Candyman by xErised
Sugar and Spice
It's almost closing time, and Harry has not sold a single chocolate dessert today. There's absolutely nothing wrong with his treats — they were selling perfectly well before... before-
He bangs the tray of buttermilk scones on the counter harder than necessary, startling the customers at the till. Hermione and Ron, seated a short distance away, glance up at the jarring sound just in time to see him turn a baleful glare across the road.
They share a long-suffering look before turning back to their tea and papers.
Harry apologises to his customers. "Would you like to try our newest treat?" He offers, shooting a winning smile at them as he gestures to the chewy fudge chocolate brownies. The mother pauses, but her daughter tugs her sleeve and shakes her head, making her blonde pigtails bounce from side to side.
"I wanna eat the chocolate over there, at the angel bakery! I saw an angel in the kitchen the other day, Mum! I wanna eat chocolate made by an angel! And the lady there is very nice," the girl protests, pointing across the road.
Draco Malfoy is no angel, nor is Pansy Parkinson nice, Harry thinks darkly.
"Don't be rude, Stella," the mother chides. "The brownies look fantastic, Mr Potter. I'll have four." Harry perks up at once and packs the scones and brownies. He watches hopefully as they exit his bakery... and instead of turning left or right, they cross the road and enter the other bakery.
Harry lets out a roar of frustration.
"What does he have that I don't?! I spent hours this week perfecting the brownies, and last week it was the chocolate mousse and the week before it was the... the..." He trails off, anger clouding his memory.
"The chocolate tart," Ron adds and smacks his lips, clearly enjoying the brownies.
Hermione folds her paper up and fixes Harry with a stern look. "I don't understand why you're still so upset over this, Harry. It's only natural to lose customers when there's competition, and you're still doing well. Besides, Malfoy works only with chocolate," she says matter-of-factly.
"Definitely nothing wrong with your food, mate," Ron declares. He would know, having jumped at the chance to be Harry's dessert guinea pig when Harry was working on new recipes for Sugarcoated, the bakery that the 21-year-old had opened a year ago.
"Thanks for the support." Harry returns the grin and joins them, bearing three more brownies and a cup of tea. He waves a hand at the sign hanging on the door, swinging it to closed. Ron eagerly starts on his third brownie, while Hermione nibbles rather happily on another brownie. Harry takes a gulp of tea and looks around his bakery proudly, feeling the familiar contentment spreading through him like honey.
It's a cheerful and cosy place — walls painted a sunshine-yellow; a large blackboard menu behind the counter with prices and today's specials written in colourful chalk; a large glass display case containing the day's desserts: tarts studded with berries; crumbly buttermilk scones; rich vanilla pound cake and roly-polys oozing with glistening jam.
These were treats that would fit perfectly in Mrs. Weasley's kitchen.
The bakery reminds Harry of his friends: Luna's hand-made fairy lights in the shape of whimsically-designed fairy cakes twirl all over shelves brimming with biscuits and sweets; a Transfigured lion draped in Gryffindor colours — from Professor McGonagall — meanders between desserts and trots towards the bottom corner of the display counter; and posters of rainbow-coloured cakes, macarons and dancing doughnuts hang from the walls, collected by Hermione during holidays with her family. Courtesy of Neville, a floral bouquet sits on every table, adding a splash of colour and fresh fragrance. There's a special table placed much further from the other tables — Harry would enlarge it for Hagrid whenever he came to visit. Tucked away in a corner is a play-area with toys, picture-books and crayons for Teddy.
Well, Ron brings his appetite mostly, but saying that wouldn't be fair to him. He's helped Harry with many things — a year and a half ago, Harry had stood at this very spot in the place that was about to be his bakery. Ron had stepped in, ducked his head at the swinging lightbulb, stepped gingerly over the gouges dug deep into the floor and wrinkled his nose at the crumbling brick and flaking plaster.
"This is it, then?" Ron had said, coughing a bit at the dust.
"Yeah. It'll need a lot of work," Harry sighed, clutching at the sketch of his dream bakery.
Ron flashed Harry a crooked grin, rolled up his sleeves and brandished his wand. "Well, let's get to it, then."
Harry had repaid Ron by feeding him his body weight in pies and tarts and cakes, something that he's still doing now.
Whenever Harry needs a holiday, Ron is always his go-to person to look after the bakery. The next best person is Hermione, but if she's busy, then well, the point of the matter is that Harry has no shortage of friends he can turn to.
Sugarcoated is Harry's own slice of heaven on earth.
After the craze and novelty of visiting the Saviour's bakery had worn off, Harry had fallen into a steady, comforting routine — his friends visit during lunch or tea; Andromeda drops Teddy off during weekends, and sometimes he'll ask Ron or Hermione to tend to the place while he takes Teddy out to the nearby park. Hermione often arrives with her arms full of Healer textbooks on weekends and in between classes while Ron sometimes brings his Auror files after work. They'll help themselves to tea and pastries while Harry putters about in the kitchen, preparing for the next day's work or an order for a wedding or birthday party. They'll ring for take-away and laugh and eat and chat. Harry loves it when it's just the three of them; it's like Hogwarts all over again.
However, the Slytherins had well and truly disrupted Harry's routine two months ago. He had known that something was happening to the old bookstore across the street — judging by the ongoing construction work, but it was summer, which meant a flurry of garden parties and picnics and an onslaught of orders for Sugarcoated.
So it had been a fine, sunny Monday a month ago when Harry had noticed that the building opposite was finally fully furnished. He trotted over with a selection of his best biscuits, his steps faltering when he realised that it was another bakery.
He looked down at his plate of offerings uncertainly.
The bakery was called Sin, with the S styled like the S in Slytherin and the colour of the name identical to the royal green of Slytherin House. Perhaps that was why Harry wasn't entirely shell-shocked to see Blaise Zabini emerge from the entrance, an unlit cigarette dangling from his fingers and a wry smirk on his lips.
"You've survived the Dark Lord, I would hate to see you run over by mere cars," Zabini had quipped dryly. For Harry had simply stopped right in the middle of the road, eyes zipping between Sin and Zabini as if things didn't make sense anymore, and oh, wasn't it a joyous school reunion when Pansy Parkinson stepped out with her arms crossed and eyes grazing Harry's body up and down before quirking her lips and practically purring, "Well, well, well, look at what we've got here. Harry Potter. You're all... grown-up now, aren't you?"
She tilted her head towards the interior of the bakery and called out, "Draco, the welcoming party's here!" Harry had started at Malfoy's name — a name that he had not thought about ever since the Trials. He caught a glimpse of blond hair, and with that, Harry had turned sharply on his heel and hurried back to his sanctuary, effectively un-welcoming the welcoming party, because being reminded of Voldemort and getting eyed up by old enemies crawling out of the woodwork on a pleasant Monday morning was so not on.
The last thing that Harry had heard as he stormed away was Parkinson asking Zabini you told him what?!-, the strange sound of a smack against bare skin, Zabini's yelp of pain and Parkinson shouting Malfoy's name.
Slytherins were a weird bunch. Harry was alright with them being weird and spanking each other, but couldn't they be weird somewhere else?
"Why here?! They're not shocked to see me at all! He's doing it on purpose, he just wants to piss me off all over again!" Harry had raged to Ron and Hermione that very day. His two best friends had made appropriate soothing noises, and that was why Harry tried to ignore the customers trickling into Sin, which had increased to a steady stream at the end of Sin's first week.
