Prompt: #29 by reikokatsura
Summary: Harry Potter is perfectly normal, thank you very much, but when a little girl chooses his table to hide under, he’s doomed from the very start.
Word Count: ~8000
Author's Notes: Thanks to my beta D for tolerating this sudden burst of fluff.
Sea foam green. That was it. Harry could picture the color perfectly. It was as if someone had bottled seawater and commercialized it, turning it into a bright and peppy cartoon of its former self. He closed his eyes and thought about it one more time, just to be certain that he had it right.
No. They were definitely sea foam green.
As though his certainty had issued some private summons, the door to his office flew open and banged against the wall with a crack. Harry winced.
The young woman stomped toward him, nose held high, his coffee in one hand and his post in the other. Harry noticed with some small amount of satisfaction that her sky-high heels were, in fact, sea foam green. However, the red flush of her cheeks and the frequency of the tears streaming down her face were immediate causes for worry. If she didn’t stop soon, Harry was certain that he would end up either with salty coffee or wet post, and neither was preferable.
She slammed the coffee down on his desk, causing a bit to leak out and splatter onto the mahogany. The post she simply threw at him, forcing him to close his eyes to avoid a sharp envelope corner to the eye. Then she stomped out, tiny, perfect arse swaying in her professional looking pencil skirt. Those heels weren’t helping.
Harry signed and scratched his stubble as he watched her near the door. She was lucky that he was gay because were he not, he would be seriously tempted to ask her on a date. And in that case, she was simply lucky that she worked for Harry because there were plenty of lecherous old men working at the Prophet who wouldn’t bother to ask before touching.
He should probably say something, though. “Astoria,” he managed, and she stopped dead, the door just inches away. He could hear her sniff loudly.
“What?” She made it sound like a curse word. Harry recoiled, just a bit, so that his rolling chair hit the glass wall behind his desk, the wall overlooking the courtyard of the office building. When he first got the position, he made the maintenance people swear that the previous Senior Editor had not plummeted to his death out of the window. They had assured him that the Senior Editor was living happily with his wife in a retirement community in Florida.
Still, Harry rolled quickly back toward his desk the moment that he felt the chair hit glass. Astoria hadn’t moved; she held herself rigidly, and anger was written all over her body.
“Astoria,” Harry sighed again. “Come sit down.” He pushed the letter he’d been reading into the top drawer of his desk, covering it with the letters that she had just brought him. When he looked up, she was standing awkwardly in front of his desk.
“Sit,” he said, motioning to the chairs in front of his desk. She folded her hands in her lap and sat, blinking tears out of her eyes. “What’s going on?”
Astoria bit her lip and shook her head. Harry didn’t understand. “Astoria….” She shook her head again, and then he got it. If she stopped biting her lip long enough to explain what was the matter, she would begin sobbing, and then there would be no chance of his finding out what was going on.
He extended his hand, which she took awkwardly. “Squeeze as hard as it hurts,” he said, something that he remembered from when he used to accompany Dudley to doctor’s appointments. Aunt Petunia would always say those words before they pricked Dudley with the needle (This part was Harry’s favorite to watch, especially because Dudley’s little pin pricks always ended up horribly infected, while Harry’s healed after an hour, tops.), but it seemed appropriate now, too. Astoria seemed a little surprised, but she began to squeeze after a moment, and her teeth pulled back from her lower lip.
“He’s gay!” she whispered. Harry blinked.
“You’re going to have to help me out,” he said. “He…?”
“My husband,” Astoria mumbled. Harry tried to remember who Astoria’s husband was. He was certain that she had talked about him on more than one occasion, but Harry didn’t have the best track record for paying attention when Astoria was talking. She’d been his personal assistant for a year now, and he was hopping that this mini therapy session would make up for a year of coworker neglect.
“I’m sorry, Astoria. But your husband is…?”
She hissed some name that Harry faintly registered. He knew the guy, but as soon as Astoria said the name it slipped from his mind. This was getting awkward.
“Oh…” Harry said slowly.
“And apparently,” she blubbered, “I am the last person to know.” The tears fell freely now, landing in dark little droplets on her pretty skirt. Harry frowned.
“It’s not your fault,” Harry said quietly.
“Oh, I know that,” she snapped. “But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m not getting married, that I’m living in some run down, disgusting flat in some stupid Muggle neighborhood because he led me on. He asked me to marry him! What was I supposed to think? That he was using me?”
He took a deep breath of air. “You can do better, Astoria. And you will. I know that you will.” She blinked at him and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
“You’re right,” she said firmly, though Harry sensed that it would take a big dish of ice cream and a long night of sobbing before she truly started believing it. “Thank you for being so… nice.”
She leaned forward. Harry suddenly realized how close they were, that Astoria was still gripping his hand. He had an uncomfortable flashback to his first kiss as he looked at the wet droplets that clung to Astoria’s lashes. She closed the distance between them so that he could feel her breath on his lips. Then she hesitated.
“You’re gay, right?” she whispered. Harry nodded, too uncomfortable to move or speak. She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and stood. Then she headed back toward the door, posture perfect in those sea foam heels.
