In the fifteen years since he’d first mastered the charm, Harry’s corporeal Patronus had never once appeared as anything other than the stag, standing proud and fearless with a crown of many pronged antlers whenever it burst forth from his wand. This fact had never bothered him, for though Harry hardly claimed to be an expert on the Patronus Charm, some part of him still believed that it was some remnant of his father’s love for him. Perhaps it was the wishful thinking of an orphan; that just as his mother’s love had laid protective magic over his flesh, his father’s affections similarly defended his soul. Regardless of the reason for its form, the presence of his Patronus had always brought a modicum of comfort to Harry, a reminder of those who had loved him unconditionally…and sacrificed everything to try and save him.
As the magic of the charm pulled from him now, Harry could feel that this was different. He could sense the path of it drawn out of him in long, shimmering lines of power, twined and tangled into the magic Draco had spent years pouring into branch and bark and root. Distantly, he heard Draco’s breath catch in surprise and wonder as a veritable silver cloud lifted from the tree, rising above them both. A wash of light fell over them as though the moon were hung just overhead, growing ever brighter as the Patronus took form.
A shuddering breath spilled from his lips as the magic slipped fully free of him and Harry stumbled back from the tree on unsteady legs, looking up at the silvery creature. It was something like a deer, or it was antlered at any rate, a dense thicket of branching horns woven above its heavy mane and hominid features. The thick fur of its hide gave way to scales on its forelegs and ended in splayed reptilian feet, tipped with powerful claws. For a long moment, the Patronus regarded them with a seeming intelligence of its own, ancient and wild in the sudden, unnatural silence its summoning had brought upon the forest.
Lifting his hand, Harry watched with bated breath as the silvery figure lowered its head to meet him, resting its flat muzzle against his palm and the scars there. Shards of holly burned beneath his skin, though not unpleasantly, and Harry could feel the tangle of his magic and Draco’s sing through his body once more.
Opposing. Complimenting. Bound.
Harry had no idea what the creature was, though it had come from him, but before he could even think to ask, he heard Draco say, “Leshy.” There was a strange note in his hushed tones that Harry couldn’t recall ever hearing before. Something almost…hungered.
Then, as if released from the Time-Stop Charm, the dark creatures who made the Forbidden Forest their home came suddenly alive once more. The Patronus lifted its head when the distant wail of furious, terrified Dementors cut through the night, then silently ambled forward with ethereal grace toward the sound. Within moments, the bright silver cast of the Patronus was concealed within the abundant growth of the forest, leaving them in the gentler cast of the Hawthorn tree’s fairy lights.
An electricity seemed to hum beneath his skin as Harry watched it go, leaving him overly aware of his surroundings, as though his senses had been awakened. Still it surprised him when he turned to Draco, only to find the other wizard already upon him, crowding him back against the tree. His breath left him in a surprised huff when his back met bark, caged in by Draco’s arms where the wizard splayed his hands to either side of Harry. Though they weren’t actually touching, the innate power of the tree flowed through them both in turn, sliding over them in slow waves; its former intensity gentled by Harry’s recent casting.
Leaning in until they were close enough to share breath, Draco’s mouth hovered just out of reach, drawing a shiver out of Harry when their noses brushed together. He could feel the spell building before Draco’s lips parted to whisper the casting between them and was unsure whether he heard or felt the words.
Silver light flooded over them again, but Harry was blind to it, lost in the slide of magic flowing over and through him once more, his senses saturated by Draco. It was too much. It wasn’t enough. Numb fingers twisted into the folds of Draco’s cloak to remove what little space yet remained between them and their lips met and met and met. Everything that had come before that moment and all that yet awaited them melted away as their mouths sought and yielded and tasted, magic singing between them in counterpoint. Neither of them saw the Patronus and neither of them cared in the slightest, kissing until the glow faded away to enfold them in darkness once more.
Drawing back a little, Draco nosed along Harry’s beard and brushed his lips over an ear, his voice thick and deepened with want. “Come home with me, Harry.”
Shivering, Harry licked his lips and nodded once, feeling the burn of the words low in his hips, more demand than request. “Yeah,” he breathed shakily. “Alright.”
Rather than attempt to reapply his Transfigured disguise, Harry followed Draco back through the forest beneath his Invisibility Cloak, mindful of root and bramble in the low light of the Gamekeeper’s lantern. Neither of them spoke as they walked, a thrum of anticipation and latent magic still palpable in the air between them. From deep in the forest came the occasional shriek of a frantic, hunted Dementor and other, darker things; the faint tug of the charm still hooked into the well of Harry’s magic. Though he wondered if Draco felt similarly, Harry didn’t raise the question in the quiet space between them.
The immediacy of their moment beneath the Hawthorn tree ebbed as they walked and by the time Draco opened the door to his cottage, pausing long enough that Harry would be able to follow him in unseen, there was a small furl at his brow. Closing the door firmly, the Gamekeeper moved across the darkened room to his hearth and coaxed the fire back to life with a small push of magic, using a heavy iron poker to stoke the embers. Hesitant still to break the silence, Harry remained beneath his cloak as he watched this process, hardly daring to breathe. It had seemed so simple while their magic had been entangled, the inexorable conclusion to their long history, but here in the walls of Draco’s home, Harry felt suddenly uncertain of his welcome.
The furrow at Draco’s brow had deepened by the time he had straightened and turned, casting his eyes slowly about his cottage. His jaw worked a moment as though chewing distastefully before he finally gave in, sounding doubtful and frustrated as he ground out a short, “Potter?”
