When McGonagall had first presented him with the prospectus, with the advice to ‘think it over’, Harry had poured over the glossy pages full of happy people for hours. It was nothing like he was used to at Hogwarts—everything looked so bright and modern. In the end though, it hadn’t been a very difficult decision. He could either start Auror training with Ron and have the eyes of the wizarding world constantly trained on him, or run away to a Muggle university and spend three years catching up on all the living he’d not yet been able to do. The only downside, as far as he could tell, was the ban on using magic “… unless in the direst of situations, and I mean ‘dire’. ” Something about McGonagall’s tone when she said it had implied there was no room for argument, and Harry had absolutely no intention of disobeying.
So far, the hardest part about deciding to study at a Muggle university had been picking a course. He’d initially applied to study Criminology, since that aligned best with his teenage dream of becoming an Auror. However, every time he thumbed through the prospectus, he was drawn to another section entirely. It was Ron who inspired him to take the plunge and reapply for a different course. Ron had been nothing but supportive of Harry and Hermione’s decision to go to university, even though it meant he’d be on his own. After one particular late night heart-to-heart (and after one too many fire whiskeys), when Ron had told Harry to follow his dreams (” I love you mate, and I want you to be happy. Criminology doesn’t make you happy. Be happy, Harry. Follow your dreams and fuck everyone’s expectations. ”), Harry had done just that. The next day he had spoken to McGonagall and, after some back-and-forth with the faculty head, had swapped to another course.
Now he was finally here.
Harry looked up at the plain, five storey building that was to be his home for the next year and let out a relieved sigh. It was a fresh start. A new beginning. No one—other than Hermione and the handful of Hogwarts alumni he would be sharing a flat with—knew him here; no one knew his history. He could finally, at the grand old age of eighteen, enjoy just being Harry .
“Come on, Harry! I want to get in and unpacked so we still have time to look around the campus and meet our new flatmates before turning in for the night,” Hermione urged, tugging on his sleeve.
“We already looked around the campus before applying—in fact, I distinctly remember you dragging me on two separate campus tours just because you thought the first guy looked ‘ a bit flaky ’, and might have missed out something important,” Harry replied.
“Well, I was right, wasn’t I? He missed off a whole two floors of the library!”
“I think our definitions of important are slightly different,” he muttered. “I’m never getting that hour back.”
“Just because some of us care more about the study opportunities than the campus bars—”
“Hey, I’m going to study! But I’m also going to enjoy myself since, for a change, no one is actively trying to kill me!”
Hermione pursed her lips but remained silent, and Harry appreciated her restraint. She had previously been quite vocal in her disapproval of Harry’s focus on the social aspects of university. He knew it was only because she worried about him throwing away this opportunity, but she had to understand his need to blow off steam for a bit before knuckling down.
“Are you two going to argue out here all day, or do we actually get to go in and check out your flat at some point?” Ron asked. He wasn’t joining them at university, preferring instead to work with his older brother and earn some money, but he’d taken time off work to help get them moved in. Harry secretly thought Ron was enjoying being the ‘adult’ of the three of them, with a steady job, a flat, and proper responsibilities.
Harry shifted under the weight of his rucksack and adjusted his grip on the handle of his wheeled suitcase. This was it. He exchanged a small, nervous smile with Hermione and they stepped up to the door.
“Do you want to do the honours or shall I?” she asked, brandishing her shiny new key-card.
“After you,” Harry replied, taking half a step back to give her room to reach the key-card panel.
Harry watched with bated breath as the light at the top of the panel changed from red to green. The lock clicked, and he tentatively reached forward and pushed the door open, stepping through into a bright and airy lobby area strewn with brightly coloured fliers, excited students, and piles of luggage. He tensed as he entered the crowded space, expecting everyone to surge forwards and start demanding his attention, but the few gazes that drifted his way quickly flitted away again.
No one cared who he was.
The tension slipped from his shoulders and he turned to say something along those lines to his two friends, but they were staring at him with matching soft, dewy-eyed expressions that suggested they already knew what he was thinking.
“Let’s get this over with then,” Ron said gruffly, breaking the moment before it got too emotional. He shifted the overstuffed rucksack on his shoulder and groaned under the weight of it. It was the bag Harry and Hermione had stuffed with kitchen supplies, so it was half filled with tinned food. “Are you sure we can’t, you know… lighten the load? If you get me?” Ron grumbled.
“A child would ‘get you’, Ron,” Hermione sniped. “And yes, I’m sure. McGonagall said they would know if we broke the…” she glanced around and then lowered her voice to a whisper, “… ban on magic, and I personally wouldn’t put it past her to have put a trace on the whole city just in case. Anyway, I’m not prepared to test the theory in the first five minutes of being here, so you make use of those muscles you claim to have.”
“Fine, fine. Keep your hair on. Muggle way, it is. Bloody stupid if you ask me. You’re adults. Can’t they trust you not to break the statute without neutering you?”
“It’s not that they don’t trust us, they’re just being cautious,” Hermione explained patiently, although Harry knew from previous conversations with her that she thought it was overkill. “They’ve not tried anything like this before, so I suppose it’s a bit of an experiment.”
Ron snorted and rolled his eyes, but didn’t press the matter any further.
The lift doors slid open to reveal a bland, magnolia landing that looked more like a low-cost hotel than what Harry had imagined a student apartment block would look. Harry stepped out onto the scuffed, beige tiled floor and dropped his bags at his feet. He knew Hermione was desperate to get into their flat, but he just needed a moment to pause and take a breath—after being the centre of attention for so long, it was kind of overwhelming to suddenly be a nobody. He wasn’t complaining, it was just hard to get his head around.
The large noticeboard on the wall directly in front of him was covered with more of the same leaflets he’d glimpsed in the lobby, and there were a couple of signs warning about noise and urging consideration, but there wasn’t much else to look at. He took a few steps closer toward the noticeboard to see if any of the societies were worth his time, but then he caught sight of Hermione tapping her foot impatiently. Heaving a sigh, he hefted the rucksack back onto his shoulders, grabbed the handle of his wheelie case, and followed his friends towards the flat.
Hermione came to halt in front of a white ( why was everything shades of white and beige? ) painted door that looked the same as all the other white doors they’d walked past, except for having the numbers 3 and 7 stuck to it.
This was it. His new home. Floor three, flat number seven.
Hermione let him go first this time, and it was with a sweaty hand that he unlocked the door and hesitantly pushed it open. A narrow corridor, painted the same uninspiring shade of magnolia as the landing, ran the length of the flat, while plain, white doors stood like sentinels on either side of the corridor. There was no natural light, and it felt slightly oppressive and claustrophobic, but Harry was sure he’d get over it with time.
The door at the far end of the corridor was wedged open with a doorstop, and several familiar voices floated down the corridor from beyond it. Harry’s felt the smile bloom across his face. The nervous excitement bubbling in his stomach was reminiscent of how he used to feel returning to Hogwarts at the start of each new school year. He already knew who most of his flatmates were, so he wasn’t surprised to recognise the voices. There were three flatmates that no one knew about though, so he wondered if they were there already—he was keen to find out who he’d be living with.
“What room are you again?” Hermione asked, shaking Harry from his thoughts.
He glanced down at the key in his hand, despite having had his room allocation memorised since first reading it off the accommodation letter almost two months ago. “Eight.”
“Okay, well I’m in four, just here. We’ll dump my stuff and get sorted, then I can come knock for you, or just meet you in the kitchen.” She barely spared him a glance as Ron hustled her into her room with a hasty ‘see you later’ to Harry. Harry chuckled and rolled his eyes. He doubted he’d see them for at least half an hour—not that he blamed them. Privacy hadn’t exactly been easy to come by at the Burrow.
Ignoring the small spark of jealousy that had taken to flaring up every time his friends acted overly ‘coupley’, he continued along the corridor to the room that would be his home for the next year. His first proper room; a room that he didn’t have to share with Ron or Neville or Dean or Seamus; a room that wasn’t full of things his cousin no longer wanted; a room that wasn’t just a cupboard.
He stared at the brass number 8 for a few moments, paint lapping up its sides from where the door had been repainted so many times, and steeled himself before unlocking it and pushing the door open.
It was… well, Harry could think of no better word than bland, or perhaps plain—much like everything else in the building. White walls, pale furniture, bare mattress, dark curtains, dark carpet. It seemed almost sterile compared to the room he shared with Ron at the Burrow. But it was brilliant! Harry grinned broadly as he dropped his bags to the floor and flopped down on the bed. Finally—a space that was truly his own, for the year at least. He couldn’t wait to personalise it with posters and books and knick-knacks—and he was really looking forward to some quality alone time. Ron and Hermione weren’t the only ones who’d felt starved of privacy recently.
He gazed up at the bare ceiling, thinking about how much his life was changing, relishing in the stillness. He could hear excited chatter from the kitchen next door and was tempted to get up and join them, but he felt too comfortable to move. He didn’t even try to fight the drag of sleep as it pulled his eyelids closed.
The sound of knocking jolted Harry awake and he had to take a few moments to reorient himself. He stood up groggily and stretched out his back, grimacing at the tight pull of the muscles in his shoulders. He wished, then, that he’d gone with Ron’s plan of casting a Feather-light charm on their bags. The knocking persisted, so he shook the sluggishness from his head and went to open the door.
“Harry! You haven’t unpacked at all!” Hermione exclaimed, pushing past him and gaping at the pile of luggage that was still sitting exactly where he’d dropped it.
“Mate, university’s changed you,” Ron said sarcastically, earning himself a tea towel in the face. Hermione had already opened his large, wheeled suitcase and was pulling things out and sorting them into piles. Harry was tempted to let her continue but then thought better of it. He shooed her away and continued from where she’d left off.
“What do you think of the rooms?” Hermione asked, picking up some of the books he’d dumped on the desk and slotting them neatly onto the bookshelf above.
“Great! It’s going to be so convenient having the room right next to the kitchen,” Harry said as he grabbed a bag marked toiletries from his case. “I can roll right out of bed and be at the kettle in seconds. Think of the time savings!”
Ron snorted, but Hermione shook her head and tutted. She had often chided them for wasting time in the mornings while they were all staying at the Burrow, not that either of them ever took any of it on board.
“Aren’t you worried it might get a bit noisy?” she asked Harry, as a particularly loud burst of laughter sounded through the wall.
“Nah, it’ll be fine. It’s not like anyone’s going to be cooking or hanging out in there at, like, stupid o’clock in the morning.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Hermione agreed, although she didn’t look entirely convinced. “Come on then, you two. Let’s be social!”
Various voices cried out in greeting as Harry, Ron, and Hermione stepped into the large, bright room and Harry’s face split into a wide grin. There was something about seeing his friends in such an unfamiliar space that made something warm settle in his chest. Starting university was never not going to be nerve-wracking, but he felt infinitely better to be doing it with some of his closest friends around him. They were all gathered on two plump sofas that faced each other across a low coffee table in one half of the room—Neville sat in the middle of one, with Hannah and Luna on either side, and on the other, Dean and Seamus were a tangle of limbs and chocolate biscuits.
The other half of the room was devoted to the kitchen. Units spread out from the corner creating a large workspace that was interspersed with a sink, two cookers, and two fridge-freezers. The worktops were already littered with mugs, plates, bowls, packets of food, and other kitchen paraphernalia, but Harry quickly spotted the two most important items: a kettle and a microwave. A large dining table with eight chairs completed the area and Harry’s mind immediately supplied him with images of meals shared together, late night study sessions, and sluggish, hungover breakfasts.
