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Harry returns to London in June, when Diagon Alley is covered with triangular rainbow flags and the cobbles are hot with the sunshine from an unusually warm British summer. Nobody seems clear on the details of Harry’s disappearance. There were murmurs of an undercover case in America, grainy snapshots of Harry somewhere in India and a picture in the Prophet of someone who might have been Harry caught in a storm in Singapore. The first Draco hears of Harry’s return is Thursday morning when a picture of Harry holding his hand in front of his face appears on the front page of the Prophet. He’s in London, just around the corner from the Ministry of Magic. They do a prodigal son returns piece and spend an entire section trying to construct a timeline of the most famous boy in wizarding Britain’s mysterious absence. Harry’s smile looks forced and his shoulders tense as he pushes his way through the press. He’s flanked by Weasleys, Granger-Weasleys and a merry band of friends and Ministry officials who gather around him like a protective blanket.

Draco knows exactly where Harry will be on Friday night. He’s nothing if not predictable. It’s all about a few pints at the Leaky, drinking away the week and looking casual and awkward all at the same time. Draco also knows how Harry feels about suits. He knows how Harry feels about Draco looking as if he’s stepped out of a Muggle fashion magazine – one of the high-end ones with glossy covers which are thick and heavy enough to feel like books. He knows how Harry used to feel about Draco in suits, at least. The anticipation of sliding off a crisp cotton shirt, the sounds of zippers and belt buckles mingling with their breathing in a still room. They spent so long doing that. Sucking, fucking and trying to stave off another midnight. Trying to stay awake for sunrise, holding onto one another like buoys – clinging on to keep themselves from drowning.

Draco goes to the pub at eight-thirty and focuses on Harry talking to his friends across the room. He looks good. Mouth-watering. He’s his usual casual self, in light jeans and a white t-shirt. His hair is as rumpled as ever and Draco remembers pushing his fingers through it and pulling Harry deeper into another dizzying kiss. Harry’s tanned and the lines of his slim, muscular frame flex and curl. In the summer Harry wears suntan lotion like he’s a Muggle, not a wizard. It smells like coconuts and his t-shirts carry the scent of freshly laundered cotton. Draco remembers all of it. He remembers the way the summer made Harry’s skin taste warm like the errant British sunshine - the way Harry would tip his head back towards the sun until his lips and throat tasted like summer.

Most of all, Draco remembers a time when Harry watching him across a crowded room would lead to sweat-slick bodies, moving in the moonlight. Those were the days when kissing in the rain was the only thing that chased away the hurt, washed away the pain. He checks the collar of his suit, smooths the expensive material. He adjusts his tie and pats his hair. Everything’s in place. Everything but the warm body at Draco’s side – the bit that fills the aching hole in his heart. He misses Harry. The Harry that disappeared last year with the rays of the late summer sun. Draco presses his lips together and he makes himself a promise. Not again. He’s not going to let Harry disappear somewhere Draco can’t follow. He’s not going to let them break and splinter until there’s nothing left but pieces that don’t fit together anymore. Watch me, his eyes say when Harry looks up at him from across the room. Look at me. See me.

“Potter.” Draco approaches Harry and ignores everyone else around them. He doesn’t need to ask Weasley about his holiday in Scarborough or make polite chit-chat about Granger’s latest paper. He definitely doesn’t want to drink shots with Thomas and Finnegan or make Longbottom uncomfortable just by standing within three feet of him. They’ve done that before. The meet my friends, meet them properly moment. It went as well as could be expected, but then Draco and Harry fell apart and the tentative shoots of extended friendships withered and died. Draco went back to Goyle, Zabini and Parkinson and Harry’s friends kept their distance for the most part.

“Malfoy.” Harry pats Weasley on the shoulder, whispers something in his ear. He picks up his beer and waves his hand towards a quieter part of the bar. “Good to see you.”

“Is it?” Draco moves into the small space that’s just for him and Harry.

“Yeah. It is.” Harry looks tired this close up. His brow furrows and he pushes his glasses onto his nose. His cheeks turn a dusky pink and his tongue slides over his lips, as if he’s nervous. As if he remembers too.

