Harry held Lily tightly in a farewell hug. The Hogwarts Express would be leaving in a few minutes.
He released her and handed her the cage containing her owl.
“Send Zorro as soon as you can. I want to hear which house you get sorted into, yeah?”
“All right, Dad,” Lily said brightly. She turned to allow Ginny to give her a hug too, holding the cage out awkwardly with one hand.
“You have a great year, Lily,” Ginny said. “Dean and I will be waiting to hear where you’ve been sorted, too.” She ran her hand through Lily’s short bobbed red hair, a look of slight concern crossing her face. “And keep an eye on Al for me, will you? I’ve had enough owls from Professor McGonagall telling me about his hijinks. You can be my eyes at Hogwarts.”
Lily grinned and pulled away. “Okay, Mum.”
“Ready to go, Lil?” Hugo asked, his round smiling face popping up behind Lily.
“Yes! Let’s find where James is sitting.” They took off at a run to climb aboard.
“Hey,” Ron said, walking over from where Hermione was doing a last-minute check of Rose’s trunk. “Look there, mate.”
Harry turned to where Ron’s eyes were narrowed. His younger son, Al, was laughing and pulling on an equally excited Scorpius Malfoy’s arm while Draco and Astoria said goodbye to their son.
As if he could tell he was being watched, Draco’s eyes snapped to Harry’s and then to Ron’s, a frown creasing his forehead. He nodded politely to Harry and turned back to say something to his son.
“Yeah?” Harry said, turning back to Ron. He felt his insides squirm at the sight of his boyhood nemesis. “Al is free to make friends with whomever he wants. He and Scorpius are housemates, after all.”
“I know,” Ron said darkly. “I just don’t like the way that smarmy git is looking at Al.”
Harry looked again, but Draco and Al seemed to be exchanging an enjoyable bit of news.
“You worry too much,” Harry said dismissively. “It’s beyond time for us to put the past behind us.”
Nevertheless, Harry’s eyes remained fixed on Draco, though Draco either took no notice of him, or was deliberately looking away. The scarlet engine whistled and a conductor issued a last call for passengers. “Catch you later, Harry,” Ron said, and ambled back over to help Hermione get Rose’s trunk boarded.
Harry felt Ginny’s hand tug on his elbow as the steam engine puffed to life and rolled out of the station. He turned to meet her.
“Come with me to the Leaky, Harry,” she said. “It’s been ages since we’ve had a chat.”
“Right,” Harry said, glancing once more to where Draco and Astoria were walking stiffly towards the Platform’s barrier. “They don’t look too happy,” he said aloud, half to himself.
“Huh?” Ginny asked, looking to see what Harry was talking about. “Oh, well, their divorce was rather messy. I am so relieved ours didn’t threaten our reputations. Come on. Let’s go. Dean’s picking me up at noon.”
Harry blinked, confused, but followed Ginny towards the barrier through which Draco and Astoria had just crossed. “I didn’t even know they had divorced,” Harry said, quickening his pace to catch up.
“Well, you’ve never been much of one to keep up with current events, Harry,” Ginny said, hiding a smirk. “Though considering it was all about Draco Malfoy, I’m surprised you didn’t catch wind of it. It was all over the Prophet about six months ago.”
Harry looked at the back of her head, briskly following. “What do you mean by that?” he asked.
Ginny stopped walking and tossed her long red hair over her shoulder, looking Harry square in the eye. “Come off it, Harry. If I had a sickle for every time you brought up Malfoy’s name while we were married, I’d be independently wealthy.”
Harry furrowed his brow and breathed out through his nose. “Whatever,” he said, passing her by so she had to hurry to keep up with him.
They took a table near the door and ordered a pot of tea.
It was awkward sitting with Ginny. It had been several months since they’d sat down for a heart-to-heart, and the last time had been when Ginny dropped the bombshell that Dean had asked her to marry him and she’d said yes. He wasn’t sure he was up to hearing whatever else she had to lay on him, and just hoped she’d drop the subject of Malfoy.
“So,” Ginny began, dumping milk in her tea and stirring it, the clinking of her spoon on the china making the hairs on Harry’s neck stand on end. “How are things going with Victoria; was that her name? I haven’t heard the kids mention her for a while.”
Harry felt like scowling, but schooled his features into what he hoped was a relaxed, nonchalant mask. “Eh, you know me, Gin. I’m pants at relationships. She gave me the boot about three months ago, so I’ve really just been working with Luna, and hanging out with the kids when they’re around.”
He watched her mouth tighten at the corners, like she was holding back speaking her mind out of pure will.
“Spit it out,” he said, trying not to sigh. “Whatever it is, I’m a grown-up and can take it.”
She took a dainty sip from her cup and carefully replaced it on the saucer. “Have you given any more thought into talking to someone? You know, to work through…” She gestured by rolling her hand a few times, tactfully avoiding mentioning Harry’s “issues”.
He rolled his eyes, the hand on resting on his thigh clenching into a fist. “Yes, actually,” he said, measuring his voice. “I’ve made an appointment for tomorrow, as a matter of fact. But that’s really not your concern any more, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t bring it up again.”
Ginny tossed a stray strand of long, red hair out of her face with a flippant gesture of her hand. “All right, Harry. I will respect your privacy, but I do care about you still, regardless of whether you want me to or not.” She paused. Harry got ready for what he knew was coming; now that she’d finished with the pleasantries, she was ready to get on with dropping the next bombshell on him. “We need to talk about arrangements for the Christmas hols. I want the kids for Christmas this year, so can we switch: you take them the first and third week, and I’ll take them for the second?”
Harry raised an eyebrow, but Ginny rushed on before he could respond.
“I know it’s your year for Christmas, but I have something big to tell them, and we’ll be celebrating with Dean’s family this year.”
He shrugged, not seeing any point in arguing. “It’s all right with me if you want them for Christmas. Do I get to hear what the big news is?”
Ginny’s face flushed, and she looked at her tea cup. “Dean and I are going to have a baby,” she said quietly.
Harry heard her words as if through a tunnel. Their divorce had been amicable only because Harry couldn’t put his children through the mess of emotions he’d kept bottled up. Ginny had ended things right before Lily was born and Harry hadn’t even seen it coming. Even now that eleven years had passed, he was still bitter about Ginny’s disinterest in trying to work things out.
“When?” he heard himself say.
“Late May,” Ginny answered.
Harry could feel her eyes on him. “Are you going to be all right?” she asked, concerned.
He looked back up to see the pleading look in her large brown eyes. He knew she wanted him to be happy for her, but the bitter taste that filled his mouth made it hard for him to muster up false enthusiasm.
“Hey, I’m a survivor,” he managed, smiling weakly, hating the dryness in his mouth. “Congratulations, though. I do wish you all the happiness in the world. A baby is always a reason to celebrate.”
Ginny smiled, though he could still tell she was worried about him by her expression. “Thank you, Harry. Things will work out for you, too. I know they will,” she said earnestly, as if willing the words to come to pass.
The bell over the door tinkled as Dean stepped in, a wide dusty sunbeam streaming around his dark figure in the door. Harry felt suddenly ill.
“Hey, Ginny!” Dean said, smiling broadly. “Harry!” he added when he saw Harry sitting at the table.
He shut the door and approached them as Ginny gathered her handbag and stood up.
“Did Ginny tell you the news?” he asked, unable to contain his excitement.
Harry knew what it felt like to be an expectant father, and also knew that for diplomacy’s sake he needed to be supportive, at least in public. He smiled wider, feeling that it must look as fake as it felt, but held out a hand to shake with Dean.
“She did!” Harry said, forcing enthusiasm into his words. “Congratulations, Dean, really. You’ll be a brilliant dad.”
“Oh, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything to the children, Harry,” Ginny said, as Dean took her hand to leave. “We’d like to tell them at Christmas.”
“Of course,” Harry answered, wanting more than anything for them to hurry up and leave so he could relax his facial muscles.
They left, and he sank back into his chair, his smile fading instantly as the room itself fell into a gloom with the closing door.
He held up his hand to signal the bartender. “Hey, Tom. I could use something a bit stronger over here, if you don’t mind.”
He cleared his throat to get the attention of the young receptionist with his hair teased up in long black spikes.
The young man looked up at the sound, his kohl-lined eyes fixing on Harry. “The intake coordinator will see you now, Mr. Black,” he said, his voice bored.
Harry got to his feet, feeling suddenly old as the thought of young people not being taught proper manners flitted through his mind. The intake coordinator was a young witch, probably ten years Harry’s junior. She wore a business suit with a rather low-cut front, and it made Harry distinctly uncomfortable when she stuck her chest out proudly while offering her hand to shake. “I’m Annalise. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Black. Follow me to my office, please.”
Harry shook her hand and followed her through the door in the back of the waiting room that apparently led to the offices.
He found himself in a small, cramped office lined with overstuffed bookshelves. He took a seat in one of two chairs before a heavy oak desk that took up half the available space in the room, while Annalise closed the door behind them. She took a seat behind the desk and pulled out a long scroll of parchment and a quill.
“So, Mr. Black,” she said, pleasantly. Her long brown hair was coming undone from a rather sloppy knot at the back of her head, and Harry got the impression she was rather scatterbrained. “I’m sorry for the delay. Why don’t you tell me what brings you to the Counsellor’s Corner?”
“Er,” Harry stammered. He’d practised what he was going to say that morning while getting ready, but all his words seemed to flee now that he was here. “I want to talk to somebody about, well. It’s like… I have a hard time making relationships work.” He felt himself flushing, unable to hide his embarrassment. He cleared his throat and tried to explain. “I think it has to do with the way I was raised as a child, so um, yeah,” he finished lamely.
Annalise scribbled some notes onto the parchment, and looked up at him, smiling empathetically. “It happens to the best of us,” she said, sighing. “I’ll just have you fill in the health history on this scroll and I can set up an appointment with a therapist. You're in luck, as there’s only one taking on new patients right now, and he’s the best.”
Harry fought himself not to chew on his bottom lip as he looked over the questions on the scroll. “Yes, that’s good,” he said absently, glancing at his watch. He had ten minutes before the Polyjuice wore off completely and he’d forgotten his second dose in the bathroom at home.
He filled in the form as quickly as possible, trying to stick to the basics and not give any identifying information without outright lying on it.
When he checked his watch again, he had three minutes left. He pushed the half-finished scroll across the desk. “Look, can I finish up at my first session? I’m on a very tight schedule and have to leave now.”
Annalise took the scroll and hardly glanced at it as she rolled it up. “That should be fine.” She tapped a square card with her wand and handed it to him. “Here’s your appointment card.”
Harry stuffed it in his pocket without looking it over. “Thanks,” he said, and fled.
He felt the first painful spasms of the transformation taking place in his stomach as he pushed open the door to the street in his rush to get out. The door connected with something solid and a string of swear words followed.
Harry looked to see who he had hit, horrified to find Draco Malfoy’s face scowling at him as he was dripping with a now-empty cup of coffee clutched in his hands, a dark wet stain spreading down the front of his finely-pressed grey professional robes.
Not stopping to apologise, as the next pang racked his spine, he turned on the spot and Disapparated.
When he opened his eyes, he was standing on the top step of 12 Grimmauld Place and the door was wide open, a long low keening groan coming from inside.
He put the incident of running into Draco out of his mind, now fully returned to his own appearance, and stepped into the entrance hall to find out what was causing the noise.
Luna stood on a short ladder in the drawing room when Harry entered, an old-fashioned record-player, spinning a wax recording, blasting the sounds through its long horn. She was rolling white paint over the mural on the walls.
Harry watched as the last branches of the large apple tree disappeared under white. “What are you listening to?” Harry called over the sound. It wasn’t particularly loud, but the noises coming from the trumpet made him picture a suffering cow, uttering a death cry.
Luna turned, stepping neatly off the ladder, her blue overalls splattered with streaks of white paint. “Oh, hello, Harry,” she said pleasantly. “I didn’t hear you come in. Do you like it? It’s the mating call of the Thestrals. Hagrid recorded it for me this past spring. I thought it would set the mood for the start of our Forbidden Forest.”
Harry felt the stress he was under start to lift at the sight of Luna’s welcoming smile. “Yeah, it’s great,” he lied. “I see you’ve nearly finished covering up the enchanted meadow.”
Luna nodded happily. “Yes, it is sad to see it go, but you are right. Your children are growing up and it is nice to change things round a bit. What’s happened?” she asked. “You look like you’ve had some sort of fright.”
Harry shrugged. He crossed the room to test the paint on the opposite side of where Luna’s ladder stood. The furniture was draped with bright orange sheets to protect it from the paint. The wall was dry.
“I just got back from scheduling that thing I was telling you about the other day,” he said, not wanting to discuss it further. “I think this would be the perfect spot for the mother and baby unicorn, what do you think?”
“Oh yes,” Luna agreed readily. She wandered towards him to look at the blank stretch of wall. “I can see it now. Let’s paint them under a yew tree, and we can hide some bowtruckles in the branches.”
An awkward silence fell over the room, and then was blasted by a groaning Thestral cry.
Harry chuckled to himself.
“So when is your appointment?” Luna asked, revisiting the conversation Harry hoped to not have to have. “Who is it with?”
Harry pulled the card out of his pocket and looked it over. “Bloody hell,” he swore. The card read:
“What is it?” Luna asked.
James Black has an appointment with Freudian Analyst Draco Malfoy on 4th September at 3:00.
Plan to arrive 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time to complete the paperwork. Owl one business day in advance for cancellations.
“Draco Malfoy?” Harry said, not believing what he was reading. He looked up at Luna. “Did you know he worked at the counselling office?”
Luna nodded. “Yes, of course. He is one of their best counsellors. You’re very lucky to have him as your therapist. He’s hard to get in to see.”
Harry stared at Luna in disbelief. “You know Malfoy and I don’t get on,” he said, unable to keep the accusation out of his voice. “I can’t talk to him about this stuff.”
His mind was in pieces. He really couldn’t talk to Draco Malfoy. Not after he’d spent so much effort trying not to think about him over the years, stifling his name as Ginny would explode into a fury whenever he’d brought him up. Actually, it was one of the reasons Ginny had given him when she’d demanded a divorce, that his habit of bringing up recollections of Draco had got on her nerves.
Luna shrugged and wandered back to her ladder, picking up the paint roller along the way. “Sure you can. It’s been nearly twenty years since the war ended, Harry. We’ve all grown up. Besides, I think you’ll find you have a lot in common with Draco.”
The sound of the Thestrals groaning grew loud again. “Like what?” Harry asked desperately. “I can’t do this. The whole idea was doomed from the start.”
Luna started humming as she painted the remaining meadow scene white. Harry waited for her to answer him. He knew enough not to rush Luna in conversation. She would get around to answering him in her own time.
He sat down on the orange-covered sofa, resting his arms on his knees, waiting.
She finished covering the mural with a final flourishing sweep of her roller, and stepped off the ladder.
