Actions

Work Header

This Year's Love

Chapter Text

"Turning circles and time again
Cut like a knife oh now
If ya love me got to know for sure
'Cause it takes something more this time
Than sweet, sweet lies oh now
Before I open up my arms and fall
Losing all control
Every dream inside my soul
When ya kiss me on that midnight street
Sweep me off my feet
Singing, 'ain't this life so sweet?'"

David Grey, This Year's Love

 

 

“When did you two fall in love?”

Hermione sat cross-legged on a small plush armchair in front of Molly and Arthur Weasley, her muggle camcorder focused on the couple, as her question lingered between the three of them. Arthur blushed and Molly giggled, her head tilting up to peer at Arthur under her lashes.

“I knew Arthur had a penchant for muggle items when we were just kids at Hogwarts,” Molly started, a wide smile on her face.

“Arthur’s always been terribly shy, so I knew I had to make the first move. So finally, in Fifth Year I gathered up the courage to do something about my crush on him. I told my friend Alice I’d give her a very low-grade love potion I had brewed, in exchange for her Muggle camera.” Arthur nodded.

“A Kodak Motormatic 35,” he said fondly, eyes twinkling. “Everyone thought I was mad for loving Muggle products, but never Molly. She would listen to me go on about cameras, fridges, automobiles.” Molly placed her hand on his knee and gave a squeeze.

“I knew I fancied her when I first laid eyes on her in First Year, and when she surprised me with the camera, well, I knew she was the one and had to say something right away.”

“He took me for a stroll around the grounds and thanked me for the gift.”

“And I asked her to go steady with me.” Arthur said, wrapping an arm around Molly’s shoulders. She leaned into the embrace and placed a hand on his chest. Arthur kissed her softly on the lips. “The whole night was worth the scolding I got from Pringle.” Molly giggled.

“We snogged for hours,” she offered helpfully.

“We haven’t stopped since,” Arthur said with a sly grin. They both shared a long, loving look.

“You’ve both been married for such a long time—any advice for the young couples out there?” Hermione asked, a smile lighting her face.

“It’s healthy to be selfless. You must be willing to sometimes sacrifice your needs for the needs of your loved one, especially if you know by not doing so you may end up hurting them. It’s important to maintain open communication about these things. It’s a vital lesson not just for true marital harmony, but for all kinds of relationships. Friendships, for example,” Arthur said. Hermione nodded.

“One more question. Molly, why on earth did you have a love potion in your possession?” Hermione asked, scandalised.

The older woman laughed. She finally looked away from Arthur and fixed her soft gaze on Hermione.

“It was the sixties, dear. A witch always had an assortment of recreational, albeit illegal, potions in her handbag.” She gave a devilish wink as Arthur chuckled heartily.  


1 AUGUST 1998

 

The first time Harry sees Draco Malfoy after the Battle of Hogwarts is during the final round of trials.

The Malfoy’s were presented in front of the Wizengamot the day after Harry’s eighteenth birthday. Harry found that not only was everything happening in his life simultaneously, it could also all be classified as  awful, humiliating or just plain old  uncomfortable. There were funerals, press conferences, Ministry meetings, and the glaring spotlight from the entire Wizarding World. This event however set his teeth on edge the most in the trickle of months following the war. His birthday was a sombre event, with the Weasley family hosting a small dinner at the Burrow. The absence of Fred and so many others was staunchly felt and try as she might, Molly still carried a strong air of gloom about her. Before the end of the dinner, he was three sheets to the wind, trying to drink Ron under the table, all while using Hermione’s shoulder as his personal handkerchief. Once night had fallen, he was buried to the hilt in Ginny, thoughts of Malfoy’s impending doom and possible pitiful circumstances very much weighing on his mind.  

He shook away thoughts of the anticlimactic night he lost his virginity and instead tried to focus on the many faces of the Wizengamot, protestors and finally, Hermione. She was perched beside him with a notebook and ballpoint pen in her lap. She had insisted on coming along with him ‘for support.’”

His testimony only lasted about ten minutes. It was Narcissa he owed the Life Debt to, and testifying would ultimately repay it. Had it not been for Narcissa, Harry was quite sure the war would have ended differently. Hell, he was still unsure what to think of Malfoy’s hesitation at Malfoy Manor when he, Ron and Hermione were brought in by the Snatchers. He felt duty-bound to testify in favour of leniency for them both. 

He chewed relentlessly on a hangnail as he took in the other boy. In the two and a half months that the trials dragged on, Malfoy’s white blond hair had become matted and dark with filth. His already sharp face was skeletal, cheekbones frighteningly sharp against nearly translucent skin. Around his left eye a bruise was blossoming and he was sporting a nasty split lip. He was wearing the traditional frayed Azkaban uniform which hung pitifully from his rail thin frame. Harry wondered what kinds of horrors Malfoy had endured in his short stint in prison. Despite Malfoy’s appearance, though, he was startled to find the defiant glint in Malfoy’s pale eyes as he looked out onto the Wizengamot, awaiting his verdict.

After twenty minutes of deliberation, the verdict was announced: Lucius would serve ten years in Azkaban for his war crimes. Narcissa, who had already spent the last three months under house arrest, assisting Aurors in the removal of Dark artefacts from Malfoy Manor, is released with no further sanctions. The youngest Malfoy was also granted freedom from Azkaban, but sentenced to ten years without the use of magic, both wand and wandless. He would face a sentence of five years in Azkaban if caught brewing or attempting any spells. The family was also to pay twenty-five million galleons in reparations, and agree to demolish the dungeons in the Manor.

Harry wanted to approach them, but as they stood huddled against one another with looks of relief and devastation fighting on their faces, he couldn’t. He watched instead as Lucius drew his wife to him, tenderly running a shaking hand through her long blonde hair before quickly pulling Draco to his side, his arm tightening around his son’s thin waist. Suddenly feeling awkward at having witnessed such an intimate moment, Harry looked away as the senior Malfoy lowered his chin to rest atop his wife’s head, eyes closing as he clung to her. Harry heard a soft feminine sob from Mrs Malfoy as the Aurors approach, having decided now was the proper time to take Lucius away. He shot one final look back just in time to see an Auror grip Lucius by the upper arm and haul him away from his wife and son.

It’s then that he makes eye contact with Malfoy; his grey eyes are bright, the defiant look from earlier slipping away for just the briefest of moments. There’s a flicker of something he’s never seen on the other boy’s face. He can’t bring himself to acknowledge what it is – but he knows. It’s soft and vulnerable. Gratitude.

He gives Malfoy a slow nod and exits the chamber.


  MARCH 1999

---eight months later---

 

 

“Harry, we need to talk.”

Harry freezes on the spot, beans and toast halfway to his mouth. It’s a delicacy Kreacher can’t bring himself to make, so he has to make it himself.

He absolutely hates those five little words coming from Ginny—and it always comes out that way— an exasperated and painfully slow enunciation of Harry, followed by a no nonsense ‘we need to talk.’ The sentence always promised a spectacular row.

He groans inwardly, placing his toast carefully back onto his plate and watches with wary eyes as she slides gracefully into the empty seat beside him. Facing him, she places one elbow heavily on the surface of the table and the other arm drapes lazily across the back of her chair. She fidgets though and readjusts herself, this time hands clasped together tightly, resting in her lap. She frowns at him.

“What is it, Gin?” At his question her face flushes and he raises a quizzical brow. Merlin. She’s bloody tense and he’s suddenly very nervous. Having known her for years, he knew that the very small, uncomfortable frown on her reddening face was a clear indicator of trouble brewing. It didn’t help that he also noticed her jaw clenching.

She gives a resigned sigh.

“Harry…we have to break up.”

All he can do is splutter at the comment. Before he can regain the ability to speak, Ginny opens her mouth again, speaking with an urgency that startles him.

“I love you, Harry, I do, but I…” She pauses to run a hand through her barely-there hair. She had chopped off her long, luscious flaming red locks two days ago – very much to his shock— to sport a very short pixie cut, the back and sides closely cropped. It shows off her long pale neck and shoulders, and she looks like her brothers now more than ever. When he had asked her why she did it, she had said she needed a change – or did she say she was changing? Harry starts to panic now that he can’t quite recall her words. They feel very important now, like perhaps those words were a red flag to this conversation, and ultimately the impending end of their relationship. That damn haircut— regardless of how much he loves it—will now haunt him forever.

“I think I’m gay. No. I’m sorry, I know I’m gay.”

He gapes openly at her in bewilderment. Before she had uttered those five little words, a million reasons for a row had popped up in his head, like: Harry, once again your shoes are all over the bloody hallway, I almost tripped and died  or Harry, you can’t keep hogging the wireless, or, Kreacher refuses to make beans and toast for me OR clean the bloody house! or I’m too bloody tired to fuck! —that kind of thing. Well. This was not on the list at all.

“But…how can you be gay? Since when?” he asks.

“I…” she starts, but stops, tiny creases of distress appearing on her forehead, looking so out of place on her young visage. She takes a deep breath and tries once more.

“I’ve always been attracted to women. Since I was a little girl, even, yeah. I was just too afraid to embrace it, let alone admit it aloud. It’s been a terrible secret to have.” Ginny whispers, her voice trembling with emotion. Her face is the picture of discomfort tinged with fear and Harry suddenly feels overwhelming sympathy for her. He wants to reach out and touch her, offer some bit of comfort even though her words hurt him. Before he can make up his mind, she’s taken another deep breath and starts talking again.

“But then I met you and fell in love. I mean, you saved me from a giant basilisk, how could I not love you?” she asks with a small, sad smile. “It was all rather confusing for me, but I can’t keep lying to myself, Harry, I just, can’t. I don’t want to live in the closet anymore. The attraction I have for women has always been there and will always be there. I don’t want to keep it a secret. Do you understand?”

He shifts in his seat, now becoming aware of the stifling heat in the room. Which is strange, because it’s only March. Along with the unrelenting grey skies, the weather in London is rainy and still quite cold. And Ginny likes it a bit cold in the evenings, it gives her an excuse to walk around the house with a heavy throw draped over her shoulders like a cape. He gulps on the warm air, his face flushed and twisted in shock.

“No. No, I don’t understand at all,” he says sharply.

“Harry, I love you so much,” she says, “I really do. I wanted you, and you needed me and I tried so hard to suppress my feelings for women by dating men. I told myself that I thought it would be enough to know that I have you in my life. I thought I could just rewire my feelings, but it’s not possible, Harry. I just, I just can’t love you in that way.”

Harry notes with mild horror that this is actually happening to him right now. Merlin, he doesn’t want to cry, but it feels like he’s a hair’s breadth away from it. What did this admission even mean? Is she really leaving him?

“I don’t want to hurt you and I don’t expect you to understand right now, but just know that this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.” She starts to openly weep.

This can’t be happening; he thinks to himself. He curses the sudden rush of comprehension flooding over him. It hits him so hard that he does indeed start to cry – slow, harsh choked sounds that hurt his stomach as they travel up his throat.

At his first choked sob Ginny flies from her seat to wrap her arms around him, her small hands clutching his shoulders as her own sobs escape her between whispered apologies. Underneath the confusion he feels like something is slipping away from him. It causes him to choke on another sob. This is loss like he’s never experienced before. He’s waited so long to have someone as remarkable as Ginny in his life— he had survived a war, coming out just a little bit broken, hoping that she would be the glue to piece him back together.

He was wrong, so very, very wrong. And he can put his finger on it, the thing that’s slipping away. A family. The dream of three kids, a crup, lazy Christmas mornings, intense family Quidditch games. And it’s a family with her, the one he’s loved for years, fought to get back to in the war to be with. All those hopes and dreams he had of her are now slipping away and he can’t stand it. He needs her. Loves her. Isn’t that enough?

This is surreal because, well, he was just about to eat his beans and toast, wasn’t he? Then curl up with her on the couch to catch the last bit of Neville’s guest-starring on  Toots, Shoots ‘n’ Roots on the Wizarding Wireless Network, right? They were supposed to play fight over who would Summon the butterbeers from the kitchen afterwards. It was supposed to be a regular Sunday night.

Yes. He’s obviously having a nightmare right now; this can’t be reality, he thinks despairingly. But here he is with Ginny’s warm body pressed against him, her anchoring hand on his back, making this situation too real and so very fleeting all at once.

As the gravity of the situation continued to dawn on him, Harry felt like a limb was being ripped from his body, the excruciating pain causing his vision to blacken around the edges and his stomach to lurch with nausea. And oh, why can’t he breathe right now? His heart is pounding so fast and so hard. And Merlin, why is he trembling all of a sudden? He must be physically wounded, because her words burn and painfully throb and he oh fuck, he really can’t fucking breathe –

“Harry, breathe in and out slowly! You’re safe, you’re at home, nothing can hurt you...it’s okay, it’s okay, you’re having a panic attack.”

Harry tries to listen to her raspy voice. But he is hurt. He is.

There’s some air coming and going from his lungs, he thinks. He feels disoriented, his mind racing, but his vision is slowly coming back to him which is good. Merlin, he feels like a complete cock; but despite this, as soon as she starts to rock him, he wraps his arms around her tiny waist, desperate for her touch.

“What are we going to do?” he asks against her shoulder. She pulls away slightly and cards a hand through his wild hair. Her face is red and her nose is runny; the sight makes his heart ache even more. He hates seeing her like this.

“I’ll move back in with my parents and—”

He suddenly has a thought so overwhelming that her response goes unheard.

“—What about all the sex we’ve had?” he takes in another shuddering breath as he pulls away from her completely. He refrains from mentioning that they haven’t had any sex in over three months, and before that, their sex life consisted of quick hand-jobs and finger-fucking.

“Did you pretend to enjoy it?” 

“I never faked anything with you,” Ginny says softly as she sits back down in her seat, a bit of hurt creeping into her voice. She places a hand in his numb one and squeezes before quickly removing it.

“It’s a bit complicated Harry. I…I’m just no longer interested in having sex with you. Or any man. Ever.” 

“I…I don’t know what to say. Why can’t we at least try to make it work—”

“It can’t work that way, Harry,” she says gently. “What you’re asking me to do is pretend and I already told you that I’ve never faked anything with you, nor will I ever. You must understand that I can’t just turn off what I’m feeling. I can’t do that to be with you. Not ever.” She wipes her tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand.

“Please, understand. This isn’t something I can change. You’re my best friend and I need  you in my life. I  need  to know you’ll be okay.” She whispers the words, her shoulders trembling as she speaks. 

“Okay,” he starts, taking another shaky breath. “Yeah.” With a shake of his head he drops it into his waiting hands, completely spent. He half hopes his clammy palms will suffocate him so he can temporarily black out and avoid the rest of this breakup.

“Is it something I did?” He hates that his voice cracks as he asks. He’s felt this small before. Those nights when he was a little boy locked away in his cupboard, cold, and so very alone, believing that he would never be worthy of someone’s love.

“No,” she says vehemently despite her sniffles. “You did nothing wrong– it’s not you. Do you understand me? It’s me.” He gives a sharp, pained bark of a laughter at her words. She pushes on.

“I’m serious, Harry! You didn’t cause these feelings in me. This is something I’ve been struggling with since I was a little girl. I’ve just reached a breaking point and I’m sorry I’ve hurt you but…we’ve both spent so much of our lives fighting to survive so we can live the life we want.”

He nods slowly, finding rationale in her words even though his heart is sinking further into the pit of his stomach. He could never ask her to live a life she didn’t want just for him. It would be cruel and unfair. He knew that, but it still didn’t relieve any of the hurt he was feeling.

“Is there…is there someone else? A woman?”

At this question, she bows her head and nods. He inhales sharply.

“Who?”

“Parvati.” 

Harry’s eyes widen and his mouth slides open, utterly confused. He thinks about her flirtatious personality, her lovely long inky black hair, dark eyes, dark skin, and full sensual lips. He thinks about the Yule Ball and the many boys who followed her around.

“But she’s not gay!”

“She’s pansexual, Harry.”

Pansexual? What the hell does that even mean?

“She’s just…gender, gender identities aren’t important to her…she’s not going to be restricted to just male or female, you know? She’s open to anyone that will make her happy.”

Pansexual. This term is one that he’s unfamiliar with but he allows the definition to whirl around in his head. He’s never thought too much about sexuality or gender. That’s not to say that he’s never thought of all the romantic and sexual possibilities that are available for a person. It’s crossed his mind as a fleeting thought before, but there was always something more important that needed his attention. If anything, thinking about it made him confused and slightly uncomfortable. He spent the first eleven years of his life friendless and locked in a cupboard, and the next seven years fighting off a megalomaniac that wanted to kill him, and  did  kill him…he had no time to think about such things like  pansexuality and gender identities. And really, he’d never had to think about anything like that because he’d always had Ginny. She was always just there for him.

And now she was leaving.

“Are you sleeping with her?” Merlin, he really tried to ask this as calmly as possible, but inwardly cringes at the accusatory tone that comes out instead.

Ginny gasps sharply, clearly affronted by his question.

“Absolutely not! How can you even think that? I’m being honest with you here. You need to believe me. I would never cheat.” She spits out the last word as if it left a nasty taste in her mouth. She leans forward, staring directly into his eyes.

“Parvati and I worked together after she interviewed me for Witch Weekly. We’re colleagues and friends. You know she’s doing an internship there to bring Quidditch to a wider female audience. It’s always been harmless. I don’t even know if she even thinks about me that way. And I wasn’t going to disrespect what we have by pursuing her to find out. I could never...”

“Okay,” he whispers, looking away from her as he quickly dashes away yet another tear. “I-I’m just…I’m shocked, Gin. I—this—doesn’t feel real .”

“Don’t you think we both deserve to be happy?”

“I am happy. With you. But you’re bloody leaving me!” He spits angrily, crossing his arms against his chest, willing the tears and the flush of his cheeks to go away. He knows he should calm down, but fuck, this is all too much for him to swallow.

She deflates.

“Harry,” she starts slowly, “Are you sure you’re happy with me? Are you sure that...maybe…you don’t have some feelings you want to explore yourself?”

He fixes her with a bewildered stare.

“What are you talking about? I love you, there are no other feelings to explore!”

“It’s just that I’ve noticed some things

“Like what?” he sharply interrupts. “I’ve never even glanced at another woman!”

She purses her lips and then shakes her head as if to expel whatever thoughts are plaguing her.

“Alright. I’m sorry, Harry. I really am, but I’m not going to be ashamed of how I feel. I need to be open with you about this and – Harry, look at me,” she demands. They look at each other for a beat, and then Harry’s eyes drop down to his now cold beans on toast. He takes deep, steady breaths that Hermione taught him to ease episodes of anger or anxiety.

“Harry, look at me.” He continues to ignore her, instead concentrating on his breathing, willing the air to go in and out of his body smoothly. The burning in the back of his throat is nearly unbearable, but he’ll be damned if he starts sobbing again. She pushes her chair back and stands. His gaze is still obediently fixed on his plate but he can feel the heat of her gaze and body next to him. “I understand that you may not forgive me for this right now, but I hope that the man I’ve come to know, love, and respect will come around for me.” The determination in her voice is unwavering, even through her tears. She leans forward and runs her warm fingertips down his cheek. He closes his eyes against the simple, soft touch. It’s a touch that he’s so very fond of, and realising that this may be the last time he feels it just fucking  hurts.  

“I’m being honest with you. I’m doing this for the both of us, can’t you see that?”

At his continued silence she gives a tight sob, as if it escaped her without her permission.

“I’ll wait for you. For however long it takes, I’ll wait for you to come around. I’m so sorry.” She pushes lightly off from the table to head upstairs, no doubt to their bedroom. He knows she’s going to gather her belongings.

A little over an hour later, all her possessions are probably neatly packed away, shrunk for transport. Harry wouldn’t know. He hasn’t moved from his spot at the table, his food still untouched.

She doesn’t come back to him, either. Instead, he hears the Floo flare to life in the lounge, her rough voice calling out for the Burrow.  


  JULY 1999

The next time Harry sees Draco Malfoy after the trials, they’re both in Diagon Alley and it’s a cloudless, humid Friday.

Harry missed the many articles on Malfoy’s registration and tagging with the Ministry. The newly introduced ban on his employment opportunities. The laxness in protection for him from the DMLE. This was because Harry had taken a leave of absence from Auror training to get his head sorted following the end of his relationship. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to be an Auror anymore. He wasn’t sure of anything nowadays; so he’d been blissfully out of the loop on such bureaucratic measures within the Ministry.

Adjusting to life after the war and the brutal aftermath of Ginny ripping his heart out and stomping all over it has preoccupied his thoughts. When he finally pulled himself out of the emotional funk that came post-Ginny, nearly four months had passed since The Big Gay Break Up (fondly dubbed by Ron). Harry’s quite proud to point out to anyone that will listen (namely an irate Hermione who would frequently tell him he needs to ‘stop being so fucking bitter and let go’) that he no longer numbly roams his house in just pants, surviving solely on greasy takeaway from the chicken shop around the corner. But when it was bad, many a time Hermione would let herself into Grimmauld Place, late at night, to find him drunkenly slouched in an armchair in only his pants, with plastic takeaway containers and whisky bottles strewn across the floor, No Doubt’s Don’t Speak blasting from his speakers on repeat. She always got him properly dressed and put to bed. He’d wake to a hangover potion on his nightstand, a glass of water charmed to stay cool, and a pristinely sorted sitting room. He’s yet to thank her for it.

Now, he’s finally accepted why Ginny needed to leave him and he’s doing well. He’s moving on, thank you very much. He’s even showing support for her coming out with the glittering rainbow curtain that now covers Walburga’s portrait, compliments of his impressive transfiguration skills. He had proudly showed it off to Ginny when she came to visit last month with Luna after the Gay Pride Parade. They were both trying to convince him to join them at the pubs with everyone else. It wasn’t lost on him that Parvati had not accompanied Ginny to Grimmauld Place. He was thankful for small mercies but had decided to sit it out to avoid any awkwardness.

She had looked so pretty. Her short hair was slicked back. She had on super tight, short, nylon, neon-pink cycling shorts that clung low on her narrow hips, a matching sports bra on that showed off her toned stomach and recently pierced belly button. Her eyelids were painted with yellow eyeshadow, lips a glossy pink, her long pale neck adorned with several multi-coloured beads. She was slightly sweaty and she looked so damn beautiful. So damn happy.  

Yeah. That’s it. She’s finally happy.

But all that aside, even Hermione was impressed with his Walburga makeover, particularly the glitter portion of the transfiguration, and of course his sentimental – “I will always be there for you because I accept you, Gin!”— attitude. She had told him firmly that this was a start. He didn’t even react too badly when he saw the picture of his beautiful ex-girlfriend and Parvati plastered on the front page of the Daily Prophet    

THE WIZARDING WORLD’S WOMEN OF THE YEAR: GINEVRA WEASLEY AND PARVATI PATIL ARE PAVING THE WAY FOR QUIDDITCH LOVING WOMEN!

*Interviewed personally by Editor-in-Chief, Pansy Parkinson

–  that Ron so rudely flashed in his face a fortnight ago, the absolute dickhead. He may have excused himself to the toilet for a proper cry, but at least he had done it in the solitude of his own bathroom and not in front of Ron and Hermione again over dinner. Or in their  bathroom. Or waiting for Dean and Seamus in The York off Islington High Street. Or in front of Molly at the Burrow when Ginny was away. Or tea with Luna at her and Rolf’s new Kentish Town flat.

But bugger it, her beatific smile was wide and her eyes sparkled up at him through the paper, before turning her gaze to an equally glowing Parvati. He was reminded of all the times she had looked at him like that and frankly, he was gutted. But despite the pain he suffered from seeing that article, he survived that setback to his self-esteem, desperate to win at this recovery game from “The Big Gay Break Up”. Maybe in due-time they’d both be able to sit together and not bat an eye over their lost love. But not now. Not today.

He’d decided to quickly pop over to Diagon Alley’s Quality Quidditch Supplies to look for broom polish and indulge in some general ogling of new brooms, when he noticed the small angry mob of people across the way from the Magical Menagerie. His wand was out before he realised it as he took off towards the mass of bodies. Gasping and quite befuddled, he quickly ducked as a pineapple came flying towards him, followed by a hasty sorry! If he hadn’t have ducked, it would have hit him, as the aim was nearly spot on. The person who threw the offending fruit came jogging towards him.

“Sorry—oh!  Oh, bloody fuck, it’s Harry Potter!” the young witch screams hysterically before a hand flies up to her mouth, seemingly startled by her own volume. She looks no older than 16. She gapes up at him with large blue eyes and stumbles sideways, bumping into another hoodlum who had followed her. She looks vaguely familiar, maybe a fellow Gryffindor. People continue shouting as fruit and flashes of light fly towards the centre of the mob.

“Harry Potter!” the girl repeats, this time at a more acceptable volume, still looking ready to faint. Soon a hush falls over the crowd and people begin to collectively whisper—

Harry Potter!”

“He saved us!”

“The Chosen One…”

The small crowd pushes towards him and he jumps back in surprise, dropping his wand arm to his side. “What on earth is going on here?” he asks the girl, his eyes searching the many faces that immediately surround him. He can’t discern what people are saying with everyone speaking at once. He takes another step back, overwhelmed by the response as the crowd lurches towards him again. A glamour would not have gone amiss here; Harry silently regrets not changing his appearance before leaving home.

“Er,” he starts awkwardly. The girl who haphazardly tossed the pineapple wraps both of her hands around his forearm and tugs him towards the centre of the mob.

“Mr Potter!” she gasps. “Oh, Mr Potter, that Death Eater…” the crowd parts then to reveal an immobile figure collapsed on the ground. Harry saw elegant forest green robes and a shock of white blond hair.

Merlin fuck. It’s Malfoy.

“How dare he show his face!” someone shouts from the crowd. Shouts of agreement ring out –

“He’s scum!”

“Death Eater!”

“MURDERER!”

Harry jerks his arm from the girl’s grasp and roughly pushes through the angry mob to drop to his knees beside Malfoy. The other man is face down, blood caking one side of his face from a wound at his temple, possibly from a rock or…a perfectly aimed pineapple.

Shit buggering fuck shit!

His mind races as his eyes catalogue each injury before placing his wand down beside Malfoy’s head. He immediately leans forward to check Malfoy’s pulse – weak, but there. “Malfoy, can you hear me?” he asks loudly, placing a hand on Malfoy’s shoulder.

“What are you doing?” the young witch hisses, her eyes wild with shock. One of the girl’s goons lunges forward to tug him away from Malfoy. Harry slaps the hoodlum’s encroaching hands.

“Why are you helping him?” she barks. He ignores her and instead turns Malfoy onto his back to assess his other wounds when two strong pairs of hands clamp down on his shoulders, attempting to pull him away from Malfoy. Harry snaps his head up to glare at the two older wizards from the mob manhandling him.

Harry can feel his skin break out in goosebumps, the hair on the back of his arms are standing erect.

“Are you completely insane?” he hisses. A rush of his magic grows deep in the centre of his chest, spreading wide as his anger climbs.

“Get the bloody hell off me!” When the assailants hesitate to remove their hands from his person, he snatches up his wand, viciously slashing it in the air with a wordless Confundus. Shouts of fear and bewilderment greet him from the crowd as the two men release him, confused expressions writ across their faces. They bump into one another before stumbling away from the mob. In the midst of the enshrouding chaos, he flings a hasty Protego around Malfoy’s body. Breathing heavily through his nose, the angry rush of magic still crackling inside him.

Despite the ozone-like smell of wild magic in the air, the size of the crowd doesn’t thin out. Instead, the spectacle seems to draw the attention of more people, probably curious to see the Great Harry Potter lose his shit in the middle of Diagon Alley. Witches and wizards, young and old, surround him with looks of disbelief, fear, and some even with outright disgust.

“Listen to me!” he shouts, glaring at the angry mob, trying to muster an authoritative tone to quickly dispel the group. He religiously ignores the strong, impulsive desire to just hex everyone around him.

“You lot should get the fuck out of here before I call the Aurors. How dare you do something like this!”

“The Aurors would certainly reward us for keeping scum like this in their place!” some calls out from the crowd.

“Yeah, who does he think he is? Roaming the streets freely?” another person shout, people begin clapping and making noises of agreement.

“He can’t even do magic! What’s he here for anyway?” another cries.

That last observation is actually a really valid one, he considers, as the crowd becomes even more restless and agitated. Regardless, this kind of behaviour is bloody savage. No one deserved this kind of treatment.

“Malfoy was served his punishment. It’s not your job to take the law into your hands. Now get the fuck out of here!” he shouts.

To his surprise and relief, the mob of people slowly begin to disperse with looks of shock and betrayal on their faces. He could hardly be bothered to care about their dejected feelings as he removes the protective shield to once again assess Malfoy’s injuries.

The rock—or fruit, but he’s wagering on rock— that collided with Malfoy’s head surely caused a concussion. The bruising on his face is immense and to his horror, he realises that at some point they must have used their fists. He glances around. No one was coming to help him. With a heavy sigh, he lifts his wand once more and whispers ‘ Levicorpus.’ Slowly the other man rises. He flicks his wand once more towards Malfoy to cast a quick Notice-Me-Not charm on his body. He figures he’ll take Malfoy to The Leaky Cauldron and Floo to St Mungo’s from there.

 ----

Hours later, he finds himself sitting in a private room he’d finagled the hospital staff into for Malfoy. To his shock and disgust, he was met with adamant resistance as no one wanted to treat the former Death Eater. Much to his discomfort, he had to throw around his name to procure a Healer for Malfoy, the Welcoming Witch having not noticed his identity when he first arrived. So here he sat, in a tiny secluded room far from the nurse’s station feeling sick to his stomach at having manipulated the staff, but strangely proud that he had done it at the same time. After all, he couldn’t very well let Malfoy lapse into a coma or whatever happens to someone who is concussed for a long time.

When Malfoy finally opens his eyes, it’s with a gut-wrenching cry that startles him.

“Where am I?” Malfoy asks quietly, as if meant for just himself as he stares up at the ceiling.

“Nice to see you, too, Malfoy. You’re at St Mungo’s,” he responds nonchalantly. Malfoy flinches. Some part of him doesn’t know why he stayed behind to watch over Malfoy, but the larger part – the winning part – tells him it’s because Malfoy has no one else.

He’s sitting close to the door in a stuffy armchair, a copy of the latest issue of  Witch Weekly  open on his lap. He was skimming through Parvati’s op-ed piece on misogyny and equal pay issues for women in major league Quidditch that he’d snagged from reception before Malfoy gained consciousness.

“The-the mob?” Malfoy asks, his voice coming out in hushed, staccato breaths. Harry can see him swallowing hard. “What happened to the mob?”

He raises an incredulous eyebrow. He had expected some yelling or at least a stern demand to leave the room, not this quietly puzzled Malfoy. Perhaps the concussion had left him off-kilter.

“I told them to piss off,” he responds. “You were roughed up quite a bit.” Closing the magazine, he stands and drags the overstuffed chair over to Malfoy’s bedside. The other man eyes him warily as he settles back into the seat. The bruising that had peppered his face was now just a sickly yellow instead of the black and purple mess it had been earlier.

Harry allows himself to really look at the other man. His lashes are impossibly long and they’re almost as fair as the hair on his head, perfectly framing his intelligent silvery grey eyes. His alabaster skin, despite the receding bruises, has a hint of a pink flush. He’s still quite pointy—all sharp edges and wiry limbs, but he’s grown into it, having picked up a bit of weight since the trials. His Cupid-bow shaped lips are as pouty and petulant as ever. Harry can begrudgingly acknowledge that Malfoy is quite attractive—if a touch too pretty. He likes it.

Wait, no, no, no, he thinks. He shakes himself, feeling slightly faint at his line of thinking. Malfoy?  Attractive? Pretty?  Bloody buggering hell, what is wrong with him?

“Do you mind telling me what exactly happened?” Harry asks, still damning himself and shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

“I went into Diagon Alley to purchase a Kneazle. Without magic, I’m left quite vulnerable so a Kneazle would be an asset to the wards at the Manor and to myself.”

Harry clears his throat.

“Er…Malfoy, I hate to break it to you, but I didn’t see any Kneazle before I brought you here.”

Malfoy glowers at him.

“Of course you wouldn’t, Potter,” he snaps. He closes his eyes and through gritted teeth says, “They wouldn’t sell me a certified Kneazle at Magical Menagerie.”

“Are you still going to look for a Kneazle elsewhere?”

“Potter… are you going to properly take my statement anytime soon or is this conversation going to be about Kneazles?”

Harry’s brows lower in confusion.

“Your statement?”

“You’re a bloody Auror, aren’t you?”

“Er…no, I’m not.”

Malfoy releases a nasally, exasperated sigh.

“What, in Merlin’s name, were you doing there then, Potter? Did you participate in the violent flash mob?”

“What? No!” He starts, offended. “I told you, I broke the crowd up and when I saw what they had done to you—I, I couldn’t leave you there.”

Good grief,” Malfoy hisses, eyes alit with fury. “Are you to witness every single humiliating event in my fucking life?”  

Harry sits back in his armchair, his arms crossing against his chest as he glares at Malfoy. He ignores the slight sting of pity he feels for the blond because his accusation and anger are hardly fair. It’s not like he  wants  to be a witness to these things.

“I think what you’re rooting around for in that brain of yours is a thank you.”

“Piss off, Potter,” Malfoy growls. “I don’t owe you anything for pulling your self-indulgent Saviour bollocks. As far as I’m concerned, this day never happened. Go save someone else.” Malfoy then turns to face the wall, exposing his back to Harry in an angry huff. A part of him feels pleased that Malfoy is speaking to him in such a dismissive way now— not quite as off-kilter as he was previously led to believe.

“How the hell did you even get there if you’re not allowed to do magic?” With apparition and the Floo Network being out of the question, and Malfoy’s limited knowledge of muggle transportation, it was a valid question. There’s a long pause and he’s annoyed to find that Malfoy is ignoring him.

“Malfoy?” he asks again. He’s about to poke the other man in the shoulder when he hears what sounds like oh for Merlin’s sake under Malfoy’s breath.

“My conditions with the Ministry, as draconian as they are, do permit me to have Auror supervised visits to the magical community of my choice once every month. Otherwise, I’m limited to the Manor without magic. The Auror on duty was supposed to wait outside of The Magical Menagerie but when I came out, he was nowhere in sight. Then some snot-nosed brat shouted at me and before I knew it, I was surrounded by the mob and hit with a hex or a fist, I can’t quite recall which happened first,” he explains flatly.

Harry’s irritation melts away as he stares at Malfoy’s back in horror.

“Merlin, I’m sorry Malfoy, that’s awful.” It wasn’t fair that Malfoy was being treated this way by the Ministry or the public. Malfoy could have died today and Harry fears that little would have been done to punish the parties responsible. And really, what the fuck was wrong with that supervising Auror? What the hell was he thinking, leaving Malfoy alone like that?

Harry wrestles back his fury, realising that it probably wouldn’t sit well with Malfoy to see him vexed on his behalf. He suddenly remembers Narcissa Malfoy.

“Where’s your mum?” he asks curiously. Couldn’t she have gone out to Diagon Alley for him?

Malfoy slowly turns back to him, his face twisted up into a grimace, tone terse.

“She’s moved to France—St. Laurent de Belzagot. Bought a vineyard out there and some horses to indulge in her love of Equestrianism.”

“Why didn’t you go with her?”

“Bloody hell, Potter. For someone not taking a statement, you sure are being thorough in prying into my personal affairs! Why don’t you leave now? I need to contact a real Auror so I can get back to the Manor.” Harry winces and suddenly feels embarrassed. Malfoy had just undergone a rather horrific attack and here he was relentlessly harassing the poor sod.

“Fine, I’ll leave you to it, Malfoy. I-I guess I just wanted to make sure you’re alright,” he says, hesitant to leave, but not wanting to drag this awkward reunion out any longer. Malfoy rolls his eyes, staring straight up at the ceiling.

“I don’t need your help, Potter. If there’s anything to take away from today’s events, it’s that I should no longer trust the Magical community. I think it’s time I make a decision about my future in it.”

Several questions spring forward in Harry’s mind at Malfoy’s words, but he grudgingly refrains from questioning the man any further. He takes in Malfoy’s grey, exhausted face and his slightly trembling lips. Harry looks away.

“I’ll just be going then,” he whispers as he stands. When he approaches the door, he turns once more to face Malfoy.

“Take care of yourself, Malfoy,” Harry says earnestly. The other man gives him a jerky nod, not meeting his gaze at all.

He leaves.

As soon as he arrives home he makes a Floo call to Ron, still an Auror in training, to file a formal complaint against Malfoy’s supervising Auror and to arrange for Malfoy to get back to the Manor safely. Ron’s confused and more than a bit curious, but takes it all in stride and promises to work on it immediately. As he ends the Floo call, he smiles to himself.

The git will just have to scold him from afar for his meddling, Saviour-Martyring ways.   


“Oh, Harry, stop being such a bore, we should absolutely do something for your birthday!” Hermione says as she stands precariously atop a stool, texting furiously on her bright red Nokia. The back of her phone is decorated with stickers shaped like gold stars, compliments of Ron’s current obsession with muggle stationary.

Merlin, was it already his birthday again? It felt like he had just turned 18 yesterday. “I’m not really in the partying mood,” he mutters. “Who are you texting?” he watches Hermione’s fingers move across the dial pad with lightning speed. They’re in Madam Malkin’s shop.

“My mum.” She sighs in exasperation and glances down at the young wizard pinning the bottom of her new Ministry robes. Harry’s seated in a comfortable wingback armchair before her, her purse in his lap, and a half-finished tea service sat beside him on a small table. His lips twitch upward as he watches her slowly lose patience. Granted, she has  been standing for nearly thirty minutes now on that small stool.

He stares up at her, the smooth dark maroon robes flattering against her dark skin and curvy figure. A small smile tugs at his lips. She’s grown into a stunningly beautiful, and fiercely powerful witch. He chuckles to himself, overcome with pride for his best friend. Hermione is clearly on her way to becoming Minister of Magic one day. He smiles fondly up at her as her frustration becomes clear as day on her face.

She takes a deep, calming breath.

“I’m sorry, sir, how much longer?” she asks politely.

“A few more minutes, Ms Granger,” the young man says absently, focused entirely on the hem of her robe. “We don’t want the newest and  youngest Under Secretary to the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures to look out of sorts, do we?” The tailor gently teases her with a grin, his German accent accentuating his baritone voice.

Harry takes a moment to glance at the man. They had to be around the same age. He’s quite handsome, Harry thinks. The bloke’s heavy-set, tall and friendly-looking with thick chestnut-coloured hair and icy blue eyes. Harry can’t help but notice how nicely his trousers stretch over his backside as he bends forward, calling attention to the man’s round, firm-looking arse.

“Harry!” It was then that he caught sight of Hermione’s flapping hand in the mirror. She had been trying to get his attention. 

“What?” Harry asks, wincing and looking up at Hermione. Her thick, shapely eyebrows are drawn together in that way they get when she’s assessing and cataloguing information. Harry clears his throat, the realisation of exactly what he was thinking and doing dawning on him.

It’s fine, wasn’t it? He’s just noticing…things…about the other bloke. His arse was literally in Harry’s face.

“It looked like he missed a spot,” Harry says weakly. At this, the tailor straightens up abruptly and turns sharply to face him, cheeks flushed pink.

“Pardon, Mr Potter, but my alterations are superb!” he says haughtily, leaving no room for argument. The tone reminds him of someone, but he can’t quite place it. Either way, that was him told. Harry gives the man a sheepish, apologetic smile. The tailor goes back to work on Hermione’s hem without so much as another look in his direction. Harry, quite humiliated, looks up to Hermione as she struggles and fails to keep a straight face.

“Well?” Hermione says as she composes herself, though still smirking and looking quite amused. “What would you like to do?”

Harry gives her a half-hearted, exasperated glare and shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know, Hermione. How about a pub night with everyone?” he grumbles. “Is that enough for you?”

Hermione narrows her eyes, but her lips are still turned up in that self-satisfied smirk of hers.

“It’ll do.” There’s a brief pause before she enquires, “And what about Ginny and Parvati?”

Pardon me?” he asks, aghast at her suggestion.

“All done,” the tailor interrupts, stepping back to survey his handiwork with a smug look. Harry watches as the tailor pulls out his wand. With a flourish the robe vanishes, Hermione’s sensible sky-blue maxi dress billowing out just a bit.

“I’ll get three sets of the robes back to you in 24-hours, Ms Granger.”

“Excellent,” she says, hopping off the stool and extending a hand to the tailor which he shakes enthusiastically. She then steps towards Harry,  grabbing her bag from his lap. Before he can scramble to his feet, she disappears behind a thick curtain leading to the front of the small shop. He glowers at her retreating form and follows her to where a tall witch behind the till slips her the Ministry-paid receipt for her new robes. She gives the employee a jaunty ‘Cheers’ before she turns sharply to him with an expectant look on her face, blindly shoving the receipt into her bag. Harry sighs, rolling his eyes.

“Fine, fine. Of course, they should be invited.”

“That’s the spirit, Harry,” she says, stepping forward to wrap him into a tight hug.

“You were texting Ginny earlier, weren’t you?” he asks through a mouthful of Hermione’s wild coconut-scented hair.

“Oh, erm, what? No!” she says unconvincingly as she releases him. “It’ll be fine. You’ll see.” She peers down at her small wristwatch.

“Lunch?” she asks cheerfully. He grunts in affirmation.


 August 1999

 

“So, you’re going to be gone for how long?”

“A solid month, mate.”

“But why?”

At his question, Hermione pops up from behind a stack of books, muggle CDs and vinyls, her hair escaping her bun, the springy coils bouncing against her face, which is now contorted in pained discomfort. At the look, Harry feels embarrassed and begins to worry at the tassels on the pillow in his lap. Hermione and Ron just moved into a new flat – he takes in the infinite number of books, scrolls of parchment, still packed boxes, and albums piled everywhere – what were they thinking about traveling for, anyway?

Hermione shuffles a stack of books to the side and pulls out the Smashing Pumpkins CD Ron requested earlier, placing it in her stereo and starting it.

“Well, Harry. This year has been rather difficult,” she starts carefully, “and what with my impending work at the Ministry, and Ron about to start as a full Auror, we thought it would be best to take the trip now,” Hermione says as she comes to sit beside Ron on the sofa. Ron, seemingly instinctively, brushes the hair back from her face before offering her a cup of tea which she happily takes from him. He then curls his arm around her shoulders.

“I just figured I’d spend the end of summer hols with you, that’s all,” Harry mutters. He takes a long, lingering look outside their bay windows. It’s raining in London today and it’s still very humid for early August.

His birthday party had been a complete disaster. Another year older and none the wiser apparently, as he had gotten so drunk he made an utter arse of himself in front of everyone. He had made Ginny cry at his insensitive remarks about how their relationship ended, puked all over Hermione, and received a black eye from forever-in-a-cardi Neville, of all people. He was still unsure as to why Neville punched him, but from his understanding it had something to do with a crude joke about Hannah’s ample breasts. Fuck, he was an arse when got legless. He was mortified and had sent off an apology to everyone that had attended. He’s yet to hear back from Neville, though.

Hermione’s called him hot-headed and irrational so many times in the last week that it’s starting to sound like a bloody mantra. Hermione’s sigh brings his attention back to her.

“I know, Harry,” Hermione says gently. “Perhaps now would be an excellent time to figure out what is it you’d like to do with yourself, career-wise. You have so much potential…”

“Yeah, you really do, mate,” Ron says with an encouraging nod.

“Have you checked out that list of charities I sent you?” Hermione asks.

“Er…”

“You could always nip around the shop to help George,” Ron offers with a wry smile. “You know he’s always in search of someone to test his new creations on.” Harry immediately feels faint, images of him blowing up and floating away like his Aunt Marge or shooting fireworks from his nose coming to mind at the thought of working for George.

“I don’t know about that, Ron,” he starts slowly. “Sorry, I’m just a bit taken aback by your news.” He shifts uncomfortably in his seat, casting his eyes downward as Hermione makes a wounded little sound.

“Mate, we’d invite you—” Ron starts.

“—but it’s something we must do,” Hermione interjects quickly. Harry looks up. “Ron and I… as a couple.” Her words are awkward as she averts her own gaze to the ground. He feels a pang of sadness. It’s pathetic, really, that his best mates had to go about breaking their news to him like this. An invite to their flat on a Sunday morning with copious amounts of tea and a gentle rundown on why they were doing this to him… why they were leaving him to fend for himself for a whole month.

Hell, he knows he’s being unreasonable, dramatic, even. He doesn’t own Ron or Hermione. He feels guilty that they’re being overly cautious with him.

They could always see right through him, though. Ron had taken him out to the Leaky just last week to gauge how he was doing sans Ginny. Harry often found himself in Hermione’s company now that he had dropped out of Auror training and Ron had stayed. Ron was quickly making a name for himself in the department, Harry’s heard, and he couldn’t be more proud, but sometimes he sorely missed his best mate. It’s not as if he doesn’t spend time with them—he’s constantly joining them for dinner, meeting up with Hermione for lunch at the Ministry, coming around for tea when they probably just want to spend what little free time they have with each other. But it just wasn’t the same.

Merlin, he’s terribly ashamed at just how needy he’s become. He’s not mental or anything. Right? Do they think he's mental? He clears his throat and forces a weak smile.

“I completely understand,” he says. “Really. You guys deserve this. Don’t worry about me!” His best friends share one of those long looks with one another—the kind that only couples that are perfectly happy and in-tune with one another share to hold a wordless conversation. It’s the kind of look that drives him absolutely mad with envy nowadays. They look back at him. Ron doesn’t seem convinced and Hermione is worrying her lower lip so badly Harry thinks she’s going to chew it off completely.

Yes.

 

They think he’s completely mental.

 

Chapter Text

Hannah’s dark eyes were nearly concealed beneath her straight blonde bangs as she peered down at her tightly clasped hands.

“Can you turn the camera off for a moment?” she whispered.

“Yes, of course,” Hermione said, hasty fingers fumbled with the off button. “Are you alright?”

“Um,” Hannah started, pale cheeks flushed.

“It’s quite alright, Hannah, there’s no need to be shy. And if you’re uncomfortable, we don’t have to do this,” Hermione said with a reassuring smile. She carefully placed her camera on the empty seat beside her. After Molly and Arthur’s interview, she decided to upgrade to a more efficient Panasonic – this one had better high-definition digital recording. She’s sat across from Hannah and Neville at a small table in the corner of the Leaky Cauldron. The weekend evening crowd is boisterous, but a handy muffling charm did wonders in the private space they carved out.

“Oh, I just hate how funny I sound,” she huffed, looking up at Hermione under thick lashes darkened with mascara. Neville placed a hand on top of her balled fists.

“What?” Neville asked softly, his face puzzled. “You sound so lovely; how can you say that?” Hannah blushed and finally curled her hands around Neville’s.

“I’m being silly,” she said, shaking her head. After a few seconds she squared her shoulders.

“Okay, I’m ready,” she softly said. Hermione grinned, lifted the camera once more, pressing record.  

“So when did you two fall in love?” Hermione asked.

“Well,” Hannah starts, a contemplative look on her face.

“I fell in love with Neville right after the war. He was the first to owl me that summer, and Merlin, he was such a gentleman. So understanding and patient. I knew right away that this was someone that’d be important to me. And to be quite honest with you, at the time I had no idea what kind of relationship I wanted with Neville, it was such a dark time for me.” Hannah’s voice was quiet and resigned.

“He was just so sweet… wanted to know how I was handling things, you know… after my mum-” Hannah’s voice broke, blinking furiously. She took a deep breath, visibly calming before shooting a smile at Hermione.

“We officially started dating when I bought the Leaky Cauldron, though. Mum was always prepared for anything and everything in life. The good and the bad.” Hannah glanced up at Hermione with a proud smile on her face.

“I wish Nev could’ve met her, you know? Had she gone to Hogwarts, I know mum would have been sorted into Hufflepuff… she was dedicated, patient, loyal. You know she made sure I was taken care of? Took out life insurance,” Hannah’s voice cracked.

“I wouldn’t have this little life of mine had it not been for her.” Neville pressed a kiss to the side of her head.

“I noticed Hannah when we were First Years,” Neville announced then, his hair flopping into his face, hiding the sudden flush to his cheeks. Hannah turned to him with an amused smile on her pretty round face.

“You were quite the sight, Han, couldn’t help but notice you during our first year,” he said sweetly. He wrapped an arm around his fiancée’s shoulders.

“She was running through the Great Hall to get to her Potions class. Her hair ribbon had slipped off and I caught it as she went by – she hadn’t noticed. To this day I still have that ribbon,” Neville said, pulling back the sleeve of this jumper. A thin gold-yellow ribbon is tied around his wrist. He grinned down at it before looking up at Hermione.   

“Soft, just like my Hannah,” he said, leaning into her.

“It was just a friendship between us at first, you know?” Hannah continued, “But I was so in love with him, I just didn’t know how to put those feelings into words. Neville was so patient with me—he was a true shoulder to lean on that whole year after the war. He regularly came to visit on the weekends and we’d meet in Hogsmeade. I finally gathered up the courage to tell him how I felt, and well, we never looked back.”

“And then I asked her to marry me.”

Hannah smiled softly up at him, her eyes overbright. The respectable canary yellow diamond flashing in the soft lighting.

“Yes. And then the love of my life asked me to marry him.”


 

 August 1999

 

Harry doesn’t know how many drinks he’s consumed so far. He does, however, know that he’s absolutely pissed. His movements are slow, vision blurry even behind his glasses. A quick tempus shows that it’s not even eleven yet and he suddenly feels stupid at having gotten pissed so early. His stomach gives an unforgiving lurch at his antics and he braces a hand against Seamus’s shoulder.

The rowdy Irishman is quite distracted though, not noticing Harry’s grip as his lap is currently full of a rambunctious purple-haired woman. Harry recoils when the woman starts giggling, tossing her head back at a joke Seamus must have said, her hair whipping Harry’s face in the process, tickling his nose. He sneezes three times in quick succession before moving away.

“Seamus!” Harry cries loudly over a remix of Unfinished Sympathy, cringing as his voice comes out slurred.

“Seamus!” He tries again, determined not to sound as drunk as he is. He thinks he sounds fine. The other man still doesn’t acknowledge him and he feels a flare of irritation. If they weren’t in a muggle establishment he would have hexed Seamus by now. As he ponders whether he can inconspicuously cast a stinging jinx his way, his shoulder is nudged roughly. He lifts his unsteady gaze to Dean’s cheery one.

“Dean,” he whimpers in relief, his head lolling a bit as he tries to focus on his other friend. 

“Why don’t we get out of here for a bit, eh? Get some air? Or have a smoke?” Dean asks hopefully, holding up his pack of Marlboro Lights. His smile lights up his face in the rather dim atmosphere of the muggle nightclub. Harry nods slowly at the very wise suggestion. His head was spinning. He needed air, even if it was tinged with cigarette smoke.

He’s grateful that he has Dean and Seamus to hang out with in the wake of Ron and Hermione’s departure. Five days into their vacation he realised just how much of a loner he is. He had ambled around Grimmauld emitting long-suffering sighs here and there, tried to awkwardly engage Kreacher in conversation more than a handful of times, to both of their confusion and discomfort, and even tried to hook up a Muggle TV to keep himself distracted. After all his efforts, he just became massively depressed. He thought Ginny leaving him was a harsh wake up call to the downward spiral of his life, but it was Ron and Hermione’s trip that made him realise just how fucked up and dependent he is on other people.

But honestly…they were on their way to getting married. They’ll come back from their travels engaged and reinvigorated. He’ll play his role as the best mate and be extremely happy for them, despite feeling like he’s dying on the inside. Hermione will make a beautiful bride – poised and elegant as ever, and Ron will make a handsome groom.

He will not be included in their carefully constructed notions of a family.

Realising that struck him rather harshly. They’ll have 2.5 children before they’re 25 years old, and that posh flat they just bought in Chelsea will be sold so they can move to Devon to be closer to the Burrow. They’ll talk about preschool applications, retirement plans and just family vacations all the time.

Harry will never truly understand or be included in any of it…nowhere in their overfull lives will he have a place anymore. Yeah, he’ll be the best man, the best godfather, the best  mate they can have, but in their picture perfect family he will always be an observer. Always on the outside looking in at something that isn’t truly his.

