Draco Malfoy had finally arrived at the stunning conclusion that he was in love with Harry Potter. The circumstances surrounding the formation of their relationship were immaterial. (Suffice it to say that there was much truth to the "fine line between love and hate," "familiarity makes strange bedfellows," and the ever-popular, "I'm not my father's son" clichés). The far more relevant dilemma was what Draco was going to do with this revelation and how he was going to break it to Harry—poor unsuspecting, dense Harry.
As he glanced around Madame Lola's small shop, festooned in pink and red sparkly cloth and smelling of warmed dark chocolate and bewitched candy hearts, he was sure that the fates had conspired against him. He didn't find the fact that his "revelation" had occurred in early February "serendipitous," by any stretch. Instead, he found the revelation, timed for Valentine's Day no less, both suspicious and disconcerting.
Of course, any revelation of love wrought over Chinese from Mr. Chen's was guaranteed to be wonky. Draco couldn't believe that he, a Malfoy, had realized that he was in love with Harry while witnessing him steal a piece of his General Tso's Chicken. The sod wasn't even stealthy about it, what with his clumsy chopsticking and cheeky grin. Rather than become unaccountably angry, as Draco usually did when interlopers scavenged from his plate (even when he wasn't particularly fond of what was there), he'd found Harry's blatant food snatching endearing—adorable even. Worse still, his stomach hadn't turned with disgust at the thought of finding something adorable. He'd felt a rush of white heat coil in his stomach before zooming around and settling in the middle of his chest. He'd wanted to blame in on the spicy food but, seeing as how he'd not eaten any of it, he couldn't. It wasn't the Chinese. It was Harry. That's when he knew he was in love.
That was two days prior and he was now standing in Madam Lola's Fine Stationers searching for the best commercial-but-not-really-commercial way to tell Harry that he loved him. He couldn't leave Harry to his own devices. Harry would never figure it out on his own. He'd need directional signs, blinking lights, and Draco standing in the background with a small wooden club. Though, Draco hoped a well-worded greeting card would accomplish the same thing. Hence, his trip to Madam Lola's. Or, what used to be Madam Lola's.
Draco was rather struck by the small shop's transformation. What had once housed the world's finest hand-finished parchments and elegant, one-of-a-kind greeting cards was now a parody wrapped in red and pink fluff and sparkle. The small shelves now groaned under the weight of boxes of poorly made cards redolent with garish colors and lurid sentiment, cartons of red sealing wax complete with brass turtledove and cupid seals, and other inelegant catchpenny courtesy of the Wizarding World's newest platinum tiara retailer of the Intaglio line of Wizarding greeting cards. Madam Lola had sold out. Of course, Draco thought to himself, it wouldn't be any other way, not when this began under the auspices of General Tso's from the House of Chen.
Draco shook his head as his gaze roved over the card selection. He was here now and it wasn't as if he'd ever sent a card expressing his undying love before. Perhaps he was too quick to judge the selection as nothing more than froth and frill. His fingers hovered over a sedate looking card done up in plum and gold. There was a lovely watercolor scene on the front. He squinted at it, trying to puzzle out its subject. It appeared to have something to do with the sea. Harry liked the sea—always complaining that he never got to see it growing up. Draco shrugged. Maybe this was the one?
"Darling," it began. Draco's eyes narrowed in suspicion, but he kept reading. "My love for you is as deep as the ocean and as expansive as the inky black sky. May we dance forever under a blanket of stars, awash in the sea of our love." He found it extraordinary that he was able to return the card to its little holder without retching. "Who writes this rubbish?" he sniped as he sneered at a little lump of a woman sniveling over a purple and red card with two doe-eyed bunnies on the front, facing each other, and pressing their noses together. Draco shuddered and turned away.
"Right. Time for a drink," Draco muttered to himself as he left Madam Lola's and Disapparated straight to Blaise and Seamus's flat.
"Don't you two ever stop?" Draco scoffed, while dangling his crystal tumbler to the side, demanding a refill from the now missing house elf. As if it was a great effort, Draco twisted around and poured himself a generous double.
"Just because we can show we're in love with each other and you can't because of your born and bred Malfoy repression is no reason to scoff," said Blaise in between kisses with Seamus, who ignored Draco's presence altogether.
Draco gave a start. "Love?" he sputtered as he shifted in his seat and sloshed his scotch. "You think I'm in love with Harry?" he squeaked. He chuckled. "Why that's—that's–"
"Ah, Christ, Malfoy," Seamus said in a thick brogue, muffled by his kisses to Blaise's throat. "We all know you're in love with Harry. We've known it forever. The only two people who never seemed to realize, or at least admit it, are you and Harry."
The color drained from Draco's face. There was no way anyone else could have realized it—Draco himself had just discovered it two days prior. "Shut it, Finnigan. What do you know? You spend all day playing with your little balls and things," Draco sneered.
"He works for the Department of Magical Games and Sports, Draco, and he's right. It's obvious that you love boy wonder," Blaise intervened before Seamus could take umbrage. "And stop with the balls thing. It was never funny, you know," he said as he coaxed Seamus back to attending to his neck with those kisses that drove him wild.
"Bollocks. You've spent too much time with Finnigan, there. Just because you're the under-secretary to the over-secretary to the vice-chancellor of the civil branch of the Wizengamot, doesn't make you any smarter, Blaise," Draco said as he settled back and took a generous swallow of scotch.
"Yes, and sitting on the Wizengamot and acting as the liaison between it and the Labor Board has made you brilliant," Blaise snapped, tired of Draco's presence.
"It's obvious you love him, Malfoy. You say it all the time," Seamus said as he maneuvered around Blaise and started attacking the other side of his neck.
"I've never said–" Draco began, the pile of his cashmere jumper bristling in indignation at the presumption he'd said those three little words.
"Goddamn it," Blaise muttered as he gave Seamus a gentle push, halting their activities. "It's not your words, Draco. It's your actions."
"What are you talking about?" Draco asked.
"Madam Witherspoons ring any bells?" Seamus asked.
Draco's eyes drifted back and to the side as he tried to place the name. "What? The washerwoman who had a stack of labor violations? I don't think there was a part of the Wizarding Safety and Health Act she hadn't violated," he said with a shudder. "What does she have to do with anything?"
Seamus and Blaise exchanged glances. "Why her, Draco? Why the little old washerwoman with the fifth generation laundry that she and her tiny little wizard husband ran on their own?" Blaise snorted. "I know you were tasked with ferreting out labor violations, but why start with her? I'll tell you why," Blaise continued, not giving Draco a chance to answer, "because it was Madam Witherspoons who ruined Harry's emerald green dress robes. You went on and on and on about how special they were to Harry and how he moped around the flat for days afterward."
"Coincidence," Draco said with a sniff as he fought the rosy colored splotches rising on his cheeks.
"Coincidence, my arse. Just get on with it, Draco. Just tell him you love him and be done with it. Stop with the dramatics," Blaise said as he turned his attention back to Seamus.
There was much moaning and lip smacking between the two as Draco considered their words. "All right, fine. So, you two have been able to divine that I love him. Fine. Harry doesn't realize, of course, and I've got to find the perfect way to tell him so that he'll really understand what I'm trying to say."
Seamus nearly toppled Blaise over as he wrenched himself from his embrace to turn to Draco. "Harry doesn't realize? Have you lost your effing marbles?" he sputtered. "Who do you think had to evict Madam Witherspoons? The Aurors, you stupid sod. You'd cast enough aspersions and innuendo about "Dark" artifacts that the Aurors had to get involved. Harry may be a bit thick about personal things, but he's not totally clueless."
