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Dreams of Horses

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Harry sits on the floor, legs crossed, in front of the standing mirror in Sirius’s old room. He’s done about a thousand dusting charms and washed the duvet, but the room is otherwise unaltered. To Sirius, Grimmauld Place had been a prison, but looking around his teenage room, Harry sees evidence of a full life.

The ornate wooden frame of Sirius’s bed is carved with secrets that Harry cannot decipher, his well-thumbed books are filled with illegible notes, and his walls are plastered from baseboard to cornice in posters, photographs, and Gryffindor paraphernalia. His room is brimming with stuff: a palm-sized, wire model of a Muggle motorbike, a seriously impressive collection of leather boots (one size too small for Harry), a line along one windowsill of wizarding beer bottles in varying shades of coloured glass, tins and tins of hair potions, and a moonstone pendant carved into the face of the man in the moon.

As miserable as Sirius was when he lived here, this room tells Harry that he really lived. And though Harry might now own the Black family home and its contents, everything that’s truly his fits in his old school trunk. He’s never been able to fill a room like this. Harry’s lived in Grimmauld Place since May, sleeping in the room that he used to share with Ron, but he might as well be a ghost for all his presence has made an impact on the room. He can’t help but wonder if this is the type of room—full of junk and treasures and memories—that Sirius would have given him, had they ever got to live together as a family.

Studying himself in the mirror, Harry fingers the moonstone pendant, strung on a short, black leather thong and hanging around his neck. After months of eating foraged mushrooms in a tent and having grown two inches over the summer, he’s as lean as when he lived with the Dursleys. And no amount of the greasy crisps and Hobnobs he stuffs his face with seems to change that. To accommodate the two inches, he’s got a new Muggle wardrobe, though he still wears his t-shirts a bit on the baggy side and his wide eyes are still framed by the same wire-rimmed glasses. Except, when he looks in the mirror it no longer registers that it’s his mother’s green eyes that are looking back at him. The thick glasses and his wild, black hair do not belong to his father.

When he was a child, he’d stare in the mirror for hours trying to find his parents in his features. He’d never seen a photo of them, but he’d still been surprised when he entered the wizarding world and everyone he met seemed to remember his mother in his eyes. He’d always thought he had his father’s eyes, the way Uncle Vernon had gone on, saying that Harry took after his father, making Dudley laugh and squint at Harry, pulling his eyes up at the corners. Dudley would whisper, tape head and coin slot and chink. It was a while before Harry knew what those words meant, but they’d always caused a sour feeling in his stomach.

These days, he just sees Harry looking back at him. Well, that’s not entirely true. With the tip of his index finger, Harry traces the lightning bolt scar from where it branches out at his hairline, stretching across his forehead and down the side of his face. Last year, it’d grown with every Horcrux they eliminated, and though it’s turned from red to white, Harry wonders if it’s all that anyone will see. If all they’ll see when they look at Harry is Voldemort. Even now. Even though he’s gone.

He also wonders if he’s at all good looking. He’s never been vain. He’d dressed like a hobo for most of his formative years, so he’d never cultivated a high opinion of himself, despite his popularity in the wizarding world press. He doesn’t actually know if other people find him attractive. He’s curious, because he doesn’t know what it’s like to feel that way about another person. He’s gone to the Muggle library near Grimmauld a few times to use the computer, and there he found an essay on the Internet written by a woman who called herself asexual. She doesn’t experience attraction at all. Harry isn’t sure if that’s the word for him, exactly, but it’s the closest he’s found.

He remembers fumbling his speech around Cho, thinking that Cedric Diggory had pretty eyes. Once, he was caught up by the way that Draco Malfoy’s hair seemed to glitter even in the dim light of the Potions classroom, git that he was. But those attractions, if they could even be called that, were flimsy. They fell apart in his fingers. He’d thought he was attracted to Cho, right up until he tried to kiss her, and then nothing.

And, of course, there’s Ginny.

Ginny, he likes to kiss, but he never gets carried away with it. He enjoys the feel of lazy kisses here and there, sometimes snogging for a few long minutes is good, and he likes when they hold each other, but he gets uncomfortable if it goes on too long. Sometimes, he wonders if he just gets to know Ginny a little better, maybe he’ll develop sexual feelings. They’ve only recently gotten back together, after her birthday celebration in August, and he isn’t there yet. But Ginny wants to take her top off, wants Harry to touch her. She wants him to slide his hand into her knickers and for her small hand to find its way into his pants. But he doesn’t want to. She doesn’t pressure him, but sometimes the knowledge that she wants more makes him flinch at her touch, any touch. And he hates the sight of the fire dimming in her eyes when that happens.

Last year, Ginny had been it. The pinpoint he’d focused on when he sat outside the tent at night and felt the stars in the sky try to swallow him up. He won and it was supposed to be grand. They were supposed to be grand.

Most of the time, he feels comfortable and safe, he feels love for her, but the romance novels that he’s nicked from Mrs Weasley’s bookshelf talk about so much more. Attraction—sex—in those books is not comfortable, it’s wild and rough—it overcomes, it’s a need. And he doesn’t want that. Harry is okay not wanting that, feeling that, but Ginny wants it from him. And he can’t. Not yet.

Maybe not ever. And he’s not sure what comes after that.

Harry wakes in his bed on first September to the last lingering wisps of the same dream that he’s had almost every night since moving into Grimmauld Place. In the dream, there’s a blond horse and Harry’s running through the Forbidden Forest, trying but failing to catch up to it. The horse glitters pale gold in the moonlight, so beautiful.

The second and third time he’d had the dream, he’d been worried. After all, Harry’s had reoccurring dreams before, and he isn’t any better of an Occlumens now than he had been then. When he’d dreamt of the horse for an entire fortnight, he thought about telling Hermione and Ron, but he couldn’t bring himself to. The horse feels too personal. Like something precious that’s his alone.

This morning, he lies still in his bed, holding on to the memory of the horse for as long as he can. But then the house groans to life, its other occupants moving about, and he knows that it’s time to get up. Harry shares Grimmauld Place with Andromeda and Teddy. He’d meant to wake earlier, to have some time alone with Teddy before he leaves for school, but he can already hear Andi, just a floor below, singing a good morning song to him.

Hermione and Ginny stayed last night at Grimmauld Place and they will travel together to King’s Cross later today, so Hermione is likely also awake, repacking her trunk. Ginny, on the other hand, is most certainly still in bed. She always sleeps in, and it may take both Harry and Hermione to drag her from under the duvet. She’s not happy with him. Her lips had pursed when Harry’d shown her to a guest bedroom last night. He’d claimed that Andromeda didn’t think it was proper that they share a room. It was true, but it wasn’t his reason.

Harry holds Hermione and Ginny’s hands as they wait on Platform 9 ¾ for the Hogwarts Express. There aren’t half as many people on the platform as there usually are, and the mood of the crowd is sombre. The excitement is contained to the youngest witches and wizards, firsties who, Harry hopes, were shielded from most of the trauma of the war. Though he knows that can’t be the case across the board.

It’s strange to be here without Mr and Mrs Weasley, but they’re adults now and don’t need escorts. It feels even weirder to be here without Ron. Harry’d ridden this train for the first time with Ron, and they should be together for the last trip as well. But Ron’s gone straight into Auror training. They’d wanted Harry too, of course, but it took him less than three minutes to turn them down. Even if he didn’t have Teddy to think about, he’d never want to be an Auror now. Not After.

This morning, he’d kissed Andromeda and Teddy goodbye, promising he’d be home on the weekend for a visit. Andi told him don’t be silly, but Harry will be there because he feels a stone pinging sharply within his belly at the thought that he’s abandoning Teddy. Andromeda had told him he had to finish school if he was going to be an example to Teddy. But what the fuck use is a good example to an orphan?

The train comes, sending a gust of air over them. One of Hermione’s dreads slaps Harry’s face, which makes Ginny laugh. They board and find a compartment. Again, Harry is struck by a sense of wrongness at Ron’s absence, but he smiles through it. That’s his thing now, smiling.

It’s better than the alternative.

Rather than join their respective House tables, the thirteen eighth years are told to stand to the side while the first years are squared away. Harry rests against the wall, reaching behind his back, fingers crawling over the stone. His fingers stutter when they dip into a crater. A wound left behind after the battle. He abandons his exploration, puts one hand in his pocket, the other one grabs for Hermione. Her palm is sweaty.

McGonagall says that the eighth year program represents a second chance. The time to figure out who they are After. What she means is, she’s going to resort them.

It’s a complete and total shake-up. Hermione and Millicent Bulstrode join Padma Patil and Morag Macdougall in Ravenclaw. Parvati and Lavender are the lone Gryffindors, while Neville, Blaise Zabini, and Susan Bones now make up Slytherin.

When it’s Malfoy’s turn, he sits on the spindly stool, ducking his head so that Professor Flitwick can place the sorting hat atop his head. His eyes are hard, ringed in dark bruises; it’s a familiar look for him. Angry. Except that’s the only familiar thing about Malfoy’s appearance.

His platinum hair is loose, longer and falling in a shining wave over his brow. Apparently, the Sorting Feast doesn’t warrant wizard’s robes, because he’s dressed as a Muggle, in tight, black jeans, a red Belle and Sebastian t-shirt advertising their album, If You’re Feeling Sinister, and black canvas trainers. The fuck? Malfoy’s never even worn anything as casual as chinos, much less Muggle jeans. And Harry would have bet that Malfoy had an elf polish his Oxfords every morning, but now he’s wearing scuffed trainers. It strikes him that Malfoy looks like a teenager. Before, he seemed like a caricature of his father, hair slicked back and buttoned up in severe black wizarding garb. Ridiculously formal for a child. But now he just looks young, like a real boy. A Muggle school boy.

Harry realises with a jolt that this is the first time that he’s ever actually seen Malfoy’s Dark Mark. Malfoy seems to be alternately holding his left arm down, hiding the Mark against his side and flipping his inner arm as if to say, See, see, look at it! The sight of the Mark is surprising, but perhaps more surprising is the fact that Harry’s blood doesn’t boil, he doesn’t become enraged or feel vindicated. He doesn’t search out Hermione at the Ravenclaw table and mouth the words, I told you so. Yes, he’d been right when he said that Malfoy had taken the Mark, but he now knows that Malfoy’s story isn’t as simple as a tattoo. It explains some things, but not everything. What Harry is more interested in, is the new mark on his arm: what looks like a small, thin-lined black M directly under the mouth of the snake on his arm.

The hat calls out Hufflepuff and it’s dead silent in the Great Hall. Malfoy nods and walks like an Inferius to his new House table. Hufflepuff is absolutely gobsmacked, jaws unhinged. Malfoy sits at the end of the table, apart from everyone. He’s got a look on his face like he’s smelled something foul, but Harry thinks his hands are shaking.

It’s Harry’s go under the hat, and he honestly couldn’t care if or where he’s resorted. When it whispers in his ear, He needs you, Harry shrugs and says, okay.

