There is no doubt you have achieved a great many things in your time (defeating a Dark Lord and saving all of humankind is rather a big deal, even I’ll admit). The wizarding world is indebted to you for your sacrifices and it is our job—nay our duty—to repay such debts, even at our own expense. For example, each morning when I am languishing in the world’s longest coffee line, waiting patiently to order my soy chai latte and apple-spice muffin, you saunter in and cut straight to the front of the line and, honestly, I don’t mind. Truly. I do not mind, Potter, that this action forces the rest of us mere mortals to wait even longer to get our coffee fix, so long that we might as well just die in that damn café (because you cannot simply order your coffee and be on your way, can you, Potter? Oh no, you have to hold up the line with your stuttering and your bumbling and your atrocious flirting).
But I never complain about it. Oh, I may slip a little Hiccupping Hex Juice into your take-away cup when you’re not looking, but I honestly do not mind the teensiest tiniest bit. In fact, I am more than happy to die in a coffee line for you, Potter. Consider it my thanks to you for dispatching old mouldy Voldy. Ta ever so much.
But alas, as much as I am willing to admit that you have earned some special treatment, it falls upon my humble shoulders to inform you that there are limits. You cannot, I’m afraid, take any and all liberties. Yes, yes, I know you risked life and limb to tango with an evil, noseless megalomaniac but honestly, Potter, there are lines that simply cannot be crossed. And I am obligated to inform you that one such line is the blatant misuse of the alphabet.
Oh yes, Potter. You can make me wait in a café until I keel over and die but you cannot, you absolute buffoon of a man, simply cannot place Madelaine Martin’s Love Potions for Beginners on the shelf before Xenophilius Lovegood’s Nargles and Other Creatures Out to Get Me. Defeating Dark Lords and topping Witch Weekly’s Sexiest Wizard Alive list three years running does not permit you to be laissez-bloody-faire about where books written by authors whose surnames begin with the letter ‘M’ should be found in my shop. ‘L’ comes before ‘M’, you giant speccy git.
Please rectify this gross misuse of the alphabet immediately (after you have enjoyed your morning caramel latte, of course). And when you’re done with that, The Monster Book of Monsters has fleas again—please louse with Anti-Fleeze (you’ll know where to find it—I imagine you’ve had cause to use it on yourself once or twice, judging by the state of your hair).
Your ever-affable boss,
Draco Lucius Malfoy, assistant manager of Flourish and Blotts.
* * *
“Malfoy! What in Merlin’s saggy man-tits is this?”
Harry waved the parchment under Draco’s nose; his arm trembled as another hiccup wracked his body.
With an imperious sniff, Draco placed his book on the shop counter, slipping his bookmark—a white peacock feather—between the pages and closing the book with a thud. Finally, he turned to face Harry, a well-practiced sneer twisting his thin lips.
“Wad?” he said.
Harry frowned and hiccupped. “Wad? What does ‘wad’ mean?”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Nod wad,” he said, voice nasally and wet. “Wad.”
Harry pulled back his arm, still gripping the letter in his fist, but he had lost his angry momentum. He looked around the shop to see if any of the customers were watching them and, if so, if they could shed some light on what the hell was happening. But no one was paying them any attention. Pity.
Harry had been all set to give Draco a piece of his mind. But yet again the bastard had found a way to derail him.
Harry loved working at Flourish and Blotts. Immediately after the war he had locked himself in Grimmauld Place to rest and grieve and shun the blinding spotlight of hero worship. He had wandered the cold, dark hallways all night, every night. He had eaten too little and drunk too much. He had sat in his kitchen staring at the shadows, replaying every agonising second leading up to his death in the Forbidden Forest and wondering what he could have done differently, how he could have saved more lives. He had worried about what to do with the unexpected future that was now stretching out before him.
Returning to Hogwarts for his NEWTs had been out of the question. The castle was in ruins and could not take on students until it was fully restored. That was going to take a year at least.
Kingsley had pulled Harry aside at Colin Creevy’s funeral and told him he was welcome to join the Aurors. “You, of all people, don’t need NEWTs, Harry, my boy,” the newly appointed Minister for Magic had said, a thick hand resting on Harry’s shoulder. The weight of it should have been a comfort but to Harry instead it had felt like an anchor, dragging him down. “I’ll think about it,” he’d told Kingsley. That was a lie and both Harry and Kingsley had known it.
Hermione and Ron were in Australia, trying to find and restore the memories of Hermione’s parents. Who knew how long that would take?
There wasn’t even a future with Ginny. They both knew there was no patching together a relationship after everything that had happened between them. Especially not with Harry’s realisation that he most likely preferred men. They were over. Finite Incantatem.
Without Hogwarts, without fighting Dark Wizards, without his friends and his girlfriend, who was Harry Potter?
There was no answer until Harry found the door.
On the third floor of Grimmauld Place, all the way at the end of the second corridor on the left, was a wooden door with chipped red paint and a brass handle shaped like a coiled snake.
Once opened it revealed a library—wall-to-wall books, enough to make Hermione weep. By wandlight Harry had inspected every spine. Half the books were Dark and Harry wasn’t game to touch them—titles like A Million and One Ways to Murder a Muggle or Hex Your Way to World Domination or The Fine Art of Torture. But in the far corner was a bookcase filled with slim paperbacks and thick hardbacks, all with colourful spines and titles that promised adventure and romance and fantasy and thrills and everything in between.
Books for adults and children—most of it wizarding but some for Muggles. Harry’s skin had tingled the second he’d touched the first spine.
So, unable to sleep, Harry had spent his nights reading instead. He’d curled up in the creaking leather chair in the corner of the library, a blanket flung over his knees and a steaming cup of tea beside him and he’d read every last book he could (safely) lay his hands on. He lost himself in the worlds he found in those books. He became the characters. He was a pirate on the high seas battling monstrous sea creatures one night and a dashing prince saving his kingdom from evil sorcerers the next. He was a lost teddy bear finding his way home, a young girl discovering a secret garden, and a soldier falling in love with his enemy. Harry’s own life hadn’t been short of dangerous adventures but he found he preferred the ones in books—he wondered if it had something to do with the endings.
No matter what happened, how bad it all got, there was always a happy ending. There was always a happily ever after. Harry had lived through his own adventure but was yet to get his own happy ending. So he found he preferred books to the murky, uncertain future ahead of himself.
And so he read.
He read until his eyes stung and his tea had gone cold. He read until there were no more books in the library he hadn’t read and he had to leave the house to buy more.
That was how, six months after the war had ended, Harry had stumbled into Flourish and Blotts expecting to fill his shopping bags with more adventures but had instead walked away with a job.
It was Narcissa Malfoy’s fault.
The shop had been empty and the regal looking woman had been standing behind the counter, her hands clasped in front of her, the folds of her crimson velvet robes like trickling blood.