After everyone had said their hellos, exchanged hugs, and sat back down again, Harry found himself squashed into a sofa between Luna and an armrest. She smiled up at him and nudged him with her elbow, so he lifted his arm and let her snuggle into his side. Gazing around at everyone sitting half on top of each other, drinking tea, eating chocolate biscuits, the TV on quietly in the background; he actually felt like a normal teenager for once. He was amazed by how easy and comfortable and normal everything felt—it was hard to believe that they’d all just arrived.
“So, anyone heard anything about our other three flatmates?” Seamus asked, glancing eagerly around at the group.
Harry’s heart clenched. He’d momentarily forgotten about their mystery flatmates—what if they were horrible? What if they upset the easy balance they’d already established?
“Oh, I hope they’re Muggles! Wouldn’t that be fun?” said Luna, clapping her hands together gleefully.
“I doubt they’re Muggles,” Hermione replied curtly. “They could be students from another magical school though,” she suggested.
Harry sat back and licked a bit of chocolate off his fingers, content to just listen as his friends speculated. It was pointless to worry about it—after all, how bad could the mystery flatmates be? They were probably just as nervous and excited as the rest of them, so it was a bit unfair to want them gone before they’d even shown up. He settled back into the sofa, enjoying the warmth of Luna’s body, and resolved to just go with it , whatever happened.
He should have known then, with how happy and at ease he felt, that everything was about to go wrong.
When Blaise Zabini first strode into the kitchen, grinning warmly as he introduced himself, Harry felt a little sick. He didn’t know much about Blaise, other than he’d been a Slytherin and a good friend of Malfoy’s, but that was enough to make Harry wary. He had to be a bit of a dick if he counted Malfoy as a friend, surely? Shaking his head, Harry gave himself a mental kick up the arse—so what if Blaise was one of their flatmates, it could be a whole lot worse, and it would be wrong to judge him without giving him a chance.
And then it got a whole lot worse.
When Pansy Parkinson tottered into the kitchen on four-inch heels, Harry’s stomach fell further. But it wasn’t until Malfoy himself walked in behind her that Harry felt the bottom completely fall out. Blaise and Pansy were instantly forgotten. His blood turned to ice in his veins; his fists clenched; the room fell away; the skies clouded over and demons ravaged the earth… and maybe that was a slight exaggeration, but it was pretty awful. The worst possible scenario, in fact. All the excitement that had been bubbling away inside him for this new chapter in his life was instantly washed away by a tidal wave of despair. And judging by the deathly silence in the room, Harry didn’t think he was the only one struggling to cope with the new additions.
Malfoy’s hands were stuffed into the pockets of his jeans as he glared haughtily around the room—and that’s when Harry realised Malfoy was wearing Muggle clothes. Not just any Muggle clothes, but clothes that could almost pass for casual . Although he’d never seen anyone manage to make jeans, a t-shirt, and a light jacket look that expensive before. He looked so different from the Malfoy Harry had last seen at the trials. No longer gaunt and withdrawn, he looked much more like the self-confident arsehole Harry remembered from school. He held his head high, expression slightly pinched as if he longed to be anywhere else, but was forcing himself to suffer through the experience anyway. He didn’t meet anyone’s eyes, instead sneering at the room in general, as if its existence offended him. This in particular, enraged Harry—what the hell was he doing here if he hated Muggles so much?
“Malfoy!?” Harry exclaimed, finally finding his voice. He refused to believe that Malfoy was actually their flatmate. It had to be a wind-up. Life wouldn’t be that cruel, surely. Was this McGonagall’s idea of a joke?
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Malfoy spat, turning his icy stare on Harry.
“What the fuck am I doing here? You do realise this is a Muggle university?” Harry retorted, pushing up from the sofa. He felt a cool hand on his wrist and glanced down to find Luna calmly smiling up at him. Forcing this fingers to uncurl from the wand in his pocket, he swallowed down the instinct that was demanding he hex Malfoy into next week.
“Now, now boys. Let’s all play nice since it looks like we’re stuck with each other for the next year,” Blaise countered. His smooth, deep voice and easy smile diffused a little of the tension, but the air still crackled with potential disaster.
“Forget it, Blaise. Some people aren’t worth it,” Malfoy shrugged. “I’ll be in my room.” He stalked out of the kitchen as confidently as he had entered.
Harry stared after him, brows furrowed, thoughts in turmoil. It really was true, then. He would be living with Draco sodding Malfoy for the next year. Since when did Malfoy back down so easily? He felt strange, deflated, like Malfoy had won their little confrontation without even trying.
“I’ll go check on him,” Pansy said quietly to Blaise. She purposefully strode out of the room, but not before throwing Harry a scathing look over her shoulder.
“Of all the self-righteous pricks, why’d we have to get lumbered with that useless sack of shit?” Harry grumbled to no one in particular.
“Harry.” Hermione scolded. “This isn't Hogwarts anymore. We should give him a chance—maybe he’s changed?”
“Give him a—? Him? Really?” Ron spluttered, making Harry feel slightly more justified in his outrage.
“Well, that was fun,” beamed Blaise with a clap of his hands, reminding Harry that he was still standing awkwardly in the middle of the room. He flushed and sat down beside Luna again. “Now, tell me. Which of you are actually attending this fine establishment, and which of you are just here for the biscuits?” Blaise dragged a chair over from the dining table and sat back with one arm hooked over the back of the chair and resting his foot on his knee. Harry wished he could look as effortlessly graceful as Blaise. “No one? Okay, I’ll start. I’m here for International Business, Pansy’s doing Journalism, and my boy, Draco, is here for Drama and Theatre studies with Art History, because he’s a dramatic little queen and wanted to piss off his parents even more than he already has done.”
“No way!” Seamus cried, “I’m doing Drama and Theatre too. Fuck. I guess me and Malfoy are going to be study buddies, ha,” he chuckled disbelievingly. He looked slightly shell-shocked, but Dean quickly threw an arm around his shoulders, whispering something in his ear that made them both smirk. Harry’s stomach squirmed uncomfortably at the sight, so he hastily averted his eyes.
“I’m studying Anthropology because people are fascinating,” added Luna, dragging Harry’s attention back to the room.
“Plant Science,” said Neville, “because, uh, it’s kind of like Herbology, right? And I want to see how Muggles do things.”
“I’m just here for him,” Hannah said, prodding Neville in the side. “Back working at the Leaky tomorrow.”
“Politics. Hopefully so I can learn how to take down the Ministry from the inside. And this one’s here with me,” Hermione said with a smile at Ron.
“And you?” Blaise prompted. Harry blinked, suddenly realising it was his turn. “Wait, don’t tell me. I bet you’re doing something like Politics too, or perhaps something more dashing like Criminology. Do they run a course on being a saviour?”
“Um, no…” He hadn’t actually told anyone he’d changed courses yet. He’d been worried they’d try and talk him out of it. “I’m, uh, doing Wildlife Conservation, because it looked interesting…” he trailed off, feeling embarrassed under everyone’s scrutiny.
“Oh Harry, I’m so pleased for you,” Hermione said, smiling at him over the coffee table.
“Yeah, good one, mate. Glad you took my advice for a change.” Ron beamed proudly.
“That sounds so interesting. I’d love to come to some of your lectures,” Luna said. Harry smiled and nodded, slightly bewildered at how easily they all accepted it and moved on. Somehow, he’d managed to convince himself that it was a Big Deal , but apparently, he should have given his friends more credit; they weren’t like the rest of the wizarding world. It reinforced his belief that he’d made the right decision in going to university.
The conversation around the coffee table slowly picked back up, helped along in no small part by Blaise’s charisma, and Harry tried to put Malfoy out of his mind. He was determined not to let Malfoy ruin his university experience. There was a slim chance that Hermione was right, after all—maybe he’d changed.
Harry rolled over and glared at the glowing digital display on his bedside radio alarm clock, letting out a pained groan when his bleary eyes registered the time.
The numbers were mocking him; barely five minutes had passed since he’d last looked. The noises appeared to have stopped for the time being, though. He strained his ears to try and determine whether or not there was still anybody there and… nothing. For the time being, at least, it was gloriously silent. Letting out a relieved sigh, he sat up to shake out his pillow—fluffing it up and then smoothing out the creases in the pillowcase—before flopping back down and sinking into the welcome embrace of his bed. Finally , he thought, tugging the duvet up around his shoulders and snuggling into his mattress. He closed his eyes, took a few deep, calming breaths, and waited for sleep to claim him.
Bip bip bip. Clang .
No no NO!
Harry gritted his teeth and let out a frustrated growl. The walls were so thin, he swore he could actually hear the sound of the toaster filaments heating up—not that they even needed much heating up since someone had been using the toaster for the last HALF AN HOUR. Who did that? He yanked the duvet over his head, knowing that the toast would pop up any minute. This was the third night in a row that he’d been woken by someone banging and clattering in the kitchen and it was really starting to wear him down. He cursed the pencil-pusher who’d stuck him in the one room that shared a wall with the kitchen; he cursed the person who’d designed the layout of the rooms for putting the bed alongside the shared wall; but most of all, he cursed whoever it was that thought making toast, and using the microwave, and boiling the kettle at three in fucking the morning was a good fucking idea.
He itched to bang on the wall or get up and yell at whoever it was, but he refused to be that one angry guy in the flat who policed everyone’s behaviour. What if it was someone struggling with nightmares or homesickness? He couldn’t be a dick and march in there yelling if they were just a bit sad. He supposed he could go and comfort them… but he wasn’t really in a comforting mood after three nights of disturbed sleep. At this point, he thought he’d probably just end up yelling at them to suck it up and go back to bed. He didn’t even know if it was the same person every night. Surely it had to be, though—he couldn’t be living with a flat full of anti-social chefs, could he?
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
The smoke alarm. Again. He grabbed his pillow and pulled it over his head. He knew exactly what was coming; the muttered curses of the person who’d set the alarm off; the shuddering creak of the window being pushed open; the flap flap flap of a tea towel being wafted around the room. Harry hated that this ordeal had already become so regular that he’d learnt the routine. What was the fucking point in them putting a wall between his room and the kitchen if every single sound travelled straight through it?
When the window slammed shut, he lifted the pillow from his face and held his breath as he listened for any more activity. With any luck, whoever it was would be done for the night—
The pipes gurgled and the sound of running water filled his ears followed by the clatter of dishes and cutlery being dropped into a metal sink. They were washing up now?
He smothered his face with the pillow once more and yelled until he ran out of breath.
Harry wandered barefoot into the kitchen scratching at absently at his chest. He’d grabbed a hoodie from the floor before leaving his room but hadn’t bothered to zip it up, and his pyjama bottoms hung low around his hips. He knew he was exposing more of his body than was probably decent, but he was too tired to care anymore. It was gone nine now, so most of his flatmates would be in lectures anyway. He should probably have tried to squeeze in another hour or so of sleep, but he had some reading to finish for his eleven o’clock seminar, and he really didn’t want to start falling behind so early in the year.
The kitchen was empty except for Neville, who was sat at the dining table, hunched over a thick textbook while he munched on a piece of toast. He was so engrossed, he didn’t look up when Harry shuffled in, only noticing his presence when Harry started rifling through his cupboard to find something edible and breakfast-like.
“Hey, Harry,” Neville greeted cheerfully. “D’you want some toast? I bought bread yesterday. You’re welcome to a couple of rounds.”
Harry flinched at the word toast . Was Neville the midnight toaster? He really liked Neville—it would be a shame if he had such a problematic hobby. If he still had enough bread to offer some to Harry, though, it was unlikely he’d been at the toaster all night. Harry peeked over the cupboard door from where he was crouched on the floor. “Are you sure?” Food was food, after all.
