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One Year of Winter

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x=x=x=x

Friday night at the Leaky Cauldron was busy as usual; tables were full and the bar crowded with patrons. No one notices the golden trio in the corner and that suits Harry Potter just fine.

Harry picks listlessly at the label on his bottle as he attempts to listen to Ron go on about George’s newest product at the joke shop. He nods at what he believes are the right moments, but Hermione has always been too clever for her own good and sees right through his charade.

“Harry! I was in Diagon Alley yesterday and saw a help wanted sign at Quality Quidditch Supplies. I’m not certain of the position but I thought you might want to apply. It would be nice distraction for now until you figure out what you want to do full time.”

“Why should Harry have to apply? I bet if he wanted he could go in and buy the store!” Ron scoffs as he shoves a handful of chips into his mouth.

“Because, Ron,” Hermione begins, voice tinged with impatience, “I doubt Harry would want it handed to him; it’s good to work for things in life.”

“Well, we’re going to become aurors together anyway. We’ve already been told we’ve got two junior auror spots waiting for us,” Ron shrugs in reply.

“I think you’re missing the point Ron,” Hermione sighs and shakes her head.

Harry, deciding he’s quite done being talked about as if he’s not there, stands up and offers to get another round.

“Oh Harry, it’s fine. We can come with you in a minute.”

“No, really, I’d like to go,” Harry does his best to put on a beaming smile to quell Hermione’s anxieties.

She smiles back softly and nods her assent but Harry can still see the concern dwelling in her eyes. He quickly turns around and heads into the crowd; the sooner her can evade her sympathy the better.

The pub is bustling and Harry keeps his head down as he moves through the crowd. He hopes he can go one night without being noticed, stopped, and thanked endlessly for saving the wizarding world. He’s not an idiot, not really anyway. He knows he obviously played a major part in the downfall of Voldemort and the winning of the second war. However, people seem to be blind about all the destruction Harry has brought as well; all the fruitless deaths and damage. It’s become a new pastime of his, to reflect and count in his head all the deaths that might have been prevented if he had been quicker or more clever.

“Another round Tom.”

The barkeep nods and gets to it and Harry takes a moment to look around. From the corner of the room he catches a flash of platinum in a sea of darkness and his eyes are riveted at the sight. As if his night could not become more disconcerting he has spotted Draco Malfoy sitting with a few friends, laughing and toasting their drinks.

Harry is surprised at how well Draco looks, much healthier than he did during Sixth Year. He is no longer gaunt and deathly pale; the warm light of the pub causes his hair to shine, his skin to glow and Harry feels startled when he senses the first inklings of attraction. Harry roughly shakes his head to clear it from such strange thoughts.

It must have been several months since Harry has last seen Malfoy, not since his trials where he spoke up for the former Slytherin. Once Harry Potter gave his testimony about Narcissa Malfoy’s assistance in the final battle, Draco’s inability to finish off Dumbledore and his reluctance to give Harry up at the manor, they released Draco soon enough with a short probation and a hefty fine. His last memory of Draco was a curt thank you and a warm, dry handshake as he left the ministry with his mother.

Supposedly he had mostly kept to himself this past year, since the war ended, hardly venturing into wizarding London unless necessary. His probation should have ended this week, perhaps the reason for this outing and supposed celebration. Not that Harry had been keeping tabs of course.

Tom sets down three more bottles as Harry places a handful of sickles on the bar. He finds himself transfixed, though, and remains at the bar as he sees a young man lean over and whisper something in Malfoy’s ear. Draco’s easy smile disturbs Harry and he can feel resentment rise in his throat.

How is it that Malfoy can smile and laugh so easily as if the war never happened? Harry may have vouched for him during the trials, admitting that he had been coerced into most of the crimes he committed during the war, but it seems a bit excessive for Malfoy to have forgiven himself so easily. Harry knows Malfoy has witnessed and partook in as much darkness as Harry in the last few years, maybe even more, and yet here he seems to be moving on effortlessly while Harry is stuck with all these ghosts. Harry grips the bottles angrily in his hands and continues to glare intensely at the laughing blond. Malfoy, as if sensing the fierce gaze upon him, glances over and locks eyes with Harry. His steely gray eyes widen slightly and his smile falters. For a moment the pub stands still and they maintain eye contact; Harry can hear the steady beating of his heart and the sound of blood rushing in his ears. Malfoy breaks the moment by lowering his eyes, shaking his head and turning back to the conversation with his friends, an uneasy smile painted on his face. Harry clears his throat and grabs the bottles as he turns back to his table. He ponders to himself that perhaps everything is not as it seems.

“Hermione, you just have to give him a little bit more time.”

Harry stops in his tracks as he hears Ron’s voice carry over the noise of the pub.

“Well, I think we have to be a bit more proactive. Something is clearly wrong and he needs his friends’ support and encouragement to pull out of it.”

“I think it’s better if we just leave it ‘Mione. Maybe if he had something like we do, it would help a bit. I’m sure Ginny is going to come around eventually, he’s bound to feel less lonely then.”

“I hardly think it’s Ginny who is the one that needs to come around. Besides she’s waited long enough, I think she’s moved on by now.”

The words, though Harry knows them to be true, hurt all the same. He couldn't have expected Ginny to wait around any longer while he tried to figure things out. At this rate, it seems unlikely to Harry that he will ever sort things out completely. The fog in his brain doesn’t seem in any hurry to dissipate. Still, the notion pains him and he can’t help but feel as if everyone has moved on by now and somehow he got left behind. Yet there seems to be no one to blame but himself.

“Sorry about the wait! It’s bloody crowded up there.”

Harry sets the beers down on the table and takes a seat ignoring Hermione’s guilty flush and Ron’s refusal to make eye contact.

“So, Hermione, tell me more about this Quality Quidditch Supply position,” Harry asks with his most believable smile.