“Mr Potter,” she had said, dipping her head in greeting.
Harry had stumbled to a halt just inside the door. “Er. Mrs Malfoy. Um. Hello?”
“Please. Have a look around.” She’d waved her hand at the shelves, a broad sweeping gesture. “Or is there a particular book I could help you find?”
“You work here?” he’d blurted. He hadn’t seen Narcissa or any Malfoy for that matter since he’d stood in front of the Wizengamot in defence of mother and son. He knew Lucius was rotting in Azkaban and that the family’s vaults had taken a heavy hit but he didn’t think it was so bad that Narcissa would need a job.
Narcissa had laughed, a polite titter that reminded Harry of wind-chimes. “In a fashion, Mr Potter. I own this shop.”
“Why the bloody hell do you own Flourish and Blotts?” he’d blurted once again. One day he would need to do something about controlling his brain-to-mouth filter.
Narcissa had laughed her wind-chime laugh and turned, gliding out from behind the counter to stand before Harry. “A long story, Mr Potter, but needless to say the second I was able to I sold the Manor and gave part of the profits to the War Orphans’ Trust, and with the remaining money I bought this shop.” She looked around at the overflowing shelves with pride, everything from Advanced Arithmancy to Zen and the Art of Potions Making. “We wanted to give something back to the community, you see, and what better gift than knowledge.”
Harry had nodded carefully, wondering if he could back away and rush out the door. It wasn’t that he harboured any ill will toward Narcissa Malfoy, it was more that he was deathly allergic to awkward situations. And having a polite chit-chat about books with the wife of a man who’d tried several times to kill him and mother to his childhood sworn enemy was rather awkward.
But Harry had been stuck to the spot, too polite to run away and too shocked to think up a valid excuse. Narcissa, seemingly unaware of Harry’s internal battle, had sighed loudly.
“Of course, we have had some … trouble … convincing the community to shop with us. It seems a pardon from the Wizengamot is not necessarily a pardon from wider society.” She had looked around the empty shop wistfully—Harry hadn’t noticed before but he was the only customer. There was also a thick layer of dust coating all the books that suggested they had not been pulled off the shelf and pored over any time recently. “They come in and see a Malfoy behind the counter and they scurry back out again. The books are starting to get lonely. If only I could employ someone to work here who would entice people in.” She’d sighed loudly and expertly. “If only I knew someone who had no other occupation and who perhaps owed me a life debt and—”
Needless to say Harry had walked out of Flourish and Blotts that day with ten new books, a job and a headache.
Speaking of headaches …
“What does ‘wad’ mean?” He crossed his arms and glared at Draco. He hadn’t known when he took the job that he’d be working with Draco every day, that Draco would be his boss. He probably should have guessed it but he’d been too flustered to think through the ramifications of accepting a job from Narcissa Malfoy and how Draco might fit into it all.
Turned out, Draco was the assistant manager (Harry was the junior junior assistant manager) and they now spent eight hours a day side by side in the cramped book shop. Narcissa herself rarely left the apartment she shared with her son above the shop. She’d only been filling in that day while Draco was running an errand.
Still, despite his close proximity to the one person in the entire universe who riled him up like nobody’s business, Harry loved his job. He loved books and he loved selling books and he loved the smell of books and he loved the colourful spines of books and he loved the feel of parchment between his fingers and he loves, he adored, all those happily ever afters.
Draco glanced from the letter in Harry’s hand to Harry’s reddening face and back again like he had no idea what the letter contained, like he hadn’t penned it himself and left it pinned to Harry’s staff locker this morning, complete with a boobytrap that turned Harry’s fingertips Chudley-Cannon-orange the second he’d touched it.
“Id means, Podder, dad I don know wad your talging aboud,” said Draco and picked up his book again, removing the bookmark and settling in to ignore Harry and read.
That was one thing Harry could admit: Draco loved books almost as much as Harry did—he even read Muggle books. It went some way to explaining why his mother had bought the shop and why she’d allowed Draco to install a Muggle fiction section. She could talk about giving back to the community all she liked but the smile on Draco’s face whenever a new book order came in and he would riffle through the contents, marvelling at all the new arrivals and sniffing their glorious new-book smell, spoke volumes to Harry.
It was Draco’s one redeeming quality. Well, he was also highly intelligent, quick-witted and—and Harry really hated to admit this one—terribly, horribly good-looking. But those hardly counted. Especially the good-looking bit. That didn’t count at all.
“Ha! I know what it is,” said Harry. He was determined to stop being derailed by his infuriating boss. “You’ve got a cold again.” He jabbed his finger into Draco’s shoulder. The blond ignored him. “Admit it. You’re sick.”
“Mawfoys do nod ged sick, Podder.”
Draco turned to glare at him. “We are a superior breed wid impeggable immoon sydems—we do nod ged sick.”
Harry laughed so hard, he doubled over gripping his stomach. The only reason he stopped laughing was because he was assaulted with another attack of hiccups.
When he’d finally caught his breath he was angry again. He waved the letter under Draco’s nose. “Well, just because you’re sick doesn’t mean you’re going to get out of explaining this.”
Draco sighed, resting his book face down on his lap. He had once seen Harry dog-ear a paperback and had reacted with a nasty Finger Boil Curse and a one-hour-long verbal lecture. While Harry loved books, he didn’t really worry about biscuit crumbs in the spine, tea stains on the edges and dog-ears on the corners. He thought books should look as loved as they were. Draco, however, wanted to march into the Ministry and legislate for dog-earing to be a capital offence.
“Dad id a ledder,” said Draco. “While id is no surpride dad someone who doz nod eben know hid alphabed would sdruddle to recognide a ledder, I mud day id does gif me caude for alarm, ad your manager, do dee thad da junior junior assidant manager of a boog dop cannod recognide a peed of parchmend when he dees it. Are dose spegs worging, Poddy? Do—”
“Stop, stop, stop,” said Harry and waved his wand under Draco’s nose before the blond could object. Harry had become rather good at Nasal Clearing Spells since working with Draco. While the man claimed to be bullet-proof when it came to getting sick, he was ill rather a lot. Luna—one of their best customers—had her theories about what was making Draco sick all time but Draco refused to listen to her. Harry secretly didn’t blame him—Luna had some very wacky theories—but it was a little strange that in all their years at Hogwarts, Harry had rarely seen his rival with so much as a cold (and he would have noticed considering how much Draco liked to carry on as if he was two seconds from death after a mere scratch from a Hippogriff, plus Harry had tended to stare at Draco a lot) and yet here he was, the recipient of cold after cold after cold for the past several months.
Draco jerked back as the spell took effect and his nasal passages were stripped clear of … well, Harry didn’t wish to think too deeply about what substance had been clogging up Draco’s nostrils and he certainly didn’t want to think about where it went once the spell banished it.