Just as with Ginny, he’ll have to force himself to move on.

Dean takes Harry’s hand and Harry finds himself being led through the mass of writhing bodies on the dance floor with ease. He’s focused on the calloused feel of Dean’s hand and an unexpected shiver runs down his spine. Halfway across the floor he jerks his hand from Dean’s and gestures towards the narrow hall leading to the toilets. He needs to take a massive piss and can’t imagine lighting a smoke outside with his bladder this full. 

“Alright there, Harry?” 

Dean is impossibly tall, his face floating above him. Harry blinks owlishly, finding that he has to look up quite a bit. Dean’s sincere brown eyes are currently filled with concern. He makes a striking figure dressed in smart black trousers, a striped white and black shirt with a black blazer thrown over it. The hairstyle he’s been sporting for the last several months are short locs styled in an undercut. Harry likes it, a lot.

“Yeah! I’m okay,” Harry says shaking himself. He stumbles forward and the taller man pulls Harry to him. Harry’s nose is pressed against Dean’s shoulder as he clings to him for support, the liquor sloshing about in his belly. A small sliver of his brain registers, again, just how pissed he is, and that he’s holding onto Dean like he’s a bloody life raft. The sense of comfort and protection he feels pressed against his friend sends a tingle down his spine. Dean’s body is so warm against him like this, and he smells wonderful—like vanilla with a hint of cigarette smoke.

“Okay, I—maybe we can use the toilets before a smoke, yeah?” Dean says almost shyly, staring down at him. Harry knows some cool air will help sober him up, but right now, doesn’t care. The alcohol has loosened him up properly and he’s noticing for the first time just how thoughtful and kind his mate is. He smiles up at Dean. His spare hand seems to linger on Dean’s backside before he finds himself resting it on the curve where his back meets his arse. He can feel Dean’s muscles tighten under the touch. 

“Right,” Dean says, his breath hitching. “Let’s go.”

As soon as they enter the loo and the door shuts behind them, Harry is pressed against a wall, Dean’s hand on his chest to keep him in place. Harry’s foggy mind vaguely wonders why Dean is so close to him now that they’re in the toilets. But oh, oh, Harry knows that look. He’s seen it before on Ginny when they started dating again right after the war. It’s a silent demand – touch me.

Merlin wept, his heart is beating so fast as his eyes fall on Dean’s lips. Suddenly, he’s terrified. He’s never looked at another man’s lips like this before. He doesn’t quite know what to do next. Hell, he doesn’t know if this is even okay, looking, and acknowledging the stirrings of lust from looking…but he makes eye contact with Dean again and they both smile coyly at one another. The bass of the music from the dance floor pounds through the walls of the loo and he can faintly hear the lyrics...

“How does it feel to treat me like you do? When you've laid your hands upon me, and told me who you are?”

Fuck it, he thinks, as he cups the back of Dean’s head and pulls him down. Tilting his head, Harry lightly presses his lips against Dean's before pulling back so their eyes meet. Looking into those dark brown depths he sees an answering hunger, so he leans in again to press another soft kiss to Dean’s full lips. He’s pleasantly surprised when he feels Dean’s mouth open above his, his tongue sliding smoothly into Harry’s mouth and caressing his own. They kiss languidly for a few more moments before pulling away once more.

He still expects Dean to be horrified as they pull apart, but they simply stare at one another for a very long time. Dean cracks another smile and Harry, spurned onward with a hot, wild burn of longing coupled with drunk brazen confidence, grins back. He wants to taste the other man again—he thinks he’s never wanted something so badly before.

Dean leans in and kisses Harry again, hard. He’s consumed with fear, excitement, and confusion, as his arms curl around Dean’s neck, hunger rushing through him in a lovely combination of danger and wickedness. It feels fucking amazing. Dean’s mouth is sinful against his and soon all his blood is rushing south.

When Harry grinds against him, letting the other man feel his arousal, Dean apparently pulls out of his reverie.

“Oh, Christ,” Dean gasps against his mouth. “Oh fuck,” Dean moans, slightly drawing his mouth away, eyes closed in bliss, allowing Harry to kiss his neck, jaw, anywhere Harry could reach as he revels in the sensation.

“Come here,” Harry whispers, as he pulls Dean to him once more, their lips meeting frantically. Dean wraps his arms around Harry’s waist. He snakes his hands down to grip Harry’s arse, pulling him forward to grind against one another, their moans filling the small space.

It’s then that the door to the toilets bangs open.

“What the fuck?”

They both spring apart at the exclamation. A group of muggle men around their own age enter snickering as they head towards the urinals. One of them makes kissing noises as another mutters “fuckin’ gross.” Dean glares firmly at the group of men before meeting Harry’s eyes, wrapping a large hand around his wrist and tugging him out the door.

Dean moves close to him, shouting over the music that he’s going off to have a smoke. Harry numbly stands in the small space just to the left of the toilets, dazed eyes staring up at Dean as the other man pulls out the pack of smokes once again.

“I’m going to stay here, if that’s alright,” Harry shouts. Dean nods and walks away.

The floor seems to have melted under his feet, a frightening black hole appearing to suck him down to the pits of hell. What exactly just happened? Why did it happen? Was Dean going to pretend that they didn’t just snog in the mens? The very thought makes him uncomfortable and unsure of what exactly to say or do next. Perhaps it’ll be for the best if they part ways now and never speak of it again. He’s straight, Dean’s straight. They’re just drunk and surely these kinds of things happen when alcohol is involved and it’s not a big deal. It doesn’t mean anything.

But even as he thinks this, his whole body is on fire, thrumming with unmistakable want. He’s never noticed before just how full Dean’s lips are or how broad and muscular his shoulders are. Suddenly, Ginny’s voice trickles across his mind, strained with emotion: ”Are you sure…that maybe…you don’t have some feelings you want to explore yourself?”

As Harry stands there, his mind slowly begins to offer up memories long since buried and forgotten under years of loneliness, a desperate need for normalcy, and fighting for his life. He remembers Uncle Vernon’s uttering homophobic slurs whenever they saw a male couple holding hands in public, or on the telly, and how that used to make Harry’s stomach twist. He remembers Uncle Vernon telling Dudley what it means to be a man, that real men don’t cry and real men should take what they want. That it’s okay to like watching two women go at it but disgusting and filthy if it’s two men.

He recalls being 8 or 9 years of age, fussing with his PE instructor over not wanting to change around the other boys because he felt all wrong. He remembers how overwhelmed he was with anxiety, how he had cried helplessly until the teacher had relented and left him alone. He’d avoid locker rooms up until Hogwarts. He recalls the first time one of Dudley’s friends called him an arse bandit and freak before pummelling him. It was the summer before Hogwarts. He was so ashamed and confused. And then he remembers the first time he saw a porn magazine. He was 13 and Seamus had smuggled it in from home. He remembers his eyes devouring the men in the pictures, interest piqued by their large veiny cocks and muscled chests rather than the tits and fannies of the females. He thought he just wanted to look like these men. And he was still very much interested in the tits and fannies–

Well, fuck.

His stomach hurts something awful as a wave of nausea hits him. Ginny knew about him before he even knew about himself. Was he radiating gayness out to everyone around him? He looks down the corridor at the mass of writhing bodies out on the dance floor. He wonders how many people noticed, because apparently, Dean has. He thinks about the German tailor that fitted Hermione for her Ministry robes last month… fuck. His head is spinning wildly. Fuck, he’s alone. And fucking drunk. He’s having this bloody crisis alone and drunk and where was Hermione when he needed her? Off about to get proposed to, that’s where, he thinks bitterly.

His head is full of so many questions and startling, frightening poignant answers that he’s tried to bury for so long. He wants to cry. He only avoids the onslaught of tears by belatedly realising that the men who had caught him snogging are exiting the toilets, all three of them turning to laugh in his direction. He still needs to pee, badly. He turns back towards the toilets, sniffling.

 

When he finally stumbles back up the stairs to the booth where he left Seamus, he realises that the rowdy woman is gone and instead sitting beside Seamus is Pansy fucking Parkinson.

He stops abruptly, his eyes widening as he gapes at the dark-haired witch chatting up Seamus. Her black bob ends bluntly at her jaw, her straight bangs emphasising the heavy black of her eyeliner. She’s dressed in a tight one-sleeved, shoulder-padded, sparkly blood red dress and a diamond choker, her long legs crossed with incredibly tall strappy heels dangling from her feet. 

“What the hell are you doing here?” Harry slurs loudly, wanting to forget his little (but, who is he kidding, really, fucking enormous) sexuality crisis. He eagerly focusses on Parkinson instead as he stumbles towards her. She’s so pale, it reminds him of Malfoy. With a nasty twist in his stomach, he’s flooded with an odd, panicky feeling and his throat burns. He doesn’t want to think about bloody Malfoy  right now. He swallows something acrid and bitter and realises that he’s swallowing back a bit of alcohol-tinged vomit.

Parkinson barely starts at his angry, slurred voice. Holding a martini glass, her black nails long and sharp, she gradually turns away from Seamus to aim a venomous, red-lipped smile at him, her eyes shrewdly roaming over his body.

“Potter, how lovely to see you. Dear Finnegan here wanted to congratulate me on my editorial on Ginevra Weasley and Parvati Patil...such a lovely couple they make. So, we’re talking – do you understand the concept of a conversation, or shall I break it down for you?” she all but purrs in her unhurried, husky voice.

“No,” Harry barks. “What the fuck are you doing at a  muggle club?” Some part of him knows he’s being a complete and utter twat, but he doesn’t have the strength to stop himself, certainly not with liquid courage and misplaced unadulterated anger on his side. In his defence, he never quite knows his limits when interacting with Slytherins; he can’t be totally at fault if he sometimes overreacts when it comes to their lot – they’re inherently suspicious people. After all, she did suggest to everyone that they offer him up to Voldemort like some prized pig. He’s long since forgiven her for it (and apparently so has the rest of the Wizarding World), but she doesn’t need to know that.

In just a little under a year Parkinson has become the youngest Editor-in-Chief in history at the Daily Prophet. Ginny has shown him several society magazines that Parkinson’s graced regularly for her charity work, networking abilities, and gifted writing skills. It was rumoured that she now lives in some posh muggle townhouse in Westminster. But in this particular moment, looking at her sitting nonchalantly next to Seamus, dressed like a pureblood princess, she fiercely irks him. It’s not fair that everyone around him is so cool and collected and there’s a war waging inside his bloody head.

“Oi. Harry, mate–” Seamus starts crossly, but Parkinson gives a sharp, cruel little laugh and places a placating hand on Seamus’s shoulder, eyes bright with amusement.

“It’s quite alright, Finnegan. I don’t mind Potter’s crude nature; I find it quite entertaining. Potter, life can be chaotic at times and sometimes a gal just needs a drink or two and someone to pull for the night,” she says with an obscene smirk. She doesn’t at all notice the longing, hopeful look that flashes across Seamus’s face.

“That’s why I’m at this muggle club. Does that sufficiently answer your horribly rude question?” Harry stands dumbly before her, mouth sagging slightly open as he surveys the woman before him. She looks incredibly pleased with herself at his surprise, like a cat that just caught the canary, but she remains civil. He’s suddenly embarrassed for his rudeness. Parkinson is just trying to enjoy her night out and here he is acting like a teenager again trying to spoil it. When he coughs, Parkinson’s sharp gaze softens a bit and she takes a sip from her drink.

“Potter, why don’t you have a seat? You look a bit green about the gills.”

“I’m sorry,” he says, deflating. “I have to get out of here–” he turns around and blindly collides into something hard. When he collects his thoughts, he realises that he’s collided into Dean, now smelling strongly of cigarettes.

“Fuck,” he whimpers, because the smell is oddly arousing, and Dean’s chest radiates heat. And fuck, his mind is flooding with images of snogging Dean in the men’s toilet, the feel of the other man pressed against him,  and oh, the very real possibility that he’s been repressing sexual desires for men his entire fucking life. He wants to scream in frustration, but instead he says, “I’m going home.”

“Harry, perhaps we should talk, yeah?” Dean asks softly. Harry steps back and quickly glances at Seamus and Parkinson, who are now watching him with concern and amusement, respectively. Before looking away Harry notices that Parkinson’s dark eyes are glinting mischievously.

“N-n-no, I don’t think that’s a good, er, idea,” he stammers. A part of him thinks it’s a brilliant idea, but he’s made a total cock-up of tonight already in his drunken state. He really should quit while he’s ahead.

“I-I’m not feeling well,” he quickly backs away some more from Dean.

“You shouldn’t Apparate, Harry. You’ve been drinking!” Seamus calls out. Dean looks alarmed and Parkinson is smirking.

“Taxi?” Harry offers feebly, gesturing weakly to the dance floor below them. “Front of club.” He can’t even be arsed to form a full sentence, the need to get away growing in his chest with each breath he takes.

“At least let me walk you out,” Dean mutters, reaching a hand out to touch his shoulder. Harry jerks back from the touch, shaking his head.

“Yes, Potter. Better yet, let Thomas go home with you,” Parkinson says cheekily. He can feel his face fucking boiling. “What are mates for?”

“Shut up,” Harry spits at her. “M’sorry, Dean.”

With that he turns around and stumbles down the stairs, not looking back until he’s firmly situated in the back of a taxi, his body turned, peering out the back window as the club becomes smaller and smaller the further they drive away.

-----

It’s nearly 4am when Harry’s awoken by the soft ringing of his wards. He moans as he tries to gather his wits about him, still drunk, but nowhere near the level he was just five hours ago. His head is pounding, and he’s surprised that he’s dressed in pyjamas and his mouth isn’t dry and rancid as it was before. A jolt of pride strikes him, realising that he managed to properly prepare for bed, even setting a glass of water on his nightstand before passing out. Hermione would be so proud.

Downing half the glass, the banging on his front door doesn’t relent. Annoyed, he scrambles out of bed and makes his way down the stairs to the front door, only swaying a few times as he rounded corners. Swinging it open he finds Dean leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed against his chest, a small smile on his face. Harry immediately perks up, adrenaline racing through his blood at the sight of him. The streetlight makes Dean’s brown complexion glow, the shadows playing over his sharp face stirring something deep and primal inside of Harry.

“Hi,” Harry says softly, shaking off the remnants of sleep. “Is everything alright?”

“I was going to go home, I swear, but – and I know this is going to sound bloody insane – I just can’t stop thinking about you,” Dean whispers, his deep voice trembling. Harry’s eyes catch on Dean’s mouth as the man bites his lower lip, apparently trying and failing to suppress a moan. “I can’t stop thinking about your mouth and how your arse felt in my hands. I can’t stop imagining what you taste like, what it’ll feel like to fuck you, and the sounds you’ll make when you come.”

Dean,” Harry gasps, electrified and taken aback. Harry’s a bit breathless. He knows right now, at this very moment, that they’re going to fuck. It’s irrefutable. Harry shakes his head in disbelief because really, he can’t believe it. Not five hours ago he was coming to the realisation that he may just very well be into blokes and, now, well, he was going to really test that theory out. He can’t believe how quickly he’s made his mind up about it or just how much he wants it.

“Bloody hell, I don’t know what we’re doing, I don’t know why–” The rest of his sentence dies in his throat. Dean’s hands are reaching out and this time Harry doesn’t back away.

They kiss vehemently, not at all like the tender snogging they did at the club. Dean presses him into the door and Harry’s headache is completely forgotten the second Dean tugs the bottom of his lip between his teeth.

Harry’s never kissed anyone like this before. It’s like a fierce and violent dance as they scramble to touch one another everywhere, as frantically as possible. Dean is flat and hard in places he’s simply not used to; the feel of his body inspires fear yet enthralls Harry entirely. He whimpers in the back of his throat, breath coming out heavily as his eyes flutter shut and his hands finds purchase in Dean’s short freestyle locs. He revels in the sensation of Dean gripping his arse so hard it hurts.

He’s painfully hard now and, like their snog in the men’s toilet, Harry rubs his erection against Dean’s. He nearly sobs against Dean’s mouth at the titillating rush of arousal that flares through him. Gasping, he breaks the kiss, moaning as Dean attacks his neck with a brutal fervour. A question strikes him and with difficulty he tries to pose it.

“Have you… done this… before… with… a man?” he finally manages in between heavy breaths. Dean has unbuttoned his shirt now, hands greedily touching his bare flesh, leaving tendrils of heat behind his caresses. Dean only pauses briefly, his mouth flying from his neck back to his lips with a hungry growl, their tongues dancing. He feels dizzy and his knees buckle at the sheer force of the other man’s desire. It’s radiating off the him like a crackling fire. Dean pulls back and Harry finds himself whimpering from the sudden loss of the other man’s hot mouth.

“Many times,” Dean finally answers, their gazes locking. “You?”

“Never,” Harry pants. Oh, for the love of Merlinthis is really gonna happen, and in my doorway, too! he thinks in a rush of nervous excitement. Dean freezes and pulls back from him.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Dean asks roughly. Dean’s pupils are blown wide with lust, his wet, kiss-swollen lips the most erotic thing Harry’s ever seen. “It’s okay if you’re not ready to do this.” Harry bites his lower lip.

“Yes. Yes, I want to,” Harry whispers, pulling Dean against him once more, hands caressing everywhere from his broad shoulders down to his taut, muscled stomach. His head is swimming and he doesn’t dare stop to think of the terrible reasons screaming in the back of his head over why he shouldn’t want to do this…why he shouldn’t be as aroused as he is… how disgusting he is for letting another man touch him like this.

But.

He’s already made up his mind. Gryffindor bravery and all that. They kiss tenderly, the heat between them still palpable but softer now. Dean runs his hands through his hair, gently curling one hand into his long messy black strands before roughly tugging his head back, exposing the column of his neck.

“I’m going to make this so good for you,” Dean whispers against his ear, licking the lobe. “I’m going to make you fucking scream.” Harry whimpers. It’s needy and he’s shocked by just how needy he sounds but all he can think is  yes, please, more, now. Dean pulls him away from the door, pressing him into the nearest wall of the foyer while using his foot to kick the door shut behind them. He’s back on Harry in a heartbeat, attacking his throat once more, licking a hot stripe up his neck.

“Take me to bed, Harry,” Dean demands.

Harry can’t speak— what comes out is just a garble of sound bubbling up his throat as he nods. He takes Dean by the hand and leads him up the stairs to his bedroom.


 

One Month Later

 

“I’m really happy you made it,” Harry says anxiously, pulling the seat out for Ginny. They’re at the small, noisy, muggle Italian restaurant he knows she’s always liked around the corner from Grimmauld. Ginny looks radiant as usual, her pixie-cut red hair tousled stylishly. She’s donned a slinky black mini vest dress and leather bomber jacket for their dinner, which she hangs on the back of her seat. He’s wearing Sirius’s old leather jacket today, paired with a plain white t-shirt and black jeans. Anyone looking at them would think they’re the perfect matching couple and this makes his heart thud against his ribcage at the sight of her smile. Quidditch training has made her slim form sinewy and her personality more confident than ever. He knows regardless of the reason for their failed relationship, a part of him will always desire her.

“Of course, Harry,” she beams as he takes the seat opposite. “I was happy to get the invite, we haven’t done this in a while,” she says gently. Harry feels embarrassed. Things have been a bit strained between them since his birthday gathering. He had said some pretty rough things to her and hadn’t had the opportunity or the courage to offer her a proper apology beyond a hastily scrawled note. Then she had jetted off to Wales for a whole month of Quidditch practice. Their interactions had subsequently been awkward until now. He’s happy to have her back, even if it’s only until the New Year. When she’s in town, his world just feels a bit more complete. 

“I know. I want to apologise for what I said at my birthday gathering. I was in a shit place and really,” he swallows. In for a knut and all that rot… “I was lashing out at you for selfish reasons. I didn’t want to fully forgive you for leaving me. And-” He’s interrupted by the waiter arriving with menus, which is all well for him because as much as he wants Ginny to know how big of a cock he is and how terrible he is for it, he’s absolutely shite at finding the right words to ask for her forgiveness. Harry orders them a bottle Chianti and the waiter hurries off. He decides to go with the simple honest truth.

“I’m sorry, Gin.”

After a beat of silence, Ginny nods her head and smiles.

“It’s okay. I forgave you the very next day. I told you I’d wait for you to come around Harry. I know our break up hasn’t been easy on you and I also know how big of a tosspot you can be,” Ginny says coolly, pulling the menu towards her and glancing through it. Harry blushes.

“You’re too good to me,” he mutters, offering her an appreciative grin.

“Damn right I am. Be it on your own head if you ever forget,” she chuckles.

The waiter arrives with their wine and they order an appetiser and entrée. They talk about Ron and Hermione’s vacation, her training schedule for the new year, her parents, and it’s all rather pleasant. He’s had a couple of gulps of wine when he feels relaxed enough to broach the next subject.

“How’s Parvati?” he asks curiously. Ginny’s eyes widen fractionally behind her wine glass. She licks her lips.

“She’s doing rather well, thanks for asking. She’s traveling with the Tutshill Tornados for a couple of weeks for her next article. We’re planning on going to Barcelona for a holiday when she gets back.” Their platter of seafood arrives.

“Barcelona sounds lovely, Gin, I know how fond you are of tapas,” he teases with a wry smile.

“Yes, because that’s all Barcelona’s got to offer,” Ginny says as she rolls her eyes.

“This will be your first holiday together? You and Parvati are getting serious.” Ginny blushes.

“I’m in love with her, actually,” she says cautiously. Harry feels a slight tightening in his chest at her words, but it passes. He used to dread the day Ginny would utter those words. He would toss and turn in bed the days following “The Big Gay Breakup”, knowing that she was spending her time falling in love with someone else. He places his hand over hers and squeezes it.

“I’m happy that you’re happy, Gin. That’s all I want for you, really. I know it’s taken me awhile to get to this point with you, but I’m so happy for it. I’m happy for you, really I am,” he babbles. Ginny’s eyes are bright.

“Thank you,” she says thickly, curling her hand around his and squeezing back,“You have no idea how much this means to me. You’re my best friend and I’ve been quite miserable not having you in my life.”

“Same,” he whispers. He clears his throat. Leave it to Ginny to always bring him to the brink of tears, whatever the reason.

“And what about you. Have you been seeing anyone special?”

This is it. He steels himself for the words that are about to come out of his mouth.

“Yeah,” he says. Ginny straightens up, a nerve in her jaw twitching, no doubt ready to burst out ‘Who? What? When? Where? How?’ all in quick succession.

“Erm, well—this played out a lot smoother in my head,” he says, chuckling nervously. He releases Ginny’s hand to fiddle with the stem of his wine glass. Ginny patiently watches him.

“I’m seeing Dean,” he finally blurts out.

“What!” Ginny exclaims, causing Harry to jump in his seat. He looks around nervously, but like he figured, the restaurant is much too crowded and boisterous for anyone to pay them any real attention.

“You’re – wait, you’re dating Dean? Dean Thomas?! As in my ex-boyfriend Dean Thomas?! Who is also your mate, who, up until now, I thought was straight?”

“Er, yes.”

“I knew it! I knew you weren’t straight,” she whispers excitedly, “I mean, the countless times I caught you salivating over male Quidditch stars, and not just because of their stats. And bloody hell, your obsession with Malfoy was sort of a point of contention for me before we officially got together.”

Harry chokes, wanting to address both of her ridiculous claims, but instead says, “What the hell do you mean my obsession with Malfoy? I wasn’t obsessed with him!”

“Oh, Harry. All of sixth year you were up his arse! Though, not quite in the way you truly wanted.”

“I thought he was up to something nefarious!” Harry retorts. “And I was right, too. He let Death Eaters into Hogwarts! I never wanted Malfoy!” Ginny nods.

“Yes, that’s all very true, Harry, but still. You  stalked him relentlessly. It was beyond investigative. You always talked about him. Ron and Hermione were worried you’d gone off your nut. It was—hell, it was hardly healthy. I rest my case.”

“Your case is pure bollocks,” he growls. Ginny laughs.

“The fact that you’re becoming so irritated over it sort of makes my case twice over, doesn’t it? Come off it, Harry.” She pauses, shaking her head.

“You and Dean though – bloody buggering hell, Harry. How did that even happen?” Sometimes Ginny really reminds him of Ron. At the thought of his boyfriend he smiles.  With a blush he launches into the whole story – the nightclub, the alcohol, the snogging, Pansy Parkinson, Dean standing on his doorstep, wanting him—as they make their way through their appetiser.

“So, you’re bisexual, then?” she asks before continuing, “Not that it matters; you’ll be surprised just how unimportant labels are.” Harry cocks his head to the side.

“You’re not a lesbian then?”

“Oh,” Ginny says, smiling, “I’m deffo a lesbian— I’m comfortable with labelling myself based on my feelings, my attractions. But it’s different for everyone, Harry, so don’t feel pressured to name what it is you’re feeling right now or ever. A lot of people just don’t like using labels like gay, straight, bi, et cetera.…and that’s absolutely fine.”

As she chats, he nods along, feeling for once in the last month that he’s been seeing Dean, a bit more at ease. Dean had called himself queer, explaining the unpleasant history of the term and how it’s being reclaimed by their generation. Harry doesn’t know what to call himself, but he’s enjoying dating Dean and all the sex they’re getting up to. If that makes him queer or bisexual, so be it.

“Am I the first person you’ve told? You know, outside of Dean obviously,” Ginny asks, her eyes meeting his over the rim of her wine glass. Harry nods.

“I’m honoured, truly. It’s not every day a person can come out of the closet to someone that knows exactly what they’re going through. You’ve put your trust in a worthy recipient,” Ginny says, grinning.

“When are you going to tell Ron and Hermione?” Harry shrugs, his knee bouncing anxiously. His best mates had extended their holiday by a fortnight and he was slowly — very slowly – counting down the days till their return.

“Whenever they get back from holiday and settle in, I guess....”

“Don’t stress out over it. They love you, Harry. We all do.”

Ginny’s eyes are resolute as she reaches out to grasp his clammy hand, soothingly stroking the back of his scarred flesh with her thumb. For some reason this causes a ball of burning pressure to press up into his throat, and  oh hell, his eyes suddenly feel very wet. He blinks furiously.

“Oh, Harry,” Ginny says, her voice full of compassion.

“I’m okay. It’s just, I’m still trying to process it all,” he says hoarsely.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I’m not ashamed, I swear,” Harry says, running a hand through his hair. “It’s just… a lot, Gin. I’m suddenly facing all these things I’ve buried deep my entire life and feelings I didn’t even know I had. It’s kind of scary.”

“I completely understand, I do. But you have friends who love you for you. You have me to kick your arse when the self-pity becomes too overwhelming, and you have Dean who can offer you another type of comfort entirely...” she says wryly. “Challenge the fear head on like the tenacious Gryffindor you are and it’ll all work out.” He doesn’t realise there’s tears caught in his lashes until he swipes a hand at his eyes. Ginny’s stern but gentle advice soothes him. He takes a deep breath, chuckling at the comfort and simplicity of it.

“Thank you,” he says. It’s then that the waiter appears again with their entrees.

“So, I want to know. Did he?” Ginny asks as soon as the waiter disappears.

“Did he what?” he asks, glancing up from his spinach and ricotta gnocchi in confusion.

“Did Dean make you scream?” Ginny whispers with a lewd smirk. He stares back at her, heat creeping up his neck again. Nonetheless, a fond expression settles on his face because Merlin, not only does he love the gall of this woman, he knows that coming out to Ginny first was one of the best damn decisions he’s ever made.

He’s suddenly overcome with memories of his first time. Dean on his knees as Harry’s throbbing cock hit the back of his throat. Dean’s fingers slowly opening him up for what felt like hours, then pinned beneath Dean as he’s ruthlessly fucked into his mattress. Good on his word, Dean had him screaming so loud someone surely would have called the police for the murder happening next door, had Grimmauld Place not been warded against his muggle neighbours’ eyes and ears.

“Absolutely,” he says, digging into his meal with renewed gusto.


 

“So, that’s the news— you and Dean are playing house?” Ron asks, sitting on the arm of Harry’s sofa.

“We’re not playing, but yeah, me and Dean,” Harry says with a goofy grin. “He’s brilliant. We’re brilliant, it makes sense that he’s moving in. I’m so happy he’s agreed to it.”

“Are you sure you’re not rushing things, Harry?” Ron asks nervously.

“Ron! If Harry wants Dean to move in so they can shag each other rotten every bloody day, let the poor sod enjoy himself!”

“Hey!” Harry shouts, faux-glaring at Ginny. “It’s more than just sex, you know. He’s my  boyfriend,” he says with a sly grin.

Ginny claps and then shoots up from her seat, pulling out her wand. With a flourish, she transfigures one of Harry’s throws into a rainbow-coloured feather boa, sauntering over to him to wrap it around his neck as she sings off-tune, “I’m coming out… I want the world to know… got to let it show…!” Harry shimmies his shoulders as Ginny bounces up and down, arms and hands doing a weird type of vogue-thing while repeating the lyrics at the top of her lungs before they both break into uproarious peals of laughter.

“I guess I’m still wrapping my head around this whole gay thing,” Ron mutters. They both stop laughing to gape at him. The feather boa slides off Harry’s neck to land beside him on the sofa. Ginny’s eyes narrow and she plants her hands on her narrow hips.

“What?” Ron asks with a shrug.

“What the fuck, Ron,” Ginny starts, staring at Ron as if he’s grown a second head. “Sometimes I think you’re a few sandwiches short of a picnic, d’you know that?”

“I’m not gay,” Harry groans, rolling his eyes at his best mate. “We’ve been over this already, Ron. I’m bisexual.”

“I mean, isn’t bisexuality just like, er…you know, a temporary thing? You know, until you find the right bloke?” Ron asks, a confused look on his face. Ginny scoffs in disbelief before falling back into her seat.

Ronald,” Hermione starts in a scolding tone. She’s appeared in the room holding a tea tray. The engagement ring on her finger catches in the early afternoon light pouring in through the  windows. Ginny had fawned over it for a whole week after Hermione showed it off to her, quite impressed with her brother’s taste. Ron claims he had no help in picking out the diamond, but Harry and everyone else are a bit sceptical. “I love you, but sometimes you really grate on my nerves. Bisexuality is a very real sexual identity, you berk. Harry can be attracted to, date, and sleep with men and still be attracted to women, and vice versa. Stop being ignorant.”

Scandalised, Ron crossed his arms, the tips of his ears pinking. “Oi! I’m not being ignorant; I just want to try to understand! Sorry mate, I didn’t mean—”

“It’s fine,” Harry laughs, picking the feathered boa up to wrap around his neck once more. “I know you don’t mean any harm but er, just believe me on this – my bisexuality isn’t some kind of layover to homosexuality or heterosexuality.”

“Mate…Pretty hard to believe the first half of what you said when you’re wrapping that feathery thing around your neck – OUCH! —I was bloody taking the piss, Hermione!” Ron exclaims, nursing his bicep. Harry flinches in commiseration – Hermione’s quite heavy-handed when she pinches. Ron looks over at him, the tips of his ears reddening.

“I’m happy for you, you know. Dean’s a good sort,” Ron says with a resolute nod. Harry smiles at him, warmed by Ron’s words. Hermione squeezes next to him, now free from the tea tray and a chunk of Ron, to throw her arms around him in a hug. He makes a soft noise of surprise but quickly embraces her back.

“I’m so proud of you, Harry,” she says, her voice wavering.

Harry starts to panic. He hadn’t expected Hermione to be so emotional about all this. They had taken his coming out very well when they’d arrived home, just as Ginny said they would. They loved him and would support him no matter what. Hermione had taken his relationship with Dean as a sign that he was finally “embracing his true self”, “letting go of past traumas”, “attempting to move on from the war”, and such.

“Thanks, Hermione,” he says, meeting Ron’s amused expression over her wild curls.

“Where is Dean, anyway?” Ron asks.

“He’s at his studio working on his latest painting, but he’ll be home for dinner,” Harry says, his heart soaring at how domestic he sounds. “You know, he’ll be showing his work for the first time at the October Gallery soon.”

“Oh, yes, I received our Save the Date card just yesterday,” Hermione says happily, her hand now clutching his. “I can’t wait to see his work.”

“It’s bloody brilliant,” he says, a warmth of pleasure spreading in his belly and then up to his chest where it flutters about wildly. “He’s brilliant.”

Ginny rolls her eyes and tosses a pillow at his head.

“Yeah, we get it, you’re in love!”


 

October 2001 

 

When Harry sees Draco Malfoy next, over two years has passed since the mob incident.

It’s late October, the weather is quite nippy, but Harry loves the orange-gold colour of the leaves, and the crunchy sound they make beneath his boots. The mellow Autumn sun hangs high and illuminates Russell Square in a warm amber light. A gust of cold air lifts his hair from his forehead and he shivers, wrapping his old Gryffindor scarf tighter around his neck. Students with backpacks rush through the park, run across the streets, and flood the cafes. Businessmen with their suitcases walk by, some staring stonily ahead while others hold rapid conversations on their mobiles, walking along the pavement at typical breakneck speed. A group of children dressed in matching high-visibility vests scramble by, bits and pieces of their conversation audible. He catches a mix of excitement and boredom about their trip to the British Museum. A couple of old ladies stand near the crosswalk, a map in hand as they point and bicker, obviously on a mission. Harry’s on a mission, too.

At Hermione’s behest, he’s searching in Bloomsbury for a rather obscure, antique magical bookstore that houses a plethora of ancient Wizard texts on painting techniques. How she had stumbled upon it, he doesn’t know, but the suggestion piqued his interest. With only two weeks to go, Harry’s determined to find the perfect birthday present for Dean.

All he wanted was a quick hot sandwich and a coffee from Pret before embarking on his afternoon hunt. As he grabs a meatball sandwich and finds a place in line, the last thing he expects is to run into Malfoy’s lanky figure, unaware of Harry’s presence. The other man is standing in line before him, dressed in smart muggle clothes, texting wildly on a mobile.

Harry pinches himself, confirming that he is indeed not asleep or hallucinating. He ponders if he should quickly back out of the shop and doesn’t even realise he’s holding his breath until his vision starts to blur, and…bloody hell. Malfoy is just standing there, his Nokia 8210 beeps and he responds to an SMS, like this is something he does every day.

It’s one shock after another as his brain short-circuits: what the hell is Malfoy doing in a muggle coffeehouse? Or in Bloomsbury for that matter? Wearing muggle clothes? Texting on a mobile? And why does he look so bloody attractive doing it? He hasn’t seen the sod since the mob incident. Merlin, what a difference two years can make. He’s dressed in light grey trousers and a fitted charcoal peacoat that’s unbuttoned, exposing a deep purple button-up.

Harry shifts ever so slightly to the left to get a better look at him. He notices with a flare of incredulity that Malfoy’s white blond hair is styled in a long undercut, the top of his hair slightly wavy and tousled, falling to the side and into his eyes. He’s used to seeing Malfoy’s hair short and slicked back, but this haircut is just so…muggle. He also has a large brown leather messenger bag slung across his body and he’s just so bloody at ease in this very muggle surrounding that it rattles Harry to the core.

Malfoy is statuesque, exuding an allure of confidence he surely lacked two years ago. His posture is impossibly perfect as he tears his face away from his mobile, ordering two macchiatos and paying for the sandwiches tucked under his arm. Harry almost faints as he watches Malfoy pull out a fucking Barclays card to pay for his food. Harry decides that  now is the appropriate time to scramble out the shop, but it’s too late – a worker is now trying to get his attention.

“Sir…? Can I help you…? Hello, Sir…? Next…?” the woman at the till says, exasperatingly beckoning him forward. He’s still rooted to the spot in fear, looking on helplessly at the eagerly gesticulating worker. At her incessant urging, several customers turn to look at the person responsible for her frustration, Malfoy among them, an air of bored disinterest surrounding him before turning back to the till.  

Harry notices the precise moment Malfoy registers exactly who it is behind him. His body stiffens, thumbs no longer moving across the keypad of his phone. Malfoy slowly turns back around, his eyes comically wide as he meets Harry’s gaze.

“Sir, if you’re not ready to order, can you please move to the side?” the woman asks politely enough, but a slight edge of irritation colours her words. Harry finally jolts into motion and steps aside.

“Of all the coffee joints in all the towns in all the world, Potter, you walk into mine,” Malfoy drawls, voice slightly strained and acerbic. Malfoy looks a little bit sick suddenly as he runs a hand through his overlong fringe.

Harry, startled by the muggle film reference, splutters.

“You’re…What are you doing here?” His eyes shifting from the small paper bag in Malfoy’s hands to Malfoy’s rapidly whitening face. 

“Getting lunch?” Malfoy responds derisively, rudely brandishing his paper bag in Harry’s face. It takes every bit of energy to keep from smacking Malfoy’s lunch out of his face. It wouldn’t be the done thing to get into a physical altercation in the middle of Pret.

“Yes, I can see that,” Harry snaps. He fixes Malfoy with his best imitation of Hermione’s no-nonsense glare he’s been desperately trying to master over the years. “But that’s not exactly what I’m asking, is it?” Malfoy’s eyes narrow, like he’s about to respond with something cutting, when another worker at the till calls out:

“Excuse me, Sir, your macchiatos are ready.” Malfoy stands even straighter, if possible, and spins on his heel to face the woman. He thanks her graciously and slips a few coins — muggle coins —  into the tip jar. The woman smiles kindly at him and Malfoy nods, stacking both small cups and holding them in one hand. He turns and tries to sidestep Harry, but Harry steps in front of him.

“Potter, what the–” Malfoy stops because his mobile has beeped again, and he glances down at it with a frown. He then looks up at him.

“Are you absolutely daft? Get out of my way,” Malfoy demands as he tries to step around him once more and fails to escape. When Malfoy finds that he won’t stop, Harry notices with a kind of childish glee bubbling in his chest that the other man’s beginning to fume with silent fury.

“Look, hey, I’m sorry,” Harry says quickly, forcing a smile to try a different, more pleasant approach. “I’m just a bit shocked to see you here is all, yeah? I’m just wondering what you’re doing in this part of town,” he adds pointedly.

“I…” Malfoy trails off, his indignant expression slipping into one of bewilderment. “I don’t see how it’s any of your business, Potter, but I’ve just come from an Imperial College catch up event… I’m now in the area for a lunch rendezvous, which I am terribly late for. Now, am I allowed to leave, O Chosen One?” Harry’s jaw drops. Still quite incensed, Malfoy tries to leave again, but Harry blocks him.

Malfoy’s left eye perceptibly twitches. He scowls at him, shapely pink lips exposing teeth, the look a mixture of rage and hatred.

Imperial College? What the hell are you on about?” Harry asks. He doesn’t know if he should laugh or feel sorry for the twat, because clearly Malfoy is off his nut. He watches the flush in Malfoy’s pale, delicate cheeks, and the way Malfoy’s fingers curl around the small bag with his sandwiches tight, knuckles white. Harry involuntarily shivers.

“Good grief Potter, this is positively beastly, even for you! Let me—”

Suddenly, another body is front of Harry, engulfing Malfoy in a tight hug in the middle of Pret. It’s materialised in front of him so quickly that Harry jumps back in alarm, not quite understanding what’s happening.

“Are you alright? I thought we were to meet by my office?” asks the man, his accent posher than Malfoy’s, if at all possible. Malfoy blushes and glances over the man’s shoulder at Harry. He can feel his own face heating up as he takes in the stranger tenderly pushing Malfoy’s fringe back from his eyes.

“Yes, I was distracted, you see,” Malfoy responds in that slow drawl of his, nodding towards him. The man starts and turns around to finally face Harry.

He’s well over two decades older than them, laugh lines decorating his otherwise smooth, fair skin. Harry notices that he’s also quite tall and brawny, too; taller than him, and just a smidgen taller than Malfoy. The man’s hair is cut like Malfoy’s, but much shorter on the top, gelled back in a pompadour and more salt than pepper. His five ‘o clock shadow emphasises his strong jaw, with shapely heavy eyebrows framing piercing blue eyes. Dressed in what looks like an expensive bespoke navy-blue suit, waistcoat, starched collared white shirt, and skinny matching tie, he looks dangerous, sophisticated, and alarmingly fit. Harry swallows.

“Gosh,” the older man starts, blinking at Harry. “My apologies.”

“It’s fine,” Harry says slowly, still taken aback by the man’s good looks. Was this man Malfoy’s boyfriend? A muggle? Malfoy’s queer?

The older man grins and extends a hand.

“Bartholomew Bertram Cavendish, but any friend of Draco’s is a friend of mine, so please call me Bart.” Harry struggles to find a smile for the man as he shakes his hand. About three of his fingers are momentarily crushed in Bart’s grasp but Harry hides his wince. He’s waiting for Bart to ask him if he’s an Oxbridge man. He laughs inwardly. There’s no way he’d ever be mistaken for that, he thinks, feeling self-conscious in his tattered black wool coat, torn at the knee jeans, and dirty white trainers. Malfoy and Bart both look like models — attractive, exuding wealth and power.

“Harry Potter, pleasure to meet you,” he says in what he hopes is an amicable way.

“Potter and I went to the same boarding school, darling,” Malfoy says softly — a far cry from the low, angry hissing Malfoy had directed at Harry minutes ago. Harry once again feels faint. Never in the time that he’s known Malfoy has he ever heard the man speak so softly or use terms of endearment. “It’s just by chance that we happened upon the same coffeehouse this afternoon.”

“Really?” Bart says, quirking an eyebrow in amusement. “How marvellous. It’s so rare that I’m able to meet Draco’s friends, especially someone from his days at boarding school,” Bart says with a small chuckle. He’s looped an arm around Draco’s waist.

“I’d hardly call us friends,” Harry mutters, his eyes widening in panic at Malfoy’s dark look. A funny look crosses Bart’s face as he looks between them, his brows furrowed. Harry clears his throat. “We had a bit of schoolboy rivalry. Er…we were on opposing football teams,” Harry says quickly. He doesn’t know why he cares if Malfoy’s farce with his boyfriend goes undisturbed. Malfoy’s a right twat. But he plays along and relaxes when Bart smiles at him ruefully. 

“He is quite competitive, but I’m sure you know all about that,” the older man says with a small nod, his muscled arm tightening around Malfoy. Malfoy calmly hands him a macchiato, which Bart takes gratefully. “Did Draco mention his impending honouring at Imperial College School of Medicine?” Bart takes a sip of his coffee, a slow smug look spreading across his handsome face.

“His thesis on treatments for several paediatric neurological disorders is causing quite a shakeup in academe. Positively avant-garde.

“Are you serious?” Harry says weakly, his mouth once again sagging open. When the bleeding fuck did Malfoy find the time to learn anything about muggle paediatric…what? Disordered what?

Bart chuckles, pulling Malfoy in so he can kiss the side of his face.

“Why, yes,” Bart says, beaming. “The most prestigious residency programs are currently scouting him for his clinical rotations for his final two years. He’s fast-tracked the programme, my little genius…” At Malfoy’s scowl, Bart pulls back slightly, obviously aware of Malfoy’s discomfort over his overwhelming display of pride and affection. “And what is it that you do, Mr Potter?”

“Please, call me Harry,” he offers feebly, staring in awe at Malfoy. His brain is once again short-circuiting with the overload of information. So, Malfoy isn’t off his nut. He’s at a muggle university and becoming a bloody doctor to boot. The blond is silent, his cheeks still flushed with embarrassment at his boyfriend’s fawning.

“I’m in law enforcement,” he lies. He hasn’t thought about Auror training since his breakup with Ginny. He spends most of his free time faffing about the city, redecorating Grimmauld’s kitchen, and fawning over his talented boyfriend.

“A worthy profession. Scotland Yard?” he asks. Harry nods.

“Bart is a barrister specialising in international law,” Malfoy offers, providing a rather annoyed but fond look Harry’s way. Something weird and undefinable twists in Harry’s stomach at the expression and he quickly looks away from Malfoy’s face. There’s something wrong about seeing Malfoy like this.

“Yes, well, that’s not nearly as exciting as the  physical side of law enforcement,” Bart says, eyes twinkling. Harry has an inkling that he’s being spoken down to but ignores it.

“As exciting as this reunion has been, I just have under an hour now, darling. We should go,” Draco says wearily, wiggling away from Bart’s embrace to take a step towards the entrance of the coffee shop. 

“Of course, pet,” Bart murmurs, but he doesn’t move, piercing eyes still fixed on Harry.

“I say,” he starts slowly, “Mr Potter, you seemed to have riled up my poor Draco. Surely a school boy rivalry hasn’t caused this much strife between the two of you?” he asks with an air of pleasantry, but it’s cut with cold denunciation. Malfoy freezes at the question and makes a tiny noise of distress, his already pale skin turning paper white. Harry beams at them both.

“Unfortunately,” he says with a sheepish shrug. “But no hard feelings, yeah, mate?” he asks, gaze locking onto Malfoy’s.

“I’m not your mate,” Malfoy says sourly, grabbing Bart by the hand and storming out of the coffeehouse. He doesn’t look back, but Bart does, his intense blue eyes pensive. Harry releases a breath, exhaustion hitting him full force as his mind replays the entire encounter. When someone accidentally bumps into him, he’s pulled out of his thoughts. His meatball sandwich is still in his hands. Not feeling hungry anymore, he places it back and exits the shop.


Harry’s a mess.

It’s storming outside, but it’s also storming inside Grimmauld Place. All over the floors are shattered pieces of vases, pictures, plates, torn tapestries and ripped books. He’s so engrossed in ripping a small painting Dean gifted him last Christmas in half that he doesn’t hear the heavy knocking at the door in between his shouts, grunts of anger, and the claps of thunder. When it finally dawns on him that someone is pounding on his front door, he flinches and carefully manoeuvres through the wrecked lounge to the foyer. He flings the door open, face twisted up in a snarl and ready to rain hell on whoever is standing at the entrance.

It’s Ginny.

She’s been growing her hair out, it’s nearly down to her bum again, and right now it’s plastered to her face like a mangled curtain. Upon closer inspection, Harry realises that she’s soaked to the bone with rain, her mascara running down her pale cheeks. She releases a sob.

“What the fuck is your problem?” she barks. Harry recoils, not at all expecting the angry tone.

“I tried to Floo you, owl you, Apparate into your bloody kitchen, and nothing. Even your wards aren’t allowing me in. You’ve closed everything down – why?– and are you going to let me in or am I going to have to freeze my  fucking  tits off on your fucking  doorstep?” Ginny snaps, her brown eyes burning.

Still quite startled, Harry wordlessly steps back to let Ginny into the foyer, her wet clothing making a grotesque squelching sound, water sloshing in her wake and immediately pooling around her feet. It’s then that Harry realises the large holdall in Ginny’s hands. She drops it to the ground. Once Harry has shut the door, Ginny flies forward, her wet arms wrapping around him, her equally wet body pressing against his dry one as she sobs uncontrollably onto his chest. Harry stumbles back at the force but his arms quickly come up to embrace her, his own anger slipping away now that panic is gripping him.

“Whoa… Gin…what the hell happened?” he asks as he tries to peel her off to get a proper look at her. Ginny shakes her head and clings onto him tighter, another sob escaping from her.

“She left me,” she cries into his chest; “She told me she’s been cheating on me with Alicia Spinnet! Alicia fucking Spinnet, Harry!” Ginny wails hysterically. “Parvati is a bloody Quidditch-loving groupie slag, that’s what she is!” Ginny finally untwines herself from him, wiping her snot with the back of her hand as she laughs hollowly.

“I’ll admit she does know how to pick them. Alicia’s a damn good Chaser for the Tutshill Tornados.” She breaks down into tears all over again. “That bitch,” she whimpers as she covers her face with her hands. Harry places a hand on each shoulder, ready to steer her towards the nearest sofa, thinking a drying charm, a lit fire, and shit ton of tea will help them both. It’s only a split-second later that he realises his mistake.

“What the fuck happened in here?” she nearly shouts, spinning around to stare at him. Her eyes follow him stepping carefully into the lounge and avoiding the mess of debris scattered across the wooden floors. He sighs.

“Er…Dean broke up with me.”

What?” she says hysterically, her mouth sagging open. “Are you fucking kidding me?

“No, he left just a few hours ago.”

Harry. What happened?” she asks, mouth gaping. “Did he destroy all your shite?” she asks, looking apoplectic. He runs a hand through his hair and wills himself not to cry.

“No, that was me. He, uh, he thought he’d be better off single. He wants to move to New York, yeah. To pursue his work and all that. He said he wasn’t going to ask me to come along.”

“But why not?” she booms. “Would you have gone?”

Hot tears are prickling along his lashes now.

“Yeah,” Harry croaks angrily, recalling the look of utter discomfort on Dean’s face when Harry told him he’d go with him. Merlin. “Yeah, I reckon I would’ve. I love him. I — I thought he was the one, and he knows that, but he, er, he admitted that he’s just never felt quite as strongly, so…”

“Oh fuck,” Ginny whispers, stepping towards him. “Harry –”

No, it’s alright. I mean, it’s not like he lived with me for two years, took me on holidays, regularly brought me around his mum, stepdad, and army of sisters,” he says sarcastically as he tries to contain his sobs.

“It’s not like he slept next to me every bloody night and told me how happy I made him! It must’ve been all in my head! I must have imagined the whole fucking thing!” And if he had hoped to retain any dignity at all, he fails miserably and begins weeping uncontrollably as Ginny engulfs him in another wet embrace. Now he’s clinging to her. He scoffs in between his sobs, recalling how Dean always encouraged Harry to be emotive, to cry when he needed to cry, and to be affectionate whenever he wanted.

“He doesn’t want me,” he whimpers. “It just bloody came out of nowhere. One minute we’re having tea and the next minute he’s telling me he’s leaving and I’m not to come along because he loves me but he isn’t fucking in love with me…after two years.

“They don’t deserve us,” Ginny says gruffly.

“They don’t, Harry. To hell with them. There’s nothing wrong with us.”

“No, there is something wrong with me,” Harry says weakly. “I’m unlovable. Always have been, always will be. I’ve been on the outside looking in my entire life. I’m just not meant for it.”

“That’s not true, Harry.”

“Then why do people keep fucking leaving me?” he asks angrily, pulling away from her. He makes his way to the only sofa without a rip in it and plops down, pulling his knees to his chest and wrapping his arms around his legs.

“For all the importance of love being the most powerful magic during the war and all, it seems to be fucking bollocks now… it’s all just one fucking heartbreak after another.” Ginny suddenly looks uncomfortable, standing in the middle of his destroyed lounge, dripping wet. He frowns and pulls his wand out, directing a drying charm in her direction. She flinches at the sudden magic but releases a satisfied sigh.

“I know why you left me, but it doesn’t change the fact that you left me because you couldn’t love me. Now Dean has left me because he also can’t love me. I guess I don’t know anything about fucking love.”

Ginny slowly approaches the sofa and sits beside him. She rests her head against his shoulder and he finally uncurls himself to throw an arm about her shoulders, pulling her so close that she rests her head against his chest, her arms wrapping tightly about his waist. They sit in companionable silence for a while, the fire before them crackling but doing little to ease his and Ginny’s shivering. They listen to the pounding rain pelt against the windows, the sickly pale yellow of the streetlamps outside illuminating the storm’s ferocity.

“I’m sorry,” he finally whispers. “I’m sorry I brought that up—it’s not the same, what he did and what you had to do. I’m sorry Parvati hurt you. They don’t bloody deserve us,” he says. Ginny nods.

“Parvati told me she loved me all the time. And I believed her every time she said it. It was a total shock. Just goes to show it doesn’t matter how many times she told me. She still did this. She still slept with someone else, chose someone else.”

“You can stay here for as long as you want, you know. We’ll be okay.” He means it, but even as the reassurance leaves his mouth he wonders how he’ll carry on without Dean. Not only was he his mate, he was his partner. He had bared so much of his soul to him, had learned so much about himself through him, had done things with him he’d never done with anyone else. He was in love with him and this wasn’t some disillusioned version of picture-perfect he’s clinging to. He felt that this love was real, mature, and tangible. Then again so was the love he had felt for the woman crying beside him. She’s no longer a lover and a partner as he’d once expected, but now an irreplaceable ally. He pulls her into a fierce hug.  

