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Prats, Parcels, and Parseltongue

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Harry Potter enjoyed being alive.

If you had asked him back at Hogwarts what his plans were for after school, he would have either said Auror, or laughed in your face at the idea of surviving past seventh year.

And now that he was alive, well. He decided he’d like to stay that way.

Ron had gone through Auror training, then decided to work with George at the joke shop. Hermione, in a surprise to no one, had joined the Ministry and created a new department within her first six months.

Harry, though, had a lot more trouble choosing a career. After deciding he was done flirting with mortality, he rather thought that being an Auror was out of the question. He did nothing for a while, just stayed at Grimmauld Place and refurbished it into something passable for a home. But he got bored quickly after finishing that project, and Kreacher was less than thrilled to have Harry home all the time.

Hermione helped a lot; they made a list of all the things Harry was good at. After a short-lived position at Hogwarts as the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor (McGonagall had fired him, and with good reason, but it took over a year for them to go back to their regular correspondence and monthly teas), Harry decided to go with, arguably, the strangest talent on his list. Snakes.

Harry had gone all out. He went through the five years of Muggle veterinary school, and became the Muggle world’s first snake-only veterinarian. The Snake Whisperer, he named his practice. And now, sitting in his private office, plaque on his door, he’s... happy.

Harry’s assistant pokes his head in. “Alright if I head home a bit early, Dr. Potter? Looks like there’re no more appointments for the rest of the day.”

And it’s Friday. Harry’s considering leaving early himself. “No problem, Dave. Have a good weekend.”

Harry finishes typing up his report. His last patient was Roger, a particularly grumpy Mexican Black Kingsnake just in for a regular checkup. He’s submitting the report when he hears the bell ring in the front lobby.

It’s not a particularly big clinic, only a few examination rooms, the lobby, and Harry’s office. That’s all he really needs with a practice so specific. Harry still rushes to the lobby, though. If he has no appointments, then this must be an emergency walk-in.

There’s a tall man with long, blond hair in the lobby, looking outside at the empty parking lot. Harry’s positive he’s slipped into a nap and is now dreaming, as he realizes the man is wearing a fluffy white bathrobe, an honest to goodness bathrobe, in Harry’s clinic, with striped black and white pants underneath. The bathrobe’s sleeves are rolled up to the man’s elbows and Harry sees tattoos covering his forearms. There’s a bright red snake wrapped around the man’s neck. Odd, Harry thinks, that the man didn’t use a carrier, but seeing as this is a dream, it rather doesn’t matter.

“Can I help you?” Harry inquires politely. He’s nothing if not a professional, even if he’s napping. The blond man turns around and Harry immediately loses his composure. “Malfoy?

“Good afternoon,” Malfoy replies formally. “One of my snakes is having some issues.”

Harry holds his arms behind his back and pinches himself. Ow. So, not a dream. Harry can’t believe that no one’s told Malfoy what proper Muggle attire is.

Harry realises his mouth is wide open and snaps it shut. “I’m… I… You know this is a Muggle practice, right?”

“Erm, yes,” Malfoy replies, looking quickly at the ground and then back at Harry. “I found the Wizarding practices to be quite unwelcoming to someone of my, ah, history.”

“So you came to my clinic,” Harry states dumbly.

“Well spotted,” Malfoy replies, cheeks tinging pink. “I was hoping you’d be willing to help her.”

It’s not like this is the first time he’s seeing Malfoy since, well, everything. Harry testified at his trial, and they spoke afterwards, each apologizing with a bit of snark but no venom. Malfoy’s some sort of philanthropist now. Harry sees him at nearly all the Ministry’s charity events he’s required (“strongly encouraged,” were Kingsley’s exact words) to go to. Usually, at the events, Malfoy stops by Harry’s table to talk to Luna.

(Good evening, Potter, he says, and Harry says, Hullo, Malfoy, and Malfoy says something like Those dress robes look absolutely terrible on you, and Harry says something like Thanks for the note, I’ll try to wear better ones next time, don’t want to offend your delicate sensibilities, and they exchange insults without any real bite until Luna interrupts them.)

Malfoy’s different from usual, and not just because he’s wearing a Muggle bathrobe instead of his tailored dress robes. He’s twisting his hands together and isn’t insulting Harry, and though that is an improvement, Harry’s thrown off.

“Will you help?” Malfoy’s voice interrupts his thoughts.

“Of course I’ll help,” Harry replies. He chose this career so he could help. “No one’s in right now, come, follow me.”

They go to Exam Room A (A is for Adder, a sign on the door reads) and Harry is all too conscious of the silly snake signs and puns placed around the halls and in the room. He’s blushing a bit as he gestures towards the exam table.

Malfoy extricates the snake from his neck and Harry finally gets a good look at her. “She’s beautiful,” he can’t help but murmur out loud. Because she is. She’s got to be at least six feet long. He’d measure, normally, but the way Malfoy’s worrying his bottom lip makes Harry think it’s an emergency, so he decides to leave her be until he figures out what’s wrong with her. Her scales are bloodred, and she almost looks like a mamba except… well, red mambas don’t exist. There’s a twisting pattern of soft yellows and oranges down her back, and Harry’s reminded of the sunset. She doesn’t really move once she’s settled on the table, other than to flick out her tongue.

Harry has seen a lot of snakes. Most of his clients are local, London-dwellers with exotic snakes, but he’s had people come in from all over the world. Harry hasn’t been a vet for long but he’s made a bit of a name for himself in the snake community, and he’s proud of it. He’s worked with everything from Malagasy Leaf-Nosed Snakes to Hairy Bush Vipers.

But he’s never seen a snake like this.

“Malfoy… I’ve never worked with magical snakes before,” he admits, realizing that must be what she is.

Malfoy gnaws at his bottom lip, glancing at his snake in worry. “But, you know snakes, surely it can’t be too different?”

“Could you tell me a bit about her?”

“Her name’s Gertrude,” Malfoy tells him, brow furrowed. “Sorry, you meant her species? Or her condition?”

“Anything you think is relevant. The more the better,” Harry replies, offering Malfoy what he hopes is an encouraging smile.

“Okay. Er, so, she’s a Southern Stinging Mamba. Stinging because, well, if she feels threatened she can set off the equivalent of a stinging hex, up to about ten feet away. Mamba, well I’m sure you know mambas.”

“Alright,” Harry says, mind already racing to connections between mamba anatomy and the latent magical properties of stinging hexes. “And what’s been going on with Gertrude?”

“She won’t… move,” Malfoy says desperately, waving his arms at Gertrude on the table. “She molted a few weeks ago so I know it’s not that. I don’t…. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”

“It’s going to be okay,” Harry tells him softly, briefly touching Malfoy’s arm. “We’ll figure it out. Why don’t you take a seat?”