Both Draco’s hands flung to his nose, gently pressing either side as if to check for damage. “Potter! You can’t just cast a spell on someone without their permission!”
Harry raised his brow. “What about slipping Hiccupping Hex Juice into their morning coffee without their permission? Is that all right?”
Draco had the good sense to look momentarily abashed before straightening his shoulders and glaring at Harry. “That was justified and you know it.”
Harry snorted. “How?”
“I was quite clear in my letter, I think.”
“Ha! So you did write it. You admit it.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Potter, I signed it. Of course I admit it.”
“Oh. Well. Yeah. But why do you have to be so mean about it?”
Draco closed his book again, standing to his full height (which was, damn it, several inches taller than Harry. The bastard had probably grown that tall on purpose, just to annoy Harry). “The alphabet is sacrosanct, Potter,” said Draco, raising his voice enough that several customers nearby turned their heads. “Especially in a bookshop. I know you think you’ve saved this business singlehandedly simply by turning up to work every day and, yes, I will admit the amount of people who come into the shop has increased ten-fold since you started but let me ask you this, Potter. How many of the people who now come into this shop actually buy a book? And how many of them skulk around the aisles pretending to browse when really they are gawping at the Almighty Saviour of the Wizarding World? How many are here to slip their Floo address into your pocket and hope to one day bear the Chosen One’s near-sighted, wild-haired sprog? So if I am a little particular about making sure that every book in this shop is exactly where it should be so that those very few who do come in here to buy an actual book can have a pleasant, trouble-free experience that would encourage them to come back, then excuse me for giving a damn about the future of the shop my mother owns and which I manage.”
By the time his speech was done, Draco’s alabaster skin had turned a rather pretty shade of pink. And half a dozen customers were watching them with their mouths hanging open.
Harry toed the floorboards, heat rising in his cheeks. “Well, yeah, okay,” he muttered. “But why can’t you just say it to my face?”
“I just did.”
Harry dropped the letter on the counter. “Not at first.”
Draco snorted and waved his hand dismissively. “Well, you weren’t here, were you? I’m a busy man and I like to deal with issues as they arise. When I noticed the book had been shelved incorrectly yet again I wrote it down while it was on my mind. You can’t begrudge me that, surely?”
Harry heaved a sigh. He was being derailed. Again. “But I didn’t shelve that book incorrectly,” he said. He glanced around the shop, hoping they no longer had an audience. They did. He lowered his voice, leaning in to whisper. “It was probably one of the customers who took it down to look at it and put it back wrongly.”
Draco folded his arms across his chest, smirking. “Tsk tsk tsk, Potty. How long have you had this job? Don’t you know the customer is always right? How could someone who is always right shelve a book whose title begins with ‘M’ before a book whose title begins with an ‘L’? And besides, I saw you do it.”
“When?” Harry spluttered.
Draco jutted his chin. “Yesterday. You were too distracted by that woman with the ghastly outfit to notice you were shelving it wrongly.”
Harry ran his hands through his already messy hair. Not only was he being derailed, he was being sent sailing off a cliff and down a waterfall and into a pit of Hell. “What woman?”
Draco stomped his foot. “The woman! She was smiling and simpering and you, you were flirting with her.”
“You mean the woman I tried to ignore and when she kept on trying to slip her number in my pocket I told her I wasn’t interested and I would never be interested because I am thoroughly gay?”
Harry blinked. I’ve gone mad, he thought to himself. This can’t be happening. “You think that’s flirting?”
Draco sneered. “No, I think that’s what you think is flirting.”
Harry laughed. “If that’s the case then I’ve been flirting with you for years.”
Nearby, someone gasped and dropped the book they’d been holding. Harry turned to discover a wall of customers watching them, mouths agape and eyes shining with unabashed hunger for more. Knowing Harry’s luck, one of these people would be from the Prophet.
“Er,” he said. “I mean. No. Um.”
Draco rolled his eyes before turning to address the crowd. “If you’re looking for sexual tension, witty banter and a wealth of angst, then might I suggest you check out our Muggle romance section? If not, leave. There’s nothing to see here.” He sneered again at Harry before taking a seat behind the counter.
The crowd dispersed, muttering angrily. Harry noticed that quite a few did indeed head toward the Muggle romance section.
“Look, Malfoy,” said Harry just as Luna arrived, plopping herself onto the counter between them, swinging her legs.
“Hello boys!” She tapped her finger against her chin, thoughtfully. “Do you have a book with a blue cover?”
Draco smiled his long-suffering but ultimately adoring smile that he reserved for Luna and Luna alone. It was the biggest surprise of all the friendship that had blossomed between Draco and Luna after the war. Even more of a surprise than Draco and Harry spending eight hours, five days a week together without killing each other. Yet.
“What’s the name of the book, Luna?” said Draco.
She scrunched up her face in through. “Hmmmm. I don’t really remember.”
Harry leant over the counter, trying to meet Draco’s eye. “Um, Draco? About what I just said? I meant that I couldn’t have been flirting with that woman because you and me we … I mean, I wasn’t flirting with you. So, like, really you should have sent those customers to like the former enemies who only kind of tolerate each other section and not the romance section. Because I wasn’t saying that. We don’t even—”
“It’s good of you to admit you fancy me rotten Potter,” said Draco with his trademark sneer, “but I’m more concerned with protecting the alphabet. In future, please refrain from letting your raging hormones wreak havoc with my bookshelves.” He turned back to Luna with a serene smile. “Do you remember the name of the author, Luna?”
She shook her head, radish earrings rattling. “Not really. There was a ‘K’ in it, I think. Or maybe an ‘O’—I always get those two letters mixed up.” She leant over and patted Harry’s hand. “Draco told me about the mix up with the alphabet,” she said. “Not to worry, Harry, we all get a bit muddled every now and then.” She picked up the white peacock feather and swept it across Draco’s forehead fondly, before bopping his nose with the tip. Draco jerked back with a sneeze “But I am one hundred percent certain,” she said, “that the book had a blue cover. Or green. Perhaps it was green.”
Draco took a deep breath. “Potter here can help you,” he said. “He’s as careless with the alphabet as you are, my sweet Luna.”
Luna giggled. “Oh dear me, Draco. Are you in a bad mood because the bookworms are making you sick again?”
Draco let his head fall against the counter with a groan. “Not this again, Lovegood.”
Harry frowned. “Bookworms?”
Luna nodded. “Oh yes. This place is infested with them. Not a bad thing, really, you need a certain number of bookworms in a bookshop if you want to keep the Vanishing Ink away. But Draco is allergic to them, you see.”
Harry grinned, turning to Draco. He opened his mouth.
Draco held up one finger. “Don’t say a word, Potter.” His voice was muffled as if he had a blocked nose again but this time it was simply because his face was mushed up against the wooden counter.
