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It was just one wrong turn, somewhere. A moment when his mind had wandered, when these old halls of stone and murmuring memories had lulled him into an absentminded sort of reverie, and he’d somehow ended up in a part of Hogwarts he’s never seen before.

There was a dust-filled hallway, and a door framed in old, rough-hewn wood. And when he’d put his hand up, his palm had barely touched the surface when the lock clicked and it popped open to him as if it had been waiting for this all along.

So, really, was it a wrong turn?

The room was empty, with the exception of a long, rectangular object covered with a sheet that had once been pure white, standing in the far corner opposite the room’s only window. He knew it, instantly, like something knocking at his bones.

The cloth slid gently off in his hands, a small cloud of dust turning, for a moment, the late afternoon air golden and gritty between himself and the mirror. And then there he was, reflected back to himself, older than the last time, worn and ripened. Filled out, somehow, like a pen and ink drawing that the artist has gone back to, taken the time to shade in.

It’s just him, looking into the glass, and himself looking back. Somewhere outside, a bird whistles and the wind whips up the scent of clover from down on the grounds. Just Harry. The faces of his children flash behind his mirrored image: laughing, happy, pink-cheeked and windblown.

He closes his eyes. It had been a rough few months, with the separation. The kids were all here at Hogwarts, and he and Ginny had still spent the winter holidays with them together, as a family, but it wasn’t the same and everyone had felt it. James would be graduating soon, and then it wouldn’t be long until they were all grown, and gone.

“What do you want?” Ron had asked him, late at night in the tiny kitchen of his temporary walk-up. It was one of those evenings between Christmas and New Year, that strange, elastic time in between reality. He’d always loved those days back in Godric’s Hollow, when the kids were small. This year, it felt colder and rather empty.

Harry had shrugged. “I don’t know,” he’d said, because it was partly true, and because he couldn’t explain the other true parts. Ron didn’t understand, although he tried to. Harry couldn’t tell him about Ginny’s face when she didn’t think anyone was looking, those last few years. How it looked so much older, somehow, while looking impossibly young and yearning for something he didn’t understand and couldn’t provide. How he felt it, too.

He opens his eyes, and this time there’s a tall figure behind him. A man’s hand on the back of his neck, fingers curling around into sight. As he watches, the Harry in the mirror closes his eyes and leans forward under the other man’s force. He’s naked suddenly, his cock hard and flushed and his hands pressed against the glass. His breath fogging up the mirror. There’s no sound; the man thrusting behind him, into him, the smack of skin against skin and words falling out of their mouths are all silent, like a television put on mute. The Harry in the mirror reaches up and behind him, tangles his fingers in soft blond hair.

Spots of pink are blooming on his cheeks as he’s pressed harder into the glass. The man slides his hand from the back of Harry’s neck to the front, long pale fingers stroking, squeezing, forcing his head up as he pounds into him from behind. Deeper. Faster. And the rougher it gets, the more force is exerted upon him, the more relaxed the mirror Harry becomes. Lines seem to smooth out on his face. His lips curve, and the lines of his body change from his shoulders all the way to his feet. He softens.

Mirror Harry opens his eyes, and shifts a little to the side, and the real Harry watches as Malfoy wraps his other hand around his cock. He feels it like an electrical shock. Not that it’s Malfoy he’s having sex with, but the look in his own eyes. Like he’s lighter, freer. Like he’s exactly where he wants to be.

 

///

 

It was raining that afternoon. He’d ducked into the tea shop because it looked so inviting, lit up with soft lamps on the tables and a chalkboard advertising the house-blended earl grey, and because he’d forgotten his umbrella and didn’t want to risk doing magic in Muggle London. He began to suspect it wasn’t strictly a Muggle tea shop, though, as soon as he spotted the tawny brown owl perched on a lovely wooden stand in the corner, and his suspicion was rather strongly confirmed when the young man waiting at the counter turned, and it was Malfoy looking back at him.

They both froze. Malfoy had a blue-flowered porcelain tea cup in hand, halfway up to his mouth, and Harry was dripping rain water all over the polished wooden floors. A older lady, with purple-tinted hair and large pink glasses came out from the back room, wiping her hands on her apron.

“Good afternoon, dear. Dreadful afternoon, isn’t it? Can I interest you in— Oh.”

He knew the moment she recognized him; it was an expression and surprise he was uneasily getting used to. She looked swiftly between him, still frozen just inside the door, and Malfoy, who lowered his cup and set it down on the table behind him. It rattled in its saucer.

“Could I get you a nice cup of earl grey?” she rallied. “It really is good. Just the ticket, really.”

“Er,” said Harry. “Yes, thanks.” He ran his hand through his wet hair.

The lady clucked, and pointed her wand at him. He stiffened, but she just shot a drying spell at him, probably mixed with a slight warming charm, too. It felt like being wrapped up in a hot towel just out of the dryer.

When she had poured him a cup from a steaming tea pot, she set a plate of biscuits beside him, too, and then disappeared in the back again. The owl appeared to be multitasking a nap and keeping an eye on them; it took turns opening one eye, and then the other.

He sat, and stared at Malfoy, who had returned to his own table with a small saucer of milk. Malfoy drank slowly, in small sips, and fidgeted with his napkin. Finally, he looked up with a glare.

“What, Potter?”

“What are you doing here?”

“I am drinking tea.” Malfoy pronounced each word very carefully.

“In Muggle London? Come on, Malfoy.”

“Dulcinea is a witch, actually. I stumbled across this place—”

“This is a Muggle neighborhood!” Harry said, speaking over him. “Why the hell are you wandering around here? What are you up to?”

“Up to?” Malfoy’s face was starting to flush. “I just like it here! Is that so impossible to believe?”

“Yes,” Harry growled.

Malfoy stood up. “Because I’m— what? A death eater? Is that what you want to say, Potter?”

“Well, you were!"

“It’s been almost four years since the war ended. Is that all I will ever be to any of you?”

Harry stood, too. The air had turned kind of thin and electric, like the moments before a thunderstorm. “What else have you ever been?” he found himself saying, even though he knew it wasn't quite fair. “What else have you done?”

“What do you even want, Potter?” A teacup sitting on the back shelving cracked, suddenly. “You don’t know me, not anymore. And not like you think you do.”

The truth was, at twenty-one years old Harry didn’t know what he wanted. He’d thought it was to acquire everything he now had: a job with the Aurors, his friends, Ginny, Voldemort dead, and hardly anyone trying to kill him. Now he had all those things, and he still didn’t feel any different. He still felt like he was waiting: for the other shoe to drop, for something to click into place and make him feel like he belonged there, for everyone to realize he had no idea what he was doing.

He couldn’t tell Malfoy any of that, and it made him angrier. “I know enough,” he shot back, and the wall of crockery shivered and shook behind them.

“Of course you do,” Malfoy sneered. “Potter the Savior, Potter the Hero. Never wrong about anything, about anyone, are you?”

And that’s when it happened. He was never sure afterwards whether it had come from him, from Malfoy, or from both of them: the burst of uncontrolled magic that went off like a bomb, shattering all the cups and saucers and teapots. The sugar bowls and the plates and even the glass tops of the little tables. The shards exploded around them and seemed to hang there, suspended around and between them. It was like being encased in a snow globe, the moment paused, and instead of glitter-snow they were surrounded by broken china.

He blinked, and took a step back. All the shards fell to the floor. Malfoy was looking pale and deflated across from him.

Into the silence, Dulcinea stuck her head out from the back room.

“I’m so sorry,” Harry told her. “I don’t know what— I’ll pay you. I’ll cover all the damage, I—“

“We’ll fix it,” Malfoy interrupted. Harry stared at him. When he looked back again, Dulcinea had retreated to the storeroom.

Malfoy pulled out his wand. He waved it in circles, smaller and tighter as he went, and all the tiny, broken pieces began to swirl gently along the floor, before rising slowly and knitting back together into all the useful objects they’d been before. Tea pots and mugs and plates. Harry pointed his own wand at the cracked glass tabletops. “Reparo maxima,” he said, and the surfaces turned smooth again.