“Yeah, no problem.” Neville shot him an easy smile. “Kettle’s just boiled too. Should be enough water for a cuppa if you want one.”
“Thanks, Nev. You’re a lifesaver.” Harry grabbed a couple of slices of bread from the proffered loaf and dropped them in the toaster with only a slight shudder. He then grabbed his mug from the draining board and made a coffee with the communal jar of instant someone had bought. “I thought I was going to have to exist on rice cakes and Smart Price noodles until I can get to the shops.”
“Why d’you even have rice cakes if you hate them so much?” Neville snorted.
“I don’t know. I think Luna slipped them into my basket when I wasn’t looking.”
Neville winced sympathetically. “Mate. She got me like that the other day too. Now I have two packets of quinoa in my cupboard. What am I supposed to do with quinoa??”
“Not a clue, mate,” Harry said with a chuckle. “Send it home to Trevor?” Neville’s pet toad hadn’t accompanied them to university, but Harry had seen Neville write to him on more than one occasion.
“Hah, my Gran would probably think it was Muggle drugs or something.”
They sat in companionable silence while Harry waited for the toaster to ding. Neville turned back to his book, and Harry stared out of the window. He toyed with the idea of going back to his room to fetch his reading, but it felt like too much effort.
When the toast popped up, Harry grabbed a jar of Marmite from his cupboard and spread a thin layer on each slice. He rested the slices on a piece of kitchen towel—no need to create extra washing up by using a plate—carried his toast and coffee over to the table, then dropped heavily into the seat opposite Neville.
“How are you liking your course so far?” Harry asked when the silence edged towards uncomfortable.
“It’s great!” Neville exclaimed enthusiastically. “I mean, I wasn’t sure about coming initially—Gran wasn’t too keen on the idea, you know? But it sounded like such a good experience, and what else was I going to do? Plant Science is nothing at all like Herbology, really, but it’s so interesting, and the lecturers are amazing. This one guy, he— Sorry, I’m boring you,” Neville said, trailing off. Harry snapped his mouth shut when he realised he’d been yawning.
“What? No! Sorry—I’m just so tired. I’ve not been sleeping well recently.” Harry scratched his chin, wincing as his nails rasped over his stubble.
“Yeah? I wasn’t going to say anything, but you look a little, um, rough around the edges. Is it the nightmares? My mind healer warned me my nightmares might get worse for a bit as I adjust to things here. I’ve got some Dreamless Sleep if you need it.”
“Ha. Thanks, but no, it’s not nightmares, it’s…” Harry paused. Now that he was about to say it out loud, it sounded a bit petty— ‘ someone is cooking a bit noisily at strange hours and it's keeping me up ’. He didn’t want to turn it into a big deal, and to be fair, it had only been going on for a few days so he didn’t want to be a dick and get all stroppy about it. Whoever it was would probably stop of their own accord soon enough. “It’s nothing. I guess I’m still adjusting to being here.”
“No worries. I’m here if you ever want to talk or grab a pint or whatever.”
“Thanks, Nev,” Harry said, holding Neville’s gaze for a few beats. It was easy to forget sometimes that he wasn’t the only one suffering from horrors both witnessed and experienced during the war. No one had escaped unscathed, even though most people rarely ever said anything out loud.
The conversation drifted onto more pleasant topics as Harry finished off his breakfast. Neville told him more about his course, and they exchanged light gossip about mutual friends. The radiant smile on Neville’s face when he was talking about Hannah, made Harry feel slightly wistful, but he put it down to tiredness making him unnecessarily morose. He’d only fairly recently split from Ginny and had neither the time or inclination to get tied down again so soon. He was perfectly happy enjoying single life.
The kitchen door swung open, but Harry barely acknowledged it. Neville was raving about some rare type of succulent popular with Muggles that he reckoned had magic properties, or something like that, and it was taking all of Harry’s concentration to follow along, but then a flash of pale blond hair in his peripheral vision brought him up short.
Neville's words faded into the background as Harry’s attention was immediately captured by Malfoy sauntering into the kitchen, dressed in something that wouldn’t look out of place in a nightclub. Seriously, who wore skinny jeans and a tight t-shirt to breakfast?
Harry couldn’t stop watching as Malfoy strode up to the kettle with a great sense of purpose, filled it with water, and pressed the button to turn it on as if was something he’d done thousands of times before. He then stood there in silence, fiddling with his fingernails and acting completely oblivious to Harry and Neville's presence. Even Neville had stopped talking and was now watching Malfoy with an intensity that almost matched his own.
"Alright, Malfoy," Neville said since he was a normal, happy person and did normal people things like greeting his flatmate in the kitchen in the morning.
"Good morning, Longbottom," Malfoy replied, sparing Neville the briefest of glances. "Potter," he added as if Harry's name was painful for him to utter.
Harry nodded but didn't speak. He couldn’t. He’d been rendered speechless by the sight of Malfoy’s legs and arse in his spray-on jeans. Those things should be illegal. Malfoy's closed off stance made it abundantly clear that he wanted no further interaction, so Harry’s involuntary silence went unnoticed. When the kettle finally boiled, it was with great relief that Harry watched Malfoy make his tea—adding milk first like some kind of heathen—and then saunter out of the kitchen without a backward glance.
“That was weird, right? It’s not just me?” Neville asked while they both stared at the closed door.
Harry whipped his head round—had Neville been staring at Malfoy’s arse too? What about Hannah?
“I don’t think I’ve seen him in here once, you know, since that first day,” Neville continued, seemingly oblivious to Harry’s alarm.
Harry exhaled, relieved to have that cleared up. It was only him that had been transfixed by Malfoy’s arse. “Nah, it was definitely weird," he agreed absently. Neville was right, Malfoy had pretty much kept to himself since that first afternoon when they'd all moved in. Blaise hung around with them all the time and even Pansy showed up occasionally when they went out. Did Malfoy have other friends? "Have you ever actually seen him leave his room?” Harry asked.
“I’ve barely even seen him anywhere . To be honest, I almost forgot he still lived with us.”
“Hah. He's probably found some elitist posh twats club to hang out in. He must hate having to slum it with the rest of us here,” Harry said. It was a lot easier to dislike Malfoy if he imagined him still acting the way he had back at school.
“I dunno,” Neville replied after a brief pause. “Blaise kind of implied he hadn’t made any friends and mostly just hangs out in town by himself or in his room, and Seamus said he rarely speaks to anyone in their course.”
“Really?” Harry wasn't expecting the flash of sympathy he felt for his (former?) rival. It was a strange, uncomfortable feeling, making the toast sit heavily in his stomach. Was it that he couldn’t make friends, or that he didn’t want to? Although with Blaise and Pansy, he couldn’t be completely alone.
“Yeah… I almost feel bad for the guy,” Neville continued.
“Heh. ‘Almost.’ ” scoffed Harry, but his heart wasn't in it.
Neville made his excuses shortly after and left to go to the library before his lecture, so Harry hastened to his room, realising he now had less than an hour to complete the required reading. He couldn't help thinking about Malfoy though. Could Malfoy be the midnight toaster? It was a nice thought, better the existing villain be caught doing something villainous than find out one of his friends was responsible. He couldn't see it though. Malfoy barely left his room, other than for class, presumably, so it was fairly laughable that he'd sneak into the kitchen at night to make up for lost time. He probably didn’t even know how to use a toaster or microwave.
The kitchen was beautifully still and quiet at night. It was rare for Harry to be there without company even if he was just dashing in for a coffee or a snack, so he’d never fully appreciated how peaceful it could be. Even the competing hum of the fridge-freezers was calming. He carefully tilted his head to get a better look out of the floor-to-ceiling window. He was sat propped up against the window frame with a couple of sofa cushions for support, and he’d discovered that if he stayed motionless for long enough, the automatic lights would click off, plunging the kitchen into darkness. He thought the sofa probably blocked his movement from the sensor but decided it was better to be safe and avoid moving as much as possible.
His flatmates had all headed into town a couple of hours earlier—it was a Friday night, and there was some club night they wanted to check out—but Harry hadn’t felt in the mood for loud music and crowded dance floors so he made up some crap about needing to finish an essay. It wasn’t a complete lie—there were, in fact, two essays and a presentation currently in need of his attention—but he had no intention of doing them yet. He’d planned to spend his evening hanging out in his room, enjoying the alone time, maybe catch up on some sleep, but when he’d come to get a drink, the stillness of the kitchen drew him in. That was over an hour ago now.
Harry was deep within his mind, day-dreaming about a guy on his course with straw-coloured hair and perfectly straight teeth, when the kitchen door clicked open and the lights buzzed and pinged on. He screwed up his face in annoyance and opened his mouth to yell a light-hearted insult at whoever it was that decided to leave the club early and come home to disturb him. But then he saw who it was and clamped his mouth shut. Malfoy .
Malfoy nudged his way into the kitchen with his shoulder, weighed down by at least three shopping bags in each hand. He was wearing a black woollen trench coat, buttoned up against the autumnal wind, and with the collar popped. He face was serious as he crossed the room to the counters, but Harry could see a flicker of excitement in the way his mouth curled up at the corners as he took various items out of his bags. He looked happier than Harry had seen him in years, and Harry found himself smiling along with him, and he started to wonder whether they could actually move past their history and become friends. Maybe if he put a bit of effort in to talk to him, or invite him to places—
—but then Malfoy looked up and spotted him staring.
He dropped the box of macaroni cheese he’d just pulled from a bag and the way his eyes widened in shock was almost comical. “Potter!?”
“Hey, Malfoy,” Harry said sheepishly lifting a hand and waggling his fingers in greeting.
“What the fuck are you doing lurking in the kitchen? Are you spying on me?” Malfoy snapped, regaining some of his composure.
Harry’s face flamed. He hadn’t been intentionally lurking or spying, but it wasn’t an entirely inaccurate accusation. “What? No! Why would I want to spy on you?”
“Well, what are you doing then? What sort of weirdo lurks in the dark and doesn’t announce their presence when someone else enters the room?”
“What’s it to you? It’s as much my kitchen as it is yours.” Harry stood up, his fists clenched at his side. He could feel himself getting riled up and willed himself to calm down, but the tiredness made it so much harder to keep his emotions under control. He didn’t want to brawl with Malfoy or end up reaching for his wand to hex him—McGonagall would see he was expelled for sure—but it was kind of exciting fighting with him.
“Why aren’t you with everyone else, painting the town in shades of puke with your fan club?”
“I didn’t feel like it, not that it’s any of your business. And we don’t just go out to get pissed, you know.” They did, mostly, but he wasn’t about to tell Malfoy he was right.
“You could have fooled me. You lot cause quite a racket when you stumble in at all hours. You aren’t the only ones who live here, you know,” Malfoy sniped. He turned his back on Harry and continued unpacking his bags, which for some reason enraged Harry further. Why did Malfoy keep backing down from their arguments? Why did he hide away from everyone?
“Like I could forget having to share a flat with you,” Harry yelled at his back. “If you ever decide to get a life one of these days, you could come with us—Blaise and Pansy hang out with us all the time. They’re not weird recluses like you.” Harry could tell he’d said the wrong thing the moment the words left his mouth, but it was too late to take them back.
Malfoy stiffened, his hands trembling as he squeezed the life out of a box of teabags. “Well bully for them. I’d rather eat dung than spend an evening looking at your face,” he spat.
“Suit yourself.” Harry shrugged and stomped towards the door. “Miserable twat,” he growled, in lieu of transfiguring his nose into a shoe, or something equally as hilariously embarrassing.
“Oh, piss off,” Malfoy snapped back.
