Draco tumbled onto the carpet in a heap of stupid hoodie and weak muscles. Potter’s angry words and haunted face snapped into his mind again. Draco shook himself, trying to get it out of his head. It didn’t work. Draco tore the hoodie over his head and kicked his jeans off—his ridiculous, unfitted jeans, how did he not realize what a laughing stock he’d made of himself?— and stood up, still shaking, in his undershirt and pants. He walked out of the foyer into the drawing room, by-passing the fainting couch where he usually liked to drop onto and indulge in a good old fashioned Victorian sulk. He ran into a few things due to the tears obscuring his vision. Really, that was what he got from thinking he could court Harry fucking Potter.
Medea’s Pub was, as usual, packed to the brim with Ministry employees, the case since it had opened five years ago. Its owner, a man not named Medea, both hated and loved his clientele. On one hand, it meant the pub would stay in business until capitalism finally collapsed and revolutionists overthrew the incompetent government and freed all of its overworked and underpaid employees; on the other hand, overworked and underpaid government employees were the worst. They yelled, they sang, they threw the eight-ball into the toilet so no one else could play, and they drank all the Malbec before anyone else could get to it.
“That’s because you and two other people are the only ones who would drink that stuff,” Potter said, a glass of boring bourbon hanging loosely in his hand. “And you always work late, so of course you never get here in time to order the one bottle they carry here.”
Draco looked at his cabernet sauvignon miserably. “Maybe I should stop coming here and drink at home.”
“Or, you could ask Sullivan to get more, and keep coming?”
Draco sipped his wine. “Who’s Sullivan?”
“The owner,” Potter said in an exasperated tone.
“Oh,” Draco said. “You know I’m not good with names.”
“You’re not good with them because you never listen.”
“Listen to what?”
Potter laughed, downing his drink. “Prat.”
“You can always go sit with your friends,” Draco said lightly.
“I am sitting with a friend,” Potter said, and his tone was a little snappy at that.
Draco looked into his wine. “Well, I mean—” He knew he was flustered. “Aurors always sit together.”
“This isn’t lunchtime in the cafeteria,” Potter said. “We’ve been colleagues for a year, and you still act like we’re going to start hexing each other at any moment.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No, I don’t!”
“We’re friends,” Potter insisted again. “That’s why I’m sitting here with you. That’s why I always ask you to come to pub nights.”
“Every night is pub night with you lot,” Draco mumbled.
Potter ignored him. “And that’s why I’m drinking to you.” He raised his glass.
Draco didn’t want to. He really didn’t. It was only decorum that made him raise his wine glass in return, and carefully touched it to Potter’s snifter glass, which felt very strong against his delicate wine glass.
Draco didn’t want to drink to being Potter’s friend. He wanted to knock Potter’s glass out of his hand and climb into his lap and kiss him until they were thrown out.
But they drank to it anyway. Potter signaled for another round and the owner came to top them off.
“Thanks, Sally,” Draco said. He got a glare from the owner and a kick to the shin from Potter.
Draco’s contract with the DMLE was for five whole years. And somehow near the end of his first year, Draco was still going to pub nights and Potter still insisted on sitting with him. But now they’d moved from the stools to the booths, because for some Merlin-forsaken reason his friends and Potter’s friends seemed to slither out from whatever hole they spawn from and decided that intruding on Potter and him was a nice weeknight past time. Blaise and Pansy merely smirked at Draco’s vitriolic eye-twitching.
“Granger invited us!” Pansy said, sitting her coquettish arse on a stool. “Isn’t she nice?” she said, craning her neck to look past the line of Draco and Gryffindors to see Smart Weasley at the far end, who waved at Pansy. “For fuck’s sake, why are we sitting here?”
Draco’s eye-twitching was evolving into a spasm.
And that was how they went from intimate, Draco-could-pretend-to-be-wobbly-after-drinks-and-Potter-would-steady-him-with-a-hand intimate to everyone-crammed-into-a-small-booth-and-were-too-drunk-for-an-extension-charm booth. And Potter wouldn’t even be sitting next to Draco!
“I hate you both,” Draco hissed at Blaise. Pansy was too busy talking to Boy Weasley and Smart Weasley to notice.
“We’ve given you years to make a move, sweetpea,” Blaise replied. “And still, there you were, sitting at the least romantic place in a pub, staring at Potter with lovesick eyes and not asking him out. ”
“Don’t speak about the stools when you have no idea of their use,” Draco replied. “And I wouldn’t be so crass as to simply ask him out .”