It was Draco's turn to sputter. Harry had never said anything about the swift demise of Madam Witherspoons, except to express mild curiosity about whether she was enjoying her retirement. No, it simply couldn't be true. Harry didn't know that Draco loved him. If he did, well, things would have been different. "I don't believe you, but I still need help coming up with the perfect plan. Blaise? Suggestions? I haven't all night, you know."
Seamus sighed in exasperation. "Don't know if you noticed, Malfoy, but Blaise and I were sort of in the middle of something here before you showed up, let yourself in, wandered into our bedroom, and demanded scotch from the house elf. The lack of clothing and our scurrying about for the duvet might have been your first clue that we weren't in the mood to receive guests."
"Hey, I'm the one that was made to suffer the sight of your abnormally freckled arse," Draco interjected while Seamus kept talking and Blaise announced that he was rather fond of those freckles.
"Here's a piece of friendly advice before you leave," Seamus said, ignoring Draco's insult, "First of all, and for bloody fuck's sake, everyone who knows you knows you love him. Even Harry knows it. But, assuming that he doesn't, which he does, Harry's as uncomplicated as they come, mate. Why not just say, 'Harry, I love you?' If you make it too complicated, he won't understand what you're driving at. Keep it simple. Oh, and get out. Now."
Draco snorted. Seamus Finnigan knew nothing. "You're both out of your gourd," he muttered as he stood and swallowed the last of his scotch. "I can see I'm in this on my own," he said as Blaise's eyes fluttered closed and Seamus pointed to the door. Again. Draco stalked away pretending he hadn't just seen Seamus's bits in such close proximity to Blaise's arse.
Draco added a little flourish to the parchment he'd just finished writing. He eyed it critically before deeming it finished. He couldn't help but smile at his brilliance. He'd found a way to tell Harry that he loved him. It had come to him the night before while he and Harry had eaten their takeaway Chinese. He'd stopped at the House of Chen on the way home from seeing Blaise and Seamus. He knew Harry wouldn't have fed himself—the man was like a child in that respect—always needing looking after. Besides, if General Tso's brought revelations of love, there was no telling what the egg drop soup would bring. As expected, more revelations had come to him at the fabled hands of Mr. Chen. Too bad Draco's stomach wasn't as tolerant.
A shudder passed through Draco as he sat at his desk—and not the pleasant kind, mind you. It was the Chinese. He shook his head and muttered under his breath, "Why couldn't you like poached salmon and dilled asparagus," while tidying his desk and perusing his schedule of labor interviews for that afternoon. Draco didn't really care for Chinese, but he endured it because he was addicted to the way Harry's face brightened at the smell of Cantonese shrimp, lo mein on the side, brown rice instead of fried, no MSG, please. He melted at Harry's adorable (yes, there was that word again) smile as he pounced on the small bag of fortune cookies that accompanied every meal from the House of Chen.
"Oh, look! They gave us extras," Harry crowed as he descended on the little cellophane wrapped treats.
"They must know the order is for the Boy-Who-Lives-Off-Lo-Mein," Draco drawled, pleased when Harry had laughed. There was no reason to tell Harry that Draco always demanded extras.
He watched as Harry read his fortunes and nibbled at the small cookies.
"What's your fortune, then?" Draco had asked with a nudge to Harry's foot.
"A secret admirer will soon send you a sign of affection," Harry read as he continued to nibble his cookie. "You know, except for that one time, I've never gotten a bad fortune from Mr. Chen's," Harry said in between bites.
Draco, as he always did, made a non-committal sound. There was no need for Harry to know that Draco had threatened Mr. Chen with a full labor audit should another bad fortune ever find its way into their takeaway bag. "What is it with you and the fortune cookies?" he asked instead.
Harry shrugged. "Dunno. I like the fortunes, I guess. The promise of something wonderful or exciting just around the corner."
And that's when Draco realized the perfect way to tell Harry he loved him. So dumbstruck that a burst of enlightenment had seized him again while eating Chinese again, Draco's spoon dropped from his hand and clattered to the table.
"You all right?" Harry asked, pausing between nibbles.
"Never better," Draco said, thanking the gods for Mr. Chen and fortunes about secret admirers.
The indigestion he was suffering now was worth the revelations, Draco thought, as he smiled at the memory of the previous evening. So caught up in the reverie, Draco almost missed Blaise sauntering into his office. "So that's what you look like with your clothes on." Draco murmured with a smirk as Blaise flopped into one his club chairs.
"You've got to stop showing up like that, Draco. I'm serious. Seamus is threatening to withhold sex."
Draco sniffed as he sorted through his sheaves of parchment. "Serves you right. It's unnatural the way the two of you fuck so often. And you give into that blighter of an Irishman way too often. Show some Slytherin pride, for Merlin's sake."
Blaise rolled his eyes. "Whatever, Draco. Look, I know you're used to coming and going as you please, but I'm with Seamus now, okay? Just—could you at least wait downstairs? Must you come into the bedroom as if you owned the place?"
"Fine," Draco snapped, as he shuddered once again. "What is it you want?"
Blaise cocked his head and looked over his oldest friend. "Chinese again?"
Draco looked up, about to ask how Blaise knew, but thought better of it. "Yes."
Blaise laughed. "You hypocritical arse," he said with a bemused smile.
Draco ignored him. "As long as you're here, how does this sound," he said as he picked up the parchment he'd been working on all morning and cleared his throat.
"I've been watching you. I know everything about you. The way you stir your tea twice counter-clockwise before stirring three times clockwise. The way you pick through the bin of peppers to find that perfect one. The way your nose wrinkles when you sleep. Oh yes, I've watched you sleep. I could make a life of watching you sleep.
"I love the way you move, the way you laugh, the way you mourn. Even the way you cry. Sometimes, I want to wrap you in cotton wool and steal you away and never share you with another. You are mine and I am yours. You are a part of me, as I am a part of you. In life we share one quilt. In death, one coffin."
Draco smiled to himself, pleased with his efforts. "What do you think?" he asked as he looked up. His brow wrinkled at Blaise's wide-eyed, slack-jawed expression. "Why are you looking at me like that? You've gone all pale and fish-eyed. What the hell is wrong with you?"
"What is that, Draco?"
"What do you mean? What's wrong with it? It's fine. I even added some Japanese Haiku at the end for a literary flair. Take that, Intaglio."
"Is that… Draco, is that supposed to be a greeting card message? Is that how you plan to tell Harry you love him?"
"Of course it is, Blaise, and yes, that's how I plan to tell him that I love him. Well, that and a romantic dinner at the seaside from Papagiorgio's. Are you really that uncouth?" Draco snorted. "It's artistic."
"It's creepy, is what it is," Blaise mumbled.
"What do you mean? What's creepy about it?"
"Well for starters, Draco, it makes you sound like an obsessive voyeur."
Draco stared at the parchment and read through it again, his brows knitting together and his lips moving with the words. "No it doesn't. It says 'I love, you and I want to be with you forever.'"
Blaise eased himself out of the chair. "Sure," he said slowly. "Just… I mean to say… look, that's not for Harry is it? Don't you remember what Seamus said? Direct and uncomplicated is the key. That's… well, I'm not sure what that is exactly, but it's certainly not direct or uncomplicated."