“Whatever, Malfoy. At least I have friends!” Harry shouted before slamming the door shut behind him.
If Malfoy had a comeback, Harry didn’t hear it. He paused outside his room and pressed his forehead against the cool surface of his door. His whole body felt jittery and he needed to get out, get some fresh air or blow off steam or something. He could feel his magic coursing through him, and if he’d been younger, less in control, he knew he could have accidentally caused some damage. Why did Malfoy always get to him like that? No one but Malfoy could get him from happy and relaxed to foaming at the mouth in such a short space of time. He was far too agitated now to lie in his room waiting for the midnight chef to start their unholy cacophony—it would push him over the edge. Without another thought, he dived into his room to grab his jacket and wallet. Suddenly, dancing into the small hours in a noisy, crowded club with his closest friends sounded exactly like what he needed.
Harry stumbled into the kitchen in search of caffeine—it was definitely a two-spoons-of-Nescafe morning. The only way he survived university these days was through copious application of caffeine, sugar, and Pot Noodles. He was so tired. There had been a brief reprieve on Friday night—maybe because he’d not crawled into bed until gone four—but the midnight chef was back with a vengeance on Saturday night. Were they trying to kill him? They were certainly making a good try of it. That week when they had cooked bacon for several days in a row had almost sent him around the bend. Now though, it was the bloody microwave. Practically every fucking night. Bip bip bip whirrrrrrrr. Beeeeeeep beeeeeep beeeeeeeep. Clatter clatter.
Then there was the fucking smoke alarm. Harry thought that someone who spent so many hours cooking would have at least acquired enough skill to stop burning the bloody food. But, no. Apparently, that was too much to expect. It was only a matter of time before the building’s smoke alarm was triggered, rather than just the kitchen alarm, then they’d all be expected to traipse outside in their pyjamas and freeze their arses off until the fire brigade determined it was a prick with a piece of burnt toast.
“Please, swap rooms with me,” he begged as he slipped into the seat beside Hermione and rested his head on her shoulder. He hadn’t seen much of her recently since she was always in the library or holed away in her room when Ron came for what he’d termed his ‘conjugal visits’.
“Oh, Harry. What’s wrong?” she said, barely looking up from her textbook.
If it had been anyone but Hermione in the kitchen, he might have held his tongue a little longer—he didn’t want to be the grumpy, no-fun guy—but he was exhausted, and he needed to vent about his nightly problem.
“That.” He jabbed his finger at the microwave. “I hate it. Noisy fucking radioactive Voldemort in the corner there.”
Hermione pulled back and raised an eyebrow at him. It was her ‘ what have you got yourself into now ’ look, which oozed exasperation and usually preceded a lecture. Both Harry and Ron were very familiar with that look. “You’re comparing the microwave to Voldemort?”
“He tried to kill me, that’s trying to kill me. The comparison works,” Harry said, folding his arms on the table and dropping his head onto them.
She considered him for a moment, as he peered up at her from beneath his fringe. “Okay. I’ll bite. What did the microwave do to you?”
“Someone comes into the kitchen to use it every night and it wakes me up. It’s not you, is it?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course it’s not me. What makes you think it’s the same person? Have you confronted them about it.”
“I just know. And no, I haven’t.” He straightened up and stretched the kinks out of his back. He glanced over at her, keen to see her reaction to the next bit. “I think they’re doing it on purpose.”
Hermione’s eyebrows disappeared into her hairline—clearly, she wasn’t expecting Harry to say that—then her face turned serious as she turned the problem over in her head. “Is this why you’ve not been sleeping recently? Why don’t you just go and speak to whoever it is? They probably don’t realise what they’re doing is keeping you up.”
“I’m not going to be the prick who yells at everyone to keep the noise down. What if they’re, you know, having nightmares or something?”
“So your solution is to say nothing and just suffer through it?”
“I never said it was a good solution,” Harry pouted.
“Well, can’t you cast a silencing charm?”
“I did! But then McGonagall sent me a letter—an actual letter, delivered by an actual postman—and warned me about using ‘unnecessary magic while surrounded by Muggles’.”
“Oh, wow. So she really has a trace set up? I wasn’t sure if she was just scaring us into compliance. I wonder how large an area it covers, unless it’s limited to our wands or—”
“So that’s a no on the room swap?” Harry interrupted before Hermione could get carried away.
Hermione clamped her mouth shut then patted his back and smiled consolingly. “Seriously, Harry, next time they wake you up, just go and talk to them. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Harry groaned but didn’t get a chance to respond properly because Neville and Blaise walked in, chatting and laughing about something like they were old friends. Harry was all set to ignore them, but something Neville said caught his attention.
“…so you think Draco will actually turn up?”
“It’ll be tough to convince him, but I’m up for the challenge. If that fails, we’ll just resort to blackmail,” Blaise replied, with a rakish grin that Harry thought probably had the power to turn even the straightest of men.
He assumed they were talking about Blaise’s upcoming birthday drinks, but that wasn’t what had stuck out. Nor was it that Neville had called Malfoy ‘Draco’ , although that was very strange and all kinds of wrong. No, it was the mention of Malfoy that made something click in Harry’s mind. He’d been so worked up after his argument with Malfoy the other night, he hadn’t stopped to consider how odd it was that Malfoy was putting shopping away. Why was he buying food? Harry had never once seen him cook anything. In fact, he’d barely seen him in the kitchen at all. What was happening to the food? There could only be one possible answer—Malfoy was the midnight chef!
“Ha!” Harry exclaimed, jumping up from the table so abruptly that Hermione gasped and his chair fell to the ground.
“What on Earth—” Hermione started.
“I’ve got it!”
“I’ll tell you later,” Harry shouted over his shoulder as he fled the room.
He slammed his door shut behind him, aware that he was grinning maniacally. He couldn’t help it though. He was pretty certain he now knew who the midnight chef was, but he needed solid evidence so tonight he would find out for sure. He darted over to his wardrobe and rummaged around beneath the hanging clothes until his fingers grazed the silky material of his invisibility cloak. He’d almost left it back at the Burrow with all the other things he didn’t want to bring to uni, but at the last minute, he’d stuffed it into his suitcase. He kicked himself for not remembering it sooner. It was a scary thought, but he realised he must be getting used to living without magic.
With the cloak located and a plan sketched out, Harry stretched out on his bed to take a nap—he wanted to be as rested as possible for later. It wouldn’t do to fall asleep while he was staking out the kitchen.
He thought Seamus, Pansy, and Luna were never going to leave the kitchen that night. He’d been glued to the peephole in his door since about half eleven, waiting for the kitchen to empty out, but the last three stragglers just lingered and lingered. Eventually, just as he was about to give up hope, he heard them head back to their rooms and he huddled against his door, eye still pressed to the peephole. When he heard the automatic kitchen lights click off, he threw the cloak over his head and tiptoed into the kitchen. He gazed longingly at the kettle—a strong coffee would be perfect right now. However, if Malfoy came in and found him boiling the kettle, it would ruin his stakeout plans somewhat. It wasn’t good enough to catch Malfoy entering the kitchen, he needed to catch him actually cooking. Only then would he know without a doubt that he had his midnight chef. He imagined Hermione would have something to say about his methods, but then she wasn’t the one suffering through the noise of someone abusing the microwave every night.
He sat on the sofa and made sure all parts of him were covered by the cloak, then settled in to wait. After ten minutes the automatic lights clicked off. The dark didn’t bother him—it was actually quite peaceful. Perhaps a little too peaceful. After another ten minutes or so, he felt his eyelids grow heavy, and despite his best efforts, he drifted off to sleep.
The lights flickered on, and Harry snorted awake. He tensed, momentarily confused, and raised his head off the sofa, blinking the sleep out of his eyes. Why was he in the kitchen? A flash of movement grabbed his attention, so he turned to get a better look, thinking it was someone getting breakfast, but then his breath caught in his throat. Malfoy! Suddenly, he remembered why he was on the sofa instead of in his room. This was just the evidence he needed! Harry was about to leap up and reveal himself, maybe yell a bit about human decency and the value of a good night’s sleep, but then decided to watch for a bit longer… just to be really sure it was him, and not because it was kind of nice watching Malfoy be himself.
He watched, transfixed, as Malfoy pottered about the kitchen wearing only skinny jeans and a loose sleeveless t-shirt. He looked completely at ease; relaxed in a way Harry had never seen before. He was even singing to himself! Harry bit back a grin when he saw Malfoy’s hips move and head bob as he danced to the song on his lips, sliding gracefully across the lino on socked feet and adding a shoulder pop or two every so often. It was a popular Muggle song Harry recognised from the radio and had heard in bars and clubs quite a bit, but he never would have expected Malfoy to know it. A few months ago, if someone had told him about Malfoy singing and dancing along to Muggle pop songs while cooking what looked like burritos in a Muggle kitchen, Harry would have laughed in their face. Then he would have shipped them off to St Mungo’s because surely they must have had their minds altered.
The longer he watched Malfoy, the more he noticed little things about him; like the way he tucked his hair behind his ear, only for it to flop straight back into his eyes; or the way the corners of his mouth curled up and his eyes sparkled with joy as he mixed ingredients together; or how he celebrated with a restrained fist pump and a hissed ‘Yes!’ when something turned out the way he wanted. He looked so much younger with all of the bitterness and sneering stripped away.
He was acting nothing like the Malfoy Harry thought he knew, and Harry couldn’t tear his eyes away. He was absolutely captivated. And the longer he watched, the more he realised how beautiful Malfoy was. He’d always objectively known he was handsome, but his stuck-up attitude, prejudiced views, and their long-running rivalry had always prevented Harry from really looking at him. But now…
“Fuck!” Malfoy hissed, tearing Harry from his thoughts. In the next instant, the smoke alarm started its now familiar beeep beeep beeep ; the sound which Harry knew would follow him to the grave. Malfoy clattered about at the oven, then dumped a tray of something charred and smoking in the sink. “Fuck fuck FUCK!” he cursed, grabbing a tea towel and throwing open the window.
Whether it was the sound of the smoke alarm, or the scowl that now marred Malfoy’s features, whatever spell had kept Harry frozen under the invisibility cloak was broken. He pulled the cloak off and threw it to the sofa as he leapt up.
“I knew it!” he shouted gleefully, pointing an accusing finger at Malfoy.
“Merlin fuck!” cried Malfoy, clutching at his chest. The wooden spoon that had been in his hand clattered to the ground. “What the fuck!? Why do you keep doing this to me? What’s wrong with you? Are you deranged?”
“ Me deranged?” Harry shouted, throwing his hands into the air in exasperation. “I’m not the sicko cooking who-the-fuck-knows what at three o’clock in the bloody morning! Who in their right mind does that?”
“What does it matter? It’s not your kitchen. I can cook whenever I like! Fuck you!” Draco smacked his hand down on the counter. Harry could see his fingers curl, itching to reach for his wand. He briefly wondered whether he still walked around with it or whether he kept it in his room, like Harry, to avoid temptation. Would Malfoy actually risk expulsion, or even Azkaban to hex him?
“It matters because I can fucking hear you through the fucking paper-thin walls!” Harry yelled, leaning in towards him.
A thrill rippled through Harry as Malfoy paled, uncertainty flickering across his face. “You could hear me?” he asked, his voice strained. He looked more like Harry had just told him he watched him pee rather than heard him cook.
Harry was so sure Malfoy had been intentionally winding him up, but Malfoy looked distraught. Had he just ruined the one thing that made Malfoy happy? The anger started to drain out of him, to be replaced by guilt. “You didn’t know? I thought—”
“How much can you hear?” he snapped, cutting Harry off.
