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When Harry Met Sally

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Harry groans and lets his head hit his desk with a thunk . He watches dispassionately as his memo mountain wobbles precariously, threatening to collapse, before miraculously stabilising. It’s the end of the week and Harry is so fucking done his head hurts with it. Then again, his head hurts practically every day he has to do paperwork, so maybe that's not saying much. 

Suddenly, a knock sounds on his cubicle wall. Harry jerks upright, praying that it's not Robards. When his best friend’s face swims into view, Harry breathes a sigh of relief and slumps back into his chair.

“You look rough, mate,” Ron says, face twisted in sympathy.

“Cheers, Ron,” Harry huffs.

Ron looks at him contemplatively for a moment before seeming to come to a decision. “Go on then, your shift’s almost over, get out of here,” he says.

“Really?” Harry perks up.

“Yes, really,” Ron rolls his eyes. “You’re no use to me dead on your feet. If anyone brings it up – not that they will – tell them the Deputy Head Auror told you to go home.”

“Ron, you are the absolute best,” Harry says fervently, already getting to his feet. 

Ron raises one amused eyebrow in response. “Don’t get used to it,” he replies, and leaves for his own office.

“Yes boss,” Harry mutters to himself, smiling as he makes his way out of Auror HQ. 

Quinn, Harry’s partner in the field, shoots him a dirty look from behind their own – significantly larger – stack of paperwork. Harry and Quinn’s shared hatred of paperwork meant they bonded quickly, but it also meant that more often than not, they wound up working long hours to finish up incident reports. 

Harry gives Quinn a jaunty wave and almost laughs out loud at their thunderous expression. No doubt he’ll bear the brunt of their retaliation soon enough, but for now, nothing can spoil his good mood. 

Impulsively, he turns away from the Floos lining the Ministry Atrium and makes his way to the phone booth that opens up into Muggle London. He breathes in the city as he steps out into the cool evening air, feeling the last vestiges of his headache seeping away. The sun hasn’t quite set yet, and it paints the sky in vibrant hues of orange and pink. Harry sets off in the direction of St. James’s Park. It's a more circuitous route home, but Harry thinks he could do with a long walk after spending all bloody day cooped up in the office. He lets the crisp air refresh him as he walks through the park, leaves crunching underfoot. 

As he rounds a bend in the path, his eyes immediately settle on a large German Shepherd walking towards him. He (she?) is an absolute beauty, with a black and brown coat and intelligent eyes. Harry wants nothing more than to stop and fuss over the dog. He looks up towards the owner, a question on his lips.

What he sees makes the words die somewhere in his throat. He’s looking into slate grey eyes obscured by a few wind-tousled strands of platinum blond hair, at cheekbones that could cut glass, a sharp nose, and pointed chin. Harry’s looking at Draco sodding Malfoy .

“Malfoy?” Harry blurts out before rational thought can surface.

Malfoy raises his chin ever so slightly, an echo of the arrogance he used to carry like a second skin when he was younger.  

“Potter,” he acknowledges stiffly.

Harry is saved from figuring out what to say next when the dog – Malfoy’s dog, apparently – lets out a bark. Momentarily forgetting the clusterfuck of awkwardness that is bumping into Draco Malfoy at the park, Harry crouches a little and smiles.

“Hi there,” he says, inadvertently slipping into the universal tone used with babies and dogs. The dog tilts its head, one year flopping into itself. “Aren’t you handsome,” he enthuses, absolutely charmed.

Malfoy clears his throat and Harry looks up, remembering whose dog he’s talking to. He stiffens, fully expecting Malfoy to tell him to fuck off. 

“Her name’s Sally,” Malfoy offers instead, the slight dip between his brows belying his uncertainty. 

Feeling a bit baffled, Harry says nothing for a moment. It’s not that he expected them to come to blows or anything. Too much time has passed and while Harry has little to no idea what the adult Draco Malfoy is like, they are adults and contrary to whatever Hermione might have to say, Harry can certainly act his age. Mostly. 

None of that does anything to detract from the surreality of talking to Malfoy about his dog in the middle of St. James’s Park.

“Right,” he says, belatedly, snapping out of his thoughts. “You have a dog named Sally. Of course,” he murmurs, mostly to himself. But Malfoy hears him and bristles immediately, lips curling. “Shocked that I have a dog and not a Crup, are you? It’s been years, Potter, I’ve grown up – you should try it sometime,” he sneers.

That sounds more like the Malfoy Harry knows. A hot rush of anger prickles through Harry’s veins. “Piss off, Malfoy, I didn’t say that. The fact that it’s been years and you still can’t resist insulting me for five minutes shows me how much growth you’ve achieved,” he bites out. He steps back and Apparates to Grimmauld Place right then and there, manners be damned. 

Landing unsteadily in his hallway, he takes a controlled breath in and expels it out slowly. His jaw is clenched and his headache is back. 

“Fucking Malfoy,” Harry groans, feeling his anger already draining away into prickling irritation. He presses his fingers to his temples, massaging lightly. He had just begun to shake off his bad mood before Malfoy showed up – they barely managed a minute of civility before reverting back to sniping teenagers. For a moment there, he had thought they could manage polite conversation. Shaking his head, he spares a thought for Sally, who he didn’t even get to pet. 

Harry drags a weary hand down his face, sighs, and sets off to the kitchen in search of something to eat. After a dry cheese and pastrami sandwich that he barely tastes, he drags himself upstairs, tugs off his clothes, and falls into bed, head filled with fractured images of blond hair in grey eyes and the defiant tilt of a pointy chin.

 

*

 

Harry wakes early the next morning, the sunlight streaming in from the windows serving as a natural alarm clock. “This is why you draw the curtains before sleeping,” Harry mumbles to himself, squinting and smushing his face into the pillow to avoid the direct onslaught.

He feels ever so slightly better, in that his headache is gone, but he’s hungry as all hell and he feels tacky and unclean, consequences of an inadequate dinner and neglecting to shower after work.

Grumbling, Harry heaves himself out of bed and into the shower. He luxuriates in the billowing steam, allowing the warm water to soothe away the stress of the past week he wasn’t aware he was still carrying. 

His stomach growls, reminding him of the need for an actual meal. “Alright, alright,” Harry mutters, stepping out of the shower and towelling himself dry. He pulls on a pair of comfortably worn shorts and a thin jumper to ward off the nip in the morning air and makes his way to the kitchen.

Harry’s mind drifts back to yesterday’s encounter with Malfoy as he fries eggs and bacon. Before yesterday, the last Harry had seen of Malfoy was at his trial. Harry had technically spoken in his defense, but he hadn’t tried to get him off scot-free. Community service – that was what Hermione recommended and what Harry in turn suggested in his testimony. Technically, Harry was just another witness but the Saviour’s word can turn tides, especially so soon after the War. So, Draco Malfoy received his sentence – one year of community service. Harry never bothered to find out specifics – it didn’t even cross his mind amidst all the grief and loss he and his family were dealing with.

Now that Harry’s irritation from yesterday has all but washed away, the raging curiosity that has only ever been directed towards Malfoy has taken its place. 

Harry piles his breakfast onto a plate and digs in, turning the interaction from the park over in his head. Malfoy has a dog. It’s not necessarily surprising information, but it does...humanise him a bit. Harry pauses cutting into his omelette and frowns at the harshness of his own thoughts. Malfoy is human, of course he is, he always has been. He’s just also always been an arse and a bigot; although perhaps the latter might not be true anymore. Malfoy’s posh voice echoes in his mind: “It’s been years, Potter, I’ve grown up – you should try it sometime.”

Putting aside the insult, Harry is intrigued by the sentiment. Has Malfoy really grown up? He doesn’t have an answer to that question, which only serves to fuel his curiosity more. “Don’t suppose I’ll find any answers anytime soon,” he murmurs, clearing away his breakfast dishes.

He spends the rest of his morning lounging in the living room, catching up on Quidditch Weekly and nursing a cup of tea. He’s dozed off on the sofa when a loud “Harry!” from somewhere to his left jerks him awake.

“Wh-” he looks around groggily. Hermione’s exasperated face greets him from the Floo. “I’ve been calling your name for ages Harry, honestly. You’re late for lunch, Molly’s been fretting over you,” she says, with a significant backwards glance.

“Ah shit, sorry ‘Mione, I didn’t mean to fall asleep. Tell Molly I’m absolutely fine, I’ll be there in five,” Harry says, getting up and stretching the kinks from his neck. Hermione withdraws from his Floo with a nod and a wry smile.

Harry quickly throws on some presentable clothes, splashes his face with cold water and makes his way back to the Floo. “The Burrow,” he calls out as he steps into the whirling green flames.

Predictably, Molly is immediately upon him, squeezing the breath out of him with her hug.

“Where were you, Harry dear? We were all so worried,” she demands, somehow sounding affectionate and stern at the same time. Behind her, George mouths, “ We really weren’t .”

Grinning, Harry looks back at Molly. “Sorry, Molly, I accidentally fell asleep,” he says.

“Ah, the curse of old age,” Ginny sighs dramatically as she breezes past. Harry shoots her the bird behind Molly’s back, making her stick her tongue out at him.

Saturday lunch at the Burrow is the same as it’s always been, complete with overeating, enthusiastic Weasley back slaps, and lots of laughter and chatter. After everyone’s eaten more than their fill, they all decamp to various parts of the house. Harry, Ron, and Hermione take up their usual spots in the living room, Ron and Hermione on the big sofa while Harry takes the single on their left.

“So, something weird happened yesterday evening,” Harry begins.

“After you left work?” Ron asks, eyebrows scrunching. Harry nods, taking a sip of his tea.

“Well, what was it?” Hermione prods.

“I bumped into Malfoy.” 

“Ah,” Hermione leans back into the sofa, exchanging a look with Ron.

“How did that happen?” Ron asks, expression neutral.

“I was walking through St. James’ Park and I bumped into him. Well, I guess I bumped into his dog first,” Harry corrects himself.

“You bumped into Malfoy’s dog?” Hermione asks faintly.

“I didn’t know she was Malfoy’s dog, obviously. I just saw a cute dog and I stopped to pet her,” Harry admits sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck.

Hermione laughs as Ron says, “Understandable, mate.”

“Yeah, well, it was weird. I mean, Malfoy with a dog – her name’s Sally by the way – walking in a Muggle park.” He looks towards his friends with a “you know what I mean” expression.

“Well…” Hermione hesitates.

Ron clears his throat. “Seems like he was just walking his dog, mate.”

Harry frowns. “Well, yeah, but how am I bumping into him now, after so many years?”

“You don’t usually walk home, do you? Especially through the park,” Hermione points out, not unreasonably.

“Well, no,” Harry flounders. “It’s just – it’s Malfoy!”

“Harry,” Hermione groans, slumping back against the cushions.

“Is he up to something, do you reckon?” Ron teases, humour glinting in his eyes.

“Ha ha, very funny Ronald.” Harry rolls his eyes at the two of them.

He lets the subject drop after that, not wanting to endure more teasing. So maybe in the past Harry has been slightly too interested in Malfoy’s movements. But that was only because he thought he was up to something bad – and he was right! It’s not like that anymore. Harry’s not obsessed or anything, nor does he think Malfoy’s up to something. He’s just curious. Anyone would be, given the circumstances.

 

*

 

Sunday morning dawns bright and crisp. Harry wakes refreshed and rejuvenated for a change, having gone to bed at a reasonable hour and with a full stomach thanks to Molly’s leftovers. 

