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Said the Tortoise to the Hare

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The door slammed.

Draco raised an eyebrow and leaned back in his seat. He had to admit, the door slamming was nothing unusual when Harry was in a temper, but Harry’s stomping up and down next to it, swearing and kicking the wall, was. Draco waited until the wall had a dent or two—he’d never liked that particular color of paint—before he asked innocently, “Something you want to talk about?”

Yes.” Harry flung himself into the chair behind his own desk so violently that the wood trembled and creaked. Draco had a silent betting pool going with himself about when the chair would finally break. But apparently it wasn’t today, because Harry leaned forwards and tapped his fingers on the desk hard enough to break his nails instead of falling down and disappearing. “Ginny broke up with me.”

Draco froze, his fingers clenching tightly enough to nearly break his quill.

But it wouldn’t do to show either the sharp interest or the sudden hunger that flared in his chest, so he recovered in a moment—too short a time for someone like Harry to notice—and said smoothly, “I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?”

“She said I was spending too much time away from her.” This was to be a day of swift movement, apparently, because Harry jumped over his desk and paced up and down again, waving his arms. Somewhat to Draco’s disappointment, he was too distant from the wall to kick it this time. “As if she didn’t know that would happen sometimes when I signed up to be an Auror! She agreed to it! She knew it!”

“And as if she doesn’t spend a lot of time away from you, too, with the way her Quidditch team travels,” Draco murmured.

Exactly!” Harry spun and pointed a finger at him. Draco had to duck his head to hide a smile; he was reminded of a musician he’d seen performing on the telly when Harry dragged him into a Muggle section of London to find a birthday gift for Granger. “But when I brought that up, what do you think she said?”

“Well, obviously, she didn’t fall at your feet and dissolve in repentant tears.” Draco leaned back and tried not to show how much he was enjoying this.

“Well, no. Obviously.” Harry stopped pacing and raised an eyebrow at him. “Now if only you could apply those sophisticated observation skills to the cases we’re on as well as my love life.”

But your love life is infinitely more interesting to me, Draco would never say. He raised an eyebrow back. “You’re incapable of doing anything more complicated than using your eyes, Potter. I would never deprive you of the pleasure.”

Harry snorted, but his face was bright with something other than anger now. Draco smiled back, all he would show of the lazy coil of enjoyment unfolding in his belly. I can offer him something Weasley never could. Their conversations weren’t witty.

“But allow me to become a bit more sophisticated.” Draco clasped his hands together in front of him and lowered his voice to the dignified monotone his father used to use when he wanted to impress political contacts at the Ministry. “You are more offended than upset. You have, perhaps, been looking for some deepening of your relationship with Weasley that was never going to come. You are angry that she broke up with you before you could do it to her.”

Harry sighed and draped himself over his desk this time. He was the most restless person Draco had ever met. Ordinarily, that would have bothered Draco, who’d been raised in an atmosphere of sedate stillness for the most part. But Harry’s motion was a way of showing off how beautiful he was, how fit and how quick. Draco liked other people to look at and admire someone he wanted, whilst enjoying the view himself; he just didn’t like them to touch. “Yeah, you’re probably right about that. I am upset, but I’m not firing curses at the walls the way I would have if we’d broken up a year ago. There was something missing.” He flopped his head sideways and smiled wearily at Draco. “It’s strange how well you know me.”

Draco had to bite his tongue. Of course he wasn’t about to reveal his hopes for Harry yet; Harry had just broken up with his girlfriend of six years, for Merlin’s sake, and he’d resent the pressure. But it would have been such a perfect opportunity to say, Not strange at all, when you consider how much more you’re worth looking at than anyone else. He did have to mourn the stillbirth of a line like that.

“Not strange,” he allowed himself to say, and then smiled as Harry stood and reached for his cloak. “Now you’re going to go down to the Leaky Cauldron and get pissed,” he added, in the same monotone as before.

“Yeah.” Harry hesitated an instant before he opened the door.

Draco doubted he noticed the hesitation, but Draco did, and knew what it meant, as he knew so much about Harry. Harry was wondering if he should leave Draco with all the casework, useless though he’d be on it with his emotions in turmoil like this, and he was also wondering if he should ask Draco to come with him.

But Draco had no intention of going. Harry wanted to be alone right now, to sit in the back of the Cauldron and drink and scowl; he’d hex anyone who asked him too many questions. It was what he’d done every single time he had a fight with his friends or his girlfriend.

And Draco wouldn’t give Harry anything to resent him about. Not now, not when the vague hopes he’d nourished for a long time suddenly had their best chance of growing.

“Go,” he said, and waved a hand at Harry. “Someone’s already heard through the walls, anyway, thin as they are, and the report’s probably on its way to Kingsley.”

Harry snorted bitterly. “But no one else would be given time off from work just because of a problem like this,” he muttered. “I wish they would treat me the same as everyone else.”

Is a gyrfalcon treated the same as a kestrel? But Draco knew Harry wouldn’t understand the reference; he’d never learned falconry, the poor sod. “You’ve done a good run of work lately,” he said. “I’m sure Kingsley can forgive your being out of the office when Ernest Whistlebone is also out of it.”

Harry shuddered. “Ugh, that was a nasty case, wasn’t it?”

Draco nodded; Whistlebone had been an Auror, and had managed to shrug off the blame for his gruesome murders quite handily to others. It had taken his colleagues longer to catch on than it should have. But he didn’t like the cloud coming over Harry’s face. He would make a short jump to thinking that he should have caught Whistlebone faster, and then he would start thinking that there might be cases like that amongst his current load, and then he would stay here and bottle up his feelings for Weasley instead of brooding them out cleanly. And then he might start thinking he should go back to her.

No, that wouldn’t do at all.

“I can promise you we have nothing else as nasty right now,” he said. “I’ve looked through them all.”

He took some trouble to sound prissily virtuous, and was rewarded when Harry laughed, that deep laugh that made his eyes crinkle at the corners and almost shut. Draco sighed as he half-hardened. More than once he’d had cause to be grateful for long Auror robes as well as solid Auror desks.

“Yes, you would have, berk.” Harry strode quickly back across the room to brush a hand over Draco’s shoulder, the way he often did to Ron Weasley, too. Draco struggled to keep his eyes from falling half-shut. “Well, right then. I’m off.”

And he bounced out of the room and slammed the door behind him.

Draco cast a Tempus charm that would give him two minutes, and then leaned back in the chair, folded his hands behind his head, and grinned at the ceiling.

Oh, yes, he wanted Harry. But he’d long since accepted that Harry would probably marry the She-Weasley, and so he kept the longing to an acceptable minimum and dated other people. Why should he pine hopelessly?

But now…

But now.

Draco doubted he could be blamed for encouraging Harry’s natural inclinations, and the She-Weasley’s natural inclinations if it came to that, to keep them apart. He certainly couldn’t be blamed for not using the tactics of all the hopeless star-chasers who would throw themselves at Harry when they heard he was single.

He would win Harry in the only possible way, the only way that would make it permanent: by being an understanding and sympathetic friend. Really, if Ron Weasley and Granger hadn’t been so interested in each other, Draco thought that one of them would have won Harry long since. Friendship was where all his deepest bonds started.