I'm not gonna let him get under my skin, Harry had thought to himself as he sipped calmly at his Earl Grey. We're no longer at Hogwarts, everything's in the past now, I should be glad that he's making a proper living for himself. I will breathe deeply and visualise calm. It had indeed worked as long as Harry didn't look across the street and kept himself topped up with a constant flow of tea and cakes. He was suffused with that same feeling of peace and calm...
...which had gone to utter shit when he read a glowing review of Sin in the paper that weekend. Words like sleekly, professionally crafted, chocolate heaven, thick, rich and smooth, aptly-named Sin had leapt out at Harry. Good Godric, are they selling pastries or sex? The article had speculated about the identity of the chocolatier behind Sin — since the reviewer had mentioned Parkinson and Zabini by name, the mystery chocolatier had to be Malfoy. With narrowed eyes, Harry re-read the praise that was heaped all over Sin and roared — making Hermione spill ink all over her notes. He chucked the entire paper into the fireplace, hurtled to his kitchen and spent the entire day with chocolate.
Harry pulls himself back to the present. He picks up a brownie and chews contemplatively. Hermione doesn't understand. He doesn't have to beat Malfoy at his own game, but the other man has always been such a challenge for him. Harry had spent the past few weeks with the thought of Malfoy at the forefront of his mind, propelling him to create better chocolate desserts. Malfoy had fanned that rejuvenating spark of creativity and focus into a slow fire within Harry as he worked late into the night experimenting with chocolate. It felt like he was starting up Sugarcoated all over again, trying out new recipes, pushing himself to the limit.
And a part of Harry loved it.
There's sudden movement in Sin, and Harry's eyes swivel towards the bakery. A figure — Zabini — moves towards the entrance, flipping the sign on the door and turning his head back. A white-blond head emerges from the back of the shop. Harry watches through the windows as Malfoy throws his head back and laughs, his face looking wonderfully open. It's obvious that Malfoy, Zabini and Parkinson are unwinding after a hard day's work, like what Harry, Ron and Hermione are doing now.
Harry finds himself smiling slightly when he thinks about Malfoy's laughter. It'll probably sound nice, because he's laughing with his friends. I bet I could make him laugh better, though.
That stray thought makes him choke on his brownie. He quickly washes it down with his tea and hence misses the way Ron and Hermione raise their eyebrows meaningfully at each other.
Hermione clears her throat and puts her half-eaten brownie down. "It's been a month since they've opened, and you've never really visited them."
Harry blinks, caught off guard.
"W-Why would I want to enter Sin?" Harry stumbles, hedging for time by gathering their mugs and standing up. "Just like what you said, we sell different things. I don't have any reason to visit him. No reason at all!" He thinks that his words sound a bit too high-pitched, but it's probably some leftover brownie still lodged in his throat.
He wishes Hermione would stop looking at him like she knows his every thought, because... Harry really wants to visit Sin. Not only does he want to visit Malfoy, he wants to try one of his thick, smooth, rich chocolate desserts. He imagines dark chocolate dripping slowly on the backdrop of Malfoy's pale, creamy skin which reminds Harry of vanilla, and of course he can't let any drop of that precious chocolate go to waste, so he'll have to lick-
Harry's face flames as he levitates the mugs and some empty trays to the sink. He's grateful that his back is facing his friends as he says, "We hate each other. I'm obviously not welcome in his shop and he's not welcome here." And that's true, because the only interactions he's had with Malfoy involve shouting and glaring matches from opposite sides of the road.
"I really don't think he hates you anymore," Hermione says, sighing.
Harry only shrugs and continues washing up, letting the conversation fade away. He waits until his friends are preoccupied with their own activities before turning his attention back across the street. He watches as Zabini and Parkinson wave to Malfoy, pull on their coats and exit Sin. He looks back to Malfoy in the shop...
...who's standing and staring straight at Harry.
Startled, Harry quickly turns away. He counts ten seconds before looking back, only to find Malfoy gone. The lights are still on, which means he's still around. Besides, Malfoy usually leaves work around nine in the evening and always comes in at nine sharp in the morning.
Harry wonders idly about Malfoy as he closes up shop. Does he have a girlfriend? Where does he stay? What does he do when he's not working? Why did he pursue a career in baking? And most importantly, why is he here?
Sugarcoated usually opens at ten in the morning, but recently Harry's been opening up earlier. What, no, not to catch Malfoy when he reports to work, don't be ridiculous, it's obviously to catch the morning rush as they clamber for his treats which are of course superior to Malfoy's chocolate.
It's good for business — you know, early bird getting the worm and all that.
And you know what's even better for business?
Knowing your competition.
They're at it again.
"Come and visit, Potter! Or are you scared of tasting the best chocolate ever made?" Draco calls.
"I'll have you know that I make the best chocolate around here!" Potter hollers from his side of the road.
"Oh really? Tell that to your customers that I've managed to lure over!"
Potter's scowl deepens.
"Piss off, Malfoy!"
Draco's about to shout back a cutting retort when the traffic lights turn green. This back-and-forth with Potter is second nature to him ever since they were eleven: the sneer twisting his lips, the taunt in his voice and his chin jutting out in familiar challenge.
Taking advantage of the rumble of incoming cars and lorries that separate them, Draco momentarily lets his shoulders slump and releases the tension in his fisted hands. He knows exactly what to say and how to say it to make Potter react as expected, but it's been ten long years of fighting, and many things — including Draco's feelings — have changed.
As the last car speeds away from the stretch of road separating them, Draco readies himself yet again for battle. Grey eyes lock onto green as he yells, "I am literally shouting to you from the other side of the street, Potter! How far more do you want me to 'piss off'?!"
Potter flounders and mumbles something that Draco can't catch. He recovers. "I still don't know why you're here!"
Because I'm mad about you, Draco thinks furiously to himself. However, the frustrated words that tumble from his lips mean the exact opposite. "You think I want to be here and see your face every damn morning?! The Ministry ordered me to set up my business near you so you, the beloved Saviour of everyone's arses, can keep an eye on me. Salazar, you're dense! Lucky you're good-looking, you idiot!" The last sentence slips out before Draco can stop himself.
Potter's look of confusion is almost comical, but Draco can't find it in himself to laugh. He can almost see Potter's thoughts hang on, did Malfoy just flirt with me or insult me? What is he playing at?- scrawled as clear as day over his features. Draco snarls, turns away from Potter and his shop and enters Sin.
He remembers how Potter had almost visited Sin on their opening day. Draco had arrived just in time to see the back of Potter's head as he stormed back to his shop. Upon seeing Pansy and Blaise's looks of dismay and pity — the last thing Draco wanted to see was pity on his friends' faces — he had immediately retreated to his kitchen to distract himself from the pain of Potter's rejection yet again I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks- a decade later.
As Draco prepares the dessert counter, he finds his gaze wandering to Potter's shop. The second he'd set eyes on Sugarcoated, he'd wanted to visit it — it looked so welcoming and warm, and Draco finds himself wondering if being in Potter's arms would feel the same.
But that would never happen, because Potter hates him and as a result, Draco would always be on the outside looking in. With that sobering thought lodged in his mind, he scowls, slams the last of the dessert labels in the display and goes to his kitchen. He doesn't want to be anywhere where he can see Potter's face.
