Addition Alley Christmas
Harry whistled to himself as he walked through Diagon Alley, waving to one of the Weasley twins – he had no idea which one – as he turned into the tiny opening between Potage's Cauldron Shop and Quality Quidditch Supplies. Addition Alley had been built in the year following the war, and Harry was one of the first to buy shop space. Bottom's Up wasn't quite as large as Flourish & Blott's, but Harry was absurdly proud of his store, and the sign that he designed himself. The script wasn't overly fancy, but the M had a nice rounded shape to it that looked like the perfect arse. At least, to Harry it did.
"To sodomy, to straight sex, to leather, and latex. Profit," Harry murmured with satisfaction.
Harry tapped the doorknob with his wand and entered the store, spelling on the lights as he did so. The coffee machine in the staff room behind the shop was already on, going by the pleasant smell, and Harry swept his eyes over the shop quickly before going to the cash. Bright sky blue walls with vector line designs in several colours circled the store, and there were three aisles with short partitions that held shelves of various sex toys, lubricants, massage oils, games, and novelty sweets. The entire back wall held a wide selection of magazines, costumes, and skimpy under-things, along with two single-occupancy warded change rooms.
Harry had been both fed up with the lack of sexual education, lack of anything sexual really, in the wizarding world, and tired of people expecting him to become an auror once he'd graduated. He'd shocked everyone by opening up a sex shop in the newly formed Addition Alley, but the low-stress vocation suited him perfectly after what he'd been through as a teenager.
Flicking on the radio, Harry hummed along to the song as he watched Hermione Granger, his second in command, stomp her feet through the slushy street as she aimed for the front door. One of the things Harry liked about his shop was that from the cash bar he could see everyone entering or exiting Addition Alley.
Holding his wand up to his mouth, Harry used it to sing the chorus as Hermione came in.
"You know I love Christmas, I always will…my mind's made up the way that I feel…"
Hermione stared at him from under a thick knit cap and a chunky scarf, shaking off the snow on her shoulders.
"That's a horrid song."
She dumped her cloak and outer gear in the staff room, returning a moment later with a mug of coffee. Harry was setting the cash in the till and dancing – horribly – to the end of the song.
"I dunno. It's kinda catchy, in a weird way."
The door banged open and two red heads bounced in, waving the Daily Prophet between them.
George seemed to be immediately drawn to the new display Harry had spent four hours setting up the night before, of a rather adventurous swing set with some curiously open areas.
"Got your set up already for the December rush?" George grinned.
"Kick off tonight at the Ministry gala," Fred finished.
"Oh no. Not that again," Hermione grumbled, walking over to George and slapping his hand away from the straps.
"And that was our esteemed Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour singing the new holiday cheer Christmas is All Around – jury's still out on his singing ability…"
"Oh come on," Fred countered, turning down the radio.
"We had a great time last year. It was festival," George continued.
"We got arrested last year," Harry smirked, taking another sip of coffee. The memories were still rather vague, but he did recall a midnight trip to the zoo after the gala ended, one bizarre recording of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,' and a match of drunken quidditch. Harry to this day could not remember which of the activities had landed them in the Ministry's holding cell for the night.
"Ron's already decided to go, hasn't he?" Hermione asked, one hand on her hip and leather harness in her other hand. Harry wasn't sure if the Weasleys were looking at Hermione or the harness.
"It's wizarding independence day, Hermione," Harry said, giving her his best puppy-eyes look.
"The first one," George piped up, feeling it necessary to differentiate between this independence day and the new one that occurred May 2nd.
"We've been together through thick and thin," Harry continued, "ever since we were eleven yea-"
"Stop. Just…stop," Hermione shook her head, but Harry could see she was trying not to laugh. "Harry Potter, you're full of rubbish."
Outside the shop, a blond man muttering to himself and avoiding the puddles of slush caught the attention of the twins momentarily.
"So you'll come?" Harry asked, his back to Hermione as he checked the material covering the wall display behind the counter. Several glittering bottles sat lined up behind, and Harry looked forward to revealing them to customers the next day.
"Of course I'll be there. Someone has to monitor you miscreants."
The door opened and admitted a scowling Draco Malfoy, covered in snow and cheeks flushed with the cold.
"Malfungus!" George cried, opening his arms and advancing. Malfoy drew his wand quickly, eyes narrowed.
"Potter! For the last time, this is unacceptable!"
"Oh, don't be so prissy. We just like animals, that's all. We just want to pet the little cute ferret," Fred assured, holding his hands out and approaching Malfoy in a soothing manner. If anything, it seemed to make Malfoy even edgier.
"I thought you wanted to make new friends, Draco," Harry asked, keeping most of the amusement out of his voice as he watched his two friends slowly corner Malfoy by the door.
"Not by way of sexual harassment!" Malfoy's wand switched between each twin rapidly before they both stepped to the side and allowed him to run through to the staff room.
"You know what, Harry?" George said thoughtfully hand on his chin as he regarded Harry.
"Bring Malfoy along. Ought to be interesting, seeing him attic'd," Fred answered, before waltzing out the shop with his brother.
"Remind me," Hermione said as the shop once again quieted and Harry flipped the sign to 'Open', "to think twice before having any Weasley children, if Ron ever works up the bollocks to ask me."
Harry laughed into his mug before draining it, spying several wizards and witches outside eyeing the shop.
"If it makes you feel any better, I hear twins skips a generation."
The morning flew past, as they usually did for the busy shop, and Harry found himself straightening the shelves up just before lunch when his next customer walked in. She was dressed in an almost too-perfect matching skirt suit of navy, white, and light blue, a large blue purse in hand and a dark blue overcoat. It was billowy and yet fitting at the same time, and she quite resembled the Queen Mother, right down to the strange and matching baby blue hat on her head that looked rather like a cake box.
"May I help you?" Harry asked, stepping up slowly.
The lady looked a little bewildered, but she didn't appear to be all that annoyed by her confusion, and she regarded Harry with a smile. He didn't get many elderly witches and wizards in his shop, well, to be honest, he did, but not this gentle kind of elderly.
"Aren't you a helpful young man. Do they sell more of you here?"
Her face was pleasantly long with a largely narrow nose and there was a slight plumpness to match the smile lines around her mouth and eyes. She had simple make up on, and Harry noted that she'd missed a bit of her bottom lip, but other than that, she looked well put together. The hair was brushed neatly and a strong grey, and she had dark chocolate brown eyes.
