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Predictable Little Curses

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It wasn’t like Harry to take things that didn’t belong to him.

Of course, if something questionable were to fall into his hands, he couldn’t be blamed for letting his curiosity get the better of him.

The black wooden box, which fit squarely in his palm, stood out broadly from the collection of shiny cursed iPhones that he had collected on the raid that morning. Certainly an object like this was out of the purview of Harry’s position heading up the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office, but wasn’t it his job to collect anything suspicious?

Of course it was.

Still, Harry peered over the top of his cubicle to make sure no one was watching as he inspected the box. It was covered in carvings—were they ancient runes? Harry chastised himself for still never having learned any. He’d have to take one of those charts out from the Ministry reference desk.

The box had no seam, no hinges. Harry shook it. It seemed hollow, and he could swear he heard a slight rattle, that there was something inside of it. He placed it on his desk and tapped it with his wand a few times. "Revelio," he whispered.


Was it just a trinket? Nothing magical or interesting about it?

No, it had that hum of magic, like a Transfigured object. There was something inside of it, for sure.

This would probably require someone with a bit more of a practiced hand.

Harry slipped the box into the pocket of his robes and grabbed one of the iPhones as he stood. He walked as casually as he could to the lifts, pressing the box against his leg as he descended to the eleventh floor.

As soon as he stepped off the lift into the Curse-Breakers’ lab, however, he knew he’d made a terrible mistake. The lab was empty today, the rows of tables abandoned with their shiny baubles and testing kits, save for one bright blond head at the back, which shot up the moment the doors closed behind him.

Harry turned around to call the lift back, but it was gone. Damn.

"What are you doing down here, Potter," Malfoy sneered, removing a monocle from his eye and walking along the middle aisle toward Harry. "Can’t handle some old biddie’s cursed teapot and had to call in a real wizard?"

Harry felt his ire rise, the hair at the back of his neck already on end. "I was just looking for Wilson," he said, jaw tight.

"Wilson’s in the field with everyone else today." Malfoy’s eyes narrowed. "What’s that?" He gestured toward the iPhone.

"Oh," Harry said, glancing down at his hand. "It’s what I needed help with. From Wilson."

"Well, hand it over." Draco held his palm out expectantly.

"I’m not giving it to you." Harry pulled it to his chest defensively.

Malfoy scoffed. "Despite whatever flirtation you have with Ms Wilson, I can assure you I’m as competent a Curse-Breaker as she is."

"No," Harry said, feeling heat in his cheeks. He glanced behind him, hoping the lift would arrive. "And Wilson and I do not have a flirtation."

"Oh just give it me," Malfoy said. "Then we can get this over and done with and you won’t have to come skulking back down here."

"Fine." Harry thrust the phone into Malfoy’s hand just as the lift opened behind them. He tried to take the phone back to make a quick getaway, but Malfoy whipped around and placed it under a large magnifying glass on the lab table closest to the front.

Malfoy touched his wand to one of the silver buttons on the side of iPhone and a green string of light trailed from the tip of his wand as he slowly twisted it away. "A Fainting Spell?" he drawled, looking up at Harry with an eyebrow raised. "You were going to waste the time of a Ministry of Magic Curse-Breaker because someone put a Fainting Spell on this little Muggle toy? Did you really this this gambit was going to work on Wilson? I’d be insulted if I were her. You think so little of women, it’s no wonder your wife left you."

A rushing sound filled Harry’s ears. His hand was on his wand. He was going to curse that smug look right off Malfoy’s face. He breathed out heavily through his nostrils. "Give me back my fucking Muggle artefact right now, Malfoy."

Malfoy rolled his eyes, retrieving the phone from under the glass and holding it across the table to Harry. "I was only joking, Potter. So sensitive. Even I know you’re not that daft. So why are you really down here? What are you hiding?"

Harry snatched the phone, and turned his back to Malfoy to press the button to call the lift.

"Accio Potter’s little secret."

The black wooden box flew out of his pocket and into Malfoy’s hand.

"What is wrong with you?" Harry turned around and charged toward Malfoy, ready to rip the box from his hand, and possibly punch him in the face at the same time.

The second that his fingers made contact with the trinket, however, light exploded around them, golden sparks flying from the box, which clattered to the floor as both of them let go. As the flash began to fade, two white rings of light floated up from the box, each ring settling around the third finger of Harry and Malfoy’s respective left hands.

Harry tried to summon rage at the fact that it was all Malfoy’s fault that this had happened, but instead he found himself...oddly calm.

It was okay that this had happened. It was just an accident after all.

"Are you alright, Potter?" Malfoy said, using his wand to levitate the box from the floor.

Harry swallowed. Scanned himself. "Yeah, fine."

Malfoy let the box fall gently on the table. They both stared at it silently for a moment.

"So," Harry said finally, "what just happened?"

Malfoy tapped the box with his wand. Nothing happened. "I’m not sure," he said. "May I ask—do you feel different at all?"

"Yes," Harry said quickly, relieved it wasn’t just him. "I don’t want to strangle you anymore."

"No." Malfoy shook his head continue to poke and prod the box with his wand. "Me neither. I’ve never felt this way before."

"You’ve never felt like you don’t want to strangle me?"

"No," Malfoy said. "I can’t remember the last time I didn’t want to strangle you."

Harry laughed lightly. "Maybe it’s just some sort of anti-anxiety trinket. It’ll probably wear off."

"Yeah." Malfoy didn’t sound convinced. He continued to study the box without looking up at Harry.

"Well, erm, I’ll just leave this with you then? And you can just send me a memo if you figure anything out?"

"Alright," Malfoy said.

Harry felt an odd reticence to leave. Maybe he just wanted to figure out what the hell had happened. But he no longer felt the need to steal the box away from Malfoy. He didn’t see any problem with Malfoy having it at all. What the hell was in that box? Some spell to make him overly trusting? Harry felt a tightening in his stomach. If he didn’t have his gut instinct telling him the likes of Malfoy and his kin were not to be trusted, he’d be a crap low-level officer for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

Hell, if he didn’t have his gut instinct, he wouldn’t be Harry Potter.

The lift finally returned and Harry stepped on. He waved weakly at Malfoy, who looked up, holding his gaze for a moment just before the doors closed in front of him.

As soon as the doors closed, however, Harry noticed an ever-so-slight tightness in his chest. Harry scratched the back of his neck, then rolled it, trying to relieve the tension that suddenly crept all the way to the top of his spine.

I bet Malfoy gives good shoulder massages.

What the bloody hell? Harry had no idea from whence the thought originated or why the idea of Malfoy’s hands on him could be appealing in the slightest. No, it was Malfoy and his stupid needling and meddling and Summoning Charms that had fucked up Harry’s shoulders in the first place.

Harry returned to his desk to get to work on the stack of parchment that now accompanied each of the iPhones he’d collected. Of course he was tense. He had nothing but paperwork and filing to do for the rest of the day. Why shouldn’t he be filled with dread, he wondered as he picked up a quill to begin ticking boxes and filling out the various fields on the incident reports and evidence filings. He never liked any of this nonsense anyway. Sure, the raids themselves could be fun, and he had found he was particularly gifted at modifying the memories of Muggles, but this, the daily bulk of his bureaucratic existence, well, it was honourable and stable, and allowed Harry to be home in time to make dinner for his children.

So really, no, the dread and the tension that seemed to permeate Harry’s entire body really were no cause for concern.

The one thing, though, that was truly worrisome was how, every few minutes without fail his thoughts turned to Malfoy.

What would Malfoy do if he were left alone with a working iPhone? Harry couldn’t help but smile at the mental image—Malfoy’s grey eyes wide with wonder and fear at the powers of the Muggle device. Would he try to yell into it like the Weasleys had the first time they’d used a telephone? Would he like texting? Or sexting? Or—

Harry shook his head, admonishing himself for letting his mind go there. This was ridiculous.

He returned to writing his description of the middle-aged wizard from whom they’d confiscated the devices, the owner of mysterious black wooden box. Was Malfoy still examining it, his long, slender fingers turning the box over, tracing the shapes of the runes on the sides?

Harry slammed his quill against his desk. This was worse than bloody sixth year, when all he could think about was where Malfoy was, or what he was doing, or what nefarious plot he was undertaking. Of course, Harry had been right all along. Malfoy really wasn’t to be trusted.

Yes. That’s what Harry’s strange thoughts were about. It was his very reliable conscience telling him that trusting Malfoy with that very important wooden box was a mistake. The only thing for it, then, would be to march straight back to the Curse-Breaker lab and demand Malfoy return the box.

Just as Harry stood up, a paper-airplane memo crashed into his temple. When he saw Malfoy’s neat, clipped handwriting on the inside, his stomach gave a rather quick, rather strange swooping sensation.

Meet me in the storage closet on the 6th floor at exactly 4:08pm.
Don’t be followed.

Harry glanced at his watch. 4:04pm.

Malfoy didn’t exactly give him a lot of time. Harry headed for the storage room and noticed, strangely, that instead of getting more nervous, the closer he got to the storage room, the closer the minutes ticked to 4:08, the more his body started to relax, the more the tightness in his chest began to unfurl.

