Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
As the name of the shop was The Optical Owl, it was unsurprising that Draco Malfoy walked straight into the door upon his attempt to enter.
"Oww." He pulled a splinter from his nose.
"Honestly, Draco," Pansy said, pulling him away by the back of his robes. "Why didn't you tell me it'd got this bad?"
"Because I didn't want you bugging the ever-loving shit out of me."
"Look, you don't have to do this. There's the new Oculus Reparo surgical procedure. Uncle Egg had it done and his vision'sﾗ"
"First? Your Uncle Egg only has one eye. Second? Nobody's getting near these perfect, beautifious orbs with some dodgy laser wand. No way. What if I were maimed?" Draco flung open the door and ponced into the shop. It might have been a magnificent show if he hadn't smacked up against a display of frames, sending them flying.
"Oh for God's sake," Pansy said, rolling her eyes. She took Draco's elbow, guiding him as the optician objected.
"Oi! Mind you put them back in order."
"Is this how you treat all your disabled clientele?" Draco asked. He bumbled about, making his way. "A specialist like you should know better than to set up the optically-challenged for failure."
"Too right," Pansy clucked, surveying display after display of frames on square, rotating racks that were placed throughout the shop. "I'm surprised you don't have everything up against the wall, where they'll be safe from, say, clumsy, stubborn berks who won't admit they need glasses." She emphasised the last bit especially.
"Pansy," Draco moaned, holding his arms out in her general direction. "Help me."
"Have your husband take a seat over there," the optician said, motioning to a small fitting table with three chairs and a mirror. "I'll be there shortly, after I finish with your mess." He gave Draco a pointed look as he pulled his wand to put the pile of split frames back in place, not that Draco could tell.
"Oh, we're not married."
Pansy got Draco situated. "There you go, love." She took up his hand. "Now this is silly. How did it get this bad? You never answered me."
"I have no idea!" He refrained from telling her of how six months prior he'd driven his broom into a tree one night; he'd blamed it on the rain at the time. And it seemed that almost overnight he'd had to hold his books and magazines closer and closer to his face to read, until at last he was holding them all the way up to his nose, yet he couldn't see the text at all. Squinting hard didn't help; it wasn't eye bogies. When he looked down, everything further than perhaps a foot away was blurred. He couldn't discern designs or patterns any more. The world was a strange mosaic of colour and shapes, the far distance a swimming blurry view. It had come to this: Draco Malfoy was about to officially become a speccy, wally git.
The optician, Maurice Wallingscomb, seated himself. "Prescription?"
Draco fumbled in his pocket and pulled out his dog-eared order for glasses and slid it across the table. "Here."
"Malfoy, eh? M-A-L-F-O-Y." Wallingscomb spoke aloud as he filled in the invoice. "Have you had glasses before?"
Draco sneered. "Of course not."
The optician considered the rumpled prescription, its edges frayed and smudged with the dirt of a thousand pockets. "How old is this prescription?"
"Quite possibly it may not be exactly new."
"I'll have to check your eyes again, to be sure the prescription's still all right."
"But you're not a healer proper." Draco blinked in his general direction. "I can't trust my eyes to a layman."
"Yes, because you've been taking such stellar care of them," Wallingscomb said. He brought up a device not unlike Omnioculars that had multiple sets of lenses branching from it like wandering arms of ivy on brick. "Hold this up to your eyes. What do you see?"
"Is that Arabic?"
"No. Read the top line please."
"That is quite clearly Arabic."
"I didn't know you knew Arabic," Pansy said, her mouth twisting into a thoughtful frown. "Huh."
"It's not Arabic," Wallingscomb said. He switched out the lenses. "Read the top line please."
Draco was squinting, trying to make out the tiny letters. "K, L, it's a C or an O, R or F, X."
Wallingscomb flipped the lenses around again. "Give it another go."
"Oh, that's much better. M, O, Q, G, F, R, N."
They continued like that, switching out lenses until Wallingscomb was satisfied that he'd updated Draco's prescription. "This old prescription's a full point off on your left eye and half a point on your right. You've astigmatism."
"How dare you!"
"Oh, Draco, shut it!" Pansy said, poking him in the side, making him wince. "It just means your eyeball's an odd shape now."
"My eyeball isn't an odd shape, thank you." It was as if he were six years old. "You're an odd shape!"
"Shut it," she said for the second time, "you right royal tit."
"I'll thank you to watch your language," Wallingscomb advised Pansy. "Your eyeball's fine. It's just your lens that's changed shape. Your retina's fine, too. That's the sagittal plane of vision. You've been having trouble seeing detail?" he asked Draco.
"And when you look at the wall, it looks tilted?"
When he could see the wall. "Sometimes."
"That's your tangential plane, all out of sorts. It's not refracting like it should."
"Ah." Draco had no idea what Wallingscomb was talking about, but it hacked him off nonetheless. He, Draco Malfoy, had been a visage of perfection until this point. So pale as to be luminescent, his pointy face not as severe as when he was young, having filled out beautifully. He garnered attention and want and desire wherever he went. And he went lots of places, on a regular basis. His image could be found splashed across page 6A, the society page, of the Daily Prophet at least once per week, more often alone than with his wife, as she didn't much care to socialise. Astoria was strange in her own right. Draco cheated on her without compunction, with only half-hearted attempts at discretion, and she simply didn't care. She didn't ask him to stop, was as engaging and funny with him as ever, and hadn't stopped shagging him when he felt like having her. Draco was obscenely rich, a darling of the upper echelon, reckless and self-centred, and he got everything he wanted.
