Draco didn't like the sign atop of the new coffee shop in Hogsmeade.
In all fairness, it didn't seem overly fond of him, either.
YOU'VE BEEN STANDING OUT THERE FOR TEN MINUTES, YOU SILLY WANKER, it currently proclaimed in flowery script. EITHER GET IN OR GET OUT, THERE'S A GOOD LAD.
"I won't have you telling me what to do," Draco said, crossing his arms. "Can't a man make a decision in peace anymore?"
NOT IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE A WEENIE ABOUT IT, the sign said. It really was an obnoxious shade of purple. DID YOUR CONFIDENCE RECEDE WITH YOUR HAIRLINE?
Draco swelled up to his full height and was about to tell the sign where it could put its weenies when the door opened, setting off a tinkling bell charm, and Harry Bloody Potter came out, carrying some kind of folded chalkboard that proclaimed SPECIALS and absolutely nothing else.
"Oh, Malfoy," Potter said, before Draco could decide whether to run away or not. He sounded annoying unfazed by anything about the situation in front of him. He had a bit of chalk on his cheek, even. It was as if he didn't even care. "Fancy meeting you here."
"I was only passing through," Draco said stiffly, casting a baleful look at the sign, which was now innocently proclaiming HEDWIG'S TEAS AND COZIES with no further commentary on his confidence or his hairline.
"Makes sense," Potter said, dusting off his hands and looking down at the sign he had just placed with befuddlement as if he had just realized it was there. "You don't happen to have any ideas about what to make the specials, do you?"
"I assure you that I do not," Draco said in his most freezing tones and stalked off.
"Oh, probably for his new coffee shop," Chang said as if that was a sensible idea to put in the same thought as Harry Potter. "It looks nice, doesn't it?"
"The students'll like it," Goldstein said after a sip of pumpkin juice and a fond look down at the children, presumably as a cover for the vague feeling of unease the thought of so many youths gathered in one place ought to bring him as a professor. "There hasn't been a proper date spot since old Puddifoot ran off with that Veela of hers, hasn't there?"
"Potter is starting a coffee shop?" Draco said and, when the both of them continued to nod and look generally unbothered, the great useless lumps, he repeated it again, with greater emphasis. “Potter is starting a coffee shop? Where people go for dates?"
"Well, they can go for any reason," Goldstein said. "He's offering a free muffin to Hogwarts professors, did you know?"
"That's lovely," Chang said. "I could always use a free muffin. Oh, Draco, stop making faces into your soup, you'll scare the first years. They haven't been properly exposed to you yet."
"Potter can't run a coffee shop," Draco said. "It's... it's not decent."
"Why not?" Goldstein said, brows furrowing. "It's not the gay thing, is it, because I'd think you of all people—"
"It's not the gay thing," Draco said, pointing a spoon severely. "It's the Harry Potter thing, has everyone but me lost their minds?"
"'Fraid I'm not following, mate," Goldstein said, ignoring the spoon with remarkable aplomb. "But feel free not to go in, if it bothers you."
"But if you do go in, do let us know how the muffins are," Chang said.
Draco glared into his soup.
That he ended up in Hedwig's Teas and Cozies was perhaps more surprising.
It was, of course, all the sign's fault. He had barely paused on his way back, just a brief glance to see if the place had fallen to the never ending fight between good and evil or whatever it was that Potter was doing with his spare time nowadays, when it had cheerfully switched over to saying OH, YOU AGAIN.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Draco asked.
Draco jumped. He hadn't realized the window was cracked open, nor that Potter was just on the other side of it. And, oh no, now he was coming out, wiping his hands on some sort of cleaning rag.
"Sorry, did you say something to me?" Potter asked.
Draco took a breath and looked up at the sign, which was was back to normal but for the extra smug-looking flourish on the H in Hedwig. Though that might have been just Draco. Since he didn't quite fancy telling Potter that he'd been arguing wich an inanimate object, he cast about for something else to say. "Muffins," he blurted. "Free muffins. For professors. Is that what you do?"
