Chapter 1: part one
Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon. [248 words]
“Sorry I’m late, chaps, I couldn’t get my trousers to do up,” Blaise announces as he sails into Harry’s kitchen, having apparently let himself into the house.
“Well, if you will insist on eating everything in sight,” Draco says, kicking out a chair for him at the table and rescuing Misu from the seat before she is squashed by Blaise’s descending bottom.
Blaise takes the snake from Draco and strokes her shiny head. “You understand my pain, don’t you, you little glutton?” he murmurs and the snake flicks out her tongue.
“She isn’t overeating because she’s lovesick,” Harry says without turning around from the stove.
“How dare you?” Blaise mumbles, prompting an inelegant snort from Draco. “Anyway, I am far beyond lovesick, I’m afraid. I think it may actually be terminal.”
“Why don’t you just ask her out?” Draco says, yet again.
Blaise sighs and leans back in his chair, making the wood creak alarmingly. “Please, Draco. It’s too soon.”
“She’s my ex-wife and I don’t think it’s too soon,” Harry points out.
“Harry, I’m sure you are trying to be helpful, but I just can’t. Not yet. And if I don’t stop stuffing my face, I shall be too big for my entire wardrobe and then I’ll never do it,” Blaise says, threading Misu around his neck and leaning heavily on the table.
“I take it you won’t want any of these meatballs, then?” Harry says casually.
Blaise looks up. “Let’s not go too far, old bean.”
The nearly onomatopoeic word for that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can't quite remember. [634 words]
“A rainy day is perfect for a party like this,” Narcissa tells Clive as she and Flimby drape the sunroom in soft little strings of lights.
He smiles at her, blue eyes so full of trust that she has to stop what she is doing and control the little waver of love and panic in her heart. Today, Clive is six years old, and is hosting his first proper birthday party as a Malfoy. He has invited, with a little help from Harry, Draco, and herself, all sorts of people; the guest list is a rather odd mixture of luminaries, recovering addicts and Diagon Alley shopkeepers.
After some careful consideration, Clive has decided that he would like to formally introduce his guests to one another, and while a part of Narcissa yearns to discourage him from this stuffy, grown up task, when she looks at his neat little dress robes and hopeful expression she can hardly refuse. Apart from anything else, she clearly recalls a tiny Draco demanding to do exactly the same thing, and, though she would never admit it, nostalgia wins every time.
He does it beautifully, of course, introducing that rather odd Mr Caruso to his favourite waitress from the ice cream shop, the owner of Crups and Pups Grooming to a young lady with a lot of purple in her hair, and, at one point, solemnly introducing Harry and Draco to each other. At this, everyone laughs, and Narcissa hides a smile behind her delicate cup of hot chocolate—Clive’s favourite.
When the Minister himself walks in, even Narcissa is slightly startled, though she merely smiles pleasantly and hands him his own tiny cup, reminding herself that she had been the one to write the invitation and the one to open the positive RSVP. Somehow, though, she still hadn’t quite expected the Minister himself to attend the sixth birthday party of a Malfoy child. Sensing someone looking at her, she turns, meeting Harry’s eyes. Of course.
“Pera gratia,” she whispers, and he just ducks his head, smiling.
“Hello,” Clive says, striding up to the Minister and tipping his head right back in order to make eye contact as he puts out a small hand to shake.
Narcissa holds her breath, relaxing when one massive dark hand enfolds Clive’s and shakes gently.
“Hello, young man. Happy birthday.”
“Thank you.” Clive beams. He glances around, searching for a guest who has not yet received a formal introduction, and finally settles on the alarmingly hirsute man from the pet shop. “Mr Pike... Mr Pike, this is...” he falters. Biting his lip, he looks to the Minister again. “This is... erm...”
This time, he turns to look beseechingly at Narcissa. It’s plain to see that the name is on the tip of his tongue and she knows she could just sweep in and rescue him, but she holds her nerve. He is a proud little man, just as Draco had been at that age—just as Draco still is, in fact.
The Minister smiles down at Clive and Narcissa notices for the first time how very kind his face is. Lacing her fingers together behind her back, she takes a small breath and silently mouths the name to Clive.
“Mr Pike,” he says again, eyebrows knitted. “Mr Pike, this is the Minister for Magic. This is... Shackley Kinglebolt!” he says triumphantly.
Tempering her smile, Narcissa watches as the pet shop owner and the Minister exchange a significant glance. Clive is beaming now and does not even seem to notice the stifled laughter from those around him.
“Mr Pike,” says the tall, dark man in the brightly-coloured robes. “Lovely to meet you.”
Mr Pike shakes his hand gravely. “An honour, Mr Kinglebolt.”
Clive turns to Narcissa and smiles. Flooded with pride, she smiles back.
Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego)
This word captures that special look shared between two people, when both are wishing that the other would do something that they both want, but neither want to do.[468 words]
Draco walks into the Ministry canteen at about quarter past one, like he always does. He examines the array of hot dishes on offer and inhales the intriguing savoury scents like he always does, while the woman with the serving spoon regards him wearily, like she always does, until he chooses soup and toast like he always does and apologises for not having small change. Like he always does.
At the table he always sits at [he always sits alone], he flips through his notes from the most recent meeting of the Ministry Department of Finance while he waits for his soup to cool and finds them just about as interesting as he always does. As he begins to eat his soup [carrot and coriander today] he glances, as he always does, over to the table where Harry Potter always sits with Granger. Today they are sharing a plate of chips and laughing... just like they always do.
Potter’s profile is sharp and imperfect in the sunlight from the fake windows, and Draco tries not to stare at it—but he always does. As always, Potter grins at his friend and licks salt from his fingers, which makes Draco’s heart flutter just about as unhelpfully as it always does. Irritated with himself, Draco tears savagely at his bread, and then stops, because Potter is twisting around and looking at him, not at all like he usually does.
Draco stares, fingers clenching around his bread roll. His chest tightens. There is nothing usual here, nothing ‘always’, nothing he knows. Potter is staring at him now, green eyes bright behind wire-rimmed glasses, face open and almost hopeful, mouth twitching at the corners into a heart-stopping little smile. Draco doesn’t have a word to describe that look—he doesn’t have any words, in fact, and that in itself is far from usual—but he understands it immediately. He doesn’t quite believe it, but there it is, right there in front of him, on Harry Potter’s face.
He’s looking right at Draco and he wants. He hopes. He’s asking, without asking anything at all, and holding back, and if he thinks Draco is going to be the one to break his routine and make the first move, he has another think coming. Still, Draco looks back; he can’t look away. Potter’s eyes are pinning him, burning him, and he can barely breathe.
“Draco,” Granger calls suddenly, snapping him back to the bustle of the canteen. “Harry wants you to come and sit with us.”
Potter shoots her an ineffectual glare and flushes violently. Draco gets up slowly, squashed bread roll still in hand, and makes his way over to Potter and Granger’s table. He can hear his colleagues muttering and whispering amongst themselves but he ignores them.
Just like he always does.
You know when you’re really full, but your meal is just so delicious, you can’t stop eating it? The Georgians feel your pain. This word means, “I accidentally ate the whole thing." [407 words]
Ron is just wiping the last bit of chocolate icing from his lips when he hears the whoosh of the Floo from the living room. He and Rose turn to face one another across the kitchen table, eyes wide.
“You’ve been so good today,” Hermione is saying, stepping out of the fireplace in a rustle of bags. “Let’s find Rose and Daddy and we can all have some tea and chocolate cake.”
Rose groans softly, hands resting on her belly. “Dad... I think I might be sick.”
“Never mind that,” Ron whispers urgently. “We’ve got to get rid of all this before your mum comes in.”
“Can I have a really, really big piece of cake?” Hugo is saying, and as Ron gazes at the crumb-strewn table, he begins to feel slightly nauseous, too.
It had been a very good cake, but it had also been a very large cake, full of chocolate icing and ganache and cherries and cream and crunchy bits of honeycomb, and... oh, bugger, they really shouldn’t have eaten all of it.
“Dad!” Rose hisses, standing and grabbing up the plates just as the kitchen door begins to creak open.
Ron nods, pulling out his wand and vanishing the crumbs and smudges from the table. Hurriedly, Rose shoves the plates out of sight and takes her seat just in time for Hermione and Hugo to walk into the room. Ron smiles at his wife, attempting to look natural and find a comfortable position for his bloated stomach at the same time.
“Find some shoes, did you?”
Hugo beams and holds up a shiny box for his father and sister to see. “Big ones, Daddy.”
“Find some cake, did you?” Hermione asks, amused. She taps her top lip and Ron guiltily wipes his mouth with his hand, finding yet another smudge of icing.
“We didn’t mean to eat it all!” Rose blurts.
Ron turns to her, scandalised at the betrayal. “Rose! Can’t believe you threw us under the train!”
“Sorry,” she mumbles, wrinkling her freckled nose. “Mum gave me that look and it just came out.”
“I think you’ll find she threw you under the bus,” Hermione says coolly. “And that’s fine. Hugo and I will walk down to the village and get ice creams. But first,” she says, mouth twisting into that shape that always makes Ron feel slightly uneasy, “Hugo, why don’t you go and give your dad a really big hug?”
Fremdschämen (German); Myötähäpeä (Finnish)
The kindler, gentler cousins of Schadenfreude, both these words mean something akin to "vicarious embarrassment.” [476 words]
“Oh, for fuck’s sake... what is he doing?” Pansy groans, dropping her head into her hands for a moment before jerking it back up again. She doesn’t really want to watch, but she can’t find it in herself to look away, either. It’s like a mid-air broom-crash, only with fewer broomsticks and even more awkward male hormones than the average game of Quidditch.
“I think Potter just asked him if he’d finished that essay for Snape and now Draco’s talking about Sleeping Potions,” Blaise says, shifting closer to her on the bench and taking a piece of fried bread from her plate.
“This is so embarrassing,” Pansy sighs, shooting out a hand to grab the fried bread back.
“Why are you embarrassed? He’s the one making an idiot of himself,” Greg points out, but while his words may be reasonable, Pansy is not about to start agreeing with people who talk with their mouths full.
“I’m embarrassed for him,” Blaise says, dark eyes firmly trained on Draco and Potter, who are still standing in the entrance to the Great Hall and still, Pansy is horrified to note, talking about Sleeping Potions.
Greg wipes his mouth at last and makes a familiar sound of confusion. “The way Draco talks, you’d think he’d be dead smooth at dealing with the opposite sex,” he says rather grandly.
Pansy and Blaise look at him. “Draco and Potter are the same sex, Greg.”
Greg shrugs and flushes messily. “You know what I mean,” he says, stabbing another sausage onto his plate. “Or, you know, maybe that’s the problem.”
Pansy snorts. In the doorway, Potter and Draco are no longer talking, and that should be a relief, but instead they are just looking at each other, and Pansy thinks it’s only a matter of time before someone bursts into flames. And it’s not going to be her. Gritting her teeth, she gets up from the table.
She tries to get up from the table. Blaise grabs her left elbow and Greg’s huge fingers close around her right wrist and tug hard. Fuming, she drops back to the bench.
“Don’t even think about it. You’ll just make it worse,” Blaise says.
“Worse?” Pansy demands shrilly. “I cannot deal with this at eight o’clock in the morning.”
Greg laughs and Pansy takes one last look at the pair of imbeciles in the doorway before dropping her head quietly to the table. For several seconds, she stays there, breathing deeply and wondering about a second cup of coffee. And then Blaise gasps.
“Oh my god—they’re kissing!” he whispers.
Pansy lifts her head. “Really?”
“No,” Blaise laughs, and she kicks him. In the doorway, Potter is smiling and Draco is blushing in a most un-Malfoy-like way.
“Not yet,” Greg says optimistically through a mouthful of sausage.
Pansy groans and reaches for the coffee pot.
Chapter 2: part two
A face badly in need of a fist. [350 words]
It’s just possible that Draco Malfoy has the most annoying face Harry has ever seen. Really, he supposes, pretty much everything about Malfoy is annoying—his stupid stalky walk, his plummy accent, his ability to turn out perfect potions without seeming to really try—the list just goes on and on, but it’s his face that makes Harry’s teeth clench and his fingers curl into fists. He can never quite put a name to the feeling but it’s always there whenever he has to look at Malfoy and it’s here right now as Malfoy looks up from his book at the other side of the library and frowns to himself. There’s a little line between his stupidly elegant eyebrows and his ridiculously straight nose just seems even straighter as he narrows his sharp, too-clever-for-their-own-good eyes in contemplation.
Harry breathes out slowly through his nose and forces himself to look down at his half-finished Transfiguration essay. Flushing with irritation, he picks up his wand and erases the last sentence, at the end of which he has managed to write ‘Malfoy’ instead of ‘magic’.
Stupid Malfoy and his stupid face.
What is it that Ron says? That some people just have a face that needs rearranging? Harry smiles in spite of himself and glances back up at Malfoy, who is no longer frowning but bending over his table and writing furiously, thin lips twisted into a press of concentration. Harry’s fingers itch.
He’s not really in the business of rearranging faces. Then again, neither is Ron, he supposes. He just likes to say things like that sometimes to seem tough in front of people he wants to impress. One day soon Harry thinks he will tell his best friend that threats of violence—even vague, empty and rather clichéd ones—are very unlikely to make any positive impression on Hermione.
