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Just a Matter of Time

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Before Draco even opened his eyes, he knew something was terribly, terribly wrong.

The seat beneath him was hard wood, nothing at all like the ergonomic perfection of his own office chair—the one he'd brought in at his own personal expense, unwilling to suffer the Ministry-provided disgrace to chairs a moment longer. The air around him had the slightly stale, musty quality all-too-common in underground buildings, whereas Draco had purchased a number of expensive devices imbued with Air Filtration Charms to keep his office fresh as a Dancing Daisy. The room was dead silent; there was no synchronised tick-tick-tick from his wall of clocks set to different time zones around the world, and Draco could not even make out the faint and familiar whisper of sand grains falling inside the Perpetual Hourglass sat on the bookshelf just behind him. There was only one possible conclusion.

Draco was no longer in his office.

This thought probably should have alarmed him far more than it did, given that the last thing he recalled was sitting down at his desk and starting work on a particularly fiddly bit of magic, but Draco was no longer quite as prone to histrionics as he had been in his youth. Age had (somewhat) tempered his natural flare for dramatics. If Draco was no longer in his office, then the first order of business would be to determine where, exactly, he was instead.

Draco opened his eyes, startled by the unfamiliar sight that greeted him, despite his recent conclusion he was somewhere unknown. Suspecting he was no longer in his office, and having that suspicion unequivocally confirmed were two different matters entirely. Still, he brushed aside the faint stirrings of panic and examined his surroundings.

He was in a small office that appeared to possess the same general shape and dimensions as his own. In fact, on closer inspection, it had the exact same structure of his office, down to the placement of the false window on the far wall, and the set of built-in bookshelves on his left. The bones of the office appeared to be the very same—it was only its contents that differed. None of Draco's books, knick-knacks, or various potted plants remained, though the office was far from empty. It appeared to be quite lived-in: parchments strewn about a lopsided desk, framed photos of people Draco did not know peering at him in confusion from the shelves, and, most disconcertingly, poster upon poster of Celestina Warbeck plastering the wall where Draco's precious clocks usually hung. Everywhere Draco looked he was confronted with the singer striking a variety of dramatic poses and blinking coquettishly at him from beneath long lashes. There even appeared to be some kind of commemorative doll placed upon the highest shelf next to him, of the kind he remembered being particularly popular when he was younger. If he remembered correctly, the doll had the ability to do an extremely life-like rendition of one of Celestina's songs, and he eyed the doll warily, praying it wouldn't start up at random.

There was a large mirror directly opposite the desk—which even Draco, who had a healthy appreciation for his fine, aristocratic looks, found a smidge narcissistic—and Draco examined his reflection critically. As far as he could tell, he appeared to look exactly the same as he had that morning when he'd left for work—grey Unspeakable robes pristinely pressed, his short blond hair artfully styled in a way that made his growing widow's peak appear fashionable instead of just old. He frowned, then quickly stopped frowning when he caught sight of the deepening furrows in his forehead which had, unfortunately, become more prominent in recent years.

Rubbing at his temples and closing his eyes against the truly frightening number of Celestinas gazing at him with unveiled interest, Draco tried to recall what he'd been doing just before he'd appeared here. The last thing he remembered was sitting in his office—the one that appeared eerily similar to this one—and preparing to proceed with the casting of a set of extremely complex and delicate spells upon a highly volatile prototype. He'd spent the better part of the past decade working on recreating—and hopefully improving upon—the Time Turners that were destroyed by Potter and his friends during the war, and after years of work and research, he had finally started to get somewhere. It was only a pet project, so progress had been slow, but his superiors in the Department of Mysteries had finally granted him a six month window to focus all of his efforts on making a breakthrough.

Draco had a sinking suspicion that he finally had.

He opened his eyes again, this time looking for any piece of evidence that might definitively tell Draco where—or rather, when—he was. There was a calendar hanging on the far wall—Celestina Warbeck, of course—and, assuming it was displaying the correct month, he was able to determine it was sometime in September. It had been been September when Draco had sat down at his desk earlier that day, but, assuming his memory wasn't failing him, the dates and days of the week for the September currently displayed did not align with the year 2019, which further supported his theory that he'd travelled through time. The question was, how far had he travelled, and was it to the past, or the future?

Draco was about to get up and flip the calendar over to get a look at the year, when his gaze caught on the dustbin by the desk. More specifically, on the folded up Daily Prophet right on top. The lack of a recycling receptacle—a byproduct of the Green our Ministry campaign launched by the Department of Magical Sustainability five years ago—combined with the surplus of Celestina paraphernalia—who'd retired ten years ago, and was at least another five years away from a comeback tour—made Draco rather suspect he'd gone back in time, rather than forward. Still, every good hypothesis required solid supporting evidence, so he fished out the paper from the dustbin and scanned the bold headline on the front page.

Ministry announces proceeds from this year's Hallowe'en Gala to go to the War Orphan's Fund For the Second Year Running

Draco frowned, his stomach growing queasy as he shifted his gaze towards the top of the paper, looking for the date and praying that he was wrong about just how far in the past he'd ended up. There, in the upper right hand corner, in small, neat typeface, read:

15 September 1999

Draco had apparently travelled back exactly twenty years, to a point in time where his reputation in the wizarding world was at an all-time low.

Well, that certainly did complicate things.

Draco knew that this was the point where he should begin to feel properly concerned. It was a cock-up of truly epic proportions. He was stuck in a time where he was universally despised, with only a vague idea of how he'd ended up here, and no clear way to get back home. He had no contacts who he could trust enough to turn to for assistance, nor the foggiest concept of where he could stay while he attempted to come up with a plan, and a very clear understanding that, if he ever hoped to return home again, informing the Ministry of his time-travelling presence would be a very bad idea indeed. True, there was a faintly nauseated feeling roiling around in his stomach in response to these unfortunate facts, but there was more than a glimmer of excitement and exhilaration there as well, thrumming through his blood and making him feel awake and alive for the first time in years.

Truth be told, life for Draco had become rather staid, as of late. He wouldn't go so far as to say he was bored or unhappy—after everything he'd done in his youth, he knew how profoundly lucky he was to have made such a comfortable life for himself—but he could admit he'd fallen into a bit of a rut, and that life seemed to have lost some of that lovely lustre of possibility it'd had in his youth. Draco was nearing forty, divorced—amicably, but still—and stuck in a job that, until today, had become fairly routine. He had his friends, but they all had lives and families of their own, and their get-togethers had slowly dwindled over the years as life and responsibilities got in the way. His son spent most of the year at Hogwarts, and though Draco was more at peace with Scorpius's absence then he'd been that first year his son had gone to school, it still left Draco with far more time on his hands than he knew what to do with. His attempts at dating had been half-hearted and lack-lustre at best; the prospect of putting himself back out there as a 40-year-old man with a child, a receding hairline, and more baggage than one would bring on a month-long holiday on the continent, made him weary and wary all at once.

So, it was perhaps understandable that Draco might feel the teensiest bit excited about the puzzle this particular conundrum presented. He'd been studying Time Magic for just over twenty years now, and was one of the foremost experts in the field and highly respected. Given enough time and access to proper resources, Draco felt confident that he was equal to the task of figuring out how to get himself home. In the meantime, there was nothing Draco loved more than having a complex, and unbeatable problem to solve.

The impossible ones always gave him the greatest satisfaction when he managed to solve them.

A sudden knock at the door interrupted his thoughts, and he was calling out a disgruntled, "Come in," before he remembered that this was not actually his office at present, and that he was very much not supposed to be here.

Bollocks.

He reached for his wand, but the Confundo died on his lips as he met the startled green gaze of a nineteen-year-old Harry Potter.

Double bollocks.

"Potter?" he said incredulously. He couldn't help himself. Potter was quite possibly the last person Draco had expected to run into, though he supposed that was foolish of him. Harry Potter had always possessed an uncanny ability to appear in the most inconvenient of places.

Potter gaped at him. His brow—which Draco couldn't help but note with some small amount of envy was wrinkle-free—momentarily furrowed as he stared. Draco wondered if perhaps he might make it through this bizarre encounter unrecognised—he was, after all, twenty years older than the Draco Malfoy Potter was familiar with. Potter blinked and shook his head, as if in disbelief.

Alas, Draco's luck had never been that good.

"Malfoy? What the hell are you doing in Mr Fitzgibbon's office? And why do you look so old? Merlin, did you fuck around with something in the Time Room? Even you couldn't possibly be that thick."

Ahh, yes, Mr Fitzgibbon. Draco hadn't had a chance to work with him much before he retired and Draco was promoted into his position, but Draco did seem to recall that the man was constantly humming A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love in the breakroom. Draco looked around at the Celestina posters and winced. The habit had been annoying, but Draco hadn't realised just how deep the man's predilection had gone. Then the rest of Potter's accusations registered and he bristled.

"Old? I don't look old! I'll have you know I'm considered to look quite youthful for my age."

Potter snorted. Draco, with all the wisdom of his not-that-many-years-really, ignored him.

"And I know more about what goes on in the Time Room than you, Potter, rest assured. What on earth are you doing here?"

"I'm a runner for the Department of Mysteries," he said, sounding almost sheepish.

Potter, working as a glorified errand-boy for the DoM? How bizarre. Draco had heard passing mention of Potter bouncing around from job to job for a while right after the war, but he hadn't ever given any thought to the kind of jobs Potter would have bounced to and from. By the time Draco had returned to England and started working for the Ministry, Potter had been settled in his position in the Department of Research in Innovative Spells and Charms. Which had also seemed a strange choice for Potter at the time, though Draco had had over fifteen years to grow accustomed to it.

"Ahh, yes, of course," Draco replied blandly, unsure at the moment how exactly he wanted to play things.

Potter gave him a deeply distrustful look, and it was shocking the way just an expression could take Draco back in time so quickly. It had been… well, in had been twenty years since Potter had looked at Draco like that, and he hadn't realised just how nice it had been not to have Potter leveling him with looks of such loathing. It wasn't as if they'd become friends over the years, not really, but given that they both worked at the Ministry and that their sons were thick as thieves, they'd settled into something like friendly acquaintances.

When Draco had returned from university to work for the Department of Mysteries, he'd prepared himself for a hard road. He'd been right to do so, but shockingly, Potter had not been one of his many detractors. Potter hadn't been extolling Draco's virtues by any means, but somehow, in Draco's absence, his burning hatred towards Draco had seemed to have cooled. He'd been unfailingly polite in their every interaction, and Draco had followed his lead, unwilling to look a gift Abraxan in the mouth, no matter how strange he found Potter's behaviour. Though they'd never become bosom buddies, they traded bland smiles when they passed one another in the Ministry hallways, and exchanged pleasant nods on Platform 9 ¾ every year when they dropped off their children for Hogwarts. Potter had even, in a rather inexplicable turn of events, ended up at Draco's thirty-ninth birthday bash this past summer.

Draco had given Pansy free-reign over the party planning, and he suspected Potter had been lured to the public venue under false pretences—Pansy was a shameless hussy when it came to rustling up publicity—but Potter had stayed, even after he'd realised it was Draco's party he was attending. Stayed, and partook a little too freely of the open bar to boot. Draco would have found the whole thing terribly amusing, except that Potter had turned out to be a rather maudlin drunk, staring at Draco with unnervingly intense green eyes and babbling nonsensically about how he had really tried to forget, but it didn't work and maybe it was all just a dream and I'm so tired of waiting. The whole encounter had been unbearably uncomfortable, as Draco assumed Harry's moping had to do with his ex-wife, who'd got remarried earlier that year. Draco knew well enough how difficult it could be to move on with your life after such a significant change, so he'd done the polite thing and pretended the unseemly event had never occurred.

He hadn't spoken to Potter since, but he had begun to feel Potter's gaze upon him more and more, in the Ministry cafeteria or out in Diagon Alley or as they passed one another in the Atrium on the way to the Floos. There was something watchful and expectant in his eyes, some strange emotion Draco couldn't place and that never failed to set him on edge. It was as if Potter was waiting for something, and Draco had no idea what. Draco hated not knowing things. The whole affair was made all the more uncomfortable by the fact that Draco couldn't deny that Potter had aged well; his dark, messy hair, compact frame, and easy smile were exactly Draco's type.

Actually, what was particularly disturbing was the fact that Draco found himself noticing that Potter was already quite attractive as a nineteen-year-old. Draco didn't remember Potter looking this good, but then again, Draco had spent the first five years after the war hiding out in Italy to study Time Magic at L'Accademia Reale delle Magica Scienze, far away from Great Britain and any accidental Potter sightings. Draco couldn't help but feel a bit skeevy noticing the way Potter filled out his Muggle jeans, but Draco was nearly forty, not dead. He had a healthy appreciation the male form and young Potter, blast it, was undeniably fit. When the ruddy hell had that happened? Draco certainly would have remembered if Potter had been so alluring back at Hogwarts, although he supposed he did have other more pressing matters on his mind at the time.

"So if it wasn't you messing about with Time, then I'm guessing you took some kind of ageing potion like the twins did in fourth year so you could sneak into the Ministry?" Potter accused, his eyes still narrowed. "Their wards don't have anything on Dumbledore's, so I'm not surprised you fooled them, but why? And give me one good reason why I shouldn't report you to the Aurors right this second!"

Frankly, Draco was surprised Potter hadn't already reported him, but he guessed the mystery of it all was too much for Potter to resist. If he turned Draco over to the Aurors, Potter would be brushed aside and wouldn't get to figure out for himself what Draco was up to. Potter stared hard at him, though his glare kept wavering, as if he was confused about whether or not he should be glaring, likely disoriented by the fact that the Draco Malfoy he hated looked very different than the aged (but not by that much) Draco Malfoy currently in front of him. It would be enough to discombobulate anybody. Draco could use that to his advantage, though he'd come to the conclusion that an application of the truth might be in order to ease the way.

