A/N: Would you believe me if I told you I came up with this while thinking about Balthazar? My mind works in strange ways...
Harry'd always known that Fate took some sort of perverse pleasure in screwing him over. It happened over and over again. Every time he thought he had found something good in his life it was brutally ripped away from him. That wasn't to say that, every now and again, Fate didn't throw him a helping hand, but it was only ever to ensure he made it out alive. His 'luck' never managed to extend to other people any more. Obviously it was much more entertaining watching him suffer.
That's why, when Harry began noticing that his muggle flatmate was repeating his day over and over again, he simply brushed it off as one more thing that the universe had against him.
Oh, he hadn't accepted it straight off the bat, no.
When the sense of deja vu first began he started watching the news. Muggle, magical, anything he could get his hands on. Before, he had never been one for keeping up on current events. Anything that was pertinent to his day to day life he would be bound to learn about one way or another. But after a week of watching the same thing over and over again the frustrated young wizard was willing to say with absolutely no doubts that, once again, his life had hit rock bottom. Only this time, his friendly, never-done-a-bad-thing-in-his-life flatmate had somehow been dragged into it as well. Though, Harry mused as he watched the city move outside his window with a new-found sense of monotony, Matt probably had the better end of the stick with this one. Matt was living through the same day of classes at the local University over and over again, only he was unaware of anything untoward occurring.
This, Harry decided, would classify as one of those moments when ignorance was bliss.
Before this whole thing had started, Harry barely even knew what days Matt would be at school. Now, he had the young man's Monday schedule memorised down to the smallest detail – the details that applied to their shared flat at any rate; he wasn't about to follow the poor guy to class. When life eventually returned to normal – and he had to believe that it would, eventually, because it was the only thing really keeping him sane – he was sure that he would find Matt's routine would change each week, and he would truly embrace the small changes with all his being, because this never-changing existence that currently surrounded him was absolutely suffocating.
Why couldn't it have been Wednesday? At least he had work on Wednesdays, but it would be not only weird but unwelcome if he showed up on a Monday. They were already overstaffed as it was, hence why he only worked Wednesdays. Having no muggle qualifications was a pretty large barrier in regards to getting decent work, after all.
Television held no interest for the under-appreciated defeater of Voldemort, and he'd never been a big reader.
Harry's life had officially hit an all-time low, and nobody had even died.
"You know," Harry muttered to his ceiling, running a scarred hand through unkempt hair, "I can't even think of what I did to piss you off this time."
He wasn't expecting an answer. It wasn't the first time he had asked, and it wouldn't be the last.
"Remember, I'm going out to dinner with Cassandra tonight, so I won't be back till late. Don't wait up for me," Matt joked as he grabbed his keys from the coffee table, slinging his messenger bag over his shoulder.
Harry barely grunted an affirmative, having heard the same thing... He glanced up at the lines he had been carving into the ceiling of his bedroom with magic... 152 times already. Having spent the equivalent of over half a year doing absolutely nothing Harry found himself wondering about all sorts of trivial and generic things.
Things such as: how is it that Matt could go out for dinner 152 nights in a row and not put on any weight? How was it that even though his mind remembered everything, his body always felt the same on the dawn of the 'next' morning as it had on that first Monday.
Nothing at all.
Until one day, something did.
Matt had been gone from the flat for an hour and Harry was lounging around on the couch in only a pair of sleeping pants. Why bother getting dressed for an uninterrupted day at home?
And that was where the trouble started.
As lethargic as Harry was becoming, the moment someone knocked on the door he shot to his feet, searching hastily for his wand. With no surprises – until now at least – he'd become lax about keeping it near. Once he found it – under the couch, where Matt had unknowingly kicked it when he left – Harry stuck it in the waistband of his pants and approached the door warily, somewhat on edge. For the first time in his life he cursed the fact that their flat lacked a peep-hole in the door.
Unlocking the dead-bolt Harry took a deep breath, counted to five, and opened the door.
Inwardly Harry was gaping in bewilderment at the man standing in his doorway. He did indeed have a pizza box in his hands, but he wasn't dressed in any sort of uniform at all. Not only that, but he didn't smell like a pizza shop. No, the man reeked of chocolate, and yet Harry found that it wasn't an off-putting, too-sweet stench, but rather it was, for some reason or another, calming. Relaxing. Soothing.
Dare he say it...
That thought alone was enough to make Harry want to slam the door in the man's face. Safety wasn't something he was allowed to feel, because it always got taken away from him in the end. That's exactly why he left the Wizarding World in the first place. False safety.
