Disclaimer: This is a work of fan appreciation. I do not own Harry Potter or any of the Harry Potter characters. I do not profit from this story in any way.
As an albeit reluctant lifelong celebrity, Harry had a great deal of familiarity with glamours, both of the type designed to attract and to disguise. For instance, he was well aware, though he had never been rude enough to let on, of which of his Puddlemere teammates used them, both on and off the pitch. Ollie did not, though he was the most popular; Chesley Greenwold and Angelina both occasionally gave in to the temptation, particularly during high-profile matches. This was not strictly permitted by the league, and could have earned them an infraction, but it was innocent enough, as the glamours was always of the sort designed to subtly augment personal appearance, rather than cause any distraction. Chesley Greenwold was a rather good-looking brunette who had had a short run as the idol of the team before Ollie joined, and it had been rather hard for him to give up being in the limelight: his glamours tended towards hiding the occasional spot, or adding a bit of sparkle when he first flew out over the pitch. As for Angelina, she was an attractive girl who wanted desperately to get married, but hadn't so far even been able to keep a steady boyfriend. Why Harry suspected that this was more due to the difficulties of dating a celebrity who would always be on the road than to her beater-toned biceps, which were nearly as wide around as Harry's own, Angelina would persist in at least trying to narrow the appearance of them.
That was why, on Saturday afternoon, after a meeting with George and Ron at Wheezes, and strolling down Diagon Alley considering his options for the afternoon – should he should be practical, visit the bank and attempt to sort various errands, or just enjoy the few hours until Neville and Hannah's dinner? - he noticed with curiosity a shop fully equipped with all the wrong sort of glamours.
The standard on the Alley was of inducements to enter. There were spells to brighten the windows, charms that sent a pleasant little tingly rush over anyone who stopped within a few meters of the doorway. There were aerosolized potions to lift the mood, charms to open the pocket-book, glamours to make a shop seem bigger and airier and more appealing than it actually was.
This shop had none of those. In fact, had Harry not already so much experience in trying to draw attention away from himself, he would never have noticed it at all. Probably ninety percent of the witches and wizards passing by did not. As it was, however, the quality of the solid charmwork that had gone into making the shop unnoticeable actually had the unintended effect of attracting Harry. It was a higher-class cousin of the sort of magic frequently seen on Knockturn, around those shops whose business was only semi-legitimate, although it did not appear to be accompanied by the sort of mild stinging hexes and other more forthright encouragements to bugger off that those shops also frequently had.
Harry had only that morning had yet another conversation with Ron about whether or not it was time for them to pack-in the short-term work (Wheezes for Ron, Puddlemere for Harry) and sit for the Auror's examinations in the fall, and he felt uncomfortably conscious of that as he altered course to amble closer to the un-welcoming little shop. It was nothing to do with believing it might be a criminal establishment, he told himself firmly. He was only curious.
It was built into what had once been a basement, half buried beneath the road, slippery black steps leading down to the entrance. There was one dirty dark window that gave no hint of what might be inside. The door had once long ago been painted an avocado color, which was now flaking off. When he put his hand to the handle, a prickly unpleasant feeling went up his spine.
And so, it was with the faintest surprise that, upon stepping over the threshold, he felt the prickling disappear, and found himself in a warm and pleasant room.
It was a bookshop.
A spacious and pleasant bookshop: the carpet beneath his feet, though it appeared ancient, was a soft deep blend of grays and blues. It set off the dark golden grain of old bookshelves and the plaster walls. The light from above was a comfortable afternoon sunlight, a trick of magic that Harry much preferred to muggle fluorescent bulbs. Between the shelves and the counter was a pair of wrought iron tables and comfortable chairs – a good place to pause and take a coffee while perusing your latest purchases, if Harry was any judge of the very modern, muggle espresso maker sitting behind the counter.
The room appeared empty. Shrugging mentally, Harry walked over to the nearest bookshelf and allowed his eyes to wander over the spines.
He wasn't much of a reader, and for a moment he didn't recognize any of the titles. Some were wizard books, to be sure, but others appeared muggle. They all looked old, and they were jumbled together, with no sense or order to their organization that he could make out. After a moment his eye alighted on the word 'Quidditch', and he pulled a slim volume from the shelf.