Draco waved the parchment. "I'm not going to give it to him all at once—I'm going to parcel it out—let him think about it, you know. Like little fortunes from those biscuits he fancies."
Blaise shook his head. "Whatever, mate. Just know that you can't stay with us if this goes wonky." Blaise stood to leave, but stopped for a moment. "How in the world did you get Papagiorgio's to cater? Isn't that Harry's favorite restaurant? And don't you hate the seaside? Didn't you once say that you had an inherent distrust of sand?"
Draco stacked his parchments into a neat pile. "Harry finds the seaside relaxing," he said in clipped tones, not daring to acknowledge the triumphant smile curling on Blaise's lips. "And, if you must know, it seems that Papagiorgio's has a bit of problem with paying its chefs overtime. They're claiming some sort of professional and artistic labor exemption. I, of course in the full exercise of my duties, am requiring a hands-on demonstration of their culinary skills to see if they live up to the exemption's requirements."
Blaise shook his head, his grin extending across his face. "Pathetic. Using your political clout to further your love life instead of your bank account. Never thought I'd see the day, mate. Congratulations," Blaise said on his way out. "Oh, and keep the dinner, ditch the creepy verse," he said before popping out of view.
Draco watched his friend leave. "Daft prick," he said under his breath. "He doesn't know what he's talking about. Harry will love this," he said as he pulled out several identical strips of untraceable parchment and started writing. "This will appeal to his sense of romanticism, his sense of adventure, and it gives him a little mystery to solve. At the end, he'll know just how much I love him. Draco's love fortunes, yes that's what I'll call them." Draco finished writing everything out and toyed with the red sealing wax and brass turtledove seal. Deciding he was in for a Knut as much as a Galleon, he sealed the parchments with wax and set them in his drawer.
Draco was antsy as he slathered his toasted crumpet with violet raspberry jam. The first part of his Valentine was going to be delivered that morning.
"Morning," a sleepy, tenor voice called to him, before a warm weight settled in behind him. Harry's sleep-tousled hair tickled the side of his face as he attacked Draco's neck with soft, smacking kisses. "Any tea?" Harry asked as he retreated and stifled a yawn.
"On the table. Made you some porridge."
Harry grinned. "Thanks."
"You know that little boys are the only ones who eat porridge," Draco groused, while he hid his smile as Harry spooned up his porridge with gusto.
"Good thing I've still got my boyish charm, then," Harry said as he grinned and ducked his head.
"Stupid prat," Draco said as he took a bite of his crumpet. "Oh look, Hedwig's brought the post," Draco said as Harry's snowy owl circled the room before setting down. "Hello, seems she's brought a friend," Draco said with ill-concealed glee as the hired owl circled around and landed in front of Harry.
"What's this?" Harry asked as he took the small rolled parchment and snagged a piece of Draco's crumpet for the hired owl. "Here you go, girl," he said as he fed the owl and turned the parchment over.
Afraid he would give everything away, Draco stood and took his plate and cup to the kitchen. He missed Harry going pale as he turned over the parchment and saw the blood red wax seal, stamped with turtledoves.
Harry's stomach dropped at the sight of the turtledoves. He licked his lips and looked around, happy to see that Draco wasn't in the room. He quickly checked the parchment for spells, hexes, and charms. Nothing. Making matters worse, it was untraceable parchment. He gulped and, with a shaky hand, broke the seal.
Draco peeked around the corner, hoping to get a glimpse of Harry's expression as he opened the parchment. Stupid sod, he had his head down.
"I've been watching you," the parchment read. Harry gasped. Holy fucking Merlin, he thought he was through with this.
Draco delighted at Harry's gasp. He'd made the impression he wanted. With a smile and jaunty step, he made his way to the bedroom. "I've got an early meeting, love. See you tonight," he said as he passed by, not paying attention to Harry's hasty retreat.
"Ron, we've got a problem," Harry said as he pushed the crinkled bit of parchment into Ron's hand.
Ron opened his mouth to say something, but snapped it closed at the words on the parchment. His eyes went wide. "But it couldn't possibly be–"
"—But it is. At least, I think it is," Harry said as he ran his hand through his hair. "The parchment's untraceable, delivered by hired owl, red sealing wax, and a turtledove seal."
Ron almost dropped the parchment at the mention of the turtledoves. "Impossible! The Turtledove Stalker is in Azkaban. For life."
"I know, I know… maybe… I don't know, maybe he's got someone working for him on the outside."
Ron's jaw set. "Right. Well, we're not taking any chances this time. That loony almost succeeded in kidnapping you last time. Who knows what he would have done had he gotten you. We'll put on a full round-the-clock guard, start intercepting your mail, and I think a visit to Mr. Dove is in order," Ron said as he cracked his knuckles.
"Wait!" Harry said, grabbing Ron's arm. "Let's… let's give it a day, yeah? Let's see if anything else comes. If so, I'll pluck a feather from the owl. With those new owl tracking laws in place, we'll be able to trace the owl and who sent her."
"I don't like it, Harry. You could be in danger."
Harry snorted. "Like that's something new. Sorry," he added at Ron's expression. "Look, I just don't want to make a big deal of it yet. Draco will go ballistic if he finds out. I mean, look at what he did to Madam Witherspoons."
Ron's face contorted. "Don't remind me. I still don't understand why you're with the ferret when he pulls shite like that. I mean, come on, Harry? Who roughs up an old washerwoman because she couldn't get a few spots out of your dress robes? And, why the washerwoman? Why didn't he do anything when you went through this last time? I've never understood that."
Harry evaded the second half of Ron's questions. "Well, those robes were my favorites."
"Okay, okay… I didn't mean it like that. I just meant that it's kind of sweet how far Draco's willing to go in my defense. It might be a little twisted, but it's how he shows me that he loves me. It's not like he's ever going to say the actual words, you know."
"You're not serious, are you? This is how he shows love? Putting little old witches out of business because of a spot or two?"
"She ruined them, Ron! It wasn't just a spot or two. Look, you've gotten me off track. Yes. That's how Draco Malfoy shows love. Don't look at me like that. It's really no different than when I wear those little outfits he likes or when I," Harry paused. "well, you don't really need to know about that part." Harry cleared his throat. "Look, what I'm trying to say is that we don't have to say the words—it's all in how we treat each other, the things we do for each other, like how I called in a few favors so that he was put in charge of one of the good Wizengamot committees. And look how much good he's done with the labor department. He's really cleaned house—oh sorry for the pun—I just mean a lot of good has come from everything, you know."
Ron gave Harry a blank look. "You two are the most fucked up people I've ever met."
Harry sighed. "Please, Ron. Let's just give it another day or so, okay? Let's see what we can find out."
Ron muttered under his breath, pulled at his hair and shuffled his feet just shy of stomping them, but, eventually, gave in to the persistence of Harry's patented hang-dog expression.
"Thank you, Ron. Truly. You won't regret this."
Harry was up at dawn the next day. He lay there for a bit, watching Draco sleep. He loved watching Draco sleep. His face was rosy and his brow furrowed a bit. Every few seconds, his nose wrinkled as he wriggled into a more comfortable position. "I love you, you stupid prat," he whispered as he reached out with his left hand and ghosted two of his fingers over Draco's eyelids and cheeks. Harry hoped that he was wrong, that that psychopath wasn't after him again—or Draco, for that matter. He couldn't bear the thought of losing Draco. He shuffled closer, protecting Draco's body with his, as his fingers slipped further down and traced the outline of Draco's soft, pink lips.