“It’s been a while.” Draco leans against the wall and watches people watching them. The bar is covered in rainbow flags, because the wizarding world wants to throw its support behind Muggle Pride. There’s even a plan for witches and wizards to hold their own march in the streets of Diagon Alley, followed by a night of dancing and drinking in one of the old bars just a stones’ throw from Knockturn. Draco’s been there once or twice. He’s heard the stories about the people who used to go there in the eighties to dance the night away and hide from prying eyes and those that wouldn’t understand. A safe space, the barman called it. Draco wonders what a safe space really feels like. He’s not sure he’s ever had it. There are very few spaces which feel safe for someone with his past. Harry’s arms. That was one of them.

“It’s been almost a year.” Harry’s eyes move over the crowds. His hand twitches in his pocket. He’s always on patrol – always waiting for the next attack. He never got used to just being still. Just living for the sake of saying thank fuck I’m alive.

“You’ve been travelling.”

“A bit.”

“I’ve been reading the Prophet.”

Harry snorts, a quick swipe of his hand cocking up his hair and his lips tilting downwards. “They always get it wrong.”

“Don’t they just,” Draco mutters. He wonders if Harry’s thinking about those headlines just before everything went to shit. The pictures of Draco and Harry coming out of a bar together and the falsehoods about Death Eaters and Aurors. Harry investigating the Malfoys. Draco trying to ingratiate himself with the Ministry and start another uprising of Pureblood ideals, gathering evil-doers together in an attempt to discredit Potter one fuck at a time. Idiots. The press doesn’t know the first thing about Draco. About the fact he hasn’t spoken to his father for two years. The fact his mother’s losing her marbles, pale and sickly and acting as though the war never happened. They definitely don’t know how dark it feels when the shadows close in on the Manor at night or the way Harry’s limbs would flex and shudder beneath Draco when they both did everything they could to forget.

“I’m back for good now.” Harry looks up, where the rows of flags cover the ceiling. “They’re going all out for Pride.”

“I expect you’re marching?” Draco looks at the flags too, his head tipped back and the bright colours swimming before his eyes. Richard of York goes battling in vain. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet. Draco remembers that from a book he read as a child. A book about Muggle history. The kind of contraband his father would quickly banish with a flick of his wand to talk about wizarding heritage and fill Draco’s mind with a host of fucked up ideals Draco’s still trying to leave far behind.

“I’m carrying a flag.” Harry gives Draco a quick look, his lips quirking at the corner.

“Of course you are.” Draco sighs and resists the urge to shake his head.

“Sorry about your mum.” Harry gives Draco another brief look. His gaze doesn’t linger, almost as though it hurts to see Draco again. “I heard rumours she’s not doing so well.”

“Yes, well.” Draco’s lips twist. “Nothing more than we deserve.”

“Don’t.” Harry’s voice is low and quiet. “Don’t do that.”

“Why not? It’s what everyone’s saying.”

“Not me. It’s not what I’m saying.” Harry shifts closer. He’s so warm and the familiar scent of coconut suntan lotion assaults Draco’s senses. He always wanted to go to a beach with Harry. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere with white sand and turquoise sea. The kind of place he could push Harry back on the sand and kiss him breathless. They never got their holiday in the sun. The sun set long before they could get beyond harder, faster and sometimes I have bad dreams.

“Of course you’re not. You’re ineffably good, Potter.” Draco rolls his eyes, his breath escaping from his lips with a soft hiss. It’s too much, being this close to Harry and dredging up the past. He’s still not sure if coming here tonight was the worst idea he’s ever had or the best. Perhaps neither. It’s just a moth to a flame kind of moment and even when it burns, Draco knows he’s still going to move closer. He’s never been good at staying away from Harry. He’s never been able to walk away, even when it hurts all over.

“You look…” Harry can’t seem to finish his sentence and his fingers catch on the silky material of Draco’s suit jacket. He tugs, lightly and a laugh leaves him in a huff. “What am I saying? You know how you look.”

“For your eyes only,” Draco replies. He says it in a cool tone with a hint of sarcasm but he suspects Harry hears the truth behind it. It is true, after all. Draco doesn’t put on Muggle designer garb for just anyone.

