“Potter has cake. Why does Potter have cake?”
“Looks like birthday cake to me,” Vince offers, peering over at the Gryffindor table.
“Looks like chocolate cake to me,” Greg corrects, toast stopping halfway to his mouth as he starts to salivate lightly.
Draco grimaces and leans away before it breaks free from Greg’s mouth and contaminates his clean shirt. And sighs, because now it’s not only Potter who has cake. Every sodding Gryffindor in sight has got some. Weasel-face and the Weaselette both have some, and even Granger has pushed away her sensible porridge and is cautiously digging her fork into a large, sticky slice. Longbottom has some, although there already seems to be more chocolate on his nose than on his plate. Finnigan and Thomas are sharing a slice, for reasons passing understanding, and Potter... Potter is just sitting there, presiding over all the cake-eating like some kind of scruffy, big-eyed... prince of cake.
Draco rubs his eyes wearily and gropes around for the coffee pot without breaking his stare. It’s breakfast time, for goodness’ sake. It’s barely eight o’clock in the morning. Surely cake isn’t indicated... and yet. Draco purses his lips and hopes he is doing a good impression of someone who doesn’t want any.
“It’s birthday cake,” Blaise says, sliding onto the bench beside Draco, effectively shunting Greg and his slavering mouth down the table and almost into Theo’s lap. Draco waits for a second or two, expectant, and then:
“Oh, fuck, no. Goyle. Napkin. Immediately.”
“It’s not birthday cake,” he insists, glancing at Blaise briefly and then looking back to Potter, who is in the process of cutting a very large slice from the vast cake, one with chocolate curls and... oh, good grief, are those black cherries? He sighs, forcing coffee down his throat instead. It’s bitter.
“I beg to differ,” Blaise says lazily. “Pass the kippers, Pans.”
“It can’t be,” Draco insists. He wonders if Potter is cutting that perfect slice for his own consumption or for the buttering up of one of favourite teachers. Probably Loony Lupin, he thinks enviously.
“Then why does it say ‘Happy Birthday Harry’ on it in... ooh, white chocolate...?” Pansy demands, a sharp note of regret in her voice.
“I don’t know,” Draco snaps, chewing gently on the tip of his tongue and pretending he can taste the rich bitter-sweetness of one of those cherries that he doesn’t have. He has chocolate, lots of it, and cake, and sweets, back in his dormitory, but everyone knows that food—and cake in particular—always tastes better when it’s someone else’s. And as for Potter, well, it’s better not to think about what he might taste like. “But it’s not, because Potter’s birthday is in July.”
“Quite the expert, aren’t you?” Pansy says, eyes narrowed when Draco forces himself to look at her. “How do you know that?”
“Everyone knows that,” Draco says lightly. Perhaps he could Confund Potter into offering him a slice. Perhaps he could go down to his room and hit himself on the head. Perhaps it would be best to look away now.
Beside him, Blaise snorts, and across the table, Vince sighs heavily. “Why don’t we ever have cake?”
Draco drains his coffee cup and shrugs irritably. “I don’t know, Vince... do you know how to bake?”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Never mind. We do not have cake because Slytherins do not have not-birthdays,” Draco snaps, folding his arms. “We do not have cake because we are dignified and we eat normal things for breakfast, like toast and cereal and... er, smoked fish. We do not have cake because gratuitous cake is for gluttons and Gryffindors. We do not have cake because—”
“Erm,” says someone from the end of the table.
Draco turns, ready to snarl at the interloper, but he falters. The interloper is Potter. And, more importantly, the interloper is a cake-bearing Potter.
“I’m sorry to interrupt your rant, or monologue, or whatever it was,” Potter says, blinking rather appealingly—er, rapidly—and holding out a plate containing the perfect slice of cake, the one with chocolate curls and black cherries on top. “Do you want a piece of my cake?”
Draco stares at him, baffled and suddenly very aware of his face—more specifically, the temperature of his skin and the humiliating shade it may well be turning as he sits there, staring at Potter.
“Erm... Draco?” Potter attempts, discomfiture obvious. “Cake?”
“Potter, why are you being weird?” Pansy sighs, propping her chin up on her elbow and regarding him indolently.
