Title: Searching Diagon Alley
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, references to Hermione/Ron and Blaise/Ginny
Summary: Harry’s looking for somewhere he belongs; what he finds is Draco.
Rating: NC-17/Hard R
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Shockingly little dialogue
Epilogue compliant? Not for Harry, Draco, or Ginny; sort of/maybe?/at least partially for everyone else.
Word Count: @ 10 000
Author's Notes: For pessen03 who requested “any kind of first-time fic where either draco or harry courts/woo/date etc with flirting and ust and then FINALLY when they end up together and in love and having sex”. I hope this is what you had in mind.
Thanks to taradiane for the hand-holding and infinite patience, my sister for her help with the bunny-breeding, phoenix_writing for her willingness to listen, and Tith and TLF for finding the time to beta.
‘At the age of fifteen months, Harry Potter first defeated the Dark Lord; at seventeen years, with the help of his friends, he finished off Lord Voldemort for good.’ That’s how the death announcement would begin, Harry thought, reaching over to turn off the alarm that had been shrilling at him for the past twenty minutes and dragging himself out of his large, lonely bed. And it would finish with ‘He spent the next two years on his arse, then died of terminal boredom.’
In actuality, he’d been very busy for the first year and a half or so after the battle, helping to round up stray Death Eaters, testifying at various trials, and assisting with the rebuilding of Hogwarts – not to mention attending numerous funerals, weddings, and christenings.
Over the past few months, however, the wizarding world had settled into a version of normalcy that had left Harry behind.
Hermione accepted a job at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and Kingsley had offered both Ron and Harry the opportunity to train as Aurors. Ron had declined, deciding instead to work at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes with George, who’d been having a rough time of it without Fred. Harry, after a great deal of soul-searching, had decided to refuse as well. He could have learned to live with the regulations – they were even more obsessed with rules than Hermione – but the time he’d spent working with the Ministry had made one thing very clear: having no NEWTs and less field experience than Aurors who’d been doing this since before he was born wouldn’t prevent Harry Potter from advancing through the ranks at their expense. If he stayed, he’d be Head of the Auror department by the time he was forty and in danger of becoming Minister for Magic. No, thank you, he thought, shuddering.
Instead, just a few months before his twentieth birthday, he was unemployed, spending his time learning how to keep a wizarding household and half-heartedly preparing for his NEWTs. Like most of the people who had been in his year, he was doing it by correspondence, but Harry was finding it difficult to motivate himself, given he was ... lacking in direction, to borrow a phrase from Hermione that particularly rankled him. Probably because it was true.
And he was out of tea.
He put down the empty canister and returned to the bedroom to throw some clothes on. There was a café next door which, despite the mediocrity of the baked goods, served a decent pot of tea. The thought of anything more complicated than that pilgrimage would have to wait until after he’d consumed at least half a pot.
Passing the door to the flat next to his, he found himself wishing that he had a neighbour. The unit had been empty since before Christmas, and only yesterday Harry had spoken with the landlord, who’d been bemoaning the fact that there’d been no interest in either the flat or the shop space downstairs. He’d also hinted broadly that Harry might want to recommend the place to friends.
The café, at least, was busy: there was a long line of people who were running late but were too desperate for their morning cuppa to forego the stop, and the tables were filled with those who had time for a sit down.
Harry decided to join the latter, setting his tea and pastry on a table tucked in the corner of the small patio to enjoy the unseasonably warm morning. He was here frequently enough that people were used to seeing him and seldom bothered to do more than wave, so he should be able to enjoy his breakfast uninterrupted.
He realized then that it would have been an ideal opportunity to prepare for his NEWTs, if he’d remembered to bring his study notes. Since he hadn’t, he decided to use the time to consider employment options. He needed a job, preferably one that would take him before he completed his NEWTs. He didn’t need the money – the funds his parents left him would hold him for a few years yet – but he needed something to do with his time. It would help, of course, if he knew what sort of profession he wanted; he’d expected to be an Auror for so long, he was having difficulty even imagining himself in another career.
Before he’d made any sort of headway at all, a conversation from the next table over caught his attention. The voice sounded a bit familiar, but placing it was teasingly out of reach. It wasn't until Harry looked behind him that he realized why: it was Blaise Zabini and Draco Malfoy, and the latter was speaking in polite, earnest tones – something Harry couldn’t recall hearing before.
"This property is perfect – it’s a stereotype, but my clients are more likely to be women, and Quality Quidditch Supplies will help keep a good percentage of the spouses occupied. And being close to the Leaky Cauldron entrance to Diagon Alley will ensure people see it.”
From that description, it sounded like Harry's building, and he tried to imagine what having Draco Malfoy as a neighbour would be like.
“The property on Exception Alley would be closer to the sort of clientele you’re looking to attract,” Blaise countered.
“The people who shop on Exception Alley have staff for this sort of thing. I need to attract the people who wish they could shop on Exception Alley and sell them the illusion they have.” Harry could hear the anticipatory grin that had to be on Draco’s face. “Besides, it’s much smaller than this one, and the owner refuses to rent. Since my father’s not willing to support me in this….” he trailed off.
“No matter. He’s being surprisingly decent about it, really; he’s just not willing to fund my ‘experiment in trade.’ And this one really is ideal.”
Harry didn’t know what sort of shop Draco was planning to open – wasn’t sure he could even speculate as to a likely option – but if it was something Lucius Malfoy refused to fund, it sounded promising. What most interested Harry, however, was Draco’s next comment, a declaration that he had to leave for his appointment with the estate agent.
Harry had been wondering what he ought to do with Grimmauld Place. Sirius had left it to Harry, and it seemed a betrayal of his godfather’s memory to simply sell it to some random person. On the other hand, Harry didn't really want to keep it, and Sirius had hated the house more than anyone.
An estate agent would be able to tell him the likelihood that anyone would even consider buying it.
Harry got up and followed Draco Malfoy as discreetly as possible. Only because I’m interested in the location of said estate agent office , he assured the part of himself that was insisting it was a childish thing to do.
The defence might have been plausible ... if Harry hadn’t Disillusioned himself, followed Draco into the office, and watched as he identified himself to the secretary as Mr. Nicholson’s 9:30 appointment. She assured him, in a tone that was dripping with false sincerity, that Mr. Nicholson would be free to see him in a few minutes.
