“It’s despicable, that is.”
“I can’t believe they let his sort in.”
“You’d think he wouldn’t be allowed in Diagon Alley at all.”
“Azkaban. That’s where he belongs, with his father and the like.”
Draco ignored the barely hushed voices and made his way to the counter of Slug & Jiggers. He set the bundle of porcupine quills and the jar of dragon liver down. The shopkeeper put them on the scales to weigh them out. His eyes strayed to Draco’s wrist, where his robes had ridden up a bit. Draco hastily tugged the sleeve back down.
“That’ll be five Galleons.” The shopkeeper glared at Draco and slid the parchment across the counter.
He was positively mad. Draco knew for certain the sign on the shelf read 19 sickles an ounce for the dragon liver and porcupine quills were only 20 knuts a bundle. Not a chance was that over two ounces of liver. Draco looked up from the parchment to meet the shopkeeper’s challenging stare. He opened his mouth, about to argue the absurdity of the charge, but stopped himself.
There was a voice from the queue behind him. “Come on, then!”
Another voice tutted in response.
Draco narrowed his eyes as he handed over the coins. He stalked out of the shop amid further whisperings. Just as the door closed, Draco felt something sizzle and fly by his cheek. He wished it was pure luck he’d taken to wearing one of the shield hats from Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes instead of wearing it for necessity. It took too much effort to maintain a shield around his person and still be able to manouevre the shops. The charmed hat would have to do.
Draco picked up his steps, eager to get the day over with. He knew this routine enough to know he needed to get out before a few curses became several. Flourish & Blotts would have to wait for another day. He tucked the liver and quills into the pocket of his cloak as he turned the corner and ran smack into Dennis Creevy. No longer the little twerp that followed Potter tirelessly taking photographs with his brother. No, this was a fully grown Dennis Creevy. One who evidently bore Draco no good will, judging by the man’s reaction.
Creevy’s eyes widened and half a second later the shock became rage. Creevy’s hand went for his wand. Draco dared not reach for his own. In an instant Draco was up against the wall, bricks digging into his back, wand tip singeing his throat.
A few wizards and witches gathered around behind Creevy. Draco’s gaze swept over them, looking for someone that might step in, but his heart sank when he recognised most of them as the tutting patrons of Slug & Jiggers. Some of whom looked eager to get in on the action. He was entirely surrounded, but even so Draco didn’t reach for his wand.
“You dare walk these streets,” Creevy’s reedy thin voice wheezed out. “After everything you’ve done!”
The wand tip at his throat surged with heat.
“I LOST MY BROTHER BECAUSE OF YOU!” He screamed at Draco, flecks of spittle flew out in every direction.
Murmurs began spreading through the onlookers. Draco distinctly heard the words “Death Eater scum” and “Azkaban” in the lot.
“What?” Creevy continued, “Got nothing to say for yourself?”
Honestly, Draco didn’t. Not that he’d say so to this man, who was clearly grieving. Draco couldn’t even meet his eyes. What was there to say? That it was true? That he regretted everything about his life? That he was sorry? As if that would make any difference. It didn’t sway public opinion at his trial and it wouldn’t make a difference now. Draco did nothing to defend himself.
The shouting drew quite a crowd. He heard the murmuring grow louder. Someone spit at his feet. Draco continued to stare at the ground. If this was how he met his end, it was a far better ending than he deserved.
But a hush fell over the crowd of would be rabble-rousers.
“Let him go, Dennis.”
Shit. He knew that voice. It just had to be Weasley stepping in, didn’t it. A large boot planted itself near Creevy’s in Draco’s narrow field of vision.
“You can’t expect me to just-” Creevy, still manic, yelled out.
“Come on, mate. Let him go.” Weasley’s voice was empathetic, oozing with concern. Draco hated him.
“But he! He.. Collin.. My brother died!” Creevy’s voice broke down into sobs.
“I know.” Weasley said, gently. “We all lost people.”
Creevy took a deep, shuddering breath. The wand at Draco’s neck shook slightly as Creevy lowered it.
Weasley turned to the onlookers, “Alright. Bugger off, you lot! No one’s getting their bollocks hexed off.”
Creevy cast Draco one final scathing glance and then turned to leave. He strode off without another look. Draco finally looked up and met Weasley’s steady gaze. In full Auror kit, even Draco had to admit he was quite a sight. No longer the tall and gangly ginger he remembered from Hogwarts. Weasley had filled out, now broad and intimidating.
“Alright, Malfoy?” he asked, his voice calm, as though he was pacifying a cornered feral animal.
Draco felt himself flush. He looked away and nodded. Neither of them said anything for a moment.
Weasley said, “Right.” and turned at the same moment Draco said “Look-”
Weasley stopped and turned back, his face cautious.
Draco took a deep breath and swallowed what little pride he had left.
“Thank you, Weasley. You didn’t have to do that.”
“Ah well, technically I did.” He plucked at his uniform. “Auror, see.”
“Right. Well. You didn’t have to step in when you did. You could have let him hex me. No one would have faulted you.”
Weasley stared at him in stony silence for a moment. “I know.” Weasley crossed his arms. “That’s one of the many differences between us, Malfoy. I would never abuse my position.”
Draco paled. “That’s not what I meant,” he blurted. “I was merely attempting to convey gratitude.”
“I know, I know.” Weasley looked him up and down. “Stay out of trouble Malfoy.”
With that, he left. Draco watched him go and calculated the chances of Potter finding out about the incident. It didn’t bode well for him. Yet another instance of Draco making a prat of himself in public. Requiring rescue from the still Golden Trio. Abhorrent, that. But there was nothing he could do about it, he thought glumly as he turned round the bend into Knockturn Alley.
Draco sat at a table in the corner, near the back. He had a view of the entrance, but the place was dim enough that no one could see him looking out. Knockturn Alley wasn’t the most glamorous place to have coffee in Wizarding London but, Merlin forbid, he tried to appear in Diagon Alley again soon. Today showed just how poorly that worked out. At least none of the hexes landed this time. Draco tried to get into Gringotts last month and nearly had his arse hexed to pieces. Knockturn Alley, it was.
He wasn’t sure that what the young lady served him could be considered tea. It was closer to tap water with a leafy aftertaste. Draco wasn’t about to antagonise one of the few establishments that still allowed him in by sending it back. He drank the leaf water without comment. Blaise was to meet him a half past four and it was only a quarter after. Draco could make it fifteen minutes with no one noticing him, he was sure of it. Especially here. Most people in Knockturn Alley didn’t want to draw attention to themselves.
He watched the traffic move through the cafe and thought, as he often did, of Potter. Draco made it through the trials in a haze. He had a hard time telling if the despair, humiliation, or relief were stronger. Most of the time, he felt numb. The families with loved ones who died at Hogwarts were the worst of it. They sat there in the front. Witnesses to his list of atrocities. Draco couldn’t look at them, he felt sick. He brought this on them. He alone let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts. Every single person who died did so because of him. The Dark Lord had been trying to get to Hogwarts for fifty years and it was Draco who finally helped him succeed. He was sure he was going to Azkaban for life, alongside his father. But then Potter happened, as he always does. With his unyielding heroism and ridiculous hair. Going around sticking up for people who don’t want it and certainly don’t deserve it. Wasn’t it enough Potter had pulled him from the fire? Couldn’t he bugger off and let Draco rot away in prison like a normal person? But nothing about Potter was normal, was it? Course not.
Honestly, Draco didn’t know which part was worse. That Potter had so valiantly spoken on his behalf or that he wouldn’t meet Draco’s eye afterward. It was almost a relief that Potter avoided looking at him. Almost. Draco didn’t know what he would see in those green eyes. But it wasn’t hatred, not anymore. And Draco didn’t know what to do with that.
“Brooding again, eh Draco?”
He looked up to find Blaise Zabini standing at this side. Draco stood and shook his hand. “Please, sit down” he gestured toward the chair, “And no, I wasn’t brooding. I never brood.”
“Tell that to your face, mate. So what were you brooding about? Potter?”
Draco scowled at him.
Blaise laughed. “Is that not the Potter-Brooding face we’ve all come to know and love?”
Draco narrowed his eyes. “You. Are. Mistaken,” he said in the most intimidating posh voice he could manage.
Blaise smirked at him, eyes sparkling. “Apologies. I must have been mistaken.” he imitated Draco’s pronunciation of the word. “Never once has Draco Malfoy spent his nights brooding over The Golden Boy.”
Draco arched an eyebrow. “Apology accepted. Tea?” He glanced up to get the server’s attention.
“Is that what that is?” Blaise peered suspiciously into Draco’s cup. “I’ll pass. Is the coffee any better?”
“Hm. Best hold off for now. How’s your mother?”
“She’s well. France agrees with her. She’s trying to convince me to come live there year round.”
“Smart woman.” Blaise winked at him.
“Quite. And how is your mother doing? She’s married again recently, hasn’t she?”
“She has, at that.”
“Think it will last?” Draco asked with a sly smile.
Blaise laughed, “Does it ever?”
The server came to take Blaise’s order, and he bravely asked not only for a coffee but a cheese danish as well. She simpered at him and batted her eyelashes. It took ages for the words to make it from Blaise’s mouth onto the pad of paper. Draco wondered if she had brain damage of some sort. Blaise positively preened under her gaze.
“You’re eating out of that pastry case?” asked Draco after she’d sauntered away. “Are you sure you’re not a Gryffindor?”
“Something wrong with it?”
“That depends on how much mould you like with your danish.” Draco scoffed.
Blaise leaned back in his seat to watch the young lady show off her ample behind. The amount of wiggle was more than strictly necessary for retrieving pastry. “It doesn’t look so bad from here.”
“Ugh. Breeders.” said Draco with disgust.
“What was that?”
“Nothing. Merely enjoying the beginnings of your mating ritual.” Draco replied, looking down his nose.
Blaise rolled his eyes. “Are you going, then?”
“To France, you twit.”
“Oh.” Draco looked down at the water in his mug that was pretending to be tea. “I think not.”
“Why not? She seems to do alright. She’s happy there. Don’t you want to be happy?”
“I think it’s safe to say that ship has sailed.” Draco replied, carefully not meeting his eyes.
Blaise’s eyes softened. He opened his mouth, but Draco cut him off.
“Look, I wanted to speak to you about a potential business venture.”
Blaise sat up immediately, all traces of concern gone. “Do tell.”
“As you know-”
The server arrived then and delivered the Danish and coffee to Blaise. More batting of the eyes, ogling of the cleavage, and all around undressing with the eyes was to be had. Draco very much regretted asking to meet Blaise in a public place. It had been so long since he’d been out with his mates he’d forgotten how lascivious Blaise could be. It was almost as repulsive as going out with Pansy. He’d gone out with her once, and never again. Draco had no interest in watching her drape herself desperately over any lad looking her way in some sort of misguided attempt to make Draco jealous. At least Blaise was still clothed. Either way, his friends seemed to lack any inhibitions of their libidos. Draco, struggled to even feign an interest in finding a partner. It seemed disingenuous to attempt to meet someone, even if only for a night. Not in the Wizarding World, anyway.
No, Draco spent most of his post-trial years thus far tending to his mother. Looking after the Malfoy estate. Ignoring his lack of amorous opportunities. After a few years of back and forth between the Ministry and his solicitor, they’d come to an agreement about what the Malfoys would be permitted to keep. Draco still had that odious task to look forward to this week.
“You were saying?”
Draco started and looked up from his “tea” to see Blaise watching him expectantly. Draco glanced over to see the server busying about behind the counter. “Oh, have you finished fornicating in public?” said Draco. “Or did you need me to give you a moment for the two of you to finish up?”
Blaise smirked at him. “We can’t all be prudes, Draco.”
“I’m not a prude. I’ve got standards, is all.”
Blaise coughed something that sounded too close to “Potter” for Draco’s comfort. Draco glared at him.
Blaise raised his eyebrows and feigned innocence, “You mentioned a business opportunity?”
After reaching a satisfactory arrangement with Blaise, Draco returned to the Manor. To face a far less satisfactory arrangement. He waited for the Ministry Officials to arrive with dread. Aunt Andromeda and his mother took the most illustrious of the Black Family heirlooms to the countryside in France. They did not list the items in the Assets his mother had sent to the solicitor.. Exuberant Ministry Officials seized many of the remaining Malfoy relics.
It was disgusting watching them haul away the Malfoy library in particular. They didn’t even have the forethought to pack the books into properly sectioned trunks. They waved their grubby wands and paid no heed to what went where. If the Ministry Officials were stupid enough to put Insidious Serenades in with Burke’s Encyclopaedia of the Derelict Arts, it was their own fault when their ears bled out. Draco certainly felt no compunction to warn them. Everyone with a cursory knowledge of wizarding history knew Caractacus Burke loathed music.
The remaining furniture seemed only to highlight how much had been taken. Most of Draco’s life spent either at Hogwarts or at The Manor, and he was likely never to see either again. Though, in his opinion, Malfoy Manor, much like the Malfoy family themselves, was tainted. Forever. Walking through the Manor now made Draco feel hollowed out. Gone were the days he could be delusionally proud of his heritage. If Draco never stepped foot on the place again, it’d be fine by him.
The Ministry of Magic amerced much of the Malfoy funds. Despite this, Draco still had enough to get by without having to join the workforce. His mother had been wise enough to keep his trust in the Black family name.
Draco debated his next move. His father was in Azkaban. His mother was in France, getting newly acquainted with the long estranged Andromeda. Which left Draco at a bit of a loss. Family had always come first, right until it didn’t. Until he returned. Draco shivered and looked back out his window. Mother wrote often, insisting Draco come join them. But it only took one meeting with his aunt to know Draco would never be able to go permanently. He was directly responsible for killing her daughter and orphaning her grandson. Draco spent the entire evening after the meeting retching. France might have brought his mother some comfort, but it never would for him.
There was nothing for it: he’d have to get a flat. And he wasn’t sure that anyone in Wizarding London would let to him. Draco sighed. Muggle London it was.
He was going to have to wear muggle clothing.
And use muggle money.
He sighed and rubbed his eyes under his glasses, waiting for Shacklebolt’s newest undersecretary to catch up with him. He tapped the door with his wand to lock it behind him.
“There you are, sir.” The young lady skittered to a halt outside Harry’s office. “I’m glad I caught you.” She huffed a couple of breaths before handing Harry a folder. “I’ve just got your schedule for next month”
Harry begrudgingly accepted the file, his heart sinking. It was thicker than last month’s. Which was thicker than the month before. Or maybe they were all the same and their perceived size seemed to increase in time with his trepidation. Or maybe Harry was losing it. “How many of these bloody events are there?”
The undersecretary laughed nervously. “Well, sir, you are Harry Potter.” She leaned in when she said his name, like she was in on some kind of secret.
“Well, that’s not my fucking fault, is it?” Harry muttered.
“Nothing. Looking forward to…” He waved the folder at her. What was her name again? Bridget?
MaybeBridget laughed, “Hot commodity and all.” She winked cheekily at him.
“Right. Thanks, Bridget.”
“It’s Breanne, actually”
“Breanne, sorry.” Harry adjusted the bag on his shoulder and attempted to step past her.
“Actually, sir, if we could just go over a few of the dates. You are double booked on the 7th and 16th.” She flipped open the file in Harry’s hands and started shuffling through the parchment. “I’ve really got to go, actually.” Harry snapped the folder shut and stepped around her, headed for the lifts in the Atrium.
“It’s just that I’ve colour coordinated your event schedule with their corresponding press releases and it might be beneficial if we could just-”
“Thanks, Becky.” Harry said tersely and stepped into the lift.
“Right. Sorry.” The doors on the lift slid shut. Harry glared at the folder in his hands. Fucking Shacklebolt. He shoved the folder in his bag and glanced at his watch. Half past seven. Ron and the other Aurors would already be at the pub, celebrating. Fantastic.
Harry appearated to the steps of Grimmauld Place and stepped inside.
“FILTHY BLOOD TRAITORS!”
“Oh, sod off you crazy old bint.” Harry yanked the curtains closed. “Kreacher?” Harry shouted. “Why did you let the old bat out again?”
Kreacher appearated in front of Harry and bowed.
“Master Harry is letting Kreacher comfort the Mistress. Kreacher shows Mistress Black how Master Harry is-”
“Right.” Harry sighed. “Sorry I asked.” He dropped his bag at the bottom of the stairwell. “Will Master Harry be needing dinner?”
“No, I’m meeting Ron at the Pub. I’m late actually.”
Kreacher nodded encouragingly, “Very good Master. Friends is good for lifting Master’s spirits.” He shuffled into the sitting room, muttering under his breath.
Harry smiled slightly at his retreat and turned toward the staircase. He took the steps two at a time up to his room on the top floor. He made quick work of his Auror robes and changed into his muggle clothes. After he ran back downstairs, Harry apparated from the steps to the alley beside The Drunken Doxy. Rain drizzled down and he cast a quick wandless impervious on his glasses.
Harry could see his old Auror Team crowded around a couple of tables shoved together in the corner. Ron, with his new partner, O’Dogherty. Moran, Shepherds, Peterson and others lifted their pints. Harry could hear their cheers muffled a bit by the glass. Ron flushed and hung his head while O’Dogherty slapped his back. Harry chewed his lip. He should be in there celebrating with them. He would be in a minute, but it felt off. Harry hadn’t actually helped bring in Rookwood with the rest of them. No, he’d been at the opening of the new DMLE wing at the Ministry thanking the public for their contributions. Standing beside Shacklebolt and pretending his grimace was passing for a smile. Harry caught his reflection in the dripping window and saw the same look on his face now. Shit. He tried for a brighter smile, with any luck, one that wouldn’t be mistaken for nausea, and pushed the door open.
“Harry!” Ron bellowed at him. Harry tried to ignore the awed silence that came over the pub as he made his way to the corner. The Aurors in the corner more than made up for the silence of the other patrons. They were not so much awed as pissed.
“O’Dogherty.” Harry nodded at the Irishman “Alright, mate?”
“Only bloody brilliant!” O’Dogherty and Ron beamed at Harry.
“Yes, I hear congratulations are in order. I’ll get the next round then, shall I?”
A round of cheers went up around the table. Harry grinned around at his former team members and made for the bar. The whispers followed him all the way there. He placed his order and tried not to make eye contact with anyone as conversation picked back up. That is until drunk bloke at a barstool swivelled right into his path.
“Fuck, me!” the man’s red-rimmed eyes widened. “You’re Harry Potter!”
“That’s me.” He sighed. He hated wizarding pubs.
“My cousin was in Gringotts that day, you know.”
“Amazin, it was. Course he didn’t know it was you till it come out in the papers later. A bleedin Dragon! Out of Gringotts!”
Luckily, Harry was saved from further awkward conversation by the arrival of the bartender.
“Do you know who that was?” he heard the man yell at the bartender. Harry felt his false smile start to fade and attempted to paste it back on his face before he sat down.
He spent the rest of the night listening to the drunken version of how they caught Rookwood. Desperately trying to ignore the hollow pit that opened up in his stomach. He should be happy for Ron; this was a monumental case for them. Christ knows Ron deserved it. The last of the Death Eaters finally in Azkaban. Fuck. Harry downed his pint. He should have been with them. Not at some fucking publicity stunt. It was a struggle to limit himself to one pint.
Harry managed to keep a believable smile on his face for most of the night. And anyway, the Aurors got too pissed to notice if he slipped up. Once Ron stopped being able to form complete words, Harry figured it was time to go. He slipped his arm around Ron’s shoulder and hefted him up.
“C’mon, mate. Let’s get you home to Hermione.”
Ron nodded. “‘Mione’s bes.” He said, wisely.
“That she is.”
Harry manoeuvred them through the pub and out into the street. He turned them into the alleyway to the apparation spot, with Ron’s arm around Harry’s shoulders. The tall ginger head leaning down onto Harry’s. “Ready?” He asked.
“Mmphes.” Ron replied.
As soon as they landed, Ron emptied the contents of his stomach into the garden. The noise brought Hermione to the door immediately. The concern etched into her face upon opening the door transitioned into amusement. She snagged an umbrella from the entryway and walked over to the boys.
“Have a good night, out then?”
“You could say that.” Harry replied, slapping Ron on the back. “Alright?”
Ron vaguely nodded and tried to stand up straight. His eyes found Hermione and lit up. “Mione!!” He shouted.
“Come inside, love” She waved her wand and vanished the sick. She and Harry each grabbed an arm and brought Ron into the cottage. Harry wandlessly dried out their robes and Hermione looked curiously over Ron’s shoulder at Harry.
“How have you got your wand out with this great lump?”
“Harry. Was that wandless magic again?”
“Do you do that often?”
He half shrugged, dropping Ron a bit in the process.
“Hm..” That ‘hm’ did not bode well for Harry’s future peace of mind.
Together, Hermione and Harry manoeuvred Ron to the front room. They plopped him onto the sofa in front of the fireplace. Ron grinned up at his wife. “Love you.”
“Fancy a cuppa?” Harry asked as he edged out of the room to give them some space. He couldn’t make out her words, but heard the amusement in her voice. He put the kettle on in the kitchen, snagged a few mugs and busied about with the tea. Hermione came and found him after a few minutes. “Thanks, Harry. I’m going to check on Rosie. I’ll be back in a moment.”
Harry brought the tea tray out and sat in the armchair next to the sofa.
Hermione joined Ron on the sofa and he shifted to lay his feet on her lap. The coffee table in front of them was covered with parchment and stacks of books.
“How was it?” she asked Harry, carefully.
He sipped his tea and avoided her discerning brown eyes. “Great.”
Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “Have fun, then?”
“Liar.” Ron mumbled.
Hermione and Harry both turned to the NotPassedOut Ron Weasley, who shrugged. “He ws misr… misrble.”
Hermione arched an eyebrow at Harry, who scowled at the filthy traitor that was his best mate. “It was fine, really.” Harry said.
“We’re worried about you, Harry.”
“I know you are. And I appreciate that, but don’t be. It’s fine. I’m fine. The situation is fine. Everything is fine.”
“‘S fucked.” Ron slurred.
Harry snorted a laugh. He wasn’t wrong.
Hermione pursed her lips and set down her mug. “Harry, I know this isn’t what you thought you’d be doing as an Auror. I don’t want you to think that you can’t talk to us about it. Just because Ron’s loving it doesn’t mean you have to, as well.”
Harry sighed heavily and downed the last of the tea.
“You can be your own person, Harry.” She added softly and reached out to put her hand over his. She squeezed gently, “you can be whoever you want. It doesn’t have to be an Auror.”
“It’s fine. Really. Shacklebolt depends on me. The department needs me. It’s no bother.”
Hermione let go of his hand and leaned back into the sofa, with a slight frown. She let the topic drop and Harry was grateful for it.
“I better be off, it’s late.”
“Thanks for seeing to Ron.” She stood up with Harry, letting Ron’s legs fall to the floor. Harry wrapped his arms around Hermione and she kissed him on the cheek. He turned to Ron, who was finally out cold, and smiled Harry’s first genuine smile of the day. Or week, if thought about it. Christ, that was depressing.
Harry flooed to Grimmauld Place. The list of things Harry should do was extensive . He should write that article for the Daily Prophet Shacklebolt had asked him to do. Go over the schedule MaybeBridget sent home with him. Respond to Charlie’s offer to come visit Romania. He should go to bed, if he’s honest. Harry climbed the stairs to the top floor he’d converted to the master suite.
The single pint Harry had at the Drunken Doxy had long since worn off. Along with the encumbrance that came with drinking in public. Harry didn’t bother with the light and made right for the drinks trolley Kreacher kept well stocked. He poured himself a generous measure of Firewhisky. When Harry first graduated from Auror training, he, Hermione, and Ron spent their weekends at Grimmauld Place plotting its renovation. Often interspersed with threats of total demolition from Harry. But life rather got in the way. He and Ron started to get cases. Hermione began working her way up the ladder of Magical Law. The plans never came to fruition. In fact, the only room that got finished was the master suite. They’d converted the entire wall facing the back garden into thick glass. They tore the old carpeting up to expose dark wood flooring. His four poster king-size bed was draped with deep burgundy curtains. It was sat in the middle of a deep fluffy white rug meant to resemble animal fur. There was a desk on the wall facing the street. Harry found himself watching the streets below rather than getting anything useful done. His bedroom also contained a fireplace, not hooked up to the Floo network. Eventually, Harry tired of standing in front of the glass wall and levitated his armchair over.
Harry sipped his Firewhisky as he made his way to the glass wall and sat himself down in the claw footed chair. The back garden was overrun, to be sure. He should probably call Neville. Add that to the list of things Harry ought to be doing. He debated heading to the ground floor to retrieve his bag of loathing. Or he could summon it, he supposed. Breanne! That was her name. Who knows how many hours she’d put into his schedule. He really should give it a proper going over. Instead, Harry got up and poured himself another Firewhisky. He watched the rain beat down on the window that was also a wall.
Saturday morning, Harry woke up slumped over in the armchair. It must have been early morning, but it was hard to tell for sure. He stretched and rubbed his aching neck. He’s got to stop doing that. Harry grabbed the empty glass beside him and set it on his drinks trolley. After he shuffled over to the walk-in closet, he dug around the pile of clothes on the floor until he found his pyjama bottoms and a probably clean-ish t-shirt. He swapped out his Auror robes for the comfy, not too musty sleep clothes and then firmly collapsed on the bed. The real question was how long Harry could lie there until his headache outgrew his apathy. He should really go over his schedule before Monday. Instead, he wallowed deeper into his blankets and stared out at the rain.
At some point he must have dozed off again because the next moment Kreacher’s voice woke him up at the door. “Master Harry?” he wheezed.
“What.” Harry groaned out.
“Kreacher has Master’s breakfast.” “Oh. Right.” Harry ran his hand over his face and reached for his glasses. “Come in, then.”
Kreacher opened the door and brought in a trolley laden with enough food to feed the entire Weasley clan. “You didn’t have to bring it up, Kreacher.” Harry said, apologetically, “I was just about to head down to the kitchen.”
“Kreacher is not knowing if Master was having a bed day again. So Kreacher is feeding his Master.”
Harry felt guilty about his “bed days.” They occurred more often than he’d like. He silently reprimanded himself for allowing his behaviour to slip so noticeably. “You didn’t have to do all this, Kreacher. I was headed down to the kitchen, honest.” Harry lied.
Kreacher said nothing. He began setting up the breakfast on the small table near the fireplace. Harry slouched out of bed and over to the chair. He should make a point to get out of bed every day. If he didn’t, Kreacher would start hovering. Worse still, he didn’t want another lecture from Hermione on the benefits of regular exercise. There was no reason for Harry to stay in bed, really. He should be grateful for his continued existence, not wallowing in self pity. Or self loathing, he thought reproachfully. Toward himself.
“Does Master Harry be wanting something else?”
“What?” Harry glanced up from his plate. “No, this is fine. Great. This is great, thanks Kreacher.”
“Is Master Harry done glaring at his eggs now, sir?”
Harry scowled at Kreacher. “I’m not glaring at my eggs.”
“Are they displeasing to Master?”
“They must be displeasing for Master Harry to be so angry with them.”
“NO. For Christ’s sake.” Harry began shovelling the eggs in his mouth. “They’re fucking great!” he said through a mouthful of eggs.
Kreacher seemed somewhat appeased and backed out of the room.
Harry set his fork down as soon as the door closed. What he actually needed was a headache potion. He went back to bed immediately. He was so exhausted. Tired of caring, tired of trying. Tired of giving everything that he had over and over and over again, only to wake up the next day and find he had to start the same cycle over again. He felt like his well had gone dry and there was nothing left inside him but dust. But each day someone lowered a bucket expecting water. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could sustain himself on dust and guilt. Harry pulled the covers up over his head.
Fuck it, he was having a bed day.
Blaise was kind enough to let Draco impose upon him for a few months after the Manor was taken by the Ministry. Draco knew it couldn’t be a permanent situation, even though the flat was owned outright and money wasn’t technically an issue. He felt uncomfortable having to ask for assistance in any way. It felt wrong to owe someone, even a friend. But Draco had a plan, one that Blaise wasn’t entirely sold on.
One of the best parts of wizarding flats was their commonplace brewing stations. Blaise’s was spacious and, best of all, empty. He was too busy pursuing conquests to spend any time brewing. And if he was honest, he knew Blaise was shit at Potions. Always had been.
Draco set up immediately. From years of disappointment in the selection of pre-bottled potions at Slug & Jiggers, he knew there was a market for them. He started with Pepper-Up Potion, which he happened to have everything he needed. Plus, it only took a few hours, which meant he’d have the first batch ready by the time Blaise was home. Draco lost himself in careful measurements, precise dicing, and perfectly timed stirring.
The hour of Blaise’s arrival came and went. Draco portion out the potion into 200 ml bottles and line them up on a shelf. He grabbed his wand and cast a tempus charm. Blaise should have been home thirty minutes ago. Draco wandered out to the kitchen. After having a glass of wine, he supposed he’d better start on the next potion.
It was two more hours before Draco heard the Floo light up.
“Draco?” Blaise called out. “Where are you?”
“Potions room.” Draco answered.
“Have you been drinking and brewing? How very dangerous.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “It’s Pepper-Up I could brew it in my sleep.”
“Ah, I see you’ve settled in here.” Blaise said, coming into the room, his eyes roving over Draco’s supplies.
“Hand me that fanged geranium, will you?”
Blaise brought him the cutting board with the venomous flowers. Draco dropped three at a time into the cauldron at thirty-second intervals. During which, Blaise suspiciously said nothing. Draco set the cutting board down and turned to face his friend.
“Well?” Draco crossed his arms. “Are you going to tell me what happened or not?”
Blaise’s eyes continued to rove around the room.
“I, er, met with the Diagon Alley Commerce Council.”
“Oh?” Draco’s heart sank.
“It didn’t go well.”
Draco chewed his lip and asked delicately, “Care to elaborate?”
“Let’s go to the kitchen.” Blaise turned, headed out. Draco stirred his cauldron anti-clockwise eight times. He cast a timing charm to let him know when ten minutes had passed before he followed Blaise to the kitchen and his now empty wine glass. Blaise refilled it but didn’t pour one for himself.
“You’re not joining me?” Draco asked, swirling the wine in the glass.
“No, I’m meant to be on a date, at the moment. The council took longer than expected.”
Guilt spread through Draco like spilled milk. Not only had Blaise agreed to be the face and name of their venture, but he was letting his obligations to Draco encroach on his dating life.
“Have a seat, Draco.”
“Just spit it out.” he replied, staying on his feet.
“Fine,” Blaise sighed and looked Draco solidly in the eye. “They wouldn’t approve our application.”
Draco narrowed his eyes. “I thought we’d say it was your application. And my name wouldn’t be on it.”
“Yeah, well. Unfortunately, that clag MacMillan is on the council now. He knows I can’t brew worth shit; he was with us at Hogwarts.”
“Ah,” Draco sipped his beautiful 1995 Krug Clos d’Ambonnay. “I see.”
“So they needed to know who the potioneer was.”
“Which meant you had to mention me.” Draco added, dryly.
“I tried not to, honestly. But they weren’t buying it.”
“Perhaps we could-”
“Draco. Even if we found some pigeon to sign as our potioneer, they’d know.”
Draco hated it when Blaise was right. Damn his exceptional potion brewing skills.
“I don’t know what else to tell you, Draco.” Blaise paused. He clapped a hand on Draco’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.” Blaise looked at Draco for a long moment before he stepped into the fireplace and disappeared.
Shit. Shit shit shit. Draco marched back to the potions room. He looked down at his simmering cauldron. After a minute or so, the timing charm went off, sending red sparks above the cauldron and letting out a lovely chiming noise. Next, it needed another four turns anti clockwise before he could stop and let it cool down. Then he needed to add the powdered moonstone. It would have to sit overnight before he could bottle it and then..
Chuck it right in the bin.
Draco allowed himself to get positively pissed. He dug through Blaise’s wine collection until he found a lovely, inexpensive bottle of port. The Dow’s vintage 1977 would do nicely. It was delicious with a delicate aftertaste. As though each sip was a drop of ambrosia doing a ballet on his tongue. He could think of no better way to spend a night alone. Well. Almost no better way. He briefly considered venturing out into the night to find someone to spend it with. Maybe someone with dark hair. And bright eyes. But Draco wasn’t quite drunk enough for those thoughts yet.
He poured himself another glass and wandered about Blaise’s extremely posh flat. He had a breathtaking view of London. The living room looked out over the city, without anyone being able to look in. It was surreal to be surrounded by muggle skyscrapers instead of the gardens of Wiltshire. The pleasant grounds in Draco’s mind’s eye shifted. The swish of cloaks, The Dark Lord’s cruel laugh surrounded by Death Eaters, Draco among them. Draco sighed. He wasn’t drunk enough for those thoughts, either. A third glass of port should do the trick. Or maybe a fourth.
Draco felt himself being nudged, quite rudely. He cracked his eyes open and let in the glaring midday sun. It was awful. He shut his eyes again, but only for a moment before he was prodded again.
“Oi.” came a voice.
“Draco? You alright?” came a second, a little higher pitched voice. One that made him a little uncomfortable.
They replaced the prodding with shaking.
“What. Do. You. Want.” Draco gritted out, keeping his eyes closed.
“You’re sleeping on the floor.” Millie said.
“Shirtless.” chimed in Blaise.
“In the living room.”
“Fuck.” Draco stretched and sat himself upright.
Blaise held up a half empty bottle. “Did you drink this by yourself, mate?” he asked.
“Might have done.”
“That’s very dangerous, Draco. You can’t drink port like wine, it’s so much stronger.” Millie said.
Draco sneered, “Please spare me the lecture on alcohol content, Millie. I’ve been drinking port since I was fifteen.” He looked at them fully now. Both in their clothing from the night before, albeit a little worse for the wear. He gestured between them. “Did you just get in? Is this a thing now?”
They looked at each other, fighting off smiles before bursting out laughing.
“Draco, you’re such a prude.” Millie said. She was nothing of the brutish girl she’d been at Hogwarts. She’d grown into her body and Draco had to admit, it was impressive.
“We just had a good night, is all.”
Draco wasn’t quite sure if he believed them, but he had more pressing matters to attend to. Such has his current state of undress. He glanced around for his shirt, but didn’t see it nearby.
“Looking for this?” Millie held up a set of Hogwarts robes.
He squinted at them.
“Gryffindor colours? Yes.”
“Had yourself a good night, then, eh Draco?” Blaise put in with an evil twinkle in his eye.
Draco coughed. “Ah, yes. Well…” He stood up and snatched them out of Millie’s hand. “Must get to the shower, if you’ll excuse me.” He fled the room, ignoring their snickering.
The shower did very little to soothe his pounding head. The dreadful thing about drinking port was waking up the next day. He stayed in until the water turned cold. He trudged back to the spare room where he was staying to get dressed. His old school trunk was opened and its contents strewn about the room. He was grateful Millie and Blaise hadn’t found his room in such a state. He dressed and began putting things back in his trunk, deliberately ignoring a pile of sketches he’d drawn in third year of Potter in quidditch gear. It had been part of his planning for dressing as a dementor that year. He wasn’t sure where the dementor sketch had got to, he must have binned it. There was another similar pile by the bedside table, these of Potter meeting gruesome deaths in a giant hedge maze. Draco heard footsteps coming down the hall and hastily shoved them all back in the trunk.
There was a polite knock on the door followed by Millie’s voice, “Hangover potion?”
Draco threw the door open and snatched the potion out of her hands. He downed in a matter of seconds. “Merlin, I needed that.”
Millie arched her eyebrows at him. Draco was impressed by the difference addressing the unibrow made in her face. She looked, well, feminine.
“Oh, and thank you Millie.”
Her mouth pinched tight, and she made a small disapproving noise. “Come and join us in the kitchen, you cow.”
Draco waited until she was out of sight before rolling his eyes. He trudged after her to the kitchen, where she sat beside Blaise at the table like two disappointed parents who caught their teen sneaking out at night. Disappointed parents were something Draco was all too familiar with. Though the reasons they were disappointed in him were more severe than sneaking out. More along the lines of muggleborns beating him in every class at Hogwarts. Or showing revulsion in the presence of other Death Eaters at their cruelty. You know, normal teenage drama.
He sat down across from Blaise and Millie and folded his arms.
“You’re not intimidating, you know.” he drawled.
“We’re not trying to be.” Blaise replied patiently.
“We’re worried about you, Draco.” Millie said.
“Well, you needn’t be.”
They glanced at each other, like they knew he would say this. Draco scoffed. They didn’t know him as well as they thought they did. No one did. He was unknowable. He looked down his nose at them.
“I would believe you more if we hadn’t found you passed out on the floor clutching Gryffindor robes, mate.”
Draco refused to blush.
“I was drunk.”
“We know,” they said together.
“Look Draco, you don’t have to stay in London. Blaise said your mum has invited you to France. Why not go see her? Get out of the country for a while.”
“It’ll give you a chance to get back on your feet.”
Draco hated this. What happened to cunning and cut throat Slytherins? Sure it was a stereotype, but he could really do with some callus backstabbing instead of this concerned friend nonsense.
“You sound like a bunch of Hufflepuffs.” he sneered. “I don’t need to be mollycoddled like a simpleton. I will be fine. I didn’t go to Azkaban with my father and I refuse to flee the country like my mother. I. Will. Be. Fine. Now, if you’ll excuse me,” he cast a quick tempus charm, “I must be going.” He straightened his robes and strode out the door.
He heard Millie ask Blaise where Draco was headed before the door shut behind him. The truth was, he didn’t have an appointment to keep or a direction to head. One thing was clear: the Wizarding World was done with him and he with it.
Draco Malfoy was heading to Muggle London.
The Cookbook had been Hermione’s idea, of course. Harry had always loved Mrs Weasley’s cooking. It seemed like home to him in a way Aunt Petunia’s never had, probably because he was allowed to eat his fill. Even when he cooked for himself with Ron and Hermione, it didn’t have the same atmosphere. It was The Burrow, surrounded by the sound of bickering (albeit lovingly) Weasleys, delicious smells wafting out of the kitchen. The way Hogwarts felt before the war. Home.
Harry supposed he never truly appreciated Mrs Weasley’s cooking, not before the Forest of Dean, anyway. Hermione looked to be of the same mind. Sometimes they caught each other’s eye during family dinners at The Burrow. Particularly when Mrs Weasley served something with mushrooms. A fond smile between them, which was always followed by mouthful after mouthful of delicious food. When he and Hermione had spent months on end accio-ing fish and gathering mushrooms, Harry used to dream longingly of dinners just like this one. Not to mention all the days Harry spent hoarding food at The Dursleys. He tried to ignore that as much as possible.
“This is amazing, Mrs Weasley.” Harry said as he reached for thirds. She ruffled his hair as she passed by to refill the plate of rolls.
“Harry, I’ve told you a thousand times to call me Molly.”
“Really, Molly,” Hermione chimed in. “You’ve outdone yourself. What did you put in them?” She eyed the spoonful of mash carefully. “Are those scallions?”
“Right you are!” Mrs Weasley came out of the kitchen. “I had a few left from breakfast so I threw them in.”
“MORE LIKE STALLIONS, AMIRIGHT?” George shouted. He flicked his wand and a herd of horse shaped mashed potatoes galloped across the table to Victorie’s plate.
“George!” Mrs Weasley admonished.
“Mms brlllln,” chimed in Ron with his mouthful. He chewed a few times before he swallowed.
“That’s ingenious,” Hermione said. “I would never have thought of that. I followed the recipe in my cookbook to the letter.” She paused thoughtfully.
“There’s a lot more to family cooking than reading books.” Mrs Wealey said offhand.
Hermione’s cheeks coloured in the rapidly spreading silence. Ron’s eyes bugged out as he looked at his mother in horror.
Mr Weasley coughed.
“Oh, Oh!” Mrs Weasley looked up, “Oh, I’m sorry dear, I didn’t mean-”
“It’s fine.” Hermione said quietly, “I suppose I was treating it the same as potions.”
She looked like she would say more, but George drowned her out.
The broccoli, shaped like pirates, now fought each other across the table and collapsed into a pile on Harry’s plate. Victorie giggled with delight. Bill and Fluer shared a smile at her giggle.
“STILL HUNGRY?” George asked Victorie.
“That’s quite enough, George!” Mrs Weasley responded. “We don’t need more flying food.”
Hermione and Ron glanced at each other while the others were distracted. His arm draped across the back of her chair. He leaned in and planted a kiss on her temple. Harry watched the tension drain out of her shoulders. Hermione closed her eyes and leaned into Ron’s shoulder. He murmured something in her ear and she smiled softly up at him. Harry’s heart ached.
The private moment Harry thought guilty for observing, never mind that it happened at the dinner table, was over quickly. It morphed into one much more familiar to Harry. Hermione’s eyes widened, and she leaned forward, one elbow on the table, her hand covering her mouth. When she began muttering to herself, Harry couldn’t keep from grinning.
“Alright, Hermione?” He asked.
“I’ve just thought- well.” She ran a hand through her mad hair and bit her lip. She glanced at Mrs Weasley. “I mean, I could help you, of course. I’d love to! I’d need to take notes.”
Ron and Harry glanced at each other before turning back to Hermione with affectionate trepidation.
“What are you on about ‘Mione?” Ron asked. He ran a hand along the back of her neck.
“But it could do so well,” she murmured to no one.
“Hermione.” Harry said emphatically.
She looked up at him. “Oh! Yes.” She looked at Mrs Weasley. “I’ve just thought that, well, you have so much knowledge. And skill! People like myself and Harry, well, we could really benefit from someone like you.”
A small and confused smile took over Mrs Weasley’s face. Like the one she had when Mr Weasley brought home a new muggle gadget. “I’m not sure what you mean, dear.”
“A cookbook!” Hermione exclaimed. “A wizarding cookbook!”
There was a beat of silence at the table. All at once, the Weasleys started shouting at each other. Fluer was the notable exception to this behaviour.
Harry flinched at the noise. It took him a half a second to realise the shouting was joy and excitement. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and let the terror drain out of him. Voldemort was dead. He was not at Hogwarts. No walls were crumbling around him, nor spells flying overhead. This shouting was joyous, not filled with horror. Harry took another breath and opened his eyes. He glanced around the table, relieved to see that no one appeared to have noticed his small mental breakdown. The focus was still on Mrs Weasley and Hermione, who had stood up and were talking excitedly.
“I’ll just get my quill so we can begin taking notes!” Hermione said before she dashed up the stairs to Ron’s old room.
“GINNY’S HOME!” George yelled. The Weasleys turned to the clock and saw that Ginny’s name was indeed at Home. George and Mr Weasley dashed out the front door to greet her.
“Why don’t we ever have mash?” Victorie asked Fleur, who was sitting beside Bill at the other end of the table. Harry couldn’t remember exactly how old she was now. Surely she was starting primary school?
“Because eet is too ‘ardy.” Fluer said, her voice hushed. “Now ‘urry so you can greet ta tante wiz out getting ‘er dirty.” She wiped Victorie’s mouth with a napkin. Victorie hopped down from her chair and ran out the door after Ron. Fleur followed them with effortless grace.
Harry bit back a smile and was glad Mrs Weasley had joined the others to greet Ginny at the door, lest she hear her cooking was too hearty. He stayed at the table with Bill.
Hermione came running down the stairwell with an armful of parchment rolls, quills, and ink, only to find the dining room mostly vacated. She looked at Harry, a question on her face.
Harry indicated the kitchen with his head, “Ginny’s just arrived.”
Hermione brightened and set her writing accoutrements aside on an end table. She gave Harry a quick bolstering kiss atop his head before joining everyone in the kitchen.
“So, how are the Aurors treating you these days, Harry?” Bill asked, tucking a few loose strands of hair behind his year.
Harry glanced out the window at the setting sun. “Oh, er.. Not bad, I suppose.” Harry grabbed another roll and coated it with butter. He tried not to focus on Ginny shouting at George in the next room over. He hoped she hadn’t brought Neville with her. It was awkward enough staying at your ex-girlfriend’s family gatherings after you’ve split. But having her bring her not-so-new boyfriend made Harry seem even more of an outsider. Not that his feelings should have any bearing on Ginny’s life. Not anymore. Christ, he was a selfish prat.
“I hear they took Rookwood in? Congratulations are in order, eh?”
Harry’s spirits plummeted. “That was Ron’s team, actually.”
Bill looked confused. “I assumed you were on the same team.”
“Yeah, when we first started, but they’ve, er.. Got me pretty busy with other… things.”
“I had the, er, Unity Coalition meetings to attend during the Rookwood operation. Very important, unity.” Harry tried to sound believable. “They really need me to spread the message. It helps that I’m me. Speaking to the press on their behalf…” he trailed off, pushing his veg around his plate with his fork.
They were silent a moment. The sounds of Weasleys in the kitchen washed over them.
“ALRIGHT NEVILLE?” from George in the kitchen, followed by Neville’s laugh. Harry sighed. He wanted desperately to be at Grimmauld Place with a bottle of whisky. And then immediately felt guilty for wanting escape instead of face his replacement like an adult. He was the one who couldn’t maintain an adult relationship. He shouldn’t avoid Ginny and Neville. It wasn’t fair to any of them.
“Are you doing okay, Harry?” Bill asked softly. He glanced at the pile of bread scraps that had previously existed, only moments before, as Harry’s bread roll.
“OI GEORGE! WHY ARE YOU SHOUTING AT ME, DICKHEAD?” Ginny yelled out.
“Ginny!” came Mrs Weasley’s admonishment.
“IT’S A NEW TEST PRODUCT. SHOUTING SHORTBREAD. HAVEN’T FIGURED OUT THE ANTIDOTE YET.”
Harry couldn’t meet Bill’s eyes. He didn’t need more pity. Or concern. Or whatever might show on Bill’s face. He absently tried to tear the last of his roll, but found it gone. He scratched the scruff on his chin.
“I’m fine.” Harry said, a bit too loudly. Bill didn’t respond, but watched Harry thoughtfully.
“Hiya.” Ginny said cautiously, walking in. She looked stunning in a green strapless gown of some material that couldn’t be muggle. It seemed to flutter behind her for just a moment too long to be natural, like she’d just stepped off a broomstick. Neville, too, looked dressed up. Harry couldn’t remember seeing him in a suit or dress robes since the last Hogwarts Memorial gala he’d attended a few years ago. Seeing them dressed up together put Harry a little on edge. The rest of the family filed back to their chairs behind them. Mr Weasley conjured two more for Ginny and Neville. Night had fallen and Mrs Weasley lit a few extra lanterns while she was up.
“Oh, er, hi Ginny. Neville.” Harry pasted a smile on his face. “Alright?”
“Hi Harry,” Ginny said. She squeezed his shoulder as they passed to their seats.
Neville smiled nervously back at him and nodded, his hands stuck deep in his pockets. Luckily, they sat nearer Fleur and Bill than Ron and Hermione or himself and… himself.
After the plates were cleared, most of the Weasley clan settled in the den to shout their ideas for the cookbook at Hermione, who ignored them, deeply intent on her notes.
Harry volunteered for kitchen duty. Mrs Weasley tried to take the plates out of his hands, but he ducked around her.
“Go on, you’ve a bestselling cookbook to write.” he told her as he filled one side of the sink with hot soapy water.
She brushed the fringe out of his eyes. “Bless you, Harry dear.” She kissed him on the forehead and let him be.
He dimmed the lights in the kitchen after Mrs Weasley left, finding them a little too bright. Harry always resented doing the dishes for the Dursleys. Being made to clean up while they enjoyed ice creams and puddings in the next room. He suffered none of that resentment cleaning up after The Weasleys. They had given him so much. They’d been through so much on his behalf. Mrs Weasley had lost her brothers and a son in the wars he, albeit indirectly, caused. If all Harry could give her was a night off from cleaning, he was glad to do it.
“Why don’t you just scourfingy them, mate?” came Ron’s voice beside him.
“I’m shit at cleaning spells.”
“Right, the muggles probably had an eclectrick washer.”
Harry snickered, “Ee-lek-trik” he sounded out.
“That’s what I said.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Anyway, I always did the washing up by hand.”
“I could ask Hermione to do it? The spell I mean,” Ron added at Harry’s confused look.
Harry glanced over his shoulder and Mrs Weasley and Hermione sitting side by side. Mrs Weasley dictating and Hermione getting it all down. He felt a smile spread across his face.
“Let’s leave them to it. You can help me out though.” Harry tossed Ron a towel.
Ron eyed it disparagingly, “This seems like a lot of wasted effort.” But he wiped as Harry washed. Harry wondered if this was what it would have been like as a child of The Burrow. Washing up with a brother instead of alone. It seemed nice.
“Did you hear? The Cannons are in the market for a new seeker.”
“No! What happened?”
“Oh, yeah. It was mental. Got into it with a referee. They were playing the Montrose Magpies and one of the Magpie fans bewitched a fake snitch. Somehow it got past security and the Magpie fan made it fly down Farraux’s trousers.” Ron sniggered.
“Did it really?”
“Saw it with my own eyes. Ask Neville!”
“Er.. Sorry, mate. We meant to ask you along, too. Ginny got the tickets at a discount. She plays in the same league.”
“I know who Ginny plays for. I’m not that out of it.”
“It was just Hermione said you might not be up for crowds.”
“Hermione said that?”
“If it makes you feel any better, she was bored shitless the whole time.”
“Wait, Hermione went with you? To a quidditch match? With Ginny and Neville?”
“And Seamus.. and Dean?”
“You know what? Don’t worry about it.” Harry did a good show of pretending it didn’t gut him that his best mates to see the Chudley Cannons without him. Which was easy to do, because it didn’t bother him at all. Not one bit. Harry was fine.
