“Draco Malfoy?” McGonagall looked over her glasses at Harry. “You'll find him in the Forbidden Forest.”
The tension in Harry's forehead drew tighter. It would have to be the bloody forest. Malfoy's hawthorn wand lay heavy in his pocket – he fancied he could feel it pulsing against his thigh, needling him with the desire to be used again.
The Headmistress's teapot hovered above the table, neatly refilling Harry's cup. “You'll not have seen him since the trials, I suppose?” she asked.
Harry shook his head and bit into another shortbread to give himself a moment, the crumbly sweetness soothing on his tongue. “No. I've been... keeping myself to myself the last couple of months. I've sorted out a few things at Grimmauld Place. Trying to decide what comes next.”
“You're sure you aren't tempted to rejoin us here? As I said in my last Owl, you could still very easily come along with the other seventh years who are returning next week – we have several from Gryffindor. Or, if studying doesn't appeal, you could join the work rebuilding the Castle? We need all the help we can get. Most of the West Wing is still in utter ruins.”
Harry shook his head. “No.” It came out sounding more defensive than he intended. “I mean, no, thanks. I just came to say hello. To you... and Neville and the others, of course.”
This was true, but so was the fact that putting it off any more had felt cowardly, and he had no longer been able to find excuses, either for ignoring the Headmistress's invitations to drop by, or for keeping Malfoy's wand hidden at the back of a drawer.
“And to give the bloody wand back,” he admitted.
“Ah, yes, the wand. Malfoy's been a great help here, would you believe?” She stirred her tea, her lips pressed together thinly. “I'll be honest, Potter, I was not exactly thrilled at the thought of having him under my wing. Oh, yes, a marvellous idea from the Wizengamot, to fob the boy off on to me and call it community service. But he's worked hard over the last couple of months.” She looked at Harry again. “He'll be glad to have his wand back, I'd imagine. He's had some trouble without it.”
Harry swallowed, trying to shift the vague stirrings of guilt. He could have Owled the wand back, he supposed. Or passed it on via Neville, who was working as an apprentice under Professor Sprout. But there was something that had brought him here to hand it back in person. Something like an itch that needed scratching, in a place he couldn't quite reach.
“What does he do out there?”
“Oh, anything and everything. There's plenty that needs doing in the forest to keep him busy. He's just doing basic tasks this week while Rubeus is off on his travels.”
Harry tried to imagine this. Malfoy helping Hagrid. Malfoy being useful.
He remembered Malfoy shackled to a chair in the Wizengamot courtroom, the way he had glared at Harry after he made his testimony. He had been testifying on Malfoy's behalf, for god's sake! But he doubted Malfoy would ever leave him feeling anything other than an infuriating mixture of rage and... something more tangled.
Harry stood abruptly, leaving his second cup of tea untouched. “I think I'll go now. I'll see you at dinner, though, Headmistress – Neville's asked me to join him. Thanks for the tea.”
“Mr Malfoy should be either in the clearing nearest to Hagrid's hut, or a little way further in.” She began to push herself up from her chair.
“Please, don't. Finish your tea,” he said.
“Very well.” She let herself sink back down into the embrace of the high-backed chair. “Potter?”
Harry turned back from the doorway.
“Don't provoke him.” Her face was a pucker of disapproval.
He opened his mouth to protest, but then shut it again, knowing full well the satisfaction that came from getting under Malfoy's skin.
“He's settled in very nicely,” McGonagall continued. “I wouldn't want anything to disturb that, not so close to the start of term.”
Harry felt the wood of the wand throb again, and he nodded. “I won't. I promise I won't.”
Many of the trees were beginning to flare with autumn colours in amongst the pines and firs, with conkers fattening on the chestnut trees. Harry set off at a brisk pace towards Hagrid's hut. He felt a pang in his chest, a desire to cosy up by the fire and be served questionable tea in a mug the size of a bucket, but he knew the hut stood empty while Hagrid was away visiting relatives. Harry smiled to himself at the thought of Hagrid dwarfed by a group of Giants. Perhaps their mugs were like bathtubs. Who knew?
The day was mild, but Harry felt a chill as he entered the forest by the old sycamore, and he pulled his jacket around him. The winding path was horribly familiar, and he half-closed his eyes as he hurried through the place where he had used the Resurrection Stone only a few months ago. It wasn't far to the clearing that McGonagall had mentioned. Sunlight filtered in past the branches and lit patches of the forest floor. A pile of logs was neatly stacked close to the stump of a pine tree, while a few smaller pieces of wood lay on the floor around a makeshift chopping block. And in the middle was the alarming sight of Draco Malfoy, raising an axe over his head and swinging it down with a sinuous, powerful motion.
Harry stood for a moment, taken aback, while Malfoy lined up another round of wood. The axe looked heavy, but Malfoy had obviously been working outdoors the whole summer, and he lifted it with ease. He went up on his toes for a second as the axe reached the top of its arc, then let it fall with a decisive blow that split the wood neatly. He was stooping to fetch another piece when he noticed he was not alone.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” asked Malfoy.
Malfoy had never looked like this in any of the years Harry had known him. His hair fell in untidy waves around his face instead of being combed back. He wore a loose shirt, untucked and open at the throat; faded, baggy shorts which hung low around his narrow hips; and a pair of muddy, battered boots with the laces undone. The axe resting on his shoulder appeared cruelly sharp, the blade glinting in the sun as he stood staring at Harry, and he looked completely furious.
Harry's instinct was to draw his wand, but he kept his hands by his sides instead. “Malfoy. Hello.”
Malfoy grimaced and dropped the axe on the ground, where it fell with a dull clang. “What do you want?”
“I want to talk to you.”
Malfoy rubbed his wrist across his forehead, wiping the sweat that beaded at his temples. Harry wondered if he should tell him that he had a streak of dirt on his cheek, then looked at Malfoy's grubby hands, the fingernails dark with grime, and decided not to.
Malfoy saw him looking and turned his back on Harry, dragging a large hunk of wood on to the chopping block. “Come to sneer?”
“No, actually, I haven't.”
Malfoy swung the axe over his head, then let it drop like a guillotine. The wood split right down the middle with a loud thunk, and the two halves flew out to either side, making Harry jump back in surprise.
“Better stand out the way if you don't want to get hit.” Malfoy set another round of wood on the block and looked sideways at Harry. His face was cold and suspicious. “Why come and gawp, then?”
The old anger bubbled up so easily. “Maybe because this is the first time in my life I've ever seen you do anything useful?”
The axe rose and fell with a ferocious crack, splinters flying as the blade thudded through the round and against the block.
Malfoy pushed his hair back from his face and hefted the axe in both hands. Harry could see the knots of muscle standing out on his skinny arms beneath the thin shirt. His sleeves were rolled up, displaying tanned skin instead of his usual pallor.
“Find this a good tactic generally, do you, Potter? Insulting someone who's wielding an axe?”
“An axe is no match for a wand.” Harry found his length of holly was in his hand and pointing at Malfoy.
“Want to test that theory, do you?” Malfoy's eyes were a little wild, and a trickle of sweat ran down his face.
Harry felt a shiver of apprehension. Malfoy looked lean and dangerous, like some feral inhabitant of the woods.
“Maybe I'll split your wand for firewood.” Malfoy wiped his brow again. “After all, you've got a spare.” He spat the words in Harry's direction.
“I came to give yours back.” Harry shrugged. “But if you'd rather I left...”
Malfoy's eyes widened. “My wand? You've brought it?”
Harry nodded, feeling it quiver against his thigh.
“Show me.” Malfoy leant the axe against the chopping block and stepped towards Harry.
Harry tucked his own wand away and drew out Malfoy's. He'd tried it at home, before leaving for Hogwarts. It still worked for him perfectly well, eager and responsive. It was just a little more excitable than his own, a little less controlled. He held it in his palm, leaving the next move up to Malfoy.
Malfoy swayed a little on the spot, as if fighting the urge to rush forwards and grab it. “Give it here.” The words stuck in his throat a little.
“Come and get it.” Harry held Malfoy's gaze.
Malfoy came forward, regarding Harry uncertainly, as if he might snatch the wand away at the last minute. But when Harry stood his ground, Malfoy hesitated another second, and then delicately plucked the wand from Harry's hand.
Malfoy looked dumbfounded at the feel of it in his hand. He quickly turned his back on Harry and bent over it, as if examining it for damage.
Harry stuffed his hand back into his pocket. Malfoy's fingers had only brushed his palm for a second, but he could still feel the roughness, the heat.
Apparently satisfied, Malfoy held out the wand and gestured towards one of the lumps of wood he had just cleaved. “Wingardium Leviosa,” he said, and then flinched as the hefty piece of wood rocketed up several feet in the air.
“Shit!” Malfoy jumped away as the wood dropped down again and bounced on the spongy ground. “It's a bit...” He tried again, and this time the wood rose more slowly, rocking in the air as it levitated to the height of Malfoy's chest. He looked very young all of a sudden, his face full of delight and surprise.
“Is it OK?” Harry asked.
“I think so...” Malfoy turned in a circle, making the wood follow him as he went. “It's... I don't know. It feels sort of...” He grimaced as the wood wobbled and dropped a few inches, then shot up too far to compensate. “I guess I'm just not used to it. I got another one, but it's fucking crap. This is tons better than that.”
“Well,” said Harry, “I'm glad.” And looking at Malfoy's open, happy face, he found that he was.
Malfoy made the wood rotate in mid-air, his tongue peeking out in concentration.
“It's a nice wand,” Harry said. “It always worked well for me, too.”
The hunk of wood plummeted to the ground and bounced away, narrowly missing Malfoy's foot. He swore and shot a filthy look at Harry. “Thanks for the reminder that you've been pissing about with it.”
“I wasn't pissing about... and it's not my fault you've forgotten how to use it properly.” Harry fought the childish urge to snatch the wand back.
“How would you like it if someone pinched your precious wand and used it for bloody months?”
“Personally, I wouldn't be so stupid as to let anyone take it out of my hand,” Harry replied. He knew he shouldn't rise to it. He knew he should just—
“You arsehole. I could have handed you over that day... you admitted as much at my trial, but no...” Malfoy advanced on Harry with his wand still drawn.
Harry was half-aware of an odd feeling in the air around them – it was charged, like the oppressive heaviness before a thunderstorm.
As well as annoyed, he was a bit alarmed. Malfoy seemed slightly unhinged. And Harry had come out here specially to give him his wand back. Thanks would have been nice.
“I let you off, Potter, said I didn't know who you were, and in return you stole my wand.”
Harry's own wand was out and pointing straight back at Malfoy. The hairs on his arms were standing up. “I took it, yeah, and I did better things with it in a couple of months than you've done your entire life. And I really think you should calm down, Malfoy.”
“Oh, of course! We're all meant to be grateful! Silly me. I'm so happy that you finally deigned to give my bloody wand back, Saint Potter. Thanks. A fucking. Bunch.” Malfoy hissed the last words above the weird humming that was building in Harry's ears. He wasn't sure if it was something happening in the forest or just in his head. His skin felt uncomfortable, electric. Malfoy advanced on him, his wand hand trembling, and Harry was just wondering whether he should maybe Stun him, or try to get some kind of help, when a great wash of... something hit him right in his gut.
He staggered back momentarily, too surprised to even cast a Shield Charm. He saw Malfoy gasp and close his eyes, then what felt like a wave of energy crackled around them both. It was fucking unnerving, and without thinking, Harry backed away until he was standing against the nearest tree.
Malfoy's face was twisted, his body trembling.
“Malfoy!” shouted Harry. “What the fuck are you doing? Stop it!”
Malfoy just moaned and looked at Harry with a mixture of shock and accusation.
Harry saw the hawthorn wand where Malfoy must have dropped it on the ground. He didn't have a clue how Malfoy was doing this without a wand, or even what spell it was, but he felt himself being pressed back against the tree, the bark scraping through his thin jacket. It was a struggle to keep his wand hand raised, but he kept it pointing at Malfoy, who hunched over with a groan.
“I can't... oh, god.”
“Last chance before I Stun you, Malfoy. Let me go.”
But Malfoy seemed almost as if he couldn't hear Harry. Instead, he straightened up and stumbled towards him, his hair damp with sweat, a pained expression that looked like hunger on his face. “Merlin, Potter... just look at you.”
Harry struggled on against the invisible pressure, but he was also becoming aware of a heat building inside his gut. A slow, intense, irresistible heat, which radiated out from his core, making him want to cry out with pleasure.
Malfoy was right in front of him now, breathing fast, his pupils blown wide. Harry felt a stab of delight deep inside and curled his toes at the sensation of heat and bliss which pulsed through him. God, this was fucking insane. All the hairs on his head were prickling upwards, and as he felt the most delicious tension swirling right round his bollocks and rippling down his thighs, he realised he was getting hard, too.
Malfoy's eyes were all over Harry, and he licked his lips. “Potter...” he whispered.
“Fuck...” Harry moaned. He didn't know whether he wanted this to stop, or to never end. He had no idea what the hell was happening. The tree was rough against his back, and he felt his wand hand drawn down to his side by something which tingled, something invisible which slipped around his wrists and tugged. He knew he should fight, but there was something strangely sensual about it that he was finding hard to resist.
Malfoy moved closer. “Potter.” Harry could feel his breath, hot and damp and full of promise. “I have to...” He groaned again, and Harry saw a shiver run through him, just as another shudder of arousal gripped his own body. “I really have to...”
“Stop it,” Harry said, his voice an odd croak, “you have to stop it,” but his body was singing yes, yes, yes with every beat of his heart.
Harry could smell Malfoy, smell the heat rolling off him, and the good, musky smell of his body, which had been working hard among the pine trees in the sunshine all day, and he thought that possibly he had never smelled anything so good. He felt the unseen force coil around his wrists and ankles, caressing them before binding them tight, he saw Malfoy take a deep breath and lean in, and then there was a shout, and Malfoy froze, and someone was calling Harry's name, and the bonds were slipping loose, and the hot twists of pleasure melted away to nothing, and Harry was standing in the clearing, pressed up against the big beech tree, with Neville staring at him in complete confusion and Malfoy stalking away, fast and shaky.
“The Headmistress told me you were here, Harry!” Neville gestured towards the Castle. “I'm finished for the day, so I thought I'd come and find you.”
It was like being plunged into a bath of cold water. Malfoy was standing a way off, his arm stretched out against a tree for support. Harry could see his uneven breathing from the way his back rose and fell.
“Harry?” Neville looked concerned. “What was—?”
“Nothing.” Harry's voice sounded odd, so he tried again. “Nothing. I just... came to give Malfoy his wand back. We were... talking. Well. Arguing.”
“Are you OK?”
“Yeah.” Harry forced a laugh. “I'm fine. It's sort of... weird to be back.” He couldn't help shooting another glance at Malfoy, who was looking about, his face pinched and frowning.
Neville turned to look at Malfoy too, and Harry seized the chance to quickly adjust himself in his trousers.
“Well, anyway.” Neville gripped his shoulder. “It's bloody good to see you! Come and see what we're doing in the greenhouses. We've got a completely new set-up now, since the rebuilding started. It's brilliant.”
Malfoy was moving slowly across the clearing, his steps hesitant, his eyes fixed to the ground.
His wand. Harry looked around and spotted it. “It's there, Malfoy. By the dead branch.”
Malfoy scooped it up, then turned it over in his hands again, as if fearful that this time it had come to harm.
“Is it all right?” Harry asked.
Malfoy didn't seem to want to meet his eye, instead looking at his wand with his brows drawn together, but he nodded.
“Can I see?” Harry walked across the clearing to join him, while Neville stood with his arms folded, looking impatient.
The wand was fine.
“What the bloody hell was that?” Harry spoke low and close to Malfoy's ear.
Malfoy shot him a guilty, anxious look. “I don't know.”
Harry pretended to examine the wand. “I don't know what you're up to, Malfoy.”
Malfoy's answer was quiet and insistent. “Potter... I didn't— I'm telling you, I have no idea what that was.”
Harry looked at him, noticing he was still shaky, and pale under his tan. “OK. Well, I'm going back to the Castle now. I'll see you around.”
As they left, Malfoy was setting up another section of wood on the block, his wand presumably stashed away safely.
“Bye, Malfoy,” Neville called, but Malfoy merely hoisted the axe and let it fall. His face was grim as the wood flew apart, the blade landing with a sickening crack that made Harry think of bones shattering.
It was only now that Harry remembered, with a guilty kind of gulp, that he had promised McGonagall not to upset Malfoy.
The Great Hall was subdued, as it always was during the summer holidays, with only the occasional squeak of laughter from two second years at the depleted Hufflepuff table punctuating the low hum of conversation. Harry was enjoying the novelty of this point of view ‒ as Neville's guest, he was seated at the staff table ‒ but he and Neville spoke quietly to avoid the feeling of being overheard.
“So, what was up with Malfoy?” Neville asked. “He gave you such a look as we were leaving – like he wished it was your head on the block.”
Harry swallowed down a mouthful of stew. “Ah, you know Malfoy.”
“Yeah, but I thought he'd be glad to have his wand back.”
“Apparently not. The git was still sulking about me having nicked it in the first place.” Harry looked around at the three-quarters empty Hall. “Where is he, anyway? Does he not come in here for meals?”
“Nah. I suppose it would be a bit weird for him. Where would he sit, to start with? Reckon he feels too awkward to hang around with the staff. And he'd hardly want to sit with the students.” Neville reached for another slice of bread and began to spread it thickly with butter. “He eats out there in the forest – sleeps there, too. Well, in the grounds, anyway. He's got some kind of tent out the back of Hagrid's place.”
