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Rather a lot has changed since Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, but he suspects that some things will always be the same, like the way that Slughorn crunches on crystallised fruits throughout every Potions lesson, the way Hermione always looks furious at the contents of her cauldron and the way that squelch root remains the slipperiest substance in existence. Harry grips the horrible little nub as tightly as he can, stripping away at the slimy skin with his knife and trying not to notice the way that beside him, Draco has already completed the task and is now running a finger down the page of his textbook, lips pressed thin in concentration.

Every last thing on his workstation is pristine, right down to the silver knife with its special cleaning cloth, neatly folded into a little square, ready to be used again. Harry glances at his smeared blade in irritation and his squelch root takes advantage of that moment to shoot out of his hands, fly through the air and land with a smack in the middle of the dungeon floor. Harry swears and goes to retrieve it, but stops in defeat when Ron hurries by with a bag of tubeworms and steps on it, immediately skidding across the floor with wide eyes and dried worms everywhere.

“Sorry,” Harry calls, grabbing his arm just in time to avoid a collision with Draco’s desk. “My fault.”

“What the bloody hell was that?” Ron demands, spelling tubeworms back into the bag with a haphazard swish of his wand.

“Rogue squelch root,” Draco says without looking up from his work. “As is customary.”

“Oh,” Ron says, regarding Draco with the soft sort of confusion that has become common between them since the start of the year. “Well. No harm done, eh?”

Harry shrugs and then looks at his flattened root. When Ron returns to his seat next to Hermione, he turns to Draco and sighs.

“Have you got any spare—?”

He doesn’t even finish his sentence before Draco is passing him a section of slimy root. He still doesn’t look up from his work, but there’s almost a twitch at one corner of his mouth as he murmurs, “Do try not to fling this one out of the window.”

“Thank you,” Harry says, grimacing at the texture of the slimy skin against his palm.

He sets it down and leans against the desk behind him, idly watching Draco work. He’s just so neat, so annoyingly well put together, with his immaculate white shirt, neat cuffs and pin-point tie, white cotton tucked into grey trousers that are perfectly fitted and yet strangely baggy. His hair, longer now, always seems to be threatening to fall into his eyes but never quite does. In fact, nothing is out of place but the scars. Harry looks at them now, watching the sinews shift under the skin of Draco’s forearm as he slices ivy leaves into neat shreds. Once burned in harsh black lines across the pale flesh, the Dark Mark is now unrecognisable. Faded grey and black shapes still litter the inside of Draco’s arm but the pattern is random, disjointed, slashed through with pink scars and arcs of tissue healed by a hand with more desperation than patience.

He hadn’t asked, hadn’t dared to, but their fragile friendship in the wake of returning wands and rebuilding castles and managing to be seated together for every Potions class had, eventually, prompted Draco to explain. Harry often wonders if he had simply been caught looking too many times, but he isn’t planning to ask. If he’s honest, he doesn’t want to talk about it ever again. Draco’s words had haunted him in their simplicity, and convinced him beyond doubt that the boy, the man, who has returned to Hogwarts is not his father’s son.

You can’t remove the Mark with a spell, but you can with a knife.

Harry suppresses a shudder, trying not to think about the desperation, the pain, the blood. He’s had quite enough of that, and so, he imagines, has Draco. They are all different now. They are back here, changed but determined, just trying to find a little bit of normality and a future that, for the first time in a long time, seems light with possibility.

Still, there’s no denying that Draco Malfoy is odd. Not odd like Trelawney, who has calmed down a lot this year but still sees omens in her cereal bowl, or like Neville, who spent much of the summer in Yorkshire with his grandmother and now carries around a pocketful of liquorice ‘just in case’, or even odd like Filch, who has retired Mrs Norris to a warm basket in his office and now prowls the corridors with an enormous iguana at his heels.

He’s… Harry doesn’t know what he is. Studious, now, quiet. Isolated. He talks to Harry occasionally, in fact, he talks to anyone politely enough, but only if they talk first. The angry restlessness that had marked his first six years at Hogwarts is all but gone, and Harry finds himself almost missing it. This Draco is certainly easier to live with, but Harry can’t help hoping that his spirit isn’t completely broken. Draco is a difficult person to understand, to know, but against his better judgement, Harry rather likes him, and that knowledge makes him feel quietly uncomfortable, but there it is.

“How are we doing over here?” Slughorn asks brightly, tapping at Harry’s desk with his cane.

Horrified, Harry realises that he has barely even started chopping his ingredients and has instead been admiring the way Draco has laid out everything he needs in the order he will need it. He grabs his knife and scrabbles for an excuse but Slughorn is bending over his potion and giving it an approving little nod.

“Lovely work, Harry. You’re a little behind but it’s coming on very nicely indeed. Excellent, Mr Malfoy, just make sure to add your resin a little bit at a time now… good, good…” Slughorn murmurs, moving off in a cloud of sugary pineapple that almost completely cuts through the smoke emanating from one of the cauldrons at the back of the room.

Harry stares at his potion, and then at Draco. “Did you… make this for me? While I wasn’t looking?”

Draco shrugs, eyes sliding to his for a fraction of a second. “You’re welcome.”

“Yeah, I… thanks, but…” Harry frowns. “Why?”

“Why not?”

“You don’t make sense,” Harry sighs, ignoring a snort from the row behind him.

“Good to know,” Draco says, and then lapses into silence.

Without a better plan, Harry finishes his potion to as acceptable standard, stirring carefully and trying not to glance at Draco as he works. There’s so much he wants to ask but he’s not really sure where to start, or, indeed, what any of the questions might be. Feeling dissatisfied and still slightly slimy from the squelch root, he packs up his things and follows his friends to the Great Hall for lunch.

“You never make my potions for me,” Ron mutters, and Harry glances up just in time to see Hermione’s answering scowl.

“I help you all the time! And of course I don’t make them for you—you wouldn’t learn anything that way,” she snaps.

Harry spots the exact moment that Ron realises his mistake and grins, deciding to tune them out until they reach their table. When he starts listening again, Ron is still trying to explain that he was joking, and Hermione is still looking rather put out, so Harry helps himself to soup and bread and eats slowly, letting his eyes wander around the room. Rather inevitably, they settle on Draco, who is examining his soup with suspicion, eventually pushing it away and focusing on a large slice of crusty bread and butter. Harry wonders if his trousers are covered in crumbs, too, already well aware that even the most rebellious of loaves wouldn’t dare to make a mess of such fancy trousers.

“Maybe if you talked to him instead of just staring at him, you might find out whatever it is you want to know,” Hermione says, and he jumps.

“What makes you think I want to know anything?”

Hermione just smiles and dips her bread in her soup.

“She just knows,” Ginny says helpfully. “She’s smart. You know, Fred… Fred always used to say she was going to rule the world one day.”

The wobble in her voice causes Ron to squeeze her shoulder for the briefest moment.

“Well, Fred also used to say that cheese and marmalade tasted nice together,” he points out.

Ginny smiles. “George said everyone at the shop had it on their sandwiches on his… on their birthday this year.” She pauses and then laughs. “I bet it was horrible.”

“I bet it was,” Harry says, lifting his bread in a tiny salute to his absent friend.

It still hurts. It probably always will, but it easier now, just a little. They can talk about those they’ve lost and everyone just understands. The gaps at the tables are harder to see now that everyone seems to move freely between seats, mingling with other houses and years in a sea of red, green, yellow and blue, while McGonagall watches over the whole thing with an approving eye. Harry looks at her for a moment, allowing himself a brief flicker of contentment, then rises and grabs his bag.

“I’m going for a wander. See you all later?”

Taking the mumble of ‘mm’s and crunching noises as an affirmative, he wanders in the direction of the Great Hall, taking once last look back at the Slytherin table and realising that Draco is no longer sitting there. Which is fine. He can sit anywhere he likes. He can make potions while no one is looking if he likes. It’s nothing to do with Harry. Shaking himself, he walks out into the crisp afternoon sunshine, breathing deeply as he heads along the side of the castle and falls easily into his usual walking route. There are many wonderful places to wander in the castle grounds, but there is something about this gentle, sheltered path around courtyards and outbuildings that fills Harry with a sense of calm. Nothing is ever new here, nothing is ever surprising, and the predictability of it seems to stroke away all of his prickly edges.

“Afternoon,” he says to the tiny statue of a mouse hidden at the edge of a fountain, unknown to him before this year and now a permanent fixture on his lunchtime outings.

The mouse doesn’t reply, and Harry appreciates that. It’s quiet out here and he likes it. Beyond the next corner is a sunny courtyard with a bench that is always unoccupied, the thought of which speeds Harry’s steps as he imagines spending the rest of his lunchbreak lounging there and allowing his mind to drift. When he turns the corner, though, what he sees makes him pull up short. The bench is there, empty as usual, but something is happening beside it that freezes Harry’s breath in his chest. He just about supresses the sound that wants to escape, smothering it in a dry mouth and curling his fingers into fists at his sides as he stares, caught somewhere between shock and fascination and, in the end, unable to do anything but stand there, transfixed by the urgent, messy scene in front of him.

It’s Draco, and he can’t look away, because he has never seen Draco like this, collapsed against the stone wall with back arched and breathing ragged, one hand splayed across the stone and one gripping the shoulder of a dark-haired boy as he… Harry swallows, throat arid. Eyes closed, trousers undone, Draco tips his head back against the wall with such abandon that Harry barely recognises him. His usual tight composure is nowhere to be seen now; he’s caught up in the moment, mouth open in a rough, hitching pant that wraps around the base of Harry’s spine and makes it painfully clear how the whole thing is making him feel. He’s so hard that it hurts and he doesn’t know whether he wants to run away or get on his knees and shove the interloper away.

Not that he’s an interloper, of course, he’s… Harry’s stomach flips as the boy shifts position, revealing a red and gold tie and a familiar face. It’s Jason Ripley, a sixth-year housemate who comes to every Quidditch practice to cheer for Harry’s new Chaser, Rana, whom he had assumed was Jason’s girlfriend. Now, seeing the way he is groaning around Draco’s cock and cramming a hand against his own crotch with increasing urgency, Harry thinks he may have misjudged the situation. Then again, he may have misjudged a lot of things, because he has never thought to imagine this side of Draco, and while a part of him still wants to make a break for it back to the Great Hall, it is fighting a losing battle with the hot, prickling wave that is currently surging through him and gluing his eyes to the scene ahead. He is just paces away from them, but both have their eyes closed in complete abandon to the moment, and all Harry can think about is the way Draco’s rolled up sleeves sit against the tensing muscles in his forearms, the scratched out black lines that litter his skin, the way his hips lift with a thrilling mix of indolence and urgency, and the soft sounds that seem to reach out and lash Harry to the spot, a rough whimper here and a panting breath there, and the whole thing pulling him so tight that he almost loses his footing and has to rest a hand against the wall for stability.

When Draco opens his eyes and looks right into him, his knees turn to water and he has to struggle to stay upright. Something flares in those eyes, darkens, and for a long moment, nothing happens. Then, to Harry’s astonishment, Draco smiles. It’s a small smile, barely there, but it’s enough to shock a gasp from him that makes Jason pause and stare at him in surprise. Holding the eye contact, Draco gently urges him back to his task, staring holes into Harry as he pushes into the willing mouth below and never looking away, even as he jerks his hips and comes with a groan that Harry feels all over. Jason shudders and swears, eyes tightly shut, palm pressed to his groin as he finds his own release, but Harry barely notices him.

Draco is still looking at him. He hasn’t looked away since the moment he saw Harry, and he doesn’t even look at Jason as he tells him, not unkindly, that he wants to talk to Harry. It feels like a dismissal, but Jason doesn’t seem to care, getting to his feet and walking past Harry and back towards the main part of the castle with an expression of calm contentment. Harry vaguely registers that he smells of grass and soap and that he’s taller than he remembered, but all he can really focus on is that Draco is leaning against the wall with his flies undone and Harry has never been more turned on in his life.

By another boy… by two boys? Men? By Draco Malfoy getting off right in front of him? None of it makes much sense, but he isn’t about to deny what he is very much feeling.

“Did you enjoy that?”

“Excuse me?” Harry says, and it comes out in a rough whisper.

Draco shrugs. “You just watched me come. I think I should be allowed to know if you enjoyed it or not.”

“Fuck,” Harry whispers, feeling the words tighten around him. He can’t just say that. People don’t just say things like that. “I… how many… I mean, how long have you… I didn’t know you did that.”

Draco laughs, zipping his trousers in one languid motion and then folding his arms. “Didn’t know I was gay or didn’t know I let Jason Ripley suck me off?”