Harry responds by pressing closer until they’re shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh. Draco looks at their feet, together on the floor. Harry’s got on the kind of trainers that look as though he’s scared of throwing them away. They’re battered and comfortable canvas with smudges of dirt on the white parts, tied as if Harry shoved them on in a hurry. Draco’s smart brogues couldn’t be more different. They’re spotless and fastidiously laced, pointed at the toes. Just another one of the differences between them. The differences that seemed so insurmountable outside of the moments between warm sheets, where skin met skin and everything tasted so real and alive.

“I missed you.” Harry says it so quietly, Draco wonders if he imagined it. Then Harry’s fingers touch his and he knows he didn’t. “I couldn’t stop running.”

“No.” Draco looks at Harry. His cheeks are still pink and his mouth is set in a grim line. He nudges his glasses up on his nose and his hand leaves Draco’s for a second. Even that feels too long, when Draco’s been desperate to touch Harry again for such a long time. “Have you stopped running now?”

“I think so.” Harry shrugs. He pushes himself off the wall and the spot next to Draco is cold without Harry’s familiar warmth. “Want to get out of here?”

“And go where?” Draco knows all about falling into bed with Harry and not saying anything that matters. He’s not going to do that again, even when his hands itch to feel Harry’s skin and he wants to feel the heat of Harry’s heartbeat on his tongue.

“Anywhere.” Harry says it slowly, then repeats it in a whisper. “Anywhere but here.”

“Fine.” Draco smooths his hair and gestures to the door. “I’ll see you outside. You should tell your friends…”

“Okay.” Harry nods and moves back into the crowd. Draco turns away. He doesn’t want to see the concern on Granger’s face or the way Weasley turns a delightful puce whenever Harry mentions Draco.

Instead, he goes outside and watches the stars.

*

They walk in silence for a while, out of Diagon Alley and into the streets of Muggle London. There’s something about a hot day in London that makes people do crazy, fucked up things. The bars heave with people outside clutching onto pints of ale. People run and shout and sing songs Draco doesn’t recognise at the top of their voices. A girl barges into Draco and moves away with a giggle and a sorry, sorry.

“I hope you’ve got a plan.” Draco breaks the silence at last. “I don’t know if I fancy walking through streets full of pissed up Muggles.”

“I’m just nearby.” Harry carries on walking and eventually they reach Soho, weaving through the crowds of people drinking. They stop at a small door hidden between a posh restaurant and a gay bar, and Harry turns his key in the lock. It’s definitely Muggle, not magical. Draco wonders what happened to Grimmauld Place and why Harry’s staying somewhere in the heart of London’s West End nightlife. They climb flights of stairs until they reach a spacious flat with a narrow terrace. Harry opens the sliding doors to let in the cool night breeze and the sounds of London partying into the weekend. The lights are bright and the music is loud, thumping through the floorboards and filling Draco’s senses. The flat itself is neat but it lacks any of the details of Grimmauld Place, with its portraits and moving photos. There’s no sign of magic and everything is electric and sterile. There’s nothing of Harry in it at all, save for a Gryffindor scarf hanging on the back of the door with a heavy leather jacket.

“Nice flat.” Draco pulls a face, because it isn’t. Not really. It’s a bit of prime real estate with absolutely no character and it might as well be the home of a stranger. He brushes his fingers over the kitchen counter. It’s all bland, plastic faux-wood. Beige, cream and grey. “I love what you’ve done with the place.”

“I know it’s shit.” Harry rubs his hand against his forehead. “It’s just temporary. I’m selling Grimmauld Place and trying to do up Godric’s Hollow. It takes time. This is just for now.”

“It’s Muggle.” Draco raises an eyebrow at Harry and his stomach squirms when he thinks of the location – of the bar next door. “Am I in Harry Potter’s bachelor pad? Is this where you fuck Muggles when you’re feeling lonely?” Draco lets out a derisory huff. He’s so bloody stupid. It’s not going to be hearts and rainbows with Potter. Not anymore. Not when neither of them know how to say the words which stretch unspoken between them.

