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For the First Time and Forever

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Pansy overtook Draco, running down the stairs. She flew past him, giggling excitedly, her balance precarious on her high heels, a fistful of her long bright lavender dress in one hand, to avoid tripping on it. 

She turned her head when she was on the last step. “Oh Draco, I am so excited! Look how beautiful the Manor is! It will be so fun!”

Draco smiled a crooked smile from his position several steps above her. He wasn’t at all sure it would be fun, but she was right. The Manor did look different under the natural roselight of the sunset.

He stopped his already slow pace, looking around while Pansy descended the last step and ran toward a marching group of catering people.

The big cherry wood doors at the entrance were open, letting a sweet breeze come in, the smell of lilies and jasmines from the garden lightly lingering in the air. For the occasion, every single room in the Manor had been cleaned up, polished, and adorned.

That meant that over a hundred rooms had been revisited. The work had been going on for months now. And for all those months, Draco had remained locked in his room, well, the one he renamed as his room. It was actually one of the smallest closets in the far end of the West Wing — meaning it was the size of a normal bedroom of every other house in England. 

Draco had two tiny folding beds brought there: one for himself and one for Pansy. She didn’t live there, but she would stay for the night when Draco felt like he was drowning, like all the air was being knocked out of his lungs, leaving him sore and feeling completely lost; when the nightmares were so bad he was no longer able to separate real life from dreams. 

All other rooms in the Manor felt dirty, wrong, full of Dark Magic, of a ruined life, his ruined life. Voldemort’s shouted commands and the cries of the tortured and killed victims still echoed in every corner of the house. 

“I’ll be here, right next to you, honey.” Pansy said. “I’m not leaving you.” 

Shaking his head, Draco again started descending the stairs. It wasn’t the right moment to think about those things, less to have a panic attack right before everyone’s arrival. He was better now, the Manor was freshly cleaned, every bit of Dark Magic purged by the most talented curse-breakers, his nightmares diminished.

He laid his hand on the banister, feeling the soft silk under his palm. Red. Draco hated the colour red, but the catering man insisted it conveyed strength, passion, and positivity. All things Draco wasn’t feeling in the slightest. 

He reached Pansy, who was excitedly squeeing with the waiters. “Did you have any idea at all that you have eight hundred salad plates, Draco? Did you?” 

Draco exchanged an amused glance with one of the waiters, trying to fight a smile. “Well, honestly, no. But this fucking Manor is so big that I wouldn’t be surprised if they find a dragon in the basements.”

“Okay, Draco, we’ve talked about this. You can’t call it ‘the fucking Manor’. Tonight you’re gonna need to sell it at its best, people have to believe it’s a good investment, that it’s clean now, ready for a new start. You have to behave better with it!” Pansy snicked a cherry from one of the dozen tables in the atrium. Sucked on it, obscenely, making Draco’s nose scrunch up in disgust.

“Merlin, Pansy, you’re revolting when you’re eating cherries. Can you not?” He huffed impatiently, pulling at her elbow to make her follow him. She dropped the second cherry already in her hand, rolling her eyes. “I already told you, you need to work on your way of speaking with people, Draco. You’re rude.”

It didn’t matter. Draco already recognised that side of him, but for all he knew, he was better than when he was in school. And he surely had no intention of speaking too much tonight. He wandered off in the direction of the ballroom, making sure Pansy took the hint and was walking toward him. 

He stopped at the entrance to the room. It was enormous, exactly how he remembered from his youth years, but it held something new, or probably it was only Draco’s gaze that was new. He sighed loudly, taking in the red festoons, draped around the ivory curtains, pulled apart to let the light in, finally.  

Pansy stopped beside him, a hand loosely on his shoulder. Squeezed once. “It’s beautiful, Draco.”

The sounds of the wireless danced around them, swirling in the air, vibrating in Draco’s ears, reaching his sore soul. Beethoven had always been Draco’s favourite. He closed his eyes, savouring it. “Do you really think this is a good idea, Pans?”

She gasped, sounding offended. “First of all, don’t call me that!” Draco cracked one eye open, to see Pansy narrowing her eyes at him. He smiled, stuck out his tongue and closed his eye again. 

“And second,” she went on, “I think it’s a brilliant idea. It’s been five years since you last exited these walls, Draco. And you never... you know. Took care of the house, took care of yourself. Everything was collapsing. But I do think this is the right occasion to start living again, honey.”

Five years. Right. They felt shorter in Draco’s head, trapped in his thoughts, his fears, his misery. The composition came to an end, fading away. Draco opened his eyes, covering Pansy’s hand on his shoulder with his own. 

“Besides, it was a waste. Why have a ballroom with no balls?” She tugged at Draco’s hand and pulled him towards the centre of the room. Draco let her guide him, following on unsteady feet. The glass windows reflected the light inside, faded rainbows showering the walls. One of the windows was open to the garden, a soft breeze coming in, once again the sweet fragrance of the lilies and jasmines invading Draco’s senses. 

He inhaled deeply, overwhelmed. After years of reclusion, his senses were on edge. Another composition started playing, Vivaldi’s “Primavera” — his mother’s favourite one. His mother, now lying helpless in a cell at Azkaban. Draco tightened his grip on Pansy’s hand, his breathing already faltering. “I don’t know, Pansy. I don’t know. What if people, what if they see that, what if they discover that my... that my life is different now...”  

Pansy hugged him, rubbing a hand on his back, rocking him slowly in her arms, humming with the music. “They won’t, honey. And even if they do, we’ll deal with it. I promise you can face it, okay?” 

Draco nodded against her neck, breathing —in and out, in and out— reminding himself it was only one day. He just had to give a speech for his Charity Auction, and then it’d be over. Three hours. Four at the longest. 

〰〰〰〰

An hour before the opening to the public, Blaise made his appearance at the Manor. He was wearing one of those white suits he owned in an alarmingly wide range. He knew white enhanced his physique and complemented his skin colour, so he would never miss the occasion of looking smug in one of those. 

Draco was handling last minute flower-related issues, together with Pansy who was talking with one of the waiters, when he heard the sound of faltering steps approaching behind him and he knew it was Blaise before seeing him. He had started limping two years prior, due to an injury he got during his work as a curse-breaker. “That one time,” Blaise always ranted, a hand on his forehead, “I thought I was gonna die. The Dragon got scared by our spells and—” Draco knew the entire story by heart, thanks to all the time they had shared when curse-breakers from all around England came to eradicate the Dark Magic in the Manor. A show-off, in Draco’s opinion.

He turned, a half smirk already pulling at his lips. “Ah, the Survivor has arrived!”

Cocking one eyebrow, Blaise held out a hand to shake Draco’s and patted him on the shoulder. “Wanker. How are you, mate? Fuck, when I saw the gates of the Manor open I had a mini-stroke. I didn’t know they did that anymore!” 

He chuckled and, trying to avoid Draco’s glare, he turned to hug Pansy. “Gorgeous. You’re absolutely gorgeous, my lovely. That dress is perfect for you, your beautiful body will turn some man mad tonight!” He kissed her cheeks, making Pansy’s blush extend toward her collarbone. 

They did this every time: dance around each other, exchange tooth-rotting compliments, hug, blush and exaggeratedly laugh at each others’ jokes. Draco had tried millions of times to make them see there was something between them, but they had always brushed him off, because “Draco, she’s just a friend!” and “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” 

Draco sighed, glancing outside to the wide sea of green of his gardens, the stems of flowers gently bending over in the breeze of the evening. He smiled, a little stretch of his lips, against his will: everything seemed to have a different colour with the sun resting behind the mountains. 

“I take it you’re feeling well,” Blaise said, a warm tone in his words.

“Well, I don’t know. I haven’t met people other than you and Pansy for five years. This place has been… mute, empty, sad, for so long, I… forgot what life is. It’s scary. But also… well, maybe, a little bit exciting, the idea of seeing someone else in here.” 

Pansy brushed her fingers to Draco’s cheek, smiling fondly. “It will be great. And look, the Manor couldn’t be more beautiful than this! Shall we do a tour for Blaise?”

“Sure. You go, guys, I’ll stay here and… I don’t know. Check if people arrive early, or, the tables, the festoons… Do you think I should raise the temperature? Is it cold?”

“Draco, breathe. Everything’s perfect! Today’s a warm day, the spring is really blossoming. You should take a walk outside while waiting! For the first time in, what, forever? There’s magic all around. Enjoy it!” 

Pansy enlaced her fingers with Blaise, dragging him up the stairs she had descended earlier, their laughter softly floating in the air, warming Draco’s heart. He decided to take Blaise’s suggestion and go out for a walk before everyone started arriving; choosing to use the window door of the ballroom to get out, still not feeling completely comfortable with stepping through the front doors of the Manor.  

As he left the dining hall, Draco let his gaze wander over the walls of the corridor, the portraits, statues and the sculptures his family collected over the years. He had them all checked for old spells and curses, after having previously hidden them for all those years, and now the ones remaining stood proudly in the Manor again.

“Mr Malfoy! How nice to see you!” An old lady in a razzle-dazzle rose tube dress was waving her arms madly in the frames trying to get Draco’s attention. He recognised her as Mrs Darsley, a fourth-degree cousin from his father’s side. He had studied the entirety of his genealogical tree as a kid —pure-blood traditions— but had forgotten most of it, due to the numerous generations contained in it.

Draco, however, hadn’t forgotten about Mrs Darsley. She had a turbulent history of rebellion, one that his father was never happy telling; she was the shame of the family. Born in 1867, the Victorian rules soon started to be too strict for her, who loved pretty girls and slinky dresses. Draco shook his head — in hindsight, she had probably been the only sane one in his father’s bloodline. 

“Mrs Darsley.” Draco reached her portrait, amused to see three cats in ballet skirts playing on the background of it. “Don’t call me Mr Malfoy, please. Just Draco.”

