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Harry felt more contented than he had for most of the summer as he settled back in his seat. He stared out of the window as the Hogwarts Express began to pull away from King’s Cross. He hadn’t expected to be given the chance to ever go back like this, but he was so glad he had. Ron had been especially dubious, but Hermione had insisted that she needed her NEWTs, and for Harry, well, Hogwarts was home. And Ron of course was reluctant to part from either of them, though Harry knew his coming back was really more about Hermione than him. Still, at least they were all together.

“Do you know who else is coming back this year?” Harry asked, realising he hadn’t thought about it before.

“Yes,” replied Hermione. “McGonagall sent me a list.”

Ron frowned. “Really? Why?”

Hermione reddened a little. “Well, I didn’t mention it before, but, um, McGonagall made me honorary Head Girl.”

Ron’s mouth dropped open, and Harry couldn’t stop the grin that appeared on his face.

“Well of course she did,” Ron said robustly, recovering himself. “You obviously deserve it.”

Hermione blushed even more. “Technically, it ought to be one of the actual Seventh Years. But McGonagall decided that since last year was, well, a bit of a mess, she’d let us have a chance too.”

Harry smiled at her warmly. “And is there a Head Boy in our year too?”

“Ernie Macmillan,” she said.

Ron made a face. 'Merlin, he's boring. You’d think a Head Boy should at least have an interesting personality.”

Hermione poked his shoulder lightly and frowned. “Ron, don’t be like that. You know he’s a good student.”

Ron rolled his eyes. “I know, I know. I’ve just never liked him.”

“Come on,” Harry interrupted. “This deserves a celebration.” He pulled out his wand and levitated his trunk down from the rack, then started to rummage through it.

“Aha!” he exclaimed, pulling out three bottles of butterbeer. “I thought I still had these.” He grinned at them both, then sent a bottle sailing over to each of them with a flick of his wand.

Hermione caught hers with a frown. “Harry, that’s not your wand,” she said, as Harry shut his trunk.

“What isn’t?” Harry heard Ron ask.

Harry glanced down at his wand. “This? Oh, no.” He shoved his trunk back onto the rack, and sat down to face Ron and Hermione’s enquiring expressions.

“Wait,” Ron scowled down at the strip of wood in Harry’s hand. “Is that who’s I think it is?”

“Never mind that. What’s wrong with yours?” Hermione asked.

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know. Nothing, really, I suppose. It just didn’t … feel right when I tried it, and I’d got used to this one.”

Ron grimaced. “So you’re still using a wand belonging to Draco bloody Malfoy.”

Harry shrugged. He’d been trying not to consider why Draco Malfoy’s wand worked better for him than his own one.

“That’s not the problem, though,” Hermione said, looking concerned. “The real question is why is your wand not working properly.”

“Maybe the Elder Wand didn’t mend it entirely,” suggested Ron.

Hermione looked thoughtful. “It could be. The magic of the Elder Wand could have interfered with that of Harry’s. I’m not sure. I don’t know enough about wandlore; I’ll have to do some research.”

Harry and Ron groaned simultaneously. “Already, Hermione?” asked Harry.

“What?” she protested. “It’s interesting. And it could be important.”

Ron shook his head. “Bonkers,” he said to Harry. “Stark raving mad.”

Harry smiled, then burst out into proper laughter as Hermione picked up the book that lay beside her, and thwacked Ron’s arm with it lightly. It was good to feel like things were back to normal.

--

Harry wondered if he was weird for thinking that Hogwarts felt just the same, or if he was just glad that it did. The staff had done a good job getting the school ready for the new year; it looked just as it always had, complete with Peeves hiding in the suits of armour, waiting for any unsuspecting new students. Despite there being an extra year, the house tables in the Great hall didn’t feel crowded. Harry happily chewed on a pork chop and thought about how amazing magic was, until he remembered why there were so many extra places for people to sit. He pushed away the rest of his dinner; maybe Hogwarts wasn’t the same as it had always been after all.

“Are we still in our old room?” Harry asked, to distract himself.

Ron was busying himself with his still full plate of food, swirling a sausage through his puddle of ketchup. “Why wouldn’t we be?”

“Well, they normally give the old seventh year room to the new students, right?” Ron nodded, and Harry raised an eyebrow. “And we’re the old seventh year.”

Realisation dawned for Ron around a mouthful of roast chicken. “Oh, yeah.”

“Professor McGonagall has made a few more rooms on the bottom floor,” Hermione said, wrinkling her nose in distaste at Ron’s bulging cheeks. “Head Boys and Girls usually get their own rooms, and this year so do all of the eighth year students who came back.”

“We each get our own rooms?”

Ron looked more than pleased at this information, and he leered at Hermione. Her cheeks flushed a bright red, and Harry ducked his head away, grinning.

“Because we’re grown ups Ronald, so we’re trusted to follow the rules,” she said, rather primly.

“Oh come on, you can’t tell me that none of the grown ups in this castle have never hopped rooms—”

“Yeah, I’m sure Flitwick can often be seen doing the walk of shame from Sprout’s room,” Harry laughed.

Ron awkwardly swallowed his mouthful of mashed potato and grimaced. “Thanks for that image, Harry. Just what I needed.”

Hermione opened her mouth, no doubt to tell Harry off, but just then McGonagall signalled that it was time for bed, and there was a loud scraping as people got lethargically to their feet. “I have to see to the first years,” Hermione said instead, settling on giving Harry an unimpressed look. “I’ll see you both up in the common room in a bit.”

Harry and Ron waved her off, watching as she corralled a group of kids that looked far too small to even be at school. They let the hall empty slowly around them, trying to ignore the way almost everyone stared at Harry as they passed.

“Just like old times, eh, mate,” Ron said, nudging Harry up off the bench and towards the doors.

“You know me, I do love being the centre of attention.”

“Potter!”

Harry stopped dead at the voice behind him and sighed. Great, just what he needed.

Malfoy walked up to them both, stopping just inside the doors. “I need to talk to you.”

