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Party of Two

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Malfoy was screaming and holding Harry so tightly it hurt. – J.K. Rowling

 


Four Years and Four Months Later

"Malfoy, eh?"

Ron was peering blearily through the rim of his pint glass at the tall, blond figure walking towards the bar for another round.

"He holds his drink well," Harry replied with a small smirk.

Ron nodded a little too solemnly to have caught the slight.

"Give him that," he slurred. "Don't know where he puts it all. Still a scrawny git."

Harry eyed Ron's recently expanded waistline with amusement. The larger Ron got, the scrawnier everyone else apparently appeared.

Ron polished off the last of his beer and plunked the glass down on the edge of the table with a great deal more force than was warranted. He gave the table a confused look, and reached out as if measuring its distance. Once satisfied, he drew back his hand and pointed it at Harry with a flourish.

"If you're such good friends now, you might consider taking him out for a sandwich some time. Needs a little feeding up, if you ask me."

"He's my drinking friend," Harry said, as he slid the glass back to safety. "We don't do food."

Ron squinted at him.

"What's the difference?"

Harry grinned.

"We're still us, Ron. We only like each other when we're drunk."

Ron flopped back in his chair with a sigh and let his eyes drift shut.

"That's all right, then. As nature intended."

His voice trailed off and his head lolled to the side.

Harry looked away and caught sight of Malfoy making his way back with a small army of drinks bobbing along beside him. The look of exaggerated horror on his face brought another grin to Harry's face.

"Has he actually passed out in the pub?"

Harry lifted one of the floating glasses of Firewhisky out of the air and toasted Ron's slumped form.

"Yup. More drinks for us."

Malfoy grinned and downed two of his own, before waving his wand to settle the remaining glasses on the table.

"You've made an excellent point, Potter. I'll never get used to it, but sometimes you really do. Shall we Floo Granger?"

"Nah. Let him sleep it off. I'll drop him on my way home."

"Saint Potter." Malfoy sighed with disappointment.

"Shut it, Malfoy." Harry smirked over the rim of his glass. "You know you secretly admire my unerring moral compass." Harry resisted the urge to make air quotes, since Malfoy mocked him for memorizing his own press every time he did it.

Malfoy snorted and downed half his pint in a single swallow.

"You wish."

* * *

All hope of quietly depositing Ron without waking Hermione was dashed as Malfoy, struggling under Ron's comatose weight, caught a foot on the coffee table and took all three of them crashing to the ground in a heap.

"What in Merlin's name would possess a person to put furniture in front of the fucking fireplace?" he hissed, as Harry lay giggling under Ron's considerable frame, unable to extricate himself.

"It's a Muggle thing," Harry said finally, catching his breath.

Malfoy rubbed his knee and glared at the offending object. He muttered something under his breath that sounded a bit like typical.

Harry had just managed to worm his hand around to his pocket and get a finger on the end of his wand when a sharp, and clearly irritated, cough sounded behind him. He dropped his head back against the hardwood floor with an audible thump, and peered up at the inverted form Hermione Granger, her hair a massive, frizzy halo back-lit by the stairwell lights.

She looked at Harry for a moment, Malfoy for a slightly longer moment, and Ron for less than a second before waving her wand with a sigh and levitating her husband's limp form up and away towards their bedroom without a single word.

"You see?" Malfoy grunted, clambering unsteadily to his feet. "Even Granger thinks you're an obnoxious do-gooder."

Harry snorted and began crawling purposefully towards the Floo.

* * *

Ron's disembodied head appeared around the doorframe of Harry's office shortly after ten the following morning.

"Did Draco Malfoy carry me home last night?"

"Yes," said Harry. "There are photos."

Harry held up the morning Prophet, which bore the headline: Party of Three Two, and did indeed feature several shots of Malfoy and Harry in the unwieldy process of wedging Ron into the Floo of the Leaky Cauldron.

"Right." Ron sighed at the ceiling. "That'll take a while to live down, won't it?"

"Yep."

Ron nodded resignedly. "No one to blame but myself, I suppose." He glanced up hopefully. "Unless there is?"

"Afraid not."

Ron nodded again. "All right. Coffee, then?"

"Can't do it, mate. I've got a mountain of reports and I need to get out early today."

"Please tell me you actually have a date, or something," Ron said, clasping his fingers together. "I need someone to complain about women with."

Harry grinned. "Sorry, Ron. Even if it were a date, I probably wouldn't get to the complaining stage for at least a few months. Try Neville. I understand Hannah is a woman of strong opinions."

Ron leaned his head against the doorframe and closed his eyes.

"It would be so much easier if she wasn't usually right."

"You picked the wrong wife if you wanted to be the clever one, Ron."

"Indeed." Ron sighed, although it sounded suspiciously affectionate. He leveraged himself off the doorframe with obvious effort and waved as he shoved off down the hall.

Harry dropped his attention back to his enormous stack of parchment, still grinning.

* * *

Harry tugged at the uncomfortably stiff collar of his dress robes and made an exaggerated sound of displeasure.

"Thank you, Potter. You're a real life-saver," Malfoy sing-songed.

"Shut up, Malfoy."

"No, really. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't come to my rescue." Malfoy's voice had risen to a trilling, damsel-in-distress falsetto.

"I could still just leave, you bastard. I'm only helping because you promised free alcohol. I'll just buy my own if I'm going to be subjected to abuse all night."

"Sorry," Malfoy chirped, not bothering to suppress a smirk. "I'll not make another mention of your gallantry. Not least because you're hiding in a dark corner, completely failing to do what you offered to do."

"I hate this shit, Malfoy."

"I know. That's why you're my hero."

"Oh, for fuck's sake, where is my drink?"

Malfoy waved a lazy hand and three overly-solicitous waiters appeared with trays mere seconds later. Harry surveyed his choices and elected both a glass of champagne and a smoking brown liquid he hoped was something akin to Firewhisky.

"Careful," Malfoy said, raising an eyebrow at Harry's full hands. "No falling down until the cameras have gone."

Harry toasted him with both hands, dumped the champagne right into the whisky, and knocked the burning concoction back in one go.

"Right. Remain upright." He reached out towards the trays with both hands again. Malfoy shook his head dramatically and reached for the trays as well.

"I supposed I'd better start, or there'll be none left for me."

Harry grinned, tossed back each glass separately, and then straightened his tie with a flourish.

"Is that a challenge?"

"Always," Malfoy downed two of the smoking glasses and snatched another two from the tray, offering one to Harry. "Come on. Time to show you off."

* * *

Two hours, seven cocktails, and fourteen painfully dull conversations later, Harry finally made his way back into his darkened corner. He was still standing, but only just, and he was in dire need of a wall to prop himself against. While he'd be damned if he would admit it to Malfoy, he was completely pissed, inclusive of a slightly spinning room that suddenly seemed uncomfortably crowded and warm.

He wedged himself into a shadowy corner between the wall and a service table and allowed his eyes to slide shut for a brief moment.

"No passing out standing up, either," Malfoy said, so close to Harry's ear that he started up off of the wall and very nearly did fall down.

"I've earned my keep, Malfoy. Leave me alone with my wall, please." Harry sagged back against the wall in question.

"Pathetic. The Chosen One, reduced to clinging to the structure for support." He reached out and roughly straightened Harry's collar. "Even Gertrude Bulstrode is still on her feet. She's 139 years old, Potter."

"Wrong," Harry said, batting feebly at Malfoy's fussing hands. "She's 142. She told me so right before she asked me if I enjoyed an older woman."

Malfoy let out an inelegant snort and drew his hand back to cover his mouth.

"She didn't?"

"Oh, yes, she did. You owe me many more drinks."

"I really do. Gertrude notwithstanding, your presence here really made a huge difference, Potter." Malfoy flashed him an uncharacteristically open smile. "I will personally see to it that you get alcohol poisoning, if that is your wish."

Harry sagged against the wall again and let his eyes slide shut with a grin.

"Now that's what I'm talking about. A little respect."

He heard Malfoy's retreating snicker and gave in to the urge to press his face against the wall. Shame be damned; there was a very good chance he really was going to pass out standing up.

* * *

"Harry Potter, surprise guest at the 700 Years of Wizarding Fashion Gala?" Ron intoned with disbelief, brandishing the Prophet. "This was where you had to be? And why in Merlin's name are you wearing purple robes in this photo?"

Harry reflected that one of the worst things about passing out on your sofa was that unexpected people with very loud voices could pop through your Floo far too early the following morning.

"They're royal blue," Harry said, in a low tone he desperately hoped Ron would adopt.

"What?" Ron, sadly, had gone up in volume.

