It’s on Harry’s third visit to Espresso Patronum, just as he’s managed to snag himself a seat by the window and a free apple from a blushing Susan Bones from behind the counter, that he meets Draco Malfoy once again. It’s five years after the war on a bright fall morning, and he’s thinking of nothing but the missing heirloom case waiting for him when someone rudely snatches his apple out of his hand as he’s about to take a bite.
“Hey,” Harry exclaims, turning around in irritation, and abruptly stops short in speechless surprise. Out of all the people he expected to see in all of the coffee joints in London, it certainly wasn’t Draco Malfoy smirking back at him, tossing the apple into the air in one hand. “Malfoy—?”
“Hello to you too, Potter,” Malfoy says coolly. “Did you pay for this, or did you count on your fame to get away with free stuff again?” There’s a heavy emphasis on the word ‘fame’, his mouth curling in a familiar gesture as he eyes Harry disdainfully.
“What?” Harry says, too confused to be offended. “Susan said it was on the house.” He nods to Susan behind the counter, and Susan gives him a small smile and a little wave back. It’s still early, the sky an inky grey despite the dawn, and the coffee shop’s almost empty. Harry’s the second customer in the shop, and it was only because of the lingering post-war nightmares that still plague his sleep that he was here early enough to watch them open, Susan stifling a yawn as she took his order.
“Ugh, this is what I get for hiring Hufflepuffs,” Malfoy says, his eyes rolling heavenwards. But despite his annoyance, there’s no heat behind his words. “Well, you’d better treasure this apple, Potter, because it’s the last free one you’re going to get.”
He puts the apple down on the table, right next to Harry’s hand, and turns to walk away. Except that Harry says, “Wait, you work here?”
Malfoy turns back, one eyebrow raised in indignation. Now that Harry’s had the chance to look at Malfoy properly, he realises that Malfoy’s dressed in a plain white button down, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and a light grey pair of slacks. It’s a simple, practical outfit, and annoyingly, Malfoy wears it well. He looks fresh and bright despite the early hour, his fair hair looking artfully tousled instead of disheveled. And of course, Malfoy being Malfoy, the top two buttons on his shirt are undone.
“Work here? Potter, I own the place.” Malfoy says it airily, like owning the second most popular coffee joint in London is something that everyone does.
Harry doesn’t know what expression crosses his face at that, but he’s pretty sure it’s a look of blatant disbelief, because it elicits a scowl from Malfoy, who says, “Oh, what? Just because I’m a former Death Eater, I can’t open up a quaint, hipster coffee joint?”
“Well, yeah,” Harry says, “that isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when your name is mentioned.”
Not that he hasn’t checked, mind you. Over the years, rumours had abounded of Malfoy swanning about in Monaco and spending vast amounts of the family fortune in one of the many casinos that had sprung up over the last decade like weeds. The casino had a vague connection to the family, or so went the rumour, and there were dark whispers of money-laundering. It was persistent enough that Harry had taken a proper look at it on his own time, and found nothing despite two months of quiet investigation and research. The rumours had died a natural death, and then rose up again several months later. This time, that Malfoy was in Asia, meddling in politics and signing deals with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. It had even made it to the front page of the gossip rags, but Head Auor Robards wasn’t interested enough to even bother entertaining the possibility.
“Why is this our problem, exactly?” was Robards’ exasperated reply when Harry burst into his office, waving the newspaper.
“It strains our diplomatic ties with our allies!” Harry had said heatedly, but strength of conviction alone that Malfoy was Up To Something was not enough to convince Robards.
Then the rumours were that Malfoy was starting a zoo full of magical creatures (which Harry thought was highly unlikely but duly investigated anyway), which then morphed into Malfoy experimenting on magical creatures.
“Getting a bit obsessed there, aren’t you mate?” Ron had said when Harry had stormed back to his cubicle in the Auror bullpen after another unsuccessful attempt to convince Robards to Find Out What Malfoy Was Up To.
“Am I?” Harry had said.
Ron had said nothing, and merely gave him a look. But Harry had gotten the hint, and had restrained himself the next time London was flooded with gossip that Malfoy was involved in black market trafficking. Illegal potion ingredients, or so the story went. Harry quietly investigated and didn’t tell anyone what he was up to, and had gone on investigating the next few iterations of rumours of What Malfoy Was Secretly Doing. (Evil deeds, no doubt.) And he had found nothing, and life had continued on, and Malfoy had remained a whispered legend on the gossip pages.
“And what exactly does come to mind when you think of me?” Malfoy demands, then stops, a sly grin winding its way across his face. “Hang on, Potter, is this a confession? Have you been thinking about me? Wondering what I’ve been up to in my spare time?”
“No!” Harry exclaims too quickly. Yes, his brain screams, oh my god are you reading my mind?! For a panicked second he tries to remember what Snape taught him about Legilimency and Occlumency, but those lessons were almost a decade ago and nothing comes to mind. He tries to empty his head, but it’s already filled with panicked internal screaming, and he’s pretty sure if Malfoy actually were rooting around in there, he would know all of Harry’s deepest, darkest secrets by now.
Malfoy’s laughing a little too gleefully, a strangely familiar sound. What isn’t familiar is the way his eyes crinkle at the corner as he laughs, the way his face looks pleasant and amused instead of sharply mocking.
“Oh, of course you have,“ Malfoy’s saying, waving his hands around, and Harry’s heart stops beating for a second before Malfoy continues, “in hindsight it’s obvious, isn’t it? You copied my every move, right down to having two minions at your beck and call. Ooh, this is one for the papers, this is. I can see the headlines already, Boy-Who-Lived Confesses to Stalking Former Schoolmate. Exclusive interview with the harassed victim on page 2.”
Malfoy looks extremely pleased with himself, that smug evil-doer, and it speaks to the inner child within Harry that his first response is: “They aren’t my minions. Ron and Hermione are my best friends!”
“Mr. Malfoy’s arresting grey eyes are wide with disbelief. ‘I always knew Harry harboured strong feelings for me,’’’ Malfoy says in a falsetto, holding one hand to his chest as he completely ignores Harry. “‘I never knew that the intensity of his feelings was actually… love.’”
“Malfoy, you are such a prat,” Harry says with feeling. Still, he can’t help but laugh, partly due to the intense relief that Malfoy didn’t read his mind after all, and partly due to the absurdity of Malfoy’s performance.
Over by the counter, Susan’s watching them instead of working, her chin propped up on the base of her palm.
"And you’re apparently my stalker, Potter, but we all have our crosses to bear.”
It comes uncomfortably close to the truth, but Harry plays it off. “Right,” he says, snorting again in an attempt to cover up how his heart beats a little quicker.
“Very undignified of you,” Malfoy informs lightly. There’s a smirk on his face, though, and maybe it’s that familiar twist of Malfoy’s lips, hovering on the thin edge of a sneer, that makes Harry pick up his apple and bite into it somewhat rebelliously. He holds Malfoy’s gaze the entire time, but Malfoy barely reacts. He looks bored, and waits until Harry has a mouthful of apple before he tosses out a casual, “Well, be seeing you, Potter,” and walks away.
“Not if I see you first!” Is what Harry wants to reply, but he can’t quite get the words out around his mouthful of apple. He chews frantically, but of course Malfoy’s vanished by the time he’s finally ready to retort.
Harry scans the shop, but it’s just Susan behind the counter. Now that he’s had a chance to take a good look around, Harry realises that Espresso Patronum is subtly decked out in the Slytherin house colours. Sure, it’s got the usual wood paneling that every hipster joint west of Shoreditch seems to have, but the booth seats are a dark, muted green that matches the trim on the walls. In what Harry can only assume passes for a Slytherin’s version of humour, the door to the shop is located at the far end of the shop. Every customer who comes in is forced to walk past an entire wall of stern-looking Portraits, who murmur amongst themselves as they ruthlessly critique the patrons’ outfits.
And now there’s a steady stream of people coming in, and the Portraits’ murmuring grows louder until it becomes a steady buzz of disapproval, so that’s his peaceful morning cuppa gone.
Sighing, Harry picks up his coffee—the entire reason he came in the first place—and eyes it ruefully. Everyone says that Espresso Patronum’s coffee is magical, and it’s only now, on his third visit that Harry finally gets it. Susan had taken one look at the dark bags under his eyes and had recommended that Harry try the house speciality, an Espresso Patronum, and now Harry’s glad that he took up her recommendation.
The coffee’s still warm and goes down smooth and easy. There’s the slightly sweet aftertaste of chocolate, and a happy warmth begins to spread slowly throughout his body as Harry drains the last drop. It almost feels like he’s being enveloped into a comforting hug, and suddenly the day looks a lot brighter. Grudgingly, Harry can see how Espresso Patronum became so popular.
He leaves as the morning rush begins, ducking hurriedly out the door to a flurry of sudden whispers, but he already knows he’s coming back.
After that, Harry makes it a point to stop by Espresso Patronum every day. At first it’s to keep tabs on Malfoy, but it seems like Malfoy’s hardly ever there. The few times that he does see Malfoy is when Malfoy either goes in or comes out of a mysterious door leading to the back room of the shop, looking frenzied and clutching a notebook in one hand as he mutters to himself and scribbles notes. No one else seems to find that odd, which raises Harry’s suspicions.