Harry opens a bottle of wine and the pours two glasses. He hands one to Draco and watches him closely. “Nope. No Muggles. This is just for me. While I get myself sorted.”

“Still working on that, then?” Draco rolls his eyes and takes a sip of the wine. It’s cheap supermarket fare, but it will do. He could use a drink in any event. Everything about this place feels off. Like Harry’s going to put his life in a rucksack and disappear again – moving to another continent, to somewhere the sun shines brighter than it does in London, to somewhere Draco isn’t.

“Still working on it.” Harry puts his glass on the counter and takes Draco’s too. He brushes his fingers over the lapel of Draco’s jacket, looking at that instead of meeting Draco’s eyes. “Are you going to take this off? Stay, for a bit?”

Draco swallows around the lump in his throat. He lets Harry push his warm hands under the jacket, his breath tickling Draco’s cheek. Draco bites back a groan and it takes a monumental effort to move away. He slides off his jacket and hangs it over Harry’s scarf, unbuttoning his sleeves and rolling them up. He slides off his tie and hangs that up too, loosening his collar by opening a couple of buttons. They haven’t even turned the light on yet, the lights from the streets outside cast strange shapes on the walls and giving the place an orange glow. The last remnants of the day’s sun cast the room in shadow and disappearing light.

“Better?”

“Yes.” Harry swipes his tongue over his lips and he clears his throat. “Yeah, better.”

“Fine.” Draco picks up his wine and sits on the sofa. A song from the club thump, thumps beneath his feet and he vaguely recognises it. It must be big if it’s familiar to Draco. He doesn’t know a lot of Muggle music. The songs of nights out on his own fragment in his mind and the evenings and hundreds of anonymous kisses blur into one. There’s just the one he remembers, after a night drinking too much and kissing Harry Potter under violet light. Something about being too late to say sorry.

“We were always so bad at this.” Harry sits next to Draco. He leans forward, his arms on his knees and the glass of wine cradled in his hands which hang loose between his legs. The position makes his t-shirt stretch tight along his back and Draco takes a moment to appreciate the lines of Harry’s frame and the toned muscles. His shoulders are tight and his voice quiet. “Talking, I mean. We were never good at talking.”

“Excellent at fucking, though.” Draco is fairly certain he doesn’t miss the light shiver of pleasure that travels through Harry.

“Yeah.” Harry laughs softly. “I was good at avoiding difficult conversations.”

A warm ball of hope swells in Draco’s chest and he picks his words carefully. “And now?”

Harry turns, his eyes warm and soft. He gives Draco a grin. “Still bloody terrible, but at least I know ignoring them doesn’t help either. Stuff doesn’t just go away.”

“Obviously.” Draco turns his eyes heavenward. He has another sip of his wine. It tastes better the second time round. “I wasn’t exactly forthcoming either. It’s always been easier to fight with you and fuck you than it has to do anything else.”

“Tell me about it.” Harry sits back, finally. He rakes his eyes over Draco and lingers on the spot where Draco’s shirt is open at the collar. It brings it back in a heady rush. Harry’s tongue along Draco’s collarbone, his breath rough and ragged against Draco’s neck. It sends a wave of arousal crashing over Draco. Harry’s always had this impact on him.

“We’re not doing that again.”

“Fucking or fighting?” Harry’s lips curve into a tentative smile.

“Fighting. Fucking. I don’t know.” It’s difficult to think when Harry looks so handsome and unsure of himself, his face carved into sections of light and shadow. Draco can’t stop looking at him, can’t tear his eyes away. They’re closer now and it’s increasingly difficult to breathe.

“It wasn’t just that though, was it?” Harry pushes his hand through his hair and keeps his eyes firmly on Draco. “It wasn’t just fucking. Not really.”

Not even close. Draco doesn’t say that out loud though. He shrugs and he rubs his hand over his knee, smoothing the material. “How do we know it’s not going to happen again?”

Harry’s brow furrows. “We don’t. Isn’t it better to try though? I don’t want to keep wondering if it could have been different.”

Draco doesn’t, either. He’s so tired of missing Harry it’s become a heavy weight in his chest and it makes him feel pathetic and out of sorts. He doesn’t want to go back to the same post-war uncertainty where they used one another just to feel but he also doesn’t want to feel this. The lonely ache that worms through him and the way he can’t let the sun warm his skin without thinking about Harry.