“Cheers, Harry,” she says tearfully. “How bloody insane is it that we both get broken up with on the same day, eh? In what fucking hellish universe does this kinda shite happen?” she says with a dramatic sigh. Harry snorts.

The Unlucky Sods Universe, I suppose,” he helpfully offers.

“As fucked up as all this is, it’s nice not to have to go through it alone,” she says, looking up at him. Her large bright brown eyes are bloodshot, filled with despair and exhaustion. He looks away, because it hurts gazing into a reflection of his own feelings. She clears her throat.

“How about I help you clean up this mess and you crack open that bottle of firewhisky from the 1800s I know you keep in the study?”

-----

It’s the middle of the night and he’s midway to the toilet when he hears soft crying. Pulling out his wand, he muffles his footsteps, descending the stairs to stand just outside the lounge. He can hear the fireplace crackling, and with a quick peek, sees Ginny sitting on the back of her legs before it, face in her hands as she cries.

“Don’t you still love me?” she asks as she lowers her hands, her voice so broken that Harry bites back a commiserating whimper.

“Of course I do,” says a gentle voice, Parvati’s head floating in his fireplace.

“I don’t fucking believe you,” Ginny snaps before releasing another sob. “I don’t. I’ve been you. I know.

“I fell in love with her,” Parvati says contritely.

“You fucked her. Fucked her, not fell in love  with her. That surely came after all the cheating you did when you were touring with them! All this time...all this bloody time! What else did you do, eh? Send her beautiful, clandestine letters as I slept soundly in bed after you fucked me? Did you tell her you were counting down the days until you could be with her?” Ginny asks breathlessly. She takes great heaping inhales of air before exhaling it all in wet sobs, her shoulders trembling forcibly. “How? How could you do this to me?”

“Ginny, I didn’t answer your call to fight. I love you, but it’s over. I just wanted to provide some closure,” Parvati says, still calm in the face of Ginny’s breakdown.

“It’s over because you’re a cheater. No matter what you say, I’ll always know that you had a moment to set things right between us, that you had a chance to stop yourself from fucking her to just be honest with me— to just let me go. You ignored that moment because you never loved me, and you’re selfish.” There’s a tense pause and Ginny whimpers.

“She won’t touch you like I do, won’t love you as much as I do. Why am I not good enough?” Ginny breaks into tears again.

“Stop it, Gin. I can’t do this with you. I’m  sorry.

“Is it something I did?”

“No. You did nothing wrong.”

“You’ve ruined me,” Ginny says hotly as she wipes away the tears on her cheeks.

“I never wanted to hurt you.” At this, Ginny’s voice climbs again.

“Then, why are you? I gave you everything.  Everything. You disgusting, hateful bitch!” Ginny shouts. There’s a scrambling noise and a gasp from Ginny.

“Wait,” she says, voice quivering.

Wait. Wait. Wait.  Please, please , Parv, Parvi baby, please…” Her begging catches in her throat as the Floo abruptly shuts down.

She starts to scream, painful, wild and shattered sounds ripping from her as she falls forward, her fingers splayed before her in front of the fire. She cries with such force Harry fears she might vomit. He’s beside her in a heartbeat, lifting her up as she throws her arms around his neck, her small body shuddering with each sob. He holds her tightly as her wailing turns to whimpers and then to soft sniffles. He’s crying, too. They’ve both been devastated by their partners today.

It feels like coming full circle, somehow. After everything he’s been through in the last three years, he’s once again in the company of Ginny, the person who was first to knock down the domino to what would be an experience of self-learning for him. They were both in pain, both learning to navigate through new waters and unexpected changes. Things will never be the same again.

But, they’ll survive this.

They always survive.

Always.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Ron, if you can’t handle the camera, just pass it to me,” Hermione groaned, her hand reaching out, palm up.

“No! I’ve got it, love…oh,” Ron said. He lowered the camera to rest atop his knees. “Blimey. This is a nightmare!”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “No shame in admitting defeat. Give it here. It’s much too expensive to break.”

“I won’t break it!” Ron protested, looking affronted. He smiled at her. “Anyway, a Reparo will fix it just right up if I do.”

“It’s muggle technology, Ron, we don’t know what magic will do to it.”

Ron finally handed the camera over, and after a few minutes of adjusting the settings and another few minutes of heated argument, they are both sat on a settee grinning at the camera.

“Well, it took us quite a while to fall in love, wouldn’t you say, Ron?” Hermione said, looking up at him. Her left side was pressed against the back of the settee, turned towards Ron with her bare feet in his lap. He gently massaged them.

“I dunno. I reckon I’ve been in love with you since the Troll incident, but I was much too thick to realise what I was feeling until…oh, Sixth Year,” Ron said pointedly.

“Ah, yes, the birds,” Hermione nodded, a sheepish look on her face.

“Yes, the birds,” Ron repeated, shooting her a fond look. “She’s quite emotional, this one,” he said at the camera. 

“We were friends for so long – it took me some time to pull my head out of my arse myself and acknowledge just how much I love you. Just how much I need you,” Hermione happily sighed.  

“I think every successful relationship needs to start with a friendship. I can honestly say I’m in love with my best mate,” Ron said, the tips of his ears going pink.

“Aw babe,” Hermione crooned, “I love you.” She pulled her feet from Ron’s lap and instead crawled onto it. One of Ron’s large hands come up to wrap around her waist, the other to cup an arse cheek. She giggled and tipped her chin down so he could kiss her softly on the lips.

“I love you, ‘Mione.” They begin to snog in earnest, and it was not until one of Ron’s hands found its way up her blouse to squeeze her breast that she shook herself.

“Oh, fuck...the camera!” she squealed.

“It’s fine. Let it roll,” Ron said, lips on hers again. She laughed and pulled back as Ron pouted.

“Ronald Weasley...this is not one of those videos.”


 

June 2002

 

“And you’ll owl me every day, yeah?” Harry asks, handing Ginny her holdall.

“Yes mum,” Ginny teases. Her face is bright, her smile so wide that her canines are exposed. “Bloody hell! I can’t believe this is happening,” she says bouncing on the balls of her feet.

“Can you believe it, me? Me! Handpicked for the English National Quidditch team?”

“Yes, I can, because you’re a bloody force to be reckoned with; not to mention you’ll look fetching in red and white robes, of course.”

“Of course!” Ginny laughs heartily, her long, high ponytail swinging. “I’m going to miss you, you berk.” She squeezes him again before pulling away. He smiles sadly at her. 

He thought he’d be used to Ginny dropping in and out of his life by now, but this time she had stayed for eight whole months. She had moved into a spare bedroom on the third floor of Grimmauld, her walls covered with posters of PJ Harvey, Patti Smith, Siouxsie Sioux and Cocteau Twins. He loves having her stay with him again. She’s proven to be a solid wing-person in all things – from pulling at nightclubs to accompanying him as his beautiful date for Ministry events. She was his rock these last several difficult months.

There was quite a bit of gossip surrounding their failed relationship, subsequent friendship, and current social antics in the tabloids, but they didn’t care. Sometimes they would stick amusing articles or pictures of themselves stumbling out of clubs together with their individual pulls for the night onto the cool cabinet in the kitchen. They were happy just being around each other and exploring what it meant to live their newly single lives. They didn’t give a toss what the media thought about their behaviour.

He loved that Ginny never stayed away for more than a work day. During her training weeks, she’d take the Floo back to Grimmauld after a gruelling practice in Wales, only to slip out in the wee hours the next morning for another round. She never complained about it, and he was confident enough to chalk it up to her enjoying those quiet nights shared with him, eating popcorn, and watching Sex and the City on Channel 4.

He fell in love with her all over again, but this time it was a different kind of love. The ache of missing her as his girlfriend was now replaced with a fluid respect and appreciation – a certain kind of spiritual bond that hadn’t been there before. It’s something he doesn’t quite share with Ron and Hermione. He had told her once that they were cut from the same rainbow cloth. Ginny had gagged and called him a ponce before pulling him into a crushing hug. He would have been much worse off post-Dean without her.

Though, it would be a lie if he didn’t admit that Dean’s leaving him still affected him deeply. On some level, he could even agree that maybe the breakup had left him a bit crazy. He had learned so much from Dean –  had learned how to deal with his anxieties about coming out, how to work through the sadness he still experienced post-war, had learned what it felt like to be loved, and what truly mind-blowing sex is. He wanted to feel that safe again with someone. Nowadays he feels anxious, with bouts of depression striking him at inopportune times. He feels unsure about himself all the time now– these feelings only slightly alleviated when he pulls for the night. He wracked his brain day and night to pinpoint exactly when things had gone wrong in the relationship and had come to the conclusion that it was from day one: from that first kiss in the men’s loo. Not because Harry was inexperienced and still reeling from his breakup with Ginny. No. The simple fact was that true love didn’t exist for him. Dean saw in him that he was incapable of being loved, and took what he could from Harry, but it wasn’t enough for him to stay. Everything and anything even relating to love is only a temporary fixture in his life, from his parents on down to his ex-boyfriend. It’s not meant for him and he’s made a promise to himself that he’ll never go looking for it again.

Ginny likes to say nowadays, ‘trust no bitch’, but at least for him he feels, ‘don’t trust yourself’ is a bit more fitting.

“I’m going to miss you, too, but we’ll see you at the World Cup next month,” he says in a wobbly voice. Merlin, he didn’t realise how difficult saying goodbye was going to be.

“It sucks that I won’t be here for your birthday,” she mumbles, diverting her suddenly overbright eyes. She’s kind enough to not tease him about his voice shaking, though. He can tell by the tightness of her smile, her eyes, and the slump of her shoulders that she’s affected by their parting just as much as he is. He smiles at her reassuringly.

“The best way you can make it up to me is by kicking Egypt’s arse on the 18th of August, yeah?” He leans forward to quickly kiss her cheek. “And by making sure we all have the best damn seats ever.”

“Done and done,” she giggles, quickly swiping the back of her hand across her eyes as she hikes her holdall higher onto her shoulder.

“Any regrets on taking the Eurostar?” he asks. It was a strange request her team had made, forbidding any portkey usage and instead encouraging muggle transportation.

She shrugs. “I’m taking it all in stride. Apparently, since we’re doing the training in Paris, they want to keep the training location as non-disclosed as possible, you know, to keep the media out. That meet-up in the 18th arrondissement for dinner tonight is so misleading. They’re going to wine and dine us before whisking us away for a month’s worth of brutal training,” she says shaking her head. There’s a brief moment of silence between them before she flings herself at him once more, her arms tightening around him and her holdall slamming into his side. He hardly stumbles back as his arms shoot up to steady her. Before he can hold her properly, she’s already pulling back, the brightness of her eyes now dollops of tears caught on her lower lashes. “Well,” she croaks, “I’m going to be so pissed I won’t get a proper fry-up from you these next couple of months!” she says, laughing weakly. “But yeah, I’m going to go find my seat and pray that a pretty girl sits next to me. Wish me luck?” she asks, now walking backwards from him.

“I’m sure whatever five-star restaurant they have planned for you tonight will ease your pain,” he chuckles. “Good luck, Gin,” he says softly. She waves and turns around, bounding towards her platform. He sighs heavily, sniffling as he watches Ginny step onto the train. There’s the hiss of Ginny’s train’s engine warming up when Harry notices a flash of white blond hair. He freezes, his eyes going wide as he stumbles back a few steps, bumping into several people in the process to inch closer to get a better look at what he knows is…Yes. Yes, what he knows is definitely white blond hair.

It’s bloody Malfoy.

And Merlin, the sight he catches!

Malfoy is snogging his older muggle boyfriend... Bart, his haywire brain supplies, right outside the platform to Brussels like the world is about to end. Malfoy looks odd in white shorts and a navy-blue jumper, a starch white collar poking out at the neck. The sleeves are rolled up and Harry can see the faded Dark Mark clear as day on Malfoy’s pale skin.

He steps a bit closer towards them.

“I love you,” he hears Malfoy’s boyfriend say.

“Oh darling, I love you, too,” Malfoy responds, his voice affectionate as he wraps his arms around his boyfriend’s neck to pull him into a slow kiss. He can’t seem to tear his eyes away from the intimate scene between Malfoy and his boyfriend, but there’s a sudden announcement that the train to Paris is about to depart and he finally tears his eyes away from them to peer over at Ginny’s departing train. He smiles sadly as he watches it leave the station.  

“Potter?”

He jumps, his head spinning so fast a sharp pain shoots up his neck.

The pair are now standing before him.

“Oh Malfoy, Bart...isn’t it? Hullo,” he says, his hand coming up to briefly rub the back of his neck. Now up close, he can see that Malfoy’s too-stylish haircut is a bit longer and pulled back into a bun, a few escaped strands framing his pointy face. Harry hides a snort with an ill-conceived cough. Malfoy looks like a bloody ponce.

“Ah! Mr Potter, right? What a pleasure it is to see you again,” Bart says jovially, pulling away from Malfoy to offer Harry his hand. Harry pumps the other man’s hand twice before dropping it as if it’s hot coal. Any man willing to snog Malfoy is someone unsavoury, he thinks. “I have a train to catch, so until next time!”

“Er...right,” Harry says quietly, watching in thinly veiled astonishment as Bart quickly pecks Malfoy’s lips, muttering more words of love and endearment in Malfoy’s ear before grasping the handle of his carry-on to take off towards his train.

He can’t believe that someone is able to even say such things to Malfoy of all people! At Hogwarts the git was always so cruel and aloof. The fact that Malfoy had found someone to love him and Harry struggled to find the same is just, well, it’s just fucking unfair. Now full of righteous indignation, his nerves spike and he’s vibrating with pent up envy. The flow of travellers is so dense that he finds himself moving towards a corner of the station that isn’t so busy, Malfoy following him. He clears his throat.

The expression on Malfoy’s face is so sad and mournful as he stares after his boyfriend’s retreating back. He wants so desperately to ask Malfoy why he looks like the man is never going to return when he catches Harry staring at him. Malfoy’s expression shifts to a rather cantankerous look, his arms coming up to cross against his slender chest. “So, I’m just seeing my boyfriend off,” Malfoy says in a haughty tone reminiscent to the boy he was at Hogwarts. Harry stares flatly at him. He almost wants to point out that he’s not fucking stupid, he knows that, but then Malfoy asks, “You?” 

He’s silent for several moments, noticing Malfoy’s stiff posture and the slight pink flush creeping up his neck under his white collar. He realises then that maybe Malfoy’s not wholly trying to come off like a prick, but is just as uncomfortable as him. The desire to spit out a scathing comment suddenly dries up on his tongue. He runs a hand through his hair instead, trying to push away from the forefront of his mind his frustration, bitterness, and discomfort about this situation in one fell swoop. “I was seeing Ginny off. She’s been handpicked for a Chaser on the English National team—”

Yeah,” Malfoy interrupts, his tone full of exaggerated exhaustion. “Pansy won’t shut up about it, the bint.”

“Oh,” Harry starts. “You’re still close to Parkinson?”

Malfoy frowns at him. “She’s like a sister to me, Potter.”

“Right,” Harry says stiffly, resisting the urge to shove his hands in his pockets. “Didn’t know, what with your new life and all,” Harry says, flapping a hand at Malfoy’s person.

“Well,” Malfoy says, adjusting his arms to cling tighter to his chest. He picks up just how clearly Malfoy’s fidgeting reads as defensive, as if Malfoy is trying to protect himself from Harry’s glaring eyes of dislike and judgement. He finds it oddly vulnerable, and he’s suddenly reminded of that day at St Mungo’s so long ago, Malfoy’s face so unfairly bruised and battered. The anger rushes from out of him like a fiery torrent and he suddenly feels sorry for the other man. It would be a lie if he said he wasn’t curious about what Malfoy’s been up to since that day, and their subsequent chance meeting at Pret. After all, Malfoy’s been living a muggle life, and Merlin, isn’t that something? How has the twat been able to pull it off, what with a history of prejudice like his? Before he can talk himself out of it or rationalise why his mind would even stray to such a suggestion, he blurts out: “Would you like to grab a coffee or something?”

Shit. He really needs to learn impulse control.

He can literally feel his face heating up, and not just from his blunder, but for the very real fact that Malfoy is about to sneer and spit some vitriolic rubbish his way. He braces himself for it as the other man jerks back, his arms coming away from his chest to fall to his sides in tightly balled hands as he gives Harry a searching look. Whatever Malfoy finds on his face must be agreeable because he offers a small nod, face wary. 

“Okay.”

He doesn’t question the spark of excitement that shoots through him...not even as he admits to himself that he’s about to fall down a Draco Malfoy-shaped hole.

Because really, maybe, surely— Malfoy’s up to something.

---------

They are, once again, inside of a Pret.

They’re sat in a far corner of the coffee shop near Euston station. Malfoy orders a bone dry cappuccino and Harry orders an iced mocha latte. A few minutes pass as they sit across from each other in silence, Malfoy having pulled out his mobile to send a few rapid-fire SMS, much to Harry’s annoyance and fascination.

“It’s so weird seeing you with a muggle device. I don’t even have a mobile phone.”

Malfoy makes a small Mmphhh sound in acknowledgment. “You’re grossly behind the times then,” Malfoy says absently, thumbs dancing across the small keypad. Harry continues to watch with rapt attention and after a few more moments Malfoy carefully sets his mobile down on a coaster to take a sip from his drink.

Harry’s thoughts stray to Malfoy’s boyfriend. He wonders if Bart taught Malfoy how to use a mobile. It’s such a bizarre relationship: Malfoy dating a muggle and dating an older muggle at that. He had wondered after his last run in with Malfoy if his dating Bart was a response to his overbearing relationship with his father. Perhaps Malfoy was just looking for another Lucius to obey and look up to. 

“So. What’s it like dating an older man…I mean, he’s got to be over fifty, right? Bit Harold and Maude, innit?” Malfoy’s eyes grow a bit wide as he stares at him, full lips pursing into a cruel, thin line. “I er, I don’t mean any offence…” he says unconvincingly.

“How dare you,” Malfoy hisses, two patches of colour blooming high on his sharp cheekbones as he quickly rises to his feet. “I didn’t come here for this, Potter. You reek of ageism and I refuse to—”

“Wait, wait, Malfoy!” he says quickly, waving his hands at the other man. Malfoy takes a quick glance around him before settling back in his seat, face pinched. “I’m sorry...old habits.”

“You’re an incredibly offensive, small-minded, inappropriate person, Potter. And an ageist.”

Harry shrugs. “I don’t care how old your boyfriend is, really. And I’ve been called worse.” At this admission, Malfoy smiles sardonically at him.

“Ah, yes...Pansy’s mentioned all your little exploits in the Magical Community, Potter. I see you’ve put a lot of special time aside to humiliate yourself in public,” Malfoy drawls.

“You talk about me?” Harry asks, affecting a simpering tone. “Aw, I didn’t know you cared so much, Malfoy.” Harry shoots him a playful grin, which grows wider at Malfoy’s dark look.

“Believe me, Potter, you are the last person on earth I’d actively seek information on. If I never see your face again, it’ll be too soon.” Malfoy takes another sip from his drink, fixing him with a reproving glare. “And for your information, Bart is only 49.”

Harry blanches. “Merlin, Malfoy. He’s old enough to be your father.”

“What’s it any of your business?” 

“It’s not.” Harry leans forward and rests his elbows on the table, his half-empty iced latte in between his hands. He uses his thumb to cut a downward line through the condensation beading on the plastic cup. “I’m just curious as to what it’s like,” Harry says, suggestively wiggling his eyebrows.

“Ugh. I see time has done nothing to curtail your arrogance.”

Harry shrugs. “I’m a work in progress,” he admits, startled by his own honesty. “Why are you in the muggle world?”

“I’m sorry, did I miss a memo that said we were going to share personal anecdotes today? Potter, why the fuck do you care what I’m doing?”

“You don’t think it’s strange that we’ve run into each other again?” 

“London isn’t nearly as large as people think it is. Or maybe you’re stalking me. Tell me, are you thinking about slicing me up again?” Malfoy asks with a dark little smile.  

Harry draws in a sharp breath, his heart clenching as memories flood his mind’s eye of that terrible night in the girl’s loo. He shivers. “What’s the statute of limitations on apologies?” he asks softly, watching that little smile on Malfoy’s face fall. “I didn’t know what that spell would do, and I’m so sorry for using it on you.” 

Malfoy shifts in his seat, his gaze dropping down to his cup as he shrugs. “It’s whatever.” 

“Do...do you have any...any…?” Harry struggles to get the word out, but even as he tries he finds that he’s scared to learn the answer. His eyes inadvertently snap to Malfoy’s chest.

“No,” Malfoy interrupts him, shaking his head with a moue of discontent. “And we don’t have to do this. I accept your apology if this means we can stop talking about it. I wasn’t a shining beacon of innocence at the time, either.”

“I’m just sorry. For all of it,” he says. “I really didn’t know what the spell would do, and I can’t even sit here, knowing what I know about you now, and call you an enemy.”

There’s a long, uncomfortable silence, in which Harry can’t help but stare at Malfoy’s stricken face and rigid posture, the other man’s eyes fixated on his coffee cup. Malfoy makes a soft, indiscernible sound. “I needed a change. A life away from the moral ambiguities of my youth, the crushing responsibility of remaking the Malfoy name, and all that violence waiting for me from people hurt by myself and my family. And most importantly, you— Harry fucking Potter, the one person who seemed to be front row to every single mistake in my life,” Malfoy gives a short, derisive laugh but then slips into a somber sulk. “Christ. It was exhausting. It was depressing.”

Harry doesn’t say anything at all at his surprisingly honest revelation. He feels sorry that Malfoy felt like he needed to run away, but Harry’s sure if the roles were reversed, he’d have run away, too. Hell, hasn’t he been trying to? Run away from the expectations of the wizarding world, runaway from the public’s opinion that he should be an Auror, married to Ginny, and living a very publicly accessible life. He actually finds himself holding his breath as Malfoy continues, finding with each moment that passes between them, a shared common desire.

“I was desperate for a new start. When I was at the Manor after my trial, I kept dreaming of waking up in a world where no one knew me. Where no one knew what horrors I had done,” Malfoy says, his voice catching. “I just wanted to be free. After the incident in Diagon Alley, I made up my mind. It was time to leave my old life, but I couldn’t just move to another magical community, because surely after a time people there would find out who I am...what kind of monster I am. It took me a while to realise that I could only achieve what I wanted by entering a world I knew nothing about, but strangely, that didn’t scare me. I wanted it.  So, I decided to move to muggle London. I wanted everything I was taught growing up to be proven wrong,” he said feverently, his hands now clenched into fists.

“So imagine my surprise when I was faced with resistance trying to withdraw my residency completely from the Magical world. I even offered to relinquish magic for the rest of my life, and the Ministry still fought against me. One would think that they’d go above and beyond to ensure that they’d never need to see my face again, but no, they fought me on every request I made — translating my NEWTs, changing my place of residency, my Statement to Ensure Secrecy within the muggle world — all of it. They wanted me to stay locked away in the Manor to rot. There was one person, however, who saw that I was being stonewalled and decided to...help. I still don’t know why this person of all people wanted to help me. I was awful to them as a child, but they didn’t hesitate to show me a kindness I did not deserve, and for that I’m eternally grateful. They provided me with documents, transferred my NEWTs into credits equivalent to the muggle UK National Curriculum, I received a degree, even teacher recommendations,” he says softly, eyes distant.

“They went above and beyond to ensure that I would successfully make it on my own in the muggle world. I wouldn’t be here without them,” Malfoy says, his voice going hoarse. He clears his throat, blinking rapidly. “I had always wanted to go into Healing, so they told me it would make sense to enrol into a medical programme in the muggle world, and really, that was the best suggestion ever. I spent so many years hurting people— I don’t want to hurt another person ever again. I busted my arse preparing for my entrance exams and was ecstatic when I was accepted into Imperial College. I made friends with people I never thought I would...people I was raised to think were beneath me. I met Bart shortly after, and well, the rest is as they say, history.” 

Fuck.

Harry’s dizzy with the weight of Malfoy’s story. He’s in awe and even a bit jealous over the magnitude of his change. “That’s brave of you, Malfoy, really,” is all he can say. “Going out into a world you were taught to hate; a world you knew nothing about to make a life for yourself? That’s bloody brilliant.”

Malfoy shrinks into himself, his arms coming to rest in his lap under the table. “You don’t think I took the coward’s way out? Running away from the punishments I deserve from the people I’ve hurt with my actions?”

“You were a kid, Malfoy. Your actions were made under duress.”

“Do not sugarcoat my mistakes, Potter,” Malfoy suddenly hisses, taking Harry aback at the ferocity of it. “I did what I did, and presented with the opportunity to do it all over again, there’s very little I would change.”

“I don’t believe that for a second.”

“Well, I guess it’s good that I care very little for your opinions. My parents wouldn’t be alive, I wouldn’t be alive, had I not. I would not be where I am today, the man I am today, had I not made those decisions,” Malfoy explains.

“But, you can now at least forgive yourself, can you?”

“I don’t need to forgive myself of the past, Potter, just ensure my future reflects my determination for change,” Malfoy says resolutely.

“I think you’re doing a fantastic job so far,” he says softly.

Malfoy slumps in his seat, spent, as he warily eyes Harry.

“I didn’t tell you all this for your approval, Potter. I couldn’t give a fuck what you think, just to be clear on that,” he says, his lips twisting into a sneer.

Harry’s somber thoughts are chased away as his gaze fixes on the plump, curvy shape of Malfoy’s mouth. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen such full lips.

“What are you staring at, Potter?” Those full lips slide into a downward curl and Harry’s jolted from his ogling. Malfoy looks confused and apprehensive as Harry lifts his eyes to Malfoy’s. “What is it?” Malfoy hisses. “Do I have something on my face?” Malfoy then uses the back of his hand to wipe across his lips.

“You’re a very attractive person,” Harry says absently, his head cocking to the side. 

Immediately, Malfoy’s cheeks turn pink, his mouth sliding open in an ‘o’ shape as he stares at Harry as if he’s grown a second head. “What?”

“You’re attractive. I’m surprised I’ve never noticed it before.”

“My God,” Malfoy mutters, aghast. “You fucking arsehole, your arrogance simply knows no bounds. I’m in a relationship.”  

“What does that have to do with anything? I’m just stating that you’re empirically attractive,” Harry mutters, playing with his cup once more.

“Thank you?” Malfoy says, sounding caught between disbelief and uncertainty.

“We should hang out,” Harry says casually, now meeting Malfoy’s perplexed gaze. His stomach does a flip, a ball of nerves building in him. He really wouldn’t mind getting to know this new version of Draco Malfoy, and since it’s still the summer, it would be a perfect time to hang with the git. He loathes the idea of wandering the city alone for the next couple of months since Hermione, Ron, and Ginny are out of town currently.

“Are you really that hard up for companionship these days, Potter?” Malfoy laughs. “I’m not taking any applications for new gay friends at the moment.”

“Cheeky. And I’m not gay, so maybe I can be an exception to your little process.”

Malfoy shakes his head slowly. Despite the exasperated look on his face, the corner of his lip twitches up into a weird half-smile. “You’re validating my inherent mistrust for strange men who ask to be my friend.”

“C’mon,” Harry says, soothingly, “what’s the problem?” 

“Oh, I don’t know, how about the fact that we hate each other?”

“I don’t hate you Malfoy. I want to get to know you. Be your friend.”

A strange, faraway look flickers across Malfoy’s face at that, but it’s quickly replaced with irritation. Malfoy then sits up a bit straighter, his shoulders squaring most determinedly as he sticks up a hand, all five fingers spread out in front of Harry’s face. “Potter— One, I know enough about you,” he says, ticking down one finger. “Two, you have a reputation that precedes you; three, you’re an absolute arrogant arse; four, you’ve just tried to come onto me; and five, I have a loving and gorgeous boyfriend. Simply put, I’m not interested in anything you have to offer,” he says snidely, withdrawing his hand.

“I’m not coming onto you. Is it wrong for one man to tell another man he’s attractive and want to get to know him?”

“You’re just trying to get into my pants, Potter,” Malfoy retorts, now downing the rest of his cappuccino. “I’ve heard all about your antics from a number of sources and know exactly what you’re about.”

“I thought you said you didn’t actively seek information about me?”

Malfoy flushes. “Everyone knows you sleep around.”

“I never said I wanted to sleep with you.”

Malfoy scoffs, his nose turning up in the air as he says haughtily, “Didn’t you?”

Harry smiles ruefully. “Why can’t two, very nice, very attractive queer men be friends?”

“It’s not possible— sex always gets in the way.”

“What!” Harry balks, his brows shooting up to his hairline. “What a load of rubbish—”

“Well, if you think so, Potter. I still don’t need a new friend.” Malfoy glances down at his delicate wrist watch. “You’re officially boring me— and that is the greatest sin of all, so I think it’s time I take my leave.” Malfoy stands from the table, looking flustered. Harry holds up a hand to get his attention.

“Are you sure, Malfoy? I was looking forward to getting to know you. Seems like you’re the only person I know in town for the summer,” he says, trying once more with a small, genuine smile.

Malfoy shrugs, turning to walk away. “The day I need a friend like you, Potter, I’ll just have myself a squat and shit one out.”

 

And with that, Harry’s left alone.


SEPTEMBER 2002

 

Hermione has decided to take him to a muggle café on King’s Road, not too far from her and Ron’s impressive Chelsea flat. She had just gotten back from a summer cruise to the Cayman Islands with her, Ron, and both of their parents. Their cruise ended just in time to meet Harry at the World Cup in Egypt.

She looked like she was glowing, happy, and well-rested. Well, at least until they both sat down for lunch. 

“We’re all a bit concerned, you know,” Hermione says, her previously cheery face now pinched as she primly dabs the corners of her mouth with a napkin. She carefully places it back on her lap and takes a small sip of water. Harry can tell she’s really holding back on giving him a raging dressing-down.

Even though Hermione has her powerful, burgeoning career at the Ministry, she’s come out of her austere shell in the years since leaving Hogwarts. She’s now more bark than bite when it comes to the people she loves. Regardless, Harry’s cautious. Hermione is a terrifying force to reckon with when she’s cross.

She’s dressed in a short royal purple Bardot sundress. Her curly hair is pulled up into two big puffy buns sat on either side of her head, exposing her dainty shoulders, loose tendrils slicked down into pretty little half-loops to frame her now pinched face. Her engagement ring glints in the bright light of the café. He’s dressed himself in navy shorts, a plain black vest, and sandals to beat the crazy late summer heat.

“And who are all these people you keep mentioning?” he grunts, angrily stabbing at his salad.

A withering look from Hermione during ordering had put him off wanting a double cheeseburger with bacon. Fuck. He was so over Hermione’s new health kick, but fear of her scolding kept him in line, at least when she was present. He doesn’t know how she’s staying up-to-date with her new health initiatives while working her high-pressured Ministry job, and planning the wedding of the year. At first the health craze was just driving Ron mad, but an out-of-his-mind Ron meant a more anxious-than-usual Harry. Ron’s incessant complaining was the least of his problems now. Hermione was now sending him emails of healthy recipes, coming over to his place for tea with takeaway from the nearest up-and-coming vegan restaurant, and urging him to go gluten-free in every other conversation— “Honestly, Harry! This is our health we’re playing with! This is the way of the future! ” she’d say after glancing at his horror-stricken face. Harry’s finding that’s he’s slowly going mad over it, especially with Ron constantly crying to him about his lost relationship with his first true love— fish and chips.

“You know, Ron and I…Molly and Arthur…Neville...Seamus...Do I really need to list names? Come on, Harry,” she trails off with an exasperated sigh. “It’s not good for you, sleeping around the way you are. I’m all for embracing one’s sexual autonomy, but I really don’t think that’s what this is.”

“You’re just slut-shaming,” he says shortly.

The whole Magical community seemed hellbent on slut-shaming him nowadays. Even though he refuses to read the paper, Ginny always reports back to him, in thinly concealed excitement, any and all news about their antics.

Most of the gossip that surrounded her was about excessive partying, and Harry’s was always about his pulls. The vitriolic news was from all sorts of media sources (though, none coming from the Prophet). According to Ginny, the more tabloidy publications like Witch Weekly, Wizard Voice UK, and for some reason, Quidditch Weekly reported on him religiously. He was also labelled as a ‘hellbound heathen’ by morality mags like Wizard Brits for Jesus Christ and His Second Coming, the latter Harry'd initially thought to be a porn mag. They were all taking cheap shots at him.

At his accusation, Hermione presses her lips into a tight line and stares up at the ceiling, as if drawing strength from some higher power, before meeting his gaze.

“First of all,” she starts brusquely, an eyebrow raised high in sassy indignation, “like it or not, I know you, Harry James Potter! This is not normal behaviour for you at all!” She huffs, lips twisted up into a scowl, eyes narrowing so hard into a glare that Harry’s afraid they might permanently get stuck that way. “And despite all the people you’re pulling, you know it’s not making you feel any better about Dean walking out on you last year, so don’t you dare accuse me of slut-shaming you! Sure, the sex is temporarily satisfying some need to feel wanted right now, but Harry, it’s not going to heal you. If you’re doing it to numb your feelings, it’s simply not healthy, Harry, it’s a toxic coping mechanism.”

Harry sighs, falling back against his seat. “It’s not that serious, Hermione,” he says slowly. “Merlin, I’m just trying to have some fun,” he mumbles. He doesn’t want to admit to her that fucking people eases his anxiety, or that he’s been having recurring dreams and nightmares about Dean in addition to the ones about the war, still going on ten months after the break up. He doesn’t want Hermione to know just how fucking pathetic he is. “Why can’t you lot let me indulge in my post-break up sex in peace?”

“Why! Why, you ask?” Hermione hisses hysterically. “Because Harry...it’s been ten months! Your bad boy meets rebound sex phase is alarming everyone! And God knows if you’re practicing safe sex!” Hermione nearly shouts the last couple of words, causing Harry’s cheeks to flush. He peers around the café and realises that luckily, only an older woman at the adjacent table bristles at her outburst.

“I am,” he says hurriedly. “Very safe and consensual!”

“Regardless— Witch Weekly keeps finding people you’ve shagged for interviews, it’s completely awful what they say about you! ‘Selfish, a dog, a heartless bastard,’ — oh Merlin, it’s awful! And really, Harry, Zacharias Smith? He’s a complete arse! The things he said about you in today’s article—” she whispers furiously before catching herself. She draws herself up, as if forcing all her anger and tension to bleed away. “Something about…about snowballing…” The look of utter confusion on her face causes him to choke back a laugh. He can’t wait until she figures that one out.

All he wanted that night was a tall blond with a smart, obnoxious mouth, and Smith happened to have been at the same club as him. He’s not surprised Smith went to the papers; Harry had been drunk when he pulled him and too horny to think twice about the consequences. He was at this point in his life where he just didn’t care much about anything beyond seeking out and satisfying his own pleasures.

“Well, I guess it’s good I stopped reading the papers, yeah?”

“Harry. I’m honestly worried about you, don’t brush me off.”

“I’m not,” he groans. “I’m fine, really.”

“Would it help if I told you Dean’s in London right now?” Hermione asks over the rim of her glass of water. Harry places his fork down and glares at her. His aubergine and chickpea salad isn’t inspiring much enthusiasm in him anyway.

“Fuck off, Hermione, really now.”

Hermione’s lip once again becomes a straight line and she sets her glass down. “What if I told you the flat he’s subletting while in London is just a five-minute walk from here?”

Again, Hermione, that’s not something I care to fucking know,” Harry says harshly. But even as he says this, his heart begins to race at the thought of running into Dean. He’s loathe to admit that he still misses the bastard. That he still wants him. He won’t admit that to Hermione, though, not when he knows she’ll smile that smug smile of hers and tell him she was right all along. His eyes narrow instead. She picks at her own salad, not meeting his gaze, and then pushes one loose curly tendril behind her ear and nods slowly.

“Let’s say, hypothetically speaking,” she starts again with a lofty air about her despite his groan, “that I’ve come across a bit of information concerning Dean’s schedule. What if I told you he’s out for the afternoon and I have a dozen dungbombs in my purse with his Flat number on them?”

What?” Harry asks in disbelief, jaw dropping.

“Oh please, Harry, don’t look so bloody surprised.”

“It’s just— Hermione, it’s you. You’re suggesting we go bomb Dean’s flat. Am I right, here? I mean, in what universe—?”

“Oh, bugger off,” she smiles and Harry realises with a start just how much he's reminded of Ron in that teasing smile. “I know it’s a childish proposition.” She tilts her chin upward. “But imagine how good it’ll feel,” she says with a mischievous smirk. “And you know Seamus will crow about it until he’s blue in the face at the next pub gathering. It’ll be our little secret.” Harry sits back in his seat, his gaze on Hermione sharp and searching.

“Hermione, did you hex Parvati?” he whispers. Hermione flinches, but fixes Harry with a look of defiance.

A month after Parvati and Ginny’s break up, Ron had told him that the Daily Prophet reported that Parvati had been hexed with boils. The whole incident reminded Harry strongly of Marietta Edgecombe’s brush with Hermione’s wrath. Unlike Marietta though, the jinx Parvati was hit with faded after a few weeks and there were no words spelled out on her face, but not even a glamour could hide the scars during that time. 

Ginny was positively ecstatic and the media was quick to blame an errant Quidditch fan of Ginny’s. Harry had dismissed Hermione as the culprit because, really, she’s a bloody Ministry Official now and she was at work at the time of the incident, apparently. An alibi, he now realises with a slow, appreciative smile. He should have known; this was a woman who had neglected to inform people they were signing a jinxed document. Someone who would permanently disfigure a person who betrays her and her loved ones. And Hermione’s a deft hand at breaking rules and pushing boundaries in the wickedest of ways. He shivers. She’s come a long way from the truly nasty trickery, though, now comfortable with just dung-bombing someone’s home and temporary disfigurement.

“No one hurts my family,” she says calmly, taking a bite out of her salad. Fuck, Hermione is amazing…and scary. “We’ll go once it’s dark,” she says, peering out the window of the café.

He continues to gape at her, eyes wide with shock.

--------

Hermione’s deployed a rather powerful Notice-Me-Not charm over them. Armed with two tall cans of Diet Coke and a purse full of dung-bombs, they make their way to Dean’s temporary housing.

“You know, I’ve been thinking of ways to busy myself beyond work and the wedding. I’d really like to learn how to drive, and my father wants to teach me. Ron’s not too keen on learning himself, but, maybe you’d like to learn with me?”

“Yeah!” Harry says, excited. “Let me know when and where and I’ll show up.” He’s always wanted to learn how to drive. Vernon used to say it was a staple of manhood to Dudley, but Harry went off to Hogwarts, and didn’t think twice of the muggle skill outside of his experience with the Weasley’s flying Ford Anglia. He lifts the can of Diet Coke. “Are you sure this is vegan?” Harry jokes.

Hermione shoves him in the side with a sharp elbow. Harry laughs softly as he wraps an arm around her shoulders, pulling her in close as Dean’s sensible ground floor flat comes into view. “You know if we bomb his flat, his muggle neighbours will smell it,” Harry says.

Hermione shakes her head, her puffy buns shaking with her. “Nope. George has made sure the smell only lingers within the floor the bomb is set off in. He’ll smell it as soon as he steps foot in his flat and only within his flat,” Hermione says.

“Oh fuck. I can’t believe we’re doing this!” he whispers with a shake of his head as they stand before Dean’s flat. The exterior is a walk-up painted in bright white over brick, the door painted a sky blue. An empty, completely concrete front garden between the front door to the kerb. The rubbish and recycling bins are shoved against a short brick wall separating this building from the next. Hermione looks up at him with a wicked smile.

“What’s life without a bit of harmless hell-raising here and there in the name of love?” she asks.

“Love.” Harry scoffs. “I’m just surprised anyone cares about how I really feel,” he says absently. Hermione turns sharply towards him in his embrace, her deep brown eyes full of pain as she stares up at him.

Harry...” she starts, sounding lost for words. Harry suddenly feels uncomfortable in the face of Hermione’s speechlessness. He didn’t mean to admit so much in front of her.

“I’m sorry,” he says quietly. Her eyes quickly fill with tears.

“Oh,” she whispers. “Harry. You know we all love you. Ron and I, Molly and Arthur, Ginny—?”

“Of course! Why—”

“You also know that we never judge you,” Hermione says gently. “We want you to come to us to talk about the things that are hurting you, but we just don’t want to push you...We just want you to be happy.” 

“Yeah, I know Hermione,” he says, suddenly worried about the direction of this conversation. He doesn’t want Hermione to “unpack” anything with him right now. Or ever, if he can swing it. “I’m okay,” he urges. “I’ll be—”

“—but you’re not okay,” Hermione says tearfully. “I don't think you’re properly looking after yourself, Harry. And I won’t lie and say that I’m not deeply concerned with your behaviour as of late. It’s just...so unlike you.”

“I thought I was the most impulsive person you know?” he tries to joke, a wry smile on his face.

Hermione then blinks hard, fat dollops of tears rolling down her cheeks.

“I think that’s what worries me the most,” she says, her voice tight. “I’m so scared you’ve turned that impulse towards something toxic...a toxic way of coping...because you’re lonely.

“I’m not lonely,” Harry whispers, but even as he says it, he feels like a liar.

“You don’t have to prove anything to us, or anyone for that matter,” Hermione says, her arms coming up to squeeze around his waist. “We just want you to be happy,” she repeats.

“I want to be happy.”

“What can I do to help?” she asks, eyes almost pleading.

“You can start by helping me dung-bomb this prick's house,” Harry says with a chuckle. With a rush of relief, he realises that he’s somewhat broken the intensity of the conversation.

Hermione smiles sadly up at him, pulling away from his embrace to flip open her purse and dig into it. She pulls out a handful of bombs. When she turns back to him, a genuine smile is on her face. 

“Let’s do this.”

 


 

The next time Harry sees Malfoy, it’s two weeks after his eye-opening lunch and evening with Hermione.

 

It’s Saturday night and the balmy, summer weather is still clinging on. Harry’s donned tight black jeans and a black vest that Ginny once told him hugged his broad chest and showed off his strong arms just right.

Ginny’s team has won England the World Cup and she’s now a mega-celebrity having scored the most points in World Cup history as their Chaser. She’s been interviewed by every publication known, as well as invited for guest appearances on WWN talk-shows. The Magical Community was also praising Pansy Parkinson’s coverage of Ginny’s booming career, and specifically, the gentle handling of her personal life in the article. Harry’s beyond happy for her and even hosted a star-studded gathering for the English team, the Harpies, and their closest friends and family at Grimmauld Place. But tonight, with Ginny still partying with her teammates and their other friends doing their own thing, he’s wandered out to the G-A-Y at the London Astoria looking to have a quick one-off.

He gets several looks of interest from blokes at the bar as he orders a gin and tonic. There’s a collective cheer as the music changes to a song Harry recalls from Radio 1’s evening broadcasts—Missy Elliott’s 4 My People

When he sees him, Harry chokes on his drink. He coughs wildly, pounding the centre of his chest with his fist as his eyes widen in shock behind his glasses. 

Malfoy’s in the middle of the floor— as if the very establishment was erected just for him. With the rainbow coloured lights flashing across his alabaster skin, practically glimmering off him like that, it’s as if he’s precious crystal. Harry’s jaw drops.

Malfoy. Can. Bloody. Dance. 

The people around Malfoy give him a wide berth, many opting to eagerly watch him dominate the floor. Malfoy’s eyes are closed, completely lost in his own world as he spins in a tight circle, his hips making lazy circles before he drops low, dancing in place with a bounce and hands on his knees. He snakes back up, one hand twisting into his long, tousled white blond hair as the other hand sensually caresses his body from the back of his neck down to teasingly skim across his chest and exposed, taut stomach – exposed because Malfoy is wearing a bloody mesh crop top. His hand caresses his popping chest before coming to rest at his hip bone in his low-slung, skin-tight leather trousers. Harry licks his lips because oh Merlin, he’s moving his narrow hips to the music, swaying, rolling, coiling, and unwinding to the beats. He’s never seen something so bloody sexy. Malfoy’s hypnotising as he whips his hair, the overlong strands flying. Several men watch him through hooded eyes as he spins, those hips moving like liquid, his bottom lip trapped between his teeth as his arms come up above his head, his fingers linking around the back of his neck as he continues to fuck the air.

“Like sex on legs, isn’t he?” pants a familiar husky voice against his ear. The breath ghosts over the shell of his ear and he shivers. Harry reluctantly cuts his eyes away from Malfoy to the person standing beside him. Dressed in a skin-tight leather crop top, an equally tight black leather miniskirt, leather thigh high boots, and black lipstick topping the look, is Pansy Parkinson. She smiles her poisonous smile at him, looking every inch like a dominatrix in her getup. “Oh, don’t stop staring on my account, Potter. I was rather enjoying the show myself,” she leers. Harry doesn’t know if she’s talking about him or Malfoy. Or both.

Before he can respond she’s left him to saunter off to the centre of the dance floor. Malfoy reaches out for her as soon as he sees her, pulling her roughly towards him to place a sweet kiss against her cheek. He twirls her before pulling her flush against him, her back to his chest, hands gripping her hips as they grind against each other. They look good together, and not just because they’re both dressed in leather. There’s something oddly erotic about the both of them, and dancing together the feeling is increased tenfold. Harry watches as Parkinson snakes an arm up to curl around the back of Malfoy’s head, tugging him down to whisper in his ear. There's a cast of ominous shadows over them in between the flickering lights. Harry winces when they both turn to stare across the club at him. He swallows nervously at Parkinson’s sardonic smile and Malfoy’s predatory one. Rooted to the spot, all he can do is take another gulp from his drink, his heart palpitating as his eyes meet Malfoy’s.

It’s not until Parkinson and Malfoy are beside him that he realises his glass is empty.

“Looks like you need a refill,” Malfoy says casually, leaning against the bar. This close, Harry can see the lines of Malfoy’s chest and hint of his nipples through the crop top and the lean muscles of his stomach. Harry’s mouth goes a bit dry. Parkinson stands at Malfoy’s elbow, her hand raised with a careless boredom that somehow immediately attracts the bartender.  

“Nine shots of Tapatio Blanco,” she demands in a haughty tone as her eyes slide over to Malfoy who nods encouragingly. “And a double gin tonic for the four-eyed one.”

“Er—” Harry protests.

“I won’t take no for an answer,” Parkinson says firmly. She pulls out a thick clip of muggle dosh from her bra and slips the bartender two fifty pound notes. The bartender gives her a wink before setting to work on her order. Parkinson turns to him and tilts her head back in a challenging way as the bartender pours, her hand gesturing towards the neat row of tequila shots. “Three each, to be taken as quickly as possible with no salt, lime, fizzy drink or water. Do you think you can handle that, Potter?”

“Er,” Harry says weakly. That sounds like murder to him. They’re trying to kill him.

“Scared, Potter?” Malfoy drawls.

Annoyed, Harry stands a bit straighter and sneers at the other man. “You wish, Malfoy.”

Men. The lot of you are all simple-minded twats,” Parkinson laughs, placing a foot on the rail under the bar. She leans forward, elbows on the bar as she stares imperiously up at Malfoy and then at him. She then studiously distributes the shots between them, and lifts one shot before her. “Ready?” she asks. Malfoy grabs his shot.

Harry grimaces, looking down at the three shots of clear liquid and his newly replenished gin and tonic. With a shrug, he picks up the first shot of tequila. Parkinson grins up at him and Harry shudders at how terrifying her grin looks, sharp like a knife. “On my mark, you wankers,” she all but purrs. “Get Set…Go.” They toss back the first shot at the same time. And then the second. Harry gasps as the liquid burns down his throat, the sensation coming up his nose as he downs the second one. He chokes a bit before picking up the third shot glass. Malfoy and Parkinson have already finished their set, faces flushed as they openly giggle. Harry tosses back the last shot, gagging. 

“Now the gin tonic,” Parkinson orders. Harry groans but picks up the drink and swallows about half of it. When he places the drink down his vision and head swoops with such a force that he stumbles into Parkinson who quickly pushes him off. This just causes him to ricochet into Malfoy, who grabs a hold of his elbow to help keep him steady. Even in the poorly lit space of the club, Harry’s sure Malfoy can see the embarrassed flush to his face. He swallows, trying to regain a modicum of dignity as he rights himself.

“Er…where did you learn to dance like that?” he asks as Malfoy releases him. He finds himself missing the soft warmth of Malfoy’s hand on his elbow. Malfoy shrugs.

“All Purebloods learn how to dance at an early age, Potter,” Parkinson offers. Malfoy gives a distracting laugh that causes something to flutter in the pit of Harry’s stomach. 

“I don’t think Lucius had my slutty moves in mind when he hired Fräulein Günther as my ballroom dance instructor, sweetheart,” Malfoy says dryly as he plucks Harry’s gin and tonic from his grasp. He tosses the rest back, exposing the long, pale column of his working throat, which to Harry’s dismay, is the second sexiest thing he’s witnessed this evening.

He had admitted to Malfoy months before at Pret just how attractive he found him. Now, with the weight of liquid courage and a dim environment, Harry feels like he can safely explore just how much the tendrils of energy and attractiveness Malfoy exudes affect him.

A lot, apparently.

Parkinson grins. “Of course not,” she says. “When you’ve spent the last couple of years slinging it in Muggle nightclubs, one tends to pick up on the culture, Potter. Draco especially, is quite good.” 

“I just treat my dancing like I treat my fucking. Fast, hot, and dirty.” That has to be the most obscene thing Harry’s heard in a while, but in Malfoy’s clipped, posh voice, the words cause the blood in Harry’s body to rush straight to his cock, making itself known with an interested twitch.

“Speaking of dancing,” Parkinson starts, stepping back to look him up and down slowly. “How about you show us some of your moves, Potter?” Harry recoils.

“Oh, I don’t—” Harry starts, panicked.

“—That’s a wonderful idea, Pans,” Malfoy says, reaching out to grab Harry’s hand. “Come, Potter.”

The bass of the song playing pounds in Harry’s chest, but he doesn’t think the feeling is completely from the music, no, not when Malfoy’s warm hand is in his. He’s pulled into the middle of writhing bodies, the flashing lights, and Merlin, Malfoy, sensually rolling his hips as the speakers pound out – “Oops, there goes my shirt up over my head, (Oh my) ...”

His mouth slides open in protest as Parkinson is pulled away by a woman with spiky hair. He starts to panic in earnest because she was a sort of buffer, and also because Malfoy has now turned to face towards him, throwing his arms across Harry’s shoulders as he grinds into him. His mind goes startling blank as Malfoy continues to move his hips, embodying a snake-like movement against his own still hips. Malfoy brings his lips to Harry’s ear. “C’mon, Potter. Show me what you can do,” Malfoy says.

“Er…”

Malfoy doesn’t wait to hear him, instead pulling slightly away from Harry to spin and press his pert arse against him, swaying his hips before lifting his hands in the air. Harry, not knowing what to do, stiffly shuffles side-to-side while Malfoy grinds against him.

Malfoy spins back around and laughs, his face close to Harry’s. “Is that the best you can do?” 

Malfoy places one hand on either side of Harry’s hips. “Is this okay?” he asks in Harry’s ear. All he can do is nod as Malfoy then moves Harry’s hips from side-to-side, following the rhythm of the song. Harry closes his eyes briefly, allowing the music, the alcohol, and Malfoy’s hands to lead his movements.

He steps closer to Malfoy, feeling a bit more confident. He begins to move in earnest, letting go and just enjoying himself. All his anxieties seem to melt away, and Malfoy drops his hands from Harry’s hips. He lifts his hands to rest lightly on Malfoy’s shoulders while rolling his body against Malfoy’s as the song shifts to a faster-paced beat. One more time we're gonna celebrate. Oh yeah all right don't stop the dancing!” Harry swings his own narrow hips to the beat. When he opens his eyes again, Malfoy is not only following his moves, but proudly grinning at him.

“Knew you had it in you, Potter!” Malfoy shouts over the music. Harry grins, closing his eyes once more and letting the music and Malfoy’s compliment wash over him.