Adding fuel to his mistrust is that the shop mostly seems to be run by a bunch of younger Slytherins that were below his year in Hogwarts and whom he doesn’t recognise, although they all certainly know who he is. Logically, he knows that not all Slytherins are Up To No Good, and certainly this lot doesn’t seem the type to be inspired by any evil-doing. They’re all young, and jaded, and restless. Mostly, they keep to themselves and stay firmly behind the counter, so there’s no reason to talk to them unless it’s to order. They’re not rude, but they’re not friendly either. Despite him trying his best, he can’t get a single useful thing out of them.
The only thing that Harry learns about the rotating cast of baristas is that all of them wear their work shirts with the sleeves rolled down and cuffed tight at their wrists, and that they all seem to enjoy 80s Muggle music, which baffles most of their wizarding clientele. The Slytherins don’t care, and once or twice Harry even catches one of them singing softly along with the song playing. This doesn’t quite match up with his suspicions that Malfoy is Engaging in Something Sneaky, but he’s sure that Malfoy’s trained the Slytherins well enough that they know how to keep up a cover.
By the end of a week, he quickly settles into a routine. He pops in after lunch, does a quick scan of the place to check for Malfoy, and if it’s not too busy, he takes a table next to the wall of whispering Portraits. No one likes sitting there because the Portraits have no qualms about passing cutting remarks about something as simple as the colour of your jumper until you either cried or left.
It doesn’t bother Harry, who spent eleven years waking up to a torrent of criticism and abuse from his relatives every day. Oddly enough, that makes the Portraits warm up to him, once they realise that he’s impervious to their taunts. The good thing about becoming sort-of friends with the Portraits is that they’ll shout verbal abuse at anyone who tries to sit at Harry’s table or approaches about getting an autograph when he’s just trying to spy on Malfoy in peace. The bad thing about being sort-of friends with a bunch of snooty Portraits is that they don’t spare Harry from their cascade of insults, although they’re far more tempered with him.
Susan remarks on it one day, in one of the rare times when she’s behind the counter. “It’s so nice to see them making a friend. Well done, Harry.”
“They mocked what I ordered. Said I was ‘unadventurous and boring’,” Harry says flatly.
Susan laughs. “Well, that’s mild for them. And did they lie? You have been ordering the same thing for the last couple of days. Why not try something new? Our menu goes far beyond Dreamless Cold Brew, you know. In fact,” she looks around before lowering her voice conspiratorially, “Draco’s actually working on a new flavour right now. Between you and me, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be an instant bestseller. Mark my words, there’s going to be another write-up in the Daily Prophet.”
Which is a great way for Harry to inquire casually, “So is that what Malfoy’s really been up to?”
“Why, yes,” Susan says, blinking at him in surprise. “He’s been working on it for the last few weeks. Although I think he’s a bit stuck on the name, he’s been tossing around a few variations for days now and they all sound terrible. But shh, mum’s the word.”
“Selling my secrets off to the enemy, Bones?” Malfoy drawls from behind them, and Susan jumps, flushing guiltily. Harry’s ears prick up at the magic combination of ‘secret’ and ‘enemy’, and he turns. Malfoy cuts a tall figure of suspicion as he eyes them, arms crossed against his chest.
“Something you want to confess to, Malfoy?” Harry says lightly. Malfoy’s dressed in a green jumper that brings out his eyes, a shade of grey so striking that Harry can’t quite look away once he’s caught Malfoy’s gaze. Something about the sight of him makes Harry’s heart pound that little bit faster.
Malfoy scowls. “Yes, I’ll confess that I’ll appreciate it if you wouldn’t distract my staff, Potter. They have a job that I’m paying them good money to do, and that doesn’t involve gossiping about my trade secrets with you. Now, if you don’t mind!”
He whirls around and heads for the elusive door that leads to the back room, and Harry sees his chance. He follows hot on Malfoy’s heels, and shoves his foot into the gap as Malfoy’s about to close the door.
“Which are?” Harry asks, yanking the door open, and Malfoy blinks at him in an astonished sort of fashion. Harry prompts helpfully, “Your trade secrets, you were going on about them, and just about to spill.”
“Potter, if you don’t mind,” Malfoy hisses, trying unsuccessfully to pull the door closed. He looks at once both astounded and offended, which Harry privately thinks is a good look on him.
“I don’t,” Harry says cheerfully. “Go on, you were saying?”
Malfoy gives up on pulling on the door and opts instead for smiling at Harry in a manner that unnerves him. “Why, of course, Potter, do come in so that I can list in painstaking detail the exact secrets of my formulas. Would you like a live demonstration as well? Perhaps I can direct you to a Floo later, so you can run straight to my competitors and tell them all you know!”
“Cheers, Malfoy, carry on please,” Harry says. Days of sitting by the Portraits, learning to tune them out as they slagged him off has made him fairly immune to sarcasm. Malfoy glares at him, and he looks so reminiscent of a confused, rumpled owl that Harry has to bite back a laugh. Years of experience as an Auror has taught him that laughing at a suspect is not conducive to getting them to share their darkest secrets.
Now that he’s gotten one foot in the door, Harry takes the time to have a careful look around. The elusive back room appears to consist of two rooms: a larger one that they’re standing in, which is filled with crates upon crates of coffee beans apparently sent in from all over the world, and an unmarked door at the side. Harry easily picks out the tell-tale golden shimmer of a ward over the door, and he knows instinctively that whatever Malfoy’s Up To, it’s in that room there.
“What is this, a Ministry inspection?” Malfoy huffs. “Are you happy now?” Harry’s attention is drawn back as Malfoy throws up a glamour over the crates of coffee. “Now, if you’re quite done with having a poke around!”
“Wouldn’t mind poking a bit more, to be honest,” Harry says without thinking, and it isn’t until Malfoy stares at him that he realises what he just said. “Oh. Oh! No! Not what I meant.”
Still, he can’t help but laugh at the look on Malfoy’s face. Malfoy stares at him some more, his lips twitching. It’s strange to see Malfoy very obviously trying to bite back a smile, and Harry laughs again, because Malfoy looks incredibly pained as he does so.
“You’re impossible, Potter,” Malfoy says finally. “Now, please go, I really must get back to work.”
There’s nothing left to check out, so Harry goes, still laughing.
Now that Harry’s gotten a good look at the back room, his interest in Malfoy has skyrocketed. He can’t fathom what Malfoy’s up to: illegal coffee smuggling? Money-laundering in coffee beans? Is that even a thing? None of that makes sense. Annoyingly, the popularity of Malfoy’s shop continues to grow, which suggests that for all intents and purposes, he’s running a perfectly legit operation. And yet, Harry can’t shake the suspicion curling in his gut that Malfoy’s Hiding A Secret.
He ups his visits to twice a day: once in the morning before work, and a forty-five minute stakeout during lunch. He’s running out of excuses to turn Ron down for lunch, but that doesn’t deter him. Nothing does, not even when it’s Graham the Grim manning the counter on a Saturday morning. Harry looks forward to Saturdays with a particular kind of thrill that’s normally reserved for when he’s hunting down criminals: Saturdays are when he can stake out the shop for a few hours on the pretext of having his breakfast.
“Your usual?” Graham says, not even bothering to look up from the book that he’s reading.
“No, I’ll try a Laughing Latte this time,” Harry says. His conversation with Susan is still at the back of his mind, and he’s oddly conscious of the wall of Portraits watching (and judging) him.
“No whipped cream, please,” he adds hastily, as Graham sets about grimly making his coffee.
“Enjoy,” Graham says monotonously as he slides a mug over the counter to Harry. He doesn’t even bother ringing Harry up, just goes back to his book and ignores the money that Harry leaves on the counter.
“What have you purchased there today?” One of the Portraits coos when Harry settles back into his table. It’s his least favourite Portrait, one of an elderly lady with a ridiculously huge ruffle fastened around her neck and her hands folded primly in front of her. The brass plate on the bottom of her frame says, very aptly, ‘Portrait of an Old Lady With Folded Hands’. Privately, Harry’s taken to calling her the Queen Elizabeth. She’s the one that all the other Portraits listen to, the one who launches the harshest insults and makes the most customers cry when they have the temerity (or stupidity) to sit beneath her frame.
“A Laughing Latte,” Harry says shortly. He always tries to keep interactions with her to a minimum.
“A foolish name,” Queen Liz proclaims. Privately, Harry agrees. She goes on. “Utterly unbecoming for an establishment of this esteem, as I said to the young Mr Malfoy. But wisdom is a curse for the elders, for did he take heed? No!”
The rest of the Portraits have all edged away, because Queen Liz tends to carry on once she gets into one of her moods. Harry nods and tunes her out as she carries on monologuing. He’s flipping through the morning newspaper and not paying much attention, so it comes as a surprise when he takes another sip of coffee and finds himself inadvertently smiling down at an article depicting the gruesome details of the latest victim of the Loch Ness up in Scotland.
That’s odd, Harry thinks. He drinks some more, and continues reading, and finds himself giggling at the financials that chart the rise and fall of the latest wizarding stocks. It’s dull and boring and a section that he normally skips, but somehow he can’t help laughing as he looks through a row of meaningless numbers.
A tendril of suspicion begins to uncurl itself, though muted under the general mood of cheeriness that descends upon him like a fog. He’s lucid enough to cast a quick counter-spell on himself, just in case someone Cursed him, but that doesn’t do anything. It has to be the coffee. Testing his theory, Harry pulls out the obituaries and finds himself giggling uncontrollably over the death of poor old Mr Lester Fisherman, who found his way back to the Veil whilst engaging in his favourite pastime of de-Gnoming his rose garden.
Suspicions confirmed, Harry makes his way back to the counter, trying to hold back laughter. Predictably, Grim Graham doesn’t bother to look up at his approach.