“Ah, I see. I’m sorry, Draco. I never thanked you for restoring my portrait, but I am grateful and happy to see that someone in this family has a bit of sense. And, oh Circe, thanks for putting me far from the other Malfoys, they are always horrible with me!”

Draco snorted. “I know, I know, that’s why I did it. I like your dress, it’s… radical. Love it. I’ll see you later in the evening, then?” 

“Yes! What is the occasion, once again? Forgive my old memory, Draco.” 

“Charity Auction. I’m giving away the Manor along with other minor magical objects for beneficence.” 

Mrs Darsley smiled, nodding several times, saying that ‘it was a marvellous idea, Circe knows how much the Manor needs new purposes.’ Draco politely smiled in response, saying his greetings and finally walked through the ballroom, into the gardens.

The breeze was warm and wrapped around Draco, bringing the persistent perfume of lilies and jasmines with it. He inhaled deeply, closing his eyes, skimming a hand through his hair, worried the breeze would dishevel it. Blaise was right — it was a mildly warm day, one of those days you’d want to spend on the veranda of your house, with a glass of wine in one hand and the peace of a good book in the other.

His good mood cracked almost immediately, though. Circe knows how much the Manor needs new purposes. Mrs Darsley’s words played in his mind, clouding it and making his breathing difficult. Was he doing the right thing? Hundreds of people would soon arrive for the Auction, he’d have to present the Manor and be convincing, smile, shake hands, kiss cheeks, pat shoulders.

After five years. 

A sudden pang in his chest made him double over himself, falling on his knees on the dry grass. People hadn't arrived and still, he could feel the press of their bodies in the same room, the heat emanating from them, the sounds of their chattering… 

Thick tears started running down Draco’s face, covered by his hands, fingers pressed against his eyeballs. His chest was heaving, his throat constricting and he knew, he knew he’d die if—

“Draco!” Pansy knelt next to him, took his hands, lowered them, laid her forehead on Draco’s. She tried again, whispering this time. “Draco.”

Draco opened his eyes, his vision blurred as if he’d just woke up after weeks of deep sleep. He sat back on his heels, his body a trembling mess. As his vision cleared, he could see Blaise’s silhouette, right next to Pansy, looking worriedly at him.

“Draco, honey, breathe. Can you tell me what happened?” 

It took a moment for Draco to take in their presence. Then he remembered, he remembered the first months after the War, his mother just condemned to ten years in Azkaban, his father Kissed by the Dementors.

The Manor had looked empty and crowded all the same. Its hollow corridors echoed of Draco’s steps, reminding him he was there alone. Then he would open a door, find a room where the Dark Lord — Voldemort — used to torture his victims and he’d fall to the ground, hands on his ears to shield them from the cries, the shouts erupting. He’d shut his eyes tight, muttering under his breath, go away go away go away, until his breath came back regularly and the shouts ceased. He’d open his eyes, look inside the room. Make sure it was, indeed, empty. 

Some other times he’d just freeze in the middle of the stairs, images of Death Eaters and black hoods flowing beside his eyes. The fear that they’d discovered he didn’t believe in their cause like they did, that they’d decide to kill him too, locking him to the spot.

After the first three weeks like this, Draco looked like a ghost in his own house. Every little noise would make him jump, make his heart pound madly in his chest, ringing loudly in his ears. That’s how Pansy found him the first time: crouched on the floor, silently crying. 

She’d help him get up, put him under the shower, called a Healer. Draco refused to get any kind of treatment but in the end, they’d found a compromise. The Healer created two little identical pendants, one for Pansy, one for Draco. They’d have to wear it every day, every moment, every place. Inside them, a swirl of energy, of their united magical cores, connecting them. Whenever Draco was in danger —or felt like he was— Pansy’s pendant would warm, warning her. It worked both ways, to give Draco the impression he could be helpful too, but it was actually only Pansy supporting him.

A distant buzz. “Draco...” 

Pansy was brushing her hand in Draco’s hair, gently tucking it behind his ears again, smoothing it. Draco impulsively brought a hand to clutch the pendant, hidden beneath his shirt, hanging at heart height. 

His voice was hoarse when he spoke. “I’m sorry, Pansy. I didn’t want to make you worry. I just—” A sigh. “I just felt overwhelmed at the idea of all those people arriving. What if they don’t like the Manor as we arranged it, what if they’ll see… they’ll discover that…”

A breeze passed again, cooling Draco’s nerves, shifting the hair at the nape of his neck. He closed his eyes, shivering slightly. Inhaled once, twice. “Okay, okay. I know I can do this.” 

“Sure you can, mate. And I promise you, everyone will love what you did, it’s wonderful here tonight. Just smile at everyone and I am sure you’ll be fine.” Blaise briefly patted his shoulder. 

Draco nodded, trying to smile. He stood up, followed by his two best friends. They made their way inside again side by side, Blaise and Pansy amiably chatting, trying to imagine everyone’s choice of attire for the night.

“I bet Bill and Fleur will look marvellous, they are always so sophisticated, don’t you think Draco?”

Draco startled at the question; he wasn’t really listening, lost in his mulling. He turned his head to Pansy, blinking several times. “Erm, w-what?”

“Oooh, I asked you if you think Bill and Fleur will be elegant as their usual tonight.” 

“Right, Bill and Fleur. Sure, I guess so. I mean, Fleur would look ethereal even in a trash bag.” Draco scooped a hand to his hair, smoothing it flat on his head again, tucking it behind his ear, nervously rolling his waves around one finger. 

Blaise stopped, putting a hand on Draco’s chest. “Okay, Draco, what is it?” They’d arrived at the stairs in front of the cherry wood doors once again. Draco glanced up, toward the big cuckoo clock adorning the wall above the doors. It was made of the same quality of wood, a little wooden canary enchanted to fly endlessly back and forth with the pendulum until with a soft song it would announce the hour. 

It was almost 5 pm. He flicked his eyes down again, looking out through the doors. A little crowd of people was advancing toward them, walking slowly through the garden, stopping here and there to admire an azalea or smile at a curious peacock. 

Draco sucked in a breath. Released it. “The… you know. Between the guests… there’s also… Potter. And Granger and Weasley. Fuck.”

Blaise chuckled, shaking his head. “Well, for one thing, I think you should quit calling them by their surnames. And then, I don’t think you should be worried. Potter testified for you at your trial, didn’t he?”

Draco whined, unable to control himself. “That’s exactly the problem, Blaise. He did, and I don’t know why and I never thanked him and how the fuck am I supposed to greet them?”

Pansy shrugged, squeezed his arm. “A handshake?”

A handshake. Sure. Was Pansy serious? But Draco had no time to fully think about it. In a blink, crowds of people started entering into the Manor, and Draco’s mind blanked out, with only the thought of keeping it all together, grin, shake hands and politely indicate the way to the room where the Auction would take place. 

The catering people had hung signs on every wall indicating the way, but people seemed to prefer the idea of going and approaching Draco, taking the chance to ask him a few questions — was he feeling well? why had he remained isolated in the manor all those years? was he scared for the outcome of the night?

Gritting his teeth, he tried to answer politely to everyone, that he’s ‘very well, thank you’, ‘I just needed some time for myself’, ‘I am really positive about tonight’. All things he rehearsed with Pansy the night before. 

It was 5:45 in the evening when the arrival of people diminished significantly, ‘til vanishing to none. And still, no signs of Potter. Or Weasley and Granger, for that matter. 

The sky darkened from rose to a deep orange with glints of blue. Draco sighed one last time, not knowing why he had hoped so much to see Potter. He should be relieved at not seeing him, and honestly, he should have foreseen this. Why would Potter want to step foot inside the Manor again? 

Glancing one last time at the iron gates at the far end of the garden, Draco sighed and walked to the room where the guests were milling about, glasses of champagne in hand, brilliantly entertained by Blaise, Pansy and the waiters. 

The crowd fell silent as Draco entered, anticipation in their eyes. He smiled, looking around while he made his way toward the podium at the end of the room and people started to take their seats in front of it. Draco recognised some familiar faces: Longbottom, Lovegood, the Patils, Nott, the Greengrass sisters, even some professors, Trelawney, Sprout, McGonagall… really, why the fuck wasn’t Potter here?

Draco’s notary was waiting for him. When Draco positioned himself behind the podium, he put a hand on his shoulder, leaned in to whisper to his ear, “Are you ready? Remember to smile.” And why was everyone reminding him that? He grew up with his father’s rules about sociability, he knew how to behave at social functions. 

Draco took a deep breath as the song of the wooden canary reverberated through the walls. It was six o’clock, time to start. Smiling as widely as he could, Draco cleared his throat and hoped his voice wouldn’t crack. “Welcome, witches and wizards of London. I am glad to see so many of you decided to participate in my Charity Auction. After the War, I had a hard time. I know what you’re thinking: I deserved it, the entire Malfoy family deserved it. Nonetheless, I felt wrecked, I thought I didn’t deserve to exit these walls again.” Draco inhaled slowly, trying to maintain his smile intact. “But it was a foolish thought. I understood that I needed to do something to change my situation and show you all I wanted to change, that… I can change. Here’s my decision: the Manor served dark magic and wizards for too many years; it’s time it is used for something good.” Draco paused, breathing steadily.

From the audience, someone started clapping and in a jiffy, everyone joined in. The air felt hot all of a sudden, perspiration gathered at the small of Draco’s back. 

Not the right moment to panic. 

Draco blinked once, realising he was clenching his wand in the holster secured to his thigh, probably an involuntary reflex. Relaxing through his breaths, he left it. It had been useless for a long time, now, anyway. Instead, he brought his hand to the pendant under his shirt, and smiled again. People were clapping: it was good. Good.

“Thank you. We’re all here for the same cause: 100% of the proceeds will be donated to ‘The Tree of Life’, a charity association that works to support and help war orphans.”

A shift in the protective charms of the Manor made Draco halt, stilling in his stance. Hurried steps rumbled outside the door of the room they were in, becoming louder. Everyone’s attention turned towards the door, and Draco cleared his throat, trying to recall it. “Erm, as I was saying, I th—”

The door of the room opened and three waiters burst in, followed by Potter. 

