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Twelve Hours

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Harry took a deep breath as he stepped into the sharp late-autumn air outside the takeaway. The plastic bag weighed heavily in his hand, and the spicy smell of the Vindaloo inside made his mouth water. His neighbors had been raving about the place for months, but it had been just at the edge of his (lazy) walk range, and further than the perfectly adequate Indian between his flat and the nearest Apparition Point.

But the smells of this one, coupled with the weight of the package he held, told him that his neighbors had probably had a point, and he was looking forward to getting home and digging in.

That's when he saw it. At first, he was certain his eyes were playing tricks on him; there was no way Draco Malfoy would be dumping a bag into the trash bin across the street from the takeaway. It was a Muggle neighborhood, for Merlin's sake, and not even one of the combination Wizarding Muggle neighborhoods that had become more and more popular after the war. He took another breath, feeling the sting in his lungs, and blinked. And then he watched Malfoy's retreating back as he hurried up the stairs and into the large house.

The bell on the takeaway's door jingled behind him and shook him out of his stupor, and he turned and started hurrying back towards his flat. The more he thought about it, the more it made a strange sort of sense. Malfoy had been acquitted after the Battle, based on both Harry's testimony and Dumbledore's portrait, but had disappeared shortly thereafter. Harry knew he was alive; Narcissa was perfectly composed whenever she'd deflected questions as to his whereabouts. Harry knew her well enough to know she wouldn't be had Malfoy been in any sort of trouble.

And Malfoy living in Muggle London was pretty much the least likely thing anyone would expect, and so stood the least chance of anyone finding him.

Sense aside, it still left the question of why? Why was Malfoy living in a Muggle neighborhood? Harry was willing to bet that the building he'd seen Malfoy enter was rather like Harry's: an older house that had been chopped into flats. Which meant Malfoy was living with Muggles. Malfoy the Pureblood. Malfoy who'd never hesitated to throw the word Mudblood at Hermione whenever they'd fought.

Harry was fairly certain that the Malfoy he'd gone to Hogwarts with didn't know how to use a light switch, which made the entire situation even stranger.

His thoughts worried around the issue all through his walk, and required a concerted effort to set aside once he'd gotten home and dropped the takeaway on his counter. Luckily the growling of his stomach distracted him, and he grabbed a fork and dug in. Malfoy was a question for another day.


Thursdays meant lunch with Hermione, mainly because it was the only time during the week her schedule was free enough she could be pried out of her office. She brushed a kiss against his cheek as she rushed in to The Stirring Rod, their usual destination based on its proximity to her office and delicious soups, and sighed happily when he slid a bowl across to her. "Oh Merlin, you're a lifesaver. That smells perfect."

"I should hope so. You order it every week. You're just usually here to order it yourself."

She looked vaguely shamefaced for a moment before spooning the first bite to her mouth and closing her eyes with a blissful sigh. "I'm sorry. I would have let you know I was running late, but I got held up right at the door. Pucey wanted to talk about the referendum on the Rights of Non-Wizard Sentient Creatures. Again." She wrinkled her nose and took another sip of her soup. "He keeps trying to push the removal of the restitution addendum, and I'm getting tired of telling him no."

Harry nibbled at his own ploughmans, resisting the urge to say something like speaking of former Slytherins or you'll never guess who I ran into yesterday hauling out his trash like a Muggle. Instead he swallowed and asked, "Wouldn't that make it easier to get through the Wizengamot?"

"Oh, Harry." Hermione gave him her patented disappointed expression. "It's the most important part of the Bill! House Elves in particular have been facing slavery and discrimination for centuries! They have a right to recompense!"

He held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "Just asking; maybe it would be easier to get in later after the initial Bill is passed."

She sighed. "Later will turn into never. I'm sorry, Harry. No one seems to understand what Magical Creatures are up against in this society. They need every advantage just to break even."

He nodded, taking another bite. "So I'm not going to ask how's work, then."

Hermione laughed. "And I won't ask about Mrs. Malfoy, and we'll have a much more pleasant lunch."

Harry sighed, but said nothing. Of all his friends, Hermione was one of the more accepting of his friendship with Narcissa Malfoy, but she still didn't understand it. She hadn't accused Narcissa of trying to poison him when he went to tea like Ron sometimes still did. Or of leading him into a Death Eater trap like Seamus had. Hermione, Neville and Luna tended to just shake their heads and avoid talking about it, which was frustrating in its own way.

Especially when Hermione did the opposite and specifically mentioned it as something to avoid. It made Harry want to do things like tell Hermione that Narcissa's elf Blippy made tastier treacle tart than Mrs. Weasley. Luckily self-preservation kicked in, and he took another bite of cheese instead.

They ate in relative harmony for a few moments before Hermione broke the silence again. "How are things with you? How is Cassandra settling in?"

"She scares me."

Hermione laughed. "I'll take that as a good thing."

"She reorganized everything. She has a system she says, but now I don't know where anything is." When Hermione just laughed louder, he protested. "It's my bloody office!"

Hermione made an obvious effort to reign in her merriment. "Poor dear. But you do have to admit your files were a mess."

He sighed. "You say that, but I knew where everything was."

"But none of the Orphan Matrons did. Neither did any of the teachers. This just means that when you go on holiday next time there's a surprise Dragonpox outbreak, you won't have to rush back through emergency Portkey to authorize the funds to cover everything during their isolation period."

"Who knew Dragonpox season was September?"

Hermione gave him a look. "You mean the same September that marks the start of school when all the kids end up together sharing germs like little plague rats? That September?"

"We never had it in Hogwarts..."

"Dragonpox most affects the very young and the elderly. As you well remember from all the visits to the Healer in September."

He sighed. "At least all the fireproofing charms in the bedrooms and classrooms are up to date now."

Hermione snickered into her soup. "That's something you won't need to worry about then. And with Cassandra there, you'll be able to turn your attention to other things as well. Not just the business end. You know the Muggle world has a very good system of early childhood development training; you could take a few classes and spend more time with the children now that you're not stuck always doing the paperwork."

"Oh, I dunno. I thought I'd become a gentleman of leisure." He leaned back in his chair, knowing this would wind Hermione right up. "Sleeping in, spending money, that sort of thing."

Sure enough, Hermione's face took on a fierce scowl. "You can not just sit around and do nothing for the rest of your life."

"I won't do nothing. I'll watch movies."

"Harry—" His laughter broke her words off before she could really get going, and she balled up her napkin and tossed it at his head. "You are a wretch."

"You should have seen your face..." He took a breath, grinning as Hermione cracked a small smile of her own. "But seriously, I'm planning on taking a bit of time off, just to make sure everything is alright. Then next September, like you said, maybe looking into taking some classes."

Hermione nodded. "You'll travel?"

"Maybe. It didn't go so well last time."

"That's emergency Portkeys for you." Hermione's grimace was sympathetic. "And Japan is a long way away."

"I don't think my stomach has recovered yet." Hermione raised an eyebrow at his almost-empty plate and he laughed. "Okay, okay, I lied."

"So are you going to go back there?"

"I want to. Maybe not right now, but I feel like I didn't really get to see anything, y'know?"

Hermione nodded. "Well you saw something. I thought when you put that bus... cat... thing in the main playroom, you'd been spending too much time with Luna, but the kids all love it."

Harry just grinned. "Catbus."

"Yes, that."

"You really should watch it. My Neighbor Totoro is a pillar of classic modern Japanese culture."

"It's a cartoon about a flying owl-rabbit thing and a cat that is also a bus. I think you're exaggerating."

"Hayao Miyazaki is essentially the Japanese Walt Disney. You just don't appreciate it."

Hermione grinned. "You're right. I don't." She pushed her bowl away with a sigh. "It was good to see you. You'll be at dinner Sunday, right? Ron's making lasagne."

Harry nodded and pushed his own plate away, tossing a few Galleons on the table. "Good luck, hope you don't get jumped by Pucey again, et cetera."

"Take care, Harry. And you're right, you're past due some time off. Enjoy yourself." And with that, Hermione was gone in a swirl of robes and hair. As soon as she had vanished, Harry found his thoughts drifting back to his run-in with Malfoy.

He sat another few moments, before heading for the door himself. He hadn't been able to get spotting Malfoy out of his head; he found his thoughts wandering back to it again and again. It wasn't that he thought Malfoy was up to something nefarious; he wasn't going to take over the Muggle world. But Harry had to admit his curiosity was piqued, and now that Cassandra was handling the day to day aspects of his organization (and chasing him out of his own office whenever he did something to mess with her system) his days loomed open before him.

He'd planned on spending some time on that gentleman of leisure thing he'd joked to Hermione about; watching movies, catching up on the telly, traveling. But figuring out what the blazes Malfoy was doing as a Muggle filled him with an anticipation he'd not felt since the initial rush of organization of his charities.

The decision was made before he'd consciously realized it. He was going to figure out what Draco Malfoy was up to.


"Why do you think he's up to something?" Dean's expression was carefully neutral, and he spent a moment straightening the files on his desk before meeting Harry's eye.

Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He didn't think Malfoy was doing anything bad, but the need to exclude the possibility had sent him to Dean's desk at the Auror Office just in case. He regretted the urge now, however. Dean's expression made Harry predict weeks of piss-taking ahead of him. "I just... I just was wondering, is all. He's practically disappeared, right? What if he's up to something?"

And of course, he had to go say that. Bugger. Well if he was in for it anyway...

Dean's eyes crinkled slightly and he coughed, a sign Harry immediately recognized as amusement. "I'm afraid I can't send a team of Aurors to look for Draco Malfoy on a hunch that he might be up to something. We've had no reports of anything about him in probably five years."

Harry leaned forward at that; Dean wouldn't notice him laying it on thick now. "But doesn't that just seem odd to you?"

Dean sighed and matched Harry's position, leaning in across his desk until they were practically nose-to-nose. "Harry, I'm telling you this as a friend. No. It doesn't seem odd. There've been no reports of Malfoy doing anything, and I think that's a good thing."

Harry sighed, flopping back in his chair. "What if he's just good at hiding it?"

Dean's eyes closed slowly and he sighed. "When has Malfoy been good at hiding anything?"


Dean rubbed his face. "Harry, go home. Do... something. I know what this is about, Hermione told Ginny about your new assistant and your new piles of free time. You can't let the fact you don't know what to do with yourself send you off on a wild goose chase. Get a hobby or something. I'll see you Sunday at the Burrow. Now please get out of my office."

Harry held his hands up in surrender, retreating as quickly as he could. He was grateful Dean brushed off his questions, though he supposed after sixth year, everyone was willing to assume he was just back to his stalking Malfoy ways.

It was a matter of principle now. He was going to figure out what Malfoy was doing, and more importantly how he was managing it. He needed a plan.


No one had been more surprised than Harry when weekly teas with Narcissa Malfoy became a thing. After the war, he'd visited Malfoy Manor to thank Narcissa for helping him in the Forbidden Forest and to return Malfoy's wand. Malfoy had not been there, and he'd left the Hawthorn wand with Narcissa and thought nothing of it.

The following Tuesday, a large white eagle owl had brought an invitation for tea at Malfoy Manor again that Friday. It had come again the next week, and the next, and after several months the owl had stopped and Friday afternoon with Narcissa Malfoy had been a thing.

He hadn't told anyone at the time that he was regularly visiting Malfoy Manor. Even Ron and Hermione hadn't known he'd gone beyond that first visit, busy as they were with their own lives and careers.

It was nice, which was a description he'd never have thought to ascribe to anything Malfoy related a year ago. He thought Narcissa was probably pretty lonely. He'd realized fairly early on that Malfoy wasn't just avoiding the Manor while Harry was there; that he was gone gone. Narcissa had always deflected his questions; she was amazingly good at distracting him with talk about Quidditch.

But by then he'd found he was looking forward to his visits with Narcissa as much as he did Sunday dinners at the Burrow. He'd never have suspected her of having a sense of humor, much less one that delighted in shocking him to laughter. Or that she was as enthusiastic about Quidditch as she was. When he'd presented her with a season pass for the Arrows for her birthday, she'd thrown her arms around him in a rare display of affection, and gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek.

It had caused a lot of raised eyebrows and yelling from his friends when he'd started attending those matches with her. But by then, he didn't care. And even Hermione admitted she was an invaluable resource when Harry began the process of forming his charity.

After all, no one knew better than a pureblooded former High Society Matron how best to leverage guilt and solicit donations for the formation of a series of Wizarding Orphanages and a Primary School.

And she was perfectly willing to continue organizing the annual fundraisers, as well as pick Harry's clothes and help steer him away from any uncomfortable situations where he ended up cornered by fans. And by the manic gleam in her eyes whenever she dragged him into Twilfitt & Tattings, he guessed she probably very much enjoyed it.

He only wished he was better at getting information out of her... His most subtle questioning was completely ignored, and blatant asking about Draco netted him a smile and a change of subject.

He loved her, but he kind of wanted to kill her. Especially when he left the Manor that Friday with nothing more than knowledge of her adoration of Cassandra's filing system and taste in shoes. If not for the lemon bars, the afternoon would have been a complete waste.


Harry spent the weekend worrying over the Malfoy issue, but on Monday he still had reached no conclusions. He didn't want to talk to anyone else about it; he'd rather dodged the bullet already, as on Sunday, Dean had done nothing more than make eye contact once and snicker behind his hand. But the minute word got out that Harry was obsessing about Malfoy again, it would be nothing but well-meaning, painful interventions.

Hermione would likely set him on a Portkey back to Japan. Which he wasn't specifically opposed to, but would be a complete overreaction.

And so Monday morning, painfully aware of how close this was to crossing the line between curiosity and actual stalking, Harry Firecalled Cassandra to let her know he'd not be in that morning. At her eyeroll and "Take the week off already, Harry," he snagged his Invisibility Cloak and made his way back to the takeaway.

Harry comforted himself with the fact that it was a pleasant day. The street was fairly quiet this morning, meaning he didn't need to concentrate on not being tripped over. The sun was shining, and it wasn't too cold. He leaned against the alley side of the curry shop and yawned, rolling his ankles to ease the protesting of his feet at having been standing there for the better part of three hours.

What there was none of was Draco Malfoy. It had seemed such a reasonable idea the day before; stay by the takeaway and Malfoy would pass by eventually. Much better than trying to break into his building. Harry resisted the urge to groan in frustration when his stomach gave a low rumble. The smell of garlic and cardamom from the shop beside him was becoming more and more tempting, and he swallowed at the memory of the flavors exploding on his tongue the previous week. He listened to the sounds of the first customers going into the curry shop for an early lunch and began to wonder if Malfoy ever left his flat.

He'd just reached the point where he was ready to toss off his cloak and go into the takeaway himself when he spotted Malfoy walking up the sidewalk across the street. He was wearing black trousers and a white button-down rolled up to his elbows, ignoring the chill to the air. His hair was flopping forward across his forehead with each step, and the image was just so... casual, Harry almost thought he was looking at a doppelganger, proof that somewhere everyone had a twin.

Harry was so distracted by Malfoy dressed as a Muggle again that he almost didn't notice him crossing the street and approaching the curry shop. Harry ducked around, dodging a pedestrian yelling into his mobile, and dashed in the door behind Malfoy before it closed.

"Hey, Aanchal."

"Draco! Your usual?"

Malfoy nodded distractedly, wandering to one of the empty tables and leaning against it. He pulled a small notebook from his pocket and flipped it open, frowning into it, and Harry slowly inched closer, trying to see what was inside. He had enough time to take in the lines of familiar, neatly handwritten notes before the woman at the counter spoke again. "Your samosas. And some extra chutney."

Malfoy's head shot up and he nodded, tucking the notebook back into his pocket and digging out his wallet. As he paid, Aanchal began a familiar-seeming scolding. "You look tired. You aren't getting enough sleep."

"I'm fine. I've just been covering mornings with Mrs. Stark since Gwen left for University."

Aanchal waggled her finger at Malfoy. "She works you too hard. You're too skinny and you're getting dark circles. Come upstairs this evening, I'll feed you dinner."

Harry found himself smiling in echo of Malfoy; the scolding sounded exactly like Mrs. Weasley's. "Thank you, but I'm visiting my mother this evening."

Aanchal scoffed. "She's not caring for you proper, either, living on your own. And you'll be out late and then up at four to beat the morning rush. You need someone to take care of you."

Malfoy leaned across the counter, bussing a loud smacking kiss to Aanchal's cheek. "That's why I get my lunch here. My favorite Samosas and Scolding Special. I'll see you tomorrow, Aanchal."

Malfoy had his bag and was out the door before Harry shook off the shock of that encounter, hurrying across the street and back in the direction he'd approached. Malfoy kissed a Muggle? Let her bully him like Mrs. Weasley? Got up at four in the morning to go to work?

And then the last part sunk in and he slumped, staring out the window in the direction Malfoy had vanished. If Malfoy got up at four to go to work, Harry wouldn't find out anything by lingering in the neighborhood in the morning. He'd either have to follow him to work at four, or wait here at lunch hoping he went directly back.

Harry sighed quietly and waited for someone to enter or exit so he could sneak out.


It wasn't until Harry was standing, again under his Invisibility Cloak, outside a small brick shopfront that he stopped to wonder what the hell he was doing. Malfoy was inside, making coffee and serving tea to a slow but steady trickle of customers. Not only that, but every time the bell of the door signaled its opening and closing, Malfoy's laughter carried onto the street, bright and happy and strange.

Harry was seriously beginning to question whether this was some elaborate prank by George Weasley. The sight of Malfoy laughing and flirting with frazzled mums and ancient biddies, serving up biscuits and scones, his posh accent stretching into an even more plummy slice of self-mockery... Well, Harry had no idea what to make of it otherwise. Someone was obviously fucking with him.

He didn't want to think about how well it was working. After all, Harry had been standing and staring at Malfoy through the window for nearly an hour. He resisted the urge to bang his head into the glass, and instead turned to leave. He wasn't at Hogwarts, this wasn't sixth year, and he was not obsessed with Draco Malfoy.