Hermione takes a swig of beer and nods encouragingly as she goes on about what was posted on the flyer. Harry might feel the darkness creeping in his heart and mind but he can at least do his best to pacify his friends.

x=x=x=x

Countless rounds later and Harry Potter is well and thoroughly drunk. He recalls the warm and pleasant buzz he had felt in the past when he has had one too many butterbeers and decides this feels distinctly different. Ron and Hermione are now positively smashed and leaning onto each other as they whisper and snicker to one another. Harry is more than happy the two have finally gotten over their stubbornness and entered a relationship but he can’t help the loneliness that creeps into the corners of his mind as he watches them. It doesn’t help, either, that Malfoy has moved to the bar with his friends and has been in Harry’s sight all night. Harry tries to tell himself it’s just the lingering buzz of alcohol, yet he can’t seem to take his eyes off Draco. Who gave Malfoy the right to transform into such a good looking bloke? Shouldn’t there be a rule about arrogant asses like Malfoy staying pointy and sickly looking? To make matters worse, he is certain Malfoy is starting to notice the frequency with which Harry glances over in his direction.

Despite the late hour, the pub seems more crowded than ever and Harry is starting to feel a bit claustrophobic. Had the place always been this small? A group of giggling girls push past Harry’s table and bang into his arm on their way. Harry can feel his temperature rise and his breathing quicken. What if there was some sort of emergency? How would anyone even be able to evacuate the pub? Harry’s hands begin to tremble and he can feel his panic rising. He glances over and sees Malfoy watching him, a serious expression on his face, and Harry’s last restraint snaps. He abruptly stands up, grabs his coat and pushes his chair back.

“I’m gonna get some air.”

Ron drunkenly nods and Hermione further buries her face into his shoulder.

Harry pushes his way out the front door, heart pounding rapidly in his chest, and finally is granted with the crisp winter night. The cold air cuts into him but the sensation is soothing after the stifling heat of the crowded pub. The night is dark: ominous gray clouds litter the sky and block out the stars and moon. The air is heavy and frigid and Harry can feel the suspense of snowfall yet to come. He takes a few deep breaths of the biting cold air and feels his heart rate begin to slow and his breath become steady.

A burst of noise enters the quiet alley as someone exits the front door of the pub and lets it gently close behind them. Harry hears a sigh and the sound of matches being struck. As the smell of cigarette smoke fills the cold night air Harry’s curiosity overtakes and he looks over to see who has come to disturb his peace.

“Malfoy,” Harry all but growls as he observes Draco leaning against the wall, smoke curling from the end of his cigarette.

Draco’s eyes slide over to glance at Harry but otherwise he does not acknowledge his presence. Harry feels his anger rise at the blatant disregard.

“What are you doing out here? Did you follow me out?”

Draco lets out a disdainful laugh at that and takes another pull from his cigarette.

“Hardly Potter. I just came out for a smoke.”

“I find that hard to believe Malfoy, what with you watching me leave the pub.”

“Isn’t that a bit of the pot calling the kettle black, Potter, considering you've been watching me all night,” Malfoy scoffs.

Harry, embarrassed, quickly changes the subject.

“What are you doing smoking cigarettes Malfoy? Isn’t that a bit Muggle for you? Doesn’t seem like your taste.”

“Don’t assume you know anything about me Potter,” Malfoy sneers.

Harry bristles at Draco’s disregard and turns to face him.

“I know you better than you think Malfoy. I’ve known you since you were eleven.”

“Is that so? I’m sure you have it all figured out then.”

“In fact I believe I do,” Harry squares his shoulders, not sure where this conversation is going but filled with the distinct notion he has to win it.

“Tell yourself that Potter. I’m sure you have the whole world figured out. Everything settled into neat piles of good and evil, dark and light. Here lies Draco Malfoy, former death eater, evil Muggle-hating Slytherin that has ruined and destroyed everything. And over here we have the pure Gryffindor golden boy wonder, the hero who has saved everyone and the world as we know it.”

Harry can feel his blood boil and the edges of his vision turn red.

“I didn’t save everyone.”

“You saved me. You saved me from the fiendfyre and again at the trials. I can’t imagine why. You would have been better off leaving me in the room of hidden things.”

“How can you even say that Malfoy?! How can you speak so lightly of life and death as if it doesn’t mean anything? After all the deaths that have already occurred… I had to save you! How could I have let yet another person die?”

Harry’s fury begins to build and his hands shake again. The wind begins to pick up and whip his coat and hair about, a mad look entering his eyes. For the first time, Draco begins to look a bit frightened and drops his cigarette. The air becomes static and the icicles clinging to bottom of the gutters begin to fall and shatter onto the hard packed snow and ice.

“You know nothing about heroes, Draco Malfoy.”

Draco takes a breath as he moves closer to Harry.

“Potter, stop.”

Malfoy’s warning does nothing to quell Harry and he continues to shake, his entire body trembling with anger and unrestrained magic.

“Fine! You want to take it out on me, then let’s do this properly. I still owe you that life debt, don’t I? Well here I am, do your worst.”

His face is flushed in frustration and his arms are wide open in defeat; a bitter acceptance of whatever punishment or pain Harry has in store for him. The sight makes Harry’s blood boil, resentment and want warring with one another as he stares at Malfoy in front of him.

In two long steps Harry is face to face with Malfoy: his arm is outstretched and and his hand closes around Draco’s throat. He squeezes his hand roughly and Draco gasps for air while flinching, despite his brave request, waiting anxiously for the first hit to be thrown. However, Harry merely leans in, looming dangerously close as he breathes warm gusts of air over Draco’s face, pupils blown wide as he stares fervently into equally wide, grey eyes.

There is a moment of the softest brushing of lips before the kiss becomes violent. Harry can feel the blood pounding in his head as Draco does no more than stand there, pressed against the wall, and held in place with Harry’s unforgiving hand still locked tightly against his throat. Harry forces his tongue into Draco’s mouth as he continues to gasp for air and forces his knee between Malfoy’s legs. The answering hardness against his leg causes a new surge of arousal to flood through Harry and he pushes himself against Malfoy, rocking and groaning as their hard cocks meet.