"Not purple. Please lower your voice, it's very, very loud."

"I'm loud? You were—" Ron paused to take a hard look at Harry, "—are, wearing purple fucking robes!"

Harry glanced down at his dishevelled formal wear and shuddered.

"Royal blue."

"Uh-huh. Mind explaining what series of unfortunate events found you dressed in royal blue robes and decorating Draco Malfoy's arm at a fashion show?"

"He got me drunk."

"Oh, Harry," Ron sighed, shaking his head. "What has the ferret done to you?"

Harry watched gratefully as Ron stepped back into the Floo. He snatched a handful of powder from the mantle and tilted his head to study Harry.

"And nice hair gel," he said mockingly, just before the flames snatched him away.

* * *

"What have you done to me?" Harry moaned, curling himself around a Bloody Mary a few hours later.

"The Most Fashionably Dressed list is not exactly a fate worse than death, Potter."

"I was wearing purple robes, Malfoy! Can you imagine how difficult it is to strike fear in the hearts of criminals after you've been on the cover of Witch Weekly dressed in purple?"

"Hush, Potter. It was royal blue, and you looked fantastic. You won't need to frighten them; they'll all melt at your feet in a puddle of desire after they've seen that photo." Malfoy grinned. "You looked pretty good, if I say so myself. Orders for custom robes have been coming in all morning."

"I can't begin to tell you how much you owe me." Harry sipped at his drink, openly sulking.

"Anything you want. Seriously. I couldn't buy that kind of publicity. Plus, that headline was possibly the funniest thing in the world."

Harry glowered and raised his glass towards the waiter, indicating two more with his free hand.

"What was it again?" Malfoy continued with glee. "Poised Potter Pops in Purple?"

Harry let out a snicker before he could stop himself. "Shut up." He grinned, gratefully watching their glasses refill with a wave of the bartender's wand. "What was your caption again?"

Malfoy laughed out loud. "Draco Malfoy Fashions Himself a New Place in Society."

"Mine's still worse," Harry said solemnly. "It may not be possible to top, in fact."

"Yes, it definitely raised the bar. How about I take you to Du Maroc on Friday? All the wine you can drink, and I'll throw in a meal in recompense."

Harry stared at Malfoy. "You're going to buy me food?"

"Why, is that not sufficient? Is a parade a more appropriate way to show my gratitude for your sacrifice? I may need another day or two to get that together."

"I'm going to order the fucking pheasant, Malfoy," Harry said gruffly. "And that gold-dusted cake thing that costs 25 Galleons."

"Anything you like." Malfoy smiled indulgently. "My hero."

Harry fished an ice cube from his drink and winged it at Malfoy. It sadly missed and struck a passing witch in the backside, earning him a truly mortifying glare.

* * *

Harry was disappointed to discover that he didn't particularly care for pheasant. He was not inclined to give Malfoy the opportunity for further mocking, however, so he gamely poked away at it for the better part of an hour, hiding bits of the bird under the accompanying bed of greens until he felt it looked as if he had consumed a fair portion.

The downside to this plan was that the third bottle of wine was hitting him with force. He thought he might have accidentally grinned a little goofily at the photographers who were busy snapping shots of them from the pavement in front of the restaurant.

He tried to strategically slump so his face was behind one of the long sheets of orange Moroccan silk that hung around the tables.

"You know they're going to say we're on a date, Malfoy. First the gala, and now dinner on a Friday night. It looks awfully suspicious."

Malfoy eyed the window with distaste. "No doubt. Last week I held a door open for Pansy and they announced our engagement. It's enough to make me never want to go on an actual date again."

Harry bobbed his head drunkenly. "I've been having an affair with Penelope Clearwater in a desperate attempt to make Ginny jealous and to get back at Percy for being the one to encourage her to leave me."

Harry swigged the last of his wine in his glass and reached for the bottle. He glanced up after several seconds with no response from Malfoy.

The other man looked utterly horrified.

"I'm not, Malfoy. Jesus! That's what they're writing about me, I mean."

Malfoy burst into laughter. "Sorry, Potter. The way you said it, I actually thought—" he polished off his own glass and presented it to Harry to fill. "I mean, obviously, I know you're not— I mean, you're always—" Malfoy trailed off, looking as close to embarrassed as was possible for him.

Harry glowered at Malfoy as he refilled his glass.

"I'm always what?"

Malfoy glanced around the room, feigning intense interest in the flaming meal arriving at the table across the aisle.

"You just spend most of your free time drinking. With me." He cleared his throat. "When would you have the time to romance a woman so high-maintenance as Penelope Clearwater?" He glanced up at Harry. "That's all I meant. You're obviously, uh, free. Like me." Malfoy cleared his throat again and sat up a little straighter in his seat. "So, those stories are clearly ridiculous."

"Smooth, Malfoy." Harry sighed. "Please tell me you didn't believe the one about Dean Thomas. I can't even buy a damn painting in peace."

Malfoy poked at the remains of his salmon tajine. "Of course not."

"Oh, my god," Harry snapped. "You did."

"Well, it's not like you might not occasionally get laid, Potter! As you pointed out, even Percy Weasley manages it."

"Oh, my god," Harry repeated. "Of course I can't get laid, Malfoy."

Harry pointed viciously in the direction of the picture window filled with flashing bulbs, momentarily forgetting he was still holding the bottle. Wine splashed across the table, some of it landing on Malfoy's extremely expensive-looking dress shirt. He frowned at Harry.

"Fine, so sorry for imagining you might have a life."

Harry smacked the bottle down on the table and signalled the waiter.

"May I please have a bottle of the Goblin Reserve and two of those gold cake things?" he snapped under his breath. The waiter nodded and scurried away, obviously not wanting to spend more time in the area than necessary.

Harry eyed Malfoy, who was sullenly cleaning his shirt with his wand.

"Sorry," Harry said, arranging his napkin over the stained tablecloth. "I haven't been enjoying the rewards of being 'free' so much lately. I mostly feel like I'm under siege by groupies and undercover gossip columnists. So, no…no life to speak of."

Malfoy placed his wand on the table and ran a smoothing hand over his once-again pristine shirt. He smiled, although it still looked a little tight.

"It seems as though there ought to be someone out there who would be willing to be discreet for a piece of this, doesn't it?" he said, waving his hand dramatically between himself and Harry.

Harry laughed. "You'd think." He grinned, starting to feel a little stupid about his outburst.

The waiter appeared and placed two glittering cakes on the table before them, along with another bottle. Malfoy's laughter ceased and he narrowed his eyes at Harry over the nearly 100 Galleons worth of table fare.

"You're such a bastard, Potter."

"Now we're even," Harry said, tearing into his cake with a satisfied groan. "Purple, you fucker."

* * *

An hour later found Harry and Malfoy collapsed in a giggling heap on the carpet in front of Harry's fireplace.

"Did you see their faces?" Malfoy gasped, clutching at his sides.

Harry hiccoughed loudly and tried to compose himself. "I thought Gilbert Hornswag was going to splinch himself trying to Apparate back to the Prophet first!" he wheezed.

"I told you." Malfoy panted through his hysteria. "If holding a door for a girl was news, pulling out the Saviour's chair was story of the century! I cannot wait to see the rubbish they print about this."

Malfoy flopped onto his belly and peered over at Harry, suddenly solemn.

"Actually, they're going to print some serious rubbish. Are you going to be all right with this?"

Harry rolled clumsily to face him. "I can't wait. I haven't laughed this hard in weeks. It actually hurts!"

Malfoy shot him a lopsided grin.

"I can't believe I'm going to say this, Potter, but you're always pretty fun when you aren't having tantrums or dousing people in wine. It's too bad I don't really like you."

"Shame." Harry nodded. "If we weren't lifelong enemies, we could be friends."

"And then you go and say one of the most stupid things I've ever heard," said Malfoy, rolling his eyes. "Always spoiling the moment."

"At your service," Harry said, grinning crookedly.

"Although… if we were friends," Malfoy mused, rolling over and squinting at the ceiling, "we could be… what do they call it? Friends with benefits? Fuck buddies? We wouldn't have to put up with the groupies and spies. We could just fuck each other. Literally." He started to laugh again, and then choked it back and held his sides in obvious pain.

Harry flopped onto his back, breathing shallow to contain his own giggles.

"Yeah, no strings. And we'd never have to make up excuses when we came home all fucked up from drinking together," Harry said, his laugh changing to a wheeze when the muscles around his ribs began to spasm again. "None of that—"

"—"where have you been?" Malfoy shrieked in a high, mock-accusatory voice.