"I didn't order any pizza," Harry told the man stiffly, studying him closely. He was tall, with forgettable features, nothing overly remarkable about him at all. Blue eyes never left him at all in the silence that followed, as the man was apparently perfectly fine with having suspicion heaped upon him.
"It's on the house," the man told him, extending one arm out to hand him the pizza box, the other running through shaggy reddish hair. Frowning, his eyebrows creased in confusion, Harry cast a wordless detection spell over the pizza box. It was clean.
Narrowing his eyes with a suspicion that wouldn't lessen, Harry cautiously accepted the box.
"Um, thanks?" The unfamiliar man smiled in response, a cheery upturning of his lips and Harry found himself beginning to smile back on reflex. It frightened him a little; he hadn't done that in a long time.
Stepping backwards, suddenly extremely aware of his shirtless state, Harry hurriedly closed the door, no longer afraid of coming across as rude. Through the worn wood Harry swore he heard a deep chuckle, but he ignored it, almost running further into the flat and dumping the pizza box on the coffee table, sinking into the couch.
What the hell had just happened?
Shaking his head Harry flicked on the tv, just to be certain...
Nothing out of the ordinary happened for the next twenty days, and Harry was beginning to think that it might have been a figment of his imagination, brought on by his prolonged boredom and isolation. The pizza box had disappeared by the time he woke up the 'next' morning, so there was no evidence of it ever having existed in the first place.
Still, Harry found himself wishing that it had been real. If he thought hard enough he could almost remember the feeling of indescribable safety that had enveloped him for that brief moment. It was silly, but he discovered that he wanted to feel that again.
Harry was half expecting it when the knock on the door came again, five days later. He'd decided that he'd never actually had all that good of an imagination, so the man had to have been real to some degree. That hadn't, however, meant he would be coming back.
Glancing out the window the wizard found himself smiling. At least it hadn't been raining on that first Monday.
Climbing to his feet Harry collected the shirt he had taken to bringing into the living room and put it on, smoothing down the slytherin green fabric. There was no way the mysterious door-knocker was going to catch him shirtless twice in a row.
With his wand once again hidden in the waistband of his sleeping pants, this time covered by the fabric of his shirt – not that he really needed his wand, protective magic was pretty instinctual to him now and he didn't require his wand for the more basic things – Harry opened the door with slightly less hesitance than the first time.
Surprisingly, or perhaps unfortunately, the man in the doorway didn't appear to be the same one who had delivered Harry the free pizza. Even so, unless Harry's mind was playing tricks on him, there had been a brief disappointed look in those dark hazel eyes when they took in his appearance. If time had been flowing normally Harry might have worried that word had spread about the young man who had taken to answering the door shirtless, but it was sort of impossible under the current circumstances.
"Hi," the blond man greeted cheerfully, looking up at Harry from his significantly lacking height, "We're running an advertising promotion for the new Video Store that opened a few blocks away. Free rental?"
And that's when Harry noticed the DVD case in the man's hand.
Really? Harry thought, bewildered, first a pizza and now a movie? And didn't that sound like some lame two-piece date, except for the fact that Harry was alone.
"That's curious, I've never heard of anything like this before," Harry commented lightly, leaning forward some in order to accept the DVD case. As he did so he caught a hint of chocolate in the air, and stared curiously at the man as he pulled away.
Could it possibly be the same man? They looked completely different, sounded it too, but they smelt the same, and Harry was sure that if he didn't have his barriers up so high he would probably give off the same feeling as well. This time loop was screwed up enough as it was, couldn't anything be straight forward anymore?
"I'll be back for that in three days," the man promised and, with a wink that had Harry stumped, walked off into the street, easily disappearing into the crowds of pedestrians.
Just as Harry had expected it would, the DVD was gone by the time he woke up again in the morning. Everything was back to where it was 'meant' to be, so there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary for Matt to notice that would alter his routine in any way, shape or form. Not to say that Harry hadn't tried. No matter how messed up he left things when he went to bed they would be back in their appropriate positions come morning.
Harry spent a lot of time thinking that day while Matt was gone.
There was no real reason to believe that his mysterious visitor would really come back two days from now, because it could have been a time glitch that allowed him to come, making the day he meant an actual Thursday, rather than the third Monday. It wasn't as if Harry should want the strange chocolate-scented man to come back again. They'd barely exchanged a handful of words.
It was a figment of his imagination.