Potter raised his eyebrows. "That's right," he said. "A free muffin in any flavor with the purchase of whichever beverage, for all past, current, and future professors." He waited for a moment, in which Draco stared at him. "That last part was a joke," he said finally. "I can't tell the future."
Draco didn't know what to say to that. Frankly, the thought of Potter admitting to be unable to do anything was somewhat disgruntling. "I'm a professor," he finally said, when the silence had just dipped its toes into awkwardness.
"I know," Potter said, and gave him a Look.
"Well then," Draco said.
"Would you like a muffin?" Potter said.
"No!" Draco said, and turned on his heel. He was proud to say he didn't sprint away, even if that was mainly because sprinting nowadays made him get a painful stitch in his side.
Still, he counted it as a victory.
"What, is that the end of the story?" Chang asked as Goldstein poured Draco more tea with the general polite obedience that had endeared him to Draco in the first place. "You talked for a minute and looked at each other?"
"We didn't look at each other," Draco explained, trying to keep his irritation in check. "He gave me a Look. A Look!"
"A look," Goldstein repeated dubiously, and Draco was forced to dock him any points he had earned for the tea, putting Chang back in the lead for his favorite coworker. It was a competition they didn't know they were in and had been going on for over a decade. "Well, I can see why you'd be concerned, Draco. I hate it when people go around looking at me."
"Don't try to be funny, Goldstein, it doesn't suit you," Draco said sullenly, even though that just made them both chuckle like now he was trying to be funny. "You know what I mean."
"Explain it to us anyway," Chang suggested. "Just for fun."
"It was, you know, a Look. Like, a sure, Malfoy, you might consider yourself a professor, but you aren't really as good as those other professors, and I don't want to give you free muffins sort of Look."
"That's a lot of meaning for one look," Chang said. "Are you sure—"
"I know about Looks, Chang!" Draco said and irritably added a sugar cube to his tea. "I'm very well-versed in Looks! I give people Looks all the time. Sometimes, Pansy and I get together and don't even say a word, just Look at each other."
"Goodness," Chang said and gave Goldstein a Look.
"Wait, hold on," Goldstein said. "Why would he try to give you a muffin if he doesn't want you to have one, then?"
"I don't know," Draco said, adding another sugar cube. "Probably for some sort of plot."
"A Potter Plot," Chang said.
"A Potter Pastry Plot," Goldstein said.
"With Monstrous Muffins for Malfoy," Chang said.
"Draco's Delicious Dilemma," Goldstein added.
"Why do I even bother speaking to either of you?" Draco wondered as he stirred in another sugar cube.
"Look, the way I see it, you have two choices," Goldstein said, reaching for the sugar tin only to have his hand slapped away by Draco. "You take the muffin or you leave the muffin. Honestly, I think you'll be fine either way, but if you eat the muffin you might shut up about it."
"And can tell us if they are good muffins," Chang said.
"I'm sure they won't be," Draco said, stealing two more sugar cubes before passing the tin over to Goldstein and his pouting. "I bet he's the type to make them disgustingly over sweet. Some people's palettes just never can be refined, you know."
They both stared at him as he stirred his tea. Draco really didn't know what they thought they were looking at.
IT'S ABOUT TIME, said the sign.
"Er, alright," said Potter, who wasn't even looking. He was wiping down the tables, looking utterly at home and annoyingly fit in one of those tight muggle t-shirts he liked to wear, which really ought to come in a large enough size to make Potter's biceps not look so improbably large. It only made sense that Potter didn't know how to buy clothing correctly. He probably just stepped into the store and grabbed the first thing he saw and assumed it would make itself fit him.
"Malfoy?" Potter said, and Draco realized belatedly that he'd been caught staring. "Do you want to have a seat?"
"Oh, I suppose," Draco said and arranged himself as elegantly as he could manage on a tall wooden stool by the main counter.
"You have to make a drink order," Potter explained, giving Draco another Look. "We have tea, coffee, hot cocoa, er..." He gestured at the wall behind the counter, which was covered by another of those chalkboards and listed a truly outrageous number of drinks, each with a more ridiculous name than the last.
"Just tea," Draco said hastily. "Sencha, if you would, with sugar on the side."