She didn’t suggest he take a seat.
Draco nodded in acknowledgement and moved to stand by the window.
Only seconds later, a man in garish robes that reminded Harry painfully of Albus Dumbledore exited the door identified as belonging to ‘C. Nicholson.’ He waved cheerily at the secretary, and the ‘Have a Nice Day’ she called out in reply echoed in the silent lobby. She did not tell Draco he could go in, nor did she let Mr. Nicholson know that Draco was waiting.
For the next twenty minutes, Harry watched Malfoy’s jaw clench and release, clench and release, marking the passage of time as precisely as Harry’s pocket-watch. It was a form of stubbornness Harry recognized from his own childhood, when giving in would be a greater humiliation that the one being forced upon him.
Harry was contemplating revealing himself just to break the stalemate when Mr. Nicholson opened his door enough to poke his head out. “Anna, have you heard from Draco Malfoy?”
“He’s just arrived, Mr. Nicholson.” She gestured to where Draco was standing, daring him silently to mention how long he’d been kept waiting.
“Draco! Sorry – I didn’t see you there! Come in, come in. It’s a beastly hour of the day, isn’t it?”
Harry waited until the secretary’s attention was focused away from him, cancelled the Disillusionment Charm, and approached the reception desk.
“Hello, how may I help—” She’d looked up as she spoke and obviously recognized him. “How may I help you, Mr. Potter?” She giggled in what Harry suspected was supposed to be a flirtatious manner, and he stifled an urged to cringe.
“I’d like the next available appointment on Mr. Nicholson’s schedule, please.”
“Of course!” She made a production of checking through the date book. “It’s a shame you weren’t just a few minutes earlier: I would have been able to slide you in straightaway. Would you be willing to take a seat and wait? He’ll be available in about ten minutes, I should think.”
“That’s fine.” Harry replied shortly. He would have felt sorry for the poor soul she’d obviously bumped on his account, but he wasn’t planning to take much of the man’s time.
The appointment was only to make the man aware of the shenanigans perpetuated by his assistant, her attitude to his clients, and Harry’s disgust if it was sanctioned behaviour. Draco Malfoy may have been on the wrong side of the war and a git in school, but he’d been acquitted, and he’d been polite enough in the years since, up to and including today. And the easiest way Harry could think of to start another war was to refuse to let go of the last one.
The secretary attempted to flirt with Harry while he waited, but he restricted his replies to one word answers when they were necessary and disapproving silence when they weren’t. She offered him tea, but remembering the Romilda Vane incident, Harry was unwilling to eat anything prepared by her hand and refused.
He moved to sit in the chair furthest from the secretary, which was also closest to Mr. Nicholson’s door. As a result, he was well-positioned to overhear even more of Draco Malfoy's business. Listening to the raised voices, he learned that the property Draco had been so enthusiastic about when speaking with Blaise was no longer available – at least, not for Draco Malfoy.
The door opened.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out, Draco,” Mr. Nicholson said, sounding genuinely sympathetic. “I’ll keep looking.”
Draco nodded before leaving, studiously ignoring Harry and the secretary who was smirking behind Nicholson’s back.
“Mr. Potter! A pleasure to meet you.” Mr. Nicholson enthused as he ushered Harry into his office. “Please allow me to add my thanks for what you did to save the wizarding world from that madman.”
Harry tried to suppress a grimace, though not well enough.
“And we’ll never speak of it again, eh?” Nicholson waved his hand at the chair opposite his desk. “Please, have a seat.” Once he was settled in his own chair, he leaned forward. “How can I help you, Mr. Potter?”
He began to detail what he’d witnessed in the reception, but before he was even halfway through, Mr. Nicholson was flushed with fury. He excused himself to Harry and started for the reception.
Harry sat in the office, trying not to listen to the low, tense conversation being held on the other side of the door. It was hard to miss, though, when Nicholson demanded that Anna gather her personal belonging and leave.
“My mother –” Anna began shrilly, but Nicholson cut her off. “Your mother was my partner and my best friend. I will miss her for the rest of my life. I'm grateful, however, that she didn’t live long enough to realize how lazy, petty, mean-spirited you are. You were warned repeatedly about unprofessional behaviour and the consequences of continuing in such a manner.”
Anna didn’t have a reply to that, at least not one that Harry could hear. It was silent for a few more minutes before Nicholson returned.
He apologized for the disruption and waved aside Harry’s own apology. “How else can I be of assistance? I doubt you came in simply to observe the professionalism of my staff.”
Put that way, Harry felt ridiculous, so he explained about Grimmauld Place, and they made an appointment to do a walk-though later in the week. Before he left, though, Harry had to ask what happened with the property Draco Malfoy had intended to rent.
“A tenant of an occupied unit in the building made an offer the landlord agreed to accept.”
Given that Harry was the only tenant in the building – assuming his guess was correct, but there weren't that many properties for let – and he hadn't said any such thing, Harry was puzzled.
Nicholson misunderstood the source of his confusion and explained, “A current tenant has the right of first refusal when a landlord has available units in the same building. In this case, the current tenant offered to purchase the entire building, and the landlord accepted the offer rather than continuing to look for people to rent the remaining units.”
“I thought the property was number 21 Diagon Alley?” Harry said.
Mr. Nicholson stilled, but neither confirmed nor denied until Harry continued, “I’m the only tenant currently in that building.”
“And you haven’t made an offer,” Nicholson finished.
“That’s a violation of the Statute for Equitable Property Management. Would you be willing to testify?”
Harry nodded, slowly. “Unless….”
“Unless?” Mr. Nicholson prompted after a moment, a twitch teasing at the edge of his mouth.
Harry debated whether he was willing to vocalize the option they both knew he was considering.
The building was in need of minor repairs, but the frame was sound. He could even see about creating a small garden on the roof. "Make him an offer, as low as you think he'll accept – lower than that, even, since he’d be obligated to accept?"
Hearing the hint of a question at the last, Nicholson nodded. “That, or admit he’s lied and face a fairly steep fine.”
