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The Silent World Within You

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1. Summer

A fly buzzes past Draco’s nose. He watches as it circles the gleaming conference table, barely missing the frightful white fuzz that Prometheus Bromley-Malett calls hair. Despite the open windows and the dark wood panelling, the room is too warm and stuffy, and Draco shifts in his seat, discreetly tugging at the tight collar of his robe. He stops at his mother’s sharp look.

“It’s what you would recommend then, Prommy?” Narcissa asks, her voice low.

The barrister nods. He’s been in charge of the Malfoy family’s legal needs since Draco’s father was a child. “There’s nothing much I can do for Lucius,” he says, taking off his spectacles and rubbing at them with a spotless white handkerchief. “He’ll do the remainder of his time in Azkaban from his earlier sentence, and then he’ll go before the Wizengamot again. He’ll be lucky enough to be eligible for parole in three years. The Ministry’s made it clear that it has no interest in going after you, Narcissa. You can thank young Potter’s testimony for that. Draco on the other hand...” He slides his glasses back on the tip of his nose and sighs, making perfectly clear his thoughts on Draco’s future prospects with one wry arch of a hairy white eyebrow.

Draco scowls at him, then looks away. “I won’t do it,” he says after a moment. The portraits of past partners in the solicitors’ firm eye each other from above him, their grey heads shaking as they murmur amongst themselves. Ancient old sods, so certain they know everything.

His mother touches his hand. “Darling, if Prommy thinks it best, you shall.” Her voice is iron sheathed in silk, and he’s quite aware he’s buggered. Whatever Narcissa Black Malfoy wants, she gets. Even if it humiliates her son in the process.

“The Ministry doesn’t want to waste its time with you and your housemates, Draco,” Prometheus says calmly. He leans back in his leather chair, his small, rotund frame nearly disappearing behind the haphazard pile of dusty law tomes piled on the table. With a wave of his hand he sends them somersaulting back to the bookshelves lining the walls. “They’d much rather spend their time and money prosecuting actual Death Eaters, rather than children.”

That annoys Draco. He sits up. “I’m not a child--”

Prometheus cuts him off with a snort. “In the eyes of the law you were. While the wizarding code does recognise the age of majority to be seventeen, it also makes adjustments for students who remain at Hogwarts through their NEWTs, providing further legal protection that those who choose to leave no longer have.” He shakes his head. “Don’t be a fool, boy. The Ministry’s willing to consider you a minor under the Schooling Act of 1873, and a year or two of community service versus a decade in Azkaban is not something to be tossed aside in a fit of pique.”

“If I admit guilt,” Draco says dully. His mother’s fingers tighten on his hand. He pulls away, wrapping his arms around himself. He hasn’t seen his father in a week. Not since the Aurors marched him away after the battle. He’s somewhere in a holding cell deep inside the Ministry. Prommy’s not even been able to speak with him yet.

“You are guilty, lad.” Prometheus is gentle.

Draco touches his left arm. The Mark doesn’t ache any longer, but it’s still black and ugly against his skin. “I know,” he says after a moment.

The room is silent. Draco can hear the soft tick of the clock on the chimneypiece.

“It’s a good offer,” Narcissa says softly. She looks at Draco, and in the sunlight from the open window, he can see the sharp lines around her eyes and mouth, too pronounced now to be concealed under her favoured rose-scented powder. There are silver streaks in her blonde hair, faint lavender circles beneath her blue eyes. His mother’s barely forty-three, and she looks ten years older. “You’ll be safe--”

Draco snorts.

“More so than in Azkaban.” His mother’s mouth tightens, and she leans forward in her chair, pulling her silk robe tighter around her too thin frame. “I won’t let them put you there, Draco. Not after what it did to your father. I won’t.

They look at each other, mother and son, and the pleading in her eyes makes Draco glance away. He deserves Azkaban, he knows. Part of him wants it, thinks it would be an appropriate punishment for him. Vince would be alive now if it wasn’t for him. Pansy wouldn’t be in hospital with curse burns. He can’t even think about the other deaths he’d witnessed. Not right now. He’d barely slept last night after dreaming of Colin Creevey’s crumpled dead body lying at the foot of the stairs---

He shudders, and for a moment he can’t breathe. He’s there again, among the smoke and the fire and the screams.

“Draco.” Narcissa’s hand clenches his. “Darling.”

He blinks slowly, his heart slowing. His mother has that pinched, worried look that’s become all too familiar in the past year. She doesn’t know what to do for him, Draco knows. Especially now that Severus’s Vow has vanished with his death. There’s no one left to protect him. Merlin knows his parents had been utter pants at doing so. He wants to scream this at her. He can’t. He won’t watch her face crumple. Won’t take away the comforting lie she clings to, believing that she had done what she could for him. His father is going to Azkaban. It would kill his mother if he followed.

Draco looks at Prometheus. “Whatever,” he says, voice thick. “Whatever is best.”

Prometheus nods. “I’ll let them know.”

The fly lands on Draco’s hand, its wings buzzing lightly. He studies it for a moment. It gleams blue and green and purple in the light, and Draco thinks it’s almost pretty against his pale skin. His hand barely trembles when he raises it.

The sharp slap of skin against skin rings out in the quiet room. The buzzing ceases.

Draco stares past the billowing white curtain at the window. The street beyond is busy, filled with wizards and witches celebrating the Dark Lord’s demise. He flicks the dead fly to the floor. It never had a chance, he thinks mournfully.

None of them ever had.

***

Harry lies on the bed in the corner room of the Leaky Cauldron, watching a Muggle train rumble past his open window. It’s hot for late June, and in desperate need of rain, and his cooling charms do little to dissipate the humidity that causes his t-shirt to stick to his chest.

He’s been here for three weeks now, over Molly and Arthur’s protests. He knows he could have stayed at the Burrow, even after the row with Ginny, but it seems a bit off, sharing a room with his ex-girlfriend’s brother, best mate or not. Andromeda has Teddy at Grimmauld Place--Harry can barely take an hour or two around his godson before his grief at losing Remus and Tonks both becomes too much to bear--and he won’t go back to Privet Drive. There’s too much there between him and his family, no matter that he’s made his peace with Petunia and Dudley at least.

Uncle Vernon he wishes into an early and deep grave.

There’s a knock at his door, and Harry sits up with a sigh. It’s likely Tom again, with another sandwich and pumpkin juice, worried about how thin Harry’s got since he’s seen him last. Hiding out in a forest for months with barely any food works a charm as a reduction plan, Harry thinks. He’d recommend it to Dudley, but his improving relationship with his cousin is still on too shaky ground for jokes like that.

“Come in,” he calls out, and he flicks his wand at the arched door, unwarding it as he shoves his feet into a worn pair of trainers at the foot of the bed.

“I’d forgotten how dreadful London can be in the summers,” a tart Scottish voice says, and Harry looks up in surprise as Professor McGonagall steps into his room. Her robe is a crisply tailored grey seersucker, the sleeve cuffs folded over to reveal bony wrists and liverspotted hands. Harry can’t remember if he’s ever seen her outside of the somber wool robes she favours during school terms--or a tartan dressing gown. She gives him a small smile. “Hello, Harry.”

Harry blinks. “Professor.“ He runs a hand through his sweaty hair, suddenly aware that he hasn’t showered in two days. He just hasn’t cared to. He glances around the room. His clothes are scattered across the floor and the sofa, and the books that Hermione had lent him to pass the hours are stacked alongside his open trunk. He also hasn’t been outside since Sunday, and that was three days ago. Perhaps four. It’s easy to lose track of time here.

Ron was meant to come by last night, but he’d firecalled apologetically at half six to tell him Hermione’s parents wanted them for supper and was Harry all right with that, because they’d come by on Thursday night, he promised, it was just Mr and Mrs Granger were still a bit topsy-turvy after coming back from Australia and Hermione thought it best to spend a little more time with them right now. Harry’d told Ron not to worry. There’d been part of him that hadn’t wanted to sit through another recitation of how bloody amazing it is to shag Hermione, which is all Ron seems to want to talk about lately, and really sex is the last thing Harry wants to think about right now, all things considered.

“Might I sit?” Professor McGonagall says, and she’s already stepping over a pair of discarded jeans. Harry manages to swipe a hoodie and a pair of trainers from the sofa cushions before she settles herself on the worn upholstery. She turns uncomfortably sharp eyes on Harry.

He drops his clothes on the rumpled bed and sits, the mattress dipping beneath him. He doesn’t speak. There’s not much to say, in his opinion. His hand trembles, and he clenches his fist tightly against the sharp prickle of his unsettled magic.

McGonagall notices. “It still hasn’t stabilised?” Her voice is gentle.

Harry shakes his head. The week after the battle he’d had the first of his fits, falling to the floor at the Burrow, his body jerking, his magic exploding nearly an entire shelf of plates. Molly and Ginny had shoved him through the Floo to St Mungo’s, and it’d taken an entire two days of being sedated in Spell Damage before the Healers had determined that his fight with Voldemort had affected his magic levels, sending them into intense fluctuations.

“The potions help,” Harry says after a moment. He takes two a day now, down from three a week ago, and they suppress the worst of the instability. “Guhathakurta says I should be off them by the start of term.”

McGonagall nods. Her greying black hair is pulled back in a tight knot at the nape of her neck. “I spoke with Molly Weasley yesterday,” she says. “She’s concerned about you.”

Harry tenses and grips the edge of the bed. “I’m fine.”

“Really.” McGonagall glances around the room, and Harry feels his face warm. “It’s the end of June, Harry, and hardly anyone’s seen you outside of this room for weeks.”

“I go out,” Harry says defensively. “I have to eat.” He doesn’t bother to say that Tom brings most of his food up from the pub below.

McGonagall looks at him over the rims of her square spectacles. “Harry,” she says, and he feels like a first-year again, certain that he’s in trouble. “You can’t hide up here forever.”

His throat tightens and he stares down at the worn planks of the floor beneath his trainers. McGonagall’s always been able to see through him. He swallows. “I don’t care for the stares,” he says finally. “Or for everyone coming up to shake my hand and tell me how grateful they are.” He looks up at his Head of House. “I went to all the funerals, you know. Every single one of them.” His voice breaks. “They were the heroes. Not me.”

Neither of them says anything. Another train rumbles by, shaking the glass in the window panes and sending the thin curtains twisting in a breeze.

“The Aurors and reconstruction crews are leaving Hogwarts this week,” McGonagall says finally. Harry looks over at her, his brow furrowed in confusion. She takes a deep breath. “You’re planning on returning to school to complete your seventh year, Miss Granger tells me.”

Harry nods. “If I want to be an Auror, I have to have my NEWTs,” he says. “And Ron and I aren’t eligible for the rescheduled NEWTs testing in London at Christmas since we didn’t attend classes, so Robards won’t let us into Auror training this year.”

“Well.” McGonagall shifts on the sofa and dust rises around her, sparkling in the sunlight from the window. She sneezes. “There’s no sense in you holing yourself up in this horror of a pub--honestly, I don’t know why Tom doesn’t employ proper cleaners if he refuses to use house-elves--so you might as well take up rooms in Hogwarts castle until term.”

“Ma’am?” Harry blinks at her.

McGonagall sniffs and pulls a neatly folded white handkerchief from her sleeve. She dabs at her nose before sneezing again. “It would be helpful for me, really. There’s another reconstruction crew coming in August to finish the remainder of the castle, but there are wards that need to be reinforced before they do.” She looks up at Harry. “Your assistance in that regard would be greatly appreciated.”

A warmth spreads though Harry. Home, he thinks. He’s always been happiest at Hogwarts. “Really?”

“Would I be here otherwise?” McGonagall says sharply. She tucks her handkerchief back in her sleeve and stands. “I’ll expect you by Friday supper then.”

“I’ll be there.” He’s already wondering how to get his clothes washed in time. Perhaps he’ll just leave them be and let the Hogwarts elves take care of them.

McGonagall stops at the door, her hand on the knob. “And one thing, Mr Potter. At Hogwarts, the war is over. There’ll be no recrimination on its grounds for what people may have done during those years, do I make myself clear?”

“No blaming the Slytherins,” Harry says quietly. At her nod, he shrugs. “What’s the point? We were all just kids.”

Her eyes soften. “Yes. You were. All of you. I expect you to remember that.”

When the door closes behind her, Harry falls back onto the bed with a sigh. He’s going home.

He smiles for the first time in weeks.

***

“She’ll be foaling soon,” Hagrid says cheerfully as he strides across the clearing to the herd of Thestrals. A twig cracks beneath his enormous booted feet. “First Thestral born in three years.”

Draco nearly has to run to keep up. He’s been at Hogwarts since mid-May, assigned to be assistant to the groundskeeper. It was meant to humiliate him, he knows. A heavy-handed indictment by the Wizengamot of Lucius Malfoy’s soft-handed son, sent into two years of manual labour overseen by a half-giant instead of the menial, mind-numbing Ministry filing work his friends were given.

The first two weeks were hell, he’ll admit. He’d hated being supervised by Hagrid of all people. Everyone knew the man was utterly mad. He’d set that horrible Hippogriff on Draco during third year after all, and the beasts he seemed to adore the most were always the ones the Ministry was warning wizards and witches to be the most cautious around. Draco’d spent his first days on the Hogwarts grounds mucking out the paddocks for the porlocks, who hid everytime Draco came near the damned things.

And then Hagrid had taken him here for the first time, to help with the Thestrals. They’d both been surprised when the Thestrals had come up to Draco, nudging him gently with their beaked muzzles. They’d taken to him quickly, and Draco found he liked the tall horses with their slick short black hair and leathery wings.

They’re his responsibility now, and he’ll be there when Ismene gives birth in a few weeks. He hasn’t bothered to hide his excitement.

Firenze is waiting for them, his broad hands stroking Ismene’s swollen sides. “It won’t be long,” he says, and he steps back as Draco approaches the Thestral, taking his place.

Her hair is soft and smooth beneath Draco’s fingers, and he feels her relax at his touch. She snuffs softly, ruffling his hair with her sharp beak. He laughs. “Wench,” he murmurs, his hands rubbing gently over the swell of her belly. He can feel the press of a hoof against his palm, and Ismene shifts, wincing in pain.