Wait. What?

Immediately behind him, Granger and Weasley. Draco blinked through his surprise, searching for Pansy in the crowd and finding her. She smirked, mouthing something Draco didn’t catch. It was probably a reassurance, like ‘stay calm’. 

But how could he stay calm? Potter had arrived almost half an hour late, demonstrating once again how poor-mannered he was! And, and… Oh, Merlin’s tits, in what state!?

His hair was tied up in a sloppy little bun, his curls escaping it, falling down on his forehead, his ears. Some strands of it fell from the bun and cascaded on his neck, caressing it. 

‘Perfectly normal,’ thought Draco, ‘to show up at a formal event looking like a greaser. And what, what’s that thing at his eyebrow… a piercing?’ 

The room erupted into a heated chattering, all the guests’ faces glued to the Golden Trio. Potter and his friends started advancing into the room and Draco’s glance slipped to them again. Not realising it, his eyes started roaming quickly over Potter’s body — Draco could see that his suit was tailor-made, but, Merlin, why was his shirt poking out of his trousers? Wasn’t he able to tuck it correctly? Did he need help for it? … Oh fuck, what kind of thought was that one?

Draco’s heart started beating furiously, a sudden tickle making its way from Draco’s stomach to his chest, his neck, his cheeks. What was happening to him?! He opened his mouth to say something, anything at all, when a portrait next to him clattered to the floor, with a loud thud. 

That wasn’t supposed to happen. Everything had been magically set up for the occasion, checked several times by curse-breakers and the organisers of the event. Portraits were supposed to stick to the wall.

Draco frowned and his head snapped to the portrait and then to Potter, Granger and Weasley, still awkwardly making their way to their reserved seats in the first row. With his heart in his throat, Draco finally spoke. “Erm, um, i-it seems like even my portraits are impressed by Potter’s arrival. Erm, I mean, Harry Potter. W-welcome!” Adding in a whisper, “Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley, too, of course.”

It came off weirdly. Draco knew as much. And Potter too, apparently, as he stopped just a few chairs from his own, to regard Draco with a perplexed face. Then a smile, a wave of his hand. Oh, Salazar, was Potter mouthing a ‘thanks’? Reaching his seat, he moved a curl that fell over his eye up on his head, only to have it back over his eye in no time. He huffed and sat down. 

Merlin, had Potter always been this clumsy? It almost looked cute. Damn, fuck, no. Draco widened his eyes, hoping the warmness he was feeling on his cheeks wasn’t showing up in a huge blush as he suspected. 

He shook his head to clear his mind and tried again. “So—” He had to stop since his voice came out high-pitched as if he’d just swallowed a whistle. Panicking, he looked through the crowd again: everyone was too focussed on Potter’s arrival to mind him any attention — only Pansy’s face was buried into an ill-suppressed giggle. 

Draco cleared his throat, sure this time the blush was taking over all his face. “So, we shall start.” Everyone’s head now snapped to him. “I will now turn the floor over to the auctioneer, Mr Serkin, who’ll lead the Auction from now on.”

Sneaking a glance one last time towards Potter, he found him smiling, absent-mindedly scratching his stubble. Great Salazar, didn’t he have the time to shave like a normal human being?

Draco’s heart again started pumping so fast he could feel it in his throat, and he hurried to go sit at the table with his notary. Out of the corner of his eye, Draco saw a waiter picking up the portrait, fixing it. Cool, everything was cool.

In the meantime, Mr Serkin was proceeding with selling the first object: a rare antique book about spells and rituals no longer used in the Wizarding World. Its value was solely historical; it was the only copy left in existence in the world. Draco risked a peek to the Golden Trio: could Granger be interested in it?

But she made no offer, nor gave any sign of interest. Shifting his head, Draco’s eyes rested on Potter again. Potter, who was staring back at him. They exchanged a brief startled look — Potter looked like a deer caught in headlights, doing something he wasn’t supposed to. And then a tickle made its way up again from Draco’s stomach to his cheeks. 

He was about to look away when Potter’s chair just… vanished. It vanished, making Potter hit arse-first the floor. Draco involuntarily snorted, watching while Potter’s face contorted into one of pain and then surprise. 

What the fuck was happening? Was Potter trying to make a show of himself and scare everyone away? Was this his way to get revenge against Draco? First the portrait, now this. If it wasn’t a plot, then Potter probably really was that clumsy. 

Mr Serkin stopped, startled from the sound of Potter’s graceless fall. Weasley was helping him get up — laughing as he did — while Granger probably scolded him, judging by the look of disapproval that crossed her face. 

Draco sealed his lips to control his laughter. He turned to Mr Serkin, gesturing for him to go on — one person from the catering was already replacing Potter’s missing chair with a new one and there was no need to make the thing bigger than it really was, especially if it was all part of Potter’s scheme.

Even though, Draco had to admit to himself, it would be simply too stupid  — even for Potter — to plot something that ridiculed oneself this much. Tuning in to Mr Serkin’s words again, ‘for 10 thousand Galleons, The Secrets of the Sun and the Moon goes to Mr Priddy!’, Draco inhaled deeply. 

The first object was sold and, not counting Potter’s accident, everything was proceeding as planned. The second and third objects went quickly enough — a painting called ‘Salvator Mundi’ that the Muggles thought was long lost, but had actually been in the possession of the original artist, one of the most famous wizard painters, Oliver Cartwright. He’d died before the War, leaving the painting to the Malfoy family, after years of close friendship.

It was sold for 30 thousand Galleons. 

And then the next item, the very first wand made by Shikoba Wolfe. They were famous in America for making highly complex wands, their reputation was well-known around the world. Their first wand wasn’t possible to master but had an incredible value, even more for that reason. 

Mr Serkin began, “The auction starts at 20 thousand Galleons.” Soon enough, people were raising their wands, offering more and more. Somehow, Draco had been able to restrain himself from staring at Potter, but by this time his patience was shrinking to none at all. He’d just let his eyes wander over the entire crowd and casually flicked them over Potter too…

And when he finally did, it was to find Potter squirming in his seat, his eyes trained on the wand, his hands fidgeting in his lap, his bottom lip caught between his teeth. It almost looked like… he was interested in it? Potter turned to Granger, who lightly shook her head. It seemed to settle Potter, who nodded once and flicked his eyes to Draco. Again

Again, his annoying face did that stupid thing: it lit up with a shy smile. Was there some sort of light that hit Potter every time he smiled? Draco could swear there was. He looked back at him, an involuntary smile crossing his face too, and something winced in his stomach — it almost felt like butterflies apparated into it from nowhere and started to flap their wings all together. 

Someone from the crowd bought the wand for 175 thousand Galleons. Draco clenched a hand on his stomach and felt his cheeks burning, the air around him once again too hot. He didn’t have the time to panic at his reactions to Potter smiling: the auctioneer was already starting with the last and most important item of the night, the Manor itself.

Draco took a deep breath and briefly closed his eyes. His heart was hammering, echoing in his head. The last five years had been the most difficult for him, living in the Manor had been a nightmare, but without the ability of waking up.

And yet, it had seemed the lesser evil compared to revealing to the world his… “complications” after the War.

And yet, there had been years, when he was a kid, before Hogwarts, when the Manor had seemed the best place he could have ever imagined to live. Draco heard bedtime stories about knights and princes, and he would always relate to them — the Manor was his castle, with a little lake, his personal quidditch practice grounds, immense gardens.

He glanced over the crowd once again, wondering who’d get the Manor, what would they do with it. The price was already ridiculously high — 10 million Galleons — when a wand raised from the first row. A feminine voice. “I offer 16 million Galleons.”

Everything seemed to stop at once, Draco’s heart, everyone’s breathing, the ticking of the clocks. Hermione Granger had just offered a mind-boggling amount of money to obtain a property where she most certainly couldn’t have any good memories. What the fuck?

The chattering had completely vanished, no one daring to move a single muscle, as if an Immobilus had just been cast on them all. Mr Serkin seemed as baffled as everyone else by the offer, his eyes wide, jaw opening and closing multiple times, and he completely forgot to ask if there were other offers. As if anyone else would dare to bid on something that one of the Saviours of the Wizarding World wanted.

In an effort to regain control of the frozen room, Draco cleared his throat, startling Mr Serkin who promptly smiled back at the people seated in front of him. “If no one else has any offers…” he trailed off, searching the room for other bidders’ intentions. “Well, then… Going once, going twice, sold. Malfoy Manor goes to Hermione Granger for 16 million Galleons.”

〰〰〰〰

As the guests made their way into the dining parlour, Draco’s nerves were alight. He continued to peer over at Potter, finding him politely talking with someone, taking a photograph, signing autographs. Was he here just to show off as he used to do at school?

Pansy and Blaise didn’t leave his side once, helping him out of difficult conversations — ‘did you know Hermione Granger would buy the Manor?’ ‘what do you think she’ll do with it?’ That was an interesting question: what did she want to do with the property? Draco was afraid she wanted to burn it down.

Not that he himself hadn’t considered such a possibility, but he’d meant to give the Manor new life with this Auction, to make it rise again from its ashes, not to burn it down forever.

For the dinner, big round tables had been adorned in red and gold – bloody Gryffindor colours. ‘I already explained to you,’ the catering chief had said after the thousandth time Draco complained about them, ‘that red is the colour of energy, passion; something that you must convey on such an occasion. And gold is luxury, is associated with liberation, opening up to others. They are just the perfect colours for your auction, Draco.’ In the end, he resigned to their recommendation and agreed to use the colours. 

He was sitting at a table with Pansy, Blaise and some other old classmates from Slytherin. Pansy insisted Draco should try to have some kind of interaction with them, trying to reconnect, which resulted in a table full of embarrassed guests.

