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You better run, you better take cover

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The second Harry steps free of the Apparition point, he’s hit by the overwhelming scent of dust and heat. Too busy trying to orient himself, he almost misses the Welcome Witch leaning back against the corrugated iron fence, a ripped flannel shirt knotted around her waist and a tie-dye shirt on top. She holds out a pamphlet to him, chewing loudly on a wad of bubble gum and not bothering to make eye contact with him even when he takes the pamphlet from her hand.

“Welcome to Australia,” she drawls, eyes fixed on some point in the distance.

When he looks past the fence and tin shed he Apparated into, there is nothing around them for miles but tall, spindly trees with white bark and a few low-lying shrubs. He doesn’t know what he expected from Alice Springs, but the name suggested there might be water at least. Maybe the Apparition point is in the middle of nowhere, near the city.

“Er, don’t you need my travel papers or something?” Harry asks, running a self-conscious hand over the front of his jeans which are already covered in a thin layer of red dirt.

The memory of Hermione’s voice pops into his head, running through her checklist before he left.

 

“Harry, are you sure you’ve got everything?”

“Yes, ‘Mione, I’m sure!”

“What about sunblock? You’re not very tanned, you know. You might burn. And don’t forget your travel papers; they’re really particular about checking those in foreign wizarding Apparition points!”

Harry huffs, indignant. “I do not burn . I’m on holiday. I’m going to come back sun-kissed with blond tips and then who’ll be laughing?”

Hermione levels him with a stare. “Harry.”

“I know, I know. I’ll look after myself, and hopefully the wards will be fixed by the time I come back, so this nonsense will finally end.”

For a moment, Hermione looks uncomfortable.

“What is it?” Harry asks with trepidation.

“What if it doesn’t end?” she asks, studying him with an expression that is entirely too aware. “What will you do then?”

Harry snorts. “Then I’ll change my name and move to Switzerland. Come on, Hermione, this is unbearable. You know that.”

She doesn’t look convinced, and a pit of unease settles in Harry’s stomach. “I know.”

 

The Welcome Witch wrinkles her nose and looks at him for the first time. “Papers? Why? You someone important?”

Harry chokes a little on his own spit and clears his throat, feeling more wrong-footed by the second. “Um. I’m Harry Potter?”

“Who?”

Harry gapes at her, and as the two of them stare at each other—the Welcome Witch with a confusion that is quickly morphing into irritation, and Harry with straight-up shock—it hits him. No one here knows who he is. That, or they don’t care.

Slowly, he grins. “Never mind.”

She shrugs. “Enjoy your stay, mate.”

For the first time since necessity convinced him to go on this hare-brained adventure, Harry thinks he might.

*

He doesn’t stay in Alice Springs for long; it was simply the easiest way to get to Australia without battling through a Ministry security detail at both ends. Alice Springs was so far away from the main Apparition points, the Ministry could barely track him here, let alone harrass him.

Ministry involvement in his life isn’t usually something he has to worry about, these days. Not since he hit the age of twenty seven and told Kingsley politely but firmly that if he had to sign one more piece of his life and privacy away in the name of celebrity, he was going to shove every last sheet of the paperwork involved up Kingsley’s backside. The threat worked for a while, particularly when it had been delivered with calm certainty and a procedurally informative gesture, but had unfortunately lost its staying power in the last six months. All it had taken was Witch Weekly to run a “Savior or Silver Fox?” edition, and suddenly it was like Harry was seventeen again. But this time, he was even less interested in what the media had to say and at least thirty percent more likely to hex someone for winking at him suggestively.

So when the niggling thought arose that he should leave the country for a while, he’d decided to take a short stay in Australia on the priviso that it be on the lowest of downs. The absolutely pinnacle of secrecy. He even debated not telling Ron, but at the last minute had decided that if he got eaten by a giant jellyfish—he was certain Australia had those—he should make sure at least one person knew where to hunt for the body.