Draco sits down and pulls his breakfast towards him — a calming cup of chamomile and a warm pain au chocolat. As he bites into the flaky pastry and chases it down with a fortifying gulp of tea, he feels his irritation ebbing away. He looks around and beams in contentment. Everything is exactly as he wants it to be: his ingredients impeccably organised and labelled; his workstation and associated baking paraphernalia so clean that they gleam; and a thick file of upcoming orders. He's worked hard, and he will not let anyone, especially Potter and his churlish antics, ruin it. Draco finishes his breakfast in a much better mood, washes up and starts the day's work by switching on the radio and pulling on his freshly-laundered work attire.
His head bobbing to the beat of the music, Draco takes out a block of dark chocolate, chops it up and starts melting it the Muggle way. He rarely uses magic in his kitchen; only summoning spells and mild heating charms. This is due to his background — he had picked up baking when he was in Azkaban. One of the first moves of the newly-reformed Ministry had been to banish most of the Dementors from Azkaban, leaving only a handful to deal with the highest-risk prisoners, which did not include Draco. Thanks to Potter's testimony, Draco had found himself sentenced to a prison that followed the system in some Muggle countries. This new Azkaban was staffed with human guards, and there were opportunities for inmates to pick up skills to cope with life after prison.
Sure, no magic was allowed — wands of prisoners were confiscated upon entry and returned after discharge — but Draco was too busy thanking his lucky stars that he was serving his sentence in a Dementor-free prison. It hadn't been a conscious choice to pick up baking while he was in there; he had accidentally stumbled upon a class that was making jammy dodgers. The scent of baking, and jammy dodgers in particular, had made Draco's heart cramp up with nostalgia and sorrow. As a child, he had spent days in the cavernous manor libraries, and the only way to tempt him out was for his mother to waft a plate of home-made jammy dodgers under his nose.
As the kitchens were the warmest rooms in the entire manor, Draco and his mother spent an inordinate amount of time in there, and together, they made proper traditional desserts: buttery scones, bread and butter pudding, sponge cakes and assorted tarts and buns.
Narcissa Malfoy's favourite had been chocolate.
Draco's memories of his childhood include standing on a stool and stirring molten chocolate in a pot under Narcissa's watchful eye; smearing chocolate frosting all over his mother's laughing face and shiny blonde hair; Draco's gooey grin of pride whenever Lucius came home to a freshly-made chocolate tart crammed into his mouth by Draco's small pudgy hands.
When Draco had emerged from prison six months later, he had enough money to only give his parents a decent burial and a two-year course of study in the art of chocolate-making in a France Muggle culinary school. And so, there he stood with his long-time best friend, Pansy Parkinson, squinting up at the school in the bright Parisian sunlight and clutching a brochure that his instructor in prison had recommended to him.
Halfway through his studies, he had a conversation with Pansy that changed his short-term plans.
"Come home after you're finished, Draco! I can't stand the thought of your settling down here."
"I've got connections from school to help me set up a shop here. You know I don't have enough... money to do that independently in Britain. And you know there's no way they'll eat food made by a Death Eater."
"I've got it all sorted out! If you're agreeable, I can have a shop ready for you. You'll have total control over what you make and the design of the entire store. I can keep your identity anonymous so we'll get customers. What do you think?"
"It sounds wonderful, but your family coffers can't promise me something like that."
"I'll make it work, you know I will. So that settles it then! You're going to come home!"
The money had come in the form of Blaise Zabini, who had fled to Italy during the War. The last time Draco had seen him was in sixth year, so it was rather awkward when Pansy brought him along to Paris to discuss plans. They sized each other up accordingly; Draco folding his arms and asking him why. In response, Blaise had raised an eyebrow and shrugged just because.
Blaise has always been a man of few words.
So that's how the three of them found themselves as co-owners of an up-and-coming chocolatier: Draco being in charge of the food, Blaise taking care of the money and Pansy handling everything else.
Draco pauses in his whisking of egg whites and reaches out to touch a framed photograph of his family in happier times. "If only you could see me now," he murmurs. "I'm not doing something befitting of a Malfoy, but I hope you're proud of me nevertheless. I've got a job doing what I love, friends that care about me, and I'm home."
He can't help but look towards the closed door of his kitchen, knowing that Potter's only a street away. So close, yet so far. He's sat in Azkaban for six months and lived in another country for two years, but he's never really forgotten about Potter — his schoolboy infatuation since fifth year morphed into a full-blown crush when Potter saved him twice — in the Fiendfyre and by testifying for him even though Draco was never his to save.
All the Frenchmen he's dated... they've all looked like Potter: messy, scruffy black hair; eyes framed with glasses (he's never found anyone with Potter's combination of black hair and forest green eyes); crooked smile and tanned skin matched with fiery tempers.
He's stopped telling himself that it's a coincidence after he brought the third Potter look-a-like home.
Draco sighs and places his whisk and bowl down.
He's always been good at pretending.
he was heartache the moment you met him-
But he doesn't think he can do it anymore.
Hermione Granger and Harry Potter have been best friends since the tender age of eleven, shared tears and laughter and fought a war together. Her favourite qualities of Harry's are his fierce inner strength and courage, while she's sure Harry appreciates her intelligence, practicality and logic.
Hermione would never trade Harry for anything in the world.
But some days she just wants to throw him under a bus.
Their most recent talk about Malfoy had happened a week ago. It looked like it was going to end the exact same way as it always did, except this time, Hermione chanced a glance at Sin and saw Pansy Parkinson engaged in conversation with Malfoy. Malfoy's back was to Hermione while he gestured wildly with his hands. Parkinson shook her head and flung an arm out towards Sugarcoated, and in response, Malfoy looked down, folded his arms across his chest and hurried away towards what Hermione assumed was the kitchen. Parkinson had watched him go, slumped in her seat, turned back...
...and their eyes had met.
That was when she knew.
Yes, Harry is loyal, strong and brave.
But he is also as stubborn as a mule.
Call her interfering, a busybody know-it-all — Hermione doesn't care. She will always act in Harry's best interests, no matter what it takes.
"It's a good day for the park, isn't it, Harry?" Hermione says loudly, angling her head towards Teddy, who brightens at the word park and puts his crayon down at once. Harry looks at the clock and the two customers who are finishing up their pastries.
"I think you're right," Harry agrees, grinning at Teddy. "We'll be back in an hour or so," he says, pulling on his jacket and helping Teddy with his coat. They exit the bakery, and Hermione watches as they turn the corner.
She waits ten minutes before packing her textbooks away and stepping out of Sugarcoated. Across the road, Parkinson is waving a customer out, and when the door opens, Hermione locks eyes with Parkinson, holds her gaze, jerks her head meaningfully towards Sugarcoated and re-enters the bakery without sticking around for Parkinson's answer.
Hermione doesn't have to wait long.
"Tea?" Hermione asks politely when Parkinson slides opposite her. Parkinson's eyes are still roving around the shop. Hermione suddenly feels protective about Sugarcoated. If Parkinson is going to come up with some witty insult about the bakery...
"It's cosier than you'd think," Parkinson says after a while.
Hermione blinks in surprise. "Thank you."
A rather uncomfortable silence crackles in the air.
