, fuck you. Vicious bloody bird…” Still muttering under his breath Should’ve just asked to borrow Pig, he then quickly shuffled his way out the door, heading for the fourth-floor corridor and leaving the Owlery once again quiet and peaceful.

Potter had never been one to learn a lesson, though—in class or outside of it. Draco supposed he should therefore not have been surprised when, three days later, Potter was back in the Owlery, one finger bandaged and scanning the branches with a wild sort of paranoia. Draco was three branches up this time, digesting lunch and feeling quite content in his superiority right about now as Potter plastered himself against the curving tower wall and carefully worked his way around to harass an unfortunate old Barred Owl who had been happily dozing in the warm noontime sun.

“Don’t worry,” Potter groused, one eye pinned to Draco at all times, as if fearful he might suddenly find himself swooped upon otherwise. He carefully fit his little scroll of parchment to the Barred Owl’s leg, which it tolerated with a sleepy blink. “I won’t be demanding your ‘services’ again.” Draco gave a rough, rasping hiss that came out in a stutter reminiscent of chuckling laughter. “Dunno how you could be expected to fly anyhow with that stick up your arse.” He stopped laughing.

Well that was just rude, and Draco knew Potter had been raised by wolves, but was that any way to speak to a defenceless animal who’d only lashed out instinctively when attacked by a creature five times its size? He was aghast. Absolutely aghast.

So he hopped up one more branch and shuffled, shuffled, shuffled, until he was perched directly over Potter’s head, which was bowed over the old Barred Owl still as he added a little ribbon to the scroll to ensure it stayed fixed to the bird’s leg. Draco sighted himself, took careful aim—

And then let fly a loose, wet shit right on top of Potter’s birds’-nest hair.

It was a lovely contrast, if you asked Draco. An elegant white splatter against a sea of inky black. One could have written poetry about it—Potter was delivering fantastic free-form verses at that very moment, in fact.

Seeming to forget he was a wizard and could, quite easily, Vanish the excrement from his person with a flick of his wand, Potter instead turned to Draco, pointing with not a wand but his bandaged finger and vowing in a grit-toothed growl, “I. Will. Barbecue. You. We’ll have roast fowl very soon; I’ll put in a special request to the house-elves in the Kitchens.”

Draco gave an easy shrug, fluffing his feathers with a shiver and getting comfortable on his new perch.

But Potter’s idle threats were just that: idle. No house-elves came to harass Draco while he napped, and though Potter declined to return to the Owlery for another week and a half after the ‘faecal incident’, Draco was under no impression this was because he was lodging a formal complaint with McGonagall to do something about ‘that nasty brute in the West Tower’.

Still, return he did eventually—and this time, he came armed with a wide-brimmed hat, hide gloves, and a healthy amount of wariness.

“Just try something, arsehole,” he challenged, though not without a slight tremor in his voice as he carefully approached an overexcited Scops with some student’s band on its leg. It looked like it was about to piss itself with glee, so Potter might have more to fear from the owl in the hand than the one in the bush, as it were.

When Potter turned, reluctantly, to focus on fixing his little scroll to the owl’s leg in earnest, Draco hopped down to the branch just above the one atop which the little Scops was perched, placing himself nearly at eye level with Potter. Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, Potter looked up, locked eyes with Draco, and then gave a startled stumble backwards onto his arse when Draco fluffed himself up in a threat display with a raspily hissed Boo!

He laughed so hard at the sight, he nearly fell off his perch—and his hissing guffaws only grew louder when Potter glared up at him, covered in dirty hay and feathers.

“Yeah, you’re a bloody laugh-riot…” He struggled back to his feet, brushing his robes clean (in the loosest sense of the word), and went back to trying to fit the Scops with his letter. “What’s your problem, anyway? I was minding my own business this time.”

Well, you told me to try something, so I did, Draco did not say, but he thought it very hard, entirely too pleased with himself. He made a few more aborted attempts to spook Potter, but the results were not quite as spectacular as the first time, and when Potter finally got fed up and brandished his wand in threat, Draco decided to leave off, hopping back up a few rungs with a disappointed huff.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Potter muttered—though he made sure not to turn his back to Draco, even as he shuffled from the Owlery after sending the Scops off on its delivery. “See you ‘round, tosser,” he said before he slipped out the door, showing Draco a couple of fingers (once more fresh and unbandaged; Draco would have to do something about that when the inevitable next time came around).

