** Rating: PG (implied R)
Coffee, Tea, and You (aka Quidditch Freedom)
Harry stood in the middle of the snowy path, lifting his face to the black, cloudy sky and closing his eyes. The frosted trees bent with their white burden, and Harry imagined he could hear the soft flakes landing around his feet. He almost wished the street lamps hadn’t been lit, so it would be only him and the snow and the darkness. The beauty was almost too much right now.
I shouldn’t feel like this. But he couldn’t seem to help it. It had been three and a half years since the war; two and a half since he got the required NEWTS to move on with his life. He had family – the Weasleys – and friends – erm, also the Weasleys. And Hermione, of course. And Neville – he couldn’t forget Nev.
He even had a couple of unexpected friends, like Blaise Zabini and Pansy bloody Parkinson. Really, they were the problem. Well, not them so much as their other friend, the one they both talked about all the bloody time. Malfoy. Draco Malfoy, the one seeking his Potions Mastery in France. Malfoy, the gorgeous guy living with some other gorgeous guy and enjoying perfect bliss. Or something like that.
Blaise wasn’t so bad, really. He learned early on in his partnership with Harry that he couldn’t talk about Draco too much or Harry would get tetchy. But Pansy…whenever she came and delivered their morning pastries – not only a couple for Blaise and Harry, but everything they used for the coffee and pastry portion of their little book café – she also brought more news about Draco.
Every morning, she delivered delicious food and spicy gossip. And that gossip had driven Harry out here tonight. It was the beginning of December, and everyone was gearing up for the holidays. Blaise and Harry had decorated their little shop, and business was better than ever. But that morning, Pansy had shared the Big News – Draco was coming back to London, and he was bringing his gorgeous lover with him. Pansy was sure they were coming home to make An Announcement.
Harry didn’t think he’d let anything show on his face, but Blaise had been uncommonly thoughtful all day long. He’d taken the difficult older witch who insisted they had to have the children’s book she’d read when she was a child. He’d inventoried all their new arrivals, a job Harry hated with a passion. And then he’d let Harry put them all in their places – Harry’s favorite job. So clearly, Blaise knew. He knew what Harry hadn’t even admitted aloud to himself, and when Harry realized that Blaise knew, he’d left his warm home, needing the isolation of this snowy path.
Merlin, what was he going to do now?
Draco looked up as the Floo roared and Pansy’s head appeared. He rubbed his hands over his face. “What now, Pans?”
She pouted, though the nuances of her expression were muted by the flames. “Can’t I just poke my head in to say, ‘Hi’?”
“No. What do you want?” He was tired, he was overworked, and he had two finals and a paper due on Monday.
“I just wanted to be sure you’re still coming next week, that’s all,” she said, dropping the act.
“Pans, you’ve asked me about fifty times in the past two weeks. What is the big deal?” He didn’t look at her as he talked; instead, he began skimming his Complex Potions Used in Healing text, using his note-taking spell by pointing his wand at the important words and phrases.
“The big deal is that you always have your head stuck in a book when I call,” she said, and he heard the frown in her voice.
Heaving a loud sigh, he turned and looked at her. “Pans, I get that you want me to come home. I’ve told you I will. I have so much to do right now, though, and --”
“Where’s Piers?” she asked, and it looked as if she was trying to see further into the room, like he might be there.
Draco blinked. He wished for the millionth time that he’d not put his desk in the room with the Floo. “What?”
“Piers? Where is he?”
Draco wanted to rip his hair out. “In class. Gods, Pans, what are you trying to do to me here?”
“You’re still bringing him too, right?”
He glared at her. “Yes,” he bit out. “Just like you’ve asked every. Single. Time. You’ve. Floo-ed.” To his surprise, her eyes flitted away at that, and he frowned. “What’s going on? What are you planning?”
