There’s a new restaurant in Hogsmeade, and everyone is talking about it.
Apparently, it opened only days ago—just in time for the third Hogsmeade weekend of the term. It’s charming, clean, and offers a menu packed full with options beyond the standard pub fare found elsewhere in the village. Abraxas won’t shut up about it.
“You should take Potter,” he’s saying when Tom finally tunes back in.
Tom clicks his tongue, turns his page. “Obviously,” he drawls, not bothering to look up from his work. “Who else would I go with?”
The thought of spending any more time than he has to around his budding followers, who for some reason see fit to call themselves his friends, is enough to make him shudder. Harry would roll his eyes to hear it, but Harry doesn’t have to live with them.
When Abraxas takes too long to respond, he lifts his gaze, one eyebrow raised.
“Has it happened, then?” Abraxas is grinning as he asks, leaning in. Tom shifts deliberately away. “Are you two…you know?”
Tom snaps his book shut. “No.”
“Truly?” Abraxas asks. By the way he says it, one would think Tom’s just killed his kneazle—a fat, vicious creature who sees fit to cover Tom’s bed in fur on the daily. “It’s been seven years, Tom. If you don’t get it together soon, someone else will. In fact, I heard it might be several someones.”
Tom’s grip on his book tightens; the leather creaks under his hand. “I’m satisfied with our friendship—“
“Sure.” Abraxas waves his hand, brushing aside his usual explanation with a carelessness that is almost insulting. “Is Potter?”
“Of course he is,” he snaps.
Before Abraxas can respond with any more inflammatory nonsense, he rises from his chair, smooths one hand down his uniform vest and turns sharply on his heel. He strides evenly from the room; he does not stalk or stomp. He nods politely to Mulciber, who is exiting the dorm as he arrives.
Still, the question settles in his chest like a hot coal.
No matter how he tries to smother it, it only burns. He doesn’t know the answer. He’s only ever assumed.
He doesn’t like not knowing.
“A new restaurant’s opened in Hogsmeade,” Tom says in greeting as he drops his bag beside Harry’s own, sitting down across from him. The library is nearly empty, as Tom prefers it.
“Mhmm,” Harry says, the tip of his quill between his teeth as he glares down at his Potions text. He turns the page. “Opaleye’s, right?”
Tom blinks, the only sign he’ll show that he’s surprised. “You’ve heard of it?”
Unlike Tom, who has an unrelenting need to know everything about everything, Harry is—to all appearances—content to merely wander through life, just waiting for information to drop itself into his lap. It frustrates Tom to no end, and it makes him wonder why Harry would know about the village’s newest attraction when Abraxas seemed to think it was news.
“Cedric told me about it.”
Ah, Tom thinks, one hand curling into a fist atop the table. For a man who graduated two years ago, his name lands in Harry’s mouth an awful lot.
“Cedric Diggory?” he asks, like he doesn’t already know.
Harry hums in assent. He still hasn’t looked up from his book; Tom is contemplating whether it’d be worth it to steal it from under his nose. “He invited me,” Harry says, and all thoughts of things as petty as theft abandon him. “Cho’s going with him, and he asked if I wanted to join them.”
“Did you say yes?” Tom asks, feeling like he’s outside his body, like he’s underwater.
His chest is tight.
“What?” Finally, Harry deigns to look up from his book. He looks at Tom as though he’s the weird one here. “Of course not,” he says hotly, an embarrassed flush on his cheeks. “Cedric said…I mean, I think they’re going there for a date—I wouldn’t want to get in the way.”
A rush of something—relief? Ugh, most likely—makes the held breath flood from Tom’s mouth. He finds himself laughing, ignores the telling edge to the sound. “Of course it's a date, Harry.” The you idiot is left unsaid. “A date he was asking you to join.”
Again, Harry looks at Tom as though he’s said something exceedingly odd. “Why?”
This is perhaps a good question. In this instance, at least, Abraxas is helpful, not that Tom will ever tell him. “You’re very attractive, Harry,” Tom says. Then, he adds, “In theory, I suppose. To some people.” Again with the look. Tom hurries to make his point. “Diggory must be one of them, Chang as well.”
Harry is silent for a long moment, looking down at his textbook like it’s betrayed him. “Oh, Merlin,” he says eventually, defeated. “I think you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right,” Tom says, and is easily ignored.
“Do you think they’re upset?”
“That you rejected them?” Tom doesn’t fight the grin tugging at his lips. “Oh, undoubtedly.”
Harry groans, flopping forward to bury his face in his arms. Tom helpfully nudges his inkwell out of the way. “Feelings are the worst,” Harry says—at least, this is what Tom thinks he says. It’s difficult to tell on account of the way his voice is muffled into his sleeves.
“You’d do well to abandon them now,” Tom says, quite helpfully in his opinion.
