The idea made all kinds of sense, initially. It also made sense that Draco ended up having no say in the matter until it was much, much too late. And it was all Potter's fault for having broken up with the Weaslette, and forcing Lovegood to blink at the two hotel beds, cock her head, and say, "What about girls in one bed, boys in the other?"
Draco would have argued it until he collapsed from lack of air. But it wouldn't have mattered anyway because no one could argue with Lovegood's logic, not when it actually was logical, for once. The Weaslette stared at Lovegood, opened her mouth, closed it, and nodded. Her cheeks flushed red. Potter also stared at Lovegood, then at the Weaslette, and then there might have been a lightning-quick glance in Draco's direction, but Draco didn't know; he wasn't up to doing anything but gaping at Lovegood like a basking shark.
"Makes sense to me," the Weaslette put in, then picked up her things and slung them onto the bed nearest the door, where Lovegood's paint-spattered knapsack sat, all lumpy and misshapen with Merlin knew what.
"Yeah, it's… Yeah." That was Potter, sounding utterly relieved. Then he eyed Draco strangely. "Malfoy, are you—"
"Completely stunned," Draco snapped, clacking his teeth together in the rush to shut his mouth. He kicked off his shoes for something to do and tossed his pack and coat over as much of the window-side bed as he could manage. "Lovegood's actually talking sense."
Luna smiled at him dreamily. Draco felt his cheeks burn, and thus flung himself onto the bed before Potter could make a move. "Right, I'm going to sleep. Shut the lights off when you go, yeah?"
"I—" Potter stopped, and Draco could just feel him looking at the other two. Weasley grumbled something, yanked a folded shirt from her pack, and disappeared into the bathroom. Potter spoke up again. "Malfoy, we were heading out for dinner."
"Enjoy yourselves," Draco returned, slumping nonchalantly onto the pillows and feigning the uttermost laziness. He heard his partner snort, and then there was rummaging in a bag.
"Bring you back something, then."
"Why, thank you, Potter. So generous of you."
"Using your money, of course, Draco."
Draco did not turn and attempt to leap on his pilfered bag, but it was a close thing. Luna said something wishy-washy about pigeons, the bathroom door opened and released a prickly redhead— Draco could feel her Erumpent in the room, prissily trampling his own— and then a large hand squeezed one of his heels, shook it once… and the three of them left. Draco waited a full half a minute before flinging the covers back and lurching off the bed, one hand already tangled in his hair.
Why the hell did Luna Lovegood have to exude such righteous innocence?
Of course the Ministry couldn't fork over the money for two rooms; funds had to be used wisely. And of course, Draco and Potter couldn't have been paired with Finnigan and Zabini for this symposium; Draco and Finnigan fought just a little too vociferously for anyone's peace of mind. Naturally, Potter couldn't share a bed with the Weaslette anymore; they were done with that, very vocally done if the taxi ride to the hotel had been any indication, even if they could still work together fairly professionally. All of it had logical reasoning behind it, as it always did, and damn it if Draco couldn't just explain why this particular solution was not going to work for him. Not if he wanted the upper hand ever again, anyway.
Founders, Draco wasn't going to be able to sleep now! He wasn't going to be able to sleep ever, thanks to everyone else.
So he busied himself with other pursuits. There was a shower to be had, and the readying of clothing for tomorrow. He had his symposium schedule to revise, thanks to the abrupt cancellation of the Poisons in Potions discussion and the roundtable on Dementors' Rights. He had pyjamas to put on and his side of the bed to commandeer before any of his roommates got back. And they did get back, after only an hour. All three of them were insanely quiet, tiptoeing through the darkness and rustling softly in deference to Draco's deep sleep. It would have been quite nice if Draco weren't in fact wide awake and as rigid as a plank, trying to regulate his breathing as he listened to the quick tread of the Weaslette, the aimless wafting about of Lovegood, and the heavier step of a barefoot Potter, about three inches from his own feet at the end of the bed.
The mattress dipped; the light in the bathroom went out. Draco nearly bit through his tongue. The girls shuffled their way into the other bed, flinging the duvet about. Potter sat on his side of the mattress, and Draco didn't need to turn over to hear the click of Potter's glasses on the bedside table or the raspy sound of Potter's nails scratching the back of his neck. The shuffle of clothing was a surprise, and it wasn't until Potter laid down that Draco felt the heat and had a terrible, terrible thought. He turned his head in the dim light from the window to see Potter setting their magical alarm clock, covered to his waist by their duvet and wearing absolutely nothing from the waist up.
Draco shut his eyes, one hand fisted against his own chest, pulsing with each beat of his heart. Potter settled down at last with a long, contented sigh. Draco vehemently loathed him for it and was just about to roll over and say so when his slightest motion put him in direct contact with Potter's upper arm. Draco froze, then twitched a little more to feign sleep-movement, then froze again because he was being stupid.
And then realised that Potter was very possibly asleep already.
* * *
"Bloody hell. Are we really going to sit here and take this? From her?"