"Out with you, you stupid wanker!" Harry cried, holding his stomach as he writhed with the agony of further laughter.

"Oh, right," Malfoy continued in the bitchy voice, struggling to control another laughing fit. "That's all right, then."

"Doesn't sound half bad," Harry said, heaving soothing breaths and smiling groggily at the ceiling.

"No, it doesn't," Malfoy said, yawning at the same time.

Harry yawned as well. "Fucker. You've made me yawn."

* * *

Harry awoke in a confused haze, blinking ineffectively in the unfamiliar darkness of the room. An odd pressure tightened around his waist, and for a brief, panicked moment, he thought he might be tied up.

Then the pressure eased and the source made a strange little sound somewhere between a purr and a snore. Harry froze. His mind spun for a minute or two as he pieced together the last few things he could remember: wine splashing across a white tablecloth, camera flashes, the whirl of the Floo, Malfoy laughing at the ceiling.

Malfoy. Now apparently breathing softly into the back of Harry's neck. And making tiny, sleep-induced advances against Harry's backside with his hips.

"Malfoy?"

The breathing stopped for a few beats, then became slow and even again, as did the rise and fall of his chest against Harry's back and those maddening little shifts of his hips.

Harry lay still for several minutes, contemplating the least embarrassing way he might handle the situation. Without really noticing it, his own hips took up the gentle sway of Malfoy's. It was pleasant, to move in synch with another body like that. He was just letting his back arch into it a bit when Malfoy's arms suddenly clenched around him again.

"Potter?"

"Uh, yeah," Harry said, feeling monumentally stupid. "It's me."

"It certainly is," Malfoy muttered, in a soft, slightly slurred voice. "Am I correct in assuming we are on the verge of benefiting from one another?"

Harry went from confusedly aroused to rock hard in the space of the long breath that Malfoy let out on the end of this query.

"Maybe," Harry said, unable to even attempt to process the war of pros and cons raging in his head. "Yeah, we could, uh, benefit."

Malfoy was obviously quicker to come to full consciousness than Harry, because Harry had no more than spoken the words before Malfoy's mouth had closed on the back of his neck and his hand had fastened around Harry's cock through his trousers.

The lazy roll of Malfoy's hips was gone, replaced with a deep, sensuous grind against Harry's arse that had him quickly shelving his concerns and shoving back in mindless pleasure. After a minute or two, they found a rhythm that undulated from hip to shoulder and back again, passing from front to back, Harry to Malfoy. After that, it didn't take long.

"Oh, fuck," Malfoy gasped against his spine. "Fuck—I'm—"

"Same." Harry grunted, grinding back against Malfoy and forwards into his hand with singular purpose. "Do it."

Malfoy tightened his grip on Harry's waist and managed to leverage him enough off the floor to shove a thigh underneath him, fitting Harry firmly between his thighs. He curled himself around Harry with a sharp cry, pressing Harry's erection with the heel of his hand—just enough to wrench a sudden, almost shocking orgasm out of Harry; both of them jerked painfully against the seams of their trousers for that last bit of stimulation.

They lay panting on the carpet, slowly getting their breath and sanity back for next several minutes. At long last, Malfoy spoke.

"So… provisional friends, then?"

"Huh," Harry groaned, face still pressed into the rug. "I suppose so."

* * *

The shame and horror Harry anticipated once his hangover kicked in never quite materialized. In fact, he found himself in remarkably good spirits over the course of the weekend, and well into his workday on Monday.

There was something oddly freeing about this new development with Malfoy. Not only did it provide him with the giddy anticipation of the potential for sex in the near future, it completely eradicated the need to concern himself with what he might have to endure to get it.

As per the agreed terms, if one could call some drunken mumbling 'terms', they would have sex when they both felt like it, not have sex when they didn't, and continue otherwise to attempt to drink one another under the table until somebody won.

Really, it was like nothing in Harry's life had to change, except that he could now have orgasms in the presence of another human being. Really, really good orgasms, judging by the first.

His upbeat attitude lasted until just past midday, when Ron stuck his head around the door to Harry's office.

"Hermione and I are staging an intervention," he proclaimed, sounding like he was reading from a script.

Harry raised an eyebrow and waited for the rest of the speech.

"Well, Harry," he started again, clearing his throat. "It's just…all the pubs, and that fashion show, and now the thing at that Moroccan place." He looked hopefully at Harry, as though perhaps he had said all he needed to and could just stop there.

Harry continued to stare without comment.

"We thought— well, Hermione said— It seems a little like you might be drinking too much." He drew a deep breath and finished. "With Malfoy. Too much."

"Ron?"

"Yeah?"

"Go away."

"Right, mate. Sorry. Not our business."

"Definitely not." Harry said, adding a grin for Ron's sake.

Ron turned to leave, then paused and turned back nervously.

"Harry?"

"Yeah?"

"Is he good company? I mean, I know Hermione and I haven't really been around that much lately. I don't like the idea that your closest friend is someone you hate."

Harry thought for a moment about lying. He thought about telling the truth, too. In the end, he settled for the middle ground.

"He's still an arse. But being his friend has its perks."

Ron gave him a crooked smile and a little salute. "As long as you're having fun, Harry."

"Oh, that I definitely am." Harry chuckled. He continued smiling at the doorframe until Ron had been gone for several seconds, at which point he allowed himself a little frown. His lovely little no-strings arrangement was already developing complications.

* * *

As the week went by and Malfoy never sent an owl or popped his head into the Floo, Harry's good mood further dwindled. It had been more than a few months since he had missed a mid-week pub outing with Malfoy and the timing seemed suspicious.

'No strings' was one thing. But 'no drinks' was not on.

Finally, he received an owl on Thursday afternoon.



Potter~

Drowning in custom orders (thank you, again). This week has been mad with work. Still on for our Friday usual?

~DM

Despite the prickle of irritation that Malfoy couldn't have spared the two minutes to send an owl earlier in the week, Harry scribbled his affirmation on the parchment and returned the bird. Annoyed or no, he needed a few stiff cocktails.

* * *

By Friday evening, every bit of Harry's afterglow had faded. He found himself standing in front of his mirror, resentfully examining his third choice of clothing. He felt certain that a possible-casual-sex arrangement should mean that he didn't have to give a fuck what he wore.

He also had a niggling feeling that it was entirely Malfoy's fault that he did.

In a fit of pique, he returned to his first choice: a ratty, cobalt button down that was so old it might have been one of Dudley's rejects, and a pair of admittedly ill-fitting trousers in exactly the wrong shade of blue to pair with the shirt. He grinned at himself and Apparated to the Leaky Cauldron without giving himself another second to think about it.

The minute he stepped through the door, he regretted his actions immensely. Malfoy was standing at the bar, wearing what had to be the most perfectly tailored trousers Harry had ever seen in his life, paired with a crisp, white dress shirt and a subdued, but beautiful, silver tie.

Most gallingly, the ensemble looked both immaculate and as if it could have been selected with little or no thought. Harry grimaced down at his shirt and seriously considered backing out the door and Apparating straight back to his closet.

Naturally, Malfoy chose that exact moment to turn and see Harry. His face broke into a broad smile and he gestured Harry towards the bar with an enthusiastic wave.

"We've got to get started, Potter. Apparently, it's Hannah's birthday, and all drinks are half price until she can't stand up behind the bar anymore."

Hannah shot him a haughty look.

"No need to rush, Malfoy. You'll be under your table before I've even begun to slur my words."

"Dangerous talk, Abbott. Ask Potter how much I love a challenge."

"Actually," Harry said, trying in vain to smooth some of the worst wrinkles from his shirt as he crossed the room, "I'd be careful there, Malfoy. This might be a little out of your league. Happy Birthday, Hannah." He leaned across the bar and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.

Hannah smirked approvingly and slid Harry a shot of something that bubbled ominously and let off a worrying pink vapour.

"Just drink it, Harry," she said at his expression. "It's only going to get more terrifying from here on out. Embrace your fear."

From the corner of his eye, Harry watched Malfoy square his shoulders and knock the glass back with only a slight tremor in his shoulders. He grabbed for his own.

"I'm not afraid," he said, tossing his back and letting out a strangled gasp. "Just horrified."

Hannah laughed and set up another round of the wretched things.

"I think you're very bad influences on one another," she said as she poured. "Keep it up. It's an absolute joy to watch."

With that she moved away to serve her other patrons. Harry noticed with more than a little jealousy that everyone else seemed to be allowed to drink beer and Firewhisky and other less colourful fare.

"Why are we getting the pink-drink treatment?" he groused.

"I may have said something about Longbottom's new haircut."

"Jesus. You've ruined us."

