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They get engaged the winter after the battle. The first snow has just fallen over London — fat, bright flakes that hit the concrete and promptly turn to grey mush. Walking down the road later, hunched in his coat, Harry will have the fleeting thought that it’s symbolic before pushing it out of his mind. He’s become good at that.

Mostly.

“We don’t want to wait,” Ron tells him after tumbling into Grimmauld Place mid-January, flushed and grinning, eyes bright with drink. Harry looks to Hermione, apparently back at last for good from Australia with her parents in tow. The separation has been hard on them, he knows, their new relationship proceeding in fits and starts made up of International Portkeys and weeklong visits and the occasional stolen day spent in the room Ron commandeered for his own at Grimmauld place. But they’re luckier than many -- Harry knows that too.

He raises an expectant eyebrow and Hermione grins and displays a glimmering red jewel on her left hand. Harry lifts her hand to examine it; it’s small and delicate, set in a thin gold band with flourishes on each side of the gem. Harry knows nothing about jewelry, but it feels very… Hermione. Pretty, but unassuming until you look closer. When you do, there’s a—

“It glows inside,” he says, peering in. “Is it a ruby?”

Ron nods. “An heirloom, from Mum’s side.” He looks proud. “Bonding magic. It glows when there's a real connection between the…”

Hermione smiles at his blush and supplies, “Betrothed.” She pulls her hand away to study the ring. “It's fascinating magic, really.”

Ron and Harry snort together, exchanging a look. “Trust me to get engaged to the one girl who's more interested in the magical theory of her ring than the ring itself.”

“Oh shut up,” she says, nudging him with her shoulder. But she looks pleased.

“Can't. Got to ask Harry something.” Ron takes a deep breath. “You'll stand with me, won't you?”

Harry isn't sure why he’s surprised. “I thought… George.” Ron frowns a little and he rushes out, “But yeah. Of course, yeah! I'd be honoured!”

Ron's eyes clear. “Good,” he says, exhaling. “Yeah. I mean, yeah, George, but…”

Harry nods. Ron and George have become even closer after Fred’s death, but George is still struggling with the depths of his depression, and it tends to get worse on happy occasions. “Right.”

“You'd be my pick, anyhow,” Ron says. Harry feels a tight rush of affection for him.

“You too.”

Hermione huffs. “I don't see why you get Harry. He’s as much my best man as yours.”

Harry laughs as they started to bicker. He calls for Kreacher, who procures some champagne from the cellars so they can toast.

“Wait, wait!” Hermione says, as he starts pouring it into three champagne flutes he thinks must be worth a fortune, the crystal being so thin and light Harry’s a little worried it will shatter in his hand. “Let’s call Ginny and we can have a real celebration!”

“Oh, um.” Harry glances at them and forces a smile. “I didn’t think you’d come here before the Burrow when you guys got back from Australia.”

Ron and Hermione frown in unison, and an odd swell of laughter bubbles, trapped, in Harry's throat. After a beat, Hermione tilts her head and gestures with her left hand. “We wanted to tell you about this first.”

“Well, my mum knew I was going to,” Ron said with a one-shouldered shrug. “Had to get the ring, you know. Why?”

Harry clears his throat. “It’s really not anything. Just… Gin and I broke up over New Year's.” At Hermione’s (over-the-top, in his opinion) gasp, he looks to Ron for help, but Ron simply stares at him, gaping. Hermione takes a step forward.

“Are you okay?”

“What makes you think I’m the one who needs comforting?” Harry asks lightly. He is, maybe, just a little. But the question is relevant at least. Hermione winces.

“I don’t, I just—”

“We can still invite her, though,” Harry says, taking a breath. “We’re going to be friends. Of course we’re going to be friends; we love each other. It’s just not… It’s just one of those things,” he amends. He has no doubt they’ll find out the rest from Ginny, but their shock and dismay feels almost worse than it did when Ginny had begun talking about how much she loved him in that aching tone, as if the very fact of it hurt her. He supposed it did — that was rather the point, wasn’t it.

“It was mutual,” he adds, which is true...ish. He sighs. “Come on, you two, stop it. This is a happy occasion, right?”

Hermione swallows and nods. She nudges Ron again, with her elbow this time, and he lets out a soft oof, then straightens. “Right. No, ‘course it is. We just... I thought we were going to be proper brothers,” Ron blurts. “A full family: me and ‘Mione and you and Gin.”

Harry’s eyes lock with Hermione’s for a beat that lasts too long. Her lips are trembling, but her gaze is steady and intense -- there’s a question there. Harry looks away to grab their drinks and pass them over.

“We don’t need all that to be family, you knob,” Harry says with a little snort. “Come on now, let’s toast.”

It takes a bit, but he manages to coax things into a lighter mood, and when Ron and Hermione retire a half hour later, Ron’s voice is hardly gruff at all when he says he’s sorry about Gin but that Harry shouldn’t worry because they can find him someone good. Hermione’s hug is too tight, and incredibly brief.

They put up silencing charms, thank Merlin, but they’re either too tipsy or not paying enough attention because their voices — Hermione’s breathy laughter, Ron’s groaning, weirdly sweet dirty talk — keep filtering through, breaking his concentration. When he realises it’s been a good ten minutes since he’s turned a page of the novel he’d been devouring before they came over, Harry grabs his wand and his coat and heads out into the cold. He casts subtle warming charms on his pockets as he walks — he has no clue where his gloves have got off to — without paying attention to where he’s going, and when his legs start to get tired, he ducks into the first place he hears music coming out of.

Coloured lights flash in the darkness, illuminating dancing bodies, and the press of people warms up the space quickly. Harry unwinds his scarf and makes his way to the bar, cataloguing things: the vibration of the bass, the group of blue-haired women on stage, the two men next to the empty barstool he approaches, hands tight on each other’s arses, mouths sealed together so fervently it distantly occurs to him that it might be time for them to get a room.

He simply sits there, heart hammering wildly. Petunia speaks from somewhere in his head: It's rude to stare. He can't stop, even as Vernon’s voice tells him other things.

After who knows how long — long enough for the kissing men to move off, though they head to a shadowy corner rather than a room — the bartender slides an unordered drink over to him. Harry looks at her curiously and she winks. She’s older, maybe in her forties, and wears a band t-shirt and about a dozen bangles on each wrist. Her hair is scarlet, shorn close to her scalp, and her only makeup is heavy eyeliner. Her smile is incredibly kind. “On the house, kid.”

The drink looks like the sunset. The flag in it is a little rainbow.

***

You love her like a sister, Harry told himself, on the night everything changed.

He’d always loved Hermione, in that exasperatedly fond way he imagined siblings did. He admired her, as well — the way her mind worked, her sense of self-possession. Even her stubborn nature and bossiness didn’t usually faze him the way they seemed to bother Ron. It was just... Hermione, being Hermione. And he wouldn’t be able to be Harry without her. Wouldn’t be able to do what needs to be done, if he didn’t have his friends at his side.

Which is why it hurt so much to watch her like that after Ron left them. It was so cold, and Hermione insisted on wearing the Horcrux far more than she should. He caught her from time to time, staring at the shaking canvas of their tent, the wind howling outside, and her eyes seemed to burn brightly with it — with that lost, ghostly shuddering, pounding against their meagre protection from the cold. It scared him, that any part of her related to the hollowness, and when he sat beside her and gently pulled the necklace off from around her throat, holding her hair away so the chain didn't catch, he only wanted to make things better for her, even if for just a moment.

But her hand stilled his when he started to put the Horcrux on himself again. Her warm brown eyes were bleak, and she gave a minute shake of her head. She’d lost as much weight as he had, even though he’d tried to make sure she got larger portions of whatever they could catch or gather, and her collarbone protruded sharply. He could see her pulse, fluttering at the hollow of her throat.

“I need…” Hermione said, trailing off listlessly. Harry’s throat felt tight; his eyes were swollen and hot. He knew exactly what she needed, but it was the one thing Harry couldn't get for her, the thing that had walked out on them both, and he didn't know what to do other than to gather her close.

She rested her cheek on his shoulder, body trembling against his. She felt light in his arms, like a gust of the wind outside could take her away, so he held her tighter just to feel safe. Her hair fluffed into his face, riotous curls tickling his nose. He didn't know how, but she’d managed to stay relatively clean in the last several weeks, though close like that — like when they slept — he could smell her musky girl scent, and his body responded shamefully.

You love her like a sister. The whisper wandered weakly through his mind, and he wasn't sure if it was his voice, or Ron’s. But it was true, he did. He loved her like a sister — she was one of the most important people in the world to him, and if he could’ve defeated Voldemort just for her, he would have. It was wrong that his cock began to thicken inside his jeans, wrong that his breath caught as her lips trembled out warm puffs of air against his neck. It was wrong to want her in all the ways he should never, just because he was cold, and scared, and she was too. Just because making her feel safe made him feel... something, when sometimes Harry thought he wasn't supposed to feel anything at all.

“Harry,” she murmured, and the mouth at his neck moved more deliberately, but so swift he thought it must be an accident. “I can’t feel this way anymore,” she admitted, and a broken noise escaped him, because he didn't want her to. He wanted her to feel good, and right, wanted her to feel the something.

He wanted.

He pulled back, stricken. His mouth dried and he couldn't meet her gaze. But her soft hand tilted his chin up. Her eyes glistened with moisture, but looked at him steadily, and it was as if she already knew what he’d been thinking, knew and wasn't disgusted by him. It was like she knew, and loved him still, and without thinking, Harry pressed forward and kissed her.

Hermione surged against him with such an utter lack of surprise, Harry thought she’d waited lifetimes for the contact. Waited and waited, preparing herself all the while, because she was Hermione, and that’s what she did.

Later, he would make a comparison in is mind as he ran his hands over her soft brown skin, her body tucked into his, a snore issuing from her mouth. Later, he’d think about Ginny, and the way Hermione’s mouth was fuller than hers, the way her kiss was hungry but less forceful. He would think about the heat of them both, Ginny’s lean, tiny body and Hermione’s round curves. Later, he’d think of Ron, and of how Hermione and Gin belonged to him, somehow, the same as Harry did.

But in the moment, something bright and hot lit up in him at her touch. Her mouth opened under his, her arms slipped around his neck. One small hand found its way into the back of his t-shirt under the collar, her fingers drifting over the bumps of his spine like she knew how much he hurt everywhere. Hermione slipped her tongue against his and Harry uttered a groan into her mouth, back hunching to press her down into the cot. She went, twisting a fist in his hair like she was afraid he’d pull away.