Harry stares at him, scrambling for the right response. Any response, really, because the person staring right back at him definitely is Draco Malfoy, and yet. He’s not the brash, whiny tosspot Harry knew for all those years, but neither is he the reserved, sober young man who sits next to him in Potions and wearily covers for his mistakes. He’s sort of dark and glittery, lounging against the wall like he doesn’t give a damn, and fuck, it’s hot and terrifying and Harry is here for it whether he likes it or not.

“Both?” he tries at last, uncurling his fists and attempting to stand like a normal person. “Malfoy, what are you doing?”

Draco smiles lazily. “You’re going to choose this moment to start using my last name again? Really?”

Harry scowls, feeling his face heat. His whole body is betraying him horribly and he has no idea what to do about it. Of course, there is a little voice in his head telling him that he knows exactly what to do with it, and just for a split second he has to fight the urge to close the distance between them and pin Draco hard against that wall. He doesn’t, because he thinks that would be a very bad idea, and even if that didn’t matter, he has no idea how to just reach out and take what he wants like that.

Not that he wants it. But, god, he really wants it. Draco smiles again, pushing his hair out of his eyes with a careless hand. He knows.

“Do you want a turn?” he says eventually, hand dropping to graze the front of his trousers. “Because you might have to give me a moment.”

“What? No!” Harry splutters, hating the way that the afternoon sunshine makes him feel as though he’s going to burst into flames. “I mean, are you asking me to… are you saying…?”

“I’m not saying anything, Harry, I never am,” Draco sighs, and the sadness in his voice makes Harry’s stomach hurt. This time, when he laughs, the sound seems to echo around the empty courtyard.

“Do you like me?” Harry asks impulsively, and then wishes he hadn’t.

Draco gazes at him for a moment and then picks up his bag. He tucks his shirt into his trousers and pushes off the wall. “Come on. We’ll we late for Transfiguration. What a thought.”

“Doesn’t bear thinking about,” Harry mumbles, wondering where he left his bag, and perhaps also his marbles. Everything seemed so normal before lunch. Perhaps Hermione will know.

Draco pauses, eyes flicking downwards. One corner of his mouth twitches.

“You may want to take care of that,” he says, and Harry glances down to where his obvious erection is pulling at his trouser fabric. “You don’t want McGonagall thinking it’s for her.”

With that, he turns and walks away. All Harry can do is watch his retreating figure until it is out of sight and then collapse onto the bench before his legs give way underneath him. He lets out a ragged breath and drops his head into his hands, fingers pressing against his heated face as he tries to remember his usual breathing pattern and perhaps exactly what life used to look like before Draco Malfoy, or someone who looked a lot like him, decided to turn everything upside down.

He doesn’t know this Draco, but he’s fierce and scarred and ragged and beautiful, and Harry has never wanted anything so badly in his life. His head is spinning with it, need and desire wrapping around him and pulling him down into a place where all he can see is burning grey eyes, twitching hips, a pale hand grasping a shoulder that isn’t his. Fuck, none of this makes sense, except that it does, and while everything he has ever thought or felt is whipping away from him, this new sensation is painfully right, settling around him with such ferocious clarity that he wants to shield his eyes.

“No,” he mumbles into his hands, even as every fibre of his body seems to scream fuck, yes.

He can’t, because… because wanting to fuck Draco Malfoy has never been part of the plan. If there even is a plan, because after everything, he has no idea what the hell he’s supposed to be doing. He’s not with Ginny any more; he’s free; he can do whatever… whoever he feels like, but this is different. It’s Draco, a person who apparently has the power to rip Harry’s heart out through his groin and then smile and shrug as though none if it is of any consequence.

Harry groans. Takes a deep breath. Draco is right about one thing, and that’s the fact that he’s going to be late for Transfiguration. He sits up and rests his hands against the cool iron of the bench, summoning images of a stern-faced McGonagall and hoping feverishly that they will allow him to enter her classroom with just a little bit of dignity.

He arrives just as she is writing the day’s lesson on the blackboard and she turns to regard him pointedly as he apologises and shuffles into his seat beside Hermione.

“Where were you?” she whispers. On her other side, Ron is chewing on what looks like dried fruit with a rather confused expression on his face. “I thought he could do with something healthy to snack on. Have you any idea how much sugar he eats?”

“Yeah,” Harry says, ignoring the first question. “I’m impressed he’s going for it.”

“He’ll eat anything,” Hermione says with an affectionate smile. “Where were you?”

“That’s correct, Mr Malfoy. Five points to Slytherin,” McGonagall says, rescuing Harry and making it impossible for him to avoid looking over his shoulder.

Draco is sitting two rows behind, quill in hand and face carefully neutral. Harry flushes, already feeling the creep of heat in the pit of his stomach. Draco doesn’t look at him, but Harry doesn’t need him to. It’s all there in his mind, playing over and over like a juddering piece of film.

You looked right at me, he thinks, breath catching. You lost yourself down Jason Ripley’s throat and you stared into my eyes the entire time. You asked me if I enjoyed it. You asked me if I wanted a turn. And I said no. Why the fuck did I say no?

“Mr Potter, are you planning to join us at any point today?” McGonagall asks, voice coming from just inches away.

Startled, Harry looks up at her. “Yes! Yes, absolutely. I was just…”

“Ah, you were ‘just’,” McGonagall says drily, one sharp eyebrow flickering. “Well, if you’d care to ‘just’ follow the instructions on the board and, if possible, attempt to produce a decent McEnderby’s Transformation?”

Harry nods, irritated with himself. He knows how important these spells are, knows they’ll be on the NEWT, and knows that the teacher he respects the most is disappointed in him. He wants to blame Draco, mostly because it’s his fault, but he knows that won’t help him achieve a McEnderby’s Transformation, and he also knows that if he doesn’t stop thinking about Draco soon, he’s going to go insane.

Unfortunately, despite his best efforts to concentrate on the matter at hand, thinking about Draco seems to have become a permanent fixture in Harry’s existence. Even with a half-decent go of McGonagall’s spell, he leaves the classroom feeling flustered and distracted. His mind races all the way through dinner, which he barely tastes, and Quidditch practice, which he barely registers. Ginny, seeming to notice his inattentiveness, all but takes over the usual drills for him, but she continues to ask him if he’s alright all the way back to Gryffindor Tower, and he doesn’t miss her whispered conversation with Hermione over tea and custard creams in the Common Room.

When Ron shambles over at bedtime and asks him if he needs to talk ‘or whatever’, Harry knows that his friend has been persuaded, or perhaps leveraged, into checking up on him, and he can’t help smiling, even as he tells Ron that’s he’s fine and retreats behind his bed curtains. He is, of course, fine, because weird new sexual feelings are normal and that’s fine and he doesn’t have to do anything about this because it’s fine, and maybe, just maybe, it will all go away by itself.

When he wakes up gasping, drenched in sweat and turned on beyond belief, he can’t help feeling that it won’t be quite so simple. He spells back his curtains to find that his dormmates are sleeping and the first light of the day is just beginning to creep into the room. Feeling sticky and embarrassed, he tiptoes to the showers, turns the water on as hot as he can stand it and strips off his damp nightclothes. Under the pounding spray, he grips himself in a firm hand and strokes until his whole body is flooded with heat, trying vainly to keep his mind clear and then giving in, throwing his imagination wide and replaying Draco’s languid, pleasurable sprawl against the stones as he shudders and orgasms, biting down so hard on his fist to keep quiet that he draws blood. Shaken, he lowers himself to the tiles and lets the hot water beat down on his shoulders, resting his arms on his drawn-up knees and closing his eyes. He’s so fucked. Perhaps he’d like to be fucked. Oh, god.

By the time he has hurried through breakfast and headed down to Potions, he is starting to feel better. He feels like this now, and he is just going to have to deal with it. He has made it through worse, and all it will take is a little bit of self control. He has that. He has it in spades, actually, and… and Draco is catching his wrist in a cool hand and frowning. Draco is touching him, and all he can do is stand there like an idiot and let it happen.

“What did you do to your hand?”

Because of course he’s forgotten to heal the bite mark, and of course it’s now red and bruised and of course Draco is staring at him with actual, real concern in his eyes.

“I fell,” Harry says, flushing and loathing himself. “You know. Down.”

“You fell… down?” Draco repeats, finally releasing his wrist. “Onto someone’s mouth?”

“We’re not all obsessed by other people’s mouths, you know,” Harry snaps, irritated by his own tone and by Draco’s little smile.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he says, just as Slughorn arrives and catches the attention of the room with a mysterious box of ingredients.

Harry snorts and forces himself to turn away, focusing instead on Slughorn and the lesson ahead, which, to be fair to him, sounds pretty interesting. Instead of looking at Draco, or noticing the fact that his hair is still slightly damp from the shower, or the fact that the citrusy scent Harry is now used to is catching his attention with every breath, he listens to the challenge being presented and scribbles notes with a shaky hand.

Take any 3 ingredients from the box.

Use them + anything from your kit or right side of the storeroom to make a potion to calm nerves.

Swap with the person sitting next to you + give feedback.

Harry heads for the box, just beating Hermione to a jar of Balinese fire peppers. Gallimore’s Paradox, he thinks, remembering that sometimes, the best counteraction is the one that makes the least sense, like using ice to warm up or heat to cool down. Of course, it’s possible that he’ll mess the whole thing up and send Draco to the hospital wing with a burned tongue, but the less time thinking about Draco’s tongue the better. He’s a much better potion-maker than he used to be, anyway; Slughorn, for all his foibles, is a kind and encouraging teacher and never makes Harry feel as though he’s one wrong stir away from incurring the wrath of a vengeful god.

That being said, it still feels odd around the castle without Snape, and Harry misses him in a quiet, painful sort of way that he doesn’t know how to explain. He knows that Draco misses him, too, and he’s glancing over yet again before he can stop himself. Draco looks up from his examination of a bag of badger hairs and meets his eyes. Harry’s stomach lurches and he bites his tongue.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Harry lies, giving himself an internal slap and applying himself to his potion. Because maybe it’s not nothing, but he certainly doesn’t need to give whatever it is any attention. He doesn’t need to ask any questions, and he definitely doesn’t need to think about why Draco was in a hurry getting out of the shower this morning and who might or might not have been in there with him.

Draco doesn’t respond. He works beside Harry with his usual calm efficiency, chopping and stirring and tidying until he has a neat workstation and a bubbling potion, the steam from which smells like mint and drifts into Harry’s hair until his messy fringe starts to wave against his forehead. He shoots covert glances out from under it, taking in Draco’s relaxed posture, his precise stirring, the fact that he seems to be fucking humming to himself, and wanting to throw down his ladle in frustration. His chilli-based potion is coming along quite nicely, he thinks, but his desk is in chaos and the rest of him isn’t much better. He’s a mess, and Draco is completely fine, and it’s just not fair.

When there is nothing more he can do but wait for his potion to be properly brewed, he scrapes the detritus from his desk and slumps into his seat. Draco is watching him, already lounging in his chair with one leg crossed over the other and both hands in his lap. Harry stares straight ahead. Behind him, Hermione is muttering to herself, and to his left, Blaise Zabini is telling Hannah Abbott a very long story about French unicorns that might be quite absorbing had he not heard it at least four times already. At his desk at the front of the room, Slughorn crunches happily and pokes through the leftover ingredients. Harry sighs.

“Go on.”

He turns to Draco slowly. “What?”

Draco’s eyes pin him, and the knowing smile is just too much. “I know you’re dying to ask. Just ask.”

No, Harry thinks, biting on his thumbnail for something to do. I’m not going to.

“Are you and Jason a thing?” he blurts, because apparently, he can’t help himself.

The pale eyes glint with amusement. “No, Harry. We are not ‘a thing’.”

Something leaps in Harry’s stomach. He turns away. “What is it, then? It’s something. I mean, you were… well, you know. You were there.”

Draco stretches, pulling Harry’s eyes back to him an instant. “He’s convenient. He’s willing. He doesn’t seem to care that I don’t particularly want to spend time with him. It all works out rather nicely.”

His tone is so easy, so casual, that Harry is lost for words. Draco is going around getting off in courtyards because it’s convenient, while he hasn’t ever done more than kiss a girl—two girls, he supposes—and now that Draco is looking at him like that and arching an eyebrow like that, he has no idea what any of it even means. He’s intimidated, yes, but more than that, he’s bewildered, and he thinks he might just need to stay in his seat for a while. Again.

“Convenient,” he repeats, rubbing at his face.

“You needn’t worry about him, we both understand the situation,” Draco says, a note of defensiveness creeping into his voice. “I’m not taking advantage.”

“I didn’t think you were,” Harry says, and he means it. He lowers his voice. “How did you… I mean, how did you realise he was interested in you?”

Draco peers into his cauldron and spells out the heat from under it, quickly applying a cooling spell and then ladling some of the pale green liquid into a cup. “Alright. Try this.”