“Graham,” he says, and is promptly horrified when he finds himself continuing on and laughing, “...Grimmy. Grimster. I think there’s something wrong with my coffee.”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Grimster says. He flips a page of his book.
“It tastes funny,” Harry insists, giggling madly at his own joke. He wipes tears of laughter out of his eyes. “Grimster, I would like you to ring for the manager, please. Especially if that manager is Malfoy.”
“He isn’t in.”
“Well, can’t you call him?” Harry darts a quick, desperate look around the shop, to the dozen shocked faces staring at him, to where the Portraits are quietly tittering away.
“Then I am forced to leave bad feedback!” Harry declares, and bursts into hysterical laughter. It’s not the most useful threat, but it’s the only one that he can think of right now in his state of temporary madness.
“Go ahead, we’re on Yowl.”
“What’s the problem here?” And for the second time in as many days, Malfoy looms up from the side, looking tired and irritated. He’s wearing a grey and blue flannel shirt over a white tee and black jeans with a rip in the right knee. It’s the most casual that Harry’s ever seen him, and Harry gapes at him for one astonished moment before breaking out into uncontrollable laughter.
“What in the seven hells of damnation,” Malfoy says, staring.
Grimster finally puts his book away as he says, “Potter said your coffee tasted funny. Said it tasted wrong. Told him it wasn’t; he ordered a Laughing Latte, and now he doesn’t like it.”
“It’s a stupid name!” Harry guffaws. No one pays him any attention.
“He’s not wrong, you idiot,” Malfoy hisses. “Did you check the expiry date on the bottle before serving it?”
Grimster at least has the grace to look sheepish. “I thought that Aiden went through them yesterday.”
Malfoy’s mouth works furiously, but no sound comes out. Harry giggles. Finally, Malfoy says, very flatly to Grimster, “We’ll discuss this later,” and to Harry, “You! Come with me.”
Malfoy says nothing as he leads Harry into the back room and past the wards into the secret room. Harry’s heart is pounding double time, and he isn’t sure if it’s because of what he drank, or because he’s finally getting past the velvet ropes and stepping foot into… a laboratory.
There’s no other word to describe the set-up that Malfoy’s got going on. A long wooden table sits in the centre of the room, filling up most of the space. On it are six cauldrons lined up side by side in a neat little row. Each has a number etched into the side, and all of them are bubbling merrily away under the protective shimmer of a ward. The cauldrons are matched by six small notebooks that lay open before them, and the air is thick with a mixture of exotic scents that Harry can’t quite identify. The rest of the room is filled with bottled ingredients, neatly labelled and carefully arranged alphabetically on shelves that span the entire length of the room. Harry turns, his eyes travelling down the shelves, and realises that Malfoy’s been watching him when their gazes meet straight on.
“Oh my god, Malfoy, are you brewing drugs?” Is the first thing that slips out of his mouth, unbidden, and Harry claps a hand over his mouth even as he cackles away. It’s a disturbing sound that he didn’t realise that he could make.
“Oh for Merlin’s sake,” Malfoy says, and goes over to a cupboard at the far end of the room that Harry hadn’t noticed. He comes back with an unlabelled flask that he shoves at Harry and a piece of paper that he places on the table. “Drink this.”
“And have you poison me, the only witness to your drug lab? I think not!”
“For fuck’s sake, Potter. It’s a general antidote for expired potions. Look, I’ll go first, you paranoid freak.” Malfoy takes a large swig of the flask, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand once he’s done, and shoves the flask at Harry once again.
Harry takes it and takes an unwillingly sip. It clears his mind instantly, the overly cheery mood that had loosened his inhibitions vanishing as if it was never there. He drinks until he’s sure he’s back to himself. “Malfoy, what the hell was that?”
“That was Pritchard and his lack of attention to details,” Malfoy says, sighing. “In many ways, he’s my least favourite Slytherin. I’m only telling you this because he fucked up your order, but if you ever say a word, I’ll deny all knowledge and claim you made it up.”
“I don’t care about Grim Graham,” Harry says impatiently, and Malfoy very unsuccessfully tries to choke back a laugh. “I’m going to need more than that. Have you been holed up in here all this while? If you were, how did you know what was going on outside? And what the hell is all this?”
“First, don’t you dare call my Slytherin names. Second, that’s brilliant. Third, I have not been ‘holed up in here’, I have been working. You know, it’s called a job? Most people have to do it in exchange for money? Fourth, Vicky alerted me to a commotion on the premises. Fifth, this is my lab where I work, and sixth, I’m going to need you to sign this settlement deed, please.” He slides the paper on the table over to Harry with two fingers. Harry grabs it and scans it quickly, his eyes narrowing as he reads.
“We’re disclaiming all liability, and you unconditionally and irrevocably agree to the settlement of all liabilities, claims, actions, suits or disputes whatsoever that you may or anytime have against Espresso Patronum or any of its employees relating to, arising from, or in connection with the incident,” Malfoy says. He parrots what’s written down on the document so perfectly without looking at it that Harry has a dark suspicion that this isn’t the first time an incident like this has happened. “Basically, you agree that nothing happened in the shop today and that you’re absolutely fine and you’re not going to sue us.”
Harry’s head snaps up. “Absolutely not. I don’t even know what happened. You still owe me answers.”
“And then you’ll sign?”
“And then I’ll consider signing it.”
Malfoy sighs. “Fine, fine. Fire away.” There’s a put-upon tone to his voice, but he pulls two wooden stools out from underneath the work table and offers one to Harry.
“Right. Whose Vicky?” Harry asks. The stool is far more comfortable then it looks, and a cushion obligingly pops out of nowhere as he takes a seat.
“Oh that’s easy. She’s one of the Portraits outside. Old Woman With Folded Hands, you must have come across her before. I call her Vicky, after Queen Victoria, although no one knows her real name. She won’t tell, you see. Says a lady has to take some secrets to the grave, although I told her, look Vicks, you’re long dead. Besides the immortals, no one else you know has been alive for the last few centuries. Then she called me a very rude name, that saucy tart. But she’s my favourite, she’s very good at making people cry, and fantastic at rallying the other Portraits for a round of good mocking. She’s the reason no one likes to linger around—which is how I like my shop. Empty of customers, and full of money.” Malfoy beams, as if they were discussing the weather and not deliberate cruelty to customers. And that pretty much confirms his suspicions that Malfoy had the Portrait wall installed on purpose.
It’s actually pretty genius, although Harry’s not about to say that. What he does say instead is, “Malfoy, you’re absolutely bonkers,” and then as an aside, muttered under his breath, “I call her the Queen Liz.”
Malfoy shakes his head. “No, no, no, Victoria was the prudish one, not Liz. You need to get your queens straight. She’s definitely a Vicky.”
“Noted for future reference, thanks.” Harry rolls his eyes, but he’s also trying hard not to smile, because how he had never realised how absolutely ridiculous Malfoy was? “Next question: what is this lab for? What are you making?”
Malfoy wags a finger at him. “Uh uh uh. Not so fast. If you want to know that, you’re going to have to sign this.” He heads back to the cupboard again, and roots around in there for a few moments before coming back and slapping yet another piece of paper down in front of Harry. “Standard non-disclosure agreement, you understand. I can’t have you selling my trade secrets off to my biggest competitors.”
“Who, Costa Coffee?” Harry says, picking up the new document warily.
Malfoy openly sneers as he says, “Oh please, Costa wishes. No, I’m talking about Starbucks. Those greedy corporate bastards will stop at nothing to get their hands on my formulas.”
“Hm.” Harry scans the document, but he doesn’t understand half of what he’s reading. “I don’t understand half of what I’m reading.”
“Oh, psh, it’s nothing. Here, let me see,” Malfoy leans forward to read over Harry’s shoulder, so close that Harry can feel Malfoy’s hair tickle his ear. Malfoy’s saying something that he’s not paying any attention to because Malfoy smells like a newly opened bag of freshly roasted coffee beans and smoke.
Harry has never in his entire life wondered what Malfoy smelt like, and now he’s grappling with exactly what he’s supposed to do with this new-found knowledge. He’s suddenly very conscious of the fact that if he turned his head just the slightest fraction, his lips would brush against Malfoy’s cheek.
“...and this sets out the penalties if you breach the agreement, which includes a sudden and random outbreak of adult acne once a month for the rest of your life, a million Galleons payable on demand, and the naming rights to your firstborn child.” Malfoy leans back, sounding extremely satisfied, and Harry can finally think again.
“Malfoy, why can’t you make me swear an Oath like a normal person?” Harry says, once the full implications of what Malfoy said hit him.
“But where’s the fun in that? ‘Break the Oath and lose your life’ is all fine and dandy for some people, but me? I personally like to ensure that the traitor’s around so that I can watch them suffer. And what better way than to push them into bankruptcy, ensure that they remain physically hideous several days a month for the rest of their lives, and guarantee that their future child will hate them?” There’s a twinkle in Malfoy’s eye, and he looks positively gleeful as he says it.
“God Malfoy, you’re absolutely bonkers,” Harry says again, but he’s laughing. It’s hard not to, when Malfoy’s being so ridiculous.
“You mean ‘brilliant’,” Malfoy corrects, smiling serenely. “Of course I am. That is both my gift and my curse, to be brilliantly underappreciated by the common folk. I have learnt to live with it.”
“You’ve learnt to be such a wanker.” Harry says, but there’s no heat behind his words. He smiles at Malfoy without meaning to, then stops when he catches himself at it, then finds himself smiling again in wonder as Malfoy lifts a lazy hand and fashions a quill out of thin air. It’s a fancy bit of magic, and Malfoy pulls it off effortlessly, his long fingers shaping itself around the quill until it solidifies in his hand.