"May I bring you some frames to look at, then?" Maurice asked.
"Just give me whatever's most expensive," Draco said with a wave of his hand. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs, waiting.
"I could do that, Mr. Malfoy, butﾗ"
"Just do it, then."
"You might want to look at several choices."
"I believe I made myself quite clear."
"Well, then," Wallingscomb said, rising, "by all means." He excused himself to the back.
"How do I look?" Pansy asked from across the room, turning and flashing Draco a brilliant smile. She'd donned a pair of fuchsia cat-eye frames with gems sparkling at the points. From each point a cluster of light pink feathers sprouted. They wafted at him as Pansy waggled her fingers. "Brilliant?"
"It's all a pink blur," he said. "What is it with you and pink?"
"You know I love pink!"
"Pink does not love you."
"God, you're awful." She put the pink frames away and selected a pair of glittering red stars reminiscent of Professor Sinistra. "Better?"
"I'm sure." Draco pretended to examine his nails. "I need a buff up."
"Here we are." Wallingscomb lifted an enormous glasses case onto the fitting table and began undoing the fastenings in a series of thick clicks. "Our most expensive pair."
"My God!" Draco squinted hard at the shape before him. "Is that a French horn?"
Mr. Wallingscomb revealed the frames.
They were sparkling white. Mostly.
"Mother-of-pearl and polished ivory with pearl accent jewels," he described for Draco, "and abalone shell arms." He began speaking to Pansy, as Draco was too blind to follow along. "You'll see here the hand-etching on the arms, each side with a different saying. The decor on the top portion of the lenses is enchanted albino peacock and diricawl feathers. They will always keep your lenses clean and free of streaks and dust."
Pansy lifted the frames for inspection. They weighed a tonne. "The most important responsibility," she read from the inscription, "for a celebrity is to set an example and be a role model. Oh, bloody hell, Draco, these aren't for you." She turned them around, reading from the other arm, "And now, this is the sweetest and most glorious day that ever my eyes did see."
"I'll decide for myself what suits me," Draco said, gesturing for Pansy to hand the frames over. Pansy made a big fuss about sliding the glasses onto Draco's face until she had them resting in place on the bridge of his nose; the feathers occluded his forehead. As he sat there blinking, they dipped down and polished the frames, and then ruffled themselves, settling back into place.
Wallingscomb pointed his wand. "Oculus," he incanted, touching the tip of his wand to the frames. Temporary lenses in Draco's prescription filled the frames with a *pop*
Draco blinked at Pansy and Wallingscomb through lenses the size of salad plates, just as the front door chimed. Draco's face split into a lopsided grin. "I can see." He turned in his chair, looking from side to side and then shifted back. He met Pansy's eyes. "Pansy! Oh, you look so beautiful! Quite a lot older than I remembered, but fetching all the sameﾗ"
"I'd hope you'd be able to see, what with those telescopes you're wearing." Pansy swatted him on the arm. "And I don't look old. As if!"
But Draco had frozen in place, and was staring over Pansy's shoulder across the room, the ridiculous white frames slipping crookedly across his face. Pansy turned.
Harry Potter, wearing his usual plain wire rims, stood transfixed, staring at Draco, a look of predatory satisfaction snaking across his dark features. And then he laughed at Draco, openly and with gusto.
"Sod off, Potter!" Draco spat, scrabbling at the glasses. He pulled them from his face as fast as he could. Wallingscomb hovered, keeping watch over the most expensive frames in the shop.
"Looking fit there, Malfoy," Potter snerked. "Elton John making a man of you?"
Draco hated it when half-bloods and Mudbloods caught him unaware. "Youﾗ No!" He had no idea what Potter was talking about. Or who. "It's just aﾗ I justﾗ"
"You just need glasses?"
"It's none of your concern," Pansy snarled at Harry, clutching at Draco protectively. "Mind your own business, why don't you."
From across the room Draco thought Potter looked rather artfully tousled. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen the bloke. He certainly wasn't on the social circuit any more, not since Ginny Weasley-Potter hadﾗ
"They suit you," Potter said, still amused. "Feminine. Poncy. Ostentatious. I'll bet they're even expensive."
Draco turned to Wallingscomb, poking at the white bejewelled glasses. "Are you quite sure these are expensive?" he accused the optician under his breath. "Because I won't wear anything poncy."
"Just because something is expensive doesn't mean it can't be poncy," Pansy whispered to Draco, while Wallingscomb placated Potter, telling him he'd be right there.
"Draco, those are ridiculous glasses and I won't let you buy them! A true friend wouldn't, although the papers would have a field day. Put them away. You look like someone wrapped a swan around your head!"
"What am I supposed to do if the most expensive ones won't work?"
"You'll have to find another pair that suits you."
"But what if they're not expensive?"