"There are other parts of me that would prefer your touch," Draco mumbled as he stretched and wallowed in the covers.
"I didn't mean to wake you," Harry whispered, hoping that Draco hadn't heard his little confession.
"Not awake," Draco mumbled. "Just up," he said with a grin.
"Oh. Well I suppose I should see about that," Harry murmured as he slithered down Draco's body and settled between his legs. "What's this?" he teased as his hand curled around Draco's morning erection.
"Oh, fuck," Draco puffed out, still half-asleep. "Told you I was up," he said. "Needs attention."
"Well, I'll get to it then," Harry said as his head dipped low and he took Draco in his mouth. He smiled at the pleased sigh Draco gave as his hand trailed through Harry's hair. "Lovely, lovely, lovely," Draco whispered.
"Didn't think I'd see you for a while," Draco said as Harry walked into the kitchen. "Thought I'd worn you out proper."
"You did, but now I'm all energized."
"Must be all the protein," Draco drawled, smiling at Harry's laugh.
"Has the post come yet?" Harry asked as he sat at the table and fiddled with the morning paper.
"No. Expecting something?"
"Uh, no not really," Harry said as he bit his lip and buried his head behind the Quidditch scores.
"Okay. Well, I'm off," Draco said just as Hedwig entered and circled the room, followed closely by another hired owl. "Oh look, the post. See you."
"See you," Harry repeated as his eyes tracked the hired owl. He didn't even notice Draco duck around the corner after pretending that he'd left.
"What have you got for me today, girl?" The hired owl stuck out her leg and Harry's breath caught at the sight of the familiar parchment with red wax and a turtledove seal. "Damn it," he swore under his breath as he pulled the roll of parchment from the owl's leg and plucked a feather from her at the same time. She screeched, nipped at Harry's finger and left in a huff. "Sorry," Harry mumbled after her as he quickly broke the seal and unrolled the parchment.
"I know everything about you. The way you stir your tea twice counter-clockwise before stirring three times clockwise. The way you pick through the bin of peppers to find that perfect one. The way your nose wrinkles when you sleep. Oh yes, I've watched you sleep. I could make a life of watching you sleep," the parchment read. Harry's stomach turned as he eyes darted around the flat out of instinct, as if there was an intruder there now. "Fuck," Harry swore under his breath as he pocketed the parchment and Disapparated.
After Harry left, Draco returned to the kitchen, puzzled by why Harry seemed so disconcerted by his latest love fortune. Did he think it had come from someone else? Was that the problem? Oh, Merlin… no, it couldn't be true. He'd know if Harry was fooling around with someone else. Harry couldn't pull something like that off. He didn't have a duplicitous bone in his body. No, it had to be something else. Before Draco could think any more of it, his watch chimed. "Shite! I've got that harassment investigation at The Three Broomsticks," he said before dashing off to start his day, smiling with evil glee at the prospect of hearing Madam Rosmerta's answers to questions about her many, famous sexual liaisons.
Ron stared at the crumpled parchment and the small, black feather. It was taking a lot for him to remain calm. "Right," he said. "We'll just take this feather to the lab and get it scanned. Should know something in an hour or two," he said, pleased that he'd kept the quiver out of his voice. No use in making Harry feel any worse.
"I just can't believe this," Harry hissed as he wove back and forth in front of the small evidence table. "Why now? Why is this happening now?" Harry snorted. "Stupid fortune. Secret admirer, my arse."
"What are you on about?" Ron asked as he took great care in bagging the feather and filling out the chain of custody form for the lab.
"Nothing," Harry said. "A fortune. From Mr. Chen's. Said something about a secret admirer sending me a sign of affection. I got the first parchment two days later."
"You don't really believe in those things, do you?" Ron asked as he grabbed the closest lab assistant and made it very clear that he was holding the most precious piece of evidence that he would ever handle before turning back to Harry.
"No, not exactly. I mean I know they're not even Chinese, really. I just… I dunno. Good things have always come of Mr. Chen's for me, and now this."
Ron rolled his eyes. "Look, Harry, The House of Chen is a restaurant and Mr. Chen is a restauranteur, not a master of Divination."
Harry looked Ron up and down, his eyes narrowed. "Hermione's been making you do the word-of-the-day again, hasn't she?"
"Damn it, Harry!" Ron exploded. "This isn't funny. Not funny at all."
Harry held out his hands in surrender. "Sorry, sorry. You just got me all turned around with 'restauranteur,'" he said with a chuckle. "Besides, I need to laugh… makes this seem a bit less…." Harry shrugged.
"Real," Ron whispered.
"Yeah. Real," Harry echoed.
Ron couldn't stand the expression on Harry's face. He resisted the urge to offer to rough someone up for him. For a moment, he almost understood what had driven Draco to put Madam Witherspoons out of business. He shook his head, terrified that he had come close to identifying with Malfoy. "Right, the lab's going to take a bit. There are some lovely field reports that need doing and they have your name all over them. As I am officer of the day, I suggest you get to them."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Yes, sir," he said with a mock salute and a cheeky grin before grabbing the reports and Disapparating.
"Sir?" a spotty faced intern said as he approached Ron Weasley. "The labs have come back on the Potter case," he whispered as if involved in a game of wild intrigue.
Ron sat up and reached for the report. "What do we know?"
The spotty faced intern went pale and started stammering. "Erm, well, it seems that the hired owl came from Madam Lola's. The bill of lading for this particular owl for this particular delivery was registered in the name of Draco Malfoy."
"What?" Ron said as he leapt to his feet, causing the intern to stumble backward into the wall.
"It's true, sir. We double-checked."
"That doesn't… why would he… this is mad…." Ron said as he paced around trying to figure out what Draco was playing at. The smell of sesame chicken wafted through the halls causing Ron to remember what Harry had said earlier about his secret admirer fortune. He gasped. His face turned a very unattractive shade of red. "I am going to kill that slimy snake of a ferret," he muttered under his breath as he strode from the Aurors Department, to the lift, and to the Wizengamot Liaison Office.
Normally speaking, Draco didn't mind being slammed into walls followed by the heavy weight of a warm body pinning him in place. Of course, that was only when—behind the closed doors of their flat, mind you—Harry was feeling pouncy, and, therefore, doing the slamming and the pinning. Draco was rather unaccustomed to having it happen at work, in his office, and perpetrated by a ginger-haired ape going by the name of Ronald Weasley.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Draco growled, wondering if the weasel had succeeded in breaking his nose.
"I should ask you the same thing, Malfoy," Ron hissed before slamming Draco into the wall again. "How could you, you despicable piece of filth? How could you do that to Harry, huh? Think it's a joke, do you? I thought you loved him?"
Draco's mind raced. He had no idea what Weasley was talking about. "Have you gone daft? What are you talking about?" he asked as he struggled for leverage. "And how do you know I love him? Does everyone know?"
"Don't play coy, Malfoy, I know all about the parchments. You should have done a better job of covering your tracks with the hired owl."
Draco parsed through that. Oh! So Harry had figured it out, then. But that didn't explain… "What, Weasel? Are you jealous? Need a few tips for how to woo Granger?" Draco taunted, succeeding in twisting out of Ron's grasp. He drew his wand and spun around at the same time Ron drew his. They were standing chest to chest, in full battle stance, wands at the ready.