He hums to himself as he takes his time making a cup of masala chai, deciding to take it out into Grimmauld’s garden. It’s come a long way from what it was when Harry had first moved in. He surveys the spray of bright pink and white bougainvillea, nodding buttercups, and the sprigs of heather with quiet satisfaction. Harry breathes in the mingled scents of his various plants as the morning sun soaks through him. 

Harry showers and dresses and leaves the house with a vague idea of going to the park – today is not a day to be spent indoors. He tries very hard not to think of why his feet lead him to St. James’ when there are other, perfectly adequate parks in Central London. 

“I’m not here to see Malfoy,” Harry reminds himself firmly. “Just a nice, relaxing walk in the…” he trails off as he catches sight of platinum blonde hair glinting in the sun.

Malfoy’s sitting on a park bench, wrapped up in a long coat that’s either black or a very dark shade of blue, reading a book. Sally’s sitting at his feet, snout between her paws, with her leash left loose. 

Harry wavers, pivoting on his heels, but then turns back around. Malfoy’s reading. He probably won’t even notice Harry passing by – which is all Harry’s going to do. He came to the park for a walk, and Malfoy’s mere presence doesn’t mean Harry needs to acknowledge him in any way.

“Right,” Harry mutters. Decision made, he starts walking again, resolutely looking forward.

What he didn’t account for is Sally recognising him. Harry’s two steps away from Malfoy when her ears prick up and one step away as her tail starts thumping the ground. She lets out a loud bark as soon as he draws level with the two.

Cringing, Harry entertains the idea of just running away.

“Potter?’

Never mind. Sighing, Harry turns to face Malfoy. “Morning, Malfoy.”

Sally sits up, tail thumping away, and tilts her head slightly as if to say, “Where’s my greeting?”

Despite himself, Harry grins. “Good morning to you too, Sally.” He wants to pet her, but she doesn’t approach him and the idea of asking Malfoy doesn’t appeal, so he lets it go.

“She’s not usually this friendly with strangers,” Malfoy remarks, scratching her behind her ears.

“Right,” Harry says stiffly, still wary after Friday’s encounter. 

Malfoy clears his throat and carefully places a bookmark to mark his page. He meets Harry’s eyes and says, “I wanted to apologise for Friday.”

Surprised, Harry says nothing. 

“I jumped to conclusions and got overly defensive. I apologise.” Malfoy’s back is ramrod straight, shoulders pushed back. His eyes are stormy grey, clouded by several emotions Harry can’t decipher.

Recovering himself, Harry replies, “Oh, um, thank you for that.”

Surprise flashes across Malfoy’s face as his eyes widen before he quickly drops his head down.

The apology only serves to further fuel Harry’s curiosity. The boy Harry knew would never even think to apologise to anyone, let alone Harry. It’s becoming clearer that Malfoy has changed – but how much? And why? And what has he been up to all these years?

Questions race through Harry’s head, but before he can think of a way to casually ask such weighted questions, Malfoy stands up, Sally’s leash in hand.

Harry stumbles back a step to put some space between them – he hadn’t realised he’d stepped so close to the bench.

“I was just about to go to the cafe in the park. Would, um,” Malfoy coughs. “You’re welcome to come with us, if you like,” he offers, fiddling with his book.

Floored, Harry says nothing. The number of times Malfoy has managed to shock him into silence today is staggering. It’s only twice, technically speaking, but surely that’s two times too many.

“You don’t have to, Potter, I just thought it would be polite to ask,” Malfoy says, shrugging his shoulders far more elegantly than should be possible.

From between them, Sally barks, beginning to tug on her leash. Apparently, she’s done waiting.

Harry laughs a little at her impatience. “No, yeah, I’ll join you. I didn’t have much of a breakfast anyway and besides, I think Sally’s asking me to come.”

Harry falls into step beside Malfoy, wondering what the hell he’s gotten himself into. More to break the awkward silence than anything else, Harry gestures towards Sally trotting ahead of them and asks, “Does she know where we’re going?”

“Yes, we go to the cafe every Sunday morning,” Draco replies. He smiles as he adds, “She’s a smart girl.”

The fondness in his look softens his features until Harry can barely recognise the pointy git he hated as a child. He doesn’t know who this man is, but he’s dying to find out.

“How did you get her?” he asks, figuring that’s a safe enough question to begin with.

“I adopted her from a shelter about a year ago,” Malfoy answers. Harry gets the sense he’s not being told the whole story, but he doesn’t know how to ask without seeming nosy.

“That’s nice. I’ve always wanted a dog,” he offers instead.

“Why don’t you adopt one?” Malfoy regards him with cool grey eyes.

“My schedule’s way too hectic. I wouldn’t be able to take care of a dog properly. I would like the company though,” he admits.

Malfoy makes a small sound of acknowledgement but doesn’t offer a reply. Harry lets the silence be – it’s not as oppressive as before and Harry has nothing more to add anyway. 

Malfoy once again lets Sally’s leash lay lax as they reach the cafe and take a seat. 

“Aren’t you worried she may run off after a squirrel or something?” Harry asks, indicating the leash.

“She’s well-trained Potter, she’ll do no such thing,” Malfoy informs him, a proud tilt to his chin.

Harry’s mouth quirks. “You trained her?”

“Of course,” Malfoy responds defensively.

Not wanting to get into another argument, Harry hastens to say, “That’s nice.” He means it, too. A small part of his mind did think that Malfoy would probably have hired someone else to do all the hard work for him. He’s oddly glad that’s not the case.

“Oh.” Malfoy relaxes in his chair. He regards Harry with surprisingly open curiosity before clearing his throat and busying himself with the menu. 

It’s not until their orders have arrived that Draco quietly offers, “I adopted Sally because I felt lonely.”

Harry looks up at him, watching pink slowly bleed into his cheeks. Touched by the unexpected openness, Harry says, “I can understand that. I lived with Ron and Hermione for a month or so after the War. Even now, the silence can get oppressive.”

Malfoy grants him a small smile. 

Harry is fascinated. He never knew Malfoy could be like this; open and smiling. It’s not a side to him Harry has ever seen. It makes him wonder what else Harry doesn’t know about the man sipping tea in front of him.

Inevitably though, they finish their meals and split the bill. Malfoy wraps his coat around himself and picks up Sally’s leash. Seized with the need to learn more about Malfoy, Harry scrambles for an excuse to talk to him again. His eyes land on the book in Malfoy’s hand, the title obscured, and he blurts out, “Can I borrow that book?” before he can think it through.

Malfoy raises one eyebrow. “I hadn’t chalked you up as a Jane Austen fan, somehow.”

Harry has, in fact, read zero Jane Austen novels. Nevertheless, he ploughs on. “I could be a Jane Austen fan, you don’t know that,” he says, determinedly holding Malfoy’s gaze.

Malfoy bites down on a smile, grey eyes alight with amusement. “You’re right Potter, I don’t know that,” he admits, “but I am currently reading this. Hence why I’m carrying it around the park.”

Something Harry would have realised, had he just stopped to think before speaking. Biting the inside of his cheek, Harry releases a slow, controlled breath, feeling his face burn in embarrassment.

Malfoy shakes his head and laughs, a soft exhale. “Here,” he says, holding the book out. “You can have it, I have another copy at home.”

Pride and Prejudice, Harry reads. He’s pretty sure it’s a classic, not something he’d pick up for himself, but he can’t very well refuse now. 

As he takes the book, his fingers brush Malfoy’s for a second. Feeling oddly unbalanced, Harry clears his throat. “Thanks, Malfoy.”

Amusement still lingers in the curve of Malfoy’s lip. “You’re welcome.”

Harry nods, rubbing the back of his neck. His eyes fall to Sally, waiting patiently next to Malfoy. Remembering what started this whole thing, he finally asks, “Hey Malfoy, can I pet her?”

“Ah, well,” Malfoy looks down at Sally and clears his throat, “you’ll have to ask her.”

“How?” Harry asks, intrigued. 

“Here, hold your hand out in a loose fist,” Malfoy demonstrates, “and bring it close to her so she can familiarise herself with your scent.”

Harry holds his hand out as instructed, trying his best to seem friendly. He watches curiously as Sally sniffs at his fingers. She licks his knuckles and pushes her snout into his loosely curled fist, tail thumping the ground. Harry grins, letting her lick his palm. “I think she likes me,” he says without taking his eyes off Sally.

“Yes, quite,” Malfoy says crisply. 

Catching his tone, Harry straightens up with one last pat on Sally’s head. “Right, well, I suppose you’ve got places to be,” he says awkwardly. He’s always been so bad at ending conversations.

Malfoy smiles politely. “As have you, I’m sure.”

Harry plans to spend the rest of the day lazing around at home, actually, but Malfoy doesn’t need to know that – Harry can already imagine his unimpressed expression. 

“Yeah, sure. Thanks again for the book.” He sketches a wave towards Sally, who barks in response, making Harry laugh delightedly. “Bye Malfoy,” he says as he turns to walk back home.

Once back, he decides he might as well start on Pride and Prejudice. It’s not an entirely boring book, but Harry finds his thoughts drifting back to Malfoy. The whole experience had been one surprise after another. Not only had Malfoy apologised – properly apologised – but he had followed the apology with an invite to tea and sandwiches. 

The most surprising part of it all had been the quiet admission of loneliness. Malfoy had couched it as something inconsequential, but Harry knows first-hand what Malfoy was talking about and he knows it wasn’t a gloomy phase that lifted after a week or two. Warming as it was, Harry is also a bit baffled at the clear show of trust. He’s not suspicious of Malfoy or anything, but he still has no real idea about why Malfoy chose to open up to Harry, even incrementally. Come to think of it, why did Harry himself respond the way he did?

Harry frowns, absently tracing the lettering on the book cover. Despite the fact that – objectively speaking – Harry now knows more about Malfoy than he did the first time he bumped into him, he only has more questions.

Harry sighs and scrubs a hand over his face. He puts the book down on the coffee table, deciding he’s read enough for now. After making himself a late lunch of grilled cheese with a side of salad in the name of health, he busies himself with all the household chores he’s been neglecting the past week. By the time he’s finished, he’s absolutely knackered – somehow, he always forgets how surprisingly tiring chores can be. A delicious dinner courtesy of Molly’s leftovers and a warm shower later, he’s ensconced in his bed and dead to the world soon enough.

 

*

 

The following week is as tiring as any other. Harry drags himself out of bed with great reluctance every morning and falls into it every evening bone-weary. As a Senior Auror, he’s assigned the more puzzling, high-profile cases that Beat Aurors aren’t experienced enough to handle. Unfortunately, these cases typically do not involve adrenaline-fuelled chases through winding alleyways and explosive duels. Mostly, Harry spends his time in his cubicle, staring at his evidence board, teasing out clues and suspects, and filling out paperwork. A lot of paperwork. The few times he actually gets to be in the line of action, is when a confrontation gets out of hand and the Beat Auror on duty needs backup. 

Harry lives for those moments – if a little guiltily – rare as they are. 

The week crawls on, until finally, it’s Friday and time to go home. He briefly entertains the notion of walking through the park, but it’s late and he has no way of knowing if Malfoy would be there or not. Besides, the pull of a proper cup of tea and a hot shower is too strong to resist. He waves goodbye to Ron, who works longer hours than Harry – yet another reason why Harry never wants another promotion – and makes his way to the Ministry Apparition points to Apparate straight into his kitchen.