"Offer to pay more, then, if it means that much to you. Come on," she said, rubbing his hand between her own. "You could wear a pair of glasses from a knut gum machine at a greengrocer's and people'd think they're ragingly expensive. Let's find you a pair of sexy, brilliant glasses. You'll look smashing by the time we're done."
"Yeah?" He looked up at her in the earnest way that he had that pulled at her heart and made her want to be in love with him again. Almost.
"Of course. I promise."
Mr. Wallingscomb had stowed away the hideous circus frames. "Now, may I show you the latest designs from Europe?"
"Yes," Draco said, sombre. "Please."
An hour and a half later, Wallingscomb was finishing up Draco's lenses in the back room, Harry Potter's new set of glasses resting to his left on the counter. M-A-L-F-O-Y. Malfoy. Wallingscomb brooded as he set the lenses in the frame and sealed them in place. He knew three things.
Number one, he did not like Draco Malfoy.
Second, Draco Malfoy was the son of Lucius Malfoy.
Finally, Lucius Malfoy had killed Wallingscomb's brother, David, for his refusal to provide a broom to a Death Eater who had chosen David's door at random to pound on whilst trying to escape a pack of Aurors back in 1997. Malfoy had never been brought up on charges, despite four witnesses to David's murder.
It had been all about fear.
And now Lucius Malfoy was dead himself, of natural causes, which was patently unfair, and the ?ns of wealth and material trappings Malfoy had possessed had passed down to his son Draco without the Ministry even batting an eye. The hundreds of restitution orders put in place following Lucius Malfoy's endless criminal trials went unacknowledged and unpaid while the younger Malfoy lived a carefree, privileged existence. Wallingscomb and his wife had scrimped and saved and worked their fingers to the bone to help David's widow raise the five children he'd left behind, the youngest of whom had left Hogwarts just this past June. Wallingscomb had his family business, this shop, and around fifteen thousand galleons in Gringotts, enough to cover a plumbing emergency should one arise, or perhaps a month's worth of expenses.
There are trades that people just don't think about, Wallingscomb thought, and optometry was one. People came in, picked out their frames, handed over their prescriptions, and sat in his waiting room for thirty minutes or so while Maurice filled their order. But they did not realise, nor did anyone care, what a specific and exacting craft it was to enable people to see the world, where once they had been blind. Maurice was an outstanding optometrist, having learnt the trade from his father and grandfather, the latter of whom had created the infamous magical eye for Alastor Moody. Such items weren't just pulled out of a hat. It took craftsmanship and skill and stellar wizardry to make a magical artefact like Moody's powerful eye.
Maurice didn't give much credence to the saying the eyes are the window to the soul, for he'd long ago learnt that it was actions that revealed more about one's soul than fleeting shadows of emotion or furtive glances, so he could only assume when he pulled his wand that his soul was a little bit dark, for that was the only explanation for what he did next.
"Vidi Verum." He touched the tip of his wand to Draco Malfoy's gleaming crystal lenses until they glowed a faint rose colour for several long moments, and then faded back to clear.
Let Draco Malfoy see the real world, see how things truly were, the spoilt, self-centred playboy.
Draco and Pansy sat in the two chairs closest to the till.
Harry Potter was casually slumped in a chair opposite them, picking at a cuticle and ignoring them entirely.
For Draco the tension was thicker than the porridge Narcissa had made the one time she'd attempted to cook for him when he was a child. It would be impossible for him to admit that he'd been fearful of coming to The Optical Owl for glasses; glasses changed a person's look, sometimes so much that they became unrecognisable, and the last thing Draco wanted was that. He thrived on attention, on being noticed. He was an unabashed silk stocking who'd never held a regular job. His vocation was to show up at certain places at certain times and to be seen giving donations to various causes and projects. Draco never deviated in his charitable contributions. He didn't want to appear a stingy benefactor ﾗ although, truth told, he kind of was when it came to spending on those other than himself and his family ﾗ and he certainly didn't want to be seen as girly. So he stuck with a charity that provided prosthetic limbs to war heroes and poor children, and magical creature rescue and relocation. He wrote tonnes of cheques and sent them via owl. Why, he didn't even know where the charities were located.
And because he kept track of such matters, Draco knew that Harry Potter, conversely, threw his money at almost any charity with a letterhead and some semblance of a storefront. Potter gave away far more money than Draco, but he was nowhere to be seen on the social circuit. Draco had no idea what Potter even did for a living, for Harry wasn't an Auror any more. What he did know was that Potter was at the centre of the most delicious scandal to hit the wizarding world in recent years. It was so unbelievable that it far surpassed Harry surviving the killing curse as a baby, as far as shameless gossip went.
Two years prior, Ginny Weasley-Potter had been found beaten almost to death in the Potters' bedroom. She'd been eight months pregnant at the time, and the baby had not survived the attack. She'd lain in a coma at St. Mungo's for over a month with what was deemed irreversible head trauma. Somehow she'd survived, and upon awakening she had immediately accused Harry of perpetrating the attack.
It had been absolutely shocking. Shocking! The wizarding world had been utterly scandalised.
There had been, according to every article Draco had come across, no physical evidence connecting Harry to the crime and the Aurors had had no probable cause to arrest him, one of their own. Potter had claimed that he'd gone for curry at Ginny's request, and had returned home and discovered her beaten, bloodied, and unconscious in their bed.