She gave a carefree smile. “Nothing. I miss you, you know. It’s not enough having Blaise. He’s always working with Potter --”
Draco’s stomach tightened and his eyes drifted automatically to the picture Pansy had sent him last spring. In it, Potter was grinning as he got pelted by snowballs – and Pansy stood by his side, laughing so hard she almost fell over. She’d sent it to show him that Blaise’s business venture with Potter was going well. “We even get together and hang out,” she’d said. The picture looped through the scene, and at the very end, Granger and Weasley came into view as Blaise tackled them both. That’s when she began the campaign to get him to return to England. “We miss you. We want you to be a part of this.”
He’d already started his courses, though, and he needed – more than Pansy probably understood – to finish this. To prove himself.
He tore his eyes away and looked into the Floo flames. “Pans, I’ve told you I’m coming, but if I don’t finish this, I’ll be forced to stay here to make it up. Do you get it?”
Her eyes widened. “I do. Thanks – hugs and kisses, luv!” And the Floo went quiet.
Draco was tempted to close it, but his mum had been feeling poorly – the only reason he’d agreed to go home for Christmas this year – and he wanted to be sure she could reach him in an emergency. Still, hearing from Pansy on a twice-daily basis was definitely grating on his nerves. Especially since she always brought up Potter. His gaze flickered up to the picture again. He didn’t know why he couldn’t seem to put it away, but every time he tried, he found a reason it should be there.
Draco shook his head and tried to focus on his text again. “Stupid Potter,” he muttered. “It’s always about you, isn’t it?”
The door slammed, and Draco’s head dropped to the table with a thud. “Hey, Dray,” came Piers’ voice. “You up for some lunch?”
Draco sighed. “Might as well now,” he muttered, getting up and grabbing his cloak. “You’re buying.”
Piers grinned and kissed his cheek. “I always do.” Draco followed him out, trying to put the holidays, London, and the grinning Harry Potter from his mind.
Harry turned over the ‘Open’ sign with some nerves. Yesterday, Pansy hadn’t mentioned a thing about Draco, but Harry’d seen the Look Blaise gave her. He seriously doubted it would work two days in a row, however, and Harry began to steel himself to hear more than he wanted. Well, about the perfect boyfriend, that was.
Like he’d conjured her, Pansy’s voice rang over the bell, and she stepped into the spot Harry’d just vacated. “Mornin’, blokes,” she called.
Harry turned his back to her, pretending to work at the coffee machines.
“Blaise, darling, I Floo-ed Draco again yesterday, just to check on his plans. He looks marvelous, of course, and Piers is so adorable! They’re planning to come sometime next week.”
Harry swallowed hard, working to keep his face neutral, even though Pansy couldn’t see him. He’d have to turn around eventually, and those Slytherins were bloody good at figuring out what he felt. Piers, he thought, his heart clenching. The perfect man’s name. Oh, God. He didn’t think he could do this.
“I’m having a welcome home party – and welcome to London party – for them next week. You’ll be there, Blaise.” It was a question. Unfortunately, Harry knew what was coming next. “And you too, Harry. I’m even inviting Granger and Weasley…among others.”
Great. Harry took a deep breath and said, “We’ll see,” over his shoulder.
“Oh, no, Harry. You’re not getting away with that. You’re Blaise’s partner – you’ll be there.”
Harry closed his eyes briefly before nodding. She was worse than even Hermione, and he knew he might as well give in. “Fine.”
“Well, gotta run, boys,” she said, and Harry finally had the nerve to turn around.
All the pastries were in their places, and Pansy winked at him, a knowing look on her face. “See you Monday.”
Harry managed a slight smile and a wave, as she swept out the door. He leaned on the counter, his hands behind his head. He needed to pull himself together.
Blaise’s hand came over his shoulder. “All right, there?” Before Harry could say anything, Blaise moved away. “So, I thought I might run some errands, if you think you have the shop under control,” Blaise said casually.
That got Harry’s attention. “What kind of errands? Did I forget something?”
Blaise gave him a gentle smile. “Personal, actually. I didn’t want to make a big deal, but I need to talk to a couple of people about something not work related. I know Saturdays can be busy, but I shouldn’t be gone longer than an hour, at most.”