"Milk?" Potter asked, ducking behind the counter and starting to put a tray together.
Draco made a face. "No, thank you," he said and folded his fingers, watching Potter scurry about to prepare things for him. It was less satisfying than he might have assumed, once, having Potter serving him. "So," he said when the silence had stretched long enough that he wanted to itch the back of his neck to get the feel of it off his skin. "What made you go into the... coffee business?"
"Bit of a whim, really," Potter said. "I was in Hogsmeade visiting Neville, you know, and he mentioned that Puddifoot was looking to lease out the space, since she extended her honeymoon again so they could go to Australia, and I thought, oh, I always thought it be kind of nice, really, to run a little shopfront sort of place, and I said, well, I drink coffee and all that, and I can learn to bake, so why not? And I had just left the Aurors, so I was sort of looking for a direction in life, not really sure what to do with myself."
"Oh," Draco said with a sort of fascinated horror at how eager Potter was to spill his whole life's saga to his greatest remaining enemy. “Why did you quit the Aurors?”
“Well,” Potter said, rubbing the back of his neck. “They offered to make me Head Auror, you see.”
“So you quit,” Draco said, just to be sure.
“Exactly. Here you are," Potter said, setting down the tea tray in front of Draco. He watched as Draco poked suspiciously at the muffin. "It's pumpkin," he said helpfully.
Draco bit into it.
It was, unfortunately, delicious.
"Now see here," Draco hissed. He'd shake his finger at the sign if he weren't concerned it'd freeze off once removed from the safety of his pockets. "I am a regular patron of this establishment and I refuse to be— to be harassed by errant signage. I'll... I'll cover you with paint, see if I won't."
I'D LIKE TO SEE YOU TRY, the sign said and flashed a saucy typeface change at him. BUT YOU'RE NEEDED INSIDE.
"I'm... what?" Draco squinted up, making sure he hadn't misread.
SCURRY IN AND SEE, WHY DON'T YOU?
"I was going to go in anyway," Draco said hotly. "Don't think I'm doing it because you told me to."
WHATEVER YOU NEED TO TELL YOURSELF, the sign said and the door swung open.
It was immediately clear that Potter was brooding. Potter never had been able to keep his moods to himself, he always had to go spreading it all around like he thought he was Father Christmas and all the children wanted a heap of unnecessary drama this year. In school it had been downright unbearable, now it was rather pathetic. Draco had become far too polite to tell him so, of course.
"What's got your nose out of joint?" Draco said as he took his now customary seat by the coffee bar.
Potter, who had been cleaning the sandwich press (by hand, the absolute madman) while sighing and moping as if the entire weight of the world was pressing down on him, had the gall to look surprised. "Me?" he asked.
"No, the other grown man sulking like a fourth year," Draco said with an extravagant roll of his eyes. He only allowed himself one eye roll per term, so he hoped Potter appreciated it. "Yes, Potter, you. I'll have my usual, thanks."
"I'm not sulking," Potter said sulkily as he began to put Draco's tray together. "I'm... I'm cleaning."
"Yes, you've mastered doing two things at once, well done, you." Draco said, leaning over the counter so he could watch Potter picking out his muffin flavor for the day. He always let Potter choose for him, since it seemed to be one of those things that Potter had an irritating knack for, like Quidditch. Quidditch and dark lord slaying and muffin picking. Well, no one could accuse him of not expanding his horizons.
"I'm not sulking," Potter insisted, sliding the tray over to Draco. The muffin today was cranberry streusel, it turned out, and utterly decadent. "I'm just... perturbed."
"Awfully big word," Draco said, eagerly unwrapping his muffin. "Talked to Granger about it, then?"
"I know big words!" Potter said, and then immediately looked guilty. "Though I mean, yeah, I did talk to Hermione."
"If Granger can't solve your problem, it's no wonder that you can't," Draco said, licking crumbs off his thumb. "Alright, let's hear it then."
Potter hesitated for a moment and then deflated, shoulders slumping. "It's the students."
"Oh God," Draco said, instantly on high alert. Visions of children running rampant through the coffee shop tipping over tables and setting people's hair on fire swam through his head. He'd have to give out so many detentions. He'd have to confront so many children. "What did they do now?"