Doubtful because he wasn’t certain Harry was still there. Oh bollocks, Harry was such a thoughtless git.
Stupidly relieved, Harry stepped toward him, causing the Gamekeeper to flinch slightly when the cloak unexpectedly brushed against him. The tension in Draco’s frame eased when Harry leaned in and softly kissed him through the silken fabric, his lips ticking upward at the absurdity of it.
“Take that ridiculous thing off,” Draco murmured, a thread of amusement in his tone as he pushed Harry back a step. “I hardly think we need go so far to keep your identity clandestine.”
“Sorry,” Harry chuckled, grinning sheepishly as he emerged from the cloak. “Old schoolboy fantasy, I suppose.”
Smirking, Draco arched an elegant brow at this. “While I am certain I would find it terribly enlightening to know what pubescent filth once lurked at the edges of your mind, I’m far more interested in the here and now.” Stepping closer, he let his fingertips brush lightly over Harry’s robes, fingering the wool blend as though testing the weave. “Unless you’re having doubts.”
“I’m not,” Harry said with more confidence than he strictly felt. He caught one of Draco’s hands in his own, holding it against his chest. “I only wonder if… Is it too much, too soon?”
“Too soon?” Draco repeated in devious delight, giving Harry a sardonic look. “It’s been seventeen years, Potter. I’m fairly confident that’s excessive even by Muggle standards.”
“Merlin, you’re a prat,” Harry complained and pulled Draco in, kissing the mocking smile from his face. He nipped at the Gamekeeper’s lips until he’d silenced his soft, taunting laughter, then found himself quite breathless when Draco slid an arm about his waist and began to kiss him in earnest. They remained entwined as they were for several long minutes until Harry had to take a moment, gasping against Draco’s mouth. “Sorry, I…it’s…been some time.”
Huffing out a soft, amused breath at this, Draco licked lightly at his lips, then nosed along the soft bristles of his beard to the shell of his ear. “I’ve every confidence in your aptitude, Professor,” he murmured, sending a shiver through Harry. Drawing away, Draco took Harry by the hand and pulled lightly, leading him back through the heavy curtain that divided his bed chamber from the rest of the cottage.
Harry supposed he shouldn’t have been surprised by how easy it was to follow, to fall into Draco in the dim light of his room, grinning and gasping and grabbing at the other wizard. Despite voicing his slight trepidations on whether they’d come to this too suddenly, it didn’t feel rushed…it felt inevitable. All of the mistakes and triumphs and tragedy and joy that had come before had led them to this moment, the tangible intimacy of two lives that were already inescapably bound.
Clever fingers worked quickly over the fastenings of his robes and waistcoat and the eagerness in them helped to ease the discomfit Harry still felt within his own skin. Five days of a renewed appetite had gone a good way toward putting some weight back on his frame, but divested of his clothing the toll taken while hosting the Lethifold became all the more obvious. He was well removed from his Quidditch days or the peak of his Auror career and felt rather more akin to the underfed boy who had swam in his cousin’s oversized clothes.
“Don’t be dull,” Draco complained against Harry’s shoulder as he pushed his shirt off to pile unceremoniously atop the robes already on the floor. Humming a little in satisfaction at his efforts, he slid work roughened palms down Harry’s chest in a slow caress. “I can hear the gnomes turning wheels in your head.”
“Then I suppose you’ll have to work harder to distract me, Professor,” Harry countered and felt Draco’s lips curve against his skin before he was unceremoniously tipped back onto the bed.
His expression shadowed in the darkness, Draco flicked his fingers toward the candle on his nightstand, setting it alight to take in the sight of Harry properly. “I think I’ll manage,” he mused softly and divested himself of his belt.
Pushing himself back upright, Harry carelessly toed off his oxfords as he watched Draco pull off both shirt and tunic in a single, sinuous movement. Unlike the day of Teddy’s flying instruction, he wasn’t wearing a vest and Harry reached out to pull Draco to stand between his thighs so that he could lay heated kisses against the bare expanse of flesh. Any hesitation he felt in the face of this change in their status quo was fast fading in his sheer want of Draco and Harry tried to somehow convey that through his touch. If he were honest with himself, some small part of Harry still wasn’t wholly convinced that this wasn’t another dream. That he wouldn’t wake up empty and alone as he had for too long.
Arching into him with a pleased sound, Draco pushed the fingers of one hand into Harry’s hair while the other kneaded at the back of his neck. Harry had been hesitant thus far to touch him with his scarred wand arm, but Draco caught his wrist and drew it up, carefully brushing his lips against the scar he’d left on his palm.
“Does it hurt?” he wondered, lightly fingering the scarred places where Harry’s wand lay embedded still.
Shaking his head so that his beard brushed back and forth against Draco’s chest, Harry grunted. “Not as such and nothing like before besides. Just looks a fright.”
Humming at that, Draco pressed his lips to the three raised scars in his palm before nipping teasingly at the heel of Harry’s hand. “If you give me a rash, I’ll be most displeased,” he warned, though his tone was rather fond.
Harry lowered his head to suck a bruise on him and grinned when it made Draco hiss and tighten his grip. “Not my fault your skin is so posh,” he murmured, palming at the flesh in question until it had gone all rosy. “I promise to rub a nice salve on it later.”
“How very reassuring,” Draco drawled, releasing his hand again.
Chuckling, Harry trailed his mouth lower, sucking a few more marks into the smooth, pale skin. While his own body had a fair amount of hair, Draco’s was both sparse and light, only a shade or two darker than was to be found on his head. Running his thumb along the trail it made down from Draco’s navel, Harry looked up at him questioningly, fingers resting on the waist of his trousers.