“Um, everything?” Except the singing and dancing , he added silently. “My bed might as well be in the corner there for all the good my bedroom wall does.”
“What? Why the ever-loving fuck didn’t you say something then?” Malfoy stepped towards Harry, his finger in Harry’s face, and Harry stumbled backwards, eager to maintain some distance between them. “What rational person thinks the best thing to do in this sort of situation is to lurk under a shitting invisibility cloak? How long were you there watching me anyway?” Harry found himself crowded against one of the large fridge-freezers, Malfoy practically snarling in front of him.
“I wasn’t lurking! I just… I needed to make sure it was you.” He felt awful, but wasn’t entirely sure why. He was the one who’d been kept up at night! He was the victim!
“Why? Do you think I’m using magic? Are you trying to get me kicked out of uni? Because I’ll have you know I haven’t used my wand once since coming here—” He looked like he was going to say something else, but then he seemed to deflate. He stepped back from Harry and ran his fingers through his hair as he exhaled “Not that it matters what I say because who’s going to take my word over yours?” he said bitterly. He turned his back to Harry and started cleaning up the burnt mess in the sink.
Harry felt like someone had kicked him in the chest—why couldn’t he keep his mouth shut? Why did he have to say anything? Malfoy had been so happy, so carefree, and Harry had come along and shat all over it.
“That’s… I… No, I’m not trying to get you kicked out, okay? I just… I don’t know.” He threw his arms up in the air, frustrated at both himself and Malfoy. “Just keep the fucking noise down and let me sleep. For the love of Merlin, please, let me sleep,” he said wearily, and there was no heat left in his words.
He sloped out of the kitchen and into his room before Malfoy had a chance to do or say anything else that could cause weird, conflicting feelings to surge through him.
In the days following his confrontation with Malfoy, Harry noticed a slight change in the nightly noise level. Before, it had sounded like Malfoy was being careful with what he was doing—he was noisy, but it wasn’t intentional. Now that he knew Harry could hear him, it seemed Malfoy was determined to make as much noise as he possibly could. He cooked noisier food (what possible reason could he have for microwaving popcorn at four am?); he slammed cupboards; he set the fire alarm off at least once a night, and perhaps worst of all, he started baking so Harry’s room always smelled like cakes and biscuits. It also didn’t help that he now had images of Malfoy joyfully singing and dancing around the kitchen whenever he heard him in there. It was torture.
It got to a point where the sound of the microwave at any time of day or night made him want to put a fist through the wall. It sounded like it was at the foot of his bed. Every beep and whirr cut straight through him like nails down a chalkboard. He thought about storming into the kitchen and complaining, but he didn’t want to give Malfoy the satisfaction of knowing he was still pissing him off. He knew Harry could hear him, so the fact that he was still doing it meant he must be doing it to get a reaction. He wanted Harry to lose his shit, and Harry was resolute that it wouldn’t happen. Who needed sleep anyway?
“He’s doing it on purpose, I just know it,” Harry whined, absently picking at a beer mat.
Hermione, Seamus, and Neville had dragged him to a pub in town to ‘cheer him up’, but so far all it had done was remind him how single he was because all of their partners had all turned up too. It wasn’t that he wanted a partner, but it would be nice to not be the only singleton for a change. Maybe he could find someone to help him wage war on the microwave. Their eyes would meet across a crowded battlefield…
“Oh Harry, I’m sure he’s not. I really think he’s changed a lot since school,” Hermione said. He could see Ron beside her, nodding his head in agreement, and he wondered what crazy alternative universe he’d stumbled into.
“He’s changed? How would you know?”
“Um, well, occasionally, I go for coffee with Pansy and Luna, and the last few times, he’s come too. He actually apologised for the things he’s done to me too,” she finished hurriedly.
“What?” Harry couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He leant forward to peer around Hermione. “Did you know about this, Ron?”
“Eh, as long as she’s not shagging around, I don’t really care who she hangs out with. She’s her own person,” Ron replied, his gaze shifting between Hermione and the table, but not once landing on Harry.
“What—” Harry started, but he got cut off before he could finish asking Ron what the hell was going on.
“He’s started talking more in seminars too,” Seamus said. “Sometimes even eats lunch with us. He’s quite funny once you get to know him. Everyone fancies him too—”
“Everyone?” Dean asked, eyes narrowed.
“Everyone but me, babe. I’ve only got eyes for you,” Seamus simpered. Harry had to look away before the sickeningly sweet look Dean and Seamus were sharing made him vomit up his burger.
“He’s joined me and Blaise for a drink a couple of times too,” Neville added.
Harry shook his head in disbelief. “What the shit is going on? Did I fall asleep? Is this a hallucination brought on by sleep deprivation? Since when were you guys all fully paid up members of the Malfoy fan club?”
“People change, Harry,” Hermione said softly. “We’re none of us who we were in school. Sometimes you just have to forgive and move on.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You’re not getting woken up by that fucker every single night.” Harry folded his arms across his chest and stared angrily out of the window. He couldn’t believe everyone was best friends with Malfoy now. He tried to ignore the jealousy that sat heavily in his stomach. Why had no one thought to involve him in any of these meetups? Why had Malfoy seemingly gone out of his way to buddy up to all their flatmates except Harry? At least there was positive—he was certain Malfoy was intentionally winding him up the kitchen noise now.
As the conversation continued around him, Harry plotted his next move. He needed to get back at Malfoy and shut him up. If he’d been able, he would transfigure all his food into spiders, or banish the microwave, or charm his cupboards to insult him every time they were opened, but since he couldn’t use magic, he needed to think like a Muggle.
A few hours, and several beers later, inspiration struck.
“I’ve got it!” he shouted, lifting his head from the table and almost knocking over several glasses in the process. “I’m going to leave an anonymous note! He won’t know it’s from me, so he won’t just ignore it!” Dean, Seamus, Neville, and Hannah were either dancing or at the bar, so only Ron and Hermione were around to hear his epiphany. Whether they had remained at the table by choice or obligation, Harry wasn’t sure.
“Are you still stewing about that?” Hermione asked, carefully moving several glasses away from him like he was a toddler with limited motor control.
“It’s about Malfoy, of course he’s still stewing,” Ron replied sagely from his other side—at some point while Harry hadn’t been paying attention, they’d moved to pen him in at the table. They shared a look over his head, and Harry was reminded that while the three of them were best friends, he was still basically a third wheel sometimes.
“Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?” he frowned, slumping back in his chair.
“Nothing, nothing. Don’t get knickers in a twist,” Ron said, slinging a companionable arm around his shoulders. “You know, you could always try talking to him?” he offered.
“He thinks the microwave is embodied with the spirit of Voldemort and that Malfoy is using it to try and kill him,” Hermione said, talking as if Harry wasn’t sat right there. “Surely you don’t expect him to do anything as sensible as talk.”
“That’s not it!” Harry pouted. “I think he’s trying to drive me insane. And then kill me.” It was a perfectly legitimate concern, and he didn’t appreciate his so-called best friends not taking him seriously.
Ron and Hermione exchanged another knowing look, and Harry had to bite his tongue as irritation flashed through his body. Rather than get into an argument, or sulk, he decided to work on his note. He reached around Hermione and grabbed a notepad and pen from his bag—he didn’t usually walk around with stationary, but he’d come to town straight after his lecture. Blocking out the rest of the pub, he scribbled down a few ideas; scratching lines out, rewording, and reworking until he was happy.
“Here, what do you think?” He showed Ron and Hermione the note he’d spent the last fifteen minutes perfecting.
Please don’t cook noisily between midnight and 6 am.
“Well, it’s polite…” Hermione said diplomatically, as Ron hid a laugh by taking a swig from his pint.
“Right? Think it’ll work?” Harry asked hopefully.
“Anything’s possible,” she said, smiling patronisingly.
When they returned from the pub later that night, Harry stuck the note to the microwave with a hairy bit of Blu Tack he found by the noticeboard, then went to bed feeling smug and satisfied that he’d partially solved his problem. Surely Malfoy wouldn’t keep making so much noise if he thought he was keeping other people up—not now they were all apparently best friends.
It turned out to be one of the worst nights yet, with a persistent, yet irritatingly arrhythmic, pop pop pop in addition to the beeping and whirring of the microwave. Either Malfoy hadn’t seen the note (unlikely, given he’d stuck it to the same microwave that had made all the racket) or he’d read the note and decided it didn’t apply to him. If he hadn’t had such a banging headache from the early-onset hangover, he would probably have marched in there and told Malfoy exactly what he thought of his noise. Instead, he made do with a pair of earplugs—bought for him by Hermione one day to help him sleep—and a pillow over his head. Once morning dawned, however, he was glad he’d remained in bed, because it would have been hard to pretend the noise didn’t bother him if he’d marched in yelling and screaming.
When Harry shuffled into the kitchen the next day, exhausted, hungover, and still half asleep, his eyes zeroed in on the note he’d taped to the microwave. It was still there, but his nice, polite note had been aggressively scratched out, and something had been scribbled in the space below. He drew closer to take a look, blood already pounding in his ears, but immediately wished he hadn’t bothered.
Fuck off. It’s not your kitchen.
The cheerful little note, decorated with crudely drawn vines and flowers was like a match to the gasoline of Harry’s temper. He clenched his jaw and tried to even out his breathing. Had Malfoy worked out it was him or had someone else left the note? He whirled around to see if anyone else was in the kitchen, and found Blaise, Pansy, and Seamus sitting eating their breakfast at the coffee table, all staring at him like he’d grown an extra head. Behind them, the TV was on, and a couple of breakfast TV presenters animatedly discussed the latest innovation in vacuum cleaners.
“Morning Potter! You’re looking delightfully haggard, as per usual. What’s crawled up your arse this fine morning?” Blaise asked brightly, smirking at the others as if he’d said something clever. Harry hadn’t had enough sleep to deal with people, let alone such an exuberant morning person. Rather than engage, he instead chose to ignore him.
He glared down at the note now crumpled in his hand. “Malfoy,” he growled. It had to have been Malfoy. He needed a new plan to get him back for all the recent noise, and he needed it before tonight because if he didn’t get some sleep soon he was going to kill someone.
“What the fuck are you on about?” Blaise asked. “Is this another elaborate pissing contest?” He looked completely at ease, with one arm draped over the back of Seamus’ chair, but Harry didn’t the miss the flicker of emotion that crossed his features—was he worried?
“Mark my words, if they don’t kill each other, they’ll be fucking by the end of the year,” Pansy snarked.
“What!? No… I… What!? Shut up!” Harry grimaced and ignored Pansy’s cackling. He scanned the kitchen for inspiration, and that’s when he saw it. A plan rapidly formed, and Harry didn’t know why he hadn’t thought of it sooner.
“Seamus!” he yelled excitedly. “Your mum’s muggle, right? What do you know about plugs?”
Seamus exchanged a nervous glance with Pansy. Blaise still seemed thoroughly amused by everything. “That really depends on what you’re about to ask…”
“Nevermind, I’ll work it out,” Harry said, waving his hand dismissively. He didn’t have the patience to deal with people standing in his way. Not right now. He finally had the perfect way to silence that fucking microwave, and because he knew it was Malfoy, he didn’t even feel guilty about doing it.
He rushed to open the ‘odds and ends’ drawer and rummaged around until he found what he was looking for—a mini screwdriver. Perfect. There was always at least one lurking in the bottom of a drawer like that. He clutched it victoriously to his chest and turned to the microwave, a manic grin spreading across his face.
“Harry…? What are you doing?” Pansy asked carefully.
“Nothing to worry about. Just fixing a little problem,” he answered, without taking his eyes off his target. He had no idea how he was going to go about this, but it couldn’t be too difficult.