Harry didn’t hesitate. After Blaise’s thoughtfulness the past couple of days, he owed his partner. “Sure. Whatever you need – if things get too hectic, I can always call Ron.” Ron worked with George at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes just down the road, and they often helped each other out.
Blaise clapped Harry on the shoulder. “Thanks, mate. I’ll be back soon.”
He left, and Harry settled in to wait for the bustling to begin. This was their first Christmas season, as they’d only opened the shop last January. Harry’d been amazed and relieved at how well it went – even though they got a few folks who simply wanted to see ‘The Boy Who Lived,’ most people came for a pastry, some coffee or tea, and a good book. As Harry sat, he forced his mind from the Draco problem and thought again about an idea he’d had a few weeks before, when he’d been visiting Dean. He hadn’t even shared it with Blaise yet, but he began to look at some of their walls with an appraising eye. He could see art fitting right in here….
Blaise slipped around the corner to the Apparition point. He let a smile soften his features in a way that usually only Pansy, Draco, or now Harry ever saw. Time for his own finagling. If Pansy was going to continue on her path of interference, he was going to step in, as well. Closing his eyes and thinking of his destination, Blaise turned into space.
The warm sun and fresh, brisk air on his face let him know he’d done it right, for once. He opened his eyes and looked around, blinking a little in surprise. He’d only seen pictures of this place before – this newest Quidditch training ground -- and the maze-like rows of snow-covered hedges in front of the pristine mansion were a bit overwhelming. A group of women were flying their broomsticks low to the ground, doing some kind of drill amongst the hedges. Blaise quickly picked out Ginny’s copper hair. “Miss Weasley,” he called, striding up the path between the hedges, “I have a question for you.”
Blaise couldn’t keep the happy smile off his face as he returned to the shop. His time with Ginny had been most informative, and when he’d mention getting together again for some further ‘insight into Harry,’ Ginny had stared at him with thoughtful brown eyes. “Yeah, that could be good,” she’d said. “I’m free Monday evening. You can buy me dinner.”
Oh, that girl should have been in Slytherin! Blaise controlled his expression as he entered the shop, especially glad he did so when he heard Weasley’s voice coming from the back. “ – good idea. I’m sure Zabini will go for it,” he was saying.
Go for what? Blaise sighed. Harry had plenty of good ideas – he’d been the one to suggest including Pansy’s baking skills, as a matter of fact. But he still seemed reluctant to share them with Blaise. Was Blaise really that scary?
“Harry,” he called, letting them know he was here before either said anything they’d be embarrassed about him overhearing. He shook his head at himself, knowing that Draco would call him a Hufflepuff if he knew how Blaise acted around Harry. But then, Draco would see for himself soon, wouldn’t he?
In the back, Harry stilled when he heard Blaise’s voice. Ron, of course, noticed. “You were going to tell him, anyway, right?” he said, lowering his voice. “Come on, mate. It truly is a good idea, and it’ll be great business for Dean.”
“I know,” Harry murmured. He ran his hand through his hair. “It’s just that I don’t want Blaise to think I went into business with him simply to help out all my mates, you know?”
Ron raised his red eyebrows. “But Harry, that’s what you do. And Zabini knows this about you, especially by now. Plus, it’s not only <i>your</i> mates you help out, now is it?”
Harry’s face heated up, but before he could reply, Blaise joined them. “There are people waiting out front,” he said.
“Shit,” Harry muttered, pushing past Blaise. “Sorry.”
Blaise shook his head, a slight smile quirking his lips. He looked at Weasley and decided not to beat about the bush. “Draco’s coming home next week – just until the beginning of January. Pansy’s having a party --”
“Already got the invite,” Weasley said, interrupting. “We’ll be there.”
They looked at each other, and Blaise could see that Weasley knew Harry’s part of it, at least. He didn’t look happy about it, either. Blaise kept his voice low. “Things aren’t how they seem – you should know by now that I wouldn’t be involved with anything that could hurt Harry.”
