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Harry Potter and The Depressed Gay Dragons

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“But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.”

– Junot Diaz


“The Five “F’s” of Dragononlogy.

Fieldwork – it is best far to study dragons in their own environments.

Foresight – proper learning and preparation are absolutely essential.

Forwardness – the student must be both daring and truly courageous.

Frankness – one must simply report honestly what one sees at all times.

Fatalities – unless these are avoided, the student will make little progress.”

– Dr. Ernest Drake, Dragonology. The Complete Book of Dragons. 


Part 1: Out


“Dragons,” said Harry, “I think that’s what I want. Dragons.”

“Urm, not to take this the wrong way or anything,” said Ron, “But I’m not sure a dragon is really what you need right now.”

Harry frowned at him.

“I don’t think Harry means to buy one, Ron,” said Hermione, her eyebrows pushing together, “At least I don’t think so – You don’t, do you Harry?”

“No,” said Harry, looking at her, “Of course not. Why would I buy a dragon? That’s ridiculous.”

“And illegal,” added Ron.

“Ah.” Hermione’s face relaxed. “Good. That’s good then.”

“Do you really think I would actually buy a dragon? Merlin, Hermione.”

“Well,” said Ron, “Tell us what you mean then.”

Harry swallowed and leaned back a bit into his chair. “I just want to see them. I mean, like, train them. Properly.”

“Oh.” Ron took a swig from his tankard and looked quite thoughtful. “Like Charlie?”

“Harry,” said Hermione, frowning again, “I’m not sure that’s better.”

“Hermione, I think that’s quite a bit better.”

“Here, here,” said Ron, his voice muffled by the butterbeer.

“Are you sure that’s what you need right now?” Hermione’s eyebrows were practically shaking hands, she was frowning so deep. “Are you sure you’re not just…”

“Just…what?” said Harry.

Ron finally re-emerged from behind the tankard. He looked at Harry, and his eyes were kind.

“She just means that, mate, you’re still going to be depressed with the dragons.”

“I’m not depressed,” said Harry. Hermione reached for his hand. He looked at it, at her dark skin resting atop his.

“Harry, if you want to go, go. But just…look after yourself. You know we love you.”

Her fingers were curled around his knuckles. He swallowed again.

“I know,” he said quietly, “I…you too.”

“I think it’ll be cool,” said Ron, “I can get you in touch with Charlie, if you want. There are camps up in the Highlands.”

“That’ll be nice,” said Hermione, “Close to home.”


Harry didn’t go to the Highlands. Instead, he went to the Himalayas.

It turned out that dragon-taming was a considerably popular past-time in the Wizarding World –more popular than Harry had realised when he was at Hogwarts. There was a whole host of small training camps, often complete with accompanying villages, scattered across the globe. The Chinese wizards especially considered it fashionable to take at least one year out of traditional education to retreat into the mountains for a healthy dragon-taming course.

“It’s a cultural thing,” Hermione had said. “Dragons have always been a significant part of Asian folklore. In fact, many Chinese communities used to worship dragon gods. It’s really very interesting. If only our education hadn’t been so Western-centric, we would have been exposed to a lot more magical diversity. Really, when you think about it, Hogwarts has lots of areas for improvement…”

“Sick,” Ron had said, “But like, also, not sick. Fourth year was enough dragons for me.”

The camp Harry was going to was near a small village called Tengboche, which was located in the Khumbu region of north-eastern Nepal. Harry didn’t really know where Nepal was. If he was being honest, he wasn’t entirely sure where the Himalayas were either. But, he reasoned to himself, it wasn’t like he was going all the way over there for a lesson in geography.

Harry didn’t go to the Highlands. But he did get in touch with Charlie Weasley.

Charlie was perfectly eager to have Harry join, despite having never been particularly close. When Harry had asked how to prepare, Charlie had said, “Just bring a positive attitude Harry! That’s all any of us need around here. But just, you know, make sure it’s sturdy.”

Harry hadn’t really known what to do with that, so he had just taken the vitamins Hermione had given him.

The journey wasn’t long. The international portkey department arranged him his own private portkey in the form of a fallen ice-cream cone behind a wizarding pub near the London Eye at four in the afternoon, and five minutes of stomach-bending magic, half an hour of paperwork, and a two-hour long coach journey later, he found himself outside Tengboche monastery.

“I’m looking for someone,” he found himself saying to the smiling monk in front of him, who seemed to be having some trouble understanding him. “Urm – orange hair?” He gestured vaguely to his head and the monk nodded happily, apparently completely unbothered by the one-sided element of the exchange.

“Do you know anyone who speaks English?” Harry said, starting to feel a little agitated when he felt a firm hand clasp his shoulder. He whirled around.


“There you are,” Charlie said, grinning and giving a thumbs-up to the smiling monk. “Making friends with the locals already are you?”

“Yeah,” said Harry, giving a relieved grin back, “I mean, not really. I mean – I thought I might be lost, see –”

Charlie gave a hearty laugh. “Can you imagine? Mum would throw a hissy fit if I managed to lose you in the Himalayas on the first day. Or any day. Don’t get lost Harry, ay?”

“Alright,” said Harry. Charlie clapped him on the back and gestured towards a little road Harry hadn’t noticed when he was talking to the monk.

“Shall we?”

The road was steep and craggy, having clearly been manufactured over decades of trampling feet. Soon enough it veered off to the side and headed back down the slope, but Charlie continued walking off the path and over the hillside.

“So how long are you planning on staying?” Charlie asked conversationally as they made their way up.

“I’m not sure yet,” said Harry, “How long do people normally stay?”

“’Bout a couple months,” said Charlie. “Some keep at it for a couple years. Been here myself for a while. I’m thinking of heading off to Malaysia or somewhere in a while though. Like to keep moving.” He flashed Harry a quick grin.

“Are there a lot of you here?”

“Mm. Not really. Bit far out for most folk. We’ve got, what, six trained on camp right now? You’ll see.”

The non-road faded into a red dirt path, which abruptly steepened before straightening out again. As they came around the last large boulder, the camp came into view and Harry sucked in his breath.

There were at least five pen-like areas, each complete with multi-coloured piles of lord knows what, spread out across the right side of what Harry supposed was the central area of the camp, each separated by vast stone walls. Within each was a dragon, chained by a collar around its throat, and as they came closer, Harry realised that the multi-coloured piles were in fact blankets.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?” said Charlie, his voice slightly breathy, and Harry looked up at the dragon closest to them, which was covered in a series of tar-coloured spikes rising up from its nostrils and had eyes redder than blood. It opened its mouth and drooled slightly.

“Yeah,” said Harry, “Absolutely.”

The dragon let out a soft whinny and Charlie waved at it, his face cracking open in a wide grin. “Hey boy!” he yelled, and the dragon whinnied again. “Look who I’ve got with me!”

Charlie gestured to Harry and then looked at him expectantly. Harry swallowed, and then waved lamely.

“Hey,” he said, “Erm…”

“Gerard the Fourth,” Charlie supplied.

“…Gerard…the Fourth,” said Harry.

“We’ve had quite a lot of Gerards,” said Charlie, “And it’s important to keep each one distinct.”

“Oh, right.” said Harry, “That makes sense.”

Charlie led Harry around to front of the pens, and showed him the cafeteria.

“This is really the socialising part of the camp,” he explained, “Most people eat here, and it gives the place a bit of a community feel. Just behind –” He gestured to the row of run-down buildings just behind the long tables. “–are the shops. Basic stuff. They bring it up from the village.”

Harry nodded.

“The camp’s really spread out,” Charlie said as they left the cafeteria area and began the ascending path up a small hill. “Needs to be, s’just the nature of dragon training. So the actual training sites are all around here.” He waved vaguely at the surrounding mountains, and Harry looked up, taking in the black and white of the peaks, the jagged edges that seemed to spread out endlessly before them.

“I’ll show you where you’ll be learning tomorrow,” said Charlie as they reached the top of the hill, “It’ll be good fun, Harry.”

“Yeah,” said Harry, “Thanks.”

Charlie gave him a crinkled grin, and turned to leave. “Get a good night’s sleep. You’ll need it.” He called over his shoulder, and then he was gone, his back descending steadily back down the hill and into the main area of the camp. Harry watched him for a moment and then turned and continued on the winding path.

He eventually came to a tall, unstable looking building that was covered entirely with painted green tiles that looked like they might all come sliding down at any minute. He blinked, and then pushed on the heavy door, finding himself inside a dingy little room, lit by flickering lamps and draped with patterned scarves. There was no furniture save for a broken wooden stool in the corner, and reception desk, behind which sat a blonde woman with bows in her hair. She looked up at Harry, and frowned.

“Welcome to the Green Hotel, how may I help you?”

Harry had never heard anyone who sounded so entirely tired of life.

“I’ve got a reservation?” he tried, and the blonde woman sighed and pulled out a clipboard.


“Harry Potter.”

She didn’t even glance up. “Room 6.”

Harry turned to his right and encountered a small well-hidden staircase. Casting one last glance at the receptionist he shrugged to himself and made his way up.

The room was simple, and pleasant enough. He took his time undressing, getting the temperature of the shower water right, brushing his teeth, unpacking and changing into his pyjamas. Once he was done he sat down on the edge of the double bed and took it all in.

He’d expected to find relief in the unfamiliar. But he only felt numb.

It was already dark outside. He closed his eyes, letting his back hit the mattress.

The next morning, Harry woke up at seven and went downstairs.

“Morning,” he said to the receptionist. She looked up from her copy of readers digest to glare at him.

“Okay,” he said, and pushed open the door.

The sunrise was beautiful in the quiet of the cafeteria area, unfolding itself into the inevitable blue. Harry got a bowl of rice and fish from a table lying out at the end of the area, and watched the sleeping dragons as he ate alone.

“Mind if I sit beside you?”

Harry looked up to see a pale person with a long face and light brown hair pulled up into a bun looking at him.

“Sure,” he said, and they sat down opposite him, and then wrinkled their nose.

“Oh,” they said, “You don’t want that. That’s last night’s dinner. Here, take some of my bao zi.”

“Bao zi?”

“It’s what Oceania calls it, and it’s kind of stuck, honestly,” said the person, shuffling three round bread-like balls into Harry’s bowl. “You’re new, aren’t you?”

Harry looked up at the person. He suddenly realised that he couldn’t tell if they were a man or a woman.

“Yes,” he said, “Don’t really know what I’m doing, to be honest.”

“Does anyone?” The person smiled wryly. “I’m Hayden. You still have to meet everyone. Not that there’s a whole lot of us.”

Harry smiled back. Was Hayden a girl’s name or a boy’s name?

“I’m Harry. It’s nice to meet you.”

They ate in amiable silence for a while, and Harry kept glancing at the other person, trying to figure it out.

By the time Harry had finished his third bao zi, the cafeteria had begun to fill out. Harry went to put his and Hayden’s dishes away, and when he came back, Charlie was there chatting to Hayden.

“Harry!” he said, getting to his feet. “Sleep well? You’re up early.”

“Great, thanks,” Harry lied easily.

“Excellent,” Charlie rubbed his hands together. “Then we can get you introduced to your training dragon right away.”

“Ah,” said Harry. “Already?”

“There’s no time like the present.” Charlie was already heading off towards another mountain path. Hayden shot Harry a look of dry amusement, and Harry grimaced back, before following Charlie up the path.

They walked for approximately ten minutes before rounding into a space much like the pens near the cafeteria, except with more room, and a cage. In the middle of it was a relatively small turquoise dragon.

“Here we have it!” said Charlie, clapping his hands together, “A real beauty. Eighth mermish, too.”

“Great,” said Harry, thinking of the spectacularly amiable mermaids in the Great Lake at Hogwarts. He looked up and down the dragon and it practically glared at him.

“So.” Charlie flung open the cage door with more casualness than Harry deemed appropriate and stepped back. “The first step is to think of a name.”

“He needs a name?” Harry resisted the urge to retreat as the dragon clambered out of the cage and unfurled its sleek wings.

Charlie turned back to him. “She needs a name.”

“Right. Um.” Harry racked his brains. “Jane?”

Charlie stared at him and Harry shifted uncomfortably.

“That’s pretty cool,” he said after a moment.

“Yeah,” said Harry, “I mean –”

“Let’s go over the basics of training,” said Charlie, and turned back to the waiting dragon, “It’s pretty easy stuff.”

There was nothing remotely easy, thought Harry later, about the basics of dragon training.

He was lying flat on his back on the ground, panting, as the sounds of Charlie coaxing Jane back into her cage carried over to his resting place. Perhaps, he thought briefly, Hermione and Ron were right about him being crazy.

Someone had been shouting nearby for a while. As Harry began to listen in, he realised it sounded quite familiar.

Finding the remains of his strength, Harry wondered over the ridge of the mountain until he came to the next training space. As he rounded the corner, he could hear someone telling off their dragon.

“Alright, you fucking beast, no need to throw a hissy fit. I’m only checking your goddam wing, I swear, you’d be entirely useless without me –”

“Oh, no,” said Harry as he came around the corner, “Oh bloody fucking hell no.”

Malfoy turned around and his face whitened. And then he began to smirk.

“Potter,” he sneered, fitting so much derision into the word as if to make up for the last few years of git-freedom, “Nice to see you here.”

“Oh fuck no,” said Harry, “Oh fucking hell. Fuck me. Malfoy?”

“So soon?” Malfoy draped himself against the bars of the cage, one hip hitching up. “Oh, and you haven’t even bought me dinner.”

“I’m going to kill Charlie,” said Harry, “How the fuck does this shit always happen to me?”

“That’s a bit rich,” Malfoy pointed out, “For someone in Gay Dragon Village.”

“What the fuck,” said Harry, and raised his hands to the heavens, “Gay Dragon Village? What does that even mean?”

Malfoy bit his lip. It was the worst thing that had ever happened to Harry.

“You tell me, baby,” he drawled.

Harry turned on his heel and walked back down the mountain ridge.

“Listen,” he said a bit later to Charlie, as they were having lunch, “I feel like I need to confess something.”

“Really?” said Charlie, looking up from his noodles, “Like what?”

“I think I’m seeing things.” said Harry. He clasped his hands together on the table.

“Oh yeah?” Charlie leaned in conspiratorially, his expression very serious. “That’s okay, Harry. Don’t you worry. Just tell me about them.”

“Okay –”

“Me,” said Charlie, “Not Mum.”

“Okay,” said Harry, mildly alarmed. “I won’t tell Molly.”

“But you should definitely talk about it,” Charlie assured him, “If you’re seeing things. Sometimes, when things get difficult, I go and talk to the dragons.”

“Yes,” said Harry, “I mean – what?”

Charlie rested his hand over Harry’s. “You’re going to be okay.” His voice had dropped to a soothing bass. “Just dandy.”

“See, thing is,” Harry said, “Not so sure I am. Earlier today I thought I saw Draco Malfoy.”

Charlie took his hand away, frowning incredulously at Harry.

“Harry,” he said, after a long moment, “Draco’s real.”


“He didn’t die in the war.”

“I know that,” said Harry.

“He made it,” said Charlie, “He’s still with us. Heart beating...probably.”

“I feel like none of this explains why he’s training dragons in the Himalayas.” Harry felt the need to emphasis this.

“S’pose not,” said Charlie, “Except, what else is worth surviving a war for?”

At that point, Malfoy walked by their table. Harry abruptly realised something he’d been too blind-sighted to notice earlier: that Malfoy was wearing leather skinny jeans. He sort of wished that life’s misfortunes would all just come for him at once, instead of spacing themselves out like a Bertie Bott bean trail, except with only the bogey and dirty sock flavours.

Malfoy went and sat down next to a girl with an entire kilo of black hair piled atop her head. He caught Harry’s eye, and after a momentary pause, winked at him.

“Bloody fucking bao zi,” said Harry, “I was really counting on the hallucinating thing.”

Inevitably, it turned out that Malfoy was permanently located in the training space next to Harry’s.

“Can’t you move?” Harry said the next day. He turned to Charlie, eyes wide and hopefully imploring. “Can’t he go to another spot?”

“Probably,” said Malfoy from behind him, “But where’s the fun in diplomacy?”

Charlie just frowned at Harry. “I don’t understand what’s so difficult Harry. Draco’s nice.”


“Oh yes,” crooned Malfoy, “I’m very nice.”

“He’s fun. Everyone else likes him. I know you guys had a bit of a thing in Hogwarts, yeah, but the past is past Harry. Every day’s a new one.”

“Ron hates him too.” Harry clung onto this reassurance. “And Hermione.”

“Ron’s always been a little feisty,” said Charlie, swinging a few slabs of raw meat over his shoulder, “You know that.”

“A trait we seem to share,” said Malfoy conversationally, “We’d make a lovely couple, don’t you think? Ronald and I.”

Harry turned back around. “Why are you acting like this?” he said, looking at Malfoy. This close, he could tell that Malfoy was wearing makeup.

“Have you owled them yet?” asked Charlie.

Harry stiffened.

“They’ll be worried about you.” Charlie’s voice was soft. “You know they worry about you.”

“I know,” said Harry, “I – I know.”

“You can borrow my owl,” said Charlie, and walked away to feed the rest of the dragons, humming lightly.

Malfoy was looking at Harry curiously.

“What?” snapped Harry, “Don’t you have somewhere else to be?”

Malfoy took a step back, his face blank. Harry realised he had stepped forward. He sighed and tried to relax his shoulders. When he glanced over Malfoy was still watching him.


Malfoy blinked and then turned and began to climb up the mountain ridge. “See you around Potter,” he murmured, and then he was gone, up, up into the rocks.

A small snort from behind him jolted Harry around. Jane was looking at him sceptically, if a dragon could be sceptical. Harry glared at her.

“Not from you too,” he said, “One is enough for me.”

“Please tell me I’m not actually going mad,” said Harry, on the third day, “I don’t actually want to be mad.”

Hayden side-eyed at him. They were sitting at a table alone in the cafeteria again, eating breakfast.

“Why not?”

“Is that your way of saying that I am? Because I think it would be kinder just to tell me.”

Hayden chewed his or her friend rice thoughtfully. “I don’t,” they said eventually.

Harry looked at him. Or her. Hayden had a way of making every conversation into something of a philosophical discussion, and Harry wasn’t sure if he liked it or not.

Hayden sat up straighter and wiped their sexually ambiguous mouth on a napkin. “Surely,” they began. “If you were mad, you wouldn’t want to know. I wouldn’t.”

Maybe Harry was mad, he thought. It would explain a lot of things.

 “And in a way, isn’t everyone mad? At least a little bit? In fact, it’s probably healthy, as long as it’s not too obnoxious.”

“Healthy?” Harry asked.

“Sure,” said Hayden, “Keeps things exciting.”

“I think,” said Harry, “That what I would want to know is why my subconscious would choose Draco Malfoy, of all people, to hallucinate.”

“Well,” said Hayden, and sucked another bite of fried rice of their chopsticks rather lasciviously, “That seems like an answer only you have.” But their expression seemed to rather indicate that they had an answer too.

Harry managed to keep himself quiet for a grand total of a whole thirty seconds.

“Is this a gay dragon thing?” he then burst out.

Hayden’s eyes went very wide. “What?”

“I,” said Harry, and stuttered to a brief halt, aware he was blushing, “It’s not – I didn’t – look, Malfoy said it. The other day.”

“What did he say?” said Hayden slowly. They looked like they were trying very hard not to smile. Harry didn’t appreciate it.

He closed his eyes for one quick moment. “I,” he said, and cleared his throat, “He said that this was… “Gay Dragon Village”.”

Hayden snorted, and then quickly devolved into giggling. Harry felt his brush intensify.

“C’mon,” he managed after a few more minutes. “Can you at least tell me what it means?”

Hayden bit their lip and eyed Harry up, before taking pity on him. “It’s not really anything. Just –” They grinned quickly and tamped it back down. “We’ve got a lot of queers here, that’s all.”

“Queers?” asked Harry.

Hayden looked very carefully at him. “You do know what a queer is, don’t you Harry?”

“Yes, I –” Harry glanced away quickly.

“It’s mostly Draco that calls it that.” Hayden was still using that careful voice. “He reckons the dragons attract them.”

“Do you think people will think I’m gay?” Harry asked suddenly. Hayden’s voice suddenly went very dry.

“No,” they said. And then – “Does it matter?”

“No,” said Harry. Hayden kept looking at him.

“Are you?”

“What?” said Harry, “No, of course not.”

Hayden raised an eyebrow.

“No need to get defensive.”

Harry suddenly had the terrible thought that Hayden might be gay. And then the even more terrible thought that if they were, it would explain the whole not-a-man not-a-woman thing.

“I’m not homophobic,” he said quickly, “I didn’t mean to suggest anything.”

Hayden quirked their head. “Okay,” they said. Then after a pause –

“I’m not gay, Harry.”

“Oh,” said Harry, and tried not to sound too relieved.

“I am a queer,” Hayden clarified, “But I’m not gay, specifically.”

“Oh,” said Harry, and tried not to sound too confused. Hayden got up, and took both their empty bowls back to the kitchen.

“Do you have any plans?” asked Hayden when they got back.

“Urm,” said Harry, “Dragons?”

“Usually we take Sundays off,” said Hayden, “But you can see yours if you want.”

“Oh no,” said Harry, “That’s okay.” His arm was still raw from where Jane had almost got him the day before.

“You should go to yoga class,” said Hayden, “That’s where the rest of group hangs out. Give you a chance to meet them."

“Okay,” said Harry without thinking, and got up.

It turned out Hayden wasn’t actually going to “yoga class”.

“Sunday is writing day,” said Hayden, “But you should still go. I’m told it’s “fun”.”

More fun than Dragon taming? Harry almost said. Instead, he just nodded, and let Hayden leave him there, at the bottom of a small mountain.

Yoga class was at the top of the mountain. Yoga class was also, to Harry’s horror, less of a class and more of just Draco Malfoy and the girl with black hair he’d been sitting next to earlier contorting on mats in ways that Harry didn’t necessarily think their bodies should be contorting.

“Oh, for fuck’s sakes,” he said immediately, and then felt bad when the girl lifted her head to peer at him.

“Oh,” she said, like it was commonplace to have a stranger swearing at you midst downward dog, “You’re the new one, aren’t you?”

“Urm,” said Harry, “Yes?”

“Don’t you know?” asked the girl. Besides, her Malfoy snorted.

“Look,” said Harry, “I think I’ve taken a wrong turn. Sorry for interrupting you.”

“Stay there,” said the girl, and then untangled her limbs and jumped up with surprising vivacity for someone with so much hair bundled up on her head. She then turned and sprinted off past the archway.

Harry made eye contact with Malfoy. Malfoy raised a brow.

“Well,” he said, “You heard the woman. Stay there.”

Malfoy was wearing floral leggings. Harry closed his eyes.

When he opened them, the girl with the black hair was back and she was unrolling a third yoga mat.

“Oh,” he began to protest, “That’s okay. You don’t need to…”

“Shhh,” said the girl, and then straightened up and pointed at the mat, “Come here.”

There was something strangely authoritarian about her, even though she looked like someone had tried to draw up the exact personification of non-threatening. Harry went there.

Then the class resumed. Just like that. The only difference was that the girl kept glancing behind at Harry to make sure he was keeping up. He absolutely wasn’t, but she didn’t seem to mind.

Afterwards, she came over, hands on her hips. Harry tried and failed not to feel subdued.

“Was that your first time?”

Over her shoulder, Malfoy quirked a brow at him. Harry scowled at him quickly before looking back up.

“Urm,” he said, “Yes.”

The girl nodded. “You don’t look very healthy,” she declared after a long moment.

“Oh,” said Harry, “Thanks.”

Behind him, Malfoy snorted.

“Don’t feel bad about it,” she said, “Just keep coming to the classes. And maybe get some leggings. That’s what helped Draco.”

Harry looked over at Malfoy, who had flushed pink, and tried to tamp down the laughter rising in his throat.

“Well, he does look a lot better since Hogwarts.”

“Thanks Osh,” Malfoy said dryly.

Osh shrugged. She was smiling now. “It’s good to be honest,” she said happily. Harry was abruptly reminded of Luna.

“As you always tell me.” Malfoy took the mats in her arms and added them to the top of his pile, before turning on his heel and heading towards the temple.

There was a brief silence. Then the girl held out a hand. “I’m Oceania,” she said, “What do you like to be called?”

Harry blinked. “Oh, urm, Harry is fine.” He took her hand. She was a fair bit shorter than him, but her hair made her seem bigger. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Thanks,” said Oceania, and then nodded at him, “You should put that away. Normally Draco does it, but he’s annoyed with you.”

Harry tried not to snort. “Yeah,” he said, “I reckon so. Sorry, where do I go?”

It turned out the temple wasn’t actually a temple. It was a temple-like entryway, which led to another courtyard and a long set of stone steps at the far end, which seemed to lead to actual temples. Malfoy was in the corner of the courtyard, stacking the mats away in what appeared to be a spare room.

Harry bit his lip. “Can I help?”

Malfoy stiffened, and then continued stacking the mats. He seemed to be organising them by colour, and then thickness.

“I think I can manage,” said Malfoy, his voice dry, and then upon noticing the mat in Harry’s hands – “Give me that.”  

Harry passed it to him. Then he leaned over on the dusty wall, his hands in his pockets. “Why are you organising them like that?”

Malfoy frowned. “To keep them tidy.”

“What’s the point? Aren’t you just going to end up using them again?”

“You may not know this Harry,” said Malfoy, “But the point of being tidy is just being tidy.” He finally looked over at Harry, running his eyes up and down him derisively. “Actually, you definitely don’t know this.”

“You’re sorting them by mat thickness,” said Harry, and then paused, “And did you just…”

Malfoy straightened up. “Yes?” He asked, cocking a thin, elegant brow.

Harry swallowed. Looked at him. “Nothing,” he said after a long moment.

Malfoy looked pleased. No, not pleased. Satisfied.

“Thanks for all the help,” he said, smirking. His voice turned girly and soft. “I don’t think I could have done it without you.”

Harry exhaled noisily and turned out of the storeroom.

The room was comfortable. The bed was comfortable. Harry didn’t know why he couldn’t get to sleep.

He rolled onto his side, stared up at the fuzzy white of the moon, obscured through the cotton curtains. He’d tossed over so many times that no part of the sheets was still cold.

After a few more moments, he sat straight up and turned the light on. He rubbed at his eyes, the yellow light pricking through the red of his eyelids, and then turned out of the bed and padded across the carpet, trying to find his socks from the day before.

Maybe it was the new place. He got dressed and went outside, stood on the plane that overlooked the cafeteria and the mountain-tops and the dragons. The air was cold and blue, biting at his cheeks, pulling at his clothes. He didn’t want to go back inside.

He thought about the last conversation at the pub before he’d left. About the looks on their faces. Outside, the moon was no longer fuzzy, but a clear, strong light. He wrapped his arms around himself and tried to push it from his mind.

Really, it was only a matter of time.

“Oh my god,” Charlie was saying, “Bloody hell Harry. Why didn’t you move?”

“I tried to.”

“You can’t tell Mum about this,” said Charlie wrapping the bandage around Harry’s arm. Oceania sighed and pushed him out the way, wrapping it much more firmly.

“He’s always been rubbish at first aid…” she murmured, reaching into the green box. She pulled out a set of beads.

“She’ll have my head,” Charlie was still saying, “Merlin, Harry. She’s normally so well behaved.”

“Molly?” said Hayden.

“No,” Harry was forced to say, “Jane.”

Hayden looked at him.

“Harry likes simple things,” said Oceania from where she was wrapping the beads around Harry’s arm. Harry blinked. “Jane is a lovely name. Although, maybe not a lovely dragon.”

Charlie looked like he was on the brink of tears. “She is,” he whispered, and drew himself up, glaring down at Oceania, “She is very lovely.”

“Yeah,” said Hayden, “Except when she isn’t.”

“She’s fine,” Harry felt obliged to say, “I’m fine too. It’s just a scratch.”

“A big one,” Oceania added.

“A medium sized one,” said Harry.

“You know we can do magic,” Hayden was saying, frowning down at the bandage, “Like, with our wands.”

“Sshh,” said Oceania. She leaned in closer, and started humming, rotating the beads. “I am.”

Hayden sighed and pinched between their eyebrows.

“It works,” Oceania murmured.

“It’s her Chinese ancestry,” Hayden explained, looking at Harry, “Very superstitious.”

Oceania sent them a quick glare. “That’s the white gaze talking,” she said sternly, and then got back to the whispering.

“Wait,” said Harry, raising his eyebrows, “I actually feel something.”

Oceania looked up at him and beamed. “Really?”

“We can’t risk this again,” said Charlie, “I’ll need to supervise you from now on.”

They all looked at him.

“I can’t supervise you,” said Charlie, deflating, “I run this place.”

“I can pray for him,” said Oceania.

“I’ll get someone else to supervise you.” Charlie reflated. “Someone close by. Someone good.”

“No,” said Harry.

“It’ll be Draco,” said Charlie, “Draco can teach you.”

“Barely a week in and already injured,” purred Malfoy, leaning against the side of Jane’s cage. Jane, the traitorous bugger, wasn’t even paying him any attention, just sitting down all demure and giving Harry an identical look of smugness.

“I’m going to injure you,” said Harry, “If I have to put up with you for a week.”

Malfoy smirked and pushed himself off the bars, walking over to Harry.

“The first thing we’ll need to work on, it seems,” he said, stopping right in front of Harry, “Is attitude.”

Malfoy was too close. Harry refused to take a step back.

“And these,” Malfoy dropped something dark after a long moment of eye-duelling, and Harry automatically reached out to catch it. It was a pair of leather jeans.

His head snapped back up. “I’m not wearing these.”

Malfoy smirked wider and crossed his arms. He looked like he was enjoying himself entirely too much.

“You have to,” he said lightly, “It’s part of training.”

“Charlie doesn’t wear them.”

“Charlie is the token straight.”

Harry felt his eyes start to spin.

“That’s stereotyping,” he said.

“It’s not stereotyping if it’s true,” Malfoy said easily. Harry couldn’t believe he was having this conversation.

“I’m straight.”

Malfoy laughed.

“Don’t you have other stuff to be doing anyway?” said Harry, “How do you have the time to be teaching me? Where’s your dragon?”

Malfoy’s eyes glinted. “My dragon isn’t going to get its arm torn off in my absence.”

“I might tear my arm off in your presence.”

Malfoy sighed and stepped away. He bent down and rummaged through the backpack he’d brought. “Just put the trousers on,” he called over his shoulder, “You’re only amusing up to a point.”

Harry stayed where he was.

“Change behind the hill. I’m not going to hex you in your panties, Potter.”

Harry counted to ten very slowly, and then went behind the hill and changed.

When he came back out, Malfoy was reading a handbook. He looked over, and then raised an eyebrow.

“Very nice,” he drawled.

“Can we just get started?”

Malfoy slipped the handbook into his back pocket and straightened up. His own jeans were immodestly tight, Harry noticed. He was half-surprised the handbook didn’t pop back out.

“The first thing you have to do,” Malfoy began, “is realise that Dragon-taming isn’t a sport. It’s an art.”

“Merlin,” said Harry.

Malfoy stuck his chin up. “It’s not something you know,” he went on, as if Harry hadn’t spoken, “It’s something you feel.”

He handed Harry a piece of raw meat without looking at him. “The dragon isn’t a machine. It isn’t a tool. It’s a being. You have to understand it before you can communicate with it.”

Harry looked down at the bloody meat in his hands. He looked back up, to where Jane was watching them inside the cage.

“A lot of people want to understand beings so they can control them,” Malfoy was looking off, towards Jane. Although he was taller than Harry, he was also very, very thin.

“But it’s not about control. You can’t control other things. It’s about understanding for the sake of understanding. It’s about understanding to escape yourself.”

“I don’t want to escape myself,” said Harry.

Malfoy looked at him. “Not to escape yourself,” he said after a moment, “To become bigger. To become more yourself.”

“Alright,” said Harry.

 “Give Jane the meat.”


“Walk over to her and give her the meat.”

“Are you mad? She practically took my arm off.”

“Harry,” said Malfoy, “Walk over, and give her the meat.”

Malfoy, Harry realised, was finally taking the opportunity to kill him. He sighed, and began to walk over.

Jane was very tall and green, and she watched him approach, her dark eyes trained on him. He forced himself to keep walking, even as she lowered her head to meet him. He stopped in front of her.

“Reach through the cage.” said Malfoy.

Harry, refusing to let Malfoy see his arms shake, held the meat up through the cage. There was a pause, in which Harry could hear his blood pound in his ears. For Merlin’s sake, he thought, he’d escaped a Hungarian Horntail. He’d broken out of Gringotts on the back of a Ukrainian Ironbelly.

This was different. Jane was looking right at him.

The meat was lifted out of his arms, and he closed his eyes.

When he opened them, Jane was swallowing the meat, her wings flapping a little as it disappeared down her scaled throat. He looked over his shoulder, and Malfoy was smiling, just a little, in the corner of his mouth. His eyes met Harry’s.

“That,” he said, “Is how you build trust.”

Harry walked into the cafeteria and spotted Oceania and Hayden talking at one of the tables. They’d been together that morning. He headed over.

“Oh, hello Harry,” said Oceania, “How was it?”

“It was alright,” he said, sitting down. Hayden looked over at him and smiled, raising a brow.

“How’s the arm?”

“Draco’s really lovely,” said Oceania, “And very funny.”

“It’s fine,” said Harry, “And is he?”

“He says the most interesting things,” said Oceania, fiddling with a piece of hair that had apparently made a desperate bid for freedom from The Nest. “But I suppose it takes a while to understand him.”

“Does it?” said Hayden, “I think it’s rather that he’s just once removed.”

“Hmm,” said Oceania.

“I would know,” said Hayden. “I’m twice removed.”

 “What do you mean?” asked Harry. Hayden looked at him.

“He’s got all these layers,” said Oceania. “Except you’re not quite sure where which one ends and the other begins.”

“Are you all friends?” asked Harry. Hayden and Oceania shared a look, smiling.

“You kind of have to be,” said Oceania, “When you’re stuck on a mountain with four other mages.”

“Unless you’re Charlie,” Hayden pointed out, “And don’t need to communicate with people of your own species.”

“And there’s the gay thing,” said Oceania.

“Urm,” said Harry, “Why does everyone keep bringing the gay thing up?”

“It’s just Draco,” said Hayden, “He loves to talk about the gay thing.”

“He uses it to cover up his fear of intimacy,” Oceania said casually.


“But also,” Oceania continued, dropping her voice, “He’s just really, really gay.”

“Anyway, point is, the first rule of queer club is that you have to befriend any other queers you encounter,” said Hayden.

“The second rule is that you don’t tell anyone about queer club,” said Oceania, in the same low voice.

“Draco’s gay?” was all that Harry said.

Oceania clenched her fist. “So gay,” she whispered.

They sat in silence for a few moments as Harry absorbed that.

I’m confused,” Oceania piped up eventually, resting her chin in her hands. Hayden smiled at her fondly, which was a curiously unexpected expression on their pale face.

“That’s alright, Osh,” they said softly.

“About what?” asked Harry.

“Whether I like men or women. Or both.”

“Both?” asked Harry. Oceania looked at him carefully.

“You can like both,” she said easily.

“You know what bisexuality is?” said Hayden, raising a brow at him.

“Yes.” said Harry. “I just –”

“Merlin, it’s a good thing you came to us,” said Oceania. “Learning your sexuality is like doing yoga. You have to understand your body before you can unleash its power.”

Harry blinked as Hayden snorted.

“Speaking of which,” Oceania blithely continued, “You will keep coming to the yoga class, won’t you?”

“Urm,” said Harry. “Will I?”

“Yes,” said Oceania.

“Well, that’s sorted.” Hayden leaned back and stretched. “Don’t argue with her. She’ll start telling you uncomfortable truths about yourself.”

“I think she’s already started.” Harry turned to look at her. “You move quite quickly through things, you know that?”

“Yes,” said Oceania, “Don’t worry. You’ll learn to keep up.”

To Harry’s dismay, Malfoy was actually quite good with dragons. There was clearly something he was doing right, although Harry couldn’t pinpoint what it was. But Jane was now letting him stroke her, which was a far cry from previous encounters, to say the least.

“I still don’t entirely understand why this is necessary,” said Harry. He was sitting on the edge of the hill, and Jane was out of her cage and only secured by a chain lead, a fact he was stanchly not thinking about. Malfoy was sprawled out a few meters away, wearing sunglasses and scribbling in his notebook again.

“It’s relationship-forming,” said Malfoy, without looking up, “You need to establish affection.”

“I also don’t understand why this is necessary.” Harry gestured to the leather waistcoat Malfoy had got him in earlier. “This isn’t even fireproof.”

“It’s style, Harry,” said Malfoy, peering from under his shades, “My poor eyes are suffering so, and you’ve only been here a week. The waistcoat, although mediocre, serves as substantial relief for the present. Look, I can even take my glasses off for a few seconds." He took off his glasses and stared pointedly at Harry, before screwing his eyes up and dramatically shielding them with his notebook.

Harry rolled his eyes. There was simply no way to hold a normal conversation with Malfoy.

A few moments passed, in which Jane exhaled rather loudly at one point, nearly scaring Harry shitless. Malfoy just snorted and continued to scribble.

“Hey, Malfoy,” said Harry after a while, “How come you were never gay in Hogwarts?”

Malfoy looked up, and then raised a brow. “You really know how to make small talk, don’t you?” he said, rather dryly.

Harry shrugged. “You seem to be pretty upfront about it.”

Malfoy sat up a bit and closed his notebook. He glanced away, towards the mountains.

“I thought you were dating Pansy,” said Harry.

Malfoy looked back. When he wasn’t smirking, his lips stretched into a thin, puckered line.

“I was,” he said after a pause, and leaned on the closed cover of his notebook, “I just didn’t know that I had options.”

Harry shuffled on the hillside. He hadn’t expected Malfoy to take him seriously.

 “I thought it wasn’t a choice,” he said.

“It isn’t. Maybe I mis-phrased. I suppose I meant that –” Malfoy searched for the word, licking his lips. “That I wasn’t very good at being…honest, with myself. When I was younger.”

“And you are now?”

He met Harry’s gaze and then his mouth turned up again, not quite a smile, but not quite a smirk either.

“Yes,” he said, “Are you?”

He was teasing. Harry looked at him for a long moment, and then looked away, out, out past Jane and over all the mountains, the jagged edges and snow tipped peaks, the clear, ripe blue sky.

They finished early and headed back down to the cafeteria. Hayden was there reading a book. When they saw them walking towards them, they got up.

“Are you ready?” they said, looking at Malfoy, “You can come too, if you want, Harry.”

“Come where?”

“Every Thursday night,” drawled Malfoy, “We go and get completely pissed in the scraggly undergrowth.”

“That’s not true,” said Hayden, “We smoke weed, as well.”

Harry felt his eyebrows go up. Malfoy laughed and then, tugging on Hayden’s arm, said, “Come on golden boy. You won’t lose your Gryffindor badge of honour in one night.”

They led him down the side of the hill, walking until they were under the ceiling of golden-limbed branches, the smell of ice and earth rich in their noses.

“This isn’t exactly scraggly undergrowth,” said Harry, once they’d arrived. He was standing in front of a set of logs that had been sliced in half to make benches, all arranged around a black circle which was clearly the fire place. Oceania was already there.

“Yes, but it serves the same atmospheric purpose,” said Malfoy, sitting down next to Oceania. She threw an arm around him and passed him a bottle. “Oh lovely, you’re drunk already.”

“Am not,” Oceania half-sang, “Just happy. Glad t’be alive.”

“She’s a delight,” said Malfoy, looking back at Harry, “If you think this one is spiritual when she’s sober, you should see her under the influence of pretty much anything.”

“I love your spirituality,” said Hayden, smirking as they sat down, “Oceania, you keep me going.”

“See.” Oceania jabbed Malfoy in the chest, who looked down at her fondly, which was a bit alarming to watch. “Hay’en knows how to embrace the pos’tive energy. Unlike some people.”

“Open your heart Draco,” said Hayden in ditsy voice, “Open your mind.”

“I’ll open my legs and wait for the zen to fuck me in the ass.”

“You’re making fun of me,” said Oceania, swaying and squinting impressively across at them, “Both of you. I’m going to go and sit beside ‘arry.”

And then, to Harry’s mild alarm, she drunkenly planted herself on his lap.

“Oh,” said Harry, trying to figure out where to put his arms, “Urm, ok.”

“Don’t get too comfortable straight boy,” said Malfoy, smirking, “She’s not about that life.”

“Ooh!” Oceania gasped. “Are you straight Harry?”


She patted his chest. “Lucky you. God, can someone pass me the bottle.”

“It’s okay to be gay,” sang Malfoy, who by now had arranged his body into a lounging position across the log. He winked at Harry.

“It’s more okay to be drunk,” Oceania muttered darkly.

“Do you guys actually ever stop making gay jokes?” asked Harry. “Is there anything else you talk about?”

Hayden raised a brow at him. “Well, we would make straight jokes too. If, you know, being straight was considered a punchline.”

Malfoy smiled wryly at Hayden. “What Hayden is trying to say,” he drawled, “is that straight people are privileged hypocrites who are used to having the world cater to their sexualities in every aspect of their lives and can’t seem to appreciate a perspective wherein the world hates your gay dick and everything attached, thus forcing you to crush all normal human desire right up until the cusp of adulthood, which you then spend traumatically dealing with years of repression and shame via the comforting validation of gay jokes, and also, fuck right off.”

There was a moment of silence, which was finally broken by Hayden’s slow clapping.

Oceania snorted into his chest. “Oh, leave him alone you two. He’s not even straight.”

“I am!” said Harry.

“Of course you are dearie,” said Oceania, reaching up to pat his head.

“But you better tell us a little louder while you’re at it,” said Malfoy, “Otherwise we might get the wrong idea. Might assume you’re a depraved queer. Like us.”

Oceania straightened up then and leaned over far enough to smack Malfoy on the arm and snag the bottle in one. “I said to leave him alone,” she said, “He’s fragile.”

Malfoy rolled his eyes and Hayden smirked and Harry sort of felt like he was being bullied for being straight, except saying that out loud with this lot would probably end with him rotating on a spit, so he settled for a long sip of shite beer.

Mercifully, Hayden took it upon their self to change topic, and asked Malfoy about his dragon.

About an hour later Oceania leaned into Harry’s chest and fell asleep. When she woke up, she blinked into the dark haze that had now settled around the group. Someone had put lit a fire a while ago and it crackled now, flickering a vibrant red and orange between them.

“I’m glad to be here,” she murmured, drooling slightly onto his shirt, “It feels safe.”

Harry blinked.

“That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?” she asked, tilting her head upwards, “Because you want to feel safe?”

“I –” said Harry. He looked up over the fire, at the two people talking to each other on the logs, and didn’t finish.

“Oh, has she fallen asleep?” asked Malfoy. He stood up and stretched before walking over to them, bundling her into his arms. “Best get her back before the sleep-talking begins.”

Hayden smiled at Harry and got up too, and then they were trudging through the trees, back to the cafeteria, back to the hotel, until Harry was alone once again.

Chapter Text

Harry had been afraid of the blue for a long time.

He wasn’t sure what it was exactly, or where it had come from. He just knew that it had been there, inside of him, and he supposed that it could still very well be there under the surface.

The blue wasn’t anything he could share. It was just there, in his body, and he didn’t want to think about it.

The next day, Harry went for a run. He got his trainers and his water bottle and set off, at six in the morning. He decided to go down by the trees at the back of The Green Hotel.

When he was in Scotland, he had loved running. Loved wasn’t the right word. He had needed it. There was something about it, about the pounding of the ground against the soles of his feet, about the ache in thighs and the sweat on his skin and the wheezing, suffocating feeling in his lungs that made things seem easier. He liked to run until it hurt, until the sweat bled into his eyes and his glasses fogged up and he sort of felt like maybe he was dying, except he couldn’t be, because he knew what that felt like. But there was strange sort of peace that came with it, this aching liberation, and it was only when he collapsed on the ground and felt the hole in his chest seal up a little that he could feel. Could feel it.

He hadn’t told Ron and Hermione this. He had just said he liked the exercise, and then gone running.

He hadn’t told them. Today, he ran until stars sparked at his vision and he had to put his head between his knees to stop throwing up.

Oceania caught him while he was eating a banana on his way back from the canteen.

“Oh, good!” she said, clapping her hands together, “There you are. You’re coming along to Yoga again, aren’t you?”

“Urm,” said Harry, “I was going to maybe have a shower.”

“Have a shower afterwards,” said Oceania, gesturing him forward with her hand, “Otherwise, you’ll just have to take two showers.”

“Right,” said Harry, and followed her up the hill.

“Did you like exercising back in Scotland?” asked Oceania as they walked. Harry blinked, the sun catching in his eye.

“I suppose,” he said, managing to keep his voice even. Oceania didn’t notice.

“But you didn’t do yoga, did you? Your body hasn’t given way yet, I could see in your first class.”

“What does give way mean?”

Oceania made a stretching gesture with her hands. “You know. Opened up. Loosened. You’ll know it when you feel it.”

“Alright,” said Harry, smiling.

When they rounded up into the plaza, Malfoy was waiting there.

“Early bird,” said Oceania.

“Worm,” said Malfoy, just as casually. He stood up and stretched, his ribs outlined in his tank top. It had buttercups on it.

Oceania disappeared into the courtyard and Malfoy and Harry were left looking at each other.

“Here,” said Malfoy after a moment, handing Harry a mat.

“Thanks,” said Harry, and paused. “I like your top.”


Oceania saved Harry from responding by re-emerging with a CD player. Malfoy was still looking at him as they unrolled their mats and sat down.

“Let’s start with child’s pose,” said Oceania, and it began.

Harry leaned down, his face pressed against the mat. The foam was cool against his face, and he could feel the sun on his back.

Oceania called for downward dog, and he lifted up, staring at his knees. His calves were stretched open, his heels hovering inches above the ground. He felt like his legs might split open.

Then plank, and chaturanga down. Upward dog, and then back to downward dog. Oceania got them to bend their right knees and bring them forward. Then extend.

Harry’s leg wouldn’t extend. He looked over at Oceania and saw that her leg was completely straight, her forehead on her knee. He looked back at his bent knee. There was no way his body could do that.

When they did it with the other leg, Oceania caught him looking.

“Just try,” she said gently, “As far as you can. The first time is hardest.”

Harry looked back at his knee, and tried to push. His knee gave way, straightening by an infinitesimal amount. He’d never felt so stiff.

“There you go,” said Oceania, and then they were pushing back into one-legged dog and doing some weird tipping thing with their legs and hips and Harry definitely felt like he shouldn’t be doing this. It was all wrong. Something was inside of him, tight and resisting. He swallowed.

When they came into pigeon pose, Harry couldn’t even keep his hips straight, let alone go all the way down. Harry could feel the sweat gathering on his forehead, felt the strain through his entire body as it protested. His eyebrows knit together, and the sun burned in his eyes.

“Just breathe Harry,” said Oceania, “Let go. Let go of the tension in your body, in your mind.”

He swallowed again, and closed his eyes. In the darkness, he felt the pain under his hip, and tried to let go. There was something else there, under the stretching sensation, but he couldn’t surface it. He inhaled.

When he opened his eyes, he saw Malfoy on the other mat, his torso curved and pressing into the mat, his long leg stretching out behind him, his bare foot exposed. Harry looked at the pattern of pink and purple flowers on the other man’s leggings, climbing over his ankle and calf muscle, wrapped around his slim thigh. As they came back to downward dog, the bare foot curled in under itself, bracing against the mat. Harry released his leg and moved back, his view returning to his own knees.

Afterwards, Oceania got them to sit cross-legged and “bring their hands to their hearts.” Harry bent his head to his hands and then got up quickly. Malfoy was still on his mat, hands in prayer position. Harry started to roll up his mat.

“How do you feel?” said Oceania as she got up and turned off the CD player. Harry shrugged.

“Alright,” he said. Malfoy was getting up and rolling up his mat. “Some of the positions were. Quite.”

“You’ll find it easier after even a week of progress,” Oceania was saying, reaching up to twist a piece of her hair. “It’s good you came today. You could even do it every morning, up here on your own. The monks don’t use this part.”

“Yeah,” said Harry, distracted.

Oceania smiled at him. “You should help Draco put the mats away again,” she said lightly. 

“Alright,” said Harry, and went into the courtyard.

In the courtyard, Malfoy was stacking them again. Harry paused at the doorway.

“Come to my aid again, have you?” said Malfoy without turning around. When Harry didn’t say anything, he looked over his shoulder and raised a brow. “Or do you just like my top that much?”

“How long have you been doing this for?” asked Harry.

“Stacking mats? Slightly longer than I’ve been talking to the idiot blocking the doorway.”

“How long have you been doing yoga?” asked Harry.

Malfoy shrugged and looked away.

“A while,” he said, “Since I came here.”

Harry blinked. “How long have you been here?”

Malfoy straightened up and crossed his arms.

“A while,” he said eventually.

 “Oh,” said Harry, “Are you – going to go back?”

“Back where?”

Harry swallowed. “Back,” he said.

Malfoy looked at him for a long moment.

“Unfortunately for you,” he said eventually, “I quite like it here.”

Harry looked at him. Malfoy uncrossed his arms and a slight line appeared between his brows.

“If it’s not too much of a bother,” he said. “May I get past?”

Harry stepped back and Malfoy walked past him, not looking back to see if Harry was following him. Harry glanced one more time at the intensely organised mats, and then left as well.

The length of Jane’s wing was spread wide, a glittering, jagged expanse of blue across the otherwise bland landscape, so vivid it seemed almost unnatural. Harry held his breath, glancing across the length of her.

“Trust is essential,” Malfoy was saying. One of his hands was pressed against the tip of Jane’s spread wing, gently encouraging her to keep it spread. Jane herself was blinking into the distance with a bored expression, as if what was happening was too insignificant as to concern the likes of her attention.

“Just in a practical sense, you need her to trust you in order to look after her. It’s going to be your job, as her tamer, to check for injury and damage. See here,” Malfoy gestured with his other hand to the expanse of blue. “You can compare her wing to the diagram to make sure that it’s healthy. But you also need to familiarise yourself with her. Learn what’s normal in her, because normal is different for every individual.”

Harry looked down at the diagram.

“Her wing is an entirely different shape to this,” he said.

“Harry. Turn to the other diagrams then.”

Harry scrambled with the diagrams for a moment, then promptly dropped them all on the floor. Malfoy and Jane rolled their eyes in unison.

“The great war hero,” Malfoy said in a high, reedy voice, “Saviour of the world. The wizard who restored peace. Harry Potter, the golden boy, capable of bringing down the darkest wizard of all time, has been overcome by a handful of diagrams. Oh, how we will miss him.”

“Miss this,” muttered Harry, and stuck up his middle finger.

“Oh, great Potter. Very mature.”

Harry held up two diagrams and looked at Jane for a moment.

“She’s sort of between these two,” he eventually decided.

“Well,” said Malfoy, “She’s mixed. That’ll be why.”

“Okay,” said Harry.

“So you should probably draw a new diagram.”

“Urm,” said Harry, “Me?”

“No, her other dragon tamer – yes, you. Can’t you see the rest of us are busy?”

Harry squinted at Malfoy. “You sort of don’t seem busy.”

“Bloody fuck,” said Malfoy, “Work my ass off all day keeping you from wreaking havoc, and this is the long-awaited gratitude I receive?”

“Have you considered theatre?” asked Harry lightly, “You could have dropped out of Hogwarts and been a star, Malfoy.” Harry put on the most extravagant voice he could and thrust his hip forward. “A star.”

Malfoy raised his eyebrows. Blinked. “Are you stereotyping again?” he asked Harry, in a restrained sort of voice.

Harry, who had no desire to wander back onto the topic of homosexuality, shook his head earnestly.

“I would never,” he said, his voice still slightly fancy.

Malfoy closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. The corner of his mouth twitched. And then he seemed to gather composure again.

“Alright,” he said, not quite looking at Harry, “Where was I?”

“Wings?” Harry supplied, “Trustworthy wings?”

“Ah, yes,” said Malfoy, in that same restrained tone, “As I was saying. Trust is not only beneficial from a practical standpoint, but also contributes greatly to the personal experience. Never forget that taming is about trust. When we trust, we let people in. In fact, in many ways, the process is comparable to human relationships. We are taming each other, constantly. You just have to access the other person, and make your own path inside them. Trust is about how shallow or deep that path may run.”

As Malfoy talked, he loosened. It was always like that. It was as if he was discovering each new thought as he spoke, and following it along its line. Harry, for all his grousing, thought it was kind of neat to watch.

“So you think relationships are about paths?”

Malfoy tilted his head. “Metaphorical paths,” he said, carefully.

“So how come you’ve already got a path into Jane?”

“Well,” said Malfoy, smirking just a bit, “I’m quite good at finding them. It’s a Slytherin thing.”

Harry considered him for a moment. “How am I supposed to follow you?”

Malfoy’s smirk dropped, and for a moment, he seemed thoroughly unimpressed. “Well,” he said reluctantly, as if this thought was one he’d rather not discover. “I’m sure you’ll find a way to barge in.”

“Barge?” said Harry.

“Yes,” said Malfoy, “Like the true, Gryffindor prick you are.”

This was becoming a habit. Harry shouldn’t let it become a habit.

He breathed out heavily and rolled over to the side of the bed, sitting up. The carpet rubbed against the soles of his feet. Strips of moonlight clung to the walls.

He stood up and crossed the room. Felt for his jacket and shoes. He could turn the light on, but it didn’t feel right.

Outside, the air bit at him. He wrapped his coat around him tighter. Started walking.

Keep in motion, he thought to himself. Keep moving. That’s what Hermione had told him.

Keep searching. Even if you don’t know what you’re searching for.

Outside smelt different here. The smell of the outside in Scotland was always very fresh, very solid. It was partly why he had wanted to move there so bad. Here everything had different flavours, like a slightly warped version of Harry’s reality. He’d come to the Himalayas because he’d wanted something different. But difference was only ever shallow.

Keep moving.

He had developed a routine over the last few weeks. Back, out past the hotel and into the forest. It was patchy, darker in some places than others, but that didn’t matter much when it was already night-time.

Tonight, the trees were claustrophobic, the air sweaty. There was something swollen in his chest, clawing up at his skin. It felt like the sky was mocking him ahead, all that endless freedom.

He kept pushing, further into the forest. If he got hurt here, would anybody even find him? His feet began to stumble as he sped up, his breathing too loud. Everywhere, trees. More trees. He was never going to get out.

He let out a cry of frustration, breaking into a run, and then –

Suddenly, the trees thinned and ended, and he was bursting out into a clearance. There was a small loch in front of him, almost too small to be a loch, the water rippling peacefully, black folding into itself, the moon shining above, the air, a hovering shade of blue –

And there was a man in the loch, his white back a small shape against the water, sinking deeper into the loch –

“Jesus Malfoy.” Harry took off running towards the water, wading clumsily as the water clung to his trousers and shoes. It had reached the white shoulders, and Harry was almost swimming, gasping and spluttering as he reached out and one hand closed on a shoulder –

Malfoy came back up abruptly, turning, wide-eyed to face Harry. His mouth was pale, his pupils blown. Two hands came up to cling at Harry’s shoulders, and he stared at Harry unnervingly.

“We need to,” Harry spit water out of his mouth, “Get you out.”

Malfoy stared, looking at Harry like he’d never seen another man before. There was a furrow between his brows.

The water was too deep here. Harry grabbed for Malfoy’s torso, pulling at his naked waist, trying to propel the two of them backwards. Water, everywhere. There was too much to think.

“Dammit, Malfoy, swim.” Harry manoeuvred himself, managing to get an arm hooked under the other man. He started pulling forward with the rest of his limbs, the surface of the water shattering before them. Malfoy’s fingers were digging into his shoulder. This was too much.

“Damn you! Swim, for fucks sakes.” Harry was panting and spitting. His body felt like it was caving. It was like when he was running, when he’d been running for too long, only worse. A frustrated groan tore through his chest.

Malfoy seemed to have got the message though, because suddenly his body was flailing next to Harry’s, the water louder than ever. They struggled until Harry’s feet scraped up against the loch floor, and then they were dripping and carrying each other to dry land.

“Fuck.” Harry let go first, his hands dropping to his knees. “Fucking hell.”

There was water in his eyes. Heck, it felt like there was water in his lungs. He coughed a bit, and straightened up, brushing his fringe out of his eyes.

Malfoy was standing there, still looking at him. He looked shocked.

“Merlin,” Harry said again, now they weren’t on the brink of drowning in a fucking loch in Gay Dragon Village and were no longer submerged from at least the waist down. “Malfoy, you’re naked.”

Malfoy was looking at him like he was naked.


Malfoy blinked. Licked his lips. After a long moment, said: “I thought I was alone.”

Harry opened his mouth to speak and then stopped. Closed it and swallowed. Malfoy was here, white and skinny and naked and still wet from walking into a loch at night and somehow, that all didn’t seem quite so significant. What he’d said had changed the way Harry looked at his expression.

Harry reached for his shirt and tugged it off, then handed it to Malfoy.

“Cover yourself,” he said quietly, motioning towards him. 

Malfoy frowned and took it, tying it around his hips. In the faint moonlight, he could’ve looked remotely like a Greek statue, if only he wasn’t so small. It made something ache feverishly in Harry’s chest. He took off his shoes as well.

“Come on.” He dropped down, gently taking Malfoy’s feet and getting them into the shoes. There was a sharp inhale, and a hand grabbed automatically onto Harry’s shoulder for balance. When he came back up, Malfoy seemed to be unable to look at him.

They walked back to the camp. Harry wasn’t sure if it was appropriate, but he didn’t know what else to do. He took Malfoy back up to his room, gave him spare clothes to sleep in. After doing all that, falling to sleep on the same bed didn’t seem strange. In the sensible grey shapes of his room, the memory of the loch seemed unreal.

When he woke, the bed was empty. The sun was streaming through the curtains, painting the whole space yellow.

Chapter Text

 “…I don’t know, they just taste weird…”

“...That’s part of the fun though. You never know if you’re going to get good ones or bad ones.”

“Do they taste off to you Harry? I think they’re out of date.”

Harry looked up. Oceania was gesturing to the orange fruit in her hand.

He blinked. “Where did you get persimmons from?”

“We’re mages Harry,” said Oceania, “We can summon things.”

“So what?” Harry straightened up. “You just…stand up and accio persimmons?”

“Of course I do. Do I look like I have anything better to do with my time?”

Harry looked at her again, properly. She was wearing a shredded kilt over cycling trousers and a shawl. He thought there might be a dead spider in her hair.

“You win,” he told her. She beamed at him.

“The real question is,” said Hayden, “Is why on earth you would want to summon persimmons when you could have apples. Why, Osh? Why not apples?”

“I don’t really like apples all that much,” confessed Harry.

“You hear that?” said Oceania, jabbing a finger in Harry’s direction. “The people have demands, Hayden. This is a democracy.”

“I don’t really like persimmons either,” said Harry.

“This is an autocracy,” said Oceania, “Neither of you will ever taste anything but persimmons again.”

Malfoy walked past their table. Harry jumped up and followed him, reaching for his sleeve. As his fingers brushed up against the inside of Malfoy’s wrist, he spun around, and then swallowed at the sight of Harry. He didn’t drop his gaze.

“Hi,” said Harry.

“Good morning,” said Malfoy, “Did you want something?”

“No,” said Harry.

“Great,” said Malfoy, and took a step back.

“I mean.” Harry licked his lips. “You weren’t here this morning.”

“Excuse me?”

“You weren’t at training,” said Harry, “Normally, we train at seven.”

“Right,” said Malfoy. His ears were a bit pink, and he sounded out of breath. Harry put his hands into his pockets and tried not to kick the dirt in front of him.

“Well,” said Malfoy, “We can train in the afternoon. If you’d like.”

“Great,” said Harry, “I’ll see you.”

“Yes.” Malfoy nodded, still looking at Harry like he was a strange specimen of dragon, and then frowned and turned back around, continuing up the path.

“There’ll be good days and bad days.” Malfoy reached out to stroke Jane and she flinched back. He pursed his lips. “You can’t let it get to you.”

He turned, digging into his leather satchel. Jane watched him beadily, making the occasional clucking noise.

Malfoy produced a handful of raw meat – did everybody just keep raw meat on them all day here? Like, oh look, here’s my wand, and also an entire dismembered fucking cow – and held it out to Jane. She stared at him.

Malfoy sighed and went back over to the rock where Harry was sitting and sat down himself. He still hadn’t looked at Harry since the start of the lesson. Harry looked at him.

Did Malfoy look different after last night? Or was Harry just looking at him differently? He had dark smudges, under his eyes and cheek bones, and his lips were pale, but perhaps they always were. Harry supposed he hadn’t been paying a whole lot of attention before now. After all, you never really looked at Malfoy – you watched him, the same way you watched a play or a movie. He was always, if nothing else, entertaining.

Harry looked at him now. He was a man – not a spectacle.

Malfoy grit his teeth.

“Here,” he said, handing Harry the meat, “You have a go.”

“I thought you were better at paths than me,” said Harry, still looking at him.

“What?” Malfoy ran a hand through his pale hair restlessly. “Oh. Merlin, Harry. Metaphors are like condoms. Best used once, twice if you’re desperate.”

“I like that you just used a metaphor to talk about metaphors,” said Harry, “Very meta.”

 Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Are you here to tame a dragon? Or to talk my ear off?”

“Is there a difference?”

“Oh, fuck off.” Malfoy stood abruptly and began to pack away his diagrams.

Harry stood as well. “Malfoy.”

“My name,” said Malfoy as he bent over to reach a particularly rebellious diagram, “is Draco. Which you know. Funny that, the way first names tend to humanise. Speaking of which,” He turned to face Harry, drawing himself up, and only then did Harry realise that Malfoy was very angry. “You don’t have to keep looking at me like the star of Bethlehem is shining out of my asshole. Yes, I’m a person with feelings, which are sometimes bad. It’s not a novelty. So you can fuck right off with your enlightened sympathy.”

There was a breath, and in the silence Malfoy’s face reddened, but he stood his ground.

“You’ve read the bible?” Harry said, after a heartbeat, and Malfoy’s mouth dropped open.

“You’re un-fucking believable,” he hissed, and then spun around and headed back down the mountain.

 “Heard you had a fight with Draco,” said Oceania, dropping into the seat beside Harry. “Oh, those are nice.”

She was referring to the cartoon doodles of Jane that Harry had been drawing. They were shit.

“Thanks,” he said. And then – “I didn’t. Well. Sort of.”

Oceania raised her long eyebrows.

“It’s more like he had a fight with me.”

“Ah,” said Oceania. “That sounds like him. Gotta keep things spicy.”

“Did he say anything?”

Oceania leaned forward, resting her cheeks in her hands, her expression thoughtful.

“Mm,” she said, “Nothing of substance. Mostly along the lines of “Ungrateful, ridiculous, entitled, self-centered, bad-haired, speccy, stupid, stupid son of a bitch.”.”

“Wow,” said Harry, “I can’t believe he brought my hair into this. Now I’ve got to go and fuck him up.”

Oceania grinned at him. “Pfft,” she said, and leaned over to ruffle his hair. “You’re cute.”

“At least someone likes me.”

“Oh, he likes you,” Oceania said cheerfully, reaching for his hair again.

Harry raised his eyebrows.

“Are you nesting?” asked Hayden, appearing at their table with a tray in their hand. It was entirely empty, save for one plastic compartment, which was filled to the brink with apple sauce.

“No,” said Oceania, “Just familiarising myself with the foreign terrain.”

 “Are you saying that because I’m British,” asked Harry, “Or Indian?”

“Harry.” Oceania leaned in close. “I’m saying that because you’re a virgin.”

Harry blinked.

“You’re a virgin?” asked Hayden, frowning over their spoonful of apple sauce.

“No,” said Harry, and then “Am I?”

Oceania produced a spoon from her hair and reached for Hayden’s tray. They scowled and moved the tray a few inches away. There was a brief but fearsome spoon fight, apple sauce flying through the air like splatters of blood, which ended with Oceania apparently earning victorious access to the tray.

“Yup,” she said eventually around a mouthful of apple sauce, looking very pleased with herself. “You’ve never been to a gay bar.”

“Urm,” said Harry, “I feel like we might have different understandings of the term.”

“You’re a virgin in terms of life experience,” said Oceania, “But I understand. Fighting wars is very time-consuming.”

Harry froze. Hayden and Oceania continued eating apple sauce.

After a moment, he coughed. “Oh,” he said weakly. “Right.”

Hayden raised their eyebrows at him, very, very slowly. “Did you think we didn’t know who you are?”

“No,” said Harry, “Maybe.”

Hayden laughed then, delighted. “Merlin,” they said, once they’d calmed down. “I know we’re strange people but Merlin – we’re not that daft.”

 “I didn’t think you were daft.”

“That’s alright,” said Hayden, and then dissolved into giggles again, “God, that’s cute.”

Harry looked away. It wasn’t that he thought they were daft. It was just…they had treated him so normally since he’d came here. Like he was a normal person. He supposed he had assumed that amidst the pissed off dragons and leather garments and summoned persimmons and floral leggings he probably was.

He had liked it.

Oceania caught his expression.

“Oh,” she said through her mouthful. “It doesn’t matter to us.” She swallowed. “See, I’ve always thought that celebrities are just like the rest of us once you meet them. Everything that’s magical about them is in your head.”

“Everything that’s magical about anyone is in your head,” said Hayden.


“Thank you,” said Harry.

Oceania eyes softened. “You don’t have to thank me Harry. It’s just my opinion.”

“I like it,” said Harry.

“Harry.” Charlie sat down next to Harry and put his hand on his knee. He was using his low, “soothing” voice. “I heard you had a fight with Draco.”

“I don’t think you have to put your hand on my knee to tell me that,” said Harry.

“Isn’t it comforting?”

“Possibly. I wouldn’t know. It wasn’t really a put-the-hand-on-the-knee-to-comfort-you level of fight, to be honest.”

“Understood and respected.” Charlie removed his hand.

“Thank you. Did he say anything?”

“Draco? Oh, quite a lot.” Charlie leaned back and regarded the view. Every evening, the sun set like a bloody seventh wonder here. Harry had decided, since they were all going to die one day, that he was going to watch it every single evening.

“Mmm.” Harry tried to affect a sort of casually disinterested tone. “Did he?”

“Oh yes.” Charlie paused and squinted at him. “Are you trying to affect a sort of casually disinterested tone? Don’t, ever. Being earnest and blunt suits you.”

“Oh,” said Harry, “Well, that’s great.”

“Anyway, what it comes down to is that Draco doesn’t want to teach you anymore.”

Harry sat up straight, forgetting the brilliant sunset. “What?” he said. “What the fuck?”

Charlie shrugged. “Messenger, kill. Don’t.”

“He doesn’t want to teach me anymore?”

 Charlie nodded. “Yup.”

“That’s all he said?”

“Well,” said Charlie. “He also said that you were “a gaping asshole, so wide and gaping that it was like you had just been fucked by three pornstars at once, all of whom had gaping assholes themselves, but none as wide and loose and gaping as yourself, who was truly so wide and deep that archaeologists all over the world were getting excited about the prospective findings to be had and the Tibetan government were considering funding the excavation themselves, and also that you were an immature prick.””

Harry leaned back into his chair, staring at where the purple edges of the sun were just starting to bleed into the clouds. Charlie’s words rushed over him like a tender lullaby.

“It wasn’t even that big of a fight,” he murmured, half to himself.

Charlie just shrugged again. “Maybe not to you.”

Harry sighed and Charlie sighed and then produced a can of beer for Harry and one for himself and Harry accepted, and then they got appropriately pissed as they watched the bloody awesome fucking sunset, and it was all very lovely, and Malfoy didn’t want to teach Harry anymore.

“She’s a little feisty, that one.”

Charlie and Harry were lying on the ground, staring up at the sky as Jane snorted grumpily in their direction. Charlie had just tried to put a saddle on her. He was panting.

“A bit,” said Harry, “Yeah.”

Jane kicked some dirt at them and Harry swore, coughing and sitting up to wipe his glasses. He scowled at her. She scowled right back.

“Really?” he muttered.

From beside him, Charlie exhaled wearily. “We could try again, if you want?”

Harry ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. “Ah. No. That’s okay.” Charlie made a sound of relief beside him. He bit his lip and then sighed, lying back down onto the ground. The sun was orange-hot on his skin.

After a moment he said: “I’m going to have to apologise to him, aren’t I?”