"I'm afraid not, ma'am, but I own the store and I'd be glad to help," Harry smiled, pointing to his nametag. Hermione had told him not to bother with one as everyone knew who he was, but Harry did because he wanted his employees to look dashing and professional, and he set the example. His nametag was usually spelled with different nicknames, not that anyone usually noticed, but at least today it said his real name.
"Hector! Lovely name for a lovely young man," she smiled, taking off her gloves.
"It's actually Harry," Harry said, pointing again to his tag. She ignored it completely.
"Now Heckie, may I call you Heckie? I've got a sore shoulder, you see, and my neighbour Enid told me that you sell some sort of massage oil? Her son, told me, come to think of it now, not Enid."
"It's Ha…yes. We do have the oil, Mrs…" Harry trailed off, holding his arm out and leading her over to the aisle with the oils. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Malfoy returning from lunch and giving them an odd look.
"Thompson, pet, Emma Thompson," the lady replied, her eyes roaming about the store with curiosity.
"Oh, are you related to the actress?" Harry asked, smiling. They'd arrived at the shelves and he picked up one of their more innocent massage oils, one that felt like actual hands were rubbing the skin after it was applied.
"Well I don't know. Do I look like an actress?" Mrs. Thompson's brows were furrowed and she appeared to be in deep thought over this. Malfoy snickered from the counter, but shut up rather quickly when the twins made an appearance in the street outside the window.
"You look smashing, Mrs. Thompson, so perhaps," Harry grinned, ignoring the bell's ding that sounded when George walked in.
"My, aren't you a charmer, Heckie," Mrs. Thompson crowed, picking up the box next to the one Harry had selected for her. "Feels like massaging tongues? What a daft product."
"Er, yes, just one tong – that's not important," Harry stuttered, very aware that George was moving closer to listen in on the conversation.
"Oh my. What a nice toush that young man has," Mrs. Thompson said, her eyes fixated on the soft silicone man's arse that sat on a shelf in the gay product area.
"Mrs. Thompson, would you like some tea?" Harry blurted, steering her gently towards the back room, proper massage oil in hand. He'd ring it through himself, and pray that George didn't hear too much.
"I'll leave the primary numbers on the counter for you, Heckie!" George smiled sweetly, blowing a kiss to Mrs. Thompson before skirting towards the door.
"Cheers, George," Harry muttered.
The Ministry, whom Harry concluded liked to hold galas, closed off the grand entrance atrium of their offices and decorated it all for the First Wizarding Independence Day. There were more than twenty round tables, their crisp white tablecloths contrasting sharply with the dark green-black tiles covering the walls and fireplaces. People milled about in fancy dress robes, catching up with acquaintances they'd not seen since the last ball, and tried to engage others in mindless conversation. Harry found the twins near the bar at the back, and managed to slip through most of the crowd by hooking his arm through Hermione's and walking fast.
Fred and George had reserved a table at the rear for them, and were wearing matching Santa hats as they ordered plates of fancy hors d'oeuvres and finger foods. Ron was already present and nursing his first beer, which he nearly spilt as he waved at Hermione.
"HEY! It's Heckie!" Ron laughed. Dean Thomas, co-owner of the muggle-inspired sports store across from Harry's, broke into a wide grin and grabbed a slice of cheddar cheese from the serving plates.
"Heard you have a fan, Harry," Dean teased as Harry slipped into the seat next to him. Hermione slid gracefully in next to Ron, and nicked some of his beer when he wasn't looking.
"She was a nice lady, just a tad confused," Harry protested, holding up his hand for a beer. It popped onto the table a moment later, and Harry gave a silent thanks to the clever elves that worked for the Ministry.
"A tad? She was admiring The Percy Perky Bottom," Hermione smirked, holding up her own hand and receiving her own beer. She deftly maneuvered it out of the way of Ron, who spewed his mouthful upon hearing the name.
"You named a replica of an arse after my brother?"
"Yes, we did," piped up Fred, looking smug and stupid at the same time, with a foam mustache. "Our idea."
"It's high class," Harry assured Ron with a grin, "it moves by itself."
"Oi!" George called, suddenly looking crestfallen. "Where's Malfungus? I thought you were bringing him along?"
Harry shook his head and took a gulp of beer.
"Said he wanted nothing to do with you tossers, and that he'd rather slow dance with a vampire than show up here."
"His loss," Fred shrugged, pulling a dossier onto the table.
"You'd better start being nice to him," Harry warned, "he's only in the work-release program at the shop for one more year."
"You'd be amazed at what one can accomplish in a year," George said cryptically, and with an altogether guilty looking wink.
Across from George, Hermione's face lit up in a wicked grin and she stole the file folder Harry had set on the table.
"Alright, Weasleys," she said, looking triumphant. "Be prepared to weep."
Hermione opened the file and proudly showcased the papers, which detailed rather clearly how well Bottom's Up was doing.
"Bollocks," Fred groaned, tossing the financials of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes across the table.
"It's just the prelims, we've got twenty four days yet," George insisted.
"People are a bunch of perverts," Ron said with a serious face, though he snorted just after making his statement.
"Damn, not even close," Dean replied, not looking all that bothered. His own financial statement was rather modest, but he'd just opened his shop in August, and everyone knew the contest was strongest between the Weasley shop and Harry's.
"Happy Christmas then, Harry," Hermione raised her glass in a toast.
"May we always have perverts to keep our store in business," Harry finished, clinking glasses.
"You'll need those perverts, Harry, when you see what Weasleys Wizard Wheezes is coming out with for Christmas," Ron taunted.
"Bring it on, Weasley," Harry replied, studiously ignoring the reporter attempting to edge closer to the table. "We've a whole kink line coming out that'll blow your mind."
Three hours and an alarming amount of alcohol later found their table feeling rather jolly and in the holiday spirit. This was usually when someone came up with the bright idea of doing something fun to celebrate the holidays, but a rather undignified squawking noise by the front door disrupted their laughter. An elegant large barn owl made its way into the atrium with a blood red howler in its mouth, and headed straight toward Harry.