“Ooookay. That’s enough crazy for me for one day,” said Blaise. “Anyone up for a coffee at Keynes?”
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw them hastily scurry from the kitchen, leaving him free to work in peace. He knew they’d probably spend the day gossipping about how he’d finally lost his marbles, but he didn’t care. The exhaustion had killed his sense of shame—there was nothing he wasn’t willing to do for a decent night’s sleep. Nothing.
Harry focused his attention back on the task at hand and unplugged the microwave. Turning it over in his hand, he quickly found what he was looking for and jabbed the screwdriver into one of the little holes. He couldn’t help but grin when the fuse-holder popped out with ease. It was such a small thing, but without it, the microwave was as good as dead; a silent brick in the corner of the kitchen. He pried the fuse out of the holder and pocketed it, chuckling at his ingenuity, then he slotted the fuse-holder back in place.
He quickly scrawled a note on the notepad and left the kitchen, still laughing quietly to himself.
Good luck getting any microwaving done tonight, you bell end.
He made sure to stay out of everyone’s way for the rest of the day—he knew more than one person would likely be pissed off by the microwave being out of action, but all he could think about was how he was going to have a night without that beep beep beep whirr , and nothing else mattered.
Harry sat bolt upright in bed the second he heard the click and buzz of the kitchen light. He’d been too on edge to sleep because he didn’t want to miss Malfoy’s reaction. Now the light was on, he knew it was only going to be a matter of minutes before Malfoy realised the microwave was broken. There was a chance he’d already found out, but Harry hoped he hadn’t. He wanted to hear the moment Malfoy read his note and realised he’d been out-played. He counted under his breath, ears straining for the slightest sound.
A thud as something heavy was set down on the counter.
The creak of the fridge opening and closing.
A cupboard door banging shut. Then…
He frowned. This was usually when the microwave or kettle started up. He pressed his ear to the wall, wishing he could see through it to check what Malfoy was up to. He’d become quite accustomed to living as a Muggle, but there were times when it was harder than others, and this was one of them.
That definitely sounded like someone turning on a plug socket. This was it, any second now, Malfoy would realise the microwave was dead and he’d curse and shout, and Harry would win—
A loud mechanical whirring cut through the silence and Harry jumped back from the wall in surprise. That was not a microwave. The noise increased in intensity, rattling through Harry’s skull—he swore he could practically feel the bed vibrating. What the hell was Malfoy doing? It sounded like he’d emptied a jar of marbles into a blender, but they didn’t even have a blender…unless…
Harry fell to the floor in his eagerness to get out of the bed, the blankets wrapped around his feet, trapping him like devil’s snare. He didn’t care about not letting Malfoy know he was winding him up. He had to check for himself whether Malfoy had seriously found a fucking blender from somewhere just to piss him off. He untangled himself and marched out of his room, then flung the kitchen door open.
“No! You are not doing this any more!” Harry shouted. The door rebounded off the wall with a dull thud, then slammed shut behind him.
Startled by the interruption, Malfoy looked up from the blender, but quickly composed himself. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean, Potter," he smirked.
They locked eyes, and for a moment neither moved. Harry’s nostrils flared and his fists clenched as he willed himself not to lunge across the kitchen at Malfoy’s smug face. He could think of little but grabbing Malfoy by the shoulders and shaking him until he realised what a prick he was. But then Malfoy’s gaze flickered down to Harry’s chest, his cheeks flushing as he quickly looked away, clearing his throat and shifting his attention back to the blender.
Harry narrowed his eyes, then glanced down and realised he’d not put on a shirt, or trousers, and was in fact, standing in the middle of the kitchen in nothing but his boxers.
"Shut up, Malfoy,” he growled, folding his arms across his chest in a belated attempt at modesty. “Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. You're doing it on purpose, you intolerable shit! You know it's keeping me up!"
Malfoy barely acknowledged him. “Maybe you shouldn’t have sabotaged the microwave,” he replied calmly, grabbing a pint glass from the cupboard. He slowly poured in the purple frothy liquid from the blender, then grabbed a handful of strawberries and started chopping them into halves.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have been using it at arse o’clock in the bloody morning!” Harry took a few steps towards Malfoy. He still felt alarmingly on display, but his irritation wasn’t allowing much room for self-consciousness. He was also stating to feel a bit hungry—the strawberries looked really good.
Malfoy shrugged. “Not your kitchen,” he muttered, tossing his chopped strawberries, some raspberries, and a chopped banana into the blender along with a cup of ice cubes.
“What the fuck, Malfoy!” Harry cried exasperatedly. He ran his hands through his hair and dug his fingers into his scalp. This couldn’t be happening! Why was he doing this?
"I’m sorry, Potter, I'd love to help you, but I can't hear you over the SOUND OF THIS BLENDER." As he pressed the button, he looked over his shoulder at Harry and smirked, his eyes alight with glee.
Harry surged towards him, not sure what his plan was, but knowing that however it ended, he was getting the noise to stop. At his sudden approach, Malfoy yelped and flinched, stumbling back into the counter. His elbow clipped the blender, knocking the lid off and sending the jug careening into the pint of purple liquid. Fruity, icy, frothy mush spread over the counter and spilt onto the floor. All the while, the blender continued to whirr, throwing globs of fruit mush into the air. Harry's vision was filled with red as the icy mixture splattered across his face and chest.
"Turn it off! Turn it off!" he yelled, reaching out blindly. His glasses were coated with the sticky liquid and he could barely see a thing.
"I'm trying!" Malfoy yelled back. "It’s in my eyes and my fingers are too slippery!"
"The socket! Turn it off at the socket!" Harry tried to reach around him, but he could barely see through his smoothie-coated glasses. Then one of Malfoy’s pointy elbows jabbed him in the side, and he stumbled back, slipping on a wet patch of lino and landing hard on his arse.
All of a sudden, the noise stopped and there was beautiful, beautiful silence—nothing but the sound of heavy breathing and the slow drip…drip…drip… of smoothie migrating from the counter to the floor.
"Well, looks like you've got your work cut out for you here," Harry said, pulling his glasses off and trying to find a clean bit of his boxers to clean them on. He stood up and started to back away from the mess. His glasses were still smeared, but he could now see the full extent of the mess and thought it best to leave before he could get roped into cleaning. With any luck, the cleaning would keep Malfoy quiet and he’d be able to salvage some sleep from the wreckage of a night he’d had so far—after a shower of course.
"What?!" exclaimed Malfoy, rounding on Harry and glaring at him so intensely, he thought for a second he might get incinerated.
"Hey, don’t get arsey with me—this mess is your fault. What sort of sociopath makes smoothies in the middle of the night? You’d best get started on the cleaning or you'll be here all night,” Harry grinned, continuing to slowly back towards the door.
"Now, just you hold on one bloody minute. I'm not cleaning this all up myself!” Malfoy snapped. “It never would have happened if you hadn't waltzed in here shouting and screaming and waking half the building up."
"I did not waltz in!" Harry cried. "And I wouldn't have had to come in here yelling at you if you would have just shut the fuck up for one measly night! I need to sleep! I never signed up to live with Delia fucking Smith."
"Delia who? May I remind you that no one else has a problem with my cooking. In fact, your good friend, Granger, actually complimented the biscuits I made the other day."
"Yeah? Well, she tries to deny it, but she's actually easily won over by a bit of home cooking, so that means nothing. How else do you think someone like Ron landed someone like her? He's a master in the kitchen."
"Really? Perhaps I'll speak to him next time he's here."
"Oh no you don't. He's my friend. Leave him out of this."
"I’ll talk to whomever I like, thank you. Now go get a cloth and help me clean this up.”
“Fuck you, Malfoy.” There were some tea towels drying on the radiator by the door, so Harry grabbed one, balled it up, and flung it at Malfoy. It was still damp, so it flew through the air rather well and successfully hit its target. Right in the face. It fell to the floor with a wet flumpf and Harry had to put a hand on the door frame for support as he was laughing so much.
“You little shit!” yelled Malfoy.
Harry was too busy laughing at Malfoy to notice what he was doing, but he regretted the lapse in attention when a wet cloth splatted into the side of his head.
“What the—?” It wasn’t just wet, it was soaked with smoothie. Cold, sticky liquid dribbled down his neck and tracked down his bare chest. He used his hand to swipe away some of the mess, and then glanced up to see Malfoy laughing hard. “This is how you want to play it?” Harry asked, grabbing the sodden cloth from the floor and stalking towards Malfoy. “Are you really sure?”
“Potter, I’m warning you, unless you’re about to run that cloth under a tap and start wiping down worktops, back away.”
“Or what? Are you going to throw more smoothie? Look at me—” He spread out his arms to properly show off his chest smeared with smoothie and his stained boxers. “—do you think it matters if I get a bit more on me?”
“Just step away,” Malfoy warned, holding his hands out defensively as he stumbled backwards into the counter. He kept his eyes firmly on the floor, refusing to look at Harry. The colour of his cheeks rivalled that of his smoothie.
Harry paused and pretended to consider Malfoy’s demand, but then shook his head, and with a laugh that verged on hysterical, said, “No. No, I don’t think I will.”
He launched himself at Malfoy, cloth in hand, and made a grab for his arms. Malfoy was surprisingly strong for someone who looked like they’d be blown away in a strong breeze. They tussled for a few minutes with Harry trying to rub the dirty cloth in Malfoy’s face, and Malfoy trying to get the cloth off him. Harry may have had him beaten in strength, but Malfoy had a longer reach. Eventually, though, Harry was successful; Malfoy shrieked as Harry managed to twist his arm behind his back and rub the cloth all over Malfoy’s face and hair.
“Y-you…I…fuck!…It got…Oh, Merlin. There’s dirt in my mouth!” Malfoy yelped, shaking Harry off and darting to the sink to wash his mouth out. “I can’t believe you!” he cried between rinses. “My mouth! Are you five?”
“Oh my god,” Harry gasped, tears streaming from his eyes. “You should see yourself!” He struggled to draw breath as he was laughing so hard, and accidentally dropped the cloth to the floor. He bent forward to pick it up, and felt something cold hit the back of his head and dribble through his hair. He shot up only to find Malfoy in front of him with the empty blender jug and a very smug expression on his face.
“What the fuck d’you do that for?” Harry yelled. The smoothie trickled down his neck and onto his back, it’s progress tortuously slow as it left sticky trails all the way to his boxers.
Malfoy shrugged. “You put a dirty cloth on my face. You deserve so much worse than a smoothie shower.”
Harry let out a frustrated growl and pushed his soggy fringe off his forehead.
“Eloquent as always. Nice to see university hasn’t changed you.”
“Fuck you, Malfoy.”
“You wish, Potter.”
Silence descended upon the kitchen. The fridge-freezers hummed in the background. Smoothie still slowly dripped onto the lino at irregular intervals with a thick splat. It was dark outside, but it wouldn’t be long now before the sky lightened and the first early risers emerged. Harry looked around the kitchen, trying to see it through the eyes of his other flatmates and… they were so not going to be impressed. Most of the mess was confined to the floor and the counter in the area immediately around where the blender had been, but there were red splatters on the ceiling, on the windows, across the several cupboard doors, and across the dining room table. It was going to take forever to clean it without magic.
He turned his gaze to Malfoy, who was watching him through narrowed eyes. His pale blue shirt was stained with pink splotches and his hair was stuck to his forehead—Harry didn’t think he’d ever seen him looking so dishevelled. His arms were folded across his chest, pulling the material tightly across his biceps and Harry felt a little flutter in his stomach as he remembered the way those arms had felt up close when they were wrestling. Even covered in smoothie, Malfoy managed to look good. He looked down at himself—the bits of fruit caught in his chest hair, the way his damp boxers clung to his legs, the cold, red mush dripping out of his hair—and then he started laughing. He couldn’t help it. It bubbled up from inside and burst out of his mouth before he could do anything to stop it.