------

The fluorescent lights of this hole-in-the-wall Lebanese shop sting his eyes after being in such a dark nightclub for so long. He’s completely pissed and nauseous as Malfoy pays for three kofta wraps and an order of cheesy chips. He doesn’t really register Malfoy shoving him into a chair, the plastic table in front of him jostling as Malfoy tosses their food onto its surface. Pansy immediately grabs one of the sandwiches, carefully peeling back the aluminum foil before wrapping her painted black lips around the piping hot pitta. Malfoy then slides into the seat beside him, pulling his own wrap towards him and unwrapping it. Harry watches in rapture as Malfoy daintily rips a piece off with his long fingers and shoves it gracelessly into his mouth, eyes fluttering shut as he moans around the pita and kofta meat in his mouth.

“So-fuckin’-good!” he says. As Malfoy chews, he stares down at the cheesy chips almost lovingly and Harry snorts. “You alright?” Malfoy asks him offhandedly, his eyes traveling up to Harry’s. “Best wraps and chips in London, Potter.”

“He’s not exaggerating,” Parkinson says. She gingerly holds her wrap with one hand and snags a chip with the other, her eyes slightly bloodshot. “The most amazing hummus is in it.”

Christ, the hummus!” Malfoy cries, tearing off another piece of his wrap to eat. Harry can’t figure out why Malfoy’s eating his wrap in such a peculiar way. Parkinson is just taking small measured bites from hers. Malfoy tears a small piece off at a time and Harry finds this ridiculous...it’s a fucking kebab wrap. He hasn’t even opened his yet for fear of vomiting everywhere.

“Draco, shall we go to that party in Peckham?”

“No.”

“But Azul said it’ll be fun,” Parkinson pouts.

“We can spend a night away from her, Pansy. After all, we have a guest to entertain,” Malfoy says, jerking his head towards Harry. Harry, now slouched against the wall of the restaurant to keep his head from spinning looks up at Malfoy in askance. “You’re our very special guest of honour tonight, Potter. You should consider yourself so lucky to party with us.”

“What does this honour entail?” he slurs, swaying slightly as he sits up in his seat. Parkinson lowers her half-eaten wrap, her face lighting up in excitement.

“Much, much more dancing and alcohol,” she says.

-----

He has no fucking clue how he’s ended up on the floor of this loo. It’s a huge, posh loo, too. The floor is so clean he could probably eat off it. The thought sends his head into the toilet once more, though.

“Ergh,” is the only sound he’s able to make once he’s done vomiting. He’s trembling slightly as he reaches out to flush the toilet. Merlin. He tries to focus on remembering how he got here.

Memories of the night flash through his mind like a film: the three of them standing in the cold, bickering about something; purchasing gin at an off-licence and then having that bottle passed to him to do the honours of polishing it off. All thoughts of pulling for the night being completely abandoned. He recalls Malfoy twirling Parkinson down the street before Malfoy grabs him to do the same as they make their way towards the tube to head to Camden Palace for what Parkinson promises “will be the best rave, ever.” A small capsule with a white powdery substance in it is pressed into his palm by her as soon as they enter the rave, and they all take it together. Several shots later, Harry feels such an intense connection to Parkinson and Malfoy that he tells them exactly this for at least an hour straight. 

Parkinson snogs some random girl for ages, and while she does that Harry dances his arse off with Malfoy, sweat-slick and with glow-sticks in hand as the club pulses around them in a blur of UV lights, colourful dummies, whistles, and multi-coloured beads. All too soon, he’s tugged back out into the cold again by the two Slytherins. There’s more dancing in the street, more laughter, more heartfelt confessions like how Malfoy’s always wanted to be his friend and how Parkinson never really liked that twat Voldemort from the start, and how Harry really is fucking lonely. So lonely. Always lonely. But not right now. Right now everything is perfect. It’s all said in passing and it’s easy and fun and he hasn’t felt this at peace in a while. Someone shouts at them in the distance to “put that down and fuck off!” and then comes horrible insults and laughter in a deep, posh accent, and, well, that’s all he remembers.

He completely blacks out after that.

Only to regain his surroundings with his head in a porcelain toilet, blinking rapidly in a glaring bright light as he sits back on his legs.

He finally steps out into a wide, long hallway, his eyes bulging at the enormity of it. There are paintings of landscapes and beautiful still-lifes lining the walls before the hallway opens up to a mammoth of a sitting room. One entire wall is made up of nothing but windows, the city of London on display in its lit and inky black glory. 

He carefully makes his way to an armchair across from Malfoy’s state-of-the-art entertainment centre. He feels weak and suddenly very cold, but surprisingly a lot clearer than earlier, having chundered at least half of the liquor he’s consumed this evening. He still feels a bit dazed, and realises that he keeps clenching his teeth, his jaw now starting to ache. Whatever drug Parkinson gave him must be wearing off because embarrassment and anxiety is now replacing the euphoria he felt earlier as he blearily takes in his surroundings. He needs his wits about him now that he’s in the proverbial snake’s den. Feeling too dizzy to contemplate his predicament any further, he pulls a pillow from the armchair beside him to cuddle against his chest. It anchors him, and the material feels like heaven in his hands. His gaze trails over to Malfoy who’s standing in the open space kitchen fixing himself another drink. How in the bleeding fuck Malfoy hasn’t keeled over from alcohol poisoning, he doesn’t know, but just watching him makes Harry’s own stomach roll unpleasantly. 

Malfoy takes a swig from his glass of prosecco. “We need music,” he suddenly declares.

Parkinson arrives back into the massive lounge room cradling the open bottle of prosecco and drapes herself across the chesterfield. “Merlin’s beard, Draco, it’s 4am, do we really need to start with the muggle music?” 

“Yes!” Malfoy happily shouts as he stumbles over his own feet and catches himself on the corner of his chesterfield. His eyes are bloodshot as he staggers onwards to his rather impressive entertainment centre. Harry can see from his spot the neat twenty-ish rows of CD cases and vinyls lining the wall, and upon closer inspection, notices all of Malfoy’s music is categorised by genre, and further by musician, and finally by year of release. Merlin. What an anal-retentive arse.

“I don’t want to hear anymore music,” Parkinson whines before drinking directly from the bottle. For someone as posh as Parkinson, he’s surprised she’d do something so…ordinary.

“What are you going to play?” Harry asks.

“Aha!” the blond says, opening a CD case and slipping it into the player. 

A soft vocal tutting spurts, backed with a sweeping bass and saxophone, from the unseen speakers. Harry knows he’s heard this song blasting from Ginny’s room before. But in his drunken state, he’s slow to grasp the name of the singer. It’s so familiar. 

Björk,” Parkinson groans.

“Björk!” Harry exclaims in recognition as he stares up at Malfoy, whose eyes are now closed as he sways to Unravel.

“This…this song, this song,” Malfoy says reverently. “I love this song. It’s so beautiful,” Malfoy happily slurs.

“I beg to differ,” Parkinson says, aghast. “You’re not going to start crying again, are you?” Pansy asks, staring pointedly at Malfoy.

“Shut up! That was one time!” Malfoy’s says, body tensing.

“You mean every time this song comes on…”

“I’d never guess that you’d be interested in this kind of music,” Harry says. He’s suddenly painfully reminded of Ginny again. She really is a huge Björk fan, he feels silly that it took him so long to recognise the song she listened to on repeat after her break up with Parvati, still clinging onto hope that she’d come back to her. He wonders how she’s doing tonight. He’s pulled from his thoughts as Malfoy spins towards him with a tight, almost manic grin on his face. “Oh, erm,” Harry says, startled.

“It was a birthday present from Bart,” Malfoy says. “He was able to get Björk herself to sign the case.” Malfoy shoves the case under Harry’s nose and he notes the incomprehensible scribble in black marker on the front of the Family Tree boxed set and Homogenic CD.

“At least he gave it to you personally and not through his secretary again…”

Pansy!” Malfoy hisses, glaring daggers at her. Now feeling slightly uncomfortable, though intrigued by the bits of personal information Parkinson shares, Harry clears his throat to break the tension. 

“That’s really awesome, er, you know, the CD. Where’s your boyfriend?”

“Bart” Malfoy starts, “is able to get anything. He knows all the right people.” Harry sits quietly. He realises that Malfoy didn’t answer his question, and that his praise about Bart oddly reminds Harry of an eleven-year-old Malfoy saying the same things about his father. 

Parkinson makes an impatient noise and rolls her eyes. “He’s on another one of his business trips...leaving poor Draco alone once again,” she answers for him.

Malfoy pouts. “He hates being away from me, Pans. Don’t be an arse. He brings me the loveliest gifts from the cities he visits.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure. For fucks sake, we know already— you think your boyfriend is amazing,” Parkinson groans. “My boyfriend has the best connections, my boyfriend is a barrister, my boyfriend owns a ski chalet in St Martin de Belleville, my boyfriend has a fat cock —” Parkinson says, her naturally clipped, husky voice deepening as she adopts a whiny tone to affect Malfoy’s voice. Malfoy, apparently not fond of being mimicked, quickly moves towards her and in a fit of giggles and squeals, ends up with nearly half his body weight collapsed on top of Parkinson, trying and failing, to suffocate her with his hands.

“I do not sound like that, you daft cow!” he hisses, pinching her on the arm.

“Ow!” she cries, swatting away his hands. Malfoy moves away from her only to pull Parkinson forcefully onto his lap, her frightfully short skirt rising to expose her thonged arse as she rights herself in Malfoy’s lap. When she recovers from her squeals, Parkinson takes in a deep breath and pinches him back much to Malfoy's squirming chagrin. “And yes, you do, you absolute wanker! He’s terribly in love with that old prune of a man, did you know, Potter? Heaven knows why,” she says fondly, draping an arm around Malfoy’s shoulders. Malfoy holds her about the waist.

Harry, who’s been relatively quiet throughout their wrestling, looks over at their entwined position. He’s a bit taken aback, seeing Malfoy this playful.

“You’re such a bitch,” Malfoy laughs, shaking Parkinson.

She grins as she jumps from his lap to make her way towards the stereo to view the CDs. “And you’re a crazy person, Draco Malfoy!”

“I’m not crazy,” Malfoy says, falling onto his back with a loud, dramatic huff, his glass of prosecco now empty and rolling across the floor. 

“Oh, no one would suspect you of being crazy, Malfoy,” Harry offers. “Only that you’ve been in a bad mood for the last twenty-two years.” He smiles because even Parkinson barks out a laugh.

“You must think you’re so clever Potter, but I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person.”

Harry snorts. “Fuck off.”

The music suddenly stops, Parkinson changing the disc out and replacing it with what Harry recognises as Tricky’s Hell is Round the Corner. The soft, lonesome beat and slick words has Harry’s eyelids feeling heavy. He smiles as Parkinson begins a slow dance in the middle of the room, her eyes closed as she cradles her bottle of prosecco to her chest. His eyes then flit over to Malfoy, still sprawled on the chesterfield now with his mobile extended before him, completely focussed as his thumbs dance across the keypad.

The last thought Harry has before passing out is whether or not Malfoy will text him like that one day.

---------

When Harry wakes, every bone and muscle in his body is on fire, his entire jaw feels like someone repeatedly punched him, and his brain feels like it’s trying to squeeze from out of his ears. Malfoy and Parkinson clearly didn’t think to wake him to send him home, or at least suggest he sleep on the sofa instead of the armchair. He groans loudly, stretching his body out as carefully as possible to avoid any sudden sharp pains. 

When Malfoy stumbles into his massive sitting room, he looks endearingly rumpled in a tattered white t-shirt and grey pyjama bottoms. His hair is all over his head and there are dark circles under his tired eyes. He jumps when he sees Harry. 

“Good grief, Potter, what are you still doing in my house?” Malfoy asks in a raspy voice, sounding genuinely surprised. 

Harry groans loudly, his fingers coming to scratch his scalp, which he quickly realises is a bad idea. Merlin, even his scalp hurts...“Dunno.”   

Huh...Well. I’m going to go make a pot of coffee. Pansy’s an absolute beast in the morning without it. Feel free to see yourself out of my house,” Malfoy says with a shake of his head, shuffling on bare feet towards his kitchen. 

That’s all Harry needs to hear to get up. As he peels himself from off the armchair despite his protesting muscles, Malfoy says lightheartedly, “Or, you can have a cup of coffee with us and then fuck off.” 

He’s so shocked by the invitation that several seconds pass before Malfoy turns away from his fancy coffee machine to stare at him, a pale eyebrow quirked. “Well?” 

“Er, yeah. Thank you,” Harry says, the shock clear in his voice. Malfoy smirks, and turns back to the machine. Harry stumbles over to the long island in the centre of the kitchen, gingerly perching on one of the tall, black sleek stools. 

“Oh, and Potter?” Malfoy asks, not turning around. 

“Yeah?"

Malfoy sticks out his index finger. “How the hell did those things get in here?” Harry follows Malfoy’s finger, pointed towards the lift where there are three perfectly lined-up traffic cones.

Harry bursts into laughter despite his aching head. “Oh, Merlin!” Malfoy joins in his laughter.

Merlin fucking wept, you lot need to shut the fuck up RIGHT NOW before I cut your bollocks off. I’ve a raging headache and so help me, Draco, if I don’t have a cup of coffee in my hands by the time I make it out the loo, I will disembowel you,” says Parkinson from the opposite end of the room.

“She likes to talk to me as if I’m one of her assistants,” Malfoy murmurs with a wink.

As Harry chuckles, albeit quietly, he realises that he can get used to being around Malfoy like this.

 

Like friends.


 

OCTOBER 2002

 

Harry softly knocks on the door of Ginny’s old bedroom.

“Come in,” comes Hermione’s soft voice. When Harry opens the door, he stops short.

Hermione is standing before the window overlooking the Weasley’s garden. The mid-afternoon light pouring into the room catches on the flower-shaped diamond-studded clips pinning her curly, coarse hair up into an elaborate chignon. He finally shuts the door and slowly walks up to her. When Hermione turns away from the window to fully face him, he gasps.

His eyes burn with tears as they roam over his best friend.

Hermione decided on a wedding dress that’s both traditional in the sense that it’s simple, but sexy, with the bodice having a deep plunging neckline made completely out of a sheer embroidered pattern, showing off her admirable bosom, delicate collarbones, and tiny waist. The skirt of her gown is tulle, full bodied and falls softly to the floor. For a fleeting moment, Harry wants to tell her just how much she looks like a beautiful princess. But he thinks with an inward chuckle that Hermione would never want to be compared to a princess.

“You are so beautiful,” he says in awe, his voice catching.

Hermione stares up at him, her face calculating. She purses her lips. And then promptly bursts into tears.

Shocked, Harry quickly places a comforting hand on her shoulder, looking over his own towards the door to see if Mrs Granger or Mrs Weasley are about to burst into the room and scold him for upsetting the bride.

“Shhh…it’s okay, it’s okay,” he says consolingly, but Hermione continues to choke out sobs, her body trembling. “Hermione,” he whimpers, suddenly scared. “Please…oh Merlin, what’s happened? Please, tell me what’s wrong,” he pleads, trying to keep his voice even despite the panic flooding him.

“Sorry,” Hermione grunts. She uses the very tips of her pale pink-painted fingers to carefully dab at the tears sliding down her cheeks. She blows out a breath of air and laughs nervously. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I’ve just been feeling so, oh, so shaky? So utterly terrified,” she says, shaking her head. “Ron is my soulmate and I’m excited to marry him. I’m so happy, Harry. But I’m…I’m also so scared, too.” She gives another nervous laugh before bursting into another bout of trembly tears. He wraps her into a hug and she flings her arms around him, resting her head against his chest. “I’m just...This is just…it’s just so big, Harry! Ron. Ron is ready to take this leap without a second thought and I love and envy him for it! I mean...what if I fuck this up and become a shit wife?” she asks, looking up at him with beseeching eyes. He’s momentarily shocked to hear her use two swears in one sentence.

“You could never be shit at anything, Hermione.” He squeezes her, hoping he can convey the trust he has in her strength through it. “Especially at this.”

“Are you sure?” she asks in a tiny, strained voice.

“Yes!” He leans in to kiss her cheek. “I’m so proud of you. You know that, right?” She nods against his chest. “Good. You’re about to do something really important and of course it’s scary, but you love Ron, and Ron loves you, and this is going to be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made in your life. You've put so much heart and soul into planning this wedding, into expressing your love, and you look absolutely gorgeous. You got this.”

She releases a long, shaky gust of air, nodding. “Oh, Merlin, Harry. You’re helping, but I’m not with all these tears,” Hermione whimpers as she wipes away the wet trails on her cheeks.

He smiles down at her. “It’s okay. It’s your wedding day— you can cry if you want to,” he says, kissing her wet cheek once more.

“Thank you, Harry,” she says softly, squeezing him before pulling away to peer into a vanity mirror. “Oh hell, Ginny’s going to kill me if I mess up my makeup,” she says, frantically searching the small table before her. She pulls out a thin, tubular stick, uncapping it and using the tip to brush her eyelashes — mascara, his brain helpfully supplies.

Harry walks over to the window, appreciating the vast Weasley grounds. The wedding will be held about a quarter mile from the house. Harry can see the pavillion the Weasley’s constructed for the vows to take place, and the tidy rows of white chairs, all made up of white wood, nearly enshrouded with large, beautifully blossoming roses in colours of purple, maroon, pink, blue, and violet. There's fairy lights decorating the path to the wedding, and then off to the side, a lavish gauzy white tent where the reception will be held.

Hermione comes to stand beside him, also peering out the window.

“It really is magical,” he whispers. 

Hermione sighs happily. “It is.”

Suddenly, Harry can hear voices in the Weasley garden directly below them. They both focus on the same person.

Dean is standing beside the signage stating to follow the white, fairly-lit trail to the wedding. A flute of champagne is already in his hands as he chats with Cho Chang. He feels his heart flutter to the bottom of his stomach, his shoulders tensing. There’s something about the way Cho is leaning into Dean’s personal space that causes a twist of pain to course through his entire body.

“I didn’t think he’d actually show, what with all his new exhibitions, and well, you,” Hermione says nervously, her shoulders slumping. “We sent a courtesy invite to Parvati, but she declined.”

Harry draws in a deep breath. There’s no way he’s going to cause a scene on his best friends wedding day because his ex-boyfriend decided to show up. He turns to Hermione, forcing a smile on his face. “Hey, listen to me. You don’t need to worry about any of that. This is your day and nothing will spoil it,” he says gently. Hermione’s eyes become overbright again. “Mind your makeup, love.”

 -------------

Harry finds a bit of solitary quiet from the reception by stumbling upon a white-marbled stone bench and matching table just a few yards away from the tent. There are a number of these little tables scattered throughout the garden for visitors to rest at. But right now, the wedding reception is in full swing and outside of the tent, it is blissfully quiet and empty. He’s brought a glass of champagne out with him and takes a grateful sip from it as he uses a finger to trace along the rough lines of the marbled tabletop.

The ceremony, simply put, was absolutely beautiful. He felt proud watching Ron and Hermione exchange their beautiful vows. Not once did Dean's presence cross his mind. 

Until now.

“May I sit here?”

Harry doesn’t look up. That voice has been a fixture in dreams and mingled with nightmares from the war for the last year. 

“If you must,” Harry responds coolly. Dean sits on the bench opposite of him.

“How have you—”

“Let me just stop you right there,” Harry hisses, lifting his eyes to glare at Dean. “I’m not interested in engaging in small talk with you, so don’t waste your breath.”

“Then I’ll cut right to the chase," Dean says, his eyes flashing dangerously. "I’ve been worried about you, Harry. I receive British news publications in New York, and I’ve been keeping tabs on you.”

White hot anger surges through Harry and suddenly there’s a faint scent of ozone around them as his magic violently swirls within him. “You don’t get to play concerned boyfriend or friend anymore, Dean.” 

“Even if we’re not together, even if you hate my fucking guts, I still care for you, Harry. I hate the thought that you’re hurting.”

“If you’re so concerned about the thought of me hurting, then maybe you should walk away. Having to see your mug really hurts my eyes.”

“Oh, fucking grow up, Harry! I’m trying to have an adult conversation with you here!”

Another surge of white hot anger goes through him. He starts to tremble. “You’re telling me to grow up? You, the same man-child who announced that you were moving to New York and then seconds later broke up with me. The same man-child that scheduled movers weeks in advance to come get your shit thirty fucking minutes after dumping me! The same fucking man-child that kept fucking me and making empty promises to me for those weeks knowing full well that you were planning to fucking leave me! You gave me no warning, no indication at all that something was wrong with us! The entire time we were together, you were thinking ‘me’ while I was foolishly thinking ‘us’, so don’t you dare fucking tell me to grow up!”

Dean hangs his head, and for a wild moment Harry entertains the idea of getting up and walking away, but then Dean’s shoulders begin to shake and Harry can’t move.

“Harry, I miss you,” Dean whimpers.

What?” Harry gasps. Dean meets his gaze and there are tears rolling down his cheeks.

“I fucked up, Harry. I miss you so much.”

“You don’t get to miss me,” Harry says numbly.  

“Please, let me explain—”

Harry abruptly stands, knocking over his glass of champagne, the contents spilling across his knee. He doesn’t even care, the desire to get away from Dean is too strong. How dare him. How fucking dare him say something like this to him after a year of ignoring him, a year of forgetting him, of letting go of him. He turns on his heel and all but runs back to the Burrow, his heartbeat pounding in his ears. As the lights of the Burrow come into view, he feels a hand wrap around his arm.

“Harry, wait—”

Harry jerks from out of his grasp, spinning around. “Don’t you fucking touch me!” he screams in Dean’s face.

Dean holds up both hands as a sign of peace. “Please. Fuck. Harry, please just listen to me…”

“What is it?” he snaps.

“Harry, I fucking miss you. I do. Merlin…

Harry violently shakes his head. “No. No. You don’t get to say that to me! I don’t want to hear it!” he shouts, turning around to continue the journey to the Burrow. Dean, however, has other plans and snatches Harry’s arm once more. Despite Harry’s strong build and wild thrashing, Dean hauls him over to Arthur’s shed of muggle junk.

“Get the fuck off me!” Harry cries, still kicking and thrashing even as Dean shoves him into the shed. Harry is immediately on him when the door slams shut, shoving Dean back, hard. Merlin, he wants to slam his fist against Dean’s jaw, wants to pull out his wand and hex him to unconsciousness, he just wants to hurt him, make him bleed, and make him feel sorry for even looking in Harry’s direction tonight.

Dean stumbles back into a table of gadgets, his breath knocked from him. But he quickly regains his footing, reaching out to painfully grip Harry’s shoulders. 

“Fucking listen to me, Harry!” Dean shouts, shaking Harry roughly. “I have to talk to you!”

“What?” Harry cries, his whole body taut with anger. “What do you possibly have to say to me?!”

“Harry!” Dean shouts. “Harry...I made a mistake…!”

No,” Harry hisses, anger and hate and regret and sorrow rushing through him like a wild torrent. His vision is blurred behind his glasses, and a part of him is sick that it's from tears. He wants to explode, he’s so humiliated that tears are running down his cheeks. He's fucking sick that Dean gets to see just how broken he is. It hurts even more when Dean frees one arm so he can wipe away the tears on his face. “No. Fuck you. You don’t get to say that to me!” he repeats hoarsely. Dean's hand moves to cup the back of Harry’s head before leaning in to kiss him. “No. Stop,” Harry mumbles against Dean's soft lips, trying and failing to push Dean back. As they feverishly kiss, a terrible, awful little voice in the back of his head whispers — you don’t want him to stop.

Dean pulls back. “I was stupid, I didn’t see how precious you were then. We were moving so fast — moving in together, taking holidays, meeting the parents — I got scared, Harry. I wasn’t ready to commit the way you were. I was selfish, and everyday since leaving you I’ve been miserable. I never should have left you. Harry, I…”

Harry feels like he’s about to vomit. Or collapse onto the ground. Or disintegrate into a fine dust. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know anything anymore.

“Harry. I love you,” Dean says, kissing him again. Harry yanks his head back, his lips twisting in disgust as he shakes his head, trying to rid his mind of those three little words.

“No…” he whimpers.

“Harry. I love you,” Dean whispers.

Fuck

He tips head first into Dean’s wide, sincere dark brown eyes. Something melts inside of him at those words—those words that he’s craved for so long. Words that Dean refused to say when they were together and happy. Hearing him say them now, it’s like a hole has been filled in Harry’s heart. Desperate! — shouts that same little voice. Harry growls and crushes his mouth against Dean’s, the kiss frantic and angry. Dean’s hands twist in Harry’s hair and after a few more moments of kissing, he tugs Harry’s head back in the way Harry used to love when they were together. When they were happy.

“I still love you, Harry,” Dean says. “Please. Please, let’s try again.” 

Oh yes...yes.

"Please, don’t hurt me again...because I still love you, too."

 

And just like that, he lost his head.

 

Chapter Text

Hermione smiled widely as Luna took a seat before her, the camera already rolling.

Luna looked very tan, her dirty blonde hair flowing down her back, and her clothing as loud as ever. She was dressed in a purple, lime green, and white striped dress.  

“You look great, Luna,” Hermione complimented. “You’re simply glowing.”

“Why, thank you. I attribute the glow to the Ayahuasca.”

“Pardon?” Hermione asked, startled. Just then, Rolf approached the table. With his hulking figure next to Luna’s short petite frame, he looked like a giant.

“Thanks for waiting for us, Hermione. I didn’t miss anything, did I?” Rolf asked as he draped one large, muscled arm over Luna’s shoulders.

“No, not really. Luna, did you say Ayahuasca?” Hermione’s eyes bulged.

“Oh, yes. See, Rolf and I decided to visit Peru and met a Shaman that we stayed with for five days.”

Hermione blinked. “My God, that’s…”

“It was amazing,” Rolf laughed. “To think, we were just exploring the Peruvian Amazon after hearing from the locals about a rare breed of Bowtruckles along the Apurímac River…”

“Bowtruckles are usually found west of England or in Germany, you see…” Luna said.

“And sometimes in Scandinavian forests,” Rolf supplemented.

“So we were eager to find this rare nest,” Luna placed a hand on Rolf’s knee. “But while there, we ran into this Shaman who was very kind and brought us back to his tribe. He said he could tell there was something lingering between Rolf and I.”

Rolf nodded sagely. “See, Luna and I broke up for a while a couple of years ago. It was a very short break, at the time our careers were going in separate directions, she still wanted to travel as an independent Magizoologist and I was being headhunted for a consultancy role with the Daily Prophet.”

“I broke things off because I felt we were not ready.” A small sad smile graced her pretty face. “We both still had so much to do on our own that we were seriously holding one another back.”

“So when we finally came back together, it was our second chance to get things right,” Rolf said. “When the Shaman recognised that we were still carrying the pain from our first break up, he offered to help us purge it.” Luna nodded as she wiped away tears that were now rolling down her cheeks. Rolf held her tighter.

“It was the most beautiful, most spiritual connection I’ve ever experienced with another person. We ended up vomiting out all of our pain, our insecurities, and our fears about our relationship. We became one with the earth, but more importantly, we became one heart, one mind, one soul. I love Rolf and he loves me and we’re ready to move forward with a lightness between us.”

Hermione sat back, her eyes wide, completely stunned. “That sounds so beautiful. I’m so happy for you both.”

“Thank you,” Rolf starts. “We just want you all to know that when it comes to building a healthy relationship it’s okay to step back to reevaluate things, and then if it’s worth healing, offer a second chance. Accept a second chance.”

“I agree. You may learn new things about that person you’ll want to treasure forever,” Luna said. “No one is perfect, but with a little time, you can grow to be the best you can be. For yourself. For the one you love.”


DECEMBER 2002

 

“I don’t know, Gin, I just don’t see why I need to start dating again. It’s only been a week since Dean left. Again,” he says, stressing the again part more as a self-flagellation than a reminder to Ginny. Merlin, he feels like a sack of rubbish. Ginny, once again, has been his source of comfort after Dean’s departure. His renewed whirlwind romance with Dean only lasted a few months.

Merlin, he should have fucking known better than to give that twat another chance. It had been great the first month together, falling back in love, feeling safe and happy. But soon Dean became restless, aloof, and impatient. Harry knew the signs now, but it still came as a shock when he came home from grocery shopping one afternoon to find that all of Dean’s belongings were gone. Kreacher handed him the apology letter Dean had left him: Unable to commit. Unable to move forward. Unable to love Harry.

He’d been in a dissociative state for the entire week, but now Ginny has convinced him to leave his house. They had decided to head to Waterstones off Piccadilly and Harry was finding that with the cold winter air, the fog previously flooding his brain was dissipating. He was starting to come back into himself again.

He distracted himself from his somber thoughts by picking up a CD of Spice Girls: Spiceworld and Madonna’s Ray of Light, which was half-priced. He was contemplating putting the CDs in his basket when Ginny snorted.

“Merlin, has it only been a week?” She takes note of the CDs in Harry’s hand. She plucks the Spice Girls from him and with an approving nod tosses it into his basket. She then grimaces, grabs the Madonna CD and puts it back on the stand. “Don’t remind me actually. Honestly, Harry. Look at us. We’ve slept with the same tragic bloke. We dated each other, broke up, your bloke leaves you again, and I haven’t had a single date since Ron and Hermione’s wedding,” Ginny says histrionically. While she’s distracted in Punk Rock, Harry makes a grab for Ray of Light. “We’re shit at relationships. It’s some cosmic curse that we’re this bad at it. Though, surely a quick shag with someone will help put all thoughts of Dean aside.”

Just the idea of shagging someone new makes Harry’s stomach clench painfully. It’s too soon, isn’t it?

As they exit the music section of the bookstore, Ginny gasps and grabs him roughly by the elbow. Despite his pained hiss, she pulls them behind the nearest bookcase.

“Damn it, Gin—” he starts, but her glare eerily reminds him of Mrs Weasley, and it silences the rest of his complaint. She quickly peers around the bookcase again.

“You will not believe who’s on the other side!” Ginny whispers excitedly.

“Who?” bewildered, Harry tries to crane his neck to look over the shelf, but Ginny tugs him back down.

“It’s Draco bloody Malfoy! Merlin, I haven’t seen him in years…of all places…a muggle bookstore!”

Malfoy?”

“Yeah. He’s over there,” she jerks her head towards the Self-Help section, and then says with a hint of amusement, “looking like that.

At her tone, Harry stands a bit straighter and chances a look between the cracks of the shelves. He can see Malfoy’s lithe form, a rather large Waterstones shopping tote and folded jacket swinging in his right hand. His white blond hair is impeccably tied back from his face. He’s impossibly trendy in fitted black dungarees ripped at the knees with a thick cable crew burgundy coloured jumper. From this coveted position, Harry can see the Dark Mark is once again shamelessly exposed. But Malfoy looks gorgeous and comfortable as he bobs his head. It’s then that Harry notices the white headphones attached to the silver iPod poking from out of his back pocket. Of course, with Malfoy blending into the Muggle world he’d have the latest, most popular new product on the technology market, Harry thinks with slight irritation. The blond stops in the Self-Help section, looking around shiftily before pulling down a book and tossing it into his already full tote. Harry’s pulled out of his ogling at Ginny’s low whistle.

“It’s just not normal for someone so awful to look that good, it’s not,” she mutters, shaking her head.

“He looks like he belongs on the bloody cover of some hip magazine,” Harry whispers, his gaze snapping back to Malfoy. It is rather unfair how gorgeous Malfoy is. He takes a moment to look down at his own beat-up trainers, stained blue jeans, plain red T-shirt and long-sleeved flannel shirt tied around his waist. Fuck. He then glances over at Ginny, who looks better in her scandalously short black skater dress, black Doc Martens, and sparkly aqua blue tights. Neither of them had brought a coat, what with a discreet Warming Charm and Apparition readily available to them.

“What’s he doing here?” Ginny asks, shaking her head.

“He’s living as a muggle,” Harry whispers back.

He recalls that very first time he ran into Malfoy in the muggle world at Pret , texting on his muggle mobile, with his rich, older muggle boyfriend coming to meet him. He then remembers the brief, almost flirtatious conversation he had with him that day he ran into him at St Pancras Station. And finally, that insane night of drinking with him and Parkinson. They had parted ways on good terms—almost like mates.

“How do you know that?” Ginny asks, eyeing him suspiciously. Oh. That’s right, he thinks, he’s never told anyone about his chance meetings with Malfoy.

“Saw him a while ago,” he starts off casually. “He’s dating some older man, a muggle...”

“He’s queer?” Ginny asks, excitement once again in her voice. Harry nods. “Well, well, well, Malfoy. Welcome to The Family,” she giggles before ceasing and shooting him a suspicious, narrowed glance. “When exactly did you find all this out?”

“Er…I saw him last year…” he lies.

“Right…Well, then. Maybe he’s not dating the muggle anymore.”

“So?” he says a bit too defensively.

“You’re right,” Ginny says sarcastically. “Why on earth would you be interested in that possibility?” He can feel his cheeks burning. “Now’s your chance, Harry. All those years of obsessing and stalking Malfoy are about to pay off big time.” She suggestively wiggles her eyebrows at him.

When he leans over to pinch her, she hisses out a “Fuck!” whipping around to nudge him in the side, her long red hair smacking him in the face in the process. “He saw me! ABORT! ABORT! He bloody saw me!”

“Ginny—” he begins, perturbed by her outburst, but before he can chastise her, she’s tugging him away from their hidden spot and towards the staircase.

“Potter?”

Harry stops short and slowly turns to face Malfoy. The blond looks a bit startled, and fuck, he looks ridiculously attractive, his silvery eyes full of disbelief. Malfoy pockets his headphones and there are high pink patches on his pale cheeks.

“Oh, hello Malfoy,” Harry says kindly.

“I thought that was you,” Malfoy says, coming to stand before him, face impassive. “It’s been awhile.”

“Yeah, I’m just here shopping with Ginny…oh, was shopping with Ginny,” he mutters, turning to see Ginny exiting down the stairs. She waves at him as she disappears. He turns back to Malfoy with a shrug.

“So, how are you?” Malfoy asks, moving his tote from one hand to the other. Harry catches a glimpse of many medical books, in addition to a Getting Past Your Breakup book he saw Malfoy add before being spotted. He wonders if this is for Malfoy or if he’s purchasing it for someone else.

“Fine,” he responds, running a hand through his hair. “Definitely. Er, how’s Bart?”

Malfoy smirks, “Oh, Bart’s fine. I hear he’s fine.”

“Er,” Harry blinks. “You’re not with him anymore?”

“We just broke up,” Malfoy says slowly, averting his eyes. Oh. For himself then.

“Merlin, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah, well, you know,” Malfoy says, shrugging. He pauses and then says, “So what about you?”

“I’m not dating anyone right now. I mean, er…I was dating Dean Thomas again, but er, we’re not together anymore, again , either.” Harry fidgets.

“I’m sorry. When did that happen?”

“A week ago.” He shrugs.

“Sorry.” Malfoy gives him a small, quizzical frown.

”How long ago for you?” Harry asks.

“Ah, just a month. Isn’t it amazing, the timing?” Malfoy asks dryly. Harry snorts.

“If it’s any consolation to you, from my experience, a lot of people break up this time of year. It’s just the done thing. Maybe it’s the pressure of the approaching holidays. As soon as there’s a hint of Christmastime, they know it’s now or never to get out,” Harry says with a chuckle before becoming solemn. “I fucked up this time around, though. Should have known better.”

“Would you, uh, want to talk about it?” Malfoy asks awkwardly.  

 

That’s how Harry found himself sitting across from Malfoy at a nearby chippy, spilling his guts about his second break up with Dean to a surprisingly sympathetic and endearing Malfoy. He hadn’t at all expected Malfoy to reciprocate, either.

“If you can recall, when Bart and I started seeing each other, I was still very new to the Muggle world, so it was quite difficult getting to know him at first with all the secrets I had to keep, but I wanted to make it work. Despite all odds, our lives became quite entwined. I knew all his friends, he knew all of my new uni friends and Pansy. We fell in love,” Malfoy says bitterly. He takes a careful bite from a piping hot chip, chews, swallows, and sighs. “We lived together, but we weren’t going to get married because every time someone we knew got married, it ruined their relationship. Throw children into the mix, and they practically never had sex again. Bart would say it’s a horrid secret none of your married friends ever tell you about married life. But, we were happy just being together, and I used to think, ‘How marvellous that we have this wonderful relationship! We can have sex on the kitchen floor and not worry about kids interrupting us or we can fly off to France to visit Mother on a moment’s notice.’ But one day I was talking to a colleague of mine about how excited she was to start a family with her husband and I just – I don’t know, I just lost it. I started crying,” Malfoy says slowly, looking sheepish and staring intently at the basket of thickly cut chips between them. Malfoy had a small white cup of ketchup to dunk his side of the chips in, whereas Harry had doused his side rather messily in vinegar and ketchup. Malfoy had called him an animal. “I went home, and I said, ‘the thing is Bart, we never fly off to France on a moment’s notice.’”

“What about the kitchen floor?” he quips softly, hoping to pull Malfoy at least a little bit out of his melancholy.

Malfoy’s gaze snaps back up and he gives a startled laugh. “You know, not even once ,” he says with a crooked smile. “It is this terribly cold, expensive Gaudí-inspired mosaic tile from Spain, but anyway—” Malfoy waves a hand in the air dismissively.

“Right,” Harry interjects, an eyebrow lifting in amusement.

“—we talked about it for a long time, and I said, ‘this is what I want...what I need,’ and he said, ‘well, I don’t, so I guess it's over then’ and he left. Just like that. And really, I’m fine. More than fine. The moment he left I was over him and every time I think about it since, I’m more convinced that I’m happy with how things ended. Really, I feel nothing for him. Nothing .”

“Wow. You sound…really healthy,” he says, a tight, worried frown crossing his face. Malfoy glowers at him. “Did you, I mean, do you, want children?”

“I don’t know,” Malfoy says reluctantly. “I just wanted more, maybe that meant children in the long run. Maybe the possibility? I at least wanted marriage. Otherwise, what is all this for? All the dating, the getting to know one another, bloody living together? Why can’t I have…what my parents have?” Malfoy says reluctantly. Harry stirs a bit. They haven’t ever spoken in-depth about the war or the Malfoy’s. “They’re still married, for thirty years now. Despite all the horrific shite Father put Mother and I through, I know somewhere in his mind he knows he was wrong about every decision he made during the war. My Father loves us dearly, and I forgive him. I want to experience the same kind of love he has with Mother. Before – when I was a child, I would sometimes catch them dancing together, or sharing their desserts, or just wrapped in each other’s arms listening to the wireless. They were... are ...always so content, so in-tune with one another. I just…want that.” Harry nods, knowing exactly what Malfoy means. He wants forever . Harry remembers the painful look on Lucius Malfoy’s face the day he was read his verdict and taken to Azkaban, pulled away from him wife and child. He doesn’t feel bad for the elder Malfoy, but, he is sympathetic about Malfoy’s nostalgia and wistfulness.

The air between them feels tense and uncertain now and he wants to dispel it quickly. “I never pegged you for such a romantic, Malfoy,” he says after a swallow.

I’m not, really,” he says, rolling his eyes. “At least I got the flat. I’ll never be able to find another 2-bedroom penthouse in Fitzrovia as lovely as that one. Pansy’s moved in just a few days ago, actually.”

“How’s that going for you?” he asks archly. Malfoy huffs.

“Terribly,” Malfoy says, frustrated. “She won’t stop whingeing about redecorating! Bart and I just remodelled the—” Malfoy cuts himself off, an embarrassed flush spilling across his cheeks. He stares down into his empty side of the chip basket, blinking rapidly as his breathing suddenly becomes long, harsh drags.

“Hey,” Harry says softly, wanting to reach out and touch Malfoy consolingly, but he keeps his hands to himself. “It’s okay. It’s...it’s okay to miss him and talk about the good times—”

“No!” Malfoy barks, causing Harry to jerk back in his seat. “I’m sorry, but no. I don’t want to talk about him anymore, alright?” Malfoy mutters.

“Yeah,” he starts, clearing his throat. “Whatever you want, Malfoy.” Silence stretches between them, but it’s more reflective than anything awkward. Before Harry can think twice about the words swimming in his head, he babbles out — “Would you like to have dinner with me sometime? Just dinner.” Merlin, what was he doing trying to be friends with Malfoy?

Malfoy blinks at him. “So we’re going to be friends now?”

“Well, yeah,” Harry says slowly. “You can be my very first gay male friend,” Harry teases.

Malfoy scowls at him half-heartedly. “We gay men aren’t keen on being collected by confused little straight boys.”

“You know I’m not confused—”

“Joking, Potter,” Malfoy says with a roll of his eyes. Fidgeting, he watches as Malfoy begins to pack up his belongings. He swallows his nerves and goes for it one more time.

“So…would you, er…like to get dinner sometime? Just as friends,” he adds quickly when he notices the slight stiffening of Malfoy’s shoulders.

“Oh…I thought you were having some sort of episode that caused you to sprout nonsense,” he drawls, eyeing Harry sceptically. At Harry’s dark scowl, Malfoy seems to relent in his insults, instead looking at him with bemusement. “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”

Harry rolls his eyes. “Why? Because you think two attractive, queer men can’t be friends with one another?”

“When did I ever say or imply that?” Malfoy asks coolly, standing to shove his coat on, but Harry doesn’t miss the hint of amusement in his voice.

“At Pret near St Pancras,” Harry says, annoyed at Malfoy’s dodging.

“You’re quite mistaken. I would never say something so crass and problematic. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a shift at the hospital tonight and would like to drop all this stuff off home beforehand,” he says, gesturing to his shopping bags. “Have a nice day.” Malfoy gives him a curt nod, the corner of his mouth lifting just so as he slings his bags onto his shoulder and walks away.

“So is that a yes?” Harry calls out. Malfoy continues towards the exit, but does turn around briefly to send him a two-finger salute before leaving.

---

It takes Harry exactly ten minutes of brooding over an empty basket of chips to realise that Malfoy has somehow scribbled his mobile number on the napkin sitting directly in front of him. Harry will have to ask him one day how he did it without him noticing. Maybe he’ll ask the night they see each other face-to-face again. The thought sends a thrill of excitement up his spine at the prospect.  

He texts him right away.

 

H: Hi. It’s Harry :-)

D: Took you long enough, Potter. Pick me up at my place tomorrow at 20:00.

H: Didn’t c it rite away. N g8! Wotz ur addy?

D: Have you forgotten that you’ve been to my place before?

H: Ya. I woz drunk thx 2 Parkinson n it woz 4evr ago.

H: Addy?

D: Jesus fucking Christ, Potter.

D: Do you regularly spell in such an atrocious manner or is this type of torture reserved just for me?

H: Just 4 u. ur out in Fitzrovia, in a highrise ya? I can’t remember the # tho.

D: Tough shit, Potter. See you when I see you.

H: Tosser.

D: Ta.

***

“DON'T YOU DARE, RONALD BILIUS GRANGER-WEASLEY!” Hermione screeches, jetting past Harry in a furious blur of curls and burnt-orange and brown jumper. She jumps on Ron’s back, her arms flinging around his neck, legs following, leaving Ron no choice but to back away from the kitchen counter while using his strong, scarred arms to hold Hermione up.

“Oi! It’s just a taste!”

No. No bloody way are you going to taste that cake before your mum and dad’s even had a bite. I will kill you…”

“Easy,” Harry urges.

“Mate, best you remember these threats in case I come up missing one of these days,” Ron huffs, though affectionately, as he hoists Hermione up higher onto his back. From where Harry’s sat at their kitchen table, he can see one of Ron’s hands sneak to squeeze at her left arse cheek. He hides a smile as Hermione squeals.

“Divorce!” Hermione battle cries, nipping at Ron’s ear. “Honestly, Ron! It took me three tries to get it right; I want Molly to be the one to taste it properly.”

“But I can taste it for you right now.”

“No!”

Ron sighs, playfully jostling Hermione on his back before a wicked grin crosses his face. “It’s fine, Mione. I’m sure there are other, more interesting things I can taste from you later tonight,” Ron says in a low, salacious voice.

“RON!” Hermione gasps, her cheeks flushing as she tucks her head into the crook of her arm around Ron’s neck. “We have company!” comes her embarrassed, muffled voice.

“He doesn’t care.”

“Merlin, I am sitting here,” Harry groans. He watches as Ron sets Hermione back on her feet. She immediately pulls out her wand and with a flick places Molly and Arthur’s anniversary cake under a Stasis Charm. Ron suddenly grabs her about the waist, pulling her into a quick kiss before he just as quickly pulls away to busy himself with pouring them all a glass of wine. When Ron hands Harry his, he sips from it eagerly, amused and a bit envious of their sweet display of affection.

He’s trying to kill time before his...whatever...with Malfoy and decided to pop over to Ron and Hermione’s. He was happy, for entirely selfish reasons, that they had postponed their honeymoon. For them, it was to celebrate Ron’s parents anniversary; for Harry, it was so he had his best mates nearby while he suffered from his most recent breakup with Dean.

“So, are you going to tell us who you’re going out with?” Ron asks, his own glass in hand.

Hermione had initially quirked an eyebrow in askance when Harry stepped through the fireplace dressed nicely in smart fitted black trousers and a thin, comfortable emerald green jumper, a thirty year old bottle of Bordeaux he fished out from the Black cellars in hand. He had told them he had a dinner...thing...with someone and they had both smiled, Ron giving him a good ribbing about letting go of his playboy status to date again and put Dean behind him. He feels weird because he hasn’t told them yet who he’s going to dinner with and he doesn’t really see why it’s important, it’s just Malfoy and it’s not like he’s thinking of Malfoy or this dinner as anything more than an outing with a potential friend, he doesn’t need to tell his friends what this is, and they certainly don’t need to know it’s Malfoy...right...at least not yet, and oh hell, he’s run-on sentencing.

“I’m er, actually going to dinner with Malfoy. You know, Draco Malfoy,” Harry says, feeling dumb. His friends stare at him in surprise.

“You’re telling me that you’re going on a date with...” Ron pauses rather dramatically, closing his eyes as his face contorts between a half-smile and a half-scowl, before saying in a grave tone, “Draco Malfoy, the amazing bouncing ferret…”

Hermione chokes on her sip of wine, coughing so hard that Ron has to wallop her on her back a few times before her coughs turn to raspy giggles. “Blimey!” Hermione cries in a very un-Hermione way. Harry sighs.

“It’s not a date. We’re just getting dinner.”

“I’m not really surprised,” Ron shrugs, ignoring Harry’s comment. “Mione told me ages ago that you two’ve been running into each other.”

Harry’s face is the picture of bewildered shock, his eyes meeting Hermione’s as she tries to busy herself with refilling her wine glass. “How do you know we’ve been running into each other?” Ron and Hermione share a look that immediately sets Harry’s teeth on edge. “What?” he snaps. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“Er...well,” Ron starts. “You see Harry, Hermione here has been running into Malfoy a lot, too.”

“We don’t run into each other, perse. I exchange emails with him from time to time,” she explains.

Harry remains silent, but his brain is trying to sort through the shock and confusion of this little known secret. He suddenly recalls something that Malfoy told him all that time ago at Pret after running into each other at St Pancras, about how someone actively helped him survive the Ministry’s brute bureaucracy to obtain his new life in the muggle world.

“You’re the one that helped Malfoy transition into the muggle world,” Harry says slowly, the pieces coming together. “Why...why didn’t you tell me?”

“To be honest I didn’t think it was any of your business what Malfoy was getting up to in the muggle world, we all know how you can get when Malfoy’s the subject,” she says briskly. “I offered him help because the Ministry’s treatment towards him was abhorrent, and then when he was settled in his new home and uni, I gave him my email address. I didn’t think he’d actually email me, but that’s neither here nor there. He mentioned a few times that you two have bumped into each other, that’s all. I didn’t think anything of it until now, you know, since you two are going on a date—”

“It’s not a date,” Harry repeats through numb lips, still shocked over this revelation and a bit angry that his friends still think he has an obsession with Malfoy...he doesn’t...not really. It’s not the same, at least. He doesn’t see Malfoy as an enemy anymore. He can understand why Hermione kept her involvement with Malfoy’s transition into the muggle world quiet, it is none of his business, but she could have somehow mentioned that they were corresponding ...

“Har, there’s no need to downplay it,” Ron says with a shake of his head. “I may not ever understand your draw to him, but, you’ve already shagged half the people from our year—”

“RON!” and “What the hell!” are shouted from Hermione and him, respectively.

“I’m just sayin’, I’m not at all surprised that you want to get into Malfoy's trousers. No judgement.”

“Sounds a lot like you’re judging,” Harry mutters behind his wine glass.

“Nah, I love you. You’re my brother, Har. And the facts are that you’re free to enjoy all the casual sex you want, nothing wrong there if that’s what does it for you, Merlin knows you’ve had a rough go at relationships lately. Who am I to get upset if you want to bloody shag Malfoy? Like, yeah, he’s a git, but one, Mione says he’s not all bad, and two, I trust that after all these years, you know what you’re doing when it comes to that menace. Go enjoy your date!”

Well if that’s not a blessing, then Harry doesn’t know what is.

“I appreciate that, Ron, but it’s still not a date.”

 

-------

Harry stands nervously in the foyer of a tall slate grey building. He’s sure he’s at the right place. There are no names on the lit-up directory, and per the list, there are two buttons that might lead to penthouses in the enormously posh building. His fingers skate over the buzzers for each flat, not at all eager to ring the wrong person. It’s then that the door leading to the main lounge flings open, a severe looking middle-aged woman clenching a small Pomeranian to her chest stepping out. She looks upon him with extreme interest, her shrewd eyes roaming his body from top to bottom. After an approving humshe opens her mouth.

“Are you lost?”

“Er—I’m not, actually,” he answers slowly. “I’m here for a…friend…of mine.” And wow, doesn’t that feel weird, calling Malfoy his friend? But it is true, at least for him. The woman is still eyeing him, but this time there’s a dawning realisation in her brown eyes.

“You’re looking for that strange man, aren’t you?” she asks.

Harry stands up straighter, running a hand through his hair. The woman gives him a chastising glare and he quickly drops his hand. “Sorry?”

“That strange and positively rude man in the Penthouse! He walks around with a cat on a lead in the courtyard! That cat is a menace…well, just yesterday it hissed at my poor Charles. And the nerve of that man to accuse my Charles of being uncouth and unable to interact with other animals! It’s not Charles fault that he nipped at the cat! It’s in his nature!” she nearly cries.

That certainly sounds like something Malfoy would say. “Did you say Pent—” Harry starts to ask, but she interrupts.

“—I say, what an absolute horror, the both of them!” At this, the small dog, Charles he presumes, barks in solidarity with its owner. “I’ve complained to the properties manager, but they’ve yet to take action against him…oh, it’s such a shame that Bart was capable of taking up such a sort!” She clenches at the dog tighter.

“Er,” he says. He doesn’t know what to say exactly in the face of this woman’s ire. “So you know him, then?” he tries.

Do I? I’ve lived in this building since it first opened five years ago. Bart was the only person to own the penthouse. I own the floor beneath it, by the way. It was a very selective process, you know, owning the penthouse in this building, but Bart was the stronger applicant and got the top floor. Then, three years ago, Bart tells me in the mailroom that his partner is moving in.” When she steps in closer to him, voice lowered, Harry flinches. “Do you know he’s a gay? I have no problem with the gays, but Bart is such a handsome man. I thought at the time, I’m quite certain he could find a more agreeable— female —partner. But he settled for some young blond waif of a man surely with him for his money.” Harry wants to laugh, because he’s pretty sure if Malfoy really wanted to, he could buy this entire building all on his own. The woman looks visibly upset by her assessment of Malfoy, so he doesn’t laugh. She does, much to his dismay, continue talking. “But now I’ve heard that Bart has moved out – gone! Without so much as a goodbye to me, can you believe it? And he left the waif with the penthouse. Well, how scandalous! I swear, that young man is bad for the building! Surely a nice boy like yourself isn’t friends with such a cretin?”

“I am,” Harry says tersely, the amusement he felt earlier draining from him. This woman is an utter terror and she strangely reminds him of Umbridge. His scarred hand flexes at the thought. “If you’ll excuse me,” he says as he buzzes the button labelled PH. The woman gives him a scowl that could rival Snape’s.

“How rude! I’m just trying to help you, young man—”

“That’s funny,” Harry interrupts. “You didn’t give me a chance to even ask for your help. And to be honest, I didn’t hear a single helpful thing come out of your mouth. Just a lot of hateful shite.” He’s surprised that he’s being so crass, but his rebelliousness outweighs his guilt.