They stood and looked at each other. Malfoy’s arms and legs looked longer than he remembered, all angles and graceful lines.

“You’re good at that,” he told him. Malfoy just looked at him. He was back to being contained and so, so careful.

“At fixing things,” Harry said. Malfoy blinked. Something in his eyes went sort of soft, and from that moment on Harry would never be able to think of him as anything other than human, and ever-changing, and breakable.

 

///

 

“You could get a much posher place,” Blaise says. “Even in your budget.”

Harry smiles at the chipped and faded window boxes, and the crooked green door in need of a fresh coat of paint. “Your roots are showing, Zabini.”

Blaise spreads his hands out in front of him and arches his brows. It’s a face he makes a lot around Harry. He really is genuinely fond of Blaise.

“Come on, let’s check out the back garden.”

Overgrown is a generous description for the back garden, it turns out. Harry can hardly hike through the waist-high weeds and brambles to get at the patio. When he does, though, he knows. This is the place.

There are rose bushes growing all over a stone wall running along the far side of the property, in desperate need of pruning and some careful attention. There are two big oak trees in the back, and a clump of smaller apple trees, too. Way back, almost invisible in the wildness, he can hear the trickle and burble of a small creek.

“It’s perfect,” he says to Blaise, who has just managed to pick his careful way over with the generous use of some levitating charms. He brushes at the sleeve of his sweater as if something might be clinging on to it.

“You haven’t even seen the inside yet,” he says.

“Don’t need to. The bones are good. The garden is good. Everything else is fixable.”

“The garden is good? Are you having me on, Potter? I know your sense of humor is abysmal.”

“Fruit trees, some good shade, a water source. I can put the bees back there.”

Blaise stares at him. “You’re mental. You do know that, don’t you, Potter? As your estate agent and, more importantly, as your friend, I feel like I need to make sure you know that.”

“Just picture it, Blaise.” He smiles into his disbelieving face. “Imagine it all cleared out. A little herb garden, some more flowers. The hives back behind the trees. Imagine sitting out here this summer, drinking your stupidly expensive fire whiskey, with the bees humming at you.”

Blaise shakes his head, but his lips twitch up anyway. “You’ve got it bad, Potter. I worry about you and those bees, I don’t mind telling you. And we are going to check out the inside, right now, before you get too carried away. Allow me to be the voice of reason and sense for you, in Granger’s absence.”

“She’s not ‘Granger,’” he says. “She hasn’t been ‘Granger’ for decades.”

“If I say ’Weasley,’” Blaise replies, turning for the back door with a big brass key he’s just produced from seemingly nowhere, “You might think I’m talking about Ronald.”

“With that description? Reason and sense?”

“Well.” The door pops open with a little force, and Blaise turns back to look at him. “Perhaps not.” His smile, when he gives a full one, is bright and white and dazzling. “Force of habit, Potter. You know how it is.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

 

///

 

He and Ginny were “taking a break” the next time he ran into Malfoy. He’d gone to the Muggle bar because he knew the quidditch game wouldn’t be on there. He didn’t want to think about Ginny, about her long red hair whipping around behind her like a streamer and the flush on her cheeks from the wind and how great the sex was after she won a quidditch match. He didn’t want to think about the ways they didn’t fit together anymore.

He was both surprised and not surprised to see Malfoy there, knocking back shots of a clear liquor at the bar. After all, Malfoy had always been a timely distraction, hadn’t he?

“Vodka?” he asked, as he slid onto the stool beside him. Malfoy glanced over quickly, then back again, a perfect double take.

“Potter?” He must already have had a few, because his face was more animated than Harry had seen it since Hogwarts, since that last terrible day, and before Malfoy had become so careful, so contained.

“Potter,” he said again, and his surprise was gone, too. He shook his head, slow, side to side. “Gin. A very good gin.” He slid his fresh shot over to Harry. And that was how they’d begun an evening of drinking together, and why they’d ended up stumbling out past midnight, out the back door and into the warm London springtime. It was quiet back in the alley. Muffled, like reality was when you had a particularly good dream. Malfoy’s body was loose and imprecise, and he stopped after a few steps to stand against the building. He looked at Harry, his brows pulled together over his eyes, like he was trying to figure something out.

The gin was weighing Harry down —making his limbs heavy and his brain slow and all his veins warm and pulsing through his body— and Malfoy looked so good, suddenly, leaning against the wall in the low light from a street lamp further down the alley. All long lines and angles, all silver and moonshine. And his mouth, with a bottom lip surprisingly soft and tender looking for all the cold, cutting words he could spit out. His mouth. Harry wanted Malfoy’s mouth, in ways he couldn’t articulate or understand.

He shut his eyes. He leaned in. And when he opened them again, they were so close to each other. So close, and Malfoy’s breath brushed like a damp fog against his face. The way Malfoy was leaning, legs bent and back flat against the bricks, made them nearly the same height. Made it easy, so easy, to lean in just a little bit further, and slide his lips across Malfoy’s.

Malfoy kept his eyes open. He stayed very still, but his mouth softened and his breath turned into a sigh on Harry’s tongue. When Harry pulled back, Malfoy’s eyes went down to Harry’s mouth, and he swallowed slowly.

He wasn’t sure what he was doing. He didn’t know what this was. What he knew was that it felt like wading into the Black Lake, the water climbing higher, caressing and pulling, shifting his body weight in some decadent deception of gravity. He knew he wanted to keep walking —farther, deeper— to let the water close over his head and be lost to it.

His breath came fast, and he tried to slow it down. There was a shiver along his spine. Want. He wanted Malfoy.

Malfoy made a noise in his throat, and then pulled Harry back with a hand around the back of his neck. It was different from kissing Ginny; harder, sloppier, more teeth. Malfoy’s chest was firm against his own, and when he pulled him closer, their bodies pushing against each other, there was no give.

Malfoy was fumbling with the front of his pants now, and then his hand was inside them, pressing up against Harry’s cock, and he had to pull back to catch his breath. Malfoy wrapped his fingers around him, and squeezed. His lips were against Harry’s cheek now, wet and open, breathing hard against him. Harry gasped out something incomprehensible when Malfoy’s hand began to move, up and then slowly down again, tight and without compromise. There was no arguing with this pleasure. He could as soon argue with lightning, and be just as effective. He was on fire, and all it did was build. Higher. Hotter. Brighter behind his eyelids.

He clutched at Malfoy. He held on to one of his shoulders, and let his other hand slide down Malfoy’s front, chest and then his belly, down to where his shirt had ridden slightly up between them. He let his fingers slide under his waistband, and then he stopped. He pressed his palm against Malfoy’s bare skin there, where it was soft and heated, and moved with his every breath.

Malfoy stopped jerking him off long enough to undo his own trousers and push down his underwear, and then there was a cock in Harry’s hand that wasn’t his own. Just unfamiliar enough to make every way he touched him new. He twisted his hand as he moved it up, lingered there over the swollen head until Malfoy bit his earlobe and groaned into it. The sound filled his head, turned his bones to jelly. He fell harder into Malfoy.

It was strange, how far away the rest of the world felt, even though they were hardly hidden, in a dim alley in the middle of London. Harry tried to care that someone might walk by and see them. Might catch them, he and Draco Malfoy, two notorious wizards with their cocks out, kissing now like it was the only way to breathe, to stay alive. He tried to care and couldn’t. This was too damn good, and it didn’t feel like a surprise. Not really. Wasn’t it inevitable? Wasn’t it the natural progression down a spectrum of which he and Malfoy were the poles?

It was explosive, this meeting in the middle. This crashing into each other. Wet mouths and teeth pressing into each other’s necks and lips. Fingers pulling at hair and clothing. Malfoy let his head fall back against the bricks behind him, and Harry rested his forehead at the base of his throat. Malfoy’s hand slowed its up and down, pulling deeply, steadily.

They were in the last stretch. The finish line was in sight, and they still lingered. Harry licked the dip of Malfoy’s clavicle, and the chest against him stopped moving. Malfoy stopped breathing, for just a few seconds, and then made a sound Harry didn’t even have a name for, his cock jerking in Harry’s fist and his come going all over Harry’s fingers and the skin where his shirt was rucked up.