“Astoria,” he said suddenly. She turned as she was about to shut the door behind her.
“Hmm?” she asked.
Harry grinned and then mimed buttoning up his shirt. She blushed, hand flying to the top buttons of her blouse.
“Thanks,” she whispered, and she closed the door behind her.
The rain colored the sidewalk a dark, angry grey. Harry took to the streets despite the rain, travelling the well-known paths that wound through Muggle London to his favorite coffee shop.
The windowpanes were spotted with water by the time Harry pushed open the door. He shook raindrops from his fringe and took his coffee to his usual table in the back. It was a booth, meant for four people, but that never stopped him. From the seat he could see the people who passed by the windows, and sometimes Harry liked to imagine where they were going.
As he slid into the booth, something brushed against his leg. He dipped his head curiously, expecting to see that someone had left their umbrella or briefcase, but he was met, instead, with a pair of big, owlish eyes. They blinked at him, and he blinked back.
“Hull—” he tried to say, but a tiny hand clamped itself over his mouth. He was still bent foolishly beneath the table. A small voice whispered, “Shh! I’m hiding.”
“’Rum ‘oom?” Harry tried to say. The hand slowly retracted itself. “From whom?” he repeated. The eyes, which he could now tell belonged to a little girl, blinked furiously.
“It’s a long story,” she said. Harry nodded.
“How about you come up here and we talk about it?” The girl frowned. “I’ll buy you a hot chocolate,” Harry offered, and this time the girl wriggled up into the other side of the booth. She made sure to keep low enough that no one could see that she was there.
When he returned with the hot chocolate, Harry was happy to see that she hadn’t run off. The girl had hair the color of beach sand and wide, grey eyes. She was looking around nervously.
“Thanks,” she mumbled.
“How old are you?” asked Harry.
“I’m nine,” she replied.
“And your name…?”
That gave Harry pause, but he launched into the next question as Lily’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“And why are you hiding?”
Lily sighed. “I go to school across the street.” She motioned behind her. Harry glanced in that direction, but outside of the rain-streaked windows, the only thing on the other side of the street was a plain wall. Lily continued. “And school is horribly boring, and I would much rather go to Ho— the school that my brothers go to. So I’m protesting.”
Harry nodded. “So you’re hiding out under a table in a coffee shop. How about, after you finish that, I take you back to school.”
Lily’s huge eyes widened even more. “No! I can go back myself. Really, it’s fine.”
“How do I know that you’re not going to end up hiding underneath the table of the restaurant next door? Don’t you think that your parents will be worried about you?”
“I’ve got to go.” Lily slid out of the booth. “Thank you for the drink.” Then she took off, dodging underneath the arms and legs of the customers waiting on line. Harry was quick, however, his years as a Quidditch player gone but not forgotten, and he streaked after her, shouting hasty apologies over his shoulder.
He watched her dart out into the street, weaving in between the cars stopped at the light. Then she turned, just in time to see Harry hop up on the sidewalk beside her.
“No one’s ever going to believe that I met Harry Potter,” she muttered, and she disappeared without another word, straight through the stone wall.
Like Alice following the bloody rabbit into Wonderland, Harry took one cautious step forward to touch the stone, and his hand passed straight through it. He stuck his head in after and peered down a long, dimly lit hallway. Stupidly unaware that half of his body was still out on the street, Harry squinted to try and get a better view of where he was. And then—
“Ung,” Harry grunted, slipping backwards as someone tripped over his foot. He fell backwards, landing with a thud on the wet pavement.
Draco Malfoy was a rumpled wreck, blinking angrily through rain soaked and windblown hair. Hearing his name fall from Malfoy’s lips was hardly unfamiliar, but the tone was different. Harry couldn’t place it, but as Draco stared at him with wide, unblinking eyes, it dawned on him. Draco was absolutely terrified.
“Malfoy. Are you… alright?” Harry asked lamely.
“I— Dammit Potter, you’re not an Auror, are you?”
“Er… No. Senior Editor at the Daily Prophet.” He paused. “Nice to meet you.”
Draco breathed a sigh of relief. “Then why are you here?
“Wait— Did you just… rob a bank, or some such nonsense. Malfoy… hey! Are you on the run from the law?” Harry was attempting to poke fun, but all of it seemed to fly straight over Draco’s head.
“Actually no,” he said quietly before awkward silence descended and both men realized that they were sitting in the street. Harry scrambled up first, offering Draco his hand.
“Let me take you to lunch. I tripped you, and all.”
Draco shook his head. “I’m in a bit of a hurry, really. Another time.” The desperation in his voice reminded Harry of someone, but he couldn’t quite place whom.
“I’ll hold you to that,” Harry mumbled, but Draco had already swept past him. Harry turned and glanced behind him on the wind stirred street, but, though the next turn was quite a ways off, Draco had already disappeared. Harry cast one last look at the mysterious wall and left, giving not an ounce more thought to odd blonds in a hurry.
Harry did hold Draco to his word, just a week later when he sat in his office penning a letter. His owl stood at attention, leg expectantly outstretched.
