Detestable Logic - by Sara's Girl
Disclaimer: I don't own Potterverse, but I do have to lay a claim to any and all talking cupboards appearing in this fic XD
AN - a tiny Foundations!verse ficlet for the lovely summermoonpaint. Pointless, plotless, fairly fluffy and set somewhere during Chapter Twelve, though that's not too important.
Endless thanks to Marie for inspiration and for enduring my customary angsting ['Is it boring?'/'Is it weird?'/'Is it cold?'].
This is not any of the 'proper' things I am currently trying to write. Suspect they may have to wait until I'm home again, whenever that may be. Please be patient with me 3
"Your pan is going to boil over," advises the cool voice from behind Harry as he simultaneously casts Molly's patented Anti-Onion-Tears spell, shakes his head silently and rummages around in the cupboard for the rosemary.
"Thank you, Draco," he mutters, noting that Draco is making no move toward doing anything about it.
Which is about right, he supposes. This is the natural order of things in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place, and has been for some months now—Harry cooks, and Draco... well, Harry's not certain exactly what Draco's role is, but it seems to involve a lot of sitting, watching, pointing, and criticising.
"It is, look at all the bubbles," Draco adds helpfully, and Harry murmurs a wandless spell to reduce the heat under the pan in question.
Supervisor? Director of Operations? Master of Ceremonies? Harry snorts softly, fingers finally closing around the glass jar containing the rosemary. The cupboard issues an odd creak of protest and promptly closes, trapping his forearm in a vicelike grip.
Harry yelps but somehow keeps hold of the spice jar. Chewing his lip, he counts to ten inside his head and wonders, not for the first time, why exactly he's about to begin negotiating with a cupboard. The top cupboard has always been an obstinate bit of furniture, but it hasn't escaped Harry's notice that it often registers its disapproval at his culinary decisions by refusing to open at all, or by clamping down on whichever part of Harry it can reach.
"It's a lamb stew," he says through gritted teeth. "Rosemary is a perfectly acceptable choice of seasoning, and you know it. I know it. Even Draco knows it."
"I wouldn't be too sure about that," Draco puts in, and there's a clatter as he sets down his coffee cup on the kitchen table. Despite the pain tingling in his jammed forearm, Harry smiles for a moment at the onion-strewn counter, and then: "Perhaps you should listen to him, Harry. Isn't rosemary the one that smells funny?"
Irritation prickling, Harry's smile twists into a scowl. Truth be told, he doesn't mind cooking for Draco at all. He doesn't even mind that he does all the cooking, but what does irk him is that everyone's a critic and no one ever fucking asks him if he wants any help. Not that he thinks he'd want help from that bastard cupboard even if it were capable. Or so inclined to offer.
For now, the cupboard says nothing but does not slacken its grip on Harry, and he's beginning to lose sensation in his hand. Which cannot be good.
"Not helping, Draco," he says at last, and there's a slightly indignant 'hmph' sound from the man behind him.
Harry doesn't need to see him to know that he's sitting in his usual position for dinner-supervising—cross-legged atop the kitchen table with the Prophet open across his lap and his hands wrapped around the ubiquitous coffee cup. He looks immaculate and completely relaxed, despite what Harry knows has been a gruelling day at Foundations, and that knowledge just adds an extra spike to Harry's irritation. He knows he looks terrible, messy and crumpled and hollow-eyed after a twelve-hour shift, and it's just not fair, really.
He sighs. Flexes his fingers inside the cupboard with some difficulty, still refusing to relinquish the rosemary on principle and trying to remember a time when he felt like the boss of his own kitchen.
"What about some cinnamon instead?" Draco suggests with a creak as he shifts position on the ancient table. Harry lifts an eyebrow to no one in particular and makes a face. "It's already out on the counter. It always smells nice. You can't fail."
Harry just about refrains from letting his head drop forward to bang against the cupboard door—hard—and only manages it because he's afraid he'll end up losing his hand in the process. He loves Draco, he really does, but sometimes he's bloody hard work. Actually, he considers, most of the time he's bloody hard work, but then it's not as though he hasn't always known that.
"Two things." Harry heaves a weary sigh. "One, you really are not helping, and two, 'fail' will be the only appropriate word to describe a lamb and cinnamon stew. Believe me. And as for you," he adds, fixing the cupboard with what he hopes is a stern stare, "Hermione's just had a brilliant new kitchen put in. It's all open-plan, lots of shelves and no cupboards at all. Looked very nice, actually, all light and airy, and I was thinking I might just—"
Harry falls silent as the cupboard swings open with an offended squeak, releasing his arm at last. Quickly, he retracts it, depositing the jar on the counter and attempting to simultaneously shake and rub his hand. He winces as the blood rushes back into his veins and is only half-listening to the screeching complaints of the cupboard and the rustling from behind him as Draco returns to his newspaper with what sounds suspiciously like soft laughter.
"Well, think on," Harry mutters, tuning them both out and examining his shiniest onion-slicing knife with satisfaction.