It was unspeakable. It was unbearable. It made him senseless, Malfoy’s pleasure. He couldn’t get enough air into his lungs, he was going to pass out, he was going to die, and then Malfoy’s fingers tightened on him again, and pulled, and he came so hard he made no sound at all.

 

///

 

He goes over to the old place on a Saturday afternoon, with his woven skeps to move the hives over to their new boxes in his new back garden. Ginny waves him through. He feels something inside him loosen when he hears their low, steady hum. He’s missed working with them, talking to them, feeling them pull on his magic. Bees love witches and wizards; even the most common, regular old species of bee is a little bit magic, and between a wizard and his hives there exists a fundamental, sympathetic sort of understanding. Harry had stumbled upon this, and his own natural inclination toward it, when Aunt Muriel had died and he’d gone along with Ginny and Molly to tie up some loose ends at her cottage.

“We have to tell the bees,” Molly had said, looking out toward the white wooden boxes in the field beyond.

“Tell them?” Harry had asked. “Tell them what?”

“That she’s died,” Ginny said. “You always have to tell the bees these things. The major affairs of the house.”

“And they… understand?”

“Oh, yes,” Molly said. “Muggles have the same tradition, or they used to, anyway, but bees really do understand us. And we can understand them. Some have more of the touch than others.” Molly had looked at him. “You should try, Harry. You can talk to snakes, after all.”

“Er— I’m not sure that’s quite the same thing,” he’d said. “But I can give it a go.”

There had been something, that afternoon. A subtle shift in the air when he put his hand on top of the hives and knocked gently with the old iron key Molly had given him. It was a sense that something had fallen into place.

“Muriel is dead,” he’d said, into the very particular hush that fell inside. He’d waited, and so had the silence. What would happen to the hives, he wondered. Would someone else take the bees? Would they survive on their own?

“If you… need another home… you could come with me. If you want?” He felt like a tit, but then, softly, a deep, harmonious humming had begun inside the boxes. The sound grew and swelled, like many hundreds of voices singing out a single note on different scales. It was something he’d never heard before, and yet it felt so familiar, a golden and peaceful feeling spreading inside his bones.

“I think I’ve acquired five hives,” he told them, a little sheepishly, when he went back inside.

Ginny looked up from the post she was sorting through, startled, then laughed. “Of course you have,” she said. And that had been that.

Now, he knocks his knuckles on the boxes. He hums to them, and the bees hum back, loud, tumultuous, like a happy dog when its owner walks in the door in the evening.

“Yes, yes,” says Harry. “I’ve missed you, too. It’s time to go to our new home.” He pulls up some magic, something sweet and slow right in the very middle of his body, and he pushes it out, offers it up to them like a flower offers up its sweetest abundance. The bees rumble, and they take. They leave the hives in streams and they trickle over, brushing against his skin in whispers and ripples, and pour themselves into the open tops of the coiled wicker skeps.

When the waves have stopped, he carefully pulls out each hive’s queen and carries her gently to the baskets. When he's done, he finds Ginny standing a few feet behind him. She holds out a cup of tea, and they sit down on the back steps.

“Remember when you walked over to the kitchen window with that great, long beard of bees and the kids went crazy?” Ginny asks.

Harry laughs, remembering their faces. The shock, the awe, the bright enthusiasm. “I miss them,” he says. “I miss them little.”

Ginny smiles back, a little slow, a little sad, her chin in her hand. “Kids grow up, Harry. Like flowers and weeds and trees. It’s just what they do.”

“Yeah. I was thinking the other night about how they’d all come running out after their baths when they were tiny, naked and wet and shrieking.”

“And you’d hit them with that spell you made up,” Ginny remembers. “The ‘warm towel’ spell. That’s the whole reason they did it, you know.”

“I saw that spell somewhere,” he says. “I just recreated it.” His tea is gone, and the bees are still talking, calling out and wondering.

“I’d better get these guys over to their new boxes before they get mad at me and swarm.” He stands up, and so does Ginny. She takes his empty mug from him.

“You’ll still bring me some honey?”

“Of course.” He tugs, affectionate, at the ends of her red hair. “Jars of it. Won’t taste exactly the same, probably. Different location, different flowers.”

“No. Not quite the same.”

When he leaves, she stands in the doorway and he looks at her for a moment. “It was good, wasn’t it?” she asks. “For a long time, it was good.”

“Yes.” She’s barefoot as usual, in cut-off jeans and her old quidditch jersey. “Better than good, I thought. It was wonderful. And I still love you, Ginny.”

She smiles again, and this time it’s one of her real smiles: warm and a little crooked. “Goodbye, Harry,” she says.

 

///

 

Had part of him suspected Malfoy might show up at his door Saturday afternoon, nearly twenty years since they last spoke? Had something inside him, buried deep, wondered if the unnamed garden expert Blaise promised to send was the man he’d spent a summer with, excising grief and rage and confusion, and then firmly relegated to a locked room in his mind?

It was hard to say, but Draco Malfoy is standing on his front stoop, pale and pointed and buttoned up in black trousers and a grey waistcoat. He blinks into the darkness of Harry’s front hall, squinting just a bit in the bright sunshine, and Harry can feel the past so sharply it’s like a kick in the ribs.

“Potter,” he says. He’s older, of course. His limbs have a new weight to them, his eyes more shadows and lines. But he sounds the same. Precise and sharp-edged.

“Malfoy.” He nods, and smiles. “You’re the rose man?”

“Blaise didn’t tell you?” A crack appears; Malfoy looks uncomfortable.

“I didn’t ask, specifically. I probably could have put the pieces together. I’ve heard you’re good with flowers and magical remedies for gardens.”

Malfoy clears his throat. “It’s Mother, really. She knows everything about everything that grows out of dirt, it seems. But she doesn’t leave the Manor anymore, and she’s taught me quite a lot over the years.”

Harry nods. “Neville was telling us about her lavender and snap dragons awhile back. Impressive new strains, he said.”

“Yes. She really is gifted.”

They stand in silence for a moment, and then start speaking again at the same time.

“Why don’t you come in—“ Harry starts, just as Malfoy asks, “Is Mrs. Potter here, as well?”

“Mrs. Potter?” Harry asks. “You mean Ginny? We’re separated. It hasn’t been in the papers because the divorce isn’t final yet, but that will happen soon and then it’ll be everywhere.”

“Oh. Please excuse— I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Didn’t Blaise tell you?”

“Blaise doesn’t gossip about his friends,” Malfoy says gravely.

“No,” Harry agrees. “No, that’s true. Well, come in. Can I get you some tea?”

“No, thank you.” Malfoy follows him down the hall and through the kitchen. It’s Harry’s favorite room in the cottage, with it’s big, old AGA cooker and rough-hewn open shelving around the walls. It came with a scarred old farm table and polished butcher block and in the mornings he stands looking out the window toward the garden with his morning tea, feeling settled deep inside his bones.

He pushes open the back door and Malfoy follows him out onto the freshly-cleared patio.

“I dug out all the weeds and brambles myself,” Harry tells him, pointing out the new empty spaces. “But what’s left— the flower beds and the herbs and especially the roses over there— well, they need some help. Neglected too long, I suppose. I don’t really know what I’m doing there, I’m afraid.”

Malfoy steps off the old flagstones and bends down, running the tips of his fingers through the newly-turned soil. “Do you have a plan for these open areas?”

“No. Things that bees like would be good. My hives are just back there, behind the apple tree.”

Malfoy pours a palmful of soil into a little envelope and stands, peering back at the little white boxes. “How many hives do you have?”

“Half a dozen. Probably one more by summer.”

“I’ll tell Mother. She’ll come up with something you’ll like.” Malfoy points over to the hedge. “I’m going to take a clipping of those roses. I think, judging by the leaves, you have a nutrient deficiency. It’s an easy fix, and Mother can send you some cuttings from her own bushes to graft.”

“Alright,” says Harry. “Er— you’ll be doing the actual grafting though, right?”

Malfoy shifts his gaze to him, one corner of his mouth twitching up. “Yes, Potter. I didn’t expect plant grafting to be in your arsenal of talents.”