It was a faded green book, and the binding was cracked so badly that Harry could not make out any of the other words on the spine. Despite that seeming delicacy, it felt comfortable and solid in his hands, and he opened it curiously. My Life in Quidditch, the title read, simply, by Willington Whaflington.
He had to cast his mind back for a moment, before recollecting that Willington Wharflington had been one of the great quidditch players of the 1920s. This, then, was his autobiography.
The frontispiece was a photo of Wharflington, in old-fashioned quidditch robes, smiling a trifle awkwardly as he waved to Harry. He was already elderly in the photo. That he must have gotten decked out in his old gear specifically to have that photo taken for his book touched Harry oddly.
The date below the frontispiece read "1966". He had been in his seventies or so when he had the pictures taken, then, and had died a bit more than a decade later: still young for a wizard. Harry vaguely remembered reading that he had died on Diagon Alley, smothered in a fire started by Death Eaters during the first Voldemort war.
The sound of soft footsteps and a smooth, though dryly stated, "May I help you?" broke Harry's concentration. He looked up, expecting to see a shopkeeper, only to find himself staring instead into the cool gray eyes of Draco Malfoy.
From the surprise on Malfoy's face, he had not expected to see Harry either. Harry saw the quick widening of eyes, and then, a moment later, noted how Malfoy schooled his features into blandness.
"Potter," he said. "What can I do for you?"
Harry, while quick on his feet in an emergency, had never been quite so quick with words. He sputtered for a moment, and caught Malfoy's very slight smile at his sputtering. It had been a contest, apparently, to see who would recover first, and by the time Harry had realized that he had already lost.
"You work in a book shop?"He said stupidly.
Malfoy did not answer, but only smirked expressively, clearly implying, 'of course I do, you blithering idiot.' He was carrying a small carton of books to shelve.
His hair had been cut short since the last time Harry had seen him. It wasn't more than two short, spiky centimeters long: similar to the cuts Molly Weasley, who never had much luck with hair-cutting rhymes, used to give her boys, her husband, and even a few times to Harry, back in the days when money was short. Harry ran his hand through his own locks, these days artfully tousled, instead of just messy, on the Rue du Chaudron. Good hair was one of those things that, as a public figure, he'd eventually found it took less energy to give in on than it did to baulk: privately, he would also admit that he liked the effect it had on some men.
Malfoy's hair, however, was unquestionably bad, and it called attention to the fact that he seemed to have grown paler, skinnier and pointier than he'd been in school. Men were meant to fill out with age, not grow gawkier. His wrists stuck out several inches past what they should on a robe that might once have been expensive, but was now worn soft and gray. What Harry found very subtlety irritating, however, was that despite all this Malfoy was still carrying himself like a Little Lord Fauntleroy: was looking at Harry, in fact, with a chilly, disdainful expression.
But at this moment his train of thought was diverted by the realization that Malfoy was clinging onto his box so hard that his knuckles were white. Harry stared. On closer inspection, Malfoy's right hand was trembling fractionally.
He looked back up into Malfoy's face, and a look of understanding passed between them. Malfoy knew that Harry had seen the tremor. Unexpectedly, he slammed his carton of books down, took a few long strides across the room until he was behind the counter, and gestured impatiently. "Give me the book," he said, "The book, the book!" when he hesitated. Trailing behind him, Harry handed over reluctantly the volume of Wharflington still in his hand, and watched bemusedly as Malfoy turn to the back page, where a spidery pencil line had scrawled the price of the volume.
"Twelve galleons", Malfoy said, and stuck his hand out to receive the sum.
Harry hadn't exactly been thinking of buying the book, and twelve galleons seemed very high, but he thought he would be kicked out in another minute regardless, and he decided he'd rather leave with than without it. So he shuffled in the pockets of his robes until he pulled appropriate sum.
Malfoy used a quill to enter the sum into an enormous accounts-book, ripped off a receipt, and thrust that back to Harry, tucked into the volume. He had managed to arrange it so that he only had to hand something to Harry once, the book and the receipt together, as if to minimize as much as possible the contact between them.