I hope that you are not always that jumpy, Harry concluded his letter, smiling slightly at his own joke. He let the owl out the window just as Astoria burst through the door.
“Mr. Potter?” she asked, so boisterously that Harry nearly flew out the window in fright.
“Astoria,” he breathed. “Never do that again, please.”
“Sorry,” she mumbled, but it was clear that she didn’t really mean it. “I actually came to ask a favor. Would you mind… Could I persuade you to maybe write me a letter of recommendation, just, on my work ethic and personality… that sort of stuff.”
“You’re not thinking of leaving me, are you?” Harry teased, drawing another piece of parchment out of his desk drawer. He grinned, and Astoria smiled back.
“No, never. You’d be useless without me, anyway. It’s for something a bit private.”
“Of course, then. You need it by…?”
Your letter was nothing if not quite amusing. I assure you that I am not always that jumpy. At the moment we bumped into each other, I had just received some distressing news. All is well, however, and I suppose that I could be persuaded to meet you for dinner sometime soon.
After all, my knee has been feeling awfully sore from my fall.
“Finished yet?” Astoria asked, leaning over her desk and putting her cleavage on display. Harry rolled his eyes.
“Not yet. Soon.”
Astoria pursed her lips. “Tomorrow?”
“Monday.” Harry straightened a few of the pamphlets on Astoria’s desk. “I’m taking off early tonight. You should, too. Enjoy your Friday.”
“You’re awfully smiley tonight.”
Harry shrugged. “Have a nice weekend, Astoria.”
“Do you honestly live here?” The words were the first thing that Harry thought of to say, though he regretted it immediately. The flat was obviously rather small, though from the way Draco barely opened the door and slipped out, Harry couldn’t really tell.
“London’s lovely in December,” he said simply.
“But you live here all the time?”
They walked toward the lift in silence. Then, “I like it, actually. Bad memories at the Manor.”
Draco smiled. “Lovely.”
“You like that word, don’t you?”
“You like asking questions, don’t you?”
Dinner is a fundamental bonding experience, and the things that one can learn about another person from observing his eating habits, the food he likes, the way he treats a waiter are substantial.
But a first dinner date with Harry Potter was legendary and proved that quite a bit could be learned from the number of times he managed to drop his fork on the floor, spill his drink, or say something completely moronic out of sheer nervousness.
This behavior, however benign, usually sent prospective lovers running for the hills.
This date was no exception, for in the first five minutes, as Harry was buttering a roll, Draco scratched his left arm suddenly, and Harry could not stop the words before they tumbled out.
“Is that your—?” he blurted out, trailing off a moment too late. Draco looked as though he were about to stand, but, instead, he leaned forward to brush a few crumbs from the front of Harry’s shirt.
“The Ministry Approved removal practices are quite painless,” Draco said quietly, “though I’m sad to say they have not developed a magical correction for your manners.”
Harry laughed, and after that, things weren’t so awkward anymore.
Harry even walked Draco to the door of his silly little flat, and, yes, as he happily told Ginny over the Floo an hour later, they kissed each other goodnight.
“Mr. Potter, are you humming?”
Harry leaned over the edge of Astoria’s desk, grinning like fool. “Ah, my dear, you need to look on the bright side of life more often. And, before you ask, I do have your letter.”
Astoria took the paper gently, smiling in gratitude as Harry practically skipped into his office. She read the first few words of the glowing recommendation.
“Merlin,” she muttered.
A bottle of Firewhiskey went unopened on New Year’s Eve, and not because Harry did not want it drunk. He was turned away at Draco’s door, which shut in his face only seconds after it had been opened.
Something that sounded suspiciously like ‘sorry’ floated through the closed door, followed moments later by the sound of a woman giggling.
Harry took one step back, and then another, propelled by the sheer force of a breaking heart. He bit his lip and left after that, understanding at last that the past week of lunch dates with Draco had been nothing but a big mistake.
A bottle of Firewhiskey went unopened on New Year’s Eve because Harry smashed it on the pavement outside of Draco’s crumby, Muggle apartment building before he Apparated home.
“You’ve a meeting at five with Scott. He said something about jinxed brooms. I didn’t quite catch it all. Oh… Mr. Potter, wait!” Astoria tried to catch Harry’s attention as he swept past her irritably.
“Mr. Potter! Happy New Year!” Astoria shuffled out from behind her desk after him, catching the closing doors to his office with deft hands.
“About a week late, Astoria,” Harry snapped.
“I know, but I never—“
“Do you have a point? If not, well, you can take your pleasantries and shove them—“
“Derek is coming up to see you in fifteen minutes. He’s got some wild celebrity scoop, or something. There was a lot of disturbance on his end of the Floo.”
“Actually… I was hoping that I could get off early tonight?” She didn’t sound hopeful.
“No. Business… thing.”
“Fine. Now, please get out, Astoria.”
He pushed her back through the doors and reached up to close them. “Someone owled you no less than ten times while you were—“
Harry slammed the doors in her face.