"Fuckity," Harry muttered, trying to fetch one of the two howlers he saw in front of him. He idly wondered why the door wizards hadn't stopped the bird. Thankfully, most of the other guests were too drunk to notice the howler.
The bird finally spat it at him in disgust, and hopped along the back wooden rest of the booth they were sitting in. George, who wasn't sitting up as much as he was propped up against his brother, paid it no mind as it stole food from his plate.
The howler started to smoke, and Harry prodded it warily with his wand, casting a noise containment spell over their table.
"Open it, Heckie," Ron grinned, his smirk lopsided.
"Yeash, Heck. Hectory. Lets hear it!" Hermione slurred.
Harry took a deep breath – which ended in a painful hiccup – and opened the letter.
As absolutely delighted as I am to see you making something of yourself that does not involve potions or dangerous wizards, I should like to inform you that if you ever sell such a lecherous product to an unsuspecting member of the public again, I shall take great pleasure in wringing your little neck."
It wasn't a shouted howler, and the low, deep tones of the voice slithered down Harry's neck and tingled his spine, causing him to bite his lip in an effort to not sigh. Severus Snape had one sexy voice, one that Harry's body thought was worthy of celebration.
There was silence at the table for a few moments, before the tittering started. Fred started first, which led to Hermione's giggles, and finally loud laughter of Harry and Dean.
"What'd ya do to get Snape's knickers twisted?" Ron hiccupped.
"I've no idea," Harry blinked, though he had an inkling of an idea. "We should send one back!"
Harry pulled a fresh sheet of parchment from his file folder and placed it in the middle of the table, spelling it a blinding red colour. They all stared at the parchment while the DJ played the radio up on stage, the hyper host's voice rather jarring with the drunken crowd.
"Here's a public service announcement for your celebratory folk: every holiday season one in thirty witches and wizards are harmed in a drink-transport accident. So please, do not apparate, fly, or floo while under the influence. The Ministry's Sober- Up Squad will be making the pub rounds at closing to ensure everyone has a safe ride home this season. Happy Christmas, and remember, don't drink and splinch!
And now, in what has been considered this year's biggest regret, here is Rufus Scrimgeour and that rubbish song again, Christmas is all around!"
"Lesssing a car..carol to'm," Dean murmured, not accustomed to the sheer volume of the drink fest that started Harry and the Weasley's December shop competition.
"Tha's…that's brilliant!" Harry said. "Let's sing like Rufus!"
Fred poked George hard enough to wake him up, and they all leaned unsteadily toward the red parchment in the centre of the table. Harry tapped it with his wand, laughing as he gave the command.
The parchment shuttered, and Hermione waved her wand like a conductor, counting until the proper part of the song arrived.
"It's written in the wind…" Harry, Ron and Fred stage whispered towards the parchment.
"It's everywhere I go!" Hermione, George, and Dean chimed in.
"So if you really LOVE me," Hermione sang, off key.
"Come on and let it show!" the remainder yelled, and beer was spilt as the howler folded itself and flew off with the barn owl.
Mrs Thompson came back for tea obscenely early the next morning. Merely ten minutes after Harry had finally adjusted to the remarkably bright reflection of the sun on the tiny amount of snow through the windows, Mrs Thompson arrived on a tasteful burgundy suit with matching cake box hat.
"Hector!" she smiled warmly at him, waving a small piece of parchment at him. Harry was hard pressed to be annoyed with her, as he liked to imagine that she represented an older – and slightly more senile – version of what his mother would have been like.
"Good morning, Mrs. Thompson," Harry attempted to smile, leading her towards the back staff room and leaving the shop in Hermione's hands. He found it amusing that the nudie magazines on the back wall all blushed as Mrs Thompson waved at them. They were mostly vanilla ones at the front of the racks, and it was a monthly struggle with Hermione over the allowed subject matter.
Harry moved on autopilot as he made the tea, finding the prank Malfoy had played on him earlier that morning to actually be rather useful as he skillfully fetched milk and sugar saucers. The brand new line of potions that he was bringing out to boost his sales in the contest allowed for partial animagus transformations, something Hermione had found both disturbing and rather kinky. Harry had agreed to sell the products, on the requirement that Hermione never expand upon her personal thoughts on the subject. He was currently sporting a sleek black tail with a white tip, similar to that of a cat's, thanks to a dose Malfoy had 'helpfully' dropped into his coffee.
"Now, Heckie, you look like you've been through the blitz, my dear. Might wish to spruce yourself up for my Alistair."
"I'm sorry?" Harry asked, his tail swishing and nearly knocking over the teapot. "Your Alistair?"
"Yes, yes, my Alistair," Mrs Thompson replied distractedly, plopping two sugar cubes into her small cup. "He's a bit of a recluse, a brooding man, but he's very intelligent and very intense."
She paused and looked up at him, taking in his appearance.
"Hector, do you have a tail?"
"Harry. I…yes," Harry answered, before sitting carefully in the seat and trying to find the most comfortable position to accommodate his extra appendage.
"Well it is a bit hairy, yes, but it is a tail after all, dear. You'll keep the mice out of the clocks this way," Mrs Thompson said with a smile, baffling Harry completely. She withdrew a letter from her purse and handed it over to Harry, calmly waiting until he took it.
"Er, thank you, Mrs Thompson."
"Goodness," she replied, looking bewildered. "You remember my name better than I do."
Harry gave a half smile and took another gulp of tea; unsure of what on earth he could say to that.
"That's for you, Heckie. I told Alistair about you, you know," Mrs Thompson said. She was eating her biscuit rather daintily, and had a soft glint in her dark eyes. Even though her smile was genuine (if a little crooked), and her expression kind, Harry could tell that when Mrs Thompson had been fully on her game she had been a force to reckon with.
Harry's opinion was only confirmed further when he opened the letter and found a post owl box address in Oxford. It was written on the torn flap of an envelope, and if Harry didn't know any better, he'd think that Mrs Thompson had swiped it from her son's desk.
Harry looked up to find Mrs Thompson beaming at him, with a spare bit of parchment in her hand and an elegant black quill. She eagerly pushed them towards him, and Harry clamped his mouth shut. He had absolutely no doubt that she intended to watch closely as he penned a letter to Alistair.
"You wrote to him? Are you mad? You don't even know who he is!" Ron was standing next to the display of unraveling knickers, his face tinged pink in a rather strong blush. A few moments earlier Hermione had demonstrated how they worked, by tracing her finger on the mannequin and causing the lace stitching to unravel in the same path her finger took.