Normally, Harry sends his patients back to the waiting room while he completes the examinations, but really only because of the Parseltongue. Malfoy’s a wizard though, plus he already knows Harry’s a Parselmouth, so Harry figures it won’t hurt to let him stay for the exam.

Hello, Gertrude, Harry begins in Parseltongue. Malfoy makes a startled noise. “Sorry,” Harry says in English. “Is this okay? I find it works to calm them down as I do the examination.”

“Yeah, sure, fine,” Malfoy replies, his cheeks slightly flushed.

Harry nods and turns back to Gertrude. Do you mind if I have a look at you?

You’re already looking, aren’t you? she snaps. Harry lets out a chuckle at the sass.

I’m going to take a look in your eyes with a bright light, okay? he continues. It’ll only last a moment.

Fine.

Harry grabs the light from his wall and briefly shines it in Gertrude’s eyes. Her spectacles, the covering over the corneas, look normal. He checks her glottis, nostrils, and back muscles. He runs his hands down her underside, checking for any lumps and making sure her vent is clear.

You’ve got some extra skin about halfway down your back, he tells her. Looks like your last shed wasn’t quite completed.

Are you insinuating that I don’t know how to properly shed? Gertrude sounds incensed.

Of course not. You’re a professional shedder. He turns back to Malfoy, who’s staring.

“She’s going to be fine,” Harry begins. “Her last shed didn’t quite finish off properly. If you could raise the humidity in her enclosure, I’m sure that will help get the last of it off.”

Malfoy’s face collapses in relief. “Oh, thank Merlin,” he says. He gets up and walks over to Gertrude, picking her back up and winding her around himself. “Gertrude, you absolute madwoman, you had me worried sick,” he tells her in a soft voice that tugs at something in Harry’s chest. “Your brothers and sisters are going to be so happy to hear you’re alright.”

Harry shows Malfoy where the skin is, so he can keep an eye on it. “If it’s not gone in the next few days, let me know.”

Malfoy thanks Harry profusely. “Er, sure, no problem, Malfoy,” Harry gets out. “Let me know if you have any more, uh, snake problems.”

Malfoy just grins in response, and Harry doesn’t think he’s ever seen Malfoy’s face look like that, and, well, then he’s gone.

--

Harry comes through Ron and Hermione’s Floo to see Rose running around in her diaper and Ron chasing after her. Harry takes in the scene, scooping Rose up into his arms with a chuckle.

“Thanks, Harry,” Ron says breathlessly, following Harry into the kitchen. “Remember when she first started walking? That was a good pace. Quality stuff right there. I think she must be using magic to run so fast, there’s no way a Muggle toddler could run that fast, right? She’s only two!”

“I’m pretty sure all toddlers are like this,” Harry replies.

Ron scowls halfheartedly. “Well, what would you know, anyways?”

Harry just laughs. “Anything I can help with, Hermione?”

“All good,” Hermione replies, not turning away from the stove. “Almost ready.”

Friday night dinners are Harry’s favorite time of the week. They rotate between Grimmauld Place and Hermione and Ron’s London flat, and it’s really the only time he gets to see his two best friends. Harry usually prefers the flat, with its organized chaos and toys strewn about. Harry’s spent so much time fixing up Grimmauld, and he’s proud of what it’s become, but it’s so… big. Empty.

“So, Harry, anything new at work?” Hermione asks once they’re sitting down. Harry finishes his mouthful of peas before answering.

“Well, Malfoy came in today,” Harry replies.

Hermione frowns. “Like, as a client?”

“Yep. I guess all the Wizarding vets turned him away.”

“But, couldn’t he have just gone to a Muggle vet then?” Ron cuts in. “I mean, a vet that’s actually a Muggle?”

“He had a magical snake,” Harry tells them. “A Southern Stinging Mamba.”

“Blimey, I’ve heard of those!” Ron exclaims, mouth full. “Charlie was studying fossils in South Africa of some extinct dragon and they came across a nest!”

“What happened?!”

“They got stung, of course,” Ron replies, grabbing another scoop of potatoes. “Everyone was fine, they had a Healer with them as a local guide, but Charlie says it hurt like a bitch.”

Harry nods. “I bet. Well, Malfoy’s snake was fine, just had a bit of residual skin from her last molt. Hermione, how’s work for you?”

Hermione groans. “Absolutely dreadful, thanks. The Department of Mysteries apparently has spies in our department? Spies. We’ve only been around a couple of years and we’re the most transparent of any of them and-” Hermione stops herself and takes a big sigh. “Actually, I need a bit more time to cool off. Ron, your turn.”

Ron tells them all about the newest line of Exploding Parchment, and Hermione “cools off” enough to rant about the Department of Mysteries for a solid hour, and then they’re putting Rose to bed and hugging Harry goodbye.

--

That Monday, Harry’s in with a patient, finishing up an annual exam. The ball python looks in perfect health, and he writes just that in his notes. He places the python in her carrier and brings her back to her owner who’s waiting in the lobby, and that’s when he sees, well. He sees Malfoy, wearing Muggle clothes again and holding a small snake in his lap. This time he’s in light blue pyjama pants with clouds on them, and a white button-down dress shirt. Harry holds in a snort and keeps his professional facade, handing the ball python back to Mrs. Harris.

“She looks great, Mrs. Harris. Call Dave to schedule her next appointment- this time next year would be good.”

Mrs. Harris gives him a smile. “Thanks, Dr. Potter!”

“Dr. Potter?” Malfoy sneers, but when Harry looks at him, he just looks mildly amused. Any awkwardness from last time about being around Harry, or possibly being in Harry’s Muggle vet clinic, has disappeared.

“I am a doctor, Malfoy, believe it or not.”

“My snake is having issues, Doctor Potter,” Malfoy replies. “Your assistant refuses to help me.”

Harry turns to Dave, who’s gesturing for Harry to come in the back with him. Harry follows, and they walk to where Malfoy can’t hear them.

“Do you know that man?” Dave asks him, guarded.

“Yeah, we went to school together. What’s wrong?”

Dave lets out a not-laugh. “He comes in- without an appointment- wearing half pyjamas and half dinner party clothes. This man is clearly homeless, Dr. Potter, wearing clothes he found who knows where, and it looks like he brought in a grass snake from outside.”

Harry peeks through the glass window to look at Malfoy’s snake. Sure enough, it looks just like a wild grass snake.

“I’ll talk to him, okay?” Harry tells Dave. “He probably just needs some help.”

Harry calls Malfoy to the back and takes him into Exam Room C (C is for Cobra!).

“Absolutely preposterous,” Malfoy is spluttering as he places his snake on the exam table and sits down. “You need to fire him. This is discrimination, plain and simple.”

“Malfoy, he’s not discriminating against you,” Harry sighs. “And wasn’t the entire Wizarding veterinary community discriminating against you? You weren’t mad about that.”