Harry frowned, then saw Neville looking at him curiously, and cleared his throat. “Anyway, what's it been like, getting ready for term to start?”
“Oh, it's been great! I've got a load of Mandrakes ready for the second years – remember that lesson, eh? And I'll be supervising the first years sometimes on a Wednesday while the professor takes the NEWT students out on field trips.” His face split into a toothy grin. “I'll be allowed to set homework, too.”
Harry smiled; Neville's enthusiasm was cheering. But something about his encounter with Malfoy had set him on edge, and he was only half-listening as Neville told him all about the Snargaluff sapling he was tending in his spare time.
Tonight, Harry thought, he'd be back at Grimmauld Place and could forget about this whole visit. And especially stupid, ungrateful Malfoy. He told himself that he hadn't mentioned his weird experience to Neville because he didn't want Malfoy to get into yet more trouble. But part of him knew full well that he just didn't want to think about how... whatever that was had left him feeling. Breathless and, well, hard.
Harry thought of Malfoy eating stew in the clearing, quite alone. He imagined him sitting on the ground, cross-legged, as the light fell away and the night creatures started to emerge from the trees. A shiver danced along Harry's spine, and despite the warmth and familiarity of the Great Hall, the hairs on his arms stood up.
“It's really a shame.” Luna's lilting voice was half-drowned by the noise of the Quidditch crowds. “He was doing rather well out there, from what Hagrid said.”
Harry got to his feet and roared along with the rest of the Harpies' supporters. “Go on, Ginny!”
Only Luna remained seated, watching calmly as Ginny flew right past them, her outstretched hand mere inches from the Snitch.
“Anyway, he's been in St Mungo's since last month – in the secure ward.”
Harry groaned as a Bludger knocked into Ginny, sending her into a spin and dashing hopes of an early victory. The Snitch skittered away, disappearing out of sight, and Harry sank into his seat again with a sigh.
Luna shook her head. “It must be awfully upsetting for his mother.”
“Yep, I suppose so,” agreed Harry. “Hold on... who?”
“Who are we talking about? Who's in St Mungo's, and whose mother's awfully upset?”
“Why, Draco Malfoy, of course. Weren't you listening, Harry?”
“Yeah, I was, but...” He waved his hand towards the game, and the sight of Ginny darting in bold zigzags across the pitch, in explanation.
“You should try adding Hellebore to your bath if you get easily distracted. It's very soothing. But I thought you'd be interested in what Draco was up to. You always were, before.”
Harry felt his neck flushing and opened his mouth to deny it, but then realised he was actually very interested. “So, why's he in St Mungo's? Sorry. I missed it.”
“His magic's gone completely wild.” She sketched a shape in the air. “He couldn't control it, and a student – a fifth year – got hurt. He's lost the hearing in one ear, they think permanently.”
Harry felt a chill creeping along his neck. “Malfoy has?”
“No, the student. A boy named Gwyn. He got the full force of it on the side of his head.”
“How did it happen?”
“Apparently, a group of them had gone down to the forest. No-one's exactly sure what happened – the students all give different stories. Probably trying not to get themselves into trouble. But Neville thinks they'd gone down there to make fun of Draco.”
“To make fun of him?”
“Well, they remember him from before the war; his family were rather well-known, after all. Now he's fallen from grace – a former Death Eater who lives out in the forest? It fascinates them, I suppose. And you know how cruel children can be when they sense a weak spot.” She gazed at him, her eyes pale and protruding.
Harry swallowed. “And Malfoy attacked them?”
“No – well, perhaps. But I don't think it was on purpose. It had happened before – something similar, anyway. The first time was after he got an Owl from his father, Hagrid said – he got very upset and stuff started happening. Some trees were knocked down, and when Hagrid tried to intervene, Draco went a bit berserk. Hagrid had to get help before he blew half the forest away. He and McGonagall kept it quiet that time, but when it happened again, they had to call the Healers.”
Harry winced. “Bloody hell.”
Luna nodded. “Apparently, it's probably a result of trauma from the war. It was kind of terrible, what he went through, Harry.”
“What he went through? You were imprisoned in his bloody dungeons!”
“Yes, but it wasn't so bad as all that. For instance, if I hadn't had been at the Manor, Dean and I would never have got together, and—” Luna broke off to smile beatifically and clap her hands in delight. “Oh, isn't that wonderful?”
Harry looked about in confusion. The crowd was getting to its feet in a eruption of glee.
“YES, GINNY! YOU WERE LIKE A BEAUTIFUL, FLYING PANTHER!” Luna's voice soared above the roar of the crowd, surprisingly loud for a moment. She nudged Harry and gestured to where Ginny was flying in circles, one triumphant fist holding the Snitch aloft. “Look, Harry. Her first game since the Harpies signed her, and she did it. She seems to be flying a lot better since she dumped you, don't you think?”
“Well. That's, er, certainly a charming way to look at it.” Harry grimaced. “And she didn't exactly dump me. We both felt—”
“I don't think you made a good couple, to be completely honest. No more than you did with Cho. In fact, you're a bit of a disaster with women, altogether; I would give it up for a while. Concentrate on finding what it is you really want.” She clapped harder as Ginny flew near them. “Come on, Harry, you need to look cheerful, now. Or people will think you've got sour grapes about it all.”
“Yeah, OK, Luna, I think I can manage, thanks very much.” Ginny swept past again, her smile fierce and glorious, and Harry cheered, and shouted, and punched the air, but in a corner of his mind was a thin figure, lying hunched on a bed in a locked hospital room.
He leaned over to Luna and spoke close to her ear. “So, are they getting Malfoy's magic all fixed up? Is he coming out again?”
“Oh, I don't think so. I don't think they'll be letting him out any time soon.” Luna turned to Harry thoughtfully. “You know, I think it must have started just after you went to give him his wand back.” Her eyes were wide as she blinked slowly. “Isn't that rather peculiar?”
St. Mungo's smelled pungently of herbs, whether used as a treatment or to mask the distinct whiff of unwashed bodies, Harry wasn't sure. The reception area was busy with injured and ill witches and wizards and their anxious-looking families, some seated and speaking to Healers, others queuing at the enquiry desk. The young man in front of Harry groaned and leaned on his companion as he was called forward, the Splinch wound in his thigh seeping thick, sticky-looking blood. The plump, smiling welcome witch took his details before directing him to a seat, and then turned to Harry.
“I'm looking for Draco Malfoy.”
“Malfoy... Malfoy, hmm.” She pointed her wand to set a box of file cards riffling rapidly, each one showing a patient's photo and details of their admission. The cards stopped, and the witch plucked one out. “Malfoy, Draco. Floor four, Janus Thickey Ward. Stairs are over there.”
“Thanks.” Harry turned to go.
“Hold on!” The witch tapped the card with a long fingernail, painted a vivid blue. “No visitors.”
“Nope.” She replaced the card in the correct place in the box. “None.”
The witch shrugged. “Healers' orders. Next?”
Harry frowned, then thanked her, but her attention was already on the next enquirers: a distraught mother, ushering forwards a girl of about six. The girl wore a frilled yellow party dress, matching shoes, and a horse's head.
Harry walked past the rows of chairs towards the exit, then stepped aside to let a large family troop in. Each one of them had a generous sprinkling of livid purple boils covering their faces and hands, from an elderly witch with wizened skin, right down to the fat baby in the arms of her exhausted-looking father.
The welcome witch spotted them too and shrieked across the room. “Spattergroit? You can't come in here like that!”
Heads turned to look at the guilty-looking group, and several people tutted.
“It's highly contagious!” the welcome witch continued. “Why didn't you Floo ahead and let us know?”
The baby started to cry, and Harry realised that standing right next to them was perhaps not the best idea. He backed away until he was up against the door to the stairs.
The witch was on her feet now and pointing to a door on the other side of the room. “All of you with spots, wait in the side room and a Healer will be with you shortly.”
The door behind Harry opened, and two witches with bandaged heads stepped inside, then drew back at the sight of the spotty family. The room was loud with angry muttering and the baby's cries, and then the girl with the horse's head started to neigh in frightened tones. The welcome witch was gesturing urgently at the family and paid no attention to Harry as he stepped through the door, into a quiet stairwell leading to the wards.
He hurried up several flights of stairs - ignoring a portrait on floor two which expressed the opinion that he had a nasty case of Hobbleshank in his left knee - to arrive at the fourth floor slightly out of breath. SPELL DAMAGE, said the sign. The double doors swung open, and two Healers wearing the familiar lime green robes bustled through, holding the door for Harry.
There was a small knot of Healers near the front of the ward, but they paid no attention to Harry, and he walked briskly past, trying to look as if he was absolutely meant to be there. He passed lines of beds, a shuffling old gentleman with his fingers swollen to the size of bananas, and then spotted another door in the far corner: JANUS THICKEY WARD.
He remembered the set-up from visiting Lockhart in fifth year. Shit, for all he knew Lockhart was still in there. He hesitated next to a poster which read, in large letters, Careless Wandwork Costs Lives, thinking hard. He just so happened to have slipped the Invisibility Cloak into his pocket before leaving for St Mungo's. No real reason; it was merely that some days it seemed to come in useful. He glanced around, stepped behind a conveniently-placed cabinet stacked with potions, swirled the gauzy folds of the cloak over himself, and disappeared from view.
Harry's heart was beating faster as he pointed his wand at the lock and muttered a quiet Alohomora. The door swung open, and he stepped through to find the Janus Thickey Ward was much as he remembered it. The long-term residents of the ward went about their business as he scanned the beds for a familiar face. He swallowed hard as he caught sight of Alice and Frank Longbottom, both lying on their beds staring into space. Before he could look any further, a tall Healer with her Afro hair gathered up into a bun rose from the bedside of a weary-looking wizard and walked straight towards him.
Harry jumped back to avoid a collision, ending up pressed against the wall next to the Healers' station, where a student Healer was poring over a set of notes. She looked up as the older Healer approached and gestured towards a corridor leading off the main ward.
“Should I take Patient Malfoy his sedative now?”
“No, we're trying to stretch it a bit longer between doses. Leave it until four p.m. or so.”
“He does get so agitated.” The student frowned.
“Yes, but we need to establish whether his magic has settled now, as he claims, or whether, as I suspect, it's the effect of the draughts we're giving him.”
This did not sound encouraging, but at least Harry now knew in which direction to look for Malfoy. It was tempting to stay and eavesdrop, but, feeling guilty, Harry moved quietly in the direction the young Healer had indicated.
The corridor was not very long and led to five closed rooms, each with a small pane of glass set into the door. The first room Harry reached was empty. The second contained a young girl lying very still, a woman sitting beside her holding her hand. The third room was Malfoy's.
As Harry peeped in, Malfoy was sitting in a chair staring fixedly at the room's one small window. He wore a loose white nightshirt which fell just below his knees, while his feet were bare. At the sound of the door opening, he turned immediately, his eyes anxious, then narrowing at the sight of Harry standing awkwardly in the doorway and stuffing the Invisibility Cloak back into his pocket.
“Oh, hell. What the fuck are you doing here?”
Harry felt a tightness in his chest. Malfoy looked angular and on edge, his summer tan now long-faded. Harry tried to smile. “How can I stay away, when you always give me such a great welcome?”
“I suggest not turning up places you're not wanted, if you don't like it. I'm serious, Potter, what are you doing here?”
Harry shrugged and looked around the room. It was virtually empty, just the essentials of a bed, a chair, and a bedside table on which lay a couple of books. “Came to see how you were.”
“Fucking awful. Now piss off.” Malfoy screwed up his face and turned back to the window.
“What happened?” Harry asked.
“I don't want to talk about it.”
“Was it something to do with your wand?”
“Mind your own business.”
Harry could see Malfoy's knuckles whiten as he gripped the arms of the chair.
“Was it because I'd been using it?”
Malfoy turned to face him, pinched and pale. “Which part of the phrase 'piss off' do you not understand?”
Harry held up his hands. “OK, OK.” He looked helplessly around the room, the bare walls, the small square of sunlight. “I'll go. I'm sorry.”
Malfoy nodded curtly and twisted around so his back was to Harry. Harry stood for a moment, staring at Malfoy's narrow shoulders drawn up tensely in the shirt, then turned to leave.
“Wait. How did you get in here?” Malfoy twisted back to face Harry.
“I just walked in.”
“I'm not meant to have any visitors.” His eyes flicked suspiciously up and down Harry's body.
Harry coughed. “I— I don't think anyone saw me coming in.”
“You sneaked into the secure ward?”
Harry considered denying it, then nodded.
“To see me?”
Malfoy's eyebrows drew together, his face a knot of annoyance. “Why?”
A flush of heat was rising from Harry's chest up to his throat. “I wanted to see...”
“To see what? The mad Death Eater?”
“You're not mad.”
“I can assure you, I'm fucking furious.”
Harry barked out a short laugh of surprise, and Malfoy smiled, but it was a nasty smile, merely showing his white, rather pointed teeth, rather than sharing any friendly feeling.
Harry gestured around the room. “I only just heard you were here. I wondered...” It sounded stupid, egotistical, now he was standing here with Malfoy in front of him. “I wondered if it was anything to do with that day.”
Malfoy raised an eyebrow, his voice cold, not giving an inch. “That day?”
“When I came to Hogwarts. They said... your magic had gone wild. And I remembered what happened, and I thought perhaps—”
There was a ripple in the air around them, an almost-but-not-quite visible disturbance. A flicker of strain showed on Malfoy's face before he resumed his cold expression. “Nothing happened, Potter.”
“It did. You—”
Malfoy rose from the chair and took a step towards Harry. “Nothing happened, and nothing is going to happen, because you are leaving. Now.”
“Was it your wand? Maybe I can help—”
“You can't help.” Malfoy hissed the words. “I'm stuck here until I can convince them that I'm safe to be let out, and that is never going to happen with you around.” The curtains at the window fluttered, even though there was no breeze, and Harry felt the hairs on his arms lift. “So go.”
“Why with me around? I mean—”
“Potter.” Malfoy snarled it out, his hands two fists at his sides. The room was thrumming, vibrating.
Harry stood his ground. There was something about Malfoy, seeing him like this, wound up and ready to snap, every muscle taut. Their gaze locked together, Malfoy's eyes shining with a silvery brightness which drew Harry in. He felt a warmth lapping at his belly. “I only want to—”
The door opened and a blunt voice cut in. “What the bloody hell is going on in here?”
It was as if a cord which had bound them together had been suddenly severed. Malfoy sagged, and Harry found himself taking a deep gulp of air, as if he had been holding his breath. He turned to see the tall, heavy figure of Millicent Bulstrode, her face drawn into a scowl of displeasure.
“Draco – what's happening?” she asked.
Malfoy looked pained. “Nothing. Just Potter being a prat, as usual.”
Millicent curled her lip at Harry. “What are you even doing here?”
“What are you doing here?”
“I work here, dimwit.”
Belatedly, Harry noticed she wore the pale green robes of a student Healer.
“Can you get him to go, please, Mills?” Malfoy shot a look of entreaty at her.
She gestured with one meaty thumb. “Potter. Out.”
Malfoy's gaze flicked between them, and he took his lower lip between his teeth as Harry hesitated.
“Out. Or I'll call security.” Her face was implacable.
Harry sighed and stepped out into the corridor, heading back towards the main ward. The weird thrumming sound in his ears had stopped, and everything sounded strangely clear.
Bulstrode planted herself in front of Harry and folded her arms across her impressive bosom. “Who let you in?”
“I see.” She curled her lip again. “He's not allowed visitors.”
“It upsets him. He needs to be kept calm.”
“What's wrong with him?”
“I can't discuss that with you, Potter. Make an appointment with his Healer, if you want to know – not that she'll speak to you, either.”
“When's he coming out?”
“Draco?” She arched an eyebrow. “Who knows?”
A rush of anger rose in Harry's chest. “Don't you care?”
“Care?” She gave a scornful snort. “What good is caring?”
Harry stared at her with dislike. “Don't you think your patients deserve to have someone looking after them who cares about them?”
She rolled her eyes. “The patients? Listen, Potter, I'm a trainee Healer. I get all the shitty jobs. But I do what needs doing.” She shook her head. “Caring isn't going to do Draco any good. Eighteen years old, and locked up in St Mungo's until they can work out what to do with him. You think it makes any difference to him what I feel about it?”
Harry swallowed a lump that was bobbing in his throat.
“You're the bigshot, aren't you?” Millicent gave him a look of contempt. “Why don't you do something?”
“I don't even know what happened,” Harry protested. “He wouldn't talk to me!”
Millicent stared. “What was going on in there with you two, then? You could have cut the air with a Diffindo.”
Harry fought the urge to blush. There was no easy answer to that.
Her eyes narrowed. “You sneaked in here just to see him, did you? You always were a bit weird about him, Potter.”
Harry's mouth fell open in indignation. “I came to see if I could help!”
“Is that right?” She nodded slowly. “Well, you work out a way to get him out, then. Seeing as you care so much.” She tilted her head to one side. “We all know how you love rescuing him.”
Harry's heart beat faster, the memory of scorching heat and the quivering press of Malfoy's body against his still surprisingly fresh in his mind. “Why doesn't he just leave? If he hates it here. Just walk out and leave.”