Draco cleared his throat and gave Potter a significant look. "I'm hoping the fact that we're in the Time Room in the Department of Mysteries might lend some extra credence to what I'm about to tell you, but I've not taken any potion, nor falsely aged myself up in any way. I am, in fact, from the future, and I appear to have got myself a little… stuck."

To Draco's surprise, Potter did not immediately break into incredulous laughter or start flinging accusations of duplicitousness. Instead, he gave Draco a perceptive, measured look, his lips pursed in thought.

"The future?" he said slowly, in a tone that all but begged Draco to convince him.

Draco nodded. "Twenty years, to be exact. My nineteen-year-old self is currently in Rome, studying Time Magic at university, which will eventually lead me to working for the Department of Mysteries. In this very office, in fact." He gestured towards his body in evidence, still clothed in the unmistakable Unspeakable uniform; not that the uniform couldn't have been stolen or Transfigured, but Draco hoped it would help lend his story a bit more credence nonetheless. "I've been working on a Time Turner prototype, since all existing models were destroyed—" Draco gave Potter a sly look, who in turn let out a strange sputter of outrage that managed to sound both guilty and defensive, "—some time ago. It would appear something in my experiment went awry."

"You didn't mean to end up here?"

"Most assuredly not."

"And I'm assuming that means you also don't know how to get back."

Draco grimaced. "Not as such, no. At least not yet."

Potter gave him another thoughtful look, and Draco realised with a start that he actually seemed to believe Draco. Not only that, but this Potter hadn't yet learned to conceal his emotions as well as his older counterpart, and the fascinated curiosity was writ all over his face. If there was anything Draco knew about Harry Potter, it was that he enjoyed a good mystery and adventure even more than Draco did, and that he loved saving people. While Draco wouldn't precisely say he needed saving, he could use a roof over his head and a secure place to plot his next move. He would also need access to resources housed in the Department of Mysteries, and Potter, as a DoM underling and Ministry darling, would have both the continued access, and be above suspicion. The beginnings of plan started to form.

"I have some theories on where to start in order to get myself back to my time, but I can hardly work on any of that in the Ministry, where I might be discovered at any moment." Draco paused, carefully casual as he added, "I don't suppose you might know of a place I could stay? Given the year, my mother and father will still be under house-arrest at the Manor, and I certainly don't want them to know I'm here. And most of my other friends are either abroad, or… not precisely trustworthy when it comes to a matter of such delicacy."

Potter was silent for a long moment, and Draco could practically see his thoughts whirling before he blurted out, "You can stay with me."

Draco wasn't sure which of them was more surprised at the offer, him or Potter. True, said offer was precisely what Draco had been angling for, but he hadn't really expected it to work. Potter looked at him with wide eyes, appearing horrified by the words that had just left his mouth, but unable to retract them. After a moment, his shoulders seemed to square with resolve and he nodded resolutely, raising up his chin as if daring Draco to challenge him.

"Yes," Potter said again, more confidently this time. "You can stay with me. I just moved into a new flat, and there's currently a spare room available. Ron and Hermione are meant to move in once they get back from their trip to Australia next month, so you can stay there until they come home."

Potter was still eyeing him suspiciously, likely thinking that it would be easier to keep an eye on Draco's no-doubt nefarious plans from under the same roof. Well, Draco had no qualms about that. Staying with Harry Potter seemed like just about the least likely, and thus the safest, place for him to be.

"In that case, I would be delighted to accept your invitation," Draco said grandly. "Now… how do you propose we escape the Ministry without notice?"

⏳ - ⏳ - ⏳

Escaping the Ministry without notice turned out to be rather anti-climatic, in the end. They weren't precisely unnoticed—one of the drawbacks of proximity to the Saviour, especially so soon after the war—but other than a number of curious looks and worshipful murmuring, everybody left them alone as they made their way to the bank of Floos in the Atrium. Draco found himself a little disappointed—he'd hoped to at least get to wear some sort of disguise. But apparently nobody else in the entire Ministry was as observant as Harry bloody Potter—or perhaps nobody else had paid such close attention to Draco over the years as to identify him on sight, even aged up twenty years. Either way, he knew it was utter foolishness to bemoan the ease with which they made their escape, so he kept his mouth shut, and followed Potter through the Floo to his flat.

It was smaller than Draco had been expecting, particularly because Draco knew Potter had been bequeathed a small fortune from his parents, not to mention the Black family home he'd inherited from his late godfather. Still, the flat was warm and cosy, decorated with a slightly kitschy, maternal touch that Draco was quite certain the Weasley matriarch must have had some hand in. Draco had never got the impression that Potter was particularly interested in, or skilled at, matters of home (or for that matter, personal) décor.

"So, this is it," Potter said, gesturing half-heartedly around the flat. He waved his hand towards the door to the left. "Kitchen's through there." He pointed at the short hallway in front of them. "Loo's straight ahead, my room's to the left, and you'll be staying on the right."

"Thank you again for offering to let me stay with you," Draco said politely, absent anything better to say. This younger version of Potter made Draco jittery and on-edge, like he was nineteen again himself. He didn't like it. He'd spent a good twenty years learning from the mistakes he'd made as a child, working to better himself, to become a man he could be proud of. The urge to show Potter that it was possible for the Draco Malfoy he knew to change was a constant itch beneath his skin, battling against the unfortunate instinct to revert back to old habits and needle his old rival. It was already exhausting.

Potter shrugged, a slight frown twisting his lips. "Not like I had much of a choice, really."

"Of course you did. There's always a choice." Draco swallowed heavily, looking around the room as he casually changed the subject. "You mentioned Granger and Weasley are out of the country for the next few weeks, but what about your other friends? Are there other potential visitors that might pop over unannounced? Ginevra perhaps?"

Potter gave him a sharp, assessing look. "No," he said slowly. "I've not given out the Floo address to anybody yet. I told them all they needed to wait for Ron and Hermione to move in before we have a proper housewarming. We should be fine." His gaze grew shrewd. "Why would you think Ginny would be over?"

Draco chose his words with care, knowing just how precarious this time travel business could be. "Weren't you two dating? I distinctly remember some fairly flagrant displays of affection at the end of sixth year…"

"Sixth year was a long time ago," Potter said, his tone just as casual, though Draco didn't miss the bright gleam of curiosity in his eyes. He couldn't let Potter's apparent lack of subtlety lull Draco into forgetting just how sharply observant Potter could be. "We both agreed we're not ready for anything serious right now. We're just friends."

"Ahh, all right then. That certainly makes things easier."

"Easier?" Potter asked, raising a single brow. It was particularly disconcerting to see one of Draco's go-to expressions on Potter's open face.

Draco's skin warmed and he turned away, pretending to examine the rather extraordinary clock above the mantle—Draco, being a Time expert, had a particular fondness for clocks, though this one didn't actually appear to tell time.

"It would be much more difficult to hide my presence if you had a significant other who'd be expecting you to spend time with them," Draco clarified as he peered at the hands of the clock, which appeared to be labelled with the names of Potter and his friends. Potter's hand was pointing towards where the number twelve would normally be, though on this clock it said Home. Granger and Weasley's hands were, rather more disconcertingly, pointed towards a label that said Parts Unknown.

"Right," Potter replied, his voice a little higher than usual. He cleared his throat and then continued, "I don't suppose I could get you to tell me about the Harry Potter you know?" His tone was hopeful, though he clearly knew the request was futile.

"Do you mean will I tell you all about how your future turns out?" Draco grinned as he turned to face him, and Potter's eyes widened in shock, the flush on his cheeks deepening. Right. Draco Malfoy wouldn't have ever grinned like that at him before—it must be rather startling. "No, I'm afraid not."

"Nothing at all?" Harry wheedled. "I am letting you stay with me out of the goodness of my heart, you know. The least you could do is let me know what career I end up with so I can stop trying every job under the sun hoping one sticks."

"The journey is the destination," Draco said sagely. Potter clearly didn't appreciate his wisdom, because he wandlessly zapped Draco with a light Stinging Hex in response. "Ow!" Draco yelped.
"Didn't anybody ever tell you to respect your elders."

Potter snorted. "Yeah, loads. Never seemed to stick."

He collapsed back onto a sofa Draco could only assume he picked up off the side of the road, and glanced pointedly at the armchair next to him. Thankfully, the armchair looked marginally less haggard, so Draco obligingly took a seat.

"All right, I thought getting you to tell me about myself was a long shot, but I do think you need to share more about yourself. Or at least how you ended up here. I mean, I've allegedly got some Draco Malfoy from the future staying in my flat. It's a lot to take in."

"Yes, I imagine it is," Draco replied. "But I have to be careful, you understand, about what I tell you. Too much information and I could change the very fabric of our existence. I don't mean to be cagey."

Harry nodded. "Yeah, I get that. I… may have time travelled before, so I get the basic idea of it."

"Of course you have. I'd expect nothing less," Draco said with a weary sigh. His left temple had begun to throb, and he rubbed at it futilely, wondering if Potter was the sort to keep Pain Reliever Potion on hand. "As I said before, I work as an Unspeakable in the Time Room, and my current focus is on replicating the destroyed Time Turners. Assuming I can recreate the situation in reverse, I am hopeful that I'll return to the exact moment in which I left."

"And if you don't? Is there anybody back home who'll notice your absence?"

That was a very good question, if an indelicate one.

"Eventually, yes, though how long is anybody's guess. My supervisor in the Department of Mysteries doesn't keep close tabs on my attendance, and I currently live alone, as my son's away at Hogwarts—"

"You have a son?" Harry asked, his eyes wide. "Do I have kids?"

Draco cursed. He really needed to be more careful. "Yes, I do. And you know I can't tell you that, Potter."

Potter pouted, but his expression was thoughtful as he settled back against the sofa. Likely musing that if Draco found somebody willing to procreate with him, then surely Potter would have as well.

Eager to forestall any other opportunities for Potter to ferret information out of him, at least for the time being, Draco stretched his arms and gave a subtle yawn. "I know it's still early in the evening, but I find myself rather exhausted, and I have quite a lot to think about if I'm to come up with a plan for getting myself back home."

"Right, of course," Potter said, his expression twisting into a grimace, as if he was uncomfortable with how agreeable he was being. "I'll show you to your room," he continued, his tone more grudging as he got to his feet.

Draco followed, wondering at young Potter's strange moods, the distrustful glares that shifted and wavered like sand through an hourglass. He didn't seem to be quite sure what to make of Draco, and Draco couldn't exactly blame him. Their entire relationship for Potter so far had consisted of violent and hateful antagonism, and yet, the middle-aged Draco Malfoy before him clearly looked, and hopefully acted, quite different from the boy Potter hated. It was understandable that Potter would be unsure of how to feel—and act—towards him.

The room Potter led him to was surprisingly spacious, though it was empty but for a single, pathetic-looking futon wedged into the corner, made up with rumpled red tartan sheets.

"Sorry," Potter said, sounding as if he wasn't quite sure if he meant it or not. "This is Ron and Hermione's room, and obviously they've not moved in yet. I was sleeping in here for the first few nights after I moved in while I sorted out my own room." Potter rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "S'not the most comfortable mattress in the world, but it's better than nothing."

"Very true. Would you be terribly offended if I were to Transfigure it into something a little less… teenager living on their own for the first time?"

Potter snorted. "Go for it. I was planning on chucking it away once Ron and Hermione move in."

"Excellent. And could I perhaps trouble you for pyjamas of some kind?" Draco quirked a wry smile. "I'm afraid I forgot to properly pack. Terribly disorganised of me."

Potter blushed, a ridiculously endearing sight that resolutely should not have made Draco's heart race.

"Sure," Potter said slowly, his gaze raking up and down Draco's body in a spine-tingling caress. "Not sure if I've got anything that'll fit you though. You've, err, grown."

Truthfully, he wasn't all that much bigger than Potter, but he'd found that people, as they aged, seemed to acquire a certain indefinable something, a kind of solidness perhaps, as if one became more tangibly real the older one got.

"I'm sure whatever you've got will be fine. I'm not in a position to be picky."

Potter nodded, momentarily disappearing before returning with a pair of grey joggers that appeared to be brand new, and a faded blue Puddlemere United T-shirt. Draco accepted the offering without a word and began to undo the buttons of his Unspeakable robes, eager to get out of the restrictive garment and into something more comfortable. The robes were thick and heavy, and as a result, he wore just a tight white vest underneath instead of a proper shirt. He'd only undone a few buttons, revealing his collarbones and the top of his chest, when Potter let out what could only be termed a squeak, his gaze quickly shifting to some point over Draco's left shoulder as his cheeks seemed to reach a permanent state of redness. Surely he wasn't…

"Right, well, okay then," Potter said, his voice higher than usual. "I'll just, err, leave you to it then? Let me know if you need anything. I'll be across the hall in, erm, my room. Just there. Night."

And with that, he hurried out of the room, not-quite-slamming the door behind him. Draco blinked at the closed door, certain that his mind was playing tricks on him. He knew that Potter was bisexual—the entire wizarding world had learned that fact after his divorce, thanks to some rather salacious articles in the Daily Prophet, but that didn't mean that Potter would ever be interested in Draco. In fact, Draco felt rather certain that that was all but an impossibility, given their history. Which meant the awkward bit of what appeared to be attraction Draco had just witnessed was clearly something else entirely… though what, exactly, was anybody's guess. This Potter hated him, had no reason at all to think Draco was anything other than the bigoted coward he'd been for his entire childhood. He definitely didn't fancy Draco.