Harry spares him a dirty look from beneath his fringe, one he decidedly hasn’t earned. “You’re the worst,” he says.
“Anyway,” he says after a beat, with practiced carelessness, “you should go with me.”
“What?” Harry asks, brow furrowed. Then, before Tom can repeat his question—or, rather, his declaration, he adds, “Where?”
“To Opaleye’s,” Tom says. He realizes he’s tapping his foot against the floor and stills. “Honestly, Harry, pay attention.”
Harry sighs. “I can’t believe people still think you’re charming.”
Tom sits up straighter, glares. “I’ll have you know that I am very charming,” he says, doing his best to loom over Harry even though they’re both sitting down and mostly succeeding. Still, Harry doesn’t bother to look intimidated; he never does. Irritated, Tom slumps back in his chair. “Answer the question.”
“That was a question?”
“I despise you.”
“Hmm.” Harry rests his chin on his palm. He’s smiling. “Sure.”
“I do, you—wait.” Harry is biting his lip as he watches him. Tom gets the feeling he’s being laughed at. Narrowing his eyes, he asks, “Sure, what?”
“I’ll go to Opaleye’s with you.”
Tom clicks his tongue, crosses his arms and says, “Of course you will.” When Harry, still smiling, looks back down at his book, he adds, “I don’t appreciate being laughed at.”
“Really?” Harry tilts his head, looks up at him through his lashes, eyes wide. It’s disarming; it’s a trap. “I thought you’d be used to it by now.”
He tells himself that Harry will cross a line one day, that he’ll push him too far and face the consequences. It hasn’t happened yet. He doesn’t know where that line may be. He isn’t certain it exists. “You’re insufferable.”
“I’m your favorite.”
“Obviously,” Tom says and looks away—looks anywhere but Harry’s face. “We’ll go tomorrow.”
“Sounds good,” Harry says, and—yes.
From the outside, Opaleye’s is unassuming. A plain looking building in the same cottage style as the rest of the village, only the pearly sheen of the hanging sign and the dragon scale design etched into the painted blue door set it apart. The inside is brighter than he expected, lit by false windows on the ceiling that let in enchanted sunlight, belying the cloud cover outside.
It’s busy, but not overwhelmingly so.
At the very least, Harry seems happy enough as they’re ushered to a table for two near the front. As soon as the waiter—a newly graduated Hufflepuff, if he isn’t mistaken—leaves them with their menus, Harry entices one of the paper dragons drifting near the ceiling down to the table. It crawls up his arm to nuzzle his face, and he laughs, ducking away when it brushes the sensitive spot beneath his chin.
Tom is very familiar with that spot. He likes to jab at it when he thinks Harry’s gotten too comfortable. He never sees it coming, and every time, he makes the most amusing sounds.
Like he knows what Tom’s thinking, Harry eyes his hands warily.
Tom folds them atop the table, a telltale smirk on his face.
When the paper dragon finally leaves, called away to deliver an order, Harry watches it go with a wistful look. Tom resigns himself to learning how to make one. He has no time for such frivolities, but he thinks he can make an exception.
Just this once.
And then the next time, and the time after that.
Flipping his menu open, forcefully removing himself from that line of thought, he says, “Abraxas recommends the crab. He’s familiar with the chef’s work.”
Harry makes a face. “I’ve never had crab,” he confesses, tapping his fingers along the menu’s edge. “The Dursleys never let me try it when they brought it home.”
His gaze darts to Tom’s, warning.
And, truly, it’s not unwarranted. This time, Tom very deliberately doesn’t recommend murdering the Dursley family. The only time Harry’s ever appreciated the suggestion was the night Tom stole an older Slytherin’s firewhiskey and let Harry get him drunk. As he’s learned since, Harry is much less willing to entertain violence when he’s sober.
It’s a work in progress.
When their waiter returns, Harry doesn’t order the crab, so Tom does. He decides they won’t be leaving until Harry tries it.
“You didn’t have to do that.” As per usual, Harry sees right through him. It’s as irritating as ever. “You don’t even know if you’ll like it.”
“I trust Abraxas not to steer me wrong.”
Harry snorts. Then, at Tom’s dark stare, he says, “You don’t trust anyone.”
“I trust you,” Tom says evenly.
“I don’t count.”
And that’s…true. Perhaps unwise. “You’ll be having some,” he says instead of thinking on it further.
Harry sighs at him, but he’s smiling. “Of course I will.”
The food is fine.
He doesn’t pay any particular attention to the way it tastes, too busy watching Harry. When he’s between bites, Tom nudges his plate toward him. After sparing him an exasperated look—he merely lifts a brow in reply—Harry reaches easily across the table to grab a crab leg from Tom’s plate. He cracks it open, carefully works the meat free. When he chews, he closes his eyes.