Harry sheds his robes right there and then, and brews himself an indulgent cup of masala chai. Breathing in the spicy-warm scent, he slouches against the counter for a moment with his eyes closed. After a few more invigorating sips, he pushes himself off the counter to rustle up dinner. He settles on pasta, the easiest dish he can think of making that isn’t just sandwiches. 

“That’s more like it.” Harry sighs contentedly once he’s pleasantly full of pasta and tea. He can practically feel the tension wound up in his body slowly begin to unravel. He ambles into the sitting room, a second mug of tea steaming in his hand, and falls onto the sofa. His eyes catch on Malfoy’s copy of Pride and Prejudice, lying on the coffee table, untouched since Sunday. 

Impulsively, he scoops it up and heads upstairs to his bedroom, tea in hand. He sets both book and mug on his bedside table, flinging a wandless Stasis to keep the tea warm, and walks into his bathroom. After making sure the drain of his bathtub is plugged, he switches on the hot water tap. 

“As good a time as any,” Harry mutters, ignoring the voice in his head that’s demanding to know exactly what he’s doing as he reaches for the untouched bath salts Hermione had gifted him ages ago. He’s never been one for pampering himself, having never been exposed to such an idea to begin with, so it’s been an uphill battle to reprogramme his thinking to allow small indulgences now and then. He makes a mental note to tell Hermione about his latest breakthrough when he sees her tomorrow.

Harry lets the tub fill and sheds his clothes before coming back to the steam-filled bathroom with the book and his mug of tea. Turning off the tap, Harry pauses at the edge of the tub – he’s pretty sure Malfoy won’t be best pleased if he returns his book with water-stained pages and the scent of jasmine all over it, so he casts a modified Shield charm before carefully putting it down on the bathtub tray along with his tea, and sinking into the warm water.

Harry groans in relief as the hot water relaxes his body all the way through, the scent of jasmine in the air doing wonders for the cotton-wool feeling in his head. He really should have tried this earlier. He pulls the tray closer until it’s right above his chest and opens Pride and Prejudice to the page he had last left off on. He loses himself in the story, growing more comfortable with the old-fashioned style of writing as he reads, and he’s long since finished his tea by the time he realises the water he’s sitting in has gone cold.

Harry towels himself dry and grins ruefully at his wrinkled toes, thanking his underused foresight when, as he turns back to unplug the drain, he accidentally splashes copious amounts of water onto Malfoy’s book. He picks it up, letting the water slide off its surface before cancelling the Shield charm.

Harry sinks into his bed that night more content than he has been in a while. He’ll finish the book by Saturday, he decides sleepily, so he’ll have a reason to seek Malfoy out on Sunday. And if Malfoy asks again, he’ll join him and Sally for breakfast. Maybe Harry will get a few more answers to the questions swirling around in his brain. An unconscious smile curves his lips as he drifts into sleep.

 

*

 

Harry has an accidental but much appreciated lie-in on Saturday morning, and wakes up in a pool of sunlight, feeling languid and content. He takes his time getting out of bed, soaking up the syrupy-golden feeling that’s stolen over him, before taking his time over breakfast.

“Pancakes,” he decides, studying the contents of his pantry. Harry whisks the ingredients and pours out the batter on a hot skillet, humming the entire time to a jaunty tune playing on the wireless. 

“Don't you be afraid, come and take a sip, of this steamy, tasty treat!” He sings along with Celestina, horribly off-tune and not caring a whit, as he flips his pancakes with a flourish. Out of nowhere, his imagination supplies him with an image of Malfoy singing a cheesy Celestina Warbeck number in his posh accent. Harry giggles uncontrollably as he transfers his pancakes to a plate and douses them in honey before cutting into one. Fluffy and warm, with a hint of vanilla, they taste delicious. Most of Harry’s efforts in the kitchen are half-hearted, either due to paucity of time or lack of energy. But when he actually wants to cook, he does a brilliant job of it.

After cleaning up the breakfast utensils along with the dishes from last night, Harry has a nice long shower and whiles away the remainder of the morning sitting in his garden, reading and soaking up the sun.

The slow pace of his day thus far is effectively put to a stop in the best way possible as soon as he arrives at the Burrow for lunch. The loud chatter of a large family, multiple hands passing food up and down the table, various Weasleys – honorary and otherwise – passing through from kitchen to dining area to living room, is the perfect counterpoint to the quiet of Harry’s house. Suffused with sudden gratitude, Harry throws himself into the fray, letting the natural ebb and flow of a family lunch take him from one knot of Weasleys to the other. He even spends some time listening – or pretending to listen – to Percy talk about internal Ministry politics in the Law Department side of things. Most of it is completely incomprehensible to Harry, but he listens politely nonetheless and makes interested noises where appropriate.

Later, Ron catches him in the kitchen and asks, “Was I hallucinating or were you actually talking to Percy about Ministry politics?”

“Yes?” Harry says, as innocently as possible.

When all Ron does in response is raise his eyebrows, Harry gives in. “It’s been a while since I had a proper chat with him, so I figured why not today.” He shrugs, grinning a bit at the incredulous look on Ron’s face.

“You’re in a good mood,” Ron says, peering at him speculatively.

Harry’s grin broadens even further as he says, “Always the tone of surprise.”

Ron snorts and claps Harry on the shoulder. “It’s good to see you like this, mate. You don’t relax enough.”

“Oh, speaking of relaxing, I’ve got something to tell Hermione,” Harry says, remembering the bath salts he finally used. As expected, Hermione looks delighted when he tells her. “You’ve got to do it again, Harry, a weekly thing maybe, to reward yourself for making it to Friday,” she says. Harry agrees – it’s barely a hardship, now that he’s taken the first step, with such a satisfying result to boot.

He stays a little longer than usual at the Burrow, sticking around to help with the clear-up even though it’s not his turn. After sharing one last post-cleaning pot of tea with Arthur and Molly, Harry finally returns to Grimmauld just as the sun begins its fiery descent. 

He spends his evening reading in front of the warm hearth, gently winding down from the bustle of the day. Still feeling too full for a proper dinner, Harry stores away the leftovers from lunch for tomorrow’s dinner, and makes himself a bowl of tomato soup. He keeps reading through dinner, stops to get ready for bed, and picks up where he left off once he’s sitting propped up against his pillows. He reads with bated breath as all the misunderstandings finally unravel and Mr. Darcy confesses his feelings. He reaches the last sentence and closes the book with a huff of breath. 

“Who knew I’d get so invested,” Harry murmurs to himself, smiling ruefully as he sets the book on his bedside table and turns off the lamp, dousing the room in darkness. He falls asleep wondering what Malfoy thought of the story the first time he read it.

 

*

 

Harry is thrumming with nervous energy the next morning. As he goes through his morning routine, he’s constantly aware of the faint buzz in his veins. It confuses him. He has no reason to be nervous, for Merlin’s sake, all he has planned for today is meeting Malfoy in the park. And possibly, maybe, only if Malfoy asks, getting breakfast with him. Harry pauses as he takes out a loaf of bread. Maybe he shouldn’t have breakfast, just in case. If he eats now, he’ll be too full to eat anything should Malfoy ask him to accompany him and Sally to the cafe. It would be rude not to order anything while Malfoy tucks in.

Harry had a light dinner last night and he could do with a decent fry up, but he puts the bread back in its place nonetheless. “Best not,” he mutters. He drinks two mugs of tea to compensate for the lack of breakfast and sets out to the park, Pride and Prejudice in hand.

As he enters St. James’, Harry realises that Malfoy probably isn’t expecting him. He knows Malfoy will be there – he had told Harry that he comes here every Sunday – but he’s suddenly unsure of how Malfoy will receive him. They’d broken the ice a bit, last Sunday, but that doesn’t mean Malfoy will take kindly to Harry showing up unannounced – again.

Harry’s steps falter as doubt begins to creep in, but before he can make up his mind one way or the other, he hears a familiar voice.

“Potter,” Malfoy calls out from his bench, the same one he was sitting on last week. Sally sits next to him, her tail wagging as she recognises Harry. Malfoy picks up Sally’s leash and approaches Harry.

“Hi,” Harry says, relieved to see that Malfoy doesn’t seem annoyed. In fact, he seems pleased to see him, a friendly smile on his lips.

“Fancy seeing you here,” Malfoy says, and Harry could swear he’s teasing him. “Again,” Malfoy adds, eyes sparkling. Yep, definitely teasing.

Harry laughs, slightly sheepish. “Had to return your book at some point,” he says. “And of course, I wanted to see Sally too,” he directs this to Sally herself, bending down and fussing over her. 

“Finished Pride and Prejudice then?” Malfoy asks, sounding markedly more restrained. 

Straightening, Harry nods. “Yeah, it was surprisingly interesting, actually,” he says, offering the book to Malfoy.

Malfoy takes it, surreptitiously shrinking it and tucking it into his coat pocket. He looks at Harry with one raised eyebrow. “Really? You’re not just saying that?”

“I’m not. The writing style took some adjusting to, but the story itself was nice.” Harry shrugs. “It was quite satisfying, seeing how Darcy and Elizabeth went from hating each other to falling in love.”

Malfoy looks at him with an unreadable expression. There’s amusement there, some interest, maybe curiosity? Harry can’t tell for sure – he used to be able to read Malfoy like an open book, back in Hogwarts, but he doesn’t know adult Malfoy well enough to decipher his expressions.

“Figures you’d be a romantic,” Malfoy says. “Seems very Gryffindor of you.”

Harry’s lips quirk. “Romance isn’t exactly my forte. Besides, school was ages ago, surely we’ve moved past House stereotypes.”

Malfoy grins. “That was almost profound, Potter, colour me impressed.”

“Piss off, Malfoy,” Harry says, without any real heat.

Malfoy snorts in amusement, but subsides.

Silence settles around them. The nervous thrum – which had abated when Malfoy had called out to him – returns full force. Harry is once again unsure. Should he make his excuses and leave? Should he be the one to suggest breakfast today? Is Malfoy waiting for some kind of signal from him? Unsure of what to say, Harry opens his mouth. But before he can get a single word out, his stomach lets out a truly angry growl.

Harry’s jaw snaps shut, teeth clicking. His face burns in embarrassment. “Oh my god,” he says faintly, closing his eyes in mortification. He hears a stifled giggle. “Malfoy, I swear to Merlin,” Harry says, still not opening his eyes.

Malfoy snorts, and then he’s laughing properly, not even bothering to hide his amusement anymore. Harry reluctantly opens his eyes and is greeted with the sight of Draco Malfoy with his eyes scrunched up in amusement, a smile splitting his face and grey eyes gleaming in the morning sun.

Harry feels his own lips tug up in response. “Shut up,” he says weakly. 

Malfoy shakes his head in amusement, letting his chuckles subside before saying, “Come on then.”

Confused, Harry asks, “Come on where?”

Already walking away, Malfoy calls over his shoulder, “To the cafe, Potter. Someone has to make sure you don’t waste away.”

Harry grins, feeling a flush of warmth run through his body, and quickly catches up to Malfoy, falling in step next to him. They spend the walk to the cafe and the wait for their food talking about Pride and Prejudice . Malfoy talks a lot about parallels and subtext, while Harry was more taken with the character arcs and the smaller dramas within the larger plot. Harry finds out Darcy is Draco’s favourite character.

“Some people think he’s a bit boring but his progression through the book is immensely satisfying to me. There’s a lot more to his character than what’s on the surface,” he says.