Ron snarled and stepped in front of Harry. “Listen, you pointy git, the only reason you’re not in a cell in Azkaban where you belong is because Harry lost his mind and testified for you and your mother. If you ask me, that’s already one too many favours he’s done you.”

Malfoy sneered back at him. “I don’t recall asking you. And anyway, who said anything about a favour?”

Ron opened his mouth to retort, but Harry cut him off with a hand to his arm. “It’s fine, Ron. You go up, I’ll be there in a bit.”

Ron stared at him, but Harry just raised his eyebrows. Eventually Ron nodded, walking past with a last suspicious look at Malfoy.

Harry waited until he had gone and then turned to Malfoy. “What do you want?”

Malfoy drew himself up to his full height. “I’m not here to thank you, if that’s what you think.”

Harry laughed. “I think I can safely say that never crossed my mind, Malfoy. So, what do you want?”

“You have something of mine, and I want it back.”

Harry’s heart sank; there was only one thing of Malfoy’s that he had.

“Potter, I need my wand.”

I need it too, Harry thought to himself. Out loud, he said, “Why? I won it off of you, it won’t work as well as it used to. Why don’t you just buy yourself a new one?”

“What wandmaker would sell me a new wand? My old one will still work better than the one I’ve been using until now.”

“Whose have you been using?”

“My mother’s,” Malfoy replied, then sneered. “Why are we still talking about this? It’s mine, Potter, and I want it back.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “I can wait until the weekend for you to go back and get it—”

“No, I have it here,” Harry interrupted, then noticed the suspicious look on Malfoy’s face. “Not— not on me or anything, it’s at the bottom of my trunk somewhere.” He had to stop himself from feeling where the wand was strapped against his wrist.

Malfoy looked at him for a long moment, then made an exasperated sound. “Well, Potter? Why are we still standing here?”

“Right.”

Harry set off down the corridor towards the stairs, but paused when he realised that Malfoy was following closely behind him. He turned on the first step, and was annoyed to find that the extra height brought him level with Malfoy.

“What are you doing?”

Malfoy raised an eyebrow. “Did your mind get even more addled recently? We’re going to get my wand.”

“You don’t have to follow me,” Harry scowled.

Malfoy sneered right back. “And how else are you going to get it back to me? I’m not going to stand around here waiting for you to come back. It’s my wand, Potter, and I want it back. Now.”

Harry sighed. “Fine, but you’ll have to wait outside the common room when we get there. There’s no way I’m letting you come inside Gryffindor House.” He started moving up the stairs again.

“Aww, will all the brave little lions get scared at the sight of a Death Eater in their midst?”

Harry whirled around again, mouth already open, but stopped at the look on Malfoy’s face. There was the usual look of disdain, of course, but there was something else underneath that Harry couldn’t quite identify. Whatever it was, it made Harry feel a little bit sorry for Malfoy. Instead, he said nothing, and turned to continue up the stairs. He’d come back to Hogwarts to finish his education, after all, not to restart old arguments between enemies.

His lack of response seemed to have unnerved Malfoy a bit, because he said nothing as he followed Harry all the way to the seventh floor, and just nodded when Harry gestured for him to wait against the balustrade. He whispered the password quietly and climbed through the hole, waiting for the portrait to swing shut behind him before leaning back against the wall with a sigh. He didn’t want to give up the hawthorn wand - he’d been using it for months, and it felt right in his hand. His trusted old holly and phoenix feather was like a stranger to him now, his magic feeling sluggish, reluctant, every time he tried to use it. It felt awkward and off balance, as though it was being pulled in two different directions. He sighed and banged his head back against the stone. As much as he might not like it, he didn’t really have much of a choice: Harry had two wands now, and Malfoy had none, and the hawthorn wand had chosen Malfoy first. It was his, and Harry supposed he was just going to have to live with it.

He pulled the wand out of its sleeve holster and ran his fingers over it, tipping it back and forward to see it better in the dim light. There were finger smudges and scuff marks all over it, and Harry lifted a corner of his robes to try and clean it, smiling slightly when it reminded him of the Wand Weighing ceremony back in Fourth Year. Harry would put galleons on Malfoy being the type of person to polish his wand regularly. Harry had never once cleaned his. He flipped the wand around his fingers and then whispered one last spell, watching as his silver stag erupted out of the end. The creature snorted silver mist, pawing at the ground with a large silver hoof, and then swung his great antlers around and cantered off through the wall. Harry watched it go, and then pushed the portrait open again.

“That was fast,” Malfoy said, when Harry toppled through to the other side.

Harry shrugged, not wanting to admit just how close he’d been keeping the wand the past few months. “I remembered where I’d put it.”

Malfoy held out a hand, and Harry stared at it. Malfoy scoffed and rolled his eyes. “What? Afraid I’m going to go around hexing everybody? Give me my wand, Potter.”

Harry clenched his jaw and held out the wand, dropping it into Malfoy’s waiting palm. It took a little effort; he didn’t want to let go. He watched as Malfoy’s fingers curled around the strip of wood, thumb caressing the hilt.

“Thank you.”

Harry looked away from Malfoy’s wand to find him already looking at Harry, grey eyes solemn. Harry shrugged again. “It’s yours.”

“I didn’t mean for the wand,” Malfoy said quietly. He turned away and disappeared down the staircase.

Harry stared after him for a long time.

--

“So, what have we got today?” Ron asked around a mouthful of sausage.

Harry pulled his fingers out from his sleeve, where he had been playing with his holly wand, and rummaged in his pocket for their schedule. “Er, Charms and Transfiguration this morning, and then Potions and a free period after lunch.”

“That’s not too bad,” Ron mused. “At least we get a break after Potions.”

“Free periods aren’t breaks, Ron,” Hermione interrupted with a frown. “They’re meant to be used for homework and studying.”

“Maybe for you,” Ron muttered under his breath, as Harry said laughingly, “What would we have to study our first day back?”

“All the things we’ve forgotten during our year off, of course.”

“That wasn’t a year off, Hermione!” Harry said incredulously. “We weren’t exactly on holiday!”