With a quick glance to make sure no one else was in the hallway, Harry opened the door to the closet and slipped inside. Malfoy was leaning back against the shelving, a soft orb of light floating overhead. His arms were crossed tightly against his chest, but he let out a deep, audible sigh as soon as Harry shut the door behind himself. A slight smirk crossed Malfoy’s lips. Harry returned it. Why did it feel so good to be in such a confined space with Malfoy?

"Did you figure out the box?" Harry asked. "Was it a curse?"

Malfoy cocked his head to the side, a lock of white blond hair falling over his forehead. "Isn’t it obvious?"

Harry expected a surge of competitiveness at Malfoy’s implication that he was daft, but he merely felt curious regarding whatever Malfoy had to say. Harry frowned and shook his head.

"How do you feel right now?"

Harry wanted to lie, to not let Malfoy know the effect he was having on him. "Fine," he started to say, but somehow what came out was "Ffffaannnn-bloody-tastic. Fuck. Good. Okay? Good. I feel good."

Malfoy laughed. "And how did you feel when you were at your desk, when we were apart?"

He was ready to tell Malfoy that he felt just as delighted while sitting at his desk, but somehow the words escaped him. Through gritted teeth he muttered, "Not good."

A quizzical look crossed Malfoy’s face. "Just now, were you trying to lie?"

"Yes," Harry said, shaking his head slightly.

"But you couldn’t?"

"No, I couldn’t. It’s not like Veritaserum, where you don’t even feel compelled to lie, y’know? I feel calm, good, relaxed like Veritaserum, but I’m in control of my thoughts, just not my damned mouth. Is this the box, then? The curse?"

"I think so," Malfoy said. "The box holds some kind of bonding spell." He pushed the hair away from his face.

"A bonding spell," Harry repeated. He vaguely remembered the idea being floated around the time his marriage began to fail, but he had no idea what one actually entailed. "Well, how do we break it then?"

Draco sighed again, an aggravated sound rather than one of relief this time. "I’m not sure yet. Some of them can’t be broken, or they have to be fulfilled in some way. Like the Unbreakable Vow—that’s technically a bonding spell."

"So I’m just doomed to be anxious anytime I’m away from you and completely unable to lie until you and I fulfill some unspecified promise?"

"Not necessarily. And you probably just can’t lie to me. I told Wilson I was coming up here for quill tips and the spell didn’t stop me."

"Well what about the rest of it? Aren’t Curse-Breakers supposed to be able, to, y’know, break curses?"

"We are but," Malfoy paused, that smirk playing at his lips again, "It’s not technically a curse. I think I can figure it out, but it might take me a few days, especially since this isn’t exactly on the record. I mean, if we got Wilson to help—"

"No," Harry said quickly. "I don’t—the box wasn’t strictly in the purview of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts, and I don’t want to have to deal with the paperwork of admitting I took it. And I definitely don’t want to have to return it to that awful codger I nicked it from."

Malfoy snorted. "Well, what do you want to do then?"

"I don’t want to do anything," Harry said. "You insisted on taking the box, so I’ll just… wait for you to fix it."

"Potter. I don’t think you understand. That itchy, uncomfortable feeling you had when you were seven floors above me? That’s going to get a lot worse when we’re halfway across the country from one another."

Harry imagined his evening, trying to cook and run after the boys and do bath time and bedtime all while feeling like he was having a heart attack. He’d had the flu last year, and it was a nightmare just keeping them alive while his body ached. This—plus that nagging feeling of obsessing over Malfoy every few seconds—would prove for a miserable evening. He probably wouldn’t be able to sleep, and no sleep plus the pain of the stretched bond—no. No. He didn’t even want to think of it.

Certainly not when the alternative was feeling like this. Like everything was alright. The job. The kids. The future. As long as Malfoy was right here, he had no reason to worry.

"You’ll need to come stay with me," Malfoy said, breaking the short silence.

"As nice as that’d be, I have two children to look after."

"Don’t they have a mother?"

For the first time since the bond began, Harry felt cross with Malfoy.

Not angry or upset, just disappointed. And why should he even be disappointed? This was Malfoy. The famous prat of Hogwarts. And yet, Harry still felt a letdown, like he had suddenly found out that Malfoy wasn’t the brilliant Curse-Breaking sweetheart he’d built up in his mind these past… three hours or so.

"Wasn’t it you who was calling me sexist, Malfoy?"

"I just meant that I’m raising my son on my own, too, and I thought perhaps it would be easier if the Weaselette—"

"Well it won’t. She isn’t—she—" Harry had to bite down on the tip of his tongue. For some reason he felt compelled to share more about Ginny, about how he resented her even though he knew he shouldn’t, how everything was really his own fault. He took a deep breath through his nostrils. "She’s with the English national team in Russia right now."

"Ah," Malfoy said. His foot tapped the floor, his face screwed up in thought. "You could all come stay with us, then. There’s plenty of room at the Manor—"

"The Manor!? I’m not bringing my kids to Malfoy bloody Manor, I don’t care how much your folks have given to charity, I won’t do it."

"Then what do you suppose we do, Potter? You might be willing to grit your teeth through the pain, but I’m not."

Harry groaned. "Alright. Alright. You and your son can come stay with us. I have a cottage in Godric’s Hollow. We’ll figure something out."

Harry grabbed a quill and scribbled his address on the back of the memo Malfoy had sent to him. Malfoy glanced at it before folding it neatly into his pocket.

Again, though, Harry found himself reticent to leave. It seemed that something in his brain—and his body—thought that hanging out with Malfoy in this closet was a wonderful idea.

It also seemed that Malfoy felt the same way. He looked almost frozen on the spot. Until suddenly he charged out of the closet without so much as a "see you later."

When 5pm finally arrived an agonisingly boring forty-five minutes later, Harry wasted no time in Apparating out of the Ministry. The moment his feet hit the dirt road leading to the Burrow, though, pain exploded in his chest.

He doubled over, panting, clutching his hands against his sternum where it felt like an axe was trying to fight its way out him.

Malfoy, Malfoy, Malfoy will fix this, must get to Malfoy.

No. No, this was just the bond. Some stupid magic out of a tiny stupid little box. If Harry could resist the Imperius Curse, he could certainly resist—whatever the hell this was.

Harry stood up and clenched his hands in fists at his sides. You’ve dealt with worse pain that this, Potter. Buck up. He took a few deep breaths.

The pain still radiating outward from his chest, Harry hopped the fence and headed toward the Burrow. Ron stood like a scarecrow in the middle of the field while half a dozen children ran around him.

"Oi! Jamie! Albus!" Ron called as he spotted Harry approaching. "Look who’s here!"

The boys stopped in their game and came rushing toward Harry, both screaming, "Dad!" and barrelling into his legs and waist, knocking the breath from him.

Harry knelt in the grass. James was taller than him in this position—now six years old and covered in freckles‚ jumping up and down ready to tell Harry about his day. Albus—three years old and a clone of Harry right down to the thick glasses—tucked himself under Harry’s chin, clutching him tight. Harry stood with Albus on his hip and took James by the hand as they walked up toward to house.

The pain of the bond was still there, but having Albus cling to him seemed to give him a sense of balance he was lacking before. As James began to list the books he’d read with his grandfather and the games he’d played with his cousins and the snacks his grandmother had prepared for him and the many other things his uncle Ron had taught him that day, Harry’s mind wandered again to Malfoy. Harry realised he didn’t know anything about this child Malfoy was raising on his own, and he wondered what his afternoon ritual was like with him. And more urgently, how long it would take him to get back to Harry’s home.

Ron joined Harry in the side garden of the Burrow, Rosie strapped to his back in a bright orange sling, drooling happily against her father’s shoulder.

Harry checked in with Ron about the kids’ day—Albus’s separation anxiety was lessening, and he was making great progress in learning to write his name, and James was as much a firecracker as ever, already starting to read picture books to the other children, and acting as a leader to his younger cousins.

Harry ruffled James’s hair and made to head through the door to Floo home, but Ron stood in front of him for one more moment. "Everything alright, mate? You look a bit ill."

Harry held tighter to Albus on his hip, squeezed his hand on James’s shoulder. "Yeah, yeah, just er… weird day at work."

"If you’re sure." Ron stepped aside to let Harry and the boys pass, but Harry hesitated a moment.

"I’m perfectly fine. Promise."

And with that lie, so much easier than any he’d tried to give to Malfoy, he headed through the kitchen, said a quick goodbye to Mr and Mrs Weasley, stepped into the Floo, and called out 'The Potters'."

The pain in Harry’s chest didn’t ease any as he stepped across the hearth into his home, and it didn’t ease as he changed from his work robes into jeans and a Henley, and it didn’t ease as he began chopping vegetables to roast with chicken for dinner, and it certainly didn’t ease as he mediated an argument-turned-wrestling-match between Albus and James over who was winning at Gobstones.