“How dare you!” the woman gasps. “I’ll report you to the manager! You little fa–”

“Yes?” comes Malfoy’s bored drawl from the intercom. The woman has gone stiff and with a huff exits the little foyer out to the street. Harry releases a sigh of relief, feeling a bit nauseous at having dodged the rest of that woman’s ire.  

“It’s Harry.”

Well…Potter! I didn’t think you’d show, how lovely.”

“Can you buzz me in or not?” Harry snaps.

Hold onto your trousers!” Malfoy snaps right back. There’s an obnoxious buzz and Harry quickly makes a grab for the door handle.  

Upon the lift doors opening, Harry thrusts the bottle of wine into Malfoy’s arms. “Do you know your neighbour hates you?” he asks, stepping further into the familiar, large sitting room.

“Of course, they hate me— I’m skinny, I’m rich, and I’m a bit of a bitch,” Malfoy says in a sing-song voice, staring down at the bottle. “A thirty year old Bordeaux! Colour me impressed, Potter, you don’t strike me as the cultured type.”

“Ya, yer fouking roight bout at one!” he responds in his most exaggerated Cockney accent. It does the job because the other man freezes immediately, lifting large, surprised grey eyes from the bottle to Harry. Only a moment goes by before Malfoy bursts into great, heaping laughs.

“Potter, I had no idea you were capable of humour!”

“Yeah, thanks arsehole.”

“You are just full of surprises,” Malfoy muses under his breath, heading towards his kitchen. “How about we crack this open? Our reservation isn’t until nine…”

 

———

 

They’re sitting in a small Italian restaurant on the southern half of Charlotte Street when the waiter approaches them, pouring them a glass of water.

“Welcome. My name is Andrew and I’ll be your server this beautiful evening. Can I get you lovely gentlemen started on something to drink besides water?” Before Harry can answer, Draco starts talking.

“We’ll start with twelve of your Native oysters and an order of stuffed truffled Sicilian arancini. After we’ve fully completed our starters you may bring us our entrees. My friend here will enjoy the lobster and crab burger, with the seafood sauce on the side, please. I’ll be enjoying the lobster and tiger prawn linguine in your white wine sauce instead of the tomato and chilli sauce. If, for some reason that I just can’t fathom, you’re unable to complete such a minor request, I’ll begrudgingly accept butter and strictly tomato-based sauce. We’ll happily consume a bottle of Planeta Chardonnay throughout our meal, and will not need a second bottle when we finish the first, as my friend here is quite the lightweight. Ta.”

Harry’s closes his mouth, realising that at some point during Malfoy’s order it had slid open in shock. His eyes snap up to the waiter who is writing down the order. Andrew gives Draco a smile and collects their menus.

“Right away, sir,” he says, immediately disappearing.

“Er?”

“What, you’re not going to tell me that’s not what you wanted, are you Potter?” Draco asks smugly.

Harry really was going to order the lobster and crab burger, but he refuses to give Malfoy the satisfaction of knowing he’s right. “Do you regularly talk to wait staff in such a rude way?”

Malfoy’s laugh is nothing short of condescending as he smooths down his already smooth slate blue shawl-collar jumper. He looks fantastic in it, the colour making his eyes glow. “I’m not rude, just succinct.”

“You were rude.”

“Tomayto, tomahto.” Malfoy shrugs, sipping from his glass of water.

“I don’t know why I’m so surprised, you’ve always been a right git.”

“Starting on insults before the appetisers, eh, Potter? You really are uncultured.”

“Oh. Should I have waited until dessert?” Harry drawls.

“Don’t be ridiculous. During the entree would’ve been more appropriate,” Malfoy says, a glint of humour in his eyes.

“Speaking of ridiculous, how about that neighbour of yours, with the pomeranian?” Harry tuts.

Malfoy groans. “Christ, she is a massive pain in the arse! Is she who you ran into earlier?” Harry nods as Malfoy’s nostrils flare. “That woman and her yappy dog are a fucking nightmare.”

“I wanted to ask why she’s under the impression that you own a cat? I haven’t seen one in your place.”

“I have a neighbour a few floors down that suffers with debilitating arthritis. She used to take her cat, Jazzy, for walks around the courtyard, but has been unable to for a few months now. So, when I can, I take him for walks and run small errands for her.”

Harry sits back in his seat, astonished by the man sitting before him. “That’s incredibly selfless and kind of you, Malfoy,” Harry praises. Malfoy shrugs.

“I’ve always wanted a cat...a Kneazle...Bart was terribly allergic to cats, so the arrangement with my neighbour, Ms Butterworth, is symbiotic.” At Malfoy’s mentioning of wanting a cat, Harry’s brought back to that day in St Mungo’s, and apparently, the other man is, too. “You know...I never said thank you for helping me that day in Diagon Alley. I’m quite sure I would have been murdered had you not intervened, and no one would have lifted a finger to scrape my corpse up from the cobblestones.” Malfoy says this in a light tone, but Harry doesn’t miss the slight shudder that goes through Malfoy’s body. Harry’s about to respond when the waiter, Andrew, comes by with their appetisers.

“Oh, this looks delicious!” Draco exclaims.

When the waiter leaves, Harry reaches out to gingerly touch Malfoy’s hand. “I’m happy you weren’t murdered, Malfoy.”

“Me too, Potter. Me too.”

------

They make their way to Leake Street Tunnel after dinner. Harry’s surprised that he’s never been to this spot before, and he’s taken aback by all the graffiti and spiraling colours that decorate the tunnel and arches. He’s so in awe that it takes Malfoy wrapping a cool hand around his wrist with a tug to get him walking again. They pass a group of skateboarders and once they’re deep in the tunnel, Malfoy drops Harry’s wrist, looks around quickly, and pulls a tightly rolled spliff out of his pocket.

“Whoa,” Harry says, eyes going wide. “Is that what I think it is?”

“Well, it’s not a cigarette.”

“But you’re…a medical student.

“Well, technically a foundation doctor. But yes, Potter. I’m fully aware of my profession. Marijuana is quite possibly the safest, most holistic, most relieving agents out there.” Malfoy smirks at him, lighting the tip of the spliff. “Don’t tell me you’ve never smoked weed before, Potter. And take that stick out your arse, will you? We did pure MDMA together.”

“Remember doing that, do ya?” Harry asks smugly. He remembers the amazing time they had together that night, the heartfelt confessions they all shared. Malfoy does too if his blush is anything to go by. He sighs and takes the spliff from Malfoy. “I’ve never smoked weed before, but I’m not a Gryffindor for nothing.” Harry takes a puff from the joint, the smoke going down smooth as he holds it in. He exhales without coughing, the tendril of smoke long and curling before him.

“Excellent,” Malfoy says. He takes the spliff from him and begins to walk away at a leisurely pace. Harry starts after him. “It’s the best shite out there. Never underestimate medical students and their ability to find good weed, Potter. We know everything.” Malfoy pauses. “Well, not everything. I still can’t figure out how people put together a computer. I mean, Christ, I’ve read several texts on it and it’s still bloody confusing.”

Harry abruptly stops walking. Malfoy...something about Malfoy’s comments strikes him as odd. He suddenly feels a hazy weight trickle over the top of his head to the rest of his body. He starts to panic, now feeling very uncomfortable in this dimly lit, yet colourful underpass. He looks around before his gaze lands on Malfoy, who’s also stopped walking.

He said people...not muggles. Just people. Harry inwardly gasps.

Malfoy’s just standing there, all cool and collected, still puffing on the joint and watching him with curious grey eyes. “You’re not tweaking out, are you?” Malfoy drawls, an eyebrow raised in question.

Malfoy’s really fucking changed.

There’s a cackle of laughter from somewhere down the tunnel that pulls him from his thoughts about Malfoy’s significant personality change. Or maybe Malfoy’s always been this person but lacked the environment for his personality to really flourish? Harry doesn’t know, but he’s determined to find out. He finds that he can’t wait to become acquainted with all of Malfoy’s little idiosyncrasies, passions, fears, and Merlin, just everything.

“No. Just realising something I really want to do,” he finally whispers. Malfoy chuckles.

“You know what, Potter. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Don’t you?”

 


 

FEBRUARY 2003

 

When Harry meets Draco again, again, and again, it’s never on accident.

Being around Draco feels a bit like flying, he thinks. All harsh wind whipping through his hair, pulling his face almost painfully taut while his heart races with both fear and exhilaration as he speeds through a cloudless blue sky.  

They’ve been spending nearly every weekend together these past couple of months – catching a film here, strolling the National Gallery there, grabbing a cuppa or food everywhere. With his burgeoning medical career, Draco sometimes spends close to seventy hours a week at hospital. Whenever the blond does catch a break at work, he’s either texting Harry or Harry’s popping up at the hospital to take him to lunch.

Not a single day has gone by since striking up their friendship where they have gone a whole day without communicating with one another. Harry feels like he can just be himself around the git, because no matter how silly, cheerful, melancholic or just plain weird Harry is, Draco will always, without fail, call him an idiot. That kind of unwavering arsehole dedication is strangely comforting to him.

Draco is showing that level of dedication right now.

“You idiot,” he hisses, kicking Harry’s shin under the table. “Let me have a bite of your dessert!”

“No!” Harry says petulantly.

“Don’t hold out on me, Potter. I shared my gelato.” Harry scoffs, half a scoop does not qualify as sharing, he thinks as he eyes Draco’s now empty bowl.

Harry finds that the closer Valentine’s Day approaches, the more sickly he begins to feel. Draco has been a great help in alleviating some of his general malaise about the approaching faux-holiday. On some of Harry’s more depressing days, like today, Draco will drag him out bed to SoHo to find the best bakeries or fro-yo shops.

“On one condition, then.”

“What?” Draco asks, leaning forward, his smile so wide that a charming dimple makes an appearance in his right cheek.

“Come to the cinema with me tonight.”

Harry is momentarily distracted by the mischievous look on Draco’s face as he leans forward with his spoon to steal a bite from Harry’s tiramisu. Harry quickly pulls the dessert away before Draco can make another grab for it.

“Draco. Film. You. Me. Tonight.”

“Oh, Oh. I’d love to Harry, but…I can’t…” Draco starts, pulling back his spoon and suddenly looking uncomfortable.

“What, hot date later?” Harry snorts. Draco probably wants to do lab work in the hospital tonight. He can’t recall the last time Draco’s gone on a date.

“Well, yeah.”

Harry freezes, dropping the playful smile on his face as he clears his throat. “Really?”

“Yeah, and well, I was going to mention it but, I don’t know. I felt a bit strange about it.”

“What! Why?” he asks, surprised at the admission.

“Well, we’ve been spending so much time together...” Draco says, averting his gaze to his empty bowl.

“Hey,” Harry starts soothingly, reaching out to grasp Draco’s hand. “I think it’s great that you’ve got a date.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, of course.”

Draco still looks uncertain and Harry finds that he hates seeing that look on Draco’s face, and especially knowing that he put it there.

“You know, I’ll let you have the rest of my tiramisu if you promise to have a brilliant time tonight,” he says.

Draco chuckles, letting go of Harry’s hand to pull the dessert towards him. “Foolish man,” Draco says before taking a bite. “You know Harry, I think you should get back out there, too. I mean, serious dating. Take a break from all that mindless fucking.”

“Oh, I’m not ready,” Harry says, leaning back in his seat. “And sex with me is never mindless,” he says with a wink. Draco rolls his eyes, taking another bite from Harry’s dessert.

“You should try.”

“I wouldn’t be good for anybody right now,” he says in all seriousness. How can he think about dating someone when his wounds from Dean are still so fresh and raw?

Harry turns to stare out onto the street just so he can avoid the small sad smile Draco gives him. “You’d be great.”

Harry sighs, still looking away from Draco’s intense, pitying stare. He really wishes he could believe him.


MAY 2003

 

Harry is surprised that it’s not terribly busy in the Louis B. Maybel-Sterling Paediatric Wing today. There’s a beautiful mosaic of a jungle with lions, monkeys, elephants, giraffes and zebras right behind the receptionist desk. The rest of the wing is painted in a soothing sky blue with little animal drawings scattered across the walls. There are toys, books, puzzles, and a flat screen TV to keep the young patients occupied as their tired, panic-stricken parents fill out forms and speak to one another in hushed tones.

Harry always feels emotional and overwhelmed anytime he comes through this part of the Wing, the one that deals with oncology patients. Draco’s doing a rotation here, and his expertise in neuropathology comes in handy with certain cases. He’s promised to take Draco out to lunch today and waits patiently for him by the receptionist desk.

Richard, a cheerful curly-haired brunette with light blue eyes and a beautiful smile, is behind the desk today. Harry’s quite drawn to him. Whenever he comes by Draco’s wing of the hospital and Richard is there, they always flirt.

“He should be out quick sticks, Harry. Thanks for keeping me company while you wait,” Richard says teasingly. Harry loves how his name sounds in Richard’s soft, South Wales Valleys accent.

“Thanks Richard, you’re a gem. Oh, you’ve got a little something there,” Harry starts, leaning forward to pluck a piece of lint from Richard’s hair. Draco comes through the double doors that lead to the nurse’s station and examination rooms.

Draco’s holding the hand of a little girl, probably no older than four, as he leads her out to the front of the reception desk. A statuesque, dark-skinned woman with very high, sharp cheekbones, presumably the little girl’s mother, follows behind them. The little girl is adorably dressed in a bright yellow pinafore and white jumper. Her tiny braids are pulled up into a ponytail with little yellow and white rows of beads dangling from the tip of each braid.

Draco kneels before the little girl and pulls out of his white coat pocket a green lollipop.

“You were very brave today, Daraja,” Draco praises as he hands the little girl the lollipop. Her solemn little face lights up at Draco’s comment as she happily takes the candy from him.

“Thank you, Doctor D!” the little girl squeaks out. “See you soon?”

“Yes, my little superhero. Be sure to keep your invisible cloak of strength on, okay?” Draco asks, pretending to adjust something on the girl’s shoulders. Harry has to hide a smile at that. “There we go! And if you feel like it’s not working and you’re too tired or just feeling icky, it’s very important that you tell your mummy. She’ll bring you back right away so I can see what’s wrong.” Draco makes eye contact with the mother then, a look of understanding exchanging between them before Draco smiles down at Daraja. Harry’s breath hitches at the compassionate, gentle way in which Draco’s talking to this tiny little girl.

Harry’s finding that he can’t keep a tally anymore on all the little and big ways that Draco surprises him. Everyday he learns something new about the man that makes his fondness grow to monstrous proportions and consumes any and all negative thoughts he’s ever had about Draco. This was still Draco Malfoy— tall, blond, impossibly pale, and obnoxious, but this was not the same person from Hogwarts. Draco has grown into an intelligent, sweet, and compassionate man.

It rattles Harry to the core just how fond he is of Draco.

“Okay, Doctor D. I promise,” Daraja says around the lollipop. She steps forward and quickly hugs Draco around the neck, taking him off guard it seems from his startled laugh.  

When Daraja and her mother leave, Draco stands up, straightens his white coat, and shoots Harry a furious, warning look.

“Potter...there you are,” Draco says flatly.

“Hi,” Harry greets with a wave.

-

“Keep your paws off my receptionist,” Draco says, unbuttoning his white doctor’s coat. They’re alone now in an empty corridor heading towards the lifts.

“Why, are you dating him?”

“Of course not. I know how important it is to maintain a level of professionalism in a work environment...but you wouldn’t know anything about that, being the layabout that you are,” Draco sneers, running a hand through his hair.

“Oi! Someone is in top form today,” Harry says, poking Malfoy in the side with a finger. “And what does your work environment have to do with me?” he asks but rolls his eyes at Draco’s scowl. “Yeah, alright, whatever,” he says. “I guess I can keep my paws off your sexy receptionist.”

“Thank you for your sacrifice,” Draco deadpans.

“Anytime,” Harry says with a wink. When they reach the lift, Draco presses the down button and then crosses his arms against his chest. Harry can’t help but notice just how tired and a little sad Draco looks. “You were so great with her, you know?”

“What?”

“With your patient. You were brilliant...you just, I don’t know, you continue to surprise me, Draco. I’m really glad I got to see that side of you today.”

The doors to the lift finally slam open and they step inside the crowded space. Harry resigns himself to the quiet ride even though he wants to ask Draco more questions about the little girl in yellow. He’s surprised when Draco nudges him with an elbow to draw his attention.

He holds out a red lollipop.

“It’s sugar-free, but still very delicious. So here, have one for being such a great friend,” Draco whispers.

Oh, there goes that feeling growing in Harry’s chest again. Harry takes it with a smile, unwraps it, and happily plops it into his mouth.

Draco’s right — it is delicious.


DECEMBER 2003

 

It’s crazy how fast a year can fly by, but Harry suspects that it has a lot to do with the amazing people he spends his time with. Draco in particular has made this one of the best years Harry’s had, well, maybe in his entire life.

Draco had initially fussed at the prospect of dragging a Christmas tree in the snow with him, but as they start dragging the tree from the makeshift kiosk by Angel Station to Grimmauld Place, they each attempt to trip the other up, and it becomes a sort of game.

Harry’s nervous because in the year that they’ve been mates, this will actually be the first time Draco will visit Grimmauld Place. He doesn’t quite know why it’s taken the other man this long to visit. Maybe it’s because of Harry’s own self-consciousness. Despite the extensive remodelling he’s done over the years, some areas of the place are still a bit gloomy. But he knows, regardless of how Draco pretends to come off, he’s not shallow at all. Either way, he thinks some Christmas décor will brighten the place up. He at least wants the décor up before Ginny gets back from training in a week.

Once they drag the tree into the front lounge, with a flick of his wand the wireless turns on, crooning a rendition of O Holy Night.

Harry starts a fire, not at all watching Draco look around the house, his mouth in a shape of an ‘o’ as he slowly turns in a circle. Harry diverts his eyes when Draco finally faces him.

“You’ve really fixed this place up!”

Harry scratches through the beard he’s been growing out for the last couple of months as he looks around the lounge, trying to see the place through Draco’s eyes. It’s no penthouse, but this room in particular Harry has worked extensively on. Harry’s updated the previously Victorian-looking decor, washing away years of dark magic to expose the beautiful timberwork of the walls, the gleaming marble fireplace, the floor to ceiling oak panelling, and the gilded mouldings. It was the brightest room in the house, and one of Harry’s favourites.

“That’s right, you probably saw this place as a child,” he says, Draco’s nod confirming his guess.

“It was absolutely awful. I told Mother I never wanted to step foot in this place again.”

Just then, Kreacher pops up, dropping into a bow so low his long nose touches the floor. “Young Master Black! Kreacher is being so pleased you have reentered the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black after so many years! Anything you is be needing will be Kreacher’s pleasure of getting for you!”

“Oh!” Draco starts, exchanging an amused look with Harry. “Of course, thank you.” Kreacher drops into another deep bow before popping away, leaving behind an enormous box of the Black family heirloom ornaments from the attic.

Once the tree is upright, Harry starts to pull certain ornaments from the box. He blanches when he picks up a shrunken head with a santa hat on it. “So, how’s...er, what’s his name...William doing?” Harry asks as he places a bauble on the nearest branch. Draco begins to untangle the garland from his spot on Harry’s favourite settee. “He’s not pissed that you’re spending so much time hanging around a degenerate like me, is he?” he jokes.

Draco has been dating around for the last few months, but none of the men he’s been out with seem to stick beyond the first date. But for the past week, he’s been spending a lot of time with William, a posh muggle corporate investment banker who fits all of Draco’s dating criteria: filthy rich, sexy, and twenty years his senior. He probably would say Harry was a degenerate if they met.

“He’s fine. I like him a lot, but it’s only been a week,” Draco mumbles, sounding oddly defensive.

“Yeah, I suppose that’s a good amount of time to decide if someone is worth keeping around or not,” Harry says slowly, one eye trained on Draco. He watches as Draco savagely twists the garland in his hands while staring off into the fire. “Draco. Are you okay?”

Draco clears his throat and shrugs. “I’m fine...it’s nothing. It’s just...some of the things he says confuse me.”

Harry feels a nervous energy buzzing through him at the perplexed, hesitant tone, and he turns to face Draco. The other man is still staring into the fire, his pouty lips tugging into a grimace as he continues to twist the hell out of the garland. “Like what?” Harry asks imploringly.

“Like,” Draco starts, cheeks flaming as he stares down at the mangled piece of garland in his hands. “Like. How good he is to me. How kind and attractive he is and how I...how I owe it to him to be nice to him and to go to bed with him already.”

“What?” Harry asks incredulously.

“Yes. He’s just, worried, I suppose.”

“Worried...that you two won’t have sex?”

“Well, I guess when is his greatest concern.”

Harry shifts uncomfortably, not really knowing what to say but knowing they absolutely need to figure this out together. “Do you er...want to have sex with him?”

“I mean, why do I have to decide this right away? Why can’t I just get to know him first?”

“Of course you can!” Harry responds, brows rising. Merlin, this bloke sounds like a creep!

Draco runs a hand through his hair. “I’ve only been with two people my entire life. I just, I don’t want to fuck just anybody,” like you goes unsaid. Harry frowns. Maybe...maybe he’s overthinking things again. Or maybe not, Draco does look shifty as he stares up at Harry. He’s come to learn that Draco is very reserved and careful about the people he lets into his life, both romantic and platonic. He can’t help but think that Draco uses Harry as an example of what not to be... a slutty, careless person that shags on the first date and never schedules a second date. Harry was getting tired of his friends’ generalisations about him, and not valuing his choices about his own body and sex life. It hurts him a bit more to be judged like this by Draco, though. He thought Draco was different from everyone else in that regard. “He’s sexy, Christ, he is...but do people not date anymore?!”

“You don’t have to rush yourself for him, Draco.”

“I know, it’s just...the things he says…it makes me feel like I’m a shit person,” Draco mutters. Harry can see the uncertainty and vulnerability in Draco’s eyes. Harry takes a deep breath and walks over to the settee, plopping down on the cushion next to Draco.

“You’re a shit person for not letting him get a leg over because he bought you dinner a couple of times?” he asks gently, hoping it sounds just as ridiculous to Draco’s ears.

“He also took me to the opera.”

Harry laughs. “Oh yes! The opera. A sure reason for the knickers to drop!”

Draco shoots him a glare, belied by the smile he’s struggling to keep off his face.

“Draco, mate, you shouldn’t do anything you don’t want to do. And you shouldn’t feel pressured to do so. It’s not fair and it’s definitely not right. If he can’t see...if he can’t see how special you are and how much you’re worth waiting for, then he’s a dozy fucker and doesn’t deserve you or access to your arse.”

Draco laughs, but Harry can see how bright Draco’s eyes are.

“Here, gimme that garland before you render it useless,” he says, taking the squished garland from Draco and heading back over to the tree.

“Harry?”

He turns to look over his shoulder. “Yeah?”

Draco’s determinedly gazing into the box of baubles. “Thank you,” he whispers.

He grins. “Anytime, mate.”

 

Three days later, Draco was single again.

 


CHRISTMAS EVE 2003

The lift opens inside of Draco and Pansy’s penthouse and the vast number of people standing around dressed in their worst Christmas jumpers is staggering. Several people were already singing along and dancing wildly together to what Harry recognises as Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You.

“Draco, you bitch. Late to your own party,” Pansy says, her husky voice flat, but eyes glinting with mirth. A martini glass is grasped in her red-tipped hand as she approaches them, a gorgeous blonde woman following close behind her.

“Pansy, you cow, Happy Christmas Eve,” Draco says cheerfully, pulling her in for a kiss on the cheek. “Is that eggnog in your glass?” he teases, tapping her wrist. Pansy scoffs as she turns up her nose.

“What do you take me for? This is Tanqueray, darling,” she says, taking a sip.  

The theme is ugly Christmas jumpers, Harry had decided to wear one with a rather manic-looking snowman on the front, but in true fashion of bending the rules, Pansy is dressed in a red bespoke skirt suit with two glittery devil horns perched on her head. He doesn’t miss the black plunge neck vest she’s wearing underneath the stylish blazer, showing off the swell of her ample breasts. He’ll be maintaining eye contact with her for the duration of the party, lest she AK’s him in a drunken state.

“My goodness, Potter. When Draco here told me you were coming, I thought he was describing a wet dream about you,” Pansy whispers when she’s close enough to him.

What?” he asks, his face heating up. Pansy offers him a small, devilish smile.  

Draco, having not heard the exchange or Harry’s subsequent outburst, reaches out to hug the blonde girl Pansy dragged along with her. “And Happy Birthday to you, Daffy,” Draco kisses her soundly on the cheek before reaching back and gripping Harry’s elbow to tug him forward. Harry feels like a deer caught in the headlights. Only the headlights are the gazes of too many Slytherins at once. “You remember Potter, don’t you?” Draco asks, affecting boredom.

“I do,” she says in a syrupy voice. “I like your beard.”

“Er, thank you. And happy birthday,” he says. She beams at him.

“Why, thank you.”

“Good grief, is that your sister Astoria snogging bloody Nott, Daffy?” Draco asks, his eyes widening in horror. “What have you two allowed to happen in this flat while I’ve been gone?”

“That’s nothing, Millicent was practically fucking–”

Harry zones out on the conversation because his gaze has landed on Ginny.

Much like Pansy, she has foregone the ugly Christmas jumper. Harry’s heart swells with pride and appreciation looking at her — she’s wearing a gorgeous shoulder-padded, velvet emerald green jumpsuit that seems to illuminate her pale skin and short, slicked-back fiery red hair. The low neckline rivals Pansy’s, dipping to her navel. It must be magic that’s keeping the front covering her breasts. She looks terribly bored as Blaise Zabini proceeds to bark up the wrong tree. Ginny nods and sips her whisky as Zabini leans in just enough to be encroaching to whisper and smirk against her ear. When Ginny’s eyes scan the room and find his, she immediately lights up, interrupting her conversation by pushing her half empty glass into the man’s hands before walking away from him.

“Finally! Someone I actually like!” she exclaims, pulling Harry in for a fierce hug.   

“Well, that’s not very nice to say,” Pansy quips.

“Whoever said I was nice?” Ginny shoots back. She sticks her hand out to Draco. “Pleasure to see you again, Malfoy.” Draco takes her hand, but instead of shaking it, bends his head over and kisses the back of it.

“The pleasure is all mine, Ginevra. I’m so glad you were able to make it.”

Ginny grins. “I didn’t really have a choice. Your roommate Satan here practically threatened me.”

“Sounds about right,” Draco says.

“It was merely a strong suggestion,” Pansy says, turning up her nose.

“Ah, well, if you consider blackmail suggestion, I suppose so,” Ginny says wryly, a smile on her crimson lips.

-------------------

 

He’s on his way to the loo when he hears a scuffle in front of him. The penthouse hallways are long, a bit twisty, and wide. When he recognises Ginny hissing, “What do you want?” he stops in his tracks, peering around a corner to see Pansy and Ginny standing together.

He quickly ducks into a shadowy alcove when they both turn to peer down the hallway. When he’s sure the coast is clear, he peeks back around the corner, feeling only a little guilty for spying. Harry watches as Pansy crowds Ginny in the corner, towering over her with ease in those perilously high heels of hers. Harry holds his breath as he listens in on their conversation.

“...I thought you were dating Greengrass?” Ginny asks, a horrified expression on her face. Pansy gives a low little laugh and lifts one perfectly sharpened nail to run down Ginny’s cheek. He can see Ginny shiver at Pansy’s touch.

“Dating? No.” Pansy cocks her head to the side in thought. “More like flavour of the month.”

“Does she know that?”

“It’s something we Slytherin folk are instinctively aware of.”

“I’m not keen on playing Slytherin games,” Ginny snaps, knocking Pansy’s hand away from her face. “And quite frankly, Parkinson. I don’t see anything worth playing for.” Ginny, despite being a good five inches shorter than Pansy right now, looks the other woman from head to toe with such thinly concealed disgust that even Harry feels personally attacked. She roughly shoulders Pansy backwards, escaping the tight corner she’s pressed into. But Pansy is fast, and only stumbles slightly before wrapping a hand around Ginny’s elbow to keep her in place.

“Not so fast, my little ginger kitten. I’m not done talking to you yet.”

“Oh? I wasn’t under the impression that it was up to you. I’m over this conversation, Parkinson. I don’t fuck with cheaters,” Ginny says darkly.

“I’ve never cheated on anyone in my life.”

“As if I believe a word you say,” Ginny snorts.  

Pansy sneers. “So, my words are only viable if they’re nice little pieces about you in the DP? You’re simply not making any sense. I thought you were smart, Weasley.”

“Piss off,” Ginny says venomously, attempting once more to get away from the dark-haired woman. Pansy steps in front of her.

“I want you,” Pansy says in a tone thick with unabashed longing. Harry stifles a gasp. Ginny ceases and lifts her large, startled bright brown eyes to Pansy’s hazel ones.

“I’ve wanted you since I wrote that first editorial. You’re fascinating. Fiercely talented. Intelligent. And absolutely fucking beautiful. I knew then that you’d be worth waiting for because Patil never deserved you. If I could, I’d use a time turner to spare you from the hurt she caused. If you take a chance with me, I think I can make you a very happy woman.”

“I—I don’t know,” Ginny says, breaking eye contact with the other woman to stare at the ground. Pansy lifts her chin with one pointed finger.

“I’ll be so good to you,” she says wistfully, so far removed from her usual flat husky voice. She stares imploringly into Ginny’s eyes. “You deserve so much.”

Harry’s heart hammers against his rib cage. He wants to jump out of this little dark corner and scream, “Yes! Do it, Gin!” He knows that despite all the dates she’s been on, the crazy tournaments and interviews to keep her preoccupied, Ginny’s been incredibly lonely, still carrying Parvati’s betrayal on her shoulders like a dead weight.

“I can’t,” she says, her voice cracking with emotion. “I’m sorry, please...” Pansy drops her hand and Ginny slides out if her grasp. Her back is now facing Harry. Pansy slowly turns to face her. “Please don’t ask me to do something that...that I can’t...” Ginny stammers, her body trembling. She lifts a hand to wipe away the tears Harry knows are there. “Just leave me alone,” she cries, turning around and storming off down the hallway.

For once in the many years he’s known Pansy, he feels sorry for her. He watches as she leans against the wall, utter dismay clear across her face. Harry can see her conflicted expression and the quiver of her painted lips. Only a few more beats pass before she pulls herself together. With a snap of her fingers, she Summons a compact mirror, using a red lacquered finger to brush away the tears on her cheeks. She straightens up as the compact disappears. She takes another deep breath and the anguished tilt of her mouth melts into a playful sneer. Just watching the forced transformation makes Harry’s heart ache in sympathy. She walks off in the direction Ginny went, no doubt back to the party, ready to pretend to be the life of it.

Merlin, how did he miss this development? He resolves to mention this to Ginny when they’re back at home. Not the eavesdropping, but maybe just poke around to see if she has any legitimate feelings for Pansy. He can begrudgingly admit that Pansy isn’t all that bad. Over the last year he’s spent some time with her and Draco and she seems alright. She’s a bit cold, but he’s seen cracks in that exterior from time to time, cracks that shows a startling warm depth to the woman. She’s strong, and ridiculously smart, and Harry doesn’t think she’d be a bad choice for Gin, not at all…

When he finally reaches the loo, the door is locked and someone tells him to bugger off from the other side. He sighs, his bladder now screaming at him for release. He looks around and notices that Draco’s bedroom is mere steps away, and it’s the master suite.

No harm in using it, right?

------

 

Harry cringes. He slides into Draco’s en-suite, his breathing laboured with panic.

He was about to exit Draco’s toilet when he heard the bedroom door open and slam shut. When he peeks into the dimly lit room, he has to bite back a gasp as Bastien Queensbury roughly shoves Draco into the wall, his hands groping Draco everywhere as he hungrily attacks his lips. Something hot and uncontrollable flares in Harry’s chest at the sight, and when he finds himself almost growling, he has to cover his mouth with a hand.

Draco slaps Queensbury’s shoulder once, twice, a third time before the other man pulls back with an annoyed sigh.

“You said you wanted to talk,” Draco says flatly.

“We can do that after. You want this more than I do,” Queensbury says, pressing his hips against Draco’s. “You’re hard. Don’t fight it, Draco. Just give yourself to me.”

“I really can’t — things are different now.”

“Is it Potter?” Queensbury asks.

“What?” Draco huffs incredulously. “What does Potter have to do with this?”

“You’re shagging him, aren’t you?”

“Absolutely not. Potter is a friend, Bastien. Not all friends sleep together,” he retorts pointedly, finally peeling Queensbury’s hands off his person.

“I’m shocked, truly shocked. You would have never said such a thing when we were teenagers.”

Thank Christ I’m no longer a teenager.”

“I miss you, Draco. C’mon, you should never forget your first. You should be thanking me...thanking all of us for giving you a second chance to be back among proper company. Now that you’re no longer with that muggle filth...”

“Stop,” Draco says, his voice suddenly hard. The other man immediately falls silent. “Don’t you ever use those kind of words around me again,” Draco hisses, shoving Queensbury back. “His name is Bart and I dated him for nearly four years. I’m not going to fuck you in the hope that it makes me forget him. That’s not how I bloody work.”

Queensbury pushes up against him once more and Harry can see the cross look on Draco’s face as he palms Draco’s dick through his trousers. “Then fuck me because of this,” Queensbury demands.

“I may not be able to use magic, Queensbury, but I know where every pressure point in your body is. I will temporarily paralyse you if you don’t unhand me right now,” Draco says calmly.

Harry actually freezes — Draco’s painfully calm tone is one he’s very familiar with. It means trouble.

A tense moment falls between them, even Harry can feel it.

Then Queensbury launches at Draco again, hands gripping the back of his neck, lips pressing against his with a ferocity that angers Harry. He’s about to leap from out of the loo to pull the arsehole off when he hears a blood-curdling scream, followed by Queensbury dropping to the floor like a rock.

“You never know when to fucking stop, Bastien. Enjoy regaining the feeling in your legs, you utter fucking waste of space,” Draco spits, stepping over the whimpering man to throw open the bedroom door, leaving without so much as a backwards glance.

Harry has to cover his mouth once more to stop the triumphant whoop! and laughter that wants so desperately to bubble up his throat. Queensbury is still on the floor groaning, so Harry decides a quick disillusionment charm will do the trick in sneaking out.

When he makes his way back to the party, Draco turns to him with a fond smile that Harry returns ten-fold.

He wants to hug Draco and tell him that he’s fucking amazing and brave. Harry can’t imagine what this entire night has been like for Draco, but if what he glimpsed and overheard in the bedroom is an indicator, perhaps Draco’s been having a rough go at mingling with some of his old Slytherin cohorts tonight.

As Draco stands before him, sipping from a glass of champagne and making short work of acquiring another one for Harry, he looks completely at ease, if only just a little bit flushed. “I’ve hardly seen you tonight. Where have you been?” Draco asks as he presses a glass into his hands.

Oh you know, hiding in dark alcoves and toilets to unsuccessfully avoid awful, painful confrontations between others... “Oh, you know,” he starts, grinning at his mate, “catching up on the latest gossip.” Not too far from the truth, he thinks.

*** 

You are cordially invited to The Daily Prophet’s New Year’s Eve Celebration

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief Pansy Parkinson

***

 

“I like you without your facial hair, I can actually see your face.”

“It is my face. Dipping you now,” Harry smirks, dipping Draco backwards before pulling him upright, his left hand firmly placed on Draco’s lower back with his right hand tightly clasped in Draco’s. He’s just drunk enough to not give a flying fuck about the looks of surprise from some of the Daily Prophet employees as he dances with Draco. Harry wouldn’t even call what they were doing dancing, just a bunch of poorly executed twists, twirls, and dips around the dance floor as they laugh in one another’s face.

“Thanks for convincing me to come to this thing,” Draco says, smiling at him as they sway together.

“Don’t be silly. I’m sure it was Pansy having your bollocks in a vice-grip that made you come out tonight.”

“That too,” Draco chuckles. “I was unsure if I wanted to show my face in the Magical community in such a bold way, but being here with you makes the whole ordeal marginally better.”

“Glad to be of service,” Harry says affectionately before spinning Draco. He knows how important this decision was for Draco. He had vowed never to return to the Wizarding World, and now he was in the centre of Diagon Alley, quite literally surrounded by the media and people who would have spit in his face if they caught him strolling the streets during the day. Merlin, Draco was braver than he gives himself credit for.

When Harry received his invitation to Pansy’s New Years Eve party, he was surprised to find out that she had also extended an invite to nearly all of his Gryffindor friends, probably as a way to seal Ginny’s decision in coming. The party has been exciting and fun with Draco as his date for the night. “The next New Year’s Eve if neither one of us is with anybody, you got a date.”

“Deal,” Draco says. The pace of the music slows down and instead of pulling away, Draco wraps his arms around his neck. Harry’s heart pounds viciously and for a moment doesn’t know what to do with his hands. When he finally wraps his arms around Draco’s waist, the other man titters quietly to himself. “Well done, Potter,” Draco teases, pulling Harry closer to him as they sway to the music.  

Merlin. Draco feels so right in his arms. Harry inwardly gasps when Draco presses his cheek against his. Draco gives a pleasant sigh. “See, now we can dance cheek to cheek.”

“Mmm…” Harry says. He doesn’t trust his voice right now. They dance like this, cheek-to-cheek for a while. He doesn’t notice that he’s stroking Draco’s back until he stops because Draco slightly pulls back to stare into his eyes.

Harry’s about to do something — say something, or maybe, maybe kiss Draco — when someone shouts out in the crowd: “Hey everybody! One minute ‘til New Year!”

“Do you want to get some air?” Draco asks. The spell between them is broken.

“Yeah.”

As they exit the dance floor, Harry catches sight of Pansy making her way towards Ginny. Hermione and Ron are already snogging at a table, Luna and her boyfriend Rolf are still dancing, and Neville and Hannah are chatting away with Angelina and George.

Once outside, they stand close to one another on the cobblestones. Harry takes a moment to fully appreciate Draco awash in the bright streetlight. He’s insanely gorgeous in his form-fitting burgundy tuxedo unconventionally paired with a black roll neck, his long blond hair swept back from his face in an artfully messy half-up-half-down hairstyle. They can still hear the crowd behind them counting down. Harry’s surprised when he feels Draco’s warm hand close around his own. He glances down at their clasped hands before lifting a questioning gaze to Draco’s softly smiling face.

“TEN…NINE…”

“Thanks for being here for me this year, Harry.”

Oh. Oh. Oh. Harry’s brain stutters.

“EIGHT, SEVEN, SIX…”

Love for the other man flares through him.

Shit.

He’s in love with his best mate.

“FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE…”

“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

Draco presses a soft kiss to Harry’s lips. It’s so quick that Harry questions whether or not he imagined it. The people in the streets begin to sing Auld Lang Syne and Harry’s struck speechless by just how warm and lovely this all feels as he gazes into Draco’s open, content face. There’s so much he wants to say to Draco right now: how amazing it’s been getting to know him this past year, how grateful he is to have him as his rock and his voice of reason, how beautiful he thinks he is, and how very much in love he is with him.

Yes, there’s so much he wants to say.

“Happy New Year, mate,” he says instead, tugging Draco into a tight hug.

“Happy New Year,” Draco responds, squeezing Harry back. “Now let’s go back in and get completely sloshed.”

 

 


 

FEBRUARY 2004

 

Shit buggering shit fuck!

 

It’s Valentine’s Day.

 

Harry sits up in bed, peeling from the underside of his left arm a small, empty bag of wotsits he ate last night before passing out. He looks around his bed. Ugh. Half of the bed is covered in clothing, books, candy wrappers, and what is definitely his vibrating mobile phone buried somewhere underneath the mess.

He digs through the pile frantically, finally pulling free his new SideKick mobile. Draco’s name flashes across the tiny screen and suddenly, Harry wants to go back to sleep. It’s not that he’s mad at Draco or anything, quite the contrary. He’s mad for Draco, and coming to terms with these feelings has caused all the synapses in his brain to overload. He’s absolutely fried. Oh, fuck. He’s even starting to use Draco’s fancy medical terms. Harry hits the talk button.

“What?” Harry snaps into the phone.

“What a horrible way to answer the phone, Potter.”

“Draco, why are you calling me so early?” Harry pinches the bridge of his nose.

“Are you serious, Harry? It’s nearly 4pm, you depressing wanker. I’m coming over. Now.” The phone line goes dead.

Harry flops onto his back with a groan. All he wants to do is crawl under a rock and perish. He doesn’t want to think about his feelings for Draco. He just wants to stay locked up in his messy bedroom with takeaway and no trousers. It sounds like a beautiful fucking idea, but Draco sounded too chirpy on the phone, and Merlin knows what that beautiful, amazing blond git has in store for Harry. He closes his eyes, opting for at least a half hours rest because, really, it’s not like Draco can Apparate.

As soon as he feels himself slip towards a soft, cozy sleep, the bell clangs loudly, and he can hear Walburga shrieking.

“Shit buggering shit fuck.” He throws his blanket off and scrambles to his feet, shoving a relatively clean t-shirt over his head before taking the stairs two at a time to get to the sitting room. “Shut the fuck up you crazy bint!” Harry shouts at Walburga’s rainbow-covered portrait. She immediately falls silent at his dangerous tone. Draco is standing in his sitting room.

“Ah, there you are! Don’t worry, Kreacher let me in,” Draco says cheerfully. “So good of you to join me, Potter. I hope you don’t mind some company.”

Harry doesn’t respond. Instead, his eyes roam over the many, many shopping bags surrounding Draco.

“Draco! What the hell is all this?” Harry asks, finally stepping into the room.

Draco has the audacity to look around, confused. “Oh! Well it’s my shopping, silly man. It’s Valentine’s Day, I had to treat myself.”

Harry rubs the back of his neck. “Why didn’t you drop these off at your place?”

“Ah, good question. See, regular folks like myself just can’t close our eyes and magic ourselves in a split second to a different location. Regular folks take public transportation, and sometimes a few of the luckier ones, like myself, pay people to drive me around. So what I’m trying to say here Potter is I didn’t go home first for the sake of saving time. I came straight here.”

Harry groans. “Merlin. Sometimes I think you just love to hear yourself talk.”

“Rude. But I hear no lie in that statement,” Draco says coolly, gracefully folding himself into an armchair and pulling a Harrods bag towards him. “I figured you’d be holed up in here today, rewatching Casablanca for the hundredth time while contemplating suicide.”

“What an awful thing to say!” Harry snaps, his eyes flashing.

“What, that you’re watching Casablanca for the hundredth time?”

Harry shakes his head. “Nutter. It’s a brilliant film.”

“Oh, don’t I know it. It was the first film I saw with Bart.” Draco sighs dramatically. “That film spoke to me... continues to speak to me.”

“Yeah. I guess I can see that. You would pick Victor Laszlo over Rick Blaine,” Harry says with a grim smile.

“I never said that.”

“Well, I can just tell — you’d never be able to seriously date a man who runs a bar.”

Draco shrugs. “You’re judging me because I don’t like bartenders?” Draco asks sarcastically.

“No. I’m judging you because you’re materialistic.”

Draco’s head tilts back as he laughs, a gleeful look in his eyes. “I love shopping as much as the next person, but concerning matters of my heart, you’re sadly mistaken, Potter. I would gladly run off with Rick Blaine instead of suffering a loveless marriage in Czechoslovakia like poor Ilsa Lund.” Harry fights down a smile.

“Though, the real truth that society is hellbent on hiding is that heartbreak can be solved with a new pair of Gucci suede loafers,” Draco says, pulling out a pair of perfect, suede emerald green loafers from the Harrods bag in front of him.

“I think I have a better way to solve heartbreak on a day like this,” Harry says, amused.

Draco sniffs his new shoes with a soft groan of pleasure, which Harry finds both hilarious and incredibly weird.

“Will this require trousers?” Draco asks, pointedly staring at Harry’s lap.

Harry’s face heats up. He forgot to put on his joggers.

-

When they sparked up their friendship, one of the things Draco disclosed to Harry was just how much he missed flying. He wasn’t allowed to fly or even ride passenger on a broom. It was depressing, and even though watching a Quidditch match would be the closest thing to it, Draco would never show his face at such a large, rowdy event.

“Are you sure about this?” Draco whispers nervously, his face so close to Harry’s ear that he involuntarily shivers.

The idea Harry has is perfect, really. On one boring night a year ago, Harry had decided to Disillusion himself and go for a ride on his broom. When he was doing lazy loops over his neighbourhood, he caught sight of a humongous trampoline in the back of a detached house. He had vowed to come back, and now wanted to share this adventure with Draco.

“Yeah, of course! Don’t be scared.”

“I’m not scared,” Draco snaps. “But we are sneaking onto someone else’s property, you massive wanker. It’s completely acceptable to be a bit apprehensive—” Draco starts angrily.

“Shh…” Harry whispers, interrupting what he’s sure will be a massive, bitchy tirade. “Don’t you dare get into a sulk right now…”

Draco doesn’t respond, but instead smacks the back of Harry’s head.

Ow! What the f—”

“I do not sulk…” Draco hisses.

“Jeez, could you’ve maybe just said that instead of resorting to violence?” Harry asks, rubbing the back of his head.

“No,” Draco says, a mocking smile on his face.

Even though it’s dark out and the trampoline is positioned quite far from the house, Harry heavily disillusions the both of them and throws up a Silencing Charm so they don’t draw attention to themselves.

After taking off his shoes, Harry makes a few small jumps to get to the centre of the large, circular trampoline, his breathing heavy as he waits for Draco to join him. “Okay,” Harry starts. “Jump!”

They both begin to jump. Draco’s arms go flying up in the air, his jump high and oddly graceful for having never been on a trampoline before. Draco laughs wildly as they do kicks in the air and try to outdo one another’s jumps. Harry manages to do a backflip and Draco a front flip. Harry laughs, too, the sensation of being weightless in the air is exhilarating. But he’s also laughing because he loves making Draco’s face light up like that, and it’s beautiful, seeing him like this.  

“I feel like I’m flying!” Draco cries out, arms swinging wildly as he jumps. Harry flops onto him bum, physically spent but still vibrating with energy as he sprawls out onto this back. Draco suddenly lands beside him on his hand and knees. His long blond hair has escaped from his hair tie and is windswept and falling into his face. Harry wants so desperately to reach out and smooth the hair back from Draco’s gorgeous, intelligent grey eyes.

Draco sprawls on his back as well, one hand digging into his trouser pocket. “Aha! Got it,” he says, pulling out a slightly beat-up spliff and lighter. “Perfect ending to a perfect adventure?” he asks, lighting the spliff. Harry nods, still a bit too breathless from the jumping to respond. They pass the joint between each other while looking up at the stars. Harry feels like they’re caught within a liminal space, where the lines are blurred and dualities are encouraged and explored...there’s no expectations, no set path between now and the next. Harry feels himself drifting. He can just exist within this peaceful space with Draco.

“Harry?” A tingle runs down Harry’s spine. There’s no way he’ll ever get tired of hearing Draco say his name, especially when it’s said in such a soft, contemplative tone like that.

“Yeah, Draco?”

Harry turns his head to face Draco, a small smile twitching at his lips. This close together, even in the dark, Harry can see Draco’s watery grey eyes. Draco is always so much softer, so much more open and vulnerable, when he’s stoned.

“Do you believe in soulmates?” Draco whispers as he rolls onto his side, pulling his knees to his chest and throwing an arm around them as he tucks the other under his head.

As Harry’s eyes flit over Draco, he feels his heartbeat spike and a clenching sensation in his stomach that he’s starting to associate with the monster in him that is unabashedly in love with his best friend. These vulnerable, raw moments with Draco are what he lives for. He turns on his side so he can better face his best mate.

“Yeah, I reckon,” he whispers back.

Draco rolls his eyes. “Eloquent as always.”

“I’m serious.”

“I used to believe in soulmates. But I’m not quite sure anymore. Too many things have happened in my life to make me think it’s all a lie. Or, at least it’s something only a chosen, divine few are gifted with.” He can see the ball of emotion Draco swallows. “I was never meant to make it to this age, let alone experience something as grand as a soulmate.”

Harry winces. He’s thought the same thing many times. He rubs a hand down Draco’s arm in consolation.

“What’s a soulmate to you?” Harry asks before pulling away his hand, not wanting to put Draco off by too much touching.

Draco’s quiet for a long time. The silence is only broken when he rolls away from Harry and onto his back again, a low sound that sound suspiciously like a choked sob coming from him.

“Someone who sees me. All of me. And still wants me despite all the broken bits.”

Merlin. It’s as if Draco has cracked Harry’s heart open and pulled those very words from out of it. This is it. This was the time for him to finally admit his feelings. “Draco, I—”

 

A light flashes in Harry’s face. “Who the fuck are you?”

 

Harry’s stomach tightens as he gasps, panic flaring hot and wild through him. His spells must have weakened or cancelled from the bloody cannabis! Draco’s hand darts out to grip Harry’s shoulder and they both scramble to their feet. A middle-aged man is standing by the edge of the trampoline, a torch in one hand and a fucking crowbar in another.

“Er...sorry sir, we were just playing—” Harry starts.

“—Get the bloody fuck off my property, you fucking bellends!” the man roars, lifting the crowbar high above his head. “I don’t give a fuck what you’re doing here, I’ll club ya in the head and then call the bloody police if you don’t—”

“We’re leaving!” Draco cries out, panicked. Harry doesn’t think he’s ever moved so quickly before in his life, and he survived a war. As soon as they’re off the trampoline, they both take off running from the man’s yard.

When they’re a good distance from the man’s house, they both stop under a streetlight. Harry drops Draco’s hand...he hadn’t even realised their hands were clasped together while running.

Draco is flushed, panting heavily, but when he looks into Harry’s eyes, he immediately bursts into laughter. The laughter is contagious, and soon Harry is doubled-over in stitches too, tears squeezing out from the corner of his eyes.

 

They’d forgotten their shoes.


 

APRIL 2004

 

For the hundredth-time Harry shouts, “Draco!”

Draco finally looks up from his PowerBook G4 laptop to peer over at him.

“Yeah, I heard you the first ninety-nine times,” Draco says hotly, glancing back at his screen. “What is it?”

“I want to order takeaway, so Thai or pizza?”

“Those are the bloody options?”

“It’s my turn to pick tonight, so yeah,” Harry says, running a hand through his hair as he taps the menus lightly against the edge of the table in front of him.

Draco rolls his eyes, picking up on Harry’s impatience. “Thai. Also, there’s this exhibition at Tate Modern I want to check out. Fancy a trip?”

“When?” Harry asks, flipping through the pizza menus.

“It opens tomorrow, I was hoping to go at night,” Draco says absently, now shuffling through some papers beside his laptop. Harry eyes Draco with a small frown.  

Ever since his failed attempt on Valentine’s Day, Harry’s been trying to figure out the best way to tell Draco he’s in love with him. But every time the opportunity comes around, something more pressing seems to garner all of Draco’s attention. It’s been pure agony not getting the words ‘Draco, I’m in love with you’ off his bloody chest. And now it’s too late. Draco’s dating someone new again. For the last month it’s been Alistair this and Alistair that, the Dean of Biomedical Sciences at some posh uni Harry hasn’t made a point to remember. Honestly, how Draco finds these types, he doesn’t know. The man comes from old money, is old enough to be Draco’s father, and apparently looks like George Clooney. Merlin. How the hell was he supposed to compete with that? So, Harry has decided it’s time to start dating again, too.

“I can’t, I’ve a hot date,” Harry says proudly. Draco stops shuffling his papers.

“O-oh,” Draco falters. “Anyone I know?”

Harry tears his eyes away from the menu, brows cinching in thought. “Nah, I don’t think so– she’s a Welcome Witch from St Mungo’s. Hufflepuff, I think. Ron introduced us.” He notices Draco flinch ever so subtly as he says this.

“Oh, yes. You’re dating again. And of course, the Weasel would set you up with a bimbo Hufflepuff,” he sneers, going back to his laptop.

“Hey, she’s not bimbo, Draco, she’s a sweet girl. Sexy, too. Just turned nineteen.”