Hermione sniffed, not looking up from her Charms textbook. “Well, yes, obviously I know that. But we still have to remember the things we did during sixth year if we want to pass our NEWTs.”

“That doesn’t even make any sense,” Ron grumbled. He got up from the breakfast table and picked up Hermione’s bag for her, wincing when he realised how heavy it was. “You just want an excuse to drag us into the library.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, snatching her back back and pulling the straps over her shoulders. “Yes, because finding reasons to drag you places is all I think about all day, Ronald.”

“I wouldn’t mind if one of those places was a store cupboard or something.”

“So,” Harry said loudly, over the sound of Hermione slapping Ron’s arm, her cheeks a fiery red, “The timetable didn’t say anything about what other houses we’re paired up with. Is Potions still with the Slytherins, do you reckon?”

“We’re all together,” Hermione replied, leading them out of the Great Hall and towards the Charms classroom. “There’s not enough of us who returned to split us up into groups, but there’s too many of us to put us in with the seventh years. Professor McGonagall decided that all the eighth years would have classes together.”

“How do you know all this?” Ron asked.

Harry sighed to himself. That meant that not only would he have to have Potions classes with Draco Malfoy, but all the rest of his classes too. Great, that was just what he needed.

The Charms classroom was already filling up by the time they got there, Harry trailing after a bickering Ron and Hermione. Harry looked around and noticed Malfoy, sitting alone at the back of the room. Very few Slytherins had decided to return for another year of school; as far as Harry knew, Parkinson had been shipped out to her extended family in Belgium after the trials of her parents, Goyle and his father still hadn’t been found, and Crabbe… The only Slytherins to come back that Harry knew about had been the Greengrass girl, Nott, and Zabini. And Malfoy. Harry supposed that only Malfoy had taken Charms at NEWT level.

“Harry, you’re using your old wand again?”

Harry looked down at Hermione’s question, fingering the holly wand he had just pulled out of his sleeve.

“I thought you said it wasn’t working?”

Harry shook his head. “No, it is, it just feels a bit strange, is all. I probably just have to get used to it again.”

“What did you do with Malfoy’s wand?” Ron asked.

Harry sighed inwardly. He’d known he’d have to explain this at some point, and he’d been actively avoiding it ever since the night before. “I er, gave it back to him.”

“What?” Ron stared at Harry. “Is that what he wanted last night?”

Harry nodded, concentrating on getting his books out so that he wouldn’t have to look at his friends. “Yeah. He needed it, and I’ve already got one, so. It seemed like the right thing to do.”

“But, isn’t it still connected to the Elder Wand?”

“Doesn’t really make much of a difference, I don’t think,” Harry shrugged. “It’s not like the wand can tell him where I put the other one.”

Ron made a scoffing noise. “He probably just wanted it back so he could brag about it. He’s probably happily telling everyone how it was his wand you used to kill old Voldy.”

“He doesn’t look very happy right now,” Hermione said quietly.

Harry looked up, following her gaze to where Malfoy was sitting. He was staring down at his hands, frowning lightly, fingers running over and over the wand as he turned it round and round.

“What’s the matter with him?” Ron asked.

Harry laughed uncomfortably. “He’s probably trying to work out how to get the half-blood stink off of it.”

Hermione kept looking over at Malfoy, a thoughtful expression on her face. “Does he know you’ve been using it?”

“No, why?”

“He might be able to tell,” Hermione said, biting her lip.

Harry was surprised. “What? How?”

But Hermione just shushed him and gestured to where Flitwick was clearing his throat, getting ready to start his lesson. Harry gave one last uncomfortable look back at Malfoy, and gripped his own wand uneasily.

--

It felt good to be back in the crowded hallways, making their way down to the Great Hall for lunch. Harry breathed it in, glad to be away from the classrooms he’d been holed up in for hours, unable to get Malfoy and his wand out of his field of vision. His back ached from where he’d spent the entire morning with his shoulders hunched. Using his holly wand had felt uncomfortable; his teeth ached from where he’d been gritting them, trying to make the damn thing work.

Although it did work, it was just that it didn’t always work properly. He would do a spell and it felt as though his magic was asleep, could feel it coming to the surface grumbling and complaining about being woken up. The spell’s effect would be weak and juddery, and then his magic would slip away quickly. But the next time he tried the same spell, his magic would explode through him, making the spell more powerful than he’d meant it to be, sending things flying across the room and sparks of light dance out of the end of his wand. Harry couldn’t say how, but he knew that it wasn’t anything to do with how he was casting; he did the same thing every time. It was as though his wand had a mind of its own, and was bending Harry’s magic to its own will rather than just being an instrument of use. And its mind generally seemed to be set against Harry.

Transfiguration had been particularly trying. Harry found it fairly difficult at the best of times; his mind just didn’t seem to work so well with the intricate theory and complex casting methods. He preferred a style of magic that was less fixed, more spontaneous. And while his wand seemed to be able to adapt to that style more easily now, his own magic was still at odds. It was one of the strangest feelings Harry had ever experienced. It was as though inside him, the magic felt mostly how it always had done in Transfiguration - a little strained, but becoming easier with practice - but getting that feeling to flow into his wand was nigh on impossible. And then, when he did, aside from the strange fluctuations that he had experienced in Charms, the wand seemed to respond to the Transfiguration spells far more easily than it had ever done before.

When he explained this to Hermione at lunch, a distant expression came over her face.

“Really?” she asked. “That’s very interesting. I wonder…”

Harry glanced at Ron, who shrugged back at him.

“Oh!” said Hermione suddenly. “I’ve just had an idea about your wand, Harry. I’m going to the library. I’ll see you in Potions. Try not to be late.” And she picked up her bag and hurried out of the hall, almost bumping into Hannah Abbott, who looked faintly alarmed at Hermione’s intense ‘I’m-on-a-very-important-fact-finding-mission’ face.

Harry smiled slightly as he watched her go.

