Harry chatted with customers like he always did, but he kept one ear peeled for Draco and Piers. Piers. His heart clenched. The other man really was perfect. He was slightly taller than Draco and broader, as well. He had rich brown hair and dark brown eyes, and his athletic form couldn’t be hidden beneath even winter robes.
He was amazing, and Harry was, according to Draco, “just Potter.” It didn’t help that Piers seemed quite friendly, as well. It was no wonder Draco had fallen for him – no wonder that they were on the verge of deepening their relationship. Harry could never hope to compete with that, and even though he’d already decided to move on, he felt his heart break all over again.
Before he could get too maudlin, Blaise ran in. “What is it? What happened?”
Harry tried to smile. “Dr-Malfoy’s here, with Piers.”
Blaise blinked and then nodded, clapping Harry on the back. “Got it.”
Harry pointed to the corner which still held the two men, and Blaise began walking. Then he paused and returned, giving Harry a huge hug. “Hang in there, mate. Remember, all is not what it seems,” he murmured in Harry’s ear.
Harry frowned. What did that mean? As Blaise wandered over, and the three greeted each other warmly with smiles and laughs, Harry started ringing up a customer, trying to ignore them. He’d told Pansy he’d attend her party – hell, he’d asked Ginny to go with him! But now, having been face to face with Draco and his true love, Harry just didn’t think he could go through with it. Why put himself in that position?
He wasn’t sure how he’d tell Pansy, but it was time he stood up for himself – and putting himself through an entire night of torture wasn’t the kind thing to do. Harry felt slightly better after that decision, and when Blaise offered to give the two others a tour, Harry finished up with one last customer before retreating to their small office in the back. He could use a break.
Of course, that lasted until George and Ron sauntered in ten minutes later. “Did you know the Ferret showed up?” Ron asked.
At the same time, George said, “I didn’t realize Malfoy was back in town.”
Then Ron, after a second of confusion, answered George. “I told you he was coming back. We’re going to Parkinson’s party, remember?”
“I’m not going,” George said.
Ron rolled his eyes. “Yeah. You are. All of us are – we’re showing Harry some support.”
“I’m not going, either,” Harry said quickly.
Both Weasleys stared at him. Ron looked like he wasn’t quite sure what to say, but George only stayed silent a moment. “The hell with that,” he said. “I’m going, and so are you, Harry. You’re not running away from this.”
“Does everybody know my business?” Harry asked, frustration growing. “What, did someone announce it somewhere? Harry Potter has a thing for --”
“Oh, sorry, Potter. I heard voices and wondered if it was someone I knew.” Draco stood in the doorway, and Harry’s face burned.
Ron rolled his eyes. “Well, it is someone you know.”
George, on the other hand, grinned. “Well, well, well. The prodigal Malfoy returns. I hear you’re quite the Potions’ expert nowadays.”
Harry, relieved that he hadn’t actually finished his statement, relaxed back in his seat. He wasn’t worried about anything happening – even though Ron claimed he didn’t like Malfoy anymore than before, he’d learned to leave the past in the past. And George hated anything to do with fighting now. After Fred’s death, he’d declared that it was time for peace and goodwill.
Of course, Draco probably didn’t know all that, Harry realized, hearing a touch of tension in his voice. “I do all right. I’ll be coming home for good in the late spring.”
“Well, if you ever want to do some work for me, let me know. We have a number of products which rely on tricky potions, and I have a horrible time finding anyone competent,” George said calmly, while Harry worked to stay calm.
Draco was coming home? He and Piers were going to live here, where Harry would have to see them together all the time? This day just couldn’t get any worse.
Draco fell into his favorite armchair in the Manor, while Piers collapsed across from him. “I had no idea your Diagon Alley was so busy,” he said, leaning his head back. “We will not spend every day like this, I hope.”