“What’s so funny?” Malfoy asked, trying to wipe smoothie from his face with the hem of his shirt.
“No fucking clue,” wheezed Harry.
They stared at each other a beat longer; then Malfoy’s lips twitched as he caught Harry’s amusement. Soon they were both crying with laughter, the tension evaporating from the room. It was surreal, laughing hysterically in the kitchen with Malfoy while only wearing his boxers—and with both of them sticky and pink-tinged too—and Harry briefly wondered if he was experiencing a sleep-deprived hallucination. It felt like they were laughing about more than just the ridiculousness of having a smoothie fight at four in the morning, but Harry didn’t know what else it could be about.
Eventually, the laughter trailed off. Harry wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand and surveyed the mess they’d made. For some reason, he felt lighter and more clear-headed, like the fight and the laughter had scraped away some of the fog of exhaustion.
“So, er, I guess I can help tidy up, or whatever,” Harry said, absently scratching his nails through his hair. His skin prickled and was starting to feel tight as the smoothie dried. He mentally listed all the things that needed cleaning so their flatmates wouldn’t kill them—they wouldn’t be getting much sleep tonight, he thought with a resigned sigh.
“Oh, fuck that. Let’s just—” Malfoy gestured at the floor and muttered ‘Scourgify’ , then did the same to the worktops, and table, until the room was cleaner than it had been for the last month or so.
Harry stared at him, his mouth hanging open. Malfoy could do wandless magic? Now his skin was prickling for a very different reason.
“What the…You can—” he spluttered. For some reason, the sight of Malfoy effortlessly cleaning the kitchen with just a wave of his hand and a muttered spell had short-circuited his brain. “Wait—aren’t you going to get in shit for using magic at uni?”
“Why? The trace is on our wands, you imbecile. No doubt they wanted to prevent you idiot Gryffindors from gaily twirling your wands around as you wander about campus drunk off your tits. And they correctly assumed you’d all be too idiotic to work out you could use magic wandlessly,” he scoffed, rolling his eyes. “Of course, Granger worked it out, but the rest of you remained true to form. I suppose it’s a little too much to expect brains and beauty from you.”
“Hermione knew? What the hell?” Harry shook his head. That was definitely something he’d be taking up with her later. Right now, there were more important things to discuss. “Wait, so you think I’m beautiful?“
Malfoy faltered, and Harry noted somewhat smugly that he still refused to look anywhere below his chin.
“It’s just like you to focus on the unimportant details, Potter,” he spat. “I think you’re stupid . That’s what I was getting at,” he muttered, face red.
Harry smirked. Malfoy found him attractive? That was…interesting. He didn’t have time to dwell on the new direction his thoughts were taking as Malfoy shouldered past him. “Hey, wait, since when can you do wandless magic, anyway?” Harry asked.
“Why are you so surprised? You don’t think I’m powerful enough to manage a few simple cleaning charms?”
“I…um, that’s…I dunno,” Harry shrugged. “So, can you clean us up, then?” He gestured at himself, and then flushed as Malfoy dragged his eyes over his body, his gaze hungry.
“Potter, I have crushed strawberry in places no man should ever have crushed strawberry. Nothing short of a real shower will do.”
Harry poured the shampoo liberally onto his head, and massaged it into his scalp with the tips of his fingers. He’d already washed his hair once, but he wanted to make absolutely sure there were no traces of smoothie left. He felt like he’d be sticky for days. Exhaustion rushed back and hit him like a hammer to the head as the hot water pounded his back and filled the air with steam. He zoned out as he watched the bubbles run down his chest in thick globs, only to get snagged in his pubic hair before continuing their journey to the shower tray. Harry’s head felt heavy and slow as he tried to keep his mind off Malfoy, naked, in the cubicle beside his but it was hard when all he smell was his fancy shower gel. Every time he tried to think of something different, his mind took him back to Malfoy. He couldn’t stop thinking about how he’d accidentally admitted to finding Harry attractive; about the raw desire in his eyes when he’d finally allowed himself to look at Harry; about how they’d laughed together and it was just like how Harry would laugh with any of his friends when delirious with exhaustion.
He knew that he found Malfoy attractive—that was hardly news—and now he was fairly sure Malfoy found him attractive, but was there anything more there? Did he want there to be anything more? They’d not even managed to talk to each other without fighting yet, so surely thinking there could ever be anything more emotional, more…physical between them, was a bit of a stretch.
“Hey, Malfoy,” Harry asked as he rinsed the bubbles out of his hair
“How come we’re not friends?”
There was a pause, and Harry thought Malfoy wasn’t going to answer. He strained to hear anything over the sound of his shower, wondering if Malfoy had left already, but then he answered. “Do you really need me to answer that?”
Harry rolled his eyes, even knowing that Malfoy couldn’t see him. “I know, I know. We have all this history, the whole school rivals thing, opposite sides of the war, blah blah blah, but you’ve made friends with, or at least speak to everyone else in the flat. Why not me?”
“You’ve reduced our entire…shared experience down to ‘blah blah blah’ ?” Malfoy said incredulously. “You’ve made it pretty clear that you want nothing to do with me, so I’ve just been respecting your wishes.”
“Oh.” Harry had never thought about it like that. Sure, he wasn’t thrilled to see Malfoy turn up at the flat, but he had long moved past hating him. However, now that he thought about it, he’d not once tried to give Malfoy a chance, or tried talking to him in the same way he spoke to everyone else. He’d just assumed Malfoy still hated him, so he hadn’t bothered. Had he expected Malfoy to make the first move? He should have realised that would never happen.
“Do you want to be friends, then?” Malfoy asked hesitantly as if he expected Harry to laugh in his face. Harry didn’t think he’d ever heard such uncertainty in Malfoy’s voice—it was unnerving.
He opened his mouth to answer, but nothing came out. Did he want to be friends with Malfoy? He knew he wanted something with him, but friendship sounded like a big commitment, and not something he imagined he and Malfoy would ever be capable of.
Malfoy sighed wearily. “Don’t worry, Potter. I wouldn’t want to put you out. Merlin forbid you be caught fraternising with the enemy.” He turned off his shower and Harry could just make out the sound of him drying himself and tidying up his toiletries.
Harry was again struck dumb. He didn’t know how to talk to this version of Malfoy; the one that sounded sad and lonely. Snarky, angry, spiteful Malfoy, he could deal with, but this softer, more vulnerable side was confusing him on so many levels.
The cubicle door creaked open, hitting the side with a hollow thud. Was Malfoy going to leave without saying anything? It suddenly felt very important to Harry that they talk about whatever was or wasn’t happening between them. He knew if Malfoy left the bathroom, they’d never talk like this again, and he didn’t want Malfoy to think his silence meant he was against them being friends.
In a flustered panic, Harry shut off his shower and grabbed his towel, hastily wrapping it around his waist. He couldn’t let Malfoy leave. He flung the cubicle door open.
“Malfoy! Wait!” He stepped out of the cubicle still glistening and pink-skinned from the shower. Water dripped from the ends of his hair, chilling him as it ran in rivulets down his chest, but he didn’t have time to do anything about that now—he only had one towel, and that was busy preserving what little modesty he had left.
Malfoy turned to glare at him, one hand already on the handle. He’d put soft-looking plaid pyjama bottoms, but his hair was damp and curled around his ears and nape. His body stiffened as he took in Harry’s state, but to Harry’s relief, he didn’t look away. He wished he’d thought to grab his glasses from the small bench in the shower cubicle so he could fully appreciate Malfoy’s bare chest. He didn’t need his glasses on to know that Malfoy was checking him out, though. He felt his cheeks heat under the scrutiny and subtly tried to hold his stomach in. If he’d been in any doubt about whether Malfoy liked him—physically at least—that would have put an end to it.
“Yes?” Malfoy snapped.
“I…yes. I do. Want to be friends. I mean, I don’t think it’s gonna be easy, but…I’d, um. I think I‘d like to give it a shot.” He grinned nervously and swept his soggy fringe off his face with one hand while keeping a firm grip of his towel with the other. “Do you want to be friends?”
Malfoy shifted his gaze away from Harry and folded his arms across his chest. “I don’t know. I’m not sure I can… just be friends with you, Potter.”
“What do you— Oh . Well. That’s…” He took a few steps forward, watching Malfoy closely. Without his glasses, he couldn’t pick out any nuances in his expression, but he didn’t seem to be about to bolt. “That’s, um, something I think I can work with…if I’m not misunderstanding,” he said lowly, not wanting to startle Malfoy when things were starting to get interesting.
Malfoy arched an eyebrow and stepped closer, tossing his toiletry bag and towel toward the nearest sink. They were almost chest to chest now. Harry had to tilt his head up slightly to meet Malfoy’s gaze and was surprised by how much he liked it. He’d always hated that Malfoy had a couple of inches on him, but now—a shiver travelled down his spine as his mind supplied rapid fire images of all the ways in which Malfoy’s height could prove fun. He swallowed thickly, painfully aware of his growing erection as it pressed against the towel and he longed to move closer still, grind their hips together and find out if Malfoy was as hard as him.
Harry leaned fractionally closer, testing Malfoy’s reaction. All he could think about was grabbing fistfuls of his hair and dragging their faces closer together. He wanted to know if Malfoy’s lips were as soft as they looked. He needed to taste him, hear him groan. Their noses bumped, and Harry let out a short gasp, surprised at how close they’d gotten. He could feel Malfoy’s breath ghosting across his lips; they were barely a hair’s breadth apart. He scraped the nails of his free hand through Malfoy’s hair and prepared to close the distance—
Muffled voices sounded from outside the bathroom, and Harry leapt away just as the door cracked open. He stared at Malfoy, eyes wide with shock while his heart tried to escape his chest. Blaise’s voice floated in through the gap, clearer now that the door was open, and Harry did the only thing he could think of—he grabbed Malfoy by the wrist and pushed him into the cubicle he’d recently vacated, carefully closing the door behind them so as not to alarm Blaise.
“Hello? Who’s in here? Not used to seeing this place occupied at 6 am!” Blaise called out jovially.
Malfoy pointed at him and made a gesture that Harry assumed meant he wanted Harry to answer, but there was no way he was getting into a conversation with Blaise while semi-naked and incredibly aroused in a shower cubicle with Malfoy, so he frantically shook his head and prodded Malfoy in the chest. For a moment, it looked like Malfoy was going to object but then he rolled his eyes instead.
“It’s me. Couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d grab a quick shower.” Malfoy’s tone was light, but the glare he sent Harry would have levelled lesser men. Harry made a childish face at him then turned to face the cubicle door so he could better focus on what Blaise was up to.
“Right, right. I get that.” Blaise went quiet. Harry could hear a tap running, and then there was the sound of teeth being brushed. It all sounded so normal. With any luck, Blaise would leave in a couple of minutes and he and Malfoy could carry on from where they left off. Or perhaps they’d part awkwardly now that the moment had been broken and never speak again. Harry really hoped it would be the former.
He heard Blaise spit in the sink and rinse out his mouth, and then…nothing. He was about to turn to Malfoy to try and non-verbally express ‘what the fuck is he doing?’ , but before he could, Malfoy looped his arms around him from behind and pressed up against him.
