Saturday, 14 December 2002
“Is that who I think it is?”
Draco was tempted to pinch the bridge of his nose and let out an exasperated sigh. Usually, he didn’t mind Blaise being overly dramatic, but tonight, he definitely wasn’t in the mood for it.
“What did you expect?” he muttered as he sipped at his wine.
“I didn’t expect him to clean up so nicely,” Blaise practically purred.
Draco peeked over at where Potter was shaking hands with dozens of witches and wizards, all smiling broadly at him. One wizard actually looked like he was about to piss himself. Ugh.
“Sweet Merlin, he certainly is more charismatic than he used to be, isn’t he?” Blaise said in an amused tone.
“Can you please not?” Draco said. His eyes lingered on Potter’s robes, the way people were touching them, as if all their sorrows would vanish with just one touch of the Wizarding World’s glorious Saviour. Potter didn’t seem to like it. He nodded and smiled, but Draco could tell from the tension in his shoulders and the weariness in his eyes that he wasn’t enjoying himself.
“Don’t be a party pooper,” Blaise said, raising his champagne flute.
“It’s my party,” Draco snapped, pointedly ignoring the fact that Blaise was still waiting for him to clink glasses.
“Exactly,” Blaise said cheerfully, touching his glass to Draco’s with a toothy grin. “I can’t wait till Potter gets to us.”
Honestly, Draco didn’t share the sentiment. He was far more comfortable watching Potter from afar. He had been doing it for the last two hours, his eyes rarely leaving that poorly tamed black hair as Potter made his round through the room. It may have been a bit childish, but Draco wasn’t playing cat and mouse for his amusement. He was doing it to keep his sanity intact.
Technically, it was impolite not to greet the host of the party first, but, of course, Potter had no idea Draco was the host. Nobody did, except for his closest friends.
“I need another one,” Draco said, gesturing to his empty glass. “You want something?”
“Why don’t you just wait for one of those waiters to come by? You’ll miss Potter if you go to the bar now,” Blaise said, without looking at Draco.
Of course, this was the very reason he was going to the bar, but Blaise didn’t need to know that.
“I’ll be right back,” he simply said and made his way through the crowd, feeling more wobbly on his feet than he had anticipated. He deliberated switching to water instead of having another glass of wine. He definitely shouldn’t be tipsy while Potter was around.
As he reached the bar, he peeked over his shoulder, catching a glimpse of Blaise with his most dazzling smile on his face. It appeared Draco had left at exactly the right time. But judging from the way Blaise was stroking Potter’s arm, it was very clear his friend shouldn’t be left alone with Potter. Damn it, where was Pansy when you needed her? Although, Draco doubted that would have stopped Blaise from shamelessly flirting with Potter. Or anyone for that matter.
Draco’s eyes wandered over to Potter, who looked a bit flustered. He drank in the rosy tint on his cheeks, his clean shaven skin, the line of his jaw, the shape of his lips…
Why couldn’t Potter be one of those people who, when you met them years later, suddenly looked hideous and nothing like you remembered them? Why couldn’t he have wrinkles all over his face or a lazy eye or a hunched back? Of course he had to waltz in here, looking even more attractive than he had in school. Why was the world so unfair?
It was suddenly brought to Draco’s attention that there was another thing that hadn’t changed one bit. Potter’s eyes were still so mesmerising, you could drown in them, forget everything around you. Draco almost did, except… there was a reason that realisation had suddenly hit him. Potter was staring right at him. Draco felt like the rug had been pulled out from under his feet. A cold shiver ran down his spine, followed by a hot flash that prompted him to subtly lay his hand on the bar for support.
Countless times he had taken a look at the Daily Prophet, only for Potter to stare at him from the front page. Draco always scowled back, sometimes he even stuck out his tongue at the picture. But now… It really wasn’t the same, seeing Potter in person. The most significant difference was, he always looked displeased in those pictures. Now, he looked… not shocked but… almost startled. Why, though?
Draco’s eyes widened as Potter’s lips slowly stretched into the ghost of a smile. He suddenly felt like the Whomping Willow had smacked him in the side of his head. He let out the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding when Potter turned his attention back to Blaise, nodding and smiling politely.
Draco briefly closed his eyes, willing himself to pull it together. But the tingling in the pit of his belly was hard to ignore. He had known this evening would be… challenging, but inviting Potter had been the smart move to make. Draco would suffer through it. For the greater good, so to speak. Inviting Potter to an event automatically sparked the interest of the whole Wizarding World, and that was what Draco needed, no matter how much he disliked it.
It seemed so long ago that he had been a guest to events like this himself, and had actually enjoyed himself. All these rich and pompous people were so incredibly boring and irritating, he couldn’t wait for this night to be over. All he wanted was their money, and he often wondered if they even cared what he was doing with it. So, yes, inviting Potter was smart, because it meant more money. The fact that Draco could watch him from afar was merely a pleasant side effect. But he had to be careful. It couldn’t be anything more than that.