“The Wizarding community has a right to discriminate against me,” Malfoy counters. Harry makes to argue, but Malfoy cuts him off. “Your assistant does not. I mean, what did I do to offend him? Is it the tattoos? Am I matching too well? On that note, I must add, the fact that I was able to match even these dreadful Muggle clothes only goes to show my incredible taste. Is that it, Potter? Is my taste too good? Has my taste offended him?”

Harry’s mouth drops open sometime during the rant, and Harry’s oddly thankful to have snarky Malfoy back. Harry clears his throat. He is a professional. “You may be interested to note that most Muggles do not wear pyjama bottoms outside of their homes. Dave thought you were homeless.” Malfoy looks outraged. “Which, as you pointed out, is probably discrimination against homeless people. But in Dave’s defense, he also thought you stole a grass snake from its habitat just to come in here.” Harry narrows his eyes. “Did you?”

Malfoy rolls his eyes. “No, Potter, I did not steal a grass snake.” He waves his wand at the snake on the table, who transforms into a gigantic, bright white snake, probably at least twenty feet long. The snake is now taking up the entire room, and honestly, “What the hell is this, Malfoy?”

“This is Bertha,” he replies. “She’s an Australian Sun Viper.”

“Ah,” Harry gets out. I mean, it’s not the largest snake he’s ever seen, he did fight a basilisk after all, but. Well. If he had known the grass snake was going to turn into this, he would have chosen Exam Room D.

“They can turn themselves invisible, when they feel like it,” Malfoy tells him. “Fantastic creatures. But Bertha’s been acting strange recently. She won’t stop moving around, she’s being very squirrely.”

“She’s viperactive,” Harry replies, laughing at his own joke. And then he realizes he’s with Malfoy.

“Potter, did you just… do you often subject your clients to snake puns?”

Harry can only shrug helplessly. The damage has been done. He waves his hand at the walls. He doesn’t know how Malfoy didn’t notice the snake jokes and cartoons last time.

Malfoy follows his gesture and begins examining the walls. Harry’s not just going to stand here and watch him. He looks at Bertha, who doesn’t appear to be hyperactive, or viperactive for that matter. “Usually, when a snake is very active, it means they don’t have enough space, or that they’re bored of their enclosure.” Malfoy snaps back towards Harry, clearly about to argue. Harry puts up a hand. “I’m assuming, since you’ve probably had her a while and given your magical abilities, that that’s not the case here. So, she’s probably just hungry.”

“Well, then, why won’t she eat?”

Harry turns to Bertha. Why aren’t you eating?

I am eating, Bertha replies. I ate this morning. Oh, it was a beautiful rabbit, absolutely marvelous…

Do you mind if I give you a quick exam?

Be my guest, Bertha replies.

Harry repeats the same examination he gave Gertrude last week, though it’s quite a bit more challenging with Bertha’s size. Harry needs to use both hands to check her spine and underbelly, but sure enough, there’s a nice, rabbit-sized lump.

“She looks fine to me,” Harry tells Malfoy, who’s gotten distracted again by the walls. “And she tells me she ate today. So, nothing to worry about. If she’s still overactive when you take her home, let me know.”

Malfoy’s cheeks turn a bit pink when Harry mentions that she ate. “Well, good,” he replies imperiously. “I’ll be seeing you.”

He takes Bertha and Apparates out of the clinic. It takes some time for Harry to convince Dave that he left out the back emergency exit.

--

Tuesday morning, before Harry leaves for the clinic, an owl taps on his window and drops off a parcel. There’s a note, a pouch that clinks when he sets it down, and something else wrapped in tissue paper.

He looks at the note first.

Potter-

Payment for your services.

DLM

Harry peeks in the pouch and sees it’s filled with Galleons- Harry has no idea how many, but it’s certainly more than he charges his clients. Although, to be honest, he totally forgot to ask Malfoy for payment in the first place. He moves to unwrap the other item, and finds a throw pillow inside.

On the pillow, there’s a snake wrapped around a piece of cherry pie. At the bottom, the word ‘Pie-Thon’ is stitched. Harry grins.

He stops by Gringotts on his way into the clinic and converts the money to pounds. He splits it into two stacks. Dave’s already in when he arrives, but there aren’t any appointments for another hour. He hands Dave the first stack of pounds for payment of Malfoy’s two visits, and waits as Dave enters it into their records.

“So, did he steal a grass snake?” Dave asks.

“Erm, no,” Harry replies. “It was his pet.” He hands Dave the much larger stack of money, the leftovers from what Malfoy had given him. “Here, take this, it was extra.”

Dave’s eyes widen. “I can’t take this.”

“Just take it,” says Harry. “Consider it your Tuesday bonus.”

“If he’s got this much money, shouldn’t he spend it on, I don’t know, trousers?” Dave looks exasperated. Harry laughs.

“You know how rich people get,” he says. “Eccentricity, and all that. I’ll be in my office, give me a holler when the first patient arrives.”

Dave looks like he’s going to argue about the money some more, but Harry just waves him off and walks to the back. Dave did have a good point though, Harry thinks. About the trousers.

After he closes up for the day, Harry stops by a Muggle department store on the way home. He tries to guess what size Malfoy’d be in jeans, then buys some ripped ones. In a spark of inspiration, he goes over to the t-shirt section. He finds a green t-shirt with a snake on it, hiding in flowers. When he gets home he wraps up the shirt and jeans to Owl to Malfoy.

Malfoy,

Thanks for the pillow.

These are actual, normal, Muggle clothes. If you have to come back to the clinic for any reason, please wear something similar. Unless you want Dave to have another heart attack.

HJP

--

They skip Friday night dinner this week, since the Ministry is holding a charity gala. Rose is staying with Molly for the night, and Harry waits for Hermione and Ron to finish getting ready so they can head over together. Harry usually brings Luna as his date to these events, but Ginny’s got a game tonight so Luna’s off in the stands cheering her on.

This Friday’s charity gala benefits children orphaned by the war. Hermione’s written up a speech for Harry, since he’s Britain’s Favorite War Orphan (capitals courtesy of the Daily Prophet, in their pre-gala column).

Harry’s not surprised to see Malfoy here, but he is surprised when he walks over despite Luna being away.

“Good evening, Potter.”

“Hullo, Malfoy.”

“Those shoes have seen better days.” Harry looks at his shoes. They look fine to him.

“No comment on being the war orphan at the war orphan gala?”

Malfoy sticks his nose up. “I’d like to think my sensibilities have matured slightly since my school years.”

“So dead parents, that’s a no, but my clothes are fair game?” Harry’s mouth twitches up, and Malfoy’s does the same.

“Obviously, Potter, isn’t that what I just said?”

“Glad we’re on the same page,” Harry replies, then goes back to reviewing his speech. Malfoy snatches the parchment away from him and begins to read.

“‘As a war orphan myself’ - you’re terribly right, Potter, I should have mentioned - ‘I know firsthand what a difference can be made with the proper love and support-’” Malfoy sighs dramatically, placing his hand over his heart. “This is just touching.”