All things considered, though, that face definitely needs something, and when Malfoy looks up and right at Harry, one eyebrow raised and the startling suggestion of a smile flickering at the corners of his mouth, Harry suddenly knows exactly what it is.
The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is irresistibly cute. [568 words]
“Your face is a picture, you know,” Remus says, looking up from his book at the sound of Severus’s irritable and mostly incomprehensible mutterings. “Is that a particularly bad one or do you just have wind?”
Severus looks up, black eyes narrowed. “If you must know,” he says, picking up the length of parchment in question and rolling it savagely, “it was abominable, but believe me, that is nothing out of the ordinary.”
Sev casts a baleful glance at the stack of essays and the sight of it rather illogically makes Remus want to get up and ruffle his hair. Not that he would dare, of course, but there’s something about a grumpy Severus that makes him feel rather squishy inside, and the grumpier Sev gets, the squishier Remus seems to feel. It’s as though all of Sev’s spikes and armour plates just have the opposite effect on him, and he can only imagine that Severus would feel very put out indeed if he knew. A fact which, unfortunately, makes it extremely tempting for Remus to tell him all about it. But he won’t.
“Don’t be like that—some of them must be good,” Remus says lightly.
Severus makes a derisive sort of snorting sound and picks up the next essay. “Remind me again why you are here?”
“You like having me here,” Remus says.
“Not when I am trying to work. I find you extremely distracting.”
Remus grins. “Oh, really?”
“Don’t even think about it,” Sev says grimly, dipping his quill into a pot of red ink and slashing it about the page.
“So very grumpy,” Remus sighs, abandoning his book and stretching his long legs over the arm of his chair.
“Would you like me to come over there and cheer you up a bit?”
Sev glances up, face caught somewhere between irritation and interest. “No,” he says firmly.
Remus smiles and stares at the curtain of black hair half-covering Severus’s face. Of course, he could go back to his own rooms and come back later—that’s probably what a sensible person would do. But then... what is life without a little risk?
“But... you look so sexy when you’re annoyed with me,” he says, just about managing to keep a straight face.
Sev picks up his wand and casts without looking away from his marking. Remus gasps and scrambles around in his seat as the hex takes hold. He can’t say it’s an unpleasant feeling, but it’s certainly a surprising one. Startled, he presses a hand to his fly, feeling heat and hardness beneath. For a moment, there’s silence, and then he starts to laugh.
“What now?” Sev snaps, looking up.
“I mean this with the greatest of respect,” Remus says, grinning, “but what on earth made you think that giving me a raging hard-on was going to stop me from trying to distract you?”
Sev’s mouth twists, a sure sign of his embarrassment. “It was the first spell I thought of. Now—”
Unfortunately he doesn’t get to finish that sentence, because Remus is out of his seat and across the room, ablaze with the rare and wonderful feeling of victory, and he’s kissing the grumpy bugger into submission.
“You’d better not be crumpling my marking,” Sev mumbles.
Remus pinches his crotchety face and kisses him again. “So very grumpy.”
Severus scowls. “Ow. And stop saying that like it’s a compliment.”
Remus just laughs.
You know that old trick where you tap someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them? The Indonesians have a word for it. [595 words]
When something touches Draco’s shoulder and breaks his content little daffodil-chopping trance, he frowns and turns his head, only to find that there’s no one there. When it happens again a minute or two later, he looks, finds nothing, and grinds his teeth a little bit. When it happens for a third time, he sets down his knife and turns around completely. Potter is in the row behind him, staring very hard at his potion and looking slightly flushed.
“What?” Draco hisses quietly once he has ascertained Snape’s whereabouts.
Potter looks up. “Nothing,” he says casually.
“Mr Malfoy, come over here and show Mr Goyle how we slice things in the civilised world,” Snape says wearily.
Draco gives Potter once last odd look and rises, heading over to rescue Greg from the wrath of his least favourite professor. By the end of the lesson, he has forgotten all about Potter.
At lunchtime, Draco is the last person at the Slytherin table, partly because he had hung around after Potions to help Greg with his knife skills, and partly because he always seems to eat more slowly than everyone else. He has no idea where they all need to be so urgently, but he prefers to chew rather than inhale his food. Finally, he sets down his knife and fork and picks up his coffee cup, cradling it in both hands and resting his elbows on the table because, well, his mother isn’t here, is she?
When the tap on his left shoulder comes, he thinks he hides his surprise rather well, instead just turning around wearily to look at Potter, who is standing behind him and blinking innocently. Draco sighs. Really, no one has the right to be so ridiculously charming, least of all someone as maddening as Harry bloody Potter. But it’s no use. The way things are is the way things are.
“What?” he asks again, lifting an eyebrow to underline the question.
“Oh, nothing,” Potter says, flashes Draco a little smile and then walks out of the Great Hall without another word.
It happens again in the corridor outside Transfiguration, again at dinner, and again in the Entrance Hall late at night when he could have sworn there was no one else around. By the next morning, Draco is constantly looking over his shoulders [always both, just in case] and jumping at sudden noises. Worst of all, he can’t seem to stop thinking about Potter. About his green eyes and his ludicrous hair and his sheepish smile and what in the blazes he wants.
Something has to be done.
That afternoon, he heads to the library in search of a particularly esoteric text to help with a rather nasty assignment from Snape, wandering back through the stacks until the light from the windows begins to fade and the ancient, rarely-used books all around him are thick with dust. In the parchment-scented gloom, he relaxes, dropping his guard as he runs a finger along the faded spines and wonders—
Tap tap tap tap.
Caught somewhere between fury, confusion, and the thrill of surprise, Draco whirls around and grabs Potter by the wrists, pinning him against the dusty shelf in one swift movement.
“What do you want?” he whispers harshly, face inches from Potter’s.
Potter’s breathing is rapid, eyes wide and darkening fast. He swallows dryly. “Nothing.”
Heart pounding, Draco presses himself still closer. “What do you want?” he repeats.
Potter’s mouth flickers at one corner. “You.”
“Thank fuck for that,” Draco murmurs, and then they are kissing, and there are no more questions.
Pelinti (Buli, Ghana)
Your friend bites into a piece of piping hot pizza, then opens his mouth and sort of tilts his head around while making an “aaaarrrahh” noise. The Ghanaians have a word for that. More specifically, it means “to move hot food around in your mouth.” [893 words]
“Draco?” Harry calls, letting himself into the house and trying not to drop the hot boxes and rustling paper bags. “Are you home?”
“In the kitchen,” comes the faint reply, and Harry grins, shrugging off his coat and kicking the heavy door shut behind him.
After a long day at the workshop, he is absolutely starving, and while it definitely isn’t the fault of the staff of Pizza Pizza that he had managed to forget to stop for lunch, they had still seemed to take a torturous amount of time to get his order ready. Still, at least he can be sure it’s fresh. And extremely fucking hot, he reminds himself, wincing as a bit of lava-like cheese escapes one of the boxes and burns his fingers.
“That smells interesting,” Draco says without looking up from his notes when Harry enters the kitchen. “I forgot you said you’d bring something home...” He frowns, catching sight of the boxes that Harry places on the table.
“What on earth is that?”
“Pizza,” Harry says brightly. He tears into the brown paper bag and exhibits each additional item to Draco with a flourish of steam and polystyrene lids. “And garlic mushrooms, curly fries, and onion rings. Help yourself.”
“I don’t... alright,” Draco mumbles, gathering his notes and stowing them protectively on the chair furthest from the greasy food. “I’ll set the table, shall I?”
Harry laughs. “No. Not for pizza, that’d be... really odd. Just sit back down and grab a piece,” he instructs, opening the cardboard boxes and filling the kitchen with the warm aromas of garlic, tomatoes, onions and meat.
Draco blinks. “You want me to eat my dinner out of a box?”
“Yeah.” Harry shrugs. “I’m pretty sure you’ve done it before,” he adds, meeting Draco’s eyes and attempting to remind him of a night, not so long ago, when confidences had been exchanged on a moonlit workbench over a jumble of Greek pastries.
“How very uncivilised,” Draco says faintly, but there’s something in his eyes as he takes his seat again that tells Harry his plan has been successful. “I have never done this before,” he admits.
Harry tempers a smile. “I never would have guessed. The thing about takeaway pizza,” he explains, carefully picking up a slice of meat feast and conveying it to his mouth, “is that it isn’t supposed to be civilised. It is supposed to be quick and dirty and delicious.”
“Just like you,” Draco says, smirking and reaching for his own slice with the kind of grace that only he can muster.
“You know, if I wasn’t so hungry, I’d want to know exactly what you meant by ‘quick’,” Harry says, and Draco shoots him a look that is both quelling and promising.
With a happy sigh, he takes a bite. Immediately, his mouth is filled with a burst of flavour, grease and heat and he is forced to open his mouth and attempt to suck in some air to cool the hot food.
“Ah... hot hot hot,” he mumbles, tipping his head this way and that, trying not to burn his tongue and exhaling a plume of steam into the cold air of the kitchen. Finally, he swallows the mouthful of cheese, meat and bread, licks a spot of tomato sauce from his bottom lip and reaches for an onion ring, already beginning to feel content.
It takes him a moment to realise that Draco is completely silent. When he looks at him across the table, he is still holding his own pizza slice and staring at Harry, one eyebrow raised.
“You eat like a pig,” Draco says. Tentatively, he nibbles the end of his slice, holding it well clear of his shirt.
Harry shakes his head, grinning. “No, no. You are missing a vital part of the pizza experience.”
Draco snorts and Harry shrugs, taking another piping hot bite and then another, settling back into his chair and chomping happily until his stomach is no longer threatening to dissolve itself. Draco eats slowly and neatly, finding a napkin and wiping his fingers on it between bites. Harry lets him get on with it. Draco has come a long way from the man whose food had to be neatly separated out, and the fact that he is calmly eating pizza out of a cardboard box at all is extremely impressive.
Just as Harry is beginning to feel full, there is a knock at the door. Rising and stretching, he goes to answer it, and spends a good five minutes or so listening idly to the young man with a bag full of leaflets who is eager to convert him to one religion or another. As he descends the stairs to the kitchen afterwards, he pauses, hearing a rather odd sort of gargling sound.
Quietly, he descends the last few steps and stands there, watching and smiling to himself.
“Ahh,” mumbles Draco through a mouthful of pizza, tipping his head experimentally from side to side, tilting his head and blowing out warm air at regular intervals. “Ahhhh!”
“Do you want a cup of tea to go with that?” Harry asks.
Draco jumps. He chews and swallows before turning to look at Harry. “I didn’t want to miss out.”
Harry grins as he fills the kettle. He wonders if he can get Draco to eat a kebab.
You know that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet? This is the word for it. [526 words]
“He’s still not here!” says Mrs Norris, leaping up onto the counter and prodding Harry with one paw. “Do you know he’s still not here?”
Harry looks down at her and sighs. His big green eyes look worried and sad but he carries on with his cooking as though everything is fine. She doesn’t really understand all this cooking anyway. Mr Filch never used to do it, and neither did this one until very recently. Still, the smell is wonderful and she accepts the bit of warm meat when it is offered.
“Thanks, but really—aren’t you a little bit concerned? He’s very late! This is most irregular!” she insists, unable to resist licking her lips just a little bit.
“Get down off the counter,” Harry says, sweeping her onto the kitchen floor with one hand. She lands neatly on all four feet and stares up at him, tail whisking in exasperation.
“Shh,” Harry says, taking more meat from the pan and chewing on it himself.
She stares at him for a moment and then takes off, skittering across the floor as she runs for the room with the open window. She doesn’t go out much—neither of them do—but sometimes, needs must, and with only a little discomfort in her ageing hips, she leaps up and out of the house in two swift bounds. Perching on the fence post, she looks up and down the street. Nothing.
This man, this Draco—or is it Malfoy?—has become a fixture in her new life. And in Harry’s. And not that she’d ever tell him, but she much prefers him when he’s happy and content and, as such, she needs Draco to keep coming here. And he is late. And that is unacceptable. Letting out a small sound of irritation, she jumps back through the window, and runs through the house. She finds Harry in the kitchen, sitting at the table and frowning.
“He’s still not here! Do you think something is wrong?” she demands, leaping onto the table and pushing her nose into Harry’s face to get his attention.
“I hope nothing’s wrong,” he says, scratching her ears.
Irritated, she bites his finger and jumps down to the floor. He never listens. Mr Filch used to listen to her. She hesitates only for a moment before heading for the window once again. Just to check.
The street is empty. It’s empty the next time, too, when Harry has started to pace around the kitchen, and the time after that, when he spills his drink all over himself and then just stands very still for a long time.
She is sitting on the windowsill in the dusty drawing room when the knock at the door finally comes. As she listens to Harry’s hurried scramble through the house, she contemplates slipping out into the hallway and tripping Draco up, just to teach him a lesson. Just then, a particularly nice shaft of sunlight touches the windowsill and she decides to stay put.
“You’re late,” Harry says. He sounds cross.
Mrs Norris stretches and rests her head on her paws. He can look after himself. For now.
Chapter 3: part three
AN - I should probably subtitle this part as 'Nat fails at drabbling'. Two of these are over 1,000 words and the others aren't all that far behind. I CAN'T HELP IT. I GET CARRIED AWAY.