He makes his way to the Hufflepuff table, and its occupants’ faces have gone from gobsmacked to starry-eyed. Next to Slytherin, they’ve always got the short end of the stick, and maybe the idea of Harry Potter in their House is appealing. A bit of a PR boost, so to speak. Even if they all hated him in his fourth year. And pretty much thought he was the Heir of Slytherin in his second.

He sits next to Malfoy, because who else could the hat have been talking about? Malfoy curls his thin lips, mutters, “Fuck off,” under his breath. Harry laughs, which only seems to make Malfoy angrier. Harry wishes they served lager at the Feast. He needs two, one to drink and one to pour over Malfoy’s head.

Harry, Malfoy, Michael Corner (formerly of Ravenclaw), and Ernie Macmillian (formerly, currently, and for all time a proud Puff—gag) head to the basement together. They pass the painted fruit still life that leads to the kitchens and stop in front of a stack of barrels on the right hand side of the corridor, which only makes Harry wish for beer again.

Ernie hunches over, aiming for the barrel that’s second from the bottom and in the second row. He knocks to the rhythm of Hel-ga Huff-le-puff, tap-tap, tap-tap-tap. The lid swings out and open, and Harry closes his eyes as he realises that he’ll have to crawl on his hands and knees to enter his new common room. He sighs as he crouches down to wait his turn. What a ridiculous House entrance. He wonders if he’ll get in trouble with McGonagall if he asks Hermione to do a Capacious Extremis charm to enlarge the space.

The common room is circular and the ceilings in this part of the castle are low, but the exposed, tan bricks and the round windows running all along the top border of the room make the space feel positively yellow, sunny even as the day is nearing its end. There are overstuffed yellow and black chairs and sofas, contributing to the general “bumblebee” aesthetic, hanging copper lamps, and plants—lots and lots of plants. There are potted plants sitting inside the sills of the circular windows lining the top of the room, vines climbing over the walls, and copper baskets swinging from the ceiling holding all manner of specimens.

Harry’s struck by the fact that this room screams Neville, and he can’t help but wonder how he and Malfoy ended up here instead. For years, their Gryffindor Housemates had said that Neville belonged in Hufflepuff, and it hadn’t been a compliment. And now Nev’s in Slytherin and Harry is here, but he finds that he doesn’t feel slighted. Harry may not want to be at Hogwarts, but looking around the sunny room, he can’t help but smile. He rolls his shoulders back.

When they get to their new dorm room, they find a fifth bed occupied by a boy Harry’s never met. He’s got brown, freckled skin, a dome of soft curly hair, and is very small. He’s reading a gargantuan, leather-bound text with a Granian horse on the cover. Before anyone can point out that he’s not in eighth year, he says, “The seventh year boys didn’t want to room with me.”

“Not cool,” Ernie says, clapping the boy on the shoulder. “Do you want me to talk to them?”

“No, I’m good.”

“Everyone, this is Rolf Scamander. Don’t give him any shit.” Ernie says this to the room at large, but he’s looking at Malfoy. Malfoy doesn’t appear to take note of Ernie’s introduction or his glare; he just sits on a bed, staring vacantly at his feet. Harry supposes that means that he’s claiming that bed.

The rest of the beds are divvied up, and Harry quickly takes the one that shares a nightstand with Malfoy’s before anyone can gripe about not wanting to sleep next to him.

There are brand new yellow and black scarves on their pillows, even for Ernie and Rolf. The yarn is indescribably soft—softer than cashmere or a baby’s bum—and Harry wonders if there’s some kind of charm on it. Which would be a really cool charm to learn, which makes him wonder why they don’t teach a magical version of Home Ec at Hogwarts. Like, is being able to cast a Jelly-Legs Jinx really more practical than laundry and culinary charms?

As they all lie in their beds in the dark, Ernie calls out across the room to Harry, asking if Hermione is still dating Ron. They laugh, take the piss out of Ernie for a while, because that’s what you do when one of your friends has a crush.

That night, Harry dreams of his horse. Of himself, tearing through the Forbidden Forest after it, not quite fast enough to catch up to the glittering creature. Harry reaches out a hand, fingers grasping. He’s running because he’s convinced himself that he’s lost something very important, and the horse is the key to finding it. He doesn’t know how he knows this, but he does. The horse slips farther ahead, too far, but there’s always tomorrow night. Harry wakes with his feet dancing. Running on air.

Luna joins Harry for breakfast at the Hufflepuff table. They hug for a long time, and Harry notices that she’s just as thin and bony as he’s become. She can’t be more than seven stone. Smaller than when he’d seen her a month ago at his birthday lunch at the Burrow. She hadn’t been on the train to Hogwarts. Her father didn’t make it out of the war alive, and she hadn’t been ready to go home yet. Harry’d offered her a room at Grimmauld Place, but she decided to live at the school to help rehabilitate any of the creatures who’d been injured or displaced from the Forest during the battle.

Her shaved head is also new and she’s wearing a black t-shirt and slim-fitting black jeans—no school robe. It seems that Malfoy isn’t the only one foregoing the Hogwarts uniform. With her hair gone, Luna’s eyes look even huger, deep pools of cloudy water on her face. Like Malfoy’s vacant stare, Luna’s eyes are unfocused, the waters rippling. That combined with her new look, and the fact that she’s not wearing her usual jewellery, makes Luna look like someone just out of a prisoner of war camp. She looks worse than when she’d actually been a prisoner of war.

Harry gives her another hug. When they break apart, her hand darts out, fingers delicately tracing the lightning bolt scar that now runs down the side of his face, curving over his cheekbone. Her fingers touch lightly, like a cool breath, and are gone before he can react. She gives him a sad look, and then releases him, busying herself with her breakfast.

Harry’s fixing himself a cuppa when Malfoy sits next to him on the end of the bench. He’s still wearing the same, now slightly rumpled, clothes from last night. Maybe it’s his only Muggle outfit.

“Morning, Draco,” Luna says. Harry notices that her voice is a little flatter than usual, though apparently she’s not holding a grudge about the whole locked-and-tortured-in-the-Malfoy-dungeon thing. Good for her. If she doesn’t want to mention it, far be it for Harry to bring it up. There’s a lot of things that the returning students aren’t talking about. But who needs to talk, when you can see sorrow and grief on most everyone’s face?

Draco offers Luna a pinched smile. It looks like it hurts. His gaze shifts to Harry, and his eyes narrow. “The fuck are you looking at, Potter?” Harry just rolls his eyes.

He sees Rolf standing at the other end of the table, looking as though he doesn’t know where to sit. Where he’s welcome to sit, perhaps. Harry doesn’t know Rolf’s deal with the other Hufflepuffs, but Harry’s got no problem with him. He waves him over.

“Oh, hello, Rolf,” Luna says. Harry is happy to hear a bit more of the familiar musical lilt curling Luna’s words. They’re both seventh years, so Harry supposes that they’ve had classes together. “Did you like that book on magical equine breeds?”

“Oh, um, yes. Very much.” Rolf’s cheeks burn a little pink. Harry feels for the guy; he understands blushing. A single pint and he’s gone red all over with Asian flush. “But it’s quite thick, so I’m still getting through it. Do you, um, need it back right away? If I don’t sleep tonight, I might be able to get through it. Maybe. Probably. If I skip my evening Astronomy class.”

“No rush.”

“Cheers. Um, I really like your hair.”

Malfoy covers a laugh with a cough. Arsehole.

“Are you quite all right, Draco?” Harry winks at him.

In Charms, they learn a spell to make the flames in the hearth smell like marshmallows. It’s delicious, but Harry would still like to know how to clean his socks and pants with a flick of his wand when he runs out before washing day. And, come to think of it, Malfoy’d do with a good de-wrinkling charm for his clothes. He goes to the library to check out Zamira Gulch’s Practical Household Magic. While he’s there, he also gets a copy of The Dream Oracle by Inigo Imago. He can’t remember actually reading the book when Professor Trelawny assigned it in fifth year. Better late than never. He might not want to talk to Hermione about his dream about the horse, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do a little research on his own.

Harry pretends to write Ron a letter while Ginny lifts. They’re in the weight room attached to the Quidditch changing rooms. Ginny’s got even more serious about Quidditch this year, since Madam Hooch told her that the Holyhead Harpies are scouting her for reserve Chaser for next season. Ginny is Captain of the Gryffindor team. Harry isn’t playing. Eighth years were allowed to try out, but he didn’t like the idea of playing against his old team—even if most of his teammates are gone. So he plays Seekers games with Ginny, and lets her shoot against him on goal. If he sometimes offers pointers to Totsy Carmichael, Hufflepuff’s Seeker, then who’s to blame him, really? Totsy is scary, and she’s almost more serious about Quidditch than Ginny.

Harry turns his attention to his note to Ron, mostly gibberish, but then they’d never really been serious correspondents. Ron’s letters are more enthusiastic than they’ve ever been, bursting with excited descriptions of Auror training emphasized with exclamation points and underlines. With the way that Ron goes on about his high marks in Strategy, Harry wonders if he might have been resorted into Slytherin, had he come back to Hogwarts. Harry’s as boring of a pen pal as ever. Ron’s last letter had asked about Charlie, who’s taken over for Hagrid as Care of Magical Creatures professor, because Hagrid moved to France to live with Madam Maxime. So Harry fills a few inches of parchment with talk of Charlie’s latest lessons. He doesn’t tell Ron that as brilliant of a teacher as Charlie is, having neither Ron nor Hagrid—his first two friends in the world—at Hogwarts isn’t easy.

He rolls up his note, and returns to watching Ginny. She’s on her back, hefting sixty-three kilos over her chest. Her triceps jump every time she lifts. Objectively, he understands that Ginny is attractive. That lots of people probably like her body. And a different partner wouldn’t be so unaffected by the sight of her in a sports bra. He likes her fiery spirit, her sarcasm and her temper, he likes that she loves Quidditch so much. He wishes that were enough. He wishes he were different, if only so that he could keep her. That’s the kind of thing that Harry’d like to put in his letter to Ron, but how can he?

Things that are only talked about in whispers, abridged:

The classmates who did not return to Hogwarts, both the dead and the simply gone. The students who returned, but stood alone on the Platform. The students who returned with vacant stares (Luna, Draco, Lavender, Susan Bones) or explosive anger (Dennis Creevey). The crying into pillowcases that doesn’t stop after the first few homesick nights. The jars of flickering Bluebell Flames sitting atop so many more nightstands to light the dark. The pets who died, who were not ushered to safety when the battle started. The fact that Professor Flitwick now walks with a limp and a cane. The time that Professor Sprout had to stop her fifth year Gryffindor/Slytherin Herbology lesson, because she burst into tears. That it’s supposed to be Peacetime, but the new cohort at the Auror Academy is the largest in years, while the existing Auror ranks are the thinnest in years. That Florian Fortescue’s has not reopened. That The Weird Sisters are broken up. That Harry has a new lightning bolt, a web of thin, white scars starting in the middle of his chest and branching out. That Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy have somehow become friends.

