Of Matchmaking Owls & Second Chances by xErised


He had hoped that Humphrey might have forgotten about today.

Draco looks up from his stack of business contracts and groans in exasperation when his eagle owl skids onto his table, his wing just missing the uncapped bottle of ink nearby. Humphrey hops over Draco's arms to deposit a letter — the one that Draco had buried at the bottom of his pile of junk mail when he had received it last week — in front of him, before fixing Draco with an expectant look.

"Can't you see I'm busy?" he points out, gesturing to the various files and parchment laid out on his table.

Humphrey scoots closer to Draco and narrows his orange eyes.

The last time Draco had ignored Humphrey's warning signs of an impending tantrum, he had refused to deliver Draco's mail for an entire week.

He sighs. "Alright, alright. I'll meet you at the address stated in the letter in fifteen minutes."

He opens a drawer and pulls out a bag of treats. Upon spotting the familiar packaging, Humphrey perks up at once and launches himself into the air when Draco tosses a treat, catching it in his beak. Placated, Humphrey retreats and flies away.

Draco huffs and looks at the logo on the bag — the words Speccy's Owl Treats with the two 'c's in Speccy's stylised into a pair of round glasses — before shoving it back into the drawer. He spends the next fifteen minutes finishing his report before retrieving the typewritten letter from Speccy's and giving it a quick skim.

The manufacturer of the owl treats had noticed Draco's regular purchases, and had extended an invitation to Humphrey as a tester for a line of new flavours. It ended off with a date and time, along with an address registered to a wizarding residence in the suburbs of London.

Draco pockets the letter and leaves the house. He Apparates to the destination, and after a quick check of the address, knocks on the door. He folds his arms and taps his foot on the ground as he waits.

He can't help but feel rather curious about the identity of the manufacturer. It's clear that the company isn't a big one, judging by the few pet shops that stock the product, along with the address being a residence instead of a factory or an office. Hopefully, this means that it won't take too long; he's got a heavy workload today, even though it's a Saturday.

Draco casts a critical eye over the entrance: the doorknob needs a polish, the words on the welcome mat have faded, and there's a pair of scruffy dark-blue Converse trainers tossed at a corner. He tilts his head at the shoes. He finds them, especially the mismatched laces, to be strangely familiar. In fact, when you pair them with the shout of "I'm coming!" from the other side of the door, it reminds Draco of—

"Harry Potter," he murmurs the second the door swings open to reveal the man himself.

"Draco?!" Harry yelps, his eyes wide and his jaw slack in astonishment. "I thought the owl looked familiar…"

Without missing a beat, Draco replies with a tone more curt than he had intended. "Yes. When I was in Hogwarts, Mother used this particular owl to send me sweets and letters from home."

He thrusts the letter into Harry's hands. Although he hopes he looks composed, the ramping up of his heartbeat and the inability to meet Harry's gaze head-on might indicate the opposite. He takes the chance to check Harry out while he's reading the letter: same untamed mop of black hair, same glasses and dress sense — jeans ripped at the knees and a faded Sex Pistols T-shirt that's definitely too tight.

Salazar, Harry still dresses as if he's escaping from a burning building.

There're some changes too: he now sports two leather bracelets, one black and one brown, on his left wrist, along with two piercings on his left earlobe. His skin is tanned, as though he has just returned from somewhere sunny.

He looks bloody good.

Harry looks up from the letter, and Draco's eyes skitter to the side at once.

"So you're the one buying out my stock at Islington!" Harry says with a delighted laugh. He steps away from the door to allow Draco to enter. "C'mon up then, your owl's already here."

Draco follows him into the flat, passing through a cosy living room and a well-furnished kitchen and dining area. They climb a staircase leading to the rooftop.

The first thing that Draco notices is the flock of owls gathered near the row of owl stands. He's not familiar with most of them, but he recognises Harry's snowy owl, and of course, Humphrey hovering at the edge of the group looking rather intimidated.

There's another smaller, open-air kitchen — equipped with an oven, stove and island — located in the middle of the rooftop. Harry motions for Draco to take a seat at the island. Upon spotting Draco, Humphrey flies to his side at once.

"I reckon that's why I found him familiar, because he's yours," Harry says, smiling at Humphrey. "What's his name? It starts with an H, yeah?"

Humphrey raises his head and ruffles his feathers importantly.

"Humphrey," Draco replies.

Harry simply stares at Draco for a moment before bursting into a loud peal of laughter.

"Humphrey? Humphrey?! That name's meant for stuffy royalty, not for owls!"

Indignant, Draco sits up straight and scowls. "I don't see what's so funny about that. I'll have you know that Humphrey is a proper, dignified name befitting of a Malfoy owl of Humphrey's lineage."

Humphrey looks at Harry and lets out a hoot of reproach.

"There's no way I'm gonna call him Humphrey. Let's see, what shall I call him instead?" Harry says, crossing his arms and pretending to think.

"Humphrey, because his name is Humphrey, you annoying git—"

"I'm gonna call him Humps!"

Humphrey turns his head towards Draco, shooting him a horrified look.

"No, you will not!" Draco says, aghast.

Harry flashes an impish grin in return. He opens a nearby cupboard and pulls out a fresh bag of owl treats. Of course, it just has to be Humphrey's favourite flavour.

"C'mon, Humps. You want this, don't you?" he says, his words light and teasing. He tears apart the bag and brandishes the contents in front of Humphrey.

"If you go towards him, you're giving him permission to call you by that ghastly name!" Draco says.

Humphrey's eyes dart back and forth between the treats and Draco.

Harry shakes the bag, rustling the treats around.

Humphrey shuffles an inch closer towards Harry, although his wide and wary eyes are still trained on Draco.

Draco shakes his head in warning.

Harry whistles, upends the bag and pours the treats out in an enticing pool on the kitchen island.

That's when Draco knows he's playing a losing game.

Humphrey chirps apologetically to Draco and surrenders, flying towards Harry and diving headfirst into the pile of treats, his bum sticking up in the air and years of proud breeding and dignity thrown to the wind as he pecks in bliss at the food scattered around his feet.

Draco gives Harry a withering glare. Harry throws his head back and laughs, one of those hearty, full-bodied laughs that Draco particularly likes. It's rather ironic, because Harry laughs like that only when he pulls one over Draco.

Draco sighs, ignoring the twinge in his heart. It has been two years since Hogwarts, and Harry is still so bloody infuriating.

When he's finished laughing, Harry asks, "D'you still take your tea with no milk and no sugar?"

Draco nods.

Harry pulls out a canister of Earl Grey and two mugs. While he's busy making tea, Draco swivels his chair around to take in his surroundings.

The city lights of downtown London blaze in the far distance, set against the backdrop of deepening dusk that envelops the last few streaks of orange rays shining on the rooftop. The wood-panelled rooftop is cosy: to the side sits a coffee table littered with magazines and flanked by beanbag chairs and large cushions, perfect for an intimate get-together with friends. There's also a small reading nook facing the skyline of London — Draco sees a half-finished cup of coffee and a fluffy blanket tossed beside a pile of books. He catches a whiff of fresh herbs, and he turns to look at the small and well-tended garden blooming with herbs and flowers — most notably lilies.

