// now //
Harry is hungover. The kind of mouth-tastes-like-arse hungover that seeps through his pores, releasing the scent of last night’s booze through his armpits. His head pounds as if a hundred tap-dancing goblins have taken up residence in his brain. He groans and turns in his bed, reaching for his favourite pillow to cuddle. His hand connects with something unexpected. A warm…face? Definitely a face. A face topped by soft hair. Harry ventures lower to discover excellent cheekbones, a very elegant nose and lips that feel displeased, curving downwards at the edges.
Harry sits up in bed and clutches onto the sheets. Satin. Harry doesn’t have satin sheets, largely because he’s not an unspeakable twat. He rubs his forehead and forces himself to open his eyes, peering under the duvet. He’s fully dressed (thank fuck) unless you count his right foot, poking out of the bed with a certain jaunty nakedness. One lone sports sock is carelessly situated on the offensive satin bedding. It’s got a hole in the toe and jars with the posh décor, as if the sock’s existence has been perfectly designed to remind Harry he’s currently failing at life, at love, and at falling asleep in his own bed, apparently.
Harry clears his throat and shoves on his glasses. There’s a fingerprint on the left lens and it makes everything blur. It does nothing to help the nausea which rolls through his stomach. He can vaguely remember talking loudly about something. There might have been singing involved. Possibly a game of Truth or Dare in which Harry almost certainly overshared after far too many Slippery Slytherins.
“You’re awake then?”
“Looks like.” Harry swallows and stares at a spot on the wall instead of looking at the owner of the face. “Er, Malfoy?”
“Mm?” Draco sounds pissed off, which isn’t a huge surprise. Draco always sounds pissed off.
“Why am I in your bed?”
“Fuck knows, Potter,” Draco replies. “At least you don’t have your prick out.”
Harry supposes he should be grateful for small mercies.
// then //
“This is stupid,” Harry says.
“Most wizarding traditions usually are,” Hermione agrees. She taps her wand against a passage in the book, partially obscured by a few currants from Molly’s excellent fruit cake. Hermione doesn’t like it when Harry uses her books as a plate. “It’s a little archaic in its original form, but I think it would send quite a powerful message if you engaged in a public courting with another wizard.”
Hermione’s been banging on about Harry starting a traditional public courtship with another wizard for months. It’s only because Harry’s easy for Christmas food that he’s even entertaining the idea now. Harry might have known he would find himself in this kind of predicament when Hermione turned up at his door with a basket of mince pies, Molly Weasley’s fruit cake, a bottle of mulled wine and a large book.
Harry reads the pages carefully. He doesn’t want to miss something and end up accidentally married, because magic can be tricky like that. “Are you sure it’s even necessary? The wizarding world doesn’t give two hoots about sexuality. Delphilious Dingle even married his armchair.”
Hermione gives Harry a disapproving look. “That’s hardly the same. I know it’s all fine in theory, but can you name one same-sex couple in the public eye?”
Harry racks his brain, drawing a blank. “Don’t think so.”
“Well, then.” Hermione looks satisfied. “There’s no one more public than you, and you’ve really only been photographed with witches. Of course that should hardly be conclusive proof of anything, but you know how people like to make assumptions about these things. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you mention bisexuality in your interviews and nobody else seems to talk about it, either.”
“It’s nobody’s business who I sleep with,” Harry says. Not that he’s sleeping with anyone at the minute. He’s going to end up with an armchair too, at this rate.
“It’s not about having sex, Harry.” Hermione clucks her tongue as if she’s displeased with Harry – a frequent occurrence. “It’s about letting people know they have options and to prove there’s nothing to be worried or confused about. I think it would be particularly helpful for younger witches and wizards from Muggle backgrounds to know they’re free to explore whatever path feels most comfortable.”
“Fine.” When Hermione puts it like that, it’s difficult to say no. Besides, all the sugar from the Christmas treats is improving Harry’s mood enormously. “It would be a heck of a lot easier if I had someone to court.”
“I think you should ask Draco.”
“No thanks.” Harry reaches for a mince pie. “Malfoy’s a knob.”
“He’s also gay. Not to mention one of the only people we know that’s still single. Like you,” Hermione points out, helpfully.
“Thanks for reminding me,” Harry mutters. His bad dates are becoming more legendary than the whole remember when I killed Voldemort thing. He’s beginning to think he’s cursed. Knowing his luck, he probably is.
“Your dating history hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing.” Hermione makes your love life is a fucking disaster sound as polite as ever. “The façade of a successful formal courtship might improve your prospects. People are fond of tradition.”
“Tradition’s a bit naff, if you ask me.” Harry sits back in his chair, contemplating Hermione. “I don’t think anyone’s going to feel liberated by some stuffy old ritual.”
“You might be surprised.” Hermione points to another section in the book. “It’s a very simple ritual. You could be over and done with it in no time at all.”
Harry glances at the paragraph, checking for instances of accidental bonding. He shudders as he recalls the moment he nearly glued himself to Dawlish with a miscast charm before he concluded the Auror life wasn’t really for him. “Every time I go out, something stupid happens. If it’s not my Valentine’s Day firework charms setting picnic blankets on fire, it’s the Prophet using Extendable Ears to publish a transcript of my dinner at Cicero’s with Cho.” Christ, that was worse than the kiss they’d had back at Hogwarts when Cho cried. Harry winces as he remembers the headline.
Faulty Flirting: A Guide to Potter’s Painful Puns
“I’m sure no one who really likes you will listen to all that nonsense.” Hermione waves a dismissive hand. “I think a public courting would be good for Draco, too. You know how people still talk about the Malfoys, and I understand that Draco’s been having problems with his furniture. I bet it’s to do with the magic at the Manor. You could help him with that. Think of it as killing several birds with one stone.”
“Let Malfoy sort out his own barmy chaise longue.” Harry rolls his eyes. “I’m a Magical Renovation Specialist. I rebuilt part of Hogwarts and renovated Godric’s Hollow. I’m not exactly in the market for becoming a soft furnishings whisperer.”
Hermione pours them both steaming mugs of mulled wine. “You’re not in the market for anything at the minute. Beggars can’t be choosers, Harry. You haven’t had a job for six months and you did the work at Hogwarts for free. I think you need to add a few more testimonials to your website.”
“My website had three hits last month and my last blog post was rubbish because I wasn’t even allowed to mention magic. The only comment was spam from a Muggle porn site. I’m not sure internet marketing was a very good idea. Most witches and wizards don’t even have computers.” Harry takes a sip of his mulled wine and it steams up his glasses. “Besides, I’d love to see a testimonial from Malfoy.” He puts on a posh voice and elongates his vowels. “Stupid Potter and his stupid scar buggered my furniture right up. Do not employ him under any circumstances.”
Hermione hides her smile behind her mulled wine as Harry studies the book and the gilded invitation next to him. “He’s not that bad. He’s changed a lot since school.”
“He’s still a stuck-up arse.”
“He started that business to support house-elves. I really think he’s changed.”
Harry stares at Hermione. “I’m sure the house-elves are grateful for Malfoy’s line of high-end clothing. Honestly. It’s the worst business idea I’ve heard in my life. He’s lucky he’s got a million properties and vaults full to bursting.”
“Maybe he just wants to do something to show people he thinks differently about things, now.” Hermione frowns at Harry. “It can’t be easy for him, living by himself in that big house while his parents swan around the South of France.”
“He should have gone with them then.” Harry pulls a face. “I reckon drinking champagne on a yacht in Monaco would soon make things better.”
Hermione makes an irritated sound. “You might try having a little sympathy.”
“I might,” Harry agrees. “But funnily enough I ran out of sympathy for Malfoy around the time he tried to kill me. I don’t think having parents that are rich enough to live wherever they like is exactly a burden.”
“Maybe you should consider how it feels to be left behind.” Hermione pauses. “I’ve been spending a little time with him lately and I think he’s lonely.”
“Tell him to get a crup.” Harry polishes off the rest of his mince pie, offering the basket to Hermione.
“I think he has allergies.” Hermione dismisses Harry’s suggestion, chewing thoughtfully on a piece of marzipan. “I think he’s rather attractive. Don’t you?”
Harry absolutely does not think Malfoy’s attractive. He may have been blessed with good bone structure and impossibly shiny hair, but that’s as far as it goes. “No chance.”
Hermione looks as though she doesn’t quite believe him. “I’m sure I remember you saying once that it was one of the most annoying things about him.”
“I must have been pissed,” Harry mutters. He glances at an ornate invitation which shimmers at him from the top of a hurriedly opened stack of mail. He waves it at Hermione, sneezing when it sends a waft of perfumed glitter into the air, eager to change the topic of conversation. “Witch Weekly Most Charming Smile Award. Do I really have to go to this?”
Hermione nods. “Yes. It would be impolite not to attend. Witch Weekly have been very supportive of your new business.”
Harry huffs. “Yeah, if supportive means writing a column about whether magical renovation has had any discernible impact on my biceps, then concluding it hasn’t.”
“I think maybe it has a bit.” Hermione looks critically at Harry’s arms. It definitely hasn’t, but Harry loves her for trying. Harry is reasonably fit but he’s still a few inches shorter than he’d like to be, his hair is a disaster and he hasn’t seen a proper six-pack since he last had a flick through an uncensored copy of Wizards and Their Broomsticks.
“Thanks, Hermione.” Harry flexes his arm just to make sure he hasn’t turned into Charlie Weasley overnight.
Hermione continues with her Malfoy-related plan, which still sounds horrible, even after a mug of mulled wine. “You can take Draco to the Witch Weekly awards to satisfy the public engagement element of the courting. It’s always a fun, festive event and they’re supporting some wonderful charities this year. It’s the perfect opportunity to wear those formal courtship robes.” Hermione taps her wand against the book for the third time, pointing to a picture of a wizard in dress robes looking completely ridiculous.
Harry groans. “I’m going to look like a right twat.”
He can’t help but notice that Hermione doesn’t rush to disagree.
“What the fuck are you doing, Potter?” The door to the Manor creeks open and Harry is startled from his moment of solitude, turning to face Draco Malfoy for the first time since the Wizengamot Trials.
“What does it look like?” Harry yanks off his glasses and flicks his wand at them to leave them dry and sparkling. He shoves them back on his nose and attempts to muster a smile.
“It looks like you’re standing in the rain like a lunatic, trying to catch your death.” Malfoy folds his arms over his chest. He’s dressed in dark, charcoal trousers and a fitted white shirt rolled up to the elbows. His pale face and hair look whiter than ever. “Which I couldn’t care less about, by the way. Do a naked rain dance, if you like. The question is, why are you doing it here?”
“I came to see you.” The once soothing rain is now just damp and chilly, and Harry can’t help but feel bedraggled in comparison to Malfoy’s pristine appearance. He probably should have changed his jumper, which he thinks has an egg stain on from breakfast. Not that he cares what Malfoy thinks about his jumper. Much. “I need a favour.”
A flicker of surprise crosses Malfoy’s features. He leans against the door frame, looking pleased with himself. “Is that so?”
“Yeah. There’s no need to look like such a smug tit about it.” God, Malfoy’s annoying. “I’m trying to raise visibility of same-sex relationships.”
Malfoy looks suspicious. “By boring Cho Chang to death with a load of terrible jokes?”
Harry glares at Malfoy. “They weren’t that bad. And no, that’s not what I had in mind.”
Malfoy looks at his nails, thoroughly disinterested. “You’re not even gay, Potter. Go and find another cause to fight.”
Harry resists the urge to punch Malfoy. It’s not easy. “It’s possible to like both, you know.”
Something Harry can’t quite decipher flares in Malfoy’s eyes. “Witches and wizards?” His eyes narrow. “Is this just so you can make even more people fall in love with you?”