But Harry knew the moment Malfoy arrived on his front porch. The screaming pain mellowed to a dull ache, and he practically dropped the knife he was using to rush to the door.

Without thinking, he swung the door open and threw himself into Malfoy’s arms.

And to his delight, Malfoy wrapped his arms around Harry, pulling him close, chest to chest, stubbled-cheek to stubbled-cheek.

Like a hot shower on a cold day, warmth and calm spread through Harry’s body. He could have sworn he could sense Malfoy’s heartbeat, the steady thrum of it lulling him into relaxation, soothing the tension that had held him taut all afternoon.

Harry pressed his fingers into Malfoy’s back, felt Malfoy do the same, just luxuriating in the peace of finally being together when—

"Papa?" A tiny voice broke them from their reverie.

Harry stepped back to see what appeared to be a three-and-a-half foot double of Draco Malfoy standing beside them, tugging on the sleeve of Malfoy’s jumper.

"How do you do?" Harry reached out a hand.

"Go on," Malfoy said quietly, "introduce yourself to Mr Potter."

The child grinned bashfully and reluctantly took it, allowing Harry to give him a firm handshake.

"I’m Scorpius," he said.

"What else, Scorpius?" Malfoy said.

"Thank you, Mr Potter, for letting Papa and me stay with you."

"You’re very welcome, Scorpius. And you can just call me Harry, if you’d like." Harry looked up at Malfoy. "And you can, too. Call me Harry, if you’d like."

Malfoy nodded, just once. "Draco’s fine, also. Though I’d prefer your children call me Mr Malfoy."

"Right, well, c’mon in." Harry held the door open for the Malfoys to pass inside. "You can put your things down here and—Albus! James! Come greet our guests."

James bounded down the stairs, Albus trailing behind, a stuffed Niffler dangling from his fingertips. Albus pressed himself against Harry’s side, wary, as usual, of strangers.

"Hi! I’m Jamie! I’m six and half." He stood on his tip-toes, towering over Scorpius.

"I’m Scorpius."

"He’s four," Draco offered.

"Okay," James said, "do you want to see my room?" James took Scorpius by the hand and raced away without waiting for an answer.

"Wait for me!" Albus whined, following behind.

"Ten minutes, then I’m coming to get the little ones washed up for dinner," Harry called after. "Malfoy—er, Draco, you can just give yourself a tour, or have a seat, make yourself comfortable. Just have to finish with some food. Chicken and veg okay?"

"Fine, of course." Draco followed Harry toward the kitchen. "Anything I can do? Get this block of wood you call a table set? Help the children get washed up?"

"Oh," Harry said, a bit taken aback. "I didn’t think you’d do that sort of thing."

"What sort of thing?" Malfoy said, an edge to his voice, brow furrowed.

"Erm, housework? Thought you’d have a house-elf or a nanny."

"Of course I have a house-elf and a nanny. But I’m not an invalid. I am capable of looking after my home and my child. So I’ll just..." He pulled his wand from his trouser pocket and gestured toward the table.

"Yeah, go for it," Harry said, that pleasant warm calm still radiating through his person, despite Malfoy’s attempts to unnerve him. "Dishes are in these cupboards."

While Harry checked the oven and turned the chicken and prepared a large pitcher of pumpkin juice, Draco flicked his wand a few times, the dishes floating from their cupboards to set themselves perfectly along the long oak table beside Harry’s kitchen. By the time Harry had all of the food and drinks ready, Draco was already coming downstairs, holding Albus and Scorpius each by one hand, all three of the children’s hands and faces clean and ready for dinner.

They all sat down, Harry and Malfoy at each end of the table, Albus and Scorpius on one bench, James on the other.

Harry realised that it wasn’t just the bond keeping him so calm; even with an extra child in their midst, having an extra adult—a second parent, brought an ease to his meal that he hadn’t experienced since he’d brought Albus home for the first time. A second pair of hands to cut the children’s meat, a second wand to clean spills, a second voice of reason encouraging his children to please try to eat a vegetable. By the end of the meal, Harry didn’t feel like screaming at his kids and sending them to bed (which he never did, despite the very, very strong urge he normally felt). Rather, he was laughing at Scorpius and James’s silly face competition, and though Albus had still somehow ended up on his lap, he was tickling him as they fed each other peas, rather than constantly admonishing the boys to finish their meals while gripped with worry that they would die of malnourishment.

Harry looked up for a moment to see Draco across the table, looking fondly at the boys. Harry’s insides clenched. Then Draco looked up, and their eyes met, and Draco was smiling.

Not smirking or laughing derisively at his own joke, but truly smiling, wide and joyful and crinkling the edges of his eyes.

Something warm bloomed in Harry’s chest. He returned his attention to the kids, and as the meal wound down and Draco helped clear and wash the children's plates while Harry ushered them back upstairs, Harry found that he was smiling too.

Harry bathed Scorpius and Albus together, and the two of them had a raucous battle of rubber ducks (a Christmas gift from Arthur Weasley), Scorpius’s infectious laughter and ideas bringing Albus out of his shell. James showered after them, and Draco helped get everyone into their pyjamas.

When it was time to get tucked in, there was a bit of a kerfuffle about where Scorpius would sleep. Harry intended for Scorpius to sleep in James’s room, in the bed normally reserved for his godson. James, however, felt that sharing a room with a "baby" was not acceptable.

"That’s fine," Harry said nonchalantly, "you and Albus can just trade rooms, and then when Teddy comes home from Hogwarts he’ll just stay with Albus instead of you."

The resulting shriek of disapproval made it abundantly clear that that was not a plan to which James would be amenable.

A few bedtime stories—including one that Draco "made up" about challenging a classmate to sneaking out for a midnight duel at Hogwarts—and several dozen goodnight kisses later, the boys were tucked in and Harry and Draco collapsed side by side on the oversized sofa in the living room.

"I brought over a few books about bonding spells and magical artefacts for us to look over," Draco said wearily. "We could could get started now."

Harry yawned. "Or we could just, y’know, have a nightcap and put off dealing with our problems ‘til tomorrow morning."

Draco laughed. "Do you have Ogden’s?"

Harry Summoned a couple of tumblers and a bottle of Firewhisky. He poured them each a couple of fingers worth and left the bottle in the middle of the coffee table.

"Cheers," Harry said, and they clinked glasses, before sitting back to sip.

The silence was comfortable, amiable. Harry watched Draco drink, admiring the way he didn’t wince even when he took a gulp of the spicy hot liquor. He watched the bob of Draco’s Adam’s apple, the way his tongue darted out to lick his lips, the way his sweater rucked up as he relaxed on the sofa, revealing the tiniest bit of smooth, porcelain skin over—

Fuck. It was happening again. It was the bond of course. It was the bond making Harry feel so attracted to Malfoy, right? Not his arguably perfect bone structure and perfectly tight arse—

Stop. Stop. Harry took a huge gulp, draining his glass, and embarrassingly did wince as it burned his throat. He poured himself a second glass, and tried to focus on unsexy things. Like his kids. Kids were not sexy. Merlin, Draco was a competent father, though, wasn't he? Patient and thoughtful, and his son seemed so well-adjusted, not whiney or arrogant like Harry had imagined a Malfoy child would be.

Harry suddenly felt himself longing, not just for a partner to share parenting with, that abstract loneliness that he carried to bed so many nights, but longing for Draco. For Draco to be the person with whom he shared these challenges, who he could turn to for support and—

Harry stood up abruptly. "It’s time to go to bed."

Draco looked up at him, startled, as if Harry was insane. "Alright, there?"

"Yeah, just. Ready to sleep. I’ll stay down here on the sofa. You take my bed."

Draco rolled his eyes. "I’m not sleeping in your bed. The sofa will be adequate, I’m sure. And I can always Transfigure it if it isn’t."

"Oh," Harry said. "Well, just… make yourself at home. I’ll be upstairs if you need anything, I guess."

Harry brushed his teeth and pulled on an old Weird Sisters t-shirt and grey joggers. He slipped into bed, and noticed that even though Draco was only a single story below him, his chest began to feel tight once more. Not painful like it had been when they were far away, but that longing was still there, and somehow stronger since they weren’t in immediate proximity.

Harry lay on his back and took a few deep breaths. He slid his hand under his waistband and wrapped his fingers around his cock. He wasn’t hard, not fully, and he didn’t want to get caught wanking with such a full house, but it was a comfort to touch himself when he felt so starved for contact from someone else.

Maybe the bond capitalised on that. Maybe it knew Harry was lonely and worked to fill that void. What if it was some sort of perverse wish fulfilment curse? Perhaps Harry had been feeling sorry for himself for being single when it had gone off, and made the nearest person seem like a viable option.

Because Draco... Draco certainly wasn’t a viable option. Harry had certainly dated—well, had sex with and never spoke to again—a handful of men, but Draco wasn’t just any man. He was Malfoy. He’d never even been nice to Harry.

But what’s wrong with a little edge? said a teeny voice in Harry’s head. A voice that seemed to be connected directly to his cock, which now was indeed fully hard and even leaking ever-so-slightly at the thought of having Malfoy under him, of kissing that naughty little smirk right off Malfoy’s face.