Despite Draco’s unresponsiveness with the kiss, which has turned into more of teeth and biting at this point, Harry can feel Draco’s hips surge against his, weakly meeting him thrust for thrust. His mouth begins to fill with the sharp metallic taste of blood as he groans and rub himself shamelessly against Draco, his prick harder now than it has ever been before. He can sense a voice in the back of his head shouting about the wrongness of the situation but his lust overtakes such thoughts. In this moment he feels more clear and confident than he has in ages and all he can focus on is getting off, specifically with the pointy faced git beneath him.

Despite Draco’s thick wool pants he can feel the wetness spread in Malfoy's crotch as a pitiful moan escapes from his constricted windpipe. Harry grips his hand tighter around his throat and gives one, two more crushing thrusts against Draco’s leg, feels his cock pulsing madly and orgasm overtakes him. He is still gathering his bearings when he lets go of Draco’s neck and realizes somewhere along the way Draco has completely passed out. He watches him slowly slink the floor and pounds his hand once, twice against the brick wall.

“Shit.”

x=x=x=x

The steady drip of the leaky faucet is the only sound in the flat and it’s constant plopping echoes throughout the empty kitchen. Harry glances at the pile of dirty dishes in the sink from the couch in the living room but cannot muster the energy to get up and wash them. He bites his lip again and contemplates how he got into this mess and what to do with the unconscious man resting on his bed. In his immediate horror of choking Malfoy until he lost consciousness, Harry’s first instinct was to Apparate him back to his flat. Once he got there, surprisingly in one piece with no drunken splinching, he pondered at his own foolishness and what he could possibly do next. Almost mechanically he removed Draco’s heavy boots and cloak but left his woolen trousers and jumper. Upon seeing the dried cum stained against Malfoy’s trousers, guilt twisted in Harry’s chest, not be outdone by the betraying heat that filled his belly. He quickly fled the room with the idea of putting a pot on.

After seeing the mess in the kitchen and losing any ambition to do more than sulk, Harry had collapsed on the couch. How does he manage to get into these messes? Harry surrenders to his dark thoughts and is startled when he hears the floo swoosh and Hermione’s concerned face appears.

“Harry? Are you home?”

“Hey... yeah I'm here.”

“Ron and I were worried when we realized you had taken off out of nowhere.”

She appears to have sobered up a bit although her eyes are still glassy and she seems a bit unsteady.

“Sorry to worry you. I was just feeling really tired and was starting to get a headache. I just decided to head back,” he replies in what he hopes is a nonchalant manner.

Hermione does not seem convinced.

“Harry, are you sure you’re alright?”

“I am, I promise. Don’t worry ‘Mione, I’m really fine.”

She nods in assent, clearly letting it drop for now.

“I’ll check in tomorrow then. Night Harry.”

She disappears from the floo with another swoosh and Harry sighs, letting his head drop into his hands.

“I’d hardly say you’re alright.”

Harry, startled, jumps up to his feet and spins around to find Malfoy leaning against the doorway. He has put his boots back on and has his cloak draped over his arms. Harry glares for a moment and opens his mouth to retort; to angrily accuse Malfoy of eavesdropping or perhaps to tell him to mind his own business. Maybe even to apologize for the night’s strange events. However, no words seem to escape, so he stands and returns Malfoy’s pensive and questioning stare. Unable to maintain the intense eye contact any longer, nor the deafening silence, Harry admits defeat and lowers his gaze. He sees Draco smirk out of the corner of his eye and watches through lowered lashes as he walks out the front door.

Harry takes in his surroundings with tired eyes but no desire to sleep. He debates whether or not he should tidy up the mess that is his flat but settles on plopping back down onto his couch. He can feel his lids close about halfway but actual sleep is far away from him this evening. He wonders what in the world could of motivated him to attack Malfoy like that. It’s been difficult enough struggling to pull himself out of this dark hole he has fallen into lately and the last thing he needs is to reawaken his infamous Malfoy obsession. He was drunk and anxious and certainly not in his right mind. Harry repeats these words in his head until he almost reassures himself that what happened hours before was nothing too out of the norm. He does not recall the way the street lamps reflected on Malfoy’s golden hair nor the bright flush to his pale cheeks stark against the cold of the night. He certainly does not think about the way his blood boiled in anger nor the barely veiled desire in Malfoy’s eyes as he rocked against him. No, it’s best not to reflect on any of those thoughts.

Harry intends to sleep, he truly does, but before he knows it the sun begins to rise and the light filters in through his curtains, casting long shadows on the plush carpet. A low grumble from his stomach echoes in the silence of the early morning and he realizes he has not eaten in nearly a day. He mechanically rises off the couch and heads in the kitchen to put the kettle on and make some toast. A scratching at the window springs him from his seat and he sees Andromeda’s owl outside the glass. Harry takes the letter from the owl’s extended leg and she takes off with a soft hoot, out the window and back into the morning sky. As he scans the letter a heavy weight begins to settle in his stomach. Along with the usual greetings, Andromeda insists that he come visit baby Teddy soon. She kindly reminds Harry that he is indeed Teddy’s godfather and it’s time he gets to know his godson better. Harry knows she is right, he is long overdue for a visit, but the idea of going sets him into a right panic. He can feel his throat begin to close as he thinks about Teddy being an orphan, much like himself. Lupin and Tonks, his friends and allies, people he was supposed to protect, now dead because of him. Immediately he can hear Hermione’s voice in his head insisting that he cannot blame himself for those deaths, but it does nothing to wash away the guilt he feels. How can he bring himself to face Andromeda after the loss she has faced? How can he even think to face Teddy, knowing the boy’s parents died, in part because of him? The popping of the toaster startles him from his thoughts but all he can do is stare at the bread peeking out. Suddenly he doesn’t have much of an appetite anymore.