Potter had a receipt from the takeaway place and the employees confirmed his presence and had indicated nothing appeared amiss about him. Harry had passed a Veritaserum interrogation. Although it had been stifling hot that night, and the bedroom windows had been left open, the Aurors had determined there had been no signs of sexual assault or robbery, so those two motives had been kicked to the kerb. That made the crime personal, the papers had said, and who else would have had the means, motive, and opportunity? Ginny took their children and left Potter straight away, and she was to this day vocally adamant that Harry had tried to kill her. It was seriously the most bizarre thing ever.
"Well," Draco said, feeling vicious, after the stony silence became unbearable to him, "if it isn't the Boy Who Killed."
"And if it isn't the Dark Tortoise of the North," Potter said, not bothering to look up from the fascinating state that apparently was his cuticle.
"Maybe you prefer the Draco dwarf?"
"Are you mental?"
"Judging by the frames you were wearing earlier, I'd say I'm not the mental one here."
"I'll have you know those were very expensive, very authenticﾗ"
"Yes," Pansy interrupted loftily. "They were made from real illegally-harvested ivory!"
"Anyhow," Draco said, "I'm taller than you, so I don't know where you get off on calling me a dwarf."
"He was talking about the constellation, Draco," Pansy said, as if it were obvious.
Draco had always felt odd about being named after a constellation, even if it was the dragon, and even if it was family tradition. Even for the wizarding world it just seemed unlike a name for a man and rather unfortunate. He'd whinged at Narcissa on more than one occasion, but she'd remained unmoved. When he had his own children, Narcissa had said, he could name them as plainly as he wanted, although that would be going against Malfoy tradition. "How would you know he's talking about the constellation?" he asked Pansy. "You never paid attention in Astronomy."
"I did on Draco."
"Aww." He gave her hand an affectionate squeeze. "Then you'll be happy to know I paid attention to heartsease in Herbology." Pansy laughed, seeming happy at this.
"God, you two are still as revolting as ever," Potter observed, at least deigning to look at Draco square on.
Yes, Draco thought, a strange and warm sensation blossoming in his gut. Potter was delightfully, deliciously, artfully tousled. He held Potter's piercing gaze. "Right. Because nothing says 'I care about you' to a woman quite like a good arse-kicking. My mistake."
"Fuck right on out of it, Malfoy."
"Did you do it?" Pansy asked straight up, training her dark eyes on Potter.
"You too, Parkinson."
"Not exactly an implicit denial," Draco noted.
"Here we go." Wallingscomb interrupted them at what was probably an opportune time, as Potter had reddened and seemed to be clenching his fist. Wallingscomb appeared from the back, carrying two velvet-lined trays, each with a set of glasses. He set them on the counter. "Mr. Malfoy? You'll be first. And then Mr. Potter." Pansy'd helped him pick out a pair of stylish black glasses, sleek and slightly square. He helped Draco slide the glasses on and adjusted the arms with small taps of his wand. "Have a seat. Here, take this." Wallingscomb pushed The Daily Prophet across the counter. "Read it to me."
Draco took the paper and seated himself. He shook it out, thumbing his way through it, looking for page 6A. "Ah," he said, as various headlines came into focus without him holding the Prophet against his nose. Firewhisky-Crazed Erumpent Accidentally Floos From Africa to Leaky Cauldron ﾗ Faces Execution; Erumpent Applying for Political Asylum. Visiting Native North American Wizard Association Issues Urgent Request: Please Don't Squeeze the Shaman. Giant Cornish Pixies Invade Russia: Russian Minister Says 'I'll Ask You All to Just Nip Them Into Their Cage.' Draco read them easily. He looked up. "Brilliant!"
"I'll take that," Wallingscomb said, trading The Daily Prophet for a hand mirror. "Here you go."
For the first time in quite a few months, Draco got a really good look at himself.
He was as gorgeous as ever.
He smiled. "Beauty crowds me 'til I die!"
"Lovely!" Pansy said, hugging his shoulders. "You look amazing. See? I told you."
"I suppose it's not so bad," he said, turning this way and that to get a look in the mirror. He looked at Mr. Wallingscomb. "Do I have to wear them all the time?"
"If you want to see."
"Yes, well, it's either that or the surgeryﾗ" Pansy said.
"What, scared of surgery, Malfoy?" Potter said. He was now standing at the counter trying on his new glasses. They looked exactly the same as the old pair Potter'd laid on the velvet tray. He slid them on expertly, adjusting them here and there.
"I don't see you getting surgery," Draco said. "So who's scared?"
Potter shrugged, checking out his new glasses in the mirror. "Just used to the glasses."
"I'll never get used to these bloody things." Draco felt self-conscious wearing his new glasses, as if he'd suddenly put on five stone. "I look like a right git!" he hissed at Pansy, low so Potter wouldn't overhear.
But she refused to indulge his ridiculousness. "You look brilliant. And you can see again. Isn't that fantastic?"
"Come on, Draco. Pay and let's go. I'm starving."
He forked over four hundred and seventy-five galleons and thirty sickles.