Harry rolls his eyes. “Yeah, Malfoy. That’s exactly what it is. I’m bisexual, you idiot. I’ll lend you some of my copies of Wizards and Their Broomsticks if you don’t believe me.”
“I’ve got plenty of my own.” Malfoy’s lips twitch as if he wants to smile. He appraises Harry, looking him up and down. “Thank you for offering to share your wanking material though, Potter. I’m charmed. Whoever said romance is dead?”
Harry splutters indignantly and fights back the heat he can feel rising in his cheeks. “That’s not what I meant. Fucking hell, I knew this was a stupid idea. Forget it, I’ll ask someone else.”
Malfoy stops Harry from leaving, his slim fingers resting lightly on Harry’s arm. They both stare at his hand before he drops it, clearing his throat and pushing both hands into his pockets as he lounges elegantly against the door. “You haven’t asked me anything, yet. Why don’t you tell me about this plan of yours? At the minute I’m probably bored enough to go along with it.”
Harry grits his teeth. “It’s about raising visibility.”
Malfoy nods. “You said. It still doesn’t make sense. The wizarding world works differently to the Muggle one. Nobody’s bothered about wizards marrying wizards, witches marrying witches or nobody marrying at all. Read a book, if you’re curious.”
Harry glares at Malfoy, who looks smug and far too attractive for his own good. “I know that, and you know that, but a lot of people don’t. It’s been ages since any well-known wizard has publicly courted another wizard. Hermione thinks it might help, if I did.”
“You want to court me?” Malfoy’s eyebrows rise.
“Hermione suggested it.” Harry doesn’t particularly like the fact it all sounds a bit Hermione told me to do it but he also doesn’t think saying you’re the only option would make the offer any more attractive. “It wouldn’t be a real courting, obviously. We’d just make it look like we’re doing it.” Harry clears his throat. “Courting, I mean. Not…it.” He waves his hand and knows he’s probably beet red.
Malfoy thinks for a minute, looking into the distance before turning back to Harry. “Do you have a public engagement in mind?”
Harry heaves a sigh of relief because of course Malfoy – being ridiculously posh and annoying – is familiar enough with traditional courtships to know what’s involved without Harry having to explain every tiny detail. Harry hands the ornate invitation he received several days ago to Malfoy. “They’re giving me an award.”
“Another one?” Malfoy looks critically at the invitation. “What’s the achievement this time? Getting out of bed? Existing? The Thank Christ Potter’s Around Because Otherwise We Wouldn’t Have Anyone to Give Awards To Medal?”
Harry clears his throat and clenches his hands into fists. “It’s the Witch Weekly Charming Smile Award, actually.”
Malfoy crows with delight as he reads aloud. “We are delighted to present this long-standing, prestigious award to eligible bachelor Harry Potter – oh, that’s priceless. Hasn’t anybody told them the only reason you’re a bachelor is because your heinous dating techniques are more famous than your stupid scar?”
Harry folds his arms with a huff of annoyance. There might be a modicum of truth to Malfoy’s assessment, but he doesn’t have to go on about it. “It’s not like everyone’s beating down your door asking for your hand in marriage.”
“I’m not the marrying sort, Potter.” Malfoy peruses the invitation with a smirk. “Besides, isn’t that precisely what you’ve just done?”
Harry glares at Malfoy. “Hardly. It’s a few fake dates, putting on some daft robes and something to do with a golden mug—”
“Chalice,” Malfoy corrects. “A golden chalice.”
“Whatever.” Harry shrugs. “It’s nothing to do with marriage. I checked the fine print. We can court – pretend to court – then have an amicable break up. We’re not going to end up bonded or anything.”
“You hope. Magic can be a bit tricky.” Malfoy hands the invitation back to Harry. “To summarise, you want to fake court me and bring me to a dull party to watch you win yet another award? I’m flattered.” He sounds like he really isn’t.
“I can help you out too.” Harry gestures behind Malfoy into the hallway. Something clatters in the shadows. “Hermione said your furniture’s going barmy.”
“I don’t need any help.” Malfoy keeps his hand on the door, his knuckles white. He looks over his shoulder when there’s another loud bang from deep within the Manor. “Definitely not from you.”
Harry tries a different tack. “It’s for me as much as anything.” He spreads his hands out. I come in peace. He does, sort of. “I fix buildings.”
Malfoy looks Harry up and down. “I heard you were some kind of builder.”
“Magical Renovation Specialist, actually.” Harry tries not to bristle. It’s not that he cares if people call him a builder, but it doesn’t sound very magical. Besides, Hermione made him business cards and everything.
“Oh.” Malfoy’s lips twitch. “Well I don’t need any magical renovation, thanks.”
“Not you.” Harry tries to look over Malfoy’s shoulder again, but all he can see is the dark entrance hall which tapers off into shadows. “I can help with the furniture. I bet there’s still damage to the magic in the house from the war.” Harry puffs his chest out and meets Malfoy’s gaze again. “That’s my specialty. Buildings that were damaged by Voldemort. Magic leaves a trace in the bricks no amount of bleach can scrub clean.”
“I don’t need a lesson on magical buildings, Potter.” Malfoy looks cross. “I know how they work.”
“Then you’ll know it makes everything feel weird if the building’s broken or if it’s been exposed to lots of the wrong sort of magic.”
Malfoy turns his eyes heavenwards. “You think you can just work your hocus pocus on the bricks and mortar and voila, I won’t be able to picture the things that happened here anymore?”
Harry swallows. The Manor’s errant furniture sounded quite funny when Hermione told Harry about it, but Malfoy’s comment brings a sharp, sudden flash of the Manor during the darkest times of the war to mind. The reminder of violent spells leaves and metallic, bitter taste in Harry’s mouth. He shivers, focusing on the warmth of the winter sun which has just managed to break through the clouds. It drives the memory of war away. “That’s not exactly how it works. It’s about changing the magical energy.”
“If I’m after an energy change, I’ll take up yoga.”
“Do you always have to be such a knob?” Harry glowers at Malfoy. “It might sound daft, but it’s amazing what a shift in the magical make-up of a building can do.”
“I’m not sure that’s going to make a blind bit of difference.” Malfoy taps his fingers to his head. “There are things that magic can’t fix.”
“You’d be surprised,” Harry mutters.
“What’s in it for you?” Malfoy studies Harry, looking suspicious. “I don’t need you to try to fix my house to agree to your stupid plan.”
Harry thinks quickly. He doesn’t want to share with Malfoy the way magical restoration is therapeutic for him. It feels a bit too personal, somehow, to start going on about the demons inside his head and the way soothing stones and rubble helps to heal his own fractures. The ones the Healers can’t see to fix. “I didn’t get paid anything for doing Hogwarts. It’s about time I had a paying client.”
Malfoy rolls his eyes. “As if you need money. Besides, I’m not here to keep you fed and watered. Get a proper job, Potter.”
“There’s no job I want to do, other than this. Anyway, it is a proper job. I had to train for ages.”
“Sounds like a con. Since when does anyone do classes in brick karma? Just get some bloody cement.”
The familiar annoyance that Harry always feels around Malfoy bubbles to the surface. He grits his teeth. “I told you, it’s not like Muggle building. You can’t just use cement and plaster on a place like Hogwarts. It’s the same with the Manor, even you know that.”
Malfoy looks down and taps his foot, pat, pat on the wooden floor. He folds his arms and meets Harry’s gaze again. “What exactly does this work of yours involve? What’s required of me?”
“Nothing.” Harry shrugs. “I usually stay where I’m working. It helps to get a sense of the place. There’s magic that only comes out at night.”
“I’ll say,” Malfoy mutters. “I suppose it might make the courtship seem more authentic if you’re here.”
Harry nods. “Yeah. Although if it makes you uncomfortable, I can just Floo-”
“Why would it make me uncomfortable?” Malfoy glares at Harry, his cheeks pink. “You think I’d be uncomfortable having you under my roof? Don’t flatter yourself, Potter.”
“I meant it might be uncomfortable because you don’t like me.” Harry raises his eyebrows at Malfoy. “Because you tried to kill me – a few times, if I remember correctly – and I nearly killed you. It doesn’t exactly make for cosy living.”
“Oh.” Malfoy harrumphs and he pushes a hand through his hair, looking off into the distance. “Well, I’ve got more important things on my mind than school rivalry. I probably won’t try to kill you again.”
“That’s reassuring, thanks.” Harry rolls his eyes. “The house is big enough, I probably won’t have to disturb you at all.”
“How long do you need?” Malfoy asks.
“It depends. A week. Maybe two. I’ll be able to let you know for certain once I’ve run an assessment. I can give you the cost then, too.”
Malfoy snorts. “You think I can’t afford you?”
Harry makes a mental note to up his daily charge-out rate by twenty Galleons, on account of Malfoy being an arse. “I’m not that cheap.”
“No.” Malfoy runs his tongue over his lips and studies Harry. It’s very disconcerting. “I don’t suppose you are.”
“So, we’re doing this? The courting and letting me sort out your furniture?” Harry holds his breath, releasing it only when Malfoy nods and extends his slim hand.
“Yes.” Malfoy shakes Harry’s hand and releases it after a beat too long. He leans against the door, looking a little like his old self with a smug smile on his face. “I like my builders scantily clad and sweating by noon.”
Harry coughs, heat flooding his cheeks despite himself. “I’m not a builder. I’m a Magical Renovation-”
“-Specialist,” Malfoy finishes. “Yes, I know.” He gives Harry one last smirk before slamming the door in his face.
“Please don’t.” Harry sends the last few items into a posh mahogany cabinet and flicks his wand to close the drawer. “It’s stupid.”
“I quite agree.” Malfoy sniffs. “However, I think it’s going to cause a huge kerfuffle if we just start the three rituals without warning. We haven’t been seen together since the war. At best, people will see right through your plan. At worst, I’ll end up in Azkaban for using Imperius on the winner of Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award.”
Harry pulls a face. As much as he hates to admit Malfoy’s right about anything, he’s probably right about that. “You think it’s a bad idea?”
Malfoy shrugs. “I think it’s a fucking terrible idea. It’s also your only idea.” Malfoy runs his tongue over his lips and turns his eyes to the ceiling. “I just think we should practice before we undertake any of the public rituals.”
Harry stares at Malfoy. “Practice how?”
“Let the press get used to us as an us.” Malfoy waves his hand, dismissing the finer details with the gesture. “Go for supper. You can wine and dine me.”
“You’re the one with Galleons coming out of your ears. You should wine and dine me,” is the response that slips out instead of the intended no bloody way, Malfoy. Harry snaps his mouth closed before his words can betray him again.
Malfoy looks pleased with himself. “I am rather rich.” He lets Harry go ahead of him and falls into step with him as they walk through the Manor’s vast corridors. Malfoy’s house is ridiculous. “I’m sure I can stretch to a bowl of spaghetti and a carafe of Merlot.”
“Wow, thanks.” Harry glances at Malfoy. “Just one dinner?”
Malfoy gets a calculating look. “Dinner. Coffee. A stroll through Hogsmeade holding hands. You’re going to have to practice looking like you’re desperately in love with me. We want it to look realistic.”
Harry snorts with laughter. “Give over, next you’ll be wanting to practice kissing for the cameras.”
“Oh,” Malfoy says. His eyes flare with something that looks almost like…interest? Harry shakes that thought away and decides it’s probably just indigestion. “We absolutely must.”
“What?” Harry stops walking and stares at Malfoy who gives him a wink.
“Pucker up, Potter.”
Harry groans and tries to ignore the way his body gets warm at the thought of kissing Malfoy, because that way madness lies. “Idiot. Now I want you to show me this furniture of yours.”
Harry spends half an hour soothing a hyperactive chiffonier and resolutely doesn’t spend a single moment thinking about whether a practice kiss would feel any different to a real one.