Ron scratched the back of his neck. “We, er.. We weren’t sure you’d be up for it, you know? Crowds and that.”
“Course. Crowds and that. No worries.”
“Ah, shit. I’m sorry, mate.”
“Ron, seriously, it’s no big deal. So the fake snitch flew down his trousers?”
“Er, yeah. And while he was sorting it out, the Magpie seeker caught the real snitch. Ref called the game and Farraux lost it. Started throwing hexes.”
“Yeah. Is this the last of them?”
Harry nodded and followed Ron out to the den. Mrs Weasley now sat next to Mr Weasley on the loveseat, his arm around her shoulders. They spoke in hushed tones. Ron sat at the coffee table across from George and set up the chessboard. Ginny was half draped over Neville, on the arm of a comfy chair. Bill and Fluer were ensconced on the sofa beside Hermione, with Victorie playing with a toy wand at their feet. Each time she tapped the wand against its accompanying ball, it changed to a different colour, occasionally accompanied by a chiming noise. Harry snagged a chair from the dining room and sat in it backwards, holding his nearly empty wineglass in one hand and let the ambiance of The Burrow wash over him.
After a few minutes, Ginny cleared her throat. Harry’s stomach tightened. He watched her grab Neville’s hand. Neville who looked up at her as though she were Felix Felisis come to life. Ginny took a deep breath and tried clearing her throat again, more aggressively this time. Neville beamed at her and squeezed her hand. Did no one else see what was going on? Harry glanced at Mr and Mrs Weasley. Then at Bill and Fluer. At George. Finally, at Ron and Hermione. Hermione’s eyes were enormous, and she covered her mouth with her hands.
Harry wondered if he had another glass of wine if he’d still be able to apparate.
“OI. YOU LOT!” Ginny yelled. The table hushed as she and Neville stood up together.
Harry’s stomach was fully in knots. Ginny took a nervous breath, glanced at Neville and with tears in her eyes, announced, “We’re getting married!” She stuck out her right hand to show off a beautiful ruby engagement ring.
Then again, there was always the Floo. Sobriety was overrated.
Right. So. Muggle London. Draco could do this. There was no doubt in his mind. He’d dressed Muggle. Sleek trousers with something called a blazer instead of robes. Draco had to admit a blazer sounded much cooler than robes. And he looked damned good in it, too. The dragonhide shoes he kept, as they were not too dissimilar to muggle shoes. He paused and glanced at his appearance in a cafe window. He did a half turn to see himself at another angle, proud of how muggle he looked. Proud of how muggle he looked.
Of how muggle he looked.
Draco shook himself and turned to the owner of the voice. A girl around his age in a jumper with a cat on it.
“You went a bit daft there for a moment. Just wanted to make sure you weren’t about to collapse or nothin.”
Draco felt his cheeks heat. “I appreciate your concern, but I’m perfectly fine,” he said, suddenly finding the sleeve of his coat terribly compelling.
“Yeah, I reckon it’s normal for posh blokes to go catatonic in front of cafes.”
He scowled and squared his shoulders.
“You’re not helping your case there, love.” She put her blond hair up in a bun and Draco could see the dark brown roots. She noticed his obvious discomfort. “Come in for a cuppa.”
Draco looked up and found the window he had been admiring himself in belonged to a cafe. Filled with patrons. Who had just witnessed his odd behaviour.
“I’d rather not, thanks. Must be going. I’ve got a tuba to catch.”
“A tuba? In an orchestra, are you?”
“No? Joining Alex Horne in The Horne Section, perhaps?” the woman asked, a gleam in her eye.
Draco continued to stare at her, nonplussed.
“Forgot your instrument?” She glanced at his empty hands.
“What on earth are you nattering about?”
She opened her mouth to respond, but Draco held up a hand.
“Stop, please waste no more of my time.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, letting his hand drop. He opened his eyes and looked directly at her, “I have a tuba to catch.”
With that, he moved away from her.
The woman snorted at his back. “You mean tube?”
Draco ignored her.
“Station’s the other way, love.” She called out.
Draco continued to ignore her and consequently got on the wrong tuba line. He knew he was meant to be on the Central line, but somehow ended up on the Piccadilly line. Then he didn’t know when to get off and found himself at the end of the line at a place called Cockfosters, which Draco refused to believe was its actual name. Someone was fucking with him. Some wizard or witch had recognised him on the tuba and transfigured the station name, just to throw him off. It was the only logical explanation. He waited until the platform cleared of Muggles (not that there were very many to begin with) and appearated back to Blaise’s flat.
He tried again the next evening, again venturing out in muggle clothing. He made it to the cafe where he had a minor breakdown last time. Now, instead of stalling in the window front like a nutter, he made it through the doors.
A few moments later, he sat with this pastry and his coffee in the farthest corner of the cafe. Draco barely tasted them. His mind was racing.He had a sense of urgency rumbling beneath his skin. He had to make this work. How did muggles go about securing employment? What kind of paperwork was involved with letting a flat? In the wizarding world, it was a simple magical signature cast by a wand. Without a magical signature, how would they know who he was? Perhaps it was better that way, he thought. Did they cover this in muggle studies? Not that he’d have been allowed to take it at Hogwarts. So many questions and no viable resources.
He needed a muggle to speak with. There was nothing else to it. He glanced around the cafe. More time must have passed than he realized, because it was nearly vacant. Empty table after empty table. Then a couple arguing about kindling or firewood of some sort while showing each other smallish black rectangles in their hands. Draco glanced behind the counter and found the woman from the previous day wiping down the pastry case. The thought of speaking with her was too mortifying. She caught him staring and quirked a small half smile at him. Draco lost his nerve. He downed the last of his coffee and tossed his rubbish in the bin on his way out the door.
It took a week before he worked up the courage to actually speak to her. Seven straight days of ordering coffee and mediocre pastries and hanging about in a cafe. He could have tried other places, he supposed. But he’d found this one. In that time, he’d learned that the woman he’s spoken with that day was called Oliva. There was also Kabir and Grace who worked the register. The pastries varied in quality day by day. From Olivia, he’d learned that on the better days, it was Agatha in the kitchen. The more dreadful pastries happened when Franc was in the kitchens. He’d also learned muggles loved mobiles. He wasn’t entirely sure what they did, but muggles were never without them.
“Back again, love?” Olivia asked him.
“Good morning, Olivia.” he replied, proud of remembering her name.
“What’ll you have today, then?”
He eyed the pastry case, looking for something new. “How are the peach roses?”
“I haven’t tried one yet, but they smell delicious. Franc was just taking them out of the oven when I clocked in. I’ve had my eye on them all morning.”
“Sounds wonderful, I’ll have one.”
“And your coffee?”
“Yes, thank you.”
He pulled out what the muggles called “a fiver” and passed it to her. “Please take this fiver.”
“I will gladly take this fiver,” she said, imitating his posh accent. Then she winked at him, “I’ll bring it over in a mo’.”
Draco made his way to the back corner table as he had done all week. Just after he sat down, he heard shouting coming from the kitchens. Olivia caught Draco’s eye and made a curious face. She peeked her head through the swinging doors and immediately ducked, covering her head. A metal baking pan hit the door where her head had been just a moment before.
Draco sprang up from his seat and ran behind the counter toward her. She clung to him, shaken, but not crying, thank Merlin.
“FUCK YOU EMILY! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE DOING THIS TO ME.”
This time spatulas went flying, spraying icing over the small windows on the doors.
Draco peeked his head into the kitchens. The man he assumed to be Franc was shouting at his mobile. The area was an absolute disaster. Tarts splattered on walls, dough slid down the front of the industrial sink.
“YOU ARE UNBELIEVABLE” he screamed at the phone. Draco hadn’t realised they gave mobiles names, or that they had sentience. He wasn’t sure how he felt about this revelation. How could a small rectangle made of glass and plastic be offensive?
“YOU FUCKING CUNT.” Franc had a knife and Draco’s stomach plummeted. Was he going to throw the knife?
“I think he’s got some bad news.” Olivia whispered.
“Is it normal for mug- er, muppets to behave this way?” he whispered back
Olivia giggled, which hardly seemed appropriate given the situation. “Did you just call Franc a muppet?”
Draco narrowed his eyes at her.
“I’ve just never heard someone so posh use the word muppet before. You’re a right laugh, you are.”
“Let’s focus on the madman with a knife, shall we?” he whispered. “Is this normal?”
Olivia slid her own phone out from her pocket and began hitting it with her thumbs.
“Franc’s always had anger problems, especially when he’s on the outs with his girlfriend. But this is too far, even for him.” She finished hitting the mobile and slid it back into her pocket. She looked up at Draco in their crouched position behind the counter. “Think I should try to talk to him?”
Draco peeked through the door again. The man was pacing and gesturing wildly with the knife in his hand. Draco glanced back at Olivia.
“Realistically, do you think he’d actually throw the knife? Or..” he made a stabbing motion with his hand.
Olivia stifled a laugh.
“Why do you keep laughing?” he whispered urgently.
“I’m sorry! It’s what I do when I’m terrified out of my mind.”
Draco gripped his wand, hidden from Olivia’s sight. His hand twitched. It was perfectly logical. He could immobilise the crazed chef with a flick of his wand. He could scourfingy the kitchen sink. Put a stasis charm on the pastries beginning to smoke in one of the ovens. And then obliviate the lot of the muggles. It would take him five minutes. This whole ridiculous situation would be resolved.
Draco closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Just because they were muggles didn’t mean he had the right to use magic against them. Yes, he could solve this problem immediately. But it wasn’t his place. They were people just like him. Draco thought back to all the times Aunt Bellatrix had imperioused him. A shiver went down his spine. He could resolve the situation without magic. Somehow.
Olivia reached over and squeezed his knee. “Don’t worry, love. I’ve texted the owner. Do you think we should call 999?”
Draco started giggling quietly at the thought of this muggle woman trying to comfort him. In a situation he could have fixed in a matter of moments. They heard another crash from the other side of the doors.
“What would calling 999 do?” Draco asked, not understanding what on earth that collection of words could possibly mean.
They were both trying to contain their laughter now. A shadow fell over their faces and they looked up to find Franc looming over them, his eyes bugging out of his head.
“Think something is funny, do you?”
The smiles vanished from their faces. They helped each other up and stood to face him. Draco glanced around the cafe and found it empty. Franc’s shouting must have cleared out the other patrons.
“No, of course not.” Olivia replied, unable to meet his eye.
The man looked Draco up and down. “Who are you?”
“No one.” Draco said at once.
Olivia indicated him with her head, “he’s that posh bloke I told you about.”
“The poufter?” Franc asked.
Olivia’s eyes went wide as her head swivelled to Draco. “I never said that.”
Draco looked down his nose at the dreadful man currently wielding a knife and insulting him.
“And if I am?” he sneered. “At least I know how to laminate pastry. Have you ever been to a real patisserie? Clearly not, or you’d know what puff pastry is supposed to look like.
The man stammered at him, knife still in hand.
“Pathetic.” Draco added, looking him up and down.
“You know what? Fuck you,” he jabbed the knife in Draco’s directly. “Fuck you” he gestured at Oliva. “And fuck this whole place!” With that, he let out a guttural noise and embedded the knife deep into the door and stormed out of sight into what Draco assumed was the employee area. They heard a door slam a moment later.
Olivia and Draco stared at each other and burst out laughing. Draco knew in that moment they were friends.
“That was mental.” Olivia wheezed.
Draco shook his head, “Unbelievable.”
The cafe door opened and a group of old ladies with knitting supplies trundled in. They set their bags of yarn on the large table in the opposite corner that Draco normally sat in and began unbuttoning their coats.
“Was it just the two of you this morning?” Draco asked.
“Yeah, but Margie is on her way. That’s the owner.” Olivia pulled out her mobile again and tapped on it some more. “Actually, she was in the country this weekend and is stuck on the M25. She may not get here for a bit longer.”
Draco glanced at the knitting ladies who were now crowding around the pastry case. “Is there someone else you can reach? The other chef, perhaps?”
Olivia checked her phone again. “She says it’s not her problem. She’s not comin in on her day off.”
Draco bit his lip. This could be his way in. He also reevaluated his conception of mobiles. They weren’t sentient, of course they weren’t. They were communication devices of some sort.
“If you need help, I could take care of the kitchens for you?”
Olivia’s face brightened in surprise. “Are you a pastry chef? That would be lovely!”
Draco dodged the question as he very much was not. “You won’t get into trouble with the owner?”
Olivia waved her hand, “Oh pish posh. She’ll just be glad we solved the problem. She’s been looking for a reason to get rid of Franc, besides. Can you really bake?”
Draco thought back to his summers as a child hiding in the kitchens watching the house-elves create elaborate tea times with all his mother’s favourite French patisserie. He demanded to know how it was done and would spend as much time as he could get away with baking with them. Once his father caught him that all ended. Instead, he spent his summers being lectured about working beneath his station. And what the Malfoy name truly meant.
“I’ve baked.” He said evasively. “Not professionally. More amateur..”
“Oh? You watch Bake Off, yeah?” Olivia said excitedly. “Be honest, how badly do you miss Mary Berry?”
“Right. Mary Berries. She is..” Draco chewed on his lip. “Irreplaceable?” he said slowly, relieved when Olivia agreed.
“Too right she is!” Olivia said, nodding. “So baking’s more of a hobby for you, then?”
“It’s been a few years, but I know enough to get by.”
“Listen, anything you can do to help would be wonderful.”
Olivia showed him the layout of the kitchen and the clipboard where the day’s baking schedule was kept.
“If you have any questions, just pop into the front. You are a lifesaver!” With that, she flounced back to the register to help the knitting ladies.
Draco waited until the doors stopped swinging before sliding his wand out. He started with the smoking oven. He vanished the smoke as soon as he had the door opened. Then he used a cooling charm on the tray so he could slide them out. Another flick of the wand sent the burnt tarts into the bin. The kitchen was spotless and in order within a matter of minutes. He looked around at the gleaming space, proud of doing something kind for a muggle. If it also benefited him, well, that was hardly his fault.
Draco evaluated the clipboard with the baking schedule on it. He knew how to make about half the things on the list. It was only half ten in the morning and the clipboard showed the shift ended at noon. All that was unfinished for today was the steak and Guinness pasties. Surely he could handle that. He found a plastic folder with the method and ingredients listed. It read just like a potion, only a bit easier. Something bright and joyous began to grow inside him. He could do this and do it well. Maybe he’d get on as a muggle after all.
Harry stepped into the cafe. He ran a hand through his hair, hoping to make it a bit more acceptable. Harry was, if nothing else, a master of futility. A glance at his reflection in the pastry case confirmed it. An absolute master. The cafe was one of those places where the line often ran out the door during summer. Luckily, in mid-November, it was pleasantly packed and not unworthy of the wait. Harry took his glasses off and wiped them with the bottom of his shirt. Popping them back on, he found they were not only smudged, but still very much wet. He glanced around before tapping the rims to wandlessly spell them dry. Eyes unimpeded, he was able to fully appreciate the pastry case. It was unreal. A thing of beauty, really. More baked goods than Harry had ever seen in one place outside the Hogwarts’ kitchens. Ten-year-old Harry would have killed for just one treacle tart. Twelve-year-old Harry would have easily survived the entire summer with this lot hidden under his floorboards. Twenty-seven-year-old Harry was overwhelmed, to say the least. He was in the right place.
Harry moved down the line. He made note of the items that looked familiar either from Hogwarts or The Burrow. By the time he reached the register, Harry was fully prepared. And no longer worried his contribution would be underwhelming. Was he going to his ex-girlfriend’s engagement brunch? Yes. Was she marrying one of his closest friends? Yes. Did Harry know what an engagement brunch was? No. But that’s what Hermione was for. All he had to do was bring the pastries and convince everyone he was fine. Because he was. If he was lucky, Harry might convince everyone to play quidditch after. Although, now that Ginny played on a professional level.. Harry thought she may not want to spend her only day off the pitch back on the pitch.
Harry looked up to see the cashier staring at him. “Hiya.” he replied, albeit a bit late.
“What can I getcha, love?”
Harry rattled off his order, hoping it was enough for the Weasley clan. Mrs Weasley was providing most of the luncheon. Harry’s only job was to pick up the pastries to serve with tea.
“Havin a party, are you?” the girl asked him.
“Engagement brunch.” Harry said.
“Yours? Are congratulations in order?”
“No.” He said, too emphatically.
“Right.” She said, taken aback.
“Just helping out, actually.” He added.
“Ah. Kind of you.” She replied. “Can I get a name for the order?”
Harry hesitated. Well. It was a muggle cafe, after all. It was fine. He was fine. “Harry. Harry Potter.”
“We’ll have it at the end counter in just a mo’ Mr Potter. Any coffee to go with?” And that was it. No hush fell over the room. No one turned about in their chairs to gawk at him. Beautiful. He breathed a sigh of relief.
“No coffee, thanks. Cheers -”
“Olivia,” said Olivia with a cheeky wink.
“Olivia,” he repeated. He gave her a lopsided grin and counted out the fifty quid. When a spot opened up at a small table, Harry sat and waited, his foot bouncing. It was going to be fine. Because he was doing fine. Ginny was fine. More than fine. She was getting married. He genuinely was happy for Ginny. Their breakup wasn’t exactly gut wrenching. It wasn’t even a breakup, really. After the war, they never got back together.They went out a few times, but it didn’t sit right. She seemed far away. Part of an existence Harry knew nothing about. A former life to which he couldn’t return. They mostly avoided looking at each other. When she made eye contact, there was no blaze of passion like before. Instead, Harry found pity in her eyes and he hated it.
When he finally talked to her about it, Ginny confessed she had fallen for someone else. Her behaviour made more sense in that context. Especially their lack of any sort of romantic physical contact. And he couldn’t fault her for falling in love with Neville. They’d bonded during the year he was away. War did that to people. Made them realise what was important. Who was important. Look at Ron and Hermione. Lupin and Tonks. Bill and Fluer. Ginny and Neville. Harry and… Shit, he needed to stop doing that. He needed to stop thinking of everyone in pairs. Sirius hadn’t been part of a pair and he had been fine. Harry ignored the part of his brain telling him how very far from fine Sirius had been.
Two loud things happened almost simultaneously that woke Harry from brooding. Not that he brooded, because, as previously mentioned, he was fine. The first loud thing was that Olivia called out, “Take away for Harry, Harry Potter.” The second was a loud crash from the kitchen immediately following this statement.
He went back to the counter to pick up his order and quirked his eyebrows at her.
“Everything alright back there?” She glanced glanced over her shoulder, “New pastry chef.” Olivia turned back to Harry and whispered, “He’s a bit daft sometimes. He doesn’t even have a mobile. ”
“How does he survive?” Harry, who also did not have a mobile, whispered conspiratorially.
“Daft” Olivia whispered. Then as an afterthought, “Pretty though.”
“Ah, well. That’s something, then.” He smiled at her and grabbed the bags of boxes of pastries off the counter. “Cheers!”
Harry opened the door to let a couple of biddies encumbered with knitting things. Harry recognised the paraphernalia from seeing them strewn about at The Burrow. A few ladies turned into many. Which then turned into an entire knitting club. Harry found himself at the receiving end of a line of ladies. They patted his arm, telling him what a nice young man he was. While he appreciated the sentiment, it was throwing him off Hermione’s time table.
Once through the door, Harry ran right into a straggling knitter. Her yarns tumbled onto the pavement.
“Sorry!” He said, as he scrambled to help her scoop them back up without dropping the box of pastries. She looked up at him, a bit lost. “Looking for the other knitting ladies?”
“They’re just through there-” he gestured to where the other ladies had gathered in the corner.
She stared at him and blinked. Her eyes looked about five times the size of a normal person behind her glasses. Harry was strongly reminded of seeing Professor Trelawney for the first time.
“Need help finding them?”
She nodded again.
Harry shifted both his bags to one hand and grabbed her knitting tote with the other. He guided her over to the waiting group of ladies. Harry endured another round of what a nice young man he was. He turned down a few offers of tea and one offer to meet a single granddaughter. Harry checked his watch. Hermione was going to kill him for sure.
Harry made it out the door successfully this time. He wove between the crowd of Londoners, eyes darting across the building fronts. Looking for an alleyway he could use to appearate. A flash of blonde caught his eye and Harry glanced over to see a small gap between buildings. Perfect. Harry made his way over. He debated heading further in and appearating from behind the bins, but he was in a hurry and needed his wand for this. Harry transferred the bags to one hand and dug through his pockets. His wand wasn’t there. He swore quietly and shifted the bags again to search his other pocket. A wave of relief washed over him when his hand found the familiar Holly. He appearated on the spot with a loud CRACK and landed in The Burrow’s back garden.
“Harry, thank god!” Hermione exclaimed when he walked through the back door. “Just bring those in here.” Harry set the pastry boxes down. With a flick of her wand, Hermione sent the pastries dancing through the air and lined up perfectly on some fancy long rectangular plates he didn’t recognise. “I was expecting you fifteen minutes ago.”
Ron and George spared Harry further admonishment by tramping through the back door. A line of freshly cleaned tree stumps followed them.
“Where do you want these?”
“One in every corner you can find.” Hermione replied, barely glancing at them. She pulled out a roll of parchment and began crossing things off. “Harry, I need you on toadstool duty next.”
“What on earth is toadstool duty?”
Hermione sighed heavily. “I sent you instructions, didn’t you get them?”
“Er, maybe?” Harry vaguely remembered an owl earlier in the week. To be honest, he hadn’t read past the words Engagement Party. The only reason he knew about the pastries was because Hermione mentioned it after he and Ron came back from the pub the other night.
“Good thing I’ve made a copy then.” She handed him a small roll of parchment.
Ron looked over his shoulder, “Bad luck, mate.”
Harry flipped him two fingers and set to work following Hermione’s minuscule and detailed instructions on toadstool fairing rings. He tried not to think about how out of place he felt in The Burrow. He would have never thought Ginny would have wanted a fairy themed engagement party. Harry supposed that was one of the many reasons she was marrying Neville and not him.
A few hours later, with the party in full swing, Harry found his usual escape spot behind The Burrow occupied by George, who was packing his cigarettes.
George didn’t respond. He lit a cigarette with his wand and took a deep drag.
Harry sat beside him and George passed a cigarette.
They sat a few moments, appreciating the silence. Harry was halfway through his cigarette when George spoke up.
“Angelina and I split up.”
“Mum will be beside herself.”
Harry pulled a flask out of his jacket pocket. George lifted an eyebrow at him.
“Welcome to the singles club,” he said as he passed it over.
George sipped the flask and made a face.
“More like the Molly Weasley Grandchild Disappointment Club,” he said.
Harry snorted. “You’ll get used to it. I thought she’d never get over me and Ginny, but here we are.” At Ginny’s engagement party, Harry wanted to add. “What happened, anyway?”
“She kept calling me Fred.”
“Yeah.” George stubbed the end of his cigarette out and vanished it with a wave of his wand. “It was just..”
Harry remembered his awkward dates with Cho when she wanted to talk about Cedric Diggory. He couldn’t imagine how much worse it must be for that person to be your twin rather than your rival. There was so much to unpack. Could any relationship sustain that much pressure? Christ, how horrible.
“A lot?” Harry offered.
George nodded. He took another drink and handed the flask back to Harry.
“She went out with him first. Since the Yule Ball, actually. I dunno.. I think maybe we were looking for him in each other. And it was… too much.”
Harry put out his cigarette and followed George’s lead by vanishing it. Unlike George, Harry flicked his finger at the cigarette to make it disappear instead of his wand.
“Have you told them yet?” Harry asked.
“Nah. If anyone asks where she is, I can just pretend I didn’t hear them.” George said. He didn’t quite manage a smile. George packed the box of cigarettes a few times. He slid a second one out and twirled it about on his fingers a few times before sliding it back in the box. He inclined his head towards The Burrow, “Reckon we should head back in?”
Harry plucked his t-shirt and sniffed. He flicked a finger across the collar to cast a quick scourfingy and rid himself of cigarette smoke.
“Was that wandless?” George asked, impressed.
Harry realised his wand was still on the bench and picked it up, shoving it in his back pocket.
“Er, yeah. I suppose.”
“Wicked.” George followed suit and cast a scourfingy on himself, with a wand, of course.
“He was fit!” said Oliva. She came round the corner carrying several empty trays lined with parchment paper. She slid the parchment into the bin and set the trays on a stack beside the sink. “He was just your type, too.”
Draco concentrated on his work. “I don’t have a type.”
Olivia scoffed. “No? Because every time we go out, you find lads with dark hair and glasses. Extra quick if their hair is mental. And this bloke’s hair was mental.”
Draco pointedly ignored this. He lifted the cling film from the dough and added another layer of butter. Again he folded the dough over butter and covered it with cling film. He rolled it out until it was precisely five millimetres thick. He did not think about Potter and his mental hair. Draco also did not think about his proclivity for dark-haired blokes with glasses. Not at all. Five millimetres evenly across.
“You ignoring me, love? You only do that when you know I’m right.”
“I’m doing nothing of the sort.” Draco huffed. “I’m merely concentrating on my work. Now, if you don’t mind, I have another three layers to do. So if you could just-” he waved her toward the swinging doors. “Fuck off to the front where you belong.”
“I came back here for a reason, you know.”
“Could have fooled me.”
“I came back to check on you. See, I heard a crash. And, because I am a good person, unlike you, I had to ensure you weren’t dead or maimed.”
Draco’s eyes cut over to the stack of trays he’d dropped when he’d overheard Olivia call out Potter’s name. “As you can see, I’m not deceased. My limbs are all in working order. You have now achieved your goal. And now, having done so, you may, as I mentioned previously, fuck off to the front where you belong.”
“You’re in a right mood today. Sure you’re alright?”
“I’m fine. Slipped on some water is all.” Draco said, his mouth tight. He added another layer of butter and folded the dough over again.
“You slipped on something? You slipped? You? Mr I’m-so-posh-I-glide-instead-of-walk?”
Draco rolled his eyes. “I’m not that posh.” He redoubled his efforts with the rolling pin. A loud buzzer sounded. Draco set the pin down and pulled the next batch of danishes out of the proofing drawer.
“You went to a public school so prestigious I’ve never even heard of it.” said Olivia. She held up a finger. “Public school, Draco.” She put up another finger, “You didn’t even know what the tube was.”
Draco glared at her.
“You called it, and I quote ‘a tuba.’” He could feel the inverted commas in her voice.
A third finger extended, “You wear exclusively bespoke suits to work.”
“Don’t you have somewhere useful to be?”
He slid the next tray into the proofing drawer, set the timer, and returned to laminating the pastry for the next batch of Danishes. Baking without magic was far more irritating than Draco had expected. He preferred the opening shift. No muggles about to witness his magical kitchen prep. He didn’t have to hide his wand in his apron.
Oliva glanced about the kitchen and suddenly up at the clock above the kitchen door. “Where’s Rav? He should have been here at half past.”
Another buzzer went off.
“He called out.” Draco said over the noise. Secretly, he was proud of himself for using the proper term. He dashed to the oven to pull out the treacle tarts. He slid them onto the cooling racks. Draco opened the refrigerator to get the next set of tarts for the oven.
“My exact sentiments.” Once the tarts were in the oven, Draco sliced the Danish dough into squares. He carefully lay them out on the tray.
“Hang on a minute. Does this mean you answered when he rang?”
Draco hesitated before answering, “Yes.”
“Yes.” His eyes narrowed. “No need to act so surprised. I’m fully capable of operating a mobile.”
“That’s not a mobile phone, love. It’s a landline.” She said, as if any of those words held meaning for Draco.
Olivia glanced up at the clock again. “Who’s handling the lunch rush, then?”
“I am. Obviously. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve quite a lot on my plate at the moment.”
“Fine. See if I ever worry about you again,” Olivia said over her shoulder. She turned to go. “Twat.”
As soon as she was out of sight, Draco sighed. He slid the tray of pastries into the second proofing drawer and set the timer. Of course, Potter found him here. Potter was inescapable. Get a muggle job in the middle of muggle London and still Potter finds him. Although, Draco supposed, Potter was a common muggle surname. It might not have been the bloody saviour after all.
If he dashed out the back, Draco might catch a glimpse. Just to reassure himself he hadn’t been found out. It would help him breathe easier at night, was all. He wasn’t obsessed with Potter, no matter what Blaise seemed to think.
Decision made, Draco removed his apron. He rolled down the sleeves of his shirt and slipped on his muggle suit jacket before he sneaked out the back door. He appearated from the back steps beside the alleyway that joined the main street. Draco’s heart was beating faster than he was quite comfortable with. He leaned against the brick; the rain dampening his hair. He was a bit hidden by the elaborate facade of the building he was leaning against. His eyes darted across each passerby as Draco chewed on his lip. Perhaps he’d already missed Potter. Draco pushed his now damp hair out of his eyes.
Finally, he glimpsed a mass of black hair and glasses. Draco’s heart sped up. Sure enough, Potter came into view.
Shit. He did look fit. He looked fit, and he was eying the buildings as he passed them. Draco knew the behaviour well. Potter wanted a place to appearate. And the next available space was the one Draco was himself standing in. Shit, shit, shit. He ducked behind the bins and hoped Potter wouldn’t go too far down the alley. The sound of shoes hitting the wet pavement, followed by the rustling of plastic bags.
He heard a quiet but exasperated familiar voice, “Bollocks,” accompanied by more rustling.
Draco startled at the crack of appearation. Suddenly, he was alone.
Alone and sitting in a filthy alleyway. Dripping wet. Hiding from Harry Sodding Potter behind the bins. If his thirteen-year-old self could see Draco now, he’d die of mortification. Then again, Draco’s thirteen-year-old self could jog on, as far as he was concerned. He’d been a twat back then. Now, well, he supposed he was still a twat, just a bit taller. And a bit more pathetic. Well, significantly more pathetic. Draco allowed himself to indulge in self pity and humiliation for a moment more. Afterward, he stood and jogged back to the steps of the cafe. He never appearated to the steps, in case one of the muggles was there. When he saw no one around, Draco cast a drying spell and stepped inside.
A buzzer blared on the second stove. Something distinctly burnt wafted through the air, assaulting his nose. Draco forgot about the chocolate biscuits. And now they were burnt. A fantastic day from start to finish.
Harry sent Kreacher to Hogwarts. He couldn't figure out another place. It wasn’t fair for Kreacher to stay on at Grimmauld Place, taking care of only Harry. Plus, he wouldn’t be lonely at Hogwarts, with the other house-elves there. It had nothing to do with Harry’s aversion to being constantly scrutinised.
Kreacher looked up at Harry with the saddest eyes he’d ever seen on the crotchety old elf.
“If Master says that’s what’s best, Kreacher will follow Master’s wishes.”
Guilt rose through Harry like bile at the back of his throat.
“And you know.. I’ll call if I need you for anything… Specific. Yeah?” Harry scratched the back of his neck. “McGonagall will look after you. She knows you’re coming. Got a place for you in the kitchens and everything.”
Kreacher’s sombre eyes bored through Harry. He cleared his throat. “Well, alright then. See you later.”
Kreacher nodded again. With a CRACK, he disappeared.
Harry wandered through Grimmauld Place absently. It never truly felt like his own. The renovations helped a bit, he supposed. Harry settled at the table in the kitchen with a disappointingly tepid cuppa. He half expected Snape and Sirius to break into an argument at any moment. Or for Remus to bluster in robes a mess. Perhaps he’d hear Mad Eye’s loud clomping gait. Instead, there was only silence. None of them were here any longer. Harry trudged up to the drawing room in search of some Firewhisky.
Most of a bottle remained on the drinks trolley behind the sofa. Harry added to his tea. He kept expecting Mad Eye Moody to pop in through the flames. Or hear Sirius singing some muggle tune upstairs. Or Fred and George tossing him an extendable ear. Harry drank his way through his tea whisky combination and wondered what life had been like if he’d got to live with Sirius rather than the Dursleys. Ten-year-old Harry would kill for a chance to get out of his cupboard, let alone experience an entire house to himself. Twenty-seven-year-old Harry wasn’t sure which he hated more.
An hour or so later, Harry found himself in Sirius’s old room. It was the room he avoided most. But tonight he couldn’t get the image of Sirius out of his head. Harry and his Firewhisky, the pretense of tea gone, explored the room he’d never touch while sober. The muggle posters of girls and motorcycles were the same as he remembered. How Sirius must have hated living at Grimmauld Place. Trapped by his family. Miserable. Alone. At least he had the Potters to escape to. At will. No bars on the windows here. Harry sighed and topped off his mug.
After a time, Harry sought the records Sirius loved. He suspected electronics wouldn’t work here any more than they did at Hogwarts. Thus, he wasn’t surprised when he stumbled upon a hand crank gramophone. He grinned half-heartedly and sorted through the records in the trunk beside it. Harry swapped them out after a few minutes because most were angry. He discovered one, though, that fit his mood. Harry lay on Sirius’s bed and let the words wash over him.
I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again
He wondered vaguely if that had been Malfoy he spotted today. It was a flash of blonde hair, exactly the right colour. But Malfoy wouldn’t be in Muggle London.
What would happen if he and Malfoy weren't enemies? What if Harry had shaken his hand that day on the train? What if he invited Malfoy to sit with him and Ron? Would he have? Was there any world where Ron and Malfoy could have been mates?
Harry flicked a finger at the gramophone. The needle returned to the beginning, and he listened to the song again.
Did Malfoy feel as trapped as Sirius had? Surely not at the beginning. But after sixth year, Harry knew Malfoy was miserable. Everyone was miserable by that time. Forced to deal with shit beyond what was should be expected of teenagers.
Harry ached for them all and what should have been. The lives they should have had. He ached for Lupin and Tonks. For Teddy. For Colin Creevey and Dennis. They were only kids. Harry wiped a tear from his face. He flat out refused to think about Fred and George. If he had gone to the forest sooner, would Fred still be alive?
How many people’s lives had Harry ruined by waiting as long as he did to meet his end?
Sometimes Harry spent hours rethinking The Battle of Hogwarts. He could have worked harder, fought faster. How ultimately, Malfoy had saved Harry’s life earlier in the year. How Harry was only returning the favour for not identifying him at the Manor. What it felt like to have Malfoy’s arms around his waist, with the heat chasing them.
The chorus sounded anew.
But I always thought that I’d see you again
His last thoughts were of a familiar pair of grey eyes boring into his own and an entirely different kind of heat overtaking him.
Something prodded Harry’s side. He groaned.
“Oi,” came a voice.
Harry grumbled again. A pair of muscular arms ungraciously rolled Harry over until he was face up.
“Mate,” the voice belonged to his now former best mate, Ron. “Get up. Are you dead or what?”
Harry tried to open his eyes. He really did. But was immediately stabbed in the eye by vicious light pouring in from the hall. He covered his eyes with his arms.
Ron sighed. “Harry, mate. You were supposed to meet us two hours ago.”
Harry attempted to open his eyes again, with moderately more success. He sat up and groped around for his glasses.
The glasses were shoved into his hands.
“Nks” he muttered. He blinked a few more times before putting them on. Eyes finally adjusted to the light, Harry could fully take in the imposing presence of his best mate, the renown Auror. Ron crossed his arms and chewed his bottom lip. Harry followed Ron’s gaze to the half empty bottle of whisky and tipped over the mug on the floor beside the bed.
Harry looked back up at Ron. Guilt flooded through him.
“Where’s Kreacher?” Ron asked, frowning. “Why’re you in Sirius’s room? And what’s that noise?”
“Hogwarts.” Harry replied. His ears were assaulted by the scratching needle of the still spinning gramophone. He flicked his hand at it to stop the damn thing from moving. It didn’t work. Harry glanced around for his wand and got it from the dresser beside Sirius’s bed. He waved the wand, and the needle stopped its abhorrent scraping.
“Kreacher’s at Hogwarts?” asked Ron.
Harry nodded. He needed a hangover potion. He sighed and fell back on Sirius’s bed, closing his eyes.
“Are you sure you should be alone, mate?”
Harry peeked out of one eye.
“It’s just..” Ron shrugged. “We’re a bit worried, is all.”
“‘Mione and me.”
“‘M fine.” Harry mumbled.
“No offense, mate. But you’re not fine. I reckon you haven’t been for a while.”
Harry snorted. Then groaned as his head throbbed in response. He took a deep breath and threw his legs over the side of the bed. Harry waited a moment before trying to stand up fully. He heard, rather than saw, Ron leave the room and return a few moments later. At which point Harry felt a hangover potion shoved in his hand. Forget what he thought before. Best friends forever. Never had he loved Ron more than this moment. Harry necked it immediately. He waited while the steam came pouring out his nose and ears. Then heaved a sigh of relief and flopped back onto the bed.
“Thanks.” said Harry.
“‘S nothing.” Ron shrugged. He opened his mouth again, but Harry interrupted him.
“You don’t need to worry.” Harry said.
“I’d believe you more if I hadn’t just found you passed out in Sirius’s old room with a bottle of Ogden’s Finest.” He had a point there.
“I saw Malfoy yesterday,” admitted Harry.
Ron’s eyebrows shot up. “And that made you want to drink yourself stupid, did it?”
“I think he was up to something.”
Ron closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Harry. Mate. He was not up to something.”
“I can’t do this again. Just let it go.” Ron’s mouth pressed into a thin line.
“He was in muggle London, Ron. Dressed as a muggle!”
Ron shrugged. “So? Where else is he going to go? I reckon the Malfoys aren’t exactly welcome in Diagon Alley.”
“Don’t you want to know what he’s up to?”
Ron sat beside Harry on the edge of the bed and clapped his giant freckled hand on Harry’s shoulder. Ron looked Harry dead in the eye and said slowly, as though speaking to an especially dimwitted child, “No. I don’t.”
“Let it go, mate. Don’t get obsessed with Malfoy again.” Ron squeezed his shoulder. “Take a shower. Get dressed. We’ll swing by and pick you up for dinner later.”
Draco carefully considered his reflection in the mirror. Shabby brown hair framed his face. Crow’s feet surrounding his hazel eyes. He rolled up the threadbare jumper over his elbows, exposing his beautifully bare forearms. He let out a deep sigh. The disguise was perfect. Years of pent up tension drained out of his body. Draco may look older, but he.. He… Had he ever felt this young? How early into his youth had the despair taken over? Draco looked in the mirror again.It was far too early in the evening for such disparaging thoughts. He eyed the remaining polyjuice potion that sat beside the table. No time to waste!
He appearated directly to the alley behind The Leaky Cauldron
Draco, with his shoulders thrown back, practically waltzed into the crowded, dimly lit pub. Years. It had been years since he’d been in for a meal. He confidently strode over to the grimy, well-worn bar. No one tripped him up or tried to hex him. Draco waited for the hostess to approach in peace and safety. No one grumbled about his existence or presence. A slow smile spread across his ruddy and weathered face.
“Anyone joining you tonight, sir?”
Draco turned his attention to the impossibly young hostess with long black hair. “No, just me,” he said, beaming at her.
“You can follow me right this way, then.” She tucked her fringe behind her ears and gave him a strained patronising smile. The sort you would give an elderly, dimwitted uncle. Not a single curse was thrown his direction. It was beyond lovely.
They weaved through the pub around the tables without a single muttered curse. Draco eased into a small booth near one a large, roaring hearth. “Amelia will be over in just a few minutes to check on you.”
“Thank you.” Draco replied with a bright smile. The darling young thing even made eye contact with him, bless her.
He knew what he would order. The Leaky Cauldron’s Beef Wellington often starred in his dreams. A luxury he wasn’t sure he’d have again. He was grateful that the table directly behind him was empty. Draco let the ambiance of the pub gently wash over him. Idle chit chat flitted everywhere in the room. A couple nearby was in a snit about something called dee ems and sliding. Something muggle related, surely. Another table nearby loudly celebrated a promotion, their gaiety effervescent. Rings of sparklers danced around their heads for a moment before they faded out. Someone’s escaped Pygmy Puff scuttled across Draco’s feet beneath the table. A Chudley Cannons chant started up in one corner of the pub. Everything was so beautifully and perfectly magical.
After a few minutes, Amelia took his order as though he were any other unimportant patron. She smiled at him as she wrote Beef Wellington on her parchment. A person actually smiled at him in the Wizarding world. Sure, being pleasant was part of the job. But it was a part Draco hadn’t experienced since he was a child.
He should have known it would not last, nothing good in his life ever did.
An awed hush fell over the crowded pub. Draco peeked his head over the wall divider he was sat beside. In came Harry Sodding Potter. Closely followed by the remaining members of The Golden Trio.
He quickly ducked back down into his seat at the booth. After a few moments, chatter in the pub slowly picked back up.
Draco risked another glance over the both’s divider. The Trio’s path headed right for him, or rather the empty table beside him. Wild panic shot through Draco’s stomach. He couldn’t get into a public fight. He’d be thrown into Azkaban without a second thought. Draco made himself as small as possible in the booth. If he angled himself right, he could possibly slip out the back door. No one would notice. Beef Wellington be damned. Nothing was worth Azkaban.
The hostess rounded the corner and sat them right behind Draco’s table. Why on earth did he think it was safe to go to The Leaky Cauldron? Potter would see him and they would arrest him. He doubted they even needed a reason, given Potter’s status as the Saviour. Draco was so very fucked. He held his breath and tried to look nonchalant and thankfully; they walked right past him. The same young girl who seated Draco led the way with Potter last of the group.
Relief flooded through bone in his borrowed body. Right, the Polyjuice Potion. They couldn’t know he was Draco Malfoy, former Death Eater.
Just as Potter passed, he did a double take at Draco. Eyes widening, before Weasley grabbed his arm, pulling him out of sight.
Potter’s reaction was to his creepy posture, surely, not actually himself. Draco took a few stabilising breaths in through his nose and out through his mouth. Of course Potter would be here. Draco couldn’t bloody well escape the Sodding Saviour, disguise or not. Merlin forbid he enjoyed an evening to himself. In the Wizarding world, that is.
No matter. The moment passed, and Draco was safe enough in his disguise. He waited while Amelia spent far longer taking their order than she had his.
“ThankYouForChoosingTheLeakyCauldronMyNameIsAmeliaCanIGetYouStartedWithDrinks?” she let out the words in one long, excited string of words.
“Er, sorry?” Potter sounded confused, and Draco couldn’t blame him.
“My apologies, sir.” Amelia took a steadying breath. “Thank you. For choosing. The Leaky Cauldron. My Name is. Amelia. Can I. Get you started. With Drinks. Harry Potter, Sir.” This was followed by nervous laughter from the server.
Draco thought he overheard Weasley stifle a laugh.
“Butterbeers all around.” Granger announced.
“But-” came Potter’s voice. Then a beat of silence during which Draco pictured Granger silencing him with a glare. “Yeah, alright. Butterbeer.”
“Just those three Butterbeers for you, then?”
“Er, yeah, I guess that’s it.”
“You got it, sir, no problem at all. Three of our best Butterbeers. For you, who is actually the Harry Potter.”
Draco recognised Potter’s exasperated sigh. It was the same one he made every time he’d opened a potions book. Prior to their sixth year, anyway.
“Thank you.” Granger and the dismissal in her voice left no room for argument.
“Of course!” Amelia said. “I'll be back with those Butterbeers. Three of them. For Harry Potter.”
Draco couldn’t help but roll his eyes. Unbelievable.
As soon as the server trotted off, Weasley snickered quietly.
“She knows I’m not going to drink all three, doesn’t she?” Potter asked.
“I’m not sure she even realised we were here, mate.” Weasley said.
“This behaviour is exactly what I was talking about, Hermione,” Potter said. “I can’t believe you’ve made me leave Grimmauld Place for this.”
“Mate,” Weasley said with fond concern. “You need to leave the house more. It’s going to do your head in.”
“Then we should have gone somewhere Muggle, instead.”
“Harry,” Granger, as though speaking to a small child. “It will be fine, honestly. You’ve just got to get out oftener. The more they see you, the less they’ll want from you.”
Draco wondered how long it would be until his Beef Wellington arrived. Or indeed, if it ever would.
“Did you see that bloke sitting behind us?” Potter asked.
Draco froze in his seat again.
Granger and Weasley answered at the same time.
“No…” Granger said with obvious trepidation in her voice.
“Yes.” Weasley said, firm and pointed, as though he knew where this was going.
“He looked like-”
“Harry, I swear to Merlin, if you say he looked like Malfoy I will hex you.” Weasley interrupted.
Draco felt the panic rising unhelpfully inside him. How had Potter seen through the disguise? Had his Polyjuice worn off early? His mind raced through the method for the potion. How long had the lacewings stewed? It was a full month, wasn’t it? He had a timer for them that went off after exactly one month. Did he get distracted and take them out an hour early? Did Blaise do something to them while Draco was in his own muggle flat?
“Mate. That man sat behind you is at least forty-five with brown hair and pushing eighteen stone. It is not bleeding Malfoy.”
Draco’s heart pounded in his chest. He tried to calm himself, unsuccessfully.
“What’s really going on, Harry?” Granger asked, her voice overly calm.
Weasley sighed. “He got drunk again last night, didn’t he? I found him this morning babbling about Malfoy yet again. Harry thinks he saw him and apparently he dressed as a muggle this time.”
Potter had seen Draco dressed as a muggle. Shit shit shit shit shit. Potter had seen him hiding in the bins in an alleyway like a deranged nutter. How much more humiliating could Draco’s life get?
“Oh, Harry. Not again.” Granger said, disappointment and concern in her voice.
Again? Draco shifted in his seat, trying to listen better. What precisely did she mean by ‘again?’ Was Potter drunk again (not that Draco could blame him)? Or Potter was babbling about him again? Did Potter babble about him while drunk? Draco’s stomach did somersaults at the very thought. What kind of things did Potter have to say?
“Here you are! Three Butterbeers. For Harry Potter.” Amelia announced, saying his name in an awestruck voice.
“No problem at all.” Amelia’s laugh neared hysteria. She took a deep breath and breathed out, “Harry Potter.”
Draco risked a glance around the booth to see if she had his food. She did. It sat on a tray in one hand while she stared bug-eyed at Potter and his friends.
“Are you ready to order Harry Potter, sir?” she asked, over eager and unintentionally holding Draco’s meal hostage.
Draco rolled his eyes again. Merlin, did she have to say his full name every time? He debated saying something to get Amelia’s attention, but decided it wasn’t worth it.
“Er, not yet.” Potter replied.
Fantastic. Amelia would move on, drop off Draco’s plate, and he could eat before he left quietly.
“No bother, sir.” Amelia said. She stayed put in front of their table, waiting for them to decide.
“Right…” Potter trailed off.
“You can come back in a few minutes,” Granger chimed in. “I’m sure that Wellington needs a home before it gets cold.”
Amelia looked down at the dish on her tray. She blinked rapidly, as though seeing it for the first time. “Right you are!”
Without looking away from the Golden Trio, Amelia walked the few steps to Draco’s table. Draco whipped back out of sight. She slid the plate, tray and all, onto his table without making eye contact. Immediately, she returned to her previous place at the Golden Trio’s side. Not that Draco minded terribly, because at least he had his food now.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” he heard Potter mumble.
“We’ll just have fish and chips, the table round.” Weasley announced.
“Right, then.” Amelia breathed. “Three fish and chips for Harry Potter.” She walked away from the table in a daze.
“Does she have to say my name like that?” Potter asked, exasperated.
Draco snorted a laugh.
The table behind him went silent, and Draco froze in place. They must have heard him.
“Harry, you cast muffliato, didn’t you?” Granger asked, keeping her voice low.
Draco didn’t pick up any response, or anything further from their table. Potter must have cast the spell. Draco sighed. He ate his meal in silence and left as quickly as possible. It was better to cut his losses. He did not want to wind up without Polyjuice hiding behind the Golden Trio. Draco did not spend dinner obsessing over the news that Potter had been babbling drunkenly about him. Not at all.
Draco took the long route to the exit, rather than risk passing their table. Despite this, he could feel himself being watched as he wound through the tables. He paused at the exit and glanced back to find Potter staring at him intently. His stomach did another terrible flip. It was as though Draco missed the last step down and the world was sliding out from under him.
He swallowed and stepped through the door to the appearation point.
“I have to say, Harry, I’m disappointed in you.” Shacklebolt said. The Minister for Magic sat beside Harry’s direct supervisor, Head Auror Laghari. “I thought we could count on you.”
“I tried to warn you, Minister,” Laghari said. Her long black hair fell down her back in perfect waves. “He hasn’t the slightest idea of the consequences of his actions in the matter.”
Harry sighed. After all, he knew it was coming. He hated disappointing people. But Hermione was right (as usual.) He’d spent his adolescence as Dumbledore’s unwitting and then very witting pawn. He didn’t want the same for his twenties, though they were mostly gone.
“I understand your concern, sir. But it’s something I’ve got to do for myself. I’ve made my final decision.”
“Harry, we were really counting on your help.” Shacklebolt frowned. He leaned forward and clasped his hands on the enormous desk. “The Ministry needs your support. The public values your opinion too highly for you not to use it for the greater good.”
Harry had a flashback to Rufus Scrimgeour saying nearly the same thing and felt his blood boil.
“We need to retain what is left of our image after the war destroyed it,” Laghari said. Se whirled and pointed a perfectly manicured finger at Harry, “An image you personally helped to build back up.” She paced behind Shacklebolt. “People need to believe their governments are productive in order for them to actually be successful. You are an integral part of that process, whether or not you like it.” Laghari said. “You are vital to the prosperity of the ministry and wizarding society itself, surely you can see that.”
Harry tried to interrupt when Laghari came to a stop beside Shacklebolt, but she kept ranting.
