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Draco Dodo saves Molly Meow

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Chronically early.

That occupied both number five on the ‘pro’ list of attributes, and number two on the ‘con’ list of attributes that Draco had playfully put together about Harry.

Today it felt like a ‘pro’ moment. Arriving at the pub early meant Harry could keep an eye on everyone that came in, and Draco wouldn’t be left awkwardly waiting on him.

He waved to Seamus’s cousin Fergus, co-owner of Incognito, standing behind the bar, and made his way to the usual spot to wait on the usual group to arrive. The advantage to knowing the owners meant a spot reserved for them every week in a pub less crowded than the Leaky Cauldron. The others trickled in over the next twenty minutes, curious about the two seats Harry was holding for two new friends.

His heart stuttered when Ginny came in alone. Good, Harry thought with a mental sigh, because he already had enough on his plate with meeting Draco for the first time in a million years. He didn’t need to add ‘playing nice with his ex’s new boyfriend’ as well.

Harry’s dodgy mumbling about saving two seats for a ‘new friend’ had Ginny narrowing her eyes and sitting across from him, instead of down the table to catch up with Hermione and the wedding plans. She reached over and tugged on the drawstring of Harry’s red hoodie.

“I always loved this one,” Ginny said with a playful smile. “I still have that picture of you with your first Molly Meow soft toy.”

“Good times,” Harry responded with as much calm as he could muster. The cycle always seemed to begin this way—with a reminder that they once had something special. He remembered their shared excitement over the first run of Molly Meow stuffed animals, and the picture of him in this hoodie with Molly. But after a week of texting Draco, he also remembered Ginny’s impatience with the pictures Harry continued taking for his blog, urging him to leave off and come to dinner instead.

He avoided Ginny’s eyes and the nostalgia that lay hidden there. Their on-again-off-again thing had been off-again for four months, and Harry intended to keep it that way.

Harry’s gaze darted to the door as it opened on two people that looked like they’d stepped from an outdoor clothing ad. The woman laughed merrily as she came through the door, tugging on the hem of her bright Fair Isle jumper and tossing a thick braid of shiny, black hair over her shoulder. Behind her came a tall man in an Aran cabled sweater, with medium length blond hair draped across his forehead, cheeks turned rosy from the cold, and a small smile. The man’s eyes immediately sought Harry’s corner.

Draco Malfoy.

When Draco said he would be bringing a friend, Harry assumed he’d meant another man. He hadn’t mentioned a girlfriend during their week of texting. Vague memories surfaced of Hogwarts, along with the name Pansy Parkinson. How could he have forgotten?

With a wide smile, Harry excused himself and met the new couple at the bar to order drinks. “Thirty-seven,” he said with a smile, holding a hand out to shake.

Draco’s small, nervous smile grew into something softer as they shook hands. “Steadfast. At long last.”

Harry laughed at the nickname he’d been given at the start of their odd wrong-number friendship. “They’re with me,” he said to Fergus. As Fergus went to fill their order, Harry said, “He and Seamus—you remember Seamus Finnigan? They own the pub, and give us a little discount on Fridays.”

“Nice,” Draco said. “Harry, you remember Pansy? Pansy, Harry Potter.”

Harry held his hand out to her too, and her pinched smile relaxed. “Pansy, it’s been an age. I didn’t recognise you right away. You look good.” He turned his smile on Draco. “You both do.”

“Unbelievable, this twist of fate, yeah?” Pansy fiddled with the hem of her jumper again, but her nerves seemed to dissolve as her eyes scanned Harry’s friends. “Nearly all Gryffindors of course. Which one is Seventy-three?” She rolled her eyes. “Draco, how thick are you? It’s Ginny Weasley, isn’t it?”

“How was I to know?” Draco said immediately. “He’s in the paper with loads of women!”

Pansy made a dismissive sound, and then gave Harry a shove when he glanced over his shoulder at the crowded table. “Don’t look, idiot,” Pansy whispered. “She’ll know something’s up.”

“I, er, didn’t know anything was up?”

That earned him a bright laugh. “Oh this will be fun! Listen, I’m only on loan from Theo, so don’t go getting attached or anything.”

