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People never stopped watching him.

It wasn’t that Harry wasn’t used to having eyes on him. He’d never particularly liked it, but he’d learned to resign himself to it years ago, to an extent. It was only that, well, Hogwarts was the one place people had always seemed to overcome staring at him. Granted, it came in waves—heavy interest and speculation fuelled by rumours before the other students got back to their own lives and realised how boring he was in general. Which was what he preferred. He had Ron, and Hermione, Hagrid and McGonagall, most of the Gryffindors—they all knew him. Even after—well, after. They didn’t look at him much differently.

It was everyone else.

He’d somehow thought—it felt stupid now—that after the war was over, if he survived, his life would become normal. No more of the Chosen One bit, no more duties. He’d actually thought that he’d be able to be just a teenager for the first time. Stay up late doing homework without worrying about waking up from the feel of his scar pulsing hot on his forehead; play Quidditch; maybe even sneak a hand under Ginny’s shirt while they snogged.

Well. He’d done the first and third of those and only the first had been anything approaching something he enjoyed.

He still felt that tiny niggle of guilt when he looked at her; she’d been almost too understanding when he’d explained, haltingly, that touching her had felt--wrong. He couldn’t bring himself to say that she’d felt like a last-minute decision on his part; like he’d known his time was drawing short and needed the knowledge that there was someone thinking of him, and waiting for him, and loving him. He couldn’t tell her the other thing, the one that had pressed on him every night since he’d no longer had to worry all the time about dying. But upon returning… Maybe it was that she was Ron’s sister; maybe it was just that the war had fucked him up. Whatever it was, Harry couldn’t get past it, and now she was dating Dean again, and he was left with no Quidditch, no girlfriend, and the lasting impression that people were never going to stop looking at him.

“What is it, Harry?” Hermione asked, glancing around.

Harry realised he had been scowling and smoothed his expression best he could. He gave a curt nod to the group of third years sitting at a table across from them, staring at him and whispering to each other. The hushed sound felt like ants crawling under his skin.

Ron grimaced sympathetically and rounded on them. “Oi! We’re trying to study, do you mind?”

Being caught out only served to make them more bold. “Hi, Harry,” one of them said, flipping her hair a bit. She couldn’t have been more than fourteen, and Harry resisted the urge to groan in defeat and bang his head against the library desk.

“Hi,” he said shortly, then turned his back on them, very deliberately. It wasn’t even comfortable to do; he had to sit sideways in his chair to get his point across. And it didn’t seem to help much, either—the girls resumed their giggly whispers.

“Just ignore them,” Hermione said dismissively, her voice a touch louder as she made her own point. “They’re only children.”

Harry grinned at her, hoping that would do it, but after a momentary pause, the whispers resumed. He sighed, smile dropping, and tried to focus on his assignment—advanced defence, so it should have been easy—except that his noisy audience didn’t seem to want to allow him the peace and quiet that he needed. That he’d earned.

He could go to his room, he knew, but the only thing worse than being stared at was the loneliness that pressed in on him there; he’d hated everything about having a private dorm since coming back. He couldn’t even sleep in it most nights; he refused to take Dreamless Sleep or another calming draught to aid him. If he was lucky, he caught a few, broken hours, haunted by the sounds of people screaming during the last battle, which were always—oddly—accompanied by the whispers of the people around him, now. Sometimes Ron and Hermione would join him to hang out or study for a few hours and on those nights it was better, but Hermione too often needed to switch out her books for others, and so Harry went where they did. And it was mostly fine, except that the more he made appearances in common areas, the more people whispered. The worse it seemed to get.

The only one in the whole bloody library who didn’t seem to give a stuff about him was Malfoy, Harry thought. And he should know; since the start of term, the other boy had been unusually quiet around him, not even bothering to make eye contact when they passed each other in the halls.

He didn’t hate Malfoy anymore. That had ended sometime during the war—as far back as sixth year, he thought. Long before Malfoy had refused to identify him at the Manor, long before he’d had a wand trained on him in the Room of Requirement and had issued orders for him not to be harmed. It could have been when he lowered his wand on the Astronomy tower. It could have been when he’d sliced Malfoy’s body open with that damned curse, and seen the spray of blood quickly turn into a gush, which had pooled beneath him, staggeringly red and reflective. But Harry thought it had been just before that; he thought it was seeing Malfoy’s face, crumpled and wet, look at him in the cracked mirror of the bathroom as he’d wept for fear of Voldemort.

He’d related to that fear.

The hating after that had felt like a habit; like how he’d prodded a sore tooth with his tongue once when he was little and the Dursleys had refused to take him to the dentist straightaway. It had miraculously healed one night, a week after the pain had shown up, and Harry’d found himself almost—missing it, or at least missing the repetition of seeking out those tiny nerves that could flood his whole jaw with pain.

Sometimes it was good to know where your pain was going to come from next.

But when he’d received the letter from Kingsley at the beginning of summer, mentioning Malfoy’s upcoming trial, Harry had realised with no little amount of astonishment that he hadn’t thought about him at all in the month since the Battle. When that occurred to him, it had been harder still to locate any more of that residual soreness, any more of that lingering, seething resentment he’d carried around for years.

So he’d testified. Of course he had. It was kind of Harry, Molly said—Draco was a boy who obviously needed a lot of help. It was unnecessarily noble, Ginny and Ron told him—Malfoy was the kind of person who would always land on his feet. There was nothing to say about it, Hermione murmured at length, when Harry asked—of course he would; it was Malfoy.

And Malfoy hadn’t said anything at all when they’d released his magical restraints at the end of the trial. His face had a yellowish cast from his weeks held in the bowels of the ministry without sunlight; he’d lost enough weight that he’d looked waifish, almost, and his expression was subdued in a way Harry had never seen before. But when Harry had held out his hand to shake, Malfoy’s hesitant clasp had been tight and strong and warm, and the back of Harry’s hand had tingled when Malfoy had pulled away.

When he saw Malfoy next, waiting for the train on Platform 9 ¾, Harry had watched him for a long time.

And Malfoy had watched him back.

He didn’t hate Malfoy any longer, and it wasn’t because he was kind, or noble. Harry thought Hermione might have come the closest to the real reason, though he didn’t know why at the time. What he did know was that his feelings for Malfoy seemed like the slowest of snowmelts at the end of winter—they felt like something that was ending, to make way for something new.

He eyed Malfoy’s lowered head thoughtfully; he was sitting quietly, alone at a table at the far edge of the library. Whatever odd charge between them that had occurred on the platform as they awaited the Hogwarts Express had dissipated, primarily because Malfoy seemed to find new ways to avoid interacting with him.

He tended to studiously keep his pointy nose in his books whenever he was in public and the most people tended to see of him was the gleam of his pale hair. Or at least, the most Harry saw of him, which was strange on its own. He’d always sort of—sought Harry out, to provoke him somehow. It made him feel off-kilter whenever he looked up and found that Malfoy wasn’t looking back at him anymore.

Watching Malfoy was such a habit at this point, it would have been hard not to notice the distinct difference in his behaviour. He wasn’t the only returning Slytherin from his year, but he tended not to socialise much, preferring to spend the majority of his time in the library or his room. He never even stopped in the eighth year common room on his way to his own quarters.

Harry wondered, not for the first time, why.

Ron waved a hand in front of his face, and Harry blinked. “Merlin, Harry, staring at Malfoy’s hair has got to be like looking directly at the sun; you’ll go blind if you keep it up.”

Hermione snorted, but didn’t look up from the giant tome she was reading, and Harry felt his cheeks heat.

“Sorry. Just—yeah. I’ll talk to you guys later, okay?” He ignored Ron’s squawk of protest and stuffed his books into his bag, taking a deep breath before heading over to Malfoy’s table. He plunked his bag down next to him and slid into a seat as calmly as he could.

Malfoy lifted his head, obviously surprised at being approached. His face flattened out, and he gave Harry a wary look. “Potter. How can I help you?”

“Just need a place to study,” Harry explained, even as his mind screamed abort, abort! There was really no reason to seek him out just because they no longer hated each other.

“I hear the common room is good for that,” Malfoy said wryly, looking back down.

For some reason that rankled, mucking up his more charitable thoughts like mud, and Harry glared at him, though Malfoy was no longer looking in his direction. “Because it’s so easy to concentrate there,” he snapped back.

Malfoy shrugged but, Harry noticed, his thin shoulders tensed under his robes, drawing higher toward his ears. They sat in strained silence for a moment, then Malfoy bit his lip and began gathering his things.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m leaving you to study,” Malfoy told him quietly, starting to stand.

Without thinking, Harry snaked out a hand and snapped his fingers in a tight grip around Malfoy’s forearm. It was only when Malfoy stifled a gasp and stared at where Harry’s hand was holding him that it occurred to Harry that all that was separating him from touching Malfoy’s Dark Mark was the sleeve of his robes. He loosened his hand but didn’t pull it away, and when he looked up, Malfoy’s startled, grey gaze was on him.

“Stay.”

“You need to concentrate,” Malfoy reminded him, sounding oddly bitter.

“That’s why I picked your table,” Harry admitted in a low voice. “I didn’t think you’d bother me. And people might think we’re talking about things, so they won’t bother me, either. I came over here to sit with you.”

Slowly, Malfoy lowered himself into his seat again. His bottom lip found its way back between his teeth, and he chewed on it for a moment. “What did you want to talk about?”

“Nothing, really,” Harry started. Malfoy’s narrow jaw clenched, and his eyes flicked back to Harry’s face. “I thought I’d see if you had anything to say, first,” he amended, improvising.

“You did get my owl over the summer?” Malfoy asked uncertainly, finally shaking off Harry’s touch. He leaned over and touched his wand, then picked up a quill and fiddled with it, fingers moving fast and nervous over the fan of its feather.

“Yeah, we all got them. Why?” Harry asked, looking at him evenly. Malfoy was silent for near a minute before he sighed, sagging a bit.

“I’m just trying to figure out what you want, Potter. A direct apology?” he asked so softly, it almost came out as a hiss. For all that, though, it seemed to be more—weary, than venomous, and Harry felt suddenly bad for forcing this confrontation. He’d just thought… He began to object, but Malfoy continued. “A re-hash of our entire, acrimonious history? Don’t you feel like that was talked about to death at the trials?”

It had been. Harry had been questioned by Malfoy’s solicitor for over an hour, and many of the questions had seemed designed to paint their history in the worst light possible, not that it was such a hard thing to do. It was only halfway through that Harry had realised that the worse the solicitor managed to make their relationship look, the more believable Harry would be in his defence. Hermione and Ron had laughed themselves silly later, when they’d talked about it, and Harry hadn’t been able to help but join in, though he found it more perplexing than funny that they had been worried anyone would doubt Harry’s word at that point.

Malfoy was still looking at him patiently, and Harry found his voice. “No,” he said with another shrug. “I mean, yeah, we talked about it enough. But, I mean, other stuff…” he mumbled lamely when Malfoy still seemed expectant.

Other stuff?” he enquired cautiously, pale brows climbing so high they were obscured by his fringe.

Harry couldn’t think of an answer, so he didn’t venture one; he was starting to regret coming over here at all, except there was some nagging thought that maybe they did have things they should address, if the way Malfoy was reacting was any indicator.

Malfoy cleared his throat—a low, slightly gruff sound that made Harry’s eyebrows rise too, though he couldn’t say why. “It’s not as if I don’t owe you answers if you have some questions, though,” he offered, eyes focussed so hard on his parchment that Harry suspected he couldn’t see it at all. “I’m aware of it, Potter. I know I owe you a lot of things.”

Harry tried not to roll his eyes, ignoring the unpleasant jolt in his stomach. “You already wrote that you were sorry, and said thanks. I was there for the rest of it, so I reckon I have most of the answers I want. You don’t owe me anything.”

Malfoy’s chuckle was derisive, edging on mean. He sounded a bit like himself for a second, and Harry found himself relieved by it until he glanced up, eyes flat and serious, and said simply, “But I do.”

“Well, I don’t want anything from you, how’s that?” Harry snapped.

“Doesn’t really matter, though, does it?” Malfoy smirked, a disquieting expression when his gaze was still so solemn. He waved the quill he was holding at the more crowded part of the library. “Everyone does. We all owe you—and me in particular—and you know it, and you just don’t like feeling like you’d be the sort of person who’d use that to your advantage.”

Harry looked away. “Fuck off, Malfoy.”

Malfoy leaned forward, face growing dark with repressed glee. “Not that you aren’t that kind of person,” he clarified in a drawling tone. “Most people are, I think. You may not be interested in riches or fame or adulation, but—everyone wants something, Potter.”

“I want peace and quiet, so would you shut up?” Harry ground out. Malfoy fell silent immediately, and Harry felt his cheeks warm uneasily. He ran a hand through his hair. “Not because you owe me.”

“Of course not,” Malfoy agreed with a hard edge to his voice. “Because that would be wrong, wouldn’t it.”

“I just wanted to sit and study with you,” Harry burst out lowly. “I don’t know why we can’t just get past what happened enough to do that. I don’t know why it has to be a- a thing.”

“Because it is one,” Malfoy replied flatly.

“Well, then, can we deal with it later?” Harry said, exasperated. “I’ve got an assignment due on Monday.”

Malfoy’s gaze locked with his, like he was issuing something just short of a challenge, and Harry narrowed his eyes. After several moments, Malfoy’s shoulders slumped, and he jerked his head a couple of times; a nod, though it barely resembled one, for all the struggle behind it. “Sorry,” he muttered.

Harry exhaled hard, heart pounding; he felt like he was missing an important piece of what had just happened. Like Malfoy was trying to tell him something while speaking in a foreign language. “Whatever. I’ll leave if you want. I shouldn’t have even—”

Two long fingers brushed his wrist; the touch was cool and fleeting, and Malfoy drew away so quickly Harry thought he might have imagined it. “No. I really am sorry, Potter,” he said, and actually sounded it. “I didn’t even mean to—I just wasn’t expecting you to come over here.” He shook his head. “We can study if you want. No one will bother you.”

Hesitating, still feeling as though a whole conversation had happened without him, Harry stared at him. Malfoy just flattened his scroll out and tucked his face closer to his book. After several seconds, he resumed making notes. He didn’t look up again.

Harry blinked, and decided not to ask. He bent to his own work.

***

No one did bother him, in fact.

Having Malfoy at his side in the library acted as a sort of Invisibility Cloak all on its own, or at least a buffer from those who did see them. Harry wasn’t sure why that was; Malfoy certainly wasn’t as well liked as he’d been in years past, but he did interact with people on occasion. Nevertheless, it was as if people knew that if Harry was sitting with his former nemesis to get some blessed peace and quiet, he must be getting close to the end of his rope, and they tended to leave him alone because of it.

The hours between six and nine were filled with the quiet of Harry’s own thoughts, the soft, modulated breathing of Malfoy next to him, and schoolwork—and Harry rather liked it that way. He liked sitting next to Malfoy, whose handwriting was flowing and elegant, accompanied by the scritch, scritch of his quill on his parchment. He liked the way they established an easy, nonverbal sort of communication; when Harry snapped his quill once, Malfoy simply removed an extra from his bag and handed it over without raising his eyes; when Malfoy closed his Arithmancy book one night, Harry unthinkingly handed over his Advanced Charms text, which had crept over to his side of the table. Sometimes their elbows or the knuckles would brush, and Harry would ignore a skitter of awareness that tingled up his arm as the sound of Malfoy’s breath would pause, and then resume.

“But Harry, it’s Malfoy,” Ron said plaintively, as though Harry’d managed to forget that fact.

He hadn’t. Interestingly, he found he actually enjoyed Malfoy’s company now that he wasn’t surrounded by his lackeys and apparently no longer had designs on making Harry as miserable as possible. He felt unexpectedly at ease with Malfoy, especially when they began talking. Saying little things to each other, mostly; exchanging small smiles. He hadn’t forgotten he was with Malfoy; it just didn’t bother him anymore. It didn’t bother him when he managed to make Malfoy laugh out loud one night, and didn’t bother him when Malfoy looked immediately angry about the fact that he had done so.

It didn’t bother him to the point of sitting down with him in Charms one day, when they were directed to partner up.

“I feel I should send you off to Pomfrey for a check-up. This isn’t normal, Potter,” Malfoy said dryly when Harry sat down next to him.

“Because I’d have to be insane to pick you?” Harry shot back, trying not to smile. “Don’t forget, I’ve seen your bloody long essays for this class; always twice the length they’re required to be.”

“How opportunistic of you,” Malfoy commented. He sounded approving, but there was something cautious and watchful in his face.

“There’s a reason I was almost Sorted into Slytherin, I guess,” Harry told him, off-hand, smirking when Malfoy’s body jerked.

He paused. “Well, you ultimately weren’t, obviously, so remind me again why I should share my abundance of knowledge with a Gryffindor?”

Harry snorted. “Are you trying to get me to believe you’d share it if I were in Slytherin?”

A little smile played with Malfoy’s mouth, and he dipped his head as if to acknowledge the point.

“I suppose I do still owe you, though,” Malfoy pondered, just loud enough for Harry to hear. He gave Harry an amused look, and Harry felt his jaw tighten at the reminder; he grabbed his bag again.

“Fine, I’ll go.”

“No, wait.” Blurted quickly, and followed by the dropping of his mercurial gaze. Those two fingers touched at the pulse-point of Harry’s wrist again, then moved away. Harry thought of the first time he’d done that, in the library.

“I don’t want you to—I don’t want it to be like that,” Harry muttered.