“You’ll learn to appreciate my genius in time,” Malfoy says, passing him the quill. Peacock, of course. Harry rolls his eyes at the ridiculous ostentatiousness of it, but he takes the quill and signs the damn document.
Malfoy plucks the quill neatly out of his hand and signs as well. As soon as he lifts the quill from the paper, their twin signatures shine golden for a brief moment, so bright that Harry has to squint against the glow. He looks at Malfoy expectantly once it fades away.
Malfoy sighs. “Alright fine. As you know, we’re a magical fusion coffee shop. All our drinks have a potion or elixir effect—”
“Wait, what,” Harry interrupts, thunderstruck.
Malfoy looks astonished. “Potter, there’s a sign on the door. It’s written all over our menus. It’s even printed on your receipt.” A beat. Then, “Aren’t you an Auror? Isn’t it your job to, oh, I don’t know, observe things?”
Harry sighs. “You should use a bigger font.”
“And maybe you need bigger glasses. Anyway, as I was saying, we’re the world’s first magical fusion coffee shop. The concept of this brilliant idea was, of course, conjured up by yours truly. How, you ask? Well, let me tell you! Most potions taste awful and take too much time to make, so why not infuse a potion with something delicious that you can not only purchase everyday, but also start your morning with? Hence, Espresso Patronum! The big secret is how we’re doing it. As you will no doubt recall from our Potions lessons, adding additional ingredients to an already brewed potion risks throwing off the balance of that potion, or worse, might turn it into something else completely. Which is what this laboratory is for.” Malfoy grandly sweeps his arm over the entirety of the room. “It’s where I come up with new and delicious fusion flavours that hopefully don’t send our customers to their untimely deaths.”
Harry’s impressed. It sounds insanely brilliant and difficult, and yet Malfoy’s not only doing it, he’s doing it well, judging by the line of customers every morning. “Isn’t this illegal?”
“Not at all! Potter, what do you take me for?” Malfoy presses a hand to his chest in a display of shock that somehow Harry doesn’t buy. Malfoy continues, lifting a finger every time he makes a point. “One, we have a valid license. Two, we’re in solid compliance with every single Ministry regulation to date. Our books are audited every quarter by an independent third party appointed by the Ministry. And three, we just had a Ministry inspection last week, which, I’ll have you know, we passed with flying colours despite Rogers’ solid attempts to find a way to fail us.”
“Uh huh.” Harry looks at the row of cauldrons bubbling away on the table and is so certain that he’s close to uncovering That Thing That Malfoy Is Doing That He’s Not Supposed to Do that he can almost smell it.
“Well if it’s legal, then you won’t mind if I bottle every single one of the potions you’re brewing. Just to check, you understand,” Harry says, and reaches into his back pocket to pull out his wallet. He flashes his Auror badge at Malfoy, whose smile doesn’t falter one bit.
“Go right ahead, Auror Potter,” Malfoy practically purrs. “You’ll find that the potions I’m brewing are fairly run of the mill, which any first year in Hogwarts should be capable of.” He waits a beat, smirking.
When Harry raises a baffled eyebrow, Malfoy sighs and elaborates, “Potter, you do realise that no one needs a license to brew these potions, don’t you?”
It had not occurred to Harry at all. Flummoxed, he says nothing. He’s onto Something, he knows it, he just has to find out what secrets Malfoy’s hiding in this laboratory. He looks around the room, carefully avoiding Malfoy’s smug gaze as he works it out. If the potions that Malfoy is brewing are legal, then that’s not what the license covers. Then he gets it.
“Fine,” Harry says, “then I’m sure you wouldn’t mind if I bottle some of your sample fusion brews and bring them back to the Ministry for a review.”
“I don’t,” Malfoy says, his smirk broadening, “but the Ministry does. Regulation 193 of the Sale of Magical Food and Drink Regulations states that all experimental fusion food or brews are not to leave the permitted premises without the explicit authorisation of the Ministry. And since you don’t appear to have a warrant or the relevant forms, I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.”
“Oh for—” Harry scowls at Malfoy, who laughs. He contemplates going off to come back with a ‘relevant form’ (if there even is one), but that would give Malfoy ample time to clear any evidence of illegal potion making away. He needs to get his hands on one of those sample brews now.
“Fine. Then I’ll be happy to try a sample of what you’ve been mixing into the coffee. Since it’s legal to do so, as you say.” He smiles at Malfoy, certain that he has Malfoy cornered.
What he had expected was for Malfoy to get flustered and come up with all sorts of excuses as to why that would be a bad idea, but what he gets instead is Malfoy lighting up immediately and clapping his hands together in delight.
“That would be wonderful, thanks for offering Potter! I’ve been having such a hard time finding taste testers! None of the Slytherins want to do it anymore, and I’ve had to resort to trying them out on myself like a common lab rat.”
Malfoy’s darting around the room as he speaks, picking up vials and filling them and pulling out half-filled glass flasks from a small fridge standing next to the cupboard. He’s a blur of activity as he mixes and pours, and finally he presents Harry with five glass flasks, each one neatly labelled from one to five. Unsurprisingly, the liquid in every one of them is a dark coffee-brown.
“Okay, first up. The Focus Pocus Double Espresso.” Malfoy looks at Harry expectantly, and Harry takes a deep breath before lifting the flask to his lips. This was what he wanted, and now that he’s gotten it, he can’t find a good reason not to drink exactly what he had asked for.
He pauses before taking the first sip, looks Malfoy dead in the eye and says very seriously, “Just remember, if I die, there are people who love me who know where I am and who will stop at nothing to hunt you down.”
Then he tips his head back and swallows. The coffee goes down sweet and easy, and he feels it kick in almost at once. Malfoy’s muttering, “I always knew he was prone to dramatics,” so soft that Harry shouldn’t be able to hear, but does.
Harry blinks, and realises that all of his senses have been heightened. He looks at Malfoy scribbling away in a notebook with that ridiculous peacock quill of his—really looks at him for the first time in years. The harsh overhead light in the windowless room should have washed anyone with Malfoy’s complexion out, but Malfoy looks annoyingly normal, albeit slightly pale. Time has softened those features that Harry would have once called pointy, and now that Malfoy’s distracted, his mouth is one soft, generous curve. Harry finds himself watching that mouth, waiting to see if it would curl up into a sneer or a smile.
Malfoy finishes writing and looks up. “Well?” A smile. Not quite warm, but friendly enough, and one that Harry never would have thought would be directed at him.
“It’s nice. It’s got a complex, rich tone. It tastes… lush, which is not a word I thought I would ever be using, but it does. There’s a smoky, chocolate aftertaste. A bit ashy. I think I taste a hint of berries.” Harry surprises even himself, but he tastes each and every component of the coffee as he says it.
Malfoy looks stunned. It takes him a moment to find the words, and he takes to clearing his throat several times before saying finally, “Yes, quite. Well done, Potter. Excellent description. But what I meant was, how do you feel?”
Harry considers, looking around the lab. “Every time I look at something, it feels like there’s a spotlight on it. Like I’m zooming in on that object and that object only, and all my senses are focused solely on it. Is that supposed to happen?”
“Yes and no. It’s not supposed to be this intense.” Malfoy clicks his tongue against his teeth as he scribbles something. “This is Version Six, and the potion’s effects are still too strong. I’ve got to figure out the right balance with the Shrivelfig, it’s throwing something off in the mix. Well, since you’ve already been dosed, want to do something naughty?”
“What?” Harry says, the world narrowing to a pinpoint as he looks at Malfoy. There’s a mischievous glint in Malfoy’s eye, but surely he wouldn’t be suggesting…?
“Let’s go see what the Portraits are gossiping about and test how far your heightened senses can reach.”
“Oh,” Harry says. For some reason, his stomach does a funny little flop. “Alright.”
It turns out that spying on the Portraits is far more entertaining that Harry would have expected. The Portraits are a quarrelsome lot, and Harry learns that there are as many as three different warring factions. What he can’t quite figure out, though, is what they’re squabbling about.
“It depends on what day of the week it is,” Malfoy says, once they’re back in the lab. “On Mondays they fight over prime wall space. On Tuesdays, it’s about whose painter was the best. On Wednesdays, they argue over who can make the most customers cry. Sometimes they call a truce on Thursdays and Fridays because they’re having too much fun taunting the customers.”
“No, that’s mad,” Harry says, laughing. “You’re having me on.”
“I’m dead serious, ask any of them. Don’t tell them I told you though, I’m not supposed to know. Here, take this.” He passes Harry a potion cleanser to drink. It looks and tastes exactly like room temperature water, but a cold shiver runs down Harry’s spine as he swallows. When he finishes, the world has gone back to normal.
They go through four more trial potions, with Malfoy running through a standard list of questions before they go out for field tests. And maybe it was a lingering side effect of the Focus Pocus, or maybe it was eleven years of preparing Uncle Vernon's morning coffee, but Harry’s description of each of the fusion coffees seems to impress Malfoy each time. Malfoy doesn’t come right out and say it of course, but Harry can tell by the way he purses his lips, or lifts his eyebrow.
At the end of it, Malfoy says, “Cheers Potter, that helped immensely. I don’t suppose you’d ever consider giving up the Aurors in favour of coming to work for me, would you?” He clearly means it as a joke, because he’s laughing at the notion even as he says it.