Wallingscomb watched Draco leave. He smiled slightly.
"It looks like rain," Draco said, turning his face up to the sky. They were seated outside at La Soci?Dangereuse, an upscale cafe, and both of them had ordered a tangle of spring greens with De Louis vinaigrette, brie de Meaux, and baguettes with sweet cream butter. Pansy was also having an herbed sole.
"Ohmgodﾗ" Her mouth was full of salad and she had closed her eyes in relish. "ﾗthis is the best thing I've ever had."
"You always say that when you're starving."
Pansy swallowed, and then looked up at the sky. "Dunno what you're going on about. It's beautiful."
"What? You hate overcast days."
She looked at him. "It's not overcast. It's beautiful. Look at the sky."
"You're a nutter." He pointed his fork at the sky before reaching over the table to nick a bite of her sole. "Look."
"Draco, stop joking," Pansy said, jabbing her fork at the top of his hand, shooing him away. "You're not blind any more, so I'm not buying it."
He managed to get at her sole anyway and leaned over the table conspiratorially, chewing. "Everyone is staring at me."
"No one is staring at you."
"They're not? Why? Don't I look good?" Glasses or not, he ought to command attention.
"Merlin." Pansy rolled her eyes.
"That's not sole, by the way," Draco said, sure of it. "It's tilapia."
He could tell just by looking.
Dad dead. Mum gone. 2 little brothers 1 little sister. Anything helps. Merlin's blessings.
The sign wasn't magical. It didn't blink, change images, sparkle, or glow. It looked . . . ugly and Muggle and it seemed to be written on an old scrap of box.
Draco had never in his life seen anything like it.
"What do you mean 'anything helps'?" he asked, giving the sign the once over again.
The young girl holding the sign looked at Draco warily. "You don't have to have a go at me. Just keep walking, yeah?" She was the skinniest thing Draco had seen since that pathetic, spotty Hufflepuff Eloise Midgen. Her hair was dyed black as ink, but at the crown Draco could see messy inch-long mousey roots. Her thick-soled boots had lots of buckles that fastened all the way up to her knees, and the robes she wore looked as if they'd been pilfered from a rubbish bin. They were covered with skulls, coffins, bats, Egyptian ankhs, and even the Dark Mark. Her fingernails were chewed down and painted black, she wore a black skirt the size of a bandage over black leggings, and she was obviously filthy.
Draco was both revolted and confused by the presence of this odd Muggle-like creature. She was sitting on the ground between La Soci?Dangereuse and Bobbin's Apothecary, tucked away against the platform there. "What are you doing?"
"Can't you fucking read?"
"I justﾗ" Draco couldn't stop looking at her. A terrible feeling of dread and fear filled him, the unexpectedness of this reaction compounding his panic. He felt as if he'd been blindsided by something unknown and dreadful, and then he was filled with a bleak hopelessness and not just a little bit of anger. What the hell was going on? "What do youﾗ"
"You're dodgy," the girl accused, her brow furrowing. "Go away."
"Let's go," Pansy said, not bothering to appraise the young girl holding the sign. "Don't give them money. They just use it for illegal potions and Firewhisky."
"Butﾗ how old are you?" Draco was inexplicably compelled to ask.
"Fifteen." She held out her hand to a passerby, who had stopped to give her a galleon. "Thank you very much." She opened a worn leather pouch she had hanging around her neck and dropped the galleon in. It didn't clink, indicating it was empty.
"Use it well," the older witch said with a wag of her finger before tottering off down Diagon Alley.
"Then why aren't you at Hogwarts?"
She rolled her eyes. "Like the sign says? Anyway, it's the summer."
"Wouldn't a job pay you more than just sitting here?"
"You have a job for me?" There was a long pause. "I didn't think so. Sod off already!"
"Hogwarts can teach youﾗ"
"I'm a Squib, arsehole." The girl stared at him defiantly, raising her chin a notch. "And there's no one else to take care of my brothers and sister. So either give me some money or leave off."
"You shouldn't be out here holding a signﾗ"
"And you shouldn't be giving lectures on morality, Malfoy,"
Draco turned. Harry Potter stood several feet away, one hand stuffed in his jeans pocket, the other holding a plain paper bag. He was looking at Draco with what appeared to be amusement.
"God, not you again."
"Harry!" The girl was up and running, her sign abandoned. In a wink she was clinging to Potter.
"Oh, gag," Pansy said, waving her hand in front of her nose as the girl zipped by. "It's time for a bath, stinky bird!"
"I reckon you can have one when you get home then, Parkinson," Harry said, patting the girl on the head before extricating himself from her grip. "Here you go." He handed the girl the paper sack which Draco assumed had a sandwich or something in it, as it looked like a regular lunch bag.
"Thanks!" She looked at Harry expectantly.
"It's in there," he said. "Ten galleons."
"So, is this pathetic sod bothering you?" Harry asked the girl, thumbing towards Draco.
"Yes," the girl said, throwing Draco a look. She plopped herself back down in her spot and rummaged through the bag, immediately finding the ten galleon coin. She added it to her pouch and this time Draco could hear the distinct clinking sound of coins. "He thinks heﾒs the greatest."