“Okay?” Harry threw a confused look at Draco, who rolled his eyes.

“I asked Pansy to come along so I wouldn’t be alone. But when I explained how we met, and the text you meant to send to your ex, and the way she strings you along, Pansy said —”

“You definitely need to make her jealous,” Pansy interrupted. “I immediately volunteered. So we’ll flirt, and laugh, and at the end, I go home to Theo.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Harry said, glancing at Pansy. She looked cute enough—her pug face had rounded and softened these last few years and he loved her long, shiny hair. The snug v-neck jumper wasn’t bad either. School robes had kept that generous rack hidden too well.

But he didn’t know her. Not like he knew Draco, and couldn’t be sure she could hold his attention. But Draco on the other hand… Well all his friends would remember his sixth year obsession and might not question too closely that Harry might be interested in him now.

Harry gave Draco a quick once-over and didn’t think he’d mind flirting with him a bit. The idea of a ‘type’ seemed strange to him when people came in so many interesting shapes and sizes. But appearance mattered far less than intelligence and wit. And Harry already knew Draco was clever and funny. His soft, boring-office-job body looked enticing enough, as did the two or three inches of height he had on Harry. All good things.

“We could… erm…” Harry shrugged and kicked at the ground. “If you’re into that kind of thing, we could flirt a little,” he said to Draco, cursing the heat sliding up his body that must mean his ears were reddening.

Draco closed his eyes for two seconds and they popped open wide and bright. “I didn’t realise that was an option.”

“A good option?” Harry asked.

Pansy laughed loudly enough to draw several eyes. “More than! Draco would love to flirt with you.” She elbowed Draco hard in the side, but he just glared at them both. “Wouldn’t you? Oh this is going to be so much fun.”

“Yeah, sure, I guess.” Harry shrugged when Draco continued to stare in that odd way. Did Draco like the idea or didn’t he? “Except I’m terrible at subterfuge.”

Pansy brushed that off. “Don’t worry, I’m excellent at it.” Behind her, Draco shook his head theatrically. “So is Draco. He’s dead clever. It’ll all be fine.” She plucked their two beers from the bar, leaving Draco to pay.

He pulled his wallet slowly, avoiding Harry’s eyes. “I didn’t realise you were—You’re only ever in the papers with women.”

Harry snorted. “Yeah, well, I’m with men too, but those pictures are always captioned with some kind of ‘friendship’ thing. The Daily Prophet has a bit of a denial problem.”

Draco made a non-committal sound and followed Harry and Pansy to the table. The three of them shuffled awkwardly until Harry ended up in his original seat, flanked by Draco on his left at the head of the table and Pansy on his right. He made a quick round of introductions. “Ron, Ginny, you remember Draco and Pansy from school.”

Murmured welcomes and waves came from further down the table. Ron, eyebrows raised so high they nearly disappeared into his hair, said, “Malfoy—”

“Please, call me Draco.”

Ron gave an odd little laugh. “Right, Draco. So… erm… How are you doing these days? Working?” He looked a little panicked. Maybe Harry should have warned him first, but the coward’s way out had been easier.

Pansy rolled her eyes with a groan. “Ugh, he’s an accountant and it’s dead boring.” Ron’s face scrunched up in a comical mix of confusion and disbelief, making Harry want to giggle hysterically. How did this surreal situation come to pass where he had Draco Malfoy and Ron Weasley talking about work over beers?

“What about you?” Ginny asked, leaning forward and smiling freely. She really did have a nice smile. “What do you do?”

“I’m a singer,” Pansy said, tilting her chin up as though begging someone to doubt her. “Mostly small, local gigs.” Harry noticed Draco’s eyebrow quirking up and the small smile he tried to hide. But he didn’t question Pansy’s line of work and Harry couldn’t be sure if it was a lie or not.

Ginny narrowed her eyes in suspicion, but accepted the statement as well. “And you two,” she said, pointing between Draco and Pansy, “aren’t together?”

“Oh no!” Pansy laughed as Draco shook his head. “That would be too weird. We grew up too close. He’s like my brother.” This came more naturally, as if she had to say it often. Draco hadn’t mentioned her all week, but maybe he would now that Harry had met her again, and he saw there was no animosity left from a war long since passed and put to rest.