Harry glances at Slughorn’s desk to find him smiling encouragingly. He takes a deep breath and takes the cup, tipping it up and swallowing the potion in one gulp. It’s cool, fresh, and not at all unpleasant.

“Very nice.”

Draco smiles. “He came up to me after a Quidditch game. He said I flew well and he liked watching me and he was available.” He shrugs. “It’s not an exciting story.”

“He just came up to you and said that?” Harry hisses, horrified at the idea of throwing oneself open so easily. Then again, maybe it’s the way forward, he thinks, realising that Draco’s potion is beginning to take effect. He feels serene, almost blissful, and he wonders just what the hell he’s been worrying about all this time. It’s all fine. It’s brilliant. He slumps in his seat and sighs. “I don’t get it. I never know when people like me. I mean, if they do. It’s not like there’ve been a lot of them. You’re better at this than me. Does this have eucalyptus in it?”

“Yes, he did, and yes, it does,” Draco says, frowning at his potion. “Perhaps a little bit too much calendula extract, sorry. You weren’t supposed to be quite so relaxed.”

“I’m fine,” Harry says, waving an arm that feels rather heavier than usual. “You should try mine. It’s spicy.”

“Gallimore’s Paradox or just your usual madness?” Draco asks, pressing a cool hand to Harry’s forehead.

“Oh, god, don’t,” Harry mumbles, feeling his trousers tighten at the simple touch. He’s pathetic and he’s helpless and he thinks his potion is burning.

Draco leans over and douses the flames under his cauldron, hand slipping away from Harry’s skin as he picks up his wand and applies the cooling spell. Harry attempts to peel himself upright but Draco pours out a cup of the bright red potion, sipping it cautiously and grimacing at the taste.

“That is vile,” he says, and shudders. “But it works. It’s actually making me feel calmer.”

“You weren’t calm already?” Harry asks, closing one eye. He really is very relaxed. It’s nice. Draco is so fucking hot. God, he wants him, and he really hopes he isn’t thinking out loud.

Draco leans back in his seat, elbows resting on the table behind him. Hermione huffs and pokes him with her stirring rod, but he doesn’t seem to notice. Perhaps Harry’s potion is working after all.

“You confuse calmness with confidence and self-belief with bravado,” Draco says, and then yawns. “You know?”

“Not really,” Harry admits, and by the time the lesson is over and the mint-flavoured potion has faded from his system, he’s still at a loss.

Draco makes no sense, and he’s all Harry can think about. It’s going to be a long day.

At lunchtime, he steels himself and sets out on his usual walk, telling himself that the best thing to do in this situation is to carry on as normal. Draco Malfoy does not have the power to disrupt his plans, and he absolutely isn’t hoping to stumble upon a repeat performance. Similarly, he is not disappointed when he reaches the courtyard and finds it empty. He sits on his bench and enjoys the afternoon sunshine, and definitely doesn’t close his eyes and think about the way Draco had shuddered and stared right into his eyes. Except that he does do exactly that, and he doesn’t know how to stop, because now he has seen this other side of Draco, he can’t stop seeing it. It’s everywhere, just beneath the surface, in every glance they share and every fucking nothing brush of shoulders in the corridors, and Harry has nowhere to hide.

He spends the next two days in a jumpy, overheated haze, barely about to concentrate on anything around him. McGonagall has taken at least thirty points from him for carelessness, Hermione is at her wit’s end, and Neville keeps asking him if he’s sure he hasn’t eaten any of the Venomous Biting Fern he’s secretly growing under his bed. Harry doesn’t think he has, but he can’t really be sure of anything any more.

When the weekend arrives, meaning no lessons with Draco, Harry is almost dizzy with relief, but the lack of contact doesn’t stop the writhing thoughts or the dreams about kissing on benches and frantic friction on messy workstations and everything everywhere until he can’t breathe with needing it. Can’t function with the effort of pushing it away.

Because maybe it’s not Draco. Maybe it’s the sight of two people involved in something that doesn’t concern him. Maybe it’s watching. Maybe it’s Jason fucking Ripley, he tells himself, because the thought of that doesn’t tie him up in knots. And if it’s not Draco, he thinks, taking his seat in Potions on Monday morning, if it’s not Draco, he can… Draco elbows him and offers him a humbug from a paper bag under the table, and Harry looks at him, and he raises an eyebrow, and oh, god, it’s definitely Draco.

That night he leaves Gryffindor Tower with his cloak, brushing off Hermione’s questions and leaving her to her late-night studying session by the fire. Now that the spring term is almost over, she is obsessed with exam preparation and has made revision guides for everyone she can think of, which are, she admits, the product of her own procrastination and even more detailed than usual. Even Draco has got one, and Harry has been amused to watch him examining it with clear bafflement. And so, inevitably, the thought of Draco travels with him around the silent castle, secure in the knowledge that anyone he sees tonight will not be able to see him.

It's been a while since he took a night time walk and he’s surprised to find that he’s far from alone. Several classrooms contain pairs of older students engaged in private activities ranging from tentative kisses to the sort of thing that makes Harry pause in astonishment, but none of it stirs him in the slightest and he heads out into the night, where the air is cool and the crescent moon hangs low over the lake and where the breeze sends shivering ripples through the water. He stops just short of the bank, catching sight of bright red hair, pale skin and dark, and the sound of a very familiar story about unicorns in the south of France.

Harry smiles, shifting position until he can see Ginny’s amused smile and Blaise’s exuberant gestures. They aren’t quite touching but there’s a clear intimacy to their arrangement of limbs that tells Harry all he needs to know. He’s happy for her. She deserves to have some joy in her life, and the person she seems to have chosen certainly has that in abundance. She seems to be enjoying the story, and Harry has a feeling that she is hearing a rather racier version than the one Blaise usually tells.

She laughs and says, “Blaise, she didn’t take her shirt off,” and then, after a pause, “Because I just know,” and then there is silence and Harry leaves them to it. He takes a thorough tour of the grounds, including a walk along the edge of the forest that is rich with the scent of damp earth, and a loop around Hagrid’s hut, where he can hear both man and dog snoring through the walls. Finally, feeling like he might just be able to sleep, he returns to the castle, throwing off his cloak for the walk up to Gryffindor Tower and stuffing it under his arm in a careless ball. Halfway up the stairs, he is accosted by something that flicks out a long tongue around his ankles and moves far more quickly than it looks like it should. Inevitably, Filch is just seconds behind it.

“Out of bed, are you?” he says, holding up his lantern. The light illuminates the scales of the vast iguana and throws a spiky shadow against the nearest wall. “I know you, you think you’re special. You think the rules don’t apply.”

Harry sighs, wishing he’d kept his bloody cloak on. He’s weary now, weighed down under the pressure of the last few days, and all he wants to do is sit down on the steps and give in. Instead, something makes him smile at Filch. A small smile. Ingratiating. Sheepish.

“I’m sorry, Mr Filch. It’s been a long day, you know… NEWTS coming up and everything. I really needed a bit of fresh air. I’m going to straight back to my dorm room now, I promise,” he says, watching the cross old face shift from smugness to confusion and then to astonishment. “I’ll just go now, shall I? Goodnight… goodnight, Georgia.”

The iguana peers up at him, her expression and Filch’s so oddly similar that Harry has to suppress his laughter as he races up the stairs and out of sight. Neither one of them gives pursuit, and he is soon climbing through the portrait hole and parting his bed curtains. He flops on his back, grinning at his canopy, heart racing with adrenaline. He doesn’t know how, but he has won, and the feeling of accomplishment bathes him in warmth, allowing him to close his eyes and wriggle out of his clothes just before exhaustion starts to take him. As he drifts pleasantly into sleep, he realises that he has outmanoeuvred Filch by doing exactly what Draco would have done.

At Tuesday’s Quidditch practice, Harry manages to pull his head out of his arse for long enough to actually give his team some instructions, sending them off around the goal hoops in a complicated drill designed to test their speed and reflexes. He hovers in the middle of the pitch, shielding his eyes from the rain and just about making out the inevitable shape of Jason Ripley in the stands. Seated beneath a shimmering umbrella charm, Jason watches the team in flight with his usual enthusiasm. Rana waves to him and he waves back, and when she shoots past Harry on her way to the opposite goal hoops, Jason’s eyes snap to his. Harry takes a sharp breath, distracted by a mid-air collision between his two Beaters, and when he looks back to the stands, Jason is watching Rana again.

He shakes himself, dragging his attention back to his team, but he finds his eyes drifting back to the stands time and time again, stomach swooping as his mind helpfully provides him with image after image of Jason on his knees, smiling with satisfaction as he brushes past Harry, pressed against shower tiles by an arm with a mosaic of torn scars. He doesn’t want to think about it; it’s just there. Right there behind his eyes. Everything he doesn’t want to imagine, because he doesn’t want Draco to be with someone else. He wants…

“Harry?”

Harry whips around and squints through the rain at Ginny, who is hovering beside him with eyebrows drawn together.

“Hmm?”

“I thought maybe we should stop now. Visibility’s pretty much gone and everyone’s just getting fed up. What do you think?”

Harry looks around at his sodden team, suddenly feeling neglectful. “Yeah. Sorry.” He drifts towards the group and smiles at them. “Good job, everyone. You’re really making progress. Let’s pick this up next time.”

While the rest of the team sag with relief and head for the ground, Ginny stays at Harry’s side. He glances into the stands just in time to see Jason getting to his feet.

“You should just ask him out if you like him, Harry,” she says.

Harry turns so quickly that his hands slip on his broom handle. “I’m sorry, what?”

Ginny swipes long strands of wet hair from her face and shrugs. “It’s obvious that you like him, well, it is to me. You’ve been looking at him an awful lot. I happen to know that he’s gay and single, so…”

Harry’s heart hammers and he stares at her through the increasing downpour. “How did you know? Does everybody know?”

She laughs. “No one cares if you like boys, Harry. I know that you like him because I have eyes, and I know about Jason because Rana told me.”

“Jason?” Harry lets out a messy breath. He looks back to the stands, but Jason is no longer there. “Oh… you think I like Jason?!”

Ginny frowns. “You haven’t stopped looking at him all practice. Tell me I’m wrong.”

Harry shakes his head, light with relief. He tips his broomstick towards the ground and gestures for Ginny to follow him. He doesn’t know how to respond to her right now, and if he’s honest, all he really wants is a hot cup of tea and some dry clothes. When she walks beside him up to the Common Room without a word, he is grateful, and when he impulsively hugs her, she looks as though she might explode with curiosity. Harry thinks he might have to risk it for now. He has no idea how to explain anything that’s going on in his head and thinks that if he tries, he might die of embarrassment. All he can do is just keep going and hope for the best.

Which is easier said than done when certain people turn up to breakfast looking so fucking wonderful that certain other people can’t keep their eyes away. Harry can’t quite decide what it is about him this morning that is so arresting; it could be the way his crisp white shirt is tucked in just so, showing off his slender hips as he steps over the bench and settles at the table; it could be the way he pours and then cradles his cup of coffee close to his face, eyes falling closed as he inhales the fragrant steam; it could be the way that his top collar button lies undone, giving him a softness that seems to waft gently across the Great Hall and steal Harry’s breath.

This Draco, whoever he is, demands every last bit of Harry’s attention. He is hyper-aware of every movement, every tiny change, and his nerves are fried. The old Draco was a seething wave, crashing angrily over everything, and now he’s a riptide, surging under the surface and pulling him in, so powerful but so deep beneath the surface that he can’t be seen until it’s too late. Way too late.

Then again, he could always screw up his courage and let the current take him.

Harry takes a long, controlled breath that only shudders a little bit. He takes a piece of cheese on toast from the platter and tries to remember what it usually tastes like. At the other side of the table, Ginny laughs.

“Your face,” she grins, spreading marmalade on her croissant.

Harry wrinkles his nose. “What about my face?”

“You look sort of like… you’ve never eaten cheese before,” she says, and Ron snorts.

“Imagine never having eaten cheese.” He pauses, expression horrified. “Do you think there are people who haven’t eaten cheese? Like ever?”

“Some Asian cultures don’t use a lot of cheese,” Hermione says. “So…. Probably.”

“That’s not right,” Ron mumbles.

“I don’t really like cheese,” Luna speaks up, surprising Harry, who hadn’t noticed her sitting between Neville and Ginny. She turns large eyes on Ron. “Sorry.”

Ron stares at her for a moment and then shrugs. “More for me.”

“Fight you for it,” Ginny says, spooning more marmalade onto her breakfast.

Harry looks at her croissant and then down at his cheese on toast and smiles. He wonders.