“Rub ‘er like this,” Hagrid says from behind him, and Draco doesn’t pull away when the giant’s thick fingers rest over his, moving Draco’s hand in wider circles. Ismene leans into the touch, resting her head on Draco’s shoulder. “Good lad.”

Hagrid moves his hand and he steps away to check on the rest of the herd. Firenze watches Draco, a smile curving his lips. His blond hair gleams in the sunlight. “He’s pleased with you, you realise.”

Draco shrugs and keeps stroking Ismene’s belly. “I don’t see why. This is the only task he gives me that I don’t bugger up.” He stops long enough to push his sleeve back above his elbow. He’s learned to abandon his robe early on, and it’s a sign of how comfortable he is here in the clearing that it doesn’t matter that the black mar of his Dark Mark is exposed. Neither Hagrid nor Firenze flinches at it.

There’s a reason why Hagrid dresses in trousers and boots around the animals, and Draco’s taken to wearing brown corduroys cinched around his narrow hips with a wide leather belt and a white linen shirt with the sleeves rolled up--when he doesn’t just toss it aside entirely on a warm afternoon. His father--let alone his tailor--would be horrified at his attire, he’s certain, but at the moment Draco doesn’t give a damn what his father thinks. During Draco’s last visit to Azkaban, Lucius had made quite clear his resentment towards his son’s Community Order.

“You have your freedom,” his father had snapped at him when Draco had complained about the blisters on his hands and the sunburn across his back. “Speak to me about your petty complaints when you’ve been forced to endure one night in this hellhole.”

Draco’s mouth had tightened. “If it weren’t for your ridiculous toadying to that bastard--”

His mother had touched his arm. “Draco.” He’d fallen silent, and looked away, not bothering to point out his father had actually committed the crimes he was being punished for. Common logic had never meant much to Lucius Malfoy.

“It’s a rare human who can connect with Thestrals the way you do.” Firenze walks to Ismene’s flanks, checking her gently. “They frighten most.”

“I suppose.” Draco pulls a phial of oil from his pocket and pours some on his palm. He begins to rub it into Ismene’s rough wings. With the foal, she’s too heavy to fly now, Hagrid’s told him, so she needs to have her wings cared for to keep them from drying out due to disuse. “I’ve seen worse.”

“You’re not afraid of them,” Firenze says.

Draco’s fingers slide across the leathery membrane--the patagium, Hagrid’s told him--between the bones in Ismene’s wings. He doesn’t say anything for a moment, then he looks up at the centaur. “They’re less terrifying than humans,” he says finally. “Or at least the ones I know.”

Firenze’s tail twitches, flicking to one side in a sweep of golden hair. “True.”

They fall silent. Draco works the oil into the skin over Ismene’s bones. The sun is warm on his shoulders. He’s come to love the forest in the past six weeks. It had frightened him desperately as a child, and he’s still not certain he’d want to find himself in it at night. But here, during the day, in this small clearing with the breeze stirring the leaves on the trees, making them sigh and rustle as it ruffles his blond hair, he feels peaceful. He doesn’t think of the abandoned acromantula colony nearby, or the three-headed dog he’s seen running through the trees at times, or the Blood-sucking Bugbears Hagrid’s warned him to keep an eye out for. Instead he focuses on the Thestral in front of him and his inexplicable fondness for her.

They’d startled him at first, when he’d come back his seventh year and seen them at last. He’d been afraid of their sharp beaks and hooves and their wide, bat-like wings. He’d been afraid of what they meant. Bad omens. Death. Misfortune.

Somehow, now, after burying Vince, they didn’t hold the same fear. “Once you see death,” Draco says, though he’s not sure why he breaks the comfortable silence, “you change.”

Firenze looks up from Ismene’s tail. He’s been braiding it and wrapping it long strips of white cotton in preparation for the foaling. “Yes.”

“Sometimes.” Draco moves to Ismene’s other wing. “I don’t think it affected my father.”

“You’re not your father.” Firenze’s fingers knot the cotton over Ismene’s stiffly braided black tail.

Draco snorts. He pours more oil into his palm. “You should tell some people that.” He strokes his slick fingers across Ismene’s wing. The Prophet enjoys conflating his crimes with those of Lucius’s. There isn’t a Sunday edition that goes by without some letter or editorial decrying his family and their lack of proper punishment. Mother had stopped her subscription recently when not even a complaint to Cuffe himself had put an end to the completely puerile and factually inaccurate innuendo.

“You’re not.” Firenze pats Ismene’s flank. “No more so than your son will be you.”

That brings Draco up short. He eyes Firenze balefully. “That’s not amusing.”

Firenze quirks an eyebrow at him. “It wasn’t meant to be.”

Draco knows he shouldn’t be this furious. The centaur has no idea Draco’s queer or that he’d decided that, his father’s wishes be damned, he’ll be the last Malfoy. An ineffectual and horribly embarrassing tumble with Pansy sixth year had made him realise that girls had entirely no affect on his cock, whereas one sideways look at Blaise’s splendidly naked arse had him wanking for hours behind his bed hangings, fantasising about being buried deep between those exquisite dark globes. The family line would stop with him, and he thought failing in his duty would be punishment enough. His penance for costing Vince his life. His fingers dig into Ismene’s skin, and she bleats softly. “I won’t have a son. It’s physically impossible.”

“It’s written in the stars, Draco,” Firenze says quietly. “You’ll have an heir.”

Draco steps back, dropping his hands from Ismene’s wings. She shifts and snuffles at him. His mouth thins. “The stars,” he says tightly, “are full of utter shit.”

He ignores Hagrid’s annoyed shout as he walks off and the forest closes up around him.

***

Supper at Hogwarts is a quiet affair.

Harry sits beside McGonagall, pressing the tines of his fork into his sausage. He’s been at the castle for only an hour--long enough to settle his bags in the room near the staff quarters that the Headmistress has prepared for him. He’d expected Gryffindor Tower, but she’d explained that she thought it best he be near the other summer staff members before term started, particularly with certain parts of the castle still needing repair.

There’s only a handful of them, he’s been told. McGonagall, and Filch, and Hagrid, and Flitwick, and Pince mostly, with Firenze helping with the forest beasts, and Binns drifting about with the other ghosts. Pomfrey’s on call in Cornwall, McGonagall says, in case anyone falls ill or is hurt, but other than that she only pops in once a week to check the infirmary stores and have tea with Pince in the library.

And then, of course, there’s Draco Malfoy.

“Mr Malfoy has been assigned two years of service at Hogwarts under the terms of his Community Order.” McGonagall had looked at Harry, mouth stern and tight, as the former Hogwarts headmasters watched in amusement from their portraits. “I am quite aware of your mutual disregard, and I have made it clear to him as well that I expect extraordinary behaviour from the both of you. Which means no hexes, jinxes, or fisticuffs. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

Harry’d had no choice but to nod.

Malfoy isn’t at supper. Hagrid’s murmured something to McGonagall about Firenze setting the lad off. Harry’s surprised that Hagrid’s defending Malfoy; Hagrid’s dislike of the prat wasn’t well-hidden during school. McGongall looks disappointed, but she just nods and reaches for her pumpkin juice.

When she turns away to speak to Professor Sprout about the repairs still needed on the greenhouses, Harry looks at Hagrid and whispers, “Malfoy?”

Hagrid just shrugs. “He’s not so bad these days,” he says under his breath. “A bit stroppy at times, but the Thestrals like him well enough, and he seems to not mind ‘em so much himself.”

Harry scowls. “No one likes Malfoy.”

“I do,” Hagrid says simply. “Mostly. He’s changed some. Not much, mind, but enough so yeh don’t want to string him up by his toenails.” He stops and ponders. “Well. Not always.”

Harry rolls his eyes. “Then again, you’re soft on dangerous creatures.”

“Always have been,” Hagrid says with a chuckle. He sops his bread in his soup. “Be gentle with ‘em and they’ll turn out well enough. Works a charm with people, too.” He leans forward, his beard trailing in his bowl. “Best keep that in mind. the Headmistress don’t want yeh and young Draco brawlin’ ‘round the castle like yer wont to do.”

Harry sighs. He doesn’t think he’s the energy to tussle with Malfoy, even if he wants to. It doesn’t matter. Nothing much does, these days.

Supper is interminable. The Hall is too empty. Too cold. All Harry can remember as he looks around are the screams from the battle. The smoke from the fires. The flash of curses and hexes as they ricocheted off stone walls. The bodies lying stretched out on the floor in the entrance hall, so damned many of them lined up, waiting for the Healers to collect them.

And Harry himself, standing in the middle of the Great Hall, facing down the man who had already killed him.

He drops his fork against his plate. Its sharp clatter echoes in the quiet hall. He can barely breathe.

McGonagall turns to him. “Harry,” she says, but he’s already pushed his chair back.

“I’m sorry.” Harry drops his napkin on the table. “I just need some air.”

No one follows him. He’s grateful, though he’s certain he sees McGonagall stop Hagrid with a hand on his arm. He runs down the entrance hall, the faint memory of shouts echoing in his ears. It’s not the first time he’s been in Hogwarts since the battle. There’d been a memorial held in the Great Hall just two weeks afterwards. He’d been numb then, sedated by the potions stabilising his magic and by the overwhelming grief at all the deaths he’d seen. For the rest of May he’d gone from funeral to funeral, sometimes several in a day, always pale and sober in his best black robes.

He’d had to. No one had asked it of him or expected it even. Ginny had shouted at him, told him that he wasn’t responsible for them all, that he was tormenting himself. He’d just pulled on his dress robe and Floo’d to the next funeral. He hadn’t even known whose it was.

The air is cool on his cheeks when he pushes the front door open. It’s as heavy as he remembers it, and the newly set wards crackle across his palm, stinging slightly. They’ll settle into the wood in a week or two, leaving behind a pleasantly warm glow when the students touch the door.

Harry stops on the steps, looking out over the Hogwarts grounds. The lawn slopes down to Hagrid’s hut and the paddocks beyond. Malfoy’s domain now, although McGonagall had told Harry he had a room in the castle with the staff. Ponce, Harry thinks. He’s probably hidden away, like a coward, forcing the house-elves to wait on him hand and foot.

Perhaps he should have realised it would have been harder than he expected to come back. Hermione had tried to warn him last night, but Harry’d waved her off. Hogwarts was home, after all. He just hadn’t thought there’d still be ghosts lingering.

The sun barely brushes the tops of the mountains. It’s summer, and it won’t set until ten, at least, but the light is golden warm and the shadows are long. Harry finds himself at the Quidditch pitch, one of the few places that wasn’t harmed in the battle.

Even Death Eaters respect some traditions.

Harry doesn’t see him until it’s too late. Malfoy’s on a broom, circling the pitch lazily, and Harry stops, his hands in his robe pockets. Malfoy stills, his hands tight on his broomstick. Harry’s surprised by him--by his bare chest and his faintly golden skin, by the hint of muscles in broad shoulders and graceful arms, by his hair, once silver-gilt and now nearly bleached white by the sun. There’s a streak of dirt on Malfoy’s cheek, and his once immaculate hair is sweaty and unkempt.

“Potty Potter,” Malfoy says, and the sneer is fainter than it was once, but it’s still there. Harry’s filled with relief. At least something hasn’t changed. “McG told me we’d be cursed with your presence this summer.”

Harry shrugs. “Professor McGonagall--” He emphasises her full name, and Malfoy snorts. “--needed some help with the wards.”

“Is that what she told you?” Malfoy sits up on his broom, and Harry can’t tear his eyes away from Malfoy’s muscular torso. He can see the pale pink scar lines criss-crossing his skin. Sectumsempra, he thinks with a twinge of guilt. Snape’s dittany hadn’t worked. “I heard everyone was oh-so-worried that you might off yourself because the Weaselette tossed you over.”

“Fuck off, Malfoy.” Harry glares up at him.

Malfoy’s boots are hooked on the broom stirrups. He’s wearing corduroys--corduroys, for Christ’s sake--and Harry hates how well they look on his lithe frame. He wonders what Malfoy would say if he knew that Harry’d been the one to leave Ginny, once he’d realised that when push came to shove, he really could care less about fucking her. Ginny’d blamed it on the potions, on Harry’s depression, on anything but the actual truth. It wasn’t that they hadn’t tried. God knows he’d come from her hands and her mouth and from rutting against her on the Weasley’s sofa one silent afternoon at the Burrow. But the night he’d slipped into her bedroom, the night he’d first touched her bare skin, felt the slickness of her thighs as she’d wrapped them around his hips, her breath catching when his cock had pressed inside her...well. It hadn’t been anything like what Ron described with Hermione.

They’d laid beside each other less than five minutes later, staring up at the ceiling, then Ginny had slipped silently out of the bed, reaching for her dressing gown. Harry’d listened to the soft pad of her feet across the creaking floorboards, followed by the click of the bathroom door, before he’d sat up and grabbed his pyjama bottoms from the rug. He was a coward, he knew, but he couldn’t be there when she returned.

He hadn’t expected Hermione to be in Ron’s room, though he should have. He’d known Ron had been sneaking into her parents’ house nearly every night. Still, he stood transfixed, his hand on the doorknob as he watched them together, his eyes caught by the sight of Ron’s flexing arse, the long sweep of his freckled back, the groan he made as he arched over her writhing body.

Harry supposes he should have known he was queer when he spent months alone with Hermione in the Forest of Dean and hadn’t once wanted to crawl into her bed, not even after the night he’d seen her bathing, her breasts full and white in the moonlight. He realised it that night, standing in the doorway, his cock harder than it’d been when Ginny’d touched him.

And now the sight of Malfoy’s bare chest was twisting his stomach into knots. It was all he could do not to growl put on a damn shirt to the wanker, and wouldn’t that give Malfoy something to lord over him for the rest of the year.

Malfoy just watches him, grey eyes cool and calculating. He tucks a lock of pale hair behind one ear. “Strike a nerve, have I?” he asks calmly. “You’d be surprised at what the staff talk about over dinner. The Minister’s even concerned now. Wouldn’t do to have the War Hero suicidal, would it?” His lip curls. “The rest of us on the other hand...”

“I’ll gladly hold the knife for you,” Harry says bitterly, and he shocks himself with the statement. He flushes, and opens his mouth to apologise, but Malfoy just laughs. The clear peal of amusement surprises Harry.

