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In the Company of a Rubber Duck

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Harry lowered himself into the deep, blissfully hot water and sighed in contentment as it lapped around his aching muscles. He had pushed himself hard during Quidditch practice, seeking to be as swift and agile as he could, relishing the way his body reacted to some punishing moves. He had gripped the broom until his thighs were burning with the strain. A long, luxurious bubble bath, lit by charmed candles which reminded him of Hogwarts, served to soothe away the knots of tension and was his favourite guilty pleasure after playing.

As he sank deeper into the sweet-smelling water, he heard a quiet but distinct pop from the foot of the bath. Reluctantly opening his eyes, he squinted towards the taps, but saw nothing untoward: just the usual shampoo bottle, soap, and the small yellow rubber duck Arthur had given him for his birthday. His eyelids fluttered closed again, and he let himself relax deeply. He was therefore utterly unprepared for the voice of Draco Malfoy, sounding as pissed off and scornful as he had ever heard him.

"Fucking hell, Potter, trust you to be lounging about in a bubble bath like a ruddy girl!"

Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. He nearly jumped out of his bath. He looked around frantically, wondering where on earth Malfoy could be hiding, and where on earth he had put his wand – and his glasses?

"Malfoy – what – where?" He leaned out to grope around wetly on the floor and managed to come up with his wand, at least. His eyes flicked around the room for signs of movement, not knowing where to point the wand.

"Calm down, do; I'm not going to hurt you. Are you always this nervy?" came Malfoy's voice, apparently from thin air.

"I am when someone's hidden themselves in my bathroom, yes, it does tend to make me a little anxious. Where the fuck are you? Stop pissing around and come out."

"I'm over here."

"Where?" Harry located his glasses at last and slipped them on, but could still see no sign of Malfoy.

"By the taps. Next to this rather repulsive-looking bottle of Madame Whifflin's Patented Hair Tamer. Did you keep a receipt for that, by the way, Potter? Because it's really not working."

"Is this some kind of joke? If you don't show yourself, I'm going to have to—"

"Potter. Please listen. I am the duck, OK? I'm this stupid-looking bloody― what is it, some sort of toy? Why do you have such a thing in your bathroom, anyway?"

Harry aimed his wand to point at the duck. "What do you mean? Show yourself or I swear I will—"

"You've come down in the world a bit since defeating the Dark Lord, eh, Potter? Reduced to menacing toy wildfowl now? Look, it's my community service. Trust my luck to end up here, but it's only for an hour and then I'll be gone again." Malfoy's voice really was coming from the duck, Harry realised. Its bill was moving. His wand wavered a little.

"Community service? As a duck? Are you drunk or something, Malfoy? Or on potions? Or am I?" Harry wondered if someone had spiked his post-Quidditch pint. Nothing was making sense.

Harry could hear the sneer in Malfoy's voice. "I think maybe the people who came up with this were on potions, but I don't have much say in the matter. It's my community service." He spoke with exaggerated slowness. "Reparations? For the war?" he went on, when Harry continued to look at him blankly. "Did you not get an owl about it?"

Harry was beginning to feel foolish for remaining armed in the face of threat by rubber duck. He lowered his wand, shaking his head. "No. An owl? I haven't a bloody clue what you're on about."

Malfoy's familiar sarcastic tones floated eerily out of the duck's mouth. "I'll try and explain it simply enough for you to follow. Malfoys: evil Death Eaters. Wizengamot no like. Remember, Potter? You were there, as I recall. Although it was probably just a dull, forgettable interlude in your otherwise exciting existence."

Harry let out an irritable huff of breath. He knew all this. And he had done his bit, speaking for Malfoy and his mother. But that didn't explain—

A heavy sigh came from the direction of the duck. "I got eighteen months' community service, remember? That was getting off lightly, according to some, but they decided your evidence meant I wasn't quite wicked enough for Azkaban. Instead, I have to make myself useful to people – people such as your illustrious self, apparently. So here I am."

Harry suspected his face was a picture of confusion. "But – I don't need anyone to be useful! I didn't ask for anyone to come and help. Especially not while I'm in the bloody bath."

"Neither of us have a choice in the matter. I get sent to a random witch or wizard for up to an hour each day, to take the form of an object in that person's home." Malfoy's voice was a mixture of weariness and bitterness. "The purpose of this farce is 'to make reparations to those affected by the war, and to learn how to be a better citizen by serving the community in various practical ways.' And, of course, to humiliate the shit out of former Death Eaters, but they didn't put that in the press release."

Harry was gobsmacked. It sounded nonsensical – but also just the sort of thing the post-War Ministry had been prone to doing. He pondered the whole bizarre set-up for a minute, then his brain suddenly seemed to lurch into gear again and he realised the most important aspect of the entire situation—

"So – can you, er, see me?"

"Yes, Potter, I can see you. You're poised like a mermaid in a great perfumey heap of froth. Not to mention these rather divine candles floating all over the place. My, my, what a pampered little hero you are."

Harry's hand tightened on his wand, and he narrowed his eyes at the duck. "Get out of here, Malfoy. I'm glad you didn't get sent to Azkaban, but if you think it means you can come to my house and insult me when I'm having a private bath in my own bathroom..."

"With a big old pile of your own private, girly bubbles... well, quite. Who would wish to be disturbed, in such a situation? I can assure you, Potter, I have no inclination to be here in the slightest. However, here I must remain, until my hour is up. And anyone trying to obstruct me from completing my community service will find themselves on the sharp end of the 1998 War Reparations Act. So I'd put your wand down and start finding ways for me to be useful."

"Useful?" Harry's eyebrows shot up. "You're a rubber duck! How am I supposed to find ways for you to be useful?"

"Yes, about that... do, please, enlighten me. What exactly is the function of a rubber duck? I'd love to know. Is it..."

Harry would have sworn, that if a duck could leer, Malfoy would be doing so.

"... is it something sexual?"

"No! It's just a – a Muggle thing." Harry shifted awkwardly as he felt his anger fade and be replaced by embarrassment. "To play with. In the bath."

"To play with, hmm, is that so? And do you enjoy playing in the bath...? Why, Potter, is that a blush?"

Harry found to his dismay that it was. "No! The water's quite hot, that's all." It was only the combination of being in the bath in front of Malfoy, and him talking in such a, such a – well, Harry didn't know quite how Malfoy was talking, but it made him feel peculiar, and he didn't like it.

"Well, I'm none the wiser as to how I can be of use to you, but if you want to play with me, I'm sure it would be very edifying for both of us. I am meant to be learning more about Muggle culture, as part of my probation, so... go ahead and show me exactly what you do with your little duck toy."

Harry squirmed. "You can stop taking the piss, Malfoy. You're the one who's stuck on playing with the thing. I'm just trying to have a bloody wash, to get cleaned up after Quidditch."

"Please, don't let me stop you. Oh, but Potter, I think your bubbles are popping... there don't seem to be many left...."

Harry scrambled to find a facecloth, or something else with which to defend his modesty, but merely succeeded in disturbing more of the now rather scanty covering of bubbles resting on the water.

Malfoy's voice was sly and insinuating. "Don't be bashful; one wizard's wand is very much like another, really... or is the Chosen One's something special?"

Harry flushed and used his hands to hide his crotch from Malfoy's view. He felt ridiculous, as though he were about thirteen years old, but he could not stop himself from feeling uncomfortable under the duck's beady gaze.

"Would you please— I mean, do you mind— Look, bloody hell, I want to get out of the bath!"

Malfoy sniggered. It sounded more rubbery than usual. "You do make me inquisitive. Have you perhaps got tattoos in interesting places? Or a birthmark in the shape of a Snitch?"

"No!" Harry snapped, his face and neck now feeling uncomfortably hot. "Do you fancy spending the rest of your hour in the oven, Malfoy? What is the melting point of rubber, I wonder?"

Malfoy huffed, and Harry was sure his duck bill became a little poutier than before. "Charming! And, may I tell you, threatening a probationer while they are performing community service is an offence under the 1998 War Reparations Act. I shall be reporting this to my probation officer. I have no desire to see any more of your scrawny body than I already have, Potter."

Harry looked down indignantly. Scrawny?

“I am shutting my eyes firmly, as of now," duck Malfoy continued. "Let me know when it is safe to open them, without having to contend with your tackle dangling in my face."

Harry watched carefully, but the shiny black eyes looked no different than before. "Have you really shut them, Malfoy?"

"Yes, yes; dear Merlin, I have never met anyone so prudishly modest, Potter! Were you always like this? Dormitory living must have been a constant trial for you and your housemates. Did they all have to leave the room every time you wanted to change your socks?"

Harry thought back to days in his dormitory. Ron in particular had been fond of wandering around in just a shirt, with his freckled arse hanging out, but it had never bothered him. He didn't know why it was that being naked in front of Malfoy should make him feel so awkward and sort of... tingly.

"Are you getting out or not? Should I open my eyes?" Malfoy asked impatiently.

"Yes. No! Wait!" Harry took his courage, and his bollocks, in his hands, and tried to rise up to a standing position. The bath was slippery, and his legs were stiff from Quidditch. He was going to end up falling on his arse at this rate. He shot a look at Malfoy's impassive duck face. He couldn't honestly tell if his eyes were shut or not. Sod it, he thought, and stood up, giving Malfoy the full frontal and stepping out to drip on the bath mat. He shook himself a little before reaching for a towel.

Malfoy squealed. "Do you mind? You're splashing me!"

"Malfoy, you're a duck. A rubber bath toy. You're designed to get wet. You're not telling me you have an aversion to water?" Harry began to quickly rub himself dry. He finished with his armpits and moved onto his stomach. Malfoy finally seemed to have shut up for a minute. Harry towelled his thighs and then bent over to reach his calves.

"Are you sure you're not Muggleborn, Potter? You do actually know there are such things as Drying Charms?"

Harry jumped and snatched the towel in front of himself. "Malfoy! Are you peeking?"

"No!" Malfoy's voice sounded a little squeaky. "Not in the least. I just have exceptionally sharp hearing, that's all! I could clearly hear the towel, rubbing on your... on your... on your dreadful hard skin, actually, Potter. Don't you ever exfoliate?"

Harry wrapped the towel around himself firmly and secured it on his hips. It was hard to retain an air of dignity while being heckled about one's grooming habits by a small yellow duck, but Harry gave it his best shot. "I am going to finish getting dry in the bedroom, Malfoy. Good luck with the rest of the community service. I can't exactly say it was a pleasure seeing you again, but – goodbye."

He walked out, his movements stiff and offended, flicking the light off as he left. As he moved down the landing towards his room, he could hear Malfoy swearing and griping in the empty bathroom.

"Potter! I am still in here, you know! Potter! Bring your skinny, hairy arse back here and switch the bloody light on! My probation officer will hear about this!"

Harry hummed to himself as he finished drying and dressing. Malfoy's complaints continued faintly, and then, abruptly, ceased. Harry smiled. The time was up.

"Thank goodness for that," said Harry aloud, his voice sounding strange in the suddenly empty house.

 

~~~

The next day was sharp and cold, and when Harry got home from practice he could still feel it nipping in his fingers and toes. He ran his bath, using more hot water than usual, and singing along to the Hobgoblins on the WWN. His hand hesitated over the bottle of Bubbling Cauldrons Extra Bubbly Bath Potion , and for a moment he thought about leaving it out, but then poured in a defiantly large dollop.

He gave the rubber duck a suspicious look. It appeared the same as always: a garish shade of yellow, smooth bodied and beady-eyed. Harry wondered if it would be completely ridiculous to turn its face to the wall before undressing. He pulled his things off faster than usual and stepped hastily into the bath.

The water was steamy and fragrant, the candlelight soothing to his eyes. Harry sighed and stretched out his tired, complaining limbs. It felt warm and delicious, the bubbles clinging softly and caressing his bare skin as Harry lay for a minute in perfect relaxation. The circulation began to return to his fingers and toes in a pleasant prickle of pins and needles, and Harry noticed other parts of his body starting to tingle as well. He shifted gently from side to side, letting the water flow teasingly around his bobbing cock and balls. Everything just felt so good. He closed his eyes and remembered the fabulous dive he had made at the end of the practice. Rushing through the bitingly cold air, passing the other players in a blur. His hand stretching out – the sense of exhilaration – snatching the Snitch in a deft motion as he sped past. There was no other feeling like it. Well, maybe one feeling...

Harry's hand reached down towards his cock, which was already starting to rise and poke its way out through the mound of bubbles. His other hand reached for his balls, to cup them lightly, rolling them carefully against his palm. He gripped the head of his cock, moaning a little at the feel of his fingers moving silkily through the soapy water.

Pop.

Harry's arms and legs flailed in an eruption of water and bubbles as he reacted with horror to the small, but distinctive, noise of Draco Malfoy arriving in the duck.

"Shit!" he yelled, trying to simultaneously hide his erection, and to hide the fact that he was hiding it. "You scared the crap out of me, Malfoy! Can you stop doing this? I'm trying to have a bath here!"

Malfoy sounded extremely amused. "Was that what you were trying to have? I see."

Harry felt himself blushing furiously. "What are you doing back here, anyway? For fuck's sake, how many times do I have to put up with this?"

"I don't know why I'm here again. Bad luck for both of us, I suppose. Perhaps you especially, though." Malfoy sniggered. "You know, I don't think I've ever seen anyone blush all over quite like you're doing right now."

Harry glared and moved the bubbles to cover as much of his skin as possible. "Merlin! Who is your probation officer? I'm going to Floo them now and tell them to never, ever send you here again."

"They won't be able to help you, Potter. It's randomly selected. The charm is set to work automatically for up to an hour each day. No-one can choose where I go, or what I become. I begged them to stop sending me to old Muggle ladies with too many cats: once I was a feeding bowl." Here the duck shuddered, its little rubber wings vibrating.

"But to no avail. I just have to 'bloody put up with it, and think myself lucky I'm not sucking cocks in Azkaban', according to my probation officer. He does have the most charming turn of phrase." He sounded gloomy, and Harry could see the corners of the duck's bill drooping.

"That can't be right. If it's random, why are you here again? I thought you said you got sent to different places each time?"

"Ye-es, that is odd. I don't know why I am here a second time. Unless the charm has a sense of humour, maybe?" Malfoy suggested, perking up once more. "You've got to admit, it was classic timing."

A grin started to twitch at the corner of Harry's mouth, despite himself. The image of himself with a red face, splashing the contents of the bath everywhere, was definitely quite entertaining.

Malfoy squinted slyly from the duck's tiny eyes. "You know, if you wanted to carry on, er, beating the basilisk, Potter, don't let me stop you. It's certainly more amusing for me than being a dog's chew toy, or a washing up cloth."

"Shut it, Malfoy!" Harry squirmed uncomfortably. Malfoy's teasing was making him feel pretty odd again. "But... do they really have you doing all that?" he asked, his eyebrows drawing together in a frown. "It's like they want to make it as unpleasant as possible. If the idea's for you to be useful, there's plenty of stuff you could be doing. This is just sick!"

"Yes, well, it doesn't take a Legilimens to work that out. They bloody love it. A Malfoy, working for any old oik, including Muggles. Getting my hands – and worse – dirty. It's like a wet dream for those twisted old buggers at the DMLE." The duck shook itself as though ridding its mind of the unpleasant thought.

"Anyway. Merlin knows I'd rather think about anything else than that. So, here we are again! What are you always in the bath for, anyway, Potter? Is this just how the rich and famous live, these days? Have you adopted an aquatic lifestyle?"

Harry leaned back and folded his arms behind his head. "More like... playing Quidditch all day makes you pretty dirty."

"Ah, yes – the illustrious Wasps. I have seen you in the papers, of course. Looking terribly dashing, with the wind in your hair."

Harry sank a little further down into the water. He might as well get comfortable again. "Do you ever catch a game, these days, Malfoy?" Lying in the bath chatting with a rubber duck was certainly not the strangest thing he'd done since learning he was a wizard, all those years ago. It felt quite cosy, in fact.

"No, not so much. People, ah … they're not always so keen to see me out and about, shall we say? They don't tend to feel I should be enjoying myself at a Quidditch match, even if our dear Saviour is playing in it. They tend to feel I should be serving my time as somebody's shoelaces, or whatever." Malfoy laughed sarcastically. "Maybe if I was the Bludger, then people would approve of my presence at a game. Yes, I think if they saw me getting walloped all over the pitch by a great big club, they would find that an appropriate use of my time."

Harry didn't know whether to laugh or frown. Malfoy was pretty funny, when it wasn't Harry, or Harry's friends, that he was being cruel about. What he was saying also had a lot of truth in it.

"Anyway. We do seem to stray towards the maudlin, today, don't we Potter? So, why Quidditch? I thought you and Weasley were going to be Aurors and keep on saving the world forevermore? Did you decide it was an easier life catching Snitches than Dark wizards?"

Harry shrugged. "Not easier, exactly. I dunno. Ron is joining the Aurors – he's training with them at the moment. I thought I'd wait and see... and then this offer came, to play Seeker for the Wasps. I thought I'd do that while I worked out what else I might want to do."

"How very nice for you, to have all these delightful choices. The world is your oyster, it seems. But if you don't mind me saying, it's not how I would imagine the great Harry Potter to be spending his evenings. On his own, in the bath, rubbing off a crafty—"

"Yes, well," spluttered Harry. "I'm tired at the end of the day. All that flying knackers you out; I don't feel like going out much. Ron's busy, as I said, and Hermione's working her arse off, doing research. We get together at weekends, but while I'm training, I usually have a quiet evening in. There's nothing wrong with that."

"Of course not... just a little surprising. Where does the other Weasel feature in all this, then? The female one." The duck affected an air of innocence, but Harry was not fooled.

"Come on, Malfoy. You can read the Prophet as well as anyone else. You know we aren't together any more."

"Ah... I think I might have known... although your presuming that I have a certain level of interest in your private life is just a teeny bit delusional."

"Oh, yeah? So why are you sitting in my bathroom asking me about my ex-girlfriend, if you aren't interested in my private life?"

Malfoy sighed. "There's not much else I can do, right now, is there? Unless you want me to scrub your back or something. Not that I could, seeing as I haven't got any hands. Merlin, do entertain me a little, Potter. Distract me from the mournful reality of being stuck here as this ugly yellow object for the rest of the hour. If you're not going to finish off... and don't try to look as though you don't know what I mean," he said, sniggering, "then talk to me about Quidditch. What happened in your last match against the Cannons? You should have wiped the turf with them, and yet it was quite a close-flown game in the end."

Harry spelled the water a little hotter and stretched his legs out with a contented wriggle. He was just telling Malfoy about the Cannons' new tactics, and secretly wondering when he had begun to find Malfoy half-decent company, when he realised that the duck was just a duck again. The time was up, and Malfoy was gone.

 

~~~

That night Harry slept badly. Images of Malfoy being employed as various household objects flitted through his dreams like surrealist paintings. After a particularly vivid interlude, in which Malfoy bent over and asked Harry to hang his washing out to dry on him, Harry woke up, sweaty and disconcerted, with all of his bedclothes in a tangle.

He was determined to get up early and compose an owl of complaint to the Chief Warlock in the morning. There was no reason that anyone should be treated in this degrading manner, regardless of their crime. However, after another fitful episode of sleep, featuring Malfoy telling Harry he was a bar of soap, and inviting him to work him up into a good lather, Harry ended up sleeping through the alarm. There was no time for anything but a quick shave and shower before heading off to the Wasps' practice ground.

Most of the team were out on the pitch when he arrived, but Miles Bletchley, one of their Beaters, was still in the changing rooms. He was balanced over one of the slatted seats, stretching out a stiff calf that he often had difficulty with.

"Hey, Harry. How's it going?" asked Miles.

"Fine, just... running a bit late this morning." Harry quickly pulled off his things and started to struggle into his Quidditch gear.

Miles' thick blond hair was flopping into his eyes as he leant forwards. "I was wondering... do you fancy going for a drink sometime?"

"What, after the practice?" said Harry. "Yeah, I usually have a quick one with Dean in the Dumbledore Arms. Come and join us, why not?"

Miles straightened up and sauntered towards Harry and his pile of kit. "I was thinking of something a little more... intimate."

Harry's jersey got stuck over his head. The more he pulled, the more entangled he became.

"I meant just you and me, Harry. What do you think?" continued Miles.

"I... erm... hold on a minute, Miles, I just, er..."

Miles took the neck of Harry's jersey between his hands and pulled it wider so that Harry's head emerged, hair all over his face, and feeling distinctly red around the ears.

Miles smoothed the jersey down over Harry's shoulders and ran a lingering hand along his back.

"So, how about tonight? I could call for you about eight?"

"Erm, well. Er. Well, thanks, Miles. OK. "

"Nice one. Better get out on the pitch now, but, yeah, so, see you later, then."

Miles left the changing room with a complacent smile on his face, leaving Harry to wonder exactly what he'd got himself into. It wasn't that he didn't find Miles attractive. He had noticed his well-built frame before, with sideways looks in the changing rooms, and there was something about his long, pale eyelashes that caught Harry's gaze.

Also, Harry had to admit he could do with some special company in the evenings. The closest he got to excitement these days, was – what had Malfoy called it? – 'beating the basilisk', while thinking about doing various things with the unidentified hands or mouths – he seldom allowed himself to imagine a body or a face attached to them – that populated his fantasies. Apart from anything else, he missed having someone to talk to after a long day on a broom. He had grown used to dormitory life; even camping with Ron and Hermione during that appalling year had at least been companionable.