It's easy enough to invite Parkinson over for The Intervention, but now that that was accomplished, Hermione isn't sure how to broach the subject. She couldn't very well dive straight into it by saying "Hi, Parkinson. We haven't seen each other in years, and the last time I saw you, you wanted to send my best friend to his death. But you're here now because I think my best friend fancies your best friend even though they're supposed to have hated each other all along. By the way, care for a pastry?"
Parkinson fidgets and refuses to meet Hermione's eyes, as if she's thinking along the same lines.
Hermione clears her throat. She's just about to repeat her offer of tea when the door swings open, and Ron bursts into the shop. His smile freezes and falls off when he sees Parkinson.
"Good afternoon, Weasley! We're working on getting Draco's prick up Potter's arse! Would you like to join us?" Parkinson shouts by way of greeting, much to Hermione's horror. Ron simply flares bright red all the way to the tips of his ears, opens and closes his mouth wordlessly and flees to the kitchen without a backward glance.
"Still scares easily, huh?" Parkinson wrinkles her nose at the swinging kitchen doors and returns her attention to Hermione. "What? Someone had to say something."
Despite herself, a bubble of laughter wells up within Hermione, and soon, they're cackling with mirth.
"Did you see his face, Granger?!" Parkinson howls, clutching at her sides.
"Oh, the mental images you must've given him!" Hermione giggles and wipes her eyes on her sleeve.
The laughter subsides, dissipating the tension, and they share a small, tentative smile. The kitchen doors bang open, and Ron re-emerges with a towering stack of mince pies. "Budge up," he mutters and plops down beside Hermione. "I'll need this to get through the conversation." With that, Ron shovels a large bite of pie in his mouth.
The two women stare at him.
"What? He's my best mate. Hermione and I..." Ron swallows. "We know, and I don't think I can take any more of his... mooning about. Over Malfoy, no less," Ron mumbles around another mouthful of pastry.
"So we're really doing this," Parkinson says faintly. She straightens up, her gaze travelling from Ron to Hermione and back to Ron. "Well, I'll need my second then. Be right back." She gets up and flounces off towards Sin, returning shortly with Zabini and a royal-green box. Zabini pauses when he sees Ron and Hermione.
"It's about time, isn't it?" Zabini says, a smirk spreading slowly across his features. He folds his lanky body into the booth. Although Hermione's looking at the box while Parkinson opens it, she can feel Zabini's dark brown eyes fastened on her. She tucks a strand of wayward hair behind her ear and meets Zabini's gaze head-on.
Zabini merely arches an eyebrow and drums his fingertips against the table, his family ring glittering as it catches the light.
"A peace offering, if you will. You've read the reviews, I assume?" Parkinson asks as she nudges the box towards Ron and Hermione. Ron puts down his mince pie and stares at the chocolate desserts.
"Yes. Malfoy must be good at what he does," Hermione answers, recalling how Harry had hurled the review in the fireplace and locked himself up in his kitchen afterwards.
"Yes, he is," Parkinson agrees with pride in her voice. "Go on. I know you want to."
Hermione pauses before she lifts the warm fairy cake to her lips — not because Malfoy's the one who made it, but out of her loyalty to Harry. Ron's hesitating with his chocolate mousse too, but not for long. Hermione takes a bite, and rich chocolate flavour erupts in her mouth as the smoothest and silkiest molten chocolate she's ever tasted spills out from the fairy cake. When Zabini slides a heated glance to her mouth, she can't help but feel flustered.
There's a look of rapture on Ron's face as he polishes off his mousse heartily, making small moaning sounds the entire time.
That's why the place is called Sin, Hermione realises as she licks at the chocolate, because their treats are rich, decadent, extravagant and entirely sinful.
"Our turn," Hermione says after they're finished with the chocolate. She pushes past Ron, goes to the kitchen and returns with a plate of melt-in-your-mouth strawberry cheesecake and sticky Chelsea buns fresh from the oven.
"It tastes like... what my mother used to make," Parkinson whispers with wide eyes after taking a bite of the cheesecake. "It's wonderful. I never knew Potter could make something like this."
Hermione beams at Parkinson's words, feeling inordinately proud at what Harry has accomplished. Zabini swallows the last of his Chelsea bun, and when he speaks, his cultured baritone voice reminds Hermione of the liquid chocolate she'd just savoured. "I don't really eat desserts besides chocolate, but even I can tell that this is excellent."
The four of them promptly finish the desserts on the table, and when they're all settled down with steaming cups of tea, Parkinson's the first to speak.
"Draco is miserable because Potter is an idiot." She ignores Ron's splutter of indignation and powers on. "For some unfathomable reason, Draco has fancied the pants off Potter for years. He's not going to say or do anything because his pride is going to be the death of him, and since Potter has the observational skills of a turnip, we don't have any other choice." Pansy splays her fingers out on the table. "So there you have it. All we need to know is whether Draco has a chance."
Hermione lets out a breath that she isn't aware she's been holding and meets Ron's eye. This is even better than what they were expecting; Harry clearly feels something for Malfoy — he always has — it used to be just hate, but now, they're not sure anymore. They've noticed how Harry's opened Sugarcoated earlier in the morning since Malfoy's been around; how Harry comes alive — flushed cheeks and shining eyes — after his shouting matches with Malfoy across the street and after late nights spent experimenting with chocolate. Not a day passes without Harry making some snide comment about Malfoy or glancing at Sin.
"Harry's never admitted it to us, and I can't believe I'm saying this... but we think Harry's got a thing for Malfoy too," Ron pipes up, wrinkling his nose.
"He likes Malfoy. He just doesn't know it himself yet," Hermione declares in a far more confident tone.
Parkinson looks at the uncertainty in Ron's features. Her voice is hard when she speaks. "He's not the same anymore. We're not the same anymore," Parkinson states. "We're doing this for Draco, and I'm sure that you're doing this for Potter too."
"Doing what exactly? I mean, now that we all know it's mutual, it's just a matter of us telling them that and then they can sort it out for themselves, can't they?" Ron points out, frowning.
The other three stare at him.
"What?" Ron squawks.
"Obviously you've never heard of finesse, Weasley," Zabini says, running a fingertip along the rim of his cup.
Ron bristles, a retort at the ready. Hermione places a comforting hand on his wrist. "If we tell Harry point-blank, he'll simply brush it away because this is something he has to realise on his own. If they tell Malfoy, he's not going to believe it unless Harry makes the first move because of his pride."
Ron winces. "Ah."
Hermione turns to Parkinson. "Are we going to come up with a plan?"
Parkinson thinks it over, red fingernail tapping on her glossy bottom lip. She shakes her head decisively. "No. They're both too unpredictable, especially Potter. I'm sure we could come up with the best laid plans, and it'll blow up in our faces. Plus, Draco's sharp. He'll know if something's up, especially if we keep meeting like this. We just have to... fan the flames to nudge things along."
"Fan their flames, huh?" Hermione echoes. "Well, Harry can be rather obsessive-"
"Sixth year?" Parkinson and Zabini cut in together.
"You knew?" Ron asks, incredulous.
"Our entire year knew. Potter's as subtle as a sledgehammer to the head," Parkinson mutters.
Hermione privately agrees.
"Right, we've got to get back before Draco gets suspicious," Parkinson says, draining her tea. Zabini follows suit. "Glad we had this talk." She levitates their mugs over to the counter.