Draco managed a smile. “Blaise was rather enthusiastic, wasn’t he? I think he wants to be sure you like it here. He and Pansy are hoping you’ll be willing to make your home here, remember.”
Piers gave him a fond grin before yawning. “Yes, I do remember,” he said. “And I have told both of them now that I will, no? You were a witness.”
“Yes, I heard.” Draco turned his gaze to the ceiling, his mind again revisiting Harry and what he’d overheard in the office. Harry Potter has a thing for -- what? A person? Running a coffee shop? Blaise had talked the entire time about Harry’s business acumen, reminding Draco that Pansy’s baking had taken off after Harry began including her wares in their shop. And now, it sounded like he wanted to start putting Dean Thomas’s paintings there, as well.
He was just that kind of person. Draco closed his eyes against the familiar ache which always came when he thought of Harry.
“Are you all right, darling?” His mother walked into the room, looking at him with concern.
He smiled at her before rising and kissing her cheek. “Just a little tired,” he said.
She turned to Piers. “It’s good to see you again, Piers.”
He also stood, taking her hand and bringing it to his lips. “And you, Mrs. Malfoy.”
“Oh, no. Call me Narcissa. You are a part of Draco’s life, which makes you a part of mine.”
“Very gracious, Narcissa,” Piers said, his smile warm like always.
She pulled out a bag resting near the fireplace. “I’ve been meaning to put up our holiday pictures,” she said. “But I keep getting distracted by other things which need doing.”
Draco and Piers both drew closer, looking as she took them out, one by one. The first showed a young Draco, perhaps three years old, wearing a red and green stocking cap and grinning at the camera while in Narcissa’s lap. His mouth was moving, along with Narcissa’s. “What are you saying?” Piers asked.
Draco shook his head. “That was the year Mum taught me ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.’”
“A Muggle poem?” Piers asked, clearly surprised.
“Of course, not,” Narcissa said. “Clement Clarke Moore was a wizard, but he so enjoyed stirring up Muggles and making them wish for magic in their lives.”
“Ah,” Piers said, winking at Draco.
Draco, though, froze when he pulled out the next frame. “When – where did you get this?” he asked, his voice tight.
It was Harry holding a very young Teddy, not even a year old. Teddy’s eyes were the same brilliant green as Harry’s, which was quite remarkable for the young Metamorphmagus. His hair, however, was a silky blonde, quite similar to Draco’s when he was that age. It almost looked like – Draco swallowed hard against the thought, but he couldn’t keep it from echoing through his head. He looks like a combination of Harry and me.
As the picture looped, Teddy looked at the camera while Harry looked at Teddy, until the very last moment, when Teddy turned his head and reached up one chubby hand to Harry’s cheek, and one tear dropped from Harry’s eye.
“Is that Harry Potter?” Piers asked. “You have a holiday picture of him?”
Draco felt his mother’s gaze on him as she explained. “Harry is Teddy’s godfather. This picture was taken right before Teddy’s first Christmas – when his parents had already died and left him alone. He’s my sister’s grandson, you see. Harry was – he came over briefly with Andie and Teddy.”
Draco looked up. “I don’t remember that.”
“Well, you were out, if I recall. It was a difficult holiday – for most of us. Harry was…grieving the loss of his friend, Mr. Lupin. Teddy’s father,” she added for Piers’ sake.
Draco watched the picture loop again and again, not hearing as the conversation between Piers and his mother continued around him.
Harry sat back on Ron’s couch, stuffed. “Glad you got our favorite,” he said, turning only his head to talk with Ron and George.
Ron, slouched in the recliner, patted his full stomach. “Of course. Only the best for you.”
George belched loudly, grinning when both Harry and Ron threw pillows at him. “What do you expect? Give me curry, and this is what happens.”
The three sat in silence for a bit, letting their food settle. Harry, his thoughts drifting, glanced around the flat George and Ron shared. After the war, George had decided he couldn’t stand to live above the shop anymore. It reminded him too strongly of Fred. He invited Ron to find a place with him, and as Ron knew he wouldn’t be joining the Aurors, after all, he quickly agreed.