“I shouldn’t have said it again.”

“Then why did you?”

Malfoy’s mouth tightened, and he opened his mouth to reply. Harry braced himself to hear something cutting, or rawly honest, or just untruthful, but Malfoy instead said, “Mimicking modern Muggle eletricsity.”

“What?” Harry turned and saw Flitwick giving an example of their assignment. “Oh. It’s electricity.” Malfoy lifted his shoulders as if to say doesn’t matter, and Harry frowned at the easy dismissal of terminology. “Electricity,” he prompted.

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Will you shut up? I can’t hear Flitwick.”

“Say it, Malfoy,” Harry ordered. Malfoy stilled, ticking him a glance out of the corner of his eye, and then he did something strange—he leaned in to Harry, so their arms were pressed solidly together. Harry swallowed at the pressure of contact, at Malfoy touching him from shoulder to elbow. He didn’t pull away, but he did soften his voice. “Say it. Electricity.”

Malfoy inhaled swiftly, through his nose. “E-lec-tri-city,” he enunciated slowly.

“Good,” Harry breathed out in a tone he didn’t recognize. It was just a bloody word. Which didn’t explain why Malfoy’s complexion had suddenly begun deepening, or why Harry could feel sharp little shocks of sensation in his groin. He cleared his throat. “I mean, yeah. That’s right.”

Malfoy shifted on his stool, moving away, and Harry wondered at his sense of loss over the space between them.

He wondered why Malfoy had closed it in the first place.

***

It kept happening, and Harry began to wonder how often it had before he’d noticed it. Little things—a shift in Malfoy’s expression, in his body language, a touch that seemed steadily purposeful and lasted long enough to surprise, each time—and Harry couldn’t figure out what was causing them, or why they ended.

In Potions the following week, Malfoy drew up the empty stool beside Harry with an overly-casual arch of his eyebrows. “What? You can invade my space and I can’t invade yours? You’re just that special now?”

Still recovering from the shock of having Malfoy seek him out voluntarily—with no animosity—Harry just nodded absently and handed Malfoy the parchment, then furrowed his brow as the insult filtered through his mind. He snorted.

“Starting to believe the rumours about yourself?” Malfoy continued airily.

“Merlin, stop,” Harry grumbled, annoyed with himself for being remotely amused. Malfoy’s eyes were steady on his face, and his mouth curled up in a tiny smile that did strange things to Harry’s stomach—or chest, he couldn’t be sure which. “I’m going to set up the cauldron; you go get the ingredients,” he said, shoving the parchment he was still holding into Malfoy’s narrow chest. His hands came up as if to grab it, but they covered Harry’s fingers instead and rested there. Harry could feel Malfoy’s heartbeat kick up, through the heaviness of his robes and the parchment in his hand. Malfoy’s palm was infinitely gentle against his hand, a solid link to reality as the rest of the world seemed to swoop around him as the moment dragged out, their eyes locked.

And this was the other thing he hadn’t been able to tell Ginny—that he’d been pretty sure just touching another boy like this—this oddly intimate pose, punctuated with the sounds of their breath and the crinkle of paper—would be a thousand times better than any kiss Harry had ever shared with her. That he’d had no time growing up to ponder why his eyes had strayed so often to Oliver Wood as he’d walked through the Quidditch locker rooms with a towel around his waist. Or why, when watching Malfoy, his gaze had fallen to the cruel set of Malfoy’s mouth, over and over, and he would wonder if it would feel softer than it looked.

He watched as Malfoy wetted his lips, a quick swipe of his pink tongue, and released Harry’s hand, taking the parchment with him. He dropped his eyes, shoulders rounding forward, and hurried away, and Harry stared after him, only belatedly beginning to set up the cauldron when the laughing chatter of the students around him began to break through his reverie.

When Malfoy returned a few minutes later, he was unnervingly silent, flicking sideways glances at Harry until he began to feel paranoid. He leaned closer. “Do I have something on my face?”

Malfoy smiled faintly for the first time, and seemed to relax. “It’s just your normal atrocious face, topped by your decidedly not-normal atrocious hair.”

Harry tried to look offended, but couldn’t fully hide the smile that tugged at his mouth, and Malfoy seemed pleased—enough to check Harry’s potion without comment or insult, giving him an almost proud smile when it came out right.

A few evenings later, Harry was on his way to the library when he saw Malfoy sitting in the common room, looking uncomfortable and out of place on one of the corner sofas. Harry veered off his intended path and went to him.

“Are you not studying tonight?”

“I just thought we could do it here tonight; I noticed you missed dinner again,” Malfoy said with a grimace, gesturing, and Harry noticed a large plate of food on the cushion next to him. It was piled high with roast beef and mashed potatoes, both of which were drowned in gravy, as well as a generous portion of the glazed carrots and several buttered rolls.

Harry’s stomach rumbled, but his curiosity overruled his hunger. “You noticed I wasn’t there?”

Malfoy sighed, sounding put-out. “I can just Vanish it if you’re not hungry—” he started, pulling out his wand.

“No,” Harry said hastily, plucking up the plate and sitting down. “This is brilliant, thanks. I was helping some of the fifth years in Defence tactics.”

A small crinkle appeared between Malfoy’s eyebrows. “Is that what you’re doing whenever you miss dinner?”

Harry shrugged, tucking into the food and managing not to moan outright as the salty, rich flavour of the beef exploded on his taste buds. He ate a couple of large bites, then returned to the question. “The new professor asked me to. Sometimes I have to take a firecall with someone at the Ministry or something, from McGonagall’s office. They want me to give interviews and speeches, but it just results in everyone looking at me even more,” he explained heavily, glancing around to see if Malfoy had thought to bring anything to drink. As if reading his mind, Malfoy held out a glass, which he filled with some icy water from his wand, and Harry took it gratefully.

“You miss at least three nights, every week,” Malfoy murmured, looking at something behind Harry.

“You notice when I’m not there,” Harry said again, and this time it wasn’t a question. Malfoy pursed his lips, but didn’t look at him, and didn’t answer. “It’s not like I don’t eat; the elves bring me things after we get back from the library. I’m just—busy.”

“Because people need you to do things for them,” Malfoy said flatly.

Harry flushed. It sounded bad when Malfoy put it that way. He cleared his throat.

“People count on me,” he said, then stole another bite of dinner, eyeing Malfoy cautiously.

“But they don’t take care of you,” Malfoy countered softly, sounding so bewildered and—and sad that it left Harry momentarily speechless.

“I have people who take care of me,” Harry returned after a moment. “Ron and Hermione. The Weasleys. You know. Even… Even you, now, I guess,” he ventured, nodding down to the plate in his lap.

Malfoy’s cheeks reddened, and he gave a small shake of his head. “I’m just tired of listening to your stomach growl as I try to focus on Arithmancy,” he muttered.

“Right, okay,” Harry said warily, and added a little laugh to show he understood, though he was only starting to.

Malfoy frowned and took out his book—Arithmancy, like he said—and opened it, staring down studiously at the page, though his eyes weren’t moving. He shifted a bit in his seat, as though he were trying to get more comfortable, but suddenly his leg was pressed against Harry’s, his torso angled closer; close enough to pull nearer, if Harry had a mind to, he realised.

When Harry didn’t start eating again, Malfoy finally looked up. Harry saw his Adam’s apple bob silently. “Why did you sit next to me, really? That night. You didn’t want to talk.”

“I told you,” Harry said, swallowing hard. “I didn’t want to be bothered by people.”

Malfoy nodded thoughtfully. “And people leave me alone, so I was safe.”

“Kind of,” he admitted, not feeling certain about his reasoning at all anymore. It didn’t help the clarity of his thoughts that he could feel the solid, slender weight of Malfoy next to him, could feel every shift and rustle Malfoy made.

“If you want to be alone so badly, why do you keep doing the things they ask of you?” Malfoy asked after a pause.

Harry paused too, loaded fork halfway to his mouth as he considered. He lowered it slowly. “It’s not about being alone,” he finally said, feeling oddly reluctant to confess such a thing to Malfoy, of all people. “It’s more about—not liking to be misunderstood by the people who think I’m something I’m not. And I do the things they ask because, well, someone has to help, right? And I’ve…” he trailed off awkwardly.

“Been doing that your whole life,” Malfoy finished for him, sounding wry.

Harry nodded. “Since I came to Hogwarts, yeah. Anyway, I know it probably doesn’t do anything for the way people are always staring at me when I give speeches or have to talk to the Wizengamot or when I help out in Defence. And I don’t like it, because it gives them ideas about me that aren’t true, but it’s gotten a bit—easier, since we became, well, mates,” he fumbled out. Malfoy twitched next to him, and Harry tried for a joke. “Even you do it.”

Another twitch, most likely because it had come out more serious than he’d intended.

“I do what?” Malfoy asked, quietly incredulous. “Ask you for things?”

“No!” Harry felt the heat rise in his face. “You’re one of the only ones who… don’t,” he finished slowly. “I was just making a joke about the way people see me.”

“We’ll have to find a sense-of-humour potion for you,” Malfoy said snidely. Harry laughed, and the tension in Malfoy’s body seemed to ease. He pursed his mouth. “I can assure you, Potter, I see you exactly as you are.”

It sounded like an insult but somehow wasn’t one, and for a single instant, Harry believed it. He looked at Malfoy. Malfoy’s face was flippant, but his eyes were dark and serious as Harry studied him and, without thinking, Harry let his hand move to rest on the top of Malfoy’s thigh for a moment. It was warm through the fabric of his trousers, and Malfoy stilled.

Harry’s heart was suddenly racing, Malfoy’s leg tense and even shaking under his palm, his eyes shadowed and watchful on Harry’s hand, like a deer assessing the likelihood of a threat. Harry swallowed hard when Malfoy didn’t give any indication that he was going to respond, and gave a quick squeeze, hoping it came off as friendly and casual rather than hello-let-me-randomly-grope-your-thigh creepy. The longer his hand stayed there, the more it felt like the latter, so he pulled it away and turned his attention to his plate.

“Were you going to—” Malfoy broke off when Harry looked back up to him. He crossed one leg over the other and scooted again, so there was some extra space between them. His ears were blister red.

“Was I going to what?” Harry prompted, throat dry.

“Finish that?” Malfoy waved a negligent hand at Harry’s half-eaten plate of food. “If not, we can clear it and get down to studying.”

Harry looked down at his neglected food and began eating again, no longer to taste the rich spices that had so tantalized him upon sitting down. They spent the rest of the night in silence.

***

Whatever had passed between them, vague and uncertain though it had been, left Harry feeling at loose ends. Malfoy seemed as normal as he’d ever been—a relative term in his case, to be fair—not letting on that anything had changed.

But it had. For Harry, at least, it had.

His confusing attraction to Malfoy, never very far from his mind during their interactions, had become something he’d learned to automatically disregard in the previous years, partly due to the lack of time he’d had to explore, but also because of what a complete tosser Malfoy had been. Except, now, every indication seemed to suggest that Malfoy not only understood what he was feeling, but might be feeling it too.

It left Harry feeling confused to the point where his normal recklessness no longer seemed the best option and he was forced into silent observation, instead. So much of their relationship was based, even now, on how they had related to each other in the before, and Harry couldn’t be sure where Malfoy’s sudden reciprocity came from. It seemed impossible to reconcile those two separate Malfoy’s in his head: the bully who’d tormented him for years and delighted in his misery, and the man with the beautifully shy smile, who leaned against him for those strangely intimate moments, which usually lasted no longer than the span of several heartbeats. Moments that all felt, when examined later, like something Harry had made up—because no one would have ever suspected Draco Malfoy of taking part in them.

Not hating someone anymore, Harry learned, did not automatically make things easy. Sleep, always difficult, was becoming decidedly harder as his mind threw images of Malfoy at him just as he’d begin to slide into unconsciousness. They mixed uneasily with his nightmares, and more and more often, Harry would wake up, sweating from a dream of Malfoy falling off the broom and being consumed by the Fiendfyre beneath him.

He had no idea how to proceed with this—obsession? Possible crush? He couldn’t exactly throw Malfoy up against the stone walls of the castle, the way he’d been itching to do for weeks. What if he was wrong?

When they ran into each other in front of the bathrooms of the eighth year dorms a few nights later, Harry was exhausted and frazzled from a meeting with McGonagall about his career options, or else he might have seen it coming. As it was, he found himself surprised anew by the force of his attraction as Malfoy came barrelling out of the bathroom just as Harry came rushing in. They halted right before crashing into each other, coming in opposite directions, and Harry’s towel, pyjamas, and hair potion tumbled out of his arms as he observed Malfoy, wrapped tight in his green dressing robe, his shock of white-blond hair still damp from the shower. It had a bit of curl to it like that, Harry noticed blankly as they were enveloped in a small cloud of steam that smelled like citrus and the spice of Malfoy’s aftershave. Harry’s body, so tired only seconds prior, went on high alert; mouth dry and heart thudding. He felt a twitch in his trousers as Malfoy blinked at him in surprise.

“Potter,” Malfoy said, inclining his head after too long a pause.

Harry realised he was standing in his way like a fool, and shifted to the side to allow Malfoy to pass. Malfoy stood in place for a moment as though he, too, had forgotten that it was odd to stand in place for so long. Then he nodded again and began down the hallway.

Harry didn’t know what possessed him, but he snapped out, “Malfoy, wait. Come here,” in tone far firmer than he’d intended. Malfoy’s footsteps faltered; he slowly turned around and headed back the few steps he’d taken until he was in front of Harry again.

Malfoy raised a superior eyebrow, but he looked wary and uncertain. His head was tilted to the side, revealing the long expanse of his throat, which was slowly turning red, and Harry had the sudden urge to—

“It’s late, Potter,” Malfoy said, when Harry remained silent, at a loss for how to follow up his demand. “Surely you know how to bathe yourself at least? Not that anyone can tell,” he added, snorting.

“Why, are you offering to help?” Harry countered, then wanted to bite his own tongue. Malfoy’s eyes went wide; his mouth dropped open just a touch. Harry forced a laugh and after a second, Malfoy chuckled too, sounding strained.

“You could certainly use the tips on good grooming,” he agreed, flicking his eyes over Harry. When he raised them, the corner of his mouth turned up. “But people might not recognise you otherwise. What did you need me for?”

Harry’s skin felt hot, and his mind ran over that last statement as several inappropriate things came to mind. He couldn’t stop looking at the way Malfoy’s hair curled up just above his ears.

“I, um. You made me drop my things, help me pick them up,” he muttered, feeling slow and stupid with Malfoy’s gaze on him like that, patient and thoughtful. “It’s only polite.”

“I’m not your bloody house-elf, Potter,” he responded without heat. “And you wouldn’t have dropped them if you hadn’t almost slammed into me.”

“Malfoy.” Some deep, perplexing intuition pulled Malfoy’s name from his lips like that, quiet and forceful, though his smile didn’t fall from his mouth. Malfoy’s shoulders twitched, coming in slightly, his head lowering an inch. He reached down as if moving in slow-motion, and Harry did as well, half-crouching and bending at the waist to retrieve his things. Their fingers touched, then touched again, as Malfoy handed over Harry’s bottle of hair potion and his pyjama bottoms. They were close enough that Harry could smell the mint on his breath as they gathered his belongings, Malfoy’s hair occasionally tickling his cheek.

When Harry had all of his things, neither of them rose. Malfoy wasn’t looking at him, gaze fixed on the items in Harry’s hands, but then he—he leaned forward and rested his cheek against Harry’s shoulder, which burned hot through his shirt at the touch. Harry froze, afraid to move, all of his thousand questions crowding his mind, with no idea which one to ask.

Malfoy’s breath was cool and shallow on the side of his neck and Harry wanted to drop his things again and pull him closer—there was no way he was imagining this, not like the subtle caresses in Potions class or the press of his shoe under the table in the library. Not like the gentle look on his face the other night when he’d brought Harry his supper, that could have meant anything. This was a real thing Malfoy was doing; though why, Harry still couldn’t comprehend. Attraction? Comfort? He was really, really tired?

A door banged and Malfoy skittered to his feet, face pink and eyes panicked. He gave Harry an alarmed, almost distraught look before fleeing down the corridor to his room, shutting the door with a hard click.

Harry stared after him, bewildered and aroused and not a little scared, before painfully straightening and heading into the loo to take a shower—which, by the state of his cock, gone fully hard from the feeling of Malfoy’s soft puffs of breath on his neck, seemed rather imperative at that point.

He didn’t sleep that night, either.

***

“Is there some kind of magic that makes people—obey you? Other than Imperio?”

Hermione looked up from her book, looking startled. “What?”

Harry glanced around; there were a few other students at the far end of the common room, playing a board game, and another small group sitting and talking in a semi-circle of squashy chairs a few feet away from their position on the couch in front of the fireplace. He flicked his wand and cast a subtle Muffliato, then sighed and rearranged himself on the sofa, criss-crossing his legs and shoving his books and parchment to the floor. Hermione raised her eyebrows and shut her book, setting it aside with far more care than Harry had shown for his things, and turned toward him.

“A spell?” Harry prompted. He took off his glasses for something to do with his hands—or maybe so he didn’t have to see the look on her face—and cleaned them on the hem of his shirt. “Or a- a curse, maybe? Or when you feel like you owe someone something, is there some kind of magic that can make you do the things someone says?”

“Why do you ask, Harry?” she said cautiously when he didn’t elaborate further. “Did someone tell you there was?”