“Merlin, Potter, really? She’s practically a child.” Harry snorts...that’s fresh coming from Draco, seeing as he is the child in just about all of his relationships.

“She’s not . Er… What about Saturday night? I can go with you then,” Harry says.

“No,” Draco snaps. “That’s quite alright, Potter—go on your stupid hot date with your stupid sexy Whore-fulpuff. I’ll take Alistair instead.”

******

 

“So, about last night…”

 

“I’d rather not hear about it,” Draco interrupts him, sitting down at the kitchen island without offering Harry a cup of tea.

He had a look on his face that Harry hadn’t seen since they were kids, like Draco smells something foul. Harry doesn’t even know why he dropped by Draco’s flat anyway. The man sounded reluctant to hang out when he rang him earlier, but Draco still agreed to tea.

“Oh,” Harry starts, rubbing his chin. They always talk about their dates. “Okay, it was just horrid, s’all.” He watches as Draco coolly leans back in his seat, a brow lifting and that horrid expression slipping from his face. Harry immediately feels a sense of relief now that it’s gone.

“Really? What did you do, Potter, talk about yourself on the first date?” Harry can feel his cheeks flush because really, wasn’t that the problem? The young woman, Natalie, was kind and sweet and sexy, but she was also hellbent on asking him about the war. Simply put, it was unsettling.

“Er— no! I mean, kind of?”

“Whoever told you to be yourself couldn’t have given you worse advice,” Draco drawls, taking a sip from his tea. “Well, go on then.” Harry bites his lower lip, too embarrassed to admit the truth. But he gives in.

“She…I tried not to talk about myself too much. Anyway, she was more interested in Voldemort, if that makes any bloody sense,” he grumbles. Draco, however, stares at him in disbelief.

“What do you mean— ‘she was more interested in the Dark Lord?’”

“Voldemort,” Harry corrects exasperatedly. “I don’t know, like, about his life and stuff.”

“Potter. Please, please tell me you didn’t spend the rest of the night talking about—”

“No! No. I told her I wasn’t too keen on talking about the war, and after that, well, we started talking about music and art, so then I was reminded of Dean.”

“The Hufflepuff is an artist?”

“No, but just sitting there talking about art and stuff, well, it was upsetting for me.”

Harry’s eyes narrow at Draco’s sudden, dramatic, annoyed sigh.

“More upsetting than your date fancying the Dark Lord over you?” Draco asks facetiously.

“Shut up.”

Draco smiles smugly at him over steepled hands, apparently satisfied with Harry’s grief and embarrassment. “Well, Potter, I wouldn’t worry too much, I’m sure you’ll be utterly forgotten. Maybe it’s time for you to rethink your dating habits,” Draco says, affecting a casual tone. “Not every person you go on a date with will be the one nor will they be someone you should sleep with. Tea?” he asks, making a move to stand.

“Yes, please. And I did sleep with her,” Harry says. He’s startled when Draco freezes, and then after a beat, plops back down in his seat.

“You slept with her?” Draco asks, staring at him wide-eyed in shock. “The creepy Dark Lord obsessed wench?”

“Yeah, of course,” he says, picking up a digestive. “She was bloody fit.”

“Oh, Christ,” Draco mutters.

“What happened to my tea?” Harry asks, pouting as Draco picks up his own for another sip.

“You know where the kettle is,” Draco drawls.

--------

A couple of days later, Draco is at Harry’s house again, helping him rearrange the sitting room, but really it was an excuse to crack open the firewhisky Robards had sent Harry along with an invite to rejoin the Aurors as a trainee. He had shown the missive to Draco who immediately told him to get his head out of his arse.

“So, what should I do?” Harry asks.

“I don’t know, how about you shove that invitation up your arse?”

Harry raises an eyebrow. “I can’t. There’s not enough room because apparently my head is already up there,” Harry deadpans. Draco’s bark of laughter is followed by a pillow thrown at Harry’s head.

And now they’re halfway through the bottle when Draco blurts out from his spot in Harry’s favourite armchair:

“I just can’t see how you can just...fuck and go.”

“What?” Harry asks, sitting up from his sprawled position on the area rug.

“You and the Hufflepuff. And everyone else you take out on a first date. It’s like a game to you or something.”

Okay…? Harry thinks, slowly folding his legs under him and taking a long sip from his tumbler. Since when has Draco cared this much about his shagging methods?

“I do not treat it like some kinda game, Draco. I happen to really enjoy casual sex, it’s my choice who I sleep with and when. I don’t care what anyone thinks about that, because it’s my life, my choices…” Draco cocks his head to the side.

“But why with so many people?”

“I don’t know...There’s something nice about exploring my sexuality with different types of people. I think it helps develop my expectations and confidence towards sex.”

“But at the expense of the people you take home,” Draco says. Harry pauses at that. He’s never spent too much time worrying about what his dates think after he tells them he’s not looking for a serious commitment — they either agree to go home with him or tell him to shove off. Sure, in the past he received angry owls from some of the people he ghosted after sleeping with them, but he’s always up front about not wanting to commit to anything serious.

“I make my intentions clear before I fuck anyone, Draco. Having sex requires a conversation, a continuous one, especially during. They know what I’m about.” Harry runs a hand through his hair. “I don’t expect you to understand, you have your own set way of navigating the dating scene and sex. You’re entitled to your opinions.” Draco takes a long sip from his drink.

“A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing,” Draco says solemnly. Harry flinches.

“Save your pathos for a more tragic figure, Draco,” he responds. He’s actually hurt by the assessment, but tries not to let it show.  

“So. What’s it like?”

“What’s what like?”

Draco shrugs. “Doing what you do. With the people you meet.”  

“I mean...what’s there to say? You meet someone, you take them out to lunch or dinner, then you decide that if you like each other enough, maybe you’ll go to a club or a dive bar. You make the other person feel special and taken care of. Then you go back to their place, fuck, and then, well...wonder how long you have to lie there before you can go home.”

Draco splutters, slapping a hand against his chest. “I’m sorry... that’s what goes through your head after fucking someone?”

“Yeah, most of the time. I tell them I have things I need to do...early meeting...or work to get to. Then, to end the whole ordeal on a sweet note, I give them a kiss on the forehead.”

“That’s your modus operandi?”

Harry shrugs.

“Oh, wow, you’re not joking,” Draco says faintly.

“How long do you like to be held?” Harry asks, teasing. Draco’s cheeks pinken. “I bet you like to be held all night.”

“You’re a fucking pig, Potter,” Draco says, ducking his head and taking another swig from his glass.

“I just like things how I like them,” Harry says.

 

Harry doesn’t at all miss the disappointed look that crosses Draco’s face when he gets up to use the loo.


MAY 2004

 

Harry’s standing in front of Angel station, having agreed to meet Draco there, which was all well for Harry as Grimmauld Place is a short walk from the station. He wrings his hands. Draco’s invited him to his muggle friend’s flat for a party. He’s unbelievably nervous.

He was both anxious and oddly elated when Draco had first suggested the party. They were simply taking their friendship to the next level, weren’t they? Harry knew that eventually this would happen, had even wanted it to happen these past few months, and now it was. He could do this. He could stand around a bunch of brainy medical students and pretend to be an equally brainy extrovert whose hobby is being an introverted lazy sod, right? He starts to sweat.

“Potter!” calls a deep, refined voice. Harry turns on his heel and does a double-take because there is a wide, unfeigned smile on Draco’s face.

He tries to recall if he’s ever seen Draco smile so radiantly.

Of course, he has...a wide variety of them. He’s seen smirks, mean little half-smiles, and small smiles, full on, canines showing honest to Merlin grins on the other man. It’s different to Harry now because he’s still painfully in love with Draco and doesn’t know what to do. It’s like he’s never seen him smile so beautifully before. There’s nothing for it, he knows right now standing in front of this busy tube station with the flowers and coffee man fighting for the attention of pedestrians, and the old bearded bloke sat on the corner playing the accordion, and Draco standing before him with that smile, he just bloody knows he’s gone for Draco.

Absolutely.

Completely.

Gone.

Draco’s forehead is slightly glossy with sweat. He always exudes an effortless elegance that Harry surprisingly sometimes finds himself envious of. Even as he’s dressed in simple tight tan chinos, an equally simple tucked white t-shirt, and black braces, Draco looks impeccable. The cuffs of his chinos are rolled up to expose his attractive, narrow ankles and his white blond hair is pulled back in a bun, showing off his recent, closely cropped sides. What suspiciously looks like a joint is tucked behind his left ear. Harry’s mouth goes a little dry.

“The Northern Line is a bloody oven,” Draco says before he engulfs Harry in an awkward half-hug. Harry shakes himself. It’s not awkward, no. They do this all the time. They hug hello and hug goodbye and Draco pecks him on the cheek goodbye and again on the mouth but they were both quite legless and it wasn’t at all awkward that very first time, it was truly lovely on New Years...Merlin...he’s run-on sentencing in his head! He’s just being awkward because well, Draco has just smiled at him and he can’t help but think about the intense, terrifying, romantic feelings he has for his best mate. But even though Draco’s not dating Alistair anymore, he’s been adamant about remaining single and just focussing on ‘working on himself’; and lately Harry’s been testing out how many people he can shag in a week to help him forget that he’s in love with his best mate.  

“Erm,” Harry says before clearing his throat. He’s blushing. Draco eyes him warily.

“Are you dehydrated, Potter?”

“What? No,” Harry responds, his brows bunching together in confusion as he rubs the back of his neck. Draco peers into his face and grabs his wrist before looking at the watch on his own wrist to count Harry’s pulse. He feels a familiar fluttering in the pit of his stomach at the touch that reminds him of his first time flying, of that first bite of treacle tart, of the heat of a first kiss…

Oh...FUCK...

“Mmm…your heart rates a bit fast, are you sure you’re alright?” Draco asks after a few beats. Harry clears his throat and wrenches his arm away from the other man’s grasp.

“Yeah, I am…”

“Seriously, Harry. If this weird flushing and pitiful eyes you’re making at me is your way of avoiding tonight, I won’t have it. What else would you be doing anyway? Roaming the attic of Grimmauld like a ghoul?”

“You’re right.”

Draco gives him a knowing look. “Don’t worry, okay? It’s going to be fun.”

---

“I don’t think your friends liked me very much.”

“What! You did such a great job tonight. They loved you.”

 

Harry didn’t love them. Whatever Harry had been expecting, it was not what faced him when he entered Draco’s friend Azul’s flat. The small ground floor flat was full to the brim with people, loud music blaring from somewhere in the living room as people danced together, and a thick layer of marijuana smoke hovering over everyone’s head.

Azul was a tiny, but curvy woman with long, curly black hair and sharp, light blue eyes that were striking against her dark skin. Harry had been both immediately drawn to and intimidated by her. She had greeted Harry like an old friend, hugging him and uttering sweet terms of endearment in her deep, pretty Spanish accent. She’d met Draco their first year of medical school, but Azul had dropped out to pursue a PhD in Romantic and Victorian Literature, which mindfucked Harry to no end. He wanted to ask her how she made such a huge leap, but kept his questions to himself.

The night had progressed wonderfully, with Harry taking shot after shot with Azul, who could definitely hold her liquor better than he could. It seemed like all of Draco’s muggle friends knew of him. They’d endearingly say: “So this is the guy who’s stolen you away from us, Draco?” And Draco would smile and coyly nod his head. It made Harry’s heart pound against his ribs with excitement. It made him think that yes, Draco does want me.

And then Azul had caught Harry staring at Draco who was across the room chatting up an older man. The man had placed his hand on Draco’s elbow, and the responding smile Draco gave him was like a Bludger to the gut for Harry. Azul had swooped in, her sharp eyes following Draco’s receptive body language to Harry’s pale, broken expression. “Oh, I see,” Azul had said. “You want what you can’t have.”

 

“Well, if you say so,” Harry says, not feeling any less dejected.

“Alright, goodnight, Potter,” Draco slurs, throwing an arm around his shoulders and squeezing. When he pulls back, Harry suddenly grabs him with both hands, pulling him back into the hug and holding him, his hands running up Draco’s back to rest against Draco’s shoulder blades, his face tucked in the crook of his neck.

After a few beats Draco roughly pushes him away, his breath coming in short pants as he turns away from him. Harry can see him wrap his arms around his body.

“Don’t do that,” Draco hisses.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he says quickly, his tone deceptively defensive as he suddenly becomes cross, but mostly at himself. He’s so stupid to have let his feelings slip. A drunk Draco is a dangerous Draco: prickly, with a heightened sense for sniffing out bosh and he knows that the man will be able to read between the lines. He can’t argue now, with his face flushed and his eyes stinging, that all he was trying to do was give the sodding git a proper hug. But he tells him this anyway. “I just thought you deserved a proper hug.”

Just as he figured, this seems to do more bad than good because Draco visibly cringes before turning to face him.

“You’re a fool, Potter. And you have no regard for boundaries – you’re constantly encroaching upon my personal space,” Draco says coldly.

“That’s not true!”

“I don’t want you touching me, Potter.”

“We touch all the time!” Harry cries in disbelief, swaying on spot. This whole night has been shit, and now it’s about to finally fucking explode because of a bloody hug. And because of Harry’s stupidity and his bloody inconvenient heart alerting him to how much he loves Draco bloody Malfoy. “What about – we always hug! You even hold my hand sometimes.”

“That was all fine. It’s this, now, that I’m not fine with. You’re drunk.”

“So are you!”

“You know what I mean!” Draco suddenly shouts. “I don’t want you touching me like that. We’re friends.”

“I know that,” Harry says, his shoulders slumping as the heat flees from his body. There’s an angry, miserable buzzing in his ears; he’s cold, sore and very afraid of the direction this conversation is going.

“I know what you want, Potter,” Draco hisses, taking a small step back. “I’ve known since that day at St Pancras! You don’t think I listen to you? That I don’t see what you do? Merlin, you even fucking brag about it! I won’t ever want you in that way,” he spits. “I won’t ever subject myself to your games or willingly become one of the hopeless souls in a line of many to have a stolen moment with The Boy Who Lived. And if that’s a problem for you, we should part ways now.”

Shocked and extremely hurt, Harry bites his lower lip to curtail the pained gasp that threatens to escape. Even in his drunken state he can discern what Draco is accusing him of. Harry Potter, highly-sexed and insensitive boy hero is nothing but a selfish slut who will fuck him and then toss him to the kerb. Like all the others. But it’s not true…he loves Draco.

Harry hasn’t allowed himself to feel that way for anyone in so long. He’s learned to live without love, but Draco has always been the exception to every rule in Harry’s life, hasn’t he? But the disappointment and rage in Draco’s eyes slices through Harry like a knife through butter.

He shakes his head and shrugs. He does a very good job of not trembling, hiding his shaking hands in the pocket of his jeans. “It’s not a problem, never was,” he says impassively. “I promise to respect your boundaries moving forward. I’m sorry.”

Draco’s stare is piercing, but he soon looks away with a resolute nod, turning to head towards his bedroom.  When he hears the soft click of Draco’s bedroom door closing, Harry inhales quickly and covers his mouth to quiet a sob. He all but runs to the lift to escape Draco’s flat. As much as he enjoys travelling the muggle way nowadays, as soon as the lift doors shut, he Apparates.

When he’s tucked away in bed, he spends several hours alternating between crying and staring blankly at his ceiling. Even though his heart is breaking, he knows that thisthese feelings for Draco that have grown in him as wild and dangerous as Fiendfyre — needs to end. He can’t force his friend to love him in that way, that’s not how love, or life for that matter, works. He knows this, and if he doesn’t let this go, he’ll lose Draco.

And Harry needs him too much to let that happen.

***

 

D: I’ve scored tickets for Mamma Mia. Fancy a trip to the West End this weekend?

D: Thanks a lot Potter. Due to your lack of response I was subjected to Pansy’s inability to sit still for the duration of the play.

D: I have a break in twenty minutes. Coffee?

D: I saw the dumbest video on the internet today. Made me think of you.

D: I’m free for dinner.

D: Want to catch a film at The National Film Theatre?

D: Have you taken leave of your senses?

D: This is the last time I’m texting you. It’s been well over a week and I won’t suffer this kind of treatment. Especially not from some scar-headed freak of nature.

D: You’re an arse.

H: Sorry m8. Been rly busy.

He finally responds two days after Draco’s last text. It’s a lie. A horrible one, too. But Harry can’t bring himself to tell Draco that he needs this time apart so he can get over his feelings for him if they are going to continue being friends. It’s selfish and he feels like a monster, but he knows it’s for the best.

 

***

There’s a shift in his wards and Harry sets down the book he’s reading. He gets to his feet just as there’s a knock at his front door. When he opens it, Draco is standing on his stoop. His arms are tightly wrapped around his body, the tip of his nose very red, and there are bags under his eyes.

“Merlin, are you alright?” Harry asks, suddenly forgetting that it’s been nearly two weeks since they’ve seen each other. He immediately steps back to let Draco in.

Harry shuts the door and quickly ushers Draco into the sitting room, his thoughts running wild over Draco’s haggard appearance. This is my fault, immediately springs to mind.

“I’ve been texting and calling you today,” Draco says rather hollowly, stepping fully into the room. “But then again, I’ve been doing that for over a week with little to no response.”

“Oh!” Harry suddenly taps his pockets, finding that his mobile is indeed not on him. “Draco, I’m so sorry about that. And today, today I must’ve left it—”

“Daraja’s cancer is back,” Draco interrupts, a faraway look in his eyes as he collapses into Harry’s favourite armchair. “Our initial treatment plan was not as aggressive as we hoped it would be,” Draco explains, his voice sounding thin. “Despite my new rotation in Obstetrics, I’ve remained a part of her treatment team...I…”

Harry stares at him, his mouth forming an apology, but before the words escape him, Draco releases a whimper and covers his face with his hands. “Fuck, she’s only five years old and she’s experiencing so much pain …” Draco sobs. “I can’t fucking do a goddamn thing to help her. And the most fucked up part is if I fucking had magic...if I could fucking brew a goddamn potion, we’d be able to control the disease! This is my fault...it’s my fault!” Draco cries.

Harry kneels beside the armchair, resting his hands on one arm of the chair, careful not to touch Draco.

“Draco, listen to me. This is not your fault, and you did not fail her just because you can’t do magic. You’re a brilliant doctor, and you and your team will approach this with the ferocious tenacity I know you have. She’s lucky to have you on her side.”

Draco lifts red-rimmed eyes to his, his hands falling into his lap as one last watery sob escapes him.

“You’re going to help her get through this, okay?” Harry whispers. Draco nods, takes a deep breath, and holds out both his hands. It takes a moment for Harry to realise what it is Draco needs, but when he does, a painful pressure presses up against his throat that's nearly unbearable to swallow. He thought Draco would never let him touch him ever again.

He gently covers both of Draco’s hands with his own, giving them a comforting squeeze.

 

Chapter Text

“So, what’s a piece of advice for a successful relationship that you’d like to share with us today?” Hermione asked as she hoisted her camera on her shoulder.

“I’m not quite sure, but can you please remind my wife to sit on my right side? I haven’t got an ear to lend her on my left.” Angelina rolled her eyes, a fond smile on her face.

“Always have a sense of humour, I’d say, especially if your husband is anything like mine…”

“What, what did I do?”

“You’re a complete nutter, that’s what,” Angelina said, shaking her head.

George laughed. “Well, that’s the most important bit, innit? To expect a bit of chaos and mistakes within your relationship? Sometimes, I question how I got landed with this beaut, but then I remember, it’s because she likes a little bit of chaos, isn’t that right, love?” George asked, wrapping his arms around Angelina’s waist.

“He’s right,” Angelina started, a grave look on her face. “After all these years I’ve finally embraced that I’m as mad as a hatter, just like my dear old husband.” George jostled her.

“She sings a different tune about my madness when we’re in the bedroom.”

“George!” Angelina shouted, her dark cheeks flushed as she swatted at his arm. “Behave. We’re on bloody camera.”

“Alright, alright...but I’m serious. My wife has already established that I’m not the most sane bloke around, so sometimes that may lead to a few more explosions or potion mishaps than the average couple, but she forgives me every time, and that’s important. That’s important to me.

“It’s good advice, love,” Angelina said encouragingly. “It keeps the relationship going, a bit of chaos, but know that mistakes do happen, hear your partner out...and never, ever go to bed angry.”


 

JUNE 2004

He’s driving rather wildly down the countryside road, Malfoy seated in the passenger seat. He chances a quick look back to see Ginny leaning her head backwards outside the car’s window, her long flaming red hair whipping about her head. She looks beautiful as she laughs openly, the sound taking over the music playing in the car. When he turns back around he catches a look of sad longing on Pansy’s face in the rear-view mirror.

Harry shakes his head when Pansy passes him the tightly rolled spliff. He doesn’t want to drive under the influence, so Draco takes it instead, inhaling several deep puffs from it. When Harry chances a look at Draco, the other man gives him such a soft smile, his eyes bloodshot, and his legs pulled up to his chest in his seat. Harry gasps inaudibly at the beautiful picture Draco makes, the soft music and Ginny’s laughter stealing the sound away on a gust of wind.

His best mate had been depressed and helpless the last couple of weeks since Daraja’s diagnosis. Harry wanted to do something to lift his spirits, so when the idea to surround Draco around natural earth magic struck him, the first person he had consulted was Hermione. With her extensive knowledge on magical theory, Ministry hierarchy and protocol, she had been the one to initially point him in the right direction. Harry had made contact with all the right people in the DMLE to ensure that this little plan wouldn’t breach the terms of Draco’s magical restrictions. He could use the stones at Stonehenge as a conduit to feel his magic without actually performing magic. And with the vast, ancient magical properties at the site, Draco would feel his magic rushing through him on an enormous level, a million times stronger than the sensation one feels when picking up a wand. He had contacted Pansy, who had shyly asked that he invite Ginny, and before he knew it, he had the perfect birthday idea for Draco. He was grateful that he had taken Hermione up on her offer to learn how to drive from Mr Granger, who was also kind enough to loan Harry his BMW X3 for this little adventure.

When they make it to Stonehenge, it’s after-hours and the tourists are already gone. A discreet muggle repelling charm keeps away any lingering workers.

Once they’re in the centre of the circle, Draco falls to his knees, tenderly touching one of three smaller pieces of fallen and broken lintel from a nearby trilithon. Draco closes his eyes, that same soft smile Harry saw in the car gracing his roseate lips. When he finally opens them, they’re wet, and he releases a tittering laugh. “My God,” Draco says, sounding caught between a sob and a laugh, “I can feel my magic! After all this time, I thought I’d never feel it quite the same again, but it’s pulsing through me right now.” Draco whimpers, one hand coming up to cover his face as he breaks down into tears. Pansy rushes over to him, dropping down beside him to throw her arms around him in a hug.

Ginny sidles up beside Harry, her arm touching his. “This was really sweet of you, Harry,” she whispers. Harry looks down at her smiling face. She has a knowing glint in her eyes.

“What is it?” Harry asks, knowing her too well. Ginny shrugs.

“Nothing,” she says nonchalantly. “Just real sweet of you. Real sweet.”

“Ah, come off it,” Harry responds, scowling. “It’s his bloody birthday,” he says a bit too harshly. But even as he brushes off Ginny’s subtle observation, he feels panicky. He’s not in love with Draco anymore. He just isn’t . He doesn’t want Ginny to think he is, and more importantly, doesn’t want Draco to.

“I know, Harry. I’m just joking...” Ginny says, suddenly looking uncomfortable. Harry takes a deep breath, feeling ridiculous for being so rude. He places a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s fine, don’t mind me. I’m just a bit nervous because I want this to go well for Draco.” They both look over to where Draco is now on his feet, talking quietly to Pansy. He still has one hand pressed against the stone.

By the time they leave Stonehenge, it’s nighttime. They’ve agreed to visit a nearby pub for a quick bite before making the long trek home. While they’re on the walking path leading back to the car, Draco sidles up beside Harry. “Thank you, Harry.”

Harry smiles, clapping Draco on the shoulder. “You’re welcome, mate. Happy birthday.”


 

OCTOBER 2004

“Are we going to go in or not?” Draco asks with a pointed glare his way. Harry shifts from one foot to the other before bouncing on spot, as if to rev himself up.

“Yeah, okay.”

“You’re such a stupid slag, Potter.”

“It was one time...that hardly makes me a slag.”

“It’s one time with everyone within walking distance of your bloody house. We can’t go into any takeaway without you worrying if you’ve shagged someone who works there – and really – how tacky.”

“Oh, bugger off with your judgemental bollocks,” Harry says, peering into the busy restaurant. He can see Sanaa standing behind the till chatting up a customer, her long straight black hair and open face enticing as she laughs. It had been a one-off with the beautiful woman and he wasn’t inclined to pick up where they left off. Harry’s trying to be more thoughtful about who he picks up nowadays. His one-nighters phase was on hold again, at least for a while. He’s ready to try his hand at a proper relationship again.

“I want my fucking curry!” Draco snaps. “You can wait out here while I order if you can’t pull yourself together and be an adult for once in your fucking life.”

“Hey!” Harry grouses. “What’s with the foul language? I’m just trying to determine if the benefit outweighs the risk of awkwardness, but I’d say the bitching of an irate blond git is definitely worse, so c’mon, let’s go in...”

---

Draco’s beloved curry goes skittering across the hardwood floor as soon as they enter Grimmauld’s sitting room. Harry, not yet registering the ear-piercing wails sounding off around him, opens his mouth to yell at Draco for ruining their lunch when his eyes finally lock on the scene before him. His jaw drops.

Before them is a bare-arse Ginny, all tanned freckled skin from her training in Ibiza glistening in the afternoon sunlight pouring into the room, her rose coloured nipples hard. She’s currently writhing atop a half-naked Pansy Parkinson on Harry’s favourite armchair. One of Pansy’s hands is between Ginny’s legs as Ginny’s straddles her lap, fucking herself on Pansy’s fingers. One of Ginny’s hand is caressing her own breast, the other is wrapped firmly around Parkinson’s neck as she rides her.

It’s then that Harry realises that Ginny has completely cut off her hair again– her long locks now a buzzcut. Once the initial shock fades from both what he’s witnessed and the haircut, Harry quickly covers his eyes and loudly clears his throat.

“Merlin! Are you guys serious?” comes Ginny’s mortified voice.

“May I remind you that you’re the one fucking in the middle of the afternoon, on a weekend, in the bloody sitting room?” he says, eyes still covered.

“You should have said something! Not just stand there watching, you wankers!”

“I wasn’t watching!” Harry finally peeks between his fingers and glances over at Draco, who looks like he’s about to faint.

Ginny’s pulled on an oversized t-shirt. She shoots him a half-hearted glare and walks up to him to give him a shove. “Watch your back, Potter. This means war!” she threatens, turning away to run up the staircase leading to her bedroom.

“Hey, there’s no need for threats! We were in shock!” Harry shouts after her. “How rude,” he says, glancing at Draco’s pale, shocked face. He looks away and sees Pansy shoving Ginny’s panties into her trouser pocket. She then carefully covers her tits with a lacy red bra followed by her button down, not bothering to do the buttons. She smiles widely and saunters up to them both, placing a sweet kiss on Draco’s cheek. This seems to finally jolt Draco from his shock.

“I’ll be sending you my therapy invoice, ta,” he says weakly.

“If you must, darling. I’m quite enamoured with that red-haired vixen,” Parkinson purrs before turning to Harry. “Sorry for the show.” And that’s all she says before sauntering up the stairs to follow Ginny.

Harry crouches down to pick up the remnants of their food. “I’m so happy for them,” Harry says, beaming up at Draco.

“I...never want to see that much of Pansy or Ginevra ever again,” Draco says faintly, looking a bit green. “Christ, that was insane.”

“I’ve seen Gin naked plenty of times so I’m not as traumatised by the whole ordeal,” he laughs.

Draco nudges him with a knee. “Ugh, just stop talking and see if we can salvage our meal.”


 

JANUARY 2005

“So, you’ll never believe what Pansy slipped on my chest of drawers this morning…”

Harry winces, recalling the absolutely vicious bat-bogey Ginny sent his way a couple of weeks after his accidental voyeurism as punishment. He had passed out from the force of it, face-planting into his shepherd's pie. Ginny then had the audacity to take a picture of his pie-covered face, which is now permanently stuck to the cold cabinet in the kitchen. But, Ob-la-di, ob-la-da.

Merlin, do I want to know?”

Draco does not answer, but instead produces a thick, creamy envelope with delicate gold lettering.

“It appears Mother is staging a re-entrance into polite British Wizarding Society and has kindly requested that I make an appearance.” He slams the envelop down on the table Harry is sat at, his pale face exhausted.

“Well, that’s all right, isn’t it? I thought you said that’s what she was aiming for.”

“Yes, it’s fine if Mother indulges in these fancies, but I want no part in it.”

“Why not? You already re-entered ‘polite Wizard Society’,” he starts, using air quotes.

“When did I ever do that?” Draco asks, puzzled.

“Draco, you attended Pansy’s 2004 New Years Eve Party at the bloody Daily Prophet Headquarters. You can’t get more public than that.”

“Yes. It was either go to the blasted party or have Pansy turn into a banshee. I live with her, Potter...imagine the constant bitching!” Harry nods in agreement. They had spent this holiday season separately, Draco in France with Narcissa and Harry mostly at the Burrow with the Weasleys. This year brought a new addition to the Weasley household— Pansy. “But surely you don’t consider that polite Wizarding Society when it comes to my Mother? I’m talking Pureblood, old money, with a hint of dark magic.”

Harry grimaces. “Oh.”

“Oh indeed. Mother coming back to England right now is a very bad idea.”

“But you love your mum.”

“Yes. I do,” he says solemnly. “But mother will complain about my lifestyle. She rivals Pansy in her relentlessness.”

“I thought your mum knew you were gay?”

“Not that, Potter. She doesn’t care about that after everything we’ve been through, she knows there are ways to obtain an heir — adoption, surrogacy, whatever,” Draco says, flapping a hand in the air dismissively. She will complain about my muggle lifestyle. She always does. And now, with this invitation? It’s a sign that she’s going to root herself in my affairs. Probably badger me into using the Malfoy coiffures to secure some attaché position within the ministry...maybe even force me to move back into the Manor!” Draco’s face is a perfect picture of horror at the mere thought. “I wasn’t exaggerating when I told you stories about growing up in the countryside, Harry. Every day was like a Jane Austen novel, but with murderous and terribly boring genteel houseguests.”

Harry doesn’t even know what to say to that outside of calling Draco a nutter. “Nutter...and you love your job,” Harry says in bewilderment.

Draco slouches forward a bit as his eyes narrows. “Will you be stating the obvious all day or is it just for this particular conversation?” he asks archly. “I’d like to know so I can tailor my statements for the sake of time and efficacy.”  

“Oh, ha-ha!” Harry says sarcastically. “I just think your mum wants to be close to you. Just let her.”

Draco nods. “You’re right...I’m just...worried. I don’t want her to be disappointed in me.”

Harry leans back in his chair to give Draco an incredulous look. “I can’t imagine she’d be, Draco. You’re insanely successful. Your mum will come around.”

“Let’s say…” Draco starts hesitantly, “that Mother wanted to...meet... you. Would that be something you would do?”

“But your mum already knows me.”

Draco crosses his arms. “I could write a book on the enormity of your stupidity, Potter. I meant if she wanted to have you ‘round for tea, would you be amenable to such an invite?”

“Oh!” Harry exclaims, feeling silly. He rubs the back of his neck, a small smile gracing his face. “I mean, yeah, of course. We’re mates now, why not?”

“Yeah, why not?” Draco repeats mockingly, shaking his head.


APRIL 2005

“Well, I wasn’t sure before, but now I most definitely am – you’ve brought me to the pinnacle of Hell, Potter,” Draco says angrily, his arms crossed against his slender chest. Harry smiles to himself, quite sure that Draco will be complaining for the duration of their shopping now.

“I heard there was going to be a storm today, I just didn’t expect it to be a shite storm from you,” Harry says wryly, assessing the electronics around him.

“Oh, ha-ha, it makes jokes! You imbecile. This is every wealthy man’s fantasy, eh?” Draco asks, eyes flashing with amusement as he fiddles with an overpriced camcorder. “Everything you could possibly want when you have everything!” he says as if in an infomercial.

“Speak for yourself,” he quips, to which Draco shoves him roughly in retort.

“How are we ever going to find something that’ll suit Pansy’s refined tastes?” Draco says in exasperation.

“Hey, Ginny is a difficult person to please, too,” he says, grinning.

“Mmm…you should have just grabbed something from the Quidditch supplies store,” Draco says absently, peering at a high-definition TV. “£4000 for this?” he says in disgust.

“Here, this! This is perfect,” Harry says excitedly, pressing several buttons on the machine before it blares to life, the TV behind it also clicking to life. Harry picks up the little microphone as he selects a song and smiles mischievously at Draco before taking a deep breath—

“Watching every motion, in my foolish lover’s game…”

“Oh, you bloody fool,” Draco interjects.

“On this endless ocean, finally lovers know no shame. Turning and returning to some secret place inside. Watching in slow motion as you turn around and say—” Harry holds out to microphone to Draco’s lips.

“Take my breath away,” Draco mutters into the microphone. “You really are ridiculous, Potter,” Draco says as Harry repeats the line.

“C’mon! DON’T be a prat! Sing with me, Draco,” he says with an exaggerated pout he knows makes him look like an utter ponce.

“I don’t know why I put up with you.” Draco rolls his eyes before snatching the microphone. “—Never hesitating to become the fated ones, turning and returning to some secret place to hide, watching in slow motion, as you turn to me and say…Take my breath away!” Draco croons, batting his eyelashes dramatically as Harry laughs. He’s actually surprised to find that Draco has a rather pleasant singing voice.

And suddenly, the air rushes from Harry’s lungs. Having apparently blanched noticeably, Draco stops his crooning, a sneer tugging at his lips. “What’s the matter, Potter? Do you hate my voice? That’s quite fine, serves you right for forcing me into this farce—”

“It’s Dean,” he says, throat closing up.

“What?” Draco says into the microphone.

“It’s Dean, he’s right over there, coming right at me,” Harry whispers when he finally finds his voice.

He grabs the microphone from Draco’s hands and shuts it off. It’s as if everything’s slowed down around him as his eyes meet the eyes of the person that broke his heart. The backup music and vocals continues to drone on obnoxiously as Dean and Cho Chang approach him. He flushes in embarrassment. He also notices that Cho is heavy with child, one hand protectively placed on her belly as she waddles towards him.

“Harry,” Dean says warmly. “How are you?”

Harry swallows the ball of emotion painfully, his throat constricting with the action. “Fine, just fine,” he struggles out.

“You remember Cho, yeah?” Dean asks, wrapping his arm around Cho’s shoulder.

Harry laughs awkwardly. “Yeah, of course,” he says. He wonders if Dean is being a prick, because he’s fully certain that Dean knew he fancied Cho back in fourth year. “Wow, you’re, you know, really pregnant,” he says. Cho giggles.

“Yeah, can you believe I’m only fourteen weeks? We’re having twins. Boys,” she says proudly, fondly caressing her belly with both hands.  

“That’s so great, congratulations,” Harry says weakly. Harry starts, suddenly remembering that Draco is standing quietly beside him.

“And you remember Draco.”

“Yeah,” Dean says, cautiously offering up a hand which Draco shakes briefly. “I heard you two were…hanging out,” Dean says as he looks down his nose, a hint of disdain colouring his words. Harry feels something explode in his chest – a lively burst of anger—and he suddenly wants to yell at Dean. How dare he, the tosser! How dare he even hint his disapproval after everything he’s done to him, and –

He stops his mental tirade, a retort on the tip of his tongue quickly fading away at the warm yet yielding touch to his elbow. It’s Draco, who gives a short little cough at Dean’s ridicule.  

“Nice to see you again Thomas, Chang,” Draco says in his signature bored drawl, nodding towards Cho.

“Oh, it’s Thomas now,” she says with a smile.

Harry then notices the modest, sparkly diamond on Cho’s left hand. He feels faint. No one told him. NO ONE told him Dean had gone off to marry someone, let alone Cho Chang who is now pregnant. For fucks sake, Dean could have at least reached out with a short letter. After all this time, Dean was still capable of finding new and unique ways to break Harry’s heart. It would be terribly rude of Harry to just faint right in front of them, so instead he pulls himself together and smiles back, knowing damn well it’s not meeting his eyes but having no other option but to power on. “That’s amazing. Congrats,” he pipes up.

“Thank you. It was a very small ceremony,” Cho says, the conversation lapsing into a brief, tense silence.

“Well, Harry. See you,” Dean says simply.

“Yeah. And congrats again,” he mutters, watching as Dean walks away with his wife, his arm still securely wrapped around her shoulders. When they’ve disappeared into the next room of the shop, Harry stumbles into the table with the karaoke machine. He feels like he’s survived a muggle gunshot to the chest. Draco places a steadying hand on his shoulder.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah, I’m perfect,” Harry mutters, feeling quite devoid of any emotion, but his head’s fiercely pounding as the room tilts on its axis and spins wildly. He tries to take a step but falters. Draco reaches out once more to hold him upright.

“He looked a bit weird, didn’t he?” Harry asks, looking up into Draco’s concerned eyes as he tries to stand on his quivering legs, but can’t. He’s surprised that even though Draco’s a skinny thing, he’s supporting most of his weight rather easily right now as he leans heavily into him. “Don’t you think he looked weird?”

“Well, he’s never been a looker,” Draco scoffs, then muttering something about a giraffe, peering back at the room the couple disappeared into.

“He looked bloody weird, trust me. Something about his face. It looked puffy,” Harry says, finally pulling away from Draco’s embrace and standing on his own. He tries to distract himself from Draco’s attentiveness by turning to the karaoke machine, fiddling with the price tag.

“Harry.”

“What?”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, yeah…I’m just a bit surprised, s’all. It’s no big deal. You know, it was like a catharsis. I looked death in the face again, but instead of just dying and coming back, I shook its hand first this time, and now I feel great. I feel fucking great. OK, how about this karaoke machine, eh?” he asks, glancing over at Draco’s horrified expression.

---

They make their way to East London, Haggerston specifically, to pop over to Ginny and Pansy’s new flat. Ginny had said that they had an epic view overlooking the Regents canal and that transportation offered them easy access to Shoreditch, Hackney Central being a brisk five-minute walk away.  

Ginny throws her arms around his neck when she opens the door, her shaved head tickling his chin, dressed in a grey crop top that says Just Do It. and matching baggy joggers slung dangerously low on her hips. Her lips met his cheek before he can even strangle out a hello. She bounces over to Draco then, nearly toppling him over at the sheer force of her hug.

Ginny eagerly shows them around the house, music playing from hidden speakers as they gather in the reception room, a mix of different textured and coloured furniture — a teal coloured sofa, a pair of copper coloured leather armchairs, and yellow floor cushions — working nicely with the exposed brick of the walls. She ooh’ed and ahh’ed at their wrapped housewarming gift, the karaoke machine, placing it on the kitchen counter. They snagged an enormous, beautiful three-bedroom maisonette, the reception room was solid wood flooring, an open plan kitchen decked out with high gloss black finishes and a spiral staircase leading to the second floor. Even their updated toilets in all three of their fanciful loos intimidated Harry.

Harry does a double take when he sees Pansy, he’s never seen her dressed so casually. She’s donned a pair of skin tight black leggings and an oversized ochre-coloured funnel neck jumper, her narrow feet bare. She’s making her way through a box of books and vases, swinging her shapely hips to Ladytron’s Playgirl, and strategically placing each item onto the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in the corner of the reception. The bookshelf extends nearly to both floors, and has its own ladder.

“Wow, well done. Your place is beautiful,” Draco says. Pansy turns around, a smile on her makeup-free face. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen Pansy without lipstick and the heavy kohl around her eyes.

“Yeah, we did well,” Pansy says warmly, sauntering over to them to place a kiss on both of their cheeks. “But Ginny seems to have a problem with the Ming vase going on the coffee table.”

“Oh no,” Draco says dryly.

“It’s just that it works for me, you know. It says home to me.”

Ginny crosses her arms against her chest with a huff. “Right…” she drawls. “Because a ten-thousand quid vase just screams homey.”

“What’s so awful about it, Gin? It’s expensive and beautiful. Why shouldn’t we, as strong beautiful women, display beautiful things in our beautiful home?” Pansy says, exasperated.

“It’s so awful that there is no way to begin to explain what’s so awful about it!” Ginny retorts.

“I don’t object to any of your things,” Pansy says, pointing to the oblong glass case of antique snitches Ginny’s been collecting for the last five years. Pansy’s placed it on one of the shelves of their enormous bookcase.

“That’s worth more than your stupid Ming,” Ginny says sullenly.

“Well, why don’t we let Draco and Potter decide, yes?” Pansy snaps, her eyes narrowing. “What do you think of it?” Pansy asks, looking at him. Harry starts, glancing over at the vase in question. It’s quite ugly to him— blue and white with a garishly drawn dragon on it.

“It’s from the 16th century,” Pansy adds with a small smile.

“C’mon, Harry. You have to be on my side!” Ginny cries, shooting a glare at Pansy.

“Baby, I am on your side. I just want you to have good taste like me,” Pansy says soothingly, sidling up beside Ginny and wrapping her arms around her.

“You think you have good taste,” Ginny mumbles. Pansy pokes her and Ginny starts to giggle, pulling away from Pansy’s hands, but she goes after her, poking and tickling Ginny’s bare stomach.

“You two are disgusting,” Draco jibes, joining in on their giggles. Harry walks up to the vase, anger crackling inside him, and picks it up, carefully turning it over in his hands. His shoulders begin to shake as a hysterical laugh bubbles up his throat. He spins on his heel, looking back at the curious expressions of his friends as he tilts his head back and laughs even harder. Everything, everything about the situation is utterly fucking ridiculous to him.

“You know it starts off like this, don’t you?” he begins as his laughter dies down. They all stand quietly before him. “We started out like this, Dean and I. Grimmauld Place was nothing but blank walls when you first left Gin, and then Dean came along, and we hung his paintings, pictures of us from holidays, and of his family. We looked at swatches, fucking swatches, and do you know what happened? Four years later I’m singing Take My Fucking Breath Away in front of Cho Chang-Thomas!” Harry screams, flinging the vase to the ground. It shatters into a thousand little pieces on impact and everyone gasps. Except Pansy. She actually screams.

“You fucking cunt!” she shrieks. “I hope you have ten thousand pounds in your back pocket!” She lunges towards him, nails ready to sink into his skin probably, but Ginny holds her back, pulls out her wand, and repairs the vase. Pansy mutters under her breath fucking arsehole Neanderthal. He watches as Ginny’s quick charm work has the vase reconstructing itself in mere seconds.

“Potter,” Draco hisses through clenched teeth, his eyes narrowing and a muscle twitch in his jaw. “I know you’re upset, but do we have to talk about this right now?”

“What’s wrong with right now, Malfoy? It’s a bloody perfect time to talk about it, I want them to see this,” he says, his voice trembling with anger. He goes over to one of the open boxes by the bookshelf and pulls out a hot pink book, holding it up. “I just want them to see the reality of what this leads to. You both are so happy, everybody’s so content and before you know it, you’re screaming at each other over who owns—” he peers down at the cover of the book, “— Intimate Images of Sarah Jessica Parker !” He tosses the book onto the shelf before pointing at it. “You’ll fight over this fucking book just because. I mean it. Put your name in it, on all your separate belongings, otherwise you’ll be getting an owl in the middle of the night a week after you break up asking whether or not you’re holding his paintbrushes hostage!” Harry screams.

Ginny makes a small noise of disappointment. “We spent so many nights watching Sex and the City together! I thought you liked SJP?” she asks.

“I was being nice! She’s the worst character ever and a shit friend!” Harry continues to shout, stomping towards the front door. A small part of his inwardly cringes at his dramatics, and also at the very real possibility that he’s a Carrie and not the Samantha-Miranda hybrid he always aspired to be. Ginny gasps, clearly affronted by his revelation.

“He just bumped into Dean,” he hears Draco explain.

“I just want you to know babe, that I will always want the Sarah Jessica Parker book,” he hears Ginny say.

He slams the front door behind him.

---

Only a few minutes pass before Draco comes outside to stand on the stoop above him. Harry wishes he smoked, because a cigarette in between his fingers would make his brooding on the steps seem less petulant and more about having an addiction to those passing by. His hands are just shoved in his jean pockets instead as he looks out onto the residential street.

“Yeah, I know. I was a prick in there,” he says with an unapologetic air as he begins to pace again.

“Harry, you need to find a way of not expressing every feeling you have every single moment you have them,” Draco says quietly, taking a seat on the top step.

“Oh really?” Harry asks with a snort, not ceasing in his pacing.

“Yes, Harry. There are times and places for such things.”

“Well Professor Malfoy, when you’re giving your next lecture, in bloody Pureblood Social Graces, I’ll be sure to sign up!” he says, stopping to glare at him.

“You don’t have to be such an arsehole,” Draco says, smoothing back loose tendrils of hair from his face.

“That’s fresh, coming from you. I think I’m entitled to a bit of arsehole behaviour in my life, Mr Ex-Death Eater.”

Draco gasps and abruptly stands. What little colour he has in his face quickly drains away. “Fuck you, Potter. You’re dangerously about to cross a line that you’re going to regret. I won’t stick around to watch you self-destruct and drag the rest of us down with you,” Draco says, voice pitched low.

“I really don’t care,” he starts, his arms curling around his suddenly aching stomach. “Who gives a fuck if I cross a bloody line? You’ve got some nerve trying to criticise my decisions to ‘cross a line’ – for someone standing so far behind one!”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Draco shouts, dropping his calm and collected tone. Harry inwardly cheers, desperate to shake Draco up.

“I mean that nothing ever seems to bother you! You complain all the time about stupid shit, but it’s never serious. You never get angry about real fucking issues.” Harry glares at him, his eyes roaming over Draco’s sensible charcoal cardigan over a simple black button down and smart black trousers. He cuts an imposing yet striking, lanky figure.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Draco says, stepping down to stand beside him.

“What? You never talk about Bart. I never see you even react when his name is brought up! How is that possible? Don’t you experience any feelings of loss?” he spits, shaking his head as he glares at the other man.

“Potter, need I remind you who the hell you’re talking to? Of course, I’ve experienced loss. Father is in Azkaban, Mother hardly ever leaves her house if it’s not advantageous to her social standing. I can’t do magic for ten years. My long-term boyfriend left me, and now my best friend is being a snivelling, selfish tit! So yeah, I have experienced fucking loss, but guess what? My mourning period is over. I’m tired of feeling sorry for myself—all I want is to be happy. So, excuse me if I’m not throwing a tantrum, breaking shit that doesn’t belong to me, and embarrassing myself in front of my friends every time I’m upset!”

“What fucking mourning period!?” Harry roars. “D’you think two hours spent shopping in Harrods means you’ve mourned? ‘Oh, look! I bought some suede Gucci loafers, there goes heartbreak flying out the goddamn window!’” Harry says hysterically, his arms flying up in the air.

“I don’t have to take this from you,” Draco says darkly, turning to go back towards the flat. Harry grabs him by the elbow to hold him still.

“You think you’re so over Bart, but I don’t see you trying to date other people. Why is that?”

“I date people,” Draco says quietly, his face stricken as he wretches his arm from Harry’s grasp. Harry knows from history that a soft-spoken Draco is an infuriated Draco, but his anger propels him forward anyway.

“Bollocks! Let me ask you a question, Malfoy. Have you even fucked another person since Bart?”

The crude question hangs between them and Draco stares at him, his mouth slightly open and his eyes furiously cold. Draco then, very carefully, steps up to him, using his few inches in height against Harry as he glares down at him, breathing heavily through his nostrils.

“What the fuck does that have to do with anything, Potter? If I fuck someone, will that prove that I’ve moved on? You’ve fucked so many people, you’re going to have to move to the continent to meet someone new. I don’t see how fucking everything in trousers or a skirt is going to erase the memory of what you had with Dean or with Ginny for that matter, you self-righteous arsehole. When I decide to become intimate with someone, I won’t be fucking them. I’ll make love with that person and it won’t be for revenge or to make some sort of point like you do.”

There’s an apprehensive pause between them. A flush is creeping up Draco’s neck as he practically vibrates with anger. Harry can see the twitch in his jaw, the flare of his nostrils, but most of all, he can see the hurt in his narrowed eyes. The heat from the row that was building in him suddenly dissipates. Harry runs a hand through his wild hair.

“Are you finished?” he asks.

Draco gasps. “Fuck you,” Draco says incredulously, then after a beat, “Yes.”

“Can I tell you something?”

“What?” Draco snaps.

Harry throws his arms around him. Draco takes a half step backwards, stiffening and then tries to jerk away from the contact, but when he doesn’t release him it’s not before long Draco’s relaxing into the embrace, an exhale of breath tickling the side of Harry’s neck as his arms come up to hug him back. “I’m so sorry,” he says tenderly into Draco’s shoulder. “I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t mean any of it, Draco, really. The last thing I’d ever want to do is hurt you. You’re so brave, so strong to keep yourself together despite all the impossible shit you have to put up with, myself included. Can you forgive me?”

Draco places a hand on his shoulder blade before sighing and rubbing a soothing circle into his back. “I suppose I can forgive you, Potter. You are, after all, a bloody Neanderthal. One comes to expect these kinds of insipid outbursts,” he says wearily. When Harry pulls back, Draco is smirking, but Harry can still see the traces of hurt in his eyes. He reaches up to push a lock of hair behind Draco’s ear that has escaped from his bun before stepping back. Draco swallows and bites his lower lip.

“You’re right – I’m just an idiot,” Harry says softly. “I’d be lost without your guidance, it seems.”

“Really glad you’re starting to notice,” Draco responds. His hands suddenly begin to wring at his sides. “Shall we go back in?”

Harry nods. The air between them is slightly anxious and – charged, but not with any lingering anger or spite.

Definitely charged, with something, he can’t put his finger on it. When Draco looks back at him with a curious expression and flushed cheeks before opening the front door, Harry nearly stumbles on the steps.

What was that? He wonders, following Draco’s retreating form.


 

JULY 2005

“You’re back with my snacks!” Draco exclaims cheerfully as he takes a Coca-Cola from Harry’s arms, pops the top, and chugs it.

“Slow down, Draco. Too much sugar will have you bouncing all over the place,” Harry says, carefully maneuvering a huge bag of popcorn, a box of nachos, and his own drink so he can sit on the ground.

“Who’s the doctor here?” Draco asks with a snort. “We’re at a muggle film in a bloody cemetery, I deserve one of these sugary fizzy drinks.” Harry smiles at him. They’re sitting shoulder to shoulder, legs crossed on one of Molly’s infamous multi-coloured quilts. The bright pink and yellow colours were a bit blinding, but Harry has grown very attached to it over the years. Despite the summer air and sunshine that they were privy to earlier in the day, the temperature has dropped now that evening is approaching and people gather at Brompton Cemetery for a film. Harry had packed a couple of blankets in advance. Harry’s still amused any time he takes Draco to the cinema. The first time they'd gone together, it was to see an oldish film. Draco was so shocked and engrossed that he had stayed silent the whole two hours of Philadelphia, which was an astonishing feat for the usually vocal man. Harry will never forget the tears that poured down Draco’s face at the end of the film.  

Draco suddenly chuckles. “Oh, Christ, remember when you cried at the end of The Notebook? I nearly pissed myself.”

“Whatever,” Harry says with a roll of his eyes. “It was really fucking sad.”

“It was sad and beautiful,” he says solemnly before cracking a wicked smile. “Harry, you were bawling! Bawling! I’ve never seen you cry so bloody hard!”

Harry looks over at Draco’s laughing form and his breath catches. As dusk falls around them, Draco is illuminated by the descending sun, his white blond hair and sharp features softening. Harry can’t help the warm feeling spreading across his chest as his eyes flit over Draco. He wants to commit this image of him today to memory. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen Draco look so comfortable and happy, especially in a plain white t-shirt and worn jeans. His face is open, contemplative, and calm as he quiets and sips from his beverage, watching the trailers that come on before the film.

“Did you say this film is scary?” Draco whispers, taking another swig from the can. Harry shakes himself a bit and clears his suddenly dry throat.