Harry nodded. "Then once it’s settled, tell Draco Malfoy that when the property was sold, his name was passed on to the new owner as a potential tenant if he’s still interested. If he wants to present a plan for the space, the new owner is willing to take that into consideration in the remodelling.” He thought about Draco’s comments about Lucius’s disapproval and wondered if Draco was looking for a residential location and having the same difficulties. “Offer him the empty flat, as well, if he's interested, the reasonable discount if he takes both. I'll keep the other."
By the time he’d finished his meeting with Mr. Nicholson – Craig – Harry had accidentally become a real estate developer. It was not a career path he’d considered or even one he was interested in, per se. But it was a start.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
“For someone who has yet to complete his formal education, Mr. Potter, your resume suggests familiarity with quite a few protection and tracking spells that are well beyond the level one would expect.”
"I did work with the Aurors for much of last year," Harry pointed out, though that was listed on the resume as well. Harry tried not to feel defensive; intrusive questions were to be expected in an interview for a position with a private security firm.
"Hmm... yes," the interviewer countered with a predatory gleam, "and that, too, is curious. Why would Kingsley Shacklebolt ask a student with barely six years education at Hogwarts; grades that were, to be frank, mediocre at best; and no... documented experience to assist with the tracking and capture of wizards who were, by all accounts, dangerous murderers? What could you have possibly done that would make our new Minister for Magic believe you would be up to the task, hmm?” He leaned forward on the desk. “What exactly were you doing the year you were missing?”
On his way home after his unsuccessful first attempt to procure paid employment, Harry stopped at Flourish and Blotts. Doubtless Hermione’s influence, but Harry was hoping to find something that would spark an idea. Instead, he found himself trying to make a decision between two cookery books.
He’d discovered he enjoyed cookery – baking, especially – when he wasn’t being forced to do it. Still debating, he looked up to see only himself and the shop girl remaining, and the shop door closed. A quick glance at his watch told him the shop should have closed nearly half an hour earlier. He quickly grabbed both books and made his way to the counter to apologize.
Making his way back to his flat, Harry tried to get a glimpse of what was inside the front show room of Draco’s shop, but most of what he could see was piles of boxes. That was surprising, since the grand opening was tomorrow, and he wouldn’t have guessed Draco to be the sort of person who procrastinated – not to that extent, anyway.
There was a hint of movement in the room, so Harry hurried toward the stairs that would take him to his flat, hoping to avoid a confrontation with Draco. When he was about halfway up the staircase, he heard his name called, and he turned to find Blaise Zabini falling through the door he’d scrambled to catch before the Locking Charms engaged.
“Do you have a couple of minutes?” the other man asked hesitantly, clearly finding it awkward to be asking for a favour from someone he hadn’t been on good terms with at school and hadn’t seen more than a handful of times since.
“Sure,” Harry said, rewarding that sort of bravery, “What do you need?”
Harry laughed and followed Blaise back to the shop. Draco's business, as it happened, was event planning, specializing in elegant social gatherings for all occasions and extravagant children’s parties. The commercial space had been separated into a small showroom in the front of the building and a large storage room in the back. The showroom was simple, classic. It was a bit blander than Harry would have expected, but it was clear that a great deal of care and thought had gone into the choice and arrangement of the furniture and displays.
It made the haphazard piles of boxes even more odd.
“The stock was supposed to be delivered to the storeroom,” Blaise explained with a grimace. “Draco’s having words with the company right now.” The office door was closed, which made the volume of the conversation even more impressive.
“The showroom display will be arriving shortly – though where they’re going to set up is beyond me – but I really need to get going. The display crew should be knocking on the delivery door in the stockroom; could you please just listen for them, and when they arrive, knock on the office door to let Draco know?”
Harry agreed, and Blaise left, thanking him profusely all the way out the door.
Listening to the tone of the bits of the conversation Harry could hear, he realized that it was unlikely the company that had delivered the boxes would be back to move them, certainly not before the showroom display people arrived. He wondered briefly why Blaise hadn’t done so himself but assumed it had to do with a determination to have the work done as expected and pride.
With the opening scheduled for the following day, the display would be a priority, so Harry started moving boxes to the storeroom.
By the time the showroom display arrived, Harry had finished moving the boxes of stock and had begun unpacking them. He knocked on the door as Blaise had instructed him, but the display people seemed to have thorough instructions, so Harry left them to it and returned to unpacking boxes.
He was working in the far row of shelves, nearly finished, when he heard Draco approaching. “Blaise? Are you—Did you unpack!? I’d kiss you for this, but your mother will have killed us both before morning, so it’s hardly worth it. Why are you still—”
Suddenly struck dumb – though not at the image of Draco and Blaise kissing – Harry was still swallowing when Draco appeared at the end of the row of shelving. They stared at each other silently for several long minutes.
“Potter? What are you doing here?” He sounded confused rather than accusatory, and Harry struggled to find words.
“Blaise caught me as I was heading up to my flat. He needed to leave and asked if I minded helping.”
“He asked you to unpack?”
“No, he asked if I could stay, but the shelves were clearly labelled, and unpacking gave me something to do while I waited for the delivery people.” Harry realized, suddenly, that he might have created a bigger mess for Draco than the boxes would have been, if he hadn’t done things correctly. “It’s alright, isn’t it?” he asked, worried.
“It looks great.” Draco assured him, though his voice was filled with soft bewilderment. “Thank you.”
“I’m glad I could help.”
Before leaving, Harry went to take a quick look at what had been done to the front room and gaped. He understood, now, the brilliance of the design he’d earlier thought was bland. The display was not limited to the windows as Harry had expected: the entire shop had been transformed into a fairy glen. There were vines, flowers, and fairy lights, even a waterfall in the front window.
Beside him, Draco stood silently, waiting for Harry’s reaction.
“It’s brilliant,” Harry breathed and grinned at Draco.
Draco nodded and grinned as well.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
“Harry,” Gredy said patiently, “when a customer comes in to pre-order the latest model racing broom for his child, it is your job to sell it to him, not to convince him to take a second-hand training broom instead.”
“Gredy, the kid's six! He'd break his neck on the 456!”
“And someone would have no doubt made that clear to the man, and he'd have kept the 456 for himself and given the child his older model, or come back for the training broom. You need to start thinking like a salesman, Harry. You're not responsible for the safety of every person in the wizarding world.”