“Well,” she said, turning around. “He paints murals too. I’ve seen the one he did for Scorpius’s playroom many years ago. Your style is quite similar.”
Harry furrowed his eyebrows. “I didn’t know you and Malfoy knew each other on a personal basis.”
“Oh yes,” Luna said dreamily. “We attended therapy for post-war stress at St. Mungo’s together. There was a rather brilliant art therapist that headed the project. That’s why I suggested you might find some comfort in doing murals after your divorce. Well,” she paused. “We’ve been working together for over a decade now. You do like it, don’t you?”
Harry sat back against the sofa, letting his arms fall to his sides. “Yes, Luna. I do. You know I do. Well, it might not be so bad since I’ll be going in a Polyjuiced disguise.”
Luna hummed. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, Harry,” she offered. “How much help do you think you will get if you’re not honest with your counsellor?” She didn’t wait for him to answer, but turned and Vanished the white paint and roller. “I’ll be back in the morning to start on the trees. Feel free to work on the unicorns and the yew tree tonight if you’d like.”
Harry watched her leave.
He stared up at the old wrought-iron serpentine chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It was the only thing he hadn’t updated since moving into the old house after his divorce. Looking at it now, with its writhing serpents holding up the oil lamps with their open mouths, he thought it might be time to let it go as well.
A tapping at the large drawing room window brought him out of his moody thoughts.
Zorro, Lily’s owl, was pecking at the leaded glass panes, a letter tied to his foot.
Harry flicked his wand at the latch and the window opened, allowing Zorro to enter and perch on the back of the sofa.
Harry untied the letter, chuckling as Zorro seemed to take offence to the orange sheets covering the furniture and the continuing sounds of the mating Thestrals. He flew out of the room, probably to get a drink from the kitchen.
Harry broke the wax seal to read what Lily had to say.
Harry thought his heart might explode with pride at how wonderful Lily was turning out. He had secretly hoped she’d be put in Gryffindor, but knowing her ambitious personality, the placement in Slytherin didn’t come as a major shock.
Well, it’s official. I’ve been sorted into Slytherin with Al. James isn’t too thrilled, but the Sorting Hat said he was certain that Slytherin is where I would do best. It’s not so bad, I guess. You said Severus Snape was a Slytherin and the bravest man you ever knew, so… Well. I hope you don’t mind that I didn’t make Gryffindor. I know Mum isn’t going to be pleased.
Hugo got put in Hufflepuff and he’s really down about it. Maybe you could talk to Uncle Ron and tell him not to make Hufflepuff jokes any more. I think that’s why Hugo’s upset.
Anyway. I am having a good time and Al is not getting into trouble yet. Scorpius Malfoy is really nice though. He’s showed me around the castle and said he’d help me out in Potions if I need help, even though Al gave him a hard time for it.
I love you, Dad. I hope you will do all right without me there. I know things didn’t work out with Victoria, but don’t give up on finding your special someone. I want you to be happy.
The office door swung open and Draco stood, impeccably dressed in a charcoal-coloured suit over a crisp cream-coloured linen shirt which laced up the front with a silk ribbon.
He lifted an eyebrow curiously at Harry. “James Black?” he asked.
It took Harry a moment to remember that was the name he was using. He stood up abruptly, trying to cover up his hesitation, but making himself look like a complete idiot in the process by tripping over his own foot.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“Come with me, please,” Draco said, and held the door open for Harry to pass.
Harry followed Draco down a long hall full of doors to the office at the end. The door stood ajar.
Draco pushed it open the rest of the way and held it open until Harry was in, closing it behind him.
“Why don’t you make yourself comfortable, Mr. Black,” he said.
Harry held the scroll with his pseudo-health history out to Draco. “Er, did you want this?”
Draco took it, and Harry took a seat in one of two wingback chairs which sat before an empty fireplace. He took a look around the room.
Draco’s office was spacious, especially compared with the one the intake coordinator had to work in. It was simply furnished with a small square table in one corner and a set of chairs on either side, the chairs before the fireplace, and in the other corner, before a window with gauzy curtains, hung on either side with thick damask draperies, sat a brown leather analyst’s couch with another wingback chair tucked in the very corner near the head of the couch.
Harry didn’t like the look of the couch at all. He turned back to the fireplace and looked up at a large square gilded mirror hanging above it, and then noticed the artifacts lining the polished mantle.
They appeared to be rough figures of people most likely made by another culture. He stood up to get a closer look. The sculptures were all men and they were nude with exaggerated male parts.
“Do you like them?” Draco asked, looking over from where he was reading through the scroll Harry had handed him.
Harry shrugged. He was incredibly uncomfortable and hyper-aware of being watched, which made him more awkward than ever.
Draco sat in the other wingback chair before the fireplace and gestured to the empty grate. “Would you prefer a fire?”
“Sure,” Harry said, hating this whole endeavour. Why had he let Luna convince him this was ever going to work? Why had he finally conceded the fact that he might have some childhood issues that could be holding him back? Then he remembered the owl Lily had sent him. His children wanted him to be happy. For them, he would do this.
When he looked back up, a small fire was burning in the grate, enough to make the atmosphere a bit cosier, but not so much as to produce a large amount of heat considering the weather was still quite warm.
“I see that you were raised by Muggles,” Draco said, breaking the silence. He held the scroll open in his lap. “Are you Muggle-born?”
“No,” Harry said automatically, then realised he was already giving himself away.
“No?” Draco asked, raising a pale eyebrow in a high arch.
“Er — sorry,” Harry stammered. “It’s just a leftover reflex. When I get nervous I revert to when I was trying to avoid the Snatchers. Yes, I am Muggle-born.”
Draco’s face remained impassive. “Yes, I can understand that. The war wasn’t kind to any of us.” He looked back down at the scroll. “I see here you were born in 1980. I don’t remember you from Hogwarts.”
Harry cursed himself for his lack of planning. It had been a while since he’d left the Aurors and stealth had never been one of his strong points. Luna was right. How was he going to get any help with his problems if he was making up somebody else’s problems?
He wiped his sweaty palms discreetly on his jeans, trying to remember the specs of an old character study he’d used as an Auror when he needed to function undercover.
“Yes, I was in Australia during my school years. My parents moved to England the last year of the war, but I couldn’t attend Hogwarts, so I didn’t formally finish my schooling. The Ministry allowed me to take the NEWTs a couple of years after the war ended.”
He hoped his answer was convincing enough, and guessed it was by seeing Draco’s shoulders relax a fraction. Now if only he could keep his story straight and keep Draco focused on the issues he wanted to talk about, he might actually be able to get through the session.
“Look,” he said, wiping his palms once more. He really didn’t want to open up to Draco, but if he could keep him from asking about Harry’s identity, he’d do it. “I wondered if we could focus on my, um… issues, rather than talking about who I am and where I’m from.”
Draco’s eyebrows arched again as his grey eyes narrowed in scrutiny. “You do realise that discussing who you are and the life events you have been through is imperative to a successful outcome for treatment? I need you to be honest with me. If you’re not ready to tell me about yourself, we can reschedule for another time.”
Sensing he’d hit a brick wall, Harry threw up his hands. “All right,” he said, aggravated. “You’ve sussed me out. I’m not actually named James Black and I didn’t grow up in Australia. I don’t really think you’ll want to treat me if you know who I am.”
“Potter,” Draco said dryly, making Harry start. “I can assure you that I am professional enough to be able to put our past acquaintance aside enough to be able to help you, as long as you promise to be honest with me. If you don’t think you’ll be able to do the same, then we can quit now.”
“How did you know it was me?” Harry demanded, feeling more like an awkward school kid than ever, hating embarrassing himself in front of Malfoy.
“Really? James Black?” Draco said, a small smirk playing on his lips. “You couldn’t be more obvious in your choice of an alias, but despite that, I know your mannerisms. I knew it was you from the moment you spilled my coffee all over me and Disapparated without a word.”
“Er — yeah, sorry about that,” Harry said grudgingly.
“Look, Potter,” Draco said, setting the health history scroll on the small table between their chairs. “Would it help you feel more comfortable if we took a wizard’s oath? Everything we discuss in this office will remain confidential. I also have Calming Draughts available if you feel like you need help to steady your nerves.”
Harry caught himself gnawing his thumbnail and deliberately put his hand down, clenching his jeans. He was thinking about how Lily had said she wanted him to be happy. “The only reason I decided to seek counselling in the first place is because it would make my children happy if I moved on with my life. Personally, I’ve pretty much given up on finding that ‘someone special’ that people keep telling me is out there waiting for me.” He gave a resigned sigh. “Marriage didn’t turn out to be very fulfilling anyway, and dating is an absolute nightmare. I guess I don’t really see the point of being in a close relationship. Sex isn’t really all that great or even necessary, and I’ve got all the children I want, so —”
Draco cleared his throat.
“What?” Harry asked, turning to look at the impassive grey eyes fixed on him.
“Why do you think you haven’t found fulfillment, Potter? It seems to me like you’ve put a lot of thought into things and have come to these conclusions with a sense of finality.”
Harry turned away, looking into the low fire. He had hit rock bottom and now he was looking at his only hope of ever resurfacing by seeking help from his childhood nemesis. Yes, this had to be rock bottom. “I think,” he said slowly. “I think it’s because I was raised by people who didn’t give a damn about me. I’m pretty sure that the reason I can’t seem to connect with anybody is because I never learned how.”
Now that he’d said it out loud, he felt like crying, though he wouldn’t allow himself to break down in front of Draco Malfoy. The thought had always been lingering in the back of his mind, that the neglect he’d suffered at the hands of the Dursleys would surely take its toll on him somewhere down the line, but he’d never put voice to that secret fear until now.
“Potter,” Draco said, his voice softer than Harry was expecting. “What about the Weasleys? Did they not show you what it was like to feel loved? As far as I understand it, they practically adopted you the day you came back to the wizarding world.”
“Well, sure, the Weasleys are fantastic people, but don’t you think early childhood neglect could cause long-term damage? My aunt and uncle are Muggles of the worst sort. They thought they could drive the magic out of me by making me feel I was worth less than the dirt on their shoes.”
Harry watched Draco’s face remain passive and emotionless. He felt his frustration grow, wondering how the hell he was supposed to make any progress in therapy if all of his thoughts were shot down.
After a pregnant pause, Draco finally spoke. “I agree that growing up with Muggles was probably quite difficult for you and I’m not saying that the neglect you experienced with them was not detrimental to your future ability to relate to other people, but I do want you to look at the relationships you have managed to successfully cultivate. I don’t mean romantic entanglements, rather the friendships you’ve built over the years. I’m inclined to believe that had your aunt and uncle’s treatment of you created irreparable damage, it would have manifested across the board in your ability to socialise and find enjoyment with other people. Do you see my point?”
Harry shrugged. “I suppose.”
“What strikes me the most about what you’ve said so far, Potter, is that you feel sex isn’t an important part of a fulfilling life. Instead of looking at the past, at least for the moment, why don’t you tell me a bit of how things are going in your life right now.”
Harry shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He really didn’t want to talk about his troubles with sex with anybody, and Malfoy would be at the bottom of his list of people he would have this conversation with.
“Would you be more comfortable on the couch?” Draco offered, apparently reading Harry’s discomfort.
“No,” Harry answered immediately. “Here’s fine.” He turned his attention back to the fire, deliberately trying to forget who he was talking to, in an effort to get something accomplished out of the session. “What do you want to know?”
“Well,” Draco said, his voice carefully measured. “When was the last time you had sex? What was it like? Did you have trouble performing, so to speak?”
Harry felt his cheeks grow red and clenched his teeth in an effort to keep himself from bolting.
“Er… Well, I was seeing someone, but we ended it about three months ago. So it’s been about that long.”
They sat in an uncomfortable silence while Harry felt the sweat start beading up on his hairline. Then he realised Draco was waiting for him to finish answering the question.
“Yes, all right? I’ve had trouble ‘performing’ as you’ve put it. I don’t know why it happens. It’s always been like that.” He chanced a look at Draco, expecting to see his smug face smirking in superiority, but found instead Draco’s eyebrows were raised in genuine concern. He wasn’t sure he’d have felt better if Draco had met his expectations of being the prat he remembered or if this ‘mature’ Draco was not so bad to talk to.
“What about when you are on your own?” Draco asked quietly. “I’m only trying to gauge if you’re experiencing a medical problem or if the issue is primarily emotional.”
Harry’s face felt like it would explode with heat. He tried hard not to wank, thinking that if he would just not acknowledge the need, it would go away, but earlier that morning he had given into the building pressure just to find a bit of relief.
“It seems to function fine on my own,” he said blandly. “Is our time up yet?”
“We have another twenty minutes, but your Polyjuice potion appears to be wearing off. I can just make out your scar.”
Harry swore under his breath and fumbled in his pocket for the small flask of potion. He swallowed it, grimacing.
“Would you like some water?” Draco offered, uncrossing his long legs as if to stand.
“No, thanks,” Harry said, waiting for his vision to grow clear again. He’d been under enough stress having this conversation that he hadn’t realised the transformation to his own body had begun.
“We have a couple of options for our remaining time,” Draco said, thankfully not mentioning Harry’s discomfort. “I have a series of tests to administer that may help us uncover the root of your issues or at least help to point me in the right direction, or we could turn to some dream interpretation. Which would you prefer?”
Harry groaned under his breath, closing his eyes as a headache threatened to overtake him. The last thing he wanted to discuss was his dreams. The memory of the ridiculous dream journals Professor Trelawney had made him keep so long ago still left a bad taste in his mouth.
“What sort of tests?” he asked, watching Draco suspiciously. “I definitely do not want to talk about my dreams right now.”
Draco hummed, nodding his head. His lips pursed briefly. “I have to say that your response to avoiding what you find unpleasant is rather telling. I think we will find more answers through dream interpretation, but if you insist on the tests, I will tell you about them.”
“Whatever,” Harry said dejectedly. “Just as long as I don’t have to talk any more today.”
“Have you ever heard of the Rorschach Inkblot Test?” Draco asked, ignoring Harry’s lack of enthusiasm.
Harry shrugged. His thoughts were still dwelling on the performance issues Draco had asked about. He thought back to the last time he and Victoria had been intimate.
“And so afterwards, I will use your responses to gauge the direction of our future sessions,” Draco’s voice came through Harry’s ears like an afterthought.
”Please, Harry,” Victoria crooned in his ear, wrapping herself around him where he was sitting on the sofa. “Let’s do it right here, right now.”
His eyes remained fixed on the screen of the Muggle television set, watching as Johnny Depp brought his straight razor swiftly across another neck, spraying the camera-lens with blood while he belted out his lament at never seeing his daughter again.
Harry’s stomach churned with anxiety, while Victoria’s hand slipped between his legs and started rubbing his flaccid cock through his jeans.
He grabbed her wrist, halting her. “Lily’s right upstairs. Can we wait until after the film?”
He saw her eyes flash, lit by the glow of the screen. She pulled her arm free and got to her feet. “I can’t do this any more, Harry.”