“Tell me more about the bookworms and Draco’s allergies to them, please, Luna,” said Harry offering his arm for her to take, “while we see if we can find a book with a blue cover.”
Luna grinned and hopped off the desk, taking Harry’s arm.
* * *
I am happy to report that your grasp on the alphabet seems to be coming along nicely—well done! Who’s a good boy? We’ll have you graduated from kindergarten very soon!
But—and I am deeply, deeply saddened to have to tell you this—we have another problem. It appears as if your understanding of what is ‘fiction’ and what is ‘non-fiction’ is a bit wibbly-wobbly. Not to worry, your ever affable boss is here to help explain things to you in a simple, easy to grasp (even for you) manner.
Basically, ‘fiction’ is what is made up and ‘non-fiction’ is what is true. For example, ‘non-fiction’ would be the story of a boy with the world’s worst hair who swans around Hogwarts with a complete disregard for the rules, making life impossible for his handsome blond classmate, before eventually saving the day with a stolen wand and a cauldron full of luck. Whereas ‘fiction’ would be the story of a boy called Barry Trotter, who has fabulous hair and is the most eloquent wizard to ever grace this Earth, and he never cuts in line at the coffee shop and doesn’t waste half his working day flirting with simpering witches.
In other words, if you could refrain from shelving the decidedly fictional An Erotic Adventure Through Time and Space by Gerhard Feelgood in the non-fiction section, I’d be forever grateful. You see, I’d hate for any unsuspecting witch or wizard to pick that book off the non-fiction shelf, read it, think that a six-dimensional orgy was possible, die while attempting said orgy, and then have their family sue us.
On a lighter note, I feel it worthy to mention your admirable attempt to prevent a mass death in the coffee line of Ancient Brew yesterday morning. Truly, it was spectacular to witness—the blushing, the stuttering, the mumbling, the hair ruffling—but sadly it was to no avail, wasn’t it? You only ended up making us plebs wait even longer in line while you argued with the chap behind the counter for half a bloody hour about why you shouldn’t be given preferential treatment at the expense of others and, in doing so, made everyone’s morning just that little bit worse. Bravo! Honestly, I couldn’t make this shit up even if I tried (and if I did try to make it up it would be called fiction, Potter. Remember?)
I think that’s all for now … Oh, no wait. One further, inconsequential thing. A dear friend has a cold—a nasty thing that won’t seem to give
him her any respite—and I read in a book—a very helpful non-fiction book so it must be true, eh Potter?—that a sure remedy is five tablespoons of treacle. Do be a dear and pop out to that Muggle supermarket you love so much and pick me up some. So I can pass it along to my friend, you see.
I’d do it myself, of course, but I’m simply far too busy being assistant manager to leave the shop for such trivial errands. You, however, are expendable.
Ta ever so much!
Your incredibly handsome boss,
Draco Lucius Malfoy, assistant manager of Flourish and Blotts.
* * *
“A dear friend?”
Harry dumped the bottle of treacle in front of Draco, disrupting a mound of used tissues on the counter, sending them tumbling into his lap.
“Yed, Podder,” snapped Draco, somehow managing to look both superior and deeply unwell at the same time. “I thing dat—”
Harry held up his hand and Draco stopped abruptly—more out of shock at Harry’s insolence than a willingness to obey, Harry thought. Harry waved his wand at Draco’s nose in the now-familiar pattern, muttering the spell’s words at the same time. Draco jerked but didn’t protest. Well, he did scowl but that was pretty much how Draco looked ninety percent of the time. Except for when he was reading, that was. When he was reading, Draco would get this wistful look in his eyes or he’d bite his bottom lip, leaning forward in his seat, worried over whatever dire situation his beloved characters had got themselves into. Harry could tell how much Draco had enjoyed a book by the colour of his lips—unbitten and pale meant not very much and blood-red and raw meant it had been a cracking read. Not that Harry spent a lot of time looking at Draco Malfoy’s lips. And even if he did, it was for scientific purposes.
Harry jabbed a finger at the letter. He was determined to remain angry this time. Really angry. “No Hiccupping Hex Juice in my coffee this morning,” he said, “so thanks for that. But I’m not sure about this—” He waved a hand at his hair, which had turned every colour in the rainbow the second he’d touched the letter, “—it seems a bit like, oh, I don’t know, workplace bullying or something?” He slammed a fist on the table; Draco didn’t flinch. “For fuck’s sake, Malfoy. Why do you insist on boobytrapping these letters? As if the contents aren’t bad enough!”
Draco snorted, brushing the tissues from his lap.
In truth, Harry thought his hair looked sort of spectacular. It was the kind of rebellious dye job he would have loved to have attempted himself—anything to shake free of the Boy Who Lived to Do Everything Everyone Expected of Him Including Marriage to Ginny, a Career as an Auror and Two Point Five Children—but didn’t have the balls.
“I think it’s something of an improvement,” said Draco and picked up the bottle of treacle, inspecting the label with a squint. Harry suspected the prat needed glasses but was too vain to admit it. “And the contents of the letters are for your betterment so I hardly see why you’re complaining. If I don’t teach you the alphabet and the difference between fact and fiction, then who will? I know Granger is in Australia and Luna is, well, I love her to pieces but I wouldn’t trust a single thing that comes out of her mouth. She thinks I’m allergic to bookworms, Potter. Bookworms!”
Harry watched as Draco diligently measured out five tablespoons of treacle and swallowed them one after the other, grinning his infuriating grin the whole time. The bell over the front door of the shop jingled several times but Harry didn’t take his eyes off that grin.
“I know the difference between fact and fiction,” said Harry through gritted teeth. “Fact: you’re a knob. Fiction: you’re a great boss. Fact: I did not shelve An Erotic Adventure Through Time and Space by Gerhard Feelgood in the non-fiction section. Fiction: anything that comes out of your mouth. See?”
Draco laughed. He did that a lot now, Harry realised. Where once he would have gone red in the face, spluttering some kind of cruel insult or flinging an Unforgivable, now he just laughed. Harry wondered if it had something to do with having faced the worst life can throw at you before even turning eighteen—an insult from Harry just didn’t compare to being housemates with old Voldy, did it?
“I’ll submit my memories for inspection if it will prove I’m right,” said Harry, crossing his arms.
Draco waved his comment away. “Pish, posh,” he said. “I’d rather you served customers.” He nodded at a witch, who had been hovering by the cooking section for at least an hour, trying to catch Harry’s eye.
Harry groaned. “Why can’t you serve her?”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Because, Potter, I am the assistant manager and I’m—”
“Too important, yeah, yeah, I get it.” Harry ran a hand through his rainbow-coloured hair, blowing out a breath. “But she’s going to propose to me,” he hissed. “I just know it.”