Slipping the book into his robe pocket, Harry looked Malfoy over again. He was glaring at Harry still, although looked as awkward as a shaved kitten with all that bad hair. Harry could not guess exactly what was passing through his mind, but he guessed that there might be mortification. For a moment he wanted to say something, but he did not know what.
He sighed, and turned to face again the afternoon crowds.
Neville and Hannah's evening dinner party was still a while off, the afternoon sun was warm and glowy, and Harry wanted a moment to unwind: the apparent tension in Malfoy's body had gotten to him, he felt just as tightly strung. So he wandered down the street until he happened to find Thropfee's Tearoom, and there happened to be an outside table open. He allowed a waiter to lead him to it, and after ordering an Americano, took out My Life in Quidditch again, as it seemed to be his link to the strange store. First he opened back to the frontispiece, and tried to engage Mr. Wharflington's image in conversation. But apparently the magics were not strong enough and the photo was of the limited sort that didn't allow for sound, or was too shy to make the effort. Since Wharflington moved uncertainly in and out of his frame, seemed to have great range of expression and peered back interestedly in Harry, Harry guessed that it might be the second. Wharflington behaved, Harry thought, like an older Neville Longbottom – but he quickly choked the idea back, it was unfair, since Neville had changed a lot since school, and hardly ever dithered anymore.
After a quick flip through the rest of the pages to establish that there were no other pictures or interesting diagrams, Harry opened to the first chapter. Instead of reading, though, he found his mind back on Malfoy at the bookshop.
The last time he had seen him had been at the NEWT exams two years earlier. They had been scheduled six months later than usual, and the time leading up to them had been spent, by Harry and all the others who hadn't seen the inside of Hogwarts during seventh year, in furious revision. Actually, because the quality of teaching during seventh year had sunk so low, even those who had stayed had had to study pretty hard. Most students had spent that time studying at Hogwarts, in what was called their 'eighth year', but a few of the students – most of the Slytherins - had found private tutors and worked from home instead.
Somehow Harry had missed Malfoy a little, during that eighth year: missed his sneering face across the potions classroom, and the way Harry had to watch out for stray ankles when he strayed too close to the Slytherin side. He followed the trials of Lucius and Narcissa, both of which ended badly. He imagined, once or twice, how a conversation between them might go if Malfoy were to appear before him, how much might be said, or remain unsaid, about those last terrible days and all that had passed between them. Still, he was as much relieved as reluctant when the opportunity never arose.
Still, he had not been thinking about Malfoy on that first day of the exams, and so, when he had entered the classroom on the first day of the exams and found him sitting already in the back, with Parkinson and the other Slytherins - all looking as stone-faced and grim as if they expected another war - he had been surprised. He felt proud of the example set by himself, Neville, Ginny, Hermione, and Ron: everyone had treated the Slytherins politely, and offered no comment about their presence. He might have looked for a free moment in which to talk to Malfoy, but it never arose, he was avoided. Harry had respected that, and the week of exams had passed smoothly, until they had parted ways again, this time seemingly for good.
After that, Harry never heard of Malfoy leaving Britain, which many of the other Slytherins did. He looked around for him, now and then, at the sort of public events where he might once have been expected to present himself. But Malfoy never appeared, and Harry soon became caught up in other things, and began to stop looking.
A shadow falling across the unappreciated first page of Wharflington's autobiography caused Harry to look up. There was Rohde, standing over him and grinning. Harry blinked, for, for a moment, Rohde's dark golden hair had reminded him of Malfoy's paler color.
"Hello", Harry said. Grabbing the cuff of Rohde's robe, he pulled him down for a kiss. Rohde had to bend over, but he didn't complain, instead sliding easily into the seat next to Harry's, without ever breaking the contact of their lips. His lips were as warm and supple as the sunlight, wonderful, and Harry tried to slip him some tongue. But, laughing, Rohde pushed him away. For a Frenchman, he had strict ideas about intimacy in public.