Which was good, great even. The last thing Draco needed was a surprisingly attractive teenage Potter making moon eyes at him while he was trying to find his way back home.

Draco definitely wasn't disappointed. Not at all.

⏳ - ⏳ - ⏳

Draco woke up hungry. He supposed that shouldn't have been a surprise, considering he'd not eaten anything since lunch the day before, back in his own timeline. He'd been too preoccupied last night contemplating about his current predicament to even think about food. He'd lain awake for hours on the now-quite-comfortable Transfigured mattress, going over every detail of what he could remember of his work on the Time Turner project, mentally retracing the steps that had led to him ending up twenty years in the past. Thankfully, he had a photographic memory, and he'd been able to come up with a plan that he was reasonably certain would send him back home. That, or lead to his untimely demise, but he was doing his best not to think about that particular potential outcome.

After a few moments of prone stretching on the bed—morning aches were one of the many joys of aging—he pushed himself up and slowly eased open the door to his room. The flat was silent. He looked down at his watch, only to realise that it had stopped working, likely a side-effect of the time travel. Draco scowled. He'd have to take it to a specialised repair shop when he returned home, and he was already metally preparing himself for their exorbitant fees. Oh well, couldn't be helped.

With his watch out of commission, he cast a quick Tempus instead. Eight o'clock on a Saturday morning, so he supposed it wasn't outrageous to assume Potter was still sleeping. Normally, good manners would dictate that he wait for his host to awaken before rummaging about in the kitchen, as Potter hadn't invited him to help himself. But Potter already expected the worst from Draco and he had no bloody clue how much longer Potter was planning to sleep in. Draco figured it was better to ask forgiveness than permission, particularly as his grumbling insides seemed to indicate his stomach was in serious danger of consuming itself for lack of nutrition.

He made his way to the kitchen, his gaze immediately landing on a bowl of fruit—if a soup bowl on the counter filled with two overripe bananas could claim the name. Draco thought not, but beggars couldn't be choosers. He swiped the banana with the least amount of brown-spots, Banished the peel away from the fruit, and downed half of it in two quick bites. Draco winced at the sickly-sweet, revoltingly mushy texture—Draco preferred his bananas just on the other side of green—but his stomach stopped its immediate assault on itself now that it wasn't so empty. The sharp edge of his hunger assuaged, Draco began to poke around the cabinets to see if he could scrounge up something for a proper breakfast.

Potter's kitchen was frighteningly devoid of actual food, consisting mostly of half-eaten takeaway containers, boxes of dried noodles, and a startling number of canned beans. There was half a loaf of bread though, which appeared to be mold-free, as well as a carton of eggs, some streaky bacon, and, the pièce de résistance, a perfectly ripe avocado. It wasn't much, but it would do. He'd have to hope that Potter wouldn't mind him dipping further into Potter's food supplies, but surely a home-cooked breakfast would go a long way towards blunting his ire. Draco was a fairly decent cook, if he did say so himself, and judging from Potter's pathetic pantry, Potter couldn't claim the same.

Draco got to work, letting the familiar calm wash over him as he prepared the meal. He'd started cooking after the war, after he'd moved to Italy for university and, for the first time, was without access to the Manor's house-elves or the plentiful Hogwarts tables. It had been tough going at first, but Draco had learned to enjoy his time toiling away in the kitchen. It was almost therapeutic, the way it forced Draco to stop whatever else he was doing or worrying about and focus on the present, on creating something delicious with his own two hands.

This particular meal wasn't exactly advanced Arithmancy, so his mind was able to continue pondering his plan as he cooked. He felt fairly confident in it, but he thought it would be best if he could get a second opinion, as he'd very much like to avoid the potential death outcome. Most of the contacts Draco would turn to for advice back home would either not yet have acquired the necessary knowledge on Time Magic to be useful to him now, or else had no reason to yet trust Draco Malfoy, and thus were too much of a risk. There was, however, one person he thought he might be able to turn to.

Professoressa Amalia Marino had been the foremost expert on Time Magic in the world, Draco's favourite professor at university, and a dear, dear friend before she'd passed on five years ago. If there was anybody in the world who might actually believe that he was a time traveller from the future, be willing to help Draco Malfoy, and have the knowledge and skills to actually do so, it was Amalia. He'd have to send her an owl at once, and prepare himself for the likelihood of a quick jaunt to Rome before his time here was up—Amalia had a deep and abiding hatred for Great Britain and had vowed long again to never set foot on English soil. Draco had always suspected that the fact that Draco had all but been run out of Britain had been part of what had endeared Draco to her in the first place.

Draco had just plated up breakfast and was wondering if it would be ruder to eat his meal without Potter, or wake him up prematurely, when the man himself came stumbling out of his room in his pyjamas, yawning and rubbing at his eyes the way Scorpius had as a child. Of course, when Scorpius had done it, Draco had found it adorable, and when Potter did it… well, Draco still found it adorable, but he also had the mortifying urge to pull Potter into his arms and kiss him thoroughly awake in a decidedly non-paternal manner. He shook the inappropriate urge from his head and finished dishing up instead.

"Good morning, Potter. I hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty of cooking us some breakfast. I assume you didn't have anything on hand that you don't eat? I wasn't sure how you took your eggs, so I went with scrambled."

Potter blinked at him, clearly confused, though perhaps that was simply always how he looked in the morning.

"I was about to make myself a cup of tea, if you'd like one? I saw you also have coffee, if you'd prefer that instead."

Potter continued to blink. Did he have something in his eye?

"Potter?"

"Err, tea's fine for me, thanks."

Draco nodded and passed Potter's plate to him before turning towards the cupboards for cups and tea bags. A few moments later he joined Harry at the small corner table, two mugs of steaming tea in his hands.

"Well, dig in," Draco said when Potter continued to sit in bemused silence, staring at his plate of food as if it was some kind of mirage. "I promise I didn't poison it. I'm afraid I left all my potions at home with my change of clothes."

That seemed to bring Potter out of his stupor. He looked at Draco with suspicion for the briefest of moments before he seemed to register the joke, his lips ticking up into the ghost of a smile. Rather pointedly, he picked up his fork, speared a scrambled egg curd, and popped it into his mouth. His eyes widened in evident pleasure—clearly he hadn't expected the food to actually taste good. Draco tried not to preen as he ate his own forkful of egg and avocado.

"Thanks, Malfoy," Harry said quietly—and only a little grudgingly—after a long moment. "This is actually really good."

"You're welcome. I picked up cooking while I was at university, and I find it quite enjoyable. I'm afraid I'm without funds while I'm here, given I can't access my Gringotts vault, but I'm happy to continue making meals for us for the duration of my stay as recompense for your putting me up."

Potter looked at him in surprise, and, lurking underneath, an emotion that Draco was fairly certain was pleasure.

"Really? That would be… great, actually." Potter rubbed the back of his head in a self-conscious gesture. "You've probably noticed that I don't much care for cooking myself. I had to do it a lot as a kid and it kind of put me off the whole thing." He looked down at his plate, pushing a square of avocado around as his cheeks warmed to that lovely mauve Draco was growing so fond of. "I generally have cereal and milk most mornings. A hot breakfast is nice."

"I'm happy to be of service," Draco replied, and the both of them seemed to pick up on the unintentional innuendo at the same time, their faces flushing in unison. Draco cleared his throat. Merlin he was fucked.

"So, I did some thinking last night, about how to get me home," Draco said, eager to move the conversation into safer waters.

Harry straightened, his expression growing intent and focused. "Yeah?"

Draco nodded. "I'm fairly certain I can recreate the conditions that sent me here, though I'm hypothesising that I'll need to do some things in reverse if I don't want to end up even farther back in the future."

"Hypothesise? That sounds risky."

Draco shrugged. "Of course it is. Unfortunately, there's no avoiding that. I do, however, plan on reaching out to an old professor of mine for a second opinion. If there's a flaw in the theory, she'll find it."

"I thought you wanted to keep your presence here a secret?" Harry said dubiously as he Summoned the sugar for his tea. "Are you sure you can trust this old professor?"

"Yes, quite sure. I primarily want to avoid the Ministry finding out, and the greater British wizarding public, for that matter. My professor's Italian, with a rather ardent loathing of Great Britain in general, and its government in particular. The fact that I become an Unspeakable for the British Ministry was a great point of contention between us, though she did her best to overlook that flaw in my character." She'd been irate when he'd told her that he'd accepted the Unspeakable position, but she'd understood the reasons behind his choice and had respected them. Secretly, Draco thought she enjoyed having something with which she could berate him over. Nothing seemed to make Amalia so happy as a good excuse for a rant.

"And she'll believe you?" Harry asked. "About the time travel? It is a little far-fetched. I'm honestly shocked I believe you myself."

"You and me both," Draco replied with a snort. "But Amalia has dedicated her life to the study of Time Magic, Potter. If anybody is predisposed to believe I'm a time traveller from the future, it's her."

"All right," Potter said, though he still sounded skeptical. "If you think it's best, I suppose I'll have to trust you. Is there anything I can do to help with your plan?"

Draco grinned, and once again, the expression seemed to startle Potter. His gaze flicked down to Draco's lips, and Draco resisted the urge to lick them. He cleared his throat instead.

"I'm glad you asked. When the Time Turners met their unfortunate demise, there were a number of… pieces that the Unspeakables were able to recover. I was working with several of these artifacts in my attempts, and they'll be necessary for my plan to succeed. Given your current employment, I'll need you to… liberate them from the Department of Mysteries."

Potter snorted and raised his brows. "Oh, is that all?"

"As a matter of fact, no." Potter's eyebrows crept higher, and Draco huffed a laugh. "There are also a number of books that I utilised in my work. I have a good idea of the basics, and my memory is more than excellent, but it's probably best if I reference the texts directly to ensure I have the exact translations. Thankfully these should be much easier for you to obtain, as they're not kept under lock and key."

"And the Time Turner remnants are?"

"Of course." He gave Potter an amused glance. "But I'm sure you're equal to the task. It's hardly the first time you've broken into the Department of Mysteries. Besides, if the rumours are to be believed, you managed to break into a Gringotts vault—one guarded by a dragon, no less—and live to tell the tale, so I'm certain this will be a piece of cake."

Harry looked at him askance. "Your faith in me is a little disturbing."

"As you are, at present, my singular ally in this time period, I hope you will forgive me. I can make fun of your glasses or your fashion sense if that would make you feel more at ease?"

A reluctant smile crossed Potter's face. "I appreciate the offer, but I think I can get by without the insults."

Draco dipped his head in acknowledgement. "Fair enough." He paused, deliberating on his next words. There was no doubt that he needed Potter's help to obtain the necessary items, but he wanted to be sure that Potter understood the risks. Draco had worked hard to become somebody who didn't take others for granted, someone who didn't blithely expect people to make sacrifices for Draco as if it were his due. "I know it's asking a lot. If you get caught, you could lose your job, or worse. If you don't feel comfortable…"

Potter looked at him as if he were a particularly difficult puzzle, though an amused smile danced across his lips. "It's fine, Malfoy. Like you said, I've broken into more difficult places, and—" Potter winced but soldiered on— "being the famous Harry Potter's got to count for something, yeah? They're hardly going to toss me in Azkaban. Hell, I doubt they'd even sack me—not worth the bad publicity. I'll be fine."

Nineteen-year-old Draco Malfoy would have burned with bitter envy to hear Potter talk so casually of the many benefits of his renown, but thirty-nine-year-old Draco knew better. He knew how much Potter hated the special treatment, how uncomfortable it made him, and Draco was oddly touched at the implication that Potter was willing to trade on his fame if necessary—something he loathed doing—for Draco, for somebody he had no reason to think of fondly. How was it possible for a person to be so truly, purely good? It was enough to give Draco heartburn. Though perhaps that was the tea.

"I'll make up a list after breakfast of what I'll need you to borrow for me. The books are the first priority, so that I can start my research on recreating the layers of spellwork. I won't need the Time Turner pieces until later on."

"Sounds good," Potter agreed. "Will you need any help with the research part? Obviously I'm no time travel expert, but I did get pretty good at research over the years."

Draco laughed softly. Clearly Potter didn't know it yet, but considering he would go on to make a literal career out of spell research and development, he most definitely had a knack for it—a knack that would likely come in quite handy for this particular project. Of course, Draco couldn't let on what he knew about the future, so he approached the topic from a different angle instead.

"Yes, I imagine you would have," he replied. "Particularly with Granger-We—" Draco coughed to cover his near mis-step— "With Granger as a best friend. Pity she's out of the country, we could have used her brain. Though I doubt I would have been able to convince young Hermione to help me as easily as I convinced you."

"Huh," Potter said, looking at Draco with sharp, thoughtful eyes.

"What?" Draco tried to sound innocent.

"You just… you didn't sound sarcastic or demeaning at all when you talked about Hermione. In fact, you sounded legitimately respectful. You really have changed, haven't you?"

"It's been twenty years, Potter," Draco said softly. "At least for me. Changing was rather high on my priority list."

"Good," Potter said decisively. "You needed it."

Draco couldn't help but laugh at the truth of it. "Indeed I did."

⏳ - ⏳ - ⏳

Though Draco had known, intellectually, that it would take some time for him to redo all his research, obtain the necessary items, and recreate the scenario to hopefully send him back home, he hadn't really considered what that would mean for him, practically speaking. For over three weeks now, he'd been stuck living on Potter's, seemingly endless, good graces, all but trapped in his flat while Draco spent nearly every waking moment combing through ancient tomes and slowly going mad.