Weasley looked at him with a thoughtful gaze. Slowly, he nodded. “I’ll hold you to that.” Then he left.
Out front, Harry finished up with the customers who’d been waiting, apologizing again for their wait. The witches and two wizards simpered at him equally, causing his blush to heat up again. When the door clanged shut after them, he blew out a long breath and thanked the stars that they’d seen fit to take Sundays off.
A flash of white-blonde hair drew his eyes, and Harry almost choked when Narcissa Malfoy walked elegantly into the shop. “Mr. Potter,” she said, offering him a warm smile. She was dressed to the nines, but then, Harry suspected she always was.
“M-Mrs. Malfoy,” he said. “What can I do for you?”
“I figured it was high time I visited your shop. I’ve certainly heard enough about it from Miss Parkinson and Mr. Zabini,” she said, glancing around. “And they’ve clearly not done it justice.”
“Th-thank you,” Harry said, wishing he could be a little smoother.
“I’m meeting my sister for an evening at the ballet,” she said, looking around, her eyes not seeming to miss anything. “She suggested we meet here before our dinner plans.”
“Who’s watching Teddy?” Harry blurted, wondering why Andie hadn’t called him.
“Oh, we’re taking him with us.”
Harry blinked at her. Taking a three-year old to the ballet? “Draco loved The Nutcracker when he was a child. I have no doubt Teddy will feel the same.”
The vision of a small Draco flashed through Harry’s mind, followed by a much more vivid picture of Draco as the lead dancer, his slender body encased in tights – Harry cleared his throat and shifted his weight. “I imagine you’re happy Draco’s coming home,” he added, blushing again as her eyebrows rose when he used Draco’s name.
“Oh, yes, we’re pleased. It’s been too long since he’s taken a break. I’m only glad that Miss Parkinson was able to convince him.”
“Him and his, um, partner,” Harry blurted.
Mrs. Malfoy’s eyes snapped to him. After a second of silence, she said, “Indeed.”
Oh, god. Harry wondered if he’d just outed Draco. He so hadn’t meant to say that, but knowing that Draco was only coming home to share the perfect boyfriend with everyone else made him sick on so many levels. Still…oh, god. Andie chose that moment to come into the store, and Harry only wanted to disappear.
Before Harry could say anything or even greet Teddy, who followed Andie, Mrs. Malfoy said, “Harry already knows about Draco’s and Piers’ visit.”
Relief hit Harry hard, but to his surprise, his stomach tightened even further. To hear Draco’s name paired with Piers like that, like it was all said and done – a real live couple – made Harry’s heart hurt. Especially because it was Draco’s own mum who said it so casually.
Andie looked at Harry, and something like compassion came over her face. “Teddy wants to know if you can take a break and show him the birds in the park again,” she said, ignoring what her sister said. “Do you think Blaise can take over?”
“Of course, I can,” Blaise said from behind Harry. “We can’t let young Mr. Lupin down, now can we?”
And like that, Harry found himself bundled up and sent outside, heading toward the park at the other end of Diagon Alley. Teddy babbled and bounced at his side, his mittened hand carefully clasped in Harry’s own. Harry did his best not to think of anything – especially not of the two women and Blaise, all waiting in the shop. He <i>knew</i> they were talking about him. He could feel it – and since he suspected Blaise also heard his stupid comment, he was certain they’d have plenty to say.
He didn’t want everyone knowing his business, and worst yet, he didn’t want their pity. Harry made a decision as they arrived at the park, and by the time Teddy had run to the corner near the fence, startling a flock of birds which rose into the air with wings flapping and beaks squawking, Harry knew it was time to move on. Draco’d been in France for over two years now – Harry had to let it go. It didn’t matter that Draco was the reason he realized he preferred blokes; it didn’t matter that Harry’d never dated anyone since he’d made a truce with Draco the summer after the war ended.
Draco was in love with this Piers person, and that was that.