Harry returned home and flicked on his television, flopping onto the couch with a sigh. He listened with half an ear before grabbing the remote and flipping it off again. He had no idea what it was about Draco Malfoy that turned his brain off and made him do things like stare for an hour.

He was almost certainly not up to anything. Living like a Muggle, of course he'd need a job. And making coffee and tea was somewhat like Potions, Harry supposed. It smelled better, at least.

Really, Harry was just curious, which was completely logical under the circumstances. How was Malfoy managing? Was he all right? Why was he getting up at four in the morning to serve tea to Muggles when he could be partying on the Wizarding South of France?

Partying on the Wizarding South of France seemed like a pretty good idea to Harry, especially at that moment, when his inner-Hermione was giving him an, 'Honestly, Harry, we're not in sixth year anymore,' lecture.

He spent a moment to curse Hermione, Cassandra, and his blank open stretch of free time. This Malfoy thing wouldn't be a Malfoy thing if he was still working. Harry didn't do free time. Everyone knew that. It's why his gentleman of leisure joke to Hermione shouldn't have worked.

He pried himself out of his chair and dug around for the pile of Portkey brochures he'd accumulated before his abbreviated trip to Japan. He'd get away, clear his head, and not think about Malfoy.


Harry picked his destination by dint of closing his eyes and pointing. But three days later, armed with a dozen travel books from Hermione, Harry found himself blinking into the sunny hallways of Barcelona's Portkey Authority.

The city was lovely. His lunch that afternoon was a sausage and potato thing he felt he could quite happily eat daily for the rest of his life. The day was warm, and the sunny streets were filled with flowers and birdsong.

It was as not-November as he could imagine, and in the best ways possible. And when he settled into the clean, smooth sheets of his bed, he was certain this was exactly what he needed to get his mind off.

He was less certain when he looked at the glowing hands of the clock at his bedside and read 3:14. His sleep had been restless, and it felt each time he dozed off, his mind jumped into gear once again, circling around and around.

Had he left his Floo unlocked? Maybe he should Firecall Ron to check tomorrow. What if there was a late flare-up of Dragonpox? Did he remember to sign the form Gringotts had sent? Cassandra should be allowed on all the necessary accounts, but he couldn't remember if he'd given final approval for the secondary. Would Cassandra remember that tomorrow was the day Luna was set to start painting the mural in the library? Luna had promised a Unicorn glade, but she would probably try to include some Nargles or something. Was he ready to have the Imaginary Magical Creatures discussion with some of the younger children? Did Malfoy even drink coffee? Harry didn't remember him doing so in Hogwarts.

He groaned when he realized he was thinking about Malfoy again. He didn't want to think about him, he wanted to enjoy Barcelona. Even when Barcelona seemed much more the type of place he'd expect to find Malfoy in than in a Muggle coffee shop.

Harry rolled over and punched his pillow. He didn't want to spend his vacation thinking about Malfoy, or the children, or even Ron and Hermione. He had ten days set aside, and they loomed long and sleepless before him. He should have made firmer plans to do something, rather than simply take in the atmosphere.

The entire trip now felt like a mistake. He wondered if Hermione would kill him if he showed up back home tomorrow morning. Glancing at the 3:58 now showing on his clock, he gave up. This morning.


He didn't intend to find himself back at the small cafe where Malfoy worked. It was raining, for one, and even with an Impervius over his Invisibility Cloak, the cold wet crept up his trousers until his legs and feet felt like blocks of ice. He was also pretty certain he had no defense against the inevitable stalking accusations that would come when Hermione discovered what he was doing.

The shop called to him, the smell of coffee and glow from the window made him want nothing more than to go inside and warm up. Only the thought of the hexing he'd face kept him from pulling the door open and walking inside. Instead, he hurriedly made his way back home. He needed to warm up and to think, preferably in that order.


The solution, when it came to him after half a bottle of Firewhisky, was brilliant. He stared at the bottle on the table before him and grinned at the sudden spike of clarity. Rushing to his fireplace, he tossed in a handful of Floo powder and shouted, "George! George!"

A few moments later, George Weasley's head filled the Floo. "What the hell." His voice was gravelly and he stared blearily at Harry. "It's the middle of the night. This better be an emergency."

"I need some Polyjuice."

After a moment, George shook his head. "I'm sorry, what? You need Polyjuice at..." He glanced over his shoulder, and turned to frown again at Harry. "You need Polyjuice at three in the fucking morning on a Thursday? No."

"But George!"

"You're fucking drunk off your arse, and if you don't get your head out of my Floo, I'm going to sic Angelina on you. Talk to me tomorrow when you're sober."

With that, George disappeared and Harry had to lean back quickly to avoid being singed.


Harry's Floo buzzed shortly after dawn, and he groaned and burrowed further under his blankets. When George Weasley tap-danced into his room, loudly whistling an off-key rendition of 'A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love', Harry tried to block out the pounding of his head and sent a rude gesture George's way.

"Don't be like that! You were happy to wake me up at three this morning." George sat on the bed beside Harry, bouncing a few times. "So tell me, what's so important that you need to buzz me drunk and demand Polyjuice?"

"Oh God," Harry groaned, as his stomach continued churning in time with the rocking of his bed.

"Bloody woke me from a lovely dream, too." George sounded obnoxiously chipper and Harry's brain thumped again in response. "Was on a bright sandy beach, Angie in a bikini beside me, Fred and Roxy were with Mum..." George leaned in on him, mouth near Harry's ear, and rocked the bed. "Just imagine. All that light, the waves crashing again and again and again and—"

Harry shoved a laughing George onto the floor as he dashed for the toilet.

When he emerged several minutes later, feeling less green thanks to a hangover potion, George was grinning at him from his position, reclining on Harry's bed. "Feel better, sunshine?"

"You're a right bastard."

"Mmm. I'll tell Mum you said that. Now, seriously, what's this about Polyjuice? Or do I just attribute it to you being drunk off your nut?"

Harry grumbled, rubbing a hand over his face. "It seemed a good idea at the time?"

"Reeeally. A restricted potion seemed a good idea at the time? I mean, if you were just looking to turn yourself into Father Christmas or something for the kids, that's one thing, but if you're looking to have some actual fun with it, I can help you out." And with that, George held up a vial filled with a familiar muddy-looking potion.

Harry's jaw dropped in spite of himself. "That's a restricted potion!"

George shot him a look. "The ingredients aren't, and it's easy enough to make, and you know I've got my Non-Poison Restricted Potions license because of the shop. It's why you asked me, isn't it? Besides, I like to keep a few bottles around, just in case. Livens up the sex life." And with that, George shot him a leer and waggled his eyebrows and Harry felt his stomach turn for reasons completely unrelated to his hangover.


George passed him the bottle. "This is a double dose. Let me know if you need more. Two things, though. One: I don't want to know. Two: I don't want to hear anything from Hermione. Right?"

Harry could feel the relieved smile stretching across his face. "Thanks."

"You're welcome. I'll see myself out." George hopped off the bed, and called over his shoulder. "Have fun!"


The bell jingled merrily over his head as Harry slunk inside the cheery interior of the small coffee shop and looked around. Half the tables were full, and Malfoy stood alone at the counter smiling at him. And wasn't that the strangest thing to happen to him in years?

"Good morning! Welcome to Tassology. What can I get you?"

Harry blinked a few times, hands stuffed in his off-fitting pockets (his neighbor was a touch taller than he was, and more lean, so Harry's belt was ratcheted tighter than he was used to). "Er—" he began, staring blankly at the pastry case.

"New to the area? Don't worry; we've most of the usual suspects. Except pumpkin. We don't have pumpkin spice anything, though why they call it pumpkin when it's just cinnamon and nutmeg," and Malfoy trailed off, wrinkling his nose. "But for that you'll need to visit the Starbucks two blocks up."

Harry felt a burst of sympathy. "Right? It doesn't taste at all like pumpkin!"

"It's ridiculous, really. They could call it 'apple pie spice' and people would say it tasted like apples instead."

A burst of laughter cut Malfoy off, and an older woman came through the swinging door behind him. "Found someone new to agree with you, have you?"

Malfoy flushed, but he sniffed. "It's an insult to pumpkins everywhere." He turned back to Harry and grinned. "So, what would you like?"

Harry hadn't thought that far, and after his conversation with Malfoy, he wanted nothing so much as some warm pumpkin juice. "Er, you've got me thinking about it now. Do you have any hot apple punch?"

"We do. Anything with that?" Malfoy gestured to the pastry case as he turned to a steaming pot on a small burner.

Harry approached the glass and peered inside. It was filled with small tarts, scones, and biscuits, and every one made his mouth water. He slipped his hand into his pocket, toying with the remaining Polyjuice, before he decided. "The blackcurrant crumble, please."

The woman smiled, pulling out a plate and serving Harry a portion of the crumble. "My grandmother's recipe."

Malfoy shot her an overly surprised glance. "Your grandmother is Delia Smith?"

She smacked Malfoy on the arm and grinned. "I don't pay you for your cheek. Give the nice young man his punch." And then to Harry, "That'll be 4.50, dear."

Harry slid the money across the counter, watching as it disappeared into the till before taking the steaming mug from Malfoy.