“Or slip you a love potion,” suggested Draco.
“Tsk, tsk, Potter, best not keep our customers waiting. Or do you want me to sack you?” The infuriating grin was back—Harry wondered if it was some kind of spell. It made Harry stare at Draco’s lips and go into a hypnotic state every time it appeared on the blond’s face. That wasn’t normal, right?
“Chop, chop, Potter. And if you see any bookworms, do your saviour thing and rough them up a little, would you? There’s a good boy.”
Harry gave Draco a withering glare before plastering on a smile and dragging himself to the cooking section, where death by unrequited flirting awaited him.
* * *
“And then he sneezed so loudly five children started crying. It was hilarious!”
Harry was on his knees in the far back corner of the shop, stacking the newest supply of Muggle classics onto the shelves, with Luna sitting cross-legged beside him. She was making origami animals out of spare parchment—what those animals were, was anybody’s guess. Harry was pretty sure there was no such creature as the swan crossed with a warthog crossed with a turtle that Luna was currently constructing. As much as he loved Luna, he dared not ask her to explain it. Besides, he was having too much fun retelling the debacle that had been Flourish and Blotts inaugural Monday Magical Children’s Story-time.
At first, Harry had been struck by a strange kind of warmth pooling at the base of his stomach when Draco had told him his idea for a read-aloud story-time for children in the shop. The blond had waved his long, pale hands wildly, his face flushed with enthusiasm, as he’d explained his plans to set up the old storeroom out the back with comfy cushions and sparkly lights and a mural of fairies and dragons and castles.
Harry had quickly looked away in case Draco saw the fond smile on his lips. It was an unexpected joy to discover that Draco loved kids almost as much as Harry himself did. Harry had gripped his stomach and wondered if maybe he was coming down with something, too.
But then Draco had explained that, while he would be dressed as Draco the Magnificent Story Wizard, Harry would be wearing something called the Book Fairy costume.
“Fairy?” The warm feeling in Harry’s tummy had quickly turned into more of a someone-has-poured-concrete-in-my-stomach-and-now-it’s-setting feeling.
“Of course,” scoffed Draco. “What other creature would be an assistant to Draco the Magnificent Story Wizard? Honestly, Potter. Use your brain for once.”
Harry had insisted that he would rather Voldermort came back from the dead a third time than wear Draco’s fairy costume. His resolved had hardened when he’d seen it: hot pink and frilly and far, far too sexy for children’s story-time. But Draco had won out, as he always seemed to these days. Harry was convinced the blond had developed some kind of mutated Imperius Curse that even Harry couldn’t shake off—he must have learnt it from his mother.
So come Monday, Harry had found himself wearing stripy tights, rainbow hair (which he had secretly spelled to stay put) and the hot pink frilly fairy costume, while Draco got to wear a long green robe with sparkly silver writing all over it and a long pointed hat that was a bit silly but Draco somehow made it work.
At first Harry had been angry—enraged at the way Draco smirked at him every few seconds. But then the children had arrived and their faces had lit up with smiles at the sight of the Story Cave Draco had single-handedly constructed out of the old storeroom and somehow Harry didn’t mind anymore. Fine, he thought, I’ll be the best damn Book Fairy there ever was.
Draco didn’t smirk as often then, not while Harry pranced around the children as they had settled into the comfy cushions on the floor, giggling. In fact, Draco had looked—dare Harry say it—fond? They’d even shared a look, a lip-biting, tummy wobbling, what the hell is going on sort of look before Harry settled down with the children and Draco took out the picture book he would be reading: The Naughty Pixie and the Sad Dragon.
This isn’t bad at all, Harry had thought to himself.
Halfway through the story, however, things had started to go wrong.
Draco had begun to sneeze.
Great big honking sneezes that were more like a dragon breathing fire than anything else. The unexpectedly loud noise set several of the younger children off crying. Harry had tried to soothe them, prancing about in his frilly fairy costume, waving his sparkly wand and trying desperately to cheer them up. But Draco couldn’t stop sneezing; he sneezed so big, the room shook. Even the older children had started crying then. With scowls and angry muttering, the parents had begun to scoop up their children and whisk them from the room. Draco had tried to protest but he hadn’t been able to get a word out for all the sneezing.
Flourish and Blotts’ inaugural Monday Magical Children’s Story-time had been a total failure.
Harry frowned to himself, pausing with his hand halfway to the shelf. Perhaps it wasn’t such a funny story after all. His stomach twisted as he remembered how sad Draco had looked when the last child had been whisked out of the room, screaming her head off.
He’d left a seriously rude letter for Harry the next day:
The Book Fairy will no longer be required for Flourish and Blotts’ Monday Magical Children’s Story-time. It is abundantly clear that that costume is an abomination, much like your face, and it scared away all the children.
I hate you.
Bring me chicken soup for lunch—no special reason, I’ve just heard it’s good for … stuff.
Your seriously displeased boss,
Draco Lucius Malfoy, assistant manager of Flourish and Blotts.
Luna handed the completed swan-warthog-turtle creature to Harry. He accepted it with a bewildered, “Thanks. Um. Okay. Yeah.”
“It’s the bookworms, Harry,” said Luna with a tsk.
Harry frowned at the origami creature in his hands. Was this what a bookworm was supposed to look like? Even for an imaginary creature it was sort of … horrifying.
“No, silly,” said Luna, as if reading his mind. “I meant the sneezing. It’s because of the bookworms. Draco really is terribly allergic to them.”
Harry resumed his shelving. “Are you sure, um, bookworms are, er, real?” Harry winced. He hated to question Luna and her wacky creatures but Draco was starting to steam at the ears every time Luna suggested his pesky cold was caused by bookworms and Harry was rather hoping to avoid a confrontation.
Luna rolled her eyes. “Of course they are, silly. Don’t you ever see them? They’re particularly fond of the potions textbooks. It’s all that talk of Murtlap tentacles and newts' eyes. And of course they’re very fond of conjugated Latin verbs. But you can’t let them have too many or they go hyperactive.”
Harry bit his lip to stop from laughing and nodded with as much seriousness as he could muster. Which wasn’t much. He made to turn back and keep on shelving his books but a cough behind them stopped him short.
Harry turned and found a witch twirling a stand of hair around her finger and looking coyly at him.
She blushed. “Sorry to interrupt,” she said, “but I was hoping you might help me retrieve a book? It’s on the very top shelf over there and I can’t quite reach it. You’re big and strong and—” Harry tried to repress a shiver of disgust as she ran her eyes up and down the length of him “—so very, very capable.”
Harry leant close to Luna. “Does she know she’s a witch and she could just levitate it down with a wand?” he whispered harshly.
Luna shushed him. “The customer is always right, Harry,” she admonished.