Charlie huffed a laugh, rubbing a hand over his face.

“Yeah,” he said, “Yeah, you are.”

“I need you to be honest with me,” said Harry, “Is Draco going to skin me when I apologise?”

Oceania grinned, the light glinting off her eyes. She leaned back in the plastic chair, swinging until her back hit the wall of the corner shop.

“I mean, yeah, definitely,” she answered, looking way too cheerful, “Don’t let it put you off.”

“I’m sorry,” said Harry, “Okay? I’m really fucking sorry.”

Malfoy was halfway out of his floral leggings, staring wide-eyed at Harry. Wide-eyed, Harry reasoned, was better than murderous.

“Harry?” he said, his voice faint, “Do you really need to be doing this here?”

Harry blinked, and then looked around. They were in the men’s changing room, which really just meant that they were in yet another storage room adjacent to the courtyard. Musty sunlight filtered in through what Harry wanted to call windows, but felt that that was a bit generous. It looked like maybe somebody at some point had said, “hey, why don’t we have any damn light in here?” and then proceeded to punch their fist through the wall a couple times.

“Well,” said Harry, shifting his weight, “You’re a bit hard to track down.”

Malfoy was still bent over in disbelief. His eyebrows twitched incredulously.

“So you decided to barge in on me naked?”

“Merlin,” said Harry, “Is that you naked? How do you get the flowers to grow there?”

“I’m still pissed at you,” said Malfoy, shocked, and then he straightened up and roughly pulled up the floral leggings, hiding those pointy pale knees and thighs from view.

“Yeah.” Harry straightened up as well. “About that. I’m sorry.”

Malfoy blinked a couple times, seeming to finally accept that this situation was happening.

“Okay.” He said after a long moment, and folded his arms.

Harry raised his eyebrows. “Okay?” This felt too easy.

Malfoy shrugged. “I mean.” He looked away, eyes darting around the room, and then looking back to Harry. “Are you though?”


“Are you sorry? About…how I feel. Or are you just sorry that I’m not teaching you anymore?”

Harry looked at him. Malfoy was holding his ground. His arms were folded and his leggings were rumpled around his hips and his chin was tucked in, but he was definitely holding his ground.

“Can you,” Harry took a breath. “Can you maybe explain to me why it was you got mad again?”

He stood still as Malfoy’s eyes did a quick assessment of him.

“Alright.” Malfoy swallowed, flared his nostrils. Harry understood, more fully now, that he really didn’t know Draco Malfoy at all.  “Let’s go for a walk.”


They went for a walk. The side of the mountain was beautiful, candy-green grass and crumbling rock, tiny pieces of it skittering over the edge and falling down into the village below. Harry followed Malfoy, his eyes stuck on his white head, the bend in his legs as they climbed. He didn’t know where they were going.

After a few minutes the path widened and Malfoy fell back, letting Harry catch up with him. They were walking side by side now. Harry could feel his tongue in his mouth.

After a while, Malfoy cleared his throat. “I want to be respected,” he said.

Harry had already slowed in anticipation of what Malfoy might say, but now he came to a stop. Breathed in carefully.

“Okay,” he said, slowly.

Malfoy had stopped as well. He had been looking at a point over Harry’s ear, but now he was looking at Harry, his face clean of any malice. He looked old.

Old wasn’t the right word. Mature.

Harry suddenly felt childish, and abruptly ashamed.

“I know you don’t like me,” said Malfoy. He paused. “I don’t need that.”

“I don’t not like you,” said Harry.

Malfoy swallowed with difficulty and looked away. The wind was catching on his fringe, running playful fingers through it.

“That’s not the point,” he said, rather delicately. He blinked into the wind.

Harry thought through it again. The sunlight felt like it was thickening around him, crystallising like uneaten honey. The air was cold where it bit.

“When have I disrespected you?” he asked quietly.

A tendon in Malfoy’s jaw flickered. His face turned towards Harry, but his gaze stayed sovereignly on the ground. 

“I didn’t mean to imply that you were unkind,” he said after a while. His words were precise.

“Be honest with me,” said Harry, “Tell me what you really think.”

Malfoy looked at him then. His expression was equal parts fathoming and unfathomable.

“You see what you expect,” he said eventually. “It’s not abnormal. You see what you expect to see in me Harry, and you don’t expect decency.”

There was a pause.

“Alright,” said Harry.

“It’s not that I’m pretending I’m someone I’m not,” Malfoy continued, “I’m not like you, I know. But – I just think you should know that decency isn’t required for someone to still be human. I’m not excusing flaws. But…just because I’m not like you, doesn’t mean I’m less than you. Do you understand?”

Harry clenched his jaw. He tried to think it through.

“Yes,” he said after a long moment.

Malfoy seemed to accept that and loosened his stance, but stopped when Harry continued speaking.

“You’re right.”

Malfoy froze. “I’m sorry?”

“I’m sorry,” said Harry, “You’re right. I haven’t been looking at you like a full person. I haven’t respected you. I’m sorry for that.”

Malfoy’s eyes were wide, his arms tight across his chest.

“Okay,” he said after a moment.

I still think you’ve done awful things, thought Harry. I still think you should be held accountable. But looking at Malfoy now, he didn’t want to say any of them. Malfoy was here now, in front of him, asking for Harry’s respect.

Harry relaxed his shoulders. The truth was, he had been entirely unprepared for the possibility of Draco Malfoy’s depth. But here he was, one foot in, suddenly aware of the entire loch before him, and the unknown beneath him. The wind was still tracing its fingers over the pale surface.

“Okay,” he echoed, and Draco Malfoy didn’t smile, but it looked like to Harry that he wanted to.

“The real question is,” said Oceania, “Do cows have feelings?”

“I don’t see why not,” said Hayden, “Everything has feelings. Cows are no exception.”

Oceania frowned. She leaned forward, her hair falling into the apple sauce. “But how,” she said, “Do I know that they have feelings in the same way that I have feelings?”

“You have feelings?” said Malfoy, sitting down. His tray had a multitude of fruits on it, each in its own section, as well as a single scone and pile of cream. “Dammit, I’ve forgotten a fork.”

“You know full well that I have more feelings than the three of you combined,” Oceania said breezily, pulling a fork out of her hair and handing it to Malfoy, who frowned slightly before wiping it on his shirt.

“You’re right love,” he replied, distracted now by the process of applying cream to his scone via the fork. Harry stared.

“I feel like I’ve lost my flow,” said Oceania, “What was I talking about?”

“Cows,” Harry said faintly, “Feelings.”

Oceania reached to pat him on the back. “I can always count on you, Harry.”

“They have feelings, Osh,” said Hayden, eyes wide in earnest, “Feelings, okay?

“Maybe,” allowed Oceania, “Maybe not. What are they going to have feelings about? Grass?”

“The condescension is rich at this table,” said Malfoy.

“What do you have feelings about?” Hayden peered meanly at Oceania. “Persimmons?”

“What are your thoughts on cows?” Malfoy asked Harry, ignoring an affronted Oceania. He was smiling benignly and eating raisins with the fork, his eyes glinting. Harry took a deep breath.

“Honestly,” he said, “I don’t think it matters. I don’t think whether or not cows have feelings should affect how I treat them.”

“Well put.” Malfoy raised a grape to Harry, before popping it in his own mouth.

“Harry,” sighed Hayden, blinking slowly, “You are as noble as ever.”

“I do try hard,” said Harry, and Malfoy grinned at him. They all watched him spear four raisins onto the end of his fork again.

“How’s the training going?” asked Oceania.

“Urm,” said Harry, “It’s…going?”

“Is it?”

“No. Well. I’m not sure if Mal – Draco still wants to teach me.” Malfoy smiled down at his tray.

“Why don’t you ask him?” asked Oceania.

“Alright,” said Harry, “Draco, do you still want to teach me?”

Malfoy looked up, chewing, his eyes sly in a way Harry had learnt at a very young age to not trust.

“Mm,” he said, round the raisins, “I’m not sure.”

Harry bit his lip. “Charlie wasn’t as good as you,” he said after a moment. He tried to look woeful. “Jane didn’t even let him stroke her.”

Malfoy raised his eyebrows, attempting to hide the pleased set of his mouth. Harry didn’t trust the amused glint in his eyes, either.

“Is that so?” he asked, nonchalantly.

Harry nodded earnestly.

Malfoy twirled his fork thoughtfully as he located his next fruity victim. “Thing is,” he murmured. “I’m not sure I want to be somewhere I won’t be fully appreciated.”

Harry felt some of his playfulness drop. “I thought you weren’t mad at me anymore,” he said lowly, suddenly very aware of Oceania and Hayden watching.

Malfoy looked up at Harry, his eyes softening slightly. Or maybe that was Harry’s imagination, because the next words out of his mouth were, “Maybe if you do something to show me how much you want me. Something dramatic.”

“Oh no,” said Harry.

“I love you Draco,” said Oceania.

“Make it really gay,” said Hayden, who Harry had mistakenly pegged as an ally.

“Oh no. Blimey.” Harry closed his eyes very briefly. “What do you want?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Malfoy held Harry’s gaze, his eyes bright. “I don’t have any specific ideas.”

Malfoy wanted Harry to do a leather striptease.

“That’s great,” Harry had said after he’d gotten a, if somewhat feeble, grip. “But I’m not going to do that. Thanks.”

“Okay,” Malfoy had said, biting into the orange balanced precariously at the end of his fork. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Oh my god,” Harry had said after a beat, “You’re really going to make me do this.”

“Once a slytherin, always a slytherin,” Oceania had quipped, “What colour of leather do you like best, Harry?”

So now here he was. At the precipice of sanity, and probably his heterosexuality, too. Harry briefly questioned all the consecutive decisions that had led him up to this moment in his life, and then stepped out of his room.

Malfoy was waiting for him in the corridor. His eyes went very big for a few seconds.

“Are you happy?” asked Harry, “I hope that this is at least the emotional equivalent of a heroin hit for you.”

“I don’t know yet,” said Malfoy, his eyes still quite wide, “I’m still processing. It’s a bit much.”

“You’re telling me,” said Harry.

It had taken twenty minutes to attach the elaborate ensemble that Harry was now wearing, which consisted of a corset, a waistcoat, shorts, thigh highs, knee and elbow pads, a choker that looked suspiciously like a dog collar, gloves, some weird strappy things that Harry was fortunate enough to not know the name of, and finally, socks. The corset wasn’t done up right and Harry had drawn a hard, hard line at thongs, but all in all, Malfoy should be so fucking grateful.

To be fair, no one had asked for the knee and elbow pads, but, as Harry reasoned, the more leather he had on, the longer he could procrastinate taking it off. Maybe they’d get bored before he finished, or, possibly, an earthquake would occur.

He folded his arms and stared levelly at Malfoy, the leather creaking at his elbows. Malfoy raised both brows.

“You know…” Malfoy began, and cleared his throat. “You’re not exactly what I expected you to be, either.”

“I think that might actually be worse,” said Harry, and then sighed. “Are we doing this or not?”


They’d set up a pole for him outside, and Oceania was taping balloons to the chairs. Blessedly, there was no one else from the camp around.

“Is that a real pole?” asked Harry.

“What the fuck,” said Hayden. “In what world are there fake poles?” Then Hayden got a proper look at him. “Dear God. Was the garter belt really necessary?”

Harry’s hand flung out to hover above his waist. “That’s what this is?” 

“The real question is where did you get leather socks?” Malfoy was murmuring behind him. “Where can I get them?”

“I don’t know if this is gonna fall over.” Oceania took a step back and looked up at the pole. “I think it might.”

“Perfect,” said Harry. “I hope it catches my head at just the right angle to trigger irrecoverable memory loss.”

Oceania looked over at him and grinned. Then her eyes fell to his body, and she made an “O” with her forefinger and thumb and kissed the tip of it.

“Well, aren’t you just strapping,” she said. “I’m really glad you went for black instead of pink now. It really gives you more of a dominatrix feel.”

Harry, despite his current attempts to disassociate from his body, felt himself blush.

Oceania,” he said.

 “Just Osh,” she said, and winked. “Let’s get this party started.”

They took their seats and Harry stood next to the pole and closed his eyes, as some godawful funky sex song began to play. He focused on his breath, counting backwards from ten.

“Is…is this Pony?” he heard Hayden ask, as if from a distance.

“I think this was a mistake,” Malfoy said.

“Harry, if you’re nervous, just start by taking off the elbow pads,” Oceania urged. “Let the music take you where you need to go.”

 Their words were just noises, rushing over him like a bubbling brook. Harry Potter opened his eyes, and reached for the pole.

“You’re alright now Harry,” Oceania was saying, “You’re home now.”

Is he alright? Merlin’s beard, Draco, tell me he’s alright.” The familiar sound of Charlie sobbing registered. Harry groaned. “What am I going to tell Mum?”

“Nothing. And he’s great.” A cold hand ran over his forehead. “Fucking peachy, Charlie.”

Charlie’s voice was shrill. “I knew I shouldn’t have left him alone with the gays!”

“That’s super offensive,” came Hayden’s voice, “But like, entirely fair.”

“Let him sleep it off,” said Malfoy, “That way, come morning, he can pretend it never happened and we can pretend it isn’t our fault.”

Harry groaned again and rolled over.

Harry’s hands were trembling, which was ridiculous, because he’d been living in Gay Dragon Village for at least a month now. Jane was in front of him, in all her towering green glory, and Harry swallowed. What was he thinking when he said he wanted to tame dragons?

It felt more like they were taming him.

Harry forced himself to relax his arms at his sides, to step forward. He tried to broaden his shoulders.

“Alright,” he muttered and looked up, meeting her fiery eyes. “Down.”

If Jane had eyebrows, he swore she would have lifted one.

But at least she wasn’t setting him on fire. That was always a plus.

Behind him, he heard Malfoy snigger.

“Oh, fuck off,” Harry grumbled, and walked quickly back out of Jane’s reach. “What kind of fucking instruction is that anyway? She’s not a bloody dog.”

Malfoy was still trying to smother his giggling behind one hand. When he finally reached composure, he looked over at Jane and locked eyes with her.

“Jane,” he said casually, as if he was asking her to pass the salt. “Could you sit down for a moment love? It’d piss Mr. Bad Hair Day here off so bad.”

Jane sat down, resting her head on one outstretched talon and lolling it to the side as she stared at Harry.

Harry glared at her, and then Malfoy. Malfoy quirked a brow.

“Urgh.”  Harry flung himself back onto the grass hill. “I hate you both.” He couldn’t believe he was getting excluded by Malfoy and a fucking dragon.

Malfoy came and sat beside him. Harry could practically smell his amusement. He growled and rolled over, well aware he was throwing a toddler tantrum but to fed up to care.

“Come on,” said Malfoy, after a moment. “Do you really want to be wasting these lessons?” There was a pause. “Think of what you sacrificed.”

“Do not,” said Harry. He rolled over, but Malfoy was already halfway to laughing again, his lip trembling under where he had bit it.

“Malfoy. Draco.” Harry pushed himself up on one hand. Malfoy had succumbed to it again. “God. Damn you. Why are you so giggly all the time?”

“You passed out,” Malfoy wheezed, clutching his knee. “You fucking passed out in front of us. One hand on the pole. The other hand on the elbow pad. Oh, Merlin.”

Malfoy doubled over as Harry watched, drily. “I was there,” he muttered.

In his defence, the altitude was different here. All crazy. It wasn’t his fault he’d forgotten to breathe.

Malfoy was never going to let him live it down.

“I’m crying,” Malfoy wiped at his cheeks. “I’m fucking crying. Ah. God. I needed to get that out my system.”

Harry folded his arms. “What, you didn’t find it so funny when I was lying unconscious on the ground in front of you at the time?”

Malfoy straightened back up. “Oh,” he said, his voice breathy in that after-laugh kind of way. “I did. I definitely did. But Charlie was there.” He smirked at Harry out of the corner of his eye.

Harry glared at him again, but it was half-hearted.

Jane was chewing on her talon. Malfoy frowned at her but stood up, stretching. His spine popped audibly as he sighed. Harry watched his shoulder bones slide under his shirt. Once he was done, he looked back over his shoulder.

“Well,” he said. “Do you want to try again, or are we done for today?”

Harry shook his head and stood up as well. “We’re done,” he said. Malfoy went to gather up his stuff, smoothing his fingers over the front of his leather satchel. Jane had stopped chewing, and let Malfoy stroke her. Harry tried to tamp down the familiar splash of jealousy in his gut.

As they walked back down the hill, Harry wondered where it even was that Malfoy went when he wasn’t teaching Harry. He always left in the opposite direction. Harry had no idea where he lived.

When they got back to the cafeteria it was empty. A dusty purple had settled over the tables, between the chairs, beckoning the evening. Sometimes these lessons ran on.

Harry paused, his finger trailing along the surface of the nearest table. “Malfoy?” he said.

Malfoy paused, and then turned back around, his eyebrows raised. “Yes?”

Harry swallowed and looked down at the table.

“Am I doing something wrong?” he asked.

He heard Malfoy take a step closer. “I’m sorry?”

When Malfoy was unsure he got awfully polite. Harry didn’t know why he was asking this.

“Just…” Harry took a deep breath, made himself meet Malfoy’s gaze. He shrugged. “I…why am I so bad with dragons?”

Malfoy blinked, and breathed a small surprised laugh.

“Harry,” he began, and then paused, “Does it really bother you that much?”

Harry shrugged again. “No,” he said, and then because it was Malfoy, who had asked for his respect up on the mountain the other day, he said, “Maybe. I was just wondering.”

Malfoy came forward and leaned on the table Harry had been caressing. His eyes were warm.

“I didn’t think it bothered you,” he said easily, and then crossed his arms, “…You’re not that bad.”

Harry raised a brow, feeling his mouth tip up slightly. “Urm,” he said, crossing his arms as well. “I’m pretty bad.”

Malfoy grinned, his eyes appraising. “Okay,” he said. “Yeah, you are.”

Harry huffed a laugh and looked out towards the forest that framed the cafeteria area. The world felt quieter than it normally did, up here in Gay Dragon village.

“Hey,” Malfoy said. Harry looked at him again. “I don’t think you’re incurably bad.”

“What do you think?”

Malfoy lifted one shoulder. “I just think you’re afraid.”

Harry kept looking at him.

“I don’t blame you,” said Malfoy. When he smirked, dainty half-moon lines appeared at the left side of his face. “Dragons are pretty scary.”

Harry tried to smile and reached for the table again. He could feel Malfoy’s eyes on him. He exhaled slowly.

“Alright,” he said, after a pause, “I’m going to head back.”

“Okay,” said Malfoy, not moving, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” Harry nodded as he pushed away.

The walk back to the hotel felt longer than usual. The lines of the setting sun were sharp on his back.

He was ready to just take a shower and collapse, but the blonde receptionist stopped him as he made for the stairs.

“You’ve got mail,” she drawled, without looking up from her newspaper. Harry blinked.


She jutted a thumb back towards the small set of shelves behind her. “Arrived two days ago, but I was in the middle of a book.”

Harry followed her direction to where a white letter was balanced precariously on top of an empty yoghurt pot. The handwriting on the front was neat.

“Oh,” he said. He didn’t move.

The receptionist finally looked up from her newspaper. She frowned at him.

“Well?” she said. “Aren’t you going to take it?”

“Yeah,” said Harry, and cleared his throat. “Yeah, sorry.” The paper was smooth between his fingers.

His legs were heavy as he climbed. When he got to his room, he stood still for a moment, staring at the pile of dirty clothes on his chair. The sun still hadn’t fully set.

He forced himself to move. He sat down on the edge of his bed and looked down at the letter. He ran his finger over his name. Harry Potter. The Green Hotel, Room Six.

The Himalayas.

He closed his eyes, briefly. His finger felt underneath, fingering the seal. Almost lifting up.

His hand shook, and the movement sent his finger sliding sharply against the paper edge. He swore and opened his eyes, studying the small red line that had appeared across the pad. Clenching his teeth, he stood up and let the letter fall to the floor. Then he put switched into his trainers and headed back outside. He needed out.

The loose stones ground under his feet as he walked. His mind felt fuzzy, occupied, like there wasn’t enough room left in it for himself. He swallowed and scratched at his head. The trees were looming.

He made it past the cafeteria, but it was too much after that. He crouched down, hands on his knees, and tried to focus on one spot on the ground in front of him. He could hear the sounds of the dragons, sleeping a few metres away.

The blue was settling in around him. What was he going to do? What was he going to do?

He gasped, clawing at his head again. He was never going to get back up. He was never going to get out of here. He was never going to –

A hand clasped his shoulder and he jumped, standing and swivelling around. Hayden was there, frowning at him.

It took him a few moments to catch his breath. “Merlin,” he said. “Sorry, I…”

Hayden’s gaze flicked to either side of him, observing. “Are you alright?” they asked.

“Yes,” said Harry. “Just.”

Hayden tilted their head to the side, but didn’t say anything. Their eyes were narrow and dark.

After a while they said, “How about some company?”

Harry swallowed. He thought he felt the last watery traces of the blue bob against the back of his throat as he did.

“Why not?” he answered eventually.

Hayden lived in one of the cottages just below. There was a dampness to the evening, the kind that suspended the day in that grey space between afternoon and evening. It clung, thick and persistent, to the growth around them that grew steadily higher as they deepened into the residential area. Hayden’s cottage was the last one in line.

“Gentlemen first,” they said, a wry smile on their face as they opened the door.

Harry felt himself flush, for no specific reason, as he went in. “Aren’t you a gentleman?”

“What do you think?” Hayden brushed past on their way to the kitchen. Their eyes were trained steadily on Harry’s as they set down two cups.

“I…” Harry’s throat cracked.

Hayden tilted their head to the side. There was something amused by the set of their mouth, Harry thought. He went over and leaned somewhat awkwardly against the counter.

Hayden was filling the cups up with water. Then they untucked their wand from their trousers and pointed it at the cups. Sparks flew and steam began to slowly swirl up towards the ceiling.

Harry’s mouth opened and then closed.  “I thought…” he said, and then shook his head. He looked up. Hayden was watching him closely.

“How come no one else does magic here?”

“Draco doesn’t like it,” Hayden said, and then pushed one of the cups towards Harry. “Tea?”

Harry took the tea. “What do you mean?”

Hayden raised a thin brow. “What I say,” they said, and then leaned forward on the counter, mimicking Harry. “He won’t use it.”

“But why? He’s pureblood.”

Hayden raised the other brow, and then set them both down. Presumably, all that brow-lifting caused headaches after a while.

“I guessed it was because of the war,” they said, and then Harry looked down. A flower in his tea slowly bobbed over.

“Hm.” Harry looked back up. Hayden was still watching him.

“You really don’t like talking about it, huh.”

“Would you?” Harry shot back, and then looked away. His gaze unfocused, and the image of the letter rose up again. Then it refocused and fell on a floating light. It was only then that he really noticed Hayden’s house.

Everything seemed to be brown, white, or grey. There was a lot of wood, and in the corner a modest bookshelf. A few paintings were stuck on the walls.

Harry pointed. “Did you make those?” They were distinctly hand-made.

Hayden shook their head. “That was Oceania,” they said, and for the first time since the evening had begun they began to smile. Hayden smiling was a different person. Harry stared.

“What about that one?” He asked, and gestured to a smaller one in the corner that had a rough sketch of what seemed to be a temple on it. Hayden’s smile instantly dropped.

“That’s –” they said, and then stood up quickly as if they wanted to go over and take it down, “–Something else.”

“I’m sorry,” said Harry. It didn’t take a psychotherapist to realise that Hayden was a pretty private person. “You and Oceania, you’re close?”

“Yes,” said Hayden and relaxed a little, leaning back on the counter. “Oceania’s like that. More so with Draco, though.”

“If it’s just Draco that doesn’t like magic,” Harry began to ask, “how come no one else almost never does as well?”

“Out of consideration,” answered Hayden, and then they bit their lip. It flushed white where their teeth dug in. “But I believe in healthy doses of selfishness, don’t you?”

“I…” said Harry, and swallowed. He felt as if he was missing out on something he shouldn’t be. “I suppose.”

“Do you think you’re selfish, Harry?” asked Hayden slowly. Harry stared at their mouth again, and as he did he remembered something he had been curious about earlier, but now suddenly seemed crucial.

“All the time,” he said, almost unthinkingly. “Can I ask you something?”

Hayden tilted their head, a shine to their eyes. “If you like.”

“It’s stupid – I’m sorry, I just – are you a man or a woman?”

Hayden’s eyes flattened, and then they stood up and topped their cup up. Something about the line of their back looked disappointed, but maybe Harry was imagining it.

“Neither,” they said, and sat back down.

“I’m sorry?”

“You heard me,” they said, and then spoke slowly, as if talking to a child. “Neither.”

“But –” Harry began, and then bit down on his tongue. “Sorry, never mind. I – it was rude to ask.”

“Yes,” said Hayden, “It was.”

“I just – I don’t understand –”

“Maybe,” said Hayden, a touch of acid in their voice, “this would be easier for you if you thought of people as people first and as men and women second.”

Harry felt himself flush and kept silent. After a moment, Hayden sighed and rubbed their forehead. “It’s called genderfluidity. Look it up if you must. Pronouns are they/them.”

“Is that what you meant when you said you were…queer?” Harry asked, somewhat timidly.

“Yes,” said Hayden, “Might as well get used to it. Merlin knows you’re outnumbered.”

It was the third time now, but Harry’s body still felt stiff. Granted, it wasn’t as bad as the first time, but it sure as hell didn’t feel like Harry’s body had “opened up” or whatever the fuck it was that Oceania had told him would happen. He gritted his teeth and tried to breathe through it.

“You can come back up now,” said Oceania, and Harry watched their collective bodies rise like a wave. “We’re going to do our lotus pose.”

Harry let his back fall awkwardly into the space between his knees and behind him. The sun was shining hot on his face.

“Slowly, bring yourself back up,” said Oceania. Her voice was softer and quieter during the yoga sessions than any other time. “Take your time.”

Harry brought himself back up. He watched Malfoy stretch like a cat, and then waited for everyone else to leave so he could help him put away the mats. Oceania gave him a thumbs up as he passed, swaying slightly to the music as she went to turn it off.

“Ah, there he is,” Malfoy smiled ruefully as Harry joined him in stacking the mats. “My faithful house elf.”

Harry rolled his eyes and shoved Malfoy’s arm, reaching for the next mat as he cackled.

They walked back to the cafeteria in casual silence. Malfoy whistled as he walked. He still had his floral leggings on. The flowers were yellow, today.

Once they had sat down at opposite sides of the table, Malfoy leaned forward and rested his cheek on his palm. “Any plans for this afternoon?”

Harry looked up and raised an eyebrow at him. Malfoy’s eyes were doing that smirking thing. They seemed to always be doing that around Harry lately.

“Why do you ask?” Harry let himself lean forward, too.

Malfoy shrugged, still smirking. His eyelashes were long and white in the sunlight.

“I thought we could do an extra lesson. If you wanted.”

Harry normally spent this time running. He studied Malfoy.

“What’s up, bitches!” Oceania suddenly slid into the seat next to Malfoy, startling Harry into leaning back. Hayden appeared to Harry’s right. “What’s up, indeed,” they said, smirking.

“Hey,” said Harry, a bit breathless from surprise. Hayden raised a brow at him and reached past him to grab a pair of chopsticks. Malfoy frowned.

Oceania slung an arm around his shoulders. “What are you guys talking about?” She wrinkled her nose as Hayden tapped her nose with the chopsticks.

Malfoy leaned back into her arm. “About whether or not you have any sushi hidden in that hair of yours.” He rubbed the end of her nose his thumb as well, and she wrinkled it comically again. “I’ve in a craving kind of mood.”

“We’ve got something better than sushi,” she said, eyes bright and mischievous.

Malfoy leaned back in mock astonishment. “Could such a thing exist?”

“Maybe we could put it in the sushi,” Hayden said lightly, “And finally access Nirvana.”

The smirk in Malfoy’s eyes dropped. A crease appeared between his brows.

“Oh,” he said.

“Come on,” said Oceania. “I think we have enough to finally figure out the conundrum of the cows.”

“That sounds like a horror movie,” said Hayden. “The Conundrum of the Cows.”

“It sounds like a fun time, is what it sounds,” said Oceania. She rubbed her hand against Malfoy’s shoulder. “You in?”

“I’m not sure,” said Malfoy. His eyes, inexplicably, darted towards Harry.

“Harry?” Harry turned to find Hayden resting their chin in the folded basket of their hands, watching him.

“Urm,” said Harry.  He felt very aware of Malfoy’s discomfort.

“Ooh!” Oceania reached for his hand. “Harry, you’re going to be great on it, I can just tell.” She smiled at him.

 “Alright,” he said, feeling Malfoy’s eyes on him as he answered. “Sure.”

“Well, now you’ve blown it,” said Oceania. She grinned with all her teeth. “I’m an undercover auror, and I’m putting you under arrest, sonny boy.”

“Come on,” said Hayden, standing up, “The day isn’t getting longer.”

They were doing it at Oceania’s house, apparently. She lived down in the little valley just beyond the row of dragon pens, close to Hayden’s. As they passed, Harry suddenly noticed that all the cottages had thatched roofs, but when she caught him looking Oceania cheerfully informed they were “good for moral” and also fire-resistant.

Inside, it looked just as Harry would have imagined it if he’d been thinking about what kind of place Oceania would live in. There were rugs and pillows draped across the living room, floating lanterns and odd bits of wood, which all looked like they’d been hacked off some nearby tree. The place smelt of pine and tea. On the walls, there were paintings of the surrounding mountains. It was almost like she’d tried to bring the Himalayas inside.

“Did you paint these?” Harry asked, tracing the outline of what was clearly Everest. “I didn’t know you could paint.”

Oceania blushed and then grinned despite herself. “Sometimes,” she said, “I like mixing colours.”

“She’s brilliant,” said Malfoy, from where he was leaning near the door. His arms were folded, and the smirk still wasn’t quite back in his eyes. He had come after all. “I keep telling her to try selling something.”

Oceania blushed even harder and wandered into the adjacent kitchen to fumble with the tea pot. “He’s silly,” she muttered to Harry, jerking her head in Malfoy’s direction. “You’re silly!” she said, louder.

Malfoy rolled his eyes, but relaxed a little against the wall, watching her with fondness. Again, Harry felt like he shouldn’t be watching.

Once tea was made, Hayden led them to the bedroom. They sat in the middle of the bed and produced a bag full of purple fluff, and then reached over into one of the bedside drawers and returned with several sheets of white paper and filters. Oceania came in carrying the tea, handing one to Harry. She’d calmed down, but her face was still slightly pink.

“You’ll want to be hydrated.” She said, nodding at the cup.

Harry brought the cup to his mouth. The steam was hot as it hit his skin. It was peppermint. He watched as Oceania joined Hayden on the bed and began to help them roll up the purple fluff in a sort of haphazard joint. It was strange to see them so methodical. Malfoy stayed by the door.

Harry glanced at him, then tentatively went over and sat on the edge of the bed, watching the process. Something between nerves and anticipation was building in his stomach.

“What exactly is it?” he asked.

“Effugium,” said Oceania, then licked the edge of the paper and sealed it, handing the final product to Harry. It was too light in his palm. “You’ve never had it?”

Harry shook his head.

Hayden was pulling out a lighter, flicking the end of it. “Surely you’ve done muggle drugs? It’s kinda like that, but better.” The lit theirs, and then handed it to Harry. “Ready?”

Harry nodded and then lit his. He passed it to Oceania. “You’re going to want to take slow hits first,” she said, smiling at him.

Harry leaned in and took a breath, before taking a careful drag. It filled his lungs. He looked over at Malfoy, who was leaning by the door and watching him, his eyes dark, and slowly released it. The white smoke clouded between them, curling at the edges.

Things started to get strange after that.

At first, Harry didn’t think it was kicking in. The room was the same – the colours just as solid, the air just as clear. He’d swallowed, tapping his fingers against the mattress. What if it didn’t work? What if his brain kept him here?

But then…it was like he got looser. He glanced at Oceania and Hayden, who had lied down on the bed and were murmuring to each other. The world got deeper. He felt his body begin to sink further into the film of reality.

Things became less crisp, more fluid. Vivid. He was past the surface, and was now exploring the inner machinery, previously inaccessible to him. Where nothing was concrete – rather everything was a potential, a desire, an idea. He smiled and leaned back onto the bed. The paintings of the mountains were above him. Beautiful, glossy whites; vivid, heavy blues. What would it feel like to touch those mountains? To have them be so tangible, at arm’s length? Imagine: Harry could reach out and stroke those long decadent slopes, bury his fingers into forests like they were the hair on his own head. His body was a mountain; he wanted to be one, longed for it, more poignantly than he could remember longing for anything ever. God, what would he do, to be one of them? Be with them? Belong?

He didn’t want to be human anymore; it was too much. It was too much. He wanted the air and sun to be enough.

The mountains were so small, and they were out of reach. He was trapped here. He was always trapped. He knew this now – he hadn’t wanted to admit it before. But now, yes – he was a prisoner, but that was okay, that was just how things were. Harry didn’t have the energy to get angry about it. He just wanted to dream of the mountains. And if dreaming was as close as he ever got, hell, let him dream his life away. Who got to say which realities mattered anyway?

This was good. He liked this. He dropped his hand back to the bed, touching the sheets around him. They were so, impossibly soft. He wanted to be that soft. He wanted someone to be that soft with him.

“Osh,” he heard himself mumble. His voice was disconnected from himself, a message flung into the world of dreams, slippery and impossible. The space between thought and spoken word melted away. He was glad for it. Everything was easier this way.

“Osh,” he said, “Come here. Come here.”

She was at his side – a friend, finally. Was she a friend? She was beautiful and soft. He loved her hair.

“I love your hair,” he said.

“I love yours too,” she said smiling, and curled into him. Grateful, his body met hers, entangling itself. It had been starving for human closeness. It knew how to love better than his mind.

In some vague part of his consciousness, he was aware he would probably not do this if he was sober. He was glad he wasn’t though – here he could ask for what he wanted, what he truly wanted, and get it. What a beautiful way to exist.

He opened his eyes and realised Hayden was looking at him. Their eyes were dark, and as they took a drag, they looked away, white smoke curling up over their cheek like mist. Last night, after tea, he had thought something would happen, but it didn’t. He had wanted something to happen, but had wished he hadn’t. That was the truth of it. That was the truth.

He couldn’t stand it. He rolled over, his head falling down heavily on the crumpled duvet. Draco Malfoy was still standing in the door frame, tall and white. He was looking at Harry. There was another truth in that look too, but Harry didn’t want it. He shook his head, left to right. The image moved slowly, exposed too long. Malfoy’s blurry white body filled the doorframe, then the room.

He reached out. “Malfoy,” he mumbled, “Malfoy.”


He blinked, his hand falling back to his face. He hadn’t shaved this morning.

“I need you,” he said quietly, concentrating hard. It was essential he get this right. “I need you…to get me a mountain.”

Malfoy had moved past the doorframe and his face was hovering over Harry, eyebrows raised and half his mouth tipped up, but Harry couldn’t remember what expression that was. Malfoy and his bloody expressions. Harry wanted to sink past the surface of him too, and wander around his machinery.

“I need you,” said Harry, and took Malfoy’s hand in his own. It was soft, and much warmer than Harry had expected, for some reason. He wrapped both hands around it. Malfoy’s eyes were glistening.

Harry closed his eyes. “I need you to save me,” he said, and pressed the hand against his chest. It was essential he get this right. Everything was breaking down into a few select details: the white bed sheets, the afternoon light, the wrinkles of Malfoy’s palm. They separated, raindrops of knowledge, hovering in the darkness, before retreating into the ensuing storm. It was raining in Harry’s mind, always and always.

“I saved you,” he breathed, and Malfoy’s palm disappeared, along with everything else.

By the time he came back, he was watching Hayden roll another joint, the purple a soft exposed line, before being swallowed by the paper. He blinked over, and Oceania was there, blowing smoke into his face. He reached out and touched the tip of her nose. She smiled, but it didn’t wrinkle.

Draco Malfoy wasn’t there. Dazed, Harry stumbled out of the bed, floating along the corridor. Somehow, he found himself again in the kitchen, along with Draco. He looked up when he saw Harry.

“Hey,” said Harry. He smiled and leaned against the counter.

Draco smiled back, but it was tighter. Harry knew this one. A mixture of scepticism and amusement. Maybe fondness. Pleased with himself, Harry leaned back even more. The smile grew more pronounced.

“Is there something you’d like?” Malfoy’s voice was teasing. Harry thought about it.

“Water,” he said eventually, and then nodded.

Malfoy appeared closer with a glass of water. His lips moved strangely, plumping up in the middle and then flattening out at the sides. A smirk, Harry realised. He stared.

“Water,” Malfoy said, moving it into Harry’s reach, “Here.”

Harry took it, his fingers overlapping Malfoy’s long white ones. There was a moment where he stared at that too, but then Malfoy’s fingers were gone and a brownie was being shoved in his face.

Harry blinked down at it. He couldn’t quite get his body to work as fast as normal.

“Eat this,” said Malfoy, “Trust me. It’s so much better high.”

Harry took it and glanced up at Malfoy as he bit down. Then he moaned, surprised and a little overwhelmed.

Malfoy’s laugh suddenly became background noise as Harry took another bite. God. He had never had such a good brownie, not in his life. This was better than treacle pie. This was, God. So chocolate it was beyond chocolate.

“I’ve died Malfoy,” he mumbled around his mouthful, “I’ve died, and God is real.”

Malfoy had already been snickering, but when Harry looked him in the eye and said: “He’s a brownie,” he lost it, dissolving into helpless laughter and clutching at Harry’s shoulders. Harry looked at him, dead serious, which seemed to be cracking him up again. When Malfoy laughed, his face folded in like origami.

“You’re an absolute gem, Harry Potter,” Malfoy was saying, his voice warm and pleasant. He was close, his hands rubbing up and down Harry’s arms, slow. Harry’s gaze caught on the skin where Malfoy’s neck met his jaw, and got stuck.

“Why were you in the loch, Malfoy?” he murmured. He leaned in closer, still. He wanted to fit his whole body into that space of skin.

Malfoy had gone still, and then he was metres away, fussing with used cups. “Why do you ask these things Potter?” he muttered, his voice low, and it was almost like he was talking to himself.

Harry shook his head, soft and slow. “I already know,” he said, very calmly. Malfoy froze, and then he was facing Harry, leaning against the other counter, one cup in his hand.

Harry looked up at him. “I already know why,” he said, feeling warm and cold. “You’re right, I didn’t need to ask.”

Malfoy was there, and he was frowning, looking at Harry as though he’d never seen him from this angle before. Cautious, and intensely curious. Harry inhaled and exhaled, and then he slumped forward. Malfoy caught him just in time. They were crumpled on the kitchen floor.

“You’re just high,” Malfoy’s voice said in his ear. “You’re so high, Harry. God.”

And then the rain was here, again, as loud as roaring silence.

Harry woke up.

The sheets were crinkled under his limbs. Textured, steady. The ceiling above him had mountains painted on it.

Muted saffron was settling into the space, exhaling light onto the walls and furniture. Hayden and Oceania were sleeping next to him, sprawled across the pillows and each other. Oceania’s foot was on Harry’s stomach, Hayden’s elbow brushing his hair.

Harry’s mouth tasted gross. He found a small bathroom filled with paint supplies and ceramic sea animals, and rinsed it, getting the worse of the taste out. He splashed his face, and glanced at the bags under his eyes in the mirror. Then glanced again. He couldn’t tell if he looked different from a few months ago, or if he was just tired.

He scrubbed his face with the towel, and headed back out, not sure what to do with himself. He padded into the lounge, deciding to look at Oceania’s paintings again.

When he got there, he found Malfoy asleep on the sofa. His form was pale, and curled up small. He seemed the most breakable thing in the room.

Harry looked at him for a moment.

Then he went to the kitchen, and filled a glass of water. He left it on the coffee table.

Chapter Text

Harry was lying on the floor in his hotel. Everything was very quiet. He lied there, staring at the mould in the corner of the ceiling.

Downstairs, someone was talking on the phone. There weren’t any noises coming from upstairs. He wondered if there was even anyone else staying in the whole hotel.

It was approaching ten o’clock. Harry blew air out of his nose and got up.

The sun was hiding behind the clouds. Harry took the long walk up to the plaza with the temple, and ignoring the cold.

It was empty. Harry licked his lips, and then crossed the archway and went into the storeroom. He took one of the mats.

Back in the plaza, he unrolled it slowly, making sure it was flat. Then he took off his jumper, and started doing yoga.

He did what he could remember of Oceania’s routines. He messed up the flow several times, and it probably wasn’t very graceful, but that didn’t matter when he was up here on his own. He made himself hold the positions for longer, really focusing on the stretching sensation aching through his muscles. And then he flowed it out. In his mind, he could remember the elegant movement of Oceania’s body, as natural as running water. She made it look beautiful.

When he’d finished, he lied flat on his back on the mat, breathing hard. The sun was starting to come out. Corpse pose.

Then he turned his head to the side. Malfoy was standing at the edge of the plaza, his arms folded.

Harry sat up. “How long have you been standing there?”

Malfoy shrugged. He wasn’t smiling, but he wasn’t cold, either. “You’re doing forward fold wrong.”

Harry blinked. “Urm,” he said. “Okay.”

Malfoy stepped forward, unfolding his arms. “It’s…” he said. “You’ve got to bend from the hips. Not the lower back. Otherwise you’ll damage it. ”

“Okay,” said Harry.

“Stand up,” said Malfoy.

Harry stood up. Malfoy came forward, again, and brought one pale hand to Harry’s hip. Just lightly. The pads of his fingers barely brushed the fabric of Harry’s shirt.

“Now,” said Malfoy, “Bend from your hips.”

Harry swallowed and began to bend, feeling vaguely silly. Feeling more something else – curiosity? Surprise? Whatever it was, it was as faint and simple as the sun this morning.

Harry bent forward. The fingers dug, just a little, into his hips, pressing down with emphasis. “From – here,” said Malfoy. “There. See it doesn’t hurt your back, this way.”

Harry exhaled loudly and came back up. “Okay,” he said, and then paused, awkward. “Thanks.”

Malfoy was looking away. “Yeah,” he said, faintly. One hand came up to play with the string on his hoodie. The hoodie said: Chemtrails made me gay and had a picture of a plane with a soaring rainbow behind it.

Harry stayed silent, just looking at Malfoy looking away. And then Malfoy caught his eye again and dropped his hand, wiping it on the fabric. He swallowed and gave Harry a strange little smile.

“You know,” he said. “If…if you’re wanting some kind of – relief, or like, I don’t know – I mean, I know something you could try.”

Harry tilted his head to the side. He smiled a little. “Urm,” he said, not bothering to keep the confusion out of his tone. “Okay.”

Malfoy was tickled pink. “Right,” he said. “Yeah. Okay. Come with me.”

He turned and headed through the second archway, starting up the steps. Harry followed him.

It turned out the temple-like structure at the top of the steps was a temple. It had green, curved tiles and scarlet columns, with gold button-like structures at the bottom. There were two sets of lion statues, in the traditional East Asian style. Harry did notice a smaller jade statue of a dragon, though.

They went in through one of the two wide doorways, stepping under the folds of bamboo sheets. Inside, everything was dim and potent; at the far end, the incense burned in neat sets of rows, rich and red and sweet.  Several painted statues of what Harry assumed were various gods were laid out, plates of fruit and sweets and burnt incense offered before them, and in the very centre of them all was a huge depiction of Buddha, one hand raised and the other resting by his lap, palms presented, his eyes closed peacefully. Harry wasn’t religious, but anyone would be affected in a place like this.

There was no carpet on the ground. In the middle of it sat someone cross-legged, clearly in the middle of prayer. Malfoy raised a hand to Harry’s chest, gesturing for him to stay still, and pressed a finger across his lips. Harry stilled.

It was strange, but Harry had never been to a temple. It was different from a church, or a cathedral. Not so polished and proper. Not so civil. It roused something primal inside him, some deep-rooted instinct of worship, of silence. A desire to go to his knees. To offer himself. 

He supposed there was something to be said for these old religions.

Eventually the person said: “Draco,” without turning around. Malfoy’s body relaxed.

“I didn’t disturb you, did I?” Malfoy was being polite again – but that wasn’t quite it. There was something strange in his tone, a mixture of awkwardness and comfort, a flagrant familiarity that immediately had Harry feeling like he was outside of something. But perhaps it was just the temple – everything was intimate here.

“You didn’t. Don’t worry.” The man – Harry was pretty sure it was a man – turned his head and looked over at Malfoy. He had a square, geometric face, but it was somehow still softer and gentler than any other face Harry had seen. His eyes were blue, the kind of blue that didn’t quite seem real, and they were distant, like Hayden’s, but not cold. Not cold at all.

The man looked over at Harry. He looked young, but not youthful.

“You’ve made a new friend,” he said, still looking at Harry. Malfoy cleared his throat.

“He’s Harry,” he said, and then cleared his throat again, at once exasperated. “Harry Potter. You know Harry Potter, Tom.”

Harry shot Malfoy a dirty look. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Hi,” he said, stupidly. “Nice to meet you.”

Tom smiled at him. “Hi Harry,” he said. “Yes, I do know you. Draco always had a lot to say about you.”

It was Malfoy’s turn to shoot Tom a dirty look, whilst Harry shot Malfoy an amused one. He decided he quite liked Tom.

Tom smiled benignly at Malfoy. “Well,” he said, once Malfoy was done glaring, “You didn’t bring him just to meet me, did you?”

Malfoy reached a hand out, brushing a finger along the bottom of one of the statues. His fingerprint came away with dust. “I was thinking you could show him your meditation, Tom,” he said. “You know, that thing you do.”

Tom looked at Harry, his lips quirked up. “Yes,” he said. “That thing I do. Are you interested, Harry?”

The concept of meditation wasn’t really anything that Harry got worked up over, but for the sake of an uncomfortable Malfoy who still resolutely studying the feet of a goddess, he nodded and stepped forward.

“Cool,” said Tom, which struck Harry as weird for a monk (but what even was weird anymore? Weird stopped existing without a relative point of comparison) and beckoned for Harry to sit down. Harry startled.

“Right here?” he looked around. “With Malfoy watching?”

Malfoy rolled his eyes.

“Where else?” said Tom, and then nodded at Malfoy. “Come and at least sit down Draco, your anxiety is off-putting.”

Malfoy sighed but came and sat down, cross-legged, on one of the mats, but not before snatching one sweet off an offering tray. To Harry’s surprise, Tom didn’t even blink. The sound of Malfoy unwrapping it filled the temple as Harry came and sat down.

 “Okay,” said Tom, once they were all settled. “Have you ever meditated before, Harry?”

“No,” said Harry. He watched as Malfoy popped the sweet into his mouth.

“Have you ever prayed before?”

“Yes,” said Harry. From the corner of his eye, he saw Malfoy raise his brows.

Tom carried on. “Okay, Harry,” he said. “It’s a bit like praying. Most people think meditating is just sitting in silence and not thinking, but that’s not quite right. Meditation is form of access. A way into one’s deepest self.”

“Paths,” said Harry. Malfoy was really looking at him now. He ignored him.

“Yes,” said Tom. “A lot of us spend most of our time looking out. But what’s inside us is worth taking a look at, as well.”

Harry thought about that.

“Now,” said Tom. “You want to bring your hands to your knees. Yes – like that. You can keep your palms open, or touch your middle finger to your thumb. Whatever works for you.”

“How do I know what works for me?” Harry asked.

“Just let how you feel decide,” said Tom. “Now, close your eyes.”

Harry hesitated. Tom said, “Are you okay with Draco being here?”

Harry didn’t look at Malfoy to see his reaction. He thought about the question.

“Yes,” he said, after a moment, and closed his eyes.

“Okay.” Tom’s voice became a disconnected thing, warm and weightless in the dark. It was a piece of reality, carried through into the bottomlessness of Harry’s mind. “Bring your attention to your breathing.”

Harry did. He moved forwards in his skull, feeling the cool air brush past him. “Inhale, exhale,” Tom was saying. “Feel the coldness of the air as it enters you, the warmth of it as it leaves.”

Harry did. He tried to focus on that, and think of nothing else, but he couldn’t help being aware still of the temple around him, of Tom and Malfoy sitting next to him, of the vulnerability of his closed eyes. And there was more, he found, rushing to the surface now he wasn’t distracted, things like Jane as she snarled and bit at him, things like the letter waiting for him in his hotel room, things like Hayden and Oceanias’ bodies piled over each other on the bed, things like the cold dampness of Draco Malfoy’s back, turned away in the loch, things like the huge wide stretch of the mountains before him, before him, before him, and there was only ever him there –

“It’s okay if you get distracted,” said Tom, and his mind lurched back into the temple. “It’s normal. Let your thoughts pass over you, like clouds. Don’t fight them. Just observe them, and let them move on. You don’t have to get involved.”

Harry tried to stay in the quiet dark this time. Tom had just spoken. He was right here. He thought about his thoughts as clouds, but he wasn’t even sure what counted as a thought anymore. Either way, he tried to detach. Not detach. Just, stay afloat.

Not stay afloat. He climbed out of the inky water of his mind, where there were always things to drag him under, and sat by the edge of the loch. It was spread out before him, and it was him, but he was no longer swimming in it.

“Breathe in and out,” said Tom. “Deep breath in, long exhale out. Let your body relax deeper into the silence.”

Harry found where the tight points in him were, and asked them to let go.

And then he was unravelling. His mind was floating, somewhere above him, maybe. He was understanding now, that there were layers to himself. If he turned the loud part off, he found something tender and honest and deeply profound. It was intimate. He felt so close to himself.

“If you want, you can bring your attention to your third eye chakra,” said Tom. “The space between your brows.”

The third eye. Harry was seeing things he hadn’t seen before. Not with his other eyes open. The closing became an opening. Harry was inside himself. Before, everything had been scattered, between Jane and the letter and his friends and Malfoy and the mountains – but now all of him was here, and safe, and palpable.  He was the beats of his heart, pulsing in his chest. He was inside his body, and his body was keeping him alive. He felt the gratitude in his veins and bones, the long-awaited connection. He was on the brink of great truth, in this sweet darkness, and he didn’t feel any fear about it. He was here, and it was haven.

There didn’t need to be anything else.

“Slowly, you can open your eyes now, when you’re ready,” Tom was saying. Harry didn’t feel aware of any time passing, just that he wanted to stay here for longer, longer. But he let himself open his eyes, and when he did, it was like he was seeing the temple for the first time. Like he wasn’t just seeing the temple, but rather the walls and dust and ground and he felt aware that it had been built by people and that Tom came here every day and that Malfoy had met Tom before. He was awake.

“How do you feel?” asked Tom. Harry blinked at him, and then at Malfoy, who was watching him with an odd intensity. He felt the top layer of himself begin to come alive again, slowly filling his mind with chatter and programming and busyness. He didn’t mind. He understood that his soul couldn’t survive undressed in this huge world.

“Brilliant,” said Harry. “Bloody hell.”

They walked back down the steps in silence. The sun was no longer sleepy, having risen high enough to illuminate the whole village below. Everything was earthy, a palette of thick greens and reds and golds. Harry stretched, his muscles straining up.

Malfoy was uncharacteristically quiet beside him. Harry glanced at him. His gaze was slanted down, the shadows under his eyes and the sharp cut of his jaw somehow more prominent in the fertile flaxen of the sunlight. The delicate skin of his eyelids reminded Harry of a “closed” sign in a shop door.

That was his prerogative. Harry made to leave the plaza, whistling, his foot barely making contact with the first step when a bony set of fingers wrapped around his wrist. He turned around, and Malfoy was frowning.

His thin brows were almost invisible in the lighting. Harry blinked up at him, waiting.

Malfoy seemed to be struggling. He was gnawing one slim lip, his cheeks hollowed in.

“Malfoy –” Harry began.

“How did you do it?” Malfoy had stopped gnawing. There was something at once desperate and restrained about him. His shoulders were square but bony, the shape of him frail in the dazzling morning. The air tugged at his hair, the folds in his clothes.

“Do what?” asked Harry. Malfoy still hadn’t let go of his wrist.

“You know.” Malfoy seemed to realise this and took his hand back. “The…meditating.”

Harry was taken aback. “I thought you’d done it before.”

“I have,” said Malfoy, and then swallowed. He ran a hand over his head. “I have. I’ve tried to.”

Harry waited again.

Malfoy straightened. “I tried to, but I couldn’t.” He looked at Harry, and if Harry hadn’t just meditated, he might’ve had to look away. Again, he felt he was teetering on the edge of that loch, the loch of Draco Malfoy, unknown and inky.

“You couldn’t?”

Malfoy shook his head. “I…don’t know how to.” He shrugged and glanced away. “Empty my mind.”

“Maybe you’re thinking about it wrong,” said Harry.


Harry swayed a little on the spot. “Well. I’m sure Tom has other ways of teaching it. You…could ask him about it. And –”

“Will you teach me?” The words cut through Harry’s next thought. He opened and closed his mouth. He considered Malfoy then, the way his mouth was parted a little breathlessly, the clearness of his eyes. In his head, he could see the long line of Malfoy’s white back again, glistening under the moonlight.

Harry opened his mouth again. “Yes,” he said. “If you want that.”

Malfoy blinked at him, and then nodded. “Thank you,” he said. Then he brushed past Harry and headed down the steps. Somewhere down in the muggle village, someone had rung a bell, and it was echoing.

“We are not buying blue cheese. You know what Draco is going to say.”

“I do,” said Hayden. “But I also know how much I’d like some blue cheese, especially on my bao zi in the mornings.”

“Who else is going to eat it?” Oceania threw her hands up. “The monks?”

“The dragons?” Harry also threw up his hands. Oceania raised a fist for him to bump without looking in his direction.

“Oh, do you think?” said Hayden drily. “Well, maybe we should get two then.”

“Urgh.” Oceania dragged a hand down over her face. “God, no. One. One is the limit. But if you tear this family apart, don’t come crying to me.”

“Fine,” said Hayden, stepping forward to drop the so abhorrent blue cheese into the trolley. “I’ll cry at home, alone, with my blue cheese beside me.”

“I hate you to my very core,” said Oceania, and rolled over to the fruits and vegetables. As she passed, Hayden winked emotionlessly at Harry.

“So,” said Harry, as they trailed after Oceania and her hair. “Oceania’s got her persimmons, you’ve got your blue cheese…what’s Draco’s religion?”

“Books,” Hayden said promptly, and then sighed. “Now you’ve done it.”

The trolley had somehow filled rather suddenly with five sets of packaged persimmons. They watched sombrely as Oceania threw in the sixth.

“You told me you summoned those,” said Harry, disappointed. Oceania smiled up at him.

“I lied,” she crooned.

“Really?” said Hayden. “You thought we summoned all our food? Even though we’re presently in a supermarket?”

“Oh, my apologies,” said Harry. “I’ll never know why it didn’t occur to me that Gay Dragon Village would have such vital ties with Asda. My mistake.”

“The persimmons are better here than in Tesco,” said Oceania casually as they progressed to the bread section. She picked up a loaf and narrowed her eyes at it.

“Enough said,” said Hayden. They were smirking, just slightly.

“So,” said Harry, once they’d reached the cake section. “I met Tom.”

“Oh!” Oceania clapped her hands together. “Did you? Oh, he’s lovely, isn’t he?”

“Yeah,” said Harry. “He, uh, showed me some stuff. I didn’t even know there was a temple up there.”

“He’s one of the monks,” said Hayden. “He’s the only wizard though, so that’s why he stays up here. But he visits the others regularly. Gives us good connections.”

Harry hadn’t thought much about the monk community before. “Do they know we’re all wizards?”

“And witches,” Oceania piped up.

“Officially?” said Hayden. “No.”


Hayden smiled in the corner of their mouth. “Charlie likes to pretend they don’t.”

“But they’re monks,” said Oceania. “They know everything.”

Harry grinned at her. “Yes,” he said. “Of course.”

She grinned back. “I’m glad you met Tom,” she said. “I think he’d be good for you.”

“You said that about Draco,” said Hayden, voice dry again. They were running their finger along the handle of a spatula.

“Well, he was,” said Oceania. Then at Harry’s confused expression, she clarified, “They used to date.”

“Oh,” said Harry, and his mind abruptly broke, trying to comprehend the two together. He supposed that explained the weird distance between them.

The idea of Malfoy dating someone other than Pansy Parkinson felt very foreign. He tried to imagine Draco Malfoy, with his pointy shapes and outrageous mouth and floral leggings, in love, and it was a bizarre thing indeed. He hadn’t supposed Tom was Draco’s type – but what did Harry know anyway? Love was very strange.

“Are you paying?” Oceania was asking.

“No,” said Hayden. “I’m planning to obliviate the cashier, and then apparate with the trolley.”

“I hope you choke on your cheese,” said Oceania, and then pushed the trolley towards the conveyer belt.

Draco was reading at the cafeteria when they got back.

“Draco! Baby! Bitch!” Oceania shouted as she heaved one of the shopping bags over to the table. “We’ve got persimmons!”

Draco looked up from his book and raised an amused brow, smiling with half of his mouth at her. “All the essentials, I see.”

Harry flopped himself down onto one of the seats. “What are you reading?” he asked.

Malfoy looked at him and the smile extended to the other half of his mouth. “Definitely not the bible.”

“Ouch.” Harry leaned back. “I guess I deserved that.”

Malfoy laughed, a freeing sound, and turned his attention to where Oceania was busy unpacking the bags. He frowned.

“Why did you buy blue cheese?” He said, wrinkling his nose. Hayden levelled him a look.

“I have cravings,” they said.

“What?” said Malfoy. “Are you pregnant with Satan himself?”

Harry snorted and then tried to turn it into a cough. Hayden also levelled him a look, which was pretty sobering.

“It’s mould,” Draco was saying. “Mould. Literally mould in cheese. How could you want such a thing?”

“Draco.” Hayden sounded very tired. “You eat toothpaste out of the tube.”

Harry looked at Malfoy. “You do?”

Malfoy was engaged in a severe eye duel with Hayden. They were both spectacularly dignified.

“Yes,” he said, his chin raised. “Fresh toothpaste. Newly made.”

“I’m not going to lower myself to your level,” Hayden said coolly, and headed off into the woods with their blue cheese.

“You couldn’t lower yourself even if you tried!” Malfoy shouted after them. “Blue cheese doesn’t provide enough nutrition for digging!”

They watched Hayden go. Oceania looked at Malfoy and sighed, rummaging through the remaining bag. “Now you’ve upset them,” she muttered.

“They’re always upset,” Malfoy said, sullenly, but helped her open a packet of persimmons, offering one to Harry. Harry declined.

“What are you actually reading?” he asked again, once Malfoy had made it mostly through his own persimmon. Malfoy looked at him and held up his book, showing Harry the cover.

“Jane Eyre,” said Harry, surprised. He looked at Malfoy again, more deeply.  “Is – are you –“

He cleared his throat and tried again. Malfoy raised his brows at him over the body of the persimmon.

Harry was careful with his next words. He remembered the shade of red that had tinged Malfoy’s cheeks up on the mountain. “Where have you got to?” he asked.

Now Malfoy looked surprised. “You’ve read it?”

It was Harry’s turn to raise his brows graciously. He did, enjoying it a little too much as Malfoy stared at him.

“I read books, Draco,” he said pleasantly. Malfoy blinked hard at him, and then collected himself. Abashment turned to bemusement. And then mildly surprised amusement. It was fun to watch.

“Right,” he said faintly. “Of course you do. I’ve just got to the discovery of Bertha.”

“Ah.” Harry leaned forward, settling his clasped hands on the table. “I love that bit.”

Malfoy’s eyes widened and his lips quirked. “Do you?”

“Yes,” said Harry. “It’s…an unearthing. An incredible one.”

Malfoy stopped looking amused and started looking much more interested, despite himself. His gaze deepened.

“What do you mean?” he said, very politely.

“The novel finally opens up,” said Harry. He thought about it. “To its core. It undoes all its restraints and just…engulfs you.”

Malfoy looked at him. He blinked, pressed his lips together unconsciously. Kept looking at him.

“You don’t find it despicable?” was all he said after a moment. Harry frowned.

“I don’t read books for their high morals,” he said, quite honestly, and Malfoy bit at his mouth.  Began to smile.

“Okay then,” he said quietly.

Harry suddenly became aware of Oceania, sitting quietly beside them. She was looking straight ahead and smiling into her persimmon. He inhaled sharply.

“Oceania,” said Malfoy, turning to her, his voice warm. “How’s the persimmon, love?”

She removed the fruit from her mouth. “Persimmons. And they’re lovely, dear. How’s the book?”

She said this lightly, but Malfoy’s smile flattened.

“Lovely, dear,” he echoed drily, and Harry looked between them questioningly. Malfoy went back to his book.

Oceania winked at Harry before going back to her persimmon. “I can see you, you know,” said Malfoy, without looking up.

“I know,” said Oceania, but managed to swallow her grin before turning to Harry. “Harry,” she said. “Are you doing anything this afternoon?”

Harry glanced at Malfoy and then wished he hadn’t when he realised Oceania was still watching him.

“No,” he said, warily.

Oceania took another bite and said, with her cheeks full: “I was thinking I could help you.”

“Help me how?”

“With Jane,” she said easily. “Draco was telling me about it.”

Harry looked at Malfoy again, betrayed. Malfoy had finally looked up, and he blinked away from Harry’s stare a little guiltily.

“She’s good,” he said to Harry’s shoulder, earnest. “I thought the change could help.”

Harry bit his cheek to keep down his temper and shrugged at the ground. “Okay.”

He could feel Malfoy’s eyes venturing from his shoulder back to his face.

“You don’t have to,” said Malfoy.

“No, sure.” Harry stopped looking away and smiled tightly. “If you think it will help.”

“Cool.” Oceania jumped to her feet. “Let’s go then Harry.”

Jane was napping when they got there. She raised one drowsy eye at them, and closed it again. Oceania strode forward and crouched in front of her.

“Hello,” she said. Jane opened the eye again, and it stayed open. Harry’s heart leapt in his chest.

Oceania maintained eye contact with her for a few moments, and it was clear something was been exchanged. And then she leaned forward and pressed a hand to her nose. Jane let her.

“What the fuck,” said Harry.

“She’s good.” When he looked at Malfoy he was smirking, a little, but his eyes were still careful. Harry hated that look. He turned back to watch Oceania.

Oceania stayed with Jane for a few more moments, and then stood up. She looked over to Harry and beckoned.

“Harry,” she said. “Come here.”

Harry left Malfoy leaning against the tree and crossed over. Once he was there, Oceania took his hand, pulling him down with her. He fell into a crouch.

“Here,” she said. Her voice was soft. She took his hand and slowly stretched it out, pressing it to Jane’s nose. Harry felt Jane exhale a little roughly against his palm, but apart from that she didn’t move. He realised he was holding his breath, and let go.

“Do you feel it?” Oceania smelt like something that reminded Harry of childhood this close up. Not his childhood. But the concept of it, the feeling of what it should be. Her eyes were closed. “You need to feel it.”

Harry swallowed hard, in the middle of his throat. A silence passed him by.

“I don’t know what you mean,” he admitted.

Oceania didn’t open her eyes. Her lips were rested in a calm half-moon. With her other hand, she reached up and pressed her fingers against Harry’s chest, over his shirt. He let her.

“There’s a connection,” said Oceania. “Like a buzzing. A humming. You have to feel it.”

“Draco said it was like a path,” Harry said, and then realised he wasn’t angry anymore and looked up to where Malfoy himself was still standing by the trees, watching them. He swallowed, this time less hard.

“Mm.” Oceania opened her eyes. The sunlight almost seemed to shine through them, reminding Harry that eyes were not flat things, but liquid spheres. “He would.”

Harry was watching Malfoy, the way he was leaning quietly against the tree, his expression too far away to accurately determine. Oceania’s hand came up to his shoulder.

“Harry,” she said. “You have to concentrate.”

“Yes.” He looked back to her. “Sorry.”

She smiled at him. “Buzzing isn’t the right word. I got it wrong.”

“Urm, okay.” Harry shuffled, still in the crouch.

“It’s more like silence. When something in you goes silent. Then you know.”

Harry looked up at her. She was meeting his gaze.

“Close your eyes,” said Oceania.

He closed his eyes.

It wasn’t like meditating. He was aware of the greenery around him, the ground and the dust and the hot bright sun. Jane’s skin, alive, under his hand. Oceania’s fingers closed over his wrist. The feel of Draco, watching him from the outskirts, always watching.

It wasn’t like meditating. There was silence, but the wrong kind.

Harry opened his eyes. Oceania was looking at him. For the first time since starting this session, she looked less than a hundred percent certain, a slight line drawn between her thin brows. She looked like she already knew what he was going to say.

Harry swallowed and shook his head.

“I can’t –” he said, and immediately ran out of vocabulary. He shook his head again.

“Nothing?” Oceania tilted her head to the side. “You can’t feel anything at all?”

“Nothing,” said Harry. Nothing, nothing.

“Look at her,” said Oceania. Her voice was quite soft. “She’s right here.”

Harry shifted, trying to squeeze around the sense of failure, and looked at Jane. She was staring back at him, her eyes black and deep and round. Unusually patient. How long had it been? A month and a half? Surely, by now, he should feel like he knew her. But he stared right back at her, and couldn’t see past the round of her eyes. In the centre, when the light hit her right, there were flecks of blue buried inside. A dark blue, almost navy. He hadn’t noticed before.

She was just a dragon. But she was right here, under his palm, and she was looking at him.

“Maybe that’s enough for today,” said Oceania. She was considering Harry carefully, smiling gently in a way that made Harry want to cry. He stood up and exhaled roughly, leaving her with Jane and walking away. When he got back to the trees, he ran a hand over the bark and blinked at the undergrowth, trying to get his breath back.

“Are you okay?” Malfoy was standing there, amongst the trees. He had phrased the words in his mouth very carefully. Harry could hear it in the way he had spoken. His fingers dug into the bark a little tighter, and he forced himself to breathe deeper.

He wanted to be angry. He wasn’t. He finally looked over to Malfoy, who was watching very precisely, hovering between a few metres away. The moment felt scraped raw.

“I’m not sure,” said Harry, equally carefully. He didn’t look away. Malfoy almost seemed to sway, closer. He gaze was meeting Harry’s, eye for eye.

Harry had stuff he could be doing. He tore his gaze away from Malfoy, and back to the undergrowth. Straightening, he muttered, “Well, I guess I’ll see you around,” and made to head from the forest.

“Wait,” said Malfoy.  Harry halted, and then looked back over his shoulder. Malfoy had stopped looking careful, and now looked uncertain. He was worrying his lower lip between his teeth.

Harry waited. Malfoy’s eyes latched onto his again, and the light was hitting them right through a path in the trees, beaming them up. Harry blinked.

“If you’re feeling up to it,” said Malfoy. “Maybe we could do some of what I had mentioned earlier?”

Harry took him to the Green Hotel. He was tired, and didn’t know where else to do it. Besides, Malfoy had asked him.

Harry had been back to see Tom a few times since he’d first been with Malfoy. Tom was quiet, but like Hayden, it was not that he was shy, but rather that he was reserved. Unlike Hayden, it wasn’t cold.

Harry didn’t think Hayden was cold either, now he thought about it. He remembered the pub with the Lotus, and the exchange with the man Harry had accidentally witnessed. No, Hayden wasn’t cold. They just weren’t fully here.

Harry took Malfoy back to the Green Hotel, and Malfoy didn’t complain. Malfoy didn’t say a lot actually, besides a hurried “Thank you,” when Harry held the door open for him. The receptionist wasn’t there, as usual. The stairs creaked as they climbed.

Harry supposed he should feel awkward about inviting Malfoy into the place where he slept. There were dirty clothes piled up on the chair in the corner, strewn across the floor. Empty crisp packets and used mugs, lumps of dried chocolate power stuck in rings at the bottom. Crumpled tissues. A purple bottle on the bedside table. A letter, still on the floor.

Harry supposed he should feel awkward, but he mostly felt tired. He kicked some of the clothes out the way, made space on the floor. Shrugged off his jacket and flung it on the bed. He turned around to Malfoy.

“Do you want to take that off?” he asked, nodding at Malfoy’s waterproof. It was bright yellow, and had pink flowers stitched on to it. Malfoy opened his mouth, and then nodded quickly, tugging it off his arms and handing it to Harry’s outstretched hand. Harry also put it on the bed, though with slightly more care. Some of those flowers looked like they might come off.