“I’m sure you would.” Malfoy lets his broom drift lower. “But I’m guessing Old McGonagall forced the same promise of good behaviour out of you that she did me.” He eyes Harry for a long moment, then tugs his broomstick up enough to send himself circling around Harry’s head. "Come on Potter, there are ten of us here, including the damned cat,” he says. “We can’t avoid each other entirely this summer, and I’m not idiot enough to exchange Hogwarts for Azkaban just because I can’t stand you.” The smooth black hilt of a wand sticks out of his leather belt. Harry knows it’s not Malfoy’s. The Ministry hasn’t let anyone on Community Order keep their wand. Instead they’ve each been issued a Ministry wand, calibrated to allow them to do just enough magic for personal care and to suit the requirements of their jobs. “Feel like flying?”

“What?” Harry blinks.

Malfoy rolls his eyes. “Get a broom from the shed, you imbecile.” He pulls a Snitch from his pocket and lets it hover beside him. “I’m bored and irritated--always a deadly combination, my mother claims--and you’re here bothering me. We might as well take our misery out on each other in a McGonagall-approved fashion, and the old bat can’t object to my kicking your arse in a bit of one-on-one.”

Harry has to admit he has a point. “Cheat, and I’ll deck you anyway.”

Malfoy lifts one shoulder. Harry has no damned idea how he can manage to look completely composed half-naked. “You’re too pathetic to cheat against.”

The broom shed’s still unlocked. It smells of dust and lemon oil broom polish. Harry wishes he had his Firebolt still, but it’s been destroyed since the battle over Little Whinging. His throat tightens as he reaches for a battered Nimbus. He still misses Hedwig, finds himself looking for her when he forgets--and then he remembers.

Malfoy’s waiting for him over the pitch. Harry drops his robe beside Malfoy’s abandoned shirt and flies up to meet him. It’s been too long since he’s been on a broom. The handle is rough against his palms, and he takes a moment to resettle himself on the cushioning charm. Malfoy watches him, a faint smile on his face. It doesn’t reach his eyes.

“Problems?”

“In your dreams.” Harry hooks his trainers over the stirrups. A breeze ripples the sleeves of his brown t-shirt. “No charms on the Snitch?”

It hums beside Malfoy. “Only the regulation ones,” he says, and he catches it between two fingers. Harry believes him. He wonders if that makes him a fool.

They face off. Malfoy tosses the Snitch in the air, and it darts to the side, shining in the sun. They hesitate, both of them studying each other for a moment, and then with a whoop, Malfoy wheels his broom to the side, dashing after the Snitch.

Harry races behind, the wind in his hair, the sun on his back.

He feels alive.

***

The weeks pass. Draco avoids Potter as much as he can during the days. It’s not difficult to do. Potter spends most of his time wandering through the castle with McGonagall and Flitwick, finding the spots where the wards have weakened--or fallen completely, in some cases. Evenings, however, are filled with flying and Quidditch after dinner. They’re nearly silent as they fly now, both of them fixated on the rush of joy as they race each other for the Snitch. Some evenings the other staff come out to watch them. Draco almost thinks McGonagall approves, even on nights one--or both--of them are tight and tense, eager to bruise each other as they try to knock the other’s broom out of the way.

Draco wonders if Potter wakes up at night like he does, screaming from a nightmare that he can’t seem to shake. Watching him over breakfast some mornings, when Potter’s eyes are bloodshot and the circles beneath are dark and purple, Draco’s certain of it. At those moments, Draco almost feels sorry for the bastard. It fades, though, when he thinks of his visits to his father in Azkaban, his mother clenching his hand tightly as they wait to see whether Lucius will have a good day or a bad.

Draco’s days are spent outside, walking the grounds with Hagrid and Fang, the enormous boarhound that had terrorised Draco during his school years. Now, however, the ridiculous dog has taken a fancy to him and follows him on his rounds. Draco had thought Hagrid set the beast on him as a guard, but Hagrid had laughed that off over tea one afternoon.

“Fang guard anything?” Hagrid had nearly spilled his whisky-laced tea across the tabletop. He’d wiped his eyes with his filthy sleeve. “Not bloody likely, lad. He’s just taken a shine to yeh is all. Best let him follow yeh about; there’s no stopping him otherwise. He’ll tire of it soon enough.” He’d reached down and scratched the ears of the huge dog. Fang had whined and leaned into the touch. “Lazy beast, he is.”

It’s Fang Hagrid sends out to Draco when he’s down in the lower lawn, trying to repair a broken fence. Draco swears when the dog nudges his back and barks. The heavy plank he’s been levitating falls to the ground with a crash.

Fang barks again, then whines and tugs on Draco’s sleeve. Draco pulls away, annoyed. If that plank’s broken in half, he’ll hex the damned creature. He doesn’t care what Hagrid would say. “What?”

The dog tugs at him again, nearly dragging him five feet down the fence. His boots slip on the grass, and he ends up on his back, looking up at the blue sky and a slobbering canine face. Fang barks.

Draco clambers to his feet. “Fine. I’ll go with you, but if this is just you wanting to play fetch again, I’m locking you in that bloody hut.”

Fang takes off; Draco follows. It’s only when they enter the Forbidden Forest, that Draco realises what must be happening. The Thestral’s foaling.

Hagrid’s stooped beside Ismene when Draco reaches the clearing. Firenze is behind him. “Careful,” Hagrid says when he looks up. “She’s in a bit of pain now, so don’t yeh come barrelling over like a first-year.”

Ismene bellows, her body shaking with a push. Draco can see a small hoof coming from her flanks. She’s on her side and her wings are folded tightly against her body. He squats next to her, reaching out to brush his fingertips against her mane. Hagrid starts to say something, but Firenze touches his shoulder.

“Let the boy be,” he says.

Draco strokes Ismene’s neck. The Thestral calms for a moment, stilling. “You’ll be fine, beautiful,” he whispers. He can see Ismene’s stallion out of the corner of his eye, tossing his head and stomping his hoof against the patchy grass. Draco’s not afraid of him. Instead his fingers slide along Ismene’s hair, smoothing down over her back, and across her flank. She tenses again for another push, but this one’s easier somehow, and another hoof slides from Ismene’s body.

“Is she all right?” Draco asks softly. He doesn’t stop stroking Ismene’s side. The Thestral nudges him with her beak, and he smiles down at her. Sweat glistens off her hair, and it shines more than usual.

“She’s nearly there,” Firenze says. He moves so that Hagrid can take his place at Ismene’s flanks. “Just a few more pushes.”

Draco watches as Ismene strains again, and a small beak appears. He’s never seen a birth before, not even the time his Kneazle had a litter. The elves hadn’t let him near her lest he get bitten or scratched. He’s amazed as Hagrid gently takes the tiny head that emerges, guiding it as the shoulders follow.

Ismene rests, her foal half out of her body. She looks up at Draco, nips his trousers lightly. Her white eyes seem to glow. “You’re doing well,” he murmurs. “Get through this and I’ll give your wings the best oiling they’ve ever had.” He can see her bones through her thin skin. “And I’ll find a nice fat bird or two for your dinner, how’s that?”

“Give us another push, love,” Hagrid says. He cradles the tiny Thestral’s shoulders in his huge hands. Ismene closes her eyes and snuffs.

“Just one more.” Draco smoothes back her mane. “You can do it.”

Ismene looks up at him. She nudges his hand, and whinnies softly before tensing her body again. A moment later, the foal slides free, its tiny wings unfurling as Hagrid helps settle it on the ground. It hesitates, turning its head and fluttering its wings for a moment before it twists, leaning towards Ismene as it opens its mouth silently. The umbilical cord stretches between them, then breaks.

“Look at that littl’un,” Hagrid says proudly. He pulls a handkerchief out of his pocket and wipes his hands on it before dabbing it at his wet eyes. “She’s a looker, inn’t she, Firenze?”

Firenze beams at the Thestral. It scootches on its knees over to Ismene, and she raises one wing tiredly, drawing her foal to her side. It eyes Draco with bright grey eyes. He reaches out to touch its gunmetal grey coat. The stallion moves forward with a sharp snuff, but Ismene turns her head to him and clacks her beak. He steps back as Ismene nudges Draco’s hand to her foal.

Its mane is still slick and sticky, but it turns its head into Draco’s touch, and he laughs when it tries to nip his fingertips. “Wretch.”

“What will you name her?” Firenze asks, and it takes a moment before Draco looks up.

“Me?”

Fireze laughs. “I’d say you’ve the right, wouldn’t you, Hagrid?”

Hagrid looks up from cleaning off the Thestral. “Fine by me.”

Draco studies the small foal. “A girl, right?” At Firenze’s nod, he bites his lip. “Druella,” he says finally. “That was Grandmother Black’s name. She was always kind to me since Mother was her favourite.” He looks up. “Not that that was difficult, all things considered.”

“Druella then.” Hagrid stands up and claps his heavy hand on Draco’s shoulder. “Let’s leave mum and baby to bond a bit. Merlin knows I could use a pint or two after that.” He glances over at Firenze. “Join us at me hut?”

Firenze looks up at the sky. It’s clouding over. “I’d best be returning to my herd.”

“Suit yerself.” Hagrid still hasn’t moved his hand. “More for Malfoy and me to drink, but send my regards to yer family. Off we go then, lad. There’s a bottle or two of lager in my cupboard with our names on ‘em.”

With a backwards glance at the small foal curled beside her mother, Draco follows Hagrid and Fang through the forest.

“Yer doin’ all right with Harry about?” Hagrid asks finally.

Draco’s crawling over a half-rotted log, holding his breath. He’s rather afraid something’s crawled up inside to die. When he exhales, he looks over at Hagrid. “Well enough, I suppose.” He sniffs. “Don’t worry. I’ve no intention of annoying Professor McGonagall.”

Headmistress McGonagall,” Hagrid corrects. Dried leaves crunch beneath his boots. “And I dinn’t say yeh did. Just asking. Harry’s a good lad, but he’s got a chip on his shoulder when it comes to yeh.” He gives Draco a pointed look. “Reckon yeh’ve got the same for him.”

Draco shrugs. “He’s a prat, but he saved us all from a megalomaniacal madman, so I suppose I’ll behave myself.” He stiffens his shoulders. “I’ve no wish to give you reason to cart me off to Azkaban.”

Hagrid stops and turns, looking back at Draco. “Yeh think I’d do that.”

Draco wraps his arms around himself. The forest is shadowed and cold in this spot. It unnerves him, even with Fang plodding along beside them. He remembers a night years ago, walking along with them and Potter, seeing a bloodstained monster bent over a dead unicorn. He shivers. “Most people would. It seems they find me annoying.” He hesitates. “Among other things.”

“Yeh are annoying,” Hagrid says gruffly. “Particularly when yeh get all poncy. But mind me words, Malfoy. I’ve been in Azkaban before, and I got no wish to send anyone, least of all yeh, to that godforsaken place. Do yeh understand?”

Draco looks up at him. “Not really.”

Hagrid snorts. “For all yer a bloody swot, Draco Malfoy, there’s times I doubt yeh’ve a lick of sense in that brain of yers.” He sighs and cuffs Draco on the shoulder, nearly knocking him over. Draco catches himself on a tree. “Yer not going to Azkaban, so just shut it about that, all right?” He stomps off towards the edge of the forest, Fang bounding behind him.

After a moment, Draco follows, lost in his own thoughts.

***

Harry finds it odd that the best parts of his days are spent chasing a Snitch with Malfoy, of all people. When he reluctantly admits this to Ron in a firecall one night, his best mate just studies him for a moment through the green flames.

“It’s the flying, though, isn’t it?” Ron brushes his hair out of his eyes. It needs cutting, but Hermione likes it longer, so he’ll put off going to the barber again, Harry knows. Sometimes it bothers him how coupled his closest friends are. Since things went pearshaped with Ginny, he feels awkward around them. They never notice. “I mean, you could be playing against anyone. Malfoy just happens to be around. Bad luck, that.”

Harry chews on his thumbnail. Ron has a point, he supposes. It’s Quidditch, not Malfoy. A sense of relief washes through him, and he shrugs, changing the subject to Hermione. Ron’s face brightens. Harry steels himself for details he’d rather not know.

The warding of the castle is tiring. McGonagall only lets him help in the afternoon for a few hours, sending him off to rest the moment his magic flares, which happens more regularly than either of them would like. Harry’s Healer ups the dosage of his potions at the next visit, frowning sternly at him as he tells Harry to keep his interaction with the wards at a minimum.

“Your magic’s still too unstable for extended heavy spellwork,” Guhathakurta says, scribbling notes in Harry’s file. “I expect you to tell the Headmistress to limit your work to no more than an hour a day.”

Harry nods dutifully and does no such thing. Assisting with the wards helps him, makes him feel useful, keeps the ghosts of the battle at bay. If he’s working with McGonagall and Flitwick to reinforce the charms, he’s not thinking about who died in this corridor or how that room stank of sweat and smoke and blood.

He only sees Malfoy at breakfast and supper. McGonagall tells him Hagrid and Malfoy eat lunch in Hagrid’s hut, and Harry thinks it’s a fitting punishment for Malfoy to endure Hagrid’s cooking for at least one meal a day. His Community Order isn’t supposed to be cushy, after all.

Harry wonders if Malfoy wakes up at night with the screams of a nightmare still echoing in his ears. Watching him over breakfast some mornings, when Malfoy won’t meet anyone’s eyes and his mouth is drawn and thin as he clutches a steaming cup of tea tightly in both hands, Harry’s certain of it. At those moments, Harry almost feels sorry for the git. It fades, though, when he thinks of Teddy and how he’ll never know his parents. Or George, having to soldier on without his twin.

Flying is happiness. In the fading light of the evening, his broom clenched between his thighs, the faint warmth of the lingering sun on his face, Harry feels normal. It’s only when he races for the Snitch, barely missing a mid-air collision with a shouting Malfoy that he realises Ron’s wrong. It couldn’t be anyone else up here on a broom with him. Not really. Malfoy’s always got under his skin in a way no one else has been able to. It’s not just flying that makes Harry feel alive. It’s hearing Malfoy tell him imperiously that he’s shit at Quidditch; it’s the urge to aim his broom so he buzzes past the bastard, nearly knocking him aside. It’s beating him to the Snitch half the time and cursing when Malfoy’s fingers close around it before his do.