“Definitely got an idea,” said Ron, shaking his head. “At this rate, we aren’t going to see her for weeks.”

Harry laughed. “I hope not. Though I do hope she finds something. My wand is really annoying me now.”

“No idea what it could be?” asked Ron.

“Nope,” said Harry with a sigh.

“Do you think it could be anything to do with Malfoy’s wand?” Ron speculated. “I mean, it worked fine for you, which is kind of strange.”

“I suppose,” said Harry slowly. “Do you think... I don’t know, but maybe the reason he was examining his wand like that this morning was that it wasn’t working properly for him?”

“He could have been,” said Ron. “If you’re right, Harry, that’s bloody weird. Like you and Malfoy are kind of linked.”

“Very weird,” said Harry. Then he snorted. “Hah, speak of the devil,” he said, nodding behind Ron. He turned, and saw Malfoy striding out of the Great Hall, his chin held high.

Malfoy’s expression was curiously angry, as though he resented the world around him.

“Wonder what’s got him so riled up,” said Ron idly, turning back around.

Harry frowned slightly, they made a quick decision. “I don’t know,” he said to Ron. “But you know what, I think I’m going to go and find Hermione in the library. See if she needs any help.”

Ron raised his eyebrows. “Merlin, Harry, you must be mental to want to go near Hermione in research mode.”

“Yeah,” Harry replied with a shrug. “I just think since it’s my wand she’s researching I ought to help a bit. I’ll see you in Potions.”

He rushed out after Malfoy, leaving Ron looking puzzled at the Gryffindor table. He caught up with Malfoy as he was climbing the main staircase from the entrance hall.

Harry slowed down as he approached him, trying not to seem as though he was coming this way just to talk to him.

“Hello, Malfoy,” he said, coming up to walk beside him. “Going to the library?”

Malfoy glanced at him warily. “Yes, Potter. I trust that is acceptable to you?”

“Of course.” Harry gave a forced smile. “How’s your wand been, then?”

Malfoy stopped dead in the corridor. “What did you do to my wand, Potter?” he asked angrily.

“What? Nothing!” protested Harry. “Why would you think I’d done anything?”

“Oh, no reason,” said Malfoy. “Maybe just because it won’t work properly, you’re the only one who’s had it, and now you’re asking about it when I haven’t told anyone any of that?”

“You mean yours isn’t actually working either?” said Harry. “I wondered if it might not be. I saw you examining it earlier.”

“What do you mean, either? Is yours not working?”

“No, not properly. What exactly is yours doing?” asked Harry excitedly. This could actually tell him something about whatever had happened.

“Sometimes it won’t work at all, and then sometimes it will be ridiculously powerful. I can’t understand it,” Malfoy replied, his tone suggesting that the most curious thing of all was that it he was mystified. “What’s wrong with yours?”

“Exactly the same,” said Harry.

Malfoy frowned. “If yours has been like this, why haven’t you done anything until now? Or has it only just started being strange?”

“Er, not exactly,” said Harry reluctantly. “It wasn’t quite like this, but it hasn’t felt right for a while. I’ve, um, not really been using it much.”

Malfoy lifted one thin eyebrow. “You’ve just avoided doing magic because your wand felt strange?”

“Well, not really,” said Harry. “I was, ah, using yours a lot of the time.”

Malfoy’s nose wrinkled. “That must be why it’s so grubby. You should take more care of such valuable items.”

“Sorry,” said Harry brusquely. “Look, come to the library with me now, and we can find Hermione. She was going to do some research and see what she could find.”

Malfoy sighed. “Well, since I was going there anyway, I may as well come and see if she’s found anything useful.”

“Good,” said Harry. “But one thing. You have to treat her like an actual human being. Don’t call her a mudblood.”

Malfoy somehow managed to look vaguely offended that Harry would consider his doing such a thing. “Of course not.”

Harry looked at him with suspicion, then turned and lead the way on to the library.

Hermione was sat at a table near the aisle marked ‘Wandlore’. She looked up in surprise as Harry dropped heavily into the seat next to her, and then narrowed her eyes as she caught sight of Malfoy.

“Why’s he here?” She asked cautiously.

“His wand’s messed up too,” said Harry. Hermione’s look of suspicion was immediately replaced by a speculative glance that she turned on Malfoy.

“Really? What’s it doing?”

“Apparently, exactly the same thing as Potter’s,” drawled Malfoy, leaning against the chair opposite Hermione. “May I sit?”

“I’m surprised you bother to ask,” Harry bit out.

Malfoy raised a single eyebrow calmly, and sat down. “Have you found anything relevant, Granger?”

Hermione looked at him in puzzlement, but her desire to impart knowledge overcame her suspicions. “Not much,” she said. “Mostly things relating to changing allegiances of wands.”

“That would explain my wand’s problems, but not Potter’s. Unless someone took his wand. Which I rather doubt.”

Hermione glanced at Harry. “Have you told him about the — you know?” She asked.

Harry shook his head. “No. But I suppose we’d better.”

“Can he be trusted?”

Harry snorted. “Certainly not. But there isn’t much that he can do if he doesn’t know where it is.”

“All right, are you going to bother to tell me what this cryptic conversation is about?" Interrupted Malfoy.

Hermione sighed. “You have to promise not to tell anyone any of this.”

Malfoy’s eyebrow was up again. “Fine, then.”

“Swear, Malfoy,” said Harry.

He scowled. “Little as you may trust me, I do believe in honour. I will keep my word.”

Harry was about to continue the argument, but Hermione poked him sharply, and began to explain. “Have you ever heard of the Elder Wand?” She asked.

Malfoy sat up straighter in his chair. “Of course. But only in legends. It’s just an apocryphal story.”

“Well, not entirely,” said Hermione grimly.

Malfoy’s mouth fell open for a moment, before he hurriedly got his features back under control. “If you’re messing with me, Granger, I swear—”

“Shut up and calm down, Malfoy,” said Harry. “She’s telling the truth. Just listen.”

Malfoy sat back in his chair, and nodded calmly at Hermione. “Continue, then.”