“By all means,” Draco all but purred, a languid smile on his lips.
Rising back to his feet to taste the curve of it, Harry licked into his mouth while he slipped the knot that laced his trousers and slid his hand inside to palm him, breathing in Draco’s gasp of pleasure. Already he’d more than half filled, but it didn’t take long for Harry to coax him to full arousal, teasing back his foreskin to rub at the sensitive head.
“I want you inside me.” He breathed the admission into Draco’s mouth, eliciting another soft gasp. “But I want to taste you first.”
“Harry,” Draco groaned in answer, fisting his hand in his hair to kiss him hungrily. He rolled his hips against the drag of Harry’s palm a few times as they kissed, then released his hair to push him back onto the bed, flushed and panting. “And here I was concerned that you might prove to be shy.” Bending to pull off his boots, Draco cast them aside, then pushed the last of his clothing down off his hips to join the growing pile on the floor.
“Gryffindors and boldness or some rubbish,” Harry said rather breathlessly, slipping forward to kneel atop their discarded garments and sliding his palms up Draco’s thighs.
Draco moaned deeply when Harry licked a hot stripe against his flesh before fisting him, threading his fingers through the wild tangle of his hair once more. “I rescind every unkind word I’ve ever said against your house,” he panted, rocking his hips forward when Harry pressed a wet kiss to the head of his cock.
A huff of laughter escaped Harry at the sentiment, but then he opened his mouth to draw him inside, a somewhat embarrassing moan working out of him. Merlin, but it had been an age since Harry had last done this and the shocking intimacy of pleasuring another with his mouth made him almost dizzy. He didn’t realize that he’d closed his eyes until Draco cupped his face, stroking along his beard and rubbing against his lips where they closed around his flesh. Giving the Gamekeeper a rather dazed look, Harry took him in deeper, using his hand to keep from embarrassing himself by taking too much.
Grey eyes luminescent where they caught the candlelight, Draco watched him with a heated intensity, tracing his fingers over Harry’s features in a way that felt breathtakingly proprietary. “You beautiful creature,” he breathed, his voice pitched low. “How is it you’ve possibly ended up here?”
Harry exhaled sharply through his nose as something very close to a whine caught in his throat, the praise sending a flush of shameful heat licking along his spine. Of course Draco would know exactly where to needle him, would find the part of Harry that he tried so hard to hide. The neglected boy in a cupboard under the stairs that so longed to be wanted. To be cherished. Loved.
Releasing Draco with an obscenely wet sound, Harry turned his face away from the gentle fingers and their seeming reverence, panting against the Gamekeeper’s thigh. “Don’t,” he protested softly, almost brokenly. “Please don’t tease me.”
Taken aback, Draco stilled for a long moment, then carded his fingers through Harry’s hair, drawing him away. “Harry,” he chided, tilting his face up to give him a gentle, if unyielding, look. “In case I have failed to make it perfectly clear, I want you. Not Jameson Evans, not the Boy Who Lived, and certainly not the bloody Chosen One. Just you, however broken or damaged you think you are. And I rather think you want me, too.”
Nodding a little, Harry licked his lips, almost hesitant to speak with how Draco’s words seemed to settle in his chest, tightening his throat. When Draco raised an eyebrow pointedly, apparently dissatisfied with his lack of answer, he finally gasped out, “Yes. Yes, I want you. I’ve wanted you for…for some time.”
Smirking in satisfaction, Draco nodded and stroked his hair soothingly, almost rewardingly. “Good. Then get in my bed and allow me to further elucidate, Potter.”
Glad for the distraction away from his embarrassing bout of insecurity, Harry huffed in amusement as he rose from the floor, shifting back onto the mattress. “No one uses four syllable words for seduction, Malfoy.”
“Are you suggesting that I am sesquipedalian?” Crawling onto the bed after him, Draco slowly stalked him along the length of it until Harry’s back met the pillows. “I retain a transient velleity that you will sanction me to alleviate your regrettable misconceptions of the eloquence to be found in an articulate soliloquy.”
A deep laugh bubbled up out of Harry and he shoved at Draco’s shoulder with a broad grin. “Shut up and kiss me, you posh git.”
Winding his arms about the Gamekeeper, he bit teasingly at the self-satisfied smile on his narrow face and drew Draco atop him. It didn’t take long for him to regret not having divested himself of his trousers while he’d had the chance, because the muted feel of Draco’s bare skin pressed against the cradle of his hips was rather maddening. Still he didn’t try to break away to rectify the problem, too unwilling to lose the contact of their bodies as they kissed. Finally, when it seemed Draco was far too content to do no more than drive Harry slowly mad with his hungry mouth and the slow grind of his hips, he pushed the Gamekeeper back enough to pant against his mouth.
“Help me get my kit off, damn you. I’m ten seconds away from vanishing these bloody trousers,” he warned, drawing a chuckle from the other wizard.
“That would be a sight to see come morning,” Draco mused, but he relented and sat back on his heels to stroke his hands down Harry’s chest, pulling lightly at the hair to send prickles of sensation across his skin. “Merlin, but you’re hairy.”
“Well…yes. Suppose I am,” he replied cheekily and Draco groaned, making as though to leave. “Oh come on, you all but gift wrapped that, you did.”
“You are one bad pun away from being ejected from this cottage, Potter,” Draco warned, but the threat didn’t hold much weight when he was undoing the button of Harry’s trousers.
“M-my lips are- nnnh!” Harry broke off to groan as Draco palmed him through his pants, teasing through the thin cotton. “F-fuck, Draco…”
“Language, Professor,” Draco chided, pulling at the elastic of his waistband with a distasteful moue before letting it snap back against his skin. “I can’t believe you wear Muggle underclothes.”