"Would you shut up, Malfoy?"
"Oh, pack it in, Weaslette! This is our 'honoured guest speaker'? That's more than a load of tripe, it's outright sacrilege!"
Logical again: When Draco Malfoy didn't get enough sleep— and of course he hadn't, not with Harry Potter breathing and dreaming and smacking his lips serenely five centimeters away from him— he was a right bastard to be around. All told, Draco had managed about an hour of actual slumber, and that did not involve relaxation of any sort, especially when he woke up at exactly 6:41 in the morning, comfortably warm and quite all right with the world, only to discover that the reason he was so cosy was that Potter's body lit up like a hearth at Christmas when he slept, and when one's own back was pressed all along Potter's, one didn't need blankets or socks or general warm-bloodedness at all.
Draco had never jumped so violently that he'd fallen out of bed before. He was damn glad that the other three slept like they'd all been hit by Stunners.
Presently, Potter was sitting beside him, glowering at the occupied podium, while the Weaslette's head darted around him like a deranged ginger ground squirrel as she tried to silence Draco. Who, of course, wouldn't be silenced. He wouldn't be cajoled, either, and he wasn't exactly in best possession of his sense of decorum. Lack of sleep worked wonders on his inhibitions. It was frighteningly like a good dose of Firewhisky.
"First, I'd like to thank the Ministry for inviting me to speak to its finest employees, the Aurors who protect us all. But I believe we can all agree that even the best of us can learn something new, and I am very happy to assist in that endeavor."
Draco snorted. "Oh, yes. Dolores Umbridge is going to teach us something new. Again."
Beside him, Harry's hands clenched tightly in the fabric of his trousers. Ginny Weasley's head popped around again. "You loved her at Hogwarts, you great hypocrite!"
Several people turned to stare briefly at them. The Weaslette flushed and sat up straight. Lovegood's right foot bobbed to a steady rhythm, the only part of her that Draco could see. An equally steady click-clicking came from the same general vicinity.
"Please," Draco huffed, not even bothering to keep his voice down. "I'm allowed to see the light, am I not?"
"You're allowed to shut up!" Weasley hissed.
"Oops," Lovegood breathed, and made a commotion scrabbling for something on the floor. More people turned around, and Draco grinned at each of them in turn. It took the bravest of them only two seconds to look away. Potter shifted and cleared his throat. Draco also cleared his throat, though much more loudly.
"Can you believe this, Potter?" He didn't know exactly why he was addressing Harry. He didn't know much about what was going to come out of his mouth next, only that it would be noisy and offensive as long as he had a say in it. "The cheek! The utter cheek, telling you what to do! Again!"
Umbridge twittered on. "…as we all saw in the Strickland debacle, magic is better studied in the comfort of one's home, rather than practised in training groups. Thorough study of theory is an absolute necessity before anyone, Aurors included, attempt to use it."
"No one tells Harry Potter what to do," Draco stated, a little bit drunkenly, which was interesting, considering he didn't drink. "I should know. Bloody cow!"
Someone in front of them tittered and quickly snuffed it out. Umbridge blinked. "Was there a question?"
"Yes," Draco answered, and then almost swallowed his own tongue when he felt Potter's hand touch down on his shoulder. But not for long. "How is it you still think posy pink is an acceptable winter shade?"
There was an outright laugh that sounded strangely like Finnigan. The Weaslette had turned bright red. Draco was sure that any minute he was going to be hit with a purple tufted quill. "Malfoy! Harry, shut him up!"
Potter, oddly, didn't say anything. His eyes narrowed into a curious squint and he stared straight ahead.
Umbridge harrumphed importantly. "I do not believe I heard your enquiry, Mr… Malfoy, is it?"
"Bully for you, you remembered!" Draco twirled his forefinger around by his ear. "Glad the centaurs didn't joggle your brain too much when they dragged you off."
"That is a completely exaggerated version of events!" she snapped. She straightened her pink jacket primly. "I was escorted into the forest to discuss terms of a mutual agreement concerning—"
"Yes, yes, and then you arbitrated until they agreed to go join circuses like good little horsyfolk," Draco drawled, waving his hand. Potter was watching him now, despite the Weaslette's continued hammering at his leg.
"You certainly have no idea of what you speak," Umbridge snipped. "I do not recall much in the way of good behavior from you or your friends."
"No, we were too busy kissing your arse!" Draco sang, quite liking the way people rustled, stared, covered their mouths, and generally assumed he was a little on the near side of insanity.
"You were all nothing but children at the time." She lifted her chin and looked down her pudgy nose at them. "Everyone knows children have a skewed sense of reality."
"I was there," Lovegood observed in the reasonable tone of one commenting on tulips. She smiled at everyone, and then blinked at Umbridge. "You had a collection of barmy cats."
Umbridge flushed and opened her mouth, and then frowned. "Are you knitting?"
Luna smiled. "Yes. Nose sleeves for my Bottlebob Newt."