And then came the dreaded question from Ron that Harry really should have anticipated. “How did you and Harry, erm, reconnect?”

His panic halted when Lavender Finnigan came to his unintentional rescue, asking for pizza money. “I’ve got us,” Harry said, handing Lavender the money. She added it to her pile absently, ignoring him in favour of welcoming Pansy, without a single suspicious glare at Harry. Money was money, and Lavender welcomed all customers to the pub.

Harry leaned close to Draco and whispered, “We all chip in and share pizzas for dinner. I forgot to mention it earlier.”

“I can chip in,” Draco whispered back, his lips grazing Harry’s ear. “Smile like I said something clever.”

Harry laughed nervously and said, “Maybe you can get it next week.” He sat back with a red face, thankful for the dim lighting that would hide it. Implying Draco might be joining them regularly seemed presumptuous.

“Thanks,” Draco said, patting Harry’s arm, then giving it a little squeeze. Their eyes met and lingered for a few seconds, making Harry’s heart speed up unnecessarily.

The moment broke when Ginny’s voice sliced through it. “So how did you two meet?”

Draco blinked a few times and then said smoothly, as if he’d rehearsed his answer, “We met on a travel forum about sites of interest in Hakata, Japan.”

Pansy’s beer bottle slammed the table as she smothered a laugh. “Draco! You almost made me spit beer everywhere. That’d make a good first impression, wouldn’t it?” She wiped at her mouth with a tiny napkin, shaking her head.

Between that and Ginny’s confused stare, Harry had a hard time not laughing out loud. Draco enjoyed crossword puzzles while on break from work but the awful mobile reception prevented him from googling answers. Over the last week that they’d been texting, Harry had looked up several answers for him, including sea ports in Japan.

“Are you going to Japan?” Ron asked, looking just as confused as Ginny. “Or is it research for Molly?”

“I’m not going to Japan! And it’s not research.”

“Wow, sticking with ‘number four honest,’ are we?” Draco asked, raising one eyebrow at Harry.

Mentioning their silly list of his attributes made Harry’s cheeks redden even more. Yeah, all right he should have played along to get out of whatever inquisition resulted. He certainly didn’t want Ginny to find out he’d tried texting her number from memory and accidentally got Draco instead.

“Sorry we—it was—it’s just kind of silly. How we met so…”

“I love silly,” Ginny said, with a grin that popped the warm glow around Harry and instead set him on edge.

“He joined my book club,” Draco said smoothly, settling back in his chair so that his shoulder rested against Harry’s. “We’re discussing Jane Austen’s Emma, and whether Clueless counts as a legitimate film adaptation.” His arm slid across the back of Harry’s chair.

Harry’s tension eased with a laugh at the second crossword puzzle clue he’d looked up for Draco, but no one heard it over Ron groaning, “You joined another book club?”

“How many book clubs are you a part of?” Draco asked, turning an incredulous stare on Harry.

Harry squirmed in his seat, “Erm, just two.” He started tearing the label from his beer bottle, wishing he had something more productive to do with his hands. “One meets in person monthly, and one meets weekly online.”

“Hmm, so book club isn’t plausible.” Draco tapped his lip, then leaned across the table with his hand lingering on Harry’s shoulder and whispered theatrically to Pansy. “Ideas?”

Pansy straightened and said quickly, “You moved into the flat above Harry’s.”

“No good,” Draco said. “Harry lives in a house. I almost hit him with my bike?”

“As if anyone believes you ride that bike. Oh!” she snapped her fingers with a triumphant grin. “You contacted him through his Molly Meow blog.”

“Perfect!” Draco grinned.

Ginny and Ron watched this exchange, their heads going back and forth as though at a tennis match, growing more confused with each idea.

Draco turned to them with a completely straight face and said, “On behalf of my goddaughter, who is a very big fan of the adventures of Molly Meow, I messaged Harry expressing our concern over the recent loss of Molly’s goldfish.” He frowned at Harry. “Why does a cat have a pet goldfish? Isn't that odd? When Mr Wiggles died, I honestly worried Molly might eat him instead of bury him.”