However, for some reason, Harry felt a distinct edge of discomfort as he thought about this... date; he supposed it was a date. He remembered the possessive hand resting on his back and shivered. Shaking his head to dispel the feeling – it was probably just nerves; it had been a while, after all, since he had gone out with anyone – he headed out to the pitch and the waiting players.

 

~~~

By the time Harry arrived home, he had managed to convince himself that going out with Miles was a great idea. He whistled jauntily in the shower, foregoing his usual bubble bath so as to give himself more time to get ready. He twitched a glance at the duck once or twice while soaping himself, but it remained blank-looking, and Malfoy's voice was conspicuously absent from the room. Harry considered washing his hair, but from experience this tended to make it even more impossible, so he contented himself with thoroughly sluicing off all the grime left on his body from the long day of practice.

Harry dried himself and went to his bedroom to dress, choosing his clothes with a little more care than usual. There was a deep green, fine-knit sweater that he wore sometimes, which had once made Hermione beam and say he looked handsome. He slipped it on, with a pair of newish jeans, and headed back into the bathroom to tackle his hair.

Brush in hand, he took a moment to assess himself in the mirror. Should he shave? He had some pretty thick five o'clock stubble going on. But maybe Miles would like that? He didn't want to look as if he was trying too hard. But he didn't want to look as if he was a lazy slob, either.

Harry heard the telltale 'pop' close at hand and turned round to address the duck with a cheeky grin. "Sorry to disappoint you tonight, Malfoy; I'm fully clothed this time."

"Talking to your duck for company? Poor Potter. I'm over here, by the way."

Harry looked round in confusion. "What? What are you this time?"

"Revolting as it seems, I think I'm your hairbrush."

Harry dropped the brush in alarm and then winced as Malfoy swore.

"Fuck's sake, Potter, a little more careful, please?"

"Merlin, I'm sorry. I still haven't got used to this whole thing. What are you doing back here again?"

"Beats me. Evidently, the charm thought I could be of assistance with your yearly hairbrushing. Oh come on, Potter, you can't tell me that you regularly attempt any sort of grooming on that thatch?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "So funny. I suppose it makes a change from the talking duck. Well. What happens now? I'm sorry, Malfoy, but I do want to brush my hair."

"What possible difference could it make? You constantly look like you've lost a fight with a Kneazle. I think something more dramatic than hairbrushing is necessary." He sighed. "Oh, go on then. It can't be worse than being the spoon that Dilys Grawkins was eating with."

"Are you sure? I don't want to... hurt you or anything. I mean, will it feel bad? To you?"

"No, no, go ahead. It'll be an honour to attend to the Saviour's hair," came the sarcastic reply.

Harry hesitated.

"Go on, Potter."

Harry lifted the brush up and gingerly started to smooth it across the top layer of his hair. Knowing Malfoy was inhabiting the brush made the task feel awkward, and he finished quickly and held the brush away from his head again.

"Did no-one ever demonstrate that you have to actually use the brush on your hair, rather than on the air around it? This could explain a lot."

Harry frowned and raised the brush tentatively to his head again. This time he let the bristles move through his hair, stroking gently from his temple to the back of his head. Malfoy was silent but the brush felt strangely alive in his hands, as if it were quivering.

"Malfoy... is this OK?" Harry asked.

"Yes." Malfoy sounded slightly breathless. "There's a big knot at the back, near your nape."

Harry passed the brush over the back again, this time letting the bristles run deeper and tug at the tangled section which lay underneath. He took his time to carefully tease out the knotted area until the brush ran smoothly once more. Harry shivered, just a little; the bristles running across the sensitive area of his nape were making his nerve endings tingle. He passed the brush through his hair once more... twice... three times...

Malfoy coughed, and then spoke a little huskily. "I don't think it's going to get any better, Potter, no matter how long you brush it. I think this is unfortunately just what your hair looks like."

Harry put the brush down abruptly. He could still feel the thrilling tickling feeling on his scalp.

"Er, thanks. Thanks for that, Malfoy." There was an awkward silence, which Harry hurried to fill.

"I, er, I was going to write to the Chief Warlock. Or Kingsley, or someone. About this community service thing. It's dreadful; I can't believe I didn't know this was how you had to serve the sentence."

Malfoy-the-brush sniffed. "Saint Potter stepping in once again to save us all? Spare me, please. I'm nearly done with this: only a month more and then I'll be a free man again. If you start poking your nose in, they'll probably think of something even more 'pleasant' for me to do. Walking the streets with a sign round my neck, or ringing a bell or something. Leave it be."

Harry frowned. "I don't like this, Malfoy. I'm not saying you didn't... well, we all know what you did. But to treat you like this... it's not right."

Malfoy spoke haughtily. "I assure you it's quite all right. I don't need any more of your help. Now mind your own business. Haven't you got better things to do, like gaze at yourself lovingly in the mirror, as you were doing when I arrived?"

Harry flushed. "Yes. Well. I'm going out, as it happens. I'd better be off."

"Going out? Oh, how nice." Malfoy sounded as if he thought it anything but. "And where exactly are you taking your esteemed self tonight? Won't they get a shock when they see you with your hair all brushed?"

"I, er— I don't know where we're going. I'm meeting someone. Now, thanks, Malfoy, but I've got to—"

"'Meeting someone'? That sounds interesting. Is this a date, Potter? Are you hoping to get your leg over someone else's broomstick tonight?"

Harry shifted from foot to foot. "No! Er. Yes. What?" Why did Malfoy always have to be so crude? Harry fidgeted with the hem of his sweater. There was nothing wrong with him meeting someone. He was an adult. He could meet people if he wanted. He cleared his throat. "Yes, it's a date. I'm going on a date."

"And who is the lucky witch? Or... wizard? Did I hear correctly that you're not too fussy about what's underneath the robes?"

Harry's forehead wrinkled. "Bloody hell, Malfoy. What is it to you? Hoping to get some more juicy information for Skeeter?"

Malfoy let out a kind of offended hiss. "Oh, that's low. That's really low. Kick a man while he's down, why don't you?"

Harry had the bizarre realisation that he was arguing with a hairbrush. A hairbrush that was managing to look pouty and insulted.

"OK, whatever. I'm going for a drink with Miles. Miles Bletchley. You know him, don't you?"

Malfoy's voice rose to a screech. "Bletchley! Salazar, you have to be joking!"

"What's wrong with him?" Harry's brows drew together. "Not that I care what you think."

"The man's a menace! He's got more tentacles than the Giant Squid, and he'll have them draped all over you as soon as look at you! Merlin, Potter, I hope you're ready to have his hands rooting about in your robes after the first round of Butterbeer. He's a tart, and a nastily insistent one at that."

Harry scowled. "Look, Malfoy, this is really nothing to do with you. I know you can't help being here like this. But you can't start telling me who I can and can't go out with. Miles seems like a decent bloke. And I can look after myself."

"Oh, fine then. Have a charming evening out with the sex-pest of Slytherin House. I won't bother telling you where else he's been before you. It would be quicker to tell you where he hasn't, to be frank. Have a great time, won't you?"

Harry's jaw tightened, and he leant heavily against the cabinet, gripping it with his hands. "I will. I will. You have a great time, here, Malfoy... being a brush. Yeah, have a great time with that." He stalked out of the bathroom and went downstairs, still scowling.

Malfoy was so annoying. Harry's foot bumped against the wall in frustration. It wasn't exactly a kick... well, actually, it was a kick. He did it again. His foot hurt, but it felt satisfying. It wasn't his fault. Malfoy had really pissed him off. Why did Malfoy care who he went out with, anyway? Harry cast Tempus with an irritable flick. He was going to leave now and have a good time with Miles. A really bloody good time. And Malfoy could stick it up his bristly, brushy arse for all he cared.

 

~~~

"So, Harry, great practice today, hmm? I lovedthat Plumpton Pass you made at the end of play."

"Oh!" Harry laughed in embarrassment. "No, that was, er, that really was an accident. The Snitch flew up my sleeve. I didn't know it was there until Zara pointed it out. I'm not clever enough to pull off something like that."

Miles leant in closer on the weird silver seats, arm draped over Harry's shoulder. "You're too modest. You're by far the best Seeker in England, maybe the whole of Europe. And..." he bent to whisper in Harry's ear, "you've got the best thighs of any player I've seen. Well, except for Krum, of course!" He laughed, and Harry felt his breath huffing hotly across his neck.

"Er... thanks," Harry said awkwardly, looking around the room as though for assistance. The bar was dimly lit, blaring with heavy beats, and deeply, deeply fashionable. Harry had hated it as soon as they got there. Miles apparently knew the owner, and got them admitted to a private area, which at least meant that Harry was getting stared at a lot less than usual, but apart from that, Harry was feeling wildly out of place and more uncomfortable by the minute.

Miles' hand started to rub along Harry's shoulder and then down to trace the muscle at the top of his arm. Harry shifted in his seat and took a sip of his drink. Miles had insisted on ordering for them, and he’d chosen a violently purple mixture called something like 'Veela's Breath'. It came in a glass shaped like a potions flask and tasted overwhelmingly of broomstick polish.

"So what do you think? Nice hangout Adrian has here, isn't it?" asked Miles, squeezing Harry's biceps appraisingly, as though choosing fruit at the market.

"Mmm. Great," said Harry. God, this is awful. A brainwave occurred to him. "You know what, Miles, I'm feeling really hungry. Shall we go and get something to eat?"

"Fabulous idea..." purred Miles. "I know some great little places. But let's have our drinks and spend a bit more time here first. I feel like I'm just getting to know you..."

Harry sat up straight and moved his shoulder, managing to dislodge Miles' hand. Unfortunately, Miles merely redeployed the hand straight away, placing it around Harry's waist and leaning in to let his lips brush against Harry's ear. "Relax... you're so wound up."

Harry clutched at his drink, grimacing at the taste, but gulping it nonetheless with an increasing sense of desperation. Miles' hand meandered casually along the small of Harry's back, seemed to think about taking a detour up to his shoulder blades, then continued in a newly determined way towards Harry's backside.

"Have you, er, read any good books lately?" Harry forced out, just as Miles' finger dipped into Harry's jeans and jabbed abruptly into the crack of his arse. "Fuck!" Harry jumped up as if scalded. "Merlin, Miles, you – you startled me!"

"Sit down, Harry! Finish your drink. You're so twitchy, you need to unclench a little." Miles smiled, but to Harry it looked like he was showing his white, rather unpleasantly pointed teeth.

"I'm – so tired, Miles. I'm just so tired. I've got to – got to go home and get some rest. Thanks for the drink. I've got to go. I'll see you tomorrow," Harry babbled, feeling surprisingly panicked by the other man's unwanted behaviour.

Miles stood, taking the opportunity to press himself against Harry as he bent to grab his jacket from the seat. "Oh, me too, really tired. Let's go back to yours and have a lie down..."

Harry pulled away, feeling equal parts outraged and flustered, and Apparated back to his sitting room without further farewells.

He sank back on his squashy old sofa with an exhalation of relief, breathing heavily, as if he'd just been duelling. God, it was only nine p.m. What a fucking disaster. What now? Unable to face the rest of the evening, feeling alone and as if he had several layers of skin too few, Harry decided to just go straight to bed. Curled up under the blankets, sleep soon came to him like a familiar friend, and he rested in her comfortable arms until the morning.

 

~~~

Harry woke with a groan at the thought of the day ahead. Training was gruelling at the best of times, but with the added stress of having to face Miles after the previous night's fiasco, it was shaping up to be a major pain in the arse. He showered, then shaved, noticing the hairbrush still lying by the sink from the night before.

How had Malfoy felt when Harry had left him? There had still been quite a lot of the hour remaining, and Malfoy had been stuck in Harry's bathroom, on his own, unable to move. And Harry had... well, Harry had taunted him about having to spend the rest of the hour as Harry's brush. Harry tried to swallow the uneasy feeling in his chest and finished getting ready.

The day with the Wasps was just as difficult as Harry had feared. He decided the best course of action was simply to try and avoid Miles as much as possible, but as soon as Harry got to the changing room, Miles blocked his path, wearing a sneering, ugly expression. Harry wondered how he could ever have found him attractive. His fair hair was eye-catching, in a way, but it was a bright, sandy yellow, rather than the pale blond Harry really admired. And his frame was too broad and meaty, his cheeks tending towards ruddy, especially when vexed, like now. He put Harry in mind of a slab of uncooked beef lying on a plate.

"Hello, Miles," said Harry curtly, moving to get past.

Miles merely curled his lip and turned his back on Harry, walking off to speak to Rainault, one of the Chasers. As Harry began to get changed, he saw the two players glancing over at him, and the phrases "... so weird... all messed up since the war... practically a recluse..." drifted over in Miles' arrogant drawl. "If you want to know, I felt sorry for him..." heard Harry as Miles and Rainault headed out onto the pitch together.

Things didn't get any easier. Harry couldn’t seem to find his stride on his broom. His movements felt fumbling and stilted, and his self-consciousness fed back into itself in a vicious spiral as he saw Miles and the other players noticing his struggles.

"Bad day, Harry?" asked Zara cheerfully as his broom stuttered to an inelegant halt next to one of the hoops she was circling.

"Apparently, yes," said Harry, before taking a deep breath and urging his broom onwards again. But no matter how hard he tried, things would not go his way, and he hardly so much as got a sniff of the Snitch all day. By three p.m., the coach, Cassandra, was telling him to finish early. "You're all over the place, Harry. It's putting the others off their game. Let Phineas take over for now, go home and get some rest, and come back a bit fresher on Monday, for Merlin's sake."

At home Harry mooched around glumly. He had his usual bath, but took little pleasure in it. Duck Malfoy did not appear, nor Brush Malfoy. Dressed in a worn pair of pyjama trousers, a t-shirt and fuzzy old jumper, Harry found himself wandering on a circuit from the living room, to the kitchen, and back again, without having any idea what he was actually looking for. Sighing, he went to the cupboard and stared blankly at the contents. It was a bit early to start making dinner. His eye fell on the bottle of Firewhiskey Ron had given him last Christmas. Harry wasn't a big drinker by any means, and the bottle was still mostly full. He decided to take both it and a glass into the sitting room, and keep it company in there.

It was cold for November, and Harry set a fire blazing in the grate, before pouring himself a generous measure of Firewhiskey. The bronze liquid glowed in the firelight, and the heavy weight of the lead-crystal tumbler felt comforting in Harry's hands as his mind ran over his shitty day. Shitty week, really. At least it was Friday, and he wouldn't have to see Miles until Monday. Tomorrow he would see Ron and Hermione...Oh no, Harry remembered. They're away again, of course. Hermione had discovered a love for travel, and although Harry was always invited to join them, he felt even more of a third Bludger when staying in romantic or exotic locations with his friends.

He stared into the fire, sipping his drink and feeling soothed by the pleasurable burn coating his mouth and throat. Another measure followed the first, and before Harry knew it, the bottle was not nearly full any more, but he was feeling much more cheerful about life. He put his feet up on the sofa and lay back, closing his eyes for a minute and cradling the glass against his stomach. The Firewhiskey was making his whole body feel warm and contented.

Pop.

Harry looked around, surprised. "Malfoy, hello! I wasn't expecting to see you down here! Where are you?"

Malfoy's voice answered from close at hand. "Ah well, this is new. For the love of Merlin, don't drop me this time, Potter, or we'll be in a right mess. I'm the glass. Bit early for Firewhiskey, isn't it?"

Harry's face crinkled into a smile. "The glass! That's a good one! Ah, Malfoy, I bet you wish you were the bottle. You'd have much more Firewhiskey inside you then." He snorted at his own joke.

"With the muck you're drinking, I'd sooner abstain. I prefer something a little smoother, myself."

"Ah, it's lovely stuff, Malfoy. Can't beat it," Harry said, taking another sip. "Lovely."

He held the glass up to the light, watching the contents flow gently around inside.

"Hmm. This is a bit funny, Malfoy. You being the glass, I mean."

"Yes, yes, Potter, it's very odd, but I thought you would be getting used to it by now. It took me a while, but the novelty has worn well and truly off."

"No. I mean, you being the glass. You know." Harry flicked the glass with his fingernail, making it chink against the facets.

"Do you mind not doing that? It goes right through me. My teeth are on edge now. And no, I do not know what you are blethering about."

"Oh, sorry. Sorry sorry, Malfoy." Harry peered earnestly at the glass. "I just meant, s'a bit funny – you being the glass—"

"Yes, I think we've fully established how completely hilarious it is—"

"No, I mean, you being the glass, and me drinking out of you. I mean, my lips are, like, touching you."

There was a silence.

"I mean, like, kissing you, kind of thing."

The silence became stony.

"I jus’ – jus’ thought it was a bit funny." Harry tailed off. The silence continued. Harry looked at the glass in his hand, shrugged, and then put it to his mouth for another gulp.

"So, wha' kind of a day have you had, Mafloy? I mean – Malfoy?"

"I had a fucking awful day as usual, Potter. Why are you drunk?"

"Oh. I had a fucking awful day, too. Yeah." Harry looked solemn and took another drink.

"You did?" Malfoy sounded a little brighter. "What happened last night, then? Did you and Bletchley not hit it off, after all? I thought you were onto a winner there." He snickered to himself.

"Nah. You were right. You were right, Malfoy, thass what it is, I shoulda – shoulda listened to you! Man's a menace, you said. Thass right; you told me." Harry was feeling the effects of the alcohol strongly now, his head fuzzy and his lips thick. Maybe having spirits on an empty stomach hadn't been his greatest idea.

"Hah! Of course you should have listened to me." Malfoy sounded positively perky. "Want advice on your love-life? Ask your disgraced, Death Eater enemy. It never fails."

"Aw, Mafloy. Malfoy. Not your – not your enemy? Am I? Thought we were getting to be friends. You brushed my hair. Talked about Quidditch. Can't we be frien's?" Harry looked mournfully at the glass.

"Dear Merlin, you make for a sloppy drunk, Potter. Gryffindor to a T. Give you a taste of anything stronger than Gillywater, and you're all slobbering wrecks. No, don't pour another. I really think you've had enough."

Harry frowned, as if trying to concentrate. "Maybe. Maybe you're right. Shoulda listened to you."

"That's it, Potter. Listen to Draco. Why don't you put the glass down. Not on the floor! On the table. Nice and carefully, on the table. There. Well done."

"Thanks, Mafloy. Mafloy? Draco. Thanks. Think I'll just have a little sleep."

"A fine idea. Good night." To himself, Malfoy added as Harry's eyes closed: "They have me babysitting drunkards now!"

Harry's eyes flew open with a start. "Draco! When I wake up..."

"Yes, Potter?"

"You'll be gone."

"Yes, Potter."

Harry pouted, just a little bit. "S'lonely."

Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Salazar! Potter, just go to sleep. You'll wake up and it'll be morning. Everything will be OK."

"Nah. Not that tired. Just goin' to have a little sleep, and then... and then..." Harry frowned, and then opened his eyes wide, a thought crossing his mind in what must have appeared cartoonish slow-motion. "Mal-foy, when I wake up, will you come over? I mean, as you?"

"What?"

"Come over! Come over and have a drink. Just, like, as yourself. Not a duck. Come over. We can talk Quidditch again." Harry leaned forward. His vision was clearer and he felt less sleepy already.

"Potter – you've had a lot to drink. I don't think you really want—"

"I do! Do want. Come over. Give me ... twenty mins. Just have a nap, and then – yeah! Great!"

Malfoy sounded unsure. "I don't— You're not— "

"Ah. Ah. I get it. You don't wan' to. You don' want to be friends." Harry slumped back on the sofa.

"Potter, I—"

"No, no, thass fine. I understand. Sorry I mentioned it. Stupid idea. Stupid Harry."

"Look, Potter – oh, for God's sake. All right. I'll come over."

"You will? Thass brilliant!"

"Yes, yes. Don't blub. Look, have a rest. I estimate I've got about thirty minutes left here. When I change back, I have a couple of things to do at home, then I'll Floo over and see if you're awake. But really, I think the best thing you could do is sleep it off till the morning."

"Nah, nah. Be great! You come over. We'll have a drink. See you in a bit, Draco. I'll see you. Thanks."

Harry's eyelashes drooped, then his eyes closed of their own accord. There was silence except for the crackling of the fire, and his slow, regular breathing quickly led to a peaceful sleep.

 

~~~

Harry came to with the certainty that he had been snoring loudly a moment or two before, and squinted with bleary eyes at the shape of Malfoy emerging from the Floo. As Harry sat up, responding eagerly to the idea of a visitor, Malfoy paused, hesitating, on the threshold, but then stepped forward to retrieve Harry's glasses for him. They had fallen off and were lying on the sofa.

Harry tried to brush some of the hair off his face. "Malfoy! You're here! Oh, hell, my tongue feels like a Hippogriff's hide."

"You're tired, Potter. I'll leave you to rest." Malfoy turned to go.

"No!" Harry scrambled for his wand. "I'm great, just let me..." He cast a freshening charm in the direction of his head and shuddered as it scoured his tongue and the walls of his mouth. He rubbed his eyes, one side of his face feeling numb from being pressed against the sofa.

Malfoy was still hovering, his face uncertain. "Are you sure? I can..."

"No, it's cool. Have a seat!" Harry cleared his throat. "It's, er, I'm glad you came."