Maybe he could do with a wank after all. Maybe a wank was exactly what he needed to get over this stupid—

A soft knock at the door.

Harry pulled his hand out of his pants and made sure the covers protected his erection before clearing his throat. "Yeah, come in," he said, pulling his glasses on.

Draco slowly pushed the door in. He was wearing a long, grey silk dressing gown, hanging open a bit at the top to reveal the smooth line of his collarbone.

"Everything okay down there?" Harry asked.

Malfoy quirked his eyebrow. "As embarrassing as this is to admit, I don’t think I’ll be able to fall asleep downstairs. It seems this—" Malfoy gestured between them, "spell won’t let me relax away from you."

Harry could feel his heart pounding suddenly. "So, er, you’d like to... erm, stay up here then?" He desperately hoped his voice didn’t sound as squeaky and out of breath as it felt.

"Do we need to Transfigure your bed into twin beds or can you be an adult about this?"

Harry made a sound of displeasure, then pulled the covers back on the opposite side of the bed. Draco dropped his dressing gown on the chair by the door and—in an effort by some higher power specifically meant to torture Harry—got into bed in just his boxers.

Harry pulled off his glasses immediately, but even with the lack of definition, he could still tell that Draco was fit as fuck. The heat radiating from his body and the intense feelings of calm that the bonding spell was yielding didn’t help.

Harry grabbed his wand from the dresser and flicked the blinds closed so that no starlight or streetlight could peek through. The room was now in total darkness, which had the unfortunate effect of making Harry even more aware of the sound Draco’s breathing, the feeling of him shifting beneath the covers.

Harry focused on his own breaths, keeping as calm and steady as he could, willing his erection to go down. He cursed whatever it was inside him making him want to grab Draco and curl up against him.

"Potter?" Draco said a few minutes later, breaking the silence.

"Yeah," Harry said.

"I’m sorry I—" Draco took a breath, sighing deeply with the effort of whatever he was about to say. "I would like to apologise for what I said to you this morning. About your wife leaving you. It was rude and completely uncalled for. It won’t—I’ll try to be kinder in the future."

Harry smiled into the darkness. "‘S alright," he said. "I should be used to it by now."

They were silent for a few moments more.

"Thank you, by the way," Harry said. "For helping out with the kids tonight. It was, er, nice to have someone else around."

"My pleasure, of course."

It was strange to hear Draco speak without his signature sarcastic drawl. Harry wondered if it was the bond—the waves of calm comfort coursing through them, the fact that he was unable to lie and that sarcasm came dangerously close to lying—or that Draco truly was sorry and wanted to make a better impression now that they were sharing a bed. And a home. And parenting responsibilities.

"Can I ask—why doesn’t Scorpius have a mother?" As soon as the words were out Harry bit his tongue, realising he shouldn’t be taking such advantage of the bond like this.

Harry opened his mouth to stop Draco from answering, but Draco said softly, "Childbed death. Scorpius was three days old."

"Oh, Draco, I’m— I had no idea."

"It’s fine. I mean, it’s not fine. It’s fine that you asked. We weren’t married or anything. We had a washroom tryst at Pansy Parkinson’s wedding."


"Really," Draco said. "And nine months later Scorpius was born. We hardly knew each other, really. It was shit, though. When she died."

The silence settled between them again, Harry wanting desperately to reach out and simply hold Draco, put a hand on Draco’s arm, but Draco continued, "I’ll admit I’m curious as well. What happened with the Weaselette?"

"Oh," Harry said, thinking back to the start of their unhappiness. "I wanted kids right away, but she wasn’t ready. I pushed. She wanted to make me happy. We were—" Harry swallowed. "She was my very best friend but it just… wasn’t meant to be."

"I’d like to hug you," Draco blurted. "Fuck. I don’t know why I’m saying all this."

"It’s the curse," Harry said, turning onto his back. "I’m a private person, too. My Mind Healer scolds me about it all the time. That I should share more. This curse, though, it’s getting more intense." Harry could feel the heat from Malfoy’s body, and Harry’s cock—which had flagged as he spoke about his ex—was now rising to attention once again, rather interested in that proffered hug.

"It’s not a curse." Harry felt Draco turn over, so he was on his right side, now facing Harry, even though they couldn’t see one another in the darkness. "I told you that."

"How is it different?"

"If this was a curse, and we were sharing all of this, we’d be humiliated, right? The bond would be torture because our enmity would grow but we wouldn’t be able to get away from one another. It seems to be functioning in such a way that it gets more pleasurable to be nearer to one another. It made us physically close, and now we’re becoming emotionally close."

"Now you sound like my Mind Healer."

Draco chuckled. "I’ve seen one, too. And have had similar admonishments."

"Since you've seen a Mind Healer, maybe you've cracked this little nugget—" Harry looked to his side toward Draco, "why areyou always such an arsehole to me?"

Draco huffed a quiet laugh.

"I'm serious," Harry said. "You're a great dad, now, and Wilson says you aren't even close to the biggest prick the department so it must be me. I mean I know you don't like me and that's fine but why do you still have to act like we're still twelve years old on the bloody Quidditch pitch?"

"I don't dislike you," Draco said quietly, slowly. "I just—as much as I hate to stroke your notoriously inflated ego, Potter, I'll admit you have come up with my Mind Healer. And I know it's been decades but I just can't fight my jealousy of you."

"What could you possibly be jealous of? My messy divorce? My shitty career?"

"It's not that. It's—" Draco took a deep breath. He clearly didn't want to say what he was about to but the bond compelled him. Harry knew. He also knew he could stop him but then he'd never find out. Draco continued, "You saved the world. You always, always did the right thing. And no matter what happens for the rest of our lives you'll have this moral high ground and while I'm left with the knowledge of the wrong I've done and the people I've hurt and the lives I've ruined."

Harry scoffed and shifted onto his side to face Malfoy. "You think I don't have that guilt? You think I don't lie awake and think about all the people who died for me or because of me?"

"Potter..." Draco’s voice was so full of sorrow that Harry thought he might stop breathing if he didn’t hug Draco at that exact moment.

But no, Harry was stronger than that. Stronger than this bond. Stronger than whatever seemed to be happening between them. "We should go to sleep," he said.


They both rolled onto their backs and lay still for a moment, listening to one another’s breathing. Harry slid his hand to the side in the bed, though, slowly, gently, until it touched Draco’s. Without a word, without a sound, Draco linked their pinky fingers together, and they finally, finally fell asleep.


Harry woke to an empty bed and the sound of the shower running—the opposite of his normal wakeup, which was a bed full of children and the sound of James’s off-key singing.

His mouth felt a bit dry, an aftereffect of drinking whisky before bed.

Letting Draco shower in peace, Harry first peeked in on James and Scorpius. James, ever the early riser, appeared to have woken Scorpius as well, and the two of them sat huddled on the rug in their pyjamas, building a sprawling structure of Lego bricks.

"G’morning," Harry said, leaning against the door frame.

"Dad!" James said excitedly, "Scorpius has never played with Legos can you believe it!?"

Harry smiled down at them. "I can indeed believe that." He reminded them to dress and brush their teeth, and James emphatically agreed to help Scorpius with whatever he needed, though Harry was sure Draco would follow behind to assist.

Harry then crept into Albus’s room, where Albus was fast asleep, still snoring even as the sunlight kissed his forehead. Harry knelt by his bed, which still had a rail to keep him from rolling off in the night, and gently ran a hand through his messy black hair until Albus furrowed his brow and reluctantly opened his eyes. Harry helped him get his glasses on and said quietly, "It’s time to get up."

Albus shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut. Harry helped him sit up, despite his pouts and whines of protest, and changed him out of his PJs into his t-shirt and dungarees. He put Albus on his hip, carried him downstairs, and put the kettle on before starting on some porridge.

As the water boiled, Harry tried to think back to Hogwarts—how Draco took his tea and whether he liked porridge. He closed his eyes and tried to remember back in the Great Hall. The Slytherin table was all the way across the hall, and yet it seemed more often than not Draco was staring at him, hurling insults and taunts. Harry smiled and shook his head at the memory.


Merlin, there had to be more to it.

No, no, that was wishful thinking. He wanted Draco to confess some long-lasting romantic desire for Harry because then this feeling, this simultaneous comfort and longing might be more than just an errant bonding charm from a possibly-illegal magical artefact. Then it might be real.

He settled on a splash of milk and a lump of sugar.

Draco, followed by James and Scorpius, came down the stairs a few minutes later. Draco was wearing tight trousers and a button up, his hair still wet, his Ministry robes slung over his arm. He found a hook by the door to hang his robes and joined Harry at the hob. "I can take over down here so you can shower," he drawled, his face contorted in such a way as to imply that Harry desperately needed said shower.

He looked suddenly so like his mother.

Harry smiled, fondly. "Thanks," he said. He brought some juice and milk to the table for the boys. "Oh, I made you tea. I’m not sure how you take it, hope it’s alright."