Harry stood and dragged his feet behind the witch as she led him to … oh sweet Merlin. It was the erotic fiction section. Harry cheeks flushed with embarrassment. He really, really hoped Draco couldn’t see him right now.
The witch pointed to a book on the top shelf. She giggled. “That one please,” she said.
Harry heard a loud cough somewhere by the front counter. He knew it was Draco but he didn’t dare turn around. Bugger.
Harry took out his wand and levitated the book down, catching it with his free hand. 1001 Erotic Positions for Adventurous Witches and Wizards, read the title. Harry’s face grew an even darker red.
“I thought it sounded fun,” said the witch with a giggle. She pressed in close to Harry, resting a hand on his forearm. The coughing behind the counter grew urgent. Maybe Draco wasn’t allergic to bookworms; maybe he was allergic to Harry’s embarrassment.
Harry took a step back, a sense of satisfaction as the move forced the witch to drop her hand from his arm. He held out the book. “I wouldn’t know,” he said. “I’m more interested in positions that involve wizards and wizards.”
The witch gasped, a hand flying up to clutch at her chest in shock.
Harry rolled his eyes and walked away. Really he should go back to stacking his books but …
He took a deep breath and approached Draco behind the counter. The blond’s head was hidden behind a book but Harry knew the bastard had watched the whole thing.
Harry sat on the corner of the counter, folding his arms and dredging up every last skerrick of bravado he still possessed. He hoped his cheeks were no longer red. “Can I expect to be berated for that exchange in a letter tomorrow morning?” he asked.
Behind his book, Draco snorted. “I had no idea wad you’re talging aboud,” he said.
Harry sighed and waved his wand at Draco’s head. The only sign that the nasal-clearing spell had taken affect was the sour look Draco shot him over the top of his book. “You think you’re hilarious don’t you?” said the unimpressed blond.
Harry grinned. “I think I’m charming.”
Draco hid himself behind the book again. “Make yourself useful and finish shelving the new stock, Potter,” he snapped. “And when you’re done with that, can you tidy upstairs? There’s dust all over the floor. Sorry to interrupt your flirting but there is work to be done.”
Harry rolled his eyes and pushed off from the counter. If he didn’t know any better he’d think Draco was jealous. And that Harry kind of liked it. And that he very much preferred Draco’s snipes and sneers and witty one-liners to hair twirling and coy looks and giggles.
“Yes, boss,” he said with a salute.
As he walked away, his head was a tangle of pointy hats, unexpectedly fond looks and 1001 Erotic Positions for Adventurous Wizards and Wizards. He didn’t mind it at all.
* * *
Your understanding of the alphabet and the difference between fact and fiction is coming along splendidly (you have a brilliant and handsome teacher so it’s to be expected, of course). And I will say nothing about the 1001 Erotic Positions for Adventurous Witches and Wizards incident. Because I am generous like that.
However—and I cannot express how much it pains me to level any kind of criticism at you, oh specciest of speccy gits—it falls upon my humble shoulders to bring two rather unpleasant incidences to your attention.
The first is what shall forthwith be referred to as Harry Potter and the Unfortunate Syrup Incident.
Haven’t I already pressed upon you the debt the magical world owes you, Potter? A debt we are more than happy to pay off in deathly long coffee lines? That’s not to say I don’t admire your commitment to proving you are ‘just like the rest of us’ and that you ‘don’t deserve special treatment’ and that you should be allowed to ‘die in this blasted coffee line before cutting to the front like some fucking entitled knobhead’. But honestly, Potty, that commitment should not stretch to an all-out brawl with the poor sod earning a few Sickles an hour behind the counter. It should not result in you attempting to wrestle the caramel syrup from the barista’s hands in an attempt to prevent him from making your order ahead of others, squeezing the bottle too tightly and sending streams of caramel syrup spurting all throughout the café and all over the people waiting in line, some of which were me.
You were hired in an attempt to lend an air of trustworthiness to the aisles of Flourish and Blotts, not to be known as The Boy Who Lived to Squirt Caramel Syrup All Over the Sodding Wizarding World. And if you think I am being too harsh in admonishing you for this, then might I remind you that the end result of Harry Potter and the Unfortunate Syrup Incident was your lifetime ban from Ancient Brew and that you need me to order your morning coffee from now on? Tsk, tsk, Potter.
But let us move on to the second, and far more serious, incident: your sudden plummet into thievery. We’ll call this: Harry Potter and the Missing Stock.
Is it a cry for help, Potter? Are you so broken by the perils of fame and fortune that you have moved on from simply mis-shelving my stock to stealing it? I know you will deny it but let me lay the evidence before you:
• All of the books went missing while you were rostered on.
• Only two of us work here, Potter, and if I didn’t steal the books, then you must have.
• You look the type.
There. Solid evidence I’m sure you’ll agree.
I would therefore like the following books returned immediately:
• Potent Potions for Powerful People by Abner MacQuiod
• Flesh-Eating Toads of the British Isles, Vol 1 by Gaston Lark
• A Comprehensive Encyclopaedia of Warts (two copies.)
• The Dead Language Rises Again: Latin and Its Many Uses by Omnia Botkin
I’ll look the other way so you can leave them on the counter and we’ll say no more about this. I’m sure you will agree that that is more than generous of me and if you wished to erect a statue in my honour in the middle of Diagon Alley, celebrating my extraordinary generosity, then I wouldn’t be opposed to it.
Oh, and by the way. While I think of it. My dear friend is still suffering from that nasty cold I mentioned.
He’s She’s one sneeze short of chucking quite a strop because the DAMN THING WON’T BE CURED. WHAT SORT OF NONSENSE IS THIS, POTTER? YOU’RE THE SAVIOUR OF THE MOTHERFLIPPING WIZARDING WORLD SO WHY CAN’T YOU DAMN WELL BLAST THIS ARSEFUCK OF A COLD PERMANENTLY FROM MY HER HEAD?!
As such, I require the following for her treatment: garlic, lots and lots of garlic. Whatever amount you think is enough, double it. Triple it. I’m talking about enough garlic to make that noseless bastard turn in his grave and give up any idea he might have had of returning for a third attempt to take over the world because said world is now overrun by the shitload of garlic you will have procured for
me my friend.
That is all.
Your seriously over it boss,
Draco Lucius Malfoy, assistant manager of Flourish and Blotts.
PS: I have given the matter serious thought and have come to the conclusion that I may have been a touch hasty in banning the Book Fairy costume. I actually rather liked it. And if you wanted to wear it around the shop sometimes, I wouldn’t mind.
* * *
Draco was biting his lip so hard, Harry worried it would start bleeding. The blond was curled up at an awkward angle, his too-long legs dangling over the side of the armchair he kept behind the shop counter despite how awkward it was to work around when Harry was trying to ring up purchases. While his legs dangled, his shoulders hunched and his arms flexed and his head tilted and his teeth bit hard and deep into his bottom lip.