The chattering of teeth from the cold or from rage [1,154 words]
“Brilliant work, everyone!” Harry calls to his Gryffindor and Slytherin first-years as they come in to land on the snow-covered grass. Some landings are more graceful than others, there’s no denying that, but every single member of the class has now mastered the basics of a graduated take-off and touch-down, and he couldn’t be prouder.
Or colder. Shivering, he stuffs his hands deeper into his coat pockets and yells:
“One more lap, please, and then we’ll call it a day!”
Amid some light grumbling, the students take off once more, kicking up clouds of powdery snow behind them. Harry tips back his head and watches their progress, turning in a slow circle to trace their flight around the training pitch. He quickly picks out Winston Camberwell, flying slowly but steadily at the tail-end of the pack, teeth gritted in utter determination and fingers gripping his broom handle almost tightly enough to snap it in half. Draco has worked wonders with him, though. Six months ago, Winston was too afraid to even summon his broom, and now he is fighting hard to catch up to the rest of the class. As always, he is flanked by his two friends—Emilie on the right with her easy grace and mop of blonde hair, and Surya on the left, coat covered in snow from an earlier fall but going very well regardless.
The snow, rather unexpected in mid-March, has coated the castle and grounds overnight and continues to fall in soft flurries, making the air bitter and the lawns and walkways treacherous underfoot. Harry can no longer feel his nose or his hands and he has given up trying to brush the snowflakes out of his hair. Something very cold is trickling down the back of his neck and he shivers. Fortunately, this is his last flying lesson of the day. He may have had the best intentions about sorting out the broomshed this afternoon, but as his teeth begin to chatter violently, he decides that there are much more important things for him to do inside the castle.
Very important things indeed that he can be doing in Draco’s fantastic armchair, next to a roaring fire, with a hot cup of tea in his hand and a nice, warm beetle on his lap. Smiling to himself in spite of the cold, Harry signals to his class and congratulates them as they land in the snow. They, too, are cold and wet and shivering, but they have worked well.
“Well done, everyone! Off you go... brooms over here, please... careful, Surya...!” Harry goes to help his student up after she trips over absolutely nothing and lands face-first in the snow, but Winston and Emilie are already there, pulling her to her feet and dusting her off.
“I’m alright, Professor Potter!” she calls, giving him a thumbs-up.
Harry returns the gesture, shaking his head and shivering harder in sympathy as Surya blows on her cold, wet hands and heads off back to the castle with the others. As he gathers the brooms more securely in his arms, a vicious gust of wind tears at his face and rattles the cold right down to his bones.
“Thanks,” he mutters to no one in particular.
Startled, Harry turns, and the sight that greets him immediately turns his grimace into a smile.
Striding through the snow towards him, with a joyfully tacking Stanley at his side, is Draco. Around one hand is looped Stanley’s leather lead while the gloved fingers of the other clasp a shiny silver flask. Draco’s long coat whips out behind him as he walks and his pale hair skitters across his forehead in the wind. In fact, he cuts a rather impressive figure as he approaches, making Harry’s heart swoop and his cold-numbed fingers slip on the stack of broomsticks. In his well-worn old coat and sensible trousers, Harry feels scruffy and ordinary next to Draco, but then, that’s nothing new. Draco always manages to look ridiculously put-together, even when he puts on his much-loathed ‘practical’ clothes for his weekend flying lessons. It’s just the way Draco is, he supposes.
“Hello, Stanley,” Harry laughs, as the beetle charges towards him, little booted feet spraying snow everywhere.
Draco coughs, coming to a stop just inches away from Harry.
“Hello,” Harry says shakily, teeth clacking together once more as the wind whips up. “Shouldn’t you be teaching?”
“It’s lunchtime, Professor Potter,” Draco says, one eyebrow firmly arched. “Why is it that your students are always late coming out of their lessons?”
Somehow, despite the temperature, Harry feels his face flush. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s my magnetic personality,” he says, groaning as Draco presses the warm flask into his hand. “Yes, yes, yes, thank you.”
“You don’t know what’s in it. It might be poison,” Draco points out.
Tack tack tack tack tack, Stanley clicks, seemingly in agreement.
“I don’t care,” Harry says, unscrewing the lid and greedily inhaling the scent of rich, hot coffee. He blows the worst of the steam away and then takes a long, burning-hot gulp.
The scalding liquid blazes through him, warming him instantly from the inside out. Exhaling a long plume of steam into the cold air, he grabs Draco’s coat with his free hand and pulls him close. Darting a cursory glance at the deserted lawn, he leans in and kisses Draco, catching his startled expression and laughing warmly against his mouth as it turns into a smile. Harry shivers, feeling the snowflakes brushing his hot-cold skin, and slides his hand up Draco’s back to thread into his hair.
“Oooooh!” cries a familiar voice, followed immediately by a small explosion of laughter, and Harry and Draco step hurriedly apart.
Slowly and inevitably, Harry turns to see Winston, Surya and Emilie standing not ten feet away, clutching each other and grinning.
“Yes?” Harry manages stiffly, but it’s all he can do to keep himself from joining in with their laughter. When he chances a glance at Draco, Harry is at once astonished and delighted to see that he, too, is wearing the flickery sort of frown that always means he is having to fight to look serious.
“Erm... Emilie dropped her glove,” Surya squeaks. Beside her, Winston nods vehemently.
“And here it is!” Emilie says theatrically, waving a blue glove in the air. “How careless of me!”
“We had to find the glove!” Winston adds pointlessly, and then lets out a violent snort of laughter that sets off Surya and Emilie in an instant. For a second or two, they just stand there, giggling, but when Stanley starts hopping around and tacking to be let in on the joke, they turn and run back to the castle, arms and hair and lost gloves flailing with them.
Draco takes the flask from Harry and sips in silence for a moment. Finally, he smiles and tucks his arm through Harry’s.
A word tailor-made for annoying older brothers—it means to jump out and say boo. [821 words]
Ron holds his breath as he sidles past the staircase and along the hallway. He can already hear Hermione’s singing from the kitchen and the sound of it makes him grin. His wife is an extraordinary person—she is easily the cleverest and most beautiful woman he has ever met, and, though he probably wouldn’t admit it out loud, he knows that she must also have the patience of a saint to put up with him and his broom collection—but she is a bloody awful singer.
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” she sings with more feeling than tuning, and then there is a clatter of plates that tells Ron she is washing up. He can’t say he understands why she sometimes likes to do these things the Muggle way—all soap and water and mess everywhere—but he knows better than to question it. Besides, scaring her is even better when there’s the possibility that she’ll fling water all over herself.
Silently, he creeps towards the kitchen door and pulls it open just a little so that he can press his eye to the crack. None of the doors in the house creak—he makes sure of it. The pure joy of periodically frightening his wife half to death is easily worth a little bit of hinge maintenance.
“Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,” she sings into her washing up brush.
Behind the door, Ron smothers a snort of laughter. He waits, fingers resting gently against the painted wood, hanging on for that perfect moment, because the whole thing about this jumping-out business is the sound Hermione makes when she’s surprised. It’s this wonderful combination of a terrified squeal and a yell of pure fury, and it makes his day every fucking time. He’s lost count of how many times he’s heard it over the years, but the brilliant thing is that he never gets tired of it.
Oh, she’ll be mad for a while, but it’ll be so worth it.
Hermione stacks a clean plate on the draining board and performs a little spin. Ron prepares to pounce.
“Everybody knows a turkey and some—AARGH!” she shrieks as Ron leaps into the kitchen and grabs her around the waist.
Half a second later, there are soap bubbles everywhere and Ron is being hit with the washing up brush and a wet tea towel at the same time but he doesn’t care. Rolling with laughter, he ducks away from her and neatly puts himself at the far side of the kitchen table.
“Ron!” she bellows, throwing the towel at him with impressive accuracy. “There is something very wrong with you, do you know that?!”
Ron pulls the towel from his face and laughs until his stomach hurts. “I’m sorry,” he manages breathlessly. He isn’t. Not even a little bit.
Hermione rolls her eyes and turns back to the sink, muttering to herself. “Bugger off,” she says finally. “Go and help Hugo with his homework.”
Ron sighs at the thought of the fractions and capital cities that surely await him, but he is still smiling as he opens the door to the living room.
“BOO!” bellow several people as he enters the room and Ron jumps ten feet in the air, heart hammering.
He hears some kind of loud noise leave him as he stumbles and crashes into the sofa but he isn’t really paying attention. The room is suddenly filled with laughter and he looks around, clutching his chest. When he comes back to himself, he realises that the ‘several people’ are in fact Harry and George, both of whom are now bent double with laughter.
“Well done, boys,” says Hermione, and Ron turns slowly to see his wife in the doorway, one hand on her hip and one still clutching the washing up brush.
Ron just stares at her, open-mouthed. “You...?”
Hermione smirks. “It is a rather brilliant sound, isn’t it? Sort of like a cross between a stuck pig and a frightened little girl.”
“I think you’ll find my noise of surprise is extremely manly,” Ron says, bristling slightly.
“Sorry, little bro,” George says, pulling himself together at last. “We all heard it. There’s nowhere to hide, I’m afraid.”
“Harry?” Ron tries, turning to his best friend. His face is bright red and he knows it, and he has the sinking feeling that there is no way to rescue this situation.
Harry shakes his head, putting on a terrible expression of mock-sadness. “If anything, your scream was higher-pitched than Hermione’s,” he says.
Ron sinks into an armchair and drops his heated face into his hands. “I can’t believe it.”
“I don’t suppose you’ve learned your lesson, have you?” Hermione asks from the doorway.
Ron says nothing. He considers the humiliation of his girly scream, weighs it against the absolute delight of making Hermione jump out of her skin, and smiles against his hands.
“Definitely,” he lies.
Maybe Goldilocks was Swedish? This slippery little word is hard to define, but means something like, “Not too much, and not too little, but juuuuust right.” [697 words]
Draco lets out a low groan and arches his back as Harry slides his hot mouth over his cock. He lets it rest there against his tongue, bringing up a hand to caress Draco’s inner thigh, to stroke the sensitive skin and to graze ragged nails against tortured nerve endings. Draco no longer has any idea what time it is—this could have been going on for hours, days or just minutes as far as he knows—Harry has this disorienting effect on him, touching and kissing and licking and sliding until Draco slips into a haze, and all he can focus on is dark green eyes and the smell of the outdoors and the rhythm.
The rhythm is always there, no matter what. Harry may be chaos and disorder in many areas of his life, but here, in this room, on these linen sheets—crumpled beyond all help—he moves to a cadence that only he can hear. Draco can feel it, though, in every movement and in every breath that they take together; Harry’s rhythm is strong and pounding, deep enough to shake him, slow and slow and quick-quick-slow, pushing him to the edge of madness and pulling him back in tight.
Breathless, Draco grips the sheets in his fingers and stares down at Harry, catches the smile in his eyes as he wraps his tongue around Draco’s cock, flicking, swiping, quick-quick-slow, and Draco bites his bottom lip hard, closing his eyes and dropping his head back to the pillow. Harry’s rhythm is more than something in which to get lost—it is a challenge, a test of the most wonderful and maddening kind, and Draco is not yet ready to give in. He’s strung tight, a whisper from the edge; he has been for a long time, perhaps for hours.
Perhaps for months. That’s the thing about being with Harry, he has discovered. Even with all of his uncertainty and self-deprecation, he exudes something that makes Draco feel perpetually as though he is about to fall off the edge of a cliff. Something powerful but careful. Something that will fuck him desperate and make cups of tea afterwards. Something that drags him a little more in love with Harry for every minute that they spend together.
“Draco,” he whispers, sliding, slipping against Draco’s body, coming closer.
Draco opens his eyes and gasps sharply, both at the mouth suddenly claiming his and the slow, rhythmical slide of Harry’s fingers around his aching erection. He kisses back, lifting his hands to thread into Harry’s hair, pushing breathlessly into the hot, desperate slide of mouths and tongues.
Quick-quick-slow. Too much and not enough and perfect.
“I think that’s long enough,” Harry whispers, shifting position so that Draco’s cock slides slowly inside him, sinking down and grinning against Draco’s mouth, swallowing his rough sound of surprise.
“Oh, god,” Draco whimpers, pressing his face to Harry’s hot skin, tensing as he tries to control the reaction inside him, fighting down the natural, swelling response to tightness and friction and Harry’s rhythm all around him. Not yet. Not yet. “Not yet,” he insists, half in a whisper, but Harry is moving and smiling and stroking himself and Draco can’t hold on.
“Let go,” Harry instructs, leaning down to kiss him so softly that his eyes fill with stinging tears.
Finally, Draco obeys, losing himself in a vast, crashing wave of sensation. Every muscle clenches tight as he lets out a ragged sound and pulls Harry down hard against him, shuddering as he feels Harry’s release against his stomach just seconds later. Relaxing slowly, breathing hard, he looks up at the man leaning down over him. The rhythm is calmer now, soft and fluid, and it wraps around Draco like a feather quilt.
He slides a shaky hand through Harry’s messy hair. Stops. Blinks.
“What’s the matter?” Harry asks, gently pulling away and coming to curl at Draco’s side.
Of course, Draco thinks, smiling uncontrollably as, at last, everything starts to make sense. It’s not just Harry’s rhythm. It’s theirs.
“Nothing,” he says, pulling Harry closer and resting his head against his chest, listening contentedly to his heartbeat. “Nothing at all.”