Fred, this is for you, he thinks, plunging his knife into the marmalade and spreading it across his melted cheddar in a thin, even coat. He steels himself for a moment and then takes a bite. As expected, the flavour is very odd, salty and bitter and fruity all at once, but when chewed boldly together, he finds that actually, it’s not bad. It’s different. He thinks he likes it.

“You’re not really eating that?” Ginny asks, and Harry swallows, realising that several sets of eyes are now fixed upon him.

“It’s pretty good,” he says, finding himself grinning. “It’s a weird combination, but it works.”

His eyes are pulled to Draco and he lets them go, almost relieved to be looking at him again. As though feeling his gaze, the grey eyes lift to meet his, and Draco lifts a knowing eyebrow. Harry flushes hotly and inhales toast crumbs, sending him hacking and gasping for air.

“Are you sure it works?” Ron asks mildly, slapping him on the back.

Breathless and probably bruised, Harry reaches for his juice and opts not to respond.

He is still feeling rather adrift when he follows Ron and Hermione to Charms and finds Draco in the corridor with none other than Jason Ripley. In an attempt to appear like a sane person, he keeps walking and pretends that his stomach isn’t trying to climb into his throat, but there’s something about the way they are both leaning against the wall and smiling that makes Harry feel heavy inside. Jason, slightly shorter than Draco, is saying something that Harry can’t hear and Draco is bending his head to listen, hands tucked into his pockets with a stylish ease that is just infuriating.

Hermione calls Harry’s name gently and Draco looks up. The eye contact shocks Harry’s heart, and when Jason turns to look at him, too, the whole thing is just unbearable. But it’s fine, he tells himself, because he doesn’t have to sit next to Draco in Charms, and in a minute Flitwick will arrive and Jason will have to bugger off to wherever sixth-years go at this time in the morning. He doesn’t know where that is, or indeed if it is anywhere in the vicinity of the Charms corridor, and the fact that he is even thinking about finding out means he has officially crossed over into the Bad Place.

“I’m fine,” he tells Ron and Hermione when they ask, and again when they don’t, because they have managed to come across Draco and Jason sitting on the front steps at morning break and again when Jason sits at the Slytherin table for lunch and Hermione looks as though she’s dying to ask a million questions to which she probably already has the right answers.

“I’m fine!” he announces as he and Ginny walk across the crowded Entrance Hall at afternoon break and almost trip over Jason, who is handing Draco a book and definitely-on-purpose allowing their fingers to touch.

“Are you sure?” Ginny asks, and by the time they have parted for the last lesson of the day, Harry has realised that his behaviour is doing nothing to counteract her theory about his crush on Jason.

Not that it matters, because now he is sitting next to Draco and the chances of him focusing on his work are fading with every second that passes, because Draco’s hair is ruffled and his shirt is coming untucked and all Harry can think about is how it got that way. He looks… happy, bright-eyed and slightly flushed, crunching on a sherbet lime and laying out his potions kit in perfect order. He’s a menace, and he’s fucking perfect, and Jason Ripley has no idea what he’s got.

“What?” Draco asks, turning to Harry and paralysing him with a split-second flicker of a smile.

“Nothing.”

Draco shrugs and then reaches out, picking a piece of lint from Harry’s tie with his fingers. Even through two layers of fabric, the touch is electric, and he suppresses a shiver.

“You don’t look well.”

Harry stares at him, then at Slughorn, who is writing the word SILENCE in large letters on the blackboard. He bites his lip hard.

“I thought you and Jason weren’t a thing,” he whispers, fingers gripping his cauldron handle so tight that they start to hurt.

Draco blinks. “We aren’t.”

“You could have fooled me,” Harry mutters, and then stops, because Slughorn is clearing his throat and beginning to issue instructions. He may not have much capacity for learning today, but the last thing he needs is to blow himself up.

“Now then, today’s potion is very sensitive to outside stimuli, so I will have to ask that you be very quiet during the brewing process,” Slughorn says, beaming as he introduces each ingredient. “You may work with your neighbour to complete this in the time we have, so if you need to communicate you may whisper,” he explains, drawing out the word with a hiss and a flourish. “Let’s keep it quiet and see what wonders we can create!”

Harry stares mutinously at his workstation. Draco scrapes back his chair and begins to gather their ingredients, stopping to conduct a whispered exchange with Slughorn that ends in knowing smiles from both of them. Harry groans, letting his head touch his desk for a moment, breathing in the smell of herbs and varnished wood, and staying there even as Draco returns and begins calmly chopping dandelion roots.

Suddenly, there is a wash of clean citrus and a surprising warmth and Draco’s breath is drifting against his ear.

“I told you,” he whispers, making every hair on Harry’s neck stand on end. “It’s not like that.”

Something hot and insistent settles in the pit of Harry’s stomach. Slowly, he sits upright and stares at Draco, hesitating only for a second or two before leaning painfully close and whispering, “What is it like, then?”

Draco’s mouth curves into a smile, revealing a single pointed canine that does inexplicable things to Harry’s insides. He continues to chop for what feels like a very long time.

“It’s like… when you really, really want something, and you can’t quite have it, so you find the closest thing that will make you feel…” Draco pauses, nose brushing against Harry’s neck. “Satisfied.”

Breath hitching in his chest, Harry turns slowly to meet his eyes and finds them closer than he expected, too close, in fact, all at once bright and dark with something that makes him shiver.

“Are you…?” Harry begins, but stops when Slughorn stops at the edge of his desk.

“Let’s try and keep the conversation to a minimum, boys,” he says, fixing each of them with a jolly smile. “I have high hopes for this one.”

“Sorry,” Harry mumbles, and he moves on, ambling around to check on each pair in turn.

When he turns back to Draco, he is frowning in concentration and tipping neatly sliced things in the steaming cauldron. Harry has no idea what those things are, or indeed, the name of the potion he is supposed to be making. All he knows is that he is, once again, ridiculously turned on, and he’s pretty sure that Draco is feeling the same way. His words swim around in Harry’s head, echoing and turning in circles, until he has no idea what to make of them any more, no idea what they mean but plenty of ideas about what he wants them to. He jumps when Draco pokes him in the shoulder, gazing at him helplessly as he gestures for something, some item, to be passed to him. Harry shrugs, and he sighs, leaning over him to grab a bottle of blood worms and pressing his warm side all down Harry’s arm. He withdraws slowly, deliberately, hair brushing Harry’s face as he lingers and whispers, “Were you planning to help at all today?”

“Yes,” Harry hisses, reaching for his wand and promptly knocking several mysterious fruits to the floor. “What do you want me to do?”

Draco smiles slowly, running his thumb over the handle of his silver knife. He shrugs. Harry swallows hard, everything dry and tight and oh-so-fucking obvious now. He’s doing it on purpose. He wants Harry to break. Wants him to give in and… what? Sweep all the neatly-chopped ingredients off the desk and get to his knees and, oh, god, he’s thinking about Jason again, because they might not be a thing but whatever they are makes Harry want to rage.

Why? He mouths, refusing to lean in and whisper. If Draco wants to get him going, he’ll have to come over here and do it. Which is completely logical and not at all the reasoning of someone who has no blood left in his upper body.

Draco frowns. Shrugs again. Harry grips the edge of his desk until his fingers hurt. Somewhere at the back of the room, a potion is burning, and the whole dungeon is beginning to smell like charred hazelnuts. Harry watches helplessly as Draco leans over to stir the cauldron, allowing the steam to spiral and filter across his sharp profile. After several long seconds, he looms over Harry, weight on one hand spread across the desk and tie brushing Harry’s shoulder. The proximity is maddening, and all Harry can do is keep perfectly still, silently wondering why no one has thought to come and rescue him. He never usually needs rescuing, he supposes, and that’s the problem. This is different, because Draco Malfoy is making him weak and there’s nothing he can do about it.

Draco’s breath is warm against his ear, each exhalation skating shivers down his spine. He has just begun to wonder if he is planning to say anything at all when he feels the flicker of a smile against his skin and the words, low and roughly spoken, “Pick up those coppleberries before they bruise.”

This time, Harry groans out loud, causing several people to look up from their cauldrons and shush him. He cringes, miming an apology and then retrieving the fucking coppleberries from the floor near his feet. They are fine, which is more than he can say for himself. Knowing that Slughorn is watching him now, he applies himself to the potion as best he can, trying not to look at, smell, or even acknowledge the existence of the person next to him. Trying, but not, on the whole, succeeding. When Draco hands in their potion and says, “We make a rather good team, don’t we?” Harry is about ready to kick him in the groin. At least, he’s ready for something, and the sensation of needing something very badly is too overwhelming to ignore.

He opens his mouth to respond, but Draco is already halfway out of the classroom, and Harry may be hot and humiliated, but he’s not quite ready to run after him. There is still just a little bit of pride at stake here, and he hangs on to it grimly, deciding to head straight up to Gryffindor Tower instead of joining his friends for dinner. His stomach is far too knotted for food, and the last thing he needs after the whispering fiasco is to watch Draco licking chocolate icing off his fingers. Which is a thought, but not one he needs to entertain. It really isn’t, he tells himself firmly, flopping onto his bed and covering his heated face with his hands.

“Why?” he repeats, this time addressing himself and the empty room at large.

Why this? Why now? Why him?

And that’s the part he can’t get away from. He can twist around inside his mind like a worm on a hook, telling himself that maybe he isn’t gay, or maybe he is, and maybe that’s fine, but the one fact he can’t escape is that he’s absolutely on fire for Draco Malfoy and it’s dizzying and inconvenient and wonderful. He presses a wobbly smile into his hands, shaky laughter bubbling up towards his canopy. He has felt feelings before, of course he has, but this something else. It’s wild and incandescent and he’s pretty sure that somewhere in this castle right now, Draco is feeling it too. He sits up, stomach lurching and blood rushing to his head.

Enough. So, he breaks. He’s stubborn and Draco is stubborn, too, and he’s playing a game that Harry hasn’t a hope of winning. So he’ll give. Harry will find him, they will have a proper conversation at a normal volume and they will both say exactly what they mean, and then everything will be…

Harry stops, catching sight of himself in the nearest shiny surface. He sighs, taking in his flushed face, wild eyes, obvious erection and shaking hands. He’s a mess, and it just won’t do. Taking a calming breath, he looks around until his eyes fall on the sleeping shape of Pigwidgeon, who seems to prefer the calm warmth of Ron’s windowsill over the noisy Owlery. Ron won’t mind. If Harry gets this done as efficiently as he wants to, Ron won’t even find out.

He grabs a quill and paper and writes, I want to talk to you. Come up to the dorm. Password is Gurdyweed.

Pig swoops out of the window with the note, leaving Harry to sit on the edge of his bed and fiddle with his shoelaces. He is just starting to wonder if he has made a huge mistake when the owl returns. On the reverse of his original message, Draco has simply written: Why?

Exasperated, Harry throws the note onto the bed and groans. He hates this. He’s useless at it. And not only that, but Draco is really fucking good at it, and it’s maddening. After a moment, he takes another cleansing breath and another sheet of paper.

I need to ask you something.

Five minutes later, the reply comes back:

And now the real reason?

Harry stares at the beautiful handwriting, the words that are demanding the truth of everything that is seething inside him. Breathing hard, he grips his quill and splotches ink onto the page, watching it dry and feeling his face burn as finally, he screws up his courage and scrawls three words so forcefully that he almost rips the paper.

I want you.

Terrified, he folds it up and attaches it to Pigwidgeon, who flaps out of sight, leaving him staring out of the window and wondering what the actual fuck he has just done. After five minutes, there is no reply. After ten, his housemates begin to spill into the Common Room, filling Gryffindor Tower with the buzz of their conversation. After fifteen minutes, Harry is so contorted with tension that his head is pounding and he has bitten all of his nails down to the quick.

After twenty minutes, there is a knock at the door. He stops dead in his pacing and stares at the solid wood, caught somewhere between horror and anticipation. When the knock comes again, he flies across the room, yanking at the handle with such force that the muscles in his arm scream in protest. He is given five seconds to appreciate Draco’s loosened collar, finger-raked hair and darkened eyes before he is being pushed back into the room and against the closed door, held there by strong hands and gasping as molten heat pours into his stomach. Draco is breathing quickly, hard against his hip and close, so close.

Harry can feel his breath against his lips as he whispers, “What do you want?”

Harry swallows hard, struggling for words and knowing that all he has to do is lean forward just an inch or two and they’ll be… oh, fuck. “I… come on, you know I’m terrible at this.”

“No, I don’t, and neither do you, I suspect,” Draco says, with a little smile that makes Harry’s insides twist.

“What do you mean?” he asks, and when Draco just looks at him, he scowls, feeling hot and prickly and still so desperate for this. “Right, so it’s blindingly obvious that I’ve never… that I’m a fucking virgin is it?”