Harry hums. “Yeah, I can see that. I liked Elizabeth’s wit, but she also seemed very easily swayed? She immediately believed Wickham’s account in its totality without bothering to question any of it. Even Jane wasn’t so quick to pass judgement,” Harry says. “Honestly, I liked Bingley best. Straightforward, loyal, friendly with everyone – no wonder he was so well liked,” he adds.

The arrival of their order – a full fry-up for Harry and crepes for Malfoy – creates a natural lull in their conversation. The silence as they dig in is surprisingly companionable. Harry lets his thoughts wander, thinking about what Malfoy had said about there being more to Darcy than what meets the eye.

“You’ve thought about it a lot,” Harry says, voicing the thought as it coalesces in his mind. 

“You mean Pride and Prejudice ?” Malfoy asks. At Harry’s nod, he hums in agreement. “It’s one of my favourite classic novels, if not my favourite. I’ve read it about three times, at this point”

“You like to read, then?” Harry asks.

Malfoy smiles wryly. “Yes, I’m quite fond of books.”

Harry tilts his head, curious.

Malfoy considers him for a minute before saying in a slight rush, “I own a bookshop.”

Surprised, Harry abandons his bacon in favour of giving Malfoy his full attention. “Really? In Wizarding London?”

“Kind of,” Malfoy answers. “It’s open to Wix, but the shop itself is in a Muggle part of London. Took some tricky charmwork, but it’s all approved.” This last was said a touch defensively.

“Right, of course,” Harry agrees immediately, not wanting Malfoy to think Harry’s casting aspersions. “A bookshop though, how did that happen?”

Malfoy shrugs. “It just did. After my sentence was over, I just wanted some peace. Living in Wizarding London wasn’t an attractive option, for obvious reasons, so I found a flat in Muggle London, on Carnaby Street. The flat was above an abandoned shop, and one thing led to another and I decided to open a bookshop.” Malfoy shrugs again, suddenly bashful. “It’s, um, it’s called Daffodil Books.”

“Daffodil Books,” Harry repeats, still absorbing everything Malfoy just told him. “Why daffodils?”

Malfoy doesn’t look at Harry when he answers, keeping his eyes fixed on his plate. “They stand for new beginnings,” he offers quietly.

Harry’s breath catches. He looks at Malfoy, sitting across from him and offering him pieces of his story, allowing Harry closer. Suddenly, he doesn’t care about the why of it all, only that it’s happening. Carefully, he says, “Sounds about right.”

He’s rewarded by Malfoy’s look of shock which quickly melts away into a dazzling, if slightly reserved, smile. 

Caught up, Harry smiles back and they look at each other for a moment. Malfoy’s smile changes, growing smaller, more private, his eyes becoming inquisitive. Catching himself, Harry clears his throat and sips at his tea. He asks the first question that comes to mind.

“Do you like it? Running a bookshop, that is.”

Malfoy looks at him a moment more, another one of his inscrutable expressions in place, before busying himself with cutting into his crepe as he answers. “Yes, I rather do. It’s quite a relaxing job, which is all I wanted really.”

“Sounds nice,” Harry says wistfully, thinking of his own headache-inducing job.

Malfoy catches his tone and looks up suddenly, grey eyes piercing. “What about you? Do you like being an Auror?”

The blunt question throws Harry for a second. He can’t recall anyone ever point-blank asking him if he likes his job or not. “How did you know I joined the Aurors?” he asks, more of a  deflection than anything else. 

“I get the Prophet.” Malfoy rolls his eyes. “It seems every second day there’s some article about you,” he says dryly. 

“Right, yeah, it’s bloody annoying,” Harry says distractedly. The temptation to brush off Malfoy’s question is enticing, but Harry thinks he owes Malfoy a bit of honesty. So, he says, “Yeah I like it well enough, but it’s fairly exhausting, to be honest.”

“Exhausting in a good way, or in a bad way?” Malfoy asks.

Harry winces. “Well, it’s mostly solving crimes from my desk and filling out paperwork, which just gives me a headache. So, um, in a bad way, I guess.”

Malfoy frowns faintly, a crease forming between his eyebrows. He opens his mouth, then shuts it. Opens it again and asks hesitantly, “So when you say you like it, what you really mean is that you don’t hate it?”

Stunned, Harry gapes. He swallows down the instinctive “I’ve always wanted to be an Auror” and forces himself to think about Malfoy’s words.

 “Well,” he starts, and then hesitates. “You’re right, I don’t hate it,” he says, thinking out loud. “I really dislike the paperwork, though that’s hardly just me, we all hate it.”

Across from him, Malfoy snorts softly, pulling an amused smile from Harry too.

“It’s not that I don’t like what I do – although I will admit I’d love more fieldwork,” he continues, recalling the rush he gets when he finally connects the dots and solves a case, the energy that suffuses him as he follows a train of thought down to its logical conclusion. “It’s just, lately, it’s been more exhausting for some reason.” Harry sighs, unable to pin down what has him feeling so – unmoored, half-asleep – lately.

“Maybe it’s just a slump, we all have those,” Malfoy offers. “Or maybe it’s a quarter-life crisis,” he adds, grinning playfully.

Harry huffs. “Ha ha, so glad my suffering is amusing to you.” He rolls his eyes, just about resisting sticking his tongue out at Malfoy.

“Your suffering ?” Malfoy raises his eyebrows, sketching air quotes. “A touch dramatic, don’t you think?”

“Says the kettle,” Harry snipes back.

Malfoy laughs, but doesn’t disagree. Smiling, Harry returns to his abandoned breakfast and lets Malfoy change the topic to the merits of crepes versus pancakes.

Later, as he’s getting ready to go to bed, Harry thinks about their conversation. Mainly about how, for the first time, Harry allowed himself to vocalise his mixed emotions towards his job. It was freeing, in a way – finally putting his thoughts into words. He didn’t anticipate Malfoy to be the one to help him do it, but then again, in the short time that Harry has become reacquainted with Malfoy, he’s defied Harry’s every expectation. 

“Surprising bugger,” Harry mutters to himself, smiling at the memory of the pleasant conversation they had over breakfast, soul-searching notwithstanding. He drifts into sleep with the memory of Malfoy’s smile slipping from amused to private playing on a loop in his head.

 

*

 

Slowly but surely, as the month progresses, Sunday breakfast with Malfoy becomes a fixed point in Harry’s routine. It gives him something to look forward to as the weekend approaches and Harry isn’t entirely ignorant of the fact that it puts him in a better mood for the coming week as well. 

“Alright, spill,” Quinn says one Wednesday afternoon, slapping the form they’d been working on down on their desk. They pin Harry with an intense gaze. “Why are you so happy?”

Harry raises an eyebrow, mouth quirking in amusement. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Quinn levels Harry with an unimpressed gaze. “It’s a Wednesday afternoon and we’re filling out forms,” they say flatly.

Harry shrugs and hums noncommittally, not really having anything to say to that.

Quinn looks at him a moment longer before suddenly breaking out into a sly grin. “Oh, I see,” they say knowingly.

Immediately suspicious, Harry narrows his eyes at them. “What?” he asks cautiously.

“You’ve met someone,” Quinn crows, eyes alight with the possibility of gossip.

Harry huffs out a laugh. “I really haven’t,” he tells Quinn. “Or, I mean,” he reconsiders, frowning a bit.

Quinn immediately jumps on his hesitation. “Oh Merlin, this isn’t just some crush, is it?”

“No,” Harry says firmly. Realising what that sounds like, he quickly hastens to clarify, “I mean, yes I’ve met someone, no I’m not involved with them. Or anyone else.”

“Huh,” Quinn says, not looking entirely convinced. “Who did you meet then?”

“Someone I knew in school,” Harry answers, not expanding any more than that. It’s technically true, even if Harry and Malfoy had never been anything close to friends. How things have changed now. Harry smiles faintly. Quinn notices, because of course they do.

“You may not be involved, but you like spending time with them, don’t you?” they ask, smiling slyly. 

Harry just sends Quinn a look and ignores them in favour of finishing the interrogation report he’s working on. He very firmly does not think about the fact that his answer to Quinn’s question is yes.

 

*

 

Harry’s late. Never mind that he and Malfoy have never set up an official time to meet, let alone explicitly acknowledged their weekly breakfasts, they’ve fallen into a routine and Harry is late.  

“Buggering fuck,” Harry swears, wrestling a jumper over his shirt with one hand whilst simultaneously tugging his jeans up his thighs. He’d been called into the office the evening before – a suspect he and Quinn had been keeping their eye on had finally fled his bolthole. A dramatic chase and a less dramatic duel later, the suspect was in the custody of the DMLE. The bloody paperwork that followed took far longer than the actual capture had, and Harry returned home well into the night and fell into an exhausted sleep.

Harry drags his hand fruitlessly through his disheveled hair and throws open the trunk at the foot of his bed to draw out the Invisibility Cloak. 

“Desperate times,” Harry mutters, wrapping the cloak around himself. He focuses on the copse of trees near the cafe he and Malfoy eat at, and Apparates himself. The copse and the surrounding area are blessedly empty. Harry shrinks the cloak and stuffs it into his pocket, quickly making his way to the cafe.

Malfoy is sitting at their usual table, Sally right next to him. “Sorry, sorry, I slept in,” Harry says as he drops into the seat in front of Malfoy, slightly breathless from his rushed morning. He has only a moment to register the surprise on Malfoy’s face giving way to a pleased smile, before Sally all but attempts to sit on his lap.

Once Sally has been fussed over thoroughly, Harry transfers his attention to Malfoy. “Hi.”

Malfoy’s lips quirk. “Hello, Potter. Wild Saturday night, was it?”

Harry snorts. “If chasing a suspect through a moor and then filling out interminable amounts of paperwork is your idea of wild, then yeah it was.”

Malfoy wrinkles his nose. “I think not,” he says decidedly.

Harry laughs, strangely endeared.

“Oh, um, you’ll have to order for yourself, Potter, I’ve already placed mine,” Malfoy says sheepishly. “I thought you weren’t coming so…” he trails off.

“Right, yeah, don’t worry about it.” Harry signals a waiter and asks for a full English along with a pot of tea. He missed dinner last night and didn’t so much as pause for tea today morning before leaving the house – he’s positively ravenous. When it arrives, Harry wastes no time in tucking in.

“Merlin, Potter, slow down. No one’s taking the food away from you,” Malfoy says, smiling in amusement.

Harry freezes, realising he’s practically inhaled half of his breakfast already while Malfoy has only taken a few bites of his own food. 

Old habits, he thinks a touch wryly.

“What?”

Malfoy’s sharp voice cuts through Harry’s unpleasant trip down memory lane. He looks up at Malfoy in confusion, a question on the tip of his tongue that dies as soon as he sees the expression on Malfoy’s face. He’s frowning, confused, but clearly concerned too.

Oh . “I said that out loud, didn’t I,” Harry says, cringing.

“Yes, Potter, you did. What do you mean ‘old habits’?” Malfoy asks.

Harry inhales sharply. His palms grow clammy and he releases his knife and fork to wipe them on his thighs. He looks at Malfoy and meets his sharp gaze, softened by the concern etched into the groove between his eyebrows, and makes a decision.

“When I was a child, I often didn’t get proper meals,” he says slowly, willing his heart to slow down.

Malfoy’s mouth opens in shock before swiftly clicking shut. “What,” he begins, then stops. He shakes his head. “I don’t understand.”

“When my parents died, my aunt and uncle took me in,” Harry explains, hands gripping his knees. “They didn’t like me very much,” he says, smiling humourlessly.

“So, what, they didn’t feed you?” Malfoy sputters, grey eyes ablaze. 