“Derek is here to see you,” Astoria said sheepishly, exactly fifteen minutes later. “He’s a bit testy,” Harry heard her mutter as Derek stepped into the room.
“Don’t sit,” Harry barked as Astoria shut the door. “Just speak quickly.”
An owl swooped down toward the window and began to tap its talons against the glass. Harry pointedly ignored it, but Derek glanced up. “Don’t you want to get—?”
“You’re here for a reason, Derek?”
“Oh, right.” He awkwardly shuffled through some papers that he was holding.
“I’m going to make this easy for me. Five words or fewer, Derek.”
“Print it.” Harry turned back to the paperwork on his desk.
“But sir, I’m not sure—”
“I said, print it.”
Derek did not have to be told again. Harry sat at his desk as the sun set over the city outside. He did not have to turn to catch the glow of the streetlights as they illuminated the night for those lucky enough to have some place to go.
Astoria opened the doors before she left, but found Harry hunched over his desk, muttering angrily to himself. She closed the doors again without a word. He would be spending the night here, she was certain, and with a sad smile, she tiptoed from the building. She’d bring him coffee in the morning.
“How typical,” Draco hissed, and Harry’s head flew up from the desk.
“Malfoy, what the—?“
Draco shrugged. “Your secretary isn’t very good. She’s not even here.”
“You haven’t returned my owls.”
Harry snorted. “Sounded like you had enough to keep you busy.”
Draco toyed with the buttons on his large, black coat. “I’m sure that you’re wrong about what you think happened.”
“I heard her laughing, Draco. Whatever whore you’ve got, I won’t be like her.”
Draco pursed his lips tightly. “It’s not what you think,” he said evenly, though it sounded as though he had to try incredibly hard. “Merlin,” he laughed nervously. “How fucking typical.”
“What?” Harry spat.
“You’re sitting here, in the dark, feeling sorry for yourself when nothing has actually gone wrong.”
“Fuck you, Malfoy,” muttered Harry.
“Aren’t you going to invite me to take off my coat?” Draco said suddenly. “I know we talked about your manners a bit before, but when someone comes in from the cold, you ask if they want to stay a while.”
“I don’t want you to stay a while, so you can take your coat, and your fucked up sense of arrogance, and—“
“—throw it on the ground? Don’t mind if I do.” And Draco did, opening the huge coat with one swift movement and letting it fall to the ground. Harry swallowed, his mouth suddenly terribly dry, as Draco stood before him, completely naked.
“Fuck,” Harry breathed.
“Yes, that,” Draco said quietly. “I was hoping you’d let me. And, actually, I think I’ll keep the arrogance for a while. It’s what allows me to do this.” He reached out and sent everything on Harry’s desk crashing to the floor. “And this.” He grabbed Harry by the collar, pulled him across the desk, and kissed him full on the mouth.
Harry knotted his hands in Draco’s hair, groaning stupidly into his mouth. “I fucking hate you, Malfoy,” he hissed as he started on the buttons of his shirt, finally tearing it in two in frustration. Pants were soon to follow, landing several meters away on the office’s carpeted floor.
Harry tried to kiss Draco again, but Draco was having none of it. He grabbed Harry by the neck and slammed him down on his stomach against the desk. “I’m here for one reason and one reason only, Potter. To fuck you with the whole bloody city watching.”
“No one can see,” Harry groaned as Draco reached around to stick two fingers into his mouth. The rest came out a jumbled mess. “’oo ‘aye.”
“Too high? What a shame.” Draco drove a finger straight into Harry’s arse. “You’ll have to imagine that someone can see.”
“Unf,” Harry grunted into the desk.
“You’ve done this before, Potter?” Harry nodded. “Then I won’t bother preparing you much more. You’re not going to be able to sit tomorrow, or keep me off your mind, for that matter.”
Harry felt the head of Draco’s cock press against his hole. The room was silent but for the sound of the two men’s heavy breathing until Harry screamed, filling the room with sound as Draco stuffed his arse with his dick.
“Oh, Merlin,” Harry whispered. Draco clutched at Harry’s hips so hard that there would be bruises and proceeded to pound him into the mahogany desk. Harry groaned with each thrust.
“It wasn’t what you think, Potter,” Draco grunted in his ear. “I. Don’t. Like. Women.” He punctuated every word with a thrust. “And I’m going to pound your arse until you damn well admit it.”
“If that’s a promise,” Harry managed, “then don’t expect me ever to admit it.”
“You’ll return my bloody owls,” Draco barked.
“You’ll tell your secretary to stop ignoring my Floo requests.”
Draco was so fucking close, and he reached beneath the desk to grasp Harry’s leaking prick. “You’ll trust me,” he groaned, and the word ‘yes’ had barely slipped from Harry’s lips when he came, splattering the side of the desk with come.
Draco was soon to follow, collapsing atop Harry, heaving with every breath.
“Fuck,” Harry said quietly.
“I believe we did,” Draco replied, sweeping Harry’s sweaty fringe from his eyes.
“You have to go?” Harry mumbled, nudging Draco’s shoulder with his nose.
“I do,” Draco said quietly, and both men promptly fell asleep.