He turns off the kettle and moves to his room with the hope of trying to force himself to sleep. Perhaps some rest will help and, if it comes down to it, he is sure he has some backup sleeping potion in the bathroom. Harry crawls into bed, not bothering to take off last night's clothes and pulls the covers over him. He rests his head on the pillow and realizes there is something of a foreign smell on it; a strange mixture of stale beer and a deep woodsy scent. It occurs to Harry it’s likely from Draco’s shampoo and he nearly laughs from the absurdity of it all. He can feel the mixture of sleep deprivation and the start of hangover swirl in his head pushing him closer to near delirious hysteria. He ponders how he will ever manage to fall asleep, especially without the aid of a potion, but as he breathes in the scent again a bit of calm washes over him. His last thought is of Malfoy’s expression as he left his flat last night, soft grey eyes surprisingly devoid of contempt, and he promptly falls asleep.

x=x=x=x

“What about getting a tree?”

“I’m not really sure about that, ‘Mione.”

“Harry, come on, your flat could use a bit of holiday cheer!”

“I’m not sure this place is suited for that kind of thing."

“Well, we could decorate it a bit, of course we’d have to clean it up first…”

They both take a moment to look around the flat: dirty dishes piled high in the sink, unwashed clothes thrown in the living room corner, empty takeaway tins littering the coffee table, and an overall stale and musty odor permeating the rug.

“Right! Maybe let’s skip decorating and get out of here for a bit. I could use help with some holiday shopping.”

“I’m not really feeling up to it…”

“Come on Harry, you can’t just stay cooped up in your flat forever! It will do you some good to get some fresh air.”

She wasn’t wrong about that. It had been a few days since “the incident” as Harry has now been referring to it in his mind. Since that day he had hardly left his flat, except to pick up some takeaways here and there. It was rather comfortable in his small flat, whether it was a right mess or not. Well, at least that's what he had been trying to convince himself of. In the last couple of days the walls did seem to be moving in slightly and he could no longer deny the cabin fever spreading through him and making his skin crawl.

“Alright ‘Mione, let’s do it.”

The minute they entered Diagon Alley Harry started to reconsider his decision. He knew it was only a few days before Christmas but it still was overwhelming to see how crowded the streets were. Recently Harry's policy had been to avoid Diagon Alley at all costs, especially during high traffic times, but now that he's here there is no escaping it. His only solace is in the hope that everyone will be so busy with last minute holiday shopping, they will not notice him. Harry doesn't think he can tolerate the masses fawning over him as usual and proclaiming him to be their own personal hero. He was hardly the sole “hero” of the war and the well meaning public is an easy trigger for his anxiety. Hermione slips her arm around his and tugs him into the heart of it, there is no backing out now.

“You are coming to the Burrow for Christmas this year, aren’t you?”

“Oh that…”

“Now Harry, you have to come! They are expecting to see you. You know the Weasley’s view you as family.”

“I just think it might be a bit awkward, with Ginny there and everything.”

“It’s only awkward if you make it that way.”

“I thought I might just be a bit low key this year and celebrate at the flat.”

“What, all by yourself surrounded by the dirty dishes and rubbish in your place? No, I won’t hear of it. You’re coming to the Burrow and that’s final.”

Harry knows arguing with a stubborn Hermione won’t get him anywhere so he decides to drop the conversation.

“Have you decided what you’re getting Ron?”

“I thought about getting him some sweets, but I hardly want to encourage his sweet tooth. Should we pop into Quality Quidditch Supplies?”

They enter the store, and while it’s still quite bustling, Harry finds it a bit less hectic than the streets and takes immediate comfort from that. Hermione and him split ways as she heads towards the Quidditch books and Harry down the accessories aisle.

He is idly poking at some snitches when he sees him. Harry is certain he would know that familiar flash of pale hair anywhere. Draco Malfoy is wrapped up in a tailored navy blue cloak and intently studying some broom polisher in the adjacent aisle. Harry can feel his heart jump into his throat as he hides behind the snitch stand and stares. He wonders what his reaction was to the other night and if he has thought about it as often as Harry has (despite his best efforts to resolutely not think about it.) Harry reflects abashedly about some of the guilty wanks he has had over the last few days with that memory and dread grips him as he realizes he is starting to get hard. Of course, Malfoy takes that moment to look up and catch Harry’s eye. His gray eyes betray no expression as he holds eye contact for a moment longer than necessary and then walks out of the store. Harry watches him leave with a twisting sensation in his gut, and without delay searches for Hermione.

“Hey ‘Mione. I’ve got a few more stores I have to hit up. Why don’t we split up for now and I’ll floo you later this evening.”

Hermione distractingly nods in agreement as she adds another book to an already dangerously tall pile.

Harry rushes out the door and does a quick scan of the now diminished crowd. The sun has been covered by dark gray clouds and the wind has picked up a bit, a perfect excuse for many of the Diagon Alley patrons to cram into a nearby cafe to warm up. Harry catches a flash of that platinum again and sees the back of Malfoy’s head as he darts into an alleyway off to the side. Harry quickly follows him and only begins to slow as he realizes there is no one else in this dim and secluded alleyway. His feet crunch rather loudly on last night’s fresh snowfall and he can hear his breathing loudly in his ears. There is no way Malfoy could have missed him.

“Should I be concerned Potter?” Malfoy asked blandly not bothering to even turn around.

“Wha-“

“All this following me around distinctly reminds me of my sixth year at Hogwarts.”

Before his brain can compute the words fully, Harry has his wand pulled out and pressed against the back of Malfoy’s neck.

“Why Malfoy, are you up to something? Should I be watching you? You see the thing about sixth year is that I was right, you were trying to kill Dumbledore and nearly killed countless other students.”

Harry can see an angry flush rise against the Malfoy’s neck.

“Fuck you, Potter!”