Harry snatches the parchment away. “Do you ever stop being a prat?”

“Rarely.” Harry looks up, and Malfoy’s smirking, but not cruelly. It’s actually a good look on him, Harry thinks. Now that he’s no longer so pointy. And the tailored dress robes do suit him well, much better than the mismatched Muggle clothes.

“How’re Bertha and Gertrude doing?”

Malfoy’s eyes pop open in surprise. “They’re doing quite well, thank you for asking.”

Harry nods politely, turning back to his speech. It’ll be time soon. Malfoy leans next to Harry’s ear, breath hot against his neck. “See you around, Potter.” And then Malfoy’s headed back to his table, and it’s time for the speech.

It doesn’t go terribly, all things considered.

--

Malfoy visits the clinic again the following Monday, and he’s wearing the clothes Harry bought him. Harry stops short, staring in awe. The jeans fit him perfectly, and Harry wonders if he got the size right or if Malfoy did an alteration charm. The green of the shirt makes Malfoy’s pale skin stand out, and good god, no wonder he was sorted in Slytherin, it would be a crime to see him wearing any other color.

And the tattoos. Harry had noticed them before, how could he not, but now he’s really looking at them, and they’re… the Dark Mark is on his left forearm, but the snake and skull are surrounded by beautifully detailed flowers. There’s no color to them, but somehow they look more realistic than, well, actual flowers. The flowers go all the way up Malfoy’s arm, beyond the sleeve of the t-shirt. His right arm is a sleeve of flowers as well, and Harry wants to see how far they go. If there are more tattoos, under his shirt. Harry realizes with shock- he’s bought Malfoy a shirt, with a snake surrounded by flowers on it. Harry’s bought him a shirt that’s basically mirroring his tattoos. Malfoy’s going to think he was staring at his tattoos-

“Why are you staring at my tattoos?” Malfoy sounds amused.

“Hm? Oh- they’re uh, nice,” Harry replies, feeling the blood rush to his face. “You’re wearing the clothes.”

“Wasn’t that rather the point of you sending them?”

“Er, yes,” Harry stammers. “Do you, er, have a snake with you today?”

Malfoy raises a pale eyebrow. “As a matter of fact, I do,” he says, and Harry almost has a heart attack as Malfoy reaches into his front left pocket and takes out the smallest snake he’s ever seen.

Harry clears his throat. “Ah, excellent, why don’t we go on to… Dave, which exam rooms have been cleaned?”

Dave looks between the two of them. “Exam Room A is available, Dr. Potter. Mr. Malfoy, it may benefit you to have our office number. It’s much easier on Dr. Potter if you have an appointment-”

“There’s just no winning with you, Dave, is there?” Malfoy huffs. “I’m wearing the clothes, aren’t I?!”

Harry bursts out laughing. Dave looks like someone just stepped on him. “He’s okay, Dave, I’ll take it from here.”

Dave just stares, and Harry leads Malfoy to the exam room.

“The absolute- now, Dave is a prat, Potter, you must have recognized that, what with you calling me a prat, never have I been so-”

Harry tries to reel in his laughter. It takes a moment. “Okay, first off, Malfoy, you did great, wearing the Muggle clothes, really, that’s great. Uh, fun fact about Muggles is that they have pretty high expectations, so wearing normal clothes is, er, baseline. Not apparating, that’d be good too, although you’ve been kind enough to walk in the front door so that’s much appreciated. Um, also of note, especially in the veterinary community, we tend to make appointments with clients so that no one has to wait too long.”

Malfoy frowns, but it seems like he’s calmed down at least a little bit. “But you haven’t made me wait.”

“I mean, my practice isn’t incredibly busy, is it? I only work with snakes,” Harry says. “I don’t mind if you just walk in, but Dave- well, Dave’s an administrative purist. He’d want appointments even if I only had one client.”

“Okay.” Malfoy purses his lips. “How does one… make an appointment?”

“Do you have a phone?” Malfoy’s expression is blank. “Telephone? Mobile? Cell phone? Fellytone, I’ve heard some wizards say?” Malfoy just looks vaguely baffled. “Okay, then your best bet is to make an appointment in person, with Dave.”

“So I need to come in,” Malfoy says slowly. “Come in, talk to Dave, make an appointment, and then he’ll stop harassing me?”

“Yeah, that’s the short of it,” Harry replies.

Malfoy moves to leave the exam room, and Harry grabs his arm. “You don’t- I’m already seeing you right now, aren’t I? Just make an appointment next time.”

“Very well.”

“Good. Glad that’s settled.” Harry takes the small snake from Malfoy’s hand and places it on the exam table. “Is this another big one?”

“No, she’s not Transfigured,” Malfoy replies. “She’s just that small. Eleanor, say hello to Harry.”

Hello, Harry, Eleanor hisses.

Hello, Eleanor. What’s Malfoy brought you in for?

Why don’t you ask him?

“What’s wrong with Eleanor, Malfoy?”

Malfoy’s got an odd expression on his face. “Do you speak Parseltongue to the nonmagical snakes, too?”

“Yeah, of course,” Harry answers, surprised. “They’ve got loads to say. Why?”

“Just curious. What do you talk to them about?”

“Well, I try to ask them about their condition, but usually snakes are big liars,” Harry explains. “Even if they feel like shit, they’ll tell me they feel excellent. So either way, I do an exam, but it helps if I talk them through it. Mostly, we gossip.”

“You gossip to the snakes?”

“Gossip with the snakes, is more accurate. They rant about their annoying owners. I rant about their annoying owners. Not that they’re really all annoying, but snakes do like complaining, so it’s rather enjoyable for them, I think. Especially if they’re the only snake living somewhere.”

“Have you gossipped with my snakes about me?” Malfoy has an eyebrow raised.

“No!” Harry exclaims. “Of course not!”

“Well, why not, if you do with all the other snakes?”

“Well, you were in the room, I’m not about to gossip in front of your face, even if you can’t understand it.” Malfoy scoffs at that. “Plus, the snakes usually start it. Your snakes haven’t done any ranting about you, to me at least. But it seems as if you’ve got plenty living together, I’m sure they do their fair share of gossip at home.” Malfoy looks vaguely offended.

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong with Eleanor?” Harry continues, before Malfoy can ask him any more questions on snake gossip culture.

“Oh, she, she’s been sticking her tongue out rather a lot.”

“Well, she’s a snake, Malfoy.”

“Right, but more often than usual.”

What is he talking about? Harry asks Eleanor.

Now you see what I have to live with, Eleanor replies.

“Right, well I’ll go ahead and do my exam, why don’t you tell me more about Eleanor?”

“She’s an American Miniature Hognose,” Draco tells him as he grabs his tools and begins checking on Eleanor. “They tend to attack their prey using a form of legilimency. They take control of the victim’s brain so instead of running, they just sit and wait to be eaten.”