"Huh? No, no, they didn't do anything," Potter said. "It's what they aren't doing."
"Is this some kind of riddle?" Draco asked. "What aren't they doing?"
"It sounds stupid," Potter says.
“Potter, I’m a professor. I deal with stupidity every day. Come on, spill. You've gone and piqued my curiosity."
"They aren't coming here on dates," Potter confessed, leaning in and lowering his voice. "There's been two Hogsmeade weekends already, so I'd have thought there'd be some students coming here, you know, romantically, since it's supposed to be a replacement for Madame Puddifoot's, somewhere nice for students to go on dates, but none of them are coming here! There's only one Hogsmeade weekend left before the one on Valentine's Day weekend, and if they don't come here for dates then..."
"You actually want those little monsters in here?" Draco asked, utterly aghast. "Are you absolutely sure?"
"They aren't monsters, Draco," Potter said. "Aren't you meant to be a professor?"
"I teach Alchemy, which is only offered to very few sixth and seventh years," Draco said. "You could not possibly pay me enough to be around large groups of children. They're so... so..."
"Young? Innocent?" Potter suggested, giving him that Look again.
"Fiendish yet breakable," Draco said and shuddered. "Terrifying. Anyway, it's no wonder they don't come here."
"Potter, look around," Draco said and took a sip of his tea. "It's not exactly a romantic atmosphere in here. There are couches and bookshelves, for Merlin’s sake.”
Potter looked a little hurt. "I think it's nice," he said. "It's, you know, calm."
"Oh, calm," Draco cooed and pressed a hand to his chest. "Be still my beating heart."
Now Potter looked very hurt. "I like calm," he said.
"Of course you like calm, Potter. You're a middle aged plonker who peaked both achievement and drama-wise in your teens. Your idea of romance is probably a pot of tea and a nice conversation."
Potter looked positively caught out. "Er," he said weakly. "Is yours much different?"
"You're missing the point here," Draco said. "You aren't trying to attract people like me."
"Right," Potter said, not sounding very sure of this.
"You're trying to attract student couples. Do you realize how dramatic teenagers are? Of course you do, you were the most dramatic teenager I've ever met in my life, always carrying on as if everything was life-or-death."
"Well, in all fairness to me," Potter began but stopped when Draco put his hand up.
"Yes, yes, I don't need an ancient history review," Draco said. "The thing you need to understand is that to these kids? Everything feels like that. And your little cafe just doesn't make the cut, drama-wise."
Potter chewed at the inside of his cheek, which was a disgusting habit and not attractive in the least. "Can we fix it?"
"We? Who is this we, Potter, it's your shop."
Potter was now really giving him a Look. "Well, you are the most dramatic person I know," he said. "So I guess asking your help just seemed the obvious conclusion."
Draco sniffed. "Fine," he said, secretly delighted. He loved having his opinions asked on things. He had wonderful taste. "Let's see what we can do."
The most obvious problems, he quickly deduced, were the lack of privacy and ambiance. "They're going on a date, Potter, not holding a committee meeting. The couches have to go."
"They're comfortable," Potter said, trailing behind him. "I don't know, homey."
"Merlin, you're tragic," Draco said, transfiguring each of the couches into several chairs and the large tables into smaller pieces. "This is the big romantic moment they've been waiting weeks to carry out, maybe even years. Homey doesn't cut it." With another flick of his wand he set the lights slightly dimmer and began to conjure floating globe-lights instead.
"You're good at thinking about things from their perspective," Potter said. "You must make a good teacher."
Draco stared at him, scandalized. Potter couldn't just go around complimenting him without warning like that. "Well," he said. "I have to, don't I? If I don't anticipate their plots, who know what they could get away with?" He quickly transfigured several books into lacy table clothes.
"I don't want anything too, you know, frou-frou,” Potter said, eying the things with a hunted expression on his face. "They make me nervous."
Now Draco was truly aghast. "Harry Potter, slayer of Dark Lords, scared of doilies. They certainly left that off the chocolate frog card."