“It’s more a toolbox, really,” Harry says, easy and light. He almost puts his hand out to touch Malfoy’s shoulder, but all the nights they spent touching in the past make that more complicated, more loaded with suggestion, than he knows how to safely navigate with this Draco Malfoy. This man the years have touched, just like they’ve touched him.

Malfoy smiles, though. He really does look softer when he smiles. Harry has a burst of sense memory, of wanting to feel Malfoy’s jaw under his fingers again. He thinks about that vision in the Mirror and how, just weeks later, he was standing here with Malfoy again, after almost twenty years of silence.

“We should get together again sometime,” he says, before he can talk himself out of it. “Catch up.”

Malfoy’s face turns very careful again, and he looks at Harry, hard, for a very long moment. “You do remember, Potter, how our ‘catching up’ sessions usually ended?”

He can feel the heat rising through his body; not in embarrassment, but in pleasure. At the memory, at the precise timbre of Malfoy’s voice as he said ‘Potter’ just now. At the fact that they were standing here at all, in his own garden, after all these years, with no one and no reasons to feel guilty about anything they might want to do to each other.

“I remember,” he says, and it’s all in his voice. All that weight of heat and desire.

Malfoy shivers, almost imperceptibly, but Harry notices. He always notices. He is fine-tuned to Malfoy.

“Why don’t you come to the Manor tomorrow?” Malfoy says. “You can hear Mother’s plan, and we can go from there.”

 

///

 

The second time they met was also at a Muggle bar, but this time it wasn’t by accident. They still pushed a bottle of liquor back and forth— Jameson, this time— but they talked about things, too.

“Goyle?” Harry asked. He’d just given a rundown of Hermione and Ron and Neville’s doings post-Hogwarts.

“Got a job loading shipments down on the docks. A little magical cargo— large pieces, animals, things like that— but mostly Muggle stuff. It’s good for him, really. Lots of muscle work and little opportunity or need to speak.”

“Parkinson?”

Malfoy knocked back the rest of the whiskey in his glass. “Pansy ended up going to France. She couldn’t go anywhere here without people calling her—“ he trailed off. “Names.”

“Oh,” said Harry. “I’m sorry.”

Malfoy looked at him for a moment, a strange expression on his face. “Anyway,” he continued, “she went to Paris and started over. She’s doing alright.”

“Good. It’s strange, hearing about everyone. They all seem to know what they’re doing.”

“Don’t you, Potter?” Malfoy was studying him again. “You’re a newly promoted Auror. Hero of the wizarding world.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“I thought you and the girl Weasley were a thing,” Malfoy pressed. “Weren’t you going to get married and repopulate Hogwarts with your horrifying spawn?”

“Ginny and I are taking a break,” said Harry. “She’s got her quidditch schedule, touring all over the world, and I’m always at work late because I’m on the bottom of the pile.”

“Harry Potter, on the bottom?”

“Even Harry Potter,” he agreed with a small smile, which Malfoy returned. He looked softer when he smiled.

“I’m engaged, actually.” His smile faded. “One of those contracted arrangements. Astoria Greengrass.”

“Daphne’s sister?”

Malfoy nodded.

“Do you… want that?”

Malfoy shrugged a shoulder. “It’s not really about what I want. But she’s perfectly agreeable. She can hold an interesting conversation and I have no complaints.”

It was a strange way of looking at marriage, Harry thought. Too cold for him, too pragmatic. Too neat, somehow. “I don’t know what I’m doing, to be honest,” he suddenly confessed. “I don’t— I wasn’t supposed to be here anymore, was I? I don’t know how to be what everyone wants. Not anymore. Not even for Ginny.”

Malfoy looked so startled. He wasn’t sure if it was what he’d just said, or the fact that he’d said it to Malfoy. After all, they’d never been friends. But the thing was, Harry couldn’t say that to any of his friends. They cared too much; they’d only argue and get worried. And it felt so good, just getting that out into the air.

“Potter—“ Malfoy stopped, still studying something only he can see in Harry’s face. He blinked, and grabbed the half-empty bottle between them. “Potter, I’m ready to get out of this bar. Let’s take the rest of this whiskey somewhere else.”

Somewhere else ended up being Harry’s tiny flat in Shoreditch. Malfoy kept walking around it, from the front door they closed behind them in long strides to the far back wall, which was Harry’s bedroom, big enough for one queen mattress.

“I had no idea living quarters could be so small, Potter,” he kept saying, in different iterations. “Look, your flat is five paces long. And… three and half paces wide. It’s astonishing.”

“Toff,” said Harry, stacking all his dirty dishes in the sink.

Malfoy disappeared into the bathroom, and called out, “I can touch every wall in here just by putting my arm out. Potter, you live in a literal cupboard.”

“That’s nothing new,” he muttered, looking in the cabinet for clean-looking glasses. A very warm, very male body suddenly pressed against him from behind.

“Something about this genuinely minuscule flat makes you look good, Potter,” Malfoy whispered against the back of his neck, and he shivered helplessly. “…Bigger,” Malfoy added, and Harry shifted, turning around to look at him.

“Look here, you tosser,” he began, but then his lips were so close to Malfoy’s, and their hips were nudging together. Malfoy was already getting hard, pressing through his trousers against Harry’s cock, which was rapidly following suit.

“There you are, Potter,” breathed Malfoy. Harry closed his eyes, let his hands fall to the line of Malfoy’s waistband slung low around his hips. A smooth slide of Malfoy’s lips against his, and his mouth opened up to Malfoy’s tongue, to its slick exploration and the taste of malt and spice. Malfoy pulled back.

“And there,” he said against the skin under Harry’s left ear. “Right there, Potter.” His teeth bit gently and his tongue smoothed it over again.

Harry was breathing harder, slow and deep. It felt like Malfoy was casting a spell, some kind of magic born simply of his mouth moving on Harry’s skin. The hush of the flat, the buzz of the whiskey. Harry felt like he could be anything inside of this dream.

He slid his hands forward, together, tugged apart the buttons holding Malfoy’s trousers closed. He was so hard already, so very hot in Harry’s hand and so ready to be touched.

“Yes,” Malfoy murmured. He was sucking a spot on Harry’s neck. It made Harry want to melt, to ooze out all over the kitchen floor. “Yes, Potter.”

A few strokes and Malfoy’s hips were jerking into his with every movement. Malfoy was making little noises, groans and exhalations, every bit of reticence gone. Harry felt crazy, undone. He wanted to swallow Malfoy whole.

“Get on your knees, Potter,” said Malfoy, as if he could read his mind. He pulled back just a little, and Harry paused, sucked more breath into lungs.

The linoleum was hard and uneven under his knees, and Malfoy’s hands gripped the sides of his face, fingers sliding over his jaw and up into his hair. Harry looked up at him, and their eyes met. Malfoy pressed his lips together, hard, and closed his eyes for a moment. His cock swollen and a little damp.

Harry wrapped the thumb and index finger from his right hand around him, and took the head of his cock into his mouth. He ran his tongue around, in a circle, then flicked it over the slit there, salty and sensitive, because Malfoy jerked above him.

“Fuck. Potter.” His eyes were open again, and his mouth too, his bottom lip falling open in a soft O. Harry pulled back, sucking gently, then took him into his mouth again, Further, more. Every slide in and out again felt easier and better and Malfoy’s gasps made him want to find a better angle, the perfect pressure to undo him completely.

The tips of Malfoy’s fingers dug into his scalp. “Here you are, Potter,” Malfoy whispered down to him. “You’re right here.”

Harry fumbled with his own trousers, unable to not touch himself anymore. Everything about Malfoy in that moment, from his pale hair falling over his forehead and into his eyes, to his thighs clenching and quivering as Harry sucked him off, made him feel desperate.

“Here, Potter,” said Malfoy, as Harry wrapped his free hand around the base of Malfoy’s cock, squeezing in time with the slide of his mouth. “Right here.”