Leaving Quality Quidditch Supplies, Harry stared at his building across the street and wondered whether he should stop by Flourish and Blotts. He’d developed a habit of picking up a new book after each bad interview and, as a result, was developing quite a collection of recipe books. Being sacked wasn’t quite the same thing, however. Maybe the set of new baking pans he’d been coveting?
By the time Harry, laden with shopping bags, returned to his flat, quite a crowd had gathered in front of the building. It was becoming typical for Friday evenings. The window displays, theme, and décor of Draco’s shop were changed each Friday, in advance of the Saturday rush, and each week, a group would gather the evening before, hoping to be the first to see it.
Some of the designs were elegant, some were flamboyant, but all were elaborate, detailed, and stunning.
Blaise was leaving as Harry arrived, standing in the doorway of the stock room that shared a small foyer with the stairs to the flats above. He was talking to someone in the shop – Draco, Harry assumed.
“You know I’d lend it to you if I could.”
A faint response could be heard: “And I’d kiss you if you managed it.” Definitely Draco.
Blaise laughed carelessly in response, though Harry’s breath caught. Again. “You never actually offer when I’m single; I’m starting to think you don’t mean it,” he called back before smiling at Harry. “Hey, Harry. Did you want in?” He gestured at the door that would otherwise lock behind him when he left.
As Harry had taken to stopping by several times a week, it wasn’t a strange question. He weighed the relative merits of dropping his bags off at his flat versus knocking on what would be, by then, the locked main entrance, then nodded at Blaise. “Yeah, thanks.”
Harry left his stuff by the door to the storeroom and found Draco closing the till. He looked a bit more frazzled than usual – his hair was mussed, and his wine-coloured button down was wrinkled, despite what Harry expected were a dozen charms against such things – but he looked up to smile briefly, before continuing his counting. “I hate Purebloods," he said when he finished.
Harry snorted and looked at him inquiringly.
"New society’s smugly pleased to hire a Malfoy to organize events for them, but since I’ve chosen to sell my skills, it really doesn’t bother me. The old purebloods, on the other hand, seem determined to punish by criticism."
Harry considered that. "Because you didn't win or because you survived?"
"That is the question."
Draco moved on to the rest of the closing tasks, telling Harry about his day as he worked. When he tried to ask about Harry’s day, Harry simply shrugged and changed the subject. Thankfully, Draco let him get away with it, though he squeezed Harry’s shoulder comfortingly the next time he passed by.
“Do you think it’s normal to have a lot of interviews and offers when searching for a job?” Harry asked as they were unlocking the doors to their respective flats later that evening.
Draco considered the question then asked, “How many is a lot?”
“All of them?” Harry confessed hesitantly.
“All the jobs?”
“Well, all the ones I’ve applied for,” Harry qualified, “Only a few others.”
“Yes, Harry, as I understand it, that would be very unusual,” Draco’s drawl was laced with more sarcasm than Harry usually received these days.
Harry thought he probably deserved it.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
“I want to thank you, Harry, for choosing to volunteer for Sanctuary House. It means a great deal, having someone of your stature take a practical interest in the people who've lost the most as a result of the war. And, of course, you're wonderful with the children.”
“But?” Harry had a feeling he knew what was coming.
Benna looked out the window at the horde of reporters outside, waiting to catch a glimpse of Harry. “It's disruptive. The children are desperate for normalcy. You've tried asking them to leave, and they've refused; legally, as long as they stay off the orphanage property, there's no recourse.”
But if Harry left, the reporters would soon follow.
“You don't know how much it pains me to suggest it; you're our best volunteer.”
Someone was bounding up the steps, and Harry had the flat door open before the person – Ginny, as it turned out – had a chance to knock. “Ginny? What’s happened?” It was clear, seeing her, that her impatience was caused by excitement, not fear, and Harry felt his instinctive reaction – blind panic – subside.
She caught him in half embrace as she simultaneously pushed past him and dragged him back into the flat. “You’ll never guess! Look!” She thrust a piece of parchment at him, releasing it with great reluctance and bouncing in place.
Dear Ms. Weasley, Harry read, We are pleased to offer you…. “Chaser for the Harpies! Gin! That’s wonderful!”
“Isn’t it?” She beamed, and Harry enfolded her in a tight hug. Her excitement and inability to remain still were contagious, and Harry picked her up to swing her in as wide a circle as his entrance way would permit. She squealed until he put her down. “Absolutely fantastic!” He affirmed. “It does mean you’ll be able to get me tickets to your matches, yeah?”
She laughed. “The team manager mentioned that would be a popular request. There’s an exhibition match to be set up for the family and friends of the team.” She did another dance.
“Poor Harry, always a slave to the expected.” The tone was dry and dangerous, and Harry looked up to see Draco leaning in Harry’s open doorway. He was dressed in black from head to toe and looked nothing so much as dangerous. The combination of ice and heat in Draco’s voice and stance made Harry’s mouth very, very dry, and he struggled to swallow.
Ginny laughed again. “You do have your work cut out for you. I’ll see that you get tickets as well, as compensation, shall I?” She beamed at them both. “I have to go and tell Mum and Dad.”
“You haven’t told them yet?” Harry was shocked.
“If I had, I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone before Mum.” She kissed Harry’s cheek, then, because he was too surprised to move, Draco’s as she passed by him on her way out.
Harry stared after her, still grinning, though it dimmed a bit when he landed on Draco, still standing in the doorway, unsmiling.
“Are you still coming for dinner?” Harry asked hesitantly.
Draco didn’t answer, exactly, speaking in a carefully neutral tone, “Am I still invited?”
Harry relaxed again. Draco didn’t ask those sorts of questions unless he was uncomfortable, and Harry should have realized that seeing Ginny would have reminded him strongly of their days at Hogwarts and the tension that still lingered when they were mentioned. “Of course. When I told Ginny we’d become friends, she made a comment or two that suggested she might be interested in Blaise. I need you to help me set them up.”
That surprised a laugh out of Draco, as Harry had hoped it would, and he stepped fully into the flat. “Blaise has rather annoyed me lately; it could be appropriate retribution.” It was said lightly, without malice, and Harry, too, laughed as expected.
Before Harry could usher Draco toward the sitting room, Draco caught his arm. “I saw the article, the interview you did at Sanctuary House.” Grey eyes filled with compassion met green. “I’m sorry.”