"I'm warning you, Malfoy, leave Harry alone. I've watched you pull a lot of shite and I've never said a thing in consideration for Harry's feelings and all, but this… this… how could you do that? Huh? Are you that sick?"
Draco's wand faltered a bit. "What are you…." Draco began, truly perplexed. His wand dropped to the ground as he grabbed Ron by the shoulders. "What's happened? What's wrong? Is Harry hurt? In trouble?"
Ron stared at Draco in disbelief, a bit perplexed himself. "No, Harry's fine," he began slowly, his own wand faltering. "But," Ron faltered, trying to work out what was wrong with this scenario. "Look, Malfoy, are you sending Harry parchments with creepy snippets of verse sealed with red wax and a turtledove seal?"
"Why does everyone say they're creepy? They're not creepy—there's Japanese Haiku involved, I'll have you know."
"So you are sending them."
"Yes, what business of it is yours?" Draco sneered, as both men took a few steps back from each other and adjusted their robes.
"Humor me," Ron said as he waggled his wand and whipped out his Auror badge.
"Is this some sort of official business? When did Harry Potter's love life become an official Ministry matter?"
"When I said it did. As officer of the day, I have complete discretion. If you don't believe me, just try me, Malfoy. I'm begging you to."
"Why must it be a Wizengamot case to fall in love," Draco muttered under his breath. "All right fine, Weaselbee, I realized that I love him, you see, and I wanted him to know. He loves the fortune cookies from Mr. Chen's, so I thought he might like these little love fortunes every day."
This was getting stranger by the minute. It didn't make a lick of sense. Ron's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean you wanted to tell Harry you love him? He already knows that. Merlin, Malfoy, everyone knows that!"
Draco blinked and then blinked again. "No, he doesn't," he said,
Ron opened his mouth and closed it. He jabbed his finger at Draco's chest, opened his mouth to say something scathing, and closed it again. "You admit you sent the parchments," he challenged at long last.
"Yes. I just said that. Have you been hit in the head?"
Ron ignored him. "You admit that you sent parchments to Harry, creepy parchments, done up just like the ones he got from the Turtledove Stalker two years ago, don't you?"
"What are you talking about? Who in the hell is the Turtledove Stalker and what's that got to do with Harry?"
"Joke's over, ferret," Ron said, feeling his earlier resolve and anger weaken by the second.
"What joke? What in Merlin's name are you talking about?" Draco asked he took three steps forward.
"The stalker. You know, the one who sent Harry those little bits of parchment sealed with red wax and stamped with the turtledoves?"
Draco stopped pacing. He stared at Ron blankly.
The clink of missing facts and suppositions clicked into place in Ron's mind, and he suddenly understood. "Oh, fuck," he mumbled. "Harry never told you, did he?" he asked his wand lowering of its own accord.
"Told me what?" Draco asked in a voice low and dangerous.
Ron closed his eyes and mumbled under his breath about sodding friends who kept sodding things from their sodding lovers. "Nothing. Forget it. Ask Harry," he said, as he tried to retreat.
A non-verbal Sticking Charm thrown at his shoes kept him in place. "Not so fast, Weasley. Tell me what the fuck is going on. Now."
Ron swallowed, cursing his hotheadedness. "Look, I really think this is something you need to talk to Harry about. I assumed… I mean…."
"Start with the stalker bit, Weasley, we'll go on from there."
Beaten, spent, and tired, Ron nodded and told Draco all about the Turtledove Stalker.
"So this creepy man was sending Harry threatening notes?" Draco said twenty minutes later.
"By hired owl. To our flat."
"He was targeting Harry."
"This man was mentally deranged and was capable of unspeakable things, and he wanted to do those things to Harry."
"Try me, Weasley… just try me. I'm begging you to."
Ron's face went blotchy and hot at the sound of his own words turned against him. "Yeah, he was capable of unspeakable things, and… erm… well, he sort of indicated that he might be inclined to…."
"Weasley," Draco said, his wand raised in a threatening manner.
"Okay, okay. Yeah, he wanted to do unspeakable things to Harry."
Draco paused and closed his eyes. He shuddered at the thought of Harry in danger like that. "And he almost succeeded, you say?" Draco asked in a bare whisper.
"Yes, but you have to understand–"
"Shut it, Weasley. And Harry never told me."
Not sure if he should answer, Ron cleared his throat and nodded. "Seems that way," he whispered as an afterthought.
Draco waved his hand. "Get out," he said in a cold voice.
Ron wiggled his toes and lifted his foot from the ground. Malfoy had cancelled the Sticking Charm. Ron turned to leave, but then felt an awful pang of guilt at having brought all of this on. "Listen, Malfoy–"
"I said GET OUT!" Draco bellowed before ejecting Ron from the room and slamming the door to his office shut.
"Merlin, Merlin, Merlin," Ron muttered to himself as he raced back to the Auror Department.
"We need to talk. Now," Ron said as he rounded the corner, spied Harry and dragged him away from the ever-fill coffee pot.
"What's gotten into you?" Harry demanded as he shook himself free. "Why are we in a broom cupboard?"
Ron ignored him. "I love you, Harry. You know that. But sometimes, sometimes, you do things that make me want to strangle you. Without magic."
Harry blinked. "What's–"
"—Why didn't you tell Draco about the Turtledove Stalker?"
Harry blinked again. "I—I didn't want to worry him," Harry stammered. "Look, Ron, what's going on?"
"We got a trace on who was sending the parchments to you. It was Draco."
"Draco?" Harry asked. "Why… that doesn't make any sense."
Ron snorted. "Believe me when I say that the truth in this case is far stranger than any fiction I could conjure."
At Harry's blank stare, Ron rolled his eyes and sighed. "He wanted to tell you he loved you."
"But I already knew that," Harry said absently as his mind raced to make sense of what Ron was trying to tell him. "Oh, Merlin, no," he whispered.
Ron nodded. "I thought he was playing some sort of perverse joke. After that fortune you got the other day and all. Why didn't you tell him, Harry?"
Harry felt numb. He shook his head. "Where is he now?" he asked, dread pooling in his stomach.
"His office. At least that's where I left him."
"I'm… I wasn't trying… look, I'm sorry."
Harry nodded again. "I've, uh, I've got to go," he said as he made his way out of the broom cupboard and straight to Draco's office.
"Draco?" Harry called as he opened the door to Draco's office and edged in. The lights were off and the room was mostly dark.
"Wondered when you'd turn up," Harry heard from the other side of the room. He squinted.
"Draco? Is that you? What are you doing over there?" Harry asked as he started walking towards the voice.
"I loved you, did you know that?"
"Yes, I did." Harry paused for a second, the phrasing of Draco's words catching up to him. "Wait, what do you mean loved?"
Draco ignored him. "Why didn't you tell me, Harry? Why didn't you tell me some lunatic was stalking you and nearly succeeded in kidnapping you?"
Harry winced. "I didn't want you to worry."
Draco spun around and stalked out of the shadows. "You didn't want me to worry? You didn't want your lover of five years to worry? How could you keep something like that from me?"
"Because it made sense at the time. I didn't want you going off on your own trying to find him. I mean, if you'd put a little old washerwoman out of business for a few spots, what were you going to do to a homicidal maniac?"
"Oh, so he's a homicidal maniac now, is he? Brilliant, Harry, just fucking brilliant."