He turned back to Malfoy who still standing there, fiddling with his too-long sleeves. It turned out he was wearing a light blue jumper under the jacket, which was surprisingly plain. If Harry wasn’t so tired, he might have commented on it.

Harry was probably going to have meditated anyway. It helped, sometimes, when that dull bruised feeling settled itself in his stomach, stubborn and disabling. He sat down cross-legged on the floor, and gestured for Malfoy to do the same.

“Is this okay for you?” he asked, once Malfoy was sitting. Malfoy looked a little startled by the question.

“Yes,” he said. “Fine.”

Harry nodded once and then hesitated. “I don’t…” he said. “I’m not like Tom.”

Malfoy was looking at him very steadily. “I know that,” he said.

“I’m not good at…teaching.”

Malfoy shot a disbelieving look at Harry, suddenly looking more like himself.

“Bullshit,” he said. “I saw you teach all those kids in that D.A. crap. No one in slytherin could fucking keep up.”

Harry blinked, jerking back. Malfoy stared at him, and then seemed to realise he’d crossed some sort of line, and withdrew, dropping his gaze to the ground.

“I…” said Harry, and then cleared his throat. “That was a long time ago.”

Malfoy looked back up, from under his lashes. “Yes,” he said, and his voice was soft. “It was.”

Harry cleared his throat again and then leaned back. “Alright,” he said. “My point is, I’m not, like, a professional or anything. I’m not a monk. This is – just how I do it.”

“Okay,” said Malfoy. He was smirking at Harry slightly now. “Got it. Harry Potter is a mere amateur in spirituality.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Look, you know what I’m saying –”

“Yes,” said Malfoy. “I do.” His smirk had shucked some of its sharpness. “Please continue.”

“Just,” said Harry, and took a breath. “Just…I put my hands on my knees first. Middle finger to thumb. So…do that.”

Malfoy did that. His fingers were very slim.

“Right,” said Harry. “And close your eyes.”

Malfoy stopped smiling and swallowed. His eyes fluttered closed. His lips parted.

“You want to…take a deep breath in,” said Harry. “And let your body relax with it on the way out. Do that, take a deep breath.”

Malfoy did, shuddering slightly. A muscle in his jaw jumped. Harry reached forward and covered his right hand.

Malfoy’s eyes flickered open, shocked. “Malfoy,” said Harry, keeping his face open. “You have to relax.”

Malfoy blinked, and then pressed his lips together. His hand was very still under Harry’s. “I’m trying,” he whispered.

“When you close your eyes,” said Harry. “Pretend that I’m not here. Or that I’m not – you know, me. I’m just – a voice inside you. I’m not something else.”

Malfoy stared at him, and then slowly closed his eyes again. One of his fingers jerked against Harry’s palm.

“Breathe in,” said Harry. He tried to smooth his voice out, the way Oceania did when she was teaching yoga. “From your stomach to your chest. Then back out, from your chest to your stomach. Let it go.”

Malfoy breathed in, and this it was less shuddery. Harry could see his eyes moving under his lids.

“One more time,” he said, softer. “Deep breath in. Yes, there. Then out.”

Everything was quiet around them. It was just Malfoy and him, here in his little hotel room, trying to find something. Harry realised he was leaning forward, and he didn’t move back.

Malfoy couldn’t see him, anyway.

“In,” said Harry. “And out.”

Was this what Harry looked like when he was meditating? Malfoy’s eyes were still flickering, and his cheeks were red, but the stretch of his shoulders had loosened, his mouth opening wider, like a flower. He reminded Harry of a flower. When had Draco Malfoy become this thing, this strange, brazen, quirky creature? Harry didn’t like to remember, but he did remember what the other man had been like at school. Of course he did. Stupid little mouth, slicked back hair, a smirk so arrogant everyone had wanted to punch it right off him. When had he changed? Had this other person being buried inside all this time, existing quietly, waiting for a chance to breathe? Had the war stripped him of something, some first layer that had gone rotten and stale, like scabbed skin? Was it his father? His money? His upbringing?

Or maybe none of that had been a lie. Maybe Malfoy was right. He’d said that Harry didn’t see him as a proper person, and he had been right. Draco Malfoy, Hogwarts pupil, had been a complete and utter prick, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t a human being.

He must’ve been so afraid, thought Harry suddenly. He must’ve been terrified.

The voice in his head sounded suspiciously like – Hermione. Harry swallowed hard, and kept his mind moving.

When Harry had first gotten to Gay Dragon Village, he had thought Malfoy was a clown, with his leggings, his makeup, his obscene jokes, his – well, if Harry was being honest – his gayness. But Draco Malfoy had been right. He was different to Harry – a different species, almost – but that didn’t mean he was less. Maybe Draco Malfoy was all of these things, everything he had been and everything he was now. And Harry didn’t understand it – but maybe it wasn’t for him to understand.

Besides, Harry thought, grinning to himself. The smirk was kind of the same, prick or no prick.

He suddenly realised he had been quiet for too long. He was here to help Malfoy. Hastily, he tried to remember his own process when meditating.

“Breathe in to your third eye,” he instructed. “The space between your brows. Feel the space there. Focus your energy there.”

The third eye chakra, Harry had learned, was for intuition, for inner vision. He didn’t fully believe in it, but the metaphor worked, and that was what mattered.

Harry grazed his thumb against Malfoy’s knuckle, absentminded. Malfoy’s chest rose sharply.

Harry had expected the intimacy of teaching meditation to be difficult, if he was being honest. It was like life drawing, or puberty pamphlets, or group therapy. Ultimately the experience was enriching, but the damn embarrassment of it was so hard to get past. Things like the mind were supposed to be personal – intensely personal – but Malfoy had asked him for help, which meant that – well, it meant that Malfoy was prepared to expose his own mind, even for a little while.

“This…” Harry hesitated, checking what he was about to say. If he wanted to help, he had to expose himself, too. “This time, this space you’re experiencing. This is for you. This is your time with yourself. Let your subconscious find you.”

Harry’s relationship with his subconscious was a tenuous thing. But they had met, a few times now, and he was enjoying the innocent acquainting.

Malfoy breathed in, and his eyes stopped flickering. Harry could imagine it now, the detachment that accompanied it, the way the conscious became a suspended thing, floating in the darkness of the skull. He imagined his own space, hollowed out amidst the bone structure, a cradle to settle his presence in. This would be so much easier if he could somehow accompany Malfoy. But that would be too intimate, much too intimate.

For now, he would have to pretend. Harry said, “Let your thoughts pass over you, but don’t engage.” He was at once outside and inside Malfoy. Thinking and unthinking.

An indent had formed between Malfoy’s brows. Harry brought him back to himself quickly. “Don’t fight them, either,” he added. “It’s normal to get distracted. For everything you’ve being worrying about to rush to the surface. Just recognise it for what it is, and let it go.”

The indent deepened and spasmed. Harry squeezed with his right hand. “Let it go.”

Time was a flexible thing to the subconscious. It ebbed and faded, entirely dependent on the vividness of experience, of feeling. Harry realised he didn’t know how much of it had passed. He began to notice things like the cushion on the hotel chair, the texture of the cheap wallpaper, the bathroom door hanging ajar. He watched them until they felt solid, grounding himself, and then he re-focused his attention on Malfoy.

The indent was mostly gone, but there was still something tense about his posture, clearly fighting just beneath the skin. Harry let him battle it out a little longer, and then rubbed his thumb across his knuckles again. Malfoy’s lips touched each other faintly, and the indent disappeared completely.

“You can come back to yourself now, if you want,” Harry murmured. “Take your time.”

Malfoy’s breath’s shallowed, his fingers twitching, and then he opened his eyes. The movement was strange after observing the veiny pale of his eyelids for so long. Malfoy’s eyes were very grey, and for a moment entirely expressionless, a result of the meditating. Harry watched as his conscious mind fully switched back on.

Even then, it was an expression that Harry wasn’t entirely familiar with. Familiar wasn’t the word. Harry felt as if he should know it, but could not name it. All at once he was struck with a sense of déjà vu, the wavy memories from being high brought forth. He remembered more the feelings than the events, the colours more than the shapes. But he had been close to Malfoy before.

He was close to Malfoy now. Malfoy was open-eyed, and Harry abruptly realised he wasn’t the only one capable of watching anymore. Malfoy inhaled, quiet. He was so rarely quiet. The last time he had been quiet he had – been standing in the loch.

Harry leant back and dropped his hand. Dropping the hand made holding it in the first place seem more incriminating. He brushed his fingers over the dusty carpet and looked away.

He didn’t feel tired anymore. The silence was in the room was huge, in a way that it usually wasn’t to Harry. He could feel pinkness pricking in his cheeks. He opened his mouth and closed it, then stood up.

“Thank you,” said Malfoy, breaking the silence. He was still seated on the floor, looking up at Harry. The angle made his eyes seem bigger. Harry didn’t look at him long enough to read his expression.

You’re being ridiculous, said the suspiciously Hermione-sounding-voice in his head. He snorted internally at himself, and sat down on the edge of the bed. Malfoy was standing up.

“How was it?” Harry asked his flowery knees.

“I’m not sure I quite got there,” said Malfoy, and Harry looked up to see him wrinkling his nose, which, for some reason, was abruptly relieving. “But…”

Harry waited. Malfoy glanced back to him, and his gaze softened. “It was good,” he said quietly. “Thank you.”

Harry swallowed and nodded. He wished Malfoy would wrinkle his nose again. “We can do it again,” he blurted, without thinking about what he was saying. “If you want. If, like, it actually helps. Help you get better at it.”

“That would be nice,” said Malfoy.

“Great,” said Harry. He thought about getting up and opening the door for Malfoy. He stayed on the bed.

“Well,” said Malfoy after a moment. “I’m going to go and burn Hayden’s stash of blue cheese. So thanks for your time.”

Harry smirked down at the sheets. “Be careful,” he managed.

“Some risks must be taken,” Malfoy said, sighing, and then moved towards the door. When Harry looked up, his smirk was only half a smirk, but at least it was there. One hand was clutched around the handle.

“I’ll see you around,” Malfoy said. He was looking right at him. Had he been looking right at him this entire time?

“See you around,” Harry echoed faintly. The smirk became even less of a smirk, and then Malfoy was out the door, and it swinging closed behind him. Harry gave himself five seconds, and then fell back onto the bed, exhaling loudly at the ceiling.

Harry sat down heavily beside Oceania. She was knitting.

“Hi, Harry,” she said, not looking up. “How’s it rolling?”

Harry made a indistinct noise. He watched her needles click together.

“What are you knitting?” he asked after a moment.

“A tea cosy,” Oceania replied immediately. “I haven’t got one with a dolphin on it yet.”

“Ah,” said Harry, nodding. “Dolphin tea cosies are definitely a must-have.”

“Are they?” Oceania pursed her lips in consideration. “The British are very strange.”

Harry had to swallow down his laughter. For a moment, they both enjoyed the simple pleasure of the empty cafeteria combined with the soothing clacking sounds of a tea cosy in the process of production.

After a few more minutes of hard work, Oceania held up the tea cosy at arm’s length.

“What do you think?” she asked Harry.

Harry squinted. If he hadn’t been otherwise informed, he wouldn’t have thought there was a dolphin present at all. A long elephant leg, maybe. But not a dolphin.

Was it possible to be brilliant at painting and absolute shit at knitting? Harry blinked one more time at the elephant leg/dolphin/oil spill/tarmac tree trunk and vowed to never, ever tell Oceania this.

“I love it,” he said. The restraint in his voice made it sound like he was about to cry, and Oceania seemed both touched and alarmed by this. She rubbed his arm earnestly.

“You can have it, if you like,” she encouraged.

“Oh, no, no,” said Harry, quick to reassure her. “I couldn’t possibly.”

“You could,” she enthused.

“I don’t even have a tea pot,” said Harry desperately.

“You could wear it yourself,” Oceania suggested.

At this rate, Harry might actually cry, and then there would be no escaping the multiplicity of the tea cosy.

“It’s against my religion,” he blurted, in a horrific last ditch attempt, and then prepared for death.

“Oh,” said Oceania. “Okay. That’s fair.”

She turned back to knitting. Harry openly stared at her, and wondered if she was high right now. It occurred to him that it was quite possible that she was always high, and that it had simply escaped his notice (which wasn’t a difficult manoeuvre).

Or possibly it was the yoga. Probably it was the yoga. Regardless, Harry was overcome with a deep, deep love for her.

He swallowed hard.

“Oceania,” he said. “I wanted to apologise for the other day. I was...rude.”

“Hmm?” She made a loop and threaded the needle through it with practiced ease. “What day?”

“When you were helping me with Jane,” said Harry.

“Oh.” Oceania flapped a hand at him, as if to brush away the thought. “You weren’t rude. Just overwhelmed.”

Harry licked his lips and squeezed his eyes shut for a brief second. “I was,” he said. “But I was also rude. I’m…not very good at being good to other people.” He cleared his throat. “So. Sorry about that.”

Oceania stopped knitting to look at him sharply. “Stop that,” she demanded, and Harry blinked.

“Urm,” he said. “Okay.”

A moment passed between them and then Oceania turned back to her knitting like nothing had happened. Harry felt himself relax with the sound of it. He wasn’t sure what had just transpired.

After a few more moments, Oceania held the tea cosy up again. She pressed her lips together pensively.

“It needs more colour,” she decided. “That’s the problem, isn’t it?”

Harry hummed noncommittally. 

“Maybe I should add a flag behind it. The bisexual flag. Then I can give it to Hayden.”

“Uh,” said Harry. “Sure.”

Oceania side-eyed him. “Unless you still want it?” she offered.

“Oh, no, that’s grand,” said Harry. “Hayden really looks like they could do with a dolphin tea cosy.”

“Were truer words ever spoken?” agreed Oceania, and, satisfied with this, reached for the pink wool.

Harry watched as the flag began to form on Oceania’s lap. When she was about half-way through the purple, he spoke again.

“Hey,” he said, as casually as he could. “How did, you, uh…know you weren’t…you know. Straight?”

To her credit, Oceania didn’t so much as pause in her knitting, though whether that was out of dedication to the tea cosy or a highly evolved emotional intelligence, Harry wasn’t sure. Probably both.

“Mm,” she hummed, pursing her lips. “Well…I’ve always found women attractive.”

“Yeah,” said Harry.

“Yeah,” she repeated, grinning. “But I just thought that was like…a universal thing. That, like, everyone thought girls were hot. Cus’ they are.”

“Mm,” said Harry. He wasn’t about to disagree with that.

“But, you know.” Oceania tipped her head to the side as one loop of wool proved to be especially stubborn. “I just thought it wasn’t an option. That, because I was a girl, and I’d only really seen girls with boys, that it didn’t count.”

There was that word again. Option. Malfoy had used that word a while ago, when Harry had – quite intrusively, now he thought about it – asked him about being gay. Merlin. Harry would never dream about asking him that now.

Malfoy’s grey eyes right after they’d opened flashed across his mind again.

“How did you realise otherwise?” Harry asked unthinkingly. Oceania tilted her head to glance at him, and this time there was a slight smile, hiding slyly in the indent of her cheek.

“I found people who were like me,” she said simply.

“Oh.” Harry swallowed, and was a bit relieved when she looked back down. A slice of sunlight cut over her side-profile. She had spoken about all of this very easily, a simple recounting of facts, like telling a fairy-tale, but it must have been strange. Very strange, to only figure something so essential out once you were already practically adult.

Did keeping all that down, Harry wondered, do any damage to you?

He looked back over at her. She had moved onto the blue wool now.

“I like girls,” he said, and licked his lips. Oceania smiled.

“Okay,” she said.

There was something else to be said, he knew, but he didn’t have the vocabulary for it just yet. Or, no, he didn’t have the courage. Or, no, it was the knowledge. It was the knowledge he didn’t have.

He didn’t quite know himself. That was the truth of it.

“I don’t think I know myself,” he admitted, perfectly honest, and Oceania just kept smiling.

“That’s okay,” she said. There was a pause. “Fighting a war will do that to you.”

She’d said it very gently. Harry looked up at her, at her hands busy with needles and wool. The feeling of loving her was there again, up in his throat, almost choking. He nodded and breathed through his nose.

“You can always talk to the others about it,” she said, once he’d gotten control of his breathing again. “They’ll all be really nice about it. Especially Draco.”

“Not Draco,” said Harry, too quickly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her smirk and then bite down on it.

“Okay,” she said lightly. Harry’s cheeks bloomed heat.

“It’s not like tha…” he protested, and then trailed off, because, well, it was like that.

“That’s okay,” said Oceania, but she’d stopped trying to hide the smirk. Harry rolled his eyes.

“It’s not my fault he kind of looks like a girl,” he muttered irritably, and then froze, worried he’d broken some kind of universal gay law and had been horribly offensive, but Oceania just started giggling.

“Oh my god,” she managed to force out, barely holding herself together.

“You can’t tell him I said that,” Harry hissed desperately. Draco would probably feed him to one of the dragons.

“I won’t, I won’t,” Oceania promised, wiping at the corners of her eyes. “But oh my god. Wow. Wow. That was wonderful.”

Harry rolled his eyes again, harder, though it probably wasn’t so effective when his face was still red. But god, it wasn’t like it was his fault. Malfoy did dress like a girl. And…it was confusing. This village was confusing. The whole world was pretty damn confusing.

It was the leggings, Harry decided as Oceania finished up her tea cosy and the sun began to set. Or maybe the oversized jumpers that looked like they’d been aimed at a customer market consisting primarily of five-year old girls. Or the flamboyant gestures. Or maybe the stupid, stupid, not quite smirk he’d given Harry as he left the Green Hotel.

Maybe it was all of these things. Maybe it was that Gay Dragon Village didn’t have a whole lot of options. Or maybe it was something else.

But Harry felt pretty certain it was the leggings.

God, he was never going to admit this. He’d never live it down.

It was with that thought in mind that Harry watched the sun finally finish its descent over the clouds. There were worse things, he decided, than ugly tea cosies and mild cross-dressing kinks in the world.

Chapter Text

“Can I be real with you?” asked Harry, “I don’t really, like, know what I’m doing. Like, at all.”

It was the second Thursday of the month, and according to the stunted population of Gay Dragon Village, that meant it was Charlie Night. When asked to further explain what Charlie Night entailed, Harry had simply been told that they were going bowling.

“Basically,” Malfoy had said, “Every second Thursday of the month –

“Or whenever we remember,” Hayden had interjected.

“– We go and take Charlie out. To do something. Fun. That doesn’t involve dragons.”

“So we’re going bowling,” Harry had said.

“That’s right,” Malfoy had said, nodding. “It gives his dragon the chance to go and have a smoke with the other dragons. Catch up on all the goss. Complain about the clingy parents behind their backs.”

So now they were going bowling. Harry had never been bowling. Right now, he was in his hotel room with Oceania, helping her change the time on Charlie’s watch.

“In general or in watch-talk?” she asked, holding it up, inexplicably, to the crappy light.

“Mostly in general, but also in watch-talk, I guess,” answered Harry, “Isn’t this immoral, just a bit?”

“Yeah. But you’re gonna really love that extra hour of bowling.”

There was nothing to argue there. Bowling had always sounded pretty dull to him as a child, but he had seen this lot turn eating lunch into a sport, so he was prepared for quite a few outcomes, all of which were weird and magical and mildly uncomfortable.

There was a knock on the door. Harry rolled off the bed and went to open it. He hoped it wasn’t the receptionist – whose name he really ought to have learned by now – here to half-heartedly throw his duvet around under the pretence of ‘room service’. He wondered what on earth it was she did during the day. He wondered if there was anyone else running this hotel.

Harry opened the door. It was Malfoy.

Malfoy slouched against the doorframe. His leggings had huge blue daisies on them, and his shirt had two large exclamation marks printed in the middle of his chest. On his head perched Oceania’s eternally ambiguous tea cosy.

He smirked, bright eyed and bushy tailed. To Harry he said, “Is that what you’re wearing?”

“Could you be humanly worse at this?” asked Malfoy gleefully. Harry crossed his arms and watched as his tenth ball rolled down again into the gutter.

“He’s a beginner,” said Oceania, always coming to his defence.

“Yes,” said Malfoy, “But –” He sucked in a breath, seeming entirely too pleased with how the entire situation was turning out. “He was the youngest seeker in a century! A century!

“Different kind of balls,” Harry muttered, refusing to dignify Malfoy by looking over. In his peripheral vision, Malfoy raised a brow and lowered his head.

“Oh, I bet they were,” he murmured, and when Harry glanced over he was smirking devilishly. Harry rolled his eyes and willed himself not to flush.

“Draco! Enough! Come over here and give me some competition!” commanded Oceania, though Harry could hear the laughter in her voice.

As Malfoy passed over to the lane next to Oceania he winked at Harry. Harry rolled his eyes again, fruitlessly, and then said to no one in particular: “I’m going to get a coke.”

He went to get a coke. Charlie was also sitting at the bar, nursing a fruit juice.

“Hey Harry,” he said, “How’s the bowling?”

Harry hopped onto one of the red-cushioned stools and ordered before turning to Charlie.

“Alright. I’m really bloody awful. Draco loves it.”

“You and me both,” said Charlie, and raised the fruit juice to clink it against Harry’s freshly arrived coke.

They sat in silence for a few moments, marinating in their own bowling deficiencies and sipping on the soft drinks. The bowling alley was nice, slightly run-down, and now mostly empty, an upshot of having spent the last hour here. There were strips of neon lights decorating the ceiling, which Harry supposed made the excitement of rolling a ball down the length of a corridor until it hit something even more exhilarating.

“Is this a typical Charlie Night?” asked Harry, turning back to Charlie.

“Mm,” said Charlie around the fruit juice straw, before putting it down. “I guess. We did a fire-walk once. That was fun.”

“Merlin,” said Harry.

“Yeah. Draco and Hayden got burnt, just a bit. We also went skydiving.”

“What’s the point in skydiving when you already fly on a dragon for a living?”

“Well,” said Charlie, chewing on the straw, “I suppose they’re – well, Draco in particular – really into muggle stuff.”

“Oh,” said Harry. He thought about that.

“How’s Jane?” asked Charlie. Harry stopped thinking about Malfoy and muggle stuff.

“Uh.” He paused to take a long sip of coke. “Alright. Okay. I guess.”

“That’s good,” said Charlie.

There was a pause.

“Actually,” said Harry, “I’m really bloody awful at that too. To be honest.”

He peered carefully up at Charlie. Charlie was just sucking at the fruit juice unconcernedly, the empty carton making a thunderous crumpling noise.

Harry went back to his coke. Swirled the straw though the ice cubes. Once Charlie seemed satisfied with his assessment of the juice carton’s musical ability, he leaned forward onto the counter, resting his chin on his palm.

“That’s alright, you know,” he said finally. “There’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone starts bad. That’s the point of starting.”

“I suppose,” said Harry.

“And Draco is a good teacher.”

Harry looked out to where Malfoy and Oceania were still bowling. Malfoy had his hands in raised triumphantly in the air, and as he watched, Oceania leaped onto his back and tackled him, getting an arm around his head. They both crumpled to the floor, the sound of their laughing audible from across the room.

“Oh dear,” said Charlie, glancing to where Harry had been watching. “Sometimes, I’ll admit Harry, I feel like a premature father.”

“I thought you were already a father to all the dragons,” said Harry, grinning. “And a tamer to them.”

“Oh, Merlin, no,” said Charlie. “Nothing could possibly tame them.”

Harry looked over again, to where Malfoy was hitting Oceania’s shoulder with the tea cosy as she held him down like a wrestler. He felt an abrupt wave of – not fondness. But rather, an acknowledgement. An acknowledgement of the fact that there was something just a little wonderful about Gay Dragon Village and all that it encompassed.

Oceania wrenched the tea cosy from Malfoy’s grasp and flung it across the room. Malfoy wailed like a wounded soldier. The hideous contraption skidded to a halt on the ground in front of Harry and Charlie.

Harry slid off the stool and crouched over to pick up as Malfoy and Oceania came jogging over. They were both pink and flushed happy, like school children in a playground.

“Harry,” breathed Malfoy as he came to a stop, panting just a little. “You hero.”

Harry looked up to Malfoy and straightened back up, the tea cosy clutched in his hand. Oceania said: “It’s rather like Cinderella, isn’t it?”

Malfoy laughed easily and leaned forward towards Harry. “Are you going to take me to the ball, oh green Prince?”

Harry reached out and tugged the tea cosy down over Malfoy’s eyes, which only made him laugh more.

“Why am I green?” he asked as Malfoy pushed the tea cosy up out of his eyes. Some of his hair got stuck up with it, like a bird halfway through pruning.

“Because,” said Malfoy, eyes glistening, “Your eyes. And you live in the Green Hotel. It’s fitting.”

Harry felt himself smirk. “My eyes?”

Malfoy flushed, from raspberry pink to strawberry, but didn’t back down. “Yes. And –” Here his voice turned familiarly sly. “There’s the other meaning.”

Harry raised his brows, but Oceania was pushing them back to the counter.

“Alright, alright,” she was saying, “Enough. I need a milkshake.”

“The lovely Oshanoter needs a milkshake!” Malfoy announced to the mostly empty room, and allowed him and Harry to be herded back to the counter. Both he and Oceania ordered milkshakes.  Once they were all seated around a bigger table, Malfoy pushed his milkshake towards Harry.

“Harry,” he announced. “You have to try this. This is the drink the government has been hiding from you.”

Harry obligingly took a sip. It tasted like bananas. He wrinkled his nose.

“It’s not that good,” said Oceania, nodding at Harry, “I keep telling him, it’s not that good.”

“Osh, darling, I love you. But I’m going to need you to stop right there. Right there.”

“It’s alright,” said Harry. Malfoy looked back at him. “It’s pretty good.”

“’Pretty good’,” scoffed Malfoy, accepting the drink as Harry pushed it back to him. “Don’t talk to me with such filth. Here, Charlie, you try.”

“It’s alright,” Harry repeated, grinning and leaning back against the sofa. “But it’s no butterbeer.”

“Harry, you depraved alcoholic.” Malfoy flung a hand out dramatically. “I can’t abide the sight of you and your type. You represent the scum of society.”

Charlie lifted his head from the straw. There was froth on his nose. “Draco,” he said, sounding quite beside himself. “This is miraculous.”

He dipped his head back down to the milkshake. Malfoy was staring at him, wide-eyed.

“Charlie,” he said faintly, “I think, perhaps, that you are my soulmate.”

Charlie was too busy drinking to reply. Malfoy said, “Love, I know this a joyous union, but I’m going to need you to buy me another fucking milkshake.”

Charlie looked back up, froth somehow now on his forehead. “Right,” he said, “Yes, sorry. Excuse me, ma’am…” He turned to the girl behind the counter, who had totally been listening in on the entire conversation.

“It’s alright,” Malfoy sighed. “I didn’t expect the honeymoon phase to last forever.”

“Listen,” said Charlie, turning back to all of them. “Thanks for taking me out tonight. It’s been great. I’ve had a really good time.”

Malfoy squinted at him. “Do you think he’s too sober?” he stage-whispered to Oceania.

“I think everyone’s too sober, all the time.”

“Damn right,” said Malfoy. He turned to the girl behind the counter and ordered a round of shots, then turned back and pointed at Charlie. “Charlie, you are not leaving just yet.”

“Dammit,” said Charlie.

As they waited for the shots, they all watched Oceania reach for Malfoy’s milkshake and pour half of it into hers. Malfoy sighed, but allowed it.

When the shots arrived, they all clinked glasses before downing it, except for Oceania, who poured hers into the milkshake hybrid and began to sip casually, ignoring the raised brows of the girl behind the counter.

Malfoy ordered another round. He waited before they’d all downed that one too, before saying: “Okay. It’s time for truth or dare.”

Harry choked into his empty glass. “God,” he said, once he’d gotten a hold of himself. “No.”

“It’s tradition,” said Malfoy, a little smug.

“That’s what you said the last time when you sprinkled blue cheese over the fire-walk,” said Charlie, “I feel like you’re just making these up. I don’t even know where you got the blue cheese.”

“Did I?” asked Malfoy mildly, staring into the bottom of his glass. “I can’t recall.”

“Draco!” squealed Oceania. Her entire face had flushed an alarming shade of red, the kind that instinctively inspired warning bells in any warm-blooded mammal. Malfoy used this opportunity to get up and order another round.

“Who wants to go first?” he asked when he came back with the drinks.

“I think you should,” said Harry. Malfoy levelled him a narrow look, but it was too late.

“Yes,” said Oceania, “I dare you to eat an entire pack of blue cheese.”

Malfoy looked queasy. “Ah,” he said, “You have to ask the question first.”

“Do you want to go die in a hole?” asked Oceania. Harry was taken aback by her vitriol. Drunk Oceania was fierce.

“Truth or dare?” asked Charlie.

“Truth,” said Malfoy. He sat down and avoided Oceania’s glare.

“Urm…” Charlie looked around for ideas. “Do… uh –”

“Have you come here before?” asked Harry. Malfoy looked caught off guard.

“Yes,” he said, and then bit his lip. “Why?”

Harry shrugged. “You already knew the milkshake was good.”

Malfoy looked even more surprised.

“Oh,” said Oceania, “I didn’t know that. What were you doing here?”

“I was with Tom,” said Malfoy, his face still strangely open, and then he looked down and reached to fiddle with the straw in his now-empty milkshake. There was an awkward moment where they all just watched.

“Right,” said Charlie and clapped his hands together. “Who’s next?”

“I can go,” offered Oceania.

They dared her to drink three of the shots in one go. She did, and then promptly lied down.

“Harry,” said Charlie, “Truth or dare?”


“Do a handstand holding a bowling ball between your legs,” said Malfoy, having apparently recovered from the Tom ordeal. “No. Wait. Go and hit on the lady behind the counter.”

“No,” said Harry immediately.

“Dare’s a dare.”



Harry turned to Charlie. Charlie just raised a shoulder. “S’rules,” was all he said. Apparently, three rounds of shots were enough to finish him.

Oceania clapped loudly and whooped as he got up and walked over to the counter. He didn’t know why he kept allowing these things to happen to him.

The girl behind the counter looked up as he approached. She raised a brow. He could already feel his palms clamming up.

“Urm,” he said, pausing awkwardly about a metre away. He rummaged in his mind for something to say, and was a little shocked to find that he was, indeed, drunk.

“Can I have a coke?” he asked.

The girl shrugged. She was pretty, he thought absently, in a normal kind of way. Her eyebrows were nicely-shaped, and her light brown hair was swept back into a short ponytail.

“That’s two-fifty.” She was already turning back to him with the coke. He realised his window of opportunity was probably closing. He wasn’t sure, but he thought that he could maybe already hear Malfoy giggling.

“Urm,” he said, and sort of shuffled closer. He tried to look up at her from under his lashes. She was just standing there, staring at him. Jesus. Why had no one ever taught him how to flirt?”

“You’re very pretty,” he blurted out, and then immediately wanted to die.

Malfoy was definitely giggling in the background now. It was easier to distract himself from the sheer horror of the situation if he focused on the centring, soothing image of kicking Malfoy in the throat.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Wow, meditation had taught him so much.

“Uh,” said the girl, “Thanks. I guess.”

There was a pregnant pause. Harry stared pointedly at a spot a few inches to her left.

“The coke is still two-fifty,” she added after another few moments, and scratch that, Harry didn’t just want to die. He wanted to be annihilated, or possibly, turned into a tree. Trees didn’t have to worry about flirting. Trees could just bathe in the sun.

Behind him, Malfoy had clearly fucking lost it. Harry threw a fiver on the counter and managed to get out a sound between “Sorry” and a sort of strangled whimper, before promptly getting the hell out of there and back to the relative safety of the table. 

“Oh my god,” said Malfoy very loudly, just as Harry was setting the coke down and discreetly trying to sink into the chair’s cushion, deeper and deeper, until maybe it would just absorb him? He looked up, and was not even remotely surprised to find tears running down Malfoy’s cheeks.

“That was so bad,” he was saying, pushing the words past the eruptions of laughter that sounded like they were trying to suffocate him. Harry wished they would. “That was – oh god – truly fucking awful. You’re a mess, Harry. You’re an absolute mess. I just can’t –”

He managed to catch his breath, wiping his hands over his face. And then, with his eyes still closed, chuckling, he whispered, “The coke is still two-fifty,” and lost it again.

Harry closed his eyes for a brief moment, and then took an extraordinarily long sip of coke. Even Oceania was trying not to laugh. She was trying to hide it, but he could see her, biting down on the edge of her glass and shaking.

Charlie was the only one not laughing. But when Harry turned to him, he blinked slowly, his gaze rather unfocused, and simply mumbled, “T’was performance art, that.”

Across him, Malfoy made a sound like he was getting stabbed. Harry stood up.

“Well,” he said, “This has been a great evening everyone. I’m going to apparate now, preferably into the middle of the ocean.”

“Oh god,” Malfoy managed, straightening up just enough to catch the edge of Harry’s sleeve and tug Harry back down. He was still winded, his face bright red from all the laughing. “Don’t, dear god. You really are the light in my life.”

“That’s sounds really great for you, you absolute sodding prick.”

Malfoy was looking at him, his eyes bright, and bit down on his lip. His shoulders began to shake again.

Harry rolled his eyes and flung himself back against the seat. Smiled a little, despite himself. God, Draco was right – what a fucking mess.

“Can we order more shots?” he heard himself ask. “I would really like to purge my memory of, like, every-fucking-thing.”

Two more shots later, and they had got Charlie to pretend to be a bowling ball and roll down the alley (which only worked halfway before he completely collapsed in the middle and the security guy decided to haul him back), Malfoy to attempt the bird of paradise pose on top of the table (which worked for about two seconds before he lost his balance and toppled over onto the adjacent sofa in a display of sheer hilarity according to drunk Harry’s brain, and Oceania to also hit on the girl behind the counter (which worked too well, and Harry was pretty sure they were maybe doing lesbian sex things earlier in the girls’ bathroom).

Harry looked over to where Malfoy was now slumped against the sofa next to him. He wasn’t quite sure when he’d gotten there. Across the room, Oceania was trying to bowl from atop Charlie’s shoulders, and the counter girl was passing the balls up to her.

Life was so strange. Harry leaned over to Malfoy.

“Mal…Malfoy,” he murmured, “Do you ever, like, get… used to this?”

Malfoy lifted his head enough to blink blearily at Harry. “Hmm?” he managed.

“This.” Harry gestured with a careless hand towards the room. “Don’t you…”

Malfoy struggled to sit up, and managed to get about halfway before flopping half over, his head landing on Harry’s shoulder. Malfoy, Harry realised, was also very, very drunk.

“What were you saying?” Malfoy mumbled into Harry’s shirt. He smelt like vodka, and the slow unfurling of petals.

Harry rubbed his nose. “Just… Nothing… makes sense, you know? Nothing… never makes sense.”

Malfoy was quiet. Harry frowned and tried again.

“There’s no rules. S’just no rules. I keep expecting… I keep thinking. There’s got to be rules, you know? And there aren’t. There’s just… things. That happen. An’ they don’t make sense.”

Malfoy was still quiet, so Harry lifted a hand and ran it through his hair. He’d expected it to be dry, but it felt quite soft. He twirled a loop around a finger and stared at the curious contrast between stark white and warm brown.

Malfoy finally tilted his head. Harry let his hand fall back to the sofa.

“Why do you want rules, anyway?” he asked, “What… What good are rules?”

Harry frowned again, but Malfoy couldn’t see it.

“Rules make things work,” he said, “They make things…make sense.”

Malfoy shook his head slowly, his forehead dragging over Harry’s shoulder. Then he said: “You just can’t think for yourself, Harry Potter.”

His words were muffled, but Harry heard them. He sat there for a beat. Then he pushed Malfoy off.

“Fuck you,” he said, but it didn’t come out angry, like he wanted it to. He met Malfoy’s gaze. Malfoy blinked at him like he was just seeing him.

“Fuck you,” he said again, quieter, and then turned to look at where Oceania and Charlie and Counter Girl were still fucking about. He looked at all the empty alleys. He looked at the lights.

“I’m sorry,” said Malfoy after a moment. He sounded slightly more sober. A hand pressed onto Harry’s forearm, the thumb beginning to draw circles over the fabric.

Harry looked back at him. Malfoy was so close, and so far away. He was the strangest thing of all, Harry thought.

“You think I’m weak,” he said, and it didn’t sound sharp, like an accusation. But it didn’t sound soft, either.

Malfoy licked at the corner of his lips. “No. No, I don’t think that.”

“I am, though.”

Harry had always thought this. He didn’t know, until now, just how much he had always thought this.

The words were sensitive, bruising easily in the open air in front of them. Harry tried to swallow, but it was so hard.

The truth was so hard.

“No,” said Malfoy. The thumb kept circling, and he was looking at him very steadily. “No,” he said, “I don’t think you are.”

“If this is about the war,” said Harry, “About… defeating Voldemort –”

Malfoy didn’t flinch, but something about him hardened as he watched Harry struggle for the words. When it was apparent no more were coming, he said, “Why is that a bad thing to have been brave about?”

He had said it very quietly. Harry found himself wishing he wasn’t drunk anymore. Conversations like this were supposed to be carefully navigated. But Harry already hated being careful, anyway.

“Because it wasn’t me,” he said. “It wasn’t my bravery.”

Malfoy looked like he was biting down on his cheek. He wasn’t quite looking at Harry, not anymore. The blue of the closest light made him look like he was underwater.

“Are you sure?” he asked, still quiet.

Harry finally managed to swallow. It caught in his throat, cresting like a wave. “It wasn’t mine,” he said, and now he wasn’t quite looking at Malfoy either. “It didn’t belong to me.”

Malfoy pressed his thin, thin lips together. Harry hadn’t quite realised how thin they were until now.

“I think,” said Malfoy, finally looking at Harry, “That I don’t quite know you well enough.”

Harry let his head tilt to the side. Being drunk wasn’t like being high, but the air was still thick, still viscous. Everything still loosened right up.

“You do,” he murmured, and Malfoy’s eyes were so grey, all the time. “You do know me.”

Malfoy swallowed. It looked different in his throat, long and white like a lily. His gaze fluttered down.

Harry had almost lost the entirety of his thought. Malfoy’s lashes swept his cheeks, darting back and forth like an unhappy butterfly, and then Harry figured it out.

“You do,” he whispered, and leaned in closer. “You just don’t like the truth.”

Malfoy’s eyes stopped fluttering and were yanked back to meet Harry’s. It had been a harsh thing to say; Harry could see it in the wideness of Malfoy’s deadly sober eyes, the clenched tendon in his jaw. It had been a harsh thing to say – but Malfoy had said a similar thing to him earlier.

And again. Harry was sick of carefulness.

“I think that you don’t quite know me either,” said Malfoy, the light overhead shifting from blue into red, and then he got up and ordered another milkshake.

The next morning, Harry found himself leaning against the sink in Oceania’s lemon yellow kitchen and precariously nursing water from a cereal bowl. The cereal bowl had splotches of black and white patterning on the outside, and inside at the very bottom, it merely said ‘Moo’.

Harry squinted at it and then let his eyes fall closed. The beating in his head echoed the monks with their drums down in the village below. Dong. Dong. Dong.

He forced his eyes back open and tried to take another sip from the cow bowl. His stomach gurgled anxiously.

Malfoy stepped back into the kitchen. He looked significantly less pretty than usual, but Harry supposed four consecutive shots of vodka could that to a person. Harry certainly felt less pretty.

Malfoy ran a hand through his already ruffled up hair and sighed as he pulled himself towards the counter opposite Harry. He slowly dragged his hands down over his face.

“Morning,” Harry offered.

Malfoy grumbled something in response, but it was eaten up by his fingers.

“Are the others up?”

Malfoy took his fingers away from his face. “In a manner of speaking,” he muttered, leaning back properly. “I mean. Oceania’s throwing up. Again. It’s mostly water though.”


“And Charlie’s praying, I think. Maybe. Anyway, he’s kneeling on a pillow in the bathroom next to her, with a ceramic turtle balanced on his head, so.”


“Yeah. I’ll get him up if he’s still there in half an hour, but I thought I’d leave him for a bit. Just in case it is prayer.”

“That’s really respectful of you,” said Harry, and Malfoy finally looked up, narrowing his eyes. The eyeliner around them had smeared down his cheeks, and there was a pillow indent pressed against his left cheek. His gaze dropped to the cereal bowl.

“Why,” he said.

“I threw up into the last clean glass,” Harry explained. “And my wand is back at the hotel.”

Malfoy bit his lip. Then he peered forward.

“Does that,” he said, and leaned his head to the side. “Does that say –?”

“Moo?” Harry turned the bowl so Malfoy could see. “Why yes. Yes it does. Do you want some?”

“That bowl kind of makes me uncomfortable,” said Malfoy, wrinkling his nose. “As a vegetarian, I don’t think I should.”

“You’re a vegetarian?”

Malfoy nodded, crossing the room to try and find a less zoomorphic bowl.  “Ah,” said Harry, moving so he could reach the tap. “That explains why you’re so skinny.”

Malfoy elbowed him sharply in the ribs and he doubled over, snickering. “God,” he gasped, “Your body’s a weapon.”

At this, Malfoy abruptly upturned the vegetarian friendly bowl of water all over Harry’s head. Harry jumped and pushed at Malfoy’s hip, but the other man only stumbled back a few steps, grinning all the while at Harry’s drenched form.

“That’ll teach you,” he said triumphantly around the grin, the bowl still clutched in his hands. “Vegetarians bite back.”

“I think that might just be Malfoys,” said Harry, straightening up. Then he bent over and shook his water-logged hair in Malfoy’s direction. Malfoy, honest to God, squealed.

Once they’d both calmed down, they settled back against the same side of the counter again, panting and dripping.

“I should probably go and check on the rest of the circus,” said Malfoy, a little out of breath. Harry rolled his head back on his shoulders and made a noise of agreement.

Malfoy sighed. Then after a moment he pushed himself off the counter and began to head back into the lounge. Harry grabbed his sleeve.

“Hey,” he said, “Wait.”

Malfoy raised a brow. His hand twitched from where it hung inside his sleeve, brushing against Harry’s knuckles like a trapped butterfly.

“I just,” said Harry, “I wanted to apologise. For… some of the things I said last night. I shouldn’t have said them.”

The eyebrow came back down and indented itself unnervingly above Malfoy’s long nose. There was a pause where Malfoy was clearly unsure of what to say.

Harry let go of the sleeve. Malfoy glanced down and brought his now-freed hand up to his chest, massaging the elbow with his fingers.

“Then I should apologise too,” he said, finally looking back up at Harry. “I also shouldn’t have said what I did.”

Harry leaned back. His face was heating up. He hadn’t planned on the conversation continuing.

“No,” he said, and swallowed. “What you said was true.”

“I don’t think…” said Malfoy, and broke off. He glanced around the room, frowning earnestly like there were answers hidden behind the cabinets and inside the fridge, and then glanced back to Harry. Harry was sure there weren’t any answers hidden inside of him.

The sound of Oceania groaning torturously broke through. Malfoy stepped back, and his face cleared. “Ah,” he said, looking in the direction of the bathroom. “There she is.” Then he looked in Harry’s general direction and stepped back again. He frowned, a little helplessly.

“Look,” said Harry. He licked his lips. “We can talk about this later.”

“Urm,” said Malfoy, “Okay.”



Harry nodded. Malfoy nodded too, a quick jerky tuck of his chin.

“Should we…?”

“Yes,” said Malfoy, and straightened up. “Yes. Alright. Alright. Yep. Osh-saving time. Yes.”

Later, it turned out that Malfoy wanted to do yoga. They were on the plaza again, Harry watching as Malfoy pushed himself up into bridge posture, his back arching to form an effortless curve. He had attached a silver bracelet around his ankle, and the light danced off it, glinting this way and that.

Harry frowned from where he was situated flat on his stomach on a mat next Malfoy. “I don’t know how you can do that right now.”

“Yeah, I think I’m about to throw up in my mouth actually,” said Malfoy, and abruptly collapsed. He groaned and rolled over. “Where’s the soup? Tell me you brought the soup.”

Harry lifted the thermos flask filled with the soup Charlie had made earlier and handed it to Malfoy. They laid in silence for a moment as Malfoy tried to figure out how to drink it upside down.

“Do you do this a lot?” asked Harry, after he’d finally managed to take a sip.

“What?” asked Malfoy. “Get Charlie to make me soup?”

“Get fucked up,” said Harry. He felt himself give a wry smile.

Malfoy sighed and rubbed his eyes.

“Yes. No. More than I should.”

Harry rested his cheek on his arm and looked over at Malfoy. There was spot of soup on his eyebrow.

“I thought you didn’t like rules,” he said, after a moment, quietly.

Malfoy went silent. He licked at the soup in the corners of his mouth, and then at the edge of the metal opening of the thermos, which was a bit gross. Then sighed and pushed himself up.

“Alright. You’re right, let’s talk about this.”

“Urm.” Harry blinked, craning his neck to squint up. “Why are you sitting up?”

“Because. This is a sitting up kind of conversation. And I need to drink my soup. So, get up.”

“Sitting up and soup drinking?” Harry pushed himself up cross-legged next to Malfoy. “I’m not sure if I’m ready for this.”

Malfoy rolled his eyes and took an unnecessarily long sip of his soup. Harry waited.

“Okay,” he said, once he was all souped-up. “Rules. Regrets. Vodka-induced conversations. Let’s get processing.”

“It’s my first time,” said Harry, “Be gentle with me.”

Malfoy’s eyes went big over the edge of the flask. “Harry. We don’t need innuendos on top of this. Frankly, my heart can’t take it.”

“Aww, babe.”

“Harry Potter.”

It was kind of nice to be the one scandalising Draco Malfoy for a change. He said as much.

“Well I’m glad you’re having fun,” grumbled Malfoy. He was clinging to the thermos like a life-band. “We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

Harry stopped teasing.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I do want to. I’m just –”

Then he stopped, very abruptly.

“I know,” said Malfoy, and his voice was gentle, “I know.”

The sky was blue today, as blue as jewels. It had settled in, vibrant and buoyant, spread across the mountain tops. The kind of blue that was made for flying. Harry thought that, maybe, he could stand this kind of blue.

“I’m sorry,” he said, still looking ahead. “I don’t think that you don’t like the truth.”

Malfoy shuffled his legs in closer to himself, wrapping one hand around a bony ankle. “Okay,” he said.

“I think you’re honest. More honest than most people. More honest than me.”

“Harry,” Malfoy said to the ankle. It was more breath than sound. He looked – not quite pained, but definitely not calm. Then he cleared his voice and looked up.

“Why do you say that?”

Harry shrugged. “Because… you’re loud.”

Malfoy laughed abruptly, a shocked sound. “Loud?”

Harry was smiling. “Not loud loud. And not in a bad way. Just…”

He searched for the word, his eyes roaming the landscape, Malfoy’s expression, the yoga mats they were sitting on. They settled on his leggings.

“Colourful,” he decided. “You’re colourful.”

Malfoy uncurled his legs and leaned back. He raised a brow, indulgently. “And that makes me honest how?”

Harry also leaned back, blinking as the sun got tangled up in his eyelashes.

“It’s like… It’s like...if you go to a crowd, right? And most people you see are in, like, jeans and a t-shirt. And they’re all just a mass of neutral colours. And maybe most of those people are wearing jeans and t-shirts ‘cause they actually just really like wearing them. But also, maybe most of them are also just a bit too scared to wear anything else. Like, fuck, a tutu. Because they need to blend in with the crowd. And you know, that’s fine but like… It’s also not real, you know? It’s a veneer.”

Harry turned to look at Malfoy, finally breaking off. But Malfoy was just looking at him, and his eyes had deepened in the way that they did sometimes, when Harry got talking.

“Well,” said Malfoy, very carefully. He was still looking at him. “I’m glad you like the way I dress.”

Harry didn’t look away. He thought about rolling his eyes. Instead, he said what he’d been thinking for a while.

“Ever since I met you here,” he told him, “I kind of stopped believing in normality.”

Malfoy blinked. He swallowed.

Harry looked back to the view of the mountains. For a few wide moments, the silence was as encompassing as the sky.

Then Malfoy cleared his throat.

“Harry, I don’t think that you can’t think for yourself.”

Harry closed his eyes and let himself smile. “Okay.”

“No, but.” Malfoy sounded frustrated. “I don’t think you’re stupid. I’ve never thought that.”

Harry opened his eyes again and looked over. Malfoy looked surprisingly earnest, and his legs were crossed again. One finger was fiddling with the ankle bracelet.

“Never?” was all he managed.

Malfoy curled his hand into a fist and rubbed it furiously against his forehead. When he brought it away, it left behind a red mark, slanted across his face.

“I don’t understand you sometimes,” he said. “But it’s not because you’re stupid.”

“Then why?”

“Because you’re different,” said Malfoy. “You’re different, that’s why.”

Harry jerked back. “I’m different?” he exclaimed. “Have you met yourself?”

“Yes, and I’m bloody fucking used to myself,” Malfoy cried. “Not to – all – all of this!”

He gestured up and down Harry’s body. Harry blinked, and then began to laugh.

“Malfoy,” he said, “Draco.”

Malfoy blinked as well, looking quite shocked, and then began to laugh too. He dropped his head to his hand and groaned into it.

“God,” he said, “God, this is awful.”

“You’re the one who wanted to process,” said Harry, still chuckling.

“I did not,” Malfoy shot back, “Don’t push this onto me, you filthy initiator.”

Harry grinned and tilted his head back. “I just wanted to apologise to you.”

Malfoy pushed himself up from his palm. His eyes were embers.

“Yes,” he said softly. “It was nice that you did.”

Harry felt himself flush and look away. The sound of someone else’s noisy dragon echoed from the village below. White ice lined the mountainous silhouette.

“Can I tell you about something?” he said after a moment. The words scraped the inside of his mouth as they left him.

“Sure,” said Draco.

Harry closed his eyes. The air was cold as he breathed it in.

“I got a letter,” he said.

Harry had gotten a letter.

How long had it been now? A few weeks? A month? It was still sitting there, in the middle of his floor, amidst all the clutter. Every morning, Harry had to make sure he rolled over on the right side in order to avoid stepping on it.

Harry had gotten a letter.

He had expected to get the letter. He hadn’t thought there would be a problem with the letter. But now the letter was here, and Harry was leaving it on a hotel floor and stepping around it every morning. Harry was avoiding his room more than usual because of it. Harry was running, at every opportunity, around the perimeter of Gay Dragon Village, and he was always running away from it.

Malfoy had said Harry was brave, but Harry was always running away from things. Malfoy had said Harry was brave, but Harry was afraid of a letter, and where did that leave him?

These were all things that Harry thought as they walked to the Green Hotel, and as they walked, he remembered why he didn’t often let himself think.

He was running away, but what else was he supposed to do?

There were past the door, and then past the empty reception desk, and then there were spiralling up the stairs, until they were back in the room. Harry let Malfoy in first, and then spent a long time getting the door to close properly, fiddling with all the strange locks. He could feel Malfoy looking around, his gaze sweeping the dingy sleeping quarters for a letter that was worth the way that Harry had said it. I got a letter.

He didn’t know why he had done this. He could have kept quiet about it, and not gone around telling people about letters and feelings and real things, strange things, blue things – but keeping quiet required so much concentration. And Harry was so often tired.

Everything was a matter of time.

“It’s on the floor,” he said to one of the strange locks.

He felt Malfoy look to the floor. Felt his eyes rummage through the dirty laundry and dusty carpet and ambiguous litter, until he found it. Harry felt the exact moment he found it. He felt it in his bones.

Malfoy didn’t say anything. Harry was waiting for him to say something. Instead, he took off his waterproof and set it down on the bed.

Malfoy turned back to look at him. The light from the window made it hard to see his eyes; the entire right side of his form doused in sunshine, and Harry still had so much trouble when it came to reading him anyway.

Back in Scotland, it hadn’t been like that. In Scotland, Harry always knew what other people wanted.

What did Draco Malfoy want?

Malfoy said,” Shall I pick it up for you?” His voice was softer than Harry had expected, and it was like missing a step in the dark.

Harry let go of the door handle and turned to face the room. His back was pressed up against the wood.

“Okay,” he said. His voice was rough, as if he hadn’t spoken for a long time.

Malfoy bent over and picked it up. The sunlight dripped down his calve muscle. Then he straightened back up, and the letter was in between his white fingers.

“Alright,” said Malfoy. “Shall we sit down?”

Harry blinked. He found that he didn’t want to move away from the wooden door or its many strange locks. But Malfoy was sitting down on his bed and looking at Harry gently and if he stayed by this door, he’d never get anywhere.

Harry took a few steps forward. He was an untethered object in space, floating and boundless. Fate-less. Then he sat down on the bed, and he was almost safe again.

Malfoy waited until he was settled. Then he crossed his legs and turned a little to him and said, “Now, what would you like?”

Harry was having trouble looking at Malfoy’s face. Maybe it was because the letter was just sitting there, in his lap, one of the corners resting in the cradle of his thumb, the other digging into one of huge blossoming flowers across his thigh.

Harry Potter

The Himalayas

“Don’t you want to know who it’s from?” Harry said quietly.

“You can tell me, if you like.”

“It’s from Ron and Hermione.”

Malfoy just kept looking at him evenly.

“Doesn’t that surprise you?”

“Are you trying to surprise me?”

“I’m not trying to do anything.”

Malfoy lifted his chin, just a little. The light settled into the lift of his mouth and the dip underneath.

“It’s normal to have the strongest emotions about the people we love the most. I’m not that surprised.”

Harry frowned. “You don’t even know anything yet.”

Malfoy didn’t say anything.

Harry frowned deeper. “You – you don’t even know half of it.” His voice was getting louder. Malfoy was still just sitting there.

“Then tell me,” he said, quite simply.

Harry blinked at him, blinked at him again, and then rubbed his hands furiously over his face. Tell him? Harry couldn’t even tell himself.

“It’s not normal,” said Harry, through the obstruction of his palm, and then he took his hands down. “God. God.”

The light was all over the sheet; spilled milk running over the creases. Harry rubbed desperately at the fabric, biting at his knuckles. God. God. This room was too small.

“Harry,” said Malfoy, and his voice was quite firm. A hand had appeared on Harry’s ankle, holding him just under the hem of his jean leg. “Harry. It is normal. Okay? It’s the most normal thing.”

Harry startled, staring at Malfoy. His face had gotten closer, and it was a wide and open landscape. The hand overlapped the very top of his cotton sock.

“It’s not normal,” said Harry, and he felt like a fucking child. “They’re my friends.”

Friends isn’t a vow of unwavering union,” said Malfoy.

“Maybe not to you,” snapped Harry.

Malfoy took his hand away. Harry’s ankle felt bare. His expression didn’t change, but Harry still immediately regretted it.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered. Why did he have so little control?

“I know that Gryffindors think they have a monopoly on love,” said Malfoy precisely, “But the rest of us do occasionally experience a faint echo of it, if we’re lucky.”

“I didn’t say you weren’t capable of love,” said Harry. He was leaning back from Malfoy’s sharp gaze.

A muscle in Malfoy’s jaw jumped. He kept looking at Harry, until he looked away.

“I know you love your friends,” he said to the carpet, “I also know that you can’t stand them.”

Harry swallowed. The light in the room swelled, pushing at the wallpaper, and then dimmed. He felt abruptly empty.

“That’s not fair,” he said.

“No.” Malfoy turned back to him with hard eyes. “What’s not fair is you punishing yourself for being human.”

Harry sucked in a breath. He thought, strangely, of the few swimming lessons he’d managed to get thrown into with Dudley, of the chlorine blue and the viscous water of the deep end churning under his peddling feet.

“You are human, you know,” said Malfoy, a little more softly, “You’re allowed to be human.”

I’m trying, thought Harry. What came out was, “Who gets to decide that?”

“You do,” said Malfoy. There was a pause, and then he chewed his lip. “I did.”

Before Harry had come to Gay Dragon Village he had occasionally wondered what had happened to Draco Malfoy. Maybe he hadn’t vanished, but to Harry he might as well have. There had been so much happening in the forefront of his life for so long that the curiosity was little more than a flicker in his peripheral vision. There wasn’t room for it to grow.

It wasn’t even Draco Malfoy as an actual person, but rather the concept of him. All that he encompassed. All the other stories of suffering that Harry hadn’t been privy to. During that time of his life, Harry had often felt desperate to hear a version of post-war that wasn’t familiar. The story of Draco Malfoy – and all the others – would have been a sort of escape he hadn’t been able to access.

Perhaps that was what the Draco Malfoy at Hogwarts had been to him too, although he’d been too caught up at the time to realise. The understandable desire to escape evolving into a borderline ridiculous obsession.

It was only after living in Gay Dragon Village for a while that Harry had considered what had actually happened to Draco Malfoy, the person. His father would have just gone to Azkaban, his mother mute with despair, or perhaps selfish with relief. Perhaps she moved to France with a handful of house elves, or locked herself in the master bedroom and only consumed cold soups, or invited over other surviving Death Eaters and thrown tea parties above the dungeons still sticky with muggle blood and fantasised about another war.

Or perhaps she’d been a perfectly good mother. Perhaps she had held Draco when he cried and made tea for him herself and watched over him with the anxious gaze of maternity. Harry thought about the warmth of her breath on his ear as he’d lied there, still half-dead, on the cold forest floor, and had tried to remember the last time he’d seen Draco alive for her.

Maybe she had been a perfectly good mother. Maybe Draco hadn’t been able to stand it.

Unbidden, the thought of Draco Malfoy’s pale back, glistening under the moonlight, the cold loch lapping at his waist, came together in Harry’s mind. He must have been unhappy, thought Harry. He must have been deeply, truly, unhappy.

He didn’t look unhappy now. He didn’t look like anything Harry could have imagined.

Harry dragged his eyes over the basket of Malfoy’s pretty legs, over his slim build and pale skin, over the ridges of his shoulders and up onto the complexity of expression gathered in his expression, more intelligent than anything Harry could have created. He drank in the tangibility of him – the present physicality of him, sitting across Harry in this strange village, in this strange world. Malfoy was as strange as a dream – strange enough to be real life.

“You have to forgive yourself you know.” Malfoy lifted his head from where he’d been fiddling with his fingers, pressing the knuckles together. “You have to – you have to try.”

Harry didn’t say anything.

Malfoy rubbed at his eyes with the side of his hand, and then pulled up a leg and rested his elbow on his knee, pressing his chin on top of his wrist. “I know that, it’s, like, shitty hearing it but – but you have to try. And it’s an everyday thing, alright? Especially at first. Especially at first.”

Harry bit his bottom lip. Then he nodded.


Malfoy’s eyes found him, gibbous and bright. “You have to try,” he told him again, “You just have to decide. Decide to try.”

If it had been anyone else, Harry would have snapped back by now. But the way Malfoy looked as he spoke – desperate, fervent, almost religious – Harry understood he was being given something.

“I’m not telling you you have to open the letter. Forget the letter. Just… remember why you came here. Okay?”

Harry nodded. He was holding Malfoy’s eyes. Malfoy frowned.

Before Malfoy had come in here, the bed had always seemed very big to Harry. Now, it seemed quite small. He breathed in the white light, and it was like it filled his skull.

“I should go,” said Malfoy. He was looking at Harry attentively, and Harry was suddenly thinking about what he must look like.

“You don’t have to,” he said, but Malfoy was already standing up, his long legs unfolding and taking him away.

“Draco?” he called out, just before Malfoy got to the door. Malfoy paused, then looked over his shoulder.


“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Malfoy blinked, and then softened fractionally.

“Yes,” he said, “I suppose you will.”

And then the door was swinging open and closed, and Harry was sitting alone.


Remember why you came here.

The next day, Harry climbed up the mountain himself. The walk was hard in the heat, sweat dripping down his forehead and gathering under his arms, but the view was beautiful.

He took a moment to stop and just watch it all. Everything was so spread open, rich and lush in its muchness. The sight of the mountains, simultaneously huge and small beneath him, did strange things to Harry’s chest. This far up, they stopped looking like individual mountains and instead started looking like one continuous set of folds in the earth’s crust.

Harry allowed himself a moment to spread his arm span and close his eyes. He was aware of all the open space around him. Why had he come here? For the feeling of the Eastern wind skimming over his eyelids.

He made it to the top of the plaza. Oceania was already there, her back arching up into a perfect circle of pale limbs and grey sports bra and leggings. There was sweat beading down her forehead.

“Oh,” she said, noticing Harry and uncurling, “Hey. You’re up early.”

Harry shrugged ruefully. “Couldn’t sleep. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“Oh, hush.” She waved a hand in his direction. “Come over here and do some yoga with me.”

“I’m not any good.”

“Stop worrying about that. Just get over here.”

Harry went over and picked out a mat from the storage room. He came back out and rolled it out parallel to Oceania’s.

“You do this every day?” he asked, shuffling forward onto his knees. Oceania stretched her arms, scratching her ear against her shoulder.

“Mm,” she managed around a yawn. “Have to. I feel like I’m not awake without it.”

Harry paused in his shuffling and regarded her. She blinked back and rubbed her nose with the side of her hand.

“Is that strange?” she asked, after a moment.

“No,” said Harry, startled. Yoga was probably the least strange thing about Oceania.

“People have always told me that I’m strange. I know I am, but sometimes I forget.”

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” Harry said quickly. “There’s nothing wrong with being strange.”

Oceania smiled, then patted his leg the way most people patted the heads of particularly cute toddlers. “I know,” she said, “But I’m glad you do too, Harry.”

Harry felt more toddler than cute.

“Do you think I’m strange?” he asked.

Oceania tilted her head to the side. Her cheek dimpled.

“I think you try very hard not to be,” she said pleasantly.

Harry watched as she pulled down half of her hair and somehow managed to tuck it back into the huge knot on top of her head. For the first time, he considered how he must have appeared to Gay Dragon Village, how foreign he was with his plain clothes and western tradition and English accent. 

He knew he was mixed – his body shared evenly between India and England – but his heart was Scottish. He thought sometimes that maybe everybody here could see it.

“Shall we begin with a flow?” Oceania got to her feet and rolled her shoulders back. “I think that would be good.”

Harry nodded and got up.

His mind was in a thousand different places. It was so fractured that it almost wasn’t here at all. He raised his hands with Oceania, and sank down into forward fold.

His mind wasn’t here, so he was left with his body. He felt it twist and turn under her command, under his, and a landscape began to come together in his imagination. He felt the muscles in his back tense and give, the ache in his thighs and glutes, the small knot of pain particularly in between his shoulder blades. He had never been the type to really pay attention to his body before, so it was all new. Oceania got them to press back into downward dog, and he thought, madly, that he’d never really seen his knees before.

They went into plank and chaturanged down. Up into upward dog – his shoulders back, opening his heart to the sun – and then back, downward dog and then one leg up, high, high as it would reach, before bending it and bringing it forward between his hands. They pushed back and forth and there – there was the position that had hurt so much the first time Harry had done yoga. He still couldn’t fully straighten his leg yet, but it didn’t hurt like it used to; whether that was a product of already experiencing it once or a sign of progress he didn’t know. Regardless, it didn’t hurt like it used to. Harry breathed in and out. It hurt, but it seemed to be a good hurt. Harry hadn’t known such a thing existed.

“Relax into it,” murmured Oceania, having switched into her yoga teacher voice despite Harry being the only one there. “Don’t use your body to get into the pose, but instead use the pose to get into the body.”

Get into the body. It didn’t make sense, but it seemed to interact with something instinctual inside of Harry. He almost didn’t want it to.

But he had promised Malfoy to try.

Into the body.

Harry closed his eyes and inhaled. He brought forth the image of the physical landscape again, a map made up of muscles that flexed and ached in diverse ways, of skin and limb and bone, all slotting together to allow him to move like this. Like this: lifting into high lunge, sinking his hips to the ground, dripping salt residue down his neck and shaking in his ankles. Like this; forward into warrior three and then up, his leg groaning the whole time. He brought his knee into his chest, balanced on one leg, and for the first time, held his balance.

His gaze focused in on a pillar in front of him. The key, he realised, was to not think at all.

It was not so unlike meditating after all. No wonder it had come from Buddhism. It was strange, Harry thought, this religion that was so intent on kindness, on uncovering soft and secret places inside of the individual. He was aware of his own ignorance, but all the same, he had never encountered a religion that was so gentle.

He thought of flowers. Soft, furtive petals, veiny and pale as they allowed themselves to unwrap like presents. It was a natural process, profound without intention.

Harry had never considered himself religious. But even he wasn’t stupid enough that he couldn’t see the appeal.

Everyone wanted to be known. Everyone wanted to be forgiven.

Harry had always thought that religion was an easy way out. But perhaps, if he was clever, he could use it to find a way in.

They came back into warrior three, high lunge, and then warrior two. Down into wide-legged forward fold. Harry felt the world tip accordingly, and let it.

When they were done, Harry laid back on the mat and tilted his face to the sun, panting. The sensation of the sweat on his skin, his clothes clinging to him, was unexpectedly pleasant. He closed his eyes.

Oceania sat down next to him. When he opened his eyes, she was smiling, radiant. When Oceania smiled it was a natural thing too, a simple expression of complete happiness. Simple looked good on Oceania. When Oceania was happy, it was like she was giving you something, instead of taking.

Harry smiled back. Grateful.

She said, “So, it’s finally starting.”

“What is?”

She shrugged, a playful movement. “You’re opening. Don’t you think?”

Harry blinked. He thought about it, and then grinned.

“Yeah,” he said. “I think I am.”

Why had he come here?

 For a beginning.


Chapter Text

Ever since he had realised his – not crush, absolutely not – but strange, well affinity

Ever since he had his little situation about Draco’s leggings, Harry had started to notice other things.

Namely, men.

Everywhere. Working men, washing down the dragon pens. Neat-looking men, tidying the Green Hotel. Almost-certainly-not-straight men, wearing very tight trousers. Even the monks.

It was borderline hallucinogenic.

“Oceania,” he said, while they were sitting in the cafeteria. “Has he always worked there?”

“Hmm.” Oceania looked up from her notebook, where it looked like she was drawing up plans for either more tea cosies, or possibly a castle. She followed his gaze to where he was staring at one of the cafeteria chefs, who was blond, square-jawed, and inexplicably dressed in a skin-tight shirt that had rips around his biceps. “Oh, sure. That’s Johnny. He’s tender.”

Harry directed his gaze to where another guy with slick black hair and deep Nepalese skin was toplessly operating a jackhammer into a patch of ground for no discernible reason.

“Tender,” he heard himself say. “Okay.”

“Both as a lover and platonic companion,” Oceania added helpfully. She was now eyeing him. “Would you like me to introduce you?”

He felt his shoulders jump. “No, thanks,” he said, quite quickly. “It’s just – I feel likes there’s been an, uh, population increase. Lately.”

Oceania frowned and looked about. “Has there?”

Harry forced his teeth to release his tongue. “Men. A men increase.”

Oceania frowned and looked about with more vigour. After a few long moments, her face cleared. “Oh,” she said, sounding quite surprised. “I suppose you’re right. You don’t really notice them if you aren’t looking for them, do you?”

“Notice what?” Hayden had appeared with a tall glass of water with what appeared to be pieces of frozen yam floating in it. Harry tried not to let his shoulders jump again.

“The men,” said Oceania. “All of them.”

Hayden let their eyes run languidly over the testosterone drenched landscaped before them. A soft smirk curled around their lips.

“Mm,” they hummed. “What of them?”

Did you know?” Oceania had her conspiracy voice on. “Did you know about this?”

“Did you not?” They finally sat down and crossed one elegant leg over the other. “A secret is hardly secret if it’s sauntering around the place and flexing its muscles.”

“Speaking of secrets,” Oceania murmured, although her spine seemed rigid. “Why weren’t you at Charlie night?”

“Ah.” Hayden leaned back. Their eyes were dark on Oceania’s. “That secret doesn’t have much patience for the gym.”

Oceania stared at them blankly, which was so unlike her that it was highly disconcerting. Harry’s darted looks between the two of them.

“It’s the praying type,” Hayden said eventually. They didn’t look pleased at the admission, and even though it didn’t make any sense to Harry, it seemed to mean quite a lot to Oceania.

“You know,” he said, in an attempt to rescue them from the general tenseness, “the way you guys talk sometimes makes me feel like I’m lucid dreaming.”

“A pretty tame dream,” Hayden answered, before sidling him a look. “Unless, of course, you’re one for just looking.”

Harry felt his face heat alarmingly. Oceania slapped Hayden about the wrist a bit.

Ironically, Harry did have tame dreams that night. When he woke up, he woke up feeling uncomfortable.