"What was I supposed to do?" Harry asked, "she was sitting right there watching me!"
Harry kept his eyes trained on the wall behind Ron, and didn't mention that he had an inkling of an idea as to who Alistair was.
"I still wonder why you started having tea with her," Malfoy deadpanned, emptying the trash. "Looking for another mother figure, Potter?"
He kept glancing up at Luna, who was standing in the front of the store and browsing the jelly toy selection. She came to the store often on her lunch breaks.
"Go piss on a tree, Malfoy," Ron said, scrunching his face up. Harry ignored both remarks.
"Well, it was a distraction at first to keep her away from George. But then after, she stopped by again, and...I don't know. She seems nice and friendly, sort of familiar."
"Yeah, I can see why you didn't want the twins to meet her, Heckie," Ron smirked.
"I'm glad you do, Won-Won," Harry mocked, ducking as Ron flung a little pillow packet of lubricant at him.
Malfoy rolled his eyes as he continued to attempt nonchalance near Luna.
"Malfoy, why don't you go see if Luna needs help with a dildo? Make sure you don't trip and land on one when you're over there," Ron called.
"Potter, don't you have a rule about nuisance customers?" Malfoy sneered, stepping closer to Luna.
"Only when they bother me," Harry answered good naturedly, pulling a dusty old log book off the shelf behind him.
"Pfft. I'm going, anyway," Ron told Harry. "We've got a new shipment of streelers to unpack. Most popular Christmas present this year for kids, they're saying."
"Of course they are," Harry called to Ron's retreating form, "they're cheap and shiny!"
Harry shook his head and turned to head back into the staffroom, in order to make a floo call to the headmistress. He caught sight of Luna talking to Malfoy, seemingly oblivious to his awkward attempts at flirting.
"Blondest babies ever," Harry muttered.
Harry and Malfoy were left to clean up the store twenty minutes before close. Open for more than four years, the attention brought to the shop by Harry's name had finally died down. The scandal that it was a sex shop took a bit longer, and Harry was rather grateful for that as it gave him more customers to work with in the contest against Fred, Ron, and George. The unraveling knickers were quite a success – they'd sold out of the day's stock by three in the afternoon– and Harry had had quite a few comments about his tail, with a steady sale of the animagus potion.
"Malfoy, why don't you ask her out?"
"I don't know who you're talking about, Potter," Malfoy huffed, straightening the leather collars by size.
"Oh come on, I'd have to be stupid not to…" Harry interrupted, restocking boxes of wizard condoms.
"Even if there is someone, I'm not exactly in the position to court anyone," Malfoy finished, not looking at Harry as he roughly untangled the whips hanging next to the collars.
"I don't honestly think Luna expects to be courted. You'll have a hard enough time convincing her that a regular date doesn't include nargle hunting," Harry smiled.
"And even if I could," Malfoy continued, folding a ball gag back into its box and ignoring Harry, "I live next to the Post Owlrey and it's hardly a pla…what on earth is a nargle?"
"Maybe you should ask Luna," Harry said plainly. The Malfoy fortunes were a sore point, one that Harry was polite enough to avoid. The only reason Draco hadn't been stripped of his entire savings and sent to Azkaban with his parents had been the work-release program, the very same one that bound him to work at Harry's shop for five years. Malfoy had been in a furor for the first three months, thinking that Harry had offered him the job as some sort of revenge. Harry had never told him that Bottom's Up had been the only place to offer Malfoy a chance to avoid prison.
Harry finished stacking the colour change condom boxes and stretched as he stood. Malfoy was done cleaning up the kinks section, and was headed to the back to clock out. The staffroom was less bright than the storefront, and Harry redressed himself under the warm light. He'd found over the past year that by dressing in much more formal clothing than the norm, people were less likely to notice him. The Boy Who Lived seemed stuck in people's minds as a sloppy teenager.
The silence was comfortable, though they still didn't talk about much outside of work. Malfoy seemed to come to a decision as he paused in the threshold of the staffroom door on his way out, stopping to look at Harry.
Harry looked up from where he'd been re-tucking his dress shirt into his slacks, his tie tossed over his shoulder to keep it out of the way.
"Potter. If you're serious about this Alistair man, you should bring him something the first time you meet him. Wine, or …something."
Harry looked around the room, at the stack of chipped and well-loved mugs on the counter, the Playwitch magazines that Hermione had been flipping through earlier, and the bulk box of flavoured lube on the table, which had been opened for joke testing.
"Absolutely nothing from here!" Malfoy bit out impatiently. "The man will already be nervous enough being much older than you, anything from this shop will be a slap in the face."
"Why are you so sure he's much older than me?" Harry asked, flipping his tie down and straightening his shirt. He had his own theory on who Alistair was, after spending the day thinking over what Emma Thompson had said and recognizing her familiar facial features.
"Potter – his mother is at least sixty," Malfoy answered, exasperated. "Look, there's an off-license in Mayfair that's still open. Mention my name, and have them recommend a bottle."
"A muggle off-license?" Harry asked, eyebrow raised.
Malfoy left with a scowl and a two fingered salute, before Harry could even thank him. Harry would go and get some fancy wine tonight, but it wouldn't be for Alistair.
Harry made a pit stop on the way to the off-license, slipping through the evening crowds in Diagon Alley and past Knockturn, entering the Bulwer-Lytton Library. The library looked deceptively small from the outside, but indoors it was covered with old sturdy wood, wrought iron, and brass candelabras. Harry had become well acquainted with the library a few years ago when he'd first thought of setting up shop, as none of the books in the library responded to summoning charms due to a bizarre murder that had taken place. People had to either wander and find the sections on their own or wait for a librarian to assist them – the murderer had imperised a wizard and compelled him to summon any book containing the word magic in it – a death that in Harry's opinion took 'blunt force trauma' to a whole new level.
The periodical section was in the basement of the library, and Harry nodded swiftly to Lavender Brown at the circulation desk as he passed. He found what he was looking for in the seventh cabinet from the stairs. There had been nothing under the graduation edition of the Daily Prophet for 1978, but in August of the very same year, Harry found a small printed photo of a mastery ceremony that had taken place in London. Severus Snape, lanky, greasy haired, and angry beyond his years, stood tall and distinguished next to his mother as the camera took the photo. The youngest to have gained his potions mastery in two centuries, Snape couldn't escape the camera, and his mother seemed to have been proud of his accomplishment as well.