They invited Harry too, but Harry needed some space. Hermione had gone to Australia to find her parents, and when she did, she decided to stay. Reversing an Obliviate wasn’t as easy as she’d hoped, and she continued to research possibilities while letting them get to know her and while she took classes in the magical university there. She returned periodically, but it was different.
Like his thoughts inspired Ron’s own, Ron said, “Hermione’ll be back for the big party.”
“What, she got an invite down there?” Harry asked, pretending nonchalance.
Ron snorted. “I invited her, you dolt.”
Harry grinned, satisfied that he’d gotten a reaction. Hermione and Ron were still a couple…kind of. It was hard, with her so far away. And she insisted he not wait for her, but although he’d dated a couple of times, Harry knew he was pretty much waiting. From the Owls she’d sent to Harry, he’d gathered that she was pretty much waiting too.
“Luna coming with her?” George asked, tipping his head back and tossing some kind of candy up to catch in his mouth. He caught it, of course.
Harry and Ron smirked at each other. Luna, for reasons only Luna could probably understand, had decided to go to Australia after her NEWTs, as well – and she’d moved in with Hermione. Hermione claimed she wasn’t sure how it happened; it just did. And George and Luna had been sending letters back and forth for almost six months now, though George never told the contents.
“Hoping you can borrow some wrackspurt glitter from her?” Ron asked. Harry laughed.
George threw his next piece of candy at Ron, and it bounced off his forehead, making Harry laugh harder. “Stop,” he wheezed. “I’m gonna vomit.”
Ron jumped on George, pummeling him with a pillow, as George tried to stuff something in Ron’s ears, and Harry just held his stomach and howled. All in all, it was nothing like the horrible evening he’d pictured earlier that day. Maybe, just maybe, life would be okay. After all, he still had his friends.
The next couple of days passed quickly, and soon it was time for Molly’s annual Holiday Dinner. Harry wasn’t quite sure why she did this – or why she called it ‘annual.’ Yes, they’d done it for the past three years, but she’d started it after the war. After Fred.
That first Christmas had been pretty awful. Harry’d spent as much time as he could with Teddy, but almost every expression on the baby’s face had sparked a memory – and Harry’d found himself in tears more often than not.
Molly, tired of the grieving and the sad faces, had decided they’d hold a huge dinner on Fred and George’s birthday, which fell mid-December. That first dinner had been anything but festive. Still, the last couple years had gotten progressively better, and Harry suspected that this year’s dinner might actually be enjoyable.
He looked around his flat, making sure he had everything. They didn’t exchange gifts, of course, as this was before Christmas. But they did share favorite memories of those who’d left them. Last year, for the first time, those memories had led to laughter rather than tears, and Harry had planned out his thoughts to continue that tradition.
He bundled up, making sure to use the thick cloak Hermione and Luna got him last year for Christmas, and Apparated straight to the Burrow. Despite the cold, Ron, George, Bill, and Charlie were on their brooms already. “Harry!” Charlie called, ducking a bludger and coming to land. He dropped his broom and threw his arms around Harry in one swift move, almost toppling the two of them.
“How are you, mate? It’s been too long.” He squeezed, and Harry relaxed against him, always glad to see Charlie.
“It has been a while – since last New Year’s, I think.”
“You think?” Charlie shook his head, holding onto Harry’s shoulders so he couldn’t get away. “If you’re not sure, then I did something wrong.”
Harry blushed. He and Charlie had spent New Year’s Day recovering from too much Firewhiskey – and too much sex. Charlie was fun in bed, but they both agreed it was just that – fun. They loved each other as friends, but they didn’t want anything more. Plus, Harry had finally admitted to himself that there was only one bloke for him…not that said bloke would ever look his way, he now knew.