For a long, pleasant few moments, an almost-silence descends over the kitchen; the only sounds are the gentle bubble of the various liquids in their pans on the stove and the soft crackle as Harry methodically divests the onions of their skins. He luxuriates in the warmth and the beginnings of cooking smells, losing himself in his repetitive task and puzzling absent-mindedly over his newest patient. Cooking is a great space for thinking. He barely notices when Draco's paper stops rustling, until:
"You missed a bit."
Jolted out of his thoughts, Harry casts his eyes around the counter until he locates an onion with a tiny patch of golden skin still clinging to the shiny flesh. He groans. Yanking the offending skin away and flicking it across the counter, he skins the last onion and picks up his knife, slicing into the vegetable with more venom than is probably necessary. God, he's tired.
"Wouldn't it be easier if you used magic for that?" Draco puts in, and Harry closes his eyes.
For a split second he muses that surely Draco should've had enough of bossing people around after a whole day terrorizing his staff team, and then he quickly realises just how ridiculous that idea is.
His fingers grip the knife handle hard, and somewhere in the back of his head he's impressed by the level of his self-control these days. In the not-too-distant past, he'd have lost it by now, because although he's almost certain that Draco isn't deliberately trying to make him angry, his helpful suggestions are incredibly wearing, especially as he has no clue what he's talking about. As far as Harry knows, in almost twenty-four years, Draco Malfoy hasn't so much as boiled an egg.
And he hates himself for it, but a part of him finds that fact rather charming.
Flap-creak, says the cupboard softly, as though concerned that Harry might've forgotten about it.
"Shelving," he murmurs, and returns to his slicing. He is a calm, imperturbable flowing stream. Or something.
After all, he doesn't want to pick a fight. It's almost nine-thirty on a Tuesday evening; they're both shattered and Harry just wants to eat something warm and crash into bed. He suspects this is partially his own fault for insisting on cooking rather than just sending out for something gourmet and delicious like Draco suggested, so he's going to have to—
Draco coughs, interrupting his thoughts. "You know, you should really—"
Exasperated, Harry whirls around, slimy knife still in hand, and Draco falls silent immediately at the look he knows must be on his face. Grey eyes blink innocently and Draco presses his lips together in a show of faux submission that couldn't be more pointed if he'd actually drawn his fingers across his lips in a childish zipping motion.
Harry takes a deep, cleansing breath and a moment to observe the familiar, warm irritant that is the man he loves, sitting atop the kitchen table like he belongs there. Draco, for once, says nothing, just gazes back at Harry with calm interest, hair falling into his eyes and long fingers picking at the worn black leather around his wrist.
"I'll just carry on, shall I?" Harry says eventually, voice softer than he thinks it should be, and Draco's small half-smile is an immediate salve to his irritation, even if he knows it shouldn't be.
He has just about finished with the onions when Draco speaks again.
"Who taught you to cook?" he asks, voice tinged with curiosity, and the question is so unexpected that Harry pauses, knife thunking against the chopping board. "I know it wasn't Granger," Draco continues, and Harry considers and then reconsiders objecting to the slight against Hermione's culinary skills. "Curious minds need to know."
Harry listens to him drinking his coffee and frowns at the carrot that he doesn't remember starting to scrape. He doesn't know if it's Draco's question or just coincidence, but all of a sudden his head is full of the sharp voice of Petunia Dursley, and her frequent cry of: 'You're doing it all wrong.'
"My aunt," Harry says at last, shaking himself and trying to decide how to satisfy Draco's curiosity—and satisfy it he must, because he knows he'll never hear the end of it otherwise—without turning it into another one of those Sad Tales from Harry's Past.
"The evil Muggle?" Draco's voice is incredulous, and Harry smiles grimly.
Without turning around, he nods. "The very same," he says, and then hesitates.
"Tell me," Draco says softly, and there is no gratuitous sympathy in his tone, only a gentle hook of persuasion that pulls at Harry's insides.
And so, because Draco has always been good at persuading him, Harry tells him.
He's reluctant at first, but he continues scraping and chopping at the cold carrots as he tells Draco about Uncle Vernon's insistence that a six-year-old Harry 'better learn to bloody well pull his weight around here'. He tells him about Aunt Petunia's subsequent 'instruction', which consisted of a lot of shrill criticism, many burnt little fingers, and so many days spent locked in his cupboard following early botched attempts at Petunia's rigid menu—pork chops on Mondays, sausages on Tuesdays, and so on—that he learned very quickly indeed.
He pushes bits of lamb around in the frying pan and tells him how he had to learn how to make all of Darling Dudders' favourites, and woe betide him if there was one rasher of bacon out of place or one roast potato less than the previous week.
"He was up to eight by the time I got myself out of there," he says, starting to find the rant oddly cathartic. "I dread to think what his Sunday roast plate looks like now, the greedy bugger."
At the small sound of amusement, he turns around, spatula in hand, to see Draco sitting there motionless, elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands, listening raptly. His expression is inscrutable, but Harry doesn't think he'll ever get used to the intensity of being the focus of all that attention.
Warming to his theme, he continues. "I can make all kinds of stupid fancy things that nobody really wants to eat. You know, stuff you make to impress people." Harry gestures with his spatula and throws Draco a grim smile. "Or, stuff I made so they could impress people. She used to keep me home from school if they were having one of their horrible dinner parties... then she'd tell them she made everything herself."