He turns his chair back towards Harry, who is facing the stove and humming a tune. His eyes roam over Harry's frame, especially at his shirt stretched over broad shoulders and the tendons shifting under Harry's forearms as he raises the kettle to pour water into the mugs. Harry turns around, holding two mugs of steaming hot tea. He puts the mugs down. Sighing, he pulls off his foggy glasses and lifts up the hem of his shirt to wipe the condensation away.

At the sight of Harry's taut stomach and the waistband of his dark-blue boxers slung low over the vee of his narrow hips, Draco clears his throat and looks away, although he's burnt that utterly delectable image into his mind. He thrusts his arm out, indicating the rooftop. "Nicely done, Potter. I'm sure the Weaslette must be thrilled at these living arrangements."

"Er…" Harry hedges, jamming his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "We're not together anymore. We didn't last a month after Hogwarts."

"Oh, really?" Draco arches a brow. He pulls his tea closer to his chest and gazes at the tealeaves, wondering why his heart gave a small leap at the news. He looks up after a moment. "No one else? I would've thought someone else would have snapped you up in no time."

Harry shrugs his shoulders. He sits opposite Draco, wraps his palms around the mug and blows lightly across the surface of the tea before taking his first sip. The familiarity of the movement and the surge of memories that well up takes Draco by surprise.

How many times has he seen Harry do the same thing during meals at their eighth year when they had struck up an unlikely friendship? Or how Harry pats his hair and rubs the back of his neck whenever he feels nervous or self-conscious, like what he's doing at this very moment?

When they said their goodbyes before Draco fled to Italy a week before the Leaving Ceremony, Draco had thought that that would be the last time he would see Harry, that a friendship (or maybe even something more, although Draco knows it's hopeless to continue further down that line of thought) like theirs — Saviour and Death Eater — would never last after Hogwarts.

He remembers the heaviness of his heart as he was packing his things in the dead of the night with Blaise hurrying him. He was leaving Hogwarts in such a rushed manner because of the death threats facing his family. There were so many things he would miss: he didn't even have the time to say goodbye to Pansy and Greg, and in the case of Harry...

... what could have been.

Harry's voice jolts him back to the present.

"Easy for you to say. Shouldn't you be playing happy families with Greengrass?" Harry says, his brow furrowed and an edge to his words.

Draco tilts his head at Harry's tone, curious yet nettled at the sharpness of his voice.

"I'm certain you know that our engagement didn't work out. Hard to miss the news splashed all over the entertainment pages of the Prophet last year, wasn't it?" Draco remarks lightly.

Harry shakes his head, a glimmer of a sheepish smile playing on his lips. "Sorry. Didn't mean for it to come out like that. It's just..." He looks away from Draco's searching gaze. Instead, he fiddles with his mug, turning it around in circles on the table. "You were really serious about Astoria in eighth year, and I guess… well… everyone expected you to marry her. You were always going on about your responsibilities as the only Malfoy heir and things like that," he adds.

Yes, but that was before I realised I had to stop lying to myself.

This isn't a topic that Draco wants to explore with Harry now. He changes tack, pulling on a smile. "That was two years ago. Things have changed." He gestures to the owls. "Rather mad, isn't it, to meet again like this?"

"Yeah. But I'm glad, 'cause it's really nice to see you again," Harry says, beaming. His eyes flicker towards Draco's lips, then up to his hair. "You wear it loose now. It looks nice."

It's barely twenty minutes into their first conversation in years, and Harry's playing this game again: giving light-hearted compliments that maintain this thread of playful attraction thrumming between them. Initially, Draco hadn't been sure about the best way to react, but he eventually figured it out — to beat Harry at his own game. It's even more thrilling now since they're both single. Harry is probably as straight as a wand (but with a penchant for a bit of harmless flirtation with Draco), but Draco's grown up pushing Harry's buttons, and he sees no reason to stop now.

"You don't look that bad yourself, Potter," Draco murmurs, his voice low and rough. He leans forward to rest his elbows on the kitchen island and folds his arms loosely across his chest. He takes his time to eye Harry up, his half-lidded gaze travelling up and down the length of Harry's body, lingering at his shoulders and torso.

"Yeah?" Harry says. A corner of his lips hike up into the beginnings of a smirk, but before he can say anything else, the arrival of Hedwig stops him short. She whistles at Harry and tilts her head towards the direction of the other owls.

"Oh! I almost forgot about them," Harry exclaims. He beckons for the other owls to join them, and within seconds, five owls of varying species and sizes surround Draco. Humphrey huddles close to Draco's right shoulder. He nips Draco affectionately on the finger, puffs his chest out and flaps a wing towards Draco (nearly whacking him across the face), as if to tell the other owls, "Look at my human!"

Draco smiles and strokes Humphrey on the head.

"Well, you know Hedwig," Harry starts, and grins when Hedwig ruffles her plumage, bends down to nuzzle Harry on the cheek and purrs in approval, as if to say, "My human is better!"

"This is Pigwidgeon, but we all call him Pig. He's Ron's first owl," Harry says, indicating a grey and white Scops owl so tiny that it reminds Draco of a fluffy oversized snitch. Pig's eyes — black eyes rimmed with orange — appear to be much larger because of his small body. Harry's hand forms a loose fist, and Pig zooms to perch on his thumb and index finger. He happily lets out a series of loud chirrups and collapses on the kitchen island to ruffle through Harry's pockets in fluttery excitement.

Hedwig stares at Pig in disapproval.

"I've got nothing there, Pig," Harry says, laughing.

He gestures to a hawk owl, her feathers a rich tawny brown speckled with white. The owl turns her attention to Draco.

"Luna's owl. She's away in Southeast Asia looking for creatures. Bambi likes to visit when she's not around," Harry explains. Draco's close to making some remark about Luna's choice of owl names, but he's interrupted by a crash when a fluffy great grey owl careens into a large empty pot. Pig rears up, startled by the loud sound.

"And that's... Errol. One of the Weasley owls," Harry says in a rather defeated tone, indicating a bewildered-looking owl that reminds Draco of a moulting feather duster. "He's not really fit to deliver anything anymore; he's rather old and gets lost easily."

Draco watches in amusement as Hedwig flies to Errol, spreading a protective wing over him as he recovers.

"That's all of them," Harry says. "Time to get to work."

"Hang on," Draco says, stopping Harry when he's in the middle of wiping down the counter. "With the exception of Humphrey, you've known the other owls previously. Does this mean that only I received the letter?"

"Well... yeah. I didn't know it was you at first, but Jason, the shopkeeper at Islington, told me I had a customer that would come in every Sunday and buy roughly three-quarters of my entire stock. I asked him about it, but Jason didn't know you by name," Harry explains. He works while he talks, moving around the kitchen and pouring different treats into labelled bowls.