The crumble was delicious, tart and perfect when paired with the hot spicy sweetness of his punch. His chair was comfortable; the entire cafe was the very definition of cozy and inviting, with warm wood and comfortable upholstery. Had it been red as opposed to browns and creams, he would have thought himself back in the Gryffindor Common Room.

Harry wanted nothing more than to just close his eyes and let the quiet music playing in the background soothe him to sleep. Each time the door opened, the bells jangled and Malfoy's bright, "Good morning!" caused him to peek over, surprised once again by the strangeness of the situation.

Malfoy seemed to know everyone who came in. He asked about one customer's dog as he passed him a mug, made faces at a wriggling toddler while his mum was juggling her purse and a to-go cup, and asked after the friend of a dignified looking woman with carefully coiffed white hair.

In short, he was completely charming to absolutely everyone. When no one was at the counter, he and Mrs. Stark kept up a low stream of conversation that seemed to be equal parts gossip and insult.

He was surprised when he glanced at his watch and saw his hour was almost up. He pondered hurrying home, but was loathe to leave the comforting atmosphere. Instead he made a quick trip to the toilet to swallow the second dose of Polyjuice.

After washing his hands, he made his way back to the counter, needing something to get the taste of it from his mouth. Both Malfoy and Mrs. Stark grinned at him, the expressions so identical he was taken aback.

"How was dear Grandmother Delia's crumble, then?" Malfoy dodged the backhand Mrs. Stark aimed at his arm with a grin.

Harry smiled back, hesitantly. "Delicious, thanks. Could I get a tea?"

Malfoy nodded. "We've Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Oolong, and some herbals. And the House Special tastes a bit like PG Tips without being shi—er crap."

Harry laughed, while Mrs. Stark just sighed. "Earl Grey, please."

He took the small pot back to his table, savoring the smell of bergamot. He leaned back in his chair, waiting on it to steep, and realized he was relaxed in a way he hadn't been while in Barcelona or sitting around his flat as he'd threatened Hermione.

He spent a moment wondering at that. Barcelona had been lovely. Comfortable in the way a warm day after weeks of cold wet could be. But it was also alien for that, the strangeness of sun in November.

But this place, even with Malfoy, was comfortable.

Pouring the tea, he decided that maybe it was because of Malfoy. He certainly was guaranteed to put Harry in the mindset of his Hogwarts years. Though the thought of Malfoy in the Gryffindor Common Room made him choke on a laugh, and he took a quick sip of the too-hot tea to cover the noise.

Tassology was exactly the sort of place that seemed designed to appeal. The room was cozy, the customers all seemed to be friendly with each other, though for the most part they left themselves to themselves. There were bursts of periodic friendly bickering between Malfoy and Mrs. Stark, and jokes with whoever was at the counter.

And then Malfoy came out from behind the counter to wipe down some tables, and Harry lost his train of thought once again.

This wasn't familiar; it was strange.


Harry admitted he'd rather lost track of why he'd gone to the cafe and watched Malfoy for long enough he'd needed the second dose of Polyjuice. The crumble had been delicious, the seat comfortable, and the friendly bickering between Malfoy and Mrs. Stark was just comfortable. It reminded him of the good times at Hogwarts, when he was in the common room listening to Ginny and Seamus arguing Quidditch just for the joy of argument.

And it made him realize how much he'd missed that, with everyone being so busy and grown up. And it was odd to be reminded of it by Malfoy of all people.

But he'd gone. He'd seen. Malfoy was obviously doing quite well in the Muggle world. Working. Interacting with Muggles. Not using magic. Not being a giant prick.

He didn't need to do any more. It wasn't a plot (not that he'd thought it was) and the why... well, it really wasn't his business.

And then he cringed. Nothing was guaranteed to make him more curious about something than pointing out it wasn't his business. Even if he was the one doing it.

Harry stared out the window of his office, ignoring the clean desktop and the sounds of Cassandra talking to someone through the Floo outside his door. It was drizzling again, grey and wet and dank and a dozen other words he'd get if he asked Hermione.

He frowned. Cassandra had rolled her eyes when he wandered in this morning shortly after ten. He was mostly certain it wasn't Hermione she was talking to in the Floo. He was supposed to still be in Barcelona, and had he thought it through, he'd know coming in to work when he was supposed to be on vacation would likely get Hermione back on his case.

He just couldn't stay home. He couldn't settle. The gentleman of leisure thing sounded much better in theory than in practice. And while a weekend in front of the telly doing nothing but ordering takeaway was nice, it was nice because he knew he had work and life and things to look forward to at the end of it. With the end of his vacation months away, he was at loose ends and driving himself mad.

Maybe he could go back to Japan. He'd not gotten the chance to see Kyoto outside of the quick trip between the Portkey Authority and the Shinkansen. But his abbreviated trip to Barcelona left him pushing the thought away.

Dean was right; he needed a project. He just knew that none would hold his interest while Malfoy consumed his thoughts.

Only one thing to be done. He needed to talk to George for some more Polyjuice.


George had given him a look, but handed over an entire row of Polyjuice vials, enough for twelve hours. Harry found scavenging hair easy enough by discreet use of a few Accios while waiting on the tube. All in all, he was feeling much more confident when he entered Tassology the next morning.

It was as warm and inviting as his previous visit, though with the start of December, it had succumbed to the season and the quiet sounds of holiday music could be heard in the lull. He smiled, eyeing the pastry case as he approached the counter where Malfoy was chatting to the man paying for his coffee.

When the man moved away, Malfoy shot Harry a professional smile. "Good morning, what would you like?"

"The blackcurrant crumble."

Malfoy nodded as he bent to serve a plate. "Mrs. Stark says she got the recipe from her grandmother, but it's straight off Delia Smith. So at least it tastes good. Anything else?"

"Er," Harry had been planning on some hot chocolate to counter the coldness of the day, but as he eyed the crumble, he remembered his previous visit. "Hot apple punch, please."

Malfoy blinked at him, then shrugged and nodded. "Seems like a chocolate day, myself. But I'm not going to argue with the customers. You like the juice with cold weather, then?"

Harry nodded. "Just feels right. Nostalgia, maybe."

Malfoy's mouth twitched in a smile and he made a noncommittal noise. "That'll be all? 4.50, please."

Harry dug into his pocket and slid the money across, taking the cup and plate to the table he'd sat at last time. He could feel Malfoy watching him, and his shoulders twitched in response, but when he heard Malfoy greeting someone else across the counter, he sat and chanced a glance himself.

Malfoy looked relaxed. More than the flirting and chatting and chiding and Muggles, it was the thing that stood out. Malfoy had never looked relaxed, that Harry could remember. Even before sixth year, when he's begun looking like hell, he'd always been tense. His expression pinched in a sneer, brows furrowed, leaving Harry wondering how he could breathe around the giant broomstick shoved up his arse.

And a relaxed Malfoy was strange. Even his hair was more relaxed; short, but moving as he did instead of plastered to his head like a shiny white helmet.

Harry turned back to his crumble when he realized Malfoy was watching him, an amused expression on his face; he'd been caught staring. But out of the corner of his eye, he could tell Malfoy was still smiling.


"What are you doing, Harry?" He stared at his altered reflection, mouth full of mint after brushing his teeth to get rid of the taste of the Polyjuice. "You've lost the plot."

The voice sounded strange in his head, and for a moment he strongly regretted ever starting this Polyjuice thing. He spat into the sink and closed his eyes. He knew this was a bad idea. That going once should have been enough, that going twice removed all doubt that Malfoy was just... living like a Muggle.

As odd as that was.

Almost as odd as taking Polyjuice for the second time in as many days just to bask in the strangeness of the situation.

He was out of line. He was mad. He was... going to go back to Tassology.


He sat in the shop, staring at the crumbs on his plate. It was a busy morning, and the jangle of the bells at the door and the sound of the till were a constant backdrop. He couldn't help thinking about how wrong this was. Not Malfoy, but him, Harry.

He was officially stalking Malfoy, and unlike sixth year, he didn't even have the sincere belief (which had been proven true) that he was up to something.

Or not up to anything beyond having a job. Making friends. They were Muggles, but that apparently didn't matter to Malfoy anymore.

Malfoy was probably more comfortable in the Muggle world now than Harry. Or Hermione. And what did that say about them?

Harry looked around the cafe; the customers who seemed to be regulars looking happy as they read their books and ate their pastries. Harry tried to imagine what it would be like to know them as much as Malfoy seemed to. That many people, all entirely different, linked only by proximity and favored location for reading or studying or staring at their mobiles.

Because Malfoy did know them. Maybe not like he'd known his friends in Hogwarts, but he seemed to remember each of them. He made eye contact, asked about their lives like he was really interested.

Harry couldn't remember the last time he'd made a new friend, except Cassandra who was his employee and totally didn't count. He stopped reaching out to people after the war, made overly cautious by everyone attempting to use him, get something from him.

He wondered if Malfoy going Muggle was so strange after all.


It was on Harry's fourth visit to Tassology that he noticed a... thing Malfoy did, that seemed like one more pile of strangeness on top of the already present strangeness of Malfoy making drinks for Muggles.