Harry gasped in mock indignation. “Eat her pet?! Molly is a sweet, gentle kitten! She would never—”

Ginny interrupted, “Wait—I don’t understand. How did you two meet?”

Pansy made a dismissive sound. “Who even cares?” She leaned into Harry, resting a hand on his arm and focusing on him as though he was the only man in the pub. “Poor Molly. I felt so sorry for Mr Wiggles! What made you write such a sad story for her?”

“O-oh, well,” Harry glanced at Ginny’s tightly drawn lips, and decided to follow Pansy’s lead. That was much safer than dwelling on a story he definitely didn’t want to tell. “You know, children experience loss too, so… Molly’s experience prepares them in some way. Plus, I had to throw out another dead houseplant and it fit the mood.”

Ginny finally lost her stiff posture, melting into something resembling concern. “Oh no! The purple orchid?”

“Er, no…” he lied. “It was...” In truth he’d replaced that orchid twice already, but couldn’t be bothered a third time. And on the spot like this, he couldn’t even remember the name of another plant. He sighed, “Okay yes, it was the orchid.”

“Oh no! You loved that orchid!”

“No he didn’t,” Ron scoffed. “It was a terrible gift.”

“It wasn’t terrible. It was a way of reminding him to take care of himself. To feed himself when he fed the plant.”

“Harry could kill succulents.”

“I have killed succulents,” Harry agreed.

Ron gestured with his beer. “If you want him to take better care of himself, you should have food delivered to his house, like his best friend does.” Harry saluted Ron, who helped him manage his account with a grocery delivery service.

“Maybe his girlfriend thought a plant would teach him good habits.” Ginny crossed her arms and Harry wondered if that was solely to plump her breasts up for Harry to see. It must irk her to know that Pansy had her beat there. As if Harry cared either way.

“Or maybe his girlfriend didn’t know him as well as she thought she did,” Draco said, causing dead silence at their end of the table. He paused with his beer halfway to his mouth. “What? Did I say something wrong?”

“No, of course not,” Ginny said tightly. “I bought him the orchid when we dated.”

“You bought the orchid?” Draco tilted his head, his brow furrowed. “Wait, haven’t you known Harry for ages? Shouldn’t you know better than to give him a plant he can’t take care of?”

Something cracked and splintered inside Harry as Ginny forced a smile across the table. Adrenaline simmered in Harry’s blood as he watched Draco, eyes shining and excited, lean forward to twist the knife. “Even I know a plant’s a terrible idea, and I’ve only known him a week.”

Ginny opened her mouth to respond, but Pansy spoke over her. “At least the dumb plant is out of your life forever. And you got a great blog post out of it.”

Before anyone could object, Draco smoothly changed the subject. “I loved that older post with Molly at the beach! The sandcastles and the waves. Her adorable animal friends.” He patted Harry’s thigh from just far enough away that everyone could see where his hand had landed, even though it was below the table. “You’re very talented. I wish I had any kind of drawing skill.”

“Thanks, those were extra sketches that didn’t make it into Molly Meow’s Day at the Beach. It’s still the most popular of the series.” He smiled at Draco, more excited than he needed to be that Draco wanted to flirt with him.

Pansy tried to add something else but it was buried beneath cheers as pizzas started arriving at their table. Harry appreciated the distraction, with the way his mind drifted to the dead orchid. In the early stages of the relationship with Ginny, they’d agreed to keep things casual and fun. But their limited time together—-between Ginny flying for the Harpies and Harry’s classes at uni—-made her increasingly possessive of Harry’s free time. She quickly grew jealous of the hours Harry spent building his Molly Meow blog into a career.

Signing the publishing contract had sparked their first major break-up. Ginny brought him the orchid as an apology, emphasising her worry that with Molly as a full time job, Harry would have a harder and harder time taking care of himself, and needed a gentle reminder to keep up with daily care.

But he never got the hang of it. He had reminders for the most basic tasks all over his house, because he frequently fell so deep into work and research that he lost track of the time. Ginny grew ever more frustrated with Harry’s absentmindedness, and it was only now that Harry could see the orchid was meant to draw attention to Ginny, not to Harry.