Outside, the sun was colourless. It dripped in through the gap in the curtains, a thin line of white cutting through the grey. Harry stared at it for a few minutes, and then got out of bed.

It always took a few minutes for the shower water to heat up, but by now Harry was used to it. He stood under the onslaught of the cold sleeting down his back and stared out at the very small window in the corner of the bathroom. The glass had fogged up in front of it, unfocusing the lines and shapes around him. When he stepped back under the water and let it submerge his face, it got even simpler, everything melting except the small patch of light directly ahead.

He got dressed. He brushed his teeth. He shaved. He went downstairs.

Outside, the landscape was only marginally more colourful. He rubbed his nose.

It was one of those days.

The walk down to the cafeteria took so long. He heard every crunch of his boots against the gravel.

When he finally got to the cafeteria, all the tables and chairs were gone. He blinked, the space in front of the few dusty shops stayed empty. He blinked again, and then went and got some bao zi from the kitchen.

When he came back out, he stood there with the plate and contemplated his options. Then he spotted Draco in the distance.

He went over. Draco was leaning against the beginning slope of the nearest mountain, sprawled amongst the grass with two books and a half-eaten plate of bao zi spread around him. He wasn’t reading the books. He was staring up at the sky, his head resting in his hands behind him.

“Draco,” said Harry.

Draco closed his eyes and smiled. Then he turned his head in the direction of Harry’s voice.

“Harry Potter,” he said.

Harry bit his lip. He wished that he hadn’t woken up uncomfortable this morning.

“Can I sit here?” he managed.

Draco just blinked lazily and kept smiling. “This isn’t high school,” he drawled, but scooted up anyway, raising himself up onto his elbows.

“Thanks,” said Harry. He pinched a bao zi between his fingers.

“They’ve taken the cafeteria off for a mass cleansing. It’s fireproof, but Gorrick the forth couldn’t keep his shit together last night, and well, you can’t prepare for everything.”

Harry raised his brows as he chewed a bite of bao zi. It didn’t taste like anything today, but Harry hadn’t expected it to.

“Dragon vomit,” Draco explained. “Everywhere.” He made an explosive gesture with his fingers, and then dropped back down onto the grass. “All over Charlie’s jeans, too.” He smiled.

“God,” said Harry. “Gross.”

Draco just smiled wider. “Maybe he’ll have to wear leather jeans now too.  Perhaps with those lovely knee pads you discovered a while ago.”

Harry responded by throwing one of the books at Draco’s head. Draco swore through his laughter, and then picked himself up, his palms pressing into the ground. His eyes were wide and excited.

“That’s a classic, you know,” he admonished, but missed a believable disapproving tone by about a thousand marks.

“Is it?”

“Wuthering Heights.” Draco reached for the book and passed it to Harry like a child showing off his new drawing. “You might not have heard of it though.”

“Malfoy.” Harry rolled his eyes. “I have heard of Wuthering Heights. Just like I’ve heard of Jane Eyre.”

“Oh,” said Draco, not looking even slightly put out. “I think the authors might’ve been sisters, you know.”

“There were three Bronte sisters,” said Harry, trying to hide his grin by turning his attention to the novel in his lap, opening it half-heartedly. “Charlotte, Emily, and Anne.”

Malfoy’s brows went up, in surprise instead of scepticism for once. He looked just like he had when Harry had first tried to discuss the thematic context of Jane Eyre with him.

“Anne?” He blinked, batting his eyes in a way that reminded Harry of fucking bambi or some shit. “What did she write?”

Harry pressed the grainy paper of the first page between his fingers. “Agnes Grey. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. A set of poems with her sisters, but it’s published under their male pseudonyms.”

Now he really had Malfoy’s attention. Excitement had evolved into something heavier, quieter. Malfoy blinked at him again, and then let the corner of his lips tilt up. He was pleased. Harry could deduce that much.

“Why,” he said, and his voice was low. “Harry, you are well read.”

Harry felt a tugging in his face as he looked down at the book, and realised he was smiling.

“I don’t know why you keep thinking I’m not,” he said.

“Well, it’s not like you can blame me. Have you met yourself? You don’t really give the impression of being a laborious academic.”

The tugging grew stronger. Harry didn’t really understand what he was finding funny about the whole thing.

“What do I give the impression of?”

Draco leaned back and sighed in mock exasperation. When Harry looked over at him, his face looked how Harry’s felt.

“You,” he said softly, and then paused. He licked his mouth, and then his gaze dropped down a fraction. Maybe over Harry’s shoulder. When it flickered back up, Harry became aware of the two spots of rubicund balanced atop his cheekbones.

Malfoy cleared his throat.

“You don’t give the impression of wanting to give anything at all,” he said quietly, and then tugged a knee up to wrap his arm around. “You just let people think what they do.”

What do you think? was poised on top of Harry’s tongue, but he felt a tugging of something stretched tight just south of his mouth, and it kept him in line.

“I think,” he said, and then swallowed and glanced at the empty space of the cafeteria. The thought came together and he screwed up his nose. “I think that I might just not be very self-aware.”

Malfoy laughed, and it filled the empty space, just for a moment. “Well,” he said, once he was done. “That’s one way of putting it.”

Harry turned back to him, smiling. “It’s the only way of putting it,” he said, ruefully.

Malfoy laughed again. His head dropped onto his curled forearm and the laughter fell down into the valley of his thigh.

“It’s not that funny.”

“It is,” Malfoy said, once he could lift his head back up. “It really is. I mean, you’re right – it’s  just that – you, of all people. You, possibly the most influential person, maybe ever – you, blissfully unaware of it all. God. It’s just…so –”

His head dropped back down, and the sharp sound of glee was muffled by his sleeve. When he came back up, he reached out a hand and flicked at Harry’s knee.

“You’re a delight, Harry Potter,” he told him, his skin flushed. “An absolute delight.”

Something pink squirmed in Harry’s stomach. His breath caught in his throat, and he couldn’t get it to keep going down.

Malfoy met his eyes. He swallowed and looked away. There was a silence as he scratched at the short hair at the back of his head.

“Well,” he said after a moment. There was something slightly more strapped down about his composure now, but it was the kind of strapped down that reminded Harry of those crazy lorry drives on the motorway that seemed to think it was acceptable to duck-tape their over spilling goods down. “Shall we go and hope that Jane is in a better mood than Gorrick? She’ll be awake by now.”

“No,” said Harry sharply, and Malfoy turned to look at him. His eyes darted down to the grass.

“Uh,” he said. “Okay. I mean, I have plenty of books to read so –”

“It’s not –” said Harry, and then he paused. “Another day? Can we do training another day? Today isn’t –”

He broke off.

“Okay.” Malfoy straightened, and then he exhaled. “I’ll just –”

He scrambled around, trying to get up, and then Harry realised what the problem was.

“Hey,” he said. “You can stay. It’s not you.”

Malfoy looked at him. He stopped scrambling.

“Okay,” he said, again, and then carefully lied back down. Harry looked at the pale strip of hipbone that had somehow gotten exposed.

“Unless you have things to do.” Again, Harry wished he hadn’t woken up uncomfortable this morning. He had forgotten how hard it was to converse successfully when he was like this. It was easy to get things wrong.

“I don’t have anything to do,” said Malfoy, and when Harry moved his gaze to his face, it was drawn down, like he was looking at the hipbone too.

“Okay,” said Harry, and lay down next to him. He looked up at the sky.

It was big, and bright, and blue. He thought he maybe understood now why Malfoy had been so giddy when he had first come over. With all the sky above him – fresh, Himalayan air, all around – it was easy to let go, just a little.

Big, bright, blue. A few birds skittered, black sparkles, across the length of it. Harry felt his rib cage open, just enough, and it gave him courage.

“Malfoy,” he said, and heard Malfoy shift his head on the grass next to him. “How did you know you were gay?”

There was a pregnant pause. Harry though he could hear his own heartbeat.

“Really, Potter?” Malfoy eventually said, his voice wry, but Harry could hear something of a smile.

Harry closed his eyes.

“If you don’t want to answer that’s fine,” he said. “I don’t want to – be rude.”

Now, he heard Malfoy shuffle on the grass next to him, and he was pretty sure Malfoy was on side, looking at him. He didn’t dare open his eyes.

“Well,” said Malfoy, drawing the word out. “That’s new.”

Harry supposed he deserved that. He inhaled, feeling his blood pound.

Then he opened his eyes. Malfoy was indeed on his side. He couldn’t say the words to him, so instead he said them to the tops of the trees, just in his frame of vision.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “For how I acted when I first came here. I don’t want you to think that I’m…that I’m – some kind of homophobe.”

He finally forced himself to look over at Malfoy.

“Well,” said Malfoy after a moment. His eyes were clear and steady. “Thank you.”

There was a pause, where all Harry could do was let his cheeks burn. Then Malfoy smiled.

“Before I came here,” said Harry. “I…didn’t really know anything about. All of that.”

The quality of Malfoy’s gaze changed. He looked at Harry curiously.

“You didn’t know about being gay?”

“No, I –” Harry yanked out a handful of grass with his fist. “No, I knew, but. But.” He sighed. “I didn’t know it was a real thing.”

When he looked back at Malfoy he had that slight line perched between his brows. He looked like he was desperately trying to figure something out, although Harry didn’t know what, because as far as he went, Harry was a pretty simple person.

“I didn’t know about all that other stuff either,” he added. “All that, like – bisexual, and whatever. No one ever really told me.”

Malfoy’s eyes met his sharply, and then he slowly raised a brow.

“Ah,” he said. “You’re…”

Harry felt his pulse quicken. “What?”

Malfoy held his gaze for a moment and then looked off towards the trees. His face was red again, but it wasn’t from laughter this time.

What?” said Harry.

Malfoy glanced back and shook his head. “Nothing,” he said faintly, and then cleared his throat. “I suppose…for me it was in third year. When I realised.”

Malfoy rolled his head over to look at Harry. His eyes were almost blue in this light - it was the reflection of the sky. Harry realised that he was gaping, and closed his mouth. He stared up instead as Malfoy talked.

“That’s not quite right.” Malfoy’s voice was feather soft beside him. “I’ve always known, to an extent. I’ve always felt that way. It was around third year that the thought really crystallised in my mind, but even then, it was like meeting a stranger that feels familiar.”

Another set of birds scattered across Harry’s field of vision.

“I guess most of the problem comes from fighting it. I did fight it, at first, but it was, inevitably, a futile effort. You can only deny yourself for so long.”

How did you know?” Harry rasped, pulling his gaze away from the birds and back to Malfoy. He cleared his throat hastily.

Malfoy looked prettily confused. “What do you mean?”

“Like.” Harry made a clumsy gesture with his hands, a flurry of movement before dropping them back to the grass. “How did you know? What tipped you off? What did it feel like?”

Malfoy blinked quickly at Harry. He parted his mouth. “Are you…asking me what it feels like to…be attracted to men?”

Harry flushed all over. He could feel it all under his clothes, but pushed on. “Yeah. Yeah. Like…how…” He trailed off, unable to help making yet another awkward hand gesture.
“How…?” Malfoy seemed three parts just as embarrassed as Harry, and one part delighted at Harry’s display of sheer ineptitude. “How it…feels?”


Malfoy let out a sharp, incredulous laugh and fell back to the grass. He ran a hand down over his face, muttering incoherently to himself. Harry could feel the blush in his fucking shoes now, but it was too late to back down. He was already here.

“Just…what is it about men that, you’re like, you know, into.”

 “Merlin.” Malfoy was still rubbing his face. “Christ. What a fucking question, Harry. Christ. What is it about women you’re into?”

If Harry blushed any further he might simultaneously catch fire. It would probably be for the best. “Just,” he said. “Like. All the obvious stuff. You know. Their hair. And figures. And like, legs.”

“Legs?” Malfoy was staring at Harry with wide eyes in something akin to wonder. “You’re telling me you’re straight because of girls’ legs?”

Harry shrugged, a little defensive. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Everyone has legs.”

“Yeah,” said Harry, plucking at a blade of grass. “Thanks for that. I did notice.”

“Did you?”

“Well, what the bloody fuck are you into?” Harry blurted out. “Fucking…chest hair? Noses? I’m pretty sure I’m the least kinky out of all of you.”

Malfoy blinked again, a real show of it, and then exhaled and groaned into the back of his wrist. “God,” he said. “You’re really serious about this.”

“No one ever told me anything.”

“Alright, alright.” Malfoy took his wrist away and stared straight ahead. “I s’pose it’s just like…the build. And like, hands. And – shoulders and stuff.”

“Shoulders?” Harry blinked. “You’re gay because of shoulders?”

“Christ.” Malfoy punched his arm, surprisingly hard. “God – no, I’m not fucking gay because of – Jesus Christ.” He covered his face in his hands.

Harry stared at him. “Malfoy,” he said after a moment. “You’re blushing.”

He was. Malfoy had been pink-cheeked before – but not like this. Now, Malfoy’s entire face had lit up like a stunning charm, his pale skin no match for the brilliant crimson of his embarrassment.

Harry was a little charmed.

“Oh really?” Malfoy’s voice was half-hysterical, muffled beneath his fingers. “Oh, truly, what would I do without you Potter? Who else would point out the bleeding obvious for me? What other astute observations shall we make on this fine afternoon? Could air, perhaps, be directed through the nasal passage? Do dragons have wings? Is the sky fucking blue –”

“Malfoy,” Harry laughed, pulling at his wrists. “God, sorry. It’s not a big – come on, it’s just me, it’s not like I’m judging you.”

Just you? Well, forgive my foolish inclinations, I simply cannot conceive how I construed that idea, it’s not like the sound of astringent laughter isn’t perfectly soothing to the defenceless soul –”

Defenceless soul? Malfoy, do you hear yourself – Merlin, okay, I’m sorry, you don’t have to hide –”

A brief scuffle ensued, in which Harry attempted to prise Malfoy’s fingers from his effulgent complexion and Malfoy succeeded in elbowing Harry in the ribs. Harry was laughing, and as they slid a few inches in the grass and Malfoy grabbed onto the ground for support, he glimpsed a neighbouring smile trying to tuck itself away in the corners of Malfoy’s mouth.

“You barbarian,” Malfoy was yelping, but could not put the smile away. He was red all over. “You uncivilised turnip, get off me.”

Falling back to the grass, Harry let his arms slump out around him, one of them thudding against Malfoy’s chest. He was breathing hard, still gulping down laughter, tears forming at the edges of his eyes.

Uncivilised turnip,” he repeated, breathless, and began giggling again. It was too much.

“I’m sorry I don’t have a bloody leg kink!” Malfoy cried out, waving one hand expressively in the air. “God forbid I enjoy other body parts.”

“It’s not a kink,” said Harry, but in good humour. “It’s an appreciation.”

“Right,” replied Malfoy, in his hoity toity-est voice. “And I just have an “appreciation” of cock. Perhaps that’s how I should have phrased it to my mother. Mother, dearest…”

Harry was laughing again, but also dragging his hands down over his face. “Malfoy. Draco. Christ.”

“You wanted to know.”

“Yes,” said Harry, once he’d gotten a hold of himself. “Yes, you’re right. I did. Thank you.”

He looked over at Malfoy. His face had finally calmed down to a healthier shade. With some reluctance, he met Harry’s gaze.

“Yes, well.” He sniffed. “I suppose you’re welcome.”

“Seriously. Thank you.”

“Alright, alright.” Malfoy waved a hand at him. “Let’s not get fucking mawkish.”

Harry turned back to the sky. The silence was easy, comfortable.

“Harry.” Malfoy’s sounded more serious now. When he looked over, he saw that he was also looking up. “You know none of that stuff actually matters.”


“None of that. Body part stuff. It doesn’t matter.”

“Okay,” Harry agreed.

“Like, it doesn’t matter how it feels. As long as it feels true.”

Harry’s hand was still resting on Malfoy’s chest. Malfoy turned his head, and his eyes were searching.

“Okay?” he asked.

Harry swallowed. The sun wasn’t out, but everything still felt warm.

“Okay.” He answered.

The next time Harry was running, he paused in the middle of the path. No one was there to see him.

The sweat was clinging to him, making his skin feel rubbery and unpleasant, but he had come to like the feeling. It was proof of his physicality. All around him, there were living things. He had never really looked at them before.

For a long time, when he was in Scotland, Harry had thought that places without magic looked barren. It was impossible to appreciate natural beauty when he had seen the things he had: the colour of Amortentia, the gleam of a new broomstick, the surface of a pensieve, the re-birth of a phoenix – but now, for the first time, he stopped and just breathed. Everything around him was brown and yellow and green. Everything around him was growing. He reached out to touch the tender coil of a budding leaf, and felt a little dizzy. The smell of soil and air embraced every inch of him.

It was nothing like Scotland. It was everything like Scotland.

He squeezed his eyes shut tight. And then kept running.

When Harry next went to see Tom, he was surprised to see Oceania sitting down on a mat next to him.

“Oh,” he said when they looked up. “Sorry. Am I interrupting something?”

“No, no, no.” Oceania waved a hand for him to join them on the mats. Today she was wearing a shawl that came down to her knees, which may or may not have been a continuation of the knitted tea cosy, and very long purple socks. Her hair was filled with leaves.

She smiled pleasantly at him. He smiled back.

“We were just discussing plans for the Mani Rimdu festival. It’s coming up soon,” she explained.

“Oh,” said Harry. “What’s that?”

“It’s a celebration of the triumph of Buddhism over the old pagan gods in the Himalayas,” said Tom. He was wearing an orange monk’s robe, as usual. “It lasts for three days. It’s a festival of colour and noise. A lot of dancing. I think you’ll like it.”

Harry raised his brows. “Are you all involved?”

“Tom is. And we might as well, since we’re so close. It’s wonderful – I love the dancing.”

Harry grinned at her, closing his eyes as the conversation continued easily without him – talk of masks, rituals, meditations drifting through the musty space of the room. As always when he was in here, he felt aware of the presence of the statues of gods and goddesses around him, the smell of incense and age settling sweetly around him. When he had first come here, he had felt slightly uneasy, a trespasser in this place of worship – but now it was only familiar. In his mind’s eye, he saw the flicker of the smoke above the incense sticks, curling and uncurling.

When he woke up, he was lying back against the mat, blinking up at the cracks in the ceiling. He sat up. Tom was holding a string of beads, a book with characters open in front of him. He looked over as Harry moved.

“Oceania left,” he said. His voice was gentle, as always.

Harry scratched his head. “Sorry,” he murmured. “Didn’t get a lot of sleep.”

Tom nodded. He was studying Harry, but there was nothing intrusive about it. It was just the way that Tom looked at things. Like he was soaking it in, a member of the audience instead of a character on stage. It’s not that he wasn’t present, Harry thought, but rather like he was once removed. Out of all of them, Harry felt that Tom was the furthest away.

It didn’t bother him, like he might’ve expected. Instead, he felt more relaxed around Tom than anyone else.

“How are you, Harry?”

Harry shrugged. Tom closed the book in front of him.

 “I’m alright, I guess.” He took the hand down from his hair. “I mean, relative to everything. I suppose I’m alright.”

Tom nodded, still studying. That was another thing that Harry liked about Tom. He never made a judgement on Harry’s feelings.

“I suppose it’s just a bit…” Harry rubbed his jaw, reaching down to fiddle with the hem of the mat he was sitting on. “A bit useless, you know? Cus’ I’m not really very good at all this.”

“Mm.” Harry could hear the sound of Tom rolling the beads under his thumb. “Not good at what?”

“Just.” Harry made a general gesture. “You know. Being here. Dragon-taming.”

Tom made another considering noise. Another few moments passed where he just rotated the beads. This wasn’t unusual. Harry watched at where the incense had burnt down to a few short inches in places.

“Have you still been meditating?” Tom asked eventually. This use of topic change was also not unusual. Harry suspected thoughts travelled in a different way for him.

“Yes.” Harry shuffled. “I’ve, uh, been helping Draco with it, actually.”

He bit down on his lip suddenly, staring out at the open doorway. That had been a stupid thing to say. He didn’t know why he’d said it.

“Ah,” said Tom. When he looked over, Tom was smiling, closer to knowingly than Harry usually witnessed. The light was clear and liquid in his eyes. “That’s good.”

Harry glanced away from him and felt his face heat. He picked at the mat again, and not for the first time, thought about Draco with Tom.

Even now, having got to know both of them better, it was a difficult thing to picture. Draco was so loud, in so many ways – a ridiculous bouquet of colour and noise – and distinctly Draco – and Tom was just…not. It wasn’t that Harry didn’t like Tom, because he did, but he just didn’t understand it. Did Draco want quiet?

He imagined them kissing. It was strange, stranger than anything else he had encountered since coming to this place.

“Draco’s always had trouble with meditating,” said Tom, startling Harry out of his thoughts. He had a contemplative expression, his geometric brows drawn in slightly. “But I think you’ll be good at helping him. You’re very honest.”

There was not a single part of that speech that did not catch Harry off guard. He opened and closed his mouth, and then opened it again.

“Has he?” was what he managed.

Tom eyes slid to Harry. For a moment, Harry felt so, so transparent.

“Yes,” said Tom. “Draco has trouble focusing. He’s a very turbulent person, really.”

Tom was still looking at him. Harry had to look away. He felt like he was being told a secret, like he was being exposed to something private, even though Malfoy had already said something along those lines. Was Tom betraying Malfoy? Surely, they had some sort of understanding. It certainly looked that way.

Harry bit his lip. “What do you mean by turbulent?” he asked, very exactly.

Tom raised a brow, just a little, and Harry felt like a child that had been caught trying to steal a cookie.

“Well,” said Tom. “He was when I met him. But that was two years ago. Perhaps he’s changed.”

“Two years ago?” Harry’s mind was whirring.

Tom moved one shoulder up gracefully, his version of a shrug. “Yes. There were less dragons then. A larger focus on the monastery.”

Two years ago. “When did you come here?” Harry asked, distracted, and Tom raised the brow just a little higher.

“Six years ago.”


Tom was smiling. “You seem to be finding this rather more shocking than perhaps it calls for.”

“Sorry.” Harry rubbed his hands over his face. “God, sorry. I just…”


Harry shook his head, glancing briefly at Tom, whose smile had softened at the edges. “Nothing. I just. I can’t…it’s a long time.” He finished lamely.

“Yes,” said Tom. “It is.”

Harry took this moment to study Tom, instead. The robes made his presence seem quite big, sometimes, indeed filling this temple – but he was actually quite small, for a man. It was not just that he was short so much as it was that he simply seemed to have been set from a lesser mold. His hands, in particular, were slim and nimble where they were wrapped around the prayer beads, noticeably more so than Harry’s.

The result was that Harry felt both bigger and smaller next to him.

Six years. It was a long time, but also, it brought forth the idea of Tom having existed somewhere before this temple, and it was just very difficult to imagine Tom existing anywhere else. Even though he couldn’t possibly pass as a local, there was something very natural about his presence here, like he had grown up out of the soil alongside this temple, up on this mountaintop – face forward to the whole wide world. Harry couldn’t imagine living like him: waking every morning to light the incense and polish the gods and sweep away the dust on the floors, before settling down to pray – but for Harry to make a judgement on this kind of life would have been like him trying to make a judgement on the quality of a tree’s life. Perhaps it seemed simple, but Tom and him were different species, and seemed to require different things. Harry was slowly coming accustomed to the idea that there were disparate brands of humans living around him.

“Did you want to have another session today?” asked Tom.

“Ah, no, it’s okay.” Harry straightened up. “I was just popping by. I have things to do, anyway. I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”

Tom nodded, and smiled as Harry stood up and brushed the back of his jeans.

“I’ll see you.”

“Anytime.” As Harry crossed the threshold, he saw Tom’s eyes close.

He really did have things to do. Down in the cafeteria, the chairs and tables had been replaced – although they were all entirely pink now, for no conceivable reason – but there was nobody there eating. Nobody on the grass either. It was fluttering softly in the wind, spread out and green, as if nobody had ever sat there.

There was nobody with Jane, either. Harry didn’t entirely want to see her, even though he knew he should, but he checked anyway.

“Hi,” he said, when a quick scan proved fruitless. “Remember me?”

Jane just blinked meaningfully at him. Of course, he didn’t know what that meant though, so he just waved and then came back the way he went. He didn’t know where else to check. Which was a bit ridiculous really, considering how long he had been here. He should really have taken the time to explore the area more.

It wasn’t like it was urgent. He contented himself to wander along the side of the nearest hill, feeling the breeze smooth cold fingers down his neck and scalp. His chest opened up, a little. That was always a good thing.

He stretched his arms as he turned a corner, enjoying the twanging pull of his shoulder muscles. Then blinked, and stopped.

Malfoy was standing a few metres away, his back turned to Harry. He was wearing a light shirt, which was easily transparent every time the wind touched him too.

He was with a dragon. Not Harry’s dragon. Faintly, Harry recognised it as the dragon he’d been with when Harry had first came here, and nearly had an aneurysm upon encountering Malfoy in his leathery Malfoyness. He grinned at the memory.

He had been too pre-occupied with Malfoy that time to really pay attention to the dragon. But he looked at it now, where it was standing just a few feet in front of Draco. The first thing about it was that it was entirely white. Its skin was milky – an almost off colour, milk that had been left out too long, really – and its eyes were pink around the edges, a hue of just-finished-crying. Harry didn’t even know if dragons could cry. Maybe they did, if their tamers were Malfoy.

Its scales too, were limp and soft around the edges, the ridge along its back a soft wave of pale ripples, almost like an exaggerated human spine. Really, it was quite ugly, when you squinted at it.

Its nose was currently pressed up against Malfoy’s hand, butting him softly and making low whining noises.

“Alright, alright,” said Malfoy, rubbing at it. “There’s no need for that, really, be a doll now, won’t you?”

He turned around and froze when he caught sight of Harry.

“Harry,” he said blankly. The wind ruffled up his shirt like it was cross with him.

Harry waved, an awkward little flop.

Malfoy looked at the flop.

 Harry cleared his throat. “You’re with your dragon,” he said intelligently.

Malfoy looked back at Harry’s face. “Yes,” he said steadily, and then shook himself, pulling his shirt down. “What – what are you doing here?”

The wind was not so readily admitting defeat. It seemed intent on revealing Malfoy’s pointy hip-bones and belly-button to the entire world, despite his fluttering hands. Harry said, “I didn’t know you had a dragon.”

“You saw me with him on the first day,” Malfoy retorted, annoyed. He finally gave up on the shirt-war and bent over, rummaging through his bag. The length of his leg was long and curvilinear in his leggings. When he came back up, it was with a leather jacket, when he wrestled onto his torso and zipped firmly up.

The jacket said, “I might be too punk rock for you” in purple lettering. Harry bit down hard on his lip.

“I didn’t know he was yours,” he said. “I didn’t know you had the time to still be taming other dragons.”

“I don’t,” Malfoy snapped, and then flushed an irritated red. “And Ma- he doesn’t belong to anybody.”

Harry bit down on the inside of his cheek, as well. “Malfoy…” he said slowly. “What’s his name?”

Malfoy crossed his arms over the jacket so that only the “rock for you” was visible. “What’s a name?” he muttered pettily.

“Malfoy. What is it?”

Malfoy sighed. He uncrossed his arms and ran a hand through his hair.

“It’s Mayo,” he said eventually.

“Mayo?” Harry un-bit his cheek. “Mayo? Mayo as in short for mayonnaise?”

“Mayo as in short for Mayo-Master,” Malfoy grumbled into jacket. Harry blinked once, twice, and then descended into delighted giggles.

“Oh, for god’s sake,” said Malfoy. “Yours is called Jane. Jane. You named her after a nineteenth-century classic.”

“No,” Harry got out, between laughs. “I just like the name Jane.”

“Christ,” said Malfoy. “That’s even worse.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry snorted. “What should I have called her? The Butter Beast? The Vinegar Vatican? The Peanut Protestor?”

“That’s awful,” muttered Malfoy, but despite himself, he was smiling. “What would a peanut even protest about?”

“The Mayo-Masters keep raising income tax,” Harry told him solemnly. “It’s tearing Condiment-ville apart.”

“God,” said Malfoy, and ran his hands through his hair again. “Christ.”

Mayo was nosing at his shoulder. He turned around and snapped, “Yes, yes, alright, I get it, just wait for one second you needy little bitch.”

Mayo made a whale-like sound of grievance as Malfoy shrugged him off and squatted in front of the bag again. It stared after him, longingly, before turning its baleful eyes on Harry.

 Harry had the strange sensation of feeling himself being easily charmed.

He took a slightly cautious step forward, and when it just continued to stare at him, held out a tentative hand. Mayo’s nose shot forward, instantly beginning to butt at his palm. It made screechy, short noises of pleasure.

“Oh, for the love of –” Malfoy had turned back around and was staring at the pair of them hopelessly. “Really, Potter, you couldn’t take some responsibility?”

“Draco,” Harry said helplessly. Mayo had wound its way into his arms, somehow, and was now pressed against in what could only be reasonably described as a hug.

Malfoy was looking at Mayo with a complicated expression.

Mayo squirmed against his neck. Harry felt that this was unfairly endearing of him. He said, “Come off it Malfoy, it’s not my fault your dragon likes me so much.”

Malfoy turned his scorching gaze onto Harry instead. After a moment, he said, “What did you want?”

“Oh.” Harry pushed a little at Mayo’s nose, trying to get some room. Malfoy took one glance at him, and tossed a chunk of bloodied meat to the side. Mayo unenthusiastically slunk off of him.

“I was going to go on a run.” Harry straightened up and brushed as his trousers. “I thought that you should come with me.”

Malfoy was still giving him that look. Harry glanced over at where Mayo was chewing on the meat and repeated what he’d said in his head.

“And why should I do that?” Malfoy asked. His voice was almost wary. Harry shrugged.

“I thought it’d be fun,” he said simply.

Malfoy stared at him for a moment longer, and then glanced away, tugging at the edges of his jacket. “Okay,” he said, “I’ll – I’ll have to change.”

“Alright,” said Harry.

“I’ll meet you in the cafeteria.”

Harry nodded.

“Okay,” said Malfoy. He fumbled for his bag and began to pack up.

Malfoy did meet him in the cafeteria. Harry was sitting there, wondering, not for the first time, where it even was that Malfoy lived, when Malfoy appeared walking towards him.

“Ready?” he said, tugging at the hem of his t-shirt. It was sky blue, and clearly part of a matching set with his leggings. Harry found the idea of Malfoy having both exercise leggings and then everyday leggings incredibly amusing.

“Yup.” Harry jumped to his feet. “You got water?”

Malfoy waved a pink bottle in front of Harry that said “THE THIRST IS REAL” and in smaller writing underneath, “PINK”.

“Is that Victoria’s Secret?”

Malfoy raised his brows. “You know Victoria’s Secret?”

“Of course,” said Harry. “It’s where I buy all my clothes.”

Malfoy punched him with the water bottle.

As they set off along a smaller track just at the edge of the tree-line around the cafeteria, Malfoy said, “Why is it that you decided running would be a fun afternoon activity, anyhow?”

Harry glanced at him over his shoulder. “I thought you liked exercise. Are you all professional yogis, or something?’

“Yeah,” said Malfoy. “But that’s yoga. This is…running.”

Harry slowed down. “Do you not like running?”

Malfoy pursed his lips. “No. No I do.”

Harry grinned as they continued to run.

“It’s just not what jumps to mind, chiefly, when I think of fun activities,” Malfoy muttered again after a brief pause.

Harry grinned wider. “No,” he said. “No, that’s just bungee jumping and fire walks.”

Malfoy shot him a look, and then rolled his eyes. His cheeks were already pink from exertion as he looked off into the undergrowth.

The path had crossed over the threshold of the forest some time ago, and now they were inside it, surrounded on all sides by elegantly limbed trees and ripe green florae and golden sunlight, pouring in generously through the gaps in the trees above. The fertile scent of ungoverned nature wrapped itself around them, enclosing them in their own little slice of paradise.

It was easy to forget, sometimes, how much of Gay Dragon Village was about nature. Sometimes, Harry got so caught up in the distractions of the dragons and the yoga and the people and the unforgiving silence of his own four walls that he let himself forget – but the wilderness was always there, brimming peaceably at the edges of it all. It was a reminder that none of this belonged to them.

None of this belonged to anyone. The trees and the sky and especially the mountains all existed here, independent of their own human uncertainty.

It calmed Harry. He felt that, here, he too was natural.

His muscles were aching, but he had already trained himself to endure this, and so it was not difficult. Next to him, Malfoy was breathing hard. Harry was reminded that although Malfoy was in fit condition, he had not trained himself in running. The pain was still novel.

That was okay. Harry had deliberately selected an easier path. Even so, after another five minutes, he asked, “You good?”

Malfoy glanced over. His skin was shiny, catching the sunlight, and his hair had plastered down to his forehead in places. Ruddiness flourished across his flesh like flowerets, saturated especially in the parted set of his mouth.

Harry rather thought he looked natural, too.

“Yeah.” Malfoy licked his mouth and wiped his upper lip with the side of his hand. “You?”

Harry turned so that he was jogging backwards. “Yeah.” He grinned.

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Asshole.”

After another five minutes, the forest opened up. Birds fluttered overhead, calling to each other in strange languages, and the grass beneath them thickened. To the side, the trees veered off over the side of a cliff, unveiling the starling expanse of mountain tops rising up beyond them.

“Woah,” said Malfoy, and slowed down to a walk. Together, they made their way closer to the edge. It was vibrant, impossible, beautiful.

Somehow Harry felt the presence of the mountains even more acutely here. Perhaps it was because they were framed by the silence and sanctity of the forest, as vivacious as it was silent. Nature, Harry mused, was meant to be enjoyed alone.

Or perhaps it was because Draco was there. Harry looked over at him, at the lines of sweat climbing his neck like veins. As he watched, he unrolled the cap on the water bottle and brought it his mouth. The shape of his neck rolled as he swallowed.

Harry glanced down at the grass. He felt over spilt. 

“Here.” Harry looked up as Malfoy handed him the water bottle. He was wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“It’s lovely here. I’ve never come before. Aren’t you going to drink?”

Harry drank. It was lukewarm in his mouth.

“Thanks.” He handed the bottle back to Malfoy, who scrolled on the lid with one hand. His face was still bent towards the view, open like a sunflower.

“I’ve never come before either,” said Harry. Malfoy turned to look at him, his neck moving sharply. His gaze caught on Harry’s face, before slipping down slowly.

“I thought you went running all the time,” he said quietly.

Harry shook his head. He wondered whether his dark skin was also reddened like a rose, or whether it hid it.

“I do – I’ve just never come to this part.”

Malfoy nodded. He was looking at the mountains again, but was more subdued.

“You know,” he said, after a moment. “We should bring a camera. Then Oceania can paint it.”

Harry raised a brow to himself at the use of the word “camera.” The grass they were standing on was so thick and green he wanted to sit down on it, so he did. Malfoy turned to look down at him.

“You said she was good,” Harry offered, because he was still curious about the peculiar tenderness between the two of them.

Malfoy nodded. He was still looking down at where Harry was seated. Harry patted the grass beside him.

Malfoy smiled a little. Harry wished – again – that he was more adept at reading expressions. There was something burning about the feeling in Malfoy’s eyes.

He sat down next to him, crossing his legs neatly. “Yes,” he said. “I did. She dropped out of traditional wizarding education, you know, to become an art student in Vancouver for four years.”

“Did she?” Harry’s brows went up. He imagined her, a smaller Oceania, dressed in something ridiculous like neon tights and a dress made entirely out of laminated petrol station coupons, cutting everything else loose and hopping on a plane on her own, with nothing but her hair and her sketchbook. It made him smile.

There was something intrinsic about Oceania’s strangeness that made it seem as though she’d been born into it, perhaps like Luna Lovegood. The thought that she had had to fight for it, that she had had to choose it, made Harry’s heart swell.

He looked over at Malfoy, then again at his leggings. He wondered how many people had to leave in order to feel like themselves.

Malfoy grinned and leaned back on his hands, fingers threading through the green. “She’s brilliant. Really good. I wish that I was –”

He broke off and licked his lower lip into his mouth, but it wasn’t an expression of envy. He seemed almost shy in his admiration of his friend.

It was a beautiful thing, Harry reckoned, to be surrounded by people that you admired. It must be like walking through a garden.

It was a beautiful thing, to be surrounded by things that made you want. Harry wanted to want for the rest of his life.

“What about you?” Harry asked. Malfoy tilted his neck to look at him.

“What about me?”

“Do you paint?”

Malfoy laughed. It sounded like rain on the leaves. “No,” he said. “I do not paint.”

“Do you want to?”

“No.” Malfoy looked at Harry curiously. “I mean, I don’t know. I’m content just to look.” He shrugged, glancing down at the grass beside his hand. “Why do you ask?”

“What do you do?” Harry was smiling. Malfoy look over at him and laughed again. “Urm,” he said. “You know what I do. Just…like, practise yoga. And read. And go on runs with interrogating fashion disasters, I suppose.”

Harry laughed, a loud sound. “Do you want me to stop?” he asked.

“Urm.” Malfoy ran a hand through his hair. “No. I suppose I just don’t know why you’re doing it.”

Harry was still smiling. “I just want to know you,” he admitted, softly.

Malfoy’s eyes flickered up to meet his, weighted under his lashes. They were soaked in sunlight, in a way that reminded Harry of honey on toast.

“I wish you came with a handbook,” he said out-loud. “An instruction manual. How to Understand Draco Malfoy for Dummies, 101.”

Draco Malfoy laughed, but this time it was surprised. “I,” he said, and then blinked, eyes wide. “I am not that complicated.”

“Well,” said Harry, grinning as he lied back against the ground. “I’m that simple.”

Malfoy giggled. He was staring at Harry, and looked away when Harry raised a brow.

A moment passed in the forest. Malfoy was right; it was lovely here. It was so, so lovely. Beside him, Malfoy lay down.

“You know,” he said tentatively. “I don’t always understand you, either.”

The way Malfoy spoke made his voice sound unshelled. Harry glanced over, his ear brushing the grass, but Malfoy was looking straight ahead. He was the pinkest thing in the forest.

“What?” Harry huffed and looked up at the ceiling of winding branches tattooed across the blue. “I’m the easiest to understand.”

“No,” whispered Malfoy. “You’re not.”

Harry breathed in. He breathed out.

“You’re,” Malfoy took a pause to swallow. “You’re such a paradox.”

Harry breathed out again. “A paradox of what?”

“A paradox of…” Malfoy inhaled sharply. “Of everything. I can’t figure out what you want.”

Harry thought about what he wanted. But he couldn’t get past how nice the forest was, and the mountains, and the company. Maybe this was all there was to want.

“Every time I think I’ve got you figured out, you just do something else. Something out-of-character. Something that doesn’t make sense. Like coming here, for example. I can’t understand why you would come. You’re not the kind of person to come.”

“I don’t think that’s out-of-character,” said Harry. “I’ve done plenty of things you don’t know about.”

“Have you?” asked Malfoy. “Like what?”

“Like…” Harry racked his brain. “I’ve gone diving in Majorca. I learnt how to make pearls. I’ve shaved my head bald. I’ve built a chair from scratch. I’ve made a soufflé. I’ve visited every Starbucks in Glasgow.”

He turned to look at Malfoy again, and this time, Malfoy was already looking back. His mouth was parted.

Harry looked at it. He smirked.

“I’ve been to a gay bar.”

What?” Malfoy sat straight up. “When? What? How?”

Harry grinned, having received the desired reaction. Malfoy waved his hands around incredulously.

“When?” he asked again.

“When I was eighteen, once. When I was still living in London.”

“No.” Malfoy’s eyes were wide and astonished. “No way.”

“Yes way,” said Harry, grinning.

Malfoy kept looking at him for a moment. Then he turned his head and looked at the trees.

“Why?” he asked.

Harry shrugged, glancing away. “I don’t know,” he said. “It was only once, and very drunk. I guess it seemed like the thing to do.”

“What does that even mean.” Draco flopped onto his back and made a big show of sighing. Harry smiled again.

“Hey,” he said. “I’m allowed to go.”

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Yeah,” he said. “But.”

Harry raised his brows. “Maybe,” he said, still smiling. “You’re being a bit presumptuous. Who’s stereotyping now?”

Malfoy grinned. His eyes flicked back down, sticking to a spot just beneath Harry’s throat. Then he glanced off into the trees again and bit his lip down.

“Yeah,” he said softly. “Maybe I am.”

“Who decided to make them pink?” Hayden asked through a mouthful of cookie. Kitchen staff had unceremoniously decided to take a day off, and so they had all resorted to eating cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even Charlie, who had essentially fathered them at this point, did not know how to cook.

On the upside, Draco had procured fifteen Starbucks lattes from somewhere, which admittedly broke up the monotony for their taste buds, and probably had some nutrition somewhere. On the downside, Draco had consumed nine of these coffees himself thus far, and it was only three ‘o’clock.

This meant that he was trembling, just slightly, in the constant peripheral vision of Harry.

“Remind me again,” Harry asked. “Why you decided to drink so much of the coffee.”

“Sorry for wanting to keep my figure,” Draco retorted. He was tapping his index and middle finger alternately against the top of the table in quick succession. “I need to keep this body trim. Trim and slim. Slim and trim.”

“Malfoy,” said Harry. “You’re vibrating like a toothbrush.”

“I did,” Charlie said sheepishly, answering Hayden’s earlier question. “But it’s not how you think it is.”

“Really?” asked Malfoy. “Because I’m currently imagining you in a hello kitty themed bedroom with fuzzy pink heels. Tell me you’re not a queer, Charlie. Oh, tell me.”

“It was a choice between pink and a Pokémon themed dining set.” Charlie admitted. “And I didn’t think any of our blood sugar levels could take it.”

“Oh, Charlie!” Malfoy slapped a hand on the table. He looked delighted, if not a little manic. “Why did you deny us so? Look at me! My blood sugar levels are perfectly low!”

They all looked at him. He gave them a shaky smile.

“Pikachu is kind of cute,” Harry offered.

“It was cheaper,” Charlie admitted.

“I wonder why,” said Hayden. They took the coffee cup from Malfoy’s hand and then frowned down at it when they realised it was empty.

“Where’s Oceania anyway?” Harry asked. She had been suspiciously absent all day. He had saved her one of the cookies.

Well. He had stopped before he could finish his eighth. He felt a little like puking into the bushes, but it was chill.

“Mm,” said Charlie. “Last night she said she was going to paint her ceiling. So maybe she’s under it.”

“Fuck,” said Malfoy, taking the coffee cup back from Hayden and crushing it in his hand. “I love ceilings.”

“Mm,” agreed Charlie. “Me too.”

“Shall we go find her?” asked Malfoy. “I have the most wonderful idea. I think she would like to hear it out.”

“You can,” said Hayden. “I think I’m going to go write a bit. Or perhaps, lay myself down in the dirt and mutter curses about whoever invented the cookie.”

“You and your writing,” Malfoy said fondly, and then stood up. The (pink) table rocked a bit. “Harry. Charlie. Let’s go.”

“Oh, gosh,” said Charlie, standing up too. “This is all rather exciting.”

“See next time,” said Harry, "can we all just buy sandwiches? I like sandwiches. I like the way they keep my vision stable.”

“Osh!” yelled Malfoy. He thumped a fist against the door. “Open the fucking door!”

“Just a minute!” came the sound of Oceania’s muffled voice. “This shade of ochre is every woman’s dream!”

“Well, you know what else is?” Malfoy answered. “Taking Harry Potter to a gay bar!”

The door wrenched open. Oceania was standing there, dressed entirely in denim and what Harry guessed was every woman’s dream shade of ochre.

“Are we?” she said breathlessly. “Oh, wow.”

“Wow,” Harry agreed. “Are we?

“Yes. Harry here loves gay bars now. I guess gayness is contagious after all. Don’t tell the monks. Won’t you let us in, love?”

Oceania let them in. They followed her through to the living room, which was entirely news-papered down. The ceiling was, indeed, being painted.

It was actually kind of beautiful. It didn’t really match the mountains on the wall, but that was what made it so Osh. There were huge, swirling sunflowers blooming across the plastered length, sweeping across the light fixtures, and behind them was a vibrant, deep-set blue. They reminded Harry of something he had seen before, but he wasn’t going to pretend to know about art.

“They’re a tribute to Vincent,” said Oceania shyly, stroking the bristled end of her brush. “I’ve always liked him. I feel like we would’ve got along.”

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” Malfoy quoted extravagantly, and Harry looked over at him.

Oceania beamed. “That’s a good one.”

“I’m going to go lie down on the kitchen top,” Malfoy announced, and then disappeared in that direction. They blinked after him.

“Harry,” said Oceania, looking at him. “Would like to help me finish the ceiling?”

“Urm,” said Harry. “You should know that I can’t paint. Like, at all.”

“Neither can I,” Charlie said cheerfully. “But I didn’t get sorted into Gryffindor to stand idly by whilst there are ceilings to be painted. Come on, Harry. Be a champ.”

Oceania beamed again, and produced two more brushes from her hair. They got to work.

Painting ceilings was surprisingly relaxing. Harry allowed himself to get caught up in the process of paint mixing and shape-making, trying to keep in his head an idea of what a sunflower looked like. He was well aware of his own artistic limitations, and was under by no means operating under the belief system that he was capable of replicating Oceania’s masterful creations to any degree, but by the end of it, he still reckoned it looked quite like a flower. He smiled up at the ceiling and added a final touch.

At least Oceania had only given him the corner of the ceiling. The only way anyone would be focusing on his painting was if they sat down on the armrest of the sofa and immediately craned their head up. He tested this theory himself, and was forced to admit that the effect was somewhat alarming.

Charlie had not been so lucky. Harry glanced over to where he had been situation right in the centre of the room, reaching up with his brush taped to a chopstick. There would be no disguising any painting failings there. However, to his credit, he seemed to be getting quite into it, splattering paint across the plaster with enthusiasm. He seemed to be going for a rather…loose effect.

Oceania herself was hard at work underneath one of the light fixtures. She was perched up on one of the sofas, her denim coveralls rolled up to reveal her bare feet, which were also somehow covered in paint. On her ankle shined a silver bracelet, not unlike Draco’s.

It was quite a thing to watch her at work. When Oceania painted, her otherwise dreamy expression focused right in, her entire attention given. It was a little awesome to see a mind otherwise so big dedicated entirely to one cause. Harry wished he could understand where each perfect stroke came from, how every decision was so precisely made – but he could only witness the outlet. The painting was a waterfall, and he was in the wrong position to see what rivers it had led from. No wonder she had run away. For her, art was magic.

Malfoy had reappeared at his shoulder. “Good grief,” he murmured. “That’s fucking awful.”

Harry glanced over at him. His pointy face was very close. “Thanks,” he said. “How was the kitchen top?”

“Soothingly hard.” Malfoy traced a finger over the sunflower. “Why is its face like that?”

“It’s smiling.” Harry frowned.

“I feel like your idea of smiling might be different from most people’s.”

“It’s happy.”

“Harry, happiness is an expression which does not require so many teeth.”

“Those aren’t teeth,” Harry protested. “It just has a prominent mouth.”

“Yeah,” said Malfoy. “So does a crocodile.”

Harry grinned. “Who’s to say crocodiles can’t smile?’

“Christ,” said Malfoy, reaching for the paintbrush and palette. “Give me that.” He was smirking, a little crocodile-like himself.

He reached up and began to paint on top of Harry’s work. He had stopped shaking, but still smelt like coffee. As he painted, the cardigan he was wearing brushed against Harry’s shoulder.

When he reached back down, it was to reveal a small pink bow, perched atop the “head” of the sunflower.

“Oh,” said Harry. “He’s beautiful, darling. What shall we call him?”

Malfoy flushed as he put the paint palette down. “Oh,” he said, not looking at Harry. “I don’t know love. Why don’t you name the first one?”

“M…Motter. No. Po…Palfoy. Polfoy. Polf.”

“Polf,” Malfoy repeated. He was smiling in that way he did when he was trying not to.

“Short for Polfoy.” Harry nodded. “We don’t want him to get bullied at school.”

“No,” agreed Malfoy, shaking his head. He was as pink as the bow. “No, we don’t.”

Harry tilted his head, considering him. After a beat, Malfoy turned his head, his gaze meeting Harry’s. The smile almost seemed to escape from where it was trapped beneath his teeth.

“There.” Charlie flung down his brush and sighed loudly. “I think I’m done.”

“Ooh.” Oceania reached up and made one more yellow swirl. “Give me a second. I’ll come and look.”

They all came and looked. Charlie stood there, breathing heavily and looking quite proud.

“Wow,” said Malfoy, after a moment. “It’s very…contemporary. Lovely. Jackson Pollock vibes, you know.”

Oceania kicked him in the shin cheerfully. Harry didn’t know who Jackson Pollock was, but he agreed with Malfoy’s tone. His sunflower might be terrifying, but at least it was a sunflower. This was…not.

“I like the colours,” he said, diplomatically. Charlie ran a hand through his orange hair, which was even more orange now.

“Yeah,” he said. “I was really just, like, listening to my gut, you know. Artistically. It was drawing me towards a certain vision.”

“Did that vision involve a violently vomiting crayon, perchance?” Malfoy asked politely, and Harry snorted, before trying to turn it into a cough.

Draco,” Oceania chided, but Charlie didn’t look perturbed. Harry admired his inner strength. Perhaps there was something to be said for caring more about dragons that people.

“It involved passion,” he murmured, staring dazedly up at the ceiling. “Great passion.”

“Speaking of which!” Malfoy brought his hands and clapped them together. “I think it’s time for our evening adventure!”

“Yay!” Oceania leaped off the sofa and scurried off to the bedroom. “Let me put my socks on.”

“What about you?” Malfoy leered at Harry. “Do you need to put your socks on?”

“Urm,” said Harry. “How’re you making the word socks sound so unsuitable?”

“It’s a gift,” said Malfoy. “I put the word in my mouth and imagine sucking cock as I take it back out.”


“Draco.” Charlie wrinkled his nose. “Do you have to?”

“Suck cock?”

Merlin,” Harry said again, and left the room as Charlie groaned. If he heard the phrase “sucking cock” come out of Malfoy’s mouth again, he might implode.

He knocked before going in the bedroom. Oceania wrenched the door wide open.

“Harry,” she said happily. “Are you getting changed?”

Harry glanced down at himself. He was wearing old jeans and a plain t-shirt.

“Sure,” he said, shrugging. If he was going to do this, he might as well do it properly.

Oceania looked so thrilled he considered letting her dress him everyday. And then abruptly re-considered approximately thirty seconds later.

“Oceania,” he said. “I’m not wearing mesh.”

“Not right now,” she agreed easily. “But you will be after you go into the bathroom and put it on.”

“See,” said Harry. “I don’t think that that’s going to happen. I don’t think that’s a good idea at all.”

Oceania tilted her head at him. Unlike Harry, she didn’t seem to care much about using the bathroom, and was standing in front of him with her coveralls already draped around her hips and her bright green bra on show. Harry supposed he should feel weird about this, but all his concern was rather more focused on the prospect of the mesh.

“Why not?” she asked.

Harry racked his brains. “Urm,” he said. “I’ll get cold.”

“Ah,” said Oceania, and turned to her drawer only to take out another mesh shirt. This one was neon purple.

“Oh,” said Harry. “Oh no, you really don’t need to –”

The door swung open behind them and Malfoy flung himself on the bed. He took one look at Oceania and the mesh and smirked at Harry.

“Wow,” he said, drawing out the “ow.” “I see I really have been presumptuous.”

Harry could barely look at him. He crossed his arms. “No,” he said. “No mesh.”

Oceania pulled out a muscle tank. She held it out to Harry like a peace offering.

Harry took a deep breath through his nose. “Okay,” he said. “Fine. Thank you.” He took the tank and disappeared into the bathroom.

As he slid the lock shut a little more forcefully than necessary, he heard Malfoy say, “You know, you didn’t have to do that. I already filled our daily terrorising-the-straights quota.”

Oceania’s reply was muffled. Harry shucked off his plain t-shirt and pulled on the muscle tank. It was grey, thankfully, although covered rather less of his sides and shoulders than he had predicted from a first glance. It also turned out, when he turned to face the mirror, to unfortunately say the phrase “Obama can’t ban these guns.”

At the word “guns”, two arrows were printed facing up, presumably towards where Harry’s biceps were supposed to be. He closed his eyes calmly and made himself think about purple-coloured mesh.

When he stepped back into the bedroom, Malfoy took one look at him and collapsed into a pillow. He was giggling so hard the mattress shook.

“Wow,” said Oceania. “I never knew you had such a lovely figure, Harry. You should show if off more.”

“Thanks, Osh,” Harry said tiredly. He was looking at where Malfoy was still making muffled noises. When he managed to lift his head, he took one look at the lettering on the tank, and bit down on his lip. Hard.

“Aren’t you getting changed?” asked Harry. He folded his arms defensively.

“Sure,” said Malfoy. He glanced over at Oceania. “Pick me out a number, won’t you Osh?”

Oceania threw the purple mesh towards Malfoy. Malfoy winked at Harry, and then pulled his shirt off right there.

All that skin was so pale. Harry looked, and then looked away when Malfoy bent over to reach for the mesh. Oceania met his eyes and wriggled her brows.

Harry felt terrorised.

“Osh.” Malfoy was sliding off the bed. Harry chanced a glance over. He looked – well, not good, but better in purple mesh than Harry suspected anyone had the right to. Harry found himself resisting the urge to punch a pillow. “Can I borrow your eyeshadow palette?”

“Which one?” Oceania was busy rummaging through her drawers, presumably for a top, although you never knew with her.

“The Mac one.”

“Mm. I made another DIY one the other day.”

“The Mac one is fine, thanks.”

“It’s in the bathroom cupboard.” Oceania emerged from the drawers triumphantly, her fist clutched around a ball of fabric, although at this point it could still contain as yet unknown horrors. Harry waited before Malfoy had brushed past into the bathroom before saying, “Isn’t a mac a type of sandwich?”

A sharp laugh echoing from the bathroom indicated that any timing precautions taken had been futile. Oceania just quirked an amused brow at him.

“A sandwich,” wheezed the bathroom.

“It’s a makeup brand,” explained Oceania. “Speaking of which, we should do yours too.”

“Fuck it,” said Harry. “You know what? Sure. Let’s do my fucking makeup.”

“Great.” Oceania beamed at him. The she pulled on her top in one fluid motion. It had a picture of Putin in a tutu.

Harry turned and went into the bathroom.

Malfoy was arched over the sink, pressed dangerously close to the mirror. He had a black pencil in his hand. Harry said, “Did you buy her that shirt?”

“What shirt? The vagitarian one?”

Harry closed his eyes briefly.

“The one with the Russian president. That’s probably going to get us taken out.”

“Harry, the last gay bar I went to had a larger than life papier-mâché Jesus. We’ll be fine.”

Harry sat down on the toilet lid and watched Malfoy. He was sticking the pencil closer to his eyeball than Harry thought was strictly sensible.

Malfoy dragged the pencil across the fold of his eye and pulled back, before touching up in precise feathery strokes. He was good. Even Harry could see that he was good. It made his eyes look dramatic, mysterious. Like walking into a modern art museum and seeing something that stunned you in its audacity, even if you couldn’t understand it at all.

He was good. You couldn’t get that good without practising at all. Harry had seen him wear it often. He thought about Malfoy, up in wherever it was he lived, applying makeup like it was just another part of his morning routine. Like a girl.

No. Not like a girl. Like himself. Harry didn’t think anymore, that that made him a girl, exactly. Perhaps there was something else, between Harry’s understanding of boys and girls and boys loving girls that people like Malfoy fell into. Harry felt that his understanding of how everything worked was suspended here, in Gay Dragon Village, and so it didn’t seem that odd that gender would be as well.

There were disparate brands of human. He was beginning to understand that he didn’t know them all.

“Hey,” said Harry. “Osh said that you were to do my makeup.”

“Did she now?” Malfoy pulled back and rubbed at the skin under his brow. The makeup made the movement of his body look softer, rounder – less functional and more performative. He straightened up fully and then dropped the pencil into a pink bag beside him. He turned to Harry.

Harry held his gaze.

Malfoy crossed his arms and leaned back against the curve of the sink. He raised his chin.

“What would you like?” he asked. Harry looked at his throat, and then looked away. The lighting was weird in here.

“How do you make a DIY palette anyway?” he asked.

There was a pause. Then Malfoy huffed.

“With an excess of Vaseline and blind faith,” he muttered, pushing off the sink. “Come here.” He kneeled in front of Harry and sat the bag on the floor beside them. Harry pushed his hand through his hair.

“Just…do whatever you think would suit,” he told him, already feeling like an idiot. What was he thinking? He didn’t look like Malfoy. Malfoy, who wasn’t a girl, but was certainly closer to it than Harry himself. Harry, with his broad shoulders and brown skin and thick brows. Harry, who was undoubtedly a man, from any angle.

It was funny, but up until now Harry had never truly felt that his heterosexuality was obnoxious on any level. In fact, he had often felt that it was the other way around. But now he was sitting on the toilet lid, Malfoy kneeling before him, and everything about Malfoy seemed comfortable.

Malfoy was comfortable wearing makeup. Harry was not. The fact of this made him feel like a child.

Malfoy smirked, but the way he directed it was not cruel. There was something almost attentive about his gaze. Then he turned it away and rummaged through the bag.

“Urm,” he said. “I’m sorry, I don’t think my, uh, foundation will work for you.”

Harry shrugged. He didn’t even know what foundation was.

Malfoy pulled out a wide flat box instead and flipped open the lid. Inside were rows of coloured circles. Malfoy reached dipped his middle finger into the lightest one, that glittered a shade of orange-white when the light hit it right, and rubbed it back and forth. When he pulled back, his finger was covered in it. He reached for Harry, and then hesitated.

“Sorry,” he said. “I don’t normally use a brush for the base. Is this…?”

Harry shrugged again. “Sure.”

Malfoy reached again. Then he stopped again, a few inches away, and looked at Harry.

“Harry,” he said, sounding a little exasperated. “I need you to close your eyes.”

“Oh.” Harry blinked at him, and then closed his eyes. It was incredibly disconcerting, not being able to see at all.

“Okay,” said Malfoy, and then the pad of his finger brushed lightly against the inner corner of Harry’s eyelid. Harry jumped, just a little.

“It’s okay,” Malfoy shushed, and another hand came up to grip his shoulder. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

Harry swallowed. Malfoy’s finger continued to move. It was a strange sensation. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had touched his face.

Malfoy’s finger came away and then came back again. This time it moved along the outer edges of Harry’s eye, circling along the hollows in his socket. Harry wondered what it would be like if his eyes were open right now. He imagined collarbones, and necklines.

Malfoy’s finger came away and back again. Harry wondered how much of this white shit he was putting on.

“Hey,” he said, after Malfoy’s finger came away for the fourth time. “Can I open my eyes yet?”

“No.” Malfoy’s voice was very close. “You can stay quiet, like a good muse.”

“This is boring,” said Harry, even though it wasn’t. Malfoy’s finger was making fast rubbing movements against his brow bone.

“Well, jeez Harry,” said Malfoy. “Think happy thoughts. I don’t know. Imagine quidditch. Kissing girls. Eating something other than cookies.”

Despite himself, Harry smiled. Malfoy slapped at his cheek.

“Stop that,” he said, but it sounded like maybe he was smiling too. “I can’t work when you do that.”

“You’re not even doing my mouth,” Harry protested, but tried to flatten his muscles all the same. Malfoy’s finger just kept rubbing. Eventually, it disappeared, and when it came back, it was sharp and pointy and not very finger-like at all.

“Fuck,” said Harry, and jumped a little, again. The hand on his shoulder dug in.

“Stop,” ordered Malfoy, “Stop moving. If you move I’ll fuck it up.”

“What is that?”

“Eyeliner,” Malfoy said, very matter of fact.

“Is that the black pencil?”

“Yes,” said Malfoy. He sounded amused. “Well observed of you.”

The black pencil wasn’t nearly so nice as the finger. It moved along the edge of his eye, skating right atop where the lid ended in a way that made Harry fidgety. It extended so far along past where his eye ended that Harry wondered if Malfoy was making him look like an Egyptian.

“Can I open my eyes yet?”

“No.” Malfoy repeated the whole process to his other eye.

Eventually, Malfoy said, “Open your eyes.”

Harry opened his eyes. He blinked, both against the sudden harshness of the bright bathroom and at the unfamiliar sensation of weight atop his eyelids. Malfoy sat back, and when Harry’s eyes adjusted, Harry saw there was something surprised about his expression as well.

“What?” asked Harry. “That bad?”

“No,” said Malfoy, and then shook his head. He leaned back in. “Look up.”

Harry looked up. Malfoy took his chin, albeit gently, between his thumb and forefinger. Harry was aware that he was holding his breath, but couldn’t stop.

Having his eyes closed hadn’t actually been that bad. Not compared to this. It was almost torturous, having Malfoy and his black eyelids, all up in his peripheral vision. Malfoy was applying some tickly black stick to his lashes. It made him blink furiously.

“Alright,” said Malfoy, and sat back on his heels. He capped the black stick and rummaged around in the bag again. When he remerged, it was with his long fingers curled around a red tube.

Harry wasn’t a wholegrain fool. Even he knew that was lipstick.

“Malfoy…” he said, drawing out the “oy” haltingly. Malfoy blinked innocuously up at Harry, and then that half-moon wrinkle appeared at the very left edge of his mouth.

“Yes?” His voice was syrupy smooth.

Harry opened his mouth, but found all his protests wanting. He closed it, blinking, and then inhaled and relaxed his shoulders. Malfoy was pretending to fiddle with the lid of lipstick, but was watching closely.

Harry made a jerky movement with his head. “Go on then.” It was consent.

To his surprise, Malfoy made no further comments. Instead, he just looked down at the lipstick, almost cogitative in his expression, before pulling it off. It was slow, deliberative. Harry thought there was something explicit about the bend of his fingers.

Having his eyes closed hadn’t actually been that bad. Not that bad at all. Now, Malfoy was shifting closer to him, close enough to be technically considered within the bracket of Harry’s knees, and he was reaching up. Deliriously, Harry thought that the whole manoeuvre was reminiscent of a flower blooming.

It hadn’t been that bad at all. Malfoy was raising the bullet of it to Harry’s mouth, and he could feel his heartbeat in his neck. He had never worn lipstick before. The slick, sticky texture was unfamiliar – exotically so. It was neither wet nor dry.

It was a bright, philandering shade of red. Like a bud caught ripening, displaying its fertility to the world. And here he was, participating himself in this social painting of his face. Art for art’s sake, art for sex’s sake. Were they so different to flowers after all?

Malfoy was inches away, and Harry’s eyes were free to roam. It hadn’t been that bad. The planes of his face were dynamic this close up, and you could see that he wasn’t really that pale at all. Pale was the wrong word. He was a combination of blue veins and red blood, ruddy flesh and carved bone, all sealed away in a skin so light it was translucent, a formality settled over his vitality like a table cloth.

All his attention was focused on Harry’s mouth. It wasn’t so bad. Harry closed his eyes.

The touch fluttered away like a butterfly. Harry opened his eyes. Malfoy was zipping up the bag and standing up and back. Harry stared up at him.

“Well.” Malfoy gestured to the mirror on the adjacent wall. “Aren’t you going to take a look at yourself?”

Harry turned his head. He almost laughed.

If it hadn’t been him he would’ve laughed. But it was him, and the possibility of laughter got stuck just behind his teeth.

His heart was beating in his chest. “Thanks,” he said, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible. “It looks good.”

It didn’t look like him at all. His blinked, dark, luminous eyes darting across the glass. It looked more like him that he’d thought was possible.

Was it possible to be simultaneously uncomfortable and comfortable in your own skin? Harry glanced over at Malfoy. He was leaning back against where the glass of the shower door curved out, the bag still clutched in one hand and his jaw tilted up. His eyes were liquid.

“Thanks,” Harry said again, sincerer this time. Malfoy parted his mouth, his tongue darting out to prod at his bottom lip. He looked like he was about to say something. The bathroom was still too small.

“Are you two still at it? You’re not putting him in drag are you?” Oceania’s head popped around the corner, and then the rest of her followed. She had paired the Putin shirt with a tutu, and the logic that went into this fashion choice was so Oceania it made Harry want to cry. “Charlie and I were eating flat mints in the lounge, but there are only so many flat mints you and your flat mint eating partner can eat before you both start wondering if you’re missing out on other life experiences.”

She glanced at Harry. Then gasped comically.

“Harry,” she said. Harry felt quite flattered. “You look like a princess.”

Harry felt quite less flattered. Malfoy snorted into his fist, which was pretty fucking rich.

“Not like an old time princess,” Oceania clarified. “One of those sexy ones. That lounge about on beaded cushions and do nothing but eat prepared fruit suggestively all day. You know.”

Harry did not. Why Oceania expected him have any sort of general knowledge on types of princesses was beyond his grasp. But he loved her deeply, and so he just said, “Thanks, Osh,” in a relatively unstrained tone.

Malfoy bit down on his fist to muffle his giggle. The giggle was not muffled.

“You look beautiful,” Oceania continued, as on course as ever. “I might kiss you.”

“That would be a bit weird,” Harry said kindly.

“Yeah,” agreed Oceania. “It would.” She sighed happily and leaned against the door frame. “Maybe I’ll kiss Malfoy instead. He’s pretty too.”

“Yeah,” said Harry.

“Urm,” said Malfoy. His eyes were wide. Oceania grinned shark-like at him, and then lunged, making obnoxious kissing noises. He cowered in the corner, batting her with the makeup bag, but it was clearly just for show. Eventually she got an arm around him and placed a large, wet-sounding smack against his cheek.

“Get off me!” he squealed, laughing, trying to wriggle out of her grasp. “No – God, woman, I’m a poof! A flagrant poof! Control yourself!”

Oceania pressed one more kiss to his nose and then fell away, laughing too.

“Good thing we’re going to a gay bar,” she said, “There, everyone is beautiful.”

“Honestly?” said Malfoy. “This isn’t even a real gay bar.”

“What?” Harry glanced around at the pulsing purple lights, flooding the lengths of the walls and bouncing back off the glittered columns. “It’s not?”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think you sounded disappointed.” Malfoy smirked around the edge of his white Russian, one arm pressed against the counter and the rest of his body slinking back. He took a sip, licking the white moisture off of his upper lip in one elegant movement.

Harry was drinking beer, because Harry was a basic bitch. He ran his thumb over the swelling bulb of the glass and shrugged. Having never been to a gay bar, he couldn’t really tell the difference.

Well, except from the lotus place. But the lotus place was so extreme in its distinctiveness that it felt unreliable to be comparing it to this place anyway.

This just seemed like a regular nightclub. Not that Harry had been to many of those, either.

“Why isn’t it?”

“Well, it’s not officially a gay club.” Malfoy licked at his lip again. “There’s a lot of straight people who come here too. But it’s also where all the gays come to hang out.”

“And the bisexuals,” Harry murmured. Malfoy raised a whetted brow.

“My,” he said, after a pause. “You really are learning your gAy-B-Cs.”

Harry snorted into his beer, and took a deep sip. When he turned over, Malfoy was still looking at him calculatingly, the way he’d been looking at him all night.

The way he’d probably been looking at him his whole life, honestly. Seeing Malfoy all dressed up like this reminded Harry of a time when he’d still believed that Draco Malfoy was nothing but trouble. Harry could see it now – trouble – tucked up in the corner of his lips, tangled in his blackened eyelashes. Trouble. Malfoy took another sip.

“Where’s Oceania anyway?” Malfoy asked after a while. He glanced around the counter like she might be sitting on it.

“On the stage,” Harry said absentmindedly. Malfoy gave him a bewildered look, and then swirled around to behold the wonder that was indeed Oceania, at her full Osh potential. She was up on the small reflective stage, shimmying around, Putin’s tutu-clad form swaying back and forth the bouncing crowd like a lantern guiding a lost ship home. As they both watched in unequivocal appreciation, Oceania squatted to her knees and began to shake her body in a way that made the tutu move rather explicitly. The crowd went wild.

“Oceania exists on another level to the rest of us,” Malfoy decided, to Harry’s right. “A better level. A purer one, perhaps. One where twerking in a tutu on a stage in a gay bar seems like simply a pleasant thing to do.”

This seemed to be a fair and true assessment. Harry said, “I thought you said this wasn’t a gay bar.”

“Well. It’s the closest we have to a gay bar. What were we going to do, fucking apparate back to London just to drop in at the Village Soho? I don’t think so. You were the one almost puking on the way here.”