"This isn't getting us anywhere, Draco. I'm sorry, okay? I wasn't trying to hurt you, I just didn't want to worry you."
"That's my job, you stupid sod. That's what people do who lo–, who care about each other. They worry. And they sure as hell don't keep secrets, not like this."
"Are you serious?" Harry sputtered. "You keep things from me all of the time. I had to find out about Madam Witherspoons from my section chief, not you. What else have you been keeping from me?"
"Don't you dare try to lay this at my feet," Draco said as he charged forward. "I never kept from you that someone was trying to kill me! Who does that, Harry? I'll tell you who. Inconsiderate pricks who don't know the meaning of love."
"Oh no, you don't," Harry said as he grabbed Draco's arm to keep him from storming past. "I love you, Draco. I thought that was obvious. I do that thing you like—yeah, that one," he said when Draco's cheeks colored. "Trust me when I tell you, I would never do that if I didn't love you."
"Piss off, Harry. What? You think a little bit of kink the bedroom is how people express their undying love?"
"That's not all, and you know it."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Harry sighed. "Come on, Draco. Let's not play games. I know all about Madam Witherspoons, the thing with The Daily Prophet, and the restraining order from that fiasco with Witches Weekly. Shall I continue?" When he got no answer, Harry sighed. "Who do you think covered up that thing with Witches Weekly in the first place? And with Madam Witherspoons? Dark artifacts, Draco? That was over the top even for you. I've been cleaning up your little messes for years now. I do it because I love you, you arse."
Draco was livid. No, he was beyond livid. He was embarrassed and livid, a disastrous combination. He'd had no idea Harry had done those things. He was probably a laughing stock, the other Aurors probably got a big laugh at Harry's stories about how he'd had to bail out his hapless lover. Again. Draco wasn't going to stand for it. "Well at least you don't have to put up with your sniveling over stupid biscuits with messages in them, the way you mope around if you think someone doesn't like you, the goddamned organic Muggle porridge you insist on—who the bloody fuck eats porridge, by the way—and then there's the way you dress, the way you leave the toothpaste all spoogy, the biscuit crumbs in the duvet, fucking Merlin, the list is endless. You know what? It was the goddamned Chinese after all," Draco said as he shook his arm free and pushed past Harry.
"What do you mean it was the Chinese? What in the hell are you talking about?"
Draco shook his head, now convinced that the feeling of warmth in his chest after the General Tso's had been nothing more than heartburn. "Nothing," he said as he took a few steps forward.
"Don't you dare walk away from me. From us."
"There is no us," he said with a sneer and stomped out of his office, pretending he didn't hear Harry calling after him.
He snorted as he Disapparated back to their flat—Harry's flat now—and started packing his things. "Should have known. Nothing good can come of The House of Chen." A few wand waves and he was done. He turned to make sure he'd gotten everything, knocking over a plant in the process. "Bloody fucking hell," he spat as he leaned over to pick up the plant and Accio the spilled soil. A small, white strip of paper caught his eye. It was a discarded fortune, a remnant of too many nights of Mr. Chen's takeaway. "The time is right to make new friends," it read. "About bloody time you got one right," Draco muttered before shrinking his trunks and Disapparating.
The thing was, of course, that Draco didn't make any new friends. He just kept harassing the old ones. He went on and on and on about Harry, wondering what Harry was doing, wondering if Harry had realized how wrong he was, wondering if Harry had dared date anyone, hoping that Harry hadn't been involved in the Auror ambush in Shopshire he'd read about two weeks prior, and generally pining after Harry. It was disconcerting, all this pondering about Harry. Draco wondered if there had been some sort of potion in all of that Chinese he'd endured. It would certainly explain his very un-Malfoy like reaction to the "break-up," as everyone called it. Speaking of Chinese….
"How can you possibly eat noodles that way?" Draco asked Blaise with a bored drawl. He was sprawled in a chair, nursing a triple scotch, trying to have a conversation with Blaise, but it wasn't working.
"Either he goes, or I go," Seamus said in a huff as he vanished the lo mein noodles from his chest and got out of bed.
At the sound of the bathroom door slamming closed, Blaise stalked from the bed, grabbed Draco's drink and set it with a loud 'thunk' on the ottoman, and hauled Draco up by his collar. "This stops, now. I haven't gotten laid proper since you threw your hissy and left boy wonder. I have indulged you, placated you, and tried to sympathize, but honestly Draco, my kindness has reached its end."
"Just what are you saying?" Draco asked as he rearranged his collar. "You're my friend. You're supposed to be there for me in my time of need. You're supposed to help me."
"All right, fine. You want help? You want advice? Do us all a favor—and I'm including the Weasel in this—and go back to him. This whole thing is stupid. So Harry lied to you. Big deal. You lied to him. You still love him and he still loves you. Get the fuck over it and get the fuck out!" Blaise yelled as he pushed a brown bag into Draco's arms and hauled him down the stairs.
"What is this?" Draco asked, pointing to the bag as he was hustled out the door.
"Dinner and your sodding future. Cold sodding Chinese while you stand in the street alone and pathetic," Blaise snapped before slamming the door shut.
"Well," Draco began after several long moments of shifting from foot to foot in the cold. "Someone's in a snit," he mumbled as he turned and walked away.
It occurred to him sometime later that he was still clutching the brown paper bag as he sat on a park bench staring into the distance. Mangy cats wound their way around his legs as they meowed and begged for whatever was in the bag. "Take it," he said, dumping out what was left of the beef and broccoli and chicken lo mein.
Draco sat there for a long while, thinking about Harry and their stupid fight and their stupid stubbornness and the stupid way they'd been avoiding each other as the cats feasted like kings. It had been torture every time they'd run into each other at the Ministry. Whatever it was between them was still there, and it was grinding them both into a bloody pulp. They'd almost had a conversation the other day, but neither seemed able to do more than pass glances that ran the gamut between smoldering, longing, and regret.
"Maybe it wasn't the Chinese after all," Draco muttered to himself as he rubbed his chest, missing the warmth that had pooled there so often. "Eat well my friends," he said to the cats as he stood. He turned to leave, but something caught his eye. He crouched forward to get a better look. The soft light of the park lamp glinted off of a cellophane wrapped fortune cookie that had tumbled out of the bag along with the other food. "What is it with these stupid fortune cookies!"
He meant to leave it, he really did, but seeing the stupid little cookie elicited a Pavlovian response. His insides warmed and a ghost of smile fluttered across his face as he remembered all of the times Harry had pounced on the bag with the fortune cookies, reading them aloud, making suggestive remarks about a few of the more inventive ones, adding "in bed" to the end of others when he was feeling randy. Harry really did love the little things, and… well, Draco really did love him. "What say you then, cookie?" Draco murmured as he unwrapped it and broke it in half.
"Anger begins with folly and ends with regret," the fortune read. Draco's eyes narrowed. He snatched up the bag and turned it over. "House of Chen" was stamped on the side. "Figures," he said, intent on throwing the fortune out. He couldn't bring himself too, though. He scowled, cursed the effects of adorable untidy hair, and pocketed the fortune before Disapparating to Diagon Alley, deciding to take Blaise's advice after all.
Harry sighed and concentrated on his Szechwan beef. His head was supported by his left hand while the right fiddled with his chopsticks as they trailed through the spicy brown gravy. It had been a mistake to come here. It had been three months since he'd set foot in the place. He frowned, remembering the awful fortune he'd gotten that night. "The greatest danger could be your stupidity," it had read. Not willing to face the truth, Harry had sworn off Chinese, The House of Chen specifically.