Harry smiled at the picture, at the unmistakably younger version of the Emma Thompson that visited him for tea. It seemed from the picture that she was much happier now, whether it was Voldemort's destruction or for another reason, and Harry was glad to see that things had gotten better for her.
He wasn't quite sure how Snape was doing now, as the man had become a bit of a recluse since the war. Harry had spent a few months ensuring that Snape's name had been cleared, highlighting his work during the war years and in the rather anti-climatic battle. Snape had stunned Voldemort long enough for Harry to kill him, and it seemed that the wizarding world deemed that perfectly acceptable for former death eater absolution. Harry hadn't known Snape's mother was still alive, and now he was more interested to know about the man than ever.
He closed up the copy of the Prophet and headed out with light steps, on his way to the second half of his information hunt for the night.
"Mr Potter! You've dressed smartly this evening," Professor McGonagall was waiting for him in the front hall, her eyes roaming over his outfit as if she were still inspecting his uniform.
"Although the tail is an addition," she added, noting the white tip of the tail peeking out from under Harry's long coat.
Harry's cheeks flushed red and he held out the wine.
"Draco Malfoy wanted to test our newest stock for this month."
McGonagall smirked, her funny little smile that reminded Harry of a cat about to pounce. She accepted the wine and led him away from the first year students chasing each other through the halls.
"I don't recall you ever letting us play tag in the castle," Harry teased, offering her the bottle of wine.
"I don't recall my rules ever stopping you," McGonagall admonished in return.
Harry smiled and followed her to the headmistress' chamber, where a nice dinner had been set out. They spent an hour chatting and eating, with McGonagall filling Harry in on all the new students at Hogwarts and how peaceful Christmases at the castle were now that the war was over.
"The cheer is magnified tenfold," she smiled warmly. "But I do believe I'm keeping you from some task you wished to accomplish here."
"I'm glad to hear. But ye… how did you know?" Harry asked, rising from his chair with a puzzled look on his face.
"I shan't reveal my secrets, Harry," McGonagall winked, but she looked mischievous as she sat with her wine glass in hand. "Though this position at the school provides a few extra perks."
"You wouldn't have taken the job if it didn't," Harry grinned. "Thanks for the dinner, and let me know what I can bring next time, Professor."
McGonagall picked up her wand and spelled the radio on, wincing as the last notes of Christmas is All Around pushed through the speakers.
"Minerva, please. And goodness that man has no shortage of self esteem to put that rubbish out."
Harry laughed and headed to the door.
"Right then, good evening, Minerva."
"Likewise, Harry." She remained sitting at the chair, but looked pensive for a moment.
"Oh, but there is one favour you could do for me. Has your shop gotten in any of those neat little mass-"
"All staff orders go through Hermione!" Harry blurted, eyes wide as he quickly left and shut the door. He missed the pursed lip little smirk that McGonagall had on her face as she poured herself more wine.
Small bundles of baubles hung in the air around the castle, floating serenely through the corridors above the heads of passerbys. Harry walked calmly and let the memories of his very first Christmas at Hogwarts envelope him, of the huge trees in the great hall, the cold stone corridors and warm hot chocolate, and his first presents. He felt inexplicably saddened to realize that it had been more than ten years since he'd been a first year here at Hogwarts. Harry had a home to go to now for Christmas, and even though it was borrowed, he still felt like he at least was welcomed somewhere.
Reaching the seventh floor and noting that it was empty, Harry began to pace in front of the familiar portrait of Barnabas the Barmy.
I want to enter Severus Snape's quarters from 1991, Harry thought, concentrating hard as he passed three times. Harry had figured that in 1991, when he was only eleven, life for Snape was still relatively easy. There was no spying yet, no very active Order meetings, and very little trouble that Harry had gotten into, so perhaps in this time period Snape's quarters would be a little more open to showing his personality.
The door materialized in front of him, and Harry stepped through with a held breath. Another reason he'd asked for the old Hogwarts home of Snape's is because he wanted to see the current home on an actual invitation that he'd earned. Hopefully Harry would garner useful information tonight to get him there.
Harry stepped into the very same office that Snape had used as a professor at Hogwarts, and Harry thought for a moment that the room had made a mistake. But this office had an extra door off to the left side behind the desk, and as Harry snuck a closer look, seemed to be filled with empty books. None of the pages had writing on them, and Harry then realized that the office was a duplicate, and that it was used as a defense mechanism of sorts. Anyone who accidentally opened the door to here would think they'd merely taken a wrong turn and ended up at Snape's work office. Harry walked confidently over to the second door behind the desk and opened it, slightly befuddled to find merely a broom cupboard inside. When he turned around, however the room had shifted into Snape's quarters.
Two massive bookcases adorned the wall across from him; most of the book marked with what appeared to be little bits of parchment stuck between their pages. A large and comfortable bed was set in the shadows in the corner of the room, a dark cranberry red couch sat in the middle, and immediately to Harry's right was a small kitchen counter with a sink. There was art and posters all over the walls, a mish mash of unmatched frames seemingly hung at random on the walls, though it all came together impressively cohesive. A muggle camera took up residence on the bookshelf, and there was plush charcoal grey carpeting under Harry's feet.
Most importantly, there were a few photos in frames on the sideboard behind the chesterfield, and Harry drew a rueful smile as he waved at the picture of his fourteen-year-old mother. The photograph next to Lily's received a wave as well, and Harry thought that Eileen Snape had certainly aged well by gaining a few pounds.
"Wherever did you get the name Emma Thompson," Harry murmured.
He spent more than an hour wandering about the room, noting the books that seemed to be Snape's favourites, checking out the teas and coffees that Snape stocked on his shelves, even sneaking a peek into the refrigerator. He inspected the posters on the walls, and was amazed to find out that Snape had designed most of them.
In all the twelve years that he'd known Snape, Harry felt that that hour was the most he'd ever learned about the man.
I assume you obtained my postal address from my mother. Let me dissuade you of any assumptions that I am a sociable man with mediocre looks and a desire to date. I am not. No doubt you wrote your first letter whilst under observation by my mother, and now that you have submitted to her wishes, she will not bother you further.