“Now. Let’s not be too hasty in cutting ties just yet. You’re young.”
Harry didn’t feel young, he felt ancient.
“You want to have a good time, don’t you? Go to a party, have a laugh with your mates.”
Harry wanted to sleep for a decade.
“No one can blame you for that, honestly.” Laghari produced a roll of parchment. The Ministry crest loomed at the top in deep purple ink. “Here’s what we’re proposing.”
Laghari glanced at Shacklebolt, who watched Harry’s reaction carefully. She slid the parchment across the desk for Harry to see.
It was a new contract for a position in the Ministry, which fell outside of the D.M.L.E. Harry glanced at it, shaking his head, his hand on his chin.
“My sole duties would be attending functions?” he couldn’t have read that right.
“Yes, exactly! Everyone loves a party.”
Harry hated parties.
You want me to tell the public you’re doing the right thing. Pop in and show them we’re having a good time.”
“Now you’re getting it,” Laghari said with a pleased smile. She woefully misread the timber of Harry’s voice.
“You want me to endorse you knowing nothing about what you’re up to.”
“Well, not exactly.” Her brilliant smile faltered.
“I won’t do it,” Harry said. “I’m done! I’m a live human being, not a bloody mascot.” How long had it taken for nothing to change? Harry wanted to scream or cry in frustration.
“Come now, Harry. You can imagine how helpful you would be. A little positive press for us, an enjoyable night of amusement for you.”
“No.” Harry said. He slid the parchment back. “Final answer.”
Laghari finally lost her composure. “Have some common sense, here Potter! We need you to make us look efficient.”
Hearing the words out loud was unexpected. He’d always suspected they were using him for his clout. But to hear it acknowledged brought his rage in full force.
“If you want efficiency, then you should BE EFFICIENT!” he shouted at her.
“Do you want the war to mean nothing!?” Laghari shouted back.
“How dare you trivialise the war and the people we lost, THE SACRIFICES THEY MADE.” He stood up swiftly, knocking his chair back. “And how dare you try to manipulate me!” He turned his rage on Shacklebolt. “If you want the ministry to be appreciated by the public, MAKE DECISIONS THAT BENEFIT THEM!”
“Do try to calm down, Harry.” Shacklebolt said, resigned and exhausted in the face of Harry’s rage. “We’re on the same side here. We all want what’s best for everyone.”
Harry warred with himself for a moment. He wanted what was best for everyone. But it couldn’t be at the expense of losing himself. He’d already died for them once. Wasn’t that enough? It was time for him to live for his own sake.
“I don’t think you do,” Harry said. “I think you want what’s best for everyone other than me. I’ve given a lot to rid the world of Voldemort and his followers. It’s no longer up to just me. It’s time for you to do your jobs and stop relying on me to gaslight the community into thinking you already are.”
He stormed out, slamming the door behind him. The crowd of onlookers surrounding the Head Auror Office dispersed immediately, all looking terribly busy suddenly. Breanne had been waiting to take Harry to his next appointment. He stormed past her. Harry didn’t give a shit. He was sick of the ministry and its bollocks agenda. Ten years later, and it was the same fucking problem.
“What are you going to do, then?” Hermione asked over tea that evening.
“Hadn’t thought, really.”
Hermione smiled softly at him. “Of course you didn’t. All heart, no planning, that’s you.”
“Careful, mate. If you don’t find some way to occupy yourself, Hermione will draft you into helping her with research.”
“I will not, Ronald.”
Harry arched his eyebrow at her. “Oh really? You’re just going to let me languish on my own?”
“Of course not.”
Harry and Ron grinned at each other. Hermione passed Rosie over to Ron, who bounced her on his knee. She made delighted gurgling noises at him and tried to eat Ron’s wedding ring. Hermione disappeared down the hall. She returned a moment later with a roll of parchment.
“I’ve made a list of activities you might try with your free time.”
Harry and Ron laughed.
“Of course you did. Can I have a look?”
Hermione handed him the scroll. When he unrolled it, Harry found it was actually two pieces of parchment. One was a list titled Ameliorative and Productive Outlets for Harry. He smiled at it fondly.
“Charity work, eh?”
“Not necessarily. There are quite a few options included. I’ve organised them from most to least time-consuming.”
Ron shook his head, still grinning. “I can’t believe you gave Harry homework. He’s only just quit his job.”
Harry scanned down the list and stopped when he found Memoir. “You think I should write a memoir? Is that wise?”
“You don’t have to publish it, of course. I thought it might have more therapeutic value than anything else. Although if you pursued publication, you might get more space from the public at large.”
Hermione and Ron glanced at each other. “Did you see the other list?” Hermione asked cautiously.
Harry swallowed as he read over it, stuffing his emotions down. “I’m trying,” he whispered.
Hermione wiped a tear from her eye and pulled him into a hug. “We love you Harry.”
Harry slept in the next two days. It felt glorious, luxurious even. He couldn’t remember a time in his life he’d been able to sleep as long as he liked for days on end. No Dursleys to cook for. No breakfast in the Great Hall. No Auror training. No office hours at The Ministry. No spending the weekend dreading Monday’s arrival. Just sleep. Harry checked his watch and decided not to get up yet.
His second week of leave he thought about Hermione’s lists again. He dug the Ameliorative and Productive Outlets for Harry list out of his desk drawer. Go for a walk. Harry glanced outside at the rain falling pitifully down. Pass. Do a puzzle. Get a book of sudoku. He skimmed down until his eyes caught on the Memoir line. Obviously, he wouldn’t publish it. Too much dark magic. Too much personal business. But she had a point. The mind healer he’d gone to after the war recommended journaling as a coping mechanism.
He got a quill out and tapped it against a blank journal. He’d start with first year. That was when everything started. Diagon Alley, Hagrid, The Owlery, Malfoy at Madam Malkins.
Two hours later, Harry’s arse was sore from sitting at a desk for so long. He’d written about fifteen pages worth of note, with a few crap illustrations drawn while idly searching for words. He stretched, his back aching. Christ, how did Hermione do this all day?
Harry slept in the next day, too. He woke around one in the afternoon and wrote a few pages of notes. Made a few doodles. Had a few drinks. A packet of crisps. Went back to bed. It was a rather dreary fall, which meant the sun wasn’t seen much in London during the day, anyway. Hours were hard to track. He wasn’t entirely sure how much time passed in this manner.
Eventually, he ran out of booze and crisps, which meant he ran out of writing power. He heard Hermione and Ron calling for him from the sitting room. He shrugged on a dressing gown over his jogging bottoms.
“Alright?” he greeted them.
“Harry… Are you just now getting out of bed?” Hermione asked
“Or are you going to bed early?” Ron added.
They glanced at each other as though confirming a suspicion. Harry ran his fingers through his hair. “I guess I lost track of time a bit. I’ve been writing, though. Like you said.”
Hermione lit up. “You have? Harry, that’s wonderful!”
Ron narrowed his eyes. “You’re writing? Can we see it?”
Harry didn’t see why not. He shrugged and gestured that they follow him up the stairs. Ron eyed the clothes that were scattered on the floor of his bedroom.
He sat down at his desk. He swept some of the crumpled up pages into the bin. He spun in his chair and handed the journal to Hermione. “Your memory’s probably better than mine.”
Hermione perched on the edge of Harry’s unmade bed. Ron flicked his wand at Harry’s clothes. They flew into the hamper. He gathered up a pile of dishes and padded down the stairs.
Hermione’s face grew more concerned as she read on. By the end, her mouth became a thin line. When she closed the journal, she looked at Harry with something akin to alarm.
“Harry. Have you re-read anything you wrote?”
“No, I was just getting it out on paper like you said.” Harry shrugged at the intensity of her gaze. “I dunno. Why are you staring at me?”
“Oh, Harry.” She stood and gave him a hug. She rested her head on his shoulder, and Harry’s arms came up around her.
“Hermione, this is an odd reaction to a handful of memories.”
“How was it?” Ron asked when he returned. He quirked an eyebrow at them.
“Apparently it was bad enough Hermione thought I needed a hug.”
Hermione scoffed and stepped away, “I always think you need a hug, Harry.” She turned to Ron and handed him the journal. “I think you better read for yourself”
If Hermione was concerned, Ron was horrified. His eyes grew wider and wider.
“Harry, mate.” he said, closing the notebook. “This Malfoy obsession is not healthy.”
“I have to agree. It’s a bit much.”
“You’ve got about twenty pages of Draco Malfoy surveillance from first year in there.” Ron said.
“I have not.” Harr protested. “I mean he was there first year, of course I remembered him.”
“Harry, there are drawings. You made drawings to accompany each memory.” Hermione said gently.
“I reckon you need another go with the mind healer, mate. I say this as your oldest friend.”
Ron shook his head and shoved the journal back at Harry. He opened it and flipped through the pages. Shit. They were spot on. He’d basically written every thing Malfoy had ever done or said to him first year. With drawings. Drawings of Malfoy being a shit at Madam Malkins. Drawings of Malfoy being a shit on the Hogwarts Express. Malfoy being a shit about Neville’s remembrall. Malfoy’s shock at Harry getting a broom. He’d drawn that one four times from four different angles.
Harry sat back in his desk chair, horror spreading across his own face.
“It’s alright, mate.” Ron clapped him on the back. “But I’m serious about the mind healer. You’ve got shit to work through.”
He nodded absently.
“Harry, do you want to get dressed? We can go to the chippy?” Hermione offered.
He cleared his throat. “I don’t think so. I’m not hungry.”
Ron and Hermione shared another concerned look at this. “You’re not hungry?”
He shook his head.
“Do you want to come watch tv at our place?”
He shook his head again. “I think I’ve got a headache, actually.”
They let this obvious lie pass. “We’ll see ourselves out, mate.”
“Call us if you need anything. Anything at all.”
They each gave him a hug before heading back downstairs.
Harry waited until they’d left. He tossed the journal in the bin and set it on fire. Once the fire extinguished, he crawled back under his covers and let the mortification wash over him.
“Hermione?” Harry called as he walked through the front door.
“In the kitchen!”
He made his way to the kitchen and set the shopping down. “I’ve got nappies, wipes,” he pulled them out as he named them. “And, most importantly, wine!”
“You are a godsend.” Hermione said. She gave him a half hug and kissed his cheek. “Put the nappies in the nursery, would you?”
“Course.” He grabbed the nappies and wipes and made his way down the hall to Rosie’s room. Harry opened the door quietly and set them on the changing station. They dimmed the room for naptime, but he could still see the quidditch scene Ginny, Ron, and George had painted while Hermione was out of town. They used one of George’s Suddenly Scenery charms on the ceiling to make it appear like a tranquil night sky. In purely wizarding homes, it changed from day to night on its own. But since Ron and Hermione lived in a muggle area, she figured out how to charm it with the light switch. The ceiling transitioned from day to night with delicate twilight tones each time they flipped the switch. It was a lovely nursery.
Harry watched Rosie kick at her blanket, knitted by Mrs Weasley with a tiny broomstick pattern. He wondered if his own nursery had been quidditch themed. He reached over and tucked her tiny legs back under the blanket without waking her.
“How is she?” Hermione asked when he returned to the den.
“Thank Merlin.” Hermione’s hair was swept up in a messy bun. She leaned back on the arm of the sofa, stretching her legs out across it. “I’ll be glad when Ron’s back.”
She gestured to the coffee table, which was half covered in mugs, spoons, and other tea necessities. “Tea?”
“Cheers,” said Harry, helping himself. Tea made, he sat back in the comfy chair kitty corner from Hermione. “Do you know when he comes back? They’re in Romania for the Dragon Crisis course, aren’t they?”
Hermione was tired enough that she didn’t notice the envy in his voice. She shrugged, her eyes half closed. “Sometime in the next three days. Couldn’t be sure. Hand me a biscuit?”
He passed her one, and she only took one bite before her eyes fluttered closed. Harry inhaled his own Hobnob before he stood up to grab a blanket. He draped it over Hermione and moved the half eaten biscuit back to the tray, fighting a smile.
He thought about heading back go Grimmauld Place, but solitude was an unwelcome prospect. Instead, Harry meandered back to the kitchen. Before starting on the dishes in the sink, he emptied the dishwasher. The bins were nearing overload, so he took them out to the curb and replaced the liner. Recycling too. Harry contemplated whether the bonds of friendship cleaning extended to laundry, but was thankfully interrupted by gurgling noises on the baby monitor.
Rosie was just on the verge of crying when Harry picked her up, bouncing her in his arms. “Shhh… Let’s let your mum sleep a bit longer, eh?”
She tugged Harry’s glasses off his face and started slobbering on them. He took that as a yes.
“You want a story, Rosie?” He asked. “I can’t really read without my glasses, but you can’t read at all. So you’ll just have to believe me.” He snagged one of the cardboard books with one hand, keeping Rosie secure with the other arm, and settled in the rocker chair in the corner. Harry picked up The Wizard and the Hopping Pot. He read through it as best he could, but Rosie showed no signs of wanting to go back to sleep. Next came Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, but Rosie refused to tire.
Harry picked up the Beedle Bard book again and made up his own story.
“Once there was a little boy who was made to live in a dark cave.” Rosie hit him in the chin with his glasses and put them back in her mouth, drool dripping down onto his t-shirt. He managed to turn the page, resting the book on his knee. “One day when the little boy was eleven, a large, joyful bear rescued him and took him to live in a magical castle. It was filled with all sorts of wonderful creatures and people.”
“Fffppptpttt,” chimed in Rosie.
“I know. He could hardly believe his luck. On his way to the magic castle, he met a small dog called Ron, and an otter called Hermione.”
“That’s right, Rosie, those were your parents.” Harry bonked her lightly on the nose with his fingers. “It was the best day of the little boy’s life so far.” Harry turned another page. “At the magic castle everything was wonderful except for two things.”
“The first was a ferret at the castle called Malfoy. And he was a right little shit. Can you say Malfoy was a shit?”
“Was. A. Shit.” Harry cooed.
He sighed. “I suppose that’s for the best. I shouldn’t teach you swears until you’re at least in primary school.” He turned another page of the book he wasn’t reading. “There was a great evil on the rise. This was the second terrible thing. It was a monster who came back year after year. His name was Mouldy Voldy.”
Rosie cooed against his shoulder.
“Together, the little boy, Ron, and Hermione defeated Mouldy Voldy. The magic castle was safe again. Even for little shits like Malfoy. Ron and Hermione got married and made you, Rosie!” He bopped her little nose again. “Yaaaaay.” He took her tiny hands in his and helped her make clapping noises. “The little boy should have been happy. He tried very hard but couldn’t quite manage it. This made everyone very sad.”
“Morbid Story time with Uncle Harry, is it?” Hermione leaned on the door frame.
Harry grinned ruefully at her.
“Thanks for letting me sleep,” she said.
Rosie began giggling at the sound of Hermione’s voice. Hermione came to get her offspring. “And don’t think I’m letting what I just heard slide. Another talk about mind healers is in your future.”
“Allright Trelawney, I hear you.” Harry followed her out to the den.
Half an hour later, Rosie had been fed, changed, and was playing happily in her playpen. Harry made more tea and brought it to Hermione. The coffee table had been filled with parchment and enormous books on magical law.
“You wouldn’t believe how myopic these duffers in Wizengamot think. They’re trying to pass a law that would require all magical building contracts for the ministry to accept the lowest bidder. It’s some sort of misguided attempt at ensuring bids from muggleborns aren’t ignored just because they were from muggleborns. I appreciate the sentiment, really I do. It’s a nice thought that they want to regulate prejudice in the ministry. But this just isn’t the way to go about it. All that will happen is someone like Mundungus Fletcher will come along with some sort of shell building company, get the money, and leave shoddy workmanship. There are too many ways to exploit it.”
“Mmmhmm.” Harry said. “Misguided.”
“Yes, exactly! It feels like the idiots in Wizengamot haven’t spoken with someone outside of Wizengamot in centuries. They haven’t the faintest idea how people function in the real world.”
Harry got up to clear away the newly dirtied dishes. He added in a supportive comment from time to time. He was well used to Hermione’s rants about Wizengamot and it was winding up to be a long one. Harry threw out the occasional “sounds awful” and “the bloody nerve” from the kitchen as he busied about with cleaning.
“I just think you haven’t given it enough of a chance, is all.”
“Sorry?” Harry said, taken off guard. He plunked into the comfy chair.
“Dating, Harry. Haven’t you been listening?”
“Course I have” He reviewed the last few minutes of wrote conversation and realised the topic shifted. Harry scratched the back of his neck. “I’m just a bit fed up, if I’m honest.”
“You’ve been going out with muggles, though, haven’t you?”
“I’m shattered, Hermione. The muggle dating life isn’t for me, not for anything serious anyway. I mean, if I’d just wanted a shag, I’d have found one. I don’t exactly have a problem pulling.”
“Didn’t need to know that,” Hermione said, scrunching her eyes closed.
“You asked.” He shrugged.
Harry sipped his fresh cup of tea and winced. He added another splash of milk and gave it a stir.
“I’ve tried dating plenty, it’s just not worth it.” He sighed. “I went out with that bloke, Anthony, for a bit. But it didn’t go anywhere. I mean, how could it?”
Hermione set her cup down and squeezed his knee. “I remember him. He was nice enough.”
“I couldn’t be myself around him.”
“Isn’t that kind of the point of dating muggles? So you don’t have to be Harry Potter The Chosen One? You can just be Harry.”
“It was too much lying. It’s fine for a bit, but as soon as people start asking questions, I have to start lying. Even in the muggle world, practically everyone’s first question is about my scar. It’s all lies from the start.”
“That’s fair.” She chewed her lip a moment.
“I mean, I can’t just start out with ‘my parents died when a madman tried to kill them and I was left with this disfiguring scar on my forehead. Any weird scars on you?’”
Hermione coughed back a laugh.
“Why don’t we keep it light,” Harry continued, only half joking. “We’ll start with the delicate childhood trauma of having your parents murdered before we move into the serious stuff.”
“If you’re still just going for casual, my assistant is fantastic. She’s incredibly organised, loves the library. Very responsible. She’s got one of those muggle word-of-the-day calendars.”
“Really?” she said excitedly. Her face fell when she caught a glimpse of Harry’s eye roll. “Oh, you’re being facetious. Well, I think she’s lovely and a real catch.”
“Hermione.” Harry fought off a grin. “She sounds exactly like you. As much as I love you, it’s not a romantic love.”
“Harry James Potter. Are you talking about your feelings? Willingly?” Hermione grinned back at him. “My, how times have changed.”
“I suppose they have.”
“My assistant has a muggle cousin,” she pressed on. “She’s shown me a picture, he’s very handsome. He’s muggle, but he knows magic exists. It might be a suitable compromise.”
“The assistant you just tried to set me up with ten seconds ago? Jesus, Hermione. Can’t you give it a rest?”
Hermione’s face was determined and Harry knew it was a battle he wouldn’t win.
“Alright, fine. What’s the name?”
“William. Here’s his number.” She handed him a slip of paper.
“Did you have that prepared?”
“Well, I knew you wouldn’t go for the assistant, herself.” Hermione said.
“I haven’t got a mobile.” Harry protested.
Hermione smiled triumphantly and slid a box across the table. Harry groaned as he unboxed a brand new phone.
“William is free next Friday night, by the way.”
Harry shook his head. “You are incorrigible.”
Draco conceded to a night out with Olivia and her friends. In the end, he didn’t have much of an argument, really. He’d been living with her for a few months and always managed to avoid their drunken escapades, pleading work in the morning. But if he was honest with himself, he could do with letting off some steam. Her friends had been round the flat, often enough that he knew them all by face if not by name. Draco finally had a Saturday morning free and this time when they went clattering through the flat he joined in.
He plopped down on the sofa, facing the telly. The three girls wore tight, strapless tubes covered in sequins that Draco wasn’t sure counted as gowns. They couldn’t possibly be comfortable, but it was none of his business what they wore. The same principle did not seem to apply to himself, however.
“You’re wearing that?”
Draco looked down at his charcoal jumper and blue trousers. They resulted from Olivia’s latest shopping adventure and perfectly respectable. She had taken Draco out shopping for normal clothes several times now, insisting people didn’t wear suits to work unless it was an office.
He arched an eyebrow at Olivia. “Problem?”
“We’re going dancing, not golfing, Grandad,” the one called Rachel chimed in.
Draco looked down his nose at her.
“I suppose I would get rather warm.” Draco was sure the wizarding world had clubs similar to their destination tonight, but he’d never been. Blaise tried several times, but Draco just couldn’t see how it would be anything other than a disaster. Being in the Wizarding World was always a disaster.
Draco sighed, he no idea what the dress code at these things was. He looked at Olivia and Rachel. “What do you suggest?”
Olivia’s eyes grew wide. A short silence fell over the group. This was immediately followed by cries of “FASHION SHOW” and “MONTAGE TIME” and outright squeals. Draco was shuffled into his bedroom with alarming speed for women in such high heels.
There were the grey chinos with a black button down, sleeves rolled up. Next came his dove-grey suit with a white dress shirt, top buttons undone, no tie. One of them produced a mesh top from Olivia’s closet, another cut the legs out of his jeans to turn them into an outfit entirely inappropriate for dancing but spot on for a rent boy.
“Definitely not.” he said, making a mental note to reparo his jeans tomorrow.
“You’re no fun at all,” Olivia said.
Thirty minutes and ten outfits later, they deemed Draco properly dressed in a tight white t-shirt with the short sleeves rolled and tight black denim trousers they called “jeans.” He felt supremely underdressed, but the girls assured him that was not the case. They also made Draco swap out his comfortable penny loafers for a solid pair of boots.
“Sure you’re not at least bi?” Rachel asked. She had him spin in a circle, her eyes lingering on his arse.
“Quite.” he brushed a bit of lint off his shoulder.
Rachel made a pouty face that, if anything, only strengthened his decidedly non-female inclinations.
“Ignore her,” said Olivia. “You’ll pull in no time, love.”
“Of course I will, I’m irresistible.”
Draco was pulled out the door by the group of glamourous women. A ten-minute tube ride later, they were shivering in the queue outside a large brick building of an indiscernible century. One of the biggest differences, Draco though, between Muggle and Wizarding kind was the dress. He hadn’t realised how covered up witches and wizards really were until he was surrounded by half dressed muggles. Everywhere he looked, there were exposed arms and legs. Trousers so snug they left nothing to the imagination. But imagination was overrated in Draco’s opinion.
Once they were inside, Draco realised the majority of the clientele were men. Beautiful men. Beautiful men in snug trousers. A blue light suffused the whole place. It seemed to emanate from the very walls, which were glowing a white-ish blue.
He had to lean in, and shout in Olivia’s ear to be heard. “Are we at a gay bar?”
“Oh, Draco, darling.” She was hiding her laugh. “Of course we are. We came here for you, love!” She patted his shoulder casually.
Draco was taken aback. It wouldn't have occurred to him that this was on his behalf. A rowdy bunch of muggle girls getting dressed up to show him a good time. It was endearing. And somehow wholesome, if shaking your tits in a minidress could be considered wholesome. Draco decided they must be Hufflepuffs at heart, bless them.
“First round is on me!” He announced to the girls. They cheered back at him and split up. Two went to find a table somewhere and Olivia stayed to help him put in their order. Going out with the girls differed greatly from the few times he’d gone with Blaise. Blaise was single-mindedly on the hunt. The girls were out to have a good time, partners be damned. He had a sneaking suspicion it would be that way, even if they weren’t at a gay bar. The first round of drinks he and Olivia brought back to their table was gone in no time.
Olivia shouted to Draco about his fellow chef, Rav.
“HE HAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER. ONLY TWO YEARS OLD.”
“HE HAS AN OTTER?” Draco asked.
“DAUGHTER. HE HAS A BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER.”
“HE HAS A DUTIFUL OTTER?” Draco yelled back, perplexed.
Rachel shouted about the matching jumpers she’d knitted for her cats. She whipped out her mobile, he didn’t want to know from where, and showed them photos. She had one black cat and two ginger ones. The black cat had large green piercing eyes. Draco had a sudden image of Potter and the Weasleys in their Christmas jumpers and spat out his drink.
“ARE YOU HAVING A GO AT MY CATS?” She shouted.
“NO,” he shouted back. “THIS IS FANTASTIC. I LOVE IT.”
“ME TOO. WANT TO SEE MORE?”
The third girl Draco was least familiar with. He knew he’d been introduced at some point, but it was too late to ask her name now without it being rude. He thought it started with a J-Sound. She shouted about a horrible politician called Nigel who apparently was a rotten liar and deserved a good bollocking.
Olivia and J-Sound went off to get the second round of drinks. This was apparently an unwritten code to move the conversation to relationships. Rachel was newly single, Draco learned. She and her girlfriend had split up about a month ago. She didn’t seem too cut up about it, but they only dated for a few weeks. Apparently, they were at the move-in or break-up stage and Rachel had chosen to break up.
J-Sound was happily married, with a house in the suburbs of London. She’d been married for just over a year and she’d left her husband at home playing computer games to come out dancing.
They turned to Draco in unison, eyebrows raised.
This was his cue to find the toilets. He snaked his way along the edge of the throng of dancers. Draco reached the bar and out of the corner of his eye he spotted a head of black untidy hair. He stopped dead in his tracks.
Harry Sodding Potter was not five meters away.
At a muggle gay bar.
Harry Potter at a muggle gay bar dancing with a bloke.
It was unbelievable. He turned the corner down the hall to the toilets as quickly as possible. Draco’s heart was racing. His fifteen-year-old self was having a complete mental breakdown. He splashed some water on his face and took a few deep breaths. The rational part of Draco’s brain took over. He was overreacting. There were plenty of black-haired men with round glasses in London. Draco ignored the irrational part of his brain that chanted Potter was shaggable. Potter was shaggable. Potter was shaggable. Except that it wasn’t Potter. It couldn’t be.
Was Potter even gay? At least he had to be bi or somewhere on the scale. How had Draco not heard this? How was this not the headline of the Daily Prophet? He could see the Rita Skeeter headlines now.
HARRY POTTER THE POUFTER.
HARRY POTTER THE HOMO HERO
HARRY POTTER THE BUMBOY WONDER
Draco cringed at the very thought. The Wizarding press were not known for their awareness and inclusivity. He might have been the one giving the interviews in his youth. He looked down at the dark mark on his forearm, not so cleverly hidden by flowers, and wished he’d insisted on his suit. Muggles thought it a normal tattoo, but Potter knew better. He would never wear short sleeves in the wizarding world.
Draco sighed. He wasn’t that person anymore. He could hardly begrudge anyone anonymity. Wasn’t he here doing precisely the same thing?
Potter was shaggable. Potter was shaggable. Potter was shaggable.
Draco shook his head again, as though it would rid him of the undesirable thoughts. Potter had never even wanted to be Malfoy’s friend. Shagging was definitely not on the table. They were enemies (sort of) after all. Bitter school rivals (no longer at school). Whose passionate hatred of one another often led to physical entanglements. Draco splashed more water on this face. He decided not to follow that train of thought. It wasn’t even Potter he was getting worked up over. Not that he was worked up. Because he wasn’t. Potter was a git, and that was all. It certainly wasn’t him dancing with a blonde bloke Draco pretended didn’t look a thing like himself.
Head held high, Draco worked his way back to the ladies in the corner. Their relationship talk now shifted to empowerment talk, well into their third round of drinks. They exchanged lots of “Good for you” and “You deserve it” comments drunkenly amongst themselves. After a few minutes, some of these got directed at Draco, though he could not discern why.
He decided it was time for his third drink as well. After all, he deserved it. Or so he was emphatically told.
Draco waited in line at the bar where he caught not a few blokes checking him out. He knew he looked fit, but it was still odd to have it acknowledged in public. It was far better than being hexed, so he wasn’t complaining. The music wasn’t as overpowering at the bar. He was grateful when it was his turn. Draco didn’t have to shout. He simply ordered an Old Fashioned and stepped to the side to let the next person in line. This put him at the corner of the bar, a perfect spot for perusing the other patrons.
There was a very fine-looking gent who caught his eye across the bar. Draco hadn’t given pulling any serious thought. Drinking and dancing were as far as he’d planned. But now it seemed like a genuine possibility. He’d just about decided to speak to the gorgeous chestnut head of hair with a perfect five o’clock shadow while he waited for his drink when his view was impeded. The impediment wasn’t terrible to look at, though. Draco’s eyes travelled up the lovely arse where the man’s t-shirt rode up a little. Just enough that Draco could see the barest hint of a v of his hipbones. His eyes continued upward to his tight black t-shirt. Here Draco became filled with dread. The man’s head turned and, of course, belonged to Potter. Damn him. He was close enough to see the scar on his stupid forehead now. Definitely Potter.
Draco wanted to throttle him. Couldn’t Draco do anything without being followed by stupid saviour of the wizarding world? Luckily, he was far enough away that the prat hadn’t noticed him. Draco turned his head, so he wasn’t directly in Potter’s line of sight. He might have got away with it, too, if not for J-Sound running up.
“Draco! There you are!”
He watched Potter’s head snap instantly over to him. Their eyes met.
J-Sound continued to natter on at his elbow, but Draco heard none of it. Potter’s hand hesitated at his trouser pocket, as though about to go for his wand. Draco bristled. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. If anything, Potter was the one who didn’t belong here. Potter let his hand drop and leaned on the bar. Draco relaxed.
“Do you know him?” J-Sound asked, finally cottoning on to Draco’s distraction.
Draco let out a hollow laugh.
Potter must have heard. He flushed and looked down at his feet. He swallowed and looked back up at Draco. Their eyes met again, cautiously. Potter then did something very odd. He waved. Not a politician’s wave. Not a child’s exuberant flailing of fingers. But a friendly sort of wave. Just a twist of his fingers. Draco felt himself nod in return. Thank Merlin, his drinks arrived. He allowed J-Sound to lead him back to the girls at the table. Draco glanced back at the bar once and found Potter still staring at him. A man with long honey-blonde ringlets came up behind Potter and slid his arm around his waist. Draco’s mouth was suddenly very dry.
The man kissed Potter and lingered too long on the cheek for it to be friendly, all the while Potter never breaking eye contact with Draco. Hands skimmed the tops of Potter’s jeans. The man’s mouth trailed kisses up Potter’s neck. Potter’s hazy eyes were halfway closed. Draco bit his lip and finally Potter blinked, awareness coming back to him. He gave Draco a last look before turning back to the blonde-haired man and kissed him on the mouth. His eyes flitted to Draco’s briefly after they broke apart and Draco realised he was still staring at Potter. Draco flushed and looked down at the floor. He turned back to his muggle girl gang.
Potter was shaggable and didn’t hex him.
Draco spent the rest of the night getting himself pissed as quickly as possible.
“I’M GOING TO DANCE.” he announced.
Potter was shaggable.
“GOOD FOR YOU,” shouted Rachel.
And didn’t hex him.
“YOU DESERVE IT,” shouted J-Sound.
Olivia slapped him on the bum. He took it as encouragement. Draco didn’t see Potter again that night. He wasn’t sure if it was a blessing or a curse. Draco lost himself on the dance floor, grateful for oblivion.
Harry couldn’t get Malfoy out of his mind for weeks after his date with William. What was he doing at a muggle gay bar? The same thing he was, Harry told himself. Obviously. William must have noticed something distracted Harry that night. He hadn’t heard from him the next day, or any day after. Harry wasn’t bothered.
At least this time, he knew for certain it was Malfoy. Ron couldn't say it was all in his head. Harry heard that girl call him Draco. Harry waved stupidly at him. They made eye contact. Intense eye contact. Desire welled up in him just thinking about Malfoy watching William kiss Harry. He pushed that unhelpful thought aside. Draco Malfoy at a muggle gay bar. The image had stuck in his mind like a burr. His white t-shirt, so thin it was nearly transparent. Had his arse always been that perfect? Robes at Hogwarts hid most people’s physical assets. Perhaps he’d never been given an opportunity to admire it before. Harry hadn’t been able to stop himself from watching Malfoy walk away.
Harry looked up and realised he had just circled the same block three times. He sighed and stepped into the cafe he happened to be standing in front of. Hermione was always going on about Harry getting out of the house. Here he was, out of the house. That had to count for something. Once he got his bearings, he realised it was the same one he’d got the pastries for Ginny’s engagement party. Grateful for the serendipitous wandering, Harry very much looked forward to a treacle tart. Something to warm his stomach and clear his mind.
Harry glimpsed his reflection in the pastry case. He ran his hands through it, trying to flatten it out and make it more presentable. He made it worse. Harry sighed. Why did he even bother?
“Harry, Harry Potter.”
Harry glanced up in surprise, his cheeks tinged. “Sorry? Er.. Hullo again, I mean.”
The woman behind the counter pointed her sharpie at him. “I remember you. You are the one who always says your full name.”
“Couldn’t forget. Harry. Harry Potter.” she adopted a posh accent, “Like Bond. James Bond. And there’s the, you know,” she indicated her head at him.
Harry didn’t know.
“The um,” she touched her blonde plait. “You’ve got a memorable look, is all.”
“Er.. Right..” Harry said, confused. “Sorry. I guess I didn’t realise I came here that often.”
“Don’t apologise, silly! You’re here at least once a week, at least that I’ve seen.”
Concern trickled into her eyes. “Do you really not remember?”
Harry scratched the back of his neck. “I guess I’ve been losing track of days lately. I’m on leave from work.”
“Well, looks like you needed it. Now, what can I getcha, love?”
“I’ll have a treacle tart. And a coffee.”
“Actually. Do you do lattes here?”
“Of course we do.”
“Right, one of those, then.”
Olivia smiled cheerily at him, “We’ll have it at the end of the bar in just a few.”
Harry sat down at a table near the pickup counter, near enough that he could hear the woman call to the back kitchens. “That bloke with the mental hair is back.”
This announcement was followed by the clattering of dishes and a very posh accent swearing loudly.
“Would you kindly fuck off, Olivia?”
A very familiar posh accent. But that couldn’t be right. Harry was letting his imagination get the better of him.
“His hair is well mental today, too. Just your cup of tea.” she added in a singsong voice.
“I don’t need you meddling in my affairs, thank you very much.”
“Your loss, love. He’s so fit.”
Harry’s cheeks heated and when she called out his drink later, he couldn’t quite meet her eye. He made his way back to his table and watched the knitting biddies clamour in the doors. They took up the table kitty corner to his own. Piles of yarn spread out, seemingly out of nowhere.
Harry enjoyed being surrounded by Muggles.He could sit there across from the knitting ladies and not one of them tell him about their dead children and grandchildren. He also resented it a bit. While he loved going out without being mobbed, those interactions never felt genuine. Muggles let him be anonymous, but if he was honest, Harry missed magic. He loved Diagon Alley. It never lost the magic of his first visit. Harry was worried he’d never be able to live that magic again. He couldn’t go out as himself without anyone trailing him snapping photos. Not only was it terribly annoying, but it reminded him of Colin Creevy. It was guilt, on top of annoyance, drizzled over more guilt in the shape of a stupid lightning bolt scar.
Harry picked at the last bite of his treacle tart. He idly wondered how long was an appropriate amount of time out of the house for Hermione to be satisfied with his efforts. More knitters had come in and they were now encroaching on his territory, eyeing his progress with the tart. They’d already acquired the spare chair from his table.
Harry sighed and downed the last of his latte. Before he’d even made it out the door, three knitting ladies had taken over his table. He huffed a laugh and gave the blonde woman whose name escaped him a small wave when she caught his eye.
Harry noticed an alleyway beside the building he hadn’t seen before. He ducked down it to the back of the building so he could appearate without alarming the muggles. He’d just whipped out his wand when the back door crashed open. Harry froze as the muggle quickly ran down the steps and tossed the rubbish in the dumpsters. When he turned around, Harry saw it wasn't a muggle at all. It was Draco Malfoy. His mind hadn’t been playing tricks on him. The Slytherin who fought on the side of Pureblood Supremacy was throwing rubbish out in a muggle cafe.
Malfoy’s stride came to a halt when he caught sight of Harry. Harry thought the colour drained from his face, but he was so pale it was hard to tell for sure. He was taller than Harry, who had always been the scrawny, malnourished, kept in a cupboard type.
Harry thought of the look on Malfoy’s face when Harry turned to kiss William. He told himself it wasn’t a show. That he kissed William for the sake of kissing William, that he would have done so even if Malfoy hadn’t been watching.
Harry was a terrible liar.
He wasn’t sure how long they would have stayed there gaping at each other if the blonde woman hadn’t come down the steps a moment later, carrying flattened cardboard boxes.
“Oh, I see you two have met.”
They both turned to stare at her.
“This is the bloke I was telling you about.” She indicated Harry with her hand and continued in an audible fake whisper, “The fit one with the mental hair.”
Harry wasn’t sure if he should be flattered or offended, but was too flummoxed by the very existence of Malfoy in this muggle alleyway to actually manage, either.
Olivia lifted one of the dumpster lids and slid the cardboard in. Then she wiped her hands off on her apron and came over to them.
“Harry, Harry Potter, this is Draco Malfoy, our resident pastry chef. And you are just his type.” She added with a cheeky wink. “You’re welcome, Draco,” she said in the audible whisper before she disappeared through the doors to the kitchens.
Malfoy was a pastry chef.
Draco Malfoy was a pastry chef.
“You’re a pastry chef? A muggle pastry chef?”
Malfoy’s cheeks tinged, “What of it, Potter?”
“You’re shitting me.”
“Merlin, you’re vulgar.” Malfoy’s gaze dropped to Harry’s mouth so quickly Harry was sure he imagined it. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a job to get back to.” Malfoy took a deep breath, gave Harry one last haughty look, and strode back inside.
“What did she mean, I’m your type?” Harry called after him.
Malfoy flipped him two fingers and escaped behind the doors.
Draco’s back ached. He was distracted this morning and burnt the croissants. He’d had to redo them and it threw off his workflow. Rav was in the kitchen with him all day today, which meant Draco couldn’t use magic. It left him exhausted.
He collapsed on the sofa as soon as he arrived back at the flat.
“Olivia?” he called out. No answer. He dug his wand out of his trouser pocket and cast a scourfingy. He was too tired for an actual shower. After he kicked off his shoes and spread out along the entirety of the sofa, Draco looked about for the remote to turn the tv on. The damn thing was on top of the tv. Too far to actually reach. The idea of sitting up to get it was unfathomable. Draco reached for his wand again, without moving his body.
“Accio remote.” It flew into his hands. Draco loved magic. The sounds of janglings keys and the scraping of the lock came drifting down the hall and Draco stuffed his wand back into this trouser pocket.
“Draco? Are you home, love?”
“Watching tv,” he called back.
“Ooooh perfect. Is Countdown on?”
“What is Countdown?”
“You are going to love it, Draco. I don’t watch the normal one, though. That’s for pensioners. The Cats’ version is the ticket.”
“None of the words you’re using make any sense.”
“Right. So. You know Channel 4, yeah?”
“It’s the one with 8 out of 10 cats. Jimmy Carr?”
“Oh yes, I remember that. He has excellent suits and a horrible laugh.”
Olivia laughed. “Brilliant, so Jimmy Carr hosts a version of Countdown and it’s brilliant.”
“I don’t know why you’re bothering to explain this to me. Just put it on.”
“Yes! Back in a mo’!” she darted into her bedroom and dropped off the book bag she’d been carrying. A few minutes later Olivia came trotting out in comfy looking sweats. She shoved a pad of paper at him.
“Have you got a pen?”
“Brilliant, shove over.”
Draco sighed and moved his feet so Olivia could sit down. As it turned out, Countdown was Draco’s favourite thing in the muggle world. Competitive, intelligent, absurd, and best of all, he got to use his ballpoint pen (which Draco was now obsessed with; he always had one in his jacket pocket).
The next day, Draco was tasked with doing the shopping. Tesco had been mentioned often enough in such a casual way that Draco never found the right moment to find out what the word meant. The one time he’d asked Olivia nearly fell to the floor laughing.
“You’re so posh..” she trailed off, unable to breathe. “You’re so posh you’ve never been to Tesco!”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Are you incapable of answering a simple question?
“It’s a supermarket.” She said. “Like Sainsbury’s. Waitrose?”
As if that clarified anything at all. Sure, he’s heard the words before. He just didn’t have any context for them. She may as well have said “muggle place, like the muggle word.”
Olivia correctly interpreted his reaction. Damn her. She bit her bottom lip to keep from laughing. After a deep breath she said, “Draco, you know I love you.”
He blinked at her, startled. He didn’t know that, actually. And it threw him a bit to hear it announced casually, the same tone that Olivia would use to comment on the weather . His own mother had only said it twice that he could recall. Not that Draco didn’t know they loved him. He knew his mother loved him very much. It simply wasn’t communicated verbally, as very few things were. Draco’s family lived a life of implications and unspoken social constructs.
“I need you to answer something for me.” Olivia was doing a poor job of hiding her smile. “Have you ever been to Sainsbury’s?” She said it slowly, as though he were a child.
Draco resisted the urge to lash out. It was only friendly banter. “Obviously not.” he said stiffly.
“Where do you think food comes from?”
“Of course I know where food comes from. It’s just that I am never the one to get it. I get takeaway. Or go out.”
“Ah yes, the true sign of the gentry. Never prepare your own food.”
“I prepare food for mug- for people nearly every day,” Draco drawled. “As you well know.”
“Baking at the cafe doesn’t count. That is your place of employment. I’m talking beans on toast. Sunday roast. A cheeky bubble and squeak?”
“That’s not a real thing.” Draco decided. “You’re having me on.”
“Right. You, sir, will go to Tesco to do the shopping.” Olivia grabbed a ballpoint pen and started jotting things down on a scrap of paper. She checked the refrigerator and the cupboards and wrote a few more things down.
“Now, I’ve given you a pretty simple list. Some veg, some bread, very easy.”
“I’m not a child, Olivia. I know how shopping works.” he sneered.
“Sure you do. I believe you, really I do.”
“Ugh. You’re the worst.” he said, lovingly.
Olivia cackled at him. “Tesco is only a few blocks away. Take this with you.” She passed him a folded up plastic shopping bag. “It should all fit in there, but if you need another one, they’re only about 50 p.”
“You’re not coming with?” Draco may not have entirely succeeded in keeping the panic out of his voice.
“Do you need adult supervision, Draco?” she cooed.
He narrowed his eyes at his so-called friend. “I hate you.”
Olivia cackled again. “You love me!”
She was right, as usual.
Shopping. Shopping was easy. He could do it in his sleep. Nothing to it. Or so Draco kept telling himself. Next thing he knew, muggles surrounded him in a horribly bright shopping centre at a complete loss for what to do.
All the produce was covered in plastic. It was mental. He had to purchase potatoes that came in a plastic bag and then put that plastic bag in another plastic bag. Broccoli was covered in plastic that looked like it was moulded on. What kind of nonsense was that? Despite the absurdity of the packaging, Draco still found himself enjoying the shopping process a little. Particularly getting to use his ballpoint pen. He crossed potatoes off the list, gave the pen a satisfying click and tucked it back in the jacket pocket of this three-piece suit.
Forty minutes later found him in front of the condiments, trying to suss out the difference between two seemingly identical bottles that had a 90p disparity in price.
“What’s the difference? They both say brown sauce.” He murmured.
“The difference is that one’s shit.”
Draco’s stomach flipped. He knew that voice. He swallowed carefully and looked up from the bottles.
Potter took one of them from his hand and put it back on the shelf.
“You don’t want that one, trust me.”
They stared at each other for too long. Somehow Potter had become more fit. Auror training must have helped him fill out his physique. Draco had been too shocked to find him outside the cafe the other day to appreciate Potter up close. His t-shirt fit significantly better than Draco remembered at Hogwarts. His jeans fit more snugly too, though he still had clearly never been to a tailor. The bottoms of his jeans draped over his worn out trainers, the backs of them torn to shreds from being stepped on constantly. Draco realised he just fully checked out Harry Potter and snapped his eyes back up.
“Have you never done the shopping before?” Potter’s gaze was intense, as always. The green eyes twinkled at him. Draco found himself a bit warm, before the words sunk in.
“Oh, not you too.” He rolled his eyes. “You could look less appalled, you know. I’ve enough of that from my flatmate.”
“Did you say flatmate?” Potter shoved his glasses up by the bridge on his nose and crossed his arms. “You have a flatmate?”
“Am I being interrogated, Auror Potter?” Draco said.
For some reason, Potter wasn’t angry with him. Challenging, yes. But there was humour in those deep green eyes instead of the repulsion Draco conditioned himself to expect.
“I’m just having trouble wrapping my head around seeing Draco Malfoy at Tesco. I seem to recall you saying something along the lines of ‘If you’re wondering what that smell is, Mother, a mudblood’s just walked in.” Draco had to hand it to Potter, that was a spot on impression of him. “Or do I have that wrong? Was that a different Draco Malfoy?”
Draco’s cheeks tinged pink.
“There you were last week working in a muggle cafe. And now here you are at Tesco buying brown sauce. You’ll forgive me if that’s a bit much to swallow.”
Did they really need this conversation in the middle of a muggle supermarket? And why wasn’t Potter trying to hex him? “I shouldn’t have said that.”
Draco glared at him. “I said: I. Should. Not. Have. Said. That. Lost your hearing along with your parents, Potter?” he sneered. Draco turned and moved farther down the aisle. He looked up at the blue signage for a bread aisle. Maybe if he pretended this wasn’t happening, it would stop happening.
Potter snorted behind him. “Ah, there he is. Same old Malfoy, having a go at me being an orphan.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “An orphan who also happens to be the most famous wizard of all time. And a fully grown adult.”
“Doesn’t mean I should have done without parents, Malfoy.”
Merlin Potter was exhausting. “I should have.”
“Done without parents.” He kept moving but Potter kept following.
“Do you need to see a healer?”
“For your hearing, Potter, honestly. Why are you following me?”
“You’ve already done that joke.” Potter poked him in the shoulder.
Draco looked down where Potter’s finger had just touched him. He slowly brought his eyes to meet Potter’s and raised an eyebrow. “Yes, well, it didn’t take the first time, did it?”
“Did you just say you could have done without parents? Mr My-Father-Will-Hear-About-This?” It wasn’t the worst impression of Draco.
Potter kept in step with Draco and they moved to another corner of the shop. “And I’m not following you.”
“You are literally following me as we speak.”
“Well, I wouldn’t have to if you would stop a moment and talk to me.” Potter looked around them, confused. “Why are we in the jumper section?”
“Talk to you?” Draco stopped and turned to face him, at a complete loss. “Why on earth do you want to talk to me? And why is there a jumper section in this place? I thought it was a supermarket?” Draco privately congratulated himself on using the term correctly. “Why would I buy clothing from a place that wraps its veg in plastic? Do you understand this place, Potter?”
Potter looked at him and chewed his lip. “You’ve a fair point there. It makes no sense.”
“I need tiger rolls. Can you tell me what a tiger roll is?”
“What are you doing here, Malfoy?”
“Are you thick? I’m shopping. You’re following me around, watching me put items into my shopping trolley. How do you not understand what is happening?”
“I mean, you know. What are you doing here?” The irritating man gestured broadly around them. He was impossible. Potter took a step closer to him. Draco swallowed.
“If you don’t want to help me, the least you can do is bugger off,” he said. He turned and found his way out of the clothing and back to the food items part of the store. When he located the bread, he turned to find Potter still behind him.
“Why do you keep following me?” Draco got out his pen and crossed tiger rolls off the list. “Are you lost? Is there a Granger and Weasley somewhere I can return you to? I didn’t realise it was even possible to separate you. Yet here you are, badgering me and they were nowhere to be seen.”
“See, you sound like Malfoy. You act like Malfoy. But you’re dressed as a muggle. Surely you can understand why I find that perplexing?”
“Perplexing? Been to the library lately? Did hanging around Granger finally influence your vocabulary?”
Potter paused. His brilliant green eyes widened behind his glasses and he looked askance. “Did you just say something nice about Hermione?”
Shit, had he? Even so, if Malfoy felt anything toward Granger, it was guilt. And shame. And remorse. And very begrudging respect.
“Who even are you?” Potter asked.
“I am Draco Malfoy. Purchaser of chocolate buttons.” He grabbed a bag of said buttons from the shelf, threw them in with his shopping and strode off to the register, his head held high. He left Potter gaping after him in the aisle.
Draco couldn’t stop thinking about running into Potter last week. Potter crept back into Draco’s dreams, something that hadn’t happened since adolescence. Draco dreamt of being chased by Potter. And when he finally caught up instead of fisticuffs and flying hexes, Potter shoved him against the wall and stared into Draco’s eyes with fiery intensity. Just before the dream got good, he woke up.
Draco flopped over onto his stomach and drew the covers up to his chin. His left foot had grown cold, poking out of the bottom. He pulled that under the covers too. The sun was coming up, filling the room with unasked-for light. Draco hated mornings. Even on his mornings off, he couldn’t sleep into a normal hour any longer. He was too used to his four am shift. He hated his four am shift. Draco stared absently at the window, willing the sun to die.
Draco hated everything, but this morning in particular. He hated that the dream was interrupted. That it was, in fact, only a dream and would forever be only a dream. He hated his parents for the terrible things he was raised to believe that prevented the dream from becoming a reality. He hated the Death Eaters for the terrible things they made Draco do as a brainwashed teenager. He hated the wizarding world as a whole for being so hypocritical. For not forgiving him. He hated how many opportunities he’d wasted. If only he hadn’t been such an unbearable little shit as a child then perhaps the dream stood a chance at becoming reality.