“Not exactly,” he hedged. He didn’t even want to be talking about this with anyone, really, but since the incident near the bathroom several nights back, Malfoy had been avoiding him. He had moved to an empty seat beside a seventh-year Hufflepuff whose name Harry could never remember, and the professors had seemed to find no reason to pair any students up for the last few classes. He was never in the library, either; when Harry pulled out his map, Malfoy’s lonely dot was holed up in his room—the one place Harry never felt comfortable approaching him.

“Then what do you mean?”

Harry snapped his eyes back to Hermione and shoved his glasses on. “Do you know of anything like that?”

She frowned at his evasion and her face went mulish for a moment, as though she were considering refusing to answer, then softened. “You can talk to me, you know.”

Feeling guilty, Harry gnawed on his lower lip. He tried to work out how to say I think Malfoy may be suddenly attracted to me because I testified for him or something and my magic is forcing him to be, but couldn’t think up a tactful way to phrase it. “I know. I- I will, when I can,” he told her, relieved when that seemed to be enough.

Hermione pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Can you go into more detail?”

“Just, like, if they were to do the things I asked without complaining—almost as if they couldn’t help themselves,” Harry fumbled out. “And they might have mentioned—owing me.”

“That could just be common courtesy,” Hermione pointed out. “Doing things for someone else when they feel a debt.”

“It’s not,” Harry said, feeling his face warm up.

She gave him a shrewd look. “I know there are a lot of different kinds of debt magic, but I’d have to do some research on it. Some of them are more obscure, things to do with generational magic, and others are pretty straightforward, like Marriage Debts. And there are things like Life Debts, which are generally more complex and have a wide variety of interpretations and forms of behaviours.”

“Like with Pettigrew?” Harry asked. He thought of Peter’s arm, working against himself to snuff out his own life after he’d spared Harry’s in the dungeons. “They’d have to save my life, too?”

“Well, maybe,” Hermione said, brow furrowing. “Like I said, there are a lot of different ways a life debt can be fulfilled.”

“And—servitude is one of them?”

She blinked at him. “Servitude??”

“Or, well, the willingness to—cooperate,” Harry amended hastily, but the damage had been done and Hermione looked at him quite hard.

“This is about—”

“Don’t say it,” he said, holding up a hand.

“But, Harry—”

Really,” he pleaded in a low voice. “Please. I’m trying to work it out but I can’t… I need to figure things, first.”

She gazed at him, worried, and then shook her head, hair falling out its messy bun to frame her face in fluffy curls. “I don’t know,” she admitted, at length. “I think the nature of life debts are specific to the people involved, and dependant on how much debt has accrued. You might want to get his—um, their opinion on the subject, if you haven’t yet.”

Harry’s head started to pound, and he removed his glasses again to push at his eyes with the heels of his hands. “They might have tried to talk to me about it already,” he mumbled.

Hermione didn’t say anything until Harry removed his hands from his face; she looked at him, exasperatedly. “And, of course, you refused to listen because you hate being reminded that the whole world owes you something.”

“They don’t,” Harry insisted, annoyed. “Not if I say they don’t. Not if all I was doing, really, was trying to save my own life and the lives of a few others. I barely thought about the whole world. And you guys did as much as me, so—”

Her shoulders dropped, and her eyes turned sympathetic. “Oh, Harry. When are you going to accept how much of it isn’t about you?” she asked. “People just feel—well, they’re grateful. For everything. And you did do more than anyone else, and everyone saw it, and so they have to put that gratitude somewhere. I know it bothers you, being called a hero, but—well, it hasn’t even been six months.”

“Right, I know,” he conceded in a voice that wasn’t quite a grumble. Hermione raised a single, reproving eyebrow, and he exhaled. “Sorry. I do know, though. I just don’t want people to always treat me a certain way because they feel like they have to.”

Especially not Malfoy.

She clicked her tongue. “I can look into it, but your best bet is to talk to—the person. All right?”

He nodded appreciatively and Hermione gave a little sniff and picked up her book again.

Harry left his homework on the floor, and contemplated how best to take her advice.

***

It was a strange thing, having to start watching Malfoy from a distance again after those weeks of relative closeness. To notice new things about a person who he’d been seeing on a near-daily basis; things Harry hadn’t even allowed himself to notice when it seemed they might become friends.

Like the way Malfoy’s eyes seemed to absorb the light around them rather than reflect it, and the way his narrow chin squared off a little when he smiled—which wasn’t often. He seemed to have a new nervous habit of rubbing his thumb and forefinger together, and his pinky nail was perpetually ragged, but his hands were still sure when he moved them; long-fingered and graceful as he carded them through his hair.

Harry caught his eyes a few times in Potions, but Malfoy turned unfailingly away from him, as though Harry were easily discarded from his mind, always hurrying from the classroom before Harry got a chance to approach him.

Three days after talking to Hermione, she still had no answers for him, and Harry’d had enough.

He asked Slughorn if he could be excused early and, at the wave of the professor’s hand, left the classroom to stand right outside of it and wait for everyone to be dismissed. It reminded him unpleasantly of his behaviour in sixth year, following around a scared, sour Malfoy—trapping him in the bathroom and hurting him—but he shook the thought from his mind as the doors opened and students began spilling out. As per usual, Malfoy was the first one through the doors, his flaxen hair shining like a beacon, and Harry ignored his startled yelp as he caught Malfoy’s elbow and began walking away with him.

“Potter,” Malfoy hissed under his breath, sounding alarmed. “I’m going to be late.”

“You don’t have another class after Potions,” Harry replied tersely, pulling his wand to unlock the door of a cleaning room when they got to the end of the corridor. He pushed Malfoy inside and followed, closing the door behind himself.

Malfoy folded his arms over his chest. “Fine, you’ve kidnapped me. What do you want?”

Harry copied his posture. “Why have you been avoiding me?”

“I haven’t been avoiding you, Potter,” he huffed. “I’ve been busy.”

“Right, okay.” Harry snorted. “You’re studying for four N.E.W.T.’s, and two of those you know you’re going to pass easily. We were getting on, and you know it. But then this—this thing happened,” he said, stumbling over the phrase, “and has been happening. And now you won’t even look at me. I want to talk.”

Malfoy’s eyes met his for a single second, all cool grey turned hot as burning ash, then fell stubbornly to the floor. An infuriating smile curled his mouth. “There are better places to talk than a dusty cupboard.”

“Well, you won’t let me talk to you in class, and you’re never in the library anymore,” Harry muttered, feeling awkward even as he stepped closer. “I had to do something.”

“Why?” Malfoy looked up again, and this time—maybe for the first time since term began—there was the spark of challenge on his face. He looked ferociously unhappy. Harry was suddenly very aware of their proximity, the smallness of the cleaning cabinet, and the way that—though the other boy was taller than him by an inch or so—Malfoy’s stance made him seem vulnerable. It made him seem like he was waiting for something, and Harry felt the answering burn of anger settle behind his sternum, because he didn’t know what sort of game this was. “Why, when I so obviously don’t want to talk to you?”

“Then what do you want?” Harry demanded. “What was that, last week?”

Malfoy’s lips pressed into a tight line, whitening around the edges; his eyes narrowed and he refused to answer. The silence between them dragged out, and the growing bubble of fury in Harry’s chest suddenly popped; it spilled. He took a step back and felt his lip curl in disgust.

“I can’t believe you’re going to be this way,” he bit out, sharp and vicious. It felt good, so damn good, to give into that old resentment, the kind he’d never been allowed to openly nurture before he realized he no longer needed it. All of that frustration that he’d been so careful to stow away now boiled to the surface. “After we were getting on, after—after everything, I can’t believe you’re going to pretend nothing happened. More fool me, I guess. You know what, Malfoy? Why don’t you suck my cock.”

Malfoy’s eyes caught his, intense and compelling, and the air seemed to thicken and vibrate around them. In one slow, fluid motion, without breaking his gaze, Malfoy lowered to his knees.

Harry stared at him, gaping, the echo of his words still fading in his mind. He’d meant it to come out derisive, as an insult, as a way to say I don’t care about you either, but instead it had come out in the hard tone of a command, and Malfoy had—he’d—

Horror filled him, both that the words had left his mouth that way, and that he’d ever thought of them in the first place. He recoiled, his back hitting the door with a thud. “I’m sorry. Malfoy, I didn’t mean that. I shouldn’t have said…”

“I want to,” Malfoy said, voice painfully low. His palms came up, tentatively, to press flat against the front of Harry’s thighs. His head was bowed, hair glinting gold in the dim light. Harry’s cock, already half-hard from their close quarters and the smell of Malfoy’s aftershave, went rigid, pressing tight against his trousers. “Let me, Harry.”

For some reason, his arousal at Malfoy’s admission and submissive posture, at the pressure of his hands against his legs, at the gentle use of his name for the first time, angered Harry further. “I’m not going to—to do that with you because you feel like repaying some stupid life debt.”

Finally, Malfoy looked up. His face was embarrassed and serious, both. He swallowed hard. “Why would you do that with me, then? You want to. I think you want to.”

Harry sputtered for a moment. “What are you doing, Malfoy?” he breathed as sheer disbelief coursed through him.

“When we were—at the bathroom,” Malfoy said in a cracking whisper, looking down at his hands, still touching Harry, “You didn’t do anything. You hadn’t done anything. I thought you might, but you didn’t. Because I’m—”

He broke off, eyes going scared again the way they had that night when he’d pressed his skin, still warm from the shower, against Harry’s shoulder. The way they had before he’d run away. Unthinkingly, Harry dropped a hand to the top of Malfoy’s head to stay him, or maybe comfort him, threading his fingers through the fine strands, which felt like corn silk. He felt, incongruously, like one of the priests he’d seen on rare occasions the Dursleys had brought him to church; the ones who’d given absolution to the people who’d sought it.

Except.

“We haven’t even kissed,” Harry said, feeling steadier somehow in the face of Malfoy’s confession, his obvious fear. He fisted his hand lightly, and gave little tug of Malfoy’s hair before pulling his hand away and offering it. Malfoy took it, hesitating, then levered himself up. His palm was warm and dry.

“Potter,” he said, warily, refusing again to meet Harry’s eyes. “You—”

“Malfoy, stop,” Harry said. Malfoy did, and so Harry kissed him.

He’d thought for a moment that Malfoy would fight him; would draw away. Was afraid that he was extending an offer of—service, and wanted a transaction between them, a dirty, ugly exchange. But Malfoy immediately gave up his mouth to Harry, opening it as Harry slanted his own against it, and Harry’s thrumming heart rattled hard in his chest with triumph. He slipped his tongue in, tasting Malfoy’s bottom lip, and the heat he found as Malfoy’s tongue stroked shyly against his own, wrenched a loud groan from him.

Malfoy’s breath hitched and caught. Harry could feel the way his chest expanded against his own and held as he dragged him closer and wrapped his arms around Malfoy’s waist so they were pressed tight together; as tightly as their mouths were as Harry deepened the kiss, the closet swooping around him as he felt the hard ridge of Malfoy’s erection fatten against his hip. He snaked his hands down and swivelled Malfoy’s stance until that stiff length was pressed against his own cock, right where he wanted it. Malfoy made a muffled, choked noise, drawing his mouth away as he finally let go of the breath he’d been holding, then immediately kissing Harry again, fingers digging into Harry’s biceps. Harry dove back into the kiss—that tiny break in contact shorting out something in his brain, some wire between control and desire—and spun them until Malfoy’s back was up against door. He let go of Malfoy’s hips and caught his wrists, pressing them against the rough wood too, and Malfoy made another small noise and oh, God, it felt so good to touch him like this, to take what he wanted from Malfoy, had maybe always wanted in some way, even if he hadn’t known, then—

 

Malfoy tore his mouth away from Harry’s again, gasping, and Harry stared hungrily through his foggy glasses at Malfoy’s swollen lips, pink and glinting with saliva. His eyes were wide and bright, and their gazes locked for a long moment. Then, not taking his eyes off of Harry, Malfoy slowly tilted his head to the side, baring the long expanse of his pale throat. Harry blinked at all of that fine skin on display; he leaned in and licked a long stripe over the cords standing out there and Malfoy made a whimpering sound, soft, so Harry did it again, adding his teeth. Malfoy arched, hips coming forward, and Harry grunted at the feeling of his cock again, even through their heavy uniforms. He released one of Malfoy’s wrists to reach between them, undoing the clasps of their robes with quick fingers until they were out of the way, working his mouth over Malfoy’s neck in gentle bites. Then he reached up again to circle Malfoy’s wrist where it was waiting, propped against the door, like Harry knew it still would be.

The position was all off, Harry realised quickly. He angled his hips a bit, and that seemed to work—Malfoy inhaled as their pricks lined up perfectly, and Harry began grinding against him, nipping sharply at Malfoy’s throat, then licking his own teeth marks and sucking them into his mouth. The coil of pleasure wound tighter in his stomach; his prick throbbed with tension, and Malfoy was just—he was just writhing against Harry, making tiny little guttural sounds as Harry thrust against him, rolling his hips to the slide of hard-on-hard. Malfoy bucked into him and raised one long leg to curl around Harry’s arse. He wobbled a little, off-kilter, but Harry steadied him instinctively, holding him in firm place against the door as his pumping hips moved faster. He pulled his teeth off of Malfoy’s neck, staring down hotly at the cluster of purpling bruises forming, and Malfoy lowered his head back down and stared at him, lip caught so tightly between his own teeth that Harry thought he might bite through it.

It—it did something to him to see Malfoy like that, eyes wild and expression filled with controlled strain, and Harry’s balls drew up; his prick grew harder against Malfoy’s. His thrusts stuttered as he began to come in hard pulses, feeling his hot, sticky release dampen the inside of his trousers and begin to seep through them. Malfoy groaned and moved his hips roughly, and Harry ground his wrists into the door and said, “I’m coming. I’m coming, Malfoy, come with me, do it, I want you to, do it,” in a low, coarse voice he barely recognised as his own.

Malfoy gave a broken cry, shutting his eyes tightly as his body went still and tense again against Harry’s, and Harry could feel his prick jerking against his own as he came, too, panting. Harry moved against him through it, until his cock was so over-sensitive he couldn’t anymore, and then he relaxed in place, dropping his forehead onto Malfoy’s shoulder when Malfoy’s lanky frame loosened.

He twitched his wrists in Harry’s grasp after several moments, and Harry blinked, feeling dizzy. He let them go and, with effort, pulled his head up. Malfoy’s face was sweaty, flushed pink, and he was still breathing in ragged gasps. His arms lowered and Harry levered himself up and away as Malfoy began to flex them slowly.

The world felt suddenly strange to Harry, in the aftermath of his orgasm. Without the heat of impending climax, without the burn of frustration roaring through him, he felt… Lost. Empty.

Guilty.

He slipped his wand from his sleeve and twitched it over Malfoy, then himself, in a quick cleaning spell. They stood awkwardly together, no longer a tangle of need with a common goal, but two people who had just done something Harry couldn’t wrap his mind around, even though he’d wanted it. Maybe more than anything he’d ever wanted before.

“You alright?”

Malfoy gave a subdued nod, face once again calm. “Of course, Potter.” He let out a shaky breath that sounded like a laugh. “Are you?

Harry nodded back, but he wasn’t sure. His mind still felt like it was running a thousand miles a second, and when he thought back over the last several minutes, the things that stood out the most to him—holding Malfoy in that hard way, the way Malfoy had immediately surrendered to him—seemed like something he shouldn’t feel so satisfied about. It made him nervous, that he felt that way. And scared to pursue the line of questioning he’d planned, before they had done this, because what if Malfoy said—

“Are you going to keep avoiding me, then?” Harry asked him. Malfoy ticked him a small smile, and began doing up his robes.

“I don’t have to now, do I?” he asked, with a chuckle.

Harry swallowed. “I don’t know what that means,” he admitted as Malfoy drew his own wand and began casting smoothing charms over his clothing.

“It means I’ll see you tonight,” Malfoy said simply, still with that pleased little grin, and Harry’s relief was so strong he went dizzy for a second again as all of his breath left his lungs in a rush. “In the library. We’ll study.”

“So, then, you’re okay with this?” Harry asked uncertainly, waving an abstract hand between them. “With what happened.”

“Yes, Harry.” His name sounded oddly—nice, in Malfoy’s low, posh voice, although it would have been nicer if he hadn’t rolled his eyes. The whole effect was more disconcerting than all of the other thoughts tangled up in Harry’s mind.

“Right, okay. The library,” Harry agreed. He paused. “And after.”

Malfoy’s lashes fluttered for a moment as he processed this. His smile twitched up higher on one side, and he gave a clipped nod. He turned to go. His neck had several visible, purplish blotches.

“Wait.”

Malfoy glanced back, and Harry thought about telling him, he really did. Instead, he gave a plaintive wave to his own clothing, horribly wrinkled and slightly askew.

“Can you do that ironing charm for me?”

“No one will notice if it’s you,” Malfoy assured him, amused.

He slipped out of the door, leaving Harry on the verge of a laugh, and halfway hard again already, just from Malfoy’s little smirk.

***

Their study dates resumed, and it was almost like nothing had ever changed–except that everything had. For one thing Malfoy’s presence in the library stopped being as big a deterrent. Students migrated closer to Harry again, either deciding that Malfoy wasn’t a threat or that it just didn’t matter if they got to be where Harry could hear them whisper about him again, could be in his orbit.