Harry could barely stifle his gasp as Malfoy’s erection rubbed up between his arse cheeks. Malfoy’s hand flew up and clamped over his mouth, the other hand firmly on his hip, and Harry tilted his head back, relaxing into the hold. He shivered as Malfoy’s lips brushed against his neck—the touches tentative at first but growing bolder as he writhed in Malfoy’s arms. He released his hold on the towel around his waist, and it slipped to the floor; now there was nothing between them but the thin fabric of Malfoy’s pyjamas. Malfoy rutted up against him; the hand on Harry’s hip snaked across his abdomen, his hand hot and steady. Harry sighed and reached behind; one hand slipping beneath the waistband of Malfoy’s pyjamas to grab a handful of his arse cheek, and the other gripping the back of his head, fingers threading through fine blond hair and tugging gently.
Suddenly, there was a squeak from the door of the other cubicle and they both froze. Harry tried to control his breathing. It sounded too loud, rasping out of his lungs like he’d gone ten rounds with a troll. They both stood motionless until the sound of the shower beside them spluttered to life and broke the spell.
Harry sighed in relief, sagging back into Malfoy. The adrenaline from almost getting caught surged through his body, heightening his arousal. His whole body felt hyper-sensitive, his skin on fire at every point of contact. He yanked impatiently at Malfoy’s pyjamas, urgently needing to feel more skin on skin. It wasn’t fair that he was the only naked one. Thankfully, Malfoy understood his desperation. He pulled back ever so slightly and tugged the pyjama bottoms off, keeping the other hand splayed over Harry’s abdomen.
Malfoy was pressed back against Harry in a flash, latching onto Harry’s neck and sucking dark bruises into his skin. His erection felt hot and heavy against Harry’s arse, precome and sweat helping it slide between his cheeks with ease as Malfoy rutted against him. Harry bit back a groan. The air was rapidly filling with steam as Blaise showered on, oblivious to what was happening beside him. If Harry hadn’t been so turned on, he might have felt embarrassed or self-conscious, but there was no room in his head for anything other than Malfoy’s name and a selection of expletives.
Harry put his hands on the wall in front of him for support and dropped his head forward—he felt like he was skating perilously close to the edge already, and Malfoy hadn’t even touched him. He didn’t think he’d ever been so turned on. He let out a pathetic whimper as Malfoy drew back slightly, muttering something inaudible. Before he could turn around to see what he was up to, Malfoy wrapped a slick hand around Harry’s neglected length and his mind went blissfully blank. A wandless lubrication charm? Just when he thought Malfoy couldn’t get much hotter. Malfoy pumped his erection a few times, then stilled, keeping his hand curled around the base of Harry’s dick. Harry almost cried out in frustration, but then Malfoy pressed his lips to the shell of Harry’s ear.
“Don’t you dare come yet,” he hissed. “Press your thighs together.”
Harry shuddered as Malfoy’s breath tickled his skin. It took him a moment to process what he’d said as his thoughts were still a jumbled, fragmented mess, but he quickly caught up when Malfoy impatiently kicked his ankles together.
Malfoy’s erection slid between Harry’s thighs, the head of his cock nudging the underside of Harry’s balls. Harry’s legs trembled with the effort of staying upright as Malfoy resumed stroking him, expert fingers hitting all the right spots as he moved his hand in time with his thrusts. If Malfoy hadn’t had an iron grip on Harry’s hip, Harry knew he would be a boneless puddle on the floor.
He was already so close before Malfoy started fucking his thighs, that he only lasted a few minutes before his orgasm surged through him. He bit down hard on his hand to muffle any involuntary sounds as his hips juddered through his release.
Harry turned to face Malfoy before he’d even caught his breath. He briefly took in his thoroughly wrecked expression, before threading his trembling fingers through fine, blond hair and dragging him down into a fevered kiss. He snaked a hand between them and curled his fingers around Malfoy’s erection. Malfoy only lasted a few seconds before losing it all over Harry’s hand and their stomachs.
They stayed entwined together, neither speaking as they caught their breath; Harry with his hands on Malfoy’s hips, and Malfoy with his slender arms resting loosely on Harry’s shoulders. Harry grinned dopily, unable to keep the smile off his face.
“That was…” Harry breathed, trailing off before he could embarrass himself by being overly enthusiastic.
“Yeah,” Draco whispered back.
“Oh good, you’re finished. Just so you know, Draco, if you’re pretending to have a shower, you might want to actually turn it on.” Blaise’s voice was like a bucket of ice water to Harry’s face, instantly dousing his post-orgasmic high. Harry stumbled back from Malfoy, panic clawing at the base of his skull. He didn’t sound pissed off, though; more… amused?
Harry was mortified. How could they have forgotten to turn the shower on? He glanced at Malfoy, who’d clamped both hands over his face and was peering out at Harry from between his fingers. Maybe Blaise was just teasing—he can’t really have heard anything. Harry was sure they’d been quiet. He had the teeth marks on his hand to prove just how restrained he’d been. And besides, it wasn’t like Blaise knew Harry was in the cubicle too, so really, this situation was only embarrassing for Malfoy.
Having rationalised everything in his head, Harry felt his panic start to ebb away. He nudged Malfoy with his foot and gestured with a nod of his head that he should say something to Blaise.
“Oh…shit. Yes. Okay. I’ll, um, remember that for next time.” His voice sounded calm, maybe a touch embarrassed. It was lucky Blaise couldn’t see him because if the flushed cheeks, glassy eyes, and messed up hair didn’t scream well-fucked, then the come drying on his hand, stomach, and groin gave it away. Harry could feel arousal pooling again as he dragged his gaze over Malfoy’s naked body—he’d done that to him. Malfoy looked like this because of him. He suddenly knew that he didn’t want this to be a one-time thing. He wanted to learn every inch of Malfoy’s body. Would Malfoy want the same?
“Oh, and Draco,” Blaise continued, “does Harry want me to pass his glasses and toiletries over the door, or should I leave them on the sink ready for when you’ve finished shagging?”
Harry’s mouth fell open. His initial reaction was to deny everything and he shared a frantic look with Malfoy. He quickly realised there was no point in denying anything, though. Blaise wasn’t an idiot so he was unlikely to be fobbed off with any excuse Harry could come up with. He glanced down at the mess smeared on his stomach and between his legs. He supposed he could do with his toiletries too. The come was getting itchy and uncomfortable as it dried on his skin, and the conjured lube was becoming tacky. With a shrug of his shoulders, he tried to signal to Malfoy that yes, he would quite like his toiletries.
“Um, I think he’d like you to pass them over,” Draco said, glaring at Harry.
A moment later, Blaise tossed Harry’s glasses over the divider between the cubicles and slid his shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel underneath.
“Thanks, Blaise,” Harry said sheepishly.
“You’re welcome. One more thing, before I head out there and find someone willing to risk expulsion by obliviating me: You do realise that the noise of the shower in no way masks the sound of two people fucking in the cubicle NEXT DOOR.”
“We didn’t—” Harry started. Malfoy cut him off with a slap across his chest.
“Thank you, Blaise. We’ll bear that in mind,” Malfoy replied evenly.
Harry swore he heard Blaise chuckle as the bathroom door clicked shut. He took a deep breath and tried to centre himself.
“Well. That wasn’t awkward at all,” Harry said, picking absently at the skin on one elbow. He was starting to feel self-conscious about his nakedness, and now that Blaise wasn’t filling the room with fragrant steam from his shower, it was starting to feel a bit chilly. “Do you think he’s going to tell anyone?”
Malfoy picked the toiletries up from the floor and turned his back to Harry as he set them neatly on the small shower shelf, ensuring all the labels were facing in the same direction. Harry could tell from the stiff set of his shoulders that he’d said something to upset him. “I’m to be your dirty little secret then?” Malfoy spat.
Shit. That hadn’t been what he meant. “No! No no no,” he reached out and forcibly turned Malfoy around, but Malfoy still refused to meet his gaze. “I’m not going to hide whatever this is between us, whether it’s a one-time thing, or something you want to pursue in a more regular…boyfriend-ish way…” Malfoy finally met his eyes, his mouth a perfect circle of surprise. “It’s just, I kind of want to tell Ron and Hermione first, before they find out from anyone else. Not because I think they’ll have a problem with it,” he added quickly, “just because they’re my best friends—they’re practically my family—and, well…”
“It’s fine, Potter,” Malfoy said, his voice soft, “Blaise won’t say anything unless he thinks he can gain something with the information—” he held up a hand to shut Harry up before he could complain, “—and he’s also my best friend, so he knows it’s more than his life’s worth to blab my secrets to anyone…except for Pansy.”
Harry laughed, feeling lighter. “So, um, what do you want to do?”
“Right now? I want to wash your come off my hand. Then,” he shrugged and smirked, “maybe get you to put that mouth of yours to good use.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Harry said with a grin, reaching around Malfoy to turn the shower on.
Harry laughed as the textbook danced around the room. He gestured with his hand and it flipped over, the pages fluttering and rustling as it twisted in the air. It looked like a stiff black and white parrot, flapping about the ceiling. Draco sat beside him on the bed, a book laying open on his lap and a notepad at his side. Every now and then, he’d mutter something and flip to the index, scouring the tiny words until he found what he wanted.
“Remind me again why I taught you that spell?” Draco grumbled, without looking up from his book. “If you rip any of the pages, I’ll bite your penis off next time it’s anywhere near my mouth.”
Harry winced. “Woah, let’s not get too hasty. I’m done, see?” He ended the spell and caught the book one-handed as it fell.
It had only been a week since ‘the bathroom incident’, but they’d already fallen into an easy routine. Their free time was divided between completing university work and Draco teaching Harry everything he knew about wandless magic. It was all very domestic. There was just one problem—Draco was still cooking at night, and Harry was still not sleeping, although now he tended to wrap himself in his duvet and nest on the sofa while Draco cooked. It was somehow less irritating when he was in the same room as the noise. He wouldn’t mind getting a decent night’s sleep once in a while, though.
“So, um, I guess you can stop cooking at night now,” Harry said, flipping back and forth through the textbook to keep his hands busy.
Draco put a finger on the page of the book he was reading to mark his place, and frowned at him. “What? Why would I do that?”
“Erm, because you were only doing it to piss me off? And now we’re like...you know—”
“I was going to say ‘together’, but that works too. So you’re not going to stop?”
“Absolutely not! I’ll admit that once I found out I was pissing you off, perhaps there was an element of ‘hamming it up for the audience’, but I actually really love cooking at night. It’s the only time the kitchen isn’t filled with people chatting about inane things, or watching ridiculousness on the TV, or trying to force me to join in with nights out or go to house parties or—”
“Okay, okay, it’s fine. I’ll just, I dunno, buy a better pair of ear plugs or something. Maybe Hermione will let me sleep in her room sometimes.”
Draco considered him for a moment. “Or you could, you know, just sleep in my room,” he suggested, without looking up.
“Yeah? Are you asking me to move in with you, Draco?” Harry said with a smirk. His heart was racing though.
“Asking you to move into my bed, more accurately.” Draco pushed Harry down to the mattress and straddled his hips, pinning his hands above his head. “Does that work for you, Harry?”
“I would agree to absolutely anything you asked me right now.”
“Good to know.”
Draco’s grin was almost feral as he leant down to capture Harry’s lips in a slow, passionate kiss. The rest of the day passed in a blur, and when night arrived, Harry dragged his duvet and pillow into Draco’s room and settled down into the nest of blankets they’d created together. He fell asleep wrapped around his boyfriend and didn’t wake up until nine the next morning when Draco woke him with fresh coffee, a strawberry smoothie, and a selection of pastries he’d made. Harry thought he could get used to this sort of thing—maybe Draco’s obsession with night cooking wasn’t so bad after all.