“So Harry,” Draco said, shifting subtly so their arms brushed, “you never said how you got started with Molly Meow. I want to hear it in person, even if it’s the same as your interviews.”

Harry shared his typical interview lines about his favourite childhood kitten stuffed toy and the stories he made up about her. He left out the fact that the stuffed animal was a cast-off of Dudley’s that had torn and was missing half its stuffing.

He mentioned his pursuit of an art degree at a muggle university and how his sketches and ficlets on the blog evolved into a publishing contract. He left out the long hours he needed to work while completing his first book and the fights he had with Ginny about it. Fighting that led to their second major break-up. That might have been it for them, but then Ginny left the Harpies for a regular job at the Daily Prophet and so began an on-again-off again thing they’d been unable to escape.

Because Harry liked Ginny. She had a great sense of humour and spirit of adventure. Adventure that extended straight through to the bedroom. It was undoubtedly the sex that drew Harry back time and again.

But not anymore. Harry had spent the week talking to Draco about Ginny, and the expectations Harry never could meet. Ginny liked to go and do and experience everything. And Harry couldn’t keep up. He liked the quiet life in his cottage, drawing his animals and staring out at his back garden. He just didn’t know how to put it into words until Draco came along and drew it out of him.

Draco had ventured out into the muggle world primarily to separate himself from the expectations Lucius set for him. He saw no reason why Harry shouldn’t work on his own separations from Ginny. He made Harry see all the good things he enjoyed about his life and all the ways Ginny really didn’t fit in those places. The daily lunchtime texts from Draco that reminded him to eat on time, also gave Harry confidence to resist Ginny’s advances.

One story after another flowed as they ate pizza, and all the while Draco and Pansy made tiny digs at the differences between Ginny and Harry that Harry had ignored or let slide for years. When he talked about a piece of fanart an eight year old girl had given him, Ginny complained they’d showed up an hour early for that signing for no reason.

“Doesn’t Harry prefer to be early when he can, to avoid work distractions that make him late?” Draco asked, once again laying his hand across the back of Harry’s chair.

Pansy added quickly, “Seems like you should have known to bring something to occupy you.”

Harry remembered that signing and the hour they’d spent talking to the little kids waiting for his reading. He’d had fun with colouring pages of his very own characters, and excited children talking about their favourite parts. But Ginny had wandered aimlessly and declared the hour wasted. Although she got along with children well enough, Ginny preferred loud outdoor games to quiet bookshop activities.

“Oh! “ Ron exclaimed, slamming the table. “Remember that time the voice actor got laryngitis and they had to hire someone new at the last minute to re-record Molly Meow’s Snowy Day? That was the worst!” Ron elbowed Ginny. “This one wouldn’t listen to the tapes with him so I had to floo over and help.”

“We had plans with Neville and Hannah!” Ginny protested. From down the table, Hannah waved half-heartedly at the sound of her name before turning back to Hermione.

Ron scoffed, “Like we don’t see each other all the time.” He leaned into Draco, pleading his case. “I was up until almost two in the morning listening for the right voice.”

“You didn’t help?” Draco asked Ginny. His fingers crept from the chair to Harry’s shoulder, exactly enough to look accidental.

Pansy laid her hand on Harry’s arm and smiled in excitement. “That sounds like fun! What are the tapes like?”

“They all sound the same!” Ginny scoffed. “He ended up picking the third one he listened to anyway.”

“Yeah, but we had to hear them all,” Ron said, “just in case. It was worth it, because we ended up finding Lisa to do the voice of Cleo Cluck for Molly Meow on the Farm. That was a lucky find.”

Harry remembered staying up eating take-away Chinese food, playing one recording after another, and laughing with the best friend he’d had since first year. And how Ginny never liked him working late on evenings and weekends, even when that put him in danger of missing a deadline. After all, she’d repeat, Harry had all day to get it done. Even though Harry explained writing and art didn’t work like that.

Harry told the story of a sweet muggle recognising him—as James, not Harry—at Tesco, and regaling him with the tale of a mock wedding her granddaughter put on to marry Molly Meow to Peter Pup.

“You were recognized? Just out of the blue, like not at a book signing?” Draco asked. “That’s impressive for a children’s book author.”