"Probably," Malfoy said with pride. "Drink up."

* * *

Harry had long ago lost count of the number of 'Pygmy Puffs' he had consumed. What he did know, with certainty, was that it was quite a few too many.

At some point, he must have become less stealthy about fiddling with his unattractive garments, because Malfoy had his wand out and was pointing it none too steadily in the direction of Harry's crotch.

"Please don't," Harry protested, meaning it vehemently. "I can suffer the Worst Dressed List better than impotency."

Malfoy looked affronted.

"Potter, I can tailor trousers blindfolded with both hands tied behind my back."

Harry gave him a pointed look.

"Okay, no," Malfoy admitted. "I need at least one hand. But I am perfectly capable of rectifying this horrific display, Potter. Be still."

Self-preservation dictated that Harry indeed freeze on the spot. He sent up a silent prayer for his bits and held his breath. Between the slurring and the unfamiliar charms, Harry had no idea what Malfoy was saying, so he just squeezed his eyes shut as well and hoped for the best.

His eyes snapped open in terror a second later as a vice-like pressure took hold between his legs.

"Sorry," Malfoy said quickly, making complicated, rapid waves with his wand, which thankfully caused the trousers to ease off. "Little miscalculation, there. Have you gained weight, Potter?"

Harry glared at Malfoy, who gave him an unrepentant smile and continued waving his wand in a less-than-precise manner. After another tense minute, he ceased his incantations and gave Harry a critical once-over.

"Much better," he pronounced, flopping back into his seat.

Harry looked down. The shirt was a new creature entirely, fitted and in a much subdued shade of blue. It looked quite nice with his now embarrassingly snug trousers.

"How am I supposed to sit down in these?" he snapped, eyeing Malfoy for some sign of how he managed it in his own ridiculously tight pair.

"With grace and caution," Malfoy said airily. "And you might want to take a trip to the loo and tuck to the right. It will help the line."

Given that their little corner of the pub was now empty aside from the two of them, Harry threw propriety to the wind and shoved his hand down his pants to make the suggested adjustment. He immediately felt much less constrained, although he still sat down very carefully.

Malfoy watched him complete this process with an odd look on his face.

"That was ballsy," he finally quipped, his voice cracking a bit.

Harry's face heated. "S'nobody around."

"I'm sitting right here." Malfoy grinned.

"You don't count."

Malfoy made a face of mock outrage.

"I'm hurt, Potter. Only a week in and you're already taking me for granted."

It was the first time either of them had mentioned the previous Friday, and it was followed by a distinctly uncomfortable silence.

Finally Harry sorted a comeback. "Nah. Casual ball adjustment is just one of the many benefits, right? 'Cause you can do that with… friends."

Malfoy's grin was gone. He polished off the last of his drink and shoved Harry's towards him.

"Finish it."

"What's wrong?" Harry asked, unable to understand what had so radically changed the mood.

"Not a thing," said Malfoy, flicking invisible lint from his jacket as he lifted it from the back of his chair. "I just developed a sudden desire for some casual ball adjustment." He looked right at Harry as he spoke the last words.

Harry lifted his glass and finished it with a little cough, staring back at Malfoy. The pub suddenly felt claustrophobically warm.

"Night, Hannah," he called over his shoulder, putting his all into trying to sound both casual and sober.

"Night, boys," she called back, without the faintest hint of a slur to her words. "Have a lovely evening!"

Harry told himself that he was imagining the knowing tone in her voice and he refused to look back at her expression as he stumbled towards the fireplace behind Malfoy.

* * *

Malfoy must have given the directions as they stepped into the Floo, because they arrived in the fireplace of a large, open flat that looked more like a workshop than a home. Harry knew it must be Malfoy's place, though, because he'd been to the shop, and this definitely wasn't it.

The room was dominated by a large, wooden table that was currently buried under a mountain of rolls of fabric, scissors, ribbons, measuring tapes, straight edges, and other tools of Malfoy's trade that Harry could only guess at the purpose for.

Harry had always imagined that Malfoy's home would be pristine and tidy, maybe even a little austere, like the man himself. This place was flat-out chaos personified. Malfoy followed Harry's line of sight and shifted a little uncomfortably.

"I've been really busy lately, so I've been working at home as well as the shop." He sounded distinctly defensive.

Harry shrugged and started into the room, careful not to trip on the many piles of scraps and rejects that littered the floor.

"You've seen my place. I daresay I'm in no position to judge," he said, wandering curiously towards a tailor's dummy wearing half a robe.

Malfoy waved his wand a few times to relocate a couple of the piles before he clearly decided there was no point and dropped the wand back into his pocket.

"I forgot what a disaster it was." He sighed.

Harry turned back to him and squared his shoulders with a show of confidence he did not entirely feel.

"We're not here for a tour of your flat, are we? Perhaps we can skip this part and go straight to the bedroom."

Malfoy looked a little surprised, then pleased.

"I think it might be worse in there," he said, moving towards Harry in a wobbly, but clear attempt at a seductive manner. When he reached Harry, he continued forwards, backing them both up until Harry ran into the side of the enormous table.

Harry glanced back at the half-finished garments he was being steadily pressed into. "Won't we mess them up?" he asked.

"Yes," Malfoy confirmed. "You have no idea how much I want to destroy this table with you. It's been that kind of week."

Harry bit his lip. "Let's fuck it up, then."

Malfoy was on him in a second. His mouth closed over Harry's and his fingers were already half done opening his trousers by the time Harry caught his balance. His fingers clutched at a pile of swatches ineffectively before he managed to find and grip the solid edge of the table.

He was just about to reach out for Malfoy's tie when the other man dropped to his knees, taking Harry's trousers and pants with him as he went. Malfoy smiled up at him wickedly.

"As a friend, Potter, I'd advise you to keep a good hold on that table." He grinned and then he swallowed Harry's cock to the root.

Truth be told, Harry had imagined what it might be like a few times during the preceding seven days. Anyone would, in his position. Much like his assumptions regarding Malfoy's housekeeping standards, he had been obscenely off base.

Somehow, in Harry's imagination, Malfoy was very proper and pretty about giving head. There had been a lot of fluttering eyelashes and pouty lips in his fantasies.

He'd got the lips part right, anyway. Beyond that, he had been quite mistaken indeed. Malfoy was nothing short of savagely good at this.

He didn't just swallow Harry down the first time; he did it every time. The pace was so relentless that Harry's head was beginning to swim within less than a minute. He broke out in a sweat that he could feel everywhere, from his forehead down to the backs of his knees. Malfoy, on the other hand, looked as if he could go on for hours. He just kept it up: breathing, swallowing, and sucking back up Harry's cock over and over again without faltering for a beat.

Harry lasted an embarrassing three minutes and forty-two seconds under the onslaught, according to the clock on the wall across from him.

Since it didn't seem like Malfoy was terribly delicate, Harry allowed himself to grip his head and press forward when he came, a hoarse, obscene shout escaping before he could even consider trying to control it.

He dropped immediately to his knees and pressed Malfoy back into a pile of abandoned robe parts. He stopped there, one hand on the other man's chest, holding him down, and tried to catch his breath.

"Fuck, Malfoy," he grunted. "I don't mean to be rude, but that was downright professional."

Malfoy, not apparently offended in the least, gave him a preening smile.

"I like to do things well."

Harry smoothed his hand over Malfoy's chest and pressed him down a little harder.

"Something we have in common," Harry said, and slid without further comment down Malfoy's body, licking his heaving stomach as he went.

Harry, as it happened, also liked to do things well, and he made no attempt to hide his pride when Malfoy lay gasping and spent a mere three minutes and 12 seconds later.

"All right then?" he gloated, in a scratchy voice.

"I think we can still be friends," Malfoy rasped, heaving himself on his side to look at Harry, who had collapsed next to him on the pile of linens. He stared strangely for a moment and then reached for Harry's face.

He pushed a curl of hair away from Harry's eyes and, after a pause, drew a length of silk up to press against Harry's forehead. He was giving Harry a look of such intensity that Harry had to fight not to look away.

"I have got to make you a robe from this," Malfoy said after a minute, reaching for a notebook on the scattered mess of the tabletop. "I'll make a fortune when they see this."

* * *

"What now?" Harry asked when Ron popped around his office door first thing Monday morning. "Did Hermione find out about the pink drinks?"

Ron grinned. "Oh, everyone knows about that."

Harry sighed dramatically.

"Don't worry, Harry. I'm here on a purely innocent mission to ask if you want a coffee from the trolley. Hannah told Neville to tell Hermione to leave you two alone. So she's off the case for the moment."

Harry snorted.