Except that Harry sees this as his opportunity to finally get some proper investigative work done, and prove once and for all that Malfoy is Doing Something. (Even if a small part of him is starting to believe that Malfoy’s probably Not Actually Doing Anything.) “Delighted to,” he says, “when shall I drop by?”
Malfoy stops laughing and frowns at him. “Did you drink the potion cleanser after the last one?”
“I did. And I don’t mind.”
“Well, alright then,” Malfoy says uncertainly. “Next Saturday then? Same time?”
“Alright,” Harry grins. He never does sign the settlement deed.
It doesn’t take long for them to settle into a routine. Harry pops everyday in for his morning coffee, but that’s more out of habit than because he suspects Malfoy is Plotting Something. He’s learnt over the course of several weeks’ observation that Malfoy is not usually a morning person, and on the few occasions that he does see Malfoy in the front of the shop, Malfoy’s always harried and half-awake as he checks on something or the other.
So Harry gets his coffee, stops to say hello to Vicky, and then heads off to work. He occasionally comes in for an after-lunch coffee, but he doesn’t bother to stake out the shop anymore. Malfoy’s forever holed up in his laboratory, which Harry is sure can’t be healthy for him, but he knows Malfoy won’t be prised away from his work.
On Saturdays, Harry comes in for a quick breakfast, and once he’s done, he lets himself into the back room and taps on the lab door for Malfoy to let him in. Malfoy won’t give him access to the laboratory wards, which he assures Harry that Harry shouldn’t take personally, because no one else has access either. None of the Slytherins bat an eye at the arrangement anymore, not after he and Aiden had a yelling match about it that had nearly brought the shop down one Saturday.
Aiden had been sure that Harry was trying to steal something from the back room, and Harry had utterly failed to convince him otherwise with his argument of, “But what do you even have for me to steal? Mouldy coffee beans?” Which wasn’t very fair, because, as Malfoy had told him crossly when he came out to break up the fight, there were Statis charms layered over all the coffee beans to stop them going bad, and further, some of the beans were rather exotic and quite expensive.
Then Malfoy had told Aiden off for trying to start a fight with a trained Auror, and had ended his lecture with a practical demonstration on how to gain the upper hand over a more powerful opponent.
“What exactly are you teaching these kids?” Harry had said, simultaneously appalled and impressed. Every one of Malfoy’s techniques was similar to what they had taught in Auror training.
“Life skills,” Malfoy had said, a terrifying glint in his eyes, and made Aiden duel Harry until Aiden was flushed and sweaty and about to drop from exhaustion. Harry had gone easy on him too, had pulled his punches and held back on his casting.
“Practise more,” Malfoy had told Aiden, then beckoned Harry into the laboratory, whereupon they carried on as if nothing unusual had happened.
So Harry enjoys Malfoy on Saturdays. Malfoy on Saturdays is relaxed and happy, usually dressed in a simple cotton shirt and loose pants, and often has the Wireless on while he works. Malfoy on Saturdays sometimes hums under his breath while he mixes and measures. Malfoy on Saturdays is funny and chatty, who feeds Harry with all the new blends that he’s been experimenting with over the week and laughs at all the different versions of Harry that the concoctions bring out in him.
Most of the fusions work well, except for one Saturday about a month and a half into their informal taste-testing sessions. That morning, Harry comes in to find Malfoy leaning over Cauldron Two, frowning slightly as he peers at the potion within.
“Does this look like an imperial red to you?” Malfoy asks in lieu of a greeting, and Harry obligingly goes over to look.
“Er, it’s reddish,” Harry says doubtfully. Malfoy snorts, and nudges him out of the way to scowl down at the potion.
“Brilliant observational skills, thanks for that, Potter. ‘It’s reddish’. Excellent description, full marks.”
“I’m a simple man,” Harry says, shrugging. “I call it as I see it. And that’s red. Ish.”
Malfoy snorts again. He’s a warm presence by Harry’s side, and he’s standing a little too close as he dips a ladle in the cauldron, but Harry doesn’t move away.
“What did you brew up this time?” Harry asks.
“Hopefully, a Confidence Cafe Au Lait. If I get this right, I predict that this will become the future drink of choice before every job interview or major presentation. It’s taken me ages to get the Ministry to grant us a license to brew a Restricted Potion like this; I only got the final approval yesterday. It’s one of the more dangerous potions, this one, because the base of the potion is so volatile.”
“I see,” Harry says slowly.
He doesn’t really. Malfoy knows it, because he shakes his head and mutters something disparaging about Harry’s lack of respect for the fine art of potion-making under his breath before explaining, “When your base is unstable, it has the potential to turn into any number of different potions. Add an ingredient out of order or stir the potion one too many times and you could end up with a Shrinking Potion, or an Awakening Elixir, or something else entirely. That’s why potions like these are so hard to make. And that’s why I’m going to charge people an outrageous amount of money for this drink.”
Malfoy is practically hopping with glee as he scoops out generous amounts of the potion into a beaker and labels it. As Harry watches, Malfoy pours out a fraction into a cup before adding in more ingredients, mixing and stirring and whispering the incantation to a spell under his breath. After a while, he comes over with a lukewarm cup of coffee that he sets before Harry.
“Version One,” Malfoy says brightly. A quill is already in his hand, poised over a fresh page of his notebook.
“Cheers!” Harry says, and throws back the coffee.
Which is when everything goes completely pear shaped.
“This is foul,” Harry says as soon as he sets the cup down. He wrinkles his nose in disgust, and Malfoy frowns.
“Was the taste off? Too much potion, not enough coffee?”
“A cow’s diarrhea would have tasted better than that swill you just fed me,” Harry says meanly. “And if I had wanted to have cow shit, I would have gone to Molly’s.”
He watches Malfoy’s face change, watches Malfoy go pale and drop his quill, and laughs.
Whatever coffee Malfoy had made, it’s clearly not a Confidence Cafe Au Lait. This drink turns Harry into a person he doesn’t recognise: an angry, cruel arsehole who spends the rest of the morning taunting Malfoy. This version of Harry picks at old wounds and asks Malfoy awful, savage questions about Vincent Crabbe and the Fiendfyre, laughing the entire time. This version of Harry viciously lists all the ways he’s better than a failure with a Mark on their arm. This version of Harry won’t take the potion cleanser and tries numerous times to leave, so finally Malfoy locks them in his laboratory and throws up the wards. Malfoy bears with the verbal abuse stoically until the effects wear off, just stays silent while Harry rants and raves, and turns whiter and whiter with every passing word of pure venom that drips from Harry’s lips.
It takes a long time before Harry finally feels the potion loosen its hold. As soon as he does, he grabs the potion cleanser and drains it dry in one gulp.
“Malfoy,” he says, when he finally feels like himself again, but Malfoy cuts him off before he has the chance to apologise.
“Obviously something went really wrong there. I think it’s best I shelf that one for the future.” Malfoy won’t look at him, but he won’t let Harry apologise either.
Harry’s at a loss of what to do, and stands there looking hopelessly at Malfoy’s hunched back, at the tight line of tension between his shoulders. Then he realises Malfoy's shuddering. He reaches out and places a tentative hand on Malfoy’s back, fully expecting Malfoy to shrug him off. Malfoy doesn’t, so he rubs slow, comforting circles on Malfoy’s back, feeling Malfoy’s sharp shoulder blades tremble under his palm. He doesn’t say anything, and Malfoy doesn’t move, and they stay like that until Malfoy stops shaking.
“I’m fine,” Malfoy says finally, turning away. Harry’s hand falls back to his side.
“I really am sorry,” Harry says in a low voice to Malfoy’s back. “None of those nasty things I said to you are true.”
“Aren’t they?” Malfoy says, voice ragged, and he sounds so tired that Harry has to physically restrain himself from reaching out to Malfoy again. Malfoy’s curled into himself like a wounded animal, and Harry's heart gives a odd little twist to see him this way.
“They aren’t,” Harry says fiercely. Malfoy doesn’t say anything. “They might have been true at one point of time, but they’re not true now. Not with the man you’ve made yourself into. You’re the owner of the most successful wizarding coffee shop in London. You’re the person giving Slytherins like you a second chance when no one else would. You’ve carved your own path, and you shouldn’t let anyone take that away from you, goddamnit.”
Harry doesn’t realise until he says it, but somewhere along the way, he’s lost the conviction that Malfoy’s Planning Something. Maybe it’s all those weeks with Malfoy, messing around in the lab and laughing over the antics of the Portraits, but Harry has stopped seeing Malfoy as a mystery to investigate, and has started seeing him as an actual person. An amusing person with ridiculous opinions and outrageous ideas, but a person nonetheless.
Malfoy stays silent, and just as Harry’s wondering what to do next, Malfoy finally says, “What do you mean, ‘giving the Slytherins a second chance’?”
“Oh.” Harry shrugs uncomfortably at Malfoy’s back. “I mean, they all wear shirts with their sleeves down and cuffed. I figured that these were the Slytherins that had taken the Mark. Which, I realise now, is incredibly presumptuous of me, but, er. Yeah.”
“That is presumptuous of you,” Malfoy says, and finally turns around. Harry’s heart clenches strangely when he sees how pale and tired Malfoy looks.
“Look, Potter, I think it’s best we call it a day. I know, I know—” he raises a hand to stop Harry before Harry can interrupt, “you’re sorry, and it’s not your fault that that happened, but I really need to be alone right now.” A flick of his wrist, and the wards dissolve in a golden shimmer of light.
“Right,” Harry says, but he doesn’t move. He watches Malfoy stand there with his head lowered, and fights the urge to break something.