"Yeah, I used to live in Jamaica. Can't you tell?" Malfoy gestured to his paler than pale skin as a girl waiting for her tea to steep giggled. "I had a boat. It was stolen from me by my first mate."

"Let me guess," her friend said, smirking across an open textbook. "His name was Barbossa?"

Malfoy's jaw dropped. "How did you know?" Several customers laughed as Malfoy leaned across the counter, his mouth twitching slightly through his serious façade.

"We've seen the movie, smartass."

"There's a movie?" Malfoy's shocked voice was surprisingly convincing, and Harry found himself laughing along with the rest of the patrons. "Not only do I need to get my boat back, I must find this movie and collect royalties?"

There was more teasing, but Harry let it wash over him and went back to his crumble. It was hard to process. Malfoy was funny. He was funny with Muggles, making a right tit of himself with his sense of humor.

Harry seriously questioned if Malfoy had been hit with an Obliviate or something, for his personality to change so completely. He had always been entirely too stuck up at Hogwarts, and anything that threatened his self control, or made him look bad, had incited his rage like nothing else.

Harry had been rather adept at it.

But if Malfoy was under the effects of a spell or hex, he'd not be visiting his mother. And Narcissa wouldn't be calm and... deflecty.

Harry sighed, frowning at his punch.


Malfoy's familiar voice came from close behind him, and Harry jumped in his seat. Turning quickly, he saw Malfoy standing, a towel in his hand, smiling. "No, sorry, no. Just thinking."

"Don't think too hard, you'll scare the crumble." And Malfoy winked—winked?—at Harry and moved on to wipe down one of the empty tables. Harry finished his crumble and left quickly after that.


Harry was surprised on Thursday when Hermione didn't seem to guess that something was going on with him. She'd given him the 'Honestly, Harry' look as she'd taken her seat across from him, but beyond inquiring sharply about his abbreviated trip to Barcelona, she'd let him alone.

Harry had never been more thankful for Pucey and the constant level of low-grade annoyance he directed at Hermione. She'd jabbed her spoon into the soup as if it were a weapon, and Harry wisely kept silent.

It was an awkward lunch, but with the Wizengamot's upcoming Winter Recess, Harry had somewhat anticipated Hermione's mood.

It wasn't until they were pushing aside their empty dishes that Hermione finally spoke again. "I'm sorry I've been in such a bad mood. I feel like each term I'm just beating my head into a stubborn wall and never accomplishing anything."

"The Wizengamot is rather stuck in its ways. But Kingsley's behind you."

She sighed. "I know. And I made certain the loophole they used two years ago to shelve the referendum was removed in this version. But it still needs to be presented on the bloody floor, and I'm getting so tired of them pushing me off."

"If they think you'll give up, they're bigger idiots than we know they are."

Hermione fidgeted a bit with her unused fork. "Pucey said he'd help present it if the Restitution Addendum was removed."

"Did you punch him?"

Hermione gave a surprised laugh at that. "No." Her smile grew. "I thought about it."

"Well, you can wait it out. If they push it back until Recess, you know Kingsley can always present it after the first of the year with the Minister's Business."

"Ugh. And half the Wizengamot will vote against it just because the Minister is presenting."

"They're the ones who'd vote against on principle anyway. You know that. Getting it on the floor, sending it to a committee, all you need is half."

Hermione sighed. "It would be easier without the Restitution Addendum."

"Well... Realistically, how much trouble would it be to include in a later Bill? As much as getting this one now with it?"

"No, harder. Giving them the opportunity to claim they're already dealing with the 'Creatures Issue' means anything further will be easier for them to ignore."

"Then don't worry so much about easier. The lot of the House Elves isn't getting any worse just because the Wizengamot is dragging its heels. And none of that lot has what it takes to out-stubborn you when you're right."

Hermione pushed herself away from her chair and came around, giving Harry a hug. "Thank you. That was exactly what I needed to hear."

Harry squeezed back. "Good. Just don't punch Pucey in front of witnesses."

Hermione laughed. "I'll keep that in mind."


Harry had just taken his food to a table and settled in when Malfoy started in on one of the University students sitting at a nearby table. At first Harry thought he was flirting, but then it came clear her name was actually Mary Jane.

After sparing a moment wondering who the hell named their poor child Mary Jane, Harry sat back. It seemed Malfoy was spending the afternoon interrupting her studying with non-sequiturs from the movie.

During a quiet moment, in the middle of wiping down the table beside her, he leaned in and passionately declared: "I said, um, Spider-man, I said, uh, the great thing about M.J. is when you look in her eyes, and she's looking back in yours, everything feels not quite normal, because you feel stronger, and weaker at the same time."

And she turned bright red and laughed and tossed her napkin at him, and he'd grinned and sauntered off, swinging his towel.

The situation went even stranger when Harry saw Malfoy stop by her table later, with a chocolate biscuit. He leaned in and quietly murmured, "You should hold out for that, you know. He wasn't worthy of you."

Malfoy's eyes met Harry's over her head, very briefly, and Harry turned back to his punch, painfully aware of the private moment he had accidentally eavesdropped on. When he looked up again, something about her expression was shaky, but she was eating the biscuit, gaze once again focused on her book. Malfoy was back behind the counter, and Spider Man wasn't mentioned again.


He hated feeling like he was stuck in Hogwarts rivalries. That every time Malfoy proved he'd become a better person, that he was shocked out of his comfortable outlook, and everything about his life felt suddenly unsteady. He'd stayed away from the cafe, just processing and spending his days playing with the children, anxious for the return of the Hogwarts Express and the reunion with the few living in the Orphanage who were old enough to attend.

It was amazing how they revitalized him. He didn't care if he was watched Toy Story eight times in three days, just watching their eyes light up whenever they reached a favorite part was worth it.

Cassandra rolled her eyes at him, commented something about him sharing the mentality of the target audience, and he felt perfectly justified in sticking his tongue out at her.

Even when his next visit, several days later, had been entirely ordinary, Harry was still torn.

Malfoy was nothing if not consistent. Except instead of consistently a bully, bad-tempered, snotty, sneery, and everything else, he was consistently charming. Funny. Harry couldn't see anything to hint he didn't actually like... everything. His job, his life, the people in the shop... and Muggle movies.

He wondered where this Malfoy had been hiding for twenty years. Or if he'd always been there, buried under worship of his father and parroting of his ideals.

He wondered if this Malfoy would have come up sooner, had Harry made an effort in first year. Or sixth. Or if it required the war and Voldemort living in his house and everything else that happened.

And then he cringed, because he remembered quite clearly that he'd seen some of the worst of what Voldemort did in Malfoy's house, and even when he'd kind of hated him, he never felt Malfoy deserved that.

But... Malfoy was Narcissa's son, as much as Lucius'. And while Lucius and Azkaban is something he still doesn't discuss with Narcissa, he knows she loves him. Loves Lucius and her son both, in a way he thinks of as being intrinsically 'mum.'

It's the kind of love he could see laying down her life for her loved ones in a heartbeat, without thought. What his mum did for him, and what he knew Molly would do even for Percy.

And he knew Percy had redeeming qualities underneath the stuffy git-ishness.

He wondered what it said about him that he was so surprised Malfoy had as well.


Harry was determined, on his next visit, to go in with no preconceived notions. He was just another random approximately Harry-sized bloke from the tube, going into Tassology for a morning cuppa, and not going to think about the people behind the counter as anything but anonymous people behind the counter.

He took his order to a table where he could see and hear everything Malfoy did, but without being so close he thought he was obvious about it. Then, he watched.

It was... rather like his first visit. Malfoy chatted and chattered with all the customers who came in; it seemed most mornings he ran the counter alone. Everyone smiled back at him, answered his questions as to their lives, and it was all... friendly.

Which was what convinced him that Malfoy wasn't pulling some elaborate hoax. He remembered things, even specific things like someone's relative having a doctor's appointment. He was generous with his focus, and genuinely cared about the people who came in.

And for all Harry was determined to have no preconceived notions, he remembered Malfoy well enough to know he was a shit actor. He couldn't fake these kinds of relationships.

It still didn't answer why he would want to. And befriending Muggles, serving them pastries, none of that was a starting point. Because it would take serious brain injury for the Malfoy he'd known when they were eighteen to want to do this.

Something had to trigger it. And even with no preconceived notions, he had no idea what.


Harry thought he was immune to the oddness of Malfoy and Tassology, but when he walked in and saw Malfoy behind the counter wearing a bow tie over his normal white buttondown, and with his hair slicked back like they were back at Hogwarts, he stopped short. Malfoy smirked at him from behind the counter. "Welcome to Tassology, what can I get you?"

"Er, I didn't know this place had a dress code..." Harry glanced around as several of the regulars giggled.

"It doesn't. I'm simply waiting for my poker game to start."

"Right...." There was more giggling and Harry shuffled toward the case. "Can I have some crumble, please?"

Malfoy gave a shark's grin, and passed over a plate. "It seems my Le Chiffre is late! Care to wager?" And he slid a pack of cards across the counter as well.

"Poker? I'm not—"

"Where's your spirit? It's just a game."

"Don't listen to him," a man with a laptop glanced over. "He'll beat you before you can blink."