He slipped on his glasses, and Malfoy came into focus. He looked taller and leaner than Harry remembered him, and his hair was both longer and looser than the way he had worn it at his trial. He wore a severe, high-necked jumper and dark-grey trousers. His face was serious as he sat neatly on the chair next to Harry's, poised on the edge as though it might be cursed.

"Have a drink?" Harry asked.

Malfoy's mouth twitched a bit at that, and a smile threatened to escape. "Mmm. I brought my own, actually. I had quite close enough contact with that particular brand of Firewhiskey earlier, thanks." He produced a bottle of brandy from the voluminous pocket of his robes.

Harry laughed. "Good for you!" He Summoned two glasses and gestured to Malfoy to serve himself. His own glass, he filled with water and drained in a few gulps. "I'm all fuzzy. Hah! I'm not really a drinker, y'know."

"You could have fooled me." Malfoy rolled the brandy around his glass appraisingly, before allowing it to flow against his mouth, his tongue carefully sliding over his top lip afterwards. "I thought you just flopped around all day taking baths and getting pissed." He smiled a thin smile, his eyes remaining tense.

Harry grimaced. "Yeah, well, I reckon if I turned up randomly at your house for an hour a day, I bet I'd find you doing some pretty strange stuff."

Malfoy's eyebrow rose. "Like what?"

"I dunno... brewing things, or... kicking house-elves, or something." Harry shrugged and refilled his glass with water.

"Not torturing kittens? Or sacrificing virgins, perhaps?" Malfoy let another sip of brandy slide against his sneering mouth.

Harry raised his own glass to his mouth to hide his discomfort at the turn the conversation was taking.

"Sorry to disappoint you, Potter," Malfoy continued. "All those fun kind of things are strictly against the terms of my probation. No virgins for me."

Harry missed his mouth and dribbled a bit of his water down the front of his top.

Malfoy looked delighted, and shifted to sit with one leg crossed over the other."So, tell me more about your evening with Bletchley. How come he isn't here for another bite of the cherry?"

"Merlin, Malfoy!" Harry protested as Malfoy coolly took a long, appreciative sniff of his glass. Malfoy talking about virgins, and cherries, and doing that thing with his tongue... it was all very flustering. And bloody Miles. "Could I... do you think I'd like that, what you're drinking?"

Malfoy frowned and immediately proffered the bottle in Harry's direction. "Of course! I apologise for not offering straight away, but I rather thought you'd had enough earlier."

Harry poured himself a cautious measure and tilted the brandy in his glass as he had seen Malfoy do. A little bit slopped onto his hand and Harry put it to his mouth and sucked.

"So?" Malfoy's grey eyes were fixed on Harry.

"What?"

"Is it to your taste? Or have you destroyed your palate, drinking that trash I was the unwilling receptacle for earlier?"

"Oh." Harry had another try. Just the fumes from it made him feel a bit light-headed. It sauntered silkily down his throat, warming him right to his toes. "It's good. Thanks, Malfoy."

"It's rather a fine vintage, this one. That Firewhiskey's a quick grope round your back alley with a Nocturne whore. This, however,—" Malfoy gestured with his glass. "This is more like a fifty Galleon blow job." The tip of his tongue lightly touched the rim of the glass, licking up a drop with enjoyment.

There he went again, talking about sex. The atrocious evening with Miles seemed to have made Harry more aware than ever that he felt completely out of his depth with the subject. It had been ages since he'd actually... done things with anyone. Not that he had done much to owl home about in the first place. Maybe Malfoy felt the same way. Maybe that was why he was always going on about... stuff.

"Have you got a girlfriend, Malfoy?" he blurted out. Shit. Why had he asked that? He had meant to talk about something different altogether, not ask about Malfoy's love-life.

Malfoy's eyebrows went up again. "A girlfriend? That would be a no."

Harry felt there was more that Malfoy wasn't saying. In fact, he was probably in danger of putting his foot in it. He took a larger swallow of the comforting brandy. "A boyfriend?" he heard himself ask. Fuck! Change the bloody subject, Harry.

Malfoy barked a laugh, and his mouth curled into a smirk. "Closer, but still no Tri-Wizard Cup, Potter. You really would be surprised how few people are falling over themselves to be in a relationship with an ex-Death Eater who has to spend an hour a day as a teaspoon."

Harry was startled by the delighted laugh that flew out of his own mouth. When did Malfoy get so fucking funny about himself? Malfoy looked pleased, and leant forward on his chair. "So, why are you hanging around with pond life like Bletchley? I refuse to believe that's honestly the best you can do."

Harry shook his head, eyes closed. "God, I don't know. He asked me, and I thought it would be... OK, you know? There isn't exactly anyone else at the moment."

"No, and this I don't understand. You're the Saviour of the fucking Wizarding World, Potter. Surely you can get a shag when you want one?"

Harry's ears flushed a deep pink. He topped up his glass and passed the bottle to Malfoy. "I, er. It's difficult."

"What? Can't get it up?" Malfoy laughed harshly. "I had a spot of that trouble myself last year, but you seemed to be functioning entirely normally, from what I saw while serving my time as a duck."

"Bloody hell, Malfoy. No. I mean, it's hard to meet someone. Someone who isn't just after... what you said. The Saviour."

"Why be fussy? You could have any witch you wanted, as far as I can see. Or wizard, probably. Do you have a preference, or is it a free-for-all in Potter's pants?"

Harry's head was swimming. "I don't know. I don't even know, and how am I meant to find out, when all I do is play Quidditch and go for a drink with Dean and... have baths and... talk to Hermione over the Floo about once a week?"

Malfoy's eyes narrowed. "You don't know? It's fairly simple, surely? Do you like it better when you're balls deep in some tart's cauldron, or is giving someone else's broomstick a thorough seeing to more in your line?"

Harry cheeks flamed uncomfortably. The brandy was making him feel all kinds of peculiar. The fire was blazing in the hearth and his forehead prickled with sweat. He started to pull off his sweater, feeling a pressing need to cool down.

Malfoy's eyes widened briefly before his smirk slotted back into place. "Is that your answer? Are you done with the small talk and moving on to undressing already?"

Harry made as if to answer, but then just shook his head helplessly instead. He was beyond sparring with Malfoy this evening. Perhaps this had all been a terrible mistake. Malfoy looked uneasy, too. His gaze kept darting to Harry's midriff, and Harry realised he had inadvertently pulled his t-shirt up along with the jumper. He smoothed the material down hastily, but he couldn't help noticing that there was something interesting about the sensation of having Malfoy's eyes on him.

"I haven't really... I've always been busy, you know? At Hogwarts, there was always something I was meant to be doing. Someone to fight, stuff to learn, someone to keep my eye on." Malfoy raised an eyebrow and Harry nodded. "Yes, like you. I had to think about that all the time. And then, last year... well. Things were about as bad as they could be. There was never any time to just be Harry, and to work out what I wanted."

Malfoy looked at him, his jaw rather tight and his eyes unusually bright, and Harry felt a kind of devilment creep over him. He hated the way some people always stared, greedily, when he went to Diagon Alley, as though they'd like to take a big bite out of him. Or after a match, the fans who hung around afterwards. They always stood too close and wanted to touch him, just to be near him, their eyes too wide and their mouths wet and shiny with longing. They made him feel twitchy, and he couldn't wait to get away. But when Malfoy looked at him like that, Harry felt it as a warm, fluttering heat in his belly. Uncurling, and rippling: it made him want Malfoy to carry on looking, to see that intent and curious expression focused on him.

As if in a dream, Harry stretched his arms out, oh-so-casually above his head, flexing his biceps and letting his t-shirt ride up a little. There it was again. Malfoy's eyes flicking almost unwillingly over Harry's body. And this unexpected tingling in Harry's stomach, which seemed connected directly to his cock. His cock, which was stirring and letting Harry know that it liked this feeling a lot. This hazy, heated, confusing, messy feeling of sitting here drinking with Malfoy. Not Malfoy as a duck, but a real flesh and blood Malfoy, whose skin looked silvery in the firelight, and whose tongue darted out to swipe another lick of brandy, eyes lingering over Harry's exposed stomach. Looking as if he wanted to look some more, and as if he wanted to look away, both at the same time.

Malfoy had seen him in the bath... probably seen him naked, if Harry's suspicions about peeking were correct. But this felt different, quite, quite different. This felt intimate and dirty and a little bit dangerous. Harry became very aware of the fact that he was wearing a pair of thin cotton pyjamas and no underpants. And that unless Malfoy stopped looking at him like that, or unless he, Harry, did something fast, then Malfoy was very shortly going to become very aware of the fact too.

Harry began to gabble, his speech slurring slightly again as the alcohol thickened his tongue. "WhenIsplitupwithGinnyIthought..." He drew a long wobbly breath. "I thought there would be lots of time. To find out what I felt. If wha' I thought I felt about blokes was... real. Or if it was just a... just a thing, jus' a part of being nineteen and... being really glad about being not-dead. But when the papers follow you aroun' everywhere, and people just want to get a piece of you because you're Harry Potter, it's not very easy to find time to find out what it is you want." He stopped abruptly, as though having run aground. He couldn't look at Malfoy. The fire crackling in the grate sounded very loud. Harry stared at his own feet. They were bare, and looked pale and very naked.

Malfoy cleared his throat. "You know, Potter, it's getting late. I think I'd best be—"

"No!" Harry blurted.

Malfoy looked alarmed. He was sitting very straight-backed again, his long legs pressed together tensely.

"Stay... jus' a little bit," Harry asked. He didn't want to start up that churny, prickly feeling in his stomach again. Did he? But he didn't want Malfoy to leave... just yet. "Please," he added, looking quickly at Malfoy and then back at his feet.

Malfoy wet his lips. He opened his mouth, then closed it again. "No, Potter," he said finally. "I need to go. I shouldn't actually even be here. And I've got a long day ahead of me tomorrow – being a soup dish, or something equally entertaining, no doubt."

Harry's shoulders slumped a little. "OK. I understan'. Thanks, Malfoy. Thanks for coming over."

Malfoy stood to go, but then lingered, looking impossibly tall and elegant from where Harry slouched on the sofa. "Potter," Malfoy said finally. "You should... you should probably be careful who you ask over, when you've been drinking. Some people would... take advantage. You've a terrible head for booze, you know."

Harry smiled wanly. "I know. I know! Terr'ble. I din't mean to get drunk. Twice! But s'OK. Be OK in the morning. "

He stood, lurching to one side, and made as if to clasp Malfoy by the shoulders, in the over-friendly farewell of the inebriated, but Malfoy stiffened and stepped backwards smartly, leaving Harry groping in mid-air. By the time he had righted himself, Malfoy was stepping neatly into the Floo, casting only a quick, solemn glance over his shoulder as he disappeared into the green flames.

 

~~~

"Harry? Harry! Are you all right? Harry!"

Harry saw the world sideways, through one bleary eye which felt like its eyelid had turned to sandpaper. The blurry but unmistakeable outline of Hermione's head swam in front of him.

"Harry?" She sounded concerned, but also impatient.

A scratchy, gurgling sound came from Harry's mouth. He attempted to sit up, then wished he hadn't.

Hermione peered at him, eyes narrowed. "Harry! Are you ill? You look dreadful!"

Harry pushed some of his hair out of his eyes. "Hermione," he croaked. "Nice to see you, too."

"What's going on, Harry?" She sniffed, suspiciously. "Have you been drinking? It reeks in here."

Harry groaned and fumbled for his glasses. He appeared to have slept on them. They were covered in greasy fingerprints, and one arm was bent the wrong way. Hermione shook her head as she watched him attempt to rub them smearily on his t-shirt.

"Hold on, Harry. We haven't left for Turkey yet; we're still at the Burrow. I'm coming through." Hermione's head disappeared, then the whole of her emerged from the fireplace, shaking Floo powder from her hair as she stepped out and pointing her wand at Harry in a businesslike fashion. He ducked automatically, but she was too fast for him.

"Oculus Reparo. Tergeo." Satisfied his glasses were now fixed and cleaned, she took a seat next to him on the sofa. "You smell, too, Harry. What have you been up to? You never get drunk!"

Harry winced. "I know." His head ached so much. "Hermione, I feel bloody terrible. I think I might be sick."

Hermione flapped her hands at him. "Not here! Accio bowl." A cereal bowl flew from the direction of the kitchen and landed in her lap.

"No! Accio bucket!" There was a fruitless pause.

Harry groaned, swaying a little on the sofa. "I don't think I own a bucket. But I'm definitely going to..." He stood, unsteadily, making an attempt for the bathroom.

Hermione jumped up too. "Accio saucepan!" she squeaked in a panic, with the resulting appearance of an oversized saucepan a little way in front of Harry's nose.

"Molly bought me that..." Harry spluttered, his face slack with nausea and misery. "She'd kill me..."

"Oh, for goodness' sake! Sobrius!" cast Hermione.

A hideous purging sensation rampaged through Harry's body, beginning in his stomach, radiating out through his veins, and finally scouring his mouth, the pores of his skin, and, most unpleasantly, his eyes.

"Ugh," Harry groaned, quivering with disgust. "What was that?"

Hermione clasped her hands unhappily. "Sorry, Harry! You'll feel better soon, I promise! What on earth were you doing to get so hungover?"

Harry sat down shakily, with the Molly saucepan cradled in his lap. He thought briefly about sticking his head in it and not coming out until he felt better. His headache was abating, but he felt horribly empty, and as though his internal organs might squeak and stick together if he moved about much.

"I had some of that Firewhiskey Ron gave me. And... some brandy." The image of Malfoy's eyes resting on him intimately in the firelight flashed into his head. Harry let his head drop inside the safe haven of the saucepan. It was dark in there and peaceful. It smelled faintly of curry.

"Two glasses on the table?" Hermione's voice seemed to come from far away. "Harry, come out of there! Who were you drinking with?"

Harry moaned softly from inside the pan. The noise reverberated eerily around the metal sides. He pulled his head out.

It couldn't make things any worse, surely. "Draco Malfoy," he said miserably.

He risked a peek at Hermione's face. Oh. Apparently, it could.

"Harry! What on earth? What was Malfoy doing here?"

Harry put his head back into the saucepan.

 

~~~

Later, when Hermione had finally gone, with assurances (despite Harry's protestations) that she would fix everything, as soon as possible, and that Turkey could wait until next weekend if necessary, he leaned weakly against the kitchen counter.

Hiding in the saucepan had proved to be an invalid long term solution. After an unwelcome amount of questions, and aided by a mug of strong tea, Hermione had eventually teased out the salient points of the story. At first, as he probably would have predicted, she was appalled. Appalled that Harry was getting pestered in this way; that Malfoy had this unorthodox access to him on a daily basis; that Harry was at risk in some way, if not of actual physical harm, then definitely of extreme mental aggravation.

What Harry didn't guess, but probably should have, was that as she came to understand the entire situation more fully (as fully as anyone could understand the whole ludicrous tangle), she became appalled on Malfoy's behalf, and then indignant, and then angry, and, finally, determined. Harry tried to explain, quite thoroughly, that Malfoy didn't want anyone to interfere, and that he personally was getting used to Malfoy popping up at surreal moments (and having parts of Harry popping up at Malfoy, his brain helpfully supplied). However, a penitent and recently Sobriused Harry was no match for a determined Hermione, especially when Harry was getting all these distracting images of Malfoy's smirky, dirty mouth asking why Harry couldn't get a shag when he wanted one.

And so she left, in a flurry of I will sort this all out, and be careful with Malfoy around, and you won't go getting all obsessed again, will you, Harry? And Harry was left feeling cross and bothered and really quite disgruntled, stomping around the house glaring at things. Which of course, was an absolutely bloody perfect moment for Malfoy to turn up as one of his socks.

Yeeeeeuuuuuuurccccch!” Malfoy said, in a revolted squawk. “What the— Get me off your blasted foot, Potter!”

It took Harry a moment to work out what was going on.

Get me off! I'm a sock, for fuck's sake!”

Harry snatched one sock off and dropped it onto the floor.

“No― The other one! The other one!

Harry deposited his second sock on top of the first.

“Augh! Get me off this hideous object! I don't want to sit here on one of your socks, for Merlin's sake!”

“Malfoy, you are a sock. What difference does it make?”

“Oh, none at all, no! Why not get a whole pile of repulsive, stinking socks and make me lie on them, yes, good idea, thanks a bunch, Potter!”

Harry rolled his eyes, but picked up Sock Malfoy and put him carefully on the floor a distance away from the other sock. They were both red and fuzzy, in theory identical, but the one inhabited by Malfoy seemed to tremble a little. “I literally just put those on, you know. My feet were cold. And my feet do not stink, anyway.”

“Your level of self-deception is incredible. I'm betting you skipped the bubble bath today.”

“I've only just got up. Haven't had time to get dressed, even. Hell, I need some breakfast. Or something.”

“How gratifying to be able to lounge around in one's pyjamas until noon. It certainly is a challenging life, being Harry Potter.”

“I work bloody hard all week training for Quidditch, as you know! I don't see why I shouldn't get a break at weekends, when we're not playing.”

“Yes, no match this week? You're taking on the Arrows next, am I right? I don't fancy your chances against Sumathi Nayar; the woman's unstoppable.”

“I can take Nayar, no problem. She's fast, but I've more experience.” Harry spoke with a confidence he didn't entirely feel. The Arrows' rising star was cutting a swathe through the other teams, and this would be the first time he faced her. “She's unpredictable – I've seen her miss catches she should have made easily.” He stomped over to the fridge and began to haul things out, feeling impossibly hungry.

“Perhaps,” said Malfoy. “But as we've all seen, she can make catches that shouldn't be humanly possible.”

“Have you seen her play, then?” Harry pulled out a wide frying pan and dropped in a generous helping of butter.

“Only on the replays in Quidditch Weekly. You know they have plenty of photographs of the exciting parts of the game. It's the next best thing to being there.”

Harry laid down fat slices of bacon which set the pan a-sizzle. “You really should come to a game. It's not the same at all, even though those photos are clever.”

Malfoy sighed. “That's all very well for you to say, standing here in your nice safe little kitchen. You've no fucking idea how people look at me if I dare go anywhere. Pansy got spat at in Diagon Alley the other day, and all she was doing was looking at hats.”

Harry frowned and dumped some eggs into the pan, to cosy up next to the bacon. He'd never really given a shit about what happened to Voldemort's lot after the war trials, to be honest. He remembered Pansy Parkinson's hysterical voice ringing through the Great Hall. “But he's there! Potter's there!

He shook his head. Her arm had shaken, as she pointed at him. It seemed like a lifetime ago. They had been children – school-children, playing at war.

“It's not right.” He pushed the food around the pan. “You've been tried and all that. People should leave you alone now.”

“Your idealism is admirable. And deluded. Merlin, that bacon smells like heaven.”

Harry looked up, before realising it was not the smartest move to offer breakfast to a sock. He thought for a minute. “Why not come over again? When you've finished your service, I mean. I can keep some of this warm for you.”

Malfoy was woolly and silent for a moment. Then he sighed. “I can't, Potter. Last night was... It was a big mistake. If they find out I'm... seeing you – I mean, fraternising with you – they'll find a way to use it against me. Say I'm up to something.”

Harry thought guiltily of Hermione's warnings, then remembered something else she'd said. “But what could you possibly be up to? The Ministry took all the Death-Eaters' wands, didn't they?”

“No, Potter, you took my wand. Remember? I wouldn't have thought it would slip your mind, seeing as how you used it to finish off the Dark Lord.”

Harry felt sure that if a sock could roll its eyes, Malfoy would be doing it.

“I thought you had your mother's!”

“Oh, I borrowed various ones. None of them really worked that well for me. Feels like fucking with someone else's prick, to be frank. And then, as you say, the Ministry confiscated our wands, so it's all academic. I've thought of going to France to try to buy a new one, in Withiers, when I've done my time, but they'd probably find out and...” He made a noise as if being garrotted.

Harry stared at the pan. “You... you can have yours back. I've still got it.”

Malfoy drew a deep breath. His voice was hushed, awed. “They won't let me... I'm not allowed...”

Harry shrugged. “It's up to you.” What was he doing? Hermione would kill him. Oh, what the hell. “I won't tell anyone.”

Harry sensed an internal mental tussle coming from the sock. He waited.

“All right.” Malfoy's voice was a little high-pitched, but he sounded determined. “I don't know if I'll use it or not, but I definitely want it back.”

“Great! You can come over and get it, this afternoon.”

“Potter, I can't—”

“I can't give it to you while you're a sock,” Harry concluded, folding his arms.

“I—”

“And you can eat breakfast. Lunch. Brunch!”

“Potter, there's no way on earth I'm doing that.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Because, you fuckwit, you've completely burnt the bacon.”