"Tell Hermione I'm very pleased she's approved my current friendship."

Ron raised an eyebrow. "So you are friends now."

"Well, he did buy me food. As you know, that changes the rules."

Ron looked like he was physically fighting the impulse to ask something he knew he shouldn't. Harry tensed.

"So…" Ron said. "Coffee?"

"Please," replied Harry, letting out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. "A really big one."

* * *

"This might constitute stepping up to close friends, Malfoy," Harry said a little breathlessly a few weeks later.

"Nonsense," Malfoy said, his breath hitching as well. "It's merely an increased benefits package."

Harry pressed his fingers a little more vigorously into Malfoy, emboldened by the manner in which he was pressing back onto Harry's hand.

"Just to be absolutely clear," Harry said, blinking sweat out of his eyes, "I don't actually know what I'm doing here. I've, uh, never got this far with a man before."

"It's exactly like with a woman, Potter," Malfoy said, reaching out and groping around in a small drawer next to the bed. "Except you're going to need this."

Harry slipped his fingers out and picked up the little vial Malfoy had tossed onto the bed. He took a fortifying breath and uncorked the bottle. It smelled strongly of strawberries and sugar. He examined the label and found that it was apparently 'Amortentia scented lubricant'.

"That's ridiculous," he said, pouring some of the stuff on his fingers. "There no such thing as Amortentia scent. It's different for everyone."

"It works. What do you smell?" Malfoy asked, looking at Harry over his shoulder. Harry was struck by how pretty Malfoy's features were in the low light of the room.

"Uh, fresh strawberries, treacle tart, and an undertone of roast chicken," Harry said, sniffing his hand.

"Sexy," Malfoy said sarcastically. "It smells like grass, rain, and old leather to me. Funny that all of yours are food. Are you planning on getting fat on me, Potter?"

Harry chose to ignore this and press his fingers back inside Malfoy, which was apparently a very effective way of shutting him up. Yet another reason Harry was feeling more and more enthusiastic about it. Not that Malfoy was actually quiet, ever, but the sounds he made now were much more pleasant to Harry's ears.

The more Malfoy writhed and moaned, the harder Harry got, until finally there was no question of whether he was actually going to go through with this.

He grabbed the little vial again and uncorked it with his teeth, using his free hand to cover his cock in oil.

"Can I…now?" he asked quietly, unsure of the etiquette. Malfoy pulled free of Harry's fingers, turned on his back, took hold of Harry's cock, and answered the question entirely wordlessly.

Harry, on the other hand, became a bit more verbal than usual.

"Oh! Fucking—that's—fuck that's tight," he heard himself gasping, although the rest of his brain was on the task of not coming before he even got all the way in. Because, it was like fucking a woman, except for the part where it was nothing like fucking a woman. He bit his cheek hard, which, while an accident, proved very helpful in getting him through those first few seconds.

At first, Harry wasn't really sure he would be able to slide in and out; Malfoy felt like a vice around him. He started small, just tiny little shifts of his hips, really. Even that was causing the most intense sensations he'd ever felt during sex.

It was not, apparently, Malfoy's experience of the situation.

"Potter," he hissed. "This is very lovely and sweet, and I'm sure it's like strawberries and chicken and all that romantic shit to you, but I'm going to need you to actually start fucking me at some point."

If there was one thing that could spur Harry into action any time, it was the snotty, condescending tone that Malfoy could adopt on cue.

Harry pulled away abruptly and pushed back in as hard as he could manage against the resistance Malfoy's body was offering. In response, Malfoy let out a string of filthy affirmations that left no doubt that Harry was to continue doing exactly that on penalty of death.

Not prepared to die until he got to experience at least a few more minutes of this bliss, Harry kept it up. After a few more thrusts, Harry began to adapt to his surroundings, so to speak. He shifted onto his knees, dug his toes into the sheets and began fucking Malfoy in earnest.

It was tight and hot and slippery and electric, and everything that sex should be, but about one hundred times better than it had ever been before. Harry was quite aware that he was actually saying things to this effect out loud, for which he would probably be ridiculed later, but he couldn't be bothered to care.

It helped that Malfoy was moaning and twisting and saying things Harry could throw back at him if he needed ammunition later.

"C'mon, Harry. Yes—oh, fuck…exactly that. Don't fucking stop," he was currently saying.

"It doesn't hurt?" Harry gasped out, watching the play of unreadable expressions flitting across Malfoy's face.

"It does, a bit," Malfoy breathed. "It's perfect. Keep it up."

Harry laughed a little uncertainly and thrust a little harder, which seemed to please Malfoy, if the nails digging into his back were any indication.

"That doesn't really make sense."

"Mmmn," Malfoy groaned, clamping his legs around Harry's hips and driving back up at him. "I'll show you some day."

Harry's imagination went there, just for a moment, but that was all it took. His balls clenched abruptly, and it must have shown in his face, because Malfoy was suddenly fisting his own cock urgently and snapping his hips up against Harry's.

"You gonna come, Potter? Come on, come on."

Malfoy let out a strange, pained whine and Harry looked down just in time to see the first stripe of come land on Malfoy's straining belly. Harry drove himself deep into that ridiculous tightness and let himself completely lose it. Luckily, he was pretty sure Malfoy's cries were even louder than his, so he probably wouldn't have to take too much shit about this, either.

Harry dropped face-first into the sweaty sheets at Malfoy's side and heaved deep breaths into the fabric, trying to pull himself together.

"So," Malfoy said, after a minute or two. "What do you think?"

"I can't believe I'm going to say this," Harry said into the pillow, "but I think you might be my new best friend."

Malfoy's laugh was the last thing he heard as he was falling asleep.

* * *

The rest of September and much of October went by in a contented whirl. Harry worked, he went out with Malfoy twice a week, they continued to have mind-blowing sex, Ron continued to pointedly not deliver Hermione's sermons, Harry continued to appear regularly on the gossip pages, but he no longer cared and, for the most part, Harry's life was damned near perfect.

That was, until Wednesday, the 30th of October. Which was not perfect at all.

* * *

Wednesday, 30 October, 2002

The day started well enough. Harry woke in a good mood, as he usually did on Wednesdays. He dressed in the new suit Malfoy had sent over the day before. Muggle suits were apparently all the rage since Harry had worn a sample Malfoy was working on earlier in the month.

He ate buttered toast, drank a lovely cup of tea, cleaned his teeth, and left for the Ministry a little early, so that he might avoid any chance of marring his suit in the Floo. Instead, he Apparated to the alley down the street from the visitor's entrance, and cheerfully made his way to the telephone booth, flicking a speck of dust from his sleeve as he walked. He deposited his coin, announced himself to the disembodied voice, and straightened his tie as he descended to the Ministry Atrium.

Things went pear-shaped almost immediately thereafter.

Harry departed the tranquillity of the phone booth and stepped in to a scene of near chaos on the atrium floor. Witches and wizards were running in every direction, shouting instructions and handing off parchment. The air was filled with flying memos, some running into one another for lack of space to fly.

Harry, completely caught off-guard, stood stock still in the middle of the raging storm and tried to ascertain what on earth was happening. He managed to glean a few words out of the cacophony.

"…multiple attacks…"

"…at least four shops on Diagon Alley…"

"…supposed to be Black Marks, they think…"

Harry shoved himself through the crowd towards the lifts. He made it nearly halfway before a hand grabbed his shoulder.

"Ron!" he shouted over the din. "What's happened?"

"It's one of those gangs of neo-Death Eaters that we've been tracking. They seem to be on a little crime spree in Diagon Alley. Smashed some store windows, marked walls."

"Do we have orders?"

"You and I are to go in through the Leaky and move our way up from there. Two teams are there already; we should be able to cover every entrance to the alley once Hornswag and Jacoby arrive. I haven't seen them yet, but they'll get the message. Interdepartmental memos are seeking everyone out as we—"

An interdepartmental memo struck Harry in the temple.

"—speak," Ron finished with a grin. "That'll be yours. Ready?"

"Ready," Harry agreed, knocking the folded parchment off his shoulder. He turned back towards the wall of fireplaces, bellowing as he did. "Make a path! Aurors coming through! Make room!"

Well trained to respond to such commands, the hectic crowd actually managed to clear them a path to the nearest Floo, into which they leapt as Ron yelled their destination over the still deafening noise in the Atrium.

* * *

The Leaky Cauldron was deserted and eerily quiet after the scene they had just departed. Harry scanned the room for Hannah, but she was nowhere to be seen.

"All the proprietors have been warned to take cover," Ron whispered. "Owls were sent out as soon as the reports started coming in."

Harry nodded and headed towards the door.