He and Ginny are on his bed, alternating between kissing and reading. Ginny’s hands are in his hair and Harry’s clutching at her shoulders when Malfoy bursts into the room. Malfoy doesn’t say anything, but he sits at their shared desk, scowling and very pointedly not giving them any privacy. Ginny stays for a while, reading her Transfiguration textbook while Harry studies The Dream Oracle, but eventually she gives up waiting for Malfoy to leave. She doesn’t seem bothered, so Harry doesn’t feel bad.

When she’s gone, Malfoy says, “She’s not a Hufflepuff.”

Harry offers Malfoy a few slow blinks before returning to his book. A horse can represent passion in many forms, especially as it pertains to romance. New passion, renewed passion, loss of passion. The horse’s strength suggests that these shifts are important life events, one might even say life changing.

“No fucking in the room.”

Harry’s cheeks burn, but for some inexplicable reason, he says, “We don’t, uh, do that.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. No ‘making love’ in the room.” The Malfoy sneer is out in full force and he’s probably strained his eyeballs with the force of his eye-roll.

“That either.” Shut up, shut up.

Malfoy goggles him. “I don’t understand.”

“We don’t…or I mean, I don’t. Have sex, that is.” What’s wrong with you, Harry? Why are you telling him these things? He’d not even wanted to explain this to Ginny, but he couldn’t exactly avoid it. And now he’s spilling his guts to bloody Malfoy. They do seem to be hanging out a lot lately, mostly because Malfoy is always just there, but they don’t exchange much more than insults. Good humoured insults, but still. Harry’s shocked when he realises that he’s not at all worried about Malfoy blabbing to their schoolmates or The Prophet. Somehow, Harry knows that he won’t. And, perhaps more surprisingly, Harry finds that he wants to talk to Malfoy.

“I’m asexual.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I don’t like it. Sex, I mean. Or, at least I don’t think I do.”

“What do you mean think? You have had sex with her, right?”

“No.”

Malfoy opens and closes his mouth a few times before he settles on, “Then how do you know you don’t like it?”

Harry shrugs. “I don’t get hard.”

“For her?”

“For anyone.”

“Never?”

“Never…well, sometimes in the mornings, but never for a person. And it’s really rare. Like, months in between.”

It’s more complicated than that, but he doesn’t want to explain to Malfoy that when he does wake up hard and decides to masturbate, it takes him a long time to get off. He doesn’t think of people. He thinks of flying above the trees, the feeling of the crisp air wrapping around his body, curling around his limbs. He thinks of the sea, though he’s never been. How he might feel encased by the cool water, his body rocked—held. He can make himself hard with his hand if he wants to and he does think about having sex at some point, but probably not because he’s turned on by another person’s body. If he was really close to someone, he could imagine doing that with them. For them. And he would like it, it would feel good physically, but he doesn’t know if it would be emotional in the same way as it would be for someone else.

“So why do you have a girlfriend, then?”

“Um, well, I still have feelings. I mean, I still feel romantic things. And I like some things, kissing and stuff.” Harry shrugs. He hadn’t been able to explain the difference to Ginny, so that explanation will have to do for Malfoy.

“Oh. Okay, um.” Malfoy stares at his fingers for a few long moments, and then seems to shake himself. “So, what are you reading?

Luna tells Harry to meet her and Hermione on the steps to the school at dusk, and to bring Malfoy. Rolf comes too, because, like Malfoy, he’s a barnacle attached to Harry. They both follow him everywhere, and, while Malfoy is sulky and generally just broods silently, Rolf is a chatterbox. He reminds Harry a little of Colin Creevey, except that this time Harry isn’t an arsehole. He befriends Rolf, whereas he barely tolerated Colin. It’s not penance, he genuinely likes Rolf, but maybe there’s a reason that he’s in Hufflepuff this time around.

Tonight, as the group makes their way to the edge of the Forbidden Forest, Rolf seems to understand that this is a night for silence.

“Just a few steps inside the forest line,” Luna says. “Just a few steps,” she repeats, meeting Harry’s eyes. He nods, draws in a deep breath. Nods again.

“Okay,” he says.

Nobody speaks as they follow Luna into the forest, but Hermione presses up against Harry’s side. It doesn’t take long before they find the pile of twenty or so glowing red eggs sitting inside a circle of dancing flames. Slithering in a ring around the fiery nest are nine snakes, thin and pale grey with eyes that burn the same red as their eggs. The snakes look to be about forty-five centimetres and are no thicker than Harry’s thumb. As their bodies slither over the ground, they leave behind a trail of grey ash in the dirt.

“It can’t be, Luna,” Hermione says.

“They are. They’re Ashwinders. And I found them here over the summer.”

“They only live an hour after they’re born from the flames of magical fire,” Hermione says.

“But look. I marked them with a tiny orange dot on the tip of their tails. In May.”

Luna sits cross-legged in the dirt and Hermione and Rolf follow her down. Hermione leans in to get a better look and her long dreads fall forward, dropping dangerously close to the fire. She ties them in a knot on top of her head, casting a silent spell to keep them secured.

“Fascinating,” Rolf says. He reaches out as if to touch one of the snakes, but his hand remains hovering. “I wish I had my camera.”

“We have to freeze the eggs.” Hermione points her wand, but Luna presses a calm hand to her wrist.

“If you freeze them, they won’t hatch, Hermione. I’ve placed a containment charm around their nest, so that their fire won’t spread.”

“This is wrong, Luna. It isn’t safe. The entire Forest could go up in flames. The school—”

“They’ve been out here for months, Hermione. Nothing has happened.”

“I don’t understand.”

“They must have evolved,” Rolf says. “But how?”

“During the battle…” Luna’s gaze slowly turns up to Harry and Draco. “I think it was the Fiendfyre.”

Draco gasps. Despite the heat from snakes’ nest, Harry feels a chill run up his spine. He steps a little closer to Draco, lets his knuckles brush against Draco’s.

“I think that the Fiendfyre that Vincent cast,” Luna says carefully. Harry feels a tremor run through Draco’s hand. “…was so powerful that it’s given birth to a new subspecies of Ashwinder.”

“This is an amazing find,” Rolf says. “We’ve got to document it for—”

“This isn’t some fucking Magizoologist expedition,” Draco says, his hands in fists at his sides. “Someone died.”

Hermione stands, her shoulders squared and her wand vibrating in her hand. “A lot of people died that night, Malfoy, in case you forgot.”

“Of course I haven’t forgotten! I’ll never fucking forget, but Cra—” Draco chokes on the name. His arms wrap around his chest in a hug. “He died, too. And I haven’t forgotten that he cast the bloody fyre, either, but he was still my friend.”

“I think Harry should talk to them,” Luna says, completely ignoring the drama unfolding around her.

“No,” Harry says, automatically. He hasn’t tried using Parseltongue since the battle, hasn’t wanted—doesn’t want—to find out if it was a part of Voldemort speaking through him or something that was always his. He doesn’t know if finding out that he’s lost the language will be better or worse. He looks around at his friends: Luna gazes calmly back at him, Hermione looks indignant on his behalf, Rolf fascinated, and Draco terrified.

“You should know,” Luna says.

“Leave him alone.” For a moment, Harry thinks that it must have been Hermione defending him, but it’s Draco. “He doesn’t have to. And you’re barking if you think we shouldn’t destroy them right now. Ashwinders are dangerous enough, but if they’re really born from Fiendfyre, they could destroy the school.”

“Thanks, Draco,” Harry says. He closes his eyes for a moment. The next words he speaks fall unbidden from his lips. “But I’ll try.”

Hermione takes a step closer to him. “Are you sure, Harry?”

“No,” he says, letting out a nervous laugh, but he sits down outside the circle of flames. “Be ready with a freezing charm.” Draco scoffs, but he doesn’t voice another objection. When everyone is seated, Harry closes his eyes, trying to remember how to do this. He opens his mouth and a word that sounds like dry leaves rubbing together or paper tearing comes out.

Hello.”

A snake, the longest of the bunch, extracts itself from the chain. Harry extends his hand, and the snake slithers towards him, up his fingers and around his wrist. Its scales are hot on his skin, but don’t burn.

The Heir of Slytherin.”

“No!” The horror he feels at the suggestion jolts the word from his tongue in English rather than Parseltongue.

“What is it, Harry?” Hermione’s palm is on his shoulder.

You’re wrong,” Harry says to the snake.

It’s a gift,” the snake says. “A sign of extraordinary power, yes, but also the greatest empathy.”

You’re wrong,” Harry says again. “I’m a Hufflepuff.”

There are no Houses.”

“Stop,” Harry says. “Stop it.” His whole arm his shaking when Luna pulls the snake from around Harry’s wrist, returning it to the twisting circle around the fiery nest.

“Fuck!” Draco says, pulling Harry up by his shoulder.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” Luna says. He thinks he nods, but all that he can really feel is Draco’s palm on his back, pushing him from the forest. He’s not gentle with Harry, pushing at him so hard that Harry almost trips several times on the way to the dorms.

Harry doesn’t fall asleep that night. He stays awake listening to Ernie’s honking snores, Rolf’s quiet snuffles, and Michael’s sleep mumblings about his mum’s gooseberry jam. It’s why he’s awake to hear what sounds like yells coming from behind Draco’s bed curtains.

Harry doesn’t think about why he slips behind the hangings on Draco’s bed, hopping up next to him on the mattress. Draco’s face is pressed into his pillow, and he’s screaming in his sleep. Harry puts his hand on his neck, warm and sweaty from his night terror, and Draco wakes instantly, bucking back and slapping his arm across Harry’s chest. He twists up and around, tangled in the sheet. His face is flushed and his long fringe is sweaty on his brow. When he blinks, his hair tangles with his eyelashes.

“It was the Parseltongue, wasn’t it?” Harry says.

Draco doesn’t respond right away. Instead, he glares at Harry, his chest heaving as he tries to catch his breath. Finally, he says, “Fuck off,” which Harry takes as an affirmative. Harry lies on his back, staring at the velvet canopy overhead. “What do you think you’re doing, Potter?” Harry shrugs. Eventually, Draco flops down next to Harry, breathing loudly. “This is weird.”

“I guess,” Harry says. He feels the duvet move as Draco tries to kick it down the bed. Harry helps by getting under it. The mattress moves as Draco shifts onto his side. They stay like that for several minutes, until Draco says, “This doesn’t mean anything,” and then grips Harry’s soft stomach, pulling on him. Harry lets himself be spooned from behind, not really understanding why he does.

He feels Draco’s hot breath on his ear before he hears his whispered words. “My father raised Irish wolfhounds at the manor. I loved those dogs so much. They weren’t pets to him, but they were to me.” Draco arm around Harry’s belly tightens. “When the Dark Lo—” He takes a deep breath, blows it out against Harry’s neck. “When Voldemort killed Professor Burbage on our dining room table and fed her to his snake, I was horrified. I was sick to my stomach after, but I didn’t cry. But when he did the same thing to my dogs, I sobbed for days.”

Harry is quiet, doesn’t know what to say, but he finds Draco’s hands and winds their fingers together.

“You should have let me go to Azkaban, Harry. It’s what I deserved.”