“That’s a very loaded word,” Draco says, releasing Harry’s wrists and sliding his fingers into his belt loops instead. “Let’s just call it inexperience, and I don’t care.”

“Oh,” Harry mumbles, because he’s got nothing else.

“The point is, you’re intrigued.”

“Yes,” he whispers, closing his eyes when Draco’s hips shift against his.

“What do you want?”

Harry groans. “Why are you such a pain in the arse? Why can’t we just…?”

When Draco speaks again, he is even closer, and he sounds almost amused. “Harry, breathe.  Just look at me and tell me what you want.”

Burning up now, Harry opens his eyes. Draco’s expression is intense, dangerously so, but there is a flicker of hope underneath his bravado that makes Harry’s chest ache.

“I want you to kiss me,” he whispers.

“Oh, thank god,” Draco mumbles, and then there is a small smile that weakens Harry’s knees before they are just kissing, and Harry is in freefall.

His thoughts tumble and tangle in his head, shifting quickly from oh, god, I’m kissing another boy to oh, fucking god, I’m kissing Draco Malfoy, and Jesus Christ, his hands are in my hair, and fuck, I’m so hard for him that I want to groan out loud. And perhaps he does, because Draco smiles against his mouth and kisses him harder, brushing their tongues together and sharing the taste of coffee and sugar and mints. Harry kisses him back with breathless enthusiasm, finally allowing himself to peel his hands from the door and grip Draco’s shoulders through his thin shirt. When they part, the grey eyes are bright, and for the first time, their owner seems to be slightly off-balance.

“Now what do you want?” he asks, pointlessly straightening Harry’s tie.

Harry stares at him, suddenly feeling ten feet tall. “I want you to stop seeing Jason.”

Draco stares at him for a very long time, expression unreadable. “It’s done,” he says at last, and then he’s kissing him again, cool fingertips resting on his jaw and mouth brushing against Harry’s so gently that he groans. Without another word, he presses his palm to Harry’s cock, tracing circles with his thumb and kissing him with such slow, meaningful intensity that Harry’s control dissolves into nothing and he shudders, gasping and jerking his hips against Draco’s hand, fingers grasping at shirt fabric as he screws his eyes shut and comes in a hot rush, release surging almost painfully against his boxer fabric.

Utterly humiliated, and yet somehow still so turned on that he can barely breathe, Harry stares at the floor. His shoes are untied. He sighs, rubs at his face with his hands.

“Sorry. Fuck, sorry,” he mumbles, horrified with himself. Draco might say he doesn’t care about his inexperience, but no one wants… that. “I really don’t usually… it’s just…”

Draco tugs his hands away from his face. “Harry, that was genuinely the hottest thing I have ever seen.”

“What?”

Never breaking eye contact, he takes Harry’s hand and presses it against his own straining trouser fabric, catching his breath slightly when the contact makes his hard cock twitch. “Does it feel like I’m upset?”

Harry’s heart lifts and his mouth tugs into a smile along with it. Feeling bold, he presses harder, thrilled by the soft whimper that results. Deciding to seize on this moment of confidence, he grabs Draco’s hand and yanks him over to the bed, spelling the curtains tightly shut and applying a Silencing Charm with a wave of his hand that makes Draco stare at him.

“You can do wandless magic?”

Harry shrugs, concentrating on lighting the gloomy space with a gentle glow. His wand is somewhere around, he’s certain of it, but sometimes it’s easier to do without.

“A bit. Just little things.”

Draco’s eyes follow the movements of his hands, even as he slips Harry’s tie over his head and starts to unbutton his shirt.

“I think… I think I could sit and watch you do that all night,” he says, casting the shirt aside.

“Please don’t. I only do it because I’m lazy,” Harry says, flushing at the intensity of his gaze.

No one has ever looked at him like that before, and he doesn’t know if he feels exposed or ready to start all over again. Perhaps both.

“What is wrong with this belt?” Draco demands, tugging at the leather with a frown.

“Nothing. I have undressed myself before, you know,” Harry says, amused.

Draco smiles, revealing that one pointed canine that does mysterious things to Harry’s stomach. It makes an otherwise sharp, handsome face look rather rakish, and Harry rather inexplicably wants to stroke it with his fingertip. Instead, he unbuckles his belt and reaches for Draco, pulling him down onto the pillows and kissing him breathless. In a tangle of limbs and discarded clothes, the kiss shifts from desperation to slow, deliberate teasing as they find their rhythm together, fingers raking through hair and over bare skin, hipbones dragging and hot, sensitised erections brushing with each shift against the mattress.

Harry’s bitten fingernails sting, scraping against Draco’s back and holding him tightly, hissing as that mouth leaves his to explore his neck. He buries his nose in warm, sweat-damp hair and breathes in the familiar scent of citrus, lost in a haze of aching sensation that is nothing at all like he imagined. In his head, this had always been a hasty rut behind the broom shed or a hurried, soapy fuck in the showers after Quidditch; it had been quick and dirty and desperate. And while there is certainly desperation here, he’s not sure he feels dirty and there is nothing quick about the way Draco is moving against him, stealing long, messy kisses or threading their fingers together and holding on tight. This is something else, and he hurts all over with it in the most wonderful way.

Embracing the slow, careful pace, Harry allows himself to melt into it, tracing over pale skin with his fingers and following them with his mouth. He has no idea what he’s doing and he no longer cares; he just wants Draco all over him and he wants to touch absolutely everything he can reach. When his fingertips skate carefully over the twisted scar, Draco’s eyes snap to his. For a moment, neither of them breathes, and then Harry presses a gentle kiss to the mess of grey shapes and Draco shudders.

“Sorry,” he whispers.

Draco reclaims his arm and rests his hand on Harry’s bare thigh. “Don’t be.”

Harry opens his mouth, closes it again, and stares down at Draco’s cock, flushed and leaking against his belly. He’s shaking, and when Harry touches him, he moans softly. Slowly, Harry leans down and takes him in his mouth, feeling the heat, the weight, the salty tang against his tongue. He’s doing this; he’s actually doing it, and he’s pretty sure he has never done anything more exciting in his life.

“Oh, god… don’t,” Draco whispers, tone not quite matching his words.

Harry pulls back, bewildered. “Was that really bad?”

Draco laughs, body pulled tight. “No. It was really, really not bad, but… look… you can do anything you want to me, I promise, but right now… I’m dying here, Harry.”

There’s something about seeing him so flustered, so inarticulate, that makes Harry want to get back down there and suck him until he completely comes apart, but Draco’s eyes are pleading, so heavy with meaning, and he doesn’t know if he can take it.

“Now?” he whispers, pressing his palm against his cock and feeling it twitch against his belly.

Draco regards him evenly. “Harry, if you don’t fuck me in the next two minutes, I may very well expire.”

Harry laughs. He is dizzy with desire and more nervous than he has ever been, but he can’t help grinning, because even when he is sprawled across a Gryffindor-scarlet quilt, naked and hard and shameless, Draco is still Draco, and that realisation is extremely comforting. When Draco reaches for his abandoned trousers and pulls out a small jar, Harry’s smile fades into a caught breath, because this is real and Draco really did bring that with him, and he really is staring straight into Harry’s eyes as he slicks his fingers and slowly, deliberately, slides them inside himself. Harry doesn’t know where to look, but in the end he keeps the eye contact because Draco’s control is flickering and he can see it all over his face. By the time he stops, he is shaking and his breathing is ragged. Harry inhales slowly, pulling in stuffy air scented with warm spices. He’s ready again, so ready, and he steadies himself against his own palm, eyes drifting to shiny, pale pink skin and trembling thighs.

Draco lets out a shaky laugh. “Sorry to rush things, but you have no idea how much I’m losing my mind here.”

Harry snorts. “How much you’re losing your mind? Fuck, Draco, you have no idea.”

Draco just smiles, groaning and closing his eyes when Harry finally sinks into him. For a long moment, neither one of them moves, because god, it feels good, but then there are fingernails in his hips and Draco is whispering, ‘It’s okay’ and Harry can’t help himself. He pulls back slowly, weight on his knees, gasping when the air suddenly seems cool around him, then pushes back, feeling Draco’s gasp of approval all over his body. He’s so controlled at first, barely moving under Harry and taking short, careful breaths, but as he begins to unravel, the breaths turn into ‘oh, yes’, over and over again in a rough litany that pushes Harry dangerously close to the edge. Soon, he’s all abandon, legs sprawled and eyes closed, hips rolling up to meet Harry’s every stroke, so beautiful and damaged and absolutely everything, everything, and Harry is lost. He is tight, grasping heat, hands gripping whatever part of Harry he can reach, a cry of, ‘god, I’m close’ and when Harry laces their fingers together on the bed clothes and thrusts into him as hard as he can, Draco comes all over himself in a shuddering rush, knees drawn up tight and eyes flying open to stare straight into Harry.

“Are you still embarrassed?” he pants, tightening around Harry with a breathless smile.

“Erm… no,” he admits, hips jerking without his permission. “That was… wow.”

“It was. Are you sure you’ve never done that before?”

“I think I’d remember.”

Draco laughs. “Come on,” he murmurs, lifting his hips and causing Harry to slide deeper inside him. “I want to see you finish.”

Harry flushes, all at once self-conscious, but he knows it won’t take much. With a long, shaky breath, he rocks back and then pushes back into Draco, forcing himself to make eye contact even though the idea of it makes him burn with embarrassment. He likes it when Draco looks at him, he might as well accept that, and maybe Draco likes being looked at. Okay, Draco definitely likes being looked at, so he’s going to look.

“There you are,” Draco whispers, eyes bright in the soft light.

He trails his fingers over Harry’s thighs and just stares at him, meeting each long, deep stroke with his hips and drawing up his legs to pull him impossibly deeper. Finally, slick with sweat and tingling all over, Harry comes with a cry that surprises him, burying himself in Draco’s body and clinging to the last of his sanity as the sensation rips through him like a tidal wave.

“Fuck,” he says loudly, just as the dormitory door opens and two people clatter inside.

Harry tenses, feeling Draco sharpen beneath him.

“I told you it was up here,” Seamus says, footsteps passing the closed bed curtains.

“Shh,” Neville hisses. “Look, Harry must be asleep.”

Harry looks down at Draco, who seems unhelpfully amused.

“He has been looking pretty peaky,” Seamus says, poking at the curtains right next to Harry’s head. “It’ll do him good to have a good nap.”

“If you ask me,” Neville says, and there’s a pause for the unmistakeable rustle of a liquorice bag, “He needs something a bit more than a nap.”

Seamus cackles. “You dog, you. Who’s the lucky girl?”

Neville says nothing, and soon they are back out in the corridor, slamming the door behind them.

“These curtains are Silenced, yes?” Draco asks. Harry nods. “Good. I see that your friends don’t know you very well.”

Harry grimaces and gently pulls away, using a rough wandless spell to clean up before sprawling on his side next to Draco.

“They know a lot about some parts of me.”

“And which part is this?” Draco asks, drawing him close with a hand on his jaw and kissing him slowly.

“A new part,” Harry admits, and kisses him again, just because he wants to.

Draco indulges him for a moment or two and then pulls back, amused. “New? Are you serious?”

Harry crosses his arms over his bare chest, suddenly defensive. “Yes. If you must know, before I ran into you and Jason bloody Ripley last week, I’d never thought about… this sort of thing.”

“That’s weird,” Draco says, kissing him again until he relaxes his arms. “Because I’ve known about you for ages.”

“What?”

Draco props his head up on his hand, managing to look unacceptably graceful. “Harry, I know you’ve been looking at me with a bit more intensity this week, but you’ve always looked at me. Always.”

“Looking isn’t always… looking,” Harry says, face heating.

“You’re blushing,” Draco says, revealing his dangerous smile.

“I’m… this is a weird situation,” Harry sighs, scrubbing at his messy hair. “If someone had said to me two weeks ago that I’d be lying here in my bed with you, I’d have been very…”

“Excited?” Draco suggests.

“Surprised,” Harry says firmly.

“And yet.”

Harry gazes at him, at his scars and his ruffled hair and his bright, silvery eyes, and wonders if Draco’s right, if this has been waiting to happen all along, and if he’s even more clueless about romantic things than he’s always thought. If any of it really matters.

“I don’t know if I’m gay,” he admits. “I don’t know what I am.”

Draco looks at him as though he’s completely mad. “I don’t care.”

Harry smiles to himself, idly resting his hand on an angular hip and tracing circles with his thumb. His stomach growls softly, making him wonder what he could have had for dinner. He might have been tied up with tension earlier, but he’s now beginning to think he could eat an entire Hippogriff.

“I’ve got a whole cherry cake in my dormitory,” Draco says helpfully. “I think my mother’s trying to fatten me up for some reason.”