Umbridge would have spoken, but Draco tossed his quill, missing her by a mile and still making her jump. "Get off the stage, you obnoxious hag, I paid good money for quality presentations by people who aren't sadists!"
"You paid no such thing!" Umbridge shrilled. "The Ministry footed your bill, a waste I fully intend to—"
A second quill skittered across the stage. Umbridge squealed and jumped away from it as if it were a snake. Draco turned and saw Harry standing, quill-less, with his hands at his hips, a little pink in the cheeks, but determined. "He's absolutely right. I didn't rise from the dead to be lectured by fascists. And you really are obnoxious."
Umbridge bristled like a Jabberknoll in heat. "I will have you removed from this hall!'
"Oh, yes, please, for the sake of all free-thinking individuals!" Draco volleyed. "Save us from your ignominious torture!"
"Or you could just have yourself removed by Centaurs again," Harry put in. Half the crowd burst into shameless cackles, and only about half of them tried to stifle themselves this time. Draco took an inventory and managed to note one Hermione Granger sitting near the door with her hands over her mouth and her face very, very red. Little sputters of laughter shook her shoulders.
Umbridge did not look much better. Her face and throat had ballooned out like the toad she resembled, and when she opened her clenched teeth, Draco half expected a croak to emerge. "I will not be spoken to in this manner! I am here for your benefit! Obviously, I'm just in time, especially to teach you some etiquette!"
"Go and boil your barmy cats!" someone shouted in a very male-Weasley-esque voice.
Harry cut in. "We've seen your version of etiquette. We've all got the scars to prove it."
The classic boo and hiss sounded from multiple areas of the room. Some of the younger Aurors looked a little confused, but Draco was high enough on the attention to worry about their wartime education later. Not that he would have cared about it anyway.
"I'll— I'll speak to your superiors!" Umbridge shouted. "I'll have you all sacked, you ingrates, I'll dissolve the entire—"
She dodged the cascade of brightly coloured quills that rained onto the stage, and ran for the door. Shouts of 'good riddance!' followed her out.
"Harry!" Finnigan stood on his chair, waving. Beside him, Blaise stuck two fingers up at the closing door. "Harry, training's your forte! Get up there and take over, yeah?"
The crowd cheered, even the baby Aurors, who knew a hero when they saw (and worked with and fawned over) him. A manicured hand shot up in the back and waved wildly. "Oh, yes, Harry, do!" Romilda Vane called from the back of the room. She batted her fake purple eyelashes so hard they nearly flew off her face.
Harry turned red— now, of course, now he blushed, Draco thought— and shook his head. "No, I think…" His eyes lit on someone and he smiled. Draco knew relief when he saw it. "I think Neville would be best for that job."
A new round of cheers went up as Longbottom rose from his seat and sheepishly made his way to the front of the room. Harry slumped back down into his chair with a heavy breath and a grin on his face, and Draco couldn't help puffing up like a Cockatrice. If he could have preened properly, he would have. Longbottom cleared his throat, then shrugged and took out his wand. "Let's start with the basics, shall we?"
Everyone clapped and nodded along with the impromptu presentation until Longbottom opened up the floor for suggestions and practical application. During the break, Lovegood turned, directing some invisible symphony with her wand, and smiled at the three of them.
And said, "Let's go to Fudge's presentation next."
* * *
"Wait, what do you… Now you're not going to lunch either?"
A puzzled Harry Potter was extremely easy on the eyes. It was a good thing Draco wasn't looking at him. It was an incredibly bad thing, however, that his wits had caught up with him smack in the middle of the group trek to find a suitable pub.
Potter frowned. "I looked in the mini cool, you never ate the take away from last night."
"On a diet."
Potter eyed him, up and down. "That cannot be healthy."
It was certainly healthier than being crammed into a booth with Potter practically in his lap, especially when Potter looked at him like that. Draco held his ground.
Unfortunately that meant he was still watching when Romilda Vane barged through the crowd like the Knight Bus and threaded her arm through Potter's. Draco furiously weighed between gawping rather obviously at Potter all through lunch, and letting Vane warble into Potter's ear all through lunch. When Potter shook her off immediately and ducked between Granger and the Weaslette, Draco remembered to breathe.
* * *
Draco also remembered that he was extremely hungry. His rush back to the hotel room was delayed only by the scramble to discover where he'd put his keycard. In the end, hunger won out and Draco blasted the door open, went inside, repaired the lock, and ran for the mini cool. "Thank Merlin for stale curry," Draco hummed, popping a piece into his mouth and searching around for a fork… which was apparently not present in the room. Draco briefly considered looting the Weaslette's bag for a spare set of hair sticks to use, and then said, "Bollocks," and went with his fingers instead.
Which was why when the sharp knock sounded at the door, the precariously perched handful of chicken slipped right out of his grasp and fell into his lap.
Which happened to be clothed in pale grey trousers.
"Fuck me!" Draco snapped as he jumped up and opened the door. Pansy Parkinson smirked at him from the hallway.
"Oh, never again, dearest."