Somehow, Harry had known that Draco would understand what must have happened to prompt an interview of that sort, even if he had carefully phrased his responses in support of the charity and avoided making accusations of the press.
“Thanks,” he replied softly.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
He should have known better than to take the interview at Mason's Masonry. He thought it had potential – he’d enjoyed helping rebuild Hogwarts, after all – but, in the end, he didn’t care enough to properly examine whether he was influenced by difficult memories or if the staff really were that obsequious.
Thinking about the first time he met Dobby and the disaster of Aunt Petunia's cake, however, did plant the seeds of an idea.
One evening, long after the shop should have been closed, Harry was passing by on his way home and noticed that the light was still on.
The redecorating of the displays had changed to Thursday, to reward those who passed by early. Eventually, the changes became random, and people would stop by frequently to see if they had been done. It kept potential clients coming by regularly rather than just one day a week. Since the current display had only been up for three days, it was unlikely that was the reason someone was still in the front room.
Draco had mentioned earlier in the week that he had plans, and it would be his new assistant’s first night closing alone. Thinking he might be able to help – he’d certainly watched Draco close up shop often enough – Harry knocked and was surprised when it was not Emily but Draco who opened the door.
He was further shocked when he entered the shop to find a quarter of the shop covered in an explosion of fairy princess pink; it was clearly not intended as part of the edgy black and lime colour scheme of the store.
“Glorianabeth Smethwyk-Gumboil happened, and her mother did absolutely nothing to stop her. She set off what must have been an entire Deflagration Deluxe set of fireworks. I managed to contain it to that corner, but everything turned pink and exploded.”
Draco sounded so disgruntled and, well, pouty that Harry was hard-pressed not to laugh, but he tried valiantly. “Can I help?”
“Can you get that nefarious peddler who created the problem to reverse it? Ideally within the next ten minutes?”
“Well, I can’t do anything about Glorianabeth’s parents, but I can ask George for advice,” and knowing Draco was supposed to have left ages ago, Harry added, “and you can go on ahead. I’ll stay and clean it up.” Draco stared at him. “Call it penance for having provided the seed money for Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.”
Draco continued to watch him with an evaluating, almost calculating expression before going to his desk to retrieve the key that Harry knew unlocked Draco’s office as well as the main entrance. Draco handed it to him, and it was Harry’s turn to goggle. He had expected to use the front door key kept under the counter for emergencies.
“Thank you,” Draco said, “I appreciate it.” He grinned then, and Harry’s breath caught at the unexpected openness of it. “My parents are coming to accept that I keep a shop, but I would never hear the end of it if I were to miss my birthday dinner reservations because of it.”
Harry waved him off, feeling guilty because he should have remembered that Draco’s birthday had to be soon and something that felt suspiciously like relief at the knowledge that Draco’s plans were with family. Not that it was any of Harry’s business if Draco had a date. Not at all.
He used Draco’s office to Floo George who, after a great deal of negotiating, was eventually persuaded to tell Harry how to clean the mess. When he told Draco he’d have to arrange George and Angelina’s wedding, though, Harry would forget to mention that it was Harry who would be paying his fee. Probably.
When he had finished, the sole surviving item was a single balloon the shade of candy floss. Harry eyed it with a wicked grin.
The next day, when he was certain Draco would be out, he stopped by the shop for a conversation with Emily.
When asked, she was happy to tell him about the mystery of the morning, the pink balloon floating above a small, white box that had been left on Draco’s desk. He hadn’t told Emily who it was from, and, since there was no card, she’d assumed he hadn’t known, though Harry was pretty certain she’d sussed it now. When he’d opened the box to discover a gorgeous selection of truffles, he waited only a few seconds before tasting one.
“Then he refused to share,” Emily finished pointedly.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
He declined the offer of a position at the Daily Prophet without taking the interview.
Harry spent his birthday at the Burrow, picnicking and playing Quidditch in the field, and having a fantastic time. He returned home with just enough time to shower, change, and begin his own dinner preparations before Draco, ever prompt, knocked on the door.
Most people probably would have found it odd that he wanted to celebrate at home, making his own birthday meal, but most people weren’t Harry Potter. He could usually manage to eat uninterrupted in restaurants on most days, but any sort of special occasion seemed to guarantee that several people would stop to speak with him. Besides, he enjoyed cookery, especially when it was for people he … cared about, and as strange as it sounded, that included Draco Malfoy.
He smiled softly at the thought and opened the door.
Draco’s smile of greeting warmed. “Happy Birthday,” he said holding out what even Harry could recognize as a very nice bottle of wine.
“Thanks,” he said, stepping back to let Draco in.
Dinner with Draco, though not as energetic or loud as the gathering at the Weasleys, was every bit as fun, Harry thought as they moved from the dining room table to the sitting room. But then, it always was, which might be why it happened as often as it did.
“Happy Birthday, Harry,” Draco said again, as he handed Harry a small box wrapped in paper that shimmered.
Thanking him, Harry separated the paper to reveal a plain black jewelry box. It contained a silver ring with a crest that Harry recognized – he’d certainly seen it enough at Grimmauld Place. “Draco—”
Draco interrupted his protest. “It’s the Black Heir ring. I assume the Head of Family ring was … with Sirius. But you should have this one.”
“Draco, it’s your family; you should—” Harry stopped when Draco shook his head.
“For me, it’s a symbol of what they expected me to be,” he looked sad for a moment then smiled at Harry, “It will mean something different for you.”
Harry smiled back and nodded his acceptance. He put it on and picked up his wine glass, raising it at Draco in a toast. “To unexpected friends.”
Draco touched his glass to Harry’s. “To unexpected friends,” he repeated solemnly. He handed Harry an envelope. “This one’s not a birthday gift.”
Puzzled, Harry opened it, taking out a cheque for a very familiar sum. He tried to maintain an expression of perplexity, but he was unsuccessful, judging by Draco’s laugh.
“Please, Potter, don’t even try. I see you at the estate agent’s just before I’m offered space in a building you own. I mention needing funds to Blaise – whose own money is tied up – when you happen to overhear, and I receive an anonymous donation. I nearly mused aloud about the possibility of a Luseive just to see if you suddenly mentioned knowing someone who happened to have one to give away.”