He sank back into the sofa cushions, ready to hear the familiar onslaught of words that always came when his relationships ended. He felt more relief than anything.
“Do you even like me?” Victoria demanded, voice trembling with rising hysteria. “You act like you’re afraid of my vagina, but you have no problem when I go down on you! You need serious help, Harry, and I’ve had enough. It’s no wonder you’ve been alone so long!”
The words sat suspended in the air, drawn out as the last words of the song played on the screen: Goodbye.... I’ll steal you. Harry flinched as the front door slammed, and closed his eyes, sinking back into the cushions, defeated.
“Huh?” Harry said, turning to see Draco staring at him pointedly, apparently expecting an answer. “Oh, right, sure,” Harry said, unsure of what he was agreeing to.
Draco’s mouth curved into a smirk. “Care to tell me where you were just now?” he asked, handing Harry a small appointment card. “These are the details for our next meeting.”
Harry took it, and looked down. Apparently Draco thought Harry would need some intense therapy by the outline he held in his hand. He looked back up as Draco’s eyes narrowed in scrutiny.
“Three times a week? Do you really think that’s necessary?” Harry asked, pointedly not answering Draco’s question as to where his mind had drifted.
Draco got to his feet and Harry followed, stamping his right foot a bit to shake off the pins and needles.
“I believe three days a week is the minimum you need, Potter, especially considering it will take ages to get you to speak frankly; that is, with complete honesty.” He walked to his desk and sat in the chair behind it, then pulled a fresh scroll from a drawer and began to scratch at it with his quill. “I’ll expect you on Friday. Leave the Polyjuice at home.”
Harry blanched. “But…”
Draco looked up, his quill hovering over the paper. “It’s not approved for public usage, Potter. I realise you used to be an Auror and you probably have special permission, but I would rather treat you as you. You can use my Floo to show up for your appointments.” He gestured to the fireplace with his quill. “I’ll expect you at one o’clock sharp on Friday.”
His protest died on his lips as Draco returned his attention to the scroll, but the turmoil of emotions weren’t so easily doused. “Fine,” he spat. “If I decide to come back, I’ll see you at one.” He let the door bang on his way out, feeling slightly better for at least having had the last word.
“Harry, it looks fantastic!” Luna’s bright voice pierced the gloom like a stray sunbeam.
He turned, slightly dizzy from the fumes. “Hey, Luna. Thanks. I left the Thestrals for you.” He turned back to the roots of the tree, adding a bit more shadow.
“You know, that root looks rather phallic,” Luna said jovially, her finger sweeping over the shape of cock in Harry’s painting.
He hadn’t noticed it until she pointed it out, but she was absolutely right. Harry scowled. “Fuck. Yeah, I don’t think I want Lily hanging out with her boyfriends in a room with a well-endowed tree.” He picked up his wand and Vanished the offending root.
“Well, you didn’t need to Vanish the whole thing,” Luna said, pouting. “I thought it gave the tree some character.”
Harry set his wand back on a spindly-legged table and picked up his brush again, sweeping it through the grey brown smudge on his palette.
“How did your session with Malfoy go yesterday?” she asked, squirting purple paint onto a tray.
Harry attacked the wall with his brush once more, tracing a new root deliberately not resembling the male anatomy. “Fine,” he answered dismissively. “Could’ve been worse. Why are you using purple and yellow to paint Thestrals?”
“Oh hush,” Luna said, a mischievous smirk playing on her lips. “Don’t change the subject. He really is rather gifted at therapy. Did you know he helped George Weasley a few years back? I believe they go out for drinks on occasion now.”
Harry’s brush paused mid-stroke. He looked back at where Luna was tracing a large purple shape on the wall. His interest was piqued despite himself.
“Yes. You know how bad off George was a few years back? I think it was after the commemoration of the lost for the 15th anniversary of the end of the war. He was near suicidal as I remember it.”
Harry also remembered it well. How Ginny had been so scared that she’d begged Harry to visit Diagon Alley on a daily basis to check on her older brother since he was refusing to see his family. And then one day, George had started looking better, had stopped running Harry off with dungbombs attached to fireworks and had started smiling again.
“It was Malfoy?” he asked, unbelieving.
“That’s right,” Luna said, sweeping the wall with a violent purple streak.
The room fell into silence, but for the gentle drag of brushes on plaster.
On her way out for the night, Luna stopped to look at Harry’s new and improved roots.
“Better?” Harry asked, holding his brush up so she could see.
“Well, actually it sort of resembles a vagina now, with teeth. I’ll see you tomorrow, and I’ll be bringing the boys.”
Harry threw his brush at the wall as he heard the door close.
He felt foolish for how childishly he had acted upon leaving the last session, but was still tempted to show up five minutes late to see how Draco would react.
“What’s wrong with me? I’m not twelve any more,” he said aloud.
“Master Harry will be home for dinner again tonight?” Kreacher’s bullfrog voice asked from behind the boiler.
Harry turned to see his aged house-elf holding himself up on a small walking stick.
“Don’t worry about feeding me, Kreacher,” Harry said. “I want you to get some rest. Why don’t you go on up to your room? I’ll make you some soup when I get home.”
“Master is seeing the Malfoy boy? Kreacher would like to see him again before Kreacher dies.”
“Yeah, Kreacher. I’ll tell him. Go on to bed.”
Harry looked at the clock hanging on the mantle. Its hands pointed at the one and twelve. He heard Kreacher’s departing crack echo through the cavernous kitchen, and tossed a handful of Floo powder into the fire. “Here goes nothing.”
“Potter, I see you haven’t lost your knack for grand entrances,” Draco said dryly.
Harry looked up to see him smiling smugly as Harry lay at his feet. He pulled himself up and deliberately dusted the ash from his travelling cloak on Draco’s shoes, earning a frown.
“You know me, graceful as ever.”
He moved to sit down, but Draco stood up first.
“I’d like to sit at the table today. We’ll be doing the inkblot test I told you about on Wednesday.”
Harry blinked blankly, but followed Draco to the small table in the far corner of the office. He sat across from Draco and watched Draco’s long fingers lazily drumming on top of a pile of cards that were about the size of the notebook paper he’d used in primary school.
“I’m not going to waste your time by explaining how this test works all over again. All I want you to do is to look at each of the inkblots as I show them to you and answer my questions about them as honestly as you possibly can.”
Harry leaned forwards, resting his elbows on the table, his hands folded one on top of the other. “All right.”
Draco turned over the first card and showed it to Harry.
It looked like a blot of ink, though the more he looked at it, changing his perspective and turning the card to the side and upside down, the more ideas started coming to mind.
“What do you see in this blot?” Draco asked, after a couple of minutes.
“Um, well,” Harry started. “At first I thought of a pelvic bone, but then I looked at it a bit differently and it makes me think of some sort of animal face.” He turned the blot upside down. “But when I look at it this way, it looks like a bloke is getting attacked by a couple of dogs.” He looked up to see Draco scribbling his responses onto a scroll. “Is that right? What is it supposed to be?”
Draco looked up from his scroll. “There are no correct answers in this test. Think of it as a form of Divination.” He waved his wand over the blot and Harry watched it begin to move. “Now, what sort of feeling does this card give you? You mentioned an animal’s face. Is it threatening? Wise? Curious? Is it a domesticated animal, or a wild one?”
Harry’s frustration began building again. It seemed like it didn’t take long for him to lose his patience while being stuck in a room with Draco Malfoy.
“I don’t know. I guess it’s sort of a fox? So a wild animal. It looks like it’s looking at me, like watching me, like it knows something I don’t and is waiting to see how I respond.” He tossed the card lightly across the table. “This is pointless. How many of these cards do I have to look at anyway?”
Draco frowned, but turned the card on its face and slid it to the bottom of the stack. “Ten, but we won’t look at them all today. I can tell you aren’t tolerating this test very well.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “If this test had a point, I might take it a bit more seriously.”
Draco turned over another card. “Let’s just do two more and then we’ll move on to something else. What do you see in this one?”
Harry looked at the card and answered straight away. “It’s two clowns clapping their hands together.” He was surprised when Draco immediately took the card and put it at the bottom of the stack. “Don’t you want me to try and see more in that one?”
“No,” Draco answered simply. He turned over a third card. “What do you see in this one?”
Harry looked down at the blot and then back up at Draco, trying to read in his face what his response to Harry’s answer would be. “It’s two people. It looks like they’re stirring a cauldron and conjuring a butterfly or something.”
Draco waved his wand over the card, setting it in motion. Harry watched the figures move and the butterfly shape slowly bob up and down as if it were made of vapour. “Are the people men or women?” he asked.
Harry looked at the card again and then back at Draco. He wished he wasn’t pants at Legilimency, but even if he could read Draco’s thoughts, Draco would surely be able to tell. “They’re androgynous,” Harry said, watching Draco’s eyes widen minutely, before he turned his face down and scribbled something on the scroll.
“What?” Harry demanded. “What are you writing down? Let me see!”
Draco looked up from under his blond lashes with annoyance. “Potter, I am taking notes. You may see them, but unless you can decipher runes, I’m afraid they will make little sense to you, and even if you can decipher runes, they’re written in my own form of shorthand.”
He pushed the scroll across the desk with a flick of his fingers.
Harry glanced down at the rows of unintelligible symbols and pushed the scroll back to Draco.
“Explain them,” he said, folding his arms. “You want me to be honest with you? Well, I need to feel comfortable with your honesty with me first. I want to know what you’re writing about me.”
An icy silence hung in the air between them, nearly palpable in the intensity of their mutual scowling.
Finally, Draco seemed to relent. “If I explain to you what these runes mean, will you trust me to do my job? I don’t want to have to explain every little note I take. If you continue to badger me, I will refer you to another therapist, but I warn you that you will enjoy their methods even less than mine.”
Harry clenched his teeth, feeling his jaw working. “Fine,” he said. “Explain what these runes say and I will let you know my answer.”
Draco’s eyes shifted upwards as he sighed and scooted forwards in his chair, turning the runes rightside up so Harry could follow along as he pointed out his translation.
“Here, this is the symbol for test. You can see that I’ve used this symbol three times. Above it is a code of my own creation, letting me know which card each test is referring to. Do you see? This stands for card one; this one, for card two; and this one, card three. Next we have the symbol which translates as ‘response’, and again, each usage is designated as one, two, and three. Are you following?”
Harry glared at Draco, but nodded. “So what did you write for my responses?”
Draco pointed out a series of runes under the symbol he had designated as Harry’s response to the first card. “This one means animal, the highlight over the top designates that it is an animal’s face you have reported seeing, and the lines to the side tell me you’ve labelled it a fox. The next symbol is one that expresses emotion. The squiggly lines running through it label it as suspicion. You did say that you thought the fox knew something and was waiting to see how you would respond, did you not?”
Harry nodded and made Draco continue his explanations of every single note on his page. It took the better part of their remaining time, but until he’d heard it all, he wasn’t going to continue with the therapy.
“All right, and that is that,” Draco said, finally finishing. He glowered at Harry. “Do you have any more questions? Now is the time to ask, because next session it will be your turn to lay it all out.”
Harry couldn’t help but be slightly impressed with how Draco maintained his professionalism even when Harry was being blatantly childish. “George Weasley,” he said.
Draco’s face didn’t change.
“Is this how you got through to him?” Harry asked. “Luna said you were the one that helped him get better.”
“Potter, I cannot discuss other patients, and I’m not even saying that he was or was not a patient of mine. If you have questions about what you’ve been told by Lovegood, I suggest you take them up with the subject of the gossip.”
Harry started to argue, but Draco cut him off.
“We have sworn a wizard’s oath, haven’t we, Potter? Do you think I don’t do the same with my other clients? Would you talk to me without fear if you knew that I would tell anybody who happened to ask not only that I’ve treated you, but what we’ve done during therapy?”
“No,” Harry said, realising he was being dumb and Draco had a solid point. “All right. I guess we’re done for today then.”
“Yes, we are,” Draco agreed. “I plan to see you on Monday at one o’clock.”
Harry nodded and threw some Floo powder into the fireplace.
“Harry, hey!” George’s voice boomed enthusiastically from the doorway between the kitchen and the main room. “I’ve got the boomslang skin you wanted, but it was a bit of a pain to get. I’m not fond of how close the Ministry keeps tabs on potion ingredients lately.”
Harry tossed his travelling cloak over the back of the sofa and sank down on it. “I know, it’s nuts. I’ve taken to doing my shopping in Muggle London to save my Polyjuice for when I really need it.”
George ducked into the kitchen and came back out with two bottles of butterbeer. He handed one to Harry and pulled a wooden chair from the small dining table over, swinging it around and sitting astride it, resting his arms on its back. “You look awful,” he said, taking a swig from his bottle. “Talk to me. What’s up?”
Harry always appreciated how easy George was to talk to. His observations were keen and he had no problem calling things as he saw them.
Harry swallowed a draught from his bottle, then rested the bottom on his knee. “I was talking to Luna the other day, and she said that it was Malfoy that helped you out a couple of years ago when, you know… you weren’t doing so well.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” George said, grinning. “He’s not so bad a bloke when it comes to serious shit. You seeing him?”
Harry wasn’t sure what to make of the raised eyebrow George was aiming at him. “Um, I realised I needed to work some stuff out and he was the therapist that took me on. I just got back from my second session and I’m thinking there’s just too much bad blood between us for any good to come from it. I’m thinking of calling the whole thing off.”
George frowned, his face growing solemn. “You know, Harry, I think Malfoy could really help you out. All this bad blood you’re talking of is water under the bridge. It’s been nearly twenty years since the war ended and he was just as much a victim of it as the rest of us.”
“Well, he’s still as much a prat as he ever was in my mind. Did he do the inkblot test thing with you?”
“What do you hope to get out of therapy, Harry?” George asked, uncharacteristically serious. “You really have to lay it all out and be honest when you’re working through stuff with Malfoy. He can tell if you’re holding back.”
Harry scowled. “I know, I know. It’s just, he’s Malfoy.”
“I don’t think that’s your problem, mate. You’ve never been so good at accepting help from other people. I mean, don’t take this the wrong way, but you didn’t win the war on your own.”
“I know that, George,” Harry answered irritably. “The reason I’m getting therapy has nothing to do with the war. It’s complicated.”
George nodded knowingly. “Women problems, gotcha.”
Harry sighed and set his bottle on the low coffee table. He stood up. “I’ll take the boomslang skin now, if you’ve got it.”
George cocked his head, and pointed at Harry with the bottom of his bottle. “Keep at it with Malfoy. It took a while for me to get to a point where I realised I was getting better. It’ll be the same with you.”
His eyes flew open as his body reacted with a jerk. He was alone. It was dark in his bedroom and quiet, save for the hammering of his heart inside his sweat-soaked chest.
Harry purred in contentment as the warm body spooned up behind him tensed, and a soft, dry hand travelled smoothly across the trail of hair on his stomach, brushing lightly over the exposed head of his fully erect cock.