Forcing his thoughts from Draco, he managed a grin. “How’ve you been?”
Charlie started walking with him to the house, his arm still around Harry’s shoulders. “Good. It’s been a busy one. Really good.”
Something in his tone caught Harry’s attention and he raised his brows. “That kind of good?”
Charlie grinned. “Maybe. It’s new – just a few weeks. But next year, I’m hoping to bring him here.”
“You should’ve brought him this time. Your mum wouldn’t care. In fact, she’d be thrilled.”
“I know,” Charlie agreed. “I didn’t bring him because I need to be sure. I needed this time to remember and maybe see some other people.”
Harry stopped, right outside the door. “Me?”
Charlie shrugged. “I know we said it was only fun, Harry. But I thought about you a lot those first couple of months after I went back. I needed to see you again and be sure.”
Harry swallowed. He didn’t want Charlie interested in him like that. Even though Draco had found someone, Harry hadn’t gotten over him. How could he? He’d never even had a chance.
Before he could say anything, Charlie nudged him. “It’s okay. I can see it on your face. I knew last year, remember?”
He did, of course. Charlie had known when they said good-bye, when he suggested they meet up in Romania. Harry had sidled away from the idea, and Charlie’d said, “Ah. There’s someone else.”
Harry’d blurted. “No ‘else’ – just him.”
Now, as the other brothers drew closer, their chatter and laughter filling the air as much as the breath clouds, Harry said quietly, “Nothing will come of it, but I – he’s the only one I want.”
George caught them and grabbed Harry from behind. “There’s my other brother,” he called, tickling Harry.
Harry gasped and tried to pull away, but then Bill and Ron joined in, and finally Charlie, and the five of them ended up on the frozen ground, rolling around and wrestling in the cold.
“Honestly,” a voice said, and Harry looked up to see a blurry Hermione. Where had his glasses gone? Someone shoved them into his hand as he stood to hug Hermione.
“I’ve missed you,” he said, holding her close.
“Oh, Harry,” she said, and he heard the tears in her voice. They clung to each other for a few minutes, until Ron grabbed the two of them and started hustling them into the house.
There was a flurry of greetings, and Harry found himself passed from Kingsley to Andie to Luna to Neville – and so on. He caught a glimpse of the magically expanded dining room and a table laden with candles, decorations, plates, silverware – and pictures. Pictures floating mid-air of those they’d loved and lost. Harry held his breath until he spotted his mum and dad, Remus and Sirius.
Then he moved into the sitting room, where the crowd was settling into the usual groups. Near the warm fire, Neville, Luna, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny waited for him. He sank into the spot between Ron and Hermione, and for the first time since Pansy had started babbling about Draco everyday, he felt tension slide away. This was his family, and even if he never found romantic love, he had everything he really needed right here.
He smiled, catching Hermione’s eye, and she leaned her head on his shoulder. “I love you, Harry,” she murmured.
“I love you too, Mione.” Yes, he was the lucky one.
Piers insisted on Draco taking him back to Flourish & Blotts on Sunday. It had been his favorite shop – other than Blaise’s, of course – and he wanted to get some specialty papers and quills. Draco was fine with that. Truth be told, it was harder than he’d thought it would be back here in England.
He loved his mum, of course, but everywhere he looked he felt his father’s absence. They’d never thought that Lucius would get out of going to Azkaban, so when he had to serve a five-year sentence, Draco and Narcissa were prepared.
But nothing could have prepared them for the visit from Minister Shacklebolt, telling them of the murders of three Death-Eaters within the prison walls. Lucius had been one of them, and everything changed for Draco after that. He felt torn between his own desires for the future and worry over his mum being alone.
She’d been the one who insisted he go to France when he was accepted into the prestigious Potions’ program there. She claimed she had Andie and Teddy now, and he needed to pursue his dreams. It was hard to leave, but Draco did it – and now, with the end of the program in sight, he realized it might be just as hard to come back.