Draco found the full mug beside the hob and took a sip. "It’s good. Thank you."

"Not as good as your house-elf would make, I’m sure," Harry teased as he headed up the stairs.

"If I had someone like you I don’t think I’d need a house-elf."

Harry froze on the second-to-top step. He was afraid to look back. What did Draco mean—someone like him? Did he mean a boyfriend? A partner? A husband? His heart raced.

Malfoy probably just meant that Harry was the equivalent of a house-elf in his eyes. Disposable. Good for cooking and cleaning. It wasn't like Harry wasn’t used to being treated that way, and certainly Malfoy had always had more than a touch of that Dursley-ish entitlement. Of course he saw Harry as nothing more than a maid.

Harry stood under the tap, let the water get too hot on his face and his chest and his back, and tried not to think about what Malfoy had said.

The rest of the morning passed without much incident, beside the ten odd minutes or so they were dropping off their children at the Manor and Burrow that Harry felt like his chest was once more going to explode. Once in his cubicle, Harry grit his teeth and simply tried to ignore the tension at being separated from Malfoy.

Unfortunately, the tension of the bond was now joined with Harry mulling and mulling and mulling over what the hell Malfoy had meant that morning. The two options left Harry with emotional whiplash. He couldn’t handle it. He grabbed a memo and scribbled:

Closet. 11:37am. H

Harry got there two minutes early and as soon as Malfoy approached, Harry practically dragged him inside by the collar.

"What did you mean this morning when you said that you wouldn’t need a house-elf if you had someone like me?"

"This is really what’s bothering you?" Malfoy’s signature smirk had returned with a vengeance


"Well, what did you think it meant?" he said, his lips quirked so much Harry felt almost angry with desire to kiss him.

"Is this questioning tactic something you’ve figured out to get around the no-lying part of the curse?"

Malfoy laughed once. "No. And it’s not a curse. I only meant that you’re not half bad, Potter. You make a decent cuppa and you’re generally smarter than you look—although this conversation is making me doubt that. I also wouldn’t mind giving up my house-elf; I could certainly do without your Granger breathing down my neck about some sentient creature rights violations and what not."

Harry’s cheeks felt warm. Hell, the whole closet suddenly felt like it was sitting on a hot spring. "She’s not my Granger."

Draco scoffed and looked so deep into Harry’s eyes that he felt like he needed to back against the door to make a quick getaway. "Granger and the Weasel will always be yours, Potter."

"I’ll see you at home," Harry spluttered. "My home. House. See you at my house." Harry swung open the door behind him and bolted back to his desk.

This was getting out of hand.

It had been less than twenty-four hours and somehow his entire relationship with Draco Malfoy had gone from unfriendly work acquaintances to—

Was Harry really falling for the man who’d treated him like the dung on his shoe for nearly two decades?

It’s just the bond, Harry reminded himself. It’s just the bond. Malfoy is brilliant and he’ll figure out how to break it and then we can go back to our simple, single lives without ever having to speak to one another.

Harry rubbed his hand across his sternum. Malfoy was brilliant. And beautiful. And didn’t think Harry was half bad.

Harry spent the afternoon mired in paperwork and at 4:52 he headed straight to Hermione’s office to get the hell out of the ministry. She normally worked late, so Harry didn’t see her besides the odd lunch, but Fridays were sacred. The three of them—Harry, Ron, and Hermione—had a tradition of sharing a Butterbeer at the Burrow while they watched the Weasley children play under the setting sun.

Harry knew this week would have to be cut short.

"What’s the matter, Harry?" Hermione said, the moment she looked up from her desk.

"Nothing!" Harry said defensively. "Why can’t I be early to go see my children?"

"I’m not worried that you’re early; I’m worried that you look pale and forlorn." She packed up her briefcase and met him at the door. "Are you alright to Apparate?"

"Really, Hermione," Harry said, linking arms with her. "I’m fine. I’ve just had a long week."

"You just Side-Along, alright?"

Harry rolled his eyes, but complied. They landed at the fence outside the Burrow and Harry did his best to stand up and smile despite the ripping pain in his chest.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Don’t you think I can tell when you’re trying to hide pain from me? Spit it out. What’s going on?"

Harry sighed. "I got hit with a little… charm. No big deal. Occupational hazard."

Her eyes narrowed. "What sort of charm?"

They walked through the field, waving at the kids as they approached Ron on the back porch.

Hermione greeted Ron with a quick peck on the lips, then scooped Rose from Ron’s sling into her arms, kissing the peach fuzz of her head.

"Alright?" Ron smiled.

Harry’s "yeah" was drowned out by Hermione’s emphatic "no."

They stared at each other with annoyance for a moment until Hermione cleared her throat. "Harry’s got himself cursed, and is suffering some sort of excruciating pain that he won’t tell me about."

"Yeah, he looked a bit ill yesterday, too," Ron said, frowning

"Oi." Harry smacked him on the shoulder. Sold out by his best mate.

"Sorry, mate," Ron said. "What sort of curse is it this time?"

"It’s not a curse," Harry said. "It’s just a little… bonding spell."

"Who or what have you bonded yourself to?" Hermione said, scoldingly.

"A Curse-Breaker. Someone who can handle this."

"Wilson?" Hermione said, looking relieved.

"Not Wilson. Just, er… Malfoy," Harry mumbled, turning away from them to see James and Albus slowly making their way up the path.

"Malfoy!?" They both said incredulously.

When Harry turned back, they were looking at each other, eyebrows raised, apparently trying to communicate wordlessly in that way married couples do when they think they’re being subtle.

"It’s not a big deal," Harry lied. "It’s fine. He’s—we’re taking care of it."

Hermione didn’t look convinced. "Be careful," she said. "Just... be careful."

"And let us know if you need anything. Babysitter. Hatchet. Help hiding a body."

"We are serious, though. Whatever will help."

"Thanks, Hermione," Harry said. "Listen, if we’re still bonded by Monday, I’ll enlist your research skill, okay?"

James and Albus reached the porch and Ron walked the three Potters to the Floo.

"Actually," Harry said as he grabbed a handful of Floo powder, "do you think you or any of your brothers could take the boys tomorrow?"

"George and Perce were heading to the Fantastical Zoo tomorrow. I’m sure the boys could tag along. You sure everything’s alright? With Malfoy and all?"

"You’re worse than Hermione, mate," Harry said, and headed home.

The pain didn’t last long. Draco stepped gracefully through the Floo, Scorpius at his side, only a minute or two after Harry had tumbled into his house with his boys.

And Harry and Draco fell into lockstep. Harry prepared dinner while Draco set the table and minded the children.

Much to Draco’s apparent chagrin, James and Albus had taken to calling Draco, "Uncle Draco."

Harry shrugged. "They think all adult males are their uncles."

"Well that makes sense," Draco sniffed, "considering most of the wizards in Britain are their uncles."

James lost a tooth when he bit into his treacle tart for dessert, and Draco regaled him with a story of the time that tooth fairy had forgotten to bring him something and had rewarded him the following night with an entire gold Galleon.

"Did the Muggle tooth fairy visit you, Daddy?" James asked.

"No, you silly thing," Harry said. "The magical tooth fairy visited me. I just didn’t know what a Knut was, and I thought she brought me a rusty old washer."

After supper, Harry bathed the children and Draco cleaned the dishes. Since it was Friday night, the boys were allowed to stay up a bit late, and they built a fort out of sheets and blankets (fortified by a bit of their fathers’ magic), while Harry and Draco shared a bottle of port that Draco had brought "as a host’s gift."

Pleasantly buzzed and having tucked the boys into bed (Draco having distracted James so that Harry could switch his lost incisor for a shiny Sickle beneath his pillow), Harry and Draco found themselves back on the sofa, Firewhisky in hand once again, relaxed and watching the embers in the hearth consume themselves.

Draco flicked his wand absently and the remnants of the blanket fort collapsed and folded itself into the linen basket beside the sofa.

"I’m sorry your parents forgot to bring you something from the tooth fairy," Harry said, suddenly.

Draco shrugged. He had a half-smile, a sign of his slight drunkenness. Harry had a feeling that the Firewhisky might not be a good idea, but after a day of non-stop overthinking it was so pleasant to just float along.

"You didn’t even get a rusty washer, did you?" Draco said.

"No," Harry said. "How did you know that? Are you a Legilimens?"

"No, but I can see why you were such a famously terrible Occlumens. You’re easy to read. Emotional."

Harry would normally feel affronted at being so called out, but tonight, here, with Draco, he relaxed into it.

"I had a shit childhood," Harry said, out of nowhere. "Y’know, I never talk about it, but I did. I had a shit fucking childhood."

"I had a great childhood. And a shit adolescence."

They clinked glasses and each took a gulp of Firewhisky.

"I think Albus has attachment issues because I drove his mother away before they could bond."

"Sometimes I’m glad I don’t have to honour the shared custody arrangement I had with Scorpius’s mother."

"That’s fucked up, mate."

"I’m a fucked up person," Draco drawled.