Harry groans. “I could eat a whole cherry cake.”

“Have you got anything? I think I can smell liquorice,” Draco says, sniffing the air.

“That’s Neville. Hang on a minute.” Harry rolls over and retrieves a small box from the side of the bed. Inside, he finds a bottle of oil that now just makes him feel hot all over, a notebook and pen, a bottle of rather warm water and half a chocolate bar.

Draco takes the water and gulps at it and then regards the food offering. “What kind of a psychopath eats half a chocolate bar?”

“The kind who already ate two full ones and then felt a bit sick?” Harry offers, biting the remains in half and offering the rest to Draco, who looks at it with suspicion for a moment and then eats it.

This time, when he kisses Harry, he tastes like chocolate and caramel, and the fingers that wind through his hair are slightly sticky, but he doesn’t care. He just wants more of this, more of them, more of anything and everything that Draco can give him. When he reaches for a kiss and Draco pulls away, he lets out a rough sound of disappointment, only to find himself being nudged over onto his stomach with a firmness that thrills him. Breath caught, he smiles against his pillow and then swears loudly when strong hands grip his buttocks and a hot tongue strokes over a part of him that he had no idea was so sensitive.

Draco laughs softly, rippling air against the damp skin. “Relax,” he whispers.

Harry snorts. “Right, I’ll try that,” he groans, but when Draco licks him again, his objections dissolve along with the rest of him.

Because, okay, now he feels dirty. He feels filthy, in fact, debauched and open and completely at the mercy of the hands that are spreading him open and the mouth that is easing him slowly and deliberately into madness. He has no idea what he’s saying any more but the sounds escaping his mouth are desperate and needy, and he presses his face into the pillow in shame, but Draco tugs it away and thrusts his tongue inside him, releasing a torrent of curse words that seem to reverberate around the heavy curtains.

“That’s more like it,” Draco whispers, pressing a slippery finger inside Harry and then stroking him with a slow, teasing swipe of his tongue.

“You… are a sadist,” Harry gasps, pushing back against him and closing his eyes when his cock drags, full and heavy, against the bedclothes.

Draco laughs. Harry wonders how he never noticed how fucking brilliant that sound was before. It’s warm and dry and it lodges itself in his chest, wrapping around his heart and making him feel, inexplicably, like he might burst into tears. He won’t, but when Draco pulls him up onto his hands and knees and slowly begins to ease him open, his eyes sting anyway and he lets them. He feels ridiculous. He feels wonderful. He feels alive.

“This looks so good,” Draco murmurs, twisting his fingers and then withdrawing to swipe his tongue slowly over Harry’s tortured entrance. He whimpers.

“Sadist,” he repeats, even as his voice cracks and his fingers curl against the sheets.

“I don’t know,” Draco says, leaning in to rest hot hardness against the base of Harry’s spine. “I think you might be enjoying yourself.”

Harry lets out a rough snort of laughter, turning his head to meet the grey eyes with the most sardonic look he can muster.

“I don’t know what gave you that impression,” he says, and then those fingers are doing something, something inside him that makes his cock jerk and his head swim. “Oh, god. Fuck. Please.”

Draco smiles slowly. He’s in charge now and Harry knows it. In fact, Harry suspects that he’s been in charge the entire time, of the situation, of him, and he likes it. For reasons that he doesn’t know how to process right now, the whole thing is incredibly fucking hot and he no longer cares about anything but what he hopes is going to happen next.

“Draco, please,” he repeats, watching those eyes darken with lust before he has to drop his head to the mattress and press his hands to his face. “Please.”

For a moment, nothing happens, and then he is left empty, listening to the shaky breaths behind him and then hissing as a hot hardness slides against him. He wants it, he wants it so fucking much that he writhes in place, finding an inch or two of delicious stretch and then feeling it slipping away. Finally, Draco licks a hot stripe up his back and presses forward all the way, causing a stinging ache so satisfying that Harry nearly loses his knees underneath him.

“Oh, god,” he groans, the words almost coming out as a sob. “Fucking hell.”

He can feel Draco’s hips pressing into him, fingers sliding onto his belly, holding them tightly together as they both tremble and adjust to the sensation. Draco is inside him, filling him, and his whole body is vibrating with it. He has no idea how he got here, but here he is regardless, shivering on his hands and knees and panting to be fucked.

“Draco, please,” he whispers, hearing Draco’s breath catch at the words. He hides a smile against his shoulder, wondering if, actually, Draco is not quite as in control as he appears. He turns his head and says it again. “Please.”

Something twitches inside him and he grins. Draco’s fingers clench at his waist. “Do you think it’s that easy?” he asks, arching an eyebrow with what looks like a massive effort.

“Yes,” Harry laughs, and Draco’s mouth flickers at one corner. “Please. Now… fuck me.”

Draco makes a soft sound that makes Harry’s hand fly to his cock. With a careful breath, he slides out and then thrusts back inside, making both of them groan.

“Yes,” Draco whispers, or perhaps it’s him, Harry has no idea any more.

All he knows is that every push inside him is the most wonderful torture, that the sounds of sliding flesh are absolutely filthy, and that Draco likes to talk. He might be quiet in classrooms and at dinner tables these days, but now that he’s fucking Harry into a shuddering, sweaty mess in his own dormitory, he has plenty to say for himself. And for some reason, every ‘god, that’s perfect’ or ‘why the hell do you feel so good?’ or ‘fuck, Harry’ makes him harder and hotter and closer to falling apart.

“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do this,” he admits, nails sharp and stinging against Harry’s hips.

Harry lets out a rough breath. “In general or with me?”

Draco laughs, circling his hips in a way that ensures his response is a mystery to Harry.

“Hmm?”

“I know you think I’m a complete tart,” Draco says, and he presses close, chin resting on Harry’s shoulder and hand palming his aching cock against his belly. “But I’m afraid this really is all about you.”

Harry smiles, pushing back into the touch. Pauses and frowns. “But Jason—” he begins, falling silent when Draco lets out a frustrated sound that reverberates inside him.

“How is it,” Draco sighs, “that I’m literally inside you and you’re still thinking about Jason?”

Harry flushes and stares at his hands. “I’m not thinking about Jason. I’m thinking about you, and then Jason just pops up and thinking about you and Jason makes me feel a bit… crazy,” he admits, all at once feeling more vulnerable than he thought possible.

Draco stills his hips and withdraws, pulling a whine from Harry that makes him want to cover his face. With surprising care, he pushes him onto his back and stares at him, sitting on his heels and twisting his hands in his lap. His hair is everywhere, his pale skin flushed, he’s hard and glistening with oil and the whole picture is strangely arresting.

“Alright. Here’s the thing about Jason,” Draco says, eyes fixed on a spot somewhere to Harry’s left. “Yes, he was convenient, and yes, I suppose it was fun, but the things you saw… they were…” Draco shrugs awkwardly. “…manufactured, let’s say?”

Something flickers in Harry chest. He frowns. “You mean the thing in the courtyard?”

“Yes, and the thing in the corridor, and all of those things. Harry, it isn’t hard to know where you’re going to be. You’re rather a creature of habit.”

Harry stares at him. “I’m sorry… those things were for my benefit?”

Draco meets his eyes and he aches. “Yes, alright? And you weren’t supposed to find out, but I didn’t plan for the fact that you’d become obsessed with Jason and me being an item.”

Harry shakes his head, unable to decide whether to be angry at being manipulated or thrilled that suddenly Jason fucking Ripley is no longer an obstacle. To what, he’s not quite sure, but when he looks at Draco, at his rigid posture and his honestly-almost-sheepish expression, his heart twists and all he wants to do is kiss him, so he does. He gets to his knees and takes Draco by the shoulders, brushing their mouths together until they are breathing hard and falling back onto the bed.

“He knows, you know,” Draco murmurs, pressing Harry back into the mattress and sliding inside him, leaning close until Harry’s cock is pressed between their bellies. “He thought it was really funny.”

“Draco, please stop talking about Jason,” Harry whispers. “Please just… please.”

Draco bites his lip. “Anything else?”

Harry stares up at him, feeling bold. Terrified. Exhilarated. “Yes. Harder.”

Draco smiles. He threads his fingers through Harry’s and pushes himself upright, granting him a split-second flash of vulnerability before thrusting into him so hard that he almost hits his head on the bed post.

“This,” he murmurs, eyes bright on Harry’s as they move together. “Just this, okay?”

Harry nods, barely hanging on but never looking away, even as Draco comes inside him with a cry and he loses himself, seconds later, over both of their fists. The sensation is so powerful that it almost hurts, every muscle in his body clenching in sympathy with his aching cock and the place where Draco fills him so completely.

He can feel Draco’s eyes on him as he waves his hand to clean up, and he wonders if he can use that fact to his advantage. Not today, though. Wandless magic takes energy, and right now he feels as though every last bit of it has been drained out of him. He is exhausted, battered, chafed. His shoulder feels bruised and he’s sticky with sweat and he feels absolutely fucking brilliant. Draco, temporarily still and quiet, curls on his side and gazes at Harry, who takes advantage of the silence to examine him properly, running bitten fingers over his arms, his ribs, his nipples, tasting the salty skin of his shoulder and admiring the way the soft light makes the pale, scar-strewn skin glow. Vaguely, he wonders what’s happening in the world beyond their curtained cavern, where things are bustling and ordinary and people like him do not tangle their legs with people like Draco Malfoy and kiss like they could never get bored of it. He can still hear the hum of voices in the Common Room below, but he knows it must only be a matter of time before his dormmates start to wander to bed, and then they are going to be stuck until morning.

“What I wouldn’t give to be able to Apparate into the kitchens right now,” Draco says, and Harry sits upright with a triumphant smile.

“I’ve got the next best thing,” he confides, reaching under the mattress and pulling out his cloak.

The watery fabric ripples under the magical light. Draco’s eyes grow wide.

“That is not an actual Invisibility Cloak.” He sighs. “Of course it is. You’re fucking maddening, do you know that?”

Harry turns away, pretending offence, and struggles into his trousers. Everything feels sore and he winces, hiding a little thrill as he puts on his shirt.

“How dare you,” he says after a moment.

Draco snorts. “The things I could do with that cloak,” he sighs.

Harry raises his eyebrows. “Do I want to know?”

“Well, it could certainly make it easier to sneak past that godforsaken lizard. Sometimes I turn it different colours just to drive Filch a little bit mad,” he admits, and Harry rather unhelpfully wants to peel off his clothes again and pin him to the mattress.

“That’s not very nice,” he says, attempting a stern expression.

“I get bored,” Draco says. He brightens. “I used to get bored.”

Harry flushes. “Can you be good for five minutes?”

“Define ‘good’.”

“Er… no changing the colours of the sheets, no rearranging Ron’s photographs, no using Pigwidgeon to send poison pen letters to members of staff… that sort of thing?” Harry says, sweeping the cloak around himself and trying not to grin when he disappears and Draco looks suitably impressed.

“Fine. I could come with you.”

“You won’t fit.”

“I can get pretty close,” Draco says, and Harry’s whole body runs hot. He sighs.

“I know. If I’m not back in five minutes… please just stay there.”

Draco makes a face but stays put, allowing Harry to peer out of the curtains into a surprisingly bright dormitory. The sun is just beginning to set, filling the room with pink and gold light that feels warm on Harry’s face as he walks quickly to the door and down the stairs. The Common Room is stuffy and noisy, full of conversation and exploding sweets and attempts at studying. In the window seat, Hermione and Ginny are chatting with cups of tea, while Ron sits in a nearby armchair and gazes at a Quidditch Today tucked inside a copy of How to Survive Your NEWTS. By the empty fireplace, Neville, Dean and Seamus are comparing their colour-coded revision guides, watched in quiet horror by a group of ink-spattered fifth-years. It’s all so normal, so weekday evening in Gryffindor Tower, and he feels like a stranger, looking in from the outside. Yes, he’s just heading to the kitchen on a snack run, but today, he’s returning to a bed that contains a naked and rather dominant young man that Harry isn’t even close to understanding, but wants very, very much. None of this is normal, and none of these people have any idea how his world has shifted. None at all.

At the portrait hole, he almost crashes into the person climbing through. And of course it’s Jason Ripley, and of course he smells of the outdoors and his hair looks as though it’s been combed with a rake and… Harry stops dead. His dark hair. His dark, chaotic hair and bright eyes and good-natured smile, and fuck, doesn’t he sometimes wear glasses when he comes to watch Rana play? All at once, he’s back in Potions, gripping the table while Draco whispers against his ear.

“It’s like… when you really, really want something, and you can’t quite have it, so you find the closest thing that will make you feel… satisfied.”