I suggest you don't either.
Harry sat on his bed, listening to shouts in the street below his flat. He'd originally felt a bit insulted by the letter and startled by the brutal honesty, but when he remembered the author, he allowed himself a little laugh.
If Snape thought a small warning like that would turn Harry away, he was sorely mistaken. Harry had the benefit of being the defeater of Voldemort, and he told himself that if he could face down a dark lord, he could certainly face the wit of a sarcastic potions master.
Harry gave a treat to Tomfoolery, his owl, and stretched out across the bed with quill and parchment. Time to prove to Snape that someone was legitimately interested in him.
Your mother is not watching me write this, so I can verify that nothing I say is being forced under duress. I would normally honour your request, but I am not a man interested in the usual dating scene, nor do I fall for just another pretty face. Did your mother lie? Or are you as intriguing as she makes you out to be? Where do you fit into the new wizarding world?
Harry had paused over the name to sign, but decided that as Mrs Thompson wouldn't call him anything else (and he wasn't quite ready to give away his identity), Heck would do. Harry figured the challenge at the end of the letter would definitely get a response from Snape, and hopefully it wouldn't include a hex along with it.
Harry made a cup of tea and paced the small bedsit he lived in in Muggle London. He genuinely wanted to see Snape again and he didn't want to do anything to make himself come across as a foolish young dunderhead. Harry was twenty-three, and considered himself to be a few years older by life's standards that most of his peers, and he hoped he could convince the paranoid persona of Snape that he had no ill intentions.
Considering how most of Snape's Hogwarts students felt about him, Harry figured this wouldn't be an easy task.
Whistling, Harry called down his owl Tomfoolery.
"Have a safe flight to Oxford," Harry told the owl, scratching lightly behind its ear. It nipped appreciatively at him and flew out into the crisp winter night.
Not knowing what exactly my mother said, I am unable to answer your query. Persist with this letter writing if you wish, but your attentions would be best suited elsewhere. She told me that you are a much younger man than myself, and I am finding the idea of socializing with a potential student of mine to be disagreeable. I was a professor for nearly twenty years.
Wizards of these times are either old fashioned and recalcitrant, hesitant to move forth lest another threat to their lifestyle emerge, or glamorously carefree and easily throw away savings as well as moral self respect in their pursuit of nirvana.
I have neither patience nor respect for either party.
Tom hooted softly as he delivered the letter, seeming to shrug in pity along with Harry. They were strong words, but Snape had never been one to tell white lies to spare feelings. After the third read through, Harry figured out that Snape's harsh language was actually a defense mechanism of sorts. It was far easier to ward people off to begin with, than give in to false hope and be disappointed later.
Something Harry was familiar with, to say the least. He'd had a few first dates since the end of the war; from blokes he'd considered friends who'd turned out to be far more interested in dating the Boy Who Lived than Harry Potter.
Harry pocketed the note and offered up some left over beef potpie to Tomfoolery. He'd pen his reply tomorrow, as he usually came up with the best replies in his sleep.
"Good morning ladies and gents, wizards and witches. A big surprise to those of you who woke up this morning and found snow outside your windows, there's only seventeen days left until Christmas! We start the shopping day with a new version of a Christmas classic with The Calling's Carol of the Bells."
Harry flicked his wand towards the front door, unlocking the shop. Malfoy was in the back completing the order form for January, and Hermione had the morning off to do some shopping with Molly Weasley. They were an odd group, but Harry hadn't been all that surprised to find that they worked well together. When removed from the need to out perform people, Malfoy was a good worker. Hermione, bless her, also worked best under conditions that she didn't have any specific goals to stress over.
Harry had just finished flipping through the book of naughty post cards in the front stand when a dark figure stormed past the window and seemed to pause with disgust outside the front door. Harry looked up and quickly lost the colour on his cheeks.
"Mr Potter," came the silky smooth voice, as the doorbell announced Snape's entrance.
Harry took a quick gulp of air and made a decision. He could either slip back into the role of petulant and irksome student (thus railroading any potential dating plans he had with Snape), or he could act as a mature shopkeeper eager to see to his customer's needs.
"Professor Snape," Harry greeted, an honest smile on his face. "What can I do for you?"
Snape faltered for a moment, his head tilted to the side as he studied Harry. His hair had been cut shorter, trimmed finely at the top of his shoulders, edging his crisp black cloak.
"Perhaps you wish to inform me why I received a horrible caterwaul of a howler from you and your cohorts seven days ago, in the middle of the night."
Snape crossed his arms and looked nowhere but at Harry, an impressive feat given the wide variety of obscene toys and lingerie surrounding him.
"Oh," Harry said, placing his hands in his trouser pockets, "the singing was rather off-key, sure. Might have overshot the whiskey a bit."
"Your singing was an affront to the very nature that composes the music industry," Snape pointed out, his tone mildly insulting. He looked to be testing the waters, to see where Harry's temper would start to flare up.
"Yeah, well, bad as we are, you'll have to go to Scrimgeour for an apology for that trainwreck of a song," Harry grinned, biting the inside of his cheek to stop it from turning into a full smile.
"Regardless, I demand that you follow the lines of my letter, and cease serving the less able minded of our society. "
Snape stood tall and imposing, and Harry figured it was meant to intimidate him.
"You said that in your howler, but I have no idea what you're talking about."
"You know very well what I mean," Snape said, narrowing his eyes dangerously. Harry had dealt with his fair share of difficult customers, though, and stood his ground.
"I'm afraid not, but just to dispel any rumours you may have heard, some of our stock isn't used just for sex," Harry smiled brightly. "Would you like a pamphlet on The Art of Erotic Desserts?"
Harry stood near the back of the shop, close to the shelves of books on a wide range of topics. There was a stack of pamphlets nestled in a few slot holders on the wall, and he offered up the one with a very sensual chocolate cake on the front.
Snape stared at him for a full minute before turning and stalking out of the shop.
"It's scratch and sniff!" Harry called after him.
Harry had figured he'd walked a fine line with his comment, and considered the shocked scowl Snape had given him before storming out to be a benign reaction, considering. It was deceptive to pretend he didn't know that Snape's mother had been visiting, but Harry was beginning to enjoy his teas with her, and so thought it more of a white lie.