Another was that Harry barely minded it, anymore. People never seemed to approach for some reason; Malfoy’s presence became a buffer against the would-be stalkers and hangers-on. They sat together in the library and their shared classes, and somehow Malfoy was able to cancel out all of the other sounds, turning it into white noise. It started with the press of Malfoy’s knee under the table, when he sensed Harry was starting to get frustrated, then became a question about class or, more commonly, a distracting anecdote about the way he grew up. And it would distract him, or Harry let it, because he found himself interested in knowing more.

Those little stories usually ended up turning into something bigger between them, although it never felt like very much was said. He learned that Malfoy’s mum had only hurt him once as a child, casting stinging hexes across his backside so that it had been red and sore for days after, a tidbit couched in a tale about how he’d liked to chase the peacocks at the Manor when he was a boy. Wrapped in a story about his multitude of tutors before Hogwarts, Harry learned that Malfoy’s father had never praised him, really—would buy things for him instead, when he was proud—and how a single clasp on his shoulder meant more than the pounds of chocolate he could get for passing his exams with top marks. In return, Harry talked about cooking, the only skill he appreciated having learned from the Dursleys, and indirectly confirmed the way he had been treated like a servant in their house.

The other difference was that studying and partnering in class was no longer all they did.

For the first time, Harry learned to be grateful for his private room, because the very night after what happened in the closet, Malfoy had waited until the fires had been lowered by the elves and everyone had settled in before knocking on Harry’s door. And then he wasn’t alone anymore.

They’d quickly found themselves stretched out side by side on Harry’s bed, Malfoy hooking one leg around the backs of his thighs. Harry had laced their hands together and rolled on top of him as they kissed, pulling away only to lower his head to Malfoy’s throat.

“You could have told me about the love bites,” Malfoy had gasped out.

“You could have smoothed out my clothes,” Harry mumbled, face buried in the curve of where Malfoy’s neck met his shoulder, and felt Malfoy’s rumble of laughter. He turned his head to lick one of marks in question, still standing dark against all of that white skin. “Or healed them.”

“I didn’t want to,” Malfoy murmured, and Harry had liked that so much, he’d kissed him again for long, delicious minutes as Malfoy tentatively rocked up to meet him. But Harry was still thinking about the way he’d shoved Malfoy against the door—how much he’d enjoyed that. It was unnerving how much, and how he couldn’t stop thinking of other things, like Malfoy kneeling in front of him the way he’d offered, and holding still while Harry pushed inside his mouth, or how much harder he got when he saw the mottled bruises on Malfoy’s neck. So when his cock started to ache, he moved off of Malfoy and took a few minutes to catch his breath before kissing him more gently and saying they should call it a night.

Malfoy had frowned but didn’t argue, peeking out of Harry’s room both ways before slipping into the corridor and returning to his own, and Harry had wanked quickly, furiously bringing himself off to rid himself of the temptation to follow.

The thing was, Malfoy was offering up something Harry hadn’t even known he’d wanted. He’d never thought about how good it might have felt to take control with Ginny; she never would have even let him try, and it had been one of the things he’d liked so much about her—that pushback. Though kissing her had never set fire to him the way kissing Malfoy did, he’d thought it was okay, the way she’d push him down into a chair and crawl into his lap—at least until he’d admitted that the parts pressing against him were too soft for his liking. It had never occurred to him that it might have been the fact that she liked doing the pushing that he didn’t enjoy.

Harry tried not to let himself wonder if this was a new thing—something that he’d come out of the Forbidden Forest with.

For several days, Harry tried not to take it too far again; he forced himself to keep it simple—snogging Malfoy, while pressing him against the stone walls of this alcove or that; twice they got so distracted in the Potions storeroom that they’d had to jump apart when they heard someone rattle the doorknob and realised in unison how long they’d been in there. It was… frightening, the pure, unadulterated need that roared through him whenever they were alone, and even sometimes when they weren’t. It left Harry shaken and distressed, especially when he saw the bracelet of bruises left around Malfoy’s wrists after an extended kissing session, marks Harry had taken to healing for him, because he’d learned that Malfoy wouldn’t.

On the night it finally happened again, Malfoy came in looking the same way he always did: cool and collected, every bit the proper patrician pureblood. And Harry had been waiting for him, want gnawing in his stomach. He looked at Malfoy’s expression and couldn’t resist his face, haughty and regal, couldn’t resist the idea of turning it into something different, making it go hot and desperate, jaw tight and eyes smoky with lust. He was on him before Malfoy had cleared the door, hands sinking into his hair, walking him over to the bed. Other than the initial surprised squeak, Malfoy hadn’t said anything, not no or wait or stop, and Harry found himself being kissed back just as urgently.

And it just felt so—so right to wrestle Malfoy down onto the bed, as though he were struggling against it, even though he wasn’t. Malfoy simply gave himself over in a way that sent adrenaline spiking through Harry, sent his blood rushing through him, blurring out the rest of the world. So Harry gave himself over to Malfoy, too.

Malfoy wore slightly over-large pyjamas, made of a silky green material that slithered over his body as Harry climbed atop him and pressed kisses against his open mouth, slipping his tongue inside, then pulled back to pepper more over his throat. His hands wandered hard down Malfoy’s ribcage, tracing the slender ridges, smiling when Malfoy groaned. He slid one hand under Malfoy’s shirt; found a tight, small nipple and rolled it curiously between his thumb and forefinger, tweaking it harder when Malfoy arched into the feeling and dug into Harry with his fingers. He let go and grazed lower with his fingertips, investigating the flat planes of Malfoy’s stomach.

“I want—” Malfoy started, but then Harry’s travelling hand found his cock, plump and heavy, between them, and he broke off with a choked gurgle as Harry palmed him.

“What?” Harry pulled back enough to look into Malfoy’s eyes, which were heavy-lidded and shadowy. He slid his fingers into Malfoy’s waistband, tugging it down, and Malfoy lifted his hips automatically. The slippery fabric caught on his cock, which Harry stared at; that rounded length swathed in green silk was so… hot. He pulled a little more and Malfoy’s cock popped free, bobbing in the air before falling back and bouncing against his stomach, which had a trail of pale-golden hair leading down to his groin. Harry’s own erection ached, getting impossibly harder as he looked at Malfoy and finished divesting him of his bottoms; Malfoy’s prick was shorter than his own, he thought, but maybe a little thicker, too. It was pink, almost red at the crown—which had a pearl of fluid at the tip.

Harry’s mouth flooded with saliva.

“What?” he asked again. “What do you want?”

“Could you—” Malfoy’s bare legs shifted, and he closed his eyes for a second. “Yours too?”

Realising that he hadn’t already done so, spurred on by that unsteady quality of Malfoy’s voice and the way he twisted his head to the side, Harry hastily shucked his t-shirt and kicked off his flannel bottoms before straddling Malfoy over the thighs and setting to work on the buttons of his pyjama top, sliding the halves away when it was undone.

He stopped, bringing down a hand to circle the base of his cock as he got his first look at Malfoy, completely naked and stretched out on his bed. Malfoy blinked up at him, then reached out a slow hand to drag his knuckles across Harry’s stomach; his muscles there jumped, and Harry had the insane thought that he could come from that light touch alone.

“You’re—” He swallowed. He couldn’t think of anything to say but the words rattling in his brain. “I could come just looking at you.”

Malfoy’s mouth turned up at the corners.

“You don’t have to,” he said, then stroked his hand down to cover Harry’s cock, glancing up as if to check if it was all right as he curled his fingers into fist. “Good?”

“Yeah,” Harry said raggedly. Malfoy tightened his hand, and gave a slow stroke down. “Good.”

Malfoy began wanking him, fingers a smooth clasp over his foreskin, dragging it back and forth. He sucked his upper lip into his mouth, brow furrowed, as he flicked his eyes between the movements of his hand and Harry’s face, but when Harry nodded at him, he began moving his hand steadily, squeezing close to the root; pumping down and back up while rotating his wrist. Harry gave a stifled gasp, then reached down and grasped Malfoy’s prick as well. It was hot and heavy in his hand, and Malfoy’s grip faltered for a moment—he made a whimpering noise—before resuming his efforts. Harry tried to focus on the feel of Malfoy’s erection rather than the own sensations zipping through him—the skin was so soft, surrounding that thick, stiff column—and pulled Malfoy’s foreskin back with deft fingers, the way he did when he was by himself, stroking his fingertips over the moisture at his slit to spread it around.

“Tell me when you’re close, yeah?” Harry told him. He already was. Just from this. Just from a few minutes in Malfoy’s hand.

Malfoy looked back up to him, face dotted with sweat, and nodded. “I am,” he whispered.

A soft groan issued from Harry’s throat. He wanted—wanted this to be good for Malfoy, wanted it to be better than he’d made it in the closet. He wanted to see Malfoy come undone in his bed, and not be afraid he was regretting it afterward.

“Stop, then,” he said, and Malfoy’s hand stilled. He gave Harry an uncertain look, then removed his hand.

Harry scooted forward so he was over Malfoy’s hips; he leaned down and propped himself on one forearm, then reached between them and circled both of their cocks together. The hard press of Harry’s prick against his had Malfoy shuddering, and it was no different for Harry; he gripped both of them as tight as he could—he couldn’t quite close his fingers—and began jerking his fist, fast and hard. Malfoy’s hips bucked, thrusting into Harry’s clutch, and Harry saw his eyes fall to his mouth, so he closed the distance between them and kissed him.

Malfoy made a small noise in the back of his throat and then Harry felt his cock begin pulsing a second before his fingers were splashed with the slickness of Malfoy’s release. He worked his hand faster, tighter, Malfoy writhing beneath him. Malfoy raised his head off the mattress to sink his tongue into Harry’s mouth as they kissed, and it was so overwhelming—the warmth of his come, the sweetness of his mouth, the way his hands came up to stroke Harry’s shoulders—that Harry began to come too, the edges of his vision going grey as his balls and prick throbbed and he shot all over Malfoy’s stomach, his own hand, mingling their fluids as his hips thrust frantically.

When it was over, he laid against Malfoy’s bony body, sticky and slick with sweat and come, for several minutes before levering himself up and off to the side.

“Are you going to ask me if I’m okay again?” Malfoy said drily into the silence, staring upward at Harry’s bed hangings.

Unease fluttered in Harry’s stomach; so easy to ignore when he was chasing release. It was strange, to want so many things and not be able to define them—and to be afraid to ask what they might mean.

“Should I?” he returned after a beat.

“No.” Malfoy exhaled, smiled, but didn’t look over at him. Harry trailed his fingertips through the mess on Malfoy’s chest and stomach, liking the look of it, and Malfoy stilled.

Curious, Harry looked closer. Several faint, silvery lines covered his chest, from below his ribcage to up near his collarbone, criss-crossing on his otherwise pristine skin; scars, obviously, and Harry wondered with blank fury what had happened to Malfoy during the war that could have done that to—

He sat up, yanking his hand away. Malfoy sat up too, shaking his head.

“I did that.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Malfoy said on a rush.

“I thought it wouldn’t scar.”

Malfoy swallowed; his Adam’s apple bobbed. “There wasn’t enough dittany. But—Harry.”

Harry started to get up, the urge to vomit roiling in his stomach, but Malfoy caught him by the wrist. “It doesn’t matter, really, I’m fine.”

“How can you be fine?” Harry demanded. “I-I maimed you.”

“I would have done a lot worse to you if I’d had the shot,” Malfoy said in a low voice, and Harry looked at him. His eyes were fierce, but steady. “Don’t go.”

“I never even told you I was sorry,” Harry said numbly.

“Say it now, then, and be done with it.”

“I’m sorry.” And Harry knew it would never be enough; that there wasn’t enough apology in the world for what he had done.

But Malfoy nodded like that was all he’d wanted, and brushed his hair off his forehead with his free hand. He lay back down and tugged on Harry’s wrist to bring him with him. Harry followed stiffly, wanting to—to do something to fix things, but Malfoy just turned on his side and put his back up to Harry’s chest until Harry slid an arm around his waist and pulled him closer.

So many questions crowded his mind: How could Malfoy even let him touch him after having done that? What did it say about himself that he liked—liked controlling Malfoy, liked the way he just seemed to know what Harry wanted—that simple, unquestioning surrender? How could he rest, now, in Harry’s bed, as though completely unbothered by the fact that his body still bore scars from him?

He wanted to ask, but even as he gathered his courage, Malfoy’s breath turned even and slow, and Harry realised that Malfoy—against all odds—trusted him enough to fall asleep in his arms.

***

Harry woke in stages, slowly becoming aware of the world around him. He was as surprised at having slept so deeply, with no nightmares, as he was to discover that the world around him consisted almost entirely of his cock.

He reached down a startled hand and was met with the feel of warm, silken hair under his palm, covering a slowly-moving head. His eyes flew open, sleep banished and forgotten when he looked down to find Malfoy, settled on his belly between Harry’s lax thighs, pressing little licking kisses to the underside of the crown of his cock.

“Malfoy,” Harry croaked out as Malfoy kissed the tip, his mouth open just enough to flick his tongue out over Harry’s slit.

Malfoy drew his mouth away. “You’re awake,” he commented lowly, voice still thick with sleep, then replaced his mouth. He opened it wider this time, sucking the blunt, throbbing head of Harry’s cock into it and swirling his tongue around.

“Well, yeah,” Harry gasped roughly as Malfoy gave a light suck. “You’re—you don’t have to—”

Tonguing the slit, Malfoy pulled away again. His eyes glinted up at Harry in the low light of the room.

“Tell me you don’t want me to, and I’ll stop,” he promised. He sounded a little uncertain, but when Harry lifted his head more to get a closer look, Malfoy was smiling and seemed amused. The hand lightly circling root of Harry’s cock tightened into a narrow fist, two fingers and a thumb, and he gave a slow pump. “I will.”

“No, don’t,” Harry said hoarsely, eyes fastened on the way Malfoy was stroking him, lazy, like it was something he did every day. He felt like it was a decision that should take him longer, but—well, in for a Knut, in for a Galleon, and Malfoy’s head was right there, and he’d already started—while Harry was asleep, no less.

“Do it,” he said. Malfoy’s eyes widened at that; his hand tightened and stormy arousal erased the light teasing from his expression. Harry’s cock jerked in Malfoy grasp, and he tried again, wanting to see if he could get that look on Malfoy’s face, that flush, to deepen. “Suck me. Do it, Malfoy.”

Malfoy obediently lowered his head again, opening his mouth wide. He drew Harry’s cock into the wet heat of his mouth, almost down to the base, pausing to cough slightly and resume as Harry’s prick butted against the back of his throat. Harry bucked helplessly into the sensation, nerve endings lighting up wherever Malfoy’s tongue touched. He gripped Malfoy’s hair tighter. “More.”

Making an indecipherable, muffled noise, Malfoy began moving his head faster, bobbing it up and down over the length of Harry’s cock. Harry watched, half-blind without his glasses, as Malfoy’s bare form undulated against the duvet, hips rising and lowering against it, even as he hollowed out his cheeks during a fast dip down, then up, his jaw spreading wide, tongue moving slow and careful against Harry’s sensitive foreskin. Harry groaned, hand gripping recklessly tight in Malfoy’s hair to hold him in place. Malfoy made a low, questioning sound in the back of his throat, which vibrated against the tip of Harry’s cock, making him move his legs restlessly.

“Don’t come,” Harry ordered him, breathless. Malfoy made another noise, then gave a tiny nod, his tongue flattening out to curl under Harry’s cock. His hips came down again on the mattress and stopped moving. Harry sucked in a sharp breath. “Hold still.”

Harry felt the movement of another nod, Malfoy’s chin grazing his bollocks, tongue fluttering gently in place. He’d thought so many times before what this would be like, but it had remained blurry and undefined, an Oh, I bet that would feel good thing to ponder as he wanked in the shower—though he’d had no real concept of how much he’d wanted it, until Malfoy had fallen to his knees in that closet. And now his cock was lodged deeply in the slick, tight heat of Malfoy’s mouth, and Malfoy’s lips were stretched obscenely wide around it, motionless as he waited for Harry’s instruction.

Harry swallowed, then clenched his arse and gave a small pump upward, feeling Malfoy’s throat encase the crown of his prick for one blissfully searing second until he pulled back. “Tell me if you can’t,” he said shakily.

There was a pause, then Malfoy issued a low moan. He gave another, firmer nod, and the fingers coiled around the base of Harry’s cock grew tighter.

Harry thrust up again, tentatively, then again and again, which increasing confidence. Something about the way Malfoy held his head so very still, letting Harry fuck upwards into his mouth, nothing but his tongue moving in small twitches each time Harry pulled back, made Harry shudder with desire, fire roaring through his veins. The timing of his hips became erratic, and he tried not to go too deep, didn’t want to hurt Malfoy, but—as if sensing his dilemma—Malfoy’s head jostled in another affirmation and he lowered his mouth over Harry’s cock another inch, and Harry bucked up, deeper and deeper on every thrust, into Malfoy’s relaxed throat. And then warm fingers were sliding soft over his tightened bollocks, which were drawn close to his body, before they cupped them and gave a little squeeze, and Harry broke, cursing, feeling hot ropes of spunk pulse out of his cock as his body twisted into the sensation and his fist in Malfoy’s hair closed again, brutally tight.

He felt the quick, repetitive constriction of Malfoy’s swallows against the swollen head of his prick and loosened his hand, pulling his fingers from where they were threaded through Malfoy’s hair so he could stroke it as his climax slowed and finished. He could feel sharp, cool exhales from Malfoy’s nostrils against his groin, and he finally relaxed bonelessly against his mattress.

He waited a beat. “Come here.”