Harry leaned back and looked at Rohde with satisfaction. He was gorgeous – a quarter veela – and while Rohde was embarrassed of that, Harry couldn't help but secretly spread it around, for he loved the little ripples of jealousy that came out when people found out he was seeing a veela. Well, not seeing, per se, that would have been too strong a word – only they tended to seek each other out, when Harry was playing in Paris or Rohde in England, and generally there was a lot of sex involved. Rohde had inherited the veela looks and – so Harry imagined – a bit of the allure – though little, it seemed, of the veela fidelity. He was fun, Harry was fun, and they had fun together, an arrangement that suited them both perfectly well.
"I didn't know you were around," Harry said. "Have you been shopping?"
"Yes," Rohde grinned again, showing a row of perfect white teeth, "Christmas presents: a set of quills for my mother, and a locket for my sister." He displayed it for Harry: a simple golden O that, when opened, revealed a tiny mirror. "Eet will show you the face of anyone who loves you, only not a great deal of the face, only an eyebrow or a bit of the cheekbone. Enough so that you must look at it carefully for hours in order to discover the face of your admirer. Very good for a teenage girl, don't you think?"
Harry laughed and squinted at the mirror. There was a bit of pale forehead… slowly the image rose to show some locks of curly hair. "Hermione", he said, and smiled.
"Ah, you know 'er so well, that you recognized immediately" Rohde said, "the proof of an old, true friend."
"If I keep trying, will I see you there?" Harry teased. Rohde looked alarmed, but then, his features settled into something like regret.
" 'Arry", he said. "I've been meaning to tell you – when I return to Paris, perhaps we can become again, how do you say, only friends?"
Harry was surprised. "Of course." He wasn't going to ask why – their relationship had never been like that – but he saw, after taking the locket back from Harry, that Rohde looked into it for a long moment before returning it to his own pocket. Who did he saw there? Not Harry –which meant that perhaps in France he had finally found someone from whom he wanted more than a casual fling. "Congratulations", he said, softly, looked at Rohde sneakily over his coffee cup.
"Ah! Am I so transparent?" Rohde patted his pocket and sighed, happily. "It is all very new, 'Arry." He looked down, smiling to himself, a perfect blond Adonis. "I 'ave yet to even pursued him… but," he looked ruefully at Harry. "I am very 'appy."
Harry sighed theatrically, and tucked his book into his robe pocket. "What can I do then, but withdraw gracefully!" He joked. He looked at the man fondly, and searched his own mind for a feeling of loss. It was there –just a shade of it – and he felt very glad, for it would have disturbed him if Rohde, whom he liked very much, had meant nothing. As a boy he had given himself to everyone with such intensity, but these days, as an adult, he was coming to see that everyone came and went. "Good luck," he said, sincerely.
Anyway, he was now almost late for Neville and Hannah's dinner. He kissed Rohde farewell – dryly on the cheek this time, as a gesture of friendship – and left smiling towards the Leaky.
"It's the oddest thing," he told Hannah cheerfully, as she took his coat. She and Neville lived above the bar. "I've just been thrown over, but I'm in such a good mood about it!"
"Oh really?" Several months ago, Harry had been amused to realize that Neville's Hannah, round and sweet, had a weakness for stories about his mercurial love life. Unlike Ron, whom even the mention of a boyfriend could make queasy, or Hermione, who tended to purse her lips disapprovingly when calculating exactly how many so-called 'boyfriends' Harry had had, Hannah seemed to genuinely enjoy just listening, and never disapproved. "It wasn't Jeremy, was it? You did say he was getting rather clingy."
"No, Rohde – you know, François– he wasn't clingy at all, rather he's found someone else he's really serious about." He related the whole conversation to Hannah, who listened, appropriately intrigued.
"You say he's not even dating the man yet – but he already broke it off with you – doesn't sound like the man you described before."
"No," Harry said, thoughtfully. "He seemed really," he considered. "Really excited, like a little kid."
Hannah sighed. "How romantic."
"What is?" Neville, coming from the kitchen, looped an arm around her waist and spun her gracefully around. She giggled with delight. "Friend of Harry's," she said. "Seems to have met someone. Oh Harry, do you think it's a veela thing?" She came to rest against Neville's chest, slightly flushed.
"Perhaps", Harry said, slyly.
Neville gave them both a look. "Well, come on, then, hurry up," he said. "Everyone else is already in the dining room".