He returned to the counter, folding the pamphlet and shoving it in his pocket. One customer was in the shop, trying to look inconspicuous as he checked out the stimulus potions. Harry made sure his anti-theft charms were working in the shop, and pulled out Snape's note.
Logically, if you were a professor at Hogwarts of a required subject, any younger wizard taught in England up until five years ago would have been your student. Rather shrinks your options drastically, doesn't it?
I don't fall under either category exclusively, but if you'd like, you can meet me for a drink and tell me in person where I've gone wrong with my own career.
Mrs Thompson returned on Wednesday with a box of shortbread biscuits. Hermione, now used to seeing Mrs Thompson in the shop, took over the front cash while Harry went to the back staffroom to make tea. He leaned against the counter while the kettle boiled, thinking about the best place to have dinner in London.
A scratching above Harry's head sounded, and he turned to spot Tom hovering over the staffroom back window. He held a roll of parchment in his claws, and Harry opened the window to let him in. A short gust of cold air followed, causing the ad posters around the room to flutter.
Mrs Thompson started humming God Save the Queen as she tried to converse with a stuffed monkey toy that Ron had left there on his lunch break.
Harry blinked and decided that he'd be perfectly fine to open the letter now.
Your attempt at subtle flirting is pitiful at best. If you are foolish enough to attempt a non-professional relationship, I will not say no to a free dinner.
It wasn't quite a rejection, and Harry was satisfied with that. Before he could change his mind, Harry grabbed an auto-inking quill and scribbled his answer. He'd just have to figure out where the perfect spot to go with Snape was.
Harry folded the note back up and made tea for himself and Snape's mother. He set out a plate of biscuits, and with a quick glance to the dividing door to the rest of the room, he cast a muffliato.
"Mrs Snape?" Harry asked, sliding the plate towards her.
She looked up at him with very clear dark eyes, her expression strong and showing very little. Her features, though rounded a little with age, were very sharp and distinguished.
"I haven't been Mrs Snape in a long time," she said softly, taking a sip of her tea. Harry figured that she was more with it now than she normally was on any given day.
"I saw some memories," Harry said, trailing off as he remembered the crying little boy in the corner. "He must have been a good man when you first met him."
"My Tobias could dance like no one you'd ever seen before," Mrs Thompson smiled, and she pointed her wand at the radio on the back shelf to make it come alive. "Waltz, tango, foxtrot, he used to sweep me off my feet."
She continued waving her wand like a conductor, and her shoulders swayed a little to the slow Christmas song on the radio.
"That's why you stayed?" Harry smiled sadly, nearly burning his tongue on the hot tea.
"Sometimes you only get one good thing out of a man," Mrs Thompson said, her eyes dancing in her memories, "I got two."
"Severus," Harry confirmed, more to himself, but Mrs Thompson heard him.
"Alistair," she nodded. "He's always hated his middle name, but he's earned the right to renew himself."
"Do you think his renewed self could stand to date a younger man?" Harry asked, hoping he didn't sound like he had absolutely no self-esteem.
"One way or another, young man, I think you've always had his interest," Mrs Thompson smiled, quickly nipping another chocolate biscuit from the plate. The muffliato was broken as Harry pondered that last statement, when Draco Malfoy walked in.
"You sneaky rat!" Mrs Thompson exclaimed, waving her tea mug towards the door and sloshing tea over the table. Draco stood frozen in the doorway.
"Mrs Thompson! That's Draco Malfoy," Harry called, standing quickly and drawing his wand to prevent any damage. Mrs Thompson's eyes had clouded a little in confusion, and Harry knew she'd slipped back into her own world.
"I know exactly who that is. Think you got away with your little prank, did you Abraxas? I'll inform Professor Steadly about your love potion," she threatened, waving a finger at Draco. She stood up from the table and advanced toward the door, keeping a weary eye on him as she left.
Harry was going to say something to Draco, make a small joke to lighten the mood, but stopped when he saw Malfoy's face. A bit of surprise still, but also hurt, anger, and simmering frustration. Malfoy would be atoning for the sins of his family likely for the rest of his life.
"End of year performance review coming up soon," Harry said instead, watching Draco recompose himself out of the corner of his eye.
"Does it include a raise?" Draco sneered, lifting his head up in a partially condescending manner.
"The Ministry limits your salary, you know that," Harry answered, walking towards the shop door. If his eleven-year-old self had known he'd be the boss of Draco Malfoy twelve years later he probably would have taken joy in knowing he controlled the finances of the prat.
As it was, Harry had seen the run down flat near the noisy post owlery that Malfoy could afford, and seen the waste laid to Malfoy Manor. The home was the creepiest place Harry had ever seen (it was no wonder Draco had grown up twisted), but it had been Malfoy's home.
"They've bound you to the shop here on a mediaeval contract," Harry said rapping his knuckle against the shop doorframe.
"Thank you for reminding me, Potter," Malfoy grumbled.
"Those usually have interesting provisions in them, don't they?" Harry pondered.
Harry nervously tugged on his monochromatic grey scarf, which matched well with the grey woolen pea coat he was wearing. Harry had gone for muted colours and a distinct business style for his clothing, muggle, but still passable for wizards. The reservations for where he was meeting Snape were in the pocket of his jacket. The Tate Modern might house some fantastic pieces of art, Harry thought as he rounded the corner by the Thames, but nothing could be done to hide the ugly power station-turned-museum it inhabited.
For a Saturday evening in December, Harry was surprised at the small crowd of people wandering around outside the museum. He thought it'd be much busier.
Harry held tightly to the box he'd carried with him, a small book-sized box that contained a decadent slice of chocolate cherry cheesecake for Snape. Harry had gathered from the living quarters he'd seen at Hogwarts and from his own observations of Snape that Snape was the kind of man who didn't indulge himself, not because things were beyond his reach or denied to him, but because he merely didn't think of it. Snape was a man who was accustomed to assuming extravagances were simply meant for other people. Harry glanced down at the plain navy blue box in his hand and swallowed hard. Hopefully the present would be accepted, as Harry had very little dating experience and wasn't sure if a small token would be appreciated.
Still mostly in the shadows, Harry stilled when he came close enough to recognize both Mrs Thompson, and Snape. Mrs Thompson had a cheerful look about her as she stood wrapped up against the cold, one arm on Snape's forearm as she talked animatedly, oblivious to Snape's tense posture.