Malfoy pulled off his softening cock with a quiet slurping sound that—impossible though it seemed—sent another jolt through Harry, and he felt another slow dribble of come leak out. He smiled faintly as Malfoy crawled up to him, laying on his side and propping himself on an elbow. His hair was standing out at different angles around his head, tangled and sweaty from Harry’s hand, and though his cheeks were quite pink, they were still pale in comparison to his mouth, which was dark and swollen and shiny.

“You okay?”

Malfoy rolled his eyes, but Harry thought he looked the teensiest bit pleased, though he was obviously trying to hide it.

“I’m fine,” he muttered hoarsely, then gave Harry a surprised look at the quality of his voice, gone grainy from Harry fucking into his throat. Just the thought of that, of marking Malfoy in that secret way—the inside of his throat for Merlin’s sake (and if that wasn’t the bloody hottest thing ever, Harry didn’t know what was)—caused another swift and startling blaze of desire to rush through him. “I thought you weren’t going to ask me that anymore,” he sniped.

Harry smiled. “Come here,” he said again, quieter.

Malfoy shot him a narrow look, but leaned closer, and let Harry capture his mouth in a kiss. He kept it slow, gentle, not knowing how else to say thank you, not knowing how else to say, that was good, Malfoy without sounding like a tosser, even though he thought it might be what Malfoy wanted to hear. So he tried to tell him with the press of his lips, the sweep of his tongue, as he tasted the salty tang of his own come in Malfoy’s mouth. And that, too, was far more—far better—than he had ever imagined.

A hesitant, long-fingered hand came up to rest against his chest, and Harry broke the kiss. Malfoy looked sleepy and messy, and Harry was somehow sure that if they continued for a few minutes, he’d get hard again and Malfoy would touch him, and it’d be a repeat of what had just happened.

Which wasn’t an altogether unattractive thought.

Instead, he coasted a hand up Malfoy’s arm. He paused when he got to the twisting, elaborate lines of Malfoy’s Dark Mark, strikingly black, even now, against the soft white skin on the inside of his forearm, and gave it a few curious strokes with his thumb. It was smooth, no longer raised and pulsing, and it didn’t move as he investigated it—this thing that he’d been so violently opposed to. But now it was just a mark, forever there, but not pulling any of that old disgust in Harry, the way he’d thought it might.

Malfoy closed his eyes, throat moving, and tried to pull away, but Harry gripped his arm insistently and refused to let him. He slid the pad of his thumb against the sweeping lines, the coiled figure eight of the snake’s body and the stark, grinning skull above. Harry lifted the arm and Malfoy let him this time, moving to Harry’s touch as though hypnotized, as Harry leaned toward it and pressed a kiss to the inactive tattoo—the scar—that linked him to Harry in a way that no one else could ever be.

Maybe that was it, Harry thought, feeling Malfoy’s muscles go hard as Harry moved his mouth over. Maybe that was why he—he wanted Malfoy so much; why he’d been able to put the past in the past, why his need ran so deep. Maybe it was why Malfoy seemed to want him back.

Harry moved his mouth away at length, feeling the tension in Malfoy’s arm ease. He pushed against Malfoy’s shoulder until he was lying on his back, and glanced down.

“Good,” he said approvingly, seeing that Malfoy was still hard. His cock rested against his belly in a gentle arc, thick and deep pink. The foreskin had retracted some, and the head of his cock was peeking out, leaking liberally.

Malfoy watched him quietly, eyes searching.

Harry brushed his knuckles over it. “What would you like?”

“I—” Malfoy whimpered as Harry took his shaft in his hand, testing the hot weight of it against his palm, and folded his fingers around it. “Harry.”

“Has anyone ever done that to you before?” Harry asked, giving a gentle tug upward. Malfoy’s foreskin slid along smoothly, covering the slick glans and coming back moist when Harry slid it back. “Sucked you?”

“Once,” Malfoy stuttered, hips twitching like he was trying to hold himself in place.

Harry blinked, then grinned. “You can move, you know.”

Malfoy exhaled sharply, immediately pressing his hips up, shoving his cock through Harry’s loose fist. Harry curled his fingers more firmly around it.

“Have you ever done it to anyone else?” he asked. Malfoy’s breaths were coming in short, shallow pants as Harry continued to stroke him at the same moderate pace, despite Malfoy’s desperately jerking hips.

“Once,” Malfoy choked out. “Sixth year. Harry—”

Harry let go of him, but even as Malfoy threw him a distressed, half-crazed glance, he was gliding his fingertips over the foreskin again, pushing it back to reveal the thick, rounded head of Malfoy’s cock, glossy with precome. Harry slid his fingers over it, spreading the moisture around, and Malfoy made a rough sound.

“I haven’t,” he murmured. Malfoy’s eyes flashed to his; his brow furrowed, and Harry cleared his throat. “I’m going to now. Okay?”

“Fuck,” Malfoy whispered. “You don’t have to—”

Harry slid down Malfoy’s lanky body. “Shut up, Malfoy.”

Malfoy obeyed him so fast his teeth clicked.

Harry took a moment to study Malfoy’s cock up close. It was… prettier, than he’d expected. It curved upward so that the head rested on the skin of his belly, smearing it with moisture. Harry lifted it again and considered about what he’d liked about Malfoy’s tongue and mouth pressure and suction for a moment. He took a deep breath and slid his mouth over the tip, pulling it deeper and deeper in one long, slow suck.

Malfoy cried out, voice cracking, an octave higher than he usually spoke. Harry waited, trying to get accustomed to the size and shape of Malfoy’s prick resting heavy on his tongue, his lips sealed around it, jaw wider than he’d expected it would need to be. Malfoy’s hands gripped the bed covers, twisting in them. Harry lowered his head carefully, taking more of, tasting the bitter flavour of Malfoy’s precome on the back of his tongue.

“Please,” Malfoy said on a ragged breath. “Harry, please.”

Harry pulled off slowly, winding his tongue in circles around the shaft as he went. He looked up at Malfoy, who wasn’t even looking at him; his eyes were trained determinedly on the bed hangings, his face bright red.

“Do you want to come for me, Malfoy?”

Malfoy bit his lip and nodded.

“Watch, then,” Harry told him.

Malfoy’s eyes flickered from their steady stare upwards before he dragged his gaze down to Harry, who felt a swell of arousal at how simply Malfoy did what Harry asked, without question or complaint. Malfoy’s eyes were strained and glazed. His prick jerked warningly in Harry’s palm, and Harry knew why he hadn’t been watching; he was far too close already.

Reigning in a smile, Harry sucked the crown of Malfoy’s cock into his mouth again, swirling his tongue around it. He let his hands wander between Malfoy’s legs, grazing the soft, wrinkled flesh of his tight bollocks, slipping down to slide two fingers into the crease of Malfoy’s arse as Harry continued to work his mouth over the head of Malfoy’s prick. It was warm there, soft and secret, and Harry gave a little groan as he pictured—

Malfoy gave a sharp, jagged cry, his hips flexing up hard. His body arched like a bow, tight and curved, thighs coming in to close around Harry’s shoulders as Harry felt the spill of fluid shoot over his tongue in thick spurts that seemed to go on and on. He sputtered a bit, unprepared, then started swallowing as Malfoy’s cock twitched over and over as he came.

Harry let Malfoy’s prick slide out of his mouth with a wet pop, then crawled back up, settling on his forearms next to Malfoy, who was breathing hard.

“Malfoy,” Harry started.

“Please, don’t ask again,” Malfoy said wryly. He sighed. “Of course you’d be good at this, too.”

“Would you have preferred I’d been bad at it?” Harry asked. Malfoy snorted. “And anyway, that’s not what I was going to say.”

“What, then,” Malfoy said evenly. The cords of his throat, so beautifully marked by Harry’s teeth and stubble, stood out for a moment.

Harry grimaced, then forced out, “Why are you doing this?”

Malfoy blinked rapidly. His tightness in his face relaxed. “I want to.”

“You’re different,” Harry said cautiously. “Than you were before.”

“I suppose. But also—not really,” Malfoy muttered, frowning. Then his lips twitched; he laughed unpleasantly. “What, exactly, are you asking? What do you need to know?”

“I’m not sure,” Harry admitted. He’d just given his first blowjob, after getting his first blowjob, from a bloke—one who’d despised him for years—who seemed to yield to Harry whenever he asked. It opened up a whole new field of questions for Harry, like how Malfoy could know that was what he needed, when Harry hadn’t even been aware of it? Why was he so willing to do things with him, but not talk to him about them? He settled on, “You used to hate me.”

“You used to hate me, too,” Malfoy pointed out mildly. Harry looked at him and he huffed a little. “You never say it either.”

That was fair. “I don’t hate you. I-I like you. This. What we’ve been doing,” Harry said, voice catching a little with embarrassment.

Malfoy’s lips tightened, tucking his sharp chin in and down against his chest. He closed his eyes and turned his head away. “I like you, Potter,” he said. His voice was soft and held no pretence. “I like what we’ve been doing. You needn’t worry about it. Alright?”

“Hey.” Harry reached out and touched Malfoy’s jaw, guiding his face back with light fingers. Malfoy looked at him; his eyes were calm, but shiny with moisture and Harry’s stomach clenched with nerves, wanting to get this right. “I just want to know.”

“Know what?” Malfoy asked quietly.

“Where this came from. How—” Harry broke off for a second, then took a deep breath. “You talked about owing me. This isn’t that, right?”

Malfoy stared at him for several beats, then began laughing. “No, this isn’t because of the life debt,” he choked out. “Thanks, Potter. Nice. I’m not even sure—” he broke off, a strange look coming over his face.

“What?”

Malfoy frowned mulishly. “I don’t appreciate the sentiment, is all.”

Harry scowled. “What am I supposed to think? When you won’t tell me why you are doing this?”

“Why are you?” Malfoy countered.

“I just said,” Harry snapped quietly. Malfoy’s gaze wavered and dropped. “I like you. We like each other.”

“I think I said that, too,” Malfoy muttered sulkily.

“But there’s more,” Harry insisted. “The way you act…”

Suddenly, Malfoy sat up. His expression closed off. “It’s going to be light soon.”

“I want you to stay so we can talk,” Harry said stubbornly.

Malfoy shook his head and began gathering his clothes. “We did. So don't..”

“Don’t what? Wonder?”

Tugging up his pyjama bottoms, Malfoy gave Harry a narrow, assessing look. He tightened the waist band and tied the cords in place. “We’ll just get repetitive,” he muttered. “I like you, you like me; if I’d known shagging would addle your brain further, I might not have come in here last week.”

Harry couldn’t resist the smile that tugged at his mouth. “Wait.”

“It’s getting light,” Malfoy said again, in a more conciliatory tone. His face softened when he looked at Harry, and Harry felt that glance, like something warm and sweet and a little scary, unfurling in his chest. “Can I use your Cloak?”

“C’mere,” Harry said.

Malfoy dragged a hand through his hair, his mouth drawn down uncertainly. “I’m tired of talking. I don’t want to get caught in here.”

“Just—Come here, Malfoy.”

Reluctantly, Malfoy circled the bed, coming to stand between Harry’s knees. Harry drew him down into a kiss, ignoring Malfoy’s surprised expression when he pulled back.

“I wouldn’t mind if you were caught in here. I’m not hoping for it,” Harry clarified at the objection on Malfoy’s face. “But I want you to know I don’t mind. People knowing about us.”

Malfoy studied him for a moment. “It would make things complicated.”

Harry snickered. “Because they’re so simple now? Listen, there are things I’m going to need to know, all right? But if you’re okay with it for now, I can wait.”

“What if I don’t know how to give the answers you want?” Malfoy countered, taking a shaky breath.

“We’ll figure out a way to talk to each other,” Harry promised. He kissed him again, slower, and Malfoy’s body finally relaxed into his. Then, guided by that same strange instinct that somehow knew what Malfoy needed, he moved his mouth next to Malfoy’s ear and whispered, “This was perfect. You were so good, Malfoy. Thank you.”

Malfoy shuddered, holding himself in Harry’s light clasp. He ducked his head, tucking his nose into the curve of Harry’s jaw, and mumbled, “I’m good at everything I do. We could do more, when you want. I want to.”

Harry shivered, amusement warring with arousal as Malfoy’s words conjuring images of tangled limbs and fingertip-shaped bruises on the curve of Malfoy’s pale arse. His cock twitched hard, and he swallowed. “You do?”

Malfoy nodded against him, not lifting his head.

“Me too,” Harry admitted roughly, fingers sinking hard into Malfoy’s sides. Malfoy moved a little closer to him. “But… Later,” he amended with effort. “When we know how to talk more. When things aren’t so—so hard.”

“If they weren’t, it would defeat the purpose,” Malfoy said with a muffled laugh.

Harry grinned, and Malfoy lifted his head with a smirk. He pulled away. “Your Cloak?”

“In the trunk.”

Malfoy retrieved it, appropriately reverent. His fingers slid over the watery fabric, and he gave Harry another questioning glance. Harry nodded.

“My father would never let me get one of these,” Malfoy mused, examining it.

“It’s one of a kind,” Harry murmured. He felt that same sensation as before, something sweet and full of longing, as he watched Malfoy hold his most prized possession. “Use it to come back tonight.”

Malfoy shot him a glance and dipped his head to agree. He draped the Cloak over himself carefully, vanishing from Harry’s sight. A moment later, his door opened and closed with a quiet click.

***

They didn’t openly discuss it with anyone, but their relationship became the topic of great conjecture over the next several weeks. It probably had something to do with the way that Harry refused to hide its nature, despite Malfoy’s subtle, half-hearted objections. They had already been sitting together to study, and usually partnered up in their shared classes, so Harry saw no reason to not also sit beside Malfoy at lunch and dinner, or challenge him to a Seeker’s game in the brisk air, or go out to the Three Broomsticks with him for drinks before they headed back to school and, after the dorms had gone quiet, spend more time together in Harry’s bed.

The thing was, it felt good to be around Malfoy, it made Harry feel like himself in these new, exciting ways, maybe for the first time. Because, for all of his acquiescence in some ways, Malfoy did push back like Ginny; it just manifested differently. He never wanted to admit to being wrong, for one thing, which led to arguments in which they were either summoning books (Malfoy) or waving down Hermione (Harry). And Malfoy was too often right—which led to him being unfailingly self-righteous. It drove Harry spare until later in the evenings when he could wipe that smug look off of Malfoy’s face, watching him unravel as he pinned him to the floor and thrust his cock between Malfoy’s slickened thighs, or marked him up with bite marks down the side of his flank as he wanked Malfoy to climax. And then they would tangle together in a sweaty heap, and Harry would be able to sleep, comforted by Malfoy’s skinny body pressed against him, his steady breathing, the proprietary hand that rested against his chest or hip before he got up in the morning to head back to his own room.

It was worth the talk, the growing buzz of gossip swelling around Harry, which he’d been able to overlook anyway since first sitting down at Malfoy’s table. It was worth almost anything, Harry thought as Malfoy flicked him a sly glance on his way through the common room to his own.

Harry felt his cock thicken in his jeans and considered joining him there; fuck what other people said. He’d progressed to figuring out how to open Malfoy up with his fingers, coated silky with expensive lube as he rubbed that little spot in Malfoy’s arse that made him howl and writhe—whenever Harry gave him permission to speak or move. And one of the books he’d picked up from a store in Muggle London had a whole chapter explaining how Harry could do that with his tongue, too…

“So,” Ron grunted. Harry snapped his attention over and shifted in his seat, feeling twinge of shame; they hadn’t managed to hang out alone together for a while. He looked down at the chess board between them helplessly, unsure if Ron had made a move yet. “Hermione’s right. You’re bent, then?”

Harry choked on a surprised gust of laughter. “What?”

“You. You’re gay.” He looked irritated, and something in Harry’s stomach clenched.

“Yeah.” He shrugged defensively. “There’s not anything wrong with it.”

Frowning, Ron said, “I know. But you could’ve told me, so I didn’t feel so stupid when ‘Mione brought it up. She did the mother hen thing, like she was expecting me to pass out over the news. And why you told her and not me—”

“Hey, wait! I didn’t tell her, either. She just figures things out,” Harry said. “We’ve never—we didn’t talk about it, you know?”

“Oh.” Ron looked befuddled for a moment, then brightened. “And that’s why you and Gin broke up? That ‘doesn’t feel right,’ bit didn’t make much sense at the time.”

“Well, it didn’t,” Harry said, amused.

“You should know she tried to take credit for it recently, telling me it was because you were a sex monster and she was getting sore,” Ron muttered. Harry laughed, reminding himself to thank Ginny for that.

After a moment, Ron gave an unwilling smile. “And it’s Malfoy, right?”

Laughter dying in his throat, Harry nodded.

“I guess he’s not as bad as he was,” Ron said grudgingly. He leaned down and whispered to his queen, and she slashed out against Harry’s knight, obliterating it. “Even called me ‘Weasley,’ the other day.”

Harry snorted. “That’s your name.”

“Exactly.” Ron leaned back in his chair. “I reserve the right to call him Ferret, though.”

“Fair enough.”

“So…” Ron hesitated, and Harry shifted uncomfortably again. “Do you call him Draco now or something?”

“Oh. No,” Harry said, surprised at the realisation. “I call him Malfoy. He sometimes calls me Harry, though.”

“I’ll have to hear it before I believe it,” Ron mumbled. “How’d you manage that?”

Harry shot him an amused look. “You really want to know?”