“You’re wearing that?” Malfoy casts a critical eye over Harry’s comfortable hooded jumper and jeans with a rip at the knee.
“What’s wrong with it?” Harry frowns at the outfit then looks back at Malfoy. “It’s just a coffee. Besides, it’s not as though this is a proper date.”
“Would you dress differently if it were?” Malfoy sounds annoyed.
“Probably not.” Harry shrugs. “Not for coffee. It’s freezing outside, and I thought we might do some shopping while we’re there.”
“Clothes shopping, ideally,” Malfoy mutters. “No wonder you’ve got Bachelor of the Year awards coming out of your ears. Dresses Like He Wants to Be Single Forever Award, more like.”
Harry glares at Malfoy. “It’s not Bachelor of the Year, actually.”
“No.” Malfoy rolls his eyes. “It’s a medal for that big toothy grin of yours.”
“Malfoy?” Harry gives up trying to pat his hair into shape.
“Arse off. Also, you’re buying the coffees.” Harry grabs a jacket and ignores Malfoy’s complaints as they make their way to the Floo and into Diagon Alley.
“I might get cake.”
“Hermione mentioned you have a sweet tooth,” Malfoy replies.
“Why would she bother telling you that?” Harry locates several festive treats on the menu and takes a moment deciding which one to have. “I’ll have a black coffee and a slice of Christmas cake, please.”
“Fine.” Malfoy plucks the menu from Harry’s fingers, casting his eyes over it before standing.
“Get water too, Malfoy.” Harry stops Malfoy before he can walk away, his fingers circling Malfoy’s pale wrist.
Malfoy’s gaze drops to where Harry’s fingers press against his skin. When he speaks again his voice is low. “You should probably call me Draco.”
“Okay.” Harry releases Malf—Draco’s wrist and clears his throat. “Water please, Draco.”
Draco makes his way to order their drinks and Harry takes the opportunity to study his slim physique and the curve of his backside. When he returns with their drinks, Draco slips into the seat opposite Harry and watches as Harry tucks into his cake. The combination of the sweet pastry with strong, bitter coffee is perfection. Harry is in seventh heaven and the warmth of the coffee shop seeps into him and makes everything toasty and festive.
“I wanted to talk to you about working on the Manor.”
“Oh?” Draco sounds suspicious, his eyes narrowing.
“The cellars.” Harry wipes his mouth with a napkin and sits back, wrapping his hands around his drink, which is hot and comforting. “I might as well work on those while I’m at the Manor. It’s not just your furniture playing havoc, is it? There’s something not right about the magic in the whole house. I think it’s making the furniture antsy.”
“It’s making me antsy.” Draco’s pale face gets whiter still, and he shakes his head. “It’s out of the question. We agreed on furniture and doing this dating thing for a while. I’m not interested in anything else.”
Harry frowns. “You can’t just never go into that part of the Manor again.”
“I can do whatever I please.” Draco’s jaw tightens. “Don’t push me on this.”
Harry sighs and rakes a hand through his hair. “Fine. I won’t.” He looks away, wondering how much to share with Draco about his new job. “I told you it helps me, too. I wouldn’t mind.”
Draco makes a non-committal sound. “I doubt you would find being in the Manor cellars helpful in the slightest. It’s not tickling pears and having treacle tart for your supper while McGonagall gets misty-eyed over the days half of Hogwarts couldn’t stop talking about the way you handle a broomstick.”
Harry glares at Draco, wondering if he’s really that stupid. “You think rebuilding Hogwarts was a nostalgic journey down memory lane, I bet.”
Draco dabs at the corner of his mouth with a napkin. “Let me be very clear. People were tortured in those cellars. People were killed, in those cellars. Countless people. There’s no amount of brick therapy that wipes away memories like that.”
“There is, actually.” Harry presses forward, keeping his voice low so people don’t think they’re arguing. “People were killed at Hogwarts, too. People were tortured at Hogwarts under the Carrows and Umbridge. You know that. It’s not like rebuilding Hogwarts was all about playing chess with Snape’s portrait and laughing over a late-night brandy with McGonagall.”
“No?” Draco’s voice is smooth. “Why do it in the first place, then? Why go back there if it’s full of bad memories?”
“Because it helps.” Harry shrugs, trying to think of a way to explain it. “I couldn’t eat in the Great Hall for ages. The house-elves used to bring me food up to the Tower, where I had a room over the summer after the war. It wasn’t just me. There were places lots of people didn’t want to go. I think putting those bricks together again and repairing the war damage helped me heal, too. That’s what Healer Sumpton reckons, anyway.”
“Healer?” Draco’s eyebrows rise. “Healer for what?”
“This.” Harry taps the side of his head, giving Draco a small smile. “All better, now.”
“Really?” Draco keeps his voice quiet, his question almost timid.
Harry shrugs. “Probably not. Getting there, though. I’m working on it.”
“Just like you’re working on those buildings of yours,” Draco says, his voice still low and quiet.
“Yeah, just like that.”
“Such a Gryffindor.” Draco sips his coffee, his tone back to normal. “The cellars are out of bounds. For now,” he adds, after a pause.
Harry grins. For now is progress, of a sort.
“I think so. No sign of anyone from the Prophet yet.”
“We’ll go to one of those places they always wait outside when we have dinner.” Harry shrugs. “That should do the trick. They’ll catch on soon enough when we start the rituals anyway.”
“Why me?” Draco sips his coffee, contemplating Harry over the mug. “I can’t believe I’m the only person that likes wizards in your immediate circle.”
“You’re the only one that likes wizards that’s still single.” Harry shrugs. The funny thing is, he’s not sure that’s true. Once he asked Draco, a number of other alternatives occurred to Harry as he tossed and turned in bed the night before moving into the Manor. Oliver Wood, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan, George Weasley. People who are undoubtedly closer to Harry than Draco.
Draco looks suspicious, but the expression soon passes. “I expect it might have mutually beneficial consequences in any event. The Malfoy name is in tatters after the war.”
“I heard.” Harry watches Draco, taking in the way his elegant fingers curl around his tea. “Has the house-elf business done much to help?”
Draco snorts. “The house-elf business was a terrible idea. Even you know that. A moment of post-war madness.”
Harry tries – unsuccessfully – to hold back his smile. “I’m just not sure house-elves are after designer garb. Most of them don’t really want clothes at all. Hermione’s tried before.”
“I’m starting to realise that.” Draco pulls a face. “I’ve got a room full of sequined pillow cases I can’t seem to shift.”
“Kreacher might like one for Christmas.” Harry’s absolutely positive that Kreacher won’t want one, but he has the strangest desire to support Draco’s efforts. “I’ll take two,” he offers.
“Oh.” Draco’s cheeks get pink. “Well, thanks I suppose. I can probably offer a discount.”
“Whatever.” Harry shrugs and returns to his coffee.
They finish their drinks in silence.
“What’s wrong with comfort?” Harry glares at Draco, who gives him a beaming smile and talks to him through gritted teeth.
“Not exactly the look of love we’re aiming for.”
Harry gives Draco his best come-to-bed eyes. “Better?”
“Christ, no.” Draco pulls a face. “Now you look constipated.” He peers at Harry, their faces rather close. “Why are your eyes crossed?”
“They’re not.” Harry glances around and notices a couple of Ravenclaws pointing and whispering. He presses forward and captures Draco’s lips in a chaste kiss. His lips are surprisingly warm, soft and absolutely not responding to Harry. When Harry pulls back, Draco’s cheeks are flushed. He blinks and then pushes a hand into Harry’s hair, close enough that the hot breath from his mouth ghosts over Harry’s lips.
“If you’re going to insist on making a public spectacle of us both, the least you can do is kiss me like I’m your boyfriend rather than your grandmother.”
Before Harry can point out that public displays of affection are probably a bit annoying, Draco’s lips move against his in a searing kiss. It’s unexpected, the easy way they slot together. Draco’s hands in Harry’s hair are probably sending it mental, but considering it refuses to be tamed at the best of times, it’s unlikely to make it look worse than it usually does. They’re almost nose to nose with Draco having an extra inch on Harry, which means Harry has to tip his head back the slightest bit. It feels good, with Draco’s long fingers holding Harry firmly in place. The kiss isn’t grandmotherly at all. It’s hot and insistent and Draco’s tongue sliding against Harry’s makes him groan softly into Draco’s open mouth. That instigates a reaction from Draco, who presses closer to Harry and deepens the kiss, his breathing ragged as he runs his hand down Harry’s back. Everything gets warm very quickly and Harry’s body responds to Draco with eager readiness. It’s been ages since he’s had a proper kiss and Draco’s good at it. Very good. Harry pushes as close as public decency will allow and wraps his arms around Draco, eager for the kiss to continue. Every stroke and slide of their tongues together is dizzying, and Draco makes this low, husky sound which pulses through Harry’s body, his arousal swift and unexpected.
Eventually, Draco pulls back with one final press of his lips to Harry’s. His eyes look a bit glazed. “Harry…” Draco’s voice is low, rough, and he sounds like he’s going to say something serious.
“Yeah?” Harry keeps close to Draco, aware his own voice is scratchy. His head’s still spinning, and he can’t quite catch his breath.
Draco’s lips tip into a smile, his eyes heated as he looks at Harry. “Is that your wand in your pocket?”
Harry pushes Draco back, his laugh leaving him with a tremor which does little to mask his nerves.
“That’s me, Potter.” Draco smiles nevertheless, bright and genuine.
Someone giggles behind Harry and he glances over his shoulder to see they’ve attracted quite the crowd. “Come on. Let’s go and look at robes for this thing.”
“Let’s.” Draco presses his hand lightly on the small of Harry’s back and it’s all Harry can do not to push him back against the wall and snog him senseless again. Taking a deep breath, he walks towards a posh looking shop which seems like a Malfoy sort of place and does an excellent job of not staring at Draco’s lips for the rest of the afternoon.
He performs some complex healing charms on a bureau that’s taken to shimmying through the halls of the Manor, no doubt trying to escape Harry. He treats several wonky cabriole legs with one of the spells he developed specifically for recalcitrant furnishings and he’s busy wrestling – as in physically on the ground wrestling – with a runaway marquise armchair when Draco comes into the room.
“What the fuck are you doing?”
“What the fuck does it look like I’m doing?” Harry rolls over with a yelp as the chair does a little dance around him, moving out of the way of its feet. He mutters a binding spell and sends it whizzing across the room, where it wriggles against the wall. “Trying to stop your furniture from attacking me.”
Draco looks like he’s trying not to laugh. He also looks good. From his position on the floor, Harry can look Draco up and down, starting from his polished brogues, up over the perfectly tailored grey trousers which pull pleasingly over the crotch area and then up further, to the silky shirt which is rolled up at the sleeves and loose at the collarbone. It exposes a very distracting hint of flesh which Harry wants to press his lips against. He swallows, his mouth suddenly dry.
“Your armchair,” Harry says, “is a bloody menace.”
“My apologies.” The corner of Draco’s mouth lifts into a half smile as he eyes Harry. “I just came in to let you know there’s a chaise longue creating havoc in the drawing room.”
“Your house is too big,” Harry decides. He gets to his feet, brushing the dust from his jeans. “Who needs a drawing room anyway? Come to think of it, who needs a chaise longue?”
“I don’t know.” Draco’s standing awfully close to Harry, the crisp smell of his cologne a little dizzying. “They have their uses.”
There’s something about the suggestive arch of Draco’s eyebrow and the curve of his lips that makes the possible uses of a chaise longue sound positively filthy. “Is that right?” Harry refuses to be intimidated, holding his ground as he stands toe-to-toe with Draco. “Maybe your furniture doesn’t like the way you’re using it?”