Piers nudged him, pulling him from his thoughts. “I cannot remember the exact route – are we close?”
They’d Apparated to the Leaky Cauldron, and were now wandering down the streets of Diagon Alley. “Yes. It’s right around the corner.” Draco kept himself from looking at Blaise’s and Harry’s shop, which was closed on Sundays. He wished he could stop by and see those green, green eyes again – but that was foolishness. Harry hadn’t seemed very excited to see him back in town, and even though Pansy and Blaise both talked about him glowingly, Draco could see no reason that Harry would welcome him.
He pretended that thought didn’t make his heart ache some. Piers grabbed his arm. “There it is!”
Draco shook his head. Piers was so funny about things like this. They went into the store together, and Piers stopped, looking around the shop with an almost hungry look on his face. “Exactly what I want,” he murmured.
Draco left him to it and did a little shopping of his own. As he was testing quills, someone brushed past him. “Oh, excuse me – Malfoy?”
Draco looked up to see the brown eyes and frizzy hair of Hermione Granger. “Granger,” he said, keeping his tone as neutral as possible. He’d seen very little of her since the war. She hadn’t been one of those who returned to Hogwarts to get her NEWTs; Draco remembered hearing that she was in Canada, or someplace like that.
“How are you?” she asked, looking at him intently.
She smiled. “Getting better. It’s good to be back in England. You’re not usually here, either, right?”
“I’ve been in France.”
“That’s right. I’d heard that. And you’re here with, um, someone, right?”
He frowned at her. “Here in England? Or here in the store?”
Her cheeks pinked up a little. “It’s just – I’d heard that you were visiting with a, erm, friend.”
Who had she been talking to? Draco didn’t like the idea that people were gossiping about his personal life. “Who told you that?”
She waved her hand. “Oh, just someone. Anyway, are you staying here for good now?”
“No. I still have a semester left.”
“Ah.” She bit her lip and fiddled with a quill.
Draco opened his mouth to say good-bye when Piers rushed up. “Dray, have you seen these papers? The quality – it is exactly what Maman would love, no?”
Hermione smiled at him, and Piers stopped, looking embarrassed. “I apologize. I did not realize you were talking with a friend.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “This is Hermione Granger. We went to Hogwarts together, but I wouldn’t call us friends. More like acquaintances.”
Hermione snorted. “We have friends in common – that’s what Draco meant to say.” She held out her hand. “It’s nice to meet you?”
“Piers,” he said, clasping her hand with his usual warmth. “Are you friends with Blaise and Pansy then?”
“Yes,” she said.
“You haven’t been here enough to be their friends, Granger,” Draco said, annoyed.
“I’ve visited, and when I was here last spring, I spent a fair amount of time with Blaise because of Harry.”
Piers beamed. “Oh, so you are one of Harry Potter’s friends – wait, Hermione Granger! I recognize that name. You are one of Harry’s best friends, no?”
Hermione grinned right back. “Yes. Harry is like a brother to me.”
“And the other – a red-head --”
“Ron, yes. I was a little surprised that Harry didn’t go into business with Ron, but when I saw how well Harry and Blaise worked together, it all made much more sense.”
Piers nodded. “Oh, yes. Blaise seems to be quite fond of Harry Potter.”
All this talk was giving Draco a headache. Piers seemed so delighted to be chatting with Hermione, and Draco just wanted to go home. Especially because they insisted on talking about Harry, when Harry was the last person Draco wanted to think about right now. He tuned back into the conversation when Hermione touched his arm and said, “Draco?”
“I was just telling Piers how impressed Harry is with your work in Potions.”
Draco blinked at her, stunned. Finally, he said, “What are you talking about? Potter knows nothing about what --”
Piers shook his head. “That is not true. Blaise tells him everything about what you are doing.”
Now Draco gaped at Piers. “How do you know that?”