"Weasley. Granger... see you around," Zabini murmurs, nodding at the both of them. Hermione tilts her head curiously at the spark in his smile and the twinkle in his eyes. She watches as the Slytherins hurry across the street.
Maybe she'll be spending even more time studying at Sugarcoated instead of the library.
Harry can barely keep his eyes open as he finishes washing up for the night. He's magically and physically drained, having started work extra early over the past few days to prepare five separate multi-tiered cakes (complete with intricate spell-work) and assorted desserts for two weddings and three birthday parties. On top of that, he's been working on a major overhaul of his kitchen equipment using magic. Although Harry loves his job, he's glad that the whirlwind of activity is finally winding down.
He yawns and stretches like a cat, wincing when his spine creaks. He switches the lights off, exits the shop and casts his usual repertoire of locking charms.
And then, without any warning at all, it pours.
"What the-" Harry yelps in astonishment at the sudden torrent of rain. Raindrops pound on the pavement, wetting his shoes and splattering on his jeans. He sighs and thumps his forehead against the door. A shiver wracks through him when cold rain trickles down between his shoulder blades. There are rain-repelling charms, of course — Harry sluggishly pulls his wand out from his pocket, but right now, he just wants a takeaway, a warm shower and a proper eight hours in bed. He can probably make a run for it — his favourite curry place isn't far from here.
He's about to cast a water-repelling charm when an umbrella flares open right on top of him. Harry squints up through glasses smeared with rain.
"It's called an umbrella, Potter. People use it when it's raining."
Harry spins around at the lazy drawl. Malfoy's right in front of him, a bit too close for comfort and holding an umbrella that covers Harry entirely while half of Malfoy's body is drenched. This is the first time in recent years that Harry's seen Malfoy up close — they've only shouted at each other across the road. The soft blond hair at the nape of Malfoy's neck is rapidly darkening with rain. His lips, currently quirked up in amusement, are a rich strawberry pink.
"I..." Harry stammers, his nerves flittering and his retort wilting on his lips. Malfoy's all up in his personal space, but strangely, Harry doesn't mind. Grey eyes trail all over Harry's face, as if taking him in for the first time, and Harry ducks his head, embarrassed and at a loss for words.
Even the howl of the wind can't mute the loud thudding of his heartbeat.
"If you don't hold the umbrella yourself, I'll have to escort you home," Malfoy murmurs, his voice husky. He takes a step closer. "I don't mind, you know."
An image of Malfoy and him holding hands and sharing an umbrella while they splash happily about in rain puddles makes Harry blush.
"No! I'm not some... helpless maiden!" He blurts out, glaring at Malfoy. His glare seems to disconcert Malfoy, who pulls on his own sneer like a safety blanket. Harry relaxes — this is comforting, familiar territory, not things like Malfoy sending him home and looking deep in his eyes and rubbish like that.
"Don't worry, Potter. I would hate to be your knight in shining armour," Malfoy snarls, shoving the umbrella into Harry's hands. He turns sharply on his heel, pulls up his collar, bows his head against the rain and rushes across the road back to Sin, banging the door hard in his wake.
Harry simply stands there, confusion rioting through him. Did Malfoy just come all the way out to snipe at and shield Harry with an umbrella while he himself got drenched?
The warmth from Malfoy's hand on the umbrella tingles on Harry's skin, and he grips the umbrella tighter as he hurries away.
It's bad enough that Malfoy pisses Harry off on a daily basis, but even his possessions are annoying too.
Harry sends a dark glare at the innocuous black umbrella folded up in a corner.
It's strange how Ron and Hermione had acted when he told them about The Umbrella Incident — Hermione had been rather adamant about Harry visiting Sin to return it, while Ron had that constipated look on his face as if he wanted to tell Harry something really, really badly.
"Oh, what the hell," Harry mutters. He wipes his hands on his jeans, finger-combs his hair, grabs the umbrella and goes out into the cool night air. His shoulders squared in determination and brows furrowed in curiosity, Harry steps over the threshold into Sin, ignoring the closed sign on the door.
Malfoy's place is a far cry from Sugarcoated — it's entirely elegant, classy and posh, making Harry feel out of place in his The Ramones T-shirt, ripped jeans and sneakers. They have proper tablecloths, for heavens' sake! He moves over to a table and rubs the silk tablecloth between his fingers, eyes snagging on the laminated menu placed on each table. He flips it open and scans through it, feeling surprised when the prices aren't sky-high as expected. He replaces the menu and looks around proper.
Predictably, the overall colour scheme of Sin is green and silver, but tastefully done and not too over the top. The thick suede curtains keep Sin dark, but not gloomy. There's no personal touch in Sin, unlike the hodgepodge of items in Sugarcoated that remind Harry so wonderfully of his friends.
It's an impressive place to bring a date here, while Harry's bakery attracts mainly families, students and ladies who lunch. A scent of chocolate lingers in the air, and Harry follows his nose to the kitchens. He can hear music — a rhythm of pounding drum beats, the trill of electric guitar and a cadence of yowling that Harry finds particularly familiar. He sneaks closer to the door and edges it open...
...only to find Draco Malfoy rocking out to Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song.
Harry can't believe his ears and his eyes. Malfoy's drumming his index fingers on the counter in perfect time, his eyes closed and head-banging to one of Harry's favourite songs.
"Ah ah ahhhh ah!" Malfoy shrieks and continues to sing along in a rather off-key fashion; Harry can't help cracking a smile because he acts exactly the same way when Immigrant Song comes on the radio. Well, not exactly the same way... his mouth goes dry when Malfoy snaps his fingers, turns around, sticks his arms out and rolls his shoulders, his hips moving in sync with the music. He smooths blond hair away from his face as he continues to dance and hum. Harry's eyes hook onto the genuine smile blossoming across Malfoy's lips, how it lights up his face and transforms it. Green eyes slide to the elegant turn of pale wrists. Malfoy's looking terribly professional in his pristine white chocolatier uniform, while Harry knows he looks rather sloppy when he bakes in his T-shirt and jeans.
Harry drops the umbrella when there's a lull in the song. Malfoy's eyes snap open and he zeroes in on Harry.
"Potter!" Malfoy yelps, lunging towards the radio and switching it off. He skates his fingers over burning cheeks and looks away from a very amused Harry.
"You like Led Zeppelin?" Harry asks without thinking and immediately wishes he could take it back. Oh my God, of course he likes that band, he was dancing to it! Harry, you have the conversational skills of a Flobberworm. He mentally prepares himself for one of Malfoy's sarcastic come-backs, but it never materialises.
"Yes. I picked up Muggle music in France," Malfoy offers shortly. Before Harry can ask more, Malfoy gestures to the umbrella. "I assume that's why you're here."
"Oh, yeah," Harry mumbles. He picks up the umbrella, steps fully into the kitchen and hands it over to Malfoy. He looks around. Just like the seating area of Sin, Malfoy's kitchen is very different from Harry's — Harry loves the organised chaos in his kitchen, while Hermione's fingers twitch every time she enters his workspace, as if she's longing to put things in their proper place.
"It's very... er... neat," Harry remarks, flapping a hand in the air. He winces inwardly at the statement and waits for Malfoy's cutting rejoinder, which once again, does not come.
"Yes, that's one of the first rules of culinary school," Malfoy explains.
Harry clears his throat.