Eventually, his head began to hurt. He needed a coffee. Which required getting out of bed. Yet another thing Draco absolutely loathed. If he waited until eight, Olivia would make tea. Tea had caffeine which was supposed to get rid of his headache. The problem was, the last few weeks tea hadn’t been doing its job. Draco hated tea. If stupid tea could just give him enough caffeine, the first go round. Now he needed at least two, if not three, mugs of tea. Olivia bought him a coffee maker last week because of his rant about tea caffeinating deficiencies. Draco hated the coffee maker. Because he hated coffee, definitely not because he couldn’t figure out how to use it. Being awake was stupid and Draco hated that too. Draco rolled onto his side, his back to the window.
When he got out of bed, he grabbed his silk dressing gown and went to the kitchen. Glared at the coffeemaker. What right did it have to prevent him from caffeinating? It was unacceptable. He knew he was supposed to pour water into it. And he knew he had to transform the coffee beans into a loose sort of powder. He’d start there. Draco opened the bag of beans and poured out half the bag onto the cutting board. Then he got his knife and began chopping, like he would for Potions. Once they were chopped to bits fine enough, he retrieved his mortar and pestle from his Hogwarts trunk to grind the chopped bits into a powder.
It seemed like an awful lot of work for a simple cup of coffee. Draco boiled water in the electric kettle. While it boiled, he eyed the coffee maker again. By the time the water was ready, Draco had decided he did not just hate coffee. He loathed it. And coffee machines, specifically. Instead of continuing to fight with the useless contraption, he found a cheese cloth. He draped the cheesecloth over the mug and held it in place with his hand. He held it beneath the cutting board and scraped a pile of bean powder onto the cheesecloth gently. Then he poured the boiling water slowly over the bean powder. Satisfied with his work, he shook the cheesecloth over the bin until all the bean-powder was off.
Draco poured a little cream to take the edge off. It was perfect. He had made coffee like a muggle. If only his father could see him now: in his muggle flat with his muggle flatmate and his muggle job, where he wore muggle clothing. A slow smile spread over his face as he caffeinated himself.
“What’s that look for, love? Did you finally win your battle against the espresso machine?” Olivia tousled his hair as she walked past him to set the kettle on again. She paused when she saw the cutting board. “Did you chop coffee beans?”
Draco had been about to put her in her place with a smug “obviously.” when he caught the look on her face. His spirits sank. “Was I not supposed to?”
“Oh you dear, dear boy.”
Draco glared at his coffee, his expression dour.
“We have a grinder for that.” She opened one of the top cupboard doors and pulled out a black and silver contraption with a cord coming out of it. “You just take the lid off, pour the beans in, and press the button.”
Draco eyed the machine with suspicion. “You don’t have to plug it in?”
“Of course you plug it in.” She said patiently. “I just didn’t think I needed to say that part. On second thought. Let’s just get you some Nescafe. Start you off slow. I don’t think you’re quite ready for all this yet.”
“Yes, love. It’s much simpler, just add water.”
“I’m not a simpleton, you know. You don’t have to speak to me that way.”
“No, you’re not a simpleton. You’ve just led a very sheltered life. Honestly, I don’t know how you got on before me.”
“Poorly.” Draco said resentfully. “So where do we get this Nescafe you speak of?”
“At Tesco. You remember Tesco, yeah?”
“I hate you.”
She cackled with delight. “I love you too, dear. We’ll go once you’re dressed.”
Fully caffeinated and dressed, Draco and Olivia stepped out into London to get Nescafe. After his first disastrous run in with Potter, he’d stopped going to Tesco and started going to Sainsbury’s. But he let Olivia lead the way.
Olivia took Draco to the coffee and tea section where there were brightly coloured plastic tubes and boxes of Nescafe.
“Why are there so many kinds?” He asked her.
She shrugged. “People like variety, I suppose.”
They turned back toward the registers, and Draco stopped in his tracks. In the middle of the aisle was none other than Hermione Granger and her progeny. The child was strapped to her with some sort of cloth wrap. Granger’s hair was up in a wild bun. She looked nothing like the sleek attorney she was the last time he’d seen her.
“Malfoy?” Her face was white as a sheet. Her eyes flicked to his bare forearm, taking in the new floral addition to his tattoo.
He felt lightheaded, his breath came in rapid gasps. The world around him darkened.
Draco paced outside the room where his aunt had Granger. They ripped a terrible scream from her throat. Draco cringed. This wasn’t what he wanted. He just wanted to get out. Everything was going so wrong.
“I swear, I shall run you through with this knife!”
Draco had chewed his fingernails down to the nail bed. He knew what that knife could do all too well.
Granger screamed again. Draco resumed his pacing, tugging at his hair. He didn’t pay any attention to how much hair came out with each pull. Everything was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. He prayed silently in the deepest corner of his heart to whatever gods still existed that Potter would find a way out of this. That he would end it. Draco couldn’t live this way. He’d been so wrong about everything.
He heard the knife come out of the sheath, followed by hoarse sobs.
Olivia gently shook his arm.
Breathe in two, three, four. Breathe out two, three, four, five.
“Malfoy?” Granger said again with more conviction in her voice.
He nodded. There was no hiding now. She’s seen him. She’d addressed him by name. She was eyeing his trousers and t-shirt, his clearly muggle friend. Draco felt like an insect pinned to a wall under the severity of her gaze.
“Granger.” he said with some trepidation. He wasn’t sure what to do with his hands. Should he offer to shake hands? Stick them in his pockets? Would she think he was trying to go for his wand like Potter had?
Olivia coughed beside him. He gestured to her. “This is Olivia. Olivia, this is Granger.”
Granger didn’t smile. She looked from him to his muggle friend and back to him. Some of the colour had returned to her cheeks. She stuck out her hand to Olivia.
“Hermione,” she said.
“Lovely to meet you,” replied Olivia, who smile bright and friendly.
Draco’s eyes darted around for the tall, limbering frame of Weasley. What if Potter and Weasley were both here with her? Draco’s pulse spiked. Was he going to run into Potter with his friends? Draco wasn’t sure he could suffer the humiliation, as well deserved as it was.
“What a beautiful name, Hermione!” Oliva said as she and Granger shook hands. “Now where have I heard that before?”
Granger’s sharp gaze flicked to Draco. “I was named after the daughter of Helen of Troy and King Melenaus. Are you a fan of Greek mythology?” she asked, still no smile.
Draco’s eyes followed every passerby. No black messy hair to be seen.
“No, that’s not it.. I’ll think of it. Just give me a minute. And who’s this little one?”
“This is Rosie.”
Olivia made insipid cooing noises at the baby.
Draco heard footsteps and spun to look over his shoulder in case Potter and Weasley came from the other end of the aisle.
“Ron’s not here,” Granger said. “If that’s who you’re looking for.” Her shrewd gaze let him know she knew Draco was looking for Potter.
Draco swallowed. He didn’t know if Potter had told Granger and Weasley about their.. Recent interactions. It terrified him to find out. Was it better or worse that Potter kept him a secret? Which Draco suspected he did because of the surprise and suspicion with which Granger greeted him.
“Hermione.. Hermione..” Olivia said, “I know I’ve heard it before.
Draco silently willed Olivia to shut the fuck up. It didn’t work.
“Granger and I were at school together.”
Don’t bring up Potter. Don’t bring up Potter who was just his type. Potter who was shaggable and didn’t hex him.
“Oh, that must be it. Another school mate, eh? Sounds like Draco was quite a little berk at school.”
Draco flushed. Damn the woman. Why were they friends?
Granger swivelled her heavy gaze fully to Draco. “Bit of an understatement, I’d say.”
“Granger. I’ve been meaning to ow-write you. I’ve been meaning to write you. I er.. Well, I rather have a lot to apologise for. I would very much like to apologise, if you’ll let me.”
Granger blinked at him. The baby strapped to her chest began to ooze from its mouth. She absently wiped it.
“I was wondering if perhaps I could take you to dinner or get a coffee. Anything.” His voice sounded weak and pathetic. Draco felt unwelcome tears well up in his eyes, unexpectedly. He blinked them back and looked down at his feet. He willed his abhorrent emotions away and met her gaze. “I understand if you don’t, of course.”
Granger glanced at Olivia, who was pretending the Nescafe in her hands was the most interesting piece of literature she’d ever happened upon.
“Wow, er. I..” Granger looked at his muggle clothing again. Eyed his muggle friend. “I suppose we could do that.”
Draco swallowed the horrible lump that had risen in his throat. He nodded, “Fantastic. Thank you. I’ll ow-write you. I’ll write you.”
“Don’t tell me you haven’t got a mobile, either.” Olivia chimed in.
“Oh, I’ve got a phone.” Granger answered hesitantly. She looked at Draco curiously, “Do you have a mobile?”
Olivia snorted with laughter. “Course not. This one didn’t even know what a mobile was! Can you imagine?”
A small smile forced its way onto Granger’s face. “I couldn’t.”
The baby started making terrible noises. Granger heaved a sigh. “I’ve got to get home.” Draco caught her eye. “I’ll wait for your letter, Malfoy.”
She gave them a brief nod and pushed her trolley toward the register.
“Well, that went well.” Olivia said cheerily.
“Did it?” he said morosely. He supposed it did. His aunt tortured Granger and Draco did nothing to stop it. He’d harassed her all of their childhood. Tried to kill her husband and Potter. He wouldn’t blame her if she hexed him on the spot. Draco didn’t understand these Gryffindors and their willingness to let go of their entirely justified vengeance.
“She didn’t start a fight with you, did she? Though being a new mum, I doubt she’d have the energy for it. Did everyone at your school have mental hair?”
“Just the two you met.” Draco replied.
“Oh!” the light came on. “That’s where I’ve heard the name! Harry, Harry Potter mentioned her. They’re friends, aren’t they?”
“Yes.” Draco replied tersely. His cheeks tinged with pink and Darco silently cursed their betrayal.
“Oh, hm.” Olivia patted his arm. “I’m sure he’s mentioned you to her. Don’t worry about it, love.”
“It’s not important,” he drawled.
“Of course not.” Pity written all over her face.
“Stop doing that.” The words escaped before Draco could tamp them down. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. No need to snap at one of the few people who still tolerated his presence.
“Doing what, love?”
“Forget it. Let’s just get out of here.”
“Right. Then you can tell me what you could have possibly done to that poor woman that requires a written apology.”
Draco scoffed. “To say that I was awful to her would be an unforgiveable understatement.”
“Oh cheer up, love. I couldn’t be too bad. You were just kids, after all.” She patted his arm and steered him toward the checkout counter. “We’ll stop and get you a nice chocolate button, then, eh?”
Draco hung his head and shuffled his feet, but allowed himself to be manoeuvred. “Think less ‘schoolyard bullying’ and more ‘torture by way of attempted genocide.’ I’m not sure a chocolate button quite hits the mark.”
“Always with the dramatics, you are.”
Harry acquiesced to Hermione, setting him up with another muggle who she knew was a distant relative of some friend or acquaintance. He was going to have to have a serious talk with her about this new hobby. Harry didn’t think he could handle another rubbish first date full of small talk and partial truths.
The date was a girl this time, blonde and posh. Her eyes were, disappointingly, vibrant blue. It went fine. They chatted and flirted a bit. Normally, he’d at least have gone back to hers, but Harry felt uncomfortable about it for some reason. An unknown reason that had nothing to do with a pair of all-consuming and distinctly grey eyes that haunted his dreams. It was a mystery why Harry didn’t go home with her, really, if he thought about it. Which Harry didn’t, obviously.
Instead, they said a friendly good night and parted ways outside the restaurant. Harry ignored the flirty text she sent a few minutes later and decided to go for a walk. He didn’t quite feel like going back to Grimmauld Place yet. There was a jittery energy running through him that put him slightly off kilter. He wanted a game of quidditch or to be out on a mission with the Aurors. Something reckless and wild. Anything but going home to an empty house. Harry walked the streets of Muggle London and let his feet do the thinking. Eventually, he found himself in front of the club he went to a month or two ago. The one where he’d run into Draco Malfoy. Harry chewed his lip. He looked down at his attire. Date outfits were close enough to club outfits, it was passable.
Harry went in.
He wove his way through the throng of blathered patrons up to the bar and queued for a pint. In twenty minutes, no fewer than five men came up to him, offering to buy him a drink. One man in a mesh top came right out and asked to take Harry home. It only added to the restless energy dancing in his veins. He sat at the side of the bar where he could watch the ebb and flow of the muggles to the entrance.
Harry hadn’t even realised he’d come here looking for Malfoy until the man sidled up to him.
“Really, this is too much, Potter. You can’t keep following me everywhere.” Malfoy drawled. At the mere sound of his voice, Harry felt as though a thousand doxies were let loose inside him. He looked up and found Malfoy leaning on the bar beside him, close enough that Harry could smell his cologne. It wafted over him and sent a shiver down his spine.
“I’m not following you, Malfoy.” Harry tried to sound casual. “Should I be? Are you hiding something?”
Malfoy smirked at him. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”
“Come on Potter. If we’re going to keep running into each other, you should come meet my friends.”
“You’ve got friends, have you?”
Harry smothered a laugh. “Are they muggles?”
“Obviously. We are in a muggle club, do try to keep up.” Malfoy turned and disappeared into the crowd.
Harry scrambled off the bar stool to follow. He caught up to Malfoy at a corner booth occupied by two muggle girls.
“Potter, this is Olivia, who I work with.”
Harry recognised her as the blonde woman who worked at the cafe.
“Oh, hello Harry, Harry Potter!” she said cheerfully. “This is Jacinda.” She indicated the other woman in the circular booth.
“Hiya.” He said.
Jacinda and Olivia sat in the middle of the curved booth, which put Harry and Malfoy at opposite ends, sitting across from each other.
“How do you two know each other, then?” Jacina asked.
Harry and Malfoy eyed each other carefully. “Er..” Harry said thoughtfully.
“We went to school together.” Malfoy supplied for him.
Olivia’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. She gave Harry a full inspection, from the bottoms of his raggedy jeans to the tight fitting, if threadbare, t-shirt that wrapped around Harry’s biceps like clingfilm. She turned to smirk at Malfoy. “It’s interesting because Harry, here, doesn’t seem Posh at all.”
Harry frowned, not sure if it was a compliment.
Malfoy huffed impatiently, “I’m not putting up with this.”
Harry watched Malfoy slide out of the booth and weave his way back toward the bar. Harry kept his gaze away from Malfoy’s denim clad arse. Denim and Malfoy were two words that simply do not belong in a sentence together. What would Lucius Malfoy have to say about his son in Muggle attire? Not that he would know, in Azkaban, for life. Harry vaguely remembered seeing in the Prophet that Narcissa retired to France. Mostly likely his parents hadn’t the foggiest.
“Where is Malfoy living these days? Is he still in Wiltshire?” Harry asked carefully, dragging his eyes back to Olivia, who slid into Draco’s place across from Harry.
Jacinda waved him off. “Oh no. He and Olivia have got a flat here in London.” She finished the last of her drink. It was a pale yellow, bubbly something and smelled faintly of gin.
“He used to live by himself when he first got to London.” Olivia said, “Found himself a nice setup in Knightsbridge.” She leaned in and Harry mirrored her.
“You wouldn’t believe how posh his flat was,” she whispered.
“I bet I would,” Harry muttered.
“I called it his ma-”
“What are you lot talking of so seriously?” Malfoy arrived at the table with the next round. He slid them each a drink. Harry’s was a pint of lager.
“We were just discussing your Manor, love!” Announced Olivia.
Harry choked on his beer.
The colour drained from Malfoy’s cheeks and his eyes snapped to Harry’s.
“Er, not Malfoy Manor.” Harry said quietly, not meeting his eyes. “She means your old flat, apparently.”
Malfoy shot a glance at Olivia and the rapidly spreading delight on her face.
“You have an actual MANOR?!” she shouted. “I mean we knew you were posh, love, but honestly.”
Malfoy turned his glare on Harry. “Thanks for that Potter.”
“So what was Draco like at school?” asked Olivia, her eyes bouncing between the two boys. Malfoy slid into the round booth beside Harry. The pale blonde glanced up at Olivia when she asked her question and then stared daggers at his pint.
Harry’s eyes roved over Malfoy’s somehow (magically, that’s how) perfect hair. His well-fitting muggle clothes.
Malfoy was in Muggle clothes. And not even overly posh ones. Just an expensive looking tight t-shirt and black designer jeans. He was unrecognisable from who Harry knew at school and yet unmistakably Malfoy. No one else had his grey eyes. The high cheekbones and pointed chin. His beautifully pale collar bone that Harry wanted to-
“About the same,” he blurted.
The grey eyes tightened. His jaw ticked. Harry swallowed and quickly added, “As posh as ever.”
Malfoy caught his eye for a brief, unreadable moment and quickly darted away. His gaze slid over to Olivia and said ruefully, “I was a twat at school, is what he is politely implying.”
“Yeah, you were.” Harry grinned lopsidedly at Malfoy. “Well, I suppose I was a bit of a twat too.”
“No, you weren’t.”
“I was a bit, yeah.”
“No. You were bloody perfect.” Malfoy replied almost accusatively. His voice went a bit odd, somehow both reverent and sullen. A heavy silence fell over the table as Malfoy’s words sunk in. He was studying his pint again.
“I wasn’t perfect,” Harry mumbled.
“Oh? Could have fooled me.” Malfoy straightened his back and looked down his nose at Harry.
“Oh, come on Malfoy. You are the last person in the world who’d think I was perfect. You were taking the piss every chance you got. Or do you not remember when you made badges that said Potter Stinks and got half the school to wear them!”
“Too right I did.” Malfoy preened. “You deserved it. You needed to be taken down a peg.”
Harry rolled his eyes.
“Saint Potter, come to save the world. Saint Potter: only first year on the team in 90 years. Saint Potter, to whom rules simply do not apply.” Malfoy sneered. “Saint Potter the Magnificent who never gets detention.”
“We had our first detention together! First year!”
Malfoy continued on, as though Harry hadn’t interrupted. “Saint Potter, who hands out autographs to his adoring fans.”
Olivia’s gaze bounced back and forth between them like she was at a tennis match. Jacinda wore an expression of bored acceptance. She got out her mobile and began tapping away at it.
“Lockhart forced me to do that and you know it!”
“Saint Potter, his picture in every paper.” continued Malfoy.
“I never asked for that! I sodding hated it! And half the time I was only in the paper ‘cause you were giving interviews about me! Calling me off my rocker! Christ, you really were a twat.”
“Um. Hi guys. Still here, by the way. In case you were wondering.” Olivia added awkwardly.
Jacinda looked up from her mobile with a puzzled expression on her face. “Question for you, who on earth uses newspapers?”
Olivia nodded. “Yes, I’d like an answer to that as well. Was there no internet at your school?”
Harry’s head snapped up and away from Malfoy. He hadn’t even realised he’d been leaning in. Somehow, they were centimetres away from each other. He cleared his throat while Malfoy studiously refused to meet his eyes.
“There wasn’t.” Malfoy replied curtly.
Jacinda nodded wisely. “Lovely to see you were such splendid friends, though.”
Harry snorted a laugh. “We weren’t exactly mates.”
“Yeah, I think we got that.” Olivia said. “Soo…..”
Malfoy chewed his lip. His lips looked soft. He probably used some fancy balm on them, made of unicorn tears or some shit. Harry ran a thumb across his own bottom lip.
“Have you ever been to Malfoy Manor, Harry?” Olivia asked.
The colour drained out of both Harry's and Malfoy’s faces.
Harry’s heart sped up.
The club suddenly seemed too loud in Harry’s ears. Everything became unbearable. Darkness crept into the edges of Harry’s vision. The thudding bass seemed more like pounding cellar walls. The changing lights like flying hexes.
Harry couldn’t breathe.
He thought he heard Hermione screaming.
“HERMIONE!” Ron’s voice bellowed in fury. They were going to kill Hermione. They had to get out of the cellar.
“You are lying, filthy Mudblood, and I know it! You have been inside my vault at Gringotts! Tell the truth, TELL THE TRUTH!”
Another terrible scream -
The tightness in his chest was too much.
A hand at the back of his neck forced Harry to bend over his knees, the table shoved out of the way.
“Breathe” someone whispered.
Curses flew over head, blurs of red and green.
Harry leapt over an armchair and rested the three wands from Draco’s grip, pointed all of them at Greyback, and yelled, “Stupefy!”
Malfoy’s mother dragged him out of the way, leaving only Bellatrix.
“Dobby has no master!” squealed the elf.
The pain in Harry’s scar was blinding him. He fell to the floor, clutching his forehead.
“Harry… Potter..” Dobby’s life left him in one last shudder.
“Is he alright?”
“Better get him outside, fresh air.”
Harry felt himself being manoeuvred. The pain in his forehead receded to the memory it was. He kept his eyes closed until he felt the cool night air on his face. He felt a brick wall at his back and took a few steadying breaths before he opened his eyes.
As soon as he did, Malfoy shoved a glass of water at him.
He did. Gratefully. Harry panted and looked up at the night sky until his heart rate returned to normal. “Fuck.”
“Better?” Malfoy asked.
Harry nodded. And the reality of the situation came flooding back to him. He’d just had yet another meltdown. This time in front of Draco Sodding Malfoy.
“Are you allowed to take this outside?” Harry asked, looking at the glass of water in his hand.
“Oh, now you care about following rules suddenly? Madam Pomfrey would be shitting herself if she heard you say that.”
“Don’t talk about Madam Pomfrey that way.” He bit back, automatically. He sighed. Harry didn’t want to fight. Neither, it seemed, did Malfoy.
“You alright?” Malfoy asked casually. As though Harry had stubbed his toe or bumped his head.
“Mm fine.” Harry was too ashamed to meet his eye. He finished off the water. “Thanks for that.”
There was a long, heavy pause. The bumping base from the club blended into the background noise of inebriated arseholes and city traffic.
“What are we doing?” the words slipped out before Harry could stop them.
There was another considerable pause.
“Standing in an alleyway, Potter,” Malfoy drawled. “Have you lost your sight as well as your mind?”
Harry rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean.”
Malfoy leaned on the wall beside him. “It will never work, Potter.”
Harry swallowed. “Us?”
“You know,” he gestured his pale, perfect hand between them. “Us. Being friends.”
“Is that what we are?” Harry asked, “Friends?”
Malfoy bit his lip and looked down at his shoes. “It won’t work. There’s too much there.”
Harry was silent.
“I get them too, you know?” Malfoy leaned his head back on the wall. If Harry turned his head, their noses would be touching. His heart started beating faster.
Harry watched Malfoy tuck a stray hair behind his ear.
“The flashbacks.” Malfoy continued. “It’s awful. One minute you’re here, the next you’re being crucioed at The Dark Lord’s feet.”
Harry nodded. “It’s shit.”
“Do you want to go back in?”
Harry shook his head. “I’d best be heading home.” He pushed himself off the wall and handed the glass back to Malfoy. “Give me apologies to Olivia and the other one, would you?”
Malfoy nodded. “See you around, Potter.”
Harry appearated to the steps of 823 Dewey Lane. Hermione opened the door, Rosie in her arms. She took one look at him and called out for Ron. Ron came sprinting out from the nursery, with sick on his shoulder.
“Are you alright? Did she puke again?” He asked in a panic.
It filled Harry with guilt. They had so much to worry about with their baby and their jobs; he didn’t want to burden them further.
“You look like shit, mate. Everything alright?” Ron said.
Harry opened his mouth to make excuses, but found he couldn’t quite manage it. He shook his head.
“Did you have a panic attack?” Hermione. Rosie began squirming in her arms and making upset noises.
Harry nodded and examined the scuff marks on his trainers.
“Come lie down, have a nice cuppa,” she said. Harry traipsed behind her, over to the sofa, and tried not to feel terrible. Hermione’s eyes had dark circles beneath them. She was too tired to even remind Harry to remove his shoes. He did it anyway.
“You’ve got sick on you.” Harry said to Ron, nodding at his shoulder.
“At least it’s not shit,” Ron said. He pulled the shirt off over his head as he walked to the bedroom.
Rosie was up to a full squall, angry tears spilling down her cheeks. Hermione walked the room in circles, rubbing Rosie’s back and making soothing noises at her. Ron came back out with a new t-shirt. He looked at his wife trying to calm their child and over to Harry sitting awkwardly on the sofa trying not to be obtrusive.
“Hand her over, love,” he said to Hermione. “I’ll take Rosie, you take Harry.” Hermione nodded and handed the screaming child over.
“Alright, my darling.” Ron said to Rosie. “I’ve gotcha. We’ll just kip off for a lovely nap. A lovely six or seven-hour nap. How does that sound, eh? Who knows, maybe we’ll get in an eight-hour nap.”
Hermione let out a tired laugh.
Once they disappeared down the hall, Hermione collapsed on the sofa beside Harry. She leaned her head on the arm of the sofa and curled up on her side. Harry followed suit on the other end of the sofa.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Hermione asked, her eyes closing.
“Not particularly,” Harry said.
“Fancy some telly?”
“It’s alright, I can go. You guys clearly have your hands full. I didn’t mean to intrude.” Harry said. He grabbed a blanket off the back of the sofa and threw it over them.
“Don’t be silly. Have a cuppa.” Hermione said. She tossed a pillow at him. He shoved it under his head. “I’m so very tired, Harry.”
“You look it.”
“Oh, piss off,” she said without any heat. “So what happened?” She found the remote and tossed that at him, too.
It bounced off the cushion onto the floor. Harry scooped it up and turned the tv on. He put the volume down low.
“I was at a club.” Harry said, “I think it was the lights… and the music, maybe.”
“You were at a club? Why on earth-” Hermione broke off into a yawn. “Were you on a date?”
“Earlier I was. But no. Not exactly.”
He thought of the way Malfoy introduced him to his friends. Bought him a drink. Made sure he felt safe when he left. “I wasn’t not on a date.”
“You’re asleep, aren’t you?”
Harry smiled into his pillow cushion.
Blaise gave Draco’s room a cursory glance.
“How very… pedestrian.” His eyes lingered longer on Draco himself. Blaise noticed the denim jeans and the ballpoint pen in Draco’s shirt pocket.
“I have to say I’m surprised, Draco. Never thought I’d live to see the day when Draco Malfoy was slumming it with muggles.”
Draco bristled. There was nothing slum-like about his living situation. He worked hard for this small room. He had a muggle job that paid in muggle money, most of which was given to his muggle flat mate. Not the sort of life Draco had envisioned for himself. But it was clean money for clean work. Draco was rather proud of who he’d become when left to his own devices.
“Yes, it’s nothing compared to slumming it in literal slums all over Europe.” he drawled. “Or are we pretending your little disappearance act last summer never happened?”
Blaise laughed. “Touche my friend. Show me the rest of your hovel.”
Draco narrowed his eyes.
Blaise followed him into the kitchen and living area. Blaise’s eyes travelled over the modern-looking sofa, the flat screen television, the gleaming chrome appliances. Olivia had printed out some photos of the two of them she’d taken on her mobile and hung them with clothespins from a string. Blaise walked along the string of photos, inspecting them. Draco always found it odd and a bit sad they didn’t move.
Blaise turned to Draco. “Who are you and what have you done with Draco Malfoy?”
Draco ignored him and set to making tea.
“I mean it Draco, I hardly know you.”
“Well now, Blaise, that’s hardly true,” Draco said. He winked at Blaise over his shoulder. “I think after that night in sixth year you know me pretty well.”
Blaise laughed and sat at the kitchen table. “Just the same, I can’t tell if I should be proud or concerned.”
“You should be silent.”
Blaise smirked at him. “Good to know you’re still you, even if you look like a muggle.” Blaise drummed his fingers along the tabletop. “Listen, I just wanted to pop by and see how you were faring. And to let you know I will be out of town for a few months.”
“I’m going on tour.”
“What on earth does that mean? On tour for what?”
“I’m going on a world tour! For myself.”
“I see. And this has nothing to do with the rumours I’ve heard about Millie getting engaged, of course.”
“Nothing at all.” Blaise’s voice went wooden. “We barely dated, because as you know, I’m not one for long-term monogamy.”
“Yes, I do remember that being the reason she left you.”
“Well, your memory’s always been a bit dodgy, hasn’t it?”
They turned to the hall at the sounds of Olivia coming back from work. While Blaise was not impressed with Draco’s muggle life, it didn’t stop him from trying to have it off with Olivia immediately.
“Well, hello. Who do we have here?” Blaise said when she came into the room. “You must be the flatmate.” He stood up to shake her hand.
Olivia and Blaise eyed each other appreciatively. Draco rolled his eyes.
“Blaise Zabini, and you are?” Blaise shook her hand slowly.
“Olivia Padmore.” They stood gazing at each other for far too long. A faint pink tinge appeared on Olivia’s cheeks.
“Zabini.” Draco said loudly. “Focus.”
Blaise shot Draco a scathing look before turning to Olivia. “Won’t you join us for tea?”
“Oh, wouldn’t that be lovely?” Olivia replied. “Don’t mind if I do.”
“That won’t be necessary.” Draco said.
“Don’t be rude Draco, the lady can join us if she’d like.”
Olivia blushed again and sat down beside Draco. She reached for a biscuit.
“So how do you know Draco, then?”
Blaise glanced at Draco, “We went to school together.”
Olivia arched her eyebrows. “Oh, another schoolmate?”
“Another?” Blaise inquired.
Draco tried to silently communicate to Olivia to shut her mouth, but she was too busy making eyes at Blaise to notice Draco’s mild panic. And it would be inappropriate to use Occulamency against a Muggle, or magic of any kind, for that matter.
“We met one of his schoolmates. What was it?” She turned to Draco, “Last month?”
Blaise also turned to Draco, “You don’t say? Has Pansy finally forgiven you?”
“Oh, I wasn’t thinking of the girl we met.” Olivia said. While he was grateful, she hadn’t brought up Granger, Potter wasn’t any better and, in fact, was significantly worse.
Draco closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable.
“Who was this school mate Draco didn’t tell me about running into?” Blaise said, like the cat that got the cream. “Wait, no,” his grin widened wickedly. “Let me guess who it could have possibly been.”
Draco hated his friends. Why bother having them at all?
“Black hair?” Blaise said.
Olivia knew Draco well enough by now to see what was happening. Her delight was matched only by Blaise’s own. “Yes, very good guess.” she cooed.
Draco put his head down on the table to hide his humiliation. He wished he could disappear from London and pop up somewhere else.
“Lightning bolt scar on his forehead?”
“Oh, this is too good.” Blaise let out a delighted laugh. “Draco, I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you’d run into Potter.”
Draco contemplated moving to France with his mother.
“He looked fit, too.” Olivia added and waggled her eyebrows.
“Did he, now? I bet Draco found that fascinating. Didn’t you Draco?”
He’d always wanted to visit America. He could see what New York was like. Meet some American bloke and forget everyone he knew in England. It would be lovely to get away, to become an entirely new person.
“Did you know,” Blaise leaned in to fake whisper to Olivia, “When we were at school Draco used to-”
“That’s quite enough from you!” Draco said loudly, sitting upright. “You may leave at any time. You are going to be out of the country, return date unknown. Message received.”
Blaise and Olivia burst out laughing.
“I insist you leave now.”
“I like you,” Olivia said to Blaise. “You should pop by more often.”
“Unfortunately, it’s not in the cards. I was just here telling Draco I’m off touring the continent for the next few months.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” she pouted.
“I’m not leaving until tomorrow, though.”
“Is that right?”
“Don’t mind Blaise, he’s a bit of a slag.” Draco put in.
“Oh, I don’t mind him at all.” She said with a cheeky grin.
“Ugh.” Draco got up from the table. “This is not worth dealing with; I’m going out. I’ll be back in three hours. You two had better be finished and dressed when I return.”
“Oh, Draco, come on now. We’re just having a bit of fun,” Blaise said.
“Fun that can be had without me. So if you don’t mind…”
Draco made for the door.
“Where are you headed?” Blaise called after him. “Off to see Potter for your own bit of fun?”
Draco put two fingers up to Blaise as he left the room. He did not need to be exposed to any further humiliation at the behest of his friends. After grabbing his coat, Draco set out into Muggle London on his own, a much less terrifying experience than it had been last year.
The cool Autumn air brought a little colour to Draco’s cheeks, and he was glad it wasn’t drizzling for once despite the constant threat overhead. Draco got himself a halfway-decent coffee from the mermaid coffee place nearby and went for a walk in the city. With nowhere specific in mind, he found himself traipsing about near Tesco. The thought of running into Granger again, or even worse, Potter, was either alluring or abhorrent. Draco couldn’t quite tell which. He swallowed down a gulp of the slightly bitter mermaid coffee and stood on the pavement before he turned away from the shop.
No, Draco would not fall into the pattern of hoping/fearing that Potter was behind every aisle. Perhaps he’d stop at chippy and bring something back for Olivia. Someone on a skewter rolled past and nearly knocked Draco over.
“Fook off ya twat!” the woman had the audacity to call out over her shoulder. As though Draco had been the problem!
Cars wove in and out of the streets, their lights flashed and blinked, signalling messages the muggles all seemed to understand. He passed a bookshop, a cafe, a shopfront with boarded-up windows and secret messages scrawled across them. The muggles seemed to understand these too; Draco remembered Olivia called them “Graff-eety.”
The overcast clouds finally gave way to rain, and umbrellas sprouted up among the throngs of people. Draco spotted the chippy on the corner and trotted over. He wished he’d brought his wand so he could dry himself. But lately he only carried it if he went to work as there were too many muggles about to use it, anyway.
Draco checked his watch and found only an hour of the promised three had gone by. He binned his empty coffee cup and decided to do some shopping. After finding a tube station on the Circle line, Draco got off at Sloane Square. He elbowed his way through the muggles, who pressed forward as he exited the carriage. If they would let passengers off before swarming, everyone would have an easier time. How could people be so shortsighted? Draco tutted under his breath when he broke free and exited through the turnstile.
After an hour of shopping, one suit fitting, and a stack of micro-histories he found in the muggle book shop, Draco was ready to return home. He walked up Kings Road among the muggles laden down with their own shopping bags and let the ambiance of their chatter wash over him.
“I can’t believe you spent £40 on crisps,” said a girl in a lavender puffy coat.
“Nigel Farage is an absolute bellend.” This came from a man in his thirties talking with his partner. "Fuck those UKIP wankers."
“Did you make a reservation at Gouchos?”
“I heard Potter quit the Aurors.”
Draco’s feet stopped moving of their own accord. His body tensed, and he cursed himself for leaving his wand behind at the flat. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted the Patil twins walking a few steps ahead.
Parvati and Padma wore smart suits paired with distinct wizarding cloaks. While they looked muggle enough to pass without scrutiny, they definitely skewed more eccentric than how Draco preferred to look in public.
Draco ran his fingers through his hair and edged closer.
“I can’t say I blame him.” Parvati said. “They treat him like a puppet.”
“I rather thought he’d stay at Hogwarts; he seemed to really enjoy the D.A.”
They stopped rather abruptly as Padma’s mobile chirped from her handbag. Draco bumped into her.
“Watch it, mate,” she said without looking up.
Parvati glanced at him in passing.
“I beg your pardon.” Draco said and kept walking. His heart pounded in his chest and he walked as quickly as he could without drawing attention.
They hadn’t recognised him. He physically ran into the Patil twins and they didn’t notice he was Draco Malfoy. He rounded a corner and stopped to look at his reflection in the shopfront window.
A posh muggle suit with a fine muggle haircut carrying muggle shopping bags and a carefree smile on his face.
Who was he and what had he done with Draco Malfoy?
“Harry, Harry Potter!”
Harry looked up and found none other than Olivia standing nearby, waving at him.
“Hullo,” he said.
She made air kisses at his cheek. “Fancy seeing you here. Where are you off to this late?”
Harry shrugged. He hadn’t noticed the time. He supposed it was evening. One thing on the second list Hermione had given him was to go for a walk. He thought it might have been mid-afternoon when he left the house.
“Want to join me for a pint?” She indicated the pub on the corner.
“Sure, why not?” Harry hesitated, “Is Malfoy with you?”
Olivia grinned at him. “No, love. Sorry to disappoint. I’m not bad company, myself though.”
It surprised Harry how disheartened he felt at Malfoy’s absence. “I doubt anyone who’s met you could say you were a disappointment.” He said with a half grin. “I’d love a pint.”
Harry asked Olivia about herself and found she was the middle of five children. All of them loud and gregarious.
“My brother Rob, yeah. He’s a right laugh. You’d like him, everyone does. Have you got a brother?”
Harry shook his head.
“Lucky bastard. I’ve got three and let me tell you, not worth it. I mean Rob’s alright. But when we were kids, it was mental. All of us tryin’ to use the bathroom at the same time. Can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve found one of my brothers pissin’ in the sink. Vile I tell you.”
“Find that funny, do you? It was right vile.”
“Vile can be funny.”
Olivia rolled her eyes. “My sister, though, she’s top notch. Do you have a sister?”
“Just you, then?”
“I had a cousin growing up.” he said dully. Images of Dudley flashed through his mind. Dudley shoving his head in a toilet. Harry hiding in a tree whilst Dudle pelted him with rocks. Being chased by Dudley and his mates through the park in Surrey.
“We’re not close.”
“I was always tight with my sister. It was always the pair of us against the boys, yeah? And she’s got a mean right hook, mate.”
Harry smiled fondly at Olivia, remembering Ginny’s bat-bogey hex. He wondered if Ginny would have loved a sister growing up. He didn’t love the way Ron treated her as kids, but Harry didn’t really understand sibling relationships very well.
“And do you know what? She’s not bothered about it. Very free with her right hook, my sister is.”
He didn’t feel he could really contribute, so Harry smiled and nodded along; He didn’t mind hearing stories, and while Harry remained polite, Olivia could tell his mind was otherwise occupied.
After they finished their first round, she said, “So. You know Draco Malfoy. From school.”
“Has he told you much about us at school?” Harry couldn’t help but ask once they’d got their second drinks.
“A bit, yeah.”
Harry’s eyes widened, “Really?”
“He said his family was very religious.”
Harry snorted, “That’s putting it lightly.”
She spoke over him, “His family was very religious and he believed in it. Everything.”
Harry said nothing. This tracked with what he knew of Malfoy in general. Framing the Death Eaters as a religious group made sense, Harry supposed. He’d liken them more to an evil terrorist group himself.
“And he said when he left school he realised none of it was true,” Olivia announced.
Harry’s heart sped up. Could that be true? Harry hardly dared to hope. The name Malfoy had been synonymous with Pureblood for so long it was hard to picture Draco Malfoy with.. Well.. With muggles. But what reason did he have to lie? He was clearly friends with Olivia. Or friendly at least to go out and get smashed with her and her mates. He wore muggle clothing. Had a muggle job.
“That he’d been lied to his whole life,” Olivia went on.
Harry nodded slowly, “he’s not wrong.”
Olivia nodded. “I think it takes a lot of courage to recognise you’ve been lied to and remove yourself from the situation. Especially when it’s family.”
This struck a particular chord with Harry. He found himself unable to move.
“Most importantly, Harry,” she looked at him so piercingly he could have sworn she was McGonagall. “He said you were a major part of that transition.” She prodded Harry’s hand with her finger for emphasis.
Harry let out a hollow laugh. Still not wrong.
“I don’t know why you’re scoffing. It still haunts him, the things he did.” She frowned at Harry now. “That’s nothing to laugh at, you know.”
Harry narrowed his eyes. “Malfoy told you the things he did?”
“Well, not directly. I gather he was rather horrible. Didn’t get into too many specifics. I know there was some sort of organised hate-crime type of gang. He said he hurt a lot of people.”
“Ah. Yes, well, he wasn’t exactly a role model, was he?”
“You’re missing the point, Harry.” Olivia poked him on the shoulder. “He said you opened his eyes.”
“He really said that?” asked Harry shrewdly. He couldn’t picture Malfoy saying anything remotely kind, at any level of inebriation. She nodded eagerly but wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“You’re telling me that Draco Malfoy said the words ‘Potter opened my eyes go how wrong I was about the world.’”
Olivia shifted her gaze to some other corner of the room. “Mmmhmm.”
Harry emptied his glass. “That’s a load of shit, Olivia.” he said as he slammed his empty pint glass on the table. He got up to fetch them another round. No way had Malfoy said Harry “opened his eyes.” After Malfoy’s trial, they hadn’t spoken a word to each other. During the trial, they hadn’t even spoken a word to each other. Malfoy just sat there, perfectly still, his face devoid of emotion. If Harry hadn’t known better, he’d have thought Malfoy was stupefied. There certainly wasn’t gratitude or revelation, that’s for sure. Harry remembered the chill that came over him, watching Malfoy in front of Wizengamot. A deep, unsettling fear in the pit of his stomach. Malfoy looked on the outside, the way Harry felt on the inside. Harry got out of the Ministry as soon as he was allowed, buried himself deep in a bottle of Firewhisky and told himself Malfoy would be fine.
When he returned to the table with their third round of lagers, Olivia let out a heavy sigh that blew her fringe out of her face.
“Alright, alright. He wasn’t entirely sober when he said it. And I’ve only just put it together that it was you he was rambling on about.”
“Er.. What do you mean?” Harry’s interest piqued.
“Well, as I said, his family was religious. And he kept going on and on about a Saviour. I just assumed he meant our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” She gave a quick sign of the cross.
Harry shifted in his seat. “Oh, er.. Are you Christian, then?” he asked awkwardly.
Olivia cackled loudly, “Goodness, no, love. My parents are devout Catholics, of course. That’s beside the point.” She waved her hand dismissively. “Anyway. What he actually said was more along the lines of “Stupid bloody saviour was right about everything.”
Harry was gob smacked. “I don’t suppose you got that in writing, did you?”
She chuckled and shook her head.
“Took a video with your mobile, then?”
“Hah! No, it was only when he going on about you being Saint Potter. The whole night it was Saint Potter this and Potter the Bloody Saviour. I put it together then.”
Harry ran a hand through his hair. “When you say he hurt people, did he say how it ended? Why he stopped?” Harry asked.
“Does this have anything to do with that gang he was in?” Olivia asked.
“Gang? You mentioned that before.”
“I assumed you’d know. The tattoo? I didn’t even know posh people had gangs. But it makes more sense if it was hate-crime oriented. England doesn’t have the best history of-”
“Right, that.” Harry interrupted. “When did he get it covered up?”
“Don’t remember exactly.” Olivia shrugged. “Maybe a few weeks after he moved in? All I know about it was he said it was a nasty period of his life and he didn’t want to look at it anymore.”
Harry could understand that. He felt the same way when he looked at the scar on his forehead.
There was a banging at the window that startled them. Harry nearly spilled his pint. Malfoy was rapping on the windowpane and frowning at them.
“Well, speak of the devil!” Olivia called out.
He slid into the booth beside her half a moment later.
“I knew I’d find you here.” He accused her. He threw an icy glare at Harry, “I just didn’t expect to find you in the company of my arch rival and nemesis.”
Olivia cackled in delight.
“Why have you stolen my friend from me, Potter? And what have you been talking about? I demand to know.” He pointed a finger at Olivia. “If you’ve told him anything remotely humiliating, I’ll never forgive you.”
Olivia pinched his cheeks. “Look at you like an angry puppy. You couldn’t hurt a fly if you were a flyswatter.”
Malfoy flushed at this and shot a guilty look at Harry, who knew better.
“I think people can be made to do a lot of things, given the right amount of pressure.” Harry said carefully, Malfoy hanging onto his every word. “For what it’s worth, I know you wouldn’t willingly hurt people, Malfoy. Not anymore.”
Malfoy swallowed and stared at the table.
“Other than me, that is.” Harry smirked, his voice light and teasing. “You did break my nose.”
“You were spying on me.” Malfoy drawled, looking down his nose at Harry.
“Rightly so, if you remember. You were actually plotting something.” Harry pointed out. Olivia snorted into her pint.
Malfoy flushed again and rubbed the floral tattoo that covered his dark mark. The skull had been coloured in more realistically. The snake had mostly been hidden by beautiful flowers that were made up of the colours of the rainbow. Harry thought it suited him. Malfoy caught him staring.
“I like it,” Harry said.
Malfoy nodded, but said nothing in return. Their gaze became heated. Harry was reminded again of Malfoy watching him kiss that bloke whose name Harry couldn’t remember. What Harry did remember was the intensity of Malfoy’s gaze. Harry bit his lip. Malfoy’s eyes snapped to his mouth.
“Are you having a pint, then love?” Olivia asked, breaking the tension.
They turned to her, startled.
Malfoy frowned. “I suppose. We were supposed to watch Countdown.”
“Sorry, love. I ran into Harry, Harry Potter here and he looked like he could use a pint.”
Malfoy turned to Harry, curiously.
“You know, Draco, if you had a mobile I could have texted you about the change of plans. Did you know he hasn’t got a phone, Harry?”
“I find it harder to picture Malfoy with a mobile than without one,” He said, grinning.
Potter was waiting outside the back of the cafe. Draco could see a hint of chest hair poking out from the v-neck t-shirt. He wore a stupid leather jacket over it that Draco didn’t think he’d ever stop dreaming about. That image was seared into his brain now. Potter, leaning on a railing in a leather jacket, waiting for him to get off work. It was three days in a row now. The day before last, Potter dragged Draco back to a supermarket to help him pick out some fancy cheese. Had it been anyone other than Potter, Draco would have thought it a flimsy excuse. But, well. Potter knew fuck all about fine food. Yesterday he wanted to get a coffee. Nevermind that he could have just gotten one while Draco was working. And now...
“Are you a duck?” Draco drawled.
Potter’s face scrunched up in confusion. “What?”
“You seem to have imprinted on me like a duck.”
He pushed his glasses up by the bridge and blinked his bright green eyes.
“Because you keep following me, Potter.”
The confusion on Potter’s face cleared, replaced by indulgent patience. Draco congratulated himself on getting under Potter’s skin.
“I wouldn’t have to if you had a mobile, you know.”
Draco waved his hand dismissively. “What do you want?”
Potter stared at him for a beat too long. His tongue darted out to wet his lips. Lips Draco found utterly compelling.
Potter shook himself and squared his shoulders. “Are you busy tonight? You fancy a train ride?”
“A train ride?”
Potter shrugged eloquently. He looked down at his scuffed-up trainers and off to the side. “If you’re not busy, I could use some company.”
This was a very interesting development. “Why not call Granger and Weasley?”
Potter looked at him sharply, evaluating. “It’s their anniversary. I didn’t want to intrude.”
“Why not one of your other Gryffindors? Surely you have people clamouring to accompany you everywhere.”
“Look, if you’re not interested, you can just say so.”
“I didn’t say that.” Draco said quickly. He was third on Potter’s call list. He tried (and failed) to keep the smile from forming. “I’ll go. If you insist.”
Potter smirked at him. “Big of you.”
“Well, you’re practically begging me. It’s so pathetic I could hardly say no.”
“Meet me at Kings Cross? Sixish?”
Draco was quite proud of himself. He was friends with Potter now. Of a sort. Draco wasn’t sure how many friendships comprised one person desperately wanting to snog the life out of the second person. Hence the “of a sort.” Still. He’d finally achieved in his late twenties the secret desire of his childhood heart.
He’d made friends with Harry Potter.
They met at Kings Cross and Draco tried not to read into the slow smile that spread across Potter’s face when he spotted Draco at the platform.
“Remind me why we’re taking the train again?” Draco asked once they’d found seats.
Potter shrugged, “Because.”
“Riveting.” He said disdainfully, looking down his nose at Potter in the seat across from him.
“Because I wanted my cousin to feel at ease, and seeing us get off a train like muggles has that effect. Also, I like trains. Happy childhood memories and that.”
“Is he meeting us at the station?”
“Why couldn’t we just appearate?”
“I’ve never been before. Couldn’t be sure we wouldn’t splinch ourselves.”
Draco rolled his eyes. He wasn’t entirely sure if he should have so forcibly intruded on this Potter family outing. But the curiosity of seeing Harry’s muggle family outweighed his desire to be a respectful friend. It was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Potter clarified Draco was in no way to threaten his cousin. As if he needed to be told this. Repeatedly.
“Does that happen often, then?”
“What?” asked Potter.
“Does your cousin get attacked by wizards frequently? Or are you projecting your own desire to throttle your cousin?”
“What makes you think I desire to throttle Dudley?” Potter asked, peeved.
“Your fists are clenched and your eye is twitching.”
“How do you know that’s not your doing, then?”
Draco scoffed. “Please, Potter. With me, your hand goes for your wand, not a fist. Planning to get into a fight? Are we resorting to fisticuffs?”
Potter held his eyes for a moment, then his mouth quirked. “It’s been known to happen.”
“Is that so?” Draco’s eyes gleamed. There was a story there. He just knew it. Now. How to get it out of The Boy Who Refuses To Speak of His Childhood. “By you, I presume? Or did he come into contact with a great deal of wizards in- where was it?”
Potter looked away. “Surrey.”
That was a yes to the fight question. Excellent.
“Are you telling me that you, The Great Harry James Potter. Paragon of Muggle Loving Virtue, The Boy Who Lived, Saviour of the Wizarding World, Dumbledore’s Favorite Student-”
“Oh, shut it Malfoy.” Potter said, but without any heat. “And how do you know my middle name?”
Draco ignored him. “Champion of All That is Good. Leader of Dumbledore’s Army- yes, I knew what your little club was called, you twat-”
Potter flipped him two fingers.
Draco raised his voice, “Harry Potter, Friend of Houselves and Goblins Alike, The very same Harry Potter who defeated the Dark Lord on behest of Muggle Lovers-”
“You already said that one.” Potter pointed out. “And keep it down, people can hear you, you know.”