And Draco had utterly no intention of letting someone like Harry go. Why should he? He deserved the best.

The Tempus charm chirped, and Draco returned to work. Part of the reason he and Harry had become friends at all was that he maintained his share of the case load.

*

“I don’t know what they all want from me!”

Draco muffled a laugh in his sleeve as he looked at Harry’s dismayed expression. Yes, he had a right to be dismayed when his desk was crowded with roses, the torn remains of singing cards, a sickly-looking yellow mess that had come from a gift of sweets melted in the mail, and a white ball of ruffled feathers, but his words were ridiculous. “You know what they want,” he said.

Harry grunted and tore open another envelope. The card inside warbled three notes before he crumpled it and threw it against the wall. “I’ve only been away from Ginny for a week,” he muttered, tearing a hand through his hair. “Can’t they give me any peace?”

They would if they were wise. Draco flicked his wand to banish the sickly yellow mess, and Harry smiled at him. He could have done it himself, but he appreciated the gesture.

Draco smiled back, and turned away before the look could become too long and lingering. He would never forgive himself if he ruined his own chances, the way all these idiots were ruining theirs.

“I don’t know what to do,” Harry said. “I don’t want to set up those wards that keep all the letters away from me, because Charlie and Bill owl me sometimes, and I haven’t figured out a way to limit the magic to specific post-owls, and anyway I think Ron’s going to be getting a new bird soon—”

Draco snorted. “You could have figured out the spells if you really wanted to,” he said. “You’re hoping to hear from Weasley.”

“Of course,” Harry blustered, opening his eyes, which he had closed in a fit of weariness. “I hear from Ron all the time, and I just told you, his new bird—”

“I meant his sister, and you know it.” Draco leaned threateningly towards him.

Harry’s eyes darted to his cards, but he was no good at making up a lie on the spot, or really pretending to be interested in something he wasn’t, and he had enough respect for Draco’s intelligence not to try. He sighed. “Am I that transparent?”

“You want her back,” Draco said, knowing he had to tread carefully with his next few words. His object was to comfort Harry and to find out how much of a problem the She-Weasley was likely to be in the future, and he had to make those two motives work together. “That’s only natural. But I think you have to face up to the truth: is it likely that she’ll come back? Or are you setting yourself up for more pain?”

Very well done, Draco, he thought, as Harry ran a hand through his hair again. This gets him to talk about it—that purges some of the pain—but it also tells you the truth. Harry will never be less than honest.

“I don’t think she’ll come back, no,” Harry said lowly. “Last week, she told me that she’d been angry for a long time. But she didn’t think she could tell me about it, because we did agree at the beginning of the relationship that I’d have to spend a lot of time in Auror training and then Auror work. She tried to figure out how she could keep that agreement going and soothe her own unhappiness at the same time, and then she figured out she couldn’t. And being happy was more important to her.”

Draco nodded, content. He had no need to hear Harry speak bitter words against the She-Weasley. He just wanted to make absolutely sure that Harry wouldn’t drift back to her once he was Draco’s.

“And being happy should be more important to you, too,” he said, firmly catching Harry’s eye for a moment. “So don’t wait for her if you don’t think she’ll come back.”

Harry smiled. Then he looked back at the clutter on his desk and sighed. “I’d be happy enough to do that,” he muttered, “but how am I supposed to know who would make me happy, when so many people behave like this?” One of the singing cards twitched and recited some line about “Harry Potter being smooth as an otter.” Harry incinerated the thing with a grim look on his face. “I’ve never been sure when people were pleasant to me because they liked me and when they were pleasant to me because of this bloody scar.” He scratched at his forehead for a moment. Draco took the chance to roll his eyes. He thought Harry’s insistence on keeping his fringe long enough to hide the scar plebian. People would stare at him even if he lacked it; why not stop hiding it and make it mean something? “And there’s no way of knowing who might get tired of me and go to the papers in the future.

“I wonder if that’s why I stayed with Ginny for so long,” he added suddenly, and folded his hands on his belly to scowl at them. “She was familiar. I trusted her not to betray me. She had family who wouldn’t try to use me, either. That—that was more important than happiness to me, for a long time.”

“It shouldn’t be.” Draco stood and crossed behind Harry’s desk, letting his hand brush fleetingly against Harry’s shoulder. It was as much comfort as he ever gave, and as much as Harry needed now, he thought, watching the way the scowl faded from his face. “And as for someone who makes you happy, well, you’ll just have to look, won’t you? As hard as I understand that is for you.” He scooped up the white bundle of feathers, which was hopping determinedly towards the edge of the desk, and held it to his face. It promptly tried to bite his nose. Draco smiled when he recognized the curved beak of a raptor. “In the meantime, I’ll take this gift you’re obviously unfit to appreciate off your hands.”

“What is the thing?” Harry stood and peered over Draco’s shoulder, his breath on the nape of Draco’s neck. Draco smiled again. Let him think it’s for the bird.

The bird hissed at Harry and hopped across Draco’s palm, trying to grip the side of his fingers so it could bite Harry’s hair. Draco deftly turned his hands away. “A hawk of some kind,” he said. “I don’t know enough about them to recognize one so young.” He raised an eyebrow when the feathers shifted and he found black spots under the white upper layer. “But I should be able to find out soon.”

“You’re welcome to it, then.” Harry snatched his fingers back from the chick’s next lunge. “I don’t know what the bloody hell it is, and I don’t want to find out.” He snatched his cloak off the chair. “I think I need another drink at the Leaky again. You coming?”

Draco watched him narrowly for a moment. Harry’s eyes were larger than usual, and he didn’t even look doubtfully at the bird, as if he’d considered Draco wouldn’t be able to leave the office whilst holding it. His left hand made a small beseeching motion and then fell still.

I’d be a fool to stay here when he does want me to come. Draco drew his wand and conjured a cage for the bird, then Summoned one of his house-elves, Tibby, to fetch different bits of meat for it. Less than a minute later, he had his own cloak on and was accompanying Harry down the corridor.

“Thanks,” Harry said. “I just—it tastes better when I have someone along.”

Draco smiled at the obvious lie, but kept his eyes straight ahead.

*

“Oi, Malfoy! I want to ask you something.”

Draco blinked and turned his head. Weasley was scrambling wildly towards the lift he was in, which had just started to close. With a sigh, Draco reached out, placed a hand between the doors, and held them open. Weasley popped in a moment later with a gulp of air and a nod, and then stood there mopping his forehead whilst the lift rose towards the first floor.

“The question, Weasley?” Draco prompted, when they had ridden past three floors in silence. He leaned his shoulder on the wall and did his very best to look bored, although he suspected that he was about to hear some advice about Harry or some information about the She-Weasel.

“Yeah,” said Weasley, apparently starting out of a trance of watching his sweat fall to the floor. Draco managed to keep from rolling his eyes. Why Harry had become friends with this git, he didn’t know, but he supposed Harry needed simple as well as complex sides of his nature stimulated. “I want to know what you’re doing with Harry.”