The oven chimes, making the both of them jump. Malfoy pulls open the oven door, and Harry cranes his neck to sneak a peek, sniffing at the air.
Harry's eyes widen.
"Is that... is that treacle tart?" He says in a hushed voice. Malfoy nods, levitates the tart onto a cooling rack, bends down till he's eye level with the rack and spins it. It's a gorgeous tart — Harry's practised eye notices the perfectly turned-out and lightly browned crust just on the right side of crumbly and glistening with egg-wash; the thick, sugary, mouth-watering layer of treacle and... Malfoy's long fingers twirling the rack; the concentration in his grey eyes and slight frown as he studies the dessert.
"No chocolate?" Harry pipes up.
Malfoy shakes his head and straightens up. "Not this time. It's my first treacle tart. I always make new things the traditional way before improvising with them." Malfoy hesitates when he sees the longing written all over Harry's face. "Would you like a slice?"
Yes, Harry thinks automatically but says the opposite thing, "No... I just came here to return the umbrella. Yeah, that's it," Harry adds as if he's trying to convince himself. "Well, I hope it tastes as good as it looks. See you around, Malfoy."
Disappointment flares in Harry as he trudges away — it's probably because he's abandoning a delicious treacle tart with his name on it (every treacle tart in existence has Harry's name on it), and not because he's moving away from Malfoy, what a ludicrous idea-
Harry stops in his tracks when Malfoy bursts from the kitchen, a green box in his hands.
"Here. Perhaps as an after-dinner dessert?" He suggests, thrusting the box out towards Harry.
"Dinner," Harry echoes.
Something expectant thrums and shimmers in the air.
Harry pushes that feeling away and accepts the proffered box. "Yeah. I'll... do that. Thanks." He turns and shuffles away when a stray thought barges into his mind.
"By the way, Led Zeppelin's one of my favourite bands too," he says, smiling tersely at Malfoy. Without waiting for Malfoy's reaction, Harry exits and retreats to the sanctuary of his own shop. He can still feel Malfoy's eyes on him, so he goes to the kitchen, closes the door, pulls up a chair and places the box on the counter. He runs his fingertips over the smooth matte finish of the box before flipping it open.
Harry's expecting to see a single slice of fresh treacle tart, but on top of that, Malfoy's given him a sampling platter of Sin's wares: dainty white chocolate pralines drizzled with dark chocolate; macarons with delicate shells sandwiching luscious chocolate filling; a single molten chocolate fairy cake topped with gleaming vanilla frosting; gooey walnut brownies with browned marshmallows; and lastly, a pair of lush strawberries dipped in rich milk chocolate.
He's read all of Sin's reviews and seen photos of the desserts, of course, but having them right in front of him is a different thing altogether — he's amazed and if he's honest with himself, just a little bit envious that Malfoy can turn out such fancy-looking treats. He went to a culinary school in Muggle France, Harry recalls their stilted conversation as he lifts the warm treacle tart to his lips. Once again, those same intriguing questions about Malfoy's recent past invade his mind.
Harry admires the appearance and scent of the tart for a moment, closes his eyes, bites into it, chews...
"What's going on?" Draco demands, frowning.
"What do you mean?" Pansy replies with a question of her own, her eyes wide in a picture of innocence.
"You suggest adding treacle tart to our menu, and then Potter comes over and practically drools at it. It can't be a coincidence. If you two are planning something again, I swear-"
But he's cut off mid-rant by the appearance of Potter.
"Hi," Potter says. "Just wanted to give you this." He pushes a box into Draco's hands. He looks down — it's one of Sugarcoated's boxes — and looks back at Potter.
"I..." Potter starts, carding his fingers through messy black hair. Draco licks his lips; he finds Potter's awkwardness and tongue-tied nature rather adorable. Potter glances at a grinning Pansy, who's got her chin propped in her palm and appears to be far too interested in the proceedings.
Potter looks like he wants to say more, but he only manages a feeble "see you around" and nods at Blaise and Pansy before hurrying out. In unison, the three of them look at Potter's retreating back and then to the box. Draco pops it open.
Mini Victoria sponge cakes, sprinkled with powdered sugar, twinkle up at him. There are small cups of bread and butter pudding, glazed apple tart, thick slices of fruit cake and lemon drizzle cake... and a small stack of chocolate chip cookies. The cookies are soft to the touch, and Draco nibbles on one. The quality is nowhere near Draco's chocolate, but the fact that these were moulded by Potter's own hands and given to Draco as a present...
Judging by the warmth, they've just emerged fresh from Potter's oven.
Draco licks his lips.
"How dare he!" Pansy snaps, her teeth bared.
"What?" Draco exclaims, surprised at the vehemence in his friend's voice.
"How dare he have the utter gall to bring his," — she says his like a dirty word — "chocolate in here and rub it in your face that he's better than you?!"
"That's not what he means," Draco contests, feeling inexplicably defensive.
Pansy shakes her head. "You gave him your best chocolates, and in return, he offers you a poor imitation of chocolate. He doesn't even tell you he's enjoyed your food." She drops her voice in a rather dramatic manner. "It's a competition, Draco."
Draco's eyes swivel over to Blaise for support, but the other man is frowning and watching Pansy closely.
"He came over to return the umbrella, and he made these for… me." Draco knows he's clutching at straws, but when you've fancied someone for so long and with such intensity... He flushes when he recalls how Potter had seen him dance to Led Zeppelin and his throwaway sentence about the band right before he left. The entire incident was highly embarrassing and rather surreal, but that was the first time that they had a civil conversation, and he had gone to bed feeling rather pleased that night.
"As much as I know that you like to look at Potter's biceps, I hardly think that he's strong enough to lob the umbrella through the windows of both shops," Blaise comments dryly. He licks a finger and turns a page of his book — a Healer textbook, Draco notes with astonishment.
"Why are you reading-" Draco starts, but Pansy shakes him hard by the arm.
"Listen to yourself, Draco! You shelter him in the rain and then give him chocolate, and then what, years of enmity gone, just like that?" Pansy snaps her fingers in his face.
Draco feels his heart drop all the way down to his shoes.
This is a conversation that they've had too many times, and deep down, when Draco nudges away the flood of denial and unrequited attraction, he logically knows that Pansy's right — he will always be Malfoy to Potter, nothing less and nothing more.
Any other scenario would be too good to be true.
He feels the familiar cocktail of challenge and anger, fuelled by the pain storming through his veins. So Potter wants to play, does he? He wants to tell Draco that he's not good enough for his friendship, not good enough to have his own shop just opposite Potter's precious bakery?
"I'll show him," Draco hisses. With that, he gathers the box in his arms and disappears into his kitchen in a furious flurry of white uniform, ruffled blond hair and clenched fists.
Harry growls at the contents in the trademark green box. Hermione, bless her, immediately appears at his side with a hot mug of tea. She gives Harry a reassuring squeeze on the arm and follows his glare. Malfoy's sent over a generous serving of chocolate chip cookies as if to show himthat's how it's done, Potter! He's also included petite sponge cakes, bread and butter pudding and lemon drizzle cake, exactly what Harry had given to him a few days before. These were Harry's specialties, but Malfoy's imbued his own twist — chocolate — into them.
"Where does he get off by ripping off my desserts?!" Harry shouts. He snatches the mug from Hermione, drains the scalding tea and slams the mug down on the table.