"Oh, you hush." Malfoy shot an exaggerated glare in the direction of the table. "I'm sure this fine fellow is an excellent challenge."

"No, I really don't—"

"I'll deal." And before Harry could protest further, Malfoy was sliding the cards from the pack and riffling them like magic.

"I can't even shuffle cards without spraying them and you want to play me at poker?"

"Oh I'm sure you're exaggerating." Harry shook his head, but cards were flying across the counter before he could protest. "Tell you what, you beat me and that crumble is free. I'll even throw in something hot to drink."

"And if I lose?" Harry slowly gathered the cards to him, unable to entirely resist a challenge from Malfoy.

"Then you pay for your order, which you'd need to do anyway."

"It sounds like there's a catch there, somewhere."

And he was faced with Malfoy's patented overly-innocent expression. "What sort of catch could there possibly be?"

"Then why do you want me to play a game against you where I literally can't come out behind?"

Malfoy laughed. "Maybe I just like to win."

"You like challenges that aren't challenging at all then?"

"Of course! They're the best kind!"

Harry sighed, frowning at his hand. "It's been a while since someone called me a sure thing."

Malfoy's grin turned at that, and Harry winced because it sounded like he was flirting. He'd never been more grateful for Polyjuice in his life.

Malfoy eyed his own hand, tossing two cards down and taking another pair from the deck, then glancing expectantly at Harry. Harry shrugged, tossing down his two lowest cards as well, and taking the cards Malfoy passed him.

"This is ridiculous, you know."

"Shut up, I like to win."

Harry sighed, glancing around the cafe. "You do this to all your customers?"

"Mmm. Not all of them. But enough."

"Do I get to call my lifeline?"

Malfoy laughed. "Sure. As long as it's someone here in this cafe."

Harry scurried over to the man who'd warned him off playing against Malfoy, who took one look at his hand and said, "Just pay for the crumble, mate."

Malfoy's cackle carried across the room and he spread his cards on the counter. "Two pair. Not my best hand."

Harry sighed. "One pair."

"I win!" Malfoy did a little dance in place. "That'll be 3.25 unless you want a drink. Something sweet to wash away the taste of defeat?"

"Has anyone ever told you that you're a piss-poor winner?"


"Er, the apple punch, please."

"4.50, and now I'm back waiting for my greatest foe for the moment to come for a real challenge."

Harry shook his head, chuckling. Malfoy picked two other customers to play cards against during his hour, and the one who asked, "What, like Casino Royale?" ended up getting a free biscuit.


"And did you enjoy your vacation?" Narcissa sipped her tea, directing Blippy to serve Harry a slice of treacle tart.

"Oh, it was fine. I just decided that nice weather in November was too strange." Harry grinned. "All that sun was unnatural."

Narcissa smiled. "And how are you filling your time otherwise?"

Harry fiddled with his tart, shoving a bite into his mouth to put off answering the question. Something about Narcissa's expression made him edgy. She always had that way of looking at him that made him wonder if she didn't in fact know everything.

Or if she wasn't a very talented and unscrupulous Legilimens, which he already knew she was. Bugger. He kept his gaze on his plate. "Walking. Lots of long walks. And things."

"Oh? In December? Dear me." Narcissa took another sip of her tea, a small smile playing around the edges of her mouth. "Is the weather less... wet... in London, then?"

"Er, no. But... After the trip to Barcelona, I really just needed to... get back to it."

At least he didn't grimace visibly at that horrible comeback. And Narcissa was too polite to laugh. "I see." She placed her cup back in the saucer, so gently that it didn't make a sound. "You do know that if anything is... bothering you, you can come to me, yes?"

"Of course!" He could feel the hot rush of blood going up the back of his neck, and shoved every thought of Malfoy as far back in his head as possible. "You've been an incredible help, above and beyond."

Narcissa's earlier smile had shifted to a small frown, and she shook her head. "Well. If you need anything."

"Yeah. Anything." He nodded quickly, anxious to move on to safer topics. Like anything that didn't involve 'I'm stalking your son at his work because I can't get over the fact that he's not being a ginormous git.'

Narcissa finally nodded. "Blippy, more tea for Harry, please." When Harry's cup was once again full, she sighed. "I trust you."

Guilt crawled in his gut and he attempted a smile. "Thank you. I trust you, too."

"Hm. The Arrows versus Cannons match in March seems like a good game for the children to see. It's set for Bodmin Moor, and I remember two years ago they enjoyed the Muggle Leisure Park nearby."

"That sounds wonderful."

Narcissa nodded. "I'll contact Cassandra to make the arrangements. We should do well with a single box, and that would allow for the Weasleys to join, should they wish. I know they follow the Cannons."

Harry smiled. "I'm certain Ron wouldn't pass up the chance."

She grinned, a wicked expression that was so reminiscent of Malfoy's, and Harry could only stare a moment. "Of course. Never miss an opportunity to see the Cannons lose. Horribly."

"The one thing they do well."

Narcissa's laughter rang out, and Harry grinned in response.


Harry was so focused on not thinking about his visit with Narcissa that when he opened the door to Tassology to hear Malfoy saying "And then I was kidnapped by Australian divers," he nearly turned around and walked right back out.

He may have, had his backpedal not been noticed by one of the regulars sitting by the door. "Don't worry." She grinned at him, pushing a clump of hair behind her ear as she tapped a highlighter against her notebook. "He goes off on this stuff. Movie plots. He's not actually crazy."


But then Malfoy was looking at him, too, and laughing. "Come in. Welcome to Tassology. What would you like?"

Harry shuffled forward. "The blackcurrant, please." And at Malfoy's expectant look, he continued, "and the punch smells good."

Malfoy's mouth twitched and he nodded. "Got to be careful, this stuff will send you to the dentist. I don't much like dentists."

"Well, if you're abducted by Australian divers, I'd expect not." Harry replied, smiling as well.

Malfoy laughed as he collected Harry's money and passed across his order. "At least it's much too cold to worry about divers now. So I think we're safe."

"For the moment, yeah." Harry grinned. Then he realized he was joking with Malfoy. Again. "Er, thanks."

Malfoy just smiled at him, watching as he crossed to an open table. Harry could feel the attention, and he resisted the urge to hunch up, to duck his head down and hide.

He thought about what he'd heard when he entered, and thought Malfoy just might actually be a bit mad after all. It was as good an explanation as anything.

Or maybe he was, coming back as he was. Wasn't that the definition of insanity? Doing the same illogical things over and over again just in case there was a different outcome?

And it always had to be Malfoy. Malfoy driving him mad without realizing it. Driving him mad without even knowing Harry was even there. It had to count for something, the years at Hogwarts training Malfoy to drive Harry insane with very little effort.

He'd just mastered it. Fully.

At the sound of Malfoy's laugh, Harry turned and looked as he always did. It was such a joyous sound, and it drew his attention no matter how distracted he was. It caused a lightness in his own chest.

He just... loved seeing Malfoy happy.


Harry had become used to watching Malfoy out of the corner of his eye. But when he realized his gaze was drifting, not so much watching Malfoy as eyeing his shoulders behind the counter, tracing the curve of his arse while he ran the damp towel across a table, he fumbled his cup and sloshed hot punch over his hands.

And while Malfoy nattered on about zombies with evident relish (zombies being something Harry never could stand after the Inferi in the cave in sixth year), Harry wanted to watch, to listen, to smile like a besotted fool.

Which he apparently was.

And his stomach turned at a particularly gruesome description of climbing along a ceiling pipe with hundreds of zombies reaching for him from below, and he was certain he would need to go home and watch Kiki's Delivery Service and maybe play Kingdom Hearts or he would have nightmares for a week, but he still wanted to listen.

And if that wasn't the most fucked up thing he could possibly imagine.

Almost as fucked up as thinking Malfoy, of all people, was fit.

He finished his drink in a rush, trying to not listen to Malfoy talking about zombie dogs for Merlin's sake, and hurried out of Tassology. He glanced back inside through the window as he opened his umbrella in the drizzle, to see Malfoy watching him. He blushed, grateful that he was under Polyjuice and Malfoy would never know.

Malfoy could never find out.


After his epiphany, Harry was a wreck. He'd found himself returning to the cafe four days later entirely by habit. Well, habit and the complete inability to stay away any longer.

Unfortunately, when Malfoy smiled brightly at him and asked his order, he'd turned as red as Ron's hair, spun on his heel and exited.

Some Gryffindor he was.


Harry pushed down the guilt as he entered Tassology to Malfoy's familiar greeting. No matter how many times he told himself he was being an arse, that he was taking advantage and Malfoy would doubtless hex him or worse if he found out, Harry just couldn't stay away.

He knew he looked guilty, which was the bad part. Malfoy had given him an odd look when he paid for his food and he scurried to a table in the corner.

Luckily, business was brisk, and Malfoy had his hands full serving a steady stream of to go cups to customers looking for a few minutes out of the sleet.

He was so patient. It always struck Harry as odd, even though he knew, intellectually, Malfoy had done well in the classes requiring patience in Hogwarts; classes Harry had not. But even if Malfoy was almost as much a swot as Hermione, he couldn't imagine Hermione serving up cup after mug after plate, all with evident enjoyment and a genuine smile.