When Harry wakes the next morning, Draco’s leg is swung over his hip, his face buried in Harry’s hair. Draco’s palm has wormed its way under Harry’s shirt, and Draco’s cock is hard against his arse. It doesn’t feel bad. And that, more than anything, makes Harry sneak back to his bed.

On the third Friday of term, Blaise Zabini and Neville plan a pub night at The Three Broomsticks. The eighth years have permission to leave campus on the weekends, but Blaise and Nev arrange it with McGonagall so that the seventh years can come along as well. Apparently, Blaise also arranged it with Madam Rosmerta so that Draco could come. Harry heard a rumour that there was a bribe involved. He doesn’t know if it’s down to McGonagall’s resorting scheme, but this gathering is the most interaction between the Houses that he’s ever experienced.

On one side of Harry is Ginny, and on the other, Draco. Blaise Zabini is sitting next to Draco, and he appears to be flirting. He can’t tell whether Draco’s flirting back, but his usual scowl isn’t as pronounced. Harry angles his body towards Ginny, telling himself that he’s doing it to give Draco privacy. And not for any other reason. He tries to pick up on the threads of a debate that Ginny, Michael and Rolf are having about wizarding rock, but Harry doesn’t know anything about wizarding music. He still prefers Muggle bands. He spent a good chunk of change on vinyl this summer, listening to the records on the giant gramophone in Sirius’s room. He opens his mouth to finally ask Draco about his Belle and Sebastian shirt, but then stops because fuck.

He gets up to go for another drink, even though he’s already had two lagers and his face and neck are splotched red. Beer in hand, he joins Hermione, who’s having an even more impenetrable and impassioned debate about the ethics of black market Potions ingredients used for medical research with Padma, Morag, and Millicent. Apparently, Hermione is for it, if the way she’s wagging her finger at Padma is anything to go by. Bugger me, Ravenclaws. Isn’t this supposed to be pub night? Harry misses Ron a lot.

When their classmates begin to ready themselves to stumble drunkenly back to Hogwarts, Harry, Draco, and Hermione join the queue for the floo. Harry and Hermione go to Grimmauld Place every Friday, but this is the first time that Andi’s invited Draco. It’ll also be the first time that they’ve ever met, and Draco has slung a black silk robe over his Muggle outfit and exchanged his trainers for natty Oxfords for the occasion.

Ginny lingers at their side until her friends call out for her to hurry it up. Harry’s never asked her along for the weekend, but she’s never brought it up so maybe it’s not a big deal. She flings her Gryffindor scarf over her shoulder, and gives Harry an enthusiastic kiss. When they break apart, Harry can’t help looking over his shoulder to Draco, but Hermione’s reciting her treatise on black market Potions ingredients and his attention is engaged. Harry is annoyed.

Andromeda receives them in the sitting room with tea and very fancy (stuffy) biscuits. Draco and Andromeda are both stiff-backed and do not appear aware of one another’s presence, but Harry is hopeful. After all, Andi never puts out the good biscuits when it’s just Harry and Hermione. Neither Hermione nor Andromeda say anything when it’s time to retire for the night and Harry and Draco take the room that he used to share with Ron.

Harry doesn’t say anything when they Nox the lights and Draco climbs into his bed, spooning up behind him. Harry falls asleep to Draco whispering in his ear. He tells Harry about the time that he found a Muggle novel, Jane Eyre, tucked into the used bin at Flourish and Blotts, how he slipped it under his robe and into the waist of his trousers without paying. How he read the book under his covers, even though neither of his parents came into his suite. He tells Harry that he fancied himself a little bit in love with Jane. When Harry is drifting on the edge of sleep, Draco whispers, “Would you ever date a boy?” Harry falls over the edge into a dream before he can stop himself. All night, he runs after his horse, but he never catches it.

Ron and George join them for brunch the next morning, which is mostly nice. They laugh at Ron’s stories about Auror training, George doesn’t mention Fred, and Harry and Hermione tell them only good things about Hogwarts. Draco looks at nothing but his plate and he and the Weasley brothers do not exchange a word. Hermione kisses Teddy about a hundred times, and then she and Ron go off to spend Saturday and Sunday at his Auror Academy dorm and George floos to Diagon to work a shift at the store.

Draco and Andromeda still have not spoken, so Harry takes Teddy to a Muggle park. When he returns a few hours later, he finds them both sitting atop the sofa in the overly formal, stiff manner of both Brits and Black ancestors, but their eyes are red and their lashes damp. Draco mutters, “fuck you,” under his breath when Harry sits next to him on the couch, but he also leans against Harry, their shoulders briefly touching, so Harry counts it a win.

Harry trades Teddy for Draco, who ditches the robe and puts on his trainers. Harry takes him to his favourite Muggle charity shop for more clothes. He still has no idea how Draco acquired his single outfit, because Draco refuses to tell him, but he appears to have neither the knowledge of Muggle currency nor a single quid to his name, suggesting that he acquired it through nefarious means. Harry loans him some cash and doesn’t tell him that the clothes sold in the shop were previously owned and worn by Muggles.

Next, he brings Draco to a record shop in Camden Town, searching until he finds a vinyl copy of The Boy with the Arab Strap. It’s not his favourite Belle and Sebastian album, but it's the only one the shop has on vinyl. At Draco’s blank stare, Harry rolls his eyes and points between Draco’s shirt and the album’s cover art. Draco blushes, shoving Harry hard into a wooden bin of records. Harry laughs, calls Draco a dumbarse, and shells out the pounds for the record.

When they return home, Harry receives some help from Andromeda in perfecting his laundering charms on Draco’s new clothes. Afterwards, he takes Draco up to Sirius’s room. Neither of them says anything, but by the way that Draco’s fingers reverently dance over the bits and bobs around the room, Harry thinks that he understands what a big deal it is to be allowed in here. Draco stares at the moving photograph of the Marauders on the wall for a long time. His finger hovers over the laughing face of Harry’s father.

Impulsively, Harry asks Draco to try on Sirius’s Muggle leather jacket. Draco is taller than Harry so it’s a little short in the arms, but his shoulders are broader and his chest thicker so he fills it out better. There’s a tailoring charm that he found in Practical Household Magic that would make it a perfect fit. Harry blushes when he realises that he likes how the jacket looks on Draco, that he wants to give it to him. Instead, he asks for it back, returning it to the standing wardrobe.

Harry puts the new record on, drops the needle. He doesn’t flinch when Draco takes his hand and puts the other one on his waist. He lets Draco turn him around on the small floor space at the end of the bed to the lilting, springing sounds of Belle and Sebastian. Pretty soon they’re laughing at Harry’s terrible dancing as they swing around the room. Draco makes Harry take off his trainers so that he doesn’t do as much damage to Draco’s toes.

Not for the first time, Harry’s struck by how much Draco has changed—how much younger he seems. The Draco he knew Before played pranks and laughed, but this Draco can be playful without being mean (at least, around Harry). He wonders if Draco was always like this, if this is how he behaved in the privacy of the Slytherin common room with his friends. Or maybe this is Draco as a Hufflepuff. Harry is certainly different, less serious, less likely to respond with anger than he was Before. But then, a lot more than their Houses has changed. Eight years ago, the Hat almost put them both in Slytherin, but maybe Hufflepuff is where they’d have been all along if there had been no war, no Voldemort.

They swing around for a few songs, until the tone of the music changes. It’s slower, almost mournful, and Draco slows them down. Harry tenses for a moment, but then lets Draco move his body in an arc. He puts his head on Draco’s shoulder. This close, he can’t help but notice that Draco is wearing cologne, the scent warm and smoky. Harry doesn’t know what’s happening between them, but he feels like it’s something that shouldn’t be happening if he has a girlfriend. But still, he presses a little closer. As if in response, Draco’s thumb rubs a circle on the back of his hand, and Harry likes it. There’s an unfamiliar pulling sensation in his groin, and that scares him. He pushes away, stopping the record without looking Draco in the eye. He stands at the gramophone, his back to Draco, confused at what’s happening to his body. His breath feels caught in his chest and his hands are trembling. He counts to ten, then counts again.

That night, they all gather in the living room in front of the illegally charmed television. It only plays tapes, but it’s more than Draco’s ever seen. They watch Strictly Ballroom, Teddy snoozing on Harry’s chest, and Andromeda and Draco both cry. Draco flips up the hood on one of his ‘new’ sweatshirts to hide his tears. Once he’s got himself pulled together, he takes Teddy for a cuddle, with the ulterior motive of making sure that Harry doesn’t drop the baby when Draco pinches him hard on the side. When Andromeda takes Teddy, announcing that they’re “off to Bedfordshire,” Harry puts on the first season of The X-Files. They watch late into the night, and Draco alternately gapes at the screen and grabs Harry’s forearm when something exciting happens. Every time Draco’s warm fingers wrap around his arm, Harry’s breath stutters in his chest, like it had in the bedroom. He ignores it. Harry makes Draco try his first Muggle fizzy drink, Walkers Worcester Sauce Crisps, and an Aero Bar. Draco pretends to hate everything, and Harry pretends that the sight of Draco licking chocolate from the corners of his mouth does nothing to him.

When Hermione returns on Sunday evening, her eyes are red and puffy. She’s obviously been crying, but Harry can’t tell if they are sad tears or sad tears. He hugs her, and she holds on tighter than usual. He wonders if Ernie might actually have a chance, and then immediately feels disloyal to Ron. They go back to Hogwarts, and Harry feels like he is simultaneously leaving and returning home.

“But you’re an eighteen year old guy, Harry.”

“I told you, Gin, it’s just the way I am.”

“Maybe it’s something to do with the war?”

“No.”

“But—”

“I’m not fucking broken, Ginny. I’ve always been like this.”

“Well, I’ve always been like this.”

“I’m sorry, Gin.”

“Do you think you’ll ever—”

“Maybe.”

“I don’t know if I can wait for maybe.”

“That’s your choice.”

“That’s it? You’re not even going to fight for me?

“I’m done fighting.”

The person who dreams of a running horse, may be dreaming of their soul mate. The charging horse represents the purity, the force, and the passion of true love. Be brave, and do not try to stop it. A horse may also represent volatility, but fear not—passion is volatile.

Chapter Text

The first day of October is cold, damp, and grey, but they’ve spread blankets on the beach on the western side of the lake near the Forest. A cushioning charm on the rocky ground wouldn’t be wasted, but Harry’s too lazy to lift his wand. He, Draco, and Rolf have met Hermione and Luna for a picnic in between classes. It’s scarf weather, and he still hasn’t quite got over seeing the different coloured yarn around Hermione and Draco’s necks. And he’s finding Draco’s Muggle pea coat, bought on their last trip to London, distracting, too.

“Why didn’t Ginny join us, Harry?” Hermione says. By the way she’s staring intently at the bottom of her teacup, Harry suspects that she already knows the answer to her question. She’s certainly not reading tealeaves.

Harry sighs, picking at his jeans, before answering. “Oh, um, we broke up. Last week.”

There’s the clatter of a knife. Draco’s knife, to be precise. “What?” he says.

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Luna says. “I do hope you can still be friends.”

“What happened?” Draco says.