“So many things,” said Draco in a considering voice, and Weasley took a step back from him. “Working as his partner. Co-signing reports. Discussing the movements of criminals. Saying—”

“I know that!” Weasley burst out irritably. “What I want to know is what you’ve been saying to him that makes him reluctant to get back together with Ginny. We’re all waiting for it, but each time he looks vaguely uncomfortable and backs away.” He took a threatening step nearer; Draco managed to keep from rolling his eyes about that, but only by thinking about Harry sprawled on the desk with his legs held open and his breath coming in soft pants. “And I know it has something to do with you, because he looks uncomfortable each time he comes home from the office.”

Harry had told Draco he’d moved back in with Weasley a fortnight ago. Draco sighed. None so blind as those who will not see the blessings they have received. He would be more polite if he lived with Harry; he would be so happy that he couldn’t help being more polite. “As it happens, I’ve been letting him take off from work and go to drink at the Leaky Cauldron, because that’s what he needs,” Draco said. “Sometimes I help. And when Harry feels like it, we make fun of the people who send him gifts.” He smiled a bit. The white hawk, whom he’d named Gamaliel, was the only non-ridiculous thing to come out of that flood of artifacts smeared with the smell of desperation. “I haven’t said he should continue dating your sister or that he should stop. I just commiserate with him.”

Weasley frowned in perplexity, probably because his brain was not translating “commiserate” with enough speed, and then took another step away and scraped his foot against the floor of the lift like a bull. “If I find out that you’re lying, Malfoy…”

“You could always ask Harry,” Draco suggested, as they reached the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and the doors popped open. “Unless you think your best friend would lie to you.”

“He’s always been unreasonable where you’re concerned,” Weasley muttered, stepping out of the lift.

“Well, then, ask your sister what she’s doing to get Harry back,” Draco said, slipping an annoyed tone into his voice that he was far from feeling. This should produce some information. “Maybe he doesn’t feel welcome trying to chase a woman who broke up with him.”

Weasley folded his arms and tossed a frown over his shoulder. “She’s not doing anything,” he snapped. “She’s too confident that Harry will come back to her, so she’s reveling in her freedom and making sure Harry ‘accidentally’ meets her dates.”

Draco swallowed victorious laughter. Either she’s not interested in him any more, or she’s too confident to notice when someone does start winning his heart. Either way is excellent news. “All right, then,” he said mildly. “Talk to her, and not me.” He brushed past Weasley, heading for the office.

Weasley spat some more meaningless comments at his back, but Draco didn’t see the need to turn around. He opened the office door and shut it behind him quickly. Harry wasn’t there yet, and Draco didn’t want anyone else to see the enormous shark-eating smile that covered his face.

The She-Weasel has six years with him and no rival—supposedly. I have three years and a great deal more determination and cleverness than she does. Let us see which one wins.

*

At moments like this, with the light of curses blazing around them and Harry ducking and weaving and rolling like an acrobat, Draco was reminded of why he’d fallen in love with Harry.

Draco raised a Shield Charm, then dropped it and countered with a shield of sparking electricity as a Dark curse that ate common defensive charms dropped over him. Then he leaned around the bolts of lightning in front of him and aimed a curse at his attacker’s heart that would cause it to stutter. The attacker moaned and fell to the ground, where Draco Stupefied and Body-Bound him.

Harry was practically doing a war-dance between three Dark witches, smugglers who had been bringing in live magical creatures with the intention of cutting them up into potions ingredients. With three wands aimed at him, he should have been cut or singed by something, but only the edges of his hair smoked. His wand jabbed out again and again and again, and two of the witches went flying and the third one screamed and staggered backwards with an enormous bleeding wound in her arm.

He had fallen in love with Harry because he could fight like this, leaping into battle and submerging himself as if nothing mattered more, and then still walk away from it and be a normal bloke outside. He had the sanest response to fighting Draco had ever seen. Be alive and focused while you’re doing it; don’t think about it when you’re not.

Draco leaped over a Cutting Curse aimed at his knees, and cast the Blasting Curse in return. The man he hit fell to the ground with a sound of splintering bones and lay still.

Perhaps he would not have fallen in love with Harry during Auror training, when, by all accounts, Harry had moaned through his teeth and spent a lot of time sulking alone and otherwise thrashed through his contest with post-war trauma. And perhaps some people would say that he wasn’t healthy now, that one should be an integrated being instead of a divided one and the same in battle as outside it.

The wizard he had just downed was trying to get back to his feet. Draco cast Impedimenta, Stupefy, and Expelliarmus in quick succession.

But Draco wouldn’t say that. He knew what Harry was like, the depth of the light shining through him and the brilliance of the shadows. He would accept that aliveness, that unique sanity.

Harry spun in one more circle. Five spells left his wand, all of them different; Draco counted a Body-Bind and a Disarming Charm, but couldn’t identify the others so quickly. Not that it mattered, because their enemies fell over and lay still, and that was the important step.

Harry came to a stop, panting, and tossed him a smile.

For a smile like that, Draco was willing to wait out months—years if he had to. He had already waited two months, and Harry hadn’t dated anyone else, nor had the flood of stupid gifts slowed.

But there was no harm in a bit of encouragement, so Draco made his own smile back slow and contented. Harry stared for the briefest of moments, and then turned quickly away, a tinge of pink on his cheeks.

Draco hummed under his breath as they began packing up the fallen wizards.

*
When Draco opened the office door that morning, Harry rose to his feet with the air of someone greeting a long-lost brother. “Draco!” he said, and rushed forwards and grabbed Draco around the waist. “You’re here! And we’re very, very busy with the case of those stolen Dark artifacts, aren’t we?”

Draco had to blink, as much as he enjoyed the feeling of Harry’s arms around him. And then he saw the disgruntled-looking woman who stood next to Harry’s desk with her hand extended and a sulky pout on his face, and he understood.

There were people who might have felt upset at being used as a distraction, or a defense against someone Harry didn’t want to date. But those people were fools, and that meant they had no chance of being Harry’s partner. Draco touched the nape of Harry’s neck, rubbing his fingers gently through the hair there, all the while staring at the woman. Harry sighed and relaxed under the touch, without realizing for one moment what Draco was doing. The woman clenched her extended hand into a fist and hissed at him soundlessly, like a cat.

“Dark artifacts case,” Draco said. “Yes, we’re very busy, I’m afraid.” He had a faint, sympathetic smile on his face by the time Harry let go of him and turned around. “Was there some reason that—I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name.”

He hadn’t, of course. It was Elise Sanders, and she worked in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and she had watched Harry with cold dark eyes for too long for Draco to ever forget her name. But Harry didn’t need to know that, and neither did Sanders, who showed her displeasure with an open snarl this time.

Of course, since Harry was facing her now, that just made her appear all the worse in comparison to the calm, polite Draco. Harry frowned and leaned back into Draco, shaking his head slightly. “I’m afraid I can’t oblige your request for a date, Ms. Sanders,” he said. “Since we’re so busy.”

Sanders narrowed her eyes and put on a sweet tone that even Harry would realize was false, which brought her as close as anything could to Draco’s pity. “You won’t reconsider, Harry? Please? I’ve been a fan of yours since I was a child.”

Mistake. Harry had never been comfortable when someone introduced herself as a fan first and a person second. He pressed back towards Draco again, shifting scarcely an inch, but making his preference clear all the same. Draco was adept at reading his subconscious signals as well as his conscious ones by now. He bowed his head and lightly rested his nose in Harry’s hair, all the while meeting Elise’s eyes.