That was true. They had somehow apparated the one hundred and fourty-three kilometres from Tengboche to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, and more specifically to the Fire and techno Nightclub, because, in Malfoy’s words, “If you want to find the queers, head to the cities.” How they had accomplished this, Harry wasn’t sure. Oceania had said being in close proximity to the dragons for an extended period of time tended to magnify magical ability, but Harry had a feeling Oceania was just really fucking determined and also a little bit full of shit. Malfoy had said Harry had extra strong abilities anyway, because he was the Chosen One wasn’t he, but he had said it whilst running a hand up Harry’s very exposed bicep and smiling lasciviously, and so Harry had a feeling that Malfoy was just really, really gay, and was thus secreting gay vibes before heading to a gay bar in order to prepare himself.

He was definitely secreting them now. In fact, his smile could still be pretty much described as lascivious. Harry felt that he could use some air, or perhaps some really bright lighting.

Harry took a sip of his beer. Malfoy took a sip of his Russian.

Jesus Christ.

“Do you want to dance?”

Harry started. Malfoy had set his glass down, and was looking directly at Harry. Harry blinked.

“Not really, no,” he blurted.

Malfoy shrugged, one pointy dip of his shoulders, the mesh sliding down on one of them. His skin gleamed under the electric lighting.

“Alright,” he said. “I’m not here to convert you.”

As he pushed up off the counter with one hand and took a few steps back, not enough to submerge himself in the crowd, but enough to become part of it, Harry thought that was debatable. He smiled at Harry as he moved back, and it was an easy smile, loose and amused. As Harry watched, he began to dance.

It wasn’t anything particularly special about the dancing. Malfoy danced the way most good people danced, freed and instinctively rhythmic, a simple desire to honour the pleasure of music. But what Harry liked was the way that he fit in, almost immediately, with the rest of the crowd. Malfoy like this, with his painted face and neon shirt, was a local, knitting in perfectly with smells and the sounds and the colours, all around him. The feelings, too. The feelings of a nightclub – ecstasy, lust, and liberation. A kaleidoscope of an evening, where the only goal was pleasure, pleasure alone. He was in his environment. Harry liked it. He liked to see other people’s environments. He felt that they were physical expressions of something inside.

Harry himself felt similar to how he had felt when he had first arrived at Gay Dragon Village. Like a tourist. Maybe it was because he wasn’t used to nightclubs, maybe it was because he was supposedly straight; maybe it was just him. Either way, despite his appearance, he once again felt that it was a palpable thing, his foreignness, expanding like a bubble around him.

But Malfoy was dancing. He was watching Harry, and then he was closing his eyes and tipping his head back, laughing as some girl that he couldn’t have met before now said something into his ear. Easy, easy, easy.

Harry closed his eyes. The world was dark and private again, just for a moment. Then he opened them to the living lights. The only goal here was pleasure.

He got to his feet and walked across the room. Malfoy turned and caught sight of him, and then he smiled brilliantly.

“Look at you,” he cooed, but not meanly. “Being all Gryffindor.”

Harry rolled his eyes, but the effect was probably lost in the middle of so much movement. The girl Malfoy had been talking to passed him her glass before disappearing, and Malfoy shrugged before downing half and passing it to Harry. Harry smiled at him over the rim.

And then he was dancing. Slowly, slowly. He tried to let himself into it, but he couldn’t help the prickles of self-consciousness that rose out of his skin like goose-bumps. Still, he tried. It was good here, with the music and the people and the friendly weight of alcohol, and it was better with Malfoy, who was dancing and smiling at Harry at the same time now.

Malfoy moved like something was growing inside of him. It was so expressive, in a way that Harry almost felt envious of.

Malfoy moved like most people moved, and it made his body move the way most dancing bodies moved. Which was to say, desirably.

Harry’s body was reacting the way most bodies reacted in result to being in close proximity to other bodies. Which was to say, readily. It was not his fault. He could not control his body.

Did Malfoy notice? It was hard to say, with the room so dark and the space so crowed. Everything was hot, lurid, willing. Harry didn’t so much as do things as much as think about them. He wished he hadn’t had that last drink. He wished he’d had more drinks.

Sometimes, he felt like Malfoy noticed everything. Like Malfoy could see deeper into Harry than Harry could himself. He had said he was good at finding paths into people, and Harry believed him.

Harry wasn’t good at finding paths in anything. He was nearly always lost. Right now, he felt attached to reality as he knew it by little more than a thread, with the music playing so loud it was practically grasping his head and Malfoy dancing like that in front of him, his skin glistening with sweat. No one should have been able to look good in neon mesh.

Harry wished he could let go of the thread, but still, he was clinging. He was as afraid of the unknown as much as any human.

Malfoy turned and met his eyes. The grey in his had always been striking, but were even more so, with the makeup and the dancing. He wasn’t smiling anymore, but he wasn’t unhappy either. There was something about his expression that implied the sense of being lost as well, but it was the kind of lost you wanted to find. His lashes fluttered down, and he moved closer.

Had he noticed?

 He had moved closer. Someone bumped into Harry on his right side. The crowd had knitted itself around them, stretching and tightening in time with the rhythm. It was easy to move closer. Harry was struck by how much he wanted easy, for once.

He reached out and put a careful hand on Malfoy’s back. The mesh was soft, and as they moved, he could feel the damp skin through the material’s gaps in places. Against the flesh beneath his thumb, and the pads of his middle and index finger.

He could hear Malfoy breathing. How could he hear him breathing? A lock of white hair fell into Malfoy’s face. His head was bowed.

For a moment, it was just like that. A sweep of violet light drew across the crowd, and for a second, every bobbing head just looked like a quivering petal. Then the song changed and the lights went an unforgiving yellow and Harry’s hand fell. Oceania was there.

“Hey.” She pressed up close against them so they could hear her. “Found you. How’s it going? Do you want a drink?”

It was too loud to speak. Harry bent down low and said, “I’ll come with you.”

“Right,” Oceania shouted back. The song had just reached its deafening chorus.

Malfoy put a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll stay here,” he mouthed, and Oceania nodded, before taking Harry’s hand and leading him through the crowd.

When they finally navigated their way back to the bar, Oceania ordered some iced water for the two of them. She hopped up onto one of the stools, and as Harry sat down, he realised how grateful he was for a break.

“Hey,” Oceania was saying, leaning across the bar. She was pointing at one of the glasses. “Can you put in a bit of tabasco sauce? Tabasco. Yeah, the sauce. And add another lemon please. Thanks.”

She turned to Harry and handed him the glasses. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s go and sit on one of the sofas. It’ll be nicer.”

They made their way to the sofas, and slumped down on the one nearest to one of the glittery columns. There were framed pictures on the walls, but Harry didn’t really recognise any of the bands or people. He took a sip of his water and watched as Oceania took a sip of hers, tabasco sauce and all.

“Will Draco be okay on his own?”

“Should be,” Oceania replied. She set her glass down and wiped her mouth. It’s a pretty safe crowd. And we can see it from here. He’ll know where to find us.”

Harry nodded. He pressed the edge of the glass to his forehead, feeling the condensation mix with his sweat.

“Are you having a good time?”

Harry manged to conjure up a tired smile for her. “Yeah,” he sighed. “Just – it’s a bit loud.”

“It’s a bit much,” Oceania translated and nodded.

“But it’s nice,” said Harry. His heart was still racing in his chest.

“Yeah,” said Oceania. She took another sip.

The crowd seemed like a much smaller thing from up here. He could see the people who were dancing, the people who were drunk. The people who were touching. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he saw two men together at the edge of the crowd. He thought he saw two women as well. He could definitely see some men and women together.

He couldn’t see Malfoy. Maybe he was in the bathroom. He dug the edge of the glass further into his skull.

Oceania was quiet beside him. He set down the glass and looked at her. A piece of her hair was stuck down to her cheek, but she wasn’t wiping it off.

“Osh,” he said. She blinked and looked over at him.

“Oh,” she said, and smiled. “Hey. You alright?”

“Yes,” he said.


“I think so.”

“You think so?”

“I…it’s just, I think I might be bisexual.”

“Oh.” Oceania blinked. Then she smiled very kindly, and brushed two fingers over his shoulder. “Well, that’s perfectly okay.”

“Yeah.” Harry felt like the bulb in his throat had swelled. He looked away. “I know.”

“Hey.” The two fingers tapped. “I’m proud of you.”

Harry looked back up, startled. “What?” he asked. “Why?”

Oceania shrugged. She was still smiling. “For telling the truth.”

Harry blinked. Then he nodded and looked away again. Everything was a blur of sensation, and the crowd still looked so small.

When they got back to the camp it was very late. They all recovered by holding onto the trees at the edge of the forest and groaning loudly for a few minutes, before trekking up to the cafeteria. There were noises, the sounds of people talking and laughing, coming faintly from somewhere close.

“Those bastards,” said Malfoy. Oceania grinned and gestured for them to follow her. They headed towards the neighbouring forest and took the same path that they had taken the first time Harry had gone drinking with them.

The difference was this time the fire was already lit when they got there. Hayden, Charlie, and Tom were all sitting there, sprawled across the logs and clearly merry. Someone from somewhere had gotten quilted pillows, and marshmallows.

When they noticed the arrival of the rest of the group, they became even merrier.

“Harry!” cried Charlie, struggling to sit up. “Draco! Osh..aynee…Oshaynee! Oshayneenah!”

“Char char beans!” Oceania hollered and threw herself into Charlie’s lap, grinning widely. “You’re drunk!”

“I am!” Charlie declared, as if this was a bit of a shock.

“What’s up assholes,” Malfoy grumbled as he gingerly sat himself down on one of the logs. “I see you decided to get fucked up in our absence.”

“Well,” said Hayden, surprisingly evenly considering the high flush in their long face. “See, last time I went to a gay bar with you, I had to walk in on you sucking the bouncer’s cock.”

“That was once,” Malfoy growled whilst Harry raised his brows at him. He was scowling down at the fire.

“Well,” said Hayden. “It was once too many.”

“Hayden,” said Tom. His tone was soft, but somehow reproving. Harry was surprised when Hayden met his eyes and only twitched a brow before shutting up.

If anything, the exchange only seemed to make Malfoy grumpier.

Harry inspected Tom. He was surprised to see him here, because so often it seemed like he was restricted to the temple, whether though religion or introversion, but it was obvious now that he was familiar with the rest of them. Of course, he must’ve been familiar. He had dated Draco.

He didn’t seem drunk. But he looked happy enough to be here, even in his monk robe.

“Oh yeah,” Charlie said loudly. Oceania giggled, her arms wrapped around his neck, which was probably wise, what with the way he was swaying. “That was kind of gross. No offense Malfoy. But it was a bit gross.”

“Thanks for your input,” Malfoy said drily. He was still looking down at the fire.

“Don’t be like that,” said Charlie. “Come here. I love you.”

Malfoy raised his head. His grumpy expression was upset upon witnessing Charlie’s inebriated state, at which he raised an amused brow.

Charlie was patting Oceania’s tutu. “Come here,” he demanded.

“I know you love me, Charlie,” Malfoy told him clearly, and he relented, leaning to rest his forehead on Oceania’s hair.

Hayden turned to Harry. “Did you enjoy yourself?” They asked.

“Urm.” Harry cleared his throat. He was careful not to look at Malfoy. “Yes. I did.”

Hayden nodded.

“Are you enjoying yourself?”

Hayden nodded again, the edge of their mouth curving up. There was something appreciative about their gaze. “I did.” And then, “I like your shirt.”

“Oh god.” Harry had forgotten about the shirt. He crossed his arms. “Don’t even.”

Hayden laughed. Harry forgot about not looking at other people and glanced up to meet Malfoy’s gaze as he was laughing himself. It was strange, like he had just figured out an answer to a question he hadn’t meant to ask. Harry felt his laughter die.

“Here,” Hayden was passing him a bottle. “It’s not firewhisky, but it’s still good.”

Harry still felt watched. “Thanks,” he said, and took a large gulp. He tried to give it back to Hayden, but they shook their hand. Harry paused awkwardly, and then looked over to Malfoy and handed it to him.

Their fingers didn’t overlap, but as the bottle was passed Harry felt a sliver of the soft skin on the side of Malfoy’s pinky brush past his thumb. That sliver was going to haunt him.

Malfoy didn’t look at Harry as he drank. In fact, he barely drank, the purse of his mouth scarcely touching the rim of the bottle before he immediately swallowed. Then he brought it back down, and played with the glass neck in his hands. Harry watched as his own fingers overlapped each other.

Tom was looking at him. He also looked like he had figured something out, but he didn’t seem to mind the answer. When he saw that Harry was looking back, he smiled.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“Yeah.” Harry cleared his throat again. “Yeah.”

“Harry?” Charlie had started up again, his head raising from Oceania’s hair. “Come here.”

Harry laughed. “Urm,” he said.

“Come here now.”

Harry laughed again. “Alright,” he said, and stood up, crossing over Hayden’s long legs to get to them. When he was standing above them, he opened up his arms. “What now?”

Charlie looked up, and when his eyes focused on Harry he beamed. “Harry! You came!” He gestured to Oceania’s lap. “Now, sit down.”

“Urm,” said Harry. “I’m not sure if that’s a good idea. I might crush Oceania.”

“That’s alright,” Oceania told him, quite pleasantly. “I don’t mind.”

Harry reached out and rubbed a bit of her hair. “I don’t want to crush you,” he said fondly.

“Mmm,” Oceania smiled and wriggled over, so that one of Charlie’s knees was freed.

“Oh god,” said Harry. “Are you serious?”

“Sit down!” Charlie bellowed.

Harry bit his lip and ran a hand through his hair. Gingerly, he perched himself on top of Charlie’s bent leg, acutely aware of Malfoy’s presence.

The second he was in positon he was shuffled so that a large arm was squishing him against the other two. His forehead was indented in Charlie’s neck and Oceania’s face was very close. He thought one of her legs might be on top of his.

“Oh,” he said to her. “Hello.”

She grinned back and tapped his nose. He wrinkled it.

“You know,” Charlie announced from above the two of them. “I love you too, Harry. Even though you’re new.”

Harry was a bit shocked at the rush of emotion rushing down the middle of him. “Oh,” he said, once he’d gotten his voice under control. “Thank you.”

“He means it.” Oceania ran a finger between his brows. “I love you, too.”

“Thanks, Osh.” He was a bit choked up. Behind them, he was aware that the others had started up their own conversation. He was glad for the chance to bury his face against someone’s shoulder and catch himself.

Time was a funny thing when you were drunk. It had been a long night. Harry felt the warmth of the fire, licking up his side, and he closed his eyes.

“How does it feel?” He heard himself ask, into their little bubble.


“How does it feel to love me?”

“It feels like this,” Oceania whispered. Her hand came up between them again and wrapped around his own. Above them, Harry thought Charlie might be snoring. “Like, being safe. Like, being warm. The same way it feels to love anyone.”

Oceania’s fingers were slender and delicate. Harry felt them fit in the spaces between his.

“Does it?” he whispered.

“Yes.” Oceania blinked heavily, and then opened her eyes again. She was smiling knowingly, just a little.

“Isn’t that why you came here?” She asked, and it echoed in Harry’s skull. “To feel safe?”

Harry closed his eyes. “I came here,” he said, "because I couldn’t stay.”

Chapter Text

 “Today is an exciting day,” announced Oceania as she plopped down opposite Harry and Hayden. “A historical day, in fact.”

“Historical how?” Hayden asked.

“Today,” said Oceania, with great feeling. “We will not be having bao zi for breakfast.  Oh. Oh no. We will be having,” she took a moment to raise her arms for effect, “Porridge!”

Sometimes, Harry wasn’t sure whether it was Oceania who had influenced Draco, or Draco who had influenced Oceania.

“Porridge,” Hayden echoed. “How thrilling.”

“Don’t give me that voice,” said Oceania, waving her spoon menacingly at them. “I know my facts. White people love porridge.”

The sound of crunching gravel broke their camaraderie. Harry turned to see Charlie approaching, looking weary. Harry supposed a night of drinking in the undergrowth could do that to you.

“Hey,” he said when he was within hearing distance. Oceania offered a bowl of porridge to him. “No, I’m good thanks. Harry, can I talk to you for a second?”

“Oh. Sure. I’ll just –” He stood up and followed Charlie down the track, next to the forest that sprung up off to the side of the cafeteria.

Charlie stopped when they were just a few steps within the lines of trees. The splintered sunlight cast down onto the worried lines of his face. Harry rubbed his sole into the ground and wondered what could possibly be so important that it needed to be discussed so far away from Oceania and Hayden. In all his time here, it had so rarely felt like Gay Dragon Village needed secrets.

The air smelt like upturned soil. Harry watched Charlie swallow.

“Alright,” said Charlie. He rubbed at his brow, and then looked up at Harry. “Not really sure how to go about this. It’s a bit – well, it’s about Jane.”

Harry felt the guilt blossom thickly in his stomach, ink unfurling onto damp paper.

“Jane,” he said.

“Yeah.” Charlie scratched his head. “Thing is, well, she’s not quite right. I don’t really know how to put it. Sounds a bit stupid out loud.”

Harry felt his heart in his throat, behind his voice box, under his chin. He felt it in every bone behind his face.

“What do you mean,” he said quietly. “When you say “not quite right”?”

“It’s, ah.” Charlie scrubbed his head harder. “Well, what do you know about mental health?”

Everything went very still. Harry thought he could feel the oxygen vibrating in his brain.

“Not very much,” he heard himself say. His gaze had slid to a midway point between two trees.

“Well,” said Charlie. “You know some people get, like, diseases in their brain? It’s a bit like that. Even with dragons. People sometimes forget that they get sad too.”

Harry’s gaze slid further. It caught on the second tree, and then skidded down the brown trunk to the ground. Everything smelt like soil.

“You know it’s been difficult with her. You haven’t really been connecting, and it’s been a good few months now. It’s not normal. I did a few check-ups. Really, should’ve noticed sooner. I am sorry about all of this though.”

“What does it mean?” Harry asked. He had the feeling that he was watching his life through a screen, or maybe a pensieve, and that this conversation had already happened, or was always going to happen, or was always happening.

“Well,” said Charlie. “It means your dragon is depressed. It happens sometimes. I’ve seen it before, occasionally.”

Harry closed his eyes. Everything inside him was rising up. He felt it swell beneath his skin, a tidal wave on the peak of cresting. Craving, desperately, the switch from potential to kinetic energy.

It would drown him. It would drown everything.

“Harry.” Charlie’s hand was on his shoulder. “Hey. Hey. It’s not your fault.”

Harry opened his eyes. The world looked the same, but bluer.

“So what are my options?” he asked. His voice was too loud for his feelings.

“Well,” said Charlie.  He sounded hesitant. “We could get you a new dragon. If that’s what you wanted. It’s not really – it’s difficult work if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Harry nodded. He nodded again. The air was a physical thing as it moved in and out of him.

“I need to just –” He tried to point towards the cafeteria, but it was a vague flapping gesture.

“Sure,” Charlie was saying. “Yeah, take your time. S’not urgent.”

Harry nodded again, but he was already leaving. His body was taking him out of the treeline and up the track. He didn’t stop at the cafeteria. He didn’t stop at the yoga mountain. He went to the Green Hotel, and went up to his room.

His empty, functional hotel room. He found that he was breathing quite hard.

It was sickening.

This room was a room made for guests. He was a guest. Here, in this place. In Gay Dragon Village. In everywhere he went.

He was sick of feeling like a goddamn foreigner.

Home country was a not a thing that existed. There was only this place, and the next, and the next, and one day it would destroy him. He was always observing life from behind windows.

Everything was going to shatter.

No, he thought. “No.” He said it out loud.

The room looked back at him, unmoved. He fell onto it, his hands fumbling at his bed sheets, rummaging through his drawers. He pulled them all open and started emptying things onto the carpet. When they were all empty he kept on tugging until all of the drawers came right out, and then tipped them upside down, just to make sure. He stuck his hands inside, felt along the greasy metal railings. His fingers came back dusty. He turned to the pile of dirty clothes on his chair and grabbed at them in handfuls, throwing them behind with the others. He turned the chair upside down.

He found his suitcase. He flipped it open and started tipping things into it, haphazard and nonsensically. He knew he was acting nonsensically. But just like everything else, he could not control it.

It was too much. It was not enough. He tore away and pulled at his hair, his heartbeat in his ears.

This room was too small. It was going to close around him, and then nobody would ever find him.

He went to the window. His fingers were clumsy, and he grazed the side of his thumb trying to open it. When he did, he pushed his head and shoulders out and gasped.

He needed air.

Pulling back, he threw off his jacket and shoved his trainers on. He was going to get out. He was going to get out, and then he would calm down, and it would be okay. 

It was still sunny. He dodged into the tree line, following no path, his heavy feet trampling the grass. It got darker quickly. The trees around him thickened, long lines of ink being pulled out of the ground.

He wanted to go to that place he and Draco had gone to the other day. But he didn’t know where it was, and he didn’t know how to find his way.

This running didn’t look like healthy running. He couldn’t even tell if it was helping. The familiar compression in his chest and nature smells weren’t calming him this time. It only felt like his body couldn’t keep up with his mind.

He ran. But his body couldn’t keep up. Eventually, he had to stop, sagging against a tree and coughing, sweat catching at the cracked corners of his mouth. It hurt, but not as much as –

He pushed off the tree and turned the corner.

There was the loch. It looked different in daylight. And Malfoy wasn’t there. But it was still wide and endless, its reflective surface as secretive as it was beautiful. He fell to his knees and dipped his fingers in. The ripples were delicate as they lapped around his skin.

Of course.

The blue was a vivid, tangible thing inside of him. It rose and swelled, expanding to push past his ribcage, climbing the hollow of his throat. It was water-logging him. It wasn’t real, but he could still see it, as if with another sense inside of him – see the deepening, bleeding blue.

He had been afraid of it for a long time. But it was here now. It had always been here. Of course. It lived inside him.

He could not outrun it.

Harry Potter fell back to the ground, and began to cry.

Harry had first met the blue in Scotland. It had been a few months after the war.

He didn’t know entirely where it came from, or what it was – especially at first. But somewhere, perhaps hiding in the corners of his new flat, or lining the edges of the pavement, or just beneath the roaring of the passing cars – there had been something, something dark and bad and cold, and eventually it had creeped out and seeped into his pores – and everything inside him had just gone blue.

Blue. That was a good word to describe it. It was as if his eyes had stopped working right, and the part that was supposed to show him other colours stopped showing him it. In fact, everything in him had stopped working right.

Things like speaking, smiling, laughing. They happened, but so often, he had the strange feeling that it wasn’t him that was making them happen. People talked to him, but the words slipped over his skin meaninglessly, and he couldn’t quite understand. The language of socialising felt swollen on his tongue. He had to work to mimic what he saw being exchanged around him. Foreigner.

And so he didn’t. He was tired. He went back to his flat and the blue grew around him, spilling like a running tap. He couldn’t find where to turn it off. And so it spilt, and it spilt, and he drowned.

You can’t die from something in your mind. He knew that, logically.

But it felt a lot like dying.

He didn’t understand what was wrong with him. The war was over – and even so, it didn’t feel like anything had felt like during the war. He had felt bad things, of course he had – but nothing he had ever felt before had gotten into his bones like this. This went beyond feeling. He hadn’t known that there were so many parts of him available to hurt.

Hermione and Ron had been the only ones who ever found out. It was when he cut off all his hair, and they found him six hours later, sitting alone in a circle of his own black hair, that they had finally realised something wasn’t right.

It’s terrifyingly easy to lie to the people you love. And Harry found that, after lying to them, you can’t quite love them the same anymore.

“Harry,” Hermione had said, clutching her hands together and kneeling in front of him, her eyes wide and watery. “Harry, we need to do something about this.”

 Harry had looked off at a point behind her, over her shoulder, and thought No. No, I need to just get out.

Harry didn’t know when we had become I. But it had, and now he was sitting here alone, and there was no escaping it.

There was no escaping anything. He pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes and pushed. The tears ran down his wrists, trailing into his mouth. He felt the sob building up inside him, and bit down. It wrecked through him anyway.

He didn’t know when it had come to this. When he had transitioned from the Harry Potter that could feel pain in a way that was still okay, to a Harry Potter that couldn’t feel okay at all. He didn’t recognise himself. Foreigner.

Draco Malfoy stepped out of the woods.

Harry scrambled up and stepped away, turning to cover his face. “God,” he said through his hands and tears. He hated the way his voice sounded. “Don’t.”

He hated Malfoy’s silence. He must’ve been surprised, stepping out of the woods only to find Harry Potter, curled up on himself and bawling like someone had died. Harry rubbed at his eyes, willing everything to stop.

A twig on the ground broke behind him. Malfoy was stepping forward. Harry felt his back muscles tense up so much it was almost painful. He waited for the awful awkwardness in Malfoy’s voice.

“I –” said Malfoy. Harry heard him take a breath. “We’ve been looking for you.”


Of course. He had been gone for a few hours. Probably.

“I –” said Malfoy. Harry waited. He knew what came next. He knew this script off by heart.

Malfoy exhaled. He sounded close. “Harry,” he said, and it was strange, that Malfoy sounded almost embarrassed.  “Can I touch you?”

The world went very still. Harry blinked, his damp lashes brushing his fingers.

What,” he said. The words caught in his throat, stammering. “What, why would you want to –”

“I just meant like –” Malfoy put his hand on his shoulder. It was a light touch, hovering politely, before slowly running down to meet his elbow. His fingers paused in the indent there, as if acquainting themselves.


Harry let out a ragged breath, slipping his hands down from his face. The air was cool on the dampness of his cheeks. Malfoy’s middle finger tapped two feathery beats against the material of his jumper.

“Is it okay?” Malfoy asked. His voice was so soft it was more of a suggestion of a sound. Harry swallowed throatily. He nodded, and leaned back, just a little.

“I just meant…”Malfoy breathed a small chuckle. “Like how normal people…” His hand ran along Harry’s forearm and found his wrist. His fingers paused there too, finding the small bone that jutted outwards.

Harry closed his eyes. His body ached, all over, from the crying. The humiliation of was still stretched tight within him.

“Am I not normal?” He asked.

He could feel Malfoy’s breath on the shell of his ear. Heard him swallow. He asked, “Do you want to be?”

There. That was what Malfoy did. Harry watched his fingers rub that bone on his wrist, like they were polishing a pearl, and closed his eyes. It was cresting in him again.

If it had been any other time, he wouldn’t have done this. If it had felt any easier, even just a little, he would not have let himself do this. But it wasn’t another time, and it wasn’t any easier. It was only this.

He took a step back. It was more deliberate this time. His back pushed up against Malfoy’s chest.

Malfoy took a step into him too. Then they were pressed up against each other, breathing, one living shape up against the side of the loch. One of Malfoy’s arms was winded around Harry’s waist, a hand rubbing into his stomach. He could feel the ghosted outline of Malfoy’s jaw fitted along the very top of his neck.

It was only times like this when Harry remembered that Malfoy was taller. Was this how normal people touched? Harry knew, in some abstract part of his brain, that this was little more than a hug. But it had been a long time since he’d touched someone else, and he forgot the physicality of it. The awareness of all these other body parts. The way his brain focused in on the details, soaking it up like a sponge – the warmth of a palm, the firmness of a bone, the smell of someone else’s skin, all over. Malfoy was touching him all over. Harry could not help but feel like he was being seen, in a way that he could not hide from.

Malfoy dipped his head, dropping his face lower. His mouth hesitated above the curve of Harry’s neck, hot air flooding his senses, and then slowly, went down to mouth at it. Harry felt the warmth pulsating in his chest. His hand found Malfoy’s on his stomach, and held on.

Malfoy slowly lifted his head again. He moved along, his nose in Harry’s hair. In Harry’s ear, he said, “Are you okay, Harry Potter?”

Harry felt himself break. It was a horrible thing.

Malfoy held onto him as he sobbed. He wished he was anywhere but here. He wished it was anything but this.

The force of it curved the both of them over, wind in a sail. Malfoy didn’t try to say anything, just held on.

The rational part of Harry, the part that could rise above the blue and still breathe, recognised how strange this was. It hung, suspended outside him, until the final wave peaked and crashed, and it was bearable to come back.

His body sagged. He crumpled to the ground, Malfoy’s arms slipping from his stomach to his arm pits, losing their grasp. He felt aware of Malfoy crouching down behind him, the hands hesitating against the wall of Harry’s back. The tears had crystallised in his eyes, stiffened like sap down his cheeks, and he rubbed at his face with the heel of his hands. Beside him, the loch reached for him, its glistening surface impassive.

Now that the crying had stopped, the silence had come back. Harry pulled a raw breath into his throat, past his collarbone and into his lungs. He pulled it back out.

If you couldn’t escape, what was the point of running? He dropped his hands to the soil, pushing himself back into a pile of limbs, instead of a set of walls. He gritted his teeth.

Now he was facing the loch. Malfoy had dropped his hands, and Harry could see him looking out of the corner of his eyes. He blinked, and the skin of his eyes was enflamed enough to ache.

There. From his peripheral vision, he watched a finger on Malfoy’s right hand jump.  One was seated on his knee, and the other was steadied on the ground. Harry wondered why it was people were only allowed to touch when they hurt.

The silence grew.

Harry cleared his throat. “Aren’t you going to ask something?” he said to the loch.

His voice was thick. Malfoy said, “What would you want me to ask?”

Harry swallowed again. A breeze rushed over the skin of the loch, wrinkling it, and Harry closed his eyes in time to feel it on his eyelids.

“Don’t you think I’m strange?” he whispered.

There was the sound of Malfoy unfolding himself beside him as well. They were both facing the loch.

“Yes,” said Malfoy simply. “Don’t you think I’m strange too?”

“Not like this,” said Harry. “Not…like this.”

There was the sound of more unfolding. Harry thought he felt a hand hover over his shoulder, but then it was gone, and maybe he’d just thought it because he wanted it so bad.

Harry,” said Malfoy, and suddenly he sounded wounded too. “Can’t you – won’t you tell me what’s wrong?”

It was strange to think that Malfoy could have held him like that and not felt the blue too. Harry did not know how to put it into words. He rather suspected that feelings and words were different mediums.

“I’m just…” Harry sucked in a breath. “Just…”

He opened his eyes. His gaze ran along the trails of soil in front of him, embedded with grasses and twigs, clambering over to where Malfoy’s pale knuckles waited a few inches away.

Malfoy was looking at him looking.

“Just,” he repeated softly, after a moment. Harry exhaled.

“Just,” he agreed.

They both watched as the fingers on the hand relaxed.

Harry almost reached out.

“I heard about Jane,” Malfoy said after a moment. “Charlie told me.”

Harry clenched his fist, tucking his chin back into his shoulder.

“You know it’s not your fault, right?” Malfoy’s became a hushed, urgent murmur. “It’s not your fault. Dragons are a sensitive species. These things happen. It’s common. All the time. It’s not anybody’s fault.”

Harry tucked further into his shoulder. “Okay,” he said, because he didn’t know what else to say. His eyes were aching again.

Harry, I –” There it was, that wounded sound again. It bled between them, unfinished. Harry held his breath even so. He knew, because it was wounded, that it would stay unfinished. The blue wanted to crest within him again, and he wanted to swallow it down.

He had to get the words out first. “I think,” he said. “That I have to go.”

There was a pause.

“What do you mean?” asked Malfoy.

“I,” Harry licked at his lip. “I have to go.”


“Because.” Harry felt himself growing frustrated. “There’s nothing for me here. I don’t even know what I’m doing. I don’t even know why I came.”

“You’re just leaving?”

Malfoy’s voice sounded so different than it had a few minutes ago that it surprised Harry into looking up. His face was strange, vulnerable in a way that Harry hadn’t seen before. Vulnerable wasn’t the word. It was strained, fiercely hurt. It was more painful to look at than it had been to listen to his voice when he had said Harry’s name earlier.

“I…” said Harry. He replayed the conversation. “Yes?”

A muscle jumped in Malfoy’s jaw. He wasn’t looking at Harry anymore. He had definitely been looking at him earlier. Harry watched him breathe in deeply, his eyes fluttering momentarily closed.

“Because of Jane?”

Harry paused to swallow. “Yes?”

“Right,” said Malfoy. He breathed in again. Harry watched, and realised, with a shock, that the strange expression was anger. 

“You know,” said Malfoy after a moment, once he’d gotten his breathing under control. Two red spots were rising under his cheekbones. “I didn’t – I didn’t really think you’d be the type.”

“The type to what?” Harry felt his heart start to speed up. He didn’t understand anything.

Malfoy sneered. It was a curious thing, how much he looked like the Draco Malfoy from Hogwarts in that moment. “The type to run away.”

“Are you,” Harry had to catch his breath. He felt like it’d been punched out of him. The ache in his eyes was long forgotten. “Are you seriously judging me right now?”

“Are you seriously leaving?”

“It’s not like I’m leaving you!” Harry’s voice was incredulous. “It’s not like…why are you acting like this is, this is…so personal?”

“Why are you acting like a coward?” Malfoy’s voice was shockingly loud in the clearing. Harry felt himself jump. He was sure there were spots of red rising under his cheekbones as well.

“What the fuck.” Harry pushed away to look at the other man. “How the fuck are you…what’s wrong with you?

“What’s wrong with you?” Malfoy shot back. He was on his feet. Harry was staring up at him, adrenaline beating through his system. “Your dragon is depressed, so you’re just leaving? Just like that?”

“It’s not just like that!” Harry yelled. He was on his feet as well.

“Then how is it?”

“I’ve got problems!” The words were ripped from his throat. “Stop acting like it’s simple!”

“So you’re just running away?”

Harry had never seen Malfoy like this. Not ever, not even when they were at Hogwarts. The red had bloomed across his face, a violent, ugly red. His lips were stretched tight, his eyes alight. Harry didn’t even know someone could look that angry.

“Why do you say it like that?” He took a step back. “Like…it’s a, fuck, I don’t know – a crime or something?”

“Everyone has problems,” Malfoy spat. “Doesn’t mean you just run away, like some kind of fucking coward.” He definitely looked like the Draco Malfoy from Hogwarts. Harry felt the resentment build in him, poisonous and unkind, uncaring. The resentment wouldn’t care about Draco Malfoy’s flowery leggings, or the clearing they had found together, or how it felt to hear him laugh at Harry’s jokes, or the delicate, never-ending moment where Harry had reached out with his hand in the Fire Techno Dance club, and pressed his palm to Draco Malfoy’s back.

Resentment was like that. Sharp, present, cruel. Harry felt corrupted. He didn’t have the energy for this.

“Who are you to talk?” Harry snarled back. Sharp, present, cruel. “As if you’re some beacon of wisdom or purity or whatever. As if you’ve never run away. Have you forgotten who you are?”

If Malfoy had looked angry before, he looked ready to catch fire now. Harry half-expected him too. Everything was blue-hot.

“Ah, yes.” Malfoy’s thin lips twisted around the words. Harry had forgotten it, mostly – but Malfoy was not a handsome man. His nose was too long, his eyes too narrow, his chin too sharp. The hollows in his face had a permanent sunken-in appearance. His transparent skin betrayed his hatred, when he felt it, all too easily.

Draco Malfoy. How dare I criticise anyone else, when I am already the lowest of the low? What do I know of bravery? What do I know of suffering? Anyone who takes the dark mark is barely human, isn’t that right, Harry Potter? How dare I talk to the great War Hero like I could be his equal –”

“Stop it,” said Harry. “Just shut up. Shut up.”

“Is it hard to hear? Has no one ever told you what they think of you before? That’s the thing no one tells you about privilege Potter – it hurts when you realise you’re not specia-”

“Stop it!” Harry shouted. It tore through him on its way out. “Just shut up, okay! Shut the hell up!”

The sound burst through the space like a gun going off. Malfoy stopped. He was breathing like he’d been running.

There was a few beats where they just stared each other, both red-skinned and wide-eyed. Then Harry felt the warmth drip down his jaw, and realised he was crying again. He brought his hand to his face.

“Fuck,” he breathed through his palm. He was shaking like a bomb about to go off. He turned around blindly, kicking at the ground. “Fuck.”

There was more silence. Harry was going to drown. He was going to drown and drown and drown –

“Everyone has problems,” Malfoy said. He wasn’t yelling anymore. Harry turned around and looked at him.

He looked back. His eyes were red-rimmed too. Harry had the sudden vision of Malfoy crumpling over, sobbing while this time Harry held him instead, pressing kisses to his neck and clinging to him through it. Then Malfoy inhaled sharply, nostrils flaring, and the vision disappeared. His gaze skittered off the length of Harry and back to his face. Harry wished, out of all the expressions he could have known how to interpret, that it hadn’t been this one.

Grey eyes bore into him like a weight. “Don’t make excuses for yourself,” said Draco, and then he swallowed and turned away, his back a fading shape as he disappeared back into the forest. Harry watched him leave.

He was all alone. It had happened more suddenly than he had expected. He turned back to the loch. When he began to cry again, he didn’t bother to keep himself quiet. It made it easier not to think.

It was a long time before he left the loch. He went back to his hotel room. He looked at his suitcase for a long time, before re-packing it so everything fit. Then he went to sleep. It was a restless sleep, and he woke three hours later.

When he’d finished showering, it was almost dawn. He came back out and looked at his suitcase again.

He breathed in. He breathed out. Then he got undressed and unpacked it all, very slowly. It took a long time as well, and exhaustion was a permanent resident in his bones, but he found that if he focused on the actions of it all, it was easier to keep going.

Dear Harry,

How have you been? Hopefully it isn’t too cold, since it’ summer time and everything. And of course, you’re used to cold weather in Scotland. I don’t know what I’m even concerned about.

It’s been strange without you here. Not strange. I don’t want you to think – or well, feel bad about it or anything. It’s not that we’re upset or anything. Of course not. I think it’s lovely that you’re doing something new. We both do.

But – I suppose I’m just trying to tell you that we miss you. I know you don’t like it when we fuss, but well – do take care of yourself, Harry. Please.

But you’ll have to tell us all about your adventures! What’s the Himalayas like? I’ve never really been to Asia at all – what’s the culture like? And the food? Ron would like to know about the food.

And what are the dragons like? Do you have one assigned to you? If so, you must send pictures of it Harry, and they can go on our fridge. (Ron still doesn’t understand how it works – honestly Harry, more and more I find that traditional wizarding education is truly lacking in certain areas. Simple physics, really! Magic isn’t the only thing in the world!)

And what are the people like? Ron says to send pictures of them as well, and that they can also go on the fridge. He’s being ridiculous, as usual.

But you must have met some interesting folk. I imagine dragon-taming in the Himalayas attracts a curious crowd. Not in a negative way, of course.

Everything’s fine here though, exempt from you not being here. Work is fine, but I won’t bore you with talk of social politics. So is Ron’s Auror work. It’s been raining a lot recently, but that’s not unusual.

Well, I won’t keep you from your dragons and adventures any longer. It would be lovely to hear back from you when you get a chance. But until then, all the best wishes with your taming!

With lots of love, as always

Hermione and Ron

The long line of Draco Malfoy’s back had been the brightest thing the night Harry had found him. The naked curve of it had allowed the moonlight to slide down it like a living thing, before dripping white down into the blueness of the loch. As Harry had swam closer to him, one of Draco’s pale hands had flickered, fingers drawing in ripples that had enclosed the shape of them like wedding rings. For a moment, when Harry had been swimming, he had thought that Draco wasn’t real. He had thought it was something that his mind had fashioned up for him.

He had thought that for a long time, if he was being honest with himself. How could something like that have been real? The Draco Malfoy in the loch didn’t seem like something that could co-exist with the Draco Malfoy in the floral leggings, the Draco Malfoy who wore make up, the Draco Malfoy who tipped his head to the sky when he laughed and made vulgar jokes about his own queerness.

Harry didn’t understand it, so he hadn’t thought about it. The idea that these two Draco Malfoys were the same person was something that could not fit inside his skull.  One of them had to be unreal, and it was all too easy to see the beautiful and appalling image of Draco Malfoy’s white back, forever descending into the open blue, as just another subconscious yearning that Harry had dreamt up.

He hadn’t understood it, so he had ignored it. He wondered what kind of person that made it him. Perhaps most of the wrong doings in the world could be explained away by that specific human flaw.

He was thinking about it now.

I think it’s lovely that you’re doing something new. We both do.

How had he gotten there? Had he had a bad dream? Had he been running too?

And what are the dragons like?

He must’ve gotten to the edge of the loch somehow. Then he must’ve looked at it. He must have thought about it. He must’ve started taking off his clothes.

And what are the people like?
He must have taken the first step in. It would have been cold. The moonlight had made everything look greyer. He must have taken the second step, too.

But you must have met some interesting folk.

Before he knew it, the water must have been at his waist. He must have paused, just to admire the moon.

 Not in a negative way, of course.

Harry thought about the long line of his back. He thought about it drawing down, down, and down. His hands, chest, and shoulders, all under the loch. His thin lips. His grey eyes.

I’m just trying to tell you that we miss you.

Had he been trying to kill himself?

All of a sudden, Harry couldn’t stand it. He sat up. The room was spinning. He grasped the mattress, gasping. Were the walls concaving?

He was walking down the hill. Past the cafeteria, and the forest, where Charlie had delivered the news. How long ago had that been? A whole day? Twenty hours? How long since Draco had shouted at him? How long since he had unpacked his suit case?

Time moved disproportionately. How long since he had come to Gay Dragon Village? How long since Hermione had sent the letter? A month? Two months? Three?

How long had he been depressed?

He was going to throw up. He paused at the edge the forest, to catch his breath, one hand braced against a tree. His vision was swimming. His throat was too dry to swallow.

After a moment, he decided he wasn’t going to throw up. Probably. For now, at least. He steadied himself weakly, and then kept walking.

He didn’t know where he was going until he was almost there, and then he wondered how he hadn’t known.

Oceania opened her door on the second knock. She was rubbing her eyes and wearing pyjamas with ducks on them.

“Harry,” she yawned. Then she blinked – and being clever, always so clever – took him in again. Adjusted her expression.

“Would you like to come in?” she asked. “I’ll make you tea.”

“Thank you,” Harry croaked.

There was still newspaper everywhere from when they had been painting the ceiling. Oceania pushed a few sheets of them around, until there was enough room on both of the sofas for them to sit. Then she bustled around in the kitchen. When Harry tried to join her, she waved a hand at him and told him to sit down.

He sat down. He looked up at the strange but wonderful sunflowers, all over the ceiling now. Charlie’s masterpiece was still in the centre. Harry liked that Oceania had kept it.

The sunflower Harry and Draco had painted together was almost directly over him. He glanced at it and felt a sharp, aching pain down the centre of his chest, and wanted to laugh at himself. He was ridiculous. Life was ridiculous. It was all a mess, and none of it meant anything, and somehow he was still hurt by it.

Oceania came back with the promised tea. The hot ceramic burned Harry’s hands a little, but he was too grateful not to take it. She sat down opposite him and he looked at her hopelessly.

“Well,” she said, once she was settled. She clasped her hands together on top of her thigh. “You don’t have to talk, Harry. But if you’d like too, now would be a good time, while the tea is still too hot.”

Once of Oceania’s many gifts, Harry thought, was her ability to refrain from judgement. There was nothing condescending about the way she spoke. Maybe it was because she was so strange herself; or perhaps it was something else, something related more closely to kindness and decency and the kind of morals Harry had always half-heartedly wanted to adopt in the back of his head but somehow never got around to actually attaining himself. Whatever it was, it was why he had come to her.

“Osh,” he said. He swallowed. He felt that his eyes were too big – big enough that she could just dive in and see everything inside him right now. “I…I think I’ve done something bad.”

The words bruised his throat on the way up. Oceania said, “Bad how?”

“I think…” Harry looked away. “You told me, a few days ago, that you were proud of me. For being…honest. But…I don’t think I’ve been being very honest. At all.”

“What haven’t you been honest about?” There was still no suspicion in her voice. Harry felt the shame of it in every muscle.

“I…” said Harry. “I…”

She waited. So did Harry.

“You asked me why I came here,” Harry said eventually. His voice was very quiet, because he was talking with his soul. “I never really answered you. But the truth, the truth of it is…I’m not well.”

Oceania nodded.

“In what way are you not well?” she asked easily, after a moment.

Harry breathed in quickly. “In my head,” he said, and felt his voice begin to crack again, humiliatingly. How many times was he going to have to cry about this?

“Ah,” said Oceania, and nodded again. Then she looked at him, and leaned in a little. “And why does that make you a liar?”

Harry shook his head. “I should have told you,” he whispered. “I should have told you before.”

“Before what?”

“Before you loved me,” said Harry, and then he really was crying again, for fuck’s sakes. And Oceania had crossed the space to sit beside him, one arm wrapped around his back and the other soothingly rubbing his hands, and he thought to himself, god, was this what it was like to have a mother? And then he was just crying harder, goddammit, and he was so fucking ridiculous.

Oceania did not seem particularly perturbed by the crying. She just held him comfortingly, as if she had known from the moment she had seen him at her door at god knows what time in the morning that he was here for a good crying session. She probably had. Everyone could probably see it on him.

Once he’d had calmed down enough again she held up his tea for him. It was indeed, conveniently cool by now. He drank.

Once he was done she said, “Harry, why do you think that you’re hard to love?”

The shock of being understood hit him hard. He stared down at his tea cup, mute.

“I…” he tried.

“Even if you were,” Oceania continued, oblivious to the state of paralysis that was taking over Harry’s body. “Why would it be a bad thing to love you? I love plenty of difficult things. Mustard. Knitting. Draco.” 


“Loving isn’t a form of giving. It’s just love. I love to love, because it’s the best thing about life. Love isn’t the same thing as taking care of someone, although there is often overlap. Love is just there. I’m not sacrificing my time or energy when I feel love for you, Harry.”

“I…” Harry tried again. He throat felt sorely swollen. “I’m not…I don’t…”

“What’s wrong?”

Harry squeezed his eyes shut. “It’s just not fair,” he managed, after a while. “Because you…didn’t know what you were getting yourself into. With me.”

Oceania ran a hand up and down his back. He leaned into the touch. “Of course I did,” she murmured. “Of course I did. Loving people is always the same. People are people. Everyone’s damaged, Harry.”

There it was. There it was. Harry closed his eyes and leaned into her more. Her hair smelt like pears against his face.

Touching her was not like how touching Draco had been. But the undercurrent of warmth was still there, grounding the ache of it. Childishly, Harry wished that he could touch and be touched all the time.

“Draco’s mad at me,” he murmured after a long moment. He had dripped tears into the side of her hair, and discreetly tried to wipe away the moisture with his sleeve. Oceania chuckled into his ear.

“What about?”

Harry took a deep breath. “I said that I thought I should leave.”

“Ah.” Oceania’s voice was light. “That’ll be why.” She leaned back and appraised him for a long moment. “Are you still thinking that?”

“I don’t know,” said Harry, quite honestly. “I don’t even know why he was so mad.”

“Draco is…” Oceania glanced around the room. Her cheeks were flushed. “Changed. He’s a very different person, I think, to the one you must have met.”

“I know,” said Harry, because he did.

“You don’t change that much without…sacrifice. And Draco, he’s – well, I think he’s sacrificed quite a lot Harry. To be who he is right now.”

“I know,” said Harry, but he didn’t, not entirely. He wanted Oceania to keep going. She looked at him.

“I think,” she said, and she looked as serious as Oceania possibly could. “You have to understand that it wasn’t easy for Draco. It wasn’t easy at all. And I think…there was lot of fighting on his part. Whether or not anyone saw it. And so…he resents what he perceives to be…cowardice.”

Harry pulled back. “Do you think I’m a coward?” he asked.

“I don’t think the way Draco does,” Oceania replied. “And I don’t often resent the way he does. We’re very different people. I’m just explaining. You asked why he was angry. It’s a theory.”

Harry looked out the window. The view was mostly obscured by the surrounding forest, but in the distance one could see the faint tracings of the mountain line. A few birds fluttered by, calling out to one another.

“Of course,” said Oceania. “There are other reasons, I’m sure.” When Harry looked back, she was smiling slightly.

“What other reasons?”

“Draco’s a complicated person,” she told him. “If you really want to understand him, you should ask him yourself.”

Harry looked out the window for a moment. He wished, in that moment, that living wasn’t the effort that it was. He wanted everything to be easy, just for once. Was that so wrong? Did it make him a coward, to not want things to be difficult?

He had thought, after the war, that things would get easier. He realised now, how young he had been. Nothing was simple.

He closed his eyes. Oceania found his hand.

“I don’t want to leave,” he whispered. “I just…”

“I know.” Oceania squeezed his hand.

“I don’t want to stay, either.”

“You have time,” she told him. “You can take your time. To just think. But…I would just say, make sure you choose things for the right reasons. That’s all, Harry.”

Harry went back to the hotel. He packed his suitcase again. He unpacked it. He sat on the bed.

He went for a walk. Not a run. Around him, everything was fervent and green and in motion, but to him it all seemed very still somehow. He envied the way that the forest kept growing.

He went back to the hotel. He slept. He focused on the actions, and nothing else. It was easier that way, to keep going.

He dreamt. In the dream, he was running, but it played in fast forward, and his mind sliced through the mass of forest and rock like it was butter. He was at the loch. Everything had been so colourful as he ran, but now he was here, it was like everything melted into the blue. He was looking down. This was what it came to; and it was always blue, always and always and always –

Draco Malfoy stepped out of the woods.

He was naked, but somehow, in the dream, it didn’t seem explicit. The idea of him wearing clothes would be like expecting a tree to cover itself, ridiculous and unnecessary. Harry turned and looked at him.

“Draco Malfoy,” he said, and the words echoed. The soft cushioning of the “l’ and the “f” pressed together in his mouth. In the dream, he reached out.

His arm was too short. How was it that, when he had been running, the world had seemed so small, so easily conquerable? The space between them was insurmountable. Draco stepped past him, and into the loch.

Harry closed his eyes, and his lashes were wet. It was always raining in his mind.

When he woke, his eyes were dry. He sat up, the dream washing off like a liquid memory. As he pressed the heel of his palms into his sockets, he clung onto the fading memory of pale skin, stepping past him, into something awful.

The day dawned, slowly, cracking like a shell over the curvature of the night. Light, as liquid as yolk, dribbled down over the frayed edges. Harry got out of bed.

He went to the window and watched the sunrise. He watched the way the transforming sky caught on the jagged edges of the mountains, dipped into the valleys and lingered there. The way several birds swooped through the colours, like dancers on a stage. Everything was so silent.

 Harry had always thought that sunsets were the most beautiful thing nature had to offer, but this was good too.

He wasn’t normally up early enough to see it.

He went and put socks and shoes on. He went and opened the door.

Sometimes, after he had a…breakdown, or whatever he was supposed to call it, things became like this. Everything inside him would go still, as silent as dawn. It was as if there was only so much one person was supposed to feel, as if the emotional centres had purged, taking all the sadness that one might feel in a year and making him feel it in a day. It was too intense; the next day, he would be numb.

Outside, the air rushed up against his skin, flooding his sense of touch. It wasn’t just that he was numb. Every inch of him was raw.

He blinked at it. When you got up this early, it felt like you were the only person in the world. He started to walk.

Walking was good. He felt like he was airing out his mind. He hoped that, if he walked long enough, things would start to make sense. He should start at the beginning.

He should start by being honest.

He wasn’t happy.

There. That was a truth. Here was another: he hadn’t been happy in a very long time. He almost couldn’t remember how it felt. He almost didn’t believe in it anymore.

He thought back to Scotland.

After the war, he had moved north. He had bought a flat. He hadn’t wanted to stay in Grimmauld Place. It was too full of memories. There had been something brimming in him, asking for a new start. He had wanted to live a new sort of life.

Besides, Ron and Hermione had had each other. And here was another awful truth: even though he had loved them – been beyond grateful that they were alive – sometimes it felt like they weren’t enough. Not for the brimming inside of him.

He had wanted something different. And he had been shocked, repulsed even, by the strength of his wanting. It had him pulled tight. It was all he could think about it.

He supposed – he supposed some of it was that he had never really imagined anything for his future beyond Voldemort. Beyond the war. He was constantly coming back to his past in order to path his future – constantly coming back to Godric’s Hollow, to Privet Drive, to Hogwarts – even now. What if he didn’t want to go back anymore? What if he wanted to move forward?

He didn’t know how.

He had wanted to live a new sort of life, but he would have had to become a new sort of person first. And how did you leave everything that had ever defined you behind, just because of one nonsensical whimsy? It was stupid. He had been being stupid. He had stayed.

The brimming got worse. It solidified into a desire, an urge, a need so great he couldn’t ignore it. He was mad with wanting. He was mad with staying.

His life became stagnant. Everything stopped growing.

Was that where the blue had come from?

Or had it been there the whole time?

He had had to leave. Staying would have killed him.

There is no easy way to explain this to someone you love. Someone that you are leaving.

He had hurt Ron and Hermione. Quite a few other people, too. He knew that. But he couldn’t stay for them. Did that make him a bad friend?

He thought of Draco. It was happening again.

He was at the top of the yoga mountain, just at the edge of the plaza. Here, Draco had asked him on the steps to teach him how to mediate. Harry remembered the way he had looked. The memory was pressed into him like a dried flower. As he pulled it up again, it occurred to him suddenly that the word to describe that look was vulnerable.

Vulnerable. As Harry thought back on it more, he realised that Draco had often looked that way. It seemed obvious now he had the word. Why hadn’t he realised it before?

The thing with Draco was that when Harry was around him, the way that Draco made him feel was so noisy that it made it hard for him to think about how Draco felt. It was the way he spoke, and dressed, and laughed – it all made Harry feel distinctly undone. It had never occurred to him that he could make Draco feel the same way.

He sat down. The world was waking up, the sun rolling over the mountains like a newly-woken lover. From up here, the world looked so big. Was he really going to leave again? Where would he go? What would he do?

The world was so big. Harry was only understanding now that he had known and felt so little of it. His inexperience ached at him. There was so much waiting involved with being young.

And he was so young.

Oceania and Charlie had said he had time. But he didn’t need time. He needed something to do with it.

When he got back to the hotel, Draco was there.

He was waiting in the corridor, leaning on the wall next to the door to Harry’s room. He looked up as Harry approached.

Harry opened his mouth. Draco was wearing the same blue jumper that he had when they had meditated together. He closed his mouth. His heart was thudding in his chest.

He went to open the door. He felt Draco’s eyes on him as he fingers fumbled over the keys.

Inside the room, Harry took off his jacket and put it on the bed. He was acutely aware of the sweat drying on his neck.

“I need a shower,” he said without looking at him.

“Okay,” said Draco.

Harry took the shower.

When he came back out, changed, Draco wasn’t looking at him.  He was looking at the suitcase in front of the bed. From this angle, you couldn’t really tell it was unpacked.

Harry looked at Draco. He looked at him for a long moment. He looked at his long neck and high cheekbones, at his acute jawline and long nose. At the fan of white lashes framing the glossy curve of his eyes, the flat grey of his irises sinking into the endless black of his pupils. The room was small. Harry was close enough to see all of this.

“Are you leaving?” Draco asked. His voice was soft.

Harry swallowed against the dryness of his throat. “I don’t know,” he answered.

Draco didn’t say anything. His lashes flickered, and he swallowed. The silence between them felt worse than the shouting, to Harry.

After a moment, Draco lifted his head. “I wanted to apologise,” he said.

“Oh.” The sound caught pathetically in Harry’s mouth.

“I shouldn’t have…said some of the things I said. It wasn’t my place.”

Harry wanted to say it was okay. But he didn’t know if it was.

“Did you mean them?” he asked.

Draco frowned. It looked pained. “Does that matter?”

“Yes.” Harry swallowed. “You shouldn’t apologise if you meant them. If you…you should speak what you think. I wouldn’t want you to avoid telling me things because you didn’t want me to…to get angry or something.”

Now Draco really looked pained. He was looking away again, the tendons in his neck sharply strained.

“Say something,” said Harry.

“What should I say?”

Harry rubbed his hands over his face. The silence expanded, filling the room to press at his skin, his ribcage.

“I just don’t understand,” Draco said eventually. He no longer looked pained, just tired. Harry hated that he had made him look this way. He hated all of this.

“Look,” he said. “Do you want to…do you want to, like, go for a walk? I can’t really…I can’t explain it here.”

Draco looked taken aback. “Sure,” he said, blinking.

Harry took two jackets, and then felt stupid when Draco produced one of his own. He tried to act like he had intended to wear both of them himself.

They made it past the cafeteria before either of them said anything.

“You don’t have to explain it to me,” Draco said eventually. “You don’t owe me anything.”

Harry shook his head. “It’s’s not like that.”

“Okay,” said Draco. He waited.

“It’s…” Harry ran a hand over his hair. The words he was about to say played over and over in his head. He had never thought he would say them. He had never thought he would be able to.

“It’s...” he said, and had to take a breath. “It’s just, um, hard to explain. It’s just…it’s the…I think of it as the blue.”

Draco was silent for a moment. Harry had to close his eyes.

“Alright,” he said finally.

“It’s not…I know that sounds stupid. But it’s hard for me to explain. I’ve never had to before.”


“It’s…it’s a feeling. That’s all.”

Draco was silent again. When Harry looked over, he was frowning.

“You think I’m crazy,” Harry said.

Draco looked up. His eyes were very serious. “No,” he said. “I don’t.”

“It’s like…” Harry took another breath. “It’s like when you were in the Loch.”

Now Draco was really looking at him. His eyes were very clear. Harry felt like he could see everything inside him.

They had stopped.

“I thought you’d forgotten,” Draco said eventually. He said it softly, and if Harry closed his eyes now, it would feel like the words were coming from inside his own mind.

“No,” said Harry. Just as soft. “No, I – I thought it wasn’t real.”

Draco frowned deeper. “Neither did I,” he murmured.

Harry swallowed. Something was cresting in him again, but it didn’t feel like the blue. Draco’s gaze fell from his eyes, sliding down to his mouth. There was a thin line between his brows.

There was the sudden sound of bells. It rang through them, loud and echoing. They both broke away to look down towards the village below.

Harry was the first to look away. He studied the turn of Draco’s profile, the way the sunlight slanted across his features. The moment almost didn’t feel real.

When Draco turned back he met his eyes.

“Do you still think I’m a coward?” Harry asked.

Draco looked at him. “I think,” he said after a moment. “That you’re just trying to stop feeling…bad. And I understand that. But... I think you should know that you don’t outrun these sorts of things. There is never any escape. Not ever. The only way out is in.”

Chapter Text


“Harry,” said Tom, when Harry came into the temple. “It’s nice to see you.”

“Yeah,” said Harry. “You too.”

“How are things?”

“I’m not sure,” said Harry. “I think I’m having a bit of an identity crisis, maybe. Other than that, all fine.”

“Ah.” Tom hummed. “What’s the crisis about?”

Harry rubbed at his jaw. “I think, maybe, that it’s about not being the person I want to be? Or maybe, just realising all of that, quite suddenly.”

“Ah,” Tom said again, and smiled gently. “Why don’t you sit down?”

Harry sat down. The smell of the prayer mats and the incense were so familiar that sometimes he even dreamed about them now.

Tom handed him a string of beads. Harry took them, grateful.

“Now,” said Tom. “What is it that bothers you about who you are right now?”

“It’s,” said Harry, and stopped. He swallowed. “I guess it’s that I feel like…like I’m not really living. I’m just passing time. And I’m so lucky to be alive. I know I am. I really, really am. I know that. But I feel like I’m wasting it.”

Tom nodded. “That makes sense.”

Harry shrugged. He began to turn the beads in his hand, rhythmically rubbing the wood over bone in his thumb.

“How did you know,” he asked after a moment, “That this was what you wanted to do with my life?”

Tom raised his brows. “How did I know I wanted to be a monk?”


Tom considered the question. Outside, the birds were calling to each other, their high-pitched songs darting through the open space.

“I suppose,” he said, “That it was less of a logical decision than one might expect. In my experience, sometimes you have to do away with logic. When something is right for you, you will feel it.” He looked at Harry, smiling. “Does it seem strange to you?”

“Not strange,” said Harry, fiddling with his fingers. “Just – I don’t know how.”

“How to know what’s right?”

 “How to feel it.”

There was a pause. Then Tom began to speak again.

“My name wasn’t Tom before I came here,” he said slowly. Each word was very carefully laid down. “Sometimes people can tell, still. I chose my name, Harry. It wasn’t a comfortable choice. But the truth was liberating.”

Harry frowned. “You chose your own name?”


“But - what did you use to be called?”

Tom’s gaze was very level. “Tracy,” he said.

Harry kept frowning. Then it dawned. “Oh,” he said, and unintentionally glanced up and down the other man. He felt his cheeks heat.

Tom smiled, just a little.

“Sorry, I – I didn’t realise.”

“That’s okay, Harry,” he said, as patient as ever.

“Does Draco know?” Harry asked before he could stop himself.

“Yes,” said Tom, starting to look a little exasperated, and also a little amused. “Draco knows.”

“Right. Sorry.”

There was another silence. When Harry looked over again, Tom was looking out towards the mountains. The light skittered off his high nose, his square jaw, and Harry tried to imagine, even though he knew he couldn’t, what it must have been like to open yourself up like that.

“Here’s the thing about truth, Harry,” Tom said, after a long moment. “It chooses you, but you have to choose it back.”

Harry stepped out into the sun.

The walk down from the temple wasn’t long. When he turned the final corner, Jane was sitting down, her turquoise wings folded up under her. When she saw Harry she stopped licking at the corner of one and did the dragon equivalent of raising a brow.

Harry walked towards her. She didn’t stand, just kept regarding him. He paused a few feet away, regarding her right back.

“Well,” he said, after a long pause. “This is rather ridiculous, isn’t it?”

Jane huffed.

“I’ve been told it’s not my fault. But I think it probably is, at least a little bit. I mean, I’m supposed to take care of you.”

Jane huffed, more loudly. She shuffled on the ground in a way that looked a lot like annoyance to Harry.

“Okay,” he allowed. “You can take care of yourself. But I haven’t very open with you, have I?”

He sat down in front of her. His heart was beating furiously in his chest, the way it always did when he was this close up to her, but that was alright. That was alright.

“To be fair,” he murmured. “I haven’t been very open with anyone.”

Jane blinked at him. From this angle, her eyes looked even bigger, glossy and black and deep. How could you ever really know what a dragon was feeling?

“How can I expect you to trust me,” he whispered. “If I’m not brave enough to trust myself?”

He reached out. His hand was shaking, but it was the only way. Slowly, slowly, he brought it to the tip Jane’s nose.

She was watching him. He was waiting for – he wasn’t sure what for. For her to breathe fire onto him. For her to suddenly stand up and claw him. For her to snap her long sharp teeth in his direction. He was sitting in front of her, and he was completely vulnerable.

None of those things happened, although they could have. Instead she kept watching him. A long, drawn-out moment passed where Harry felt the sweat gather under his armpits. He couldn’t look away.

Then, ever so slightly, she nudged at his hand. Just a little. Barely enough to feel it. But he did. Her scales were smooth under his skin.

Someone inhaled sharply behind them. They both turned to look.

Draco Malfoy was standing the edge of the pen. His eyes were wide. His large leather satchel was draped over his left shoulder.

“Hey,” said Harry, a little awkwardly, when it became clear Draco wasn’t going to say anything first. Draco looked at him, and then visibly shook himself. His cheeks were pink.

“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t – I just came to feed her, I didn’t know you’d be here.”

“Oh, yeah, of course.” Harry got to his feet. Jane snorted a little from behind him.

Draco hesitated, just a little, and then walked over and started throwing chunks of raw meat at Jane. He glanced over at Harry when he realised Harry was staring.

“Are you…” he began and then closed his mouth and turned back to Jane. They both watched her suck on the nearest piece. It was kind of gross.

“Well,” said Draco, after more awkward silence. “I was just on my way back home. So. I’ll just get going.”

He turned on his heel and began to walk purposefully away from the pen.

“Draco,” Harry called. He stopped, then, rather stiffly, he turned back around.


“Can I come with you?”

Draco looked like he’d been hit with a bludger. “Urm,” he managed, after a moment. “Why?”

“I’ve never seen your house before,” Harry said, almost cheerfully. “I don’t even know where you live.”

“Right,” said Draco. He was staring.

“You can say no,” said Harry, speaking more softly now. “It’s alright if you do. I just wanted to know.”

Draco swallowed. He was flushed all over. He glanced down at the ground and then nodded.

“Alright,” he said. “Alright.”

Draco did not live in the same place as Oceania. In fact, he didn’t even live close, which was a surprise to Harry. Instead, he led Harry horizontally straight across the cafeteria, and then right through those woods. At first, Harry thought that maybe he lived in those woods.

But then they came out the other side. Harry had never been this way before. They came out on the edge of a small green hill, which steepened until they were on a set of other hills, or maybe one long continuous one. Here, Harry realised, were the rest of the taming pens.

They were empty right now, but were clearly used. Draco passed them without paying them much of his attention. He clearly familiar with the route.

The view was wonderful up here. It was lower than the clearing they’d been too, but still impressive. You could see over the trees, right over to the undulations of the mountains, the sun splayed over the entirety of it. Everywhere you looked, there was nature, bounding and blooming and brilliant.

Harry could understand why Draco might live here. He would want to live here too, if he was staying longer.

They continued. The path curved and dipped down, gradually descending beneath the tree line. The view disappeared, but they were inside it – everything was green. It was almost too beautiful to be real, Harry thought. This whole village; it was too much for him.

The grass was well-trodden where they walked. It wasn’t too long before the trees thinned a little, and then it opened up. Not quite a clearing, but almost. There was a house – a cottage.

The design was different to Oceania’s and Hayden’s. Older perhaps. It was more traditionally built, everything grey stone and moss. Smaller, too. Draco didn’t look at him as he pushed open the door. It was unlocked.

Harry paused before the threshold. In the rectangular slice between the edge of the door and the wall, he could hear an assortment of shapes and colours, a compilation of as of now unknown smells and spaces. Hovering just outside, as he was, he felt that there was an infinity of possibility still available before him.

Draco re-appeared in the doorway. He had one set of fingers wrapped around the edge of it; he blinked at Harry.

“Well,” he said, after a pause. His voice was light. “Aren’t you coming in?”

The world was a roulette wheel – the ball was spinning. As he stepped in, everything slowed, and came firmly to a place.

He took off his shoes in the porch. There were three sets already, in a neat row pressed along the wall. There were jackets on the hooks. A few hats on a shelf. Draco had taken off his satchel – it was slung along the jackets.

Harry toed off his shoes. He put them, as neatly as he could, in a new row under the already stationed shoes. Draco had disappeared into the next room; Harry hesitantly followed him. He felt the blush rising under his skin, but he didn’t understand it. He didn’t understand anything.

The next room turned out to be the kitchen. Harry blinked at the long, narrow island, stretched out in front of him like a bar counter. Draco was behind it, busying himself in the cabinets. His arms were reaching up, hands moving along the highest shelf. He was on his tip toes. His socks were green.

Harry looked away. When he could bring himself to look back, Draco was watching him a little curiously.

“Would you like some tea?” he asked, catching the silence as it was just on the edge of blossoming. He seemed less shy here, in his own house.

“Yeah.” Harry didn’t recognise his voice. It sounded almost feminine.

Draco made the tea. Harry ran his fingers along the edge of the island, trying to catch himself. He was on the edge of something, too.

Draco pushed a steaming cup into his peripheral vision. Harry looked up; Draco was leaning against the other counter. His eyes were big over the rim of his own cup.

“Thanks,” said Harry, clearing his throat. Vulnerable. The word rang true in his mind again, heavy with new dimensions to it.

“I can show you the lounge,” said Draco, after another moment. Harry followed him.

The lounge was a different colour scheme. Where the kitchen had been all dark, but earthy colours, here everything was bluish tones. Not dark blue. Draco had an entire sofa that was the colour of the sky.

And then there were the books.

The books were not like the ones in Hayden’s house in any aspect other than their magnitude.  There were three entire bookshelves: but the shelves did not contain them. They were spilled across the entire room, on the floor and table and sofas, a cup overflowing.

It was like they were growing out of the house, Harry thought. Like they were part of it, as organic a by-product of human existence as a toothbrush, or hair stuck in a comb, or butter in the fridge. They were more than decoration, more than a means of education – more than another past time. It seemed that they were a very staple of life, here in this house, an unquestionable necessity. Harry looked at the books, at the way they were, and thought he understood something about Draco.

Draco was indeed pushing some of the books over to the other end of a sofa, making room to sit. It was almost funny, how neat everything else was – all the furniture and the decorations – in direct contrast to the books. It served nicely as a metaphor for the duplicity of its owner, Harry thought.