Tonight, though, Harry’s tired. McGonagall’s been in London having meetings with the Ministry regarding the start of term, and Harry’s taken advantage of her absence to spend most of the day helping Flitwick with the wards. He doesn’t care that Malfoy’s flying circles around him; all he wants to do is sit on his broom high above the pitch and watch the hawks swoop down over the treetops below.

“Potter,” Malfoy snaps, and Harry realises the Snitch has just flitted past him lazily. He turns, too quickly perhaps, and a burst of magic shudders through him, pulling his hands from the broomstick. It bucks beneath him, and he’s falling, the air whipping his hair into his eyes. He barely has time to shout, and all he can remember is to bend his knees as he twists around, desperate to land on his feet.

He jerks to a stop inches before the green grass of the pitch. Malfoy’s beside him, his face white, his wand drawn. They hover in midair, staring at each other, both breathing hard.

Harry’s broom slams into the turf between them.

“What the hell was that?” Malfoy looks ill.

Harry stretches one leg. The toe of his trainer doesn’t even brush the grass. He looks at his hands. They’re still trembling. He closes his fists slowly, then opens them again. The familiar tingling across his palm fades. “My magic.”

Malfoy eyes him. “Right.” A flick of his wand and Harry ends up on his arse, wincing. The ground’s uncomfortably hard beneath him. Malfoy hops off his broom. It drops next to Harry’s. “Explain.”

“It’s nothing really.” Harry stretches out on the grass and looks up at the twilight sky. It glows rosy, and he thinks he can pick out Venus shining brightly behind a thin cloud. He tries to remember what Trelawney told them about the planet in Divination. It controlled sex, he thinks, though Old Sybil had tried to couch it in more discreet terms. Romance, she’d called it. They’d all known what she was talking about. The boys’ dormitories had been enthralled with sex since the first of them had a wet dream.

“‘Nothing’ doesn’t send you plummeting from a broom,” Malfoy says dryly. “I should know.” He sits beside Harry, his knees drawn up to his chest. “So.”

Harry rolls over onto his side and studies Malfoy. His shoulders have broadened since sixth year. Harry wonders if that’s happened recently or over the last year. He realises he’s only seen Malfoy a handful of times since that night on the tower. “My magic,” he says after a moment, “is a bit cocked up lately.” He picks at a blade of grass, rubbing it between his fingertips. “Seems that sort of thing might happen when you lock horns with a Dark Lord.” He hesitates. “And die.”

“You didn’t.” Malfoy watches him. His boots are scuffed, the soles covered with dirt. He’s rolled the sleeves of his linen shirt up over his elbows and the hairs on his forearms glint gold in the fading sunlight. When he shifts, Harry can see the curves of the Dark Mark, black against Malfoy’s skin. Strangely, he doesn’t care. He just has a sudden urge to trace the delicate jut of bone at Malfoy’s wrist.

“I did.” Harry flops onto his back. The soft, green grass tickles the nape of his neck. It smells rich and earthy. “Mostly.” He glances over at Malfoy. “The afterlife looks rather like King’s Cross.”

Malfoy wrinkles his nose. “Remind me to pursue immortality.” His palms smooth over his trousers. “Did you really die then?” He hesitates. “Mother says the Dark Lord cast the Killing Curse on you, but it didn’t work.”

“It did in a way.” Harry stares at the clouds drifting across the rose-gold sky. “I just decided to come back.” He closes his eyes for a moment and remembers the sense of peace he’d felt after the Curse hit him. “Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t stay.”

Silence stretches out between them. Harry finally opens his eyes and looks over at Malfoy. Blond hair brushes Malfoy’s cheek, obscuring his eyes. “Why didn’t you?” Malfoy says at last, his voice quiet.

“There were things left to do.”

Malfoy glances at him then. “Killing His Lordship.”

Harry shrugs. “Perhaps someone else could have done it at that point. Killing me weakened him.” His fingers brush his scar. “But it needed to be me.” His voice catches. “It had to be me.”

Malfoy doesn’t say anything. A fly lands on his hand and he brushes it off, rubbing his thumb across his skin. He sighs. “There’s a location charm on me, you know.” He flexes his fingers and Harry’s surprised at how rough they already are. His nails are ragged and torn, and two knuckles are scraped. The Malfoy he’d known in his six years at school had perfectly groomed hands. “The Ministry wants to know where I am at all times.”

“At least you’re not in Azkaban--or dead,” Harry says, and he doesn’t mask the bitterness in his voice. Malfoy doesn’t flinch.

“I know.”

Harry looks away.

“You don’t like me,” Malfoy says.

“I don’t recall you being overly fond of me either,” Harry points out. Malfoy doesn’t object.

“Why did you save me?” Malfoy’s eyes are shadowed. “In the Room of Hidden Things. You could have left Greg and me there to die.” He bites his lip and pulls his knees closer to his chest. “Like Vince.”

Harry sits up. The Snitch dips past his shoulder and he catches it without thought. Its wings beat lightly against his palm. “You could have let me fall from my broom just now.”

“I didn’t.”

“And I didn’t leave you and Goyle.” Harry twists the Snitch in his fingertips, and its wings fold up, slipping into the golden sphere.

Neither of them speak. The Snitch is heavy in Harry’s hand. It reminds him of the one he’d carried around last year. I open at the close. He can still remember how it felt to stand on the edge of the forest, the Snitch held against his lips as he realised he truly was about to die. He remembers the ache deep inside at thinking that he wouldn’t see Ginny again, or Ron, or Hermione, that he’d never be able to say goodbye.

Malfoy takes the Snitch from Harry. He strokes the smooth golden curve of the sphere with his thumb. “Your magic.” He looks at Harry from the corner of his eye. “Is it dangerous?”

“No.” Harry watches as Malfoy rolls the Snitch across his palm. He realises this is probably the longest conversation he’s had with Malfoy. Definitely the longest they’ve gone without causing some sort of grievous bodily harm to each other. “The Healers just want me not to wear myself out. It’s erratic when I’m tired.” He shrugs, and a small smile curves his mouth. “Does odd things like knock me off brooms.”

“And give me a heart attack in the process.” Malfoy’s glare is sardonic. “Die on my watch, Potter, and my tattered reputation will be irredeemable. They’d all be certain I’d murdered you.”

“I’ll keep that in mind if I ever want to frame you for my death.” Harry says it lightly, but Malfoy turns a sharp look on him.

“Not funny.”

The shadows from the Keeper’s hoops are lengthening across the pitch. “So how long is your term?” Harry asks. It’s nearly time for them to go in; he realises he’s not so eager to disappear into his rooms yet. Talking to Malfoy isn’t as horrible as he’d thought.

Or perhaps he’s just lonely.

“Two years,” Malfoy says. He shifts, resettling on the grass so he’s cross-legged. The first two buttons of his shirt are undone, and Harry catches a glimpse of smooth skin and a sharp collarbone. “Elphias Doge thought it’d be fitting to send me back to the scene of my crime.” He doesn’t meet Harry’s eyes, choosing instead to study the markings on the Snitch in his fingers. “My nightmares are appreciative, I’m certain.” His mouth twists. “Vicious old bastard.”

Harry can’t stop himself. “Maybe he thought it’d do you good to spend time with your ghosts. Your cousin, for one. She’d still be alive if you hadn’t been such a shit.”

Malfoy’s fingers tighten on the Snitch, small crescents paling beneath the tips of his nails. “I never knew Nymphadora,” he says.

“She was amazing,” Harry says. “Funny and smart and a brilliant Auror--” His voice catches in the back of his throat. He’s still angry with Tonks and Remus both, neither of them stopping to think what it would do to their son to grow up without both of them. He wraps his arms around his knees and rocks back and forth for a moment, willing himself back under control. “She has a son, you know.”

“Ted.” Malfoy nods. “I’ve met him.” At Harry’s sceptical look, he shrugs. “Mother has Aunt Andromeda over on Sundays, and she brings him.”

“I thought your mother hated Dromeda,” Harry says.

Malfoy’s sneer is back. “What you think of my family is often wrong, Potter.” He looks away, plucking a few leaves of grass. He lets them drift from his fingertips. “Father was the one who forbade Mother from seeing her sister.”

Harry considers this for a long moment. “Your father’s a shit.”

“Of course he is.”

Harry expected a virulent defence of Lucius Malfoy. He’s taken aback. “That’s not what you said a few years ago.”

“That would be before my father decided to allow a mad bastard to put my life on the line to save his own.” Malfoy’s body is tense. He stares up into the empty stands, the remnants of sun casting a golden glow in his cheeks. “By the end of it all, Father knew I wanted out.” He shudders. “I spent months praying His Lordship wouldn’t turn his wand on me out of boredom.”

This gives Harry pause. He’d known Malfoy was afraid when he saw him in the Manor. That much had been clear. Still, he’d assumed he stood by Lucius. He chooses his words carefully. “I guess your father’s not so happy with you then?”

“Oh, don’t worry, Potter,” Malfoy says bitterly. He reaches for his broom. “I can assure you I’ve disappointed Lucius Malfoy more than you can appreciate in ways that go far beyond political disagreements.” He pushes himself to his feet and looks down at Harry. His cheeks are flushed. “To begin with, it’s a bit harder to provide a damned heir when you fancy cock rather than tits.”

Harry looks at him in surprise. “You’re bent?” His eyes trail down Malfoy’s long, lean body; he can’t stop himself. Malfoy’s face reddens more. A sneer pulls his mouth to one side.

“Bent, yes.” Malfoy clenches his broom. He lifts his pointed chin. “Poof, pillow biter, arse bandit, shirt lifter, bonafide cocksucker. Go ahead, Potter. Spread the word to all your little sycophants. I’m sure they’ll be delighted to know. I can hear the Weasel now: Pity he’s not in Azkaban. They’d have use for his talents there.

“Ron wouldn’t say that,” Harry says hotly. He stands, wincing slightly. His bones still hurt from his fluctuating magic. He doesn’t quite meet Malfoy’s eyes; he’s not so certain Ron wouldn’t. At least about Malfoy.

Malfoy gives him a scathing look. “They all do. They all think it.” His mouth tightens; he glances away. A breeze catches his hair, blowing it across his cheek, and he brushes it away. When he speaks again, his voice is low. Raw. “Even the ones who say they give a damn about you.”

He stalks off before Harry can stop him, his back stiff. Harry watches him, his gaze sliding down from Malfoy’s tight shoulders to the faint swell of his arse beneath his trousers.

Of all people, he thinks. Here he is, only now coming to terms with the fact that he fancies boys, and he’s stuck in bloody Scotland with the one idiot he despises--and occasionally wanks over, his wretched mind supplies helpfully--and now Harry can’t seem to escape the image of that idiot on his knees in front of him, face pressed against Harry’s open flies, mouth wet around his swollen prick, pale gold hair twisted around his fingers.

Harry shivers. His fingertips graze the zip of his jeans. Malfoy. Bent. Oh, Christ.

A strangled laugh catches Harry off-guard. It takes a moment before he realises it’s his.

***

Draco doesn’t come to breakfast the next morning. Or dinner. He doesn’t want to see Potter, doesn’t want to face what he’s admitted to him.

Standing in the shower after a day spent rounding up Blast-Ended Skrewts who’d escaped their pens, water pouring over his head, down his aching shoulders and across his burnt palms, he curses himself for letting Potter see past his facade. It’s not as if he’s kept his sexuality a complete secret. It’d been known in Slytherin House last term, and anyone who dared look at him askance had faced the wrath of Pansy Parkinson. Theo had tried it just once. He’d spent three days in the infirmary sicking up, and Snape had ignored his furious complaints, choosing instead to send him to detention with the Carrows.

Theo had never commented on Draco being a poof again.

Draco avoids the Great Hall. He works; he sleeps; he sneaks to the kitchens for food. It’s weak of him, he knows, but he can’t bear seeing pity in Potter’s eyes.

It takes only a few days before Hagrid pulls Draco aside, questioning his noticeable absence at meals. Draco just shrugs and mumbles something about Potter being an arse before he returns his attention to the grass-cutting charm he’s casting on the upper lawn.

He ought to have known that wouldn’t be the end of it.

Potter finds him in the Thestrals’ clearing. Draco’s been coming every afternoon to check on Druella, bringing her and Ismene handfuls of sugar cubes he’s nicked from Hagrid’s hut. He sits beneath the wide branches of a tree, laughing as Druella butts his shoulder with her beak, her tiny wings unfurling as she sneaks another sugar cube from Draco’s palm. Her mother looks on indulgently from across the clearing.

“Hagrid told me you might be here,” Potter says. He moves from the shadows silently, his hands in his jeans pockets. His hair is mussed and dusty from some castle corridor, Draco presumes.

Draco doesn’t answer. His hand smoothes across Druella’s slick coat. Her hair’s darkening now, changing from the dark grey of a newborn foal to an inky charcoal. She prances next to him for a moment before settling down next to him. She eyes Potter in what Draco can only hope is a sour manner. Druella doesn’t seem to be fond of anything that takes Draco’s attention from her. He scratches lightly behind her ear and she snuffs, leaning in to his touch.

Potter shifts from one foot to the other. He looks ridiculous in a worn black t-shirt that’s obscenely too small for him, Draco thinks. He wonders what happened to Potter’s penchant for clothes two or three sizes too large. His fingers card through Druella’s rough mane.

“Hagrid thinks I’ve annoyed you.” Potter turns his foot, rolling his trainer to one side before straightening up. Honestly, his posture is appalling. “I told him if I breathe it annoys you.”

Draco just looks at him. There’s no sense in denying the truth.

Potter runs a hand through his hair, pulling away a cobweb. He sighs and glances around the clearing. It seems to unsettle him.

“What?” Draco asks sharply.

“There used to be a colony of acromantula there.” Potter points towards the edge of the clearing where an ancient, gnarled oak rests. Its trunk is split open and its dark branches twist up to tangle in the canopy of leaves above.

“Not anymore.” Draco wonders at Potter’s uncharacteristic unease. “I wouldn’t have thought you’d be spooked by that, oh Chosen One and Slayer of Dark Wizards.”