“No date this weekend,” Harry said, and his voice grated like rock on rock.

At least Sanders, though not smart enough to realize what had put Harry off, was intelligent enough to realize that nothing could win him back. She tossed her blonde hair, pouted, and then passed by them, giving Harry a languishing look from the corner of her eye. Harry folded his arms and stared back.

Draco swallowed a snort. Elise Sanders was the calculating sort of person whom Harry would never get along with, because she would never show him her natural self. Harry would appreciate straightforward ambition to be seen with him more than he would a mask he could see.

Harry stepped even closer to Draco to let Sanders pass, which Draco didn’t object to. And then he was so abstracted that he went on staring at the closed door for some moments after she’d left. Draco gently cleared his throat.

Harry promptly flushed and moved away from him, fiddling with some papers on his desk as though they held the secrets of the universe. “Sorry,” he said. “I just—I needed to—I’m sorry.”

“I don’t mind,” Draco said, lowering his voice a notch from its natural tone so that Harry would turn and look at him. He did, and Draco held his eyes, making it go on a few moments too long for politeness. “I didn’t mind at all,” he said, barely breathing the words.

Color flushed Harry’s face again, and he finally broke the gaze, blinking as if awakening from a good dream. Draco kept his chuckle silent as he stepped up to his own desk. Harry was responding and then confused about his own response, because he wasn’t used to thinking about Draco that way.

But Draco had pressed the matter far enough for one morning—farther than he would have dared to if not for Sanders’s convenient presence. So he resumed his role of concerned friend and said, as if nothing had happened, “What did she want?”

Harry’s face changed in an instant, and he stood up with a vicious snort that made up for all the ones Draco had had to suppress whilst Sanders was in the room. “Oh, a date, of course.” He shuffled out several papers he didn’t look at and flicked his wand at them, casting Incendio nonverbally. Draco, as he watched the smoke drift up in lazy curls, hoped that nothing vital had been in there. Of course, he made copies of most of the reports and files they received or wrote for precisely this reason. “What they all want. What they all think they can get.” He turned around and dropped into the chair, which practically moaned this time. Still no crack, though, Draco noted. “I don’t understand that. It’s not even been three months since I broke up with Ginny. Why would they think that I’d be ready to go on a date this early?”

“They misunderstand you,” Draco said. Here was the perfect chance to both cement himself in Harry’s opinion as someone who did understand and to prejudice Harry against his potential rivals. “They can only envision what they would do in your situation, instead of looking back at your past behavior and finding the clue to your actions there. They can imagine being famous and being able to date whoever they want. And since they don’t have that fame, they imagine what you carry can rub off on them.”

“But all they have to do is look at my life!” Harry wailed, clasping his hands dramatically to the top of his head and running his fingers through his hair. “The Prophet talks about it in enough detail! I don’t want that fame, and I’ve told everyone that in several interviews. Why would they think those are lies?”

“Because they lack enough empathy even for that,” Draco said. “They think it’s false modesty—because that’s the kind of mask they would present in your place, so that they could win even more encomiums.”

Harry dropped his head forwards and onto the desk with a solid thunk. Draco smiled at him, and made sure that sympathetic smile was on his face when Harry glanced up at him again. “I can’t stand them,” Harry whispered. “Even if I did want to date again at this point, I would need someone who trusted me and respected me when I wanted to contradict her.”

“I understand,” Draco said, and he knew the double meaning of those words would go home to Harry in a subtle way. He knew, because he was experienced in saying the same sort of thing to Harry before this and gently guiding him to what Draco wanted him to do.

And now there was a sign that the subtle was becoming obvious, he thought, because Harry suddenly started, and then flushed, and stared at him with his mouth slightly open.

Draco looked back gently, apparently oblivious to what he’d said, and then Harry turned and almost literally buried himself in paperwork. Draco took up his quill and went to work, humming under his breath.

The Slytherin’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.

*

“I know what you’re doing, you know.”

Draco glanced up with a bland smile. Granger had walked into the office an hour ago and said that she would wait for Harry, who was off drinking in the Leaky Cauldron again. He hadn’t invited Draco to go with him this time. He might not know why, but Draco did; he’d seen the glances Harry was sneaking at him more and more often now, and the confused way he worried his lip.

It wasn’t his attraction to a man that was confounding him, Draco thought. Harry had confessed to Draco after their first night of drinking together that he was bisexual, though he’d never looked at anyone but Ginny, and never would consider it. It was just something that made him feel better about himself, and which he thought his friends should know.

Instead, Harry was feeling confused about this attraction to someone he had worked with for three years, and especially when he didn’t seem to feel anything for anyone else.

Draco did everything he could to encourage the attraction, of course. He had bent over after more scraps of paper in the past fortnight than in the entire year before that, and he let Harry surprise him often when he was dreamily staring off into space and apparently didn’t hear Harry come in. He knew that Harry liked the way he looked when his mouth was slightly open and his eyes slightly wide.

“Malfoy? Did you hear me? I said I knew what you were doing.”

Draco returned his attention to Granger. “Yes, I heard you,” he said. “But since you didn’t follow it up when I looked at you, I didn’t think it worth inquiring after.”

Granger ground her teeth. Draco gave her another bland smile. It was her fault and not his if she was dissatisfied with his answers. He had made it a point to be polite to Harry’s friends ever since he realized his attraction to his partner. No, at that time he hadn’t thought that Harry would ever leave Ginny, but he saw no harm in laying groundwork for the remote possibility just in case it happened.

Neither Granger nor Weasley had completely believed him; they seemed to think that Draco’s politeness was evil in a new disguise. But Harry accepted and liked Draco’s courtesy, and that had the splendid side-effect of making Granger and Weasley look ruder than they were in comparison.

“I know that you’re trying to get Harry to look at you,” Granger whispered, leaning forwards. “I know that you want to date him in Ginny’s place. But it won’t work. Harry has better prospects out there.”

“Does he? I’m glad.” Draco let his eyebrows rise, his eyes widen, and his voice become bright and glad. “Has Weasley regained her senses and decided to date him again instead of throwing her boyfriends in his face?”

“No,” said Granger, and frowned fiercely at him. “Who gave you that description of Ginny’s behavior?”

“Your fiancé,” said Draco helpfully.

Granger’s frown redoubled, which Draco wanted to applaud her for. He hadn’t thought that possible, even given the unfortunate configuration of her face. “He has people who want to date him,” she said. “Good, kind women. Pretty women.”

“I’m glad,” Draco repeated. “What are their names?”

“Elise Sanders, for one—”

“She came stalking him two weeks ago,” Draco said. “I didn’t think he was impressed then, to tell you the truth.” He put a finger on his chin and tilted his head. “You say these women want to date Harry. Does he want to date them?”

“He has to find one of them he likes,” Granger countered, her voice rising. “It’s unnatural for him to be without someone to date, when he was with Ginny for so long—”

“Oh, thanks, Hermione. I didn’t know that you thought of me as a freak.”

Draco blinked and turned his head as if totally surprised, though in reality he had heard the footsteps coming. But he couldn’t have planned the moment when Granger was caught in saying words so stupid or forced to blush as fiercely as she had frowned, and he wouldn’t have wanted to. Such beautiful things had to be allowed to happen by themselves.