He was reading what was apparently a very, very good book.
A part of Harry wanted to rip the book from Draco’s hands and shove it down his throat. Despite being a war veteran at age eighteen, Harry was not a violent person by nature. He was rather easygoing, truth be told. But still a part of him wanted to see Draco choke on that book. It was probably because of the letter. The one accusing Harry of being a thief. The one that reminded Harry of his most mortifying experience to date: Harry Potter and the Unfortunate Syrup Incident (damn it, now he was calling it by that dumb title).
But the other part of Harry—the bigger and more confusing part—wanted to pull Draco’s bottom lip out from underneath his teeth and kiss it better. Soothe it with his tongue.
It was a most disconcerting feeling.
So Harry ignored it. He simply walked up to Draco and dumped a bucket-load of garlic bulbs in his lap.
Draco lowered the book slowly, looking between Harry and the garlic and back again. His eyes landed—and stayed—on Harry’s nose.
“Ah,” said Draco. “I dee you god my ledder.”
With a sigh, Harry waved his wand under Draco’s nose. He didn’t even have to say the spell out loud now.
“Thank you,” said Draco with a dip of his chin.
Harry couldn’t help but bring a hand up to cover his nose—a dozen customers had already laughed and made fun of him on his way from the back office to the front counter. “Did you really have to?” he said. He was of course referring to the way his nose had turned red the second he’d touched Draco’s latest letter.
The whole nose.
Draco shrugged. “It’s getting close to Christmas,” he said. “I thought it would be festive. Harry the Red-Nosed Wizard.”
“Ha, ha,” said Harry. “What are you going to do with all that garlic?”
Draco smirked. “The better question, Potter, is: would you like me to look away now so you can dump something else on this front counter? Five somethings? Two of which will tell me more than I’ll ever need to know about warts. Two, Harry. Two.”
Harry opened his mouth to tell Draco exactly what he thought of him and his accusations but closed it again when he felt a tug at his shirt hem. He turned around but no one was there. The tug came again and he looked down to find a small, wide-eyed girl looking up at him.
“Excuse me, Mr Harry Potter,” said the child, “but do you know you have worms?”
Draco snorted. “Is that what’s making him so irritable?” he muttered.
Harry flicked Draco’s shin before bending down to smile at the little girl. “What do you mean? Are you looking for a book about worms? I’m not sure we have one but there is a lovely story about a caterpillar in the Muggle kids section that you might like.”
The little girl scowled, folding her pudgy arms across her chest. “You’re not listening to me,” she said. “You have worms.”
“Um. Okay?” said Harry. He looked to Draco for help.
Draco rolled his eyes. “She’s not related to Lovegood, is she?” He sneezed loudly, his whole body jerking with the force of it, spilling bulbs of garlic all over the floor. “Bugger,” he said. “I dink I’d sdill sig.”
Harry shook his head, fondly. “Of course you are. You’re always sick. And if you’d just admit it, I could take you to see a Healer and we could sort this out once and for all.”
Draco blew his nose noisily. “Ids jusd a cold, Podder.”
Harry waved his wand at Draco’s nose again. “It’s not just—”
“Hello, boys,” said Luna, her long hair swinging side to side as she bounced up to the counter. “I’d like a book with a yellow cover, thank you.”
The little girl turned her scowl on Luna. “I’m first,” she said. “And I’m trying to tell them about the worms.”
Luna grinned. “Oh, you mean about the bookworms?”
The little girl nodded vigorously.
Luna flicked her hair off her shoulder. “Oh, I’ve already told them about that. They won’t listen of course. It’s the Wrackspurts—both of them are covered in the critters. Makes them very resistant to hearing the truth. Makes it impossible for them to see how perfect they are for each other, too.”
Draco spluttered and Harry didn’t think it had anything to do with his cold. “I don’t … You can’t … That isn’t …”
“Luna,” said Harry. He put on his most reasonable face. “I really don’t think you should be scaring little kids by telling them bookworms are real. It’s just not—”
A blood-curdling scream came from upstairs.
“Told you,” said the little girl, smugly. “Worms.”
Luna patted her on the head.
“I don’t think—” started Harry but another scream rang out.
Draco sprang to standing, sending the last remaining garlic bulbs flying. Harry and Draco shared a look before both of them bolted toward the staircase, wands out. Harry got there first, bounding up the stairs two at a time, Draco on his heels.
“What the hell have you done this time, Potter?” said Draco.
Before Harry could answer, Draco was overcome by a fit of wild sneezing.
“When we’re done sorting out whatever craziness is up here, I’m taking to you to St Mungo’s, got it?” Harry waved his wand angrily at Draco, then turned and ran the rest of the way up the stairs, leaving Draco grasping the railings, struggling to catch his breath between each gigantic sneeze.
As Harry skidded to a halt on the landing he saw two things in quick succession.
The first was a woman. She was huddled in the corner in a mound of fallen books, tears streaking her face. Her mouth was wide open, her eyes comically large. She was trembling with fear.
The second thing he saw was the worm. The giant fucking monstrous worm. Harry probably should have noticed it first, to be honest. It was easily ten-foot long and as thick as a tree trunk. Its face wasn’t so much a face as it was a giant, gaping mouth taking up the entire space where a face should be—it was crowded with needle-thin teeth, rows and rows of the bastards.
And it was advancing toward the cowering woman.
“What,” said Draco, almost crashing into Harry’s back. “Ah-choo! Is. Ah-choo! That. Ah-choo! Fucking. Ah-choo! Worm. Ah-choo! Doing. Ah-choo! In. Ah-choo! My. Ah-choo! Fucking. Ah-choo! Bookshop? Ah-choooooo!”
Harry cast an Incarcerous at the beast, but the worm somehow slithered out of the way in time. The woman started throwing books at it—the worm swallowed each book whole with glee.
“Not the book of Latin verbs!” shouted Draco. He waved his wand and the book—Conjugate to Your Heart’s Content: Latin Verbs for You and Me! By Verily Fogstock—went flying out of the woman’s grasp. The worm reared up, trying to snap the book out of the air but Draco guided it safely to his hands, hugging the book to his chest.
“What the hell, Draco?”
Draco shrugged. “Luna said conjugated Latin—ah-choo!—verbs make the bookworms hyperactive. Ah-choo!”
“Well great,” said Harry. “Now the giant worm thing is headed right for us.”
The worm had indeed swivelled in its path and was headed straight for them—Harry now had an excellent view of the green-tinged drool dripping from all those lovely spiky fangs.
Harry threw every spell he could think of at the beast but it either dodged them or, and this really sent a shiver of revulsion down Harry’s spine, swallowed the spells whole.
“Do something, Potter!” shouted Draco then almost fell over backwards when a particularly nasty coughing fit hit him.