The closest thing. Fuck. Harry stares at Jason, who is now looking around the room for his friends. He’s taller and better looking, Harry thinks, but he has no idea how he could have missed the resemblance before. Spotting Rana tucked up on a threadbare sofa, he lifts a hand in greeting and heads over to join her, smiling and nodding when she launches into a story that seems to involve a very large book and a lot of swearing. Harry watches them, feeling every last shred of animosity dissolving into nothing, leaving behind only the tiniest of jealous twinges and the very real urge to run back up the stairs and get on his knees before he wastes any more time.

Food, he tells himself firmly, forcing himself through the portrait hole before he changes his mind. In the kitchens, he finds seeded bread rolls left over from dinner, a block of cheese and several apples. He throws the lot into a bag and fills two bottles with cold, fresh water before hurrying back up to the dorm, narrowly avoiding Ron, who is muttering and carrying his revision guide, and crawling back through the curtains. Draco is lying on his back beneath the sheets, arms folded behind his head and expression so serene that Harry is immediately suspicious.

“Have you been good?”

“That depends,” Draco says, and Harry already hates the way that anything he says in that tone of voice immediately makes him hard.

“Don’t start. We have to eat or else we’ll… I don’t know. Faint or something.”

“Drama,” Draco sighs, crunching into an apple and letting out a happy sigh. “Thank you.”

Harry tears into a bread roll hastily stuffed with cheese, following it with a huge gulp of cold water. Drama it may be, but he thinks this might just be the best thing he has ever tasted. He leans back on his elbows and says nothing, allowing himself to enjoy the combination of sweet, savoury and cool and the slow settling of his neglected stomach. Draco eats like he does everything else—neatly, thoughtfully, as if weighing up each bite before he takes it. He keeps Harry’s eyes on him without seeming to try—without even seeming to notice—and when their eyes meet, he is very clearly amused.

“You’re looking at me. I told you… you’re always looking at me.”

Harry pretends intense interest in his apple core. He sighs, knowing there’s no use. “Okay. Yeah. I like looking at you. Please don’t tell me you’re surprised after that… performance… in the courtyard the other day.”

The word draws a soft huff of laughter from Draco. “Surprised? No. Maybe a little bit relieved.”

Harry looks up sharply. “Why?”

Draco rolls his eyes. “You know, I’m starting to think there’s no way to win with you. Hints go over your head, you have no idea when someone is flirting with you, the direct approach just seems to make you cross…”

“It doesn’t make me cross,” Harry interrupts, already feeling himself turning red at the thought of Draco’s firm hands and murmured instructions. “It makes me embarrassed, alright? As we seem to keep discussing, I’m not really used to any of this.”

“I don’t mean to keep bringing it up,” Draco says, and his voice is softer now. He sits up and draws Harry closer to him with a hand around the back of his neck, sighing the next words against his lips. “I’m sorry. Harry, I genuinely don’t give a fuck about any of that. I just… I just want you. That’s it.”

His fingers thread possessively into Harry’s hair and they melt into a kiss that is so slow and gentle that Harry almost wants to pull away and hide from it under the sheets. He stays put, giving as good as he gets, but he still managed to be a little bit surprised to find himself separated from his clothes and pressed back against the pillows.

“How are you so…?” he manages, gasping when Draco’s bare hip brushes his cock. He’s still sore and he’s still exhausted, but his body doesn’t seem to care. He responds so easily to Draco’s touch and with such intensity that he wants to cover his face in embarrassment, but he forces himself to look up, to meet those eyes and brazen it out. Again. He’s going to do this again, and god, he’s going to hurt in the morning.

“So?”

“Sure of yourself?” he tries, sliding his hands up Draco’s thighs, feeling the clench of lean muscle as he shifts position, arranging himself over Harry’s hips.

He laughs. “You of all people, are saying that to me?

Harry shrugs, Draco lifts his hips, reaches behind himself, and suddenly, Harry is sliding inside him again, letting out a rough cry of surprise when Draco sinks down onto him and surrounds him in tight, clenching heat. He stares, incoherent, because it’s just happening, and he’s just lying there, and all he can do is grip Draco’s hips and breathe. Everything hurts in the most wonderful way, and the slow, deliberate rock above him threatens to shear him apart like a twist of old rope.

“Me of all people?” he gasps, finding his words at last.

“You are probably the most self-assured person I’ve ever met. You embody it,” Draco says, resting his hands on Harry’s chest and gazing down at him as though this is a perfectly normal conversation to be having in this moment. “You can talk to anyone. You have this… this enormous presence,” he explains, granting Harry an odd little smile. “I can do this, but… perhaps only this.”

Something twists in Harry’s chest and he holds Draco more tightly, pulling him down harder and making them both gasp.

“That’s not self-assuredness… is that even a word?” He pauses, trying to summon both his breath and his focus. “It’s just getting along with people. It’s not a thing.”

Draco snorts. “Teach me, then.”

“I can’t,” Harry admits, closing his eyes as Draco slows his hips, turning each painful, aching slide into an intense grind, a barely-moving shift that presses deep and turns Harry’s spine to liquid. “Besides… besides, you don’t want to be like me. Even more besides…”

“Even more besides?” Draco repeats, even as his breath comes so quickly now that he can barely speak.

“You’re lucky I’m making any sense right now,” Harry says, laughing and then catching his breath. “The point is…” He stops, fingers gripping Draco’s hips as the dormitory door opens.

Draco looks over his shoulder and then back at Harry, eyes intent. “The point is?” he demands, and then lifts himself up and comes down slowly, repeating the action even as Harry stares at the bedcurtains and shakes his head. Draco lets out a soft sound and arches his back, drawing Harry’s eyes to him an instant and giving him a deliciously clear view of Draco easing down onto him again and again, and it’s almost too much.

“I can’t,” he whispers, hearing Ron’s voice and Neville’s and the scuff of shoes on wood.

Draco smiles. He leans down, brushing warm lemons and sweat and heat against his face, pushing, circling, easing away at the last of his self-control. He’s lost and he knows it, even as Ron laughs and Pig ruffles his feathers and Trevor croaks on the windowsill and he remembers that all Silencing Charms wear off eventually.

“Harry… please,” Draco whispers, and he comes with such force that it hurts. Everything hurts, everything is done, but he lies there and shudders into Draco anyway because he’s no longer in charge of his own body, and Draco’s belly is slick with release and they are panting and gasping and staring at each other and laughing, and perhaps they have gone mad, and perhaps that’s fine.

“Did you hear something?” Ron asks, and Draco looks around, forcing Harry to bite down to stop the laughter escaping.

“Shh,” Draco whispers, which just makes it worse.

Suddenly, the idea of Ron ripping open the curtains to see them like this is hilarious, and the effort of keeping it in is making Harry’s stomach hurt. And his back. He frowns, reaches underneath himself and pulls out an apple core. Draco gazes at it in mild confusion.

“You have crumbs in your hair,” he says, reaching out to ruffle Harry’s fringe.

“I definitely heard something that time,” Ron insists.

“I didn’t,” Neville says, and Harry doesn’t believe him. Good old Nev.

“Harry, mate, are you alright?” Ron asks from somewhere very close to the bed.

Harry looks at the rumpled sheets, the crumbs, the person who is very much still sitting astride him.

“Yeah, mate. Thanks. Just… sleeping.”

“Right,” Ron whispers. He doesn’t sound sure, but Harry can hear him moving away and he waits for a moment before summoning all the remaining threads of his energy and recasting the Silencing Charm.

“We couldn’t have gone to my room,” Draco sighs, looking around at the drawn curtains and the mess. “No toads, no owls, no Weasleys…”

“It’s also freezing in your dorm,” Harry points out, picking up the trousers that have become tangled around his leg and examining them. “Why are these so baggy?”

“Never mind that, when have you been in my dorm?” Draco demands, finally scrambling onto the mattress and collapsing beside Harry.

“That’s… a story for another day. Seriously.”

Draco sighs and then, to Harry’s surprise, kisses him. He takes the trousers from Harry and folds them neatly. “I’ll have you know, these are very rebellious trousers.”

Harry snorts. He can’t help it; Draco’s expression is just so uncharacteristically earnest. “Please explain to me how trousers can be rebellious.”

“Well, the story goes that Muggle students in the 1920s were banned from wearing the short trousers that were in fashion at the time, because the professors at Oxford University were a bit… well, you know how professors are,” Draco says, and Harry agrees that he does. “So, they started wearing these so they could still wear the forbidden trousers underneath. I’m not sure why anyone would want to wear two pairs of trousers, but there you go. I read about it in a book about men’s fashion and I thought they looked rather… what?”

“Nothing,” Harry promises, grinning. The image of a younger Draco poring over a Muggle fashion text makes him feel slightly unsteady, but he’s not going to tell him that. Not yet, anyway.

“So, I found some and my father saw them and he said ‘you are not going to school in those abominations’,” Draco pronounces, producing an excellent impression of Lucius Malfoy. “And my mother asked him if he didn’t remember the cape he wore when they met, and he went very quiet and said that I didn’t need to hear about the cape and that he had a lot of work to do.”

“And did you hear about the cape?” Harry asks, delighted.

“Of course. Apparently, it had feathers. And sequins,” Draco says, looking at his grey trousers rather solemnly, as though disappointed in their lack of pizzazz.

“Thank you so much for that wonderful image,” Harry says, addressing the room in general. The universe, perhaps. Anyone or anything that might be held responsible for filling his weary mind with the picture of a shimmering, swishing Lucius Malfoy.

He sighs and rests his head on Draco’s shoulder, suddenly aware that none of this feels weird any more. Here they are, naked and sticky and completely spent, and all he wants to do is climb under the covers and ask to hear any further stories that Draco has to tell. He can still hear his friends moving around in the room, the footsteps of his housemates in their own sections of the tower, and the sounds are comforting. A gentle, familiar soundtrack to a madness that no longer feels mad at all.

“So, which person is really you?” he asks at last.

Draco frowns, turning onto his stomach and resting his chin on folded arms. “What?”

“Well… are you the perfect student who never says anything? Or the rebel with the strange trousers? Or the one who plays dirty mind games and fucks Gryffindors?”

Draco gives him a beleaguered look. “First of all, I have only ever fucked one Gryffindor, and he might be the most irritating person I have ever met. Second of all… no more mind games. Third… I don’t know, Harry. None of them? All of them? Who are you?”

“I am not very complicated,” Harry says, trying not to be too thrilled about points one and two.

“Oh, really? Are you the famous Harry Potter who saw off the Dark Lord twice?” Draco asks, and then scowls. “Fuck it, Voldemort. Or are you the idiot who can’t tell the difference between fennel seeds and splinter grains? Or are you, maybe, the Harry Potter who fucks Slytherins while his friends are in the room?”

Harry presses his face into the pillow and groans. “Please don’t say that.”

“I’m just trying to point out that we’re all complicated,” Draco says, and when Harry glances at him, he is smiling to himself.

“It makes me sound like such a pervert,” Harry mumbles, and now Draco laughs.

“You’re not a pervert. Not yet, anyway.”

Harry looks up, knowing that he is as red as a beetroot. “Draco, what is wrong with you?”

“I don’t know,” he admits. “But I think you could have fun finding out.”

Harry grins, ignoring the twinge of anticipation in his stomach and instead dragging Draco closer, lips against his neck and thighs brushing together. He is surprised but thrilled when hands come up to rest against his back and a cold foot presses against his warm calf.

“What now?” he mumbles through a yawn.

“A cup of tea and a piece of cake would be nice,” Draco sighs, leaving Harry to wonder if he really is going to throw his clothes on and make a run for it. After a moment, he shrugs and settles his chin on Harry’s chest. “Most likely, though, I will be asleep in five minutes.”

“Okay,” Harry whispers.

Draco is asleep in less than two. Harry watches him until his eyes begin to close of their own accord. The last thing he hears is the rustle of Neville’s liquorice bag and the soft insistence, from somewhere near his left ear, that the potion is not ready and no amount of cheese will speed it up. He buries his smile in Draco’s hair, allows himself one last moment of silent disbelief, and sleeps.

When he blinks awake again, he is alone in the bed. He can hear the familiar cacophony of the castle waking up around him, smell the faint waft of toast and bacon from several floors below, and sense from the immediate hush that his dormmates have risen and gone to breakfast without him. He wonders when Draco left, and then catches his breath, suddenly very aware that the whole thing might just have been a very detailed and very cruel dream. The thought makes his chest hurt and he looks around frantically for some sign that any of it really happened. Without his glasses, the scene in front of him is murky at best, and the curtains are still blocking out most of the natural light.

“Fuck’s sake,” he mutters, finding his glasses under his pillow and shoving them onto his nose, then yanking open the curtains and reeling backwards at the sudden glare.