He didn't know how long they kissed, only that he felt warm for the first time in ages, and that it was Hermione somehow made it even better. When he cupped her breast without thinking, massaging it lightly, he was startled to realise that her nipple was hard. It poked against his palm through layers of cotton and wool, and Harry rolled it between his fingertips curiously. Hermione arched against him, legs falling open, the denim of their jeans rasping together as he started to move on instinct to rub against her. He was so hard; he couldn't remember the last time that happened. Grimmauld Place, maybe. But she was soft under him, so soft. She made greedy little sounds like she did lately when they found something to eat, and rocked her hips up, mouth still slanted under his. At some point, the locket clutched in his grip fell, and the world became sharper with sensation, with drive, with need.

“H-H-H- Please.” It was a whimper, an entreaty. Her hands fell to his arse, squeezing. Later, he’d think about how she couldn’t say his name.

It wouldn't matter much then, either.

Harry slid a hand under her jumper for skin contact. The concavity of her belly made him ache again so he didn't think about it, merely stroked over warm skin, and let his hand wander as it would. He palmed her bra and shuddered a little. It was as far as he’d gone with Ginny, but he didn't let his mind go there, instead focussing on wrangling up the heavy wool blanket to cover them before shoving her jumper out of his way. The lace of her bra was torn over one cup, the white material faded to dull but still a pretty contrast to her skin. He tried to push that up too, but Hermione stopped him with a hand on his chest, sitting up a little and reaching behind herself. With a tiny shimmy, some sort of girl magic, the thing came off, pulled out one sleeve, and Harry’s eyes fell to look at her, brain muzzy with confusion and arousal, both threaded with guilt. Her tits were round, high, fuller than the rest of her body, dark nipples pebbled tight. He wondered fleetingly if they should stop, but Hermione pulled him to her again, covered her body with his, one hand working frantically on the zip of her flies. He found her nipple with his mouth, sucked it, a wave of lust rolling through him when she moaned and guided his hand up to squeeze the other.

It was fast, when they undressed. He couldn't quite remember doing it, just the blur of yanking her jeans lower, of her palm rubbing his cock through denim. “Wait,” Harry thought he said once, or maybe a dozen times, because— because it was going somewhere, somewhere they both needed it to go, and if he finished too soon the spell would be broken. The cold would come back, and they might not find the fire again. They kept their tops on, shoved under their armpits so their skin could touch, and it happened so quickly that Harry’s shoes were still on; Hermione kicked one of her own off so she could get a leg out of her jeans to wrap around his hip.

The wiry nest of curls between her legs had his breath stuttering, no less when she reached down without hesitation to grip his cock. He thought distantly that he’d like to taste her there — her mouth and skin tasted so good, so much better than the food they ate — but then his thoughts were wiped away because her hips lifted and his cock sank into her cunt, tight and hot, hotter than he’d ever been, maybe. There was a single second when she tensed, but he’d gone mindless with sensation, with feeling good, and he pushed harder. Hermione cried out, “Oh!” fingers digging into his ribcage, but she nodded against his throat and pumped up to meet him.

Harry paused, gasping, face buried in her hair. She was slick inside, her inner muscles flinching around him, moving, and he thought he was going to come. “Wait,” he said again.

“I can’t,” she told him breathlessly. It sounded like she was smiling, so he lifted his head. She was. He tried to remember the last time she'd done that. “It feels good,” she said, running hands up and down his back. She paused above his arse, then slid her hands experimentally downward, fingers slipping between the cheeks to run over the soft skin there. Harry huffed a surprised laugh and her smile widened. “It’s okay if it’s fast. Don’t stop.”

His heart thumped, the enormity of what they were doing hitting him. He cupped her face in his hands and thought about how much he loved her. He kissed her, nodding into it, and began to thrust. Hermione rose up to meet him, eyes fluttering shut. Her lashes were curly, resting against the curve of her cheek.

He sank into her over and over, her grasping walls clenching around him. Her muscles relaxed and he realised with a vague sense of wonder that he’d been hurting her, realised that she wasn’t hurting any longer. His balls throbbed, but he— he wanted it to last. He didn't want to go back to the cold.

Hermione’s fingers moved with him; they slipped down over his arsehole. He startled, bucking into her hard, and echoed her moan because, fuck. He couldn't focus on anything but the tightness around his prick, the slide of himself into her, the way her tits pressed tight to his chest as she hooked her leg up higher. There was a pause, and then her fingers stroked the spot again, and that felt good too, so Harry didn't question it, didn’t question that Hermione knew what to do. But amidst the newness, the familiar prickle of impending climax intensified in his spine, and he kissed her again just so he could be in her as much as possible when it happened. He licked into her mouth, hips juddering frantically.

Against his lips, Hermione said, “It’s okay,” and Harry came, shuddering from the force of it. His fingers curled into the muscle of her thigh, into her hair, his toes curling too, as she turned wetter inside with the slick of his come.

He didn't say her name, either.

It felt like the scar on his forehead, a curse hot enough to kill, when the pleasure ripped through him from head to toe. It felt like a sin, the way his cock pulsed inside her; felt like a dream. Like a balm.

He rested against her for who knew how long. Sweat chilled the back of his neck, her hands petting his hair affectionately, a soothing touch he would recognise anywhere. In the aftermath, the heat they had sought together changed shape, becoming dangerous, like it could burn everything away. Hermione shifted under him, making a small sound, and he realised he should pull out of her — oh god, he was inside her — and move away. Should apologise. He forced his head up, the words bitter on his tongue as he prepared them.

But Hermione’s face was still soft, still open. She didn't look angry or disgusted. After a shy bite to her lip, she pressed a kiss against the corner of his mouth and wiggled, seeming pleased when Harry’s softened cock jumped inside her.

“Again, okay?” she said. Harry’s lungs felt tight, or maybe overfull, and he gave her a slow nod, exhaling slowly.

“Okay,” he said, shaken by the blast of how much he wanted her. His prick already felt heavier, harder. “Okay.”

So they did it again.

***

Their wedding is small and tasteful, on a hillside near the Burrow at the end of August.

Hermione's eyes shine as she says her vows and Ron's voice shakes when he returns them. When Harry passes over her ring, Ron slips it onto her finger one-handed, because his other has found its way into Harry's grip, as though he wants Harry to feel included. Harry can feel the wobble of his own smile, the rising burn in his eyes, and he tightens his fingers around Ron’s hand in gratitude, loving them both so much he feels humbled by it.

They kiss. Amidst the applause they turn from each other. Ron embraces him first, then Hermione, and her breath is warm against his neck when she whispers, “I love you, Harry.”

He holds her tight. “I love you too. Congratulations.”

She pulls away with a choking little laugh to receive Molly, who is sobbing and clutching a damp handkerchief. Ron claps Harry on the back and heads down the aisle with Hermione to the attached tent where the reception is set up. He and Ginny link arms and follow.

“That was beautiful.” She sounds wistful.

“You ever think of it?” At her sideways glance, he laughs. “I'm not asking.”

Ginny snorts. “I don't know. I guess maybe someday it'd be nice. I still don't want…” Something permanent, he thinks she's about to say before she trails off awkwardly. Maybe it rings too close to her breakup speech.

“Not everyone does.” He gives her hand a squeeze. “Temporary can be good too.”

Stifling a surprised laugh, Ginny peeks up at him from under her lashes, a wicked little grin curling her mouth. “Is that an invitation?”

In the months since they broke up, they've come together a handful of times. The sex is pretty great, and it doesn't even sting the way Harry worried it would when they'd gotten together for drinks one night and woken up naked and a bit sore in the morning. It's sort of...comfortable.

Harry eyes her. Her gown is sleek and pink, and all of her flaming hair is piled atop her head in a cluster of curls that bares the graceful arch of her neck. She looks...poised, he realises with some surprise, and grownup. He processes the strangeness of it. Usually, he just feels way too old, or like a kid still wearing oversized clothes. Being nineteen and adult is a foreign concept to him.

A small kick to his ankle pulls Harry back to the moment. He wiggles his eyebrows as he leads her to the head table. “Wouldn't say no. But aren’t you seeing someone?”

“He was a dud.” She pulls a face. “How goes the superstorm?”

Caught by the papers leaving the muggle gay bar he'd been frequenting three months prior, Harry took Hermione’s advice and got proactive, writing a letter to the editor of the Prophet to come out. But if he’d thought his fame after the war was overwhelming, he’s been put in his place by the resultant media circus that ensued upon the small revelation of his fluid sexual preferences, hasn’t he?

Harry shakes his head, grimacing. “Haven’t you read? I’m having bisexual orgies now whenever you’re not available. I’ve slept with half of wizarding London at this point. That weekend Auror training seminar in Belfast? Actually Thailand, where I stayed naked and on my knees for two days, sucking cocks like I thought I’d pull a margarita from them.”

Ginny cracks up, laughing so hard she has to wipe her eyes on a napkin. Ron and Hermione shoot them matching, quizzical looks from where they’re posing for photos, and Ginny shakes her head and points weakly at Harry before dissolving again. Harry shrugs at them sheepishly, hiding his grin, profoundly thankful for the people in his life.

After pictures are dinner and drinks and, finally, dancing. Ron sweeps out to the floor with Hermione and Harry sits back to watch them, Ginny now chatting with Arthur at the end of the table. They look good together, his best friends. Ron’s gotten even taller, Harry thinks, but some of his gangliness has started to fill out with Auror training. The dancing lessons he’s been taking religiously for the last couple of months must have paid off, because Hermione clings to him in perfect form and projects the same sort of elegance Ginny does, some new, mysterious quality that comes from growing up. They’re utter opposites in every way, and it shouldn’t work, but it does. Harry likes knowing there are things like that.

A couple of dances in, Ron beckons. Harry heaves himself up from the his chair to head over. “You guys look amazing.”

“It’s just the dress,” Hermione says, grinning, and Harry smiles back. Her dress is an absurdly feminine thing in the palest blush-pink. It has a floofy, floor-length skirt with tiny, shimmering crystals on the fitted bodice.

He never would have guessed it from her — no one would have, Harry thinks — but they’d been out to lunch together one afternoon and she’d frozen like she’d seen Merlin at the sight of the dress, being fit onto a mannequin in the window of a small bridal boutique. It had taken ten minutes for Harry to convince her to go in, and another thirty for him to get her to try it on, “for fun,” despite the price on the dangling tag. With a few, inconspicuous flicks of her wand, Hermione had tailored it to her frame perfectly, and she’d looked so stunning that Harry had dropped his brand new muggle credit card on the counter as she stared, gobsmacked, into the angled mirrors at the dressing station.

She’d tried to get him to return it, of course, but Harry could be stubborn too.

“It’s really not,” he tells her now, smile softening. He looks to Ron, whose eyes are riveted on Hermione. “What’s up?”

“Huh?” Ron breaks his gaze away. “Oh. Thought you might want a dance.”

“Love one,” Harry says, and steps into Ron’s arms. They come up automatically, one hand clasping Harry’s, the other around his waist. Hermione snorts, and though Harry had meant it as a joke, she moves off to the side and Ron gamely pulls Harry in closer to begin a smooth box-step. Harry splutters a laugh. “What are you doing?”