Potter fixed a gaze on him and Draco was hit with a cold wave of contempt. He was out of his element. He found himself looking at the girl again, just so he wouldn't have to look at Harry, but that wasn't really any better. He was small and insignificant here. He stepped backwards until he was bumping up against Pansy; his back touched Pansy's shoulder and he was enveloped by her warmth and affection again. "Let's go," he said, clutching at Pansy's hand. He looked at the girl again. "What's your name?" he asked her.
"What do you care?" Potter asked, as the girl ignored Draco in favour of a pumpkin pasty.
"I wasn't talking to you. Besides, I'm as charitable as the next bloke," Draco said.
"You're really not." A smile played at Potter's mouth, as if he were advising Draco of a juicy secret.
"I've got more money to throw around than you do, Iﾒll bet."
"But you don't throw it around."
"How the bloody hell would you know what I do with my money?"
"People talk, Malfoy."
"No they don't!" Did they? "Not about things like money anyway."
"Especially about things like money."
"You're lying," Draco said, both pissed off and chagrined. "Nobody knows my charitable gifts except my accountantﾗ"
"Malfoy, everyone knows you're stingy as hell."
This was completely unacceptable. "I am notﾗ What?"
"Yep. ﾑFraid so." Harry took a seat on the platform of the apothecary, next to where the girl was sitting on the ground. She'd pulled a fully trussed turkey from the sack and was hacking away at it with a plastic knife and a spork. "Can you float this for me?" she asked Harry.
"Sure." Harry pulled his wand. "Wingardium Leviosa."
"How did you fit an entire turkey in there?" Draco asked. This was all so surreal. What the hell was he doing standing in Diagon Alley with Harry Potter and a homeless fifteen-year-old squib discussing roasted poultry?
"An undetectable extension charm."
"Let me see that," Draco said, disbelieving. "Oww!" The girl had stabbed him with her spork, much like Pansy had done at La Soci?Dangereuse.
"Get away from my food!"
"Look," Draco said, genuinely interested in the spell, "just show me the charm. I won't touch your bag."
The girl considered him for a long moment and then tipped the bag forwards, still clutching it protectively, until the top opened.
"Lumos." Draco shined the tip of his wand over the bag. "Bloody hell! It's like a bloody pantry down there." He was quite sure he saw a refrigerator, loads of canned and dry goods, and at least two hams wrapped in foil and tied off with netting floating mid-air.
Potter smiled slightly at Draco, which made Draco's stomach flip-flop. "Useful charm, that."
Draco looked at the girl more closely. She had an interesting face underneath all the dirt and kohl, strange jewellery and patchy mismatched robes. "What's your name?" he asked again.
"Eliza," she said, her mouth full of turkey. "And what am I, the fucking zoo?"
"No, Iﾗ" He didn't even know what.
"Draco, I'm going to Twilfitt and Tatting's. I told you I have a fitting at one," Pansy said. She seemed disinterested to the extreme. "Do you want me to pick anything out for you?"
"Uhﾗ" Potter was staring at him, as was Eliza; he felt on display. Draco turned his back on them. "Yeah," he said, under his breath. "The ball . . . I need something white tie." He turned into her, meaning to give her more instructions.
"What are you doing?" Pansy hissed at him, now that she had his attention. She pulled him a few steps away. "Do not give that little grub any money. If you're experiencing some kind of weird moment of generosity, then give to a charity. That way you'll know it won't be going for potions!"
"She kind of just looks . . . hungry?"
"She looks fine. Thin is in. Buttons or cuffs?"
"Please don't be long," Pansy whinged, and with that she was heading down Diagon Alley.
"Do you always run around with fridges and sides of beef or whatever in enchanted bags to give to strange kids?" Draco asked Potter, as he turned back to them.
"Oh." Draco didn't know what to say
"You're going to the Dormiens Ball, then." It was a statement rather than a question.
"Pansy's picking something out for me right now at Twilfitt and Tatting's," he said, lifting his chin. His new glasses slipped down his nose. "Crap!" He scrabbled at them, keeping them in place.
"Better get used to that. It'll happen all the time."
"And are you going?"
"To the Dormiens Ball?"
"I'm not invited."
Draco snorted, a triumphant grin spreading across his face. The Golden Boy, shunned. "Oh really? What a shame. Why ever could that be?"
Potter immediately looked like he wanted to retract the admission. "Well, Ginny's invited. So, yeah."
"Not on my watch, she'd better not be." Draco'd never liked Ginny Weasley, agreeing with Blaise that Ginny was from a family of full-blown blood traitors, but the invitation committee for the Dormiens Ball was an eclectic bunch. Apparently they all liked Quidditch. "But, so what if she is?"
Harry stared at Draco as if he were daft.
"Divorced people attend the same events all the time. It's no big deal," Draco continued.
A long pause. "It's not quite the same thing."
"Why? All the ladies afraid you'll beat the bloody hell out of them? Can't quite manage a plus-one?" So much for the art of discretion.
Potter's jaw was set tightly; he remained silent.
"Well, there was that time you attacked me after Quidditch in fifth year." Draco clucked reprovingly. "So it's not much of a stretch to consider youﾗ"
"And, of course, there was Sectumsempra. Incredibly violent, thatﾗ"
"Malfoy, you're a real prick."