Draco kicked Potter’s shin but agreed to lowering his voice. “The very same Harry Potter standing before me is admitting to threatening the muggles he has sworn his life to protect? Is that correct, Potter?”
“I may have threatened to turn him into a frog at one point.” Potter said with a smirk. He tapped his food repeatedly. “And pretended to set the shrubbery on fire. When we were kids, that is. He didn’t know we weren’t allowed magic outside of school back then.” Potter opened his mouth as if to say more and then thought better of it.
“Yes..?” Draco prompted.
“Er.. well. Dudley’s experiences with wizards haven’t all been that great.” Potter scratched the back of his neck. “Hagrid gave him a pig’s tail when we were eleven.”
Draco’s eyes widened in delight. “Do go on.”
“And.. Fred and George got him to eat one of the ton-tongue-toffees when they were still in the prototype stage.”
Draco burst out laughing. “That is brilliant. Harry Potter: the muggle-baiting muggle lover.”
“Technically, I never actually did anything to him.” Potter grinned back at Draco ruefully.
“I have to say, Potter, this is a record.”
“That’s probably the most I’ve heard you speak about your childhood.”
Potter ran his hand through his hair, “Yeah, well…”
Draco could sense Potter retreating again. “So the Weasley clan has met this cousin of yours?”
Potter stared out the window and waited a moment before he responded. “Not all of them. A few.”
Ah yes, there it was. The classic Potter Reticence. “Care to elaborate?” Draco prompted.
Potter said nothing.
Draco rolled his eyes, “Was it a mass of sobbing Weasleys and Potters lamenting the tragedy of your parents and congratulating themselves on a Harry Well Raised? Or some other disgusting laudatory Gryffindor love fest?”
Potter stared at him, but Draco couldn’t quite get a read on his expression. Was this Potter calling him incredulous? Was Potter angry? Embarrassed, perhaps?
“Merlin, Potter. Getting you to talk about anything other than Quidditch is like trying to pry gold from a Niffler.”
“No. It wasn’t.” Potter’s voice had gone cold and clipped.
“A lawdi- whatever. Pleasant. It wasn’t pleasant.”
If Draco was a more sensitive person, he’d let it drop. But getting insider information on the inner workings of Potter’s brain was too powerful of a draw to resist. Finally, after years of obsessively speculating on Potter’s life, Draco was getting answers. His eleven-year-old self would be shitting himself right now.
“Aren’t we meant to be friends, Potter?”
The Boy Who Lived responded by leaning his elbows on his knees and shoving his glasses up. He pressed the palms of his hands to his eyes. “Yes. We’re friends, Malfoy.”
“I’m flattered by your enthusiasm.”
A small chuckle escaped from Potter’s general direction before he sat up. Draco counted it as a win.
“Look,” Potter began. “First of all, there are no Potters, plural. There is one Potter, and that’s me. The rest of them died, as you so frequently reminded me throughout Hogwarts. Second, the Dursleys do not particularly care for our kind.”
“No!” Potter quickly looked out the window, his cheeks coloured. “Er, actually.. I hadn’t thought. They might be. I wouldn’t be surprised. But that’s not what I meant.” He brought his gaze back to Draco. “They hate magic. They did not hit it off with the Weasleys.”
“They hate magic?”
Draco wasn’t sure what to do with that information. He’d heard a rumour back at Hogwarts that Potter hadn’t got on with his muggle relatives but never put much stock in it. People made up shit about Potter all the time. He did it himself, back at school. Exaggerated events for a good story. Wanting a modicum of the glory Potter received on a daily basis, though his former self would never have admitted that was the reason. How could Potter’s own family not be enamoured of him? How could anyone? Who could possibly be immune to gravity of Potter’s innate magnetism? It was..
“I don’t believe you.” Draco declared. “You’re having me on.”
Potter huffed a humourless laugh. Draco didn’t much care for it.
“Sure, Malfoy. You’ll see when you meet him.” said Potter.
They spent the remainder of the journey talking of quidditch. Potter kept up with the league and Draco found he didn’t mind being left out of the loop. Not when Potter was the one to catch him up.
As they neared the pub, which was thankfully only round the corner from the station, Potter nudged Draco with his elbow and nodded at a wide man in his late twenties just going through the doors.
“What?” Draco asked. “Is that large man blocking the view of your cousin?”
“No, you idiot. That’s him.”
Draco’s eyes snapped back to the man through the window.
Dudley Dursley did not look related to Harry Potter. Potter had always started the term just shy of gaunt. Hollowed out and scruffy. Not just the year Dementors showed up on the train, either. Every September the first Draco distinctly remembered Potter’s clothes being utter shit on the Hogwarts Express. At least five sizes too large. Looking at Dursley, who was neither gaunt nor scruffy, Draco suspected he knew where the clothes came from. The man was enormous, and not in height. He had hair that had surely been blonde as a child and darkened to a light brown, neatly cut, with no fringe. His eyes were pale, watery blue, no specs. New clothes, snug and while they certainly looked more expensive than anything Potter wore, they were nothing Draco would deign to wear.
Draco looked Potter up and down, searching his memory, trying to think of a time he’d seen Potter looking sharp. But no, Potter never wore new clothes. Even as an adult. The bottom of his jeans dragged on the pavement, though he could easily afford a tailor. Potter’s t-shirt looked as though it had lived better days. Obviously, that would need to change.
“What?” Potter asked, interrupting his thought process.
Potter’s eyes narrowed, “You’ve got that look.”
“The one you get when you see someone mistake brie for Camembert. And you intend to set them right.”
Draco fought off a smile. “That happened one time, Potter. One time!”
Potter shook his head and held up four fingers.
Draco glared at him. “That is a gross exaggeration. Clearly Tesco needs better signage.”
“Are you even allowed back at that Tesco?” Potter asked, his green eyes dancing. “Or did you get kicked out for harassing people?”
“Shall we?” He held the door open for Potter, whose eyes narrowed shrewdly back at Draco. He followed Potter through the door.
Dursley saw them coming and stood up to shake hands. Draco watched Potter hesitate a moment before sticking his hand out to be engulfed by Dursley’s much larger palm. Harry slid into the booth across from him and took a sip from the pint Dursley had just purchased. There were only two pints. He must not have expected Draco to come along.
In fact, Dursley didn’t even notice Draco until he slid in beside Potter. The man’s eyes danced nervously between them a moment before he stuck out his hand to Draco.
“Er, you must be Cedric?”
Draco felt the colour drain out of his face. Potter spat out his beer and began coughing.
“It’s Draco,” he responded, primly. “Draco Malfoy.” He shot a glance at Potter out of the corner of his eye.
“Dudley Dursley.” He grasped Draco in his clammy monstrosity of a hand.
Dursley’s face clouded over. He turned his scrunched up eyebrows toward Potter, “I thought your boyfriend’s name was Cedric.”
This was a mistake.
Harry watched Draco’s face grow apoplectic out of the corner of his eye. His two childhood tormentors in one place. How could Harry have ever thought this would be in any way beneficial for him? Of course it wasn’t. It was a horror from start to finish.
“Diggory?!” Malfoy spluttered. “You dated Diggory??”
Harry shoved his glasses up and pressed the palms of his hands to his eyes.
“Didn’t you also go out with Chang? How did no one know about this?”
Harry tried to suppress any secret delight that Malfoy tracked his dating life at Hogwarts. He sat up straight and fixed his glasses. Of course Draco paid attention. How else could he have humiliated Harry so astutely? The valentine Ginny’d sent second year still haunted his dreams. Not so much the valentine itself, but Malfoy finding it and then reciting it from memory.
Dudley’s head swivelled between the two of them. “Have I stepped in it?” he asked, mild concern spreading over his dull face.
“Er, no,” Harry said and shot a glance at Malfoy. “Cedric… wasn’t my boyfriend. We didn’t-” Harry’s mind went briefly blank. What was happening? How did Harry end up here? Having this conversation with Dudley Dursley and Draco Malfoy. He scratched the back of his neck. “We didn’t date or anything.”
Harry could see his cousin processing this information and didn’t like where it was headed.
“But didn’t you used to call out his name.. I just thought...”
“Nightmares, Dudley.” Harry said. His voice sounded wooden, “They were nightmares.”
“Ced-,” Harry had trouble getting his name out. “Cedric was a student who..”
Died in my place?
Is dead because of me?
Someone who deserved better?
Was the real winner of the Triwizard Tournament?
Harry didn’t know which of those answers would have been accurate. Cedric was a student who should have lived a long, full, and happy life. But instead he died and Harry couldn’t stop it from happening. He wondered again why on earth he was having this conversation.
“Diggory was murdered on school grounds in our fourth year.” Malfoy said, as Harry floundered. “He died at the hands of a madman.” He paused and slid his leg under the table until their thighs were touching. “Potter here is mistakenly under the impression that he is at fault for Diggory’s death.” Malfoy’s leg gave a nudge against Harry’s. “Which is simply not the case.”
Harry’s eyes found Malfoy’s and instead of the mocking he rather expected, there was a sad, knowing look that hit Harry right in the gut. Malfoy knew about nightmares. And he reckoned a little something of guilt, too. It was a lot for Harry to take in. Nothing about this day seemed real, least of all Malfoy’s empathy.
“Oh, er. Right.” Dudley said helpfully.
“Malfoy, want to get us another round?” Harry asked and pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. He slid Malfoy twenty quid and nodded at the bar.
Malfoy gave Harry a long look before he swallowed and looked away. “Alright.”
Dudley waited until Malfoy was out of hearing before asking, “Is he your boyfriend, then?”
“Er, no. We’re just..” He glanced at Malfoy ordering. Former rivals. Enemies. Pawns on opposite sides of a war neither signed up for. What was Malfoy even doing here with Harry? “Friends, I guess.”
“And he’s… like you?” Dudley asked.
Harry arched an eyebrow at him.
Dudley gestured vaguely with his hand. “You know,” he leaned in and gave Harry a significant look as though this explained everything.
Dudley flinched at the word, and Harry had to stop himself from rolling his eyes.
“Yeah. He’s a wizard.” Harry sighed and rubbed his eyes again. “What did you want to talk to me about, anyway?” he asked.
Dudley’s eyes darted to the other bar patrons. He dropped his voice to a whisper, “It’s.. genetic, your condition, yeah?”
Harry sat for a moment, nonplussed. He blinked. “My condition?”
“Yeah, your..” he gestured vaguely at Harry.
Harry looked down at his clothes as if they would provide some sort of answer.
“Bisexuality?” Malfoy asked, supremely unhelpful. He slid back into the booth with three pints of lager.
Dudley sputtered a moment, and Malfoy slid a pint toward him.
“There you are, drink up.”
Harry ignored Malfoy’s comment. “Er yeah, Magic.” Dudley flinched. “Sometimes it skips a generation, but yeah. It runs in families a lot of the time.”
“It’s just..” Dudley was visibly sweating now. “My girlfriend’s pregnant.”
Malfoy elbowed Harry in the ribs. “What Potter here meant to say was congratulations.” Malfoy glared at Harry. “He just lacks the tact to do so.” he added under his breath.
“Nah, mate. Harry’s right, innit. That was my reaction too.” Dudley said, shaking his head. He looked back and forth between them intently for a moment. “How are things?”
Harry and Malfoy shared a confused glance.
“Things?” Harry asked.
“Yeah..” Dudley furtively looked around the pub and gave them another significant look. “You know.. Things.”
“I can see you come by your eloquence naturally, Potter.”
“Shut it, you.” He said to Malfoy. He turned back to Dudley, “Things are.. Fine?” Harry had no idea where this was going. Was he asking about his and Malfoy’s relationship? Twice? What planet was he on where Dudley was concerned about his relationships? Reality felt another step back, like this day was looking through a foe-glass and everything was just a little out of focus.
“No more..” Dudley stopped there and glanced suspiciously around the room again.
Malfoy’s face darkened. “I think he’s asking about the war.”
Fuck. How had he missed that? Of course Dudley wasn’t asking about his well being. He was asking about something that mattered.
“Oh, it’s over.” he said to Dudley.
“No more dementoids?” he asked in a hushed voice. “They were well bad.”
“Dementors? No. They’ve been relocated.” Harry glanced at Malfoy, who refused to meet his eye. “It’s safe now.”
“Your lot stopped it, then?”
Malfoy tugged the sleeve of his shirt down and looked away.
“No more war, Dudley.” Harry said.
“Well, that’s a relief, innit.” He looked at Malfoy. “You know Harry saved my life from those dementoid thingies.”
Malfoy’s face was blank of emotion. “Yes, I heard about that.”
“You did? It was ‘mazin, it was. I mean, I was dying. And Harry just-” Dudley made sure there was no one overhearing them, he continued in a whisper “magicked them away.” He sat back in the booth. “It was incredible.”
Harry was entirely uncomfortable with the direction this conversation had taken. Never in his life would he have thought Dudley would be grateful to him. He wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. So he downed the rest of his pint. Like any normal, healthy person would.
“He did something similar for me.” Malfoy said. “Saved me from a fire.”
Dudley looked at Harry with awe. “You did? Your lot was right about you, weren’t they?” He turned to Malfoy again. “Somethin else, I tell you.”
“Another round?” Harry asked.
Malfoy and Dudley looked down at their nearly full glasses.
“No takers?” Harry edged out of the booth and got himself another pint. Malfoy and Dudley sharing a pint was a bit much. Let alone swapping stories about Harry saving them. He didn’t understand their admiration. Harry was just doing the right thing. What he was supposed to do. He wasn’t anything special for doing that. Surely his two childhood tormentors would see that. They were the two people who saw the worst things about him. This meeting was a terrible idea. Why did he agree to it at all, let alone drag Malfoy?
Harry made his way back to the booth with his drink. He felt numb, but did his best to answer Dudley’s questions about Hogwarts. Malfoy picked up on his mood shift and shot him concerned looks through the rest of the conversation.
Finally, when Harry was about to shut down completely, Malfoy made their excuses. Outside the pub, Malfoy gripped Harry by his shoulder.
“Potter. What’s the matter with you?” he demanded.
Harry shrugged the shoulders of the body that belonged to him. He knew the body belonged to him. But it didn’t feel right. Nothing about this day felt right. It was like he was watching Malfoy shake someone else’s shoulders who wasn’t Harry.
“Are you alright?”
Harry shrugged again. He couldn’t quite get his mouth to form words.
“No. Of course you’re not. Let’s get you home. We don’t really have to take the train back, do we?”
“I’ll take that as a no.” Malfoy wrapped Harry in his arms, and Harry let it happen. Malfoy appearated them to a door front. It wasn’t Grimmauld Place.
“Go on inside, Potter,” he said softly. “They’ll take care of you.”
Harry nodded and trudged forward to knock on the door. Malfoy melted into the shadows. Hermione answered the door and took one look at him before bringing him into a warm embrace. “Oh, Harry, darling, you look a mess. What are you doing here?”
Harry shrugged. He let Hermione bring him in and take care of him. Only much later did he wonder how Malfoy had known where Ron and Hermione lived.
Draco was a wreck. The first batch of Pain au Chocolat burnt. He was fairly certain he’d singed his eyebrows taking them out of the oven, but was too afraid to look in the mirror and confirm their absence. It’s not like he could reparo them. But if he didn’t check, there was still a chance the tightness in his skin was mild dehydration. He couldn’t be positive he’d locked the flat before he appearated to work. Worst of all, he was tired enough he’d switched to espresso instead of Nescafe. The mixture of poor sleep and high caffeine left him jittery and more apt to mistakes.
He waved his wand at the smoke coming out of the oven to vanish it. He’d have to start the batch over. Just after the smoke vanished, his wand started buzzing to let him know the 30 minutes were up and the tart casing needed out of the fridge and into the second oven for a blind bake. His entire morning rhythm was off.
It was Potter’s fault, naturally.
He couldn’t get Potter out of his head. The brief touch of their skin as Potter handed him a slip of paper last night. The smell of his cologne as they lingered close, just a moment too long to be platonic. It was becoming more difficult not to give in to the urge to shove Potter up against a wall and see what kinds of noises he made. Merlin knew where that would lead. Snogging? Fighting? A bit of both?
Draco had stared at the paper for a moment before realising what it meant.
12 Grimmauld Place.
The bright green eyes bored into Draco’s for a moment. Then, with a crack, he’d disappearated.
And Draco couldn’t stop replaying it over and over. Which led to burnt Pain au Chocolat. He was in for a long day.
The end of his shift arrived eventually, belatedly, full of hope and dread. Draco shoved the extra treacle tart in a box and disillusioned it. He’d made up his mind. He hung up his apron, clocked out, and popped his head to the front to remind Olivia he was off. On his way out the back, he snagged the disillusioned treacle tart.
Draco appearated onto the steps of 12 Grimmauld Place a moment later and watched the building appear out of thin air. After he knocked on the front door and waited. He listened for footsteps, but heard nothing. Draco knocked again. He’d just barely let go of the knocker when the door was flung open to reveal a half naked Potter. Draco felt himself staring, but couldn’t tear his eyes away.
“Malfoy?” Potter asked, his voice coated in sleep. He was wearing loose fitting flannel bottoms and, Merlin help him, no shirt. Potter answered the door without a shirt. Not for the first time, Draco noted the subtle v of Potter’s hip bones, though it was the first time he saw the trail of short hair leading down from his navel. And smattered across his chest.
“Alright Malfoy?” Potter yawned and asked.
“What are you doing??” he asked, suddenly furious. “Why are you answering the door half naked? Have you no sense of propriety?”
“What?” Potter looked down at his bare chest, as though noticing it for the first time. His cheeks coloured. He scratched the back of his neck. “Reckon you better come in then.” He turned and headed into the house, not waiting to see if Draco followed him.
“Sitting room’s through there.” Potter gestured vaguely before disappearing up the stairs two at a time.
Draco frowned at the main stairwell. And then spent some time frowning at the covered portrait of Walburga Black, one of his own distant relatives somehow in Potter’s home. She frowned right back at him.
“I say, boy, you look terribly familiar. Have you the superior Black Blood running in your veins?”
Draco bristled. He took a steadying breath and opened his mouth to reply. But.. Instead, Draco frowned at her one last time, turned primly around to stride out of the foyer and into the sitting room without saying a word.
“YOU HORRIBLE WHELP! NO PUREBLOOD-”
Draco sent a silencing charm over his shoulder.
He set the tart on the coffee table. There were two sofas facing each other, with the coffee table in the middle. He sat in the one facing the stairwell and waited, furious, for Potter to dress. What on earth was the man thinking? How dare he look like.. That! Draco was having a hard enough time as it is trying to be friends without that mental image.
Potter bounded down the stairs a few minutes later in a pair of snug jeans and a black t-shirt.
He paused in the foyer and gave the portrait of Walburga a baffled stare as she silently ranted and raged.
“This place seems familiar.”
“It ought to. It belonged to your family.”
Draco stared at him, nonplussed.
“The Blacks?” Potter added. “Sirius left it to me.”
“Ah.” The frown receded a bit. “I think I came here as a child once or twice. I distinctly remember that awful shrieking portrait.”
Potter nodded sagely. “Hermione couldn’t even get it down. I reckon I’m stuck with it. How’d you get her to shut up?”
Draco blinked. “I used a silencing charm.”
Potter’s forehead wrinkled in a manner that was in no way endearing. “Never works when I use it.”
“Well, it wouldn’t, obviously.”
“Er.. why not?”
“Because you’re not on the tapestry. Only members of the Black family control her.”
“Was burned off the family tapestry, if I remember my family history correctly.” Draco drawled. Potter looked like he was about to say something further, but Draco had more pressing questions. “Why were you answering the door half naked? What on earth are you doing, Potter!”
The infuriating man arched an eyebrow at him and plopped gracelessly onto the sofa across from Draco. He shrugged one shoulder. “Sitting?”
“What if I’d attacked you?”
“You didn’t, though.”
“But what if I had?”
“But you didn’t.” He gave another shrug. “Moot point, really.”
“Were you sleeping?”
“Well, yeah. It’s the weekend, isn’t it? I can have a bit of a lie in.”
“Potter, it’s half two in the afternoon. That’s more than a lie in.”
Draco eyed him suspiciously. He had circles beneath his eyes.
Potter merely shrugged again and then frowned at Draco’s face. “What happened to your eyebrows?”
“You’re impossible. Have a tart.”
Potter stared at him, nonplussed. “What?”
Draco gestured to the pastry box. “Have. A. Tart.”
Potter’s eyes left Draco and travelled to the box. “You brought me a tart?” He looked at Draco. Then back at the box. His face was a child with a puppy for the first time. Draco loved it. He also hated it. He wanted to bring Potter a tart every day for the rest of his life. He wanted to never see Potter again.
“You’re impossible.” he repeated.
Potter and his stupid puppy eyes. With his stupid, no longer bare chest. This was a terrible idea. The image alone would have sent a teenage Draco mad with desire. Adult Draco was struggling enough as it was.
“It’s treacle tart.”
“Obviously. Your powers of observation never fail to astonish.”
“I love treacle tart. It’s my favourite.”
“I know. Are we going to eat it or not?”
Potter threw back his head and laughed, full-bodied. It entranced Draco. He’d seen Potter shirtless. He’d made Potter laugh with delight. What kind of dreamscape was this, and when would reality hit?
“Yeah, kitchen?” Potter picked the box up and headed down the staircase. Draco followed him and not once did he admire Potter’s arse. Thrice, yes. But once, no.
Potter set the pastry box on the long table, not unlike the ones in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, but house sized instead of Great Hall sized. Draco sat while Potter got plates and flatware. He cut two pieces out of the tart and slid one over to Draco.
“Thi’ am’z’n” Potter said through a full mouth. He swallowed. “Did you make that?”
“Yes.” Draco said absently, horrified and yet transfixed by Potter’s awful table manners. Of course, he knew how the man ate. Draco had watched him like a hawk at the Gryffindor table. Inhaling rather than eating food. It was quite another thing entirely to see it up close. Potter’s slice was gone before Draco had taken a bite.
“Hang on, I’ve got something for you too.” Potter said. He dashed up the stairs, two at a time again. But this time he didn’t come back down immediately. Draco finished his slice of treacle tart. Five minutes passed. Draco decided to make tea. After ten minutes gone by, Draco was officially concerned. He went back up to the sitting room, stopped when he heard voices.
“And Harry, I’m so proud of you!” that was Granger’s voice.
“You’re out of bed on a Saturday! That’s wonderful!”
“Of course I am. It’s three in the afternoon.”
“Yeah, but when was the last time that happened?” Weasley said.
“Ronald,” Granger chided, “What he means to say is that we’re happy to see you up and about, that’s all.”
“I’m not that bad.”
“You really are, mate. No offense.”
“Harry, we’re getting curry tonight, if you want to join. Luna’s coming over.”
“I’m alright. Thanks though.”
“Oh, I’m just so pleased! You’re really working on getting better. That’s a hard thing to do. I knew those lists would help!”
“Give it a rest, Hermione.” Weasley sounded gentler, responding to his wife.
Potter’s response was muffled, which meant he was probably smothered in Granger’s mane.
“Laters,” Weasley said.
Draco heard the whoosh of the floo and silently crept downstairs.
“Sorry about that. Got a floo call.” Potter came thundering down a moment later. He stopped short at the two mugs at the kitchen table. “Did you make tea?”
Draco nodded and sipped from his mug, wishing it was Nescafe. He wasn’t sure if he should mention the conversation he’d overheard. Potter was in worse shape than he’d thought. The man always had a demented sort of energy driving him on. Draco supposed he would too if a homicidal maniac was always trying to do him in. Maybe constantly running for his life had drained Potter any desire to run at all. Draco looked up to find Potter watching him.
“Cheers.” Potter said as he sat down.
Potter had a velvet pouch in his hands. He slid it across the table to Draco.
“I wasn’t sure when I’d see you again. So..” Potter scratched the back of his neck. “Yeah.”
Draco held it in his hands. It was a weighty gift. It looked like a large metal stamp. He flipped it over. The large metal stamp was of the Black Family Crest.
“Thought you might want it. Your mum and all.”
Draco turned it over in his hands a few times, tracing the lines of the crest.
Potter picked up on his hesitation. “It’s a biscuit stamp. For shortbread? Kreature found it in the kitchens a while back. Every time I think we’ve found everything in the house, I come across another hidden closet he’s stuffed with heirlooms and cursed objects.”
Draco was speechless. It was the most thoughtful gift anyone had ever given him. And it wasn’t even Christmas. Just a random Saturday, he happened to stop by.
“Not that the stamp is cursed!” Potter amended quickly.
“I have to go.” Draco said suddenly. His throat was tight and his eyes prickled. He needed to get out. It was too much. Potter was too much. Draco needed to sleep. He needed his eyebrows back. He needed to be away from this beautiful, thoughtful man before he did something stupid like snog the ever living daylights out of him.
“Oh. It really isn’t cursed. Promise.” Potter said, his voice crestfallen.
Draco carefully wrapped the stamp in the velvet bag. “I have to go.” he said again, unable to look Potter in the eye. He dashed up the stairs and out the front door. As soon as it closed behind him, Draco collapsed on the stoop and buried his head in his hands. He let himself fall apart for no more than two minutes. Then he stood, wiped his face, straightened his clothing out, and appearated home. Only one person was allowed to be kind to Draco, and that was Olivia. Any more than that, Draco simply couldn’t handle.
Harry sat in stunned silence after Malfoy’s abrupt departure. Perhaps he’s misread the situation. Harry figured Malfoy enjoyed baking. Harry had a Black family heirloom. It seemed only natural to pass it on. If he thought about it, Harry could see how that could be misconstrued. Here he was, casually swimming in the man’s heirlooms, when The Ministry had taken everything Malfoy possessed.
Harry was being insensitive and selfish again. He folded his arms on the table and put his head down. Stupid stupid stupid.
Harry’s floo chimed. He heaved a sigh and plodded up the stairs to the sitting room.
“Yeah, I’m here.” Harry replied, sloughing into the room. “Alright, Ron?” He collapsed on the sofa. “What are you doing back here? I thought Luna was coming over.”
“She cancelled. Something about Snarfblatts. Doesn’t matter.” Ron paced in front of the fireplace. “I saw her off and.. And.. And then Rosie wasn’t breathing.”
“She wasn’t breathing, Harry, and I lost my goddamn mind!” Ron’s voice shook. “I only left her in the nursery for a half a second. I only answered the floo.” Ron’s hands trembled, and he wiped his sweaty brow. “I answered the floo- and I came back and she was so still.”
“Where’s Hermione? Are they at St. Mungo’s?” Harry was already halfway across the room looking for his trainers.
Ron shook his head, tears spilling out. “No no no no, it’s fine. Everything’s fine.” he waved his hand dismissively. “She’s fine.”
“What?” Harry stopped and turned back to face Ron.
“Rosie’s fine. Hermione’s fine. Well, we’ve had a row, but she’s alright.”
“Fuck, mate. Don’t scare me like that.” Harry said with a relieved sigh and went for the drinks cart.
Ron sat on the edge of the sofa, his elbows on his knees and his hands in his hair. “Harry, I can’t do it.” He looked up when Harry put a drink in his hand. “I can’t do the whole dad thing. It’s too much. I’m fucking everything up.”
“What happened?” Harry asked.
“I’ve just told you. She wasn’t breathing, except, well, she was. But she was so still.”
Ron’s voice sped through the words so quickly Harry could barely keep up.
“She’d rolled over on her blanket and got stuck. I had a complete meltdown.” He shook his head and took a shaky sip of his whisky. “I grabbed the blanket off her and she coughed. She started crying, so I knew she was alright. It was the most terrifying moment of my life.” He shook his head again. “I, er, I didn’t handle it well.”
“Ron, it doesn’t sound like you overreacted. I dunno, I’d probably do the same.”
“I went off on Hermione.” Ron’s eyes were wide, red rimmed. He was several shades lighter than his normal brand of pale. He shook his head again. “I said some awful things, mate. I was.. I thought we’d lost her.” Ron’s voice trailed off in horror.
“What did you row about?” Harry asked quietly.
Ron sat back on the sofa and rested his forehead on his hand, rubbing his temple. “I said she needed to pitch in more. Which isn’t true. She’s working full time, being a mum full time. I’m gone for work a lot. Mum’s been great looking after Rosie during the day for us. I shouldn’t have said it.”
“She’ll forgive you. She loves you.”
“That’s not the worst of it.”
“Shit. There’s more?”
“I may have questioned her dedication to our family.” Ron’s voice came out shaky and small. His shoulders were hunched over. “And accused her of caring more about fighting old duffers in Wizengamot than raising her own child.”
“And warned her that if it kept happening, Rosie would turn into the next Bellatrix Lestrange because of a lack of motherly affection.”
“Well, fuck.” Harry let out. He got up to refill Ron’s whisky. “That’s seriously fucked up, mate.”
“How long are you here, then?”
“Dunno.” Ron’s voice was muffled by resting his face in his hands.
“It’s not, er.. totally unforgivable.” Harry offered, but the words came out weak even to his own ears. He shoved the refilled glass into Ron’s hand. He sat down across from Ron and took a sip from his own drink.
“It’s pretty bad.” Ron sighed.
“Yeah, you’re right. It’s well bad.” agreed Harry. “What are you going to do?”
Ron shrugged and flopped lengthwise onto the sofa. “Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.”
“Well, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure all new parents have breakdowns.” Harry tried to be comforting again with mediocre success. “Right? Something to do with the lack of sleep and added stress. I bet if you asked your parents whether they’ve flown off the handle a time or two...”
“I promise you my dad never once accused my mum of raising a death eater.”
“Fair play, those are strong words.” Harry scratched the back of his neck. “But you didn’t mean them. That’s the important thing. You came a bit unglued, is all.”
“I’ve fucked it up so badly. She’ll never take me back.” Tears leaked out of Ron’s eyes and trickled down his cheeks.
“Course she will.” Harry said. He looked at his oldest friend. “She loves you, mate. Always has.”
Ron peered over at Harry, a flicker of hope in his eyes.
“That’s not to say you’ve got some proper grovelling to do.”
“Do you really think so?”
“Yeah, I do. The longer you wait to apologise, the worse it will be.”
Ron let out a shaky breath. “Thanks, mate.” He sat up again and finished off his whisky. “Do you mind if I stay the night?”
“Course not. Take all the time you need.”
“I’ll give her some space and have a proper grovel in the morning.”
“Pastries might help with that.”
Ron looked up at Harry, nonplussed. “Er, what?”
Harry shrugged. “I could get them for you. Been fancying a treacle tart, anyway.”
“Yeah? Should I get flowers or something?”
“In my failed relationships I’ve had my fair share of apologies.” Harry said, “And trust me, mate. A proper grovel needs pastries, not flowers.”
“I know just the place.” A smile threatened to make an appearance and Harry tamped it down. “Have a lie in, I’ll pop out and get it sorted.”
Draco left Blaise’s flat through the Floo.
Or rather, he tried to. He stood in front of the green flames with the most recent batch of hangover potions clutched in his hands for far too long. He closed his eyes, pretending he didn’t feel the heat from the flames.
Pretending he didn’t hear Goyle’s screams.
Desperation and fear and panic and heat. So much heat, he couldn’t think right. Granger and torture and Weasley and flames. And Potter, always Potter.
Draco closed his eyes and stepped into the fire.
“12 Grimmauld Place,” he choked out through the panic.
Draco hit Potter’s hearth on all fours and promptly heaved his guts out. Nausea hit him again as he crawled out and he couldn’t stop spewing.
Draco shoved the memories back down, refusing to let the panic take over. The flames went out. The imaginary heat dissipated. He took a few steadying breaths. The box of potions didn’t smash to pieces, thankfully. His knees shook as he stood, leaning on the hearthstone for support. Luckily, Potter’s sitting room was empty. Draco drew his wand and vanished the sick. Then he cast a silent scourfingy on himself. He stumbled over to the sofa and lay down. The box of hangover potions, Draco set on the side table.
“Potter?” he called out, his voice shaky. No response. The lights were off. The curtains at the window looking over the back garden were open, letting in a soft but dim light. Potter’s floo was open, so he was obviously home. He should have heard it chime. Perhaps Draco should check the kitchens first and get himself a glass of water.
He waited a few moments more for the dizziness, residual horror, and shame to pass. Then he made his way down to the kitchens. “Potter?” he called again.
There were dirty dishes piled in the sink. The bin was overflowing with several days’ worth of takeaway. Draco got himself a glass of water and downed the whole thing. He climbed the stairs back to the main floor. He hesitated, looking up at the first floor. “Potter?” he called up. Still no response. He sighed, “You’d better be dressed!”
“Potter!” There was a light at the end of the hall on the first floor. And.. music? Draco crept closer. Definitely music. That or Potter was far better at doing impressions than Draco previously thought. The door was slightly ajar.
Draco leaned on the door frame and nudged the door the rest of the way open. Potter was lying on a bed wearing loose sweats and, of course, no sodding shirt.
The room had a distinct air of stagnation, a musty smell Draco associated with re-opening the East Wing of the Manor after the winter. There were a few muggle posters of motorbikes and a zeppelin made of lead but misspelt. A vintage Gryffindor banner was tacked to the far wall that might have belonged to Potter, but somehow Draco doubted this was his bedroom. It was too dim and musty. Nothing about it felt like the bright and enthralling Harry Potter that Draco knew.
Potter sat bolt upright on the enormous four-poster bed, his wand pointed at Draco. Draco’s heart was racing, but he told himself it was a normal reaction to being sneaked up on. No one was going to attack him here, especially not Potter.
“Malfoy?” Potter rubbed tired eyes and felt about the bed for his glasses.
Draco made his way delicately through the detritus of the room and picked the gramophone needle off the record to stop the music.
“Yes. You have a guest, you might want to put on a shirt.”
“I doooo?” Potter said through a yawn. “Who is it?”
Draco stared at him. “Me, you dunce. I am the guest.”
Potter rolled his eyes and flopped back down on the bed.
“What exactly are you doing?”
“You mean that literally, don’t you?”
Potter shrugged. Draco walked to the bed and sat on the edge. He spied an empty whisky bottle on the bedside table.
“Have you been drinking?”
“Oh, Potter, that is just too sad. Even for you.”
No response again.
“Get up. We’re going out.”
Potter sighed heavily. “Do we have to?”
Draco thought about the possibility of staying in. Of joining Potter in his drunken, shirtless stupor. And the things they could get up to.
“Yes. We need to leave this place.” Draco said suddenly. He watched Potter cover his face with his arms, exposing his well kept abdominal muscles. “Soon.” He nudged Potter’s bare foot. “Get up, you lout. And have a shower. You smell like the back end of a stag night. I’ll be downstairs. I brought hangover potions for you.”
“You did?” Potter sat up a bit, resting on his elbows.
The hopeful, drowsy expression on Potter’s face was too much. Everything about him was too much. Draco didn’t trust himself to speak. Instead, he nodded and swept out of the room, back down to the kitchen. He poured two glasses of water and brought them back to the sitting room to wait for Potter to get presentable. Fifteen minutes later, Potter clamoured down the stairs with all the grace of a rhinoceros. Draco handed him the water and a hangover potion. “Drink up.”
Potter popped the stopper on the hangover potion and shuddered as he drank it down. He shook his shoulders and eyed the glass of water. “Why am I drinking water if we’re just going to a pub to drink more alcohol?”
“Because you are a responsible adult. And because you are going out to a pub with me. Can you imagine the papers if anything happened to you while you were out with a former death eater?”
Potter blinked at him.
“Exactly. I’d rather not go to Azkaban, thank you. Drink up.”
He drank the water.
“Where did you want to go?” Potter asked, “Not Diagon Alley, is it?”
“Obviously. Let’s go.”
Potter stopped to check his watch. “Oh, er, actually. It’s almost six.”
“Your point being?”
“It’s Saturday.” Potter ran a hand through his hair. “Ron or Hermione usually check in on Saturdays. I guess I lost track of time.”
“They check in regularly?” Draco remembered the overheard conversation from the last time he’d shown up on a Saturday.
“Er.. yeah. Well.. They don’t love that I..”
“Drink yourself into a stupor alone in your enormous, empty house?”
“They usually stop by earlier, actually. Maybe I missed them.”
Draco heard the sounds of the floo being activated. “I’ll just wait outside, shall I?”
They shared a look. They hadn’t spoken about their.. Friendship. He hadn’t mentioned it to Blaise earlier. From the hesitation in Potter’s shoulders, he hadn’t mentioned it to his friends either. Probably for the best. Draco shut the front door just as he heard Granger’s voice.
“Sorry we’re late, Harry!”
Draco sat on the steps in front of the building and waited for Potter. He came breezing through, nearly knocking Draco over a few minutes later.
“Er, sorry. Alright?”
“Other than being mauled by a Gryffindor, fine.” Draco straightened out his suit. A beautiful number with forest green piping over charcoal coloured fabric.
“Fantastic. Where are we headed?”
“I hadn’t thought.”
They walked amiably down the street past the muggle shops. “I don’t have to work in the morning and needed to get away from Olivia. Not that she’s not lovely. She is.”
“It’s just hard to be around muggles sometimes.”
“I know what you mean.” Potter replied. “There’s only so much lying or hiding you can do before the entire relationship seems.. False.”
“Yes, exactly.” Draco watched Potter out of the corner of his eye. “Anyway, I thought I’d stop by and see..”
Potter’s eyes snapped to his own. Draco’s pulse picked up.
“Anyway, you were in a right state. Obviously needed to get out as well. Anyway, it all worked out.” Draco was a coward.
Potter looked disappointed. Shit.
Draco cleared his throat. “Anyway.” he said for the thousandth time.
Potter stuck his hands in the pockets of his hoodie. “I suppose I was in a bit of a state.”
“Does that happen often, then?” Draco asked.
Potter’s eyebrows scrunched and he shoved his stupid glasses up by the bridge. “What?”
“Getting pissed on your own.”
“Oh.” Potter shrugged. “Not really.”
“Often enough that Granger feels the need to make sure you’re alright.”
Draco worried they’d be, horror of horrors, talking about feelings if they continued along this path. He glanced around the street as they passed a pub that looked large and inviting. It had a chalkboard sign out in front with a giant thumbs up. Above it the words ‘Don’t’ Panic’ in bold, friendly looking letters. Draco found it oddly comforting.
He held the door open for Potter, “After you.”
Malfoy glanced at Potter’s scrubby jeans and ragged hoodie out of the corner of his eye before he ordered them both lagers. Harry slid into the booth and watched Malfoy elegantly navigate the crowded pub without spilling a drop. He watched Malfoy take a sip. Malfoy arched an eyebrow at Harry, whose cheeks tinged pink. Harry immediately launched into a recap of the latest Chudley Cannons match. And if talking quidditch meant they had to lean their heads closer together in such a muggle space, well… Harry certainly wasn’t complaining.
They’d had one pint each when Harry began to suspect they weren’t in a normal muggle pub. Malfoy took off his jacket, revealing a cream, neatly pressed dress shirt. He removed the cufflinks (because, of course, Malfoy wore cufflinks), pocketed them, and rolled up the sleeves. Harry’s mouth went dry watching this strange relaxation ritual.
“I thought robes weren’t muggle approved garments outside the home,” Malfoy said, looking around.
“They aren’t,” Harry said. “You’d be mad to go out in a bathrobe. Not to mention freezing your bollocks off.”
“Then what on earth is happening? Why are there so many muggles in bathrobes and dressing gowns?”
Harry looked around the pub and found Malfoy was right. It made him feel a little better about his muddied trainers and oversized hoodie beside Draco and his elegant suit. All the surrounding muggles were dressed in pajamas and terrycloth robes. Most of them carried towels.
“I’ve not seen anything like this since the World Cup.” Harry said. “Some bloke was in a pink floral dressing gown when we showed up.”
“I’m right, though, aren’t I?” Malfoy hesitated. “This is unusual muggle behaviour?”
“Yeah, no clue what’s going on.”
“Did you just agree with me, Potter?” Malfoy narrowed his eyes at Harry. “Are you taking the piss?”
He thought a moment, a smile threatening to force its way onto his face, “I suppose we did just agree. Would you look at that? Must be the end of the world.”
Malfoy scoffed. He tried to hide his smile behind his glass, but Harry saw it anyway.
“I’ll get the next round, shall I?” Harry volunteered. He wove his way through the terry cloth clad muggles up to the bartender. A chalkboard sign behind the bar read “Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster” in arty hand drawn letters. Instead of listing what the cocktail was made of, it simply said “Best drink in existence” with a chalk drawn thumbs up.
“What’ll you have, then?” the bartender asked.
Harry looked back at Malfoy’s posh jacket beside the empty pint glasses. He gestured to the sign behind her. “Two gargle whatsits.”
She nodded and a few minutes later Harry was holding two martini glasses with an ice sphere in the middle with some sort of yellow alcohol on the bottom and blue floating on the top.
“What is that?” asked Malfoy, somewhere between fascinated and revolted.
“It’s a pan gargle whatsit.”
“You know, Potter, typically when someone offers to get the next round, it’s a round of what they were drinking before. Which was a larger.” He picked the martini glass up to better inspect it. “This is not beer.”
“I think you might be onto something there.” Harry replied dryly. He took a sip of his own. “Nope. Definitely not beer.”
“Yes, thank you for the confirmation. You’re a veritable wellspring of information.” Malfoy sniffed it and set the glass back down. “You don’t seriously expect me to drink this, do you?”
Harry shrugged and took another sip.
“We are grown adult men, nearing our thirties. You cannot expect me to drink something that looks like bubotuber pus covered in pensieve memories.”
“If it makes you feel any better, it doesn’t taste like bubotuber pus.”
Malfoy paused. “What does it taste like?”
Harry took another sip and let the flavours roll around in his mouth. “Lemons… and.. Well, alcohol, quite frankly.”
Malfoy continued to eye it suspiciously.
“Go on,” Harry nudged him under the table. “Live a little.”
“Why not?” Harry suppressed a smile, “Scared, Malfoy?”
Malfoy narrowed his eyes at Harry.
“You wish.” He smirked and downed the entire contents in one go.
A joyful burst of laughter escaped from Harry before he could control it. Malfoy wheezed, his eyes watering. “Worth it.” he coughed.
“Told you it didn’t taste like bubotuber pus.” Harry said, a shit-eating grin plastered on his face.
“That you did,” Malfoy said, and cleared his throat.
Harry cast about for something to say, worried he’d be caught staring again. “I meant to ask you earlier. How’d you get in?”
“We walked through the door. You were there. It happened not thirty minutes ago.”
“Oh, piss off. I meant at Grimmauld Place.”
“Then you should have said as much,” Malfoy drawled. His eyes darted over to the window, “I flooed.”
“That’s what I said.” Malfoy snapped.
Harry chewed his lip. “You alright?”
Malfoy continued to watch the muggle streets of London. “We’re here aren’t we?”
A faint smile crossed Harry’s lips. “I suppose we are.”
And so Harry spent an enjoyable evening with Malfoy. Just the two of them, out for drinks like proper mates. As though they hadn’t spent their adolescence at each other’s throats. Harry wouldn’t mind being at Malfoy’s throat now, in an entirely different manner. His cheeks heated at the thought.
Malfoy paused mid-sentence. “What?”
“What?” Harry blinked rapidly.
“You’ve gone all funny and your face is red.”
“It is not,” Harry protested, reddening further. “Er, I’ve got to go.”
“You do?” Malfoy asked, looking crestfallen.
“Er.. Yes.” Harry checked his watch. “I forgot I was meant to meet George at the shop.” Harry lied.
“At nine o’clock at night?”
If Harry didn’t get out of there, he was going to do something incredibly stupid. "I was meant to see him earlier and.. er.. I'm late now?"
Malfoy narrowed his crisp grey eyes.
Harry stood from the table and made for the exit, Malfoy just behind him. Harry stopped near the door. He needed Malfoy to stay. Otherwise, Harry was very close to appearating them back to Grimmauld Place. He cleared his throat, “You don’t have to walk me out, Malfoy.”
Malfoy’s eyes traveled over Harry’s face, looking for intent. Harry’s pulse jumped.
“So long, then.” Harry gave Malfoy a half wave. A woman behind Malfoy spun her head toward Harry. She wore an interesting, wide-legged outfit of white that almost looked like a space suit.
“So looooooong.” she said in a singsong voice.
“Soo loooooooooong.” More people joined in this time.
Harry and Malfoy froze in place, watching the surrounding muggles as they joined in one by one.
“So looooooooooooooong.” The whole pub was singing now.
Harry caught Malfoy’s bewildered eye.
“FOR ALL THE FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISH.”
There was a beat of silence where the entirety of the pajama and bathrobe wearing muggles in the pub beamed at the pair of them. Then they erupted into laughter and cheering.
“What in the ever loving fuck was that?” Malfoy whispered.
“Muggles are weird.”
Harry nodded. “Muggles are weird.”
They left before it could get any weirder. And before Harry could make any truly regrettable mistakes involving Malfoy’s pale skin and Harry’s urge to taste it.
Tap tap tap.
Draco rolled over
Tap tap tap.
He heaved a sigh and cracked an eye open. A grey scops owl rapped impatiently at his window. Draco leaped out of bed and sprinted to the narrow window to let it in.
“I’m not meant to be getting owls here.” He told it. Draco could have sworn it narrowed its amber eyes at him. The bird was a little on the terrifying side. It held out its leg disdainfully. Draco snatched the roll of parchment. It waited expectantly.
“I’m not going to write back just now.”
It ruffled its feathers and emitted a grumpy chirp sound.
“I haven’t any treats here. I wasn’t expecting any owls.”
It made the angry chirp sound again.
“Go on.” Draco gestured toward the window. “Off you fuck.” The owl dived at his ear and bit down. Draco tried to cover his head against the flapping, angrily chirping owl.
“Ow! Little berk. I’m sorry, alright?” The flapping rescinded.
“For future reference, I have an owl box in Diagon Alley!” he shouted as it flew off.
He set the parchment on his desk and decided not to read it just yet, out of spite. Blaise and Millie knew not to owl him at the muggle flat. Potter didn’t have an owl. This meant one of two things: it was from The Ministry of Magic or his mother.
Draco threw on his black silk dressing gown over his t-shirt and satin pyjama bottoms. He needed caffeine. Thus, he headed to the kitchen in search of the magical potion that was Nescafe. Luckily, Olivia was already making tea when he entered. Secretly, Draco was relieved. He hadn’t quite got the hang of her eclectrick kettle. Whenever he was alone in the kitchen, he used his wand to boil the water.
“Was that your alarm?” she asked him as she put tea bags in two mugs.
“I thought I heard you use an alarm this morning. But that can’t be right because you live in the dark ages and refuse to touch anything that uses electricity.” Her back was to Draco. She poured the water into the mugs.
“I am perfectly good at using eclectricity.”
“That’s what I said,” he drawled.
“The weird thing was there was a crash and some yelling after that.”
“Isn’t it rude to ask about sounds coming from bedrooms?”
“So I can’t help but think that you’ve finally caved and got yourself a proper alarm. But then you’ve gone and forgotten about it. Then fell out of bed, hurting yourself to shut it off.”
“I will have you know that no such thing happened at all.”
“You’re bleeding, by the way, love.”
“What?” Draco held a hand up to his ear, his fingers came away with blood on them. “Damn owl.” he muttered.
“Do I have that right, then?”
Draco scowled at her. How had he let this awful woman into his life so easily? He snatched a tissue out of the box sitting beside the sofa and held it up to his ear to stop the bleeding. When he turned back to Olivia, she was taking the two mugs of tea back to her room.
“Oh.” Draco eased back into his seat at the table.
She arched an eyebrow at him. “Did you think one of these was for you?” She kissed the top of his head as she passed by him. “You’re too used to servants, love. Ta.”
Draco flushed. He shouldn’t have assumed she was making him tea. He sighed and inspected the kettle.
Fifteen minutes later, with Nescafe made and cornflakes consumed, Draco decided he was ready for whatever the wizarding world had waiting for him in the scroll. He took the rest of his Nescafe back to his room and set it on the desk. The Black family crest looked up at Draco from the seal. He wasn’t sure if this gave him more or less anxiety than the ministry’s seal.
Draco took a deep breath and finished draining the last of the Nescafe into his mouth. How had she known he was living with muggles?
Did everyone know?
Who told her?
Did she really think it was commendable?
His mother thought living with muggles was commendable?
What was happening?
Was this even real?
Was it the start of another nightmare?
Draco felt his heart speed up. He was having trouble breathing. He bent over and put his head between his knees, and forced himself to take slow steady breaths. After a few minutes of counting his breaths, Draco’s heart slowed down to its normal rate. The pressure on his chest eased and his head stopped tingling. He folded his arms on the desk and lay his head down.
The more he thought about it, the better this was, Draco decided. His mother knew he lived with muggles and she didn’t harangue him about it. He didn’t have to hide it from her. That was a relief, actually. This was a good thing. Definitely progress.
He dug in his desk for a roll of parchment, but didn’t find any. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d bought parchment. Draco went out to the kitchen for more caffeine. While the water boiled, he looked about for a scrap of paper he could use. There was a small notepad on the coffee table that would have to work. He tore a page off it and went back to his room to write his mother, Nescafe all but forgotten. After he finished his rather brief correspondence, Draco realised he didn’t have a way of getting it to her. He’d forgotten all about not having an owl. Blaise was still touring the continent. Millie might have an owl he could borrow, but he’d have to use the Floo and Draco couldn’t bear the thought of being so weak in front of another person.
He doubted his mother would be amenable to waiting a few more weeks until his next batch of polyjuice was ready to receive a response. Draco sighed and hit his head against his desk a few times.