Neville never spoke on the subject of Harry's love life, but Harry suspected that his opinion ran a bit towards that of Hermione – even that Neville was, perhaps, the least bit disappointed in him. It stung, a little, that his friends were unsupportive, and particularly it stung that Neville, who had once admired Harry, was now in a position to cast independent judgments on him. Really, it wasn't like Harry was a slut, he only wanted to enjoy himself a bit while he was still young – his circle of friends, in contrast, had largely fallen to settling themselves into stable relationships as quickly as possible.
Clockwise around the table sat Ron and Hermione, Neville, Hannah, Dean and Lavender – since Harry never brought his boyfriends to close gatherings like this, he was the only unpaired body at the table yet again. Harry greeted them all warmly, and then let his eye drift over to the empty chair beside Ron.
"You couldn't convince him to come out, then?" He asked. Ron shook his head, glumly.
"He hardly leaves the shop, these days." On most days, George put on a good front, but his friends and family had learned to keep a close eye on his moods, which had been dangerously black for almost a year after Fred's death and even now sometimes slid backward in the same direction. "I hate to say it," Ron continued. "But he was a bit better when he was with Honoria".
Harry frowned. None of them had liked Honoria Freslip, a pretty witch three year George's senior, whom everyone suspected of dating George only for his fame. Wheedling him to get invitations to fancy Ministry events and name-dropping for discounts when shopping had finally caused George to give her the boot. However, there was no denying that Honoria, social as she was, had done a better job than any of them had been able to with getting George out once in a while – which, in turn, seemed to keep his mind from turning too much in on itself.
"I thought she was nice," Lavender says defensively. "She lent me a really nice pair of dragon's hide pumps once, and didn't even mind after I scuffed them in the floo."
Everyone spent a moment politely pretending to think about that, although Ron and Harry shared a quick glance that meant, thank God Charlie wasn't there.
"If only he would meet someone," Ron said, changing the subject.
"But who?" Hermione asked – it was clearly a conversation they had had between them too many times already. "When he's in a mood like this, he scares them all away."
"Bring someone to him," Neville suggested. Smiling, he took the large salad bowl that Hannah passed him and heaped the greens onto his plate, then paused to top everyone up on wine. "I mean, bring someone into the shop -a nice assistant or something, someone to brighten up the place."
Ron looked interested, but Hermione frowned. "I don't know, what if something went wrong? He'd hate it if he thought we were meddling."
Harry was inclined to agree, but his mind was less on the problem of George, which after all was well-covered ground, than on that afternoon: Rohde should have been the bigger event, but instead he was preoccupied by Malfoy. Too-short hair and the bad robes, they seemed wrong for him, what had happened? Had his time since the war been difficult? He couldn't remember ever hearing anything, but then the Malfoy name wasn't exactly gold these days, perhaps he was persecuted. For a moment, he imagined himself coming to Malfoy's aid - in a shop, perhaps, if the salesperson refused to help him. Harry would behave indignantly, and Malfoy would - well, what would Malfoy do? – Harry drew himself up short, because the whole scenario was ridiculous.
It was on the tip of his tongue to ask Hermione what she knew about him: where he had been the past two years, whether he had any money, or anything like that. But as the dinner went on, each him he opened his mouth to ask his question, or to casually mention that he had run into the ferret that afternoon, he hesitated for a little too long and someone else stepped in to fill the break in the conversation. It was only when Hannah brought a magnificence trifle to the table, and everyone began to dig in with spoons, that he decided not to mention the encounter at all. It had been a while since he'd had some small secret to indulge in, after all.
Now that I have achieved a respectable number of years, I can look back on my salad days with proper pride and proper distance: I can relate both the tales of my heroism, and the tales of my foolishness, with very little mortification.