And now that he’s here, in Alice Springs, he finds himself meandering towards the coast, Apparition point by Apparition point, drawn to the call of the sea. Giant jellyfish be damned. He wants to catch a wave, to chill out in a beer garden by the beach, to sunbake on white sands—not this red outback dust that seems to seep into every orifice with a determination bordering on sentience. He wants to see what passes for a bustling city in Australia, and he’s fairly certain he won’t found that out here.

Plus, he thinks old Dazza who works at the petrol station has been giving him the eye, and after several strained conversations that Harry swears weren’t in English, he isn’t certain he possesses the vocabulary to let the man down gently.

There’s only one man Harry wants, and it’s not worth even imagining. Besides, if he ever called Draco ‘Dazza’, Harry is fairly certain Draco would hex his balls off.

As Harry gets closer to the Queensland coast, his surroundings begin to change. Leafy trees replace the spindly skeletons. Desert becomes forest. During one particularly ambitious leap into the unknown—which nearly results in a Splinching—he lands amidst a tropical rainforest full of singing parrots, strange flightless birds, and the most beautifully deafening weight of silence. He wishes he could stay there longer, but the flightless bird cocks its head at him in a way that makes Harry certain it can see into his soul and is currently calculating the most efficient way to rip out his heart. Just as he Apparates away, he sees it charge for him.

And then, suddenly, he’s there. The city of the Gold Coast lives up to its name; it’s golden and busy and full of bustling crowds in a way that is subtly different to anything he’s used to. He’s surrounded by tanned skin and people walking the streets in bikinis. The barbecues across the road from the beach are sizzling away with sausages, punctuated by the crisp sound of cider caps being popped no more than two feet away from a No Alcohol sign.

Harry follows the sound of waves to the beach across the road and sinks into the fine, white sand. This is the life. This is relaxing. This is what it means to not have people hounding your every move and breaking into your house because they’re convinced the scar on your head makes you a great shag.

He should buy a Hawaiian shirt.

The insistent sound of rhythmic chanting penetrates Harry’s thoughts, breaking through the fog of his lethargy and sending prickles of irritation down his spine.

“Shooey! Shooey!”

He cracks an eyelid. What in Merlin’s name is a shooey? A crowd of lads in their twenties are circling around something by the water, and Harry climbs back onto his feet to investigate. When he gets close enough to see—one of the lads immediately draws him in with an arm over Harry’s shoulder like he’s one of them—he realises they’re surrounding another bloke who appears to be drinking something out of a shoe.

Harry’s face twists into horror, then confusion as he looks around at the grinning, triumphant faces of the men beside him, then horror again as he realises that yes, the man is definitely drinking beer out of a shoe, and no, the shoe does not look clean.

“Oh!” he says out loud, his brain latching desperately onto the only silver lining it can find in the form of one piece of the puzzle slotting into place. “ Shoe- ey. Right.”

The lad hanging off his shoulder grins at him and punches him jovially in the shoulder, increasing the volume of his chant. Thankfully, before Harry can decide whether or not joining in on the chant crosses a line in his morals, the man finishes chugging the beer and drops the shoe onto the sand.

Harry’s face does something complicated, whereby he’s fairly sure all the horror, confusion, sadness and mild fear that had flooded him at his recent introduction to the shooey attempts to take chief residence on his expression at the same time. The man who has just sculled beer from a shoe is Draco Malfoy.

Merlin, even cornered like a deer in headlights and covered in dregs of beer, Draco is impossibly fit. His blond hair shines in the light, and he’s obviously been for a swim because his hair is slicked back in a way that is entirely different to how it used to be slicked back at school. Even the scars on his chest make him seem mysterious, oddly tough despite his slight frame, and nothing like the terrified child he was when Harry hurt him. In short, Harry is fucked, and—worst of all—if he doesn’t find a way out of this he’ll be begging Draco for the privilege.

Draco’s eyes land on Harry and grow wide with desperate relief. “Potter!” he yells and scrambles forward to grab Harry by the collar of his shirt. “Save me!” he hisses.

Harry can’t quite manage a response, but he does succeed in dragging Draco free from the circle while the lads cheer and another man refills the shoe and takes his place.