He groaned, and so did Harry, each echoing the other. “I’m going to come, Potter,” Malfoy gasped out. “I’m going to come all down your front. Right there.” He pulled out of Harry’s mouth roughly, and with a low sound and his hand stroking himself, did just that. Harry’s hand moved faster on his own cock, and then Malfoy slid to the floor in front of him. He reached out, replaced Harry’s hand with his own, and leaned forward, kissing him deeply, relentless.

Harry cried out. He couldn’t stop himself, couldn’t stop any of it. He was still here, right here in this dingy kitchen with Draco Malfoy, wrecked and covered with come on the floor. Malfoy’s hands kept him pinned to the map of the world somehow, like he was meant to be there. Like a persistent, stubborn intention. With their hands, they made each other real, and Harry came with tears and spit, with sweat and surrender.

 

///

 

It’s a little odd, seeing Malfoy here at the Manor again. Harry hasn’t been here since the war. Malfoy meets him in the foyer.

“My mother will be in the garden. I’ll take you back.”

Harry looks around at the spreading corridors of Malfoy Manor as they go. “Does your ex-wife still live here, too?”

Malfoy glances at him. “No. Astoria prefers an apartment in Paris.” They pass through what looks like a formal dining room and then a conservatory.

“She would have been welcome to stay here,” Malfoy says after a moment. “It was a very amicable divorce, and we always got on quite well. We just didn’t— have anything left between us, really, once Scorpius went to Hogwarts.”

“I know what you mean,” says Harry. “It was kind of like that for me and Ginny. Hermione says it’s a fifty-fifty when your kids are all off and it’s only the two of you left. Finding each other just between the two of you, and whether there’s enough left to keep it going the next half of your life.”

Malfoy smiles faintly. “Leave it to Granger, to still be the smartest thing around.” They step outside now, through some intricately-paned glass doors and into a riotous paradise of blooms. Pinks and reds bleeding together along one path, pale oranges and pink-tipped creamy tea roses forming a hedge on the other side.

“Wow,” breathes Harry.

“Yes. I told you she was good. Mother’s just down that first path, Potter. I’ll come back in a bit to see how you’re getting on.”

When Malfoy has returned indoors, Harry follows the raked gravel through the garden until he comes to the large rows of lavender Mrs. Malfoy is tending. She stands up straight when she sees him.

“Hello, Mrs. Malfoy. It’s lovely to see you again.”

“Mr. Potter.” Narcissa gives him a small smile, and holds out her hand. He bends slightly at the knees and brushes his lips over the back, where her skin is soft and thinning, papery with new decades passed. She’s still stunning; silver and blonde and graceful curving cheekbones.

“How are you?” she continues.

“Very well. And you?”

“Quite well. Your children are all at Hogwarts now?”

“Yes. James is about to graduate, though, and then he’s off to Romania to learn about dragons with his uncle. It doesn’t seem possible. My Albus talks about Scorpius nonstop, actually. He’s a wonderful boy, your grandson.”

Narcissa’s smile grows wider, warmer. More real. “He is, truly. And he speaks highly of Albus and Lily. It is a new generation, is it not, Mr. Potter?”

“Call me Harry, please. It certainly is.”

“Now,” says Narcissa, “let’s do something about your poor roses.”

 

///

 

By the time summer was ending, it was over. Malfoy’s engagement hit the papers, and the wedding was planned out.

“Flowers, Potter,” Malfoy had said while he poured them both some firewhiskey. “You would not believe the tedious, complicated conversations about flower arrangements I am being forced to sit through. My mother loves her flowers.”

Ginny owled him; it was a lovely, messily-written letter saying she missed him, making him laugh and ache. And the truth was he missed her, too. Sometimes, those last few weeks, he wondered if it was possible to love two people at once, or if that was just a cop-out. A weak nature. And then he’d look at Malfoy, all pointy edges and scathing indifference to anything that wasn’t sexual, and dismiss the idea altogether.

It wasn’t possible, was it? He and Malfoy weren’t built to love each other. He and Malfoy were a flash point, a coin flipping over itself endlessly. Collision and explosion.

Their last night together started like all the others: with alcohol, because they couldn’t touch without letting it first burn an excuse through their veins. Harry didn’t even know it was their last night together, until Malfoy had gone still on top of him. Harry was face down on his bed, and Malfoy was sitting across his thighs.

Harry turned his head to look back at him. He was looking at Harry’s back, which was still tingling pleasantly from the light nips he’d placed along his spine. Malfoy brushed his fingers along Harry’s shoulder blade, still looking at something Harry couldn’t see.

“What?” he asked, softly. Soft like they never were with each other.

Malfoy didn’t look up, just continued tracing invisible lines across his skin. “I’m giving Astoria the Malfoy family ring this week,” he said. “The wedding is mostly formality and politics. The ring is the real binding.”

Harry breathed into his blankets, and waited, but that was all he said. And Harry understood. This— whatever this was— had reached its end. In his own way, integrity was important to Malfoy, and continuing on past this point would be against his code of ethics.

“I hope—“ He cleared his throat. “I hope you’re happy with each other. I hope you have a good life together.”

Malfoy’s fingers pressed into the dip of his lower back. “Yeah. You too, Potter. You and Weasley.”

“We’re not engaged,” Harry said automatically. “I don’t even know for sure that we’re getting back together.”

Malfoy finally met his gaze, and arched his eyebrows. “Please, Potter. Don’t be that stupid.” He sat up straight, and the sound of his belt coming unbuckled filled the room. His weight left, and then came back to Harry’s own body. Harry caught his breath as Malfoy leaned heavy over him, one hand trailing along the sensitive part of his side, the other rubbing his cock along Harry’s arse. Tonight, maybe, he’d go that one step farther, the one leap they hadn’t made.

Malfoy’s mouth at the spot where his shoulder and neck met made him arch up, and Malfoy groaned above him, his hips pushing into Harry’s, pushing them both into the mattress.

“Please,” Harry whispered. Malfoy’s breath was heavy and hot against his ear, and he pushed a finger into the cleft where his cock was rubbing, whispered something that made his skin slick and warm.

“God,” said Harry. “Yes.” Malfoy moved against him, rubbing, hitting spots Harry hadn’t even thought about before this thing started. His own cock was being ground into the soft flannel of his sheets. He wished Malfoy would wrap his fingers around him. He wished Malfoy would never stop. “Good,” he murmured. “So good.” This was a fever dream, all heat and heaviness and unreality.

He waited, but Malfoy just kept sliding along the edge, just coasting and skating across the last boundary they’d left uncrossed. Harry lifted his hips, pressed back into Malfoy’s.

“Potter.” Malfoy’s voice was low and breathy and he wanted to hear more of it, just like this. So he kept pushing, kept rocking back into Malfoy’s thrusts. If one of them pulled, the other pushed. It was fundamental; it was habit; it was them.

“Fuck,” Malfoy ground out. “Want your mouth. Want to see you, Potter.” He pulled at his shoulder, and Harry turned over underneath him. Malfoy let his head fall toward him, and their mouths took up the rhythm. They moved together, Harry’s legs coming up around Malfoy’s hips.

Malfoy’s hair was slippery between his fingers, and he used it to pull his face even closer. He curled his tongue up, around the back of Malfoy’s teeth. He was always trying to feel out every cranny, every hidden spot on Malfoy’s body. Always trying to taste what made him tick, to kiss the things that made him ache. Sometimes, in these suspended, unreal nights, with Malfoy’s hands moving all over his own body, he felt a deep, slow kind of feeling rising up from his middle. Like Malfoy’s touch could reach somewhere he couldn’t even find, could lance the secret poison inside him and draw up a surprising sweetness.

Malfoy was still thrusting his cock along the cleft of Harry’s arse, a trail of sparks back and forth, up to the base of Harry’s balls, and every slide of their bodies bought Malfoy’s slim, soft lower belly rubbing against his own cock, flushed and hard and deliciously caught between them. Harry was going to come soon. It was too heated, too wet and hard, too perfect to last much longer.