Thankfully, after finishing the first bottle of wine, they had all started to chat and Draco was pleased to see his old friends were still interested in him, his life, how he was doing now. Draco always directed the conversations to their lives, to get to know what they were doing now and they easily took the hint, abandoning the topic of his isolation and bringing him up to date on their lives: Goyle was about to become a father, Nott had started dating Longbottom only a few weeks earlier — to utter disbelief of the entire table—, and Daphne and Astoria were opening a magical beauty centre.

The conversation kept Draco busy for the first half of the dinner, but it wasn’t of any help for the remaining hour. His eyes kept skimming from one table to the next, making sure everyone was having a good time, enjoying the night. He found his eyes lingering over Potter’s table far too often, always with the same reaction of a hot feeling all over his face and neck, and his heart racing like a Snitch. Of all the wizards in the world, was it possible he found Potter… attractive?

As dessert was being served at the buffet, Blaise leaned in, lightly whispering in Draco’s ear. “So, Draco, how are you?”

Draco’s eyes were still fixated on Potter, on that piercing at his eyebrow, that stubble, those little curls falling on his forehead… He answered absent-mindedly. “Mh? Have you seen Potter has a piercing? And a new pair of glasses?”

Blaise chuckled. “Not what I asked, but—” Pansy was sitting on the other side of Draco and leaned in too, probably feeling cut off from the conversation. “What are you two whispering about?!”

“Draco’s fixated on Potter again.”

“I am not!”

“I see. We should have seen it coming.” Pansy sighed, rolling her eyes and winking at Draco. “Is it his body? Because honey, honestly, I don’t blame you. He certainly filled out well.”

Blaise made a choked sound and cleared his throat, mimicking under his breath, ‘he certainly filled out well’. Draco shook his head, asking himself once again why his friends were so oblivious to each other.

When the meaning of Pansy’s words settled, though, he felt his face growing hot again, realising he still hadn’t moved his gaze from Potter. He blinked and took a sip of wine, savouring it a second before speaking up. “Silly woman, I just noticed he has a piercing and a new pair of glasses. He looks well; instead of looking like a poor lame kid, now he’s at least decent to look at. The frames are deep green, they match his eye colour. Do you think he did it on purpose? He didn’t strike me like the kind of guy who’d care about those details… And, have you seen his hair? Why make a bun if strands of it keep falling out? Look, they’re falling everywhere, even on his neck…”

Pansy and Blaise snorted at the same moment, not able to restrain their amusement.

“Oh Draco, do you like his neck, mh?”

“And his eyes, oooh, his green eyes, how magical!”

Draco crossed his arms at his chest, faking offence at his best friends mocking him. His blush intensified, extending to the tips of his ears, his neck and collarbone. “Will you shut up???”

Resting her hand on Draco’s shoulder, Pansy’s tone softened. “Okay, listen honey, it’s dessert time. The buffet tables are piled high with sweets and fruits and people are already gathering up to choose their favourite. I can see Potter and Granger there too. Why don’t you get up and go talk to him? Just say hi.” 

The words Pansy said earlier echoed in Draco’s mind. “A handshake?” But… Could he, really? Just go up to him, after all these years, after never thanking Potter for testifying for him, and… shake his hand? He took another sip of his wine, a deep breath, and got up, excusing himself from the table.

While walking toward the buffet, all the worst scenarios replayed in Draco’s head — from Potter refusing to shake his hand again, to a gigantic dragon appearing from nowhere and swallowing Potter alive, right there in front of everyone, in Draco’s house. Well, technically, it wasn’t Draco’s house anymore, right? Shaking his head, Draco realised he was mere inches from Potter and his knees almost gave in.

He cleared his throat and a soft sound escaped him. “Hi, Harry.” His eyes widened impossibly — that wasn’t what he had planned to say. Cursing himself for not thinking of the possibility that he would be the one cocking this up, Draco quickly added, “Potter. Hi, Harry Potter.” Damn, that was even worse.

Potter turned, a dish with two slices of cake and a tremendous amount of cherries in his hand. His eyebrows were wrinkled in amusement, his eyes glittered in the hazy light of the sunset and whatever Draco was thinking, just abandoned him, replaced by images of green eyes and happiness and kisses.

“Hi, Draco Malfoy.” Potter held out a hand. For Draco. To shake.

Goddamnit, for Salazar’s sake, right, the hand! He had forgotten to hold out his own. But well, at least, he escaped the possibility of another rejection and was actually presented with the opportunity to repay Potter. Except that it wasn’t at all the right thing to do. Oh, dear Merlin, did he forget his good manners during those five years of isolation?

Offering a weak smile, Draco accepted Potter’s hand and squeezed it. It was a strong hand, warm and soft. Not at all how Draco had imagined it would be. Potter was smiling his ear-to-ear grin and Draco realised too late he was staring at Potter’s lips.

“So!” A blush threatened to show its way all over Draco’s face. “Where’s Hermione? I saw her here just a minute ago.”

“You’re all about first names, tonight, huh? She went to find Ron.”

“I… erm, I see. She, um, she bought the Manor.”

Potter snorted, shaking his head. “Draco, are you alright? You’re stating the obvious.”

“Totally, totally fine! I just wanted to make conversation!”

“With me?” 

“Just tell me if you don’t want to talk, then!” Draco knew he wasn’t making any sense, but he couldn’t help himself around Potter.

“No, I… wait.” Potter gestured to move from the dessert tables, and they made their way to the end of the room, near the big cherry wood doors.

“Let’s start again, shall we? It’s a delightful night. I love, err, how you adorned the Manor, it’s very… Gryffindor.”

“Damn, it is, isn’t it? It wasn’t my idea, I swear.”

They laughed together, embarrassment palpable in the air between them. After a moment of silence, Potter sighed, fidgeting with the dish in his hands. “You changed the doors at the entrance.” He jerked his thumb towards them. “They’re beautiful. Is that cherry wood?”

“Are you into doors, Potter?” Draco smirked; this was known territory, the bantering.

“What? No, you git! I’m a wandmaker! Gosh, you really have lived in isolation, mh? I just have an eye for wood now. And cherry wood is a really interesting one. Did you know that for its property, it is particularly indicated for unyielding wands? And it carries music so well that in special circumstances you can… well, did you ever notice that sometimes with the wind it echoes it musically?” Potter’s eyes were glowing with the excitement of talking about wood with someone and Draco couldn’t find it in himself to make fun of him. Fuck, what was wrong with him today?

“A wand… wait! I did see you staring at Shikoba Wolfe’s wand and I couldn’t understand why!”

Potter’s lips quirked up, a strand of hair fell from his bun to gently brush his ear. “Yeah, damn, that was such an interesting piece. Did you know that no one has ever been able to master it? It was never clear where the fault lay; if it was the core or the wood or a combination of factors that made it so loyal to its builder that no one else could make it work. It is quite a problem, you know? Sometimes when you create a wand the result is something so personal that it just never stops being loyal to you and… oh Merlin, I am being boring. Sorry…” Potter’s eyes were still sparkling with passion.

Draco cleared his throat, willing his voice to come out evenly, dragging his eyes off Potter’s enthusiastic face. “Erm, no don’t worry. That’s… fascinating. I honestly didn’t know you were a wandmaker, but it sounds like something you need a lot of patience for… like, not for you.”

“I changed, Draco. As did you, it seems.” Potter smirked and picked up a cherry from the dish.

“Yes, well.” Draco smoothed a hand down his tie, his eyes glued to it. “You know, I had time to think during the past five years and I never thanked you for…” He flicked his eyes up, a slurpy noise distracting him. Potter was eating the cherry, and for fuck’s sake, was it necessary to make so much noise? Why couldn’t people eat cherries normally?

“Potter, you’re obscene! One can’t eat like that, are you into cherries then?!”

Without replying, Potter picked a second cherry, and his tongue darted out a milli-second to lick it before eating it, “Why are you so interested in what I am into, Draco?”, making Draco’s heart jump in his throat.

A new tickle appeared in his stomach, creeping up through his chest to his cheeks and a second after, everything happened too quickly for Draco to do anything at all. 

Frozen in their spots, Draco and Potter listened while a portrait of Draco’s great-great-grandfather just next to them started to sing:

You’re my love, you’re my life
Every day, every night
Is it right what I feel
How I wish you were for real

Draco couldn’t believe his ears. What the fuck? His throat dried, but he tried anyway, “I don’t…” The portrait kept on:

You’re my love, you’re my life
Every day, every night

“Not, that’s not…”

In my dreams I’m with you
Will you make my dreams come true?

“I swear that’s not…” Draco trailed off, Potter’s eyes were wide as saucers, his mouth open, his lips — still red from the cherry sauce — forming a perfect ‘O’… They stared at each other in silence, when the portrait started again. 

You’re my love, you’re my life
Every day, every night 

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, will you shut up?!” Turning his head slightly, Draco could see that all the nearby guests were looking at them laughing, whispering to each other, pointing towards them.

Draco felt anger boiling up in his chest and turned to Potter again, exploding, “It’s your fault! Admit it!” 

Potter backed up, smacking his back against the wall. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Draco!”

“And don’t call me Draco! Yes, I know it’s you! First, the frame falling off the wall at the auction, then your chair vanishing… and now, now… this! Famous Harry Potter, can’t go anywhere without making the front page!”

Potter licked his lips, collecting the cherry sauce with his tongue, and swallowed calmly, his Adam’s apple bobbing deliciously. Draco’s breathing faltered and he felt his fear increasing. What if… Oh no, what if these events weren’t Potter’s fault, but —

“Listen, Malfoy, I have no idea what you’re trying to imply. I don’t know why I would do these things and… really, are you sure you're fine? Your breathing is…” Potter made a step forward, touched Draco’s elbow. “Do you want to take a walk outside, maybe?”