“Potter,” Draco repeats, face pale and uncertain. “It was… it was a shoe . They drink from shoes here.”

“Malfoy,” Harry attempts, his voice only cracking a little. He thinks it might be from hysteria. “Why did you drink from the shoe?”

“I spelled it clean first!” Draco insists. “Merlin knows I’m not drinking from some stranger’s stinking footwear.”

In the background, the new sacrifice spits beer over his chest and yells, “Why the fuck does your shoe taste like mouth wash?!”

Harry gapes in response; it’s all he can do. With Malfoy still clinging dazedly to Harry’s shirt, they make their escape from the beach.

*

If someone had asked Harry what would be the easiest way to ruin his self-imposed, temporary exile from England, he wouldn’t have even hesitated to reply. The answer would be Draco Malfoy, whose appearance would no doubt herald the beginning of him plotting dastardly things, probably to do with the deadly Australian wildlife. Draco might be an accomplished Healer now, working alongside Hermione, and Harry might be sort of in love with him, but that didn’t mean his old ways wouldn’t come calling given a new environment and revitalised spirit.

But, as it turns out, running into Draco being accosted by boisterous Australian lads with a fetish for British accents levels the playing field. It’s difficult to be suspicious of your childhood arch enemy when you’ve just rescued them from something you don’t quite—and don’t want to—understand, and Harry supposes it’s difficult to plot dastardly things when your mouth still tastes like a stranger’s tinea.

Either way, after an awkward few minutes back at Draco’s hotel where Harry has to convince him that scouring his mouth with steel wool will only cause further problems and possibly hepatitus, Harry books the room next door and the two of them settle into a joint holiday that consists mainly of mimosas and garlic bread.

The sun has crept high over their heads as they sit out on Draco’s balcony. The past few days have been spent sight-seeing and sunbaking down on the beach, but they’ve decided to stay indoors today. Draco’s nose is threatening a pink tinge, and even Harry is sleepier than usual from the excessive sun he’s seen. He stretches out in his deck chair and adjusts his unbuttoned, pink Hawaiian shirt so that his chest can get a nice dose of morning sun before it becomes too strong.

“When are you going home?” Harry asks, shifting his hat so at least his face is covered in shade. That’s sun-smart enough. His eyes are closed and he keeps having to catch himself against falling asleep.

Draco makes a noncommittal noise. “Not sure. What about you, Potter? Keen to get back to the Weaslette? I’m surprised she let you off the leash this long.”

“Don’t act like you don’t know we’re divorced.” Harry points out, rolling his eyes beneath his hat, visions of the words ‘Silver Fox’ outlayed in crimson bursting through his mind. “And there’s no need to be a misogynistic twat about it. Ginny’s her own woman and she controls no one but herself.”

Draco sighs. “You’re no fun to tease anymore. You don’t rise to the bait like you did when we were children.”

“You call that bait?”

Harry hears a quiet snicker, and it takes him a second but then he’s laughing too and lifting up his hat to peer at Draco with one eye. “Well you definitely haven’t grown up, have you?”

“Depends on your definition of adult.”

Something heated flashes in Draco’s eyes, but it’s there and gone again in a second, and Harry thinks he must have imagined it.

“Seriously, though,” Harry insists, “When are you going back to England?”

“Missing me already?”

Despite their strange, new comraderie, Draco won’t tell Harry why he’s here or how long he intends to stay. Every time Harry asks, Draco’s eyes slide away and he changes the subject with a deftness that is directly proportionate to how many mimosas they’ve had.

Against all Harry’s attempts at the contrary, he’s beginning to get suspicious.

He sits up and tilts his hat at an angle so he’s still protected from the sun but can study Draco from beneath the brim. Draco is pretending to read a magazine—a fact made obvious by how he’s been staring at an advertisement for sanitary pads for going on three minutes now.

“Draco—” Harry begins, but he’s cut off by the most drawn-out sigh he’s ever heard.

“You’re not going to leave well enough alone, are you?” Draco asks, dropping his magazine and glaring at Harry from over the top of his aviators.