Sandwich Artists unite! The Norwegians have a non-specific descriptor for anything – ham, cheese, jam, Nutella, mustard, herring, pickles, Doritos, you name it – you might consider putting into a sandwich. [1,022 words]
“Uncle Harry, I’m starving!” Maura declares, giggling helplessly as Harry scoops her up and carries her into the kitchen under one arm.
Draco follows them, stepping over the coils of Frank the snake, who is basking in a patch of sunlight on the kitchen tiles.
“You have such a hard life,” he mutters. Frank stirs at the sound of cupboard doors being opened and flicks his tongue lazily.
“So, what do you want?” Harry asks. “Tuna mayonnaise? Ham and mustard?” He pauses, turning to Maura with more than a touch of drama. “Cheese?”
Maura laughs and wrinkles her nose. “No, that’s boring,” she tells Harry. “Can I make the sandwiches?”
“Can I make the sandwiches what?” Draco says automatically.
“Please?” Maura turns appealing brown eyes on Draco and he caves in immediately, flicking his wand to send a small wooden stool skittering across the kitchen floor, stopping at Maura’s feet and narrowly missing Frank’s tail in the process. He slides over to Harry’s side and hisses in what Draco suspects is an indignant manner.
Harry hisses back, leaning down to tap Frank on the head with one finger. Maura climbs on to the stool and reaches for the bread. Carefully, she counts out six slices and beams at Draco when he hands her the butter. He leans against the counter and watches idly as she splats far too much of it onto each slice but he says nothing, knowing that most seven-year-olds would turn up their noses at the healthy wholegrain bread he and Harry prefer. That being said, Maura Zabini-Weasley is not most seven-year-olds.
She is spending the day with them because her school is having what she insists is called an ‘insect day’, and neither Ginny nor Blaise can take the time off work. They have spent a very pleasant morning in the workshop with Harry, and after lunch, Draco plans to take her to the park. That is, if she can still move after eating all the honey roast ham she is currently piling onto her sandwich.
Frank slides up the cupboards and rests his head on the counter top, tongue flickering with interest in the direction of the ham.
“Stop it,” Draco says, poking the snake and knowing it is pointless.
Harry hisses harshly and Frank drops to the floor, apparently chastened. Draco smiles to himself, secretly enjoying the little display of power.
“Let’s have these!” Maura says, taking handfuls of tiny button mushrooms and scattering them artfully over the sandwiches in progress. Several fall to the floor and bounce across the tiles, momentarily diverting Frank’s attention from the aroma of meat.
“Well, that’s not very exciting,” Harry teases.
Maura turns to him, little face arranged in an expression of pure challenge that Draco is fairly certain she learned from her Uncle Harry.
“I haven’t finished,” she informs him airily.
Draco watches, intrigued, as she leans up on her tiptoes and rummages around in the cupboard above her head. He knows better than to provoke Maura when it comes to food combinations—he has played this game too many times before. Then again, so has Harry, but he never seems to learn.
“Jam, jam, strawberry jam,” she sings, plunging her knife into the pot and cheerfully splatting the ham and mushrooms with the contents until the sandwiches begin to resemble the scene of a violent crime.
“Ah,” Harry says, eyebrows knitted in mild dismay. Draco hides a smile.
“Hmm,” Maura muses, setting down the jar and regarding her creations. “Just one more thing... have you got any pickled onions, please?”
Harry whimpers softly. Draco opens the cupboard again and extracts the jar for her, grinning. He is well aware that he will have to eat his sandwich, too, but somehow that doesn’t matter compared to the fun of watching Harry trying to eat his.
“Thanks, Uncle Draco,” she says politely. Lips pursed in concentration, she fishes out several onions and presses them carefully into the jam on each sandwich before placing the other pieces of buttered bread on top and regarding each with a look of utter triumph.
Four sandwich fillings, he thinks approvingly. Good girl.
“I’ll get the plates, then,” Harry says faintly, and Draco offers an arm to Maura as she jumps down from her stool. Impulsively, he rolls up a piece of ham and throws it down to Frank, who curls around it protectively the moment it hits the floor.
At the kitchen table, Maura bites into her sandwich straight away and chomps away happily, legs swinging and curly pigtails bobbing. Harry regards his plate with trepidation. Draco watches him, amused, and takes a small bite of his sandwich. He chews slowly, allowing the odd mix of flavours to sort themselves out on his tongue... the saltiness of the ham, the mild, savoury taste of the mushrooms, the sharp hit of the pickled onions, and, somewhere in the middle of it all, the sweet sting of strawberry jam. It’s certainly different, and once upon a time he would have run a mile from it, but actually... it’s not bad at all.
“Are you enjoying that?” Harry asks, amusement clear in his voice.
Draco shrugs and takes another bite. “It’s a bit like you,” he says after a moment, returning Harry’s startled smile. “At first, it seems very odd, but it works.”
Maura giggles and covers her mouth, still clutching her sandwich in the other hand.
Slowly, Harry shakes his head and then pokes out his tongue at Draco. “How rude,” he says and bites decisively into his sandwich.
Draco watches with delight as his nose wrinkles and his eyes begin to water.
“Do you like it, Uncle Harry?” Maura asks earnestly.
Harry appears to struggle for a moment before swallowing hard and nodding. “Yes, it’s lovely, thank you. I think I’m just going to eat it in the living room, though,” he says, getting up and heading for the stairs with his plate. “It’s a bit cold down here.”
When he has gone, Draco and Maura exchange amused glances.
“Do you think we should make him something else?” she asks thoughtfully.
Draco smiles. “Absolutely not.”
Remember in Clueless when Cher describes someone as “a full-on Monet…from far away, it’s OK, but up close it’s a big old mess”? That’s exactly what this word means. [953 words]
“Two o’clock!” Fyzal declares, and everyone looks slightly to their right, squinting through the smoke and darkness of the crowded pub.
Almost everyone. Ron frowns over the top of his glass and addresses Harry in a loud whisper:
“It’s not, you know—it’s only just gone midnight. I think all those cocktails might’ve gone to his head.”
Fyz turns to Ron and drapes an affectionate arm around him. “Shh, darling, and look over there,” he says, pointing with his martini glass.
As far as Harry is concerned, they are both sozzled, but he’s saying nothing. He hasn’t said anything in a good while, actually, and neither have most of tonight’s Friday pub-crawl crowd, which has been impressively swollen by colleagues and friends alike in order to celebrate Cecile’s birthday. Ever since the group entered the Dragon and Snitch, the birthday girl has found herself the subject of a three-man matchmaking intervention. Fyzal, Marley, and an unusually tipsy Draco have arranged themselves around Cecile and scoured the pub for suitable candidates while the others look on in various stages of intoxicated entertainment.
“I don’t want to miss anything but I really need a wee,” Eloise confides, picking a cherry out of her drink and lightly spraying Harry with something that smells a lot like paint stripper.
Harry squints at her carefully. “I don’t think you should do it here,” he advises.
Eloise giggles and pushes her drink into his hand, picking up her long skirt and stepping inelegantly over Hermione, Terry and Ron on her way to the bathroom.
“No,” Cecile says firmly, much to the disappointment of her three matchmakers. “Look at him, he’s got no bum!”
“What does he need a bum for?” Marley demands, accent strengthened by several pints of stout. “You have a strange taste in men, so you do.”
“That’s rich coming from you,” Draco says, catching Harry’s eyes as he flicks Marley’s glossy waves into his face.
Harry wrinkles his nose. He prefers not to think about the fact that Marley still has a bit of a thing for him. Because... it’s Marley. And it’s weird. Marley, who is blushing—blushing!—is apparently of the same opinion, because just seconds later he’s directing Cecile’s attention to a young man at the bar.
“He’s got a lovely arse, if you don’t mind me saying so. I don’t mind me saying so,” he mumbles to himself, drawing a ripple of laughter from Hermione.
“I don’t think he knows what he’s saying,” she mumbles.
“Something about arses,” Ron says helpfully.
“Listen, you bunch of drunken tits,” Cecile says, directing her sternest expression at each of the three men in turn. “Arses are very important, and if three flamers like you can’t understand that then I may have to give up on men entirely.”
“Ooh!” someone calls mockingly, and Harry suddenly realises that it’s him. Startled, he gulps at his drink. Except that it’s not his drink at all.
“That’s mine,” Eloise says, reclaiming her seat and her drink. “What did I miss?”
“Cecile’s on the turn!” Ron declares to delighted laughter from the group.
“Fucking hell,” Cecile sighs, slumping back against her seat. “Why is everybody gay?”
Harry snorts and exchanges a warm glance with Draco, who now has Fyzal’s cocktail umbrella tucked into his hair.
“Everybody isn’t,” Terry says, sounding rather resigned.
Cecile doesn’t seem to hear him. “Gay, gay, gay,” she says, pointing to Fyz, Marley and Draco in turn. “Gay,” she adds, gesturing at Harry with a squint and a twiddly finger. “Gay,” she sighs, jerking her head in the direction of the man at the bar, who is now wrapped firmly around a large, bearded gentleman in a leather jacket.
“Sorry,” Harry says, uncertain exactly why he is apologising but feeling the need to do it anyway.
“Meh,” Cecile shrugs. “I don’t need a boyfriend anyway.”
“Still... how about him?” Draco says, pointing across the pub with the cocktail umbrella.
When they turn away, Harry glances at Terry. Sure enough, he is staring at the back of Cecile’s head with a poorly-disguised look of painful longing. Harry sighs.
“It’ll happen,” Eloise says, apparently reading his thoughts. “But not tonight.”
“What’ll happen?” Ron demands loudly over the pounding of the music.
Harry opts not to answer. Instead, he follows the gaze of Cecile and her three matchmakers and finds himself looking at a handsome, well-built man who has just walked into the Dragon with a small group of friends.
“Not at all bad,” Cecile says approvingly.
“Not gay, either,” Hermione says.
Harry glances at her. “How do you know?”
She smiles to herself. “I always know.”
“There’s not a bad arse there, either,” Marley says triumphantly as the man comes closer.
“You know what, boys? I think he might actually be... oh, no, no, no, it’s a comb-over! Abort! Abort!” Cecile yells, just as the music comes to a thunderous crescendo and then stops dead.
There’s nothing more than a second or two before the next song kicks in, but it doesn’t matter. The man, who is indeed sporting the most horrendous comb-over Harry has ever seen, has heard Cecile’s tipsy bellowing and is now staring over at their group with absolute fury in his eyes.
Horrorstruck, Cecile turns back to the table. “Did that really just happen?” she whimpers, taking Draco’s drink out of his hand and knocking back the contents in one.
“A bit, yes,” Hermione says faintly.
Harry watches over Cecile’s shoulder as the man with the comb-over shakes his head and returns to his friends and the whole group retreats to a safe distance, one at which he still looks rather handsome.
“Ah well,” Cecile sighs, gathering herself and smiling wickedly. “There’s always lesbianism.”
Chapter 4: part four
AN – I think I am getting worse at this drabbling thing as time goes on. With this set, I was proud of myself that three of them actually come in under 1,000 words, so... ah, well, bugger it.
If I Had Words – part four
There are several Yiddish words to describe social misfits. This one is for an impractical dreamer with no business sense. [1,277 words]
“You carry on—I’ll find him,” Harry promises, closing the door on the east wing dining room before Draco can protest.
He thinks he hears a muffled “Harry, just let me...” from inside the room, but he is already walking down the corridor and away from Draco’s staff meeting as quickly as he can. His steps are light with post-night shift weariness but he forges on, knowing all too well the consequences of a delayed meeting. Draco will be crotchety and disoriented, the team will suffer, and the inevitable ranting will ruin Harry’s already fractured sleeping pattern.
All because of Marley, wherever the hell he is.
This isn’t the first time that the flash bugger has missed something important and Harry doubts it will be the last. Marley seems to lack all concept of scheduling, time-management or organisation, and his understanding of the word ‘responsibility’ seems to be quite different to everyone else’s. Somehow, in spite of all this, everyone seems to like him, and, even as he pokes his head into one room after another and sighs, Harry has to admit that he has a certain amount of affection for the shiny-haired tosspot these days.
Unfortunately, said shiny-haired tosspot is nowhere to be seen. Harry checks the kitchen, the offices and cupboards, the group rooms and residents’ rooms and bathrooms. He pokes his head out into the grounds and searches every inch of the lounge, where he finds plenty of residents, several very tempting fireside armchairs, and a cat, but no Marley.
“You look like you should be in bed,” says a male resident, looking up from his piece of writing.
Harry smiles wearily, stifling a yawn and scrubbing at his hair with fingers that don’t quite feel like his own. “You haven’t seen Marley, have you?”
“Not since lunch,” the man says, and Harry sighs.
“He was talking to the little boy,” someone else says suddenly, and Harry turns.
This resident is new—brand new, in fact. Harry doesn’t even know her name. “Clive? When?”
“After lunch?” she says hesitantly.
Harry beams at her. “Thanks,” he calls, taking off toward the west wing of the house with renewed energy. Clive and Marley seem to have a curious but close relationship these days, and it’s quite possible that if he can find one of them, he can find the other, too.
They are not in Clive’s room, nor are they to be found on the third floor with the portraits, in the kitchen with Flimby, or in Narcissa’s sun room.
“I believe they went outside,” she says, setting aside a letter and quill and looking out of the window in distaste.