"A prick who holds the invites to the Dormiens Ball." Draco flicked an eyebrow.
"Balls aren't my thing."
"How do you know? How many balls have you seriously tucked into?"
"A fair few," Potter said, holding Draco's gaze, unflinching. A small smile played at the corner of his mouth.
If it had been anyone else, Draco would've known a come on when he heard it.
Potter's mouth was rather lush. His bottom lip was full and tinged just the perfect shade of pinkish-red and Draco wanted to touch the indentation just underneath it there with his forefinger, wanted to press down there lightly. He noted a thin scar just about the length of a central incisor, as if Potter'd sucked in his lip and bit down through his own flesh.
"Oh, really?" Draco said, raising an eyebrow. "How come I've never seen you at any, then?"
"Yes, really. I've been through enough balls to know I can take them or leave them. The reason I've never seen you at any is because I don't look for you."
Draco ignored this insult. "Why leave them when you can take? Some might consider it a challenge."
"Whether I take or not depends entirely on the terms of the challenge. Sometimes I take." Harry slid his hands into his pockets, rocking back on his heels. He looked right over Draco's head. "Sometimes I don't."
"So you like a good challenge?"
"I expect you would know enough about me to gather that much." Harry looked at him then and Draco distinctly felt a surge of desire. And he didn't think it was from him; it was only for a moment, but Draco's impression was that it came from Harry. How very intriguing.
"Fancy a new challenge, then, Potter?"
"There's your challenge, Malfoy," Potter said. "If you put your mind to it, you just might find out."
"I've never been to a ball," Eliza said, oblivious, shoulder deep in the lunch sack, rummaging. "Mum always talked about how maybe I'd get to go to the Yule Ball someday if the Triwizard tournament came back to Britain, but then I never got a Hogwarts letter," she said matter-of-factly. "Harry, you should go to this ball. Go, because I can't. And then you can tell me all about it."
"I don't have an invitation."
"That means I'm not invited," Harry explained, quite patiently.
"Who cares? Gate-crash. I do it all the time."
Harry tweaked Eliza's bony shoulder affectionately. "Gate-crashing's fun when you're fifteen," he said, fixing a gaze on Draco. "Right, Malfoy?"
"Oh, yes. Tonnes of fun." He was still bitter about the Slug Club. "And I was sixteen, thank you."
"Harry," Eliza said, opening a box of Fizzing Whizbees, "anyone who really matters knows you didn't do it. Oh, thank you!" She nodded to a wizard who stopped to give her a galleon. "I'll use it well."
"Doesn't it bother you to not be invited?" Draco asked. He would have been infuriated, not to mention mortified. It would have been so not on. That said, the Dormiens Ball wouldn't be held without Draco in attendance. He was just that prominent. Well, that, and the fact that Draco himself had established the Dormiens Ball in 1999, at the young age of nineteen, as a fundraising effort for Hogwarts (which he had come to appreciate during his stint as a Death Eater; Hogwarts was a reprieve of the infinite kind). Hogwarts had a solid endowment, thanks to Draco. So, perhaps the Dormiens board was, well, obligated to invite him . . . Draco didn't want to think about that scenario. Surely he was nobody's obligation.
"Oh, come on. Be honest."
"I said it doesn't bother me."
"Everyone tries to save face."
"Yes, Malfoy, because I've always cared for what other people think. Just like yourself."
"What? There's nothing wrong with maintaining a good image."
Potter tilted his head, his gaze piercing through Draco. "Oh, is that what you maintain?"
"Of course." Right?
"I suppose 'good' is subjective, then."
Draco sneered. "Not really. Some images are saint-like, heroic to the point of sheer nausea. Some people can do no wrong in the eyes of others."
Harry snorted. "Until they actually do no wrong, that is."
"You mean Ginny." Draco laughed. "Oh, boo-bloody-hoo. Poor Saint Potter. Got the tables turned on you, yeah? I've read the papers, so let's see. There's no physical evidence. You passed Veritaserum. There's no motive. And you've an alibi. But sod that. People love to believe you almost beat your wife to death. So much for the benefit of the doubt, eh?"
"People enjoy assuming the worst," Potter said, scowling.
"Yes," Draco said, grinning malevolently. His eyes were flat and not friendly at all.
"Suppose you think that's brilliant."
"In your case, yes."
"Why? Why do you have to think like that?"
Anything he might have said would have been the understatement of the century. "I appreciate a good comeuppance."
"Have you two always been this in love?" Eliza interjected sarcastically, eyeing them both. "You sound like my mum and dad."
"I thought your dad's dead?" Draco asked.
"He wasn't always."
Draco felt beyond uncomfortable at her comment. Were he and Potter like some kind of old nattering couple? Granted, they hadn't seen each other in years, but it was always the same whenever they were together. Their open animosity for each other had always superseded any semblance of maturity.
The truth was that in his lifetime Draco'd had dream after dream of how sublime Potter's arse looked in his jeans and ﾗ because all teenage boys suffered through regular, inconvenient arousal ﾗ how Potter seemed decently endowed when Draco could see the outline of an inconvenient erection through Potter's trousers, although Potter would always do his best to hide his arousal under his robes or behind his rucksack.