"Any reports of injuries?" he whispered to Ron as they crouched just inside the doorframe and observed the street.

"Nothing serious," Ron answered. "This looks like a group of teenagers by all early indications. Mostly vandalism, crude spell work, and a few badly conjured replicas of the Dark Mark."

Harry squinted down the deserted alley, looking for any movement. Other than a few smashed windows, a toppled rubbish bin, and an almost laughably rendered Mark on the wall of the Apothecary, the street looked relatively intact.

"I think we're clear to move," he said. "I'll go left, yeah?"

Ron nodded and slipped out the door to the right.

They moved slowly and methodically up the street, checking each establishment as they passed, finding neither the culprits nor any of the shop owners inside. Most of the damage seemed to support the teenager theory. Someone had clearly tried to make off with an unwieldy armload at Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, dropping a trail of Halloween-themed loot as they went, and multiple broomsticks were missing from the storefront of Quality Quidditch Supplies.

They crossed paths with Hornswag and Jacoby at the corner of Knockturn Alley and learned that Gringotts, all of Knockturn, and most of Diagon Alley had been cleared. Four perpetrators had been apprehended, and it seemed likely there was only one left on the loose.

The only area that had not been thoroughly searched was the short section just to the east of them. Harry was just realizing what that meant, when the sound of shattering glass broke the stillness.

Harry knew where he was going. There were only a few shops left to search, and one of them was a more likely target than the others. He rounded the corner at a dead run, pounding towards Malfoy's shop with his wand in hand.

Harry leapt straight through the broken store front, ignoring Ron's shouted warning from behind him. He landed, wand out and panting, searching the room frantically. His stomach clenched when he caught sight of Malfoy, lying motionless on the floor.

He started forward with a jerk, but he hadn't gone two steps before there was a wand pressed to his temple from behind.

"Oh, this is perfect." The boy couldn't have been more than a Fourth-year, Harry thought, listening to the way his voice cracked. "Harry Potter. I've got Harry Fucking Potter!"

"Not really." Harry's eyes shot to Malfoy who had opened his eyes and levelled his wand at Harry's attacker. "You can't honestly be stupid enough to think that was all it was going to take."

Harry felt the boy shift his wand towards Malfoy, who rolled his eyes.

"Or maybe you are," he drawled, sounding bored. "Incarcerous!" "

Harry stepped out of the way as the boy toppled to the floor, bound from head to toe in heavy rope. He immediately rushed forward, kneeling over Malfoy.

"You're supposed to be staying out of harm's way," Harry said, roughly running his hands over him, checking for signs of injury.

"Waiting for my hero to rescue me?" Malfoy batted his eyelashes. "Nice suit, by the way."

"Shut up, Malfoy," said Harry, forcing a small, tight smile. "What happened? Are you all right?"

"Little bastard smashed my window and jumped about a bit, casting silly little charms and ranting about traitors and turncoats. Then he tried to hex me and missed by about a mile, but I played stunned. Then you came in and jumped about a bit and got yourself taken hostage. Then he tried to hex you. So, I subdued him. That's the right phrase, isn't it, Weasley?"

Harry turned to see Ron, along with Hornswag and Jacoby, picking a path through the broken glass.

Ron laughed. "Yeah, Malfoy. I'll make sure to quote you in my report."

Malfoy looked genuinely pleased by this prospect.

"Is there any further damage here?" Jacoby inquired, hoisting the struggling young perpetrator to his feet.

"Only that pathetic thing," Malfoy said stonily, flicking his wand at a cartoonish rendering of the Dark Mark burned into the wall. It shimmered under the spell for a moment, and then the wall was good as new.

The other Aurors dragged the boy out of the shop, and Ron repaired the window with a quick slash of his wand.

"That ought be all of them, Harry. We should alert the Ministry so they can send out a crew to clean this up and get the shops open again."

"Go ahead," Harry called to Ron's retreating back. "I'll get a statement from Malfoy and catch up to you."

Ron shot him one of the curious looks he'd been using a lot lately, but continued out of the shop with a wave and not another word.

"You all right?" Harry asked again, as soon as he was sure the team was out of earshot.

"Yes, yes. Stop nagging. You're just mad you didn't get to save me." Malfoy smirked.

"God, you're such a dick," Harry said, laughing despite himself. "Thank you, though, for the, uh—backup. Do you want some help cleaning up?"

Malfoy looked pointedly around the already-repaired shop.

"Right," Harry said, feeling colour rise in his cheeks. "I'll see you tonight, then?"

Malfoy looked startled.

"Fuck, is it Wednesday?" he asked. "I completely forgot; I've got some business at six." Maybe it was because he was in full Auror mode, but Harry thought Malfoy looked distinctly shifty. "Can you meet later? Say around half-seven? Or we can make it another night, if that's better."

"No," said Harry slowly, as Malfoy fidgeted with his tie. "Later is fine." He definitely didn't mistake the way Malfoy's shoulders stiffened. "Unless you don't want to?" Harry said, starting to feel very wrong-footed.

"No, that's fine," Malfoy said, voice unnaturally light. He gave Harry a mockingly formal little head nod and turned back towards the till, waving his wand to tidy the racks that had been disturbed.

"Bye," Harry said to his back. Malfoy let out an absent humming noise, but didn't turn back. Harry watched him for a few seconds, and then let himself out of the shop, feeling more than a little confused.

* * *

Harry wasn't even sure why he was wandering around Diagon Alley nearly an hour early to meet Malfoy, and there wasn't any particular reason for him to look in the window of Du Maroc as he passed, but he was, and he did.

Harry literally choked on his next breath. He was completely unprepared for the blow-to-the-chest sensation caused by seeing Malfoy dining with an apparently young, dark-haired witch wearing the signature dress from Malfoy's new winter collection. Harry could only see her from the back, but she was slim and clearly well-to-do, with a perfect manicure and several jewels sparkling on her fingers and wrist.

Harry stood gaping in the street for a few minutes before it even occurred to him that if he could see Malfoy, then Malfoy would only have to look up to see him, as well. He tried valiantly to remind himself that he should move on, that even if this were a date, it was none of his business.

He realized he was going to fail shortly after he slipped into the restaurant and quietly requested the small table just on the other side of the curtain from Malfoy and his companion.

He mumbled a request for a glass of Cinsaut, and leaned his ear as nonchalantly as possible against the tapestry.

"Really, darling. This was supposed to be my evening."

Harry was startled to realize that he recognized the woman's voice.

"I really am sorry, Pans," Malfoy said in an affectionate and contrite tone Harry would not have believed him capable of. "I completely forgot the day. I'll make it up to you."

"Yes, you will," she said, not sounding appeased in the least.

Harry jumped guiltily as the waiter set his wine down in front of him. He determined to leave an enormous tip when the man showed absolutely no reaction to his obvious eavesdropping, but simply placed the menu in front of Harry and walked away.

Harry took a deep breath and leaned back in.

"—absolutely not true," Malfoy was saying. "You know how important you are to me." Harry felt an uncomfortable and unmistakeable stab of jealousy.

"Do I?" Pansy countered. "I've seen you less and less this past month. What is a girl supposed to think?"

Harry nearly stood up and fled the building. He had honestly never considered the possibility that Malfoy was seeing someone else, let alone that Harry might be playing the role of some sort of mistress.

He was steeling himself to stand up and walk away when Malfoy finally replied.

"You are still my best friend, Pansy. This thing is just—I don't know—happening. And I'm enjoying it, all right?"

"So this is one of those so-called arrangements, is it?" Pansy asked with evident distaste. "Friends with benefits, they call it?"

"Right," Malfoy said decisively. "He gets to get his hero complex stoked, we both get laid without any of the usual resultant unpleasantness, and nobody needs to know anything about it. It's exactly that. A mutually beneficial… thing."

Harry tensed, practically clinging to the fabric barrier in order to hear every word.

"Hmmn."

"What?" Draco snapped. "Say whatever absurd thing you're thinking."

"It's nothing, darling," Pansy sighed, her fingernails clinking against her glass rhythmically. "Only, don't you have to be friends, before you can be friends with benefits?"

Harry could practically hear Malfoy glowering into his wine glass, but he remained silent.

"Otherwise, you're—what? Just a benefit?"

For a long time, there was still only silence. Harry held his breath. Finally, Malfoy spoke.

"We are friends, Pansy. I think."

"Oh my," she said, sounding shocked. "You like him."

"Eat your damned pheasant, Pansy," Malfoy grumbled. "I'm going to be late."

She laughed sharply. "You really like him."

Malfoy had gone silent again.