“It was ridiculous,” Ginny said with an eye roll. “Like we didn’t have ice cream melting in our trolley.” She elbowed Ron with a little nod, as though he might lend support.

But Ron’s frown mirrored Harry’s as they both examined Ginny with an outsider’s point of view.

“You know what?” Harry said slowly. “It is impressive to be recognised out of the blue like that. I get a lot of praise at bookshops and libraries and schools. But that was the first time anyone approached me—me and not Harry Potter—outside of a ‘bookish’ setting.”

That grandmother’s story warmed Harry whenever he fell into doubt about his current projects, and he never stopped to wonder why. But now he knew. She recognised him. She cared. Not because of the war. And not because a local bookstore or pre-school had him do a reading. Just every day, out and about, she saw him as the source of a fond memory she had of her granddaughter. And it was special even if Ginny couldn’t see it.

He just never realized that Ginny never saw any of it. Although Harry had found great success with Molly Meow and her little animal friends, Ginny would always see it as a hobby he spent too much time on. Inadvertently, his eyes strayed to Draco, who gave him a warm smile.

“And anyway,” Ginny went on, “why would a dog and a cat get married? Aren’t dogs and cats supposed to hate each other?”

“Ease up,” Ron said, “they’re just characters. Speaking of weddings, you told me to remind you about your shoes,” he said to Harry. “Did you get that sole repaired or are you going to get a new pair?”

“I’m getting a new pair. Those have been repaired too many times and it’s just time to replace them.” Harry set a shopping reminder on his phone for Monday and Tuesday both, just in case. “Time is ticking down! Ask me again on Wednesday.”

“Fifteen more days!” Ron beamed. “Then I’m marrying the most brilliant woman on earth!” He shouted the last, grinning like a fool at Hermione. She blew him a kiss.

Pansy sighed, “You two are so sweet. I hope the day is a lovely one!”

“Maybe you’ll be there as a plus one,” Ron said, winking theatrically at Harry. “Wouldn’t that be a hilarious thing to tell our past selves?”

Pansy cackled and pulled her phone from her pocket. “Unfortunately I’ve got work that weekend but...” She tapped rapidly at the screen. “Just in case, here...” Pansy handed the phone to Harry, displaying a ‘new contact’ screen. “Why don’t you put your number in for me? I don’t want to have to steal it from Draco later.”

“Are you sure?” Harry asked, already typing his number in. He didn’t have any interest in dating Pansy (who was taken anyway), but he liked the idea of keeping Ginny on her toes, wondering whether Pansy or Draco posed the bigger threat.

“Maybe we can get coffee next week or something.” She took her phone back and tapped at the screen again.

Harry’s phone buzzed loudly against the table, even in the noise of the pub. He smiled at the text, This has been fun. Can’t wait to tell Theo all about it!

He texted back, I’ll back you up if you embellish any details.

“Well,” she said, looking expectantly at Draco while tucking her phone away. “It’s late and we should be heading out.”

“Right, yes, of course. This was fun,” Draco said to their end of the table. “Thanks for inviting us. This is certainly not something fifteen year old me ever imagined occurring. But it was fun.”

“A real life enemies-to-friends, eh, Harry?” Ron said, giving Harry a significant look.

“That’s exactly what I said!” Harry responded with a grin.

Draco looked between them and said to Ron, “You read fanfiction too? Harry said he would tell me about it but it never came up.”

“Oh I don’t read as much as Harry does, but he passes on the really good ones.” He waggled his eyebrows playfully. “Perhaps he’s thinking we might have a real life friends-to-lo—”

“Okay, thank you Ron! I guess we’ll talk about fanfiction the next time!”

Draco narrowed his eyes at Harry, but it was Ron who spoke first. “I’m just saying you could use more lemons in your life. Or, damn, even some limes to tide you over or something.”

“Thank you, Ron, just tell everyone all my business…” Harry blew raspberries at Ron and drained the last of his beer, avoiding the smoulder he knew would be coming from Ginny. With a new perspective on things, it didn’t have the same pull it once did.