"Eeylops and Magical Menagerie, along with a few other pet stores, do carry my brand, but that was the first time I've heard of someone buying my product so faithfully. I was intrigued, of course. So I wrote the letter and gave it to Jason so he could hand it to you. Couldn't have a taste test without inviting my best customer, yeah?" Harry says, switching off the tap and drying his hands on the dishcloth.

"Imagine my surprise when you turned up today," he adds, shooting Draco a wink. He turns his attention to the owls. "C'mon, you lot!"

At the clap of Harry's hands, the owls — including Humphrey, Draco notes with pleasure — stand to attention, with the exception of Pig, who whistles and bobs his body up and down in the air.

Draco peers into the seven proffered bowls. The treats displayed are different from what he's used to: they're usually cut into appealing shapes such as hearts, stars and flowers in different colours, while the treats here are lumpy and look like cookie dough.

"The owls don't really care about the appearance, it's just the humans that do," Harry explains. He must've caught Draco looking. Harry motions to Hedwig, who wastes no time in tasting the contents of each bowl. She pushes away the first two bowls, and either turns her beak up or displays indifference to the remaining bowls save for the last one. She hoots in approval at the last bowl.

Harry scribbles down the results in his messy scrawl that Draco is familiar with; they've spent evenings studying together, just the two of them, in the Hogwarts library.

"Thanks, Hedwig. You're next, Pig," Harry says. He switches the samples to another set of treats that are smaller. Pig approaches the food with exuberance, fluttering up and down, weaving his head in curiosity at each bowl, and pecking at the samples. He takes his time, as if soaking up the attention.

Draco watches with interest as Harry repeats the procedure with every owl, with Draco chipping in about Humphrey's reactions. He has never thought much about the effort put into producing owl treats, so this process is rather intriguing. He does have questions, but he'd much prefer to sit in silence and watch Harry. He's always found Harry's focus and intensity during work (except for Potions essays) to be attractive — the way Harry taps his pen against his lower lip and his slight frown of concentration.

"So what happens next?" Draco asks when they're finished and Harry has rewarded each owl with a bowl of their favourite treats.

"I spend the next few days tweaking the flavour, nutritional value and consistency. And then we'll do it all over again next week until I'm satisfied with the end-result." Harry pauses, uncertain. "You are coming back next week, aren't you?"

Draco looks at Humphrey, who's happily chomping on his treats.

Harry moves closer. A jolt ripples through Draco at the proximity of the other man.

"I'd really like it if you came back. I think we've got a lot to catch up on, yeah?" Harry says, and there it is again, that flicker of a glance towards Draco's lips.

Draco nods. His head is buzzing with anticipation at the thought of meeting Harry every week.

"Brilliant. See you next week." Judging by the twinkle in Harry's eyes and the spark in his smile, it seems like he's thinking along the same lines too.


Draco wakes up with a start.

He blinks his bleary eyes open and lifts his head from his arm. A blanket slides off his shoulders. He stares at it, confused. He's not at home, nor is he in the office. It takes a while for his brain to register that it's Harry's blanket taken from his reading corner. A gust of wind ruffles the parchment caught under his hands. The lights of the rooftop illuminate the blotches of ink on his fingertips.

He must've dozed off while working.

A steaming mug of Earl Grey is on the table. Draco vaguely remembers finishing it — Harry must've topped it up while he was sleeping. There's a song playing on the wireless, and he's drawn to Harry working in the kitchen. Draco discreetly re-arranges the blanket and rests his head on his arm to make it seem like he's sleeping, although he's actually admiring Harry in secret.

Harry is whistling along to the tune, his right foot tapping to the beat of the song while he ferrets around in the fridge. With his arms full of containers and packets of meat, he shuts the door with his hip. Draco watches as he moves around the kitchen with ease, emanating a graceful confidence that Draco hasn't noticed before. Just watching Harry work in the kitchen is strangely comforting, and if Draco is being honest, it's nice to have someone around.

He's used to slipping on solitude like a second skin, even though he's often caught up in the whirlwind of proposals and meetings. He works twelve-hour days, usually more because he has a habit of bringing work home. He still meets Pansy and Blaise, along with other friends occasionally for pub nights, but well, these weekly meetings with Harry are something special altogether.

The blade of Harry's knife glints under the lights, and Draco marvels at his skill as he slices a slab of meat. Harry doesn't use magic in the kitchen, preferring to work more with his hands instead. He pauses to look up, meeting Draco's gaze. He smirks. "You gonna just look at me the entire night, or d'you wanna come and help me?"

"Well, that depends. Am I gonna get some sort of compensation if I do offer my help?" Draco snarks back in an unhurried drawl. Despite the question, he shrugs off the blanket and pads towards Harry. He yawns and stretches his arms high up into the air.

He catches Harry's glance towards his torso when his shirt rides up mid-yawn.

"Where are the owls?" Draco asks.

"Hedwig's gone hunting with Humps—"

"Humphrey, his name is Humphrey!"

"Humps," Harry continues in that infuriatingly stubborn way of his. "And the rest... well, I don't know. They come and go as they please," he says, sliding the meat from the cutting board into the hot pan.

"How may I help?" Draco asks, rolling his sleeves up to his elbows and flexing his fingers.

Harry looks up from the pan and points to a lump of dough sitting in a bowl covered with cling-wrap. "Could you cut that into shapes? Cookie cutters and rolling pin are in the top drawer to your left. Flour's in the blue jar if you need it."

Draco tries not to show it, but he's rather out of his element in the kitchen. He retrieves the tools, pulls the blue jar towards him and dumps the dough onto the counter.

He pauses.

"First time cooking?" Harry asks, an amused glint in his eye.

Draco sniffs. "I do know how to cook simple dishes." Like Pot Noodle, he adds inwardly. "Although I haven't worked with dough before, I'm sure I can handle it. Besides, I've seen you in the kitchen," he says. He hesitates for a moment before dunking a fist into the jar and sprinkling flour over the counter in what he hoped was an artistic flair.

He places the dough in the middle of the flour and begins to flatten it with the rolling pin, frowning when the upper part of the dough is stretched too thin.

Harry turns off the stove. "I can show you if you'd like," he murmurs. Before Draco knows what's happening, Harry is standing behind him, his front pressed lightly against Draco's back and his arms hovering on either side of Draco's waist. His hands move up to brush Draco's own hands away from the pin. Draco lets him take over, mainly because he's too shell-shocked to respond otherwise.

Desire courses in Draco's bloodstream and he swallows. Harry is so warm and so close that Draco can smell his shampoo — mint and coconut. His full-lashed eyelids dip downwards, shooting Draco a sly glance, and his thin lips, a shade of strawberry pink, tilt upwards into a slow smile.

"It can't be too wet, or too dry," Harry says.

"What?" Draco whispers. If he leans over just a bit to his left, then he'll be close enough to—

"The dough," Harry replies. "I think you can take care of the rest."

With that, he steps away.

At the loss of Harry's touch, Draco's nerve endings heave their shoulders and sigh in disappointment.