Age might have somewhat tempered his flare for the dramatic, but it hadn't done away with the inclination entirely. Though in Draco's more reasonable moments, he could acknowledge that everything wasn't as bad as all that, really. He genuinely enjoyed the research, and the additional pressure to solve this particular puzzle only added to his enthusiasm for the subject. Whenever the walls of Potter's cramped flat felt like they were closing in, Draco was generally able to escape to Muggle London, taking care to cast a subtle Glamour over his features and the books on Time Magic, before settling in at a coffee shop or library, just to experience a change in scenery.

On days that he left Harry's flat, he made sure he returned with enough time to whip something up for dinner before Harry got off work. Despite the fact that Draco had been cooking for them nearly every day for the past several weeks, Harry's face still turned delighted and shyly pleased each time he returned home and took a deep sniff of whatever Draco had simmering on the hob. The sweet expression on Harry's face did ridiculous things to Draco's insides, and that was another thing that had changed. Not Draco inappropriate reactions to Harry's various expressions—that had remained a frightening constant—but the fact that, a few days into their cohabitation, Potter had insisted that Draco start calling him Harry, as apparently the constant exposure to his surname in his place of residence was giving him traumatic school-boy flashbacks. Draco tried not to think too hard about his eagerness to comply with the request.

Most days, Harry turned up with some freshly liberated bit of Time Turner, or one of the endless books Draco continued to request. The items were hardly proper gifts, but Draco felt a warm burst of pleasure all the same every time Harry presented Draco with one of the items off Draco's list, looking pleased and proud of his thieving prowess. Draco would feel bad about his bad influence, but Draco was fairly certain he couldn't make Harry do anything he didn't want to do.

They dined together every evening, Harry making frankly obscene sounds of pleasure around his forkful of whatever Draco had prepared that night, while Draco tried not to be too obvious in his satisfaction at seeing somebody—seeing Harry—so ardently enjoy the fruits of his labours. Draco hadn't ever really thought about how intimate it was, feeding another person, spending time and energy to lovingly craft a meal for another to enjoy. Cooking turned basic ingredients into something sensual and pleasurable, and to sit by and watch as Harry eagerly took Draco's creations into his body with such evident joy… It had turned meals into a slightly uncomfortable affair on Draco's part, but it didn't stop him from coming up with increasingly elaborate meal ideas just so that he could see that look of delighted anticipation on Harry's face as he sat down at the table.

Draco always insisted on washing up after they ate as well, despite Harry's protestations that since Draco cooked the meal, dishes should be Harry's responsibility. He'd had to remind Harry that they were wizards, and it was but the work of a few spells to put the kitchen to rights—spells which Harry, by his own admission, had yet to fully master. Draco never thought he'd see the day where he was more skilled at domestic chores and charms, but he supposed he did have an extra twenty years of practice, and for the sake of Harry's dishes remaining whole and unbroken, Harry had reluctantly acquiesced. It was a small victory, but a victory all the same.

The several hours after dinner were spent researching together, a task that Harry had thrown himself into with an enthusiasm that even he seemed surprised by. Draco, of course, was armed with the knowledge that Harry Potter would eventually grow into quite the accomplished Spell Researcher, so he wasn't all that shocked that Harry took to investigating the more nuanced aspects of spell layering like a Snitch to the sky. To Draco's knowledge, Potter's speciality in his research didn't have anything to do with Time, and even if it had, Harry wouldn't yet possess that information, so Draco set him to work on the aspects of the formula that didn't require advanced mastery of Time Magic theory and application. It wasn't exactly glamourous work, insofar as research could ever really be glamourous, but Harry never whinged or got stroppy about getting stuck with the grunt work. Given the animosity towards Draco that this Harry hadn't yet had twenty years to overcome, his ability not to jump to the absolute worst conclusion for every one of Draco's actions was both surprising and oddly moving.

In fact, not only did Harry seem to tolerate Draco's presence without abject hatred, Harry actually seemed to… enjoy spending time with him. When Harry wasn't sleeping or at work, he was at home with Draco, the two of them in near-constant proximity for the three weeks since Draco had arrived. Draco couldn't remember the last time he'd spent so much time with somebody—not even his last boyfriend had been around so frequently, which was possibly why their relationship had not lasted much longer than those three weeks. The crazy thing was, neither he nor Harry seemed to be getting sick of one another. Even with Draco being so very careful about what he said in regards to the future, they still found plenty to talk about. The war, and both of their roles in it, featured heavily in conversation, which was a particularly strange experience for Draco.

So much of the man he'd become was influenced by his youth and the war, but it had been a very long time since he'd had cause to think about those events and his own actions in such detail. It had been over twenty years for Draco, and he, as well as the rest of the wizarding world, had more or less made their peace with what had happened and moved on. It wasn't as if Draco ever forgot—the faded mark on his arm ensured that wouldn't ever happen—but as the years passed, the urgency of everything had faded. Time really did seem to heal all wounds. Perhaps that was why Draco had found himself so drawn to the study of it in the aftermath of the war, his entire world torn asunder, a giant, throbbing gash that left Draco floundering and shattered.

Draco might have had time to process the war, but for Harry, it had not yet even been a full year and a half, and the repercussions of the war were still reverberating throughout wizarding Britain. Time had not yet had a chance to heal Harry's wounds, and it was disconcerting, seeing Harry struggling with the aftermath, the way that Draco could remember struggling himself in those first few years. It would have been so easy for Harry to be lost and broken, for him to be angry at the world, the way that Draco had selfishly and unfairly been himself, but Harry wasn't. Of course he wasn't. He was so much better than that.

It clearly wasn't easy for him though, as he grappled with his actions and the actions of others, tried to reconcile the loss of friends and family and even strangers. So it surprised Draco how willing Harry was to listen to Draco's own memories and recollections of the war, his motivations, and his determination afterwards to become a better man. Draco wasn't sure that Harry would have even been capable of having a similar discussion with Draco had he not been his older self, but then again, he didn't think his younger self would have been capable of having such a conversation either. Draco's age gave him distance and perspective, and it seemed to allow Harry to separate him from the boy who'd made so many grievous mistakes. Seeing proof that Draco had changed appeared to allow Harry to believe that the change was possible, made him more willing to accept the truth of Draco's deep regret.

For all that this Harry was still technically a teenager—just a boy, really—Draco shouldn't have been all that surprised by his maturity. Harry had never really had a chance to be just a boy, and at nineteen he had already done and experienced more than many people did in their entire lifetime. Defeating a Dark Lord, carrying so much responsibility on one's shoulders… it was no wonder that Harry was more mature than his years would suggest.

It made Draco feel (slightly) better about his ever-growing attraction to him.

Over the years, Draco had certainly recognised that Potter was attractive, but his thoughts on the matter had never gone any further than simple acknowledgment. Their paths hadn't crossed all that often, and they certainly hadn't ever had occasion to spend an extended period of time in one another's company—absent Potter's strange drunken presence at Draco's birthday party the previous summer, an anomaly Draco was more than willing to write off entirely. Potter had, miraculously, seemed willing to forgive and forget, treating Draco with cordial respect any time they'd run into one another, but both of them had been busy living their lives, lives that, after Hogwarts, no longer seemed to involve one another in any significant way at all. His passing notice that Potter was a bit of all right had never had a reason to grow any deeper than that.

Now, however, after spending such a concentrated amount of time with boy-Potter, with Harry, Draco was forced to admit that he was developing feelings, ones that went deeper than simple lust. Truth be told, he found the lust to be more disconcerting than the sweeter sentiments—he was nearly forty and no longer afraid of love and commitment the way he'd been in his twenties, poor Astoria, but the last time he'd felt any kind of serious attraction to a nineteen-year-old was when he had been nineteen himself, and it was difficult not to feel like a lecherous old man when he lay in bed at night with his hands down borrowed pyjamas, imagining Harry's boyish grin and the youthful pertness of his arse.

Harder still when Harry looked at Draco with all the artless interest of a teenage boy who'd not yet learned not to wear their heart on their sleeve. Draco tried to tell himself he was imagining things, that the attraction he saw simmering in the depths of Harry's eyes was just a poor reflection of Draco's own desires, that he was seeing things that weren't there.

Maybe that was true. Draco hoped it was true, really he did, because nothing between him and Harry could ever work out, not in any timeline, but most certainly not in this one. This Harry still had his whole life ahead of him, a life that, from Draco's distant viewpoint, had seemed to be rich and full and quite markedly absent one Draco Malfoy. Draco was already altering the past enough as it was, and he was becoming increasingly and uncomfortably certain he'd have to Obliviate Harry before he left to ensure no lasting damage was done. Obliviating a friend—and he felt he could call them that, now—without their consent was terrible enough, but a lover?

There was, of course, the Alternate Timeline Hypothesis posited by Sir Graham Woolsey in 1754 and never definitely proven, that if one travelled back in time and made enough of a disturbance, that it would cause Time itself to rupture and split off, causing a divergent timeline and leaving the "present," when the time traveller returned, completely unchanged. Woolsey's hypothesis was widely regarded as unlikely, though there'd never been enough evidence to discount it entirely. If it was correct, however, it would mean that Obliviation was entirely unnecessary—given how much Draco had disturbed via his interactions with Harry—which was something Draco very much would prefer to avoid. There was, unfortunately, no way for Draco to know for sure either way until he made the return trip—the mechanics of which were still being worked out. So Draco decided that the decision of what to do in regards to Harry's memories was a problem for the future—quite literally—while he focused for the present on how to actually return himself home.

But the point… the point was that there was an infinity of reasons why Draco should do his best to keep his distance from Harry, and not a single good reason why he shouldn't. Which settled it, then.

Perfectly.

It was a good thing he'd finally got a letter back from Amalia, indicating her interest in his situation and urging him to visit as soon as he was able. The sooner he got to Rome and received her stamp of approval on his plan, the better.

"Not that I don't appreciate all of your help," Draco told Harry later that night as he cleared their plates from the table with an efficient flick of his wand. "But you've stayed in to help me research every evening for the past three weeks. Please don't feel you have to stay in on my account, especially as I believe we're in the final stages of the reconstruction. I've noticed the owl invitations out to the pub, and surely your mates will grow suspicious if you keep avoiding them." He gave Harry a self-deprecating smile. "I'm sure they're much better company than poring over musty tomes with an old man like me."

Truth be told, Draco very much enjoyed Harry's company and would keep him entirely to himself if given half a chance, which was precisely why he thought it best to encourage some time apart. He was becoming too attached, and nothing good could come of it. Reminding Harry of their age difference and pushing him to spend time with his friends, with people who still hated Draco Malfoy, was probably best for them both.

Harry's cheeks grew rosy, and he reached for his wand, cleaning off his plate before Draco could get to it. "Well maybe I like old men," Harry muttered, his flush darkening when Draco raised a single brow, doing his best not to show the sudden thrum of his pulse. "I just mean that staying in is a bit more my speed. Right now…" He shrugged, looking strangely self-conscious. "I don't know, everybody seems to be focused on reclaiming our lost youth or something. Lots of drinking, and clubbing, and making utter tits of themselves. I'm happy for them, and I definitely don't fault them for it, but I can't really relate. Everything's always so crowded and loud; it's too much. I'd rather…" He cleared his throat and looked boldly into Draco's eyes, his gaze determined. "If I have a choice, I'd rather stay in and spend time with somebody I care about."

Draco's already racing heart kicked into overdrive at the unguarded affection in Harry's eyes. This was so clearly a moment, and a momentously terrible idea, but fuck if Draco had ever wanted to kiss somebody so badly as he did just then. Harry swayed forward, barely even an inch, but it was enough to pull Draco into his orbit, and Draco leaned in to meet him, their lips brushing together in a feather-light caress. The kiss was tender and sweet, a gentle prelude to something more, and Draco desperately wanted to follow it through to the bitter end. And it would be a bitter end, how could it be anything else between the two of them?

Harry made a quiet noise of pleasure, and moved as if to press closer, to kiss Draco more deeply, and Draco's senses returned in an unwelcome rush. He placed his palms against Harry's chest and pushed, carefully easing him away and breaking their kiss.

"Harry…" Draco began, his chest squeezing as Harry's expression began to fall. "This isn't a good idea."

"Why not?"

Draco gave him a pointed look. Harry was smarter than that. "You know why not."

Harry sighed heavily, looking lovely in his petulence—Draco hadn't known Harry was even capable of petulence, and he found it all rather charming, much to his disgust. Salazar, he really was gone on the boy.

"Yeah," Harry said, his tone forlorn. "I suppose it's going to be pretty soon, then?

"I think, so, yes," Draco said, feeling similarly reluctant. "My old professor finally wrote me back and said I was welcome to visit as soon as I was ready. I was thinking I'd go this weekend."

Harry's eyes widened—he'd clearly not expected it would be quite that soon. "To Rome?"

Draco nodded. He'd planned to leave it at that, but instead found himself opening his mouth and offering, "Would you like to join me?"

The sadness that had been encroaching on Harry's expression was brushed away like dust off a bookshelf, and he grinned, excitement glimmering in his eyes.

"Really? I won't be in the way?"

"Not at all," Draco said, unable to bring himself to regret the offer. Some small part of him thrilled at the opportunity to show Harry the city where he'd begun to remake himself.

"I've never left Great Britain before."

"All the more reason for you to join me," Draco replied, officially warmed to the idea. "Though I should warn you, the journey is apt to be an exhausting one. I can't register for a Portkey, and I'd rather not risk creating an unauthorised one, which means we'll have to go either by broom or via Apparition. I'm thinking Apparating might be the best bet, though we'll need to do it in several stages."