"I died once," Harry said.

They looked at each other, clinked their classes again, and downed the rest of their drinks.

"We should go to sleep before we render ourselves incapable of caring for the three little bastards upstairs," Draco said, groaning as he stretched and stood.

"Oi, mine are legitimate." Harry padded behind him as they headed up the stairs.

They stood on either side of Harry’s bed in the semi-darkness, watching each other disrobe with absolutely no abashment. Neither of them were particularly coordinated at this moment in time, struggling to kick off their trousers and socks until they were both in only undershirts and boxers, and climbed eagerly under the covers, trying not to laugh at their own situation.

They lay on their sides facing each other.

"I never asked—" Harry said, feeling a giggle bubbling up inside him, "did you make any progress with the box? Is the bond broken?"

"If I could be sarcastic, I’d tell you that I had broken the spell and we never have to see or speak to or smell one another ever again. But I can’t. Because we’re still bonded and apparently sarcasm counts as lying."

And suddenly Harry was overcome with the desire to kiss Draco, to pull him close, to melt into each other with the press of their bodies. He looked to Draco's lips, caught his eyes and saw what looked like a mutual longing, like consent to be kissed, when—

"Papa!" Scorpius’s small voice came wafting through the door.

"I'm in here, Scorpius," Draco called, turning to sit up off the side of the bed.

The door creaked open and Scorpius came running straight into Draco’s arms. "Papa," he cried, hugging Draco tight, pressing his face into Draco’s shirt, "I wanna go home."

"Shhh, it’s alright, Scorpius," Draco soothed, holding Scorpius close, running his hand over Scorpius’s white-blond curls. "It’s alright. It’s hard sleeping in a new place, isn’t it? And you were so brave last night."

"Can I sleep in the bed with you?"

Harry could hear Draco’s sigh, could feel it deep in his bones. If he wasn’t a parent he might not understand exactly what was going through Draco’s mind at that very moment, but he had made that internal bargain more times than he’d like to admit. The instinct to comfort his frightened child was stronger than even a magical bond telling him to—what? Snog his childhood-enemy-turned-friend-and-sort-of-crush?

"Of course, love. Come here."

So Harry—in his t-shirt and joggers once again—slept in the twin bed in James’s room, calm enough from being just across the hall from Draco, but still longing for his touch.


"Hogwarts Hogwarts hoggy warty Hogwarts! Teach us something PLEASE!"

Ah, yes, the dulcet tones of James Sirius Potter, better than any alarm clock on a Saturday morning.

Harry felt like there were knives in his temple and he knew for once the only wizard to blame was himself. And Old Ogden. Whoever the hell he was.

He blinked awake, his back stiff from sleeping in Teddy’s bed. James was sitting on the floor conducting a choir of dolls and stuffed animals.

"Daddy needs tea," Harry groaned, sitting up and collecting his glasses from the dresser.

Harry kissed James on the head and padded down the stairs, expecting to be the first one awake but instead was greeted with the smell of tea and something sweet and doughy.

Draco was at the hob, a skillet of pancakes on one burner, a small pewter cauldron on the other. He was in his long dressing gown, hair mussed from sleep, moving with an ease and grace that was absolutely unfair for someone who’d had as much port and whisky as he’d had. Scorpius was sitting on the counter, watching him.

Harry fought the urge to come up behind Draco, to wrap his arms around him, rest his head on Draco’s shoulder, rub his nose into Draco’s hair.

"Morning," Harry said, rubbing the back of his own neck.

Draco turned to him, a pleased smile at his lips. "Ah, here," he said, taking a ready made cup of tea and ladeling some of the potion into it. He held it out to Harry, "Anti-hangover Potion."

Harry took it gratefully and didn’t hesitate to sip, the mug warming his hands, and the beautiful combination of caffeine and potion already soothing his head. "You are a gentleman and a scholar, Mr Malfoy."

After tea and pancakes, Harry and Draco got the kids dressed and ready, and were ready to Floo them to their respective events for the day when Albus threw a tantrum because he couldn’t find the plush toy he wanted to bring with him to the Fantastical Zoo.

"MY STUFFY!" he cried, throwing himself on the floor.

"Which stuffy, Albus? Your Pygmy Puff?" Harry knelt beside him.

Albus sobbed against the hearthrug.

Harry tried to keep the frustration out of his voice. "If you don’t use your words, I can’t help you."

Suddenly, Albus’s plush Niffler dislodged itself from the sofa cushions and sailed into his outstretched hand. Albus stopped crying at once and clambered to his knees, clutching the toy against his chest.

The room was silent, all eyes on Albus.

"Albus Severus," Harry said softly, "did you just Summon your toy?"

Albus shrugged, cuddling his Niffler and looking curiously up at Harry. Harry gathered him into his arms and kissed the top of his head, placed his cheek against Albus’s messy hair. "I’m so proud of you," he whispered.

After the Potter boys had been deposited at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes with their uncles, Harry sat at the head of the table and jotted a quick owl to Ginny to let her know about Albus’s first display of magic. He thought about what Draco had said the night before, about not sharing his son, and while custody could be complicated, he felt a sudden sorrow for Draco not having anyone to share the joy of raising a child with. Ginny and Albus might not have had the relationship that Ginny had with James, but she loved him just as much as Harry did. There was something special about getting to celebrate these milestones, the pride in the next generation.

Harry was wiping his eyes when Draco came back through the Floo about ten minutes later.

"Are you crying, Potter?"

So he was back to Potter, now?

"Tell me you didn’t cry why Scorpius first showed signs of magic."

"He hasn’t yet." Draco sat down on the bench beside Harry and began emptying a bag of books onto the table. He pulled the box—the small, black, carved wooden box that had started all of this—from a silk pouch and placed it on the corner of the table, between them.

"Oh. I— sorry."

"It’s not a problem." Draco sorted through the books and began rifling through a large volume. "I’m not worried."

"You’re not?" Harry knew Draco couldn’t lie, but he was still somehow sceptical. Draco Malfoy not worried about his progeny’s magical purity?

"I was a late bloomer myself, and really, what’s the worst that could happen? My son is a Squib? Good. Then I won’t have to send him to boarding school when he’s only eleven years old." He looked up at Harry, with a half smile, an almost sad look in his eye. "It’s a win-win, really. Here." Draco handed Harry a giant folio. "Look through this. It’s an artefact registry I dug up, which I believe is your area of expertise."

Harry hmphed at that assessment—Artefact Expert—and studied Draco as opened the registry. "You’re not the same person you were at Hogwarts," Harry said, out loud, which he didn’t mean to. He meant it as compliment, but it sounded more like a question, an accusation about his past wrongdoings.

"Yes," Draco drawled, now studying the text before him, "barely surviving the reign of a genocidal maniac does tend to lead one to question one’s values."

They sat in silence for a while, flipping through the books, looking for some sort of information about what had happened to them.

"Tell me, Potter," Draco said out of the blue, "why are you working for the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office. Weren’t you supposed to be the next Head Auror?"

Harry wished he had the Firewhisky to dull his senses again. He let the calmness that Draco’s closeness brought—that the bond brought—wash over him as he sighed. "I had to leave the Aurors when Albus was born. I tried staying home with the kids for a while, nearly a year, but I was going stir crazy, and Arthur Weasley was retiring and it just sort of made sense. Regular hours, no long trips, no er—what was the term you used? Ah, no genocidal maniacs."

"What about Curse-Breaking? It’s a bit more dangerous than Muggle artefacts, but I’ve never known you to shy away from danger."

Harry tried to suppress his smile. "Well, you see, I considered it. Wilson’s been pestering me about it since she switched from the Aurors. But I just worried about having to serve as an apprentice under a certain Draco Malfoy. We have a bit of a history, you see."

Draco started to laugh and put his head in hands. "You’re lying."

"I can’t bloody lie," Harry laughed, his cheeks almost in pain from his wide grin. "You’re the reason I never applied to be a Curse-Breaker."

"Oh, Harry." Draco put his hand on Harry’s shoulder, both of them still quaking with laughter. Draco’s touch filled Harry with warmth from head to toe. His crotch tingled.

Harry suppressed a shiver. If Draco’s hand on his shoulder could do that, what else could it do?

They put their heads down, both still smiling, and tried to focus as best they could on the books in front of them. Harry almost jumped out of his seat when he felt Draco’s foot running up and down his shin. Draco, for his part, looked as if nothing was happening, that he was completely none the wiser for what was happening underneath the table.

Harry didn’t know how he could possibly do that and concentrate on what he was reading. Harry couldn’t. He idly flipped the pages, eyes glazed over, taking nothing in until—

There it was.

A rough sketch, yes, but it was the same black block, a little cube with no seam or opening, the exact same carvings sketched into the sides. Beside it, a drawing of two interlocking rings.

"I found it," Harry said, trying to contain his excitement. "I found it."

"What?" Draco looked over. His foot hit the floor.