“Well, Voldemort in his quest to be the most powerful wizard alive heard about it. And so he went in search of it, and in fact did manage to find it.The previous owner was dead, so he did not hesitate to take it from his tomb.”

“Stop being cryptic, Granger,” said Malfoy. “Who had it before Voldemort?”

“Dumbledore,” said Harry.

Malfoy nodded slowly. “Yes, he would be the type to have it. Try to be noble about its purpose.”

“Don’t talk about him like that,” snapped Harry.

Hermione poked him again, and he folded his arms mutinously, but let her continue. “Anyway, the mastery of the Elder Wand is generally achieved by killing the previous master. I’m sure you know the stories. So, in the Final Battle, when Voldemort realised that the wand was not working as well as it should, he killed Snape to gain its mastery.”

Malfoy scowled again. “So that’s why he died. Anyway, I don’t see how this is relevant.”

“Because Snape wasn’t actually the master of the wand. You disarmed Dumbledore before Snape killed him.”

Malfoy’s mouth dropped open fully now. “You mean I’m the master of the elder wand?”

“Well, not any more. Harry took your wand from you at your Manor, remember? So he became its master, and that’s why the wand refused to kill him at the very end.”

“All right,” Malfoy said slowly. “I suppose Potter doesn’t want to use it because it’s too tempting to others to carry it around. But that doesn’t explain why his other wand won’t work.”

“Harry’s wand broke before, got snapped, and he used the Elder Wand to fix it. So I think,” said Hermione excitedly, “That the magic of the Elder Wand interfered with his wand in some way.”

Malfoy’s face lit up. “And because I was technically its master, but I never possessed or used the Wand, the magic might be confused.’”

Hermione grinned at him. “Yes, and so through that, and all the complex magic of allegiance changes, and the fact that the Elder wand is probably tied not only to you and Harry, but also to Harry’s wand, means that—”

“It all ended up a little bit mixed up,” finished Malfoy.

Harry looked at them, shocked. He wasn’t surprised that Hermione had come up with so much, or even that Malfoy had got it so quickly too - he had always been fairly clever - but somehow they were working happily together. Hermione was pulling books out of the stack she had accumulated, and was leafing through them, pointing out sections to Malfoy, who in turn was nodding, and adding to her comments.

They both looked up and glanced at Harry when the bell rang. Harry got to his feet, impatient to get away from this madness, where the prejudiced bully could speak to his victim in such a nonchalant way, and she didn’t even care.

Hermione hurried to return most of the books to the shelves, leaving just a few in a pile to come back to later. When she returned to Harry and Malfoy, she said briskly, “Come on, we’ll be late for Potions,” and set off out of the library.

The three of them walked silently towards the dungeons for a while, then Malfoy cleared his throat slightly. “Ah, Granger, I realise I probably owe you an apology,” he said.

Hermione turned her most intense glare on him. “I’m glad you finally noticed.”

“Sorry,” he said. He seemed - to Harry’s shock - a little bashful, ashamed even. “I didn’t want to say anything when we were in the middle of research, but, um, I apologise for the horrible way that I treated you in the past.”

Hermione continued to glare at him, but the gaze softened. “The fact that you would even consider apologising shows a lot.”

“Thank you,” said Malfoy smoothly, regaining a little of his poise.

“You still have quite a way to go to prove you’ve changed. But I will give you the chance,” she added in a mockingly supercilious tone.

And Malfoy actually laughed. At a joke about himself, made by a Muggleborn.

Merlin, what was the world coming to?

--

“I don’t like it,” Ron said, pushing his sweaty hair out of his eyes.

He was glaring over at Malfoy, who was currently bent over, whispering into Hermione’s ear. Harry sent a well aimed jelly legs jinx at Terry Boot and glanced over. Hermione was nodding excitedly, explaining something to Malfoy, both hands and lips moving quickly as she talked.

Ron swore loudly and rubbed at his wrist; he’d completely missed the stinging hex Parvati had sent his way. “I know he’s planning something, but she won’t listen to me.”

“I don’t know,” Harry mused. He widened his stance as Boot finally managed to get himself up off the floor. “He seems to be genuinely interested in talking to her.”

“Not you, too,” Ron said crossly, narrowly avoiding the next jinx Parvati sent his way.

“I’m not saying I like it.”

And Harry didn’t, although he suspected it was for different reasons than Ron’s. Over the past few weeks, their usual threesome had somehow become a tentative quartet, with Malfoy invariably drifting over to them to talk more with Hermione. The first time it had happened, Ron had had an apoplectic fit, leaving everyone red in the face and Hermione as cross as Harry had ever seen her. After that, Ron grudgingly tolerated Malfoy’s presence, sending black looks over to the Slytherin and muttering under his breath, which Hermione studiously ignored.

It was strange, but Harry found himself thinking that the careful new friendship between Hermione and Malfoy somehow fit them. They both got inordinately excited over the prospect of research - something that Harry had somehow missed during all the years keeping a suspicious eye on Malfoy - and they could be often overheard finishing each other’s sentences, eager to get to the next discovery they’d made.

Not that they’d made all that many, at least in regards to the problem with the wands. But over time, wandlore research had turned into conversations about Potions (which Harry couldn’t keep up with and Ron had no interest in) and friendly debates over Arithmancy (which sounded to Harry like a completely different language). It had got to the point that the rest of the Gryffindors were no longer surprised to come across Hermione and Malfoy, their heads bent together over various textbooks.

Ron always refused to accompany them to the library, voicing loudly his revulsion over both extra studying and having to sit anywhere near Malfoy during his free time, before stomping off down to the Quidditch pitch with Ginny and the other players. Harry would look after him a little forlornly, but since he hadn’t yet bought himself a new broom, he figured he should probably try and help Hermione with her research. After all, she was trying to help solve his wand problem. He actually found it oddly soothing, to sit in the quiet of the library and let the gentle whispering of Hermione and Malfoy wash over him. Their excitement whenever they agreed on something made research look oddly appealing to Harry.