They were awaked in the morning by a shriek as Astoria dropped Harry’s coffee onto the spotless carpet. The liquid splashed everywhere, sinking into the soft fiber of the rug. Astoria took a step back as Draco opened his eyes, blearily unaware of his surroundings. It took only a few seconds for him to realize that his ‘mattress’ was actually Harry Potter, and his ‘bedroom’ was actually Harry’s office. And it only took a moment longer for him to realize that the ‘alarm clock that had woken him up for work’ was actually Harry’s secretary.
He sat up, mortified, and was abruptly confronted with the fact that Harry’s secretary was his own ex-wife.
“Astoria,” he choked.
“Draco,” she snapped. “What in the world are you—?”
Harry, about two steps behind everyone else, raised his head from the desk and asked, “You two know each other?”
Astoria didn’t stay long enough to reply. Instead, she swept from the room, not even bothering to close the doors behind her as she flung on her coat and stepped into the Floo. Two and two suddenly came together in Harry’s mind, and he remembered, quite vividly, Astoria mentioning that she had been married to Draco Malfoy. And suddenly he felt a perfect fool.
“You were married to my secretary,” he mumbled.
“You hired my ex-wife,” replied Draco.
“I didn’t know that she was— And it’s not that big of a deal anyway.”
“Bloody hell, Potter. It is a big fucking deal. I’d thought that maybe for once you wouldn’t go sticking your nose in places that it doesn’t belong.”
Harry would have sworn that he barely blinked before Draco was dressed and leaving, following Astoria’s path toward the Floo. One bright flicker of green flames and he was gone, leaving Harry naked and alone, doomed to spend the next several hours trying to figure out which charm to use to get coffee out of his carpet.
This time, it was Draco who managed never to return Harry’s owls, and things went on like this for three weeks before Harry decided to actually do something about it. Laden with paper bags full of groceries, he arrived at Draco’s flat around five, intent on cooking an entire meal.
The recipe was one of Molly’s, and he’d had to promise her a months worth of Friday night dinners in order to get her to give it up. Shrimp scampi and cheese gratin were both foods that Harry had never heard of, but Molly had assured him that he’d be able to pull it off if he followed the recipes exactly.
It was actually a bit of a surprise that Harry was able to break into Draco’s flat so easily, but a simple Alohamora did the trick. The flat was not nearly as small as Harry had previously believed, and was in fact quite roomy. The kitchen was directly off the living area, and a small dining room table was in the center of the kitchen. Another hallway presumably led to Draco’s bedroom, but Harry didn’t bother to look. He quickly located the pots he needed and began to cook; stopping every few seconds to make sure that he was following Molly’s instructions.
He’d just dumped the penne into the boiling water when he heard it: the sound of familiar laughter. Draco had returned, and he was clearly not alone. Out in the hallway, his keys jingled in the lock. A small, female giggle penetrated the door.
Harry looked left and right, desperately attempting to think of a place to hide. Escape seemed impossible, for even if he found a place to hide, the ingredients strew everywhere and the pots on the stove were evidence to his presence enough. The door swung open, and Harry had a perfect view from where he stood.
As he watched, resigned to the inevitable, a small girl bounced through the door. She stopped dead, staring at Harry, blocking the path of anyone who might enter behind her. She blinked her big, grey eyes.
“Lily…?” Harry breathed, aware of his own eyes widening. She just stared at him.
“Lily!” someone else screamed. The voice was certainly male, though it did not belong to Draco. A small hand appeared in the doorway, pushing Lily out of the way and jumping through. The boy was older than his sister, but he had the same hair and eyes. He froze beside her.
“I don’t want to stand in the corridor all night, you two,” came an impatient drawl, one that certainly belonged to Draco. Lily stepped aside and a third child toppled through the door. He was obviously the oldest, with hair a few shades darker than the others’ sandy hue.
“Bugger,” he said, just as Draco finally pushed his way into the flat.
“Watch your language, James,” Draco barked. “What’s gotten into—“
That’s when he saw Harry.
“Erm… hi…” Harry tried, smiling weakly. Draco seemed for a moment as though he might be livid, but Lily stole the show, skipping toward the kitchen early, jumping up on her tiptoes so that she could see what was on the counter.
“What’s for dinner?” she asked, wrinkling her nose at the sight of the shrimp.
Harry blinked at her and then at Draco, who seemed unable to speak. James and the other boy seemed torn between shock and the desire to run over to join Lily.
Harry glanced at the ingredients he had. “If you give me five minutes, cheesey pasta,” he offered. Lily grinned.
“Alright,” Draco snapped, fighting to keep the edge out of his voice. “I want all three of you showered before dinner.”
“Oh, Dad,” the three of them whined.
“You’ve got to look nice if we’re going to have a celebrity guest.”
There was a moment of silence as all three children stared at each other.
“I’m first,” Lily screamed finally, taking off down the corridor that Harry had not looked down. James followed quickly.
“I’m the oldest!”
“Guys, I always have to go last!” cried the middle child.
“That’s cause Lily is a girl, and I’m bigger than you, Remus.”