He craved human interaction to a point that his mind got fed up with him and started feeding him crazy delusions.
Still, Harry couldn't deny how impatient he was for those days to pass.
When the day that would have been Thursday arrived Harry stayed in bed, ignoring the morning noises made by Matt getting his stuff together and leaving, with yet another reminder of his dinner date. By now Harry could dismiss it all as background noise and ignore it completely while still knowing exactly what was happening outside of his concentrated awareness.
The thing was, Harry didn't want to get up, because if he left the safety of his bedroom he would be admitting to himself that he was anxiously waiting for the knock to come.
Hope shouldn't be allowed to grow, not in this situation. It was hopeless. Nothing Harry did had any effect on the time-loop, so he would simply have to wait it out and hope that he was still intact by the end of it all.
Had Matt been in the apartment he would have teased Harry mercilessly for the speed at which he raced to the door when he heard that fateful sound. Embarrassed at his own behaviour he took a moment in front of the door to compose himself, not wanting to seem weirdly eager to his mysterious visitor.
Taking a deep, calming breath, Harry unlocked the door and swung it open, coming face to face with another different man. All he had to do was take a deep inhale through his nose to smell the chocolaty scent that seemed to cling to his curious visitor of many faces like a blanket.
"Hello again," Harry greeted, for once taking the initiative in their little conversation. The man's grey eyes widened slightly before he grinned, a look that was surprisingly at home on his face. It reminded Harry of Fred and George, a pranksters grin.
"I knew you were perceptive," the man admitted, sounding more impressed than Harry would have expected, "But I didn't think you would be able to tell I was the same person."
"You focus so much on changing your appearance," Harry didn't bother asking him how he did that, he wasn't particularly fussed about method, "That you didn't try and do anything about your scent." How he managed to say that without blushing Harry would never know, but he was infinitely glad for it, especially when he saw that cocky grin widen.
"Well, I suppose I should take notes then. If dear Samuel was half as crafty as you I would have been caught out by now."
Harry frowned slightly, brows pulled together in thought. Stepping back from the doorway Harry beckoned to him, allowing him into the flat. There was an irrational part of him that was bitterly jealous to think that he had been visiting someone else like he had been Harry.
"So, what's your name?" Harry asked as he sat down on the couch, watching as the man seated himself on Matt's favourite armchair. "I'd rather not keep calling you 'the man' in my head, it's a bit odd, even for me."
He chuckled, grey eyes sparkling with amusement, and Harry felt as though some sort of invisible weight had lifted off of the man's shoulders with his entrance into the flat. Harry couldn't fathom why, but it dampened some of the irrational bitterness in an equally irrational reaction.
"Well, people mostly know me as The Trickster," the man began, causing Harry to roll his eyes despite the truthfulness he could feel from his statement.
"That's just a title," Harry protested, folding his arms across his chest and leaning back against the couch cushions, "Like The-Man-Who-Defeated-Voldemort." Inwardly Harry flinched; he hadn't meant to use that as an example. The Trickster, however, didn't react in any noticeable way, which begged the question: what was he? Not a wizard, that was for sure; not even a squib.
"I suppose you have a point," the Trickster conceded, grin not fading in the slightest, "But how about a trade instead. You tell me your name and I'll tell you mine."
"What is this, speed dating?"
Harry immediately flushed bright red after letting out the sarcastic comment. He hadn't meant to say it, it just slipped out.
"Oh I like you," the Trickster informed him, laughing heartily, "Now I think I'm actually glad you're aware of the time-loop. My name's Gabriel."
"Harry," he responded automatically. Harry's mind was whirring – Gabriel knew about the time-loop, a lot more than Harry did apparently.
"Go on then," Gabriel prodded, calming down, smile dimming but not diminishing, "I can tell you've got questions. Ask away."
Harry slumped on the couch, stunned. Had he been that obvious? Matt could never tell what he was thinking, but Gabriel had read him like a book.
"Okay then. What do you know about the time-loop?" Harry leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and his chin on his palm.
"Everything. I made it."
That was straightforward. Harry hadn't expected that.
"I get the feeling I wasn't supposed to be aware of the distortion, correct?"
Gabriel nodded, resting his elbow on the arm of the chair and leaning his head on his fist.
"No-one was except for Sam. I thought it was flawless, really, but I guess I miscalculated."
"What did this Sam guy to do make you do this to him?" Harry was curious now. Obviously this guy was powerful, very powerful, but not in magic; at least, not in the sort of magic Harry was used to.