“No.”

“You’re not going to like the answer.”

Harry’s hackles rise. “All the more reason to tell me then, yeah?”

Draco snorts. “Fucking Gryffindors. Fine. I followed you here because Granger let slip that she was worried about you. However, it seems she was misinformed about your itinerary—”

Harry starts to explain about the giant jellyfish theory, but Draco cuts him off.

“—and I spent several exhausting days searching for you and trying to blend in by talking like a chav.” He pinches the bridge of his nose and winces, presumably at the memory of his abused vocal chords. “I tried an accent spell but it didn’t work and I ended up sounding like Steve Irwin on cocaine. At least without the spell I was in control of the sounds coming out of my mouth.”

Harry can’t help it; he begins to laugh. Three days of sun and drinking catch up to him, and soon he’s sliding halfway down the deck chair and laughing so hard tears are leaking out of his eyes. Draco reluctantly joins him, his own laughter quiet at first until he loses control and is cackling just as loudly as Harry. Harry can’t even find it in himself to be mad at Hermione because, in truth, he suspected something like this would happen. There’s just one thing he doesn’t understand.

“But why did Hermione send you ?” he finally manages to spit out.

Draco’s laughter subsides and he glances over at Harry, puzzled. “Send me?” His eyes widen. “Oh, right. Ah…” he trails off, a complicated expression on his face.

“Holy shit,” Harry breathes. “She didn’t send you. Does she even know you’re here?”

“Well, I mean…”

“What the hell, Malfoy?”

Harry can’t keep the confusion and uncertainty from his face. Sunbaking and relaxing have done what a decade of rabid fans couldn’t and destroyed the last of Harry’s defences, and he’s left vulnerable in the face of the unknown. Why is Malfoy here?

“Well, I…” Draco takes a breath. “I thought you might be running away and I happen to know a thing or two about that. I didn’t want to see you make the mistakes I did.”

Anger wars with indignation in Harry’s chest, but he’s too tired for either, so he just says, “Why do you care ?”

For a second, the strange expression from earlier is back on Draco’s face, and this time Harry knows he isn’t imagining it.

“You do care, don’t you?” Harry asks, incredulous.

“Of course I do.”

Harry’s heart is hammering in his throat, but Draco just sounds tired. It’s impossible to imagine, but in this strange new land full of dingos and durries, Harry finds the leap isn’t quite as far as he always thought. He drops his gaze to Draco’s lips, to the thin line of pink and the nervous tongue that darts across it. Draco’s breath visibly hitches, and Harry can’t help but notice.

Draco mutters something sharply under his breath that sounds an awful lot like “Fuck it,” and then he throws the magazine across the balcony and straddles Harry in one swift move.

Harry temporarily loses his breath. He tries to sit up fully, more out of reflex than anything else, but Draco’s hand presses to the bare skin of his chest and guides him back down.

“Is this all right?” Draco asks, two spots of colour high on his cheeks as he trails his free hand down Harry’s stomach.

“Yeah.” Harry chokes a little as he tries to speak, his chest heaving against Draco’s palm as he coughs. “Yeah of course it’s bloody all right.”

Draco’s lips curve slowly into a smile, and then both hands disappear from Harry’s chest and reappear on his hips, fingers curling beneath his shorts and pulling them over his thighs.

“Fuck,” Harry splutters.

His cock is already rising to the occasion, half-hard and getting harder when Draco slides further down the deck chair and laves a line along it with his tongue.

Fuck ,” Harry repeats, showing off his singular remaining braincell with pride.

Draco pulls back and stares up at him, eyes wide and brow furrowed. “No, wait,” he mutters. “That’s all wrong.”

Before Harry can protest that he doesn’t see anything wrong with it at all, Draco is hovering above him once more, arms braced on either side of the deck chair, while his mouth descends gently on Harry’s. Any last arguments flee from Harry’s mind. Draco’s lips are as soft as he ever imagined, and he tastes like mimosas and—

Harry coughs. “Garlic,” he mutters, pulling a face.

