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"This time tomorrow, Harry, this time tomorrow!" Ginny strode into the room from Ron and Hermione’s kitchen almost flinging herself onto the sofa beside Harry. His already churning insides twisted into a deeper knot. She took his hand and threaded her fingers through his. "I can’t believe it’s finally happening, it feels as though we’ve been waiting forever."

Harry shot an alarmed look in Ron’s direction and carefully retrieved his hand. He folded his arms tight against his chest to resist any further attempts at handholding and pushing away his guilt at the knowledge that he should have said this weeks ago, said, "Ginny, just because after tomorrow… I’ll be free," he swallowed, the words sticking in his throat. He didn’t want to think about his world after tomorrow night because the outlook was bleak. "It doesn’t mean that you and I-- You’re a good friend but--"

"I don’t believe this!" Ginny said through gritted teeth, getting to her feet as fast as she had sat down only moments before. "It’s him isn’t it? Ron tried to warn me that you actually like him these days, but I didn’t believe him, I mean, who likes Malfoy for Merlin’s sake?"

"This has nothing to do with Draco," Harry returned, looking up and meeting Ginny’s eyes, hoping she’d see the sincerity in his gaze because it was the truth. He hadn’t wanted to be with Ginny before the whole bond thing with Draco had happened, before the final battle even, when he’d been on the run with Ron and Hermione and had barely given Ginny a thought. Ginny had ambushed him with a kiss during the battle; he’d kissed her back then, glad to still be alive, but he hadn’t realised she’d taken the kiss as a promise. Not until a fortnight ago when Snape had found the counter curse and the bubble Harry had been living inside of had burst. Ginny had made it more than clear that Harry and Draco’s bond being severed was a door opening for her. "Nothing has happened between he and I."

"Who are you trying to kid, Harry?" Ginny looked away and turned towards the fireplace, grabbing a pinch of Floo powder out of the bowl on the mantlepiece. "You’re obsessed with the bastard. Such a shame he can’t wait to be rid of you." She threw the powder into the fire, stepped into the flame and vanished.

"Bloody hell, mate," said Ron’s voice from the doorway. "You got off lightly there."

Harry, staring at the empty spot where Ginny had been, said, "Do you think she’s right? About Draco I mean."

Ron walked further into the room, the open door behind him framing Hermione with a tray of tea and biscuits, and said, "You know she is."

Harry had meant the question to address his apparent obsession with Draco but when Ron gave his answer Harry realised Ron might have meant that Draco couldn’t wait to be rid of him. He didn’t ask for clarification; the answer rang true for both points.

ooo

It was after seven o’clock when Harry got home that night. He’d pushed the bond to its very limit and was feeling light-headed and slightly nauseous. He and Draco usually didn’t spend beyond four hours apart as by five hours they would start to lose consciousness. It had been four and a quarter. Draco was in the armchair in front of the fire when Harry stepped out of the Floo, knees pulled up to his chest, his face even paler than usual. When he saw Harry he got to his feet, shaking and as was the habit they’d slipped into after several hours apart Harry wrapped his arms around Draco, feeling the nausea abate as he did so.

It was a few minutes before Draco shoved him away, his cheeks a healthier pink now that he wasn’t on the verge of passing out. He glared at Harry, his pale eyes icy. "What the hell were you thinking?" Draco dragged a shaky hand through his white blond hair, turning away and going to stare out of the window. Harry knew the view from that window would only yield shadows at that time on a winter’s evening. Draco couldn’t even bear to look at him!

"I obviously wasn’t thinking at all," Harry snapped, suddenly longing for tomorrow to arrive. He sighed and sat down in the armchair Draco had just vacated. "I got waylaid. Ginny--"

"You’ve been counting down the days since Sev told us he’d found the spell to separate us haven’t you?" Draco spun around and took a step closer to Harry, his eyes flashing dangerously. He must then have read the expression on Harry’s face because he went from angry to sad in a millisecond. "You’ve been counting down the days," he whispered, locking his gaze on Harry’s, eyes burning.

It had been nearly fourteen months since ‘the incident’ and less than two weeks since Severus had found the counter curse. Never mind the days, Harry had been counting sodding the hours. The counter-spell had to be performed after dark on a Solstice and tomorrow was December the twenty-first.

"Are you telling me you haven’t?" Harry said, not caring how accusing his tone sounded. "The first thing you said when Snape left was that you’d be able to marry a pureblood witch like your parents always wanted!"

"I know you can be slow sometimes, Potter, but surely even you can recognise sarcasm when you hear it?"

"What-- I-- You were joking?"

Draco rolled his eyes. "Yes, I was bloody joking. I thought you’d know me better than that after this last year."

Better than anyone, Harry thought to himself. Of course he hadn’t noticed the sarcasm when Draco was saying the words he’d least wanted to hear. Harry rubbed his face wearily. "Sorry, I haven’t been able to think about much else since Snape’s visit," he said, looking up at Draco who had moved closer and was looming above him now, his gaze intent upon Harry. The expression on his face made Harry drop his guard and say, "In just twenty-four hours you’ll be gone and what am I supposed to do then?"