“Don’t pretend to be some wide-eyed virgin, Draco.”
“I’m not. I’m simply saying that Potter isn’t someone who I only want to see in the club’s bathroom for a handjob.”
“Right, because the place you want to see him at is every day in your bed.”
“Lower your voice before I shove this bottle so far up your ass Pansy will be tasting beer every time she kisses you. And you know full well that’s not how we do things when we are serious about someone!”
“Ugh,” Blaise downed his shot. “I can’t listen to you talk about what’s the proper way to woo again. I had my punishment when we all had to sit through you bitching about Potter’s atrocious dating skills. As if you weren’t happy that he got dumped by Cho.”
“Who got dumped?” Smart Weasley asked.
“Your beloved bespectacled friend,” Blaise replied.
“Harry!” she turned to him. “Did you get dumped again?”
Potter groaned. “What the fuck, Hermione?”
“Again?” Draco asked. He did not know about this. Potter hadn’t told him he was seeing someone.
“I didn’t get dumped again!” Potter said. “I’m not—I’m not seeing anyone!”
“That’s even worse,” Pansy said.
“When was your last date?” Smart Weasley asked.
Potter glared at the table. Draco held his breath.
“Two years ago,” Potter said.
Pansy let out a cackle with such force Draco was sure her throat would be damaged. “What!” she screamed. “What?!”
“What of it?” Potter replied petulantly. “I don’t like dating.”
Draco barely resisted sending Blasie a smug look.
“Don’t like dating?” Boy Weasley laughed. “Or is it because you like—ow!” He rubbed the spots where Smart Weasley pinched him and where Potter kicked him under the table.
That was quickly put to an end, but nearly a month later, when it was only the two of them, Potter told Draco quietly, “I always feel awful after dates.”
They were back at their comfortable spot: the counter stools, getting their friends’ drinks, and Granger (Draco stopped calling them both a variant of Weasley after one night where he had a nightmare of being buried by countless weasels) wanted a cocktail that took ten thousand years to make. Mostly because Draco tricked her into thinking that it was some traditional festival drink from Asia and it intrigued her enough to order it. Draco definitely didn’t want her to order it because it would force him and Potter to remain at the counter longer.
“Awful, like in bed?” Draco asked with false calm.
“Like in my brain,” Potter said.
Potter was looking away from Draco. “I don’t know. They always made me feel so...used, afterward. Like they wanted me for the rush. And I always go home lonely. I always wonder if anyone would want me just for me. All of them are either taken or...” he paused, slanted Draco a look. “... not interested...”
Draco had missed that last bit, because he was too busy glaring at the table after Potter’s I always go home lonely. Draco couldn’t speak, at least not with words, maybe with a scream or a sob or a kiss, or all of them. But at that moment stupid Sabien brought over their drinks and Potter snapped out of his reverie. He avoided Draco’s eyes and levitated the trays (wandless and wordlessly, like a bastard) quickly to their booth. Draco stared after him for a few beats before turning around.
“Thanks a lot,” Draco snapped. “Could you not tell that we were having a moment, Sabien?”
The man glared. “My name is Sullivan.”
“I thought Sullivan was the owner.”
“I am the owner!” he shouted, then he walked away sputtering about stupid bureaucracy rotting people’s brain.
Draco didn’t care who the owner was. When he finally went back, Potter was still not looking at him. Draco flicked a pickled onion at him, and it stuck to Potter’s beard. Potter snapped his eyes to Draco and Draco offered a smirk.
Potter stared, grinned, and threw the onion back at Draco. It landed in his drink.
Draco had never been brave, and being surrounded by Gryffindor for nearly a year and working with Aurors for over a year didn’t change that in any way. Draco didn’t have courage, and pursuing someone definitely needed it.
Harry had just told Draco he was lonely.
Draco wasn’t brave. He was simply in love.
That night Draco went to the attic where he kept his Manor stuff, and brought down a chest. In it were some of his favorite clothes. Clothes he saved for a special occasion.
“Dottie,” he said to his hired-elf. “Would you mind cleaning and pressing these for me?”
Draco had newly-hired Dottie for his residence, but she was also one of the Manor elves that had been there since Draco was born. She took one look at the chest and gasped.
“Mr. Malfoy is going courting!” she said.
Draco grinned at her. His heart was beating wildly.
“Yes, I am.”