It had been too long. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt so cherished, possessed.
A pair of soft lips pressed against the tender skin beneath his ear as his cock was gripped and pumped.
He came with a strangled cry, feeling the rough drag of an unshaven cheek on the back of his neck.
A familiar voice spoke in the darkness. “Bet you loved that, didn’t you, Potter?”
Bloody fucking hell! Why was Draco Malfoy plaguing his dreams?
He pulled the sheet back, grimacing at the mess he’d left on the bed and cursing his rotten luck.
“Awesome! Look, Ly, the forest is coming alive in here!” Lorcan exclaimed, letting Harry know he had guests.
He turned around and smiled at the smiling faces enraptured by his and Luna’s efforts.
“Hey guys!” he said, pointing at Luna’s table of paints. “It’s all right with me if you want to help. What do you think, Luna? Maybe have them work on a kneazle?”
Lysander pulled a face. “I want to infest this tree with nargles,” he said, pointing at an ash.
“Nargles live in oak trees, Ly,” Lorcan answered, sticking out his chin proudly. He pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose and pointed at the grove of oak trees under which Luna had painted the Thestrals. “How about here?”
Harry caught himself before the protest that nargles didn’t exist made it out of his mouth.
“That would be lovely,” Luna remarked, peering closely at the wall. “Would that be all right with you, Harry?”
“Sure,” Harry said, watching the twins fight over the paints. Except for the glasses Lorcan wore, they looked exactly alike. Short dishwater-blond hair stuck up from their heads as if they had rolled out of bed and left the house as they were. Lysander’s nose was smudged with either dirt or chocolate as they eagerly poured paint onto a tray.
Luna wandered over to where Harry was watching the boys, and examined his unicorns. “The mother looks sad, Harry,” she said thoughtfully. “It’s like she knows she won’t be around to see her baby grow up.”
Harry turned to meet Luna’s blue eyes in surprise. “I hadn’t planned on that,” he said, turning to see if what she said was true. “I suppose it’s my story telling itself through the paints, you think?”
She hummed softly, and turned to watch her boys arguing over being the first to use the ladder. “How did your last session with Draco play out?” she asked, kicking off her sandals and leaving them in the middle of the room.
Harry scowled. After the dream he’d had the night before, Draco Malfoy had been plaguing his mind. It had been an amazing dream up until he realised who it was about.
“I’m going back,” he said bracingly. “I don’t particularly feel like any good is coming from our sessions, but George said it took a while for him to see any results, so I’m going to try.”
“That’s very wise,” Luna said. She joined the boys on the other side of the room, transfiguring one of Harry’s chairs into a ladder to put a stop to their bickering.
Harry stared at the words on the parchment, unsure of how he was supposed to feel about reading them.
Hogwarts is a dream come true! I’m learning so much and was awarded five points yesterday, because I was the only one in the class to successfully transfigure a matchstick into a needle.
Scorpius Malfoy has been very nice. He and Al have been arguing though. Did you know that Scorpius’s dad is gay? Al says that it’s weird, but Scorpius says it’s not. I don’t think it is either. I wonder if you might be gay and that’s why you keep not finding the right person to be your girlfriend.
It is all right with me if you are.
I love you, Dad. Write back when you can.
Lily had always had a knack for spotting things others didn’t notice, but he was a grown man, nearly forty years old. Was it possible that he hadn’t realised he was gay after so many years? Was he in denial?
He’d had a similar dream the previous night to the one before, but this one had gone further than he cared to admit, and even remembering it made his cheeks burn.
He read the letter over again, even though he’d practically memorised it. Scorpius’s father is gay. Fucking hell. He squirmed in his seat at the kitchen table, attempting to keep his erection from growing, and failing brilliantly.
How the hell was he going to get through the dream interpretation with Draco the following day without making an utter fool of himself?
He accepted the mug of coffee that Kreacher pushed in front of him, with a grunt of thanks.
“Kreacher will retire for a kip, if Master Harry is not needing anything else,” the aged elf croaked.
“Thank you, Kreacher,” Harry said, rolling up Lily’s letter. “Go on and get some rest.”
Lily’s words kept chasing around in his mind. Scorpius’s dad is gay. Al says it’s weird, but Scorpius says it’s not. I wonder if you might be gay…
Memories stirred from the back of Harry’s mind as he swirled the paint from his brush, bringing the thatched roof of Hagrid’s hut into being. He remembered seeing Draco at the Yule ball, a gnawing pang of jealousy coursing through his body at the sight of Pansy Parkinson, clinging to his side like a leech. He had told himself it wasn’t jealousy, that it was perfectly normal to mistake hatred for other emotions, but lying in the dark at night the following year, watching Malfoy’s dot on the Marauder’s Map and wondering what the physical counterpart was doing, had led to some heavy wanking sessions Harry had immediately written off as being stress-induced.
The memory of how scared he’d been when he’d thrown the Sectumsempra curse at Malfoy and then how his stomach had dropped when he saw what he had done followed, and then the realisation of how much of his Malfoy obsession had been a big part of his formative years. All the tension they’d shared had helped him thrive and had given him something to occupy his mind so he didn’t dwell constantly on his upcoming role in defeating Voldemort.
He’d smothered his true feelings, not wanting to accept how difficult they would be to embrace. It was so much easier to stamp them down and play the part he’d been cast, thinking he could revisit them if he survived. But that hadn’t happened. Repression had become his defence mechanism, and fulfilling other people’s expectations had become his focus.
He put down his brush, wiping angry, regretful tears from his cheeks. It hurt to feel.
“It isn’t a test in that sense of the word, Potter,” Draco answered. “It’s more of a guide to help me choose how to approach your therapy. I’d like to move over to the couch for the rest of our session. Do you mind?”
Harry looked at the analyst’s couch in the corner of the room with unease. He turned back to Draco. “What’s wrong with doing it here?”
“Well, honestly, you can see me here,” Draco explained. “When you lie down on the couch, you’re facing away from me. Most people find it’s easier to talk about difficult subjects if they don’t have to look at the person asking the questions.”
Harry drummed his fingers nervously on the arm of the chair. “Fine,” he said at last.
He stood up, figuring it would be best to just get through the coming hell and have it done.
Once he was installed on the couch, he found it was a lot more comfortable than he’d expected. He let his eyes fall shut and rested his feet on the cushion, knees bent towards the ceiling.
“Would you like a Calming Draught?” Draco asked, walking over to Harry with a small phial of turquoise potion.
Harry didn’t especially feel like he needed anything to calm his nerves, but since it was right there, he took it.
Once Draco had retreated to the chair in the corner, Harry closed his eyes, feeling his muscles loosen, not having realised how much tension he was carrying.
“Are we going to do that dream interpretation?” Harry asked, his pulse fighting the potion momentarily.
“No, not today. I’d like to ease into it by talking first. It will be several weeks before I think you’ll be ready to provide honest responses to my questions about your dreams.”
Harry felt irritation flare for an instant before the calming effects of the potion tampered his urge to argue. He was quite relieved to hear that they wouldn’t be analysing his dreams for a while. It would give him time to have different and hopefully less incriminating dreams.
“Tell me about what you’re doing for a living these days,” Draco’s voice said, as if from far away.
Harry felt at perfect peace as the Cushioning Charm on the couch adjusted to support his weight.
“I’m working as a freelance interior designer. Luna is my partner, but we only take on a few jobs a year.”
He heard the scratching of a quill on parchment, but instead of being threatened by what Draco could possibly be writing about him, he couldn’t be arsed to care.
“I find that to be an interesting choice for you, Potter,” Draco said as the scratching ceased. “Forgive me, but I never got the sense you had much in the way of…” He trailed off, like he was censoring his statement.
“What, style?” Harry asked chuckling. “I’m aware of how inept at style I appeared to be while we were at Hogwarts. Actually the type of designs we do are not what people would usually imagine when they hear the phrase 'interior design'. We mostly do play schools or private nurseries. We paint murals.”
“I see,” Draco answered. “What was it that made you decide on such a dramatic career change? I know you started out with the Aurors after leaving Hogwarts.”
Harry shifted, crossing his legs. “After Ginny and I divorced, I just realised that I needed to do something different. I wanted a job that wouldn’t take me away from my children as much as the MLE did. Lily was just born when it happened and my older two were still quite small. I moved into a house I inherited from my godfather and it needed a lot of work to make it safe for children. So I left the Ministry and took up the task of remodelling my house. It was Luna that got me into the art aspect, and eventually we decided to go into business together.”
The rest of the session passed with ease. Harry answered Draco’s questions, keeping to the surface of the issues. When Draco announced the end of the session, Harry was surprised time had passed so quickly.
“I’ll see you on Wednesday. Good work today, Potter,” Draco said, getting to his feet.
Harry felt disorientated as he sat up. The potion’s effects were still strong. He looked up at Draco’s slender form standing before him, admiring the perfect creases in his grey wool trousers.
“Potter, do you need an antidote?” Draco asked wryly.
Harry looked up as Draco held out a hand to help him stand.
He took it, hyper-aware of the smooth dry palm as he got to his feet.
“I’ll be all right, thanks,” he said, feeling himself grin stupidly. “That Calming Draught was pretty strong, but it made it easier to talk.”
He let go of Draco’s hand when he realised he’d been holding it longer than was necessary, noticing a minute change in Draco’s eyes as he did, wondering if Draco could see the effect his touch had had on Harry.
“Thanks,” he said again, and found his way to the fireplace.
“Master has been to visit the Malfoy boy again,” Kreacher croaked lowly. “Kreacher hopes he has invited the Malfoy boy to come and see Kreacher.”
“Er, sorry, Kreacher,” Harry stammered, feeling a bit dizzy. “I forgot to mention it. Can you get me a cup of strong tea?”
He steadied himself with the edge of the thick wooden planked table, dropping gracelessly into a chair.
Kreacher hobbled to the pantry to fetch the tea, muttering under his breath words that Harry didn’t feel like hearing.
He stared at his hands while Kreacher busied himself with the kettle. Remembering the feeling of Draco’s hand clasped in his cemented the idea in Harry’s mind that he was developing an undeniable crush on his former nemesis.
“Fuck,” he said to himself under his breath.
Kreacher dropped the mug of tea with a sharp thud on the table before Harry, sloshing its contents. “Master will watch his language in front of Kreacher,” the elf chided, and shuffled away, tiny walking stick smacking the flagstone floor with sharp taps as he wandered out of the room.
Harry shrugged. The Calming Draught was less potent this time, but it relaxed him enough to feel comfortable talking.
“It wasn’t all that bad,” Harry started. “Well, I mean, it was, but it could have been tons worse, so I have no complaints.”
Draco’s quill stopped scratching. “I thought you said, when we first began, that you thought your problems with relationships stemmed from your upbringing.”
Harry pointed his toes and then flexed, fidgeting. “I did think so, in the beginning, but the more sessions we have, the less convinced I am that it was all their fault. You made a good point when you brought up the fact that I am able to have satisfying friendships. I think I just may have been repressing a lot of myself in order to get by, and it became such a habit, I didn’t realise I had never gone back to who I actually am. Does that even make sense?”
Harry heard Draco tap his quill into his ink jar. “Actually, Potter, that makes complete sense coming from you, and that is probably the most honest and well-thought-out statement I’ve heard from you since we started.”
Harry’s lips twitched minutely. He couldn’t help but feel a small flare of pleasure at having Draco’s approval. When he realised what he was thinking he knew he was in trouble. He wondered about the validity of what Lily had said in her last letter, about Draco being gay; wondered if perhaps Draco might suspect the same thing about him. He halted the thoughts before his mind was lost in another fantasy of Draco discovering Harry was gay and professing his long-kept secret of intense attraction to Harry.
His attention returned to the session as Draco cleared his throat.
“Hmm?” Harry asked, arching his head upwards and back on the couch, but still not able to see Draco.
“Why don’t you tell me about your newfound enlightenment. Who is this real you that you’ve been repressing? How is he different from the you you’ve been presenting to the world?”
Harry let his head fall back into place, staring up at the ceiling. It was now or never, he thought, to confess his suspicions.
“I think I may be gay,” he said after a pause. Then waited, anxious to hear how Draco would react.
“Well, that would explain a lot,” Draco said, though his quill remained silent. “Do you want to tell me how you came to this conclusion?”
“It was my dreams that started it,” Harry said, feeling a sense of utter relief at finally putting his suspicions into words. “When you told me that you thought a dream analysis may be the very thing that would benefit me, since I was dreading it so much, I started to pay attention to what I was dreaming.” He stopped, debating with himself how much to reveal. “And then Lily sent me a letter from Hogwarts and she actually suggested that it might be why my relationships with women have failed. She sees things other people don’t notice. I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I answered her letter, but didn’t say anything about her question. But it got me thinking. What did you mean when you said that my being gay would explain a lot?”
Harry heard papers shuffling behind him. Apparently Draco was referencing his notes.
“I was referring to the failed relationships,” he explained. “And, one of the answers you gave on the inkblot test made me wonder if it was possible. Though that test is highly unreliable. I use it more as a way to get my patients to start analysing themselves. Would you like to do the dream analysis at our next session?”
The Calming Draught seemed to be wearing off. Harry wondered if he was just acclimatising to it, or if Draco had begun diluting it after it had affected him so strongly the first time.
“I’d like to hold off for a little bit,” he said at last. “Can we just do the next few sessions like this?”
He worked diligently in the mornings, covering more space in the mural with depictions of the Forbidden Forest, letting his thoughts and dreams influence his work in small ways.
He added the grove where he’d walked to face his death, complete with the tattered remains of the webs from the misplaced acromantulas, with the slightest feeling of loss. That had been the last time his parents, Sirius and Lupin had spoken to him. He’d kept his promise to Dumbledore and never gone looking for the resurrection stone, though he felt he would be able to find it in an instant had he wanted to.
“Hey, Harry!” George’s voice called exuberantly from the hall.
“I’m in here!” Harry called back. He turned and put his brush into a jar of murky water.
“Whoa!” George exclaimed, coming into the room. “This place looks fantastic.” He crossed the room to examine Hagrid’s hut. “So real.”
“What brings you here, George?” Harry asked, reaching down to fetch a couple of bottles of butterbeer from a picnic basket beside the table. He uncapped them and handed one over.
“Just in the neighbourhood, and thought I’d pop in. How are things going with Malfoy?”
Harry felt his face colour a bit, but took a sip from his bottle to hide his flush. He took a seat in one of the orange-draped armchairs. “It’s getting better. I want to thank you for telling me to keep going.”
“Not a problem,” George said with a wink. “Actually, I stopped to talk to you about family matters. Has Ginny told you about what’s happening in her life?”
“You mean the baby?” Harry asked, finding that he really didn’t mind talking about Ginny as much as he had in the past. His recent revelation explained a lot of what had driven them apart, and he was more sorry for having put her through the years they were together than blaming her for not wanting to work on fixing things.