Draco's eyes narrow and he sits up straight, dropping his hands into his lap. "They treated you like a servant," he says at last, tone dripping with disdain.
"Yeah. They did."
"We treat house-elves better than that." Draco pauses. "My father treated house-elves better than that," he amends.
Harry snorts. "I'm not sure about that," he mutters under his breath, turning back to the stove in order to hide his expression from Draco. There's definitely no need to get into a debate about the benevolence of Lucius Malfoy.
Exhaling slowly, Harry sprinkles the rosemary into the pan and pointedly ignores both the odd twinging in his chest and the soft creak of the cupboard above his head.
"I hate them," Draco says suddenly. "I really hate them."
"I know," Harry almost whispers, staring down at the lamb, not wanting to look at Draco.
"No, really," Draco says, voice strengthening. "And, contrary to popular belief, I don't hate all that many people. It's almost an exclusive little club. In fact... I may have to kick someone out to make room for your Dursleys."
"They're not my anything, believe me." Harry pauses, intrigued. "Like who?"
"Hm?" says Draco.
"Who would you kick out?"
"Oh. I don't know, perhaps the Dark Lord," Draco says thoughtfully, almost as though he's ordering from a wine list, or choosing a new coffee syrup.
Harry doesn't know whether to laugh or snort with disbelief, so he does both, and turns around to face Draco once more. "You're going to stop hating Voldemort so that you can hate the Dursleys?" he asks, seeking bizarre clarification. "Because they made me cook for them as a child?"
"Yes," Draco says, eyes decisive. "I no longer hate the Dar—Voldemort. Voldemort," he repeats, fingers gripping his coffee cup tightly as though to cover the faint tremor in his voice that Harry knows he's ashamed of, even after all these years.
Harry looks at the floor, unable to stop a small smile from spreading across his face. When he speaks, his voice feels inexplicably scratchy.
"Well, I imagine Voldemort has plenty of people still hating him. He can afford to lose a couple." He turns the smooth wooden spatula over and over in his hands and chews on his lip, not really as surprised as he thinks he should be to be having this conversation. "Not nearly enough people hate Vernon Dursley, though I imagine that anyone who works for him for more than five minutes is at least halfway there."
"Hmm," says Draco, eyes narrowed in contemplation. "And there's not a whole lot of point in hating someone after they're dead."
"No, I suppose not," Harry concedes. And he has to admire the logic, but he still doesn't miss the way Draco's eyes drop to the Mark on his forearm. He also doesn't miss the way Draco takes a deep breath and deliberately pushes his sage-coloured sleeves more firmly up around his elbows. "Draco?" he begins, and then he's being pinned by intent silvery eyes and forgets the rest.
"That meat smells like it's burning," Draco says, and though Harry can't smell anything burnt, he opts to defer to Draco's superior sense on this one, even if he suspects that he's not being quite truthful.
He pokes at the lamb with his spatula and suddenly feels exhausted. Casting weary eyes around the counter top, he catches sight of the potatoes and groans inwardly, knowing he should've dealt with them already. With some effort, he drowns out the screeching, critical sound of his inner Petunia and then startles as he hears Draco unfolding himself from the table and coming up behind him.
The warmth at his back and citrusy aroma in his nostrils are welcome if highly irregular, and Harry stands very still as Draco reaches for a potato and studies it carefully, one hand resting on the counter and his chin on Harry's shoulder.
"What are you doing?" Harry asks; he couldn't be more surprised if Draco had broken into a song and dance routine right there in the middle of the kitchen.
"Nothing," Draco mutters, warm breath tickling Harry's neck. "Good grief, if I can't remove the outside from a potato, then I really ought to worry."
"Right," Harry murmurs, and he's completely baffled, but the gentle flip of his stomach is difficult to ignore, as is the stupid smile that he's biting down on.
"Hand me the... thing, then," Draco says impatiently, and Harry snorts. Complies, and tries very hard not to watch out of the corner of his eye as Draco stands beside him and grapples with a large potato, a look of utter concentration and bewilderment on his refined face.
"Draco," he says softly, and he looks up.
The grey eyes lift to meet his and one eyebrow lifts in inquiry. Harry raises a hand, wraps it around the back of Draco's neck—not caring that it's cold and slimy from chopping vegetables—and draws him closer without another word. Before Draco has a chance to protest, Harry's capturing his coffee-warm mouth in a soft kiss, lingering just long enough to brush his tongue against Draco's and just long enough to hear the faint catch of his breath as they draw apart.
"What are you doing?" Draco asks, hanging onto his potato, eyes darkened, as Harry releases him and returns to his task.
"Nothing," Harry replies, smirking. "And that really isn't very nice," he adds, reaching up an admonishing hand to tap against the cupboard door as it flaps noisily back and forth.
"Shelving," offers Draco, and the cupboard falls silent straight away. Harry sighs. "You've got to sound like you mean it," he advises helpfully.
"Less talking, more potato peeling," Harry says sternly. And ducks just in time.