With a sigh, Potter wraps his arms around himself as if he’s chilled--not an impossibility this deep into the forest. Summer or not, it’s still Scotland, and the sunlight that filters through the trees is spotty at best. Draco’s just grateful that the midge-repellent charms he’d helped Hagrid cast his first week of Community Order are still holding. Mostly. He’d slapped one of the beastly creatures away this morning just before it latched its blood-sucking proboscis into his arm.

Potter rubs his hands over his biceps and steps further into the clearing, turning to look around him. “I died here,” he says softly.

Draco stills, his hand on Druella’s back. He can feel the sharp bumps of her spine beneath his palm. “Here?” he asks after a moment.

Potter nods. He pushes his glasses up his nose. “It’s a bit...” He trails off, lost in memory, his lip caught between his teeth.

Ismene steps forward, tossing her mane. She nudges Potter’s shoulder with her beak, and he smiles faintly at her, reaching up to smooth his hand across her coat. “I never would have thought you and Thestrals would get on.”

Draco pushes himself to his feet. Druella whinnies softly beside him, bumping against his hip. He calms her with a touch on her shoulder. She shifts on her thin legs; even after several weeks she’s still unsteady at times. Firenze says its because she’s growing so quickly that her centre of gravity shifts just as she’s become used to it. “I like them,” Draco says. “They’re...” He hesitates, looking for a word. “Calming.”

Potter snorts. “You and Luna should get together.”

“Lovegood?” Draco arches an eyebrow. “Believe me when I say that particular branch of the Malfoys has been chopped quite thoroughly from the family tree. Grandfather Abraxas made certain of that.”

“You’re related?” Potter looks genuinely shocked.

Sometimes Draco forgets how sheltered Potter is from wizarding society. “Her grandmother was my grandfather’s younger sister. She eloped with Alcibiades Lovegood when she was staying at the Dublin townhouse and then scandalised everyone by having Xenophilius six months later.”

Potter blinks. “You kept her in your dungeon--”

“His Lordship kept her there,” Draco snaps. His voice rises. He’s tired of being blamed for everything the sodding Death Eaters did. “My parents made certain she was fed and stayed alive. She might be a complete nutter, but whether or not Grandfather Abraxas would approve, she’s family. We’re not monsters.”

“Just to Muggles,” Potter says tightly.

Draco clenches his fists, pressing them to his sides. The last thing he needs is to have an assault of the Savior of the Wizarding World on his record. He doesn’t know how he feels about Muggles and the Muggleborn any longer. He doesn’t like them, he knows that much, and he doesn’t want to be around them. But two years of living in fear have shown him how very mad His Lordship was, and he wants nothing to do with any of his father’s old friends. “Whatever you’d like to think,” he says at last through gritted teeth.

Potter watches him, an odd expression on his face. “You’re not going to deck me?”

“What’s the point?” Draco’s tired. All he wants is for Potter to go away, to leave him alone in this clearing with his Thestrals. He’s only a little longer left with them before Hagrid will expect him back at the hut for yet another assignment. He supposes it’s strange that he’d prefer to stay in the forest, given how terrified he was of it as a child. Then again, he’s learned there are other things to fear than beasts who would rather disturb you less than you’d like to disturb them. He saves his terror for people now.

Potter just shrugs, then looks back at the Thestrals. Draco thinks perhaps Potter’s disappointed, and he doesn’t quite understand why.

“Hagrid says you’re rather good with them,” Potter says, with a nod towards Ismene and her herd. Her stallion eyes them both balefully. Creon, his name is, or at least that’s what Firenze calls him. He still doesn’t care for Draco.

“I suppose.” Draco’s not certain what that says about him. Druella nudges his hip again, and he runs his fingertips behind her ears. She snuffs happily and prances beside him. Potter laughs. It’s a surprisingly pleasant sound that unsettles Draco. “Why are you here?” he asks. “Felt like reliving the scene of your demise?”

“Not particularly.” Potter’s face clouds, and Draco feels a momentary pang of guilt. “I didn’t realise...” He stops and sighs again. “Well, I did, I suppose. Maybe that’s why Hagrid....” Another sigh, and he pushes his hands into his pockets. “He was here too, you know.”

Draco hadn’t. His mother doesn’t talk much about that night. All he knows is that somehow she kept Potter alive, and that was why neither she nor he were sitting in Azkaban alongside his father. “Hagrid,” he says finally, and Potter nods.

“They had him tied to that tree,” Potter says faintly, gesturing across the clearing to another, smaller oak. “All of them gathered here. They made him watch while I stood here...” He walks to a dip in the clearing. Ismene follows him, staying close. Potter stares off into the distance.

Draco feels a frisson of fear. He doesn’t like the look on Potter’s face. Doesn’t like the fact that he’s out here alone with him. “Potter,” he says, and his voice is sharp and high.

Potter doesn’t turn around. His shoulders jerk, and Draco steps forward, alarmed, visions of Potter’s fall still in his mind. He’d thought his heart had stopped when he saw Potter lose his grip on the broomstick, tumbling towards the ground below. It’d been a repeat of the Quidditch match in which he and Vince and Greg had dressed as Dementors, in the hopes that Potter’s infamous focus would be thrown off. If he closes his eyes he can still hear the bonecrunching thud of Potter’s body striking the pitch. He’d spent that afternoon sicking up, coward that he was.

Working with the Thestrals has taught Draco to be cautious. The stallions are the most high-strung. It’d only taken one painful strike of Creon’s hoof on his shoulder for him to learn not to spook him. He moves slowly towards Potter, warily. “Potter,” he says again, and his fingers barely brush Potter’s arm.

He ends up with a wand tip at his jaw. Potter’s eyes are bright and unfocused. Haunted. Draco stays still, but he sees Potter’s gaze drop to the flutter of a pulse in his throat. Potter blinks.

“I’d really rather you not hex me,” Draco says. His voice only trembles slightly, a feat of which he’s proud. The wand is still pressed against his skin. Draco recognises it. Hawthorn with a unicorn hair core. Ten inches. He’d used it for nearly seven years before Potter took it from him that night in the Manor. Part of him aches for it back, desperate to feel its familiar thrum against his palm. The Ministry would never allow it, though. He was lucky to have even a crippled wand of his own. McGonagall had made certain the Ministry had allowed him a few minor self-defence charms, claiming he’d need them in the Forbidden Forest. None of them would work against Harry Potter.

The wand drops a fraction of an inch. Enough to allow Draco to pull away. “Sorry,” Potter says. He shakes his head, and runs a hand through his ridiculously messy hair. They look at each other for a long moment. Draco manages to keep his tongue. There’s no damned sense in provoking Potter at the moment. Not here.

“Do you have nightmares?” Potter asks finally.

Draco nods. “Nearly every night,” he whispers. He swallows, but he doesn’t look away.

“Sometimes I think I hear you screaming,” Potter says. “Late at night.”

Their rooms are down the hall from each other. Draco reminds himself to put up a Silencing Charm. He keeps quiet, though, to Potter’s obvious discomfort.

Potter steps back, sliding his wand into his pocket. “I should go. I just wanted to say you shouldn’t avoid supper because of me. McGonagall’s a bit narked at me because of that.”

Draco waits until he’s at the edge of the clearing before he speaks. “Charity Burbage,” he says, and his throat’s thick. Potter stops and looks back at him. “Last night I dreamt about Charity Burbage.”

“The Muggle Studies professor who resigned.” Potter moves closer again.

“She didn’t resign.” Draco’s fingernails dig into his palms. He can barely feel them. “He killed her. There in the Manor, in front of us all, as she floated above the dinner table. She begged--” His voice catches and he shudders, closing his eyes. “She begged Snape to save her. They were friends, she said--” He doesn’t know how his godfather had managed to turn away. He does know that Severus had never forgiven himself for her death.

“Christ,” Potter breathes.

Draco looks at him then. “His Lordship killed her, then fed her body to Nagini.” He licks his bottom lip. “That’s not something that you ever escape, Potter. I see her in so damned many dreams. Looking at me. Begging me to help her. And I can’t.” The ache in his throat builds. “I couldn’t even save myself,” he murmurs.

“None of us could,” Potter says. For a moment Draco thinks Potter’s going to reach for him, and a burble of panic twists through him. Instead Potter rocks back on his heels and rakes both hands through his hair. “War’s hell, Malfoy,” he says finally.

Draco can’t disagree. He watches Potter walk away, hands in his pockets, and he wonders why he can say things to the bastard that he can’t even tell himself.

Later that night, long after dinner is finished, Draco finds a small, half-empty phial of potion beside his door. It’s cool against Draco’s fingers when he picks it up, and the familiar purple liquid sparkles in the light from the sconce above his shoulders. The note beside it is unsigned, but he knows, somehow, that it must be from Potter’s personal store. The Ministry requires his access to potions be restricted and monitored. Mustn’t have the terrible misfortune of a Community Order offender offing himself, now must we? The parchment crinkles beneath his fingers as he unfolds it.

Drink me, you git.

He smiles.

For the first time in weeks Draco sleeps without dreams.

***

Blaise slides a dusty bottle of whisky out of his robe and sets it on the table, casting a furtive glance towards the bar--and Rosemerta. “You do not want to know who I had to kill to get my hands on this,” he murmurs.

Draco rolls his eyes and opens the bottle, pouring a splash of whisky into their just emptied glasses. The wax from the seal crumbles across the scarred wood of the tabletop. Closing his eyes, he takes a sip and sighs happily. It’s worth enduring a glass of Ogden’s Best for this. He relaxes back in his chair, his body aching. Still, he’s out away from the castle, and in proper clothes finally, having traded in his scuffed boots and corduroys for woolen trousers and gleaming brogues. He flexes his silk-stockinged toes in relief.

“And also for you,” Blaise says, and a soft thunk against the wood makes Draco open his eyes. Blaise pushes two packs of rice rolling papers and a small-but-hefty pouch of tobacco across the table. Leavitt & Peirce is stamped across the weathered leather, and Draco can feel the preservative charms warming his fingertips as he picks it up. “Finest Virginian. Mother was in Boston last week.”

Draco opens the pouch. The earthy scent of tobacco drifts out. He hasn’t had a smoke since he’d found himself back at Hogwarts. He won’t touch the cack Hagrid puts in his pipe, and this is his first venture out to Hogsmeade. If Blaise hadn’t brought him some, he’d have dragged him into the smoke shop down the street. “If I weren’t utterly bent, I’d kiss your mother on the mouth.”

Blaise makes a face. “I’d rather you not. Her latest is only a few years older than us, have I told you that?” He lifts his glass to his mouth. “And American. I’m not certain which is worse.”

“Difficult call, that,” Draco agrees. He tucks the pouch and rolling papers in his robe pocket and reaches for his whisky again. “How’s the Ministry?”

“Well enough, I suppose.” Blaise raises a shoulder expressively. He’s had to report in to the MLE in order to cross the border into Scotland, despite the fact the terms of their Community Order grant them free travel throughout Britain. The Aurors say they’re fine-tuning the program. Draco thinks they’re just enormous cocksuckers. “Nothing more delightful than filling paperwork for the Ghoul Task Force for a pittance that barely covers my part of the rent." He grimaces. Draco knows he's sharing a tiny Knockturn Alley flat with Greg and Theo. It's all they can afford on the few Galleons a month the Ministry provides. "Still, as Theo points out, better ghouls than the tea cart in the Atrium.”

Draco drains his glass. “Poor Pansy.” She’d been incandescent when she’d received her assignment after St Mungo’s had finally released her, insisting it was ridiculously sexist to have her serving up tea and cake while the boys had actual jobs. She was forever dropping mugs of tea by the end of the day, and enduring the abuse spouted at her by the so-called heroes of the wizarding war. Sometimes Draco suspects the humiliation she endures on a near daily basis was part of what the Wizengamot had intended for her. They’d known the extent of her injuries; her Healers had testified on her behalf. “How’s her appeal to the Wizengamot going?”

“As expected. They’ve oh-so-conveniently rescheduled her request for another hearing yet again.” Blaise pours them both another few fingers of whisky. “She’s right, you know. They’d never have put any of the rest of us in that position.” Draco knows. Even Millie was assigned to Broom Regulatory Control.

“She really shouldn’t have annoyed them," Draco says and he knows he's being more than unfair. Still, Pansy has a wretched habit of saying the wrong thing to the wrong people at the exact wrong time, and she ought to have known that, pride be damned, just after they'd lost the war wasn't the time to publicly--and in extraordinarily explicit terms--accuse one of the senior Wizengamot members of offering her a Mayfair flat and a monthly allotment in exchange for her willingness to suck his cock.

Even if he had.

Blaise gives him a long, tense look over the rim of his glass. “Yes, well, she sends her love.”

Draco ignores the twinge of guilt. He knows how Blaise feels about that particular incident. One of these days he'll wake up and realise he's head over arse for Pansy. They all know it, no matter who Blaise is fucking at a particular moment. "Is she still living with Daphne or have they strangled each other yet?"

"Be afraid," Blaise says dryly. "They get on terrifyingly well now." He leans back in his chair, a faint smile curving his mouth. The candles floating above their heads cast a warm glow on his dark skin. "As a matter of fact, last night they were just bemoaning their inability to properly get into your trousers, either one of them. Pansy had some interesting stories."

Draco turns his whisky between his fingertips, studying the curve of the glass. Pansy'd told him more than once how disappointed she was that of all the Slytherins he was the one that had to be honestly, truly homosexual. He'd always felt guilty over that; he did love Pansy in his own conflicted way, and they'd occasionally talked about marriage late at night, curled up on the sofa in the common room. An heir, darling, she'd said, her hand on his chest and her head on his shoulder. A potion or two, one quick shag, and nine months later we're both free to live our own lives as we see fit. No more lectures from your father about your familial duty, and no more pressure from my mother to marry up the social ladder.

He'd considered it briefly. Until last year. Watching his father kowtowing to a madman had stripped Draco of all his familial pride. It didn't matter now if he was the last of his line. In fact, he was rather relieved. His father would be furious, of course. Draco's found that he doesn't really give a fuck.

"How pissed was she?" he asks finally. He takes a sip of whisky. It's sharp and smooth against his tongue. Peaty, almost.

"Two bottles of wine worth." Blaise raises an eyebrow. "Did she really offer to shag you with a dildo?"