“If you find them so offensive, feel free to take them off,” Harry stressed, lifting his hips impatiently.
Draco raised an eyebrow and looked overly pleased by Harry’s eagerness, but hooked his fingers in to tug down pants and trousers both. Despite that it had been his goal, the sudden shock of air on his bare flesh left Harry feeling rather flushed and he swallowed thickly as Draco shifted back to pull off his clothing entirely, leaving him in his socks.
“I half expected suspenders,” Draco taunted, sliding his fingers along Harry’s calves to remove his socks as well, which was strangely intimate on its own.
“If anyone in this room is likely to own sock suspenders, it’s bloody well you,” Harry groused, a little breathless to be completely exposed before the Gamekeeper now.
Sniffing haughtily at that sentiment, which only furthered Harry’s point, Draco ran his hands slowly up his legs as he took in the sight of him, though he stilled in surprise when he got a good look at Harry’s cock. “Oh,” he said, taken aback and Harry sighed, having nearly forgotten this bit.
“Sorry,” he began and resisted the urge to cover up. “I know it’s not done among wizards, but sometimes Muggles get the idea that being uncircumcised is…unclean.”
Though he had never even considered the possibility of asking his aunt and uncle whether they’d had the procedure performed after being left on their doorstep, he could only assume it to be the case. Harry hadn’t even known to question it before living in the dormitories at Hogwarts and it had come as a surprise to nearly every partner he’d had since.
“That’s barbaric,” Draco pointed out, tightening his hands on Harry’s thighs. “The more I hear about these Muggles, the less I understand why you champion them so.”
“To be fair, my aunt and uncle are unpleasant by anyone’s standards, Muggle or otherwise. And it’s not really common practice, not in England, at any rate. Anyway, you don’t have to-“
“Don’t be absurd, Potter,” Draco cut him off, curling his fingers about Harry where he’d started to flag without further preamble. “You’re quite mad if you think a bit of missing skin in any way detracts from you.”
“N-noted,” Harry gasped out, his hands fisting into Draco’s blankets.
Rubbing his thumb along the underside, Draco explored the exposed head curiously, stroking until Harry’s cock was filled and flushed. Looking satisfied once he had Harry hard and aching once more, Draco leaned over to look through the vials on his shelf, humming in appreciation when Harry took the opportunity to mouth at his chest again. Finding what he was looking for, he slid down to catch Harry’s lips with his own, licking at him as he worked the jar open. Harry’s breath caught when Draco nudged his thighs wider, caught off guard to feel his fingers rub slickly along his taint to tease at his opening. None of his previous magical partners had favoured manual preparation to the ease and brevity of a few muttered spells, but he was far from disappointed to feel Draco’s fingers work inside him now.
“Fuck!” he moaned, drawing up his heels to roll his hips to meet the intrusion. “Ah, fuck that’s- Draco!”
“Who would have guessed you had such a filthy mouth, Potter?” Draco murmured against his cheek, thrusting his fingers languidly inside him.
“I’ll bloody well show you filthy, you-“ Harry let out a cry when Draco curled his fingers just so, pressing his thumb to his perineum to increase the stimulation. “F-fuck, Draco, please!”
“Shh…” Draco soothed him, nuzzling at his throat even as he worked in another finger. “You’re doing so well for me. Just a little longer, darling.”
This time Harry did whine, magic sparking along his wand arm, wild with want and pleasure. Vines crept round the posts of Draco’s bed, twining around the bollards to flower into delicate, fragrant blooms. Draco’s breath caught and he faltered at the sight, pupils blown wide at the flagrant display of power he’d drawn out of Harry. Giving up his tortuous ministrations, Draco withdrew his fingers and shifted more fully between Harry’s legs, drawing his hips up over his own pale thighs. Finding the jar again, he gathered more of the lubricant than was strictly necessary and slicked it over himself and Harry, leaning back to watch as he slowly eased inside.
“Please!” Harry gasped, reaching out to try and draw Draco closer as though the distance between them could not be borne. It took a few moments of discomfort for him to remember how to relax his body in the right way, but he moaned as he managed it, drawing Draco deeper.
Despite Harry’s near desperation, Draco kept his movement slow until he was fully seated, panting a little and shuddering at the tight heat of him. Lowering so that they were pressed close again, Draco caught his lips in a soft, wet kiss, sliding his arms around Harry’s shorter frame to cradle him close.
“Shhh…I have you,” he whispered as Harry’s body tightened and relaxed around him, adjusting to being filled. “I’ve got you, darling.”
“Draco,” Harry whispered, shuddering. Looking up at him almost wondering, he touched Draco’s face, close enough to share breath as they had in the forest and thought very seriously that this might be something dangerously close to love.
Instinctively, Harry reached for him with his magic and Draco’s eyes widened fractionally as it wove together just as easily as before. Then they were moving together, the room silent but for the slick sound of skin and soft gasps for air, desperate, yet hushed. Draco caught Harry’s scarred hand and twined it with his own and the connection between them only flared brighter, drawing out a cry of pleasure that started somewhere in the one to end in the other. It was a wild power that pulsed through them; Old Magic and more dangerous than either could know, but in that moment it was beyond them to think of any possible consequences. There was only Harry and Draco and the bond of their magic as they spilled over and into the other.