Harry shook his head and took a moment to study Severus Snape. The black hair seemed to be neater than it used to be at school, and the lines of his muggle clothes were cut crisp and form fitting in a way his bat-like teaching robes never had been, giving Harry a fair idea to Snape's body shape.
He could turn back now, apparate away and pretend that this had never happened. Snape had never known Hector was Harry, and Harry would be safe. But even as much as his younger pre-teen self wanted to do that, Harry stood rooted to the spot, remembering that he of all people had piqued Snape's interest. Draco's words of warning echoed in his ears, about his date being nervous due to his age, and it clicked in Harry's head that Snape was standing there with his mother, ready to meet someone she'd tried to set him up with.
Bells started to ring from a clock nearby, and Harry caught the slight fraction of which Snape's shoulders dropped. Mrs Thompson patted his arm once more before standing back and disapparating, leaving Snape standing alone by a streetlight. He looked even tenser than he had a second earlier, and Harry knew it was partially his spy background screaming at him for standing unprotected in the open light.
Stepping out of the shadows, Harry squared his own shoulders and strode forth, keeping his gait steady and purposeful.
Snape spun violently on his heel and his face showed a flash of surprise before schooling into the angry expression Harry had seen many times at school before. He'd not missed the disappointment in Snape's eyes.
"Potter! I should have known it was you," Snape began, looking like he was ready to work himself up and get into a proper rant.
"Quite," Harry replied, keeping his tone even and confusing Snape long enough to be able to stick out his hand in greeting.
"Harry. Though my friends have taken to calling me Heck or Heckie. I brought you some chocolate cherry cheesecake."
Harry kept his hand out, holding the box of cheesecake with his other hand, and stood as still as he possibly could. He felt like he was standing in the Forbidden Forest again, staring into the face of an acromantula that was judging his motives and physical strength.
Snape didn't move, save for his dark eyes that were roaming rapidly over Harry's face and reading his body language.
"It's not poisoned. I did promise you that dinner at the Tate, and I'd honestly like to hear about how you're enjoying post-war life, Severus," Harry added softly, feeling as if he was trying to talk down a dangerous creature. He knew he was taking a huge risk by using Snape's first name, but Harry wanted to establish equality and rid them of the professor/student mentality.
"Tell me why you're here," Snape demanded, his tone quiet but meaning blunt. Snape did not trust Harry.
"I've heard the cod is fantastic," Harry immediately replied.
"Potter – " Snape warned.
"I'm here on a date with a man who I find fascinating, who is loyal, has a nasty tempter, and has a very dry sense of humour."
"That sounds like a load of tripe you handed in on an essay," Snape snorted, though his hands were now casually situated in his trouser pockets. Harry took it as a sign that Snape was not going to refuse dinner.
"Fine, I want to go out with Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome. You fit the bill, by classic standards."
"Anyone is taller than you, Potter."
Harry shrugged and said nothing more.
"I refuse to call you Heckie," Snape finally said, curling his lip in distaste.
Harry sighed inwardly in relief and relaxed his muscles as he turned to walk with Snape towards the museum.
"Speak to your mother. She's the one who insists my name is Hector."
"My mother –" Snape started, sounding defensive. Harry held up his hand and kept his voice soft.
"She's a lovely tea companion. Though I think she is rather oblivious to the kind of shop I own."
Harry held the door open for Snape as they entered the museum, and felt Snape staring at him.
There was neither disapproval nor approval in Snape's statement, which Harry thought amusing. Snape had once been very good at showing Harry all the ways in which someone could express disdain towards another, but simply by acting politely he'd caught Snape off guard.
"I don't have a prophecy over my head, and I've had to prove myself by owning my own shop. I'd say I've changed."
"A sex shop, of all things," Snape muttered, as they were lead to a table.
"You have to admit, it is a fun subject," Harry smiled faintly. "And I figured that with the lack of sexual anything in the wizarding world, it'd be a profitable shop."
"And is it?" Snape asked, checking out the wine list.
"Beat the Weasleys' shop ever since it opened in yearly financials."
Harry tried not to sound too smug, but he was very proud of what he'd accomplished and felt he'd earned the right to brag a little.
"They've never been ones to take defeat all that well," Snape mused. He looked surprisingly comfortable in the muggle surroundings, and Harry reflected that Snape had changed too. With no masters to lord over him, and no children to teach, Harry wasn't surprised in the least.
"That's truer than you'd think. This year's competition is fierce."
The waiter arrived with the wine and took their orders, not giving a glance to Snape's long hair, nor the scar on Harry's forehead. There was something to be said for muggle anonymity.
"Enough about me," Harry suddenly said, breaking the silence.
"Hmm. Far be it from me to demand attention away from the boy hero," Snape replied, his tone not biting like it had been at school.
"The boy hero is overrated," Harry said, waving his hand in a strange flail. "What have you been doing since you left Hogwarts? You've kept out of the news quite well."
Snape looked indecisive for a moment, before nodding his head slightly and beginning to speak.
"By design. And that is a topic of conversation for perhaps another night," Snape said, raising his glass of wine and sipping from it. Harry understood the unsaid: Snape wouldn't tell what he did for a living now until he'd tested Harry's intentions over a longer time period.
"Fair enough," Harry shrugged. Their food arrived, and it was a good few minutes before Harry started up the conversation again.
"Maybe you can help me with a display issue I'm having."
Snape looked interested, though he hid it well beneath his curtain of hair.
"I'm not a head of house anymore, Potter, I don't give advice for free."
"Call me Harry, please. Or Heck, if you really want," Harry said with as nonchalant face as he could pull. No one had ever given him a nickname before that was out of friendship instead of bullying, and he was slightly embarrassed to find he rather liked it.
Before Snape could say no, Harry plowed on.
"The problem won't start until January. I've got an art collection coming in, of about fifteen paintings."
"What is so hard about attaching paintings to a wall?" Snape asked, eyebrow raised.
"The paintings go up fine," Harry rolled his eyes. "The trouble is that when the painted people get bored, the art collection turns into one massive orgy in one portrait."
Harry was impressed. He hadn't quite expected to ever see Severus Snape both speechless and sporting a tiny blush at the same time.