Draco sighs. "Yes, and I turned her down, thank you very much." Pansy'd been one of the few he'd said no to last term, and everyone knew it. He suspects that's why it irritates her so much. He hadn't cared, though. None of them had. There'd been little more to drag them through the year, and Severus had turned a blind eye to their debauchery, only pulling Draco and Pansy aside once to inform them as Head Boy and Girl it was their responsibility to make certain none of their classmates were complete and total imbeciles. He'd given them the password to the cabinet in the infirmary that held contraceptive potions. Pomfrey had said nothing to them when her stores were depleted; she'd merely replaced the potions on a regular basis.

For the most part, he'd taken only the sixth and seventh year Slytherins boys to his bed, supplemented by a Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff every so often. Blaise had been there quite frequently, though he'd never let Draco fuck him properly. Instead he'd twisted long fingers through Draco's hair as Draco took his cock in his mouth, sucking him until Blaise cried out, his hips bucking as his spunk spurted over Draco's lips.

"How long has it been?" Blaise asks. He's always been able to read Draco's thoughts. Draco'd almost suspect him of Legilimency, if he didn't think Blaise was far too lazy to learn it. Instead he's certain Blaise has just inherited his mother's innate ability to read emotions and physical cues. Like the way Draco's been staring at Blaise's mouth.

Draco lifts his glass again. "Long enough." He hasn't cared these past two months, but it's been the longest he's gone without someone in bed with him since last September. "Not many options around here at the moment."

"Wait until September," Blaise says. "You always did enjoy Andrew Fronsac's arse."

"No fraternization with the students." Draco's mouth twists to one side. "McGonagall's already made that perfectly clear. And I'd rather not think about shagging Flitwick or Hagrid, thanks ever so."

Blaise flinches. "Right." He flicks his wand at the bottle of whisky as Rosmerta passes, and it Disillusions. She eyes them suspiciously but doesn't stop. "Isn't Potter there this summer?"

It's said a little too lightly, a smidge too casually. Draco's eyes narrow. "Why?"

"He's not a student at the moment." Blaise's smile is slow and careless. "And you always did seem a little obsessed."

"Fuck off," Draco says, his irritation rising. He's not about to tell Blaise that Potter's begun to feature more prominently in his nightly wanks. That he imagines what it would be like to spread Potter across his bed, to push him up against the cold tile of his shower, to look down and see Potter on his knees, Draco's cock in his mouth. "Besides, he's McGonagall's golden boy. She'd pass me back over to the Aurors in a heartbeat."

Blaise looks unconvinced. He hmms into his whisky before setting his glass aside. He leans forward and his fingertips brush the back of Draco's hand. "You're terribly tense, you know."

Draco just looks at him. Blaise's dark eyes are fixed on his. "Aren't you shagging Daphne's little sister?"

"Astoria?" Blaise smiles. "Sometimes." His thumb sweeps across Draco's wrist. "Your mouth’s much lovelier."

It's tempting. Draco's always loved sucking cock. Particularly Blaise's, and the bastard knows it. He takes another sip of whisky. "What's in it for me?" he asks. It'll never be Blaise's arse, of course.

"A hand other than your own."

Draco's prick swells. He hasn't been touched in weeks. And perhaps the memory of Blaise's fingers twisting around him will drive the away the thoughts of Potter's hand. Mouth. Arse, for fuck's sake. "And the whisky," he says.

Blaise stands. "Our alley awaits, milord," he murmurs, and a shiver runs down Draco's spine as he pushes his chair back.

He'll regret this in the morning. He always does. But for now all he wants is to feel the familiar rough cobblestones beneath his knees and taste Blaise's bitter spunk as he swallows him down. It's all he deserves after all, a quick knee-trembler behind the Three Broomsticks with an old friend who'd toss him aside the moment anyone thinks he might actually enjoy the idea of another man's prick.

The bottle of whisky is warm in his hand. He slides it into his robe. He'll drink the rest of it when he goes back to his rooms, alone again.

Draco brushes past Blaise, not waiting to see if he'll follow.

He knows he will.

***

Later, when everything changes, Harry will tell people that the turning point of his life wasn’t his death. Or his battle against Voldemort. It was the night of his eighteenth birthday, when Hagrid decided to bring several bottles of perfectly brewed plum brandy to supper.

What he’ll know, though, is that it’s not Hagrid’s fault his life up-ends. It’s his own.

Harry supposes he’s made the choice already, even before this afternoon when, laid low by another bout of fluctuating magic--a longer one this time, that sends him to the floor, shaking and makes McGonagall Floo Pomfrey to come examine him and order him to his room to rest--he finds himself flipping through one of the books Hermione had left with him. One that he keeps tucked away in his trunk, hidden beneath an old school jumper and his Quidditch kit.

Only Hermione knows he’s queer. After his row with Ginny, she’d cornered him at the Leaky, insisting he tell her what was going on. He hadn’t wanted to, but she knew enough of the story from Ginny’s side to figure out that he wasn’t exactly straight, insisting to him that no seventeen-year-old heterosexual male would be unaffected by their girlfriend’s tits to begin with.

She’d had a point.

And she’d been back the next day with a book from the Waterstone’s on Trafalgar Square detailing the intricacies of gay sex. He’d mumbled a redfaced thank you at the time, but in the weeks since he’s read it so many times the paperback spine’s nearly bent.

He knows what he wants. He’s studied the line drawings of men bent over each other, cocks in arses, limbs tangled. He’s wanked himself nearly raw over them, closing his eyes to imagine his thighs spread, legs draped over another man’s arse. His fingers, slick with oil, slide inside his body as Harry pretends they belong to whatever anonymous man he’s fantasising about now.

Except if he’s honest with himself he knows that man with his blond hair that brushes his pointed chin with each sharp, imaginary thrust of his hips against Harry’s arse.

And so he sits on the edge of his bed, the warm July sun pouring through the diamond-paned window behind him, still-wrapped presents from Hermione and Ron and Molly and Arthur piled on the chair beside the nightstand, and the decision’s made, even if he doesn’t think about it. About what it means.

He closes the book and sets it aside. His hands barely shake. He’s ready. He knows he is.

Supper’s a boisterous affair. Hagrid cheerfully uncorks his bottles of plum brandy, and the house-elves bring out an enormous vanilla sponge slathered with chocolate and hazelnuts. McGonagall toasts to Harry’s health, but Harry has eyes only for Malfoy, who sits silently across the table, sipping the wickedly strong brandy, his face impassive.

It’s after nine when the professors begin to stagger away, Flitwick clapping Harry on the back and wishing him a happy birthday, Pomfrey kissing his temple boozily. Even Filch seems to be, if not happy, then not quite as nasty as usual. Hagrid’s hunched over the end of the table, his head on one arm as he snores softly, and McGonagall casts a concerned glance his way as she rises.

“I’ll make sure he gets back to his hut,” Malfoy says, setting aside his nearly empty glass of brandy. He’s had several, Harry knows, but neither of them have come close to the rather impressive quantity their professors have imbibed. Still his head swims just enough.

McGonagall touches Malfoy’s shoulder gently, and Harry’s surprised he doesn’t pull away. “Thank you, Draco.”

And then they’re alone, the two of them and Hagrid and a few house-elves who sweep away the abandoned glasses and plates with sharp clicks of their long fingers.

“You can go to bed, Potter,” Malfoy says, and Harry thinks its the first thing he’s said to him all evening. He hadn’t been on the pitch for the past two nights either. He’d been in Hogsmeade the first night, according to McGonagall. Merlin only knew where he’d been yesterday. Harry tells himself he doesn’t care enough to ask.

At Malfoy’s hand on his arm, Hagrid wakes with a snort, blinking and wiping at his eyes. “Wha’,” he says, and he yawns, stretching his huge hands towards the ceiling. The enchanted sky’s growing darker, the last rosy fingers of twilight fading into a charcoal-blue.

“I’ll walk you out,” Malfoy says. There’s a faint tinge of affection in his voice, Harry thinks, but he’s more taken aback at Hagrid’s pat of his hand over Malfoy’s.

“Good lad,” Hagrid says as he pushes his chair back with a screech of wood against stone.

Harry barely has time to scramble up himself. He grabs the edge of the table to steady himself. “I’ll go with you.”

Narrowed grey eyes turn on him. “No need,” Malfoy says coolly, but Hagrid’s already draping a heavy arm around Harry’s shoulder.

“‘arry,” Hagrid slurs. “‘arry, ‘arry, ‘arry, me boy. Saw him die, you know.” He wraps his other arm around Draco. He leans down and whispers, “Broke me heart.”

“I’m certain it did.” Malfoy’s oddly skillful at manoeuvring Hagrid around the tables and out into the hall. Harry can’t help but wonder how many times he’s done this before.

Halfway down the lawn, Hagrid pulls away from them, stumbling forward as he bursts into song. “As I were goin' over the far famed Kerry mountains,” he roars, and Harry and Malfoy exchange an exasperated glance. He’ll have half the creatures awake now. “I met with Capt’n Farrell, and his money he were counting...”

“Circe,” Malfoy says under his breath, and he hurries to catch up with Hagrid, Harry at his heels. “If he falls, Potter, he’d damned well better land on you.”

Harry just rolls his eyes. “I’ll make certain a limb or two knocks you down.”

Hagrid staggers up to his hut, reaching down to scratch behind Fang’s enormous ears. “There’s whisky in the jar,” he bellows, and Fang joins in, his howl echoing across the grounds. Hagrid leans against the doorframe, a watery smile breaking through his coarse beard. “Good lads, ‘arry and Malfoy. Yeh hear that, Fang? Good lads.” He snuffles, and Harry winces.

“For God’s sake, don’t let him cry,” he murmurs, and Malfoy steps forward, pushing Hagrid into the hut.

“Bed, and then coffee in the morning,” Malfoy says firmly. Hagrid pulls him up to his side, still snuffling, and it takes a moment for Malfoy to extricate himself. When he does, his hair is mussed and his cheeks are red. “Go to bed,” he snaps.

When Hagrid finally stumbles into the hut, closing the door behind him, Malfoy relaxes. He runs his hand over his hair, smoothing it, before he turns back to Harry.

They stand silently, looking at each other, then Malfoy shifts and Harry catches a glimpse of a faint bruise on his pale throat as Malfoy’s shirt pulls to one side.

“Are you hurt?” Harry steps closer, and his fingers brush the edge of Malfoy’s collar.

Malfoy jerks back, clapping his palm over the mark. “No.” He pulls his shirt back up to his neck, but not before Harry sees the bruise again.

It’s a love bite, Harry realises, and his cheeks warm. “Oh.” His fists clench at his sides. He doesn’t know why it bothers him that Malfoy has a mark on his skin that wasn’t there a few days ago--and wasn’t caused by him, for fuck’s sake--but it does. He looks away. “Hogsmeade must have been enjoyable.”

“Well enough,” Malfoy says. He’s studying Harry, a curious expression on his face. “Blaise has his uses.”

A flare of jealousy spikes through Harry. “Does he.” His voice is flat. Expressionless. Or so he thinks.

Malfoy’s eyebrow quirks. He moves away from Harry, walking towards the porlock paddocks. “He does,” he says over his shoulder. “But I wouldn’t think you’d be interested.”

“You’d be surprised.” Harry follows him. He slides his hand into one pocket. The small phial of oil’s still there. He can’t take his eyes off Malfoy, his blond hair shining in the twilight.

“Would I?” Malfoy leans against the paddock, turning slightly to glance back at Harry. He looks amused. “I doubt there’s anything about you that would surprise me, Potter. You’re terrifyingly normal--”

Harry cuts him off with a kiss, pressing him back against the slats of the paddock fence. It’s awkward at first, and his glasses bite into his cheek, the lenses fogging up. But Malfoy’s mouth is soft and warm, and this is nothing like kissing Ginny, Harry realises, as his cock swells immediately.

And then Malfoy stiffens, his hands flat against Harry’s chest as he shoves Harry away, sending him falling onto his arse in the dirt. “What the hell are you doing?” He wipes the back of his hand against his mouth.

“Kissing you,” Harry says calmly. He clambers to his feet.

“You’re straight.” Malfoy’s staring at him. His fingertips are still pressed against his lips.

Harry steps closer, carefully, slowly. “Not so much, really.” He doesn’t take his eyes off Malfoy’s face.

“The Weaselette--”

Ginny,” Harry says, “isn’t my girlfriend any longer.”

Malfoy looks away. “Oh.”

Harry licks his bottom lip. “I’m gay,” he says finally. “Ginny and I tried, but...” He shrugs. “It’s not that I didn’t like it. I just...” He trails off, realising how mad it is that he’s talking about sex with Malfoy of all people. He takes a deep breath and exhales. “Kissing you just now was better.”

Malfoy’s face is pale as he glances back at Harry. “This isn’t funny.”

“It’s not meant to be.” Harry’s next to him now, their hips nearly brushing. Malfoy hasn’t shoved him away yet. He thinks this might be a good sign. “Is Zabini your boyfriend?”

Malfoy laughs, a sharp, bitter bark. “Blaise likes to have me suck his cock,” he says after a moment. “If he’s in a good mood, I might get a wank in return. Maybe a good rutting, but God forbid he let anyone think he might enjoy a cock up his arse. So no, Potter. I wouldn’t consider him my boyfriend.”

Relief rushes through Harry. “Right.” He hesitates, shifting from foot to foot. His stomach flutters. “I might enjoy that. The cock bit.”

A porlock nudges Malfoy’s shoulder. He knocks it away, still looking at Harry. “Oh.”

“It’s my birthday,” Harry says quietly.

Malfoy snorts. “Am I supposed to care?”

“Maybe.” Harry pulls the phial of oil from his pocket and drops it into Malfoy’s cool hand. Malfoy just gives it a curious look, turning the small glass bottle between his fingers.

“What is this?” he asks. They’ve lowered their voices, the both of them, as the shadows have lengthened and darkened across the lawn.

Harry meets his gaze. “You know.”

Malfoy laughs, and Harry isn’t certain if it’s mocking or not. “You can’t just nick cooking oil from the elves, Potter.”

“Don’t be a twat.” Harry’s hand closes over Malfoy’s, curling his fingers over the phial. “I bought it in Knockturn before I came North. I’d read that I needed it if I wanted to...” He trails off, his cheeks hot. “You know.”

“Fuck?” Malfoy asks. He hasn’t pulled away yet. Harry thinks that might be a good sign.

