Ron stumbled out of his room in the old, creaky house, scratching at his side blearily, the narrow stairs complaining at every step; he passed the sitting room, blinking at the thin morning light streaming through the narrow windows. An indefinable mound was curled up on the settee; that would be Seamus, snoring away. They'd all gone drinking the night before and instead of staggering home, Seamus had commandeered the lumpy sofa.
Harry was already up; Ron could smell breakfast wafting from the kitchen and he quickened his pace, yawning widely as he pushed open the double-swinging door. His mouth remained open long after his yawn was done, for Harry was at the cooker, poking at the bacon and sausages with a long fork, as naked as the day he was born. Well, not fully naked; he had some chequered cloth wrapped around his waist, a knot firm against a bare hip, but it was not quite enough.
"Er," Ron ventured, sitting at the small wooden table and blinking. "Good morning?"
"Yeah, not really," Harry snapped, and flipped the eggs viciously. "Not good morning at all." He glared at Ron, who scratched innocently at his stubble, lips folded in. "Don't dare laugh."
"Never." Ron snickered anyway, summoning the coffee-pot and his chipped mug. "You need to stop losing bets to the Ferret," he advised, pouring out the dark, aromatic liquid and blowing lovingly over the surface of it. How they had allowed Draco Malfoy to share a house with them was a complete mystery to Ron. Dean was an Auror in training as well, just as they were, and so was Michael Corner. Surprisingly, those two were fairly civil to each other and when they'd found this old Wizarding house for let close to the Ministry, Ron had dragged Harry out of number Twelve Grimmauld Place, leaving Tonks and Professor Lupin to lead their newlywed life there.
Michael Corner, poor sod, was seeing Pansy Parkinson now; and from there, Malfoy managed invade the house and take over the fifth room when they had been looking for another house-mate. Snake-like, that one was. A true Slytherin.
"You're bloody rich!" Ron had argued, while Harry had looked on in curiosity as Malfoy orchestrated the moving of his numerous trunks into the room. "I'll just bet your fancy suite at that rotting Manor is bigger than this entire house. Why are you even here?"
"It is bigger," Malfoy had sniffed. "By far. But Mother seems to think I need to learn the plebeian lifestyle and has thrown me out for now. Never mind, young Weasel. I'll need to learn how my subordinates live so I may supervise them better in the future."
"Leave it, Ron," Harry had said mildly as Ron had sputtered in outrage. "He kept out of our way during the war. We can keep out of his now, easy."
"Sure about that, Potter?" Malfoy's eyes had gone dark with challenge and Harry had narrowed his eyes at him before hauling a still-ranting Ron out of the room.
Speak of the devil; Malfoy now strode into the kitchen, already fully dressed in swirling dark green robes for his job at the International Magical Office of Law. He stopped short, staring at Harry. Ron could have sworn that those grey eyes raked quickly, almost hungrily, over Harry's bare back, but that was immediately encompassed by a smug sneer. Ron decided he had seen wrong anyway and sipped at his coffee, waiting for the fireworks.
"Well, well." Malfoy laughed nastily. "I was quite wrong to think you'd never do it."
"I'm a Gryffindor, you've forgotten that," Harry returned shortly, turning his head to glower at Malfoy over his shoulder. "I lost a bet. It’s only my fault that I was wagering with you."
"Of course," Malfoy said snidely, pouring tea for himself as he took a seat. "But Potter, I told you to cook breakfast naked."
"Nope," Harry countered, walking over to the table and setting the platters on the worn surface. "You said, and I quote: 'Cook breakfast without any clothes on.' This," he pointed at his red-and-white cloth, "is not any item of clothing, as far as I'm concerned." Harry gave him a credible smirk and turned away to get the juice... and there it was again! Ron was sure of it now: Malfoy's eyes had skittered down to Harry's legs, which were well-formed and surprisingly long for the man who was the shortest in the house. Well... to give Harry some credit, he was of an average height; the rest of them just towered over him. Harry was now going up on his toes, bracing one hand on the counter and reaching up with the other to snag a glass pitcher off a high shelf; his little towel threatened to slip down his hips. Malfoy blinked rapidly.
"Oh my God," Ron whispered in horror and Malfoy's eyes snapped to him, colour suffusing his cheeks. He got up, steadfastly not looking at Harry at all as he swept out of the kitchen with his tea. Ron could hear a muffled yell as Seamus was most likely turned out of the sofa.
"Hey!" Harry set down the pitcher on the table, hard. "What the... Malfoy! Come have your bloody breakfast!"
"You sound like Mum," Ron said, serving himself. Malfoy looking at Harry like that had nearly put him off his breakfast. Nearly, but not quite. Ron didn't think he'd tell Harry anyway; more likely, his own delicate nerves wouldn't take the strain. The door that led to the small backyard opened suddenly and Hermione stood there with her arms full of Wizarding law tomes, staring pointedly at Harry's towel.
"I think you've forgotten the rest of your skirt," she stated, and ducked, laughing as Harry threw toast at her head.
"Please, please put my eyes out," Ron begged Michael as Malfoy blithely drizzled dressing over his vegetables. Malfoy was starkers at the table, and he didn't even have on a chequered cloth like Harry had the other morning. Oh, not so for their resident Slytherin. Harry had been very careful with the wording.
"So," Harry had said slowly as they had sat in their regular booth last night, he and Malfoy sitting across from each other as Harry's elbow had dug into Ron's side and Dean's legs sprawled out into the narrow walking area. "You're telling me that I can't go over there and chat that girl up." Michael, sitting in the middle of the booth, groaned.