“Come here.” Draco puts his wine on the coffee table and holds out his hand to Harry. “For fucks sake, Potter. Just come here.”

Harry moves easily. The kiss is different but in some ways exactly the same. Sure and strong, forceful and urgent. There isn’t the same kind of desperation behind it that came before but it’s still so, so warm. Harry’s hands are hot against Draco’s skin, pushing up his shirt and stroking over his torso. His breath is warm on Draco’s lips when he whispers out Draco’s name off the back of a gasp of air. Harry’s body is hot, tight and splendid underneath Draco’s fingertips. The cotton t-shirt is quickly discarded until Harry’s pressed so close against Draco it’s like they haven’t been apart for all of this time.

“Do you have a bed in this place?”

“Yeah.” Harry takes Draco’s hand, pulling him up and into the bedroom. The sounds from outside filter away until they’re nothing more than a dull murmur. The room is quiet and in this space at last there’s something of Harry. The rumpled sheets and half-open wardrobe. The unpacked suitcase and a selection of photographs next to the bed. There’s an unopened pack of Muggle contacts and Draco wants to tell Harry no, no. Keep the glasses. The glasses look good. They look so fucking good. Don’t change, Harry. Don’t ever bloody change. Draco takes Harry’s glasses off and puts them on the side, turning back for another kiss. It’s always been so easy to do this with Harry and to pull the kinds of sounds from him that make Draco’s heart turn inside out.

“Get these off.” Draco tugs at the button on Harry’s jeans and they undress themselves, rushing to feel skin against skin again. When Harry’s naked and Draco’s down to just his boxers, he stares at Harry. “I want…I want to watch you.”

“Okay.” Harry’s eyes widen a bit because that’s new. They’re usually so busy doing things hard, fast, burying their faces against necks and sucking one another down. They usually take so long not looking at one another, when their eyes finally meet it’s almost painful because there’s so many things unsaid behind them. Harry’s breath catches and he puts his arm behind himself, pillowing his head on it. He keeps his eyes open and watches Draco. His smile turns bashful and it’s disarming. Draco loves him. He’s in love with Harry fucking Potter and he is completely and utterly ruined. “Tell me what to do, will you? Feels a bit weird just wanking.”

Draco snorts with laughter. “Where’s your lube?”

“Use your wand.” Harry holds out a hand and Draco rolls his eyes, murmuring a spell to leave Harry’s hand slick.

“I don’t need a wand for that, Potter.”

“Years of practice, I bet.” Harry grins and he slides his hand over his cock, letting out a sinful kind of sound which makes Draco’s body hot. “I can just imagine.”

“Try not to.” Draco winces and he gives Harry’s thigh a little pinch which draws another ragged breath. “Focus on me. This me, not the little snot I was when I was wanking over the wizarding world’s boy wonder.”

“You were not.” Harry laughs. “Were you?”

“None of your business.” Draco definitely was, but he’s not telling Harry that. He thinks that’s one of those things that can probably stay secret without bollocksing everything up. The uncomfortable truth of wanting Harry for as long as he can remember. “Are you going to put on a show for me, or not?”

“Yeah. If you like.” Harry’s cheeks are charmingly flushed and his hand moves slowly over his cock. Draco’s always liked Harry’s cock. It’s long and thick, the perfect size to make Draco’s mouth or body feel so full of him. He loves the heavy weight of it. The way Harry feels when he’s hot and hard against Draco’s tongue. The push of Harry stretching him open and the way his hands hold Draco firmly in place when he takes him, whispering, it’s okay, I’ve got you, fuck, fuck, Malfoy. Draco’s shameless when it comes to Harry’s cock but he knows Harry’s the same when it comes to him. He remembers. Harry spread out and needy, his cock twitching against his stomach when Draco finger fucked him slowly.