For a moment, he expected Potter to get upset at the slight or the idea of Draco talking again so lightly of the admittedly tumultuous events of their past. But then Potter just grinned.
"Of course not. Can't have them learning my weaknesses, can they? If Voldemort had showed up to Hogwarts wearing lace, things might have gone very differently."
"Goodness," Draco said, working very hard not to imagine it. He did change the table clothes to soft linen with only a tiny bit of scalloping around the sides. He did turn them a very pale shade of purple. "Are these non-frilly enough, or will they keep you cowering behind your coffee grinder?"
"I believe I can manage these," Potter said. "I was in a house renowned for bravery, after all."
"It shows," Draco said and slid into one of his newly created date tables. "Now, let's see... Potter, come here, sit across from me."
Potter looked so severely spooked by the idea that Draco was beginning to rethink the scalloping. Before he could say anything, though, Potter took the proffered chair.
"Now, imagine we're on a date," Draco said.
Potter Looked at him, one of his strongest Looks yet. “Done,” he said.
“Good,” Draco said. "So we're on a date. We came in an got a private table, which is good. We ordered the food which was—"
"Also good?" Potter said, since he could never resist seeking out compliments, the arse.
"It met all standards," Draco said, since he was always taking food home and risking offending the house elves anyway and he refused to swell Potter's head any bigger than that. "Now, what's missing?"
"Er," said Potter coherently.
Draco snapped his fingers. "Veils!"
"For privacy," he explained, conjuring up a bit of fabric and floating it up in the air to illustrate, creating a filmy barrier between them and the rest of the barrier to offer a bit of illusion that the rest of the shop wasn't there. "I mean, just imagine it," he said. "You're on a date— possibly your first date— and you reach the end of the meal and you think about leaning in for a kiss—,” he leaned in to demonstrate, "—only to realize that everyone can see you in all your awkward teenaged glory. Would rather spoil the mood, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah," said Potter, who was also leaning in. He had that Look again.
He was directing said Look mainly at Draco's mouth.
Which suddenly felt very dry.
"So," Draco said quickly, trying to swallow. "Uh, so the curtains, veils, they offer some privacy."
"That does seem nice," Potter said. "You are good at this."
"Well," Draco said, accidentally looking down at Potter's lips. They looked very soft and inviting, which seemed utterly unfair at the moment. "I'm very good at this romance thing, you see."
"Really?" Potter asked, and Draco realized the Look was, perhaps, not a Judging Look but maybe more of an Amused-Fond-Interested Look, and Potter had been aiming at him all this time, an abruptly, he was terrified.
"No, not really," he said, and did something ever so slightly stupid.
He ran away.
Draco wailed something very well thought out into the staff room pillow he had pressed against his face.
At least Goldstein had the grace to sound concerned. "Did you not want to kiss him?"
"Of course he wanted him to kiss him," Chang said. "Haven't you been paying attention? He's been pining for him from the moment he arrived in Hogsmeade."
Draco had to come up from his pillow from that. "What? I have not been pining. I do not pine, and certainly not for Potter, and if either of you say anything about Potter Pining I will— I will— fail all the Ravenclaws."
"No need to pull out the dire threats,” Chang said. "It's not the end of the world."
"Potter was going to kiss me!"
Goldstein patted his shoulder awkwardly. "There, there," he said. "You don't have to kiss anyone you don't want to. Though I admit, I really thought you wanted to, myself.”
"Who said I didn't want to?" Draco asked, voice cracking embarrassingly.
"You literally just—"
"I said I wasn't pining," Draco said, clutching his pillow and sniffling. "Pining is... undignified."
"Yes, and you're all about the dignity," Chang said. "So, you admit you have feelings for him."
"I have feelings for everyone," Draco said. "Everyone has feelings about everyone they meet, positive or negative, so obviously I have some sort of feelings for—"
"You have feelings of the wanting to kiss him variety," Chang said.
Draco's mouth snapped closed. "I... well..."
"This is really interesting," Goldstein said, peering at him and adjusting his glasses. "Do you always have this much trouble admitting to anything approaching positive intimacy with others?"