Draco pulls back and glares at him. “You ate a whole stick to yourself. This isn’t exactly like kissing a dental surgeon.”

Reaching up to grab him by the back of the neck, Harry pulls him back into a soft kiss. “Can’t you do that thing you did to the shoe?” he mumbles against Draco’s lips.

There’s a wave of a hand, a shimmer to the air, and then the pleasant taste of mouthwash overwhelms him. He parts Draco’s lips, caressing with his tongue until the tension disappears from Draco’s body and he melts down into the kiss. There is an answering hardness against Harry’s thigh, and with the hand that isn’t currently clasped behind Draco’s neck he squeezes the firm mound of Draco’s arse and pulls him closer.

“You’ve no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that,” he gasps, dropping lower to mouth at Draco’s neck.

He can’t hear much through the sound of gasping from both of them, but what he can hear sounds a lot like “shut up , Potter” and maybe followed by “Merlin, don’t you ever shut up ?” which Harry thinks is grossly unfair because he can’t remember how to string two words together any more.

So he doesn’t bother to try, and instead shoves at Draco’s chest until he’s kneeling on the chair and Harry can guide him backwards, still kissing, off the chair and in the open balcony door towards the bed. When he’s there, he trips a little on account of his board shorts still being halfway down his thighs, but he manages to shed the rest of his clothing without disaster and gets started on Draco’s.

“Why does this have so many fucking buttons?” he growls, hands tearing at Draco’s miniscule white buttons to no avail.

“Be careful ,” Draco hisses, “you’ll scratch me!”

“I’d have to get your shirt off first to scratch you,” Harry points out before giving up and just Vanishing the whole thing with a flick of his wrist.

Draco gives him a long-suffering look, but instead of protesting, he simply flips the two of them over in the bed and resumes his earlier position. Harry’s head tips back onto the pillow at the same time Draco’s mouth wraps around him, and he cries out in bliss.

He notices that he isn’t told to shut up this time, but that’s about all he notices. Draco’s lips are hot and eager, his hands caressing Harry in ways few people ever bother to. When he looks down, Draco’s grey eyes flick to his and crinkle smugly at the corner.

As Harry watches, Draco holds his gaze and slows down, his mouth stretched wide as he slides long and slow over Harry’s cock.

Before long, Harry is riding the edge. He threads his fingers through Draco’s hair—soft with product despite how Harry’s hair is still salt-thickened and rough from the sea—and grips just hard enough to hurt. In response, Draco’s speed quickens, bringing with it a warning hint of teeth, and Harry moans.

Just as he’s getting close, Draco pulls away and mutters a spell beneath his breath. Harry waits for the slickness to appear beneath his legs, but nothing happens, and then Draco is coming closer and sitting down on top of him and it all makes an unexpected and welcome amount of sense. Harry resists the urge to let his eyes roll back in his head and watches instead as Draco guides himself down onto Harry’s cock.

There is a steady flush rising along Draco’s chest that could be confused with sunburn except Harry knows it isn’t. It’s there because of him, and Draco is here because of him, and somehow Harry must have missed a hundred signals in the last few days because it really feels like he should have seen this coming. Should have at least suspected it instead of being blind-sided into being blown and ridden before he could even taste Draco in return, when that’s all he’s wanted for about two years.

But he isn’t complaining. Draco’s face goes soft, his expression open with want and something bordering on disbelief. His lips are parted just enough that Harry can hear the small gasps of breath escaping him, the tiny whimpers as he positions Harry exactly where he wants him.

Draco’s eyes suddenly widen, his pace quickening, and it’s all Harry can do to hold on while Draco’s head is tipped back in pleasure and the last of his shudders are still rolling through them both, before spilling over with a moan.

For a long time afterwards, Harry can still hear the echo of their gasps in his mind. Their legs are tangled in the bedsheets, waves are lapping against the shore in the distance, and the room smells like Draco’s cleaning spells. Harry is surrounded by him, and he doesn’t want to be anywhere else.