“He can't, you wanker. Wild magic's no joke, you know? There are high security wards on his door. You and me can come and go, but he can't step over that threshold without alarms blaring out all over the building.” She regarded Harry thoughtfully. “Reckon he needs something more than Gryffindor heroics this time.”
“I knew you'd be interested.” It was dark outside Griselda's tea shop, and the lights in the little cafe made Luna's hair gleam in a pale halo around her face. “I thought to myself: Harry could sort this out. He's got nothing else to do, since he doesn't seem to want to get a job, or go back to school, or in fact do anything with his life, since—”
“Yes, all right. I'm actually taking some time out, remember that? Like they advised us to do – not rushing into anything.”
“Ah, but you like rushing into things, Harry.” Luna picked at the pastry in front of her, removing all of the raisins into a neat heap. “I think helping Malfoy will be good for you. Kind of like a project.”
Harry closed his eyes briefly. Luna meant well. She did. And, anyway, he needed her help.
“Well, I do think someone should do something. And, I thought, if you're not too busy, in between looking after your dad, and the Quibbler—”
“Oh, yes.” Luna took a bite of the de-raisined pastry and chewed thoughtfully. “Father does need me a lot of the time – he doesn't cope very well by himself these days. But I'll help you, of course. You'll need someone to do the clever bit, while Hermione's in Australia.”
Harry tried not to wince visibly. Maybe this hadn't been the greatest idea. He just hadn't known where to start, and Millicent had said, he needs something more than Gryffindor heroics—
“And I know an awful lot about wandlore, and wild magic, too,” Luna said. “It should be quite easy.”
“You do? It should?”
“Yes, indeed. It was very interesting, spending all that time locked up with Mr Ollivander. He's a very knowledgeable person. And as for wild magic... ah, but you never met my mother, did you, Harry?” She smiled to herself, pushing at the raisins with one finger until they made a swirling pattern.
“Your mum... she had a problem with her magic, too?” Harry frowned and lifted his espresso to his lips. It was delicious – chocolatey and bitter.
“Well, not a problem, exactly... I told you she liked to experiment?”
“Well, she sometimes used to let her magic go wild. On purpose, I mean.” Harry raised his eyebrows as Luna continued calmly, “I think she got quite a thrill from it, to be honest.”
“Wow.” Harry stared at the table, remembering the intense rush that used to accompany his wild magic during childhood. It had been scary... but then, he hadn't known what it was. He imagined having that feeling now. It made his toes curl, just thinking about it... the power, and the recklessness of it, too. Like there was nothing, nothing in the world that could stop it. Was that what Draco felt, when it happened to him?
“That's sort of... well. Sort of cool, in a way,” Harry suggested.
“Yes, I suppose so. I've wondered, myself, what it must feel like... Except it nearly killed her, once or twice, and then, of course, she did die, trying out new spells.” She pushed her hair neatly behind her ear. “I mean, I wouldn't advise any of it, really. I think if we can help Draco get his magic under control before anyone dies, that would be the best thing.”
Harry took another sip of his coffee. He couldn't think of a single useful thing to say. Luna was lining her raisins up in zigzags.
He frowned. “Why do you always order the raisin ones, when you can't stand them? They have plain ones. Or chocolate.”
Luna shrugged. “I don't know. I just like the way the raisins look on the plate.” She finished the last bite of her pastry and then reached for her cloak, which was folded over the back of the chair. “So, are we doing this? You want to, don't you, Harry?”
Harry's stomach tightened pleasurably. “Yes. We're doing this.”
“Shall we get started, then? Our neighbour can stay late to look after my father this evening, so I don't have to be back at any particular time. The Whispering Library would probably be the best place to begin.”
“Near Holborn. We can walk quite easily. It's open till late.”
The first thing Harry noticed, as Luna pushed open the heavy wooden doors, were the soft sibilant sounds which surrounded them. A room about twice the length of the Great Hall stretched out in front of them, with a high ceiling, and shelves and shelves of books interspersed with long wooden tables. There were people sitting here and there, reading by lamplight – and, in some of the darker corners, by wandlight — but nobody seemed to be speaking, and it was hard to know where the pervasive whispering was coming from.
Luna stopped and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath of the rather dusty air. The library had the soft smell of an old church, mixed in with the intriguing odour of books – leather, and parchment, and glue – and the smells left by the centuries of readers. Harry left Luna to have her moment and walked on. As he got closer to the shelves he realised it was the books which were whispering.
He leant his head towards a fat blue volume.
“Read me, read me,” it begged in a papery voice, close to his ear.
He turned back to Luna, startled.
“They all want to be read,” she said with a shrug, catching him up. “I come as often as I can, and do my best, but I can't read them all.”
“I've never seen anything like it before,” Harry whispered.
“Ah, my mother used to often bring me here when I was a little girl. I always loved the librarian. History of Magic is down this way.”
A flash of white overhead caught Harry's eye, and he looked up to see a large white bird, something like a heron, flapping overhead, its legs trailing behind it. It landed gracefully on top of one of the shelves and peered down at them.
“Luna,” he whispered. “There's a bird in here.”
Luna looked up and gave the bird a little wave with the tips of her fingers. “Oh, yes. That's the librarian. Her Animagus form is an egret.”
As Harry watched, the bird bent to pick up a book in her long black beak, then flew down to replace it on one of the shelves.
They walked through the stacks of books, followed by the rustling of the book's voices and the gentle slapping sound of Luna's flip-flops against the stone floor. These were slightly unusual footwear for November... especially decorated with large stag beetles. But, Harry supposed, they were nothing out of the ordinary for Luna.
She stopped next to one of the tall shelves, books piled high towards the lofty ceiling with no hope of anyone reading the spines near the top. Harry imagined the whispers from these volumes were especially plaintive. She squinted upwards and beckoned with her wand until a weighty book, the colour of faded cherries, floated down towards them. “Read me. Oh, please,” it said.
“I think this would be a good start,” Luna told Harry. “Yes, we're going to read you,” she assured the book.
Magic, Foul and Fair, by Tertia Wendlebury, Harry read as Luna hefted the book to a nearby table and let it drop with a slam. A wizard with an auburn beard reaching down to his chest tutted at them and went to find a seat at another table.
The book's croaky whispering grew in volume and insistence. “Read me. Read me, oh, read me, read me,” it repeated, until Luna opened it, at which point it let out a soft sigh and fell silent.
Luna perched on a stool and flicked through the pages. “Wandless magic... Wiccan magic... Wild magic. Here we go.” She read aloud from the book, her voice fluting lightly over the susurration from the shelves. “Through the ages, wild magic has been feared and revered by turns. Some cultures have employed techniques to induce periods of wild magic, such as Shamanism, Dionysian rites, the Anastenaria rituals of Greece, and many others. Yes, yes, yes, we know all this,” Luna muttered, turning the page.
We do? thought Harry, but he thought it prudent to keep quiet.
“Ah.” Luna pointed to the text. “Wild magic in the modern era is common enough in young witches and wizards born into both magical and Muggle families. Episodes are usually brief and harmless, and often recounted fondly and with amusement by proud parents as proof of their offspring's developing maturity.”
Harry gulped down the sudden lump in his throat at the thought of Aunt Marge swelling up like a revolting tweedy balloon, the fear and rage that had blazed through him as his magic burst its bounds and took revenge. Fondly and with amusement, hey? Perhaps for those who were lucky enough not to live with the Dursleys.
But Luna was carrying on, oblivious to Harry's discomfiture. “Wild magic in adults in UK wizarding society is usually treated with suspicion and alarm, and steps are taken to confine and control those who exhibit signs of wild magic. The Dangerous Magic Act of 1972 states that those of age who are suspected of wild magic may be detained for observation for forty-eight hours without charges being brought against them, and for a further fourteen days if a member of the Wizengamot can be persuaded it is necessary for further observation. Gosh, that's pretty harsh, eh, Harry?”
“Are they holding Malfoy for observation, then?”
“No, I read up on this after we talked at the Quidditch game.” She gave Harry a sideways smile. “I had a sort of feeling it might come in useful. He's been up before the Wizengamot, but they released him to the custody of St Mungo's. There's no doubt his magic has run wild, but he's not being treated as a criminal... The Malfoys' lawyers successfully argued that it's an illness, brought on by stress. Let me see... yes, here it is... In our murky past, those whose magic ran wild were sometimes tortured or put to death, and until quite recently, life imprisonment was common. These days, a more tolerant view is taken, but those suffering from repeated outbursts of wild magic are usually detained indefinitely under the Magical Health Act of 1964, and may be subject to compulsory treatment orders as required. That's what happened to Draco. Indefinite detention.”
Harry frowned, a bubble of rage swelling within him. “He might as well have gone to Azkaban!”
Luna patted his arm. “Don't worry. We'll get him out. Now, see here – this section is about the social stigma of wild magic, and here's a list of some possible causes...”
They both studied the page, then Luna sighed. “Stress. That's what they said at Draco's hearing. With my mother... I think she felt trapped, sometimes... Her parents were very straight-laced, you see, and it was hard for her when she was young. I think it affected her... She was always trying to push against the boundaries, you know? I was wondering if Draco ever felt that way. What do you think?”
Harry's mouth felt dry, and he wished he had brought a takeaway coffee with him. Thinking of what Malfoy's childhood must have been like, growing up in the oppressive grandeur of the Manor, was not a comfortable thing. A flash of memory — the crazed hatred that hung thick in the air at the Manor, the day Harry had taken Malfoy's wand – sent a cold throb down the back of his neck.
“I don't know,” he answered, aware it sounded lame, and felt a compulsion to change the topic abruptly. “I keep meaning to say, how's Dean?” he asked.
He had picked the right subject. A smile played around the corners of Luna's mouth. “He's... he's quite wonderful, actually.” She looked up at Harry. “Oh! You meant, is he well?” She brought her shoulders up, giggling at herself. “He's very well. We see each other most weekends. He likes being back at Hogwarts. You know, he decided to do that eighth year they offered everyone?”
“It's funny how most of your year chose to move on.” Luna blinked thoughtfully. “And me, of course; I hadn't even done my seventh year, but this seemed right, to be with my father, rather than have him cared for by people who don't love him, and to carry on our work at the Quibbler, of course.” She shrugged. “Anyway, Dean wants to join the Aurors. So, he needs those NEWTS.”
She sighed again. “Perhaps one day I'll go back to Hogwarts. The Muggles do that, don't they? Hermione told me. They go back to school when they're older. Can you imagine us, in our fifties, sitting in Charms class, learning how to Transfigure a teapot into a tortoise?”
As they turned back to the book, the mood was less sombre, and while they discussed the text, Harry found himself admiring Luna's skill at making odd connections between things that didn't at first glance seem related at all. They sat poring over the tiny, cramped print, Luna Summoning books, one after the other, until Harry's eyes were swimming with strain and he longed for another cup of Griselda's espresso. Late-night studying took him right back to Hogwarts, and his chest panged in a way that was almost physically painful, to think of Ron and Hermione so far away on the other side of the world.
Luna saw his grimace and prodded his calf gently with her flip-flop. “I think that's enough for one night, don't you?”
Harry had to agree. He yawned, a long, jaw-aching yawn, and stretched his arms until his shoulders burned with it.
She pressed a slim volume into his hands. “Borrow this one, though, Harry, and read the chapter on wand cores. I can't stop thinking that there's something in the fact that you had his wand for all that time... Unicorn hair is usually very loyal, you see, but his wand worked perfectly well for you.” She shook her head. “I don't know. Let's get together again soon. But, why don't you go and see Draco, tell him we're hoping to help?” She looked up at Harry innocently. “I expect he'd be really pleased to see you again.”
“Bulstrode, you unspeakable wench, I said I'd have your saggy arse made into a sofa if you let bloody Potter in here again!”
Millicent stood, quite unmoved, her arms folded. “My arse is not saggy. It's pretty phenomenal, in fact. Yours is scrawny and bony, if you want to get personal.”
“But why is Potter here?” Malfoy's face was quivering with tension. “You know I'm meant to stay calm. You know what a tosser he is!”
“I am actually standing right here,” Harry pointed out, irritation making his throat feel tight.
“Yes, that's the bloody problem. Why, Potter? Why are you here?”
Millicent rolled her eyes. “Listen, Potter, Draco did tell me to let you in only over his dead body, but nobody else has shown up here with any ideas, so I reckon you're worth taking a chance on.”
“Ideas?” Malfoy turned his head between them, and back again. “Ideas for what?”
“For getting you out of here, dickhead.” She jerked her head towards the door.
Malfoy drew a breath and looked as if he were about to launch into another protest, then stopped abruptly. “Who's getting me out? Can you get me out, Potter?” His eyes were narrowed in suspicion, but he was undeniably interested.
Millicent made a scoffing sound. “Not him. His lady friend, maybe.”
Malfoy's eyebrows went up. “Granger?” For the first time since Harry had seen him in the hospital, he sounded hopeful.
Millicent shook her head. “Guess again.”
“Then who?” Malfoy's forehead creased.
“Lovegood? Merlin!” Malfoy got up and stalked to the window, his shoulders trembling.
Harry's chest prickled with anger. “OK, Malfoy, that's just fine. I don't know why I even wasted my time with this—”
Millicent held up one hand. “Hold it right there. If you two could stop pulling each others pigtails for just one minute—”
Malfoy shot her a look of absolute fury.
“Draco, calm the fuck down. I already told him if it was Granger on the case we'd be a lot keener. But she's not around, apparently. Off on a world tour of gingers or something—”
“That would be visiting her parents and trying to recover their memories,” Harry corrected indignantly.
“Whatever. So you, Draco, are stuck with whatever misfits Potter can dredge up. And you should be grateful they're even bothering, to be honest. Because you're not exactly a bundle of joy at the moment. And I don't see anyone else trying.”
“My parents are trying!” Malfoy's eyes looked wild in his pale face. “They're working night and day to—”
“Your parents deal with every situation by throwing money at it, or threatening people. Neither of those things are the slightest fucking use here.”
“Look.” Harry ran a hand through his hair. “Maybe I'll just go.”
Millicent and Harry both turned in surprise at the exclamation. Malfoy was chewing at his lip. “I mean, I suppose it's possible you and Lovegood might not be as completely useless as you look.”
“Right, if you think—“
Millicent's glare was frankly intimidating. “Draco, for god's sake, sit down and shut up for a minute. Potter, you sit over there.” She pointed to the chair by the window. “Sit, and talk. I'll try to keep Healer Hyssop away for as long as I can. And, Draco, if you don't want to spend the next fifty years in here with me bringing you lumpy porridge for breakfast, you'll try to answer Potter's questions. OK?”
Her mouth was set in a grim line, and Harry found himself doing as he was told and taking a seat. Malfoy made a show of looking mutinous, but sank on to the bed. Harry had the feeling that he was going to agree all along, but just wanted to be talked into it.
Millicent nodded in satisfaction, her short curls bouncing. She pointed to a shimmering disc on the wall near the door. “Touch the alarm pad if you need anything. It buzzes my bracelet,” she explained, showing Harry her wrist, around which was wrapped a thin band of silver. She stepped smartly into the corridor, the door slamming shut behind her.
There was a silence. Malfoy fiddled with the starched, bone-white covers on the bed, while Harry, unsure what to say, let his eyes skate over Malfoy's bare legs, which poked out from under his nightshirt. They were so pale now compared to when Harry had seen him in the forest. One foot was tucked under him in a way that reminded Harry of a child, but his legs were those of a man, the calf muscles jutting out, and covered in hair which was darker than that on Malfoy's head.
It startled him when Malfoy spoke. “How come you have all this time to hang about pestering me? Shouldn't you be off chasing Dark Wizards or something?” He had pitched his voice low and scornful, but he still sounded shaky.
Harry frowned. “I didn't join the Aurors. Not yet.”
Malfoy looked up, his grey eyes curious. “You going to?”
“I don't know. Maybe.” The question always made him feel guilty. But he wasn't ashamed. “I'm not ready to decide, yet.”
“The war fucked you up?” Malfoy's lips pulled into a bitter smile. “That's ironic.”
“I'm not here to talk about me.”
“What are you here to talk about, then?” Malfoy's chin was tilted up in the old gesture of challenge.
“What's happened to you. Why you're... like this.”
“Why I'm locked up in this fucking place?”
The air between them wobbled, and Harry caught his breath, but the moment passed.
“You tell me, Potter. Everything was OK until you showed up.”
“What? It's not my fault!”
“Then whose fault is it?” Malfoy threw him a look of pure hostility. “Everything was fine, out in the forest.”
“You liked it out there?” Harry felt surprised, even though he'd seen it for himself, he supposed. Malfoy working. Malfoy busy. Malfoy fit, and healthy, and oddly contented until he, Harry, had come along.
“Course I did. Well, not at first. I fucking hated it to start with. Working with Hagrid? Merlin. Living in a tent wasn't exactly my idea of a good time, either.” His eyes flickered as if remembering.
“But, after a bit... I don't know. I felt... well. The forest ‒ it's immense, you know? You can't help feeling sort of free out there. And I liked the work. It was good... to work with your hands. To sleep soundly at the end of the day because you're so fucking knackered you can hardly lift your spoon to your lips at dinner time.” He looked up at Harry for a second, then back at the bed, his fingers smoothing the wrinkles out of the sheet. “And you sleep all night, with no space for nightmares. Your body's too tired to make room for any crap like that in your head.”
Harry sat very still. It felt as if Malfoy was talking to himself, as if Harry might break the moment if he moved, or made a sound.