With each successive visit—now coming two to three times a week usually—Potter became more and more inured to Draco’s threats (toothless and otherwise), and somewhere around mid-October, he started showing up with of all things owl treats. For Draco. Perhaps he’d grown tired of having to faff about in a sunning hat in mid-autumn, or maybe Madame Pomfrey’s questions as to why he kept showing up in the Hospital Wing with bloodied fingers were getting too probing.

He’d started off placing one as what could only be a peace offering atop a knot carved into one of the lower roosting branches, and Draco had purposefully ignored it until Potter had done his business and fucked off. He’d thought they might be poisoned at first—it certainly wouldn’t have come as any surprise—so he’d let one of the other owls have at it. When his poison-tester had failed to promptly keel over in a dead faint, he supposed the little bit of kibble must actually be an owl treat, and he called first dibs on it the next time Potter left one.

Having never tasted owl treats before, for obvious reasons, Draco didn’t have much to measure the taste by—but it was passable. Savoury and filling, with a mineral-y bite that suggested Draco really didn’t want to know what was actually in the things.

When Potter brought an offering on his next visit, placing it atop the knot, Draco didn’t wait for the big Horned Owl resting on the same branch to steal it—he swooped down, still a healthy distance from where Potter was fussing with the excitable little Scops again, and inhaled it. The taste tended to grow on you was all, and you needed to let these stupid birds know who was boss, or they’d never let you have a moment’s peace, the territorial shits.

“…So you like them, then?”

Draco swivelled his head around in a manner he knew unsettled humans, staring at Potter with a half-lidded gaze that he hoped said Who gave you permission to address me?

Potter seemed to be waiting for him to actually speak, though, and when nothing was forthcoming, he sent the Scops on its way and shoved a hand into his robe pocket, rifling about for a moment until he came out with a handful of owl treats. Carefully, he began stacking them on top of the knot in a little pyramid—and once finished with his handiwork, he took several steps backward, plastering himself against the side of the tower with an expression of wincing hope.

And fuck it—the Horned Owl was already slavering at the beak, so Draco gave it a hissed warning, beating his wings imperiously to run it off. He then ever-so-slowly crept down the branch to claim his prize, taking care not to jostle the pyramid and send the delicious little delights tumbling into the filthy straw below, and nipped them up, one by one.

Potter’s shoulders relaxed a tick, though Draco kept him pinned with one eye—he liked fucking with Potter more than he liked these owl treats, and forced to choose between the treats and giving Potter another scar to go with the one he’d earned from the Dark Lord, he’d go for the latter every time.

“So whose owl are you?” Potter asked, daring to take off his ridiculous hat; a wise move, as Draco had been contemplating swooping down upon him and carrying it off, perhaps leaving it for Potter to find later atop the Gryffindor stands out on the Quidditch pitch. “You haven’t got one of the school crests, and you aren’t banded like the other students’ birds…” He frowned. “You don’t belong to one of the professors, do you?” He then paled with dawning realisation. “Oh god, you aren’t…you aren’t Snape’s owl, are you?”

Draco nearly choked on one of the treats, hacking until it popped from his gizzard and landed in the refuse littering the floor of the Owlery. What a waste.

“You’re certainly a mean enough little shit to make one suspect…” He scratched his temple, eyes screwing up in thought behind his glasses. “…Well you’re obviously someone’s. I mean, don’t let this go to your head, but you seem far too intelligent to be a wild owl that just wandered in. Besides—” He moved to place one hand protectively over his crown, chancing a few measured steps forward though still keeping out of range of Draco’s talons. “—I doubt wild owls bother to aim.”

Draco began to preen, and Potter sighed, defeated.

“Right, well, enjoy your treats. If you can manage some self-restraint on future encounters, there might be more where that came from.” He gave Draco a long, hard look—then shook his head, blinking at himself in bemusement. “…The hell am I talking to a bloody bird for? God, I really must miss Hedwig…”

Draco didn’t know who ‘Hedwig’ was, but he shared Potter’s concern about striking up conversations with random owls he met while going about his day: Potter was and ever would be absolutely fucking off his rocker underneath the unearned celebrity and passable Quidditch skills.

True to his word, though, like the honourable, noble Gryffindor that he was, Potter showed up on successive visits to the Owlery bearing gifts he offered up in an effort to convince Draco they had a reasonable rapport going now and he really shouldn’t muck it up by raking Potter across the face, even if he would look better that way.

As October stretched on and the lazy, warm days of summer at last came to a close, though, Potter’s “visits” became less frequent, until by Halloween, he might go a week without showing up at all. This, Draco was perfectly pleased with—except he’d grown fond of the brand of owl treats Potter seemed to have an endless supply of, and he was starting to get cravings even as a human, which was most disconcerting. Undoubtedly they’d be absolutely revolting to his human tastebuds, but the craving was there all the same and—of late—unquenchable.