Piers smirked. “He told me. He said that Harry Potter is always most interested in your studies and accomplishments. And that he passes along the information.”
“Harry is interested. He even wrote me when you got that award last summer. I was impressed too,” she added, sincerity shining in her eyes.
“God save me from Gryffindors,” Draco muttered, his mind spinning. Harry knew he’d gotten the award? He’d told other people about it?
Piers gave him a quick hug. “We were all proud of you,” he said.
Hermione looked a little uncomfortable, for some reason. “I should probably go,” she said. “But it was good to see you, Mal-Draco. And nice to meet you, Piers. I’ll probably see you both at Pansy’s party?”
Piers nodded and Draco figured he must have said good-bye, but the only thing he was truly aware of was the fact that Harry had not only known about his award, he’d told his best friend about it. Why would he do that? What did it mean?
The next week was a strange one for Harry. First, on Monday, Blaise brought in a gift, wrapped with a golden bow.
“It’s not Christmas yet,” Harry said, when Blaise handed it to him.
“True. But this is necessary. It’s for the party this weekend.” He stood, obviously waiting, until Harry began untying the bow.
Inside, beneath frosty, thin paper, lay a shirt. A silky, green shirt. Harry held it up. “It’s, erm, nice. Thanks.” He wasn’t sure what else to say, but Blaise nodded at him.
“Good. Ginny will be expecting you to wear it.”
Now Harry frowned. “Are you sure you get that I’m not interested in Gin like that?”
Blaise winked. “I’m sure. Don’t worry. She’ll be wearing something spectacular herself – and so will I. But you <i>have</i> to wear that.”
Harry sighed, and he rubbed the material between his fingers. It certainly felt nice, but why on earth did it matter what he wore? It wasn’t like Dra -- anyone -- would be looking at him, anyway.
Pansy came in a bit later, pulling out her boxes and unshrinking them. She filled the pastry shelves as she chattered to them. “The party is going to be amazing! I have it all set up, and Neville has prepared unbelievable flower arrangements.”
“Neville?” Blaise said, his eyebrow quirked.
Pansy actually blushed a bit, and Harry couldn’t help but smile. He’d never have picked Pansy for Neville, but in some ways, it was a perfect fit. Pansy’s out-going aggressiveness would be a nice balance to Neville’s quiet and unassuming ways. He’d keep her out of trouble – hopefully – and she’d help him find some excitement.
“He’s a good bloke,” she said, turning and brushing off her hands.
Blaise simply smirked, but Harry noticed that his smile softened into something real and pleased when Pansy headed out. These Slytherins. Harry had learned that they didn’t like people to see the kindness beneath their tough exteriors, but their loyalty extended just as far as a Hufflepuffs, in his experience.
Later that day, Piers stopped in, without Draco. Blaise, of course, had gone to fetch some more of their peppermint syrup for the coffees, and Harry now faced Piers alone.
“Harry!” Piers said, delight in his voice.
Harry managed a smile. “Piers. Nice to see you again.”
“I hope it is all right with you that I am here. Draco does not know, but I wanted to see your shop again without him trying to rush me through, no? He is so funny when it comes to London. Part of him wants to show it off, but he also gets touchy about things which remind him of the war.”
Piers chatted on, surprising Harry not only with his friendliness but also with the amount of information that poured out of him. “It will be good when he returns, because he needs to show everyone that he is not the Draco Malfoy they remember.” He looked Harry in the eye. “You know what that is like, I imagine.”
Harry blinked. “Erm, right. And what will you be doing here when Draco comes back?”
Piers laughed. “Oh, there is no worry about me. I can always find ways to entertain myself, no matter where I am living. As long as I have my love, I am good.”
Harry’s throat tightened, and he had to work to swallow. His love. “That’s great,” he got out.