“Dancing with my best mate,” Ron says blandly. Harry gives a mental shrug and lets himself be led for the duration, smiling helplessly even when he sees cameras flash in the background. The wards around the Burrow rival those at Hogwarts and though no one they don’t trust has been invited, these things tend to make their way into the mainstream, somehow.

When the dance ends, Ron give him a smug, pleased look and passes him over to Hermione, who steps into his arms as if she’s been waiting. It takes a second for Harry to shift gears from following to leading, and he stumbles a bit at first. But it’s nice, all the same, to hold Hermione close.

“I’m really so happy for you,” he says, dipping his mouth close to her ear. Her fingers tighten on the back of his collar.

“It’s so fast,” she murmurs, the first indication she’s given of nerves. It’s why she was placed in Gryffindor, Harry thinks: she ignores her fear in favour of her heart until she can’t back away from her choices. “We’re only nineteen.”

“You love each other,” Harry says gently. She feels tiny against him, though her high heels bring her to within a couple of inches of his height.

“Yes, we do,” she says. She looks up at him searchingly, a small frown creasing her brow. Harry swallows, a pit rising in his throat, tight and aching. He wants to say something to break the silence, but his voice has disappeared and she smells like lilacs and he remembers… he remembers…

The end of the song feels abrupt and Harry loosens his hold on her hips, tilting a small smile down at her. The back of his tongue tastes like salt. “The Burrow today, Bermuda tomorrow,” he says, taking a step back when Ron joins them. “Lucky.”

Hermione lets go a huff of amusement. She slips an arm around Ron’s waist. “Not my idea. I wanted to go to Rome.”

“To look at books and— and museums and things,” Ron complains, but Harry’s privy to his surprise that the last leg of their month long honeymoon is a week in Rome. “That’s boring.”

When they leave, Hermione brushes a kiss against the corner of his mouth and Harry looks down to find his hands have drawn into fists. He makes his excuses to Ginny and heads home.

***

Only on the first night — a few hours really, before the sun rose, when they’d finally exhausted their seemingly boundless energy — did they lay bare, wrapped around each other: both on their sides, Hermione’s leg twined around his hip. She was far more tactile than Harry would have imagined, if he’d ever let himself imagine her that way outside of those rare dreams he’d had when her chest started growing. She investigated his skin with small hums and made idle comments about missing classes, about pizza. Harry was tired, but listened with half an ear, pleased and sad at once. She was working up to something; he knew her too well.

At length, softly, she said, “I climaxed, the last time.”

Harry shivered. Unbelievably, he felt it in his cock, which… Frankly, hadn't been so worn out since he learnt how to wank. “I know,” he told her, and it was true.

He wasn't even really sure how many times they’d done it. Four, maybe five. He felt drunk — drifty and pleasantly numb. Almost zen. Sometime during their second round, Hermione had taken his hand and pressed his fingers between her legs, trying to show him how to touch her. He felt clumsy, his strokes too hard or too soft, her clit slippery under his thumb. But it was a turn on, too, to touch her that way, to try to make her come. She seemed to like it even though she hadn’t finished, urging him on after each round, snuggling close to him. At one point they dozed, and Harry woke up with her astride him, their blanket wrapped around her shoulders, her nipples brushing his chest. He touched her again then, rocking hard into her. She mewled when his fingers found her, brow furrowing with concentration. “I’m— But—”

“Let me,” his voice was thick but steady; he didn’t even blush, “let me lick you. There.”

“Oh.” She clenched around him, surprised. Her hips felt feverish under his palms. “Yes. Please.”

They rearranged. Harry’s cock was sore when he pulled out but he stayed hard, kneeling between her spread thighs. Her hands went to her nipples and she tweaked them a little, her face nervous and hopeful. She slanted him a smile when Harry stared and her knee came in to jostle his shoulder. “Go on, then.”

Harry bent over her. He felt like he should perhaps be embarrassed, but he felt a distinct lack of shame as he studied her. The black curls over her cunt glistened with slick — hers, and his too, he realised. Gently, he parted the plump folds, mind flashing to the magazine Fred and George had shown him once. The women in it didn’t look the same, all coy eyes and breathy moans as they fingered themselves for the camera, bodies glowing with topical potions. Hermione was different, real.

Carefully, he lowered his head and lapped his tongue against the swollen nub he’d been rubbing. Hermione exhaled a whoosh of air, thighs widening like she couldn’t help it. She tasted good there too, Harry thought, doing it again. “Tell me,” he said, “if there’s something I can do to make it better.”

She seemed unable to talk, so he tried different things: he licked her while pumping two fingers inside her; he pushed his tongue into her, tasting himself there while pinching her clit between his finger and thumb. Finally he kissed her clit like he had her mouth, tongue moving like he was being kissed back, lips latched around it, sucking gently.

“Twice,” she told him, dragging him out of his memory. Harry smiled against her throat and fanned his hand over her belly.

“I know,” he said again. Her fingers had tangled in his hair as he’d eaten her with kisses, her moans loud and broken, her breath fast. Her thighs had clenched around his shoulders and Harry’d wanted to live in the shudder of pleasure unravelling in her. She’d promptly turned him on his back again to take his cock, face dreamy as she rode him, her fingers twitching at the apex of her legs until he felt her inner muscles clamp tight, spasming convulsively. Her fingers sank hard into his stomach and her mouth opened on a wordless cry. It was the pleasure of that, more than anything, of having given her something, which brought Harry to his last orgasm, dry that time, and so oversensitive he hadn’t been sure he’d be able to get there at all.

“I’m glad,” he said.

“I feel bad.” It came out small. Her fingers paused against the side of his throat.

“Me too.” Harry swallowed. He kissed her, because he couldn't think of anything else to do. She kissed him back.

A week later, Ron returned.

Harry thought, If not for the lake, I would still smell like her. His chest burned when the Horcrux burst open, but he felt numb as he watched Ron’s vision of what he and Hermione must have looked like together on the few long, cold nights when they'd finally gotten warm.

His love for Ron overwhelmed him, broke him out of it. He said, "She's like my sister. I love her like a sister and I reckon she feels the same way about me. It's always been like that. I thought you knew."

That it now felt like a lie didn't make it not true.

***

Hermione starts to give him shifty looks sometime late in her third trimester. It makes Harry paranoid — worse when Ron approaches to tell him Hermione is keeping secrets.

“Like what?”

“I dunno.” He shrugs. “She hasn’t wanted me at her appointments for a month. And she keeps dropping those hints; you know the ones?”

Harry does. Whenever there's a lull in the conversation, Hermione will casually mention something about her high blood pressure, or the extra Healer appointments she goes to twice a week to monitor the baby’s heart rate. Sometimes it’s about how pregnant women and new mothers are supposed to stay calm, and that she appreciates how respectful Harry is of that. The diagnostic charms he’s snuck over her are basic — he only knows what he’s learnt for possible injuries in the field — and have yielded no new information.

“You’re saying she’s sick?” Harry asks grimly. “Or the baby?”

Ron’s face is white, his voice hoarse when he says, “No, she’d… She’d tell me. Right? She’s not sick. No.” He draws out the last ‘no,’ like it might break in half if he’s wrong.

“You should ask her,” Harry says. If Hermione’s keeping secrets, there’s… probably… a good reason. “Just… Tell her you’re worried. Don’t do that thing where you drop hints about her hints and expect her to be straightforward.”

Which is basically half the reason they argue, Harry realises. He hides a smile. Gryffindors both, and four years married, and occasionally they’re still so damned tentative with each other.

“You guys are married now,” he continues at Ron’s wary nod. “You’re going to be parents in, what, two weeks?”

“Twelve days, if she’s on time,” Ron says. He slumps into Harry’s sofa and gazes sightlessly at the television. It’s on mute and he doesn’t even seem to realise that Harry had been watching a dirty movie when he barged in. “She’s not due home until nine. Is there a Buggy game on? We could hang out for a bit.”

Harry snorts. He passes the remote over. “Rugby, Ron.”

Ron finds a channel with a game pretty easily — he still fumbles with the television sometimes, because Hermione never watches and he’s too used to the wireless — and they sit back and drink the beers Harry summons from the fridge. After a few minutes, Ron says, “Was that one guy eating the other guy’s arse?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh. Have you tried that?”

“Yep.” Harry pops the ‘p’ and takes a swallow of his beer.

“Any good?”

“Yeah, you’d like it.” Harry’s willing to bet Hermione’s offered; she researches everything.

“Thanks. Sorry I interrupted.”

“No problem.”

It seems Ron actually manages to talk to her directly about his fears because Hermione stops by three days later and says she needs to tell him something. Harry helps her onto the sofa, trying not to smile at her slow waddle, and sits next to her.

“I’m not sick,” she says straightaway, and thank fuck for that. Harry rolls the tension from his shoulders. “The baby’s fine, too. I mean, I still have the high blood pressure, and they’re being extra cautious because I’m…” She gives him a tight, uncomfortable little smile, “...me, but everything’s okay.”

“Okay. So what’s going on?”

“It’s Malfoy.”

Hermione laughs at whatever look is on his face. Harry clears his throat.

“What about him?”

“Well… He’s my Healer. He works Obstetrics over at St Mungo’s. Healer Ross, my original Healer, had a family emergency and had to Portkey out of country for a while, and— I looked it up, Harry,” she says earnestly, one gentle hand flat over the curve of her belly, “and everyone recommended him. He’s… really good. Healer Ross said he was the best intern he’d seen in fifty years, and he got through his certification training in half the time it usually takes. Besides, it’s been so long, so I was hoping—”

“You hate Malfoy,” Harry blurts.

“I nothing Malfoy,” she says with a steely glint in her eye, voice going from soft entreaty to the edge of a snarl in a bare second, "and I everything this baby, and she’s getting the best, and you’re not going to behave badly over this when I go into labour. Are you.”

“Of course not. No. Uh uh.” Harry starts to shake his head in fervent agreement, but pauses. Her gaze narrows and he holds his hands up. “Okay, don’t be mad, but— I mean, Malfoy, Hermione. Right?”

He’d known Malfoy had become some sort of Healer, though he’d never had the occasion to check. He’d stoically said nothing when Harry had testified for him at the trials after the war — though he'd inclined his head and kept his gaze on Harry for the duration of Harry's testimony for his mother — and there'd been no contact since. Malfoy wasn't getting hauled into the DMLE for the Dark Arts and Harry never had to see him during his stays at St Mungo’s. He supposed it was a good thing Malfoy was attempting to repair damage instead of cause it.

But… He’d be watching Hermione have a baby.

Hermione seems to briefly contemplate yelling at him — Harry feels a pang of sympathy for Ron, who must have reacted… not as well — but instead collapses back against the sofa cushions with a long, gusted sigh. “I know. It’s Malfoy. I hate to give him any credit.”