Their shouts faded away as a door slammed somewhere down the corridor. Draco moved to stand beside Harry, who was distractedly straining the pasta.
“Cheesey pasta?” Draco asked skeptically.
“It’s the only thing I actually know how to make,” confessed Harry.
Draco sighed and began cutting open the pack of cheese with a knife. “Why are you here, Harry?”
“I was trying to apologize.”
“For hiring your ex-wife,” Harry mumbled.
Draco sighed again. “It wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have known about everything.”
“Everything?” Harry asked quietly, stirring the cheese into the pasta and watching it melt slowly.
“She’s trying to take them away from me,” Draco whispered.
“She’s trying to...” Harry said slowly, attempting to understand. Down the corridor, Remus was screaming at James. “Oh my— she’s trying to take your children?”
Draco nodded. “And I don’t know what I’m going to do. Former Death Eater, making hardly anything as a dead end apothecary. There’s no chance I’ll get to keep them.”
“I’m so sorry,” Harry said quietly.
“Don’t be. You’ve got nothing to do with it.”
There was silence for a long moment, broken only by the sound of the shower running.
“Your daughter tried to run away from school the day that I met you,” Harry blurted out.
Draco laughed. “Yes. The school had just Flooed me, actually. I was scared out of my wits when I bumped into you.”
“If I’d been an Auror…” Harry said, the truth dawning on him.
“My daughter might not have been alright. You might have been investigating.”
“I brought her back, though,” Harry said quickly. “She was hiding under a booth in the coffee shop across the way.
“Sounds like Lily,” Draco chuckled.
“Why did you name them what you did?” Harry asked. It had been nagging at him.
Draco met his eyes for the first time. “There are no war heroes in my family.”
Harry raised a brow.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Lily bounced into the kitchen, her hair a tangled mess. “Hullo,” she said brightly to Harry. She turned to Draco. “James has put a sticking charm on Remus again.”
“Merlin!” Draco muttered. “He’s going to get kicked out of school.”
Lily grinned. “He used your wand again.”
Draco pawed at the pockets of his trousers. “That boy…” he growled, storming out of the room.
Lily pulled a stool up to the counter and climbed up, balancing on the cold marble with bare feet. She opened a cabinet and pawed through some dishes, eventually coming away with five large plates. She peered down into the pot before she hopped down, and said with a grin, “I think you’re burning it.”
Harry stared into the pot. The cheese was long melted, and a tiny bit of smoke was coming from the pot. “Darn,” Harry said, turning off the heat. “I never was much good with potions.”
Lily snorted and returned to the countertop, this time plucking spoons from another drawer. “It’s cheesey pasta,” she laughed. “Not Felix Felicis.”
“How old are you?” Harry asked. James peered around the edge of the counter.
“I escaped,” James murmured, directing the comment at Lily.
“Not for long,” she retorted. “He’s really mad this time. And I’m nine-years-old. James is fourteen, and Remus is twelve.”
“We both go to Hogwarts and she can’t,” James added.
“You’re the one who they shouldn’t trust anywhere near a wand,” Lily quipped.
“Alright, alright. Hot pot coming through.” Harry lifted the pot off of the stove and carried it to the table, dishing large portions on everybody’s plates. Draco hurried in, red in the face.
“Where did he— James! We’ve had this talk before,” Draco hissed. James grinned sheepishly.
“Sorry, Dad,” he muttered.
“I don’t know where you learned to be such a trouble-maker.” Draco shook his head. Remus tiptoed into the kitchen.
“You’ve taken the wand?” he asked. Draco nodded.
“Yes. James will not be trying anything like that again.” He glared at James as he spoke. “Now, Mr. Potter was kind enough to cook us a meal, so I say that we sit down and enjoy it.”
He pulled out his chair with a screech, intending to sit beside Harry, but Lily was too quick for him. She jumped into the seat beside Harry in a heartbeat, and Draco walked around to the other side of the table so that he could claim the seat on Harry’s other side.
“’Mr. Potter?’” Lily chuckled. “Why can’t we call him Harry?”
“Because you’ve just met him,” Draco lectured.
“Well, why can’t you call him Harry? You’ve known him forever!” Lily pressed.
“I— Um— I suppose that I could call him… Harry,” Draco muttered.
Harry grinned. “Why, Mr. Malfoy! I’m horribly uncomfortable with such familiarity. I insist that you cease at once!”
Draco blinked at him, a pale blush marking his cheeks, until Remus, of all people, burst out laughing. His mouth was full of the cheesey pasta, and he had to stick his hand in front of his face to stop it from flying everywhere.
“He’s funny,” Remus said when he’d swallowed the pasta, and he proceeded to chuckle for a good five minutes after.
Lily grinned across the table at her father. “Really, Dad, I’d think you’d be a bit better at these things.” She wiped her mouth with her napkin. “Watch.” She turned to Harry. “Mr. Potter. Would you mind if I called you Harry from now on?”
Harry grinned. “Of course, Miss Malfoy. Would it be alright if I called you Lily from now on?”