Hermione clears her throat. "Well, it's not exactly ripping off when you hand-delivered them to him."
Harry goes a bit purple in the face.
"That's not the point, Hermione!" Fuming, he starts to pace. "So he thinks I'm not good enough? Think that he's gonna take over my spot? He's probably waiting for me to close shop so he can tear Sugarcoated down and build another one of those posh shops. Just 'cos he went to a fancy French school-" Something besides anger is bubbling up in Harry now, something akin to... jealousy- "Oh yes, I'm sure all those French girls throw themselves at him, I bet they adore his stupid blond hair and stupid pale skin-"
"Men," Hermione interjects.
"Frenchmen. Word on the street is he's got a thing for black-haired men."
"Oh," Harry blinks, the wind temporarily taken out of his sails by her sudden comment. Malfoy's gay, like him? And he likes black-haired men?
"I'm a black-haired man," he points out unnecessarily, patting his hair.
"Yes, you are," she agrees, trying to keep a cheeky grin off her face.
"Hang on, on which street did you find out about Malfoy's preferences?" Harry asks, eyes narrowing in suspicion.
"You're asking me trivial things like that when Malfoy's ripping off your desserts?!" Hermione squawks in indignation. That's all it takes to get Harry going again. He mumbles under his breath something along the lines of annoying git, thought we'd come to something of a truce, his words spiralling to a war cry of it's on, Malfoy! as he storms towards his kitchen.
But if Harry had looked back for just one second, he would've seen how Hermione drops her serious façade, buries her head in her hands and dissolves into a round of giggles.
They peer through the kitchen window just in time to see Harry toss his head back and let out a frustrated roar.
"All that manufactured angst can't be good for his heart," Ron remarks as he finishes off one of Harry's abandoned chocolate bars that he had scavenged near the till.
"Oh, both you and I know that he secretly loves it. It's like sixth year all over again."
"But with no one dying and with chocolate."
Ron and Hermione lapse into silence as they crack the door open and poke their heads in. It's an even more chaotic sight than usual — liquid white, dark and milk chocolate cooling rapidly in different bowls, large blocks of unwrapped chocolate strewn all over the counter, baking paraphernalia dripping chocolate on the floor and the wonderful scent of chocolate wafting from the oven.
And there Harry is, amidst clouds of cocoa powder, fitting in seamlessly with his surroundings. There's chocolate smeared all over his lips and cheeks, chocolate stains on his shirt and puffballs of flour in his hair. He absently licks the chocolate off his fingers and tears through a book propped up on his counter.
"How does he do it, I gotta know, how does he make it so good?" Harry wonders out loud to himself. Hermione knows that look of fire in his eyes — his entire being is so focused on Malfoy and his chocolate that he loses track of his environment, the time, and his hunger. Ron opens the door further and rustles a takeaway bag which Harry takes absolutely no notice of.
"Let's just leave him to it," Hermione whispers. Ron nods and leaves the bag on a nearby counter. They close the door behind them and head towards their booth.
"That's a good sign, isn't it?" Ron asks.
"That's a very good sign. The Slytherins will be pleased when we tell them about this," Hermione says, cheering. Ron grins as they share a high-five, but his smile fades and a faint horror descends on his features.
"Oh bloody hell. This means that I'll have to get used to having the ferret around when they eventually do get together, don't I?"
Harry's original intent had been to gloat, but Malfoy's sitting right there in Sin and tucking into Harry's chocolate desserts with a pleasure that's almost... sexual. Harry's eyes are as wide as dinner plates as he watches the trail of white chocolate dripping down the other man's hand, at the tip of Malfoy's tongue that darts out between a set of full lips, licking from wrist-bone to thumb.
Malfoy's eating a chocolate fairy cake — it had taken Harry a bloody long time to tweak that particular pastry to perfection. Instead of filling it with milk chocolate, he had replaced it with white chocolate, giving it a rather striking contrast to the dark chocolate exterior of the fairy cake, a contrast like the chocolate smeared all over Malfoy's pale chin and the skin around his mouth. This is the most unkempt that Harry's ever seen him, but he doesn't really mind it that much, especially when... bloody hell... Malfoy starts sucking on a finger.
Harry's breath hitches and he presses his face nearer to the glass window of Sin.
His grey eyes half-lidded, Malfoy begins to take each chocolate-dipped finger in his mouth, his Adam's apple bobbing as he sucks, tongue peeking out every so often to lick at a fingertip or at the web of skin in between his fingers. Harry imagines having that hot wet tongue and perfect pink lips licking other... things.
Arousal and anger flare within him.
How dare Malfoy look so good eating his desserts?!
He must've hit the window or something, because Malfoy opens his eyes fully and yelps when he sees Harry staring at him. Shit, Harry thinks and quickly wipes the condensation off the glass. He's sure he looks like some night-time predator, practically panting on windows and whatnot. His face hot, he hurries into Sin and hovers awkwardly around Malfoy's table.
"Hi," he says, scuffing the toes of his shoe on the floor.
Malfoy's wiped his mouth and fingers clean in the short span of time that Harry took to enter Sin. With a small smile on his face, Malfoy indicates the opposite chair. Harry sits down and peers at the empty box.
Harry feels a surge of triumph coursing in him. "I guess I won, didn't I?"
Malfoy's grin vanishes at once, replaced by a sneer. Harry's face falls at that swift change; he rather likes how Malfoy looks when he smiles.
"Why does everything have to be a competition between us?" Malfoy snarls, shoving the box away. And there it is, that familiar heat zinging through Harry like electricity, preparing his mind and body for a confrontation.
"What? You started it when you ripped off my food! Just because I've never gone to cooking school doesn't mean I'm not good enough!"
"Absolutely not! You started it when you... forced your chocolate chip cookies into my establishment, and you didn't even thank me or tell me your thoughts about my chocolate! You've always been the one implying that I'm not good enough, never good enough for you!"
Harry doesn't know what to say because he has a feeling that they're not talking about food anymore.
Malfoy passes a hand over his eyes and visibly pulls himself together. He's about to say something, but Harry beats him to it first.
"Thanks. For all the desserts. I wanted to talk to you that day, but your friends were there and I just didn't know how to..." Harry looks down at the tablecloth and clasps his hands between his knees. "Your chocolate is fantastic; the texture, the taste, the appearance, everything. It's really one of the best I've ever tasted."
Malfoy's mouth is parted slightly in shock and he's put a hand on his chest. Harry would've made some quip about him being overly dramatic, but that would ruin the moment, and he doesn't want to do that.
"Your desserts remind me of home," Malfoy says as he fiddles with the edges of a menu, both of them resolutely not looking at each other. "Of my childhood. Of bright blue skies and summer sunshine, of afternoon tea-times in the Manor pavilions with my father and of entire days spent baking with my mother," he whispers, smiling sadly.
An expectant pause hangs in the air, and Harry finally drags his gaze up to meet Malfoy's.
"When I eat your food, it reminds me of family. Of love," Malfoy finishes, his voice soft and abject sadness in his eyes. Harry knows that Malfoy's parents are long gone, and he's overwhelmed with a need to place a hand over Malfoy's own, to hold him and comfort him just like how Ron and Hermione had held him and chased away his demons. He shouldn't touch Malfoy, really, he shouldn't, but Harry wants to see that bright, gorgeous smile all over again and he's absolutely rubbish with words, so...