Harry finally got around to opening his new book again that evening, in bed, after having brushed his teeth, washed his face, and skived down to a pair of black boxers, his favorite sleepwear even in late autumn. Wharflington was not a brilliant writer: that much was clear even from the first sentence. Yet he had a certain talent: a funny way of expressing himself that kept Harry entertained, even as the first chapter ran through the humdrum autobiographical business of explaining who his father and mother were, how many siblings he had, and where they had grown up. More important, however, once Wharflington had pushed through those preliminaries, was that he had a way of writing about quidditch that caused Harry to fly along with him – to feel the feints and sudden drops, and the wind in his hair as Wharflington described them, almost as if he was actually there. Games that had seemed too old to be of more than historic interest were suddenly played fresh in front of him, the great giants of the thirties and forties coming alive, and Harry suddenly understood why a few throw-away comments he had once made to the Prophet, about how recent advances in the game meant that today's players would fly circles around those of yesteryear, had been met with a few tart letters to the editor.
He had almost never in his life missed sleep to read a book, unless it had been a textbook that he was anxiously cramming, usually alongside Ron and under Hermione's rigid supervision. At Hogwarts they'd often cast lumos under the covers to read the sports pages – Harry'd never gotten into the girly mags as much as the rest of them, but there had been those to – and as an adult he did read a few novels here and there, thank you very much, though more often non-fiction. He enjoyed them, but it had never stopped him from closing the cover of whatever he was working on at the proper hour, switching off the nightstand, and going to bed.
Wharflington, however, was so engrossing that he read without noticing the time until one in the morning, at which point he was only about half-way through, and so he decided that, since he didn't have any match or any practice the next day, he might as well keep going. It was three am when Wharflington finally made his permanent retirement from the game with a knee injury, and from three to four Harry learned about his later years as a commentator and advocate of the game. Everything ended on a happy note, love to his wife Jeanne and his handsome children, and the sky out the window was just lightening the slightest shade of gray when Harry finally closed the cover with a sigh and fell asleep with the book on the pillow beside him.
Malfoy was behind the counter, and he glanced up as Harry entered. When he saw who it was he looked, if possible, even more constipated than he had the other day. Harry noticed that Malfoy pressed his right hand, the one that had trembled, firmly against the counter. Their eyes locked, and Harry mentally classified Malfoy as a frightened animal, one that might bite to defend itself. But then the expression in the gray eyes became inscrutable, and Malfoy relaxed legibly, and Harry had the sense of his own self being examined.
Someone coughed, and this caused both of them to start. Looking all around, Harry finally located a thin dark haired girl of about thirteen, curled up in the corner of a bookshelf and the wall. She was sitting on the carpet, with a stack of novels beside her, reading, and she didn't look up at Harry, or indeed give any sign at all that she noticed anyone coming in. The sight of her there reminded Harry of the children's bookroom of the local library in Little Whinging, a place he had not thought of for a very long time.
Her presence defused his rush of adrenaline, and left Harry feeling vaguely foolish. The shop was as comfortable as before: soft rugs, warm wood. It was an incongruous place for a showdown, and Malfoy seemed to think so too.
"Potter", he said warily. "Back so soon?"
"How did you enjoy My Life in Quidditch?" Malfoy's voice was lightly mocking, but Harry felt his mood lift infinitesimally with the question.
"It was great," He said. He still had the book in his pocket. "It made me remember why I fell in love with quidditch, like I was a kid again." In general, he would have been more reserved with Malfoy, but, taking a risk, he allowed his enthusiasm to show through. "Did Wharflington write any others?"
Malfoy cocked his head. He was in the same worn robes as the other day, Harry noted, and he was sipping a cup of coffee that smelled wonderful. "No, he didn't. You're welcome to take a look around, but I doubt you'll find anything else here that suits you."
Harry frowned, but he went over to the shelves and began to read the titles as he had before. Nothing jumped out at him, however, and so ran his fingers along the spines. His attention was more on Malfoy than the books, though, and he wondered about the next thing to say.
"Don't you have these in any order at all?" At least if all the quidditch books had been together, instead of thrown on the shelf haphazardly as they were, it might have saved him some time.
There was no response. When Harry looked over, he saw that Malfoy seemed engrossed in the paper –although Harry didn't doubt that was an act. Frowning, he went back to looking at the shelf. The books were arranged totally haphazardly. Really, Malfoy must be a pretty incompetent employee: not that that was surprising, really, since he probably hadn't much work experience.
One of the books gave him a little push, a shiver of energy that went up his finger as he ran it over the spine. "Hey, I can feel them."