Harry just nods, averting his gaze.

“Merlin fuck,” Malfoy swears before leaning back in his chair and passing a hand over his face.

There’s a beat of silence as Harry stares at his hands and focuses on his breathing and Malfoy presumably digests this new information. 

Finally, Malfoy clears his throat. Harry looks up. Malfoy looks Harry directly in the eye before speaking. “Thank you,” he says, low and serious. “Thank you for sharing that with me, Harry. Vulnerability has never been my strong suit and I want you to know that I appreciate the strength it took to share that with me. I am honoured that you have trusted me with something so personal – I promise you, I will never violate that trust.” 

Harry is speechless. He feels like he’s floating a bit, and there’s a fuzzy sort of warmth spreading up from his toes, making his fingers tingle. He swallows a few times, blinking away the treacherous burn of his eyes.

When his throat no longer feels like it’s burning, he clears it once and says, “Thank you.”

He looks at the man sitting across from him, so different from the boy he once was, emanating solidity and empathy. “Thank you, Draco,” he adds, feeling something settle into place around them.

Draco – and Merlin, but it feels completely natural to call him that – gives him a slight smile and a nod. “Eat,” he says, pushing Harry’s plate towards him. The rest of the meal is quiet. It's not uncomfortable, though. In fact, Harry finds it a bit of a relief. He didn’t tell Draco much about the Dursleys, but what little he did share was enough to poke at old wounds, and he needs some time to settle his thoughts.

By the time their plates are cleared and the bill paid, Harry is feeling a lot more grounded and much less inclined to leave. “Well,” he says, a touch resignedly. “I guess I should get going.” 

This is the routine – they walk to the cafe, eat breakfast together and then part ways. Today though, Harry’s not ready to leave yet. He’s still a little off-kilter and if he’s being totally honest, he wants the reassurance of their usual conversations.

Draco hums almost absently, straightening out his scarf. “I think Sally and I will stay for a while, take a walk around the park,” he says. Shrugging nonchalantly, he adds, “The weather is lovely today, might as well make the most of it.”

“Yeah, it is lovely out,” Harry agrees slowly. Merlin knows he’s not the best at reading social cues, and he’s only beginning to understand Draco Malfoy, but Harry’s fairly certain Draco’s subtly inviting Harry to join him. Hoping he hasn’t gotten it spectacularly wrong, Harry says with studied casualness, “Think I’ll join you actually, if you don’t mind.”

Draco grins at him then, a wide, unguarded thing that Harry has seen only once or twice before. “I don’t mind at all,” he says simply.

Harry releases a breath he didn’t know he was holding and smiles at Malfoy as they get up and leave the cafe, Sally trotting happily ahead of them.

 

*

 

As the leaves turn red and orange and yellow, threatening to fall off their branches, Harry and Draco draw closer together, often spending entire afternoons at the park and only leaving once the sun begins to set. Harry buys Sally a ball one day and after that, it becomes part of their routine for Harry to play ball with Sally after breakfast as Draco sits on a nearby bench with his current read. 

Inevitably, they talk about the War in bits and pieces. It’s not at all like Harry would have imagined, if he’d ever expected to talk about the War with Draco Malfoy, of all people. If he had, Harry thinks he would probably have associated emotions like anger and resentment and maybe even hatred with such a conversation. Instead, it’s oddly quiet – restrained, as if they’re both aware of how easily they could cut each other and destroy what’s taking root between them. Still, it was exhausting, no matter how brief the conversation had been. 

Some days Harry can’t bear to stay afterwards, afraid of the fruitless words of blame that might spill out of him, and some days it’s Draco’s turn to leave. Other days they stay, but remain quiet, allowing Sally to act as a warm buffer between them, her snout on one of their laps and her bum on the other’s.

By the time the trees turn bare and the ground is littered with a crunchy carpet, the difficult conversations are no longer looming over them and, miraculously, they survive. Not just survive, actually – Harry thinks they’re rather thriving. There will be more conversations to come – the War cast a long shadow over everyone – but they’ve made it through the worst of it and Harry is cautiously optimistic about the rest. 

Laughter comes easily between them now. Draco shares stories about oddball customers and Harry tells him about Quinn’s ongoing prank war with their roommate. It’s – good. Harry likes it. He likes it quite a lot, he thinks, his heart expanding as he watches Draco mucking about with Sally in the grass, heedless of his posh coat or the grass stains on his dress pants.

 

*

 

Harry feels almost excited as he walks into St. James’ Park. It’s a Friday evening, not their usual Sunday meeting, but Harry likes spending time with Draco and his four-legged friend. So, last Sunday, he had casually suggested that maybe they could meet after work and Draco had agreed with a smile that had Harry feeling warm all over, despite the nip in the air.  

However, as the bench Draco and Sally habitually occupy comes into view, it quickly becomes clear it's vacant. Frowning, Harry reaches it and sits down, surveying the park around him. No sign of Draco. Harry deflates, feeling a tug of disappointment. 

“He’s just late, that’s all,” he mutters to himself. Except Draco has never been late. Harry frowns harder and ignores the thought.  

Five minutes become fifteen, and then twenty. Harry sits and waits, rubbing his palms together briskly as the sun begins to set and the temperature drops. As the thirty minute mark approaches, Harry’s rising irritation starts to morph into concern. It really isn’t like Draco to be late, especially today when they’ve specifically made plans to meet outside of their regular breakfasts.

For all he knows, Draco got caught up at work and that’s all there is to it. But surely, he would have sent Harry an owl? Would an owl be able to find Harry if he’s not at home or at work?

Agitated, Harry scrubs at his face, noting the scratch of stubble distantly. It’s no use. Draco could be fine but he could also be in trouble, and Harry is in no mood to risk it. Holding an image of Carnaby Street in his head, Harry Disapparates, hoping Draco’s bookshop isn’t too hard to find.

“Daffodil Books, Daffodil Books,” Harry mutters to himself as he strides up the pavement. It’s a colourful street, with lights strung up across the buildings and flowerpots set in window sills. Harry takes it all in fleetingly, not slowing down until he finally reaches his destination. 

Daffodil Books is a quaint shop, situated at a street corner. The wooden exterior is painted a deep blue, with a sign of the same colour nailed on top, “Daffodil Books” painted on it in flowing, golden cursive. The window display next to the door is a cozy nook, small succulents placed between the books on display to give it a personal touch. Green ivy hugs the walls, climbing up and twining between flowerpots that hang from the apartment above it. The whole thing gives the shop an inviting air, which is ironic, considering the door is currently locked.

“Damn it,” Harry hisses. Left with no other options, Harry looks around furtively before withdrawing his wand. Reaching out with his magic, he expertly feels out the wards Draco has set and quietly disables them, his wand barely visible under his sleeve. A quick Alohomora unlocks the Muggle lock, and he’s in. 

The bookshop doesn’t look like a shop, as much as it does someone’s own personal library. Although the books have been neatly categorised, the shelves themselves aren’t placed in any discernible pattern – they just are. There are also little tables made from different woods and designs, each topped with elegant vases containing bunches of flowers surrounded by stacks of books. Little poufs and beanbags are scattered around, an open invitation for customers to settle down and stay for a bit. Harry spies a dog bed or two, and can’t help but smile faintly at the thought of Sally dozing in sunny spots around the shop or getting cooed at by customers. 

Harry moves through the space with his wand held aloft and every sense on alert. He spies a set of stairs behind the counter, presumably leading up to the flat above the bookshop. Treading lightly, he makes his way up. Heart slamming against his ribs, Harry nudges the front door. It’s been left slightly ajar and it swings open soundlessly.

Please be alright , Harry thinks fervently. Swallowing once, he steps into the flat, spells ready on his tongue.

What he sees stops him in his tracks. Draco is asleep on the couch, Sally curled up next to him, her snout resting on his chest and her long tail lying on his legs. She’s looking right at Harry, her intelligent eyes tracking his movements, her pricked ears telling Harry she’s been aware of his presence for a while now. 

Harry sags against the wall in relief, watching the reassuring rise and fall of Draco’s chest. His brows are scrunched up in his sleep and he’s mumbling something Harry can’t catch from where he’s standing. His hair is sleep-ruffled, flopping over his forehead and spread out over the burgundy couch cushions. He looks soft in a slightly oversized maroon jumper and joggers. Harry’s heart stutters – he’s never seen Draco without his long coat and pristine pants. A small smile creeps across Harry’s face and his chest fills with warmth. Draco looks adorable when he’s asleep.

Oh.  

Harry’s eyes widen as he processes that thought. He straightens suddenly, his mind finally making the connection between the curl of Draco’s lips as he grins at something Harry said and the way it makes something warm glow in Harry’s gut, the scrunch of Draco’s eyes when he laughs and the corresponding kick in Harry’s chest, the way Draco’s hair sometimes covers the tips of his ears and how Harry’s hands itch with the need to push it back.

“Oh, no,” Harry whispers. Merlin help him, he’s fallen for Draco Malfoy. It should feel like a shock to the system, but the more Harry lets the thought filter through his brain, the less surprising it feels. Still, he’s utterly unprepared to be having this realisation while Draco is asleep right in front of him. 

Of course, Draco chooses that moment to wake up.

“H’rry?” Draco pushes himself up on one elbow, squinting blearily. 

Unable to think clearly when faced with a – devastatingly, unfairly – soft  just-woken Draco, all Harry can say is, “Hi.”

“Wh–” Draco blinks properly awake and swings his legs off the couch, gently dislodging Sally as he does. “Harry, what on earth are you doing here?” he asks, running his hand through his hair, obviously attempting to tame his bed-head.

Suppressing the urge to tell Draco his hair looks endearingly rumpled, Harry says, “You didn’t show up at the park today and there was no message from you either, so I uh, thought I would check in?”

Draco cocks an eyebrow, smiling faintly. “You sound unsure about that.”

Harry flushes, the slant of Draco’s eyebrow combined with his messy hair, sending Harry’s thoughts to inappropriate places. Clearing his throat, he shakes himself out of it. “Yes, well, I may not have thought this through,” he admits, the colour still high on his cheeks. “What with the breaking and entering. It was for your safety, though.”

Draco grins properly then. “Even when you break the law, you manage to be all altruistic about it.”

“Well, it wouldn’t do to break laws for selfish reasons, obviously,” Harry says, attempting to look aloof but failing miserably.

“Oh yes, obviously . Very sorry, Auror Potter,” Draco says, eyes shining with amusement.

Harry grins, letting the ease of their banter slow the thud of his heart. “I am sorry about barging in like this, though.”

Draco waves this off. “It’s alright. Since you’ve come all this way, why not stay for a bit?”

Feeling immensely pleased with the notion of staying, Harry ducks his head to hide his no doubt soppy smile. “What do you say, hm?” he asks Sally instead, who’s ambled over to sniff at Harry. In response, Sally wags her tail and lets out a ruff . He grins and winks at her, thrilling in how she seems to understand exactly what Harry’s saying.

Looking up at Draco, he says, “I think that was a yes.”

Draco’s expression wavers for a second before he rolls his eyes with a huff. “I’ll put the kettle on, shall I?” he asks dryly.

“Yeah,” Harry says, doing his best to temper his smile. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

“Sorry I didn’t show up to the park,” Draco says over his shoulder as he moves into the kitchen to switch on the kettle. “I meant to come, but I had a bit of a headache, so I decided to take a nap for a bit. Ended up sleeping a lot longer than I intended to.”

“Oh, are you feeling alright now?” Harry asks, concerned.