“It’s not your birthday, Potter,” is all Draco can think to say. His nose is assaulted by the rich scent of the chocolate as the plate is held closer to him, and he can’t think of a good reason to refuse it.
“I know,” Potter says easily, quirking a small smile that Draco has never seen before. “My birthday always falls in the holidays, so I was sent this one now. I suppose someone was worried that I wasn’t holding up my end of the Gryffindor birthday cake exchange system.”
“What in the name of all that is relevant, Potter, does this have to do with me?”
Potter’s smile widens, and it’s... well, never mind what it is. “It’s not my birthday, but it is yours, isn’t it?”
Draco’s stomach flips over. He stares at Potter, wreathed in confusion, and his hands accept the small plate quite without his consent.
“I thought your birthday was next week,” Blaise says, dark features creased in mild confusion.
“No, it’s the fifth, you idiot,” Pansy sighs, rolling her eyes.
“Today’s the fifth,” Draco says quietly, and he doesn’t hear their responses because he’s too busy looking at Potter, whose expressions are always so wonderfully transparent.
Right now, as he stands there at the end of the table with his hands in his pockets and his shirt un-tucked, he looks absolutely scandalised, and it rather suits him. Draco doesn’t care too much that his friends have forgotten him; they’ve never really made much of a fuss over birthdays; Pansy, in fact, has refused to acknowledge that she is ageing at all since she turned sixteen, and Blaise is so fantastically self-involved that he rarely knows what day it is.
But Potter... Potter knows. Potter knows that today is Draco’s eighteenth birthday, and here he is, facing a strong possibility of making a complete fool of himself in front of a table full of Slytherins in order to—almost inexplicably, Draco thinks—bring him cake.
Draco curls his fingers tightly around the cool ceramic of the plate. Looks up at Potter, who is chewing his bottom lip and fixing Draco with intense green eyes. Almost inexplicably.
“Don’t worry, Draco,” Pansy is saying, leaning in to kiss him on the cheek in a cloud of floral perfume, and then scratching away with her quill in an embossed notebook. “I’ll send away for something obscenely expensive for you.”
Potter rolls his eyes, and Draco’s mouth twitches at one corner. “Great,” he says vaguely. Then, before he has time to rationalise himself out of it, he rises from the table, steps over the bench and stands there, frowning at his piece of cake. He suspects he is trying to be impulsive, and it’s far from a natural process, but he can do it.
The early morning sun streams in through the stained glass windows at the top of the Hall, warming the back of Draco’s neck. He looks up decisively. “Thank you, Potter. I’m going to eat this outside.”
“He’s gone mad,” Theo says, still attempting to poke a napkin around Greg’s neck.
“It’s his age,” Pansy stage-whispers.
“You are older than me, Pansy,” Draco points out, but he doesn’t look at her. He’s too busy looking at Potter. Who has remembered his birthday, for some intriguing reason.
He’s pretty sure Potter doesn’t hate him any more, but even so. He turns to go, but makes it only ten or so paces before he has to turn around and look at the cake-providing idiot.
“I can’t eat this by myself,” he says tentatively, knowing it’s a lie, and worse, a line.
He thinks he’d rather like to hex himself in the face right now, but that’s not an option. It’s cake with Harry Potter out there, or death by embarrassment in here, courtesy of the shower of reprobates who forgot his birthday. Draco likes to think of himself as a rational person these days, and really, it’s no kind of choice at all.
“I’m sure you’d manage, Malfoy,” Potter says, but he’s smiling. And fidgeting.
Draco rolls his eyes. “I’m offering to share something with you, Potter. It’s definitely a first, and there’s no way of knowing when it might happen again. Besides,” he says, gesturing over at the Gryffindor table, where the cake has been reduced to mere crumbs and many of Potter’s housemates are regarding him with interest, “this seems to be the last piece.”
Potter looks, too, and his expression is a poor attempt at disappointment. Draco allows a genuine smile to spread across his face and gives in to temptation, plucking one of the chocolate smeared cherries from the top of the cake and biting into it with a contented sigh.
“I don’t think eating all the cherries constitutes sharing,” Potter says, folding his arms.
“Well, are you coming or not?”