“I just wasn’t what she needed.” Harry shoots Draco a look, hoping he’ll get the hint and drop the subject. Not even Hermione knows that he’s asexual; he isn’t ashamed, but it’s private. And yet, he told Draco ages ago.

“That bitch!”

“Drop it, Draco.”

“We’re talking about this later.”

Harry rolls his eyes and Hermione snickers, though she immediately looks guilty. She gives Harry a commiserating smile. He pointedly directs his attention to his shepherd’s pie.

“It’s not really what you’re thinking, Draco,” Harry says. He remembers how he’d felt dancing with Draco in Sirius’s room. His body had never reacted that way with Ginny, not even when they kissed. Dancing with Draco had felt like cheating, and it was the reason he hadn’t tried to convince Ginny not to break up with him. But of course he hadn’t told her that, because he’s an arsehole. Harry is sad, but he’s also guilty and feels like maybe he doesn’t have the right to be sad.

“Just tell me if you’re okay, Harry,” Hermione says.

“’M okay, I think,” he says, shrugging.

“You can cry if you need to,” Rolf says. “We won’t think any less of you, Harry.”

Draco snorts. “I might.” So much for his indignation on Harry’s behalf. There’s a few moments of awkward silence before Luna changes the subject.

“Rolf,” she says, putting her hand on his wrist. “Have those boys been giving you any more trouble?”

That snaps Harry out of his pity party. “What boys?”

“Oh, just the seventh year Hufflepuff guys,” Rolf says. “They were just taking the piss. It’s nothing.”

“It most certainly is not nothing,” Hermione says, in her familiarly righteous tone.

Harry vaguely remembers the first night of term, when Rolf mentioned the reason he was dorming with the eighth years. The seventh year boys hadn’t wanted to room with him. He hadn’t questioned Rolf at the time. They’d not been friends then, but they were now. Gods, Harry was self-involved. “What happened?”

“They were just giving me a hard time about using the boys’ bathroom.”

“What, why?”

“Gods, Potter.” Draco rolls his eyes. “I can’t figure out if your head is in the sand or up your own arse.”

“Will someone just explain to me what’s going on?”

“I thought you knew,” Rolf said. “I’m trans. I lived in the girls’ dorm last year, and, um, now I don’t.”

“Oh, okay.” What a brilliant thing to say, Harry. Eloquent as usual. But what is there to say. Harry knows what it is to feel different, to be treated that way. Uncle Vernon had certainly never missed an opportunity to tell Harry that he was a freak. He’d always thought it was because he was half Chinese, but finding out that it was also because he was a wizard hadn’t exactly made things much better. In the wizarding world, he’s Harry Potter, biggest freak of them all. Not to mention being an eighteen-year-old guy who doesn’t want to have sex. But it still isn’t the same. Harry’s instinct is to say that it doesn’t matter, but that’s wrong too, because of course it does matter to Rolf.

“It doesn’t change anything, does it?” Rolf’s face is blank and his posture rigid. “We’re still friends?”

“What? Fuck, of course we’re still friends! Thank you for telling me, and sorry that I’m a bit of an idiot.”

Rolf beams at him.

“At least you’re consistent,” Draco says. “You really are a Hufflepuff, Harry.”

He suspects that Draco is being rude, but Harry likes the idea that he’s good at being a Hufflepuff. Harry the Gryffindor probably would have flown off the handle over one of his friends being bullied, he would have cursed first and asked questions later, but maybe that’s not what Rolf needs. He should just leave Draco’s comment alone, take it in the spirit in which it wasn’t intended, but, as usual, he doesn’t. “Oh, yeah? And why is that?”

“You’re a complete duffer.”

“Hey, you’re a Hufflepuff, too!” Harry says, but he’s laughing.

“Yeah, well, I must be a duffer, too, since I’m you’re friend.”

Harry grins at him. “Yeah, you are.”

Draco blushes a bit, realising what he’s said. He shoves Harry’s shoulder. “Arsehole.”

The following Tuesday is the full moon, and Charlie has scheduled the seventh and eighth year Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw Care of Magical Creatures lesson for ten o’clock at night on the Great Lawn. They’re waiting for a Mooncalf. Rolf and Luna haven’t stopped chattering about this lesson for the last week. Apparently, Charlie found evidence of a Mooncalf’s burrow in the Forest, but they only ever come out on the full moon. To quote Rolf, “this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity!”

It’s now midnight. It’s fucking freezing, and Harry’s bollocks have passed whatever is beyond numb. But apparently, Mooncalves are so skittish that they won’t approach if they sense any kind of magic. Including warming charms. He’s leaning against Draco’s shoulder, planning to take a nap, when he hears Rolf’s distinctive gasp. Luna immediately presses a hand over his mouth. Emerging from the forest line is what looks like a ghostly grey, knobby-kneed calf.

Harry knows that this is a really rare thing that he’s getting to see, but he really wants to laugh. The Calf’s luminescent, grey skin is beautiful, but it’s stumbling towards them on spindly legs and giant feet, eyeing their group with bulging, googly eyes. Overall, it’s really quite ugly. Of course, he doesn’t laugh, because he’s pretty sure that Charlie will fail him for the term if he scares off the creature. Plus, it looks like Rolf is crying, and that would just be rude.

So he watches in fascinated horror as the Mooncalf starts doing an awkward, trampling dance on its hind legs that is vaguely reminiscent of Riverdance. It zigzags over the grass for about twenty minutes before it sort of bows and shuffles back to its burrow. The class gets up stiffly and moves to inspect the product of the Mooncalf’s efforts. In between sniffles, Rolf takes about fifty photos.

“It’s an M,” Harry says, unimpressed.

“It’s an Ehwaz, you idiot.” Draco shakes his head in disgust.

“It’s a rune,” Hermione says to Harry in a rush, presumably before Harry can say something else idiotic or Draco can call him another name. “The runic message of the Mooncalf,” Hermione recites, “sometimes mistaken by Muggles as extra-terrestrial crop circles, is, in fact, interpreted as an omen by wizards who practice Selenomancy, a branch of Divination that follows the phases of the moon, reading prophecies on the surface of its face. Though, obviously, there is disagreement within the magical community about the validity of—”

Charlie clears his throat, cutting off what is sure to be an impassioned lecture, and dismisses them for hot chocolate in the Great Hall. He promises (or threatens, depending on your perspective) that they’ll discuss the Calf’s message and what it might augur for the wizarding world at their Thursday lesson.

That night, when his dorm mates are asleep, Harry sneaks into Draco’s bag to borrow his Ancient Runes textbook. He checks the index and thumbs to the right page. He instantly recognises the rune, which looks like an M with a shallow valley.

Ehwaz carries all the power and the beauty of the horse. It portends progress and transportation. Partnership, trust, and faithfulness. It means two halves of the same whole.

Harry sits on the floor besides Draco’s bed, staring at the M on the page. He reads, the power and beauty of the horse, and can’t help but think about the dreams of the golden horse that he’s had for months. And then he thinks, M for Malfoy, and remembers the black M—no, the Ehwaz, he realises—tattooed on Draco’s inner arm just below the Dark Mark. Harry doesn’t know what it all means. What any of it means. With one finger, he traces over the words, It means two halves of the same whole.

Horses are cautious creatures. If you dream of a horse, ask yourself, could you benefit from being more cautious like a horse? Or perhaps you think you need to be less like the horse, to take a risk? The horse is most often linked to passion, romantic love, to the idea of soul mates, leading some Dream Diviners to combine the two interpretations. If you are contemplating a relationship, ask yourself, should you be more cautious with your heart, or do you need to take a risk for love? Only you know the answer to these questions…

Things said in the dark during the month of October between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy:

“It belonged to Sirius. I never saw him wear it. Other than in pictures from before he went to Azkaban. I found it in a box under his bed, with some other school things. I think it’s something to do with Remus, because of the moon. I think maybe they were in love.”

“This summer, I was at home alone. After Father’s trial, Mother went off to France practically the day after the guilty verdict. She wanted me to come with her, but I couldn’t because…I just couldn’t, but after Hogwarts I don’t know who I’ll… I’ve got no… Well, anyway, this summer... There’s a Muggle village about ten kilometres away from our home. A few times, I’d Apparate there and wander the streets. I’d cast a disillusionment charm, and stare at the Muggles for hours. I was trying to figure out what my parents hated so much about them, but I couldn’t. I decided that when I was done with Hogwarts, I’d try to live like one. Get a job in the Muggle world to sort of prove to myself that I didn’t have to be like my father. Just as I decided that, I saw some clothes hanging in a rear garden. They looked like my size, so I nicked the shirt and trousers. There was a pair of trainers too, left out because they were muddy, so I took them. So, yeah, that’s how I got the clothes. My first real interaction in the Muggle world was to steal from one of them.”

“I don’t care what you say to me, but don’t call my friends bitches. Including Ginny.”

“Were you asleep when I asked you if you’d ever date a boy?”

“Professor Sprout asked me to see her today. She wanted to know what I plan to do after Hogwarts. She seemed concerned when I said, ‘Raise Teddy.’ But why shouldn’t I? What could possibly be more important than family? And maybe I don’t want some important career, like Auror, after everything I’ve been through. Maybe I just want to relax for a while.”

“Don’t you want another pet? It doesn’t have to be an owl, if you’re too sad. But maybe a Kneazle or a Crup? Or maybe just a regular dog. Do you remember when I told you about my Irish wolfhounds?”

“What were you talking about with Zabini for so long today? Do you think he’s fit, or something?”

“Why won’t you tell me why your scar is bigger? And why you have one on your chest now?

It starts with his hair. It won’t lie flat. He presses his fringe over his forehead, to try to cover as much of his scar as possible, but as soon as he removes his hand his hair springs up again. It doesn’t matter anyway—his scar is spread over too much of his face to hide it. But it’s the day before Halloween, the day before his parents died, and Harry really doesn’t want to see the memory on his face. To look in the mirror and see Voldemort staring back at him. He scratches his nails across his brow and drags them down his cheek, but now his face is red, his scar even more pronounced.

Harry joins his friends in the common room and follows them to breakfast. He doesn’t respond when Draco grips his shoulder, and asks if someone hit him with a stinging hex. He barely hears the question. Harry is underwater, the sounds of his friends muted. He can see them around him, but their faces are rippling.

Harry doesn’t remember saying a single word all day. He doesn’t respond when his professors call on him in class. He’s sinking under the weight of his grief, and it’s getting heavier as the day goes on. He can’t smile, and that is his thing now. His hollow gaze bounces over his classmates, but doesn’t settle on any one face because so many of them still wear their own grief in their eyes—red-rimmed and ringed in deep, bruise-coloured circles. Harry’s parents died seventeen years ago, so what right does he have to shut down in the face of his classmates’ fresh mourning?

But no matter how selfish he feels, Harry doesn’t want to be here. Hogwarts is the place where he saw his parents and Sirius last. And then watched them disappear from his life again. The place where Remus and Tonks and Fred died. The place where Harry died and then came back, even though staying would have meant joining them all. He came back, but he hadn’t really thought it would be for long. He’d thought that he would kill Voldemort, because that was what he was for, but he’d been so sure that he would also die, and stay dead, in the process. He hadn’t. He’d stayed here instead.