“That’s… fascinating.” And it is. Harry’s starting to want to… learn more about magical snakes. Do research, maybe. He’s not sure, but the more magical snakes Malfoy brings in, the more Harry wants to know.

The exam doesn’t take long. Eleanor is tiny, and there’s nothing wrong with her.

“Eleanor looks fine to me,” Harry says. “If you’re really concerned, you could give me a few memories of her doing the behavior, but it’s up to you.”

Malfoy’s cheeks flush. “No, that won’t be necessary. I’ll Owl you your payment. See you around, Potter.”

--

Potter,

For Eleanor’s exam.

DLM

It’s another pouch of Galleons, way too much, just as before. And there’s another item in the parcel too. It’s an embroidery hoop, and there’s a cross-stitched snake, a European common adder, with a witch hat on it. The word ‘adder-cadabra’ is stitched across the top. Harry grins. He doesn’t know how Malfoy knew about the silly abracadabra incantation, but it makes him happy to think Malfoy knows more about Muggles than he lets on.

It’s a copious amount of money, though, and Harry gives the leftovers to Dave again after converting to pounds.

“Dr. Potter, you can’t just give me this-”

“Why not? Aren’t you my employee?”

“Well, yes, but-” Harry ignores Dave’s protests.

He goes to the department store again after work. He finds a tight, dark green shirt with three-quarter length sleeves, and a pair of skinny jeans. Just to be nice. Not because Malfoy would look good in them.

Malfoy,

Hung the hoop up in Exam Room D. Where’d you get it?

Just another option for your Muggle wardrobe.

HJP

--

Potter,

None of your business.

Thanks for the outfit.

DLM

--

“I’d like to make an appointment.” Harry hears Malfoy before he sees him.

“Great,” says Dave. “When would you like the appointment for?”

“Right now.”

Harry’s still in his office but he can hear Dave’s grimace. “I’ll have to check Dr. Potter’s availability.”

Harry hears a foot tapping, and then, “Looks like we have a free spot. Please take a seat. Dr. Potter will be with you shortly.”

Harry doesn’t wait for Dave to come get him. He pokes his head into the waiting room and sees Malfoy, wearing the new outfit, looking... fit. Malfoy looks absolutely incredible. The tight shirt looks even better on him than expected, and Harry can see the outline of his biceps through the shirt sleeves. The orange snake around his arm doesn’t look particularly gigantic, though Harry knows that doesn’t mean much. “Exam Room D,” he calls out. Malfoy follows him to the room.

The snake’s name is Jean, and she’s a Maltese Fire Python. She’s just as large as she looks, maybe a few feet long, though she looks tiny in the gigantic exam room (D is for Dragon, it says, because there aren’t really any snakes that start with a D and Harry’s not about to skip to E).

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Jean. Malfoy flushes a bit when Harry tells him this.

Malfoy comes in the next week too, and makes another appointment with Dave for ‘right now.’ He brings in Dorothy, a Canadian Rain Cobra. There’s nothing wrong with Dorothy.

He comes in a few days later with Doris, a Bundled Woodchuck Asp. There’s nothing wrong with Doris.

Malfoy keeps showing up like he belongs at the clinic. It seems like he doesn't know he's not Harry's typical client, but he must know. That first day, Harry had told him he was a vet for Muggles, that he had never worked with magical snakes before. So Malfoy definitely knows. And of course Harry wants to help his snakes, especially if the Wizarding vets refused him service, but. Well. Malfoy didn’t have to act like it was normal, showing up here, did he?

And nothing is wrong with the snakes. It almost seems like Malfoy is using the snakes as an excuse to show up, but obviously that makes no sense. Why would Malfoy want to see Harry? And so often?

“Why do you keep coming here?” Harry asks one day, unable to hold it in any longer. He’s seen nearly ten of Malfoy’s snakes, and it doesn’t seem like there’s an end. “Nothing’s wrong with the snakes. I think you know that.”

Rather than the typical tinge of pink, Malfoy’s cheeks turn a burning, bright red. “Well, I- How dare you accuse me of- As if I wasn’t-” Malfoy splutters some more and Harry realizes: Malfoy’s self-conscious.

“Malfoy, you know it’s a good thing to get the snakes looked at regularly, right? They should definitely have at least annual appointments to evaluate their health. You don’t need to pretend something’s wrong just to have me do an exam.”

Malfoy still looks indignant, but relents from his defense. His cheeks lighten a bit. “Potter, would you like to get lunch with me this Saturday?”

“I… what?”

“You. Me. Lunch. Saturday. Which one of those words needs defining?”

“Uh, sure. Yeah. Okay.” Harry’s more than thrown off. He’s completely lost.

“Great. I’ll Owl you the details,” Malfoy says, and he’s smiling at Harry. Genuinely.

“Okay,” Harry croaks out. “Sounds good.”

Malfoy’s still smiling as he picks up Doris and leaves.

--

Lunch is at a quaint Muggle cafe in downtown London. Malfoy’s wearing a t-shirt and tight jeans, and his hair is pulled back into a messy bun. He looks- beautiful, really. There’s no other word for the way Malfoy’s grey eyes look next to the soft blue of the shirt. Harry forces himself to stop staring.

“So, how many snakes do you have, Malfoy?” Harry asks after they put in their order.

“A fair amount,” Malfoy replies with a smirk.

“I’d rather gathered that, thanks,” Harry replies. “How’d you get to having so many snakes? I mean, after Nagini…”

“How kind of you to remind me, Potter,” Malfoy sneers. “I’d nearly forgotten.”

“Sorry, I just-”

Malfoy waves him off. “No, you’re right, it’s a fair question. Gertrude was my first, I found her on the side of the road in Diagon one night. Can you imagine? No idea how she got there, but my guess is she was abandoned.”

“Shit. That’s terrible.”

“It is. So I took her in, this was maybe… three years ago? And I loved her to bits, but she seemed lonely. So I got Eleanor, too. And then Pansy came over one day and she decided I needed a third, and well, now I’ve got a house full of Noods.”

Harry chokes. “Nudes?”

Malfoy’s face turns a violent shade of red. “Sorry, just- Pansy- Pansy calls them the Noods. The Noodles. Because they’re, you know…” he trails off.

“Noodles?” Now Harry’s laughing.

Malfoy smiles sheepishly. “Glad you enjoy her sense of humor.”

“God, I think Parkinson and I might actually get along,” Harry laughs, only stopping when their food arrives.

“So, do you have any snakes?” Malfoy asks between bites.

“No, at least not right now,” Harry replies. “I wanted to adopt one, but then I couldn’t choose which one to adopt, so I ended up not adopting any.”

“You didn’t consider adopting all of them?” Malfoy smirks.

Harry laughs. “No, I’m not you,” he replies. “Although that would make the house less empty, at least. I’m living in the old Black place, I’m not sure if you’ve ever been?”