Tom rests his chin on his palm and wonders at the satisfaction he feels.
He thinks he could live on this alone, the knowledge that Harry is happy and well fed, and that it’s Tom's plate providing.
Harry’s throat works as he swallows. He opens his eyes. When he catches Tom looking, he glares, embarrassed.
Tom offers him another crab leg.
“You’re so weird,” Harry says. Tom would protest, but he must admit that in this instance, at least, Harry is probably right. And anyway, Harry takes it from his hand. “You realize this means you need to eat some of my food, too.”
“If I must.”
Harry laughs at him again, one hand covering his mouth. His eyes are especially bright in the enchanted light. His hair is a mess, worse even than it usually is; he looks as though he went flying this morning.
If he did, Tom is sorry he missed it.
It’s a welcome break, to sit in the stands with a book and a warming charm as Harry loses himself to the sky above him.
No one bothers him there; no masks are necessary.
He clears his throat, swallows thickly and feels his tongue sitting oddly in his mouth.
“Tom?” Harry asks. He blinks, realizes he's lifted his hand to cup his throat. “Are you alright?”
“Of course,” he says easily, dropping his hand to his lap.
His pulse is racing.
Harry, contrary creature that he is, doesn’t look convinced. “Are you—“
“I’m just a bit cold, is all,” he says, and the words feel clumsy. Harry’s gaze lingers on the thick jumper he’s wearing—the one forced upon him by Molly Weasley when she heard of his friendship with her son’s best friend.
He feels heat spreading over his face.
A bead of sweat drips down his back.
Unbidden, he thinks back to his conversation with Abraxas yesterday. He thinks of all the conversations before it, the excruciating detail he was subjected to and the dramatics of it all—the way Abraxas would press his palm over his heart and tell of how it raced, of the flush that followed, the rush of it, the heat.
Suddenly, it’s all sounding very…familiar.
His gaze snaps to Harry’s face, to the concerned furrow of his brow, to the freckles dusted across his nose and up his cheeks. Tom used to tease him, used to call him spotty and play connect the dots as best as he could with Harry batting his hands away.
He knows this face better than his own—every mark, every line.
His pulse flutters in his throat, faster now than it was before. A swooping feeling—dread or anticipation, he doesn’t know—makes him clutch at the table’s edge.
He’s never felt this way before.
He isn’t sure he likes it.
- - -
Harry notices the flush first.
Tom has always been quick to blush—something he hated to no end and obsessively trained himself out of back in first year. It’s odd to see the red stain on his skin now, when they’re surrounded by other people who might see and, to the extent of his knowledge, sober.
Even odder, he’s staring blatantly, eyes wide.
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
Tom nods slowly, looking thoughtful and just a bit panicked. “I think I’m…” He hesitates, and this alone would be enough to make Harry lower his fork and pay attention. He gets an odd look on his face then, like he’s swallowed something wrong. He say, “I think I’m feeling.”
“Feeling?” Harry echoes, incredulous. “Feeling what?”
“I don’t know.” Tom focuses on him again, eyes glassy. A deeper flush blooms across his face. “I’ve never done it before.”
“You’ve never—? What do you mean you’ve never done it before?”
Tom doesn’t answer. Instead, he says, sounding harried, “Abraxas told me this would happen, but I never believed him.”
“Tom, you’re not making any sense.”
But it’s like Tom didn’t hear him. “I suppose he was right about the heart racing, and the sweat, but he never mentioned the“—he stops to clear his throat, massaging it with one hand as the other, shaking, reaches for his glass of water—“the difficulty breathing.”
“The what?” Harry demands, voice rising.
“And swallowing,” Tom adds, ending in a wheeze. He coughs, takes a large gulp of water, then coughs some more. He pins Harry with an appalled stare. “You really go through this every time?”
Alright, that’s enough of this.
“I think we should get you back to the castle,” he says, waving down one of the waiting staff to pay.
“No, wait,” Tom says, tugging his arm back down. He clears his throat. The redness is spreading. “I’m fine.”
“You are not—“
“I don’t want to ruin your meal.”
“Stop being an idiot, Tom,” Harry snaps, tugging his arm free. It’s harder than it should be, considering how much of a mess Tom looks right now. “You’re sick, and you will be getting help.”
“I’m not sick. I have feelings for you.”
For a long moment, Harry can only stare. Even Tom looks surprised by the words that just came out of his mouth. “Idiot,” Harry says—repeats, really—because he can’t seem to think of anything else. “You really think…? Feelings aren’t supposed to make you literally choke up and die, Tom!”
Tom has the gall to look offended. Meanwhile, he sounds like he swallowed a quaffle when he says, “I’m not dying.”
Harry is about ready to knock Tom unconscious and float him back up to the castle himself when someone clears their throat next to their table. “Excuse me,” says one of the waitresses, wand clutched in hand. She points at Tom. “Is he alright?”