“Yeah, I would too.”

“Can you believe he apologised to me? Not just the letters we all got after...” She flaps her hand. Harry smiles because the letter she'd gotten was massively different from the one he'd received. “An actual apology. About everything from calling me a mudblood to not stopping Bellatrix at the Manor. He was so…” She wrinkles her nose. “Accountable. It was really annoying.”

Harry chuckles. “I defeated Voldemort, you know. Delivering a baby can’t be much harder. Want me to give it a go instead?”

“I’ve got used to the little lemon charm he puts in my water on my appointments, but thanks,” Hermione says. She slips her shoes off and lifts her feet to Harry’s lap. He rolls his eyes but starts massaging them.

“And he’s the best?”

“Unfortunately.”

“Alright then,” Harry says. She groans a little when the pads of his thumb dig into her heel, and he smiles.

She goes into labour almost a week early. Despite her health concerns, the baby comes easily, Ron at her side huffing with her, Harry fetching ice chips. He’s so nervous the whole time, it barely registers that he’s talking to Malfoy, of all people. Malfoy remains steady throughout and answers Harry's questions so calmly Harry doesn't question being soothed by the low timbre of his voice. At one point when Hermione’s voice breaks on a pained moan, Malfoy even reaches up to squeeze Harry’s bicep reassuringly. Harry brings up his trembling hand to cover Malfoy's for something to hold onto.

“It’s just a contraction, Potter. Breathe,” he advises with a slight smile. “I don’t think you’d be doing yourself any favours with Granger if you pass out while she’s working so hard.”

Harry sucks in a breath. “I just— don’t—” His voice cracks; he thinks he may be ill from the tension winding in his stomach as he watches her. “I hate that she’s hurting.”

There’s a pause, and when Harry looks back from Hermione, Malfoy’s head is tilted to one side, his lips pursed curiously. He blinks, seeming to shake it off. “She’s doing really well,” he says, nodding. “She didn’t want any potions, which is generally a good way to go.”

Hermione yells again and Malfoy checks his watch. “Less than a minute.” He looks to Harry. “Find a spot where you’re, um, comfortable watching from, if you’re staying.”

“I’m staying,” Harry says firmly, though he does pick a chair in the corner near Hermione’s head. Malfoy flashes him a smile and coaches Hermione through the rest, wand at the ready in case of emergency.

When Hermione cries out his name, Harry moves from his chair to hold Hermione's free hand. He murmurs nonsense to her as Ron helps her breathe. It's messy and awful when the baby slides into Malfoy's capable hands, but sort of fascinating too, and when it's over, Harry discovers that his face is wet, his glasses smudged with tears. He kisses Hermione's knuckles fiercely before letting go so she can take the naked, fussing infant, and moves away while she and Ron duck their heads close over it. A mediwitch gently advises Hermione to put the baby to her breast and she does, laughing a little.

“Come on, Potter.”

Harry drags his eyes to Malfoy. For some reason, he feels broken open from the scene before him; his breath comes in quiet, jagged heaves. “What?”

Malfoy’s taken his gloves off and washed his hands. As Harry watches, he rolls down the sleeves of his unflattering robes.

“Come on,” he says again. The look on his face is oddly… compassionate. “Let's give them a minute. I'll buy you a coffee in the canteen.”

Harry takes another look at Ron and Hermione. She's giggling a little, trying to get the baby to latch, and Ron's smile is wide and besotted as he helps adjust her breast with a laugh.

“Yeah,” Harry says gruffly. “Coffee would be good. Thanks.”

***

They only talked about it once in the days that followed, sometime in early January. It was raining and miserable, but this time they knew Ron would come back — he’d gone to search for food — and everything around them felt… better, as bad as it was.

“I didn’t.” Harry stopped. He cleared his throat and looked down at his knees. He could feel Hermione’s gaze settle on him.

“Harry?”

He met her eyes. “I didn’t use anything.”

Hermione shook her head, bewildered. Her hair hung over her shoulder in a thick braid and there was a hole in the shoulder of her jumper. Unwillingly, Harry thought how pretty she looked.

“For what?” She looked down at her book, as if it had the answer.

“I mean, we didn’t,” he fumbled out, unable to look at her any longer. His face was hot with shame — not for having done it so much as how he wanted to again, every time he felt scared. They slept together for warmth now, the three of them, Ron in the middle. Sometimes Harry’s hand brushed hers, and they both pulled away as if scalded. Sometimes Harry’s hand brushed hers, and their fingers tangled, and they didn't let go. Harry never knew which night would bring what. “We didn’t use anything,” he said, lower. “So there’s not a baby.”

“Oh,” Hermione breathed. She was silent for so long, he risked a glance. She smiled gently, like she had simply been waiting for him to meet her gaze. “It’s alright,” she said, tentative. “There’s a spell. I think I did it right.” Her voice wobbled a little, rippling with the same undercurrent he felt on the nights they couldn't stand for their fingers to touch. “I did it… a lot.”

“You'd have had to,” he joked, freezing when her mouth dropped open. “I— I'm sorry, I don't know why I said—”

Her sharp burst of laughter cut him off. Harry smiled instinctively, not quite sure why it was funny, but relieved she wasn't mad.

“God, Harry,” she choked out, winding down slowly. “That was…”

“Awful, I know.” He contemplated the ceiling of their tent with a sigh, relaxing.

“No, it's okay,” she said, smiling. “It's actually a good question. I'm glad you asked.”

“Then you're sure…”

Hermione hesitated. Shrugged. “My system’s all off. I'm not exactly, um, regular right now. But yes, I think so.”

“Sorry,” he said once more. It came out a whisper, an apology for more than a joke, for more than his ignorance in preventive charms.

“Don't be,” she whispered back. Harry nodded, the moment dragging out. Her eyes were very dark, her chest rising and falling faster.

The flap of the tent opened and Hermione closed her book. She paused for only a second before giving a little crow of delight at the food Ron pulled triumphantly out of his bag.

***

“Mmm. He didn’t like foreskin play,” Malfoy says, shaking his head with faux disappointment. Harry snickers.

“Why really?”

Malfoy sniffs. He props his chin in his hand and twists to look at Harry contemplatively.

“He was an arsehole,” he finally says, voice flat like he expects an argument. If he does, he’s not getting one from Harry, who’d had Robert pegged as a complete dick from the night three weeks back when he’d wandered over and interrupted their conversation to buy Malfoy a drink and drag him onto the dance floor.

Harry hums a little, mouth twisting in sympathy. In the year since Rose was born, Malfoy’s inexplicably become one of his closest mates, canteen coffee turning into a blurted invite from Harry for another sometime. He deserves better than the men he shags, Harry thinks; he’s drily funny and smart as hell, and softer than he used to be, though somehow just as sharp, in a way Harry finds he likes when he’s no longer the one getting eviscerated. They meet for drinks or to blow off steam dancing at the clubs a few times a month, and get together more often for coffee when their schedules line up. They talk about work or Quidditch or who they’re seeing and, with a few exceptions, have managed to avoid the ugliness of their history. It’s easier than he’d ever thought it could be.

“Why aren’t you dating?” Malfoy asks suddenly, lips pulling to the side. Harry takes a sip of his vodka in what feels like a bid to stall.

“I do.” He takes another sip. “That bloke the same night you met Robert—”

“You necked in a corner booth and he rubbed you off through your jeans. Doesn’t count even a little. Plus, he was a Muggle,” Malfoy huffs. Harry would get offended, but he knows Malfoy now. Sometimes that’s just Malfoy’s tone, and anyway, he understands the point.

“Some wizards date Muggles exclusively,” he points out. Malfoy shakes his head, a scrap of white blond hair falling from the bun twisted at his nape to slip over his eye. He swipes it away.

“Magic’s too deep in you to be hidden for long enough to get serious about a Muggle,” he says. “You’d likely end up exploding all the windows in their flat by the time you had the third date, just because they said they wanted to come on your face or something.”

Reluctantly flattered, Harry catches himself, mid-shiver. He glances at Malfoy, whose smile is crooked, endearing. Harry clears his throat. “You don’t really, either. Not someone proper, anyway,” he says. “You can’t tell me you had real designs on Robert. You’re too big a snob, and you said his conjured lube was sticky.”

“Store bought is perfectly fine, Potter, and sometimes even better, so I fail to see your point.” Malfoy’s eyes glint at him, but his lips are twitching. Harry laughs.

“My point is that it’s an easy spell, and you wouldn’t be satisfied with someone who had no magical talent or skill.” He pats Malfoy’s knee. “We’ll find you someone. You just need to stop looking at the flashy arseholes who don’t bother to talk before pressing you up against a loo stall.”

Malfoy thinks about this; he doesn't often allow himself to get this tipsy, and Harry knows why — after a third drink, Malfoy’s a bit of a rambler.

“Do you like women or men better?” he asks curiously, as though it’s remotely connected to what they’ve been talking about. Which… It might be. Harry’s a little pissed, too, so he’s not quite sure.

“Men,” he says without thought. It’s a bit of a surprise — he’s dated more women, and his mind is always on... He shakes his head. “I mean… No, I guess that’s what I mean. Why? Are you suddenly attracted to a woman or something?”

“Fuck no.” He laughs. “And even if I were, I’m not allowed to pursue it. When I tried with Pansy at fifteen, she threatened me on behalf of womankind if I ever subjected another woman to my cock.”

“I’m sure you have a great cock,” Harry says, feeling quite loyal. He doesn’t let his eyes stray downward, no matter how much he may want to. Curiosity is normal.

“I have an amazing cock. Life changing,” Malfoy says, so matter-of-factly that Harry’s alcohol-drenched brain can’t figure out if he’s flirting, joking, or just that confident. “Unfortunately, for about three minutes, it changed Pansy’s life for the worse, and she refuses to forgive me for it. Says no other woman should have to carry the memory of such bad sex.”

“And it’s never occured to either of you that it might have something to do with the fact that you were fifteen?” Harry asks, amused. “And I’m guessing a virgin?”

“Mmhmm. But no. It really was,” he clicks his tongue, “unpleasant, even for me. And I was a randy fifteen year old virgin, as you said.”

“Never said randy.”

“Well, I was. I was also in love with someone else,” he volunteers abruptly. Harry’s fingers clench around his tumbler in a weird approximation of the way his stomach tightens. It’s not as if he doesn’t know details about every sexual partner Malfoy’s had in the last several months — and Malfoy’s not shy with the details, either — so he doesn’t know why the words run through his mind like that, why he wants to shake them out of his head.

He looks up to see Malfoy’s unwavering gaze on him. The third or fourth time time they’d had drinks, Harry’d gotten loose enough to admit he’d always thought Malfoy had pretty eyes, the shades slipping from cigarette to campfire smoke with a vibrancy most people’s eyes didn’t have. Malfoy had snorted and asked if he was trying to get a leg over or break into the bad poetry circuit.