"Oh. The dough," Draco repeats. He skates flour-dusted fingers over his heated cheeks, willing his blush to disappear. After taking a moment to recover his equilibrium, he returns to his task.

"What do you put into the dough? The meat?" Draco asks after a while, indicating the meat in the pan with a raised chin.

"Yeah, but this is for another batch. Sometimes I fry the meat first, or it goes straight into the oven as is. Owls are birds of prey, so I have to add meat to make them appetising enough, although owl treats should never be a substitute for proper meat in their diet," Harry says as he fiddles around with the oven. "The type of protein included also depends on the species of owl. Scops owls like Pig prefer insects, while eagle owls like Humps—"

"Humphrey!"

"—prefer larger prey like birds. I can't tailor each treat to every species of owl, but…" Harry points to the dough that Draco is shaping with the owl-shaped cutter. "Those are designed for the post office owls. Since they have to fly for long distances, the ingredients I've added will boost their energy right after a flight. Hopefully it'll help them to recover faster. Nutrition is important, but so is taste, so everything is a balancing act when it comes to cooking."

"I see." Draco transfers the dough to the baking tray. "Where did you learn this? I don't think anyone expected you to make owl treats. You definitely didn't mention this when we were still at school."

Harry chuckles and pours himself a cup of coffee. "Yeah, I wasn't expecting this either. I got into it because of Hedwig. She lost her liking for her favourite treats, and I don't know if her tastes changed or because of her illness."

Draco nods, recounting their conversations about the war, for how could they have developed a friendship without addressing it? It had hung between them, wedged like a third shadow. Hedwig had been rather sickly during their eighth year, much to Harry's dismay. She had protected him on multiple occasions, almost dying during the Battle of the Seven Potters, so it was no surprise that that could have taken a toll on her health.

"Her appetite got worse after I left Hogwarts, but at least she was still hunting. I wanted to do something for her, so I went down to Eeylops and got them to teach me about making owl treats, and it was brilliant!"

Draco pauses in his work to give Harry his full attention as he talks at length about what he had learnt. He loves watching Harry when he's this excited — the bright, wide smile stretching his mouth, the animated hand gestures and the visible energy thrumming throughout his body.

"I think Eeylops wanted me to work for them, but I didn't want to. So I took my time and did a lot of testing before developing my own treats. I gave Eeylops a heavily discounted price for my treats. I told all the shops to keep quiet about my identity, because I didn't want people to buy my product just 'cause it was me, y'know?"

Draco sighs, and he's about to say something when Harry puts his palms up and admits, "Yeah, I know what you're gonna say. I could've used my name, but… honestly, I don't wanna build a business using my fame."

Somehow, Draco's hardly surprised. He slides the tray into the oven, and with Harry's guidance, sets the time and temperature.

"And now we wait," Harry says. He grabs his coffee and heads to his reading corner. Draco follows suit after he's washed his hands.

"How was that meeting you mentioned last week? You were kinda worried about the proposal," Harry pipes up after a while.

"It went well. I'm not that good in the kitchen, but I know what I'm doing in the board room," Draco replies with pride.

Harry smiles. "That's good."

A cold draft crawls over Draco's skin, and he shivers.

"You always get cold easily," Harry says. He performs a wandless Accio, summoning the blanket and draping it over Draco. Draco pulls his knees up to his chest and huddles under the blanket.

"It's not my fault you've got a thick skin," Draco jabs back without bite. Harry laughs and sips on his coffee.

They lapse into a comfortable silence. The night wraps around them — dreamy, still and quiet, save for the sporadic honk of a car and the howl of a stray dog. The bright lights of central London glimmer in the horizon, beckoning Draco to it, but there's nowhere else in the world he'd rather be right now, right here with Harry.

Harry scoots closer to Draco, but keeps his silence, allowing Draco to stay lost in the moment. It's just like Hogwarts all over again: when they were lying on the grass near the Great Lake and gazing up at the stars. Close enough to touch, yet too far away because the paths set in their futures were never supposed to cross. Harry was supposed to marry the Weaslette, while Draco had plans to settle down with Astoria. Fast-forward two years later, and neither of that still stands.

Anything can happen now, and that tantalising whisper of possibility and promise thrills and chills Draco at the same time.

It's been three weeks since Draco's first visit to the rooftop, and with every minute spent in Harry's company, the questions "Do you fancy men? Or more specifically, do you fancy me?" threaten to tumble from Draco's lips. He finds himself daydreaming more about Harry when his mind idles.

He edges a glance at Harry. His eyes are closed and he has a small smile on his lips, as if he's soaking up this exact moment too. Draco's hand inches towards Harry's, and he wonders what will happen if he grabs it.

He still remembers the way Harry's body felt — strong and secure — behind him.

I'm falling harder for him.

Their sexuality wasn't something they dragged out into the open. If Draco eventually mustered the guts to ask those questions, what would happen if Harry's answers were negative? Draco would rather lie in wait for more hints and observations of Harry's behaviour before doing anything as rash as that.

The oven beeps.

Draco withdraws his hand at once. Harry opens his eyes.

They move to the oven. Harry levitates the treats onto a cooling tray. "Looks pretty good. First time you baked anything, yeah?" he says, grinning. Draco bends down to study the treats at eye-level, checking to see if they really were decent.

Satisfied, Draco straightens up. "First time for everything."

Harry's eyes soften. He leans forward, his gaze heart-stoppingly intense.

Draco's breath catches in his throat.

"Yeah. First time for everything," Harry echoes.

Draco's tongue darts out to lick his lower lip. He doesn't dare say anything, lest he break the spell. He shifts closer, and Harry's moving closer too—

A pair of loud hoots startle them, and they jump apart.

Hedwig and Humphrey soar towards them. Hedwig stops, tilts her head and spreads a wing across Humphrey, as if to stop him from advancing further. But there's no use — Draco recognises the way Humphrey's eyes light up the second he spots the treats on the cooling tray.

"No, Humphrey, that's not for you," Draco warns, wagging a finger at him.

Humphrey screeches in annoyance, but settles down at Draco's side. He starts to groom himself, nibbling at his claws and toes with his beak.

Draco looks at Harry, who retreats, looks down at the floor and rubs the back of his neck.

Draco clears his throat. "I... should get going. Goodnight, Potter."

"Goodnight," Harry says, raising a hand and flashing him a lopsided smile. He summons an empty container and begins to put the treats away.

As Draco packs up his files and documents on Harry's coffee table, he doesn't know why he's so disappointed.


"Is there any place you've always wanted to go?"

Draco wrinkles his nose at Harry's question.

"Paris."

"Really?" Harry sits up straight, scattering the crumbs from his jumper onto the floor. "That's surprising. Paris is pretty near. I thought you would've been there before."

Draco pulls the bag of crisps closer to him and fishes around for a decently sized piece. "I haven't had the time. Even if I do leave London, it's for work or to visit my parents in Florence. Paris is just one of those things that I like to think of. I'll visit it someday," he says, popping a crisp into his mouth.

A pause.

"Let's go to Paris now," Harry says.