“The creatures out there – the ones that live in the forest. OK, they can be fucking scary. But... you know what you're getting. You learn to respect them. They don't pretend they're going to look after you, then stab you in the back when you're not expecting it.” He let out a long sigh, his voice getting quieter and quieter. “It was all right. For the first time in years I thought things might actually be all right.”
Malfoy's head hung down, his hair falling forwards. Harry hardly dared breathe, then Malfoy's eyes snapped up and seemed to burn into him.
“Then you turned up, and everything went to shit. And now I'm locked in this little room, sterile and ugly, with no wand, no magic...” He spat the words out. “It's abominable.”
Something prickled at Harry's throat, pressing like fluttery fingers, and he swallowed. “I just wanted to help! I thought you'd want your wand back.”
“I did! Of course I did. But it didn't fucking work right after you'd messed with it for months.” Malfoy made an impatient gesture with his hand. “It felt all muddled. Like it didn't know whether it wanted to work for me or not. It turned skittish – a bloody nightmare.”
“It's not my fault!”
“Of course it's your fault. Who stole my wand?” Malfoy's voice grew higher and more agitated. “Who fought the fucking Dark Lord with it? How do you expect it to work properly after that?”
“It worked fine for me.” Harry's heart was drumming in his chest. “There's something wrong with your magic.”
The air was growing thick with magic, electric and heavy. Malfoy's face contorted, once, twice, and the pressure around Harry's throat began to squeeze, just lightly at first .
“Stop it, Malfoy.” Harry's eyes darted to the silvery disc on the wall that Millicent had indicated.
Malfoy caught the movement, and his mouth twisted into a sneer. “Does it scare you? My magic.”
“No,” Harry said firmly. “But you're never going to get out of here if you keep letting it go wild.”
Malfoy smiled. “Maybe I don't care.”
The eerie humming was beginning in Harry's ears again.
“Maybe I like it, when it does this.” Malfoy's leant forwards, his pupils wide and black. “I've been thinking about you, Potter.”
Heat was building, from the soles of his feet, dancing up Harry's calves, higher...
“I've been thinking how nice it would be to just wrap my hands around your neck, and—”
“Cut it out. I've still got my wand, you know.”
Heat flared in Malfoy's eyes. “I know. But I'm not sure that little stick of wood is a match for me and my magic. Not when it feels like this.” His face was flushed, sweat standing out on his forehead, and Harry could see every muscle of his body taut and ready under the thin shirt.
Part of Harry wanted to bite back, to see how far he could push Malfoy before he snapped. The heat, the pressure, even the high-pitched thrum in his head, it all felt good, and he wondered how it was for Malfoy.
Malfoy let out a little hum of pleasure. Harry shifted on the chair, his eyes locked on Malfoy's face, acutely aware of the blood rushing around his body and the fact that he was getting hard again. He struggled to remember what he had come here for.
“It's more potent – far more powerful – than your magic, all controlled and nicely trained, like a pet dog on a lead.” Malfoy's voice was low and husky. “I could overpower you so easily, Potter. I keep thinking about it. I think maybe that's what my magic wants.”
It was getting harder to breathe, but Harry didn't mind. He wanted to let his head fall back, to give himself over to the sweet feeling of warmth, to the wicked thrill of Malfoy's magic lapping at his skin.
Malfoy got up from the bed, his legs unsteady, but every step bringing him closer to Harry. “Maybe if I took your wand away, mine would work for me again.”
Harry shook his head. “No.” His voice sounded croaky.
“Yes, Potter. Maybe, if I show you who's in charge, my wand will realise that I'm its master... not you.”
Harry moaned, embarrassment flooding through him at the sound coming from his mouth.
“You don't seem to exactly hate the idea.”
“Not my wand. No way,” Harry protested, but there was something about what Malfoy said that loosed a ripple of anticipation in his chest.
Malfoy was right in front of him, his face alive with a turbulent glow. Another wash of heat and raw power sent Harry reeling back, the unseen fingers around his throat now insistent, possessive.
There was a clatter at the door, and then Millicent stormed in. “What the bloody fuck, Draco? I can feel your weird shit happening all the way down the corridor!”
Malfoy wrenched himself away from Harry and bent over the bed, panting. Harry sank back into the chair, out of breath himself.
Millicent was red-faced as she pointed a finger at Malfoy. “If you're going to go bonkers every time Potter walks in, there's no bloody hope for you. Hyssop is going to find out, for a start, and then you'll be back on potions and sedated up to your eyeballs night and day.”
Harry lifted shaky fingers to his throat, which felt bruised and tender. Malfoy's back heaved up and down, the knobs of his spine visible through the material of his shirt.
“Yeah, well maybe that would be better than this,” Malfoy rasped.
“You want out of here? It would help if you stopped acting like a crazy bastard. And you.” She turned to Harry in a rage. “Why did you not call me when he kicked off, Potter?”
Harry just looked at her. She was right. That was the most irritating thing about it.
She drew a deep breath, her chest swelling. “Merlin, you're a couple of difficult buggers.”
“Oh, god,” Malfoy moaned, his voice cracking. “Why are you here, Potter? Why do you keep coming?”
Harry looked up at him. “I don't know.”
“You don't bloody know much, do you?”
Harry was so sick of all of this. Of feeling torn between wanting to help Malfoy – feeling responsible for him being stuck here – and feeling that Malfoy was the most infuriating bastard that he had ever known. And not only that, but that he was probably quite dangerous and should stay locked up for a long time.
The worst thing was that something deep inside Harry ached to find out what would happen if Malfoy's magic ran wild and they weren't interrupted. And it made him bloody furious.
“Look, I didn't speak up to keep you out of Azkaban just to see you rot away in St Mungo's. It's not fair – but if you're happy being kept here indefinitely, with no trial, no appeal—”
Malfoy let out a strangled noise, and Millicent stepped between them. “This stops right here. No more visits until you can both get a hold of yourself. Potter, get out.” She grasped of the back of his chair and tilted it so that Harry was forced to get up or be tipped on to the floor. “Draco, sort yourself out. Hyssop's making her rounds in a bit, and you do not want to look agitated. I'll be back when I've escorted the Boy Who Lived off the premises.”
Millicent guided Harry out with a hand on the back of his neck. He shot a last look back at Malfoy, who was slumped on the bed, covering his head with his hands, but Millicent gave him a firm push and the door swung shut between them and Malfoy.
“Bloody hell, Bulstrode, can you keep your hands to yourself?”
She gave him a hard look. “Think it's unfair, him being here, do you? Offends your sense of fair play, and all that?”
Harry nodded. “It's not right. He's being treated like a criminal—”
“That boy's plumb deaf in one ear, you know. Draco didn't just give him a playful slap, out in the forest.”
Harry flushed. “But he's had no trial—”
Millicent cut in, her face stony. “You can fool yourself that's the reason you're bothering with this, if you want to, but you don't fool me.”
“I come in and you're all weak at the knees for him, god, I've never seen anything so bloody obvious. Gives you a hard-on, his magic, does it?”
Harry scowled, his face burning. “Shut up.”
“I'll shut up when I feel like it. You're a bigger prat than I thought you were if you don't even know when you've got the horn for someone. Is this what you Gryffindors do? Run around doing your daring bloody rescues, when all you really want to do is shag yourselves stupid?” She rolled her eyes. “Go on, then. You and that Luna. Go and tell her you're awfully concerned about the terrible injustice of it all. She's daft enough that she might even believe you.”
Harry felt as though the air had been knocked from his lungs. He actually felt his mouth hanging open.
“You can go now. Or I can get security to see you get home safely?” Millicent stared at him insolently, a hand on her hip.
Harry summoned enough control to give her a look of what he hoped was intense distaste, but Millicent merely walked off, shaking her head. “I'm going to check on young Laurel in the next room, but I'll only be a minute. If you're still in the building when I come back, I think I'll tell Healer Hyssop we've got a loose one in the secure ward. Plenty of free beds around here just waiting for someone to fill them.”
Harry walked towards the exit, his back stiff, arms tensed at his sides. He didn't look back at the observation window set into Malfoy's door, no matter how much he wanted to.
It was busier in Griselda's that evening, and Luna was at the counter choosing the perfect raisin pastry, leaving Harry to sit and muse on the utter impossibility of Slytherins.
Harry wasn't an idiot. He had realised a fair while ago that he was bisexual.
Well, maybe bisexual.
Probably gay, actually.
There was Ginny, sure – and Cho, of course – but he couldn't deny that the things he liked about girls, were, well. Sort of boyish things. Ginny's biceps. Her lean arse and tight thighs. The way she challenged him, never took any shit from him.
When he and Gin decided after the war not to pick up where they left off... he noticed that when he was free to look at anyone he chose, he chose boys. Well, men, to be honest. He liked the look of a man who was a man. He liked their hard lines and their confidence, the hunger of them. The softness of a boy wasn't so appealing, not in the way that made his insides lurch with want.
He thought of Malfoy and how his face seemed to have changed while Harry had been away from Hogwarts. How the delicate pointiness was developing into something no less angular, but with a gritty strength under the prettiness. He could imagine what it would be like to let his lips nuzzle their way along the sharp lines of Malfoy's jaw, and he shifted in his seat.
“So, did you read that section on wand cores?” Luna dropped neatly into the chair opposite him.
Harry wrinkled his nose. He had started it, but the text was so dry and uninteresting, it reminded him of being back at school. Plus, he couldn't see what Malfoy's wand having a unicorn hair core had to do with Malfoy's insistent, persuasive magic clambering all over him every time they met.
Luna sighed. “Did Hermione used to do all your homework?”
Harry frowned. “No, not usually. She had some weird idea me and Ron should learn to do it ourselves, or something.”
She tucked her hair behind her ears. “OK. Here's what I think. Draco's wand worked well for you, from the start, yes? I mean, it wasn't just a question of getting used to it?”
Harry nodded, remembering the wand's ardent, willing feeling in his palm.
“Did that generally happen for you? If you tried to use another person's wand?”
“No. Not at all.”
The waiter arrived with their order, and once everything was arranged in front of them, Luna passed Harry her slim length of ash across the table. “Try mine.”
Harry weighed it in his palm, then cast a quick Lumos. The light that emitted was feeble and stuttered from the wand's end rather than flowing out smoothly.
“Mmm.” Luna tilted her head. “About what you'd expect, really. So there's something about Draco's wand. I imagine because you won it from him in a battle.”
Harry thought back. The rather embarrassing scuffle at Malfoy Manor during which he had wrested Malfoy's wand from his hands had never seemed worthy of the name battle.
“You became master of the Elder Wand by disarming Draco, so it's reasonable to assume―”
Luna waved her long fingers. “The Elder Wand. When you disarmed Draco, it―”
“How do you know about that?” Harry whispered urgently, looking around to see if anyone had heard.
“Oh, come on, Harry, it wasn't that hard to guess. Like I told you, I do know quite a bit about wandlore. I like to sit in the evenings, when Father is sleeping, and try and work things like that out. Anyway. It's pretty clear that Draco's own wand also transferred allegiance to you, to some extent.”
Harry sank back in his seat. He sometimes felt it was too easy to underestimate Luna, with her Nargles and her earrings and her big, guileless eyes. “Yeah, Malfoy thinks that's the problem.”
Luna shrugged and began to pick out raisins with her slender fingers. “It does make sense. I think his magic realises that and is trying to take control of the situation.”
“By going wild and freaky all the time?”
“I think that's just a side effect. He can't channel his magic effectively through his wand, so it bursts out at times. Can you ask him more about it? I think we need to know what happened when the boy got hurt.”
“I don't think he's going to want to talk about that.”
“You have to try, Harry. Unless... do you think he'd respond better to me?”
“No! I mean, er, that's OK. I can try.”
Luna smiled. “That's good, Harry. And, maybe, you could try letting him win his wand back from you?”
Harry stared. “How? They've got it locked away somewhere.”
Luna rested her chin on her hands. “That's tricky. We could steal it, maybe?”
Harry lifted an eyebrow.
She shrugged. “Just a thought. OK, how about this? You let him disarm you.”
“No.” Harry thought of Malfoy's strange, silvery eyes locked on to his and took a quick swallow from his coffee, wincing at the burn on his tongue.
“Just as a temporary thing. It might rebalance his magic.”
“But then my wand might think he was its master. We can't go on bloody disarming each other for the rest of our lives!”
Luna's forehead creased in thought. “I think he needs to show mastery of you, somehow, though. You need something symbolic that won't affect your wand. I don't know... Perhaps we should Owl Hermione.”
“No!” Harry had been rather quiet about the whole matter when he last Owled his best friends. Something told him that it was best to keep quiet about the fact he was mixed up in some crazy scheme to help Malfoy. “I mean, I don't think we should disturb her at the moment.”
“You're probably right.” She sighed. “I'll carry on reading and thinking. I've been drinking Calea tea at night; it really helps with getting your thoughts to flow while you're asleep. I'll take a double dose, tonight, and hope for the best. I expect the answer will come to me in a dream.”
She added milk to her tea and stirred. “Go back, though, Harry, and ask him about Gwyn. What's the worst that can happen?”
As was now becoming habitual, Harry waited until Millicent was alone and then whisked off the cloak.
“Merlin's fucking arse, Potter, if you don't stop doing that, I swear, I'll—”
Harry held up his hands. “I know what you're going to say, but I just need to ask him something.”
Her lip curled. “You don't know what I'm going to say.” Her hand rested in a fist on her hip. “We've been having a chat about you, me and Draco have.”
Harry held her gaze steadily, telling himself there was no reason to blush at all.
“I've reminded him you're his best hope, but you both need to give the unhinged stuff a rest. He's agreed to take a mild sedative which will hopefully keep him calm enough while you're here. And I'll be staying in the room while you talk.”
Harry opened his mouth to protest, but Millicent raised one hand. “That's the deal. If you don't like it, you can bugger off.”
Harry scowled. The idea of trying to get Malfoy to open up with Bulstrode sitting there... Ugh. But what other choice did he have? “OK.”
“Right.” She waved away the wards surrounding the potions shelf and plucked out a small vial containing a milky-purple liquid, then looked slyly at Harry. “Should I give you one of these as well?”
“I don't bloody need a potion.”
“Yeah, right, because you're perfectly calm.” She swept her eyes over Harry's face and snorted. “Come on, then. Come and see lover boy.”
She strode towards Malfoy's room, while Harry contented himself with mouthing obscenities at her back.
“Draco! Rise and shine! He's early today. Extra keen to see you.”
Malfoy propped himself up on one arm. He'd evidently been dozing, and his face bore creasemarks from the folds of the sheets. “Ugh. I was dreaming I was out of this place. Why did you have to come and wake me?”
“Time for a little drink.” Bulstrode waved the vial in front of Malfoy's face.
“Oh, hell. Is that really—”
“We agreed. If you want your nice little friends to come and play, you’ve got to have this.”
Malfoy grimaced. “Potter's not my friend,” he said, but he sat up to take the unstoppered vial from her hand, then downed it in one.
Millicent walked to the sole chair and planted her backside firmly in it. “I'll just be over here. You can pretend you're all alone, if you like.” She stared out of the window.
Harry looked around, but the only place to sit was on the floor, which smelled like it had been mopped with something toxic, or on the bed with Malfoy. He stayed standing and cleared his throat.
“So, you were telling me about your wand – when it started... behaving funny.”
Malfoy sneered, but his face was starting to soften, to smooth out, presumably the effect of the potion. “Yeah. After you stole it.”
Harry took a deep breath. “Luna thinks your magic wants my wand. To win it back. Like you said.”
Malfoy just looked at him, his eyes travelling across Harry's face, from his mouth, to his eyes. “She thinks that?”
His lips twitched into a smirk. “Maybe.”
“I don't get it. Your wand worked kind of OK when I gave it back. But then it got more erratic?”
Malfoy's mouth turned down. “Yup. I could tell it remembered me. But, it was like it didn't always want to listen. Not much fun. And then... other stuff started happening.”
Malfoy's eyes flicked to Millicent, who was glaring at the window as if it had personally offended her. “I got a letter from my father.”
“Why am I even telling you all this, Potter? Oh, that's right. Because I've got nothing else to do all day than stare at these four walls.”
Harry shifted from foot to foot.
“Sit down, would you, for Merlin's sake? Don't stand there looming at me.” Malfoy screwed up his face and moved over on the bed, leaving a space for Harry.
Harry glanced at Millicent, but she just sat, impassive, and he perched himself on the corner of the bed. Malfoy's bare legs were stretched out beside him. “The letter?”
Malfoy gave a humourless laugh. “He was giving me my orders. For when this little unpleasantness is over.”
Harry felt hot anger rise in his throat at the thought of Lucius still lording it over Malfoy.
“He meant our sentences. Like this was all...” Malfoy waved a hand. “Some unfortunate business that happened by accident.” He looked tired, and he closed his eyes for a moment. “Anyway, I'm to do this and that, and the other, all to redeem the house of Malfoy. Yes, Father, no, Father, three cauldrons full, Father. Starting by marrying some bloody girl for the connections she can bring us.”
Harry felt a strange churn of emotion in his stomach. “Who is it?”
“One of Daphne's sisters. The little one.”
“Do you like her?”
“Like her? I met her once, at a party. I was drunk, and I think she said about five words to me and then left to talk to someone else. I do know she's got a face like a half-starved weasel. And probably an arse to match.”
Millicent snorted from the window.
“Anyway, after receiving that little communiqué, I lost my temper rather.” Malfoy stared at the floor, his shoulders slumped.