Blankly, Ron stared at him, then began sputtering. “No! No, I don’t. I don’t need to hear it, ever. Merlin, Harry. Gross.”

Harry smiled. “Are you and Hermione…?”

Ron swallowed, cheeks so pink, Harry could hardly see his freckles. “Yeah.”

“I thought you probably were,” Harry mumbled. “What’s it—I mean, how’s—Is it ever weird?” he asked on a quick rush of breath.

“Weird?” Ron’s eyebrows rose, and he glanced around. “What do you mean?”

“Just…” Harry cleared his throat. “Like, is it how you imagined? The way you are; the way she is?”

Ron’s face took on a dreamy, slightly embarrassed cast. “Yeah, it is. Why?” He grimaced. “Is it weird for you?”

Yes, Harry thought. Sometimes I’m afraid of the things I want. Sometimes I’m afraid of him for giving them to me.

But he couldn’t say that, so he settled on another truth instead. “No. It’s—lovely, actually,” he murmured, flushing.

Giving him an uncertain look, Ron nodded. “You know, people are starting to talk about you guys.”

“I don’t care,” Harry said, stiffening, flicking a glare around the room.

“I’m not saying you should,” Ron told him seriously. “You should be able to do what you want. Or who.” He flapped a hand dismissively. “Whatever. Everyone owes you their bloody lives, so it’s nobody’s business who you’re—with.”

Harry rolled his shoulders uneasily at the reminder and shook his head.

“Yeah, yeah. I know. But—you should be aware of it, yeah? Because, the press, you know? It’s going to come out sooner or later,” Ron told him.

“I’ll owl them myself, once Malfoy agrees to it,” Harry muttered. Ron looked shocked at the assertion, but nodded, then jerked his chin, indicating something. Harry turned to see Malfoy approaching them.

“Weasley,” he greeted, voice even.

“Ferret,” Ron returned, just as pleasantly. Malfoy’s mouth twitched in a funny little scowl-smirk, and Harry wanted to lick it off of him.

“Did you want to study for a while?” he asked, directing the question to Harry. Harry started, realising he’d been staring at Malfoy’s mouth.

“Like, study-study?” Harry asked innocently. “Or study, in the privacy of my room?”

Malfoy’s ears turned bright red and his face blank as he glanced between Harry and Ron.

Ron snickered. “Fine, leave me by myself. Mate, you’re never going to get good at chess if you don’t keep practicing.”

“I practice at the things I really want to be good at. Speaking of which, let’s go study, Malfoy,” Harry said with a straight face, and Ron laughed harder. “Hey, tell Hermione I need to speak with her when she gets back from the campus tour thing, all right?”

Ron nodded and Harry got up, catching Malfoy around the arm and walking. After a few feet, Malfoy stopped. “I really did want to study.”

“Oh.” Harry veered them off in a different direction. He lowered his voice. “I’ve been doing some studying of my own,” he murmured, close to Malfoy’s ear as they headed through the small tunnel from their common room to the public corridors. “I want to try something.”

Instead of that shy curiosity Harry expected, Malfoy looked upset. They climbed out of the tunnel and halted again. “You told your friends.”

“No, they figured it out.”

“And Weasley’s okay with it? Granger?”

“Ron is. Which I guess means Hermione is, too, though I haven’t talked to her yet,” Harry said, confused. “Why? What’s the problem?”

“But no one else?” Malfoy checked. One hand crept up, sliding over Harry’s stomach to fist in his jumper. Harry stepped closer, concerned.

“I guess I didn’t realise how much you didn’t want people to know,” Harry said, stunned, trying to ignore the jolt of pain that zinged through him at the thought. “I would have—I’m sorry, I haven’t been careful to hide anything. I never would have intentionally hurt you by—”

“No,” Malfoy agreed. He exhaled, long and slow, closing his eyes briefly before opening them again and levelling Harry with smile, though it looked like it cost him. “I’m the vicious one in this—”

“Relationship?” Harry ventured with a tentative smile, smoothing his hands over the slender line of Malfoy’s back in comforting little circles. Malfoy pulled a face, looking cross, but reluctantly nodded. “You’re not. But why don’t you want people to know? Is it your parents? Me?”

“It’s not that I care what other people think,” Malfoy hedged. He caught sight of something behind Harry and eased away quickly, dropping his hands from where they were grasping Harry’s jumper and putting a good foot of space between them. Harry’s arms fell away, and he turned around to see a couple of sixth-year Ravenclaw girls he vaguely recognised standing there.

“Hi,” he said awkwardly. It occurred to him that no one had approached him like this in a while. “Do you need something?”

They gazed at him for a moment and then one of them took a deep breath. “Are you and Malfoy friends now?”

“Is there a reason you’d like to know?” Harry responded evenly, controlling the surge of anger that threatened to rise. “Or a reason you think it’s your business?”

The Ravenclaws glanced at each other. “We heard you’re protecting him. Because of the things he did last year.”

Harry glared at them, edging in front of Malfoy and drawing his wand from his sleeve. “Do I need to?”

Malfoy stepped out from behind him, shoving down the automatic block of Harry’s arm. “He’s not protecting me. Potter is your personal bodyguard,” he sneered. “He’s protecting everyone from me. Obviously, without his presence, I’d be hexing the skin from third years in strips.”

Harry rounded on him, gaping. The girls gasped.

“What?” Malfoy snapped. “It’s either one or the other, right?”

Harry grabbed Malfoy’s arm and hustled him down the hall. “That is not true!” he yelled out over his shoulder. He found a deserted alcove and shoved Malfoy into it, unrepentant when Malfoy’s shoulders hit the stones with such force that he grunted.

“What the hell did you mean by that?” he demanded furiously.

Narrow jaw bunching, Malfoy shook his head and trained his eyes on the floor.

“Malfoy. Draco,” Harry amended, coming closer. Draco flinched at the use of his given name and Harry felt a sudden rush of shame that he hadn’t said it sooner. “Look at me.”

Grudgingly, his eyes came up, stormy with anger. “It’s what they think.”

“Why did you do that?” Harry asked more gently. He reached out and stroked down the line of Draco’s neck and paused, thumb resting over the frantic beat of Draco’s pulse. “Everyone knows we’re friends, at least. I didn’t think we had to hide that part.”

“You don’t have to hide any of it,” Draco muttered, even as he pressed into Harry’s touch. “But you didn’t know, did you? Before, when you were so keen to talk to your pocket-ginger. What they say about me, about us.”

“I guess not,” Harry acknowledged quietly. “I thought that, because I’d got over it—that we had—that everyone else—”

“Potter, you weren’t here last year,” Draco said heavily. “And while I appreciate your naivety, for sheer amusement’s sake if nothing else, I don’t know in what world either of us could be considered ‘over it.’”

Numbly, Harry pulled his hand away. His throat was suddenly tight and aching. “I don’t know what that means; you’re so goddamned cryptic.”

Draco’s chest rose and fell in a slow, measured breath. Harry could smell the sharp, clean smell of his soaps, lingering on his skin; his eyes were veiled. “If I’m cryptic, it’s because I don’t know how to explain anything. I don’t know if—” He stopped, throat working. "I don't know how this works, you and me."

“It just does. We do,” Harry said, and though his voice trembled, he was proud that it still came out firm. "And that should be enough, but I need to know--more."

“I know you do,” Draco murmured, sounding lost. Everything in Harry tightened; he wanted to pull Draco close again and—and soothe that strange helplessness, so ill-fitting on Draco’s face. He took another step back, instead.

“I need to think about things,” he said. Draco’s expression dropped, then firmed.

“I thought you might,” he said with a fleeting smile. “Just goes to show: sometimes Gryffindors really do try to.”

Harry attempted a smile too, but it felt wobbly and undefined. He reached out and skimmed his knuckles over Draco’s high, finely cut cheekbone, half-expecting Draco to reject the touch, though he never had before. But he didn’t, instead holding himself perfectly still as his eyes rested on Harry’s face. Harry turned to go.

“Potter,” Draco said softly.

Harry looked back.

“It’s okay if you decide—well, whatever you decide is fine,” Draco said carefully.

“I’m not changing my mind about anything,” Harry said, fierce, feeling the sudden, urgent need to wipe the cautious expression off of Draco’s face. “I just need to figure out a way for—for this to be okay. To understand things.”

Draco nodded, but his face was still set and mask-like. And Harry didn’t know how to change it without making things worse. He walked away, resolutely not turning back.

***

“I don’t know,” Hermione said. “I’m sorry.”

Harry stopped, closing his mouth. “Don’t know what?”

“About the Life-Debt.” She gave him a weary look. “I went to the Wizarding Library in London, and they gave me full access to the books. I stopped by the Ministry, as well, and the most I could find was that the nature of paying back a Life Debt is complicated and usually decided in an instant. But there are variables, too.”

Harry lowered into a chair across from where she sat on the couch in the common room. “I wasn’t going to ask about that, actually.”

She narrowed his eyes.

“Not that I don’t appreciate the research!” he added hastily. “Just that it’s not what I wanted to talk to you about. Well. Maybe it sort of is?” He paused, distracted. “What kind of variables?”

Hermione sighed, brushing back a thick lock of dark, brown hair that had fallen in her face. “Well, it’s a mystery, most of the time. They study it in the Department of Mysteries, actually; I found out that, too. But usually it has to be called on to apply, although it can be settled by the debtor spontaneously. Most people want them settled quickly enough, though they can’t be forced if they choose not to—but it’s risky magic to ignore one. For instance, if you hadn’t reminded Pettigrew that you saved him, he probably wouldn’t have saved you in return.”

“So, it’s not always an impulsive thing,” Harry echoed slowly. He shook his head.

“Well, yes. The other thing is that they—they have a certain weight to them. Think of it as a balance of scales. Say you pull someone out of the street with their arm, helping them avoid a car. Something like that would be considered a life debt. In that sense, you and Ron and I owe each other too many to count, probably. But the amount of debt accumulates strangely. So, we actually might not owe each other any.”

“Because they cancel each other out?”

“Sort of.” Hermione gave a small, graceful shrug, spreading her hands wide. “Like I said, they’ve been investigating them for years. But Ma—the person should know, instinctively, when reminded of it. They’ll at least know whether they owe you one, and what the extent of it is. If you demand an answer, the indebted will have to give you one. Although I didn’t read about anyone becoming—becoming subservient because of one.” She blushed.

Harry’s lips drew up in a wry smile. “You can say Malfoy now, Hermione.”

“Oh, good,” she breathed on a rush, leaning forward. “Ron said you’d talked and that I was right but I didn’t want—you seemed so insistent that I didn’t—”

A laugh gusted out of Harry, loosening the tightness in his lungs. “I worked out some things. And we’ve been—well, I mean, I’ve been sitting with him for weeks, a-and dating him,” he said, lowering his voice, “Pretty publicly, I guess. I sort of hoped we wouldn’t need to have the conversation, really.”

“You’re not the best at hiding things, Harry James,” she agreed, mouth quirking. “But you shouldn’t have to be. I am curious, though, about the thing you said about him doing things for you…”

“I’m still working that out,” Harry said. “I don’t think it’s the life debt.”

“Of course not,” she muttered, looking affronted. “You’d never take advantage of someone like that.”

“That’s nice to know,” he said doubtfully, looking down at his knees.

“Oh, Harry.” Hermione scooted forward in her seat so she could reach out and take his hand. “Has that been bothering you? Thinking that you were taking advantage of Malfoy?”

“Yes. No.” Harry grimaced, studying her delicate knuckles, one of which had a splatter-blotch of ink smudged onto it. Her hand was soft and warm in his grip and, when he looked up, her brown eyes were kind. “I don’t know. And now we’re in this weird place because he won’t talk to me about things.”

“You really like him,” she mused.

“I think I—yeah. It’s more,” Harry confessed. “The whole thing’s just gotten really convoluted.”

“Simplify it, then,” she told him, pragmatic as always.

Harry looked at her. He’d been trying to think of what he needed—and what Draco did—for going on two days now; two of the loneliest and most exhausting days in his memory.

While he hadn’t avoided Harry in an obvious way, not the way he had before, there had been no more knowing smiles, no more late-night visits, which meant no uninterrupted hours of sleep, and no waking up to the smell of apples from his hair. Draco’d even, Harry recalled painfully, healed the small, mottled mark that was peeking out from above his collar. He must have done that right after Harry had walked away, because by the time Harry had seen him at dinner, it was gone.

He had checked.

“How can I simplify it?” he asked Hermione.

“I don’t know,” she said, a bit wistfully. She squeezed his hand and pulled away. “I have enough with Ron on my plate.” Harry snickered, and she shot him a pleased little smile. “What were you going to ask me? When you sat down.”

“Nothing,” Harry told her honestly. “I was going to let you know about Draco. Ron seemed put out. I’ve been—I guess I’ve been—”

“Withholding like you always do?” she supplied, archly. Harry shrugged and she gave a smart nod. “You’re going to figure out, someday, that you can always tell us the truth and we won’t judge you for it.”

“Ron would—” Harry started to joke, then stopped. The moment paused, like a muggle photo, and Harry sat up. “Hermione?”

“Yes?”

“I need you to get something for me.”

***

Draco blinked up at him as Harry sat down, mutely eyeing him. Harry extracted something from his pocket and held it out. When Draco made no move to take it, he set it onto the table between them.

“What,” Draco asked in a measured tone, “is that?”

“Veritaserum,” Harry told him flatly. He watched closely for a response, but other than a swift, sharp inhale through Draco’s nostrils, there was none. His eyes didn’t even flicker.

“And you expect me to take it?”

“No,” Harry said truthfully. “But I hope you will.”

Draco’s lips pursed; he stared down at the small phial on the table between them. “Why?”

“You know why, Draco,” Harry said in a low voice.

Finally, there was the reaction he was looking for. Draco’s gaze darted back up to him, and a creeping blush began to spread over his throat. “So, you’ve done your thinking.”

“I have,” Harry said simply.

Draco swallowed. “And here you sit, anyway.”

“Here I sit,” Harry murmured, looking at him closely. Draco sucked in his upper lip and worried it between his teeth for a moment; that perfect, slender bow that Harry could conjure the taste of, if he let himself think about it. He shuddered a little, shaking his head to clear it. “Are you willing?”

“Where did you get it?” Draco asked, clearly deflecting.

“Hermione,” Harry told him.

Draco sniffed derisively. “I don’t care how brilliant you think your friends are; I’m not taking such a highly-regulated substance if an eighth year made it.”

Harry gave him a faint smile. “It’s a good thing she didn’t, then. It’s from Slughorn’s stores. She nicked it for me; she’s been assisting with the first year classes and has a key.”

“What did you tell her you needed it for?”

“For you,” Harry said. “For us.”

“Of course. Mustn’t trust the Death Eater without truth serum first,” Draco said softly. He reached out and picked up the potion, holding it up to the light.

“It’s not about you being a Death Eater.” Harry’s mouth pulled down; he sat back in his chair as Draco studied the few drops of clear liquid, just enough to pool together in the bottom of the crystal phial. “And it’s not about trust. I trust you, as much as I can. I think you trust me. But—but we don’t…” Running out of ways to verbalise what he knew they both needed, Harry lifted his shoulders helplessly. “I think it’ll help us learn what’s real.”

Draco started to say something, then paused. He brought the phial down and clutched it hard in his fist, piercing Harry with a look. “What did you mean, ‘what’s real?’ What, exactly, did you tell Granger about this? To be clear.”

Harry flushed. “I told her about us. She already knew, though, like I thought,” Harry murmured, face heating. His palms were sweating, and he felt jumbled and restless.

Draco suddenly put the phial back on the table between them, as though he were afraid to drop it. His face was a mixture of curiosity and disbelief. “And how did she react?”

“She didn’t, really. It was fine.” He reached across the table and brushed his hand over Draco’s, which curled into a loose fist but didn’t pull away.

“Right.” Draco took a deep, steadying breath. “And you really need this.”

“Yes.” Harry looked at him steadily. “I want you to do this for me, if you can.”

“Midnight,” Draco said. The pink had reached his face now, staining his cheeks. He met Harry’s gaze for a moment, then dropped his eyes again.

“What?” Harry plucked up the potion.

“Midnight,” Draco repeated. “We obviously don’t have adequate time now, do we? I’ll come to yours, if you want.”

Harry nodded slowly. “Yes, all right,” he finally agreed through suddenly dry lips. “I’ll wait up.”

“Of course you will,” Draco drawled lightly. Then he tipped him a strangely shy smile, the one that made Harry’s heart beat faster; the one that made his trousers grow immediately tight. “Do me a favour and bring something to cover the flavour of that stuff; I’ve had it before, and it’s revolting,” he added, standing up.

Harry nodded wordlessly as Draco swept another look over him; considering and soft and pleased, before he turned and strode away.

He slid the Veritaserum into the pocket of his robes, watching Malfoy’s rigid, retreating form. Watching him, like he always had.

***

It was a minute before midnight when his door drifted open, then shut. Harry waited, sitting on his bed as Draco revealed himself by pulling off the Cloak.

“I still had it,” he said pointlessly, holding it out to Harry.

“I assumed,” Harry returned, amused. He nodded at his trunk. “You’ll need it to get back to your room later.”

Draco hesitated, then folded it into quarters, and left it atop the trunk. He shifted on his feet, as though unsure what to do next.

“Up here,” Harry instructed, with another nod to the bed. Draco sighed and climbed up, mimicking Harry’s cross-legged posture across from him. His face was drawn and he fiddled with the cuff of his pyjama top; the same one he’d been wearing when he and Harry had first—

Harry took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“So, I suppose we should get this over with,” Draco clipped out. His voice gave a tell-tale tremble on the last word, and he cleared his throat. He held out his hand.