Usually, Malfoy would pull back toward the end, finish things off with hands or mouths. But he stayed, flush up against Harry, his mouth on his, chests heaving against each other. Harry wrapped an arm around Malfoy’s back. His shoulders moved under his skin, the miraculous machinery of their bodies. When Malfoy lost himself in pleasure, all the careful calibration of the face he showed the world dissolved, and Harry remembered the young man weeping in a bathroom, and terrified, clutching onto to him as their broomstick darted through a wall of fire. He remembered the little snot filled up with the teachings of his father. And all these facets of the same man just made Harry feel full, right in the middle of his chest.

He could love Draco Malfoy, probably, not in spite of his flaws and contradictions, but because of them. And that meant that he, too, could be loved for all the dark inside himself in turn. For so long now, Harry had doubted that. And as Malfoy grabbed his hip, rough, and jerked hard against him, as they both cried out and came, their two bodies cleaving together like they could burrow inside the other, Harry thought that the most amazing bit of pleasure Draco had given him was the simple, pure feeling that he belonged right where he was. As real and fucked up and redeemable as anybody else.

 

///

 

Malfoy puts in rows of lavender along the sides of the garden, and round bursts of bright perennials in beds down the middle, all running toward the hives in the very back. Asters and yellow fennel and lion’s tail, and bee balm and red salvia and flowering oregano. The roses he feeds a mixture of corrective nutrients, and grafts carefully-cut stems with creamy blooms onto their branches to make them stronger.

It’s everything Harry had hoped for, everything he’d seen as possible when he’d stood there looking at the mess of weeds and brambles and potential.

“He did a tremendous job,” says Blaise, looking out over the garden.

“He’s good at it,” says Harry. “At fixing things.”

Blaise looks over at him. Hermione is setting silverware on the picnic table behind them and arguing with Ron about whether to open a bottle of white or red wine. “I always wondered,” starts Blaise. “If you and Draco—“

“Harry,” calls Ron. “Will you please tell Hermione that red wine goes with everything?”

Harry looks behind him. “Maybe Blaise should have the last word on that one.”

“For your palette, Weasley,” says Blaise, “I’m sure that’s true.”

“You’re such a snob, Zabini,” says Ron, and goes to find the wine opener.

Harry turns back to Blaise. “Would that have been a problem?” he asks.

“No.” Blaise drops the slight sense of constant deflection he usually has about him. It was only after knowing Blaise for a long time that he had come to understand how seldom anyone sees him completely serious. “Not then, and not now. I don’t begrudge any bit of happiness between my friends.”

“Time to eat,” calls Hermione, and Blaise nods at him, then walks over to the table and holds Hermione’s chair out for her.

“Oh,” she says. “Thank you.”

“Stop showing off.” Ron tells him placidly. “It’s wasted on us.”

Harry takes a moment, after they’re all sitting down with full plates, to be fiercely, deeply grateful for his friends. For the people sitting around his table. Then he says, “There’s something I wanted to tell you.”

Ron puts his fork down.

“I’ve been thinking about it for awhile, but wasn’t sure until recently. I want to resign from the Aurors. To retire, actually. Full stop.”

“What?” Hermione stares at him, one of her hands still halfway to her mouth. “You can’t be serious, Harry! You’re Head Auror!”

“I know. I know, Hermione. But my deputy head is strong, and she’s ready for the job. I know she is. And I just don’t want it anymore.”

“But why?” Hermione looks baffled, and worse, upset.

“I don’t want to be— Harry Potter, wizard to the rescue anymore. I don’t want to be responsible in that way. Not to everyone.”

“But Harry, you’re doing so much good there, and there’s still so much more we can—“

“Hermione,” Ron interrupts gently. “Harry deserves to live his life in a way that’s for him, and just him. He’s lived it, and given it, for everyone enough, don’t you think? Enough for twenty wizards.”

“Well, yes, of course,” stutters Hermione. “I just— I just didn’t see this coming.”

“I did,” says Blaise. Everyone looks at him, and he shrugs. “I wasn’t sure you’d have the balls to actually do it, but I could tell you wanted to. And it’s perfectly fine, Potter, to stop living for the whole world. I don’t mind confessing I had some serious qualms about this cottage, but look at it now. It’s yours. You belong here, and you know what you’re about.”

He leans forward, folding his big arms in front of him on the table. Even Hermione leans in, a little, as if to hear him better. Blaise was hypnotic when he wanted to be.

“We’re nearly fifty,” he continues. “Think about that. Half a century behind us. Who is Harry Potter, this next fifty years? The answer is: whoever you want to be. And you don’t want to be Head Auror anymore. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for that, Potter. You’ve all given too much, all three of you, to waste the next half century of your lives on what society wants you to be.”

Blaise sits back, and picks up his firewhiskey again. “And that is my heartfelt advice for another few decades, at least. Weasley, close your mouth. You look like a codfish.”

 

After they’ve left, Harry goes out to his hives. He hums under his breath, and pushes out tendrils of magic. The bees hear, and feel, and respond. They swell out and over to him, brushing against him with wings and feet. Their little bodies clump and swarm over his shoulders and arms; he raises his hands into the air, chest-high, and they curl off his fingers and into the air, spirals and lazy curlicues in the late spring air.

This is the closest thing he’s ever seen to magic made visible, the way the bees ride the flow of that mysterious force within him. Like schools of fish deep in the ocean, making hidden currents visible to the eye. His bees rode the waves and eddies of his magic, soaked it in, delighted in it. There could be nothing bad about it, nothing truly wrong with Harry himself, if these delicate, astonishing creatures loved it so much.

It makes him think about Draco. About how Draco’s hands on Harry, so long ago, had pinned him down to the world when he was floating. When he needed it most.

The bees dance around him, and he wants to let go, as they do. To ride the sweet current, to be directed, to be taken and given in the same breath.

 

///

 

He didn’t see Malfoy after that final night, except in the occasional photo in the Daily Prophet. He didn’t see him again until that morning they were both putting their children on the Hogwarts Express. He’d sometimes wondered, over the years, why they hadn’t kept in touch. Why they couldn’t have been friends, of a sort.

When their eyes locked across the crowded platform, he stopped wondering. They could never be casual, he and Malfoy. Never anything but push and pull, flint and spark.

 

///

 

The truth is, he’s tried jerking off to all the usual fantasies since he and Ginny decided to split up. He’s always thought he had a pretty full bank of them; old memories of things he and Ginny have done, old visuals of her spread out on their bed, all cream and fire and freckles making paths to trace all over her belly and thighs and breasts.

That particularly curvy secretary over in Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, and what might have happened if the lift had stopped one day, and they’d been trapped inside, alone together, for hours.

The guy from Accounting who came by sometimes to nervously tell Harry the Aurors were over budget on office supplies or requests for meal reimbursements, and how his wire-rimmed glasses might fog up and fall off when he sucked someone off.

The point is, Harry has never had trouble with variety during his solo sexual excursions. But ever since that day at Hogwarts, when he’d looked into the Mirror again, all he’s been able to think about, no matter what images and fantasies he tries to conjure late at night in his bed, or in his morning shower, is Malfoy. Malfoy’s long fingers around his cock. Malfoy’s pale hair falling into his eyes and the high spots of color in his cheeks. Malfoy behind him, pounding into him. Malfoy pushing him further, holding him down by the scruff of the neck. Harry out of control, and the buzzing, burning relief of that.

He runs his fingers down his hardening cock, imagining Malfoy’s hands. Trying to remember exactly how they’d felt when they were moving on his body, so many years ago. He lets his hand linger along the top, pushes the head harder into his palm. The callouses there feel a little different, the skin less sensitive and more rough, and he shivers.

It almost feels unfamiliar. He could almost imagine it was someone else’s palm he was thrusting into. He could almost think— when he squeezes harder, slowly down, then up a little faster, a little tighter— it was Malfoy’s grip. Just always shy of too much; always just past what Harry imagined he wanted.

It’s all he can think about, with his cock in his hand and his breath turning uneven. That image of them in the mirror. They hadn’t done that, back then, but he tries to imagine exactly how it would have felt. How it would feel, now.

There’s no room for any other fantasies, not inside this crowding, humming hunger. He wants Malfoy. He wants Malfoy all over, inside him, everywhere. He wants Malfoy to take, and take, and then, afterward, to give everything back in a different order.