"That is what I'm saying, Potter." Malfoy had tossed his head back, looking at Harry with sly amusement through half-lidded eyes. "You're not quite the pinnacle of social interaction. I doubt you're even interested in women."
Ron had laughed snidely in his Butterbeer; Malfoy had the nerve to say that, didn't he?
"You might be right." Harry's eyes gleamed green as they lounged in the smoky, dimly-lit pub. "But we're not exactly in Hogwarts anymore, Malfoy. I won't stumble over myself, mind."
"Won't you? I wager that you can't go over there and flirt with that lovely young lady effectively."
"Fine," Harry said promptly. "Loser has to eat dinner completely naked tomorrow. No clothes, cloths, nothing of the like."
"Oh, please," Dean had complained, rolling his eyes. "You two are just--"
"Deal." Malfoy looked like he was ready to laugh. "But, you haven't heard the rest of my terms. You'll go over there, alright, but not as yourself."
Harry's brow creased into a frown. Malfoy did laugh then.
"Oh no, not for you. One look at our Wizarding Hero and her legs will be spread faster than you can say 'how do you do.'"
"Classy, Malfoy," Michael had muttered primly. "Seriously, that's truly genteel."
"A glamour," Malfoy continued, ignoring Michael. "An ordinary wizard, looking to pick up a lovely witch."
Harry's lips had thinned and he had cast the glamour so fast, that Ron had done a double-take; a fairly innocuous bloke had sat there in Harry's casual clothes, brown hair and brown eyes. Ron had forgotten that Harry was good at those deceptive spells.
"Naked. Completely naked at dinner," the stranger with Harry's voice warned Malfoy softly, before getting up and making his way to the curvy blonde woman sitting with her friends at the bar; Harry approached her nervously, but with determination and Malfoy's face went cold as the woman turned away from her friends and smiled at Harry in a friendly manner. They had spoken for quite some time, the woman giggling at whatever Harry was saying. When Harry finally came back, he clambered over Ron to sit down in his place; leaning forward, he thrust one hand close to Malfoy's face, palm facing out. Dean peered into it.
"Name and number," Dean said, grinning. He took a look at his watch. "In twenty minutes. Not bad."
"She was most likely very drunk," Malfoy said stiffly, and Harry had chuckled, cheeks flushed. He still had the glamour on, brown eyes twinkling.
"I hope you like eating au naturel," was all Harry said and he had waggled his fingers merrily at the woman, grinning as she had laughed back at him with her friends.
Apparently, Malfoy was very comfortable eating in a naked state. Harry was staring at him fixedly now as they all had dinner in the kitchen, probably not realising that his gaze had been resting on one nipple for longer than was necessary.
"Good lord, man," Michael complained in disgust, cutting into his lamb-chop ferociously. "Cover your penis before Ronald faints."
"He's acting like he doesn't have one too," Malfoy said mildly. "It's a lovely penis. I think he's jealous."
"This is like the most surreal meal I've ever had," Dean told Harry, who looked dazedly back at him. "The lamb is delicious, Harry. But the conversation is... weird."
"It's not a nice penis," Ron argued. "It's... it's horrifying."
"Your opinion is not required, Weasley," Malfoy said with finality. "Potter, isn't my penis nice?"
"Right, then." Harry pushed away from the table, taking his plate with him as he escaped to the sitting room. "Malfoy, get over yourself, really."
"You didn't say 'no'!" Malfoy yelled at his retreating form, snickering evilly.
Ron sat up straight in bed; he could have sworn he heard a sound, a faint murmur of conversation coming from downstairs. Auror training was good for something, he thought wryly, rising up and grabbing his wand from under his pillow. He cast a quietening spell on the staircase and a Disillusionment Charm on himself, before he started downstairs quickly, hoping his muttering had not been too loud. It was early in the night and fairly cold, and he shivered a little, spotting a low light coming from the sitting room door, which was ajar. Peering carefully inside, he refrained from rolling his eyes too hard; they might hear his eyeballs straining in his head.
Malfoy and Harry were seated cross-legged on the floor, opposite each other at the coffee-table. They had playing-cards fanned out in their hands. Harry was still dressed in his junior Auror robes, but they were open. Malfoy's robe was off, and his tie was gone as well; he was glaring at Harry.
"One seven," Harry declared, taking one of his cards and putting it on a discard pile that was building up on the surface of the low table. His hand of playing cards was substantially smaller than Malfoy's.
"Cheat," Malfoy hissed and Harry motioned to the pile between them. Malfoy picked up the card Harry had just put down, let out a huff of disgust and took up the whole discard pile. He arranged his now massive hand of cards and tossed down some.
"And here's a nine of diamonds. My last card." Harry threw it down with a flourish. "You lose again. Strip, strip!"
"You must have done something to the deck," Malfoy said ungraciously, pulling his long-sleeved shirt over his head, not bothering with the buttons. Harry only laughed, leaning back a little and closing his eyes as his shoulders shook. Malfoy's face softened perceptibly, a small smile curling his thin lips. Ron thought he would cover this up as soon as Harry looked at him again, but this was not so. They just sat there, staring at each other for a moment that stretched out, long and strangely comfortable between the two of them, yet tinged with a strange anticipation. Ron stepped away from the door, still moving as quietly as he could.
Making his way back to bed, he decided that if this was what it took to stop the naked bets, he would live with it, and gladly.