It was therefore with no small amount of mortifying eagerness that he leapt to the lowest branch when Potter came barrelling into the Owlery one lovely Sunday afternoon in early November and began casting about the tower with panic writ large on his features. His eye fell on Draco, already perched patiently by the knot where it had been agreed Potter would leave his treats—and his expression fell with a sick sort of resignation.

He approached, carefully and cautiously, and scanned the branches above, a tiny little noise of defeat gurgling in his throat when he found the empty branches where the Hogwarts-owned owls usually roosted. His gaze then drifted, reluctant, to Draco, and he held before himself, clenched tight in his fists, a rolled up slip of parchment.

“…Now, all right, I know…I know you really don’t want to deliver things for me. But this—” He held up the parchment. “This is really important, and I need to get it sent off now, ‘cause it’s a time-sensitive kind of thing, and well—” He waved a hand at the empty roosts. “All the school owls are in use, and Pig’s already off making a delivery, so could you…could you maybe?”

Draco blinked slowly, looking first at the empty knot and then at Potter. He was getting the distinct feeling no owl treats were forthcoming and was rapidly losing interest in this conversation. He spread his wings, reading to launch himself up to a higher perch, out of reach of Potter’s whinging.

“Wait—wait, come on!” Potter lunged for him, and Draco lashed out with snapping beak and ripping claw—and that sent him reeling. “Right, right, sorry! You like your space, I know that. Sorry.” He waved the parchment weakly, pasting on an entreating expression that probably made Girl Weasley and her ilk go weak in the knees. “I swear, it’s just the one time, and you know I wouldn’t ask you if it wasn’t important, right? I’ll get you a whole cauldron full of owl treats if you’ll do it? Do you have a flavour preference or anything? George said Eeylops started selling a new ‘Cinnamon Pumpkin Tripe’ flavour after the equinox, and that sounds absolutely disgusting to me, but I’m not an owl, so what do I know?” He slowly extended the hand holding the parchment. “Please.”

And now this was just sad. The Boy Who Lived, Saviour of all wizarding-kind (well, mostly the ones in England, but the Dark Lord would’ve probably gotten around to global conquest eventually, so there was a good chance Potter had saved the entire world)—reduced to begging an owl to pretty please deliver a letter for him. It was as sorry a sight as Draco had seen in many months, and he had to put a stop to it, he really did.

With as close to a huffing sigh as he could manage, Draco shifted his weight to balance on one leg and held the other out, waiting.

Potter just stared, blinking silently in bald confusion at the leg, until Draco snapped his beak at him in warning. Potter jerked, nearly dropping the parchment, then quickly slipped forward and began attempting to affix the letter to Draco’s leg with nervously trembling fingers.

“Please don’t bite me, please don’t bite me, please don’t bite me…” he muttered as a mantra under his breath, before switching to, “God, I really hope you don’t belong to anyone. This isn’t stealing, understand? If you’ve got an owner, I’d appreciate you explaining the situation to them. These are, er, extenuating circumstances.”

After a good ten minutes of tying and untying and re-tying, Potter finally seemed satisfied with the job, placing three owl treats down on the knot, perhaps as a down-payment, and instructing, “It’s for Quality Quidditch Supplies, all right? It needs to get to them before closing, if at all possible. I know it’s a long trek—” Draco barely managed to stifle a squawk; how the fuck was he meant to get to bloody London by eight?! Merlin’s saggy balls, he was already regretting this… “—so I’ll understand if you can’t make it, but…but just try? I’ll make it worth your while! Not…entirely sure how, but I’ll think of something by the time you get back!”

Draco tried rolling his eyes, but it was a difficult thing for an owl, so he instead shooed Potter away as best he could, fighting the urge to avoid shaking loose the uncomfortable weight of the parchment tied to his leg, and hopped up to one of the roosting branches nearer an open window.

“Oh, wow, thanks! Thanks a bunch! You’re a lifesaver, honestly! I take back everything I said about barbecuing you! Watch out for helicopters on the way, yeah?”

Draco launched himself through the window—if for no other reason than to escape Potter’s effusive prattling—and beat his wings with great sweeping strokes in an effort to quickly gain altitude.

Now, he of course had no intention of making his way to London—not for a lark, and certainly not for Harry Potter, no matter how dire his straits or pretty his promises.

He was, however, very curious about what had Potter so worked up. What could be so urgent that he would risk further maiming by what Draco was quite confident was the most ill-tempered (but best bred) bird in the Owlery?

