Harry read the article again. He didn’t know why he put himself
through it. Rita Skeeter’s outlandish claims never failed to make him angry.
And he’d already forced The Daily Prophet to run a redaction days ago.
No, he did know, actually. It was the accompanying image. The
one with Draco Malfoy staring right into the camera, unblinking, a challenge in
his eyes. It was familiar but at the same time nothing Harry had ever seen
before (except during his many rereads of this particular paper). Malfoy had
aged. Matured obviously since he was now a Ministry official. There was just
something about his face. The same but different. Harry was drawn to it.
Harry looked up to find that same face at his doorway, focusing a
steely gaze on Harry. He was so shocked he forgot he was holding a cup of tea.
It dropped to his desk with an embarrassing clatter, spilling its contents, all
over Malfoy’s inked face.
The Malfoy at Harry’s office door – the real one – didn’t move.
His eyes flickered down to Harry’s desk, watching the spill unfold passively.
Harry jumped to his feet and quickly bundled up the wet paper,
throwing it face down into a waste basket at his feet. He wasn’t sure if he’d
been fast enough.
He looked back up to Malfoy, searching for any sign he might
have seen. Nothing. But that hardly meant much. Harry suspected Malfoy’s
emotions didn’t play so obviously on his face anymore. He nodded in what he
hoped was a professional courteous manner. "Dralfoy.”
Harry froze, the awful blunder hitting his ears just as it came
out of his mouth. He could feel himself blushing, his palms getting clammy, his
knees weak. Was simply Malfoy’s presence enough to make him come undone these
And just when he thought things couldn’t get worse, Harry, not
quite sure how much longer he’d be able to stand for, slumped back into his seat -
or at least attempted to – but misjudged the position and ended up plummeting
to the floor instead.
The only saving grace – if there was any positive to the
situation at all – was that at least on the floor, behind his desk, he was
hidden from sight. He wondered if he crawled under his desk and stayed there,
if Malfoy would get the idea and leave. Harry was seriously considering the option
when Malfoy came into view again, stepping around the desk to loom over Harry.
He offered a hand. Harry gladly took it, forgetting for a moment
the current predicament of said hands. And sure enough, after Malfoy helped
Harry to his feet, he quickly let go and wiped his hand on his trousers.
Harry wanted to close his eyes and crawl up into a ball in the
corner of the room. He never wanted to look Malfoy in the eye again. In less
than a minute, he had made himself look like a complete fool. And all it took
was for Malfoy to walk in the bloody room.
Malfoy cleared his throat. “I just came by to say hello. I
thought it was polite given we work in the same building now. Which, of course,
you already know.” His eyes darted to the waste basket. Shit.
“I had The Daily Prophet write a redaction,” Harry blurted out, as if
that would help. Although at least he managed to get the words right this time.
“That was you? I should have guessed. You never miss an
opportunity to save my skin.” Malfoy’s lips quirked upward for the smallest
moment before his composure returned. “Well, it was nice seeing how the other
side lives. I suppose I must get back to it.”
“Right,” Harry managed to nod. “I’ll get the door for you.”
They both stared at the open door.
Having already committed to the pointless task, Harry hurried
forward and tripped over his own feet, falling right into Malfoy’s waiting –
his reflexes were still as fast as they were in Quidditch – arms. Could Harry be more embarrassing?
Malfoy righted Harry but kept a firm grip on him – perhaps he
thought Harry might slump to the floor otherwise, which was probably an
accurate assumption at this stage.
There was amusement in
Malfoy’s face now, a lightness in his eyes. “Are you always this clumsy,
Potter, or am I special?”
“You’re special,” Harry answered quickly as he didn’t want
Malfoy to think this was how all his mornings went. Although, after he realised
what he’d said, he quickly tried to take it back: “No, I mean, wait, I mean,
that’s not what I -“
Malfoy took a step back, dropping his arms. “No need to be so
flustered, Potter,” he interrupted. “I keep all the newspapers with your face
on them too.”
Harry’s brain short-circuited. He must have stood there blinking
at Malfoy for a solid five seconds before he was able to ask: “All of them?”
“Thirty-four and counting.” Malfoy winked. “You know, Potter, if
you were to take me out to dinner, I’m sure the outing might be scandalous
enough to make the front page. We could add to both our collections.”
“If I – you – dinner?” Harry repeated, a little discombobulated.
“Why, Potter,” Malfoy said, a cheeky smile appearing on his
face, “I thought you’d never ask. I’d love to.”
Harry blinked – it was the only action he was capable of.
Malfoy laughed lightly when Harry didn’t reply. He made to exit,
but paused briefly to call out over his shoulder: “I finish at six.”
Only when Malfoy was out of view did Harry let his knees give in.