But the fortune had had its intended effect. Harry traipsed around for days, weeks, pondering Draco, and wondering what Draco was doing, if he was happy, if he was dating anyone. He smiled every time he read about another business slapped with labor violations. He was proud of Draco—if nothing else, he took his position seriously. Well, most of the time, when he wasn't abusing it for Harry's benefit. Fuck—that thought just made him smile more.
Ron and Hermione had turned him out for the weekend—said they couldn't take any more of his incessant moping and chattering about Draco. They told him he needed to get out, try something new. He'd tried to do that, he really had. He'd gone for a walk and, somehow, made it back to the neighborhood where he'd shared the flat with Draco all those years. He'd hated giving up that flat, but just couldn't bear to live there alone. He went to the park next and after seeing a menagerie of cats dining on discarded Chinese, he'd wound up at the House of Chen, ready to give it another go. It occurred to him, as he made patterns in the sauce of his uneaten dinner, that he'd never eaten here—he'd always had takeaway.
Takeaway—Draco… Draco always knew just want Harry wanted, never failing to get the brown rice instead of fried. Harry sighed and let his chopsticks clatter to the plate. He'd been stupid in not telling Draco about the stalker, he'd been stupid about a lot of things, the worst, of course, was letting Draco go with little more than a whimper. He missed him. He still loved him.
"Would you like that to go?" the waitress asked, breaking Harry from his reverie.
"I'm sorry?" he mumbled as he looked up. Charlotte was her name. She was a lovely girl, Harry thought. She was probably a student, working for Mr. Chen to get her through art school, or perhaps music. She had that free-spirited, angsty look about her.
"Would you like me to box that up to go?" Charlotte asked again.
"Er, no, thanks. Thought I'd try something new tonight, but my heart's just not in it. Should have stuck with my regular, I guess."
"Oh. Well, would you like your regular then?"
Harry thought about that—did he want his regular? The one Draco always brought home? Draco… did he want Draco? "Yeah, I think I do," he said, the sudden revelation spilling over him as the smell of Szechwan beef wafted in the air.
"Okay," Charlotte said, stepping back a bit as Harry went wide-eyed. "And that would be?" she asked after a few seconds.
"Oh, sorry. Cantonese shrimp, lo mein on the side, brown rice instead of fried, and no MSG, please."
Charlotte's eyes went wide. "Oh no! You're the Cantonese shrimp guy? The one with the pale blond, right?"
"Er, yeah," Harry said as he reached for his fortune cookie.
"Don't open that," Charlotte screeched as she leapt forward and snatched the cookie away.
What's wrong with you?" Harry asked, unnerved by Charlotte's reaction to his order and to his cookie.
"The blond, the snarly one, he threatened Mr. Chen with a labor audit if you ever got another bad fortune. There's a special bag for you—haven't had to use it in about four months now, I guess. Anyway, that fortune cookie came out of the general stock. Let me get your special bag, okay?"
Harry's cheeks flushed. "He threatened a labor audit? For me? Just so I wouldn't get a bad fortune?"
"Yeah. I take it you didn't know."
"Erm, no, had no idea," Harry said, the warm feeling he'd long associated with Draco pooling in his stomach. "I just thought we were lucky, you know? Um… what about the extras? He, uh, he didn't threaten a labor audit for those did he?"
Charlotte smiled. "No. He always paid for the extras."
A smile wended its way across Harry's face. He couldn't keep it away, even if he'd wanted to. "Oh," he said, missing Draco now more than ever. "Don't worry about the special bag, from now on, I'll just have the ones from the general stores. But," he ducked his head, feeling a bit sheepish, "I wouldn't mind the extras," he murmured.
Charlotte grinned. "That can be arranged, I think. I'll bring them out with your order."
Draco kicked the stones littering his path. After Apparating to Madam Lola's, accosting the young salesclerk for their Valentine's Day backstock, and finding the plum and gold card with the sea scene on it, he'd gone back to the old flat he'd shared with Harry, hoping to talk to him. However, according some bloke named Shelby, Harry didn't live there anymore and hadn't for several months. Draco hadn't anticipated that. Shocked, he turned away and started walking, his hand curled around the card in his pocket.
He supposed he could just go to the Aurors' office at the first of the week and ask to speak to Harry then. If he didn't lose his nerve. Draco sighed and leant against the wall of a brightly lit building. He'd been wandering about, not paying attention to where he was going, and now had no idea where he was. He tried to get his bearings and squinted at the small directional signs posted in a nearby intersection. It was useless. He turned to his left and to his right, examining the building, hoping for an address. His eyes stopped on the set of doors to his right. It took a few moments for Draco to realize where he was, but the jade green doors of The House of Chen were unmistakable. "Un-fucking-bloody-believable," he growled. "Well, serves them right," he said as he pulled out his Wizengamot identification and decided that perhaps tonight was a good one for a labor audit.
"Here you go," Charlotte said as she gave Harry his takeaway bag. "Thought you might like these beforehand, though," she said with a wink, leaving three more fortune cookies to go with the one already on the table.
"Thanks," Harry said, reaching for the first, unwrapping it slowly as he thought about how to get Draco's attention. He supposed he could just barge up to his office on Monday and demand to speak with him, he thought as he broke the first of his cookies. He fished out the fortune, almost laughing at what it said. "Something you lost will soon turn up," it read. Harry thought about that as he nibbled the cookie, already reaching for the next. He was missing a pair of socks. Perhaps this meant he'd finally find them.
Harry cracked open the second fortune cookie, eager for his fortune. "A thrilling time is in your immediate future," it read. Harry snorted. "Yeah, right," he mumbled, thinking of the pile of laundry he had to wade through when he got home. That would be about the most thrilling thing he'd done in a long while.
Harry reached for the third cookie, looking forward to mocking what was sure to be more cheery sentiment. "The one you love is closer than you think," it read. "Now this is just getting daft," Harry murmured. "The only way that one could come true would be if–" Harry's heart caught in his throat as he looked up. Standing five meters away, snarling and snapping at Charlotte while waving about his Wizengamot identification, was Draco Malfoy. Harry had never seen anything more beautiful. "Oh. My. God!" Harry exclaimed, causing Charlotte and Draco to turn in his direction.
Draco's eyes widened and his jaw went slack at seeing Harry. He looked around, expecting an oracle of some sort of drop from the ceiling. "What is it with this place?" he asked under his breath as he regained his senses and strode to Harry's table, feeling invisible hands push him on his way. Once he got there, however, he had no idea what to say. "Harry," he eventually stammered.
"Draco," Harry said in reply. After they'd stood there for several long moments, staring at each other, resisting the urge to leap forward and crush their lips together, Harry finally said, "Would you… would you like to join me?"
"Yeah," Draco said as he fell into the proffered seat. "I didn't expect… you're not at the flat anymore."
"Er, no. Decided to try something new. Decided it was time to, er, well to make new friends."
Draco gave a start at that. Harry was obviously referring to the discarded fortune. "Did you?" he squeaked.
"Did I what?"
"Make new friends?"
"Er, no," Harry said with a blush.
Relief washed over Draco at that.
"Did you? Make new friends, I mean?"
"No," Draco murmured. "Realized I liked the ones I had already," he said as he stared at the tablecloth.
"Me too. Draco, I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry," Harry said in a breathy rush.