Draco almost chokes on his crisp.

"What? You can't be serious!" he says, astonished. He puts the bag down and stares at Harry, his mind whirring. "I've got a meeting tomorrow morning, and I'm certain all of the Portkeys going to Paris today are unavailable!"

"I've got a few friends in the Ministry," Harry says, unfazed. He pulls out his mobile phone and taps on the screen. "It's four in the afternoon now. We'll spend the evening there, and I can have you home before midnight." He pauses, looks at Draco and chuckles. "It's almost as if you're Cinderella."

"Cinderella? I don't understand—" Draco says, yelping when Harry reaches over to grab him by the hand, propelling him out of the beanbag to lead him down the stairs.

"Wait, Potter, you can't just whisk me away to Paris!" Draco bellows, yanking his hand away.

"Why not?" Harry asks, his eyes narrowed in challenge.

Speechless, Draco simply flaps a hand in the air. He has never been one for last minute surprises. "Because..." he trails off, noticing the impatient way Harry's fingers are drumming against his thigh and the defiant tilt to his chin. Harry's phone chimes, but he pays it no attention; he's so focused on Draco and his answer.

Draco can't think of a good reason.

"I guess we are going to Paris," Draco says eventually, his words faint and full of disbelief.

A wicked smile tugs at the corners of Harry's mouth. He whoops and punches the air in exhilaration. He looks at the text on his phone.

"The next Portkey for Paris leaves in twenty minutes. Let's go!"

They scramble to Harry's Floo, reaching Portkey Central in record time. They hurtle through Customs — Harry gives his effusive thanks to a redhead at the counter, who rolls her eyes good-naturedly at Harry and looks at Draco in curiosity — and manage to reach the Portkey with three minutes to spare.

Harry's enthusiasm is infectious, and Draco shares a grin with him as they wait for the Portkey to activate. It's like they're eighteen all over again: when Harry persuaded Draco to skip class to visit Hogsmeade after curfew — "We've survived a war, Draco, and you're telling me that we need permission to go to the nearby village to buy candy?" — or sneaking into the Slytherin dorms and waking Draco up at two in the morning to play Quidditch or explore the castle.

In one way or another, Harry's always tempting Draco with his flights of fancies and adventure.

And Draco can't do anything else but hold on tight.

Portkey Central in Paris isn't that different from its counterpart in London: the same hubbub of organised chaos with passengers rushing to catch their Portkeys. Advertisements on humongous billboards rotate every so often. A large clock and massive information board of times and Portkey numbers hang from the ceiling, erasing and rewriting itself with each new departure and arrival. Knots of travellers — families, backpackers, tourists, locals — mill around the waiting areas. Draco hears murmurs of French, along with snatches of other languages such as Italian. A nearby toddler howls, and Draco winces.

The fashion sense of the French is different, however — they've eschewed the normal wizarding garb of cloaks, robes and hats, instead veering towards a distinctive Muggle attire of jeans, dresses and trainers. And the men here... Draco turns his head, keeping a blond man wearing a tailored suit and carrying a briefcase in his line of sight.

Harry tugs him ahead, drawing his attention away from the blond.

Draco catches a whiff of pastries baking — something chocolate, his favourite — from a nearby cafe. In his distraction, he almost gets his feet mowed over by a trolley. He jumps back and stares at the teenager behind the trolley, who had been tapping her wand on her mobile phone.

She stops, blows a pink bubble with her bubble-gum and glares back at Draco. Her gaze travels to Harry, and her eyes widen the same time her bubble pops over her lips. Harry pats his fringe over his scar and quickly moves on.

"Why am I not surprised that they recognise you here too?" Draco drawls.

Harry ignores the question and pulls him into a corner behind a potted plant.

"What d'you wanna do here?" he asks, fixing Draco with an expectant look. "I'm not familiar with wizarding Paris, but I'm sure we can figure something out if you wanna go there. Is there a particular reason you chose Paris?"

"I..." Draco starts. In fact, he had heard about Paris from Pansy, who had been raving about the historical attractions and fashion districts in wizarding Paris. Since Harry isn't comfortable in the wizarding area, he wouldn't mind skipping that today. Besides, he's curious of the places that Harry visits when he's here.

"Well, where do you go when you're here?" he says. The image of Harry's rooftop — cosy, warm and peaceful — enters his mind. "I'm fine with Muggle Paris, although I'd prefer somewhere quieter. Maybe somewhere with a nice view? I get enough of the city at work."

"Oh, I've got a place," Harry says, after a moment. He offers his arm to Draco. "Side-along?"

They Apparate to a secluded alley a few steps away from the main avenue. A blue street plate reads rue de Rivoli. They thread through the bustling cobblestone streets, passing by bistros, boutiques, money exchanges and shops selling tacky tourist souvenirs.

Anticipation and excitement swirl in Draco. He steals a glance at Harry. They're together in a place that Draco's always wanted to visit, and Draco bites his lip to stop the silly smile spreading across his face. He suppresses his longing to hold Harry's hand. Instead, he looks up at the blue sky. It's a beautiful day, save for the smattering of dark clouds in the distance.

Eventually, they reach their destination.

"Jardin des Tuileries," Harry sweeps his arm out and announces grandly in a rather mangled French accent, making Draco snicker. "You wanted somewhere quiet with a nice view, and I remember you like colourful things. This should fit the bill."

The first thing that catches Draco's attention are the green gardens, studded with blooming tufts of flowers in splashes of stunning colour — purple, yellow and red. A few children burst like comets through a flock of pigeons, scattering the birds in all directions.

Draco's mouth stretches into a slow, delighted smile. "This is... fantastic," he whispers. "Thank you for taking me here."

"Glad you like it," Harry says, mirroring Draco's grin.

They stroll down a row of perfectly pruned trees, which stand at attention like soldiers at a parade. As they pass by a series of sculptures, Draco pauses to read the inscriptions accompanying each sculpture. An ice cream cart coloured like a candy cane appears to be the star attraction for a knot of children and their families.

They reach a large pond with a burbling fountain in the middle. A cluster of ducks quack and flap their wings to return to the pond when Harry and Draco approach them to take their seats on two of the many green chairs arranged haphazardly around the perimeter of the pond.

"That's the Louvre Museum." Harry points to a stern-looking and massive building topped with a dark-grey roof in the far distance. Nearer to them, trees stretch their branches in protective arcs above picnickers on the green grass.

Draco asks, "Do you come here often?"

"I don't visit Paris often, but when I do, I always come here. My first visit was with Ron and Hermione. It's one of my favourite places of the city." Harry smiles at the sight of a girl shouting and chasing after a dog off its leash. "I like the anonymity, the peace. It's quiet, but not secluded. I like to bring along my notes and iPod, park myself here for the afternoon and think of new recipes."

A mother seated beside Draco wheels her pram back and forth, hushing her whimpering baby. The baby peers up at him with wide blue eyes and gurgles, raising her small fists towards him. Harry leans over to coo and wave at her, while Draco ignores her, looking straight ahead.