In the sunshine of the Hufflepuff common room, Hogwarts feels like the magical, safe place that Harry saw when he first stepped onto the lakeshore when he was eleven. Usually, Harry carries that yellow light with him throughout the school. But today he can’t.

So when his last class lets out, instead of meeting his friends for dinner, Harry goes to his room in Hufflepuff Basement. He packs his duffle with clothes for the weekend. He takes off his uniform, and sorts through Draco’s sloppy drawer in the wardrobe and then turns over his basket of washing until he finds his red Belle and Sebastian t-shirt. He blasts it with a cleaning charm, and then does it again because Draco wears it a lot. Harry pulls the shirt over his head. If You’re Feeling Sinister, the shirt says. The sentiment is not quite right, but it’s close. He adds a Weasley jumper and his Hufflepuff scarf, and he’s ready. He doesn’t need permission to leave Hogwarts on a Friday night, and usually spends the weekend at Grimmauld Place, but Draco and Hermione always go with him. He sneaks away without a word to them.

A few hours later, Hermione and Draco find him at Grimmauld Place by owl, concerned and pissed off, respectively, but he ignores their letters. He expects them to follow him there eventually, but Friday night becomes Saturday morning (Halloween) and they are still not here. He is both relieved and disappointed when they don’t show up. Andromeda is obviously confused by their absence. She keeps looking at the floo, as if expecting it to flare green with their arrival, but she doesn’t say anything about it to Harry. He dresses in the same clothes that he wore last night and wraps his Hufflepuff scarf around his neck. He wears the scarf around the house all day, because it reminds him of Hogwarts which reminds him of his friends. He ran away, but he had wanted them to come after him, and that isn’t fair.

Harry spends Halloween with Teddy. Harry never leaves his side, even watching over Teddy while he takes his nap. As the sky begins to darken, Harry cuddles Teddy to his chest. He whispers every memory that he has of Remus and Tonks into Teddy’s ear. He’s still a baby, so he doesn’t understand most of what Harry says, but he plans to tell Teddy about his parents every chance he gets. He doesn’t want Teddy to ever look in the mirror and wonder where he got his eyes—or his pink hair. Teddy’s got a loving grandparent who will share her memories, something that Harry never had, but he still wants to do his part. Harry also wants to be a parent to Teddy, to help Teddy to love Remus and Tonks, but to ensure that he never feels like an orphan. He hopes that it’s possible.

After giving Teddy his bath and putting him to bed, Harry goes to Sirius’s old room. Harry hadn’t wanted to think about his losses tonight, but now he can’t seem to stop himself. Now he wants to be surrounded by Sirius’s things—things that he imagines his father, and maybe even his mother, might have touched. He walks around the room, cataloguing each of his favourite objects with his fingertips, tracing over pieces of memories that Harry can only really guess at.

Eventually, he spreads his father’s invisibility cloak over Sirius’s bed, lying on top of it, face pressed into the soft velvet and fingers tangled in the tassels of his own yellow and black House scarf. On the night stand, Harry props a framed photograph of his parents on their wedding day: his mother in a set of wispy, orange robes, his father’s gaze never leaving her even as she waves a bouquet of yellow sunflowers at the camera. Harry’s eyes are glued to the picture until his lids droop and then close in sleep.

After a short and fitful sleep, Harry wakes in the dark, mind clinging to a dream of his yellow horse—he’d almost caught it, his fingers just barely brushing the soft hair on its rump—and the moonstone around his neck is warm and glowing in the hollow of his throat. Somehow, he knows that he is meant to be at Hogwarts, so he Apparates directly from Sirius’s bed to Hogsmeade before he can question the impulse.

Harry’d felt so sure that he should come here straight away, but now he’s walking Hogwarts’ grounds aimlessly. It’s cold outside, and he’s not got on anything besides his jumper and his scarf because he’d Apparated here so hastily. He flicks a warming charm over his shoulders instead of going inside. The Halloween Feast is likely still rollicking on, and he can’t deal with celebration right now. So Harry moves softly over the Great Lawn, skirting around the Whomping Willow. At the Quidditch Pitch, he pauses—the lanterns are dark, but the moon is waxing gibbous and bright enough to light the area. Harry lies down on the dew-wet grass. He feels small, staring at the wide, black sky, overwhelmed by the thousands of glittering stars.

He finds Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, easily. Always bright, but so far away. Harry’s eyes well, and the white chips of the stars blur, blending together. He presses his scarf to his face, drying his eyes. Looking up again, his gaze bounces from Sirius to the Monoceros constellation. The Unicorn. He’s surprised that he can see it—it’s visible at this time of year, but usually only on the night of the new moon. But there it is, shining brightly for him to see.

He can’t explain it, but it seems like the Unicorn has come out just for him. He keeps his eyes fastened to the family of stars, afraid that if he looks away, the constellation will blink out of existence. He stares so long that his eyes burn, and the stars almost seem to be moving. He blinks. The stars are moving. Monoceros is moving. The Unicorn rears up on its hind legs before dancing across the sky. No!

Harry jumps up, running after the Unicorn, not stopping until he reaches the mouth of the Forbidden Forest. He hesitates at the entrance to the Forest, but Sirius’s moon pendant bursts with heat against his skin. His eyes flick to the sky; Monoceros is waiting. Harry stumbles over the threshold, and the glow of the stars is immediately muffled by the leaves overhead. He lights his wand. He can no longer see Monoceros through the cover of trees, but he somehow knows where to go.

The forest is eerily quiet tonight, and the sound of his big feet cracking dry twigs and leaves is loud. Harry’d be lying if he said he didn’t spook himself a couple of times with a particularly loud crunch. He is thankful that whatever is guiding him keeps him to the northeast of the forest, away from the trail that will take him through the Thestrals herd, on to Aragog’s lair, and to the place where Harry died in May.

That part of the forest is haunted for Harry, haunted in a way that has nothing to do with the types of ghosts that hover in the corridors of the school. A part of him did stay on the Platform, truly died that night—no matter what Dumbledore said about choices—and it’s that ghost of himself that he cannot bear to encounter. If he found himself in the place where he’d last seen his parents, last seen Sirius and Remus, Harry’s not sure that he could stop himself from falling to his knees, fingers combing the dirt for the resurrection stone.

He does his best to remember his parents, to remember Sirius, but the sense of himself as someone’s child, the hope that he’d still been able to find in the Mirror of Erised in his first year at Hogwarts had finally died that night. He doesn’t know if it was seeing them one more time, or if it was the knowledge that Dumbledore, who he’d thought of as his last protector, had known, had intended that Harry would die. He knows that the ring cannot bring that feeling back, but he’s afraid that he might forget that with it on his finger.

Instead, Monoceros turns him north of the Centaurs’ clearing. The trails in this part of the forest are cleared of detritus, and the dirt floor is smoothed over, hoof-trampled. His footsteps are hushed here, and he’s as quiet as a whisper when he comes to the place where he and Draco found the dying unicorn when they were boys. His breath catches, because in front of him is a unicorn.

Harry freezes, lagging between the past and the present. This is too close to that fright, the moment in his life when he really felt things change. Even before he knew that he was a wizard, Harry had been caught in Voldemort’s clutches, but it hadn’t felt real until he saw that horrible creature drinking the unicorn’s blood.

Though he hadn’t realized it at the time, the unicorn’s death had also marked a change in his relationship with Draco—Voldemort had become a part of their schoolboy rivalry, elevating their conflict to the point that they could not see a way beyond it. Suddenly, Harry doesn’t want to be here anymore. These memories belong to the Harry of Before, the Harry who wasn’t a Hufflepuff, who was angry all the time—who wasn’t friends with Draco Malfoy.

It is the unicorn stomping its feet in the dirt that brings Harry fully back to the present. It’s not a violent move, but instead seems to be saying, ‘Look at me!’ It’s so like something that a spoiled child would do during a tantrum that it startles a laugh out of Harry. At the sound, the unicorn’s ears flick back and forth as if annoyed, but still curious as to what about this situation Harry could possibly find funny. It’s standing perpendicular to Harry, and the size of the beast in profile is overwhelming. It’s almost as large as a Clydesdale. In the moonlight, its hair shines multifaceted like crushed velvet. It’s blonder than the unicorn he’d seen in this same spot years ago, still pale—a shimmering iridescence of platinum and gold—but unlike the brightest white the books describe. It’s undeniably a unicorn, though, because it’s got the shining, opalescent horn protruding proudly from its forehead. And, erm, also undeniably male.

“You’re magnificent,” Harry says. The unicorn’s nostrils flare in response, and Harry’s not sure if he appreciates the compliment. “I’m going to come closer,” he says. The unicorn stomps its foot again, possibly in warning. “Please, don’t be frightened. I won’t hurt you, and I, uh, hear you like virgins. So, there’s that…” Harry remembers Hagrid saying that tentativeness makes unicorns anxious, so he strides forward with a confident gait.

It isn’t until he’s standing right next to the unicorn, head coming to somewhere near its flank, that Harry realises how chilled he’s become, his charm’s warmth fizzling on his walk through the forest. His jumper and scarf aren’t much against Scotland’s crisp, fall night air, but the heat emanating from the creature’s body is amazing. It’s like standing next to a living furnace, and Harry wants to press his cold face into its hair. But that would be rude, so instead he says, “Hello.” It doesn’t respond, obviously, but its ears flick forward, interested. “Hello,” he says again. “I’m going to touch you. Please don’t be scared.” Without hesitation, he reaches up, presses his hand firmly against its shoulder and down, more massage then pet. Harry can feel the firm muscles jumping and quivering just under the unicorn’s short, fine hair and thin skin. It draws in a long breath, almost purring as it puffs air out through its nostrils.

“I think you liked that,” Harry says with a laugh. The unicorn shifts slightly, angling his muzzle down, pressing his nose into Harry’s cheek, his neck, snuffling his hair. The flesh of its nose is warm and surprisingly soft, like a living lamb’s ear. Harry laughs again, feeling light. He brings his other hand up, so that he’s almost hugging the unicorn, and scratches under its neck. It makes more purring sounds, its nose vibrating against Harry’s cheek.

“I’ve dreamed about you,” Harry says. “I was always running after you. I thought you were a horse, but it was you all along.”

Harry wakes early the next morning, alone, on the ground in the Forest. He’s covered with a yellow, knitted blanket, though he can’t remember conjuring it, and he feels the distinct aftereffects of a warming charm, his muscles loose as if he has been soaking in a tub. The unicorn is gone, and Harry wonders if he was even real. He’s real, he must have been real. He wraps the blanket around his shoulders, catching a familiar scent. He presses the soft yarn to his face, but can’t place where he’s smelled it before. The word family echoes through his mind, but he’s even more confused. It’s as if he’s woken mid-dream, reliving the memory even as the wispy fragments disintegrate in his mind.

He’s got to get back to Grimmauld Place, because he can only imagine what Andromeda will think if she wakes to him gone, his bed not slept in. He follows the path that he took last night, and finds himself at the Ashwinders’ nest. There’s still a magical barrier keeping their fire contained, but his cheeks warm from the heat of their flames as he gets closer.