“There’s a café near my flat that makes a delicious key lime pie, if you’d like to join me sometime?” Draco offered this up hesitantly, watching Ron and Harry for signs that he’d made the right move.

Ron broke out in loud laughter, elbowing Ginny hard enough to knock her into Angelina sitting next to her. “Draco!” Ron giggled, wiping non-existent tears. “That would be perfect. Definitely invite Harry over for key lime pie.”

“Okay clearly I’m missing something,” Draco said, rising from the table. “And I want to hear more about it because it sounds like fun. But another time because we really should be going.” Harry stuck his tongue out at Ron.

“Thanks for letting us crash the party,” Pansy said as she also stood. “We’ll have to do it again sometime.”

“I’ll, er, walk you out,” Harry said, jumping to his feet. He followed them out to the carpark, feeling lighter than air. “This was… really good.”

Pansy’s nose scrunched up. “Harry, she is just the worst. Why were you even trying to reach out to her?”

“I honestly don’t know. Habit? Convenience? Most of the people I meet these days are parents of young children. She... means well, I think. Just… trying to keep me from being a workaholic?”

Draco scoffed at that idea. “Seems more like she wants to turn you into something you’re not.”

“Perhaps...” Harry said thoughtfully. It hadn’t been all doom and gloom with Ginny. They’d had wonderful memories too. But through it all, he could see the undercurrent of annoyance on Ginny’s part whenever Harry strayed from the carefree, adventurous version of himself. “She used to get excited with me over those little milestones. But now… I think she hates Molly Meow.”

“Well if you’re over her, I’d say mission accomplished,” Draco said.

“Yeah. I think whatever thing that kept drawing us together is over. Fresh eyes on the situation really helped.” As frequently happened in new situations, he thought of Molly. “This would make a good Molly story.”

“A new friend?” Pansy asked, her eyes shining in excitement. “With Pansy Panda!”

“You came up with that awfully quick,” Draco said, giving Pansy a playful push.

Pansy grinned at them, “I took an online Molly Meow quiz. By the way, you’re Draco Dodo.”

“A dumb bird? That’s lame!”

“Not a lot of animals begin with ‘D.’”

“Isn’t dragon the obvious choice?”

Harry swiped on his phone to google more animals. “Has to be real.”

“Dragons are real.”

“Muggle real. Dolphin. Duck, but we’ve already got Daniel Duck. Oh, Dragonfly. Something like that might work? Hm, Draco’s a tough one.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want to be a dodo. Doesn’t it matter that they’re extinct?”

Pansy peered at Harry’s phone, ignoring Draco entirely. “Dove, dingo. Seems like dodo has the nicest sound. Really rolls off the tongue.”

“Draco Dodo it is,” Harry said, shoving his phone in his pocket and grinning openly at Draco’s scowl. “Yeah, so… tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, but Sunday should be nice. I’m going hiking after lunch. Sketching the great outdoors for a camping trip with Molly. Do you... maybe want to come with me?”

“For fun?”

“I was… thinking more like… a date?” Harry swallowed his nerves and met Draco’s eyes. “You weren’t really clear on whether you date guys or if this was just to needle Ginny.”

“I’m open to possibilities,” Draco said smoothly.

Pansy rolled her eyes. “He’s gay as a maypole. He’d love to ‘go hiking’ if that’s a euphemism for something sexy.”

“It’s an actual hike.”

She blew raspberries, but Draco pulled out his phone and tapped at the calendar. “That sounds like fun. I’ll text you Sunday morning to get the details.” He gave Harry a half-smile. “I can bring key lime pie.”

Harry kicked at the ground. “Ron was just being an arse.”

“I cannot wait to hear about limes.”

“And lemons,” Pansy added.

Harry shook his head, still grinning. “This was loads of fun. I’m really glad my text went awry.”

“Me too.” Draco glanced over his shoulder at the pub, as if he might say more about Ginny, but then let it drop. “It was good to see you, Harry.”

“You too Draco. And Pansy.”

“Thanks for inviting us,” Pansy said, linking her elbow with Draco’s. “We’ll have to do it again sometime.”

Harry waved one last good-bye then stepped back to give them room to Disapparate. He happily returned to the pub, mentally composing Draco Dodo saves Molly Meow.