“I don’t, Harry,” Granger said earnestly, and rose to her feet. “It’s just—we’ve been worried about you since you broke up with Ginny, and we think that you need someone in your life. You’ve had someone for so long, after all.”

“She broke up with me, remember?” Harry snapped. He put a hand on the doorway, but Draco didn’t think it was to brace himself; he hadn’t had that much to drink, by the look of his face. “And I don’t appreciate it that you can’t wait three months before wanting to spring someone on me, Hermione. Just let me make the decision, all right? I think you can count on me to make a better choice than you would.”

His eyes and voice were so bitter that Draco wanted to rise from his chair and comfort him. But that wouldn’t do, both because he would be moving too fast if he did and because of Granger’s suspicions.

“Harry, I’m sorry,” Granger whispered. “We really do just want you to be happy.” And she looked miserable enough that Draco might have felt sorry for her, except that she’d brought this on herself.

“I know that, Hermione.” Harry’s voice was tight, but he placed a sincere hand on her shoulder. Draco smiled slightly. Yes, all of them who think that they can just take their place as his lover are fools. It’s so much better to be his friend first. He has solicitude for his friends even when he’s angry with them. “But—I need time, all right? No more plots and plans, and no more accusing Draco of whatever you were going to accuse him of.”

“I don’t think he wants you to get back together with Ginny.” Granger glanced at Draco. “Or anyone else, for that matter.”

“I want Harry to date who he wants to date,” said Draco, and that was perfectly sincere, which meant his face showed his perfect sincerity. Granger wouldn’t pick up on the important word in that sentence, which was “want,” or at least not assign it the right importance. Draco intended to make Harry want him before he made a single open move.

Granger growled at him and stomped out of the office. Harry flopped into his chair, which scraped like a tortured voice this time, and then shook his head. “I’m sorry, Draco,” he said. “I don’t know why my friends distrust you so much.”

They’re in the middle of a tight, charmed little circle, of course, Draco told Harry in his head. They know the best thing in the world is to be Harry Potter’s friend, and they want to prevent me from becoming one. But he would encounter either Harry’s modesty or Harry’s tenacious defense of his friends’ good intentions if he said that, and he saw no reason of rousing either formidable force. He shook his head. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I know they probably can’t get over what I did to them in school.” He claimed responsibility without fear; it would only make him sound nobler in Harry’s eyes.

“But I did.” Harry set his chin in one cupped hand and frowned at him. “And you got over what I did to you. That’s what I don’t understand. If we managed it, then why can’t they?”

Draco smiled back at him, but didn’t say a word. He wouldn’t remind Harry, if Harry wanted to forget it, of their first three chilly months together as partners. Draco had finally realized that he wanted something more than that with Harry, both because Harry was infernally attractive and because he couldn’t trust someone who hated him to guard his back in battle. So he had invited Harry to Malfoy Manor.

Harry had come in like a cat approaching someone who had once stepped on its tail, all stiff-backed pride and cautious tread. But Draco had met him simply, without pretense, and escorted him through the Manor. He’d pointed out the place where his aunt had tortured Granger—and he’d made sure to call Bellatrix his aunt, so that Harry couldn’t accuse him of ignoring the relationship—and he’d also named the rooms he couldn’t enter any more because he would suffer from a panic attack if he did. And he’d showed Harry the bedroom where the Dark Lord had made him torture most of his victims, and admitted how much he still hated himself, sometimes, for that.

At the end of the journey, Harry had put a hand on his shoulder and left it there for a single moment. He hadn’t said anything, but he had come in with calm, friendly words the next day at work, and Draco had known that their problems were on the way to being solved. And all because he had been honest and taken a risk.

That’s what they can’t understand, Harry’s friends, he thought. They have no reason to take a risk on me. They hardly find me attractive—Granger and Weasley were going to be married as soon as they stopped finding their dance around each other more entertaining than the thought of sharing a house—and they don’t trust my influence over Harry.

“Well, anyway,” Harry said at last, standing up, “I still don’t want to be here, but I remembered that I’d need more Galleons if I was going to go somewhere more expensive.” He searched for a moment, then swept up a clinking pouch from behind the desk with a grunt of satisfaction. He paused on the way to the door, though, and slowly pivoted on one heel.

Draco, who had started to read the file on a dangerous new disease thought to be the product of Dark magic, looked up. A teasing question was on his tongue, but he restrained it when he saw the way Harry looked at him. Vulnerable, more than he usually allowed himself to look when he was conscious.

“Would you like to come?” Harry whispered.

Anyone else, and Draco would have asked if this was a date. But Harry was too on edge at the moment with everything that had happened to him, and far be it from Draco to crush a positive movement weeks before he had expected one.

“I’d like to,” he said, standing and keeping both his words and his movements simple as he picked up his cloak. Harry was watching him suspiciously at the moment, whether he knew that or not, and might take any complication as an innuendo—which of course he would meet with a rebuff.

“Good,” Harry said, and grinned so widely that he frowned a moment later, as if trying to decide why he was so glad to have Draco’s company.

Draco distracted him with a skillful question. “I noticed that you hadn’t given me back the report on the Pendlegreen case yet. Why’s that?”

Harry answered sharply, but as he and Draco strode down the corridor towards the lifts together, arguing, he edged a little closer, and did it again when Draco deliberately put some space between them.

Draco smiled in supreme contentment, knowing that Harry would take it for satisfaction in winning the argument.

Perhaps Harry does know what he wants, after all.

*

Gamaliel’s agitated shrieking greeted them when they stepped into Draco’s small house later that night. Harry winced and made a show of putting his hands over his ears. “I don’t know how you can stand that thing,” he said.

“He’s only hungry,” Draco said mildly, and let the door fell to as he shed his cloak. No house-elf appeared to take it, but he knew that meant they were busy with Gamaliel, trying to convince the hawk to eat. “God forbid that anyone ever leave you in charge of a helpless animal, Potter.”

Harry turned to answer him. He was smiling, and his eyes were brilliant with enjoyment. Draco imagined him looking this way the first time they kissed, and smiled back.

Bastard!”

A red flare illuminated a figure standing in the corner, wand uplifted. Draco recognized the curse when the red light gathered into a point and hurtled towards Harry, aimed at his back.

He shoved Harry out of the way and put his hand on his own wand, in his left sleeve, whispering enough of the countercharm that he could survive. He’d had intimate experience with the curse under the Dark Lord’s reign in Malfoy Manor and knew what he could take when it came to this magic

Otherwise unprotected, he placed himself in the path between Harry and the curse and shielded him with his body.

The pain was immediate and searing; the curse had hit his upper chest and was trying to burn its way through to the other side. Draco grimaced and slumped to the floor, screaming only once in deference to the agony before he went about casting more spells to ensure he survived.

Harry leaped past him like some sort of winged predator and hit the woman in the corner with a blast that made the house shudder on its foundations and finally shut up Gamaliel.

Draco whistled under his breath as he saw the woman’s leg simply dematerialize, the component particles speeding away from each other and ceasing to exist. The woman fell to the ground, the wound bloodless but causing her to scream anyway. Harry Summoned her wand and stood staring at her for a long moment. Draco didn’t know for certain what she saw in his face and what made her stop screaming and start whimpering, but he could guess.