Just as Draco was about to burst out again, the portrait resumed:

Since forevermore you’re my destiny, take my loneliness away
So come and touch me, come and feel me, hear me say…

“Yes! Yes! I’ll go out!” Draco turned and started making his way through the crowd with hurried steps, trying to regain control of himself. He took several deep breaths, avoiding the surprised gazes of the guests; until meeting Pansy and Blaise, who regarded him with perplexed faces, but he shook them off with a quiet ‘I just need a breath of fresh air’ and resumed his walk buried in his thoughts.

If it wasn’t Potter’s doing — and at this point, it really didn’t seem to be — these weird events looked a lot like wild magic. But wasn’t that a thing that happened only to very young witches and wizards? And surely, it couldn’t be Draco’s magic, because—

“Hey, stranger!” Draco’s head snapped up, taking in where he was. Droplets of perspiration were gathering at his neck and forehead and he really, really needed to get out of here.

He focussed his gaze on the spot where the voice came from. He was again in the corridor near the ballroom, and Mrs Darsley was trying to draw his attention.

“Florence, forgive me, I’m in a hurry…” Draco raked a hand through his hair, stopping for a moment in front of her portrait.

“First name, Draco? Wow, you must be really upset. Is it this attractive young boy’s fault?”

“What…?” Draco turned to find Potter a few metres behind him, an embarrassed smile on his face and a blush covering his cheeks.

“What are you doing here, Potter?” Draco’s tone came out tired and resigned: he spent so much time worrying about Potter attending his Auction that really he couldn’t be upset over his omnipresence now.

“Well, I asked you if you wanted to go out for a walk, you said yes and… I thought… you needed company, maybe.”

“Not yours!”

Mrs Darsley cleared her throat, speaking up. “C’mon, Draco, don’t be rude. You’re the famous Harry Potter, then. Draco talks about you all the time. Nice to meet you, I am Mrs Darsley, but you can call me Florence.” His aunt gestured for Potter to come closer and he awkwardly reached them, a hand scratching the back of his neck.

“Err, nice to meet you, Florence. You’re not gonna sing love songs too, are you?” Potter snorted quietly, side-glancing Draco, who narrowed his eyes at him.

“Sing love songs? Oh, dear Circe, no. Why should I? Are you two in love? Draco, you didn’t tell me you found a boyfriend!”

“Because I didn’t! Florence! No… Just, before, we were talking close by my great-great-grandfather’s portrait and he started doing so…”

“Malfoy said it’s my fault, but really…”

“It’s not. I know, okay? I’m sorry, Potter.” Draco scuffed a hand on his face, closing his eyes, and when he opened them again, it was to find Potter looking at him with an astonished face.   

“Was that an apology, Malfoy? That’s… impressive. I shall save this memory in my Pensieve!”

Mrs Darsley chuckled, startling them both. “So salty! I like you, Harry. You remind me of my big love; she was such a brilliant girl, you know? But the temper. Wow, she was easily inflamed, let me tell you. But I loved her… and you two remind me of us.”

Draco made a horrified noise, while Potter just cocked his head, thoughtful. “Why isn’t she in the portrait with you? Why… why are you ‘Mrs’?” 

Involuntarily, Draco smiled, thinking of how naïve Potter could be. Florence had a similar smile on her face when she replied. “Harry, I had the immense privilege and bad luck to be born into a pure-blood family. Rules were even stricter during my times and I was forced into a loveless heterosexual marriage. We never had children, nor touched each other, it was only for appearance, you see? I was the shame of the family, being lesbian and oh-so-liberal. I only hope Draco here won’t repeat my same mistakes.”

Draco sucked in a breath. He had talked with her these past weeks during the preparation when feeling particularly lonely and Pansy and Blaise weren’t there, and the topic of his sexuality came up fairly often. He had had a few experiences during Hogwarts years, but nothing serious and then, with the War over and his struggling, Draco almost forgot about his doubts, his fears about having to marry a pure-blood girl.

But to talk about it with someone else, with Potter? It was too much. “Excuse me,” he muttered, then finally crossed the last few metres to the window doors of the ballroom and exited to the gardens.

Potter arrived mere seconds later. “Um, I’m sure Florence didn’t intend to out you like that.”

Draco huffed; his anxiety was starting to nudge at him again. Inhaling through the fresh breeze of the evening, he spat, “And I am sure you shouldn’t be here, nor anywhere near me. Why, mh, why Potter are you here? Why can’t you leave me alone? Why did you testify at my trial? Why did you save me in the Room of Requirement?!” 

“Wow.” Potter took a deep breath, taking a few steps towards Draco, his steps crackling on the grass. “That’s… a lot. I don’t know why I did those things, honestly. I guess… you’re part of my life? What I mean is that we’ve known each other for so long and we’ve always fought, had arguments, even physically attacked each other, but here’s the point: you were there. You contributed to form what I am today, for better or worse. So, I can’t help but wonder and ask myself, what’s Malfoy plotting? Why is he hiding? If only with a competitive spirit, you know? I-It’s stupid, forget it…”  

Draco stared at him, at a loss for words. When he spoke, his voice sounded broken. “It’s not. It’s not stupid… I get it, even the-the competitive spirit and… you won, Potter. Aren’t you happy? You won, I’m a loser. Do you wanna know what I’m plotting? Why I’m hiding? Do you, Potter?”

“Malfoy, I…”

“Because after the War, I lost everything! Not only my parents, my soul, but my magic as well. I’ve been living like a squib for the last five years; I don’t remember how it feels to even conjure a glass of water, nothing! My magic completely left me! That’s ironic, isn’t it? An evil Death Eater, a dangerous boy, without magic! People would go crazy with me, knowing I can’t defend myself, I can’t even Accio a book! I am a fucking squib! YOU WON!”

“Fuck, Malfoy, that’s not what I meant. I…” Potter trailed off, staring at a point somewhere over Draco’s shoulder. When he looked again into Draco’s eyes, he held a softness Draco could have never imagined directed at him. By anyone, let alone by Potter.

“I am sorry about your magic. It must have been tough.”

‘Tough’ didn’t even start to describe how it had been for Draco, but he couldn’t say it out loud. He found that he couldn’t say anything out loud if he wanted to avoid crying in front of Potter. Again. He clenched his jaw and closed his eyes in an effort to calm himself down, a hand absent-mindedly brushing the pendant…

“You…”

Draco opened his eyes; Potter had started to talk again and then fell silent. “What? You’re chatty tonight.”

“You’re the one who said you wanted to make conversation! Erm, right, well… I can’t fathom what it feels like to lose one’s own magic, but I don’t think you should be ashamed of it or hide yourself, thinking you’re a loser. You’re not. And what you’re doing tonight is… courageous.”

Potter smiled again, and the light of the sunset caressed his lips, like a brush on a canvas. It showered him, making him brighter, clearer, the background blurring around him. Draco’s breath caught and the tickle — that was becoming terrifyingly familiar tonight — grew again in Draco’s stomach, quickly warming his cheeks.

He stared in horror as a bunch of lilies and jasmines blossomed out of nowhere and arranged themselves in the mess of Potter’s bun, their fragrance rapidly invading Draco’s senses. It was the gayest thing Draco had ever seen. And still, he couldn’t avoid thinking the git was bloody attractive.

Potter’s cheeks flushed crimson, his mouth opened and closed several times, until he just closed it and brought a hand to his hair, picking up a lily and staring at it awestruck.

“I… have no idea why that happened. It’s… um. Erm, thanks for your words, Potter. I actually shouldn’t have been that harsh before, I never even thanked you for everything you did for me. So… thanks, I guess.”

Potter nodded, still staring at the lily and when he spoke, he did it directly to the flower. “This is weird. Um… Do you— Are you… sure your magic…?” He didn’t get to finish his sentence, as a voice interrupted them.

“Draco?” A moment later, Pansy appeared at Draco’s side. She looked between the two of them with an eyebrow raised, finally settling on a smirk. “Potter, how nice. Those flowers in your hair are so pretty.”

And if Draco had been happy for Pansy’s appearance just when he was beginning to fear he’d have to invent some weird excuses to run to the loo, he was hating her now. Even though, considering the soft blush that again covered Potter’s face and his embarrassed smile, he could reconsider that.

Shaking his head, he grabbed Pansy’s elbow and tugged lightly. “Err, what are you doing here, Pansy?”

“Me? The ball is about to start, everyone’s looking for you! What are you doing here?”

“Right! The ball! I have to go, sorry. See you inside, Potter.” Draco dragged Pansy out of Potter’s reach, walking quickly, only glancing backwards once and catching Potter picking the flowers out of his hair one after the other with a half-smile on his face.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit!” They were in the corridor just before the ballroom again, a few feet from Mrs Darsley’s portrait.

“Draco calm down. I can feel the pendant getting warmer. What was going on between Potter and you?”

“Pansy! I am so gay! Damn it! And I think my magic is going wild!”

“Draco, darling, we know you are gay!” Mrs Darsley’s voice came from her portrait and Draco’s head whipped to it, a horrified look on his face.

“Shush! Maybe you want to say it louder for everyone in this house to hear?!”

“Mate, it’s not a surprise to anyone, really.” Blaise popped up from behind Draco, startling him.

“Where are you coming from?!”

“The ballroom! Everyone is waiting for you. Pansy went to get you and then you weren’t coming back…”

Pansy sniggered and approached Blaise, leaning in as to tell a secret but actually talking with a clear voice. “I busted him in the gardens with Potter. And Potter had flowers in his hair! And then Draco said he’s gay and that his magic is going wild.”

“Your magic? But hadn’t it vanished?” Mrs Darsley’s eyebrows shot up her forehead while looking bewildered at Draco.

Draco rubbed his eyes and smoothed his hair nervously back on his head, behind his ears. Since he started wearing it with its natural waves he was constantly worrying over its state. Sighing, he said, “I! Don’t! Know! You’re confusing me. If the ball is about to start, shouldn’t we go?”

“Yeah, yeah, we should. But this conversation is not over! I want to know about the flowers!” Blaise snorted and motioned for Pansy and Draco to follow him to the ballroom. “Bye Mrs Darsley!”