He sits down at the edge of Luna’s ward and reaches a hand through the magic. The Ashwinders are sleeping, twined in a braid around their eggs, but the snake that he spoke to before seems to sense his presence. It breaks the chain, slithering toward Harry, and up his hand. It wraps itself around Harry’s wrist and he brings his hand close to his face.

Hello, Heir of Slytherin.”

Harry takes a deep breath, hears the hissing notes of Parseltongue in his mind before the words form on his lips.

Why do you call me that?

Why do you deny your role? It is an honour.”

Voldemort was the Heir.”

The snake uncurls itself from Harry’s wrist, gliding over his shoulder. It wraps itself around Harry’s neck, dry skin lying alongside the leather thong holding Sirius’s pendant.

I’m not a Slytherin, no matter what the Hat said in first year, and I’m not even a natural Parselmouth.”

Parselmouths are born, not made.” The snake is at his ear and its tongue tickles Harry’s skin. “Or else you would have lost the gift at Tom Riddle’s death. And you are a Slytherin. And a Hufflepuff, a Gryffindor, and a Ravenclaw.”

I don’t understand. What do you mean? What am I?

Tom Riddle had the gift, but he was not a true heir, not to this school. He sought to harm those whom Hogwarts shepherds. You are different…

I just want to be left alone. I’m just a Hufflepuff now. I’m not a Slytherin, I’m not even a Gryffindor, and I’d never claim to be a Ravenclaw. I don’t even want to be here.”

You are wrong, Harry Potter. You belong here, this is your home. There are no Houses. You destroyed them.”

No!

This is a great thing. Hogwarts is changing and the wizarding world with it. The Signs can be Read in the light of our fires, the stars, and the moon. You may not want to be here now, but you will be back one day....”

I’ve got to go,” Harry says, pulling the snake from around his neck. “I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. I’m just a boy. And I’m nobody’s heir. Not anymore.”

The moonstone you wear suggests otherwise. But goodbye for now, Harry Potter.”

With shaking hands, Harry returns the snake to its family. His fingers are covered in grey ash, and he swipes at his neck in an attempt the get rid of the Ashwinder’s mark. When he stands from the ground, the blanket falls from his shoulders but he leaves it in the dirt. He’s running towards the school gates before he even realises that it’s gone. As soon as his feet cross the school’s wards, Harry Apparates to Grimmauld Place’s porch.

Hours later, Harry goes back to Hogwarts. Andromeda had known that something was wrong, but Harry hadn’t wanted to worry her so he returned to school at the same time that he usually does on Sunday evenings. It’s twilight, the light soft, as he makes his way over the grounds.

When he smells smoke, he’s off running because if the Ashwinders have escaped, his friends are in danger. Harry doesn’t stop as he whips out his wand, drawing an arc through the air. He calls up a memory—rocking Teddy in his arms, breathing in his milky baby scent, and pressing his cheek to his soft, candyfloss-pink hair—and bellows, “Expecto Patronum!” His feet stutter to a stop and he almost falls over at the sight before him. The giant unicorn is gold rather than silver, but it shines moon-bright and otherwise looks exactly like a patronus. The unicorn’s nostrils flair impatiently, expelling puffs of cloud-like mist, and he stamps his foot. Shaking himself, Harry starts to incant the spell to send a message to McGonagall, but then he hears singing and laughter.

Harry’d been so fixated on Halloween, that he hadn’t remembered first November. He’d completely forgot that McGonagall had decided to celebrate Samhain this year. Last night, Harry had wanted to avoid thinking about those he’d lost at Hogwarts, and now he’s walked right into a festival of the dead.

Samhain marks the dying of autumn and the turning of the seasons to the coldest part of the year, but it is also a time to celebrate lost loved ones. McGonagall thought it appropriate to have a bonfire night to honour all those that the wizarding world lost this year. But Harry does not want to honour his dead. He does not want to mourn them. He’s already forgotten so much about them, and he does not want to release anymore of his memories to the Samhain fires.

Glancing at the unicorn glowing brightly at his side, Harry is suddenly choked by grief. What did you do to my stag? he wants to scream. Where is my father? He feels the cold mist of the unicorn’s nose press into his neck before his patronus breaks apart, dissipating into nothing. Good.

Just as he’s determined that he should return to Grimmauld Place or at least take himself off to the dorms to hide, Harry sees Hermione and, surprisingly, Ron running towards him, hand in hand. Hermione clings to Harry’s neck and Ron envelopes them both in his big arms.

“Harry, I was so worried,” Hermione says.

“Mate, I thought I was going to miss you. It’s not right for us to be apart on a night like this.”

Harry doesn’t say anything, but he’s overwhelmed by the feeling that they are still family, even though they are no longer Gryffindors together. They walk, knotted together, along the lake. When they are close enough that Harry can feel the heat of the bonfire on his face, they stop and listen to the music of Samhain. Harry does not know the song, but he does recognise that woven into the refrain are the names of the dead, sung into the fire and carried on the flames. It is somehow both mournful and joyful.

The grounds are beautiful in the glow of the giant bonfire. The surface of the lake shines like a mirror and the changing colour of the autumn leaves is exaggerated to the point that they appear to be made of flame. Dancing around the fire are most of the inhabitants of Hogwarts. People are circling the fire, in a long chain that reminds him of the Ashwinders circling their nest, dancing in smaller circles of three or five people, and some couples seem to be slow dancing together. Harry immediately thinks of Draco, of their dance to Belle and Sebastian. He scans the crowd for him, but there are too many people.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione move closer, summoned by the strange music. Harry’s eyes are caught by a small fire, not a part of the Samhain bonfire. Running towards them is Ginny, her red hair aflame and her eyes alight. She’s laughing. She’s radiant. She barrels into them, and they absorb her. There are still hurt feelings between them, and he knows that they’ll never get back together, but she’s family. They move closer to the bonfire, and meet Luna and Rolf, who are dancing close. Luna looks brighter than Harry’s seen her this year. She’s wearing a burnt orange dress and purple lipstick. Tonight, her buzzed head doesn’t make her look like a shell-shocked prisoner of war—it makes her face luminous. Rolf is happy too. His lips are as purple as Luna’s, though whether that’s from kissing Luna or because he’s just wearing lipstick, Harry doesn’t know.

They clump together as one for a while, their voices sometimes joining the song to remember their dead. Harry doesn’t sing for his parents, for Sirius, for Remus or Tonks. He can’t. He’s not ready to, but being near the magical fire crackling with other names is still a comfort. After a time, he breaks away from his friends, circling the bonfire. His fingers at his throat, he clutches the moonstone. The pendant warms in his hand just before he sees Draco, standing alone so close to the fire that he seems lit from within. He’s glowing. Harry doesn’t know how it happens, but suddenly Draco’s arms are around him, fingers digging, scratching, clawing at his back.

“Arsehole,” Draco says, arms so tight around Harry that it hurts. “Where the bloody hell have you been?”

Harry doesn’t know whether he’s laughing or crying.

They sneak off to their room in Hufflepuff Basement. For once, it is Harry who pushes Draco, knocking him onto the bed. He’s not sure whose bed it is, but he recognises the yellow blanket from the forest and can’t help but grin. Draco’s eyes follow his, freezing when he sees what’s caught Harry’s attention.

“We’ll talk about it after,” Harry says.

“After what?”

Suddenly, Harry’s nervous, whatever confidence he had a moment ago evaporated. His face heats up. He sits on the edge of the bed, his back to Draco, and runs his hands up and down his thighs. He wants to ask Draco if he can kiss him, but he’s got no experience doing that.

He never initiated anything physical with Ginny. Not that he hadn’t sometimes wanted to, but it’s difficult for him to tell when someone else is wanting that. When they’re looking at his body with interest. He doesn’t usually feel those things, so he doesn’t recognise them in others if they don’t talk about it first. Sometimes, his body feels weird when Draco touches him, responds differently than it does to other people. It feels closer to what he imagines attraction is like than anything he’s experienced before. Maybe not like the books describe, but it’s something new for Harry. And he thinks that Draco likes him, is attracted to him too, but he doesn’t know.

“I, um, would date a boy. You asked me that a while a go, and, um...” Harry shrugs. “Would you date someone who… I mean, uh, me?”

Draco inhales sharply, scrabbling onto his knees. One hand grips Harry’s shoulder tightly. “Is this really happening?”

“Yeah, if you want it to…”

Draco shakes him a bit. “Idiot, of course I do.” His finger taps Harry’s chin gently, turning his face toward Draco. Harry holds his breath, eyes following the wave of Draco’s pale blond fringe to his flushed cheeks. Harry touches his palm to his own scarred cheek. It's ugly, he knows, but the way that Draco's looking at him... “I want to kiss you. Can I?”

Harry nods his head. “Yeah.”

Draco leans over him. The kiss is tentative at first, but then Draco gets a little more into it, his lips hard against Harry’s, his hands gripping his hair and roaming over Harry’s face. His hands feel good. He’s kind of moaning into Harry’s mouth. Harry wants to touch him also, but he can’t in this position. He reaches back, places his palm on Draco’s thigh.

He moves his head back, out of Draco’s grasp. “Wait, wait.”

Draco rears back, looking horrified. “Sorry, sorry.” He’s breathing hard, trying to get himself under control. Harry’s never been worked up like that, but he likes seeing the evidence that Draco is affected by him. “Gods, Harry, I’m so sorry. I got carried away, but I wo—”

“No, Draco, it’s fine. I stopped you because I wanted to touch you too.”

“Oh. Oh. Okay. Yeah, um, let’s do that.”

“Move up on the bed? Near my pillow?”

“This is my bed.”

“Whatever, you arse!” Harry laughs, feeling a bit more at ease. They can still be mean, even if they now kiss. He pulls his shoes off. “Can we lie down next to each other?”

“Fucking yes.”

Draco’s breathing is speeding up again, but he scrambles up the bed, pulling his hooded sweatshirt over his head as he moves. Underneath, he’s wearing a cornflower blue t-shirt, because, of course, Harry still has on his red Belle and Sebastian shirt. Slowly, Harry removes his own jumper, and the sight of Harry in his clothes must affect Draco, because his eyes widen and he groans loudly. Draco lies down, ramrod straight, like he’s getting ready for a bed inspection rather than a snog. Draco is obviously nervous too, which makes Harry feel better. Harry smiles at him, crawling up the bed.

“Oh, gods, that’s—”

Harry stops on his hands and knees. “What?” He raises an eyebrow at Draco.

“Fuck!” Draco’s legs twist, crossing. He presses a hand over his groin. He groans again and closes his eyes for a moment. “Stop, for the love of the gods, please stop.” Harry sits back on his heals. “No, I mean, just get your arse up here already, slowcoach.”