"He and his brother have been making a nuisance of themselves, so I decided to have some fun with them, messing with his head."
The way he spoke made Harry believe there must have been some history between the three, and he couldn't bring himself to care about the fate of this Sam character. Obviously he'd pissed off Gabriel – the man hadn't said as much, but that's the impression he got – and Harry found himself thinking that the brothers deserved whatever was thrown at them.
Harry settled back on the couch, not sure what to do with himself.
He looked at the window, staring at the watery blue-grey sky, but he couldn't help watching Gabriel out of the corner of his eye.
The grey-eyed persona seemed to almost melt off of him as he relaxed back into the armchair. It revealed a much different yet eerily similar man, an appearance that Harry could only assume was his natural features.
Gabriel had golden-brown eyes – and no, Harry was not staring, nor was he entranced by them – and dark brown hair. By Harry's best estimate he was about the same height as him – which wasn't saying much, because Harry wasn't really on the tall side.
But Gabriel just seemed so at ease there, in Harry's living room. He fit there; it was as though he had been around for years.
Why though? Why did Harry feel so incredibly, irrationally safe in Gabriel's presence? It was insane! He didn't do safe! It just didn't happen.
He needed to end this. Now.
Only, he couldn't bring himself to do anything. It was too nice, even though it was silent company. Gabriel was relaxed and, oddly enough, that made Harry calm.
The two of them stayed like that, sitting in companionable silence, for the rest of the day, until the sun began to set.
As the light began to disappear, Gabriel hoisted himself up from the armchair, collected up the various candy wrappers he had accumulated, and vanished them with a wide grin.
"Ah, it was good to get away from those Winchesters for awhile," Gabriel sighed happily, stretching, and Harry would later deny that his eyes watched closely as his muscles flexed underneath his shirt.
"Glad to be of assistance," Harry offered up weakly, forcing his gaze to return to the view from the window. "It's not like I have anywhere to be, so you know, you can come back whenever. If you want." Harry cursed himself, mentally banging his head against a wall. Way to sound needy.
"That sounds nice," Gabriel muttered quietly, smile softening into something more genuine for a moment before returning to his cheshire grin.
And then he was gone, just like that. No goodbye, no walking out the front door!
Harry sighed and sank back into the couch, head falling forward into his hands. This was ridiculous.
His heart was pounding and his face was warm – from mortification most likely, he told himself. He was acting like a freaking school-girl with a crush!
When Matt came home that night he found Harry asleep on the couch, a small smile on his lips.
Over the next two months Gabriel's visits became more and more frequent, until he was there almost every day, even if only for an hour.
He always arrived in disguise, looking more stressed than he should, and it worried Harry to no end. If what he was doing was so stressful shouldn't he just stop? But he never opened his mouth and suggested it. It wouldn't be right. He still didn't really understand the circumstances, and he hadn't asked since their first talk.
In fact, the time-loop was one of the things they avoided talking about when they were together. They would talk about just about anything else though.
Like, when on Gabriel's fifth visit he asked how Harry knew how many days had passed and Harry showed him the marks on the ceiling above his bed, they spoke about magic. And when Gabriel cursed the powers that be, they talked about God. They spoke, in brief snippets, of Harry's childhood, even though he had no desire to, and in return he received a vague picture of Gabriel's own family, although he knew the tale had been edited.
It was a trust issue. Harry could respect that.
It wasn't all that long until they knew everything and yet absolutely nothing about each other. Doesn't make sense, right? But for them, it was all they needed. They knew the here and now versions of each other, and that was the important thing.
When one day Gabriel appeared straight into the kitchen where Harry was cooking lunch and wrapped his arms around Harry's waist, the wizard simply hummed contentedly and continued cooking.
There was no spoken transition in their relationship. They merely allowed things to happen as they saw fit.
The first time they kissed was shy of a week after the cooking incident, and Merlin if Gabriel didn't taste the same way he smelt, all chocolate and sugar, and it was the happiest Harry had ever been, even if he wouldn't say it out loud.
Gabriel, with his random comings and goings, seemed to fill a hole in his heart that he hadn't realised existed.
Monotonous Mondays didn't matter in the least any more, not with the wondrous new light in his life.
Sometimes, Harry decided, sitting curled up on the couch with Gabriel one night, watching a crime show he could now recite word for word while it was on mute, Fate wasn't so bad. If this was a screw-up, he didn't want it to ever be fixed.
A/N: So yeah, that was random, but I really wanted to write something like this, though I don't really know why. I hope you enjoyed it anyway.