The Muggles around the pond are engaged in a variety of activities: napping, reading, talking to each other while clasping bottles of beer. There are couples holding hands, and families on their respective electronic devices, together yet apart.

Draco leans back on the chair and lets out a long, heartfelt sigh, releasing the tension in his body. It's been a long time since he's felt as relaxed and loose-limbed as this, without a care in the world. The unwelcome thought of the meeting tomorrow morning barges into his mind, but he pushes it away just as quickly.

"You work yourself too hard. What would you be doing now if you were back in London? Probably at home working, yeah?" Harry says.

Draco would argue with him, but Harry's right. Draco frowns. "I can take care of myself. The business, however, can't."

"I know you're perfectly capable of looking after yourself," Harry says, shifting his chair closer. "But… well… wouldn't it be nice if someone told you, 'let me take care of you,' for once?"

Are you offering? Those words are on the tip of Draco's tongue, but he swallows them. Instead, he makes a non-committal sound.

Time passes in alternating bouts of silence and light-hearted conversation, only to be interrupted when pinpricks of rain ripple on the surface of the pond. When the rain gets heavier, the Muggles exclaim in French and start to leave, taking refuge in the neighbouring cafes.

"Let's go. Shall we get some dinner?" Draco suggests, standing up.

Instead, Harry stays put.

Draco tilts his head, confused. "It's raining," he says slowly and gestures to the thickening rain, as if he's explaining something to a particularly unobservant person.

"Have you ever danced in the rain before?" Harry asks.

"Of course not!" Draco replies, alarmed. "That doesn't sound healthy at all."

Harry grins at Draco, and there's a mischievous glint in his eye that Draco knows very well.

"Oh no. No," Draco says with growing realisation, shaking his head. "We are absolutely not dancing in the rain. That is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard of, Potter, wait, wait!" His voice spirals up into a surprised shout, for Harry has lunged up into a sprint, grabbing Draco along for the ride.

"It's fun!" Harry declares, slowing down. He laughs, a light-hearted, bubbly laugh that reminds Draco of summer and sunshine. He turns around to face Draco and jogs backwards. "Welcome to Paris!" he calls, splaying his arms out.

"There're other ways to have fun. Unlike you, Potter, I am a person of common sense!" Draco points out, staying rooted to the spot. "Besides, the only sort of dancing Malfoys partake in is ballroom dancing."

Rainwater trickles down between Draco's shoulder blades, and a shiver trembles down his spine.

"Live a little, Draco!" Harry says, throwing his head back and cheering. He faces the front and cavorts onwards, doing a little jig.

Harry's always been impulsive, like a runaway train with no fixed destination in mind, and Draco can only hold on and hang tight to him, wishing that Harry wouldn't leave him behind.

Rain plops hard on the ground, and gravel crunches under his Italian loafers as Draco groans and increases his pace. When Draco is near, Harry grabs him by the hand, and they laugh and jog past the fields of flowers and sculptures.

Draco had never thought that he'd be twenty years old and running around in the rain and jumping in puddles like a kid. It's strange how he doesn't feel chilly; maybe because Harry's touch is so warm. Draco squeezes his hand, and Harry smiles back at him and returns the squeeze.

There's no one else in the gardens, and it feels like it's just the two of them in this world.

Every cell in Draco's body feels alive, ignited by Harry's presence. He's dancing in the rain in Paris with Harry. With Harry, the person he thought he'd never see again after his sudden departure. The orderly, rigidly controlled compartments of his life have been muddled up, their contents thrown all over the place by a wayward Harry.

And it feels so bloody good, so unexpected, so liberating.

Being in Harry's company is downright exhilarating.

Draco laughs, his giddy laugh turning into the sort of laughter that makes you bend over with your hands on your knees, wheezing.

"You're insane, Potter!" Draco shouts amidst chuckles.

Harry breaks into a run towards a nearby lamppost, skips onto the base and twirls around it in a dramatic fashion, with one arm curled around the lamppost and the other arm out-stretched, as if he's performing in a musical.

"Or I could just be brave!" Harry calls, dissolving into laughter as he hops down and returns to Draco's side.

They laugh and dance their way back to the entrance, finally obtaining shelter at a quiet spot in the garden. They're drenched, with their clothes sticking to their bodies. Draco discreetly checks out Harry's bare torso as Harry lifts up the hem of his shirt to wipe his face. His glasses are free of rain — he must've imbued his glasses with an Impervius Charm.

Draco wriggles his toes in his shoes. Even his socks are soaked. His hair is plastered to the nape of his neck, and he cards his fingers through his hair.

He sneezes. "Honestly, Potter, if I catch my death of cold, it'll be your fault."

"Still such a drama queen," Harry says good-naturedly. After checking to make sure no one's around, Harry pulls out his wand and casts warming and drying charms on them. Draco closes his eyes and sighs in bliss at the soothing calm of Harry's magic coiling over him.

"You were saying something about food earlier?" Harry asks, stowing his wand away. "We could go to a bistro or pop into a supermarket and get something to go. The view along the River Seine is brilliant."

Draco agrees to the latter option, and they're off again, scrambling with their hands covering their heads in the short distance from the gardens back to the street. They can't cast Impervius Charms on themselves, if not the Muggles might get suspicious, but at least most of the way was sheltered.

They visit the moneychanger, and end up spending a rather long time in the supermarket as Draco finds Muggle supermarkets, especially self-checkout counters, particularly entertaining.

It's sunset when they reach their destination, and Draco sees at once why this is one of Harry's favourite spots along the Seine. They sit down on the concrete bank flanking the river.

"It's beautiful," Draco murmurs, wide-eyed.

The view is breath-taking: the top of the sky is a deep sapphire blue, gradually lightening in shade as it meets the fading orange glow of the setting sun. A few clouds drift along in the sky, some of their thin and ragged edges softly illuminated by the waning light. The Eiffel Tower — iconic and glorious in all of its golden sparkling lights — is in the distance, and in the foreground is an ornately decorated bridge that spans the river. Ferries carrying tourists chug along the river, passing under the bridge. While the tourists are busy snapping photographs, a group of teenagers nearby hollers their greetings and waves at them. There's a twang of a guitar, and it's not long before the kids strike up a short tune in French.

"There's music," Harry says. "And even art." He gestures to a pair of artists painting on their canvases, dipping their brushes into their palettes every so often.

Draco looks at the food that Harry has unpacked: a selection of cheeses, a hearty pulled pork sandwich for Harry, a ham and cheese baguette for Draco, and a box of chocolate macarons that Harry recommended.

The weather is cooling, the air sweet and refreshing with the faint scent of the previous rain. A playful breeze glides over them as they eat and talk. Encouraged by Draco's questions ("What's the bridge over there called?"), Harry tells him about the scenery ("Pont Alexandre III.") and the other countries that he's been to.

The reflection of the lights on the bridge flicker on the surface of the river, accompanied by the twinkling lights of the city littering the landscape like stars. A handful of small boats bob on the side of the river. Draco stares at the hypnotising ebb and flow of the ripples on the water, transfixed.