Draco smiles and nods as he sets down their tea.

The spicy scent hits Harry before he even takes a sip. “Draco, is this masala chai?” he asks, feeling something undefinable balloon in his chest.

“Yes, it’s what you order all the time at the cafe. I assumed you liked it?” Draco asks, frowning faintly.

Harry shakes his head, smiling helplessly. “It’s my favourite,” he says softly, his chest constricting at the easy thoughtfulness in the gesture.

“Good.” Draco smiles at him over his cup of tea and Harry can’t help but stare. Bathed in the soft glow of the kitchen light, Draco looks so incredibly domestic in his jumper, sleeves falling down to his knuckles, and with his hair still ruffled from sleep. Harry can hardly breathe around how much he wants this.

“Stay for dinner?” Draco asks. “I was thinking of having Chinese.”

You could offer me burnt toast and I would still stay, Harry thinks. “Chinese sounds great,” he says out loud. By the time their dinner arrives, Harry’s got himself together a bit, enough that Draco hopefully doesn’t pick up on anything. They end up sitting on Draco’s carpet, arguing about the best dipping sauce for dumplings.

“The spicy one is a classic, how dare you!” Harry gestures indignantly with his chopsticks.

“The spicy one is predictable,” Draco rolls his eyes. “Black bean sauce on the other hand, is anything but. It’s spicy meets a touch of sweetness, what can be better?”

“Spicy sauce is what,” Harry mumbles around his noodles. He laughs as Draco throws a fortune cookie at his face, even as he yearns to lick off the spot of sauce on the (inviting, kissable, plush) bow of Draco’s lips.

 

*

 

Harry Floos into Ron and Hermione’s flat, the cozy familiarity immediately putting him at ease. The space, cluttered with Hermione’s books and Ron’s collection of chess boards, feels more like home than Grimmauld ever has. 

“Harry, is that you?” Hermione calls.

“Yeah, hey,” Harry calls back, shedding his coat. He makes his way to the kitchen where Ron is putting the final touches to what smells like spaghetti bolognese while Hermione sets the table. He accepts Hermione's kiss to his cheek and Ron’s back-slap and starts setting the table alongside Hermione.

“You almost done there, mate? I’d like to eat sometime tonight,” Harry ribs Ron playfully. 

Ron just rolls his eyes, waving his hand negligently. “Perfection cannot be rushed, Harold,” he intones.

“I can see you turning the stove off Ron, quit the dramatics,” Hermione says drily, eyes sparkling with amusement. Harry snorts and Ron flicks him over the head with a dish towel before setting the pasta onto the dinner table.

“Smells delicious,” Harry says appreciatively, thankful – and not for the first time – that Ron inherited Molly’s talent at cooking.

“I am a lucky woman,” Hermione agrees, smiling softly at Ron who promptly blushes.

The brief domesticity reminds Harry viscerally of Draco and he has to look away and take a few deep breaths. The conversation ebbs and flows between the three of them, easily moving from one topic to another, all of them used to keeping up with one another and picking up where one left off or just letting the silence move peacefully around them.

Eventually, the dishes are cleared away and the wine brought out. Hermione uncorks a Merlot and pours each of them a healthy measure. They move to the living room, Harry stretches himself out on the sofa while Ron deposits himself on the carpet in front of the fire, stretching out like a cat. Hermione just shakes her head and sits with her back against the sofa, feet tucked under Ron’s bum. 

“So,” Ron starts. “How’s Malfoy?”

Harry blinks. Later, he’ll blame the wine for what he says next, never mind the fact that he’d barely had one glass. “I think I’m falling in love with him,” he says without making a conscious decision to do any such thing.

Ron’s mouth literally falls open a bit and Hermione swivels around so violently, her neck pops.

“What?” Hermione demands.

Harry winces. “Draco. I’m, uh, falling for him.”

“And you couldn’t have had this epiphany, oh I don’t know, a week ago?” Hermione huffs.

Before Harry can formulate a response, Ron lets out a triumphant whoop. 

“I told you so,” he crows. “You owe me five Galleons, love.” He smirks at Hermione who crosses her arms and sticks her tongue out at him.

“Um,” Harry manages, baffled as all fuck. He looks to Hermione and then to Ron. “Did– were you two betting on this?”

“It was only a matter of time, mate, we thought might as well have fun with it.” Ron shrugs far too casually.

Harry splutters indignantly, struggling to articulate proper sentences. “What do you mean “matter of time”?'' he finally asks.

“Harry,” Hermione says flatly. “You talk about him all the time. Ever since you’ve bumped into him, he’s come up in every conversation we’ve had.”

“Yeah, and you’ve been a lot happier ever since you started meeting up with him,” Ron adds, raising an eyebrow but softening it with a pleased smile.

Hermione nods. “Which we’re really very glad to see, Harry, truly.” She gives him a smile of her own. “You haven’t been very subtle about it, you know,” she adds. “His dog, his taste in books, his bookshop, his jumpers – you name it, we’ve heard it.”

“Well that’s just– I mean–,” Harry struggles, before giving up and downing the last of his wine. “Sorry?” he offers weakly.

“Don’t be, you got me five Galleons,” Ron says, grinning from the carpet.

Hermione rolls her eyes at him before turning to look at Harry. “It’s fine, Harry, Merlin knows it’s nothing new,” she says, lips quirking in amusement. “Though this time it’s a lot more complimentary,” she adds.

Harry laughs, scrubbing a hand over his heated face. “Yeah, I’d say so,” he says ruefully. “So, um, you guys are really okay with this?” he asks hesitantly.

“Harry,” Hermione says in her you’re-being-an-idiot tone.

“Can’t say I know what you see in him, I mean he’s so– pale and pointy,” Ron scrunches his nose in confusion before he sits up on his elbows, smiling reassuringly at Harry. “But yeah mate, he clearly makes you happy, and that’s good enough for me.”

Harry grins, suffused with warmth for his best friends. “Yeah, I like spending time with him. He’s really nice actually. Caring in his own, quiet sort of way” he admits, feeling his cheeks heat up again. “But I mean, we’re just friends,” he adds hastily. “I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have feelings for me.”

Hermione raises a dubious eyebrow. “Considering your track record with respect to your own feelings…” she trails off, giving him a significant look.

“Yes, alright, alright,” Harry accepts, rubbing the back of his neck bashfully. “Still, I don’t know about Draco.”

“We don’t know about him, but we do know about you,” Ron says, filling his glass with more wine. “Our Harry’s in looove,” he croons, grinning like a maniac.

Hermione laughs, accepting Ron’s offer of more wine.

“Piss off, Ronald,” Harry replies primly, only to give in a moment later and join his friends’ laughter. 

 

*

 

After the “breaking and entering incident” as Draco insists on referring to it, much to Harry’s chagrin and amusement, it’s as if the remaining few walls between Harry and Draco finally fall away. Now, their meetings are no longer restricted to St. James’. More and more often, Harry ends up following breakfast at their cafe – which is how Harry has started thinking of it, as “their cafe” – with lunch at Draco’s house. 

Harry spends one incredibly relaxing afternoon dozing on Draco’s carpet, with Sally curled up next to him, his hand resting in her soft fur, occasionally stirring to pet her. Draco is downstairs manning the bookshop, covering for the employee on shift who had rushed home to take her pregnant wife to the hospital. He comes back up a while later, and takes in Harry and Sally cuddling together on his living room floor with an unreadable expression on his face.

“You’re…” he begins, then trails off.  “The wards allow you to Apparate and Disapparate, you know. I thought I had told you that.”

Confused, Harry tips his head back to look at Draco. “Yeah, I know,” he says. “I don’t have anywhere to be though, and I’m pretty comfortable right here.”

“Oh.” Draco clears his throat. “Right, of course. That’s perfectly fine. Good.” 

He changes the subject then, talking about Lizzy – the employee who’s shift he had just covered – and how excited and nervous she’s been throughout her wife’s pregnancy and how he thinks she’ll make an excellent parent. Harry lets him ramble, feeling incredibly endeared by how he talks about her just as he would about a friend.

Soon, Harry begins dropping by Draco’s shop a few times during the week, usually in the mornings, with tea for both of them – masala chai for Harry and bergamot with a healthy dollop of honey for Draco. Now that he knows that Draco doesn’t mind Harry being in his space, that he might even like having Harry around, it’s almost impossible for Harry to stay away for too long. 

One morning, he sees Sally snoozing on one of the dog beds in the corner of the shop. Feeling oddly reminiscent, he smiles faintly and says to Draco, “You know, in a way, Sally’s the reason we got to where we are.”

Draco’s eyebrows come together. “What do you mean?”

“Remember the first day we bumped into each other? Yeah, I hadn’t even realised it was you, not until I stopped to pet Sally,” Harry says, grinning ruefully.

“Ah,” Draco says, looking away and beginning to sort out his till. “Well, chance can be funny like that.” He clears his throat and, before Harry can say anything, adds, “Anyway, you’d best be off, Auror Potter, don’t want to be late, do you?” He flashes a quick smile at Harry before ducking behind the counter.

“Uh, right,” Harry says, unable to stem his disappointment. He’s only been here for five minutes as opposed to his usual fifteen, but Draco clearly wants him out of his hair, so he just says, “Bye, then.” Draco waves absently from behind the counter and Harry walks out of the bookshop feeling distinctly like he’s missed something, but unable to pinpoint what that is.

As autumn gives way to the chill of winter, Harry and Draco begin spending more and more time in the cozy warmth of Draco’s apartment. Harry loves this new arrangement for many reasons, not least of all because in the privacy of his apartment, Draco is almost always dressed in soft woollen jumpers, sweatpants and long fuzzy socks. Seeing Draco like this, being allowed to see Draco like this, makes something warm and full well up inside Harry, until he feels all but swollen with it.

It’s almost perfect, almost exactly what Harry wants. Almost. He wants to hold Draco’s hand, kiss the cold-bitten apples of his cheek, cradle him back-to-chest on the sofa as they watch crap daytime telly – Merlin, how he wants. But he contents himself with what he has – Sunday breakfasts and Sunday lunches, snuggles with Sally and masala chai that tastes best when Draco makes it for him – and tells himself it’s enough. 

 

*

 

Harry’s at work when he gets Draco’s Patronus. 

It’s a slow day, there’s not even an interrogation lined up, just endless amounts of forms to fill and investigation reports to look over. Rubbing at his temple, Harry pens his signature at the bottom of a truly outlandish report – let Ron handle the Junior Auror in charge of this one, Harry’s not responsible for that shit. “Small mercies,” Harry mutters, tossing the report onto his “done” pile. 

That’s when a German Shepherd materialises in front of his desk. Harry has two realisations almost simultaneously, before the Patronus so much as opens its mouth. One, this is undoubtedly Draco’s Patronus, and two, something is wrong. Draco has never sent Harry so much as an owl, let alone something as personal as a Patronus. Neither has Harry, for that matter, which just makes the situation that much more unprecedented. 

“Harry.” Draco’s voice is tight and flat. “There’s been an accident. Sally’s in the ICU, she got hit by a car. We’re at the veterinary hospital, it’s opposite St. Mungo’s. Could you come, please? I know you’re probably at work, so I’ll understand if you’re unable to make it – I just thought you should know.”

Harry’s up and out of his seat the moment he hears “accident”. He strides down the hallway to Ron’s office, barely pausing to knock before he enters.

“Harry?” 