Draco snorts and his fingers brush against Harry’s arm. “Or maybe it misses it. It’s been a while since I…used that chaise longue.”
“Has it?” Harry tries not to sound interested. He licks his lips, his throat slightly dry and scratchy. He can’t stop thinking about their kiss in Diagon Alley, of Draco’s lips pressed close to his, of the taste of sweet Christmas cake and the tinny sound of carols from somewhere in the distance. He shifts closer to Draco and presses his fingers lightly against Draco’s chest, focusing on the pattern of his shirt. “Perhaps it’s feeling a bit neglected. If you’re off using all your other furniture instead.”
Draco laughs, low in his throat. His fingers find a spot on the small of Harry’s back, his voice warm breath in Harry’s ear. “I haven’t been using much of anything lately.”
Harry’s just about to offer his services to ensure Malfoy’s chaise longue gets a proper eyeful if that’s what it’s after, when the armchair breaks free of its bonding spell and starts hopping around the room. It breaks the mood and with a sigh, Harry moves away from Draco to cast another spell.
When he finally has the chair under control, the room is empty again.
“You owe me supper.”
“Hardly.” Harry returns to his Quidditch magazine, flicking idly through the pages. “I’ve been sweating over one of your antique bookcases all day. You owe me dinner.”
“I’m having to go through a ludicrous public courtship for you. The least I deserve is a nice evening out with my pretend boyfriend.”
It makes Harry feel strange when Draco calls him his boyfriend, and he swallows, looking up from his magazine at last. “Nowhere posh. I like proper meals, not that bite-sized French stuff.”
“It’s called haute cuisine, you idiot.”
“I know what it’s called.” Harry resists the urge to politely ask Draco to shove his haute cuisine up his pompous backside. “Knowing the fancy French term for it doesn’t make it taste any better. I prefer steak and chips. That’s steak frites to you.”
Draco rolls his eyes. “I’m sure we can find a compromise.”
“I’ll look into it.” Harry winks at Draco. “I suppose it would do me good to get out. I can’t spend all day lounging around.”
“Your jokes are horrible,” Draco says.
“Thanks.” Harry lets out a yelp when the sofa rumbles beneath them and bumps Harry practically onto Draco. “Your fucking furniture is driving me up the wall.” Harry puts a respectable amount of distance between them, only for Draco to be bounced across next to Harry so their thighs press together. “Thursday, then?” Harry stands, quickly. The heat of Draco’s body is a bit much and it brings back thoughts of kissing which Harry definitely shouldn’t be having.
“Thursday.” Draco’s cheeks are tinged pink.
Harry grabs his magazine and leaves the room.
If he didn’t know better, he would swear Malfoy’s sofa was frowning.
Because Draco has an appointment with a person about sequinned house-elf pillowcases, Harry arranges to meet him at the restaurant. His palm are clammy and he has to remind himself for the thousandth time that none of this is actually real. With thirty minutes to kill and his heart pounding restlessly, Harry decides to explore the out of bounds bit of the Manor. It’s not like Draco said he couldn’t go in them, after all. He just said that he didn’t want Harry to start trying to fix the cellars and sprawling corridors deep in the house.
With some trepidation, Harry ventures through the corridors which get progressively dustier and darker as he moves further into the bowels of the house. There’s a strange, crackling energy which is cold and unpleasant. The thrum of magic carries with it the faint sound of a high-pitched laugh and the dark bricks are tinged green in the darkness as if the Avada Kedavras have seeped into the stone.
Harry brushes his fingers against the stone and shivers. He doesn’t get frightened of this anymore. It’s all just echoes. Echoes and traces which he knows can be muted and countered with the warmth of complex magic. He flexes his fingers around his wand, withdrawing it to cast a soft Lumos. Far from being put off by the unnerving appearance of the dusty corridors, it makes him itch to do something. He wants to start the process of mending the bricks and cleaning the dusty mortar, bringing life back to the darkest corners of the Manor so Draco isn’t forced to spend the rest of his life avoiding the ghosts of his past. Harry knows they will never disappear entirely, but he also knows that demons can only be conquered when they’re finally confronted.
Harry takes in every inch of the forbidden space. He casts light over the walls which sends tall shadows sliding around him. The absence of any kind of life in this bit of the house indicates it’s not just Draco that doesn’t visit anymore. There are no insects and all the furniture that can move seems to have found its way elsewhere. The one exception is one large, long dining table which is as still as everything else in this part of the house. Harry takes a breath and taps his wand against the table. It shivers and creaks, letting out a sound which is like a low moan.
“It’s okay,” Harry says. “We’ll make it better down here.” He runs his hand along the elegant mahogany and the table seems to respond to his touch with a silent ripple. Despite Draco’s insistence, Harry can’t help but murmur a few spells which go some way to soothing the table. He knows it won’t last forever, but in the short term it’s better than nothing. He just needs to convince Draco to let him come back here again.
“I’ll come back. I promise.” Harry pats the table gently. He doesn’t believe in making promises he doesn’t intend to keep.
After another minute in the dark room, Harry makes his way back to the warmer parts of the Manor and gives himself a final once-over in the mirror before making his way to the Floo and his dinner with Draco.
“This way, sir. I believe the other member of your party has already arrived.” The man taking Harry’s details leads him to the back of the room, where a small table nestles next to a wall covered with black and white photographs of chefs beaming into the camera next to people Harry assumes are Muggle celebrities.
Draco’s studying a menu, his face lightly etched in a frown. Harry swallows, hard. Malfoy looks…well, he looks good. The candlelight softens his sharp features and he’s dressed in something tailored and expensive-looking. He looks up and his eyes flicker over Harry, a modicum of surprise and the barest hint of a smile flashing across his face.
“Could you take my jacket?” Draco shrugs out of his blazer and hands it to the waiter, who complies with an incline of his head. He looks at Harry again, his eyes dark. “It’s a little warm in here.”
“Mine too.” Harry hands his blazer to the waiter who looks a bit irritated, but takes it nevertheless. “It’s, err, warm. Like he said.”
“Of course. Someone will be over to take your drinks orders shortly.” The waiter stalks off and Harry adjusts the collar on his shirt, slipping into the seat opposite Draco. It is warm. The atmosphere is rich with the low hum of conversation and the clinking of glass and cutlery against china. The candles flicker and cast short shadows along the table, and their seat seems perfectly designed to keep their conversation private. Draco looks divine and it doesn’t do anything to quell the heat which flares in Harry’s belly. The date feels less fake by the minute.
“Do you fancy wine?” Draco’s already perusing the menu, his brow furrowed.
“Yeah.” Harry clears his throat. “Not to be tight, but…”
“I’m not going to order the Petrus, Potter.” Draco’s lips twitch into a smile and he glances up from the menu. “Not even I’m that much of a pillock.”
Harry isn’t entirely sure what a Petrus is, but he’s guessing it’s expensive. “It doesn’t have to be the house wine, either. This bloke I went to school with is paying me a fortune to tell his armchairs to calm down.”
“Is he?” Draco’s smile is wider now. “Why would he do that?”
“Because he’s got more money than sense, obviously.” Harry winks at Draco. He lets Draco order the wine and waits until it’s been tasted and poured before going back to the small matter of his work on the Manor. “Look, I want talk to you about your house.”
“Must you make it all about business, Potter?” Draco pulls a face, his smile disappearing. “Go on, then.”
“You are paying me quite a bit for the stuff with the furniture and it’s a big house so there’s plenty to do, but I could do more. Particularly as you’re doing me a favour anyway.” Harry takes a breath. “I went to the cellars and the rooms in the lower part of the house, before I came here.”
Draco’s jaw works. “Why would you do that, when I expressly asked you not to?”
“Because I thought I could help.” Harry leans forward. “Now I know I can. You don’t have to be there, not at first. Just let me try. You’ve got a dining room table down there that’s scared to death. It’s frozen to the spot, I think. The rest of the furniture that isn’t stuck to the ground or the walls scarpered long ago.”
Draco takes a long drink of his wine, his throat bobbing. “I don’t want you down there.”
“Why? It’s not unsafe. Not anymore.”
“That kind of magic leaves a trace.”
“Tell me about it.” Harry puts his hand to his forehead and huffs with laughter. “It’s not permanent, though. I can fix it. Most of it. I can’t make the things you remember about that part of the house go away without an Obliviate, but I can start repairing it, so it doesn’t feel so creepy. I want to. It helps me too, I’ve already told you that.”
Draco frowns at the menu, not speaking for a while. Eventually he pushes the menu to one side and meets Harry’s eyes. “If it’s so good for you, why am I paying you at all?”
It takes all of Harry’s efforts not to fist-bump the air because that’s as good as telling Harry he can start work on the cellars tomorrow. “Because I’m good at my job and I’ve got this boyfriend I need to take out for nice meals…”
Draco snorts. “One meal. One measly meal. As it’s on you and I’m clearly being overcharged for your glorified building work—”
“Magical renovation,” Harry corrects.
“As I’m clearly being overcharged for your magical renovation, then I’m having the lobster.” Draco takes another sip of his wine. “And we’re definitely having desert.”
Harry can live with that.
Harry bristles at the back-handed compliment. “I thought I should make an effort. There might be photos.”
“You’re dressing up for the Prophet, now?” Draco looks around. “Altrincham’s over there.”
“I saw. Hasn’t got the Extendable Ears out, has he?”
“Mercifully, no. I didn’t want him to hear your terrible jokes.” Draco tips his head to one side. “Although you don’t really make those around me.”
“Give me time,” Harry says. He takes a gulp of his wine and a mouthful of delicious steak. “Give me time.”
“How did your meeting with the house-elf person go?”
“Horribly.” Draco pulls a face, speaking after swallowing a mouthful of rich chocolate fondant. “Apparently my business idea is terrible, the pillowcases are a travesty and the Muggles don’t want them for cushion covers because they’re too itchy. I’m just going to Incendio the lot.”
“Don’t do that. You can turn them into duelling gloves or something. Those are always handy.” Harry grins at his own joke. It’s a pretty good one. “Handy. Get it?”
“I get it. I’m just not laughing.” Draco gives Harry a look that’s almost fond. “You bloody idiot.”
“I told you to expect bad jokes.”
“What else can your dates expect?” Draco finishes his pudding and stretches his legs under the table so his foot bumps against Harry’s ankle. “After putting up with all of those bad jokes?”
“A gentleman never tells.” Harry is quite sure the heat in his cheeks must be obvious to Draco, even in the dim light from the small candle on the table. He tops up their wine glasses, polishing off the remainder of the bottle.
“Well.” Draco’s foot nudges against Harry’s ankle again which means the first time almost certainly wasn’t an accident. “I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see, then.”
“Yeah,” Harry says. It’s very warm all of a sudden and he knocks Draco’s foot lightly with his own. “I suppose you will.”
“I think that’s the first time I’ve been on a date without setting anything on fire.”
Draco laughs under his breath. “Luckily for me.”
Harry doesn’t want the night to end, his stomach pleasantly full and his mind still buzzing from the flirting during the meal. “Fancy a drink before bed?”
Draco arches an eyebrow at Harry. “Before bed?”
Harry tries not to sound as flustered as he feels. “Before we go to our own beds. Separately.”
“That’s not how my dates usually end.” Draco ducks his head as he pours two small measures of damson wine, but Harry thinks he’s smiling.
“Most of your dates probably aren’t fake.”
“True.” Draco sits on the edge of the sofa and Harry takes the other end, glancing at the space between them. Draco watches Harry closely. “Most of my dates actually want to sleep with me.”
Harry swallows, an anticipatory curl of nervous pleasure settling hot in his belly. He’s not sure how to respond to that, because it’s not as if he hasn’t spent a large part of the evening fixating on Draco’s features and drinking him in, greedily. It’s just he still doesn’t know what any of this is to Draco and while they’re fake courting and Harry’s at the Manor, it’s probably a terrible idea to start shagging. “Lucky for you. Most of my dates can’t wait to get away.” Harry takes the opportunity to lighten the mood, giving Draco a grin.