Knowing a Luseive – similar to a Pensieve but used to create representations of imagined images – was so expensive that many considered them mythical, Harry blushed but refused to apologize and put the cheque away before serving dessert.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
It was the day of Ginny’s Exhibition match, and Harry, Draco, and Blaise were supposed to meet at 1:00. When Harry stepped onto the landing, however, he found Blaise pounding on Draco’s door, calling out increasingly creative threats.
Harry supposed that was fair, given the state his nerves must be in: it was his first time meeting his new girlfriend’s family, even if he already knew most of them from school or by reputation, and they didn’t know he was her boyfriend. That simply made it more important that Draco be there, since Blaise would ostensibly be attending as Draco’s guest.
Offering to assist with the search, Harry sent Blaise up to the garden on the roof, just in case, while he himself went to check downstairs in the shop. Both of them knew it was far more likely that Draco would be in his office.
Emily confirmed that he was, waving Harry toward the door while she went to assist a client.
He was seated at his desk but turned to face the bookcase, with his back to Harry.
Harry froze, mesmerized. By the nape of his neck.
Then he grasped the door frame, tightly, hoping to control the urge to move closer. He wanted to reach out and trace the curve of his neck with a single finger, just to see if it felt as smooth as it looked... to follow the same path with the tip of his nose, learning his scent... to follow it with the tip of his tongue and discover his taste.
He swallowed, hard, but, once again, his mouth was too dry.
“Harry!” Blaise called from behind him, possibly not for the first time. “Is he there?”
Harry nodded as Draco looked up.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Harry spent the whole day baking for Hermione's birthday party. He had just finished washing the last of the dishes when Molly Flooed to let him know that Victoire had contracted dragon pox, and the party would have to be postponed until next week.
“I’m sorry, Harry. I know you must have done a great deal of preparation for this.”
It was the price of secrecy, Harry mused, and since he hadn’t told the others what his surprise gift was, he couldn’t complain.
When Harry first conceived the idea, Molly – probably the best cook Harry had ever met – was the natural person for Harry to go to for advice. She'd also been a necessary co-conspirator if Harry wanted to make his debut before a friendly audience: it was a braver man than Harry who would bring significant amounts of food to a Weasley gathering without her approval.
Harry would have suggested the adults meet regardless, but Molly went on to say that since the plans had been cancelled, Ron was taking Hermione to the continent for a romantic weekend instead.
When Molly closed the connection, Harry looked at the pastries and confections crowded on his counter and considered his options.
Blaise had been downstairs helping Draco and Emily when Harry had run out to the store earlier, which he often did when Draco was preparing for a large event. Harry hadn’t heard any footsteps on the stairs, however, which suggested things weren't going well as it was already quite late. Harry packaged up an assortment of his baking to take downstairs. If they were still working, the treat would probably be appreciated.
Emily was nowhere to be seen, and it sounded like Draco had his head in the Floo, but Blaise let Harry in.
"His caterer's quit. Useless bint won the Witch Weekly… Something lottery and decided to pack up with no notice."
Harry looked around the plethora of peacock blue and gold which could only mean one thing. "The competition for the Ministry ball – that's tomorrow."
"It is indeed. So he's a bit mad just now. What's that?" He asked, pointing at the box Harry held.
"Sweets. They were meant for Hermione’s birthday, but Bill’s daughter's come ill, so I thought I'd see if you needed a break."
"Thanks for that," he replied and helped himself, as Draco returned.
"No luck," he said in response to Blaise's distracted hum of inquiry; his nose was buried in the white box. "What brings you down?" Draco asked Harry.
Before Harry could answer, Blaise moaned. "Oh my God, you have to try these." He nudged the box towards Draco but didn't release his hold of it entirely. "Where did you get these? Draco will need a word with them."
Once again, Harry was unable to reply. “That’s the same as the box from birthday.” Draco turned sharply to Harry. “Isn’t it?”
Harry confirmed to Draco that it was and to Blaise that he had made them. When Draco discovered that Harry had a surplus of unnecessary food, food he himself had enjoyed, no one was surprised when he attempted to convince Harry not only to part with it but also to make additional to serve at tomorrow’s event.
Looking at Emily, who had come to see what had Blaise so animated, Harry received confirmation that with the exception of the food, they were ready for their presentation tomorrow. He then agreed to Draco’s request on the condition that Draco try to get some sleep.
Less than an hour later, Draco was knocking at Harry’s door, unable to even nap.
After that, Draco provided a steady stream of conversation and an occasional set of hands when Harry needed them, and they finished well before Harry had expected.
Draco grinned at Harry as he finished putting utensils away. "I could kiss you for this."
Time stopped as they realized what he’d said.
What's stopping you? Harry wondered, but before he could give voice to the thought, Draco added, “But I’m knackered, so your virtue’s safe from me.” He fidgeted with his sleeve, rubbed his arms as though he were cold, and left before Harry could think of something to say.
No matter how much Harry tried, Draco went out of his way to avoid any hint of the topic after that.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
While they weren’t officially in business together, Draco was Harry’s only client as yet. Harry had used his contacts in the Ministry to help keep his fledgling enterprise from being leaked to the newspapers, at least until he was confident the plan would work. And he hoped it would.
It had only been a few weeks, but it was long enough for Harry to be certain he loved being a caterer, he loved owning his own business, he even – though he was astonished to admit it – loved working with Draco Malfoy.
Most of the time, anyway.
Draco was clear in his expectations and inspired in his ideas, but he was also very exacting. It was exhausting, but Harry loved it all the same. And they managed a remarkable two weeks before their first major disagreement.
Winning the contract for the Minister's Christmas Gala drew quite a bit of attention, and business picked up as a result. Draco spent most of his time meeting with clients and supervising functions, leaving Emily alone in the shop most of the time. Blaise helped out when he could, but he had his own obligations.
Hallowe’en was the first major holiday following the Gala bid, and Draco seemed to have assumed Harry would be supervising a number of the events rather than simply providing food for them. When Harry told him that while he would be perfectly willing to help most of the time, Hallowe'en was non-negotiable, Draco – who usually read Harry far too well – didn’t seem to want to try to understand.
It likely didn’t help that Harry wasn’t able to explain the reason for it.