 

~~~

Malfoy put his knife and fork down and wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Potter, I have to say, that was bloody good.”

Harry gave him a broad smile. “You didn't know I was a brilliant cook, eh?”

“No, and I never would have guessed. You were utterly shit at potions, I do know that.” Malfoy's face still wore the glow that it had taken on when Harry gave him back his wand. After gazing at it and turning it over and over for some time, he had slid the length of hawthorn into his pocket, but his hand kept drifting there, to give a little pat, or stroke, as if he could not quite believe that the wand was actually there.

“There's more in the pan, if you'd like it?”

“Well, since you insist, it seems rude not to...” Malfoy passed his plate. “No time for breakfast earlier before being called into duty to warm your Chosen piggies.”

Harry slid the remaining eggs and bacon onto Malfoy's plate, along with the last slice of the fried bread he'd added during his second attempt at a fry-up. He'd squeezed some orange juice as well and made a good strong pot of coffee. The domesticity of the scene struck him, and he laughed out loud.

Malfoy looked up, his forkful of bacon and egg halfway to his mouth. “What?”

“Just thinking what people in our year at Hogwarts would say if they could see us now.”

Malfoy snorted. His face looked different when it was smiling, Harry thought. It was still pointy, and the frown line in between his eyebrows that Harry remembered having appeared sometime during sixth year was deeper and more ingrained now, but his eyes were full of light and humour. His mouth, too, was really rather a nice shape, when it wasn't sneering or brooding.

“Why don't we do something this afternoon?” Harry was surprised to hear his own words.

Malfoy lifted an eyebrow. “Do ...something? Like what?”

Harry felt his face getting warm. He shook his hair down over his eyes a little. “You know... go somewhere. Do something.”

Malfoy closed his eyes in frustration. “I've told you before, I can't—”

“I'd be with you. Nothing would happen. And you've got your wand now.”

Malfoy's hand twitched to his pocket. “Merlin, Potter, you want to get me thrown into Azkaban after all?”

“We could go somewhere Muggle. No-one would know us.”

“Somewhere Muggle?” Malfoy's lip curled.

“Yeah! Like... the cinema! Yeah, we could go and see a film! I haven't been for ages.” Harry's pulse was racing, as if he was after the Snitch. “Come on, Malfoy. Let's do it!”

Malfoy chewed at his bottom lip. “There's hardly anything left of the afternoon.”

“Well, this evening, then. Come on, Malfoy! It'll be fun!”

Fun?” Malfoy said faintly.

“Yeah! More fun than being a sock, that's for sure.” Harry grinned. “Or a cat bowl. Come on.” He widened his eyes a little, trying to make Malfoy smile again. “Please?”

Malfoy swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing in his narrow throat.

“Pleeeeease?” Harry leaned forward on the table. “The cinema's only two streets away, we can walk there easily. No-one'll see us.”

“I have no idea why you didn't get expelled from Hogwarts.” Malfoy shook his head. “All right, then.”

Yes!” Harry said in triumph. “Oh, and for your information, I did get expelled.”

“What?”

“Get your cloak. I'll tell you all about it on the way.”

 

~~~

The lights were dimmed, but Harry could still see Malfoy's face well enough. The expressions of amazement, perplexity and outright wonder crossing Malfoy's features were far more entertaining than the usual crappy trailers and adverts.

Malfoy's face twisted in distaste as a giant chocolate bar was inserted salaciously into a giant lipsticked mouth on the screen in front of them. He glanced towards Harry and caught him staring.

“Filthy, these Muggles, aren't they?” Malfoy asked wonderingly. “Half of this is about sex and the rest seems to be about death.” He flinched as a car smashed into a truck, the sound of twisting metal and breaking glass blasting out from the speakers.

“Is it OK? Do you want to go?” Harry asked, worried. It had seemed like such a good idea, loading Malfoy up with Coke and popcorn and ushering him into a seat near the back of the cosy little cinema. Why did Harry not think that Malfoy would never have seen a Muggle film before, and that the experience was quite likely to be equal parts scary and mystifying?

Malfoy looked at him sideways, his gaze flicking between Harry's face and the screen. A family with dazzling teeth were eating spaghetti and laughing together. “No-oo. It's... different. I want to see it.”

He nibbled on a piece of popcorn speculatively, then gestured to the enormous waxed cup of Coke balanced on the arm rest. “That is truly foul, though, Potter. I'm not touching it again.”

Their seats were fairly near the back – Harry always preferred to look down on the screen rather than crane his neck – and he noticed there were a few couples sitting near them. A teenage boy and girl in front of them had their arms tangled around each other and were wasting no time in getting down to passionate kissing.

Harry saw Malfoy noticing them. His eyes widened, and he looked around at the other customers in the cinema, quite a few of whom were obviously couples.

A cute family of elephants walked across the screen to a hip-hop soundtrack. Malfoy leaned over to Harry and spoke quietly. “Potter.” His face looked tense and serious.

Harry turned to him, sipping Coke through the straw.

“Is this a date?” said Malfoy.

A bit of Coke went down the wrong way, and Harry spluttered.

Malfoy looked at him, frowning, as Harry coughed and wiped Coke from his shirt.

“What? No, Malfoy, this is not a date. We're just seeing a film, OK?”

Malfoy turned back to the screen, where an animated penguin was eating a burger. His face was stony. “Of course, fine. Just clearing that up in case you thought you were going to get to snog me later.”

Harry squirmed in his seat. The couple in front were making squelching noises with their mouths, and a sour-faced man sitting to the left of Harry tutted. Harry couldn't stop his eyes from darting to the Muggle boy, who was winding his hands in his girlfriend's hair and kissing her hard, pushing her against the arm rest. Had Malfoy thought he wanted to do that with him?

He gave Malfoy a sneaky look, but he was eating popcorn and staring at the adverts. Harry could see the images reflected in his eyes, miniature cartoon animals moving against the backdrop of Malfoy's silvery irises.

The overhead lights flickered, then dimmed again.

“The film's starting, now,” Harry explained quietly.

“It's starting? Then what was all that?” Malfoy asked at a normal volume.

“Just adverts and things,” Harry whispered.

Adverts? What in the name of Merlin were they trying to sell?” Malfoy asked, looking horrified, his voice if anything louder than usual, in order to be heard over the music from the opening credits.

“I'll tell you later. Now shhh. This is it.”

Malfoy frowned suspiciously at the large words appearing on the screen. “What does—”

“Shhh!” said the man on their left.

Malfoy glared at him and slumped down crossly into his seat. The titles finished and the screen showed a country scene. Everything was peaceful, with sunlight streaming across a grassy glade and a deer grazing gently, while a woodwind section played soft music to go with the sounds of birdsong. Suddenly the head of a colossal Tyrannosaurus Rex reared across the screen, teeth bared and eyes wild.

Malfoy screamed, loud and high-pitched, and his popcorn flew out of his lap and into the aisle.

Harry leaned over and put his hand on Malfoy's shoulder. “It's OK, Malfoy, it's just the film.”

“What the fuck is it?” Malfoy gasped.

Harry looked at his pale face and startled eyes. “It's just... It's not real. It's a pretend dinosaur... a, an old Muggle creature. ”

Malfoy's breath came in quick pants. “Merlin,” he hissed. “I thought it was a fucking Hippogriff.”

Harry just about managed not to laugh. “Yeah, it did look like it.”

“Oh hell... It's eating the deer.” Malfoy moaned, sounding nauseated.

The sour-faced man leaned over again. “Can you keep quiet?”

“Sorry.” Harry gave him a polite smile. “My friend's never been to the cinema before.”

The man's nose wrinkled. “Is there something wrong with him? Perhaps he'd better leave. He doesn't seem to be able to handle it.”

“No, he's fine now.” Harry looked at Malfoy. “Aren't you?”

“Yes, fine.” Malfoy glared at the man. “Fuck you, Muggle,” he muttered under his breath. “I'd like to see you handle a bloody thirty foot Hippogriff shoving its beak in your stupid face.”

Harry closed his eyes with the effort of trying not to laugh. On-screen he could hear the T-Rex storming its way through a forest. Malfoy was tutting. “They need a better gamekeeper, that's for sure. It's wrecking the place.”

The scene changed to offices in a city, where a board meeting was taking place. There was a lot of dialogue, and Malfoy took advantage of the lull to pinch some of Harry's popcorn.

“Oi!” Harry protested, but quietly.

“That thing made me drop mine,” Malfoy whispered, his breath hot and unexpected against Harry's ear. “And I didn't have any breakfast.”

Harry shook his head in mock disapproval but handed over the popcorn all the same. If he was honest, he was enjoying the way Malfoy ate it: he picked out one piece at a time, examined it briefly, then placed it in his mouth to chew thoughtfully. His Adam's apple would bob, then his tongue would peek out, searching for remnants of salt on his lips, before the whole process would begin again. What with this and Malfoy leaning over to make comments or ask questions in a very tickly way in Harry's ear, Harry was feeling quite distracted. He found he hadn’t got much idea who the heavily-armed people heading into the forest in a jeep were, and cared even less.

Malfoy, however, was rapt. When the hero climbed a tree with a knife between his teeth, he even stopped nibbling popcorn for a few minutes. He laughed uproariously when the loud-mouthed chief of police fell on his arse in the river and got soaked, and almost cheered when the heroine retrieved the keys to the jeep from the dinosaur's nest with hardly a scratch on her.

The film got more tense towards the second half, and Harry noticed that Malfoy's popcorn-eating slowed down a lot. He moved closer to Harry and appeared to be biting his lip. During a scene where the hero was stalking a pack of velociraptors, Malfoy's leg knocked against Harry's and then stayed pressed up against it with a thrilling proximity. Harry held his breath, but Malfoy didn't move his leg away, or even seem to realise it was there.

Harry had all but given up on the film: Malfoy was far more fascinating. He pulled the most brilliant faces, and his leg was hot and hard against Harry's. The couple in front were kissing again, their mouths wide and eager, and the boy had snaked his hands up the back of his date's jumper.

Harry looked at Malfoy, who was staring open-mouthed at a particularly exciting bit on screen. Merlin. He did want to do that to Malfoy. He wanted to push Malfoy back in his seat and feel the heat of the skin under his shirt, the way the muscles would move against his fingers as Harry touched the smooth firmness of his back. What would Malfoy's lips feel like? They looked soft and plump and bloody gorgeous from here. They'd taste of salt and butter and—

There was a blast of sound from the speakers as a helicopter exploded, smoke and flames billowing across the screen. Malfoy flinched wildly, and the second box of popcorn flew up, scattering across Harry's lap, with some landing in the girl in front's hair, some rolling down the aisle. The explosion went on and on, in slow motion, the flames rolling towards them, and Malfoy moaned and closed his eyes, his leg quivering with tension against Harry's. Harry reached for Malfoy's hand and wrapped it in his own, feeling it tremble, but keeping tight hold as the noise abated.

Malfoy's eyes were screwed shut, and he was gripping Harry's hand, pressing it against his thigh. On screen the dinosaurs were running in all directions, panicked by the flames. “Has it stopped?” Malfoy asked hoarsely.

“Not yet,” said Harry. “Do you want to go?”

“No.” Malfoy's nails were digging into Harry's palm. “...maybe.”

The music changed to something sultry and suggestive. The heroine was in the bath, mostly obscured by bubbles.

“I think the fire is over now,” Harry told Malfoy.

Malfoy opened his eyes a crack, then sank back in relief at the new scene. “What's she doing in the bath? Her boyfriend was in that helicopter and she's having a nice soak?”

Harry kept his hand very still. Would Malfoy let go of it now that scene had passed?

Malfoy laughed. “She reminds me of someone, now, who could that be? Ha, do you reckon, under those bubbles, I bet she's having a sneaky—”

The grumpy man to their left jabbed his finger against Harry's shoulder. “I must insist you stop talking!”

“Ah, you can go and boil your head.” Malfoy sneered in his direction. “Why don't you go and sit somewhere else and stop disturbing us?”

To Harry's surprise, the man moved to the other end of the row, grumbling and muttering as he did so. Malfoy sat back with a smug smile. He looked around. “I dropped the bloody popcorn again.”

Harry nodded. “Shall I get some more?”

Malfoy looked sideways at him, then at their hands, which were still joined in his lap. His fingers twitched but he didn't remove them. “No. Don't bother.”

Harry's heart was fluttering against his ribs. “Malfoy.”

“Mmm?” Malfoy was watching the screen again.

Harry leaned in so he was close to Malfoy's ear. His hair smelled fresh and of something outdoorsy, maybe spruce or cedar. Harry spoke softly into the hollow of his ear. “I wish this was a date.”

Malfoy turned his head right round to face Harry. His gaze travelled from Harry's eyes, to his mouth, and back again. Harry became quite certain that his hand was sweating all over Malfoy's, and he had to resist the urge to wipe it on his jeans.

One side of Malfoy's mouth lifted into a smirk, and he let his eyes drift back down to Harry's lips.

“That's... interesting, Potter.” He turned back to the film.

Harry's face was hot, and he swallowed heavily in the darkness. He paid, if possible, even less attention to the remainder of the film than he had before. All he could think about were Malfoy's fingers in his and the way he could feel the warmth of Malfoy's body where their hands lay in his lap. He was holding hands with Draco Malfoy. Bloody hell. Did this mean they were on a date? Harry rubbed his thumb cautiously over Malfoy's fingers. They were very smooth, but not little and fragile like Ginny's felt. Malfoy's were long and strong, and when he let his fingers drag along Malfoy's palm, there were calluses there, scratchy and intriguing.

Malfoy's hand quivered, and Harry darted a look at Malfoy's face, wondering if he would snatch his hand away, but he just stared at Harry for a moment before studiously turning back to the film.

After a minute, Malfoy's fingertips brushed teasingly across Harry's own palm, and Harry nearly groaned out loud. Every nerve ending sat up and sent messages of delight to his brain. Not only his brain... other places, too. How Malfoy could touch him like that, make his hand feel so sensitive, he had no idea, but he was glad for the darkness in the cinema, which hid his reddening face and tented trousers. Malfoy remained facing forwards, but wore a sly smile which suggested he knew exactly what he was doing. To and fro went his fingers – stretching and pressing against the length of Harry's hand, then stroking just the tips of his fingers along the creases of Harry's palm.

Merlin. Harry sat and let Malfoy have his way with his hand, trying his best to stroke back in a way he hoped Malfoy might like, but mostly just letting him get on with it. He let his head drop back against the back of the seat and shut his eyes. Malfoy's fingers were... They were spectacular. If they felt like this on his hand, what would they be like— Harry let out an actual moan and realised belatedly that the cinema seemed to have gone very quiet.

He opened his eyes. The lights were on, and they were the only ones left in the room. Malfoy was sitting watching him with a complacent smile on his face. He took his hand away and brushed a bit of popcorn off his lap. “Not very interested in the film, then, Potter?”

Harry grimaced. “Not much.”

“So what happens now?”

Harry cleared his throat. “You come back to mine for coffee?”

Malfoy raised an eyebrow. “Again? People will talk.”

“People won't know.”

Malfoy frowned.

“And I don't care, anyway,” Harry added hurriedly.

“It's all very well for you to be so—”

Harry leaned forwards again and put his hand on Malfoy's leg, just above the knee. His trousers were of a very soft wool, the muscles beneath them warm and firm, and Harry had to fight the urge to stroke up towards his thigh. “Please.”

Malfoy's Adam’s apple bobbed, and his eyes flicked across Harry's face, to his mouth, then ended up looking somewhere around his ear. “All right.”

As the left the cinema, it was dark: a clear night, but hard to see the stars past the London street lights.

“This would be a perfect time for flying,” Harry said. “Get out in the country somewhere, away from all the people.”

Malfoy looked at him sideways, seeming distant and aloof now he was wrapped up in his cloak again. “Hmm. Maybe.”

Harry remembered Malfoy laughing at the film, his head thrown back as a throaty chuckle rolled out of him. Harry reached for his hand, fumbling to find it in the folds of Malfoy's cloak. His fingers were cold, but Harry wrapped them in his own hot hand and squeezed.

Malfoy stopped walking abruptly and lifted his chin, his breath curling visibly in the chilly air.

“So. Is this all to do with you finding out what you want?”

Harry frowned. “I—”

Malfoy pulled his hand away from Harry's and tucked it away in his cloak again. “Because I'm not particularly interested in being part of your little... investigations. To see if what you thought you felt about blokes was real.” His face looked very sharp.

Harry felt himself flush. “I'm just—”

I don't even know, and how am I meant to find out?Is that it?”

“Malfoy, I – I just like you. I don't know if I—”

“You like me? How did that happen? You never used to bloody like me.” The words slid out bitterly.

Harry shrugged. “I just do. You're interesting. And funny.”

“Interesting? Is that it?” He barked a short laugh. “And funny. I see.”

Harry searched for the right words. Malfoy looked untouchable, standing beneath the street light, his skin glowing palely above the high collar of his robes.

“I like you. I want to...” He reached his hand out to Malfoy's face, his fingers brushing the line of his chin. “I want to look at you. To touch you.”

Malfoy shivered. Harry didn't know if it was the cold, or—

“Let's get indoors. It's freezing.” Harry thought about mugs of coffee, steaming with warmth, and Malfoy stretching out his long legs on the rug in front of the fire. “Come on, we're practically there.” He tugged at Malfoy's cloak, pulling him towards the house.

Malfoy's face screwed up, but then he allowed Harry to lead him to the front door.

“You just want to get me back to yours, Potter.” Malfoy wore a half-smirk. “So you can... look at me.”

Harry's stomach did a flip. God, did Malfoy think they were going to...? Were they going to? His fingers fumbled with his wand, and then the door was open and they were in the hall.

“Do you want some coffee?” Harry gestured towards the kitchen.

The smirk was still playing around Malfoy's mouth, making his lips curl at the corner. “Whatever.” He sounded as if he knew a joke that Harry didn't get.

Harry opened the door to the sitting room. “You wait in here and I'll bring it in. The fire's charmed to light whenever someone walks in, so you can sit and get warm.”

Harry moved around the kitchen, taking deep breaths. Draco Malfoy was in his sitting room. All he could think about was that when they had drunk their coffee, he was going to try to kiss Malfoy. What would it be like to kiss a boy? Would Malfoy even let him?

“There's an owl at the window, looking for you,” Malfoy called from the other room.

Harry hurried in. Malfoy was not on the rug in front of the fire, but had taken off his cloak and was sitting on the large sofa with his arm stretched along the back.

Hermione's owl, Selene, was tapping urgently on the glass. She always had a beleaguered sort of air – Harry imagined it was due to the enormous workload presumably involved in being Hermione's owl.

The message was short and to the point. “Oh, hell.” Harry read it again.

“What's the matter?” Malfoy raised his eyebrows.

“Shit.” Harry automatically gave the owl a treat and shut the window, but he was still staring at the parchment.

“What is it?” Malfoy got up and stood at his shoulder. Thinking it was the quickest way to explain, Harry let him read the parchment.

It's all sorted, Harry. They're finding something else for Malfoy to do for his community service, so you don't need to worry about him bothering you any more.

Harry stared up at Malfoy. He looked like he'd been slapped.

“It wasn't—”

“Granger.” Malfoy spat the word out. “You told Granger I was bothering you, and she's fixed it for me to do something else.”

“I never said—”

His face was white, with a spot of colour in each cheek. “Over seventeen months I've been doing this; my time was nearly bloody up, but you decide that I'm bothering you—”

“Will you listen? I told Hermione that—”

“No, Potter, I will not listen! I've listened to you quite enough, and now I am buggering off, and you can go back to your bubbles and your cheap fucking booze and you can shove that duck right up your arse! You'll enjoy that, won't you, you closeted little twat?”

Malfoy span around in a fury, grabbing his cloak and striding towards the fireplace.

“And by the way, your feet do fucking stink, and your coffee tastes like goblin piss.”

He stepped into the Floo and was gone.