Harry awoke from blissfully dreamless sleep sometime later to a clean and pleasantly aching body and the brush of fingers against his scar. Not the scar on his forehead, as he might have expected, but the flowering lines like lightning over his heart. The mark of Voldemort’s final, and most successful, attempt upon his life. Though he didn’t open his eyes, Draco must have realized he was awake, for he spoke softly after a few moments.
“Mother always swore that you were hit by the Killing Curse during the last battle. Father insisted that you simply dodged it convincingly enough. A Seeker’s reflexes,” he mused, tracing the lines until they vanished into the thatch of hair on Harry’s chest.
“Do we have to talk about your parents while we’re starkers?” Harry grumbled and opened his eyes to squint up at Draco where he was propped up beside him. The candle had soldiered on while they dozed and cast a flickering glow over them even now, softening the Gamekeeper’s sharp features as he regarded Harry contemplatively.
“How did you do it?” he wondered, resting his palm over the breadth of the scar. “How did you survive the Killing Curse?”
For a moment, Harry hesitated, expecting to feel the usual flare of suspicion that accompanied such questions, but was surprised to find himself relaxed. Sated, perhaps, by the lingering memory of Draco’s touch on his skin, coaxing pleasure in the candlelight, but more than it was startlingly clear to Harry just how much he’d grown to trust his former rival. It ought to be quite mad, yet he genuinely felt a foreign sense of security as he lay naked in the bed of Draco Malfoy. Thinking back to the way their magic had been entwined, Harry tried not to dwell overlong on the heady feelings he’d all but lost himself in. The thought was…a little overwhelming, to say the least.
“Well…I didn’t, to be honest,” he admitted at last, staring up at the thatched roof. “The first time was my mother…she invoked Old Magic by sacrificing herself to protect me when she could have lived. The second time…I died.”
Draco brushed his thumb back and forth lightly over Harry’s collarbone as he considered this. “You’re remarkably fit for a dead man.”
Huffing out a soft, amused breath, Harry looked over and his eyes fell on the stone at Draco’s throat. “I was given a choice to come back. One I earned partially from this,” he said and lifted a hand to touch the Resurrection Stone lightly, barely brushing it with the tips of his fingers as Draco stilled, taken aback. “Do you know The Tale of the Three Brothers?”
“Fairy stories, Potter? Really?”
“Stories often have an element of truth to them. In this case, the three gifts the brothers ‘received from Death’ were the Deathly Hallows…and uniting these makes one a Master of Death.”
“And you united them,” Draco guessed, though he sounded doubtful.
Harry gestured at his person as though presenting himself in evidence. “Apparently.”
Eyes narrowed in thought, Draco regarded Harry in silence for a long moment, as though searching for some flicker of deceit in the tale. At last he scoffed softly and shook his head, giving Harry a wan look. “As though you needed another title,” he said sarcastically. “I’ve been wearing the Resurrection Stone for nearly a decade now, you’re obviously still in possession of your blasted Invisibility Cloak and I can only assume the wand was Dumbledore’s, given the Dark Lord’s obsession with it.”
A flicker of unease settled in his belly at the mention of the Elder Wand, but he nodded lightly. “I went looking for it once…the stone. After…after my son-” Harry blinked back a swell of tears as the words stuck in his throat and he swallowed thickly around them.
Sliding long fingers soothingly through his dark, riotous hair, Draco’s eyes softened. “Do you want it now?” he asked seriously, despite all the power he now knew it possessed.
The breath went still in his throat at the offering, but Harry shook his head soon enough, catching Draco’s hand to lace their fingers together. “No,” he whispered gruffly, his voice still heavy with grief. “I…it was foolish of me to have ever considered it. He was…James was so small when we lost him. Bringing him through the veil would be cruel and frightening.”
Nodding in acquiescence, Draco let the matter drop, which Harry was wordlessly grateful for. He had heard so many variations of ‘sorry for your loss’ throughout the years that he ought to be desensitized to it, but even after all this time such empty sympathies struck a visceral chord of rage within his heart. A solemn silence fell over them where they lay and Harry found the solid warmth of Draco’s form entwined with his own far more comforting than any platitudes.
“The Patronus,” he said after a time, eyes open, but unfocused. “In the forest earlier…you called it a Leshy?”
“A forest-dwelling creature,” Draco affirmed. “Northern European variant, I should think. Though it’s hard to be certain given that they’re believed to be all but extinct.”
“Deforestation?” Harry guessed.
“It would be easy to blame the Muggles, but many were hunted by alchemical poachers, among others. There’s an old legend that Leshy gifted magic to the first witches and wizards at the birth of civilization.”
Curious, Harry tilted his head to regard the Magizoologist. “Do you think that’s true?”
Lifting a shoulder dismissively, Draco shook his head. “It’s as plausible as anything. Clearly an ample portion of the magical community thought it credible enough that they’ve spent millennia seeking to capture or kill them in hopes of gaining more power. And I’m not just talking about wizards. Goblins in particular once held massive Leshy hunts.”
“I didn’t know it was possible to conjure anything other than mundane creatures for a Patronus,” Harry admitted thoughtfully.
“That was hardly a mundane casting of the charm, Potter,” Draco pointed out wryly and Harry chuckled.
“True enough. Did you see your Patronus when you cast it? I’m certain it was corporeal.”
Eyebrow lifting sardonically, Draco shook his head. “I was rather distracted, you’ll remember.”
Heat bloomed across his face even as a grin stretched his mouth wide. “I might need a reminder, actually,” he said casually and Draco’s lips curved upward in amusement.
“Do you now.”
