"I see my suspicion was right."
Harry glanced up from his desk to see Draco Malfoy lounging against his office doorframe, the single lamp on Harry's desk casting a warm glow over him as he stood framed against the dimness of the otherwise empty Auror Headquarters. An opened bottle of champagne appeared to dangle from his left hand.
Harry shook his head and turned his attention back to his work. "You're not supposed to be here, Malfoy."
"Neither are you," Malfoy replied. "Last I noticed, there was still a party going on down in the Atrium." He nudged his shoulder against the doorframe as he straightened and took a few not-entirely-steady steps into the office. Without regard for Harry's withering look, he dropped into one of the chairs in front of Harry's desk, propping one narrow ankle over the opposite knee and taking a slug from the bottle. At Harry's single raised eyebrow, he smirked and proffered the bottle to Harry. When Harry made no move to take it, Malfoy shrugged and tipped it to his mouth again. Harry could see his Adam's apple bob as he drank.
Harry took a breath, clenching and unclenching his fingers against the desk blotter. "Then I suggest you get yourself back to the party before I summon someone to forcibly remove you."
"Not man enough to do it yourself, Potter?"
"No," Harry said, fixing his attention on his reports once more. "You're not worth the effort."
For a few moments, Harry heard only the steady sound of Malfoy's breathing and the quiet, liquid swish of champagne swirling in the bottle as Malfoy twirled the neck in his fingers. Then there was the rustle of fabric as Malfoy slid out of the chair and walked toward the door.
Rather than exiting it, though, he swung it closed.
Harry's head snapped up, and he saw Malfoy leaning against the door, face inscrutable as he studied Harry.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Harry demanded.
Malfoy shrugged. "You're being a complete prat, you know."
Slowly, carefully, Harry set aside his quill, afraid it might snap in the tension of his fingers. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me," Malfoy said. He moved toward the opposite side of Harry's desk, setting the champagne bottle down with a thunk. "The funny thing is, I never took you for a coward."
At that, Harry rose from his chair. "Excuse me?" he repeated.
To his credit—or, perhaps, simply a credit to his state of intoxication—Malfoy didn't back down. "So it's your first New Year's Eve without the wifey in tow. Who bloody cares?"
Though it had been nearly six months since Ginny had asked for a separation, being reminded again of the fact—by Draco Malfoy of all people—sent a fresh slice of pain through Harry. With every day that passed, the likelihood of their reconciliation seemed to shrink, and attending the Ministry's annual New Year's Eve gala tonight—and consequently being forced to watch as his friends and colleagues and even subordinates canoodled happily with their husbands, wives, boyfriends, or girlfriends—had simply served as a reminder that, for so many years, he'd attended these functions with Ginny on his arm. Even as their marriage had started to sour, she'd lifted her chin and pasted on a glittering smile as they put on a front of happiness for the Wizarding world.
There was no pretending anymore.
"Maybe I bloody care," he answered Malfoy through gritted teeth. "Not that it's any of your goddamned business."
"Oh, but I know, Potter," Malfoy said, edging around the corner of the desk, his hand trailing along the desktop. "I know how it feels. I know how it seems like everybody is looking at you, thinking about you, judging."
"Who gives a fuck what you think you know?"
Malfoy ignored him. "But, you see, the thing is, nobody's thinking about it. At least, not now, they aren't. This time of night, everybody's so bloody drunk, they've probably not even noticed you disappeared."
"You did," Harry pointed out.
Malfoy was right in front of him now. It wasn't as though Harry didn't see him with relative frequency. A few years back, after Malfoy's very public split with his own wife, he'd begun doing some potions consultancy work for the Ministry. He was often seen flitting in and out of the Ministry these days and he had, improbably enough, struck up a strange sort of friendship with Kingsley. If Harry were a more suspicious man—and, as the first wizard under forty to make Head Auror in more than a century, he had suspicion down to an art—he might have seen too many parallels with Malfoy's father's chummy relationship with the Ministry back when they were children. But if there was one thing of which Harry had come to be certain, it was that, bastard though Malfoy might be, he was nothing like his father in temperament or ambitions. Even his looks had begun to diverge more from his father's as he aged, exemplified by the hairline that crept back a bit farther with each passing year, much to Ron's not-so-secret delight.
"True," Malfoy agreed. "But, then, I notice everything about you."