"Panse," Draco sighed, and stepped back. "Come in. No, wait—" He pushed her back into the hallway. "You're sharing a room with Blaise!"
Pansy nodded in the most nonplussed manner Draco had ever seen. "Among other individuals."
"Excellent. Could you be an absolute angel and nick me a pair of his trousers?" He gestured down and then thought better of it, but of course, Pansy was already looking.
"I'd say I don't want to know, but I really, really do." She leered at him.
"You hussy, it's curry. Get me Zabini's best pair, would you?"
"At your service, your heinie-ess," she crowed as she sauntered back down the hall toward the lifts.
Once the door was again shut, Draco noticed that the hem of his shirt had been curried as well. He cursed and yanked the offending garment off, then undid his zipper and pointed his wand at the horrid mess on his trousers, holding them well away from his body. The low grade cleansing charms did nothing. Draco aimed a few caustic cleaning spells at the stain and was gratified to see it lighten several shades. He pulled his belt out of the loops in order to get a better look at the task before him and managed to zap a few wayward yellow splatters right off the fabric. Draco tossed his belt aside and went to work on the hem of his shirt.
Several minutes later, his door thudded again, this time as if Pansy had decided she'd be better off kicking it. Draco rolled his eyes and got up, dropping his shirt on the bed. He wouldn't put it past her.
"Thank Salazar for you, Panse," Draco called, hobbling to the door while scrubbing at his trousers. He had to juggle his wand and his trousers in one hand, and just as he grasped the doorknob and pulled the door open, his foot got lost in one of his pant legs, jerking them out of his grip as the door swung wide, revealing Harry James Potter with his hands full.
"Cheers, Malfoy, I brought you some—" Potter's eyes widened. The greasy bags of chips in Potter's hands hung there, forgotten, as Draco and Harry gaped at each other.
All else aside, the hallway really was a bit chilly, Draco thought, and then he came back to reality with a clatter of brain cells. Potter's eyes swept down over Draco's bare chest, down his legs to the trousers pooled at his ankles, and started back up again. One of the bags slipped from Potter's hand and scattered chips in an arc across the carpet. The tang of vinegar rose in the air.
"I'll, uh…" said Potter, having come to a stop staring at Draco's briefs. He swallowed visibly and raised his eyes, looking quite dazed. "Come back later, shall I?"
"Sure," Draco said a bit stupidly.
Potter swallowed again. He stepped away from the door as if sleepwalking, and tripped over the bag he'd dropped, staggering sideways. All the while, his gaze never left Draco.
Draco did the only thing he could still do. He slammed the door shut.
He was still standing there in his pants when a knock sounded again. Pansy's drawl came through the door. "Open up. Potter's gone mental out here and I'm afraid for my girlish sensibilities."
* * *
Sometimes Draco Malfoy did opt to get drunk, it seemed. It was a bloody good idea, what with the way Finnigan had been carrying on the evening before, pouring himself into the hotel with his arm wrapped around the shoulders of his equally sloshed partner, Blaise, who staggered into pillars and posts and eventually the concierge herself before finally falling face first into the lift. They'd both been singing, too, at the top of their lungs about sweet Peggy o' the marshes. Never mind that no such song had actually existed before that night; the lift shaft made for wonderful acoustics.
So Draco went down to The Lamb and the Emu with intent to go through each beverage on tap until he found the one that made courting a girl in a stinking marsh seem like a good idea. Instead he found Potter already there, sitting at the bar, trying to ignore Romilda Vane's snakey fingers while drinking a very dark ale and watching dully as Cormac McLaggen bragged like a bloody pillock about what an expert he was on the massive bird mentioned on the pub's sign. Draco did the only thing he could do: he picked a seat at the other end of the bar and pointedly did not stare at Harry the entire way through ordering and downing his first pint. But Draco was only into his third pint, this filled with Woodpecker Cider, when he just couldn't stand being lied to anymore.
"McLaggen, you utter imbecile. It does not eat lambs, and it most certainly cannot fly."
"What's it to you, Malfoy?" McLaggen attempted to slur.
Draco raised his hands and turned on his stool, wincing in as exaggerated a fashion as he could. "Just stop talking, please. Your thought process is singlehandedly throttling the intelligence out of everyone in this room."
Potter smirked and hid it behind a desperate gulp of ale. McLaggen looked at Draco stupidly, and Draco knew the moment McLaggen's itty bitty brain ran out of cells and grabbed onto the universal fallback. "Well, you're a bloody Death Eater!"
"You don't say?" Draco deadpanned.
A full ten seconds later, one of McLaggen's buddies piped up with "And so's your mum!" So Draco punched him in the face.