“I doubt that.” Draco puts his glass on the table next to the sofa and glances at Harry. “Even if your jokes are appalling.”
“They’re not that bad.”
“Bad enough.” Draco glances at Harry. “Have you done this much before with other men?”
“Dating?” Harry shakes his head. “Not with other wizards. I’ve been out with Muggles before. Nothing serious. I haven’t had anything serious with anyone for a while.”
“You’ve…” Draco clears his throat and shakes his head. “Never mind.”
“I’ve had sex with men before, Malfoy.” Harry’s lips pull into a smile and the air in the room gets thicker than before. “Quite a bit of sex.”
“Show off,” Draco murmurs. His voice is quiet and rough.
“A bit.” Draco shrugs, one shoulder lifting and falling elegantly. “Quite a bit.”
A spike of jealousy takes Harry by surprise. He’s about to ask more questions when the sofa gives a low rumble. The cushions flex and shift, bouncing Harry from his end of the sofa next to Draco.
“Sorry, it’s not—”
The sofa gives another shudder until the length of Harry’s body is pressed close to Draco. Even as Harry tries to move back, the cushions seem unwilling to let him put any space between them. Draco’s body is unexpectedly warm, and he smells utterly delicious, his expensive cologne assaulting Harry’s senses. Harry’s close enough that he can take in the curve of Draco’s smile and the stray strand of hair which curls on his forehead. He can feel the warm huff of Draco’s breath on his cheek and it makes him shiver. It’s been ages, really, since Harry’s done anything with someone else. A long time since he’s had someone in his bed, hot and hard beneath his fingertips.
“This bloody sofa,” Draco says. His voice sounds croakier than usual, its smoothness gone as his eyes flick downwards and land on Harry’s lips. “I thought you were supposed to be fixing it.”
“Excuse me for having to focus on the commode that decided to run riot in the bedroom.” Harry swallows. “I can’t do anything about it now, I’ve had too much wine and who knows how long it might take?”
“I suppose we’re stuck like this, then.” Draco licks his lips and he pushes a hand through his hair. His cheeks are dusky pink. “Perhaps we should practice kissing. In case the press take photos when we’re next out.”
“I’m not sure you need the practice,” Harry says.
“No?” Draco sounds pleased and he brushes his fingers against Harry’s thigh. “I’m not sure you do, either.”
Emboldened by the wine and the success of the evening, Harry moves closer. He’s not quite sure when he started thinking of Draco as magnetic, but there’s definitely an irresistible pull and a crackle of energy in the air between them. “Maybe this one can be just for us, then?”
It seems dangerous to start blurring the lines between real and fake, but when their lips finally connect, Harry stops overthinking. He stops thinking at all, a rush of heat flooding his body and the taste and scent of Draco consuming him. The sofa is full of lumps and bumps and it shivers beneath them, nudging Harry properly into Draco’s arms. Sinking into a kiss with Draco is utterly blissful. Just like before, they slot together perfectly, and they push their fingers into one another’s hair, deepening the kiss. The sofa seems to shiver beneath them, stretching out. Harry follows in suit, shifting back and letting Draco settle over him. The kiss gets more intense with surprising speed, leaving Harry breathless and aching hard. He wants to do more than kiss. He wants to wrap his fingers around Draco’s hardness which he can feel hot and insistent against his thigh. He wants to strip them both bare and luxuriate in the comfort of a bed, indulging all of the fantasies he’s been having about Draco for longer than he cares to admit.
“We don’t need to practice this.” Draco’s lips travel along the curve of Harry’s jaw and the slope of his neck, his tongue flicking against Harry’s pulse point. “This is definitely something we shouldn’t do in public.”
“Do you want to stop, then?” Harry presses into Draco, pressing his fingers into Draco’s back and keeping him close. “Should we stop?”
“Probably.” Draco pulls back and positions himself with his hands either side of Harry’s head. His face is shadowed and it’s difficult to read the expression in it. “This is stupid. This is all so fucking stupid.”
The comment is like a bucket of cold water of Harry’s arousal and he pushes Draco back, rearranging his shirt and sitting in an upright position. “Sorry you think so.”
“Potter…” Draco sounds like he wants to say something, but in the end, it’s just silence and the low rumble of the sofa as it nudges them together again.
Harry stands. “I’m off to bed, then. Sorry if it was a bit much. Better to keep things professional, I suppose. Like we agreed.”
Draco frowns, but he nods as if he agrees. “Much more sensible.”
Harry leaves the room and it takes all of his willpower not to go back to Draco and that ridiculously voyeuristic sofa and finish what he started.
“I suppose so.”
“Well don’t sound so enthusiastic about it.” Harry tries not to sound put out, but he isn’t terribly successful. He checks the book again, making sure they have everything in place. “Ritual One. Initiate the public courtship with an article in a high-profile wizarding paper.” Harry waves the Prophet in Draco’s general direction. “That was the easy bit.”
Draco reads the announcement and Harry doesn’t miss the way his cheeks get pink. “I probably should have mentioned this to father.”
“Probably.” Harry glances at Draco. “It won’t get you into trouble, will it?”
“No.” Draco shakes his head. “He knows my preference for wizards. I think it’s you that’s going to be unexpected.”
“I bet.” Harry keeps focused on the book, even though he’s read it a million times. He feels a bit strange after their kiss the other night and he’s largely avoided Draco, focusing on ottomans, cupboards and a small coffee table using the pretence of being busy to avoid confronting the undercurrent of tension which sprung up between them after the second kiss. Even just looking at Draco is too distracting. If he purses his lips or pushes a hand through his hair, Harry can recall how those lips felt moving against his own. He can still taste the small sound Draco made in the back of his throat – can still feel those long, elegant fingers circling his wrist and making his skin hot and sensitive to every light touch. Part of him has to temper the urge to ask Draco to pin him down again and to lose himself in the weight of Draco’s body pressed against his own. “I don’t think the second ritual’s going to be so easy.”
“Because there’s actual magic involved in that one?” Draco slides his wand between his fingers and he looks pleased with himself.
“I’m actually half decent at magic, thanks.” Harry shakes his head at Draco’s implication that Harry wouldn’t know one end of his wand from the other. “It just gets wonky sometimes, doesn’t it? Magic, I mean. Do you think it’s going to work the same way for us as it would if it was real?”
“I doubt it.” Draco shrugs and looks away. “I think you actually have to be interested in one another to generate the sort of reaction the books describe.”
Well. That’s clear enough, then. Harry rubs his cheek and closes the book, his interest in the next stage dissipated. “I’ll make sure we’ve got the stuff we need and start working on the spell.”
“Fine.” Draco nods. “I can do the potion.”
“If you like.” Harry stands and flicks his wand to send the book back to the bookcase. “I’ll see you later. I’m going to Ron and Hermione’s, so I won’t be back for a while.”
Draco shrugs. “I’m going to Soho for a few drinks. I’ll see you in the morning.”
An unexpected flash of jealousy pulses in Harry’s chest and he frowns at Draco. “Soho? You can’t go around pulling people when you’re supposed to be courting me.”
“Muggles don’t exactly follow your every move, Potter.” Draco’s face is expressionless. “I wasn’t aware you expected me to behave like a monk for the duration of this ridiculous plan of yours.”
“Well I’m behaving like one,” Harry says. “I don’t see why you should be able to get off with people if I’m not.”
“Would you be getting off with people a lot usually, then?” Draco studies Harry.
Harry presses his lips together, wondering if this is to do with his comment the other night. “I do okay, thanks. I know you - and the Prophet too apparently - think my jokes are rubbish, but you’d be surprised. Not everyone’s so put off by the idea of sleeping with me.” He sighs and pushes a hand through his hair, looking away from Draco. “I haven’t been with anyone for a while if you must know, but that’s been my choice.”
Draco looks as though he’s battling with himself, his jaw working as he watches Harry. “Maybe you’re right. I suppose I can be celibate for another week or so.”
“Oh, marvellous. Thanks.” Harry rolls his eyes. A thought occurs to him and he turns back to Draco. “Do you go out a lot, then?”
“Not that much.” Draco shrugs. “A bit like you, maybe. A lot after the war. Less so, now.”
“Oh.” Harry takes that in. “Why do you think that is?”
“Christ, knows, Potter.” Draco snorts softly. “Maybe because I want something more than a casual fuck in a grotty student flat with a Philosophy student from LSE.”
“That’s…very specific.” Harry grins at Draco. “That your sort, is it? Cigarettes, coffee, black polo-neck jumpers. A quick orgasm before debating your existential crisis?”
“Not really.” Draco stares at Harry for long enough that it gets a bit warm. “My type in those days was men who had never heard the name Malfoy before.”
That snatches the smile from Harry’s lips. “For the record, I’m starting to think the name Malfoy’s not all that bad,” he says, boldly.
“Are you drunk?” Draco smiles nevertheless, the first genuine smile of the day. He turns back to his toast and marmalade, opening up the Prophet. “I think my type’s a bit different now.”
“Do you?” Harry holds his breath, his heart thrumming in his chest.
“Mmhm.” Draco crunches on his toast and gives Harry a wink. “I prefer wizards these days. Particularly ones with terrible clothes, charming smiles and the knack for making an armchair purr.”
Harry’s cheeks definitely get red at that and he laughs, grabbing a bit of toast from Draco’s plate.
“I can make more than an armchair purr.”
Harry leaves the kitchen with one last look at Draco and whistles all the way to Hermione’s.
Harry pokes his head into Draco’s room after knocking for several minutes.
“Leave me alone. I’m sick.” The way Draco says I’m sounds like dime and he does look awful. His eyes are red-rimmed and watery, and he sneezes three times in quick succession, catching the sneezes in an ostentatious looking handkerchief.
“I could hear you whinging from my room. If you want me to leave you alone, you might want to be ill a bit more quietly.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry to disturb—a-choo—precious Potter and his busy day reading Quidditch magazines.”
Harry sighs. “Have you eaten anything?”
“How the fuck am I supposed to eat when I can’t even get out of bed? Should I gnaw off my own arm?” Another sneeze mercifully stops Draco from being even more annoying.
“You’ve got house-elves.”
“They’re taking a break.” Draco blows his nose. “They’re cross with me about the pillow cases. Apparently the sequins are itchy and undignified.”
“I’ll make you something,” Harry offers.
“Chicken stew?” Draco’s eyes light up.
“I was thinking more along the lines of a cheese and onion sandwich.” Harry rolls his eyes when Draco starts huffing about having to resort to eating the feathers from his duvet. “Calm down, for Merlin’s sake. I’ll go into London and get you some chicken noodle soup from there.”
“Okay.” Draco seems satisfied. “Can you get me a book, too? I’m bored.”
“Fine.” Harry is already starting to regret checking on Draco. “I’ll be back soon. Don’t Summon anything while I’m gone, your spells are driving the furniture loopy and you’ve already singed a Turkish rug and a painting of your dad.”
Draco looks as though he couldn’t give a fuck, probably because he’s rich enough to wallpaper the Manor with Turkish rugs and Lucius Malfoy has undoubtedly commissioned multiple oil paintings of himself. “I’ll probably need a cup of tea before you go, if I’m not allowed to use magic. Maybe that cheese and onion sandwich, too.”
“Fine, but you’re going to take some Muggle medicine when I get back.” Harry doesn’t use Muggle treatments that often but he’s fond of a Lemsip when he has a bad cold and he plans to replace Draco’s weird handkerchiefs with some nice, regular, Kleenex. “Did those hankies belong to your nan?”