Diagon Alley, it was. Perhaps he wouldn’t run into Weasley at all, Draco thought glumly. Perhaps instead he’d be hexed into oblivion.
In case the photo doesn't work, here's the letter from Narcissa.
My Darling Draco,
I wish to inform you that I will be briefly in Britain next month and would like to see you. Time in France has been beneficial, to say the least. I hope you are willing to meet with me, though for some indiscernible reason you seem to be opposed to meeting with your aunt Andromeda and second cousin Theodore. I have heard it mentioned that you have been spending time with muggles willingly. Being among them cannot be an easy feat, given your upbringing. I want to commend your actions and your strength of character.
I hope you are faring well and getting enough fresh air.
I await your reply at your earliest convenience,
For the third Saturday in a row, Harry found himself out of bed more than he was in it. He felt a restless energy coursing through him. Ever since last week when he’d gone to the weird muggle pub, Harry couldn’t sit still. He wanted to fly across London on Sirius’s motorbike. He wanted a game of quidditch, to feel the rush of wind on his face. He wouldn’t turn down another flight on Buckbeak at this point.
Before Harry could decide on any particular reckless action to alleviate his tension, the front door rang. He set down his tea and stopped glaring at the weeds in his back garden to answer the door.
“Malfoy?” He asked, perplexed, relieved, excited, and anxious all at once. At least Harry was fully dressed this time.
“I see your glasses are working today,” Malfoy drawled. “Can I come in?”
Harry swung the door wide open. “Course.” Harry led him into the sitting room.
They each sat on a sofa with the coffee table between them. Harry bounced his leg. Malfoy chewed his lip. He set a shopping bag on the coffee table.
“I need help.” Malfoy said at the same time, Harry said, “Would you like a drink?”
“Potter it’s eleven in the morning.”
“I have to work this afternoon.” Malfoy looked longingly at the drinks cart. Harry bit back a smile.
“You were saying about help?” Harry said as he got up to make drinks, tea long forgotten by the back window.
“Yes, I’ve gotten a mobile.”
Harry arched his eyebrows. “Really?”
“I need you to help me with it.”
Harry laughed. “And Olivia couldn’t help out?” Harry set a glass of Firewhisky in front of Malfoy.
“Olivia would be unbearable setting up a mobile.” He ran his hands through his pale, soft-looking hair.
Harry found himself oddly jealous of Malfoy’s hand. He dismissed the thought and poured himself a drink. Instead, Harry sat recklessly close to Malfoy on the sofa.
The blonde sighed and sipped his whisky while he stared at the new phone in its packaging. “I’ve heard from my mother.”
Harry’s stomach churned with guilt. “Oh?” he snagged the mobile away from Malfoy and took it out of the box. When he leaned over to toss the rubbish on the coffee table, Harry caught a glance of a small stack of shirts in the shopping bag and raised an eyebrow at Malfoy. But his attention was elsewhere.
“That sounds more dramatic than it is. I hear from my mother on occasion.” Malfoy said and examined the amber liquid swirling around in his glass. “We write each other. I haven’t, well. I haven’t been keeping up with her since I moved to London. But she is returning to England for a visit and wants to meet up in person.”
Harry had mixed feelings about Narcissa. On the one hand, she supported Voldemort and raised her son to be a bigot. On the other, she saved his life and made the right choice in the end. Oh, and he’d sort of been communicating with her through Andromeda. Harry had only been to France a few times to see Teddy. He was at Hogwarts most of the year and Harry could visit him at Hogsmeade. But Andromeda had invited him to France and Harry felt odd saying no just because of Narcissa’s presence. Being around Andromeda had done her good, in his opinion.
“Is that a bad thing?” Harry asked as he faffed about with the phone.
“I suppose not.” Malfoy took a sip of his whisky. “She’s living in France, you know.”
Harry nodded, “With Andromeda.”
Draco snapped his head up. “How did you know that?”
Harry set the mobile down and looked at Malfoy directly, cautiously. “I’m Teddy’s godfather. Did you know?”
Malfoy was a bit taken aback. “I suppose I forgot.”
Harry watched him for a moment more before he picked the phone up again to start installing apps. “Do you have an email address?” he asked.
“A what? No- don’t change the subject, Potter.” A light came on in his eyes. “It was you! You told her I was living with muggles!”
Harry scratched the back of his neck. “It might have come up?” Harry glanced at Malfoy. “Look, I’m sorry, alright. Your mum was worried about you and I didn’t want her to be. She saved my life, you know.”
Malfoy sighed, “I know.”
“I couldn’t lie to her.”
“I suppose I can understand that.” Malfoy chewed his lip pensively. “You should have told me.”
“Does she know about us?”
Harry’s heart sped up. “Know what about us?”
“That we..” Malfoy trailed off. He gestured between them and licked his lips. Malfoy’s eyes were pools of molten silver. “Don’t hate each other?”
Harry bit back a smile and looked away. “You don’t hate me?” Harry felt as though he was soaring through the air, snitch just out of reach.
“Ugh. You soppy twat.” Malfoy shoved his shoulder. “I’ve changed my mind. I do hate you. I’m going to make up Potter Stinks badges and pass them around the cafe. We’ll have a jar for them at the register. Olivia will side with me, you know. Even if you two are chummy.”
“I reckon you underestimate how much Olivia likes me.” Harry snickered. “Besides. You don’t hate me.”
“I suppose I don’t. Now help me with my mobile.”
“I am helping you with your stupid mobile, you ungrateful shit.” Harry said. “I need your email.”
“I haven’t got an email. What is an email?”
Harry sighed. “Fine, we’ll set you up for an email. PottersNumber1Fan@gmail.com?
“For your email address.”
“HarryIsBetterThanMalfoy@gmail.com? No? Well, it says MalfoyIsATwat is already taken. So I really don’t know what you want from me here.”
Malfoy chewed his lip and threw Harry a sidelong glance. “What I want is to know when you spoke with my mother. And what exactly did you tell her?”
The teasing smile left Harry’s face. “I told her I ran into you and you mentioned living with muggles, is all.”
“You ran into my mother in London?” Draco asked, incredulous.
“No, Andromeda.” Harry said. “And it was in France.”
“You’ve been to France to see my mother?”
“No, Andromeda and Teddy, who your mother happens to live with.” Harry shrugged again. “Teddy’s my godson. He comes to stay with me for a couple weeks during the summer. I stay um.. I see your mother.. occasionally?”
Malfoy was gob smacked. “I don’t even see my mother that often.”
“Yeah, I know. She’s mentioned it.”
“I cannot believe this.” Malfoy stood and began to pace.
“How often are you playing the charming saviour for my mother and aunt?” he drawled.
“It’s not like that,” Harry bristled. “Teddy is my family, therefore Andromeda is my family. I stay with them in France for a bit, occasionally. Teddy stays with me for a bit. Normal family shit, from what I understand.”
Malfoy sat abruptly down on the sofa across from Harry.
They sat in terse silence, neither one wanting to pick a fight but neither willing to let it go completely.
“Sorry.” Malfoy sighed. “Old habits and that.” He stood up started to pace again. “So you don’t have an owl?”
Harry shook his head. He handed Malfoy’s phone to him.
Malfoy accepted the device and shoved the shopping bag at Harry. “Here. I can’t be seen with you in public again until you dress like an adult.”
Harry snickered and sifted through the shirts, nice looking button up shirts with little patterns on them. One even had snitches. He smiled fondly at them. “Cheers, Malfoy.” He sat up and tugged his t-shirt off.
Malfoy went apoplectic. “I DIDN’T MEAN NOW!”
But it was too late. Harry’s t-shirt (one of his better ones with only two holes) was on the floor.
Malfoy pinched the bridge of his nose with his eyes tightly shut. “For pity’s sake, Potter.”
Harry laughed and buttoned up the cream coloured shirt with little golden snitches patterned on it. “What do you think?”
Malfoy looked up from his seat on the sofa and swallowed tightly. “Erm.”
Harry frowned, unsure why Malfoy wouldn’t like it when he was the one who bloody picked it out. Malfoy stood and crossed the room. He brushed the lint off Harry’s shoulder and Harry’s heart leapt in his chest. He could smell Malfoy’s cologne and felt dumbstruck. Harry momentarily stopped breathing as he let Malfoy roll the sleeves up.
When Malfoy stood back to admire his work, Harry had to look away from the intensity of his eyes.
“That will do just fine, Potter.”
Harry swallowed. “Yeah?”
Malfoy cleared his throat and looked away. “What is the email address you have chosen for me, then?” he said with an expression akin to Harry’s when he’d been given one of Hagrid’s rock cakes.
Harry smirked. “Unlock it and tap on the envelope icon.”
Malfoy shot a suspicious glance at him. He slid his wand out and tapped the mobile. “Alohomora.”
Harry burst out laughing.
Malfoy glared at him. Harry laughed harder. He wiped his eyes beneath his glasses. “You are too much.”
“It didn’t work.”
Harry laughed again. “Of course it didn’t work. Magic doesn’t work on electronics, you nutter. You have to unlock it with your finger. I set yours up to be a pattern. You can change it to be a fingerprint if you like. Or your face. Press the button on the side.”
Malfoy did. The screen showed a grid of dots. He handed it to Harry. Harry swiped the shape of a lightning bolt into the phone, and the black screen was replaced with his home screen. “Do you need me to show you again?”
Malfoy bit his lip. His gaze was heated when he caught Harry’s eye.
“I saw it.” Malfoy said.
The moment dragged out.
“You know, I don’t hate you either.” Harry breathed and took a step closer and half expected Malfoy to step away.
“I should be going.” Malfoy said, staring at Harry’s mouth.
They were only centimetres away. Did Malfoy realise how close they were? Surely not, or he’d have moved away. Wouldn’t he? Harry’s stomach flipped. He only had a millisecond to panic before Malfoy’s mouth was on his, firm and warm and inviting. Harry couldn’t help but respond before his rational brain took over. He pulled back slightly, resting their foreheads against each other, both breathing heavily.
“Malfoy.” he managed, “What are you doing?”
Malfoy looked like he wanted to devour Harry. “I’m trying to kiss you. Before I was rudely interrupted.” He dived back in. Malfoy’s kiss felt electric. Like flying a car to Hogwarts. Something stolen and wicked and fun. It was their hearts pounding and hands trembling. It was Malfoy mumbling into the space between them, “Merlin, this is a terrible idea.”
“No, it’s not, ‘s brilliant.” Harry nibbled Malfoy’s lip and Malfoy all too enthusiastically responded. Malfoy’s hands were in his hair. Harry gripped Malfoy’s waist as the snog went on for ages. Ages and ages and the brilliant sliding lips.
“Christ.” Harry breathed. “This is so much better than I thought.” He tilted Malfoy’s head back for a better angle. Their tongues slid against each other. It was heat and hands in hair.
“You’ve thought about this, Potter?” he managed between kisses.
“Constantly.” Harry’s hands crept down Malfoy’s back, around to Malfoy’s backside.
“How long have you thought about this?” Malfoy scraped his teeth along Harry’s jawline, nibbling up to his ear lobe.
Malfoy grinned wolfishly. “When was that again?”
“Fuck you.” Harry breathed.
“I really do have to go, Potter.” Malfoy whispered. His long, slender fingers slipped under Harry’s shirt.
“Right.” Harry leaned in and they were back to kissing and a little shoving and a little biting and quite a lot of heat.
“Potter.” Malfoy groaned.
Harry pulled back a bit. “Right, why do you have to go?” His voice came out wrecked. Malfoy’s hands were still on Harry’s hips.
“Right. You do that now.”
They remained unmoving, standing close. Neither one willing to be the first to leave.
“Can I call you, then?” Malfoy said eventually.
“I’ve already put my number in your phone. Ask Olivia to teach you about texting.”
A sly grin slid across Malfoy’s face. “Until later, then.” He leaned in and kissed Harry deeply. Harry hummed into the kiss, happily.
Harry had barely finished tucking his shirt back in and fixing his buttons when his floo chimed. Hermione popped out of the floo and dusted herself off.
She kissed Harry on the cheek. “Ron’s home with Rosie for the night. He sends his love.”
“One day I’ll see the two of you in the same place again.”
“Sure, once Rosie’s away at Uni.”
“I’m sure it will happen before then. She’s got birthdays, after all.”
Hermione gave him an exasperated look. Which turned into a calculating look. “What on earth are you wearing?”
“You don’t like it?” Harry asked and scratched the back of his neck.
“I do like it, actually. You look very handsome, Harry.”
Harry blushed as he did anytime someone said something nice about him and changed the subject. “You two are alright, then?”
Hermione gave an exasperated sigh. “That was the biggest row we’ve had. We’re alright though. He talked to his supervisor and volunteered for desk duty. At least until Rosie’s sleeping through the night. Having him home every day will make a tremendous difference.”
“Thank you for talking to him, Harry.”
“Course. Everyone drops a clanger now and then.” Harry shrugged.
“I’m still furious and hurt, to be honest. But at least he’s apologised. He’s doing more around the house now, too.”
“That’s good, then. You two will sort it out.”
Harry’s pocket buzzed.
“Is that your mobile, Harry?” she asked. “I’m surprised it works here.”
“It usually doesn’t.” Harry replied.
“Too much magic around?” Hermione asked, though they both knew she knew the answer.
Harry nodded as it buzzed again.
“Should you really keep it in the same pocket you keep your wand?” Hermione asked.
“Oh, er..” Harry ran a hand through his hair. “I think I’ve left my wand upstairs, actually.”
Hermione frowned but said nothing. Harry knew she was worried, but didn’t want to have a row about it.
His pocket buzzed. And buzzed. And buzzed.
“Well, aren’t you popular, then.”
“You’d never know I was a recluse.”
Harry slid the phone out of his pocket. Fifteen unread messages from Malfoy.
DM: did this work?
DM: Olivia set up sound on my mobile. I can speak to it, like a normal person.
Harry bit back a smile at the image of Malfoy shouting at his phone to get it to send messages. He read through a few more.
DM: We should have tested them before I left.
DM: Are you getting this message, Potter?
DM: If you don’t wish to speak with me, you could have said so.
DM: This is just rude.
DM: Olivia has just informed me it is considered normal behaviour to not receive a response immediately.
Harry snickered. He looked up from his mobile to find Hermione looking at him with a knowing smile.
“So you are seeing someone, then?” Hermione’s amused eyes lingered on the two empty glasses on the coffee table for a moment before cutting back to Harry.
“Sort of.” Harry scratched the back of his neck again.
She stuck her hand on her hip. “Well?”
“Er, well what?”
Hermione heaved a sigh and collapsed onto the sofa. “Honestly, Harry, you’re as bad as Ron sometimes. Tell me everything!”
Harry’s cheeks coloured.
“Well, not everything, obviously. But you know, who is it? How did you meet? Are they muggle?”
Harry chewed his lip. He hated lying, especially to Hermione. She deserved better than that. But how was he supposed to say he was talking to Draco Malfoy? Who called her a mudblood. Whose family tortured her. Who let Death Eaters into Hogwarts. The list went on. Nevermind that it was also the same Draco Malfoy who wore muggle clothing. And worked in a muggle bakery. The Draco Malfoy who rode the tube and thought ballpoint pens were the greatest invention of all time. The Draco Malfoy who had a mobile phone and texted Harry nonsense.
“I don’t think I’m ready to talk about it yet.” He said. “It’s new. Very new.”
The disappointment on her face made Harry’s insides squirm.
“Well.. whenever you are ready. You know where to find me. Just follow the trail of nappies and drool sodden parchment,” she said with a soft smile.
Harry laughed. “How are things in the world of Wizarding law for you these days?” he asked.
“Don’t get me started.” Huffed Hermione, who immediately launched into a tirade about sinister bylaws.
Harry glanced at his phone once more when Hermione left the room for the toilet.
DM: What is candy crush?
Harry barked out a laugh. The grin stayed on his face the rest of the evening and Harry spent a quiet night thinking about Malfoy's perfect mouth.
Night turned into morning. Harry watched the morning sunlight slowly crawl across the window. He napped off and on all afternoon. It might have turned into another evening. Sometimes Harry wondered if time was real or just made up in his head. Which clearly meant it was time for caffeine. He popped down to the kitchen for a cuppa when his mobile buzzed.
DM: Where ate you?
Those were not the texts of a sober person. Harry checked his watch. It was only half past seven. Malfoy had obviously been drinking for quite some time. Harry debated whether he ought to check on him in person. But decided that would be… embarrassing. What did normal people text each other? “Are you inebriated and in need of assistance?” seemed too formal. “u pissed m8?” seemed too awful.
Harry typed and deleted four messages as he trudged back up the stairs to the sitting room, tea completely forgotten. He finally settled on the perfect response.
Yes. That was very good. Normal friendship level check in. Nothing to show Harry had spent the night obsessing over Malfoy’s jawline or the way he looked so incredibly fit in muggle clothing. Or the way his tongue slid against Harry’s own. Just normal platonic mates who occasionally snogged. Harry’s mobile buzzed again.
DM: FUCK YES I AM A WIZARD.
Definitely drunk, then. Harry grinned to himself and grabbed a blanket to burrow under.
HP: Where r u?
DM: How lazli can you poisssbile be? Spell out yor words like an adolt//
Harry rolled his eyes.
DM: did you juts roll your eyesat me? Youdid, didn’ you.
HP: Where ARE YOU tho?
HP: Was that better?
DM: YEs. Isscivility two much too ask for. And i am at hom. In my flat.
HP: how drunk r u?
HP: why are there so many typos? thought you were using voice to text
DM: i am perfeclty drunk. I mean soberr.
DM: i migt be drunk.
DM: Olica madem ee turf it off as i wad shotting too much.
DM: Hiya Harry, this is Olivia, stepping in as a good friend. We are having a little party at the flat and would love you to come.
DM: I’d text you myself but I haven’t got your number.
DM: Did you know you are the only person besides myself that Draco texts? Seems like the type of thing you might be interested in.
DM: jof a34 59ff
DM: how dor you delet messages ¡™÷cv alreday dent?
HP: LOL! You can’t, you dolt.
HP: send me the addy. i’ll join u.
Harry threw the blanket off and rolled off the sofa. After showering, he rummaged around through the clothes on the floor for something that smelled relatively clean before he remembered Malfoy had just given him new clothes. He put on a smart green shirt and rolled up the sleeves as Draco had before he thundered down the stairs. He’d just got on his trainers when the floo chimed.
“Harry?” came Hermione’s voice.
“Harry, you’re awake!” she said, impressed. “And dressed well!”
His phone buzzed, but he didn’t check it.
“Yes, er, quite.”
“On a Saturday.” Hermione didn’t even try to hide her surprise. “It’s going well, I take it? With the mystery partner?”
Harry scratched the back of his neck.
“Er, yeah.. Well..”
“Well, that’s wonderful! Ron and I were going to invite you over for dinner, but it looks as though you’re just out the door.”
“Oh, er.. Yeah. I’m just off, actually.”
Hermione smiled warmly at him. “That’s wonderful, Harry. Where are you headed? Ow! Ron! That was my leg.” Hermione’s head withdrew from the fire for a moment. Harry’s mobile buzzed again.
“Sorry, Harry. You don’t have to tell me where you’re off to, I’m not your mum.” She threw a pointed look at Ron, who Harry couldn’t see from this side of the floo. “Have a good time.”
“I will, thanks. Tell Ron I said hi. Give Rosie a kiss for me.”
Harry dug his phone out of his pocket as soon as the bright green flames died out.
DM: Wheree ar eyou?
Harry appearated to behind the Tesco he knew Malfoy shopped at. He was knocking on the door of the flat a few blocks later. Olivia opened the door and let him in.
“Hallo, love.” She kissed him on the cheek. She smelled strongly of alcohol. “We’re in here.”
Harry followed her down a narrow hallway past an open door on his left. Harry peeked in on his way, spying a closed Hogwarts trunk. Malfoy’s room, obviously. The loos were the next door on the right. Then the hall ended with another door directly in front of him and opened up into the shared living space on the left.
“Look who I found.” Olivia said in a sing-song sort of voice. “It’s Harry, Harry Potter.”
“Oh, good.” said a girl Harry didn’t know with long black hair up in a ponytail who was tapping away at her mobile. “Now Draco can finally shut up about him.” She set the phone down on the coffee table and waved. Once she saw Harry, her jaw dropped and Harry’s stomach churned. “You look just like my cat!” she exclaimed.
“Er, what?” Harry asked, completely flummoxed but relieved.
“Hi, I’m Rachel.”
“POTTER” Malfoy bellowed from the kitchen. “There you are!” Malfoy shoved his way through a cluster of people between the kitchen and the sofa. He was wearing another form fitting t-shirt that stopped just above the top of his jeans. It wasn’t until he realised he could see the top of his pants poking out from under Maloy’s jeans that Harry realised just what a terrible idea this whole night was.
“Potter!” Malfoy shouted again, this time from just in front of his face. Malfoy grabbed one of Harry’s shoulders. “I owe you a life debt!” he called out. The noise in the flat died. Everyone stared at them.
Harry had no words. He glanced around the room carefully. “Erm.” Harry pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose. “Not to worry.” He said to the crowd of eyes pinned on him. “He’s just a bit drunk is all.”
The noise slowly picked back up, but Harry couldn’t help but feel they were all still watching. Olivia handed Harry a much needed drink.
“No, Potter!” Malfoy said urgently. “You saved my life! You didn’t have to do that!” Malfoy had Harry by both shoulders. He shook them for emphasis. The punch spilled over the plastic up onto Harry’s fingers.
“I thought you two hated each other at school.” Olivia said, curiously. She glanced between them and passed Harry a napkin.
Harry stepped back from Malfoy to dry his hands. “We do. Did. We er.. We did hate each other.”
“Potter here,” Malfoy put his hand on Harry’s sternum and turned to face the girls on the sofa. “Once Potter flew a car into a tree.”
Harry cringed and was glad more now than ever that he no longer worked for the DMLE. He gave the girls an awkward smile. “Drove, Malfoy. The word you’re looking for is ‘drove.’”
“I know what words are Potter.” Malfoy drawled.
“Congratulations.” he replied tartly.
Rachel (or was it Rebecca?) frowned, “You weren’t drinking, were you?”
“No, erm.. I fell asleep at the wheel?” he offered. Their looks of concern did not dissipate, so Harry shrugged. “No one got hurt.”
“HAH!” Malfoy said loudly. “That’s not even the worst of it. He spent all of sixth year following me ‘round!” Malfoy accused. He still looked at Olivia as he said this.
“I thought you were up to something!” Harry protested.
The girls on the couch looked like they were at Wimbledon, their heads whipped back and forth between Malfoy and Harry.
“Which I was.” Malfoy took a long gulp from his glass. “On second thought. Let’s not speak of sixth year.”
“Yeah, let’s not.” Harry agreed.
Olivia, bless her, tried to keep the conversation going. “So, Harry, Harry Potter. What do you do, then?”
“Potter can do magic!” Malfoy announced, an evil grin spreading across his face. “Ow! That was my foot, you dunce!”
Harry wished he had a wall to slam his head against. Better yet, Malfoy’s head.
“Can you really?” Asked another girl with drunken enthusiasm.
“Oooohh, yes, do magic!” Rachel added.
“What can you do, love? Card tricks?” Olivia asked.
Harry glared at Malfoy, who laughed with delight. “I supposed I can do, er... coin tricks? I haven’t got any on me though.”
Malfoy handed him a pound. Harry tried to murder him through occulamency and failed. Maloy only snickered.
“Why do you even have this?” He asked.
“Are you asking why I have mug- money? Normal money? I use it to purchase normal items.”
“You can just say money, Draco.” The other girl chimed in. “We’ve talked about this.”
Harry shook his head.
“I can list the normal items I purchase if it pleases you. Jaffa cakes. Oyster Cards. Batteries.” Malfoy put up a finger for each item he listed.
“Oh, sod off,” Harry said without heat. He took the pound from Malfoy and flipped it around in his hands a few times.
“You’re stalling. Do magic!” Malfoy demanded.
Harry shot him a dark look and held the coin up for Olivia and Rachel/Rebecca to see. Then he formed a fist around it and cast a wandless vanishing spell. When he showed them his empty palms, they clapped far more enthusiastically than they would have had they been sober.
“Yaaaas Harry, you’re magic!”
“Hear that Potter?” Malfoy leaned in and whispered in Harry’s ear. “You’re magic.” Harry shivered at Malfoy’s breath on his neck.
Malfoy pulled back and held his palm out. “I’ll take my pound back, thank you.”
“Oh, no, it’s gone,” Harry said. “Vanished.”
“You vanished my pound!” Malfoy was scandalised.
“You’re drunk.” Harry accused.
Malfoy nodded at him sagely. “I am drunk.”
“Fantastic, I will join you.” Harry said and downed his glass in three gulps. He turned to Olivia. “Do you mind if I have another?”
“Help yourself, love. It’s a party.”
Harry made his way to the kitchen in search of more punch. He tried to ignore the fact that as soon as he left Malfoy’s side, a fit bloke with tan skin and brown hair started chatting him up.
Harry came back with another, stronger drink and a tall man with yellow-blonde hair trying to pull Malfoy. Harry sighed inwardly and joined the group around the coffee table in some sort of card based drinking game. Harry didn’t quite follow it, but neither did Malfoy, so he didn’t feel too bad. Malfoy sat on the floor beside him and Harry tried not to gloat at the tall adonis Malfoy had cavalierly abandoned. Instead, Harry and Malfoy got into their cups trying to learn the card game. Every so often, a rule of the drinking game was broken and the rule breaker had to sing a song the muggles all seemed to know.
Malfoy leaned in to Harry. “Muggle are so weird.” he whispered.
Harry snickered, remembering the odd pub they’d gone to where everyone dressed in terrycloth robes carrying towels.
“Not in a bad way!” Malfoy whispered urgently. “Merlin, I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant…” he gestured at the two girls in front of them who had broken the rules. One girl was standing upright on the arm of the sofa with her arms straight out to either side. The other girl, Rachel or Rebecca from earlier, was standing pressed up behind her, holding her waist.
“Neear, Farrrr, where eeeeeever you arrre.” they sang in unison.
“Jack, I’m flying,” the girl in front said. Harry was fairly certain the girl’s name was Jacinda. Her long, black ponytail swished over her shoulder. Then they collapsed into a pile of laughter on the sofa. The rest of the drunk party goers burst out in cheers.
“What even year is this?” someone yelled at the two girls.
“Sod off, Anika!” she yelled back. “I’m feeling nostalgic.”
“Weird.” Malfoy said emphatically in Harry’s ear. He tried to repress another shiver.
They both managed to extricate themselves from the drinking game before they broke any rules. Which was very good, as they knew none of the songs.
A couple of hours later, the party had mostly died down. Only Rosie, or was it Rebecca? And Olivia was left with Harry and Malfoy. Harry helped Olivia clean up a bit. Malfoy was ensconced on the sofa along with.. The not-the-ponytail girl. Harry was shit at names. He didn’t know why he even tried. Someone connected their mobile into a speaker of some sort and they were listening to music Harry didn’t recognise. The girls both seemed to know it and sang an occasional line. It was a rather peaceful wind-down.
Harry filled a glass with water and passed it to Malfoy. “Drink up.”
“Sure thing, MUM.” he drawled.
When the last of the party detritus was cleared away, Harry offered to take the rubbish out.
“Oh, thanks, love.” Olivia cooed. “I’m knackered.”
A car pulled up to the curb when Harry was on his way out.
“Nice to meet you, Harry!”
“You too, Rebecca.”
“It’s Rachel.” she said, exasperated. She climbed into the back seat. “How difficult is that, honestly?”
“Sorry!” he called as the car drove off.
Harry found himself alone with Malfoy on the sofa, both nursing glasses of water. It must have been Olivia’s phone connected to the speaker, since Rachel would have obviously taken her with her. It had shifted to a band Harry thought he recognised, the song that made Harry think of Malfoy. About seeing each other again. Harry joined him on the sofa.
“Why didn’t you just convince Olivia to go to bed and then vanish it?” Malfoy asked.
Harry paused. He’d never even thought of it. He scowled at Malfoy. “Why didn’t you?”
Malfoy shrugged. “You’re the one who can do wandless magic, not me.”
“How did you know that?”
“Potter, you have the subtlety of a peacock. I’ve seen you numerous times.” His grey eyes cut right through Harry. His heart rate picked up. “Not to mention earlier this evening. You owe me a pound, by the way.”
“Hermione is worried about it, the wandless thing.” Harry said, “I dunno, doesn’t seem so bad.”
“It’s the mark of a powerful wizard, you know. Most of us can only do wandless magic as children. And even then only when in immediate danger.”
“Hm..” Harry chewed his lip before taking a long drink of water.
“How was your first muggle party, then, Potter?”
“Oh, this wasn’t my first muggle party.” Harry said offhand.
“No, I er…” Harry scratched the back of his neck. “I’ve dated muggles before.”
Malfoy was incredulous. “You have?” Harry watched his soft mouth drop open.
Malfoy sat up straight. “Go on.”
“There’s not much to say. I gave it a go.” Harry shrugged, “But it never really… went.”
“Ah, yes, eloquent as ever. Thank you for sharing that riveting story.”
Harry rolled his eyes.
“Hah!” Malfoy poked Harry’s shoulder with his long, elegant fingers. “I saw that!”
“Your eye roll, Potter. Don’t think I didn’t. It’s quite rude, you know.”
“I don’t know why I bother with you.”
“It’s because I’m very handsome.”
“And so humble.”
Malfoy leaned closer to Harry. “So you agree” he drawled, trailing a finger down Harry’s shoulder. He was very close now. Their thighs were pressed against each other. “You think I’m handsome.”
“Of course you are. Everyone knows you’re fit,” Harry said. “Half the blokes at this party were trying to pull you.”
Malfoy grinned wolfishly at him. “Noticed that, did you?” Their faces were only a few centimetres away. Harry’s heartbeat was a drumroll.
“Malfoy, what are you doing?” Harry tore his eyes away from Malfoy’s hand, which was now on his knee, and took a sip of water.
“I’m flirting with you. Why do you always ask me that?”
Harry choked on his drink.
“My hand is on your knee. We’re alone on the sofa and I’ve been trying to snog you all evening. Just how thick are you?”
Harry smirked at Malfoy, “Wouldn’t you like to know.”
It was Malfoy’s turn to get flustered now.
“Potter, your mind is entirely too filthy.”
They stared at each other, the grey eyes and the green. Desire washed over Harry like a wave. He watched Malfoy’s eyes dilate.
“Are you still drunk?” Harry breathed.
“Not in the slightest.” Draco said.
“Good. I’ve been thinking about you all day.” Harry set his glass down on the end table and turned to face Malfoy directly. He leaned in so their foreheads were touching. He let the scent of Malfoy wash over him. It was the cologne that drove him over the edge. Harry’s hand went to Malfoy’s jaw and brought their mouths gloriously together. Malfoy was an enthusiastic kisser. Harry’s stomach was doing flips. Kiss after kiss, their mouths tangled together. It was every race for the snitch they’d ever had. It was the thrill of the chase and triumph of winning. Malfoy’s clever hands found their way under Harry’s t-shirt almost immediately. Harry gasped and Malfoy’s tongue slid into his mouth. He groaned and pushed Malfoy down on the sofa. It was a fight between breathing and kissing, where breathing was a sore loser.
“Merlin Potter” Malfoy breathed heavily. Harry bit his jaw lightly and pressed kisses onto the bite. “Are you always like this?”
Malfoy’s hands dug into Harry’s sides when Harry bit down gently on his ear. He wanted more. He wanted Malfoy moaning in a thousand different ways.
“Like what?” Harry moved back to Malfoy’s perfect mouth, preventing him from answering.
“Insatiable.” he said eventually.
Their mouths came together again and again. Their bodies twined on the sofa without enough friction. It was the strongest patronus Harry had ever cast. The answer to every argument.
It was finally feeling alive.
Draco needed to owl Granger back and send his mother a response. He’d been putting off the correspondence with the not-so-sudden reappearance of his Potter Obsession. The last few times Draco attempted to fortify himself for Diagon Alley, he’d ended up on the steps of 12 Grimmauld Place.
With the letters sitting judgementally on his desk, Draco attempted to set out again. He ran over the logical reasons for visiting Diagon Alley. Blaise was out of town. Potter didn’t have an owl. And Draco was out of options. There was nothing for it. He needed to get to Diagon Alley. The unfortunate part of this plan was his lack of polyjuice potion. Instead, Draco dug his charmed hat out of his trunk, along with some shielded robes. He changed out of his clothes from the bakery and slipped into his robes. He looked at himself in the mirror. It was odd to see himself as a wizard after so many months of muggle clothing. The hat looked awful. Draco used a disillusionment charm on it and inspected himself again. He looked too much like his father for Draco’s comfort. Perhaps a haircut was in order afterward.
Shield hat secured, cloak fastened, Draco appearated to the back of the Leaky Cauldron and tapped the brick to get into Diagon Alley. He marched down the streets and rounded the corner of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. The garish orange building was impossible to ignore, but Draco attempted to do so anyway. It was a poor attempt at an impossible task. Draco’s heart filled with guilt thinking of the one remaining Weasley twin. Draco walked past as swiftly as possible. He wove deftly through the crowd to the Owl Post.
Draco’s nerves got to him when he queued for the Owl Rental service. There were only three people in front of him. One was a small, oddly shaped person emitting a strange, green-tinged steam. The next person was a mum and her two awful children bickering loudly while she ignored them. Draco would have been slapped had he behaved so obsequious in public as a child. The person directly in front of Draco was an older woman with a pile of packages teetering on the edge of collapse.
One of the small children ran smack into the old woman’s legs. Draco watched the top package tilt over the edge. He grabbed it before it could fall, jostling the old woman as he did so.
“Here you are, ma’am.” He said, steadying her shoulder. She smacked his hands away.
“How dare you, sir!” She glared up at him.
“Pardon?” Draco asked, perplexed. “I caught your package.” He held it out to her.
“Give me that, young man!” She snatched it back. “I ought to report you for theft!”
The mum and her awful children were watching. As were some patrons near the back. Draco swallowed his pride, trying to de-escalate the situation.
“Apologies, madam. I just caught it, was all.”
“Oi!” someone yelled from the back of the growing queue. Draco’s heart sank.
“That’s a Death Eater!”
“Yeah, that’s the Malfoy heir!”
The rumbling and muttering caught the attention of the Owl Post staff. A man in a dark purple uniform came up to them.
“Is this scum bothering you?” He asked the old woman.
She pointed her clawed finger at him. “He tried to steal my son’s birthday present!”
The purple uniform turned to glare at Draco. “We’ll have to ask you to leave, sir.”
“But I need to-”
“Sir. You need to leave. Now.” He pointed his brutish arm at the door.
Draco sighed. Perhaps someone else would let him borrow an owl. As he turned to go, he could hear the old woman going on about her son’s bravery and Draco’s own indecency.
“Tosser.” Someone said under their breath. Draco’s skin prickled. Hexes always followed closely after the insults. He quickly darted out the door and round the corner. He leaned against the brick wall of a small side street. Someone must have followed him because the next moment he was surrounded by flames with his back against the wall.
The orange flames grew larger and larger until they were a wall Draco couldn’t see through. He couldn’t breathe. The heat was everywhere.
His vision dimmed.
His limbs wouldn’t stop shaking.
The smell of smoke overwhelmed Draco. Smoke everywhere. In his lungs. In his eyes.
He couldn’t breathe.
The Fiendfyre consumed everything in its path.
Draco was terrified. He had his arms wrapped around Greg’s unconscious body. He had to get them higher. Draco clambered up over a pile of desks. He lost track of Vince, but Draco was less concerned about him than his own neck. Greg slipped nearly out of his arms when one of the desk legs collapsed.
The flames leapt at their feet, singeing their robes. Sweat dripped off Draco’s forehead, his clammy hands struggled to cling to Greg’s robes. He saw Potter flying up above him, and without even thinking, raised his arm.
Potter the Saviour.
Tears mixed with sweat streaming down Draco’s face. He just wanted everything to be over. The Dark Lord sent Draco to his death. He didn’t give a shit if Draco died for his stupid cause.
And here was Potter.
Risking his life to save Malfoy’s because it was the right thing to do. No one had ever done that for Draco before. Sure, Dumbledore tried, but Malfoy wasn’t ready to hear it.
Fuck Lucius Malfoy. Fuck the Dark Lord and his cronies. If they made it out, Draco was done.
He could barely see through smoke. Potter swooped down and Draco tried to get Greg onto the broom, but he kept slipping. The fire was everywhere, the heat unbearable. He dimly heard Potter and Weasley yelling at each other and then Weasley was there taking Goyle on with Granger. Draco clung to Potter, not caring how weak he looked. He needed saving, and Potter was there to save him. It was desperation and sweat and fear.
“The door, get to the door, the door!” Draco screamed.
Draco found himself on all fours, heaving his guts out. The bright light receded. He spewed again, with nothing left in his stomach, he was reduced to spitting up bile. He couldn’t breathe. Draco thought he was going to die. His muscles ached, his bones hurt. He was sweating profusely.
Someone had a hand on his shoulder.
“Breathe. Just breathe.”
Draco focused on counting to four. Breathe in two, three, four. Breathe out two, three, four, five.
“You’re alright Malfoy. Just keep breathing.”
Fuck. That was Weasley. Again. Weasley saved him again. At least he hadn’t shat himself.
The lightness in his head receded. Draco sat down, leaning his back against the wall.
“Are you hurt, Malfoy?” Weasley asked, his voice professionally concerned.
Draco shook his head slightly.
“Look, I er.. I’ve got to file a report. Are you sure you’re not hurt?”
“I am not hurt.” he panted. Draco looked up at the tower of a man that was Auror Ron Weasley. Weasley handed him a cylindrical metal flask, which Draco eyed dubiously.
“Go on, it’s only water, innit.”
Draco gulped down the water. His breathing became more regular.
Breathe in two, three, four. Breathe out two, three, four, five.
“Fuck.” He said again. “I only needed to send an owl.” He pressed the palms of his hands over his closed eyes, willing the unwelcome tears away.
“Just take it easy.” Weasley said. “Keep focusing on breathing at regular intervals.”
Breathe in two, three, four. Breathe out two, three, four, five.
It helped. Not much. But at least he would not cry in front of Weasley in addition to puking everywhere.
“How’d you become so calm and rational, Weasley?” Draco asked without any heat. His voice came out shakier than was ideal.
Weasley snorted. “Do you want to have a go at me for being poor? For old time’s sake?”
Draco almost laughed. Almost.
Weasley was quiet a moment, making notes with his quill. He put them away and held a hand out to help Draco out. Draco took it.
“So you were sending an owl?”
“Mrs Worthington in there says were you trying to steal her package.”
“Nonsense. That horrible old woman nearly dropped her stupid parcel. I caught it. Which I regret.”
“Draco Malfoy regrets helping elderly woman. Got it.” Weasley said with a smile. “No surprise there.”
Draco gave him a flat look.
“Right. Erm.. Did you see who attacked you?”
“No.” Draco shook his head.
“Do you need to go to St. Mungos?”
Draco looked at him with as much disdain as he could muster. “If you must know, I am not welcome at St. Mungos.”
Weasley cocked an eyebrow at him. He looked exactly like Potter when he did it. Their expressions and gestures were more similar than Draco had noticed before. In how children who grow up with each other have the same expressions and gestures.
“I’ve a lifetime ban, it seems.” Draco didn’t feel like going into the chairperson of the board at St. Mungos being tortured by his aunt. “Regardless, I don’t need a healer. I just want to go. Do you need anything else from me? Am I free to go?”
Weasley eyed him a moment.
“Harry has them too, you know.” he said.
Draco’s eyes snapped to Weasley’s. He knew. He’d seen it.
“The panic attacks.” Weasley continued. “Flashbacks. Most people who live through a war do, Malfoy.”
“Why are you telling me this? You shouldn’t be telling me this.”
Weasley shrugged. He and Potter could write a book on how to communicate by shoulders alone. “Hermione mentioned she ran into you a while back. You’ve been writing. I figure if you’re willing to set up an apology date, you must be worth treating somewhat humanely.”
“Ah, yes. Well, that’s who I was trying to owl, actually. Our last ‘date’, as you called it, got interrupted.” Draco drew the scroll out of his pocket. “Would you give this to her for me?”
“Course.” Weasley ticked it into his robes. “Do you need to do anything else in Diagon Alley? I can escort you, if you’d like.”
Draco didn’t think he could suffer the humiliation of it, never mind that Weasley found him surrounded by sick.
“No, but I have another letter I need to send.” He said cautiously.
Weasley held his hand out. “I’ll take it for you.”
“Why are you doing this?” Draco asked, before he could stop himself.
“It’s the right thing to do.” Weasley said, shrugging for the millionth time. “I’ll post your letter, give it here.”
Malfoy handed it over. “I should be off.”
“I’ll walk you out.”
Draco’s cheeks tinged pink. He tugged the sleeves of his robes down. “That won’t be necessary.”
“No offence, Malfoy, but it really is. They attacked you in the middle of Diagon Alley. It’s not safe, mate.”
Weasley walked him out. They walked side by side at a leisurely pace. Weasley gave nothing away to indicate this was out of the ordinary or to imply that Draco was unwelcome. When they got to the brick wall leading to The Leaky Cauldron, Draco turned and looked him in the eye. They weren’t quite of a height. Weasley had more than a few centimetres on him.
Draco held out his hand. “Thank you Weasley. You’re a good man. I owe you an apology too.”
“Looking forward to it, Malfoy. I’m not taking the piss or anything.” he added quickly. “Take care of yourself, alright?”
Draco nodded. He appearated to his flat and immediately regretted it. Olivia was out running errands with Rachel. The flat was so very empty and Draco desperately needed to be around other people. He would normally seek Blaise when he was in this mood. But Blaise was still on his European tour.
Draco collapsed on his bed. The little slip of paper Potter had given him still lay on the bedside table. 12 Grimmauld Place. Should he text Harry before he arrived, now that he had a mobile? How many times was too many to visit uninvited in a week?
Harry was yet again shirtless when Malfoy arrived at the door to Grimmauld Place. It shouldn’t have been totally out of place, as it was far enough in the evening that pensioners would get ready for bed. Malfoy didn’t even notice.
“Everything alright?” Harry asked with a frown.
Draco chewed on his lip. He opened his mouth and closed it. He tried again, and Harry threw the door open. “I’ll take that as a no. Fancy a drink?”
Malfoy’s shoulders sagged and he nodded, following Harry into the house.
Harry had let the fire die down in the sitting room, but the lamps were still on. He installed Malfoy on the sofa and, after a few minutes, put a mug of tea in his hand. Harry silently congratulated Hermione’s voice in his head on serving tea instead of jumping right in for the hard liquor. He also congratulated Malfoy’s voice in his head by putting on a t-shirt.
“Er… Want to talk about it?” Harry asked cautiously while he scratched the back of his neck.
Malfoy shook his head. He sipped his tea. Harry arched an eyebrow, which Malfoy ignored. Harry sighed and relaxed into the sofa while he waited for the inevitable-
“What’s the point?” Malfoy said loudly and slammed his mug down on the coffee table. Several drops of tea sloshed over the sides. “What’s the point of anything?”
“Getting right to it, then, eh?”
“There is nothing I can do that will make those people happy, make them forgive me.”
“Ah.” Harry sighed and rubbed his hands against his eyes beneath his glasses. “I think this is a conversation better suited to alcohol.” He got up and grabbed the whisky bottle. He poured a generous measure into each of their mugs. “What happened?”
“I went to Diagon Alley,” he drawled. “Like any normal wizard would do.”
“Well, fuck.” Harry could picture exactly how poorly that would go. “I’m sorry, mate. What happened?”
“The same thing that always happens.” Malfoy sighed. “And for pity’s sake, don’t apologise to me. I’m the one who needs to be apologising.”
Harry watched him quietly while his insides squirmed uncomfortably.
“I keep trying and it never seems to make a difference.” Draco went on, his voice gained strength as he spoke. “It’s too late for me. Never mind I was tried and convicted. Never mind I am the one who has to live with-” Malfoy slammed his mug on the table again, empty this time. “Fuck, I hate this!” He shouted. Then his shoulders sagged and Harry barely heard him whisper. “I hate all of this.”
“I dunno what to tell you.” Harry said helpfully. “It’s awful for you, I know.” Hermione was so much better at this stuff. He tried to think of the similar talks he’d had with her.
Harry got up to refill Malfoy’s mug with whisky. “I guess just.. Be yourself, Malfoy. Eventually they will see you’re more than..” he trailed off as he turned around to face Malfoy directly.
“A Death Eater?” he provided morosely.
“Well,” Harry stared at his bare toes on the carpet. “Yeah.” He plonked the newly refilled mug down in front of Malfoy.
“Easy for you to say,” Malfoy drawled. “You’re bloody perfect.”
Harry frowned as he sat beside Malfoy with his back to the armrest and put his feet up on the cushions. He nudged Malfoy’s thigh with his toes. “You’ve got to stop saying that. You know it isn’t true.” He insisted.
Malfoy scoffed. “Well, for your information, I can’t just ‘be myself,’ Potter, because I’m shit.” He swallowed and tugged his shirtsleeve down. His voice came out thick. “I said those words. I did those things.”
He lifted his shining grey eyes to meet Harry’s.
“I am exactly what you call me: Malfoy. A name synonymous with blood purity and megalomania.”
“I think you’re being too hard on yourself.” Harry said softly. It was the same voice he used on Teddy when he was having a tantrum, somewhere between soothing and firm. “You can’t control the environment you where you grew up and you can’t control what you were raised to believe. You don’t live that way now and you know better.”
Malfoy glared into his spiked tea. “You’re not understanding me, Potter. You’re not listening. Let me put it this way.” He looked up, his eyes desperate. “When you look in the mirror, what do you see?”
Harry shoved his glasses up by the bridge. “I try not to, if I’m honest.”
Malfoy smirked, his eyes flicked to Harry’s dishevelled hair. “Well, no one will accuse you of being a liar on that point.”
Harry gave him a half smile.
“Look.” Malfoy went on, “When I look in the mirror, there’s nothing decent looking back. Not a single thing.” His voice broke. “It’s just wasted opportunity. Cowardice. A pathetic lack of anything worthwhile.” A tear slid down Malfoy’s cheek. Harry wanted to reach over and wipe it away, but didn’t know if he was allowed.
“Take all that,” Malfoy continued, “and manipulate it into something that passes for acceptable in society. Take that worthless, spineless cunt and wrap him in galleons. No one will be the wiser for it. I look at the way I’m treated now and know exactly how much worse it should be.” His eyes, now shedding tears wantonly, slid over to Harry’s. “You should’ve let me rot in Azkaban, Potter.”
“I don’t regret it.” Harry heard himself say fiercely.
Malfoy scoffed and looked away, wiping his eyes. “You’re a fool, then.”
“I don’t.” Harry insisted, furious.
Malfoy’s laugh was hollow. Empty in a way that made Harry’s skin prickle.
“Which bit don’t you regret, Potter? The part where my family willingly served the Dark Lord and actively tried to kill you? How old were you when my father first took a swing with the proverbial bludger, eh? 12?”
He had a point there.
“Or is it the later bits you don’t regret? What about how I single-handedly brought Death Eaters to Hogwarts? Carrows? Remember him? No, you wouldn’t, would you. You were off on the world’s shittest camping trip with Granger and Weasley. Let me just tell you, Potter, it was not pleasant. And it was my fault. Mine alone.”
“Malfoy, look. It wasn’t your fault.”
Malfoy laughed again, not a trace of humour in it. He stood and crossed to the drinks trolly with Harry following closely behind.
“Malfoy,” Harry pleaded, “It’s not. People are capable of incredible things when their lives are on the line. More so when the lives of their family are. Sometimes those incredible things are also terrible.”
“Stop it, Potter,” he spat. “Stop making excuses for me.”
“We can’t control how we were raised!” Harry practically shouted. “You were conditioned from infancy to follow a certain… ideology.”
“Is that what you tell yourself?” Malfoy scoffed. He filled an empty glass to the brim, a slight tremor in his hand made the amber liquid ripple.
“Because that’s total crap, Potter. I did what I did, and I did it knowingly.” He emptied his glass in one long gulp and his voice came out haggard and desperate. “You should have left me in that fire!”
Harry grabbed Malfoy by the shoulder and spun him around until they were glaring at each other centimetres apart. Rage and something else that Harry couldn’t name boiled up in his chest. His hands trembled as they clutched Malfoy’s shirt.
“You’re trying, Malfoy!” Harry wanted to scream but tamped it down. “That’s more than most people I know.” His fists clenched tighter on Malfoy’s shirt. “Everyone deserves a second chance. And you never had one. Never! From the beginning, the people you loved and idealised taught you to believe all that pure blood shite.” Harry took a steadying breath. “I can’t imagine coming down from that. But you’re doing it! You’re out there every day working with muggles. Living your life for yourself. Not for Voldemort.” Malfoy flinched, but Harry kept going. “Not for your parents. For you. Everyone deserves a second chance. Dumbledore knew you had good within you. And I do too.” Harry’s eyes blazed with passion. “There are people who deserve Azkaban, but you’re not one of them. I don’t regret keeping you out.” He said, not breaking eye contact with Malfoy.
Malfoy swallowed, “I do.” he whispered.
Harry searched the grey eyes and didn’t like what he found. It was the same hollow look Harry tried to pretend wasn’t in the mirror he avoided every night. Malfoy deserved better than that. He deserved so much more than a life of regret. Harry’s hand found its way into Malfoy’s hair.