"The box, look, it’s exactly the same. A Betrothal Box," Harry read, "was an artefact used to ease the transition into an arranged marriage. On the eve of their wedding, the betrothed would touch the box together and be placed under a mild bonding spell. The affiliated bond works by removing anxiety and capacity to lie in the presence of one’s bride or bridegroom, while making separation unpleasant. Although the bond cannot produce or mimic feelings of sexual attraction, lust, or love, the bond remains in place until the couple has consummated their relationship or marriage."

"Consummated," Draco breathed.

"I guess that means we’ll have to…"

Draco swallowed.

They looked at one another for what felt like a very, very a long moment.

And before Harry could process what was happening, Draco was in his lap, straddling him, kissing him.

Lips against lips, tongues against tongues. Harry grasped Draco’s hips, and Draco clutched Harry’s hair with both hands.

"How do you want to do this?" Harry panted, grinding up against Draco’s arse.

"Bottom, let me bottom."

"Are you sure?" Harry kissed all over his face. His mouth. "I’m big."

Draco let out a whine. "Fuck, yes, I know, I felt in the night. You tried to cuddle me. The first night." He shoved his tongue into Harry’s mouth, deep, searching. "I mean, obviously Harry Potter is hung like a Hippogriff but—" He stopped talking to moan as Harry latched onto his earlobe and sucked. "—I felt it. Couldn’t stop thinking about it. All yesterday. All last night."

"Fuck," Harry moaned into the skin of Draco’s neck. "Wanna fuck you." He sucked for a moment, long enough to make it red, but not long enough to leave a mark. "Wanna taste you."

Draco moaned, and Harry could feel how hard he was already, could feel Draco’s erection pushing against his stomach through the fabric of their clothes. Harry rucked up the back of Draco’s jumper, ran his hands over the smooth skin of Draco’s back, felt his hard muscles tense and relax as Draco rubbed himself against Harry.

Draco pulled off Harry’s t-shirt, taking his glasses with it.

"Sorry," Draco said, diving right back into kiss him, running his hands up and down over Harry’s chest.

"‘S alright," Harry said, pulling back a bit, one hand cradling the back of Draco’s head. "I can still see you."

Harry pulled Draco’s jumper up and over his head and—oh, fuck, they kissed again, their chests and stomachs pressed against one another. Harry held Draco against him, just enjoying the warmth of his skin, his little panting moans. His lips were so soft, so full, his tongue so eager in Harry’s mouth. But he wanted more. Wanted to hear how loud Draco would get, how out of control.

Harry took hold of Draco’s arse cheeks and lifted him onto the table. He mouthed at Draco’s nipples, at the smooth skin of his stomach, at the V of muscles leading past his hips and into his trousers, which he unbuttoned as quickly as he could.

Draco leaned back onto his elbows and pushed the books and the box out of the way, letting them clatter to the floor. He kicked off his shoes and lifted his hips to help Harry pull his pants and trousers and socks off.

And now Harry Potter had Draco Malfoy, naked and writhingon his kitchen table.

"Look at you," Harry murmured, his voice so gruff he could hardly recognise it. "Look how delicious you are. You’re a fucking feast for me, aren’t you, Malfoy?"

Harry dove down and left messy, wet kisses along the dusting of blond hair that trailed from his navel to the base of Draco’s perfect pink cock. He held both of Draco’s hips against the table and licked Draco’s cock, the underside, the head. His cock was so smooth, straining so hard for Harry, and—oh, it was just the right length for Harry take the whole thing thing in his mouth, to relax his throat and let it touch deep inside him, his nose brushing against the skin of Draco’s pubic bone.

And he was rewarded with Draco crying out high and long and arching all the way off the table, digging a hand into Harry’s hair. "Your mouth," Draco whined, as Harry began to move slowly up and slowly down, his saliva coating Draco’s cock, wet and messy. "Your fucking mouth, oh, Harry."

Harry kept a hand on Draco’s sac as he sucked; he needed to make sure Draco didn’t come because that description of the betrothal box, it didn’t say how the relationship needed to be consummated. What if an orgasm or an exchange of fluids was all it took? What if Draco came down his throat and it was over—the sex, the bond, this thing between them, whatever it was?

Because Harry didn’t want to stop. He wanted to do this so much. Wanted to fuck Draco and make him beg and cry and come, but just… not yet.

And when he felt Draco’s balls begin to tighten, begin to draw up, and Draco’s body began to stiffen, and his grip tightened so much in Harry’s hair—Harry pulled off.

Draco cried out again, this time almost in pain as he slumped against the table. "What the hell, Potter?"

Harry stood up for a moment and leaned all the way over Draco. He pressed their bodies together, Draco’s cock slippery and leaking against Harry’s stomach. He kissed Draco, slow and smooth, felt Draco panting into his mouth, his heart racing against Harry’s chest. "Turn over, love," Harry said, leaving Draco with a soft peck on the lips.

"Fuck." Draco scrambled over, pulling his knees up, laying his head on his hands, displaying his arse fully for Harry, who sat back down in the chair at the head of the table.

Harry pulled his wand from his pocket and cast a quick Cleansing Charm and a Cushioning Charm for Draco’s knees and elbows.

But as much as Harry wanted to dive right the fuck in and taste Draco, he allowed himself a moment to just look—to just touch. He placed a hand on each of Draco’s arse cheeks and prised his cheeks apart with his thumb, and Merlin it was the most beautiful thing.

"Your arse," Harry groaned. His fingers dug into the perfect globes of Draco’s arse, round and firm and smooth and tight, and he just stared at that hole, so tight and pretty and pink and fuck.

Draco whimpered. He whimpered. Draco Malfoy whimpered because he wanted Harry in his arse so fucking badly.

Harry kissed up and down Draco’s crease, pressed his face against Draco’s arse cheek, rubbing his stubble against the perfect porcelain, making it so rosy and tender. "You want me, don’t you?"

"I want you so fucking much."

And Harry knew it was true, knew it was true because the bond was still there, still warm between them, soothing the incredible anticipation, and it meant that Draco couldn’t lie to him. He couldn’t just tell Harry what he wanted to hear because he was desperate for their sex to break the bond. He wanted Harry.

And Harry wanted him.

Harry kissed Draco’s hole. Kissed it soft and tender with just his lips. Squeezed his eyes shut and kissed it wet. Kissed it with his tongue and felt a tremble travel the length of Draco’s body as he let out the softest, sweetest moan. Harry kissed it and kissed it until he felt Draco’s body—his arse, his back, his hole—finally begin to relax. And then Harry pushed his tongue inside.

Draco was so tight, that ring of muscle hard and tight, but Harry licked and pushed until it too relaxed and he was able to get his tongue inside and fuck.

"You’re so fucking sweet, Draco," Harry said against his skin. "You taste like sex."

Harry moaned against his hole. And sucked it, sucked it as the muscles loosened. Sucked and then pressed his tongue back inside, swirled it, pressed it as deep as he could.

"You’re so tight, I don’t know if you’ll be able to take my cock. You’re so fucking tight."

"I will," Draco panted. "Oh, fuck, I will. I can’t fucking wait I want it so badly."

Harry pushed his tongue back inside, his hands still pulling Draco’s cheeks apart, his face completely buried and surrounded by Draco’s scent. God his smell and his taste, like he was made for Harry to just hold him so close.

Harry slipped his thumb inside Draco, all wet and slippery from Harry’s mouth. Draco’s moan was high and divine and Harry wanted him so open. If he put his cock in Draco now, Harry would surely die. Surely, he couldn’t handle something so good and tight and perfect.

"Enough with your hand, I want your cock," Draco moaned.

Harry supposed he’d faced death before.

Harry squeezed his arse one last time, sucked his hole one last time. Then grabbed Draco under the thighs and flipped him straight over. He pulled Draco’s legs around his waist and leaned over him again.

Draco’s face was flushed a deep red, his eyes were glassy, pupils blown. He pressed up to kiss Harry, their mouths hot and tender against one another and Harry didn’t even have to ask him to grab on—Draco wrapped his arms tight against Harry’s back, and moaned as Harry stood, holding him up.

Harry carried Draco up the stairs, stopping only on the landing to press Draco into the wall, to kiss and kiss and kiss, tongues sloppy, in and out of each other’s mouths, teeth nipping each other’s lips. Harry rolled his hips, his whole body really, rubbing his cock, so goddamn confined in his jeans, against Draco’s arse.

"Potter… Harry… Fuck," Draco panted, so turned on, so desperate.

They made it to the bedroom and instead of tossing Draco on the bed, Harry turned around and let himself fall back, Draco collapsing on top of him. Draco sat up, still straddling Harry’s hips and they both took a moment to just look at one another.

Draco ran his hands over Harry’s chest, and pinched Harry’s nipples, hard. A shiver ran through Harry’s body and he bucked up against Draco.

"Why the fuck are you still wearing clothes right now," Draco said, sliding backward to help Harry shimmy out of them.

Once he was naked—fuck, they were both completely naked—Harry held Draco’s hips and ground up, letting their cocks slide together. Draco’s cock looked suddenly smaller next to his own, but fuck if it wasn’t just as straining and swollen and desperate for release.