His glasses are bent and the sun is already making his head hurt and god, everything bloody hurts. Slowly, Harry looks down at his naked body and something in the pit of his stomach twists sharply. He bites down on a smile, running his fingers over fresh bruises, patches of raw, chafed skin and dozens of little marks left by grasping fingernails. The sudden rush of arousal shocks him, and he pushes it away, feeling sore and over-sensitised in all sorts of new places.

And alright, it definitely happened. When he stops to think about it, he remembers stirring awake in the middle of the night to find a pale hand splayed across his stomach in a way that had made him feel astonishingly contented. He smiles and then sighs, looking over the mess of rumpled sheets. He can still smell Draco on the fabric, on his skin, but he’s obviously… Harry shakes himself and gets up very carefully, heading for a very quick shower and then a lot of breakfast. Obviously nothing.

Obviously, I am not going to obsess over this, he tells himself, wincing when his usual vigorous showering technique causes strange little jabs of discomfort. Obviously, what he is going to do is get dressed—with care—and go downstairs, eat a lot of toast, and get on with his day. Obviously, his feelings are absolutely all over the place, which is ridiculous in and of itself, but he is not going to allow one night of… fuck… perfect, intense, world-shattering… one night to make him insane.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that he’s already insane. When he walks into the Great Hall, he feels as though every eye is trained on him, even though the only person who actually looks up is Hermione, and she simply smiles and says, “Hi, Harry. Did you sleep well?”

Beside her, Ron coughs so hard that he starts to choke on his cornflakes. Ginny leans over and thumps him on the back until his eyes water.

“I’m trying it,” she announces, turning away from her gasping brother and showing Harry a piece of toast topped with cheese and marmalade. “You know, for Fred.”

“For Fred,” Harry agrees, torn between watching her bite into it and the incredible urge to turn around and look at the Slytherin table.

In the end, he keeps his eyes on Ginny and feels very proud of himself. She takes a bold chomp and frowns as she chews. Hermione watches, too, her expression so intense that Harry thinks she ought to have a little notebook so she can jot down her observations.

“You’re right,” Ginny says at last. “It’s a weird combination, but it works.”

The words set off a dull pang in Harry’s chest and this time, he gives in, turning to look at the Slytherin table as he takes his seat on the bench. Draco is sitting alone at the end of the long table, just like always, hair and clothes perfectly neat, just like always, gazing anxiously into his coffee cup, not at all like always. Harry wants to get up and go over there so much that he has to curl his hands around the edge of the bench to keep himself in place. This isn’t the glittering, rebellious person who had stared at him through an orgasm in a courtyard, or the passionate, insistent person who had fucked him with slow, intense dedication, or even the self-contained individual who had finished his potions and offered him humbugs. Draco looks nervous, unsure, and Harry’s heart is overflowing with it.

Okay, so he was the one who buggered off in the night, but maybe this next move is Harry’s. Maybe all he can really do is go over there, sit down and say something. And alright, it will probably be stupid. It will probably be, “Hey, is that coffee?” but it will be something. He is just gathering the threads of his supposed ‘people’ confidence, when Ron refills his cereal bowl and grins.

“Malfoy didn’t want to have breakfast with us, then?”

Harry turns to him slowly, blood racing. He can already feel himself turning red.

“Er… what?”

Ron’s grin widens. “Yeah, we know.”

“You don’t know anything, Ron,” Ginny says, but she, too, is staring at Harry with quiet delight.

“I do,” Ron says through a mouthful of cornflakes. “I saw him sitting on your bed at four in the morning. Putting his trousers on.”

A ripple of laughter passes around the group, which Harry is thrilled to notice, now contains Dean, Seamus, Neville, Luna, Blaise, and, for fuck’s sake, Jason bloody Ripley. He meets Harry’s eyes and continues to eat his sausages as though nothing has ever amused him so much in his life. Harry suppresses a groan, and the urge to drop his head to the table and leave it there.

“No,” he says, burning with embarrassment. “No, you didn’t. You didn’t see anything and you didn’t hear anything and I’d really like it if you none of you ever spoke to me again. I’m going to go now, and if you don’t see me for a while it’s because I’ve moved to Venezuela.”

The giggling continues as he shoves toast into his pocket and gets up from the bench.

“Harry, it was going to happen eventually,” Hermione says kindly, but her smile is not helping one bit.

“I say good luck to you,” Seamus offers with a grin. “I bet he’s really…”

“He is,” Jason says, licking ketchup off his thumb and smirking at Harry.

Harry lets out a long breath. Gazes down at his friends. “Like I said. Venezuela.”

He turns away, determined to hide the fact that despite his horror, he is smiling. They’re good friends. They’re horrible buggers, but they love him, and that’s what matters.

“Why Venezuela?” Luna calls after him.

“It’s far away,” Harry calls back, glancing once more at Draco and then heading for the dungeons. Perhaps he can hang around in the Potions corridor and figure out what the hell he’s going to say.

As it turns out, he doesn’t say much of anything, because the moment Draco sits beside him, all fresh lemons and rebellious trousers, Harry’s mouth goes dry and every useful word flies out of his head. It doesn’t help that Ron leans over from the row behind and gleefully whispers, “We are so not done talking about this, mate”, but at least with him, Harry can just stick up his middle finger and know that they will still be friends at the end of the day.

Draco, on the other hand, is still pretty much an unknown quantity. Harry pays as much attention to Slughorn as he can muster, letting the rest absorb every move of the pale, dextrous hands, the narrowing of the eyes, the silence that suddenly makes him miss the usual humming.

“You left,” he says eventually, when he feels like he is about to burst.

Draco doesn’t look up from his stirring. “Yes, well, I didn’t feel like being around when all your friends woke up.”

“Oh?” Harry says, hating the spike of insecurity in his veins, the stupid and pointless fixation on the idea that he’s been used, that Draco has had him and now he’s going to be left with feelings that he never asked for. Which is ridiculous in all kinds of ways. Just like him.

“Yes. I don’t think anyone saw me.”

Ron snorts from the row behind them, but Draco doesn’t seem to notice. Harry sighs, realising he has been stirring his potion the wrong way and attempting to correct it.

“This is going to be weird now, isn’t it?”

Draco peers into his cauldron. “Why would it be?”

“Because you seem really pissed off and I feel really fucking awkward, and… would you just look at me?” Harry demands, swearing when the purple liquid bubbles over and splashes onto his shirt.

Draco turns to regard him evenly. “Harry, I am concentrating. You should really try it.”

“Bugger off,” Harry mutters, looking away with some effort.

“No, really. That potion is far too acidic and it’s soaking onto your arm.”

Harry follows his eyes to see that, yes, the horrible purple liquid is burning his skin. Quite fiercely, in fact, and it is really starting to hurt. He is an idiot, and Draco knows it, and that might actually hurt a little bit more.

“For fuck’s sake,” he sighs. He spells off the worst of the potion. Looks at Slughorn, who is on the other side of the room attempting to control a small explosion. At Ron, who is caught between concern and intrigue. At Draco, who is staring at him with such raw anxiety that something hopeful flutters in his chest. “Professor Slughorn,” he calls, “I’ve burned my arm. I’m going to go up and see Madam Pomfrey.”

“Yes, yes, good idea,” Slughorn says, eyes still fixed on the madly vibrating potion in front of him.

“I’ll go with him,” Draco says, still staring at Harry as he spells a neat little protective field around his potion and sliced ingredients.

Slughorn doesn’t respond. Harry heads for the door, forearm on fire and mind racing. Draco is at his side in an instant, long strides and rapid breaths and cool fingertips against his wrist. The simple touch sends shivers over Harry’s skin, and all at once he has no intention of going to the hospital wing. He’s in pain, there’s no denying that, but he’s lived with pain. He knows how to use pain. What he needs right now is for something to make sense. Draco frowns when he veers off course but says nothing, following Harry through the corridors and out into the sunshine.

The courtyard is empty, just like it always used to be, and Harry lowers himself onto his usual bench. He looks up at Draco with something that is either invitation or challenge, or perhaps a little of both.

“That looks quite nasty,” Draco says, sitting beside him and gently taking his wrist.

“I’m not going to Pomfrey. I want to talk to you.”

Draco sighs. He draws his wand and frowns in concentration, touching the tip to Harry’s skin. Slowly, his whole arm is bathed in soft, green light, and a cool sensation rushes over the damaged tissue, soothing the burned patches and sealing them over with new pink skin. The pain dissolves completely, leaving Harry feeling nothing more than a little raw, just like he does everywhere else. He stares.

“I didn’t know you could do that.”

“Like I said, there are some things I can do and other things I find… challenging,” Draco says, and this time, when he looks at Harry, his expression is softer, almost self-deprecating. “I saw you talking to your friends at breakfast and I knew I couldn’t just… look, if I’d stepped out of your bed this morning to four Gryffindors staring at me, I would have panicked and said something horrible and then you’d hate me, and honestly, I don’t want to go back to that.”

Startled to be freely offered so many words, Harry just looks at him for a long time.

“We aren’t going to go back to that.”

Draco gives him a small, pointy smile. “I hope not.”

“I promise.” Harry rests a hand on his thigh, hoping that it won’t be rejected outright and thrilled when Draco shifts closer on the bench.

“I’m just not very good with people, which you don’t seem to notice. And when I try to tell you, you just stare at me.”

“The staring is new to me,” Harry admits, flushing yet again. “I’m working on the staring.”

“Maybe you should work on staring and listening at the same time,” Draco says, and then frowns. “Why do you and your friends keep putting marmalade on your cheese?”

Harry laughs. Explains. Admires Draco’s shiny shoes and white shirt cuffs and the way that none of his clothes are splattered with poorly-made potion.

“You know, the Greeks eat cheese with preserves,” Draco says thoughtfully. “It’s usually halloumi with apricot jam, but still. Then again, the Greeks do a lot of things. My father always says they invented homosexuality, and I’ve never had the heart to tell him that it’s been going on for a lot longer than that.”

Harry grins. The morning sunshine is warm on his face and he finds he doesn’t envy his classmates, who are still stuck in a musty dungeon while he is… well, he’s not sure what he’s doing, but he likes it.

“You don’t seem to have a problem talking to me,” he says, and Draco shrugs.

“You’ve always thought I was an idiot. I suppose it didn’t really matter.”

“I don’t think you’re an idiot,” Harry admits. “Ron might, though. Maybe you should practise on him.”

Draco laughs. It’s a brilliant sound. “I’ll take that under advisement.”

“You should. Although… this might mean I don’t get to move to Venezuela.”

Draco stares at him, eyes bright as he leans closer. “Harry, shut up and kiss me, alright?”

Harry obeys, because he really fucking wants to, and because Draco kisses him back with fingertips on his face and a sigh that sends hot promise spiralling all the way down Harry’s spine. It feels different this time, slow and careful, like a vine spreading out and wrapping them together into something completely new. Something warm and fragile and brilliantly undefined. There is time now, lots of it, and Harry thinks he might just be ready to start.

“Come to my room tonight,” Draco says when they draw apart, breathless. “You can tell me all about how you broke in before.”

“We didn’t break in…” Harry protests, and Draco raises an eyebrow.

“We?”

Harry grins, slightly relieved when the bell rings for morning break. “Sorry I made you miss half the lesson.”

“Fortunately for you, I have made that particular potion before,” Draco says, leaning back against the bench and fixing Harry with a stern eye that is only slightly undermined by the fingers lacing through his. “However, now that I have your attention, I plan to concentrate in Potions. Properly.”

“Is that… are you trying to tell me off?” Harry laughs. “Are you trying to suggest that any of this was somehow my fault?”

“All of it is your fault, Harry,” Draco says with the utmost gravity. He smiles. “Every last bit.”

**~*~**

Two days later

“Great practice today,” Ginny says, swooping up beside Harry and sitting back on her broomstick.

Her vivid hair whips behind her in the breeze and the bright spring sunshine makes the team’s scarlet uniforms look as though they’re on fire. Everyone has done well today, he thinks, and he can finally include himself in that number. He’s had a rare smile from McGonagall for a tricky Tranfiguration, perfectly performed, he has focused hard enough in Potions to produce a rather good Sensibility Solution, he has spent time helping Hermione to create new and improved revision guides for everyone who doesn’t want them, and he has done it all while completely exhausted, perpetually embarrassed, and grinning like a loon.

“You have no idea what I’m saying, do you?”

Harry frowns. “You said ‘great practice’ and then you… no. Sorry.”

Ginny laughs, looking down into the stands, where Jason is waving to Rana and eating an enormous sandwich.

“It’s weird… he looks a bit like you, doesn’t he?”

Harry nods and says nothing. She has lost his attention yet again, because today, Jason is not alone in the stands. Two seats over, warming his hands on a steaming cup of coffee, is Draco, and he never takes his eyes off Harry.