“I’m going to…” Draco murmurs the spell again, settling between Harry’s legs and rubbing his fingers over Harry’s hole. Harry nods his assent, pupils blown wide with arousal. He licks his lips and Draco takes in every twitch and flex of Harry’s hand as it slides over his perfect cock, making it shiny and slick with lube. Draco pushes one finger slowly into Harry and it draws a moan from Harry’s lips – the kind of sound that sends pulses of pleasure through Draco. With a muttered curse, Draco adds another finger and watches as Harry’s hand speeds up.

“Slow down, Potter. Not until I say.”

Harry bites his bottom lip and arches a bit, his eyes fluttering closed. “Okay. Fuck.” He slows down the movement of his hand and opens his eyes so they can watch one another again. He presses against Draco’s fingers and his words leave him in a rush. “Don’t want to fuck this up again. Please.”

“We won’t.” Draco isn’t sure about that. He doesn’t know if he can make that kind of promise when there’s still so much they have to work out, but something feels right about it this time. They were also so frantic, fucking to forget. Trying to push out the day so time wouldn’t march along without them. The mood in the air is different this time. Draco wants to take his time and where Harry speeds up, Draco slows him down. He murmurs soft instructions to Harry in the quiet room as he pushes his fingers deep into Harry’s body. Slow. That’s it. Squeeze yourself. You’re so hard for me, Harry. Show me how much you want this.

Despite the urge to keep things slow, Harry’s so close to the edge and Draco knows it. He prolongs the glorious moment of watching and being watched for as long as he can but then he really starts to fuck Harry with his fingers. His cock is so hard, straining against his boxers but fucking can wait for later. For now he just wants to concentrate on the heavy, lidded look Harry gives him and the way his cheeks are flushed and his lips slick with saliva. He wants to focus on the stroke of Harry’s hand over his cock and take in the sight of him naked and wanting. With a groan, Draco feels the clench of Harry’s orgasm around his fingers and sees him coming over his own fist, his eyes never leaving Draco’s. When his orgasm pulses through him, it’s Draco’s name on Harry’s lips.

Draco slides his fingers from Harry and moves over him, kissing him slowly. Harry’s stomach is damp and sticky but Draco doesn’t care. He casts a hurried spell to rid himself of his pants and then he moves over Harry, pushing into his mouth. Harry looks so good when he’s sucking Draco off. He’s got a talented mouth and he keeps watching Draco, his lips stretched and his eyes dark with desire. Draco rubs his thumb against Harry’s lips, feeling himself in Harry’s mouth. He balances himself with one hand against the wall behind the bed and he pushes in and out of Harry’s parted lips until he spills inside Harry’s mouth with a low curse.

They stretch out together, side by side and listen to the music beneath them as a police car outside sends blue light careering across the walls. Draco stretches out his hand and his fingers lace with Harry’s. They lie like that until their breathing settles.

“Great job talking and not fucking.” Draco laughs and he rubs his eyes. “We did very well.”

“I think we’re probably always going to be fucking.” Harry squeezes Draco’s hand, his voice low and warm. He sounds happy. Happier than he did earlier in the evening. His voice is slow and sleepy, not the slightly panicked tone he had back in the days when they wanted the night to never end. “It doesn’t mean we can’t start talking too.”

“No.” Something like hope settles warm in Draco’s chest. “No more running away, Potter.”

“No.” Harry is quiet for a couple of heartbeats and then he turns in the bed, the sheets rustling beneath him. Draco can tell Harry’s watching him. “Or next time, maybe we just need to run together.

Draco thinks of his daydreams of the beach and pushing his toes into hot, white sand as Harry soaks up the sun beside him. He knows there’s still something which bubbles within Harry. Something restless, something that can’t quite be still. All of the memories, all of the deaths. They all collide together sometimes when the night is too full of shadows and the air is too quiet. The music pulses beneath them and Draco understands this odd flat at last. The way London seeps through the open windows and the noise of people bustling around only fades when the last of the clubs shut and then the street cleaners come out, then the tourists and the theatre goers.

“Perhaps,” Draco says.

His answer is a soft snore. Draco rolls his eyes and brushes Harry’s hair from his forehead. He can’t believe Harry’s here again. He watches Harry sleep. Watches him be still.

Eventually, Draco closes his eyes and drifts off with the sound of London and Harry’s breathing filling the room around him.

~Fin~