 

~~~

Harry was not expecting that he would ever be knocking at the door of Malfoy Manor. Let alone carrying a bunch of lilies and a bottle of what was the most ridiculously expensive wine he'd ever heard of.

After Malfoy had left (flounced, his brain helpfully supplied), Harry had been so offended at how quickly Malfoy was prepared to think badly of him that he swore he was well-shot of him. He and Malfoy could never be friends, let alone anything else, and it had been stupid to try.

As for closeted – Harry had paced the floor, fuming. He was not closeted! He'd been making coffee so that he could bring it to Malfoy, and then sit with him on the rug, and then put his arm round him, and then lean over and touch Malfoy's hair and then – and then – and then he had been going to kiss Malfoy, yes, he bloody had. Were those the actions of a person who was closeted?

Harry went to bed furious and, once he calmed down enough to admit it, sorely disappointed. All this with Malfoy had happened so fast; looking back, now, it seemed like madness, some sort of hare-brained thing that could only happen to him, but at the time, it had seemed real. Very real, and very... very much like something he wanted to continue having in his life. He lay there in the dark, his hands in fists in the sheets, waves of loneliness and misery washing over him. Malfoy had felt like the first person for a long time who might be interested in Harry, who didn't just want a piece of the Boy Who Lived.

He bashed his pillow into a fatter shape, trying and failing to get comfortable. Why did Malfoy have to be so bloody nasty? He always was a vicious fucker. Harry scowled, but other thoughts were tugging at him, not letting him hate Malfoy in peace. He remembered how Malfoy had come over when he was drunk, to keep him company, of how he had advised Harry to be careful who he invited over. Of how he looked when he first tasted the buttery, savoury-sweetness of the popcorn. Of how his fingers had felt, swirling artfully across Harry's palm. He let out a long sigh. If only Hermione hadn't sent that owl. If only she hadn't—

Damn it. Hermione had meant well, as always; it was nice that she felt protective of him, and she was good at getting problems like this sorted out. He wondered how she had managed it all so quickly.

Harry tried to find a cool spot on his pillow. He hated when it felt all hot and annoying. He supposed he could hardly be surprised that Malfoy had flipped when he'd read that stuff. It had sounded like Harry had been complaining about him. It was nobody's fault; just one of those things.

It was definitely for the best, though. Him and Malfoy... that had been a crazy idea. The pillow got another couple of thumps. Crazy. At least he wouldn't have to wonder if and when Malfoy was going to pop up again. He could have a nice, quiet Sunday without any interruptions. Just him, a takeaway curry, and maybe a... well, probably something thrilling like sorting out the airing cupboard.

Harry settled on his back with his hands behind his head. Malfoy's lips would have tasted of coffee, and his hands would have been warm from the fire, and maybe Harry would have undone his shirt slowly, one button at a time, and kissed each pale inch of skin and seen how it looked with the firelight flickering on it.

Stupid Malfoy. He turned over with a sigh and found that lying on his front was no longer comfortable, due to his idiotic fucking body not realising that things were all over with Malfoy. His body didn't seem to know that he was not going to get to kiss Malfoy, and definitely was not going to be needing this large and aching erection that was telling him how very much it approved of the thought of Malfoy with his buttons undone.

Malfoy with his dirty mouth making suggestive comments. Malfoy sitting in Harry's lap, those clever fingers stroking him all over. Malfoy with his eyes closed, throwing his head back for Harry to mouth at his throat, moaning at what Harry was doing to him. Malfoy, Malfoy, bloody, bloody, Malfoy. Harry reached for himself with a curse and tossed off under the covers, his movements angry and fast, then Vanished the result. The whole thing took about a minute and a half, and thoughts of Malfoy, pale and smirking, still taunted him as he fell into a fitful sleep.

Sunday dawned, drizzly and grey. Harry mooched around, unable to settle to anything, went for a walk, had a bath, wanked a couple of times... OK, three times, tried and failed to stop thinking about Malfoy, and then the rest of the afternoon was a bit of a blur, culminating somehow in him standing at the gates of Malfoy Manor carrying this ludicrous bottle of wine and a simply monstrous bunch of flowers.

Three things were clear in Harry's mind.

One: it must have been bloody awful for Malfoy to read Hermione's owl, and he, Harry, had been a prick to show it to him.

Two: if he didn't resolve things with Malfoy one way or another, he was going to wank himself blind.

Three: the Malfoys had a really long driveway, and their anti-Apparation wards extended awfully far, which was probably designed to give you plenty of time to ruminate on what an utter, utter prick you were on the long, lonely walk up to their front door. He'd brought his broom: he hadn't fancied Apparating all the way to Wiltshire, and flying broke it up a bit, but flying up to someone's front door felt like an especially prickish thing to do, so he crunched along the gravelled drive for what felt like about half an hour.

It was getting late when he arrived, the peacocks' squawking melancholy and eerie in the twilight. The rain had cleared by mid-afternoon, and the air now felt crisp and cold. He reached into his bag and unshrank the bottle and bouquet. They now seemed both ostentatious and not nearly good enough at the same time. Once he realised he needed to apologise to Malfoy, the wine had seemed an obvious gesture. And, guessing that Narcissa was also very likely to be there, the lilies had kind of made sense, too. What did you buy for someone, to say “thank you for lying to Voldemort for me, oh, and by the way, I'd really like to fool around with your son”? Harry sighed and listened as his knock, sounding firmer and more confident than he felt, echoed inside the Manor.

A house-elf answered the door. “The Mistress and the young Master is busy,”

“Oh.” Harry ran a hand through his hair. “Would you just tell them I'm here?”

“The Mistress and the young Master is busy.” The house-elf's face looked as if it had been busy itself, sucking lemons.

“Er... OK.” Harry felt his shoulders fall. Whatever he had expected, it wasn't this. “Well, would you please give them these?”

“Lunky will, yes.” The house-elf, now three quarters-hidden by the immense bunch of flowers, started to close the door.

“Oh!” Harry pushed at the door, preventing it from closing. “Say they're from Harry Potter.”

The house-elf rolled its eyes. “Oh, Harry Potter, yes. You can be going now, Harry Potter.” The door slammed firmly shut, and Harry was left in the half-dark with his broom and a long trip home.

He still felt too self-conscious to fly back along the drive, so he stumped off, kicking at the gravel, his head buzzing with annoyance. He was just glaring at a peacock, which had loomed anaemically out of the bushes and was strutting its way across the drive, when he heard a voice in the gloom.

“Mr Potter? Oh, Mr Potter!”

Harry turned back to see a light now on in the hall, streaming out across the lawn and illuminating the silhouette of Narcissa Malfoy, holding the lilies. She called again. “Will you please step back up to the house, Mr Potter?”

Harry squared his shoulders and retraced his steps. Narcissa gestured with an elegant hand. “Won't you come in?”

 

~~~

The Manor was not as Harry had remembered it. Narcissa led him past empty, dark rooms to a space that had a couple of armchairs and a sofa arranged close to the fireplace. The air was chilly and felt slightly damp, and the fire was burning slowly and spitting a lot, as if the wood was wet. Narcissa was dressed in a beautiful set of flowing blue robes, with a pearl ornament in her upswept hair, but there were dark patches on the walls where paintings had once hung, and there was not nearly enough furniture to make a room this size feel cosy instead of stark.

“Thank you for the beautiful flowers, Mr Potter. I'll have Lunky put them in a vase.”

“Harry,” said Harry. “Call me Harry.”

She inclined her head slightly. “Harry, then. And to what do we owe this unexpected visit?”

“I... was hoping to see Draco. The wine was for him.”

“Of course.” If she was surprised, she did not show it. “Lunky? Tell Master Draco he has a guest. And bring tea for us all.”

The fire spat over a wet log and threw a lot of smoke into the room. Harry was torn. Was it rude of him to sit here without offering to get the fire going a little better? He presumed the Malfoys' confiscated wands, and frozen Gringotts account, were to blame for this rather uncomfortable situation. But perhaps it was ruder still to notice, to imply that he was anything other than perfectly warm and at ease?

“I never said thank you. For what you did, at the end,” Harry blurted.

Narcissa looked steadily at him with her silvery-grey eyes that were so like Draco's. “Well. Thank you, Mr Potter – Harry – for what you said to the Wizengamot. We all appreciated it.”

“I, I didn't know what the community service was.”

“Indeed. Life is full of challenges, isn't it? I only served one month, myself. The sentences did seem rather random.”

Harry nodded. “Snape got sentenced, even. Eighteen months. I did try to tell them.”

“Yes.” Narcissa looked at the meagre fire. “Poor Severus. It did look bad for him, though, the way they framed it. He did indeed carry the prophecy to the Dark Lord in the first place, and there was that unfortunate little matter of having murdered Dumbledore...”

“I told them what happened!” Harry leant forward. “I did tell them, but they wouldn't accept Pensieve memories as evidence, and Snape was still recovering from the venom at the time, so he didn't even get a proper trial. The Ministry has done some bloody stupid things in the last couple of years; Hermione's furious about it.”

Narcissa lifted her chin. “My husband will be in Azkaban for another eighteen and a half years.”

Harry swallowed, but did not speak. That was one thing the Ministry got right, at least.

“When Draco and I visited him last—” Narcissa began.

Lunky shuffled in with a tray of tea things. “Master Draco says he is being unwell,” he said in his crabbed voice.

Narcissa frowned. “Excuse me, please. I must just go and see what is the matter with my son.” She poured the tea, her hand trembling slightly and spilling a few drops in the saucer. She made a move for her wand, then stopped herself, as if remembering.

As soon as Narcissa had gone, Harry vanished the spilled tea and got the fire blazing fiercely. He wondered how long it took to get used to having no magic after a lifetime with it. Malfoy obviously wasn't using his wand, not around the Manor, at least. The tea was fragrant and very welcome, soothing Harry's nerves, but the Manor felt as unfriendly as ever, now with the addition of being cold and rather uncanny, with its uninhabited, echoing rooms. After a few minutes he heard Narcissa's shoes clicking down the hall again. Malfoy was with her, looking petulant and not meeting Harry's eye.

Narcissa smiled at the blaze in the fireplace. “How kind. Look, Draco, Mr Potter has brought us some very thoughtful gifts.”

Malfoy nodded, his chin jutting. He stared stonily at a spot on the wall behind Harry's head.

“Have some tea, darling.” Narcissa poured for Draco and refilled Harry's cup.

“I wondered if you'd like to come for a fly,” Harry blurted. If he could get Malfoy on his own, perhaps he could explain.

Malfoy remained silent, rubbing the toe of his shoe against the rug.

“What an excellent idea.” Narcissa nodded. “It's a beautiful evening.”

Malfoy's face screwed up as he sipped his tea. “I have a headache.”

“It's just the thing to clear your head, Draco.” Narcissa leaned forward to pat him on the knee.

Malfoy turned away and faced the fire, his shoulders stiff.

“I wanted to say—” Harry looked from Malfoy to Narcissa. “I'm sorry, I wonder if I could talk to Malfoy— to Draco, in private?”

Narcissa was on her feet in a moment. “Of course. I'll be in my room if you need me. Thank you for calling on us.”

“Er, no problem. Thank you for the tea.”

Once they were alone Malfoy looked up and wrinkled his nose. “You decided to come round and smarm up to my mother now?”

Harry's hands made fists in his lap. “I was just being polite.”

“So that you can be all friendly to her face, and then run and tell Granger that the nasty old Death Eaters have been bothering you?” Malfoy's eyes were flinty.

“I never said that. Hermione wanted to help – she thought it was pretty rotten what they had you doing, too.”

Malfoy spoke, low and contemptuous. “I told you I didn't want your help. Did you run out of people to rescue, think you'd come round here and help the poor Malfoys, magic them a nice pretty fire, did you?”

“Merlin, Malfoy. You can make your own blasted fire. You've got a wand.”

“Which I'm not allowed to use until hell freezes over! As you well know. Really, Potter, was this whole thing just a scheme just to get me into more trouble?” He turned to Harry, his body quivering with emotion, eyes blazing. “Do you get your kicks over the idea of seeing me humiliated or something?”

Harry stood up. “No, I bloody don't. I wanted to say I'm sorry. I'm sorry I told Hermione about your probation. I'm sorry I showed you that owl. And I'm sorry— I'm really fucking sorry I screwed this up.”

“Screwed what up?”

“This thing. Whatever this is between us.”

“There is no thing between us. Did you think there was?” Malfoy looked up at Harry, his eyes narrowed, sly and cruel.

“No. I guess not. But I really fucking wished that there was, OK? So now you can laugh at me.” Harry shook his head, his eyebrows drawing together. “I worked out what I want. But as usual, it's all a load of bullshit, and not something that I can have.”

He bent to pick up his bag. “There's a bottle of wine for you – your house-elf's got it. The bloke in the shop said it was a good one – I told him I wanted something special. You can drink it and have a laugh at what a sad case I am.” Harry walked out into the dark hall and paused for a moment to work out which way the door was.

His broom was leaning against the wall, and he took his robes from the rack, fastening them any old how, impatient to be gone. He was just letting himself out when he heard a movement behind him.

He turned, hope bubbling up, but it was only Lunky, face sour and shrivelled.

“The young Master says to be waiting a moment.”

It came into Harry's head that he should just turn and go, but his heart, hammering in his chest, said otherwise. A clock ticked loudly somewhere in the Manor as he stood waiting with only Lunky's insolent stare to keep him company.

Malfoy came down the staircase, apparently in no hurry at all, wearing warm woollen robes fastened right up to his chin and a pair of leather gloves. His hair was mostly hidden by a thick fur hat, but strands of pale gold peeked out here and there. He was carrying a broom, a sleek Nimbus, and when he saw Harry, he raised his eyebrows as if in surprise. “Oh, still here? I thought I might as well go for a fly after all.”

Harry hesitated. He felt like he was letting Malfoy make an absolute fool out of him.

Malfoy tilted his head. “You could come along... if you like. And then you could make me that coffee you promised me.”

Harry's mouth felt dry as he picked up his broom again. “Let's go,” he answered.

 

~~~

The stars were incredible, like nothing Harry had seen since leaving Hogwarts. The light pollution in London meant that only a few stars were ever visible, but here in Wiltshire there were miles and miles of countryside without any inhabitants except sheep. He could see the constellations in all their glory... the W that made up Cassiopeia... the solidity of the great Bear... Draco, Malfoy's namesake, with its long, tapering tail; all whirling around the earth as he and Malfoy sped along through the icy air. And above them all, the terrifying, vast, pulsing streak of the Milky Way, with its three hundred billion suns.

Harry felt tiny, insignificant, but also bursting with magic and life. Malfoy's face as he flew was blissful, intent. He looked as though someone had just told him for the first time that he could do magic. Malfoy put on a burst of speed, looking over his shoulder at Harry to smirk a challenge at him. Harry leaned forward, urging his broom on, feeling a familiar fierce determination. He had to remind himself there was no need to dart his eyes around as in a match. He was free to watch Malfoy and the movements of his body; he had forgotten Malfoy's uncanny grace when perched on a broom.

Malfoy turned and swooped, daring Harry to keep up with him, to match him move for move. Malfoy's broom was not as new as Harry's, and Harry certainly didn't imagine that Malfoy trained five days a week as Harry did, but even so, Malfoy blazed an exhilarating trail across the sky. Harry was breathless with the effort of keeping up, his heart racing. He felt as if this was a new sort of Snitch to catch, with Malfoy's hair escaping from the hat and fluttering golden-bright around his face.

They neared the lights of a small village, and Harry called to Malfoy, who had slowed to a gentler pace, diving and wheeling occasionally, apparently just for the sheer enjoyment of it.

“This is a Muggle place, right? Shouldn't we keep away? We might be seen.”

Malfoy laughed. “You don't have to worry about that round here. The locals see all sorts, they're quite used to it. Most of them are half-cracked anyway.”

Looking down, Harry saw a great circular ditch, with a banked up area surrounding it, which enclosed several fields, with roads and houses and trees dotted about in the middle.

“We'll land here,” Malfoy said. “Ever seen Avebury before?”

Harry shook his head and followed as Malfoy swooped down to a clear patch of grass near what looked like a group of tall stones.

Malfoy landed neatly and rested his broom against a tree, his face pink from their flight. “We can leave them here while we look around.”

Harry's breath was coming fast; the excitement of the chase through the cold air had left him tingly and buzzing with adrenalin. But as he stepped across the frosty ground after Malfoy, who was striding towards the edge of the circle, he felt an extraordinary vibration coming up through the soles of his feet. It intensified as they approached one of the tall, roughly shaped stones that stood, Harry now saw, forming part of a circle on the ditch side of the earthworks.

“Malfoy... what is this place?”

Malfoy span around, eyebrows raised. “Avebury, yes? You've studied it, no doubt, even if you haven't been before?”

Harry drew down his eyebrows. It sort of rang a bell... but no, he didn't have a clue. He shrugged in what he hoped was an appealing way.

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “It's the remains of a stone circle. The stones and the earthworks,” he gestured to the ditch and grassy banks, “were placed here by our ancestors nearly five thousand years ago.”

Harry looked around. The pulsing from the earth was travelling up through his feet and along his legs. It was most distracting. “What was it for?”

“Did you actually go to Hogwarts, Potter? History of Magic?”

Harry waved one hand. “Yeah, but Binns...” No further explanation was necessary.

“You never did any reading on your own? Never interested in your ancestry, or how we did magic, before wands?”

“Before wands?” Harry was sure he would have remembered that.

“Yes, before wands! They're a relatively recent invention, you know. Dear Merlin, I would have thought being joined to Granger at the hip for nearly ten years would have meant some of this rubbed off on you, at least. I bet she's got a good grasp on this stuff, and she's Muggleborn.”

Harry walked towards the nearest stone, slipped off his gloves, and reached out to it, then pulled back from the intense thrumming travelling through his hand and up his arm. It was cold, and rough, but the vibrations made his skin tingle all over with a startling sensation.

Malfoy chuckled. “Feel strange, does it? Some people are more sensitive than others.”

Harry turned. “Do you feel it? Like a... buzzing, everywhere. From the earth, and these stones are absolutely alive with it.”

“I can feel it.” Malfoy looked at Harry with interest. “Maybe not as much as you, though.”

Harry's wand was almost jumping in his pocket. He patted it, as though trying to settle it down.

Malfoy joined Harry by the stone and ran a hand over its surface. “It's a massive focal point, a gathering site if you like, for the magical energy in the earth. People used wandless magic then, but they would come here to recharge. I... I've thought about it myself, wondered whether I would be able to do magic here, without a wand... But I wasn't sure if it would work. It would seem worse, somehow, to try, and not—”

He broke off with a harsh sigh. “Anyway, they also used the site for any particularly powerful pieces of magic they wanted to carry out. There were many such places in Britain, with magical communities based nearby. But most of them have been desecrated, like this one.”

“Desecrated?” Harry touched his fingertips warily to the uneven stone again. It felt slightly less unsettling now he knew what it was, and it warmed his arm with a pulsating energy which carried right through him.

Malfoy's face was unreadable. “The circle is broken. Many of the stones have been removed.”

“There were more?”

“Many more. There were originally about a hundred stones, lining the inside of the ditch here, with two smaller circles within, and avenues stretching out to other local magical sites. We can only imagine how it must have felt to stand within the circle when it was complete.” He laughed. “You look as if it's making your hair stand on end now, think what it would have been like before!”

Harry took another step towards the stone. The pulsing was hypnotic, pleasurable in a... well, he would have to admit it was a sexual way, making blood rush to his groin, making his nipples tighten. The stone was imposing, towering over him and Malfoy, and much taller than the stones on either side of it in the circle.

Malfoy spoke in a low voice. “The stones are placed in a pattern of male and female. This is one of the male stones. It represents the male life force... power... virility...” He paused to stroke the stone reverently, then looked sideways at Harry, his eyes wicked and silvery in the darkness. “It's odd how you were drawn to this one, isn't it?”

Harry felt a visceral tug, deep in his body, both at the words, and the recognition of their truth. The stone seemed to resonate with a thrilling masculinity, thrusting up towards the stars. He placed his hand flat against it, wanting to feel its rough caress against his palm, while Malfoy watched him, leaning up against the stone, his profile sharp against the black sky.

The vibrations from the stone and the ground flooded through Harry and met at the very core of him. Malfoy's voice came insistently through the rushing in his ears. “They used to meet here, at Beltane; you know what that means, at least? They would choose lovers, and—”

Harry moved as if drawn by a string. His mouth found Malfoy's and his hands moved to Malfoy's chest, clutching the fabric of his robes. Malfoy's lips were soft and so warm against Harry's. Harry inclined his head, his hands bunching in Malfoy's robes and pulling their bodies closer. Malfoy's mouth opened in a surprised exhalation, and Harry pressed in, his tongue and lips eager and desperate. Malfoy tasted of the stars and the wind, of midnight flying. The tip of his nose was sharp, and shockingly cold against Harry's skin, but his body was warm, and his tongue began to move in response to Harry's explorations.

Malfoy moaned gently into Harry's mouth, just a tiny sound, but it seemed to fire something within Harry, who placed his hands either side of Malfoy's head, his palms flush against the stone. He pressed Malfoy back against it, wanting to feel the tight, lean shape of his body, to cover it with his own, hoping Malfoy could feel his erection pressing against him through the folds of their robes.

He didn't know if it was the pulsing all around them, or just the taste and feel of Malfoy, but Harry's head was swimming. Part of him wanted to throw Malfoy to the ground and strip him naked, to rut against him, to claim him, to own him. His hands moved to Malfoy's hair, and he threw the ridiculous hat onto the ground, taking handfuls of the fine strands and kissing him with a fierce want that made his legs shake.

He had never— Never— Nothing had come close to this. Malfoy's hot tongue, and the thrumming of the stones, and the whirling stars above them… Malfoy pressed forwards to meet Harry's body, and the thought that Malfoy wanted him too made him want to shout with triumph. Hell, it was cold, but Malfoy's body was hot and firm and perfect.

He pulled reluctantly away from Malfoy's mouth for a moment, his hands moving to undo Malfoy's cloak, fingers shaking over the ornate fastenings. He had just managed the second clasp, and was leaning in for another kiss before he tackled the third, when something large and weighty butted up against his leg in the darkness, letting out a loud, unearthly sound.

Harry lurched round and went for his wand, mind full of banshees. He immediately cast a Protego, covering himself and Malfoy, then found that he was aiming his wand at a large, shaggy sheep, which eyed him cynically and made another startlingly loud baaa-aaa-aaaah, rumbling deep in its chest.

"Shit," said Harry. He scowled at the sheep and tucked his wand away. "Stupid sheep. I thought you were a bloody banshee."

Malfoy was shaking with laughter, his head resting weakly against the stone. "Your face! Thank Merlin we had the Boy Who Lived here, to protect us from an evil sheep."

Harry frowned and waved his hand crossly at the sheep, which was nibbling grass next to his leg. “Who would let sheep just wander about here, anyway?”

“Muggles.” Malfoy laughed breathily. “They're crazy, you have no idea, Potter. They think that stone there,” he pointed to the largest stone of all, “crosses the road at midnight. They see fairies dancing around the circle.”

Are there fairies?” Harry asked nervously. He knew it was childish, but he was not at all fond of the buzzy, flappy little annoyances.

No.” Malfoy wrinkled his nose. “Too much cider, more like. They're harmless old duffers who live here now, mostly. Not like the ignorant fuckers who broke up the circle.”

“Who was that? Who did it?”

“Muggles, again.” Malfoy's face looked suddenly grim. “They lit fires under the stones, broke them up, used them for building their ugly little houses. Hateful.”

Harry felt a sour taste rising in his throat. Sometimes he thought Malfoy was so different from the boy he had known at Hogwarts, and sometimes—

“Oh, don't glower at me, Potter. I'm not into that Muggle-hating shit any more. I've had my fill of it.”

“You still talk about Muggles as if they're... something filthy.”

“Not all of them. The ones who did this, yes.”

Harry looked at him hard, then around at the remaining stones. “Why did nobody stop them? Witches and wizards, I mean?”

“Bloody Dark Ages. Apathy and idiocy. Wizards left the Muggles to it, thought they were no threat to us. Yes, I know! I don't mean that kind of threat. Stop looking at me as if I'm dirt on your shoe, Potter. But they did destroy priceless artefacts, defile magical sites, and persecute our people, for centuries. Not that you probably know a thing about it. Ignorance again. You could do with going back to school.” He curled his lip.

Harry flushed, and his hands bunched into fists. “I seem to have done OK so far. I know what I need to know, thanks, Malfoy.”

“Do you? Think you know what it is you want, now, do you?” The sly smile flickered around the corners of his mouth, and he leaned his head back against the stone, his hair mussed from where Harry's hands had been.

Harry imagined he could still taste traces of Malfoy on his skin as he darted his tongue out to wet his lips. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

“That did seem fairly... clear.” Malfoy shook his hair back from his face.

Harry stepped nearer and leant in towards Malfoy again, taking it slow this time, watching his mouth, the curve of it, the soft pink of his lips. “I definitely know what I want.”

“Mmm.” Malfoy looked thoughtful. “Such a shame you can't have it.”

Harry stopped, a couple of inches away. “What?”

“This can't work, Potter.”

Harry drew back, the words like cold water tossed in his face, his features crumpling in annoyance. “What the fuck?”

“I told you before, I can't... see you like this. Can't be with you. They'll find out and make sure it stops. And make things worse for me in the process.”

Who would?” Harry demanded.

“Those Ministry fuckers. They've got me trussed up like a turkey. I'm a probationer. They own me, Potter. They can do what they like – drag me back in for more punishment, change the terms of my probation – you see what Granger's meddling has done already.” He took a deep breath. “Nobody cares about the rights of a Death Eater. And I don't expect you'd care much, either, after you'd done what you were wanting to do before that sheep interrupted you.” His face twisted into a sneer.

Harry could still feel the energy from the site rippling into him. “You twat, Malfoy. I didn't just want that. I want more than a – a grope out here against your sodding magic rock.”

Malfoy made a face of distaste. “I'll bet, you want my arse as well. It'd be the first decent shag you've ever had, am I right?”

Harry flushed with embarrassment and anger. “You want this too! You're just fucking scared.”

“Scared? You're deluded.”

“Go ahead, play it safe.” The words tumbled out of Harry, hot and furious. “Carry on living feeling frightened. That's much easier than taking any risks.”

Malfoy's face was screwed up. “You idiot, I've too much to risk! This is easy for you!”

“Easy? You think so? How do you think my friends would feel about this? Imagine the crap I'd get from the Ministry!”

Malfoy pushed off from the stone with his fists clenched, his face tight, and stalked off in the direction of their brooms. “Thanks a fucking bunch. That's charming. You also have no idea what you're saying, comparing the two things. It's completely different.”

Harry watched him go for a moment, then followed, addressing his words loudly to Malfoy's back. ”The difference is, I'm willing to take the chance. Because I think it could be bloody worth it!”

Malfoy reached his broom and mounted it with stiff, jerky movements.

Harry shouted. “Why did you bring me out here if you didn't want this, Malfoy? Why bring me to this place? Ask yourself that, why don't you?”

Malfoy shot one last look at Harry, full of pure venom, and took off at top speed.

“Yeah, why don't you...” Harry gazed at Malfoy's dark shape as it rapidly disappeared into the distance above the trees. “You impossible git.”

Harry sighed and picked up his broom. The thrumming of the circle was less intense over here, but he bade the site a silent farewell as he got onto his broom. He thought he would find his way back OK, but it would be a hellishly long fly in the cold at this time of night. He knew he was far too wound up for Apparition, so, cursing internally, he rose into the air and headed in what he earnestly hoped was the direction of civilisation, a hot bath, and his bed.

 