“Go,” Theo pleads from the table. “The drooling is reaching a critical point. Save yourselves!” he cries melodramatically, now attempting to stuff a napkin directly into Greg’s mouth, much to his displeasure. Draco snorts.
Potter exchanges an odd little nod with Granger, who is still picking her way delicately through her own slice of breakfast/not-birthday cake, and strides out of the Great Hall. Draco stalks off after him, pretending not to hear the low hum of gossip and speculation that rumbles into life as soon as he crosses into the Entrance Hall.
If he can’t sit outside and share a piece of chocolate cake with Harry Potter on his birthday, then...
Oh, he really is completely and unequivocally screwed. They might as well be on a date.
“I didn’t bring a fork,” Potter says cheerfully, tugging Draco down onto a lush patch of grass; it’s still slightly dew-damp and quickly begins to soak through his thin trouser fabric, but he pretends not to notice.
It smells fantastic out here—summer air and heavy-scented flowers and something fresh and interesting that must be Potter. And cake, obviously, Draco reminds himself, glancing at Potter just in time to see him gathering chocolate icing on his finger and conveying it to his mouth without an ounce of shame. Potter blinks softly at him, returning the eye contact as he drops his hand back into his lap. He’s missed a smudge of chocolate, just under his bottom lip, and Draco stares, heart pounding.
“What?” Potter says, voice light and eyes dark. The breeze ruffles his chaotic hair. He licks ineffectually at the smear of chocolate with the tip of his tongue.
It’s too much for Draco’s startled senses, and, before he can bring reason into the equation, he leans across the fragrant grass, wraps his fingers around Potter’s collar and pulls him into a kiss. He stiffens and gasps an aching, wonderful sound across Draco’s lips and then seems to come to life, opening himself hotly to the kiss, groaning as their tongues slide together, fruit, sugar, coffee, newness; he reaches out and grasps Draco’s shoulders, fingers digging into his flesh, sure to leave bruises later, but Draco doesn’t care; he thinks he might need them to remind himself that he didn’t imagine all of this.
Any of this, actually, he thinks, head light and spinning fast as their kiss turns lazy and deliberate, hands cupping faces, trailing through hair, neither wanting to pause for breath. He wants to remember it. He wants to remember Potter’s eyes, dark and hazy, and the hitch in his breathing as they draw apart and Draco wipes away the last of the chocolate from Potter’s face with his thumb.
They stare for a moment, sharing not-quite-disbelief. Finally, Draco tears his eyes away, staring instead at his fingers, and deciding that this may just be the strangest birthday he has ever had.
“So, what are we doing exactly?” he asks, affecting nonchalance.
Harry makes a soft sound that tells Draco, without needing to look at him, that he’s smiling. He picks up the plate and shuffles awkwardly closer, apparently not caring a fig for grass stains. Resting his head on Draco’s shoulder, he curls his legs around himself and breaks off a sticky piece of cherry and icing.
“Eating cake,” he says simply.
Draco frowns and exhales against the surprisingly soft, messy hair that tickles his face and confuses him utterly. “Do you eat cake with many people?”
Harry laughs. It’s warm. “No, I prefer an exclusive cake-eating... arrangement where possible.”
“That’s reassuring,” Draco says with as much disdain as he can muster, but he’s too comfortable and cautiously excited to muster all that much.
“We could have cake on my actual birthday, too,” Potter suggests, idly holding out a cream-smeared cherry. Draco takes it and eats it untidily and wonders, just for a moment, what would upset his father more—seeing Draco kissing Harry Potter or seeing Draco licking his fingers in public. It’s a close call.
“If you think I’m going to wait that long, you are sorely mistaken,” Draco advises, squashing the painful little bubble of anxiety before it can escape.
Harry twists at an odd angle to make eye contact, another lump of chocolatey mess already halfway to his mouth.
“Are we still talking about cake?”
Draco shrugs. Smirks. Reaches for the plate and steals the last cherry, revelling in the muffled sound of protest that emanates from somewhere near his left ear.
“I have no idea.”
Potter laughs and flops onto his back in the grass. He shoots out a hand and steals the cherry back, dangling it into his mouth with obvious satisfaction.
Draco lets him. It’s okay. He chooses cake.