That got his attention, all right – Malfoy looked up, his eyes narrowed in appraisal. So did the girl in the corner, her dark eyes wide.
Malfoy walked over to where Harry was standing, and touched his own hand, tentatively, to the same book Harry was touching. Harry was struck by how much thinner, and paler, Malfoy's hand was below his, almost touching.
"You see, Potter", Malfoy said, light and mocking, but somehow also fond, and Harry felt obscurely pleased that his question had moved Malfoy to civility, "Wizarding books, as you know, may possess some enchantment, but more subtly, they take on a little of the magic of their authors, and at times of their readers as well. Even a muggle book may gain some magic, as it passes through the hands of wizards who touch its pages, listen to its words, and fall under its spell for a while. After a while, the book may even seek its own readers –gently calls out to the ones who will best appreciate its tale." Malfoy tapped the spine of one, as if it were an old friend. "Somehow, such books end up here, and similarly, somehow the people meant to read them also come. That is probably what you felt."
He looked at the girl in corner when he said that, though, as if he was telling her more than he was telling Harry. She blushed, and hid her face in what she was reading. Harry couldn't help but look at the pile of volumes stacked around her, and wonder if she felt something in all of those books.
Harry nodded slowly. "So that book – Wharflington's book – it was calling to me?"
Malfoy shrugged. "A quidditch autobiography: you're the perfect reader for that." He hesitated for a moment, before adding, "I read it too, when I first worked here."
Harry felt the corners of his lips twitching upward.
"So, is that how did you ended up here, then? The books call you too?"
Malfoy shrugged. "It's just a job." He slid a book he had been toying with back into its place on the shelf. "But yes, I like them."
"It's pretty quiet here."
Malfoy looked irritated again. "I like that too."
"I haven't – er – heard much of you, since –," he had been about to say, "since the NEWTS," but Malfoy interrupted.
"Since the war?" He smiled ironically. "You know – lost the fortune, cut off by all my former friends – father dead, mother in prison," he stopped, perhaps because of the stricken look on Harry's face.
"I didn't know all of that."
He waited for Malfoy to follow up with something biting, possibly about Harry's lack of tactfulness, and for a moment the blonde seemed about to – but then he merely shrugged. Harry wondered if he'd lost his taste for insults.
"Ollivander owns this place." Malfoy added unexpected.
"Ollivander!" He couldn't help but be surprised. "I thought…"
Malfoy turned a wry eye. "Well, yes. His giving me a job was – unexpected." He lifted his hand to adjust his collar, and it trembled slightly. "I think he bought this place to restart his business, but it didn't work because of the," he waved his hand vaguely, "wards, and all the books. He changed his mind again later, anyway."
Harry remembered hearing something about that: about the large number of people who have of late asked Ollivander to reopen his business, or, barring that, to at least make them a few custom wands. Ollivander usually refused, although he had made one or two wands as gifts.
"Wait a minute – all the books? Surely you could just get rid of them?"
"The place seems to like being a bookshop," Malfoy said mildly, "just as the books like to be read."
Harry nodded. "Well," he said, "It's very nice. Warm and – cozy, I guess. Peaceful. Not too many people come in, though, I'd imagine, with all those wards outside."
"Those come with the building too. But I'm glad, it would be a problem if we had too many customers… as it is, the ones who are meant to come still do."
"Does that mean I was meant to come?" Harry teased, and, unexpectedly, Malfoy reddened and snapped.
"That, Potter, I wouldn't know."
It had probably been a bit too much – they weren't friends, it was surprising that they'd managed a civil conversation so far. Something in Malfoy's tone had led Harry to want to be friendly, but it must have been a freak impulse.
Malfoy looked shifty. "I hope this isn't a problem for you, my being here."
Harry was a bit offended. He shook his head, businesslike. "Of course not. As a matter of fact, I'm not sorry I ran into you. It's been,"- nice, was on the tip of his tongue, but that didn't seem quite appropriate, so Harry settled instead for-, "interesting, Malfoy."
Malfoy nodded, shortly, but he did not reply.