The woman was Elise Sanders; Draco could see that much in the moonlight spilling through the windows. Of course she had come after Harry because she thought that he should date her, and of course she had just done something that had ruined her chances more thoroughly than ever. Draco would have clucked his tongue if he could have spared the concentration. So many things in life were the result of imprecise planning.

And then Harry overcame the anger that probably made him want to murder Sanders, or at least break her wand. He cast a Body-Bind on her and turned, crouching over Draco, his eyes bright and tearless. He curved a hand behind Draco’s head and drew him forwards so they were brow to brow.

“Oh, God, Draco, are you hurt?” He spoke so rapidly that Draco wouldn’t have understood him if he hadn’t been listening to that voice for three years, both asleep and awake.

“I’ve healed some of the damage,” Draco whispered. “I’ve seen that spell before. But I should go to St. Mungo’s.”

“Of course you should.” Harry stood up with a violent jerk and gathered Draco from the floor with a pull as strong but much gentler, so that he didn’t jolt the wound. “And you…” He looked at Sanders as if he were considering how many pieces he’d need to cut the body into in order to hide it efficiently.

“Take her to Kingsley,” said Draco quietly.

Harry shook with repressed violence, but didn’t answer. Sanders looked as if she had fainted from terror.

“You have to,” Draco whispered. He let his left hand smooth Harry’s cheek. “Don’t make her cost you anything. Not your life, not mine, and not your job.”

After a few more minutes, Harry moved his head in a slashing nod and then floated Sanders behind them as he strode towards the front door. Draco adjusted himself a bit so he could fit more comfortably into Harry’s arms.

“When I thought I’d lost you,” Harry told Draco’s hair. He didn’t say anything more than that, perhaps because he couldn’t find the words, perhaps because he assumed that Draco would know what he meant.

Draco leaned his head against Harry’s shoulder, sniffed at his skin—still touched with the scorching scent of the magic he’d used—and smiled.

*

St. Mungo’s had improved in quality of care since the last time Draco had been there. Of course, perhaps it helped matters to have a scowling Chosen One hovering over you and scrutinizing everyone who came near the bed with a narrow-eyed gaze, as if he could see their relationship to Elise Sanders at a glance.

“Mr. Potter, it really is inconvenient for you to be in the way like this,” Draco heard one Healer say as he lay on the bed, his eyes closed and an expression of angelic weakness draped across his face.

“I can cause greater inconvenience at any time,” Harry said, in a voice that made Draco start to harden. He rather liked listening to Harry to threaten people, provided Harry didn’t direct that voice at him.

The Healer scuttled away. Draco gave a faint smile and kept his eyes closed, sighing as if in sleep. Harry’s hand came down, the palm barely skimming his forehead.

Sometimes Harry talked to him, voice rambling as though he were alone. Draco magnanimously forgave him for his shameful lack of attention. Of course Harry would be fooled into thinking he was asleep and not really listening. It was not his fault Draco was such a good actor.

“It feels as though I turned the corner one day and saw my parents standing there. It was so sudden. When I saw you lying on the floor like that after Sanders hurt you, I knew that—I cared more for you than I thought I did.” Harry chuckled under his breath. “Wouldn’t Hermione be surprised if she knew this turn of events?”

Granger has a little more foresight than you give her credit for, Draco wanted to say, but didn’t, because far be it from him to praise Granger. Besides, he had arranged his mouth in a “natural” pout as he “slept,” and he could feel Harry looking at his lips from time to time. Give him enough such silent staring moments and he would do something about them.

“I can’t believe how lucky you were,” Harry said at another point, his hand stroking Draco’s hair with a hypnotic, rhythmic motion that made Draco instantly jealous of everyone who had touched Harry’s hands in the past. They might know that those hands had the power to do this. Worse, they might know what it felt like, and that meant Draco would be fending off challengers for the rest of their natural lives. “The Healers say they’ve never seen anything like it. That curse usually—burns straight to the other side of the body.” His voice faltered on the last words.

Draco wanted to roll his eyes. Of course, he had known that, and that was why he had cast the countercharm before he leaped in front of Harry. If he hadn’t known the countercharm, then he would have cast a shield. He wanted Harry to fall in love with him as deeply as Draco had with Harry, but he also wanted to live to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

“I can’t bear to think about that,” Harry whispered. “I had nightmares after the Healers told me. I can’t believe—I can’t bear—” His hand crushed down on Draco’s for a moment, and Draco heard the faint rustle of hair against cloth that meant Harry was shaking his head. “I had nightmares,” he repeated, instead of finishing what he was going to say.

Draco sighed and rolled over as if starting to wake up, and then opened his eyes a cautious slit before looking full into Harry’s face. Harry was staring at him with a hungry expression that satisfied Draco. It didn’t fulfill all his expectations, not yet, but he would have been stupid indeed if he had started pressing Harry into things he wasn’t ready for this close to the goal.

He “awakened” fully and asked around a yawn, “What’s for breakfast?”

Harry stared a moment longer before he replied, his eyes open wider than normal and his pupils slightly dilated. The hand in Draco’s hair trembled before it was withdrawn.

Seeing the future—the inevitability of that future—in Harry’s eyes, Draco did not mind the withdrawal.

*

And then Harry vanished.

Draco had to admit that he didn’t notice at first. He was out of St. Mungo’s in three days, and then dealing with the consequences of Sanders’s attack on him and all the very polite questions Kingsley Shacklebolt kept asking that did not involve anything that was any of his business. Draco had never uttered “I really don’t know, sir,” so many times in his life, even when he had tried unsuccessfully to lie to Snape, and he had never performed a cleverer dance around the main point, which was that Sanders’s jealousy of him had some basis in fact.

When that was dealt with and Draco looked around his house and at Gamaliel violently preening himself on his perch, he realized that Harry had neither seen him or tried to contact him in five days.

Draco leaned back against the wall, because that was where he did his best thinking, and sipped the cup of tea that one of his house-elves had thoughtfully provided him. Expert as he was in reading all of Harry’s behavior, he had to admit this puzzled him. Harry had as good as admitted to himself that he was in love with Draco. Why would he retreat now, instead of charging forwards the way he had when he decided that he wanted to date Ginny Weasley again?

Draco considered and rejected the idea of friends’ interference. Harry had made it clear that he wouldn’t let his friends’ ideas of who he should date dictate his love life.

He would have heard if Harry had been sent off on an emergency mission with another partner. That was the kind of thing Kingsley was considerate about, and for another, he knew that Harry and Draco were better in emergencies than any other Auror team, so splitting them up wasn’t worth the fuss.

Could he have blamed himself somehow for Draco’s wound, and be brooding? Or perhaps he felt he had hit Sanders too hard? Draco also rejected that possibility. Harry left the intricacies of battle behind in battle. He no longer had the ridiculous guilt complex that he had possessed when he was an adolescent, though it was still overdeveloped. He would have come to Draco blurting out excessive apologies if he really felt that way, not withdrawn and sat staring at the wall, or whatever he was doing at the moment.

He had better not have tried to return to Ginny Weasley.