“Not quite…Hermione remembers it being pretty damn sad, though.”

Draco makes a noise of disappointment. “Pity, I quite like a good, scary film. But if it’s sad, I guess I’ll allow you to cuddle me.” But even as Draco rolls his eyes theatrically and releases a put-upon sigh, he scoots a bit closer to Harry. Harry laughs.

“How’d I get such a compassionate best friend?” he simpers, tossing a few pieces of popcorn at Draco.

“That Infamous Harry Potter Pure Dumb Luck, I suppose,” Draco says, his nose turning up with a slight sniff.

“Oh yeah, that’s gotta be it,” Harry says dryly as he nudges him with an elbow.

“How come we stopped doing this?” Draco asks suddenly. “We used to mark film openings in our diaries all the time, I miss it. Even with my work at the hospital, my diary can always fit in a film with you,” Draco says, bumping his shoulder against Harry’s.

Before Harry can respond, Draco pulls out a small, rectangular-shaped present from his tote bag and holds it out. “Here.”

Harry blushes, gingerly taking the gift from him. “Oh! Draco, you shouldn’t have…”

“Spare me the niceties, Potter, and open it,” he encourages softly.

When Harry peels back the wrapping paper, he immediately gasps.

The frame is an ornate, vintage sterling silver. Resting in it is a picture he’s never seen before but immediately knows: his mother and father on their wedding day.

Lily is dressed in a flowing white dress with balloon sleeves, a crown of white flowers in her red hair. James is dressed in tight tan trousers rolled up to mid-calf, a white button-down with the first few buttons undone, and a brown tweed blazer, his hair wild and glasses slightly askew as he holds a piece of cake to Lily’s lips for her to bite into. He then leans forward to kiss the frosting from a laughing Lily’s lips. The images loops.

“Draco,” Harry says thickly. “My God, how—”

“I contacted McGonagall who provided me a list of names of people she could recall having attended the wedding...people she thought are still alive,” Draco explains, a sad look on his face. “This one woman in particular, a witch by the name of Laura Stephens, responded. She explained that her mother, Mary MacDonald, passed away a year ago. Mary fled to Australia just days after your parents’ wedding.”

Harry suddenly remembers the woman from Snape’s memories. Mary, a girl then, had been a friend of Lily’s and a victim of a dark spell casted on her from Mulciber. Merlin.

“Laura was kind enough to respond to my ask for any pictures Mary may have had of your parents. She did some searching through her mother's photo albums and only found this one. Laura was happy to send it along.” Draco’s cheeks pinkend. “I may have contacted her under false pretenses while also using Pansy’s title and official DP stationary, but that’s neither here nor there…”

Harry doesn’t even try to hide the tears in his eyes as he looks over at Draco. Draco’s lips are caught between his teeth, his anxious expression slipping to one of compassion. “I wanted you to remember that love, true love, does exist, that you are the product of it. And you very much deserve it in your life.” Harry inhales sharply.

“This means so much to me,” Harry whispers, fondly caressing the thick frame. “This is so,” Harry starts, breath hitching painfully, “this is amazing, Draco. Thank you.”

Draco nods, his already rosy cheeks burning brighter as the sun begins to set.

“Can I...can I hug you?” Harry whispers.

“I actually insist that you do,” Draco responds with a wry smile, but his voice trembles.

Harry carefully sets the frame down before turning to Draco. He looks like he’s vibrating with anticipation as Harry reaches out for him, wrapping his arms around Draco as Draco wraps his own arms around Harry’s waist, hooking his chin over Harry’s shoulder. “Thank you,” Harry says reverently. He simply can’t put into words his appreciation for Draco’s sweet and thoughtful gift. He tries to show it through his hug, instead. Draco’s hands trail up and down Harry’s back in a soothing motion, and for just a moment, Harry feels like they are clasped in a lover’s embrace.

Draco sighs happily before slowly pulling away, his lower lip once again trapped between his teeth. Draco leans forward to wipe the tears from Harry’s cheeks.

 

“Happy Birthday, Harry.”


 

SEPTEMBER 2005

Draco is feverishly drawing on the large pad of white paper set up on an easel, his brow furrowed and his tongue caught between his teeth.

“Er…it’s a monkey! It’s a monkey. Monkey see, monkey do!” Oliver Wood shouts. Draco shakes his head and rolls his eyes. “An ape?” the Scottish man continues.

“Going ape shit crazy!”

“It’s a baby,” Harry mutters. Draco nods and scribbles down the word on the drawing pad. He then draws what oddly looks like a big mouth.

“Planet of the Apes?” Ron asks.

“Planet of the Apes?” George repeats, with a quirk of his lips. “He already said it was a bloody baby, how does Planet of the Apes factor in to that?” Angelina giggles beside him.

“Well, it doesn’t look like a baby,” Hermione interjects, earning a kiss on the cheek from Ron and a glare from Draco.

“It really doesn’t,” Neville snorts from his position on the floor pressed against the front of Hannah’s legs. She runs a hand through his hair from her spot in an armchair.

“Thirty seconds,” Dennis Creevey says, holding up a small timer. Draco quickly draws what looks like arrows coming from out of the baby’s mouth, his face twisted up in disbelief as he points to the arrows.

“Big mouth!” Hannah shouts.

“Big Mouth Baby, big baby,” Harry says.

Ah-ha!” Ron exclaims, snapping his fingers. “Hermione on a bad day!”  

“Hey!” Hermione says, punching him lightly on the arm as everyone laughs. Her protests are silenced when Ron leans forward to pepper kisses across her face.

“Baby ape?” Ron asks.

“Will you forget about the bloody ape?” Harry says.

“I mean, it sorta looks like a fish,” Neville says.

“I think it looks like a chicken,” Angelina says. George nods along.

“Yeah, what the fuck, Malfoy? I thought you swot, posh types knew how to draw. Learned since infancy or some rot,” George snorts, despite Draco’s glacial glare.

“Ten seconds,” Dennis says.

“Crying baby, feed the baby, baby food?” Hermione offers, her cheeks flushed as Ron’s lips are pressed and murmuring against her ear. Harry looks away from them. It’s been like this ever since they announced they were trying to get pregnant. He’s sure Ron would strip Hermione naked right now in front of them all, the randy bastard, if it weren’t so obvious that Hermione would AK him for it...or at least he thinks she would...with all their PDA maybe she’d like it...Merlin.

“Draw something that resembles anything!” Harry says, his exasperation clear in his voice. Draco stomps his foot, looking every inch of the petulant baby he’s drawn stuck in a full-grown man’s body. He growls angrily, once again pointing to the arrows, circling them three times.

“That’s it! Times up,” Dennis chirps happily.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, it’s baby talk!” Draco explodes, crossing his arms against his chest.

“Granger, I thought you were smart? I’m doubly disappointed in you.”

“Hey!” she cries, scandalised. “Maybe you should learn to draw better!” she shoots back.

Everyone laughs as a pouting Draco flops himself dejectedly beside Oliver, the other man wraps his arm around Draco’s shoulders and pulls him close for a tight hug. How in the hell Parkinson had finagled Draco into giving his old Quidditch team captain a shot at dating, he doesn’t know, but now they’re a thing. Draco had been so adamant about staying single and waiting for “the one” that it felt to Harry as if he’d just agreed to date whomever was flung at him just to prove that he could still pull someone... Oliver Wood isn’t a bad looking bloke, either, Harry thinks rather glumly. He’s quite handsome, burly, and tall. Not to mention, famous, filthy rich and slightly older, though nowhere near the daddy-type he knows Draco prefers.

“Baby talk is not a saying,” Harry sulks, leaning back against the sofa as Dennis curls up beside him. He purposely averts his gaze as Draco and Oliver giggle between one another.

“Well, final score: our team, one ten, you guys, sixty,” Dennis says, smiling up at Harry.

“Well shan,” Oliver starts. “But don’t pout, m’eudail, I thought you did great,” he says kissing Draco fully on the lips. There’s a collective “yes,” and “yeah, sure,” that goes around before Hermione stands.

“Anyone fancy another cocktail?” she asks. Everyone nods, and Harry shoots up from his seat, uprooting Dennis a bit, the poor small mousy-haired man’s eyes shifting back and forth as he catches himself from sliding over into Harry’s now empty seat.

He shoots Dennis a sheepish, apologetic look before turning to Hermione. “I’ll help you.”

“Ron, be a dear and set up the film, won’t you?” she asks. Ron smiles up at her and nods.

When they enter the kitchen, Hermione sets about gathering the ingredients for another pitcher of mojitos, pushing back her thick mane of hair. “For someone who works with children, that was a horrifically drawn baby,” she muses with a smile, pulling the Bacardi towards her.

As they share a laugh, Dennis pops up into the kitchen behind Harry. “Hey, Hermione, where’s your loo?” he asks.

“Oh. To the right down the hall on the other side of the living room, I’m afraid. It’s the last door to the left,” she says.

Dennis walks up to Harry, placing a languid kiss on his lips before he heads away. Hermione quirks an eyebrow, her lips twitching as she crushes mint leaves against the side of a pitcher. “Guess he missed you,” she smiles.

“Oliver’s not really Draco’s type, is he?” Harry asks reluctantly, ignoring her comment about Dennis. He cranes his neck to peer into the sitting room. Everyone is still busy laughing and watching Ron set up the film. Fiddling with the bag of ice Hermione had pulled from the freezer, Harry frowns. He doesn’t want her to read too much into his question but knowing her, she’s already a million miles ahead of herself as soon as the words left his mouth. Ever since Harry’s birthday Draco has been...well, still his same snooty arsehole—ish self, but also more affectionate with Harry, more soft spoken, and gentle. Harry doesn’t know what’s caused this change in him, not that he’s complaining. Their friendship is in a really good place. But now that Draco’s seeing Oliver, he can’t help but feel a bit threatened over the other man’s presence. Hermione hums.

“I suppose not, but he is quite a catch. Pansy chose well for him. I mean, he’s world famous but not full of himself, and not keen on appearing in tabloids. He’s good for Draco. I can easily see Oliver acclimating to his muggle lifestyle since he’s not terribly active in the Magical community outside of Quidditch,” she says, adding ice and pouring rum into the glass.

“Who cares if he’s not into the tabloids? What can he possibly offer Draco in terms of a life-long partner?”

“Why are you so concerned about it?” Hermione asks with a hint of amusement.

Harry frowns. “Malfoy doesn’t like famous people.”

“Um,” Hermione starts, an exaggerated bewildered look on her face.

“You know what I mean! I’m reluctantly famous, whereas Oliver is, in-your-face famous.”

“Harry, you’re not making sense. Oliver is great! I always thought you respected him,” Hermione says in disappointment as she gives a little chastising shake of her head.

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry says miserably, grabbing a mint leaf and sniffing it. “I do. Oliver is a grown up. I’ve never been with a grown up before,” he says cheekily. “I’m just concerned that he’s going to turn into a May to December indiscretion for Draco. It’s been a while since he’s been in a relationship.”

“I think Oliver is very serious about Draco. Oliver simply dotes on him. He took us all to a match last week, too. It was great, Ron was especially excited,” Hermione says, taking a small sip from her mix.

“You all…went to a Quidditch match together?” he asks weakly.

“Yeah, but it was a last-minute thing,” Hermione says with a shrug. “Don’t read too much into it.”

“But Draco hates anything to do with the Magical world.” Except flying, that’s the one thing he misses the most, his mind offers. Watching a Quidditch match would be as close as he can get to it.

“I did glamour him, he’s just not ready to re-introduce himself to the public. Dennis seems terrific,” she says encouragingly, changing the subject.

Harry shrugs, just as eager to drop the subject after hearing that bit of news. He supposes he doesn’t need to stress about Draco’s relationship when he had his own to worry about. It was just by chance that he had bumped into Dennis. He had popped over to the Ministry for a meeting with Robards about finally picking up Auror training when he’d seen the mousy-haired man. Harry was attracted to him and they truly enjoyed one another’s company. They were able to talk about anything, even the war, and it made Harry feel like he could actually do a relationship. He’s determined to at least try, he certainly doesn’t want to moon over Draco anymore, even if he finds himself lapsing back to old feelings here and there.

“Yeah. Of course,” Harry starts off. “Though, last week I asked him what’s his favourite David Bowie song, you know, being muggleborn, and he asked me, ‘who’s David Bowie?’”


OCTOBER 2005

Narcissa Malfoy arrives back to Malfoy Manor on a blistering cold Saturday morning in mid-October. Draco had had very little warning of her arrival, apparently. So little that he was still passed out from working a double shift when his mother’s house elf, Étienne, who was decked out in the prettiest green chiffon dress, popped into existence in his bedroom. It caused him quite the panic, and not even a spliff had helped him calm down afterwards.

He hadn’t stopped recounting the tale since he sat with Harry for lunch.

Which was over four hours ago now.

“I swear, she nearly gave me a heart attack.”

Harry nods, currently distracted as he searches his writing desk for his favourite quill. He had finally caved to the Ministry’s appeal for Auror recruits, and Harry had started the process of attending lectures, taking notes, and doing practical field work. But he found himself enjoying it. He has a knack for Auror work, even with his limited training.

They’re tucked away in the library, soft jazzy music playing from the wireless. Draco’s curled up with a book in hand while nursing a glass of Shiraz from a bottle he picked up at M&S before coming over.

Harry stops searching, completely frustrated over his misplaced quill. Hands on his hips, he turns towards Draco. “Hey, do you know where my favourite quill is?”

“In the drawer with that garish lamp on it,” Draco says, jerking his chin towards the lamp in question—it’s a terrifying thing, the base looks like a femur and the lampshade is possibly made from human skin — without tearing his eyes away from his book. Harry scrambles towards it and with a satisfied sigh, pulls his eagle-feathered quill from the drawer.

“Bloody hell, where’d I put the parchment with my notes?” he mumbles to himself. To his surprise, Draco answers.

“Behind those weird Granger-made socks over by your armchair—”

Harry walks over to the spot and surprise, surprise, Draco is right. His hands are back on his hips as he stares at Draco with a questioning, quirked eyebrow. Amused, he asks, rather vaguely, “And the Luna thing?”

Draco shudders. “Ugh, Merlin, that monstrosity is in the kitchen under the sink. To prevent Nargles, or at least that’s the last place I saw the crazy bint put it.” Harry’s full on smiling, beyond amused and even a little bit touched. He chuckles, finally drawing Draco’s attention away from his book. “I’m sorry, do you live here?” he asks, before bursting into laughter. “Wow, why do you know where all my shite is?”

“Because I do practically live here,” Draco mutters, but there is a small smile playing at his lips.  

Harry scoffs. “You should just sell your place and move in here. We could be roommates.”

“As if, Potter. I see enough of you as is,” Draco says, the comment belied by the teasing smile on his face. “Though with Mother being in town, I may need to find refuge from my own home. I’m afraid Mother’s going to kidnap me and drop me in the middle a soiree just so she can match me with some so-and-so the VIII.”

Harry giggles, but tries to say in a solemn voice, “Are you going to be safe going home tonight?”

Draco momentarily hides his grin behind his wine glass. “You know, I’m not quite sure. Maybe I can spend the night here in one of your many guest rooms?”

Harry goes a bit rigid at that, but quickly recovers, heading towards his liquor cabinet to pour a glass of the red Draco brought. “Are you taking the piss?” Harry asks evenly.

“No. I mean, I was going to have to come back for breakfast anyways, right? Ginny gets back from her vacation tonight. She, Weasley and Hermione are joining us for breakfast, remember?”

Oh. Harry completely forgot that they were all gathering to plan Pansy’s birthday party. “You’re right.”

“Indeed I am. So I say we finish the rest of this wine, have Kreacher pop us some popcorn, and we take advantage of that telly of yours?”

Harry has to admit that the idea sounds sweet , but since when has Draco been keen on spending the night at Harry’s? Or even watching films here? He doesn’t question it, though, as he takes a sip of his wine. Draco is his best mate, and who is Harry to turn down his affections?

-

The next morning, after a quick shower to clear his slight hangover, Harry makes his way down to the kitchen to get started on breakfast. He tries not to rely too much on Kreacher, now that the elf is well over 600-years-old. Harry was actually starting to look into elf retirement homes for him. Harry is surprised to find that Draco is already in front of the stove, making crepes.

“You didn’t have to do all this,” Harry says with an appreciative smile.

“It’s fine, I quite enjoy making these. Plus, I didn’t sleep very well.”

“Was the room not comfortable?” Harry asks, his eyebrows rising.

“Oh, no, it’s not that…”

“Er, was it just being in a place that’s not your home?” Harry asks, growing more perplexed by the minute as Draco purses his lips.

Draco’s cheeks are suddenly pink for some reason.

“It wasn’t that, either. It’s fine. I’m going to start on the eggs. Why don’t you turn on the wireless?”

“Sure,” Harry says. When he turns on BBC 1 Radio and Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head fills up the kitchen.

“Oh!" Draco shouts. "I bloody love this song, turn it up!” Grinning, Harry makes a dash for the wireless controls, turning up the song. Draco twirls on the spot, spatula in hand and shakes his bum. “Come dance with me,” he shouts over the music. Harry laughs and shimmies over to him, trying and failing to mimic the fluid motion of Draco’s hip pops.

They jump up and down, bump their bums together and twirl each other across the tile floor of the kitchen, belting out lyrics as loud as they can. They collapse against each other as the song ends, laughing and pleasantly flushed.

“Oh no, the eggs!” Draco says, rushing over to the stove. Harry follows him, leaning over the skillet to assess their ruined breakfast. They grin at each other.

Draco’s gaze flicks to Harry’s lips. Harry inhales sharply.

The Floo flares to life and Ron and Hermione step out.

“Oh, bugger,” Ron says, throwing his hands up in the air. “Is that…is that our breakfast? I thought you were making breakfast not burning it, mate!”

Harry tilts his head back and laughs.

Draco snorts. “Someone’s angry,” he teases.

“Uh, yes. Harry promised breakfast, tea, and planning Parkinson’s birthday. What the hell is going on?”

“Honestly, Ron. There’s no need to be rude,” Hermione tuts, pulling out her wand and vanishing the ruined eggs. “I’ll make the eggs, yes?” she suggests. She looks down at her wristwatch. “Ginny should be here any minute and we all know she’s worse than Ron when you muck about with her food.”


 

NOVEMBER 2005

“Sexy cardi,” Hermione says.

“Thank you. I do aim to please,” Draco responds, baring a wide smile.

“And whom may I ask are you trying to please here?” Hermione quips back. For some reason, the tips of Harry’s ears suddenly feel very, very, warm. Draco laughs awkwardly at her comment, causing a slew of nervous, contemplative thoughts to rush through Harry’s mind. He’s distracted again, however, when Draco moans.

“Mmmmm…” Draco moans again in pleasure, sipping from the elegant glass of red wine in his hand. “You have to try this, right? Yes, you have to. Hermione?” he asks, changing the subject. Typical Slytherin.

“Oh, I shouldn’t.”

“Harry?” Draco asks, holding his own glass out to him. He takes it and sips from it.

“Oh, that is yummy. Is that the bottle they grabbed while in Verona?”

“It is!” Ginny says, suddenly appearing in the kitchen, her sequined green shirt sparkling in the bright light. Pansy had surprised Ginny with a three month long vacation that involved traveling to cities all over the world after proposing to her. They were getting married next month on Christmas Eve. “Hermione, you’d be crazy not to have a glass,” Ginny says, pouring herself a helping.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you have anything to drink this entire night,” Harry says, eyeing Hermione as she flushes.

“Well…”

“Oh hell,” Draco says, setting his glass down and staring at Hermione, both eyebrows shooting up to his hairline. Harry hasn’t been able to really look directly at Draco at all tonight, what with his hair down about his shoulders and his pale face prettily flushed from the alcohol. It’s too much, too beautiful, too painful. It’s a bit like staring into the sun. “You’re not drinking, you’ve been going to the loo like crazy, and your breasts look bigger.”

“I agree,” Ginny says, a grin on her face as she shoots an appreciative look at Hermione’s sensible floral-patterned blouse covered bosom.

Hermione shrugs.

“What are you doing staring at my wife’s breasts, Malfoy?” Ron asks, coming into the kitchen from behind Harry. He doesn’t seem at all offended that Ginny’s noticed. Then Ginny squeals.

“No!” she says, her face lighting up as her hand flies to her mouth. “No bloody way!” she murmurs through fingers.

“I’m a doctor, Weasley. I notice things.”

“Hermione’s breasts, though?” Ron asks dubiously.

“Your sister has noticed,” Draco points out.

“She’s gay.”

“Hello, I’m gay!” Harry snorts as Draco’s annoyed voice rings out. “But you’re avoiding the real issue here. Ginny, for fuck’s sake, calm down before you have an aneurysm!” Draco snaps at the small bouncing woman before turning his expectant gaze back to Hermione. Harry stares on in bleary bemusement.

“Bloody hell,” she exclaims, a huge grin growing across her face, her hands coming to rest on her hips. “We’re pregnant!” There’s such an insane cacophony of noise that Harry flinches and stumbles in the wake of the announcement. Ginny’s squeals alone are earth-shattering as she throws herself at Hermione. When he finally regains his equilibrium, he squeezes pass Ginny to engulf Hermione in a hug.

“Mione, that’s brilliant! How far gone are you?” he asks, excitement and pride bubbling up in his chest.

“I’m eleven weeks.” The kitchen erupts in cheers once again, Slytherins, Gryffindors and an assortment of others all at once. Pansy suddenly appears beside Hermione to scoop her up for a kiss on the cheek, then pulling Ron away from his mates slapping him on the back for a kiss on the cheek as well. Hermione giggles as Draco wraps her into a hug once Pansy let’s her go.

“Why didn’t you say anything sooner, you barmy woman?” Draco asks.

“In all fairness, I didn’t want to detract from Pansy’s night,” Hermione says, her cheeks flushed from the excitement and wisps of hair escaping from her high, curly ponytail.

“Nonsense! Give me all of your beautiful news! That’s what makes a party!” Pansy says, hugging Hermione once more.

----

They’re sat together, glasses of liquor clinking and laughter erupting from all corners of the room, when Pansy announced they would play a little game, a muggle one at that.

“Seven minutes in Heaven!” she proudly announces, an empty bottle of her beloved Tanqueray in her spiky hands. “And I don’t want to hear a single word of protest from anyone of you! It’s my birthday,” she says sweetly, sauntering over to the group of people lounging on the sofas and rug. She kicks off her heels and gracefully sits on the Persian rug, her feet tucked under her bum. Harry groans and Pansy shoots him a sharp look. Damn it. Pansy’s games always spell trouble.

 

And that’s how he found himself locked in a closet with Draco.

Harry can’t see shit, he can only hear Draco’s even breathing.

“I stayed in the closet for years,” Draco muses cheerfully, his words slurring a bit.

“I was raised in a cupboard,” Harry says casually.

JESUS, Harry. I hate when you nonchalantly bring up your abuse as a child.”

“I wasn’t abused.”

Potter…” Draco hisses warningly. Harry shrugs. They’ve had this conversation too many times. Mercifully, Draco changes the subject. “What are we supposed to do in here?”

“Snog,” Harry says softly, his hands clenching and unclenching. In the darkness, he’s unable to see even a hint of Draco’s face, which may all be for the best at this point, but he can feel the other man’s eyes widening.

“We’ll do no such thing, Potter. I’m nowhere near drunk enough to snog you. And I saw you snacking on those horrid cheese and onion flavoured crisps Pans put out—”

“Yeah, well, I don’t want to snog you either,” Harry mumbles, shifting against the wall. It’s not lost on him that Draco’s slurring an awful lot. Not drunk, my arse. “I don’t think it’ll be good for our image as arch-nemesis if we’re caught snogging in here anyway,” he jokes.

“You’re an idiot,” Draco says. Harry can hear the fondness in his voice.

“I also wouldn’t want you to have to tell your boyfriend that you were forced to snog another man at a birthday party,” he says, hoping it doesn’t sound too bitter.

“My boyfriend? Oh, I’m not dating Oliver, you prat.” Harry’s breath catches “We didn’t work out,” Draco says coolly. “And quite frankly, he’s not my type.” A rush of blood and adrenaline roars through Harry’s ears as his mouth slides open.

“Erm,” he says, unsure of what to say next. A part of him desperately wants Draco to mean that he’s his type, and not some hot-shot Scottish Quidditch player or a rich older posh prick, but knowing Draco, he only meant that Oliver wasn’t old enough for his tastes. He desperately takes in a breath of air. He’s worked so hard to bury the romantic feelings he has for Draco, it wouldn’t be the done thing to go around digging them back up. There’s also a lingering, nagging sensation at the back of his head, and it feels very much like hurt. He’s hurt that Draco hadn’t mentioned the break up to him, and he was loath to start overthinking what that meant.

“Oh,” he says quietly, trying to keep his voice even as he says, “I’m sorry to hear that you two broke up. You er, didn’t mention it.”

“Well, I didn’t want to bore you with the details,” Draco drawls. “It was a bit frustrating for him.”

“What do you mean—?” Harry asks.

“I wouldn’t give him sex,” Draco slurs.

Oh,” Harry says on a gust of breath. “But—?”

Draco interrupts him. “We ended things mutually and on very good terms. Oliver is a good sort. He even offered top-tier tickets for his upcoming match. I just couldn’t stay with him if my heart wasn’t in it, much less fuck him. Fuck, it’s hot in here,” he groans. Draco’s rambling is not lost on him and it’s then that he begins to suspect that maybe Draco’s nervous along with completely pissed.

“Yeah,” Harry trails off awkwardly, grimacing as his own skin prickles with sweat and his mind races with exactly what the fuck Draco’s trying to tell him. Merlin, his heart wasn’t in it? They didn’t have sex? They had dated for over two months! “I thought you two looked happy, you know. At Ron and Hermione’s.”

Yeah? Well, not as happy as you seemed with Creevey. How long did that last again?”

“Er, a month. He wasn’t, er, he wasn’t really my type either,” Harry mutters.

“I thought everyone was your type?” Draco quips. Harry tries to jab him with his elbow but misses and collides painfully into the wall. Draco harrumphs. “I thought you and Creevey were so into each other.”

Harry shrugs, moving closer to where he thinks Draco is. “He’s very nice, but, he was kinda crazy…I couldn’t keep up with the nightclubbing. We mutually decided to end things.”

“As long as you’re happy, Harry. That’s all that matters.”

“I want you to be happy, too,” he says. The silence between them is deafening and after several long seconds, Harry sighs.

“Look, I’m going to die from heat exhaustion any minute now, so I’m heading out,” he says, moving towards the door. With startling accuracy in the dark, Draco wraps a cold hand around his wrist and pushes him against the wall.

“Harry,” Draco starts softly, his hand now twisting the front of Harry’s shirt. Harry’s heart has been pounding rather painfully against his ribs from the moment Draco touched him.

“May I?”

Harry doesn’t know exactly what the question is really for, but with Draco’s voice pitched so low, and filled with such uncertainty and yes, he can hear it, want, Harry finds himself whispering back —“Yes.” Yes, of course. Anything. Forever, yes.

And then Draco places his warm, full lips over his. Harry’s eyes flutter shut.

It sounds sappy, Harry knows, but something akin to fireworks explode behind his closed eyelids as Draco coaxes his lips open with his tongue.

It’s beyond anything he could have ever fathom or hope for. With his wine-coated tongue, Draco tastes like a flavour Harry’s been sorely missing from his palate forever. He shivers as Draco wraps his arms around his neck, pressing his weight against Harry as he tilts his head to the side and licks into his mouth. Harry groans, and though his trembling hands desperately wants to wrap around Draco’s waist, he instead reaches up to gently remove Draco’s arms from his neck.

“No, stop,” he pants, stepping back. Merlin, he wants to kick himself in his own arse for stopping their snog, but he knows better.

Draco is drunk and forced to play some silly game — he wouldn’t kiss him on any other occasion. Draco’s been adamant throughout their friendship about Harry keeping his hands and his feelings to himself. And though Harry feels like he’s reached heaven, he knows this isn’t right. He knows he’s just taking this pleasure from Draco, and Harry promised himself he would no longer be the type of man only concerned with his own pleasure. Draco’s kiss isn’t something that has been willingly given to him of sound mind and body. Harry would never take that from anyone in such a state, let alone Draco, no matter how many years he’s been pining.

“You’re drunk. This isn’t right.”

Even though he can’t see Draco, he can hear the other man’s laboured breaths and what suspiciously sounds like a choked sob. “I thought...I thought you…” Draco mutters shakily, before gasping. “I have to get out of here.” Harry can hear him stumbling to get away from him.

“Draco—” Harry starts, reaching blindly for him. His hand twists in the fabric of Draco’s cardi, accidentally ripping it.

“Fuck off, Potter! Let go—” Draco hisses just as the door flies open, a bright light pouring into the closet with a cackling Pansy framed in the doorway. Her laughter freezes in her throat however, when she peers at the two of them. Harry immediately releases Draco. Merlin knows what runs through her mind as Draco elbows her out the way. Harry wants to cry out for him again, but instead he leans against the wall, eyeing the furious look that crosses Pansy’s face with trepidation.

“You better be careful with him, Potter. I won’t ever forgive you if you hurt him. Don’t fuck this up.” And then she disappears, turning to walk away from him, shouting, “Who’s next?”

Harry blinks rapidly, willing his heart rate to slow down and for his mind to make sense of what just happened...fuck what up?


 

Two weeks.

That’s how long it’s been without seeing or talking to Draco, despite his many phone calls and text messages. Draco had promptly left Pansy’s birthday party right after the incident in the closet. He hadn’t even grabbed his coat.

Neither Pansy nor Ginny will tell him if Draco’s mentioned him lately. They won’t even provide some help in fixing whatever he’s fucked up between them, claiming that they don’t want to get involved. Pansy especially has been awful to him since her birthday, calling him a Neanderthal more than usual. He’s really starting to believe he is one.

Two weeks and one day later, Draco calls him. It’s almost 3am, but Harry doesn’t care. He nearly drops his phone in his haste to answer it when Draco’s name pops up across the screen. When he finally presses the phone to his ear, Draco is hardly coherent, his sobs making it nearly impossible for Harry to discern a single word. So, he tries to soothe the man as best as possible and tells him over his cries that he’ll be over soon before hanging up. Harry doesn’t think he’s heard him. But his only option is to head over to his house if he wants to help Draco.

Merlin, he’s worried. He doesn’t know what would set Draco off to the point that he’s crying the way he is.. Draco once told him that he wasn’t ashamed of crying like he was as a teenager, but throughout their friendship, anytime Harry was privy to Draco crying, the other man always covered his face. He’s a ball of nerves by the time the lift doors open up into Draco’s penthouse. His ears are immediately met with the solemn strumming of strings filling the space of Draco’s lavish living room. Stepping into it, he doesn’t see Draco at all.

His eyes grow wide as he recognises Draco’s favourite Björk song, Unravel, filling his home from the hidden speakers. That can’t be good, he muses, walking through the living room to Draco’s bedroom hallway. Draco only listens to this song when he’s feeling particularly self-pitying. He makes his way to the bedroom, dread tightening deep in his belly.

“Draco?” Harry says hesitantly, slowly pushing the bedroom door open with one hand as he pockets the key to the lift lock with the other.

He finds Draco sitting on the edge of his massive bed, his legs pulled to his chest, arms wrapped around his long legs and head pressed into his knees. Draco looks up and Harry draws in a sharp breath. Draco’s face is flushed, his eyes red and puffy with tears and his very pink lips plump and glistening. But Christ, he looks beautiful.

He steps into the room, his gaze transfixed by the miserable look on his best mate’s face, tears still flowing freely. Merlin knows he’s seen people cry before, and never have they looked this sweet. Hermione’s face crumbles in a way that reminds him of a prune, Ron’s face turns a beet red that clashes horribly with his hair, and Ginny always seems to get snot all over her face and him when she cries.

But Draco.  

Draco looks like a fallen angel accepting his fate with a resigned gracefulness as soft, shuddering huffs escape his lips. As he shuts the door behind him, he feels sick to his stomach. He hates that his mind has wandered to such thoughts when Draco is obviously hurting. He tries to reel his focus back to the very real, very troubling matter at hand: Draco’s pain.

“Er, I thought I’d let myself in?”

“Go away,” Malfoy whispers, his quiet voice catching on a sob. “I don’t want you to see me like this.”

“Well, what is this?”

“Damn it, Potter...Go away...” Draco whimpers before burying his face into his knees again.  Harry can’t help the sharp stab of sorrow...and fear...that shoots down his spine at Draco’s soft voice and choked sobs. He almost considers turning around to leave, not wanting to push Draco, until he hears the other man softly say, “Can’t you tell a break up when you see one?”

Harry stands perfectly still, completely thrown off and confused by Draco’s words. “But Draco…you’re not dating anyone.”

“Well spotted, you bloody prick. Well spotted,” Draco cries into his knees.

“So…what are you on about?” Harry asks gently, now coming to stand before Draco.

“Oh my God, can you not?” Draco moans, lifting his face to look up at the ceiling before fixing Harry with a scowl.

“Just go!”

“I’m just trying to help,” Harry says gently.

“It’s not working. Leave me alone with Björk, I’ll be okay.”

“Draco, in the entire time that we’ve been best mates, I’ve never seen you bloody cry like this before, so…excuse me if I don’t readily leave you to it. Tell me what’s happened.” Draco shakes his head. “C’mon, you can tell me anything—”

“He’s marrying his bloody secretary!” Draco shouts wildly. “Bart is marrying his fucking secretary, alright?”

“His secretary?” Harry asks, shocked.

“Yes! He’s probably some other blond twenty-something with daddy issues,” Draco sobs. It’s the first time Harry’s ever heard Draco mention his peculiar preference in such a vitriolic way.

“May I sit beside you?” Harry asks. Draco sniffs but nods quickly. He perches about an arms-length away from the other man, and then roots around in his trouser pocket to pull out a relatively clean Kleenex. He hands it over to Draco. It’s a testament to the level of Draco’s grief that he doesn’t even blink at the less than clean tissue, instead grabbing it to blow his nose.

“Apparently, he just met the bloody tart. I thought I was over him, Harry. I mean, I was on the phone thinking I’m over you, I’m over you, I’m so over you, you fucking bastard – and then he says, ‘I have some news…’” Draco howls again, uncurling himself to press against Harry, his face smashing into his chest. Harry’s arm comes up to wrap around him, holding him close and rubbing circles into his back. “He’s just supposed to be the rebound, Harry, not the one, ” he says, voice muffled. “All this time I’ve been saying he didn’t want to get married,” Draco wheezes. “The truth is he just didn’t want to marry me. He didn’t love me.” His voice is so shattered that Harry’s own heart clenches.

“If you could have him back right now, would you take him back?” he asks softly. Draco shivers.

“No…” he starts off unsurely before shaking his head and saying no more firmly. “But, why didn’t he want to marry me? Why didn’t he love me? I mean…what’s the matter with me?” Draco asks in a strained, tinny voice. Harry has never seen Draco this vulnerable and it awakens in him this possessiveness, this need to protect. He wants to rip Bart to pieces for making Draco feel this way. He runs a soothing hand through Draco’s hair, pushing it back from his face.

Nothing sweetheart,” Harry urges, only briefly mentally kicking himself for slipping in the term of endearment. He clears his throat, and says firmly, “there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. How can you even think —”

“I’m difficult,” Draco interrupts, sobbing.

“You’re challenging, it’s what I admire most about you.”

“I’m too controlling. I compartmentalise my feelings too much.”

“Yeah, but in a good way. You’re a firm believer in ‘there’s a time and place for everything.’”

“No. I drove him away.” Draco starts crying harder and he hugs him. “I’m going to grow old and die alone,” Draco chokes out in shocked despair.

“Draco, you’re only 25…” Harry says with a hint of amusement. “You’re nowhere near old age and believe it or not, you’re a bloody catch. You’re definitely not going to die alone.”

Draco sniffles and shakes his head. “Old age is looming, Harry. It’s just waiting there like a fucking ominous dead end. I’ve dealt with so much loss in my life, I can’t deal with it anymore. I can’t. I won’t. I don’t want to lose at life anymore,” he whispers. Harry tsks.

“Come’ere, come’ere,” he mumbles softly, his hands rubbing up and down the length of Draco’s back before holding him closer. Harry can feel the flutter of Draco’s heartbeat against his chest. “It’s all going to work out, you’ll see. You’ll be okay, I promise.” Harry kisses Draco’s cheek.

He just holds Draco as he cries himself to just soft, shuddering breaths. After several minutes of this, the other man pulls back, his lower lip trembling.

“Oh,” Draco whispers, his puffy eyes widening. “Oh, I’ve made a mess of your jumper.” Harry looks down at the small, visible dark wet stain on the puce-coloured polyester material. Draco presses a hand against the spot. Harry shrugs, a smile tugging at his lips.

“That’s all right. It wasn’t one of my favourites anyway.” Draco stares at him, his watery,  stormy grey eyes bloodshot.

“It is a horrid colour. And the material is cheap,” Draco sighs. Harry chuckles at the slight and runs his fingers through Draco’s long hair.

“How about I make you a cup of tea?” he asks softly, making to stand. Draco, however, pulls him back down.

Harry, could you…could you just hold me a little longer?” Draco asks, his eyes pleading. Harry nods, settling back beside him on the bed.

“Of course,” he says, wrapping his arms around Draco once more. He leans in to kiss his cheek again, but misses and instead accidentally lands on the corner of his mouth before quickly pulling back. After a beat, Draco meets his gaze, but this time his eyes are carefully searching Harry’s face. A familiar flare of heat spirals up Harry’s spine and tightens in his stomach as his eyes catches on Draco’s pink, cupid bow shaped lips, swollen from biting them and wet from his tears. He meets Draco’s eyes once more and only a second flies by before he realises what’s about to happen.

Draco kisses him.

He freezes in shock. But when Draco’s tongue slides against his bottom lip asking for entrance, he obeys and the kiss deepens. And oh fuck…

Harry groans soft and low in his throat as Draco slips his tongue in. Merlin , he tastes amazing, better than some wine-induced snog. Draco’s mouth is smooth and there is a hint of something sweet, like the lollipops he carries around in the pockets of his doctor coat. Harry clings to him now as if he’s the only solid thing keeping him steady in this madly spinning, disorderly world where people have the audacity to leave someone as precious as Draco.

And oh, oh, he’s wanted, wanted, wants Draco so much that it hurts. It takes all of his self-control to keep from crushing the lithe man into a brutal embrace in an attempt to mould their bodies together, to be closer, to feel more. Draco’s hands are trembling and fisted in his jumper, pulling him against his hard, equally trembling body. Draco’s mouth continues to open Harry further, push him, further. And suddenly, to his delight, Draco’s straddling him, one long leg on either side of his body with those long, fine-boned fingers of his finding purchase in Harry’s hair. He moans into Draco’s mouth as Draco grinds against him and he thrusts up to meet him, his fingers digging into Draco’s clothed narrow hips. It’s too much, Harry thinks as he moans, breaking away from the kiss. But Merlin, he fucking needs it.

Giving into his baser instincts, his mind roars: Yes. Touch. More. Mine. Fuck. MINE!

He quickly pulls off his glasses, tossing them somewhere on the nightstand as he lifts Draco with an upward thrust, eliciting an excited gasp from the other man, spinning him as if he’s weightless so Draco is on his back. Harry straddles him, careful not to rest his whole weight on Draco’s slender thighs. He looks down at the other man and groans. Draco looks debauched with his white blond hair fanned out against his royal blue sheets, pale face flushed, pink lips wet and swollen. Harry chokes and blinks rapidly, completely enraptured by the man beneath him.

Draco,” he whispers. He should want to say next: ‘We shouldn’t do this. We CAN’T do this because I value you as my best mate and this will ruin everything’— but what he says instead is an awed, “You’re so beautiful.”

Draco gives a soft dizzying little laugh, his hand coming up to tug at Harry’s belt. “You’re quite lovely yourself,” Draco whispers back, his hand deftly removing the belt from his trousers.

Harry begins to divest himself of his jumper quickly, the material clumsily catching on his jaw as he rips the jumper off. When he’s free, he watches Draco remove his own shirt, exposing that smooth, pale skin of his. He shucks his undershirt off finally and Draco makes a soft keening sound, his eyes once again wide as his eyes flit across Harry’s body. He then lifts a shaky hand to brush against Harry’s taut stomach. Harry closes his eyes at the touch as his abs constrict, biting his lower lip as a spineless moan escapes him. Draco removes his hand, lifting expectant dark eyes up to him.

“Kit off,” Harry says gently. They move and shift against each other as they remove the rest of their clothing, erections brushing sweetly against one another. It feels like years have passed before they’re both naked, lying side by side.

“Touch me, Harry,” Draco demands in a low, breathy voice. “Please.” Harry shivers.

He’s so astounded, so aroused, so unbelievably taken by Draco’s beauty and his quiet demand that all he wants to do despite his aching cock is take a moment to worship all that pale skin. And he realises, he can , that Draco wants it just as much as he does now. His hands greedily caress every crevice. His tongue flicks at every dip and goose-fleshed plane of pale flesh. Harry caresses Draco like he’s the finest silk in the world, desperately trying to convey in his touches just how precious Draco is, and how so very long he’s wanted the permission to finally touch him.

Harry slowly trails kisses from the base of his neck down his chest. He stops to lap at each nipple, before moving down to place a soft kiss on his sternum, and then makes his way to Draco’s navel, where he licks the dip and then softly blows into it, causing Draco to whimper and bite down on a knuckle.

“Is this okay?” Harry asks, looking up at him. Draco’s eyes, though still bloodshot from his tears, are wide, the pupils blown.

“Yes,” Draco whispers. “Please.”

Harry shivers, mindlessly and wandlessly casting the necessary cleansing and protection charms between them as he rubs his face against Draco’s erection, breathing in his musk as he buries his nose in the slightly darker hair at the base of his cock.

“Draco,” he pleads. “Can I? Let me. Let me suck it.” At this, Draco arches higher off the bed, crying out and causing his already leaking cock to brush against Harry’s cheek.

“Do it,” Draco keens. “Suck me, Harry.” And he does. He takes Draco’s lovely, heavy cock into his mouth, gently sucking him and applying pressure on the underside with his tongue. He licks, slurps, and moans around his cock as he cups his balls. Draco’s fingers curl into his hair.

Fuck, Harry.” Draco’s voice hitches as his hips thrusts upward ever so carefully. “Please.” Harry knows Draco is holding back, not sure how hard to fuck Harry’s mouth. But he wants Draco to fuck into his throat so hard that he’ll be raspy for days. All he can do is give Draco a short nod before taking his length deeper, the wide head of his cock at his throat. Draco cries out, fingers gripping Harry’s hair and following his lead, begins to snap his hips with a fervour that causes Harry’s eyes to water. He loves it. Their gazes meet and oh God, the look of bliss in Draco’s eyes is fucking beautiful. He shudders violently, Fiendfyre-like heat soaring through his entire body. He can feel a drop of sweat slide down the middle of his back and he moans along with Draco as his throat relaxes.  

When Draco’s thrusts and sobs become erratic, Harry pulls back, saliva and pre-come trickling down his chin as Draco protests the sudden loss of his mouth. Harry chuckles softly.

“I don’t want you to come just yet, Draco,” he pants, wiping away the pre-come with the back of his hand only to lick the remnants up. “On your stomach now,” he demands in a hushed, terse voice. Draco pauses at the tone and with a smirk that’s both familiar and so very new in this situation, does as he’s told. Harry, now kneeling between Draco’s knees, grasps his hips and pulls him back, Draco shamelessly arches into the movement, his arse in the air. Harry grips the round globes of his pert arse and spreads his cheeks apart, immediately leaning forward to suck and nibble at the tight pink whorl. Draco jerks forward, a swear ripping from him in a shrill cry of surprise, before gasping and pushing back into him. He licks Draco’s perineum and his tongue trails a circle around his hole before relentlessly working his tongue into him, coaxing him open. Draco rocks back and forth against his tongue, a chain of unintelligible words and moans ripping from him. Spurred on by his wild sounds, Harry continues to ravish Draco, his fingers dancing down his sides.

Harry pulls back slightly, panting. “You taste so sweet,” he coos.

“Oh, fuck,” Draco whimpers, one hand clenching at the sheet beneath them, the other gripping his cock. With two furious pumps to his cock, Draco strangles out, “Harry. Fuck, I’m coming! Harry doesn’t pull back, still continuing to lap at Draco’s hole as Draco rides out his orgasm. “Oh, fuck, Harry…fuck…fucking idiot, just fuck me!

Harry finally pulls back, gripping the base of his own cock because Merlin, this is everything he’s wanted— a bossy, writhing Draco beneath him, coupled with the taste of him, it’s enough to send him over the edge to orgasm right now. He chuckles as he closes his eyes briefly, calming himself, before opening them slowly to watch Draco drop his head in almost surrender onto his folded arms, arse still in the air. His abused, wet and open hole stares alluringly up at him, just begging Harry to fill it. “Please, Harry? Just fuck me,” Draco mewls against his arms. “I need you,” he says, his voice tight with emotion. “I always need you.”

A startling warmth blooms in the centre of his chest at those pained words, spreading to his belly as he regards Draco’s quivering form. The blond is already folded over and it only takes his carefully placed hands and a couple of tugs to have him on his back once more, Draco’s cock still half-hard. He fits so perfectly between Draco’s legs. When he has the other man set up to his liking, Harry stares down at Draco and bites back a gasp. There are fresh tears in his red-rimmed eyes. He leans down and places a soft kiss on Draco’s cheek and Draco pulls him into a fierce kiss. Harry tries not to let his thoughts race ahead of him at Draco’s easy acceptance of him, of his painful words, his fresh tears, and broken heart. He tries not think about how this is going to change everything. He fails.

It all feels so illicit. He can’t fight the creeping, gnawing feeling that he’s causing more harm than good. He suddenly recalls Pansy’s words from her party — don’t fuck this up — and his stomach churns. He’s only pulled out of his thoughts when Draco makes a needy whine against his mouth. “Shh...sweetheart, I’ve got you,” Harry promises as he nearly bends Draco in half, grabbing and shoving a pillow under his bum as he wordlessly conjures lube in the palm of his hand. He slips a finger into Draco’s already worked hole. Much to his gratification, Draco arches up, a moan escaping him as his eyes flutter shut. Harry continues to open him up, and when Draco is fully hard again, he spreads the rest of the lube over his own cock and slowly, very carefully, lines himself up to Draco’s entrance. He knows he won’t last very long, but he wants to make this good for Draco. Harry knows that despite all the dates he’s been on, Draco hasn’t slept with anyone in awhile. This knowledge makes him dizzy with fear.

He freezes as Draco’s words from the row, all those months ago in front of Ginny and Pansy’s flat, come crashing into him like a sledgehammer.

“…I’ll make love with that person and it won’t be for revenge or to make some sort of point like you do...”

Harry inhales sharply, hand still on his cock, Draco’s eyes still closed, both of their bodies vibrating with want and anticipation. Was he…was he taking away that choice from Draco? Merlin. He’s taking away the chance for Draco to be intimate with someone he loves and this is him manipulating Draco into having sex with him by taking advantage of his grief, isn’t it and oh Merlin, he feels sick, and his cock’s flagging a bit now because after all, this is his nature, the fuck and go type and Draco doesn’t fucking deserve that. He deserves so much better than—

“Harry?” Draco suddenly whispers, voice desperate and breathy. Harry can feel Draco’s hands on either side of his face, pulling him out of his reverie so he can stare down at him. He falls into Draco’s blown, grey eyes, pupils dilated with desire, chest rising and falling rapidly. “I know you’re run-on sentencing right now, I can tell. Get out of your fucking head and fuck me,” Draco demands, his hands sliding from Harry’s face to the back of his neck. Staring into those grey eyes dissolves what little uncertainty he has left as the blood rushes through his body and into his cock once more.

He throws one of Draco’s long, pale legs over his shoulder and the other hand thumbs his cock down to slip between Draco’s cheeks. When the crown of his cock pops beyond the tight ring of muscle, they both gasp. He closes his eyes tightly, tilting his head back as he takes in a deep breath — Draco is almost unbearably tight. Harry pushes forward, every inch he pushes in is short thrusts until he’s halfway in. The rest of the way is eased by a greedy thrust from Draco until his pelvis is pressed against Draco’s bum.

Fuck. You’re so tight, sweetheart...” Harry groans through clenched teeth, his eyes closing briefly in bliss. “You feel so good on my cock like this, Draco….my God...”

Draco shudders, another small, sweet whimper escaping him. Harry doesn’t know how they’re going to survive this, but he can’t think about that right now. No. Because he can feel the moment Draco’s body relaxes, and Draco pushes back on him again, causing Harry to slide against Draco’s prostate. They both swear loudly. Draco arches, shouting a wild, “right there” as Harry bears down on him, hitting that spot with reckless abandon, the slapping sound of slick skin and their mingled moans sounding like a bloody orchestra to his goddamn ears.

He’s drunk off it.

“Oh, fuck, Harry. Harry...Harry...” Draco sweetly cries against Harry’s ear. And Merlin, Harry loves how vocal Draco is— how he moans and whimpers and fucks back into Harry’s thrusts, so desperate for all of his cock to fill him up.

Harry hisses as Draco’s nails painfully dig and scrape down his back, one long limb thrown over his calf and the other caught between their bodies as he continues to pump into him. With Draco’s hair fanned out against the pillow, skin flushed a pretty pink and sweaty, he moans, leaning forward to lick at the sweat building on Draco’s neck before savagely attacking his mouth, their kiss wet and frantic. He rips his mouth from Draco’s with a cry, tilting his hips to shift the angle once more. Draco’s other leg comes up to rest on Harry’s shoulder in one smooth, graceful movement. It only takes a few more thrusts until Draco screams out one long, devastatingly beautiful scream that seems to be ripped from the core of him, his arse tightly clenching around Harry's cock as come shoots between their stomachs and chests. Harry swallows up Draco’s shuddering cries and his demands for Harry to come in him.

Harry cries against Draco’s lush lips, and with one final brutal thrust, tears escaping the corners of his closed eyes, he comes. His body trembles from the sweet and intoxicating sensation of his come filling Draco’s wanton body. Draco’s legs slide away to fall onto the bed in such an obscene manner that Harry’s cock gives one more strangled twitch and spurt inside Draco’s body before he collapses on top of him, breathless, his lips moving with soundless praise against the space where Draco’s jaw meets his neck.

“Fuck!” Draco bursts out on an exhalation, breathless giddy laughter following behind it. “What the fuck,” he says with a sated groan, running both of his hands through his hair. Harry can hear both amusement and disbelief in Draco’s voice and nods weakly, completely in agreement with the sentiment.

He rolls off and onto his back, his cock wet and spent as it slips out of Draco, who gives a soft moan as they separate. Draco leans sideways to grab the heavy throw from the foot of the bed, tossing it over their rapidly cooling bodies and tossing the pillow under him to the floor. Harry feels loose and tingly, but nothing prepares him for the feeling of affection that blooms in the centre of his chest as Draco curls around him, throwing an arm across his torso and placing a kiss on his chest. He’s always had an inkling that Draco was a serial cuddler, and although he should feel happy to have the man in his arms like this, he just feels incredibly guilty and ashamed. “Are you comfortable?” Draco asks.

“Yeah,” he says, his arm curling around Draco. Harry’s stomach rolls now that the cold reality of what they just did starts to wash over him. Harry’s well and truly fucked – both literally and figuratively. Several minutes pass as Draco plays with the hair on Harry’s chest.

“Would you like something to drink, maybe water or a glass of whisky? You definitely deserve it after that,” Draco teases, his voice as languid as a lazy stretch.  

Harry swallows – yes! His mind screams, say yes! He needs a few seconds alone to gather his wits about him.

“Yeah, sure. Water is fine.” Draco pulls away and slides out the bed, his perfect arse, now red and still glistening, disappearing behind a fluffy blue dressing gown he dons before sauntering out the bedroom.

When the door clicks shut, Harry sits up in the bed, grabs his glasses from the nightstand and putting them on, begins to hyperventilate. He’s spent the better half of the year squashing any romantic feelings he had for Draco and now he’s manipulated his best mate into sex during a time of vulnerability and grieving. He feels nauseous and above all else, he feels ashamed. He needs to fix this somehow – Draco isn’t like the other men and women he’s had one-offs with. Another kind of anxiety sets in, prickly and much more insidious than the first: what if he loses Draco because of this?