“Malfoy..” Harry breathed, “don’t say that.” Harry’s eyes landed on Malfoy’s pale lips. He heard Malfoy’s breath catch. Harry’s heart was racing. He closed the distance between them. Their mouths slotted together beautifully. Malfoy’s hands were on Harry’s hips instantly, tugging him closer. Christ, it was perfect. It was discovering magic. It was Christmas at Hogwarts and every moment a new gift. Harry nibbled on Malfoy’s lower lip and ran his tongue over each bite until Malfoy opened up. He couldn’t help the noise that escaped him as he licked his way into Malfoy’s mouth. Harry’s stomach did somersaults when one of Malfoy’s hands crept under his jumper.
“Merlin, Potter,” Malfoy whispered, his other hand deep in Harry’s unmanageable hair. It was perfect. It was an escape from the Dursleys, escape from the mundane, escape from the Ministry. The warm slide of Malfoy’s tongue against his own. Malfoy nipped at his lip, his jaw, his earlobe. Harry couldn’t get enough of it. It was a sprint for their survival. His hands were everywhere. On Malfoy’s hip, down around his arse, tugging him closer so Harry could enjoy the pressure of their groins together. It was their shirts gone and skin exposed. Malfoy made the most wonderful sounds. Malfoy shoved him back against a wall, and Harry couldn’t repress the moan that escaped his lips. It was hope in the dark. A lifeline in the most crucial moment. Harry had never needed anyone more than he needed Malfoy at this moment.
Eventually they made it up the stairs to Harry's bed where their remaining clothes disappeared.
Potter was awake when Draco opened his eyes. A stupid, soppy grin on his face.
“Were you watching me sleep?”
Potter bit his lip and looked away. “Couldn’t help myself, could I.” The flush on his cheeks betrayed the nonchalance of his voice.
“You really are obsessed with me, aren’t you?” Draco drawled as something warm and soft uncurled in his stomach.
Potter shoved his shoulder. “Prat.”
Draco couldn’t remember ever being this happy before. Not since he turned twelve, anyway.
“Fancy some breakfast?”
“Have you got food here?” Draco asked. He was pretty sure last time he’d looked through the cupboards in an attempt to make tea that he’d not spotted any actual food.
Potter shrugged. “We could go out. Or get takeaway.”
“That involves getting out of bed. Not something I’m inclined to do.”
“What are you inclined to do, then, Malfoy?” said Potter, the cheeky bastard.
They had a delightful morning indeed.
When they surfaced for air, satiated and glowing, Draco really couldn’t put off food any longer. They showered together, finally fulfilling his adolescent fantasy of blowing Potter in the quidditch changing room showers. Not that he’d ever confess to that particular fantasy. A man could only handle so much humiliation before he imploded. Letting Potter know he’d been the impetus for Draco’s teenage sexual awakening was a step too far, even for him.
They got tea and pastries from somewhere other than where Draco worked, which was an immense relief. He wasn’t quite ready for Olivia’s smug, knowing looks. She’d been insufferable enough after the party from which Draco had awoken alone on the couch. His initial disappointment eased by a text from Potter asking to meet up for coffee later. Then Olivia spotted the hickeys on his neck and collarbone. Draco sat there in his rumpled t-shirt, his Potter-esque messy hair, covered in hickeys, smelling faintly of alcohol while Olivia positively glowed. Before he’d have even an ounce of caffeine. It was unbearable.
She would be just as jubilant if she saw them now: Potter with his soppy smile, Draco basking in a happiness he didn’t deserve. Potter let Draco dress him in a smart shirt and snug, tailored jeans. Potter even accepted the winter coat Draco brought, the long wool fit him snugly and fell to Potter’s knees. He looked divine. Draco could hardly keep his hands off the stupid git.
They bickered about which line to take on the tube. Hand in hand, Draco pulled Potter down the steps to the correct station. They made up by snogging in the mostly empty carriage.
Someone wolf whistled, and they broke apart. Draco’s cheeks coloured. He’d completely lost his composure. He wasn’t the sort to engage in excessive PDA. Luckily, he was on the Tube surrounded by muggles and no one who would actually care could see him.
He and Potter snapped their heads around.
Pansy Parkinson stood near the door. She wore a sleek muggle suit made of wide legged trousers and a fitted blazer. With her shiny black bob and red lipstick, she was quite fearsome to behold. Draco felt the happiness of the moment disappear, replaced with an icy ball of dread in the pit of his stomach.
“Draco Malfoy? On the tube.” She said, nastily.
“Pansy.” Draco said cautiously. “You’re looking…” he glanced around at the other muggles, none of whom were paying them any attention. “You’re looking well.” He stood up as she came closer.
“You’re no longer looking confused about how snogging works.”
“I’d say he knows what he’s about.” Potter said and stood beside Draco, arm crossed.
Pansy looked positively apoplectic. Her gaze snapped back to Draco, furious.
“You’re with Potter?” she accused.
“Got a problem with it?” Potter said, in full Auror mode. His emotions completely in control. Power radiated out of everything from his stance to the hard glint in his eye. It sent shivers down Draco’s spine.
She ignored him. “I cannot believe you are snogging Harry fucking Potter on the Piccadilly line.” Angry tears formed in her eyes.
Draco cringed at the thought of having this conversation in front of Potter. But there was nothing for it, “Pansy, I wrote to you. I tried to explain. I shouldn’t have messed you about for so long.” he sighed. “For obvious reasons.”
“By ‘obvious’, do you mean your rampant homosexuality or that it’s Potter you’re bumming? I don’t know why I’m surprised. Of course you’re with Harry Potter. He’s the only thing you’ve ever cared about.”
“Pans. I’m so sorry.”
She put on a posh drawl, “No Pansy we can’t sneak out to the Lake and go skinny dipping. I need to see what Potter’s doing. No Pansy, I can’t take you to Hogsmeade. I have to follow Potter around like a lost lamb.”
It was true. Draco had no defence.
“Fuck you Draco.” she spat at him.
“That’s enough.” Potter cut in. There was an unnerving edge to his voice. Draco glanced at him to find him nearly in a fighting stance. If they’d been in Diagon Alley, his wand would be out. Draco knew Harry didn’t need it here. But Pansy didn’t.
She turned her angry, tearful face toward him, her wand in her hand. Thank Merlin, she caught herself. She realised she was on a train full of muggles pointing a wand at Harry Potter. Draco watched the comprehension wash over her. Her eyes went wide at the sight of her wand. She lifted a terrified face to gape at Potter, unable to form words.
“Pansy.” Draco said softly. “I-”
“Fuck you Draco!” she said again vehemently, words apparently not so hard to form.
The carriage came to a stop. She shoved her wand in her handbag with shaking hands. She wiped her tears and darted off as soon as the doors opened. Draco stared after her.
“Are you alright?” Potter asked him, with a gentle hand on his shoulder.
“That went well.” he drawled.
“Do you think she’s still angry with me?”
Potter grimaced in sympathy. “Er.. Do you want to talk about it?”
Potter relaxed and slouched back in the seat. “How much time have we got before your shift?”
“I start at eleven.” Draco followed suit, wrinkling his jacket as he slouched.
Potter checked his watch. “That gives us about a half hour. Fancy a quick shag?”
Potter grinned unabashedly. He stayed with Draco all the way to the cafe. Draco hesitated at the door to the kitchens in the alleyway. Potter grinned again and kissed him swiftly. “Come back to mine later?”
Draco nodded and bit his lip. Potter was glowing. It was disgusting. Draco never wanted it to stop. He rolled his eyes and shoved Potter back. “Alright, bugger off then.”
Rav held up his fist when he came in. Draco made a fist in his own hand and they brought their knuckles together. Draco was quite proud of this. They called it a fist-bump. His first muggle greeting! He didn’t dare learn Rav’s lingo. He’d said ‘laters’ once, and both Rav and Olivia had burst out laughing. Rav called him a posh cunt, but in a somewhat endearing way. So Draco stuck with fist-bumps.
He spent the afternoon baking and brooding alternately. He was over the moon about spending the night with Potter. But Pansy had come as a slap in the face. He made pastel macarons and didn’t think about how long he’d led Pansy on and how sorry he felt about it. He laminated pastry dough and roasted almonds, all the while not thinking about how he’d wanted Potter the whole time he’d been with Pansy. Then he burnt the first batch of almond croissants, thinking about Potter’s mouth and its varied uses. Draco felt guilty about wanting Potter more than he ought. He laminated more dough for the batch of Kouign-Amann and decided he shouldn’t feel bad that his desire for Potter outweighed his guilt about Pansy. He’d tried to apologise multiple times. She wasn’t having it.
Draco’s mind went round in spirals throughout his shift.
In no time at all, Draco was standing at the door to number 12 Grimmauld Place. He followed a grinning Potter into the sitting room.
“What exactly are we doing here?” Draco asked.
Potter sat on the floor with the coffee table in front of him, digging through bits of cardboard for no reason Draco could discern.
“An ImpossiPuzzle.” Potter didn’t look up from his digging.
“Yes, you said.” Draco waited for clarification, which apparently Potter found unnecessary. “Would you like to expand on that?”
Potter paused. He had a collection of small cardboard bits in a pile separated from the other indistinguishable cardboard bits. He closed his eyes and looked suspiciously like he was trying not to laugh.
“An ImpossiPuzzle,” he began slowly, looking up at Draco. “is like a regular jigsaw puzzle. Except Fred and George made it impossible.”
“I don’t like your tone, Potter.” Draco did not point out that only one of the Weasley twins remained.
“And then they cleverly put the word ‘impossible’ with the word ‘puzzle’ to make an entirely new word called ImpossiPuzzle.”
“I don’t need an etymology lesson, Potter. It was a simple question.”
“Do you hear how there are two different words?" Potter asked in mock seriousness. "Impossible and Puzzle.”
“So I’ve been told. Now sit down and pitch in.”
After ten minutes in front of the coffee table, Draco was no longer skeptical. He was born for jigsaw puzzles. It was relaxing and stimulating at the same time. He’d just got a collection of red pieces together and was quite proud of himself. He looked up at Potter to gloat at his progress, but had to do a double take. The pieces, so recently red, were now part of some black and white text.
“What in Merlin’s name has happened to those pieces?”
“That’s where the impossible part comes in.” Potter snickered. “The image you’re working on changes every fifteen minutes.”
Draco’s jaw dropped in horror. “George Weasley is an evil genius.”
Potter laughed. “You’re not wrong. Some of them switch between two or three images. But the hard ones never repeat the image.”
“How on earth are we supposed to complete it? Aren’t we meant to match it to the image on the box?”
Draco glanced at the box. A newspaper stand from the 1920s had replaced the previous image of a sunset. He shook his head. “Unbelievable.”
Potter shot him a grin. “Shut up and hand me those edge pieces.”
Draco licked his lips. “I have to say, Potter. This is not exactly what I expected when you invited me over earlier.”
This was met with an impudent smirk. “I can’t control your uncommunicated expectations.”
Draco’s face fell.
“Oh- er. That’s not..” Potter stumbled over his words. The bluster and self assurance went right out of him. “I just.. Er. I thought you might want something to de-stress a bit after this morning. Not that we can’t do.. “ his cheeks flushed. “Erm, other things.. a bit later.”
Draco blinked. “That’s.. That’s very thoughtful of you, Potter.”
“Did it work?”
“I rather think it did.” A small smile made its way onto Draco’s face. He felt relaxed and hadn’t thought about Pansy once in his focus on the search for matching puzzle pieces.
“Brilliant. Hermione will be well chuffed.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Puzzles are on the ‘Ameliorative and Productive Outlets for Harry’ list she made.”
Draco closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “The what? ”
Draco and Potter were happy. They shouldn’t have been, because Draco didn’t deserve happiness. In fact, if there was one person in the world who acutely did not deserve happiness, it was Draco. But somehow Potter had chosen him. Well, in a manner, anyway. They were together in Draco’s microcosm of the world. But not quite as much in Potter’s. Still, it was more than Draco would ever have hoped for.
Somehow, nearly a year went by without Draco noticing.
Stopping by 12 Grimmauld Place became part of Draco’s daily routine. He woke early for work, baked to his heart’s content, and then came round to see Potter. Sometimes Potter was delightful and full of snark. Sometimes Potter was drunk and brooding at the window. On the delightful days, they went out for muggle take away. Or they joined Olivia and her friends for a night in.
Draco and Potter danced delicately around holidays and birthdays. Draco knew Potter spent his holidays at The Burrow. He couldn’t fathom joining those ventures, and Potter didn’t invite him. They had each other, and it was enough for Draco. That’s what he told himself, anyway.
The morose days involved a lot of drunken commiseration. Draco stayed over more often on those days. He knew what it was to dread the coming day. He also knew how much of a difference having someone who understood made. Draco didn’t talk Potter into being cheered up. And Potter treated him the same. Just as often, Draco was the one in need of soothing. It worked for them. It helped. He didn’t have to hide anything from Potter, because the man already knew every terrible thing Draco had done. It was a relief just to exist in the same space.
He should have known it was too good to last.
Draco arrived at 12 Grimmauld Place after his shift and found Potter upstairs at his brooding window. The sun went down and evening took over the sky. Potter was dressed in the same sleep clothes as when Draco had seen him last a few days ago. The same detritus covered the bedroom. In fact, the only difference in the room was the music. Potter had moved the victrola into his bedroom, where it sat by the window. He glanced up when Draco entered the room. He gave Draco a half smile and turned back to the window. What little remained of Draco’s black and shrivelled heart ached in his chest. He placed a swift kiss on Potter’s forehead and set out making tea using the various tea accoutrements he’d collected on Potter’s drinks trolley. If the odd container of Nescafe appeared, he wasn’t about to complain. When it was ready, Draco swapped out the whisky in Potter’s glass for a cup of tea. Potter hadn’t noticed when Draco initially picked up the mug, but he half smiled once he realised what Draco had done.
Draco kissed his forehead again and sat down in the chair beside him.
“What’s on your mind, Potter?”
For a long time, they didn’t say anything.
Draco didn’t hold it against him. He levitated another log into the fire from the safety of his chair. They sat quietly and watched the night deepen; the clouds gathering into a storm, letting the music wash over them. It was a song he’d heard Potter listening to before.
“Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus?
You’ve got to help me make a stand
You’ve just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
And I won’t make it any other way”
Draco glanced sidelong at him, but Potter was lost in his thoughts.
“Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again”
It was a full mug of tea later when Potter finally spoke. “I think there might be something wrong with me.”
Draco frowned and tilted his head, “Oh?”
“I think.. “Potter bit his lip. “I think when I came back, I came back wrong.”
“Came back from where?” Draco asked. As far as he was aware, Potter never went anywhere other than France. And even then, only for a week or so.
Potter’s eyes flitted away.
“I can’t remember the last time I was truly happy.” Potter said. He turned to Draco, “I don’t mean the fleeting sort of happy. Like playing quidditch or treacle tart. I mean, the kind where you wake up and you’re not dreading the world and having to exist in it. You know?”
Potter sighed, “I don’t know when I last wanted to wake up in the morning. That can’t be good, can it?”
Draco’s grey eyes held Potter’s with an alarming intensity.
“I wouldn’t know, would I?” Draco said, with more dejection than bitterness.
“Spose not.” Potter turned back to the window, where the rain started to pelt the sides of the house.
“I think the last time I was truly happy was fourth year, maybe?” Draco said.
Draco grinned at him, “Yeah, when I made those Potter Stinks badges.”
Potter huffed a laugh. “That was pretty good magic for a fourth year. I’ve still got mine.”
“Have you really?”
Potter nodded. “It’s over in my trunk.”
The silence stretched on a bit before Potter scratched the back of his neck. “Do you think that’s why my magic is off?”
“Your magic is off?” Draco wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be following Potter’s train of thought. He felt like he was missing a crucial piece of information, but couldn’t place what it was.
“Well, I don’t remember being able to do wandless magic before.”
“Before what?” Draco asked.
“Before I died.”
Draco sat up. His heart pounded in his chest. He had to have heard wrong. “You did what?”
“You didn’t know?” Potter asked with alarming apathy.
“No, Potter, I didn’t know you fucking died.” Draco took a deep breath and willed his heart to slow down. “When did you die?” he asked, quite proud of how calm he sounded.
Potter turned, his green eyes empty. Not a spark of joy or ferocity left in them. Draco could feel the weight of Potter’s stare in his bones.
“Mum said you were alive when she found you,” Draco whispered.
“I came back.” Potter said, looking away. As though this wasn’t a life-changing revelation. As though this wasn’t a magical anomaly of unknown proportions. As though it was fucking normal.
“Oh, you came back, did you?” Draco scoffed. The shock of it made Draco forget himself. “I can’t believe you had a chance to escape this shitty world, and you came back to it.” he said without thinking.
Potter sat up slowly. “I think the same thing sometimes. More and more the last few years,” he admitted. He slid his palms up under his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “It’s why I quit the Aurors. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t have anything left to give.”
“I wouldn’t have come back. I’d have stayed gone.” Draco said softly, voicing the thoughts that had clouded his head since adolescence, “Especially back then.”
“It wasn’t an easy choice, if I’m honest.” Potter picked at a loose string in the hem of his shirt. “But in the end, I didn’t want him to win.” Potter slouched back in his seat again. “I wanted Riddle gone, and I wanted to do it myself.”
“How noble.” Draco drawled. They were quiet a moment, watching the rain slide down the windows.
“I can’t believe you died, Potter. You literally gave your life to save everyone.”
Thunder boomed out through the clouds of the storm.
“You’re impossible.” Draco said. “And utterly improbable.” Draco slouched down further into his seat. “I think I’m in love with you.”
Shit, had he said that last part out loud?
“I should be going.” Draco stood from his chair rapidly. He was across the room in an instant.
“Did you just say you’re in love with me, Malfoy? And now you’re leaving?” Potter looked up at him, devastated. “You love me?” he asked, voice thick with emotion.
Draco froze in the bedroom doorway. He silently cursed himself. He’d become too comfortable in Potter’s presence. He’d stopped filtering his thoughts before they came out.
“I’ve got to get to bed early. Work in the morning.” Draco was down the stairs and out the door in a matter of seconds, rain be damned.
He was such a fool.
Draco hated himself. He hated himself for hoping and for letting his guard down. He didn’t bother appearating. He didn’t want to splinch himself.
He couldn’t believe he’d actually said it out loud.
The rain soaked through his clothes and thunder continued to rumble overhead.
What had he been thinking?
Draco was so lost in his anxiety that he didn’t notice Potter sprinting up behind him. Potter grabbed the arm of his jacket and spun him around. He leaned over, his hands on his knees, panting in the cold, blustering rain.
“The thing is,” he panted.
Draco was afraid, his skin felt as though it were on fire. He wanted to blame it on the icy water splattering around them, but the truth was worse. The truth was that Potter was going to break his heart.
“The thing is, you can’t.” Potter said, faintly out of breath. He was wearing his flannel pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt. He was barefoot. Potter ran barefoot across the pavement to catch up. He was an idiot.
“No, you can’t! Don’t you see?” The tenor of Potter’s voice verged on hysteria.
Draco flushed and pulled the sleeve of his jacket down.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to explain it to me, Potter,” he drawled.
“Fuck.” Potter ran a hand through his soaking hair. “FUCK.” he shouted, more at himself than anything else. He took a deep breath and looked up at Draco.
“Fuck. I- I love you too.” he stammered with a small, sad smile on his face. “You stupid git. I can’t believe you ran off like that. And now we’re out in the rain.”
“You do?” Draco could scarcely believe it. “You don’t seem very happy about it.”
Potter nodded as he panted. “That’s fair. I’ve just done a lot of shouting and panicking, is all.”
Draco’s heart threatened to soar.
“What if it doesn’t work?”
It plummeted instead.
He swallowed thickly and looked down at his shoes. Potter’s bare feet came into his vision. The stupid pyjama pants were soaked up to his ankles. Potter’s shaking arm circled round Draco’s waist.
“What if I can’t be what you need?” he whispered.
Draco felt his arms bring Potter closer. “We’ll figure it out,” he murmured.
“Yeah?” Potter’s voice shook and Draco held him tighter.
“All we can do is our best.” He lifted Potter’s chin and kissed him soundly. It was a perfect kiss, full of passion and longing with just a hint of tongue.
“Now come back to mine.” Potter said against his mouth. “I’m freezing my bollocks off.”
Draco smirked. “Do you need me to carry you back?”
Potter’s green eyes flared, “Don’t you dare.”
The smirk was replaced with an evil grin. Draco picked Potter up by his torso and slung him over his shoulder, Potter’s arse in the air. He beat his fists against Draco’s back, laughing.
“Put me down you arsehole.” Potter could hardly get the words out from laughing.
Draco ran all the way back to 12 Grimmauld Place with Potter over his shoulder. As soon as they were through the doorway, Draco collapsed in a fit of laughter, exhaustion, and endless kisses.
It was relief and disbelief coursing through their veins. It was trembling hands and breathless gasps. Clothing removed one piece at a time. Potter’s relentless drive moving them slowly up the stairs. Each moment savoured.
It was the thrill of new love and the release of old desires.
It was falling asleep together, happily spent.
It was too good to be true.
Draco floated on air for weeks, expecting to get hit by the whomping willow at any moment. He was allowed to kiss Potter when he liked. There was nothing to hide about himself. He didn’t have to change anything. Draco was entirely himself and entirely in love. He rolled over and examined the mess of fluffy black hair beside him.
It was impossible, their situation. Draco knew it. Potter must know it. Potter must feel the strain on the rug; any moment it would be pulled out from beneath them. Something would happen and people would find out. Draco’s eyes followed the hair from Potter’s chest down to a thin line below his navel, where it disappeared beneath the covers. Once people found out, it was only a matter of time before the pitchforks and torches followed. Draco ran his fingers through Potter’s hair, slightly awed he was allowed this. Potter made a contented, sleepy noise and settled in closer to Draco.
The floorboard creaked and Draco’s eyes snapped forward, hand still frozen in Potter’s hair. It was Weasley, leaning on the frame of the open bedroom door. Inexplicably, the man held a basket of laundry propped against his hip. Draco watched as Weasley’s eyes followed their clothing scattered across the floor leading to the bed, his expression unreadable. When his eyes landed back on Draco, he didn’t look away. Draco slowly removed his hand from Potter’s hair and set it back on his lap, still not breaking eye contact. Neither one said anything.
Draco refused to be the one to wake Potter up. He didn’t need to be rescued from this. Weasley, it seemed, had the same inclination. His face was impossible to read. But he wasn’t screaming obscenities at Draco. Not a pitchfork in sight. In fact, he showed very little surprise at finding his best mate in bed with the enemy. Instead of the accusations (and, quite frankly, hexes) that Draco expected, there was a knowing, almost sad look in Weasley’s eyes. Draco clenched his jaw. He’d almost decided to break the silence when Weasley nodded at him, turned, and left as silently as he’d arrived, laundry in tote.
Draco’s heart pounded in his chest and he took several deep breaths. One step closer to that rug swept out from under them. Should he talk to Weasley? The man had saved Draco from attacks in Diagon alley. Found him in bed with his best mate and didn’t hex his bollocks off. Should they, Merlin forbid, talk about this?
Draco eased his arm out from under Potter’s head. Potter made the most adorable grumpy noises before rolling onto his other side. Draco couldn’t stop the grin on his face if he tried. He slipped his pants on and dug through Potter’s drawers quietly. He threw on a pair of pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt and quietly darted out of the room.
Weasley came out of the bedroom Draco had found Potter drunk in. The one that wasn’t his own bedroom and had muggle posters on the wall. The laundry basket was now overflowing.
Draco folded his arms and leaned on the door frame. “Do you do Potter’s laundry?” he asked, perplexed.
“On occasion.” Weasley gave him an odd look. “You lot are sleeping together, but you can’t call him by his given name?”
“Don’t change the subject, Weasley.” Draco drawled. “Why are you holding a basket of Potter’s dirty laundry?”
“Well, seeing as you’ve been spending so much time together, you might have noticed Harry’s not always a bucket of sunshine, innit.”
Draco said nothing, but this confirmed his suspicions. The lack of food in the house, the dust covering most surfaces. The only bottles he could find were half-empty bottles of alcohol. And, you know, the dirty clothes scattered about. Merlin, the man needed a house-elf.
“So Hermione and I swing by every other weekend to make sure he’s alright. And if he needs a bit of taking care of, well. He’s fucking earned it, hasn’t he?”
Draco bit his lip and let his arms drop to his sides. He’d had the same thought when he’d found Potter drunk in this room. This also explained Potter’s occasional squirrelly behaviour on weekends. He knew about Sunday dinners with the Weasleys and the Saturday check-ins, but he hadn’t realised how frequently they came to check on Potter. If Draco was honest with himself, he’d chosen to ignore it.
“Too right, he has.” Draco agreed quietly.
“You’re the mystery partner, then?” Weasley asked. “How long has this been going on? A year?”
Draco flushed but didn’t look away. “Over a year, I suppose.”
Weasley nodded again. “Thought as much.” He cleared his throat.
Draco chewed his lip.
“So.” Weasley said, firmly.
“So.” Draco repeated hesitantly
“You support the Chudley Cannons then?” Weasley said with a shit-eating grin.
Draco looked down at the shirt he’d grabbed from Potter’s wardrobe and grimaced. It was flaming orange with the Cannons’ logo on it.
“Ugh. I’m going to have to take him shopping again, aren’t I?” Draco murmured. He followed Weasley don’t the stairs to the sitting room on the main floor.
“Whose room was that, by the way?”
“Ah. That explains the morbid drinking habit tied to it.”
“So.” Draco cleared his throat. “Potter hasn’t told you we’ve been seeing each other.” He’d meant it to come out sarcastic. Not the pathetic, whiney insecurity that came out.
Draco chewed his lip. “Should I be worried about that, do you think?”
“Did you tell him you’d apologised to Hermione last year? That you’ve become pen pals?”
Draco didn’t answer.
“Looks like you’ve got some shit to work through, I reckon.” Weasley flung some Floo powder into the hearth and the flames roared up green.
Draco flinched, which caught Weasley’s attention.
“Shit, sorry Malfoy, I forgot.”
Draco walked several steps backward until he was at the sofa, shaking. “Don’t apologise. To me, of all people. For pity’s sake.” His heart was racing again. He leaned on the back of the sofa.
Breathe in two, three, four.
Breathe out two, three, four, five.
The fire couldn’t hurt him.
He was safe.
Draco squared his shoulders.
Weasley nodded and grabbed the laundry basket. He looked over his shoulder at Draco again. “Hermione and I usually stop by on Saturday evenings. Just.. Um.. A head’s up, I suppose. We’ll be back later.” He stepped into the green flames and yelled “823 Dewey Lane!” then he and the laundry basket disappeared into the green flames.
As soon as it died out, Draco’s racing heart slowed to normal.
He needed a drink. Draco took the stairs down to the kitchens and evaluated Potter’s rations. Not much to go on. No cucumber slices, oranges or Pimms. No celery, tomato juice or vodka. No champagne. Merlin, the man was borderline alcoholic and had no breakfast alcohol. Draco settled for an Irish coffee. He found some bread for toast, but no other food. Draco hated toast. He didn’t want to take the bread anywhere near a fireplace. And from the looks of the kitchen, Potter had done very little to update with any modern muggle appliances. Potter was a mess.
He found a serving tray and waved his wand at it to cast a nonverbal. The coffees levitated neatly onto the tray, which then followed Draco steadily up to the top floor. Potter was still asleep and Draco couldn’t bring himself to wake him up. He settled in the chair that looked out over the back window that took up the entire wall. He had to hand it to Potter; the view was stunning. Draco enjoyed the morning sun slowly making its way through the beautiful garden. He wondered if Longbottom took care of it in the same way that Weasley took care of the housework.
“Malfoy?” Potter’s voice was thick with sleep. He heard the bed creaking, and then a slightly more concerned, “Malfoy?”
“Over here.” Draco peeked his head around the side of the chair. Potter was sitting up, still fully naked. The bedding pooled about his lap.
“Oh, thank Christ.” Potter plopped back down. “I thought you’d gone for a moment.”
“There’s coffee for you.”
Draco heard the sounds of rustling bedsheets. He had to will himself not to ogle Potter as he walked past for a clean pair of pants. He reached out a hand, and a pair came flying out of the drawer into his open hand. Once they were on, Potter reached out and his pyjama bottoms came flying out next.
“Show off.” Draco mumbled.
“What was that?” Potter asked, sinking into the second chair.
“Nothing.” he drawled.
“Shit, is there whisky in this?”
“I’m going to need food if we’re going to start drinking. Be back in just a mo.” He tore down the steps. Still shirtless, not that Draco was going to bring it to his attention.
Draco distinctly remembered the lack of food in the kitchen.
Potter was back in just a few moments, with a tray of scones floating behind him. He grabbed the Irish coffee from the table and settled down in the chair. He took a deep drink and made a satisfying noise that made Draco want to drag him back to bed until he could recreate the sound for hours on end.
“Have I ever told you how much of a genius you are?” Potter said, contentedly.
“No, but I will take it in the form of a notarised letter.”
“Bollocks. I’ll deny it if anyone asks.”
“Well, that would require anyone knowing about me.” Draco said before he could stop himself.
Draco sighed. “Nothing, forget I said anything.”
Potter looked both guilty and askance. He seemed frozen in place, the mug halfway to his mouth.
“Fine.” He took a steadying breath. “Potter, do your friends know about me?” he asked.
Potter took a long swig from the mug and set it down. “Course they know about you, Malfoy. We went to school together, in case you forgot.” Potter carefully avoided Draco’s eyes.
“Don’t play stupid.”
Potter snagged a scone off the plate and scarfed it down in half a second instead of answering.
“You eat as though you haven’t in years.” Draco said, fascination creeping into his voice.
Potter shrugged. “I eat the way I eat.” He grabbed another scone. “‘Sides. They’re good.” he said through a mouthful of scone. Where had they come from? Draco could have sworn he opened every cupboard in the kitchen.
Secretly, Draco found it fascinating. Like a wild lioness taking down a zebra. It was messy and disgusting but so mesmerising you couldn’t look away. He’d spent countless hours at Hogwarts pretending he wasn’t watching Potter inhale food. Once, just after first year when he was having lunch alone in the gardens at the Manor, he tried it out. Draco had waited until the house-elves were out of sight before he tore into his food. His lunch was gone in two minutes, but the stomach ache lasted hours. He didn’t understand how Potter could do it.
“Your friends… Do they know we’re dating?” Draco hated the way he sounded. He’d meant to sound disinterested, not wheelding and vulnerable.
Potter chewed and swallowed, thankfully, before he answered. “Is that what we’re doing?”
Draco blinked. “What would you call it?” he asked, his heart aching. Were they not seeing each other? What was this for Potter? Casual sex? Casual sex for over a year had to register as some sort of relationship in Potter’s head, surely. They loved each other, didn’t they? Though they had only said it the one time. And even then, Draco had been the first one.
Had Draco completely got the wrong foot? Were they just friends who regularly snogged and slept together and had been for the last year? He replayed their entire not-relationship back in his head. Not once was the word boyfriend used. Draco drank from his coffee to distract himself from the rising panic.
“Dunno.” Potter shrugged. “Hadn’t thought.”
“Right.” Draco said too quickly. “Right..” He hadn’t thought. Potter hadn’t thought about what they were doing. The implications of what they were doing if they were found out. There were no pitchforks at the back of Potter’s mind. No precarious rug beneath their feet.
“Listen, I should be going.” Draco stood and set his coffee down.
“What?” Potter looked up at him, startled. “Why?”
Draco went looking for his wand where he’s set it down on the drinks trolley.
“Malfoy, are you upset? Don’t be upset! We’ll figure it out, right? Isn’t that what we said?”
“I’m not upset.” he lied, “Just very busy is all.” Draco waved his wand to summon his own clothing from wherever they’d landed on the floor.
“It’s your day off.”
Stupid Potter knowing his work schedule. Draco dressed as quickly as possible. He didn’t bother tucking in his shirt or buttoning up his waistcoat.
“I thought we’d spend the day together.” Damn Potter and his stupidly beautiful eyes. Stupid stupid stupid.
“I’ve got to go, Potter.”
“Oh, er.. Alright then. Can I ring you later, maybe?”
“That’s not a very good idea.” Draco tried not to spiral out into despair.
Potter didn’t think about what they were. He didn’t think about Them.Potter didn’t think about it.
If that’s what it was.
“See you later.” Draco said, now fully dressed in his own clothing. He appearated back to his flat and collapsed on his bed.
Potter didn’t think about their future.
The sun rose and set with Harry in the same place. Sitting in his chair watching the back garden. Malfoy left abruptly, and Harry couldn’t find it within him to move any further that day.
“Your friends… Do they know we’re dating??”
“Is that what we’re doing?”
No one knew Harry was dating Malfoy. Dating seemed too casual a term for the vital way in which Harry needed Malfoy in his life. And at the same time, it was a responsibility Harry didn’t always feel up to shouldering. Could he actually tell the world he was in love with a former death eater? He couldn’t even tell Hermione and Ron.
“Dunno. Hadn’t thought.”
A cruel lie, though believable. Of course Harry thought about it. He just didn’t happen to like where the thoughts led, (which was to further guilt and disappointing people he loved). Something he struggled with daily. Harry wished, more than anything, that he could talk to Sirius. Sometimes the pain of Sirius’s absence hit Harry at the most unexpected times. It was walking through the garden and suddenly stepping on a nail. Other times, like today, it was seeking the nail out to watch it sink into his skin, knowing he deserved the pain.
Harry accioed the whisky.
Ron found him the next day slumped over in his chair in front of the window in his bedroom. Ron looked so sad and worried that Harry couldn’t bear to look at him.
“Harry. Mate, what are you doing?”
“That’s not sleeping. Come on, I thought you were past this.” Ron helped Harry up and put him to bed proper, never mind it was ten in the morning. Harry pulled the covers up over his head.
“Bad date?” Ron asked.
Harry scoffed. “You could say that.” He popped the top of his head out to eye Ron. “How’d you know?”
“Two glasses. And you’ve dragged the other chair over.”
Harry didn’t respond.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
Harry heard the sounds of clinking glasses and general tidying up. A few minutes later, there was a steaming cup of tea on his bedside table. “We’re home all day, if you feel like being around people.” Ron said, followed by the sound of his footsteps down the stairs.
Harry felt grateful to have a friend willing to do so much for him. Guild roiled about in his stomach. Ron shouldn’t have to take care of him. Harry was a fully grown adult. He sat up so he could drink his tea. He needed a plan. Harry needed to talk to Malfoy, sort things out. And start taking care of himself, so Ron and Hermione didn’t have to.
After his tea, Harry showered and put on clean clothes. He made an attempt at taming his hair, but wisely gave up. He grabbed his leather jacket, remembering the hunger on Malfoy’s face the last time he wore it. Certainly couldn’t hurt.
HP: Can we talk?
Harry paced the floor. A few minutes went by before his mobile buzzed.
DM: Dunno. Hadn’t thought.
Harry swore. He ran his hands through his hair.
HP: I deserve that.
HP: Can we though?
Ten minutes passed.
DM: Fine. Come over to mine?
Harry was terribly relieved he didn’t pick a public setting. That was a good sign, wasn’t it?
DM: Half past one.
HP: See you then.
Harry knocked on Malfoy’s flat at exactly 1:30. Malfoy flung the door dramatically open, his eyes widening when he took in Harry’s appearance. Sirius’s old leather jacket had clearly worked in his favour. Harry grinned, which was apparently the wrong thing to do because all friendliness left Malfoy’s face, replaced with hardened dislike. He stuck his nose in the air and turned to walk to the sitting room; the door left open for Harry to follow him. Not a great start.
“I’m sorry Malfoy.” Harry blurted out.
Malfoy sat primly on the sofa. Harry sat on the other end of the sofa and tried very hard to forget how the night had ended last time they sat on the sofa together. Watching Countdown with Olivia, who was just as bad as Harry at it. Teasing Malfoy about his love of ballpoint pens. Waiting until Olivia went to bed and snogging the breath out of each other.
“What are you apologising for, exactly?” Malfoy drawled as he looked anywhere but at Harry.
Harry cleared his throat. “For lying to you?”
The grey eyes blinked. He hadn’t been expecting that.
“What, pray tell, did you lie about?” he asked with a subtle glance.
Harry sighed. In for a penny, in for a pound. “When I said I hadn’t thought about it. About what we’re doing.”
Malfoy’s face softened microscopically.
“Truth is, I think about it all the time.”
Malfoy now looked cautious. Which was better than hostile, in Harry’s book. But it would become hostile with what Harry was about to say. And Harry will have hurt yet another person he loved. Let down another person who had, mistakenly, thought Harry was worth something.
“I think about it all the time, and I don’t know what to do.” Harry said helplessly.
Oh, no. Worse than hostility, Malfoy looked commiserating.
“I don’t either,” he mumbled.
“You don’t?” Harry asked, flummoxed.
“Of course not. We were fools to think we could go on like this forever. It was never going to work. Not really.”
“It wasn’t?” Harry felt a lump rising in his throat. He hadn’t wanted Malfoy’s agreement. He needed Malfoy to passionately convince him they could make it work. And then, just as passionately, throw him against the wall and ravish him. Not an unreasonable expectation, given Malfoy’s past behaviour.
“Potter. I told you that at the beginning.” Malfoy leaned over and brushed a finger along Harry’s scruffy jawline. “You are who you are. And I am who I am. Nothing can change that. Nothing can erase what I’ve done or who you are to the world.”
“What you’ve done is not who you are.” Harry said heatedly.
“Not to them.” Malfoy gestured vaguely. “Can you imagine what would happen if we dated in public? I don’t mean that rhetorically. I mean, think about it very seriously.”
Harry closed his eyes and rubbed his palms against them behind his glasses. “I have, actually.” The thought of Malfoy in Azkaban haunted Harry’s dreams. No one would believe Malfoy had changed because then, who could they hate? Who could they blame? He’d be accused of imperiusing Harry. Or drugging him with potions. Harry could provide all the evidence in the world that Malfoy wasn’t that person, but it wouldn’t change public opinion.
“Then you know-” Malfoy’s voice broke. He took a deep breath. “You know it’s not safe, for either of us, to continue. I can barely get through Diagon Alley without getting hexed. And you can’t go without being swarmed by the very people hexing me.”
“I don’t want that to be true.” Harry said, desperation creeping into his voice.
“But it is. Did Weasley tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“Last time I went to Diagon Alley I was nearly killed.”
The bottom fell out of Harry’s stomach. He tensed in his seat. “Ron never said anything.”
Malfoy shot Harry a knowing look.
“Malfoy, give Ron some credit.” Harry said, oddly defensive. “Maybe he was respecting your privacy or something. That sort of thing is important to him.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Malfoy said dismissively. “It will never matter.”
“You know that’s not true! It does matter!”
Malfoy’s eyes flashed. “If it matters so much to you, why haven’t you told your friends about me? You want me to give Weasley some credit? Why haven’t you done the same?”
“See? You know, deep down, it does matter. If I was important to you, surely you’re two best mates in the entire world would accept me, wouldn’t they? If our relationship mattered?”
The accusation hit home. Harry had been too afraid to even tell Ron and Hermione. Malfoy was right. Harry couldn’t defend himself.
“Potter.” he breathed. “You’re so stupid.” Then Malfoy’s lips were on Harry’s. Harry didn’t care that Malfoy had just insulted him. He didn’t care that his kiss felt like saying goodbye. He just needed Malfoy. Harry’s heart was breaking, and he needed Malfoy to keep it together.
“It’s over Potter.” Malfoy whispered as he took Harry’s glasses off.
“I don’t want it to be.” Harry said, tears threatening to spill over. Malfoy’s kisses were all desperation and fire. There was a loud CRACK and Malfoy appearated them to his bed. The frantic need running through Harry’s veins took control. It was a thousand mornings they’d never spend together. All the birthday’s they’d be apart. Malfoy’s soft gasps. Harry’s broken heart. It was their clothing in a pile on the floor within minutes. It was never seeing Malfoy in a Weasley jumper. It was rocking together in passion and despair.
It was everything Harry had ever wanted but could never have.
It was Malfoy in Harry’s arms afterward, emotionally depleted, planting soft kisses along Harry’s neck.
“You have to go, Harry.” he whispered, a lone tear trailing down his cheek.
Potter left his horrid jacket behind. Draco thought about setting it on fire, but he couldn’t bear the flames. More enticing was the urge to vanish it completely. Each time he thought about the most dramatic fashion in which he could vanish it, (on the steps of 12 Grimmauld Place, in the centre of Diagon Alley) Draco wound up sleeping with the stupid jacket like a nursery blanket. Pathetic. Draco hated himself for being so weak, but he couldn’t bring himself to go through with the vanishing. Perhaps it was his imagination, but after a week it still smelled of Potter.
Everything was complete shite. Draco wasn’t sure if this was better or worse than all those times he’d spelled his Hogwarts robes to be Gryffindor colours. He sighed and peeled his face off the worn leather. Worse. This was decidedly worse. Just when Draco thought he’d sorted his shit out, everything fell to pieces. He finally made something for himself. Took care of himself. Lived on his own, without any dependency on his parents. Sure, he had Olivia to help him out. But he was learning and growing. Draco finally felt like he’d become someone Potter could love.
But Potter didn’t love Draco.
How could he?
One of the horrible things about their breakup was that it confirmed all the dark thoughts that swirled around Draco’s head. All the despair. The moments he knew he just wasn’t good enough (and never would be). No one who knew him would ever truly love him because nothing would ever make up for what he’d done as a teenager.
Too many people had died.
Too many lives ruined because of Draco Sodding Malfoy.
He didn’t deserve Potter’s love.
He didn’t even deserve happiness. More and more Draco believed he’d received the lion’s share as a child. Most people spread their happiness throughout the width and breath of their lives. Not Draco. He was a greedy and spoilt child. He blew through it by the time he was a teenager. Now it was something he saw from afar. He observed other people cherish what he’d blown through in moments.
Like Olivia. Draco listened to the sounds of her busying about in the kitchen through the thin walls of their flat. They lived together for over a year. Nearly two now. And in all that time, the worst he’d seen her was exhausted from work. She used her happiness in healthy doses. How did she do it? The voice in his head (that sounded distinctly like Potter) reminded him that Olivia probably hadn’t been groomed from a young age to believe the teachings of a homicidal maniac. Might have something to do with it.
But Potter couldn’t admit to his closest friends that they were involved. Because as much as Potter spouted the love conquers all rhetoric, he didn’t believe it himself. Potter knew, just as he knew, that Draco Malfoy was worthless.
The small petty part of him that Draco tried to ignore, felt triumphant at proving Potter wrong. Potter was wrong. Draco was right. He was unlovable. Never was there a worse thing to be right about it.
He let out a hollow laugh. Draco was finally right and he hated it.
There was a knock on his bedroom door.
“Are you alright, love?”
He laughed harder.
“I’ll take that as a no. Can I getcha anything? I’m headed out for the night. Are you going to be alright on your own?”
“Fine.” he managed to get out.
There was a small pause.
“You sure, love?”
“Yes. Go have fun.”
When the door shut behind Olivia, Draco laughed more. It was an empty, disdainful sound. Just like him.
Draco fell off the bed laughing like a madman. At some point the laughing turned to sobs. Eventually he left his room and snagged a bottle of gin from Olivia’s stash in the kitchen. He then proceeded to drink himself into a stupor.
Draco rolled over in bed and buried his face in Potter’s jacket again. He needed Potter, desperately. Like the way sea turtles needed a current. Sure. He could survive on the shore on his own. But if he let Potter sweep him away he could see the beauty of the ocean and the world at large.
Draco sighed and immediately regretted moving. His head throbbed. His eyelids hurt. Every movement made his head pound even more. He stumbled to his old Hogwarts trunk and threw it open.
One hangover potion and a forty minute shower later Draco almost felt like a person. By the time he made it to the kitchen Olivia was frying sausages and had a comforting cup of Nescafe waiting for him.
“How are you this morning, love?” she asked.
“Less than ideal, if you must know.” He wrapped his silk dressing gown tightly around himself.
“Draco, darling, I say this out of love. Please come back to work. You’ve been wallowing long enough.”
Draco drank his Nescafe and sighed. It was perfectly made. Olivia plopped a plate of sausages down in front of him. Draco looked up at her.
“Why are you so good to me?” he asked, genuinely perplexed. He pushed the sausages around on his plate. “You should know I don’t deserve this.”
“Everyone deserves kindness,” Olivia said, sliding into the chair on the other side of the table.
Draco very seriously doubted this. His shoulders sagged. “I don’t.”
Olivia watched him patiently. Warmth and empathy radiated off her like sunbeams. She was definitely a Hufflepuff.
“You don’t really know me.” Draco said dully. “Who I am. What I’ve done. How many people I-” His voice wavered, and he cleared his throat. “I don’t deserve this.”
“I can’t pretend to know what you’re going through, love.” she said softly. “I don’t know what happened with you and Harry. I don’t know what your life was like as a child or when you were involved with organised crime.”
Draco slowly raised his head but couldn’t quite meet her eye.
“All I know, Draco Malfoy, is who you are now. You are an excellent baker. You always pay your rent on time. You’re tidy and respectful of our shared space. You’re silly when you’re drunk and snarky when you’re sober. You have no taste in music. And for some reason, you seem to think magic is real.”
Draco opened his mouth to argue this last point, but decided against it. Tears were threatening to spill down his cheek as it was.
“You don’t have to tell me what happened with you and Harry. But if you ever want to talk, I’m here.”
Again Draco tried to speak but found he couldn’t form words. He swallowed and nodded. Olivia reached over and patted his hand.
“Now. I think that’s quite enough emotion for me and it’s not even half ten. Shall we see what’s on telly?”
Draco nodded again. He cleaned his plate of sausages and offered to do the washing up. They were just nestling together under blankets when Olivia’s bedroom door opened. A very handsome man crept out in his rumpled clothes he’d clearly worn to the clubs the night before. He paused in the door frame, shifting his weight from foot to foot.
“The loo is on your left.” Draco drawled and turned back to the television.
That got him an odd look from the man and an aborted laugh from Olivia. The man gave them another penetrating glance before he made for the loo. As soon as the door was shut, he turned expectantly toward Olivia.
“Would you care to explain the half naked man in the hall?”
“Mmm..” Olivia grinned wickedly. “Well. His name is Naveen. He’s about a year older than me. He’s a solicitor and by god is he good in bed.”
Draco ignored the ache in his heart and shoved the feeling down. Instead, he tried to grin at Olivia and must have pulled it off because she smiled back at him. He sat up and adjusted his dressing gown.
“Good for you.” he said.
“I think I might even give him my number.”
“Is that right?” Draco asked. “Well well well.” A thought occurred to him. “Did I eat his sausages this morning?”
“Might have done.”
“You should have said.” He chewed on his lip a moment. “Shall I get a few more going?”
“Draco Malfoy you will keep your sausages away from my man, thank you very much!”
A snort of laughter came from the doorway and they turned to find Naveen hiding his laugh behind his hand.
“I’m vegetarian, anyway.” Naveen said with a winning smile.
“Good to know.” Olivia made a mental note. “Naveen, this is my flatmate, Draco. Draco, meet Naveen.”
“Pleasure.” Draco drawled.
“Likewise. Listen, I don’t want to interrupt or anything, but do you fancy getting some breakfast?”
“Oh, that would be lovely!” Olivia said. “Are you alright on your own, Draco? Do you want to come with?”
Naveen patiently waited in the doorway, seemingly unaffected by Draco’s unexpected inclusion in the invitation. Draco resisted the urge to point out that she’d already eaten and sighed dramatically. “Yes, I’m fine. The pair of you can shove off. Go and have yourselves a heterosexual breakfast.”
Olivia smirked and planted a kiss on his cheek.
Naveen raised a hand and gave Draco an odd wave. “Nice to meet you, mate.”
Draco waited until the door closed behind them. “I’m not your mate.” he grumbled.
It was pathetic. He knew it was pathetic. But Harry needed to see Malfoy. After all, he didn’t even have a picture of the stupid git. He dragged his Hogwarts trunk out to the middle of his bedroom and practically tore the thing apart. Quidditch robes, school robes, jumpers that hadn’t fit since he was twelve. He flung them out, not caring where they landed. Finally. He found a pile of Daily Prophets. To the untrained eye, there was no pattern to the collection. Harry, particulally in his early twenties, saved any issue with a picture of Malfoy. He couldn’t put his finger on why they’d seemed so important at the time. He knew better now.
It was always Malfoy.
Harry sorted through them, unsatisfied. In most of them, Malfoy was too gaunt. The best photograph (which was a rather low bar), taken just before his trial, showed Malfoy’s pardon announcement and featured Narcissa looking fiercely at the camera, then glancing at her side. Finding it empty, she frowned at something off screen and dragged her son into the frame by the arm of his robe. Malfoy allowed himself to be positioned beside her before he slumped to the ground, out of sight. Harry liked it because there was a moment when Malfoy and his mother locked eyes and the love between them was nearly palpable. And then Malfoy turned and slid away into nothing. Harry set it aside.
Next, Harry unpacked his potions books, with one notable exception. He flipped through the pages, looking for the drawings he and Ron used to draw of Malfoy’s cauldron catching fire. Malfoy’s robes on fire. Malfoy bald. Malfoy with horns and a pointy tail. Harry swallowed. He tore out the drawings from the books, ignoring Hermione’s imaginary outrage.