Harry sat stunned, staring at the thin layer of cloth between them, suddenly wishing he could somehow see the expression on Malfoy's face.

"Go on," Pansy finally said. "Call for the bill. This pheasant is awful, actually. Is pheasant even native to Morocco?"

Harry downed his wine, dropped several Galleons on the table, and fled.

* * *

Thirty minutes later, Harry was doing a terrible job of leaning nonchalantly against the bar in the Leaky. After he fidgeted with his tie for the fifth time, Hannah silently set a glass of Firewhisky in front of him and walked away, laughing under her breath.

Harry downed it gratefully and began fussing with his hair in the mirror behind the bar again.

"Utterly pointless, Potter. Still the charming rats' nest it always is."

Malfoy's unexpected appearance at Harry's elbow nearly made him jump out of his skin.

Harry cleared his throat. "Did you get your business taken care of?"

Malfoy looked down the bar and waved to Hannah for a drink.

"Oh, yes," he said, still staring in to the distance. "Just something I had been putting off for a while."

Harry stared at the side of his head.

"I think Ron suspects," he blurted out, without really meaning to.

Malfoy turned very slowly to face him.

"Suspects?" he asked.

"About us," Harry continued, not seeing any way out but forward. "Hermione, too."

Hannah arrived with an abhorrent looking purple and green layered drink for Malfoy and gave them both a quick wink as she turned away.

"Maybe Hannah, as well," Harry said with a sigh. "Maybe just about everybody."

Malfoy stared at his drink for a long minute before he snatched it from the bar and tossed it back with a cough.

He stared at the glass for another long bit of time, before he spoke, still not looking up.

"Is that a problem?"

"I don't know," Harry said, staring at Malfoy in the bar mirror. "Is it for you?"

Malfoy shook his head at his glass, but didn't actually answer.

"I think I should go," is what he finally said. He pushed away from the bar and began gathering his coat. "It's been a long day. Filling orders, balancing the ledger, rescuing Aurors… it takes a toll." He smiled at Harry over the joke, but it didn't really reach his eyes.

Harry got to his feet, feeling a little panicky.

"Are we on for Friday?" he asked, hating the obvious note of uncertainty in his voice.

Malfoy stared at him for a second, his eyes roaming Harry's face as if for some sort of clue.

Eventually, he nodded.

"See you Friday," he said, and then he was gone.

"Happy Halloween," Harry said to the air where he had been.

* * *

Friday evening, Harry stood before his mirror, nervously examining his fourth potential tie. This was the one suit Malfoy had failed to send a tie with, and Harry had not yet worn it for fear of selecting the wrong accessory. Malfoy could be very unforgiving about the improper wearing of clothing, and it seemed especially important not to incur his wrath tonight.

Harry yanked the tie off and flung it on the pile of discards in despair. None of them looked right. He stared into the mirror, and thought hard about the advertisements he'd seen littering every surface of Malfoy's flat. He stared at the suit again. Cautiously, he unbuttoned the top two buttons of the shirt and tugged it lower on his neck. It did look a little like one of the outfits he'd seen in the pictures.

A glance at the clock told him he was out of time. He sighed at his reflection, hoping against hope that he wasn't ruining everything before he even got to speak, and started for the fireplace.

* * *

Harry emerged from the fireplace in the Leaky Cauldron and immediately attempted to straighten his tie, only to remember he wasn't wearing one. Dread consumed him. He had never once seen Malfoy wear a suit without a tie, and he had no idea what had possessed him to think that he was going to get away without wearing one himself.

He had a foot back in the fireplace when, of course, Malfoy entered through the main door and spotted him immediately. Harry smiled, although he had the feeling it may have come off a bit more like a grimace. He waved as well, feeling stupider by the moment.

Malfoy neither waved nor smiled. He simply walked directly from the door to Harry, without so much as glancing around the bar. His walk was so purposeful, that Harry found himself nervously backing away as Malfoy approached.

Malfoy didn't stop when he reached Harry, he simply put a hand in the middle of his chest and pushed him, stumbling, back into the fireplace.

"Wait here," he said sternly.

Harry stood, completely perplexed in the middle of the fire and watched as Malfoy strode to the bar, had a short conversation with Hannah, and turned back, carrying a bottle of Ogden's Old and two glasses.

He stepped into the fireplace and said, without preamble, "Number 12 Grimmauld Place."

Harry was so thrown by the entire proceeding, that he utterly forgot to keep his elbows pulled in, and knocked both of them painfully against a number of bricks on the way.

* * *

Malfoy stepped out of the fireplace and turned back to Harry, offering his free hand as though he could sense that Harry wasn't feeling particularly steady on his feet.

Harry eyed him warily, but reached out and accepted his hand.

"Are we about to have a talk? he asked suspiciously.

Malfoy finally cracked a grin.

"Yes. But first we're going to have this bottle of whisky, and then we're probably going to get distracted. We'll talk after that."

Harry felt himself begin to smile back.

"That doesn't sound too bad," he said hopefully.

"I'm planning on it being quite good, actually," Malfoy said, turning and walking towards the stairs. He stopped at the bottom and turned back to Harry, who had just been watching him go. "Are you coming?"

* * *

Harry followed Malfoy up the stairs and into his bedroom. When he arrived, he found Malfoy eyeing the pile of discarded ties with dismay.

"These ties cost 23 Galleons each, Potter. Have you never heard of a hanger?"

Harry swiped a nervous hand over his unadorned collar.

"I was having trouble choosing."

Malfoy tutted, gathered up the ties, and smoothed them out over the back of a chair.

"That shirt's meant to be worn without a tie. I thought that would have been obvious, given the fact that I didn't send one with it. For Merlin's sake, look at the collar. Who would wear a tie with that?"

"I figured it out eventually," Harry protested.

"I don't know why I even bother." Malfoy sighed dramatically. "You would be just as happy if I sent you an orange tartan jumper wouldn't you?"

"Fuck you. I like tartan." That was an outright lie, but it was as if Harry couldn't help it. Bickering with Malfoy was second nature, whether he wanted to avoid conflict or not.

Malfoy sniffed in disgust. "I'll send you some socks for Christmas, then."

"Not orange; pink," Harry quipped.

It was almost a step too far. Malfoy looked positively outraged. "Never."

Harry grinned. "May I take this fucking shirt off now? You have no idea what it put me through tonight."

Malfoy strode forward, much as he had in the bar, until he was right in Harry's face. "No," he said archly. "I'm going to do that."

Harry dropped his hands to his sides and stood obediently while Malfoy carefully unbuttoned the shirt and draped it over the ties on the chair.

When Harry tried to reach for Malfoy's shirt, however, he backed away, holding Harry's eyes as he removed his own shirt and tie, dropping them carelessly on the floor on his way towards the bed.

When he arrived, he perched on the edge of the bed and arched a brow at Harry. "Am I going to have to issues invitations every step of the way?" he asked.

Harry stumbled forward, tearing open his trousers and kicking them away as he went.

Malfoy slid back onto the bed to allow Harry to crawl over him and push him back into the pillows. He paused in unbuttoning his trousers when Harry covered his hand with his own.

"I'm going to do that," Harry echoed, sliding down Malfoy's body. He kept his eyes down as he finished undressing Malfoy, still feeling off balance and unsure.

You really like him continued to echo in Harry's head. The problem was, he wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing from Malfoy's perspective. In fact, he wasn't even sure from his own perspective.

He glanced up to find Malfoy giving him a very complicated look that hovered somewhere between mindless lust, affection, and irritation. Whatever he was thinking, Harry did not want him to be thinking it by the time they were 'talking',

He grabbed both of Malfoy's legs and dragged them over his shoulders, bending himself nearly in half in order to get his mouth on Malfoy's cock. When he glanced up again, all but the lust had been eradicated. He breathed a sigh of relief through his nose and swallowed Malfoy down.

Harry's hand fumbled around on the bedside table as he licked and sucked, finding a clock, two water glasses, and a broken pair of glasses before his hand landed on the Amortentia lube.

As he poured the slick substance on to his fingers, he refused to ponder the fact that he could now smell the distinct aroma of raw silk and glue beneath the strawberries.

A sense of urgency tore through Harry. The thought that this, or any other time, could be the last time he had Malfoy hit him with a vengeance.

He poured half the bottle between Malfoy's thighs, swiped frantically at his dick with his hand, and guided himself into Malfoy with only the barest hint of restraint.

Malfoy seemed to approve of this lack of finesse, since he responded by bringing Harry's mouth to his own by way of yanking him by the hair. He made a noise Harry decided to interpret as encouraging, especially since he did it again when Harry latched on to his mouth and snapped his hips forward at the same moment.