Looking at it clinically, Draco figured he was probably a lot drunker than he'd initially thought, seeing as the punch alone sent him wheeling into McLaggen himself, who punched him back, missed by a mile, and knocked over his own table. Things got a little confusing after that, but Draco clocked three people before getting smacked across the chin, slipping on spilled lager and tumbling to the floor. McLaggen howled and jumped on him, which was not pleasant at all, and then Draco was holding McLaggen at arm's length by pushing a hand into his face, fingers practically up his nose, and there was Harry Potter, belting the gut of one of McLaggen's cronies. The idiot went down in a flailing heap and Potter hauled McLaggen off of Draco, then promptly let go in order to avoid all the wheeling arms. Draco sat up and got socked in the face again, and it bloody hurt, which was bloody infuriating, so he couldn't be held responsible for yanking McLaggen's foot out from under him and causing another table to go flying.
Then the bartender sprayed them all with a jet of water piped straight from the Arctic Circle.
* * *
Potter winced. He raised the cloth he held. "Shouldn't have done that."
"Of course I— Ow! Potter, watch it!"
"Sorry." He turned and retrieved a cotton swab with ointment, dabbing at Draco's chin. "Just clean this up a little and then…"
Draco scowled. The bathroom light was appallingly yellow and Lovegood was humming completely off tune in the main room. "Use your wand, would you?"
"Better to clean it first. Draco, hold—"
Potter blew out a breath and took Draco's chin firmly in one hand. "I said hold still."
Draco did the next best thing: he froze. It was hard not to with five of Potter's fingers warm on his face. And it was damned irritating to find himself accidentally following one of Potter's orders. Potter touched his bruised eye gently with the damp cloth. It did feel good. Draco held still while the cloth made its way over his cheekbone, cooling the bruised skin there. Potter put the cloth down and rubbed ointment into the bruise with two fingers. Draco may have stopped breathing. A bit.
Finally, Potter wiped off his hand and picked up his wand. He leaned in very close to Draco's face, brows lowered in concentration. "All right. Don't move or this will go pear-shaped."
And then Potter proceeded to breathe on him. Nice and warm, right against Draco's chin. Of course, he also most likely shot some healing charms at Draco's face, but Draco's attention was otherwise occupied. All he really knew was that Harry had hazel speckles around each pupil, and that his own face was feeling rather nicer when Harry pulled back.
"Beautiful," Draco murmured.
"I said you're rubbish at this, Potter."
* * *
The next morning, Draco awoke to the melodic sound of Blaise banging on the door, bellowing for his trousers. Draco shot a Silencing spell at the door and rolled over. Next to him, Harry mumbled something about Hob Nobs and rolled, too, until his arm was nestled against Draco's back and one of his feet was in between Draco's ankles. It was a good thing Draco was so bloody tired or he might not have fallen asleep again.
* * *
When he woke up again, it was because the Weaslette threw a wet towel at his face.
"Get up, Harry, you're going to be late for the presentation."
Draco pulled the towel off, struggling to sit up. "I'm not Harry, if you hadn't noticed!"
The Weaslette smirked. "Sorry. Missed."
Draco flopped back down into the blankets. One of them was quite a bit heavier than he remembered. Draco lifted the duvet, looked down, and found Harry's arm slung across his middle. He blinked. The arm tightened, Harry's hand gripping briefly about his waist. Its owner groaned, buried his face in the pillow, and then pulled himself out of bed with a slurred "M'up, m'up" and a scandalous display of bedhead. His hand slid right over Draco's stomach on its way out of bed. Draco gaped at Harry's back as he stumbled into the bathroom and shut the door.
Harry was not much more presentable when he came out of the loo five minutes later with his hair damp, skin glistening, and a teeny little towel clutched about his waist. "Could someone hand me my wand? I'd like to shave."
Draco managed to pick up the wand and get it into Harry's outstretched hand without seeing too much of his bared skin, but it was an effort in more ways than one. Lovegood was merrily tossing her bag in the corner— there were things flying into the air that Draco had never seen before and did not want to know about— and the Weaslette was drying her hair by sending waves of hot air billowing at it from the end of her wand. Harry's fingers met Draco's as he took his wand. "Thanks."
Draco headed back for bed and was almost calm when Harry exited the bathroom once more. This time he was much more presentable, in black trousers, a white shirt, and no visible stubble. Draco knew because he cracked an eyelid long enough to watch the taming of the hair. Which was a foolish endeavour. He watched until Harry came over and sat down on the bed to put his shoes on. Then he stayed there. Then he leaned over.
There was a pause. "Oh. Well, all right."
Another pause. Harry got up. And then Draco got it, and snapped upright so fast he nearly fell out of bed again.
"Yes. Yes, I'm coming to your presentation."
He didn't exactly look, but Harry's smile seemed rather relieved.
* * *
Euan Abercrombie stumbled back to his seat and collapsed into it, staring bleakly up at Harry. For his part, Harry looked abashed. He fiddled with his wand and nodded to Euan. "Thanks. Thank you, Euan, for your assistance." He turned to the group. "As you can see, as a defensive spell, Tarantellegra Primora has its downside. The aftereffects can take up to an hour to wear off completely. Euan, if you'll stay after the presentation, Hermione here will give you a potion that will take care of those knees."
Granger smiled at Euan, who nodded frantically. His knees continued to wiggle about on their own, dragging his lower legs along with them.