On Monday evening, Draco Apparated back to his flat, his mind exhausted but triumphant. He’d done extremely well on his exams, and now he could prepare to go home without guilt. Inside, the fire roared and Piers was putting the finishing touches on a small tree he’d insisted on getting. The fairy lights sparkled and the garlands let loose their fragrant scent.
“How’d it go?” Piers asked, as Draco unwrapped his cashmere scarf and hung it carefully on the peg.
“Brilliant,” Draco said.
“Good.” Piers smiled at him. “Then we celebrate tonight – my parents are meeting us at their favorite restaurant.”
Draco raised his brows. “When did you make reservations?”
Piers winked, and Draco shook his head. “That was presumptuous. What if I’d done poorly?’
Now Piers laughed. “You and I both know that would never happen.” He came over and put his hands on Draco’s shoulders. “Come, let us enjoy the beauty of Paris on this perfect evening.”
Draco gave him a fond smile. “Since you insist.” He went to his room and chose the perfect outfit for a night at one of the finest Wizarding restaurants in Paris before climbing into the shower.
As the steaming water ran over his skin, Draco couldn’t help but smile at the thought that he’d be back in London by the end of the week. Pansy was throwing him a party, she’d said, and although he’d been irritated by her constant Floo calls, now he was glad that she cared.
Later, as he and Piers walked in the gently falling snow toward the restaurant, Draco wondered if Harry would be at the party. Of course, he will, he reassured himself. Blaise wouldn’t have it any other way. It had been over two years since Draco last saw him in person, and he wondered how Harry was doing. He wondered if Harry knew how often Draco thought of him; he wondered if Harry ever remembered there was such a person as Draco Malfoy.
Piers tugged on his arm. “We are here,” he said. “What are you doing?”
Draco came to himself and smiled. “Sorry. Just thinking about home.”
“We’ll be there soon enough,” Piers said. “Tonight, let’s enjoy family.”
Draco nodded, and they went inside.
Neville came into the shop, shaking snow off his cloak as he did so. “Hey, Harry,” he said, grinning.
Harry started making Neville’s favorite drink. “The snow’s really falling.”
Neville nodded and leaned on the counter, glancing over the remaining pastries. The brightly decorated snowman cookies caught his eye, and he grinned. “I’ll take the last two of those,” he said. At mid-afternoon, there weren’t many left. “Pansy’s a good baker, isn’t she?”
Harry stilled and glanced over his shoulder, taking in Neville’s too-pink face. “Hm,” he said, wondering. “Sounds like you might know.”
With that, Neville’s face burned red, and Harry grinned, returning to his work. A couple minutes later, he handed Neville the steaming mug and a plate with two snowmen – both of whom winked and wiggled their hips at Neville suggestively -- and gestured with his head toward one of the comfy areas in the midst of bookshelves. “Talk with me?”
Neville settled himself and set his coffee on the small tables situated for just that purpose. He watched the obviously flirting snowmen with a bemused look on his face. “Um, Pansy started showing up last summer, at the new greenhouse I helped start.”
Harry took a sip of his tea, hiding his grin. He’d long suspected Neville had a thing for Parkinson, but he’d not had any proof. Until now.
“Did you speak to her with the language of flowers?” he asked, trying to keep a straight face.
Neville rolled his eyes. “Honestly, Harry. I-it’s not like that.”
“No?” Harry glanced again at the flirting cookies. “She’s talking to you with the language of cookies. They certainly haven’t done that for anyone else.” He barely held back a laugh.
A little grin teased Neville’s mouth. “Well, maybe. A little. I hope so, at least.” Then he picked up one and took a bite. The snowman coo-ed, and Neville took another bite quickly, eating it before anything more embarrassing came from its doughy figure.
Harry watched in amusement and opened his mouth to ask about the party, but then he stopped. What if Neville hadn’t been invited? It didn’t seem likely, but…well, he’d be crushed, and Harry wasn’t about to do that to him.