He took a long loop around the castle grounds, killing time until he felt confident he wouldn’t run into Potter on returning to the Owlery. It was the only place he felt comfortable transforming—no one spent more time there than absolutely necessary, and it wasn’t a place groups tended to congregate. His Animagus abilities were a matter of public record, of course, and anyone could file a request to see his profile, but Draco certainly wasn’t about to advertise himself.

Once satisfied Potter would have fucked off back from whence he came, Draco sailed through one of the open windows of the Owlery, spiralling down until he landed gracefully on the dross littering the bottom of the tower. He awkwardly balanced on his free leg, using his beak to pick at the ribbon holding the parchment. He didn’t want to shift back and realise he’d trampled the parchment underfoot in the doing.

With some nipping, the parchment and ribbon fell free, and but a moment later, Draco was human once more, leaning down to snatch it up. He slipped the letter into his robes, the stench of the Owlery already wreaking havoc on his sensitive nasal passages, and quickly and quietly made his way for the fourth-floor corridor.

As he heard it, the returnees in the other Houses were all bunking together in much the same fashion as in previous years—but so few Slytherins had returned that Draco was blessed with a private room, which suited him just fine. It didn’t exactly have much of a view aside from a little porthole looking out into the depths of the Black Lake, but he was certainly not complaining, not after seven years sleeping between Crabbe and Goyle in the throes of puberty.

Draco toed off his loafers by the door, hanging his robes on a line of hooks jutting from the wall, and strode over to the handsome roll-top he’d brought from his room at home, shrunken in his pocket the first day of the new term.

“Right, let’s see what sort of emergency you’ve cooked up for yourself now…” Grabbing a pair of weights carved to look like Basilisk eggs, he unfurled the parchment and placed the weights to hold it open while he ran his eyes over what was, he was realising, an Owl Post Order form.

Potter was buying a new broomstick. Or attempting to, at least—he wasn’t buying shit if Quality Quidditch Supplies didn’t get this form by eight this evening.

Too good for his Firebolt now, was he? Not that Draco could blame him—the Nimbus line had passed the Firebolt’s quality two years back, claiming once more the title of best-quality broom on the market, and it seemed Potter was looking to get his hands on a Nimbus 2020. If nothing else, Potter at least had good taste in brooms—and it seemed this time he was going to actually use his own money to buy one, instead of having it gifted to him by adoring fans as had surely happened in the past.

But the further down the order form Draco read, the deeper the furrow between his brow grew, until he had to fight not to rip the damn parchment in half, fingers white-knuckled as he clenched the paper in both fists.

“This—absolute pillock, he’s getting the 2020 without the auto-braking charm?! And attaching the mount with Bulgarian Pine Pitch instead of a Permanent Sticking Charm?! HE’S GOING TO BREAK HIS FUCKING NECK TRYING TO SAVE A FEW KNUTS.” He snatched up a quill, spearing it into an inkwell, and immediately set to work, scratching savagely through Potter’s terrible decisions and scrawling much more sensible choices beside them. The 2020, with the auto-braking charm and the protective runes carved into the shaft, with a platinum mount (Potter could afford it) instead of brass fixed with a sticking charm that made Epoximise look like Spellotape. He only just held himself back from adding the Mooncalf-hide saddle seat—it would be a luxury wasted on Potter.

Once he’d adjusted the order to his satisfaction (though not before slipping in a request for a five-pack of owl treats from Eeylops; Potter had promised him after all), he rolled the scroll back up, measured out a length of handsome ribbon, and made his way back to the Owlery.

A sharp whistle rending the air called down his own owl, a particularly imposing specimen of an Eagle Owl named Xerxes bearing a flashy silver band on his leg etched with Property of D.L.Malfoy. He shuffled down along the lowest of the roosting branches, one leg bared to accept a letter, and Draco set to work affixing the parchment.

“Now, are you quite sure you can deliver this by eight tonight? It’s London, you know—hardly a hop and a skip.” Xerxes fixed Draco with a hard glare, ruffling his feathers in offence as if to say How very dare you doubt my ability to do my job. “All right, all right—I’m sure you know the ins and outs of this delivery business better than I do. Off with you, then.” He shooed Xerxes on his way—then caught himself, just before the owl took flight. “Oh! And—” He lowered his voice, speaking soft and close, for it was a bit scandalous. “…If they offer you a treat for your services, see if you can’t try the Cinnamon Pumpkin Tripe. I’m curious if it’s any good.”

Xerxes only gave him a long, unblinking stare, then shook his head, opened his impressive wingspan, and took off in a flurry of feathers and down.