"I'm sorry, too," Draco said. "I shouldn't have gotten so angry, I was just… the thought of losing you, Harry… the thought that you didn't care enough to tell me that you were in danger…."
"That's not why I didn't tell you."
"I know that now, okay. I was angry, and stupid."
"I was angry too," Harry whispered. "So, what now?"
Draco hesitated before withdrawing the card from his pocket. It was creased and a bit curled from the way he'd clutched it. "Er, sorry about the condition."
"What's this?" Harry asked as he pulled the envelope towards him and opened it.
"A Valentine," Draco mumbled, embarrassment suffusing his face with a rosy tint.
"I like the picture on the front. It reminds me of the first time you took me to the seaside. That was my first time ever seeing it, actually," Harry murmured as he read the card.
"I know," Draco whispered.
They sat in silence as Harry read the card through several times. "Thank you," he said. "Have you… I mean, well, have you had this all that time, then?"
Draco shook his head. "I wrote you my own Valentine verse, that's what started this whole mess."
"The parchments. With the turtledove seals."
Draco nodded. "Just as well that I couldn't finish sending them. Everyone thought it was too creepy."
Harry cocked his head to the side. Draco resisted the urge to leap across the table and lick that gorgeous throat. "Do you remember it?"
"Tell me. I'd like to hear it."
"Yeah, of course. It was written for me, right? I think it's four months overdue," Harry said with a sniff.
"Sod," Draco said under his breath, though there was no mistaking the affection with which he said it. "There was actually a whole night planned, you know. Not just the verse."
"Tell me about it. All of it."
Draco nodded and cleared his throat. He began by telling Harry all about the romantic dinner he'd planned, stalling for a bit of time. But at Harry's insistent prodding, he recited the verse from beginning to end, meaning every word.
At the end Harry sat back in his chair. He chewed the inside of his cheek. "You wrote that for me?"
A dreamy smile lit Harry's face. "I love it. I like it even better when you say it—it doesn't sound nearly as obsessive that way. And, it's not creepy. Well, I could see how that coffin thing might sound a bit creepy, but it's from that haiku, right? You know, 'I'm in your clay, you're in my clay,' that one, right?"
"Exactly," Draco said.
"I always liked that one," Harry said as his fingers traced circles on the tablecloth.
"I know. I knew you'd understand, even if no one else did."
Harry nodded. "I, uh, I like to watch you sleep too. Your nose wrinkles just before you change positions, you know,' he said as he ducked his head, hoping to hide the blush that had risen on his cheeks.
Draco ducked his head as well, trying to hide the dazed smile plastered on his face. They sat there for a few moments, neither saying anything.
Harry cleared his throat. "So, Papagiorgio's. Can't believe I had to miss out on that."
"It can still be arranged. There is still the matter of the overtime exemption."
Harry grabbed Draco's hand. "Not like that. Not anymore."
Draco swallowed. The white heat had coiled and zoomed around again, leaving him flushed. Merlin, he'd missed Harry's touch, the sound of his voice, the way he nibbled his fortune cookies. He'd missed everything, actually, his untidy hair, his unfashionable clothes, even his moping. "Okay," Draco murmured, thinking about how much it was going to cost to actually get Papagiorgio's to cater a seaside dinner and not caring one whit. "But you have to make me a promise too, Harry. No more keeping things from me, especially things that have to do with deranged stalkers and murderers after you."
Harry nodded. "Agreed. So does this mean, well, I mean to say–"
That's when Draco knew it was Harry and not the Chinese that always caused that warm feeling in the center of his chest. That he could find Harry's verbal stumbling and meandering endearing and adorable told him everything he needed to know. He captured Harry's hand in his to stop him from talking. "Yes. Back together. For a very, very long time I hope."
Harry squeezed back. "A very, very long time. I love you," Harry whispered.
"I love you too."
"We've never really said that, you know," Harry said, peeking through his fringe.
"Not in so many words, no. Though, if everyone is to be believed, we both knew it, along with everyone else."
"I knew you loved me, Draco. I hope you knew I loved you too."
"Took me a while, but I figured it out."
"So… are you going to open your fortune cookie?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "I suppose I'd better, seeing as how you've already had three," he said as he cracked it open and fished out the fortune. He pretended not to notice when Harry's fingers plucked a largish piece of cookie from the plate and ignored the sounds of furtive crunching. "Keep your heart open, the universe is guiding you," it said.
"What's it say?" Harry asked, no longer hiding his plucking or crunching.
Draco read it to him, his voice almost cracking half-way through. "Who writes this rubbish," he said with a defensive snort, hoping Harry didn't see how much it had really affected him.
Harry looked up at him, his face earnest and too wise, Draco thought. Draco opened his mouth to say something derisive about the fortune, but Harry's murmured, "in bed," followed by a short titter of laughter brought him short. "What?" Draco asked.
"The universe is guiding you… in bed," Harry repeated, his eyes sparkling, his face flushed just a bit and his lips parted. "You know, that reminds me, I never got to give you your Valentine's Day gift."
"No. You didn't," Draco said with a slow smile, grateful that Harry hadn't said anything about his reaction to the fortune.
Harry leaned forward and cut his eyes to the side before licking his lips. "Well, you know that thing you like?"
All of Draco perked to attention at that. "Yeah," he said hesitantly.
Harry licked his lips again and leaned forward just a bit more. "I was thinking," he whispered, "that we might do it with one or two of the little outfits that you like; I was thinking the blue one might work."
All of the body heat from Draco's body shot straight to his groin. "But that would mean… and you said you'd never…. You know you'd have to do the other thing, too."
Harry cocked his head to the side and grinned. "Yeah, I know." It was a smile fashioned from sin, forged in that same white coil of heat that kept reverberating in Draco's body every time Harry was near, and topped with a generous dollop of bittersweet dark chocolate.
Draco's breath caught in his throat and he made little choking sounds before he leapt from his seat, grabbed Harry's head and, before Harry could yelp, devoured him with a kiss that had the force of four months of pent-up sexual energy and the promise of a lifetime of love behind it. Harry struggled at first, surprised as he was, before he relaxed into the kiss and began his own devouring. Hands wended into hair and chairs were turned over as they shuffled to the side to get away from the blasted table separating them. They were mindless of the shocked patrons as they knocked over a soup bowl and sent the tea cups clattering to the floor. All that mattered was that kiss and what it meant. Seconds, minutes, lifetimes later, they surfaced. Their foreheads rested together as they panted.
"Want to get out of here?" Draco said after regaining the ability to speak.
"Thought you'd never ask."
Draco growled and hauled Harry to his side and began dragging him out of Mr. Chen's as fast as he could.
"Wait, the bill, my Cantonese shrimp!"
"Sod it. I'll get you more later and I'm sure they know that I'm good for it."
Harry nodded, dizzy and dumbfounded and elated all at the same time. "Who knew," he said with wonder as they left, not paying attention to the amused sniggering of the other restaurant patrons and Mr. Chen's beaming smile.
"Who knew what?"
"That all it took for us to sort everything out was a love fortune from Mr. Chen's. Though, I shouldn't have doubted it. I've never had anything but good come from the House of Chen."
That white coil of heat zoomed around Draco's stomach again before settling in his chest. He squeezed Harry's hand. It was an amazing feeling to have that hand in his again. Draco laughed as the jade green doors closed behind them knowing he would never again doubt the wonky wisdom from the House of Chen.
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