Chang snorted. "Are you kidding? Watch this. Draco, who are we?"
"Is this some kind of Ravenclaw brain teaser thing?" Draco asked. "You're Chang and Goldstein."
Chang leaned over and took his hand, looking at him with great pity. "No, Draco," she said. "We're not Chang and Goldstein. We're Cho and Anthony. We've been your coworkers for over ten years now. We sit next to each other every meal and spend almost all our free time gossiping together. You were in my wedding, Draco. We're friends."
"Well," Draco said, feeling himself turn bright pink. "There's no need to get all soppy about it."
"This is exactly the problem," Chang said. "You aren't very good admitting your feelings."
"It's just how I was raised," Draco tried. "It doesn't cause an issue for me."
"Maybe not with us," Chang said. "We're used to you, we're not going anywhere. But Harry? He's just going to think you don't want him."
"Which, just to be clear, you absolutely do," Goldstein put in. "You've been going to Hogsmeade almost every weekend for the last three months and come back all bouncy and full of muffins. It's incredibly obvious."
"But, he doesn't know that," Chang said. "He's just going to take it as a rejection and move on. He's going to go out and start trying to kiss other people."
Draco gasped, horrified and offended.
"Exactly," Goldstein said. "It's up to you to fix this."
Draco had possibly never felt less prepared for anything in his entire adult life.
"Shut up," Draco said. "I'm here to— Not to talk to you. Where's Po— where's Harry?"
NOT SURE I SHOULD TELL YOU, the sign said. NOT IN THE HABIT OF HELPING OUT PATHETIC WANKERS.
"Fuck off," Draco said and tried the door handle. It wouldn't budge, despite the smaller sign in the window claiming the shop was OPEN, COME ON IN. "Oh now, really?"
I DON'T THINK YOU DESERVE TO GO IN, the sign said. NOT WHEN YOU'VE PROVEN TO BE SUCH A COWARDLY JERK.
Draco's patience snapped. "Now see here," he said, voice falling into his sternest professor tones. "I don't need to explain myself to you. You're just a sign. You have no idea what it's like, do you, to be taken by surprise. I mean, it's easy to know yourself when you're just a bit of plywood and some magic, but some of us don't have that luxury, do we? No. Some of us have been wrong about things before, really big things, so maybe we don't trust our own perceptions always, and maybe sometimes it's confusing, to think people might have forgiven you, after everything you've done, and maybe, when you realize things, sure, you don't always react well, but clearly you just should have gotten over all that by now, or just been a sign instead, who gets to snark at people from above like a great bloody judgmental bird, who doesn't have to worry about hurting people's feelings and screwing things up! So maybe you should just shut up and let me talk to Harry so I can explain that I do want to kiss him! Also, I didn’t pay for my order last time and I don’t want him to think I’m that kind of person!”
"Er," said Harry from the now-opened doorway.
"Oh no," said Draco from the depths of his misery.
WELL WELL WELL, said the sign, THAT CERTAINLY WAS AN IMPRESSIVE SPEECH. BOY, THIS IS A BIT AWKWARD FOR YOU BOTH NOW, ISN'T IT?
"Shut up," said Draco and Harry, simultaneously.
There was a long silence in which they just looked at each other.
"I'm sorry I yelled at your sign," Draco said.
"That's alright," Harry said. "It's a rude sign. I yell at it all the time."
"Right," Draco said. "I was—"
"No, you go first," Draco said when they both went silent again.
"Did you mean that?" Harry asked.
"Which part?" Draco asked and then shook his head. "No, don't answer me, I'm hedging again, I know what you... Yes, I meant it."
"Oh," Harry said, and gave Draco a very strong Look. "Oh."
"Yeah," Draco said, a little breathlessly.
Harry took a few steps forward so that they were standing right in front of each other..
Draco firmly held his nerve and his ground.
Harry put a hand up to Draco's cheek, not quite close enough to touch. "Can I kiss you now?" he asked, smiling.
“Oh, I suppose,” said Draco, already leaning in.
It was, surprisingly, not frightening at all. In fact, it was completely perfect.
Draco honestly hadn’t seen that coming.