Eventually, he offers the last macaron to Harry, who shakes his head.

"You can have it. I know how much you like chocolate."

Secretly pleased, Draco nibbles on the treat, marvelling at the delicate shell and the thick chocolate filling. "Really?"

Harry laughs. "How could I forget? You'd gobble up every chocolate dessert, especially the tarts, during dinner."

Draco sniffs. "I do not gobble, thank you very much."

"Sure you don't," Harry says, dragging the sure out in a mocking tone.

Night drapes around them, like their companionable silence. Draco looks around, noting the surrounding couples. He bites his lower lip and inches closer towards Harry. Snapshots of recent events play out in his mind: scenes of them at Harry's rooftop laughing over one thing or another, making owl treats together, dancing in the rain, and one memory that's no longer recent...

"Now? You have to leave now?! But the Leaving Ceremony's next week!" Harry exclaimed, and quickly hid something behind his back.

"Yes. My parents are in danger. Blaise and his mother are taking us to Italy, where we'll be safe. I have to go now, but I just had to come and say..." Draco trailed off, looking away.

The shadows stretched and slithered across the walls of the Astronomy Tower, the glittering moonlight illuminating Harry's crestfallen face. Draco rearranged his features to form a bland smile, retreating into polite formality.

"Goodbye, Potter." He wanted to say more, but how could he put into words the emotions thundering through him?

Harry took a step back. "Goodbye, Malfoy," he said, his voice brittle.

His heart sinking to his shoes, Draco turned away and fled.

For a long time, that was Draco's last memory of Harry — standing opposite him in the Tower in the middle of the night, his eyes midnight with sadness, shoulders slumped in resignation and clutching something behind his back.

Until now.

Draco edges a glance at Harry, his nerves flittering. Harry's legs are swinging back and forth, his trainers hitting the concrete with every swing. His hands are clasped loosely in his lap as he gazes in dark-eyed rapture at the scenery. Harry catches Draco looking and tilts his face towards him. Harry's lips tug up into an indulgent smile before he turns back to the river.

The magnetic attraction that Draco feels towards Harry multiples ten-fold.

It's been a magical day, almost like a... date. He's tired of this game, tired of their secret smiles, this back-and-forth flirting with no end and no resolution in sight. Again, those same questions about Harry's sexuality rear up in his mind. He tries to suppress them, swallow them down, but after tonight, he's not sure he can.

Or I could just be brave.

Draco opens his mouth to ask, but something entirely different comes out from his mouth instead.

"Paris is beautiful, but so are you."

Harry turns back, his eyes impossibly wide.

And then Draco leans forward, closes his eyes and kisses Harry on the lips.

Draco's fingers clench around the edge of the concrete, his heart beating so fast as if it's a frantic creature running. Draco presses his lips further, but except for a sharp intake of breath, Harry doesn't react.

Draco pulls away at once, a blush mounting in his cheeks. Harry's jaw is slack, and he looks dazed. Their gaze snags in the air; a layer of breached secrets thrumming and shivering between them.

The easy, intimate atmosphere melts away, the way dreams dissolve and vanish.

Draco had been a fool, an utter and complete fool. He showed his hand when the time wasn't right. He'd been swept away in the City of Love, carried on a wave of overwhelming emotions that he should never have revealed.

He makes a rather embarrassing sound, his words stuck in his throat for a moment. "I… wasn't thinking right. It must've been the rain. Made my head go soft. I'm sorry," he babbles, getting up and surging into a stumbling run.

He had misread the situation, but at least he finally had his answer. Disappointment floods his veins like ice-cold water.

It wasn't supposed to end like this.

He might have heard Harry calling his name, but with his luck, it's probably just his imagination.

Draco Apparates away, abandoning Harry for the second time in their friendship.


Draco looks up from his book. Humphrey glides to his bedside, his beak clutching fresh parchment, an envelope and an empty packet of Speccy's Owl Treats. Humphrey drops the items on his lap.

Humphrey cocks his head at Draco and hoots in frustration.

Draco sighs, bookmarks his page and puts his book down.

"I'm not stopping you from visiting him or your friends, you know," he points out.

Humphrey hops closer, lowers his body and burrows his head beneath Draco's open palm. He peers up at Draco.

Despite himself, Draco smiles and strokes Humphrey on the head between his ear tufts.

"Besides, what would you like me to write? 'I'm sorry for kissing you when you didn't want me to? But don't worry, I'll still buy your treats,'" he says. "That won't come out right at all."

After a while, Humphrey gives Draco one last nuzzle on his hand and pulls away. He lets out a comforting chirrup and nips Draco affectionately on the finger. His orange eyes are bright with determination as he flies out the window.

Draco sinks back into the pillow and picks up his book. His eyes loop over and over on the same paragraph. It's no use, his mind is drifting away to the kiss again: Harry's slightly chapped lips against his own, the scent of his shampoo and the warmth of his body.

Two days have passed, and he still can't stop replaying that moment, and the fact that Harry didn't kiss back. Draco shakes his head to clear his mind and returns to his book.

He's just about finished with the chapter when the doorbell rings. He glances at the clock — it's eleven on a Monday night. It can't be Pansy, Blaise or someone close from work; they'd arrive by the Floo. It can't be his parents either, because they'd write first before visiting, unless...

Draco catapults up to a sitting position on the bed, with a growing sense of unease.

Unless something bad has happened to them.

He hurries to the door and yanks it open, only to see Harry standing at the threshold.

"Hi. I hope I'm not interrupting," Harry says, the end of his sentence hiking up into a question.

Draco's heart is still beating fast, although for a different reason altogether.

"I... no, you didn't."

"Can I come in, then?"

Draco nods and moves to the side, granting Harry entry. When Draco turns back after locking the door, Harry is standing in the middle of the living room, his eyes roaming around the place. His gaze falls on Draco, and he wipes his hands on his jeans.

"Right, I'll just come out with it." Harry takes a deep breath. "Why did you kiss me that night in Paris?"

There are many things that Draco was expecting Harry to say, perhaps something along the lines of dissolving their friendship because Harry doesn't reciprocate his feelings, or somewhere on the other side of the spectrum — Harry returning his feelings, but this, this was...

"Out of all the—" Draco starts, his eyes wide and his tone incredulous. Indignation wells up in him — coupled with all the over-thinking over the past few days and Harry's ridiculous question — and propels his irritation to greater heights. He looks around wildly, his gaze locking on a stack of fresh parchment. "Why would I kiss you? Well, Potter," he spits out Harry's last name, "Why don't you tell me?"

With that, Draco snatches up a sheet of parchment, mashes it between his fingers and tosses it at Harry, who bats it away with his Seeker reflexes.

This only infuriates Draco even more.

Within seconds, he's muttering darkly under his breath and lobbing crumpled-up balls of parchment at Harry with such speed and ferocity that Harry can barely block half of them.

"Hey! Stop it—" Harry cries, lifting his arms to shield himself from the onslaught of parchment balls.