With any sliver of animosity temporarily wiped away, Harry takes a deep breath and does it anyway.
Malfoy rears back like a startled pony. Alarmed grey eyes flicker up to Harry before dropping down to their entwined hands.
Malfoy doesn't withdraw his hand, and neither does Harry. Before Harry can stop himself, he's stroking Malfoy's warm hand, fingers skimming across his knuckles and over the raised veins. It's a pair of capable hands, blessed with long fingers and he can imagine Malfoy kneading dough, mixing ingredients and decorating pastries. Harry doesn't think he'll particularly mind if those same hands swirl chocolate all over his body, paired with that wicked tongue dipping to lick-
Harry dimly registers that they're sitting in a fancy cafe designed for couples and he's there fondling Malfoy's hand and thinking naughty thoughts while Malfoy is sad over his dead parents and Merlin, what if Malfoy thinks that he's taking advantage-
Harry's about to say otherwise, but that's when the shock fades from Malfoy's features, and he smiles, a smile as beautiful and rare as a hand-picked gem, at Harry. Pale fingers squeeze his wrist for a moment before Malfoy pulls his hand away.
Harry feels the loss keenly.
"Would you like to see what I'm working on?" Malfoy offers rather shyly. Harry knows that it's not an offer to be taken lightly — when he's working on something new, he refuses to show it to anyone, even Ron and Hermione, before it's perfect.
He nods and follows Malfoy to the kitchen. Malfoy opens the fridge and takes out two chocolate desserts — a slice of chocolate cake and a single chocolate praline. He pulls the cake towards them; it's actually two separate layers of chocolate sponge separated by a thin layer of chocolate cream. The entire cake is topped up with a messy slathering of chocolate icing — Harry knows how precise Malfoy's handiwork can be, so if it looks messy, that's because he intended it to be messy. A blueberry sits nestled in the icing, and beside it is a...
... a fondant shaped into a narcissus flower.
"Contrary to what everyone thought of her, she preferred to keep it simple when it came to her sweets. Her two favourite things were chocolate and blueberries, and this is the sort of cake that you'll eat when you're sad, a sort of... comfort food. That's why I named it after her," Malfoy summons a fork and hands it to Harry. "Go on."
The cheery white and sunbeam-yellow fondant winks up at Harry as he cuts into the slice.
Starbursts of rich chocolate flavour fill his mouth. He's tasted Malfoy's chocolate before, but this one's different, special in a way so precious that he can't put into words. The texture of the cake is exquisite — moist, melt-in-your-mouth sponge wrapped in a silky sheen of chocolate icing, the crunchy blueberry adding another dimension to the dessert with a sweet, yet sour taste.
Harry washes the cake down with water. His eyes snag on a photo of the Malfoys displayed prominently at the workspace. It was taken when Malfoy was a young child. He's perched on his father's shoulders, grabbing handfuls of Lucius' hair, and Harry can imagine the laughter burbling from his mouth. His mother trots beside them, her waterfall of long hair swinging as she turns to share a smile with her husband.
A pang hits Harry across the heart; he wishes he could have a photo like that with his own parents.
Malfoy brings the second dessert to the forefront. The chocolate praline is shaped in a rectangle, all harsh and sharp right angles, with a single dot of white chocolate in the middle. Harry takes a bite and winces at once at the most bitter dark chocolate he's tasted, the flavour so strong that it feels like it's punched him in the throat. Yet, as Harry swallows the praline, he detects a delicate, gentle sweetness lingering as an aftertaste, chasing the bitterness away.
"He hid his love for us well, but it was there. Always there," Malfoy murmurs.
Something shifts and ripples in the air. Malfoy's looking at him expectantly, yet Harry's at a loss for words. He had no idea that Malfoy was going to share something so personal.
"Thank you for showing me this. I..." Everything that Harry wants to say it tastes delicious, you're really good, I'm sorry for your loss- sounds inane to his ears. It's surreal, going from shouting to each other across the road to being in Malfoy's kitchen, getting a sneak preview of his desserts and listening to Malfoy talk about his family.
"Tea?" Malfoy offers while clearing the counter.
Harry nods and eventually, they sit in silence at a table, nursing two steaming mugs of Earl Grey. Unlike previous occasions, the palpable silence is far from awkward; instead, it sits easily between them.
"How did you get into baking? I've always been curious about that," Malfoy asks. "I would've thought an Auror was more your style."
"Yeah, I... well..." Harry trails off, wondering how much he should tell the other man. Hell, Malfoy's revealed so much about himself tonight, it's only fair that Harry should do the same. "I enrolled into Auror training, but I dropped out halfway. I didn't mind doing it, but it wasn't something that I wanted to do as a career. Get what I mean?" Harry says, wrinkling his nose.
"Yes. Figured you had enough of hunting Dark wizards for the rest of your life," Malfoy replies, and there it is again, that small smile gracing his lips.
"Yeah. So I was moping about for a bit at the Burrow — Ron's house," Harry fills in when Malfoy tilts his head in question — "wondering what to do with my life. It was just Mrs Weasley and me at home, everyone else was out working or studying. I went down to the kitchen and saw her baking, and it was brilliant!" Harry's warming up to his theme, and Malfoy leans forward and nods in encouragement.
"I've grown up eating her food. All the wonderful scents, the heat from the ovens, and the taste of her pastries remind me so much of home, comfort, family and love. That was what I hung on to, and I just simply watched her work her magic. I didn't jump straight into baking then, but after that day, I was interested.
"I took two months off to travel, and I always found myself visiting bakeries and sweet shops whenever I passed them by. I came home and asked Mrs Weasley to teach me what she knew about baking. The more I learnt, the more I fell in love with the entire process, from designing all the way to creating them. Found a place here, and with help from my friends, well..." Harry trails off, flinging an arm towards Sugarcoated. His grin falters. "It was mad when I first started. The queues ran all the way up the street. I wondered how many of them were here because they just wanted to take a look at the scar."
"Don't think like that, Potter. You make wonderful desserts and don't let anyone tell you otherwise," Malfoy declares. Harry's pleasantly surprised at the vehemence in his tone.
"So we got into baking because of our families," Malfoy states.
"Yeah, that's one thing we have in common," Harry reaffirms, nodding.
A question hangs in the air, teasing the both of them: what other things do we have in common?
"It's time for dinner," Harry points out.
"Yes it is," Malfoy agrees, shrugging his shoulders casually.
Harry turns his mug on the table in slow circles, and once again, that same promising atmosphere simmers between them.
He's pushed that feeling away once.
Harry thinks of Malfoy eating dinner alone after Harry's held his hand and tasted the desserts that he's named after his parents. He imagines Malfoy living in Muggle France — incongruous images of Malfoy using a toaster, typing away on a laptop and sitting in the Metro — he can't help but crack a grin.
He's never really known Malfoy.
"If you don't have any plans, d'you wanna grab something together?" Harry blurts out before he has any time for self-doubt.
When Malfoy smiles and accepts, Harry's heart shouldn't have skipped a beat. It shouldn't have then clattered madly in his chest in double-quick time. There's absolutely no reason for that to happen; they're just two old school-mates sharing a meal together.
But it does.
Candyman is a two-chaptered fic. The last chapter will be updated next Friday.
Thanks for reading!