Humming in affirmation, Harry leaned closer to brush their lips together, lightly at first, then more firmly. They kissed languidly, mouths pressing and pulling at one another with the kind of lazy satiation one might expect in the early morning hours after rather more desperate lovemaking. Nudging Draco onto his back, Harry moved half over him, bracing himself on his good arm while clumsy fingers, still recovering from injury, slid lightly over his skin. Raring as he’d been before to chase the culmination of months of flirting, he hadn’t had much of a chance to really explore the topography of Draco’s form and he did so now at leisure.
They both had their share of scars marring their flesh, but while Harry’s were fairly prominent as a result of both field medicine and the resistive tendencies of curse wounds, Draco’s were nearly invisible. Though there was a part of him that wanted to ask after the history of the faint lines he could feel beneath the slide of his fingertips, he hesitated to do so, certain that more than a few had been drawn by the lash of his own power. Smoothing his scarred palm along Draco’s arm with the intention of tangling their fingers, he paused when he came to a rougher patch of skin and the Gamekeeper stiffened in response.
Withdrawing slowly from the kiss, Harry regarded the carefully blank mask of Draco’s face for a moment, then turned his head to look at the Dark Mark. Time and the true death of the creature that had once been Tom Marvolo Riddle had faded the once vividly black Mark to the colour of an old bruise, but the magical brand would never truly fade. A furl of sick unease in his belly, Harry let his fingers press into the mark and pushed out with his magic, seeking a connection that had been burned out of him eleven years ago.
“You aren’t him,” Draco murmured and Harry’s eyes snapped back to him in surprise.
“I’ve seen your boggart,” he reminded him and Harry grimaced at the memory. “I spent months at his side, Potter…you’re nothing like him. Darkness like that, it leaves a stain on everything it touches.”
The words were meant to be a comfort, but they left Harry feeling cold. Draco, after all, couldn’t possibly know that Harry had spent all but one of the first seventeen years of his life as harbinger to a piece of Voldemort’s soul. Who knew what sort of ‘stain’ that left in him? Hallows were one thing, but Harry was in no way ready to broach the subject of Horcruxes.
Despite this, he found himself murmuring, “I’ve been in contact with the dark my whole life, in one way or another. Who’s to say I won’t just tip over into the void?”
His pale eyes searching Harry’s, Draco looked troubled as he cautiously lifted a hand to cup his cheek, as though Harry were one of his creatures. His thumb brushed gently under his eye to draw away the wetness Harry hadn’t even realized was there. “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” he asked gently.
Taking a shuddering breath, Harry shook his head a little, licking his lips. The memory of his power lashing out at Ron’s face came immediately to mind, but no matter how terrible, it had in the end been an accident. “I…I don’t know, I…the Unforgivables, I suppose?”
“All of them?”
“I…all but the Killing Curse. During the war.”
Nodding once in acknowledgement, Draco gave him a steady look. “Do you regret using them? Be honest, not noble. Given the circumstances of their casting, do you regret it?”
Brow furrowing, Harry thought about it objectively, thought of his attacks on the Carrows and Bellatrix, his manipulation of Travers and Bogrod the goblin and shook his head after a moment. “No. Not really. It was war and I…I didn’t see any other options at the time. I regret not being better prepared, I suppose. Attacking you was worse. That…that I truly regret.”
Draco arched an eyebrow at him critically. “Are you referring to the duel in which I had been about to cast the Cruciatus Curse on you?”
“That doesn’t excuse my actions.”
“No, but it wasn’t unwarranted. We weren’t just children throwing jinxes and serpents, Potter…we were attempting harm that day. Lucky for me you were quicker or I’d have ended up in Azkaban a great deal sooner.”
Scowling down at him, Harry felt a churlish need to prove that he was in fact capable of becoming what he feared most and blurted, “I turned Bryndon Rowle into a pig.”
Taken aback, Draco stared up at him a moment, then inclined his head. “I…beg your pardon?”
Groaning, Harry slumped to the mattress beside the Gamekeeper, scrubbing a hand over his face. “He was stalking a Muggle woman, Veronica Ware. Broke into her flat and used the Imperius Curse on her. He made it clear that he had little cause to fear repercussions from the Ministry, so I…I cursed him. Turned him into a pig and sold him.”
“To a butchery?” Draco wondered, looking thoughtful and Harry balked.
“What? Merlin, no!” he denied, horrified. “To a farm! A Muggle tourist farm that sells miniature pigs as pets.”
Amusement washed over Draco’s expression until it finally spilled forth in a laugh, long and loud, making the bedframe shudder slightly with the intensity of it. “B-beware the Dark Lord P-Potter!” he gasped out, wiping at a tear of mirth.
Glaring at the laughing wizard, Harry sat upright. “Well I really must be going,” he groused irritably.
Looping an arm about his waist, Draco pulled him back down, pressing a Cheshire grin into his shoulder. “No, please, stay and regale me with more tales of your wicked deeds.”
“I don’t know what I see in you, honestly,” he grumbled, but made no further move to leave. “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done, then?”
“Tortured nearly every Muggle I’ve ever met, for a start.” Though the mirth had drained away in an instant, the words still came lightly, seemingly unaffected.
Harry’s breath stuttered as though he’d taken a blow, a sick feeling twisting in his belly. “I’m sorry, I... I wasn’t thinking. But that…you didn’t have a choice, Draco.”
Snorting derisively, the Gamekeeper gave him a withering glance. “Don’t be simple, Potter. There is always a choice. I chose my own survival over theirs and would almost certainly do so again.” He slid his palm over Harry’s scar again, the contact seemed a heavier weight for the gravity of their candlelit rumination. “But you wouldn’t, you sacrificial bore. Questionable acts of vigilantism aside, you’re too bloody focused on being the saviour, the martyr that you’d never manage anything so selfish as world domination. You don’t crave power…in fact I’d hazard to say that you resent the power you’ve got, ungrateful fool that you are.” There was something like fondness wound into the sharpness of his words.