Draco allowed a snarl to distort his face for exactly one moment. Then he rolled his eyes and dropped the expression. Of course Harry hadn’t. Draco prided himself on how well he knew Harry, and a pathetic attempt to get back with the girl who had broken up with him, lo these many months later, was not in his nature.

No, Draco decided at last, the most likely reason for Harry’s absence was that his unexpected passion for Draco had scared him, and he had decided to retreat and think about it. If he hadn’t wanted to date anyone else, he must be thinking now, why would he want to date Draco? He had already confessed in hospital that his desire had taken him by surprise.

It was hard, Draco decided philosophically as he finished his tea, to stand here while the man he loved was perhaps making up his mind not to date him after all. But if Draco hadn’t enticed Harry sufficiently at this point to make him overcome his reservations, then he didn’t deserve Harry’s love. Only someone who was clever and beautiful did.

He would pursue the same course he had so far, and wait, and trust Harry to come to his senses and see what was best for him.

And he would serenely ignore the doubts that plagued him, because his decision was based on his knowledge of Harry, and that knowledge had never failed him.

*

Harry didn’t return to work the next day. Or the day after that. Or for the entire week.

Draco did paperwork, and smiled blandly when Granger came to visit and turned a triumphant smile on him. Granger hovered about and made non-remarks about the color of the office walls, then said directly, “Do you know where Harry is now?”

“No,” Draco said. “But he’s been through a lot, and quite often someone who hurts a fellow Auror the way he had to hurt Sanders needs a holiday from the Ministry.”

This was completely true, so that Granger frowned at him in baffled silence for a moment. But then she said, “He’s been visiting Ron, and seeing Ginny.”

“Oh,” Draco said. He hid the quietness of his voice with a glance at his report and a scribble a moment later, so that Granger would attribute it to a lack of interest in her words rather than pain. “Are they dating again? I’m glad for Harry. I did wonder, when Weasley broke up with him, if she would hold his job against him forever. I don’t think he’ll quit, so—”

“Stop, Malfoy. Just stop.”

Draco folded his hands in front of him and looked up at Granger, who had her hands on her hips, and hope crept back into his heart. Because someone who had got what she wanted—that is, her best friend dating her fiancé’s sister—would have looked happier than she looked at the moment.

“I know that you don’t want him to get back together with Ginny,” Granger said. “I know that you want him for yourself.”

“I want him to have what he wants,” Draco said calmly. “That is all I have wanted for years, and I would be willing to swear to it under Veritaserum.”

“But you want it to be you he wants.” Granger made that statement as if she were talking about a crime worthy of being punished with a sentence in Azkaban.

“If he wants Weasley,” Draco went on, pretending to take no notice of her remark, “then he should have her. I wish them a long and happy life together. And at least it means that I won’t have to deal with sudden flying visits from you and your Weasley accusing me vaguely of sins without names.”

“He sees Ginny, but he won’t get back together with her!” Granger burst out suddenly. “You’ve done something to him, Malfoy! Manipulated him somehow, made him see you as more than a partner!” She stepped towards him, and although she wasn’t visibly armed, Draco let his wand fall into his hand under the desk. “I don’t like my friends being manipulated, Malfoy,” she continued, and her voice had grown drastically soft. “Harry’s had enough of it to last a lifetime. I actually thought he could trust you as a partner, but you want to be more than just an Auror partner, like all the rest of them.”

“I’ve done nothing but spend time with him,” said Draco, “and nearly sacrifice my life for his.”

“You were faking,” Granger whispered. “You must have been.”

Draco drew out a fresh piece of parchment and began to write.

“What are you doing?” Granger demanded.

“Giving you the names and Floo addresses of the Healers who treated me for my wound.” Draco looked up with a bland smile. “You can ask them whether I managed to fake an injury, and whether I actually persuaded Sanders to sacrifice her freedom and her job for—what? A paltry payment of Galleons? Since you seem to think that’s all I’m good for.”

Granger’s eyes narrowed. Then she said, “If I went with my suspicions to Harry, what would you do?”

“Leave it up to him,” said Draco. The way I always have done. And that was the truth, so he could speak it with a calm face and honest heart.

Granger shook her head. “Perhaps it’s not traditional manipulation, but it’s manipulation nonetheless,” she said. “You want him to like you?”

“I think,” Draco said judiciously, “that the answer to that question should be given to him, and not to you. Why don’t you ask Harry what he wants?”

“I think I will,” said Granger, with less bark in her voice than before, and perhaps even less suspicion. She turned and left the room.

The successful predator doesn’t spend time wearing himself out with a race, Draco thought, as he put the parchment away. He only has to strike once.

*

Draco smiled and tossed a gobbet of venison to Gamaliel. He twisted his head, snapped it out of the air, and swallowed it. Then he opened his beak again in a hungry scream. It would be a hunting scream soon, Draco supposed. He hadn’t been able to identify what kind of hawk Gamaliel was yet, but the bird was growing fast, his plumage changing color in the direction of a purer white. Draco should be able to tell soon.

Someone knocked on the door. Draco looked up with a half-raised eyebrow, but he didn’t feel like getting up and leaving the darkened room where he was feeding Gamaliel. The house-elves would bring in the visitor if it was someone important.

And then he heard the voice say, “Draco,” and he allowed himself to scramble to his feet and turn around, moving swiftly at last.

Harry stood there, his eyes drowning and enormous in his face, his pupils dilated the way they had been in hospital. He swallowed and laid his cloak down on the back of the chair he stood next to. “I’m here,” he said uselessly.

Draco crossed the room to him, forcing himself to move more slowly than he wanted to. He knew his desire was plain on his face, but that was all right; by now, Harry had the right to know that Draco would welcome his advances. Still, he wanted Harry to initiate the final move, so he could say with perfect truth that this was what Harry wanted, rather than what Draco had forced him into, if Granger or anyone else ever asked him again.

All right, he admitted, as his gaze roamed over Harry’s face. And maybe I really do want him to want me for myself, without having to coax and manipulate him into everything.

“Yes, you are,” Draco said, and whether he allowed or added a breathy tone to his voice he never knew, because his attention was rather distracted when Harry pounced.

Harry almost flattened him to the wall, his lips insistent on Draco’s, his hands scrabbling wildly up and down his body, fisting in his hair and then curving around his hips and arse as if he couldn’t decide what to touch first. Draco decided against laughing—he rather thought it would be misunderstood—and settled for curving a leg around Harry’s hip instead, so that he could hook him closer.

“God, I love you,” Harry breathed, yanking his mouth briefly away from Draco’s to speak near his lips. His eyes were still dark with lust, but his words were clear and precise, as if he’d been thinking about them for a long time. “Love the way you handle yourself, always so collected. Love knowing I can count on you to be calm and come up with suggestions when I’ve lost my temper. Love the way you share your vulnerabilities with me and don’t flinch away. You’re braver than I am.”

Draco opened his mouth to deny that—Harry’s courage was one of the things he most admired about him, and disputing with one’s lover over objects of admiration was rather pleasant—but Harry had apparently finished all he wanted to say and kissed Draco fiercely enough for a long moment to let him taste teeth. Then Harry seemed to decide where he wanted his hands to go, and unbuckled Draco’s belt and knelt to take Draco’s cock in his mouth in one delicious slide.