“Probably.” Draco sneezes into it again, eyeing the floral pattern with the disdain once he’s recovered. “I was too ill to find something else. I was tempted to use one of your t-shirts, but I found these in mother’s dressing room.”
Harry leaves the room without comment, largely to avoid hexing Draco into next Sunday.
“You’ve been busy.” Draco looks up from his book when Harry goes and checks on him. “Also, what the fuck is this?”
“You asked for a book.” Harry perches on the edge of the bed. “I thought you might like it.”
“Pirate Passions?” Draco waves the book at Harry, giving him a good eyeful of the two semi-naked male pirates caught in a passionate embrace on the cover. “This book is stupid.”
“You’ve already read half of it.” Harry nods to the bookmarked page. “It’s kept you pretty quiet, considering it’s so ridiculous.”
“Is this what you’re into, then?” Draco ignores Harry’s comment and puts the book on the bedside cabinet. “Seamen?”
“Well…” Harry licks his lips and Draco groans, pulling his pillow over his head and speaking in a muffled tone.
“Fuck off, Potter. Just bugger off right now. If this cold doesn’t kill me, your innuendo just might.”
Harry takes that as a cue to leave, laughing as he goes.
“Father was actually quite pleased about it all.” Draco sounds content as he deftly shrinks a golden chalice and puts it in his pocket, together with a bottle of shimmering potion.
“Wonderful.” The last person Harry cares about impressing is Lucius Malfoy, but he’s glad at least that his plan hasn’t caused Draco any problems. “Your parents are still in France, then?”
“Yes, I think they’re staying for Christmas. Mother wants to go to Monaco to see in the new year.” Draco doesn’t look at Harry. “I might join them. I haven’t decided yet.”
Thinking of Draco in the Manor by himself over Christmas gnaws at Harry. Even though the furniture is slowly getting under control, pulses of dark magic still comes from the parts of the house Draco doesn’t go into. Harry hasn’t worked out a way to broach the topic of reviewing Harry’s work in those areas with Draco. When he worked at Hogwarts the magic he put into the bricks was therapeutic and strangely intimate. He’s not sure if working on the rooms in the belly of the house would carry quite the same light-hearted enjoyment as wrestling with Draco’s armchairs or sitting on a sofa that has some seriously perverted tendencies.
“You’re sure the Leaky’s the right place for this part of the courtship?”
Draco shrugs, finally looking up. “It’s as good a place as any. A public sharing of the Elixir of Intent from a golden Courtship Chalice, is all that’s required. Everyone’s going to be there.”
“If you say so.” Something about this step of the courtship ritual is making Harry antsy. He’s pretty sure there’s no way they’re going to end up bonded or married or something, but he’s learned to be cautious of the vagaries of magic. He doesn’t know if the spell will even work, given he and Draco aren’t actually courting for any reason other than Hermione told them to do it. Which is a pretty idiotic reason to end up in daft robes and drinking out of golden chalices, Harry thinks. Even if Hermione is brilliant. He’s not sure this was the finest of her usually excellent plans. “There’s supposed to be some kind of aura after we drink the potion and cast the spell, I don’t know if it’s even going to work.”
“Of course it will.” Draco sighs. “Look, it’s just a spell to indicate intent publicly. It’s the Elixir of Intent, not Amortentia or a Bonding Draught. The ingredients are completely different. The aura isn’t anything more than a public sign that the couple are committed to one another. A bit like when an animal marks its territory. The same thing could have been achieved by using a Sonorous Charm and telling people we’re shagging. It probably would have been less effort, too. That potion took me a ludicrous amount of time to brew.”
Harry stares at Draco. “Did you just compare our courtship to a dog pissing against a lamppost?”
“I’m terribly romantic.” Draco flashes Harry a smile and he pulls on a grey coat which looks soft and inviting, as if Harry should slide his hands over it and keep Draco close. “Come on, Potter. You’ve got that look again.”
“What look?” Harry follows Draco towards the Floo.
“That constipated one.”
Harry is quite grateful he never told Draco that it’s the look he gets when he’s thinking the kind of things he absolutely shouldn’t be thinking about his fake boyfriend. He picks up a handful of Floo powder and shouts out for the Leaky, coughing in the whirl of green dust and smoke that surrounds him and yanks him through the Floo network.
“Bar, I think. We should probably be standing.” Draco squeezes Harry’s hand before letting it go. “Come on, then. Let’s drink this Elixir and then I’ll treat us to a decent bottle of Malbec.”
“Might as well.” Harry looks doubtfully at the shimmery liquid being poured into the goblet. “You’re positive it’s not going to go wonky.”
Draco’s jaw gets tight and he finishes pouring, corking the bottle. “If you’re worried I’m going to try to trap you into something, don’t be. I’m capable of getting partners that actually want to be with me. I’m only here because you needed a favour. If you’re going to insinuate I have ulterior motives—”
“No!” Harry cuts Draco off, putting a hand on his arm. “Seriously, I didn’t even think about that. I don’t think you’re going to poison me or anything. I just want to make sure you definitely didn’t add an extra newt’s eye by accident or stir clockwise five times instead of six or something.”
Draco gives Harry a scathing look. “Would you ask Granger that?”
Harry shrugs, grinning at Draco. “If I was going to drink a potion she brewed, probably.”
Draco looks mollified. “Well you’re an idiot, then. It’s not a difficult potion, which you would know if you paid any attention to Severus.”
“I paid attention.” Harry takes the goblet. “Right. I drink, you drink, then I cast the spell?”
“Yes.” Draco plasters a smile on his face. “You should probably look happy about it. Skeeter’s got out her Quick Quotes Quill.”
“Brilliant.” That’s going to be two more pages on Harry’s bad jokes, then. He leans forward before taking a drink and kisses Draco softly. It’s not much, but Draco responds to him with ease. They don’t properly snog because all the catcalls are distracting, but when Harry pulls back, Draco does actually look flushed and happy. Properly happy, not just for show. Harry’s fairly sure he looks the same, knowing his cheeks are hot and he has the daft grin he sometimes gets around Draco on his face. Hopefully Skeeter will get a picture of that, rather than them arguing over whether or not Draco was trying to poison Harry.
Harry takes a breath and knocks back his share of the potion. It tastes surprisingly good, like Harry’s favourite things. It tastes like Christmas. The sweet, sticky marzipan and the icing on Christmas cake. The light, buttery bread of Pantone. The richness of mince pies and the delicious, spicy heat of mulled wine, rich with cinnamon and tart from citrus fruits. It burns pleasantly like smooth brandy in his throat and he lets out a contented hum of pleasure. Draco takes his share, his Adam’s apple working as he swallows it down. With a flick of his wand, Harry murmurs the necessary spell and the air around them thrums.
It’s intoxicating, the way the magic gathers around them. Harry knows it’s bright and beautiful, because it draws gasps of admiration from the crowds. He can almost taste the colours. The rich reds, citrusy oranges and yellows, the barest hint of peppermint green and then the cool, watery blues and lilacs. It tastes like a mixture of his magic and Malfoy’s – the perfect balance between cool, sharp, calculated, deft and hot, powerful pulses which shimmer and shift around them. Almost unthinkingly, Harry reaches for Draco. He hasn’t even slipped off his coat or scarf and Harry winds his fingers around Draco’s scarf, tugging him in. Draco’s hands find their way onto Harry’s back and Harry gets that perfect little crick from tipping his neck back just the smallest amount to accept Draco’s eager kisses. The moment is charged and perfect, their lips connecting to whoops and hollers which fade away to nothing until it’s just Harry and Draco. Harry wraps his arms around Draco and kisses him as he’s wanted to so many times since their last kiss which ended so abruptly.
They pull apart when Harry hears Hermione clearing her throat and realises they’re not actually alone. He realises Draco’s fingers are edging precariously close to his backside and thinks they might have just made a fairly public spectacle of themselves.
“Did it work?” Harry glances at Hermione, largely because he’s not sure he can look at Draco without kissing him again.
“I’d say so.” Hermione looks delighted. “It worked even better than a lot of actual courtship spells. They do say the spells are always rather dull if the wizards or witches involved aren’t really compatible. Isn’t it funny how you and Draco managed to cast such a powerful spell when you’re not even properly dating?”
“Hilarious,” Harry says, faintly.
“You just watch, Granger.” Draco’s voice doesn’t sound quite as smooth as usual. “They’ll give him an award for this, too.”
Hermione laughs and shakes her head. “They probably will. Would you like a drink?”
“Absolutely. I plan to get roaring drunk. Let me get these.”
Harry watches Draco and Hermione wander off to the bar, deep in conversation as if they’re old friends. He gets an elbow in the side from Ron which brings his focus back onto the crowded room, which is still full of people giggling at him and giving him winks as if they know exactly what Harry’s going to get up to tonight.
“You’re snogging him now?”
“Looks like it.” Harry glances at Ron, who looks confused. “Is it weird?”
“Of course it’s weird. It’s Malfoy and you think he’s a knobhead.”
“I’m not sure anymore.” Harry rubs his forehead. “Why is my love life always such a fucking disaster?”
Ron laughs. “You’re famous, you’ve got money in the bank and a load of friends. It wouldn’t be fair if you were dead good at everything.”
Harry grins at Ron. “Thanks. So you do think it’s a disaster?”
Ron shudders. “You’re snogging Malfoy, mate. I’d say it’s fairly fucking terrible.”
Harry shakes his head. “It’s actually better than you’d think. A lot better. He’s good at it.”
“I’m glad you think so.” Draco’s voice is back to smug, posh and self-satisfied. He hands Harry a glass of wine and his hand settles on the base of Harry’s back, his thumb moving in distracting circles. Harry leans into Draco, telling himself it’s just for the cameras and nothing more. “You’re not so bad either, Potter.”
Ron pulls a face. “You’re mental. Both of you.”
They crowd around a huge table full of people from school. Coats and scarves pile next to the table in every house colour under the sun. There’s Slytherin, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw and at some point during the night, Draco’s hand finds its way onto Harry’s knee.
It makes everything warm.
Harry considers having a moment to furtively relieve himself, but he can’t trust the drawers in his room not to start making a racket like they did when he last tried to have a wank. That made two house-elves appear by Harry’s bed with a pop and sent Draco running in to check if Harry was being murdered by his wardrobe. Harry managed to blame it on the full moon in the end, but it was a very near miss. He’s also fairly certain Draco clocked the open copy of Wizards and Their Broomsticks and the picture of the blond Quidditch player that looked rather like Draco.
In the end, Harry thinks the safest bet is probably just to do some work until he’s tired enough to sleep. He pads downstairs and makes a cup of tea, before getting back to work on the cellars. He runs warm magic through the stone until his bones ache. Every last hiss and pulse of magic which winds through the air makes Harry’s skin tingle as he carefully breaks down the magical threads which shiver and shake with anguish and twists them into newly formed, strong bonds which meld into the bricks and make each brick lighter and warmer.
“You’re up late. I’m certainly getting my money's worth.” Draco’s voice distracts Harry from his task and he turns quickly.
“Sorry. Did I wake you?”
“Not exactly.” Draco looks away. “I was awake.”
“I couldn’t sleep either.” Harry wonders if Draco can’t sleep for the same reasons as Harry. “What do you think?” He gestures to the room which still hums with an undercurrent of pain, but space is already significantly cleaner and brighter than before.
“It feels a bit like you.” Draco puts a hand on the stone, his lips curving into a small smile. “The bricks do.”
“They will, at first. That’s going to settle though.” Harry shrugs. “If you spend more time in this part of the house, let the house-elves come here and bring the furniture back into the rooms, it will soon start feeling like home again. It’s not going to feel like my magic forever.”
“Oh.” Draco moves his hand from the stone, looking at Harry. “I don’t mind. It feels good.”