“Ron,” Harry’s voice comes out thick and shaky. “I have to– Sally’s hurt, Draco’s at the hospital right now, I need to be with him,” he forces out, unable to muster the usual crisis-mode calm that his profession has drilled into him. “I’m almost through with the reports I was working on, Quinn can handle the rest.”

“Alright, don’t worry about it. Go.”

“Thank you,” Harry gets out, taking strength – as he always has – from the unshakeable steadiness of his best mate.

He rushes towards the Apparition points, not even bothering to take his robes off as he Disapparates to the street St. Mungo’s is on. He lands unsteadily, barely pausing to catch his balance before he’s whirling around to find the animal hospital. Heart racing wildy and hands clammy, he rushes in through the entrance. 

“Point me towards the ICU,” he demands as he reaches the reception desk. Wincing at his tone, he adds, “Please.”

The witch – Samantha, her name tag reads – looks understandably startled at the sight of Harry Potter in full Auror regalia. To her credit though, she recovers fairly quickly and asks, “May I know who you’re here for?”

“Draco Malfoy, I’m with him,” Harry says, not caring a whit about the possible implications of what he’s just said. “His dog, Sally, she’s a German Shepherd, there was an accident.”

Harry can see the mounting confusion and curiosity in Samantha’s eyes, but thankfully, she simply says, “Floor three.”

Harry dredges up a grateful smile and quickly makes his way to the lifts. Stepping onto the third floor, he looks around for the familiar flash of blond hair.

When he sees Draco, his heart squeezes painfully in his chest, even as some of the tension eases from his shoulders. Draco is sitting with his head in his hands, elbows resting on his knees, his fingers tangled into his hair.

“Hey,” Harry whispers, sinking into the seat next to him. 

Draco looks looks wrecked – his eyes are red-rimmed and slightly puffy, his hair is a tangled mess, and dried tear-tracks form crusty trails over his face. “Oh. You came,” he says, almost wonderingly. Harry wants nothing more than to pull him closer, tuck him safely into his arms, to kiss the groove in his forehead away. He settles for placing a hand on Draco’s back, rubbing soothing circles between his shoulder blades.

“Of course I came Draco, how could I not? I care about Sally as much as you do, you know that.”

Draco looks away, passing his hands over his face. “I know,” he sighs.

“How is she? Have the doctors told you anything?”

Draco shakes his head, taking a tremulous breath in.

“Okay, alright. I’m sure they’ll let us know as soon as possible,” Harry murmurs, letting his arm drape around Draco and squeezing his shoulder. He’s rewarded with Draco leaning his weight on Harry, his forehead knocking against Harry’s jaw. Harry had a vague idea of offering to get tea and biscuits, but the warm press of Draco’s thigh against his effectively nullifies all such thoughts. 

They stay like that for a long time. It could be twenty minutes, it could be an hour – there’s no clock and it’s impossible to judge how much time has passed in the liminal space of a hospital waiting area.

Harry glares daggers at anyone who stares at them until they get the picture and leave them alone. When Harry sneaks a look at Draco, he finds he’s closed his eyes. Harry would think he’s fallen asleep, but he knows what Draco looks like in his sleep – softer, more relaxed. Right now, Draco has a tightness around his lips and a tense set to his jaw that tells Harry he’s very much awake and on edge. Harry’s thoughts are interrupted by the sound of clipped footsteps. When he looks away from Draco, he sees a Healer making her way to them, still dressed in an operating gown. Harry’s heart lodges in his throat. 

“Draco,” he whispers, hoping the low tone disguises some of his fear.

Draco immediately opens his eyes, gaze finding the Healer. His face pales impossibly as he hurries to his feet, Harry rising with him. Unwilling to take his hand away just yet, Harry lets it rest gently in the middle of Draco’s back.

Surprise flickers over the Healer’s face when she catches sight of Harry, but she turns her attention to Draco. Harry gives a silent prayer of thanks for the professionalism of the hospital staff.

“How is Sally? Is she alright?” Draco asks anxiously before the Healer has a chance to say anything.

The Healer smiles reassuringly. “Sally is stable for the time being, Mr. Malfoy. We had a bit of a hairy moment during the surgery, but I’m happy to say she pulled through. She’s in the critical care unit right now, and I would like to keep her there overnight, just in case. If no further complications arise, she should be able to go home tomorrow.”

Harry’s entire body relaxes; he wasn’t even aware how tightly strung he was until now. His chest expands and he takes what feels like his first real breath for hours. Beside him, Draco unspools similarly, unconsciously leaning into Harry.

“Good, that’s…” Draco nods, looking exhausted but relieved. He takes a deep breath, collecting himself. “Thank you, Healer Smith, thank you so much.”

Healer Smith nods, smiling. “Of course, Mr. Malfoy. A nurse will be by shortly to take you two to Sally. I’m sure she’ll be very happy to see her family.”

Harry’s heart lurches at Healer Smith’s assumption, a bittersweet warmth piercing him. But Draco says nothing, makes no attempt to correct her, just thanks her once more.

“Thank you, Healer,” Harry remembers to say, his traitorous heart beating staccato at the thought of belonging in any way with Draco and Sally.

“Thank Merlin,” Draco murmurs, sinking into a chair, boneless with relief. 

“Yeah,” Harry agrees, horrified to hear the scratchiness in his voice. He clears his throat before asking, “I think I’m going to get myself a tea or something from the cafeteria. Want anything?”

Draco looks up at him with an unreadable expression on his face. “No,” is all he says.

Harry jerks his head once and walks quickly towards the lift, doing his best not to look like he’s fleeing. Which is exactly what he’s doing. His feelings for Draco have stopped surprising him, mostly – he’s used to the occasional lurch of his heart, the traitorous warmth in his belly. Today, though, Harry’s emotions are running high and sitting on the surface. When Healer Smith said “family”, when she lumped Draco and Sally and Harry into one collective noun, it was too much. Harry doesn’t know what his expression looked like, but going by Draco’s reaction, it couldn’t have been anything good.

Harry takes a deep breath, focusing on counting out the change for his tea. The man at the counter hands him two cups and Harry realises that in the midst of his spiralling, he’s bought a cup for Draco as well. Bergamot with honey – his usual order. Harry lets out a resigned chuckle. Taking a sip of masala chai to soothe himself, he makes his way slowly back to Draco. By the time he reaches Sally’s bed, he’s gained some semblance of control. 

“Here you go,” Harry says softly, holding out the bergamot for Draco.

“Oh.” Draco gives him a shaky, but definitely there, smile. “Thanks, Harry.”

“Of course,” Harry murmurs, squeezing Draco’s shoulder as he moves past him to get a closer look at Sally.

His breath catches when he sees her. “Oh, darling,” he murmurs, even though she’s still under the influence of the anesthesia. The fur around her hips and hind legs has been shaved closely and her lower half is in a brace. An IV drip is pushing fluids into her via a needle in her foreleg and a heart monitor fills the space with the measured sounds of her heartbeat. 

Harry passes a gentle hand over her back. “You’ll be alright,” he whispers, heart twisting anew at the hateful sight of Sally in a hospital bed. She should be curled in her cozy dog bed at Draco’s flat right now, dozing contentedly in front of the warm hearth. “We’ll get you home soon.” He leans over to kiss her head once before stepping back.

When he turns to look at Draco, Draco’s gaze is already on him. A small smile plays on his lips and his eyes are shiny. Swallowing over the lump in his throat, Harry asks, “Want me to stay here with you?” 

Truthfully, the last thing Harry wants to do is leave. Not just because he’s reluctant to leave Sally, but because he doesn’t want to leave Draco by himself here. He doesn’t want to overstep, though, and make Draco uncomfortable. For all Harry knows, Draco’s just waiting for Harry to leave so he can relax a little.

“Oh no, there’s no need,” Draco says, twisting the cup in his hands and shaking his head. Even though he expected it, the words hit Harry somewhere tender. A small part of him had thought that Draco might want him to stay, might actually prefer it if he did. But he doesn’t and that’s fine. 

“Thank you so much for coming, Harry,” Draco continues. “I was pretty scared there for a bit and I just,” he shrugs, his face colouring a little. “I needed someone to be with me,” he admits quietly.

“Draco, it was no trouble at all, in fact I’m glad you called me,” Harry says firmly. “This is what friends are for, yeah?” Harry’s feelings for Draco take a backseat for a moment. Above all else, Harry needs Draco to know that he will be there for him, come what may.

Draco lets out a long breath and nods.

“Good,” Harry says, stuffing his hands in his pockets to stop himself from reaching out and brushing his thumbs over Draco’s cheekbones. “If you need me, I’m one Patronus away, okay? Don’t hesitate to send for me.”

“We’re fine now, I think, but I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you, Harry.”

Harry shakes his head fondly. “Quit thanking me already, you dolt. It’s completely unnecessary.” With one last smile and a squeeze to Draco’s shoulders, Harry takes his leave. He steps out onto the pavement and stands there for a moment, letting the cold air clear his thoughts. Evening has long since fallen and a quick Tempus shows the time as just past nine.

With a sigh and one last thought for Sally and Draco, Harry Apparates home. The exhaustion of the day is already dragging at him by the time he lands in his hallway, but he forces himself to go through the motions of dinner and a shower, before finally allowing himself to fall into bed.

 

*

 

Harry wakes on Saturday already prickling with anxiety before his feet so much as touch his bedroom floor. He reaches towards his wand, lying on his bedside table, intending to send a Patronus to Draco, but then reconsiders. Sally is to be discharged today, but he has no idea when. For all Harry knows, Draco’s busy handling forms and medical bills right now. A Patronus would just get in the way. 

“For Merlin’s sake.” Harry groans, passing his hands over his face and leaving them there for a second. He takes a deep breath in and lets it out slowly. It barely takes the edge off his frustration, but it’s the best he can do.

He wanders about aimlessly throughout the house for the rest of the morning. He manages to burn his toast and actually adds salt to his tea, which is a new low. The constant hum of worry nags at him the entire time. He almost sends an owl to Molly telling her he can’t make it to lunch today, but then decides he could use a distraction and Floos over. He makes an effort to keep his thoughts from wandering to Draco and how he’s holding up, and tries to keep up with conversation. He’s not entirely successful, but he thinks he did a passable job, all things considered.

“Alright?” Ron asks him once the three of them are sitting in their usual spots in the living room.

Apparently not. Harry closes his eyes and tips his head back onto the sofa, letting a rueful smile ghost over his face. “Not really,” he admits. “Worried about Sally and Draco.”

Ron makes an understanding sound.

“How is she?” Hermione asks.

“She made it through the surgery, which is good. Got her hip dislocated, the poor thing.”

Harry traces the edge of his teacup absently. “She’s in a brace, the Healer said it needs to stay on for a few weeks. Can’t do much more than short walks for at least a month.”

“And Draco?” Hermione asks gently.

Harry clears his throat, feeling his chest constrict. “He was pretty worried while she was in surgery, but by the time I left, he seemed fairly calm. He said I didn’t need to stay, so,” Harry shrugs, attempting to look at least a little at ease. 

“But you wanted to,” Ron states.

The unexpected bluntness of the question catches him off-guard. He starts, pushing his head off the sofa and staring first at Ron and then Hermione. Faced by their joint concern and empathy, Harry has no energy – or willingness – to prevaricate. He sighs, letting his shoulders slump down. 

“Yeah, of course I wanted to. But I don’t want to overstep, you know? And he was pretty clear when I asked him.” Harry doesn’t explain how much that affected him, but he doesn’t need to.