Lily laughed. “Of course, Harry.” She turned back to Draco. “See? I’ve just made a friend.
“Draco,” Harry said. “I have to wonder where your daughter got her wonderful people skills.”
And after that, Harry learned just about everything there was to know about the Malfoy family. Lily went to a Wizarding Elementary School whose entrance was across the way from his favorite coffee shop. James and Remus both attended Hogwarts. James, the Ravenclaw, was wonderful at Transfiguration, and Remus was the Keeper for the Hufflepuff Quidditch team. Lily had her fingers grossed for Slytherin, but everyone seemed to think that she was bound to Gryffindor.
“Maybe Gryffindor wouldn’t be so bad,” Remus whispered to Lily as Draco herded them to bed. “He seems alright.” Remus pointed back toward the kitchen, where Harry was dutifully cleaning the dishes.
“Yeah,” Lily said. “Maybe.”
So,” Draco said after all the children had been tucked into their beds. “Got a bit more than you bargained for?”
“Yes,” Harry smirked. “And I am unendingly happy about it.” He sat down beside Draco on the sofa, but Draco’s smile wavered.
“Listen, Potter. Harry. This isn’t a game. I have children, and if you decide that you don’t want to see me ever again, there are going to be questions for me to answer. That’s not my saying that you have to stay with me forever now, but you just need to think long and hard about your actions. And you need to understand that those three children are my life.”
“Draco Malfoy,” Harry reprimanded. “I adore your children, and I think I might be starting to adore you. And I’ll be honest, I’m horribly jealous of the family you’ve got here, and spending time with them— and you— has made me the happiest I’ve been in weeks.”
Draco leaned over and kissed Harry without warning. Harry pulled away to whisper in his ear. “I think we should start over, Draco.”
“M’kay,” Draco groaned, attempting to press his lips to Harry’s again. Harry gave him one last kiss and stood.
“And I don’t give it up on the first date.”
Draco stared, dumbfounded, at the place where Harry had been sitting. “The other night—“
“Was a huge mistake,” finished Harry. Draco gaped. “Which is not meant to be offensive, but, compared to tonight… because of tonight… I think we should forget that it happened.”
“Goodnight, Harry,” Draco whispered.
Harry opened the door.
“I’ll see you soon?” Draco called.
“Sounds fine, but I’m cooking.”
Harry closed the door behind him, smiling at Draco’s final jab. The smile was still on his face when he Apparated home.
Draco leaned his head back against the sofa, the taste of Harry’s cheesey pasta still on his tongue.
“I think I got a bit more than I bargained for, too.”
“Astoria?” Harry said timidly. She glanced up from her desk. The two of them hadn’t spoken much at all since she’d walked in on him and Draco. But now, in light of the information Draco had given them, Harry had cause for a short conversation.
“Mr. Potter?” she said calmly.
He didn’t come out of his office to see that she’d left, but when he Flooed home in the evening, her desk was cleared.
“So, we meet again,” Harry muttered dryly, slipping into the booth across from Lily. She looked up, momentarily frightened, but grinned when she saw that it was Harry.
“You won’t tell my Dad, will you?”
Harry slid a cup of hot chocolate across the table. “We’ll see.”
Lily smiled and ignored the unsaid ‘yes.’ Harry took a sip of his own drink.
“Why are you doing this again?” he asked.
“It’s fun. I like to see how far I can get before—“
“I’d wager that that’s a bit of a lie. If it were true, I’m sure you’d be all the way across the city by now.”
“—wish that your father paid more attention to you and less to your brothers?”
“How did you know?” she muttered sheepishly.
“I’m familiar with jealously, sweetie,” he muttered. “But it’s not an excuse to scare your father half to death. He loves you, and soon enough you’ll be off at Hogwarts, being an expert Potion Brewer and all that.”
“Sure,” Lily said, rolling her eyes.
“Honestly. And speaking of Hogwarts, why were your brothers home last night?”
“Dad has some arrangement with the Headmistress. They come home some weekends.”
“Of course,” Harry muttered. “What about your mother? Do you guys go to see her often?”
Lily rolled her eyes again. “Yeah, every other week we spend with Mum.”
“Do you like—“
“No. She’s an awful woman, and she gives more care to her hair and her clothing than she does to us. And she isn’t at all like us, either. She’s not like Dad. She should just—“ Lily broke off, waving her arms frantically. “Yeah,” she blurted out.
Harry blinked at her. “Gotcha.”
Lily drained the last of her hot chocolate.
“I should get you back to school,” Harry sighed.
“This isn’t going to become a weekly date, is it?” She giggled as she stood up.
“Ha ha ha. You’re so funny, Miss Malfoy. Now get back to school.” Harry watched her cross the street and slip through the barrier before he headed back to his office. The thought of her laughing made him smile the entire walk.
Harry showed up empty handed that night, aware that Draco would be cooking the meal. He knocked on the door once, then twice, then a third time, until finally Draco opened the door.
It slammed shut only seconds later, open just long enough for Draco to throw a piece of parchment through. “Get out,” he screamed, and collapsed against the door. Harry picked the parchment off the floor. There were only a few lines.