“Here,” said Luna, appearing calmly on the stairs behind them. She handed Harry a copy of The Naughty Pixie and the Sad Dragon. “Read to it.”
“Oh, give it to me!” Draco snapped the picture book out of Luna’s hands and opened it. He began reading in a loud, nasally voice. “There once was a very naughty Pixie,” he read. “How naughty you may ask? Well, let me tell you…”
Harry’s jaw dropped as the worm slowed to a complete stop, coiling up in the middle of the shop floor and resting its head/mouth on its tail. Despite not having ears as far as Harry could see, the worm appeared to be listening. It appeared to be enjoying the story.
By the time Draco had finished the picturebook he had sneezed twenty-seven times and had required seven nasal clearing spells but the worm had fallen asleep.
It was snoring.
“Does someone want to tell me what’s going on?” whispered Harry as he helped the sobbing woman to her feet and guided her to the staircase.
Luna stepped back against the railings to let the woman run past, wailing loudly all the way out of the shop. “Book worm infestation,” she said with a shrug that made her giraffe earrings dance. “I told you.”
“You mean my shop is full of … that?” Draco waved a hand at the sleeping worm. He sneezed again.
“They’re quite harmless,” said Luna, “so long as you read to them regularly and let them consume your unsold stock. You’ve been neglecting them terribly; that’s the only reason one of them would attack someone. And it certainly explains why your books keep getting shifted about and going missing.”
Draco was hugging The Naughty Pixie and the Sad Dragon to his chest looking terribly young and lost. He looked like he was about to burst into tears and Harry had to fight the urge to wrap him up in his arms.
Draco sniffed. “But … but if they’re real and I’m allergic to them then … Then I can’t be assistant manager of Flourish and Blotts anymore,” he said in an impossibly small voice.
Harry’s heart broke. Right then and there it shattered into a billion tiny pieces, as if Draco’s words had been a Bombarda to his heart. Because he knew, he knew how much Draco loved this shop. How spending his days tucked up in books was the only way he could survive life after the war. This book shop was Draco’s happily ever after.
Harry reached for Draco, unable to stop the urge. He wrapped a hand around the blond’s wrist and held tightly. “We’ll figure something out,” he said. Draco looked up at him with damp eyes. If Harry had to scour the world in a fucking tent for another year while searching for a cure, he would. He would.
A moment passed between them, then. Looking into each other’s eyes, Harry couldn’t help but wonder if he was getting his first glimpse of what his happily ever might look like. He wondered if it had been right in front of him all along. He felt short of breath and his stomach lurched but there was hope there, too. Warm, soothing, tingly hope.
Luna giggled. “Of course you will,” she said. “I already told Draco the cure.”
Both Harry and Draco turned to stare dumbfounded at Luna.
“There’s a cure?” said Harry.
Luna tilted her head at them, her opinion of their intellect written plainly on her face. “Of course. Don’t you remember? Back when Draco first started sneezing and I said he was most likely allergic to bookworms, I said that if he wanted to fix it all he needed to do was take a mixture of Horklump juice, ground Ashwinder egg and salamander blood every day and you both laughed at me.”
Harry blushed as he waved a hand awkwardly at the still-sleeping bookworm. “I mean, you’ve got to admit it’s a bit unlikely,” he mumbled.
Luna blinked at him, tilting her head. “Unlikely?”
“Never mind,” he muttered.
Luna swung on her heel and bounced down the staircase, hair swooshing side to side. “Don’t forget to read to your bookworms at least once a week, and let them snack on your old stock,” she called “I’ll be back for my book with a yellow cover tomorrow.” The bell over the door jangled as she left.
Harry turned to grin at Draco and found the blond staring wide-eyed at Harry’s hand still clasped around his wrist. For a moment, Harry thought about letting go.
But he didn’t.
“I know you’re very busy an important being the assistant manager of Flourish and Blotts,” he said, “so would you like me to fetch you some Horklump juice, ground Ashwinder egg and salamander blood?” He squeezed his hand a little tighter.
“I mean, if you wouldn’t mind,” he said, then his face scrunched up as he sneezed. “Bugger,” he said and pouted.
Harry laughed. He seemed to do that a lot lately. Where once he would have spluttered and seethed, and ripped out his wand to cast one angry spell after another, now he just laughs. Harry wondered if it had something to do with having faced the worst life could throw at him before he even turned eighteen or maybe it had a little something to do with books and happy endings and an infuriating blond with an allergy to bookworms.
Because now that he thought about it, Harry didn’t wander the cold, dark hallways of his house anymore. He ate enough and he hardly drank. He read books in comfy chairs and came to work with a smile on his face and he laughed. He laughed and bickered and laughed some more.
He hadn’t forgotten about his past but he wasn't as worried about his future.
“Come on,” said Harry, pulling Draco down the stairs with him. “Let’s get you cured so we can bicker some more.”
Draco sneezed. “You actually want to bicker with me? This crush of yours is getting well out of hand, Potter. I know I’m frightfully handsome but please have a little self-respect and stop throwing yourself at me. You’re worse than those witches who come in here to flirt with you. And don’t think I don’t see you flirting back with them—it’s disgusting. Not that I care. I don’t care even a little—ah-chooo!”
Harry grinned to himself as he led a sneezing and ranting Draco back to the counter.
It wasn’t happily ever after. It was happily ever now. And Harry quite liked that.
* * *
First, some congratulations. The revival of Monday Magical Children’s Story-time was a raging success. Only one tearful tantrum and two bursts of accidental magic when the story got a touch too scary for some of the littlest one. But that’s easily fixed. Next time choose a less frightening story (The Inferi Who Came for Tea? Really Draco? For kids?) and as for the tearful tantrum, well, I honestly believed you when you said you weren’t crying because you were worried about how the event would go but rather your allergy symptoms had come back. So just make sure you take your daily potion and there will be no more tears next time *wink* (the wink means I didn’t actually believe you. Just in case you didn’t get that).
Also, the first ever A Very Wormy Wednesday seems to have gone down well, too. The bookworms enjoyed your readings of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and there have been no more mis-shelved or missing books. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll find some other way to complain about me.
Speaking of which, sorry about the boobytrap that came with this letter. I tried to charm it so that the words “I have a ginormous and embarrassing crush on Harry Potter” would last for twenty-four hours but I might have got a bit muddled up and there’s a slight possibility it will last twenty-four days. Sorry.
Also, I know you know my coffee order is a caramel latte and not a matcha latte with yak milk and half foam and a double shot of strawberry syrup. Don’t make me boobytrap my next letter to squirt caramel syrup all over your precious hair.
Your favourite employee and your boyfriend (stop denying it, you know you adore me),
Harry James Potter, junior, junior assistant manager of Flourish and Blotts.
PS: it’s your turn to wear the Book Fairy costume tonight.