It also reminded him of Hermione. It made his heart pang, in both directions.

Draco looked a little abashed when he turned back to Harry, which was a curious expression on him. He glanced around him, like he was suddenly considering his living space with new eyes. There was room to sit on the sofa now, but neither of them did.

Draco’s fingers twitched where they were curled around his cup. He lifted his gaze from under his lashes towards Harry.

“Is it what you expected?”

It was quiet. Draco Malfoy today was a pastel version of himself, about three shades paler and quieter than Harry was used to. He wondered what it was that had made him this way. He wondered if it was him.

“No,” Harry answered truthfully. Then he caught himself. “I think it might’ve been though, if I’d sat down and thought about it.”

The corner of Draco’s mouth twitched, to match his fingers. He swallowed, and bit down on his lip. The movement replayed a second, third time in Harry’s mind.

“Am I what you expected?”

This was even quieter. But when Draco looked up it felt very deliberate.

Harry leaned against the door frame. “No,” he said. “Even if I had thought about it, I would still have got it wrong. You are –” He had thought he was going to say “too much to fit in my mind.” But halfway through he had realised he was going to say “unlike anyone I’ve ever known.”

He turned his head away. “Am I what you expected?” he asked instead, to cover the silence.

“No,” said Draco. “You’re more.”

He was looking straight at him as he said it. In that moment, he didn’t look very pastel at all.

In fact, Harry thought dizzily, he looked like he was burning his own sun inside of him. Like he was burning a thousand suns. Like he was burning Harry.

Something was going to happen. He was sure of it.

And then Draco swallowed again and turned back to the bookshelves, and Harry realised something had already happened. It made his pulse skyrocket.

Draco was running one finger up and down what looked to be a particularly well-loved novel. Harry had to go and sit down on the available area on the sofa. From this angle, he could see that Draco’s cheeks were bright red, even though Harry hadn’t said anything particularly risqué.

“I’m staying,” he blurted out. “I thought I should tell you.”

The finger on the book stilled. Draco’s lips moved as if to press together, and then he inclined his head towards Harry. His eyes stayed at some point on the bookshelf.


“Yeah,” said Harry. “I know it’s not – well, I thought you just might want to know. Since it’s partly because of you.” He realised how that sounded.  “I mean, I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said.”

“What did I say?” Draco murmured. He had to remember.

Harry bit his lip. “Something about being brave,” he said quietly.

Now Draco looked at him properly. It was a look that completely undid the way he had looked at Harry when he was angry at him.

Harry felt golden.

He waited for Draco to say something. But Draco just kept looking at him, his lips parting and closing a few times, like petals quivering in the breeze. Then he looked away, and Harry had the distinct impression suddenly that he was missing out on something. But he couldn’t figure out what, and so he opened his mouth to say the second thing he had come here to say.

“Will you still help me with Jane?”

Draco wasn’t smiling exactly, but he air was lit up around him as if he was. He turned fully, leaning back against the bookshelf. He looked so much like himself at Hogwarts in that moment that Harry was jarred.

“You know I will,” Draco said softly.

Bravery was a strange thing.

Harry Potter was by no means a stranger to being brave. But he had told Draco once, when he was drunk, that the bravery he had had during the war didn’t belong to him, and in many ways, this was true. That was the thing about bravery. It was so often squeezed out of you, a product of circumstance rather than any particular singularity of character.

At least, Harry felt this way. He had been brave, but he was not brave anymore. Or perhaps, there was more than one type of bravery. It was one thing, he felt, to be brave during war; something else, completely, to be brave in the day to day. The kind of bravery he needed now was a more personal strand.

It was one thing to be brave during war. But life was not supposed to be about war. And now that he was living a (relatively) normal life, he found that he didn’t have the equipment for it.

It was hard for him. Maybe it was hard for everybody.

Harry didn’t know how to start. But he thought that, perhaps, yoga was a good place to begin.

Maybe it was ridiculous – but the times he had done yoga so far helped him feel good. Although it was all physical, he thought that if he started with his body, it might be easier to deal with his mind.

The Buddhists believed they were connected, after all.

So he woke up early the next morning, and went by himself to the plaza. There, he unravelled the mat, smoothing out then creases. It was cool underneath his fingers.

The sun was just peaking over the edges. Dawn. Just him and the rest of the world.

He began his practice.

Maybe it was ridiculous – but as he did, he felt the blue begin to dilute in him. It was like the air became less humid, clearing with each tug it took to filter it through his lungs. Maybe it was ridiculous – but maybe he was just being narrow-minded. He would never have done something like this in Scotland.

But he wasn’t in Scotland. He was here.

And it was getting easier to breathe.

He brought his arms to the sky, and into prayer position over his heart. The sun had risen, and it was right there, balancing on the line of the horizon like an orange yoyo teetering on its string.

He put his mat away. The next morning, he did it again. And the next.

He didn’t know what he was yet. But he knew what he didn’t want to be.

He did it the morning after that, too.

On fifth morning, he decided to try adding mediation to the end of his practices. On sixth, Hayden caught him as he was heading back to the hotel.

“Hey,” they said. Their lips were quirked up to the side, a single eyebrow raised. Their hands were stuffed full of bags of colourful sand. “Haven’t seen you about for a while.”

“I’ve been being productive,” said Harry. They laughed, a surprised little cough.

“Well,” they said. “Why don’t you come be productive with the rest of us?”

Harry’s heart thudded. “What are the rest of you doing?”

“Preparing.” The other side of Hayden’s mouth quirked up. “Did you forget?”

Harry did.

It had been quite a while since he’d been down to the actual village of Tengboche. Harry found the absence of dragon-taming pens a little strange, and then immediately had to fight the urge to laugh at himself. He was starting to see the world like Charlie.

As it happened, Charlie was standing underneath the impressive archway. He came over and took some of the coloured sand bags out of Harry and Hayden’s arms, smiling brightly at Harry.

“Harry,” he said warmly. “Great to see you.”

The pointed friendliness gave Harry the sudden horrific mental image of Draco reporting back to everyone in Gay Dragon Village the events of the Loch. But just as suddenly as it arrived, it faded. He found, to his surprise, that he trusted Draco Malfoy.

“You too,” he said to Charlie. Together they passed under the archway and up the steps to the main building of the monastery. Charlie and Hayden both seemed to know where they were going.

They ended up in a large room. The walls were bare, and there was a large low table stretched across the centre. Seated around it, and standing around the walls, were plenty of the monks, dressed in the same orange and red outfit that Tom wore. Some of them turned to give the three of them friendly smiles. Tom himself was sitting at the table. He smiled at Harry.

“Sand is here,” Charlie whispered. Tom raised his brows and quietly said what Harry assumed was a translation for the monks who couldn’t understand English.

“You don’t have to whisper,” Hayden muttered, rolling their eyes. One of the monks who was standing closer to them, an aged man with a museum of leathery wrinkles, smiled more widely at Charlie and nodded encouragingly.

Harry turned his attention to the table. There was a complicated geometric pattern that had been drawn up on top of it, which almost looked completed. A few of the monks had their eyes closed and were chanting softly, in what Harry assumed was a form of Nepali or Tibetan.

As he looked on, he felt someone approach behind him. He turned around. Draco was leaning against the open doorway, Oceania at his heels. She winked at Harry and slid past him into the room to stand quietly beside Hayden, whispering something into their ear which made them laugh.

Draco was smirking, just a little. Harry’s chest made a strange little twist. He leaned back against the wall.

“Hey,” he murmured.

“Hey.” Draco gaze was back to its usual sharpness today. “I see you’re participating in the preparation of the mandala.”

“The what?”

The line of Draco’s mouth curled a little at the edges, like damp paper. “The sand mandala,” he said. “Are you telling me you’re just standing here, without a clue as to what’s going on?”

“Yes.” Harry felt himself smiling. He leaned back further. “I have to stay in character sometimes.”

Draco laughed. It was a breathy little laugh, one that Harry felt on the back of his ear.

“Didn’t you wonder why there was so much coloured sand?”

“A bit,” Harry admitted. “But it didn’t seem that weird.” He paused. “Nothing in comparison to how it felt to see you in your leggings for the first time.”

Draco laughed again, this time with surprise. “What’s wrong with my leggings?”

“You know,” Harry gestured to his legs. “Your – your ones with all the flowers and everything.”

“They’re not flowery today,” Draco pointed out.

“No.” Harry tilted his head to the side. “Not today.”

Draco hitched up his hip, and then one of his eyebrows. He looked – he looked positively deplorable.

“Do you miss them?” he drawled, as quietly as he could.

“Terribly,” Harry whispered back. Draco grinned.

“Hey,” murmured Hayden, without looking at them. “If you’re going to flirt, at least do it outside the scene of sacred procedure.”

Harry felt his face light up. Next to him, Draco said, “God forbid the mandala of kindness have homoerotic undertones.”

One of the monks laughed from across the room. Harry felt the rest of him light up too.

After a few more minutes, the geometric design which Harry now realised was the design of the mandala seemed to be complete. Bags of sand began to be distributed. In the corner, Oceania whispered something to the monk with the wrinkles, who gave her a disparaging look. She looked up at him pleadingly.

The monk’s expression melted into fondness. Harry didn’t blame him as he watched him roll his eyes and pat her dismissively on the arm. She grinned and made her way over to them.

“Come on,” she said when she reached them, grabbing their wrists. “Let’s go put up the paperchains.”

“Urm.” Harry let himself be dragged along. “Paperchains?”

“You heard the woman,” said Draco. He looked delighted to have been chosen, or maybe paperchains was more exciting than Harry had anticipated.

“It’s a festival!” Oceania exclaimed by way of explanation, and led them round to the side of the building. She walked over to the wall and extracted a brick. Then she began to pull out paperchains, like a magician with really long, colourful, papery rabbits.

“You know,” Harry remarked to Draco as they watched on. “Sometimes I think she and Hayden gave me something an awful lot stronger all those months ago, and that the rest of this is just a hallucination.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Draco. He was bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. “Your brain couldn’t come up with half of this shit.”

Harry snorted. Oceania started draping paperchains over their shoulders.

“Oh,” he said, as his neck was engulfed in pink ringlets. “Thank you.”

“We need to be discreet,” Oceania warned him as she looped the ends over his head. “The monks don’t really like it when we do this.”

“The height of anarchistic vandalism,” Draco deadpanned. “Excessive hand-made decorations.”

“Such a thing does not exist.” Oceania spread her arms. “Cover me.”

As they obeyed, Harry asked, “how does covering ourselves in paperchains constitute as “discreet”?”

“A box would be too obvious,” Oceania answered immediately.

“That’s right,” said Draco. He was grinning widely at him from over Oceania’s shoulder and his own green and yellow ensemble. “A box would be too obvious, Harry.”

Oceania replaced the bricks and the three of them scampered back around to the archway while Draco whistled the theme of mission impossible under his breath.

“Give me a leg up,” Oceania told them once they were underneath the archway. Draco immediately dropped onto one knee.

“Your Highness?” he said, raising a brow as he held out one hand. Oceania giggled and took off her shoes. She reached for Harry, who promptly gave her his hand as well. There was a brief struggle and lots of groaning as she attempted to balance herself on top of Draco’s thigh.

“Can you reach yet?” Draco grunted after about five minutes of this. Harry looked up from where he was now tangled underneath one of Oceania’s knees. The top of Oceania’s hair was about two metres away from the top of the archway.

“Close,” he allowed. Draco groaned again.

After another minute, Oceania conceded. “I don’t think this is working,” she said, contemplatively.

“Oh, thank god,” Draco said, and pulled away his leg. Harry suddenly realised he had been carrying Oceania on his shoulders the whole time. There was paper in his mouth.

“How about we get a ladder?” he suggested.

“How about you sit on Draco’s shoulders while I’m still sitting on yours?” said Oceania.

“You’re right,” said Harry. “That sounds much more sensible.”

This was not successful, largely because the three of them were laughing so hard they all kept curling over, but also because it was a stupid fucking idea. Eventually, they decided to try it the other way around.

“Oh my god,” Harry wheezed, from where he was clinging onto Draco’s shins and trying not to break his knees. “At least one of you needs to cut the fuck down on the persimmons.”

“I’m a grown woman,” Oceania shouted down. Her arms were wrapped around the side of the archway like a sloth. “Don’t tell me what to do!”

“So am I,” said Draco. “And I don’t need no man to validate me.”

“You need everyone to validate you, Draco.”

“Really, Osh?” One of his knees hit Harry in the face as he tried to look up at her. “You’re really going to come for me when I’m the only thing between you and your next life as a single blade of grass?”

She laughed, and then there was a sudden movement which nearly killed Harry. “What the fuck are you doing?” he shouted to no one in particular as he stumbled forward.

Draco was laughing, his hands digging into Harry’s shoulders. Harry felt him sway forward and quickly gripped his knees. Death was a real thing in his peripheral vision.

“I made it!” They both looked up. Oceania was literally on top of the archway, one hand braced upon the head of a sculpted lion, a maniacal grin on her face. It was quite the sight.

“Jesus fuck,” muttered Harry. He felt Draco sway again, still laughing, and swore again. He shifted to try and catch him as he toppled down.

“Well,” sighed Draco, once he was safely in the basket of Harry’s arms. His eyes were glittering. “Before you carry me over the threshold, I should warn you that I’m not actually a virgin.”

They were in bridal hold. Once Harry realised this, he quickly put Draco down, then collapsed abruptly on the ground. Draco snorted and lay down next to him.

The sun was in their eyes. Harry didn’t care. They both listened as Oceania scrambled into a more secure position in order to drape the now very crumpled paperchains around the lion sculpture.

“How’s she going to get down?” Harry asked after a moment.

“We’ll get a ladder,” said Draco. “Obviously.”

Harry grinned. Draco grinned back. They were both covered in dust and sweat and destroyed paperchains.

After another moment, something round fell between their faces. Harry started, and then looked up to see Oceania looking quite proud of herself on top of the archway. All the lions were covered, and in her hand she had a persimmon.

“What the fuck,” said Harry, with feeling, and Draco began to laugh again.

Although the festival in total lasted for nineteen days, only three of them were officially celebrated and open to the public. Which meant the population of Gay Dragon Village spent sixteen of those days bringing supplies, and then mostly just stringing up bits of tinsel wherever they were allowed.

It also meant that, about a week before the opening ceremony, the place started to get busy.

“Is it just me,” said Harry, from where he was sitting on a wall outside the monastery. “Or are the monks multiplying, and also starting to look a lot less monk-like?”

Hayden raised their brows. They were sitting on the opposite wall, next to Oceania, who was practising her splits.

“Harry,” they said. “The Mani Rimdu festival is famous.”

“It happens every year,” Draco added. He was sprawled out on a yoga mat at the bottom of the wall and was wearing sunglasses, both on his head and on his face. “Things are going to fill up in our village too.”

“What?” Harry said stupidly.

Hayden shrugged. “Plenty of Buddhist wizards and witches. We rent out the cottages.”

“And the hotel,” added Draco.

“Oh,” said Harry. He felt like a teenager being told that his extended family were coming to visit for a week, and that he was going to have to share his room with a cousin he hadn’t talked to in years. Not that he personally knew what that felt like.

“You could room with one of us,” said Oceania, reading his mood with that creepy emotional intelligence of hers. “If you don’t like new people.”

“I don’t want to be an inconvenience.” He felt uncomfortable.

“Harry,” Draco drawled. “We all love you. Room with us like the teenage girl you secretly are.”

Harry looked down between his feet at him. Draco put the extra pair of sunglasses on his head on top of the ones already on his eyes.

Harry ended up rooming with Oceania.

He had been hesitant about this for a lot of reasons, which were namely: a) being a burden, and b) the fact that he still didn’t sleep well. He wasn’t exactly fond of his hotel room, but so far it had been a respite for whenever the casual happiness in Gay Dragon Village ever overwhelmed him, and the blue inside him began to spill over.

It wasn’t that he didn’t like the happiness. It was just that – it was so damn hard to feel like he was being genuine sometimes, when it was all around him and he just couldn’t feel it.


But he had been trying to make himself better. That’s what the yoga had been about so far. And if it wasn’t for the blue, he would’ve desperately liked being allowed to room with any one of the wonderful and strange people here.

So he did. Because the blue was part of him, but he shouldn’t let it decide for him. Not anymore.

And he chose Oceania because she seemed like the most diplomatic choice. Hayden he liked, but wasn’t quite close enough with yet to imagine living with, and Draco was –

Well, Draco had those damn flowery leggings, didn’t he?

So he chose Oceania. She did offer first, after all.

Also it turned out the green hotel only had four rooms anyway.

“Why do you only have four rooms?” Harry asked incredulously as the blonde receptionist shuffled him out. “How can you even call this a hotel?”

“We have a stable too,” said the receptionist drily, poking him in the shins with her broom. “You can sleep there, if you like. Thirty percent discount if you’re preggars.”

“How come I still don’t know your name?” Harry asked.

“Because you’re a fucking asshole,” said the receptionist, and shut the door in his face. He was going to miss her.

As he made his way down to Oceania’s, his suitcase tumbling chaotically over the gravel behind him, a small family passed him, bickering loudly amongst themselves as the young boy kicked at the stones as he ran between them. Harry nervously flattened his fringe down over his forehead.

He didn’t have to knock once he was outside Oceania’s door. She tugged the door open as soon he was there, smiling brightly and dressed entirely in a large fluffy item of clothing that appeared to be consuming her. Her small eyes blinked animatedly at him over the edge of it.

“Harry!” she cried, voice a little muffled. “Let me take your suitcase.” She reached over for it.

“Hey,” said Harry. “I like your dress. Also, I’ve got it, don’t worry abo…”

Oceania had already picked it up, both arms wrapped around the middle. She was holding it the way Harry would hold a box of feathers, or possibly, a single leaf.

“It’s not a dress,” Oceania told him, turning and padding her way back into the house. “It’s a bathrobe.”

Harry was helpless to follow her.

The lounge was all done up for him. One of the sofas had been made up with a pillow and covers. Harry noted that it was unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the one directly under the sunflower he and Draco had collaborated on. Oceania deposited his suitcase next to it.

“Do you want some welcome tea?” she asked.

He felt a wave of gratitude roll through him.

“I’m okay,” he said. “Osh, thanks for…all this.”

She wriggled her brows. “What about a welcome blunt?”

He laughed, leaning back against the wall. She grinned wider as he rubbed his hands down over his face. “Fuck,” he said eventually. “Why not?”

“That’s the spirit,” she said, bumping him with her hip before bounding off towards the bedroom. He sighed and dropped onto one of the sofas that wasn’t made up.

It wasn’t like the first time he got high. Maybe it was because he’d done it before or because he was in a – relatively – better mental place, but this time it wasn’t so overwhelming. He let the calm contentment roll through him and wondered what it would be like to be able to feel this way without drugs helping him.

He wondered what Draco would think. All of a sudden he was brought back to the memory of the first time, when Draco had been leaning in the doorway and hadn’t joined in.

There was still so much he didn’t know. He wondered if it was possible to ever really know anyone.

“I don’t think so,” murmured Oceania from where her head was on his lap. Her eyes were closed. He looked down and ran his fingers through her monstrous black hair.

“Don’t you?” he prompted after a few moments when it seemed like she wasn’t going to continue.

She shook her head. The movement was exaggerated, slowed down in his mind. It was the drug. It was beautiful. He didn’t fight it.

“I mean,” she said. “Is it even possible to know yourself? What is identity? Everything is fluid, always changing. All you ever get is close. Close or far. Distance is the only variable.”

Harry nodded. The window across the room grew bigger, the sunshine expanding to fill the room. Somehow it occurred to him, in that moment, that this was what life was. These moments, this feeling – it was the only thing that mattered. It was the only thing that could.

“Is it enough?” he heard himself whisper. Oceania’s hand came up, and she stroked a finger down his nose.

“Of course,” she said. “Of course it is. Close is good enough.”

He looked down again. Her eyes were open, and they were dark, but it was a good kind of dark. A dark that grounded you.

“Thank you,” he told her. She smiled.

“You’re welcome,” she said. And then – “I can’t believe you thought my bathrobe was a dress.”

He began to laugh, felt her join in from where she was shaking on his lap. Once he’d started, he found he couldn’t stop.

The next day, Draco came around. They were in the kitchen making sandwiches when he knocked.

“Go see who it is,” said Oceania. Harry went to the door. When he opened it, Draco was standing there. He was wearing the yellow flowered leggings today.

“Hello,” said Harry, leaning slightly against the doorframe. He felt himself begin to smile. “Imagine seeing you here.”

Draco smirked. For one mad moment, Harry wondered how he could have hated that smirk in Hogwarts.

“Imagine,” said Draco. One of his brows was pointy and raised as he regarded Harry. “How’s the rooming going?”

“Good,” breathed Harry. He leaned deeper into the doorframe.

“Did you spend the night exchanging secrets? I’m surprised your hair isn’t braided.”

“Would you like me more if it was?” Harry asked.

Draco laughed and tipped his head back. Once he’d stopped he pulled out a bouquet of wildflowers from behind his back.

Harry almost fell off the doorframe.

“They’re not for you,” Draco said. He had a knowing gleam in his eyes, as if he’d deliberately presented them the way he had in order to get a reaction from Harry.

“Shut up,” Harry said. He turned and went back into the house, trying to hide his blush.

“Hey sugertits,” said Oceania once she’d spotted Draco. She grinned and held up a sandwich. “Want one?”

“That’s alright babyface,” said Draco, leaning back against one of the counters. “I already ate. But I got you flowers.”

“I don’t have a babyface,” Oceania replied, but she was beaming as she took the flowers and put them in a measuring jug.

“Well I certainly have sugertits,” said Draco as he hopped up to sit on the surface. He caught Harry’s eye and winked at him.

Harry rolled his eyes and put the butter back in the fridge just to have something to do.

“Do you want to go for a walk later?” Oceania asked from where she was washing the tomatoes.

“Actually,” said Draco. “I was wondering if I could borrow Harry for the afternoon.”

Harry realised he had put the butter in upside down. He quickly righted it.

“He doesn’t belong to me,” said Oceania. She sounded amused. There was silence. When Harry finally turned away from the fridge, she had her eyebrows raised at Draco. For a moment, Harry thought that Draco was scowling back at her, but it was gone before he could process it.

“What did you want to borrow me for?” he asked, disrupting the curiously tense atmosphere.

“Knitting,” said Draco, turning his attention back to Harry. He looked quite serious. Oceania turned back to her tomatoes.

“Oh,” said Harry. “Urm, okay.”

Draco stared at him. The line of his mouth lifted up after a moment, and he drew a leg up onto the counter, bending his arm around his shin.

“I wanted to know if you wanted another lesson,” he clarified, keeping his voice light.

“Oh,” said Harry. He moved out the way as Oceania reached to open the fridge. His heart was thundering. He swallowed. “Yes. Please.”

Draco just kept smiling at him. “Okay,” he said softly.

The thundering grew louder.

“Harry,” said Oceania. “Why have you put the butter on its side?”

Fear was a curious thing. It was one of the primary colours of emotion – a key ingredient in so many of the other, more complex feelings that life had to offer. It was simple – but no matter how many other feelings it was mixed in with, its presence was always distinctly salient. You could smell it in the air, know it in the bite of each inhale. It knew you. Fear, like love, was powerful because it was intimate.

Harry had felt fear many, many times. Perhaps overexposure ought to have desensitised him to it. But there were many types of fear, and it was just as strong each time.

There were many types of fear, and so there had to be just as many types of bravery. Harry had thought, after the war, that he had lived it all. But there was more of everything than he had expected.

Life was ever widening.

And so, although perhaps it seemed nonsensical to be afraid of Jane when he had faced Voldemort, when he had faced death itself, when he had survived all of this already – he still was.

It wasn’t really Jane he was afraid of, anyway. It was himself.

“It’s okay if you’re afraid,” said Draco. He was walking beside Harry, a colourful presence moving through the abundance of green. He had been looking ahead as he said it, eyes following the upcoming forest floor, as if this was a casual thing that he could just say to Harry. Maybe it was.

“I am,” said Harry. He was getting good at this honesty thing.

Draco smiled a little, in the corner of his mouth. Harry watched as the shadow of the overhead caressed the slant of his cheekbone, combed through his hair.

“Are you?” he asked. He didn’t bother trying to sound casual.

There was a pause. Draco kept walking. And then –

“All the time,” he said. He was still smiling when he glanced over at Harry.

Harry nodded.

Jane had her eyes closed when they arrived. The sunlight was gleaming off her scales, sticking itself to her long blue eyelashes. Harry hadn’t even noticed that she had eyelashes before.

How much had he missed?

Draco pulled off his satchel. As it hit the floor, Jane’s eyes opened. They were a deep blue, but they seemed almost black from this angle. She watched the two men approaching.

The fear was coming to a head in Harry’s throat. “Tell me you have experience with this,” he said to Draco.

“No,” said Draco.

Harry swallowed hard. “Tell me how to start then,” he said. It came out sounding more desperate than he’d wanted it to.

Draco didn’t pay it any mind. He folded his arms and leaned against the side of the pen. “Tell me what I’ve taught you,” he instructed, instead of answering Harry.

Harry’s pulse was fluttering above his voice box. He spoke around it.

“Urm,” he said. “Urm, you’ve told me about building trust. With – my dragon. That it’s important.”

“Okay,” said Draco. His fingers played along his elbow.

“And - about making her feel safe.”

“Before that.”

Harry racked his brains. “About paths.”

“Before that as well.”

“Jesus,” said Harry. “Can’t you just tell –”

“Don’t argue with me,” said Draco calmly. The tilt of his chin was all authority. Harry had seen that tilt come out before, whenever Harry got particularly stubborn in his previous lessons, but it was rarely this pronounced. When the tilt came out, there was almost always no point arguing.

Harry pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers and tried to breathe. He thought back, back to all the lessons he’d had with Draco before. It was difficult. In his first few lessons he had been so mentally occupied with Draco’s Draconess and the novelty of everything that he’d rarely actually taken anything in.

“I don’t know,” he growled, more annoyed with himself than Draco. “I can’t remember.”

“What do you do when you want to control someone?”

Harry looked over. Leaning there, all cool shrewdness against the wall of the pen, Draco looked more slytherin than Harry had ever seen him since coming here. He raised his chin a little further, narrowing his eyes. Harry licked his lips.

“You understand them,” he said.

Draco tilted his head to the side. “You have to feel what she feels,” he said, and Harry could tell from the way he said that he understood the weight of this. He looked away.

Harry didn’t want to feel what Jane felt. Even thinking about it made the blue rise up through him. It would fill him up, and it would drown him, it would drown him, it would drown –

He looked at Jane. In the reflection of her big black eyes, he could see himself. He had been running for so long, just to stay afloat, but at some point, you had to stop and face it.

At some point, you had to stop and feel it.

The vision of Draco’s white back walking deeper into the loch flashed across his mind again. There was no way to stop it feeling like a suicide.

He looked back over at him. Draco was watching him closely.

“Do you trust me?” he asked.

Harry nodded. He took in a breath, and stopped running. Jane was right there. The blue rose, crashing into him, and it was the biggest thing he’d ever felt.

If one was aware of everything that was hurting all time, it would be impossible to survive it. Pain was everywhere. It lived in the trunks of every dying tree, sprouted in the crush of every crinkled leaf. It was in the soil and in the air, in the mountains and in the sea. It was in every living thing, because to be living was also to be dying. It was everywhere, and if one was aware of it all the time, it would be impossible to survive it. It would be impossible to want to.

Harry understood, and felt it in himself only. It was enough, to know his own pain. It was enough. If you knew it in yourself, you knew it in the world.


For a moment, it was like the whole world was silent. All he could feel was the blue, but it wasn’t just his blue – it was the world’s blue, it was Jane’s blue – it was a pain so honest, so big, so universal that it became a language. It became a form of communication, and then they were connected, and Harry felt it when it happened. He was next to her, he was with her, he was inside of her – and then all of a sudden he understood. He felt it. They were one huge, wild, hurting creature – and then the silence wasn’t a silence, it was a roaring – it had been a roaring all along - and then he was resurfacing, gasping like he had been underwater. He blinked his eyes open, trying to catch his breath. The world swept into his vision in vivid technicolour, and Jane was standing in front of him, her wings spread, and everything was reduced to the gleam of her scales and the heat of the fire that was spreading around him. Frozen, Harry watched as she began to beat her wings, still roaring, and took off. For a moment, the sky was a flash of turquoise, and then she was disappearing up through the clouds. Harry blinked at the space where she was. The fire had spontaneously disappeared, and all that was left was a broken chain sprawled along the rocks.

He turned to Draco. Draco was staring at the broken chain, the empty space where Jane had just spontaneously disappeared. As Harry watched, he took a long, slow blink, and then turned to meet Harry’s gaze.

“What the fuck,” he said pleasantly.

“Harry!” Charlie exclaimed, pulling his front door open wide. “Draco!”

“Charlie!” said Harry.

“Fancy seeing you here!”


“Fancy seeing a huge untamed dragon in the sky!” Draco interjected.

“Indeed!” Charlie cried, and then his brow dropped considerably. He tugged his bathrobe with tiny dragons printed on it tighter around his torso and stepped out onto the porch.

“What was that?” he asked, quite seriously.

“Nothing,” said Harry. He dropped his eyes, only to find that although he could avoid the disapproving gaze of Charlie, he could not avoid the disapproving gaze of the many, many fluffy bathrobe dragons.

“Harry fucked it,” Draco said helpfully. “Shall we come in?”

“I think you’d better,” Charlie said, still very serious, and led the way.

Despite the somewhat chaotic events of the early afternoon replaying in Harry’s mind, he could not help but notice that Charlie’s house was not actually as dragon themed as one might have expected. But then they got to the lounge, in which there were two large inflatable dragons sitting on one of the sofas, a dragon shaped mirror, and a table with dragon claws, and Harry vowed then and there to never make judgements based on first impressions ever again.

“Would you like to take a seat?” Charlie asked, gesturing towards the sofa.

“Sure,” said Draco. “Shall we sit on the dragons’ laps, or do they have boyfriends?”

Charlie met Harry’s eye. “I didn’t buy them,” he clarified, apparently having seen something in Harry’s expression. “Draco bought them for me. One for each birthday so far.”

“That sounds like something he would do,” Harry agreed.

“They’re in love,” said Draco, looking at a spot on Harry’s collar, perhaps.

“And Hayden transfigured the dining table.”

“Right,” said Harry.

There was a compact pause.

“I did buy the mirror myself,” Charlie admitted.

“We all have flaws,” Draco said gently.

“But it is a good mirror –”

“Whether we are aware of them or not,” Draco interrupted, a little more firmly. He was nodding. “Speaking of which, I think Harry is now very aware of one of his. A big, green, scaly one.”

“Turquoise,” Harry corrected absentmindedly.

“Alright Wizard Picasso,” said Draco. “Point stands.”

“You told me to trust you,” Harry reminded him, trying not to sound to accusative and failing.

“I said that to make you feel safe,” Draco shot back. “Of course you shouldn’t actually trust me.”

“Alllright,” said Charlie, his eyes darting between the two of them as he interrupted their glaring. “Maybe we should, uhh, go over, you know. What actually has been a-happening.”

Draco broke away to glower at the floor. “Jane flew away.”

“Mmhmm.” Charlie looked like he was trying to appear understanding, but his lips were pressed in a white line. “And uh…how did that come about?”

Draco’s gaze flickered from the floor up to Harry for a second. He was frowning.

“I…” Harry swallowed. His irritation at Draco was fading as he tried to process what had actually just happened. “I, urm…was trying to connect to her.”

“Okay,” said Charlie. “And did you?”

Harry thought about the silence he’d felt. About how the blue had expanded, and how when it had retreated, it had left behind a bridge between the two of them.

“Yes,” he admitted.

“You did?” Draco looked shocked.

“Yes,” said Harry. “I thought…couldn’t you tell?”

“It’s a private matter,” Draco said automatically, too caught off guard to still be annoyed. “Between the tamer and their dragon.”

“Oh,” said Harry. “Well, I assumed that was why –”

“Jane flew off after the connection?” Draco was frowning even deeper now. “But shouldn’t she feel closer now?”

Harry shrugged. They both looked at Charlie. Charlie was seated between the two inflatable dragons on the sofa.

“Oh,” he said, when he realised they were waiting for his input. “It happens sometimes. I’m pretty sure. The moment of connection can often be an overwhelming thing, for both parties. The urge to…escape is relatively normal. Especially if the dragon isn’t entirely healthy.”

Harry looked back at Draco, and then back down to the floor.

“But how do we get her back?” He heard Draco ask.

“She’ll come back,” said Charlie, sounding sure about it. “If the connection is good, she’ll come back. In her own time.”

Harry saw Draco nod in his peripheral vision. He was looking outside the window, towards the mountains and forests, thinking about the shape of her turquoise form flitting through all of it, and how it must, for now, feel a lot like escaping.  

“No way,” said Harry, more amused than irritated. “You can’t be serious.”

“You can stay,” said Oceania cheerfully. “But we’re totally going to have sex.”

Although Harry loved her deeply, and fully supported Oceania’s exploration of her own sexuality, there was not a single part of him that wanted to witness any part of it. It would be like hearing Hermione and Ron fuck, and as soon as he had this thought he wanted to douse his head in bleach and pry open the mouth of a pissed off dragon, before merrily walking down its throat and shuffling off this mortal coil and all the firing neurons in his brain.

“K,” he said. “Urm. Buh-bye.”

Draco blinked his eyes open wide when he opened his door. “Harry,” he said carefully, once he’d steadied himself. “What are you doing here?”

“Oceania kicked me out because the bowling girl turned up to confess her undying love,” Harry said in one breath. “How has your evening been?”

Draco blinked again, and rubbed his eyes. “Merlin,” he said. “Your life is a fucking mee-mee.”

Harry cocked his head to the side. “I’m sorry,” he said slowly. “What did you just say?”

Draco stopped rubbing his eyes and crossed his arms. “A mee-mee,” he repeated.

“Do you.” Harry had to pause to collect himself. “Do you, by any chance, mean a meme?”

“Urm,” said Draco, staring at Harry liked he was a bit thick. “I think you’re pronouncing it wrong.”

Harry bit his lip and inhaled deeply. “Damn,” he said, once he’d gotten a tenuous grip. “Dammit. Am I really?”

Draco laughed a little and shook his head incredulously. “And to think you were raised muggle.”

“To think,” Harry echoed. “Tell me, how do you know that word again?”

“I use the introtent,” said Draco proudly. “It’s very useful you know.”

“Mmmmmm,” said Harry ambiguously.

Draco leaned against the side of the door frame. He was wearing a red jumper, with matching rose leggings. He so rarely wore red. Harry was kind of getting the urge to trod down the throat of a pissed off dragon again.

Draco lolled his head to the side. He looked like he’d just been sleeping. “Won’t you come in?” he asked softly.

Harry went in. They made tea, and then moved to the lounge. There were just as many books, but somehow they were all in different places from last time.

“Have you actually read all of these?” Harry asked, as he half sat down on a worn copy of “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” and also a copy of “Knitting a Scarf in A Day for Dummies”. His tea wobbled precariously in his cup.

“No,” said Draco. “There’s my to-read stack, just over there.” He pointed to the stack. There were maybe twenty books in the stack, which was still a lot of books in Harry’s opinion, but still did not make up a particularly large fraction of all the books in the room.

Harry glanced around him. “So you’ve read all the rest?’ he asked incredulously.

Draco frowned thoughtfully as he took a sip of the tea, looking at all the books like he’d just noticed they were there. “I think so.”

Harry stared at him.

“What?” said Draco, once he’d noticed. “Reading is a perfectly respectable past time.”

“I didn’t say it wasn’t,” said Harry. He kept staring.

Draco shuffled, a little self-consciously. “Don’t you read?” he pointed out. “You’re the one with all the educated opinions on like, Jane Eyre, for fuck’s sake.”

It was Harry’s turn to shuffle. The “For Dummies” copy jabbed uncomfortably into his ass. “Urm,” he said. “Not really.”

Draco raised his brows. He was really very good at that.

Harry sighed. “I don’t read the actual books,” he finally confessed. “I read the reviews.”

“That,” said Draco, “is so fucking weird.”

“It’s not,” said Harry defensively. “It makes sense.”

Draco threw his hands into the air, as if out of all the things Harry had said to him, this was by far the most ridiculous and farfetched. “Why?” he asked the ceiling, which was the only part of the room free of books entirely. “Pray, why?”

Harry threw up his arms as well. “Because,” he said. “Reading is boring.”

“I’m…” Draco took a deep breath. “I’m going to need you to get out of my house.”

“It is,” said Harry. He knew he wasn’t earning himself any brownie points, but it was the truth.

“Harry,” said Draco, very levelly. “You do know that what you just said is worse than everything you ever said to me at Hogwarts. Ever. Combined. You know that right?”

“Draco,” said Harry. “Have you ever tried to actually read Jane Eyre? In the first chapter she feels the need to mention that Jane is reading a book about the history of British birds. British birds, Draco. A history.”

“Even you are not fit enough to say such things,” said Draco, picking up a copy of “The Hungry Caterpillar” and waggling it dangerously in Harry’s direction. “Even you, Golden Boy.”

Harry was momentarily distracted. “You think I’m fit?”

“Furthermore,” Draco declared loudly. “Even if one were depraved enough to dislike reading, why the fuck would they read the reviews instead?”

Harry blinked. “Because,” he said after a moment. “The reviews are interesting.”

“Yeah,” said Draco slowly. “Because the books they’re about are interesting.”

“No,” argued Harry.  “Because reviews actually get to the good stuff. They jump straight to the heart of the book without messing around with all the unnecessary descriptions of like, window panes and the weather and British birds, for Christ’s sake.”

 Draco tilted his head to the side. He made as if to speak, and then stopped.

“But,” he said. “But…that’s what makes the book a book.”

He sounded so righteous and confused that it made him sound a little bit like he was twelve. He had been horrible when he was actually twelve, so Harry didn’t know why he was getting the urge to smile in a way that was probably quite similar to the sunflower they had collaborated on on Oceania’s ceiling.

“Okay,” said Harry. “But I like getting to the point of it.”

“You’re such a Gryffindor,” Draco complained, as if Harry had just kicked a puppy in front of him. “You can’t just blunder your way into a work of art and demand for things. It’s so brutal.”

“It’s a book,” said Harry. “Not a person.”

“You’re such a Gryffindor,” Draco said again, pained, and got up. “I need more tea.”

Harry picked up the copy of “The Hungry Caterpillar,” while he was waiting. He did actually enjoy picture books, but, somehow, had the feeling that that would not go over well.

When Draco came back, it was with a bottle of wine and two glasses. Harry laughed, swiftly hiding “The Hungry Caterpillar” down the side of the sofa. He watched as Draco poured them both glasses, and then drank deeply from his own. When he was done, there was a line of ruby liquid beading across his upper lip. His rubbed it away with the side of his thumb.

“I can’t look at you,” he announced once he was done. “All this time, I believed that you…I thought you’d changed since Hogwarts.”

 Harry grinned as he leaned back against the sofa. He knew that Draco was only half-serious, but even so, he said, “I have changed.”

Draco met his eyes over the edge of the glass. He took another sip, and Harry felt it in his own mouth.

“Well,” Draco said after a moment, clearing his throat. “Since you’re here, we might as well do some research.”

“Research?” Harry asked. Draco was already getting up and had his back turned to him, rummaging through the to-read stack. When he returned, it was with three large, purple leather books that looked more like diaries. “Charlie lent them to me,” he explained, flipping open the first one. “I wanted to read up more on the details of the connection involved in dragon-taming.” He held one up to Harry, and looked up with corner of his mouth tugged up in a dry smile. “If you can bear it.”

Harry rolled his eyes, but felt a bit pink about the whole ordeal. “Thanks,” he said, taking the book and thinking about Draco putting in the effort to do extra research about something that was essentially Harry’s problem.

A Brief History of Spirituality and Dragons, read the book, By Renowned Historian Brian Dandypock. It did not look brief, but Harry kept his mouth shut and flipped open to the first page. He could be trying to sleep through an audio playing of Oceania’s sex life right now. There were many things to be grateful for.

Next to the contents page there was a large, scratchy drawing of a dragon with a sun halo. Harry glanced up at Draco, but he was already immersed in his own reading. Harry skipped down the contents list cursively, before his eyes caught on chapter twelve: The Role of Meditation in Taming. He found the page.

Although meditation and dragon taming are both practices that have been around since early human civilization, read the chapter. It was not until around the 5th to 6th century BCE that the two coincided, and thus began a sacred relationship that would blossom around the wizarding world, and is still preserved today in pockets around the globe. According to written records, the first occurrences of this tradition originated in Taoist China. The emphasis of dragons in Chinese culture and religion were perhaps partly responsible for this, and the worship of dragons became a key influence in the attitude towards dragon taming that would only begin to inspire tamers in the west towards the end of the middle ages. The commonly held social opinion of Taoists being hermits in Ancient China was also crucial in that it allowed warlocks and witches to maintain their magical lifestyles with greater ease.  This combined practice became increasingly popular in later years as Buddhism began to spread through China –

Here Harry skipped through the next five pages to the sub-heading: Using Meditation to Realise Effective Taming (Dandypocks’s Dandy Dragon Tips):

For the tamer themselves, it is always helpful to understand the science behind taming. A large part of dragon taming has always been the magical connection between a tamer and their dragon. This connection is the primary reason muggles have never significantly delved into the art of dragon taming, as without it, it is beyond difficulty getting a dragon to listen to you. The fact that they cannot see them does not help, either.

Although this connection primarily involves the magical centre of the tamer, it has been a long-acknowledged fact that a tamer’s relationship with their own magic is largely dependent on their own mental state. There is no greater strain on the mind than mental vulnerability, and few experiences are so vulnerable as the meeting of minds. It is for this reason in truth that dragon taming is not for the faint hearted. Talons, claws, and fire are no match for the strength of character required to maintain the fragile connection between the two parties.

This is where the practise of meditation becomes significant. For a brief period in time, those in the west favoured religious prayer over more “exotic” methods; however, it was quickly discovered that the vast majority of religions have a tendency to lead to confused connections. Meditation is nowadays often preferred as it offers all the spiritual presence of religion, but allows a focus on the self as opposed to a God/Goddess.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to be one of the most successful methods of managing anxiety, stress, and depression. The inward focus permits the individual to study themselves, and to re-connect their conscious and sub-conscious minds. The soul, if one will allow the term, becomes more present within the person, and the “true self” may rise closer to the surface. The closer to “truth” that the tamer becomes, the easier it becomes for a connection to take place.

And so dear tamer, it is for this reason that honesty is so valued within dragon-taming communities. More often than not, there are many queer types to be found here – but if things are queer, it is a good sign that you are close to truth, tamer. Understand yourself, and you will understand life – and more importantly, your dragon.

  • Brian Dandypock


Harry looked up, inhaling. He reached for his tea. It had gone cold.

“Anything interesting?” Draco murmured, without looking up. A lock of hair had fallen into his eyes. Harry watched as he absentmindedly brushed it back.

Harry shrugged. “Yeah,” he said, and cleaned his glasses on his jumper. All it really did was move the smudges on the lenses around, but this was just how Harry lived.

Draco was watching him, frowning.

“What are you doing?”

Harry looked up. “What?”

“That.” Draco nodded at where the glasses were still swathed in Harry’s jumper.

Harry let his eyes drift across the now blurry room in confusion. “I’m…cleaning my glasses?”

“You use the word cleaning rather boldly.” Draco’s nose was all wrinkled, like a rabbit that had eaten some not so great grass.

“What am I supposed to do?” asked Harry, amused despite himself. “Whip out a bottle of cleaning solution and some rubber gloves?”

Draco rolled his eyes for a full ten seconds. “Give those to me.”

“Urm,” said Harry hesitantly. “I…need these.”

Draco shot him a look. Or at least, Harry thought he did.

“I’m not going to leave you like the blind fool you are,” he drawled. “Don’t you trust me?”

“You literally just told me not to the other day,” Harry pointed out.

“Fine.” Draco fell back against the sofa. “Okay. Fine.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Draco,” he said.

Draco was reading.



Harry leaned towards him. “Do you want to clean my glasses?” he asked in what he hoped what was a semi-endearing tone. Even without his vision, he could tell that Draco had gone all pointy.

“No,” said Draco crossly. Harry had to bite back a laugh.

“Please,” he murmured. He dropped his head onto Draco’s shoulder, his mind revelling in the idea that this was allowed. Draco stiffened, but didn’t push him away. The curve of his neck was warm against the slice of Harry’s forehead.

There was a two beats pause. Harry rubbed his forehead back and forth, just a bit. This was allowed. Probably.

“Alright,” Draco eventually snapped, reaching for the proffered glasses, but he didn’t sound angry. If anything, he sounded a little flustered. Harry’s mind creeped towards the last time he’d been here, back to when he’d been sitting and watching the shape of Draco’s sharp profile. He remembered the way Draco had been looking at him, and the feeling of something felt but not yet articulated swelling in the back of his mind. He was feeling it now, again, and the cotton of Draco Malfoy’s red jumper was almost unbearably soft against his cheek.

“Here,” said Draco, and then he moved back, and Harry’s glasses were being placed carefully atop the frame of his face. He blinked, and everything came into sharp focus.

“Fuck,” he said, taking it in. “I can see.”

Draco looked a little smug. He was still quite close. “Wonderful thing, isn’t it?”

Harry grinned. Then he spotted the cleaning cloth in Draco’s hand. He frowned.

“Why do you even have that on you?” he asked. “It’s not like you wear glasses.”

“It’s for my sunglasses,” Draco said. “Obviously.”

Harry laughed.

Draco looked away. “Did Osh say how long you were being sexiled for?” he asked after a moment, quite casually.

Harry shrugged. “Not really, but I’m not sure I want to risk heading back.”

“Ah,” said Draco. He took a sip of his tea, even though his must be cold too. “I suppose you’ll want to stay over then.”

“I suppose so,” agreed Harry, grinning. “Are you going to braid my hair for me?”

Draco snorted. He was still looking away, but he was smiling. “I’ll get you a toothbrush. You have to charge for the braiding.”

“I have a question,” said Harry, as they made their way into the bathroom and Draco began rummaging through the cabinet behind the mirror. “It’s very important.”

“Well, don’t hold it in,” muttered Draco, over the sound of clattering. “I wouldn’t want you to strain your poor Gryffindor soul.”

“Do you have sleeping leggings?’

Draco chucked the spare toothbrush at him.

Once they’d collected themselves, Harry brushed his teeth as Draco went to the bedroom to change. Harry took a moment to imagine what Draco’s bedroom must look like. Before Gay Dragon Village, he would have easily imagined an extravagant four-poster bed, and maybe the heads of various house elves propped up on the walls, all complete with a stuffed toy snake to cuddle up to. Now, after coming here, he found that he was picturing things a lot more along the lines of a waterbed, and maybe a trampoline.

Of course, Draco’s bedroom turned out to be none of those things. One of the walls was pink, however.

“Ah –” said Harry, and stopped. He took it in.

It looked nothing like how he had imagined it. No, that was wrong – it looked exactly how he had imagined it, so much so that it was surprising.

It was – simpler, that was for sure. No four-poster bed. Just an ordinary single in the middle of the room, complete with a polka dot duvet and pillowcase set. Draco Malfoy liking polka dots was never something Harry thought he would have to know, but now he did and there was no un-knowing it. Draco Malfoy liked polka dots. He felt like he would have to tell somebody about this. Surely, everybody should know.

There were also a crap ton of plants. Cactuses and bonsais and bunch of other green shit that Harry was too un-educated to know the name of – all in different curiously shaped pots. There were labels on the pots. Maybe they were names. Harry hoped they weren’t names. If they were, he would have to launch himself out the window, which would be a shame, because there were a ton of pretty cool dream-catchers hanging there and he wouldn’t want to break anything of Draco’s.

There was a knitted rug with indecipherable patterning on it, as if the knitter couldn’t make up their mind about they wanted to depict. Also a sparkly glass light fixture. Also a gay flag hanging behind the bed. Also shelves for more books. Also a dressing table.

Harry looked at the dressing table, at the fuzzy lilac fluff stuck around the mirror and the dainty cushioned stool and the ensemble of what he was pretty sure were different make up products stacked neatly around the desk, and felt something inside him crack like an egg and run messily and a little grossly through the length of him. He was blushing. He didn’t know why he was blushing. There was something wrong with him, almost certainly.

“What does that mean?” asked Draco. He was rubbing the edge of one foot into the carpet and only occasionally glancing up at Harry. He was obviously anxious and obviously trying very hard not to look anxious, and even though Harry suddenly found himself in the very rare position of being able to decipher Draco Malfoy, he found that it in no way gave him any power over the situation at all.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” he rushed out, and then shoved his hands deep into his pockets. “I, uh – should it mean something?”

“What do you think of it?” asked Draco, a little too precisely.

Harry bit his lip. He was blushing, and he didn’t know why, but suddenly decided there was no point hiding it. This – feeling was strange, but it was so warm, and there was no room for shame in it. He felt like a child on a sugar high.

“I didn’t know you liked polka dots,” he said, smiling and looking straight at Draco, and when Draco looked up his eyes fluttered away from Harry’s gaze in a way that made the mess in Harry sweeten even further.

“You’re so strange,” Draco muttered as he looked away, rolling his eyes pointedly, but it didn’t change the embarrassed curve of his neck. He turned and rummaged through the drawers before flinging some blue material at Harry. “Go get changing in the bathroom,” he said, without turning around.

Harry went and got changed in the bathroom. The blue material turned out to be a set of pyjamas. It was surprisingly plain, with nothing more extravagant than tiny daffodils printed neatly across it, small enough to be subtle. Harry had expected something more ridiculous. He glanced at the locked door, and then without letting himself acknowledge the action, pressed the material against his face. It was soft. It smelt very human. Like him.

He put the pyjamas on. The top was bit tight on him, and the trousers were too long. He stared at himself in the mirror for a few minutes, and tried very hard not to be overwhelmed.

When he went back to the bedroom, there was a blow-up mattress and bed-set on the floor next to the bed. Draco was already in bed.

“Turn out the lights,” he instructed from under the duvet. Harry did, and climbed into the temporary bed. The pillow was silk, he was pretty sure.

There was nothing to say. A few moments of silence passed as Harry rolled around noisily, trying to get comfortable. Draco didn’t move at all.

Eventually Harry slumped onto his back, and opened his eyes to stare up at the ceiling. There was a small constellation in the right-hand corner of it.

“Draco,” he said softly.

A pause.


Harry swallowed. “I like the polka dots,’ he said.

There was a longer pause. And then Draco finally moved, the sound of the turning duvet was incredibly loud in the small room.

“Go to sleep, Harry,” he said, but Harry could tell he was smiling. He smiled too, and did as he was told.

The next day was The Wong.

“The what?” said Harry.

“The Wong,” said Draco. “Don't be so fucking racist.”

“I didn't say anything! I just haven't heard the phrase before.”

“Harry,” said Draco, giving him a level look over his morning tea. “Don’t be so fucking ignorant.”

Harry peered over at the tea. “Why is that pink?” he asked.

“Mind your own damn business,” Draco told him, but he was smiling rather viciously as he pushed Harry away with the tip of his tea spoon on Harry’s forehead.

The Wong, as it turned out, was otherwise translated as The Empowerment, and was the first day of the three-day public ceremony of the festival. This meant that the sacred pills would be distributed. This meant that they had to get up early in order to be at the front of the crowd that was going to gather. This meant that Draco was tugging on reindeer socks as they were just about to leave –

“Wait,” said Harry again. He clapped his hands together. He inhaled deeply. “What are those?”

Draco glanced down at his feet in a harried sort of way. “Nothing,” he said, and then did a double take upon seeing Harry's expression. “Oh. I'm all out of other ones.”

“Now who's being a bit racist,” said Harry, a little gleefully.

“Oh for god’s sake,” said Draco. “It is already established: I am a stupid Caucasian. Forgive me of my sins, etc, etc, I’m sorry that I didn't do my washing earlier in the week. Can we go now? We're going to be fucking late.”

They went. They were fucking late.

It was okay though, because it wasn’t too busy. Still, Harry would have been lying if he said that he wasn’t a little overwhelmed by the crowd. He had spent so much time with a very small group of people, and before that even more time just by himself. He had gotten used to the silence.

Perhaps it had made him more sensitive. All the colours, noises, smells entangled him completely. He was staring at people, he knew he was. It was strange, because he had never thought of himself as a particularly sensitive person. He didn’t know if it was because of the blue, or the silence, but it was like his eyes couldn’t adjust to the brightness of everyone.

Because this place did attract an interesting hoard of people. Spiritual people were always a little odd to begin with, in Harry’s opinion (the fact that he was now somewhat spiritual had done nothing to change this, as he was decidedly odd himself), and spiritual people who were willing to travel to a somewhat obscure festival in a remote corner of the Himalayas were even more odd. Spiritual people who were willing to travel to a somewhat obscure festival in a remote corner of the Himalayas who were also magic were at an all-time high in terms of oddness.

So Harry was staring. The woman with the huge nose piercing and a shawl with winged potatoes on it stared right back. Harry touched his hair self-consciously.

“That’s the Mani Rilwu,” Draco said into Harry’s ear as a Monk pressed something into his hand. “The sacred pill. And that’s the Tshereel. The pill for a long life. Are you alright?”

“Yes,” said Harry, blinking at Draco’s proximity. “Well. It’s just a bit much.”

Draco studied him coolly from under his lashes. Harry had always hated the feeling of being inspected, largely as a result of being a famed focal point for wizarding media for a large portion of his life, and also as a result of his loving, loving friends, who loved him so much that they hated the blue as much as him, which would have been fine except he couldn’t always detach it from himself –

But with Draco it had never been like that. Or maybe it had at first; it wasn’t now. Now, when Draco studied him, it made him feel understood.

What a magnificent thing that was.

“Do we need to leave?” asked Draco, and Harry’s heart pulsed painfully.

“No,” said Harry. “No, it’s – manageable.”

They went and found Osh and Hayden after. Then Tom. Charlie was busy with dragons and in the words of Hayden: “important grown-up management stuff” so they left him to it. And then got pished in the undergrowth.

“Tell me about this love confession business,” Draco announced once they’d found their favourite set of logs and were all nice and comfortable. He tried to pop off the top of the cider like they did in movies, and then winced, lowering the bottle and pouting at it. Harry wasn’t quite comfortable about the feelings he was having about the pout.

“Did you fuck?” asked Hayden. They were grinning like a Cheshire cat. Tom raised his brows at them in dry amusement, which was one of the few traits he shared with them.

Oceania smiled broadly, relaxing into the log as much as one can when they are perched on a log.

“We connected,” she told them all, mysteriously and with great significance. Harry blinked over the edge of his cider, but no one noticed.

“So you fucked,” Draco said, after a pause. Hayden snorted.

“It doesn’t matter what our bodies did,” Oceania said calmly, looking at him. “Not when our minds were so in sync. Only know that whatever it was, our bodies did it very well, and multiple times over the course of the night.”

“Osh,” said Harry.

“Kudos,” said Tom, and raised his cider in her direction. The rest of them all burst into brief round of admirable applause.

“God, that makes me want to get laid,” Draco said once they were done. Harry could barely look at him.

“When was the last time?” asked Hayden, curious.

“It was in my last life, when I was a cricket,” said Draco. “I was a very handsome cricket. All the boys wanted a piece of me. The girls, too. I was like a supermarket birthday cake. You know the ones with the weirdly addictive frosting?”

“Were you still gay, when you were a cricket?” Hayden asked, smiling.

“Of course,” said Draco. “But I was also still incredibly susceptible to vanity and flattery, and so I cricket-fucked a lot of those girls. I couldn’t help it. They kept telling me how toned my little cricket legs looked in the moonlight.”

Harry made the mistake of looking up then, and accidentally locked eyes with Tom, who raised his eyebrows at him. Harry felt the flush run all down his face and under his shirt too. It was a disaster.

“I think I’m gay,” said Oceania thoughtfully.

There was a pregnant pause. Then Draco turned to her and broke out into a brilliant grin.

“Osh,” he said. “I’m so damn happy for you.”

“Thank you,” said Oceania, looking pleased and settled, which is how Harry liked her best. “I’m happy too.”

“This calls for celebration,” said Tom, and produced a bottle of champagne from seemingly nowhere.

Tom,” said Oceania. “You’re a monk.”

“I’m a fun monk,” Tom said easily, and began to pour them all glasses. Hayden was looking at him in what could really only be described as suppressed awe, Harry noticed.

“Oh, Tom,” said Oceania, and beamed at him. They all had some champagne.

“Now the only one who is not officially queer is Harry,” Draco announced, after he’d had his second glass. He said this casually, like it was a common truth.

Harry felt himself stop moving. None of them were particularly looking at him, but he felt exposed regardless. Like he’d been turned inside out. He stared at down at the glass in his hands. He didn’t have to say anything. He could not say anything, and he would get away with it; it would be fine.

“Actually,” he said very carefully after a moment. “I…I, urm, think I’m bisexual.”

There was the pause again. It stretched out longer and louder to Harry, a piece of time that became swollen with his own panic. And then –

“That’s brilliant Harry,” said Tom, and the sound in his voice, so genuine and reassuring, popped the panic. Harry felt it wash away. He breathed.

“Fucking nice Harry,” said Hayden, and when Harry looked up they were grinning appreciatively. He met Oceania’s eye and she winked at him, raising her glass. The sudden rush of love filled up his lungs on his next inhale, and he was suddenly so grateful, so immensely grateful for these people and this village and this truth, and he thought maybe he was going to cry, which was awfully embarrassing and cliché.

He couldn’t help it. He looked over at Draco. He knew he shouldn’t, but – well.

Draco looked very strange. He was staring off into the unlit fire, but it was a little like he wasn’t staring there at all, like he was seeing something else. His finger on his now empty beer bottle twitched, flitting against the curling edge of the unpeeling sticker.

He must have felt Harry’s eyes on him, because then he looked over and – he looked so impossibly vulnerable. His eyes were slightly darker in the evening, and as they connected with Harry’s, Harry once again felt that familiar feeling of missing something very crucial, something that should be obvious but that would not solidify in his mind. His breath caught – held, fell – and then it was over and Draco was raising his bottle, smirking like the softness had never been there, like it didn’t exist.

“This is excellent news,” he declared frivolously, his cheeks pink. “Finally, our very own bisexual. I’ve been wanting to add one to my collection.”

“Urm,” said Hayden. “I’m bisexual.”

“Are you?” Draco frowned at him. “I thought you were ace.”

“I’m ace,” said Tom.

“Are you?” said Draco. “I thought you were gay.”

“I am gay,” said Tom, very calmly. “I’m both.”

“I thought I was gay,” said Draco.

“You are,” said Oceania, gripping his arm. “Don’t let these big bad boys tell you otherwise.”

“Objection,” said Hayden. “Not a boy, here.”

“Oh, good lord,” said Draco. “So who is?”

There was a pause. “Urm,” said Harry, after a moment, as he desperately tried not to take too much in all at once. “I think, uh, that I might be?”

Draco looked at him, but it wasn’t like before. Draco was already back up to his full volume self, even though Harry was still stuck on the moment before. “Well, I know you’re a boy, Harry,” He drawled, lowering his lids. “But I’m glad you do too.”

“So am I,” said Oceania, after a long moment in which Harry primarily stared at Draco’s left eyebrow. “Gender identity is very important.”

“Cheers to that,” said Hayden, raising their bottle, and Tom echoed the movement. Harry suddenly, deliriously, felt the desperate urge to laugh. He took a long swig of his own beer.

After that the night devolved into increasingly nonsensical jokes and alcohol and love-induced laughter, and at some point in it all Oceania waved him over and kissed his cheek and said, “let’s get you home.”

And when they were there they both fell across the various sofas and Harry, quite drunk really now, rolled over to his side and said: “Osh, are you in love?”

Osh just smiled. Harry loved that smile, and how wise she always seemed to him. “No,” she said simply.

“Do you want to be?”

“Do you?” she retorted playfully, turning over to face him.

“Maybe,” said Harry. He was so drunk, but the nice thing about being drunk was that it let you do what you really wanted to do and say what you really wanted to say without any of the fear, for once.

“That’s good,” said Oceania, and she said it softly. The room was filled with so many colours. “That makes you human.”

“Does it?”

“Everybody needs somebody,” she told him. “Everybody needs to share.”

Harry rolled over further, until he was on his belly. He blinked up at her, a little stupidly, but mostly content. “Osh,” he said. “Do you ever get the feeling that Draco is flirting with me?”

Oceania blinked, and then she began to laugh. It was loud, real laugh, and it filled up the whole room. It made Harry blink and laugh too.

“Oh, Harry,” she said once she could breathe again. “Of course he is. Gosh, you’re so lovely. Go to sleep.”

“Alright,” said Harry, grinning, and he went to sleep.

It was probably a little bit sacrilegious to turn up to a religious festival with a hangover.

Harry was definitely feeling sacrilegious. The fresh dirt on the ground was looking like a more and more tempting resting place by the second.

Day two of the Mani Rimdu meant dances. And according to Draco’s hissing voice in his ear right now: “You can’t miss the dances Harry, you just can’t.”

“I’m not going to miss them,” Harry told him. “I’m just approaching at my own pace.”

“A blind snail with a brick attached to it and a broken heart would approach faster than you,” said Draco.

“Aren’t all snails blind?”

“No,” said Draco. “But they are all broken hearted.”

Harry took a deep breath. He looked over at Draco’s lovely legs, only successfully avoiding smiling through sheer strength of will.

“Why are they heartbroken?” he managed.

Draco looked straight at him. “Because,” he said, “Harry, life is a cruel, cruel mistress.”

“Of course,” said Harry.

“And because they’re all ugly as shit,” continued Draco. “Could you imagine subjecting yourself to a lover who was entirely slimy and had weird sticky outy things?”

“Would you not be my friend if I was slimy?” Harry asked. He couldn’t help it – the smile was coming out all on its own accord, and there was naught to be done.

Draco pushed back his long white fringe and peered at Harry from underneath it. He smiled devilishly.

“No,” he said lightly. “But I quite like your weird stick outy things.”

“Malfoy,” said Harry.

Draco was obviously thrilled by this reaction.


Harry pointed. “That’s inappropriate.”

Draco looked interested. “How so?”

“It…” Harry ransacked his brain. “It’s…an abuse of authority. You’re my teacher.”

“Kinky,” said Draco. He was getting more and more red and excited around the eyes with each development of the conversation. Harry’s skin was tingling in a way that made him suspect he was also going red, though probably not so visibly. Not for the first time, he thanked the stars for not making him white.

“Malfoy,” he said again, for lack of anything else to say. Draco stopped going red and rolled his eyes.

“I won’t flirt with you if you don’t want me to, Harry,” he said, and then waved his hand. “Come on, or we really will miss the dances. Stop hugging that tree.”

Harry grumbled and let go of the tree. It wasn’t easy. He had liked the way it had supported all of his weight without berating him for getting drunk the night before a religious festival.

“Are you two coming?” yelled Oceania where she had run back to the bottom of the path. They both shouted back affirmatively, before watching her skip back off in the direction of the Monastery.

As they stumbled their way down, Harry said, “I don’t mind if you flirt with me, Draco.”

They kept stumbling down, the gravel crunching loudly under their feet. Draco didn’t say anything, and after a moment, Harry thought that he just wasn’t going to respond.

Then, at the bottom of the path, Draco stopped. Harry turned to look at him. He was smirking, and Harry’s gaze was hopelessly drawn to the dainty curl of the side of his lips.

“Harry Potter,” he said, and Harry’s stomach jolted. “You have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into.”


In the most respectful and spiritually enlightened way possible, Harry thought that the dances were fucking sick.

There was quite a crowd gathered, more people than Harry thought there would be, much more than there were the first day. He was standing shoulder to shoulder with Charlie, with Draco tucked in on his other side. Draco spent the whole time whispering explanations into Harry’s ear in a way that made him think fondly and a little painfully of Hermione.

“You have to know that the dances are not just describing the story of Buddhism being introduced to Tibet,” he had said immediately before it started. “But are also depicting the personal awakening of the individual.”

The dances had begun with cymbals. The masked dancers walked around and generally made a huge racket, which Harry secretly loved. So many religions he had encountered up to this point seemed to be about quietness and tidiness to him. This felt like a real celebration.

“The first step,” Draco had continued, “is about awakening the individual from illusion.”

The gold colour gleamed off the surface of the symbol, into Harry’s eyes. The movement was encapsulating, hypnotic. He blinked, coming back into focus.

“Then you have the transformation of perception. You see that, there? What they’re sacrificing? On the altar? They’re supposed to represent sensory perception. Sound – the cymbals – sight, touch, taste, smell. Etc. The individual is being freed from the material.”

The smell of burning juniper was rich in the air. Harry breathed in deeply, as if meditating. He exhaled, slow.

Then the monks came out. They were dressed in yellow robes, complete with a huge, glorious, curling yellow head piece.

Sick,” breathed Harry under his breath. Draco had to take a moment from his educating to hide his smile.

Apparently, the outfits were representative of the “light” that replaced the “darkness.” Then there were more dancers, one in a blue mask and one with a beard, and then some red pills were handed out with wine, the latter of which Harry felt himself go a little queasy at and had to decline.

Later, once some offerings had been made and various other procedures that were probably quite interesting but that Harry hadn’t really paid much attention to, he separated from the rest of the group. The noise, the colours, the light – it was all very beautiful, but it was also – too much. Too much for Harry, anyway.

He went for a walk through the trees. The silence was – not exactly reassuring, but it was in tune with him, with how he felt. The forest was a healing thing. So alive, and so unhuman. Foreign – but for once, the phrase didn’t make something close up inside of Harry.

He came to a stop beside one of the larger trunks, and amidst the vibrant greens and velvet leaves and the blossoming sound of birdsong, he let the question rise up in him like a bubble to the surface of a loch:

Why was he unhappy?

Because of Jane. Because he’d left. Because of Draco. Because of the war –

Was that it? There were always reasons to be unhappy, small reasons, small misfortunes to endure. And maybe some of the reasons weren’t small, but even so, they didn’t seem to explain the sensation of the vast open ocean of despair that was always tugging at his chest, even during the better moments, even when he could almost call himself happy –

It was not a physical sort of pain. Pain was almost not the right word for it. It was a hurt that was in his soul. Soul was the only word deep enough to represent it.

He sat down, his back against the trunk. His trousers scraped against the shrubs and made little green smears across the material. He looked up and the sky was so blue beyond the trees, so blue, so blue and so far away.

Sometimes it was not even pain. It was more a feeling of not fitting right, of not belonging, of constant discomfort. He had thought his life was wrong, and so he had changed it. But it was not his external life, it seemed.

The only way out is in. For a moment he couldn’t remember the conversation, or the voice that had said the words. Then it came back, but the words themselves reformed again in Harry’s mind, this time with more meaning than before.

The only way out is in. Harry had been running from himself, and now he had stopped. But maybe stopping wasn’t enough. Maybe he had to start going in the other direction.

The blue made you want to run from it, because it scared you, because it was bigger than you. But if you didn’t swim into the waves, how could you ever expect to reach calmer water? Draco was in the loch of his mind again, but this time it wasn’t Draco, it was Harry, and the water was climbing his skin; and he was letting it. He was going deeper. He was not afraid.

Harry closed his eyes. The sunlight poured insistently against his skin, the red of his blood lighting up like a lantern through his lids. The grass tickled against his open palms. He was beginning to understand what he had to do now. The knowledge dawned like the raw blaze of the Scottish sun, cresting over familiar mountains.

On the third day, they took apart the sand mandala. In a way, it bothered Harry, but he understood that this was part of Buddhist teachings. That everything was temporary, but that the temporariness of everything didn’t erase the need for beauty.

“You look bright-eyed,” remarked Oceania. She was smiling at him, a little knowingly.

“I liked the festival,” Harry answered.

“That’s good.” Oceania tilted her head to the side as if she was trying to read something that was a strange angle. “I thought you would.”

They were walking back to her cottage together when Harry felt it. The curious, magical tugging to the side of him, perhaps towards the set of trees to his right. He touched Oceania’s shoulder.

“Wait,” he said. “I…I feel something.”

Oceania being Oceania, didn’t even blink. “Well by all means.” She gestured for him to take the lead.

He went through the set of trees. They walked for maybe ten minutes, following no particular path, but not once did Oceania complain or doubt his sense of direction. The tugging only grew stronger. The air began to feel more right.