Harry looks, too. The day is grey and cold and fraught with strong winds, and now, of course, he is going to have to go out in it. Fucking staff meetings. Fucking Marley.
“Why?” he asks pointlessly, tucking his hands into the sleeves of his heavy robes.
“I shall be most interested to find out,” Narcissa says with an odd little smile. “It must be of great importance, must it not, if Mr Marley is willing to ruin his hairstyle?”
Amused, Harry takes his leave and forces himself out into the wind. Head down, he battles his way around the outside of the house, keeping close to the walls and scanning the landscape for Marley and Clive. Finally, eyes streaming and face numb with cold, he turns a corner and there they are, tucked into a sheltered section of the building, crouching together over several brightly-coloured objects and talking softly.
Relieved and yet puzzled, Harry opens his mouth to speak when Clive’s little voice carries towards him on the wind.
“What if she doesn’t see them?”
Marley turns, one hand steadying himself against the ground, robes flapping around him.
“She’s going to see them,” he says gravely.
“Wherever she is?” Clive asks, voice small.
“Wherever she is. She can hardly miss them, can she? Look how bright they are,” Marley says, indicating the coloured objects at his feet. “She’ll know you’re thinking of her. And not only that... once I put the spell inside them, other people will be able to see them, too.”
Clive picks up one of the objects and examines it, face scrunched up in thought.
“And they won’t be sad for a little bit,” he says, and when he holds the object up, Harry can see that it is, in fact, a tiny hot air balloon, made of coloured paper and string and glue and, from the way the little thing is holding up to the fierce winds, quite a bit of magic, too.
Marley’s answering smile is wide and sparkling and just a tiny bit sad. “Exactly. Everyone won’t be sad for a little bit.”
The little boy smiles up at the elegant, windblown man and Harry exhales slowly, allowing himself to lean against the rough stone of the house as something surprising and heavy settles in his chest. When the sigh comes out a little louder than intended, Marley and Clive whip around.
“Found you,” Harry says softly, pushing himself upright and coming to examine the little balloons.
Clive stares at him, blue eyes wide. “Is Mrs Mafloy cross?”
Harry ruffles his hair. “No, she knows you’re in good hands. Mr Mafloy, however, is not very happy at all,” he says, meeting Marley’s eyes and watching horrified realisation spark into life.
“Ah... the staff meeting,” he says after a moment. “I wonder how late I am.”
Harry is just taking a moment to quietly marvel at a grown man who has never carried any kind of timepiece, nor, it seems, ever learned to cast a Tempus charm, when Clive tugs at Marley’s sleeve and says:
“It’s ten minutes past two. Are you very, very late?”
Marley sighs theatrically. “That I am, Clive, but you are very smart, so it’s not all bad.”
Harry smiles and admires the shiny silver watch bought by Narcissa for Clive’s seventh birthday. He looks at the little boy, noticing the dried tracks of recent tears on wind-reddened cheeks, the hopeful, determined expression, the small hand still wrapped tightly around Marley’s sleeve. He looks at the scattered pile of colourful balloons, the grey sky, the towering shape of the house.
“Maybe later, hey?” Marley says to Clive, and Harry’s heart twists.
“He’s already pretty mad,” he says, bending to pick up a balloon. “A few more minutes won’t make a difference, especially if I help.”
As a weak ray of sunlight pokes its way through the clouds, Marley smiles slowly.
“Thanks, Wonder Boy.”
Harry says nothing, just quietly rolls his eyes and watches with Clive as Marley shoots a warm, glowing spell into a bright red balloon, raises it up and lets it go.
“Are you looking, Mum?” Clive calls over the wind. “There’s more coming!”
He picks up two balloons, handing one each to Marley and Harry. Soon the air is full of tiny, glowing balls of colour, each one buffeted by the wind but slowly rising upwards and out into the countryside around the Manor. Harry, Marley and Clive watch, heads tipped back, as the balloons float gently over fields and fences and hills and trees, taking with them their odd little messages of hope and light. When the last balloon is out of sight, they head back into the house, fingers frozen and hair in disarray. Harry doesn’t think he has ever seen Marley look so dishevelled, yet, unsurprisingly, he wears it with perfect aplomb.
Fucking Marley, he thinks, prodding him in the direction of his meeting and taking Clive’s hand. This time, though, when he rolls his eyes, he can’t help smiling.
Cafune (Brazilian Portuguese)
Leave it to the Brazilians to come up with a word for “tenderly running your fingers through your lover’s hair.” [868 words]
Pansy stretches luxuriously and leans back against the sofa cushions, idly listening to the wireless in the corner and contentedly playing with the rope of soft black hair that spills over her lap as Padma sits on a cushion on the floor, nose buried in a recipe book and head resting against Pansy’s thigh.
“And right after this song from the Elvers, we have Desmond Cox, who is going to tell us all about his new book – Degnoming Your Garden For Good,” says the announcer, and Pansy ignores him, instead focusing on rolling and twisting one long section of Padma’s hair until it coils to form a shiny black snail shell.
Amused, she leaves it there and combs the rest of the hair through her fingers, gently working out any knots and fanning it out across her lap. Padma’s hair is glorious; Pansy has always thought so. Even during their school days, when the two of them barely ever exchanged a word, Pansy quietly and secretly envied the Patil girls their long, flowing locks. Pansy has what her mother calls ‘difficult’ hair, which means that it is fine, limp, easy to break and prone to unattractive kinking.
She would have given up every one of her expensive dresses for hair like theirs, but was never offered such a bargain, and, as such, has learned to make the most of what she has. Her sharp bob goes well with scarlet lipstick and a certain acidity of manner, and she makes it work. Still, it hadn’t only been the dryad costume that had drawn her to Padma some years later.
“It did help a little bit, though,” she mumbles under her breath, wrapping a long piece of hair around her fingers and fashioning it into something that looks a little like the flowers Padma had worn that night.
“Are you talking to me or yourself?” Padma asks without looking up from her book.
“No idea, darling,” Pansy says airily, feeling her lips twitch into a smile as she separates the hair into three sections and begins to fold it into a thick, shining plait.
Padma says nothing, merely allowing Pansy to carry on as she runs her finger down a list of exotic-looking ingredients. Padma says nothing quite a lot of the time, and this quality intrigues Pansy as much as it unnerves her. Having spent most of her life surrounded by the constant noise of argument and self-promotion and one-upmanship, she has had to struggle to make herself heard above it all. She has always managed it, too, but she has always been left with, at best, a headache, and at worst, the very real desire to have said nothing at all.
Padma never seems have that problem. She is thoughtful, considered, perhaps even wise. She is beautiful, just like her sister, but unlike her sister, she barely seems concerned with her appearance, and she doesn’t seem to mind that Pansy is always going to be the one who talks. Parvati Patil is a very noisy young woman, Pansy thinks, and she can only imagine what she might make of such a peaceful scene.
“She’d tell us we were boring and we needed to get out more,” Padma says, tipping her head back to fix Pansy with large dark eyes. “I wasn’t sure if you were talking to yourself that time or not.”
“I didn’t realise I was talking at all,” Pansy confesses, stroking her fingers through several escaped strands that have seen fit to flop against Padma’s forehead. She gathers them and winds them into a tiny knot that looks a lot like the cinnamon whirls Padma likes to make at the weekends.
“Are there any cinnamon things left?” she asks, batting her eyelashes to best advantage.
“Maybe,” Padma says, turning and kneeling between her thighs, one hand on each knee and smile warm. “What’s it worth to you?”
Pansy looks back at her, face twisted into an expression of mock consideration.
“What you’ve gotta know is that it’s all about the spin,” says the man on the wireless, as though imparting some sort of grand secret.
Pansy sighs, throwing her hands up in defeat. “It’s no good,” she says. “You might as well know the truth. I would do anything for one of your cinnamon whirls.”
Padma smiles slowly, leaning in and kissing her with enough promise to make her gasp when they pull apart.
“Come on, then,” Padma says, rising gracefully to her feet and pulling Pansy up from the sofa.
As she leads her to the bedroom, her beautiful long black hair swishes behind her, echoing the delicious movement of her hips and playing havoc with Pansy’s fragile self-control. The snail shell, the cinnamon whirl and the long plait have unravelled, leaving only the familiar dark curtain, and Pansy’s fingers are already threading rapturously though it as they fall onto the bed in a breathless, smiling tangle.
“When we’ve finished here, I’m going to paint you,” Pansy whispers into the fragrant curve of Padma’s neck.
“With a cinnamon whirl,” Padma suggests, working her fingers into Pansy’s ‘difficult’ hair as though it, too, is something beautiful.
“Absolutely,” Pansy promises, and then all is quiet once more.
This word is the hopeful declaration that you will die before someone you love deeply, because you cannot stand to live without them. Literally, may you bury me. [1,099 words]
“Draco, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s just a flip virus.”
“Don’t ‘it’s just a flip virus’ me,” Draco snaps, scowling as he tucks Harry’s blankets more tightly around him. “You know I’m hardly an expert on these things, and all I can see is that you’re lying in a hospital bed and you look bloody awful.”
“You always know how to lift my spirits,” Harry murmurs, trying to smile but not quite managing it. “Like I keep telling you, all we’re waiting for is for Cecile to get in touch with her patient—the carrier—and as soon as they tell us which part of Australia they visited, we can Portkey over there and get the plants we need for a potion. And then I’ll be fine.”
“You will be Portkeying nowhere,” Draco says sternly, casting a cooling charm as Harry’s violent shivering transitions rapidly into sweating and gasping. The unrelenting ‘flips’ between extremes of temperature are, if anything, growing more severe, and Draco can only stand by, powerless, as Harry shifts back and forth between equal states of discomfort, drawing only temporary relief from simple warming and cooling charms.
“I didn’t mean me literally, I promise. Is there any—oh, thanks,” Harry mumbles through suddenly dry lips, reaching out to take the water Draco is already holding out.
His hand shakes, fingers struggling to grip the glass, and it makes Draco’s stomach churn to see it. Harry is always so strong, and it doesn’t seem to matter how many times he or the nurses or the Healers explain to him that Harry is in no immediate danger, he can’t bring himself to turn off the constant low-level panic inside his head, the flashing lights and the unhelpful but insistent little voice that whispers, ‘But what if they’re wrong? What if he dies? What if?’ into every quiet moment.
Draco takes the glass back, pressing his fingers against the cool surface and pushing away his pointless terror with a massive effort.
“How is it that Cecile is mysteriously healthy, while you are lying here looking like...”
“Please don’t finish that sentence, Draco,” Harry mumbles, closing his eyes against the sweat that is now pouring down his face. “Anyway, Cecile’s had every flip going, she travelled all around Australia with her family when she was little. If anything, I’m a victim of my own lack of desire to travel the world.”
Harry smiles weakly and Draco manages a smile back, setting down the water and picking up his cold, stale cup of coffee from the bedside. As he tries to decide between drinking the vile stuff and dashing down the corridor for a fresh one, Harry falls into a restless sleep, and Draco decides to stay put, at least until he wakes. Yawning, he stretches and rearranges himself in the hard wooden chair, abandoning all attempts at good posture and allowing his arms and legs to dangle.
The Healers will be making their afternoon rounds soon, he thinks. Sitting at Harry’s bedside for the best part of three days has given him a fairly good idea of their schedule, along with a savage headache from the vivid uniforms and the all-pervading stench of lavender. Draco sighs and shifts position yet again, attempting to ease the cramped up muscles in his back and legs, and attempting, with rather less success, not to notice the state of his hair, the gritty feeling of his clothes and the general feeling of being worn-out and unwashed. Ginevra has been in a couple of times now and assured him that everything is fine back at the Manor, and Draco has no better option than to believe her, because he is not leaving Harry’s side for anything.
Eventually giving up on the idea of comfort, he rises and pushes open the window, allowing the cool, fresh air to rush into the room and circulate, flushing out the stale aromas of sweat and medicine and musty clothes. He leans on the windowsill, both hands braced against the wood, and closes his eyes. It’s all going to be fine, he tells himself firmly. It looks fucking ghastly but it’s going to be fine. The trouble is, he has never seen Harry so vulnerable in any place but his worst nightmares, and the idea that a simple virus can incapacitate him so neatly makes Draco feel as though he will never sleep again. An image of his life without Harry swims into his exhausted brain and wraps around him, flooding his body with cold, grey emptiness and pure fear.
He can’t do it. He won’t. He just won’t stand for it.
“Don’t you even think about dying before me,” he whispers, returning to the bedside and brushing Harry’s sweat-damp hair back from his forehead.
“I’m not dying, Draco,” Harry murmurs without opening his eyes.
“Not right now,” Draco concedes. “But one day you will, and I am merely making my feelings known.”
Harry lets out a scratchy bark of laughter. “I’ll do my best but I can’t promise you anything.”
Draco sits down heavily and frowns. “I am older than you. I will die first. That’s just how it’s going to be.”
Harry’s mouth curves into a weary smile and he opens his eyes slowly. “Maybe we should aim for shuffling off at the same time... you know... doing something exciting, like... battling a dragon on our two hundredth anniversary.”
“That is... acceptable,” Draco concedes, and Harry is suddenly shivering again. Draco closes the window with a flick of his wand, pulls the sheets up around Harry and casts a glowing warming charm around the bed.
“Thanks,” Harry mumbles. “You’re mad.”
“Who’s mad?” Cecile demands breathlessly, skidding into the room with a sheaf of papers.