Malfoy attempts to whip around and confront Harry but the former Gryffindor’s reflexes are quicker and he throws an arm around Malfoy’s chest, pinning him to Harry’s chest. Harry can hear Draco breathing heavily, though from anger or excitement he cannot tell. Harry feels more alive than he has in weeks; his blood is racing and his adrenaline has kicked right up. All the petty childhood rivalry and mutual hatred is rushing back mixed with a dangerous amount of lust. He can feel Draco’s heartbeat racing under his arm and takes the opportunity to look down over his shoulder only to discover the innocuous budge in the blond’s trousers. It appears Malfoy is being affected much like Harry is. He slips his wand back into his sleeve and moves his now free hand down Draco’s chest to boldly grab his erection. Malfoy let’s out a pitiful moan which goes straight to Harry’s prick which is rapidly filling with blood. Caught up in his arousal Harry’s grip around Malfoy loosens for a moment and Draco seizes the opportunity to spin around and push Harry off of him.

Malfoy glares at Harry, equal parts enraged and aroused, breathing heavily, his breath escaping his mouth in puffs of mist against the cold air.

“So is this it Potter!? This is how you’ve decided I'm to pay for my life-debt?”

The words sound wrong and grotesque coming out like that from Malfoy’s lips; it fills Harry with disgust but also undeniably with need. He shakes his head roughly in refusal, while inside his mind screams yes. Draco can sense his dilemma, Harry is sure of it, and having gained his composure now opens his arms in a challenge, just like the other night.

“Come and take your payment then!”

This time it is clear Malfoy is not expecting a physical blow. Harry takes a few strides forward, his body acting of its own volition even while his mind is still in a fog, and grips the front of Draco’s cloak with his hands. A brief flicker of uncertainty and fear enter Malfoy’s eyes but then he blinks once and it's gone. Harry holds him close and with no further warning, Apparates them back to his place.

They both appear and stumble in the hallway of his flat and before Malfoy can fully orientate himself Harry presses him into the wall, his lips hungrily seeking Malfoy out. The all consuming gray fog of Harry’s mind swiftly dissipates as his tongue traces Malfoy’s teeth and breaths in that familiar woodsy scent. Malfoy gives as good as he gets and pushes off Harry’s cloak, shrugging his own off at the same time, all the while never breaking the aggressive kiss. Harry is so hard it’s almost painful and he rubs himself shamelessly against Malfoy’s leg. Malfoy gasps in his ear and bites down right at the sensitive point where his shoulder meets his neck. Merlin, he is so aroused he could come right there and then. Harry makes quick work of removing the rest of their clothing and takes a moment to admire Malfoy’s fully naked form. His body is not perfect, what with the thin scars criss crossing his chest, and he’s a bit more skinny than Harry would have thought but that doesn’t stop the low growl of approval that escapes Harry’s lips. He wants to consume the pointy arrogant git, scars and all, and mark him so he will never forget this encounter Malfoy is trembling slightly with lust, his long slender prick fully erect, the tip glistening erotically with pre-cum and Harry cannot hold back any longer.

He grabs Draco’s wrists and firmly holds them above his head while his mouth resumes his attack on Malfoy’s lips, neck and chest. Draco lets out a small whimper of pain but he remains hard as ever and Harry takes the opportunity to squeeze even harder. Harry feels drunk on power and lust as he keeps Draco pinned to the wall and sucks on a tender place on his neck. He can feel Draco pushing his hips forward but all he can accomplish is gently brushing his hard cock against Harry’s. The sensation is glorious and maddening and finally Harry relents and releases Draco’s wrists to let his arms fall back to his sides. Malfoy wastes no time and quickly grabs both their pricks in one hand and roughly begins to jerk them off. The friction is delicious and Harry let’s out an appreciative moan. Nothing has ever felt as good as Malfoy’s long, cool fingers wrapped around their hot pricks. He pointlessly thinks they should have been doing this in school instead of the useless fighting. Draco lets out a low chuckle and Harry suspects he may have said that last part aloud. He begins to pick up his pace and Harry can feel his balls tighten and draw up.

“Wait, stop!”

Malfoy looks incredulous and though he doesn’t stop all the way, he does slow down his strokes.

“Having second thoughts, Potter?”

“No, I’m just not ready to come yet. I want… I want to fuck you first.”

Draco’s eyes widen in surprise but Harry can tell he’s interested by the throb of his cock against Harry’s own leaking prick. Draco nods slowly in assent and Harry all but drags him down the hall and into the bedroom before throwing him on the bed. Harry is filled with a heady sensation as he realizes he is in complete control right now. Draco is sprawled on his bed, panting through swollen red lips, and the sight is utterly intoxicating. Harry is lost in a haze of lust and stumbles through his bedside drawer for some lube. He knows he won’t last long, that this will be rough and frantic, and that suits him just fine. He generously applies lube all over his cock and flips Malfoy over on the bed, pushing him onto his hands and knees. There is a brief moment where he considers prepping Malfoy but now isn’t the time for stretching him slowly. His prick has taken over his mind and he rests the head of his cock against Draco’s opening, relishing the tremors that shake them both. Despite his need to be inside Malfoy, he pushes in slowly, savoring the tight, warm grip that sends him into overdrive. Once he is fully seated inside, Malfoy pushes impatiently back against Harry and the his last resolve snaps. Harry’s fingers dig into Malfoy’s hips as he pulls out almost completely and then rams back into him at full force. Draco mewls, half in pleasure and half in pain, the sounds urging Harry on even more. He continues to roughly thrust, lost in pleasure, and only marginally aware of Malfoy’s hand working furiously below him. He feels Draco clench around him as the he grunts and moans through his release. It won’t be long now and Harry truly lets himself go, ramming into him roughly as his balls tighten and he empties himself into the man beneath him.

The immediate afterglow is perfection. They lay next to each other, not touching, but close enough to feel the others body heat. Harry can hear Draco’s soft breathing and in that moment everything feels simple and easy. The moment shatters as soon as Harry turns his gaze over to Malfoy. Draco has bruises forming around his wrists, harsh bites along his neck and chest, fingernail indents seared into his hips and a bit of blood smeared across his lips where Harry must have bit too hard earlier. He looks amazingly erotic yet, also incredibly abused. The feeling of control and power which graciously filled him earlier has now turned into a distinct lack of control and Harry begins to feel sick. Malfoy tuns his head, pale hair falling over his eyes, and smirks at Harry’s obvious turmoil.