They came to a bit of a clearing, and then when Harry looked up, Jane was standing above him. She looked tall and arrogant and only slightly put out. She tilted her head to Harry, her eyes flashing.

Harry grinned up at her.

“Osh,” he said. “Could you get Draco?”

Oceania was grinning too. “Yes, Harry,” she said, and brushed his back as she went.

Draco was laughing. Once he’d stopped he straightened back up and started at Harry, wide-eyed, where he was perched up on top of Jane’s back.

“What the fuck,” Draco said, mesmerised, and brought his hands to his mouth, muffling his words. “What the actual fuck.”

Harry laughed, more because he was pleased than anything else. “Come on,” he said, gesturing with his hand. Jane blew air out of her nose loudly.

“How the…” Draco trailed off and took his hands back down. They dangled at his sides. “How did you get up there? How did you get her to…you know what? Never mind. Never fucking mind. You’re fucking Harry Potter. How could I forget? How could I keep forgetting?”

Harry laughed again. “Draco,” he said, and it came out more fondly perhaps it should’ve, but he was too exhilarated to care. “Get up here.”

Draco blinked. “Why?”

“Because,” said Harry. “We’re going for a flight.”

Draco laughed again, but this time it was quick, short burst of surprise. “Harry –” he said, and then stopped. “I can’t go on your first flight with you.”

“Why not?”

“Because.” Draco shrugged his shoulders, incredulous. His eyes were still very wide. “It’s your first flight. It’s tradition. It’s sacred. It’s…supposed to be about the bon –”

“Draco,” said Harry, exasperated. He waved his hand again. “Get your ass up here.”

“Don’t talk about my ass,” said Draco, but he blinked and got up there anyway.

Jane was not a particularly big dragon – she only seemed it so often to Harry because she was moody and because he was often deeply and embarrassingly intimidated by her. But she was young, and even for her age, she edged closer towards the petite size. Even so, the distance between the top of a dragon’s back and the ground was not small.

But Draco had done this before. He managed to get up with considerably more grace than Harry, which made Harry glad that he had had the foresight and melodrama in him to get up before Draco had actually arrived. Draco slid into place behind him, and suddenly his pointy knees were slotting in place behind Harry’s, his floral thighs opening against Harry’s lower back. Harry looked down and swallowed. He rubbed a hand against Jane’s scales.

“All aboard,” muttered Draco from behind him. He was trying to sound dry, but was too breathy to make it convincing. “Are you ready, Potter?”

Harry closed his eyes. “Yes,” he said simply. He felt along for the connection in his mind and found it – there – sensitive like a nerve. He followed it, leaned into it – and then Jane was right there, right here, in his mind, in his soul – they were together, at one in their most vulnerable places. Harry found where he was hurting, and found her. He used the hurt – he was using it to make himself stronger. No, not stronger. Bigger. Not bigger. More.

He was more. He was more himself. And Jane was part of him.

No. He was part of her.

“Do you know what to do?” asked Draco. His hands came around Harry’s waist. Absurdly, Harry found himself realising that no one had ever touched his waist like that before.

“I can feel it,” he said hoarsely. Jane’s wings flexed by his toes. The desire for flight – imagining it, feeling it, longing to make it real – was building in her – in them – like a chemical reaction. Harry’s feet jerked. He leaned back.

“Are you ready?” he asked, finding himself grinning. Draco just tucked his chin into Harry’s shoulder.

“I’ve been ready for a long time,” he whispered, and then the desire in Jane snapped and they were off.



Harry had done a lot of things in his life. But he didn’t think of himself as someone who needed excitement to feel like they were alive. He’d had enough excitement. It had done a number on him.

But he needed this. It wasn’t as though he’d never flown before. It wasn’t even as though he’d never ridden a dragon before. But this wasn’t about that.

This was about the way the ground trembled and then suddenly fluttered away beneath them, about the way the trees elongated parallel to their knees as they traced up their trunks. This was about the grass and green, which had been such a freedom to Harry before, seamlessly parting ways for them. This was about the way the world of Gay Dragon Village opened up like a cornucopia beneath them, and floated away.

It wasn’t that Harry had never done the mechanics of this before. But he had never felt it like this.

They were up, and for a wondrous, heart-rendering moment, Harry was surrounded in the blue. He was overcome by it. It wasn’t the blue of the Loch, of his heart, of Jane’s – it was the blue of breathing, the blue of life. It was wide, and full, and almost jarringly vivid. He had to close his eyes to it.

He opened them as he felt Draco exhale in his ear. It was a sweet sound, a shocked inhale of breath, and then they were dipping. Harry was too stunned to make a noise. The wind rushed past them like liquid.

Draco’s hands squeezed around his waist, his fingertips pressing into the soft of Harry’s stomach. “For god’s sake,” he gasped. “Get some control, golden boy.”

The world was a whirlwind of colour and movement. Immediately, Harry felt along for the connection, and found it, intact. He fumbled along it and then slipping, easily, into Jane’s mind. She was having fun.

He almost laughed. There was nothing in him that wanted to limit her happiness, and now that he understood he wasn’t afraid.

“Hold on, Malfoy,” he called out, and then let go of any mental leash. Draco grabbed his waist tighter and shrieked.

In Jane’s eyes, flying was a game. She loved the landscape, the colours and smells, the shapes it made for her to follow through. Given permission, she wanted to explore all of it, as quickly as possible.

“HARRY POTTER I AM GOING TO FUCKING KILL YOU,” Draco was screaming into his ear. Or at least, that what Harry thought he was probably screaming. It was a little hard to tell. They were currently upside down.

When they came back ways up Harry put the thought of gentle flying towards Jane, phrasing it as a question. She did three more twirls before inclining her neck under Harry’s palm and straightening up. Suddenly the world shuddered back to rightness, and they were drifting horizontally along.

A few moments passed where they just bobbed, as if they were on a raft trickling along an easy river. A few low-lying clouds passed harmlessly by. Harry leaned back into Draco and turned his head slightly.

“Did you say something?” he asked lightly. Draco slapped his thigh, but it wasn’t very hard and he was exhaling a little shakily. Harry wished he could see his face.

“Harry Potter,” he said, and Harry could hear the grin in his voice. “I am going to fucking kill you.”

“Anything you like, dear,” Harry said, grinning too, and tried to move his head back further but couldn’t. Draco was surprisingly silent.

Jane’s wings were fanned out besides them. She was so beautiful up here, with the sunlight hitting off her turquoise scales, looking gloriously harmonised with the world. Harry felt the peace in her, then took some of his own and reflected it back. She relaxed further.

The mountains were in the distance. Not so far away that they couldn’t be reached, though.

“Do you want to go higher?” Harry asked.

“Yes,” breathed Draco. Harry asked Jane the same thing.

Higher they went. They passed more clouds, and then the mountains were wrapped around them. Harry had half-thought to himself, standing at his hotel room window and staring out with a desperation so furtive it was almost tangible, that realistically they would be less beautiful up close – that they were only beautiful because they enhanced by longing and imagination.

But they were beautiful. They were so beautiful. Even up close – especially up close. Harry hadn’t realised it would be like this, but he felt the relief of it so deeply it was like something was unlatched. He leaned back again.

“I hadn’t realised it would be like this,” he said aloud.

There was a pause. Then he felt Draco lean forward in his seat. “Like what?”

Harry opened his eyes. He didn’t remember making the decision to close them. The mountain they were closest to was cut more profoundly that Harry thought any statue could look.

“This,” he said, and then he paused too. “Can’t you feel it?”

Draco tucked his chin into Harry’s shoulder again. For some reason, Harry hadn’t quite recognised how intimate the action was the first time. “Yes,” he said. “I just wanted to hear you say it.”

There it was again, the feeling of not quite understanding or noticing or seeing something quite essential, but Harry looked out at the view, at the mountains and the sky and forests and endless palette of livingness, and he felt that he understood everything that he needed to.

When they settled back into the small clearing Harry could almost feel the soft of the carpeted grass underneath Jane’s claws. He stroked her, and there was so much sweetness in his chest for her that he mindlessly leaning forward and rubbed his cheek against her neck. She made an ugly noise through her nose, but it wasn’t disgruntled.

Then he loosened the connection and sat back. The forest was so quiet. It was strange to be back on ground level. He could hear the birds tweeting, felt that he could even hear the plants growing.

He let the quiet draw out for a while longer before turning his head. “Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” said Draco. Harry smiled. There was so much sweetness in his chest.

“You alright there?” he asked, and it was soft, softer than perhaps it should be.

He heard Draco swallow. “Peachy,” he replied, but it was soft too.

Harry looked down. Draco’s hands were still curled neatly along his waist, as at home as books on a shelf. That’s what Harry thought. That it looked like home.

“We should get off,” he murmured, absent-mindedly, and when Draco didn’t say anything he brought a hand up and slowly, slowly, touched a finger-tip to the knuckle of Draco’s pinkie. The touch was so light he almost couldn’t feel anything. The skin was pink there, like a watercolour painting.

“I –,” said Draco, and it was a curious thing, how his voice quavered. Then he swallowed again and said: “I don’t want to.”

Harry laughed, a little breathlessly. He kept tracing along the white line of the pinkie. Then he dropped his hand and tipped his head back. God, the blue was so vivid.

Draco wasn’t laughing. The quiet drew out; but it was practically orchestral, it was so bucolic. Harry let his eyes drift shut again.

After a while, Draco said, “Let’s get off.” If Harry hadn’t been feeling so blissed out he might have poked fun at him. They got off, and let Jane wander off.

Life was ever widening.

Harry leaned forward on his mat into child’s pose. He felt the strain in his back as the muscles were pulled forward, felt the tightness of his shoulders as they were persuaded open, felt it in the basin of his palm and slimness of his fingertips. The mat was soft against his chin – he pressed his face into it and closed his eyes.

His body was tenser than it had been for a while – perhaps because he hadn’t slept well. At three o’clock, he had opened his eyes and looked at the moon – it was almost full, almost old. Soon it would be new. Harry had stared at it as if it would swell to completion in the short time he was watching.

He backed up into downward dog, pressed his ankles firmly down. Flowed forward into plank, then upwards dog. Flowed again. Began to work on opening his lower body.

When he’d finished with that he took two steps forwards and reached over into his forward fold. You were supposed to bend from the hips. He came back up a bit and adjusted slightly, before coming back down. He hadn’t forgotten.

As he looked down, he felt a single bead of sweat roll down from the top of his forehead, riding down over the bridge of his nose. For a moment it hesitated on the tip there, crystalline, and then it splashed down onto the mat. Harry watched as it did.

He was finished with his yoga practice. The darkness of the night was being rapidly dissolved, eaten up with the inevitably of morning.

He let his legs fall into a basket and straightened his back. Rested his hands on his knees and closed his eyes. Meditation posture.

It was still dark inside his mind. He focused on his breathes, on the feeling of life hidden within the cavity of him, and quietly pulsating through his flesh and tissue. He felt so human sometimes when he did this. It grounded him, more than anything else.

What was it he had said to Draco? Meditation was the space for yourself. It was your time to be with yourself.

Harry Potter breathed in and out. He was with himself. And he was beginning to understand what he needed now.

What a strange thing it was, the self. The human soul. Its twisting and turning, its relentless restlessness, its constant turmoil. Always searching, always yearning. It was true that Harry had noticed a difference in himself since practicing his yoga and meditation daily. But the truth was, he had been growing different since coming here.

When he opened his eyes, it was like waking up. It wasn’t dark anymore. The world was transformed. Morning was inevitable.

“I’ve just finished,” said Oceania. “It’s free now.”

She was talking about the bathroom.

“Thanks,” said Harry. He rubbed at his upper lip and got himself a glass of water.

“How long did you go for?”

“About an hour.” Harry gasped and rinsed out the glass in the sink. “Maybe a bit more.”

Oceania nodded appreciatively. Harry watched as she fussed with the tea pot. Her long almost-black hair was loose from its knot and was tumbling in haphazard waves across her forehead and left eye. Her watermelon pyjamas were crinkled.

“Do you want tea?” she asked, without looking up.

“I’m good.” Harry leaned back on the counter.

Oceania made herself tea, and then leaned back on the opposite counter. She regarded him over the top of her cup and smiled, just a little.

“You look like a man with his mind made up,” she said softly.

Harry rubbed his lips together. Then he glanced down.

“You know me so well.”


“I don’t –” Harry scratched at the space next to his eyebrow. “I didn’t decide. It wasn’t like that. It just…occurred to me.”

“You’re leaving,” said Oceania. She said it simply, without accusation.

“I love it here,” said Harry. It was true. He hadn’t entirely known until now – but he did, he loved it so much. So much more than he thought he would.

“I know.” Oceania smiled a little more. “And you’re leaving.”

Harry swallowed. It caught.

“I have to,” he said.

“It’s alright, Harry.” Oceania had stopped smiling, but her eyes were warm. “Do whatever you have to.”

Harry swallowed again. He nodded. Oceania drunk some of her tea. The orange sunlight grasped onto the pale skin of her bare elbow.

After a moment, Oceania asked, “Have you told Draco?”

Harry looked up. He opened his mouth. Then he closed it.

“No,” he said.

“I think you should,” said Oceania. Her gaze was serious.

“Oh,” said Draco. “I didn’t know you would be here.”

Harry stopped, startled, in the doorway. “You neither,” he said, sounding as caught off guard as he felt.

Draco laughed. His face was open and happy. “You come here often?” he asked playfully, quirking a brow.

“Actually,” said Harry. “I’ve been coming here every morning for a while. You…”

“I normally spend the mornings with Mayo,” Draco told him. “You come here on your own?”

“Yeah.” Harry leaned against the side, ducking his head. He was in his most holey pair of sweatpants. He normally saved his worst clothes for yoga, because they always got so sweaty.

Draco was crouched over in the corner, next to the mats. His leggings had huge, blossoming peonies on it, flourishing over the just of his bent knee and the curve of his ass. He was wearing the top with buttercups on it that he had been wearing the first time Harry had seen him doing yoga.

Harry ducked his head. He heard Draco stand up.

“Catch.” Harry only had a moment to half-inhale before he was opening his hands out, instinctively, to catch whatever the hell it was. He blinked, and looked down at the yoga mat. It was pink.

He looked up at Draco, trying to project a general air of exasperation. The other man’s lips were curved up into a sharp line.

“Since we’re both here,” he said.

Harry bit at his mouth and smiled.

It was different, when you weren’t alone.

Harry felt more aware of his body, of the way it moved. He let Draco take the lead – after all, he still knew more. He watched the arc of his body as he turned over into flipped dog; the gentle incline of his pale stomach, the sculpted jut as his hips pushed up. He watched and he followed. Felt it in himself.

Afterwards they sat opposing each other, legs folded up on their parallel mats. Draco rolled his head a little, stretching his neck. The sunlight made his skin look whiter.

“What are you thinking?” asked Harry.

Draco stopped rolling his neck to look at him. His eyes were light, easy – amused wasn’t quite the right word, but it was close enough.

“What do you think I’m thinking?” he replied, grinning.

“I don’t know,” said Harry, honestly. “I never do. I always try to guess, but – I can never figure it out.”

“Really?” said Draco. His cheeks were pink. He looked exceptionally pleased, although for the life of him Harry couldn’t understand why.

“Really.” He felt quite desperate. He couldn’t help it. “I wish – I could read your mind.”

Draco smiled wider. His mouth opened.

“I’m thinking about you.”

Harry felt his entire body flush. It was a terrifying, intensely sensorial experience. He wanted to ask, “What about me?” but couldn’t. He was overwhelmed – cocooned in the sudden, startling fear of the feeling.

“You were right,” he managed after a moment. “I really don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into.”

Draco laughed softly. When Harry glanced up the look in his eyes was – could be described – as adoring. Harry couldn’t breathe.

“Draco,” he said. “I’m leaving.”

The moment between Draco’s soft, wondrous, open expression closing and him standing up was almost non-existent.

“Okay,” he said, as easily as if Harry had told him he was going out for milk, and reached for the end of his mat. He started rolling it up. Harry blinked.

“Draco?” he said, again, feeling like a child.

“Why do you say my name like that?” Draco snapped, and then instantly stopped rolling and straightened back up. The tense line of his back looked to Harry like the rigid stem of a flower in a rain storm.

He closed his eyes and exhaled. “Sorry. Pretend I didn’t do that.”

“Are you angry with me?”

“No, I’m not –” Draco gritted his teeth and looked away. Then he bent down and started rolling again. When he spoke again, he sounded tired. “I’m not angry with you, Harry.”

He finished rolling the mat up. Harry still hadn’t said anything. He watched as Draco paused over the mat, looking down at where his fingers were splayed over the worn foam.

“I knew you were going to,” he said, after a long moment.

Somehow this, of all the things Draco could have said, hit Harry the most directly. “You did?”

“Of course.” Draco sighed. “You don’t belong here, Harry.”

Then he got up. Harry watched as he walked away to the training room. Stupidly, inexplicably, he felt a bit like crying. He didn’t understand why this was happening the way it was. How it had come to this in the first place.

Draco was gone a long time. Once Harry was almost certain he wasn’t going to cry, he got up and went over to the training room. Draco was standing with his arms crossed, staring at the mats like he was trying to forgive them.

“It’s not because I’m running away,” said Harry.

Draco’s tongue darted out to press against his lower lip. He didn’t turn around. “Okay.”

“And it’s not because I’m – because I don’t like it here.”


“I’m trying to be brave.” His heart was hammering in all of his limbs. “Like you told me to be.”

Draco swallowed. It was a long, slow swallow, that seemed to move in more than his throat. “Okay,” he whispered, again, and closed his eyes. His lashes fluttered against his cheeks.

Harry leaned into the doorframe again. The unpolished plaster was cold and rough against his skin. He cleared his throat. “All of this,” he forced out. “Hasn’t been real. I haven’t been being real. And – I need to be.”

There was another drawn out silence. Draco exhaled. Harry watched as he rolled his shoulders back. It was so pale.

“Then you should leave,” said Draco simply.

They threw a party for him. Harry wasn’t sure how to feel about it.

“It’s been a good couple of months,” said Charlie, throwing an arm around his shoulders. “I’m so proud of you, Harry.”

“I haven’t really done anything,” said Harry, embarrassed.

“The hell you haven’t.” Charlie slapped his back mannishly, in a way that reminded Harry so abruptly and acutely of Ron that it almost hurt. “You came here, didn’t you, on your own? Ready to learn? And you’ve done so much. Just look at you.”

Harry blinked down at himself. Charlie beamed.

“But it’s true,” said Tom. He was also smiling at Harry, in that quiet way of his. “You’ve done so much growing, Harry.”

Harry felt his cheeks flush. “Thanks Tom,” he said, meaning it. Tom quirked his smile and handed over a chopstick with a marshmallow already skewered on top. Harry grinned and took it.

They were having a campfire. Oceania had thrown in some strange plants earlier that probably weren’t hallucogenics, and it had filled the surrounding forest air with a soft, warm smell that reminded Harry of spring. Everyone was here: Charlie, Hayden, Tom, Osh, Draco – they were all here, and it was all so lovely.

He looked up and met Draco’s eyes over the fire. It had been a few days – days which had been filled with organising and technicalities and preparations – since Harry had told him he was leaving. He didn’t think he was angry.

Draco’s eyes – which were normally so grey – seemed vivid and vibrant with the help of the camp fire, the searing flames flickering hotly in the liquid of his pupils. He smiled when Harry looked at him, and raised a brow and a bottle in sync. Harry felt the heat flicker in him, too.

What were they, really? Friends? More than that? Harry rummaged his mind for some reference of description that would fit, but all he could really come up with was companion. When he was with Draco, he didn’t feel alone. Still a separate person; but not alone, not anymore. He didn’t know how else to put it.

And did it matter, when he was leaving? It was true what he had said to Draco – that none of this had been real, not really. Here, he had been avoiding life. Time was a thing that passed him by, experience was something that happened to him. He had been trying to escape his life – not live it, not really.

And this place, the Himalayas: it was all so precious, so dear to him. But Draco had also been right – he didn’t belong. He was a foreigner.

And it was time to go home.

“Come here,” said Oceania. She leaned over from where she was curled up to his right and pulled him down from under Charlie’s arm, kissing him soundly on the cheek. “It’s obvious, but it should still be said – we’re going to miss you.”

Harry wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the forehead. “I’m going to miss you too,” he told her, trying not to sound as fragile as he felt. “You’ve all been really – good to me.”

There was an obligatory collective “aww”, and Charlie ruffled his hair.

“I’m proud of you too,” said Draco, later in the evening. It was just the two of them still sitting around the fire really. The other three were busy under the guise of finding more sticks for marshmallow roasting, although it seemed more to Harry that they were having goes giving each other piggy backs and attempting to very loudly name the various trees they passed.

Although Harry had seen him drinking, he was pretty sure Draco had stayed sober. His gaze was serious and clear as it fastened onto Harry’s. They were sitting next to each other now.

“You are?” He couldn’t keep the surprise out of his voice.

Draco just nodded. He looked away into the fire. “I know I – that I’ve sometimes said things to you that made it seem like perhaps…I don’t think highly of you. But I – I do, Harry. You have been – and are – so much more than I expected. And I’m proud of you.”

Harry was staring at him. When Draco looked back over he glanced away instinctively. But he looked back again.

“I think of you highly as well,” he got out in a rush, after he’d taken a moment. “You – I mean, well, I never really had any expectations for you in the first place –”

Draco huffed a laugh.

“No but seriously.” Harry found himself laughing along with him. “You’re – you’re so much. I’ve never met anyone like you. You’ve remade it all for me.”

That was more than he had meant to say, but now he had said it he found that he couldn’t regret it. He was leaving. And here he was, looking at Draco in the eye, and the look on Draco’s face – it was so, so wonderfully profound. That look – Harry felt that he was going to miss it, perhaps most of all.

He was leaving.

The sun was as orange as a peeled grapefruit in the sky. Almost bloody – freshly born out of the mountains. Harry looked, and he looked. The wind rustled past his ears, dancing through his hair. It was getting long. Maybe the first thing he would do when he got back would be to get a haircut.

It was strange, how this place would keep on being after he’d gone. That it had being before he had arrived. This place was bigger than him. He was glad for it.

He stepped down from the step of the Green Hotel, and began to make his way down.

There was no going back on this. Once he had left this place, it would never be the same. Even if he came back, even if he decided he wanted to become a monk like Tom and live here for the rest of his days – it would never be the same. Not for him. Gay Dragon Village was a real, solid place – but it had also existed in his mind, a half-lucid dream. Tom was right – life was something that happened inside of you.

But Harry looked at all the mountains, with their rocky, intimidating terrains, and the forests, with their rich, private lushness, and the sky, with its never-failing blue – and he didn’t feel suffocated by his own human constraints, for once. He was just happy to look.

There was a sharp squawking sound to his left and he looked over. There was Jane, in the training pen he had first been assigned to. She stared at him with her glossy, navy eyes, as if taking him. She had been chained down now, just like the rest of the dragons, once the connection had gotten strong enough to keep her tame. It was nothing inhumane – just a functional metal band around one of her legs. It was logical, if you wanted to tame a dragon, that you would keep them confined.

Harry pulled out the wand he’d kept in his trouser pocket all this time. He pointed it at the chain.

“Relashio,” he said, and a set of purple sparks were released. The metal band broke open.

Jane was still staring at him. She blinked her glorious eyes.

Harry stared right back. Then gave her one last smile before he left, turning down the path from the training pens and disappearing into the forest.

Everything was ready.

Harry was standing there, looking down at his suitcase. He was on the last flat bit of path before the descent to the official village of Tengboche, debating with himself the best way to get the thing down the steep parts without dying. He was also thinking about his goodbyes. Little particles of the event had stuck to his memory in places, leaving him focusing curiously on details like the gleam of Oceania’s hair as the sunlight had hit it, and the smell of Charlie’s collar, and one particular joke that Hayden had made that hadn’t even been that funny. He was even thinking about the receptionist, and the way she had rolled her eyes at him as he’d stubbed his foot on the suitcase trying to get it downstairs, looking almost fond.

But everything was ready. It was time to go.

Draco Malfoy stepped out of the woods.

Harry stopped reaching for his suitcase. He straightened up.

Draco walked towards him, and then stopped. He was looking at Harry, his fingers knitting together just over the hem of his white shirt.

Harry just smiled. He felt like he should be surprised. But something about this felt as inevitable as everything else that had happened.

“Hello,” he said softly, after a moment. He felt the side of his mouth lift up. “Come here often?”

Draco breathed a laugh, but the sound of it almost ached.

“All packed then, are you?”

Harry glanced down at his suitcase. “Think so. I’ve probably forgotten something though. You know me.”

Draco made a small noise in his throat. He was looking away.

“Did you see off the others?”

“Just Osh.” Harry smiled, a little unsure. “It’s early. And we already did last night.”

“So I’ll be the last one to see you here.”

“Draco.” His throat was dry.

“Harry.” Draco opened his mouth. “Before you leave, I should like to tell you something.”

Harry felt everything inside him freeze up.

Draco was taking in a breath. His eyes flickered down to the ground, and then back up to Harry’s throat. Lingered there, like it was a ledge he was about to jump off.

“You probably know,” Draco was saying. His mouth was so pink against the pale of his skin. His lashes fluttered as he spoke. “You probably know. But just in case, I wanted to tell you…I’m quite in love with you.”

Everything outside Harry froze up too. It was strange, the sudden flexibility of the moment, as it happened over and over again, like an echo, and Harry’s mind tried to bend it into a shape that would make sense to him. Something was happening, and it was somehow both larger and smaller than Harry ever thought it could be.

Something had already happened.

“I…” said Harry, and stopped. He opened his mouth, but nothing would come out for him.

He still couldn’t get over how pink the set of Draco’s mouth was. He was stuck staring at him, at the flush in his face, at the delicate set of his bones. It was a strange thing, but once again Harry remembered, like a distant memory, that Draco Malfoy was not naturally a handsome man. His cheekbones were too high, his nose too long, his brows too light. Harry was stuck staring at him, and he suddenly felt like he might never find anyone else beautiful after this again.

Draco didn’t say anything. All that happened was that his mouth moved, almost inadvertently, and his thumb twitched over his clenched fist. The air came rushing back into Harry’s lungs like water. He gasped.

“I…” he managed again, and then it all came tumbling out like the words had there along. “Draco, I...”

Draco’s gaze dropped back to his throat. His eyes were red around the edges, and his lips pressed together. He just stood there, looking, his fragile form almost trembling in the wind.

“I have to leave.” It came out sounding like a plea.

Draco’s form trembled once more, a violent movement. Then he looked up and he nodded. He was looking right at Harry, and he was so, so brilliantly vulnerable that Harry felt his heart stop again.

“Okay,” he said, and then he turned and went, his long, pale back moving away from Harry, away and away, walking back to where he had come from.

Chapter Text

Part 2: In

The first thing Harry did when he got back was make a cup of coffee.

He should have been tired. He knew he should have been tired. It had been a long journey back, made longer by the time taken to even begin the journeying. So he should have been tired.

But his flat looked the same. Exactly how it had looked in his memory, exactly how he had expected it to. He had thought that it would be jarring, but it was so exact that, instinctually, he felt that he’d never been away.

He was standing in the middle of the flat. He surveyed the floor boards, the wallpaper, the shine of the kitchen lights. This was the place he had chosen for himself.

He made a cup of coffee. It wasn’t very sensible, considering that it was the evening, but there was a slightly fancy coffee machine that someone had probably bought for him once and that he’d never really used. Abruptly, he found that he wanted to be in the kitchen. He wanted to use it.

The kitchen in Harry’s flat wasn’t separate from the rest of the space. It was one of those open kitchens that existed right next to the vague sort of lounge area/hallway. The only thing that separated it at all was a long black island, one of those modern ones with the marble tops and the lights underneath. The rest of the kitchen was composed of a matching counter that emerged from the wall and wrapped around the island like a quadrilateral harbour. On the one parallel to the counter was the sink, the fridge, the dish-washer, and the coffee machine.

It took a bit of an effort to find some coffee powder stuff. Eventually, in the second last cabinet Harry opened, there was an opened bag of basic store brand coffee. Whilst Harry waited for it to brew, he leaned back against the counter and looked at the sofa he had got when he had first moved in. It was basic, rectangular and brown faux leather. It didn’t have any pillows. Harry didn’t even really like it.

The coffee finished brewing. Harry burnt his tongue on it. He couldn’t be bothered to find the sugar and of course there wasn’t any milk, so he had it black. It didn’t taste good. Black coffee never tasted good.

But he sat back against the counter, and found that he enjoyed it anyway.

There wasn’t much to do once he was done. He was grateful it was evening. He cleaned his teeth, and fell asleep almost immediately anyway.

He woke up slowly. Became aware of the creases in his clothes from last night, of the soft crush of the duvet. Of the heavy press of his awkwardly organised limbs, the acerbic taste of his mouth. The familiar smells of home. The sunlight. The stillness.

He shifted. Rubbed his face into the pillow. Rolled onto his back. Opened his eyes.

The ceiling was as white as a lily.

He hadn’t realised he had missed this.

He lay there for a handful of minutes. The sunlight streamed in through the window, as it always had. The place was so still. He’d forgotten.

Before, the stillness had only contributed to the sensation of suffocation. It didn’t seem to bother him the same way anymore. He just noticed.

He got up and cleaned his teeth thoroughly. Then he washed his face. It felt good, so he decided to have a shower. It was so much better showering in your own bathroom. He let the water drip over his face, felt it rake down through his black hair. As he scrubbed his skin, it occurred to him that perhaps it was a deeper brown than before.

He got changed. There were clothes here that he had left behind, and they all smelled of dust. He shook out an old blue jumper and put it on.

Once he was dressed he went through into the lounge/hallway/kitchen. He let himself remember, from a distance, all the mornings he had spent in here on his own, which turned into afternoons, which turned into evenings, which turned into nights – hiding, always hiding.

But outside, the entirety of Scotland was waiting for him.

He found a black trench coat and opened the door.

His flat was one of those English-style ones that opened from the communal hallway straight down a set of unnecessarily but delightfully grandiose steps with the curly black railings into the pavement. People with Tesco shopping bags and children and dogs walked past him. There were white spots of gum pressed like dried flowers into the black tarmac. Weeds bloomed on either side. Cars roared past him, dragging behind them the noxious perfume of petrol.

He only hesitated for a second once he’d got there. Then he inhaled and knocked politely on the painted door, next to the brass lion knocker. There was a moments shuffle, voices, and then the door was wrenched opened. The woman behind it had hair even messier than normal, and mildly hassled expression as she looked up. Then there was a long, important pause as they stared at each other.

Then her forehead crumpled. “Oh, god,” she gasped, and a hand flung to cover her mouth. Her eyes were wide and shocked above her thumb.

Harry exhaled. “Hi,” he said softly, and slipped his hands into the pocket of his trench coat.

“Oh, Harry,” whispered Hermione, and then she burst into tears.

“Thank you,” said Harry, as Hermione pressed a hot cup of tea into his hands. He was sitting on one of the sofas in the lounge. The sunlight illuminated the wafts of heat swirling up from the tea cup.

Hermione wiped at her eyes with the corner of her sleeve. She had mostly stopped crying now. As soon as she let Harry go she had insisted on making Harry tea. Harry was incapable of saying no to her at a time like this.

“Are you – do you want sugar?” she managed to get out, gulping as she pushed her curls out of her face. Her cheeks and eyes were bright.

“God, Hermione,” Harry said. His eyes were a bit watery himself. He had never been able to stand seeing her cry. “Come here.”

She came over immediately, wrapping her arms around his head and pulling him into her chest tightly. Harry reached for her too, desperately, and somehow she ended up in his lap, clutching onto him. She had started crying again. He was crying just a bit too, and buried his face in her shoulder to hide it. She smelled like childhood and cleverness and Hermione.

They rocked against each other for a long minute before Hermione stood up again. “Just let me –” she said, and pulled at the hem of her sweater. “Go and get the sugar.”

Harry let her go.

Ron was sitting on the opposite couch. Upon seeing Harry, he had simply just stared at him, as if he was seeing an apparition. Then he had slowly raised his hand, fist-bumped Harry, and then said, in a dazed sort of voice, “Come on in, mate.”

He was still looking a little flabbergasted. Harry looked at him. His eyes were still watery, but he didn’t bother to wipe them.

“Hey,” said Harry.

Ron blinked. He opened his mouth, and then he closed it. After a few moments of this, all he said was: “Well, how was it mate?”

Harry took in a breath. He opened his mouth to reply, but it all got stuck in his throat.

“It,” he said. “I…it was different.”

“Yeah?” Ron rubbed at his jaw, like this was perfectly acceptable answer. “Well…we missed you.”

There was nothing accusative about it. Ron was looking up at him, eyes clear and sincere. He had grown up so much since Hogwarts that sometimes it almost jarred Harry. He felt his eyes begin to well up again.

“Fuck,” he said. “Alright, look – come here too.”

Ron looked predictably startled, but he came. They stood and hugged it out. It was awkward. Of course it was awkward. Harry felt so suddenly grateful that he even loved the awkwardness of it. They clumsily slapped each other on the back a few times. Hermione came back with the tea, and upon witnessing them looked as though she might start crying again. The tea wobbled precariously in her hands.

Harry quickly lifted his face from Ron’s shoulder. “Here,” he said, and reached for the tea, ensuring its safe landing.

“I got your letter,” Harry said once they were all seated and pretending that the tea was cool enough to sip at. They both looked up at him. He couldn’t meet their eyes.

“Oh,” said Hermione, after a moment. “I wasn’t sure if you would. I know the owl service is probably somewhat non-existent there, so I put on a stamp just in case. It probably took longer than expected, but that’s why I wasn’t sure, so…” she trailed off. Harry lifted his head.

“I’m sorry,” he told them. He felt the saying of it carve out something in chest, uncomfortable but clean. “I’m sorry I never got back to you.”

Hermione’s eyes were very wide. Her fingers were clutched tight around the tea cup, even though it really must be too hot. “Oh, that’s alright,” she squeaked in a small voice.

“It’s not,” said Harry. His face felt very tight. “It was wrong of me, to go like that. I – I should have got back to you.”

Hermione’s eyes softened at the edges. There was something very old about the way she was looking at him.

She swallowed. “Thank you for apologising, Harry,” she managed finally.

“And you’re here now,” Ron chipped in after a moment. He slapped Harry on the shoulder lightly. It was more of a touch than a slap.

“Yeah,” said Harry. It came out sounding relieved. “Yeah, yeah, I’m here now.”

Ron glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, looking a little anxious. “And…you’re not going back, are you?”

Harry stared at him. He took in a shaky breath. “No,” he said. “No, I’m – I’m not going back.”

“Good.” Ron clapped him one more time on his shoulder and then let go. “I mean, it would be fine if you were. Whatever makes you happy, man.”

“I’m not.” Harry looked down at his fingers. A few seconds of silence passed, and then he said, quite truthfully, “I think I needed to come back.”

“What are you going to do now?” Hermione asked. She had grown up since Hogwarts too.

Harry looked up. “I’m going to get better,” he said quietly, and met her eyes. They were shining and wonderfully bright. She nodded.

It would have been easy not to follow through with it. Starting always seemed like a near impossible feat, and there was too much time, too much space at Harry’s disposal. It would have been easy to feel directionless, to let himself be an island in the midst of everything.

But he had already started, hadn’t he? In the Himalayas, he’d managed to create some sort of morning routine, a basic rinse and repeat of yoga and meditation. The fact that he was here didn’t change that, surely. He could still continue the yoga, at least.

So he went to buy a mat.

Because he was lame, and hadn’t been out in Scotland a lot on his own, and okay, maybe had a tiny bit of social anxiety on the side, he googled “where can I buy a yoga mat in glasgow” on his laptop before he went out. The laptop itself was second hand, and had been bought along with the flat. It just didn’t make sense to not have access to the internet when you literally lived in a muggle-dominated city. Besides, Harry was a bit muggle already, wasn’t he?

He found a place called SweatyBetty. For a moment, he found himself imagining how much Draco would have delighted over a shop name like that, and then he abruptly made himself stop thinking about Draco Malfoy. This had happened several times since coming back to Scotland, and each time, he had to firmly stop the thought-process in its tracks. If he didn’t, basic things like purchasing yoga mats would never be completed.

SweatyBetty was in town. Harry tried to comb his hair, and promptly gave up, as per his morning routine. He put on the black trench coat. He put on some boots. He went out.

He took the train in. He lived so near the city centre that it was only a few stops for him. On the train, he stared firmly out the window, feeling like everyone was watching him even though he knew they couldn’t be.

It had been so long since he’d been on his own around other people. There were so many other people. The city centre was a vast, vivid, interweaving thing. He couldn’t stop looking at all these strangers, all busy on their own strands of existence.

He found SweatyBetty. It was mostly quiet inside, with only a few other athletic looking customers. The person at the till smiled at him. He went downstairs.

The mat selection was not as great as he had hoped, which was stupid thing to hope for he now realised, as there was only so much variety to be had with mats. He was just thinking of the mat room in Gay Dragon Village. Shaking his head, he stepped forward and began to gingerly inspect the nearest mat.

“Harry?” said a soft, melodic voice.

Harry jumped. He turned, and there was Luna Lovegood, blinking shimmery blue eyelids at him.

“Sorry,” said Luna, sounding not very sorry at all. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Luna.” Harry swallowed. “Hi. I just didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Oh.” Luna cast a slow glance around the room as if she was only just noticing where she was. “Well, I quite like yoga.”

“Me too,” said Harry, feeling a little stupid. “I was looking for a mat, actually.”

“I like the thick ones best.” Luna nodded towards the bottom rack. Her long, flowing hair was completely unleashed, spilling gently over her form in delicate undulations. It seemed longer now. Harry had seen Luna around in a while. To his mild surprise, he discovered that he’d missed her.

Or maybe it was just Oceania had always reminded him of her. When he thought of Oceania, his heart clenched acutely in his chest. When would he see her again?

“What about you?”

Harry looked up to find Luna looking at him. He blinked, and realised she was still talking about the mats.

“Oh, urm.” He took a step back, glancing cursively at the rack. “I, urm, don’t have strong feelings.”

Luna nodded and just like that, went back to surveying the mats. She had just kneeled down to select a light blue one that was indeed quite thick when Harry opened his mouth to speak again.

“Actually,” he said, his heart thudding quietly in his chest. “Would you like to go grab a coffee sometime? Just to catch up?”

Luna didn’t look up her mat, but she was smiling softly. “Yes, Harry. That would be nice. Do you have my owling address?”

They exchanged addresses and then Luna headed upstairs to buy her light blue mat. After a moment, Harry looked down at the mats and shrugged before reaching for one of the thicker ones. Then he paused, and biting the inside of his cheek, smiled and took the bright pink one.

In the end, they didn’t end up going to get coffee. Instead, they went to a pub.

Harry was inexplicably nervous, which was of course perfectly ridiculous, as it was only Luna. But by now he was plenty used to the thousands of little fears which were embedded in his everyday life, so he simply focused on putting on his trench coat and getting himself there.

There was nothing obviously remarkable about the pub. It appeared at first glance to be just like any other stereotypically British pub in Glasgow. But Luna had said that she liked the place, and so here they were.

Luna herself was already sitting at one of smaller tables with a window view, her chin resting in her palm. There was a small pot of glistening olives in front of her. When Harry approached, she looked up and smiled.

“Hello,” she said breezily. “I already ordered us olives.”

Harry hadn’t been out to enough pubs with people to know if this was customary behaviour or not. Knowing Luna, it was more likely that she just liked the olives.

“Thank you,” he said anyway, and hung his coat around the back of his chair. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

Luna looked curiously towards the bar, and then, turning back to him, said, “Just a cider, please.”

Harry got them both ciders.

“How’ve you been?” he asked when he came back, pushing one of the drinks across the table to her. Luna appeared to be thinking about it.

“Good, I think,” she said introspectively, after a moment. “A lot of different things have been happening for me. Good things and bad. For example, I bought my own house. However, it is a modern muggle house, and I haven’t quite managed to get the central heating working.”

“You bought a house?” Harry put his drink down. “Luna, that’s great.”

Luna smiled at him. “Thank you,” she said. “I still love daddy dearly of course, but it felt like time to be on my own.”

Harry nodded. After a moment, he said, “I can help you with the central heating, if you like.”

“That would be very nice,” agreed Luna. “Are you going to tell me about how’ve you been?”

Harry leaned back in his chair, just a little. The pub wasn’t so busy that it was stifling, but it was busy enough to make the air feel alive. He opened and closed his mouth.

“It’s been alright,” he settled on, after a while. “I – I did some traveling.”

“So I heard.” Luna took another olive. “Was it pretty?”

Harry blinked. “Yes,” he told her. In his mind, the rush of mountains and trees and clear blue skies rushed past him. “It was very pretty.”

Luna nodded thoughtfully. “You were gone for a while.”

Harry swallowed. He looked down at the table, where the condensation of his cider glass had made a ring on the wood.

“I needed to be on my own,” he admitted. “Too.”

Luna was looking at him. There was something very knowing about the way she looked. Then she straightened up and asked, “Would you like some more olives?”

He would. They actually were very good.

Later, once the olives had arrived, Harry told her, “I met a lot of strange people.”

“Did you?” She sounded interested, even though she was rummaging through the olives with her fork. “Strange how?”

“I don’t know,” said Harry. “Just strange. They were all strange in different ways.”

“I think anyone can seem strange,” said Luna. “If you pay them enough attention.”

Harry’s skin felt very hot. “I met Draco Malfoy again,” he said, and he wasn’t quite sure why he was saying it, or if he should be.

“Ah,” said Luna now, and she said it as if something had just slotted itself into place. “And how was he?”

“He was the strangest of all,” blurted Harry, and it made her laugh.

“Well,” she said, once she’d stopped laughing. “He always was a bit, underneath, wasn’t he?”

Harry paused to look at her differently. He hadn’t thought of someone like Luna Lovegood as having many thoughts about someone like Draco Malfoy, but then he remembered that she had been in his dungeons during the war, and even though something twisted sharply in his gut, things made a peculiar amount of sense.

“Was he?” he said, carefully.

Luna looked amused. “You didn’t notice?” Her eyes twinkled. “I thought you would have.”

The twinkle was triggering more in Harry than he was prepared for. He looked away and shrugged, reaching for an olive just for something to do. Luna laughed again, just a little.

“Would you like some more?” she asked, when they’d finished that pot.

The yoga mat was very successful. Harry was in town looking to buy some props, mostly to give himself something to do, when he glanced up and realised he was opposite Victoria’s Secret. He laughed.

He abruptly stopped laughing when Blaise Zambini stepped out from between the glass displays. He was in a sharp pinstriped suit, his hands full of shopping, and when he caught sight of Harry he raised his brows, and then began to walk on over.

Harry swore voraciously.

“Hullo,” said Blaise Zambini pleasantly once he was within hearing distance. “It’s Harry Potter.”

Harry stopped trying to escape into the shelf full of foam blocks. “Hello,” he sighed.

Blaise Zambini was appraising him. He wasn’t bothering to be subtle about it either, his black, glossy eyes darting up and down the length of him like a fish trying to find food in a pond. After a few moments, his equally black, glossy eyebrows sloped upwards, as if the food had been found.

Harry didn’t like that.

“No offense,” he said. “But why are you talking to me?’

Blaise Zambini looked politely taken aback. “Don’t you remember me from school?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Harry. “That’s why I’m asking.”

At this, Zambini stopped looking polite and taken aback and started looking very amused instead, which was a far more honest expression on him.

“Well then,” he said happily. “In that case, I’d like to apologise for all my unfortunate missteps from my childhood, and to ask you to get drinks with me.”

 Harry stared at him. He blinked hard, several times. “I’m not getting drinks with you,” he managed after several moments, successfully keeping most of the astoundment out of his voice.

Zambini didn’t look perturbed. “Ah, well,” he said, smoothing down the lapels of his lovely suit. “It was worth a try. Do send Granger my good wishes if you’re still in contact with her; I always did secretly admire her. And I’ll let Draco know that you’re looking well.”

He turned to leave. Harry hated himself.

“You’re still friends with Draco?” he asked through gritted teeth.

Zambini turned back. He didn’t even bother to look surprised, the bastard. “Why,” he said, drawing out the sound like a Cheshire cat. “Did he not mention?”

Harry gave him a dry look. “No.”

“We correspond quite frequently. Sometimes, I even go up to his little cottage-y thing to visit him. Such wonderful things I’ve heard about you, Harry Potter.”

Harry didn’t know why he was doing it. There was no reason for him too. If he really wanted to communicate with Draco, he certainly could. He hadn’t yet. But he could. So there was really no reason for him to do this.

Blaise Zambini’s eyes were twinkling. Harry said, “Where were you thinking of going for drinks?”

The place Zambini recommended was the same place Luna and Harry had gone to the other day. Harry had been so surprised that when Zambini had told him the name he had blurted out, without thinking: “That’s where Luna and I went the other day.”

At which point, Zambini had said, “Lovely, bring her along.”

Because of the way Zambini was, Harry had assumed that he didn’t really know Luna and that the statement was factitious. However, when he had tentatively mentioned the conversation to Luna, Luna had said, dreamily, “Oh, I do like Blaise. He’s such a gentleman.”

So now Harry was at the pub with Luna Lovegood and Blaise Zambini.

“Olives!” said Zambini as he came in, clapping his hands together. “You have such wonderful taste, Miss.Lovegood.”

“Mm,” agreed Luna. “How’s the writing going?”

Harry looked at Zambini. “You’re a writer?”

Zambini raised his brows suggestively at Harry. “I’m all sorts of things you wouldn’t expect, Harry Potter.”

“Yeah,” said Harry, “but are you a writer?”

“I like that he writes,” said Luna. “I don’t necessarily like all of his writing. But I like that he writes, in general.”

“You would, Luna darling.” Zambini rested a polished elbow on the table. “But to answer your question, Harry: why yes, I like to think of myself as one. And to answer yours, madam: it has been going the way it always goes, which is to say it has been ebbing and flowing, some days spilling forth from me like a monsoon rain, and other days breaking from me in stubborn little increments, not unlike chipped ice. But you know what they say –” and here he swivelled to direct a lazy look at Harry, “the water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

“That’s a lovely quote,” said Luna. “Who said it first?”

“Louis L’amour,” said Zambini.

Luna looked interested. “Is he any good?”

“I don’t know,” said Zambini. “I haven’t read any of his stuff.”

Harry looked between the two of them. “Are you two…” he began, and then stopped.

“Are we two what?” Zambini was grinning.

“We meet for drinks quite often,” said Luna. “If that’s what you’re asking, Harry. Once he cooked me dinner, as well. Languini. It was quite nice.”

“We’re in love,” said Zambini. “We’ve always been in love. One of these days we will retire to a little cottage, not unlike Draco’s I imagine, except with rather less books and rather more composure.”

“Blaise, I’m a lesbian,” said Luna, but she didn’t look put out. In fact, she was as close to rolling her eyes as Harry had ever seen her.

“Oh,” said Harry.

“I’m in love with her,” said Zambini. “I’ve always been in love with her. However, if she won’t be coming with me, then I think I’ll retire to somewhere with rather more bathtubs. Perhaps Switzerland.”

“I’ve been a lesbian for a while too, if that’s what you’re asking now,” said Luna to Harry, not unkindly. Harry tried not to fluster.

“Oh no,” he said. “I mean, I wasn’t – I’m bisexual, too, so. You know.”

Zambini leaned back in his seat. “Mmmmm,” he said.

Luna looked pleasantly surprised. “I’ve been wanting to make some more queer friends,” she told him.

“I’m essentially queer,” said Zambini.

“I wouldn’t know,” said Luna. “I’ve never seen you show genuine desire.”

Harry laughed, surprising himself a bit with it. Zambini frowned and leaned forward.

“You wield the truth like a sword, love,” he told her, and then plucked an olive from the pot.

A bit later, when they’d had a few more drinks and a lot more olives, Zambini asked Harry how he’d been settling back into Scotland.

“Oh,” said Harry. He shifted a bit in his seat. He was beginning to get a bit drunk. “It’s okay. I’m okay. I just have a lot of time, I suppose.”

“Ah yes,” said Zambini, smirking. “The most grievous burden of the rich. Having too much time on one’s hand.”

“Well, what’s the point of time if you can’t fill it?” pointed out Harry. Zambini smirked wider.

And he’s philosophical,” he said. “Wise words, Potter, indeed.”

It was Harry’s turn to raise his eyebrows suggestively. “I’m all sorts of things you wouldn’t expect, Zambini,” he said, slurring only a little.

Zambini grinned widely, like a shark in a very elegant suit. “You can call me Blaise, Harry.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “Can I?”

“Why not?” Zambini’s glittery eyes were very innocent. “You refer to Draco by his given name, do you not?”

Harry picked up his knife. It swung a little loosely in his hand as he pointed it in the general direction of Blaise Zambini. “Don’t talk about Draco,” he told him, quite seriously.

If anything, this only served to make Zambini’s grin even more sharklike and his eyes even more glittery. He sounded very amused when he spoke.

“Why,” he said, layering a very thin sheer of indignation on top. “But I only have sweet things to say.”

“Blaise,” said Luna, and although his eyes remained glittery, he leaned back from Harry, reaching for an olive and eating in self-satisfied fashion.

Luna watched all this in a manner that was faintly reminiscent of a fond but tired pet owner watching their pet engage in deliberately disruptive behaviour. When she caught Harry looking at her, her mouth quirked up a little.

“You can put the knife down, Harry,” she said kindly.

Harry put the knife down. Then he put his head down on the table with it. He should really, really stop getting drunk.

Above him, Blaise was saying, “I’ve been reading a lot of books about spirituality recently.”

“Have you?”

“Absolutely. It reminded me of you. Perhaps I should lend you some.”

“You shouldn’t,” said Luna, and she sounded genuinely regretful. “I’m in the middle of gardening.”

“Does gardening intersect with reading?” asked Blaise, very politely.

“Well,” explained Luna. “It requires a lot of reading gardening books.”

“Ah,” said Blaise. “Of course. Very obtuse of me.”

“But you should tell me about your spiritual awakening,” Luna told him.

Now Blaise sounded a bit embarrassed. “I’m not having a spiritual awakening,” he said. “I’m just exploring the spiritual niche. In a purely intellectual manner.”

 “Of course,” echoed Luna faintly. Harry could hear the smile in her voice. “Very obtuse of me.”

Harry laughed into the table. Blaise said, very wryly, “Do you have any thoughts on spirituality that you’d like to contribute, Harry?”

Harry lifted his head. “Yes,” he told him. “I’m a very spiritual being.”

Blaise lifted both of his very pointed brows. “Are you?”

Harry straightened up and put his hand over his chest. “In fact,” he declared. “I’ve been having a bit of a spiritual awakening myself.”

Have you?”

“Why don’t you tell us about that?” asked Luna. She put a hand on Blaise’s arm, which had been creeping forward on the table as he slowly leaned towards Harry. Predictably, he reached for it and gave it a very, very light kiss, before smiling wickedly. Luna really rolled her eyes.

“I am so confused,” Harry announced. “All the time.”

Luna tipped her head to the side. “Haven’t you always been?” she asked curiously. Blaise snickered.

“Absolutely,” said Harry. “But now –” he patted his chest with his hand, “ – now it’s a sort of spiritual confusion.”

Luna nodded thoughtfully. “Why do you think that?”

“Because,” said Harry, and then stopped. He held up one finger to indicate that he was thinking. Instantly, Blaise raised one finger as well to mirror Harry.

“Because,” continued Harry after a few moments, “it is the sort of confusion that demands to be felt.”

There was a pause, and then Blaise burst into applause. Luna blinked her large, round eyes, and then looked a little impressed.

“Mm,” she agreed. “That does sound like a spiritual awakening.”

“Also I’m depressed,” said Harry.

“Oh jeez,” said Blaise. “We’ve reached this stage of the evening.” He waved a waiter over and politely asked for a round of shots.

“It’s afternoon, Blaise,” Luna reminded him politely.

“Time is circular,” Blaise informed her.

“Mm,” allowed Luna, and turned back to Harry. “Why don’t you tell us about that too, Harry?”

“Not much to say,” said Harry. “It’s been going on for a few years. Sometimes it’s manageable. Sometimes it’s not.”

“Well, it’s to be expected,” said Blaise. “After the shenanigans we all got up to at school. You know, for a while I truly suspected you weren’t quite human, the way you carried on.”

Harry reached out and gripped Blaise’s hand. “I am very, very human,” he said, looking him dead in the eye.

Blaise looked over at Luna. “You know who we should invite to this discussion?” he said. “Darling Pansy.”

So now Harry was at the pub with Luna Lovegood, Blaise Zambini, and Pansy Parkinson.

Unfortunately, he was also now sober.

When he arrived, Pansy turned away from whatever Blaise had been saying to her and raised the sharpest brow Harry had ever seen. He was starting to suspect sharp brows were just a customary part of the slytherin package.

“Hello,” she said to him, and the way she said it somehow managed to make it sound both lascivious and chastising.

“Hi,” said Harry, and sat down. “I don’t really want to be here.”

“That’s fair,” said Blaise.

“Shall I order some olives?” said Luna.

“I’m sorry for being a cheap bitch at Hogwarts,” said Pansy. She said it very drily, and her cat-like eyes didn’t stray from Harry’s for even a moment. She really was wearing a lot of eyeliner. “I’m still a bitch, but I’m not cheap.”

Harry considered this. “Okay,” he said after a long moment.

Pansy rolled her eyes. “So glad we got that out of the way,” she said, and nodded at Luna. “Please don’t let the interesting dynamic here stop you from ordering your olives.”

“I never do,” said Luna simply, and ordered the olives. Pansy looked on approvingly. Then, once the olives were ordered, she turned back to Harry.

“So you’re depressed,” she said. 

“I really, really don’t want to be here,” reiterated Harry, but didn’t leave. Pansy ignored him.  

“What are you doing about it?” she asked, matter-of-fact.

Harry raised a brow. “Excuse me?”

Pansy rolled her eyes, again. “You heard me, Potter,” she drawled.

Harry leaned back. Then he said, after a few stubborn moments, “Yoga.”

Pansy looked like she was resisting the urge to roll her eyes again. Instead, she just continued to look at him flatly.

“Are you in counselling?” she demanded after a moment.

Harry glared at her. Then he glared at Blaise.

“Is this supposed to be helping me?”

Blaise was taking his time taking a sip of water.

Harry turned back to Pansy, but he wasn’t looking at her. He was looking out the window just over her shoulder. He said, quite deliberately: “Do you really think I haven’t heard that sort of advice before?”

Pansy continued to level him a very even look. She replied, equally deliberate, “And have you ever tried listening?”

This was too much. Harry stopped looking out the window and glared at her, really glared. “Right. So you think you’re qualified to tell me what’s what. Since you’re obviously the mental health expert.”

“I hate having to reduce this to fucking oppression points,” spat Pansy. “But seeing as I’ve been depressed since I can remember and have commit two suicide attempts in recent history: yes, I do think I am.”

Well, there was really nothing that could be said to that. Harry stared at her, his cheeks flaming. He felt acutely aware of Luna and Blaise looking on.

He dropped his gaze. “Okay,” he said to the table, after a moment.  

“So glad to have your approval,” sneered Pansy. “I’ll let my therapist know that we can continue after all, since Harry Potter’s given me the thumbs up.”

“I’m sorry,” said Harry, slowly. “I shouldn’t have assumed.”

Pansy’s heavily lined eyes were searing. “No,” she said, very precisely. “You shouldn’t have.”

Blaise finally put his glass of water down. He held up the pot of olives. “Olive, anyone?”

Pansy’s gaze finally flickered from Harry, and then she grabbed one and chewed on it aggressively. Harry had a brief and but adrenaline-drenched vision of her spitting out the pip in his face.

Pansy looked like she was having the same vision.

Blaise cleared his throat. Somehow, it still sounded very silky on him. “Would anyone be interested in a drink?”

“Whiskey,” growled Pansy, at the same time Luna said, “But you’ll miss out on the interesting dynamic.” Blaise raised a brow, but stood up anyway.

“Whiskey it is,” he said, sounding only a little amused, and then left the increasingly tense table.

“Well,” said Luna, after a minute. “Aren’t you going to continue?”

Harry looked at her. He looked at the table. He looked at Pansy.

Pansy was looking at him.

“You’re a bitch ass pussy, Potter,” she said, after another minute.

Harry clapped his hands together. “Alright!” he said.

Blaise came back with the much needed whiskey to a significantly more tense table.

“Pansy, darling,” he said smoothly as he passed her a drink and slid back into his seat in one graceful move. “Tell me how’ve you been, why don’t you? How’s the job, how’s the reading?”

Pansy took a deep inhale of the whiskey. “Job is fine. Reading is boring. I wish I could say so in so many words, but Apple-Tits would have mine fucking cut off.”

“Don’t swear in front of Luna, love,” murmured Blaise.

“Luna likes it,” said Pansy, throwing a heavy-lidded glance over at the other woman. “Don’t you, Luna?”

Luna grinned. “I like the way you speak,” she allowed. “But it’s mostly because you’re very attractive.”

“Jesus god,” said Harry.

Blaise was sitting back in his seat. “Luna, darling,” he was saying. “Right in front of me and my already injured heart?”

“She’s always liked me better,” Pansy drawled, her lids still lowered. “I can do everything you can do, but with cleavage.”

Blaise stopped sitting back. “That you can,” he said appreciatively, and only briefly admired the aforementioned asset. “But no one looks quite as good in a pinstripe suit as yours truly.”

Pansy raised a brow. “Save your flirting for Draco.”

“Oh,” said Blaise, and smirked a little. “But he gets so blustered when I look at his cleavage. Sometimes I need your stoic reproval just to even things out.”

Pansy just rolled her eyes. She drank some more of her whiskey.

Harry drank a lot more of his.

Pansy put her glass down on the table in a significant sort of way. She said, “So what do you think of him, Potter?”

Harry didn’t spray the whiskey all over her in a cartoonish manner, but it was close thing. Once he’d stopped spluttering, he wiped his mouth and managed an, “Excuse me?”

Again, Pansy said very calmly, “What do you think of Draco Malfoy?”

“Urm,” said Harry. He was too thrown off to think properly. “I, urm…think he’s quite…okay.”

Pansy raised a whetted brow. “You think he’s okay?”

It wasn’t that Harry hadn’t felt exposed sitting here at the table already in the previous conversation, but now it felt an awful lot like he was getting his skin peeled off. He said: “I think he’s quite a character.”

“Cheers to that,” said Blaise pleasantly, and chinked his glass against Harry’s on the table.

Pansy just made a sort of “mm” sound. She was observing Harry in a way that was so rakish he felt like he was deeply underperforming. He opened his mouth, and it was a faucet turned on.

“I think he’s very clever,” he told her. “And that he doesn’t always show it in the right ways. And I think he’s very funny, although sometimes his jokes can be too much. And I think he’s very soft, too.”

Pansy raised her chin. “Do you?” she asked, drawing the sounds out. Harry felt incredibly aware of the silence from the rest of the table. He drank more whiskey.

“Why did you ask?” he asked quietly, once he was done.

Pansy sat back in her chair. Her eyes were sharply trained on him. “Because I want to know your intentions,” she said simply, and just like that, she had dredged up everything about Draco Malfoy that Harry had been trying so very hard not to think about. For a moment, it was all he could do to keep his eyes trained on his glass and breathe.

“So,” he heard Blaise saying, and there was movement in his peripheral vision. “You asked me to tell you about my spiritual awakening.”

“I thought you weren’t having one,” replied Luna, and she sounded amused, and then the conversation evolved naturally, expanding to include Pansy, and although it was interesting and although it was strange and although it could have easily included him as well, Harry was simply outside of it. He wasn’t here anymore, in Scotland, in this bar, in this chair, but in the Himalayas, and he was leaving Gay Dragon Village, and Draco Malfoy was stepping out of the woods:

And he was saying, are you okay Harry?

And he was saying, can I touch you?

And he was saying, don’t make excuses.

And he was saying, I’m in love with you.

And although Harry’s mind had already been prised open by the sheer wildness of his life and Gay Dragon Village and Jane, there were still some things that he wouldn’t be able to wrap his head around, that he couldn’t bend to make sense of the right way. He didn’t think about it because it was too much, much much too much, and he could hardly take what he had already. And then Draco Malfoy was leaving, and the length of his back was so pale, and nothing ever made sense, not really, not at all, and it was so unfair.   

Where did he go from here? Where had he come from?

“Harry,” said Pansy, and he was back in the bar. Everything was brown and wooden and dimmed, and it was nothing like the Himalayas, not so green, not so bright, not so clear. He reached for his glass; it was cold around the cup of his fingers.

He looked up. Pansy was looking straight at him with her dark eyes. He said, “yes?”

Pansy frowned. As if she’d just been handed an unexpected clue to a riddle she’d been trying to solve.

“Luna has to get back,” Blaise announced. He nodded towards her, grinning shrewdly. “She has tea to attend to.”

“It’s a lady who knitted a scarf for me,” Luna explained. “She’s got a lot of interesting things to say about rhubarbs. But she also told me my eyes were pretty, so we shall see what happens.”

“Ah,” said Harry. He blinked. “Of course.”

Luna was rising from the table. Blaise stood as well, reaching out for her, and then they were saying their goodbyes and it was just him and Pansy, across the table from him, somehow still frowning.

“Well,” said Harry. “I suppose we should get going too.”

It was only when they were outside, walking to a safe apparition spot that they talked again. The wind was cool, and the entire day was crumpling like a sheet of paper at the edge just behind the outline of the buildings. The pavement was hard on their shoes. Harry asked, “Do you hear from Draco often?”

Pansy didn’t stop, but it was like she slowed, if only marginally. For a moment, Harry thought she wasn’t going to say anything.

“Sometimes,” was what she said instead. Her voice was quieter than it had been all evening. “I suppose every few months, if that’s what you mean by often.”

“Ah,” said Harry.

“Sometimes I visit him,” Pansy continued. “Sometimes he visits me.”

Harry told himself to keep walking. “He comes here?” was all he said.

Pansy was side-eyeing him. He could feel it resting on his shoulder.

“Yes,” she said. “He did live here before he left, after all. It’s still his true home.”

Now Harry did stop walking. He turned to look at her. “Why do you say that?” he asked.

Pansy’s lips drew into a tight purse, as if she’d said more than she’d have liked. Harry stared at her. A length of her black hair blew across her pale cheek, and she didn’t brush it back.

She swallowed. And then, after a long silence, said, “Well, it’s Scotland, isn’t it?”

Harry had never thought he would have felt a profound understanding with Pansy Parkinson, but here he was and it was happening. There was nothing to be done. They looked at each other, and then, by mutual agreement, turned and kept walking, lapsing back into silence. The apparition point was not too far after that.

It took Harry a long time to fall asleep. Although his flat had felt too small – claustrophobic – before he’d left, now it felt too big. He rolled around and around on the mattress. The sheets tangled into a sweaty pile by his feet. He got sick of his own smell on the pillows. His entire body felt itchy.

And then, when he did sleep, he dreamt.

It was the loch, again. And it was Draco, again. In this dream, the light was a golden orange for some reason, glowing thickly through the trees, and it made the loch seem more blue. It was a lighter, richer blue than it had been in real life, Harry was sure of it. And then Draco took a step forward that Harry was sure he hadn’t taken in real life either, and then he plunged under.

Harry didn’t scream. He just said, “Draco.” Felt the feathery weight of the word balance on his tongue, float out into the air. He took a step forward too. And then he was under. There was a brief, sharp, pitching fear that for a moment consumed every thought, but this wasn’t the real loch, this wasn’t the same one.

Under the loch, Draco was suspended facing him. Somehow, there was orange light under the surface, too. Draco wasn’t naked anymore. Instead, he was covered entirely in real flowers, pink and pastel roses framing him almost like a dress. Harry stared. How could he find anyone else beautiful after this?

“Okay,” said Draco. It didn’t sound so much as resigned as it did understanding. He reached out a long pale hand, and Harry took it.

“Hi,” he said to Draco, strangely, nonsensically. He realised he was smiling, almost painfully. Dear god, every muscle in his body ached.

Draco didn’t smile, exactly. He just held Harry’s hand, and pushed back against the water. Harry swam forward.

The water opened up. They were in a clearing, and then Draco was standing at the edge of it, looking out at the view. In real life, Harry would have wanted to look at the view too. But here, in the dream, under the loch, he just wanted Draco.

“I’m sorry,” he called out, and then Draco was turned back and strolling towards him. He was long and thin and brazen. He said, “You should be,” very matter of fact, and raised a provocative eyebrow. He didn’t stop walking once he had reached Harry. Harry’s breath caught.

Draco smiled, and then as casually as passing salt, pushed Harry right in the middle of the chest. Harry startled and fell backwards, helplessly. He landed softly. When he opened his eyes, he was in a cocooned world of roses.

“Hello,” said Draco, finally, but he said it like a whisper, like a spoonful of sugar. He smiled again at Harry, and it was so sad and so soft, and all of Harry’s muscles ached like strings being plucked. Draco began to shift off his clothes. He was coming closer, and he was so pale, and there was so much of his skin. Harry couldn’t breathe breathe breathe –

“Don’t hold your breath,” said somebody, and then he was awake. Reality was thudding around him. He gasped out loud, and it caught like a sob.  

His sheets were crinkled around him like sand dunes, a dark, polyester desert. He was thirsty. Still gasping a little, he clambered out of bed and padded barefoot into the kitchen.

He got a glass of water. Leaned there with one light on above him, white and lonely. He drank the water. He put it down in the sink, and then he closed his eyes.

Some dreams felt more vivid than reality; this was one of those. Already, the details were fading – but the feeling was printed into his brain matter like the ghost of a bright light in his retinas. The more he thought about it, the more his stomach seemed to hurt.

What also happened, as he thought about it more, was that the last part of the dream became more and more pronounced, until it was perfectly preserved in his mind’s eye. It had seemed natural in the dream, but now it knocked him off guard – the sheer, intense intimacy of Draco’s casual hand pushing him back, the moving in and the undressing, the relentless perfume of the roses –

Harry had had a sex dream about Draco Malfoy.

The thought made him flush, all over, with shock and shame. He should have seen it coming, now he thought about it – he had felt a certain attraction to Draco, hadn’t he? The leggings, his face structure, the quality of his skin – there had always been a pull, and it was all of a sudden so fucking obvious that it was about sex, really, wasn’t it? Or that sex was at least a factor in the warmth Harry had felt at different points regarding him. It was obvious now, wasn’t it? It was obvious.

Harry rubbed his eyes furiously. The hurt in his stomach was only sharpening.

But it was different, now he’d had the dream. The abstract, loose concept of sleeping with Draco Malfoy suddenly had a reference point that was all too vivid. Harry thought about how soft it had been, about his skin and the roses and the brash surprise of the easy familiarity with which Draco had maneuvered him, had undressed, had taken action. He thought about Draco’s quick witted smile and the line between his brows when he acted all spoilt and the way his mouth curved when he’d just finished swearing. And the sudden rush of arousal was so rich that it was a like a film over his eyes, like a fog that had encompassed his body. He inhaled quickly.

And then he thought about Draco telling him that he loved him, and the fog of arousal abruptly evaporated and became something different, something entirely more confusing to Harry. And he was just standing there, in his kitchen, frowning desperately at the floorboards.

Harry had always supposed that being…liked, in that way, would feel good. But the truth of it was that, in a very real way, it was incredibly uncomfortable. He felt as if his skin was crawling. He couldn’t understand it.

Perhaps that was the crux of the issue. That he couldn’t understand it. It didn’t feel real.

But the thing about reality was that it didn’t care whether or not you believed in it. It kept on happening anyway. There was nothing to be gained by standing there in his kitchen contemplating it.

And besides, he’d left now, so what did it matter, anyway?

What did it matter?

Harry had another glass of water. He went back to bed.

The next morning, he got firecall from Luna mid-yoga.

“Oh,” he said, and clumsily tried to right himself. “Urm, hello.”

“Hello,” said Luna, pleasantly. “Are you mid-yoga?”

“No,” said Harry, nonsensically. He felt very aware that he was topless. He tried to cover his torso with his arms without making it look like he was trying to. “Did you need something?”

“Mmm.” Luna hummed thoughtfully, as if she was only just deciding what she needed now, after calling him. “I thought that you could come over and help me with the gardening,” she said, a few moments later.

“Urm,” said Harry. “Okay. When?”

Luna eyed him up and down. Even though he knew she was gay, it still made him feel even more aware of his toplessness. “As soon as possible,” she told him.