Magical owls were, evidently, more capable creatures than Draco had given them credit for thus far, for the next day at breakfast, when the owls came through the Great Hall with the students’ morning post, a pair of Grey Owls flying in sync came swooping in, clutching between them a long, slender cylindrical package.

All eyes in the Hall swivelled to see who was the lucky recipient of what was, quite obviously, a brand new regulation Quidditch broomstick—and then they slowly tracked back to their respective morning meals when it became clear it was just Harry Potter, yet again, flaunting his fabulous wealth (really, if you were going to show off how absolutely loaded you were, you had to be generous about it—like by buying new brooms for the entire Quidditch team).

The owls deposited their package squarely into Potter’s lap, and he gaped at it in dimwitted surprise, perhaps having forgotten entirely he’d ordered the damn thing. Like a toddler at Christmastime, he tore into the wrapping, Weasley at his side helping him along in between swipes across his mouth to wipe away the jealousy-fuelled drool dribbling down his chin, and between them they shortly had unpackaged Potter’s lovely—legal and adequately charmed—Nimbus 2020.

Human ears were, alas, absolutely shite at hearing compared to owls’, but even over the dull drone of conversation, Draco still managed to catch Weasley going, “That’s a beauty, Harry!” and “Bloody gorgeous! What’s the mount made of?” and “First payslip’s definitely going toward one of these babies.”

For whatever reason, the remainder of Draco’s breakfast tasted just a little bit better than it had before the post had come.

“You know,” Potter said when he found his way up to the Owlery during their afternoon free period, “I don’t want you to think I’m not grateful or anything…” He stepped up to Draco’s branch, giving him a respectable berth but edging close enough it felt like they were indeed having a conversation. “…But it wasn’t quite the broom I thought I’d ordered. It seemed awfully fancy—and I don’t usually trick my brooms out quite so…extravagantly. Especially not for pick-up Quidditch.”

Draco gave him a slow, patient blink that suggested he ought to choose his next words very carefully, as the implication Draco was bad at his job (where ‘his job’ had been instructing his own owl to fly to London and back inside of six hours) was bordering on offensive—and Potter held both hands up.

“Right, no, never mind—must’ve ticked the wrong box on the form. Hermione says I don’t read important documents carefully enough before signing them. Nearly gave away my entire house once just contracting a housekeeper to keep it tidy.” What the fuck? How on earth did one— “Anyway, thanks. For not just shredding the parchment and fucking off. I was panicking, and it was stupid, because of course I could’ve just borrowed one of the school brooms—but it’s just not the same, flying on any old broom.” Well, Draco could understand that. He certainly wouldn’t have thrown a fit, but there was something to be said about zooming about on a fine piece of equipment you’d bought with your (father’s) own hard-earned coin.

Potter slipped a hand into his pocket, withdrawing a rather unremarkable pouch the size of his fist, and placed it atop the knot. “And, as promised, because I’m a man of my word…” He then unlaced the mouth of the pouch, leaving it open, before quickly backing away.

Draco watched, until Potter was far enough away for comfort, then hopped from the branch upon which he’d been roosting down onto the lowest-set branch, creeping along until he could peek inside the pouch to see what Potter came offering as tribute.

It was an absolute mountain of owl treats, all manner of different colours—suggesting an equal number of new and exciting flavours. Dare he hope some of these little morsels might be the much-vaunted Cinnamon Pumpkin Tripe?

“Now, don’t tell anyone,” Potter warned, placing a finger over his lips, “but it’s got an Undetectable Extension Charm on it, so there’s probably more owl treats in there than you could eat in your entire lifetime.” Oh but Draco loved a challenge. “Take as many as you like—I’ll be back for the pouch tomorrow, if that’s all right.” Draco ignored him, already visually picking over the treats he could spot nearest the lip of the pouch and trying to decide which he would sample first. “Er…if you could, though, please don’t…you know. Don’t shit in it or anything, please.”

Draco gave him a withering look.

“Oh don’t look at me like that! You’ve definitely shown a propensity for wanting to screw with me, so I’m entitled to a healthy bit of concern! I’m just making sure our little ceasefire here will last at least ‘til I can get my pouch back tomorrow. I’ve stored some things that are important to me in it, and I’d like to not have to Scourgify them of owl shit once you’ve gorged yourself on treats.” He frowned in thought. “…And please don’t leave any pellets in there either. If I see one little vole-sized femur…”

He let the threat hang, and Draco shooed him away with one wing, placing his back to Potter and wondering in the back of his mind as he began picking through the pile of treats if owls could be charged with postal fraud.