 

///

 

The day Harry turns in his resignation, he sends Draco an owl. Now that the garden is finished, he doesn't have an excuse to get Draco to linger, drinking tea and playing that old game of who’s doing what, just like they’d done before. He hasn’t wanted to rush anything, or read Draco’s interest the wrong way, but there have been moments when he feels sure that he’s not the only one who wants. When Draco’s fingers brushed against his at the kitchen sink, or when he’d wiped at a bit of soil on Draco’s sleeve, and Draco had turned his head just so, his eyes on Harry’s lips and his pupils blowing wide.

Let’s get dinner, he writes. And maybe drinks, back at my place?

Draco’s reply, yes, comes back before lunchtime, and the rest of the day, hour after hour, Harry feels lighter and lighter.

He changes out of his work robes at home, and it feels so right to hang them back in the wardrobe. To know that, soon, he won’t be taking them out again. He’ll just be Harry, in his jeans and sweaters; just a dad and a friend and, maybe, a lover. His pulse jumps and races, just ahead of him, when he thinks about Draco.

 

They meet in front of the restaurant, a little Muggle place, because Harry is feeling rather sentimental. It’s a Friday night, and there’s a line at the door, so they linger near the end of it, their bodies close and so very aware of each other.

“Is this a date, Potter?” Draco is still all lines and angles. Starlight and steel.

“I did hope so,” Harry says. “I want it to be, anyway. But what about you? Have you thought about it again, lately? That summer?”

“I never stopped thinking about it,” Draco says quietly.

Harry looks up, into the face he’d once memorized, and still knew, somehow. “There’s something to be said for timing, I guess.”

Draco huffs. “Have we ever been particularly good at timing, Potter?”

“There’s a first time for everything. This feels pretty right to me.”

Draco takes a deep breath, and Harry watches the swell of his chest. “Are you very hungry?” he asks, looks back up to see Draco watching his mouth.

“Not for dinner.” His voice has gone deeper.

“My place?”

Draco smiles, soft and warm, like a ghost of something. “Yes,” he says. “Yes, Potter.”

 

Harry’s bedroom is bigger these days, and he has an actual bed instead of a mattress on the floor. That’s not the only way this feels new, though. Because Harry has no illusions about his feelings now, about the ways he wants Draco Malfoy, and what that means.

Draco, too, seems softer, more sure. His kisses linger. Naked, their fingers find new scars and marks from the years between them.

When he’s front-down on the bed, Draco kneeling behind him, he whispers back, “I want you. I want this.” One of Draco’s hands cups the back of his neck, and Harry closes his eyes. He starts with one finger, and his mouth pressing kisses across Harry’s shoulder blades. Harry wants more; Harry always wants more where Draco is concerned.

Two fingers, then three, and they are both trembling and breathing hard. Draco’s cock drags along Harry’s lower back as he moves. “Potter,” he says. “Harry.”

Every other thought leaves Harry’s head as Draco pushes his cock inside him. There’s no room for anything else inside this hunger. He hears himself, whimpering and pleading, and it’s like hearing someone else. Someone who needs something very badly.

Draco pushes harder, into him and down on the back of his neck, pinning him in place. Letting him do nothing but take. And then he’s moving, pushing forward and back again, and the world goes white behind Harry’s eyelids, all heat and pleasure and relief.

“Oh,” Draco breathes, and then he hauls Harry up by the shoulder, presses him back against his chest. His mouth is by Harry’s ear as he wraps a hand around Harry’s cock, and every thrust moves them both.

“Fuck,” he gasps into Harry’s ear. “Fuck, Harry. You feel so good.”

And it is; it’s so good. Nothing this good could ever be wrong, and neither of them could be wrong together.

What do you want your next fifty years to look like, he thinks, when they’re lying under his blankets later. Draco messy-haired on his pillow, his lashes fluttering softly as he tries to stay awake. Harry presses his mouth to Draco’s shoulder, and watches the smile tug at the lips across from him. And he thinks: this. I want them to look a lot like this.

 

///

 

He doesn’t notice the manilla envelope on the front stoop until Draco leaves Sunday afternoon, with lazy coffee kisses and vague plans to see each other for lunch on Monday.

He almost wishes he’d never noticed it, and had spent the rest of his Sunday night in a daze of warmth and pleasure. But Harry Potter hasn’t run from anything that frightened him, for a long time. As he looks at the photos tucked inside, of he and Draco outside the Muggle restaurant Friday night, he hopes that Draco feels the same. He hopes that this is worth it to Draco, too.

It’s funny, how that Prophet photographer had caught just this moment. Right before they apparated home, to Harry’s new cottage. When Harry had taken Draco’s jaw in his hands and pulled him down for a kiss.

It was the same moment Harry had been remembering, when he knew for sure that he was in love with Draco Malfoy.

 

///

 

He owls Ginny to let her know something is coming in the Monday edition of the Prophet. He asks to come over and tell her himself, in person beforehand, but she tells him not to worry. “Come in the morning for breakfast,” she writes back. “We’ll talk then.”

Hermione shows up thirty minutes after the owl he sends her and Ron, who is out helping George do inventories. They sit on the back steps and watch the sun sink down behind the fruit trees.

“I’m sorry about the other night,” she says. “I should have listened to you better. Should have been more supportive. I think I was just mainly sad, because you wouldn’t be there with me anymore, at the ministry. I rely on you, too much.”

“Hey,” says Harry. “It’s ok. I want you to rely on me. Really. I want everyone I love to rely on me, just like I rely on them. Just not the whole world. And I’ll still see you. Every day, if you like.”

Hermione sniffs, and dabs at her eyes. She winds her arm through his. “So what’s this Prophet story, and why are you so worried about it?”

“It’s—“ Harry sighs. “Complicated.”

“Complicated sounds like code for a love affair,” Hermione says, and then, looking at his face, “Oh Harry. Really? Who is it?”

“Someone… unexpected.”

“What’s this? Do you honestly think I’ll be anything but happy for you, if you’re happy?”

“I think Ron is going to flip. It’s one thing to divorce Ginny, and another to start seeing someone else. But this someone else—“

“Ron loves you,” Hermione says. “If it’s something you really want, I reckon he’ll come round, and quickly. Because if you feel that way about it, Harry, it can’t really be bad.”

“It’s Malfoy, Hermione. Draco Malfoy.”

“Oh.” The sun is almost out of sight, just a fiery trail of orange and pink left along the horizon, purple-dark dusk falling heavy over top.

“Of course it is,” Hermione says finally.

“What? What do you mean by that?” He turns to face her, his knees knocking into hers.

“It makes sense, that’s all. There’s always been something between the two of you. I haven’t always known what it is, and I doubt you two have, either. But it’s always been there.” She reaches out and takes his hand in both of hers. “Are you happy, Harry?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I am.”

Hermione smiles. “Then I’m happy, too.”

They sit there for awhile, and the fireflies come out, and some frogs start to sing far off somewhere, low and melancholy.

“Tell you a secret?” Hermione asks, and squeezes his fingers. He raises his eyebrows and knocks his shoulder against hers.

“Didn’t know we had any of those left.”

“Oh, just a few. The truth is I quite like getting old.”

“Is this where you say it’s better than the alternative?”

“No. That’s true enough, but I was going to say that my hair finally suits me.”

He turns to face her fully, grinning, although he can barely make out her features in the dark. He knows them anyway, the way familiar things are known— irrevocably, and by heart. “What?”

“Well, look,” she gestures with one hand, a kind of wave around her head. “This kind of mess is just not attractive on a younger witch, but it’s fantastic at my age. I’ve finally grown into it. Maybe a mole on my chin—“ She breaks off with a grin as he starts laughing, deep chuckles from down in his belly.

They sit some more, and listen to the night sounds, and it’s a better evening than Harry ever could have hoped.

 

///

 

The house he’d lived in with Ginny, where they’d had babies and the babies had grown and left home from, is quiet and sunny in the early morning. Ginny’s got her pajamas on still, and she puts a pot of coffee on the table, along with some toast and jam. He’s too nervous to eat anything.