Harry blinked. “Oh. Okay. I’ll, um –” He pointed his thumb in the general direction of the shower.

“You do that,” Luna encouraged, and then she was gone. Harry stared at the fire place for a minute, and then he got up and went to have a shower.

“Hi,” he said, when Luna opened the door for him.

“Hello, Harry.” She blinked warmly at him and then led him through to the kitchen without a further word.

Luna lived in a very blue house. It wasn’t the sort of light, gentle blue middle class Caucasian women typically put in the bathrooms to create a calming, sea-themed effect – it was a loud, pigmented, no-nonsense kind of blue. The kind of blue that wanted you to know, without a doubt, that it was Blue with a capital B, and it wasn’t interested in your complicated mixed-shade opinions. It was the kind of blue that came straight from the bottle.

It almost a surprise then, when Harry went inside, that the rest of the house was not also blue. But, he supposed, colour schemes demanded a certain rigidity of character, and this was Luna Lovegood, whom no one in their right or wrong mind would describe as rigid.

As such, the decorating inside was pretty similar to how most muggles would probably expect a witch’s house to be decorated, except with more quilted throw pillows, pastel tones and art. Harry was intrigued to see that there was a significant amount of decidedly muggle art.

In the kitchen, Luna offered him hot chocolate.

“Oh,” said Harry. “That’s alright. What was it you needed me for? I can just get started.”

“I didn’t really need you for anything,” said Luna dreamily as she poured milk into two cups with tassels on them. “I just thought the gardening would be good for your depression.”

“Oh,” said Harry. He sat down on a stool, rather heavily.

Luna glanced over at him. “Was I wrong?” she asked lightly.

Harry blinked, and then looked away, running a hand through his hair. “No,” he said. “No, I – it doesn’t matter. I – that was kind of you. Thanks.”

“Maybe it was crude phrasing,” said Luna. “I do like your company, too.”

“Thanks,” said Harry, trying very hard to keep it from sounding sarcastic.

Luna turned back to the hot chocolate. “Anyway,” she said, “gardening is very good for mental health. I’ve read a lot about it. It’s why a lot of retired people do it.”

“Oh,” said Harry.

“It would be good for a lot of my friends, I think, but I’ve learned that for the most part you can’t really convince people to do things they haven’t already decided the want to do so…” Luna trailed off, shrugging. She turned around with the full mugs. “Do you want the yellow tassel or the green one?”

“Oh,” said Harry, and looked down at the mugs. “Urm. I don’t mind.”

“Choose,” said Luna.

Harry blinked. “The green one.”

Luna handed him the mug with green tassel on it. They both drank in silence. It really was pretty good hot chocolate.

Once they were done, Luna looked at him. “Shall we get started?” she asked.

Luna had bought a lot of seeds for flowers. Harry was not a particularly experienced gardener. For a moment, he and the pile of seeds merely regarded one another.

Luna looked at him looking at the seeds. She said, “I’ll get a shovel,” and disappeared back into the house. Once she came back out with several gardening tools of varying sizes, they got to work.

It was soothing, Harry supposed. The gardening. He wouldn’t say that it was exactly curing his depression to any notable degree, but it was nice. All the smells of the soil, rich and freshly tilled, and the feeling of it against his bare fingers. He wasn’t crazy about it, but he did like it. Liked the digging motion, the sweat gathering at the low of his back and his neck, the repetitive strain in his shoulder muscles, the planting of the seeds as a whole. He wondered if Luna would let him come back once they’d actually started growing.

But the relentless ache in his chest was still there. It was always there, and still, it didn’t get old. Pain was pain was pain was –

But the gardening was nice. Nothing miraculous. But just nice. Although, perhaps part of the problem was that Harry didn’t expect it to work. Almost…almost didn’t want it to. Because how could an event as huge as depression be dismantled by something as insignificant as gardening? It was ridiculous.

Luna hadn’t talked to him since they’d started. That was the nice thing about Luna, Harry mused – had always been. Because she was always so honest – and not honest in the verbal, common sense, but honest in the active way, honest as a form of expression, as a method of living – she didn’t perceive silence as a problem. When you talked to her, it was at once natural and unnatural – unnatural in the sense that the conversation ebbed and flowed in discordance to the general social template – and then natural in the sense that it ebbed and flowed in accordance to the natural thought patterning. Harry liked it. It was strange to him that he liked it, because he hadn’t thought he was the kind of person to – well, he just hadn’t thought. But he liked it, and here he was, admitting it to himself.

He paused there, one hand still firmly gripped on the mini shovel buried deep in the earth. The sky was blue above him. He thought, how many things about myself do I not yet know?

Here he was, twenty-one years old. He had never thought he would even make it to twenty-one. In his head, it still sounded so old. But here he was, and even after all this time, he was still so naïve. And it was deep, furtive, and somehow shameful naivety, because it was one thing to not know the world; something else, completely, to not know yourself.

Life was such a deeply complex thing. And it was so intimately tied up with the Self – and what was that, really? No one ever really told you about that. How many people, Harry wondered, must be walking around as strangers to themselves?

Draco’s voice rose to the surface of his mind, again: the only way out is in.

Harry closed his eyes. Then he looked over at Luna, where she was busy with her own shovel. Her long, wavy white hair was tied back, stick in places to the back of her neck where she was sweating. Her top was surprisingly simple, just a short-sleeved cotton turquoise piece – the fabric pulled over her shoulder a bit with her movements. Her face was clear, easy, focused – her fingers fumbled over the leaves of a weed and gently pushed it aside.

Harry was suddenly immensely grateful that she had asked him to come gardening with her today. She was right – it was better like this. It didn’t go away, but it was better. Became…less immediate.

“Are you tired?” Luna asked simply, without looking up. “We can take a break.”

“No,” said Harry. “I’m – we can keep going.”

Later, they did take a break. Luna brought out scones and jam and they ate it on the grass as the day began to brown with age, even though it was getting cold out. As they did Harry looked around at the garden, and the jam stuck to his fingers and thumb, and some of it got in his hair as he sucked it off. Luna finished her second and said, contemplatively: “I love it here.”

Harry looked at her. “Why?”

Now Luna looked at him. For a moment, Harry thought she was going to say something else. But then she smiled. One of her front teeth was slightly wonky. Harry had never noticed before.

“I like the space,” she told him. “I like the space because it lets me make it mine.”

“Do you ever get lonely?” Harry asked, desperate, before he could stop himself.

Luna thought about it. “Sometimes,” she said, after a moment. “But normally, I manage it. I ask to see a friend. Or I keep busy.”

She made it sound so simple.

The wind rustled through the leaves on the trees. There was a bird making a bit of a fuss, somewhere in the background. Harry said, “Sometimes when I get lonely, it feels so big inside me I feel like it’ll swallow me up.”

He felt Luna looking at him some more. He didn’t look at from his clasped hands.

“Isn’t there anything that makes it smaller?” she asked.

Unbidden, the thought of white limbs and snarky jokes and the smell of roses flittered inside him. He inhaled sharply and shrugged, awkward.

“I guess,” he said, when Luna didn’t speak.

“Well,” said Luna. “Smaller is better than bigger. You don’t have to shrink it all at once. You could do it in bits.”

“Yeah,” Harry sighed and leaned back on his hands. “Maybe.”

Luna kept looking at him. “You know,” she said, after a moment. “I still think you could really like Pansy and Blaise. You didn’t get a good impression of her, I think, the other night.”

“I don’t dislike Blaise,” Harry admitted quietly. “Or Pansy. I…shouldn’t have said some of the things I did the other night.”

“Mm,” said Luna. “Well, I’ll give you her address. Just in case.”

Harry looked up, surprised. “Thank you,” he managed, after a pause.

Luna just nodded and tilted her head back, looking at the sky. The sunlight filtered across her face. “I think it would be very nice,” she said, “if we were all friends.”

Harry looked where she was looking. “Yeah,” he said softly. “It would.”

When he got home, Harry did a yoga workout for an hour and then went for a run. By the time he was done he was just about ready to pass out. But still he dreamt.

In the dream, he walked into Draco’s house to find him gardening. It was in the middle of his lounge, amidst all the books. Draco was crouched over a small square of soil in the middle of the floor, his hands stained green. Without turning around he said, “Why don’t you try it yourself?”

Harry blinked. “I don’t know how to,” he told him.

Draco straightened up, getting to his feet and brushing his hands off. For some reason he was wearing denim coveralls and nothing else. Even the unshelled white of his feet was stained green.

“Don’t make excuses for yourself,” said Draco, and Harry’s gaze snapped back up to his face. One of his eyebrows was arched, just the way Harry remembered it being. Harry desperately, desperately wanted to reach out and run a finger along it, but for some reason was certain that he shouldn’t, although he couldn’t remember why.

“Please,” he said, and as he said it, he realised that he was all of a sudden crying.

Draco sighed, and then he began to take off the coveralls casually. Harry knew he shouldn’t be looking – but he couldn’t help himself. The entirety of Draco’s long slim body was covered in green stains, but Harry didn’t know how that was possible.

In the middle of the square of soil, a long pink rose was growing. Harry turned and walked into the bedroom, where he woke up.

This time when he woke he wasn’t alarmed. Instead he just lay there for a moment, letting his racing mind catch up. Then he rolled over and went to the bathroom to take a piss.

As he was washing his hands, he caught his reflection’s eye in the mirror. The man there was bloodshot, his brown skin tinged grey with the lighting and restlessness. His lips were visibly dry. His facial hair was growing out, giving him a bit of a stubbly beard. Harry had never really grown it out before. He rubbed his fingers over his jaw and decided not to shave.

He wasn’t getting back to sleep. For a moment, certain aspects of the dream came to him and he tiredly mouthed “what the fuck” to himself in the mirror. Then he rubbed his eyes and turned off the bathroom light.

In the kitchen/lounge/hallway, he wandered aimlessly, knocking his knuckles against the various surfaces. Eventually he wound up by the coffee machine again and decided to make a cup. He went through all the various phases again.

When he was done, he leaned back against the edge of the counter the way he had when he first arrived, the cup of coffee sitting beside him. He stared down at the wood panels.

He didn’t know what he had expected to happen now he had come back. The blue inside him was thriving, already being so familiar with its surroundings. Surely, it hadn’t been so bad when he was away?

So why had he come back?

Harry closed his eyes. He reached out and took a sip of the coffee anyway and burnt his tongue. He opened his eyes.

There had been a question inside of him. It had arched, black and solid, against his spine, and he had thought coming home would feel like an answer.

But he had only come home on the outside. Maybe there were no answers.

Maybe there was no home. Only the endless coming.

Harry drank the coffee again. By now it was cool.

“You must be pretty bloody fucking bored,” said Pansy when Harry sat down. “That’s all I’m saying.”

Harry sat down. He looked her dead in the eye. “I am,” he told her.

Pansy shrugged. Then she arched a brow. “Don’t expect me to get less mean as evening goes on. I set the tone for a reason.”

“Okay,” said Harry, and flipped open his menu. “Do you know what you’re getting?”

“Whatever the most expensive option is,” said Pansy, without missing a beat. “You’re paying.”

In the end, Pansy didn’t get the most expensive option. She got the octopus rolls. And a shot of sake.

“I didn’t know you were a big sushi fan,” she said conversationally, once their waiter had left them with their boards.

“I felt like it,” said Harry, stuffed a roll into his mouth, chewing. “What did you think I was?”

Pansy raised both brows. She did it even more theatrically slowly than even Draco would have done.

“I don’t know,” she said slowly. “The kind of person to eat a Sunday roast even when it isn’t Sunday? You always were a bit odd, truth be told, but never particularly…adventurous.”

“I think a did quite a bit of adventuring,” Harry said, very slowly.

Pansy waved a dismissive hand. She was digging into her octopus rolls. How her lipstick wasn’t smearing everything Harry would never know.

“You were adventurous in all the textbook ways,” she said, when she had re-emerged. “In the Gryffindor way.”

Harry raised a brow. “And the slytherin way is eating sushi?”

Pansy glanced up at him and smirked. “Oh,” she purred. “He bites back.”

Harry rolled his eyes, although he flushed, naturally. He had gotten some sort of multi-piece dish. He opted for the one with avocado on top to begin with.

“So what’s the job?” he asked, after a few moments of silence. Pansy reached for her sake, swallowing it around her mouthful.

“I’m a journalist,” she said, after a beat.

Harry raised both brows. “Are you?”

“If I was going to lie about my job,” said Pansy neatly. “I would not declare myself a fucking journalist.”

Harry tilted his head, considering her. “Why?” he asked, after a moment.

“Why?” said Pansy, shooting him a look that bordered on incredulous. “Because it’s a fucking lame ass declaration.”

“No,” said Harry, smiling. “Why journalism at all?”

Pansy blinked blankly at him. Then she looked down at her octopus, digging into it with her chopsticks.

“I find it interesting,” she said after a moment, and then popped a roll into her mouth and chewed. Harry waited patiently.

As she chewed, she moved the food on her plate around a bit. “I’m a nosy person,” she continued after she’d swallowed. “I like learning about people. About their lives. This pays me to do it.”

“So both you and Blaise,” said Harry, “are writers.”

Pansy screwed up her nose, just a bit. “I wouldn’t call journalism writing,” she said. “Or if it is, I wouldn’t call what Blaise does writing.”

Harry smirked, just a bit. “Why not?”

Pansy finally looked up at him and raised a brow. “Because,” she said, “it’s a completely different process, and a completely different product.”

“But you’re both telling stories,” Harry pointed out.

I’m telling a story,” said Pansy. “Blaise is creating one. Besides, he mostly writes poetry.”

“You say that like it’s a dirty word,” said Harry, amused. “Have you read any of it?”

“Of course I have.”

“What do you think of it?”

Pansy narrowed her eyes, but it was mostly thoughtful as opposed to suspicious. “I think he is a writer, “she said finally, “in as much as he enjoys it. That’s clear enough, when you read it. But in terms of skill, he’s a bit amateur. I suppose that’s okay though. Draco thinks that kind of thing should be raw, anyway, whatever that means.”

Harry bit his lip. “Has he read it as well?”

“Of course.” Now Pansy really shot him an incredulous look. “We’re friends. The point is kind of to share things with each other.”

Harry looked down at his hands.

“Anyway,” said Pansy, going back to dipping another roll in an excess of soy sauce. “It gives him a purpose, which is what’s important. Lord knows Blaise could do with one.”

Harry laughed, a little awkwardly, and ate some more of his own meal. The waitress came over to check on them.

When she’d gone away, Harry took a breath and said, “What do you mean by a purpose?”

“I mean,” said Pansy. “That people are fucking saps. And that life is a fucking empty shell of time and space. And that unless an individual takes it upon themselves to find something that at least does a halfway decent job of filling it, they’re going to find themselves fucking bored out of their minds, and end up crying about needing a “calling” or “meaning” or some such shit – and more likely than not, also end up converting to religion, god bless.”

“Wow,” said Harry. And then after a moment, “You really don’t like religion?”

Pansy blew the air quite brutally and unattractively out of her nose, which seemed to be the way she did everything. “You bet I fucking don’t,” she told him. “It’s a store-bought brand of spirituality for people who can’t be fucked or aren’t interesting enough to think for themselves.”

“What did you think of Draco dating a monk then?” asked Harry, before he could help himself.

Pansy levelled him a very knowing and borderline chiding look. Well – it would have been chiding if it wasn’t from Pansy. Her eyes were glittering.

“I thought it was good for him,” she said, “because lord knows that bitch needed a little fucking holiness after everything he’s been through.”

“Oh,” said Harry, “…kay.”

“But, I do also think it was good that it ended. It’s not really in Draco’s nature, I think, no matter how much he wishes it was.”

“What isn’t?” asked Harry.

“That “purity” bullshit. Selfless “I shall do no harm” shit. Keep up.”

“That…” said Harry, twisting a chopstick through a roll. “Seems kind of harsh.”

Pansy shot him another, final incredulous look. “Yeah,” she said. “We're friends. The point is kind of to be honest with each other.”

“I’ve been going out to lunch a lot with Blaise and Pansy,” Harry confessed, the next time he was at the pub with Hermione and Ron. It wasn’t the pub he had gone to the others with. It was the pub that they had always gone to before. Looking round now however, the two didn’t look so different.

Hermione, to her credit, only widened her eyes a little as she took a sip from her beer. Ron, to his, didn’t actually spit any of his drink out – only gagged on it theatrically.

“Ronald,” said Hermione, quickly grabbing up her napkin and holding it out uselessly in his direction. Harry thumped him on the back in a kind of encouraging way.

“Wow,” said Ron once they’d got him some water and settled down again. “What a life.”

“Also Luna,” Harry added. “If that makes it any better.”

“It’s not bad that you’re making new friends Harry,” protested Hermione. “We’re all adults; it’s good to be open-minded about it.”

“Are the words “friends” or “open-minded” a part of their vocabulary?” enquired Ron politely.

Ronald,” said Hermione again. Harry laughed.

“It’s interesting,” he admitted. “Like, obviously, no matter how much they’ve changed it doesn’t excuse the past. But they have changed, you know?”

Ron was looking at him over the table. “How have they changed?” he asked.

Harry opened his mouth. Roses fluttered through his mind. “They,” he said, and closed his mouth.

“You don’t need to explain yourself,” said Hermione. “We don’t mind who you spend your time with.”

“They apologised,” said Harry. “And they – they’re not bigoted anymore, I don’t think. From the way they talk.”

“Okay,” said Ron, and went back to his beer. Harry studied his profile.

“I mean,” he said. “I feel a bit like we misjudged them. Back in Hogwarts. Like, they’re still people, even if they were wrong.”

“No offense,” said Ron, “But I’d say they were a bit more than wrong, mate. Parkinson tried to hand you over to Old Voldey, remember?”

“Okay,” said Harry. “But – we made it out – or hey, maybe it was me, sure – but we made it out as if they were one-dimensional, you know? And they aren’t.”

Ron shrugged. Hermione looked between them, a little tense. “Alright,” he said. “It’s great of you to like, forgive them and all that. But like, no one would blame you if you didn’t. You don’t really owe them it.”

Harry looked at him for a long moment. Then he swallowed. “Yeah,” he said. “Alright.”

Ron nodded. They all drank their beer for a bit.

Then Harry asked them both about their work, and let them catch him up on all that he had missed in the last few months. Ron’s promotion, Hermione’s charity work. When they talked about it, it wasn’t like so much time had passed after all.

It was only to Harry that a lifetime had passed.

Later, when Ron had to leave a bit early to get back to work, Hermione looked up at him said, “You know Harry, we’d be happy to meet them as well if you wanted. Blaise and Pansy and whoever else.”

Harry tried not to look surprised. “You don’t have to,” he said. “I mean – Ron is right, you don’t have to, like – I mean, I’d get it if…you didn’t want to.”

Hermione reached out and put a hand over his. It was so much like what she’d done right before he’d left that for a moment Harry felt dizzy.

“Harry,” she said, and to his alarm her eyes were bright and shining as if she might cry again. “Maybe I…or maybe we don’t say this enough to each other, but – you are one of the most important people to us. To me. And I don’t want to have any unnecessary distance between us. Do you understand?”

Harry’s chest felt tight and swollen. “Alright,” he managed.

“So,” continued Hermione. “If being around these people is important to you, then it’s important to me. I don’t want to stifle you, Harry. But I know that…before…you felt like sometimes we were bad at understanding you. And I want to try.”

Hermione took her hand off his and leaned back. The sunlight spilled a little across her black hair and dark brown skin.

“Okay,” said Harry, and had to swallow a few times. “Alright.” He smiled, a little shakily at her.

“Thank you.”

Hermione smiled back. She had always been so brave.

And then this sort of became his life. Without quite deciding to or realising it, Harry settled back down into a routine – and between yoga and lunches and people and gardening and afternoon walks and sleeping – Harry found himself endlessly distracted. He wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not. Maybe this was what life was. Maybe this was the point of it.

That was mostly alright with him. Being busy helped keep the blueness smaller, as Luna had put it. And at least he was engaging. He was ok with just being ok. God knows there were a lot worse things to be.

But sometimes, if he was being honest with himself – and he was trying, he was trying so hard to be – he became aware of this restlessness inside of him, this merciless dissatisfaction with everything. And so although all these activities helped keep his mind of it, he couldn’t help but feel it was a surface solution, a surface game.

And there were things rooted inside of him; that was just the truth of it.

And then the restlessness got so bad sometimes that he would find his heart beating quickly for no reason at all, and he couldn’t stop shaking and or worrying, and he wouldn’t be able to do any of the things he was supposed to. And then when that happened he found himself feeling empty – and that feeling was rather like the blue.

But that wasn’t happening again. It wasn’t. He wouldn’t let it.

And so he told people about it.

Pansy told him to go see a counsellor.

The counsellor themselves was private and ungodly dear, but the thing about private therapy was that you didn’t have sign up for a fuck off long waiting list – and Harry reasoned, since he had money to throw at things, why not throw it at something which might actually fucking matter?

Which was how he found himself in Gao’s office two weeks later.

“You can call me Gao,” said Gao, with only a faint Chinese accent tinging her words. She was a short woman, and a cardigan with professional looking squares on it. She smiled politely at him – as easy as if they were two strangers passing amiably in the street.

“Hi,” said Harry, and then added awkwardly: “I’m Harry.”

“Hi Harry. Please, take a seat.”

Harry took a seat. He wasn’t sure what he had expected. A room filled with stuffed toys maybe, or lots of plants and educational posters. Instead, it looked mostly just like a regular office. There was one house plant in a corner, although it looked like it was dying.

“So, Harry,” said Gao, leaning comfortably into the side of her wheelie chair. “How are you doing?”

“Urm,” said Harry. “Alright.” He then abruptly remembered that this was the place where he was supposed to actually open up about his feelings. “Urm…”

“Good, good,” said Gao, as if this was a perfectly acceptable answer. “And what brings you here today?”

Well, that was a little more forward than he’d expected. “Urm…” he said again. Gao just looked at him patiently.

“I have depression,” he told her, and there it was.

“Uh huh,” said Gao. “Why don’t you tell me about that?”

So he told her. About the blue and the pain in his chest and the restlessness – and about the need to escape, that had taken him all the way to the Himalayas. And she nodded a lot and told him that his symptoms were normal and then asked, very calmly: “And tell me Harry, did you feel like you had escaped once you got to the Himalayas?”

Harry swallowed. There were actually two plants in the office he noticed; one small succulent was sitting in a tiny pot on the grey cabinets stacked just behind Gao’s desk.

“No,” he said, and swallowed again. “But…also yes.”

“Mm,” said Gao. “Maybe expand on that for me.”

“Draco Malfoy told me he was in love with me,” said Harry the next time he was at Luna’s. He was seated up on the counter in her narrow kitchen, one heel grazing the door of the cabinet with all the decorative plates in it that Luna had gone ahead and decided to use as regular plates, anyway. Luna was on the other side making milkshakes.

“Did he?” she asked without turning around, her tone only mildly curious – as if Harry was contemplating the weather for tomorrow. Maybe life wasn’t actually that strange. Maybe Harry just had a hard time adjusting.

“Yeah.” Harry shifted on the countertop. “Right before I left.”

Luna popped a spoonful of ice cream into her mouth and turned around as she sucked on it thoughtfully, leaning back against the counter.

“He did have a habit of being surprisingly brave when you least expected him to be,” she decided once the spoon had been removed.

“Mm,” said Harry.

Luna looked at him now. “And are you in love with him?”

Harry almost fell off the countertop. Both his balance and his composure were only half-successfully regained.

“No,” he managed, from where he was gripping to the counter and the fridge handle for dear life. He pulled himself back to security tentatively.

“Mm,” said Luna.

Harry straightened his back, and then added, without looking at her or anything really: “At least, I don’t think so.”

“Well,” said Luna. “Either way, I think it’s lovely.”

Now Harry did look up. His throat was dry. “Is it?”

Luna quirked her head to the side to regard him. “Why wouldn’t it be?” she asked, genuinely curious.

“Because,” said Harry, and had to think about it for a moment. “I…it keeps me up. I can’t stop thinking about it.”

“Ah,” said Luna.

“It hurts,” said Harry, pressed a palm against his chest, right where his ribs met. “Here.”

“Ah,” said Luna again. She stuck another spoonful of ice cream in her mouth.

“Is that wrong?” asked Harry, almost desperate.

Luna took the spoon out. “Why would it be wrong?” she asked. “It’s just how you feel. Feelings are never right or wrong.”

“I don’t think I love him,” said Harry, and he had to say the words very carefully, because otherwise they might destroy him. “But I was talking to…my counsellor about it. And I realised…he made me feel free.”

Luna lifted her chin up, just a bit. Her gaze was quite serious.

“Free isn’t quite the right word,” Harry went on. His voice was soft, almost indistinct in the small space. “But he made me feel…better. Healthy. Like…being in the sun.”

Somethings you don’t realise you’ve thought until you’re saying them. And then once you’ve said them, it’s like everything else rearranges around them to make a bit more sense.

“Then,” said Luna. “I suppose the only thing is to decide whether you’d like to live with him or without him. People are like everything else. You have to choose them.”

Harry thought about that for a long time. Weeks passed, filled to the brim with the routine, which had now expanded to encompass his weekly appointments with Dr Gao, until finally, he said to her:

“Is it wrong to rely on other people?”

Gao’s eyebrows went up. And then she tilted her head and thought about it.

 “I suppose it depends what you mean, Harry. Is it wrong to rely on other people entirely, to the point where your life revolves solely around them? I think so. But do people need other people? I think so, too. It’s part of being human, don’t you agree?”

“But it isn’t right, is it? To…uproot everything just for someone who makes you happy?”

Gao tilted her head to the other side. “I can’t say if that’s right or wrong,” she said slowly. “But as far as I can see, being happy, for the most part, is the point of it all, isn’t it?”

Harry stared at her. After a moment, she said, “Harry, is there something in particular you’d like to talk about?”

When he got home, there was a white letter sitting on his table.

Dear Harry Potter, it said.

One hopes everything is well with you. Would like to know, however, if you had any knowledge regarding the huge fucking dragon flying loose around the Himalayas.


Draco Malfoy

Chapter Text


Dear Harry Potter,

One hopes everything is well with you. Would like to know, however, if you had any knowledge regarding the huge fucking dragon flying loose around the Himalayas.


Draco Malfoy

He realised he was smiling as he read it. He bit at it a little, thinking. Surely, it couldn’t have been that much of an issue if no one else had brought it up. He wondered why Draco had bothered to send it. If he had even meant to.

He still thought about Jane sometimes. He thought about her being free, and didn’t regret it. He wondered if Draco ever saw her, and that was why he’d written it. He wondered if Draco ever saw her, and thought about him.

Still biting his lip, he went over to the table and got out a quill and some parchment. He stared at it forcefully for a few moments, before realising that it didn’t matter what he wrote, since he wasn’t going to send it.

Dear Draco Malfoy,

I hope everything is well with you too. I’m sorry I forgot to bring it up before I left. I’m not sorry that Jane is loose though. It suits her.

Is it going to be a problem for you?

Harry Potter

He was still smiling once the ink had dried. His heart was racing. He wasn’t going to send it.

He wasn’t. That would be immature.

Dear Harry Potter,

It would have been nice to have a little warning. I suppose one could say that you were otherwise occupied with making other inconsiderate demands and being a general fool, so it’s understandable. None of us can be perfect all the time. Except me. Potter, I am always perfect.

No, it is not going to be a problem for me. Primarily because it is Jane, and all she does is disappear into the woods for a bit before her late-afternoon fly, and is always on time for dinner. Loose is perhaps a strong word. Jane is independent – although, she always has been.

Nice to hear from you. I hope Scotland is being nice to you.


Draco Malfoy.

Dear Draco Malfoy,

I never claimed to be perfect all the time. I never even claimed to be perfect some of the time. But yeah, I am sorry if you’re still upset about that. I really didn’t mean to upset you. But I’m sorry if I did.

And I’m sorry for not warning you. It was a last-minute thing.

Independent is a good word. If it’s not too much bother, keep me updated on her will you? Only if it’s not a bother. I miss her.

It’s nice to hear from you too. Scotland has been, well, Scotland. Things are okay. Good, even. How’ve you been?


p.s. Are you bringing the Potter-ing back out then?

Dear Harry Potter,

I am very aware of your imperfections, you needn’t worry. It is acceptable. I hardly expect the people around me to be on my level, and am more than used to having to be the odd one out.

I’m sure you didn’t, Potter.

Well, it’s quite alright now. We’ve all gotten used to Jane being free – and by we I mean me, as apparently everyone else was under the impression that she had always been free. As for keeping you updated, I shall do my best, although there can hardly be much to report. We will be like two disgustingly sentimental parents frantically discussing our rebellious adolescent child under the pretence of responsible supervision. I suppose I could purchase a camera. I’ve always wanted an excuse. Then our epistolary communication could be reduced to blurry photos of a dragon in the distance.

Has it been wet?

I’ve been fine, thank you. Gay Dragon Village has been Gay Dragon Village. Unless you’ve forgotten already, in which case I cannot possibly explain it to you.


Draco Malfoy

P.S. The Pottering was never put back in, Potter.

Dear Draco,

When you write like that, I can actually hear your voice speaking in my head.

I’m sure you have things to report. There’s always things to report. You love reporting.

Give me all the gossip, Malfoy.

Now I’m imagining you as a parent. I always figured you’d be very stern, but now I think you’re actually very soft. You’d spoil a kid rotten.

You know about cameras?

Yes, it has been wet. It has also been cold. But I’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately, even so.

I’m glad you’re fine. I haven’t forgotten. I couldn’t.


Dear Harry,

Well, if you must know the gossip, here it is:

Charlie got a new dragon. It’s a Xianese Firecracker, and she lives up to her name alright. Even he hasn’t managed to get her to stop uprooting trees yet. But it keeps life interesting, I suppose, and that’s the point of anything. Charlie also brought in a few new tamers – one of them is called Pam and dresses entirely, to my knowledge, in ponchos, and the other is a rippling young lad called Dae-Ho. He is Korean, and an excellent chef.

Tom and Hayden are also a thing now, if you didn’t know. They’ve gone travelling America together, which would probably not be my first idea for a first date, but people get to make their own choices, of course. They seem to be happy together. None of us are quite sure what to make of it to be honest, as they announced it pretty out of the blue before disappearing into the sunset together. Well, Charlie and I don’t know what to make of it. Oceania and the monks were all pretty knowing – but they always are.

Speaking of Oceania, she said she was thinking of leaving.

Anyway, that’s all the local gossip from my sheltered corner of the earth for now. What about you? Or do Gryffindors not gossip?

Is that what you think?

Yes, Harry, I know about fucking cameras. Here, I got one, have your evidence:

Tell me about your gardening, Potter.


Draco Malfoy

Draco writing down the word “fucking” in his long, elegant handwriting delighted Harry to no end. As was usual for him, he was sitting down in the corner of his lounge in the comfiest crook of the sofa, next to the window. There was good lighting here – it was where he read all of Draco’s letters.

He was grinning. Along with the letter were several polaroid photos of Jane from varying distances. There was also a photo of Oceania sticking her tongue out with a pan in her hand filled with what looked like scrambled eggs in it. There were also a few shots of the landscape. One of Charlie with a strained expression as he looked up at what Harry assumed to be the new dragon.

Harry bit his lip. He was just blu-tacking them all up on his wall when Pansy burst in.

“Oh,” he said. “Hello.”

Pansy was dressed entirely in black velvet. She looked…well, as harassed as someone like Pansy could look. She tilted her chin at him.

“You’re coming with me,” she commanded. “Blaise has cancelled on me, the utter prat, probably because he’s engaged in a threesome with two other well-dressed snakes. I’ve already done my eyeliner and lipstick. Chop chop.”

“Oh,” said Harry.

Pansy narrowed her eyes. They flitted from Harry’s face to his hands, which were holding one of the photos in place on the wall.

“What are you doing?” she said.

“Urm,” said Harry. “Interior decorating.”

Pansy’s eyes narrowed further. “Are you now…” she drawled, stepping closer. Her velvet boot things clacked on his wooden floor. Harry stared at her, not unlike the way small rodents stare at oncoming birds of prey.

There was no way to disguise that the photo of a dragon in his hand was anything other than that. After peering at it for a long moment, Pansy tilted her head and looked pungently at him.

“Are you,” she enquired, “by any chance, pen-paling my best friend, whom, if recent memory serves, you only recently rejected?”

“No,” said Harry. “Yes. Yikes.”

“Hmm,” said Pansy.

“Recent. It was three months ago.”

Pansy stared at him again in a way that made him understood he was irredeemably an idiot. “You’re coming with me,” she reiterated, and he sighed.

“Do I need to change?” he asked.

It turned out, when they got there, that their destination was not in fact a burlesque show, as Harry had reasonably assumed from Pansy’s outfit, and was instead an art exhibition. Harry did not understand why this had required him to change from a grey t-shirt and pyjama bottoms into all black, but there wasn’t much that he understood.

“Surely,” said Harry, as they got out the taxi and stepped back into the bustling grey noise of the West End at night, “there is nothing wrong with pen-paling.”

Pansy adjusted her plunging neckline and looked drily at him. “How well do you know Draco?” she asked as they walked into the museum. It was the kind of exhibition that apparently required dim golden lighting and large potted plants. It was busier than Harry had expected.

“I think,” said Harry carefully, “that I know him quite well.”

“So you understand,” said Pansy, “that he is not the type made to weather rejection.”

Harry stopped, but it wasn’t very dramatically notable when you were in an art exhibition. “I thought he took it okay,” he said quietly.

Pansy didn’t stop. As she studied the nearest painting she said, “Then you don’t know him as well as I do. No one does. Harry Potter, you are going to hurt him.”

There are some words than enter you like a knife. Harry stared down at the corner of the frame.

“You have already hurt him,” Pansy continued, probably fully aware of what she was doing to him. “And you will continue to unless you think carefully about what the hell you’re doing.”

They’d moved onto the third picture before Harry could speak again.

“I wanted to be friends,” he said.

“Did you?”

“We were friends,” he told her. “We became friends. It mattered to me.” 

“I’m going to ask you again. Are you sure that’s what you wanted?”

Harry looked over at her. The light was glinting off her lipstick. She was looking calmly at the artwork. Harry realised that she wasn’t exactly angry with him; he had expected her to be.

“Alright,” he told her. “I’ll think about it.”

Pansy didn’t nod. She just blinked and moved on to the next piece.

“I didn’t know you were an artsy group,” he said after they’d been silent for a while.

Pansy quirked a brow. “You don’t have to be artsy to appreciate art,” she said. “In fact, anyone should be able to appreciate it. It’s one of my staple features in anybody I spend my time with.”

Harry thought about that. Her and Blaise and Draco – and even Luna, Oceania, and the rest of them – had always seemed so other to him, in a way he didn’t think he could explain. Maybe that wasn’t true anymore. Maybe he was other.

There were disparate brands of human. He hadn’t quite realised he was one of them.

It wasn’t that Ron and Hermione weren’t enough for him. But he had been missing out.

“How did you know that I appreciate art?” he asked.

“Because Draco has taste,” said Pansy, and the cast him a look. “Or I thought he did. Don’t you?”

“Yes,” said Harry, feeling a bit giddy about it. “But I hadn’t realised until just now.”

Pansy rolled her eyes, but it was fond. “You’re beyond bizarre, Harry Potter.”

It turned out there was a burlesque show after the art exhibition. And that Blaise wasn’t so busy that he couldn’t turn up for that.

Dear Draco,

The new dragon sounds like a match for Jane. And Pam sounds like – well, not a match, exactly, but like she would get on well with Oceania. Did she say where she was going if she does leave, by the way?

I didn’t know you liked Korean food. I can’t really get into it.

When did Tom and Hayden get together? Either way, I’m glad they’re happy. America doesn’t sound bad. What would your idea of a first date be?

I don’t know if I have gossip, but here’s some things that have happened, I guess:

I missed you, so I thought I would give reading real books ago instead of just the reviews. Jane Eyre still talks too much about birds. But I’ve gotten to the part where she meets Rochester. I don’t know what to think of it. The dynamic between them is weird. And her childhood probably hit too close to home.

I bought a household plant that isn’t a cactus with Luna. She’s who I’ve been gardening with. She said it would be good for me. She was right. Since meeting Oceania, I’m more inclined to take slightly odd advice. Luna reminds me a lot of her. They would probably also get along.

I met your friends. I don’t know if they told you. Probably. I like them. Pansy took me to a burlesque show.

I’ve been meeting up with a therapist. Or counsellor. Whatever the right word for it is. It’s been okay. I think it’s helping.

I liked your photos. Sorry for doubting you.


Dear Harry,

The thing about Pam is that she is entirely, thoroughly normal apart from the ponchos. That’s what makes it so noticeable. Oceania likes her, but no more than usual. But you’re right, I can imagine her getting on with Luna Lovegood.

She said she might stop to see you first. And general Britain. She’ll probably be giving you a call any one of these days.

I am neutral towards Korean food.

It was only about two weeks after you visited. My idea of a first date would be shorter. Is it even still a first date if you already know each other?

You sound different.

The whole point of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester is that the dynamic is fucked up. These gothic novels are about pushing love to the limit. I would tell you to wait for the plot twist, but you’ll have spoiled it for yourself by reading all those reviews.

Pansy did tell me. I’m glad you like them.

And I’m glad the counselling is helping.

I miss you too.

Sincerely, Draco.

Oceania arrived a week later. Harry met her in the airport.

She was standing stock still in the middle of the arrivals flow, her humongous hair rising up above the movement and airport sounds like a black tower. When she saw Harry she beamed, and leaving her suitcase behind, came at him with a running start. Harry laughed as she approached, and then gasped as her arms swung around his neck violently.

“Harry!” she cried. “We’re in an airport!”

“Osh!” wheezed Harry. “Yes we are! You left your suitcase in a busy crowd!”

Oceania pulled back to look down her long nose at him, which was pretty impressive considering her height. “Harry,” she said sternly. “Don’t tell you’ve started living your life in fear.”

They took a taxi back instead of apparating, partly because it was so busy and partly because Oceania insisted on doing things the muggle way.

“Just so that I can brag to Draco about it,” she explained once they were in the taxi. The city rushed by, scattered light darting through the black tinted windows. “Because of his no-magic diet, of course.”

“What?” asked Harry, not sure if he’d heard right.

Oceania tilted her head to look at him. Her cheeks were still lit up from excitement, and her eyes were bright.

“His no-magic diet,” she repeated, and then: “Did he really never tell you?”

“No,” said Harry. Uncertainty dipped low in his chest. “Was that…was that why we used so little magic in Gay Dragon Village?”

The taxi driver made a coughing sound. They both remained oblivious to it.

Oceania somehow tilted her head further. “Yes,” she said, and thought about it for a moment. “It was sometime after the war, I think. He decided to stop using it. He doesn’t talk about it very much, but he’d probably if you asked him.”

He was caught off guard. “Would he?”

Oceania looked at him for a long moment in that way of hers. “Harry,” she said eventually. “If you reached for him. He would meet you. Every time.”

Harry looked down at his hands. He had forgotten Oceania’s particular brand of brazenness.

When he looked back over she was still regarding him. “How are you?” she asked.

 Harry swallowed. “I’m…Okay. Doing better, I think.”

“That’s good,” said Oceania, and she sounded genuinely pleased. That was the lovely thing about Oceania. She was always so genuinely good.

Harry tilted his head to match her. He smiled at her softly. “Tell me all about you, then,” he said, and listened as she began to tell him about all her travel plans.

Dear Draco,

I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve written back. I’ve been busy. That’s not true. I mean, it is. Oceania arrived and I’ve been showing her around a lot. We went to dinner with the whole group the other night and they all love her, of course. Did I tell you that Ron and Hermione met Pansy and Blaise? It was a few weeks ago. Maybe a month. Anyway, there weren’t any fist fights. In fact, they all got on quite well. Hermione even laughed at a joke Blaise made.

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is – well, I’ve been thinking. Someone I quite like told me to do some thinking and they were right. Look, do you think you could call me sometime? I know you won’t firecall but I’m pretty sure there’s an old wired telephone in the hotel. Here’s my number:

Only if you want to. If you’re uncomfortable we don’t have to. Just, write me back or something. I don’t know. I thought it would be easier on the phone.

Hope you’re doing well,


“I’m not in love,” said Oceania across the table. “I’m just interested.”

“Mm,” said Ron. “It kind of sounds like you’re in love, Osh.”

They were at the pub getting lunch. It was only the third time Ron and Hermione had met Oceania, but it was Oceania, so they had warmed up quick.

Oceania pointed at him. They were all also a few beers in. “I’m not,” she asserted. “I just think…there’s possibility.”

Harry squinted at her. “I can see it,” he contributed.

“Mm,” said Ron again. “You realise, you’re kind of the same person right.”

“Ronald,” said Hermione, but it was pretty soft, as far as reprimandings go. She had her chin in one hand, her work robe transfigured into a sleek blazer that was resting over the back of her chair. Harry liked to see her relax.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” said Oceania.

“Is it?” Harry wondered aloud. “Is it a bad thing?”

“Why would it be a bad thing?” asked Hermione as she reached for another olive. “Common ground is an excellent foundation for intimacy.”

“Even when you’re drunk babe,” said Ron, “You’re still so fucking smart.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. Harry slapped him on the back.

“I don’t think opposites attract,” said Oceania thoughtfully. “Not really.”

Harry stopped slapping Ron and turned to look at her. “Don’t you?”

Oceania wriggled her eyebrows. Harry was impressed. “No,” she said eventually. “Most people are drawn to similarity, as far as I can see.”

“I don’t know,” said Hermione, frowning a little. “Ron and I are quite different, aren’t we?”

“Fuck yeah,” said Harry.

“You’re hotter,” Ron offered. Harry turned back to look at him.

“C’mon mate,” he said. “Don’t talk yourself down like that.”

“I don’t think surface differences matter,” Oceania was saying. “But I think, when it comes to core values, most couples have the same beliefs. The soul has to recognise itself. Maybe.”

“And does your soul recognise Luna Lovegood’s?” asked Ron meaningfully.

“I’m not sure,” said Oceania. “But I’d let her raw me.”

Harry choked on his beer, just a little bit. Hermione giggled, but it was mostly shocked. Although they had warmed up to her, there was a certain brand of Gay Dragon Village humour that took some desensitising to.

Later, when he got home, he put the coffee machine on. Oceania was staying with him, but Hermione had agreed to show her some of her charity work, so he was alone in the house. He thumbed the curtains thoughtfully as he waited. Maybe he should get another bookcase. His was almost full now.

The phone rang.

Harry froze. He looked over his shoulder.

The phone kept ringing.

His stomach churning, Harry went over to it and picked it up. It wouldn’t be. It would.

“Hello,” he said.

It was silent. Then there was the sound of some shuffling and a voice went, “Urm, hello?”

Harry breathed out very quickly. He clutched to the phone.

“Hello,” he said again, and swallowed. “Is that – it’s Harry.”

“Yes,” said the voice, and then it laughed, quickly, a rushed sound. Harry couldn’t believe this was happening. The phone was sliding in his grip.

“Yes,” said the voice again, and the sound changing, like the machine was pressed closer. “Yes, I know. It’s Draco Malfoy. You asked me to call you.”

“Yeah,” breathed Harry, and took a step back. He almost couldn’t think with the relief of it. Not relief. It was something similar, though. “Yeah, I did.”

“Well, then,” said Draco, and he sounded amused. There a pause that stretched out. Harry couldn’t believe how awkward this was.

“How are you?”

“I’m well, thank you.” Strangely enough, Draco sounded shy. “And you?”

“I’m good,” said Harry. “I’m great. I’ve never been better.”

Draco laughed again. “Right.”

There was another pause.

“Was that all?” asked Draco.

“No,” Harry said immediately. “No, I – it’s just. It’s good to hear your voice. I – how’s the new dragon? How’s Jane? How’s Mayo?”

“Urm.” His voice sounded higher on the phone, and it crackled a bit in places. “They’re all well. Sunshine’s wreaking havoc, as per usual. Jane is being introverted. I think she’s fine though. And Mayo is his old silly self.”

“I’ve never heard you say that word before.” Harry sat down in his letter-reading corner, breathless.

“What word?”


“Oh.” There was a smile in his voice. “Well, now you have.”

“Now I have,” Harry agreed. He felt stupid. He felt beyond that.

There was more silence. Harry picked at a loose thread on the sofa. There was a patch of sunlight warming the side of his thigh through his jeans.

“Do you still feel the connection?” Draco asked after a while.

Harry’s heart surged. “What do you mean?”

“For Jane.”

“Oh. Urm. Not really. I mean sometimes. In the back of my mind.”


Harry leaned forward. “I don’t actually think it was about that though, actually.”

“What was?”

“Jane’s depression. Failure to communicate. All that. Like, the connection helped, but I don’t think it was what she needed.”

Draco sounded genuinely confused. “You don’t?” he asked. “What else would it be?”

“I just don’t think she was meant to be tamed,” said Harry quite honestly, and there it was.

Draco still sounded confused. “All dragons can be tamed.”

“I don’t know,” said Harry. He leaned back into the sofa again. Into the sunlight. “Maybe. You’re the expert after all. But maybe some dragons – it’s just not for them. You know?”

“Alright,” said Draco. He sounded very quiet. Harry closed his eyes and listened to the sound of his breathing.

With his eyes closed, it was like he was in the clearing again. He could smell the grass; could feel the cool air on his cheek. Everything became very, very clear. It was like these last few weeks had been a dream – everything else had been a bad memory. This was real. Harry felt real.

There was nothing to be afraid of. He opened his eyes again and said, “I called you to tell you I love you.”

The silence on the other side of the phone changed. It became tighter – it was like Draco was holding his breath.

“I’m not saying you have to do anything about it,” Harry continued. “That’s not why I’m telling you. It’s just – I thought it should be said. It seemed like the right thing to do.”


“And I mean.” Harry pulled at the loose threat until it tore. “Obviously it’s fine if you don’t still lo – want me.”

Suddenly there was a shaky exhale. Draco laughed, a little, incredulous. “Harry,” he said, and had his voice always sounded like that? It was so desperately true. “I have always wanted you.”

“Oh,” said Harry. He felt a little dizzy. “Well.”


Harry inhaled. His skin felt hot. He pressed his cheek against the cold glass of the window, and felt that he could live in this moment forever.

“So what now?” whispered Draco eventually.

“Come back to Scotland,” Harry told him.

He was two hours early.

The flight was delayed.

“This is really good coffee,” Harry told the barista in the airport café. He was the only one there.

“Thanks,” said the barista carefully. She had been eyeing him cautiously ever since his third. He felt like he was about to shake out of his skin.

“Can I have one of those Frappuccino things?” he asked, nodding at the advert behind her, where the speciality drink glistened in all its overpriced glory. “It’s not for me, don’t worry.”

The barista just raised her brows at him.

That was how Harry Potter found himself bouncing on his heels in the arrivals lounge of Glasgow airport with a popcorn Frappuccino in his hands. Half the cream had already melted.

People started to come out of the automatic doors twenty minutes later. Having already had three existential crises’, Harry had calmed down enough to take a seat, but now he jumped back up. All the cream had melted. The first three people were not Draco Malfoy. The next five weren’t either. Then another two came out, and then it was Draco Malfoy.

He was wearing a stripy jumper and skinny jeans. He was also wearing a beanie. In Harry’s imagination, for some reason, he had been dressed completely different. In the blue jumper perhaps. Definitely still with the leggings. In real life, he was wearing a beanie. Harry had never seen him with a beanie before.

He could tell the exact moment Draco saw him. He saw him searching around the room for a moment, his slight frown marginally obscured by his fringe, and then his gaze brushed over Harry and the frown went away. He slowed, the people behind him overtaking him.

Stupidly, idiotically, Harry lifted the hand with the Frappuccino and gave the most pathetic wave of his life. Perhaps, he thought, this was what dying felt like. In the back of his mind, he realised that he had started grinning some time ago.

But then he saw Draco laugh, and then he was speeding up again, and then he was there and his cheeks were pink and he was wearing a beanie and he was perfect. Harry felt like he was going to kiss him. He didn’t. Instead, he rocked forward on his heels and grinned and said, wittily, “Hi.”

“Hi,” said Draco. He was looking all over Harry, up and down the length of him, across his face. Harry tried to remember what he was wearing and couldn’t.

“Hi,” he said again, and thought that this was what dying felt like, and also that it was glorious.

Draco laughed again. He was taller than Harry had remembered. “You’ve already done that part.”

His heart swelled up. “I like the beanie,” he told him.

Draco laughed again, and then he looked at the Frappuccino. “Is that for me?” he asked.

“Urm,” said Harry, feeling himself go red. “If you want it. I don’t know. All the cream has melted.”

“A disgrace,” said Draco, his lips curling around the word, but his eyes were so fond Harry didn’t know what to do with himself.

“I can take your suitcase,” he said abruptly, and Draco let him, looking amused. They walked to the taxi pick up area in silence. All this time Harry had thought he had so much to say to him, but now he had the chance his tongue felt thick and useless. He couldn’t stop looking at his cheek, his hair, his neck, his legs.

He managed to collect himself a bit as he put Draco’s suitcase in the boot. When he had sat down and told the taxi driver his address he looked over and asked, “How was the flight?”

Draco pressed his cheek against the head rest. He hadn’t stopped smiling yet. “Fine,” he said. “The lady sitting on my right spent the whole flight knitting. We got talking and then she showed me how to make a circle scarf. It was very educational.”

“Yeah?” Harry pressed his cheek against the head rest too. “I’ve never seen you wear jeans.”

“That’s not even remotely related to what I just said,” said Draco, but he looked pleased.

It was only once they got to Harry’s flat that he felt the real world come back to him. As he paid the taxi driver, Draco asked, “Where am I staying?”

“Urm,” said Harry. “I thought you could stay with me. Unless that’s not what you want.”

“Okay,” said Draco quietly. Once they were inside he stood in the doorway, looking unsure of himself. Harry felt acutely aware of how it must look through his eyes, even though he had spent the whole day before cleaning up.

 “Do you want tea?” he asked, wheeling Draco’s suitcase over to the lounge. “Or like something to eat? Did you have food on the plane?”

“Tea would be fine.” Draco came and leant on the island counter as Harry put the kettle on. “I thought Osh was staying with you.”

“Urm.” Harry rummaged through the drawers for teabags. “She’s staying at Luna’s now.”

“Ah. So they’re a thing now then?”

“No,” said Harry. “But also, yes. She says it’s not official, but like…” He turned back around, having prepared both the cups. “You know.”

The kitchen lighting was strangely flattering on Draco. “Yeah,” he said softly, looking back at him. “I do.”

Harry swallowed. The kettle went off. He turned back and finished making the tea.

They drank it on the sofa. Harry kept looking at the long line of Draco’s throat, and the places where the frayed collar of his jumper brushed against his skin. When he’d finished drinking, Draco put the tea cup down and said, “I’m not staying, you know.”

“What do you mean?” asked Harry.

Draco swallowed. It looked like a difficult action on him. “I mean,” he said. “This isn’t permanent. I meant what I said the first time. I’m not just…giving up everything for you. I have a life.”

“Okay,” said Harry. “I understand.”

Draco looked at him. His eyes were so very grey. If Harry hadn’t known him so well, he wouldn’t have realised he was afraid. “Do you?”

“Yes,” said Harry. “Would you mind if I kissed you now?”

Draco’s eyes went imperceptibly wider. He swallowed, and swallowed again. “If you must,” he said faintly.

“Okay,” said Harry, and then he kissed him.

It wasn’t a deep kiss. Just a quick press of lips together. Draco’s mouth was soft and dry. When Harry pulled away, he felt the hot air escape his mouth as he exhaled.

“God, Harry,” he whispered, and pulled him back in until their foreheads were pressed together. Harry thought, actually, this felt like the opposite of dying.

“I tried really hard, you know,” Harry whispered. It was still dark out – but it had to be almost morning. They had fallen asleep on the sofa, still almost sitting up. Outside, he could hear birds singing.

“You did what?” murmured Draco. His face was pressed into the leather of the sofa, his pale hair falling in soft strands across his cheek. He smelt like everything Harry had missed. He tilted his head and smiled.

“I tried. To do what you said to do. To be like what you said to be.”

“I’ve spent a significant portion of my recent life telling you what to do, Harry,” said Draco. His voice was warm and quiet with sleep. “You’ll have to specify.”

Harry wriggled closer. “To build a life for myself. Get better. Get happy. Be brave about it, like you said.”

“I should’ve never called you a coward,” Draco grumbled into the sofa. “These Gryffindors. I’ve terrorised you permanently.” Then, after a moment, he lifted his head from the sofa and blinked up at Harry. He looked more awake than Harry had thought he was.

“I’m proud of you,” he said at last. “That’s good.”

It shouldn’t have mattered as much as it did. Harry pressed down his face into Draco’s jumper and breathed in. It shouldn’t have mattered; it did.

“I wasn’t the same,” he admitted. “Without you. I was okay. But I wasn’t happy. Not in the way I was when you were there.”

After a long time, Draco said, “Me too.” He reached a hand up and stroked down the length of Harry’s back. He could feel him breathing against his hair.

They sat like that for a while. All this time, Harry had been wondering what love felt like – it turned out, maybe, it was just like this. He had been right. It was almost morning. The birds grew louder; the sun came up.

Draco had said he was going back – he hadn’t said when. After a few days, Harry said, “I should introduce you to Hermione and Ron.”

Draco stopped spreading marmalade on his toast and straightened up. “We’ve met.”

“You know what I mean.” Harry leaned back against the counter.

“Mm.” Draco kept spreading his marmalade. “If you must.”

So he told them.

“Mate,” said Ron after a long, long silence. “You understand that’s ridiculous, right. Like, no offense – but that’s completely bonkers. Like next level madness. Ridiculous.”

“Yup,” said Harry. “I thought so too, at first.”

Ron stared at him. “Are you having me on?”

Harry shook his head. “ ’Fraid not.”

“Right,” said Ron, and abruptly turned on the spot and walked in the bedroom. “I’m lying down.”

Harry bit back a laugh. He looked over at Hermione. She was already looking at him, her eyes sparkling.

“What about you?” Harry asked. Hermione just shook her head, her wild burst of hair bouncing around her.

“Oh Harry,” she said, and it came out fond. “It was always a bit inevitable, wasn’t it?”

“You cannot tell me you saw that coming,” Ron bellowed from the bedroom. “ ‘Mione, you cannot tell me you actually predicted Harry – our Harry, Harry Potter – to prance off to the Himalayas, to tame dragons, meet Draco Fucking Malfoy – and fall tits in love. You cannot tell me that.”

“I’m not saying I predicted the context!” said Hermione, throwing her hands in the air. “I mean, there are definitely…elements I didn’t see coming. But…” She turned back to Harry, putting one hand over his. “It’s a bit full circle, isn’t it?”

The last part she said softly, winking at him. Harry just stared at her.

“I don’t know what you mean,” he said. “But also – yeah, it feels that way it bit.”

Satisfied, Hermione leaned back. “Of course we’ll meet him Harry,” she told him, ignoring the slightly strangled sound coming from the bedroom. “Just owl me a time.”

So now Harry was at the pub with Draco Malfoy, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Luna Lovegood.

“Isn’t this a party?” said Draco.

Ron and Hermione stared at him. Harry drank a lot of water.

Luna somehow arrived with olives. “Oh,” she said. “Hello, Draco. Can I call you that?”

Draco’s mouth went very small, and he seemed to sit up straighter in his seat. “Oh,” he said in a higher voice than normal. “Of course. Are you well?”

“Mm,” said Luna. “I’ve been doing a lot of rowing. And of course, I’ve been seeing your friend quite a lot.”

“Rowing?” asked Harry. “I thought you’d been gardening.”

“Yes, Harry,” said Luna, looking at him. “But now I’m rowing.”

“Oh,” said Harry.

“You can still come over.” She tilted her head at him. “I just thought you’d be busy with Draco.”

Harry felt himself flush. A quick glance at Draco assured that he was also a) flushed, and b) refusing to look in Harry’s direction.

“Is Oceania well?” said Hermione, after a few tense minutes, even though Harry knew she’d met her for lunch just two days ago.

“Oh yes,” said Luna. “She’s just getting dip. She told me to go first because otherwise, in her words, the four of you just might combust from awkwardness.”

“Ah,” said Hermione faintly.

“I think awkward is a strong word,” Luna reassured her. “I just think it’s an interesting dynamic.”

Draco stood up. The chair screeched back. They all stared at him.

“I just wanted to say,” he began, and then closed his eyes briefly as if wrestling with himself. Then, eyes still closed, he turned around and stood up on the chair.

“Oh wow,” said Ron.

“I just wanted to say,” he began again, and now Harry was pretty sure the whole pub was looking at him, “that I’m sorry for the way I behaved during my adolescence and although I understand my behaviour is not excusable, I hope you except this as the sincere apology it is.”

He opened his eyes and pointed. “Especially you Luna. Because you were literally in my fucking dungeons.”

Luna smiled easily. “Thanks for apologising, Draco. It wasn’t really your fault. I know it was you who left me the extra food.”

“Urm,” said Ron, after another moment. “Okay, I guess. Apology accepted.”

Hermione raised a brow at where Draco was still in the chair. “Okay,” she said simply. “I believe you.”

Harry said, “Are you going to stay on that chair?”

The bartender was coming over. He had a long beard and an intimidating walk. When he got to their table he sat a beer down and looked up at Malfoy, one hand on his hip.

“You’re batshit crazy,” he said decisively. And then – “This one’s on me.”

Draco blinked down at him. They watched as he walked away and went back behind the bar. He started blasting “Just Dance”. Slowly, but surely, the rest of the pub went back to talking amongst themselves.

Draco got off the chair. Then he picked up the beer and tipped half of it over himself, before nodding at Harry.

“Don’t doubt me, babe,” he said, and then downed the rest.

Oceania arrived with Pansy and Blaise.

“Ah,” said Draco, once he’d noticed their approach.

“There they are,” said Harry.

Ron looked at Harry. “Did you know they were coming?”

“No,” said Harry. “But really, I should’ve.”

“Hey!” Oceania threw down her knitted bag on the table, beaming down at them. “Look who I ran into!”

“I see them,” said Draco. Pansy and Blaise raised a brow at him in eerie unison.

Oceania pointed at him. “There’s my good bitch,” she declared, and promptly climbed over the table in order to ruffle his hair.

“Wow,” said Harry. “You wouldn’t let me get away with that.”

“I don’t love you as much,” Draco replied reflexively, and then looked very angry with himself.

“Did you bring dip?” asked Luna, looking at where Oceania had now returned to her side of the table. She pulled her out a chair.

“Honey. I always bring the dip,” said Oceania, and leaned over to kiss her on the cheek. Luna looked faintly pleased, although whether this was a result of the prospective dip or the display of affection was unclear.

“Draco Malfoy,” Pansy was drawling. She was still standing next to Blaise like a pair of horror movie twins, cleavage and villainy at her max.

Draco lifted his chin. Harry couldn’t tell if he was pleased or upset. “Pansy Parkinson.”

Pansy put her hands on her hips. Besides her, Blaise was smirking and somehow leaning in mid-air, an already lit cigar in his right hand.

“How’ve you been?” she asked, the words sounding significantly more voluptuousness than they would in virtually any other scenario.

Draco unbuttoned his collar button. Harry looked around the table in alarm, and was glad to see that Hermione and Ron (faithful, faithful friends) looked as completely lost as himself.

“I’ve been well,” Draco said evenly, folding his long hands on his lap. “And you?”

“Dandy,” said Pansy, and then a long moment passed where they both stared at each other. Then Pansy broke out into a smile.

“Give us a kiss,” she said, and laughed when Draco leaned forward on the table and blew her one. She sat down, seemingly satisfied, and just like that the exchange was over. Harry met Ron’s eyes over the table. Ron shrugged.

“Never gonna understand slytherins, are we?” he mumbled, and raised a glass to that.


“I don’t know what your friends are thinking, that I’m not your type,” Draco said much later, all conversational as he hung up his leather jacket and various knitwear. It was a week after they'd first gone to the pub together; they'd just come back from the second time. It had involved rather more pints, and few comments from Ron that had caused Hermione to kick him under the table - case in point.“I’m everyone’s type. I appeal to the universal conceptualisation of walking sex appeal.”

Harry grinned, folding his hands back over his head. He threw his feet up over the arm rest of the sofa. “Mmm,” he agreed. “I mean, there’s nothing that gets it going like flower leggings.”

Draco shot him a dark look. “You mean, there’s nothing that gets you going.” Then he wrinkled his nose. “Do you actually own a pair of matching socks?”

“It’s a fashion choice,” said Harry, and then tipped his head to the side. “How did you know?”

“Hmm?” Draco came closer, standing above him with one hand perched on his hip. “Know what?”

Harry wriggled on the sofa. Draco watched him wriggle. “You know.”

“Do I?” Draco arched his brow. He was definitely smiling, under all that honeyed drawl. Harry wriggled again, just a little.

“Draco,” said Harry.

“Mm,” said Draco, and then one hand came down, off the hip, and reached out to finger at the bottom of Harry’s jumper. He rubbed at the material between his index finger, his thumb. Harry looked down, watching him. His heart was racing. He didn’t understand how the action was making his body feel quite this way.

He looked back up. Draco was looking at him, and the light was hitting his eyes in a way that made them seem liquid, easy. There was a hesitation there – or a question, or something that was being held back – but was ready to be offered, all the same. The light was in his eyes. The light was in Harry’s body.

“Draco,” he said again, quietly. It scratched his throat on the way out.

Draco swallowed. His gaze dipped, to where Harry’s chin was, followed the jut of his jaw. It lingered there for a long time, and when it came back up it dragged, sloping into Harry’s cheek, pressing his lips down like a physical thing. His mouth opened – Harry’s could see where delicate skin dampened, deepened into the rest of him. He inhaled – and felt the desire like a sudden unfolding inside him. Vitalities were reshuffled. His skin turned golden – and the gold melded along him.

He looked up at Draco.

Draco was already looking at him. His lashes fluttered, and then he leaned in, and was right there. His mouth captured Harry’s.

Kissing became such a transformative thing when knowledge was there. When Harry kissed Draco, he thought about all the little things that made him up, like his leggings and the way he spoke and his dragon and the movement of his wrist as he gelled through his hair – and the way he tried, the way he always seemed to be trying, so hard and so earnest it was like a natural energy moving with the earth. When Draco kissed Harry back, it was a similar thing. His pale hand came up and brushed the ridge of Harry’s jaw, right where you could it open. His tongue pressed into Harry’s lower lip, and then slipped inside. It was a consummation. His teeth bit down on the flesh. Harry was hard in his jeans.

Desire made urgency. Harry’s hand skated along the side of Draco’s body unsteadily until it found a hem – then pushed up, bunching it. There was skin. There was a lot of it. It was all warm, and Harry was allowed, allowed it. His hips rose, fell, unplanned.

Draco gasped, pulling back enough to look at Harry, his eyes wide and hectic. His skin was blushing, something Harry had always found a novelty – but particularly now, so up close. Touching seemed to affect him more than it did Harry. Everything did.

“Harry,” gasped Draco. His gaze raked over Harry’s, his hand sliding up the nape of Harry’s neck and into Harry’s hair. Harry could feel the places where it tugged, the places where fingertips probed. The eroticism of it caught him off guard, and his hips rose again. Draco leaned in, and for a moment it looked as if he was going to rest his cheek along Harry’s collarbone, and then perhaps they would both calm down until they could stand up again and go about their own business normally.

But his chin tipped at the last second and his mouth latched onto Harry’s neck. He felt the sensation of it before he registered what it was. The warm opening flesh, the jagged row of teeth. The pulling at his skin, the pulling of him in, the beckoning – the feeling of being wanted, of being wanted so much he was being taken in, he was being willingly enclosed around in the mouth, the mouth – it was a seduction, all of it. Harry tilted his head back and felt the seducing happen inside him, as easy as going to sleep.

When Draco kissed him again, he was already full of his own submission. He felt dizzy with it. He racked up the jumper and slid his hand up Draco’s spine, fitting easily along the dip. Draco’s tongue got messy. His hips and thighs opened up and bracketed Harry, and then he was open to it.

They rubbed together. Harry took his turn kissing Draco’s neck, and found that it got Draco to make the most perfect sounds, like fucking magic. He said that, into the hollow of Draco’s throat: “this is like fucking magic,” and Draco laughed, breathy and delighted and easy. It made a rush of warmth blossom across Harry’s chest, and then he pushed a hand down into Draco’s leggings and rubbed him over his pants.

Oh,” said Draco, and then kept saying it.

“Is this okay?” asked Harry.

Yes,” said Draco, and then reverted back to his earlier statement.

“Great,” said Harry. “Can I go down on you?”

“Fuck off,” said Draco, and then he scrambled up, sitting back on Harry’s thighs. “Yes, how, how do you want me? Do you want me like this? Do you want me –”

“Come here,” said Harry, and then grabbed his hips, mostly just to grab his hips, and then thought about it some more and grabbed his ass as well.

“That’s not going to work,” said Draco, but immediately fell back into kissing Harry, rocking against him and letting him continue squeezing him. It was too much – it wasn’t enough. Harry was so turned on he might just die.

He wasn’t going to die before sucking Draco Malfoy’s dick.

He pulled back, pushing at Draco’s hips. They were absolutely as bony as he had always thought they would be. “Here, here – yeah, like this.”

Draco was laid back on the sofa, his legs still locked around Harry’s waist. Harry sucked on his neck some more, and then pushed his jumper all the way up and licked a stripe up his stomach.

“Oh god,” said Draco.

Harry made solid agreeing noises against him. He licked a bit at Draco’s nipple, and Draco made another lovely sound and arched his back, which was great.

Draco’s leggings slipped off easily, a characteristic that only made Harry loved them more. Draco’s pants came off with them. They were white. Harry wasn’t looking at them. He was looking at the thatch of rusty brown hair knitted across his crotch. He was looking at the part where his skin darkened into it. Where he was hard. His skin was thinner than Harry’s – so everything was redder. Harry touched him.

It was simultaneously exactly and not at all like touching himself. The texture was the same but the angle of it was all wrong. He was so soft in his hands. He was so alive. He was moaning. Harry reached down and pressed his tongue against the crease where his thigh met his hip. He could feel the heat of it on the skin of his cheek, this close.

He looked up, slowing his hand to get Draco to stop and look down at him. His mouth was open, gasping, beautiful.

“Draco,” he said, and Draco’s eyes focused on him, and it felt it deep down within himself, pulsing against the dark of him, down in the place where he thought he would always be alone. Draco blinked, and it was slowed down in Harry’s mind.

“I love you,” he said, and took him in his mouth, and it was awful and wonderful and difficult and somehow the easiest thing in the world, getting exactly what he wanted – and then Draco gasped and shook and groaned, and when he came against his throat he held onto Harry’s hair and it felt like coming home.

And there was this:


As Harry looked out at the long stretch of green, he realised for the first time something he must’ve subconsciously known for a while now – that it didn’t hurt anymore. Where everything had used to ache, he could now feel the shape of himself, healing in the autumnal light. Perhaps there should’ve been a hole where the blue had once sat – but there wasn’t, that wasn’t it at all. 

He looked over at the fragile light illuminating the person beside him. Draco was looking out at the green too, the sunlight like dew in his lashes, and he was so beautiful just then that Harry had to stop. They were on an idle Sunday walk in early December, and you could taste Christmas in the air. 

He caught Draco's arm and reeled him in to kiss his cheek, because he could and he wanted to. Draco stopped looking at the green and started looking at him. His lips quirked up.

“Careful there. I have a boyfriend.”

“Mm,” said Harry. “I bet I could fuck him up.”

“Oh,” said Draco. “For sure. But he’ll probably swoop back into your life when you least expect him, and like, try to talk to you about dragons. Ridiculous stuff. So it’s not really worth it.”

“Isn’t it?” teased Harry, bumping Draco’s shoulder. Draco rolled his eyes, really going for it.

“Well,” he drawled, and pulled at Harry’s collar. “I suppose he does have some interesting opinions about dragons.”

“I do like dragons,” agreed Harry, reaching up to nip once at Draco’s jaw. Draco rolled his eyes again, probably to distract from his rapidly pinking cheeks.

“That might be. But you still suck at taming them.”

Harry grinned. “That’s because they’re too busy taming me.”

Draco laughed, despite himself, as happy as anything, and then leaned down and kissed Harry right on the mouth. The world was bright, and blue, and beautiful, and Harry felt himself reach up to meet it.