Harry had been sleeping in the same room as Draco these last fourteen months because the bond required the close proximity. He’d been darting out of bed before Draco woke and noticed how much Harry liked watching him twist and turn in his sleep. The two of them had been together at least twenty hours every day. Harry would challenge anyone to be that close to someone without coming to know them. In Draco’s case, without falling in love, because that’s what had happened. If he had the time again Harry knew he wouldn’t be able to change the outcome. Draco always had managed to get under his skin, only now it had substance. Harry knew how Draco took his tea, what he sounded like when he sang in the shower, how peaceful he looked when he slept and that underneath all the sharp edges and barbed wire he was someone worth caring about.

It hadn’t happened over night. Those first few months had been a horrendous, the two of them forced together against their will by a vengeful rogue Death Eater, having to share their lives so closely, the spectre of the war still hovering barely out of reach. They couldn’t hold down jobs because the bond didn’t like them being too far apart. To Harry’s surprise Draco had an ambition to be the next potions master at Hogwarts and had plans to study for his masters in potions, and with Snape’s help had managed to do this part-time under his supervision. Snape was still convalescing from nearly dying and he’d probably never be able sweep from a room in his trademark manner again. Harry, however, had not been able to take up his place as a trainee Auror and had had to watch from the sidelines as Ron embarked on his. Instead he’d concentrated his efforts on renovating Grimmauld Place and was enjoying it more than he wanted to let on.

Everything had changed for them on the night Draco had returned from Snape’s to find Harry having an impromptu gathering in Grimmauld Place out of necessity as he couldn’t exactly go to the Leaky when he wanted to catch up with his friends for longer than a couple of hours. There had been Ron, Hermione, Luna, Neville, Dean, Seamus, Ernie, Katie and a large bottle of firewhisky. Harry had been more than tipsy when Draco had arrived, as had the others. "Here’s the wifey now!" Seamus had shrilled, laughing hysterically at his own joke and making kissing noises.

Draco had scanned the room impassively and Harry had expected him to sneer and stalk past into the kitchen, but instead he shrugged, walked over to Harry and pulled him into the necessary embrace to ‘recharge’ them after nearly four hours apart and Seamus, Dean, Luna and Neville had erupted into a cheer. Draco had planted a theatrical kiss on Harry’s cheek and turned to wink at his audience. Then he’d said, "Is someone going to get me a drink?"

From that day onwards things had been simple. They’d stopped sniping at one another by regurgitating the past. They’d started to actually get on. When that happened Harry felt as though the weight of the situation had been lifted. Both Snape and Hermione were researching counter curses and Harry was confident that they’d find the solution soon. He just hadn’t expected it to take as long as it had or that when it finally happened it would be the last thing he’d want.

Harry hadn’t expected to start enjoying Draco’s company as much as he had, to realise that underneath all the snark he was funny and caring and fiercely loyal to those he cared about. He hadn’t expected to miss him when he wasn’t there.

Draco was staring at Harry now and Harry wanted to squirm. He’d all but told Draco how he felt about him and Draco hadn’t said a word. "I--" Harry began, but was cut off when Draco grabbed the front of his robes and pulled him in and kissed him.

Harry froze, momentarily thrown until something kicked into action and he returned the kiss, adrenalin firing in his veins at the sensation of actually being able to touch Draco in an embrace that wasn’t just out of necessity because the bond demanded it.

Without a second thought Harry gripped tightly on one of Draco’s upper arms and Apparated them up to their bedroom and the two of them toppled onto the bed, laughing.

ooo

"Why didn’t we do that before?" Harry said, staring up at the same ceiling he’d been sleeping under for the past fourteen months, with Draco within reach yet a million miles away.

"I don’t know." Draco rolled onto his side and hooked a leg over Harry’s, wriggling closer. Harry lifted his arm so that Draco could rest his head on his shoulder. "What a terrible waste of time."

"And now we’re running out of it," Harry said morosely. "I mean, we can’t stay bonded can we?"

"No, we can’t." Draco said, sighing. "I don’t want to." Harry thought his heart broke at Draco’s words. Just sex after all then. Wasn’t he the fool?

"Oh." He prayed that his disappointment wasn’t obvious.

"When were bonded against our wishes we had our freewill taken away and I want us to be together because we choose to."

"Oh." Harry felt his heart start again. "And do you? Choose to?"

Draco threaded his long fingers into Harry’s and pulled them up to kiss them. "I’m guessing now is not the time for sarcasm," he said, looking up and meeting Harry’s hopeful gaze, the amusement dying from his eyes. "I choose to be with you on our terms, not someone else’s. If you’ll have me." There was uncertainty in Draco’s expression and Harry wanted to wipe it away.

"I’m crazy about you," Harry said, and even though the angle was awkward he leant down and kissed Draco. "I choose you."

"Thank fuck," Draco said, returning the kiss with a whimper. He released Harry’s hand and moved to straddle him. He slid his hands along the plane of Harry’s stomach to his chest and rubbed Harry’s nipples beneath his thumbs. "Now, if you’d kindly fuck me, that would be appreciated."

Harry’s already half-hard prick filled at Draco’s words. "With pleasure," he said.