Harry shrugged. "I don't mind." He slanted a sideways look at Draco, a sly smile on his face. "Though we should probably Side-Along instead of Apparating separately, since I won't be able to properly visualise somewhere I've never been before."

Certainly nobody had ever accused Harry of a lack of tenacity, Gryffindor that he was.

"Yes," Draco said dryly. "I suppose that would be best."

⏳ - ⏳ - ⏳

There was no denying it: Draco was disappointed.

He shouldn't be. In fact, he should be over-the-moon ecstatic. He and Harry had made great time yesterday travelling to Rome, arriving late in the evening and having just enough energy to go out for a light dinner of cheese, bread, and dried cured meats, before heading to bed—separate beds—for the evening. Draco had contacted Amalia before they'd left, and the two of them had arranged to meet up early the following morning.

They'd met at old café near campus, and drank their macchiatos and ate fresh-baked biscotti while getting the pleasantries out of the way. They'd immediately fallen into an easy rapport, conversing like the old friends they were, despite the fact that this Amalia had only known Draco as a student, and a fairly new one at that. Given the delicacy of Draco's situation, they'd retired to Amalia's office after finishing their morning espresso, and Draco had spared no detail as he explained everything that had happened and how he planned to recreate the conditions in order to return home. As he'd hoped when he'd first decided to contact her, she had no doubts as to the veracity of Draco's claims, and she asked thoughtful, probing questions about his work without causing Draco to divulge too much about what the future held—clearly, this had not been her first experience with time travel.

Though it was undoubtedly pleasant to have a chance to talk to his mentor again—her passing had been a great loss, both personally and professionally—the more pressing issue was her vetting of Draco's plan to return home. She'd enthusiastically grilled him on all the particulars of his research and the culminating accident, and then spent several hours going over Draco's solution, no word, spell, intonation, or part placement left unstudied. Thankfully, Draco was well used to his old professor's thoroughness, and had come prepared with all manner of charts, diagrams, and lengthy descriptions covering every aspect of the planned event.

In the end, she'd asked to keep all of the documentation he'd brought with him for a more thorough examination overnight, unwilling to put her name on an official stamp of approval without double and triple checking each and every calculation. Draco was to return in the morning for her final verdict, but before she'd kissed his cheeks goodbye, she'd claimed—in a rare bit of praise—that Draco's work seemed impeccabile and that she thought that, if he carried out his plan to the letter, a safe return home was far more likely than an untimely demise.

Which was good news, great news, the best news really. And yet… Draco's feet dragged as he made his way towards the café he'd promised to meet Harry at after his meeting with Amalia before taking him on a mini tour of the city.

Harry.

It all came back to Harry, didn't it?

Draco thought he'd outgrown the stage in his life where his world revolved around Harry Potter, but twenty years later, and it was as if nothing had changed at all. But of course, everything had changed, or rather, Draco had changed, which made all the difference, really. At least, apparently, as far as Harry was concerned. Because there might have been a bit of mutual obsession back in the Hogwarts days, but it certainly hadn't had this particular undercurrent of appreciative desire.

Harry was sitting outside the café on one of the metal patio chairs, an empty ceramic espresso cup on the table in front of him and his eyes closed as he tilted his head back towards the sun, far warmer and brighter than it was back home in Britain. Draco's traitorous heart leapt at the sight, the sunlight glinting off the lenses of Harry's ridiculous glasses and making his hair gleam like polished onyx. Almost as if Harry sensed Draco's presence, his eyes opened, lazy and content, focusing unerringly on Draco. He smiled, his lips splitting open into a broad grin of pure pleasure, and Draco almost tripped over a broken cobblestone, the force of Harry's smile more blinding than the beating sun.

A profound ache welled up inside of Draco, strangling his insides, making his eyes prick with a sudden threat of tears. Potter hadn't ever looked at him like that, hadn't ever smiled at him like that, like Draco was somebody precious and important. That used to be all he ever wanted from Potter, back when he was a child, before the hurt over Potter's understandable rejection had transformed that desire into something bitter and hateful. He knew the Potter back home didn't loathe him, not anymore, but Potter didn't care for him the way that Harry did, and the thought of losing that regard was devastating, far more so than it properly should be. Of course, Draco knew it was because his feelings for the bright, lovely Harry in front of him went far beyond simple friendship, that respect and affection had merged with lust and desire to form a bond that… it wasn't love—it was far too soon for that, surely—but it was the potential for it, someday. Draco hadn't felt that kind of budding possibility very often in his life, and the idea that he would lose it, that he had to give it up without ever being able to follow through and see if something more, something beautiful and life-changing, could grow from it…

Well, Draco had done far more difficult things in his lifetime, had survived much worse than the loss of a potential relationship. In the end, he had to leave, had to go back to his life, to his son, and leave this Harry, this world, to proceed along its natural path. Maybe he and this Harry could have had a future, if they were different people, in a different time, but staying just wasn't an option, not for either of them.

"Did you enjoy your morning?" Draco asked when he reached Harry, sitting down in the chair across from him.

Harry stretched and nodded. Draco tried not to stare at the ripple of his biceps as he moved, the pull of his shirt against his chest.

"Honestly, I only woke up an hour ago. I know you said that Apparating such a long distance would be rough, but I really wasn't prepared for it."

"The first time is always the worst."

"Surely it doesn't have to be," Harry murmured, his voice low and insinuating. Draco gave him a sharp look, his pulse ticking up. Harry looked back at him, all butter-wouldn't-melt, before easily changing the subject. "How did things go with your old professor?"

"She…" Draco knew there wasn't any reason not to tell Harry that Amalia had all but confirmed that the plan was a go, but for some reason, he couldn't make himself say the words. He cleared his throat. "She wanted a chance to review everything on her own tonight. I'm supposed to meet with her again tomorrow morning before we leave and get her final verdict."

Harry, as perceptive as ever, seemed to pick up on the fact that Draco wasn't telling him everything, but surprisingly, he didn't push for more. Perhaps he, too, wasn't overly-eager to confirm that their time together was rapidly coming to an end. It wasn't much, but surely it was fine if they lived in denial just a little longer. Just for tonight.

"Well then, shall we?" Harry asked briskly, pushing himself up off the wire chair and flashing another one of those luminous grins Draco's way. "I believe I was promised a personalised tour?"

Draco brushed away his melancholy over the future and instead focused on the now. It was a bright, sunshiney day in one of Draco's favourite cities, and there was a bright, beautiful man beside him, eager to spend time in Draco's company. Draco would do well to enjoy them both.

While he still could.

⏳ - ⏳ - ⏳

There was so much Draco wanted to show Harry in Rome, far more than they could cover in a single afternoon. Harry would have to come back some day if he wanted to explore further and, to that effect, Draco ensured that their first stop was the Fontana di Trevi. He and Harry each threw a shiny golden Galleon with their right hand over their left shoulder into the fountain—Roman lore stated that throwing a single coin ensured you would someday return to Rome. The thought of Harry coming back with somebody else, somebody who wasn't Draco, threatened to drag down Draco's cheerful mood, but he quickly banished the thought—he was living in the moment, dammit!

After the fountain they made their way over to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, explored the Pantheon and St Peter's Basilica. Harry was just as interested in the Muggle bits of history as he was in the magical, so Draco let himself be dragged along after Muggle tourists, eavesdropping on tour guides as they gave their spiels, before slipping away through the various hidden entrances to wizarding space. There, local witches and wizards shared a parallel narrative behind the famous sites, explaining the role the magical community had played in the history of their venerable city.

In between tourist traps, Draco took Harry to his favourite gelato place, where they people-watched under the late-afternoon sun, while Harry looked around with wondrous eyes before they jetted off to their next destination.

As was customary in Italy, they got a late dinner, at a tiny hidden gem in the wizarding quarter of the city. They split a bottle of red wine to go with their meal of exquisite pasta Bolognese, and then spent another hour working off their dinner as they walked through the city at twilight. Draco was addicted to watching Harry experience Rome for the first time, his reactions so pure and full of delight. Draco never wanted to leave, wanted to live here in this perfect day forever.

Harry seemed to feel the same, growing more thoughtful and pensive as they neared their hotel, almost literally dragging his feet, as if he, too, wanted to make this night last as long as it could.

"You're going to perform the spell as soon as we get back to England, aren't you?" Harry asked when they reached the door to Draco's room. Harry was staying in the room adjacent—despite his protests, Draco had insisted they not share.

Draco nodded. "Amalia will let me know if she has any concerns when I see her tomorrow, but her initial assessment was that the theory is sound."

Harry smiled at him, though it couldn't quite mask the sadness lurking in his eyes. "Yeah, I thought so," he said, almost wistful, before his body seemed to harden with some kind of resolve. "In that case, it seems like this might be my last chance."

"Your last chance for what?" Draco said warily, his hand on the doorknob to his room, ready to make a quick escape.

Harry gave him a rather pointed you-know-exactly-what look, and then he wrapped his hand around the nape of Draco's neck, pressed up the bare inch difference between them, and kissed him.

Draco didn't have a chance. He'd been strong enough to push Harry away once before—asking Draco to do it a second time was demanding far too much of him, especially after they day they'd just shared together. So Draco held nothing back as he returned Harry's kiss, one hand still clutching the doorknob as the other slid down to grip Harry's arse and pull him more firmly against Draco's body.

Harry moaned enthusiastically into his mouth, and Draco's hand slipped against the doorknob, opening the door behind them and causing them both to stumble clumsily into the room. Draco cursed as Harry bit down a little too hard on his lower lip in the shuffle. Harry laughed a breathy "Sorry," and kicked the door closed behind them, soothing the sting with his tongue until Draco forgot all about it.

Nimble fingers tugged at Draco's flies, and Draco steered them both towards the bed—if they were doing this, they should at least do it properly. Harry seemed all too eager to follow Draco's lead, letting himself be pressed down against the mattress, biddable in a way Draco hadn't ever seen him act before. It made Draco a little nervous, this strange compliance, worried that Harry's relative inexperience might make it difficult for him to ask for what he wanted, might make it too easy for Draco to take advantage, or rather, take more advantage than he was already taking.

Fuck, this really was a monumentally stupid idea.

He made to pull back, to call the whole thing off, but Harry must have picked up on Draco's intent, because he didn't get far. Harry's arms and legs wrapped around him in a surprisingly-firm grip, preventing Draco from moving more than an inch away from Harry's body. He tried to look sternly down at Harry, opened his mouth to attempt some sort of protest, but Harry arched up beneath him, grinding their erections together in a spine-tingling rush of pleasure. Harry grinned, and then he was twisting his entire body in a shockingly smooth move that left Draco flat on his back on the bed with Harry straddling his hips.

"We're doing this, Draco," Harry said firmly. "I'm an adult, and I want you, and you want me, too. I know you're leaving soon, I'm not like…" He trailed off on an awkward laugh, running a hand through his messy hair as his cheeks grew pink. "I'm not in love with you or anything. But I like you, and apparently I've got a thing for older men, because you're fit as fuck, and I don't want to wonder for the rest of my life what it would feel like to have you inside me."

Draco stared up at him with wide eyes, his cock throbbing beneath the firm press of Harry's perfect arse. Merlin, he wanted it, wanted all of it. He knew this moment would come back to haunt him, that there was no way he could walk away from having sex with Harry Potter unscathed, but Harry was right. If Draco turned him down right now, he'd spend the rest of his life wondering what if? and Draco already had more than enough regrets to last a lifetime.

"Are you sure?" Draco asked, sliding his palms up Harry's muscular thighs, rubbing his thumbs along Harry's hip bones. "I don't have to actually fuck you, you know. There are other things we could do." As desperately as Draco wanted to sink inside Harry, he also knew how intense it could be, particularly the first time. He'd rushed into it himself when he had been not much younger than Harry was now and had quickly regretted it—he didn't want Harry to make the same mistake. "Or you could fuck me, if you wanted?"

It wasn't an offer he made lightly—he quite liked a nice cock up the arse, but it usually took a long while before he was comfortable enough with somebody to let his guard down so completely. But he'd known Harry—or some version of him anyway—for nearly thirty years and, miraculously, Draco trusted him. This was a person who was intimately aware of all the very worst things Draco had thought and done in his lifetime, and Harry still wanted to be here with him. Harry already knew Draco, knew his weaknesses and vulnerabilities, what was a little buggery compared to all that?

"Really?" Harry asked, his eyes gleaming with surprise and undeniable interest. "You'd… you like that?"

Draco arched a single brow. "You seem awfully surprised for somebody who was just offering up their own arse. It is supposed to feel good, you know, if you do it right."

Harry huffed a small laugh. "Yeah, I know. I don't know why I didn't expect it. Maybe because you're older I just assumed…" He paused, his brow furrowed in thought. "Do you prefer it that way?"

"I like both. I tend to top more, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy being fucked through the mattress as much as the next bloke." Draco flashed him a wicked smile. "The question is, what do you want, Harry? I told you, I'm flexible."

"I—" Harry swallowed heavily and licked his lips, his eyes dark and wide as he stared down at Draco with naked want. He ran his fingers down the buttons of Draco's shirt, tugging them from their buttonholes and smoothing his palms over Draco's bare chest as if hypnotised. "I think…" He met Draco's gaze. "If we only have this one time, then I want you to fuck me. I want to know what it feels like, and I trust you to make it good for me."

I trust you.

After everything they'd been through over the past several weeks, those three words possibly shouldn't have come as such a shock, but they did, knocking the air from Draco's lungs as his groin throbbed with the implication of Harry's words.

He would make it good for Harry. He'd make it unforgettable.