Malfoy waved his hand. “Magic happened. Like...” He glanced over at Millicent's back. “Like when you came to the forest. But worse.”
Harry wanted to ask about Gwyn – the boy who had got hurt. But how could he, with Millicent sitting there listening to every word and sniggering at the two of them?
“Listen – isn't there somewhere else we can go?”
Malfoy looked at him as if he were mad. Harry looked at Millicent, then beyond her, to where the trees were swaying in the wind outside. “Those gardens down there... can patients go out there?”
Millicent twisted her body in the chair, her face scornful. “You what?”
“Malfoy wants to go outside. To see the gardens.”
“You think I'm going to get permission to take you out there?”
“Why not?” Harry met her eyes stubbornly.
Millicent looked from one to the other. “Draco's not even allowed out of this room, Potter.”
“Do you think that's good for him? Being stuck in here all day?”
Malfoy's face was wary, but his eyes were starting to come alive.
“It's not about what I think—” Millicent said.
“Isn't it? You're his carer, aren't you? If you went and told his Healer you were going to take him out for a walk in the garden, to get some fresh air, and that he'd taken that potion beforehand, the one to keep him calm, what would she say?”
Millicent frowned. “I don't know, but—”
“Go and ask her.”
She started to shake her head, but Malfoy scrambled off the bed and was at her side. “Merlin, Mills, can you ask?” He took hold of her hand. “Would you?” His face was full of longing.
Harry wet his lips. “You could stay with him the whole time. It would only be for a little while. And you could send for help if anything went wrong.”
Millicent narrowed her eyes.
“Please, Mills?” Malfoy sounded young and earnest.
She looked at him crouching down before her. “Bloody hell, Draco.” She bit her lip. “Fuck. All right then.”
Malfoy's eyes crinkled with delight. He squeezed her hand, then kissed it. “Excellent! Will you go now? Right away?”
She rolled her eyes. “Yes.” She lifted herself out of the chair, then paused at the door. “No funny business. Or you can forget it.”
Malfoy shook his head, wide-eyed.
Millicent looked at Harry, who raised his hands. “Only one hundred percent serious business, Millicent, I promise.”
As soon as she had left, Malfoy started rummaging in a trunk under the bed. “Did they even leave me any shoes?” He yanked out a crumpled pair of trousers and started pulling them on.
Harry took himself over to the window and looked down. It looked like there might be a couple of benches under a group of trees. Perhaps they could go and sit there.
“I can't believe we're getting out. You're a genius, Potter.”
Harry turned his head and got an eyeful of Malfoy's bare torso as he changed into a clean shirt. His head was stuck inside, and he pulled at the neck hole. A jolt ran through Harry at the sight of his pink nipples and a flash of underarm hair as Malfoy wriggled to get free. Harry let his eyes run down over the smooth lines of Malfoy's stomach, the arch of his hipbones above his trouser waistband, before pulling his gaze away to focus on the garden again.
The door swung open. “It's on,” Millicent announced. “She says she's pleased to see you're adjusting to your situation nicely, Draco. Pat on the head for being a good boy.”
Malfoy's head appeared through the neck hole of the shirt, beaming with delight. “Yes!”
“You just have to play their game, I've been telling you from the beginning. Right, Boy Wonder, better get under that fairy cloak. Healer Hyssop's just in the corridor. Draco, you need something over that. It's November, you know?”
Malfoy rummaged again and began to hurry into a thickish cloak and a pair of boots. Harry felt a lurch of excitement as he twitched the folds of the Invisibility Cloak around himself. It really did feel like an escape.
They all turned as the door opened again. Hyssop, as Harry suspected, was the tall black Healer Harry had seen on his first visit, and several times since. She nodded approvingly in Malfoy's direction.
“Very happy to see you cooperating with your treatment, Patient Malfoy. It will make a vast difference to your welfare in the long term if you can settle down here. I see no reason why you shouldn't have a short walk in the garden each day as long as your condition remains stable.” She turned to Millicent. “I've lowered the wards, so you can go as soon as he's ready. I think twenty minutes will be ample on this first occasion.”
Malfoy looked as if he wanted to protest, but Bulstrode steered him away and had them out of the ward in no time. “Probably smartest to avoid the lifts, while our invisible friend's around,” she muttered, taking the stairs instead at a brisk pace.
The air outside was cold and crisp as they emerged from a side door which opened on to a grassy area. Malfoy took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment, his face almost blissful.
“Come on.” Millicent pulled at his arm. “You've only got about fifteen minutes now. Have a walk about or something.”
Malfoy walked in an aimless loop across the grass, then broke into a run.
“Oi!” Millicent called. “Acting normal, yeah?”
Malfoy turned and grinned, then pulled a grotesque face at Millicent, but he kept to a more usual walking speed.
Harry caught up with him and looked about quickly. There were a couple of off duty Healers strolling along the path on the other side of the grass, but otherwise no-one was out on such a chilly afternoon. He poked his head out from the cloak. “Psst, Malfoy.”
“Oh, I almost forgot you were here, Potter.” Malfoy gave him a wide smile. “This is brilliant.”
“Come under the trees. I can take the cloak off, and they won't be able to see us so easily from the windows once we're over there.”
They each took a seat on one of the wooden benches, and Millicent plonked herself in between them. “Well, isn't this cosy?”
Malfoy frowned. “It's like having a bodyguard.”
“I got you out here, didn't I?”
He nodded. “You did. And Potter did, too. I'm... I'm grateful.”
Harry leaned forward. “Look, Millicent, can you leave us to talk? I just want to ask Malfoy about... his magic. It's easier without someone listening.”
Millicent's brows drew together as she considered this. “Go on, then,” she said. “But I'll be just over there. Watching you.”
Harry breathed a sigh of relief as she walked away to the other bench, under a spreading oak. He looked at Malfoy, who was watching a squirrel darting up and along the nearby fence. “How are you feeling?”
“Pretty good.” Malfoy nodded. He turned a lazy smile to Harry. “Go on then, go ahead and ask me. You know, people are so scared of it – wild magic...”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed.
“... but, it's not all bad.”
Harry raised his eyebrows.
“Like, having all that power within you. Feeling it course through you.” Malfoy's eyes rested on Harry's face, the lids heavy, and his eyelashes long and pale. The sedative seemed to have made him chatty, or perhaps it was just the novelty of being out of doors again. “The potency of it... feeling like you could do anything.” The wind blew a chilly gust at them, and Malfoy pulled his cloak closer around himself. “But at the same time, being powerless. You can't control it... you can only let it do as it will.” Harry watched his narrow throat working as he swallowed. “It's addictive.”
An odd smile twitched at his mouth. “It feels like it could consume you. Consume everything around you. And maybe you want it to.” He fell silent for a moment, thoughts flickering across his face.
Harry's palms felt damp. He rubbed his hands against his jeans. “It's dangerous, Malfoy. You have to try—”
“You know, they've got my wand, Merlin knows where.” Malfoy sighed. “I had a nightmare. About Hyssop locking it away, then Vanishing the key. My only hope of getting out is to persuade them that... what happened... was a temporary aberration and that my magic has settled.” He gave Harry a piercing look. “But it hasn't, has it, Potter? You can feel it.”
Harry could feel tingling trails of magic, running across the ground, taking the shortest path between him and Malfoy, like a swarm of ants streaking towards their prey. From Malfoy's feet, from his fingers, to Harry's legs stretched out in front of him, the rippling, flurrying magic poured towards Harry again and again, tickling the soles of his feet and trailing up his legs and around his thighs, with an electric, playful pulse.
Malfoy watched for a minute, amused, as Harry shifted on the bench, the cascading magic making him squirm. Then he spoke, low and slightly scornful, his eyes fixed on Harry's. “My magic doesn't want your wand, Potter. It wants you.”
Harry felt a shocking rush of arousal. He couldn't quite believe Malfoy had said that. It made his hands shake, and he shoved them quickly into his pockets.
Malfoy sat, looking quite at ease, a half-smile pulling at his lips. His mouth looked the only soft thing in his sharp face, full and generous. Harry wondered how it would feel, how it would taste, if he were to—
Millicent called over from under the oak. “I don't know how long you think I can sit and watch this eye-fucking for, but you've only got about five minutes left.”
Harry dragged his eyes away and took a deep breath. There was no time to waste. “I'm sorry, but I need you to tell me about the boy. The one who got hurt.”
Malfoy's eyes slid across Harry's face. “They told you about that?” His voice was flat.
Harry nodded. “What happened? I don't know the details.”
Malfoy let out a deep sigh. “Is he— is he— OK?”
Harry swallowed. “I'm not too sure. I think— his ear...” He gestured to his own.
Malfoy put a hand up as if to hide his face, then pulled it away again. “He's a complete little shit, you know, Potter.”
“I'm not saying—” Malfoy closed his eyes. “He and his friends used to come and... bait me.”
Harry looked at Malfoy's hands, twisted in his lap. They looked pink with cold.
“They knew I didn't have a wand. That I could only do simple magic without it.” He looked at his feet. “And that I was on probation and probably quite keen to stay out of trouble.” He let out a short laugh. “That didn't quite work out, did it?”
Harry spoke quietly. “What happened?”
Malfoy looked up at him from under a fall of hair, his eyes flinty. “They were ignorant little bastards. They said unspeakable things to me.”
“What happened, Malfoy?”
“I— They—” He took a couple of breaths, his chest heaving.
“It's really important.”
“My magic— It went for him.”
“Your magic.” Harry hadn't meant to sound so sceptical.
“I didn't mean to— I couldn't— I was so fucking angry, Potter!”
Harry sat quite still. The wind was tossing the trees about. If he shut his eyes, they could almost be in the Forbidden Forest.
“It rose up, like a great fucking volcano of it, and I couldn't stop it – didn't want to stop it. He felt it coming – he was turning away to run.” Malfoy scrubbed at his face with a hand. “It hit him right in the side of the head.”
Harry screwed up his face, but he didn't take his eyes from Malfoy.
“I thought I'd killed the little bastard.”
Millicent called over from her bench. “You've got another couple of minutes.”
Malfoy grimaced. “OK, Mills.”
Harry leaned forwards. “Then what? I need to know.”
“Then? Oh, nothing much. They brought me in here. And took my wand away. And after I went berserk and destroyed everything in the bloody room, they took everything away except the bare essentials and doped me up so hard I could barely lift my head off the pillow.” He let out a shaky breath. “And here I am still.”
Harry sat silently, watching the dry leaves blow about by their feet.
“Is he going to get better?” Malfoy asked.
Harry shook his head. “Don't know.”
Malfoy's Adam's apple bobbed. “He was a shit. But I never meant—”
Millicent was at their side again. “Time's up.”
Malfoy's shoulders slumped. Harry looked up at her. “Just another minute.”
“Nope. Time for you to leave, too. You've worn him out.”
Harry looked at the circles under Malfoy's eyes, the skin bruised-looking.
“Sit there a moment and I'll Apparate you inside,” Millicent told Malfoy. She turned to Harry. “Come tomorrow at the same time; I'll make sure he's out here. Easier than creeping into the ward all the time. Your luck'll run out sooner or later and someone'll see you.”
“OK.” It made sense. “Well, goodbye, Malfoy. Millicent.” He turned to go, drawing the cloak from his pocket again as he walked away.
“Oh, Potter?” Millicent was at his shoulder again.
She hissed it out, too quiet for Malfoy to hear, her face ugly with anger. “This rescue business. Can you and Lovegood hurry it up? Because I know you probably think I haven't got one, but it's breaking my fucking heart to see him like this.”
Harry looked back at Malfoy slumped wearily on the bench. Millicent went to him without waiting for an answer and lifted his arm around her broad shoulder. In another moment, they were gone.
Back at home, restlessness dogged Harry, and he spent an unsettled evening. It had been different, today. The effect of the sedative meant that Malfoy had been more relaxed... almost pleasant, at times, Harry thought, remembering the bright smile that had broken across his face. There's no doubt it had been useful for getting Malfoy to talk.
But, there was a part of Harry that didn't want Malfoy like that. That craved the old Malfoy, with all his edge and bite and the raw, risky feeling that came when Malfoy's magic surged at him. This was like caging some wild animal – there were times it was necessary, but it left you feeling dirty inside to see the haughty, fierce creature restrained like that, against its will.
Harry sighed and wandered into the kitchen to make a drink.
Luna was at the Lovegood house with her father, but she had still found time to Owl Harry a packet of the strange tea she had mentioned.
We need all the help we can get, Harry. Drink it before bed and see if any enlightenment comes to you in your sleep.
He sniffed at the lumpy parcel, pulling a face at the unappetising smell, and chucked it grumpily to the back of one of the kitchen cupboards. It felt like they were getting nowhere. And now Malfoy was going to have to be sedated whenever he saw him, and—
Harry banged his fist against the wall, then flung the cupboard door open again and snatched the grubby package.
When made into a steaming drink, the stuff smelled even more disgusting, like a mixture of wet dog and sour plums, but Harry drank it anyway. It couldn't hurt, could it? And he hadn't really done much else that Luna had suggested. He forced it down to the very dregs, glaring out of the window. The trees at the bottom of his garden were silhouetted against the moon, which was as round as a wheel, a great, glimmering presence low in the sky.
Harry slammed down the cup, then rinsed the unpleasant aftertaste from his mouth and spat into the sink. He might as well go to bed, though sleep seemed far off tonight.
But when he lay down between the sheets, with moonlight slipping insistently between the crack of the curtains, the heavy blanket of sleep soon covered him completely.
He was on his knees, the earth prickling cold and damp through his trousers, and Malfoy was holding his head, the touch of his fingers light but imperious. Harry opened his mouth again and felt the smooth, velvety weight of Malfoy's cock slipping between his lips to rest on his tongue. Malfoy's face was impassive, cold, even, but as Harry let his cheeks hollow and sucked off noisily, a groan rumbled from Malfoy's chest.
Harry could smell the musky scent of him, taste the bitter trickle of pre-come as he lapped longingly at the head. Harry's own cock was swollen and aching, and he felt it leap with an urgent need as Malfoy cupped his head with those long, sure fingers, fucking Harry's mouth with sweet, lingering strokes.
The forest was quiet around them, just the rustle of the wind twitching through the trees, and Malfoy's breathing, louder and faster now, and the wet sound of Harry's lips and tongue submitting to Malfoy's desire.
He wanted to lose himself in this moment forever, but then Luna's voice was in his ear, trying to forcing him to stop and listen, even though what he wanted more than anything else in the world was to make Malfoy come, to see him lose himself in sensual pleasure.
He needs to show mastery of you, Harry. You need something symbolic.
And then Malfoy spoke, his beautiful cock still thrusting between Harry's lips as he gazed down at Harry with his eyes burning. “My magic doesn't want your wand, Potter. It wants you.”
He needs to show mastery of you, Harry. You need something symbolic.
He needs to show mastery of—
“All right!” shouted Harry. “All right, shut up, I get it, OK? I get it!”
And sitting up in bed, his back clammy with sweat, his cock still throbbing with frustration, he found that he did.
It was just after midnight when he reached St Mungo's, and he took the stairs two at a time. If only Millicent was still there. If only—
He burst through the ward doors, realising too late that stealth would have been better. Luckily, Millicent stood alone at the desk, scrawling away at a roll of parchment.
“Potter?” she said in disbelief. “You do know it's the middle of the night? That is you, isn't it?”
Harry lifted the cloak just enough for her to see his face. “Millicent.” He was out of breath. “Please. I need your help.”
A querulous voice came from a bed in the far corner, where a small wizard lay on his side. “Healer? Healer? What was that bang?”
“Just the door shutting,” Millicent called, then glared at Harry. “What the fuck do you think—”
“I need you to lower the wards,” he blurted.
“The wards? You've lost it, now, Potter. You must think I'm as nutty as you pair of fruitcakes if you think I'm going to—”
“Who are you talking to? Is there someone there?” came the anxious wizard's voice again.
“Nope,” Millicent said. “Go to sleep. It's nothing.”
Harry made a frantic gesture. “Please, Millicent, you've got to help. I know what to do. I just need to get him out of here. Just for an hour. Please.”
“I used to talk to people no-one else could see,” the old man said. “That's why they put me in here. You'd better not let Healer Hyssop catch you, or they might—”
“Yes, thank you, Patient Welkin. You don't need to worry about me.” In a lower voice she told Harry, “This way.”
They stepped into the corridor leading to Malfoy's room. Millicent's arms were folded across her chest. “You've had some pretty stupid fucking ideas, Potter, but this is the worst. Every other bugger's been called over to Spell Damage; some idiot with a new wand just took down half of Diagon Alley with a dodgy Hex. I was due off duty two hours ago, and if you think I'm going to—”
Harry let all of his desperation show in his face. “Please, Millie, please.” He waved a hand towards Malfoy's room. “Do it for him. For Draco. I've worked it out. I can help him, I promise.”
“What are you up to? Where do you want to take him?”
Harry blushed. “I can't tell you. But I know it'll work. I just know it.”
Millicent narrowed her eyes. “What even makes you think I can lower the wards? I'm only a trainee.”
“You can, can't you?” Harry gazed at her intently. “I bet you know the keyspell.”
Millicent looked pained. “I fucking do as well. I heard Hyssop use it yesterday when she lowered Draco's for us.” She stared straight ahead, her mouth a grim line. “Fuck, Potter! I don't know—”
“Please. It'll work. I'll have him back in an hour. No-one will know.”