“That’s right,” George said, visibly relaxing. “Oh good. I’m glad to see she’s told you. Mum is doing her usual fussing about getting everything ready. It’s exhausting. So you dealing all right?”
Harry grinned. “You know, George, I am. I’ve not felt this good in a long time. I really am happy that Ginny found someone to start over with. I know the kids will be over the moon when she tells them.”
“Any prospects on the horizon for you, mate?” George said, as if trying to keep his voice light-hearted. Harry could tell he was curious.
“Um, not really,” Harry said casually. “I’m just working a few things out in therapy still. Have you seen Ron and Hermione at all lately? They’ve not come to visit for a couple of weeks.”
George’s face darkened. “My git of a little brother actually led a raid of my store last week. You know he’s just not the same since being promoted to head of the Auror department. I think he could do with a talking-to from you.”
Harry choked on his butterbeer. “A raid? What did they find?”
George grinned. “You know they didn’t find anything. I’m too good at covering my tracks. But this Ministry crackdown on potion ingredients and any possible tie to dark magic has gone a bit far. I mean, You-Know-Who has been gone for ages, and they’ve accounted for all the wayward Death Eaters. There hasn’t been any sign of any rising dark wizards in ages. You’d think they’d relax a bit.”
“Yeah,” Harry said, musing. “I couldn’t take that nonsense when I was there. It’s part of why I left.”
“So, you’ll talk to him then?” George pressed. “Ickle Ronnikins, I mean?”
“Sure, I’ll send him an owl.”
George downed the rest of his butterbeer and belched. “Woah... That sort of slipped out,” he said, grinning. “I’ll catch you later, mate. Thanks for the chat.” He put the empty bottle next to Harry’s tray of paints. “Keep up the great work on the mural. It’s really coming along.”
“More, deeper, like that,” were the only words he was capable of making as the intensity of pleasure built deep inside him.
“You like it rough, don’t you, Potter?” Draco’s voice crashed over him, bringing him to the brink of orgasm.
“Yes!” he screamed, as he was tipped headlong over the edge.
He awoke with the sensation of falling, cursing his body for messing the sheets again.
He squirmed a bit as his body recognised the voice from his dreams and responded to it.
“Yes,” he said, shutting his eyes. “Have you been diluting the Calming Draught? I’m not feeling as calm as I’d like if we’re going to be talking about my dreams.”
“I have,” Draco conceded. “But I’m afraid I can’t give you a stronger dosage than that. There are strict guidelines the Ministry has placed on the Mind-Healing occupation. I wouldn’t want to be accused of having brainwashed you through the power of suggestion while under the influence of a potion.”
Harry scowled, frowning. “You know, George was telling me that the Ministry has got a lot more strict over the last decade. I’m planning to have a chat with Ron about it soon.”
He heard Draco chuckle. “Well, if anybody could push for a change and succeed, you would be the one who to do it. Let’s get started. Thinking over the past month, what have your dreams been like? Is there a recurring theme or are they random? Any nightmares, that sort of thing.”
Harry focused on the backs of his eyelids, clenching and relaxing his fists, to try and relax. He took some deep breaths. “They’re all sexual, have been for ages. Pretty much since I started coming to see you.”
He could have been wrong, but he thought he heard Draco draw a quick breath.
“And in these dreams…” Draco said, no trace of anything more than professionalism in his voice, “are you an observer, or are you participating?”
“I’m participating,” Harry said. He crossed his legs, then thought it might be more comfortable if he just drew his knees up towards the ceiling, resting his feet on the couch. His growing arousal would be less obvious at the very least. “It’s strange, though; nothing like I’ve ever experienced in real life. In my dreams, I’m like...” He stalled, looking for a better way to phrase his thoughts, but failing. “I’m like the woman. I don’t mean I have breasts or anything, it’s just like I’m not the one in charge and it feels so different.”
He listened to Draco’s quill scratching on his parchment, letting his mind fantasise about how Draco might be reacting. He’d been repressed for so long, and now talking about his deepest dreams with the subject of them, though he couldn’t see him, sent shivers of excitement through his veins. He shifted his hips again, trying to find a comfortable position that would hide his erection and let it be at the same time, all the while wishing he could just get up and make a move without Draco freaking out.
“Well,” Draco said finally, his quill stopping. “What that seems to say is that you have been longing for someone to take care of you, or to take charge. This doesn’t necessarily mean in the bedroom, Potter,” he added, voice taking on a bit of authority. “More like, perhaps you’ve been expected to carry a lot of burdens in your time, and you’re really ready to pass some of the weight onto someone else, someone you can trust. Does that make sense to you? What do you think?”
Harry opened his eyes, staring up at the ceiling as he took in Draco’s suggestion. “Huh, I never thought about that. Yes, it does make sense. I mean, it’s like my whole life was planned out for me from the time Voldemort marked me. I’ve been going through the motions even now that he’s gone, and losing myself in them.”
He sat up, swinging his legs to the floor to look at Draco. “You’re really good at this,” he said, impressed. He felt a surge of pleasure leap up inside him when Draco’s face tinged pink as he realised Harry was looking at him.
“Settle down there, Potter,” Draco said wryly. “We’re not finished.”
Harry chuckled, and lay back down.
“Hey there, mate,” he called, grinning as Ron’s face turned to greet him, lips stretched in a wide smile.
“Harry! Good to see you. Come and have a drink with me!”
Harry knocked the ashes from his shoes and dusted his travelling cloak. He crossed the room to the bar, ignoring the few patrons who were gawking at him in open admiration, even after all this time.
“He’ll have what I’m having, Tom,” Ron said, jovially. “Bring us a bottle.”
Ron tossed a few Galleons onto the bar and took the dusty bottle Tom held out for him.
Harry followed him to their customary table in the corner and sat down, watching as Ron filled their glasses.
“Are we celebrating something?” Harry asked, curious.
“We are,” Ron said, lifting his glass for a toast. “We caught the bloke who’s been smuggling contraband potion ingredients on the black market. I took him down as he tried to duck into Knockturn Alley.” He tipped his drink back and swallowed with a satisfied gulp.
Harry didn’t drink. He set his glass on the table. “What sort of potion ingredients?”
Ron shrugged and stretched. “You know, the usual. Boomslang skin, unicorn horns, Gillyweed.”
“But those didn’t used to be illegal. What’s going on with the Ministry lately anyway? It’s like living in a prison. Makes me miss the days when you and I would get off work and pick up Hermione to go out for drinks disguised with Polyjuice.”
Ron’s face grew solemn. “It’s a different world today, Harry,” he said seriously. “Think of all the danger we were in growing up. It was different, before we had kids. You know, we were young and lived hard and fast, never knowing if another dark wizard would rise up to take You-Know-Who’s place. I don’t want my kids growing up with that possibility looming over them. I want them to be kids and have a chance to really enjoy their youth. Don’t you?” He looked at Harry expectantly.
“I don’t agree,” Harry said flatly. “There’s only so much we can protect our kids from. I think it’s better to teach them what we’ve learned and let them find their own way. Give them a chance to make mistakes and learn from them. I just don’t see how putting restrictions on common potion ingredients is going to keep bad things from happening to them.”
Ron’s eyes darkened. “The potion ingredients are still available to reputable people, Harry. They just have to file a request with the Ministry when they buy them, and let us know what they’ll be using them for. It’s to keep the criminals from using them to commit crimes.”
Harry sighed. “But it’s not like the criminals you’re speaking of are going to fill in Ministry paperwork. Or if they do, they’ll lie on it. It just makes regular people have to put themselves out and report every little thing they do to the Ministry. I just don’t see…”
“Mate,” Ron said, pouring himself another drink. “Take it up with Kingsley if you must. If you don’t like it, then do something about it. You’ve been living on the fringes for so long, it makes me wonder if you’ve lost touch with how scary the world is.”
Harry lifted his glass and took a drink, feeling miserable.
“You’re not still using Polyjuice to go out, are you?” Ron asked suddenly, his forehead wrinkled with scrutiny.
“No comment,” Harry said, and swallowed his drink, letting the burn rush through him. He just wanted to get home to his paints and forget the state the world had fallen into, in the name of protection.
“Right,” Ron said, heaving a sigh. “Hermione told me to ask you to dinner next Sunday. It’ll do us some good to hang out like old times, now that the kids are all at school.”
“I’ll be there,” Harry answered, forcing a smile.
“There’s one thing I’m wondering,” Harry said that Friday. “You’ve managed to find possible explanations about how my dreams relate to how I get on in life, but not to what’s really been bothering me.”
“What’s that?” Draco asked, a tone of surprise evident in his voice.
“How do they relate to sex, or rather the lack of it that I’m experiencing? I’m having sexual dreams practically every night. I’m changing my sheets more often than I care to admit. Do you think maybe some of what I’m dreaming could actually be exactly what it is: my desire for sexual intimacy with another person, a man?”
Draco hummed under his breath. Harry could hear his quill tip-tapping on his scroll. “Yes, that is most likely true. Did you want to talk about this need you’re feeling?”
Harry sighed loudly. “Of course I’d like to talk about it. I want to know what I should do about it. What sort of changes should I make in my life to find it, that sort of thing?”
“Well, let’s discuss one of your dreams and look at it from that perspective. Tell me about the first one that comes to mind and what you think it’s telling you.”
The dream that instantly rose to Harry’s mind was the first one he’d had after beginning therapy with Draco. The one where he didn’t know who his partner was, or that it was even a male until Draco’s voice spoke to him.
Harry’s cheeks flushed. “Right. Um… There was the one that started it all. In it, I’m lying on my side and there’s somebody spooned up behind me. I feel safe and aroused. The person is touching me and it feels really good, and then after I’ve come, he holds me close and I can feel his lips on my neck, below my ear…”
He stopped, unsure of how to share the next part.
“Go on,” Draco said encouragingly.
“And then he says, ‘Bet you loved that, didn’t you, Potter?’ and I realise that it’s you, and I wake up.” Harry said the last sentence quickly, words tripping over his tongue. He felt like a tremendous weight had been lifted from his shoulders at confessing his dreams with complete honesty to Draco.
Draco’s quill paused in the middle of scratching. A tense moment of silence hung over them, making Harry feel nervous.
“Potter,” Draco started, and Harry could hear the strain in his voice. “It isn’t me, you know. Dreams manifest different things about ourselves. It’s most likely that you’re dreaming about me because I represent your coming to accept yourself the way you are.”
Harry was frustrated. He sat up so he could see Draco’s face. “No, it’s not like that. I knew you were going to suggest that. It’s been like this for ages.”
Draco’s eyes widened slightly. Harry watched him wet his lips nervously. “Why don’t you lie down again, Potter, and tell me about it.”
“No,” Harry said, feeling petulant. “I don’t want to lie down, I want to see your face when I talk to you. I used to have these dreams in the past. Back at Hogwarts, and for a time afterwards, but I denied them. It’s always been you I wanted.”
“It can’t happen,” Draco answered flatly. “Put it out of your mind, because it will not happen. There are strict regulations…”
“Fuck the Ministry and their fucking regulations!” Harry shouted. “When have we ever played by the rules? You feel it too, don’t deny it. There’s a spark between us…”
“No,” Draco said, dismissing him. He stood up and walked over to his desk. “You don’t know me, Potter. You don’t know anything about me. You don’t even know if I am homosexual.”
“Right,” Harry mouthed back, voice dripping with sarcasm. “Because all straight men decorate their office with nude male figures sporting hard-ons!” He gestured to the figures standing on the mantle. He didn’t want to mention the fact that Lily had told him what Scorpius had said, though it did cross his mind.
A shadow fell over Draco’s face. “We’re through for today,” he said with finality. “I will see you on Monday, and I’d appreciate it if you would keep our future talks to the subject of your therapy.”
Harry stood up. “I know you, Malfoy. I do know you, and you know enough about me to realise I don’t give up easily.”
Draco pointed to the fireplace. “Out,” he said, frowning. “I will not discuss the matter any further.”
Harry gathered his travelling cloak and left, vowing to change Draco’s mind one way or another.
Ron answered the door. “Hey, Harry! Come on in.”
Harry turned back and stepped over the threshold, glad to be in a familiar place with friends he cared about, until he heard the sound of giggling women’s voices coming from the kitchen.
“Um, who’s here?” he asked with a feeling of foreboding.
“Oh, you’ll like her. It’s a colleague of Hermione’s. Her name’s Marianne, and she works in the Time room at the Ministry, though she can’t talk about it much.”
Harry backed up against the door, like a cornered animal. “You said it would be like old times, just the three of us,” he hissed, unable to keep the accusation out of his voice.
Ron froze, a wounded look overtaking his features. “You’ve never complained in the past when we’ve introduced you to people. What’s the problem?”
Harry groaned. “I can’t stay. I’m sorry. Give my apologies for me, yeah?”
He fumbled for the doorknob, turning it with difficulty from his backwards grip, and bolted.
As he Disapparated, he heard Ron calling his name in bewilderment.
He landed hard on the top step of his house, breathing fast and painfully. He would have to tell Ron and Hermione about his recent revelation, but for now, he was just glad to have escaped before being forced to endure another blind date.
He glanced at his watch. It was a good sixteen hours before his next session with Draco, but dealing with coming out to his friends was not something he wanted to do before talking it out first.
When Luna arrived later in the afternoon, Harry had been drinking and was angrily painting, practically throwing the colours at the wall, though considering the section of the forest he was working on was deep and dark, shrouded in the shadow of the ancient pine trees, it didn’t look half bad. He was angry at Draco and at his friends. Hermione had had the audacity to send him a Howler and it was all he could do to keep himself from exploding.
“Well, you certainly have made a lot of progress this weekend, Harry,” Luna said brightly, her presence ruining his foul mood with its optimism.
“Hullo, Luna,” Harry said in acknowledgement.
“Hrm,” Luna murmured, as she set up her record-player. “It seems that you are in a rather a bad mood. Would you care to talk about it?”
Harry forced a laugh. “Ha! Is it that obvious?”
She pulled the needle off the player with a scratch over the wax, making Harry’s skin crawl, and then the sounds of whale song filled the room.
Harry turned around. “That’s whales, not Thestrals.”
“I know,” Luna answered, preparing her work space. “I still think the sound of the whales singing sets the right mood for the forest. And as a bonus, it’s supposedly good to help you relax. I think it’s exactly what you need right now.”
“What I need right now is a stiff drink,” Harry declared in response. “Wanna drink with me, Luna?”
She gave him an appraising look as he summoned a bottle from the cellar. He caught it with one hand, and conjured a pair of drinking glasses with his wand.
“I’d venture to say you’ve started without me. Talk to me, Harry. What’s happened to you?”
Harry didn’t answer at once. He poured himself a glass of Firewhiskey and downed it in one, then refilled his glass and poured one for Luna. “Sit down and I’ll tell you all about it, but only if you drink with me.”
Luna raised her eyebrows, but took the proffered glass. “I will, if that’s what it’s going to take. I worry about you sometimes.” She crossed the room to the orange-covered sofa and sat on it, patting the cushion beside her for Harry to sit.