“I’d say that might clear up the debt. Do you feel better now?”

Though Malfoy’s eyes are somewhat playful, the words fill Harry with disgust and he can feel himself crumble inside. Involuntarily he beings to curl his legs towards his chest.

“No, I don’t…” He whispers brokenly.

Malfoy sighs in response and Harry watches from beneath his dark fringe as he rises off the bed and begins to pull on his pants.

“I’ll go put on some tea.”

Harry is surprised by the words but does his best not to take them to heart. As Draco exits the bedroom, he musters up some strength and heads into the bathroom to splash some cold water on his face. There are wet towels on the floor and he suddenly feels a bit self conscious about the state of his flat. Finding a pair of clean shorts and a faded t-shirt, he quickly dresses and enters the kitchen to see Malfoy making tea. The sight immediately fills him with an uncertain warmth, though he fights the feeling down. Lately he has been suspicious of sudden feelings of comfort, what with their tendency to be swept away as quickly as they come. Draco senses Harry’s presence and turns around.

“Your tea selection is shit Potter. Do you even have any clean mugs? I can’t imagine how you manage to live in this filth.”

Harry runs a hand abashedly through his hair and searches for some clean mugs. It’s been nearly a week since the last time Malfoy was briefly at his flat and he hasn’t cleaned a damn thing since then. Luckily, Harry locates two clean mugs before Malfoy can further berate him on his unkempt living circumstances. He hands the mugs over to Draco and their fingers brush; the feeling is instantly electric and fills Harry with an uneasy fluttering sensation. He suddenly feels like a school child again, and though it is a welcome change from his usual bleak state of mind, the feeling is also unsettling.

They both take a seat at the small kitchen table, littered with old magazines and unread post, and sip their tea in silence. Harry is not sure how long they remain there, quietly drinking tea, Malfoy’s soft slurping and the wind gently rattling the window are the only sounds to fill the room. Surprisingly enough, the silence is comfortable and Harry is enveloped with the same kind of peace he felt earlier, in the immediate afterglow. Of course that kind of peace could hardly last forever.

“You know Potter, I’m the one who was on the losing side. I should be the broken one, not you.”

Harry feels the familiar anger flare up and is ready to argue that he's not broken when he looks over and sees the bruises on Malfoy’s wrists. He gently removes Draco’s hands from where they are cradling his mug, grabs his wand from the table, and softly casts a spell to heal the bruises. Malfoy looks up with an unreadable expression in his eyes.

“Thank you.”

Malfoy begins to grab the now empty tea mugs off the table and to the overflowing sink, when he spots a letter on the table and recognizes the seal.

“Hm, how is Aunt Andromeda? I'm overdue for a visit. I’ve hardly seen that little wolf boy since he was born.”

“Don’t call him that!” Harry growls, his anger returning again.

Draco rolls his eyes in response.

“Are you going to visit him anytime soon?”

“It’s none of your bloody business!” Harry tenses his shoulders defensively and snatches the letter off the table.

Draco looks affronted but takes a breath before calmly speaking.

“You’re not the only one who lost something or someone during the war. Whether you like it or not you are a hero Potter, but that doesn’t mean you owe anyone anything else, and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t feel pain. The sooner you realize that and accept it the sooner you’ll be able to move on. Otherwise you’re going to be stuck forever and everyone will leave you behind.”

The words are not spoken harshly but they hurt all the same. Harry can sense the truth in them but they painfully grip at his chest and anger becomes a much more preferred emotion.

“I think you should leave, this was a mistake.”

Draco stares for a moment before shrugging apathetically and moving to the bedroom to retrieve the rest of his clothing.

Harry watches Draco leave the room and is instantly bothered by his indifference. His anger begins to fade as he realizes he is not looking forward to being stuck with his own thoughts after Draco leaves. He remains in the kitchen and listens to the sounds of Malfoy moving around his room with a sinking feeling in his stomach. Harry starts to desperately think of something to say or do to get Malfoy to stay a little longer. He starts as he sees Malfoy standing in the doorway of the kitchen, all wrapped up and ready to leave.

“I suppose my debt is fully paid now, no?”

The words cut through Harry like an icy knife in his chest, he finds himself unable to respond. Draco leaves before Harry can fully recover and he listens to the front door close, all the while paralyzed with misery. He takes a few painful breaths and then forces himself to get up and take a shower. He enters the bathroom and slams the door shut as hard as he can, relishing in the sound of his door frame rattling. He doesn’t know why he should care so much, but he does.

x=x=x=x

Harry casts Tempus again to discover he is now officially late to Christmas dinner at the Burrow. In spite of this, he still finds himself pacing outside the Owl Post Office with a blank parchment and quill in hand. Over the past couple of days, Harry must have started a dozen letters to Draco only to discard them before he can finish them, let alone mail them. Harry Potter is not an idiot. Well not really. He is well aware Draco is not interested in him, that he was merely repaying a debt, though it guts him to know so. In the introspection that can only follow such events as the last week, Harry is ready to admit that his Malfoy obsession has come back in full force. His traitorous mind has replayed the other night over and over again and his previously non-existent sex drive has now all but consumed him. He can hardly pass by his bedroom without getting hard, recalling the warm, tight heat of Malfoy and the feeling of release as he let himself go. Though the memory is bittersweet, there is comfort in finding some drive and passion back in his life after such a long period of suffocating fog. Maybe, in that sense, Malfoy really has found a way to repay his debt. Perhaps he has helped Harry make a breakthrough, even in the slightest way. However, Harry cannot fool himself to think it is enough. Now that he has a had a taste, he can’t imagine anything ever being enough when it comes to Draco Malfoy.