"Now." Harry put his wand on the table. "Since we're nearly out of time, I wanted to end with a demonstration of another type of pacifying measure. Depending on where you are patrolling, you won't always have access to your wand or the license to use it. Therefore, it is important to be familiar with Muggle forms of incapacitation, how to use them, and how to defend yourself against them."
"Can't we just Obliviate them after?"
Harry nodded to the speaker. "An excellent question. As Aurors, you have the license to perform Obliviation on any Muggle who has witnessed magic. However, use of the Obliviation spell is difficult to master, and overzealousness is a common cause of permanent memory damage. I'd like to demonstrate several attacks and the proper Muggle defences against them. Oh, and for those who are interested, I'm teaching an in-depth course next month on the subject. This is an example of what it will cover." Harry rolled his sleeves to his elbows. "Now, if I could have another volunteer?"
Thanks to Draco's discreet Silencing spell, Romilda Vane was no longer hollering through the locked door that she'd do 'anything, Harry, anything for you!' But it would almost have been better than the response Harry did get.
Everyone cowered low in their seats. No one looked at Harry. Draco snorted. Yes, the Tarantellegra Primora had been bad, as had the Body-Bind (Rudolph Pickwiticker was going to have giant bruises on his arse), and the Confringo (Eloise Midgen's eyebrows would grow back in a week or two), and the Jelly-Brain Jinx (Cooper Widdleton's random yelling was winding down, truly). But was it too much to ask for Aurors with panache?
Harry chewed his lip. "It won't hurt. It's just a hold around the torso from behind."
Harry looked absolutely heartbroken. And that was not to be borne. Draco's dusty sense of altruism creaked to life, and with it, an idea he would never have considered if he'd gotten enough sleep the night before or if he wasn't possessed by a pining teenaged girl. "Bloody hell, I'll do it."
He had a second of everyone looking at him to realise that he'd just volunteered to have Harry's hands on him, around him, and possibly all over him for the next few minutes. Draco blinked. He'd known that he'd turned into a total imbecile this weekend, but he hadn't expected to be a self-saboteur as well. Prudence tried to catch up with him, but he whacked it aside with a well-placed mental slap. He might be a self-sabotaging imbecile with a thing for his very attractive, rugged, powerful, sexy, smart, considerate— for his partner. But he'd be damned if Harry's presentation went bottom-up because some sissy Aurors couldn't handle being tossed around a little.
Draco made his way to the front thinking surreal thoughts like I haven't got my shirt buttoned wrong, have I? and yes, Muggle self-defence is a fantastic idea. When he got there, he set his wand down on the table next to Harry's, straightened his collar, and turned to face the music while trying to keep his body from undergoing a spontaneous Body-Bind all on its own.
Only Harry was not smiling. He was not relieved, or grateful, or intrigued. His wide eyes were not surprised wide eyes, and his ears had gone a worrisome shade of burgundy. If Draco had a word for the look on Harry's face at that exact moment, that word would have been "dread."
Draco stepped closer. Harry stepped backward.
Draco stepped closer.
Harry stepped backward.
Draco stopped stepping and tried standing still instead.
Harry cleared his throat. "All right, so." He cleared his throat again and briskly moved behind Draco. Standing still seemed to be the thing. Harry's hands came up and made to grip Draco's arms. Hesitated. Hovered. Clenched. Zeroed in.
"You know," Harry declared, smiling too widely at the audience and skirting out from behind Draco with the same swift strides, "I've just realised I left out an entire section on Disarming Charms."
Draco frowned. Harry didn't look at him. He scooped his wand up from the table, giving Draco a wide berth, and Draco got it.
Harry Potter didn't want to touch him. The brushing of fingers and the sleep induced cuddling… Accidents. Even for a professional demonstration, Harry couldn't bring himself to put his hands on Draco. Draco felt like he'd been pushed into a wall. Sharing a bed with him must be driving Harry mad, but not at all in the way it was driving Draco mad. Being Draco's partner was all well and good, bringing him food and being polite and showing concern. But when it came to anything more, when it came to close contact, to… actual intimacy… Draco's throat closed.
It wasn't in his nature to feel like he was somehow disgusting, but there were extenuating circumstances this time. Draco swallowed, feeling his face heat, feeling anger, feeling like the stupidest fool in the world, and snatched his wand from the table. Considered throwing a curse at Potter, who was smiling— relieved now, the utter arse. But the words wouldn't come. All that came up was the smallness, the hurt. The drowning of hopes that he wasn't even aware he'd let balloon so much.
"Get someone else, Potter," he gritted, and stalked out of the room.
* * *
Ooh, that had been a flashy comeback. Draco slammed the door to their room so hard it rattled the pictures hanging on the walls. Why couldn't he have managed something clever like And I've just realised I have somewhere else to be, which was all about the intriguing wordplay, or maybe What am I, tainted goods? Which he never would have dared, because that would imply that Potter actually wanted his goods, or that he wanted Potter's, either of which would involve an obscene amount of getting very red in the face just at the moment when Potter looked at him like he'd gone nutters.