“A Leshy is a guardian, Harry. You might not be wholly footed in the Light, but you’ll never be a Dark Lord.”
“Thank you,” Harry whispered into the space between them, threading his fingers gently through the pale strands of Draco’s hair. “You aren’t like him either, you know.”
“Obviously,” Draco said with an arrogant sniff. “I have a nose.”
“Prat.” Harry laughed and shoved at him lightly, feeling an inexorable swell of affection in his chest.
Twining their bodies together once more, they lay in comfortable silence, sleep chased away by the weight of memory. After a time, Harry found himself tracing the mark again, oddly comforted by the lack of power he felt in it. Thin, ragged scars that must have been caused by some form of claws, scored the skin from wrist to elbow, yet curiously, the mark itself was unmarred. Harry guessed that the curse-like nature of the Dark Mark kept it from being easily disfigured. There were older, uglier scars he could also feel in the surrounding flesh, but could not guess their origin.
Tracing over the claw marks with his fingers, it struck him suddenly as odd that Draco had been treated in St. Mungo’s for this injury in particular, when he had first seen the wizard again after so many years. It was clear that he had no difficulty in the regular application of Dittany and Harry couldn’t imagine he’d be in the slightest bit eager at having the Dark Mark gawked at, even by trained Healers. In fact, Harry distinctly remembered Pomfrey making mention of the fact that Draco never allowed her to tend to his wounds. He found it hard to believe anyone would find the cold and clinical St. Mungo’s more appealing than the Hogwarts Hospital Wing. Considering the wide variety of injuries Harry himself had been seen for at both locations in his life, he vastly preferred Hogwarts.
Unable to let go of the idea now that his inquisitive mind had seized upon it, Harry asked, “Why were you in St. Mungo’s that day?”
“And which day would that be?” Draco wondered archly.
“Don’t be a git,” Harry chastised, knowing full well Draco understood.
Raising an eyebrow at Harry, the Gamekeeper looked wholly unimpressed. “Why did you come back to Hogwarts?” he countered.
“Really?” Harry asked in surprise. “Quid pro quo?”
“Must I remind you that I’m not a mystery for you to solve, Potter?” Draco asked acerbically.
‘This innate need you have to know what’s going on around you is one of your best and worst qualities.’
Grimacing to remember that only a few hours earlier Draco had somewhat forgiven him for his transgressions into the Gamekeeper’s privacy, Harry nodded his concession and sighed. “Sorry. It’s…habit, I suppose.”
Relenting somewhat, Draco brushed his fingers over the back of Harry’s neck, a small smile breaking the curve of his lips. “Hardly a new one. I can’t remember a time when you’ve ever not been too inquisitive for your own good. At least this time I’m fairly confident I’ve done nothing nefarious to earn it.”
“Only fairly confident?” Grinning teasingly, Harry leaned into the light touch until it firmed into a grounding caress. “I…was asked to return to Hogwarts, but…” Harry hesitated, unsure how to put it into words. “I think I needed to come back, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Hogwarts was my first real home and I’ve been...lost for some time. Hiding from my life instead of living it.”
He gave Draco a wry, brittle smile, feeling as though he were exposing himself beyond his skin now. “At the same time, I think I needed to feel…useful again. I spent the last few years trying to make some difference for those the Ministry has forgotten or ignored, yet nothing has changed from when I started. Honestly I think there might be something really rotten lurking in the heart of the magical world, something that’s linked to Hogwarts, but whether or not I’m the one to sort it is debatable. It’s not as though I’ve been able to do much to solve my own problems. Frankly you’ve done more to sort my life in the past month than I’ve managed in years.”
“Compliments will get you everywhere, darling,” Draco purred, kneading at the base of Harry’s skull. “In some ways, we’ve always brought out the best in one another. Usually by being the worst, but the truth of it remains.” His expression became more serious and he tightened his grip somewhat, not enough to hurt, but enough to be noticed. “But I’ve no interest being part of another war.”
The cold reality of what could be coming sent a small shiver down Harry’s spine and he licked his lips, gone suddenly dry. “I’m not asking for that.” Though he meant it honestly, the words sounded hollow even to him.
“Not yet,” Draco corrected, though not unkindly. Relaxing his grip, he lightly scratched at Harry’s scalp instead, seeming to debate with himself for a few moments before he spoke. “Poppy maintains a well-stocked infirmary, but she doesn’t keep powdered silver or a discretionary tongue. Not when it comes to injuries of dubious legality, anyway.”
“Powdered silver?” Harry repeated, brow furrowing a little as he tried to remember the significance of that while Draco’s short nails sent shivers of sensation along his scalp. “Wouldn’t Slughorn keep it on hand?”
“Horace Slughorn is a glory-seeking arse suckling at the teat of those with far greater talent and significance,” Draco insisted. “I wouldn’t ask him for table salt, much less powdered silver.”
“Powdered silver and Dittany,” Harry remembered suddenly. “For sealing wounds caused by a werewolf. Lavender?”
“Yes,” he agreed, inclining his head slightly. “It…wasn’t the first time I’ve been exposed to injury by a werewolf. It’s important for me to seek treatment quickly when it happens. Though it is rare to be turned by claw instead of fang, it’s not impossible, especially when one already carries the virus. I wasn’t lying when I said before that my profession means that I am a fairly frequent visitor of the Dai Llewellyn ward, but I am particularly cautious of those injuries caused by werewolves. On the occasions I’ve sought their aid, the Healers there have also given me a somewhat experimental tincture of silver, asphodel and aconite that has thus far helped ensure the virus remains inactive.”