“Right. Okay.” There isn’t anything left to say, so Harry just gets his things. “I really am sorry,” he says softly as he stands at the threshold, and then he lets the door swing shut behind him.
Harry fully expects that to be the end of whatever friendship he and Malfoy have begun to strike up over the months. He stays away for a couple of days, until he realises that Malfoy might misinterpret that as Harry believing that what he said was true after all. Finally, he steps into the shop on a Friday evening, which is when they’re at their slowest, and is surprised to find Malfoy behind the counter instead.
Malfoy’s expression doesn’t change, but he goes still and watches as Harry approaches.
“Hi,” Harry says quietly, and is startled when Malfoy gives him a welcoming smile.
“I didn’t expect to see you on a Friday night,” Malfoy says warmly. “How have you been?”
“Me? Oh, fine, fine,” Harry says, confused. “How, er, how about you?”
Malfoy waves his hand dismissively. “I’m done being a little drama queen. Which I’m sorry you had to go through, by the way. I can promise you that that won’t happen again.”
“I— Wait. Why are you apologising to me?”
Malfoy gives Harry a confused look. “I gave you a mis-brewed fusion coffee, and then acted improperly when you had no choice but to ride out the effects of something that I inflicted on you. Why wouldn’t I be apologising?”
“I— But—” Harry stares at Malfoy helplessly. This is wrong. Harry’s the one who should be apologising to Malfoy, not the other way around, but he doesn’t know what to say that would change the set expression on Malfoy’s face.
“Will you still come by tomorrow?” Malfoy asks. The hopeful note in his voice is unmistakable. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to anymore, of course, but I can assure you that I’ve performed tighter checks on the potions, and I’m almost positive that we can avoid a repeat of what happened.”
“Yes,” Harry says in a rush, in case Malfoy changes his mind. He can’t bear this version of Malfoy, who is being unnaturally polite and who talks to him so carefully like he’s made of glass. “Of course I will.”
Malfoy gives him another warm smile that makes Harry feel utterly rotten. “Great. See you tomorrow then.”
Malfoy acts perfectly natural when Harry knocks tentatively on the door the next day. He ushers Harry in as if nothing had happened, and chats breezily about what the Portraits have been up to over the last week, but goes still when Harry asks about the brews.
“I haven’t, I don’t,” he begins nervously, which is how Harry knows that things aren’t right between them. Malfoy’s never nervous.
“Will you show me what you’ve been working on?” Harry asks quietly.
Malfoy fidgets with his notebook, but brings out an old version of a Pompion Pumpkin Latte that Harry knows he had perfected two weeks ago.
“Not this one,” Harry says, very gently. “Have you been trying to fix the Confidence Coffee?”
“No,” Malfoy says after a moment, which Harry knows means yes, yes he has. And knowing Malfoy, he’d probably been working furiously at it all week too, trying to understand where it all went wrong.
“Can I try it?”
Malfoy hesitates. “Potter, I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
Harry doesn’t say anything. He waits, watching Malfoy twist his hands together in a nervous gesture, until Malfoy finally says, voice low and hesitant, “I don’t want to make a mess of things again. You understand right? We’re… we’re friends, aren’t we?”
“Of course,” Harry says at once, even as his heart does a strange little flutter against his ribs. “Of course we are. Friends.”
“Good,” Malfoy says, relieved.
But Harry carries on, “Which is why I think it’s important to test what you’ve been working on. Last week was bad, but it was a fluke. None of your coffees have ever turned out like that before. If I know you, which I think I do, you’ve probably worked on it the whole week, and I know you’re smart enough to have figured out what went wrong by now.”
“Bruised Alihotsy leaves. And a lower flame when bringing the potion to a boil,” Malfoy says slowly.
Harry nods encouragingly. “So let’s try out Version Two.”
“Version Nine, actually.” Malfoy shrugs when Harry gives him an exasperated look. “I wasn’t going to risk trying it out on anyone else until I knew I had the mix stabilized. And you know you would have done the same, so I don’t want to hear anything about it, Potter,” he adds, and Harry closes his mouth with a snap. He mines zipping up his lips, which elicits a small sigh from Malfoy, though he finally sets about putting together Version Nine.
The coffee, when Harry takes a cautious first sip, is delicious. The potion’s effects are subtle, so subtle that he doesn’t realise that it’s worked on him until he catches Malfoy watching him, a pleased smile on his face.
“Like what you see?” Harry says, and is surprised when his voice comes out a little deeper, a little more husky. He’s equally stunned as Malfoy is when he follows that up by giving Malfoy a wink.
Malfoy’s thrown off for a second, his face blank with surprise. But he recovers swiftly enough, and winks easily back at Harry as he says, “Absolutely. Did you notice you’re sitting up a lot taller? And your shoulders are thrown back instead of hunched over. How does it taste?”
“It’s so flavourful,” Harry says, sipping at it again. The coffee feels like liquid satisfaction sliding down his gut, and he closes his eyes for a second to concentrate on the flavour. “There’s a lovely crisp, rich flavour, with a hint of cherries, I think? It tastes a bit fruity. Maybe a bit of grapefruit in there? And something floral that I can’t pinpoint.”
“Hibiscus, to counterbalance the wormwood,” Malfoy says. “Very good, Potter. Are you up for a field test?”
“Always,” Harry says, opening his eyes and meeting Malfoy’s straight on. Malfoy holds his gaze and smiles slightly. He’s got a strange look on his face, his head tilted slightly as he looks at Harry, like Harry’s a puzzle that he can’t quite figure out. They look at each other a little too long, and Harry can feel his heart banging against his ribs as he smiles slowly at Malfoy. Malfoy’s the first to look away, his gaze sliding down to his notebook lying forgotten on the table, and that’s all it takes for him to snap back into business mode.
He puts Harry through a series of field tests, which ends, much to both their surprise, with Harry actually striking up a proper conversation with Graham the Grim for once. Graham eyes Harry suspiciously the entire time, but at least he’s answering with more than two words during the five minutes that Harry manages to keep the conversation going before the effects finally wear off.
“That went so much better than I could have predicted,” Malfoy says when Harry rejoins him at a table right under Queen Vick’s frame. He’s frantically scratching away at his notebook, his quill moving rapidly across the page, and there are ink stains on the fingers of his right hand. Harry doesn’t know why he’s noticing these things. Then Malfoy looks up at him and smiles. Malfoy’s face is bright and warm like the sun, and something catches in Harry’s throat.
“Great,” Harry says, his voice coming out strange and scratchy, and barely notices Queen Vick sniggering away in her frame above them. “That’s great.”
Things more or less go back to normal after that. Malfoy gets the necessary license for two more Restricted potions after the success of the Confidence Cafe Au Lait goes viral. The Daily Prophet writes a glowing write-up, and the Tattler Magazine proclaims him one of the Top Thirty Under Thirty Wizards to Keep An Eye On.
Harry has a good snort at the title, and then another snort at the photo that they’ve picked of Malfoy. Malfoy had firmly refused to be interviewed for the Tattler, which had put them out of sorts, so the photo that they’ve chosen for the article is an old one. A really, really old one. Somehow, they managed to uncover a photograph taken of Malfoy at an old Ministry function. The Malfoy in the photograph can’t be more than fourteen, with his hair slicked back and his cheeks still rosy and plump with baby fat. He’s still growing into himself, and there’s a large pimple on the end of his pointy little nose which he’s clearly conscious about, since he keeps holding one hand up to shield his face as he ducks away to hide in the frame.
“Did you see what those petty charlatans at the Tattler did,” is what Malfoy says indignantly when Harry comes in on Saturday, a spare copy of the magazine tucked under one arm.
“I’ve got the article framed up,” Harry says innocently, waving the Tattler at him and laughing when Malfoy makes a horrified sound.
“Potter, destroy that at once!” Malfoy squawks. Harry steps neatly aside as Malfoy makes a grab for him. He dangles the magazine just out of Malfoy’s reach, laughing, and Malfoy immediately fires off a wandless Incendio, his gaze sharp and focused as he points a determined finger. Harry yelps and drops the Tattler as it bursts spectacularly into the flame, soft ash raining down onto the pristine floor of the laboratory.
It doesn’t matter; Harry’s read and re-read the article so many times that he can quote it back almost verbatim. He grins at Malfoy, who narrows his eyes at him.
They get no work done that Saturday.
A few Saturdays later, Harry comes in to find the most intriguing scent wafting from underneath the door.
“Careful of the cauldron,” Malfoy says once Harry steps past the wards into the laboratory.
Harry stops short, staring. All the ingredients have vanished off the shelves, and in their place, flowers fill every available surface. Bunches of wild lavender line one shelf, while white roses fill another. There are multiple sacks full of flower petals that take up half the lab, and in the middle of it stands Malfoy, calmly monitoring the potions simmering in Cauldrons Three, Four and Five. There are double the number of wards over the cauldrons today, and the air is thick with a hazy golden shimmer as the steam of the potions mingles with the wards.
“What happened here?” Harry says finally, once he’s managed to find his voice. “Have you finally decided to give up on the coffee business?”
“Perish the thought. This is for Pansy,” Malfoy says absently, running his finger down a page in his notebook. Harry carefully navigates his way around the maze of flowers until he’s standing next to Malfoy.
The scent hits him again, stronger now that he’s standing right in front of the cauldrons, and he breathes in deeply, trying to identify what it is that he’s smelling. For a long moment there’s nothing but the quiet hiss of the flames as the potion simmers.
“Well?” Malfoy says once Harry opens his eyes again.
