Harry didn’t quite know when it started. Whether it formed before or after the war. If it hit suddenly or developed gradually.
Maybe he could try to pinpoint it, the very catalyst of it all. A sunny morning during the golden days of Autumn, a fresh new school year after the terrible war.
Harry had left the room as quickly as possible and didn’t stop walking until he reached the outside. The green grass and sparkling lake were the only parts of the grounds that truly calmed him anymore.
That’s when he smelled it. Sharp and intense and unmistakable, reminding him of busy London streets. He followed the scent, perplexed and curious, around past the greenhouse and behind a stone archway.
Leaning casually against the wall, head tilted back, cigarette visibly dangling between his lips, was none other than Draco Malfoy.
“Is that a cigarette?” Harry asked, bewildered. Malfoy didn’t startle, the only sign he even heard Harry a delicate arch of one pale blonde eyebrow and his fingers removing the cigarette. “I didn’t know that was allowed.”
“It’s not,” Malfoy muttered, just before bringing the cigarette up to his lips again. The gesture was carefree and languid, like a cat’s yawn or a lover’s caress. Both intimate and remote.
“That’ll give you cancer,” Harry said automatically, and felt stupid afterwards.
“Well thank Merlin I’m a wizard.” Malfoy gazed at him under lowered eyelids. “Suppose I might’ve been better off a muggle.” Malfoy eyes his cigarette thoughtfully.
“You should throw that away before you get caught,” Harry said. Malfoy sneered.
“As if anyone wants me here anyway,” Malfoy said, but dropped the cigarette and crushed it with the heel of his boot.
“Don't say that,” Harry said.
“It’s true,” Draco said with a shrug. Harry wanted to argue that he wanted Malfoy there, but if it sounded bad in his head, it would sound worse out loud.
Instead, Harry shook his head. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. And I guess,” Harry felt the tips of his ears burning, which only caused him to ramble, “I guess, if you want, you could still, you know, smoke.”
Malfoy raised both eyebrows. Harry thought he almost looked amused, although his eyes still held a steely grey that sharpened on him.
“See you around, Potter.” But Malfoy didn’t move to leave, and that’s when Harry realized that the blonde git expected him to leave.
With no better options, Harry awkwardly waved and walked back to the castle, trying to forget pointless things like how Malfoy’s jeans were ripped and the ropey muscles in his arms shifted under Malfoy’s black jumper.
Or maybe it wasn’t the cigarette, the casualness, the muggle-ness that started it all. Maybe it was just there all along, dormant underneath years of passed insults and injuries.
Harry couldn’t have possibly noticed, the transition from Malfoy to Draco too slow, an imperceptible change in the larger picture. He blamed it on sharing a dormitory, sitting next to Draco in potions, and always flying a few laps over the quidditch pitch at the same time.
Harry already knew Draco’s morning routine, his quick, steaming shower, the short review of homework and test material in his bath robes, and then pulling on his outfit for the day (picked the night before).
“Coming?” Draco would ask as he fixed his tie at the door. Harry says yes every time, and every time Draco sighs, dramatically waiting for Harry to reach the door of the room, before he fiddles with the front of Harry’s jumper, redoing his tie.
“Now you’re somewhat presentable,” Draco mutters, to which Harry rolls his eyes, but follows after him nonetheless.
At first Harry couldn’t bear potions sitting next to the insufferable wanker, but though slow Harry may be, eventually even he realized that Draco’s sharp taunts and barbs were actually advice in disguise. When Harry started following the little pieces of instruction Draco spat at him, his marks vastly improved.
And then there’s the pitch—pristine, glistening green grass—Harry’s safe haven. The moment Draco stepped into the locker room after him, he knew that would change.
“What do you think you’re doing,” Harry had said.
“Fly of course. What else?” Draco snatched the nearest broom, an old model that Harry never imagined Draco would ride, and nimbly saddled it, rocketing up into the sky.
Harry had stared, baffled and betrayed. He wanted the pitch to himself. With his blood singing, he Accioed his firebolt and flew after Draco. They nearly collided in the sky, and Harry chased after Draco, and when Harry caught him, Draco chased after Harry.