He took a seat, wedging the bottle upright between the cushions. “There’s just a lot of stuff happening right now and it’s got me wound up. There’s Malfoy, for one. He’s infuriating. Sent me an owl an hour before today’s session to inform me he’s going on holiday for two weeks. I mean, I have to give a full day’s notice if I’m going to miss a session, but he doesn’t have to show the same courtesy? Then there’s Ron and Hermione. They’re trying to set me up again with another woman from the Ministry. I can’t deal with that right now, so I bailed, and what happens? I get sent a Howler telling me off for being rude.”
He finished his diatribe by angrily swallowing what was left in his glass. But he had to admit he felt better once he’d voiced his frustrations.
“That sounds rough, Harry,” Luna said, smiling at him.
He raised an eyebrow. “And you’re smiling because?” He took the bottle and poured himself another glass.
“It’s really good to see you are living again,” Luna said at last. “You’ve been holed up in this house, only coming out when it’s been necessary to restock the kitchen or if the children need you to take them somewhere for ages. I haven’t seen you so riled up in a very long time. Draco Malfoy has worked his magic again.”
Harry scowled. “Draco Malfoy is a first-class prat. I don’t need him to feel alive.”
Luna smirked and sipped her Firewhiskey.
Harry settled back against the couch, stretching his legs out in front of him crossed at the ankles. He held up his glass to look at the amber-coloured liquid through the light of the oil lamps.
“Is Draco gay?” he asked, needing to hear it from somebody who really knew, rather than relying on children’s gossip.
“Yes,” Luna said at once. “Why do you ask?”
Harry smirked to himself, relieved at being right, but still feeling ruffled at being rebuffed.
“I just wondered,” he said, finishing his drink, and closing his eyes. “Do you see him often? I know you mentioned you got to know him after the war, but have you been able to really get him?”
“We attend a support group together, Harry,” Luna explained. “It meets monthly, but the thing you ought to know about Draco is that he’s a very private person. He doesn’t date. He doesn’t want to do anything that will jeapordise his professional reputation. He’s worked very hard to build it, after all, and the scandal that broke out surrounding his divorce nearly drove him out of the country. You like him, don’t you?” Luna asked.
Harry shrugged, feeling drowsy. “I think so, but he says he can’t see me because he’s my therapist. Well, rather he says I don’t really know who he is, and am just projecting my feelings, or some such rubbish. I know him. He visits me every night in my dreams.”
The Firewhiskey’s effects dulled his senses, drawing him down into a comfortable space apart from the real world.
He heard Luna talking to him as if from far away.
“Why don’t you tell him how you feel in a letter? That way he won’t be able to stop you from saying everything.”
He lifted his heavy eyelids with difficulty and looked at Luna. “S’good idea,” he slurred, finally succumbing to the pull of sleep.
His hand fumbled along the back of the sofa, looking for his glasses until he realised he still had them on. They were just pushed up in his hair.
He straightened them, glad to be able to see again.
A knock sounded on the open door. He turned to see Hermione standing in the doorway.
“Hey, Hermione, come on in,” he said, pulling himself up, wincing as his back screamed in protest.
“Have you been there all night?” she asked, stepping into the room.
“Yeah, I think so,” Harry said, looking around feeling disorientated. He smacked his lips. “Hrm, I think I drank too much.”
Hermione crossed the room to join him on the sofa, wrinkling her nose as she sat on the rumpled orange sheet. She rummaged in her purse and passed Harry a small phial filled with a yellow potion without speaking.
“Thanks, Hermione,” he said gratefully. He swallowed the potion, and felt ten times better as all traces of his hangover disappeared.
“I want to apologise for sending that Howler last night,” Hermione said at last. “I over-reacted. Ron told me you looked frightened at the prospect of meeting somebody new. Are you all right?”
Harry smiled crookedly. “I am,” he said. “Thanks for the apology though, it makes me feel loads better. I’ve been meaning to tell you…” He trailed off, his words sticking in the back of his throat.
Hermione looked at him, her soft brown eyes full of concern. “Yes, Harry?”
Harry took a deep breath and began. “I’m seeing a therapist, and working through some stuff. I need to tell you and Ron that I’m gay.” He saw Hermione’s face change with surprise, but didn’t let her interrupt. He was going to get it all out.
“I didn’t know you had invited someone for me to meet last night. I would have told you sooner, had I known. I apologise for panicking, but I really need you to be okay with this.”
“Harry, I am so sorry,” Hermione said immediately. “Had I known, I wouldn’t have… Oh my goodness… Does Ginny…”
Harry shrugged. “I think Ginny probably suspects, but she’s too afraid of upsetting the balance we’ve found to say anything. Look, I’m really not ready to come out to everybody right now. Can you tell Ron and, I dunno, tell him to keep his mouth shut?”
“Of course,” Hermione said, looking at Harry curiously. “Is there someone special we should know about?” she asked, her grin leering in a way that made him rather uncomfortable.
“No. Not really,” he said casually.
“You know, I’m surprised with myself for never noticing,” Hermione went on, oblivious to Harry’s discomfort. “You were undeniably obsessed with Malfoy back at Hogwarts, after all. I’ve heard he’s changed a lot over the years, matured, you know? And he’s rather fit. Have you thought of taking up the old obsession with this new outlook?”
Harry squeezed his eyes shut, resting his head on the back of the sofa. This could not be happening. Why did Hermione have to be so bloody observant all the time?
She gasped, and giggled, poking him in the stomach with a finger, acting entirely unlike herself. “You have!” she exclaimed, and clapped her hands delightedly.
Harry looked at her, exasperated. “What has got into you? You’re acting mad.”
Hermione’s face coloured, as she smoothed her robes, pulling herself together. She pursed her lips in a small smirk. “I’m sorry, Harry. I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable, but I have a thing for gay men.”
She stood up at once while Harry gaped at her. “I don’t even want to know,” he said, shaking his head. “Women make no sense to me whatsoever.”
“I’ll get out of your hair then, shall I? I wish you luck and be sure to keep in touch. I’m dying to hear what happens.”
“Go on,” Harry said, chuckling.
After she had gone, he felt decidedly better than he had the previous day. So much so that he thought he’d take Luna’s suggestion and write Draco a letter, telling him exactly what he was feeling, even if he never sent it. It might help him work out the mess of emotions he was feeling and make sense of them.
He read through his words a couple of times, satisfied with them. He rolled the scroll of parchment and sealed it, setting it aside on his desk in the corner of his bedroom.
Malfoy, I mean, Draco,
I’m writing to you without any intention of sending this letter because there are some things I need to tell you, more to work out my own feelings about them than anything else.
I fancy you. There, I said it. I know you already know this, but I need to say it. I’d love to stand on the roof and shout it across wizarding Britain if it would do any good, though I know it would put you off.
Nobody has ever made me feel as alive as you do. Even in our darkest hour, when my life was on the line and you held it in your hands, you didn’t give me up, even though our mutual feelings at the time were seething with hatred. I pitied you. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in your position any more than you’d choose to be in mine at the time, but even then, when I thought you would snuff out my life with a word, I was alive, and you saved me.
I’ve fought against this attraction for decades, believing it to be wrong and perverse. No two people are more ill-fated to find happiness together than you and me. I believed it was an impossible dream and I stifled it, ignored it, tried to smother it, but in the process I smothered myself. Life hasn’t been a dream for me, and as far as I can tell, it hasn’t been for you either. But meeting you again… It’s like you jumpstarted my heart, pushing life back into me by refusing to treat me as anyone other than myself. You demanded honesty and now I’m giving it to you.
I want you. More than I’ve ever wanted anything before. I always thought what I wanted most in this world was a family and children to love me as I love them. I had that, and while it is wonderful and I love my children more than I love myself, I wasn’t present with them in the way I’d always dreamed. My family has been incomplete without a partner to share true intimacy with, in a way only you have ever been able to stir in me.
I know your reputation is important to you, and you have objections to jeopardising it by crossing the Healer/patient boundary, but I need you to find fulfillment, and I think you need me too, though you haven’t admitted it. You are in as much denial as I ever was. When have we ever cared about what rules the Ministry has established? You know I don’t give a flying fuck, but you’ve changed. You’ve allowed them to temper your personality, to rule your life with their regulations and watchful eye, all because you feel guilt for the part you played in the war. You were a child, Draco. We both were. I know you were close to coming over to the right side when you stood at the top of the Astronomy Tower, and lowered your wand before Dumbledore. But the wickedness that was ruling your life, and holding you under its power upon threat of death of those you love, was too strong. You love your family too much to have thrown them to the mercy of Voldemort. And that is one of the things I find attractive about you. You have the capacity to love.
Please, give us a chance. All that is in the past, and we have the ability to start over, to see things out the way they should have been, to find life and happiness together. Take a bloody chance on me. I need you.
He looked at his big empty bed, feeling the emptiness he longed to fill, but was afraid he’d have to numb once again.
The twenty-eighth was long in coming, when he planned to confront Draco armed with his newfound confidence. But in the meantime sleep sounded good.
Harry spent the days painting and chatting with the Minister about his concerns that the Ministry was overstepping its bounds and creating more problems than it was preventing.
Fortunately Kingsley seemed to hold Harry’s opinion highly, even after he had mostly disappeared from the public arena, and promised to give Harry’s concerns serious consideration.
He returned home the night before his long-awaited appointment with Draco, and sat down to review the letter he’d written, to refresh the points he planned to make, but it wasn’t there.
He pulled the desk away from the wall and turned out all his drawers searching for it. Finally realising it was gone, he called aloud: “Kreacher?”
The aged elf appeared before him with a resounding crack, more stooped and leaning on his walking stick than ever.
“Master called?” Kreacher croaked wearily. “What can old Kreacher be doing for Master Harry? The ungrateful Master that he is, breaking his promises to Kreacher,” he added as if Harry couldn’t hear him.
“Have you cleaned in here recently?” Harry asked, ignoring the elf’s aside.
“Master is aware he gave Kreacher the instruction to not be cleaning in his old age,” Kreacher said lowly. “Kreacher is following Master’s orders and only making the tea and handling Master’s post.”
Harry blanched. “Did you post the letter that I put here two weeks ago? Kreacher? That wasn’t intended to be sent.”
Kreacher leveled Harry with his dull muddy eyes, lifting his bushy white eyebrows in innocence. “Master said nothing about not posting the letter,” Kreacher said in his own defence. “It went out with the rest of the post two weeks ago, though Kreacher has noticed Master has not got a response from the Malfoy boy. Not that Master deserves a response when he is always breaking old Kreacher’s heart.”
Harry thought his heart had stopped with the realisation that Draco had not only received the letter he’d not intended to send, but had also not acknowledged it. He shut his eyes against an impending headache.
“Kreacher, fetch me a bottle of Firewhiskey,” he said shortly. “And then go to sleep for the night.”
He was suddenly not looking forward to seeing tomorrow come.
“That letter wasn’t intended to be posted,” he said, immediately, stopping as Draco raised a hand to silence him.
“It doesn’t matter, Potter,” Draco said darkly. “The fact is that it was posted, I read it, and it clearly violates the terms outlined in the counselling agreement that you signed when we started in September. I cannot continue to treat you, I’m sorry.”
Harry had expected Draco to react badly, but he hadn’t expected to be brushed off so easily. He wanted a chance to get Draco to see reason.
“That’s fine,” he said, stepping closer, bringing them nose to nose. “Don’t see me as a patient any more, see me as a lover. Go out with me.”
He felt the heat of Draco’s body radiate against his skin, longing to take the final step between them and close the gap, sealing it with a kiss. His eyes focused on Draco’s lips, then looked up at the sadness he saw in Draco’s eyes.
“I — I can’t,” Draco said hoarsely. “You said it right in your letter. I am not willing to jeopardise my reputation to be the one you use as a gay experiment.”
Harry started. “What? What are you talking about? There was nothing in that letter that said I wanted to use you for a gay experiment. I want what’s real. This.” He gestured to the small space between them. “This heat, this energy between us, it’s real. Don’t deny it. Tell me the truth. You know what I’m talking about.”
Draco’s forehead creased with strain, before his face became a mask again, unreadable. “I know,” he whispered. “But I can’t. Take my advice, Potter. Go out and meet people. Find the man out there that will blow your mind. He’s out there, but you won’t find him if you’re hung up on me. I’m not the one. I can’t be.”
“You are,” Harry argued, though he saw his hopes dying as Draco closed up further. “You hold my life in your hands again, Draco Malfoy. I don’t want anybody else.” He felt the heat cooling between them as Draco stepped away.
“Go home, Potter. Go and live your life. I hope you find what you’re looking for, but it can never be me.”
Harry watched him retreat to the door of his office. He opened it and stepped through, closing it behind him.
“You’re wrong,” he said quietly to the empty office. “I’ll prove it to you. I’ll try it your way and show you that you’re the only one that can save me.”
After they finished Kingsley’s niece’s nursery, they returned to Grimmauld Place to put the last touches on the drawing room mural.
“How am I supposed to meet other blokes? It’s not like I can take out an advert in the Prophet: Harry Potter seeks gay experience. I shudder to think of the backlash I’d get for something like that.”
Luna swept her brush in a wide arc across the top of the wall, beginning a rainbow in the distance over the forest. She hummed thoughtfully. “You could try the gay bar down the street. It’s a Muggle business, so nobody would recognise you.”
Harry’s head jerked toward her in surprise. “There’s a gay bar near here? Why haven’t I ever seen it? How do you know about it?”
Luna stepped down from her ladder and walked backwards, carefully examining the effect of the new addition to the mural. “Everybody who is familiar with this neighbourhood knows it’s there, Harry. If you didn’t live life like a hermit, you might have noticed. I think that the colours in this rainbow contrast the darkness of the forest well, don’t you?”
Harry ignored her. “This bar, what’s it called?”
“Hole in the Wall,” Luna said, climbing back on her ladder. “Go on, Harry. Put on something sharp and go and experience life.”
He grinned, feeling the nervousness start to roll around in his stomach. He’d been waiting to put his plan into action, hoping that Draco would change his mind and contact him, knowing that going out and finding a “gay experience” was the only way he’d be able to prove to himself and to Draco, that his life would never be right while they were apart. He planned to go down royally.
“All right. Would you set the wards on your way out?”
“Of course, Harry,” Luna said, gracefully tracing an orange arc beneath the red one she’d put on the wall. “Have a good time.”
He dressed in his good Muggle clothes. A button-down white shirt, and a pair of charcoal-coloured wool trousers. He debated on going as himself, but decided that Polyjuice might help him get used to the experience. It was a lot easier to overcome humiliation if you were wearing somebody else’s face.
There were several couples occupying some of the tables by the windows, which were shaded from the street with wooden blinds.
He approached the polished bar at the back of the room, and took a seat on one of the high bar stools.
The barman offered a warm smile as he sat down. “Jack! Good to see you again!”