“I’m fine,” says Tom with all the authority he can muster, which isn’t much.
“He’s really not,” Harry tells her, ignoring Tom’s attempt to glare. “Could I pay now, please?”
“Of course.” She hurries off, and Harry stands, rounding the table and hovering anxiously as Tom shoves himself to his feet. He doesn’t sway or stumble, but Harry holds his arms out and ready just in case. As soon as their meal is paid for, Harry ushers a sulking Tom out of the restaurant and into the crisp autumn air.
He drags Tom up the path, ignoring his continued attempts to proclaim his good health.
As they near the gates to the grounds, Tom stops.
“Harry,” he says, and he sounds afraid. Harry whirls to face him, catching him when he staggers closer. With Tom’s face—his heated, swollen face—buried in his neck, he can feel the way he wheezes on every breath. “I can’t—" Tom says, stopping to clear his throat, to swallow thickly.
Harry lowers them quickly to the ground, sinking to his knees beside Tom’s head.
Tom’s eyes are watering now as he stares up at Harry, grasping his hand in a white knuckled grip.
“It’s gonna be fine, Tom,” Harry says, using his free hand to unknot his tie, to pull his collar away from his neck. Tom squeezes tighter. Harry grabs his wand, summons his patrons—he used to be proud every time he conjured it, because it’s a spell Tom has never quite managed, but now he’s just stupidly grateful as it leaps into view. “Find Madam Pomfrey,” he says, “Tell her I have Tom near the gates, and he can’t breathe.”
His patrons bounds away; he doesn’t watch it go.
“Harry,” Tom rasps, breaths coming faster now
“I know,” he says, mentally flipping through the healing spells he knows. None of them will help, and he feels his eyes sting as frustration wars with fear. “I’ve got you. Madam Pomfrey is on her way.”
When he hears the pop of a house elf appearing with the matron in tow, he almost weeps from relief.
He loses the next few minutes to stress.
Later, he’ll remember the comforting surety in Madam Pomfrey’s voice as she asked for information, as she guided his hands in her aid as she worked, as she rubbed a poultice into Tom's throat that made the wheezing stop. He’ll remember the way his hands shook when she took Tom away once she declared him stable, the long walk in her wake.
Now, he’s sitting in a chair beside Tom’s resting form, feet propped up on the end of his bed. He has a book in hand, but he isn’t reading it so much as he’s just staring at the page.
“Harry?” he hears Tom croak, and the next thing he knows, his book has fallen to the floor.
He’s sitting on the edge of Tom’s bed, both of his hands held in his own. “How do you feel?” he asks.
Tom pushes himself up onto his arms, looking around. Instead of answering, he asks, “Why am I in the hospital wing?”
Harry wonders if it’d be completely inappropriate to shake him. Just a little. “Because you’re allergic to shellfish.”
Tom frowns, like he’s offended by the mere idea of such a weakness. “No, I’m not.”
“Yes, actually, you are.”
“I’ve never had a reaction—“
Harry snorts. He can’t help it. “Like you’ve never had feelings for me?” he asks, brow raised.
Tom goes still. Then he drops his head back to the pillow to stare up at the ceiling, gaze full of despair. “Murder me,” he says.
“Oh, no,” Harry says. “I just had the most stressful afternoon of my life, trying to keep you alive. You don’t get to die now just because you’re an idiot.”
Tom grumbles under his breath, then says, “Smarter than you.”
“Says the boy who thought his throat was swelling up because he was having feelings.”
“Don’t be rude; I’m in the hospital wing.”
“Oh, that’s new. Where was that attitude last time I was in here?”
Tom glares at him. “You were in here because you chose to play a death sport at nearly a hundred feet in the air. I triggered a condition I had no reason to know of. That’s hardly a fair comparison.”
Harry really can’t dispute that, and Tom knows it.
He lifts his chin, radiating triumph.
It doesn’t last long. Harry watches, concerned, as Tom’s expression darkens. He picks at the edge of his jumper's sleeve. Avoiding Harry’s gaze, he asks, stilted, “Do you mind it?”
Harry thinks back over their conversation, then gives up. “Mind what?”
“That I don’t…” His gaze darts to Harry’s face, then away again. “That I don’t have a”—his nose scrunches up in distaste—“crush?”
“No,” Harry says, and he doesn’t even have to think about it. Then he does think about it. “Of course not, Tom. I know you. You’re mine, and I’m yours; it doesn’t matter how.”
“Oh.” Tom’s face falls into a familiar blankness, the one that always gives away his surprise, or his pleasure. “Well—good.”
“Good,” Harry echoes. Then he grins. “Just so long as you know I’m never letting this go.”
Tom lets out a heavy sigh, but he doesn’t protest, and he doesn’t let go of his hand.
It’s more than enough.