They slowed down when the sun dipped its bottom edge below the horizon, and they hovered up in the clouds, where white mist engulfs everything except the tips of the castle towers.
Draco was still panting and Harry laughed.
“How are you still in shape?” Draco asked, cheeks flushed. Harry smiled, a little sad and lopsided.
“Was on the run a lot,” Harry said. Draco’s gaze flickered down, but not before Harry caught a flash of understanding in his eyes.
They couldn’t hear the noises of the castle from up there, and only the sounds of owls cawing and wind whistling broke their silence.
Perhaps it didn’t start so much as blind side Harry, a hit that came when he least expected, and had received no warning.
Harry had been sitting next to his friends at Hogsmeade, in a dingy bar that served them firewhiskey on the weekends. He was already tipsy by the time Draco, Pansy, and Blaise sauntered in.
“Oi, eighth years, come over here!” Seamus yelled, enthusiastically waving his arm. Dean collapsed onto his side giggling.
“Seamus,” Ron hissed. Hermione elbowed him.
“They’re teenagers, Ron, just like the rest of us,” Hermione said. Ron’s face softened.
Harry stayed silent, watching Draco and Pansy share a look before cautiously maneuvering between tables and chairs, Blaise trailing behind.
Harry’s heart pounded in his chest. Draco adjusted the green scarf wrapped around his neck as he took a seat exactly opposite of Harry. A bit warm to be wearing a scarf, but Harry supposed it made up for the skimpy grey t-shirt Draco wore that revealed pale arms.
Their eyes met briefly. Harry had to drop his gaze down from the intensity of it.
“Want a drink?” Seamus asked to no one in particular. “Some drinks over here, please!” He shouted to the bartender without waiting for replies.
After a few rounds, Harry knew he was pissed. The edges of his vision blurred and if he turned too fast the world spun. Draco didn’t seem to be faring much better. His cheeks were flushed pink and every once in a while he would adjust the scarf around his neck.
Harry tried not to watch as Draco accidentally pulled too hard and the scarf came undone, revealing a black tattoo—the edge of a bird’s wing, Harry thought—peeking from underneath the collar of his t-shirt.
He glanced up, surprised, and found Draco staring at him with wide eyes. Before he knew what he was doing, Harry jerked his head towards the door, and Draco hesitated, before nodding. They both got up, pushing their chairs back.
The group was so loud and drunk they hardly noticed their departure.
Outside the sky twinkled with stars, and the moon shined bright and round. There was a slight breeze, hints of a harsh winter to come. Harry and Draco walked side by side, down the cobblestone street until they were alone.
“I didn’t know you had a tattoo,” Harry blurted out.
“Do you want to see it?” Draco asked hesitantly, as if he’s never shown anyone before. And perhaps he never has.
“Yes,” Harry said, too quickly, “I mean, sure. I suppose.”
Draco swiftly pulled his shirt off instead of replying, and Harry’s mind went blank, and all he could do was make a weak sound at the back of his throat in question, eyes trained on somewhere right next to Draco’s face.
“You can look,” Draco said softly.
And so he looked.
Harry’s breath caught. His eyes fixated on Draco’s pale chest, traveling from the tattoo he saw earlier which was indeed the wing of a black sparrow arched across his chest. But there were more. Way more.
Elegant script covered his left abdomen. Colored flowers and symbols he didn’t recognize decorated his stomach and continued around the curve to his back. His arms were bare, save for the Dark Mark, which didn’t look quite as odd next to the other ink.
“Why?” Harry said, breathless.
Draco ran a hand down his torso, looking down with a frown. “Because I can.”
Harry stepped forward, and without even realizing it, his hand reached out and traced the curve of the sparrow’s wing. Draco shivered beneath his touch but didn’t stop him.
“Draco,” Harry said, pained and broken. He wanted to kiss Draco so badly. Draco’s eyelids fluttered, eyelashes brushing against his cheeks. Harry inched even closer.
They both stood still for a moment, holding their breaths, before Draco kissed Harry.
The world fell away around them as the two boys tangled together under the moonlight.