It came dimly to Draco that he was going to enjoy this more than he had any other blowjob in his life, because it was the man he had loved and wanted for so long who was doing this, and because he had the right to enjoy it, after the way his care and patience and cleverness had delivered Harry to him—

But mostly because Harry was damn talented with his mouth.

He sucked Draco’s cock with such determination that Draco nearly came immediately, and then Harry somehow managed a long pull and swallow that made it seem as if he had no need to breathe left. Draco groaned and let his head fall back against the wall. His hips were making little involuntary jerks, something that had never happened before and which he might have tried to stop if he could have, because—

Because it wasn’t dignified, and if he was going to lose it so soon then he would at least like to warn Harry—

But then Harry cupped his tongue and dragged it from the middle of Draco’s cock to the head, and Draco gasped and forgot how to breathe in turn.

He gripped Harry’s hair simply to anchor himself to the earth as Harry snarled in satisfaction and dug his fingers into Draco’s hips, maybe to hold him still, maybe to find a place for his hands. Another suck, and another lick, and Draco bucked again and would probably have slid down the wall if not for Harry’s grasp. He gasped and squeaked and kept trying to tell Harry how good he felt, as warmth and wetness and enthusiasm surrounded him, but he could never get the breath for words.

He kept trying to look, too, but his eyes shut themselves with the force of his pleasure. And really, feeling the motion of Harry’s head was enough for long minutes. But finally he had to see. Yes, with all luck he would get to see Harry doing this many more times, but the first time was special.

He looked down, and saw Harry’s head bobbing, his mouth working, his throat contracting around Draco’s cock in easy swallows, his hair swishing messily back and forth like the tail of a broom in flight—

And then he peered up at Draco, and his eyes were drowning in black again and his mouth was curved in a smug grin.

Draco came hard, his body almost spasming up from the wall, his bottled-up voice finally emerging in a broken groan. Harry made a gagging noise, but then managed to swallow, and drew away from Draco licking his lips rather than wiping them with a hand. He stared up at him for some time, eyes as devouring as his mouth had been, his hands idly stroking behind Draco’s cock and up to his balls.

Draco finally moved away, since he was oversensitive, and because he needed to return the favor. He had accepted that Harry was his, rightfully and without any more need for hesitation, and that made his hands shake with desperation as he took up his wand and neatly slit Harry’s clothing away.

“Those were good robes,” Harry said, but his voice was threaded with desire, and he lay back and splayed his legs, his eyes fixed on Draco’s face.

Draco smiled back, and knelt down between Harry’s legs, his hands gently stroking Harry’s knees while he looked admiringly at his chest. Then he leaned in and gravely blew over one of Harry’s nipples, making Harry groan and arch invitingly towards his mouth.

But though Harry was his now, that didn’t mean the need for slowness had been done away with altogether.

“You’re not perfect,” he told Harry, his fingers tracing circles around Harry’s nipples. He blew on other patches of skin on Harry’s chest and nuzzled into his armpits and down along his ribs to investigate his sensitivity there. Harry tried to encourage him with breathy little gasps, but Draco refused to be hurried. “You have scars, and you look as though you didn’t eat enough.” He paused and probed thoughtfully at Harry’s belly, which had begun to protrude a little in a way not consistent with his work as an Auror. “Except here.”

“Are you going to talk to me or—”

Draco fastened his mouth in earnest on a nipple this time, and Harry’s voice cut off in favor of a gasped mouthful of air, which was exactly what Draco wanted and expected. He went back to his monologue while Harry was still trying to recover from the novelty of someone doing that to him (quite clearly, Weasley had been a poor study in what Harry liked).

“And you don’t take care of your hair the way you should, and I’m sure some men would have fantasies of someone with more hair on your chest, or less.” He worked his thigh between Harry’s legs and rubbed it against his erection, all the time looking Harry in the eye and talking as if he were utterly unconscious of what his lower body was doing. “There would be some who would want you to change the color of your eyes—though they’re simply misguided, lost souls who have never realized what true beauty was in the first place.”

Harry raised an eyebrow, and somehow managed to look cross and amused and lustful all at once.

“But none of that matters,” said Draco, and bowed his head to lick Harry’s erection, craning his neck past his own thigh, “because I find you beautiful, and my good opinion should be all anyone in the world needs.”

He sucked Harry into his mouth before Harry could retort, and Harry uttered a shivering, rising gasp that sounded like he didn’t know how to contend with so much pleasure.

Draco built that pleasure in rising waves, retreating at times so that the head of Harry’s cock was resting just within his mouth and he had to keep his lips carefully folded over his teeth, and then moving forwards again so that Harry was fully on his tongue, almost down his throat, and saliva was rolling from the corners of his lower lip down his face. Harry opened his own mouth in unconscious imitation. He couldn’t place his hands, or his legs, with spasmed and kicked restlessly. His eyes fluttered open and closed as rapidly as if Draco were too splendid to look on.

It was all Draco had wanted. He gave a long, slow, luxurious suck, and then let Harry rest on his tongue again, closed his mouth all the way around him, and swallowed.

Harry came at once, necessitating more swallowing. Draco didn’t mind. He kept up his slow, lazy, dreamy petting of Harry’s knees while he listened in satisfaction to the hiccoughs and whispers of his name from above him. Harry had compensated for not speaking his given name at all earlier with a lot of “DracoDracoDracoDraco” now.

That’s the most musical sound in the world, Draco realized, sitting up and licking carefully at the corners of his mouth. He draped himself artistically over Harry’s body and smiled into his face. I always did wonder what was.

It took a gratifyingly long time for Harry to recover, but at last he slung his arm over Draco’s shoulders and brought their mouths violently together. Draco didn’t mind, given the interesting mixture of tastes and what the movement demonstrated about Harry’s need of him, though he decided he would have to teach Harry about the virtues of slowness.

“You have your robes on,” Harry said slowly, as thickly as though he still had a cock in his throat. “I—didn’t see that.”

“They’re only robes, and can be cleaned,” Draco said, and rested his head on Harry’s shoulder.

“I was scared to come to you,” Harry whispered, his fingers tracing the line of Draco’s neck. “I knew how I felt, but I hadn’t seen a corresponding sign from you, and what if I was wrong?”

Draco regarded him mildly. “Well, I know you want me, and we’ve quite nicely established that that’s mutual, but I would be interested in hearing what you feel other than that.”

Harry flushed, which Draco thought was an odd time for it, but said staunchly, “I want you. I need you. I love you. Is that clear enough?”

“And I love you,” said Draco, with his heart almost still in perfect bliss, rather than beating fast, and reached up to kiss Harry’s face. “And need you. I think the want was already clear, unless you have short term memory loss and forgot the statement I made just a moment ago.”

Harry laughed breathlessly. “You say it just like that,” he said, and then tangled his tongue around Draco’s and seemed to forget the rest of the sentence. When he pulled back, he mumbled, his eyes never leaving Draco’s lips, “As if you’d felt it for a long time.”

“I have,” Draco said, and Harry blinked comically and stared at him.

“You never said anything!”

Draco smiled at him, enjoying the long slow stretch of the moment, like molasses, and the ever-more-rapid blinking of the eyes that he intended to look into for the rest of his life.

“Well,” he said amiably, “I had to wait for you to catch up, didn’t I?”

End.