Piers didn’t seem to notice Harry’s lack of enthusiasm, and instead he began looking through the book shelf nearest them. “I am hoping to find a book – the perfect book – for Draco, in fact. He does not read much fiction, but I am certain there are many he would enjoy. What do you suggest?”
Harry had no choice but to wander through the stacks with Piers then, looking for the ‘perfect’ book for Draco. The perfect book which he’d receive from Piers, his perfect love.
By the time Piers left, a neatly wrapped adventure-mystery in his hands, Harry was knackered. The glow he’d carried with him from the lovely weekend seemed too distant to touch now, and he just wanted to go home.
Blaise returned soon thereafter, and with him, was Dean. Dean had a box floating after him, and Harry, glad for the distraction, went to help the two of them unload and resize ten paintings. Harry’d chosen the paintings personally, knowing exactly what he wanted for the walls of the shop. Blaise, however, was the one who knew where they should be placed, and the three of them worked steadily – with Blaise and Harry taking turns helping customers in between – for over an hour to hang them all.
When they’d finished, Harry felt some of his happiness return as he looked at the beauty lining the walls. “You’re an amazing artist, mate,” he said to Dean.
Dean looked pleased and embarrassed at the same time. Then he pulled something from his pocket, tapped it with his wand, and handed Harry a large present with a big red bow. “This is for you, Harry. It’s not for sale, by the way.”
Harry’s breath caught, and he tore at the paper. When he saw the painting beneath, he gasped, tears stinging his eyes. “Dean, I --” His voice broke, and he stopped.
Blaise squeezed his shoulder, his own eyes suspiciously damp. “It’s gorgeous, Thomas,” he said, his voice hoarse.
Harry nodded, but he couldn’t take his eyes away from the sight. How did he know? he thought.
Tuesday brought another wrapped gift from Blaise, this one with a shiny, green ribbon and bow. Harry shook his head as he unwrapped it. Inside were some black trousers, made of – “Dragon hide?”
Blaise grinned. “Ginny got them from her brother. She insinuated that he’d know exactly the size you need.”
Harry’s face heated up. “Bloody hell,” he muttered.
Blaise wandered off, calling over his shoulder, “And yes, you’re to wear those, as well.”
What was he up to? Harry put the trousers back in the box and hid the whole thing under the side shelf. He didn’t want Pansy to see and have to answer her questions, as well. Then he returned to a much better pastime – trying to figure out where to put Dean’s painting.
At the moment, it leaned against the wall, raised up on a table near the door. Harry’d wanted to take it home with him the night before, but he didn’t want to chance damaging it in any way by moving it too much. And since he spent most of his time here, he wanted it here.
He stood and studied it. In the painting, Harry sat against a tree, watching the scene before him. It was a picture of Harry’s life, but only the best parts. Beyond the tree was a sunlit – evening light -- grassy slope leading down to a shimmering lake. Hogwarts rose along the far side of the lake, its turrets gleaming in the golden light. On the grassy slope, many people wandered, starting with a young Lily and James, holding a black-haired child. The two were pointing at Hogwarts, love and delight on their faces as they continually glanced at the small boy in their arms.
A little further down, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin strolled, their eyes on a brunet figure in the air, flipping and flying on a broomstick. Hagrid watched, as well, not too far away. Then came a horde of red-heads (even Fred), with Ron in the front. Hermione was at his side, and they waved at the Harry under the tree.
Closer to the lake stood all of Harry’s friends, including the guys in Harry’s class, and his current friends, like Blaise and Pansy. They were all talking together, some sitting, some standing, and happiness radiated from all of them.
Finally, on the shores of the lake, sat a figure with shiny, blond hair. It was Draco, reading a book. Every so often, he’d raise his head and look across the water – and then turn his head to look over his shoulder at Harry.
And that was the part of the picture Harry’s eyes were continually drawn to – the solitary boy at the lake and the silver eyes which flashed in painted Harry’s direction.