He wasn't sure why – it could have been that he had survived his own war and his parents hadn’t or that those closest to him had paired off and he hadn't – but Harry felt the losses he’d suffered most keenly at Hallowe'en. Not just his parents – it was Dumbledore, Dobby, Hedwig, Colin, .... even Snape.
Regardless of when they'd died, he allowed himself to mourn on Hallowe’en.
Hermione called it wallowing, but she, at least, refrained from joining the chorus of people who tried to convince him to join the festivities. He thought it was probably because of the still strained relationship she had with her own parents that she understood that the celebrations were still too jarring.
It was late, but not very, when Harry answered a knock at the door.
It was Draco, looking solemn and very elegant in dress robes of dark blue. “May I come in?”
Harry nodded and stepped aside so he could enter. Neither of them spoke until they were seated on the sofa. It wasn’t a charged or hostile silence, but it was tense enough that Harry missed the ease and comfort of his birthday. He was surprised at how much.
"I'm sorry. I should have realized what today means to you."
Harry shook his head. “You aren’t psychic, Draco, and I don’t expect you to be, but….” He trailed off when Draco shook his head.
“I should have accepted your position because it was your choice, and it meant a great deal to you,” he said seriously, “even if you couldn’t tell me why.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to,” Harry assured him, though there’d been no reproach in Draco’s voice, “I just—“ He cut himself off with a frustrated sigh when he couldn’t put the words he wanted to say together in a way that didn’t sound stupid.
“It’s alright,” Draco said. “Next time, just remind me you're emotional rather than articulate most of the time, and I'll try to leave off.”
Harry laughed as he was meant to, grateful that he hadn’t destroyed two relationships that had become very important to him – colleague and friend.
Draco relaxed as well. “You didn’t have to be alone, you know,” he said, reaching out to clasp Harry’s arm.
“It was a very important night for you; you put far too much work into the Gala for you to miss it,” Harry protested.
Draco started a little, though he tried to hide it. “If not me, then someone else. Granger and Weasley didn’t have a need to be at the Gala.”
“They offered,” Harry admitted and paused, trying to explain what they meant, as a trio, and why that wasn’t always what they needed to be.
“They’re a separate unit,” Draco finished before Harry could find the words.
“Well, yes,” Harry admitted, “and there are times when that matters.”
“And you haven’t thought about finding someone of your own?”
“Of course I’ve thought about it – mostly when I didn’t think I’d survive to have the opportunity to enjoy it.” He gave a short, rueful laugh. He considered, then remembering the virtues of the house he’d chosen, he added, “Until lately.”
Harry put his hand on Draco’s arm, which was still warm and reassuring against his. Draco flinched as though he’d forgotten it was there and pulled away.
“I’m glad,” he said briskly, “You should start dating. The newspapers have nothing to gossip about now that you’re no longer job hunting.” Draco stood, awkwardly. “I should go. I still have a great deal to do before the fifth.” He had closed the flat door behind him before Harry could apologize for misreading the situation.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Over the following weeks, Harry caught Draco watching him, often enough that he doubted his original assessment. Draco was interested in Harry, he was certain. Every time Harry started to bring it up, Draco would fidget and shut the conversation down with increasing acerbity. Eventually, the subject lurked like a Thestral, souring any non-professional contact. They spent less time together than they had in months.
As the weather turned cold, Harry spent a lonely but productive weekend cleaning out the flat, venting his frustration with brooms and boxes. He was exchanging his short sleeved shirts for long, and thought, with just a hint of bitterness, that Draco wouldn’t need to bother.
Because Draco always wore sleeves that covered his arms.
And rubbed at them when Harry mentioned any possibility of the two of them together.
Harry was on his feet before he even thought about it, and he would have to apologize to Emily later, he realized, for ignoring her once she confirmed that Draco was in his office.
He was alone, fortunately, or Harry would have had to make additional apologies.
He strode across the room without so much as a hello and ignored Draco’s. He stopped next to Draco’s chair and reached for the arm he was so careful to keep hidden.
Draco tried to protest when Harry pushed back the sleeve, but Harry froze him with a look.
“Do you know what this means?”
“That I’m an ignorant bigot?” It was the refrain of one of the many tirades to which he’d been subjected, and his delivery was defiant and saturated with pain.
“Maybe to them,” Harry admitted, “but not to me.” He stared at Draco intently, hoping that he would listen. “You weren't even seventeen, and you were under incredible pressure. You’re also loving and loyal and too stubborn for your own good. And if this is why you refuse to give us a chance, you're letting him destroy that, too.”
When Draco opened his mouth to respond, Harry laid a gentle finger on his lips. “Think about it. Please.” Harry waited until the instinctive ‘no’ that flared in Draco’s eyes softened, then took his finger away. "Please."
Draco searched his face, looking for evidence of sincerity, Harry supposed, because he rolled his eyes a little, then nodded, once.
Harry was careful to keep the grin off his face until he’d left the office. He could live with ‘maybe.’
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
The day Harry stopped by Draco’s office to announce that he was the new owner of the café next door was one he would remember for the rest of his life: instead of saying congratulations, Draco kissed him.
Unfortunately, by the time Draco admitted that he was willing to risk a relationship with Harry, the holiday season was upon them, and they rarely saw each other outside a professional capacity. Even when they had managed an evening together, the conversation, despite their best efforts, inevitably drifted to the details of one of the many events they had contracted.
Worse, even their holidays would be spent apart. Harry had promised Andromeda and Teddy he would spend Christmas Eve with them and open gifts in the morning; Draco was expected to have dinner with Narcissa and Lucius on Christmas Day. Boxing Day had been celebrated with their respective families, Harry with the Weasleys and Draco co-hosting the Malfoy’s traditional open house.
When Ginny and Blaise had announced that they were dating, it had caused a great deal of tension within both families, despite Blaise and his family having been as close to neutral throughout the war as they could manage. Neither Harry nor Draco was willing to cause what they were certain would be even greater upheaval until they themselves knew whether their relationship would be worthy of a potentially irreparable disruption, so they had resigned themselves to celebrating separately.
Harry was feeling far less sanguine about that decision, alone in his flat on New Year’s Eve.