And telling mad stories, too. Harry shook his head, wondering why Malfoy was talking about capes and caves and his night work keeping London safe from evil-doers in bad makeup.

He thought back on his earlier notion: that Malfoy was mad. And then he shook his head. After the weeks he'd been coming here, he couldn't even come up with convincing excuses anymore. Malfoy was here because he liked it. He told mad stories because he liked making people laugh. He liked making people happy.

Harry realized Malfoy was watching him, probably wondering why Harry was staring. Harry felt the color heat his cheeks, and Malfoy smiled at him. Smiled at him, with his own face flushed and eyes still sparkling with mirth from his laughter.

Malfoy wasn't fit. Harry wasn't besotted. Malfoy was the most fucking gorgeous thing Harry could imagine, and Harry was so well past besotted, he might as well set up a tent in arse-over-tit-town. Because he was. Over Malfoy.

Ron was going to have kittens. If Harry ever got up the nerve to drop the Polyjuice.

Harry grimaced as his stomach gave a nervous flip. On second thought, Ron would be fine.


Harry stared at the last vial of Polyjuice. It was his neighbor, again, it seemed somehow fitting. He knew he should say something; that getting another dozen vials from George wasn't really an option. But Malfoy was so... friendly. And he knew he wouldn't be if he knew it was Harry coming.

He sighed, downing the vial and shuddering through the now-familiar sensation of becoming someone else. Once it completed, he fidgeted around his flat a few moments before taking a deep breath. Steeling himself, he Apparated to the Point near Tassology. The weather was vile, and he ran across the street and pushed his way inside.

He promptly regretted the Polyjuice, as Mrs. Stark was alone behind the counter, gossiping across the shop to one of the regulars. He was still standing there when she looked over at him, her usual welcoming smile on her face, and then he felt a hand on his shoulder.

He startled, turning quickly and staring into Malfoy's amused expression. "Sorry to keep you waiting. I know this is a bit out of the way for you, but I'm ready to go if you are."

A repeated litany of 'oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck' echoed in his head as Malfoy waved goodbye to Mrs. Stark. He allowed Malfoy to steer him back out the door and into the sleet. Malfoy swung a large black umbrella over their heads, and leaned in to Harry with a smile. Anyone passing would think they were a couple, though Malfoy's grip on his arm was tight enough to bruise.

They said nothing as they walked back to what Harry recognized as Malfoy's flat. Malfoy handed him the umbrella and fumbled with the lock, still not releasing Harry's arm. Finally, there was a click and Malfoy shouldered the door open, leading Harry into the dim landing.

"Upstairs. First door on the right." Malfoy's voice was quiet, and Harry glanced at him and saw the amused smile had faded to a shadow of his Hogwarts tension. He nodded and started up the stairs. He waited at the indicated door for Malfoy to unlock it as well, and entered when Malfoy pushed it open.

Malfoy followed, shutting the door and pulling out his wand before murmuring a Lumos at the lamps. "How much longer before the Polyjuice wears off?"

Harry blinked, and cursed the flush rising up the back of his neck. "Half an hour?"

Malfoy nodded, wandering further into the flat and through a doorway. "Pumpkin juice? I can warm it if you like. Better than that apple punch you keep drinking."

Harry grimaced. "I didn't realize it was so unusual."

"With blackcurrant crumble?" Malfoy's voice was raised and Harry heard clattering from the kitchen. "You've been in, what? A dozen times, give or take one or two for actual Muggles who could conceivably have the same order."

"How did you--?"

Malfoy came back into the lounge, two steaming mugs levitating behind him and pulled the notebook Harry had seen Malfoy looking through at the takeaway from his pocket. "I make note of all the customers and orders. Remembering people and their favorites makes for good tips."


Malfoy laughed. "Yes. Oh. And a sudden influx of the same order, almost never with the same face, arriving several times a week? Polyjuice." He collapsed onto his couch, the cups coming to rest on an end table, and then beckoned impatiently. "Come in. Sit down. I think I deserve an explanation."

Harry realized he was still hovering in the entry and took a few more steps into the flat. It reminded him surprisingly of his own, with a large television and gaming system against the wall opposite the couch, and a stereo in the corner beside two overstuffed bookshelves.

Then he looked again, and the differences appeared. For one, Malfoy had an Xbox, whereas Harry preferred his Playstation. The second thing, which he wanted to kick himself for, was more obvious once he'd noticed. Each power cord was coiled neatly beside its device.

Harry's eyes scanned the room. The television, the stereo, even the lamps were sitting neatly beside their cords. Harry glanced at the wall and noticed all the light switches were also turned to the off setting as well.

"Problem?" Malfoy's voice was irritated and snapped Harry's focus back in an instant.

"No, just. No."

"How did you find me?"

Harry took one of the mugs, cradling the heat in his hands and sat on the couch as well. "Chance. I was at the takeaway and saw you. Thought I'd imagined it at first, but..."

Malfoy grimaced briefly. "Ah. And with Aanchal, it was easy enough to learn where I worked."

Harry nodded.

"So, curiosity? That's it?" Malfoy smirked and Harry felt his blush return as his heart pounded.

"At first, yeah."

Malfoy's smirk at that grew to a full grin, and Harry's breath caught. "I thought so. Delia Smith's crumble recipe can't be good enough to merit you eating it four times a week on its own."

"It's a really good crumble."

Malfoy laughed. "If you say so. I never could stand blackcurrant, myself. You should try the chocolate sometime. You know, without the Polyjuice." And he lifted his hand, letting his fingers skate across Harry's cheek.

Harry was suddenly, painfully, aware of two things. One, his neighbor's cock really didn't fit into Harry's denims, and two, he had never hated Polyjuice as much as at that moment.

Malfoy leaned in, running his nose teasingly against Harry's cheek where his hand had been a moment earlier. Harry turned his head slightly, and their lips touched. He pulled back briefly, watching as Malfoy's pale eyelashes fluttered open. His pupils were dilated, so wide that the grey was a faint ring around the pupil and Harry groaned, leaning in again.

This time the kiss was much less brief; Malfoy's mouth parted eagerly, and his tongue brushed against Harry's lip. It was almost amazing; only Harry was constantly aware of how strange it was. His nose was in the wrong place, bumping into Malfoy's in a way that just felt... off. And he couldn't remember the last time he'd kissed someone without his glasses jamming into his nose or eyes before removing them. Even the inside of his teeth felt wrong.

"Wait. Wait." Harry pushed Malfoy back, and shook his head. "This feels wrong."

Malfoy jerked back at that, as if he'd been slapped, and Harry saw the flush bleed from his face, leaving nothing but a facsimile of his sixth-year self, and his voice came out hard and sneering. "Well, I'm sorry it was so bad for you."

Harry grimaced. "I didn't mean... It's the Polyjuice. Nothing is where it should be and it's throwing me off."

There was a pause while Malfoy frowned at him, before his posture finally started to relax. "Never snogged someone while using Polyjuice? I suppose that would feel strange."

Harry nodded. "Not bad. Not at all bad. Just distracting."

Malfoy's eyes wandered down his chest, and then lingered on the uncomfortable bulge in his trousers. "Not too distracting." His expression warmed once again, and he gave Harry a sympathetic smirk. "Finish your pumpkin juice."

Harry sipped the juice. It was still warm, and he realized Malfoy must have spelled it to remain so. "Do you do this at the cafe as well? Keep drinks warmer just a bit longer?"

Malfoy laughed. "That would count as Improper Use in front of Muggles. The last thing I want is a bunch of Aurors on my doorstep."

"I notice you're not denying it."

Malfoy took a long drink of his pumpkin juice, before leaning back comfortably against the cushions of the sofa.

Harry shook his head and sighed, finishing his pumpkin juice. He had just placed it back on the table when he felt the tell-tale twitching in his extremities that signaled the end of the Polyjuice's duration.

Malfoy watched him, an amused smile on his face, as his body began to change. Harry closed his eyes, grimacing as everything shifted and resettled.

"What the fuck? Potter?"

Harry fumbled his glasses out of his coat pocket and put them on, in time to see Malfoy jump up from the couch and take aim with his wand. "What the fuck?"

"What are you playing at, Potter?" Malfoy spat the words with all the venom of long practice, and Harry stared a moment before standing, arms out.

"What do you mean, what am I playing at? You dragged me back to your flat because you knew I was using Polyjuice."

"I didn't think it was you, you bastard."

Harry's stomach sank as Malfoy's words sunk in. "You didn't know it was me and you kissed me anyway?"

"Yes, but you... Shut up! I don't know what game you're playing with me, but I don't want anything to do with it."

"I'm not playing any game." Harry scrubbed a hand through his hair, ignoring the wand Malfoy was still pointing at him. "I thought you realized it was me when you first said Polyjuice."

The wandtip wavered slightly, though Malfoy was still hiding behind it. "I thought it was Theo. Or Blaise. Or... or one of my friends coming back."

"So you just... snog your friends without knowing who they are?"

"They were—You were nice to me! And smart. And... and funny. And you kept coming back. And you liked me...." Malfoy's expression had crumpled, but he straightened and steadied his wand. "I want to know what you're playing at, Potter."