And he was afraid that the incredulous Potter in his brain was right: After all, Draco had fallen for his idiot partner. Surely that was a sign of insanity. Everyone else who lusted after Harry Potter was certifiably insane in Draco's book. Just look at the Weaslette. She'd managed to get over her lovesickness, and she was still a fanatical whack job. It probably explained Lovegood, too, while he was at it. And the Weasleys as a whole, and Dumbledore, and the late Lord What's-His-Name, and probably that stupid Hippogriff back at school, too. It had only been a matter of time before Draco Malfoy joined the psychotic ranks.
"Oh, who am I kidding?" Draco slumped onto his bed— their bed— and rubbed his face. Harry Potter wasn't a conniving megalomaniac bent on subduing the world by way of lust-provoked idiocy. He was loved because he was just so damn loveable. Not that Draco loved him, no, it wasn't like that exactly. But he sort of liked him and he really liked his arse and his eyebrows, and that wasn't all that far off, all things considered. Getting Harry Potter Naked had been Plan A for several weeks now. Plan B was, of course, Back The Hell Up, You Blooming Idiot, Before You Do Something Phenomenally And Incredibly Stupid.
He'd just never seen the gap that still existed between the two of them, it seemed. Partners did not necessarily make best friends. With benefits. And possibly emotional attachment after the first couple times. Or after the first time. Or before it.
Potter obviously did not want to be attached emotionally, or any other way. For some reason, Draco's eyes felt prickly. Bloody London air.
Well. He wasn't going to hang about where he wasn't desirable. Or wanted, whatever. Potter could just get another room with his own money, and who cared if the hotel was absolutely full up with Aurors? Certainly someone would pay Galleons to say that Harry James Potter had commandeered his or her room, even if it meant they slept in the bathtub. "Oh, it would be a bloody honour," Draco simpered, trying to match Romilda Vane's nasal squeal. Thank the prophets she couldn't seem to move up from the ranks of Junior Auror. She was evil incarnate, and one day, Draco would have proof enough to toss her in Azkaban. Salazar, she'd even terrify the Dementors. Two Fwoopers with one stone, as it were.
But… Potter. In Romilda Vane's room. Draco got angry, and then got angry at himself for getting angry. Harry didn't even like her, that was as obvious as the punch Draco had taken to his face the night before. Harry would never end up in her room, with her in it or otherwise. It just went to show that Draco was going completely stupid over this whole dumb situation, and it was all Potter's fault.
"Let it never be said that a Malfoy was rejected by a Potter," Draco growled, jerking to his feet. Oh, yes, he had a plan, fully formed in ten seconds flat. It involved gathering Potter's things and tossing them into the hallway, then spelling the lock never to admit Potter's keycard. In fact, the mechanism would insult him more and more horribly each time he tried to insert his card, in a high, screechy Howler-esque manner. As for Harry's suitcase, it was plenty large enough to hold a load of wet, stinking Gillyweed, right on top of his pressed white shirts and especially his suede coat. But not Potter's pants. Potter's pants would take a lovely trip out the window into the middle of Charing Cross, where they would proceed to scream for their owner in high pitched Doxy voices. All of them. At once. Oh, yes, it was a grand plan, splendid in every detail, more than worthy of a vengeful Malfoy.
Which was, of course, why Potter managed to ruin it before it even began by shoving the door open and hurrying into the room clutching his keycard.
Draco wanted to punch him even more than before.
"Malfoy," Harry breathed. He shut the door behind him and came down the tiny hallway. He looked like he'd run up all eight flights of stairs to their floor. "Are you… What's wrong? What's happened?"
Draco gaped at him. "What's happened? You are a bloody bollocksing twat, that's what's happened!"
"I— what?" Harry's face screwed itself into a frown. "Steady on, Draco."
Draco jabbed a finger into his chest. "No, I will not steady on! If I'm so disgusting, you could have just said so rather than humiliating me even more than you do that Vane cow!"
"Disgusting? I— wait, vain cows?"
Draco shoved him back with both hands, loathing his nerves for giving a little cheer and a shiver for good measure at the contact with Harry's chest. Unfortunately, all he did was push Harry onto the girls' bed. Harry bounced right back to his feet and closed again. "What is the matter, Draco?"
Oh, he looked so bloody worried. "I'm not sharing a room with you anymore. You can just go find your own accommodation, since it's obvious you want to be here even less than I do!"
Harry's mouth pinched. "I don't know what you're talking about. What is your problem? I needed a little support down there, and you, my partner, just up and walked out on me!"
"Yeah, about that," Draco gritted out. "We're switching partners. I'm putting in a request as soon as this bloody convention is over."
Harry looked stung. But still furious. He jerked a hand through his hair, sending it out in spikes. "I can't believe this. You want another partner. You're just going to… Merlin, do you really hate me that much?"