After the Hallowe’en fiasco, Draco had pointedly refrained from asking Harry to help, and Harry had been careful not to broach the subject. As a result, he wasn’t even sure which of the many New Year’s Eve events that Draco had planned he would be supervising. Harry might have given into temptation to find him, otherwise.
When he heard the knock on the door, he smiled, wondering why he was surprised, after Hallowe’en. The smile faded, however, when there was no one on the landing. He turned, confused, and found Draco leaning in the frame of the door to his own flat. He was smirking, of course, but Harry had learned to recognize the affection that tempered it.
“Join me?” he asked, holding a hand out to Harry.
Harry closed his own door and took Draco’s hand.
The table setting was elaborate and beautiful, everything a romantic gesture should be.
“The food won’t be of the quality you’re used to, I’m afraid; my favourite caterer was unavailable.”
Harry smiled and leaned in for a kiss.
Dinner would be exquisite, he knew, but it would be a shadow compared to this, the taste of Draco.
The sheets on Draco’s bed were green, which made Harry smile. He turned to make a teasing comment about Slytherin, but the thought melted when confronted with the hot intensity of the look on Draco’s face.
“It was the closest I could get,” he said, as he brought a hand to Harry's head and traced his thumb along Harry's cheekbone, “to the colour of your eyes. I want to see you spread on them, naked and needy for me.” His hand slid back to cup the back of Harry’s head and drew him in for a kiss, a promise rather than the devouring Harry was expecting.
Harry unbuttoned Draco's shirt, needing to touch, but had enough presence of mind not to push it past his shoulders; it would be Draco's choice, to give that to Harry, but touching Draco was as necessary as breathing.
Draco apparently agreed because the kiss deepened in heat and intensity, and Draco began tugging Harry's shirt free of his trousers.
Harry considered protesting when Draco tried to pull his arms away from that lovely skin, but some part of him realized that it was necessary if they were to remove Harry's jumper and doing that would facilitate more skin to skin contact, something Harry considered well worth the taking his hands from Draco for a few seconds.
Draco explored Harry as thoroughly as he had been explored, then set out to learn Harry by taste as well. Harry gasped and felt Draco's lips turn up before he bit gently at Harry's nipple.
Harry clutched at Draco – his ass, as it happened to be accessible – and Draco gave a breathy moan that pleased Harry as much as it tormented him further.
Draco seemed to take that as a cue to move things along, and he moved purposefully to Harry's belt. He caught both trousers and pants and pushed them down, kneeling as they lowered. He nuzzled at Harry's crotch for a moment before moving one hand to Harry's ankle. He looked up at Harry through his lashes, coquettishly, until he spoiled it with a sly twitch at the corner of his mouth. Harry obeyed the silent instruction to lift one foot then the other, letting Draco divest him of his clothes entirely.
He tossed them in the direction of the chair with Harry's jumper then made his way up the length of Harry, and the closer he got to Harry’s mouth, the less patient Harry was, and he cupped the back of Draco's head to bring it towards Harry's.
They shared a long, languid kiss that promised everything. When Draco pulled back, he moved them to the bed and encouraged Harry on to his back. Since Draco used the change in position to resume his exploration of Harry, he made certain Harry eagerly complied.
Draco teased Harry's cock and balls mercilessly, licking long, sloppy swipes with the flat of his tongue then tracing light, delicate lines with the tip of it. He gently grazing with his teeth and pressed butterfly kisses with his lips.
He took Harry into his mouth and brought him to the edge of madness, then refused to let him fall.
Then the bastard pulled away.
"Draco, please...." Panty and needy, he lay there, trying to recover the vocabulary that would convince Draco to finish what he started, now, when Draco pulled away even further, until he was standing by the side of the bed, watching Harry watch him.
With aristocratic grace and showman's flare, he removed the cuff links and placed them on the bedside table. Then, eyes locked on Harry's, he deliberately shrugged the shirt off. He stood there, displayed for Harry as much as Harry was for him, though Harry could see the nervousness he couldn't quite conceal. Harry smiled and knew his eyes shone with the love he hadn't admitted he felt before now.
He lifted his hand from where Draco had placed it, reaching out to his lover. "Come finish what you started before I take care of it myself."
Draco choked back a laugh, took a container of lubrication from the bedside table, and crawled his way back up Harry. With the hand he held out, Harry reached for the arm that was marked, and tugged Draco until he was close enough for Harry to steal a kiss. "Thank you." He held Draco's arm, stroking the mark lightly with the tips of his fingers and pretending he didn't notice Draco shudder or his surprise.
Draco pulled his arm away, but Harry forgave him when he used it to open the lube. He took it back, though, once Draco no longer needed both as Draco performed the rituals of preparing, protecting, and positioning him. With equal thoroughness and care, Harry caressed mark and arm with fingers and lips.
He knew there were many people – Draco included – who wouldn't understand how Harry of all people could bear to look at the symbol of Voldemort's power, let alone touch it intimately or love a man branded with it.
It did not define who Draco was now, any more than Harry's own mark defined him.
It did tell of how far he had come, his strength and character.
"Harry?" as though he were afraid Harry would change his mind at this point.
"I want you inside me. Now."
Draco chuckled, a low, confident sound that caught Harry viscerally. "Impatient, are we?"
"Please." If begging was what it would take, Harry was well past caring.
When Draco entered him it was hot and full and home and when he began to move, Harry was... Found.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
The Harpies had made it to the quarter finals for the British and Irish League cup, and the extended Weasley family were gathered in a visitor’s box to watch the game.
Ginny needed to join the team – should have left at least five minutes ago, really – but Harry and Draco had yet to arrive. She’d made each and every person there promise to behave, but she would have preferred not to leave Blaise to face the mercy of her brothers alone.
She’d just given up and headed for the door, when it opened to reveal the two missing men, looking very dishevelled. “And just what have you two been up to?” she asked teasingly.
“Harry’s been helping me with defense,” Draco replied blithely. Then he turned to Harry and said so quietly that Ginny was sure she wasn’t supposed to have heard, “I really think I’ll be able to manage the Patronus Charm now.”
Harry was suffused with warmth – not a simple blush, but deeper. It was the feeling he associated with casting his own Patronus, and it bubbled inside and needed to be out of him.
So he kissed Draco.
In front of everyone.