Harry passed over the small cup of sweetened lemon-water he’d put the drop of potion into. Draco caught his eyes, looking at him unswervingly, and then brought it up to his mouth, knocking it back in one swallow. He winced, then licked his lips, considering. “Not too bad. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

“All right, Potter,” Draco murmured. “Let’s be Hufflepuffs. What would you like to know?”

Harry thought; Hermione had encouraged him to make a list of questions, but he hadn’t wanted it to be so—so formal, sure he’d remember everything he wanted to ask. He regretted not doing it in the moment as Draco sat there patiently, on his bed, and all of the questions fled from Harry’s mind. All he really wanted to do was grab hold of those wrists and feel the bones shift under his fingers as he snogged Draco to within an inch of his life.

Oh. Okay, then.

“The things I do to you. You seem to like them,” Harry started.

“I do, yes” Draco confirmed.

“I wasn’t finished with the question,” Harry said, laughing nervously.

“Oh.” Draco gave him a weak smile. “I was rather hoping that you’d forgotten to be specific,” he offered, then blinked and looked annoyed.

Harry smirked, feeling steadier. “Thanks. All right, so—Do you like it when I hold you down?”

“Yes.”

“Do you like it when I leave marks on you? With my hands, with my teeth?” Harry added, a little uncomfortably.

“Yes. Yes, and yes,” Draco said, posture straightening.

“You like the way it feels when I do that,” Harry checked.

“I do, yes, all of it,” Draco murmured, closing his eyes for a moment and inhaling sharply through his nose.

“Is there anything about—about the sex you don’t like?” Harry forced himself to ask, gulping.

“That you won’t shag me yet,” Draco supplied promptly, face pinkening up, eliciting a shocked laugh from Harry.

“What about the way I, er, talk to you?” Harry managed thickly, trying to keep focus and not let his mind tumble into the last several weeks of scenarios they’d enacted in the very bed they were sitting on.

“I like that too,” Draco said, softer, looking down at his hands.

Harry felt the heavy press of the uncertainty he’d been feeling ease in his chest. At the very least, whatever his motives in doing them, Draco had been enjoying everything they’d tried.

Why?” Harry asked gently.

Draco opened his mouth, looking as though he were about to deflect the question, the way he had so many times before. But what came out was, “I’m a Malfoy, and I’m not supposed to.”

“What?”

Draco blinked rapidly, looking as astonished as Harry felt. Slowly, as if listening to his own words carefully, he continued, “I was brought up to believe that Malfoys are supposed to be powerful. In control. And I tried to be. I did everything I could, for years, to be someone my father would be proud of.

“But I never liked it,” he admitted, biting his lip. His eyes met Harry’s, clear and grey, as though he were feeling the release of the weight of fear, as well. “It doesn’t come naturally to me, and it always felt like—like I was clinging to my father’s robes, trying to fulfil my duties. But it does come naturally to you; I noticed that years ago. And I used to resent it, that you had that quality and I didn’t. But I-I’m tired of feeling wrong for liking the things I like. If I like a bit of hair pulling or being ordered around, that doesn’t make me weak,” he ground out, spitting the last word.

“No, it doesn’t,” Harry whispered, startled. “I never thought you were.”

You’re weaker than me in a lot of ways, doing things you don’t want to do for people who keep taking advantage of you,” Draco continued angrily, on a roll. Harry drew back, trying not to interrupt the flow of words spilling out of his mouth. “And you’re the one who defeated the Dark Lord, so if you’re not weak, I’m not either.”

“Okay,” Harry said, drawing it out like a question when Draco paused, chest heaving.

“And I’m tired of you thinking there’s something wrong with you for being the one who likes to do the hair-pulling,” Draco said bitterly. “If you like it and I like it, why isn’t that enough for you?”

“I guess it is,” Harry mumbled, taken aback. “I didn’t know all that.”

“I didn’t either,” Draco returned, sagging a bit. “Is that all?”

“Um.” Harry hesitated, wondering if he’d taken it too far.

“Just ask your bloody questions, Harry,” Draco said tiredly. He drew his hands up and rubbed at his eyes, which looked suspiciously swollen.

“Do we have a life debt between us?” Harry said, picking one at random.

“Yes,” Draco said instantly.

“Has any of our relationship been about that?”

“Yes,” Draco blurted, then threw Harry an outraged look. Harry’s heart sank like a stone, but Draco shook his head, reaching out. “It’s not because I owe you—it’s never been about that, and the nature of the debt isn’t even—it’s not— Fuck, I think you need to ask me a specific question here, I don’t know how to say it.”

“What is the nature of the life-debt between us?” Harry managed shakily.

“It’s tenuous, and could probably be resolved through a series of events in which I help protect you from small physical dangers,” Draco said as if by rote, sighing a little.

“What do you mean by ‘tenuous’?”

“I saved you when I recognized you at the Manor,” Draco told him, cringing. “It may seem as though a debt didn’t incur at that time, but it put my life at great and immediate risk, particularly with my aunt there. When you saved me from the Fiendfyre, there was more immediate risk, I suppose,” he finished, a little questioningly.

“So how was this about the debt?” Harry asked. “What’s between us.”

“It’s—not,” Draco said haltingly, as though trying to keep the words in. “I just didn’t mind you wondering, a little, if it was.”

Draco,” Harry said, aghast. Draco flinched. “You knew how I felt about it, and you deliberately—”

“But I didn’t!” he objected. “I told you the truth and you said you believed me, after that first time, and I thought—any lingering doubts weren’t my fault.”

Why?

“Because you act like it’s the worst thing in the world,” Draco muttered. “It’s not. I don’t like owing you things, but you need to get over the fact that people do.”

Harry took a deep breath, then another, until he felt more in control. “That was... Don’t ever do that again.”

Draco nodded, guiltily catching his lip between his teeth.

“What’s all the stuff you said about how you owe me, if not for that, then?” Harry asked.

“Well, I do. You testified for me, kept Mother out of Azkaban, killed the Dark Lord. And you did come back for me in the Room of Hidden Things,” he said practically. “I’m fairly certain you Stunned a Death Eater who was about to kill me during the Battle, even if you did punch me afterward.”

“I Stunned, Ron punched,” Harry corrected him. Draco shrugged. “So, then, what am I to you?”

“My boyfriend,” Draco said, looking away as the words fell out of his mouth.

Harry closed his eyes, exasperated. “Finally, you wanker. Why don’t you want people to know about us?”

Scowling, Draco said, “Because it would get out. News media, attention, all those things you hate. It makes you really unhappy. And once you realise what people think about the idea of the sodding Hero of the World shagging a Death Eater, this’ll be done. And the charms I have going are already working overtime, so—” he inhaled sharply, breaking off.

“What charms?” Harry prompted after a beat.

“Privacy charms. Concealment charms. Repelling charms,” he babbled out, looking as though he wanted to murder Harry where he sat. “I’ve had them up all year; Mother insisted on it, if I was determined to come back. Sometimes I used them singly, sometimes in combination, depending on how necessary it was that people be able to approach me. They’re incredibly strong. No one can really break through them unless they’re feeling good will toward me, and I’ve been using them whenever we’re together so that people won’t bother you; I was just so surprised that day after Weasley found out that I forgot to put them up. And I know you’re not ashamed of me—you’re too bloody arrogant to let anyone shame you about it—but you don’t like the attention, and I’ve done what I can to alleviate that.”

Harry paused, not knowing how to process the flood of information. Draco’s eyes were squeezed tightly shut, his hands gripping each other; he taking large, wheezing breaths, his face bright red.

“I broke through your charms when I sat with you that night in the library,” Harry said.

Shaking, Draco nodded. “Yes.”

“Which meant I felt good will toward you. Even back then.”

“I suppose.”

“I really, really want to fuck you right now,” Harry said in a low voice.

Draco’s shoulders jerked and he opened his eyes, glaring at Harry incredulously. “You’re not angry.”

“I’m a little angry?” Harry said, shrugging. “You could have told me. But I also really, really want to fuck you.”

“I think the potion is starting to wear off, so if it’s embarrassing honesty that gets you off, you’re out of luck,” Draco muttered, a smile flickering around the corners of his mouth. Harry’s stomach fluttered. He leaned forward, brows drawing down when Harry leaned back.

“But I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I like it Harry,” Draco said softly, face growing serious. “I like what you do. I’d—be willing to do… more. If you wanted. We could try things,” he added, biting his lip. “Later.”

Harry blinked. His cock, half-hard from Draco’s confession, fattened further, tenting his pyjama bottoms. Draco ticked his eyes to it, then brought them back up to Harry’s face. “But I could really hurt you, if we did stuff,” Harry tried again.

“But that’s the thing. You wouldn’t,” Draco disagreed. “You never have.”

Harry brought up a hand and brushed his fingers over Draco’s chest.

Draco shook his head ruefully, catching Harry’s hand in his own. “You like holding me down, you like being in charge. I have a few theories on why, but we can save those for later. You like marking me, and telling me what to do,” he added, sounding breathless. He licked his lips. “Fortunately, I like the opposite. You’re not going to curse me again, Harry. Stop using that as an excuse.”

“Draco,” Harry whispered. He took a deep breath, firmed his voice. “Take off your clothes now.”

Draco’s eyes widened, and he was unable to disguise the shiver that ran through him. A small smile stole over his face, quickly banished as he brought his fingers up to hastily undo the buttons of his pyjama top. He stripped it off, revealing long expanses of perfect, pale skin, his pink nipples already beaded tight in anticipation. Harry adjusted his position, stretching out and sitting, propped against the pillows as Draco slithered his bottoms off of his legs. His cock was already hard, and it bobbed as he rose back onto his knees expectantly.

“Now mine,” Harry instructed him, willing his voice not to crack. Draco swallowed visibly, then climbed atop him, straddling his hips. He checked Harry’s face for approval. Harry nodded silently, feeling the hard press of Draco’s cock against his stomach as Malfoy first removed his glasses and set them aside gently, then pulled off Harry’s shirt. Harry lifted his arms to aid him, dropping them back down to Draco’s hips to give them a brief squeeze once it was off.

Draco scooted down the length of Harry’s legs, then, and Harry fastened hungry eyes on the hard length of his cock as it dragged over them. He efficiently tugged Harry’s bottoms and pants off, making a muted little sound only when Harry lifted his arse and his cock popped free as his pants were pulled away, pointing near-straight upward. Harry reached down to give it a few light strokes as Draco finished peeling off his clothes and dropped the garments onto the floor, then turned back to Harry, eyes zeroing in on what Harry was doing with his hand.

“Harry,” he whispered, swaying a little in place as he watched.

“Suck me,” Harry said roughly, not fighting the thrill that rushed through him at the words, at the way Draco’s eyes dilated with repressed arousal. Malfoy nodded dazedly, moving to stretch out on his stomach between Harry’s thighs, but Harry shook his head. “No. Here.”

Casting him an uncertain look, Draco crawled to the side of Harry’s hip. There wasn’t a lot of room, so he hunched over on his knees, chin tucking under as he dipped his head. His hand, gentle, reached out to cover Harry’s, fingers curling around the root of his cock. Harry stifled a groan as, with no further hesitation, Draco spread his lips wide and sucked Harry’s cock into his mouth in one smooth, practiced motion.

Yes,” Harry hissed, arching upward. Draco’s hand clutched his cock tightly, fingers closing more firmly around it to steady it in place as he drew his mouth down, then up, slow and measured, his tongue snaking around the shaft languorously. Harry reached out and took hold of Draco’s erection, which was trapped between his belly and knees. Draco gasped around Harry’s cock—a swift, strangled noise—as Harry began to wank him quickly, fingers steady as he smoothed Draco’s foreskin back and dipped against his leaking slit.

Draco’s mouth started working more furiously over him, faster and more intent. His knees shifted against the bed, thighs opening wider to give Harry better access, his bollocks falling, thick and heavy between them. Harry narrowed his focus to touching Draco, concentrating on the feel of him—warm and thick and jerking slightly—against his palm, rather than the sensation of Draco’s wet mouth, his clever tongue. He pulled in short, sharp tugs, twisting his wrist as he reached the crown, Draco’s skin soft and velvety over the rigid length. Draco whimpered, mouth pausing as he thrust weakly into Harry’s fist, and Harry lost his breath for how…hot it was, that he could do that to him. It was almost better than Draco’s mouth sucking at his prick, almost better than anything.

“Enough,” he grit out, letting his hand fall away. Draco ticked a disappointed, sideways glance at him, but slowly drew his mouth off of Harry. Harry’s cock bounced, slapping against his stomach wetly before bobbing upward again. “Hands and knees.”

Draco scrambled back to the foot of the bed obediently, settling on all fours, knees spread ridiculously wide. Harry swallowed, looking at him; the indentation of his long spine, his arsecheeks spread wide enough he could see the shadow between them that hid that furled little hole. He climbed up onto his knees. “What do you want, Malfoy?”

Draco huffed, an excited little laugh. “I want—Are you going to—”

“Doesn’t matter what I’m going to do,” Harry said in a hard voice, grabbing at his wand, which had fallen, forgotten amongst the bedcovers. He felt a niggle of fear as Draco began to tremble, his shoulders hunching in slightly, but then Draco made a little incoherent noise, and canted his hips backward, the small of his back dipping down.

This wasn’t wrong. Draco had said it was okay, and he wasn’t saying no or stop, and he’d said he wanted it, as much as Harry did, even. And he was—he was beautiful, all spread out, waiting for Harry to do what he wanted.

Harry took a deep breath. “I asked what you want.”

“I want—I want you inside me,” Draco said, voice tight and low. “I want you to fuck me.”

Harry sighed, running his wand down the length of Draco’s back. His muscles tightened under it, then eased, as Harry traced the bony ridges of his ribs. He dragged the tip of his wand down further, pausing at his lower back and then coasting it into the crack of Draco’s arse, levelling it steady when he reached Draco’s entrance. He murmured a charm under his breath.

Draco yelped. “What—”

“Don’t say anything,” Harry ordered him. “Not a sound, got it?”

Draco nodded frantically, white-blond hair flying, and stilled himself as Harry got into position behind him. Harry studied him for a moment, limbs held so still they were shaking slightly, then gripped Draco’s arse cheeks hard in both hands and lowered his head.

He nosed along the crease of Draco’s arse gently, making it clear what he was about to do. Draco tensed again, his thigh muscles going tight and arse trying to clench under Harry’s hands, but Harry held him tightly, fingers sinking into the skin to keep him in place, and other than a noise of surprise—quickly cut off—Draco remained silent as Harry investigated him there in a way he’d only done with his fingers before.

The stripe of skin was soft along Draco’s crease, pink and untouched, and Harry gave a tentative lick, tasting the coolness of the cleaning charm against his tongue. Draco shifted uneasily, so Harry did it again, flattening his tongue and lapping upward, one long line that coasted over Draco’s hole but didn’t stop until he’d reached the top of his arse. Then back down, the bottom of his tongue trailing until he’d reached the tender skin behind Draco’s tight, hanging bollocks, which he mouthed at distractedly for a moment before pulling away.

“Okay?” he said breathlessly.

“Yeah,” Malfoy said after a moment, voice hoarse.

Harry moved back into place, focussing on the right spot this time. He traced the wrinkled flesh of Draco’s rim with the tip of his tongue, chuckling with satisfaction as it responded, contracting hard, and Draco let go of a hard gasp of surprise. He leaned back minutely, knees pressing into the bed and knuckles going white as his fingers clutched at it. Harry licked again, fast little flicks of his tongue, then firmed the tip into a point and forced it past the tight ring of muscle. Draco groaned quietly above him.

“Shush now,” Harry reminded him. It was muffled, but Draco seemed to understand, because he fell silent again as Harry worked his tongue inward again, then out, tiny thrusts into his entrance, which quickly became pliant and puffy under his ministrations. Draco’s hips began writhing as he thrust against the air, seeking some sort of release from what he was feeling; Harry clutched at his cheeks bruisingly tight to hold him still. Then, giving into the temptation, pulled his mouth away long enough to bring one of his hands up and down, in a hard, resounding smack against the top of Draco’s arsecheek. It was an awkward angle, but his palm burned from it the force of it, and he felt the vibration as though it were in his cock, which grew impossibly harder. So Harry did it again, and again, and again, until the right side of Draco’s arse was stained bright pink, pleased when Draco shuddered and leaned into but didn’t make a single sound except for the ragged breaths that escaped him.

He rubbed the spot gently, then put his hand back on Draco’s hip and latched his lips around Draco’s hole, sealing them there as he sucked and moved his tongue in the way that book had instructed—fluttering it, then driving it in. But that seemed to have the required effect because despite his best efforts, and the fact that Harry’s hands were gripping him in place, his blunt fingernails digging in too hard, Draco was trembling and bucking into him.

Harry reached between Draco’s legs with one hand, fondling his neglected cock and feeling a warning throb in his own as Draco’s precome smeared against his palm. Harry gave a small suck, then a harder one, and released Draco’s cock as he fucked into him with his tongue, reaching up to add a finger. He circled the wet rim with it, pulling his mouth off and whispering a lubrication charm as he pressed inside with no warning, worming his finger deeper to find the spot that made Draco cry out without fail. He rubbed against it, and although Draco released a long, shaky breath, he didn’t say a word. Not even when Harry added another finger and then a third, twisting and widening them when he pulled them back toward the rim, before shoving them forward again mercilessly. He leaned in and licked at the flesh surrounding his moving fingers as they worked to loosen Draco up.