The look on Harry's face was so betrayed that Draco's fury overflowed. "I don't hate you, you bloody idiot!"
They both froze, Harry staring at him, Draco wishing his stupid mouth would just shut up, for the love of Hogwarts. Harry's nostrils flared, cheeks blooming red. "Then what is your problem with me?" he demanded.
Draco snorted. "Oh, that's rich. You can't even touch me without feeling sullied!"
Harry's mouth dropped open, and he snapped it shut. His eyes widened, nice and green. Draco's face got even hotter. He couldn't stand it. He pushed around Harry, trying to get out from between the beds, only to be grabbed and yanked back and held there by Harry's hands around his upper arms. "What are you talking about?" Harry hissed. "I don't feel sullied!"
An interesting point, seeing as Harry was currently touching him rather a lot, right in the places he'd so conspicuously avoided earlier. Half of Draco was weeping that it wanted to break down in joy, the other half wanted to break Harry's face in joy, and on the whole, Draco just liked having Harry's hands on him because obviously he was still a little stupid. Clarity, when it came, reeled like a sloshed house-elf. "Then why the hell were you acting like I had the Bundimun Blight back there?" he shouted.
Harry's face hardened. "Because I didn't think you wanted me near you! You've been avoiding me the whole bloody weekend!"
"Hard not to when you don't even want to touch me!" Draco spat.
Harry's expression went dark. "I don't even want to touch you. Is that it?" He nodded, slowly, and a little bit scarily. His eyes bored right into Draco's. Draco tried to back up, worried suddenly about wherever Harry's sanity might be. Harry's lips thinned, his brow twitched, and he shoved Draco backward.
Draco's knees hit the bed; he tumbled onto it. Harry lunged after him, grabbed his shoulders, and kissed him hard.
'Ultimate bliss' was, quite abruptly, the only combination of words Draco knew. Which was interesting again because the kiss didn't fit that description, mostly because just when Draco opened his mouth, Harry jerked back.
"Oh, Merlin… Dra— Malfoy, I'm sorry, I'm…"
His pupils had dilated, thinning the green to a wondrous ring, and Draco decided then and there that he was in love with Harry's eyes, along with his eyebrows and arse. "Don't you dare," Draco whispered, grabbing Harry's shirt and pulling him down again, meeting his mouth and opening it all in one, and then there really was ultimate bliss, and a little bit of Mooncalf-in-the-headlights because he'd just dragged Harry Potter into the snog he usually only saved for his daydreams. For about two seconds, it was as good as he'd ever imagined it.
Then it went and got better.
"Merlin…" Harry managed between gasps for air. "If I'd known you— Draco—"
"Oh, I do, I do." Draco clamped onto Harry and pulled him closer, fisting his shirt until something snapped, and Harry looked down at the button rolling on the floor. He turned back to Draco, gazed at him for a moment, then latched onto Draco's shirt and yanked it up, baring his stomach. Draco lurched up and down, succeeding in letting Harry tug his shirt over his head. More of Harry's buttons popped. Harry went for Draco's belt. Draco got Harry's shirt off of him and got an eyeful of all that glorious skin, and then a mouthful of Harry, and then… oh, and then Harry pressed down, and Draco pressed up, and Harry tasted so good and he felt delicious and he was half naked, so Plan A was basically a success, and Draco didn't need plans anymore because he was half naked with Harry half naked on top of him and Harry's hand down his pants, and Lovegood standing in the doorway smiling, and gods, Harry was such a good kisser, he'd be even better at—
"Luna Lovegood!" Draco cried, jumping a mile and bumping his forehead against Harry's. Harry jerked and turned in the same movement, lost his balance, and collapsed, shirtless and pretty much trouserless atop Draco. Draco's own trousers slipped gaily over his knees and off his feet, hitting the floor with a whump.
Lovegood tilted her head at them. "Oh, good. I was worried you weren't managing it."
Harry stared, aghast, one hand searching for something to shield them with, but only finding Draco's shirt. Draco's muscles had bloody well atrophied, and he thought his expression might look a bit like a dead fish.
Lovegood smiled at them expectantly for several seconds, and then waved her hand. "Don't let me bother you. I was just in the loo." She leaned over, dumped her bag upside down on the other bed, rummaged through the pile humming, and pulled out a ball of yarn that made Draco's eyes want to screech in agony. She waved at them both, her oversized knitting needles clacking. "Don't worry. The baby Nundu in Ballroom Four ate Ginny's keycard for lunch."
Still humming, Lovegood shoved everything back into her bag and zipped it up. "Well, good bye, then," she said cheerfully, and left the room. The door clicked shut, cutting off her humming.
Draco kept staring until Harry touched his chin and turned his face upward again. "That was surreal."
Draco blinked. "That was Lovegood."
"Yes…" Harry's mouth twitched. A little line creased his brow. "I'm still allowed to kiss you, right?"
Draco met Harry's gaze and shrugged. "Bugger the kissing. Might as well make it worthwhile in case anyone else turns up."
Harry grinned and made it very worthwhile.