"I told you, I'm not—"

"You hate me. You would never come to that stupid Muggle cafe and drink punch if you didn't want to get something from it."

"I..." Harry groaned. "Merlin, why the fuck do you need to be so difficult? I was just curious, okay? And then you were nice to Muggles and I wondered!"

"Because I can't change?"

"Because you grew up! And you were... God." Harry wanted to yell. Wanted to punch Malfoy. Wanted to grab the front of his stupid buttondown shirt and pull him in to another snog, a real snog, until he shut up. "You're fucking fit and funny and nice and I liked it."

Malfoy stared at him another moment, shock suffusing his features, and his wand hand dropped to his side. "You... liked it?"

"I liked it. I... like you."

"I... You..." Malfoy blinked and glanced around his flat, gaze skittering across the walls and away from Harry. "Do you have any idea how strange you sound right now? This entire thing is? You, here, saying you like me when you've hated me for years. Have you taken any recent Bludgers to the head? Brains scrambled by Dark Curses?"

Harry watched Malfoy carefully. Something in his gut had twisted at Malfoy's words, but the trembling and lack of eye contact gave him pause. "What did you mean about your friends coming back?"


"You said you kissed me because you thought I was your friends coming back. What did you mean?"

"That's none of your fucking business, Potter."

Malfoy's wand rose again, but he continued avoiding Harry's eyes, so Harry pushed on. "Did they disappear after the war? I know Goyle was given a term in Azkaban, but what about the rest of them?"

"I said that was none of your fucking business."

"Did they all disappear then? Leave the country and leave you here? Is that why you went Muggle?"

"Fuck you. You know nothing."

"I would if you told me."

Malfoy looked at him finally, his brow furrowed and his expression bleak. "I wanted to see. Everything I thought I knew was a lie. I needed to see. It was... it was easier. Pansy, Blaise, Theo... They all left, with their families. They had relatives elsewhere they could go to, could get away from London. I couldn't leave Mother, but I couldn't stay there. Everyone... No one wanted me there, and I need to learn...."

"Learn what could have been destroyed?"

Malfoy nodded. "We were so wrong. And I didn't realize it until it was too late."

"So this...? Is it supposed to be some sort of penance?"

Malfoy's gaze dropped again, and he pocketed his wand. "Maybe at first. Yes, I think so. But it just... It was easier, after a while. I have friends, and Muggles are really interesting."

"I think you did good." Harry reached out, squeezing Malfoy's arm. "Really. I don't think any of your friends could have done this."

"They didn't want to." Malfoy glanced back up at Harry, but didn't move away from his grasp. "I thought they might change their minds, I thought one of them had. That they—you—were there with the Polyjuice to try it."

Harry gave a faint smile at that. "I'm sorry to disappoint you."

Malfoy flushed again, color crawling from his cheeks and ears down his neck. "I'm not disappointed. But..." He gave a painfully embarrassed laugh. "I wasn't expecting to kiss Harry Potter and not realize it. Like half of my sixth year wank fantasies and fifth year nightmares all rolled into one."

Harry laughed at that, even as he felt heat climbing his own neck. "Oh, er... Do I say I'm glad or I'm sorry?"

Malfoy gave a small smile at that. "You could apologize for the Polyjuice. Not just coming out and saying it was you. Or just coming as Harry Potter in the first place."

"I was certain I'd be hexed."

"Not in front of the Muggles!" Malfoy sounded scandalized. "I'd have spat in your coffee." And at that, his grin went sharp and bright and familiar in the way it had become over the past weeks. Harry's heart gave a thump.

"That would be rude. And Mrs. Stark was there; you wouldn't do that in front of your employer."

"That assumes I'd get caught. I don't hear you apologizing."

"I'm not sorry." Harry gave Malfoy's arm another squeeze before sliding his hand up to rest higher, fingers just touching the sharp jut of jaw. "If I'd come as Harry Potter, we'd be stuck back in Hogwarts, and you wouldn't have kissed me."

Malfoy's gaze dropped at that, resting on Harry's mouth with a pressure he could almost feel, and he licked his lip in response. Malfoy's breath caught, and he darted forward, pressing his lips against Harry's once again, sucking Harry's lower lip into his mouth to trace it again with his tongue.

Harry moaned in response, letting his hand slide back, feeling the silky strands of Malfoy's – or should it be Draco now that Harry was sliding his tongue, his real tongue, into his mouth? – hair tickling against his fingers.

This was all that the kiss earlier hadn't been. Draco's mouth was hot, slick, and Harry moaned again as he pulled Draco closer, until they were flush. Malfoy's lean angles were sharp against him, chins bumping, noses brushing, knees knocking as they pushed and pulled each other, anything to get closer.

Before Harry realized what was happening, the back of his knees hit the couch and he tumbled backwards, breathless when Draco landed on top of him, the kiss breaking in the fall. There was a moment of surprise, Draco's face was dazed and his lips darkened from kisses, and so very close before Harry was pulled forward again, this time laying a kiss against the turn of Draco's jaw.

Draco whimpered, actually whimpered, and twisted his fingers tight in Harry's hair, turning his head and slotting their mouths together again. Harry reached up long enough to fumble off his glasses, dropping them on the couch beside him.

Harry's brain seemed to have short-circuited somewhere. He felt almost divorced from himself, as if there was a small bit of his mind panicking in the background. He was flat on his back on Draco's couch; Draco crouched above him, with his tongue down Harry's throat.

He understood Malfoy's earlier shock. If anyone told him he'd be in this position even a month ago, he'd have hexed them.

And, oh Merlin, Draco pressed hard on Harry's lap and rocked, and Harry could feel the hard ridge of Draco's cock against his. Then he was moving before he'd even registered, his fingers scrambling on Draco's chest, fumbling the buttons on his stupid shirt, tugging and pulling until it finally opened and he yanked it up fully from Draco's trousers.

Draco moaned, rocking again, pulling away from Harry's mouth to latch onto his neck, sucking and licking and biting and Merlin but that rocking thing was going to be the death of Harry. It was going to do him in right there. His hands slid across Malfoy's smooth skin, gripping tightly only to release and slide again. He was whipcord lean, and Harry could feel the muscles in his stomach clench and release with every rub of his cock against Harry's.

Of course, Harry realized he'd started rocking back. Sometime around when Draco released Harry's neck (leaving it feeling bruised, was he a vampire?) and moved back to his mouth, Harry managed to coordinate his hands well enough to wrench open Draco's flies. The noise Draco made at that, pausing in his mauling to push up, releasing Harry's hair to reach down with one hand and attempt to work Harry's jeans, caused Harry's hips to thrust in spite of himself.

Not that he was complaining. He did halt his reach into Draco's pants to unfasten his own, since Draco was being entirely useless at it.

It was awkward, uncomfortable. He managed amidst the snogging to wrestle their trousers and pants down below their hips, far enough to free both cocks and bollocks. Draco seemed incapable of releasing his mouth, it was all the slide of tongue on tongue, and then the slide of their cocks and it didn't matter so much that he was gasping half breaths through his nose, or Draco's fingers in his hair were pulling too tightly. Harry's hand was tight, squeezing their cocks together, and it was heaven.

He'd lost track of time, the panicking voice silenced by heat and rub and yes, when Draco pulled back, gasping. Harry blinked, vision blurry without his glasses, and watched as Draco arched against him, trembling, his mouth open and eyes closed, and he felt the wet spray of release strike his stomach over his shirt.

He spared a moment to grimace, wishing he'd thought to remove his shirt, when Draco sat up fully, pulling away from Harry's hand. He settled himself on Harry's lap and batted Harrys' hand away from his cock. Draco's hand was smooth, his grip tighter than was Harry's wont. His arm moved fast, too fast, pulling Harry over the edge.

When Harry opened his eyes, it was to Draco gently replacing his glasses. He blinked through the smudges, and gave a sated smile, which was tentatively returned. "Your shirt's a bit of a mess."

Harry realized he was lying on Draco's couch, his spent cock hanging out, and Draco was in much the same state. He felt thoroughly debauched in all the best ways and he reached up to wipe his hand on Draco's shirt. "Now we're even."

"Git." Draco's tone was fond and entirely lacking in heat, and the slow smile he gave caused Harry's stomach to flip. He levered himself up and reached out, pulling Draco in. He pressed a soft kiss against Draco's kiss-swollen lips, cock twitching when Draco immediately melted into it.

"Some things don't change. Got a problem with that?"

Draco pulled back, his gaze skittering over Harry's face, and his expression nervous. "Some things do change."

Harry knew where Draco was going with that, and he spared a thought for his friends. To say they wouldn't understand his falling for Draco Malfoy was an understatement. He'd talk to Nev and Luna, and maybe Hermione would help with Ron. But he'd cross that bridge when he came to it, for now he toyed with Draco's hair and smiled. "We're not in Hogwarts anymore. I like this better."

Draco's lips twitched, and a flush spread across his face and chest. "You should come by the cafe sometime. Without the Polyjuice. I hear they serve a delicious crumble."

Harry smiled broadly. "I dunno. I've heard good things about the chocolate."