"All right," he rasped. "We can do that." He cupped Harry's bulge, massaging his erection while Harry whined and arched into the pressure. "Perhaps we'll even have time to switch… if you're up for another round afterwards. We do have all night, after all."

Harry grinned. "I'm nineteen; I'm not the one we have to worry about being up for another go."

"Yes, but—" Draco began, unbuttoning Harry's flies and pulling out his engorged cock, "—you're the one I plan on making come more than once during round one."

"Oh?" Harry said, his voice breaking as Draco began to wank him slow and steady, relishing the thick girth of Harry filling his palm.

"Mhmm," Draco hummed. "In fact, I'd really like to taste you, but you've got me rather pinned." He let go of Harry's cock and slid his hands around to grip Harry's bum. "Perhaps you could come to me?"

Harry's gaze was lust-blown and shocked, as if Draco was fulfilling every one of the fantasies Harry hadn't even realised he'd had. He seemed almost immobilised, as if unsure Draco was really suggesting what Harry thought Draco was suggesting, so Draco decided to help him out. He squeezed Harry's arse and tugged, urging him forward until Harry got with the program and shuffled his way up Draco's chest, his cock smearing precome along Draco's sternum and collar bones as he grew closer.

"That's it," Draco said with a predatory smile, unbearably turned-on by Harry's helplessly aroused expression as Draco took hold of his erection and licked a bead of precome from the tip. He opened up, extending his tongue to rub along the veiny underside of Harry's cock, and then he leaned forward and took Harry into his mouth.

Harry moaned, a punched out sound that went straight to Draco's own cock, throbbing in his pants. Draco had always loved sucking cock for just this reason, for the rush of pleasure and power it gave him to make his partner fall apart with his lips and tongue. And Harry certainly seemed to be falling apart, his thighs quivering beneath Draco's palms and his fists white-knuckled against the headboard as he moaned and panted. Draco had assumed that Harry was only inexperienced with men, but given how close Harry clearly already was to coming, Draco wondered now if perhaps this was the first time anybody had ever sucked Harry's cock. The thought sent an embarrassingly primal wave of possessiveness through him, and he slid his hands back around to cup Harry's arse before easing off Harry's cock.

He met Harry's eyes, dazed and eager, and murmured lowly, "You close?" Harry nodded, his expression almost sheepish, but Draco just grinned. "Good, I want you to come in my mouth."

Harry's eyes grew impossibly darker. "Really?"

Draco nodded; there was little he wanted more just then than to watch Harry lose control. He squeezed Harry's arse and urged him forward again, until precome smeared across Draco's lips. He made a bit of a show of licking it off, and Harry's hips twitched forward, as if he couldn't help himself.

"You can fuck my face, if you want," Draco said, his tone all faux casual before he opened back up and swallowed Harry down once more.

Harry groaned again, his gaze hot on Draco's lips as he stared down at where Draco's mouth was stretched wide around his cock. He was still, almost frozen on the spot, so Draco let out a little moan of encouragement, knowing how pleasant the vibrations would feel around Harry's shaft. That seemed to do the trick, the resulting shudders jolting Harry into action as he slowly began to move his hips.

He started off slow and shallow, and Draco admired his restraint, particularly as Draco was fairly certain Harry hadn't ever done this before. Which Draco supposed was all the more reason for Harry to gently build up to things, testing how deep and how quick he could thrust without going too far. Lucky for them both, Draco had spent a good portion of his early twenties refining this particular skill and, much like riding a broom, it all came back quite effortlessly. He squeezed Harry's arse and smoldered up at him, letting Harry know he could go deeper, that Draco could take more. Harry hesitated for just a moment, before seeming to take Draco at his word and starting to properly thrust.

Harry had already been close, and once he really got going—his slick cock sliding rapidly in and out of Draco's mouth, the round head bumping up against his soft palate—it didn't take him long at all to reach his peak. The wooden headboard groaned beneath his iron grip as he climaxed, his cock pulsing atop Draco's tongue as his release hit the back of Draco's throat. Draco swallowed the viscous substance, licking Harry's cock clean as he slowly slid out of Draco's mouth. Harry was breathing heavily, his chest heaving as he looked down at Draco with something akin to wonder. Smug pride radiated throughout Draco's chest, and he reached out to grab a fistful of Harry's shirt, pulling him down into a slick and salty kiss.

"Fuck, Draco. You're amazing," Harry murmured in between kisses as he shifted down Draco's body his arse nestling atop Draco's throbbing erection. Harry ground down against him, making Draco groan. "I want to make you feel like that." He licked his lips, his meaning abundantly clear.

And fuck if that wasn't a tempting picture, Harry on his knees before him, begging Draco to tell him exactly the best way to suck Draco's cock. But Draco was already closer to coming than he'd like, and he wasn't nineteen anymore like Harry. He wasn't sure how quickly he could get it up again, and Harry had already made it clear he had something else in mind for his first time.

"As delightful as that sounds, I'm not going to last long enough to fuck you if you get your mouth on me," Draco said. "If that's still what you want?"

Harry nodded eagerly, and Draco grinned.

"In that case, I think we're both a little over-dressed." He murmured a Vanishing Spell, and both of their clothes shimmered away, leaving their bodies bare. Draco's erection was nestled up against Harry's naked arse and he allowed himself a brief moment to appreciate the delightful pressure, before gripping Harry's thighs and rolling them both until Harry was pinned to the mattress beneath him.

"Oh, hello," Harry said, breathless and a little giddy.

Draco couldn't help but grin back at him. "Hello." He kissed Harry's cheek, his neck, then a collar bone, before shifting up to kneel between Harry's spread legs. "Tell me if I do anything you don't like."

Harry took in a shivery breath and nodded, his cheeks pink. "I will."

"Good. This might feel strange." He murmured a few charms for cleaning and protection, huffing a laugh when Harry's nose wrinkled at the sensation.

"You weren't kidding," Harry said with a pout.

"I rarely am."

Harry laughed, and Draco took the opportunity to Conjure some lube, watching as Harry's spent cock twitched and began to fill once more. He coated his fingers and reached down to rub at Harry's arsehole, the rim clenching and fluttering beneath the pads of his fingers.

"Have you ever done this before? To yourself, I mean."

Harry's flush spilled down his throat and chest as he nodded. "A couple of times."

"Given how tense you are right now, I take it you weren't overly impressed with the experience?"

Harry looked almost sheepish as he shrugged. "Seemed like one of those things that's probably better when somebody else is doing it to you."

"You're not wrong," Draco murmured, continuing to pet along Harry's clenched rim. "Though if you want to find out, I'm going to need you to relax for me."

Harry nodded, though it wasn't until Draco wrapped a hand around his cock and began to slowly wank him to full stiffness that his arse began to relax beneath Draco's fingertips. He rubbed his thumb along the sensitive underside of Harry's cock, watching the muscles in his thighs tense and shiver with pleasure, and then slowly began to ease his middle finger inside.

Harry immediately tightened up again at the intrusion before clearly forcing himself to relax, aided by Draco's steadily moving fist along his shaft. Draco kept his thrusts shallow and gentle, pressing in a little deeper with each pass until his finger was buried to the knuckle. Harry seemed to have more or less acclimated to the sensation, his brow furrowed as if slightly disappointed.

Well, Draco could help fix that.

He rotated his wrist and began to stroke along Harry's inner walls, curling his finger upwards until he found the nub he'd been searching for. Harry jolted, his eyes going wide and his back arching up off the bed as Draco stroked over his prostate.

"Oh," Harry sighed, his hips beginning to undulate down onto Draco's finger, as if to encourage more of the pleasurable stroking. "It's never felt like that before."

"It's difficult to get the angle right on one's own," Draco mused. Of course, there were spells one could use to help with that—Draco had got through many a dry spell with an enchanted dildo or two—but there was something about being fingered that had always really done it for Draco, and it seemed Harry felt the same. "How are you feeling? Ready for another?"

Harry moaned and nodded, spreading his legs wider just to make his desire perfectly clear. Draco huffed a laugh, and then pressed his pointer finger in alongside his middle. He watched Harry's face keenly as he did so, wanting to ensure the discomfort of the additional stretch didn't morph into outright pain. Harry winced and bit his lip, but after a moment he was shifting down again against Draco's fingers, encouraging Draco to start finger-fucking him once more.

Draco spent ages working him open, pressing and twisting and petting his fingers inside until Harry's arse was dripping lube, the muscle soft and pliant. Harry let out small, needly little groans with each press, every line of his body begging Draco to just take him already. His cock was fully hard again and dripping precome along the defined ridges of his stomach, and Draco couldn't stop himself from getting another taste, leaning in to lick a swath along Harry's lower belly. Harry squirmed and moaned, a hand shooting out to clutch at Draco's hair, not rough or pulling, but firm, as if he needed some sort of tether.

"Come on, Draco," Harry groaned. "I'm fucking ready. I mean, you've got a nice cock, but it's not a monster or anything."

Draco snorted and, just for that, slid his fingers unceremoniously out of Harry's arse, watching as Harry frowned and twitched at the sudden emptiness. Draco wrapped a slick hand around his cock, and Harry's gaze dropped down to watch as he licked his lips.

"Don't worry, I'm going to give you what you want," Draco murmured, his voice rough. "But first…" He leaned down to give Harry another kiss, before lying down next to Harry on the bed and patting his thigh. "Why don't you get on top."

Harry's eyes flashed with heat and challenge as he climbed onto Draco's lap, grinding his arse teasingly back against Draco's throbbing erection.

"Going to make me do all the work, hmm?"

"Mostly I just thought it'd be easier for your first time if you were on top and could control the pace." Draco grinned. "Letting you do all the work is just a bonus."

Harry snorted and, as Draco had hoped, some of the nervous tension leached from his frame. "Okay then, how do we do this?"

"Kneel up," Draco replied, ensuring his tone was more suggestion than command. Harry did so, hard prick bobbing against Draco's stomach.

Draco slid his left hand up along Harry's thigh before reaching down with his right and taking hold of his cock, shuddering at the pleasant pressure. He pressed himself against Harry's arse, sliding the head up and down his cleft before tapping gently against his wet hole. Harry's eyes went black with desire, his breath speeding up as Draco teased him.

"So I just…" Harry trailed off as he pressed softly down against Draco's cock in tacit question, his rim fluttering around the tip.

"Yeah," Draco replied hoarsely. "Whenever you're ready. Take it as slowly as you need to."

Harry nodded. Swallowed. Licked his lips. And then the pressure against Draco's prick increased, and Harry's arse slowly parted to let him in as Harry began to ease himself down. The feeling was incredible, somehow more intense than anything Draco had ever felt before, even when Harry had to pause with just the head of Draco's cock inside him, his eyes scrunched shut as he worked through the stretch. Draco wanted nothing more than to thrust and take, but he forced himself to lay still, letting Harry adjust and decide for himself if he wanted to continue. Taking a cock was different from taking somebody's fingers, and it wasn't for everybody. There was plenty more they could get up to instead if Harry decided it was too much, and when Harry's thighs began to tremble with the strain of holding himself still for so long, Draco opened his mouth to say as much. But before he had a chance to utter a word, Harry's expression seemed to clear, and he began to rock his arse back against Draco, each gentle movement pressing a little more of Draco inside, until at last, he was buried to the hilt, Harry's arse settled in the v of Draco's hips.

"Fuck," Harry said on an exhale, his palms braced on Draco's chest as he panted. "Fuck."

"Doing all right?"

Harry shot him a look, all annoyed defiance. "I'm fine. It's just intense."

Draco did his best to look sincere, an expression that did not feel particularly natural on his face given how much of his life he'd spent attempting to mask his emotions. "I know. There's no rush."

"What if I want to rush?" Harry asked, wincing as he clenched around Draco's cock.

"You don't," Draco replied dryly. "That kind of thing only ends well in fiction."

"Yeah, well—" Harry paused, digging the pads of his fingers into Draco's pecs as he began to shift his hips, testing and experimenting with what felt good. "Maybe not rush, but I think…" He trailed off as he eased himself slowly up Draco's shaft until just the tip was left inside. Harry waited for a moment at the top before sinking back down again in a slow, teasing glide that made a hungry growl rumble through Draco's chest.

Harry grinned at that, clearly pleased at the effect he was having on Draco as he did it again and again. He seemed to be enjoying himself now that the sting had apparently faded, and his cock—which had softened somewhat at the beginning—was already hard and leaking once more. But he wasn't going wild, not the way he had when Draco had been fingering him.

"Try leaning back a little," Draco recommended on the next upstroke.

Harry gave him a slightly inquisitive look, but did as suggested, bracing a hand behind himself on Draco's thigh and tilting back as he fucked himself down onto Draco's cock. This time when he sat back down, a shocked moan escaped his throat as his eyelashes fluttered with pleasure.

"There it is," Draco said with satisfaction. "I thought that might do the trick."

"Fuck," Harry panted. "Fuck, that feels good."

Harry began to bounce with greater urgency, clearly eager to chase the feeling now that he'd found the angle that made him sing. Draco was just along for the ride, letting Harry take his pleasure from Draco's body and cataloguing every micro-expression of euphoria that crossed Harry's face. He was gorgeous, more beautiful in bliss than Draco could have even imagined.

Melancholy threatened to sneak its way in at the thought that Draco would soon have to give this up, that after tonight he'd never again have the singular gratification of making Harry Potter come. Draco forced the thought aside—he was leaving, there was no escaping that fact, and if all he would have of Harry after tonight were the memories of these moments, Draco wasn't going to taint them with preemptive desolation. There was no need to mourn the loss of Harry just yet, not when he was still warm and present and very much alive, writhing on Draco's cock.