“It smells so familiar. Like broomstick polish...and treacle tart,” Harry says thoughtfully. “And something smokey. It’s probably one of those trial coffees that I’ve tasted or smelled before, I just can’t quite put my finger on which one.”
“Hmm, intriguing,” Malfoy says, and his long fingers reach out to gracefully pluck a quill out from thin air.
Harry watches as he writes something down in his notebook, worrying at his lower lip the entire time. There’s a particular lock of fair hair that falls forward to hang over his eyes, no matter how many times he pushes it back. Harry watches Malfoy shove at it impatiently, the cheekbones of his face lit up by the pale shine of the potion.
“Mhmm,” Harry says absently.
It takes Harry a second to come back to himself. “What? Oh. I mean, what’s intriguing?”
Malfoy pauses to look up. “Your tastes. They’re so… mundane.” He smirks, and goes back to writing. “Who knew that what the saviour of the wizarding world would find most desirable is broomstick polish, treacle tart and coffee.”
“You’re brewing Amortentia?” Now it makes sense: why Malfoy’s in an unusually serious mood for Saturday, and why he’s got double the number of wards up. And really, Harry should have identified it straight off from the potion’s distinctive sheen, but he was distracted by Malfoy and his damn fingers.
“Yes. Not to drink, mind you,” Malfoy adds. “This is Pansy’s great idea for her wedding. She wants me to soak the flowers and the petals in Amortentia so that the guests will smell all the things that they like during the ceremony. ‘Should make for interesting drama’, is what she said, but who is the one that has to pull this all together? That’s right, me.”
“So you’re basically making potpourri,” Harry says slowly, and starts laughing when Malfoy pulls a face.
“Basically,” Malfoy says disdainfully. He turns off the flames with a flick of his finger, and dissolves the wards over the cauldrons in another flick.
“How can I help?”
“Start scooping some of this out into those beakers over there. We’ve got to start testing how long the effects of an infusion lasts. We’ll try for an hour, and work it out from there.” Malfoy points out the equipment standing in a row at the end of the table, and Harry gets to work.
He finishes, and turns to set beakers aside when the Amortentia catches his eye. It seems to shine faintly with its own glow, and he brings a beaker up to eye-level to examine it more carefully. A dim memory of Slughorn lecturing them on it floats up from the dim recesses of his memory, on how the potion only creates obsession, not love.
“Be careful with that,” Malfoy warns from behind him, and Harry turns, only to find Malfoy’s face barely inches from his as he reaches for Harry. Harry’s so startled that his hand gives an involuntary jerk, splashing the Amortentia everywhere.
“Er—” Harry begins, except that Malfoy keeps going and reaches past Harry to grab one of the beakers lying in front of Cauldron Three. The entire front of Malfoy’s shirt is soaked, and the thin cotton material has gone translucent. The rest of the Amortentia runs down the glass, and Harry, still startled by his thoughts, and now distracted by the outline of Malfoy’s chest through his shirt, fumbles with the suddenly slippery glass.
“Oh shit,” Harry says, just as the glass slips out of his fingers and hits his leg before shattering on the floor. There’s a large wet patch on the calf of his jeans, and Malfoy’s staring at him, visibly annoyed.
“Goddamnit Potter. Did any of that get in your mouth?” Malfoy says, setting down the beaker and grasping Harry’s chin with a thumb and a forefinger. He pulls Harry’s head down and peers into Harry’s eyes, checking his pupils. Malfoy’s too close. Harry’s brain explodes with incoherent yelling.
“Uh.” Harry gently prises Malfoy’s fingers off and steps back, trying not to stare too obviously at the way Malfoy’s wet shirt clings to his chest. The distance gives him time to regroup, and his brain thankfully comes back online. “I’m fine. Just got a bit wet, that’s all. What about you?”
“Besides your successful attempt in ruining my shirt, I’m fine.” Malfoy glances down at himself and plucks the wet fabric away from his skin with a grimace. Harry has to turn away at the sucking sound the material makes as it parts from Malfoy’s skin. “Don’t Scourgify that, by the way.”
That stops Harry just as he was about to pull out his wand. “I wasn’t going to,” he lies.
“Of course you weren’t. Because you know that Amortentia is unstable and doesn’t react well with other spells or potions,” Malfoy says, smirking because he knows Harry well enough by now, and Harry has to bite back a sigh of despair.
Instead he says, “Right. Erm, so how do I…?”
“Let it dry, and then chuck it in the wash. A good bit of old-fashioned detergent should take care of any stains.” Malfoy’s already turned away with a beaker in hand, and has started placing handfuls of the lavender and white roses in the Amortentia. He fusses over the placement of the flowers until he’s satisfied with the arrangement, and Harry watches him and forgets that he’s supposed to do the same with the dried petals.
The smell of treacle tart wafts all around the room until his stomach growls. There’s a familiar aroma underlying it that Harry knows, but just can’t place. Malfoy hears his stomach complaining and looks up.
“Are you hungry? Do you want to grab a bite first? I’ll finish up and join you in a second.”
“Oh yes,” Harry says in relief. “Yes.” He escapes the workroom in a bundle of jittery nerves, wiping his hands on his jeans as he heads out to the front of the shop. Thankfully, the table under Queen V’s Portrait is free, and he slides into the seat, burying his head in his hands. He can still smell the damn treacle tart, even over the smell of the coffee roasting.
“What’s wrong?” Queen Victoria says, and Harry looks over his shoulder to find her peering down at him as she adjusts the ruffles around her neck.
“Nothing,” Harry lies, because he knows exactly how gossipy she is. Besides, the other Portraits are listening in, even though they’re all looking away and pretending they’re not.
“Keep your chin up, boy, it can’t be all that bad. Why, you’ve never known the agony of being rescued from a charity shop. A charity shop! Can you imagine? A painting of my pedigree, and not even afforded the dignity of an open auction!” The Admiral says comfortingly from the frame next to Queen V’s.
“What do you mean?” Harry says, surprised. It had never occurred to him to ask where Malfoy had picked up all the different Portraits, although he had wondered at the seemingly mishmash of the different time periods and styles of painting.
“We were seized by the Ministry and put up for sale when our owners disappeared after the war, except that none of us sold. Most wizarding folk didn’t want us in their homes when they learnt who our original owners were, and the ones who didn’t mind were all in Azkaban. So it was the charity shop, or the fire. Draco bought us.” The Admiral says it as a matter of fact as he smooths his uniform down, as if he were talking about the weather and not the end of his magical existence.
“Oh,” Harry says, letting his head fall back against the wall with a thump, and doesn’t know why that fact makes him even more miserable than he already feels.
“Looks like he’s in a bad state,” the Crying Boy says. He wanders into the side of Queen V’s frame to peek down at Harry, and is promptly chased out by a flurry of indignant shrieks from Vicky. This sets off another round of bickering between the Portraits. Harry keeps his eyes closed as he listens to them argue, and keeps on breathing in the scent of broom polish, treacle tart, and the smoke of freshly roasted coffee beans.
Then it clicks.
Harry starts, and jerks upright. “Malfoy,” he says wonderingly, just as Malfoy walks over with a plate of eclairs.
“Yes?” Malfoy says, setting down the plate and sliding into the chair, and Harry stares at him. Malfoy’s hair is washed in gold by the late morning sun that slants through the windows of the shop, and he smells exactly like everything Harry has ever wanted.
“Oh. Oh,” Harry breathes, and can’t stop staring at Malfoy. He feels unexpectedly defenseless, sitting here in Malfoy’s coffee shop decorated in Slytherin colours and crowded with Slytherin baristas and Portraits on the wall, and wanting it all.
“Words, Potter. People use them to communicate. You should try it some time,” Malfoys advises snottily, and Harry laughs a little bit helplessly because God help him, he wants that too.
Malfoy picks up his eclair with his bare hands and bites into it. He hums happily as he closes his eyes in contentment, and Harry has to look away. He doesn’t know how he makes it through Malfoy eating an entire eclair with such obvious enjoyment and his chest on display through his translucent shirt, but somehow, he does.
Harry eats his eclair mechanically, and abruptly chokes when Malfoy pops his own fingers into his mouth and sucks them clean down to the last knuckle.
“Potter, are you okay?” Malfoy says, alarmed, and Harry coughs and coughs until his face is red. Mercifully, the Portraits wait until Malfoy hurries away to get him a glass of water before starting up their teasing.
“Liked that, did you,” the Admiral says, his booming voice ringing out, and a wave of snickering runs through the assembled Portraits. Harry sinks a little lower into his seat and cough-groans.
Malfoy returns with a glass of water that he pushes into Harry’s hand.
“Thanks,” Harry says, wiping his mouth with the back of hand and carefully avoiding Malfoy’s eye.
“Do me a favour? Try not to let a French pastry kill you off in my shop. It’s bad for business,” Malfoy says. There’s a half-smile on his face as he says it, the right side of his mouth curling up into an amused look that Harry must have seen a thousand times. Harry’s certain that it’s never made his heart beat this rapidly until now.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Harry says, striving for calm and cool and collected. He mostly succeeds, he thinks.
“Well, if you’re done trying to pass beyond the Veil, shall we head back to the laboratory then?” Malfoy stands and stretches, lifting his arms overhead. The sunlight behind Malfoy has turned his entire shirt transparent, and Harry tries not to let on that he’s very obviously staring at the long lines of Malfoy’s body.
“Uh huh,” Harry says faintly, and rips his gaze away with an effort. He stands up mechanically, and dumbly follows Malfoy back to the laboratory.