“Bye guys! Aaaah, how much I used to love balls. Dance for me too!” She waved a hand to them, a veil of nostalgia crossing her smile.

Draco turned and waved at her while making his way to the ballroom, hoping that this last event of the night would distract his friends enough to leave him alone. He was confused and a million thoughts were spiraling in his mind — he needed some alone time.

As soon as they entered the ballroom, Draco took his place in front of the people already there with his best fake-smile in place, the one his father taught him since he was a little child. Potter was already amongst the guests, next to Weasley and Granger, exchanging hushed conversation with them. A lily was still stuck in his bun and the image of a coy Potter full of flowers in his hair came back to Draco, eliciting a real smile from him.

With his stomach churning, Draco took a deep breath and pushed his thoughts about Potter away, hoping his magic wouldn’t go wild again. He smoothed a hand down his tie, his hair, cleared his throat, and most of the heads of the people whipped to him, with expectant eyes.

“Thank you all for participating in my auction. I hope the dinner was to everyone’s satisfaction! And now, without any further delay, I’ll lead you to the last part of our night — the ball. Pansy?” He held out his elbow for her hand to hook, and they made their way to the centre of the room.

The breeze of the evening came in once again, bringing the scent of the flowers, soothing Draco’s soul. The wireless started playing: it was one of Beethoven’s waltzes. Draco smiled at Pansy, sliding a hand on her back and taking her left hand in his right.

Soon most of the people joined them on the dance floor, smiling heartily when passing Draco and Pansy.

“So,” Pansy whispered into his ear, the music still going on, “your magic?”

Draco sighed; he knew she wouldn’t drop the topic so easily, but he tried to delay the conversation anyway. “Thanks for tonight, Pansy. Actually, thanks for everything these last five years. I couldn’t have made it without you, and… thanks also for being my partner for the ball. I stole you from Blaise though; I feel guilty.”

She softly laughed, shaking her head. “I only did it so now you’d owe me. You know, Slytherins, we’ve got no friends, only convenient arrangements, and all that… But don’t change the topic.” She moved her head so that they were now looking into each other’s eyes.

“You know how difficult it had been for me to lose my magic. I lived in shame for five years, I was ready… damn, Pansy, I was ready to face the world out there. To tell everyone I’m reduced to a fucking squib and I am fine with it now — and then… then... Potter arrives and he had to go and fucking change everything, didn’t he?”

“He has always been a big part of your life, Draco.” Pansy’s tone was warm, as it was every time she tried to make Draco rationalise.

“Funny you say that. He said something similar.” 

A pirouette, two fast steps forward, one backward.

“What did he say?”

“That I am part of his life, that I contributed to form what he is today. And then he said… he said I was being courageous tonight. I am not a bloody Gryffindor, Pansy.”

“Good Merlin, did he say those things? Wow. That’s something. Did you tell him about your magic? That’s why he said you’re courageous?”

Draco nodded, feeling his face heat up at the implications of Potter’s words. He was so anxious while they were talking earlier that he hadn’t had the time to really understand the meaning of his statements. Now that he had repeated them to Pansy, Potter’s words resonated deep in Draco’s heart.

“You know he’s right. You are being courageous. And if our mighty saviour says so, you have to believe him. Draco… you should talk with him. It must mean something that he’s the only one that triggered some sort of magic out of you in all these years.”

They slowed down together with the music. A new composition was about to start, Beethoven again. Walking towards one of the stalls with beverages, Draco side-eyed Pansy, an amused smirk on his face.

“We should talk? Just as you and Blaise did, right?”

He didn’t miss how Pansy’s face flushed, how her smile faltered. “How is that relevant?”

“Pansy, please. You’re here, encouraging me to go and talk with a person I had a terrible relationship with during school, someone I sided against during the War, someone I haven’t seen in five years… and you can’t even sort your things out with Blaise.”

Draco grabbed two flutes with champagne and offered one to Pansy, with an eyebrow raised. She took it, frowning at it, sipped slowly. When she spoke, her voice was trembling.

“It’s different. Blaise is… we’ve been friends for so long. It’s scary to think of changing everything now.”

“But you love him.”

Pansy’s head snapped to Draco, her shocked eyes already liquid with alcohol. She waited a blink before replying in a whisper, “But I love him.”

They shared a half-smile in silence. Taking a deep breath, Draco snorted, his eyes searching for Potter in the room. Finding him at a stall with Bill and Fleur, more gorgeous than ever. “You know what,” he brought his eyes back to Pansy, “I’ll go talk to him right now. And you’ll go talk to Blaise.”

He offered his hand to her to seal the deal. She narrowed her eyes at it and slowly smiled. Shook it. “Deal.”

Draco set the flute on the table, and turned to head toward Potter, who had disappeared. Everywhere he looked was Potter-empty. Scowling, he decided to seek out Bill and Fleur anyways to say hi and he’d get the opportunity to talk with Hermione too, as she had joined them now.

“Bill, how nice to see you. I am sorry I didn’t have the chance to come and say hi earlier.” Draco held out a hand, only to receive a loud pat on the shoulder from Bill.

“Draco! Don’t worry, you were busy. In the end, we did a really good job with the curse-breakers, don’t you think? Everything is beautiful, safe and in order again. In addition, I made sure that protective spells and wards were in place so that people wouldn’t go wandering outside the festivities area and messing up tonight’s event.”

Draco was already turning to hug Fleur when he replied. “Yes, thank you Bill. It’s very nice here tonight. Fleur, you’re as delightful as ever. Cette robe est incroyable sur toi and… is this the last Peachy Witchy’s perfume? It’s incredible.” The strong musky scent hit Draco’s nostrils and he couldn’t mistake it — he always thought it was a bit sour, reminding him of the rum his father used to drink every night, but it smelled very good on Fleur.

“Chéri, you’re always so gallant. You’re very charmant tonight too, and I am afraid I’m not the only one who noticed.” She giggled, soon joined by Bill and Granger, who eyed Draco meaningfully, almost too playful for someone he had treated so badly for so many years.

“Erm, thanks Fleur. Um, Hermione.” Everything seemed to stop for a moment while he outstretched his hand and waited for Granger’s next move. But she just smiled and nodded in acknowledgment, taking his hand.

“Draco. The Manor is exquisite tonight! I made a good investment, didn’t I?” She smirked. Straight to the point, then.

Draco’s breath hitched. She didn’t seem inclined to burn it down, after all. “Ah, yes, yes, you did. I must say, though, quite unexpectedly. I…” He trailed off, unsure as how to continue the sentence without being offensive: ‘I didn’t know you had so much money’, ‘I know you don’t own that amount of Galleons’, ‘I thought you hated this place where my aunt almost cut your neck.’

She beat him to the punch once again. “I know. I have a project for it, and I am not alone, of course. I actually wanted to talk with you about it, if you’d be willing to share some information on the Manor with me.”

Not alone? Did it mean that…. Did Potter have anything to do with it? What kind of information, what kind of project?

Draco needed to know and felt his curiosity starting to get the best of him. He opened his mouth when out of the corner of his eye, he saw Pansy dancing with Blaise. Right, he needed to talk with Potter. 

He turned his gaze on Granger again and tried to smile. “Sure, I am very intrigued. Can’t wait to discover more about your project.”

“Oh, you’re gonna like it.” Bill winked at Draco, while Fleur snorted lightly into her glass of punch, trying — without success — to muffle her chuckling.

“Err, yey? So, um, did you see Harry around? I thought he was with you.” He tried to ignore the way his voice cracked on the word ‘Harry’ and how his three interlocutors didn’t miss it, all turning a smug face to him.

Right when Draco thought his face would have melted under the heat of his blush, Granger said, “He needed to use the loo. Ah, excuse me, I’d better find Ron again before he shoves the entire decanter down his throat. Last time he did, it didn’t end very well for our Persian carpet.” With that she stalked off, her turquoise dress billowing behind her.

“Chéri, I can see your concerned face. Don’t strain yourself for a good excuse to go to the loo, just go. Je t'ai dit que je ne suis pas la seule qui a remarqué que tu étais superbe ce soir…”

“Okay, you’ve had far too much drinking tonight, love. Draco, excuse us.” Just a moment before they disappeared amongst the dancing couples, Bill turned and winked at Draco, mouthing ‘go’.

What the hell was happening? Why was everyone seemingly pushing him to go to Potter? They couldn’t know about his deal with Pansy, right? And besides, he couldn’t just show up in the bathroom and start talking to Potter like that. But maybe… what if Potter got lost? It could happen, the Manor was big, and Potter was a clumsy idiot. Better go check everything was fine, he was gone for a good time now, wasn’t he?

They were lame excuses, Draco knew it, but it didn’t restrain him from heading to the bathroom and searching for Potter. 

The bathrooms were just behind the big stairs in the atrium, the ones in front of the cherry wood doors at the entrance. Draco cast a quick look at the cuckoo clock: 11 pm. In an hour the guests would begin to go home — if he wanted a chance to talk with Potter, this was the right time. 

With a hand on the doorknob of the bathroom, Draco felt his boldness abandoning him. What would he tell Potter when seeing him? ‘Oh, hi, what a coincidence’?

But before he could think otherwise, he opened the door and went inside, regretting his decision immediately. He hadn’t thought of how intimate the bathroom was and how his intentions could look bad. Only thinking about those insinuations, got Draco all warm and tickly and oh no, no, no, this wasn’t at all the right moment for that goddamn tickle to appear…

Draco looked around, panicking, when he saw that only one cubicle was occupied. Trust Potter to need the loo when no one else did! He froze in the middle of the atrium of the bathroom, not knowing what to do, the tickle spreading through his body, when a voice came from Potter’s cubicle.

Nice cock.

Fucking Salazar, Merlin and all the wizards of the world, was Potter with someone in there?

“What?! Who’s here?” Potter’s voice sounded completely taken-aback, almost as if he actually had been alone in the cubicle…

Ah, forgive my rudeness, I haven’t talked with someone in a long time and I don’t remember anymore how to compliment someone. But really, nice cock.