Apparently the Muggle whose hair he’d summoned weeks ago frequented this place. He made a silent note to find another man his size to impersonate in the future.
“The usual for you?” the barman asked.
Harry nodded, feeling hopelessly out of his league. He’d never been so hot at pulling off disguises, one of the many reasons he’d left the Aurors so long ago.
The barman gave him a wink, his bright blue eyes smiling and his white teeth flashing. He was fit and tall with silky black hair, making Harry think of the actor from the Superman films Dudley used to watch when they were children.
The man set a colourful concoction of greenish-blue in a crystal glass before him. It was topped with a toothpick umbrella and served with a pink straw.
Their hands brushed as Harry handed the man a ten-pound note, sending a delicious shiver up Harry’s arm. He released the note, trying not to look as nervous as he felt.
“Hey, Jack. Loosen up. You’d think after spending a month in the Netherlands that you’d be nice and stress free. I’m insanely jealous of all the travel you get to do.”
“Hmm,” Harry murmured, thinking this was a bad job and he should just finish his fruity drink and try this again another night, in another face.
He’d just set his empty glass down when an arm slipped around his back, making him start. He turned to find Draco’s face smiling at him with an affection he’d never before seen in the pointed features.
“Can I buy you another?” Draco asked.
Harry nodded dumbly. Did Draco realise who he was? Had he changed his mind?
“He’ll have another, Bruce,” Draco told the barman.
Harry shuddered as Draco slid his arm away to peel a few notes from a large roll in his hand.
Once Bruce stepped away to mix the drink, Draco leaned in close to Harry’s ear. “Want to come upstairs? I’ve got a room.”
Harry’s mind spun. Was this actually happening? Could he possibly have fallen asleep and was now dreaming? It was just too perfect to be true.
Bruce set the drink down in front of Harry, pointedly not looking at the thick roll of notes in Draco’s hand. He picked the money for the drink up from the bar and moved away again.
“Are you asking what I think you are?” Harry said, his voice coming out more breathless than he intended.
Draco’s eyebrow lifted sharply. “I’m asking if you are interested in having sex, yes.”
“Yeah,” Harry breathed, feeling suddenly dizzy.
Draco’s mouth quirked in a small smile. He pushed his money back into his jacket pocket, and picked up Harry’s drink, moving back so Harry had room to climb down.
Harry stepped over the threshold and spotted another door. Draco pulled the door closed and Harry found himself pushed back against the wall beside it. Draco stepped in close and pressed his lips to the tender skin beneath Harry’s ear, his free hand gripping Harry’s arse.
“I need the loo,” Harry stuttered, nerves getting the better of him.
Draco took a step back, still holding Harry’s drink. He handed it over and gestured to the door on the opposite side. “I’ll be here.”
Closing the door behind him, Harry’s breathing came sharply. He thought his heart would break free from his chest as hard as it was pounding. He glanced at his watch. Did he dare let the Polyjuice wear off? He wasn’t sure Draco realised he was who he was, but he didn’t want to let this chance go. What if it never happened again?
He pulled the potion from his pocket and swallowed it, before he could talk himself out of it. He closed his eyes and downed the rest of his drink, allowing the warmth from the alcohol relax him and wash away the foul taste in his mouth.
He looked at his reflection in the small bathroom mirror, seeing Jack looking back at him. The Muggle he was impersonating was as close in appearance to Harry as Harry had been able to find. His hair was an untidy black mop, and his body was nearly the same proportionately, but Jack had blue eyes that didn’t require glasses and a refreshingly unblemished forehead.
He quickly flushed the toilet and washed his hands, not wanting Draco to think he’d had second thoughts.
He’d scarcely closed the bathroom door when Draco was upon him, pushing him back against the wood, nuzzling Harry’s cheek.
“Potter,” Draco breathed, pressing his hips against Harry’s. “Do you know how hard it’s been to listen to you go on about how unfulfilling sex has been for you, when all I want to do is show you what you’re missing? That letter you sent. Do you know how hard I tried to deny its effects on me?”
Harry’s heart leapt. Draco did know who he was. He turned his face to meet Draco’s mouth in a searing kiss which took his breath away.
He felt dizzy, giddy, and nervous, but Draco’s tongue stroking his lips and mingling with his own gave him something to focus on to calm his racing heart.
“Mmmm,” Draco hummed into his mouth, gripping the growing bulge in Harry’s trousers with his hand. “I think you’re ready. Let’s get out of these clothes.”
Harry swore he’d never stripped off as quickly in his life, and before he knew it, he was lying on his back on the bed with Draco on top of him, being devoured. His cheeks were hot, as Draco’s mouth worked his neck with not-so-gentle sucks and bites. His cock was so hard it ached. He longed to be touched.
As if he’d read Harry’s mind, Draco shifted his hips, fitting their cocks side by side in a delicious grind.
How had he waited this long to really experience sex? He’d never felt so desired in his life, and as if the final piece of a puzzle had been fitted in place, he finally felt right.
“I’m so close already,” he gasped, not wanting to come before they actually had sex, but feeling he should let Draco know so he wouldn’t be too disappointed.
“Good,” Draco nearly growled. He lifted his face to look at Harry with flushed cheeks and eyes that smouldered. He grinned wickedly, and ducked down, crouching low on the bed, face hovering desperately close to Harry’s cock.
Draco was everything at that moment. Harry couldn’t look away, watching as his cock disappeared into the smirking mouth, grey eyes fixed on his with the world in their depths.
Harry’s hips bucked and he felt his cock hit the back of Draco’s throat, unable to stop himself from thrusting up into the liquid heat. He was spellbound at how effortlessly Draco took the pounding, adding to the sensation with occasional moans and sucks, as if he could live on Harry’s cock alone and thrive off it.
Harry felt his climax build, low in his gut, his breaths coming in short gasps. He signalled to Draco, gripping his hair, not wanting a repeat of the blow jobs he’d received in the past, where his orgasm was drawn from him and spat out with disgust and accusations.
Draco seemed to understand what Harry was trying to say, but instead of moving away, he gripped Harry’s hips, holding him in place and took his cock deeper, until his nose was buried in the freshly trimmed crop of hair at Harry’s groin. His throat growled, sending Harry’s vision spinning with the force of his orgasm.
He felt like he was coming in waves, watching as Draco drank him down, eyes closed with rapt enjoyment.
Harry shuddered at the continued assault on his over-sensitised cock, eyes fixed on the look of utter contentment on Draco’s face as he finished eating Harry’s come and let Harry’s softening prick slip from his lips.
Grey eyes opened, paralysing Harry with their intensity. Draco crawled up Harry’s body, his cock dragging heavily through the scant trail of hair of Harry’s borrowed stomach, lips descending on Harry’s mouth.
Harry sighed into the kiss, tasting the salty-sour flavour on Draco’s tongue, finding it not-at-all unpleasant.
With a heavy breath Draco ended the kiss, dropping down to spoon up behind Harry’s body, arms holding Harry’s chest, fingers playing with his pebbled nipples.
“Bet you loved that, didn’t you, Potter?” Draco’s voice said with mirth.
Harry’s body flooded with warmth as a feeling of ultimate contentment stole through him. His dreams were becoming reality. He chuckled.
“That. Was. Brilliant,” he whispered, pressing his back closer to Draco’s chest. He felt the distinct prod of Draco’s arousal against the swell of his arse, not quite believing himself as his own cock began to show signs of life once again.
“We’re just getting warmed up,” Draco’s voice murmured, as he rubbed their cheeks together, setting Harry on fire with the burn from their five-o'clock shadows. “Suck,” he said, a fingertip probing at Harry’s lips.
Harry took the finger in his mouth, his tongue sweeping over it before latching on and sucking. He wondered what it would be like to suck Draco’s cock. He closed his eyes, imagining he was doing it, tongue teasing the finger in his mouth as he pictured the tender head of Draco’s penis, weeping from its slit.
Draco’s finger pulled back slowly, pushing inside with a partner.
Harry suckled the fingers, concentrating as the sensation of Draco dragging up and down the cleft of his arse threatened to take over his mind.
His mouth felt suddenly empty as the fingers were withdrawn, but he didn’t have time to lament their loss as Draco’s tongue took their place.
His neck bent at an awkward angle, but he couldn’t be bothered to care as Draco’s kisses grew more intense. He hardly noticed what Draco’s hand was doing to his arse, until he felt a finger breach him, making him suck in his breath with surprise.
Draco didn’t let up on the pressure of his mouth, however. He didn’t give Harry a chance to protest as his kiss deepened, tongue seeking to silence Harry’s words.
The finger moved deeper inside him, igniting a slow burn in his hole that was more unfamiliar than uncomfortable.
Harry broke the kiss, gulping at the momentary freedom to draw breath, before being reclaimed by Draco’s possessive mouth.
His cock was growing steadily harder despite having come moments before, a feat he’d not been able to pull off since his school years.
Draco’s mouth moved off Harry’s to kiss a trail down his jaw, licking at the skin behind his ear and settling on marking his shoulder with a press of his teeth.
Harry groaned, head falling back. He was suddenly aware there were now two fingers filling him, working their way deeper inside, and then he saw white as Draco crooked them, pressing a hidden button inside that Harry hadn’t known was there.
His hands scrabbled to grip the pillows, seeking something to keep himself from flying away, so intense was his pleasure.
He met Draco’s focused gaze, pouring his longing to have that sensation repeated into his pleading eyes.
“Do you know what I’m going to put in here next, Harry?” Draco asked, voice coming huskily deep. He twisted his fingers and touched the spot again, making Harry’s hips buck involuntarily.
“Your cock?” Harry asked, scarcely believing he was actually in a position where those words in this context made perfect sense.
Draco shook his head slowly, his grey eyes boring holes into Harry’s. His fingers slipped free as he answered, nearly whispering: “My tongue.”
And before Harry had a chance to process his words, Draco lifted Harry’s legs, practically folding him in half, and latched on to his hole, nose pressing sharply against Harry’s tightening balls.
“Fuck,” Harry nearly screamed, though the sound came out more like a whine.
He was falling apart inside. All sense of reality had fled and pure fantasy had taken over, like a drug, working its way through his senses as Draco’s tongue flicked its way inside his body.
How something as disgusting as what Draco was doing to him could feel so good, Harry didn’t know, and he decided he wasn’t going to care as long as Draco didn’t stop. He felt his hole stretching open, pushed apart by Draco’s strong hands gripping the globes of his arse and eating him as if he were as satisfyingly sweet as a strawberry ripe off the plant.
“I’m ready,” Harry heard himself groan as if from a distance, he was so high. “Take me, Malfoy! Fuck me!”
Draco moaned upon hearing his name, sending a rush of tingling through Harry’s nerves. He gave Harry’s arse a final prod, and set him down, wiping his mouth with his arm.
The blood that had been constricted from being folded in two flooded through Harry’s body once again, making his cock dance in newfound freedom. He let his knees fall open at the sides, baring everything to Draco, watching Draco’s pointed face flushed from exertion, take it all in.
“I’ve wanted to hear you say that for so long, Potter,” Draco’s voice said, straining from what sounded like emotion.
Harry let his hands roam over his chest, feeling more sexy and desired than he’d known he was capable of. His hand found his cock and stroked it lazily.
“Do it,” Harry whispered.
As if he’d flipped a switch with his words, Harry watched Draco’s melancholy disappear, replaced by a fervent lust. He watched Draco lean over to the bedside table and grab a condom sachet and a small plastic tube.
Harry watched, trying to keep the strokes on his cock slow and steady as Draco ripped open the condom and rolled it on.
Harry shivered as the coolness from the lube was smeared across his hole, watching as Draco’s hand slicked his cock with the stuff and then tossed the tube aside.
He held his breath, nervous as hell, but his body was writhing with anticipation. Draco’s eyes focused on his again, connecting in a way that spoke to Harry. As if Draco was apologising for the coming pain, but promising to make it good.
Harry nodded, waiting, feeling the tip of Draco’s cock brush slowly across the furled skin of his hole, and then his thighs were gripped with sure hands, and he sucked in a breath as he was breached.
The pain was minimal, as if the borrowed body had done this before and welcomed the intrusion. Harry breathed through it, nodding his encouragement for Draco to move, knowing the pleasure was intensely waiting beyond the opening thrusts.
Draco’s eyes fell shut as he held Harry’s thighs apart with his hands, and his hips began to buck into him, fucking him into the mattress.
Harry’s hand quickened its pace, bringing himself to the brink of orgasm, feeling more full than he ever had before, loving every slapping sound of flesh on slippery flesh.
The scent of arousal was heavy in the air, and Harry breathed it in thickly, tasting it on his tongue. He tightened his grip on the base of his cock, staving off his orgasm, and concentrating on the bumpy rhythm he and Draco had found together.
Time passed slowly as they chased perfection together or perhaps it was fast; Harry was losing track. He met Draco’s eyes from under his blond fringe dripping with sweat, and held the gaze, losing himself in unspoken words.
Draco let Harry’s right leg go, reaching over to grip his left hand, threading their fingers in a tight squeeze as his hips bucked faster, switching angles.
“Nnngh!” Harry ground out, heaving as come shot from his cock, painting his stomach with slick trails of white.
Draco continued battering Harry’s prostate, as Harry squeezed the last of his orgasm from his slit. With a hoarse cry, Draco pulled out, releasing Harry’s hand and ripping the condom off. He fell on top of Harry, covering him with his body, smearing come between their chests as he pulled their cocks together, stroking until he came with a shout.
Harry’s heart thudded, beating hard as Draco’s body grew heavy on top of him. He was reeling. He’d actually done it. He’d had full-on sex with another man and it was brilliant. He closed his eyes, squirming to find a comfortable position under Draco’s dead weight and wondered why it had taken him so many years to realise what he’d been repressing.
Draco grunted, exhausted. He rolled off Harry halfway, leaving a long lean leg tangled with Harry’s. His hand smeared the come on Harry’s chest, making sticky messes in the patches of dark hair.
“I don’t know about you, but I could sleep a week,” Draco said with a chuckle.
Harry grinned, ready to reply, when an intense pain washed through him, making him curl in on himself with discomfort.
Draco sat up, immediately concerned. “Did I hurt you?”
“No,” Harry answered, relaxing as the last of the transformation took place. “It’s just the Polyjuice wearing off. Not a big deal.”
Harry felt Draco stiffen beside him. He opened his eyes, still floating on a cloud of satiation until he saw Draco’s shocked expression, staring at the scar on his forehead in disbelief.
“What is it?” Harry asked, sitting up so he could see better, now that his vision was blurred once again.
“Potter,” Draco said sharply. He stopped, as if his words were trapped in his mouth. He turned his back on Harry, and scooted to the edge of the bed. “I have to go.” He stood up and began gathering his clothes.
“What?” Harry asked, feeling confused and not a little hurt. “What the hell are you talking about? What’s got into you?”
Draco stamped into his trousers, and did the zip, then looked at Harry, eyes flashing furiously. “You know Polyjuice is illegal, Potter,” he spat. “Especially the use of it around Muggles. What the hell were you thinking?”