“Probably a few times as a child, but I don’t remember it.”

“Well, it’s huge,” Harry tells him. “I spent months cleaning it up and now I barely even spend time there.”

“Not a house made for one wizard?”

“Not particularly. It was probably made for one wizard and a shit ton of snakes.”

They talk for a while after they finish eating, about snakes, and homes, and where their friends have ended up. Malfoy insists on paying for the food.

“Well, I’ll get next time, then,” Harry insists. Malfoy blushes at that, and Harry’s stomach twists into a knot. He’s starting to think that he might be in trouble.

--

Malfoy,

You paying for lunch reminded me - you keep paying me too much for the check-ups.

Here is the breakdown of prices in pounds/Galleons. If you pay in pounds, you can give payment right to Dave.

Thanks again for lunch.

Harry

--

Harry only has a few appointments Monday morning, and they’re over pretty quickly. He brings a Western Hognose back to its owner and finds Malfoy sitting in the lobby, a beautiful metallic blue snake on his lap. Harry’s starting to wonder if he’s going to need to Obliviate Dave of all the magical snakes he’s seen. Eh, it’s probably fine. He hopes.

“I’m surprised you’re not mad about the money thing,” Harry says, leading Malfoy to Exam Room B.

“It’s not as if I’m wanting for money,” he drawls. “I’m happy to support your practice.”

“I mean, I just gave the extra money to Dave,” Harry says. “It’s not like I need the money either.”

Malfoy looks outraged. “Dave?! You gave my money to that imbecile?!”

“Well, he’s-”

Malfoy’s red in the face and turning towards the door. Harry grabs him and pulls him back around. They’re… too close. Malfoy’s eyes are wide. Harry takes a step back.

“Dave’s a college student,” Harry explains. “He could really use the extra money.”

“College?” Malfoy wrinkles his nose in confusion.

“Yeah, he’s studying social work. He wants to be a therapist. Like a Mind Healer, but for Muggles.”

Malfoy tilts his head, considering. “Okay,” he says, apparently approving. He puts the snake down on Harry’s table and lets him begin the exam.

Harry alternates between chatting in Parseltongue with Melvin and chatting in English with Malfoy. Malfoy lets him run extra tests on Melvin- Harry wants to learn as much as he can about these magical snakes. Melvin’s a Vanishing Boa, but rather than actually vanishing, he can create the illusion of his prey disappearing, so that no competitors snatch it up.

After taking furious notes, Harry finishes up the exam and walks Malfoy back up to the lobby. Malfoy stops at Dave’s desk, and to Harry’s surprise, pulls out a hefty wad of Muggle cash. Dave looks mildly alarmed, but lets Malfoy know how much he owes.

“These ones?” Malfoy asks him. Dave counts the money, and though baffled, helps Malfoy count out the proper bills.

“You’re all set,” Dave tells him. “Would you like to make an appointment for next time?”

Dave looks hopeful, but it seems Malfoy still hasn’t fully grasped the concept of making appointments ahead of time. “No, thanks,” he replies. And then he takes the rest of the money- still quite a large wad- and places it in Dave’s hand.

Dave’s eyes are wide. “Why are you giving me this?” He tries to hand it back.

Malfoy looks at Harry, who shrugs. “Why shouldn’t I?” Malfoy replies, but doesn’t wait for an answer. “Potter, lunch again this Saturday?”

Harry smiles. “See you then.”

--

Harry keeps thinking about the money. It had to be at least a thousand pounds, cash. Dave’s expression was brilliant. And Draco- because giving Harry’s assistant an obscene amount of money for no other reason than that Harry had been doing it had definitely made him Draco now- had let him examine the magical properties of his snake. Harry wants to send a thank you.

After wandering through the Muggle mall a while, he decides upon a framed wall hanging. It’s got a picture of a snake, curled up on a pile of books. The snake has on a collar, a small mustache, and gray hair. It says ‘William Snakespeare.’ Harry’s not sure if Draco will get the reference, but he’s hopeful.

Draco,

Thanks for today.

Looking forward to lunch.

Harry

Not two hours later, he gets a parcel back. There’s another embroidery hoop inside, and the same Snakespeare pun is cross-stitched on it.

Potter,

I found this last week and thought of you. Apparently, we both have impeccable taste.

See you Saturday.

Draco

Harry grins. He can’t wait for Saturday.

--

“So, what do you do for a living? Besides giving away all your money to charity. And to Dave.”

Draco picked the restaurant again, a Mexican place in downtown London. Harry ordered enchiladas and they’re brilliant.

“No, that about sums it up.” Draco’s smirking. “I do some potions consulting every now and then, but philanthropy is a full time job.”

Harry rolls his eyes. “I’m sure.”

“How’d you end up working with snakes, anyways?”

“It’s a bit of a long story. After I left Hogwarts-”

“Wait, I wanted to ask about that too. Why’d you leave Hogwarts? The Prophet said you were fired.” He snorts. Harry does not.

“Well, I was fired,” he replies, flushing at the memory.

Draco leans in. “Why? What’d you do?”

“It’s a rather embarrassing story. So anyways, after I left Hogwarts-”

“What’d you do to get fired?”

Harry feels his cheeks getting redder, but Draco’s not going to let it go. “You remember Oliver Wood? He was a few years above us at school?”

“Yeah, sure. Intense Quidditch bloke.”

“Yeah, that’s him. Well. He was the flying instructor when I was hired as the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor.”

“And?”

“We may have… shagged in the Quidditch supply shed.”

Draco’s eyes widen. “No.

“Yes, unfortunately.”

“And you got caught?”

“A rather traumatic experience for Professor Sprout, I’m afraid.” Harry tries to shrug casually, but he’s still mortified. Draco bursts out laughing.

“I can’t believe you- you- Potter, you maniac,” he gets out.

“Yes, well, tell anyone and I’ll curse you, and all that,” Harry replies sheepishly.

“The broom shed-” Draco falls into another fit of laughter, and Harry can’t help but join in.

Anyways,” Harry says firmly after their waiter comes over to check on them and gives them an odd look. “I didn’t really know what to do, so Hermione made a list of things I’m good at. Parseltongue was on there, and I just kind of thought. Why not?”

“A commendable way of deciding on a career,” Draco replies, mouth twitching.

“So, I went to vet school, and all that, which you obviously know. Okay, but now I’m remembering you stopping by when I first opened the clinic- that happened, right? I didn’t imagine that?”

Now Draco’s blushing. “I didn’t realize it was yours.”

Harry’s trying to remember the details now. He had only been open a week, and was slowly getting new clients. He hadn’t hired Dave yet and was working his own reception. Malfoy came in… Harry didn’t think he had a snake with him, but he left so quickly Harry wasn’t certain.

“Wait, so you were trying to go to a Muggle snake vet with your magical snakes?”