Oh, no. No, no, no, no. Draco felt panic seizing him together with the tickle and he prayed with all his being that it wasn’t…

“Oh my fucking Circe, is the toilet talking to me???”

Before Draco could grasp that his magic had probably gone completely crazy, Potter burst through the door of the cubicle with a bewildered face and wand in hand. He was still facing backwards at the incriminated toilet when he turned and saw Draco. His face scrunched up more, his eyebrows drawing together, almost colliding, his wand pointing to Draco’s chest.

“Malfoy? What…?”

Seawater. Draco remembered when he swallowed a ton of seawater as a kid and how it burned down his throat, his nose, how he felt like he was gonna choke. It felt exactly like that to try to swallow and talk with Potter now.

“I…” his voice too sounded like he had just drank half the water of the ocean. “Could you lower your wand? I don’t know what… It’s not. It doesn’t usually talk!”

Draco’s heart plummeted into his stomach and just as Potter lowered his wand and opened his mouth, they were interrupted by a sound coming from the mirrors next to them.

Well, I don’t know about your cock, but your face is quite nice. Your eyes are astonishing, sir, and the piercing is so hot.”

They looked at each other with their eyes wide open, not daring to move a single muscle. After seconds that felt like a lifetime, Potter slowly started to talk. “Did your mirror just compliment me?”

Draco tried to swallow again. Again, it felt like a nightmare. “Yeah.”

“Is this some kind of petty game, Malfoy? I thought tonight we… I thought we were okay! Is this meant to offend me? Are you pulling my leg? I don’t understand.”

Potter’s betrayed look hurt more than it had any right to. Draco just stared at him, his mind a blank page. How could he tell him it was his magic going wild, because apparently, he was having a gay crisis over his school nemesis?

Taking Draco’s silence the wrong way, Potter snapped, “Aren’t you going to say anything?” and without waiting for a reply, he shook his head and returned his wand to the inside pocket of his suit. “I thought we were past our childish bickering.”

He stormed out the bathroom, leaving a confused Draco behind. A confused Draco who had no intention of letting Potter win this argument! Feeling adrenaline coursing through his body at the idea of having one of his old quarrels with Potter, he hurried to follow him out. Ah, he had forgotten how good Potter looked when he was angry, how his eyes sparkled, and his throat worked deliciously.

“Potter, wait!”

Potter stopped in front of the cherry wood doors and turned, scowling at Draco. Fuck, that was hot.

Draco caught up, stopping a few feet from him, with a smirk on his face. “You forgot to thank my bathroom. It had been so kind to you and you just left.”

The glare Potter shot him electrified Draco, but when his face morphed into a smug look Draco started to worry that he had gone too far. “You’re right. But you know what, I’ll just thank you instead. Come to think of it, the voice sounded an awful lot like yours…”

Shit, Draco had hoped he hadn’t noticed that. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, you do. Have a dance with me. As a thank you, of course.” Potter’s eyes gleamed in a dangerous way and Draco felt himself getting hard, his gaze dropping to Potter’s lips one second before catching his eyes again.

Shaking his head, Draco asked himself if this was how being aroused felt and definitely decided that five years was too long if he found Potter's pathetic flirting this appealing. With his heart in his throat, he stared right back at Potter.

“With your horrible dancing skills? I remember the Yule Ball.” It was so easy to fall back into known territory, banter, mocking, reminiscing stupid things done during their younger years.

But Potter just nodded, wiggling his eyebrows. “Maybe I’ll surprise you.”

A shiver ran down Draco’s spine and it had nothing to do with the fresh breeze of the evening. He swallowed thickly around his dry throat, willing his body to calm down and please, just please, let his magic stay still just a little longer.

“Well, if you must. One dance.” He hoped he sounded defiant and not at all desperate to get any kind of contact with someone who wasn’t Pansy or Blaise. To get any kind of contact with Harry Potter, finally.

The wooden canary softly sang the half hour: 11:30 pm. Potter looked up at it and smiled. Turning to Draco again, he extended his elbow. “C’mon.”

Draco felt his lips stretching into a smile against his will. He hesitantly laid his hand in the crook of Potter’s elbow, finding it warm and just perfect, as much as elbows could be perfect. He was still staring at their joined arms when Potter tugged and lead the way towards the ballroom again.

“You know, I always wanted a cuckoo clock when I was a kid. My Muggle relatives had a little one in the living room. Well, actually, my uncle bought it and then eventually my aunt screwed up the mechanism that made the bird sing. She said it gave her a terrible headache, but I found it relaxing. I knew time was passing by, that… I was still alive. Forgive me, I didn't mean to ruin the mood, but yeah, your cuckoo clock is beautiful.”

Draco glanced sidelong at Potter, his frown, his sad half-smile. He felt his chest constricting and needed to make him happier, right now, right this minute. “You can have it.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Draco realised they were the stupidest thing he could have possibly said. He sealed his lips and scrunched up his face, waiting for the scathing reply; but it didn’t arrive. Instead, Potter stopped walking, and turned to face Draco, an indecipherable look on his face.

They were just steps from the ballroom, faint notes coming from it, wrapping around them. Potter slid a hand on the small of Draco’s back, mockingly moving two steps with the distant rhythm. “Can I, really? A gift from Malfoy, the Slytherin prince? Wow.”

He was being sarcastic, Draco knew it, but his brain was addled by the feeling of Potter’s hand on his back, by the heat of his body so close, by the smile, not sad anymore, on his face. Draco opened his mouth to reply, trying to come up with something ironic, when a singing high-pitched voice reached them.

You’re my love, you’re my life
Every day, every night

“No!” Draco almost begged, “Not again! Please, let’s just go inside to dance!” He took Potter by the hand and dragged him inside, both of them bursting into a fit of giggling.

“Just how many portraits do you have, Malfoy?” Potter was wiping the few tears stuck in his lashes, a hand on his belly. “This night is weird, perhaps the weirdest of my life, and believe me, I’ve had some very peculiar days.”

Draco held up his chin and led their way to the dance floor, wrapping his arms around Potter’s waist, pulling him closer, fed up with trying to control something that was clearly out of his hands. Potter was only mildly surprised, almost instantly bringing his arms around Draco’s neck, laying his hands at the nape of it.

Everyone in the room seemed to be turning to look at them, pointing, whispering, someone laughing, the clicking of the cameras almost louder than the music. But Draco was only half-aware, concentrating only on the feeling of Potter’s body pressed against his, moving together sinuously on the notes of Unchained Melody.

Potter snorted, amused. “This is a Muggle song! I know it, Hermione is fixated with the movie… wait… ah, what’s it called…”

“Ghost?”

“Yes! How do you know that?”

Draco crooked his head, looking jokingly at Potter. “You’re not the only one with surprises. I spent five years in isolation, Potter, without magic. I… decided to learn as much as I could about Muggle life, if I was reduced to one myself. And tonight, well, it seemed a good occasion to show some… support. You know.”

Potter’s thumb started stroking Draco’s neck, making him quiver in response. It was so delicate, yet it sent sparks through his body. “I know. That’s interesting, you could know more about Muggles than me, now. And with who did you plan to dance to this tonight?”

“I honestly thought I’d have an anxiety crisis much sooner and would have had to leave before this time. So, no idea. Not disappointed with how the evening developed, though.” He tentatively started stroking his thumb on Potter’s back as well, rewarded with a light blush covering his cheeks.

Potter laid his head against Draco’s cheek, and with his mouth close to his ear, he murmured, “Could we go back to Harry and Draco? I liked first names better.”

Draco nodded, feeling Potter’s stubble scratching against his chin, his curls tickling his cheek. “Well, then, Harry. I probably owe you an explanation.” He cleared his throat as Harry moved his head to look at Draco again.

“Erm, I think that my magic is… that you triggered it. Because…” He glanced off, behind Harry’s head, in search of the right words. Caught a glimpse of Pansy and Blaise together: he was leaning in to tell her something and she laughed, cupping his face. Still laughing, she moved her gaze and found Draco’s eyes; smiled fondly, raised a thumb up to him.

“Are you still with me?” Harry was looking at him, his thumb stroking endless circles on Draco’s neck.

“Yes, yes, sorry. I just guess… I find you attractive. Very attractive. And, it’s scary because… you’re Potter, I mean, you’re Potter, and—”

“Fuck, I want to kiss you.” Potter’s eyes widened as if he hadn’t planned to say that. “Good lord, and I don’t even know why. I mean…”

“I know why.”

Five years. Five years terrified of having contact with other people, spent imagining all the worst scenarios in case his old classmates discovered he didn’t have his magic anymore, spent fearing confrontation with the great Harry Potter, and now this. Maybe it was the adrenaline of the events of the night, of how differently he felt telling his ‘big secret’ to someone, to Harry, but now he couldn’t restrain himself anymore.

“We could go out in the gardens and continue this conversation…”

Harry looked flabbergasted at him. “If we go out now, in the middle of the song, alone, we’d make the front page quicker than a Snitch just released.”

“We are already on the front page, Harry, dancing together. And besides, since when do you care?”

He knew he hit the right spot when Harry’s eyes lit up and his face split into a huge grin. “You’re right. Lead the way, then, Draco.”

No need to be told twice: Draco gently pushed Harry with the hand on his back, nodding to a few people while they made their way to the window doors, snickering like two fourteen-year-olds who were trying to get out of Hogwarts at night for a snogging session.

Once outside, Draco glanced up at the sky, now a deep blue punctuated with bright stars. He turned to find Harry again staring right back at him. He showed a half-smile and whispered, “Where are we going?” when—

“Harry! Draco! What are you doing out here?” Hermione appeared apparently out of nowhere, followed by Ronald, who nodded to them, smiling like a fool. Draco remembered Hermione’s earlier words and thought that the weasel seemed indeed pretty much dazed out with alcohol, his balance precarious judging by the way he was clutching Hermione’s arm.