"What sort of idiotic question is that? You can jolly well answer it yourself!"

"I don't bloody know, that's why I'm asking you, yeah? Maybe you wanted to experiment with another bloke, or maybe you were caught up in the mood, with all the couples kissing around us—" Harry yelps when another one hits him on the forehead. He glares at Draco, his voice escalating to a furious shout. "So I thought I'd better make it clear before I tell you I've fancied you for ages, you great pillock!"

Draco freezes in the midst of launching another projectile.

That was the angriest declaration of affection that he's ever heard.

"Although at times like these, I wonder why I do," Harry mumbles, kicking a parchment ball with his shoe.

Draco slowly puts down the last ball of parchment, his irritation deflating. He clears his throat and shuffles towards Harry until they're standing close enough to touch.

"But… but you didn't kiss back."

"I didn't, because I was too shocked. And when I wanted to, you ran off." Harry says, looking away briefly. "It was my choice to become your friend, but falling for you two years ago... I couldn't control myself, even though I know I shouldn't."

Draco's body seizes up in disbelief. He lets out a long and deep breath, a breath that feels as if he's been holding back for a very long time.

"The Weaslette..."

"Yeah, about that… we broke up because of... well... you."

Draco points to himself. "Me? I turned you gay?" he asks, inwardly flattered.

Harry raises his eyebrows and picks up a parchment ball littered around their feet. "Don't be so bloody pleased with yourself." He throws the ball at Draco, and it bounces off his chest. "I'm not gonna rehash the Great Sexuality Crisis of 1999."

Harry grabs another ball, throws it up into the air and catches it. "I kinda got over you eventually and saw other people, but none of them worked out." He pauses in tossing the ball and looks at Draco. "And then you re-appeared again, and it felt just like old times. Like… like you belonged in my life, y'know?"

Draco smiles. "Yeah."

"What about you? I thought you were straight?"

"Astoria and I grew apart. After we broke off the engagement, I ended up going out with a man, but… you were the first bloke I was attracted to. At the time, I thought it was just a phase, but apparently not." Draco sighs. "So to answer your question, I kissed you because I like you. In a more-than-friends way."

A thought strikes Draco. "Hang on, who gave you my address?"

A cheeky smirk spreads across Harry's face, and he pulls out an empty envelope from his pocket. The envelope — originally containing a letter from his parents — states Draco's address written in his mother's elegant penmanship.

Humphrey must've salvaged that from the waste-paper bin. As if on cue, there's a flutter of wings, and the owl himself soars into the house. Humphrey looks back and forth between them.

"Humps dropped this off at my place a while ago. I came over when I got it." He turns to Humphrey. "Thanks," he whispers, reaching into his other pocket and tossing Humphrey a treat.

Humphrey purrs and catches it in his beak.

"You know he's doing this purely for the promise of more food," Draco says, rolling his eyes.

Harry shrugs, grinning. "I think he deserves it, yeah? Come back to mine?"

Draco agrees, and they Apparate to Harry's place. They head straight to the rooftop, towards Draco's favourite spot — the reading nook.

Harry's fidgeting — his fingers lacing and unlacing, while his right foot is tapping out a rhythm on the wooden floor. Although Draco is looking straight ahead, he can see Harry shooting him glances in his peripheral vision. Draco's about to ask him about it when Harry blurts out, "I wanted to kiss you that day. In Paris. In the rain." His grin softens into a dreamy smile. "I loved seeing you like that."

Draco licks his lips. His heart is racing in his chest as he places his cushion away and slides closer to Harry.

Harry stops fidgeting at once. His eyes are half-lidded when Draco closes in. Their lips meet, and the tension in Draco's body melts away when Harry kisses back. It starts a little bit clumsy, with their noses and front teeth bumping, but it eventually smoothens out into a slow and luxurious kiss, one as gentle as a summer's day.

The warmth of Harry's body is intoxicating, especially when he wraps an arm around Draco's waist, his hand fisting into Draco's shirt. Draco moans, and their movements acquire an intensity and urgency that makes Draco's heart pound even faster. His palm skates across Harry's shoulder blades, his fingers brushing Harry's hair on the nape of his neck before descending to his arm. Draco feels Harry's kiss turn into a smile when Harry flexes his bicep. Show-off, Draco wants to say, but talking requires breaking away from the kiss, and Draco doesn't want to do that. Instead, he clenches Harry's muscles and growls in desire.

They pull away eventually; slowly, hesitating at first, their exhaled breaths mingling against their lips. Harry's hand finds the back of Draco's neck, and they rest their foreheads together, breathing in shallow, furious synchronisation.

Harry leans forward to peck Draco on the lips before withdrawing, and Draco smiles when he sees that Harry's face is engulfed in a lovely pink glow of a blush.

Harry reaches over to the small table to grab something. It appears to be four tickets. He places two tickets on the bench, and Draco looks at the remaining two clasped in Harry's hand — these are tickets for the London Zoo dated in the year 1999.

Harry clears his throat. "That night at the Astronomy Tower, I had these tickets. I knew you liked animals and were curious about Muggles, so I thought... well..." He shrugs. "But you left in the end."

"And you kept them after all this time?" Draco asks, touched.

"Yeah." Harry picks up the other two tickets. "I'm hoping you still like animals and haven't gone to the zoo yet, because these are tickets valid for this month. I bought them a few days back on a whim, hoping you'd go with me, so… are you free next Saturday night?"

Draco feels his face breaking into an electric smile, and he nods. "I'd love to."

"Brilliant," Harry says, pleased. He places one ticket in Draco's hand and grabs his other hand, lacing his fingers through his.

Draco stares at his ticket.

It was an invitation and a kiss two years too late, and Draco wonders why it had taken so long for them to be together like this.

A pair of loud hoots break the silence. Hedwig and Humphrey glide towards them, returning to their respective owners. Humphrey looks at their joined hands and puffs his chest out with pride. He spies a bowl of owl treats and hops over to it, dunking his beak into the bowl and looking extremely pleased with himself.

"He's going to eat up all of your profit margin." Draco says, sighing. "And he's going to become so fat."

Harry laughs. "Perhaps. But he brought you back to me, so he deserves all the treats he wants."

And so, the four of them — two owls with a delightful penchant for matchmaking, along with their humans — sit on the rooftop at night, gazing at the twinkling London skyline. Harry and Draco are holding hands, smiling dreamily to themselves as they think about each other. Beside Harry, Hedwig ruffles her feathers, curious about her new friend who can't seem to stop eating.

Humphrey perches a short distance away from Draco's right and looks at their humans. He's glad that his human and The Provider of Heavenly Treats are together.

Humphrey perks up when a stray thought enters his mind.

Perhaps he should work on a plan to get his human to move in with Hedwig's human, so he can enjoy unlimited treats every day!

But he knows how stubborn and proud his human can be, so he doubts that will happen anytime soon. Still, they seem happy together, so Humphrey is genuinely glad for them.

Humphrey relaxes and settles down, purring in contentment.

One day at a time.


/fin