When he opened his eyes, Potter and Blaise were still in conversation, although Blaise did most of the talking. Taking a deep breath, Draco turned around and ordered another glass of wine. Being tipsy around Potter might not be a good idea but there was no way he could endure this sober. He glanced over his shoulder, his eyes scanning the room for Pansy, when someone cleared their throat beside him. Draco already knew who it was before he turned around, mentally cursing everyone and everything.
“Hey Malfoy,” Potter said with a weird expression on his face.
Draco arched an eyebrow and stayed silent. ‘Hey Malfoy?’ That was his big opening after they hadn’t seen each other in over a year? Really? Well, not that they were friends. They were nothing, really.
“I didn’t expect to see you here,” he continued.
Draco resisted the urge to scowl at him. “Why? Am I not allowed to enjoy myself?”
“What, no, that’s not what I meant.”
“Oh, I see,” Draco snapped. “It’s because this is a charity gala and how in Merlin’s name could I be—”
“Ugh, Malfoy,” Potter interrupted him. “Stop putting words into my mouth. I’m just surprised to see you, that’s all.” His eyes darted down to the floor and back up to Draco’s face. “It’s, err, it’s a nice surprise.”
Draco blinked. What? What did Potter mean by ‘nice surprise’? Was he taking the piss?
“You’re doing that thing again,” Potter said with a sigh.
“What thing?” Draco snapped.
“The thing you used to do in school.” He leaned against the bar, cocking his head to the side. “Not everything I say to you is meant as an insult. Well, not anymore.”
“I’m so relieved,” Draco said, rolling his eyes. Potter seemed to be ignoring his comment, his eyes roaming the room.
“Do you know who organised this?” he asked.
Draco stiffened. “Why do you want to know?”
Potter shrugged. “Apparently this person organised a bunch of things before, but this is the first time they invited me. I’m just curious to know why.”
“Right, because people need a reason to invite the most famous wizard alive,” Draco snorted.
Potter made a face. “I just think it’s strange, being here without knowing who invited me.”
“I’ve been told the host wants to stay anonymous,” Draco said, trying to keep his voice even.
“Why, though?” Potter said with a frown. “If they’re doing something good, don’t they want to be recognised for it?”
Draco could feel beads of sweat forming on the back of his neck. “Oh, Potter,” he said with a dramatic sigh. “Not everyone is keen on rushing into the spotlight as you are.”
“You know that’s bollocks, right?,” Potter said, his frown deepening. “I’d gladly exchange all the ‘famous Harry Potter’ rubbish for a boring, normal life.”
Draco gave him an appraising look. “Normal isn’t exactly the first word that comes to mind when you’re concerned.” Or boring, Draco added in his mind.
“Exactly,” Potter said with a loud exhale. He propped up his elbow on the bar, leaning his head against his hand. “But do tell me, what is the first word that comes to mind when I’m concerned?” His serious expression turned into a teasing one, catching Draco off guard. What was Potter doing? He looked at Draco expectantly, the corner of his mouth twitching. It was the wrong night to challenge Draco. Two could play at this game.
“A few come to mind, actually,” he said in his poshest voice. “Awful, uncouth, dowdy, dense…” … handsome, mind-blowing… “… irritating… Do you want me to go on?”
Potter’s grin didn’t fade at Draco’s insults, but he waved a dismissive hand in the air. “That’s alright,” he said. “Even though that’s the most entertaining thing anyone has said to me all night.”
“Why did you come, then? Why not decline? Don’t tell me you’re suddenly a fan of pretentious pure-bloods?” he smirked.
“You realise you’re a pretentious pure-blood, right?” Potter retorted. He arched an eyebrow when Draco burst out laughing.
“Who would have thought, out of the two of us, you would become the prejudiced one?”
It felt good, seeing Potter stare at him in astonishment. It took the edge off the heat that was spreading in Draco’s chest.
“Fair enough,” Potter said. “I’m looking forward to having my mind changed.”
And just like that, the heat was back, tenfold, devouring Draco from the inside.
“Tell me what you’ve been up to,” Potter said, and it didn’t escape Draco’s notice he moved a bit closer.
No. NO! This was exactly what Draco hadn’t wanted to happen, even though he hadn’t thought he’d actually have to worry about it. He couldn’t have Potter snooping around… right in front of him.
“Not much,” he said evenly, keeping his face impassive. “Just… living my life, I guess.” He picked up the wine the bartender had left for him and took a sip.
“What is your life like these days?” Potter asked. Draco couldn’t detect an undertone. He sounded genuinely curious. However, Draco didn’t want to discuss that with him. He didn’t want to discuss anything with Potter right now. He was short of breath and, surely, Potter would notice. His gaze darted to his left and, acting as though someone had just waved him over, he put on an almost convincing smile.
“So sorry to cut this short, but it seems I’m needed elsewhere.”