“Oh, ‘Mione, Ron. We wanted to get a breath of fresh air. What are you doing here?”

“Ma wife here, says I need air. Oh, Malf-oy, happy birthday!” Ronald patted a hand on Draco’s shoulder, swinging forward and Draco had to catch him before he toppled on him.

“Erm, thank you, even though it’s not my birthday?” He glanced at Hermione who was shaking her head, grinning and motioning to Draco as if to tell him don’t mind Ronald. He snickered and helped him straighten up, while Harry just laughed and quickly smoothed Ron’s shirt.

“Mate, go home and get some rest, will you?”

Ron nodded and Hermione kissed Harry on the cheek. “See you tomorrow.” She eyed him meaningfully and went to hug Draco too, “Happy birthday then!” making him snort and think that maybe, just maybe, she wasn’t all that bad.

When they were alone again, Draco pulled at Harry and guided him to a more hidden part of the gardens, far from the cackles and the music. “Hermione told me she has a project for the Manor, with other people…”

“Are you changing the topic?” Harry shoved his hands in his pockets and inhaled slowly. “Okay… well, yes, and actually… I’ll help her, if that’s what you want to know. We want to create a school for Muggle-borns and anyone else really, but the concept is that kids before eleven years old would get to know something about the Wizarding World before Hogwarts, so that it won’t be a total shock when they start their education there. We asked Neville to help us with the herbology parts, Dean and Luna with the artistic subjects, and we actually wanted to ask you, or well, someone else who you think could do it, to help with the traditional potions. Hermione and I are working on creating little wands to make them try out the first simplest spells — with the right arrangements and protective spells around the Manor, we think it could be possible.”

Draco blinked several times in confusion, scratching the cuticles of his nails absent-mindedly. “Me? A school… woah.” He took a big breath and started again. “That’s… actually a brilliant idea. But… how can Hogwarts be a shock? I mean, if you’re a wizard certainly you know you’ll attend it?”

“Not always. I had no idea, for example, because my Muggle relatives didn’t want to acknowledge that magic exists.”

Draco’s mouth hung open, and his eyebrows raised up to his hairline. “You didn’t know you were a wizard until you were eleven years old? Are you fucking kidding me?”

Harry just shook his head, his eyes drifting off towards the miles of green behind Draco.

“Are those… peacocks? What are they doing? Don’t they sleep at this hour?”

Draco looked behind himself, seeing the albino peacocks padding through the gardens, close to them. He returned his gaze to Harry, amused. “They are albino peacocks and yes, they usually sleep at this time, but I guess the noise is keeping them awake tonight. They aren’t used to life here anymore.”

They stared at each other in silence for a few seconds, their thoughts reflected in their eyes, not daring to give them voice. Taking a step forward, Draco moved closer to Harry. “I’d like to help you, but I think I need to recover a bit more before.”

Harry nodded, taking a step forward in turn. “That’s fine. And right. I’m sure someone else could help us with that until you feel ready, maybe Parkinson or Zabini…”

Draco tried to imagine his best friends faced with kids, having to teach them ancient wizarding traditions. “Maybe. But… If you even want them to tell stories about ancient traditions to show their flaws and what didn’t work in pure-blood families, you’ll have to work on them a lot before the school opens.”

“We have plenty of time.” Harry winked at Draco and took another step forward, their bodies so close that Draco could feel the heat emanating from the other man, his mind focussing only on Harry’s earlier words ‘Fuck, I want to kiss you.

As if he’d read his mind, Harry sucked in a breath, brushing delicate fingertips on Draco’s chest. “You said you know why I want to kiss you.”

Draco could feel arousal shooting through his body, stirring in his pants, and he closed his eyes, breathing deeply. A tickle formed again in his stomach and this really wasn’t the appropriate moment.

He opened his eyes again. “For the same reason you triggered my magic. You’re right, Harry. We’ve been important parts of each other's lives and we are who we are even thanks to that. And honestly… damn, I grew up with the story of the great Harry Potter, you know? I dreamed of you being Slytherin with me, of us becoming friends and then… we didn’t, and I was so angry, but… I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know who you were, and especially, who you are to me. I’ve always been worried about what you think of me, what you do, everything…”

Harry’s hands dropped lower, caressing Draco’s sides. His look was almost predatory now, a look Draco knew was the one that allowed Harry to be The One. The look of someone who knows what they want and how to obtain it.

“Yes? And who am I to you now, Draco?” Harry’s voice was deep and low, and it vibrated through his hand resting on Draco’s body, making him quiver. The tickle intensified, blurring his thoughts…

“I-I don’t know… someone I haven’t seen in five years and I don’t know anything about anymore.”

Another step forward. Now Harry’s lips were so close that every word he pronounced vibrated on Draco’s own lips. “Care to learn, now?”

Draco’s breaths quickened in anticipation of a kiss that felt inevitable. He closed his eyes, leaned in…

“Ouch! Ouch, ouch, ouch! What the fuck, get off of me! Draco, tell it to get off!”

Before opening his eyes, Draco felt Harry’s distance from the cold spots he left on Draco’s sides and lips; the heat of his body gone. Startled by his shouting, he hurried to flick his eyes open to see a peacock attacking Harry. Specifically, it was pecking Harry’s arse, without showing any sign of letting go.

Before he could help himself, Draco burst out laughing so hard he had to bend over at the waist and lay his hands on his knees. “Dear Salazar, Harry Potter is scared of a peacock.”

“I am not scared, but! It’s pecking my arse! Do something! Wait!” He batted a hand on the peacock’s neck, trying to push it off. “Is this your magic again?”

Draco cleared his throat and straightened up, trying to assume a serious stare. He could still feel the tickle in his stomach, his chest, cheeks… “Erm, I’m afraid so.”

Harry blinked up at him, the peacock finally scampering away. “So… the portrait falling off the wall, my chair vanishing… that old guy in the portrait singing love songs, the flowers... the bathroom, the peacock… for Merlin’s balls, was this you flirting with me?”

“No! What? No! I told you… erm, it was just an alignment of conditions!”

Harry smirked, approaching Draco again, getting impossibly close and still too far away. “You were flirting. Interesting, I should reconsider your behavior during our years at Hogwarts.” He raised an eyebrow and brought a hand to Draco’s face, his fingers feather soft on his jaw. “So, you like my piercing.”

And at this point, with Harry touching him, telling him he wanted to kiss him, that he’s an important part of his life, Draco simply felt the need to give in. “Stop teasing me.” He grabbed Harry’s waist, pulling him closer, bumping their noses together, growling, “I can’t wait anymore.”

Harry’s scent wrapped around him — he smelled of sweet cherries and lilies. It was dizzying, it was addicting. Harry kissed his nose, his cheek, his jaw. He breathed on his neck, “Wait for what?”

“Damn, just kiss m—” Harry didn’t even let him finish. Their lips finally collided, and Draco was thoroughly fucked because he was already addicted to his scent and now, he was addicted to Harry’s taste too, of sweet cherries again, and he asked himself how someone could be so sweet in every cell of his body.

Draco broke away a moment, took off Harry’s glasses, ‘they are distracting, fuck, Harry come back here’, again connecting with those delicious lips and sunk his hands into Harry’s hair, untying it.

Harry answered digging his fingers into Draco’s shoulders, sliding them down his back, coming back up again. He traced the shape of Draco’s lips with his tongue and Draco wasn’t able to stop the moan that tumbled out deep from his throat. Soon they were both panting in each other’s mouths, as if their lives depended on it, on their mouths sealed together and for a moment, Draco believed it, believed his life depended on him kissing Harry forever.

“Nggh,” the pleasure was overwhelming; Draco broke the kiss, gasping for air. The tickle was starting to become a roaring fire inside of him. Harry looked up at him through his lashes, his pupils blown out with lust, his lips still tantalisingly close to Draco’s. “Again, kiss me again, please.”

Through the waves of pleasure that were still running through him, Draco could only comply. He kissed Harry again and it felt like coming back home, like fireworks. He could actually hear them, roaring up in the sky, flashes of lights like bolts of lightning breaking the dark of the night…

This time Harry tried to break the kiss and Draco wasn’t able to resist leaning in to prolong the contact. Harry smiled into their kiss and tried to ask, “Am I the only one, mmmh, who’s hearing, nggh…” He finally came away from Draco’s lips, glancing up to the sky and Draco followed his gaze. Sure enough, a huge spectacle of fireworks of every colour was soaring over the Manor — the guests who remained were already gathering out in the gardens to enjoy it.

A stag firework burst forth, together with a dragon one.

“Did you plan it?” Harry’s look was one of complete amazement and Draco found himself raptured by his face.

“Absolutely not. I am afraid kissing you has this effect…”

Harry snorted, returning his eyes to Draco. “Fuck, Draco, if this is what happens when we kiss, I can’t imagine what it would be if we were to have sex.”

He laughed heartily, his eyes fluttering closed, his head tipped back. Draco joined him, feeling his face heat up at the implication behind those words.

The implications of seeing each other again, of dating. Other kisses like these, and then more and more again, working together to make the school a success. A house together, with a cuckoo clock; they could ask Florence if she’d like to move in with them. Harry finally making a new wand for Draco, breakfasts together in bed, a life without the need of the pendant.

Harry stopped laughing and looked at him again. The lights of the fireworks crossed his face, dancing on it, playing with his breathtaking smile, reverberating on his eyes, his piercing.

“What are you thinking about?”

Draco’s heart beat fast in his throat, making him sound weak with emotion. “Us.” 

Draco felt mad, only mad people could fall so fast, so intensely, over someone else’s scent, taste, laughter, eyes. But Harry didn’t seem to think he was mad, or if he did, he probably was mad himself too, because he leaned in again and pressed his forehead to Draco’s, purring, “Kiss me one more time.”

Draco closed his eyes, slowly traced Harry’s lips with his thumb. “I’ll kiss you forever.”