“All the best people,” Draco says, noticing her smile and feeling his heart lift.
She grins. “That’s right,” she says, wrapping her arms around the papers and gazing down at Harry. “We’ve found him. He’s in Russia now, but he recently spent two weeks in Darwin. My Portkey leaves in an hour.” She pauses, eyebrows knitted. “Fuck me, Harry, you look dreadful.”
With what seems like some effort, Harry pokes out his tongue at her. “You have fun, Cecile.”
She exchanges a relieved look with Draco and then scuttles out into the corridor, tatty old canvas shoes squeaking on the tiles.
“Draco?” Harry groans. Draco turns back to him. “Can you open the window again?”
Draco complies without a word and grips Harry’s hot hand tightly. Harry grips back. He’s not going anywhere for a little while. They have a plan. Draco breathes.
Pana Po’o (Hawaiian)
“Hmm, now where did I leave those keys?” he said, pana po’oing. It means to scratch your head in order to help you remember something you’ve forgotten.[855 words]
“Ginny?” Blaise bellows up the stairs.
Ginny puts down her Quidditch Today and looks over at the open bedroom door. “Yes?”
“Have you seen Brunhilda?”
“No,” she calls back, crossing her fingers in her lap. “Have you lost her?”
Following a series of heavy thumps, Blaise appears in the bedroom doorway. He is wearing a puzzled frown—not an expression Ginny is used to seeing on his face—and she uncrosses her fingers quickly, feeling a twinge of guilt. It’s not enough to provoke her to confess all about the location of Brunhilda, however. Her husband has an oddly strong attachment to that thing, and it’s quite possible that without it, he won’t be able to make his horrendous bathtub gin at all.
“I can’t find her anywhere,” he says, dark eyes large and beseeching.
With some effort, Ginny holds herself firm. She loves her husband’s curious nature, his let’s-have-a-go-then enthusiasm, his creativity, but the smell gives her a headache, the bathtub is out of action for weeks at a time, and worst of all, she has to drink the bloody stuff and pretend that she’s enjoying it. She’s not the only one, either—the last time they had Harry and Draco round for dinner, Harry had been talked into trying a glass and had had to be prodded into the Floo by nine thirty. According to Draco, it had taken him three days to properly shake off the hangover.
Blaise’s problem, she supposes, is that he thinks everyone is as robust as he is, but Ginny has yet to meet a single person who even comes close.
“Have you looked in the bathroom cabinet? That’s where she usually is,” Ginny says at last.
“Of course, old bean,” Blaise says, stepping into the room and starting to search through cupboards and drawers. “That was the very first place I looked. She isn’t in the kitchen or the living room, and I can’t for the life of me remember where I last saw her.”
Ginny watches him anxiously as he moves closer to Brunhilda’s hiding place. She doesn’t think he’ll look under the bed, but she’s also not about to give herself away by moving.
“Do you... erm... need her right now?” she asks innocently.
Blaise turns to face her. “Ginny, I need her desperately,” he says with the utmost gravity, and she fights back a smile. “I’ve just been talking to a chap at work about the old bathtub booze, and he gave me the most marvellous idea...” He sighs, narrowing his eyes and scratching his head vigorously. “If only I could remember... I simply can’t do it without her, you know that.”
Ginny sighs. “You can’t use a different spoon?”
Blaise stops puzzling and stares at her, eyes round with horror. “Heaven help you if Brunhilda can hear you right now,” he whispers.
Ginny laughs. “What’s she going to do? Stir me to death?”
Frowning, Blaise lowers himself to sit beside her, making the bed creak in protest. “I know you think it’s all a load of all rot, Gin, but I’m terribly attached to that spoon.”
Ginny pulls her knees up under her chin and stares at him. “Why?”
“You really don’t know?”
She shakes her head. As remorse begins to take hold once more, she feels as though the whole bed is vibrating with the knowledge of what it conceals.
“Do you remember that appalling restaurant we went to for our first date? The oysters with the sand in them and the German waitress who dropped panna cotta on you, and the inedible chicken—”
“That you ate anyway,” Ginny puts in, remembering.
“That, indeed,” Blaise agrees. “I took Brunhilda from the table and named her after the waitress so that I would never forget that evening.”
Chest aching, Ginny gazes at her husband. “It was a terrible evening,” she says, because she doesn’t know what else to say.
“It wasn’t all bad,” Blaise booms, reaching out and grabbing her hand. “Look at us now! And if I can only find Brunhilda...”
Ginny squeezes his hand and then unfolds herself, sliding off the bed and onto the floor. She stretches out a hand and scrabbles around until her fingers close around cold metal, and she retrieves Brunhilda, presenting her to Blaise with an apologetic expression. She’s just an ordinary stainless steel dessert spoon, a bit bashed up from years of dedicated gin-stirring, but perfectly serviceable, and not hers to hide. Alright, so her husband makes gin in the bathtub. She loves the big daft bugger.
Blaise takes the spoon and examines it carefully, hugging it to his chest for a moment as a wide, sparkling grin takes over his face.
“I’m sorry,” Ginny says, resting her hands on her knees and looking up at him.
“You hid her,” Blaise says slowly, smile fading into an expression of bewilderment.
“I didn’t understand.”
“If you don’t want me to—”
“No,” Ginny interrupts quickly. She thinks of their first date, of the fact that it’s never dull, and the fact that actually, Harry is pretty funny when he’s drunk. She smiles. “Want some help?”
Koi No Yokan (Japanese)
The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.[573 words]
“Is it time?”
“Whose tail is this?”
“How dare you displace me from the warm place?”
“Have patience, squiggle-back, but not for this...”
In the midst of the writhing mass of brightly-coloured bodies, one tiny snake is silent.
She is listening.
“Much, much, longer than you... see?”
“You are stretching.”
She listens for the strange sound, and it comes again. Serpentine words from a human mouth.
A threat? No. A warning? A greeting.
Should she silence the others? She knows how. She could tell them.
“Why not admire my markings, and then shall admire your growth?”
They are not listening. She pushes hard, winds her way to the surface, dipping her head against the sudden flood of light and something beautiful... so beautiful. Something sparkling, shimmering a million colours from the head of a miniature human. Beside her, the one who speaks so strangely. He has eyes of such green, like the stripes her brothers and sisters wear on their backs, and a face that she does not fear. She flicks her tongue, trying to taste them through the barrier, but she is too well-protected even for the tiniest shiver of a flavour.
“How many seasons have you?” he asks, and though the question is not one she truly understands, the sound of his voice is the most wonderful thing she has ever heard.
She sways back and forth, inching herself closer to this wonderful creature. She tries her best to answer his questions. So many questions! She has never before been asked so many questions about herself. ‘Little water-ribbon, the others might say, do you think me grander than willow-tongue?’ or ‘which of us will reach the barrier faster?’ Or ‘won’t you share your space in the light?’ This is different, and she can hardly keep herself the right way up. When the glittering one addresses her kindly, she can do nothing but twist and turn, displaying her iridescent belly and hoping that it is enough.
The miniature human laughs often, and she feels the hum of it, passing through the floor, through the chips of wood and into her body. She looks between them, flattening herself against the barrier, hoping to press herself through it and into their hands. They look warm. They look wonderful.
Behind her, the others continue to talk, to wriggle, to mass. Do they not notice how her world has changed? She coils, thoughtful, watching the furred human as he speaks to her new friends. Hoping. Oh, how she hopes. She knows this man is special, and when she is lifted and placed into his hands, she knows that he is more than that. He is hers.
He smells joyous, like wood and rain and food and soap. She winds through his fingers, seeking out rough patches and smooth patches, cold fingertips and warm palms. She looks up at the sparkles and the green eyes and knows. She wraps herself as tightly as she can around his thumb.
She is staying.
“You’re coming home with me, are you?” he asks.
“Yes,” she says. “We are, now. We are.”
“That’s right,” he says, and he strokes her so carefully.
She looks back at her former home. Some of her brothers and sisters have untangled themselves to watch her go. She whispers her goodbyes, hoping they will hear, but she is not afraid. She is with him now, and she knows that she is going to love him forever.
Chapter 5: part five
AN – I finished my list of words at last! It took a lot longer than I imagined to work through them but I learned a couple of things: one, that drabbling is HARD, and two, that I really, really have to give up on this idea of writing short stories. I am no good at it, which is evident when I look at this series and see the word-counts steadily rising with each instalment!
Anyway, I didn’t plan on writing to a theme but these all seem to come under a general heading of ‘no one is listening...?’ :)
It’s nice to know that the Japanese think enough of the act of gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking to give it a name.[1,288 words]
Harry walks into the common room and makes quickly for the stairs to his dormitory. Not only is he eager to grab his invisibility cloak and head out into the grounds with Draco, but he has left him standing outside the Gryffindor common room, and he knows from experience that odd things have a habit of happening when Draco gets bored. The last time Harry had left him waiting a little bit too long, Draco had given the Fat Lady several extra eyes. It had taken Lupin hours to remove them, and the Gryffindors had had to deal with Sir Cadogan for almost a week afterwards.
Not today, he thinks, striding across the room with purpose. In and out, that’s it, and he’ll be...
He stops. In front of the fire, a small crowd has assembled. Harry hesitates, glancing toward the dormitory and back at the door, behind which Draco is, no doubt, growing steadily more mischievous.
“I think he’s drooling,” someone says, and the little group breaks out into giggles and shudders.
“He’s not asleep, though!” says someone else, and Harry is intrigued.
Temporarily abandoning Draco to his ennui, he approaches the little group and easily nudges his way to the front, where he finds Ron, sitting in an armchair and staring vacantly into the middle distance. He isn’t quite drooling, but his mouth is slack and slightly open as though he has given up all attempts at controlling it, and his eyes are glazed and misty.
“What’s the matter with him?” whispers a tiny first-year from somewhere near Harry’s knees.
For a moment, Harry wonders if he should be worried, if his friend is suffering the effects of some sort of unfriendly spell or potion, but then Ron blinks and his mouth twitches into a split-second smile that Harry has seen many, many times before. When Ron returns to his silent staring, Harry turns to the group.
“He’s okay,” he assures. “He’s just... having a moment.”
“What sort of a moment?” asks one of the girls while darting anxious little glances at Ron.
Harry scans the group, searching for his other three dorm-mates, all of whom are quite used to Ron’s little moments and are much better at explaining them. Unfortunately, the common room seems to be occupied by nothing but younger students, and they are all looking to him to shed some light on his best friend’s interesting habit of switching off for no reason at all.
“Well,” he says eventually, laying a hand on Ron’s shoulder. He doesn’t stir. “He’s just sort of hibernating... his brain.”
“Do you mean he’s not thinking about anything?” asks a girl with long plaits and bright blue eyes.
“Probably not,” Harry says, and the little group breaks out into whispers.
For long moments, they gaze as one at Ron as though he is some sort of curiosity, some kind of exhibit in a museum or zoo. Staring Man, est. 1980, Harry thinks, perching on the arm of Ron’s chair.
“I don’t know how you can not think about anything,” says the tiny boy, standing on his tiptoes to get a better look at Ron.
“Maybe he’s thinking about his Potions homework,” suggests a girl with a cat on her lap. “Maybe he’s just paralysed with terror.”
The others laugh softly and Harry smiles at her theatrical tone. “Maybe,” he concedes.
“Maybe he’s trying to remember something he’s forgotten,” someone else offers. “My mum looks a bit like that when she’s looking for her car keys.”
“For her what?” asks the tiny first-year, puzzled.
“Maybe he’s just asleep with his eyes open,” suggests one student, quickly earning himself an eyeroll from the girl with the cat.
“His eyes would be moving if he was asleep, Digby.”
“I don’t think I want his eyes to move.”
“Don’t be mean, he might hear you!”
“Can he hear us?” asks a nervous-looking second-year.
“I don’t know,” Harry admits. He’s rather enjoying himself now, and he supposes he can just try not to think about what Draco is getting up to in the corridor in his absence. “I doubt it. He’s in a world of his own.”
“How can you wake him up, then? I mean... well... get him to come back?” asks the cat girl.
Harry grins. “As far as I know, there are only two ways.” He pauses, and the younger students lean in, eyes wide. “It has to be either food or chess.”
“I’m not playing chess against him, he’s some kind of champion, isn’t he?”
“You know that story about the giant—”
“That was him?”
Harry watches, amused, as a little ripple travels through the group. At last, the tiny first-year steps forward and produces something from his pocket.
“I’ve got a Liquorice Wand,” he says grandly. “Should I push it into his mouth?”
Harry bites his lip, amused. “I don’t think he’ll like that. Why don’t you just ask him if he wants it—that is, if you really want to give it away?”
The boy nods, and the others watch as, grim-faced with determination, he creeps up to Ron’s chair and presents the Liquorice Wand as though offering fine gifts to a visiting dignitary.
“Would you like this?” he asks loudly and clearly. “It’s a nice one—Honeydukes—my brother got it in Hogsmeade this weekend. It’s got some aniseed bobbles on it, and some...”
“Wha...?” Ron mumbles, stirring and blinking repeatedly as though startled to find himself surrounded by small observers.
The small boy continues to hold out the Liquorice Wand, and, after a moment, Ron smiles.
“I’ve got one of those, too,” he says, reaching into his pocket and retrieving an identical, if slightly squashed, Liquorice Wand. “Best ones, aren’t they? You keep that.”