He also found it appealing whenever Malfoy would look up at him afterwards, grey eyes sparkling and a small smile playing on his lips. It made Harry want Malfoy to look at him more.

“You don’t think he’s you know, interested, right?” Ron asked, a sudden worried look in his eyes.

Harry’s stomach turned over unpleasantly. “I don’t know,” he said slowly. It was possible, he thought. Hermione really was very pretty.

“I’ll kill him,” Ron said darkly.

“I’m pretty sure Hermione can take care of herself.” Harry smiled slightly, imagining the fall out should Ron try to exert his authority as The Boyfriend.

“But what if she likes him back?”

Harry patted his friend consolingly. “She’s with you, mate. Worrying about it is only going to make her angry with you.”

“I suppose.” Ron slumped into a nearby chair, and Parvati threw her hands up in the air in defeat. “I just don’t get what she sees in him.”

Harry was thankful that the new defence teacher, Professor Hopkins, called time at that point; he didn’t think Ron would have appreciated Harry’s answer.

Defence lessons were different this year, a sort of cross between Remus’s lessons and Lockhart’s. Almost all of the students had been involved in the Battle of Hogwarts, and McGonagall had acknowledged that the lessons were mostly a formality before they took their exams. This meant that most of the time the students were allowed to organise themselves, and the lessons had turned into something closely resembling the old DA meetings, with the more able members helping out those who needed it. Almost every lesson, the first few to arrive would shove the tables and chairs to the sides of the room, and then everyone would partner up and practise the standard NEWT spells. It worked well, and Harry was quietly proud of the way his teaching had affected them all.

“Thank you everyone, that was a good lesson,” Hopkins called out over the melee, and people started to quiet down to listen. “Next week, we’re going to have to go over some theory, so please remember to bring your books and parchment. The bell’s about to sound, so if you could all rearrange the furniture for me, I would be very grateful.” She smiled widely around the room and swept out of the door, silver blonde hair sailing behind her.

Harry put his wand down on a nearby table and started picking up the emergency cushions by hand. It had been acting up all morning, and he decided it would be safer this way; otherwise he was likely to brain someone by accidentally throwing a chair across the room or something. The others pitched in to help, and for a while the room was filled with flying cushions and levitated bags. The bell rang loudly, and everybody began to file out, until just the four of them remained.

“Harry, if you and Ron get the blinds, Malfoy and I will do the tables,” Hermione said briskly.

Harry nodded and moved over to the windows, ignoring the dark looks Ron was giving off. He opened the protective blinds, letting in the sunlight through the still intact panes of glass, the rhythmic thumping of the table legs moving back into place behind him. When he was done, he went back to the table where he’d left his things, and frowned.

“Where’s my…”

He trailed off, eyes widening as he watched Malfoy setting the last of the tables easily into place, a dark strip of wood twirling lazily between his fingers.

“You’re using my wand.”

Malfoy startled, looking first at Harry and then down to his hand, holding up the wand and staring at it, confused. “I didn’t notice,” he murmured quietly.

“You didn’t notice it felt different when you picked it up?” Hermione asked curiously.

Malfoy shook his head. “It didn’t feel different at all.”

“But that doesn’t make sense,” Harry said, perplexed. Because it didn’t; all wands felt different when they were used by someone to whom they didn’t belong. It made the user feel wrong, queasy and uncomfortable. Only people who spent enough time together for their magic to rub off on one another were able to use each other’s wands without feeling a difference.

“It might.”

Harry turned to Hermione, who was staring out of the window, a distant look in her eyes.

“How?”

Hermione blinked and shook her head, an exasperated expression on her face. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to solve this for you. I think you need to talk to a wandmaker.”

“What? Why?”

“Because,” Malfoy replied, “If I can use your wand easily, without ever having been the owner, then obviously something is happening here that’s more than just our wands not knowing whom they belong to.”

“The Elder Wand has connected the two of you,” Hermione continued. “Not just your wands but your magic, somehow. I think that’s what’s making your wands act strangely.”

Malfoy handed Harry’s wand back to him, and Harry felt a tingle in his palm as Malfoy’s fingers brushed lightly over his skin. He swallowed; he didn’t think the tingling was just from the magic in his wand.

“A trip to Diagon Alley it is, then.”

--

“This is highly irregular, Harry,” said McGonagall sternly. “Students are not generally allowed out of the castle grounds except to visit Hogsmeade.”

“Unfortunately, Professor, there isn't a wandmaker in Hogsmeade,” replied Harry earnestly. “Which means we really need to go to Diagon Alley.”

McGonagall sighed. “Ollivander is undoubtedly the best. However, I do not think you have considered all the relevant factors. Are you sure he will help you?”

Harry was baffled. “He's always liked me. And I think this will interest him as well.”

“I was not referring to you, Mr Potter. You are forgetting that he spent several months locked in the cellar of Malfoy Manor.”

In the chair next to Harry, Malfoy stiffened. McGonagall, seeing this, softened her tone a little. “Mr Malfoy, I know that you did not have any control over the events of the last year, but it is still your family home, and you were still there. You should be prepared for the possibility that he will not wish to help you.”

Harry was slightly puzzled at how nice McGonagall was being to Malfoy about this. It was his Manor, and his family, and yet McGonagall spoke as though she did not believe Malfoy was at all culpable. Honestly, everyone seemed suddenly to be considering Malfoy as a different, good person. Harry may not have thought that Malfoy wanted to do what he had done in the War, but that didn't mean he was nice.

“Ollivander owes me a favour anyway,” Harry said. “I don't think he'll turn me down. Please, Professor. We really do need to sort this out.”

She sighed, and reluctantly nodded. “All right, I suppose you'd better go. Go on Saturday.” She looked more tired than Harry ever remembered seeing her before, as she waved one hand vaguely at them in a gesture he took to mean 'Now go'.

Harry left the office, Malfoy close on his heels as they descended the revolving staircase. They looked at each other awkwardly for a moment, and then Harry cleared his throat.

“Er, so I guess I’ll meet you at the entrance on Saturday?”