“No! I didn’t even have snakes then,” Draco replies, looking steadfastly at his empty plate. “I thought it was…” and then he mumbles something Harry can’t hear.

“What?”

“You’re going to make fun of me!”

“No I won’t!” Harry argues. “Okay, I might, but you should tell me anyways.”

Draco looks up at him and bites his lip. “I may or may not have gotten… a bit too interested in Muggle magic culture.”

“What does that even mean?”

“Fairy godmothers! Fortune telling! Snake charming!”

Harry’s eyebrows raise. “Snake charming?”

“I may have thought your practice was a snake charming shop. In my-” Harry’s laughing. “In my defense- Potter, shut up- you named your practice ‘The Snake Whisperer,’ what’s one supposed to think?”

“I thought it was clever!” Harry raises his arms in surrender, but he’s still laughing. “Since the Muggles don’t know I’m actually talking to their snakes?”

Clever my arse,” Draco grumbles, but he’s no longer red. “I saw the vet sign when I walked in, and then you were there, and I thought I may have been losing my mind til the article came out in the Prophet the week after that you’d become a Muggle vet.”

“You could have said hello, or something.”

“I was rather preoccupied by my brief glimpse into insanity. And besides, would you have really talked to me back then?”

Harry considers. “Maybe?”

“That’s what I thought.”

“I talk to you now, though.”

Draco rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “Excellent job of pointing out the obvious, thanks for that.”

The waiter drops off the bill and Harry reaches for it, but Draco beats him to it. “It’s my turn,” Harry tells him.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Draco waves him off. They walk to the apparition point together and Harry’s not sure how to say goodbye- is a handshake too formal? Is a hug too familiar? They’re staring at each other, and Draco looks expectant.

“Well, bye, then,” Harry says awkwardly, cringing at himself. Draco looks… disappointed? Harry gives a quick wave and apparates home.

--

Draco comes into the clinic again on Monday with a titanoboa. He’s got it transfigured as a grass snake, but as soon as Harry comes out to get him, Draco says, “Maybe the large exam room would be good.”

Reginald is nearly thirty feet long. He’s absolutely massive. He’s absolutely beautiful. Draco lets Harry examine Reginald’s magic too, and it’s incredible. Titanoboas change colors to blend with their environment, Draco tells him, and Harry watches as Reginald slowly blends into the exam room. Harry barely has any room to work but he doesn’t care- he’s absolutely thriving right now.

“Don’t pay me for this one, please, I should pay you for letting me study him,” Harry tells Draco as he’s leaving. Draco just rolls his eyes and gives Dave a stack of money, telling him to keep the change. Harry wants to argue more, but he knows he won’t win.

“Draco? Are we doing lunch again this Saturday?”

Draco looks up and grins at him, and Harry’s heart clenches. “Sure,” he says. “See you then.”

--

Harry gets to pick the place this time, but he doesn’t really have any idea where to go, so he chooses the cafe they went to the first time.

Harry feels a lump in his throat as Draco comes over to the table. He’s wearing jeans and a collared shirt, and the buttons at the top are left open enough for Harry to see that Draco’s tattoos continue from his arms onto his sternum. God. How can he just… look like that? It’s absolutely unfair. Harry forces down a swallow.

Draco smiles as he sits down and they place their orders.

“So, I’ve got some news,” Harry starts.

Draco leans his elbows on the table and raises his eyebrows. “Do tell,” he says.

“I’ve been thinking, and… I’m going to start another practice, in the Wizarding world. For magical snakes.”

“Harry!” Draco hits his hands against the table and grins. “That’s incredible!”

Harry smiles back, ignoring the pang in his chest. “Thank you! I’m really excited about it.”

“You should be! You obviously enjoy working with them. That’s the perfect next step for you.”

Exactly!” Harry exclaims. “See, you get it. I told Ron and Hermione last night, and they said congrats and all that, but they didn’t really get it. So, thank you. Really.”

“It probably helps that I get to see you geek out over my snakes,” Draco smirks. “They probably just don’t realize how much it means to you.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Harry smiles. “And it’s all thanks to you, and Gertrude, and all the Noods, really, otherwise I never would have even known I was interested.”

Draco cracks a laugh when Harry mentions the Noods. The waitress brings over their lunch, and they chat about the snakes, and what Harry’s going to name his new practice, and Harry tries to ignore how his heart feels in his chest every time Draco smiles at him.

Harry likes everything about Draco. His laugh, his sarcasm, that glint in his eye when he’s making fun of Harry. He listens to Harry, and cares about his snakes, and he’s probably the most beautiful man Harry’s ever seen.

And Draco seems totally at ease. Totally fine with having lunch together as friends.

Draco pays for lunch- again- and when they make it to the apparition point, Harry wants so badly to kiss him that he has to look at his shoes when he says goodbye.

--

Harry’s expecting Draco to come in on Monday, and he does. He’s got Gertrude wrapped around his shoulders, and he smiles so brightly at Harry that Harry thinks he’s going to just fall apart right there, in the lobby, in front of Dave.

“Is everything okay with Gertrude? Did you finally run out of snakes?” Harry asks as they walk over to Exam Room A.

“Oh, she’s fine,” Draco replies. “I just thought you might want to take a look at her magic, like you did the others. And no,” he smirks. “You haven’t seen all of the snakes yet.”

Harry tries to relax. He gives Gertrude another routine exam, and then uses diagnostic spells to check out her magic. He asks her questions, and she gives him vague answers. But he can’t really focus on Gertrude’s magical properties, not when Draco’s laughing at the comic on the wall of snakes unwinding after work.

“I think that’s good for today,” Harry says, voice rough. “She’s fascinating.”

“Isn’t she? So, are we doing lunch this Saturday?”

Harry’s face must betray him, because now Draco’s face is full of concern. “What’s wrong?”

“I just…” Harry rubs at his face. “I don’t know if we should keep doing these lunches,” he gets out.

Draco’s face immediately shuts. “What, just like that? You just, don’t like me anymore?”

No, that’s not it at all, it’s the opposite-”

“The opposite?” He raises an eyebrow. “So, you like me too much?”

Harry hides his face in his hands. “Yes. I’m sorry, Draco, I… I can’t just go to lunch, and be friends. I want more. I’m sorry. Just give me some time, okay? Give me a few weeks, and maybe....” maybe I’ll be over you by then.

Draco looks shocked. He takes Harry’s arms, and moves them away from his face. “Harry, what do you think we’ve been doing?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to ruin our friendship, just give me a bit of time to get over you-”

“Why on earth would I want you to get over me? Are we not dating?”

What?!”

And now Draco’s smiling again. “Harry, you absolute idiot,” he says, sounding giddy. “This whole time- you didn’t realize we were dating?”

“I- I think I would know-” Harry stutters. And then realization hits. “Wait. So you like me?”

Draco laughs, then touches a hand to Harry’s cheek. “Yes, Harry, that’s why I asked you out three weeks ago. To lunch. On a date.”