“Let’s just stay in Australia,” Harry murmurs, trailing open-mouthed kisses down Draco’s chest. “We can talk like chavs and get a proper tan. It’ll be great.”

“Harry,” Draco says cautiously, lifting himself up onto his elbows and meeting Harry’s eyes. “I don’t know.”

“What is it?” Harry asks, dipping his tongue into the hollow of Draco’s neck. “What’s wrong?”

“I have a place in England.” Draco’s glance slides away. “A home, a job. I worked hard for that. I had to face a lot things I’d rather have run from just to exist.”

Irritation and hurt rises in Harry’s chest. “Are you saying I didn’t?”

“No—” Draco’s tone grows sharp, pointy features twisting into something familiar and cutting, but before he can answer, the door to their hotel room bursts open and chaos ensues.

After a few seconds where Harry scrambles to his feet and backs away to the window, he discerns that three intruders have invaded the room and are fighting to get through Draco’s weakening shield charm. The frantic racing of Harry’s heart fades as he realises they aren’t trying to hurt anyone. At least, not in any way they recognise as pain; the result is subjectively different.

Amidst the screaming of the three witches, each of whom are wearing t-shirts with Harry’s face on them and waving identical copies of a blue-covered book Harry has never seen before in the air, he comes to a realisation. This is never going away. He can run the entire length of the world and they’ll still find him.

One of the witches tries to use her copy of the book as an impromptu battering ram, breaking through the shield charm and hammering at Draco’s chest with it while he stands between Harry and the witches. Draco’s only armor is the soiled bedsheets clutched around his waist, while Harry makes creative use of the pillow and tries to recall how Transfiguration works under stress.

Draco snatches the book out of the witch’s hand and throws it behind him, but she’s relentless and charges forward with slapping hands instead while another takes her place with her own book. Behind the intruders, a hotel clerk wearing double denim emerges in the doorway, wild-eyed and frizzy-haired, yelling something about “ya fuckin’ drongos!” and giving chase like Benny Hill never went out of fashion.

It’s madness. It’s insane and terrifying and incomprehensible, and it’s Harry’s life. He can’t take this. He can’t subject Draco to this. He just can’t, he can’t, he can’t.

Spinning around, he ignores the startled protests behind him, runs onto the balcony, and jumps over the edge, Apparating just before he hits the ground.

*

On his way over the balcony, Harry had somehow grabbed one of the books the women were waving at them. He has a vague recollection of snatching it so she’d stop hitting Draco with it, but he can’t be sure because most of the last twenty minutes is already a blur.

He wanders down the beach, hitching his Transfigured shorts up around his waist and hoping they don’t turn back into a pillow before he’s returns to the hotel. There has been no word from Draco, and Harry is nervous to find out what happened after he left. He hopes Draco knows he wasn’t trying to leave him to deal with the problem alone; Harry was removing the problem altogether. And since the witches were there to see him , that made removing the problem rather easy.

But now there’s a new problem. He flicks through the book in his hands. It’s yet another unauthorized biography, except this one seems to have succeeded where the others have failed; it’s correct. The book is full of facts about him that nobody except his closest friends should know, right down to his visit to the Gold Coast. The author must have used a spell on him, and just because they’re the first to do so doesn’t mean they’ll be the last.

Transfiguring the book into a fish, Harry throws it into the ocean. With any luck, a shark will eat it.

It’s nearly dinner time, and Harry knows he should go back to the hotel, but he doesn’t want to. Something unpleasant is stirring in his gut, like his body somehow knows if he goes back bad things will happen. He imagines Draco hexing him, but that doesn’t feel quite right. Punching Harry is out of the question; he’s never seen Draco punch anyone before and there’s no reason why he should start now, even if Harry has been a spectacular twat.

So what is it? What is he afraid of?

Slowly, an image creeps into his mind. Draco’s face falling in disappointment. Draco looking hurt.

Harry stops dead. Shit.

He remembers the way Draco had thrown Harry behind him, protecting him from the witches’ advances. Draco followed him here all the way from England just to look out for him. What had he said when Harry questioned him? He’d been worried Harry was running away.