Malfoy nodded. “It’ll have to be after lunch, I’m afraid.”

“Why? Worried you might not get enough beauty sleep?” Harry asked, annoyed.

“No, I’ve been tutoring some of the younger Slytherins on the weekends. I don’t want them to have to miss a week.”

Harry frowned. He knew that most of the Eighth Years had been signed up to tutor some of the younger years, but he hadn’t seen Malfoy’s name on the list of volunteers. “How come you don’t do it on Tuesdays in the library with everyone else?”

“Do use your head, Potter.” Malfoy gave him a scathing look. “Nobody else wants to help anyone from my House, and nobody wants the former Death Eater that close to them.” He shrugged, smoothing down the front of his robes. “They need my help. See you on Saturday, Potter,” He said, then turned and walked off down the corridor.

Harry stood there and watched him, puzzled. He never would have pegged Malfoy as being someone willing to give up his weekends in order to help anybody else, no matter which House they came from. But then, he never would have guessed that Malfoy and Hermione would strike up such a strange friendship either. Harry bit his lip, wandering slowly in the direction of Gryffindor tower. Maybe everyone else was right, and Malfoy really had changed since the war. Or maybe Harry had just never known all that much about the boy, despite all the time he’d spent watching him at school.

--

Harry had never visited Diagon Alley in the middle of a usual weekend, and it surprised him at how few people there were around. There were no families all rushing about, getting their things for school, and in their place was just a few shoppers, some on quick errands to top up potions supplies, others with nothing better to do on a cold Saturday afternoon than browse the shops in a slow crawl. A few people walking down the street wearing ministry robes could be seen, nipping into Flourish and Blotts during a late lunch break. A few construction workers stood idly by Fortescue’s ice cream parlour, blowing steam off the styrofoam cups of tea as they contemplated their next move. Fortescue had never been found after the war, and it looked as though Diagon Alley was finally ready to move on to something new. Harry waved to Verity through the windows of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes as they passed, but didn’t make a move to drop in. He knew George wouldn’t be there; he still wasn’t quite ready to rejoin the world after the loss of Fred.

Harry was almost at the door of Ollivander’s Wand Shop when he realised that Malfoy was no longer walking next to him. He stopped and turned, breaths collecting in clouds of white in the frigid air. Malfoy was a few metres behind him, his face paler than usual. Harry could see his hands clenched into fists in the pockets of his cloak, and his bottom lip trembled slightly.

“What’s wrong?” Harry asked, looking up and down the street for a sign that something was about to happen to them. There was nothing.

“Nothing,” Malfoy said, shaking his head sharply. The way his voice sounded, cracked and hoarse, belied the sentiment. “I just—Are you sure Ollivander is who we really need to speak to?”

“Oh,” Harry said, as realisation dawned. Malfoy was worried about the same thing McGonagall had been. But they didn’t really have much of a choice, not if they wanted to sort out whatever was going on with their wands. “Unless you know of any other wandmakers close by?”

Malfoy flinched slightly and then shook his head. His hands shifted and clenched again in his cloak.

“Okay then.” Harry put one hand on the door and raised his eyebrows at Malfoy. “Just, leave the talking to me, yeah? It’ll be okay.”

The shop interior looked much as it always had. The spindly chair was still sitting in the corner, boxes piled haphazardly along the shelves, a thin coating of dust covering everything.

“Mr Potter.” Ollivander’s frail voice floated into the room a moment before the man himself appeared from behind a teetering stack of boxes. “This is a surprise.”

“Mr Ollivander,” Harry said, nodding his head. “It’s good to see you again.”

Ollivander’s eyes strayed over Harry’s shoulder, and he froze for a long moment. Then he seemed to gather himself. “And young Mr Malfoy as well. This is unexpected.”

“We’ve come to ask for your help, Sir,” Harry said quickly, hoping to diffuse some of the tension. “It’s about our wands.”

Malfoy cleared his throat awkwardly. “Mr Ollivander, I—” He stopped, wincing around a hard swallow, and then gestured vaguely at the door behind him. “I can wait outside, if you would prefer.”

“Nonsense,” Ollivander replied, although it was obvious that he was still uncomfortable. “I’m happy to offer my services in any way I can.” He flicked his eyes on to Harry and kept them there. “What seems to be the difficulty?”

Harry leaned against the counter and began to tell the story right from the beginning. Ollivander Conjured tea for the three of them as he spoke, and Harry almost felt as though he was back in Shell Cottage, realising for the first time what it was he had to do. Malfoy leaned back against one of the shelves closest to the door, and Ollivander’s pale eyes grew rounder with every passing minute.

“Well,” Ollivander said, as Harry finished recounting the issues with the wands, “I have heard of this before, of course, although never to two people such as yourselves.”

“Do you have any idea what might be causing it?” Harry asked.

Ollivander hummed. “Wands are very peculiar things, Mr Potter, as I’m sure you remember from our last conversation. Each one is unique, made especially for that one witch or wizard that will be able to use it to the best of their ability. They have an almost sentient quality to them; even though it’s the wizard’s magic that gives them power, it’s the wand that chooses the wizard, after all.”

Harry was confused, and not a little frustrated. He’d forgotten how creepy Ollivander could sound whenever he was talking about wandlore, and how often he talked around the subject rather than getting straight to the point. “I’m sorry, what does that mean, exactly?”

Ollivander sighed deeply, as though Harry was being deliberately dense. “It means, Mr Potter, that your holly and phoenix feather wand chose you for a reason. And it seems that your wand has now also chosen Mr Malfoy.”

“But, why? How?”

“You said you mended your wand by use of the Elder Wand, did you not?”

Harry nodded, stomach turning unpleasantly at the reverence in Ollivander’s eyes whenever the Elder Wand was mentioned.

“I can’t say for certain without examining it,” Ollivander continued, looking quite put out about the fact that Harry had not brought it with him. “But I would say the problems are arising out of the confusion as to whom the wands belong.