We regret to inform you that your hearing has been cancelled. Upon review of Ms. Greengrass’s recommendations, which include one particularly shining letter by one Harry James Potter, the board has decided that no further deliberation is needed on the matter of your custody battle. Ms. Greengrass will receive full custody.
Harry read it through twice, realization dawning as he remembered the glowing recommendation he had written for Astoria, back when he was a blushing fool over his new relationship with Draco. Back when he was too blind to understand what he was getting involved with.
“Draco,” he barked through the door.
“Get out,” Draco replied weakly. Harry took a step back, but, before he turned away, he heard the sound of tiny bare feet rushing across the floor inside the flat. Someone small seemed to collide with Draco, rattling the door a bit.
Harry was waiting for the lift when he heard Lily’s tiny voice, full of tears. “Dad,” she sobbed. “I told you never to let him go.”
Harry could barely keep it together as he Apparated home.
Harry scrawled those words on hundreds of pieces of parchment and sent his owl out across London again and again. Each time, the owl returned with nothing clasped within its claws.
It took days before Harry realized that he was a moron and that Draco had been right about him. How horribly typical of him to be sitting in his office feeling sorry for himself. So, Harry picked his quill up once more and set about writing a longer letter.
He sent it out around midnight, after the owl had gotten a few hours of exhausted sleep. Harry slept in his office that night, eagerly awaiting the morning and the response that might come with it.
Harry went to the coffee shop every morning for almost a week, hoping desperately to run into Lily. But she didn’t show up, and Harry walked through the rainy streets alone, wondering desperately how he always managed to screw things up.
He had trouble focusing on his work, and the secretary who replaced Astoria was a stupid bint. She couldn’t remember how to do anything, and Harry constantly had meetings about which he had not been reminded.
Count on Harry Potter to lose two of the most important people in his life.
For the first time in years, he thought that it was a shame that the glass walls in his office were unbreakable. Splattering on the pavement might have eased the pain in his heart.
Things could not have gotten worse, he was certain, until he slipped into his booth one morning to find Lily on the other side.
“You’re not going to tell my father about this,” she said seriously.
“Lily…” Harry warned.
“You’re not going to because I’m going to help you.”
“Because if he can’t have us, then he should have you,” she murmured. Her big grey eyes filled with tears.
“Lily,” Harry repeated. He could positively feel his heart breaking in his chest. He reached out to wipe away a tear that was sliding down her cheek.
“Whatever,” she murmured. “This isn’t about me. Dad misses you; he just won’t admit it. You need to go and get down on your knees and grovel, and maybe he’ll take you back.”
“How do you even know that we were dating? We’re just—“
“I’m not a moron, Harry Potter.”
Harry shook his head sadly. “You’re just a foolish little romantic.”
Dear Mr. Potter,
We were deeply disturbed by the content of your most recent letter, and the board has reconsidered. While a hearing might be appropriate on normal occasions, after considering the information you have shared with us, we deem Astoria Greengrass unfit to be a parent. Mr. Malfoy will be noted as soon as possible.
Harry could not stop smiling when he read the words, though they’d taken nearly a week to arrive. He walked happily through the streets to the coffee shop, grinning like a fool on the first sunny day in February.
He was practically skipping when he entered the shop and ordered his usual. He drank it alone, though, because Lily never came.
As days passed, Harry began to seriously consider Lily’s suggestion. He’d hoped that Draco would come to him, but that was honestly too much to expect.
Harry would often get up and walk to the door before walking directly back to his seat. He did this over and over again, each time certain that he would go to see Draco, each time unsuccessful.
He was reading a memo from one of the interns in the photography department when the door swung open.
“Your secretary’s not very good,” drawled a familiar voice. “She’s not here.”
Harry looked up at Draco, who was wearing his big black coat. “You’re not…?” he mumbled.
“No,” Draco said. “I am not, in fact, naked.”
Harry cradled his head in his hands. “No, she’s not very good. She bloody stinks at every bloody aspect of the bloody job.”
“Oh, you fool. What did you say to them?” Draco asked, moving straight to the point.
“I told them the truth. That she hadn’t mentioned what the recommendation was for. That she was a touch crazy. That just because she was good at her job didn’t mean that she was a good mother. I talked about her vanity, her obsession with her looks. Her clothing choices, her instability. I told them the bloody truth.”
“You fool,” Draco repeated. He turned to go, leaving Harry confused and upset.
“Oh,” Draco said at the last moment. “Lily’s invited you to dinner, and you know her: she’s got me in the palm of her hand.”
“I’ll be there,” Harry breathed.
“She’s promised me that she won’t let you mess things up again.”
“I’ll bet she keeps her promises.”
“Yes,” Draco grinned. “She does.”
A year later, Harry Potter meets Lily Malfoy every Wednesday in a small coffee shop across the street from her school. They meet at lunch because Lily has an arrangement with her teacher that allows her to do so.
Draco knows about these meetings, of course, and he doesn’t mind a bit.
It makes him happy because Harry Potter is Lily’s stepfather, after all.