Please,” Draco moaned, like it was torn from him. He went quiet again, but for the loud, broken gasps issuing from his throat. His back, Harry saw, when he reluctantly moved away, was slick with sweat.

He gave another couple of gentle jabs against Draco’s prostate, then gently removed his fingers. His cock ached, was dribbling hard, and Harry worried briefly that he was going to come, just from fingering Draco open.

“On your back.”

Draco moved slowly, shaking from head to foot. Harry grabbed a pillow and tossed it into the middle of the bed as Draco crept around to face him. His face was dotted with sweat, too, hair clinging to his temples, cheeks blotchy and pink. “Harry,” he breathed, the word cracking quietly.

And it was… so, so perfect, the way Draco said his name, looking utterly wrecked, but somehow powerful, too, a light shining in his eyes, which had gone hazy and docile. Harry felt it rise up in him, that sweetness of Draco’s surrender, the trust he was being given. He felt the responsibility like none of the others he’d been given, the ones he’d never asked for, which pressed like heavy stones on his chest. This felt—felt wonderful, as though they had been slowly making their way here the whole time.

“It’s okay,” he said soothingly, brushing his thumb over Draco’s lower lip. Draco sucked it into his mouth, almost pleadingly, searching Harry’s eyes, and Harry hooked the knuckle of it over Draco’s bottom teeth for a second, looking away as Draco laved the pad of it with his tongue. He pulled his thumb out, then stroked his hand down Draco’s chest, over the almost invisible furring of hair there, to his stomach and lower, reaching down to circle the root of Draco’s cock with brutally tight fingers, which twitched in his hand. Harry waited several beats, not moving, and used his free hand to do the same to himself, feeling the urgency to come slowly scale back to manageable levels.

“Better?” he asked softly.

Draco nodded.

“All right. Like I said.” He nodded at the pillow.

Draco stretched out on his back, opening his legs wide. His cock thumped off his stomach, his balls drawn up just below, the crack of his arse glistening with lube.

“Tell me you want this,” Harry said, just for the pleasure of hearing it again.

“I want this,” Draco parroted obediently, voice low and drugged. He crooked his knees, raising them up, and wriggled his hips a bit. “I want you. Please.”

Breathing hard, his restraint from the several previous minutes finally starting to falter, Harry fleetingly considered turning Draco over onto his hands and knees again, continuing that spanking thing while he pushed inside. But Draco was looking up at him, expression so open, he couldn’t stand the idea of having him face away. He settled himself between Draco’s thighs and whispered the charm that coated his cock in thick, silky lube, then thumbed his prick downward, searching.

Draco blinked up at him slowly, and hitched his legs up higher as the blunt head of Harry’s erection finally found what it sought. Harry tried to push forward gently, but despite his fingers and his tongue, the resistance was too great. He pressed harder, hissing as the crown of his cock popped in, shocked that he didn’t come immediately from it—that excruciatingly tight hole, the moan that gusted out of Draco’s throat. Harry checked his face for signs of objection or pain, but Draco still had that glazed, exhilarated expression, so Harry began working his hips forward slowly, short little rutting thrusts out and then in deeper each time. Draco curled one knee up to his chest and Harry took it, draping it over his forearm as thrust inward, until his prick was lodged deep inside of Draco’s channel, bollocks resting against the curve of his arse.

 

He tried to move, but his body wouldn’t let him, the snug fit of Draco’s passage squeezing him almost too tightly, hot and slick around him. His prick throbbed, his bollocks already tingling alarmingly.

“I’m not going to last long,” he admitted unevenly, staring down into Draco’s eyes. After a second, Draco gave a small nod, as though Harry’s words had just filtered into his mind, and a small smile appeared on his face before fading, swept away by a concentrated sort of desperation for more. Harry gulped in some air, then twitched his hips forward and back in small movements, feeling the way ease a bit. He released Draco’s leg and it twined around his waist as he pumped inward on short strokes and flattened his torso down to press it against Draco’s. He kissed him, as slowly and carefully as he could manage as his arse clenched in the quest to get deeper, feeling Draco’s leaking cock slide between their bellies. Draco started slowly working his arse upward, fucking himself on Harry’s cock, his hands fisted above his head as he twisted, and Harry grabbed at them, slamming his wrists down and feeling the bones grind the way he liked, gratified when Draco gave a low grunt and moved his hips faster in time with Harry’s.

Harry sawed his hips faster, mind going numb as the sensations swamped him—the clinging drag of Draco’s arsehole around his prick, the slapping sound of his bollocks slamming into Draco’s arse on every thrust, the hot slide of their stomachs rubbing together, trapping Draco’s erection between them. Then Draco suddenly flew up, stomach and chest pressing tighter against Harry’s until there was no space between them at all, his body jerking. Harry felt spurt after spurt of Draco’s climax between them, sticky and wet and warm, coating his stomach. His hole clenched hard around Harry’s cock, and Harry buried his face in the curve of Draco’s neck, clamping his teeth down on the flesh there and sucking as pleasure shot through his cock, hips going erratic as he ground into Draco and came, shooting spunk in long pulses. He gasped, sucking on the spot he’d just bitten, and Draco made a quiet, keening sound, body going loose and relaxed, sinking back into the mattress as Harry finished with a few tiny, weak thrusts, and followed him.

He lay there for a few minutes, rasping out loud breaths as his heart slowed, and realized that, at some point, he’d started nuzzling Draco’s neck, licking gently at the spot he’d bitten, and pressing soft kisses against it. Draco was quiet and pliant beneath him, and Harry released his wrists, pulled back to study his face. He looked… adrift. Pleasantly vacant, almost; eyes heavy-lidded and dark, face relaxed of all tension, mouth slightly open and soft. Harry carefully eased away, moving to the side, and caught a glimpse of the bite mark on Draco’s neck, a huge, deep purple blotch surrounded by teeth impressions so dark he was lucky he hadn’t broken the skin. He grazed a hand over it in apology, and Draco shuddered, his mouth pulling up to one side.

“I’m asking,” Harry said quietly after a moment, “So don’t give me shit for it. Are you okay?”

“Yes, s’was good,” Draco responded, voice slurred. “But tired.”

“Me too.” Harry smiled and pressed a kiss to Draco’s mouth, which moved against his like an afterthought. He pulled back, considered Draco carefully again, then reached over to grab his wand, casting the necessary cleaning charms over him. He tucked himself close, slipping an arm under Draco’s neck and feeling him curl close to his body. “Sleep,” he whispered.

Closing his eyes, Draco did as he said.

***

Draco stirred, and Harry lowered his wand, letting the sparkling shapes he was doodling with it fade in the air.

“…Time is it?” Draco got out blearily.

Harry cast a quick Tempus charm. “A little after four. Thirsty?”

“Mmm.” Harry summoned a glass from his desk and filled it with cold water from his wand, then passed it over. Draco sat up and downed it in several long swallows, then handed it back. Harry refilled it. This time, Draco drank more slowly, eyeing Harry above the rim of the glass before giving it back, looking replete. “Did you sleep?” he asked, voice grainy.

“A little,” Harry lied. He could have, he was sure of it. But he’d very much enjoyed feeling Draco snuggle into him in his sleep, seeking his heat and twining their legs together as though, even unconscious, he wanted to be as close as possible. He’d also felt that same strangely tender press of responsibility toward Draco, who’d seemed so—vague, and disconnected from everything right before he’d fallen asleep.

Draco narrowed his eyes. “Liar.”

Harry chuckled unrepentantly. “Not for long,” he said, and Draco moved away, looking at him curiously.

“What do you mean?”

Harry summoned the small phial on his desk, as well. He opened it and, locking eyes with Draco, shook out the last drop into the inch of water Draco had left in the glass, then raised it to his lips and swallowed it all in one go. He cringed; it was somehow salty and sour and bitter, all at once.

“Merlin, you’re right. That’s bloody revolting, isn’t it?”

Draco made a disbelieving noise. “Why did you do that?” he breathed.

“Because I wanted you to be able to ask questions, too,” Harry said instantly, compelled by the potion. It was an odd sensation, like his tongue wanted to tie up in knots if he didn’t offer everything in his head. “I was planning to, before.”

“You didn’t have to,” Draco muttered, still looking at him like he was mad.

“I know. But it’ll make you feel better and—and I think there are things I should say, too,” Harry said. “Things that I don’t know how to, unless, well...” He sighed, catching eyes with Draco and nodding. “Ask anything you want. I know you have questions. I want to answer them.”

“I have nothing to ask you; do you think I’m stupid, Potter?” Draco blurted, drawing away.

“I think you’re one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,” Harry said.

Draco swallowed and shook his head. “I don’t want to do this. I didn’t ask you for this.”

“You should ask quick; I gave myself about a third of what you got,” Harry said gently.

“Let’s just wait for it to wear off,” Draco said, low.

Harry sighed. “All right, if you won’t ask—” He stopped, thinking. “I have no plans on—you know, breaking up with you and leaving if the press gets worse because we’re dating. I don’t give a shit what they say about me. I fucking loathe the constant attention, but that’ll be more about me than you, even if it gets bigger for a while when we go public. But I have a huge, unplottable house waiting for me to move into after school is over, with its own trusty—sort of—elf, who makes fantastic sandwiches. And the press’ll die down eventually, or Kingsley will get them off my back when I start Auror training next fall. In the meantime, we can Apparate to—to Paris, for all I care, when we want to go out. What else?”

Draco dragged a hand through his hair. “You can’t Apparate directly to Paris,” he mumbled. “It’s too far.”

“Good you told me.” Harry poked him in the thigh. “What else?”

“Fuck, Potter, are you really doing this?”

“I like it better when you call me Harry,” Harry said, the truth falling out of his mouth easily. He quickly amended, “Usually. Sometimes ‘Potter’ is okay.”

“Oh, yeah? When?” Draco asked, looking grudgingly amused.

“In class? When you’re annoyed with me? I find it bloody hot, now that we’re not trying to kill each other,” Harry said, trying to smile.

Draco’s face grew serious. “And you know we’re not, right?” He gestured between them. “That I don’t want to hurt you anymore?”

“Yes,” Harry said, relaxing.

Draco raised an eyebrow, then sat back and got more comfortable. “All right. Why did you sit with me that day, in the library?”

“Because it was quiet where you were. There was a group of girls sitting behind me and Ron and Hermione, giggling, and I might’ve hexed them if I’d stayed there for another minute,” he said. “And you’d been the only one who—who wasn’t like that around me. Other than my friends. And I couldn’t stop looking at your hair.”

Head coming up, Draco smiled, then seemed to catch himself. “My hair?”

“Your hair,” Harry confirmed. “I love your hair.”

“What else about me do you love?” Draco asked, preening a bit. Harry snorted.

“Pretty much everything.”

Draco froze. Harry did, too.

“What?”

Harry swallowed. “Well, I don’t love that you served Voldemort,” he said quietly. “Or that you had a problem with Muggles, or the things you did last year or in sixth year.”

That sounds like ‘pretty much everything’ to me,” Draco muttered, eyes falling.

“But I love that you took responsibility. I love that you tried to make amends. And I love that you don’t let yourself roll around in misery all day. I love that you’re smart, and funny, and the way you laugh. I love this, here,” he said, touching the dip above Draco’s upper lip, “and the way you taste, and that you spent months protecting me from people without bothering to tell me. I love that you like it when I put my hands all over you, because I always sort of want to. And the way you touch my Cloak—remind me to show you my map sometime. I love watching you cast spells. You’re—graceful. They always come out perfect. I love kissing you. And, Jesus, Draco, the way you suck cock—”

“Stop,” Draco said, holding up a hand and turning pink.

“I love that you still blush, after everything we’ve done,” Harry said softly. “I love who you are, now. The way we are, together.”

“You love who I am?” Draco echoed, looking at him warily. “Isn’t that sort of the same as saying—”

“Yeah,” Harry admitted on a hard breath. “I think it is.”

“Oh.” Draco paused. “Well, I might, too.”

Harry flashed a smile at him. “Really?”

“You have reason to doubt it, at this point?” Draco asked drily.

Harry chewed on his lip for a moment. “No. I really am still scared of hurting you, though,” he admitted. “Even accidentally. Your neck…”

Draco reached up and touched the spot; it had gotten even darker while he slept, standing out on his skin like a brand. “I liked it,” he said musingly, but his faint smile faded at Harry’s face. “But we’ll work something out. So you know if you’re doing something I don’t like.”

“I still feel like a bit of a freak about it,” Harry went on, looking away. “It was—amazing. But I don’t know if something with Voldemort might have—”

“Fuck, please stop,” Draco said again, scowling. Relieved, Harry did, realising that he might have, if allowed to continue, babbled out the truth of the Horcruxes, and about how he had been one. He thought he’d eventually tell Draco about it, but didn’t want to right now. “The Dark Lord is not why you like that sort of thing. Or the Battle, or the War, at least not directly,” he continued, correctly interpreting Harry’s expression.

“That’s right, you had theories.”

Draco frowned. “This is easier when you’re under Veritaserum,” he muttered, and Harry pulled a face. “Fine. I think it’s because people have, well, controlled you a lot. And you need a place to feel good, feel like you can do it too.” He looked down. “And because it’s me, it probably feels even better.”

“That’s only a small part of it,” Harry blurted, then clapped a hand over his mouth, mortified. Draco looked up and started laughing.

“You’re a prick,” he said fondly.

“Sorry,” Harry said. “I just mean, because you were so awful for so long and I think I was really frustrated with you and I always felt like we were fighting, so now we get to do it in a different way and you just let me and it feels really good and, oh, please shut me up, this is even worse.”

“Shut up,” Draco managed, still snickering, and Harry clamped his teeth together. “I know, Harry.”

“Oh. The other stuff makes sense, too,” Harry allowed, relieved when more didn’t come pouring out. The urge to talk was starting to lessen, anyway, so he brought it back around to the main point. “Anyway, I want you to know. About the rest of it. That I don’t want to leave you, that I’m not going to. My friends, they matter, but you do too. And they don’t care that I’m with you. So that’s not an issue. All of those people? I can stand it. It helps, that you’re with me, actually.” His voice dropped. “That I’m not alone.”

“Alone?”

“You were there,” Harry murmured. He reached out and touched a fingertip to Draco’s Mark, the way he’d done so many times over the last few weeks. “You know things others don’t, even if it’s in a different way. It’s like we were—” He paused, the words coming with more difficulty as the potion continued to wear off. “Two sides of the same coin? And now we can be on the same side.”

“Crowded coin,” Draco murmured, but his voice was thick and his eyes were soft. “Will you stop? Doing the things they expect you to do, when it makes you unhappy?”

“I don’t know,” Harry admitted. “I’ve scaled back some, since you talked to me about it a few weeks ago; did you notice?” Draco nodded. “But I still feel like I should—help, where I can. So many people fought for me, and believe in the idea of me, that it seems mean to just leave them waiting.”

“Merlin, you’re such a Gryffindor,” Draco grumbled. “I suppose I’ll take that, for now. But if it’s still happening when you start Auror training on top of everything, we’re going to have an issue.”

“That’s more than six months away,” Harry said slowly. Draco’s tell-tale blush crept over his cheeks again, and Harry grinned. “It’s a deal.”

Draco looked at him thoughtfully. “I’d best go, it’s going to get light soon,” he said, leaning forward and kissing Harry too quickly for him to respond. He climbed off the bed and picked up the Cloak. “Is it alright if—”

“You don’t have to ask anymore, Draco, if you want to—” Harry paused. “Actually, no.”

“No?” Draco stilled, surprised. He stood naked, looking awkward and uncertain and delectable, and drew in a breath.

“Stay,” Harry said. “We can catch a couple of hours of sleep. I haven’t gotten any.”

“People will see,” Draco protested. Harry raised his eyebrows, and Draco’s face shifted into a mutinous expression. “You want them to,” he surmised flatly.

“I want them to,” Harry agreed mildly. “Get back in bed, it’s cold.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “I’ve no idea why I even bother with you, really,” he complained, stomping with surprising composure back to the bed. It was interesting, the way he managed to look haughty, even completely starkers, arms folded tightly over his narrow midsection.

“I’ll wake you a bit early,” Harry told him, lifting the bedcovers for Draco to climb under.

“Then I’ll like you even less,” Draco said, scowling. He settled himself, reaching back to fluff the pillows.

“No, you won’t,” Harry promised, letting his voice go low.

Draco blinked and cleared his throat, trying and failing to hide a smile. “Do what you must,” he said, still managing to make it sound like an objection, but Harry knew.

He slipped an arm over Draco’s waist, guiding him onto his side and then tugging him close. Draco came willingly enough, pressing his bottom against Harry’s groin, which twitched so hard he wondered if it was going to become an immediate problem. But he really did need to sleep, he reminded himself, yawning, Draco’s hair in his face.

“We’ll go out together,” he said sleepily in Draco’s ear. “In the morning. People will see us. And it’ll be okay for me, because you’re with me. And it’ll be okay for you, because I’m not going to leave.”

Draco gave a halting nod, pressing into Harry momentarily in acknowledgment.

“And it’ll be okay, if people talk,” Harry continued, skating on the knife-edge of consciousness. “Because it won’t matter what they say. It’ll be… us. A different you and me.”

“Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter,” Draco murmured in a soft, wondrous tone. “We're a 'you and me.'”

“Exactly,” Harry said with satisfaction and finally, after everything, let himself sleep.