“So, I’ve been helping her plan the decorations for her big shindig. You know, the thing for Malfoy.” Neville finished up the second cookie, pretending nonchalance as he brushed away the crumbs, though his face was still a deep red.
Well, that was a relief, even though Harry still couldn’t take a deep breath at the thought of <i>why</i> the party was happening. “Good. I imagine it’ll be amazing.”
“I’m glad you’re coming. It’s really important to her that you be there.”
Harry frowned a little. “I’m not sure I know why,” he admitted. “She always seems to friendly and such, but --” He stopped. If he said any more, he’d simply sound whiny. So Pansy wanted to show off Draco’s boyfriend to everyone here. She had the right. To hear her talk, she and Draco were practically siblings, and she obviously adored him. Just because Harry had hoped that she cared about him as a friend too – well, maybe she didn’t realize how he felt.
Except that Blaise obviously did. Harry’s cheeks flamed as he remembered the Talk they’d had when he returned with Teddy Saturday night. “Pansy wants Draco to feel good about being here. He had a hard time – I know you remember – before he left. Even though you did all you could to ease his way, the truth is that he needs to make his own way.” Blaise’s dark eyes held Harry’s, even when Harry wanted to turn away in discomfort. “Draco needs to prove himself, and from all I’ve heard, that’s exactly what he’s doing. When he finishes, he’ll be on the path to becoming one of the greatest Potions’ Masters ever – and that means the world to him.”
Harry’d nodded, but he’d wondered why Blaise felt the need to explain something Harry already knew.
Then he went on. “Pansy misses him, you know. I mean, she really misses him. Back in school…well, she had a crush on him. Before she knew that he didn’t swing that way. And now, she’s pretty protective of him and his, um, interests.”
Harry’d finally dropped his gaze, his heart clenching. Was Blaise saying he simply wasn’t good enough for Draco? Not that he was. Draco was studying to become something great, someone who excelled. Harry was just a shop owner, nothing more. Plus, Draco was…well, he was Draco, larger than life. Harry was simply himself, an average guy.
“I hope you know that I look out for your interests too, Harry,” Blaise had said before they parted for the night. “You’re more than just my partner – you’re my friend. And I take friendships seriously.”
He’d sounded so sympathetic, so concerned. Harry was pretty sure Blaise knew how he felt about Draco, so it figured that he’d probably told Pansy. And that’s probably why Pansy was trying so hard to push Piers in Harry’s face, he realized. She doesn’t think I’m good enough.
He took another sip of his coffee, his eyes stinging. Neville’d grown quiet, but now he said, “You okay?”
Harry nodded, unable to speak.
Neville watched him for a second. “Pansy talks about you quite a bit, did you know?”
Harry blinked and lowered his cup, surprised. “She does?”
Neville nodded. “Yeah. In fact, when we got together Sunday afternoon, she mentioned that she was looking forward to having you at the party. She said it wouldn’t be the same without you, and that she hoped you’d be pleased.”
Now Harry was just confused. Pleased? Was this some Slytherin thing – how could she think he’d be pleased to meet Draco’s lover?
Neville continued to watch him. “She just wants you to be happy, Harry.”
He wondered if Neville knew something he didn’t – but then he let it go. Worrying over this wasn’t doing him any good. Pansy wanted Draco to be happy with his Piers, and she wanted Harry to be happy realizing he wasn’t right for Draco. Fine. Whatever.
After Neville left, Harry helped the late afternoon customers, one eye on the continued snowfall. The shop felt cozy and warm as the small crowd looked at books, drank their drinks, and chattered about holiday plans. Harry smiled and responded, but part of him grew quieter and quieter.
Blaise, of course, noticed. When they were closing up that night, he said, “Have dinner with me and a friend, all right?”
Harry agreed. Only when they arrived at a restaurant a bit later and Harry saw who they were meeting did he think to wonder if Blaise was trying to set him up.
In Paris, Draco finished his packing. He’d enjoyed having this day to simply relax and enjoy doing nothing more than eating and a little light reading. He shrunk his luggage, wrapped his scarf around his neck, and headed to the living room.