Harry’s breath catches in his throat. “Err, thanks.” He swallows. “Look, I think you should come here more often. Maybe we can use the table or something.” Harry puts his hand on the table, feeling it respond to his touch. “I found it helped to start creating new memories in the parts of Hogwarts I hated when I first went back. Like the Great Hall.”
“It’s going to take more than a ham sandwich and a cup of tea to forget the things that happened in this room.” Draco moves closer to Harry. “But thanks, I suppose.”
“What will it take, then?” Harry can feel the ghost of Draco’s breath against his lips. He can’t help but slide his arms around Draco, pulling him close. “If a ham sandwich won’t cut the mustard.”
Draco groans against Harry’s lips and it’s not a sexy sort of groan. “Stop making terrible jokes when I’m trying to kiss you.”
Harry laughs before the movement of Draco’s lips against his own cuts him off rather abruptly. He presses close to Draco and sinks into the moment. The kiss is hard and insistent, and Harry’s arousal is swift and deep. “Come on.” Harry grabs Draco’s hand, breaking the kiss. He pulls Draco after him, moving quickly through the corridors. He’s all for reclaiming broken spaces but he doesn’t think it would be good for either of them to start something in the cellars on Draco’s first visit there since the war. No matter how much work Harry has done, there’s still plenty more to do and there’s an undercurrent of magic which seeps unpleasantly into the warmth of the rooms the longer someone stay there without focusing on the intricacies of the magical traces. Not to mention there are memories which Draco will have of the place which it will take more than magical renovation to heal.
Harry lets himself be pushed against the wall when they finally come to a halt in a corridor that’s brightly lit and warm. He vaguely thinks they’re near to Draco’s room, but he’s not sure. He can’t really take in the exact details when Draco’s taking him apart piece by piece. He tilts his head back, letting Draco suck and kiss the skin on his neck, his pulse jumping erratically.
Everything is hot and blissfully good. Having Draco pushed against him makes Harry’s head spin and the kisses from before flood his mind. It’s as though the faintest remnants of the courtship spell reappear and Draco’s kisses taste like rainbows and Harry’s favourite things. The warmth of the magical spells Harry cast just a few moments before, the effort of abstaining from any physical relief since coming to the Manor and the restless energy inside him all crash together in one perfect storm. He needs more than just kissing and he has no intention of stopping Draco, when he breaks the kiss to lead Harry silently to his room.
They don’t really say much, save for the whispers and murmurs of one another’s names. They start with a desperate movement against one another, grinding together and reaching every bit of exposed skin they can. It’s embarrassingly quick, the amount of time it takes Harry to pulse through his orgasm with nothing more than a bit of rubbing and grinding against Draco. As he gasps out Draco’s name, Harry tugs him closer into a kiss. He doesn’t want to talk about it. Doesn’t want to have to define what any of this means. He doesn’t want to see the surprise on Draco’s face and how quickly Harry came or start to think too closely about what that all might mean. The unexpected warmth of Draco’s own orgasm comes quickly after and it makes their bellies sticky and slick. Harry bites back a groan of pleasure at the fact it’s not just him that’s been building up to this moment.
It doesn’t seem so hurried, after that. They take their time and kiss slowly, still not saying much about what any of this means. There’s no pretence of practicing for the cameras or no attempt to make the night into something it isn’t. It’s just Harry and Draco, rolling together on Draco’s bed as their gasps and sighs fill the night air. Harry tastes the parts of Draco’s skin that feel startlingly intimate, tracing his collarbone with his tongue and pressing his fingers to the pulse point on Draco’s neck. He relishes the heat of Draco’s inner thigh, the way beads of perspiration gather on his torso. He enjoys every bit of Draco and discovers all kinds of new ways to make Draco say Harry’s name like a plea, before he gets to roll over and have Draco do exactly the same to him – taking Harry apart with his fingers, his lips and his tongue.
Eventually, Harry pulls Draco into him with trembling hands. He smooths the hair from Draco’s face and kisses the now familiar lips, which are plump from all their earlier snogging. They move together in the moonlight and it’s a long time before Harry is capable of saying anything other than Draco’s name and yes and please as the furniture stays mercifully silent for once and the magic from earlier hums softly around them.
I have urgent business to attend to in Devon, regarding the house-elf pillowcase line.
Not sure when I’ll be back. Feel free to make yourself at home (as always).
There’s an address on the back of the note and Harry frowns at it. He’s not stupid. Devon isn’t exactly the sort of place Harry imagines haute couture house-elf garments taking off. Particularly not ones covered in sequins. He imagines house-elves in Devon – house-elves anywhere – don’t give a fuck that Witch Weekly seem to think sequins are having a moment. Harry has the distinct impression Draco is avoiding a difficult conversation.
Feeling a bit out of sorts, Harry showers off the sweat and stickiness from the previous night. He rinses his hair with Draco’s familiar citrus shampoo and closes his eyes to the sting of the suds. The powerful shower helps and by the time Harry’s showered and fully awake, he feels sure that Draco will be back, eventually.
With a sigh, Harry picks up his wand and ventures deep into the Manor.
It’s time to get back to work.
Dealing with Draco’s bed isn’t quite as easy as falling into a somewhat uncomfortable truce. It throws Draco out two nights on the trot and it only seems to calm down when Harry’s in the room. The problem is, it’s any bed Draco sleeps in. He swaps rooms with Harry, uses his parents old bed and even spends a sleepless night in a fusty room deep in the East Wing of the Manor that looks like it hasn’t been used for years. By the end of the week, Draco is snappier than ever, his skin sallow and pale and his eyes rimmed with dark circles.
“You’re going to have to sleep in the bed with me. It likes you for some reason.”
“No chance.” Harry shakes his head firmly, his body a little more eager about the idea than it should be. “It’s a terrible idea.”
“I’m bloody knackered and I’m going to kill someone if I don’t get a decent night’s sleep soon.” Draco glares at Harry. “Probably you.”
“I’d like to see you try.” Harry grabs his pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt. “Come on, then. Just keep to your own side.”
“Gladly.” Draco slips under the duvets after changing in the bathroom and lets out a sigh of contentment when the bed doesn’t so much as quiver. “Oh, thank Christ for that.”
“Yeah.” Harry glances over at Draco who looks uncharacteristically angelic with his eyes closed and his lips curved in a serene smile. “Malfoy?”
The only response Harry gets is a low snore and a mumbled name that sounds a bit like Harry.
“You snore.” Harry rolls onto his back and rubs the sleep from his eyes with a yawn. “Loudly.”
“Sorry.” Draco doesn’t sound too bothered. “I’m also sorry about Devon.”
“About shagging me and then running away, making up a shit story about a sudden spike in demand for sequinned pillow cases?” Harry glances at Draco. “Yeah, well. You should be sorry.”
Draco pulls a face. He studies Harry carefully and Harry wonders when he became so intimately familiar with the swoop of Draco’s eyelashes, the sharp line of his jaw and the intimacy the pink flush which splashes across his cheekbones when he’s embarrassed or thrown off-kilter.
Harry swings his legs out of the bed and scrunches his toes against the thick rug on the floor of Draco’s room. If he lies in bed with Draco for too long, there’s only one way that’s going to end. His heart is already hammering in his tight chest and he doesn’t want Draco to know how much the proximity impacts him. “I’ll see if I can fix this bed, so we don’t have to do this again.”
“I’m trying to apologise.” Draco sounds put out.
“It’s going to take more than that.” Harry pulls a face. He turns to look at Draco. “It wasn’t exactly my first time, but it was my first time in a while. I’m a bit bored of one-night stands. I probably should have mentioned that’s not what I’m after.”
Draco’s jaw works, and he sits up in bed, watching Harry. “What are you after, then?”
You, Harry thinks. Just you and your stupid sequinned pillow cases, your barmy furniture and your broken house. You, you, you.
“No idea, Malfoy.” Harry tries not to think about how warm the recently vacated bed was with Draco beside him, or how much he wants Draco to call him back when he exits the room before he can risk his heart again.
He’s the one who orders the first round of Slippery Slytherins. Millie Bulstrode follows with a round of What The Godrics and by the time they’re on round two of the Rowena Ravers, Harry’s head is fuzzy and he’s seeing double.
“Since when are there two of you?” Harry frowns at Ron who looks like he’s swaying.
“Since you downed a stupid amount of shots, mate.” Ron sounds like he’s trying not to laugh. “What’s going on with Malfoy, anyway. Why isn’t he here?”
“He didn’t want to come.” Harry glares at the pint he’s not entirely sure is his own. He’s fairly certain he moved onto vodka cokes about two drinks ago. “It’s weird. We’re not friends.”
“Okay.” Ron sounds uncertain. “What are you, then?”
“Dunno.” Harry shrugs and a wave of sadness rolls through him. “Ron?” Harry says after a long pause which gives him sufficient time to wallow.
“I like him. Not for the papers and the fake courting and stuff. His furniture’s’ perverted, but I like him.”
“Okay, Harry.” Ron has strong arms which is useful because Harry’s legs don’t seem to be cooperating. “Let’s get you home.”
“Don’t tell anyone. About Malfoy.” Harry hiccups and sways closer to Ron. “I don’t think he likes me like that. He ran off to Devon.” Harry jabs his finger against Ron’s chest. “Do you reckon there’s any demand for sequinned pillow cases in Devon? Because I don’t. He just wanted to get away.” Harry hiccups again.
Ron mutters something which sounds like you really are a bloody idiot, mate and Harry tries not to throw up his last Slippery Slytherin as the tug of Apparition yanks him through the air.
Harry thinks he can hear Ron and Draco talking in hushed voices about something. He wants them not to argue and he tells them so, something he thinks comes out as a mngurgle.
“This his room?” Ron asks.
Harry lets himself be propelled towards his room, before shaking his head and stumbling down the corridor.
“Malfoy’s room. His bed likes me. Sleeping there.”
Harry collapses into the comfortable bed, burrowing his nose into the pillows which smell faintly like Malfoy’s cologne. It’s the best. The best.
He falls asleep to the low murmur of Ron and Draco talking, letting someone carefully take off his shoes and grabbing the pillow that smells most like Malfoy to cuddle close.
// now //
Everything starts to feel better midway through a couple of soft boiled eggs with toast soldiers, thick and crusty with lashings of butter.
“Sorry I ended up in your bed.” Harry looks up at Draco when he finally starts to feel human again. “I might have been a bit pissed.”
“That’s the understatement of the century.” Draco butters his toast in an aggravated fashion, stabbing the marmalade with a knife.
“What were you and Ron talking about?” The memories of the night are blurry but Harry’s sure that Ron and Draco were arguing about something. He remembers hearing his name and raised voices.
“You, obviously.” Draco doesn’t look at Harry. “About how bloody glad I’ll be when this courting nonsense is over.”
“Oh.” Harry contemplates Draco. He isn’t sure he believes him. “I won’t be.”
Draco stops stabbing at the marmalade and stares at Harry. His slim throat bobs. “Excuse me?”
“I said, I won’t be glad when the courting’s over.” Harry shrugs. He’s surprised he’s able to think this clearly off the back of a steaming hangover, but it’s as if some kind of veil has been lifted and he can see everything with remarkable clarity. “You see, there’s a long list of people I could have asked.”
Draco narrows his eyes. “Am I supposed to be flattered?”
“No, let me speak, will you?” Harry takes a breath before continuing. “When Hermione suggested you, I went along with it. I didn’t really bother trying to find other alternatives. There were loads of people I could have asked. I could have decided not to do the courting thing in the first place. I’m not sure I’ve helped anyone, other than Rita Skeeter.”
Draco’s lips curve into a smile. “That’s not strictly true. I had an owl today. Well, you had an owl actually, but it got caught up with my post, so I opened it by accident.” Draco mutters a spell and a piece of parchment flutters into Harry’s hand.