Harry ran his hands through his hair. The entire picture spoke of joy and wonder and warmth – and Harry had a hard time looking away. He definitely wanted this in a spot where he could look his fill. At the same time, this wasn’t really for public consumption.
Sighing, Harry picked it up and carried to their office. For now, it could rest here. He’d find the perfect spot later.
He got back out just in time for Pansy’s delivery – and then the morning rush began. He didn’t know if it was because of the season or the closeness of Christmas, but the shop was mobbed all day long. Interestingly, many people simply came in for the atmosphere and a pastry. Many wandered through the store, commenting at Dean’s paintings. Near closing time, Harry and Blaise had already sold three of them.
Only a couple customers remained, and Harry was exhausted. He’d not had a break all day. The door jingled, and Harry called out, “We’re ready to close, so --”
He stopped as he turned. Draco stood there. Alone. “Draco,” Harry said, so surprised he used his first name.
Draco gave a slight smile. “Harry. I was wondering if you’d like to take a short walk with me. They’ve put up the tree in the middle of the square, and I hoped you’d like to look at it.” He said all this is a calm, cool tone, but Harry thought he saw a hint of nervousness in those grey eyes.
“Erm, sure. Just – let me tell Blaise and make sure --”
“Yes, Blaise can handle it,” Blaise said, coming up behind Harry. He grinned at the two of them. “Go out, get some fresh air. The masses will be back tomorrow, and you could use a break.”
Harry shook his head. “So could you,” he muttered.
Blaise grinned. “No worries there, Potter,” he said, grabbing Harry’s cloak and scarf and practically pushing him out the door.
Outside, the sky was already dark and the air cold. Draco pulled on some leather gloves, and they walked in silence toward the center of Diagon Alley. A crowd had already gathered, and Harry couldn’t hold back a gasp when the tree came into view.
It was huge – almost as tall as the one placed in Hogwarts each year. The branches held glowing stars and silvery ribbons with some kind of lights attached. Big gold balls caught the light, reflecting it back in glimmering sparkles. “Wow,” he breathed. Then he felt silly, but when he glanced at Draco, he saw the same wonder and appreciation on his face.
“I guessed you’d like it. Did they not do this last year?” he asked.
Harry frowned. “They didn’t – I wonder why not.”
“It doesn’t really matter,” Draco said. “As long as it’s here now.”
Harry looked at the tree, but his thoughts were on the man at his side. And as much as he didn’t want to ask, he felt he had to. “Why didn’t you bring Piers to see this?”
Draco looked at Harry, a hint of surprise on his face. “Piers isn’t really into this scene,” he said.
Harry found that hard to believe. Granted, he barely knew the guy, but from what he’d seen, Piers loved everything having to do with mood and holiday spirit. “Oh,” he said. Then he blurted, “Why me?”
A smile danced around Draco’s lips, and Harry stared, mesmerized for a moment. “Actually, I was hoping to soften you up and get you to agree to having dinner with me Thursday night.”
It took a second for the words to sink in, and then Harry reared back. “What?” His heart raced.
“I wanted to have dinner --”
Harry shook his head, his stomach like lead. “You – this is all some big joke, isn’t it? You’re upset with me somehow, and this seemed like the perfect payback.” Oh, god. Harry knew if he didn’t leave right this second, he was going to lose it. Had Blaise told Draco how Harry felt about him? Was he in on this too? “I have to go,” Harry said, and he rushed to the nearest Apparition point, not even noticing the people he pushed aside. He pulled out his wand and with a crack, he was gone.
In his flat, he fell to the floor when he arrived, hunched over himself. How could Draco do this? The only reason a man in love – and about to announce his engagement – would ask Harry out was for some cruel joke. He didn’t think Draco still hated him, but apparently, he was wrong.
After laying there, shaking, Harry pulled himself up. He wasn’t going to fall apart like some teenaged girl. Instead, he headed for the Firewhiskey. This was the perfect opportunity to get raging pissed.