Piers stood there, waiting. “Finally. I swear, you’re worse than a girl.”
Draco made a face at him. “I simply have taste. And I had to be sure I had the right outfit for Pansy’s party. You can guess her reaction if I didn’t come prepared.”
Piers grinned. “Oh, I think I can, at that.” They shared an affectionate look.
“Thanks for coming with me,” Draco said. “It means a lot to have your support.”
Piers touched his cheek gently with his fingers. “Anytime, luv. You know that.”
Draco swallowed hard against the tightness in his throat. He was so lucky to have someone like Piers in his life – he’d be sure to let Pansy know how much he appreciated her interference in the matter. Not that he wanted her to keep interfering, of course.
Piers raised his brows as Draco just stood there. “We need to go, if the International Portkey is actually leaving when you said it was.”
Draco glanced at the clock on the wall. “Shit! We need to hurry.” They Apparated to the International station, making it just in time to pick up their Portkey. As they grabbed the rusty spoon, the green decorations on the walls caught Draco’s attention, reminding him, as anything that color did, of Harry’s eyes.
Will he notice me? he wondered, as the world spun away. Have I done enough to show him I’m worthy?
Harry stared as Ginny stood gracefully and walked to them. “Good evening, gentlemen,” she said, a sly smile on her face.
Harry blinked, then turned so he faced Blaise, his back to Ginny. “I’m not interested in Ginny in a romantic way,” he murmured.
Blaise smirked. “Really, Harry, don’t you think I know that? She’s here for me – well, and you, though we’ll get to that later.”
Harry frowned. “What are you up to?”
Ginny came up before Blaise could answer, putting her arms around Harry from behind and giving him a warm hug. “How are you? I never see you anymore.”
Harry turned, hugging her properly. “You’re the one who insisted on joining a team halfway across the country.”
She grinned and kissed his cheek. “But I didn’t mean for it to keep you away.”
“I’m not deliberately staying away,” he said, growing serious. “I just don’t have many chances --”
She put her hand to his lips, quieting him. “I know. I’m just teasing you.” She threw a flirty look to Blaise and sashayed toward the table. “Coming?”
Blaise licked his lips, looking very much like a cat following the best cream. Harry blinked. Did Blaise have feelings for Ginny?
They sat down, and Blaise asked Ginny about her training. That conversation lasted until they’d ordered, but as soon as the waiter left, Ginny turned to Harry. “So, you’ve a thing for Malfoy, right?”
Harry gaped at her then glared at Blaise. “What have you been saying to people?”
Blaise lifted his hands, like he was surrendering. “Not people, mate, just Ginevra here.”
Harry looked at his plate, his fists clenched in his lap. He felt like an idiot. A soft touch on his arm got his attention. “He thought I could help,” Ginny said softly.
Harry took a deep breath and let his gaze rise to meet Ginny’s warm, brown eyes. “There is no help. He’s in love with perfect Piers. I just need to move on.”
Ginny glanced at Blaise, who gave a slight nod. “Listen, Harry. I want you to take me to Par-Pansy’s party, all right?”
He frowned. “Why? I thought Blaise – I mean --”
Blaise leaned in and grinned. “You thought right. I do want Miss Ginevra’s attention.” He sobered. “But she needs to be your date that night.”
“Why? I don’t understand.”
Again, Blaise and Ginny exchanged glances. “Trust us, Harry,” Ginny said. “Blaise has told me some of the, erm, circumstances around what’s going on. And I agree with his plan.”
Harry pushed his chair back from the table a bit, staring at Blaise. “You have a plan? What kind of plan? I don’t think I like the sound of that.”
Blaise smirked. “Come now, Harry. My plans, unlike some other people’s, always work.”
“What other people?” Harry said, his eyes narrowing. “Are other people planning about me?”
Ginny wrapped her slender fingers around his wrist. “Harry, do you trust me?”