Harry didn't have any reason to visit the shop again after that, but he found it remaining in the back of his mind – the thought of a warm, comfortable room juxtaposed with Malfoy's prickly, cool presence. It itched at him. Still, perhaps nothing would ever have happened, if not for something that occurred about a week later, when he was on Diagon Alley again: this time with Jeremy, the friend who, as Hannah predicted, was recently becoming a bit too clingy for Harry's tastes.
Jeremy was young, good-looking, and always a lot of fun, a regular guy. Status shouldn't matter, Harry figured, but he was becoming increasingly suspicious that it did, at least insofar as Jeremy probably would not have been quite so hell-bent on a relationship with him, had he not been the Boy-Who-Lived and Puddlemere's star seeker besides.
They had gone to Fortescue's for ice cream, and later, as they walked in the direction of the stationers, Jeremy kept trying to weave their fingers together. Harry wasn't sure if Jeremy genuinely thought that things were going well, or was just desperately trying to maintain a good atmosphere. For the third or fourth time, he tolerated the hand holding for a few minutes out of politeness, before finding it awkward and taking an excuse to pull away, and it was just then that they passed by the trinket store, "Magdala's Mementos" and he happened to look in the windows. They were decorated with pink and white tinsel, advertising a glittery display of things like playing cards enchanted with the faces of household pets, accessories charmed to change the color of your hair, and small mirrors that would advise on the proper application of make-up. Harry remembered Rohde's locket, and decided that finding one might be worth another half-hour with Jeremy.
"Come on," he nodded his head towards the entrance. "Let's go in."
Jeremy looked pleased, but then confused. "Magdala's?"
"I need something for Victoire's birthday," Harry lied, blithely.
Jeremy pouted because it was, after all, a ridiculous store for a twenty-one-year old man to have to enter, but then, because he loved everything that Harry did anyway, he decides that it was funny in an ironic way and started to follow Harry around the story, pointing out the most ridiculous paraphernalia in a sugary-sweet voice. Harry tried to ignore him, in the same way that he tried to ignore the fact that all the other customers in the store were female, less than sixteen, and staring at him with glazed googly eyes.
"Harry Potter?" He overheard someone say, followed by much squealing. He took a moment to wonder, had adolescent girls been so frightening back in school, when he'd been an adolescent too?
Actually, the answer to that was yes. But if Rohde could brave the pink and glittered halls of Magdala's Mementos, than, by Merlin, so could Harry.
Finally, he found the small locket. It was behind the counter, and he had to ask to see it. It was a bit embarrassing, but he powered through by smiling winningly at the saleswoman, and repeating his story about Victoire.
"Sorry," the saleswoman said apologetically, "all the larger models are sold out."
Opening it, he saw the lobe of what was unmistakably a freckled ear, though he could not determine from which Weasley it came.
"Let me see," said Jeremy, and Harry handed it over. Jeremy studied the mirror for a minute before looked confused. "Nothing there. Is there supposed to more?"
"Ah, not necessarily," hastened the saleswoman. "Try again later, it might…"
"I'll take it," said Harry. She asked if he wanted it gift-wrapped, and he said, please.
Out in the sunlight again Jeremy wanted to look at it again, but Harry demurred. That put Jeremy into a snit, which turned into a minor row – probably the outcome that had been brewing all along. Harry watched Jeremy storm off with a feeling of relief, although he wondered whether he ought to apologize later, or whether it would be all right to just let the rift widen naturally.
Left alone on the street, he took the locket from its bag and unwrapped it carefully. He opened it experimentally, closed it, and then opened it again three more times.
The first time he thought he saw Arthur Weasley's kindly face. The second he glimpsed a patch of soft check, likely either Hannah or Neville. Both images were just what he expected, so he couldn't have say why, exactly, he felt a bit disappointed by them.
The third time he opened the locket, there was one clear, gray eye. It was framed by a blonde eyebrow, and the skin around it was very pale. Harry felt his mouth pulling into a smile at the sight. Perhaps it was not enough of a glimpse of someone that he should have been able to tell who it was – but he did, he recognized the eye and the brow so clearly that there could be only one excuse.
That, then, was what he had been waiting for. Harry turned abruptly, robe snapping in the breeze, to head back down the length of the street towards the bookshop on the farther end.