Every time Harry sat back down it sent his thick prick bobbing, dripping and smearing precome all along Draco's stomach. It was clear that Harry was close to the edge, his movements growing increasingly fast and erratic as frustrated whines slipped past his lips. Braced as he was using his hands for leverage to keep the perfect angle, he couldn't wank himself off. Draco quite liked the thought of making Harry come with just his cock, but that was a long shot for most people, even when it wasn't their first time, so Draco reached forward and wrapped a hand around Harry's prick.

Harry groaned, a low, shocked sound of pleasure that echoed throughout the room as Harry's hips stuttered, momentarily losing his easy rhythm before picking it back up, this time even more frantic than before. Draco hadn't yet had time enough to discover exactly how Harry best liked to be touched: if he preferred a hard or soft grip, or if there was a particular motion or pace that really set him off. But Harry was a nineteen-year-old bloke who'd already been fairly close to coming even before Draco had got his hand around him, so Draco figured any particular finesse wouldn't exactly be required this go-around. Instead, he fell back on an old stand-by, wanking Harry firm and fast, his fist gliding over Harry's erection as Harry continued grinding back on Draco's cock.

It didn't take long for Harry to come a second time, his arse squeezing Draco's dick as he erupted onto Draco's chest, streaks of white coating Draco's skin. His chest heaved as he panted in the aftermath, little shivers of pleasure trembling through him as Draco milked the last of his come from his cock. A large part of Draco just wanted to grab hold of Harry's hips and fuck up into him until Draco found his own release, but he found watching Harry shudder in the blissful aftermath of his orgasm to be suitably distacting.

Harry wriggled on Draco's lap, his eyes opening to look down at Draco with heavy-lidded satisfaction. "Did you…"

Draco shook his head, and Harry frowned. "Oh, should I—" He shifted back more firmly onto Draco's cock and winced at the pressure. Harry's frown deepened, disappointment furrowing his brow.

"A lot of men are really sensitive after they come," Draco said gently. "Why don't you…" He urged Harry up onto his knees and off Draco's cock. Harry's nose wrinkled as Draco finally slipped free, and Draco gave him a commiserating smile, knowing full well how strange that sudden feeling of emptiness could be. With a gentle nudge, he encouraged Harry to sit back on Draco's thighs so that Draco could grab hold of his almost painfully hard cock.

"Oh," Harry breathed, watching in apparent fascination as Draco began to wank himself off.

Draco knew it wouldn't take much, not after the mind-blowing sex he and Harry had just had. He could still hear the alluring sounds Harry had made while he was bouncing on Draco's cock, the look of utter abandon on his face, the feeling of him, so hot and slick and tight. Draco looked up and met Harry's burning gaze, full of want and desire and a deeper, fonder feeling that Draco refused to name or explore.

"Draco," Harry whispered, rough with emotion, and that was it. Draco came, adding to the mess on his stomach, his come mixing with Harry's on his skin.

"Fuck, that was hot," Harry breathed as Draco panted. Harry reached out and swiped a finger through the come pooling on Draco's navel, then brought it up to his mouth for a taste. His head tilted consideringly as Draco's spent cock twitched feebly in appreciation. "Not my favourite, but not terrible," Harry finally declared. Draco snorted.

He was beginning to feel a bit manky, so he cast a quick Cleaning Spell over them both, feeling ridiculously pleased by the crooked smile Harry tossed his way in response. Harry slid off his lap to lie down at Draco's side, wincing slightly at the movement.

"How are you feeling?" Draco asked solicitously. "I can cast a small Healing Charm if you're too sore."

"No, I'm fine," Harry said with a shake of his head. "A bit tender, but I don't mind." He bit his lip and looked at Draco's chest, running his fingers along Draco's unblemished skin, where Sectumsempra scars would have been if Severus hadn't been so skilled in his healing. "Magic can perform such incredible feats, can heal you up as if you're brand new, as if nothing happened at all," Harry continued softly. "But there are some things that are worth feeling… some choices that are worth remembering."

Draco understood Harry perfectly. He glanced down at his forearm, where twenty years had faded the Dark Mark on his skin to a dull grey. As much as he hated the sight of it, there was a reason why he'd never attempted to remove it or cover it up. He needed that Mark, needed that constant reminder of all the awful, horrible choices he'd made as a child, and the bigoted ideology that he'd let shape and define him. It was an unavoidable consequence etched right on his skin, reinforcing his vow to never let himself become that person again, to do better, to be better.

There were some things magic shouldn't erase.

"Okay," Draco replied softly. "But if it becomes painful, let me know."

"I will," Harry promised. He shifted to look into Draco's eyes, and the air between them grew heavy with all the things they'd yet to discuss, Draco's impending departure a great shadow flickering along the edges of the bright little bubble they'd created here, just the two of them. Draco knew they should talk now that their lust had been slaked. It would be smart to start figuring out the particulars of Draco's return home.

Harry seemed to agree.

"Draco," he began, his tone heavy. "We should—"

Draco leaned forward and kissed Harry quiet, running his tongue along the seam of Harry's lips. Yes, maybe they should talk about their plans, the future, the fact that he and Harry didn't have a future, but Draco found he couldn't bear it, not yet. They only had this one night together, after all.

"Tomorrow," Draco said against Harry's lips. "That can all wait until tomorrow."

⏳ - ⏳ - ⏳

Draco's—or rather, Mr Fitzgibbon's—office, looked exactly the same as it had the last time Draco had been here. Had it really been less than a month since that fateful day? It seemed impossible, somehow, that so little time had passed since his arrival in the past. His feelings for Harry certainly felt much stronger than a one-month dalliance would generally garner but, then again, he'd known Harry for so much longer than that, hadn't he? Just because they'd never been friends—had been rather the opposite for a not-insignificant-amount of their relationship—it didn't mean they hadn't known each other. There had been times that Draco had thought that Potter knew him better than almost anybody else, in fact. His feelings for Potter had always been intense—he supposed it wasn't so far-fetched that the intensity would lend itself towards more positive feelings as well as the negative ones.

"I confirmed with the cafeteria this morning that they're serving Shepherd's Pie today. It's Fitzgibbon's favourite, and he always goes back for seconds and takes his time, which means you should have at least a full hour before he returns from lunch," Harry said, closing the door behind them. "Do you need help setting anything up?"

Draco shook his head as he withdrew a satchel from beneath his stiff Unspeakables robes—had they always been this uncomfortable, or was it just the fact that he hadn't gone a month without wearing them since he'd started his work at the Ministry? From within the satchel, he began to carefully extract the various bits of Time Turner that Harry had liberated from the Department of Mysteries vault, laying them out on a cleared space of desk.

"No, I should do this part myself." Draco paused and turned towards Harry, steeling his spine. "In fact, I think it's time for us to say goodbye. You shouldn't be here when I cast the spell."

Harry's expression turned mulish. "I'm not leaving you here alone! What if something goes wrong?"

"It's not just for your safety," Draco explained. "I need to recreate the conditions of my departure as closely as possible, and I was alone in this office when it happened. The proximity of you and your magical signature to such a delicate operation could completely change the outcome. Your very presence could be dangerous for us both."

Harry frowned, but eventually nodded, clearly unable to find any holes in Draco's logic. Still, he braced himself as if preparing for a fight, and Draco automatically tensed in response as Harry said:

"All right, then. So, is this part where you try and Obliviate me?"

Draco blinked and stared at Harry with wide eyes, taking in Harry's hard, determined expression, the proximity of his hand to his wand holster. Hadn't Draco spent the past month telling himself not to underestimate Harry's intelligence and observational skills? Of course Harry would jump to the very same conclusion that Draco had—that Harry knew too much.

"Can you give me a good reason why I shouldn't?" Draco asked, his tone measured. Deep down, he hoped Harry could.

"You mean besides the fact that stealing my memories against my will is a horrible violation?"

Draco winced, his stomach writhing. That very fact had been something Draco had been grappling with ever since he realised what would likely have to be done. After all his claims that he was a better person than he'd been as a child, here he was, planning on intruding into the mind of somebody he lo—cared for deeply. It was abhorrent, and the thought of Harry not remembering Draco and what they shared together made his heart ache. But it wasn't just about him and his own selfish wants and desires, or even just about Harry. This was about the fabric of their universe, about potentially altering their future, or at least the future of Harry in this particular timeline—perhaps Sir Graham Woolsey's hypothesis was correct and Draco had already changed the past so much as to have caused a universe split. He knew when he was, but he couldn't be entirely sure of where. That teensy bit of possibility alone was enough to make Draco consider staying his hand when it came to Obliviation, but was mere hope enough?

"Yes," Draco said firmly, hating himself a little. "Besides that."

Strangely, Harry's gaze appeared to soften, as if he understood what it was costing Draco to go through with something he believed to be necessary, even though it killed him to do it.

"You've left a lot of loose ends here," Harry said, his voice gentle, but firm—he'd clearly given this a lot of thought. "Loose ends you'll need me to clean up, if you don't want to start an investigation. Do you think Fitzgibbon isn't going to notice all the bits of Time Turner strewn about his desk when he finishes with his Shepherd's Pie? I doubt they'll just disappear when you do. Not to mention all the books on Time Magic in my flat that I still need to return. You think I won't start asking questions about a bunch of not-quite-legally obtained materials in my flat and a month's worth of missing memories?" He shook his head, crossing his arms as he leaned back against the wall near a Celestina poster who seemed absolutely delighted by Potter's proximity.

"I don't know if you're close enough to the Hermione in your world to know what she went through with her parents after the war," Harry continued, "but let's just say if your speciality is Time Magic, hers is Memory Magic. Even if you do Obliviate me, there's every chance it won't stick, not completely, not for good. You might as well not bother and let me help ensure that nobody besides me find out you were ever here."

"And you can keep that secret?" Draco asked, already half-convinced, but needing to do his due diligence. "From your friends? Forever?"

Harry nodded, his jaw set stubbornly. "I've got plenty of practise keeping secrets, even from them. I know how important this is. It's the smart thing to do, and also…" He trailed off, his shuttered expression opening up, displaying some of the longing they'd both begun to lock away the second they'd left Italy. Draco's breath caught. "I'm already losing you," Harry said, looking furious at himself when his voice cracked. "I don't want to forget you, too."

Draco stepped forward and cupped Harry's cheek, rubbing a thumb across his chin, rasping against the whisper of stubble beginning to come in—he must not have shaved this morning in their haste to sneak Draco into the Ministry. Draco could feel himself giving in, had, in fact, known he'd give in the second Harry had confronted him about the Obliviation. Draco didn't want to take Harry's memories any more than Harry wanted to lose them. Draco wasn't sure if he'd have ever been able to go through with it, which was proof enough, really, that Sir Graham Woolsey was right after all. Because the Potter in his world hadn't ever shown any indication that he'd had a whirlwind affair with an older Draco Malfoy from the future in his youth.

Their timelines must have already deviated.

"But you'll have to," Draco said, his voice soft to keep it from breaking. "If I don't take your memories, you'll still need to forget me." Harry opened his mouth to interrupt, and Draco slid his thumb over his lips to shush him. "I mean it, Harry. You need to move on and live your life. And, most importantly, you can't go and seek me out."

Harry remained silent, but his eyes blazed defiantly. Draco sighed. He might have caused a fracture in their timeline, but that fracture would have only just happened, which meant that all the events in Draco's life that had shaped his nineteen-year-old self wouldn't have changed.

"The man I am today… it took me twenty years to get here, Harry. It didn't happen overnight. The Draco in your world, nineteen-year-old Draco… he still has a lot of work to do. He's in survival mode, angry and hurting and trying to figure out who the hell he is after everything he thought he understood about the world and his place in it spectacularly exploded." Draco sighed, full of shame and pity for the boy he'd been, the one who'd wanted to change, but had taken years to figure out how. "Even if you don't mean to, you'll expect him to be better than he's capable of right now, and it won't be fair, not to either of you."

"But he's you," Harry protested.

"He's not," Draco countered with a hard look. "Not yet, at least. And the person I became, the one standing in front of you… I got there without Harry Potter's intervention." Harry made as if to interrupt once more—terrible manners—and Draco quelled him with a single look. "I'm not saying it couldn't or wouldn't have happened if we'd been… friends, but I can't be sure." He frowned; thinking on the person he'd been in his youth was never a particularly comfortable experience, and, strangely, ruminating on his state in the few years just after the war was actually worse than contemplating himself as he'd been before and during the war, when he'd made the bulk of his terrible choices. It had taken him a good long while to get over his anger and inexcusably selfish self-pity and finally get to a point where he could make real and lasting change within. Those first few years… they had not been pretty.

Choosing his words with care, Draco continued explaining. "I worry that any kind of relationship between us now, even just friendship, would be detrimental to the progress I eventually made. With your fame, your influence and notoriety…" Draco grimaced. "If I could have made things easier for myself back then, I don't think I would have been strong enough not to take advantage. I want your Draco to have a chance to learn from his mistakes and grow, the way that I did, which means he can't have access to shortcuts or an ability to take the easy way out. Don't you want that for him, too?"

Harry's eyes welled with tears—sadness or frustration, Draco couldn't be sure—and he looked away, his expression furious as he blinked rapidly. "He's not my Draco."