“You never told me you've been in love,” Harry says. His throat is tight, raw.

“Yeah. There’s a lot you don’t know about me, Potter.” He throws Harry a veiled look and his voice slows, eerily sober. “I couldn’t have him. He was...older. He was the only person who ever made me feel like I was worth—” His voice cracks; he shakes his head. “And he loved me too, I think. I think he did. Think he wanted me, even. But it didn’t change anything. Neither of us could have done that.”

Harry works that out, clarity struggling to push through the fog. “Who was it?”

One corner of Malfoy’s mouth lifts. “Doesn’t matter. Does it?” Harry shakes his head, but his mind wanders to a letter from years ago that he's read more often than he'll ever admit. “I kissed him once. When I was seventeen. He kissed me back. Salazar, that kiss.” He closes his eyes, breathing through his nose. The narrow line of his jaw bunches. “I think he only stopped because he knew it could hurt me. He was the one person who always—”

It's not a conscious decision on Harry's part to take Malfoy's hand — for the amount of time they spend together, there's a wall that springs up between them in regards to prolonged physical contact — but Malfoy accepts it without comment. His palm is dry, his elegant, manicured fingers deceptively strong. He laces them with Harry’s and stares at their hands.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be over it,” he goes on after a beat. “Over him. I’m just saying it’s okay, Potter, to love someone. Love, itself, is nothing to feel guilty about. Even,” he says, more carefully, “desire. Pain. They’re just things we feel. It doesn’t mean you have to wallow in them and not allow yourself to be happy. No one wants to see that, for fuck’s sake, and it’s boring as hell, besides, so I’d appreciate if you stopped.”

Harry gulps a breath as it sinks in.

“Anyway. It's not as if any of those things hold you back from wanting something else. You can love two people at once. Fuck knows you can,” Malfoy mutters fervently.

“When did you get so smart?” Harry asks when he can find his voice. There’s something exhilarating about tacitly confirming to Malfoy he’s not wrong, something frightening and tremulous that Harry wants to savour. Simultaneously, it makes him want to cry.

“Years of mind healing.”

“I mean, about my feelings.”

Malfoy hooks one, smug eyebrow up, his mouth curling into a smile. But he looks into his whisky for what seems a long time and when he answers, his voice is soft. “I just said: there’s a lot you don’t know about me.”

***

The letter was waiting for him at his bedside when he woke from what felt like a thousand-year sleep, set next to a platter with two fresh sandwiches and a glass of water. After a quick stumble to the loo, Harry settled back in bed shoved his glasses on, then picked it up.

His room in Gryffindor tower was quiet, but he could hear the soft pad of feet and low conversations down the hall, like people were determined not to disturb him. He was glad for it, glad he hadn't run into anyone on his way to pee. He felt like one giant, exposed nerve, and hadn't realised that he needed the solitude, the mental rest, more than sleep or food.

He turned the folded parchment twice in his hands before opening it.

Potter,

This isn't an apology.

I'll likely be hauled in soon, which should make you very happy. But for now, no one seems to know what to do with us, so I've taken the opportunity to write this. I'll give it to your elf in hopes it reaches you.

You asked me why I didn't turn you over. I should think the answer was obvious, even to you, but in case you're still wondering: it's because I wanted you to win, of course. Someone I trust — who has every reason in the world to dislike you, and does by the way, not everyone is your fan — assured me that I could have faith in your ability to get that thing out of my home.

There was a tear blotch smearing the word “faith.” Harry touched it curiously.

So, I guess, I'm glad that he lived up to his word.

So many of the things I've done

I wish I hadn’t

I do appreciate the help in the Room of Hidden Things. It’s unlikely I’ll ever be able, but if you ever need, etc. If I'm given a quill wherever I go, I'll express the sentiment to Granger ...and Weasley and Weasley, as well. If not, feel free to pass it along.

My mother told me what happened in the forest. I don't know how you pulled it off, but I hope you'll bear her actions in mind should she ever require your help.

Nice wandwork.

D.M.

Harry picked up one of the sandwiches and munched on it as he read the letter a few more times. He snorted. Yawned. Drained his water and slid deeper into his bed, tugging the rumpled sheets and coverlet up. He refolded the letter and tucked it under his pillow and went back to sleep.

***

Harry watches as things get rocky, a year after Rose is born.

Ron spends more and more time in the field for the overtime pay, which they don’t strictly need at this point; he’s gone in as half partner with George at the shop, and Hermione makes a pretty paycheque, Harry thinks, as an Unspeakable. Besides which, there are residuals from the biography on them, so Harry can’t figure out what Ron’s driving force is.

“He’s afraid,” Hermione tells him one night, after firecalling and asking if she can come over. Molly’s taken Rose for the night, leaving Hermione at loose ends. Ron's on a stakeout that's gone long, and Harry bites his lip because he was there when Ron volunteered for it. “He hated being poor; truly hated it, Harry.”

“I know.” He looks at her with concern when she indicates she wants more wine, but tops off her glass anyway. She takes a long swallow, throat working silently. She’s drained half of it when she pulls the glass away.

“I’ve told him I’d be perfectly fine with way less than we have,” she murmurs. “Some part of him doesn’t believe me.”

“I think he just wants to give you everything,” Harry says. But her eyes are bleak and he shifts nervously.

Ron and Hermione fight; Ron and Hermione are in love. These are the things Harry knows. He’s not sure what to do with...this. It’s a real problem, something he can’t help with.

He doesn’t mention that he’s already tried.

Over the next few months, after a few abortive conversations with Ron which seem to do nothing, he makes sure to step in and help more. Malfoy sighs at him when he cancels drinks a couple of times, but he’s seeing someone new — someone who seems decent this time, even if he rubs Harry the wrong way — so it’s not as if he’ll be lonely. Hermione needs the support and, anyway, he makes up for it with coffee runs to St Mungo’s when he knows Malfoy has an early delivery.

He feels like he did at seventeen, barrelling toward a oncoming battle and not knowing what its catalyst would be.

Hermione wakes him up one night, crouching beside her sofa, where he's fallen asleep. She smiles and nudges his glasses straight with her knuckle when he opens his eyes. Her hand is soft in his hair.

“Hey,” she breathes. “Sorry. Did she go down all right?”

“Yeah,” Harry says, voice rough. “About an hour ago. Sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep. I had to work an extra shift yesterday.”

“No, it’s okay. I know it was last minute..” The tips of her nails drag gently against his scalp and it occurs to Harry that neither of them have raised their voice.

It occurs to him, but he continues to talk quietly. “Did you get the thing done? Everything okay?”

“Yeah, it’s good. Done.” She huffs a soft laugh. “You’re brilliant; thank you so much for watching her.”

“‘Course,” Harry says. “Anything for you.”

He means to say it lightly, but his voice catches on the last word. Hermione’s face is so close and her breath smells like sweetened tea. Her fingers pause in his hair before resuming her slow strokes. They travel down to the nape of his neck to curl there.

“Harry.”

She leans in and Harry lets himself feel it, the slow magnetic draw of her, the heaviness in his cock, the spiraling, helpless devotion he never lets himself think about. She’s close enough that he can feel the warmth emanating from her lips against his when he says, “Stop.”

She does, a quiet, thwarted sound escaping her throat. She leans her forehead against his, instead of giving him the kiss he so wants to take. “If we just…”

“No,” he says, forcing the word out past all of his screaming instincts, all of his hunger, every single aching dream he’s had in the last six years. He says the thing they’re never supposed to say. “We love him more.”

Her breath catches. She whispers, “I want to,” but the sadness in it acknowledges Harry’s truth.

“So do I.” They sit for a minute like that — foreheads together, the heat of her palm against the back of his neck — before she pulls away. Her eyes fall to the floor and Harry swallows. “I’d better go.”

“Yeah.” Hermione gives him a jerky nod. She bites her lip. “I shouldn’t have—”

“Don’t,” Harry says, shaky from the inside out. Another word and he’ll end up staying. “It’s okay. It’s good, we’re good. I'll owl you in a few days, we'll have lunch, okay?”

His house feels too big when he gets home, cavernous. Cold. It’s disconcerting. He wanders awhile casting warming charms in an attempt to settle, and when that doesn’t work, he tries to get rip-roaring drunk.

That doesn’t work, either, so he heads to the Floo.

He barely has to wait before Malfoy’s yawning face appears.

“Potter? What time is it? What’s wrong?”

“You alone?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I come over? There’s something wrong with my house.”

Malfoy yawns again and waves a hand, and by the time Harry’s come through, he’s got a whisky ready. Harry knocks it back and Malfoy winces.

“Do you know how much this costs?” he asks, lifting his own glass. “Show a little restraint.”

“I should show restraint,” Harry echoes, amused.

His laugh comes out a sob, and Malfoy’s casual scorn rapidly turns to concern, then alarm. He sets down his drink and pulls Harry close. His voice is low, his lips brushing Harry’s ear. “What is it, you fucking lunatic? Are you so special now that you can bypass an explanation when you wake me up and start weeping all over my favourite dressing gown?”

Despite the acid of his words, Malfoy’s tone is soothing. He runs his hands up and down Harry’s back and Harry chokes on a grief he never lets himself feel — doesn’t know why he feels, really, or who it’s for: Ron, Hermione, or himself. But he clings to Malfoy anyway, the lanky press of his body a comfort he hadn’t known he’d needed, until his tears finally cease and he raises his head.

Malfoy’s forehead is creased, his hair loose and bed-messy around his shoulders. His dressing gown is silky against Harry’s palms, a watery blue-grey, and beneath it he only wears a set of matching pyjama bottoms. He continues to stroke Harry’s back distractedly, fingers dancing a light massage up the muscles on either side of Harry’s spine. He’s frowning, but over the span of several seconds, his expression fades into one of wariness.

Haltingly, Harry tilts his chin up a touch. Malfoy doesn’t move an inch as Harry brushes their mouths together. He pulls back, heart caught in his throat.

Malfoy stares at him for the length of a long, shaky exhale. He rolls his eyes up and gives a tiny, almost exasperated shake of his head, and rubs a hand over his face. He moves out of Harry’s arms, leaving him in the middle of the parlour with his hands dangling at by his sides, to pick up his drink and take a pointed swallow.

“Come on, then.”

Harry starts. “What?”

But Malfoy is already moving down the hallway. He strips off his dressing gown and drops it to the hardwood floor, and the creamy skin of his back glows pale, his lean muscles shifting as he walks. Harry follows him to his room, reeled in by an invisible wire. When he gets to the door, he finds Malfoy waiting at the side of his overlarge bed.

Time seems to screech to a halt as their eyes meet. Then Harry’s legs are moving without thought. Malfoy meets him in the middle.