Thinking back on the last few months, he bit back a rather cheeky smile. “Except for a quick temper and fondness for meat on the full moon?”
Arching a brow, Draco gave Harry a considering look. “Think you’ve learned something, have you, Potter?” he drawled and drew in even closer, letting his teeth brush over his neck a moment. Harry’s chuckle of mirth caught to instead draw in a quick breath, a flush of heat seeming to radiate out from the contact. “I suppose it’s entirely possible I become a bit…feral around that time.” His hand slid down to cup at Harry, who hissed and bucked into the contact. “That doesn’t seem to bother you. Another old schoolboy fantasy?”
“You’re such an arse,” Harry complained, turning his head to seek out Draco’s smirking mouth. He tried to wind his arms about the capricious wizard, only to have his hands caught and pressed above his head. With the state of Harry’s recovering body, Draco was easily the stronger of them and Harry tried to pretend that his pulse didn’t quicken to be so easily pinned in place.
“Let me,” Draco insisted softly and shifted one of his hands back down to slide over Harry’s body in a measured, covetous caress.
Nodding rather breathlessly, Harry was all too happy to do so.
The Room of Requirement was warm and hazy, oddly soft round the edges considering that it housed an army. Along one wall, Ginny was building a web out of red thread while Luna painted long lines in bright yellow paint radiating out on the floor around her like the rays of the sun. Hermione was readying for a duel with Marietta near the centre of the room, Ron and Cho standing by as their seconds, though Harry failed to see how Ron was going to be of much use with a hole in his head. Nearby, Neville and Hannah were trying to help Lavender hide the moon under her robes, but it bulged out too obviously no matter how they draped them.
Harry watched over them all idly from where he sat entangled with Draco, the Marauders’ Map spread out over their laps. He listened to the soft sound of Draco’s fingertips trailing over the map’s surface, tracing the patterns of movement.
“I can’t believe she took his name,” he drawled in annoyance, shaking his head. “Dursley…how dreadful.”
“Could do worse,” Harry replied, looking down to where Draco was tapping lightly on the cluster of names. Neville Longbottom. Hannah Longbottom. Lavender Dursley.
“You’re right about that,” Draco mused, brushing his fingers along Harry’s cheek to tease at his ear. “Could be McLaggen.”
Though he knew he ought to laugh, his brow furrowed as he tried to focus on the jibe because there was something there. Something he needed to remember. But wool wrapped around the dream as surely as if he’d taken his Draught of Peace and Dumbledore’s Army faded away in a haze.
“Henri,” Draco’s voice came chidingly. “Stop that. He’s not for you.”
The pressure against Harry’s ear lifted and he opened his eyes to find himself back in the Gamekeeper’s cottage just as Draco shooed away a horrifying creature. Head still fuzzed over, the sight of it still gave Harry a bit of a shock as he jerked back slightly, coming fully awake.
“What is that?” he demanded hoarsely, voice rough with sleep.
“Henri is a Swooping Evil and he’s terribly rude,” Draco explained as the creature folded itself back into a small cocoon, which the wizard moved up to hang on a shelf. “I’ve trained him to help with nightmares, but I don’t normally have houseguests. Clearly he hasn’t yet learned to differentiate between whose nightmares he ought to feed upon. Your mind’s likely to feel a bit swaddled for a few hours until the venom wears off.”
“I can’t decide whether to be impressed or horrified,” Harry grumbled and scrubbed a hand over his face. His eyes felt over dry from having slept in his contacts and he was beginning to feel the effects of having skipped last night’s potions, but at least the Swooping Evil venom felt enough like the Draught of Peace that it wasn’t unfamiliar to him. Looking Draco over, his brow furrowed a bit. “You’re dressed.”
“You’re amazingly astute in the morning,” he replied, his smile somewhat tight. Pristinely clean and garbed in his nicer robes, Draco was already holding himself differently and Harry immediately wished they could go back a few hours.
“You’re going to the Manor,” he guessed and it came out like more of an accusation than Harry meant it to.
Inclining his head, Draco gestured vaguely toward the main room of his cottage. “I received an owl this morning,” he confirmed, his expression carefully neutral. “My presence is requested.”
Remembering the last time he’d seen Draco dressed like the pureblood heir he was, Harry scowled a bit. “A marriage interview?” he wondered waspishly.
A small smile softened Draco’s expression and he hummed lightly, leaning over him. “Why, Harry Potter…are you jealous?” he purred, stroking a hand over Harry’s beard.
“Should I not be?” Harry asked in irritation, though he still leaned into the caress.
Smile widening, Draco huffed a soft laugh against Harry’s lips as he kissed him slow and sweet, then withdrew, looking more himself now. “I’ll be back later tonight, a bachelor still,” he promised and moved toward the doorway. Pausing there, he seemed to take a moment to drink in the sight of Harry in his bed for a long, lingering moment that sent a faint shiver of heat through him. “Perhaps you can use that time to settle things with Severus, no?”
Harry’s eyes narrowed at the challenge in his tone, but Draco only smirked at him and slipped through the heavy curtain dividing off the room. A few moments later, the door to the cottage opened and closed and Harry was left utterly alone with the dark beast of jealousy curled within his breast.
“Bollocks,” he muttered unhappily and slumped back upon the pillows to sling an arm over his face. He was mad on Draco Malfoy and there was no possible way it could end well.