“Oh, Harry,” Hermione murmurs, exchanging a look with Ron before getting up to sit on the armrest next to Harry. She wraps her arms around his shoulders and settles her chin on his head. Ron shifts to the edge of the sofa, reaching out and grasping Harry’s hands in a firm grip. “You’ll figure this out, you know,” he says quietly.

Harry nods slowly, feeling resolve shape up inside him. “Yeah,” he decides. “I’ve got to try, at least.”

Ron grins and squeezes Harry’s hands once. “There you are,” he says affectionately.

Harry huffs out a laugh and allows his friends to soothe away the edges of his uncertainty and worry. Sunday morning, he thinks. He’ll talk to Draco on Sunday morning.

 

*

 

The next morning dawns bright and beautiful, with fluffy white clouds and a brilliantly blue sky. Harry decides to take this as a good omen. He goes through his morning routine, doing his best to focus on what he’s doing and letting the familiar rhythm soothe the knot of nervousness in his stomach. A cup of tea and a sandwich later, Harry’s steps out of Grimmauld and makes the jump to Carnaby Street. When he spots a pet shop, Harry impulsively pops in and buys some treats for Sally and a new toy before making his way to Draco’s bookshop. Harry pauses in front of the door and takes a deep breath before pushing his way in.

The employee at the counter spots him as he approaches. “How can I help you, sir?”

“Hi, I’m Harry, I'm here to visit Draco,” Harry says. “I’m his friend.”

“Oh yeah, the boss mentioned you a couple times,” the boy says brightly. “Go on up, he’s at home.”

Resisting the urge to ask exactly what Draco has said about him, Harry thanks the boy and makes his way up to Draco’s flat. 

“Right,” Harry mutters, feeling his heart rate begin to climb. His palms are a little clammy around the packet of treats for Sally. The ball of nerves in his stomach is positively seething. 

Harry clears his throat and knocks on the door.

“Harry?” Surprise crosses Draco’s face then confusion. 

“Hi,” Harry says, smiling nervously. “Oh, um, I got some stuff for Sally, keep her spirits up and all that,” he adds, as he steps into the living room. He spots Sally right away, curled up in front of the hearth. Her tail wags and her ears prick up as soon as Harry comes into view, even as the brace she’s wearing stops her from getting up. 

“Hello, Sally.” Harry bends down to pet her. “Glad to see you’re feeling better,” he says in between laughs, as Sally licks his face all over. He pulls out the treats and offers a few to her, which she devours enthusiastically. Grinning, he drops the toy he bought her onto her bed and watches in amusement as she immediately sets about attempting to demolish it.

Draco clears his throat then, and Harry quickly stumbles to his feet, reminded of what he’s here to do. He opens his mouth, unsure of what exactly to say, but unable to keep it down any longer. Before he can find the words though, Draco beats him to it.

“Harry, Sally can’t go on long walks. I can’t bring her to the park, not for a long while yet,” he says, arms wrapped around his chest, shoulders tense.

Harry frowns, confused. “I know that.”

Draco nods, ducking his head down. “So, I suppose I won’t be seeing you for a while,” he says tonelessly.

“Draco, what are you talking about?” Harry asks, feeling a trickle of panic slide down his spine. “Why would that happen?”

“Sally won’t be there,” Draco says in a small voice Harry’s never heard before, one he never wants to hear again.

“What do you mean-” Harry starts and then cuts himself off as Draco’s words sink in. He drinks in Draco’s defeated posture, the tone of resignation in his voice. Understanding washes over Harry, leaving him reeling.

“Oh,” he whispers. “Oh, Draco.” He takes a few steps closer. “Look at me?” he asks softly. Draco looks up slowly and the sheen over his stormy grey irises just about cleaves Harry’s heart in two.

“Remember when I said Sally’s the reason we got to where we are?” he asks. Draco’s eyes flick away, but he nods. “Yeah, that came out all wrong,” Harry continues. “Sally isn’t the reason we got to where we are, we – you and I – we’re the reason. Sure, she was the reason I stopped at the park that day, but she sure as hell wasn’t the reason I kept coming back.”

Draco’s arms loosen around his chest, his shoulders dropping a little as he turns to look at Harry with wide eyes. He shakes his head minutely. “I don’t understand,” he whispers.

Harry takes a step closer until they’re mere inches apart. He gives in and brings his hands up slowly to cup Draco’s face, brushing those impossible cheekbones with his thumbs, just like he’s wanted to for so long. His heart gives a leap when Draco’s arms unfold loosely at his sides, making no attempt to remove Harry’s hands.

“You,” he murmurs, smiling softly. “You’re the reason I kept coming back, Draco Malfoy.” He takes a deep breath, gathering his courage before taking the plunge. “And if it’s alright with you, I’d really like to stay.”

Draco’s lips part on an incredulous gasp. He closes his eyes for a second before opening them. “Stay, then,” he says, not breaking Harry’s gaze even as he turns his head slightly and brushes a kiss over Harry’s palm.

Harry feels something crack open inside him, bright and incandescent, lighting him up from head to toe. He laughs, once, before closing the distance between them in one step and finally, finally , presses his lips to Draco’s. 

He feels one of Draco’s hands come up to cover Harry’s where it rests on Draco’s face, while the other bunches itself in Harry’s jumper, pulling him impossibly closer. It’s nothing like Harry imagined kissing Draco would be – he could never have imagined the visceral joy that has them breaking away because they’re both smiling too hard to kiss properly, and the bone-deep relief of finally that has them coming back for more anyway. 

They break apart after a long moment, resting their foreheads against each other. Harry drops butterfly kisses over Draco’s nose, his forehead, the expressive space between his eyebrows, his beautifully flushed cheeks, absolutely unable to help himself.

Draco laughs breathlessly. “I had no idea,” he says. “I really thought you stuck around mostly for Sally.”

“I would call you an idiot, but I missed all your signs too,” Harry says, smiling ruefully.

“We make quite a pair.” Draco murmurs, smiling as he wraps his arms around Harry.

Harry brushes one last kiss over Draco’s forehead before dragging him to the sofa, pulling him down against his chest. “Judge Rinder?” he asks, switching on the telly. 

Draco hums. “How about This Morning?”

“Alright,” Harry agrees happily, settling into the sofa with Draco in his arms, Sally still happily gnawing on her new toy. 

 

*

 

Harry wakes gently, sunlight warming his body but stopping just short of shining into his face.

He rolls over onto his side, slowly blinking awake. Draco’s still asleep, hands tucked under his pillow, face smushed into it, one leg thrown over Harry’s. These days, Harry stays over at Draco’s more and more often, a few of his shirts and trousers arranged neatly next to Draco’s clothes, a toothbrush in the bathroom designated as his. Harry’s been thinking of broaching the topic of moving in properly, but there’s no rush.

He reaches out and brushes Draco’s fringe away from his forehead, leaning in to plant a kiss on Draco’s upturned cheek. Draco’s eyelashes flutter and he moves his face more firmly into the pillow even as one of his hands comes out to reach for Harry.

Laughing, Harry takes it and tugs at it gently. “Wake up, sleepyhead.”

An unintelligible sound is the only answer he gets.

“Alright, then.” Harry crawls to the edge of the bed and whistles. He hears the pitter-patter of paws approaching the room, then a wet snout is pushing open their bedroom door.

“Good morning, Sally,” Harry enthuses, laughing as she climbs all over him in her enthusiasm.

“This is cheating,” Draco groans as Sally pushes her snout under his arms, attempting to sprawl bodily over him. “You realise you’re quite heavy, hm?” he asks Sally. Her response is to lick his cheek.

“I stopped buying the whole “Sally isn’t allowed on the bed” shtick a long time ago,” Harry says, rolling his eyes fondly.

“That implies you bought it in the first place, which you absolutely didn’t,” Draco points out. He leans over Sally and kisses Harry before Harry has a chance to respond. “Good morning,” Draco says, grinning widely. Harry smiles, helpless against the wave of adoration crashing over him. 

“Good morning,” he echoes.

Draco smiles before climbing out of bed and padding into the shower. Harry lies there a moment longer, watching him go. Draco turns around just before he enters. “Joining me?” he asks, cocking an eyebrow and smirking faintly.

“You bet,” Harry says, letting a smirk of his own curve his lips as he follows Draco in.

They go out to their cafe for breakfast – now that Sally can walk and play as much as she likes, they’ve been going to the park a lot more, to compensate for a whole month of missed walks. It’s like it used to be – lots of laughter and easy conversation. Except now there’s the added improvement of kissing and handholding. 

“Ready for the full Weasley lunch experience?” Harry asks Draco as they lounge on the grass, with Sally panting at their feet, winding down from a lively game of fetch.

Draco scrunches his nose and shudders. “Absolutely not,” he says. “But I want to go. They’re your family.”

Harry smiles, falling for Draco all over again. “Thank you,” he says, squeezing Draco’s hand.

They leave for the Burrow straight from the park, Disapparating from a secluded spot. Sally is amazingly unfazed by the experience, sneezing once and shaking her head as if to clear it, but otherwise unaffected. 

Harry can practically feel Draco vibrating with nerves beside him. “Hey,” Harry says, catching Draco’s attention. “They’ll love you.”

“How can you possibly know that?” Draco asks, only partially joking.

Harry looks at him and smiles. “Because I love you,” he says, and even though it’s the first time either one of them has said it, it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like an acknowledgement of something that both of them have known for a while, and it’s no less momentous for it – just in a different way.

Draco stills, silent for a beat. A slow smile begins dawning on his face. “Harry James Potter, I cannot believe you chose this moment to tell me that,” he says. “I love you too, you impossible man.”

Harry laughs and tugs Draco towards him for a kiss.

“You two coming in sometime today, or what?” Charlie hollers from the door.

Harry grumbles as he breaks away, “Coming, coming, you interfering bugger.”

With one last reassuring smile, Harry pulls Draco into the Burrow. It’s chaotic and practically everyone descends on them at the same time. Sally goes half-mad with joy at the number of people to lick and pets to get which just adds to the havoc, but Draco handles it fairly well. 

“You are far too thin, young man,” Molly fusses, adding a third roast potato to Draco’s plate. 

Much to Harry’s amusement, Draco is entirely unsuccessful in convincing Molly he can’t possibly have three whole potatoes, along with everything else on his plate.

“Give some to Sally,” he whispers to Draco.

“Don’t be ridiculous. That can’t possibly be healthy for her,” Draco says. “Besides, I’d rather not risk getting on Molly’s wrong side the first time I properly meet her.”

Harry laughs and gives him a quick peck to the cheek. “Not going to happen,” he assures him. “Good luck with finishing all that.”

Later, when everyone’s scattered all over the house in small clumps, Arthur comes up to where Harry is lounging next to the fire.

“Harry, my boy,” Arthur says warmly. “Did you eat enough?”

“More than, Arthur, I assure you. I don’t think I could move from this chair if my life depended on it.”

Arthur’s eyes crinkle at the corners as he chuckles. “Harry,” he starts, a little seriously.

Catching his tone, Harry sits up a little. “It hadn’t escaped my notice – nor Molly’s, mind you – that you seemed to be having a rough go of it a while back. You seem a lot better now. Are you?”

Harry’s eyes inadvertently travel across the room to where Draco is standing, chatting with Ron and Ginny. He catches Harry’s eyes just then, and mouths love you with a wink. Harry’s heart gives a resounding thump as he smiles back at Draco. He’s still got things to figure out – his job, for one – but he’s got Draco to help him figure it out, and the cuddliest dog to snuggle with should all else fail.

Turning back to Arthur, he says, “Yeah, I am. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while.”