He tastes sharp like whisky and opens his mouth pliantly at the sweep of Harry's tongue, kissing him back with a small groan. Malfoy's shoulders flex under Harry's hands, tight, but eventually they relax and he reaches up to to fist his fingers in Harry's hair. Harry’s breath comes faster, harder; he wants to inhale Malfoy’s heat, wants to devour it. The cold has vanished against the press of Malfoy’s body, against his seeking mouth. Harry never wants the kiss to end.

It does, though, Malfoy wrenching his swollen mouth away with a strangled gasp. Harry ducks his face into the bend of Malfoy's neck to skim his teeth there, to bite and suck. Malfoy's hips jerk and Harry can feel the hard length of his cock pressing against him as he continues to string bites along Malfoy's throat. He slips his thumbs into the waistband of Malfoy's bottoms and tugs them down to his thighs. He sucks in a breath and looks — jutting from a pale nest of curls, Malfoy's cock springs up between them, long and slender and flushed, his foreskin retracting from the crown.

“Bed, Potter.” Malfoy murmurs it against his jaw; he nips at Harry's earlobe.

They kiss again and ease onto it, Harry jerking his clothes off, Malfoy kicking his bottoms away. Malfoy’s long fingers wind around his prick; he gives it a pull and Harry buries his face against Malfoy’s throat, panting, his own fingers questing down the flat, jittery muscles of Malfoy’s stomach. He knocks Malfoy’s grip away from him and follows the path of his hand with his mouth. Malfoy’s throat is bobbing when Harry glances up from the feathery strip of hair beneath his navel, and his gaze is fixed on the bed hangings, his chest rising and falling in a quick, broken pattern. Harry resumes, licking the narrow line of Malfoy’s hip, pressing Malfoy’s legs open to taste the crease of his thigh. He drags his tongue over Malfoy’s bollocks and opens his mouth, sucks one in and laves over it, and Malfoy’s hand falls to Harry’s hair. Harry lets it pop out of his mouth, then lifts his head. He licks up the length of Malfoy’s cock, going hot with pleasure when Malfoy moans. He turns his head and latches his mouth sideways along Malfoy’s shaft, running his lips over it, down and up, and flicks his tongue along the pulsing vein underneath as his fingers pull Malfoy’s foreskin down over the head, to pinch it together with a curl and twist of his fist.

“Fuck.” Malfoy’s breath explodes out of him, his hips knocking upward with a desperate little judder. Panting, Harry spares him a look to find Malfoy's eyes are wide and dark. Shocked. Harry turns back to task, moving his own cock in a hard grind against Malfoy’s duvet. He smooths Malfoy’s damp foreskin back down with slow rolls of his fingertips until the head is exposed, gleaming in the moonlight that streams in through his window. Harry seals his lips over it, slips his tongue under the foreskin to push it further back, all of the muscles of his mouth working to suck and lick and draw Malfoy deeper. He rings his fingers around the base of Malfoy’s prick and glides over the skin with small clenching strokes. Malfoy’s thighs widen; he pulls up one knee to rest his heel on Harry’s shoulder. Harry tips his tongue, presses it against Malfoy’s slit and tastes the bitter salt of his precome, which spurts a little, and Malfoy gasps, “Wait, wait.”

He draws off Malfoy regretfully, the fog in his head receding at Malfoy’s tone. Malfoy stares at him for a beat, jaw set and face oddly glazed. He’s holding himself apart, for some reason, and Harry can’t think why. Malfoy pushes his foot against Harry and rolls to his stomach, grabbing some lube from his nightstand.

“Don’t,” he says quietly, over his shoulder, “conjure.”

Blankly, Harry thumbs the cap open and slathers some lube over his fingers. Malfoy lies on his chest, cheek pressed to the mattress and hair fanned out bright against his blue bedding. He spreads his knees, drawing them up beneath him and out, toned, round buttocks spreading to display the pale pink of his hole. It twitches as Harry stares at it. His fingers come up as if in a dream, press into him, open him. Malfoy makes small, needy noises when Harry finds his prostate, fucks backward when Harry adds a third finger. His body is a furnace inside, and Harry wants that heat surrounding him. Shaking, he pulls his fingers out to stroke lube over his cock and lines up behind Malfoy, thumbing his prick into place.

He pushes in, maybe harder than he should because Malfoy’s hands clench, but Malfoy works his hips back to take more of him, small huffs of breath breaking free from his parted lips as they rock together until Harry’s prick is fully embedded. He looks down and takes a long, dizzying draw of air when he sees the stretch of Malfoy’s rim around his cock, the flicker of twitching muscle, which Harry feels clench tight around him. A bead of sweat rolls down his neck and he digs his fingertips into Malfoy’s hips, thumbs pulling his arsecheeks wider. The small of Malfoy’s back is decorated with twin dimples that deepen as Malfoy’s spine dips in, as he cants his hips up then slides them forward to fuck himself on Harry’s cock: a reminder to move.

Harry closes his eyes, and does.

He tries to make it slow, tries to pay attention, to relish it. But Malfoy wants something different, wants to drive him off the brink he feels like he’s been hurtling toward for so long. He clenches around Harry’s prick with a muffled groan, turning his face into the mattress, doing it with every pump of Harry’s hips, with each drive of Harry’s cock. He presses a hand flat against the headboard as Harry goes into him harder to keep from being fucked into it, and Harry bows over him. He mouths at the angular push of Malfoy’s shoulder blade, licks over the delicate knobs of his spine. Malfoy gasps, “Harry, please,” and Harry slides his hand down to find his bobbing cock. He runs his fingers over the long string of precome dripping from it and slips the moisture over the swollen head along the glans.

Malfoy cries out. Harry slams deeper, small grunts tearing loose from his throat as he feels the rippling rise of body tension in Malfoy, feels his own in the quivering of his thighs and the ache in his tightening bollocks. He squeezes Malfoy’s prick and drags his fist down in one long, tight stroke and Malfoy comes with a full body shudder, head coming up and hair flying back as he shoots over Harry’s fingers, arse spasming around Harry’s aching prick. Harry’s erratic thrusts turn into a deep, gasping grind, and the sweet, convulsing heat of Malfoy's orgasm rips Harry’s from him. He pulses into Malfoy and spills, mouth open and gasping against Malfoy’s back, and feels truly warm for the first time in years.

***

Harry spent a day and a half in his room before anyone came — he was pretty sure McGonagall was keeping everyone away — and of course it was Hermione who knocked. She looked tired, her cheekbones still too sharp, but there was a calmness to her he hadn’t seen in months. Not since—

“You’re awake,” she said softly, slipping the door shut and warding it. Harry nodded, drawing his knees up to his chest under the covers, and she came over and sat at his side. She laid a palm against his forehead, stroked her fingers over his face and pinched his chin, her eyes sharp and assessing. “You look better.”

He’d glanced in the mirror on his last sneak to use the loo. “I don’t want to know how bad I looked, before. Where’s Ron?”

“With his family. They need a day to…” Her voice cracked, and she cleared her throat. “Well. You can sleep more, if you want. I just wanted to check on you.”

“I should be out there, shouldn’t I?”

“Probably,” she said, which was why he asked; he knew she’d tell him the truth. Still, she shoved at him lightly and when Harry scooted, lay beside him atop the covers.

The beds he used to think of as so big — everything was, he supposed, in comparison to his cupboard — made the fit of their bodies a tight one. He said as much.

“You’ve got to be six feet tall, now. Maybe a little less,” she murmured, rolling to her side and tucking a hand under her cheek to look at him. “No wonder. The beds in the girl's dorms are charmed to match our sizes as we grow.”

A little ripple of shock licked down his spine. Tightly, he said, “In the Forest— I was my dad’s height.”

Hermione stilled. She worried her bottom lip between her teeth. “Are you okay?”

Harry shook his head. “Yes? No? I’m not sure.” Her face was so near. “How do we get okay about it?”

“I don’t know, Harry.” She placed her palm against his cheek. “‘s pretty fucked up.”

He cracked a startled laugh. “Since when do you— Ron’s a bad influence.”

“You’ve heard me curse before,” she said, eyes twinkling. Harry thought on it; he hadn’t really, except when they were— He blinked. Felt the heat of of a blush spill over his face. He was suddenly troublingly, tremendously aware of his cock.

“Hermione—”

“I just wanted,” she cut him off to say, “to tell you I don’t regret it, okay? To tell you I think about it, I’ve thought about it—”

“No,” he said, and tried to say don’t tell me that, I can’t know it, please, but the words wouldn’t come as she moved closer, smelling of lilac soap. Her mouth pressed against his and Harry’s head spun with it, with the familiar way she fit herself against his body, with the newness of the kiss. She kissed him slowly, with deliberation, her hands coming up to frame his face. His body flooded with warmth, his eyes stinging with a surge of tears, and he took her in his arms and rolled atop her.

Later, the sheet puddled around Hermione’s waist, baring her breasts to the room as she ate one of the sandwiches Kreacher kept Harry in a steady supply of. She sat unselfconsciously, licking her fingers and shooting fond smiles down at Harry, who’d propped his head in one hand and couldn’t stop looking at her. He reached out and ran his fingers down the soft curve of her arm, the line of her waist. She shivered.

“I need to go,” she said in a distant little voice when she was done eating.

“I know.” Harry pulled his hand away.

“And it’ll never—”

“I know,” he said again. He didn’t want to hear her explain. Didn’t want to face it.

It was why she’d come: so this time, they would both know it was their last.

***

It’s still dark when Harry wakes, but he can make out Malfoy’s silhouette in front of the window. He leans against the frame of it, the orange glow of his lit cigarette catching Harry’s eye as he brings it up to take a drag.

“I didn't know you smoked,” Harry says, voice grainy.

“I don't, usually,” Malfoy says after a pause. “What happened with Granger tonight, Potter?”

Harry stills, stomach pitching cold as he remembers. “Malfoy—”

“It’s a simple question.” Harry can hear the smile in Malfoy's voice. He has so many of them, and this doesn't sound like a nice one.

“I— We talked,” he falters.

“And you came to me,” Malfoy says. He takes another drag, then flicks the cigarette. It winks out of sight, vanishing with a neat little charm that sweeps from the tips of his fingers. “To feel better.”

Harry sits up, hunting for his glasses. Finding them amongst the bedding, he shoves them on. “No, listen. It's not like that,” Harry says. He flushes “I— I care about you. I… want you.”

“I know,” Malfoy says. He bows his head and breathes for a minute. "But that wasn't why you kissed me.”

Harry wants to get up, wants to press himself against Malfoy's sleek back and kiss the spot of skin at Malfoy’s nape that peeks through his fall of hair, but he can't force his limbs to work. “I kissed you because— I did want to kiss you.”

Malfoy finally turns. “Potter—” He sucks in one cheek and sighs. “If you think this,” he gestures to the bed, “was about anything more than an escape from your misery, I really don't have much hope for you.”