Dear Mr Potter
I’m a fifth year Hufflepuff. I like witches and wizards, but I always thought I had to choose a witch (even though I really like Barnaby Bagshot) because I didn’t know anybody like me.
Now I do, and it’s brilliant because nobody’s going to make fun of me for being like Harry Potter.
P.S. Can I have a signed copy of one of your posters? I spent all my pocket money at Honeydukes and I reckon I’d make a killing selling one of those to the Ravenclaws for Potter Club.
P.P.S. Barnaby says hi.
Harry gets a lump in his throat and he swallows around it, reading the letter again. “It did make a difference, after all.”
“Yes.” Draco clears his throat. “You were saying about all those other choices you had.”
Harry shrugs. “There’s George, for a start. He likes wizards too and I know him way better than I know you.”
Draco looks annoyed. “You should have just asked him, then.”
“I didn’t, though.” Harry looks carefully at Draco. “I asked you and it only took a few mince pies to convince me.”
Draco looks thoughtful. “You do like mince pies, though.”
“Quite a bit,” Harry agrees.
“You want to be careful. All that sugar and you’re not going to have that Most Charming Smile for much longer.”
“I think I’ll cope.” Harry rolls his eyes. “Anyway, that courtship spell worked, didn’t it?”
“It’s just a public sign of intent.” Draco doesn’t sound convinced. “I’ve already told you, there’s no real magic in it.”
“That’s not true though, is it?” Harry thinks about Hermione’s comment after the ritual and the big book he spent ages thumbing through. “It wouldn’t have worked if we didn’t have any intentions at all towards one another. I’d say it worked well enough to confirm we have quite a lot of intent. Both of us, too. That wasn’t just my magic and it wasn’t just yours. You must have felt it.”
Draco nods. “I couldn’t bloody miss it, you and your enormous rainbow above my head.”
“And that kiss.” Harry gives Draco a look which he hopes is rather sexy.
“You’ve got that look again.” Draco’s lips twitch. “The constipated one.”
“Oh.” Harry laughs. “I’ll work on it.” He points a finger at Draco. “You’re not allowed to run off to Devon again.”
“I won’t.” Draco looks chagrined. “I really was sorting out a plan for those pillowcases.”
“Really?” Harry raises his eyebrows.
Draco shrugs. “A bit. I also just needed to clear my head.”
“All clear?” Harry holds his breath waiting for Draco’s response.
“Much better,” Draco says. He crunches from his toast, watching Harry. “I think this new plan of mine’s going to work.”
“I’m glad.” Harry is, truly. He still thinks Draco’s business idea was rubbish, but it’s not exactly like Harry’s raking in the Galleons with his magical renovation. “I hope it’s better than the last plan.”
“Infinitely.” Draco stands, flicking his wand to send their plates towards the sink. “You need a shower. You stink of booze.”
“Sorry about that. I was drowning my sorrows.” Harry nudges Draco. “Wash my back?”
Draco’s response is to Apparate them to the bathroom.
“Is there any reason my robes are Slytherin colours?” Harry holds up the dress robes, giving them a shake. The sequins wink disconcertingly at him and a nearby cabinet hops gleefully. It looks like it’s laughing.
“They match your eyes.” Draco waves a dismissive hand. “Just put them on. It took me hours to design these.”
“They don’t look a bit like the robes in the book.” Harry eyes the robes with distrust, adjusting his bow tie. “Those didn’t have a single sequin on.”
“Just lots of frills.” Draco shudders, as if frills displease him enormously. “The courting rituals don’t specify a design. It’s simply about the courting couple wearing robes made with items of one another’s clothing. Outlandish robes, which signify intent towards one another.”
“These are certainly outlandish.” Harry glares at the offending garment. “It looks like you’ve used the entire line of house-elf pillowcases on these. Where’s my contribution?”
“You’ll see.” Draco smooths his hand over his elegant black trousers and puts on his dress robes which are black and silver. They open at the front to reveal a black tailored waistcoat over a crisp white dress shirt tucked into the dark trousers. The undergarments perfectly compliment the robes. Draco’s robes actually look quite nice, largely because the sequins are dark black and shiny, with threads of silver running through them adding a little sparkle. They’re a lot more tasteful than Harry’s, which he suspects will make him look a bit like a Slytherin Christmas tree.
With a sigh, Harry pulls on his own dress robes. “The things I do for you.”
“This was all your idea, Potter.” Draco helps Harry slip on the robes, keeping him turned away from a mirror as he arranges them. His brow furrows and he takes his time, brushing the material over Harry’s shoulder and organising the hood and folds just so. The inner lining is actually rather comfortable. Soft, black cotton which feels like Harry’s favourite t-shirt as it settles against his starched shirt. With a scowl at Draco, Harry yanks open the wardrobe door. Sure enough, at least five of his favourite t-shirts appear to be missing.
“You couldn’t have used anything else?”
“I’ll buy you a truck load of t-shirts for Christmas, calm down.” Draco gives Harry a quick once over, looking pleased with himself. “Go on, then. Take a look.”
Harry flicks his wand to shut the wardrobe and contemplates himself in the mirror. The surprising thing is, the robes don’t look half bad. They’re posh and ostentatious, but they fit like a dream and they are rather festive. The green does suit him, as much as he hates to admit it and the cut of the robes is better than any he’s had from Madam Malkins or Twilfitt and Tattings. With his black waistcoat and trousers, the polished shoes Malfoy insisted on buying him and the crisp white shirt and bow tie, the outer robes add a flash of colour. When he twists the folds follow him, the material lighter and airier than it looked with all of the sequins sewn into it.
Draco slips his hand into Harry’s and pulls him close, spinning them around. “Can you even dance?”
“Brilliantly.” It’s a lie. Harry has two left feet. He finds it easier than expected when he’s following someone’s lead, however.
They stop spinning and they rest their foreheads together. “It’s going to be a circus. I imagine you’ll get all sorts of questions.”
“Let them ask.” Harry leans in and kisses Draco. The kiss lingers, as it often does these days. It makes Harry want to shuck off his robes and climb back into bed to spend a gloriously intimate, sweaty evening together instead of going to a poncy awards event for a prize he doesn’t even want. “I like the robes.”
“Me too.” Draco brushes his fingers over the shoulder of Harry’s robes, a smile on his face. “Come on, then. We should go.”
Harry groans and takes the liberty of pressing a hot, open mouthed kiss to Draco’s elegant, exposed neck, which makes the hands on Harry’s waist tighten. “Right now?”
Draco slides his hand to the front of Harry’s trousers and answers, rough and breathless. “We could probably take ten more minutes.”
“Get on with it, then.”
Harry laughs and sinks into a thoroughly distracting kiss as the lights in the room catch the sequins, making the air bright and light, the greens and silvers flashing like pinpoint stars on the ceiling above them.
“We’ve managed to bond ourselves together. I’m having Malfoy’s love child.” Harry flashes Hermione a grin and pats his belly. She rolls her eyes.
“No you haven’t and you most certainly aren’t. That’s just the mince pies you’ve been eating.”
“Excuse you, Hermione.” Harry glares at her and then leans back against the bar. “No, we haven’t accidentally bonded or cocked up any of the courtship magic. There aren’t any more rituals, so the rest is up to us to work out.” Harry shrugs. He thinks of Malfoy’s I’m not the marrying sort when Harry first proposed the idea of a fake courtship and honestly, Harry isn’t sure he is either. He just wants to enjoy Draco, for now, without working out which traditions and protocols he believes in, or taking any more instructions from fusty books or Ministry-issued legislation. He just wants to enjoy kisses that taste like all the colours of the rainbow, and he wants to find another renovation project he can sink his teeth into. He needs to see his Healer again and he just wants to learn how to live, now the spark seems to have returned to his days. From the hedonism of the post-war years to the dry spell of listlessly looking for some kind of purpose, whatever else he might have got from his time at the Manor, Harry discovered contentment and it makes everything just that bit warmer. The memories of the war still press and niggle when he’s alone at night, but it’s becoming easier to chase them back. Easier to turn to face the moving shadows in his nightmares with his wand outstretched and a who’s there? that hardly shakes at all.
“You’re still going to court, even if the rituals are all over?” Hermione watches Draco and Ron engaged in a friendly(ish) discussion. “He told Ron he’s rather smitten with you.”
“He did not say rather smitten, give over.” Harry snorts softly.
“Okay. Maybe it was more like ‘bloody Potter barging into my life and poncing about with my furniture making me fall in love with him with his mince pies and his stupid scar.’”
Harry’s hand on his glass tightens. “Making him what?”
Hermione shrugs. “Oh, Harry. It’s obvious, isn’t it? You’re dressed like a Slytherin Christmas bauble and he’s hardly taken his eyes off you all night. I think you’ve both danced around one another for long enough, don’t you?”
“Maybe.” Harry lets the thought of Draco being in love with him roll around in his head for a minute. It doesn’t feel too big, or scary. It just feels bright and hopeful, like the first blue-skied, frosty day of a cold, dark winter. “I don’t think they call it courting, anyway.”
“No, I suppose not.” Hermione glances at Harry. “You’ll still be not-courting, then?”
“Very much. Very much not-courting. I plan to not-court at least a couple of times a day.” Harry winks at Hermione who punches him in the arm, making his robes shimmer and twinkle.
“Too much information, thank you.”
“Sorry.” Harry presses a light kiss on Hermione’s cheek. “Thank you, by the way. I know you planned this. Has anyone told you that you’re really quite brilliant? Who would have thought to put me and Malfoy together?”
“Basically everyone.” Hermione’s smiling, when Harry pulls back. “You’re not exactly subtle when you’ve had a few shots. I hear from the editor of Witch Weekly some of the staff are writing saucy fanfiction about you both.”
“Oh Merlin.” Harry laughs and he glances over to Draco. He drains the rest of his wine and squeezes Hermione’s shoulder. “If you find any good ones, let me know. It might give us some ideas.”
“I’m not going to read it, Harry.”
Harry interrupts Ron and Draco, briefly chatting to Ron before tugging Draco onto the dance floor. “It’s all over, then.”
“Yes.” Draco takes the lead, but the song is slow enough that they don’t need to do much more than sway. “No more golden mugs and sequinned dress robes.”
“I don’t know about that. I think you’ve got a future in bespoke tailoring if any of the style magazines here tonight have any say in it. Everyone’s been asking who I’m wearing. I just think you need to focus on wizards, rather than house-elves.”
“It might be quite fun.” Draco’s eyes shine with interest. “I do have impeccable taste in clothing.”
Harry rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, don’t we all know it.” He holds Draco tighter nevertheless and lets his head drop onto Draco’s shoulder, so he can nose at the crook of Draco’s neck where his scent is the strongest. “Hermione tells me there’s fanfiction about us. Apparently, everyone thinks we’ve been dancing around one another for years.”
“Oh.” Draco doesn’t sound particularly surprised. “And here we are. Still dancing.”
“Not anymore.” Harry stills and lifts his head, meeting Draco’s gaze head on. “Now we’re…”
“Making a public spectacle of ourselves again?” Draco offers.
“Something like that.” Harry smiles against Draco’s lips. “I told Hermione I don’t care if the official courting stuff is over. I want to not-court you a lot after this.”
“Romantic,” Draco says. He sounds pleased. “Do you want to go for a drink tomorrow evening? I found a place in East London that makes Christmas cake flavoured cocktails.”
“God, yes.” Harry can’t think of anything better. “I need to find a new renovation project, too.”
“Yes,” Draco agrees. “But for now, you could always just enjoy festive cocktails and the holidays.”
“Yeah.” Harry kisses Draco properly and they don’t talk for a long time, ignoring the cameras that flash around them. The rest can wait.
Harry’s going to take each day as it comes, and tomorrow’s already looking up.