"I thought we were the same?" Draco said quietly, his voice firm, but not unkind. He understood Harry's distress, but neither of them could be selfish with this. Draco wanted Harry, and he felt certain his younger self could quickly be persuaded of Harry's many charms. There was something appealing in the thought of getting to have Harry so much sooner in life, but there were too many things they'd both be giving up if Harry got it in his head to pursue Draco now. Marriages, children, entire lives—happy, mostly fulfilling lives—that hadn't much involved one another at all. It was better for Harry to be clear on that now, especially because Draco had not been lying—nineteen-year-old Draco was not in a good place, and any relationship that might develop between him and Harry was bound to be unhealthy for them both. Draco just hadn't been capable of anything else back then. Who knew what Draco's presence here might have changed for the inhabitants of this timeline—if this Harry and Draco would follow the same path as him and Potter—but Draco knew enough to warn Harry off of reconnecting with Draco too soon. The inevitable disaster would hurt them both, and Draco didn't want to hurt Harry, not in any incarnation.

Harry growled. "Okay, fine. I understand," he grumbled, agitated, but accepting. "It sucks, but I get it. I'll leave you—him—alone." He turned to meet Draco's gaze, his eyes blazing. "But the same doesn't go for you!"

Draco's brow furrowed. "What?"

"I know you and I aren't close back where you're from, but you don't have the same restrictions that I do," Harry explained. "I'm not saying we should be together or anything, but…" He trailed off, his expression almost hopeful as he stared into Draco's eyes. "We could be friends. You, this person you've become… you're worth knowing, Draco. Promise me you'll reach out to… me? If I'm forbidden from contacting the Draco in my world, I'd like to know there's a Harry somewhere that gets to have you in his life."

Draco's throat grew tight, and he jerked his head in a nod, not trusting himself to speak. It was strange, thinking about approaching a fully-grown Potter now that he knew what Harry looked like when he came. He wasn't sure if he'd be able to do it, make friends with Potter without constantly comparing him to his younger self, the boy Draco was half in love with. That wouldn't be any more fair than Harry expecting Draco's younger self to be like him. But he also knew that it would be hard to stay away, and here Harry was, offering him the perfect excuse not to.

"Okay, I promise," Draco finally said, his voice hoarse. He glanced over at the clock in the corner and frowned. "In the meantime, I really do need to set things up, which means you need to leave."

"Yeah," Harry agreed sadly. And then he wrapped his arms around Draco's neck, pressed up onto the balls of his feet, and kissed Draco with everything he had, kissed him, in fact, like it was the last kiss they'd ever share. Draco kissed him back just as deeply, crushing Harry's body against his own, relishing the feeling of Harry in his arms one last time.

"Goodbye, Draco," Harry whispered against his lips as he broke off the kiss. "Have a safe trip."

Draco quirked a small smile and stepped back, releasing Harry from his grip.

"Goodbye, Harry. Be happy."

Tears welled in Harry's eyes, and Draco felt his own eyes begin to prickle as his throat started to close with emotion. Harry nodded and flashed a watery smile.

"I'll stay outside the room and make sure you're not disturbed." He looked down at his watch. "You've got a half-hour and then I'll need to come back in to collect the evidence before Fitzgibbon returns. Good luck."

With that, Harry turned on his heels and scurried out of the room. Draco stared after him for a long moment, blinking his eyes against the threat of tears. This was not the time to get emotional. He had work to do.

He could break down all he wanted once he returned home.

⏳ - ⏳ - ⏳

The first thing Draco noticed when he opened his eyes was the blessed absence of Celstina Warbeck. That wasn't quite enough evidence on its own, so he looked down at the desk in front of him, his gaze instinctively seeking out the framed photograph on the corner of his desk, the one of him chasing a laughing four-year-old Scorpius across the Manor lawn. Draco slumped in relief as he watched the loop of young Scorpius shrieking merrily, Draco's throat constricting at the sight.

He hadn't realised until this moment just how frightened he'd been that he wouldn't make it back to his own timeline. Already the loss of Harry was a throbbing ache beneath his skin, but watching his photo self scoop up Scorpius and swing him around in the air, he knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be. The sudden desire to see his son in person, to hold him in his arms, if only for a moment—teenaged Scorpius was less fond of hugging his father than four-year-old Scorpius had been—hit him with all the force of a rampaging Bludger. Draco would need to owl Headmistress McGonagall and see if something could be arranged.

Nervously, Draco glanced at the calendar propped up on his desk, noting that the date displayed was the same as when he'd left—September 15. That was a good sign. It meant that he hadn't managed to somehow undershot his place in time. Of course, he might have overshot it—if he'd been missing, he doubted anybody would be sneaking into his office to goad the calendar into displaying the next date—it was supposed to magically change dates on its own, but the damned thing seemed to have lost its initiative sometime in June, causing Draco to have to cajole it every morning into showing the correct day. Still, even if he had overshot, it couldn't have been by much, seeing as his office looked precisely the same as he'd left it, right down to the half-drunk cup of tea on his desk. The fact that the tea hadn't yet begun to sprout any suspicious growths supported Draco's hypothesis that, essentially, no time had passed in his world since his not-so-little adventure.

He'd done it then. Despite his and Harry's painstaking research in recreating the conditions that had sent him into the past in the first place, and his old professor's confirmation that the theory was sound, deep down, Draco had not been altogether convinced that the scheme would actually work. Now that it had, Draco found himself strangely at a loss as to what he should do next. He'd not considered anything at all for the past month beyond the actual getting back home part, and the thought of just carrying on with his day as usual seemed utterly impossible after what he'd just been through.

And so, Draco did something he'd only ever done once before, on the day Scorpius decided to come squalling into the world a full week ahead of schedule—Draco left work early.

It wasn't that Draco loved his job so much that he couldn't stand to be away from it, though he did enjoy his work. But he'd spent the first decade or so of his employment being the model worker, doing his very best to prove himself trustworthy and dedicated; given that he was both a former Death Eater and a Malfoy, it was quite the uphill battle. By the time he had garnered sufficient respect throughout the Ministry, he and Astoria were already divorced and Scorpius was nine months of the year at Hogwarts, and there'd not been much of a reason to duck out early just to wander around his empty flat alone. But if ever there was a decent excuse to take his leave, Draco figured mental fatigue due to time travel ought to do it. If one thought the time zone exhaustion that came along with regular travel was bad, imagine what travelling through time itself would do to a person?

Draco's flat, much like his office, appeared unchanged, and some more of the tension Draco hadn't even realised he'd been holding began to slowly leech from his muscles. He made his way to the stylish drink cart in the corner of the study and poured himself a fingers-worth of Odgen's, paused, and then poured himself another finger for good measure before making his way over to the sofa and plopping unceremoniously down amongst the pillows.

He sighed, settling in against the cushion's perfect balance between soft and firm, allowing himself to relish the comfort he'd so frequently taken for granted. Weeks of sitting on Harry's abysmal excuse for a sofa had reminded Draco just how much he enjoyed the creature-comforts of his flat. It might have been significantly more modest than the Manor he grew up in, but he'd certainly spared no expense in the furnishings. To say nothing of his bed which, Draco realised with a shiver of delight, he would get to sleep on that very night! The prospect of waking up in the morning without a crick in his neck and a twinge in his back was nearly worth travelling back home for all on its own. Of course, the fact that his magnificently comfortable bed would not contain Harry did rather put a damper on Draco's enthusiasm.

Harry.

Now that Draco had thought of Harry, thought of the loss of him, Draco couldn't seem to stop. He recollected Harry's furrowed brow as he bent over a textbook researching spell work, remembered the Italian sun turning Harry's skin golden as he looked at the sights around him in wonder, recalled the silken heat of him wrapped around Draco's cock, the rapturous sounds he'd released when Draco made him come. Draco thought about their last moments together, that incendiary kiss that Draco knew he wouldn't ever forget, not for as long as he lived, and the final promise Harry had managed to extract from him before they parted ways. It had been easy to make that promise, then, when Draco hadn't even been sure if he'd succeed, or if he'd live through the experiment at all. Easy to make when Harry was looking at him with blazing eyes and a passion so fierce Draco would have promised him anything, everything, to ensure that fire wouldn't dim.

Now that Draco was back home though, faced with the reality of his life, the reality of his relationship with Potter, not Harry, Draco wasn't as confident. Because this Potter, though he'd certainly seemed to have lost his animosity towards Draco, hadn't ever really been anything near friendly towards him. The closest he'd come had been the last time they'd properly spoken, at Draco's birthday party, when Potter had got absolutely bladdered. What was it he'd been blabbering on about? Something about how he'd been waiting for so long, and how he was starting to wonder if it had all just been a dream.

Draco went to take a sip of his whisky and froze with the glass halfway to his lips.

Potter had always watched him, ever since Hogwarts, though when Draco started his work at the Ministry, he had noticed that the looks seemed less hostile and more considering than Draco had expected. Potter hadn't ever approached him, and their paths had rarely crossed directly, but Draco had always thought that Potter's lack of antagonism seemed rather sudden and strange, particularly when the rest of the world, including Potter's Gryffindor mates, had taken years and years before they no longer sneered when they stumbled across Draco. Lacking a better explanation for Potter's change of heart, Draco thought he must have been doing something right with his effort to become a better person, if Saint Potter seemed to be picking up on it and willing to give Draco the benefit of the doubt. Things had passed in much the same manner for years, well over a decade, but after Draco's birthday party this past summer, Draco had felt that the quality of Potter's gazes had changed yet again, grown watchful and expectant, impatient. At the time, Draco had suspected Potter was feeling embarrassed about practically sobbing on Draco's shoulder, a man he barely knew and could only just seem to stand, and that perhaps Potter was a little worried that he might have let something untoward slip. And perhaps he had. Draco just hadn't realised it at the time.

When Draco had joined the Department of Mysteries after his time at the university in Rome, Potter had already begun his work in the Department of Research in Innovative Spells and Charms, another choice that had always struck Draco as unexpected. How did one such as Potter even get into such a field? When would Potter have realised an interest and talent in researching obscure spells and determining ways to update and modify them for new and improved purposes? Draco always supposed it was something to do with the covert work Potter had done during the war, but now there was a different alternative: the work that Draco himself had assigned to Potter as part of Draco's quest to return home. He'd given Potter that job because of his insider knowledge as to Potter's future career, certain that Potter would be able to handle the assignment, even if he'd not yet acquired all the skills he possessed in Draco's timeline.

The moment Draco had decided not to Obliviate Harry, he'd thought that was the answer to his question in regards to whether or not changing the past necessarily led to alternate timelines. Because the Potter in this world had never indicated even the slightest sign of having had an encounter with a Draco Malfoy from the future when he was nineteen years old.

Except.

Maybe he had.

Maybe Draco just hadn't been paying attention. Maybe he'd not had enough of the facts to recognise the signs for what they were.

Or maybe Draco was seeing something that wasn't there at all, reading secret motives into ordinary actions because he desperately wanted it to be true. It wouldn't be the first time he'd deluded himself, but it might very well be the most devastating.

Well, there was nothing for it. Devastating or not, Draco wouldn't be able to rest tonight—not even on his most deliciously comfortable bed—until he knew the truth, one way or another.

Draco stood and threw back the rest of the whisky, silently apologising to the expensive bottle for not properly savouring it slowly as was its due. Unfortunately, he was urgently required elsewhere.

He had a promise to keep.

⏳ - ⏳ - ⏳

Draco must have been lost in thought for longer than he'd realised, as the sun had already set by the time he Apparated onto the street where Potter lived. This was a good thing, as Draco hadn't even bothered checking the time before dashing off, and for all he knew, Potter might have still be at work. Hell, he might still be at work anyway—he was well-known for working late—or out and about with one of his many friends. Doubt began to pick at Draco's resolve, urging him to turn around and think things through, take a subtler approach instead of barging right into things like some kind of brash Gryffindor.

Every self-preservation instinct he had was screaming at him to let this go, that even if Potter was the same Harry that Draco had fallen for, it didn't mean anything had changed. Twenty years would have passed for Harry, time enough, as Draco knew full-well, to become a completely different person.

But Draco had to know. Whatever the outcome was, it would be better than uncertainty. Besides, he'd promised Harry that he'd reach out to Potter, extend a hand of friendship once more—hopefully this time with better results. Even if the two weren't the same, Draco thought some bit of Harry would be better than nothing at all.

Slowly, he walked up to the front door, squared his shoulders, and knocked.

There was a beat of silence, and then the faint sounds of somebody moving about inside, making their way towards the door. Draco held his breath, doing his best to stand tall and project a confidence he didn't feel as the door swung open.

Harry Potter stood in the doorway, golden light spilling out around him and into the dark night. He was dressed comfortably in jeans and a soft-looking emerald jumper, and Draco's throat tightened at the sight. Draco had always thought Harry had grown into a rather handsome man, but now all he could see were the similarities to the boy he'd once been. All Draco could see was Harry. He was older, of course he was, skin puckering a bit around his eyes, his lines of his face more defined, his expression less open than it had been when he was young. But he was still Harry, undoubtedly so, and, embarrassingly, Draco felt his body react to his presence just as keenly as it had to his nineteen-year-old counterpart. He gave himself a rather firm internal scolding—that was not what he was here for!—and gave a cautious smile.

Potter's eyes widened as he took in Draco's presence on his stoop, his brow furrowing with confusion before some emotion stole across his expression. An emotion that looked a hell of a lot like hope. Draco's heart began to race.

"Hello, Harry," Draco said, unable to come up with anything more elegant when faced with the reality of a thirty-nine-year-old Potter for the first time since falling for Harry. He'd never called this Potter by his first name, however, which appeared to be enough.

Potter—Harry's—face broke out into a broad, delighted grin, that same crooked smile he'd bestowed on Draco in a sunny Italian square when he was nineteen years old.

"It's about time," Harry said, still grinning as he stepped aside and gestured Draco inside his home. "I've been waiting."

La fine.