Harry closed his eyes and just hovered there for a minute, listening to the sharp gusts of air Malfoy always let out through his nose if Harry stopped moving. He usually had a count of about five of these before Malfoy would lose his patience. Just after the fourth, Malfoy's tongue thrust impatiently into Harry's mouth and Harry answered with another snap of his hips.

He let Malfoy set the pace in this manner. Harry continued to match him move for move until Malfoy suddenly caught on and began thrusting his tongue rapidly and deeply into Harry's mouth.

It was a tempo Harry knew he couldn't sustain very long, and there was something he was determined to do, if there was any chance Malfoy was done with him after this.

He stopped moving again, waiting for Malfoy to open his eyes and give him the inevitable look of betrayal he always got when he was denied an imminent orgasm.

"What the fuck are you stopping for?" he gasped, when his eyes finally snapped open.

Harry steeled himself.

"You remember you once said you would show me someday?"

Malfoy looked totally baffled.

"Show you?"

"What it feels like," Harry said, voice low and timid to his own ears.

Understanding and a bright pink flush came over Malfoy's face simultaneously. "Now?"

"Now." He thought he sounded a little surer this time. He drew slowly out of Malfoy, forcing himself to keep eye contact the whole time.

Malfoy scrambled up and dug for the abandoned vial of lube in the sheets. Once he found it, he turned to Harry and gave him a searching look as he pulled out the stopper.

"This isn't another hero complex thing, is it?" he asked, with a half-smile. "You're not still worried that it hurts and trying gallantly to save me from yourself?"

Harry shook his head and settled himself on the bed, legs spread.

"Jealousy, actually—this is totally self-serving. You make it look like it feels so good."

Malfoy's eyes ran up and down Harry's body, lingering between his thighs with what could only be called eagerness. Harry's cock twitched at the attention.

"You have no idea," Malfoy breathed out.

"No. But, I want to," said Harry, parting his legs further in an unsubtle invitation.

The lube tilted in Malfoy's slack hand and spilled on Harry's thigh. Harry burst out laughing.

"Oh, shut up," Malfoy groused. He tossed the bottle aside and ran his fingers right through the mess and up Harry's leg to press against his hole without missing a beat.

Harry stopped laughing immediately.

Malfoy's fingers slipped gently inside, as they had every time they had done this before. Harry had to fight to stay relaxed, though, knowing that this time it wasn't going to end there. Malfoy's free hand was stroking Harry's hip in a calming manner, which was surprisingly effective. Harry let his eyes slip closed and focussed on his breathing, on the way Malfoy seemed to match the rhythm of his hand to Harry's every breath.

When the stroking hand left his hip to trail through the wetness on his thigh, Harry peeled his eyes open again. He watched avidly as Malfoy fisted his already dripping cock, coating it in the remains of the lube.

Malfoy drew his fingers out of Harry and crawled forward on his knees, taking hold of Harry's now aching cock with his still slippery hand.

"Deep breath," he commanded. Harry inhaled sharply as Malfoy pressed the head of his cock against Harry's arse. "Okay. Let it out, nice and slow."

All the imagination in the world could not have prepared Harry for the overwhelming sensation of having Malfoy's cock sliding inch by inch into his body.

He remembered vividly the other things Malfoy had once said to him. It does hurt a bit. It's perfect. Keep it up. And it now made perfect sense.

He clung to Malfoy through the first few tentative thrusts, willing his body to calm and trying to quiet the maelstrom in his mind that was telling him too much, not enough, make it stop, make it faster.

Malfoy was pressed tightly against him, moving slowly and carefully, driving Harry's own cock against his stomach with every thrust. It was absolutely too much and it had barely begun.

"I think," Harry choked, and started again. "I think I need you to go faster."

Malfoy literally growled in response. "If I go any faster right now, Potter, this is going to be over in about a minute."

"Make that thirty seconds if you continue the way you are," Harry whined, pressing his throbbing cock into Malfoy's stomach.

Malfoy looked down at him with an expression somewhere between pained and ecstatic. "Fast and furious, then?"

Harry dug his heels in and nodded. The next ninety seconds of his life were arguably the most intense he had ever experienced.

Malfoy, true to his word, fucked Harry as if it were the end of the world. Sweat was dripping from his creased forehead as he thrust forward again and again, swirling his hips and driving deeper and deeper with every thrust, his sweat-soaked stomach dragging across Harry's cock relentlessly.

Their mouths were just an inch apart, and they were both heaving air so heavily that Harry began to feel light-headed from the lack of fresh oxygen. He arched his back and thrust his head back to take a breath of unshared air, driving his cock hard against Malfoy's body.

The edges of his vision went bright white as his orgasm tore through his entire nervous system.

Malfoy made a tortured sound of ecstasy and began driving himself into Harry with total abandon, slipping against Harry's come-soaked belly. Harry was just regaining enough muscle control to try to move again when Malfoy froze above him.

"Oh, fuck, oh fuck, oh—"

The look of total bliss on Malfoy's face as he came was enough to cause Harry's cock to harden again, still coming in small spurts between them.

Malfoy dropped his head to Harry's, accidentally smacking their foreheads together.

"Shit, sorry," he said, with a weak laugh. "That was… I need to lie down."

Harry rolled to the side to give him some room, and lay listening to the ragged recovery of both of their lungs, holding to the joy of it for as many minutes as it was going to last.

* * *

Eventually, Malfoy rolled over and looked him square in the eye. He was adorably rumpled, but his face was all business.

"So," said Harry with no small amount of trepidation. "Now we talk?"

"Yes."

"Okay." Harry felt his stomach clench. There were several ways he could see this going, and a few of them were not good at all. Malfoy sighed, which didn't make him feel any more confident.

"Here's the thing, Potter. I've been thinking." He paused for a deep breath. "I don't think we're fuck buddies."

"No?" Harry said quietly, still not sure which way this was going.

"No." Malfoy laid his hand on Harry's waist carefully. "I think we might be… not exactly friends at all."

Harry waited quietly for him to continue, but Malfoy just stared at him with an odd little smile. When it seemed he wasn't going to get any more detailed explanation, Harry decided to wilfully take the statement the way he wanted to.

"Okay," he said. "Are we done with the talk?"

"I think that covers everything, yes," Malfoy said, running his hand slowly down to Harry's hip.

Harry didn't even try to stop the smile that lit up his face.

* * *

Ron's head popped into the Floo just before noon.

"Don't laugh," he said, by way of greeting.

"I can't promise that, Ron." Harry set aside his paper and tried to give Ron a serious look.

"Okay, here's the thing. Hermione has decided to do something a little insane."

"I'm not laughing yet," Harry said.

"Well, she's decided that she wants to do Christmas Eve at ours this year. So we can start our own Christmas tradition, or something. I'm not sure Mum's going to understand entirely."

"Or even a little bit," Harry noted.

"Yeah. That's going to be sticky," said Ron, scratching his neck nervously. "Anyway, I know it's stupidly early, but she says we have to invite people now, or they will all have made plans. So I'm here at the beginning of bloody November, to invite you over for Christmas Eve dinner."

"Okay," Harry said, without giving it any thought. He knew he would likely have been with Ron and Hermione anyway. They usually got hammered the night before Christmas, just to take the edge off of the insanity that was Christmas Day at the Burrow.

"She also says," Ron continued, speaking a little faster now. "That you should bring a friend."

"A friend?" Harry repeated.

"Yes," said Ron decisively. "A good friend."

Harry stared at him.

"Oh, for fuck's sake, Harry. You're supposed to bring Malfoy, okay?"

Harry grinned. "We’re not frien—"

"Just shut up and invite him, Harry."

"Okay," Harry said lightly. He turned towards the kitchen and shouted at the top of his lungs. "Draco!"

Malfoy came sauntering out, cup of tea in hand, dressed in an old pair of Harry's pyjamas.

"Yes?"

"Ron and Hermione would like to invite us to a Christmas Eve party."

Harry and Malfoy both turned to the fireplace, where Ron's eyes were darting back and forth between the two of them like he was watching Muggle tennis.

"That would be lovely, Weasley," Malfoy said, not missing a beat.

"So, that's a yes…great, terrific. I'll tell Hermione." Ron was blushing so deeply Harry could actually see it through the flames. "Uh, goodbye, Harry. Malfoy." He made a funny little nodding motion with his head and began to pull from the fire.

Just before the flames died down his voice carried faintly through the Floo.

"Totally unnecessary, Hermione. They don't need any nudges. There had just better be plenty for me to drink at this damned party."

Harry managed to keep from bursting out laughing just long enough for the flame to burn entirely out.