Harry stopped, realisation dawning on him. He looked to the bedside table on his left from which Draco had fetched the condom earlier and noticed the thick roll of Muggle notes held together with a clip.
He looked back at Draco, this time furious in his own right. “And who did you think I was, Malfoy?” he demanded. “You told me over a month ago that you could see through my Polyjuice disguises. What was I supposed to think when you picked me out and started calling me by my name?”
Draco was silent a moment. He picked up his shirt from the floor and shook out the wrinkles. “It doesn’t matter,” he said darkly. “I’m leaving.”
Harry jumped off the bed, twinging a bit in the backside as the aftereffects of their coupling had apparently left an impression on his body despite its return to normal. He strode, uncaring he was still naked, right up to Draco. “You thought I was a rent boy,” he hissed accusingly. “This is how you release the tension from our sessions, is it? By paying a Muggle rent boy to pretend to be me? Soliciting prostitutes is just as illegal as using Polyjuice. You are in no position to lecture me about breaking the law.”
“Would you put something on?” Draco asked, furiously buttoning his shirt. “I can’t talk to you like this.”
“No!” Harry shouted, knocking Draco’s hands off his buttons. “I am no longer ashamed to be who I am. You helped me with that. It’s time you started being honest with yourself and with me.”
Harry could read the inner struggle in Draco’s expression as his eyes widened at Harry’s words, and grew softer as if pleading.
“I told you before this couldn’t happen,” Draco said quietly. “It oversteps all the boundaries established by the Healers’ Circle. Healer/patient relationships are grounds for immediate forfeiture of my licence. I worked so hard, so long to build a reputation. I can’t do it, Potter.”
Harry huffed angrily. “You are so full of shit!” He pushed Draco’s chest so he stumbled backwards, while Harry advanced, backing him against the wall. He stepped right into Draco’s space, slotting himself between Draco’s legs, pushing their chests together and looking him in the eye. “Your reputation is safe and you know it. The paperwork I filled in when we began our sessions lists me as James Black. The only time I’ve ever appeared in your presence in front of your colleagues, I was disguised with Polyjuice. Can you honestly stand there and tell me that you don’t feel the thing we’ve got going between us?”
They stared each other down for a long moment, before Draco’s eyes fell. His hand came up to rest on Harry’s bare shoulder, trailing down to the scar in the centre of his chest caused from Voldemort’s locket. He drew breath like he was about to say something, and then stopped.
“Tell me the truth,” Harry demanded, hating to see how wretched Draco’s face looked when he finally looked Harry in the eye again, but he wasn’t going to back down. “We would be brilliant together.”
“I can’t talk about this right now. I have to go.”
Harry stepped back, disappointed, as Draco Disapparated the moment he was free.
He turned around, taking in the mess of rumpled sheets and the patchwork quilt, bunched up and hanging off the side of the bed, as it had been shoved aside as unceremoniously as Harry felt now that Draco had left.
He slowly made his way to the pile of discarded clothes and began sorting them out.
He wasn’t sure how to define his feelings at that moment. He was feeling jilted slightly, but an underlying feeling of guilt kept making itself known, tempering the blame he longed to fling entirely on Draco’s shoulders.
When he’d finished dressing, and fetched his glasses and wand from his jacket pocket, he looked around once more, to make sure he wasn’t missing anything, and spotted the clip of money on the bedside table. Anger bubbled under his skin once more. He Summoned it, deciding that returning it was as good an excuse to confront Draco as any, and Disapparated with a pop.
To top it off, his arse was bleeding when he’d sat down to relieve himself, and dealing with haemorrhoids while in an already foul mood did nothing to make his morning easier.
He was standing by the wall, behind the open door to the drawing room, putting the finishing touches on his representation of Buckbeak, the hippogriff, wondering if it would be too much to paint Draco cowering at his massive talons, when Luna stepped into the room.
“Harry? Are you in here?” she called, her voice as floaty as ever.
He grunted in response.
She came around the door. “Long night?” she asked pleasantly. “Oh, I really like how alive you’ve made his eyes.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Harry said flatly.
Luna started humming what sounded like a lullaby, though she was off-key.
He continued looking at the painting, hoping he could find an unfinished area so he could pretend to be engrossed in his work, but to no avail. A few seconds passed and he turned, ready to snap at Luna to stop, but instead found himself looking into Draco’s face.
“I’m going to take today off, Harry,” Luna said from behind the sofa. “I’m sure you two have a lot to talk about.”
She closed the door on her way out.
Harry hardly noticed.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded suddenly. “I was planning to call in on Monday to return the money you —”
Draco silenced him, pulling him into a kiss, and the angry words dissolved, melted by the heat of Draco’s mouth.
He was lost in the moment, his pulse quickening with building passion as Draco’s hands rested on his waist and pulled him closer until he’d returned the embrace.
They kissed as if it were as natural and vital to life as breathing. Slow steady caresses of tongues and lips fuelled Harry’s blood, making him feel more alive and present than he’d ever been aware of being before.
When they finally paused to breathe, Harry’s lips were tingling.
“I’m sorry,” Draco said, voice strained, almost cracking. “I panicked. I shouldn’t have left and I should have been honest. I’m not very good about maintaining healthy relationships in my own life.”
Harry felt his mouth twitch, trying to keep himself from smiling, but failed.
Draco’s eyebrow shot upwards, and he looked at Harry inquisitively.
“Thank you,” Harry said, now grinning broadly. “How did you know how to find my house?”
Draco ran his fingers nervously through his hair, pushing his fringe out of his eyes. “Well, Lovegood called at the manor this morning. The whole story just came spilling out. I hope you don’t mind, but just talking it through made me realise what a git I’ve been, and I was able to see some things a bit clearer. She told me the address.”
Harry nodded, releasing Draco. “Luna always does seem to be able to get me to talk, even when I’d rather not.”
Draco looked past Harry’s shoulder and jumped suddenly. “That thing is looking at me!”
Harry turned to see the painted hippogriff, chuckling at his earlier thought of adding Draco to the mural.
“This is amazing,” Draco exclaimed, turning to look at the rest of the room. “You really have a gift.”
“Well, you know, Luna helped, and her boys did a bit too.” He stopped as a memory came to mind. “She said she learned it in a class with you. Do you still paint?”
Draco turned back from looking at the nargle-infested oak tree. “I haven’t in a while,” he said. “I — I was going to hand in my resignation at the counselling office this morning.”
Harry started. “You can’t resign. You’re too good at what you do. You helped George and me, and I can’t let…”
Draco shut him up, kissing him again. Harry couldn’t think any more; it made his brain hurt. As long as Draco kept this up, he’d never need to think again.
When they broke apart, Draco pressed their foreheads together, staring at Harry’s lips through heavily-lidded eyes.
“I’m not going to, but I think I’d like to try… to see how we’d work together. If you’ll still have me, that is.”
The smile came back to Harry with full force, then faltered. He took a step back, put his hand in his pocket and drew out the clip of notes from the night before. He pushed them into Draco’s hand.
“Don’t be an idiot. Of course I’ll have you, but you have to promise me something. No more rent boys, and let’s try to be as honest as possible with each other and ourselves.”
Draco’s face tinged pink as he returned the Muggle money to his pocket. He smiled meekly. “I will agree to those terms. And no more Polyjuice for you,” he added as an afterthought. “When I think what could have happened to you if I hadn’t been the one to pick you up. Honestly, impersonating a rent boy in a Muggle gay bar. That’s idiotic, even for you, Potter.”
“Is it the Malfoy boy, come to see Kreacher before he dies at last?” Kreacher’s deep voice croaked from where the door had opened a crack.
Harry turned. “Come on in, Kreacher,” he said. He turned to Draco, whispering: “Be nice.”
Kreacher pushed the door open the rest of the way, and peeked in, eyes squinting. He hobbled over the threshold, holding himself up on his tiny walking stick, and came to stop before Draco’s feet, peering up into his face.
“The last of the Blacks is in you,” Kreacher murmured. “Kreacher’s mistress would be overjoyed to know that her noble blood is still carried proudly in the wizarding world.”
Draco’s lips twitched, as he tried not to laugh at the little elf. “Thank you, Kreacher,” he answered grandly. “My son, Scorpius, is actually now the last of the descendants of the Black family.”
Kreacher’s face split into a wide wrinkled smile, under his bushy white eyebrows and heavily wrinkled eyes. “Kreacher congratulates the Malfoy boy on procuring an heir.” He bowed deeply, his long nose nearly touching Draco’s shoe. “And now Kreacher will retire to his room for the night. Kreacher can go to his mistress in peace now that he knows her family line is not broken. Good night, Master Harry,” he added as an aside, and shuffled out of the room.
“Sorry about that,” Harry said. “He’s been bugging me to bring you to see him for months now.”
Draco gripped Harry’s hand, threading their fingers together. “It’s part of the enslavement of house-elves,” he said, frowning. “As the last of the house-elves to the Black family, he’s been keeping himself alive to ensure he has done his job properly, making certain that the family line will continue. It must have devastated him when the name died out.”
“Yeah,” Harry said, shaking off the feeling of melancholy that always came over him when one of his dead loved ones was mentioned. “Would you care to see the rest of the forest?”
He pulled Draco by their joined hands to look at the rest of the mural.
When they arrived at the unicorns, Draco made a face. “Um, you know this tree’s roots are rather…”
Harry laughed. “Yeah, I know. Luna told me it looks like a vagina with teeth. I plan to do it over again. You should have seen my first attempt. I think you’d have liked it.”
Draco looked up at the white ceiling, and then back into Harry’s eyes. “The ceiling would look fantastic if you’d enchant it like the Great Hall at Hogwarts. I can show you how.” He paused, looking around at the entirety of the mural. He took his wand in hand and waved it in a grand sweep from one side of the room to the other, and Harry watched, enraptured as the forest came to life, the animals moved freely and the trees’ branches swayed in the invisible breeze.
“That is amazing,” Harry said, hyper-aware of Draco’s proximity, heat building between their clasped hands.
Draco leaned forwards, eyes gleaming mischievously. “Ever want to do it in the Forbidden Forest?”
Harry’s arse smarted at the thought. “Er…” he stammered, feeling his cheeks go red. “I’d be interested if you wouldn’t mind switching roles. I don’t think my arse is up for it so soon.”
Draco’s smirk played on his lips as he pulled Harry flush with his body, murmuring gently against his neck. “I’m all for switching, but if you want me to kiss it better, I’m rather willing to do that too.”
Harry gasped as Draco latched onto his neck, biting and sucking, before smoothing the marks with his tongue. He felt his knees grow weak as all the blood in his body rushed south.
“Mmmrmpf,” Draco mumbled, and Harry turned to see him pull a pillow over his face. Draco was apparently not a morning person.
He sat up, seeing Zorro flying towards him, and reached over Draco to fetch an owl treat from the bedside table.
“Mmmstopermmpf,” Draco’s voice protested at being squished.
The owl landed at Harry’s feet. He gave it a treat, and untied Lily’s letter.
Harry felt his heart swell with contentment. He often couldn’t believe how mature Lily sounded in her letters. He knew she’d take to Draco immediately, but was a bit concerned about how the boys would react.
James wants me to tell you that he really wants the ThunderClap 760 for Christmas and is willing to do all the dishes in the whole house while he’s home if he gets it.
Al is fine. He’s been staying out of trouble for the most part, and he and Scorpius have made up.
I’ve been hanging out with Hugo. He’s doing a lot better than at the start of the year. We’re working as partners in Charms. He’s brilliant at it. Professor Flitwick says he takes after Aunt Hermione.
How have you been, Dad? I worry about you sometimes. You never answered my question from September, even though you have written. I get the feeling there’s something you are keeping from me and it makes me sad.
Anyway. We’re all doing well and Mum said she’s got a big surprise for us at Christmas. I can’t wait to find out what it is!
I love you! Write back soon!
He worried his bottom lip with his teeth.
“Letter from Hogwarts?” Draco asked, peeking out from beneath the pillow when Harry turned to look at him.
“Mmm-hmm,” Harry answered. Zorro was still perched on the bed at his feet, giving Harry a curious look as if he was waiting for something.
He kicked his foot, lifting the sheet. “Off with you. I’ll send my response later today.”
The owl ruffled his feathers indignantly and swooped out the open window.
He lay back on the bed, turning onto his side, to face Draco.
“What are you doing for the Christmas hols?” he asked, stomach quivering with nerves… or possibly hunger.
Draco lifted the pillow the rest of the way off his face, and rolled to face Harry. “Scorpius is spending the week of Christmas with his mum, but I have him for the first week. Why?”
“Spend it with me,” Harry said. He reached out and dragged the back of his hand over Draco’s cheek, rough with a day’s worth of growth. “Spend the rest of your life with me.”
Draco’s face melted in an unabashed smile. He sat up and pulled Harry on top of himself, answering him with kisses.
Wrapped together in a sticky embrace, Harry’s heart soared. This was an adventure he would welcome with open arms and an open mind.
Harry sat nervously drumming his fingers on his knee, uncomfortable as hell in the hard-backed chair in the waiting room at St. Mungo’s.
His fingers were stilled by Draco’s calming hand covering them. “It won’t be long,” Draco said reassuringly.
Lily, Albus, and Scorpius were sprawled on the floor of the waiting room, playing exploding snap, while James brooded in the corner, talking to his girlfriend in a two-way mirror Draco had found in an antique shop and gifted him with for his birthday.
George, Bill and Percy turned up, laden with cups of tea from the visitor’s tea room, while Arthur mopped his forehead with a handkerchief in the chair on Harry’s other side.
The door to the Maternity wing opened, and Dean and Molly burst through, Molly in tears as she ran to her husband, and Dean smiling wide, tears of happiness spilling down his dark cheeks. He pulled out his wand and conjured a box of cigars with a flourish. “It’s a boy!” he exclaimed, and shouts of joy answered him.
Harry got to his feet, grinning as wide as Dean. He took the cigar offered to him, and pulled Dean into a giant hug, squeezing him tightly. “Well done, mate. Congratulations! How’s Ginny?”
They broke apart and Dean wiped his face with his free hand, then handed the box of cigars to Harry. “She’s brilliant. Looks bloody fantastic. I’m going to get back to her, but I want to thank you, Harry. Thank you for being here.”
Lily rushed into Dean’s arms next. “Can I see him?” she asked excitedly.
“Yeah, I think Gin can handle having her daughter in the room right now. Come on, Lils.”
She turned to Harry, where Draco had come to stand beside him, an arm thrown around his shoulders. “I’ll take a picture, Dad,” she said, smiling brightly.
“Party at Harry and Draco’s!” George declared loudly, earning him a disapproving glare from the welcome witch.
The assembled group chatted loudly, as they gathered their things to follow George to the hospital’s floo.
“Well done, Potter,” Draco whispered, so only Harry could hear. “Let’s go home, yeah?”
Harry answered with a smile, nodding. “Yeah, home.”