She took a long breath, her chest swelling, then let it out all at once. “If anyone ever finds out about this, I am going to be in such complete shit. This had better be something spectacular, Potter, or I'll personally Crucio you until your teeth rattle.” She jabbed a finger painfully into Harry's chest, her expression menacing. “I'm not joking.”
“You won't regret it,” Harry said, hoping this was true.
Malfoy was standing at the window staring out, the moonlight flooding in and lighting his hair and face with a silver glow. He turned as they came in, his face a picture of confusion.
“He's not sedated, is he?” Harry turned to Millicent in sudden alarm.
“No, I bloody am not.” Malfoy sounded pissed off and snarky as ever, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. “What the merry fuck is going on?”
“Patient Malfoy, the Saviour of the Wizarding World is here to see you,” Millicent announced drily. “Guess who wants to take you for a midnight stroll?”
Malfoy looked at Harry questioningly.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “Will you come?”
Malfoy screwed up his face in confusion. “Does Healer Hyssop know about this?”
Millicent laughed. “What do you think?”
Malfoy's eyes widened. “You're getting me out? This is me escaping?”
She shook her head. “Nope. This is you going out to play. One hour. That's it.”
Harry could feel Malfoy's magic pulsing with excitement, just a low tingle sweeping in and out like the tide.
“Are you up for it?” Harry asked.
Malfoy's eyes met his. “Are you kidding? Anything to get out of here for a bit.”
“If you don't come back, Draco, I'll personally hunt you down.” She gave him a hard stare.
“I don't doubt it, Mills. What do I need to take? Where are we going?”
“Just cloak and boots will be fine,” Harry said.
Millicent had drawn her wand and was tapping at the corners of the door, muttering to herself. Merlin. It was actually going to happen. Harry's hands were shaking, and he stuffed them into his pockets.
Malfoy finished lacing his boots and straightened up. His faced looked flushed and slightly nervous.
“All done, god help me.” Millicent wiped her face on her forearm. “Listen, if you get caught, you're on your own. I can't afford to be mixed up with this kind of shit. I'll deny everything.”
“Of course.” Malfoy's little frown suggested that this went without saying.
She turned to Harry. “Same goes if he—” She jerked her head towards Malfoy. “Well, you know. If things get out of hand, it's on your own head. I never had nothing to do with it. Right?”
“Right then. It's nearly quarter past midnight. I want you back here at quarter past one – fucking hell, I start again in the morning at half past seven, you bastards! You owe me for this.”
Malfoy reached out to touch her arm. “Mills. Thank you.”
“If you're not back by quarter past one – all right, half past at the absolute latest – I'll sound the alarm. Say you must have escaped. Understood?”
Malfoy leaned in and hugged her. “You're an angel.”
“Yeah, well. Piss off, then.” Her voice was gruff.
Malfoy gestured questioningly towards the door, but Harry shook his head and held out his arm. “Side-Along.”
Malfoy's cool fingers wrapped around Harry's forearm, and then he felt only the sickening pressure of Apparition as Millicent's face and the room around them blurred into blackness.
It was quite a jump to Apparate so far, not to mention taking Malfoy with him, and Harry landed a little breathlessly. Malfoy's eyes were round as saucers.
“Hogwarts? But...” He looked at Harry. “Why?”
Harry didn't answer. He was realising he hadn't exactly thought this one through. The tall gates stretched up in front of them. He wished he'd thought to bring a broom.
Malfoy was looking at him, his lip curling. Harry supposed he could send a Patronus to Neville, but he really didn't want to have to explain what they were doing there. Maybe they could use one of the secret passageways... Ugh, there was no time...
“Fuck it.” Harry scrambled for a foothold on the smooth metal of the gates.
“Potter, what are you doing?”
“We're going over the gates.” Harry found climbing them was quite straightforward, although the iron was bitingly cold to the touch.
“We're breaking into Hogwarts?” Malfoy's voice was high with disbelief.
“Basically, yes.” Harry stretched to get a good hold on a curlicue of wrought-iron. “Come on. Last one over is a Pygmy Puff.”
Malfoy snorted. “You're so very weird.” But he wedged his boot into a narrow space and was soon clambering up in pursuit of Harry.
The top of the gates were adorned with forbidding spikes, but they manoeuvred themselves over them and perched at the top, the stone boars looking quite different from this angle.
“You know this is probably going to set off some alarm in Filch's office or something?” Malfoy pointed out.
Harry shrugged. He was pretty sure the Castle itself was heavily warded, but as for the grounds... Oh, what the hell. It was worth a try.
Malfoy began to lower himself down, his long limbs making easy work of the job. Harry just watched, his attention caught by the rhythmic grace of Malfoy's movements.
“A Pygmy Puff, you say?” Malfoy smirked, nearly at the bottom, and Harry flung himself forward, jumping from the top of the gates. He regretted it the moment as thudded into the hard mud at the bottom, landing with a teeth-rattling thump that jarred his shins, but he straightened up and grinned at Malfoy nonetheless.
“What now?” Malfoy's lips were twitching with amusement.
“This way.” Harry set off quickly towards the forest path, leaving the lights of the road behind. The moon lit their way as they crossed the grass, but as Harry stepped into the shadows and steered them along the forest path, the darkness wrapped around them and he had to cast Lumos to avoid stumbling.
The path wound around and around, the trees on each side seeming to press in on them, looming out from the shadows. Malfoy was close behind him. Harry imagined he could feel his breath huffing damply against the back of his neck.
“I'm not sure... Is this a good idea?”
“Yeah.” Harry felt ripples of apprehension shivering across his back, but he had never been so certain of anything in his life.
“Some pretty nasty stuff does live in the forest, you know. In case you'd forgotten.”
“I've got a wand.”
Malfoy grabbed Harry's arm and made him stop. His face was pale, like the moon, and slightly frightened. “You know what happened the last time I was out here.”
Harry let out a breath. “I... trust you.”
Malfoy's face was pained. “Maybe you shouldn't.”
Harry looked at him. His skin was gleaming, his cheekbones sharp with his hair tucked behind his ears, the contours of his lips highlighted by the soft glow from Harry's wand. He could feel Malfoy's magic looping around the two of them, wanting to draw them closer together.
“Too bad,” Harry answered, and walked deeper into the forest, towards the clearing. He could feel Malfoy's eyes on him as he walked, feel the ache of Malfoy's magic reaching for him. The forest rustled and moved all around them, the trees thrown into uncanny shapes by the moonlight and the stark shadows, the air scented with pine and damp earth. Harry knew exactly what was going to happen. He was breathless at the thought of it, his body burning with knowledge and anticipation.
Here was the clearing. Harry strode across it purposefully, while Malfoy hung back, uncertain. Here was the beech tree, its branches spreading over them like a twisted canopy. Harry stood with his back against it, feeling the solid strength of the curving trunk. Malfoy watched him warily from a distance, his body tense and face serious.
The air was punchy with cold as Harry undid the buttons of his coat and slipped it off, letting it drop on to the ground. Underneath he was wearing a thin shirt and a pair of jeans. He leant back against the tree, his mouth dry, the cold air stirring at every exposed hair, every inch of skin... and beyond the cold, the feel of Malfoy's magic, thrumming through the air towards him.
Malfoy took a step nearer, and then another. He stopped a few feet from Harry. “I don't think you have the faintest idea what you are doing.”
Harry tilted his head, feeling the bark scratch against his shoulders. “Maybe not.”
Malfoy closed his eyes as a wave of magic washed up against Harry's chest. Malfoy's cloak rippled, blown upwards as if in a draught, then gradually subsided.
“I don't know what you think this is... I can't just turn it on and off, you know, Potter.”
“I know.” Harry bit his lip as Malfoy's magic danced up and down his thighs. “Come here.”
Malfoy took a step closer, then stopped, his shoulders curling inwards as if in pain. “Fuck.” Harry could see sweat shining on his face despite the cold air.
“Stop fighting it.”
“I can't just... Merlin.”
Magic was crackling around the tree now, pinning Harry where he stood and pressing him against the rough bark.
Malfoy stepped closer. “Why did you bring me here?”
“Because I didn't want anyone to interrupt us.”
“What is it that you want, Potter?” Malfoy's face was grim, almost fiendish in the moonlight.
“I want the same as you.” Harry moaned at the bursts of heat and want that gripped him deep within, making his voice crack as he spoke. “Now will you fucking come here and let it happen?”
Two strong tendrils of magic wrapped around Harry's wrists and lifted them over his head, making him arch his back. Malfoy almost fell towards him, his eyes scalding with intensity.
Now Harry understood why Malfoy's skin wore beads of sweat. The November chill was completely gone, replaced instead by a blazing heat which rolled from Malfoy's body. The air around them felt hot and dry, ready to ignite with one spark, but Harry still shivered as Malfoy raised a shaking hand to Harry's face. His fingers ran along Harry's cheek and down to his jaw, catching against the stubble there, while Malfoy stared at Harry as if he were cool water under the sweltering sun. It stole Harry's breath away, to be looked at like that – to be wanted like that – by Malfoy, and to see his body trembling just from their proximity, and the feel of Harry's skin under his fingers.
Sparks of magic showered Harry's face and radiated out everywhere that Malfoy touched. Then Harry felt a fresh wave buffeting his body back against the tree, and Malfoy doubled over, letting out a low guttural sound.
As he straightened up, his face was pained again. “Listen, Potter.” His voice was husky and broken. “You can feel it, yes? It's close – so close.” A vicious tremor ran through his body. “I'm warning you – if you run now, you could still get away. But if you stay... I'm not going to be able to control it.” He moaned, and Harry's eyes were drawn in fascination to the thick bulge at the front of Malfoy's trousers where Malfoy pressed his hand. “And... I've got no fucking idea what will happen.”
Harry's mouth was almost too dry to speak. “I'm not scared.”
Malfoy's gaze flicked up, his eyes wild. “Well, what if I am?” His voice cracked at the end.
Harry was aching for his touch. For the feel of Malfoy's magic wrapped around him like a treacherous embrace. “Come on, Malfoy.” Harry let his lip curl into a sneer and tilted his chin up, his arms stiff with strain as they stretched upwards. “Do your worst.”
Malfoy made a sound like a moan, like a sigh, and suddenly wave after wave of hot, powerful magic was flooding over Harry's skin. The invisible bonds gripped his wrists so tightly, lifting him so that his body was pulled taut in a merciless stretch, his feet on tiptoes only just reaching the ground. Then Malfoy leaned in and took Harry's lips in an open-mouthed kiss.
It was unlike any kiss he'd ever known. First, it was a man's mouth pressing against his, a man's lips moving hungrily over his. Not just any man – it was Malfoy. Draco Malfoy was kissing Harry like he could never get enough of it, like he'd destroy anyone who got in the way. Then, as Harry closed his eyes at the intensity of it, Malfoy's magic pummelled at him in relentless bursts, the dizzying power mingling with the taste of Malfoy's soft mouth and the smell of his body up close.
Harry gasped between Malfoy's lips and arched his body towards him, wanting nothing more than the press of Malfoy's skin against his. Through his closed eyelids he could see vibrant trails of colour, swooping and diving, and when he opened his eyes again, there were breathtaking arcs of light circling the tree.
Malfoy had his hands in Harry's hair and was grinding Harry against the beech, the solid press of his cock making Harry whimper with desire. He broke the kiss for a moment to suck in a breath, tasting the electricity in the air all around them, then meeting Malfoy's insistent mouth again with desperate kisses of his own.
Malfoy seemed utterly lost, his hips jerking, groaning with pleasure as his hands ran up to Harry's wrists and gripped them tight, his body covering Harry's, his magic pulsing against Harry's skin like water about to boil over. He gave a long slow thrust against Harry's hip and let out a whine of delight. Harry's cock leapt at the sound. He knew he could just go with it, let Malfoy do this until they both came, shuddering together against the tree, but it wasn't enough. It felt like this had been coming for a long, long time.
“Malfoy.” He wrestled to turn his head, with Malfoy still lavishing hot kisses all along his jaw and throat. “Oh, fuck, Malfoy. Stop.”
Malfoy's eyes were black pools of hunger. “No.” He licked and bit at Harry's throat, rutting against him, his hands gripping Harry's wrists hard enough to bruise. His voice was a low growl. “This is good, Potter, this is so good. This is how it has to be.”
Harry closed his eyes against a shocking, rapturous torrent that would have knocked him off his feet, had he not been pinned between Malfoy's body and the tree. “Yeah... oh, yes... But, wait. Don't you want...” He struggled to find the word, somewhere in a part of his brain that wasn't overwhelmed with Malfoy's taste, Malfoy's smell, Malfoy's teeth, Malfoy's lips... “Clothes... off?”
Malfoy's eyes widened and he let go of Harry's wrists, tugging instead at his shirt. He barely had to pull before it rent in two, the pieces of fabric fluttering on to the ground. He laughed, and then Harry felt Malfoy's magic rip his jeans from his legs as easily as if they were tissue paper. A mere look at his trainers sent them scudding away across the forest floor.
Harry stood in his underpants, the tight white fabric stretched over the swell of his erection. He'd never felt so aroused in his life. Malfoy stood back and stared, the incendiary heat between them warming Harry's skin, Malfoy's eyes running over Harry with such naked desire that Harry felt a sweeping flush rise from his chest up to his throat.
“Fuck, Potter.” Malfoy was unlacing his boots, stripping off his own clothes as if in a dream and shrugging them on to the ground. His skin was pink, his hair dampened to a dark gold. His body was glorious, all long lines and hard angles. As Malfoy stepped out of his pants, Harry watched his cock spring free, arching up towards the fullness of the moon.
Malfoy stood naked, tipping his head back and making a low moaning sound. He ran his hand over the shaft of his cock, gripping the base and holding it shamelessly. His magic was flowing back and forth between the two of them; Harry could feel it thrumming over the ground and right up into his bollocks with achingly sweet vibrations which made him want to cry out.
“Merlin.” Malfoy looked at Harry, his eyelids hooded. “My magic is... fuck, it's burning for you, Potter.”
Harry just leant against the tree, not trusting his lips to form words.
Malfoy gestured. “Take your pants off.”
Harry didn't believe he could get any more turned on than he already was, but the thought of exposing himself, hard and leaking, to Malfoy's blistering gaze had his balls tightening in readiness. He found that his hands were free to move, and he pushed his thumbs into the elastic and slowly dragged the fabric down his thighs.
Malfoy took a step back, as if steadying himself, still holding his erection in the circle of his fingers. His face looked intoxicated, transformed by sensuality into something wanton. His eyes slid all over Harry, from his cock, to his nipples, to his mouth, skating over his throat, his stomach, his thighs... Harry moaned and closed his eyes again. Malfoy's magic was still washing in and out like a tide, but more calmly than before.
“Your magic's gone quieter,” he said, his voice hoarse.
Malfoy laughed, low and amused. “It tired itself out, a little bit.” He took a step towards Harry. “And it knows it's going to get what it wants, soon.” Malfoy's tongue came out to wet his lips. “Isn't it?”
Another small eddy of heat circled around them. Harry felt sweat trickle down his back and into the cleft of his arse. “What – exactly – does it want?”
A slow smile stretched across Malfoy's face. He was so close, now. Another inch or two and their dicks would be touching. Harry shivered and tilted his hips forward.
Malfoy whispered. “You, Potter. It wants you.”
Harry swallowed. “Yes.”
“It wants you, on your back, here in the dirt.” Malfoy reached out and ran a finger down Harry's chest, dragging across his nipple.
Harry couldn't speak. His breath caught in his throat.
“It wants me inside you.” Malfoy's smile had gone, replaced by a look of intense seriousness, his voice a rasping whisper. “You with your hands above your head. Me pounding into you. You beneath me, crying out.” His voice cracked. “Me, fucking you, like I'll never stop.”
A strangled sound came from Harry's chest, and Malfoy let his fingers slide over the sensitive skin of Harry's waist.
“Everything, Potter.” It sounded like a threat and a promise.
His lips were close to Harry's ear and at last, with a honeyed friction that made Harry want to cry out with joy, Malfoy's erection skimmed over Harry's, the thick head of his cock dragging pre-come over Harry's shaft. It was the most erotic thing Harry had ever seen.
“My magic wants everything,” Malfoy whispered.
There was a sound like a rushing of wind, filling Harry's ears and lifting every hair on his body. Malfoy looked startled, then his face began to blaze with desire. He pushed Harry away from the tree, to the place where Malfoy's cloak lay crumpled on the ground. Harry stumbled, but let Malfoy do as he would, until his legs gave way and he knelt on the earth, where the ground was cool and damp, just like his dream. Then Malfoy pushed Harry onto his back, with the warm folds of the cloak beneath him, his face lit with determination as he knocked Harry's knees apart.
Malfoy loomed over him, and Harry felt a flicker of fear at his vulnerable position. Fear and, beneath it, hot, sharp arousal. God, he loved this. He loved the feeling of Malfoy's weight pinning him, pressing him against the ground like an animal. Of Malfoy taking what he wanted, just taking it and Harry allowing it all. He loved the feeling of letting his body say yes, when all of his survival instincts were screaming no.
Malfoy lifted one of Harry's hands above his head and gazed down at him. “Yes,” Malfoy said. “Like that. Yes.” He pushed Harry's other hand to join the first, off the cloak and onto the forest floor, pressing it into the mud and leaves, a frisson of damp and cold penetrating the bubble of heat that surrounded them. “Yes,” Malfoy hissed as he stroked his cock over the puckered skin of Harry's entrance, which became slick and slippery simply from Malfoy frowning at it. “Yes,” as he bit and licked at Harry's shoulder and across his collarbone. “Like that, just like that,” as he lifted Harry's leg on to his shoulder and began to push inside him with a look of concentration that Harry thought might undo him completely.