~~~

The week was dragging by like a bear with a broken leg. Having to turn up for training every day was a real effort, and Harry felt sluggish and prickly. Even his beloved baths had lost their appeal, as the rubber duck remained obstinately inanimate. By Wednesday, Harry cracked and begged Ron, although he was in the middle of another draining week of Auror training, to come out to the pub with him, where he confided the whole sorry mess.

“Malfoy? Wow.” Ron downed the dregs of his first pint and gave the nod to Hannah at the bar for another round. “I haven't seen him since the trials.”

“Me neither.” Harry drew a gloomy circle in the drops of spilled beer on the table. “I hadn't thought about the git in months.”

Ron tilted his head to one side. “Really? I mean... no offence, mate, but you were always a bit funny about him in the first place.”

“I was not!”

Ron handed Hannah a Galleon and told her to keep the change. “You so were. Listen, Hannah, wasn't Harry always a bit funny about Malfoy?”

“Funny? Funny how?”

Harry slumped down in his seat, his ears burning. “Thanks so much for this, Ron, I knew I could count on you.”

“Funny like... following him around. Watching him and wanting to talk about what he was doing.”

“Yeah, of course. Everyone knows that.” Hannah shrugged. “I thought you meant some new kind of funny.”

“Ah, well, now he says—” Ron continued, but Harry stopped him with a hand on his chest.

“Ron. Seriously. Do me a favour. Shut up and drink your pint.”

Ron shrugged and drank thirstily. “I don't see what the massive broomstick up your arse is for, frankly. Cheers, Hannah.”

Harry waited till Hannah had returned to the bar, then spoke quietly. “I didn't really want this broadcast around.”

“Sorry, mate. No-one gives a stuff if you want to shag Malfoy, though.”

Harry winced. “I'm not... I think it's all over. But you aren't— I thought you'd be freaked out, or something.”

“Well, sorry about that, too. That it's over, I mean. And what... you think I'm freaked out you like blokes? I knew you liked blokes, Harry. Merlin, I think Ginny knows you like blokes. What kind of a shit friend would I be if stuff like that bothered me?”

Harry placed his hand on Ron's arm and gave it a grateful squeeze.

Ron slapped his hand away with a grin. “Here. No trying anything on me.”

“Oh, you're hilarious.”

“No, I'm irresistible.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Is that what you tell yourself?”

“No mate, that's what Hermione tells me. All the sodding time.” Ron nodded, his freckly face creased into a smile of satisfaction.

It felt good to see Ron so happy, even though it did smart a bit in the circumstances. “Bloody hell, you're smug.”

“I can afford to be. But seriously. You're not a bad-looking fella, Harry; you're pretty fit, and, you know, you happened to save the world a few times lately. I don't reckon you'd have any problem finding some guy to keep you warm at night.”

Harry's shoulders slumped. “I don't want some guy.”

“Oh, like that, is it?” Ron leaned back in his chair. “Wow. I never saw this coming, I must admit.”

“You don't mind? That it's Malfoy, I mean?”

“Mind? Me?” Ron pointed his thumb at his own chest. “You're talking to the man who was all about getting it on with Lavender Brown a couple of years ago. No accounting for taste.”

“Lavender didn't let Death Eaters into the school. Lavender didn't—”

“Er, mate, you're not really helping yourself out here. I don't know if you want my advice, but if you want a relationship with Malfoy— What?” He stopped short a moment at Harry's confused, pained face. “That's what you're saying, isn't it? If you want a relationship with him – and even Malfoy's not too sure that it's a good idea – then it might not be the best thing to go round reminding everybody of all the shitty things he did in the war, yeah?”

Harry let his head sink into his hands. Ron was, and would always be, a strategic mastermind compared to Harry. He took a deep breath and lifted his head. “So, what would you do?”

“Me? I would tell that skanky ferret to get lost and go home to my gorgeous Hermione.” Ron dodged the punch Harry aimed at his arm. “Nah, I would...” He leaned his head to one side, weighing it up. “I would give it some time. Don't rush it. You've known each other the best part of ten years, and you've always rubbed each other up the wrong way, to say the least. I can't see it going smoothly, to be honest, so just take it slowly and see if you can avoid killing each other.”

Harry took a long pull from his pint. The beer settled in his stomach with a warm, hazy feeling. Why couldn't he fall for someone like Ron? Not actually Ron, but a nice, dependable, honest, reliable guy, like Ron, with prospects, and a good background, and—

Oh, Merlin. Harry's shook his head in horror and amusement. He sounded like somebody's mum. He sounded like Molly Weasley, for fuck's sake. He swallowed these thoughts down with another draught of beer.

Fabulous as it was to have Ron for a friend, the good guys just didn't do it for him, Harry thought gloomily. The only person he wanted to be up close to at the moment was a distinctly snarky, sneery Slytherin. Better to accept that it simply wasn't his year for romance.

Ron had to make it an early night, as usual, but as he left, he gave Harry an extra-hard hug and ruffled his hair. “Oh, Hermione's at the library, but she said there'll be more news soon. News of what, I don't know. Are the two of you hatching something?”

Harry shook his head, feeling downcast again. If Hermione was still pulling strings with regards to the probationers, anything could happen, but he didn't expect it would improve the situation one bit.

 

~~~

On Thursday, a picture of Malfoy stared out at him from page four of the Prophet. It was a recent photograph, his hair loose and almost curling over his collar, his eyes anxious, but he was doing his best to glare a challenge at the camera. The article reported that Malfoy was going to be serving the rest of his probation at Ollivanders. The wandmakers was now managed by Garrick's son, Gerrard, the old man having declared his wish to retire after the war. The shop continued to be a successful and well-respected business.

Harry was honestly a little startled to think of Malfoy working there, and he could only wonder at the reaction from the general wizarding community. The Prophet's report seemed a little tight-lipped somehow, as though the writer was not able to speak their mind. The piece ended by reminding their readers that interfering with a probationer carrying out their community service was punishable by law including, but not limited to, up to six months imprisonment under the 1998 War Reparations Act. Merlin, thought Harry. And then, Not Merlin, but Hermione.

Harry Apparated to work, his stomach fluttery for no reason that he could pin down. When the team took a break after a couple of hours, he headed back to their recreation room and, checking first to see no one was watching, pulled the newspaper from where he had stuffed it into his kit bag. Malfoy's photo gazed at him, blinking slowly, his look disdainful and proud, but there was a vulnerable twist to his mouth. Harry remembered kisses by starlight, and the taste of Malfoy's skin against his tongue. Harry's mouth became dry as he stared at the photo, and he shifted awkwardly on the seat.

Lucy, one of their Chasers, came over and glanced at the paper. “Malfoy at Ollivanders, hey? Can't see them getting much business with him behind the counter. Be too scared he'd Hex me the minute I turned my back, wouldn't you?”

Harry swallowed and shoved the paper back into his bag abruptly, crumpling the article and Malfoy's photo into a creased mess.

Zara turned round from her game of cards with Phineas, the reserve Seeker. “How could he Hex you? They're not allowed wands anymore, You-Know-Who's lot.”

Phineas laughed. “What, he's going to be working in a wand shop, and he's not allowed his own? Seems a bit cruel.”

Lucy answered. “No, later on... Give us the paper, Harry. Look, here, it says they'll be given wands again after their probation is over. ‘Sentencing witches and wizards to live their life as Squibs is not a humane way to deal with members of our community who have served their time.’ That's what Robards says.”

“Changed his tune, hasn't he?” Zara put her cards down. “I remember a different story after the trials. He was all 'the strongest penalties' and 'this reign of terror... blah blah blah'.”

“Malfoy never terrorised anybody.” Harry didn't know he was going to speak until he heard the words coming out of his mouth.

Lucy stared at him. “You're having a laugh? He let a werewolf into Hogwarts.”

Harry grimaced. “Yeah, but Voldemort was going to kill his family if he didn't. You can't compare him to bastards like the Carrows, who tortured people just for the sheer fun of it.”

Lucy folded her arms. “I never thought I'd hear you defend any of that lot—“

It would be that moment that Miles chose to walk in. He took in the whole scene, Harry's face, flushed from arguing, and the surprise and confusion on the faces of the women.

“Hey, is he bothering you?” Miles asked, squaring his shoulders.

Zara screwed up her face. “What? No. We're just talking, we don't need you to come in and defend us from Harry.”

Miles turned to Lucy. “You OK?”

“Yeah, course.”

Harry's temper snapped. “I'm not bothering anyone, Bletchley. In fact, you're bothering us, and you can piss off now, all right?”

Miles sneered. “You've been even weirder than usual all week, Potter. Your game's way off, and our coach has definitely noticed. I heard her saying to Phineas that if you didn't sort yourself out, she'd be thinking about using him in the match on Saturday instead. You'd better watch yourself.” He strutted out of the room.

Phineas ducked his head and made an excuse about going to get a drink. Harry looked from Lucy to Zara in dismay. The worst thing was, he knew it to be true. His game had been off – and when he was nervy and inconsistent like that, it threw the rest of the team off, as well. They needed to have faith in their Seeker, and he wasn't exactly inspiring confidence that week.

Lucy shook her head. “Ignore Miles. He's such a knobber. You flew well this morning.”

“Yeah. I bet Cassandra never even said that. You'll be fine on Saturday. We all know you can do it, Harry.” Zara gave him a hug, and Harry felt comforted for that moment by her strong arms and the good smell of her hair. He had to get out on the pitch and show them he was still worthy of being their Seeker.

Malfoy working at Ollivanders... Probationers getting their wands back. Things were certainly changing. Anyway, he had a match to think about. That would take his mind off all of this crap with Malfoy. Harry felt a tingle of anticipation, deep in his belly. He would surely be fine when he got out there on Saturday; he was aching for a real showdown with the Arrows. The roar of the crowd... the buzz of competition... the camaraderie of his team. Harry set his shoulders and headed out to the pitch with something like a spring in his step.

 

~~~

The sun was trying with all its might to warm Harry's back, even though the air was as cold as you'd expect on a zingy November day. He glanced at the crowd from his spot high above the pitch. It was a great turnout, and it looked about evenly divided between the blue and silver colours of the Arrows and his own team's yellow and black. The Snitch, on being released, had promptly vanished, and Harry hoped it wasn't going to be one of those (from his point of view) dull matches where he didn't get so much as a sniff of it until the last seconds, when the game was all over.

He and Sumathi Nayar, the Arrows' Seeker, hung in the air, eyes darting from side to side to scan the pitch below them, occasionally swooping at the thought they might have spotted something, or just to keep the other on their toes.

Harry made the mistake of looking up, and was almost dazzled by the sun. It kept reflecting off something in the stands. Probably someone was wearing a badge on their lapel (Potter Stinks, he grimaced wryly to himself), or maybe they were wearing a Muggle wristwatch, but every time it glinted in Harry's direction he started for a moment, convinced he'd spied the Snitch.

The chanting in the stands was loud at this end: “Wasps despair, we've got Nayar,” was the clearest. What was that glinting thing? Harry flew down purposefully towards the place where he'd last seen it, aware that Sumathi was hovering nearby and no doubt thought he was on the trail of the Snitch. There it went again – flash – he wasn't near enough to see yet, but in a minute—

Harry nearly fell off his broom. Sitting in the back row of the stands, wearing a grey knitted hat pulled down over his hair, was the dead spit of Draco Malfoy.

It couldn't be. How could Malfoy—

Flash. This time Harry was near enough, and could see the thing that had been catching his eye was a ruddy great glittering brooch on the coat of a very fancy looking witch three rows in front of Malfoy. Or the person that looked like Malfoy. The person who, despite what sounded like a exciting try for goal going on at the other end of the pitch, was instead looking up at Harry from under pale eyelashes, and giving him a smile that Harry would have to describe as a mixture of shy and saucy.

It was Malfoy. Fucking hell. Harry felt his legs actually trembling, and he had to clamp them firmly around his broom to stop himself wobbling. His mouth seemed to take an age to catch up with his brain, but eventually he sent an equally shy smile back in Malfoy's direction. Malfoy kept his eyes on Harry as he sat up a little straighter, shifting in his seat and pinkening slightly as Harry watched.

You're here, Harry mouthed, soundlessly.

Malfoy's brow creased and he gestured. What?

You're here. Malfoy still looked perplexed. “You're here!” Harry shouted.

Malfoy flushed and looked down as many heads turned in their direction.

Harry felt like he was soaring high, high above the stadium. He grinned and flew a fancy little manoeuvre in mid-air, showing off. The section of crowd near him whooped and cheered. Malfoy shook his head, but looked pleased. When more shouts came from the other side of the stands, Harry suddenly realised with a stomach-dropping lurch that he was in the middle of a match and hadn't given the Snitch a thought for at least a couple of minutes. He made a fast circuit of the pitch, noticing Zara was doing a beautiful job of stopping the Quaffle, and regained his position high above the pitch, scanning the sky and the area below him methodically.

Flash. There was that jewel again. A great ruby the size of an egg, almost, it had been. He couldn't help it if his gaze kept straying that way... Malfoy had looked tired and a bit jumpy, but he was here. Harry would never have believed it possible. He mustn't keep looking over at Malfoy. He wasn't even one hundred percent sure what the score was, now. Had the Wasps made that goal? Hell, he really had to pull himself together. If only he knew that Malfoy would be OK... Did he have his wand with him, Harry wondered.

A thought occurred to him. Ron was in the Wasps' stands. He'd seen him near the Arrows' goal, just before they started. Trying very hard to look as if he might have seen the Snitch, he flew steadily towards where he'd spotted Ron's fiery head of hair. Ron looked surprised, but grinned and waved as he approached. Harry turned his broom and hovered with his back to Ron. The crowd was loud and excitable, but he had to try. He heard the referee's whistle blow. Lucy had flown outside the boundaries, and the Arrows were being awarded the Quaffle. Harry seized the moment. Turning sideways, he gabbled to Ron. “Malfoy's in the third stand from the centre line, the Wasps' side. Don't know if he's got a wand. Someone might do something. Can you go and sit with him?”

Ron's face ran through a mixture of expressions and settled on dismay. “Malfoy? Me? Oh, no, mate, no!”

“Please.” Harry's eyes went from Ron to the pitch. The Quaffle was back in play. “Please, Ron. I think he's here because of me, but anything could happen. Please, see if he's all right.”

Ron made faces as if he'd swallowed a Bludger.

Harry stared at him. “Please, mate. I owe you one.”

Ron shook his head. “You owe me a hundred.” He sighed. “OK.”

“Thanks!” Harry sped off, heading up to his favourite spot. He was dizzy with exhilaration and relief, but as he darted to the left, away from the path of a Bludger, Miles shouted “Potter, are you actually playing Seeker for us today, or just here to hang out with your bloody mates?”

Harry scowled and flew a fast lap around the pitch. Sumathi followed him about halfway round, then put on a burst of speed and shot ahead. Yes! The Snitch was hovering tantalisingly by the Wasps' goal. Harry went full pelt for it, but had to dive to dodge another Bludger, and by the time he regained height, the Snitch was out of sight again. Harry darted in zigzags across the pitch, sensing with his Seeker's intuition that the Snitch was still somewhere near. He was halfway through a second zigzag crossing when the whistle sounded for the first break of the match.

Harry had mixed feelings about the enforced rest periods which had been introduced into professional Quidditch the previous year. Yes, they did prevent situations such as the players fainting, as used to be fairly common in the days when a match could continue for hours, even days, until the Snitch was caught, and obviously they were great news for the merchandise and food sellers, but personally Harry found they broke his focus. Not that he was focused today...

He left his broom on the pitch and hurried to the stands. This was the one... there was that witch with the ugly brooch... but no Ron or Malfoy. Harry ran down the steps again, two at a time. Where the fuck were they?

He raced out of the stands to where the crowds were gathering around the refreshment sellers offering hot pumpkin pasties, Butterbeer, and other treats. Ron's lanky frame was clearly visible near the sausage stall, and Harry manoeuvred his way through the crowd, heart thumping.

“Sorry... excuse me.... sorry... Ron! Where's Malfoy?”

Ron raised a hand. “Calm down, mate! He's just there, getting a hot drink. It's freezing up on those stands.”

Harry let out a breath of relief as he turned and saw Malfoy's white-blond hair at the drinks tent. “Is he OK?”

“Not in my opinion, no, he's still a total prat.”

Harry glared. “Ron!”

Ron shook his head, but the corners of his mouth lifted into a grin. “You can't expect me to babysit him and be happy about it, Harry! Yeah, he's fine. I'll keep an eye on him. Would you catch that fucking Snitch though, so we can all piss off again? I want to get indoors and thaw out my bollocks before I lose the use of them.”

“I will do.” Harry grabbed Ron's shoulder. “Thanks. I really do appreciate it. He has changed though, don't you think?”

“No, mate. Still pointy, still a git. But whatever twirls your wand, you know? Watch out, here he comes.”

Malfoy walked over, his hands cupped round a mug of hot chocolate. His eyes fixed on Harry's, but he didn't speak.

Harry's mouth was dry, and he licked his lips. He wasn't sure what to say. Malfoy's hair was peeking out from under the hat, curling around his face. A lock lay across his cheek, and Harry wanted to brush it away. Malfoy held his gaze, blinking his silvery eyes slowly.

Ron moved from foot to foot. “You know what? I'm going to go and sit down again. See you in a bit.”

A large group of people came past, jostling Malfoy, apparently by accident, but he looked tense and furious. Harry looked around. They were not far from the back of the stands, and Harry grabbed Malfoy's hand and steered him towards them. Lifting one edge of the fabric covering the frame of the stands, he ducked underneath, pulling Malfoy with him. It was darker and quieter under there; the chants were muffled, although people's footsteps thudded overhead.