He shrugs, pulling together his shreds of courage. For fuck’s sake, he’d thought talking about sex would be easier. He’d never had any problem with Ron, not even when his best mate had started in on how far away from a wall he could be to spatter it with spunk when he wanked. “And to put my fingers, er....” He stumbles over the words again, and he waits for Malfoy’s derision.

“Up your bum.” A small smile curves Malfoy’s mouth. Harry blinks. There’s nothing scornful about it. “Such a kinky sod, Potter,” Malfoy says lightly, and he doesn’t move. His gaze doesn’t leave Harry’s face.

“It’s my birthday,” Harry says again. He’s mesmerised by Malfoy’s grey eyes. By the pale flush rising on his cheeks.

“So you’ve said.”

Harry’s thumb traces tiny circles on Malfoy’s wrist. He can feel the irregular beat of Malfoy’s pulse against his skin. He moves closer, pressing against Malfoy, pushing him into the fence behind them. They’re nearly of a height: Malfoy’s only an inch or so taller than Harry’s five-eleven, a far cry from the small children they’d been that day in Madam Malkin’s shop. He leans in and brushes his mouth across Malfoy’s, just barely.

Malfoy’s breath catches. “Potter.” His pale gold eyelashes flick down, then back up again. “You reek of brandy.”

The words are soft, warm puffs against Harry’s lips. “I’m not pissed, if that’s what you’re implying,” he says. He dips a finger in the waist of Malfoy’s trousers, pulling him closer. He bites back a groan at the press of Malfoy’s swelling cock against his.

“Then you’re Confunded,” Malfoy says. His hand settles on Harry’s hip; his fingers twist in the soft cotton of Harry’s t-shirt. When Harry leans in to kiss him again, Malfoy doesn’t shove him away. Instead he breathes out, opening his mouth to Harry’s, letting Harry’s tongue flick against his.

“I already know where I want you to fuck me,” Harry murmurs against Malfoy’s lips. His chest is tight. He’s terrified Malfoy’s going to push him aside, taunting him for his weakness.

Malfoy pulls back from the kiss and studies Harry’s face silently. His hips are still pressed to Harry’s; his hand still clutches Harry’s shirt. “You’re actually serious,” he says after a moment. At Harry’s nod, he disentagles himself, stepping away from the paddock.

Harry turns after him, his heart thudding against his chest. “Malfoy.”

“Why me?” Malfoy’s arms are crossed over his chest, his back’s to Harry. He still has the phial gripped tightly in one hand. “Just so you can mock me to Granger and the Weasel?”

“No.” Harry catches Malfoy’s elbow, pulling Malfoy around to face him. The twilight’s nearly gone now. Above them stars shine in the darkening sky. “I didn’t intend to tell them anything if you’d rather me not.” He takes a shaky breath. “I just want....”

“What?” Malfoy’s face is pinched, his voice sharp. “What do you want--”

Harry cuts him off with another kiss, this one harder, rougher. His hands tangle in Malfoy’s hair, pulling his head back without care as he drags his mouth down Malfoy’s jaw, stopping to nip at the mark on his skin. “I want to fuck,” Harry says into the curve of Malfoy’s throat, and he can feel Malfoy tremble against his lips.

“Not here,” Malfoy says after a moment. One hand cards through Harry’s hair, then Malfoy twists aside, away from Harry’s touch. “Not where anyone could see us.”

“No,” Harry agrees. He reaches for Malfoy’s hand. “The Forest.”

Malfoy doesn’t object. Harry pulls him into the protective curve of the trees, into the shadows and darkness. They stop every so often to kiss, one of them pressed against a wide tree trunk, shoulders catching on the bark as he arches against the other.

Harry knows where he’s going. He’s come this way before on a night much like this one. He wonders if that first journey would have been more bearable without the ghosts of his parents and godfathers and with Draco Malfoy pulling him into the shelter of a willow tree as he is now, rutting against him, his arms draped around Harry’s shoulders as he kisses him senseless.

The clearing is almost empty. The Thestral herd runs through the night; only Ismene and her foal are left. Malfoy barely notices them as he pulls Harry to the ground beside him. They kiss in the moonlight, hands sliding over each other’s bodies, legs tangling together. Malfoy tastes sweet, Harry thinks, and slightly sour. His tongue slides against Malfoy’s, and Malfoy moans, his hips pressing up against Harry’s. The phial of oil drops from his hand, landing with a soft thud on the trampled grass.

Harry pulls at Malfoy’s shirt, tugging at the buttons. One flies off; Malfoy doesn’t notice. He just gasps when Harry pulls aside the wrinkled linen and presses his mouth to one hard, pink nipple. When Harry’s teeth scrape across his skin, Malfoy swears softly, twisting his hands through Harry’s rumpled hair.

It’s nearly too much. Harry raises over Malfoy, aligning their hips as he settles between Malfoy’s thighs. He leans up to kiss Malfoy, all teeth and tongue. They rut together, their bodies pressing and arching against each other, their kisses growing deeper, more frantic, their hands grasping, clutching through denim and corduroy.

They come nearly in unison, Malfoy’s legs wrapped around Harry’s hips, his face pressed against Harry’s neck, before they slump together on the ground, Harry breathing hard into Malfoy’s shoulder. Another tremor of pleasure ripples through him, and he laughs softly as he rolls to his side.

“That,” he says, looking up at the sky above them, “was better than full-on sex with Ginny.”

Malfoy sniffs. “I sincerely hope so.” His hand smooths over Harry’s stomach, sliding up beneath his t-shirt. Harry breathes in sharply, turning to look at him. Malfoy’s eyes are heavy-lidded, his mouth swollen. “Although I intend to put that phial to use in a moment.” His thumb flicks across Harry’s nipple, and Harry groans. Malfoy smiles thinly and rolls Harry’s nipple between his fingertips, pinching and squeezing. “You do realise I top, Potter, don’t you?”

“Yeah?” Harry just wants him to keep doing what he’s doing. Ginny’d always wanted him to play with her tits, but he’d never realised until now exactly why.

Malfoy pulls back and Harry protests, reaching for him. Malfoy bats his hands away, pushing himself to his knees. “Patience, Potter. Honestly. You’re such a Gryffindor.” He slides his shirt off his shoulders, letting it fall on the ground behind him. Harry’s eyes stop on the Dark Mark that mars Malfoy’s left arm. His fingers brush the darkly inked skin. Malfoy freezes.

When Malfoy reaches for his shirt again, Harry stops him. “Don’t,” he says. “It’s part of you.”

Malfoy’s jaw tightens. Harry can see him swallow. “It’s not me now,” he says quietly.

“I know.”

Malfoy’s breath catches as Harry leans in and brushes his lips across Malfoy’s marked skin. When Harry pulls back, Malfoy touches Harry’s mouth gently. “You’re an idiot, Potter.”

Harry grins. “Yeah.”

“As long as we’re on the same page.” Malfoy’s pale gold skin gleams in the moonlight as he pulls off his boots, then stands. His hands work at his belt buckle, and the leather rasps softly as he tugs it free from the clasp. He stops, looking down at Harry sprawled beneath him. “Take off your shirt.”

Harry doesn’t hesitate. He tugs his t-shirt over his head, knocking his glasses askew. He pulls them off and folds them on top of his shirt. Even with fuzzy vision, he can’t take his eyes off Malfoy’s shoulders, broader now from manual labour, the muscles firm and rounded. He rolls to his knees, and Malfoy inhales sharply when Harry’s hands slide across his stomach, his fingers trailing along the puckered pink scars that twist across his chest.

“There was so much blood,” Harry murmurs.

Malfoy doesn’t answer. Harry can see the press of his cock against his corduroys again, and he’s grateful they’re both eighteen, with eager and ready pricks. Malfoy’s breath is quick and shallow as Harry’s fingertip traces a scar that crosses his nipple. He grabs Harry’s shoulder to keep his balance.

“The dittany--”

“It was too late,” Malfoy says sharply. “Snape kept me from dying at least.”

Harry turns his face against Malfoy’s hip. “I’m sorry.” His lips move across Malfoy’s hot skin, and Malfoy shivers, his fingers pressing into Harry’s shoulders. He sways slightly. “I’m so sorry.”

“Potter,” Malfoy murmurs. He touches Harry’s cheek. Harry looks up at him. Malfoy’s eyes are dark and bright. “Why here? Why this clearing?”

“You know.” Harry’s throat is tight. He presses his lips against the jut of Malfoy’s hipbone again, mouthing it softly over the waistband of his trousers.

Malfoy’s fingertips brush across his temple. “Say it.”

The buttons on Malfoy’s corduroys are smooth brass. Harry slips them from their buttonholes, letting his palm cup the swell of Malfoy’s prick against the spunk-soaked fabric. Malfoy breathes out, and his fingers slide from Harry’s cheek to tangle in the soft hair at the nape of his neck as Harry pulls aside Malfoy’s flies to reveal a small triangle of wet white cotton. Harry looks up.

“I have nightmares,” he whispers. Malfoy watches him, his face dispassionate. “About this clearing. About him--”

“Voldemort,” Malfoy says uneasily, the name stumbling on his tongue.

Harry nods. “Voldemort. And me. Standing here...” His fingers tighten on Malfoy’s trousers, and they slip slightly down Malfoy’s hips. Harry draws in a deep breath. “Did you know it doesn’t hurt when the Killing Curse hits you? There’s just a flash of green light, and then you’re falling into blackness. Nothingness.”

The clearing is silent, save for the soft whinny of the Thestral foal and the whisper of wind in the tree leaves.

Malfoy’s fingertips trace the back of Harry’s neck. “Or King’s Cross Station.”

Harry’s laugh is muffled against Malfoy’s hip. “Or King’s Cross Station,” he says. He turns his head to look back up at Malfoy. His pale hair gleams in the moonlight, brushes the sharp angles of Malfoy’s jaw. “I need another reason to dream about this clearing,” Harry says after a long moment.

“And I’m the only poof you know.” Malfoy’s voice is quiet. Sad.

Harry doesn’t say anything.

Malfoy’s fingers twist through Harry’s hair, tugging his head back. He looks down at Harry, studying his face, his expression shuttered. “You kept my mother out of Azkaban.”

“She saved my life.”

“For me.” Malfoy’s thumb strokes along Harry’s stubbled jaw. Harry turns his head and kisses his palm. Malfoy’s long, elegant hands are rough now, and calluses are beginning to form on his formerly soft skin. It makes Harry’s cock ache.

“Yes,” he says. He’s not a fool. Narcissa Malfoy only defied the Master she feared for a chance to find her son in the battle-ravaged castle. He doesn’t blame her. A mother’s love had kept him alive. Twice.

Malfoy’s silent. Harry’s heart thuds in his chest. He tells himself he won’t care if Malfoy rejects him. It won’t mean anything. It’ll most likely be for the best, and besides, he can stave the nightmares off with the memory of Malfoy’s body rutting up against his, of Malfoy’s eager kisses, of Malfoy’s hands moving across his skin.

And then Malfoy catches Harry’s chin in his fingers, tightly, his eyes fluttering closed. Harry doesn’t move. “One night,” Malfoy says at last. “One night and then all our debts to each other are done.”

Harry flinches. “I’m not asking you to whore yourself--”

Malfoy presses his hips forward, letting the swell in his y-fronts brush Harry’s mouth. “Oh, I want this, Potter.” His voice is quiet and intense. He licks his bottom lip. “But I want it clear that this...” He trails off, and his thumb smooths across Harry’s mouth. His breath catches when Harry nips at the tip, sucking it lightly. Harry can see the flutter of the pulse in Malfoy’s throat. “My family doesn’t owe you anything.”

“You never did,” Harry says. He presses his mouth against the damp cotton stretched across the head of Malfoy’s cock, the way he’d seen sketched in his books. The taste of spunk on his tongue is exhilarating. Malfoy’s hiss makes him smile, and he pushes Malfoy’s trousers down his narrow hips. They puddle at Malfoy’s feet before he kicks them aside. Harry stares at Malfoy’s pants, at the curve of Malfoy’s cock, leaning to the right, dark against the white cotton.

“Potter,” Malfoy says, almost gently, and Harry hooks his fingers in the elastic of Malfoy’s pants, tugging them down over his erection.

It’s not the first cock Harry’s seen. There’ve been years of boarding school showers and Quidditch changing rooms, after all. It’s not even the first hard one he’s noticed. But this is Malfoy’s prick, heavy and thick, the tip mushrooming red and wet over his stretched foreskin. It bobs away from his stomach, over gilt-furred balls that Harry can’t stop himself from leaning in and licking.

Malfoy groans.

With another lick, Harry buries his face against musky hair and skin that smells of sun and sweat. Malfoy’s hands are in his hair, stroking, twisting, and the noises he’s making go straight to Harry’s cock. Harry shifts, spreading his knees as he kneels on the soft grass and dried leaves, and when he turns his head, dragging his tongue along the side of Malfoy’s prick before sucking at the tip, Malfoy cries out, nearly bending over Harry, his hands tight on Harry’s head.

Harry sucks again, tasting Malfoy. He’s salty and bitter, and after another exploratory circle of Harry’s tongue against slick skin, Harry decides he rather likes the taste, despite how diffrerent it is from his own.

Malfoy pushes him away, reluctantly. “Potter,” he says, his voice raw, “I can’t--” He bites his lip and catches Harry before he can lean in again. He’s shaking, and his thighs are tight. “Really, if you want me to fuck you...”

It takes a moment before Harry realises he’s whimpered. He falls back on his arse, his hands already tugging at the zip of his still sticky jeans. He has them halfway down his thighs, his damp pants tangled in them, when Malfoy drops down beside him. When Malfoy’s mouth slides down over Harry’s hard prick, almost down to his balls, Harry’s shoulders hit the ground and his hips buck up.

“Oh, Christ,” he says breathlessly. It’s not his first blow job; Ginny had been brilliant at giving them, and they’d spent most of the summer before Bill’s wedding out behind Arthur’s shed, her head bent over his prick as he rubbed her through her wet knickers. But this. Nothing had been like this, with Malfoy’s tongue curling just perfectly around his cock, with the brush of his jaw against Harry’s thighs, the faint stubble reminding Harry that this was a man sucking him, pressing his foreskin back, flicking his tongue against the tiny wet slit in the head of his prick.