Before he can think any further, Draco re-enters the room. He notices the content smile on Draco’s face when he approaches the bed once more, holding out a cool glass of water, which he takes with murmured thank you. Draco crawls back into bed next to him, the dressing gown slipping to expose his slender, milky white shoulders and delectable collarbones. He carefully sips down about half of the cold water just to provide some sort of distraction because his treacherous cock is starting to fatten again after a mere glance at the exposed skin. He sets the glass on the nightstand where he finds a remote. He grabs it and starts to fiddle with it. The room is unbearably quiet – every breath sounds louder than it is, and he can hear when Draco swallows.

“Do you want to watch something?” Draco asks uneasily, gesturing towards the flat screen mounted to his wall.

“Er. Do you want to?”

“Not particularly, no, but you are holding the remote,” Draco says wryly.

“No, no, sorry,” he says hastily, replacing the remote on the stand.

There’s a lengthy pause and Harry rubs the back of his neck, his blood pressure rising with every steady inhale as he watches Draco fiddle with the loose threads of his gown.

“We could just go to sleep,” Draco offers with a weary sigh. Harry fidgets. Did he miss something? Did Draco want to do something else? Were they now supposed to talk about what the hell just happened between them? The other man sounded almost defeated.

“Sure,” Harry says, plumping up his pillows – and Draco does have an awful lot of pillows – and makes himself comfortable for the most awkward sleep of his life. He notices Draco looking at him with guarded eyes. Harry offers him a small smile. Draco just turns away, his back facing Harry as he tucks a pillow under his head. Confused and still very anxious, Harry removes his glasses once more and sets them aside. With a wave of his hand, the lights flicker off in the room, another wave and the gentle tingle of a cleaning charm sweeps over them. Draco gives a startled little sound.

“Sorry, I just figured we couldn’t be arsed to move right now,” he says.

“Fine,” Draco starts. “Thanks. Goodnight.”

“Er…goodnight, Draco,” he responds.  

Neither of them fall asleep right away, he can tell. Draco doesn’t fall into sleep for at least another half-hour, his breathing shifting to relaxed. Harry looks at the digital clock on Draco’s nightstand, it’s only 4:30am. Harry can wait.

----

It’s 5am and still dark outside when Harry notices Draco stirring from sleep. He’s quickly pulling on his jeans when Draco, who had turned to face Harry sometime during the night, freezes mid-stretch when he notices that the other side of the bed is empty. He finally turns tired eyes onto Harry.

“Where are you going?”

Harry rubs the back of his neck before running his hand through his hair. Draco sits up in bed finally. “I have to go…I need to head home, shower, change, go to training.”

Draco stares at him.

“But afterwards, if you’re free later, I would like to take you out to dinner. Do you, er—do you reckon you’ll be free?” Harry asks.

“Yes.”

“Fine. I’ll er, text you later?”

“Okay,” Draco says quietly, his eyes wide. Harry feels nervous. He doesn’t quite know what Draco’s silence means. He cautiously steps towards him, leaning over, just as Draco tilts his chin up, and gently presses a kiss to Draco’s forehead.

As he pulls away, he catches the briefest look of horror on Draco’s face before it slides into a cool mask of indifference.

No. No. No.

WHY.

WHY THE FUCK DID HE KISS HIS BLOODY FOREHEAD?

-----

 

It’s not until he’s in front of Goodge Street station that he feels mentally capable enough to call Ginny.

Fuck…um, hello?” comes Ginny’s groggy voice.

“It’s me.”

“Harry. What the bleeding hell are you doing calling me at this hour?” She then draws in a sharp breath. “Has someone died?”

“Merlin, no!” he nearly shouts before calming down. “Gin, I—I fucked up big time.”

“It’s gone 5 in the bloody morning, Harry, how have you already fucked something up?”

“I slept with Draco.”

There’s a rather long pause before Ginny screeches, “What?!”

“It just happened,” Harry says, tears welling up in his eyes. “I went over to his flat last night because he was upset over Bart getting engaged.”

“Bart’s getting married?”

“Yeah, and I was comforting him, and well, one thing led to another and—”

“YOU WHAT?” came a shout from over the phone. “What in the world were you thinking—” says the voice before the phone is muffled.

“Ginny? Er…what’s that noise? Is that Pansy? Is she…is she on the phone?”

“Oh… erm, yes, no, I MEAN YES. Harry…it’s a journalist on her end, morning chat, something, missed deadlines, I don’t know. But what I do know, Harry, is that for the longest time I thought that you and Draco would be great together. Two wrongs make a right, that sorta thing,” she whispers fiercely into the phone.

“I don’t think so.”

“Okay. Well, how was it?”

“How was what?”

“The sex, you absolute tit! How was the sex?

Harry takes a deep breath, his body tingling as he recalls how beautiful a writhing Draco was under him. “It was the best sex of my entire fucking life, Gin.”

Ginny chuckles. “Well, chin up. What’s the problem?”

“I started feeling guilty, like, I couldn’t breathe anymore, I just, I took advantage of him during a moment of vulnerability and, well, this is it. He’s my best mate and now our friendship is ruined.”

“You’re overthinking this, Harry.”

“All I could think about was wanting to just get out of there as soon as humanly possible.”

“Oh, Merlin, really? I’m sorry—”

“I feel fucking terrible! I’m not what he needs.”

“Well, then, you should feel terrible.”

“Bloody hell, I think I’m coming down with something,” he groans, suddenly feeling ill.

“Look, I can honestly say that I think it would have been great if it worked, but it didn’t, Harry. Draco can get really crazy when he’s been hurt, and perhaps this wasn’t the best way for you two to deal with the lingering sexual tension between you. But. You know, it just didn’t work out. Shit happens,” she says sleepily.

“Yeah, tell me about it,” he grumbles, staring off into the distance. London is slowly waking up around him and the street is already busy with equally grumpy people.

“But you’ve got a cosmic mess on your hands, now, mate.”

“Er, thanks Gin. I knew if I called you, you’d make me feel better,” he says sarcastically, closing his eyes as a wave of nausea hits him.

“No problem. Look. Do you want to come over for breakfast—OW! BLOODY HELL, PANS! — um, actually, Harry,” Ginny starts.

“No, I’m really not up to it. Thanks, though. Can I just call you later?”

“Oh, thank Merlin, I mean...Yes! Later, please,” Ginny says with a sigh of relief. “Bye-bye!” she says before hanging up.

Harry looks down at his phone, his heart sinking even further. He can’t believe what he’s done...he can’t believe he kissed Draco’s forehead. He can’t imagine what’s going though Draco’s mind right now, and it’s all Harry’s fault.

“Merlin, I’m a fucking idiot!” he cries.

“Right you are, you cock. Now get out the bleeding way!” an elderly man barks. Harry stares down at the man, suddenly realising he’s blocking him from entering the station. He wants to snap that the man should simply walk around him, but he’s in much too fragile a state to do more than nod his head quickly and disappear in the mass of bodies flooding into Goodge station.

 

Chapter Text

“Mrs Malfoy, thank you for agreeing to meet with me.”

Hermione stiffly adjusts her position on the overstuffed armchair. After all these years, it’s the first time she’s ventured to Malfoy Manor since the war. Her heart pounded as she set up her camera.

“We’d love to hear from you,” she said lightly.

“It is my pleasure, Ms Granger-Weasley. I believe our interests here are the same. I’m glad that you are able to come into our ancestral home to obtain your...muggle data.”

Hermione nodded, finding a tight smile to shoot Mrs Malfoy. “We do have the same goal here...so why don’t you tell me your advice for a healthy relationship,” she said through clenched teeth.

Narcissa sighed, her eyes forlorn as she stared out of the glass panel in the Malfoy conservatory, surrounded by beautiful, exotic flowers. “Learn how to heal together,” Narcissa said softly. “I know this is not something you’d care to hear, or even believe, but Lucius and I are soulmates. I admit that my love for him is so strong that I’d willingly follow him into war...and though I have many regrets, loving Lucius is not one of them. I know my husband will not be the same when he leaves that god awful prison. Every note he sends, every stolen moment I have with him at Azkaban, it’s becoming very clear that my husband is not the man he was before going into that place. That is our curse and our penance for the crimes we have committed. It will be my job, my pleasure, to help my husband heal, to show him what our love means once again.”

Narcissa looked up, her bright eyes fixed on Hermione. “So if there is anything to take away from what I have said, it is this: please, be kind, be gentle, and be forgiving. That is the only way you will ever be able to love and heal within your partnerships when you need to. And when you have been married as long as I have, Mrs Granger-Weasley, you will find that this advice is applicable in many situations.”


 

NOVEMBER 2005

When the waiter brings over Draco’s glass of red wine and Harry’s tumbler of scotch, they both take eager sips from their drinks. Harry’s knee bounces as we waits for Draco to say something, to say anything. His world is zeroed in on him and Draco, everything else falling away to silence.

Draco sets his glass down first. “It was a mistake.”

“Oh.” Harry’s throat suddenly feels tight. “Okay.”

“I’m not saying that last night wasn’t a pleasurable experience,” Draco pauses, his eyes momentarily become unfocussed before he clears his throat. “We just never should have done it.”

“So that’s it?” Harry asks, his stomach lurching. “We just go about our friendship like nothing’s happened?” Draco’s eyes focus somewhere to the left of Harry.

“I actually think we need to stay away from each other for now,” comes Draco’s whispered response.

The breath is knocked out of Harry. “What are you talking about?”

“We’ve been spending too much time together, and it’s causing us both to take leave of our senses,” Draco says in his harsh, clipped, posh tone.

Harry shakes his head, trying to rid himself from Draco’s words. “We’re friends, you’re my best friend...that’s why we spend so much time together! Does our friendship mean nothing to you?”

Draco’s gaze is suddenly furious and now trained on Harry. “It meant everything to me.”

Meant?  So, no longer?” Harry shoots back. Fear rushes through him at Draco’s silence. “Don’t do this,” Harry pleads.

Draco looks away from him, staring down at the table. “I can hardly look at you,” Draco hisses, low and full of pain.

“I’m sorry, Draco. I’m so sorry...I took advantage of your grief last night, I was selfish—”

Draco shakes his head, that furious look burning brighter in his eyes when he gazes back up at Harry. “You are selfish, but don’t fucking flatter yourself, you utter fuckwit. You did nothing I didn’t want to do just as much, as stupid as I feel about it now. So don’t you dare try to make me into a victim! I’m not going to allow you to fall on your sword so you can feel better about yourself!”

“I’m not—”

“Good.” A cruel sneer twists Draco’s pillowy lips, contorting his face into something ugly and awful. “Let me tell you a little story,” Draco starts, his voice low and calm. Harry’s jaw clenches, his fingers painfully digging into his clammy palms as he steels himself. “A scorpion asks a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is naturally wary of the scorpion, fearing that it will sting him, but the scorpion argues that if he does that, they’ll both drown. Convinced by that logic, the frog decides to trust the scorpion and he agrees to carry him. Midway across the river, the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them. The frog asks the scorpion, ‘Why did you do that? You knew what would happen!’, and the scorpion replies, ‘I couldn't help it. It’s in my nature.’ You’re the scorpion, Potter, and I’m the idiotic frog that allowed you to fucking ride me knowing exactly what you’re capable of. But in this case, I refuse to drown with you.”

Draco downs the rest of his wine. The bubble that they had cocooned themselves in upon sitting at the table finally pops as Draco gets to his feet, digging into the back pocket of his trousers to pull out his wallet to throw money on the table. The sound of the restaurant rushes over Harry, and he watches in horror as Draco walks away from him.

 


DECEMBER 2005  

Harry finds that this heartbreak is different from all the others. With Ginny, Harry had felt unbearable loss. He didn’t know who he was anymore, his future was no longer set in stone, and he was bitter. With Dean, Harry had felt uncontrollable anger. He broke things, ripped paintings, and punched walls.

With Draco, Harry feels nothing.

He spends the rest of November and the first week of December taking his Auror practicals, but he can’t recall what was on the exams. He goes to the pub with his fellow trainees, but the conversations go in and out of his ears in an nonsensical mishmash of words and sounds. He visits Ron and Hermione’s for dinner, but doesn’t taste the food on his tongue. He does his household chores, but doesn’t feel the familiar burn of satisfaction. He goes out to Ginny’s Hen party at a stripclub followed by a private booth with unlimited drinks in a posh nightclub in Diagon Alley, all while draped in a sash that reads, ‘I Do Crew’, and doesn’t feel the joy, pride or humour he should. He’s simply just going through the motions.

It’s only when he enters his home office the day after the Hen party in search for his favourite quill that he feels anything. His eyes land on his parents’ wedding picture, the picture Draco had gifted him for his birthday. He recalls the kind, beautiful words Draco had said to him that night, and Harry can’t begin to differentiate or even control the magnitude of emotions that suddenly swell within him.

He finds himself bonelessly collapsing onto his office chair, gasping for air as he tries and fails to fight back sobs. His chin finally drops to his chest, his shoulders tensing up as he begins to shake, his cries painful as they tear through him.

-------

Harry groans as a shattering noise that seems to come from all corners of the room pulls him from out of his sleep. He rolls onto his back, but can’t see anything from his position on the floor behind his sitting room sofa.

He hears a harrumph, and is soon looking up into the furious brown eyes of Hermione Granger-Weasley.

“How the fuck did you get through my wards?” he asks without bite— and not without trying. He’s upset that he’s been disturbed, but he’s also in shock and awe that someone has dismantled his wards. His wards were always top-notch when they’re cast in a state of undiluted rage. Hermione smirks.

“You’re a powerful wizard, Harry, but you’re not the only powerful magical person in the world,” Hermione says loftily, carefully stepping around his sprawled figure to gracefully sit on the floor beside him. She’s been wearing her hair in thick box braids that nearly reach her hips, and Harry sometimes wonder how her thin neck doesn’t collapse under the weight, especially when she piles them atop her head in a huge bun. Magic, maybe? However she’s doing it, they’re pretty, and they suit her perfectly. She’s not starting to show yet, but her face is already alight with a beautiful glow. She looks happy and healthy and that thaws some of the icy anger in Harry’s body. “I’m just checking in to make sure you’re not hanging from your shower rod,” Hermione says.

“There’s time yet,” Harry mutters, now sitting up.

“Why are you sleeping on the floor?” Hermione asks, looking around. Harry follows her eyes. His clothes are scattered everywhere, along with pillows, and blankets.

Harry shifts, feeling a bit embarrassed. “I find it comforting, touching something as solid and steady as a floor.” Especially when everything else around him is wildly spinning out of control and becoming less and less tangible.

“Harry. I want to make a suggestion here and I don’t want you to get angry.”

“Okay,” he says through numb lips. He knows this isn’t going to be good...

Hermione eyes him cautiously. “I think you should see a Mind Healer.” Well, he was spot on. But instead of lashing out and denying that he needs one, Harry actually feels the prickling sensation of tears in his eyes. He sniffs. “I don’t think you’ve...addressed...the bulk of trauma you’ve experienced in the last several years, especially from the war. Your difficult breakups haven’t helped in that regard, either. You just...I’m just worried that you may be depressed, Harry.”

“So, you think I’m messed up?” Harry says, his voice thin.

“No,” Hermione says firmly. “You’ve gone through a lot and I don’t think it would hurt to talk to a professional about some of the pain you’ve experienced and continue to experience. You know Ron and I saw Mind Healers right after the war.”

Harry nods as he uses the back of his hand to wipe across his eyes. He has to admit to himself that despite all the good and bad that’s happened to him in the last several years, it feels like he’s carrying around a fear and insecurity that gnaws at him, and not just the fear that he’s unloveable. But the fear that something inside of him is broken beyond repair.

“We, your friends and family, want you happy and healthy, okay? I don’t know what’s going on with you and Draco, but I know that whatever it is, it’ll work itself out.”

Harry shakes his head. “No, it won’t,” he says. He feels guilty, having not told Ron and Hermione what transpired between him and Draco. But it was hard to talk about the shame he felt, and the pain and humiliation. He knows that he fucked up and made Draco feel like just another one of Harry’s pulls. “I slept with Draco.”

“Oh, I see...” Hermione says, a bit breathlessly. She blinks. “Oh, Harry. Draco. Well, he’s, he’s very complicated…”

“What do you mean?”

“He prides himself on being an open book now, but his heart is still very much guarded. And over the years, it’s clear that he’s allowed you to chip away at that surrounding wall.”

“He thinks I treated him like a one-nighter...because of some things I did after, but I didn’t mean it. And I feel awful, because he’s been so adamant about never wanting to cross that line with me, and then we did, and now I feel like I pushed him into it because he was vulnerable, and...fuck...he doesn’t know that I’m hopelessly in love with him,” Harry rambles, his voice trembling.

“I can see why he’d be afraid of feeling that way, Harry. If you made him feel unsafe and unsure after such an intimate encounter, it makes sense if he regrets ever allowing you in in the first place.” Harry hangs his head. Hermione scoots closer to him, picking up his hand from his lap to hold. “But I know Draco cares so much about you. Just give it time, Harry. Your connection with him is stronger than you think.”

“I hope you’re right,” he sighs. “And you’re right...I’ll look into your suggestion for Mind Healing. I...guess it wouldn’t hurt.” Hermione nudges him softly in the side before resting her head on his shoulder, squeezing his hand consolingly.

----

Harry shifts uncomfortably in the overstuffed, hot pink mid-century loveseat. He’s starting to sweat in this all-white and pink, brightly-lit room. One wall is made up entirely of mirrors, with a little circular platform perfectly positioned in front of the mirrors.

“Is Draco—?” Harry calls out, but his voice fails him. He bites his tongue instead, holding back a gasp as Ginny steps from out of the changing room, a fiery red eyebrow quirked.

Simply put, Ginny looks amazing.

He hadn’t been at the shop when she had picked the dress, having been unable to get away from training– instead her mother, Hermione, Luna, Fleur, Audrey, and Angelina had been there. Seeing it now, Harry is speechless. Her wedding dress is a white ballgown with an empire waist and off the shoulder straps. The cut is simple, but elegant, her shoulders and arms bare, showing off her delicate but sinewy form. She pins a lavish, birdcage veil to the side of her pixie-cut hair, completing the look.

“It’s good I’m being refitted, I’ve gained a couple of inches in the waist,” Ginny says as she stands before a full-length mirror, smoothing down the sides of her dress. “Off season and food tastings does not a svelte bride make.”

Harry blinks rapidly, standing from the loveseat to slowly approach Ginny. Their gazes meet in the mirror once Harry is directly behind her. His heart feels full, looking at her in this beautiful dress. He can’t believe how far they’ve come in their relationship together. The thought that he would never recover from Ginny leaving him feels like a million years ago. Everyday he appreciates their friendship, the growth they’ve both accomplished, and the love they have for one another. It’s beautiful and special, and Merlin, he’s never felt so proud to have someone like her in his life.

“Wow, Gin…” he says, eyes glistening.

“Pull it together, Potter,” she whispers back, a wide smile on her face.

“You just...you look lovely…so lovely.”

“Thank you,” she says, turning around to give him a brief hug. When she lets go, she shoots him a raised brow. “You were asking about Draco?” Harry steps away, grabbing two glasses of champagne that’s set on a table beside the loveseat. He hands Ginny one before flopping back in his seat and taking a sip from his own.

“Is he, er, seeing anyone?” he asks reluctantly.

“He went on a date with this Healer Pansy introduced him to, but, eh…it didn’t work out.”

“What did he look like?”

“Oh. Devastatingly handsome, twice our age, filthy rich. You know, your basic nightmare,” Ginny said, heading back towards the curtained fitting room.

“Fucking hell…”

Ginny pokes her head from behind the curtain, a shrill look on her face. “I’m sure you’re more his type, but you both won’t get your heads out your arses…Draco’s been absolutely miserable...”

“Gin, Draco wants nothing to do with me right now. I’m not going to harass him or stalk him. I’m just going to wait until the wedding to see if we can talk it out.”

“Is that what your Mind Healer suggested?”

“No,” Harry grumbles. “I mean, yes...but it was my idea first!” Harry exclaims. Really, technically, it was Hermione’s. He’s had two sessions so far with Healer Trenchenbaum, and he had to admit that it wasn’t all that bad. “Is he bringing anyone?” he asks, polishing off his glass.

“I don’t think so,” Ginny shouts from behind the curtain.

“Well, good. That’ll give me a better shot at holding a conversation with him.”

“If you say so, Harry. Now, can you come help me unzip this bloody dress? I seem to have snagged it on the way down...”

 


CHRISTMAS EVE 2005

“How the hell did they get Celestina Warbeck to officiate and perform at the wedding?” Ron asks in astonishment. “Mum is practically beside herself!” They both turn to see Molly clinging to Arthur, looking torn between rushing over to Celestina or fainting where she stands.

Harry had been surprised, too. As Ginny’s Bridesman, he had stood behind her and gasped when Celestina Warbeck walked onto the raised platform. He shot a look over to Draco, who was standing directly behind Pansy and had an equally shocked expression on his face. Merlin, it killed Harry to stand so close to Draco but not make any eye contact with him at all. Draco had stubbornly refused to look at him throughout the entire ceremony, but he looks dashing in his form-fitting, traditional black tuxedo and bowtie, his white blond hair artfully tousled and cascading down to his shoulders.

“Good evening, ladies and gentleman,” Celestina Warbeck says, her wand pointed to her throat. “I welcome you to the Weasley-Parkinson wedding reception tonight. It has now come to that time of the evening we have all been waiting for. Please put your hands together to welcome the brides onto the dancefloor for their first dance.”

Harry’s eyes sting as the clapping around him dies down, the band now starting to play. He watches through tears as Pansy, dressed in a beautiful white jumpsuit with an intricately jeweled bodice and cape, leads Ginny onto the dancefloor. She pulls Ginny close, pressing her cheek against hers as Celestina Warbeck sings, “At last, my love has come along. My lonely days are over, and life is like a song…”

Hermione comes up from behind Ron to wrap one arm around Ron’s waist and use her free hand to lace her fingers with Harry’s. The three of them watch Ginny and Pansy sway together in the middle of the dancefloor. Harry turns to see that a few feet away from him Draco is watching the dance through bright eyes, Blaise Zabini standing next to him.

When the song ends, and the crowd applauds the brides, and Celestina starts to sing again. “I'm, I'm so in love with you, whatever you want to do is alright with me. Cause you make me feel so brand new….and I want to spend my life with you…” Ron gently tugs Hermione onto the dancefloor, twirling her before wrapping his arms around her. This signals other couples to join onto the floor, dancing to the slow, but upbeat song. As stealthily as possible, Harry makes his way over towards Draco without being seen.

“Merlin, I’ve never seen her so bloody happy,” he hears Zabini say. “Completely different person.”

“It’s great,” Draco says, taking a sip from his champagne flute. “What are you going to do about it?”

Zabini shrugs and rolls his eyes. “Do you want to dance?”

Draco snorts. Harry watches as Draco gives Zabini a slow once over, a mean little smile on his face. “No thanks.”

“Careful, Draco. With an attitude like that, I don’t see you reaching a happily ever after any time soon,” Zabini says in a falsely sweet tone, walking away.

Harry doesn’t know what possesses him to make his move now after Draco encountered such a rude comment, wary that he might be more tetchy than usual. But he nonetheless comes up from behind Draco and clears his throat. “Hi.” He can see Draco’s shoulders tense as he slowly turns his head to peer back at him.

“Potter,” Draco mutters in greeting before facing the dance floor again.

“It was such a beautiful ceremony…” Harry says, now coming to stand beside him.  

“Mm,” Draco says, downing the rest of his champagne and immediately craning his neck in search for a waiter. Draco looks a bit flushed, and Harry wonders just how much champagne the other man has downed tonight.

“Merlin, the holidays are rough. I just try to get from the day after decorations are put up on Oxford Street to the day after New Year's in one piece.” Right then, a waiter approaches Draco with a fresh tray of flutes. Draco replaces his empty one and takes a small sip, looking terribly bored.

“A lot of suicides,” Draco finally responds.  

“How have you been?” Harry asks. He winces when Draco sharply pivots towards him, his eyes lit with fury.

“Harry,” Draco warns. Despite the tone, a sliver of hope runs through Harry over Draco using his given name.

“What?”

“I don’t want to talk about this...hell, I don’t even want to talk to you!”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to, what the fuck?” Draco says hotly.

Harry runs a hand through his hair. “Why can’t we just try to get past this? Are you really not going to even consider anything I have to say on the matter?”

This seems to give Draco pause. The other man pinches the bridge of his nose, his eyes briefly fluttering shut. When he opens his eyes, they quickly dart around the venue, and in that moment Draco seems to have made a decision. He walks away, turning back quickly to signal that Harry should follow him. Harry does, and follows Draco as he throws open the thin double doors leading to the kitchen. Despite their audience, as soon as the doors shut behind Harry, Draco spins on his heel to face Harry. His face is flushed with anger, his teeth bared.

“You want to act like you didn’t blatantly disrespect me that night, as if you didn’t confirm every single one of my fears over all your fucking practised, piggish Golden Boy behaviour!”

“I can admit that I fucked up, but does it have to define everything between us moving forward?” Harry rushes out, his heartbeat wild.

“Yes!” Draco nearly shouts. “Because it shows that you really are a fucking arsehole, Harry, and that I made a huge mistake in thinking you could be trusted!”

“I said I was sorry...I don’t understand why we can’t just hit the reset button.”

“You want to act like what you did didn’t mean anything...like it never fucking happened,” Draco says in disbelief, shaking his head with a cruel smile on his face.

“You’re not listening to me!” Harry shouts. “I’m not saying it didn’t mean anything. I’m not saying I want to forget. I’m just saying why does it have to mean everything?”

“Because it fucking does, Harry!” Draco roars viciously, causing Harry to take a step back. At this point, some kind soul must have thrown up a Silencing Charm, because the waiters and cooks are going about their business, not paying the unfurling row before them anymore attention.

“Do you know what kind of fucking hell I’ve been living in? I’ve been struggling with my feelings for you for over a year. But I told myself that I’d be condemning myself to heartbreak all over again because you’re so fucked up! Harry, if you hadn’t been so emotionally stunted, so emotionally unavailable when we first started talking again, I would have thrown myself at you two years ago! And knowing that even then, how much I liked you, I was scared, I was so fucking scared to be your friend!” Draco cries, his cheeks now completely red, his eyes wet. “But then, then I saw something change in you. You...you seemed more thoughtful about the people you shared yourself with, and more compassionate towards yourself. I thought you were finally coming out of whatever dark hole you thought you deserved to live in. And you’ve always been so amazing and gentle towards me, how could I not want you? I tried to show you, in my own way, that I wanted you...and then, then we had that night together. I’m so fucking stupid, because I thought that I’d be an exception to your toxic habits,” Draco says in a strained voice.

“Draco,” Harry says, stepping towards the other man. Oh God...how had he been so blind? Was he so selfish and caught up in his own pleasures and failures that he had missed all the signs that Draco was falling for him, too? Draco shakes his head and takes a step back.

“You still carry this huge, fucking chip on your shoulder because of Thomas, and not letting it go is causing you to fuck up other people’s lives. Do you even think that maybe you’re someone’s Dean? You definitely became mine when you kissed me on the forehead and practically ran from my home after fucking me,” Draco says tearfully. Harry gasps. He wants so badly to touch Draco, to hold him, and tell him he’s sorry.

Harry wrings his hands instead. “I’m so sorry, Draco. I thought...I thought there was no chance in hell that anything could happen between us. I wanted to respect your decision in keeping our relationship strictly platonic because...I’d rather be your friend than lose you because of unrequited feelings,” Harry explains. Merlin...he wants to tell Draco. He should just tell Draco that he’s in love with him, but he’s so scared. He might just turn to stone if Draco spurns him after confessing it. “But you have to understand that I did not come to your house that night to fuck you. You were so sad, and you looked up at me with tears in your eyes, asking me to hold you and I just, I just didn’t know...” Harry trails off, struggling to put his thoughts into proper words. He just didn’t know the depth of Draco’s feelings for him, and had he known, he wouldn’t have panicked the way he had afterwards.   

“What are you saying?” Draco asks thickly, swaying on spot, his eyes now bloodshot, and his hair going from artfully tousled to wild. “Are you...are you saying you pity fucked me?”

What?! No, I meant—”

“Fuck you!” Draco shouts, throwing his champagne into Harry’s face before flinging the glass against the wall and storming out of the kitchen. Harry splutters, his mouth hanging open in shock as his brain attempts to absorb what the fuck just happened. He pulls off his glasses to wipe on his tuxedo jacket and rushes after Draco.

Pansy and Ginny are standing on the raised platform they were married on, arms looped around one another’s waist. Ginny has her wand pointed to her throat.

A spotlight immediately falls on him and Draco.

“Ah, there they are! Everybody, I’d like to propose a toast to our Bridesmen, Harry and Draco!” Ginny’s smile is full of mischief as everyone in the venue lifts a glass. “To Harry and Draco...if Pansy and I were even remotely attracted to you both anymore, we would not be here today, and for that, we thank you!”

The venue erupts in laughter and applause and as soon as the spotlight moves from them, Draco slips away from Harry without so much as a glance back.

 


“Hi, it’s me. I just wanted to say Merry Christmas and to remind you ‘tis the season to be forgiving, so...haha...if you feel like calling me back, you’d make me a very happy person.”

…..

“Hi, it’s me. If you’re there, please pick up. I really, really want to talk to you.

…..

I had a free moment and wanted to spend it with you, so this message will have to do.

…..

I'm thinking of you and wanted you to know, and now I hope you're thinking of me, too.

…..

Draco...are you there? Pick up.

……

Please, please...I’m so sorry and I just need to talk to you, if you’d just please pick up? Draco, I care so much about you, I never want to hurt you and it’s killing me knowing that I did. I just want to make it up to you, Draco. Please. They say home is where the heart is, so you must be my home, Dra

 

“Hello Harry.”

Harry nearly drops the phone. “Oh, Merlin! Draco, I, er...didn’t think you were going to answer…”

“Yeah, well, your awful voice is starting to annoy my neighbours,” Draco says coldly.

Harry runs a hand through his hair. A part of him just shrivelled up and died from Draco’s insult. Harry was trying to express his feelings in the best way possible, and this confirms that he is indeed absolute shit at it. “Oh, um, sorry about that. Er...what are you up to?” he says, trying to keep the hurt from out of his voice.

“I was just on my way out.”

“Where are you off to?”

“Harry, what is it that you want?”

“Nothing,” Harry says hurriedly. “I just, I miss you and I wanted to know how you’re doing, and to ask what you’re doing for New Year's Eve...are you going to Pansy’s party?” When Draco doesn’t respond after several moments, Harry starts to babble. “I mean...I’m only asking to see if you have a date...because if not I can be that, er, I can be your date, I mean. We always said that if we didn’t have dates on New Year's Eve we’d be each others and maybe you don’t have a date like me—”

Just leave me alone,” Draco snaps. “I don’t want to feel like a fucking fool anymore, Harry.”

The line goes dead.


NEW YEAR'S EVE 2005

Harry’s sprawled on his back, his head propped up on the arm of his sofa with a bag of Bassetts wine gums set on his stomach as he flips through the telly. He pauses on TV presenter Natasha Kaplinsky as she interviews the band The Feeling in preparation for their New Year Live performance on BBC One. The camera then cuts to an aerial shot of the River Thames, and then to the hordes of excited people on Waterloo Bridge, Westminster Bridge, South Bank and Victoria Embankment waiting for the fireworks to begin.

Harry is hit with a pang of loneliness so fierce that he gasps, his body jerking from the wave of discomfort. He hasn’t felt this lonely in a very long time...

He suddenly recalls the New Year's Eve he spent with Draco. How after their moment outside the Daily Prophet, they went back to the party, and good on their word, got three sheets to the wind off of top shelf spirits. He remembers how it had felt to have Draco, giggly and soft, in his arms as they slow danced once more. Harry had felt so safe, so utterly loved by this person in his arms, that he had slipped and asked:

“Do you think the fact that we’re friends is keeping us from finding someone?” he had whispered against Draco’s ear.

Draco had tilted his head back and laughed heartily before whispering back with such amusement, “Absolutely. I think we should end our friendship right now, hail a taxi, and go back to your place to make love on every flat surface available.”

Harry had flushed, images of doing just that popping up in his head. “You wanker. You don’t mean that. You don’t mean that at all.”

Draco had just laughed again and twirled Harry. That was the end of that. They had never spoken about that drunken exchange again. He had always assumed that Draco had been too drunk to remember but now, well, now he’s not quite sure.

Before he can analyse this any further, the doorbell clangs and Walburga immediately starts to wail.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Harry groans, annoyed by the portrait and whoever it is at his door. It’s probably Ron and Hermione trying to convince him to come to the DP Party. He’d shut his Floo down earlier in the evening. “Shut up you old bat! Kreacher, get the door!” Harry shouts before popping another wine gum into his mouth, all melancholic thoughts aside as he refocus on New Year Live.

“FILTHY, PERVERSE HALF-BREED! A SODOMITE HEATHEN! A CHILD OF GROTESQUE UNION! A STAIN OF DISHONOUR ON THE HOUSE OF BLA— Oh! Narcissa, darling! It’s been such a long time! Look at you, what a refined beauty you’ve become!”

Shocked, Harry swallows down the gummy the wrong way and coughs it back up into his hand as Narcissa Malfoy is lead by Kreacher into the sitting room.

The years have been extremely kind to Mrs Malfoy. Her white hair is plaited in one long braid pulled over her left shoulder, with only a dusting of silver along her hairline. Her skin is pale, but her cheeks are healthily flushed, and from his spot, he can hardly see any pronounced wrinkles on her face except the ones around her eyes and mouth. She’s even wearing muggle clothing. She hands a stylish, dark grey wool trench coat to Kreacher, revealing a nicely fitted, light grey tweed suit paired with a white blouse and short, white strappy heels. “Mr Potter,” Narcissa says by way of greeting, her voice low and soft. “Terribly sorry for not sending word of my arrival beforehand,” Mrs Malfoy says, not sounding sorry at all.

Embarrassed but still in shock, Harry immediately scrambles to his feet, tossing his candy on the couch as he approaches Mrs Malfoy. “Oh, er, that’s fine, Mrs Malfoy...what a pleasure to, er, see you,” Harry says, sticking out his hand. He then realises that it’s the hand he had spat his candy into. He switches to the other hand, which Mrs Malfoy shakes. “Please, sit down,” Harry says, gesturing towards his favourite armchair.

“Oh, thank you. And do call me Narcissa,” she says pleasantly, taking her seat. “I feel it’s rather appropriate after all this time.”

“Oh, yes. And please, call me Harry. Would you like to have some —?” before Harry can finish his question, Kreacher reappears with a full tea service, placing it on the small side table before fixing Narcissa a cup. When she sips it, she hums happily.

“My, Kreacher, after all these years you still remember how I take my tea,” Narcissa says with a fond smile, which has such a profound impact on her face that Harry flinches. Those lines around her eyes and mouth are all smile lines, and when she smiles, they take years off her face. Harry would have said that Draco is the spitting image of his father, but now with his mother in front of him, he can see Draco’s smile, his sharp chin and nose, his high cheekbones, eye shape, and lips in Narcissa. Kreacher drops down into a low bow, much like the one he made when Malfoy first visited Grimmauld with Harry.

“Miss Cissy is being need anything else?” Kreacher asks, in yet another bow.

“No. Thank you kindly, Kreacher.”

“Master Harry, tea?” Kreacher asks, standing straight.

“Sure, that’ll be great, Kreacher.”

Once the tea is served, Narcissa asks into Harry’s health (great), his Auror training (also great), and his goals for the New Year (officially joining the Auror Corps). Harry asks her about her vineyard in France (thriving), her transition to the Manor from France (smooth), and her goals for the New Year (breeding rare Golden Akhal Teke horses). It’s all rather pleasant, until Harry asks:

“Is there something in particular you would like to speak to me about, Narcissa?”

“Yes, Harry. I would like to discuss my son,” Narcissa says gravely. “I was made aware of your friendship with him from its conception. I even encouraged it. I was glad to hear that my son was building bridges after my husband and I had burned so many down for him.”

“Draco and I...well, we’re currently on the outs, unfortunately.”

“I have heard this as well. How is that sitting on your conscious, Harry?” Narcissa probes. And though her tone is still polite, Harry’s starting to feel uncomfortable.

Harry shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Narcissa, I’m confused, why are we talk—”

“Because, Harry, I need to know if you are in the habit of ignoring love.”

Harry chokes on his tea. “Pardon?”

Narcissa sighs as she sets her tea down. “Draco, bless him, is a romantic at heart but so terribly stubborn and cautious. He doesn’t always show his feelings, let alone to his own mother. But I know my son very well and he is in love with you.”

Harry swallows. “I didn’t know. I didn’t...I didn’t even think it was at all possible.”

Narcissa makes a small humming sound and stares off, her expression faraway. “My son is under the impression that I am somehow disappointed in his life choices, and this cannot be further from the truth. I am so proud of everything Draco has accomplished so far in his very young life. I don’t want to meddle in my son’s affairs, but when I asked him if he was in love with you, I could tell he was in pain, that he was afraid, but he said yes...and well, my son deserves everything he wants. His Father and I made terrible mistakes...and we are beholden to you, Harry, for speaking on our behalf…”

“Narcissa, you don’t need to be,” Harry says consolingly. "You saved my life."


Narcissa gives a short nod, a sad smile crossing her face. “The weight of responsibility for our crimes should be our cross to bear, not our son's. It was difficult watching my son struggle navigating the Wizarding world after the trial...and then to learn he had almost been murdered, well…” Narcissa trails off, her eyes shining with unshed tears. She shakes herself. “And there you were again, Harry, saving my son.”

“I would do it a thousand times over,” Harry says fiercely. Narcissa nods.

“I would expect nothing short of that, Harry. It’s clear how very much you care for Draco simply based on how he talks about you,” Narcissa says matter-of-factly. “I’m sure all this time Draco has worried over what my re-entrance to Wizard society will mean for him...worried that he might need to leave his job before he heals his patient Daraja again, or if I’ll force him to leave his home, or...convince him to cease his activities with you and betroth him to some Pureblood. My return is not for Draco’s benefit, you see, but for my husband’s. When Lucius is out of prison, we will be together once more, and I want him to have some modicum of normalcy. If we can find that through silly soirees and boring dinners, then so be it. My son is brilliant, but sometimes he can be so very, very dramatic. I would not do anything to change Draco’s amazing life." Narcissa suddenly sighs. "I want Draco happy. I knew from his first letter detailing what you did for him in Diagon Alley that you two were meant to be in each other’s lives. Call it a mother’s intuition, but I know what Draco wants, Harry, and that’s for you to be in his life. I am here to appeal to you, Harry. Please. Be kind to my son. You will never find another man who will take care of you like Draco.”

Harry nods, staring down into his tea. “I know. But it’s too late, Narcissa. I’ve messed up royally and there’s no way Draco’s going to forgive me.”

“I never took you for a quitter, Harry.” Harry looks up. “My son is like me...we do not wear our hearts on our sleeves. But when we expose the inner workings of them to someone, we do it with caution, because rejection or unnecessary pain can easily destroy us. That being said, we would not have shown it in the first place if we didn’t think that person worthy of our affections. Go get him, Harry, and prove to my son he didn’t make a mistake in choosing you.”

“Oh,” Harry says softly, his thoughts racing: where is Draco right now? How fast can he get to him? Will he even want to see him? Can he forgive him? “Thank you, Narcissa.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Harry. I look forward to having tea with my son and you. Together, soon, Harry...now that I am back at Malfoy Manor waiting for my true love to return to me,” Narcissa says, standing. Kreacher pops up, holding out her coat. Harry shows her to the fireplace, pulling down the wards for her. As soon as she’s gone in a swirl of green flames, Harry doesn’t stop to think. He throws on his trainers and runs to the front door.

“Master Harry!” Kreacher calls out. Harry backtracks into the sitting room. “Don’t be forgetting your coat!” Harry smiles as he grabs his coat from the rack and rushes out the house.

He Apparates onto the street right off Charing Cross, and quickly makes his way to the small walled courtyard and taps the brick wall to enter Diagon Alley. He wrangles his way through the blusterous crowds at the Leaky Cauldron, waving at Hannah and Neville who are situated behind the bar.

Once out on the cobblestones, Harry breaks into a run, heading towards the south side of Diagon Alley to get to the main offices of the Daily Prophet. There are people crowding the streets, music pouring from the doorways of open shops and cafes, laughter and singing from all corners. He’s out of breath when he gets to the entrance, throwing the door open and heading towards the lifts. He presses the top button, buzzing with anticipation as the lift finally calls out the 30th floor. Harry steps from out of the lift, two burly security guards—one bald and the other with spiky red hair—eye him cautiously.

“Invitation?” the bald security guard asks.

“Er…” Shit. He forgot the fucking invite. “Right, I forgot it at home.” Both security guards stare at him. Harry suddenly feels self-conscious, standing in the entrance to the party dressed in a shitty coat, threadbare jeans, and a t-shirt he’s sure is sporting a spot of grease somewhere.

“I’m sorry, sir, but we’re not gonna let you in,” the security guard says. His partner nods.

“But...but there’s someone in there I need to talk to!” Harry says, panicking. “Please...if you can just let me in for a few minutes,” Harry says, stepping forward. The spiky-haired guard menacingly approaches him.

“We said no invite, no entrance!” the guard barks.

“What’s going on here?” comes a low, husky voice. Harry almost wants to weep, relief washing over him. Pansy is standing at the entrance, dressed in a black, sequin drop-waist gown. “Harry, what are you doing here?” she asks, genuinely surprised.

“I’ve come to see Draco,” Harry says.

Pansy suddenly looks conflicted. “You’re not here to cause any trouble, are you?”

“No! No, no...I promise!”

Pansy nods. “Good. I knew Narcissa would set you right,” Pansy says with a wink.

“You sent her to me?”

“She sent herself to you, but great minds do even greater work when put together,” Pansy smiles. “C’mon now, you great oafs, let this man through—that’s Harry Potter you’re holding up.”

The guards wince, apologise profusely, and let Harry through. Pansy grabs him with both hands. “Listen to me. I’ve known for quite some time that Draco’s in love with you. I guess I thought you were smarter than you actually are, as it didn’t cross my mind at all that you would hurt him...so you have to make this right. Draco’s too stubborn to pull his head out of his arse and accept that maybe you’re not Satan reincarnate. He’s over by the champagne fountain...don’t mind his date, horribly boring man…And like I said before, Harry, don’t fuck this up. I’ll hex you to Timbuktu if you do.” She pats him on the cheek. Pansy smiles before shoving him off and disappearing into the crowd herself.

Mad. All of their friends are mad. And he's so happy to have them in his life.

True to her word, Draco is situated by the champagne fountain. A tall, skinny older man standing beside him regalling Draco with what looks like a long, boring tale, or at least it seems like that from Draco’s body language. He’s leaning against a wall, a flute dangling between two fingers, with an impassive expression on his face.

Harry steps up to them. Draco’s eyes flash and his date looks shocked.

“Er, yeah, could you excuse us for a bit?” Harry asks, looking at Draco’s date. “I’d like to talk to Draco privately.” Draco looks like he’s about to spit fire, but Draco’s date, obviously in awe of talking to Harry Potter, sticks his hand out for Harry to shake.

“Wow, yeah, Mr Potter, of course!” the man says, giving Harry’s hand a few good pumps before walking away. Draco stares after his date, his mouth in an ‘o’ shape before snapping back to his senses and rounding on Harry with a deadly look in his eyes.

“I thought I told you to leave me alone,” Draco hisses.

“You know as well as I do that I’m incapable of leaving you alone, Draco.”

Draco snorts. “Well, I don’t have time for anymore of your stupid apologies, Potter. We both know whatever this is...was...between us is over.”

“I don’t think you mean that, Draco.”

Draco’s suddenly tense. “What do you want, Potter?” Draco demands.

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking tonight,” Harry says.

“God, I hope you didn’t hurt yourself,” Draco says acerbically.

“And after talking it out with someone that I’m surprised to say I trust, I need to tell you that I’m in love with you.”

“What?”

“I love you, Draco.”

After a few beats of silence, Draco weakly asks, “How the fuck do you expect me to respond to this?” Draco crosses his arms against his chest, but he looks vulnerable rather than defensive.

“You can tell me you love me, too.”

Draco sneers. “How about instead I tell you to go fuck yourself and thanks for once again ruining my goddamn night?”

“So, you’re honestly going to stand there and tell me you don’t feel the same way as I do?”

“Harry, I’m sorry. I know it’s New Year’s Eve and I know that you’re feeling lonely, but you just can’t show up here and tell me you love me and expect that to make all that you’ve done go away. I mean, really Harry, what am I supposed to say? ‘Oh wow, that’s awesome, let’s ride off into the sunset together?’ It doesn’t fucking work that way!”

“Well, how does it work?” Harry asks, stepping closer to Draco, his heart thundering in his chest as he takes in the sad look that crosses Draco’s face, how bright his grey eyes are as he stares into Harry’s, how his bottom lip quivers. Draco shakes his head.

“I don’t know, Harry, but not like this,” Draco says, his shoulders slumping.

“How about this way: Draco Malfoy. I’m in love with you!” Harry shouts, causing Draco to wince and for his cheeks to flush. But saying it out loud feels so freeing, and it’s as if a dam has broken in him and he can’t stop the flood of emotions or the words that tumble from his lips. “I love every single thing about you. I love how you’ve built this fucking amazing life for yourself. I love how brave you are, how strong you are. I love that you’re compassionate, that you take your neighbour’s cat for walks and that you’re sort of an arsehole to wait-staff and that your food orders sometimes sound like you’re explaining some kinda complex medical procedure. I love that you shamelessly cry at films and that you’ve seen Casablanca over a hundred times, just like me. I love that you make me question my own sanity because you’re such a nutter. I love that you’ve invented an invisibility cloak of strength so your patients can feel strong and that you carry lollipops for them on you. I love that you're so free and in-tune with yourself that you’re not afraid to laugh at yourself. I love that you smoke pot and dance like you’re the only person in the room despite coming off as this stiff posh prick, because you’re actually nothing like that, and I’m so happy I get to see that side of you. I love that you’re silly, fucking sassy, hilarious, soft, and bitchy. I love that no matter how fucking silly, cheerful, depressing or just plain weird I am, you’ll still call me a fucking idiot, and I know that that’s your way of saying that you love me, too. I love how you feel in my arms, how amazing you felt against me that night, how your lips felt against mine, and I’ll never forgive myself for how I treated you afterwards, but I will spend the rest of my days making up for it if you give me the chance.

“So, yes. Draco Malfoy, I’m in fucking love with you, all of you, even what you consider the broken bits, because they’re a part of you! When you realise that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible, so here I am tonight, standing before you to tell you that I love, I love, I love you!” Harry cries out, not giving a fuck who hears him professing his love for Draco Malfoy. He wants to shout it from the rooftops!

Draco suddenly breaks into laughter, wild and breathless, and just as quickly begins to sob in between his laughs, lifting a shaking hand to run through his long blond locks. He looks and sounds crazy. Harry’s eyes feast on the crinkles around Draco’s eyes, at odds with the wide scowl of his lips, and the flow of tears running down his pink cheeks to land on the lapels of his gorgeous black jacquard tuxedo.

“ONE MINUTE TO NEW YEAR!” someone shouts.

Draco shakes his head, still scowling. “Fuck, that’s just like you, you idiot,” Draco says furiously. “You say things like that, and you make it impossible for me to hate you…”

Harry draws in a sharp breath and waits—

“But I could never hate you, Harry. My heart doesn’t have the willpower or fucking capacity to do it,” Draco says through his tears. “And I've waited so long...I could never hate you, Harry...I could never...never...hate you…because I love you, too, Harry...I love you,” Draco chokes out the words, his whole body trembling as Harry wraps his arms around him. Draco immediately falls forward into the embrace, wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck and pressing his lips against his. They kiss tenderly before the kiss turns heated, as if they’re both starving. And they were, weren’t they? Harry thinks as joy rushes through him when Draco pushes his fingers into Harry's hair. They’ve both been starving for the same thing all this time. Not anymore, Harry promises. When they separate for air, they both smile at each other. 

Harry presses his forehead against Draco’s and closes his eyes.

“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

 

A Happy New Year, indeed.


*EPILOGUE*

MAY 2009

 

“Oh Merlin, what is that? Is that poop or chocolate?” Ron shouts as the toddler dashes towards her mother. Hermione scoops up a squirming Rose and takes a whiff of her palm before using a finger to swipe up some of the goo to taste. Harry gags at the sight, eyes going ridiculously round as Hermione smiles, nods, and places an adoring kiss on her daughter’s cheek before setting her back down. “Chocolate!” Hermione calls out.

“Oh, thank Merlin!” Ron says, popping his head into the room. “Come along Rosie, love, I’m sure Auntie Ginny would like to see to your hair,” Ron says to his daughter as she ambles towards the door.

“Bye, Rosie!” Harry says, waving at his goddaughter. “See you later.”

“Hey Ron, tell Gin if she’d like any apple juice, Kreacher’s acquired about a tonne of the stuff,” Draco says. Harry snorts. Ginny, now seven months pregnant with her and Pansy’s first child, is completely obsessed with apple juice. Pansy, darling that she is, would buy an ocean of the stuff if she could.

“Will do, mate!” Ron says, shutting the door.

“Sorry, Hermione, you were saying?” Harry asks.

“Oh yes. We made a video to show you all the types of love stories and advice among the people you care for. There’s over twenty interviews from your friends and family. And to complete the gift, I would like to record your story as well before you two tie the knot today.”

“Is this is going to be a part of our wedding video?” Draco asks in awe, his voice tight with emotion. Hermione nods.

“Oh Merlin, Hermione, that is so lovely,” Harry says, a wide smile on his face. “Thank you.”

“The pleasure is all mine, loves. Shall we get started? How’d you two meet?” Hermione asks with a cheeky smile.

She lifts the camcorder and hits RECORD.

 

“Well, the first time we met, we hated each other.”

“I didn’t hate you, I wanted to be your friend,” Draco says with a pout, his legs and arms crossing. Harry chuckles, wrapping an arm around Draco’s shoulder.

“Ah, that’s right...when we were eleven. Then I wanted to be your friend when we were adults, at Pret…”

Draco shakes his head, a fond smile on his face. “Merlin. You were absolutely obnoxious and crazy, but I guess I’m crazy, too, because I wanted to be your friend just as badly.”

“So, after, what? The fifth or sixth time we met, we became best friends.”

“We were friends for a long time,” Draco says, nodding.

“And then we weren’t.”

“Then we fell in love.”

“And now we’re getting married. We have this incredible coconut cake,” Harry says, smacking his lips. “Can’t wait to get a piece of that.”

“Oh, and I guess I’m just chopped liver today?”

Harry pulls Draco closer, his eyes closing briefly as he buries his nose in his soon-to-be husband’s hair to breathe in his wonderful scent. “You are everything I could ever hope or dream for, and you’re giving me forever...forever days of coconut cakes...” Draco laughs.

“I’m marrying a terrible sap.”

“Yes, you are,” Harry says, kissing his temple.

“I’m excited for the coconut cake, too, it’s going to be incredible. We have a very rich chocolate sauce to go with it, on the side.

“Yes, you know, because not everyone would like the sauce right on top of their cake…it could make it soggy, and not a lot of people are into that,” Harry explains.

“See. You see!? This is why I love you! You get it,” Draco says, pulling Harry into a soft kiss. It’s small and silly, and so very Draco...that Harry gives into the swell of emotions in him and begins to cry.

“Ugh, stop it, Harry. You’re going to make me cry, too, and I can’t get all blotchy right now,” Draco says weakly, pulling out his wand to Summon a box of Kleenex. “Here.”

Harry chuckles, holding the box in his lap as Draco pulls one out to mop up Harry’s face. When he’s all done, Harry places the box aside and tugs Draco to him once more.

“I love you.” He presses one more kiss to Draco’s lips. “Now, let’s go get married.”

 

The End.