It wasn’t enough. None of these were really Malfoy. They didn’t show his delight after finding a perfect Camembert. His adorable consternation using a mobile. Nothing of the Malfoy Harry knew. No smug, victorious look when he beat Harry at Countdown (which was every time). No dusting of flour on his expensive suits or surprise Treacle Tarts. No silk dressing gown that billowed dramatically when Draco moved about his flat. No evidence at all of the Draco Harry fell in love with.
Harry’s whole body felt like he’d taken Skele-grow.
He needed to see Malfoy.
Harry knew he was pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. He just couldn’t quite make himself leave. He’d brought the invisibility cloak, which gave him a little plausible deniability, but not much. Sitting in the cafe was a step too far, Harry knew this. Instead, he was an arsehole sitting behind the cafe building where Malfoy worked. Hoping to see the stupid, blonde, pointy git. Harry wouldn’t say anything. He just had to see Malfoy again.
Harry returned every day for three days before he lucked out. Malfoy used his hips to pop open the door, his arms full of cardboard boxes. He glanced around before drawing his wand from one of his back pockets. He flicked it at the recycling bin and the lid popped open. The cardboard flew out into the bin in an orderly way Harry could have never managed himself. Harry couldn’t stop the smile spread over his face, but it faded when Harry took in what Malfoy's attire. He wasn’t wearing a posh suit. Malfoy always wore suits to work. It was ridiculous. But there he was, wearing jeans. And was his t-shirt wrinkled?
Malfoy stopped and looked around the alleyway suspiciously. Harry didn’t move from under his invisibility cloak. As soon as Malfoy was back inside, Harry appearated back home. Malfoy had almost caught him. He’d known it was a bad idea.
But that didn’t stop him from going back a fourth day. He appearated to the same spot.
Malfoy was waiting for him, arms folded, leaning on the brick wall. He wasn’t exactly cross, but he wasn’t pleased either. And he was wearing jeans again.
“Why are you here, Potter?”
Harry said nothing. If he remained still, maybe he could-
“I know you’re there. I can see your shoes.”
Harry swore and tugged the invisibility cloak off.
“I-” he hung his head. “I’m sorry.” He shoved his glasses up by the bridge.
Malfoy stood a few paces from him. Harry took a step forward, running his hand through his hair. Malfoy’s eyes snapped to Harry’s hips, where his shirt had ridden up. Harry tugged it down and tried to flatten his hair. Malfoy swallowed and watched him approach cautiously.
“I’m so sorry, Malfoy. About everything.”
Harry came up and leaned on the wall beside him. Malfoy chewed on his lip. Harry’s heart was pounding. “Please forgive me, Malfoy.” Malfoy’s eyes dilated when Harry leaned in. He closed his eyes. Harry kissed him slowly, giving Malfoy ample time to pull away. It didn’t happen. Harry kissed him again, deeper.
Harry pulled back and searched Malfoy’s eyes for rejection. Instead, he found hunger. “Potter, I’m at work.” he said breathlessly.
“I’m sorry. Did I mention I’m sorry?” Harry played with the hem of Malfoy’s t-shirt.
Malfoy seemed to war with himself for a moment. “Sod it.” he whispered. He captured Harry’s lips again. Their kissing became a duel. It was pushing and shoving. It was Malfoy’s hands on him, one on his waist, the other tugging at Harry’s hair. Harry lost his mind with want.
“You’re all I think about.” Harry murmured. He leaned in and kissed Malfoy again and again. Malfoy made a wonderful sound. Harry felt Malfoy’s hands at his waist, down around his backside. Their hips ground together in the most delicious friction.
Malfoy broke off, leaning their foreheads together. “Potter, we talked about this.” he said, his hands never leaving Harry’s waist.
“No, you talked about this.” Harry went in for another kiss. “But I disagree. I think we can make it work” They were both panting. Harry ran his fingers through Malfoy’s soft, nearly white hair. “When I touch you, it’s the only time I feel alive.” He said, trying to catch his breath. “I’m not ready to give it up.”
“That’s a lot of pressure to put on a person.” Malfoy nipped Harry’s lip. His fingers crept up beneath Harry’s shirt.
“I could put a different sort of pressure on you.” Harry rolled his hips for emphasis.
Malfoy huffed a laugh. “That was bad.” he said and leaned in for another deep kiss. “Even for you.”
Malfoy’s lips were on his neck, down along his jaw. Harry’s skin thrummed with tension. Harry fumbled with Malfoy’s flies.
“Christ I’ve missed you.”
Harry palmed Malfoy’s growing erection and Malfoy’s breath hitched. Harry slowed down. They leaned against each other, breathing heavily.
“This is a terrible idea, Potter.”
“Why do you always say that?” Harry gently scraped his teeth on Malfoy’s bottom lip.
“Because it’s true!” Malfoy stood up straight. “Merlin, you always do this.”
“Make it impossible to leave.”
Harry leaned up and kissed him again, slowly. Malfoy’s arms crept back around his waist. Their kissing became more heated again. Malfoy bit his lip. Harry practically growled and reversed their positions, shoving Malfoy against the wall. He nosed Malfoy’s jawline while tugging his t-shirt up. Malfoy grew impatient and pulled it up over his head.
The sound of a lorry’s horn brought them back to reality. They were filthy and panting and rutting like drunk teenagers in public.
Harry stepped back.
Malfoy closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall. “Shit. I’m at work Potter. We can’t do this.” He scrubbed his hands across his face.
Harry’s heart still pounded. His need for Malfoy was overwhelming. He spun around and grabbed Malfoy’s shirt from the dirty puddle. He shook it out and cast a wandless scourfingy, followed by a wandless drying spell. Malfoy snatched it out of his hands.
“Potter, I’m serious. You can’t do this again. We broke things off for a reason.”
Harry nodded, looking at Malfoy’s shoes. “I know, I know. I’m sorry. I just.. “He looked up at Malfoy’s endless grey eyes. “Malfoy, I think you’re wrong.”
“Hear me out. I think we can do this. People will get used to it.”
“Be serious, Potter.”
“I am serious!”
“Potter.” Scorn crept into Malfoy’s voice now. “Have you even told your mates about us?”
Harry flushed. He meant to, he really had. It just never seemed like a good time. What would he even say? Remember the war? The one where we lost Fred? Remember Death Eaters? Like the ones who tortured Hermione? I’ve been shagging Draco Malfoy, who used to be one, and turns out we’re in love. I can’t live without him.
“That’s what I thought.” Malfoy’s voice broke, and he stormed back into the building. “Don’t come back here.” The door thudded shut.
Harry grabbed his cloak and appearated home. He dragged himself to the top floor to take a shower. He stayed in until the water went cold. When his fingers turned blue and wrinkled, Harry turned the water off. He dressed himself in his warmest flannel pyjama bottoms but didn’t bother with a shirt. None of them were clean, anyway.
Harry should have told Ron and Hermione for a start. And now it was too late. Harry grabbed a warm knit blanket Molly had given him as a housewarming gift and traipsed down to Sirius’ old room. He found the extra bottle of whisky he kept beneath Sirius’s bed. Harry lost himself in his age old tradition of getting pissed and listing his mistakes on repeat until he lost consciousness.
Draco debated bringing his mother round to the flat to meet Olivia. On the one hand, he was quite proud of what he’d accomplished on his own, without using any influence. But, on the other hand, she may see it as Blaise did. Slumming. He wasn’t sure he could endure disappointing her with his stature in the muggle world.
Just in case, he cleaned the flat as he argued with himself. Olivia was at the cafe so he was free to use all the magic possible. Each window got a double scourfingy. Even if his mother hated it, Draco would still be honest with her. Every centimetre of exposed chrome gleamed as much as chrome could gleam. Was that more important than keeping her happy personally? He washed the blankets and cushion covers in the muggle washing machine. What did mothers want more? Happiness or honesty? Draco considered texting Potter to see what he thought, but then remembered Potter didn’t have a mother. And they were no longer together.
Draco manically scourfingy-ed his way through every surface in his bedroom net. He had a few photographs of himself and his mother, with Lucius surreptitiously cut out, that he’d cast a freezing charm on. He was quite proud that they’d remained frozen for so long. Olivia commented on how formal they looked. Her exact comment was, “Who died?” Draco never really thought about it before, but when he went through his remaining family photos, they were mostly solemn. Especially when compared with the bright, laughing photos Olivia had with her plethora of siblings hanging about the flat. Draco didn’t smile after the age of thirteen. Not a single smiling photograph afterward, not even a playful smirk. He polished and cleaned the frames by hand, using Olivia’s muggle cleaning products until his fingertips turned black.
Four o’clock was coming up fast and Draco had resorted to polishing the cutlery. They weren’t even silver. He changed his clothes four times. Finally deciding on an expensive black muggle suit that walked the line between wizarding and muggle attire. Too extravagant for a casual cafe, but not formal enough for what the Malfoys typically wore in public. He supposed, as he redid his cufflinks for the umpteenth time, that it would have to do. Draco tugged the sleeves down as he examined himself in the mirror. He was glad he’d got his hair cut. He combed it back on the top with a healthy dollop of Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion. The sides too short to do anything with, but at least he looked sharp.
Draco took a deep breath and appearated to the alley behind the cafe. The tube would have taken more time and (and thus allowed less time worrying), but the risk of ruining his attire in some unknown manner was too great. He walked around to the front entrance.
It was going to be fine.
His mother loved him. She would be happy for him.
It was going to be fine.
The cafe was relatively slow, for which Draco was grateful. Olivia raised her eyebrows at his attire, a significant step up from the wrinkled t-shirts and joggers he’d been wallowing in since Potter’s departure. The first time he showed up at the cafe dressed causally, Rav didn’t recognise him.
“Loo’s the other door, bruv.” He said with barely a glance.
Olivia snorted in an aborted laugh.
“A fact of which I am perfectly aware.” Draco drawled, ignoring Olivia.
Rav’s head snapped up and he gaped. “Mate. What is goin on?” His warm brown eyes saddened when he looked more carefully at Draco’s dishevelled hair and the dark circles under his eyes. “Are you sick or somfin?”
“Bad breakup,” Oliva whispered loudly. She patted Draco’s shoulder as she passed by him to clock in.
Rav’s face fell. “I’m sorry, mate. You want me to fuck someone up for you? Cause I will.”
“Thank you, but no.” Draco’s heart ached. He swallowed tightly. “Though the sentiment is very much appreciated.”
Rav shook his head. “Only you, Draco, could sound like you’re taking your A-Levels lookin well rinsed. You’re a beast, my man.”
They fist bumped and Draco pretended he understood all the words Rav had just spoken.
Today was the first day he’d worn something other than casual muggle attire since. Olivia knew Draco was meeting his mother, though, and kindly didn’t have a go at him.
He ordered a few pastries and sat at a table in the corner where he could watch the entrance unobstructed. Olivia brought him a nice cuppa and squeezed his shoulder.
Narcissa Malfoy arrived at the cafe a few minutes later. Draco could see what Olivia meant about the gliding instead of walking. He must have got it from his mother. She really did seem to glide across the room. Her robes could almost pass for an extravagant muggle dress. Almost. Draco stood to receive her.
“My darling boy!” she exclaimed and kissed his cheek.
“Hello Mother.” He held the chair out for her. They looked an odd pair, swathed in black amongst the rustic browns of the cafe and the brightly dressed muggles. Draco wished Potter was here with him, to ease the tension. He felt a pang in his chest.
“You look well.” Draco said.
“As do you.” Narcissa’s eyes darted around the room. The disdain Draco remembered from his childhood was nowhere to be found, replaced with a sort of detached curiosity.
He could see Olivia gaping at his mother from behind the counter. She caught Draco’s eye. He nodded to indicate she should bring over the pastries. True to her station, his mother did not acknowledge Olivia when she served them. Draco did, though. He could see Olivia mouthing “POSH” at him from behind his mother’s back. He bit back a smile.
“How is Aunt Andromeda?” he inquired.
“She sends her regards. She would very much like to see you in person.”
Draco again wished Potter was there with him. He nodded. He’d been thinking about it for some time now and took a steadying breath. “Perhaps I could come visit you in France?”
Narcissa’s eyes widened and, after a moment, went glossy. Were those tears? In public? Yes, Draco needed Potter here. He dealt with weeping women constantly. Everywhere the man went, mothers wept at him for saving their children. He’d know what to do. The last time Draco had seen his mother display so much emotion was… Well... he’d rather not think about The Battle of Hogwarts.
“She would be amenable to such a visit, I assure you.” Narcissa said after a moment. Once her eyes regained their composure.
Draco nodded. “Excellent.”
“I hear you have obtained employment in the,” she glanced around and lowered her voice. “In the private sector?”
“I have.” Draco replied, warily.
“That is encouraging to hear, my dear.” She almost smiled. “What is your occupation? Where are the premises, if I may ask?”
“Here?” Draco cleared his throat. “Here.” he said more firmly. “I am the resident pastry chef.”
Her eyes widened. She glanced down at the Viennoiserie on her plate with new appreciation.
“I see.” Narcissa did actually smile this time. “You always were fond of pastries as a child.”
“I do enjoy it.” he added quickly. “As far as employment goes, it is satisfactory.”
“Merely satisfactory?” She asked, her expression softened.
He gave her a hesitant smile. “Highly satisfactory. I find it agreeable and gratifying.”
Narcissa’s face lit up. “If one must be employed it should, at the very least, be gratifying.” She patted his hand where it rested on the table. “I am pleased for you, dear.”
Draco smiled more broadly. He felt lighter, like he’d been in a steam room and finally stepped out into fresh air.
“It does me good to see you smile, so.” she said. “You used to be such an animated young man. It is a relief to know that you are still capable of such small pleasures.”
Draco found himself becoming unexpectedly emotional. He blinked rapidly a few times.
“Tell me more of your life, Draco. I should like to hear about it in great detail.”
Draco couldn’t stop smiling if he tried. He chatted away at her, becoming more informal as he spoke. She arched an eyebrow at him once when he let the word “innit” slip out. But she didn’t correct him. She let him talk. It almost felt like the early days of Hogwarts. When she would pick him up at the station and he would tell her stories throughout the rest of the day. Only this time Draco was discussing his work schedule instead of his class schedule. Occasionally, she asked for clarification on some muggle vernacular. Their tentative luncheon turned into a muggle shopping adventure where Narcissa picked out several new cashmere jumpers that she said brought out Draco’s eyes. When they parted ways, Draco felt relieved at their amicability.
All his worry and anxiety had been for nothing. Of course she still loved him. Draco felt as though he could float, his heart was so light. He needn’t have been worried at all. The mobile was in his hand before he’d finished thinking he couldn’t wait to tell Potter.
Draco’s smile fell. His heart sank as he again remembered they were no longer together.
Or, rather, not tell Potter.
After a moment staring at his mobile, he deleted the unsent message and put the phone back in his pocket. Draco shoved his muggle keys into the door of his muggle flat. Potter did not really love him. Draco swallowed, shoved down the unexpected onslaught of Potter related feelings and set his shopping bags on his bed.
Olivia, then. Olivia would be excited for him. She and Naveen (who had spent the last three nights in a row at the flat) arrived within the hour after a lovely evening meal. Olivia spied the shopping bags and demanded a fashion show, during which Naveen gave just as much commentary as Olivia.
Draco had his friends. His mother. He didn’t need Potter.
It was going to be fine.
Harry stepped through the Floo to George’s flat above Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.
“George?” he called out.
George came round the corner. He slid his protective goggles up to better see Harry.
“Harry!” George embraced Harry and clapped him on the shoulder. “How is our oldest investor?”
Harry ran a hand through his unmanageable hair. “Er, not bad I suppose.”
George eyed Harry’s paler-than-normal, unhealthy pallor. The dark circles under his eyes. He didn’t look like he believed Harry, but thankfully didn’t press any further.
“Drink?” George asked.
Harry followed George into the next room that served as both kitchen and experiment station. It was an enormous room with four butcher block work tables. All the kitchen utilities were along one wall. Glass windows ran along another, looking down over Diagon Alley. Harry could see the Owl post from one window and felt the small familiar pang of Hedwig’s absence.
George handed him a glass. Harry was about to take a sip when he remembered Ron’s violet coloured eyes from last week. He sniffed the drink.
George chuckled at his hesitation. “No worries, mate. It’s clean.”
Harry grinned at him. “Promise?”
“Harry, I’m gutted. Have you no faith in me?”
“Ron’s eyes were purple for a week. He had to call off work. They thought he was in the first stages of Pixie Pox. No one would go near him.”
George’s eyes lit up with delight. “Did he now? He didn’t say it lasted a week.” He scratched his chin, absently. “It shouldn’t have been that long. Hm, too much alihosty, perhaps.”
Harry followed him to a worktable in the back, covered in rolls of parchment, where George grabbed a quill. He dug through the rolls until he found one labelled “Pixie Pox Eye Dox” and started scratching down notes.
“Didn’t see you last Sunday at dinner, mate.” George said as he wrote.
“Er, yeah. I’ve.. um..” Harry spent last Sunday wallowing in Sirius’s room with a bottle of Ogden’s finest. A fact he’d rather not share with George.
“Been seein’ someone?”
“Yeah, actually. But er, we’ve ended it.” Harry scratched the back of his neck. “How’d you guess?”
“You do have the miserable look of a bloke on the outs with love.”
Harry huffed a laugh. “That obvious, eh?”
“Well. You’d started leaving the house more often. Hermione mentioned there might be a muggle involved. We’ve all been lectured, quite thoroughly, not to pressure you into speaking about it.”
Harry didn’t know whether to be grateful or annoyed at Hermione’s thoughtfulness. He landed on being embarrassed.
George set down the quill and looked up at Harry. “You fancy talking about it?”
“Not really, if I’m honest.”
“Want to help me test our new pocket protectors? No, not like the muggle ones.”
Harry’s expression cleared.
“They’re like shield hats, but instead of a hat, it’s a coin you stick in your pocket. Makes them less likely to fly away during inclement weather.”
Harry wasn’t keen on the idea of being blown to smithereens. “How exactly are we planning on testing them?”
“We’ll just set one on a log and chuck stuff at it to see if we can break it.”
George grinned at him, “Wicked.”
It was a beautiful night for chucking stuff at a log. The sky was a deep indigo and, for once, it was clear enough to see the stars. The field behind the Burrow had many scorched logs. Harry had no doubt this had been the twin’s testing grounds for a long time. He was rather touched to be included in the process.
“He wasn’t a muggle.” Harry said after a while. He cast a jinx at the log, which resulted in purple flames dancing around an invisible bubble about two metres in diameter. The flames danced merrily for a moment before dying out.
“He wasn’t?” George lit a few of his firecrackers and tossed them in a wide arc. They hit the top of the invisible bubble and sparkles trickled down its sides.
Harry tried a stunning spell. The red sparks rebounded off the bubble’s side. “No, he wasn’t.”
“Well, if he wasn’t a muggle, why-”
Harry waited for the dots to connect.
“Oooh, so it’s Malfoy, then.” George waved his wand and sent a flock of orange birds at the tree stump. They bounced off the barrier and dissipated into orange sparks. “Oh, that’s interesting.” He whipped out a quill from his bag and scribbled on some parchment.
Harry shot a hex at the log. The invisible bubble lit up red along the edges and vibrated, but nothing made it inside.
“Here, try these.” George passed him a packet of what looked like chocolate digestives. Harry opened the packet and took out a digestive. It smelled like an ordinary biscuit. Harry threw it at the coin on the log, but nothing magical happened. He frowned at the package and tried another. It, too, bounced off the log and into the grass.
George fell to the ground laughing his arse off.
“It’s just an ordinary digestive?” He asked, laughing despite himself.
“Yeah, but you should see how mental you look. Chucking a biscuit at a log in the middle of the night.”
Harry was fully laughing now. “You’re mad.”
George sat up, wiping tears from his eyes. “I am a bit, yeah.”
“You don’t have a problem with it being Malfoy?” Harry popped an entire digestive into his mouth.
George shrugged. “The war is over. People change. Hating him won’t bring F- won’t bring anyone back. That’s what my mind healer says, anyway.”
Harry shot another jinx at the coin on the log. This time, it lit the bubble up with a neon green shimmer. It seemed to absorb the jinx and then spit it back out like glowing, pulsating, neon green sick. He and George shared a look. “That was weird.”
“Yeah, what did you cast?” George wrote down the jinx Harry used. “Interesting.”
Harry had another biscuit.
George rummaged around in his bag again. He pulled out a jar of violet looking goo. He waved his wand, and the goo flew out of the jar, right at the log. It splattered against the side of the bubble and dripped harmlessly to the ground.
“Does he make you happy?”
“No, the other ferret you were seeing.”
Harry huffed a small laugh. “He did, yeah.”
“Then sod everything else.” George clapped him on the shoulder. “You deserve happiness, mate.”
Harry wasn’t sure he agreed with that. He waited a moment. “Can I ask something?”
“Why didn’t the digestives bounce off the shield charm?”
George frowned. “I think it’s because they’re muggle. Or maybe it’s something in the chocolate. Shall we get some plain digestives to test out, as well? I may need to make some adjustments. Worth investigating, though.” He waved his wand and a cluster of pebbles rose up from the grass. George flicked his wand at the log and they pelted themselves at the log. Unlike the digestives, they bounced off the shield bubble without a problem. George frowned again. He picked up a pebble from the ground and threw it with his arm instead of his wand. It hit the log without activating the shield. “Very interesting.” He scribbled more notes on his parchment. “You have a very keen mind, Harry. Doesn’t seem addled by dating a ferret at all.”
Harry scoffed. “Yeah, well, it’s over now, innit.”
“I’m sorry, mate.” George hit the shield bubble with a curse. Instead of rebounding sparks, small glowing bubbles separated off the shield charm and floated up into the night sky.
“Probably for the best. It’s not like I could bring him to The Burrow for a Sunday roast.”
They stood in silence a moment, watching the small bubbles of light float away. It was beautiful. Harry’s heart ached. He wished he could have brought Malfoy with him to see this. Malfoy would have teased him mercilessly about eating an entire chocolate digestive in one mouthful.
“Harry, whose watch are you wearing?”
Harry glanced down at his wrist. It was the one Mrs Weasley had given him on his 17th birthday. The one that had been in her family for years.
“I think you underestimate how important you are to us.” George said, still looking up at the night sky. “You could date Macus Flint and Mum would knit him a Christmas jumper with buck teeth on it.”
“Marcus Flint wasn’t a Death Eater.” Harry pointed out.
“You’re right. It would have to be Dark Marks.” George laughed.
“Can you imagine?”
“With ferrets, then.”
Harry laughed, despite himself. “Christ, that would go over bad.”
“Fair play.” George conceded. “All I’m saying is, give them a chance. And maybe start out slow. If you and Malfoy sort things out, you can come round mine first.”
Harry grinned at George. “You can’t call him a ferret if we do.”
Once they’d exhausted the supplies in George’s bag, they said goodnight and Harry appearated back to 12 Grimmauld Pace.
George was right. He should give the Weasleys more credit. They really loved him. Surely they would accept Malfoy, too, wouldn’t they? Malfoy had grown. He wasn’t the spoilt child of their adolescence. Harry loved him deeply and the guilt of hiding him ate away at Harry’s stomach like acid.
Harry took a shower and started thinking strategy. He’d ease them into it. First George. Perhaps George would help break the news to Ron and Hermione. Maybe Ginny and Neville next. Harry could give a fuck what Percy thought. Bill and Fluer might be trickier. Harry didn't particularly want to know what Molly would say. For the first time in the weeks since he and Malfoy split, Harry went to bed with hope in his heart.
Draco grabbed his phone from under his pillow and checked his messages for the thousandth time. Nothing. He wasn’t expecting anything, but that didn’t stop him from being disappointed. His heart still throbbed a time or two before it accepted that there was nothing from Potter. Weeks without hearing from him now. Stupid Potter. With his stupid perfect hero eyes. And his stupid mental hair that Draco wanted to spend his life untangling. Draco sighed and let the mobile drop to the floor. He slid fitfully into sleep.
He dreamed of the Dark Lord at the Manor, his high-pitched cackle. The inhuman red eyes and cruel smile. Draco was crucioed over and over for his failures.
Harry did not come to save him.
Instead, the dream repeated. Pounding on the door, berating from Lucious, torture from the Dark Lord.
The pounding on his door had Draco in a panic. He gasped awake, clutching his wand. His father was pounding on the door. Demanding admittance so he could inspect Draco before presenting him to the Dark Lord. Draco’s heart was a boiling caldron. He was sweating profusely. He had to hide. Had to escape. There was no way he could go through with it. He wouldn’t survive another crucio. The pounding came again, followed by a soft voice.
A soft, friendly voice. Decidedly female and decidedly not his father. Draco took a few deep breaths. Breathe in two, three, four. Breathe out two, three, four, five. The Dark Lord was defeated. It wasn’t real. Breathe in two, three, four.
“Are you alright, love?”
Breathe out two, three, four, five.
He tried to speak, but no words came out.
“I’m going to open the door now.”
The door creaked open, and a muggle peeked through. Draco’s panic doubled. Muggles weren’t safe here. He had to get her out. They would destroy her. Worse still, they would make Draco take part. He had to warn her! He had to get her out! The Death Eaters were coming, and she had no fucking clue!
“Oh, dear. You’re not alright.” She knelt at his bed and put her hand gently on the covers where he could see it. “Draco, you’re having a panic attack. Right, I can help you. Okay, take deep breaths if you can. Do you know who I am?”
Blonde. Kind. Tube, not tuba. Draco nodded. Breathe in two, three, four. Breathe out two, three, four, five.
“Good. That’s very good.” She dug out a slip of paper from her pocket. “You warned me this might happen. Right, I can do this. Right, right, right. We can do this. Here we go.”
After unfolding the paper, her eyes darted across it. “You are Draco Malfoy. You are safe,” she read. The blonde looked up to gauge his awareness. “You are safe,” she repeated.
Draco’s forehead still perspired, but his heart began to settle. Olivia. Olivia the sweet, wonderful muggle who’d taken him in. He nodded again, a little more firmly.
“Draco you are safe here. It’s over. No one is coming for you.” She frowned when she read the last bit. But it was helping. No one was coming for him. The Dark Lord died. Potter saved them all. Breathe in two, three, four. Breathe out two, three, four, five.
The darkness receded from the corners of his eyes. He relaxed the grip on his wand and nodded at Olivia to continue.
“You are Draco Malfoy and you are fine. You were better dressed than…” Olivia paused and glanced at Draco before continuing to read. “You were better dressed than Potter at the Yule Ball.” She bit back a smile. Draco nodded.
“You have perfect table manners and have never ‘scarfed’ anything.”
After each line on the list, she made eye contact and waited until Draco nodded before she read the next item from the list.
“Your hair always does exactly what it’s meant to do.”
“You got higher marks at school than Potter.”
“Your face has never been disfigured by a stupid scar. Oh now, his scar isn’t disfiguring. My aunt Tilda has a-”
“Right. Not the time.” She looked at the list again and smiled. “You have never needed glasses because your eyesight is perfect.”
He nodded. It was true. Everyone in his family had perfect vision.
“Your mother loves you unconditionally.”
“You are Draco Malfoy and you are better than this.”
Draco took a long shaky breath.
“Yeah?” Olivia asked.
She sighed and folded the paper back up. “I love you too, just so you know.”
Draco nodded at her. “I’m fine.” he croaked.
“What can I do to help? Do you want some water, love?”
He nodded again. As soon as she was out of the room, he collapsed on his back. He slid his wand under his pillow and hoped she hadn’t noticed him clutching desperately to a fancy carved stick.
Breathe in two, three, four. Breathe out two, three, four, five.
Draco lay there while the feeling came back to his fingers and toes. He sat up again when Olivia returned with a glass of water.
“Thank you,” he breathed.
He couldn’t look her in the eye. Instead, Draco focused on his dishevelled bedding. The dishevelled bedding was green. The dishevelled bedding was soft. It had a subtle damask sheen. Most importantly, it was real.
“Are you hungry?” Olivia asked.
Draco shook his head.
“Do you want to watch some telly?”
“You don’t have to. Just rest, love. Alright?”
Draco was too exhausted to feel humiliated at his childish behaviour but he knew if he went back to sleep, he’d have another nightmare. What he really wanted.. Well.. he shoved the thoughts of Potter’s Brooding Window away. It didn’t matter. Draco shot a glare at his silent mobile on the floor. He’d have a bath. That always made him feel better.
Two hours later, his phone still hadn’t buzzed because why would it. But he felt up for some telly. He wrapped his silk dressing gown around himself and made for the sitting room/kitchen. There he found a note on the kitchen table.
Draco snorted. He hadn’t noticed the battery life when he’d checked it earlier, he was too distracted by the lack of communication from Potter. It must have died while he nightmared. Draco wandered back to his room and grabbed his charger and a pillow. There was a plug near enough the sofa he could charge it there. He snatched the soft fuzzy blanket from where it was folded beneath the side table and settled down on the sofa for a good, long sulk.
Olivia came home eventually, bringing takeaway. She didn’t ask him about anything. She didn’t demand explanations. She didn’t tell him what he ought to be doing.
“Naveen?” Draco asked.
“He’s been in Cardiff helping the Wales office for a week. Won’t be back until the morning.”
Draco sighed and let the tension drain out of him. He didn’t want to have to put on the mask of a dutiful and supportive flat mate. He was too strung out to do anything more than exist.
They sat quietly and watched repeats of Cats Does Countdown, occasionally throwing out a word when they saw one. Olivia was pants at maths, but Draco did alright. He realised, sitting there laughing at Jimmy Carr, that he cherished his muggle friend. When he leaned his head on her shoulder, she put an arm around him and tousled his hair. He’d never admit it, but he adored soft innocent touches from her. He’d never been more glad to be on the losing side of a war. Such a fool he’d been when he was young.
Draco woke the next morning terribly uncomfortable. Someone’s feet were kicking his own. He opened his eyes and took in his surroundings. He was at one end of the sofa and Olivia was nestled in at the other. Their feet fought for the middle cushion, a fight Draco ended by sitting up. He flung the fuzzy blanket off and made for the kitchen to make tea.
Olivia joined him at the table. Tea for her. Nescafe for him.
“So..” Draco said.
“Don’t worry about it, love.”
“I appreciate the sentiment. More than you know. But..”
She tucked a stray hair behind her ear.
“But I wanted to thank you.”
Her eyebrows went up, most of her face hidden behind her mug.
“For everything, really.” Her friendship, her kindness.
“Say nothing of it.” She squeezed his arm.
“Still. I’d like to take you out. Let’s go out. And focus on you.”
She narrowed her eyes. “And this has nothing to do with how long it’s been since you’ve seen Harry, Harry Potter?”
Draco tried to hide his flinch by smoothing out the soft pyjama bottoms beneath his dressing gown. “Truly, it doesn’t. You were kind to me. And I want to be kind to you in return. Because I appreciate your friendship.”
“I can’t believe you’ve just said all that out loud.” Olivia exclaimed. “And I didn’t even video it! Rachel will never believe me when I tell her.”
“I’ll deny it if you do. Are we decided, then?”
“Fine, you soppy bugger. We’ll go out dancing because we’re friends.”
Draco stood in front of his closet, debating what to wear. In the end, he settled on the same outfit the girls had chosen for him the first night he’d run into Potter. He paused at his bed and argued with himself before he finally grabbed Potter’s leather jacket and extended the sleeves a bit. He tried it on. It was perfect. Draco hated himself but couldn’t bring himself to leave it behind.
They didn’t go to a gay nightclub as they often did. The night was about Olivia and friendship. She dressed fabulously in something meant for a season that wasn’t winter. Draco could see heads turn everywhere they went. She was so lovely they didn’t have to wait in line for very long at all. Draco grumbled at having to pay a tenner to get in, but the place was nice enough that he found he didn’t really mind at all. She went to grab a table. He went to grab drinks. They worked well as a team. By the time he fought his way back to her, Draco counted five people circling the table, vying for her attention. He leaned on the high round table beside her and tried not to feel smug about how quickly they left after Draco joined her. They chatted about work. About their mums. They had a few more drinks. They danced with each other. They danced with others. Draco drunkenly told her she would make an excellent Hufflepuff. Then tried to convince her it was not only a real word and also a compliment.
It was an enjoyable evening, to say the least.
Eventually, Naveen showed up. He’d driven all afternoon to get back to London a night early. Olivia let out a delighted, drunken squeal and jumped into his arms. They danced for an hour or so before the dancing became inappropriate and they made their excuses. Draco debated leaving. He thought of the very still and silent mobile in his pocket. Suddenly, the thought of being alone in the flat seemed terrible. Draco had another drink instead.
He drunkenly sauntered up the steps to the second level of the club that was just a walkway around the perimeter. He leaned on a column post and watched the crowded dance floor below. Muggles, muggles everywhere and not a drop to drink. He marvelled at their freedom from propriety, from magic. His eyes tracked the movements of a shaggy black head of hair across the dance floor. Draco’s pulse spiked. He checked his phone.
But he could pretend. For a night, he could pretend. He set his empty glass on a messy table nearby as he passed back down the stairs. He could pretend that hair belonged to those eyes in order to lose himself for a while and he was just drunk enough for it to work.
Draco’s pulse pounded in his ears. Adrenaline coursed through his veins. He found the hair in the crowd. Draco reached out and brushed the man’s shoulder. And then. Oh, then Draco didn’t have to pretend at all. It was Potter, because of course it was.
Desire pooled in his stomach. Potter gaped at him. His deep green eyes travelled down Draco’s body and back up, pausing at his mouth. He recognised the leather jacket, which Draco now realised was entirely inappropriate for a hot sweaty club. Draco watched Potter’s pupils dilate behind the specs and couldn’t bring himself to regret wearing it.
“Malfoy?” Potter said, not taking his eyes off the leather jacket and white t-shirt.
Draco couldn’t hear him through the thumping of the music and the roaring in his ears. Draco felt like he was underwater. Like everything was happening too slowly and all at once. Draco’s eyes tracked Potter’s mouth as he tried and failed to say something. Anything. The air was so thick Draco could hardly breathe. He couldn’t take it. Want coursed recklessly through him, but he didn’t have to wait.
Potter surged forward and glued his mouth to Draco’s. Draco tried to stop his hand from reaching for Potter’s jaw, but couldn’t help himself. He was weak and desperate and aching. He pulled his head back, but couldn’t let go of the man. Their eyes blazed. Draco was gone from the start. It was the slide of tongues and a hint of teeth. It was his hands in Potter’s hair and Potter grinding his hips into Draco’s. It was every cross word they’d ever said, soothed by soft lips. It was desperation and desire driving them forward. It was Draco dragging Potter out of the club and shoving up against a wall outside. It was muffled breaths and greedy moans. Potter appearated them to Draco’s flat. Shirts fell on the floor, discarded within seconds. Quickly followed were the trainers and trousers. It was push and pull without thinking. They lost themselves in the fever of alcohol and forbidden desire.
It was Draco waking up alone, hung over and heartbroken all over again. Potter had left Draco a hangover potion on the bedside table. He’d taken the leather jacket with him.
He checked his mobile. One new message waited.
Draco turned his phone off and held it in his hand, eyes closed, willing the tears not to come. He binned the stupid thing. He didn’t need it.
Olivia came home to find Draco on the sofa. She didn’t mention the hickey poking out from his collar or his red-rimmed eyes. He didn’t mention that it was half eleven in the morning and she looked like the back half of a hen-do. Instead, they drank coffee and watched Countdown. The pensioner one.
Olivia's Note in case the image isn't working:
I’ve gone for my shift at the cafe. I’m closing tonight, won’t be home until nine-ish. Text me if you need anything, I can send Naveen to get it.. And charge your mobile so I don’t have to resort to communicating via the dark ages! I told Jonie you were sick so you don’t have to work tomorrow. Hope you don’t mind.
Malfoy’s finger trailed over Harry’s ear, down his jaw. His warm mouth pressed against Harry’s neck and Harry couldn’t help the shiver went down his spine. He barely managed to suppress the groan when Malfoy’s hands travelled down his torso. Harry could feel him pressed up against his back and he couldn’t help but press closer. But Malfoy didn’t respond. Harry opened his eyes and rolled over to see what was the matter. But Malfoy wasn’t there.
Harry was alone.
They’d called it off. They weren’t together any longer.
And it was Harry’s fault.
He grabbed his mobile from the bedside table. No new messages. He ran his fingers through his hair, tugging at the roots.
HP: I missed you this morning.
HP: I wish you would stop by after work like you used to.
Harry sighed and deleted the messages. He buried his face in his hands.
A soft tapping from the door startled him, and he fumbled for his glasses.
“Harry?” Ron called.
Harry padded to the bedroom door and opened it wide. “One of these days I’m going to cut off Floo access from the house.” he grumbled. “You could have just texted me, you know.”
“This is faster. You never get my texts when you’re home.”
Harry frowned. Was that true? He wasn’t sure now that he’d thought about it. He got texts from Malfoy just fine. Or he used to, anyway.
“Are you just getting out of bed, mate?”
“Only just woke up. Why?”
“You look like shite. You want some lunch?” Ron put a heavy emphasis on lunch. He gave Harry a piercing look.
Shit. It was later than he’d thought. “Er, yeah. I could eat. Let me get dressed. I’ll be down in half a moment.”
Ron hesitated. He glanced at Harry’s naked torso. “Maybe have a shower, yeah?”
Harry winced. “Right.”
“Just pop over when you’re ready.”
Harry sighed and leaned against the door after he’d gone. He showered dutifully and dressed in mostly clean clothes. He flooed to join Ron, Hermione, and Rosie for lunch. It was a long afternoon. Harry plastered a smile on his face until it eventually developed into a real one. He made jokes. He told Rosie stories and bounced her on his knee. Hermione and Ron updated him on the happenings in the Ministry. They changed nappies. When Ron went to put Rosie down for a nap, Hermione cracked open an enormous tome on magical law that couldn’t possibly be written in the last century.
Harry cleaned up the kitchen a bit while she studied, careful not to make too much noise. When Harry came out, Hermione had fallen asleep on the book. He couldn’t help huffing a laugh. Gently, he removed the quill from her hand and set it aside. He cast a wandless cleaning charm on her fingers.
Ron came out a moment later. “Well, Rosie’s down.”
She made a muffled sound. Ron bit back a smile, looking at his wife. He shook his head. “She works too hard, I’m tellin’ you.”
“You’re not wrong.” Harry said.
Ron gathered Hermione in his arms. She half woke up in protest. “Just a few more pages.”
Ron shushed her. “That’s right, a few more pages.” he said in the same voice he used on Rosie. Hermione’s wild hair spilled over Ron’s shoulders as she nestled her forehead in the crook of his neck. Harry’s heart ached and he had to look away.
“Tea?” Ron said when he came back.
Harry shook his head. “I should be going.”
“Got a lot going on, have you?”
Ron chuckled. Harry grinned ruefully back at him.
“You want to play FIFA?”
Harry flooed home a few hours later, having lost spectacularly to Ron. Football had nothing on quidditch as far as Harry was concerned. His good mood lasted all of ten seconds after stepping through the floo to Grimmauld place. He immediately poured himself a drink. Harry stared out the window at the back garden, watching the rain. Harry checked his mobile and found an hour had passed. No new messages.
He poured another drink. Another hour gone. He’d been about to pour a third when there was a knock at his door. Curious, he padded across the room. Harry flung open the door, perhaps with more flair than necessary, perhaps because he was a little tipsier than necessary. Standing in front of him was a dripping wet Draco Malfoy.
“At least you’re dressed,” Malfoy drawled.
“What are you doing here?” Harry watched a droplet of water travel down the length of Malfoy’s jaw.
“Can I come in or am I going to explain myself in the rain?”
“Course.” He stepped back to let Malfoy pass.
Harry followed Malfoy into the sitting room.
“I see your glasses are still working, even if your manners aren’t.”
Malfoy’s t-shirt clung tightly to his skin, nearly transparent. Harry couldn’t stop staring at it. Harry drifted closer, unable to stay away. He was too close, really. He could feel the tension between them immediately. Harry ran a finger along Malfoy’s shoulder, casting a wandless drying spell. He heard Malfoy’s breathing hitch. Harry’s stomach flipped. He wanted to shove Malfoy’s shirt off his shoulders and devour him.
“You’ve fucked up my hair.” Malfoy complained softly.
“I have a wand, Potter.” Malfoy murmured.
“Right. Right, sorry.” Harry shook his head and stepped out of Maloy’s space. Harry turned his back and busied himself at the drinks trolley.
“I have a favour to ask.”
Harry scoffed from the drinks trolley where he fixed Malfoy’s drink. “Of course you do. What do you want, Malfoy?”
Harry shoved the glass into Malfoy’s hands as he crossed to the sofa.
Malfoy glanced down at the drink and back at Harry. Harry stretched his bare feet down the length of the sofa and crossed his arms behind his head. Malfoy downed his glass in one go. Harry tried to ignore the fluttering in his stomach as Malfoy’s eyes trailed down his form. Malfoy poured himself another drink. He sat rigidly upright on the sofa across from Harry. Had this been last spring, Malfoy would have got into a strop, seeing his feet up on the sofa. Then again, had this been last spring, they’d have been naked by now. Harry closed his eyes, so he didn’t have to look at the stupid, pointy git.
“Aren’t you going to look at me when I talk to you? It’s quite rude, you know.” Malfoy said in his impossible drawl. Harry wanted to strangle him. He heard Malfoy set his glass on the table and get up. He felt Malfoy standing over him, but Harry refused to open his eyes.
“What do you want, Malfoy?” He asked through clenched teeth, his eyes still closed.
Malfoy’s scent danced in the air between them. Was he leaning down? The glasses were snatched off Harry’s face.
His eyes flew open. “What do you want, Malfoy?” he asked angrily.
And then Malfoy was on him, his mouth plying Harry with heated kisses. Harry wasted no time and tugged Malfoy down. He devoured Malfoy’s mouth. He wanted every stuttered breath. Every hitch, every sigh. Malfoy scraped his teeth along Harry’s jaw, up to his earlobe.
“I can’t stop thinking of you.” Malfoy whispered, nipping Harry’s earlobe. Harry’s stomach fluttered.
“I can’t either.” Harry rolled his hips. Malfoy groaned into Harry’s neck. Harry slid his hands up Malfoy’s shirt and pushed it over his head. He shoved Malfoy down and crawled over him. Harry nipped his way across Malfoy’s clavicle.
Malfoy smelled fantastic. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen what products Malfoy used, all the times he’d been at his flat. “I need you, Malfoy.” the words slipped out before Harry could stop them. “I need you so badly.”
Malfoy’s head was thrown back over the arm of the sofa. He rolled his hips and bit back a moan. His hands were in Harry’s hair as Harry flicked one of Malfoy’s nipples with his tongue. Malfoy reached down and pulled Harry’s t-shirt off, tossing it aside. Harry slid down Malfoy’s torso, nipping and placing kisses over each bite. He’d just started fiddling with Malfoy’s flies when the Floo chimed and Ron stepped out, closely followed by George.
“Oh shit, sorry mate!” Ron held up his hands in front of his face.
Harry closed his eyes and rested his forehead on Malfoy’s stomach. Malfoy was completely frozen still. Maybe they would leave. Arousal still coursed through Harry’s veins, his need for Malfoy insatiable. Ron and George would leave. He and Malfoy could continue where they left off.
But they didn’t leave.
Malfoy withdrew his hands from Harry’s hair.
Harry’s heart sank. “Fuck.” he swore softly.
Harry sat up, looking at Malfoy. Malfoy was covering his face with his hands. George grabbed Malfoy’s shirt from where Harry had flung it.
“Gentlemen.” George said, a shit-eating grin plastered on his face. “You seem to have misplaced your tops.”
Harry and Draco were each hit in the face with their t-shirts. Harry silently cursed the brothers. It was late. Why weren’t they in bed? Christ, why couldn’t they just leave? Before Malfoy realised what they were doing and put an end to it. Before reality sunk in. Before they found themselves in the exact situation Malfoy hoped to avoid when he’d called things off.
“Harry, you seem to have a guest. Would you care to introduce us?” George asked.
Harry shot him a glare. The stupid bugger knew exactly who sat half naked on Harry’s sofa. He shrugged his shirt on, Malfoy doing the same. Malfoy refused to look at or acknowledge the Weasleys, which didn’t exactly help the situation (not that Harry could blame him).
“I was just going.” He said, eyes on the door.
Harry reached out and grabbed his arm. “Malfoy, you don’t have-”
Malfoy shook Harry off. His face still flushed, Malfoy put on his strongest, most disdainful drawl. “Weasleys.” It wasn’t a friendly greeting by any measure. But it also wasn’t an insult.
“Ron.” George said in a very loud whisper. “Don’t look, but I think Harry has been shagging Draco Malfoy.”
“We would have been if you hadn’t interrupted,” Harry said sullenly, hating the pair of them.
Ron, suspiciously, said nothing. No shock or betrayal. Harry narrowed his eyes.
“I am completely gob smacked to see you half naked beneath our dear, sweet, innocent Harry.” George said to Malfoy. “What a novel and new piece of information I have just learned at this very moment.”
Ron frowned at his brother. “You knew?” He accused. “How long have you known!”
“Since Harry told me, dear brother.”
“You told George but you wouldn’t tell me?” Ron turned to Harry, angrily. “The fuck, mate?”
“You knew?” Harry asked in a small voice, dread creeping into his limbs and up his spine.
“Of course he knew.” Malfoy said to Harry, full of contempt. “He found us together ages ago. He’s been waiting for you to tell him.”
“What?” The colour drained from Harry’s face.
“Which you obviously didn’t.” Malfoy accused, now livid. “Which proves my fucking point, Potter. This was a mistake.” He strode from the room. The front door slammed a second later.
Harry was too stunned to follow him.
“You knew?” he asked Ron. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Ron crossed his arms and stared at Harry pointedly. “Like the ferret said. I was waiting for you to trust me. Respecting your privacy and that.”
George sat down on the sofa across from Harry and slid him a drink along the coffee table.
“That went well. He seems like a delightful chap. I can see why you like him.”
“Bugger off.” Harry ran his hands through his hair.
George laughed. “So. Things aren’t as over as you thought, eh?”
“I can’t believe you’ve confided in George and not me.” Ron said.
“Er, yeah, well.” They waited for Harry to continue, but Harry found no words.
“Well said, Harry. Couldn’t agree more.” George chimed in.
“Come on, mate. I dunno why you thought you couldn’t tell me.”
Harry sighed heavily. “It’s just, sometimes… It’s easier to talk to someone whose life isn’t as perfect as yours.”
“Someone broken, like me,” George said.
“Like George.” Harry agreed, gesturing to him.
“Cheers, Harry.” George said cheekily.
“No, that’s not what I meant,” Harry said. “Ron, you’ve got a job you love, a wife you love, a child you love, you’re set, mate. I just.. I don’t know how to relate to that, if I’m honest.”
“Lucky you’ve got me, then.”
“Sorry, George. I didn’t mean anything by it.” Harry sighed and hung his head in his hands. “And, I-”
“Thought I’d try to hex him?” Ron asked shrewdly.
Harry curled up in a ball on the sofa. “I don’t see how you could accept him,” he said glumly.
Ron shook his head in disappointment. “Malfoy’s not who he was at Hogwarts.”
“You could have trusted us.”
A tear welled up in Harry’s eye. “I know,” he whispered. “It doesn’t matter, anyway. He’s left me, hasn’t he?”
Ron plonked down on the sofa beside Harry. “I’m sorry, mate. Maybe you could try to talk to him. Apologise or somethin.”
Harry scoffed. “The time for apologies is gone, I’m afraid. He was right. I hadn’t told you and Hermione.Too afraid you’d be disappointed and that.” Harry finished his drink. “It’s well past and I’m well fucked.”
“That’s the spirit.” George said.
“Was there a reason you felt compelled to come interrupt my evening?”
“Oh, yeah. Er..” Ron hesitated. “We have news.”
“Mind you, nothing as exciting and you shagging Malfoy.”
Harry shoved down his feelings and shot George a look. George only grinned at him.
“Charlie’s going to make it for Mum’s book launch.”
Harry sat up slowly. “Is he, really? That’s great.” he couldn’t quite manage to be enthusiastic.
“Mum’s well chuffed.” George said. “Better than that, he’s bringing his boyfriend.”
“We’ll finally meet the famous Ben. Don’t worry, Harry, he’s not as famous as you.”
Harry rolled his eyes.
“They’re going to be there tomorrow, so we wanted to make sure you were feeling well.”
Harry flushed. He’d called off last Sunday’s dinner saying he was sick. Heartsick was still sick, so it wasn’t a complete lie.
“Yeah, of course. I’ll be there.”
“Too right you will,” said George confidently. He and Ron stood up. “Now that we’ve thoroughly interrupted your evening plans, I’m sure you’ve got some private business you’d like to attend to.” He gave Harry a cheeky wink.
Harry was mortified. “Please just leave.”
“See you tomorrow, then?” Ron asked again.
Harry nodded. Ron stepped through the floo. George waited until he was gone before he slid Harry a small jar. “For your neck, mate.” he winked again and stepped through the floo.
After he’d gone, Harry looked at the jar. It was the extra strength bruise remover from Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes cosmetics line. Harry flushed again and went to look at himself in the mirror in his bathroom upstairs. His hair was a mess, more so than usual. And his neck sported a bright red hickey, compliments of Draco Malfoy. Just under his earlobe.
Malfoy was completely right, of course. How had Harry been so stupid? The first was that he needed to be honest with his family. Harry sighed. George had seemed ok about him seeing Malfoy. Ron had been more upset about Harry hiding Malfoy than about him actually seeing Malfoy. He needed Malfoy in his life which meant Harry had a lot of changes to make.
He could do this. He was going to get Malfoy back.