Draco had dreamt of Potter's crazy, flyaway hair and the breathtaking way it curled up at the nape of his neck, and in those dreams he kissed Harry, sucked on his tongue and slid his hand under Potter's t-shirt and up his side, the warm, gentle rise of Potter's ribs expanding under his touch. The dreams plagued him all through his Hogwarts years, which had both pissed him off and terrified the shit out of him, and ultimately caused him to be even more vicious to Potter than he might normally have been.
Now, here he stood, with Harry Potter staring right at him, with disgust, yes, as per usual, but he also was considering Draco with a new curiosity of sorts, as if he were seeing Draco for the first time. Draco's insides fluttered and turned over in that way that they did when something new and exciting was imminent. He'd felt it with Pansy when she'd agreed to go to the Yule Ball with him back when they were fourteen, and he'd felt it when he'd been introduced to Astoria.
And he was feeling it now.
He pushed up his glasses again. "Pansy's waiting for me at Twilfitt and Tatting's."
The corner of Potter's mouth lifted. "Buttons or cuffs?"
"Too right," Draco said loftily. "Why?"
Potter shrugged. "I just figured."
Draco considered Eliza. "Do you drink?"
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Oh? What's your poison?"
"What do you drink? Firewhisky? Mad Krup? Gosh Golly Old Tom?"
Her brow furrowed and she looked at Draco. "What?"
"What do you drink, Eliza?"
"Well, I rather like chocolate mooncalf milk," she said, as if embarrassed to admit it. "Or Pixie Pop." She glanced away, her cheeks pinking.
"I mean alcohol, girl. Pansy said that you lot pander for money for alcohol and illegal potions. So, what do you drink?"
"I don't drink alcohol, you twat!" Eliza said, visibly affronted. "I've gotﾗ my brothers and sisterﾗ You're an arsehole!"
"It's a legitimate question if I'm to make an investment."
She seemed rather enraged. "I've got three younger siblings who've got no one but me. What use would I be to them if I were pissed all the time? I don't drink like that. You knowﾗ" and Draco thought he could hear a hint of frustrated tears behind her hard fa?de, "ﾗI didn't ask for this to happen!"
"Where are your brothers and sisters anyway?" Draco asked. "How old are they?"
"Brothers and sister." She corrected him. "Harry's ten, eleven next week. He'll go to Hogwarts in Septemberﾗ"
"Harry?" Draco asked, rolling his eyes. "Let me guess."
"My parents named him after Harry Potter," Eliza said, motioning towards Potter with her chin. "Harry saved my aunt Mary from the Dementorﾒs Kiss when they questioned her blood status at the Ministry. Uncle Reginald and Aunt Mary didn't have any more kids, so mum and dad did the honours when Harry was born."
"You have relatives, then? How come you're not living with them?"
"They died with dad."
"How do you afford Hogwarts for your brother?"
"They've special funds."
Of course Draco knew of these funds. He'd just never met anyone who actually used them. "And?"
"Your other siblings?"
"Finlay's seven. Madeleine is two."
"Two?" He thought of Scorpius, who certainly wasn't two any more, but Draco couldn't imagine his son without parents or family, under the care of a lone fifteen-year-old squib. "Where are they now?"
"I won't say. Think I want them taken by the Ministry? Hardly."
"Potter," Draco snapped, flicking a glance Harry's way. "What do you know about this?"
"I expect more than you, but Eliza will tell you what she wants you to know."
"What, that she likes chocolate mooncalf milk, Pixie Pop, and that she's got three kids stashed away somewhere?"
"What's your name?" Eliza asked. "Seeing as you think it's your business to know all about me."
"Malfoy," Draco said. "Draco Malfoy."
Eliza cocked her head. "Really? The bloke from 6A?"
Draco couldn't help preening. "Oh, you recognise me?"
"I recognise your name." She squinted at him. "You look different from the papers, though. It's the glasses."
Fantastic. "What are you doing reading 6A anyhow?"
"What, reading's illegal now?"
"What about potions?" Draco asked abruptly. "Do you take potions?"
"When I'm sick." She looked at him, shaking her head. She was rummaging around in her lunch sack again, this time pulling out a plain apple. She crunched into it with a huge, sucking bite, staring at Draco.
It was the oddest thing, really, because Draco didn't feel any hesitation when he pulled out his money pouch and reached in blindly to extract some coins. He didn't even know how much he'd selected. "Here, then."
Eliza shrunk from him, suspicious. She stopped chewing and looked towards Harry for direction.
"It's all right, I expect," Potter said, after several long moments. "Right, Malfoy? Nothing funny's going to happen?"
"Right. I have hexed money." Draco rolled his eyes, feeling self-conscious because he was standing in the middle of Diagon Alley holding out Merlin only knew how many galleons to a waif who wouldn't take them.
But then she was reaching out, tentatively. She snatched the coins from him, as if expecting them to disappear before she could get to them. She continued to watch him.
"Don't tell Pansy," Draco said to Potter, unsmiling.
"I don't even talk to Pansy."
"Use it well," he said to Eliza, and then he stepped into the crowd flowing past and was on his way to Twilfitt and Tatting's.