He looked at her, at her sweet, caring eyes, her gentle smile, her lush hair. “Of course.” He always had. He probably always would. Ginny was like his own sister, and he knew she’d never do anything to hurt him.
“Then trust me here, all right? Blaise is very clever, and he knows what he’s doing. Take me as your date to Pansy’s party. It’ll all work out.”
Harry had no idea what Ginny meant. He couldn’t see what on earth Blaise was planning – but when it came down it, it didn’t really matter. Draco would be there with his lover; Harry might as well not be alone. And perhaps that was simply the point. Harry wouldn’t be alone to watch Draco and Piers be a couple; instead, he’d have someone who cared about him at his side, supporting him.
“All right, then,” Harry said, giving in. “Will you do me the honor of joining me at Pansy’s party.”
“I will,” Ginny said, kissing his cheek. Of course, a camera flashed, and Blaise sent off a quick stinging hex, laughing as the reporter yelped.
Draco looked around Diagon Alley, stunned at how little it had changed – yet amazed at the aspects which had changed. As he and Piers walked past The Daily Prophet headquarters, he snorted.
“You were not joking when you said that your papers never leave Harry Potter alone,” Piers commented, seeing where Draco looked. “But it was fun to see your friend Blaise on the front page.”
Draco just shook his head. When they’d had breakfast with his mother that morning, the Prophet sported a picture of Ginny Weasley kissing Harry in a restaurant, Blaise watching with a fond look on his face. Draco couldn’t eat another bite after that, and when Piers asked why, he claimed it was the constant fawning over Potter which stole his appetite.
But now, as he showed Piers the mostly familiar shops of his childhood, he admitted the truth: his stomach hurt because of the obvious love on Harry’s face as his girlfriend touched him. He’d yearned for so long – no! He wasn’t going there again.
Before he could become too moody, Piers grabbed his arm. “That is Blaise’s shop, no?” He pointed at a cozy shop just near the corner. Draco’s breath caught. Coffee, Tea, and Books the hanging placard read.
“Yes,” Draco breathed, wishing he’d remembered that before agreeing to show Piers around.
As expected, Piers tugged him toward it. “We must go visit. I am certain he will want to see you.”
Draco couldn’t think of any reason to hold back, and within moments, he was standing inside the shop, surrounded by the warm scents of fresh pastries, steaming coffee, and the startled green of Harry’s eyes.
“Dra-Malfoy,” Harry said, his face pale.
“Potter.” Draco managed to keep his voice steady.
Piers, ignoring them, looked delighted. “And where is Blaise?”
Draco couldn’t look away from Harry, whose cheeks had flooded with color when Piers spoke. Now, Harry gave Piers an unhappy glance before saying, “He just stepped out. I’ll call him.”
He closed his eyes for a moment, then his wand dropped into his hand from his arm holster, and a silvery shape sprung forth. “Blaise, you are needed at the shop,” Harry said. The silver stag nodded and bounded away.
Piers beamed. “That was beautiful.” Then, he turned to Draco. “It’s amazing how much his Patronus looks like your --”
Draco cut him off, putting a hand to his neck, though Harry couldn’t possibly see through his cloak to the small figurine hanging there. “Piers, this is Harry Potter. You might have heard of him,” he added dryly.
Piers, always affable, held out his hand to Harry. “How nice to finally meet you. You are quite the hero --”
Again, Draco interrupted him, knowing how much Harry hated fawning fans. “Yes, well, he’s just Potter now. He’s Blaise’s partner in the shop.” He didn’t stop to think about the expression on Harry’s face, which had moved from serious to annoyed to somehow unhappy. Instead, he pulled Piers away. “Let’s take a look around until Blaise arrives and let Potter get back to his work.”
He led Piers to a cluster of bookshelves set into the wall around the corner from where Harry stood near the till. He held his other hand over the tiny, sterling stag resting over his chest. Pansy had gotten it for him two Christmases ago, the same Christmas she introduced him to Piers. He’d never taken it off.