“You came.” Harry stood close to Malfoy.

Malfoy lifted his chin. “I quite fancied seeing a game. It's been a while.”

“Has it been OK? Has anyone...?”

Malfoy frowned. “No. I can look after myself perfectly well, you know. I didn't need you to send a bodyguard.”

The crowd were singing Fear the Sting of the Wasps. “You don't have to sit with him. I just thought—”

“It's all right.” Malfoy shrugged. “I don't care where your cronies sit. I'm getting used to mixing with all sorts of riff raff, at Ollivanders.” His mouth twitched into a smile, softening his words.

“What's it like there? D'you like it?”

Malfoy tilted his head. “It's not so bad. Better than being a sock.” He looked at Harry's worried face. “Actually, it's brilliant. Ollivander's son – Gerrard, I mean – is amazing, and as for the wands... well, it's fascinating. I hope they let me carry on, afterwards.”

Harry rubbed his hands together; trying to keep them warm. “I should go. Will you meet me here again.... at the next break?”

Malfoy's eyes went to Harry's mouth, then back to his eyes. “Maybe you'll catch the Snitch, and there won't be another break.”

“Maybe I will.” Harry was so close to Malfoy, his nose was filled with the smoky scent of the cologne he was wearing.

“If you do... I don't think I'm doing anything afterwards.” He blinked slowly and looked sidelong at Harry.

“Oh!” Harry felt lightheaded, breathless. “Would you... like to go somewhere?”

“Maybe.” Malfoy's voice was slightly husky.

Harry heard the bell sounding. Three minutes left. “I have to go. Will you head back and sit with Ron?”

“I might do. It depends if I see anyone better on the way, someone who might have more IQ points than freckles, perhaps.”

Harry didn't know if he was joking or not. “Watch it, Malfoy, that's my best mate you're talking about.”

“I know.” He sighed. “You never did have any taste whatsoever.”

Harry moved a little closer, his jaw jutting. Malfoy's breath was curling out of his mouth in puffs of white. “I do in some things.”

Malfoy breathed the words out, his eyes focused on Harry's mouth. “Oh yes? And what would they be?”

Harry closed the final gap between them and placed his mouth over Malfoy's. Malfoy's lips were cold and soft, and still for a second, but then as responsive as Harry could ever have wished for. Malfoy dipped his head to the side and brought his hand up, slipping his fingers into the hair behind Harry's ear, his tongue teasing against Harry's. Harry kissed him hungrily, his hands running over Malfoy's body, wanting to learn every inch of it, wishing he could get closer. He needed to feel Malfoy's skin, to taste it, to— He groaned and pushed his leg in between Malfoy's thighs, and Malfoy pushed back, and—

The fabric hangings parted, and a teenage couple ran in, giggling and breathless.

“Oh, sorry!” the boy said. They left, fumbling with the material and clutching at each other.

“I've got to go,” Harry said.

“Go, then.” Malfoy was smirking, his thigh firm and snug in the V of Harry's legs.

“I'll see you later?”

“I suppose.”

“Would you come back to mine? Afterwards?” Harry still hadn't stepped away.

Malfoy laughed, low and quiet. “You'd better go and catch that Snitch and find out, hadn't you, Potter?”

Harry ran onto the pitch with seconds to spare. Coach Cassandra was pacing up and down and gestured wildly at him, but he was on his broom and in the air before she could come over.

Now where the hell was that Snitch?

Harry had played some great games in his time. He knew he had, and he hoped he had a lot more great games in him; he felt as if he were still learning all the time. However, there was something about this game that he knew he would remember for the rest of his life.

It wasn't that he caught the Snitch easily – on the contrary, it gave him one of the toughest chases of his life. It wasn't that he wiped the floor with his opponent: Sumathi also seemed on top form and flew some moves that had the crowd gasping with a mixture of admiration and fear. No, it was harder to explain than that. He felt as if he could do anything – that he would never tire, never give up, never doubt or fail or falter, even if they played for a hundred years. He felt as though the broom, the Snitch, the sky and himself were all joined by some mysterious threads that kept them revolving in their perfect, joyful dance. It was as though he had Felix Felicis instead of blood running through his veins – that glorious feeling of rightness, of fate, of certainty in his own abilities. He felt as though his pulse was beating in time with the universe.

The Snitch was beautiful, dazzling, divine: it was all he had ever wanted, and he knew he would have it – soon. But first he was going to earn it, and he would enjoy every single second of it. And so, with his chest feeling like fireworks were sparking and fizzing inside it, Harry played the game of his career.

When he finally came to, from what had felt like an out-of-this-world dream, he was flying far above the stadium with the peerless feeling of the Snitch nestling perfectly in his fist. Zara was soaring to join him, and he heard the cries of the crowd below.

“Wow, Harry!” she cried, her cheeks flushed with excitement and exertion. “Just – wow!”

Harry flew a circle around her and then dived down, laughing madly. He flew in and out of the stands, cock-a-hoop, wanting to share the moment with the crowd. Many of them were hugging one another or literally jumping with glee; he sat back on his broom and grinned at them, the Snitch held high, fluttering deliciously between his finger and thumb.

And finally, as if it were the greatest prize of all, he allowed himself to look at where Malfoy had been sitting. That whole section of the crowd, including Malfoy and Ron were on their feet, applauding. Ron was red in the face, and as Harry watched, he clapped Malfoy on the back joyfully. Malfoy reacted to this as if someone had dropped a live toad down his robes, but when Harry caught his eye, he smiled, the apples of his cheeks rosy in the cold.

Back on the ground, it was all chaos and laughter and hands grabbing parts of him to shake, pat or squeeze. Harry thought with longing of the bright sky, filled only with wind and sunlight. He pushed through the crowds, looking for a blond head – or a red one. There was Ron, his face split by a broad grin, his arms reaching for Harry.

“Bloody brilliant, mate! The way you flew – unbelievable!”

Harry laughed. Malfoy appeared at Ron's shoulder. The hat had come off to reveal rumpled hair, his lips curving into a secretive smile.

“Yeah.” Harry returned Ron's hug, but he was looking at Malfoy. “It felt good. I had a lot of incentive.”

Ron broke the hug and slapped Harry's back. “You coming for drinks?”

“No. Not right now. Catch up soon, though?”

Lucy grabbed his arm and pulled him sideways, sandwiching him between her and Zara. “Fantastic, Harry, we did it!”

Harry nodded and smiled, trying to slide out again, but Phineas joined them and he was wedged into their enthusiastic embrace. Over Lucy's shoulder, he could see Malfoy still standing there, his smile looking less certain.

“Give me an hour!” Harry shouted helplessly at Malfoy, hoping he would hear over the hubbub. “Come to mine?”

Malfoy narrowed his eyes, then nodded. Harry watched him stepping carefully through the throng of people. Ron saw him go. “Should I...?”

Harry shook his head. “I think he's OK. No-one's out to cause trouble today, surely?” Ron's answer was lost in a bout of singing as Ginny and Dean added their arms and voices to the crowd congratulating Harry.

“Harry, you fucking little genius!” Ginny's hair was all over her face. “You flew like a demon!” She kissed him, her hair tickling his nose and smelling of vanilla. For a second, Harry wished this was what he wanted. Her excited, open face. Ron's family as his family. It was almost irresistible. Then he thought of being back at his place, waiting for Malfoy to come: Malfoy and the promise inherent in that curving smile. The way that doing this felt like stepping off a precipice. But it being the best thing Harry had ever done.

He hugged Ginny tight, then pulled away. “I've got to go.”

Dean grabbed Ginny and danced with her, singing, “You've been stung by the Wasps.

Harry ducked under another pair of arms reaching for him and pointed himself towards the changing rooms. “I need a shower!” he yelled to the crowd, but whether anyone heard him, he couldn't say.