It was tight – much too tight – at first. Harry felt his body clench in alarm, and Malfoy growled with frustration, but then a surge of magic, tingling and seductive, flowed over Harry's balls and along his cleft.
A silky, insinuating warmth lapped against his entrance, then Harry's mouth fell open in a gasp as it slipped right inside him, penetrating him deep, deeper, loosening every muscle and massaging him open with an inexorable motion. Malfoy's magic teased in and out, sweet and dark and velvet-soft, until all of Harry's tension fell away and only the need to be filled remained. He was quivering with it, the force of his own desire astonishing him, almost shaming him. “Oh, fuck,” he moaned, and arched his back until he felt Malfoy slide all the way in.
Malfoy looked stunned, as if he'd never truly expected to find himself buried deep – impossibly deep, it felt like – inside Harry.
And then it began.
Malfoy's whole body twitched, and he let out a lengthy moan, low and animalistic. Harry felt as if the forest around them was trembling; from the corner of his eye it seemed the leaves and twigs around them were juddering on the ground. Malfoy paid no attention, but drew his hips back and then drove into Harry with a stroke that stretched and burned and felt so fucking good, so fucking right, that there were no words for it. No thoughts. Only want, and heat, and fullness.
Harry heard loud sounds coming from his own throat: aching, needy, euphoric sounds, but there was no room in him for shame any more. There was only Malfoy, fucking into him with a joyful, brutal rhythm. Only Malfoy's magic, flickering through Harry like flames and feeling like it might set the whole forest alight. It danced in the air around them, great trails of blue and green, fading and flaring like the Aurora Borealis.
Malfoy's face was beaded with sweat as he moved above Harry, his face twisted with furious glee. “This— Yes. You— Oh, Merlin, yes.” He gripped Harry's leg tightly, pulling it further over his shoulder. As he began to thrust into Harry again, moving with a slower, more powerful motion, Harry felt deep throbs of bliss radiating out from his bollocks and along his thighs.
“Christ,” he moaned, arching into Malfoy's movements and feeling him drive deeper.
“Wanted you like this... so long,” Malfoy said.
“Yes, yes... come on,” Harry urged, and Malfoy slammed into him, deep and breathtaking and perfect. Malfoy's magic was coiling around his wrists, holding them down; it was licking hotly between Harry's lips, biting at his throat, stroking his balls, lapping at his cock, tonguing his arse.
Oh, fuck, the sweet, sweet heaven of Malfoy's magic owning him completely. Harry gave himself over to it entirely, every inch of him submitting. Malfoy's magic was fucking him half-senseless, and Harry was loving every single second of it. His body strained upwards to meet it again and again, uninhibited cries and moans spilling from his mouth. Malfoy's movements were driving him off the cloak. He could feel the jolt of cold from the ground and the slap of his skin against the mud and he let Malfoy do it, let him fuck him half on the cloak and half on the hard earth. He liked the feeling of it – the way the cold jabbed in around the edges of Malfoy's warmth. More than that, Harry liked the thought of it – that Malfoy wanted him so much he would even kneel in the dirt to have him.
It built and built, the pleasure, intensifying until Harry felt he could no longer bear it, and then, at the peak, it flooded through him in an unstoppable release, his cock pulsing long streaks of come against his stomach. His body clenched around Malfoy, gripping him tight until Malfoy orgasmed, thrusting savagely deep inside Harry with a shout of triumph. The forest lit up around them with great streaming blots of colour, painting their skin with a wash of changing hues and then fading away like ripples on a lake.
Malfoy slumped against him, his chest heaving. The dappled light flitted over them one more time and then dimmed, leaving only the moonlight shining on the smooth skin of Malfoy's pale shoulders.
Delicious peace and relaxation coursed through Harry. He felt as if he could have the most restful sleep right there on the ground, a twig poking into his ribs and Malfoy's spunk sliding out of him. Malfoy's body was heavy, in fact a dead weight, but Harry enjoyed feeling the movement of his chest slow down and his gasping breaths subside to a soft tickle against his neck. There was something, though... something he was meant to be doing. Something – ah, yes.
“Bloody hell, Potter,” Malfoy said sleepily. “I just want to fuck you all day and night.”
Heat curled through Harry. But this was important. “Do you think it worked?” Harry asked, his lips feeling thick and useless.
“Uhh?” Malfoy grunted, letting his head roll to the side. His face looked drugged with smug contentment.
Harry poked him. “Did it work? Is your magic— different?”
Malfoy pushed himself up on one arm. “Hmm? Oh. Merlin. My magic.”
“What? Is it—”
“It's— Shit. It's calm. It's bloody—” Malfoy pulled away from Harry, their bodies clinging with a slick slide of sweat for a moment as he detached himself. “It used to feel like a – a Horntail, prowling around, always trying to get out. Now it's just... Hell, that feels odd after all this time. It's still there; it's just bloody behaving itself at last.”
Harry sat up too, leaning back on his arms. A slow smile crept across his face. “It worked.”
Malfoy looked at him. “It did. I really think it did.” He started to laugh. “You idiotic, crazy... What on earth were you thinking?”
Harry shrugged. “It was you and Luna, really. I just...” He waved a hand, “Put two and two together.” He laughed, too. “It was a bit crazy, wasn't it?”
“Only the worst kind of lunatic would bring me out to the forest in November for a fuck.” The air around them was cooling distinctly fast, and Harry muttered a cleaning charm at the stickiness on their skin. Malfoy pulled at the generous folds of the cloak, spreading it out and arranging it to drape over them as well as under. The soft wool stroked across their bare limbs and Malfoy's legs nudged against Harry's, the sudden simple brush of skin strangely intimate.
“There's a leaf in your hair... Just...” Malfoy reached and plucked it out.
Harry shivered at the unexpectedly gentle touch.
“Are you cold?” Malfoy asked.
Harry felt his lips part as he looked at Malfoy, at the jut of his jaw, the arch of his brow, so fine, and the mussed elegance of his hair. The line of his throat with the prominent Adam's apple. Millicent had been right all along, of course: Malfoy's magic gave him a hard-on. But Malfoy – just Malfoy, the man, not the wizard – did too. He breathed in the scent of Malfoy's warm body. He smelt of the forest, of sweat, of magic. Of sex.
Malfoy just stared as Harry reached up and cupped the back of his neck and pulled him in, gently, carefully. He kissed Malfoy open-mouthed, softly at first, tasting him, then hungrily, wanting to feel the answering rise of appetite in him. He wondered what it would be like to fuck Malfoy – just Malfoy.
Malfoy hesitated, then sank into the kiss, running his hands greedily over Harry's back, dropping them down to run across the muscles of Harry's thighs. “Merlin.” He broke off, then met Harry's mouth again and again, murmuring against his lips, “Millie… she'll kill us.”
“There's still time,” Harry said, not knowing whether there was or not. He simply feared that once they left the forest, things might never be the same again. Part of him wanted to hide out here forever.
Malfoy kissed as if Harry were about to be snatched away from him. He kissed all the marks he had left on Harry's neck, and then added some fresh ones. Harry was hard again, and breathless, and Malfoy was licking at the scratches on his wrists, and pushing Harry back down on to the ground again, when they heard the clock chime quarter past one.
“Shit!” Malfoy pulled away, his face tight with panic. “She really will raise the alarm, you know.”
Harry wanted to pull Malfoy down on top of him again, to wrap his thighs around him and hold him there. He wanted to flip him onto his back and rut against him until Malfoy's face went slack and he forgot all about Millie. But instead he stood up, his muscles complaining from their rough treatment, and looked at his ruined clothes. “We can still make it. But do I have to Apparate back to St Mungo's naked?”
“Just wear your coat.” Malfoy scrambled into his shirt and trousers.
Harry located it by the tree where he had dropped it; luckily it was long enough to cover him. He wrapped the thick softness around himself and tucked his wand into the pocket.
“Let's go,” Malfoy said, already heading for the path. Harry hurried behind him, his bare feet tormented by twigs and stones and, memorably, the prickly case of a horse chestnut.
“Arse!” He glared at Malfoy's retreating shape. Malfoy and his bloody flashy sex magic. Those had been Harry's favourite jeans, and the trainers had been nearly new.
“Come on,” Malfoy complained, and Harry stuck two fingers up in a vicious motion at his back.
They ran out of the forest and across the grass, dreading the sound of the half past chime but expecting to hear it at any moment. The Hogwarts’ gates were almost easier to climb barefoot, but cold and unforgiving, and Harry's legs trembled with tiredness as he swung them over the spikes at the top. Malfoy's face looked grey and pinched in the moonlight as he dropped down the last few feet to the ground.
Harry looked Malfoy in the eye for a moment as he took hold of his arm, searching for... he didn't even know what. Malfoy's face was unreadable. Harry felt shaky with exhaustion, but he focused his mind on Malfoy's room in the secure unit, gripped Malfoy's forearm tightly, and Disapparated.
Millicent was standing in front of the window, her face flinty as Harry and Malfoy appeared right next to the bed and more or less fell onto it in a rather dirty heap.
“You shitty little bastards.” She looked at the timepiece pinned to her uniform. “One twenty-nine? I've been having fucking Kneazles for the past hour, and you come back with seconds to spare.”
“Millie. Mills.” Malfoy was at her side, his face penitent. “We're so sorry. But it worked. Bloody hell, it worked!”
She looked from one to the other. Harry realised his coat was only fastened at the waist and that he was showing rather a lot of bare chest, not to mention the mess Malfoy had made of his neck. Malfoy's shirt was buttoned up wrong, and they were both liberally decorated with added leaves and streaks of mud.
“Yeah, I can see exactly what worked.” Her lip curled in distaste. “Boys' cocks generally do tend to work, though, don't they? So you needn't look so delighted with yourselves.”
Harry turned his head away to hide the flush burning at his cheeks, while Malfoy spoke quickly to Millicent. “My magic – it's fixed. Potter sorted it. It's back to normal – I can feel it. I'm sorry we were gone a while. But, truly, I'm OK now. It's going to be OK.”
She narrowed her eyes, then flicked Malfoy hard on the bony middle of his chest with her forefinger.
“Fuck! What was that for?” Malfoy rubbed the place angrily.
Millicent looked at Harry. “Come and stand here.”
Harry looked at her stubbornly, not moving an inch.
She jabbed her finger to the floor. “Here.”
Malfoy wrinkled his nose at Harry and jerked his head. “Go on.”
Harry went to her, his hand feeling for his wand. “If you flick me, I'll—”
She sniffed. “Oh, grow up. You've had more than a good flicking tonight, from the looks of you.”
Malfoy sniggered. Millicent pushed at his shoulder so he was standing right next to Harry, their feet almost touching.
“Look at each other,” Millicent ordered.
Their eyes met. Harry's breath hitched, and it seemed like Malfoy's eyes darkened at the sound.
Millicent watched them for a few moments, then sighed a great breath of relief. “It's bloody true, then.”
Harry looked at her, his brow wrinkling.
“Oh, come on, Potter, either of those – anyone pissing him off, or you getting in his face all up close and personal like that – would have had his magic going loop the loop a couple of hours ago. I reckon you've actually sorted it.” She frowned. “And all I ask is that you never tell me any details.”
Malfoy's face split into a beaming smile. He grabbed Millicent around her middle and started to twirl her in a parody of a waltz. “Darling Mills. We couldn't have done it without you.”
She slapped at his hands. “Get off, Draco, you great wanker. No. Of course you couldn't have. Although I can guess who worked it out – not either of you, I bet. Too busy playing footsie with your magic to make any plans. No, this was Lovegood, am I right? She may be mad as a cauldron of frogs, but she's got more sense than you two put together.”
Harry opened his mouth to protest.
“Don't bother,” Millicent put up a hand. “You know I'm right. So, is it a permanent fix?”
Harry looked at Malfoy in confusion. He hadn't thought about that. Malfoy shrugged, his hands palm upward.
“We don't know,” said Harry.
Millicent rolled her eyes. “Merlin help me. Look, I need sleep or I'm likely to AK someone quite soon. Potter. Come back tomorrow. Bring Lovegood. I'll speak to Hyssop.” Her mouth made a shape that was not quite a smile. “We can all have a party.”
Harry looked at Malfoy. He looked desperately tired, but he gave Harry a little smirk and let his eyes slide slyly over the tender marks on Harry's throat. Harry felt heat flare in his chest and wished he could reach for Malfoy and begin by teasing open all the buttons on his shirt.
Millicent made a disgusted noise, and they both turned guiltily away.
“I'll see you tomorrow, then.” Harry nodded.
“In the afternoon,” she said firmly. “And bring me a coffee from the canteen when you get here. I'll bloody need it.”
“I'm not really sure what's been going on here.” Healer Hyssop wore an irritated frown. “Trainee Bulstrode, nothing you have told me has made any sense.” She waved Malfoy's notes crossly. “Patient Malfoy, I thought we'd agreed no visitors?”
Malfoy shrugged. “That was mostly because I didn't feel like seeing my parents.”
“And yet your friends have been visiting, without my knowledge or permission, is that right?”
Luna beamed. “Actually, this is my first time. But it's very nice of you to let us come, thank you.”
Harry took a deep breath. “The important thing is that Malfoy is feeling much better and no longer poses any risk to—”
Hyssop cut in. “The important thing, Mr Potter, is that this is my ward and it is run according to my instructions.”
“It was the Calea tea that did it, you see,” Luna said, nodding. Her earrings, decorated with small corn-on-the-cobs, swung to and fro. “Harry had a dream, and then he realised that all he needed to do was submit to Draco's magic, and—”
Harry closed his eyes. “Luna, I don't think—”
Millicent's face was a picture of frustration. “Healer, I know some of what they're saying sounds...” She struggled for words. Harry could almost hear her saying, Fucking loopy. “Unconventional. But if we could maybe look at Patient Malfoy's magical health again—”
Malfoy, who was sitting quietly on the bed, cleared his throat. “Healer. Excuse me.”
Everyone turned to look at him.
“There were some tests – quite a lot of tests – that you ran on me, when I was brought here.”
Healer Hyssop tapped her foot. “Yes?”
“Would it be possible to repeat the tests?” Malfoy asked in an especially reasonable voice.
Looking around the room at everyone's heated expressions, Harry realised Malfoy appeared a paragon of calm and sanity.
Hyssop pursed her lips. “Those tests are time-consuming to perform, Patient Malfoy. Not to mention expensive. We'd need a specialist Healer, and—”
“I'm sure my parents would pay any necessary fees,” Malfoy said. “I think people would be quite upset to learn I was being held here when I'd actually made a complete recovery.”
Luna raised her hand as if answering a question in class and blinked slowly. “A patient being detained under the Magical Health Act of 1964 is entitled to a second opinion at any time.”
The Healer made a dismissive gesture. “I can't imagine anyone will be free this week; it's hardly an emergency, and—”
“The second opinion must be obtained within twenty-four hours of the patient, or the patient's representatives, requesting it,” Luna continued. “That's the Third Amendment to the Magical Health Act of 1964. It was passed in... hmm, I think it was 1992.”
Millicent gave Luna a look as if she'd sprouted an extra head, but the Healer peered at Luna thoughtfully for a minute, drumming her fingernails against Malfoy's notes. She let out a deep breath, then turned back to Malfoy. “Very well. I'll arrange for the tests.” She scrawled a note on Malfoy's file. “In the meantime, am I to take it that you now wish to receive visitors?”
Malfoy nodded. “Certain visitors.”
“Well, I'll consider your request. I am not at all sure that this is in the best interests of your magical health.” She looked sternly from Malfoy, sitting very upright on the bed in his nightshirt, to Harry's face, which he felt sure was radiating anxiety, then at Luna's hopeful, open smile.
Hyssop tutted at them all, then let a breath out like a balloon deflating. “Oh, very well. Have your visitors. Another half an hour only, though.” She turned to Millicent. “And you and I need to have a long chat, Bulstrode. A long, long chat.”
“I'll stay here until these two leave, shall I?” Millicent asked. “For security purposes.”
Healer Hyssop nodded. “Yes, of course. But then – come and find me. And bring coffee.” She walked to the doorway, then shook her head. “I somehow have a feeling I will never get to the bottom of this.”
There was a collective sigh of relief as the door swung shut behind her.
“Well, that worked out really quite well.” Luna swung her feet to and fro under the chair.
Malfoy looked rather stunned, while Millicent was staring rudely at Luna's socks, which bore a motif of dancing Thestrals.
“You were great, Luna,” Harry told her.
“I have to say, I agree with Draco's Healer. I don't expect we'll ever understand completely why it happened as it did.” Luna tilted her head. “But some things are better left a mystery. The important thing is that there's an easy solution. And it doesn't seem like you actually disliked having sex with Draco, Harry.”
Harry felt a deep flush rising up from his throat. He couldn't look at Malfoy, but he could feel him smirking from across the room.
“Fucking hell. I don't get paid enough for this,” Millicent said flatly, looking nauseated. “There aren't enough Galleons in the world to make up for this sort of shit.”
Luna turned to her. “It's so lucky you work here at St Mungo's. I was thinking, isn't this the best example of post-war unity? All of us from different houses, all working together.”
Millicent's lip curled so hard that Harry feared it might stick that way permanently, but Luna either didn't notice, or paid no attention.