“I’m so sorry,” he begins. “That you had to find out this way. It just— happened suddenly, and didn’t feel ready for telling anyone about yet. I wouldn’t hurt you for the world, Ginny. Not if I can help it.”

Ginny sighs, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. “I know that, Harry,” she says after a moment. “It’s just— weird all around. It was always going to be, though, wasn’t it?”

“Are you alright, though?”

“I don’t know how I feel about it all, to be honest,” she says.

“I can’t stand to think about you being angry with me,” Harry confesses.

“Angry? Merlin, no. Are you joking? I was worried you would find someone younger, that I’d see pictures splashed all over the Prophet of some fresh-faced thing and everyone would be talking about how you traded up. And then you went and not only shacked up with someone exactly your age, but a man to boot.”

“I haven’t shacked up with him,” Harry says, feeling a strange mixture of relief and annoyance.

Ginny shrugs and waves a hand in front of her face. “I thought I’d be dodging howlers for not being good enough for Harry Potter, but what are they going to accuse me of? Not having a cock?”

“Ginny!”

“Oh Harry,” she says, her eyes lighting up with barely contained mirth and shining in a way he hasn't seen in a long time when it was just the two of them. “Surely, considering this,” she gestures at the paper lying on the table between them, the black and white picture flashing as his image pulls Draco’s face down to his, over and over, “we can say ‘cock’ between us like adults.”

He snorts, his hand coming up to press against his mouth, and then they’re both laughing. The sun is filtering in through the lace curtains over the kitchen window, lighting a trail over the dishes drying in the rack, and all the way across the wooden table. And right then, in the room where they’d fed their babies and sat down to dinner over nearly two decades, where they’d laughed late into the night over bottles of wine with Hermione and Ron, right there, he feels it: a curious lightening between his shoulder blades that spreads out and down into his chest. And he thinks, at last, that maybe everything really would be alright.

Better than alright.

 

///

 

It’s front page Monday morning. There are lots of stares, and whispers, but Harry finds he doesn’t care. On Tuesday, there’s a full story on he and Ginny’s divorce, and speculation about where he’s living. On Wednesday, someone has leaked the news of his resignation from the Aurors. He receives letters back from all three children, telling him they’re fine with whatever makes him happy, and that’s the last weight off his shoulders.

Except that Draco isn’t returning his owls, or floo-calls. An entire week goes by. Blaise comes over at the weekend and pours them both two full glasses of firewhiskey, unasked.

“Maybe I fucked up,” Harry says. He traces the grooves in the wood of his table, long-ago slips of a knife and burns from hot pans.

Blaise turns his glass around and around in front of him. “I don’t divulge things about my friends,” he says. “But I would encourage you not to assume anything. I find it’s always best to get answers straight from the source.”

“He won’t talk to me,” Harry says. He sounds miserable, even to his own ears.

“Won’t, or hasn’t?”

“Isn’t that the same thing?”

Blaise rolls his eyes. “Of course it isn’t, Potter. Have you gone over there?”

“Well, no. He’s not answering owls or calls. He clearly doesn’t want me to come over.”

“Is it clear?” Blaise asks. “I’m not so sure. Anyway, you’re Harry fucking Potter. Since when do you do anything the easy way?”

 

The next morning, Harry knocks on the front door of Malfoy Manor. An older house elf, wearing a cravat and bowtie, shows him into a small parlor, where Narcissa is waiting.

“Mr. Potter,” she says. She’s all winter today; snow and ice. Harry sighs.

“Mrs. Malfoy, I know you probably aren’t thrilled about all the press coverage,” he says. “Or the fact that I was kissing your son at all—“

“I was very surprised to read of your resignation from the Aurors, Mr. Potter,” Narcissa interrupts.

“Oh, uh— were you?” He shifts awkwardly on his feet. “I suppose I didn’t think about how that might come as a shock. I’ve been wanting to do it for so long, so—“

“You mean you had already planned to resign? Before the press scandal?”

Harry swallows. Narcissa Malfoy makes him feel eleven again, somehow. “I did, Ma’am. I turned in my notice before I asked Draco out to dinner that night, actually. I’ve been wanting to retire for awhile now, and the time finally felt right.”

“I see,” says Narcissa. They look at each other, and he wonders how close he is to being hexed. He really doesn’t want to pull his wand out on Draco’s mother.

“I don’t believe you informed Draco of your plans,” she finally says. “No doubt, you were quite carried away in other… pursuits.”

“Well, no, I— I don’t think I mentioned it.” He feels suddenly like a lightbulb has been turned on for him. “Are you saying that— that Draco thinks I resigned because of the story?”

“I was about to take tea with him, Mr. Potter. Now I think maybe you should take my place. He’s waiting in the conservatory.” She smiles at him, finally; it feels like a spring thaw. “You do remember the way, don’t you?”

 

When he finds the right room, all bright and light and surrounded by windows on three sides, Draco has his back to the door. Harry pauses, and looks at him. So careful, so easily harmed. He clears his throat, and Draco turns.

“You thought I was easy to get rid of, I guess?”

Draco’s face is closed to him. “I’ve known you long enough to doubt that, Potter.” He sits down at the table and pours a cup of tea from the silver pot in the middle. “Did my mother send you through?”

“Yeah. She’s fairly terrifying, your mum.”

Draco doesn’t react, just pours some cream and stirs it around his cup.

“I think there’s been a misunderstanding,” Harry tries.

“Photographs are rather black and white. I’m not sure what you think might be left to doubt in this news story.”

“I meant about my retirement. Your mother seemed to think I resigned because of the story about us.”

Draco brushes at something nonexistent on his sleeve. “My mother is not an idiot, Potter. Of course she put the pieces together.”

“But— the point is that’s not what happened. That’s not how it went.”

Draco looks so bored Harry almost falters. Almost forgets what he looked like naked in his bed, flushed and wrecked and smiling.

“I’ve wanted to retire for awhile now,” he pushes on. “Just because I don’t want to be an Auror anymore, or in the Ministry at all. It had nothing to do with you, or with us, or everyone knowing about us.”

Draco's long fingers stop moving on the tabletop. “You didn’t… leave the Aurors because of the papers? Because of me?”

“No. I turned in my resignation more than a week ago, Draco. Before the pictures were even taken.”

Draco stands, and walks over to the wall of glass, looking out over Narcissa’s gardens. Harry can’t see his face, so he watches the line of his shoulders, the curl of his fists shoved into his pockets.

“I know the gossip rags aren’t the best way for it to get out, and I’d rather have told my family myself first, but—“ The words die in Harry’s throat. Draco has put a hand over his mouth, and his silence feels very ominous all of a sudden. Harry still can’t see his face.

“You didn’t think I cared, did you?” he says carefully, to Draco’s back. “I mean, that people know. About us.”

“Did I think it bothered you that the papers splashed around photos of you consorting with a known Death Eater?” His voice is flat and tight. “An apparently gay, male ex-Death Eater? I did intuit it might be a problem for you, Potter.”

“That’s— Draco, no. I don’t care about that.” He walks over to Draco, stopping just behind him. “I only care about you, and my family. And I only need you to care about me and the people who love you. I— I think I love you, you know.” He pauses, his words suddenly clogged up in his throat. “Do you think— is that alright?”

Draco finally turns. “Potter,” he breathes out, his beautiful, beloved face cracking under the weight of the both of them, here, now. Like two boys breaking all the porcelain in a fancy tea shop. He brings his hand up and wraps it around the back of Harry’s neck, his face leaning down until their foreheads are touching. His hand makes Harry real, makes this moment between them something weighted.

“It’s always been you, you know.” Draco’s voice is unsteady, a little damp sounding. “The question isn’t always the same, but the answer is. It’s always you.”

“Oh,” says Harry. “Well, that’s alright then.” And Draco laughs just a little, and Harry leans up to kiss him.

“It’s slightly ridiculous, isn’t it?” Draco asks when they stop for breath. “Falling in love at our age.”

“Nah,” says Harry. He hooks his thumb into the pocket of Draco’s trousers and looks out at the cream and blush-colored roses climbing the hedges. “We started doing that a long time ago. We’re just late bloomers.”