Well, of course Harry was running. Who wouldn’t run from something as horrible as this?

The answer comes in the form of the sinking weight of guilt in Harry’s stomach.

Somewhere in the distance, a group of teenagers are playing beach cricket and chugging back tinnies. The harsh cries of “Howzat” float down on the wind, accompanied by the raucous screeching of a flock of seagulls eyeing off a nearby tourist’s unguarded chips. Harry spares one final moment to stare out at the ocean longingly, silently farewelling this sun-kissed land and all the joy it might have held for him.

Then, he Apparates back to the hotel to do what he has to do.

*

“I’m sorry,” he says the second Draco opens the door.

“What for?” Draco asks airily.

“Don’t be like that,” Harry snaps. “You know exactly what for.”

Draco rolls his eyes. “Yes, of course I know what you should be sorry for. I need to check if you do. An apology means nothing if you don’t actually know what you did wrong.”

“Oh.”

The door widens and Draco steps aside to let him in. When Harry enters the room, he sees two suitcases laid out on the bed and all of Draco’s things packed neatly inside. He wonders if Draco would have left without saying goodbye, and if maybe Harry actually deserved that.

“I shouldn’t have left you to deal with them alone,” he says, forcing himself to look Draco in the eye.

It’s a surreal experience, apologising to Draco. Harry doesn’t think it’s ever happened before.

“Go on,” Draco says icily.

“I thought I was solving the problem by removing myself from the equation, but it doesn’t work like that.” Harry scrubs the back of his neck. “I abandoned you and it was a real shit move. I’m sorry.”

The gentle wailing of Land Down Under drifts through the walls from some distant hotel room, or possibly the lobby. It’s a strange counterpoint to the seriousness of the conversation, but Harry supposes in many ways this entire trip has been a strange counterpoint. An island of escape from a life that was slowly strangling him. He was deluded to think it could ever last.

“Apology accepted,” Draco says, and a weight lifts from Harry’s shoulders. “What will you do now?”

He regards Harry curiously for a moment before turning to move around the room, checking for any final possessions hidden in the corners.

“If you’re going back, I’ll leave as well,” Harry admits. “I think it’s time I accepted this is just my life. It’s only taken me twenty years.”

“You never were the brightest quill in the box,” Draco agrees, but there’s a smirk on his face that reveals he’s only joking.

Seemingly satisfied that everything is packed away, he waves his hand and shrinks the suitcases down to pocket-size.

“You know,” he says carefully, tucking the suitcases into his jacket pocket. “Just because your life lacks privacy, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun with it.”

Harry frowns. “What do you mean?”

“If you can’t erase the invasion, you can at least dilute it. Spread a few rumors. Give a ridiculous interview. Have a little fun with it.”

Images assault Harry’s mind: confused reporters insisting they heard opposing facts from the source himself; outrageous and clearly doctored photos of Harry getting tattoos on his bum right before a swimwear photoshoot that reveals the photos were real; multiple eye-witness reports that Harry fought a shark and lived.

The smirk on Draco’s face grows wider until he’s grinning. To his surprise, Harry finds himself smiling back.

“Yeah, okay,” Harry says, stepping into the inviting circle of Draco’s arms. “I can probably think of a few things.”

“And if you run out of ideas, I’ve got a whole notebook full of rumors I was planning to spread about you in fourth year.”

“I bet you do.”

“I was a very creative child, Harry. I don’t like that tone.”

“You were a nasty shit.”

Draco laughs and pulls him into a slow kiss, their tongues sliding lazily together. “But you like me now.”

“I do,” Harry agrees, smiling against Draco’s mouth. “And if you play your cards right, I promise I won’t tell everyone you drank beer from a shoe.”

“If you play your cards right, I won’t tell everyone you jumped naked from a fourth floor balcony.”

It’s an unusual truce, but it comes with the promise of breakfast in the morning and the chance to get on his knees and apologise to Draco in a different way, so Harry isn’t complaining. He isn’t complaining at all.