Malfoy pulls back. “Accio phial,” he chokes out, and the small glass bottle flies into his hand. He uncorks it with shaking hands and pours the clear oil over his fingers. “You’ve done this before?” he asks. “Put your finger inside your arse?”

Harry nods, spreading his thighs. A twig pokes his hip and he knocks it away. “Three of them once.” He feels his face heat. “I came rather hard.”

“I can imagine.” Malfoy leans over him. His slick fingertips brush against the cleft of Harry’s arse, over his puckered hole. Harry shivers. Malfoy’s cheeks are pink, his eyes bright. His tongue darts out, wetting his lip. He massages the soft skin between Harry’s balls and his arse, stroking, then pressing down lightly with his fingertips. “I’d like to have seen that.”

His finger pushes into Harry. The angle is different from the times Harry’s done this to himself. Harry lifts his hips, only to have Malfoy press him back down against the ground, his finger twisting deeper into Harry. The oil is warm on Harry’s skin, the herbs in it working to relax his muscles.

They lie there a moment, breathing hard, looking at each other. Malfoy hesitates, and then he kisses Harry slowly, lingeringly, pressing another finger into Harry’s arse.

Harry tightens himself around Malfoy’s fingers, his heart pounding. He catches Malfoy’s mouth again with his, a thrill shooting through him when Malfoy opens his mouth to Harry’s tongue. He could kiss Malfoy forever, Harry thinks, and his cock smacks wetly against his stomach. “You’re good at this,” he whispers against Malfoy’s lips.

“Practice.” Malfoy’s mouth trails along Harry’s jaw. When he twists another finger into Harry, Harry groans and his head falls back against the ground. The earthy scent of crushed grass and loamy dirt is almost overwhelming. Harry’s fairly certain he’ll never walk past the greenhouses again without getting hard. Malfoy sucks Harry’s tongue, then nips his bottom lip. “Nearly there,” he murmurs with another gentle press of his fingers.

Harry’s arse aches. He’s glad he’s tried this on himself multiple times so he knows how the pain of being stretched eases into slow waves of pleasure. He hadn’t taken into account though, the arousal that each of Malfoy’s slow, kisses builds in him. His hand slips over Malfoy’s shoulder, down his arm, and he can feel the flex of Malfoy’s muscles with each thrust.

He arches his neck and Malfoy’s teeth brush his skin, nipping lightly. “How many blokes have you fucked?” he asks. He turns his head to look at Malfoy.

“Enough.” Malfoy presses deeper, twisting just so, and Harry cries out, his body tensing. “Prostate,” he says with a small smile.

“Nice.” Harry’s breathing hard. He wants Malfoy to do that again. He’s read about that, but he’s never been able to do it on himself.

Malfoy’s mouth brushes his. “Again?” He doesn’t wait for Harry’s answer before his fingers dip in again, brushing up against that spot. Harry arches up, pleasure shooting through him. His cock leaks stickily against his stomach; his balls tighten.

“I--” Harry’s thighs are shaking. “Malfoy--”

Malfoy’s fingers slide out of his arse. His breath is coming in ragged rasps. He kisses Harry roughly as he moves over him. “I need--” He groans as his prick slips through Harry’s cleft. Harry can feel Malfoy’s body jerk against him.

“Yes.” Harry cants his hips wider. He’s desperate to have Malfoy back inside of him. A stone presses into his back. He doesn’t give a damn. “Please--”

Malfoy grabs Harry’s thigh, pulling it higher. Harry’s foot slides against his shoulder. “It’s going to hurt,” he says. He almost sounds sorry.

He presses into Harry slowly.

Malfoy’s not lying. Harry bites his lip, his eyes screwed shut against the pain. This is nothing like Malfoy’s fingers inside of him. It takes everything Harry has not to shove Malfoy off him; he keeps telling himself it will fade, the coming pleasure is worth it. His fingers dig into Malfoy’s arms. To his credit Malfoy doesn’t complain.

And then he’s still. The pain eases slightly, and Harry feels full. Spread. His eyes flutter open.

Malfoy’s leaning over him, one hand on either side of Harry’s waist. His mouth is pink and swollen and open slightly. His eyes are bright and unfocused. He looks amazing, Harry thinks, with his flushed skin and his hair hanging down over his face, sticking to his damp cheeks.

When Harry reaches up to touch Malfoy’s jaw, Malfoy turns his head and presses his mouth to Harry’s fingertips.

This, Harry realises, this is what it feels like to have someone inside of you. To be inside of someone else. He suddenly understands what Ron’s been on about, what makes this moment so bloody amazing.

He trails his fingers down Malfoy’s throat. Presses them to Malfoy’s pulse. He can feel the throb of blood beneath his fingertips. He feels alive. Finally. His foot slides down, hits the ground. Malfoy moans softly, and he shifts, his cock pressing deeper into Harry.

Harry gasps. “Please,” he says. He pulls Malfoy down into a kiss, their mouths moving against each other. Harry’s hands slip down Malfoy’s shoulders, over his back. “Please.”

Malfoy moves then, his cock nearly slipping out of Harry before he presses back in. The pain shifts, grows more intense before it’s enveloped by an intense pleasure that Harry’s never felt before.

He wraps a leg around Malfoy’s hips, urging him on. Malfoy’s thrusts grow faster, rougher, lifting Harry’s arse up off the ground, pressing his back into the ground beneath him. Harry barely notices. His body tingles. He can feel his magic moving inside of him, roiling through his limbs, across his torso. He grabs Malfoy’s shoulders, pulling him closer to him, their bodies tangled together, Malfoy’s stomach rubbing against Harry’s cock.

“Harry,” he hears Malfoy gasp against his ear. “Harry. Oh, God.” Harry turns his head, catches Malfoy’s mouth with his.

“More,” he says, and his fingertips are hot against Malfoy’s skin, burning with the magic that trembles through his body, overwhelms him. He doesn’t care where he is. Doesn’t care what’s around him. All that matters is Malfoy’s body pressed up against his, his prick deep inside Harry.

Malfoy fucks him, caught up in the shimmering swirl that twists over their skin in thick silver curls. They can’t look away from each other; their hands smooth over heated skin. Harry’s body presses against Malfoy’s, tightens around his cock, and Malfoy cries out, shuddering as his hips rock against Harry’s arse. He arches back, his hair whipping around his face as a blindingly bright rush of magic slams into Harry, sending him shattering over the edge with a shout and a spatter of hot spunk between their bodies.

The light fades. They collapse on the ground, still wrapped around each other, gasping for breath. Harry can’t stop trembling. His hands clutch at Malfoy, holding him tight. Malfoy buries his face against Harry’s throat. His body is limp, heavy.

Neither of them speaks. Harry’s not even certain he still has a voice.

Malfoy moves finally, rolling off Harry. He stares up at the sky. He clears his throat after a moment. “What exactly happened?” he rasps.

Harry shakes his head. “It’s not always like that?”

That earns him a long look. “No.”

“Probably my magic.” Harry gives him an apologetic look. “Pomfrey warned me it might be erratic today.”

Malfoy looks back up at the stars. A small smile plays across his tired face. “For once, Potter, I’m not complaining.”

The stone beneath Harry presses into his hip. He shifts, reaching beneath him to pull it out. It’s a ring, not a rock, and Harry recognises it almost immediately.

He holds the shattered ring up. The moonlight catches it, gleaming off the dark stone in the gold setting. He turns it just slightly, and he can see the faint white lines sketching out a circle in a triangle bisected by a straight line. The Resurrection Stone.

Malfoy’s watching him. “What’s that?” he asks.

“Something I thought I’d lost.” Harry slides the ring on his finger. It’s cold against his skin, but he can still feel the thrum of magic. He should throw it into the underbrush, he knows. He’d promised Dumbledore’s portrait that he wouldn’t go looking for it. Still. He can almost hear the whispers of his parents again, Sirius’s laughter, and Remus’s gentle admonishments.

He touches the stone. It hums softly.

“Potter,” Malfoy says, and when Harry glances over at him, he’s sitting up, his knees pulled up to his chest. The Thestral foal has bounded up beside him, and he’s stroking her mane lightly. He doesn’t look at Harry. “Do you want to go back to the castle?”

“It’s not dawn yet.” Harry shifts closer to him, knocking the foal away. She nudges his shoulder.

“No.” Malfoy raises an eyebrow. “Are you suggesting...”

Harry rolls over onto him, pressing him into the ground. He kisses Malfoy lightly, smoothing the furrow away with his thumb. “I’d like to try that again if you like.”

The foal nuzzles Harry’s hair, and Malfoy laughs. “Druella.” He snaps his fingers and the foal dashes off, back to her mother. “You realise we’ve probably just scarred her for life.”

“She’s a Thestral,” Harry says dryly. “I think she’ll live.” He smooths his hand over Malfoy’s forehead. The ring is heavy and dark against his pale hair. Harry thinks for a moment he can see a spark deep within the stone, but it fades.

He leans down and kisses Malfoy. If he only has one night, he intends to make the most of it.

***

Draco wakes up when the early morning light begins to filter through the trees above. He’s cold, but only slightly, most likely because Potter’s draped himself over Draco and is snoring softly.

“Idiot,” he murmurs, but it’s not bitter. His anger at Potter has dissipated, and that realisation draws him up short. He doesn’t know what it’s like not to hate Potter, not to channel all his rage at the world towards him. Pansy had always told him that his nearly irrational hatred of Potter was essentially his hatred of everyone who had betrayed him, most of all his father. He’d finally told her to shut it. If he wanted his mind healed, he’d go to St Mungo’s, for fuck’s sake.

Still. He suspects she wasn’t entirely wrong.

Draco strokes a finger across Potter’s cheek, his stomach twisting. He doesn’t know what to do with this. Doesn’t know how he feels. He tells himself this was just sex, the way it was with Theo and Vince and Entwhistle and all the others. Even Blaise. Potter isn’t any different.

He knows he’s lying to himself.

Potter’s eyelashes flutter. Draco stills, his hand still on Potter’s cheek. Potter looks up at him.

“Hi,” he says after a moment. Shyly, almost. He smiles.

Draco doesn’t move. “Hi,” he says. He keeps his voice even.

They’re still naked, still wrapped around each other. He knows Potter can feel his erection. He can definitely feel Potter’s.

He wants to kiss him. Wants to lean in and brush his mouth across Potter’s, to roll him onto his back and rut up against him again.

Instead, he says quietly, “I have to go.”

Potter looks disappointed, but he nods. They disentangle themselves and reach for their clothes, dressing in silence. Draco’s not worried about being late; it’s a Saturday morning and Hagrid will be sleeping in. Draco’ll have time to feed the creatures before he wakes, and then he intends to disappear for the rest of the day, possibly flying up to the mountain peak. He needs to be alone.

He stops at the edge of the Forest, his hand on Potter’s arm. “Don’t expect anything from me,” he says, not looking at him. “This doesn’t change anything.”

“I know.” Potter catches his wrist. “But it could.”

Draco looks at him then. He has to end this now. He knows he does. Potter’s a sentimental fool, and practically a virgin. And Draco doesn’t like what he feels, standing here beside him, Potter’s skin hot on his. Potter could make Draco hope again, and that’s far too dangerous.

He pulls away, grasping his haughtiness to him like a cloak. “You’re a moron, Potter, albeit one with a decent enough cock and a lovely tight arse.” The Hogwarts lawns are spread out in front of them, green and lush as they sweep down to the lake. Draco dreads the next round of mowing charms. He tugs at his sleeves, pulling the cuffs over his wrists. “You’re a good fuck, but I’ve been there now, and I don’t particularly care to visit again.”

Potter’s hand is on his elbow, turning him towards him. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Nothing.” Draco lets his mouth slip into his usual sneer. He curls a lip. “I could ask the same of you.

Potter looks confused. “You seemed to enjoy last night.”

“I did.” Draco doesn’t think that admission could be problematic. Besides, there’s only so much one can lie, and having spent half the night with his cock up Potter’s arse as he kissed him madly, Draco doesn’t think he can pull that particular half-truth off.

“Right.” Potter crosses his arms over his chest, his fingers tugging at the sleeves of his t-shirt. There are still fragments of leaves in his hair. Draco resists the urge to brush them away. “So that’s all, then? Thanks for the fuck; I’ll ring you later, but really I won’t?”

“I won’t even bother to ring,” Draco says, honestly. He meets Potter’s angry gaze. He tries to keep his expression blasé and faintly amused. Potter wants to fuck him again, he realises. He wants to fuck Potter again. Repeatedly. With vigour. This is absolutely impossible. “Did you expect me to?”

“I thought...” Potter frowns. “I thought we could do it again.”

Draco tenses. “No,” he says flatly. Potter doesn’t understand casual sex, he’s certain of that. It’s not even that he’s far too Gryffindor. God knows everyone in school had shagged Lavender Brown. Potter’s far too emotionally fragile. Far too loyal. Far too likely to fall in love--or to believe he had, at least. Draco isn’t certain he believes in love now. Potter’s the type who does.

Potter’s shoulders stiffen. “So glad to have been your fucktoy, Malfoy,” he says, his bitterness evident.

Draco’s anger flares. “You’re the one who asked for it.” He gives Potter a scathing look. “I don’t know what else you expected. Surely you don’t think what just happened was anything but sex?” At Potter’s flush, Draco laughs incredulously, hiding his surprise and the way it twists his heart. This, he thinks. This is why he has to keep Harry bloody Potter at a distance. “Oh, you are an idiot.”

“Fuck off,” Potter snaps, and Draco knows he’s hit a nerve. He presses harder.

“Did you think I’d fall for you?” Draco steps closer, lowers his voice. “Did you think that one brilliant shag with the Saviour of the Wizarding World, and I’d be a changed man? Dropping to my knees at a snap of your fingers to suck your cock?”

Potter clenches his fists at his sides. “I thought you’d be less of a complete bastard,” he says tightly.

Draco turns away. “You thought wrong,” he murmurs. “I’ll always be a bastard, Potter.” He glances back at him. Potter looks hurt; Draco steels himself. “I’m not your project, and I’m not someone you can fuck into civility. I don’t like you. I never will. The sooner you realise that, the better.”

He leaves Potter standing beneath the trees, watching him as he strides off, his shoulders tight.

He doesn’t look back.