Harry blinked, meeting Malfoy's gaze, which was startlingly warm and direct. His skin glowed in the circle of light spilling from Harry's desk lamp, and his mouth was slightly parted as his eyes raked down Harry's body, taking in his loosened tie and the crisp white dress shirt and dark trousers he'd worn under his dress robes, which he'd tossed carelessly over the back of his chair. Malfoy's gaze lingered on one of Harry's wrists, where he'd removed his Gryffindor cufflinks (a gift from Ginny so long ago) and rolled up his shirt cuffs.
It took everything in Harry not to take a step back in shock at the hunger in Malfoy's eyes as they met Harry's once more. "You're drunk," Harry said. Insisted. Hoped.
The corner of Malfoy's mouth curled wryly. "Just enough to make me brave," he murmured as he took Harry's tie in hand and closed the final distance between them, pressing his mouth to Harry's.
Harry could taste the champagne on Malfoy's tongue, the lingering sweetness almost effervescent, evocative of celebration and leashed potential. Malfoy's mouth slanted over Harry's, one of his hands sliding up the planes of Harry's chest to curl into the hair at the back of Harry's neck while the other he fisted into Harry's tie, holding him relentlessly close as that hot, talented mouth sought and plundered.
It had been months since Harry was kissed, and the effect of Malfoy's ruthless, clever mouth was dizzying. Running purely on instinct, he lifted his hands to frame Malfoy's face, tilting Malfoy's head just so, allowing Harry to take control of the kiss.
Malfoy's whimper of acquiescence made Harry tremble with desire like he hadn't felt in years. He seized Malfoy's mouth with new determination, reveling in the heat and rhythm and sheer, unadulterated freedom as Malfoy invited him to taste and explore.
Malfoy's skin was hot and damp beneath his fingers, flushed with desire and intriguingly roughened by the faint scratch of whiskers just beneath the skin. His lips moved insistently beneath Harry's, his agile tongue sliding against Harry's as their mouths worked hungrily together. Malfoy's hands slid to Harry's shoulders, curling almost painfully into the muscles there as he clung. "Fuck, Potter," he whispered into Harry's mouth.
The words broke the spell that seemed to have formed around them, and Harry pulled away with a gasp. Malfoy's hands fell away, their sudden absence making Harry acutely aware of the chill in his office, and he averted his face, but not before Harry caught a glimpse of the anger and disappointment etched across his features.
"God, Malfoy, what are we doing?" Harry asked, taking a shaky step back and rubbing his hands across his face. He could smell Malfoy on himself—the sweetness of wine, a musky hint of cologne, the faint tinge of cigarette smoke.
"Clearly, nothing of any great import," Malfoy replied quietly. He drew his shoulders up and back and, with more dignity than Harry suspected he might have been able to muster in the same situation, rounded the other side of the desk, picked up the abandoned champagne bottle, and turned toward the door.
Malfoy halted, his fingers on the door handle, but he didn't turn around.
Unsure just what the hell he was doing, Harry crossed the length of his office to stand beside Malfoy. "What was that? I mean—it was—why?"
Malfoy only shook his head without meeting Harry's eyes. "It's New Year's Eve," he said. "You're supposed to do stupid things you regret on New Year's Eve."
"Oh," Harry said, stung. He took in the stiffness of Malfoy's shoulders, the whiteness of his knuckles where his fingers curled around the champagne bottle neck, the still faintly labored rush of his breathing. This close, he could feel Malfoy's warmth. He could still taste him.
"Well," Harry said slowly, "the thing is, I've never been particularly good at doing what I'm supposed to."
Slowly, Malfoy turned his head to meet Harry's gaze, suspicion shining in his eyes.
"The last thing I want," Harry said, "is to start a new year with regrets." He reached out and plucked the bottle from Malfoy's hand, setting it on the floor, then linked his fingers with Malfoy's.
Malfoy's breath hitched, and he stared at their entwined hands.
Harry's other hand tilted Malfoy's chin upward, and now those clear gray eyes were filled with apprehension. "You see," Harry said, leaning in to touch his mouth to Malfoy's once more, "I'm not going to regret this at all."
And as Malfoy sighed and melted against him, Harry could hear, even so many floors away, the gathering in the Atrium erupt with shouts, cheers, and explosions to herald the dawn of a new year.