“That was a date?” Draco’s hand on his face is light, and soft, and Harry leans into it.

Draco rolls his eyes, but he’s still smiling. “Apparently not a very good one.”

“No, I just- I wanted them to be dates-”

“I thought me asking you out was clear,” Draco says. “Shall we try this again? Harry James Potter, illustrious War Orphan and Hero, Chosen One-” Harry punches his chest lightly. “Would you be interested in joining me for a date, a romantic date-”

Harry doesn’t wait for him to finish. He grabs Draco’s hair and pulls him in and kisses him, and Draco grabs Harry right back, nestling one hand in the back of Harry’s shirt and the other around his neck. The kiss is warm, and sweet, until Draco moans, and then he’s biting Harry’s lip, and the kiss turns hot and frantic, and Harry backs Draco up against the wall, not able to get enough. Something crashes to the ground, and Harry can’t even be bothered to see what it was.

Draco’s hand roams up Harry’s shirt and it’s cold against Harry’s hot skin. He shivers at the contact and presses even harder against Draco.

And then there’s a scream, and Harry jumps away from Draco with a start. Dave’s standing in the doorway, staring at them, horror in his eyes.

“What are you doing?” Harry asks him, unable to keep the annoyance out of his voice.

“I heard a crash, I wanted to make sure everything was okay, you didn’t answer when I knocked-”

“You knocked?” Now Harry feels bad. “We’re fine here, thanks, Dave.”

Dave nods, still looking horrified. “Okay, Dr. Potter,” he says, leaving and closing the door behind him.

“And here I was, feeling insulted that you wouldn’t kiss me goodbye after such lovely dates,” Draco teases. “Turns out you were just waiting to be in a workplace setting, that’s certainly more appropriate.”

Harry laughs, not taking his eyes off Draco. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that. You just come in here, looking like this, sending me snake puns, giving Dave all your money-”

You’ve been wanting that? Do you even know what you’ve been doing to me? With the Parseltongue? It’s absolutely unfair,” Draco pouts.

You like when I speak Parseltongue?

Fuck, Harry, you can’t just do that-”

Harry cuts him off again with another kiss, slow but fierce. When they pull apart, Draco’s giving him a soft look.

Harry clears his throat. “You’re right, though. This is absolutely inappropriate. And in front of Gertrude, too.”

Draco looks to Gertrude, who’s staring at them.

“Could we perhaps continue this tonight? Over dinner? And I’ve been wanting to meet all of your snakes, too-”

“Rather presumptuous, inviting yourself over, isn’t it?”

Harry grins. “It’ll be our fourth date, though, right?”

Draco rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “Fine. You can come by at seven.”

“Seven it is,” Harry replies, smiling back.

--

Harry decides to turn Grimmauld into the location for his magical snake veterinary practice. Between appointments at the Muggle clinic and study sessions for his Wizarding veterinary tests, he and Draco spend most of their time there, fixing the ground floor into something resembling a clinic.

They’ve been dating for two months when Draco gets Harry a ‘Blown to Slyther-Eens’ wall hanging, and Harry knows he must have had it custom made, because there are Slytherin colors in the background and the snakes are making rather obscene gestures.

“I can’t believe you won’t hang it in your office,” Draco complains.

“It’s a sex pun! Sex puns are for upstairs!” Harry’s trying to sound exasperated, but really he’s holding back a laugh.

Draco’s mouth twitches. “How disappointing,” he says. “You certainly aren’t implying that sex is for upstairs only?”

“Downstairs is my new workplace-”

“That’s right, I forgot how much you hate workplace canoodling,” Draco smirks. “Our first snog definitely wasn’t in your office. And you weren’t fired for shagging on the job at Hogwarts-”

Harry crumples up the wrapping paper and throws it at him. Draco’s never going to let him live that one down.

They settle on hanging it over Harry’s bed, and Draco smirks every time he sees it. Which is every night, these days. Draco really only goes home to feed and socialize with his snakes, the rest of the time he’s at Harry’s.

They’ve been dating for four months when Harry suggests he move in. And it’s soon, but it doesn’t really feel like moving fast, it just feels like it’s time. Draco agrees.

It’s a bit of an ordeal moving all the snakes in, but there’s plenty of room. They convert the guest rooms on the second and third floors into homes for the snakes, transfiguring the furniture into rocks and tree trunks to resemble the snakes’ natural habitats. Reginald gets the whole fourth floor to himself.

“Do you remember that day, when Dave walked in on us?” Harry asks Draco over dinner, after he and the snakes are all moved in.

Draco snorts. “How could I forget?”

“I didn’t really think much of it at the time, since I was a bit caught up on the fact that we were dating, but didn’t you say I hadn’t seen all your snakes? I don’t remember meeting any new ones after that.”

“I wasn’t lying,” Draco says slyly. “There was one you hadn’t met yet. Although you did meet that particular snake not too long after.” Draco winks.

Blood rushes to Harry’s cheeks. And to other places. “Ah,” he says, leaning in across the table. “That sounds vaguely familiar. I believe a reintroduction may be in order, though.”

Draco closes the distance between them, pushing the plates onto the floor and climbing over the table into Harry’s lap. They don’t make it upstairs.

They’ve been dating for six months when Harry’s new clinic opens. He passed his exams with flying colors, earning his Veterinary Healer certification.

Ron and Hermione are over for Friday night dinner, helping them come up with a good name for it. Draco suggests ‘The Snake Charmer.’ Harry grins, remembering that’s what Draco first thought his Muggle practice was for. But then Draco gets him a wall hanging with the new name on it, and it’s even more suggestive than the ‘Blown to Slyther-Eens’ one. Harry still puts it in his private office.

The opening goes smoothly. It looks like he’ll have a lot more clients than he was expecting. He’ll split his time between the offices, he thinks, and hire another assistant for The Snake Charmer.

Draco goes out to grab them dinner after the opening, and when he comes back he’s holding a bright orange snake and no food. “I found him by the Leaky,” he tells Harry, worried. “Do you think he’s okay?”

Harry immediately takes him to an exam room, but he appears to be in good health. They put up signs, but no one comes by to claim him. Harry tries Parseltongue, but the snake isn’t very talkative.

“I think he’s ours,” Harry says, after a few weeks have gone by. “What should we name him?”

Draco bites his lip, considering. “Dave,” he replies. Harry laughs. They bring Dave up to be with the other snakes, and he seems much more comfortable around them.

The Snake Whisperer continues to do well, and The Snake Charmer grows larger each week. Harry gets to see Draco every day, and shag him senseless, and tell him that he loves him. Gertrude seems to adopt Dave, taking special care of him when she thinks Harry isn’t paying attention.

Grimmauld Place might not have been made for one wizard, or even for one wizard and a shit ton of snakes. But two wizards and a shit ton of snakes? That seems to be the key to happiness.