 

~~~

The changing rooms had proved as challenging to navigate as the pitch. Harry never reached the showers, but instead was still grimed with sweat and dirt and feeling rather flustered by the time he was able to grab his things and Floo home. He had no idea what time it was, only that he had imagined himself sitting with studied casualness on the sofa waiting for Malfoy, clean and spruced, rather than half-falling out of the Floo in a shambles of muddy Quidditch gear. He knew in a dim part of his brain that he should be exhausted, but bubbles of excitement and maybe something like fear kept rising up in his chest. Everything was starting to feel a little surreal.

He had only got as far as leaning against the wall to unbuckle his filthy shin pads, when he heard the whoosh of the Floo, and Malfoy stepped out, looking distinctly unmuddy, perfectly groomed, and, frankly, good enough to eat. Harry didn't know whether his heart was leaping with delight, or falling into his muddy, stinking boots. He even had mud on his face, he could feel it cracking and falling off onto the carpet, the result of an over-enthusiastic dive which had ended in Harry taking a glorious tumble onto the grass.

Malfoy's eyes widened, then he sniggered. “Do you always look like you brought half the pitch home with you?”

Harry felt his ears heating. “Sorry, it was madness there. I couldn't get away. I just need a shower.” He pulled off his outer robes and dumped them on the floor.

“Not one of your famous baths?” Malfoy's eyes were travelling over Harry's body.

“Shower's quicker,” Harry explained.

“Are you in some kind of a hurry?” Malfoy looked at him from beneath lowered eyelids.

Harry's fingers fumbled with the buckles of his boots. “I didn't mean to invite you over and then disappear into the bathroom.”

“No, so why don't you go ahead and have that bath...” Malfoy's mouth twitched. “... And I will come and watch.”

Harry felt a flush sweep over his neck and up across his cheeks. “Bloody hell, Malfoy. I think I'll just grab a shower, OK?”

“What's the matter? Are you shy? I've seen you in the bath already, after all.”

Harry swallowed. The thought of Malfoy watching, his eyes resting hotly on Harry... “Why don't you get in with me, then?”

Malfoy's eyes flashed. “What a bold idea, Potter! What makes you think I'd want to sit about in a load of muddy water with you? No, come on. Let's get you clean. Then... we'll see.”

Harry led the way to the bathroom in a daze and charmed the candles alight. Malfoy took up a position leaning against the sink, his hair gleaming in the candlelight, and watched, amused, as Harry fetched towels and ran the water. “No bubbles today?”

Harry added a good dollop of Bubbling Cauldrons. The smell of lilies filled the air, and steam started to curl around the two of them. Malfoy leaned over and reached for something behind Harry. “You forgot this. In case you want to play.” He tossed Harry's rubber duck into the bubbly water, where it bobbed ludicrously on its side.

Harry stood awkwardly on the bath mat. It was idiotic to feel so shy. Perhaps it would feel easier with his glasses off; he placed them carefully by the sink near Malfoy, and then stripped off his jersey in one quick move. Malfoy was in soft focus, now, and the steam hid his expression, but Harry could still tell he was watching. His stomach tightened at the feel of Malfoy's eyes on his bare skin. He bent to pull off his socks, one at a time. Malfoy was very still, and silent. Harry unlaced his Quidditch leggings and pushed them down. He was half hard and wondered if Malfoy could see the outline of it through his underwear. He stepped out of the leggings, hopping on one foot, then the other. Finally, not meeting Malfoy's gaze, he shucked off his pants and, leaving his stuff in a pile on the floor, stepped into the delicious warmth of the bath.

Harry's cheeks were burning. He closed his eyes and took some deep breaths. Malfoy didn't speak, but Harry heard him moving closer. When Harry opened his eyes, he was perched on the edge of the bath looking like the cat who'd got the cream.

“Mango, eh? How terribly sophisticated. Shall I scrub your back?”

Harry squinted up at Malfoy. He was holding Harry's bottle of mango-scented soap. Harry had the precipice feeling again, his body taut with anticipation. Playing it safe seemed so dull.

“Yeah, why not?” He passed Malfoy a sponge.

Malfoy soaped it up and held it out as he waited for Harry to sit forwards. The soap felt cool and silky against the heat of his back; Malfoy stroked it along his spine and then back over his shoulders. The warm water trickled down in rivulets, catching on Harry's nipples and the sprinkling of hair between them. Malfoy added more soap to the sponge and lathered up Harry's collarbones and chest. His eyes skimmed over Harry's body hungrily, then up to his face to hold his gaze. The bathroom was quiet except for the sound of gentle splashing as Malfoy wet the sponge again and ran it under Harry's underarms, then dipped down to his stomach. Malfoy's eyes were dark, his lashes lowered.

“Your shirt's getting wet,” Harry said.

Malfoy's sleeves were damp and he stopped to roll them up, revealing sinewy forearms with a dusting of pale hair. His shirt was turning semi-transparent where it had been splashed.

“Your trousers are, too.”

Malfoy looked at Harry sideways. “Never mind. How do you wash this mop you call hair?”

Harry ducked under the water and surfaced, water running over his face. Malfoy had found the bottle of Madame Whifflin's and rubbed a handful over Harry's hair. “This is terrible stuff.” Malfoy used both hands to work it in. “You should use Lebeau's instead.”

Harry hummed in his throat as Malfoy ran his fingers all over his scalp. It felt amazing. He stretched his legs out in the water, grateful for his covering of bubbles.

“Rinse that off,” Malfoy instructed, wiping his wet hands on the towel. Harry obediently ducked under the water again and came up spluttering as water went up his nose.

“You can't clean your hair in that filthy water, for heaven's sake. We'd better empty this out and start again.” Malfoy pulled the plug as he spoke.

Oh, well, wouldn't you know it. There went his bubbles. The muddy water gurgled away, and Harry was left sitting naked in a puddle. It was horribly clear how much he had been enjoying Malfoy's shampoo technique, and Malfoy sitting there staring only seemed to make it worse.

Malfoy smiled, showing his teeth. “You certainly do enjoy your baths to the fullest extent, Potter.” He turned the taps on as hard as he could and regarded Harry thoughtfully as the water filled up around him again. “You know, I think I might get in after all.”

Harry reached for Malfoy's forearm and rubbed his thumb along it. “Yeah, come in. Please.”

Malfoy slipped off his shoes and socks, then stepped neatly out of his trousers so he was standing in his shirt sleeves. His legs were long and lightly-muscled, the shape of his body clear under the damp shirt. Harry watched as he undid each button, his eyes holding Harry's. The shirt was tossed aside before Malfoy peeled off his underwear, and stood naked and gorgeous, his skin gleaming in the muted light of the candles.

Harry stretched out his hand in invitation.

“Tut tut. Give a guest the tap end, would you, Potter?” Malfoy asked, and as Harry hurriedly swapped ends, Malfoy stepped into the bath, sinking down slowly as the hot water lapped around his body.

They sat at opposite ends, facing one another, Harry's legs apart with his knees drawn up, and Malfoy's in between, their legs brushing together. Harry couldn't stop his eyes running all over Malfoy. His narrow chest with its small pink nipples. His flat stomach with a shallow navel, the lean curve of his arse and the jut and dip of his hipbones. His balls, and the pale curls of his pubic hair, which were bobbing under the water, and his erection, long and perfect, arching up out of the water towards Harry. Harry stared and stared, his tongue darting out to wet his lips. It was the first time he'd seen another boy's cock and not had to hurriedly look away. He wanted to look at Malfoy's forever, to see how it strained towards him, the head flushed darkly pink.

Malfoy had the sponge again and reached to rub bubbly trails over Harry's legs. “You're almost all clean, now.”

“Shall I wash you?”

Malfoy raised an eyebrow. “I'm clean already.” He leant forward and passed the sponge up along the inside of Harry's thighs. He added more soap, then stroked from between Harry's legs, slowly moving up, up, up, over his balls, along the underside of his erection and back over the top. Harry gasped and pushed himself against the soapy caress, but the sponge was elusive and had moved on to Harry's stomach.

Harry reached for Malfoy, scooting along the bath till their legs were tangled and he could lean forward to meet Malfoy's lips with his own. He kissed him long and hard, savouring the taste of Malfoy's mouth, the warm dampness of his skin. He felt he would never get enough of it. The sponge came back and teased over Harry's balls and down along the crack of his arse, making Harry groan into Malfoy's mouth and clutch at his hair. His other hand snaked around Malfoy's back, running over his spine, relishing the slippery-wet-smoothness and the movement of the muscles beneath Harry's hand.

The sponge disappeared and was replaced by a hand. Harry arched towards Malfoy as soapy fingers wrapped around his cock. Another hand moved to cup his balls, squeezing and caressing. Harry broke the kiss and let his head fall back for a moment, wondering how anything could feel this bloody good. Malfoy was pressed up against him, all soapy and delicious, and Harry had had no idea that his body could feel this way, that he could burn with wanting, to kiss and lick and touch and be touched and hold and fuck and rub and bite and suck and just do everything, everything to Malfoy, so much, until there wasn't anything left to do to him. The thought that Malfoy might actually let him seemed so impossible and wonderful that Harry moaned aloud, thrust into Malfoy's hand and came with shudder after shudder, panting against Malfoy's shoulder.

Malfoy laughed and leaned back against the sloping side of the bath.

“Sorry.” Harry panted. “It's just... you felt so good.”

“I know.” Malfoy wore the smug smile Harry had wanted to punch a hundred times before. He looked an impossible mixture of infuriating and irresistible. “It's understandable.”

Harry looked at him, stretched out against the white porcelain, his prick still hard and dark against his pale skin. “Shall I touch you?”

Malfoy's eyes were half-closed. “That would be a yes.”

Harry moved to where Malfoy was lying, and nudged him along a bit, so they were both leaning against the sloping edge on their sides, facing one another. The bath was maybe on the narrow side for two, but Malfoy didn't take up a lot of space, and Harry liked the feeling of their legs being tangled together and having Malfoy's body flush against him. The water sloshed gently around their waists, as Harry soaped up his hand and ran it over Malfoy's chest.

“I know you don't need a wash. I just want to feel you.”

Malfoy's cat-that-got-the-cream smile returned. “Be my guest.”

Harry's hands explored Malfoy's body while he kissed him again, more slowly. Malfoy wasn't going to run away, not this time. He was going to stay, and Harry was going to kiss him as much as he wanted. It might take a long time.

Malfoy's body was deliciously lean, all angles and long, sweeping contours, and apparently very sensitive; he gasped as Harry soaped across his stomach and under his ribcage. Harry was desperate to see what it was like to hold Malfoy's erection in his hand, an erection that wasn't his own. What he really wanted was to make Malfoy come, to see him lose it, to learn his face when it was lost in pleasure. He wanted to do what Malfoy had done to him, but it felt crude somehow, to just grab at him straight away.

Was it OK to touch Malfoy here, to stroke and squeeze the curves of his arse? Malfoy didn't seem to mind. He looked pleased, and let his eyes flutter shut. His arse felt as nice as it looked, all smooth and firm. The top of his legs were fuzzy, and strong, and when Harry ran his fingers over the crease where his bum and legs met, he squirmed, and gave an incredible little wriggle. Harry did it again, and kissed him while he was doing it, and then, suddenly bold, slipped his hand between Malfoy's legs and stroked from the base of his cock right up to the crown.

Malfoy made a noise like 'mmnnngggh', laced his legs through Harry's, and kissed him hard. His foreskin seemed tighter than Harry's, but where the head of his cock emerged, it was so smooth, and the whole of it felt so good in Harry's hand, full of heat and pulsing with life. Harry added more soap, enough to make his hand glide, squeezing up and down the whole length in a slippery, hot, tight fist. Water lapped around the base of it, and made little splashing sounds as Harry's hand moved to and fro. Malfoy bucked, and kissed him fiercely, hands in his hair. Harry never would have thought he would enjoy someone pulling his hair, but with Malfoy squirming against him, the steam and the water swirling around them, and Malfoy's cock thrusting in and out of the water and into his fist, it seemed to be just what he wanted.

When Malfoy came, he twisted up his face, eyes screwed shut and lips reddened and open. He gave a little shout which echoed around the tiled walls, his body straining with tension and then falling into loose lines of delight. Harry felt ridiculously pleased, and so turned on that he wondered if Malfoy would mind if they just did it all over again, straight away.

Malfoy's face rested soft and peaceful in the wavering candlelight. Then he shifted uneasily. “I think I'm lying on that blasted duck of yours.” He pulled it out and chucked it across the room. “Stupid fucking thing.” He looked at his hands. “I'm getting wrinkly, Potter. Time to get out.”

Harry cast a warming charm on the room and then towelled them both dry, taking the opportunity for further strokes and kisses. Malfoy asked for a comb and used it himself, then pulled it gently through Harry's hair, deftly smoothing out the snarls. It all felt dreamlike: the warm, scented air in the room; Malfoy's slender limbs, shining golden in the candlelight; the repetitive movements of the comb in Malfoy's careful hands. Harry's whole body felt simultaneously aroused and relaxed, his cock full and heavy again, his skin thrilling at every little touch, every caress. He needed to lie down somewhere with Malfoy and do things to him.

“Shall we go to my room?”

“Yes, why not?” Malfoy stretched, his muscles shifting into fascinating shapes, then followed Harry, sauntering across the landing as if he walked around other people's houses naked all the time.

Harry's bedroom was cosy and comfortable, full of soft rugs, woolly blankets, and squashy cushions. Hermione had once popped her head in and said it was the worst case of a desire to return to the womb she had ever seen. It was also, to be perfectly frank, rather a mess.

“Look at the state of this!” Malfoy said in a kind of squeal.

Harry looked around sheepishly, picking up a pile of laundry from the bed and trying to hide it in a corner. “Yeah, sorry. I've been busy.”

Malfoy sat down on the bed, then got up again, peeling a stray sock off his bum and shaking it at Harry. “This is where house-elf liberation gets you.” He frowned at a couple of plates lying on the floor. “Do you eat dinner in bed?” he asked suspiciously.

“Sometimes,” Harry admitted.

“Well!” Malfoy's eyebrows were up near his hairline. “If I'm going to be coming here again, you'd better tidy up a bit.”

Harry couldn't hide his smile. Malfoy was planning to come back.

“And change the sheets.”

Harry nodded, brushing a few crumbs off the bed-covers.

“And get some decent coffee in for the morning.”

Harry's smile became a grin. “Are you staying the night?”

Malfoy raised his chin haughtily. “That will depend on how the evening goes.”

Harry climbed onto the bed and pulled at Malfoy's hand. “Come here, with me, will you?”

Malfoy let his eyes trail over Harry's body. It felt so strange to be naked in front of Malfoy, but Harry's cock gave a throb of interest.

“I might have known you'd be keen, after so long between fucks.” Malfoy's mouth twitched.

“This is... It wasn't so long between.”

Malfoy sat on the bed, and bounced up and down, apparently testing it for springiness. “No? I thought you said—”

“This is the first time.”

Malfoy turned to him, looking puzzled. Much like being naked, being honest with Malfoy felt oddly unfamiliar. It roused Harry, made him crave more.

Harry felt himself reddening, but pressed on regardless. “I haven't been like this with anybody else. What we did just now – that's more than I've ever done.”

“Hell, Potter. I know you said... I didn't know you meant... but surely you have, at least with a woman?”

“Not a woman or a man. Not beyond just kissing and touching, anyway.” Harry fiddled with the soft edge of the blanket.

Malfoy's eyes were wide. “Now you tell me. Well― I mean― are you sure you want to, now?”

Harry groaned and nodded fervently. “Fuck, yes.”

Malfoy laughed. “Well, that's good to hear.” He rested on his elbows and thought for a minute. “Merlin, we'd better let you do the fucking, I suppose? As it's your first time.”

Harry swallowed. “That would be good.”

Malfoy lay himself down in an elegant sprawl on Harry's covers, his skin glowing against the rich reds and oranges of the fabric. “Come over here.”

Harry crawled towards him, his limbs trembling slightly.

Malfoy examined his face. “We can just do other stuff, you know. If you're too scared, that is.”

“No! Well, I mean, yes. I would like to do the other stuff, as well. Sometime. But I do want to... to do what you said.”

Malfoy stroked along Harry's flank, sending shivering trails over his skin. Malfoy's secretive smile was back. “I can't pretend it's not rather exciting. To be your first, I mean.”

Harry nodded. “I, er, wouldn't have guessed things would turn out this way.” They both laughed.

“I suppose not.”

Harry pulled Malfoy in for a kiss. His skin was soft from the bath and smelled faintly of Harry's soap. “I'm glad it's happening,” Harry told him.

“I bloody bet you are!”

“No, I mean, I'm glad you're here. I – I really want it to be you.”

Malfoy's eyes darkened. “Oh, Potter. You're going to have me, and you're going to love it.”

Harry's chest felt rather as if there was no air left in it, but Malfoy kissed him, soft and sloppy, for a while, and then let Harry push him onto his back. Kissing the smooth skin of Malfoy's chest and neck, and wanking him slowly, Harry started to feel a lot better, and then as though he would happily fly through Fiendfyre, if he got to have Malfoy at the end of it.

“Will you show me? Now, I mean.” He wondered at how gruff his voice sounded.

Malfoy nodded. “Yes, hold on.” He slipped down the bed a little until his face was level with Harry's cock.

Even Malfoy's humid breath ghosting over Harry's skin made him want to croon with pleasure, but he couldn't suppress a yelp of surprise at Malfoy's divine, hot mouth taking him in deep. It was so different to anything he had imagined... wetness, and silkiness, and a lingering, sweet-soft pull against his flesh. Malfoy's tongue licked, slow and sure, over the slit, then there was deeper suction, less playful than before, and Harry thought he would probably come if Malfoy didn't stop, well, more or less immediately, really.

“Wait!” Harry held Malfoy's hair. “I thought we were going to...”

“Yes, yes.” Malfoy gave Harry a long lick from the base to tip, which had him gasping, toes curling, with the intensity of it. “In a minute.”

“I'm not going to last, Malfoy. Sorry, but it's too bloody exciting.”

Malfoy bit his lip in amusement. “Good. No offence, Potter, but if it's your first time, it's quite likely to be crap. I don't want you going on for ever and ever.”

Harry frowned. “I don't want it to hurt you or anything.”

Malfoy licked him again, dragging the flat of his tongue over the head, and Harry's hands clutched at the covers. “No. It'll be fine. Anyway, I like doing this.” He gave Harry a look that warmed the very marrow of his bones. “I like your cock, Potter, it's really rather nice. And it's going to feel even better when it's inside me.”

It was as if Harry were wax, and Malfoy's words had set the wick to burning. Parts of him felt molten, made liquid by the strength of his desire. He didn't quite feel he had control of his body any more, but was happy to go wherever Malfoy led him, while the rational bit of his brain watched and wondered. The lubrication spell was nothing new, but Harry had only used it for wanking. Malfoy showed Harry how to apply it for other purposes, and then, drawing up his knees and taking Harry's hand, guided Harry's first finger a little way inside himself. Harry started a little at the unfamiliar, ridged tightness, but Malfoy slid his finger in some more and moved it in and out gently.

Aa-ahh,” he said, and Harry stopped. “No, go on,” Malfoy said, his voice sharp with annoyance. “Mmm. Yes. Do that, and kiss me while you're doing it.”

Harry had no idea why this should be so erotic: whether it was the whole idea that his finger was actually inside another person; the sounds that Malfoy made; the way he let his legs fall open and pushed back onto Harry's hand as if eager for more; or the fact that it definitely felt quite dirty and wrong to be doing this, with Draco Malfoy of all people. He was sure of two things: one, that he had never been harder, and two, that, fantastic as it felt to be touching the inside of Malfoy's body, held tight by his amazing heat, that there was no way on earth that his cock was ever going to fit in there.

Malfoy's head moved from side to side on the pillow. “Mmm... now, do the lube spell again, and then put your cock in.”

Harry's Adam's apple bobbed. “It's not going to go in, Malfoy.”

“I can assure you it will. You're a perfectly nice size, but you're nothing out of the ordinary. Just get everything good and slick, and off we go.”

Harry's hand was shaking as he cast the spell again. Malfoy's entrance looked so small and puckered, and hardly seemed loosened by Harry's touches at all. Merlin knew he wanted to do this, but he could only too clearly imagine screwing it all up.

Malfoy drew his legs up to his chest. His eyes rested on Harry's, dark and stormy, his pupils wide. “Do your worst, Potter.”

“Shit, Malfoy. This isn't going to—”

“Potter. Stop emoting and fuck me. I like it tight like this. Just try it.”

Harry lined himself up, hesitated, then pushed. Oh, hell. What was— Oh, hell. Malfoy's head was thrown back, his eyes closed. The lines of his body were so perfect. Harry wanted more than anything to be inside him, to feel— And then, suddenly, he was. Only an inch at first, but then Malfoy seemed to relax and push against him at the same time, and there was a sudden, breath-taking movement, and then Harry was, shockingly, about halfway in.

Malfoy was taking little breaths, his knuckles white as he grasped his legs. Harry had to shut his eyes. It was quite overwhelming: not soft, like Malfoy's mouth, or smooth, like his fingers. It was kind of... gritty, beneath the slipperiness from the lube; he wasn't even sure if he liked it. He wondered for one horrible moment whether he might lose his erection. As he stayed still, arms trembling, he could feel the tension in Malfoy's body, and then Malfoy took a deep breath and said, “Now.

Something relaxed, Harry pushed forward and found himself buried in heat and gripped tighter than he'd ever imagined. Malfoy was making noises – low, rough noises. Harry had no idea if this was good or bad. He felt panic rising in his chest. He wished he knew what was going on, and if he was allowed to move. Then Malfoy opened his eyes and gave Harry a fierce, hot look, as if he was something good to eat and Malfoy hadn't eaten in days.

“Salazar, Potter, you feel good. Now move – slowly.”

Harry pulled back as carefully as possible, watching Malfoy's face the whole time. The tightness was still startling, but he began to feel how good it could be once he got used to it. Malfoy was making a whining noise in his throat, but his mouth was open and his lips pouted softly. Harry looked down as he pushed back in, and nearly lost it. The sight of himself actually disappearing into Malfoy's body... he had to stop and tense everything for a minute before he could go on.

When he judged it was safe, he glanced between them again. Malfoy was holding his legs wide for him, the position so vulnerable, and although Harry wasn't conceited enough to think his prick was enormous or anything, everything looked terribly stretched. How could Malfoy lie there and let him do this? The whole thing seemed impossibly intimate. He felt overwhelming gratitude, and a desire to make it good for Malfoy.

“What do you want?”

Malfoy's voice was husky. “Ah, you're very sweet, Potter. His first time and he asks what I want.” He pulled Harry in for a kiss, then spoke breathily against Harry's mouth. “I want you to fuck me, nice and deep. Can you do that?”

Harry had to close his eyes again. Malfoy's words made him want to lose control, to forget about going slow, to forget everything except Malfoy underneath him, completely open for Harry, and looking as if he liked it. Harry swallowed hard and began to move, his body tensed and straining, but slowly finding a rhythm. Malfoy made a low hum of approval and moved under him, his mouth open and eyelids fluttering.

Malfoy's cock was hard and leaking onto his stomach, and as Harry watched, Malfoy took it in his hand and stroked, his wrist twisting sinuously as he reached the glans. Harry's rhythm stuttered, his eyes wide and breath catching in his chest, then something changed. As he watched Malfoy working his own cock, a rush of raw desire swept through him and his thrusts became deeper, more driven. He felt as if something had taken hold of him, and that he could not stop even if he wanted to. Malfoy responded with incoherent moans, his hand moving urgently over his erection, then lying limply on the sheets as he let his body be rocked and buffeted by Harry's movements. He watched Harry through half-closed eyes, expressions of pleasure and pain flitting across his face, interspersed with a heavy-lidded, appreciative smile that made Harry feel he had fire running through his veins.

Harry found a growl building in his throat, and he bent to kiss Malfoy, more teeth than tongue. Then Malfoy's back arched and he was clenching around Harry in long, shuddering spasms, come spurting between their bodies, and a harsh cry dragging from his parted lips.

Harry pulled almost all the way out and held still for a few moments, before thrusting deep one more time and emptying himself into Malfoy in a great juddering rush. It seemed to go on and on, leaving him dazed and suddenly weak as he lowered himself into Malfoy's arms.

Malfoy was kind of sweaty, his hair sticking to his face. Harry gave his breath a chance to slow down before he spoke. “That was... sort of incredible.”

Malfoy laughed, a bit hoarse. “I told you you'd like it.”

“I know I was quick... I can usually go longer than that.”

“What, all the other times you've fucked blokes' arses?”

“No, I mean, when I... I know I'm usually on my own, but I can last longer, is what I mean.”

Malfoy looked as if he were trying not to choke. “That's great, Potter. Well done; I'm really impressed by your excellent masturbation skills.”

As Malfoy's body rippled with laughter, Harry felt himself soften and slip out. He settled on his side next to Malfoy, his arm awkwardly across Malfoy's chest.

“Was it... was it OK?”

Malfoy looked at him, his face alive with amusement. “What do you think?”

Harry swallowed. “I think it was good. It was really good for me, anyway.”

Malfoy reached up to brush a lock of Harry's hair from where it had fallen in his face. His eyes were soft and smoky. “It was good.”

Harry kissed him, savouring the tang of salt on his skin.

Malfoy pulled away. “Now, I'm starving. What about some of your excellent bacon and eggs?”

Malfoy drew the line at eating in bed, but he ate supper sitting at Harry's kitchen table stark naked. It seemed that once Malfoy took his clothes off, he didn't bother putting them on again. Harry thought this arrangement was entirely delightful, and it also meant that it looked as if Malfoy was staying, for now at least.

They ate bacon sandwiches, Harry having run out of eggs, the grease dripping onto their fingers. Then, after some lively discussion about Harry being a barbarian who didn't own napkins, Harry ended up licking Malfoy's fingers clean. This led to kissing and licking of other things, and then, astonishingly to Harry, a repeat performance, with Malfoy bent over the kitchen table. His pale skin was stunning against the rich colour of the wood, and a newly confident Harry stood triumphant behind him, marvelling at the view, and Malfoy's noises, and the breathtaking heat and friction of Malfoy's body. And, this time, Harry did last longer... a little bit, anyway.

“That's enough concessions for beginners. It's your turn, next time,” Malfoy said, half threat, half promise. Harry felt shivery in his stomach, but the thought was not entirely unwelcome.

After that, Malfoy wanted to take a shower, and that led to kissing, and some further explorations, and then Malfoy said he really was tired, not to mention sore, and he hoped that Potter had some clean sheets to hand, because he was not sleeping in that crumby pit that had probably been the scene of a lot of Potter's marathon wanking practice.

And Harry said perhaps Malfoy would call him Harry, and he would call Malfoy Draco. And Malfoy said he would think about it. After Harry had changed the sheets.

Harry thought it was one of the strangest nights he had ever spent. Malfoy hogged all the covers, and somehow took up most of the space, and left Harry perched in one corner, trying not to fall out. And every time Harry woke up, he would see Malfoy lying there, apparently enjoying the kind of deep and contented sleep that is brought on by bacon sandwiches and a surfeit of sex, and he would think: Bloody hell. I'm in bed with Draco Malfoy. Draco Malfoy is asleep, in my bed.

The blond head on the pillow next to his was so familiar. Harry thought he probably knew every millimetre of Malfoy's face by heart, but in all their years at Hogwarts, even throughout what he would have to describe as his passionate obsession with Malfoy, he had never once dreamed that he would one day want to shower that face with kisses instead of blows. Somehow, this all felt both completely inevitable and impossibly surreal.

In the morning, Malfoy refused to kiss Harry until he had brushed his teeth, then demanded fresh coffee and an abundance of toast. He curled his lip at Harry's selection of Weasley-made jams, and tutted at the lack of unsalted butter, but for all that, he made for a pleasant, and pleasingly naked, breakfast companion.

“You can't think what a relief it is to know I'm not destined to be a lavatory brush at any point today. That alone would make me feel life had taken on a new charm. But with another day at Ollivanders to look forward to, tomorrow, and not long before I'm allowed to use magic again...” He stretched contentedly. “Life is definitely looking up, Potter.”

A frown crossed his face as he helped himself to more toast. “What a pity all the other poor sods are still doing their probation just as before, though. It's pretty fucking grim, you know. Severus doesn't deserve that, or anything like it. You'll get your Miss Granger onto that cause next, if you've any heart, Potter.”

Harry nodded. He was feeling more uncomfortable every day at what the Ministry had allowed to happen. He wondered if Hermione would let him help. Maybe they could—

“I have some things I need to do at home, later,” Malfoy announced, changing the subject. “But first, I have one more piece of community service to perform.” His eyes danced with wickedness. “I'm going to teach the Boy Who Lived to suck cock, and then, depending how well you do at that, possibly to take it up the arse, as well.”

Harry grimaced, but his thin dressing gown could not hide his arousal. Malfoy insisted on a further shower for both of them, and then Harry found himself in the delightfully novel position of kneeling on the bathmat, with his mouth full of Malfoy. Malfoy had directed the proceedings in some detail at first, then left Harry to get on with it, and was now braced against the wall, his head thrown back and one hand in Harry's hair. Harry thought he could get rather good at this, given further opportunities for practice. He hummed with pleasure at the clean, intriguing taste of Malfoy's prick on his tongue, and the blond curls tickling at his nose.

“That duck's giving you a funny look, Potter,” Malfoy sniggered rather breathlessly.

In reply Harry took him down as deep as he could manage, gagging a bit as he did so. Malfoy was reduced to little incoherent sounds, his thighs straining and tensed. Harry shut his eyes, better to appreciate the different textures, and the tang of pre-come dribbling onto his tongue. He took his time, wanting to prolong the experience, but it was only a couple of minutes or so more before Malfoy groaned, stiffened, and filled Harry's mouth with the first surprising taste of his come. Harry began to swallow as best he could, enjoying the newness of it, and feeling Malfoy's pleasure throbbing through him, making his own erection twitch skywards.

Malfoy was still bucking and making an array of noises, when Harry heard the distinct sound of a pop from somewhere behind him.

What the fuck? Harry tried to look around, but his mouth was full of cock and spunk, and Malfoy was holding his head firmly by the hair.

Malfoy sounded breathless and smug. “Well well, Potter, I think you've got definite potential to be world class at cock-sucking, as well as wanking.”

Harry pulled away. “I heard a pop—”

The words came from the direction of the sink. “I am surprised you could hear anything at all over the disgustingly feral sounds emanating from Mr Malfoy.”

It was the unmistakable voice of Severus Snape.

Malfoy flailed quite beautifully, Harry thought, and yanked the shower curtain nearly off its rail to cover himself, with a really impressive display of reflexes. Harry scanned the room. “You're not the duck, are you? Where are you, Snape?”

“Please can we retain some vestige of manners, although trapped in this hideous situation for which even the most exhaustive etiquette guide can contain no advice. You will address me as 'Professor', or 'Sir'.”

Harry gaped. The shower curtain was trembling, whether with fear or amusement, he did not know.

“Furthermore, Potter.” Snape's voice sounded as withering as it had ever done. “I insist that you show me the decency of covering yourself while in my presence.”

Harry realised with a start that he still had a stonking erection. He reached for a towel and tried unsuccessfully to hide its shape and the admittedly impressive angle of it. Sucking Malfoy off had been lovely. He could still taste him on his tongue.

“Sorry, Professor. We, er, we weren't expecting you.”

“That much is evident.”

The shower curtain shook, and Harry heard the distinct sound of strangled laughter. He pressed on gamely. “Er, it's good to see you. Where exactly are you?”

Snape gave a deep sigh that managed to communicate the profound stupidity of everything. “I am the toothbrush.”

There was a muffled sob from the shower curtain.

“Oh!” Harry racked his brains for a suitable reply while wondering if it was possible to die from internal laughter. His current toothbrush was a random one he had picked up from the display at the chemist's. It wasn't until he had got home that he had discovered it was a garish shade of lilac, and decorated with a pattern of pygmy puffs, but he had decided to use it anyway. He quite liked the colour. “Er. I'm sorry about that.”

“Indeed.” Snape's voice reached new, scathing heights of sarcasm. “This is how my sacrifices have been rewarded. The post-war Ministry seems determined to go down in history as the most idiotic ever. However, to a man such as myself, such trifles are irrelevant. I rise above it all.”

Harry tried to arrange his face in an expression of polite sympathy. “Well, that's good. I can imagine it could be awfully annoying.”

“This was one of the more trying examples, I must admit. Can I make one thing quite clear, Mr Potter: whatever your usual hygiene routine after performing... that particular act, on Mr Malfoy... under no circumstances will you be brushing your teeth during my visit here today.”

Unable to bear any more, Malfoy made a break for it, leaping from behind the curtain in a blur of pale limbs, and sprinting towards Harry's bedroom. Harry could hear his splutters of laughter as the door slammed behind him.

“Well, Professor. It's been lovely to see you, but I really must go. I've got...” He gestured vaguely in the direction of the bedroom. “... A few things to be getting on top of. I mean, on with.”

If a toothbrush could sneer, Snape managed it. His bristles positively, well, bristled. “Very well. I shall see myself out.”

“Er... yes.” Harry ran a hand through his hair in confusion. “Well, goodbye. And thank you for coming.”

As he headed for the bedroom, towel still clutched around his waist, he suddenly thought of the poor rubber duck, left there all on its own, with Snape glowering at it malevolently. On a whim, he darted back. “Sorry... Just forgot something.” He snatched the duck and left with a swirl of his towel.

Malfoy was naked on the bed, face down, his head partly under Harry's pillow, snorting with laughter. He had two gorgeous dimples in his backside, and Harry sat on the bed and stroked his hand across them.

Malfoy twisted around. Harry was grinning and holding the duck.

“Sweet Merlin, Potter, I'm all for kinky stuff, but involving the duck is a bit much.” Malfoy rolled onto his back, still breathless with laughter. “If that's what you're into, we could ask Severus for a threesome.”

Harry balanced the duck carefully on Malfoy's flat stomach. Its beaky face pointed towards Malfoy's. “He'd be too bossy. I'd far rather have you teach me stuff.”

Malfoy propped himself up on one elbow, looking pleased and making the duck wobble. “Well, I believe I did promise you further tuition if your conduct after breakfast was satisfactory.”

Harry decided that he liked Malfoy's smug expression very much indeed, when it was Harry who was making Malfoy feel that way.

Malfoy patted the bed. “Come here, and I'll continue the lesson.” He picked up the duck, glared at it, and tossed it towards the floor. “Without that thing. I seem to have spent far too much time lately in the company of a rubber duck.”

The duck lay where it fell, on its side in a pile of Harry's dirty laundry. Without Malfoy inhabiting it, Harry knew that its beady eye could no longer convey any emotion, but as Malfoy pulled him down into the first of many ardent kisses, he half-imagined that he saw it wink.