Draco’s eyes were half lidded now, his mouth half open, his lips so red and swollen from Harry’s kisses, his blond hair now slightly sweaty and falling over his forehead.

But still, somehow, Draco was ethereal.

"Turn around," Harry choked. He couldn’t stand to look at Draco’s beautiful face, beautiful chest, beautiful cock a moment longer.

Draco turned as fast as he could while Harry reached over to grab a pot of lube from the side table.

What the hell was Harry thinking? Draco’s arse was so magnificent Harry felt lightheaded with desire.

Harry took a generous dollop of lube from the pot and pressed it against Draco’s hole, letting his middle finger slip inside.

"Yes, get me wet," Draco moaned, "I wanna be so wet for you, Harry."

Harry took another dollop and this time used two fingers to push it deep inside Draco. He twisted and stretched his fingers best he could; he knew Draco was ready for foreplay to be over but he so didn’t want to hurt him.

Draco reached back and took Harry by the wrist, moving Harry’s hand from his hole to his hip. "Enough," he said firmly, looking back over his shoulder.

Then Draco grabbed his cock.

Harry didn’t have any time to appreciate how Draco’s fingers, long and elegant as they were, looked so lovely wrapped around the base, because Draco was holding his cock steady and running the head through the slick of his crack and all Harry could do was throw his head back and just feel.

Until he suddenly felt pressure and knew that he had to see this—see himself, breaching Draco’s tight hole, that exact moment when they merged. And then Draco guided Harry’s cock inside him, just the head and Harry was sure it wouldn’t fit, that this wouldn’t work, but—oh, ohhh—the head popped inside that tight ring and Harry cried out in sync with Draco’s high-pitched moan of absolute pleasure.

"Oh, fuck, Potter, your cock," Draco moaned, as he inched his way down, rocking slightly, slowly, up and down, forward and back, working himself all the down Harry’s cock.

Harry held as still as possible, fighting the urge to buck up hard and impale Draco on himself. His fingers dug deeper and deeper into Draco’s hips, until all of the muscles of his body started to shake with the effort of not thrusting. "Draco…" It was his turn to whimper. How could anything feel this impossibly good? How could Harry sink into something so impossibly tight and so impossibly warm?

And then Draco’s arse was all the way down, had devoured all of Harry’s cock and Harry finally let himself grind up, just a bit, just to get some warm friction, the softness of Draco’s insides—he was inside Draco Malfoy—against his tight and throbbing cock.

"Ride me, Draco," he begged.

And Draco more than obliged. He threw his head back, his hands on his thighs and rode Harry. Sinking down and sliding up, his arse so slippery wet, and rolling his entire body with each and every motion. With every thrust, every time Draco’s arse hit Harry’s pelvis, he moaned, the most loud, most delicious sound Harry had every heard.

It made him want to hear Draco scream with the pleasure of Harry’s cock.

It made him want to fuck Draco harder.

Harry patted Draco’s thigh. "Up," Harry grunted. "Get on your knees." He fully expected some sort of retort, for Draco to refuse to be given orders or commands by the likes of Harry Potter, but Draco was so far gone with lust, so desperate to have Harry’s hands on him and cock in him, he just slid off of Harry and crawled to the headboard, bending forward and holding on.

"This good?" Draco asked, so sincerely, as Harry came up behind him, placed a hand on the back of his lovely flushed neck.

"It’s so good," Harry said, "you’re so good."

With his other hand, Harry gripped his own cock and guided it back inside Draco.

He then reached around and grasped Draco’s cock, so smooth in his hand, and as he thrust into Draco slowly at first, then with a rhythm that felt so perfect—like the first time Harry caught a Snitch, the first time he flew a Firebolt—he stroked up and down Draco’s cock, pulling the foreskin over the head and back down again.

He fucked him like that, hard and fast. One hand on Draco’s cock, one hand squeezing Draco’s neck and shoulder, the sound of skin slapping against skin, the sound of Draco’s moans and Harry’s own grunts with each and every thrust, the sound of the slick and wet between Harry’s cock and Draco’s hole ringing in his ears.

He pressed his chest against Draco’s back and held him close, pressed his nose into Draco’s hair, breathing the smell of sex and sweat and Draco.

"I’m gonna come," Harry groaned into Draco’s ear, "come with me, Draco, please, I know you can."

"Fuck, yes, oh, fuck, now, Harry, Harry, I’m coming now," Draco whined and spurted warm and wet all over Harry’s hand, thick ropes of it, dripping onto the sheets.

And Harry followed, shooting deep, deep inside Draco, the two of them riding wave after wave of their shared orgasm together.

Harry kissed Draco’s shoulder, held him as they collapsed onto their sides to avoid the wet spot, Harry still mostly hard and trying to stay inside Draco as long as he could.

They stayed like that for a while. Close, warm. Long after Harry had slipped out and his come had started to dry.

Harry couldn't tell if the bond had broken. He felt calm, relaxed, wonderful. He kept kissing the back of Draco's neck and pulling him close, his hand running up and down Draco's hard stomach.

Eventually Draco shivered and stretched. "We should get up."

Harry groaned and gave Draco a tight squeeze.

They managed to untangle themselves and wander to the bathroom. Harry was glad that they didn’t have to talk about it at all, that Draco just followed him and held the door to the shower open so they could both step inside.

They stood under the spray and kissed some more, their bodies warm, the water hot. Draco took soap in his hands and rubbed all over Harry’s body. Harry shivered as Draco ran his hands over Harry’s still sensitive nipples and soft cock.

It was so nice to be taken care of, to be touched.

Draco gave Harry a light peck on the lips and pushed Harry back under the spray when he was done.

Harry started to return to himself, to feel a bit more alert, less dazed as he rubbed in shampoo and watched Draco do the same.

"Do you think the bond is broken?" Draco said finally, breaking the silence.

"I’m not sure." Harry stood under the spray, rinsing the shampoo from his hair, his eyes closed. "Er, can we lie?"

"Let’s see." Draco thought a moment. "I think the Chudley Cannons are not an embarrassment to the sport of Quidditch and to Wizardry in general. Ah, it would appear that my facility for falsehoods has returned. What a relief. Your turn."

"Mmm," Harry reached for Draco, pulled him close, ran his hands over his bum. "I think that Draco Malfoy does not have the most beautiful, perfect arse in all of Britain."

"Well, I think that Harry Potter does not have the most beautiful, perfect cock in all of Britain. Of course, I’m not telling you whether that’s a lie or not. It could be. Or I could be being honest. I have seen many cocks in my day—"

Harry cut him off with a kiss, slow and soft. "Shut up, Malfoy."

After their shower, they dressed and headed back downstairs. Harry made large mugs of tea while Draco collected all of the reference books from where they had fallen on the floor earlier and gave the table a good clean, both with magic and a rag and detergent.

They sat back down at the table with their tea, and Harry ran his hand along the wood, unable to suppress a smile. "I have to have family dinners at this table."

"I’m sorry nothing will taste as good as me."

Harry laughed, loud and hard. "Still arrogant as ever."

"I haven’t completely changed, Potter," he added for effect.

They sipped their tea for a moment. Harry checked the time and began to wonder how soon the kids would be home, when his life would go back to normal. He wasn’t sure he was ready for normal.

"So is this it, then?" Draco said quietly, looking into his mug.

Harry’s heart pounded in his chest. "You’re the expert. The bond is broken, right?"

"Don’t be daft." His voice had an edge now. "You know that’s not what I meant."

There it was. The frustration he always seemed to have with Malfoy, the anger at how he always seemed to talk down to Harry, to get under his skin. The bond was gone and there was nothing keeping him calm around Draco now. They’d probably just slip right back into their old ways of treating each other like dirt.

The sexual attraction might not have been caused by the bond but it seemed their ability to tolerate one other absolutely was.

Harry opened his mouth when Draco spoke again—

"I’m sorry." Draco took a deep breath. "I’m trying to be kinder to you. I—lord, I thought I was too old for this but here we are—I like you. With or without the bond. I like you very much."

Harry felt warmth spreading through his chest. Bond or no bond. He placed his hand palm up on the table, an invitation.

Draco took it.

"I think I like you, too," Harry said.

"You think?" Draco raised an eyebrow.

"I’m a little confused," Harry admitted. "With sex and the bond and seeing how good you were with the kids I don’t—I’m having trouble figuring out what I really feel and what’s just…everything else."

"Ah," Draco said, making to pull his hand away, but Harry held it, covered it with his other hand.

"But I want to figure it out. I want to spend time with you—date you—without the bond and without the kids and without—actually no, let’s definitely keep the sex."

Draco laughed. "If you insist."

Harry smiled, wide and joyful. "I insist."


And so they dated, Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy.

And Harry became a Curse-Breaker’s apprentice.

And what could have been disastrous—combining their lives and their families, working together and playing together—was instead miraculous.

And when, on Christmas morning a few months later, Draco proposed marriage, he gave Harry a platinum ring, dotted with emeralds, in carved wooden box, identical to the one that had joined them not so long ago.

The End