“I just wish Draco had been in Hufflepuff. That would make it even better,” Luna went on. She looked up as Millicent snorted loudly, and apparently took it as a sound of agreement. “By the way, I love what you've done with your hair since Hogwarts, Millicent. It really suits you.”
Millicent looked suspicious.
“I wish I could get mine to curl like that. Do you use a potion?”
Millicent frowned. “No.”
“Natural? You're so lucky.” Luna sighed. “My mother's hair was curly, too. My father always said it was a witch's crowning glory.”
Millicent's face kept its customary dour expression, but Harry noticed her patting her curls gently when she thought no-one was looking.
“Draco, I went to talk to the Healers across the hall at Spell Damage,” Luna carried on. “You know, you're much more likely to have success yourself, fixing Gwyn's hearing, than a regular Healer. Seeing as it was your magic that caused the trouble.”
Millicent looked surprised. “She's right.”
Malfoy swallowed. “If they let me have my wand back... I'll try.”
“Oh, they'll give it back. Those tests will all come up clear, and then they've no evidence on which to hold you any longer. You'll be a free wizard within a day or two, I'm sure.” Luna's earrings swung up and down as she spoke.
Malfoy rubbed at his face for a moment, then went over to where Luna was sitting. “Lovegood... Luna. Thank you. I'm very grateful.” He turned and reached out a hand to Millicent. “You too, Mills. You're an absolute gem.”
“Right, and that's meant to be worth the tongue-lashing Hyssop's going to give me in a minute, yeah?” But she gave his hand a quick squeeze.
“You're both bloody marvellous.” Malfoy's Adam's apple bobbed. “I'd be rotting in here forever if it weren't for you.”
Harry cleared his throat. “Er. I did help, too. Quite a bit.”
Malfoy's eyes slid over to where Harry stood, feeling awkward and already wishing he hadn't spoken.
“Yeah, all right, Potter. But, I think you got your reward already.” His smirk was so infuriating. Harry wondered if Millicent would call security if he tried to punch Malfoy.
Luna turned her big eyes to him. “Are you OK with this, Harry? I mean, I feel fairly confident that as long as you have regular sex with Draco...”
Harry gaped and missed a whole chunk of what Luna was saying.
“... rebalance his magic, and there won't be any more trouble. But, like Millicent said, it's rather unconventional. People should just say if they have a problem with that.”
Millicent flopped down on to the bed, her face a mask of disgust. “Me. I have a major problem, because if I have to think about Potter and Draco going hard at it ever again, I'm going to vomit on someone.”
Harry blinked rapidly. “You mean... you think this is only temporary? We'd need to do it some more?”
Luna waved a hand. “Who knows? This type of magic is so unpredictable. It's probably best to be on the safe side. Unless, of course, that's not something you're comfortable with. We can think of something else if this way doesn't work for you.”
She gazed at Harry, her face serious. Malfoy was looking very hard at the floor, while Millicent was pulling faces and clutching her stomach.
Harry's mouth was suddenly very dry. “Uh, no. I mean, I think that will be fine.” He darted a quick look at Malfoy, who seemed to be hiding a smile.
“Draco? Any problem with that?” Luna asked.
Malfoy looked up as if he'd been thinking of something else entirely. “Sorry? A problem? Er, no. No problem. That sounds, er, perfectly fine.” He smiled politely, as if Luna had asked him if he wanted more tea, but Harry could see from the open collar of his shirt that his throat and chest were flushing pink.
“So. How often, would you think...? To avoid problems with my magic.” Malfoy went on.
Luna twirled her wand absent-mindedly. “It's hard to say... I suppose whenever you feel the need. You know, if your magic starts to feel agitated again.”
Malfoy nodded. “Yes, of course. Well, that's fine.” He cleared his throat. “No bother at all. Thank you, Lovegood.”
There was a silence in which Harry could hear his own heart thumping in his chest and Malfoy looked carefully out of the window.
“Well!” said Luna, brightly. “It all seems to have worked out for the best.”
“I'll just go and Obliviate myself now.” Millicent got to her feet. “And then find Hyssop and see if I still have a job. Five hours fucking sleep, and then this. I loathe all of you, just so we're clear.”
Malfoy smirked. “It's mutual, Mills. I loathe you, too.” But as she walked past, he reached for her hand and their fingers brushed together for a moment.
Millicent paused in the doorway, her head on one side. “Well, this has been special. If any of you ever need my help again, don't hesitate to go fuck yourselves.” She walked off, looking extremely pleased with herself as the door swung closed behind her.
Spring Term, 1999
The Great Hall was alive with the babble and laughter of several hundred students. Harry helped himself to shepherd's pie, but waved away the dish of Brussels sprouts Neville was offering him.
“It's really good to see you again, Harry. Seems like only a couple of weeks since you were last here.”
Twelve days, thought Harry. “Yeah, well, I was at a loose end. Again. And I promised I'd drop in and talk to McGonagall about the Defence job.”
“Dark Arts? The assistant's post?”
“Are you going to take it, then? Go on! It'll be great. It's like being back at school again, but with no homework and the run of the Castle.”
Harry hid a little smirk. He had never let boundaries and curfews bother him too much, after all. “I'm going to think about it. So, how was class today?” he asked, forking mash and gravy into his mouth.
Neville's face seemed to glow. “Brilliant. There's a kid in Hufflepuff – she's only twelve – but she's managed to grow an Ananas invisibilis from seed. Incredible!”
This didn't mean a thing to Harry, but he could see the satisfaction radiating from Nev's face and couldn't help nodding and agreeing that this was indeed amazing. “So, Malfoy still has his meals out in the forest, then?”
Neville shook his head. “Not always, no. I would say half the time he eats in here with us. I think he just gets caught up with something he's doing out there and forgets to come in.”
Harry thought of Malfoy, out in the forest, the look of concentration he had when his hands were busy. Harry's palms were sweating, and he wiped them on his lap under the table. Sometimes he wished he didn't feel this way. That he could just be cool and calm about it... so he could simply enjoy this arrangement that had developed over the last couple of months. The way Malfoy seemed to. Harry didn't want to go home and find himself staring into space, remembering how Malfoy looked just before Harry kissed him. Before they touched. How his face got all fierce and stormy, full of a sort of hunger, a yearning, and then, afterwards, how he was all soft and loose. His lips got pink and very full, and his eyes a soft grey, clear and unclouded. Harry could never decide which way he liked Malfoy the best.
And then Harry would think of how haughty Malfoy looked when Harry said goodbye, and, how, when Harry would glance back one last time, Malfoy was never, ever looking.
“Think I'll have a walk out that way after lunch, say hello,” said Harry carelessly. It wasn't that he didn't want Neville to know he was visiting Malfoy from time to time... well, pretty regularly. It was more that he didn't think Malfoy wanted anyone to know. And it felt like, if people knew... well, Harry wasn't sure. But perhaps the whole thing could fall apart.
“Course.” Neville finished a bite of green beans. “He's settled down again quite well, I think.”
McGonagall leaned around Neville to join their conversation. “If you'll forgive me for overhearing, of course Mr Malfoy has settled down again. He belongs here.” She lifted her deeply lined hand and extended one finger towards Harry. “And so, in my opinion, do you. Think about what I said.” She sat back and continued her meal.
Harry looked around the Hall. Everywhere he looked, things were the same and yet different. He scanned the student tables, searching out familiar faces and noticing missing ones. There was Dean, looking more serious than he had two years previously, listening to something Parvati was saying. Lavender, pretty and scarred, was flirting with a seventh year, who looked as though he couldn't believe his luck.
Harry realised with a jolt that this must be the first time in nearly ten years that there were no Weasleys at the Gryffindor table. He swallowed down a mouthful of mince which suddenly seemed tasteless.
He let his gaze drift over to the Slytherin students. Goyle sat steadily shovelling potatoes into his mouth. Harry wondered if he felt completely adrift without Malfoy and Crabbe there. He looked fairly contented, or possibly just oblivious.
And, yes, there was the boy Gwyn, sitting with the other fifth years, a cotton pad taped over his left ear. His sharp face had a rodent-like appearance to Harry's eyes, and as Harry watched, he jabbed his elbow into the side of the student next to him and whispered to him.
Neville saw Harry looking. “His hearing's much improved, now. Almost back to normal. It just bothers him when there's a lot of noise, like this.” Neville gestured to the chattering students and the clink and clank of cutlery.
He still looks like a little shit, thought Harry. But maybe he learned a lesson: not to poke a Basilisk's nest.
The shepherd's pie dishes were vanishing around them and being replaced by bowls of sticky toffee pudding and jugs of creamy custard.
Harry pushed his chair back. “Think I'll give dessert a miss.”
Neville raised his eyebrows.
“Not very hungry, and, er, I want to get back home. Before it's dark,” he finished lamely, getting up.
“Well, drop in anytime.” Neville stood up and thumped Harry on the shoulder. “Great to see you.”
“Yeah, I will. Good to see you too.” Something reckless was flaring in his stomach, making him grin. He thrust his hands into his pockets and walked quickly out of the Hall and towards the front entrance.
A blackbird was singing as Harry strode over the grass towards the forest. It was milder than the last time he had visited, and some of the trees were pricking with buds already. There was a sweet fresh scent to the air after the chill of winter.
Before he reached the clearing, he could hear the sound of a saw rasping to and fro. Malfoy was up a tree, about twenty feet off the ground. Harry's throat went dry at the sight of him. He was wearing a sleeveless vest and a battered-looking pair of jeans with holes at the knees. His hair was long enough now that he needed to wear it pulled back from his face in a band to stop it getting in the way.
Malfoy didn't notice Harry at first, but carried on working. He had wedged himself in a fork of the tree and was leaning back against the trunk to saw off a loose branch with a hacksaw. Harry kept quiet, not wanting to disturb him, his eyes running over Malfoy's strong shoulders and the mesmerising rhythm of his body manipulating the saw back and forth, the furious focus on his face. The branch snapped off and fell to the ground with a splintering crack. Malfoy watched in satisfaction, then noticed Harry standing silently by.
His eyes flamed and a slow smile spread across his face. “Potter. What the fuck are you doing here?”
Harry felt suddenly shy, as he always did when he hadn't seen Malfoy for a while. Malfoy began to climb down from the tree, sure and graceful. He jumped the last few feet to the ground and brushed his hands off on his jeans.
“I came to see how things were. Catch up with Neville a bit.” Harry rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. “Thought I might as well come and find out what you were up to.”
Malfoy began fiddling with the knot that tied the saw to his belt.
Harry frowned. “How's your wand behaving?”
“Good!” Malfoy looked up and smiled. “Still fine.”
“Then why were you halfway up a tree using a hacksaw?”
Malfoy shrugged. “Me and Hagrid are experimenting with traditional forest management techniques. Besides. It's fun.” He managed to slip the knot undone and laid the saw on the ground. “So, how's life?” He looked sideways at Harry. “Still bumming around, doing nothing?”
“Yup. I laze around on sofas, eating grapes. You know how it is.”
Malfoy snorted. “You look well on it, anyway.”
Harry swallowed. “So do you.”
Malfoy looked at him, just looked, and Harry was more than halfway to being hard.
“How's your magic?” he blurted. “How's it been, since the last time we...” He stopped. Merlin, he was blushing.
“Good, really good, it's—” Malfoy stopped and seemed to notice Harry's expression. “Uh. Actually.” He coughed. “I have been feeling a bit – tense again.”
Harry's forehead creased with concern. “Like before you went to St Mungo's?”
“Oh! No. Nothing like that. Just... a bit like it's building up. Like I need to... rebalance it.” Malfoy raised an eyebrow at Harry.
“Ah.” It was easier not to look Malfoy in the eye, so Harry looked at Malfoy's arm, the angular elbow, and a long smudge of dirt across the swell of muscle. “Do you think, maybe, we should do something about that?”
Malfoy reached a hand out and hooked his finger into Harry's belt loop. “Yes.” He pulled Harry closer, till Harry could feel the heat from his body. “Yes, we definitely should.”
Harry tilted his head to kiss Malfoy, slow and questioning at first, then deep and insistent as soon as Malfoy began to return the kiss. The taste of his mouth and the feel of his hands moving across Harry's back made his head swim.
“Indoors, or out here?” Malfoy whispered against his lips. Malfoy had accepted a room at the Castle shortly after his return from St Mungo's. Near Ravenclaw Tower, it was small, simple, and secluded.
“It's good you want to start taking a bit more part in castle life, now,” Harry had said, the first time Malfoy took him there.
Malfoy had shaken his head. “No, it's just fucking cold at night, Potter. And Hagrid and I are getting on fairly well, but I draw the line at sharing his hut.”
Sometimes Harry liked it indoors. There had been one occasion in particular, slow and unhurried, on Malfoy's single bed, with Malfoy taking his time, bringing Harry to the edge again and again... But, right now, he wanted Malfoy out here. Malfoy looked so right in the forest, among the trees – all golden again, rather than the ashy pallor of his hospital stay, and his muscles hard from use.
“Out here,” Harry answered, and gasped as Malfoy kissed him harder, all teeth and tongue.
“Yes.” Malfoy cupped Harry's arse and squeezed. “Want you, Potter.”
Harry reached up to work Malfoy's ponytail loose until his hair fell about his face, quirking this way and that, the way Harry liked it. It looked free, rebellious. He loved to wind his fingers through it and tug. He did just that, until Malfoy hissed and grabbed at his wrists to stop him.
“Want you, right here...” Malfoy breathed, walking Harry backwards until his spine jarred suddenly against a tree. He pinned Harry's wrists back against the bark and began to suck avidly at his throat, finding a tender spot beneath his ear. Malfoy's erection was pressing up against Harry's hip, deliciously hard under the worn denim, and Harry pushed his knee between Malfoy's legs and inhaled the smell of his hair and the fresh, clean sweat on him.
He could feel Malfoy's magic, venturing out to twine around his, but it was purring like a pampered cat. It had settled right down ever since the very first time. Malfoy occasionally admitted to it having felt a little... feisty, but nothing more.
Harry suspected it was actually one hundred percent back to normal now, but he wasn't sure if Malfoy was going to admit that. If Malfoy's magic was completely cured, then they might have to give this... this thing that happened between them a name. This dance of push and pull, these sweet, risky, fragile encounters that Harry found he ached for when he and Malfoy were apart.
Suddenly, he had to know what Malfoy would say. What he would think.
“McGonagall wants me to come and take this DADA assistant post, you know,” he said in a rush, just as Malfoy's hands reached into his trousers.
Malfoy pulled away to look at him. “Does she?”
Harry nodded, then shivered as Malfoy's hand returned, warm and certain, moving over his erection in smooth, quick strokes. They shouldn't be doing this out here, a part of Harry's mind told him vaguely. It wasn't impossible that someone would come. But it was often like this, at first: nothing seemed to matter except bringing each other off. Like they couldn't wait. Like it had been far too long since the last time.
“Well, well. If you lived here... “ Malfoy spoke quietly in his ear, then hesitated.
“Yes?” Harry wasn't going to be able to speak for much longer, not if Malfoy carried on doing that.
“We could do this every day.” Malfoy's breath was hot and damp.
Harry arched against him, pushing his hands into the back of Malfoy's jeans. God, he was perfect. All long, and rangy, and every inch of him deliciously firm. “We... uh... could.”
Malfoy shoved Harry hard against the tree and ground into him, letting his teeth scrape against Harry's skin, licking and sucking at his collarbone. “Merlin, just think of it. I mean... I suppose it would be good for my magic.”
Harry imagined it. Seeing Malfoy every day. Not having to think of excuses to come up to Hogwarts. Watching Malfoy work... perhaps sometimes even waking up next to Malfoy in that little bed. And seeing Neville, of course, and Hagrid, and Dean, and working again, teaching Defence, helping the students and seeing their faces as they achieved something they didn't know was possible—
Malfoy pushed Harry's trousers around his thighs and started to wank them both in earnest, their cocks rubbing together with his palm wrapped around them. His voice was urgent, spurring Harry on. “I want you to come all over me. On my hand. My cock.”
Harry's mouth fell open, all thoughts lost, other than that he would never get tired of the sight of Malfoy's flushed cock straining up from its tangle of pale curls, their cockheads nuzzling against one another. Malfoy's magic was thrumming against Harry's skin – not wild, but steady and sensuous, a teasing reminder of how it had been their first time.
“Don't rush off afterwards. Why don't you stay for the evening?” Malfoy spoke insistently into Harry's ear. “We can go to my room later, and I can fuck you properly.”
Harry wasn't going to last. Malfoy's hand moved fast, fast, oh god, fast again, then slow.
“Maybe twice,” Malfoy added.
It was so hot, so perfect, so sure, and Harry was so close.
“Do it, Potter, do it,” Malfoy urged in a breathy whisper. “Do it, for me.”
The only problem was that Harry had no idea what exactly Malfoy meant. Was he still talking about Harry coming on him? That was going to happen, oh, god, any moment now. Really. But did he mean Harry staying for the evening? Was he thinking about Harry taking the job? Or possibly something else, known only to Malfoy.
Harry wanted to ask, but his words were all gone. There was only the peerless glide of Malfoy's skillful fingers, the irresistible drag of their cocks against one another, and the thrilling pulse of Malfoy's magic against his. Harry felt the slow, fierce roll of his orgasm building from the soles of his feet and flooding out in a wild rush, and decided the only safe thing to do was to say yes, to all of it.
“Yes,” said Harry. “Oh, yes.”