He doesn’t know how he makes it through the next hour with Malfoy bustling around the laboratory, reaching up for things and bending over, while constantly smelling a reminder of Malfoy, but somehow he does. And then they’re done for the day, and Harry quickly makes his excuses and hurries out of the shop and away from everything connected to Malfoy.
Harry’s awkwardly nervous the whole week. Now that he’s conscious of this…thing, it feels like he’s constantly got coffee on his mind. He smells roasted coffee beans everywhere he goes, even when he’s deep underground in the musty basement of the Ministry packing away his files. It happens all week, and it drives him crazy to the point where he asks for a Healer to check if he’s been Cursed. The Healer unhelpfully pronounces him in the pink of health and sends him on his way.
The days inch away slowly until finally, Saturday rolls around. The Portraits quieten down as soon as he steps foot into the shop, which is not a good sign. All of them are watching him intently, so he goes straight to Queen V, who eyes him with a smug smile.
“Did you lot say anything?” he asks, and Queen V titters.
“What’s there to say?” she replies, and winks at him. In many ways, she’s his favourite Portrait out of all of them.
“Thanks,” Harry says, relieved, and heads to the laboratory. It’s Amortentia again today, and Harry has to suppress a shiver when the smell hits him, and again when he sees Malfoy. The laboratory seems fuller than it was last week, with stacks of flowers covering every available inch of space.
“Not much to do today, Potter.” Malfoy looks deranged and frenzied as he dashes around the laboratory with an armful of roses. All of the cauldrons are going at full tilt, and the air is heavy with the overwhelming scent of coffee and treacle tart and broomstick polish. “I’m going to be spending most of it finishing off the flowers for the wedding tomorrow. You can leave if you want to.”
“That’s alright. I’m already here. What do you need help with?”
“Ideally, acquiring a Time-Turner. Failing that, could you start chucking some of the Amortentia in Cauldron Six into some of the flasks over there? And then start putting the flowers in and put a timer for four hours.” Malfoy’s too busy to pay any attention to any kind of awkwardness that Harry’s sure he’s displaying, and for that, Harry’s grateful.
There’s a lot of work to be done and Harry throws himself into it. It’s menial, repetitive labour, and just the thing to take his mind off the way Malfoy touches his arm when he squeezes past Harry, or the way Malfoy’s arse looks in his jeans when he bends over to grab a handful of petals from the overflowing sacks on the floor.
It happens so frequently that Harry’s sure that Malfoy’s got to be doing it on purpose, and looks up in outrage when Malfoy’s left hand brushes up against Harry’s arm again when he reaches past Harry for an empty beaker. But Malfoy’s not even looking at him—his head is bowed over his notebook as he frantically scribbles away, while his left hand gropes blindly around the table. Harry helpfully slides the beaker into Malfoy’s empty hand.
“Thanks,” Malfoy says distractedly, and reaches out to absently pat Harry on his arm. Harry bites back a sigh.
The rest of the morning stretches on, indeterminately long. It feels like an eternity before Malfoy finally suggests that they call it a morning. Harry’s more than happy to escape the confines of the lab and the way his stomach flips every time Malfoy so much as stands close to him, and leaves the back room without hesitation.
“You look highly distressed,” the Admiral says when he catches sight of Harry’s face. “Is the courting not going well?”
Harry makes a strangled sound.
“Hush, Admiral!” Queen V scolds, while the other Portraits burst into a sudden cacophony of noise. Harry looks around to see if anyone overheard, but Malfoy’s nowhere in sight. It’s Aiden behind the counter today, but he had cringed away as soon as he saw Harry, and Harry’s pretty sure that he hadn’t heard. The smokey smell of coffee roasting is overwhelming out here in the front of the shop, and Harry shudders.
“I’ve got to go,” he says, more to himself than to the Portraits. They’re all too busy yelling at each other to pay any attention as he leaves.
Harry sends an Owl the next Saturday, pleading illness. He gets a concerned note back, with Malfoy offering to come over with food and potions. Malfoy’s tawny owl does not look impressed as it stands on Harry’s windowsill, watching as Harry scribbles out a lie that Ron and Hermione intend to pop by shortly with both, and not to worry.
He doesn’t expect to get a reply, and is startled when the owl comes back a short while later, tapping impatiently at his window. There’s a note wrapped around a vial. It’s a decaf shot for general fevers, aches, and sores, the note informs, and goes on to advise rest and plenty of water. Harry guiltily writes out a short note of thanks, and promises to pop by the following Saturday.
He sends it off before he realises that he’s committed himself to going back. Well, he thinks, at least he’s got a whole week to think up another excuse to avoid Malfoy.
In the end, guilt and a lack of imagination sees him turn up at the shop the next Saturday. He gloomily prepares himself for another tortuous morning, and opens the door to the smell of Christmas morning, six test beakers already waiting for him on the desk, and Malfoy beaming madly as he looks up from his notebook. There are dark circles under his eyes and ink all over both hands, but he’s practically radiating with excitement.
“Malfoy, you’re a genius,” Malfoy proclaims, and looks expectantly at Harry, waving his hands in encouragement.
Harry obliges. “Malfoy, you’re deranged. What have you gone and done now?”
“Pepper-Up Peppermint Latte.” Malfoy says excitedly. “Potter, your illness last week gave me a brainwave. Now, what do people get during Christmastime, besides disappointing gifts from friends and relatives who can’t be arsed?” He doesn’t wait for Harry to respond before plunging on, “The flu. And I’ve combined two things that people love in December: peppermint, and Pepper-Up Potion. Potter, this is a guaranteed best-seller.”
He’s so giddy with elation that Harry can’t help but get caught up in it too. “Malfoy, that’s brilliant.”
“I know!” Malfoy says eagerly, and beckons Harry over impatiently. “Come on Potter, we’ve got work to do!”
It turns out that Malfoy is still some ways from a best-seller. The first two versions make Harry’s eyes water as steam shoots out comically from his ears. It also makes his hair stand up from the top of his head, which sends Malfoy into hysterics.
“You look mental,” Malfoy says as he wipes his eyes. “So, so mental.”
Harry growls, but a little part of him is pleased that he’s the cause of Malfoy’s mirth. The third one goes down better, but still makes his hair stand up on end. The fourth and fifth versions eliminate the hair-raising and the steam, but turn Harry’s face an incredible shade of red. The sixth one sends Harry choking and grabbing desperately at the glass of water that Malfoy always has on standby.
“It’s like a Christmas shop threw up in my mouth,” he says, once he rinses his mouth.
“It’s the damn peppermint. It’s throwing everything off,” Malfoy moans in despair. Harry swallows and shifts in his seat at the sound. Heedless of the ink on his hands, Malfoy scrubs a hand furiously through his hair as he pores over his notes, while Harry takes a healthy gulp of the potion cleanser.
When Malfoy looks up again some minutes later, there’s a large streak of ink across his right cheekbone. “Okay, I think I have it,” he announces.
“You have, erm,” Harry gestures to Malfoy’s face.
“What?” Malfoy says, rubbing his cheek and getting more ink on it. Then he looks at his hands. “Oh, Merlin’s saggy tits.”
“Can I?” Harry says, and when Malfoy nods, he leans forward, bridging the small gap between them. Slides one hand up Malfoy’s jaw, and gently swipes his thumb across Malfoy’s cheekbone. He fully means to pull away, but he can’t seem to stop touching Malfoy. He cups Malfoy’s cheek, and rubs his thumb gently against Malfoy’s skin until Malfoy’s breath hitches. There’s a long moment as Malfoy’s looks at him, eyes wide and stunningly clear, and oh gods, Harry can’t help himself.
He closes his eyes and leans forward, and then he’s pressing his lips against Malfoy’s, feeling the shape of Malfoy’s mouth under his. Malfoy’s lips are slightly chapped from where he’s been nervously chewing on them all morning, and for one terrifying second Malfoy doesn’t kiss him back. Then Malfoy’s lips part. Harry’s hand still rests on Malfoy’s jaw, and relieved, he slides it to cup the back of Malfoy’s neck, to pull Malfoy closer to him. Harry kisses him hungrily and wonders why he hadn’t done this earlier, wonders why it had taken him so long to figure out that what he wanted had been sitting in front of him all this while.
It’s Malfoy who breaks the kiss first, Malfoy who pulls away. “Potter,” he whispers, eyes huge and startled.
“Oh,” Harry says, feeling his heart freeze.
“No, wait.” Malfoy grabs Harry’s arm. “You took me by surprise, that’s all. Wait.” He takes a deep breath to steady himself. Says, “When?”
“A while, I think,” Harry says miserably. “I just never realised until the Amortentia. I was smelling you everywhere for days after that.”
“Oh,” Malfoy says, and then smiles. His smile is like a burst of sunshine, radiant and warm, and it almost hurts Harry to look at him. Then Malfoy says, “Me too.”
“Oh,” Harry says uncomprehendingly. He stares at Malfoy some more. “You were?”
Malfoy nods. “My mother’s perfume, coffee, and the smell of your jumper.” He hesitates for a moment. “You smell like lavender fabric softener. I knew it was you the moment I smelled it.”
“Oh,” Harry says again, smiling slowly, his heart beating fast. He reaches tentatively for Malfoy, and Malfoy meets him halfway. Then Malfoy’s pulling him into a tight hug, and Harry buries his face into the crook of Malfoy’s neck and breathes in the scent of coffee and closes his eyes.
He thinks he was right after all. Malfoy was indeed Up To Something. Just not exactly the Something that he thought.
He thinks, Malfoy.
He thinks, Yes.