Harry obliges, stretching out next to Draco. “I don’t think that’s what you meant.” Somehow Draco bites his lip and glares at Harry at the same time. “Maybe we should kiss some more?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Draco says, one shoulder scrunching up as if he’s not bothered either way. It’s funny. Especially when Draco immediately brings his hand to Harry’s face, circling his mouth with a trembling finger. He runs the finger up Harry’s jaw, and then traces each branch of Harry’s lightening bolt scar. Somehow, they get back to the kissing, but Harry is distracted by the fact that every time he tries to inch closer to Draco, Draco scoots his body back so that they’re only connected at the lips. Pretty soon, he’ll fall off the bed.

“Is something wrong?” Harry says.

Draco’s face is red, his hair mussed every which way. He looks surprised to see that they’ve stopped kissing. “Huh?”

“You keep moving away from me. Is everything okay?” It seems impossible, but Draco’s blush deepens. He mumbles something that Harry can’t make out. “What did you say?”

“I’m hard,” he says, still a whisper, but audible this time.

Harry thinks about that for a moment. He finds that he likes the idea. His own body isn’t turned on, but he doesn’t mind that Draco is. It’s flattering. “I don’t mind. I like it. Maybe you can rub on me? I think I’d like that.” He’d read about that in a romance, and he thinks he’ll like to feel the physical evidence of Draco’s attraction.

Draco blinks at him, slow as a cow, but doesn’t move until Harry tugs on his shirt. Then he’s right there, arms around Harry. They keep kissing, and Draco is rubbing his cock against Harry’s thigh. He’s making all kinds of noise, groaning and saying things like yeahyeahyeah and Oh gods and Harry. Harry isn’t getting carried away, but he feels warm all over at the way Draco’s acting.

Harry runs his hands over any bit of Draco’s skin that he can find—his arms, his lower back where his shirt rides up—enjoying the feel of the fine hairs covering Draco’s body. They don’t stop kissing, until Draco’s thrusts become erratic. Harry clutches at the warm, soft skin of Draco’s back, kissing at the edge of his jaw, his throat, his collarbone, while Draco comes apart in his arms.

His fingers dance over Draco’s back, soothing. Draco’s body is humming, his legs twitching. Harry feels the vibrations in his own body and likes it. He doesn’t have a desire to make himself hard, to make himself come, but somehow he feels sated having experienced this with Draco. Draco’s hands open and close their grip on Harry’s waist, until they gentle, encircling him. His hands are suddenly tentative, as if Harry is precious. He buries his face in Harry’s neck, pressing kiss after kiss there.

Harry knows that they’ll have to talk at some point—about them, about the unicorn in the forest, about Ehwaz and Harry’s patronus—but for now he lets Draco kiss him until the kisses are just the brush of his lips and then the puff of warm breath as he drifts to sleep.

When they wake, it must be late but the room is quiet, their dormmates not yet returned. Harry tells Draco that he should dress warmly, because there’s somewhere that he wants to take him. He grabs the yellow blanket from the end of Draco’s bed.

Harry takes Draco’s hand as they steal through the school, make their way over the grounds and down the shoot at the Whomping Willow, emerging in the Shrieking Shack. It’s dustier and more dilapidated than ever, but Draco warms a bedroom with a charm and Harry transfigures several large cobwebs into sheets. They lie down on the bed and Harry lets Draco spoon him from behind. He has a feeling that this conversation will be hard for Draco, but this is how they share secrets—in bed in the dark. He spreads the yellow blanket over their bodies, pulling Draco’s arm around him, entwining their fingers. Their legs tangle together. Harry is warm all over.

“This is where Remus transformed on the full moon when he was in school. My dad, Sirius, and Peter Pettigrew—Wormtail—were unregistered Animagi.” Harry pauses, listening to see if Draco reacts. He stills for a moment, but then just presses a kiss to the back of Harry’s neck. “They kept him company here. Did you know that, about my dad and Sirius? That Sirius was a dog when he transformed?”

“No, how would I?”

“It was something you said, in fifth year. Before Sirius died, you said you’d be ‘dogging’ my footsteps, and your dad knew about him, so…”

“No. I didn’t know.” Draco pauses, squeezing Harry’s hand, his grip tightening as if afraid that Harry will let go of him. “My dad told me to say that. I didn’t know why, but I did what he wanted. Gods, when he first went to Azkaban, I didn’t believe what you said about him. I was such an idiot.”

“Draco—”

“I don’t know why you’re here with me.” Draco releases him, breaking the braid of their bodies apart. He scoots away from Harry so that they are no longer touching, and Harry feels a chill slither up his spine. Harry twists around, the old coils in the mattress squeaking. If he weren't so nervous, he might laugh, because he knows a charm to fix that. Instead, Harry grabs Draco’s hand again but it’s limp in his tight grip. “I don’t deserve you, Harry.”

Harry scoots closer and rests his head on Draco’s chest. “Well, I want you, so too bad,” he says, his words muffled by Draco’s sweatshirt. Harry rubs his nose against Draco’s heart, breathing in the familiar scent of Draco’s cologne. The same scent that clung to the yellow blanket Harry’d woken under this morning in the Forest and that covers them now. Harry moves their entwined hands up, guiding Draco’s palm to cup his cheek.

Draco takes a deep breath, but he doesn’t say anything. His fingers stroke over Harry’s face and then run, almost absently, over his scalp. Draco draws in another long breath, and his hands seems to involuntarily form a fist, pulling at the strands of Harry’s hair. Harry can’t help his small wince, and Draco’s hand flies away.

“Fuck, I’m sorry. I have to tell you something, but it’s hard.”

“Take your time,” Harry says. He grabs Draco’s hand again and moves it back to his own head. “But please keep touching me, if you want.”

Draco’s chin drops to his chest so that he can look Harry in the eyes. Harry can’t read the serious expression on his face, but when Draco’s head falls to the pillow again and his stare slides to the ceiling, his fingers return to petting Harry’s hair.

“When the Dark Lord killed Professor Burbage, I thought that I would go mad. Living in the manor with him was already terrible, but I didn’t know if I could go on after that. And then he killed my dogs. Somehow, I got it into my head that if I were an Animagus, it wouldn’t be as bad. I knew that I would still be me, but I thought that if I could escape into the animal’s mind for a little while, my pain would be a little duller. I was stupid, but I figured that if I died from the spell, at least it would be over.”

Harry doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know if there is anything to say. He wants to cry but this isn’t about him, so Harry smoothes his palm over Draco’s chest. He remembers the way that the unicorn seemed to like a hard touch, so Harry takes a chance, kneading Draco’s shoulder hard. A shudder courses through Draco’s body, but then he seems to melt. Harry fingers keep moving over Draco’s body as he waits for him to continue his story.

“It took me months. Some of that time I was at Hogwarts, but I didn’t stop trying. After I took the potion, I was stuck at the meditation stage for a long time. I kept seeing this yellow horse. I was pretty sure that was my animal form, but I never got a good look.”

Ehwaz.”

“No. I’d hoped, but when I finally completed the transformation, I wasn’t a horse. I was a unicorn. I still had all my memories, I was still me, but everything that I’d been trying to escape… All my fears, my guilt over what I’d done sixth year, everything terrible in my life increased a thousand fold. The purity of the unicorn didn’t mute my bad thoughts; it turned the volume up. Transforming for the first time, it was the worst experience of my life.”

“Draco…” Harry sits up, his hand on Draco’s chest.

Draco shrugs again. “It’s not like I didn’t deserve it.”

“Gods, Draco! I know that you weren’t totally innocent, but it’s not like you thought you had a choice about following Voldemort.”

“Maybe at that point I didn’t, but in the beginning, I made a choice and it was the wrong one. Inexplicably, you’ve developed a high opinion of me, but you might as well know now that I’m selfish, Harry. Your father and Sirius, they became Animagi to help a friend. I did it to help myself, to hide from my own crimes. It didn’t work.”

Draco stares at the wall, so Harry puts a palm on his chin, guiding his face to him. Draco lets himself be moved, but he won’t meet Harry’s gaze. Harry swings a leg over Draco, straddles his waist. Harry leans over him until Draco’s eyes flick to his.

“I dreamed of you,” Harry says.

“So you said, but I don’t know how. I haven’t changed in months.”

“Until last night.”

Draco’s eyes look watery. “You were gone.” A flash of defiance transforms Draco’s face, but it withers immediately. He’s lying down, but somehow his shoulders still slump. “I was mad at you for leaving, and I was mad at myself for being mad. I mean, I knew why you were upset, but I couldn’t seem to help being angry that you didn’t take me with you. I was feeling bad for myself, and that made me want to do something to make it hurt more.”

Harry sucks in a breath. “It was a punishment?”

“Started that way, but then you showed up.”

He takes Draco’s left wrist in his hand, pushes up the sleeve of his sweatshirt. When he touches the Ehwaz it warms, glowing gold before turning black again. He feels sick at the thought that his beautiful horse, his Ehwaz—his unicorn—has been for Draco the opposite of the comfort the dreams provided Harry.

“So what is this?” Harry says. “Another punishment?”

“No. I got that after my trial. When I thought that my Animagus form was a horse, I really liked the idea. I remembered studying Ehwaz, the horse rune, in class, and all the things it augured—progress, moving forward. Partnership. I wanted those things. I wanted to get out, to be free of Voldemort. I’d thought that’s what the yellow horse meant. When I finally transformed and I wasn’t…well, I still wanted it. I didn’t think I’d get any of it. I was sure I’d be going to Azkaban after the war, but you testified for me and, suddenly, I was free.” Draco pushes his sleeve further up his arm. “So I put it below this.” He traces the black ink of his Dark Mark, finger following the curve of the snake's body. “The ugliest part of me, the part I wanted to change. Ehwaz is what I hoped might still come after. So I came back to Hogwarts. And you sat next to me.”

Draco blushes and looks supremely embarrassed about the last part, but Harry can’t help smiling at him. He considers teasing Draco for being such a softie—after all, it’s what Draco would do to him. But he decides that they’ve got plenty of time for that later.

“You know, I didn’t want to come back to Hogwarts,” Harry says. “Andromeda told me I had to, but I think the horse… well, the unicorn, you, I guess…were telling me the same thing.” Harry thinks about Ehwaz, about progress and moving forward. He’s scared of and not at all happy about some of the changes that are happening around him, to him, but... “I’m really glad I listened.”

“Well, that’ll teach you to listen to me in future.”

“Cheeky bastard!” He still sits astride Draco, so Harry kicks his heels into his thighs, but he’s laughing while he does it. Judging by the way that Draco bites his bottom lip and his back arches off the bed, Harry supposes that he isn't terribly bothered. “Hey, Draco, we’re going to be okay.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Know how I know?” Draco shakes his head. “We’re Hufflepuffs.”

From the Introduction to The Dream Oracle:

The light within the moonstone reflects the journey—both the inward journey of the spirit and the outward journey of the body—of the person who gazes upon it. It illuminates both inner truths and a traveller’s dark nights. It is a gift amongst lovers, but the moonstone can also be used to open your heart to new love and to bring your true love to you. Although a contentious subject amongst Dream Diviners, many practitioners of the Art tout the use of moonstones as an instrument to enhance or even produce prophetic dreams. Place a moonstone under your pillow or wear it somewhere on your person while you sleep, and you may experience a glimpse of your future...


~fin