A gust of cold, winter wind nearly snatches the piece of parchment and Harry knows he has wasted enough time here and has to get going. Finding a sliver of Gryffindor courage, he jots down ‘Happy Christmas. - H.P’, enters the shop and quickly sends it out before he can regret it. It’s time to put on a brave face and head to the Burrow.

x=x=x=x

The Burrow is as festive as ever; a great lumbering tree fills the corner of the living room, all adorned with color changing tinsel, Celestina Warbeck’s latest holiday album is blasting, and a great fire roaring from the fireplace is causing the already warm and crowded house to be nearly stifling. All together, it’s quite cozy and Harry’s chest tightens with the familiar feel of family and home. However, unlike in the past, this time the sensation leaves a bitter taste in his mouth. While he can appreciate the homeliness and beauty that is holidays at the Burrow, that familiar fog is creeping back into his mind. He can sense the pleasant memories, the love and support in the air but they lap against him like turbulent waves that are unable to penetrate past the surface.

After making the mandatory greetings and small talk, Harry has been able to sneak off to a somewhat quiet corner and silently sit and observe. He can sense Hermione shooting worried looks over in his direction now and then, but overall everyone leaves him alone. Perhaps Ron has warned them off or perhaps there are just so many people and stories to share, but nonetheless Harry is grateful. He supposes he should probably feel lonely, but all that fills his senses is relief. A flash of blond hair pulls Harry out of his thoughts and his heart jumps in his chest. It’s Fleur, of course, and Harry instantly feels embarrassed for thinking of Malfoy. Now is not the time nor place to be thinking about Draco, and yet the memories flood in without his consent; pale skin flushed with want, slender arms pulling him closer, the low groan as he came… Harry’s pants become uncomfortably tight and he digs his nails into his palms in order to cease the inappropriate thoughts.

“What has you in such a daze?”

Harry is startled by the interruption and flushes guiltily as Ginny takes a seat on the armrest of his chair. Her bright red hair gleams in the firelight of the room and he is struck at once by her ethereal beauty. She leans over and he catches a whiff of her gentle, flowery perfume. He breathes in the scent and wistfully thinks how simple things would be if he could just fall in love with her. Life has been challenging for Harry Potter since he was born, and his love life is no different. Stupid blond git. A fond and annoyed smile escapes Harry’s lips and Ginny’s eyes narrow in suspicion.

“Or should I ask who has you in such a daze?”

“What? No.. no one, that is,” Harry stutters.

It’s a lame denial, even to Harry’s ears and he does not miss the flash of hurt that enters her eyes. Immediately Harry is filled with guilt; the last thing he has ever wished for in his life is to hurt Ginny. He cares for her dearly even if he can’t love her the way she wants, nor the way she deserves. The guilt must show on his face because Ginny’s expression begins to soften and she rests a hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“You can’t take responsibility for everything, Harry. I care about you, we all do. We just want to see you happy,” she remarks as she squeezes his shoulder.

She spares him a small, sad smile and then gets up to join Hermione over by the tree. He watches Hermione quickly look away as if she were not watching the entire exchange. He is so grateful to have them both in his life, for their kindness and understanding. The love this entire family has for him is beautiful but also overwhelming at times. Harry is not quite sure what he has done to deserve it. The feeling leaves him equal parts warm yet suffocated and he finds he cannot stay in the house much longer. It’s too difficult to sit around and pretend with people who love him so much, to watch them be strong and pull themselves together, to see them move on while he stays here so weak and utterly stuck. He feigns a headache, passes along his apologies and goodbyes, and quickly rushes home.

x=x=x=x

Harry decides to Apparate a few blocks away from his home so he can walk the rest of the way. The streets are empty; muggles and wizards alike all bundled inside celebrating the holiday with their friends and families. The winter night is dark and frigid and Harry takes in great appreciative gulps of the cold air. The bleak weather is refreshing and assists in clearing his thoughts as he turns down his street. He hopes he did not come off as too rude in leaving the Burrow early and decides to visit Molly later next week in order to smooth over any misunderstandings. He is so lost in his thoughts that he nearly stumbles over the bundled heap sitting on his stoop. Harry is shocked to see Draco, cheeks flushed with cold and with a dark green scarf wrapped tightly around his face, clearly waiting for Harry to come home. Harry is at once excited, nervous and flustered and awkwardly stands on the steps with his hands shoved into his pockets.

“Malfoy…” the word finally escapes his mouth hesitantly.

“Potter…” Draco nods his head in return and Harry is pleased to see Draco looks just as unsure as Harry feels. He continues to stand there a bit dumbly, frozen to the spot, until Malfoy clears his throat.

“Well, are you going to invite me in? In case you hadn’t noticed it’s a bit cold out here and my warming charms have always been shit.”

“Yes, of course! Sorry!”

Harry unlocks the doors, removes the wards and ushers Draco into his home.

“I’ll put a kettle on,” Harry offers a he heads into the kitchen, thankfully a bit more tidy since Draco was here last.

Harry puts all his attention into filling the kettle and getting the tea out. His mind is racing but he can’t seem to collect the courage to ask Malfoy why he has come. He reaches onto the top cabinet for the sugar when he feels slender arms wrap around his waist and a wet mouth move across his neck. Harry drops the sugar into the sink and leans back into the warm body pressed against his. The feeling is euphoric and his nerves are on fire. Draco’s fingertips skate against his nipples and they tighten up in response. He is instantly aroused and can feel a pulse of pre-come leak from his already hard cock. Draco’s hands smoothly glide to his lower belly as his mouth moves to Harry’s left ear, nibbling and licking, his soft breath caressing his hair. There is none of the anger and urgency of their previous encounters but something much more intimate and terrifying. Malfoy’s hands finally reach his straining prick and Harry allows a deep moan to escape his mouth. He is not sure he has ever wanted something so badly as he wants now and he trembles as Draco palms him through his tight trousers.

“Shh, allow me.”

Draco’s voice is low and comforting in his ear and Harry gives in as Malfoy unzips his trousers and pulls them down to pool around Harry’s ankles. He turns Harry around and sinks to his knees, the sight utterly intoxicating. Draco looks up at Harry with hooded eyes before he leans in and, Merlin, just breathes hot gusts of air over Harry’s leaking prick. Harry shivers with want and sinks his hands into soft, pale locks as Draco begins to mouth his hard cock over his pants.