Anger rises, hot and satisfying. It unlocks Harry's muscles and he climbs from the sleep-warm covers. “If you thought that, why did you fuck me?”

“Because I hated that you were miserable,” he says simply. There's something raw and terrible in the way he gazes at Harry, something that makes Harry look away in shame. He thinks of the sex, the move and flex of Malfoy under him, and how he was so present and... so removed. Thinks of the way he quietly slipped beside Harry afterwards to draw a thoughtful hand through Harry's hair until he fell asleep.

“Why didn't you want me to conjure lube?” Harry asks, stupefied. It's the only question he can bring himself to voice.

Malfoy gives him a lopsided smile. “I like when you do magic,” he says. “I…” His eyes slide away; he blinks. “I like it too much.”

“You can't tell me you didn't like—”

“No, I can't tell you that,” Malfoy says wryly. “I wouldn't. Sometime, I'd like it again.”

Harry takes a step forward.

“When it's just the two of us in the room,” Malfoy says. He takes a breath. "When it's me who you really want.”

I do Harry thinks, and he does. He's wanted Malfoy since that first coffee; abstractly, since long before. But Malfoy’s not wrong either, and anything Harry says will feel like a lie.

The gathering of his clothing is awkward, and done silently. Malfoy lights another cigarette with the tip of his wand and watches as Harry gets dressed. He nods when Harry looks up.

“I’ll…” Harry trails off, not sure where he’s going with it. One corner of Malfoy’s mouth tips up in a faint smile.

“Yeah.”

And somehow, Harry isn’t even surprised to find Ron sitting on his sofa when he returns to Grimmauld place.

***

He left Ginny sleeping in his bed, the sheets slid down to expose her whole back and one leg. Though he’d expected Molly to say no, expected some sort of reaction, she hadn’t raised an eyebrow when Ginny announced over dinner that she’d be staying the night with Harry. For whatever reason, Harry was grateful.

They had trouble finding much opportunity to sleep together, but Harry liked it. The contact, the feel of her. He just found it hard to relax afterward, hard to fall asleep with Ginny’s soft hand draped over his chest and her snores in his ear.

He fumbled through his potions cabinet for the sleeping draughts he’d been prescribed at the start of summer — he tried not to take them too often, but sometimes they were just the thing — and, unable to find them, put on a pair of pants and slipped out of the room. He knocked lightly on Ron’s door and waited. After a shuffle, the door opened.

Harry peeked in. Ron was still in bed, rubbing his eyes with one hand, wand raised in the other.

“Did you use my sleeping draught?”

Ron nodded and yawned. “Yeah, sorry. A couple days ago.” He flicked his wand and summoned it from the attached loo. “Can’t sleep?”

“Gin snores.” Harry took the bottle from him and sat down.

“Don’t need to know.” Ron paused. “Actually, I already know, but I don’t need to know why you know, so pretend you don’t.”

“Got it.” Harry popped open the lid of the bottle and took a measured sip. He thought of the way Ginny tended to roll onto her back halfway through the night, and took another. He replaced the cap. “Sorry I woke you.”

“S’okay. I wasn’t really sleeping.”

Harry offered the bottle. Ron shook his head. He scooted over, twitching the covers down and Harry glanced at him. “Ginny’ll be pissed if she wakes up to find I’ve fallen asleep with her brother,” he said, but slid in anyway. They were quiet long enough that Harry started to feel drowsy, the potion taking effect.

“Harry?”

“Yeah?”

“Hermione loves me.”

Harry opened his eyes. “I know she loves you.”

“I just…” Ron blew out a breath. “Never thought I’d be so lucky. Never thought she could.”

“You’re an idiot, is why,” Harry said fondly.

“Why she loves me?” Ron asked. Harry snorted.

“Probably partly.”

Ron grinned. “She could have anyone.” His smile faded. “The Horcrux—”

“Ron, I told you—”

“No, I know. But if it had been like that…” He bit his lip, gaze faraway. “...If it had been like that at all… I would have handled it. If she’d picked you over me.”

“She’d never,” Harry said around a lump in his throat, then added, “and I wouldn’t, either.”

Ron turned on his pillow. He met Harry’s eyes. “I know,” he said.

The lump grew into something he couldn’t swallow around. Harry said, “I love you guys. I just want you to be happy.”

Ron’s smile broke his heart. “I know that, too.”

***

“You’re going to lose your wife,” Harry says flatly. Ron’s slumped shoulders — he’s here, when he could be home — make him seethe with fury. He drops his shoes and folds his arms over his chest.

“Yeah.” Ron nods, not looking up, and Harry sighs. He forces himself to unclench but holds onto the hard knot of anger in his belly; it’s a good distraction from feeling anything else. He sits next to Ron and takes the half-bottle from his hands. “I want— want to keep them safe,” he says. He swallows and flicks Harry a glance. “Professional wards can be expensive. The extra ones we had for the wedding were— and that was just a day.

Harry’s mouth runs dry. Carefully, he asks, “Why do you need professional wards?”

“I found some of those old letters we used to get,” he mumbles. Harry sags, his breath leaving his lungs on a rush. “Dunno why I saved them. But I found them when I was looking for the instruction manual on how to spell together Rosie’s new crib. And…” He shrugs. “Didn’t want to scare Hermione, you know?”

“Hermione knows about those letters, Ron,” Harry says heavily. He takes a pull from the bottle and winces, reminding himself to buy better whiskey. “Half of them were addressed to her. And, fuck, McGonagall would come out if you asked. I would, the whole Auror department would. We’d all put up wards around your place. Your mum’s wards are mental. It’d be the safest wizarding home in Britain, you lunatic. She just wants you in it.

“Feel like I shouldn’t need anyone’s help taking care of her,” Ron admits. He frowns. “Don’t tell her I said that, it’d piss her off.”

“She’s plenty pissed off already.”

“Yeah.” He sighs. “She told me to go spend the night at Mum’s. Said she needed to think about things.”

“That’s not good.”

“Right? So I came here.” He scrubs a hand over his face. “And got drunk. And am gonna pass out in a minute. Where were you?”

“Malfoy’s,” Harry says after a beat.

“Yeah? Shagged him yet?”

“...Ron.”

Ron snickers, falling sideways onto the couch. “Don’t try to deny you want to. You’ve got that same look on your face about him as you did in sixth year, ‘cept you don’t seem so angry about it.”

Except, Harry is.

He feels inexplicably lost in the days that follow. Ron heads back home, and his resignation from the Auror Corps is on Robards’ desk by Monday. He's going to start, he tells Harry by Owl, working normal hours at the shop. George needs the help, he says, and likes the company. But first, he's taking Hermione on a trip, one he doesn't have planned. Molly’s watching Rose, and he rented a car — he might try to have Hermione teach him to drive wherever they stop. Harry doesn't send the Owl he promised Hermione, because he's pretty sure they're gone by the time he reads Ron’s letter.

It's lonely. For the first time since the war, he doesn't know where his friends are — just that they're out there, together, and away from him. It should feel good and he knows he should be happier for them, but… he's not.

He pulls double shifts every night for a week, training recruits and in the field, then collapses into bed and sleeps for twelve hours. When he wakes up, it's dark and he thinks of Hermione in the way he does when things are dark and quiet. Thinks of Malfoy.

He Apparates to a muggle club across town and fucks a stranger in the alley outside it. When he gets home, he stares, and sleeps, and wakes up to do it again.

He doesn't feel cold. He doesn't feel anything, for awhile.

A month after his letter from Ron, there's a knock at his front door. Hermione stands there sheepishly with a bag of greasy chips from the place down the street he likes.

“I didn't know I loved you like that, until the tent,” she says when the chips are gone and Kreacher’s brought coffee. Harry feels like he should be more surprised by the way she brings it up so easily, this thing they've only referenced indirectly for fear it would hurt too much. But he's not.

“Me neither,” he says. She nods thoughtfully.

“And finding out I did… It was so big, Harry.” Hermione sighs. “I didn't know how to make it go away. That loving you. I tried. It helped, that I loved Ron so much. That I do.”

Harry takes a sip of his coffee; it's perfectly sweetened, three lumps of sugar and plenty of milk. He waits.

“So I'm going to stop trying to make it go away. I don't have to, do I?”

“No.” Harry swallows. He sets down his mug. “I think I'm in love with Draco.”

His name — Draco — shivers through Harry. He hadn’t meant to say it but it sounds nice. He thinks it again, just because he can.

“Really?”

“Yeah.” Something warm and sweetly familiar passes between them, but the fine edge of pain that's always accompanied it has been dulled by years and a month and something new, something Hermione had all along. “I'm not going to stop loving you, either.” He takes a breath, and thinks about what Malfoy said, about how it's possible to love two people at once. “But I think I'll love him more.”

“I'm so glad for you,” Hermione says, and he can see she really is. She laughs a little. “I think, if it had been different, it could have been Ron instead.”

“Instead, nothing,” Harry says, relief sweeping through him like the tide. “As well as.”

She kisses him on the cheek when she leaves and for once it doesn't feel like stoked embers of a dying fire. He kisses her back. Hugs her.

It just is what it is.

***

“How the fuck did you get into my flat?”

Harry opens his eyes at the thunk of Draco’s messenger bag hitting the floor. He stands with his arms crossed. His eyes have already gone flinty, and his pointy chin sits at a stubborn angle. Harry sits up, waking more fully from his doze. He takes his time stretching, and notes the way Draco’s gaze falls to the strip of skin bared when his shirt rises with his yawn.

“I didn’t think you’d mind,” Harry says.

“You didn’t think I’d mind my flat being broken into?” Draco looks at him like he’s daft. Harry leans against the back of the couch and grins at him.

“Well, not by me,” he says practically. “You did say you liked it when I did magic.”

The startled flicker on Draco’s face quickly twists into a sneer, and he stalks over to the bar to pour himself a drink. He downs it, breathing fast.

“Careful,” Harry says. “That stuff is expensive. I just bought a case for my cellar.”

“It’s wasted on you,” Draco mutters.

“Probably. How was work?”

“Long, and I’d like to go to bed, so if you’d—”

“Join you?”

“Fuck off.”

“Why are you so pissy?” Harry asks, though he sort of knows. Draco glares at him.

“You mean other than the fact that you broke in — which, as a fucking Auror, I shouldn’t have to tell you is illegal?”

“Well, yeah.”

Draco scoffs. He pours another finger of whisky with a shaky hand. Harry really doesn’t expect an answer, so he has to school his face when Draco says, “I never said I didn’t want to see you all. You’ve been out shagging strangers for over a bloody month and haven’t even been by.”

“Oh.” Fucking newspapers. “It was only twice.”

“You’re an arsehole.”