The boy steps back, nodding, and the others all turn to look at Harry.
“Go on, then, bugger off,” he says gently, and they do. Within seconds, the area is empty but for Ron, Harry and a very large toad which is snoozing loudly on the nearby sofa.
“Go anywhere interesting, did you?” Harry asks.
Ron stretches and smiles lazily. “I was just thinking about sandwiches.”
“And... you know... Hermione.”
“Did you share your sandwich with her?” Harry teases, knowing that Ron has probably never willingly shared a sandwich in his life.
“Yeah,” Ron says, brow furrowed.
“She’s the one,” Harry says, grinning.
“Yeah,” Ron repeats, staring up at Harry with the expression of a person who has just been struck by lightning.
From the other side of the room comes a scrabbling sound, and they both turn just in time to see Hermione, partially hidden in the window seat, disappearing back behind the heavy book she seems to have almost dropped.
“I’d better go,” Harry says, getting to his feet and heading for the portrait hole. They can do without the cloak tonight, he thinks.
“Harry!” Ron calls out, voice scratchy with panic, but Harry ignores him.
“Bye, Ron! Bye, Hermione!” he adds, pulling himself into the corridor and leaving Ron to his fate.
“What the hell were you doing in there?” Draco demands, rising from a stone bench and shoving his wand hastily into his waistband.
“Never mind that, what were you doing out here?” Harry asks, turning around slowly to take in the altered corridor.
The Fat Lady has escaped this time, but every single Gryffindor hanging has been swapped for a Slytherin one, and all four suits of armour have been carefully disassembled and laid out neatly, piece by piece on the stone floor.
Draco scowls. “I was bored.”
Harry sighs. “I forgot the cloak.”
Hooking his fingers into Harry’s belt-loops, Draco tugs him into a dark corner. “Call it even?”
L’esprit de l’escalier (French)
Literally, stairwell wit—a too-late retort thought of only after departure.[1,045 words]
“Where have you been, Nurse Midgen?” Cecile mocks as loudly as she dares, which is a damn sight louder than Eloise herself would ever venture.
Eloise follows her around the corner and onto the spiral staircase. “If I have to wait around for you every time you toddle off to powder your extraordinarily large nose, patients will begin to perish,” she adds, lowering her voice into her best approximation of Tremellen’s as she repeats his last words to them.
Cecile had quite brilliantly grabbed her arm and declared an emergency on the third floor, but Eloise still can’t quite get Tremellen’s nasty smirk out of her head, and the words sting, even though she knows all too well not to take them personally.
She sighs, picking up her robes as she climbs the stairs, eyes fixed resolutely on the back of Cecile’s head. Cecile turns at the sound and stops short, causing Eloise to walk straight into her.
“El, are you—fuck, what’s the matter?” she asks, muddy green eyes widening in concern.
“Nothing,” Eloise says firmly.
Cecile peers down at her, eyebrows knitted. “You lie,” she declares.
Eloise can’t help but smile for a moment, so intent is her friend’s expression, but then she sags and sighs.
“Well, I have got a big nose, haven’t I? He’s right.”
Cecile folds her arms and shakes her head slowly. “Don’t you even think about listening to a word that man has to say,” she hisses. “He’s a bully and a coward, El, and besides, last time I checked, he wasn’t exactly a basket of fruit himself.”
Eloise wrinkles her nose, suddenly much more aware of it than she would like to be.
“You’re thinking about your nose!” Cecile cries.
“No, I’m not,” Eloise attempts, hand coming up automatically to cover the offending protrusion.
“Stop that, right fucking now,” Cecile demands, grabbing Eloise’s wrist in cool fingers and tugging it away from her face. “Your nose is lovely.”
Eloise flushes and then laughs, lifted by the fierce expression on Cecile’s face. She’s still pretty sure that she does have a big nose, but it’s the only one she’s got.
“I suppose Tremellen’s isn’t exactly petite,” she admits.
Cecile grins. “That’s the spirit. And you’re right—he’s probably just projecting. It’s not your fault that he has deep-seated issues with the vast magnitude of his greasy schnozz.”
Eloise snorts and resumes her journey up the stairs, prodding Cecile with her elbow until she, too, starts moving again. There may not really be an emergency on the third floor, but she’s buggered if she’s going to let Tremellen come striding around that corner and catch the two of them in a lie.
And an insult, even if he deserves it.
“We should have said something,” Cecile muses, and Eloise raises her eyebrows at her friend’s lime green back.
“Oh? Like what?”
“I don’t know,” Cecile admits, drumming her fingers on the hand rail as she climbs. “Otherwise I would probably have said it.”
Eloise doesn’t doubt it. “He’s thinning at the front, have you noticed?” she says, feeling suddenly suffused with wickedness. “Perhaps we should have asked him if he wanted us to fetch a vial of hair-thickening potion.”
“Or forehead-shrinking potion,” Cecile suggests.
Eloise laughs. “I’ve always wanted to offer him a mint. You know when he hovers over you when you’re trying to do something... his breath smells like death.”
Cecile shudders but keeps climbing. “Terry once ate nothing but pickled onions for a whole day, just trying to keep him at a distance. That’s dedication.”
Eloise smiles. It’s a shame that Terry is never around to hear her compliments, however bizarre they might be. One day, she supposes.
“I’d like to ask him if he knows that his moustache makes him look like an angry walrus,” offers a raspy male voice, and Eloise jumps.
Making his way towards them down the spiral staircase is a heavyset bearded man, carrying a stack of charts and dressed in lime green robes with the distinctive white flashes that mark him out as a department head.
“Healer Li,” Eloise says faintly, quite unable to decide whether her senior colleague is on her side or about to whisk both her and Cecile off into a disciplinary meeting. “Erm... I... just...”
“Every time he’s been rude to me, I’ve wanted to ask him how a Healer of his experience still can’t pronounce ‘Amortentia’ properly,” says Healer Carmichael, descending the steps to stand behind Healer Li.
“I’ve been working here for three years and he still gets my name wrong,” says someone else, and Eloise turns to see a dark-haired man in nurse’s robes coming up the stairs behind them. “Just once, I’d like to call him Healer Trotter or Healer Toothbrush and see how he likes it.”
“I called him Healer Trollmellen once,” Cecile puts in, apparently unfazed by the hijacking of their private grousing session. “I’m not sure he heard me, though.”
“That was you?” Healer Li laughs. “Oh, he heard you. He went on about it for weeks.”
“Fantastic,” Cecile murmurs, turning to flash a smile of genuine delight at Eloise.
The staircase is quiet for long seconds as department heads, trainee Healers and nurses alike gaze around at each other, exchanging delighted, conspiratorial smiles and basking in the unexpected connection that despising Augustus Tremellen has given them. At last, Eloise feels herself begin to relax. She leans against the handrail, grins at Cecile and allows the spiteful words to float away until they are spiralling upwards on the lavender-scented air, wafting through the nearest open window and out of sight.
Her nose is fine. It’s absolutely fine.
“I won’t tell you again, Nurse Anderson, it’s—what’s going on here? Why are you people causing a blockage on the stairs?”
Eloise jumps as all eyes swivel to fix on Tremellen, who is now standing at the bottom of the staircase with his hands on his hips and a fed-up-looking nurse at his side. For a moment, no one moves, and then, just as quickly as it had assembled, the little group dissipates. Healers Li and Carmichael hurry downwards, while Cecile, Eloise and the other nurse scramble for the next floor up.
Not a word is spoken. At least, not out loud.
The packesel is the person who’s stuck carrying everyone else’s bags on a trip. Literally, a burro.[1,053 words]
It starts the moment Harry and his little group step into Kettleworth’s World of Creatures.
“Look, Frank—giraffes!” Lily cries, spotting the long necks looming over a nearby fence and almost yanking the cat up off the ground in her excitement. “Dad, please will you hold my bag?” she asks, pushing her bright purple backpack into Harry’s hands and taking off towards the giraffe enclosure without waiting for a response.
Harry examines the bag for a moment and then loops it over one arm, shrugging. He can carry a little purple bag for a while, he supposes. Lily and Frank soon reach the giraffes and he watches them, allowing his daughter’s laughter to brush away Draco’s unhelpful little snort.
“Behave yourself,” he says, elbowing Draco in the ribs as they begin to walk. Ahead of them, Al, Rose, and Scorpius take off at speed, and James walks several paces behind, no doubt pretending that he has nothing to do with any of them.
“I thought this was supposed to be a fun sort of outing,” Draco says darkly, and Harry can’t help smiling.
He is still smiling when James spots a group of oddly-dressed teenagers and decides to spend the rest of the afternoon draping himself moodily over a pile of rocks with them. If he’s honest, he’s surprised and heartened that James has agreed to come at all, and it’s not really a problem if he ends up carrying James’s battered leather record bag along with Lily’s purple backpack, even if it is obscenely heavy for what is essentially a day at the zoo.
“What the hell is he carrying in here, rocks?” he mutters, joining Draco at the Puffskein enclosure and adjusting the bag on his shoulder with a grimace.
“Rocks, human skulls, a doomsday device?” Draco suggests, poking his finger through the fence and stroking the head of a particularly bouncy Puffskein. “It’s probably best not to know.”
Deciding he may well be right, Harry resists the urge to look inside James’s bag and instead wanders off in search of Al, Rose and Scorpius. Predictably, he finds them hanging around the dragon area, clustered together in deep discussion. Al spots him first.
“Dad!” he cries dramatically, flinging himself at Harry. “Dad, you’ve got to help us!”
“Such a theatrical child,” Draco murmurs, and Harry shoots him a ‘Really? Coming from you?’ look.
“What’s the matter, Al?”
“They’re going to be feeding the dragons in ten minutes!” Rose jumps in, practically vibrating with excitement.
“The lady said that they’ll choose someone from the audience to help feed them!” Scorpius adds, large grey eyes gleaming.
“Can we, Dad?” Al beseeches, staring up at Harry as though he alone holds the power of life and death. “Can we?”
Harry and Draco exchange glances. Then they exchange a few more, swapping tiny smiles of secret amusement as their children tie themselves into excitable knots. There had never been any possibility of denying the little buggers their dragon experience, but every now and then, there is a wonderful sort of sadistic pleasure to be found in torturing them a little bit.
Harry sighs and scrubs at his hair, thwapping his face with Lily’s backpack as he does so.
“Well... alright,” he says at last, to cheers from Rose and Scorpius and what can only be described as a victory dance from Al.
Seconds later, all three children have disappeared into the dragon house and Harry finds himself holding a smart wool coat, a sparkly shoulder bag, and a somewhat questionable satchel that smells slightly like wet dogs.
“What just happened?” he asks, but Draco is already on his way over to the lake, where Lily and Frank are peering into the depths and wearing oddly similar expressions of intensity.
Struggling slightly, Harry joins them, fighting off stubbornly tangling straps and trying to synchronise his steps with the thunk-thunk-thunk of James’s doom bag against his thigh.
“Hi, Dad,” Lily says brightly, holding back her hair as the wind attempts to whip it into her face. “You should see some of the fish in here—they’ve mixed koi carp in with some of the magical fish and some of them are glowing! It’s so beautiful,” she sighs, and her voice is so wistful that Harry is suddenly rather pleased to be holding her bag. He thinks it might help her to fight the temptation to catch one of those beautiful fish and attempt to bring it home with her.
“I can see them, Lil, they’re...”
“Frank, don’t!” she cries, catching hold of the cat just in time before he swipes at a very large carp with his paw. “You’re so naughty! Dad, can you just hold him for a minute?”
Harry sighs, knowing there’s no point. “Go on, then, hand him over.”
As he takes possession of the cat’s lead, Lily smiles gratefully and crouches at the edge of the lake, dipping her fingers into the rippling water and drawing the fish to her with effortless skill. Harry watches her, lit up with pride, and for a minute or two, he forgets all about being the family mule. When he catches sight of his reflection in the surface of the water, though, he can’t decide whether to smile or groan.
On one shoulder, he has Al’s satchel and James’s leather bag, on the other, Rose’s sparkly thing and Lily’s purple backpack. Scorpius’s coat is draped carefully over one arm, and Frank the cat is pulling him rather optimistically over to the edge of the lake by his right hand. On his back, he carries a sturdy rucksack containing everyone’s picnic lunch. His hair is everywhere, his glasses are askew, and he is started to look somewhat frazzled.
Next to him, Draco is completely unencumbered, standing elegant and refined in his pristine grey coat and matching scarf. He looks wonderful, as always, but... just... really.
“Why am I carrying all the bags?” Harry asks, attempting to cross his arms until he is scuppered by multiple straps.
Draco glances at him, eyes bright with amusement. After a moment, he shrugs. “Because none of them match my outfit.”
Harry has no response. After a moment’s thought, he sidles over awkwardly and kicks Draco in the ankle. He still has all the sodding bags, but, on balance, he thinks he’ll cope.
Denmark’s mantra, hygge is the pleasant, genial, and intimate feeling associated with sitting around a fire in the winter with close friends.[1,551 words]
“Draco, if you don’t come and unlock this door in the next five seconds, I swear I will blast it off its hinges myself,” Hermione says, drawing her wand and pointing it ominously at the entrance to Draco’s rooms.
“Alright, I’m coming,” he mutters, hurrying up the corridor to join Hermione, Harry and Ron. “Good grief, can’t a man stop to tie his shoelace?”