Without waiting for a reply, Draco hurried through the crowd, until he felt like he put enough distance between them. He bumped into a group of middle-aged witches who were quick to engage him in conversation. Draco did his best to laugh at their jokes and to seem interested in their wittering, but ultimately excused himself again when one of the witches started complaining about how exhausting redecorating her parlour was.
Where the hell was Pansy, Draco asked himself for the umpteenth time. She’d probably be able to keep Potter away with just a glance. But, unfortunately, she was nowhere to be seen. What was even more unfortunate was the fact that Draco was so lost in thought, he didn’t realise who was standing in front of him until it was too late.
“Hey,” Potter simply said.
Didn’t he have any other words in his repertoire? He said it in such a nonchalant way, too. As if they were old friends. It was too casual. It was infuriating. Draco kept his face neutral while his insides boiled.
“You know, I was wondering if—”
“Oh, look at that,” Draco said, gesturing to Potter’s empty hands. “You don’t have a drink. I’ll get you one.”
Before Potter could say anything else, Draco strutted away, his chin held high. He’d rather be dead than let Potter know what he was doing to him. He told one of the waiters to get Harry freaking Potter a drink, who, in turn, looked mortified at having neglected the unofficial guest of honour.
Draco grabbed yet another glass of wine himself before he spotted Blaise near the balcony.
“Are we behaving tonight, or are we getting pissed?” Blaise asked in a seemingly innocent tone.
“We’re behaving,” Draco said, emphatically.
“Really? Because you look like you’re already halfway there.” Blaise nodded at his face, making Draco frown. “You’re flushed. It’s quite dinky.”
“Shut up,” Draco snapped, almost gulping down the whole glass. But Blaise was right. His face was too warm and his tongue felt a little heavy. He quickly scanned the room for Potter, who was now wedged between two wizards. They almost looked like they were trying to convince him to accompany them home after the gala. One of them was playing with the hair near his ear, while the other had his elbow on his shoulder and touched a finger to his chin every now and then. Draco inadvertently wondered what it would feel like to touch Potter like that; his index finger under his chin, while his thumb stroked his bottom lip…
Inwardly groaning, Draco downed the rest of his wine and shook his head. His gaze roamed Potter’s body, heat rising in his chest. Even though his robes didn’t give away much, Draco knew from the pictures he had seen in the Prophet that Potter had filled out. It suited him. Draco liked the fact that Potter didn’t look so delicate anymore. He also liked the fact that Potter was still shorter than him, even if it only was by a few inches.
Before he knew it, his eyes were glued to Potter’s lips again, unable to shake the sudden urge to touch them. For the longest time he had wanted to touch them. It was the most frustrating thing. Draco’s gaze momentarily flickered to Potter’s glass, which he had raised to his mouth. But before his lips touched it, his tongue darted out and he slowly licked the rim. Draco felt a violent shudder go through him, not only because this was far more sensual than should be allowed, but mainly, because he realised Potter was looking at him. Had he done that on purpose? Had he seen Draco staring at him? Fuck!
Panic washed over him as he watched Potter mumble something to the two wizards who were still stroking him, and march over to where Draco and Blaise were standing. Draco wanted to bolt but found himself rooted to the spot.
“I feel like you’re avoiding me,” Potter said point-blank. Draco wasn’t sure if he should brush it off with a laugh or deny it. Before he could decide, Blaise sniggered beside him.
“Take it as a compliment,” he said, touching his glass to Potter’s. Draco’s mouth dropped open and it took everything in him not to shout at his friend to shut the fuck up.
“Take— What?” Potter looked confused. Good. He’d always been too dense to pick up on things like that.
“Does the great Harry Potter not feel pampered enough?” Draco drawled, his head swimming. As soon as the words left his mouth, however, he inwardly cringed. This was another reason why he had avoided Potter. He’d been afraid something stupid like that might tumble out of his mouth. But what the hell was he supposed to say to him? Potter had saved him and his mother from Azkaban, showing them more sympathy than they probably deserved. That in itself was problematic enough. The real problem, though? It wasn’t in Draco’s nature to simply reciprocate such sympathy.
“Don’t be a dick, Malfoy,” Potter muttered, a blush creeping onto his cheeks. “I just wanted to talk to you. Is that so bad?”
Yes, Draco wanted to blurt. Instead, he stupidly asked, “Why?”
Potter just shrugged, prompting Draco to narrow his eyes in suspicion.
“You know what, I don’t want to keep you guys from catching up,” Blaise said cheerfully. “Ta-ta!” Within seconds, Draco lost sight of him, leaving him helpless and dizzy.
“Okay, um—” Potter looked unsure, tapping a finger on his glass. “How about we get another drink first?”
Draco thought he probably already had enough at this point, but something about Potter’s expression made him agree with a nod. He was smiling… almost shyly.
“Alright then,” Potter said, and gestured for Draco to lead the way. As soon as he started walking, he felt a hand on the small of his back and almost choked. His head whipped around to Potter, who gave him an innocent look and then… another smile. Draco’s eyes darted down to his lips and then back to his eyes.
Oh Merlin, he was completely fucked.