“I’m sorry.” Harry stands and walks to him. Draco stiffens, but he doesn’t move from his spot. Harry smiles ruefully. “You sort of just ruined my speech. I had a speech. I didn’t think about that part,” he admits. “I… forgot, it meant so little.”

“Seriously. Arsehole.”

Harry winces. “Yeah. But one who’s here. I remember what you said before I left.”

Draco pauses with his glass halfway to his mouth. He meets Harry’s eyes, brow furrowing. “Which part?”

“All of it.”

Slowly, Draco sets his drink down, with the gentle scrape of glass against wood. His Adam’s apple bobs. He’s close enough that Harry can see the purple smudges beneath his eyes, can smell the damp of his skin, like he showered at the hospital before coming home. Draco pauses several times as he lifts his hand to tilt Harry’s chin up because, Harry knows, he doesn’t think he’s brave.

It’s ridiculous. He’s ridiculous. He’s turned into one of the bravest men Harry knows.

The brush of their lips is hesitant, brief. Their eyes stay open for it. When Draco lifts his head, Harry takes the drink from the tiny bartop and sips it. He raises an eyebrow.

“Come on then.”

“Wha—” Harry hears. But he’s already walking to the hall. He strips off his shirt on the way and drops it; he opens his belt. He spells the bedside lamps on with a flick of his fingers just as Draco appears at his bedroom door, stunned.

“Potter.”

“I thought,” Harry says, more cautiously than he wants to seem, “to show you something by coming here.” He fumbles with his flies, pushing off his jeans and boxers when he gets them open and leaving them in a heap by Draco’s bed.

“I’ve seen your cock.” It comes out snide and uncertain, both.

Harry looks at him and swallows. He turns and bends over the mattress, stance wide, and displays himself for Draco’s view. He hears a low, injured sort of whimper, and then a single finger touches the small of his back where the indentation of his spine stops. It drags down curiously over Harry’s crack, between his cheeks, and falters when it slips through the lube already soaking Harry’s hole. Draco snatches his hand back. Harry pushes off the mattress and stands to face him.

“Kiss me,” Harry says. The moan Draco makes is louder this time, disbelief mingled with pain, but he takes Harry by the arms and kisses him with a fervency that's shocking. Harry's seen Draco kiss other men; he's been swept away by his kisses. But he's never witnessed the raw abandon of this, never gotten to strip Draco's defences away, Draco's tongue sinking into his mouth hot and nearly violent, the way he groans with delight, with wonder. The eager roving of his hands as he slides them up and down Harry's back.

Harry pushes his open robes off; he unknots Draco's tie and opens his shirt. He pulls out of the kiss breathlessly and smiles when Draco helplessly tries to follow his mouth, to capture it again, but he leans away. He pinches the collar of Draco's shirt and whispers, and Draco moans again, a thready sound of pleasure, when his clothes disappear against the sweep of Harry's magic.

Harry's been practicing that one.

He lifts his chin and kisses him again, and murmurs against his mouth. “Bed, Draco.”

Draco kisses him harder, mindless with it. Harry cups his jaw with one hand and circles Draco's prick — Merlin fuck, he's already leaking — with the other. He tries to focus, manages enough, and the next stroke he slides down the length of Draco's erection is slippery with lube.

“Bed,” Harry says again. Then: “I want your cock in me.”

This time, Draco goes. He doesn’t let Harry turn over. He keeps kissing him and stretches out over Harry, mouth greedy, teeth nipping and sucking Harry's lips and tongue. He slots himself between Harry's thighs and rubs against him, the lube on his cock slicking Harry's as well as Draco pumps his hips in slow strokes, eyes heavy-lidded, breath warm and broken against Harry's mouth.

Harry hikes up his legs, slinging one around the backs of Draco’s thighs. He tries to pull him closer, tries to line them up, but Draco doesn’t let him, reaching down to grab Harry's wrist with one hand and press it into the mattress. Draco lifts to the side enough to fit his hand between Harry's splayed thighs, knuckles brushing over the underside of Harry's cock, which lies flat against his belly. And further: he teases the skin of Harry’s bollocks; he prods Harry's prepared hole. Harry jerks, moaning on a shocked breath, and Draco's eyes fly up to his face, his lips pursing.

They've never talked about it — Harry's never been as open about discussing the details of his sex life as Draco is. He doesn't particularly want to talk about it now. But the stunned look on Draco's face forces the words out of his throat.

“I've just— never— But I want—”

Draco cuts him off with a hard kiss that sends him reeling — lips and tongues and teeth and the metallic hint of blood. He pushes two fingers into Harry, slow, and Harry squirms with sensation. He’d used a spell to loosen himself up but this is different; there's a burn, an irresistible yielding as Draco sinks his fingers in to the knuckles and begins pumping them. Harry breathes through it, startled at the discomfort, at how good it can feel. He wants more (and more and more) and says so on a low, babbling groan.

“Put it— put it in me. I want it. I'm ready. I don't need—”

The smile Draco casts down at him is sharp. “Who says I'm doing it for you?” he asks. Rhetorically, as it turns out, because he doesn't wait for Harry's answer before sliding down Harry's twitching body to throw Harry's thighs over his shoulders and replace his fingers with his tongue.

“Fuck, fuck,” Harry gasps, core muscles curling in so hard his shoulders rise from the mattress. He's done this before, taken men apart with his mouth as they writhed above him. But it hasn't prepared him for the sheer, blinding pleasure that tweaks all of his nerves as Draco nips against his fluttering rim, laps at it, and pushes his tongue into Harry to curl it inside. His hands twist in Draco's covers; he hears himself sob Draco's name. His cock jerks up from his stomach and shoots a long dribble of precome that almost feels like a climax. Draco latches his lips around Harry’s rim and sucks around his thrusting tongue. His moan vibrates through Harry, who cries out and grips the base of his cock to keep from coming as Draco alternates between tongue-fucking into him and licking wet over his shivering rim all the while moving his own hips against the mattress, seeking sensation.

Please, Harry begs. Draco’s hands, pressing his thighs wide, clench against the muscle. He pull back to nose up Harry’s crease and wipes his chin off on the inside of Harry’s thigh before rising with a tense, triumphant look on his face.

“Do it again,” he mutters, eyes hot on Harry’s. “Get my prick nice and wet for you.”

Harry stares at him, blinking, gulping in almost panicked drags of air. He shakes his head, thoughts stuttering in his mind before he can put together what Draco means. When he does, it takes him three tries to manage, but it’s worth the effort for the way Draco’s eyes flare when the fresh lube coats him to replace what he lost while rutting against his bed. Draco kisses him and grasps his own prick, and Harry rises up to meet him on his swift push in. Harry pants through it; he wants to feel it all, the burn and grasp of Draco’s cock sliding into him, the way his own body stretches for him, the strange quiver of bright tension when the ridge of Draco’s cock brushes against his prostate. When Draco’s finally fully lodged, they pause for a moment, staring at one another. Harry tightens his knee over Draco’s forearm.

Draco makes a small, choked sound. He pulls back and nudges his hips forward. Harry groans; lifts up. He says, “Harder,” and Draco does it again, harder like Harry wants — deep, jerky slams of his hips against Harry’s arse. Harry feels so full he can hardly bear it and Draco’s prick is so hard inside him. His inner muscles cling to it on every drag and drive and his hands slip, frantic, over Draco’s back down to his bunching arse to pull him in and in and in.

“Harry,” Draco whispers. A shudder flows through him and Harry catches it. Draco hikes his leg higher, props Harry’s ankle on his shoulder, and Harry cries as the angle enables the head of Draco’s cock to coast over his prostate. His hand on his cock loosens and the world swoops around him. All he can see is Draco’s steady, heavy-lidded gaze and Harry comes, gasping, prick spurting long white ropes of release over his stomach. He feels Draco grind into him harder, feels the throb of Draco’s cock inside his arse, and then the flood of wet, Draco’s spunk hot inside him, Draco’s shoulders rounding in as he follows Harry over the precipice.

***

“I want you.” Harry doesn’t tell Draco he loves him. Not yet. It’s still too new. But the sheets are soft, dried and freshened with a cleaning charm, and their legs are tangled together beneath them, their torsos angled toward each other, and he wants to say something.

Draco’s laugh is soft and a little embarrassed. He hides his pink cheeks in his pillow for a beat, then lifts his head and says, drily, “You just had me.”

“You know what I mean, you bastard.”

“Yeah.” Draco pauses. “Had you really never—”

“Shut up.” Harry flushes and refuses to meet Draco’s eyes, but he can’t stop smiling.

“It doesn’t matter,” Draco wheedles, which of course means it does. “I’d just like to know.”

“I said shut up.”

“Harry—”

“It was Snape, wasn’t it?”

Draco’s pause is longer. “...Shut up.”

***

“Fuck that’s good,” Draco gasps.

Harry hums and eats him harder.

***

“What changed?”

The lights are dim, and Draco is on the verge of sleep. The question startles Harry out of his own near-doze. “What do you mean?”

“For you,” Draco murmurs, eyes still closed. His hair is a mess, his fair skin marked by Harry’s hands and mouth. He looks exhausted and beautiful. “To come here tonight.”

“Nothing,” Harry says. He leans in and kisses him lightly. It’s a small intimacy but one Harry likes knowing will be received well. “You were right. I can love two people at the same time. I can move on, and make a choice. Nothing changed,” he says again. “I missed you.”

Draco’s lashes flutter on the word “love,” and sleepy grey eyes study him briefly. The corner of his mouth tips up and he closes his eyes again.

***

“I knew it,” Ron says, beer frozen partway to his mouth.

Harry snorts. “Didn’t Hermione tell you?”

“I wasn’t going to believe her!” he says, appalled. “She has all these ideas about ‘happy couples’ and she’s applying them to you and Malfoy? I figured it was the pregnancy hormones. Or she wanted a reason not to feel weird to have him looking at her— er…”

“Fanny?” Harry suggests with a roll of his eyes. “Lady bits? Nether region? For fuck’s sake, Ron, pick a word.”

“I’m being respectful!” Ron says, then pauses as if he realises how stupid that sounds. “Anyway, I never expected you to take my teasing as advice,” he says, which is a total lie. He’s a bigger romantic than Hermione, Harry thinks. In fact, he’s pretty sure Ron’s not even surprised.

“Wait a second, Hermione’s pregnant?”

Ron gives him a bashful look, but his eyes shine with pride. “Didn’t mean to let that slip. She wanted us to tell you together after her appointment with Malfoy today to confirm. Happened the first night of our trip, we think. It’s the reason we came back early. That, and you.”

“You were gone a month!” Harry says with a laugh before catching the last bit. He glances at Ron curiously. “And me?”

“Well, sure, Harry.” Ron smiles. “You’re part of us, you know?”

Harry feels a rush of affection so deep, he thinks it must be stamped on his molecules. He returns Ron’s smile. “You’re part of me, too.”