“Not when his friends are freezing to death and some of them need a wee,” Hermione says, shivering and hopping from one foot to the other.
“It’s not that cold,” Ron says under his breath, but Draco has to agree with Hermione.
After three hours in a draughty Quidditch stand during the coldest February in—according to Poppy—fifty-two years, Draco can no longer feel his face, fingers, feet or backside. The hailstones hadn’t helped matters, nor had the savage wind that had whipped them sideways into the stands every few minutes. All he wants to do now is take off his wet coat, get the fire going, and curl up in his favourite chair with a cup of tea. Unfortunately, there is something right on the other side of the door that seems to be far too excited to let him open it all the way.
“Stanley, if you don’t move, none of us can get in and pay attention to you,” Draco sighs, but the beetle merely tack-tacks and flings himself against the door with a thump.
“Stanley,” Hermione wheedles, attempting to pat the infernal beetle through the small gap in the door. “Come on... yes, yes, you’re very impressive... yes... I know...”
Miraculously, after a moment, Stanley scuttles away from the door and the shivering group pour into the room. Hermione darts into the bathroom and slams the door behind her, while Harry starts the fire, Draco puts the kettle on, and Ron hunts around for the biscuit jar. Soon, the room is filled with the glow of firelight and the crackling of burning wood. Draco sheds his sodden outer garments and leans against the sideboard, soaking up the warmth and smiling lazily at Harry as he steps back into Stanley and almost loses his balance completely.
“What’s the matter with you, hmm?” he asks, poking Stanley gently with his foot.
“He’s probably still sulking because I wouldn’t take him to the game,” Draco says.
“A Quidditch match is no place for a beetle,” Ron says sagely. “He’d have been squished.”
“You tell him that,” Draco says, pouring the tea and allowing the fragrant steam to gently thaw his face and fingers.
“I will,” Ron says through a mouthful of biscuit, and then there’s a knock at the door.
Surprised, Draco doesn’t move for a moment, and a familiar female voice soon seeps under the door.
“Draco? Harry? It’s just me. Peeves won’t come out of my fireplace—I can’t light it and it’s getting a bit bracing up there. I brought some marshmallows... I thought we could...”
Draco doesn’t hear the rest of the sentence because the bathroom door is flying open and Hermione is racing across the room and flinging open the door.
“Marshmallows, did you say?” she asks breathlessly, and then smiles. “Oh, hello.”
Poppy steps into the room, scrutinising Hermione for long seconds before she turns her attention to the rest of the group.
“It’s very cosy in here,” she says enviously, pulling her heavy cloak more tightly around herself.
Tack-tack-tack-tack, Stanley offers, shooting out from under the coffee table and scuttling around her feet. Unfazed, Poppy passes the bag of marshmallows to Harry and smiles hopefully at Draco, who doesn’t think he has ever seen such an expression on her face. It’s quite startling.
“Come in,” he says, and when he turns to find Ron already sitting in his second best chair, he directs Poppy over to his favourite with only a small pang of regret.
“I can’t remember the last time I toasted marshmallows,” Harry says, rummaging in Draco’s kitchen drawers and then turning to him, exasperated. “Haven’t you got any skewers?”
Draco blinks. “What would I do with them?”
“Toast marshmallows,” Hermione says, as though the answer is obvious.
When Draco says nothing, she joins Harry’s search and eventually turns up an ancient pair of chopsticks, which she duplicates and enlarges to form makeshift toasting forks.
“How very resourceful,” Poppy says, taking her weapon and impaling a large pink marshmallow.
Hermione smiles and flushes, sitting down on the hearthrug and being immediately set upon by Stanley, who is tacking insistently and trying to climb onto her lap.
“Are you sure he’s alright?” Ron says, as Stanley tries to knock his marshmallow off the end of his elongated chopstick.
“He probably just wants his dinner,” Draco says, leaning down to scratch Stanley’s shell before lowering his marshmallow into the flames.
“I don’t think he’d like one of these very much,” Harry says, leaning against Draco’s shoulder.
Draco nods, just enjoying the warm weight at his side, the flickering of the fire and the feeling of contentment one only experiences when surrounded by very good friends and very few words. After the yelling and clapping and stamping of the Quidditch game, this silence is beautiful, almost soporific, and all he need think about is pulling his skewer out of the fire just in time to achieve the perfect sweet-sticky-charred marshmallow.
Tack! Tack! Tack-tack-tack! clicks Stanley, running in and out of the bathroom, antennae waving.
Draco jumps and turns to look at the little bugger. “There really is something wrong with that beetle.”
“Nothing a few mint leaves won’t fix,” Harry says, but he doesn’t move from Draco’s side.
Draco and Poppy exchange a significant look. They both know that if Harry doesn’t want to move, his legs must be feeling stiff. It doesn’t happen too often these days, but Draco knows better than to push him. He also knows better than to draw attention to it, so he passes control of his marshmallow to Ron and heaves himself to his feet.
“Dinnertime,” he calls, heading for the tea cupboard, but Stanley doesn’t come running. Instead, he scuttles back into the bathroom, tacks several times, and then hops about in the doorway.
Frowning, Draco follows him, swearing under his breath as he steps into the bathroom and finds himself with icy cold wet socks. The tiled floor is completely flooded, and it doesn’t take him long to work out why. Someone has put the plug in the sink and then left the water running. For a moment, Draco stares at the cascade running from sink to floor, at his wet feet, and then at Stanley, who is splashing around in the water and tacking triumphantly.
All of a sudden, Draco can’t help smiling. “Oh, well done,” he says, picking up Stanley and stuffing him under one arm so that he can turn off the tap, draw his wand and siphon the water from the floor. When everything is dry once more, he pulls the plug from the sink and holds Stanley up to the mirror. “What a terribly clever beetle you are, Stanley. I’m sorry for not listening to you.”
“Everything alright?” Harry calls from the living room.
Draco emerges, arms wrapped around Stanley. “So, Hermione,” he says, trying vainly not to smile, “Is there any particular reason why you decided to flood my bathroom?”
Hermione’s eyes widen and she immediately drops the marshmallow she has been eating.
“Oh, Draco, I’m so sorry,” she whispers, hands flying to her mouth. “I was trying to get the water to run warm, and then Poppy came to the door with the marshmallows and I... I don’t even know why I put the plug in!” she wails, and Draco freezes, unsure what to do. He hadn’t expected her to be upset about it, and now she genuinely looks as though she may cry.
“Well, I’m happy to take a little bit of the blame, then,” Poppy tries, but Hermione’s bottom lip wobbles dangerously.
Ron leans over and strokes her hair, eyes wide with concern, and Harry just stares at Draco, apparently just as puzzled as the rest of them.
“It really doesn’t matter, Hermione, I was only teasing,” Draco says quietly. “It’s all fixed now, thanks to Stanley the wonder beetle.”
Hermione sniffs and grants him a watery smile. “That’s good. It’s just... oh, I’m being so silly about it, but I hate it when my memory goes like this. It happened last time, too.”
“Last time?” Poppy says, a rather shrewd expression settling over her face.
Hermione smiles, and it’s a real smile this time. “I’m pregnant,” she whispers, and Ron clasps her hand tightly, beaming with pride.
“Brilliant!” Harry declares, flinging himself at Hermione and hugging her enthusiastically.
“That’s...wmph,” Draco manages as both he and Stanley are swept into Ron’s rib-crushing embrace.
“I knew!” Poppy declares, and when Draco looks at her over Ron’s shoulder he is amused to see that she is now holding all five makeshift toasting forks. “I knew from the moment you opened the door. You’re just glowing.”
This time, Hermione does burst into tears, and while the others search for a handkerchief, Draco heads for the tea cupboard and fishes out a large handful of mint leaves for Stanley.
This wonder-beetle has definitely earned his dinner.
Bilita Mpash (Bantu)
An amazing dream. Not just a "good" dream; the opposite of a nightmare. [1,052 words]
“It’s Filch—run!” Harry hisses, throwing himself to the floor of the greenhouse and dragging Draco with him, just in time to avoid being caught in the light from the caretaker’s lantern.
“And how exactly do you expect me to do that when you’re practically on top of me?” Draco whispers, but he’s trying not to smile and all Harry can do is stare down at him.
He’s shirtless, pale skin and hair luminous in the darkness, ruffled and flushed and breathing hard, trousers unbuttoned and arousal painfully obvious. Harry leans down over him, fingers digging into the fragrant soil beneath them as he recklessly ignores the yowls of a prowling Mrs Norris and kisses Draco desperately, heart leaping as strong hands come up to grip at his bare back.
“Is there someone in there, my sweet?” Filch croaks, but Harry no longer cares.
Surrounded by the darkness, the heavy, mingled scents of summer, and the one person he has been obsessing over since the year began, he is in perfect bliss. Filch could smash through the glass right now and he wouldn’t stop kissing Draco Malfoy. Not a chance.
Of course, he could borrow a pair of socks...
Puzzled, Harry pauses. What?
A pair of socks?
That voice doesn’t belong to Draco or Filch, he realises, and his world begins to tilt and blur.
He blinks. The velvety darkness has been replaced by bright light, and Ron is looming over him, eyebrows knitted as he slowly repeats the words, “Can I borrow a pair of socks, mate?”
“Socks?” Harry mumbles, raising himself up on his elbows and peering down at his friend’s bare feet. “Yeah... yeah, of course.”
As Ron makes his way to the sock drawer, Harry flops back on his pillows, allowing a slow but wide smile to creep across his face. He sighs contentedly, pushing away the twinge of regret that always accompanies the shift from dream to reality and simply allowing himself to enjoy the feeling of warmth and good humour that is left behind.
“You look happy,” Ron says, hopping from one foot to the other as he puts on a pair of red socks.
Harry grins and heaves himself out of bed. “Yep,” he says simply.
Ron groans. “You had one of your dreams, didn’t you? And you can just say yes or no without telling me the details—I don’t think my sanity will stand hearing about what you and Malfoy got up to on Dumbledore’s desk again.”
“That was one time,” Harry says, collecting his things for the shower. “Anyway, what makes you think—?”
“I know,” Ron interrupts, shaking his head and staring wearily at Harry. “I always know. What d’you see in him, anyway?”
Harry just laughs and heads for the bathroom. At the door, he turns. “For what it’s worth, it was Greenhouse Three.”
The first lesson after breakfast is Herbology, and Ron makes sure to elbow Harry in the ribs all the way down to the greenhouses. The other Gryffindor boys are quick to join in with gleeful whoops and slaps to the back and more terrible double entendres than Harry can count. Ron has obviously wasted no time in telling them all about his latest dream, and, as always, Seamus, Dean, and Neville seem to think that what they refer to as ‘Harry’s Malfoy Thing’ is absolutely hilarious.
Harry is used to this by now, but he can’t help the sudden flush of heat to his skin as he walks into Greenhouse Three and takes his first breath of that rich, fragrant air. The dream had become hazy and diaphanous with time but now the whole thing is flooding back in violent colour, sending Harry’s pulse racing and his fingers clenching into his palms.
“You alright, Harry?” Neville asks, grabbing his elbow and steering him away from the door and over to their usual work-station.
Harry blinks. “I’m fine,” he lies, shaking himself. “Thanks, Nev.”
“Ah, leave him be,” Seamus puts in loudly. “He’s just reliving his dream! Where were you and Malfoy shagging, then, Harry? On the table here, or over by the Puffapods, or...”
“Shut up,” Harry mutters, flushing hard now and giving Seamus the finger.
Several other students have turned to look at the sound of Seamus’s foghorn voice, and Harry just sighs. Fortunately, Draco is not in this class, and so...
“No, no, Potter, I want to know exactly where it was,” someone says on Harry’s other side and he freezes.
Very, very slowly, he meets Ron’s eyes and the pure horror there does not reassure him one bit.
“Ah...” Seamus says, coughs, and becomes very interested in putting on his gloves.
Doom-laden, Harry turns and finds himself staring straight into amused grey eyes. He hadn’t been expecting amused, he has to admit, and now he’s not quite sure what to do with it.
“What are you doing here?” he snaps, wanting the words back as soon as they are out.
“Just running an errand for Professor Snape,” Draco says, holding up a conical flask containing what looks like some kind of sap. Harry stares at it idiotically, watching the sparkle of the yellowy-green liquid in the sunlight.
Finally, he pulls himself together. “Great, well... okay. Don’t mind them, they’re just... being a shower of bastards, really,” he says, glancing at Ron, Dean, Seamus and Neville, and, to their credit, they all nod enthusiastically. “I mean... it’s not true. Obviously.”
Draco lifts an eyebrow. He allows the flask to drop to his side and gazes at Harry, posture languid and dangerously appealing.
“That’s a real shame,” he says softly. “I have so many ideas. Let me know if you change your mind.”
He doesn’t wait for a response, merely granting Harry a tiny half-smile and walking out of the greenhouse, leaving all five Gryffindors staring after him.
“Alright, chaps, let’s plan our love lives later, shall we?” Sprout suggests, clapping her hands. “These Fimbling Ficuses aren’t going to prune themselves!”
Dean and Seamus immediately burst into snorts of laughter. Neville dashes off in search of his Ficus. Ron stands absolutely still, opening and closing his mouth like a fish. Harry looks over at the wooden bench in the corner, the patch of earth, imagining the flicker of Filch’s lantern, and he smiles.