The movement pushes Harry, his back now digging painfully into the sink, but he couldn’t care less. The only sensation that registers is the erotic glide of Malfoy’s rough tongue over his pants and against his throbbing prick. Draco lets out an appreciative moan and it’s all Harry can do to not come right then and there. Malfoy must be able to sense his urgency, because he quickly pulls down Harry’s damp pants and sucks his entire length into his mouth. Harry squeezes his eyes shut and grasps Malfoy’s hair tighter as the Draco’s talented mouth continues to suck and lap at him. He is so very close and when Malfoy takes one hand to roll his bollocks and the other to gently rub against his opening Harry can take no more and comes with a loud groan directly into Malfoy’s mouth. Harry shakes with each pulse of his cock and moans as he feels Malfoy swallow each drop. It seems an eternity that he stands there eyes still shut and half supported by the counter behind him. When he finally musters the energy to open his eyes he looks directly down and is left breathless at the sight below him. His hand is still gripping Malfoy’s hair and he gently releases it to slide down and rest against his face. Harry takes in the mussed blond locks, swollen red lips, and open expression and is hit with such a force of emotion he can feel his throat start to close. He swallows painfully and is overwhelmed by all the thoughts that race through his mind. He wants to ask Draco why, to ask him to stay, to confide that these moments have left him feeling more alive and connected than he has in ages but his insecurities ebb away at his courage. He opens his mouth and the words spill out before he can stop himself.

“I thought you had already paid your debt.”

Harry instantly regrets his words but it’s too late to take them back. Draco’s eyes turn cold and his once open expression immediately hardens. He rises off his knees and turns on the tap, cupping some water in his hands and tipping it back into his mouth. He swishes the water around and angrily spits into the sink.

“You’re an idiot Potter.”

He gives Harry one last withering look before he grabs his cloak from the table and marches towards the front door.

Harry wants to protest, to get angry or stop him from leaving but instead he remains frozen by the sink and wonders what else he can fuck up in his life.

x=x=x=x

The tea is still a bit too hot and Harry impatiently burns his tongue on his first sip. Hermione smiles over her cup of coffee as she blows on the surface but sets it down before taking a drink. The quaint cafe is bustling and Harry is grateful for the small corner table Hermione grabbed, away from the door and subsequently crowded line at the counter.

“Any plans for this evening Harry?”

“I think I’ll just spend the night quietly at home… but after this I thought I’d pay Teddy a visit. I think it’s about time.”

Hermione quickly covers her surprised expression with a beaming smile.

“It is certainly about time. I’m glad to see you reaching out!”

Harry nods in agreement and smiles sheepishly.

“Might I ask what caused this change of heart?”

Harry chews on his lip for a moment before taking a breath and powering through.

“Honestly? I see everyone else moving on and finding some happiness with their life. Ever since the war ended I’ve been feeling stuck and suffocated with bitter memories and guilt. Even though it was a dark time, I had some sort of purpose and drive and now that it’s all over there is just pain and too much time. I can’t say I’m completely happy or healed yet, but for the first time I want to get there.”

“Oh Harry,” Hermione’s eyes fill with tears but she rapidly blinks them away, “It’s only through great effort that people have moved on. No one has lost their scars, we take those with us, but we can’t remain in the same place forever and neither can you. Eventually the scars do fade, little by little.”

She reaches for his hand and they remain there, hands clasped and in tranquil silence for a few moments.

“And how about you, ‘Mione? What are you plans for New Years?”

Hermione immediately straightens her back and begins to rant about New Years at the Burrow versus with her Muggle parents. She rolls her eyes at Ron’s fear of his mother's wrath for missing a holiday at the Burrow and flushes with excitement as she speaks about a holiday out of the country. Harry acknowledges the joy his best friends love have brought each other and smiles fondly as she rambles on.

x=x=x=x

Harry’s fingers are beginning to go numb, despite his winter gloves, as he paces outside Andromeda’s house for the umpteenth time. After his conversation with Hermione, his heart had felt lighter than it had in a long time but Harry still can’t seem to knock on the door. He has made it all the way to the gate before he finds himself turning away to begin his march all over again. The familiar fear is seeping back inside of him and he wonders if he can really face Andromeda and baby Teddy after all that has transpired. Harry is debating leaving it for now and trying again another day when he hears snow crunching under shoes behind him.

“Potter?”

Harry feels his chest tighten and he turns around to see Draco.

“Malfoy! What are you doing here?”

“I’m going to visit my cousin.”

“Same here! Well, I’m about to… going to that is…”

“How long have you been out here?”

Draco smirks but his voice is not mocking but rather full of humor and the tone instantly puts Harry at ease.

“At least 15 minutes,” Harry replies sheepishly.

“Figures,” Malfoy laughs and makes walk past him but Harry grabs his arm and stops him.

“Malfoy, wait!”

Draco turns around with a raised eyebrow and glances down to where Harry is still tightly gripping his arm.

“I wanted to.. that is…”

“Potter, I really don’t want to hear it—“

“Malfoy, would you like to spend New Year's Eve with me tonight?” Harry cuts him off.

Draco opens his mouth and then closes it. Harry is sure he expected some apology or excuse for the other night and not the straightforward invitation.

“Potter, I’m not sure I like you all that much—“

Harry cuts him off again, “I’m not sure I like myself all that much either right now but I’d like that to change… I’d like to change a few things. And most of all, I’d like to have you over tonight.”

Harry’s heart is pounding and he can hear the blood rushing in his ears. Despite his brave invitation, he is terrified of Malfoy’s response.

“Fine,” he says with a straight face but Harry thinks he can detect some amusement in Draco’s eyes. He lets go of a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.

Draco turns around again and starts up the walkway towards the gate. He stops about halfway and turns over his shoulder to look at Harry.

“Well, are you coming?” He asks as he holds out his hand towards Harry.

Harry’s face breaks into a slow smile and takes the few steps toward him and fits his hand into the Draco’s. He can feel the warmth through his worn gloves and Draco gives his hand a quick squeeze before he opens the gate and they walk through together.

x=x=x=x