“Mr Malfoy was the Master of the Elder Wand, and yet he did not use it. You, Mr Potter, won its allegiance, but instead of using it, you continued to use Mr Malfoy’s wand even after the choice to go back to your original wand was presented. Quite simply, the use of the Elder Wand has confused both of your wands, to the point where they are not entirely certain as to whom they belong.”

“So, what can be done about it?” Harry asked, because they’d figured that much out for themselves. Well, Hermione and Malfoy had.

“Nothing,” Ollivander said. “The damage has already been done.”

“Nothing at all?” Malfoy asked, finally speaking up. “We’re just going to have to live with faulty wands for the rest of our lives?”

“The problem with your magic does not come from the fact that your wands are linked, Mr Malfoy,” Ollivander replied, once again looking annoyed that they weren’t understanding his meaning. “It’s that the two of you are so out of balance with each other.”

“What does that mean?”

Ollivander sighed. “Couples in long term relationships often find that their wands become interchangeable over time. This is because their magic becomes attuned with one another, each of them taking on aspects of the other, creating two halves of the same whole. Their wands recognise those aspects and react to them.” Ollivander looked at them both meaningfully. “Your wands have decided that they belong to you both.”

Harry gulped. “Are you saying that our wands think we’re an old married couple?”

“In essence, yes.”

“So, what, we have to pretend to be an old married couple to get them to work?” Malfoy scoffed.

“I doubt that merely pretending will suffice,” Ollivander sniffed. “But I also doubt that you will have to worry for long; only magically compatible wands connect with each other in this way. The inclusion of the Elder Wand has simply sped up the process in an unfortunate way.”

“Wait, hang on,” Harry held up his hand. “Only compatible wands do this?”

“Mr Malfoy was using his mother’s wands for a time, was he not?”

Malfoy nodded an affirmative.

“And how did you find it?”

Malfoy shrugged. “It was alright. Not perfect, but passable.”

“I imagine it worked passably for you simply because your magic is genetically similar enough to that of your mother’s in order for her wand to recognise you. As Mr Potter no doubt remembers, you can’t pick up any old wand and use it. It has to know who you are and accept you. Compatibility, Mr Malfoy, that is the key.”

“Right.” Harry scratched his fingers through his hair and blew out a breath. He’d been hoping that Ollivander would have a quick fix for them. “Well, thanks for talking to us, I guess. We’ll leave you to it, then.”

He gave the old man a smile and backed up towards the door, stopping when he realised that Malfoy hadn’t moved.

“Mr Ollivander, I—”

Ollivander gave a thin smile, and shook his head at Malfoy. “Not to worry, young man. I am not one that believes that the sins of the father should rest on the shoulders of the son. You can rest assured that I do not hold you accountable for the ways I suffered.”

“Still, I—I’m sorry.”

Harry looked at Malfoy in vague surprise. He’d heard him apologise to Hermione for the things he’d said in the past, but he’d never known how Malfoy felt about the things that had happened in his own home. Malfoy’s face was pale and his eyes were wide, but his chin was held up and he stood rigidly in place. He meant this apology.

“As am I, Mr Malfoy. As am I.”

Harry pulled the door open and waited for Malfoy to join him, and then with a last back to Ollivander, they both stepped out into the cold.

--

"What do you think we should do about all this, then?" Harry asked as they walked back down Diagon Alley. "Because this is ridiculous."

"Well, Ollivander made it sound like there wasn't much we could change. The wands think we should be compatible in some way, and presumably using each other's wands works because the magic sees it as our acknowledgement of that."

"Then maybe we should just swap wands," suggested Harry.

Malfoy shook his head. "No, I don't think that would work for long. Our magic is linked, and as far as I can tell we can't do anything about that. I think, from what I've read about wandlore, the wands will stop seeing the swap as our accepting the link. The wands will just start acting oddly again."

"So, what, we need to find a way to show that we have... acknowledged the link, or something?"

"More than that," Malfoy sighed. "I think we need there to be the connection the magic wants."

Harry frowned. "What's that meant to mean?"

"Think about it, Potter.

Harry opened his mouth, readying himself to say that he was thinking, thanks very much, it’s just that the words didn’t make sense, but then he noticed the quiet of the street around them. He stopped, looking around, and realised with a vague sense of dawning horror that time had gone by much more quickly than he’d realised. The shops around them were all closed, shutters pulled down, tables and chairs taken inside the cafes. The workmen had packed up all of their stuff from outside Fortescue’s, and Harry could see that down the road, the huge wooden doors of Gringott’s were firmly shut.

“What time is it?” He asked instead, looking up at the rapidly darkening sky.

Malfoy looked at his watch. “Shit. It’s nearly six.”

Harry closed his eyes. Even if they Apparated back to Hogsmeade right now, by the time they’d managed the long walk up to the castle, the school gates would be firmly closed.

“What do we do?”

Harry bit his lip, thinking. “We’ll go to the Leaky, see if we can firecall McGonagall from there. If we can catch her, we can just floo straight to her office.”

Together they turned back the way they had just come, and began a hurried walk towards the pub. It was getting colder and colder by the minute; Harry could barely feel his fingers. The bar was fairly empty when they finally got inside, both of them sighing in relief at the feeling of warmth washing over them. There was an old couple at a table in the corner, ignoring each other as they sat sipping at their drinks. A group of women were tiredly picking up their bags of purchases, arguing quietly over whose turn it was to leave a tip for the barman. And old Tom himself was standing behind the bar, wiping down glasses and putting them up on their shelves.

“Alright there, Mr Potter?”

“Hey Tom,” Harry replied, walking over to the bar. “You mind if we use your floo?”

Tom’s eyes flickered over his shoulder, narrowing as they landed on Malfoy behind him. “We don’t want no troublemakers in here.”

Harry shot a quick look at Malfoy, to see how he was reacting. Malfoy’s face was carefully blank, eyes pointing at the floor. Harry turned back to Tom. “Neither of us are here to cause trouble, we just want to make a quick call.”

Tom pursed his lips, then nodded slowly. “Floo powder’s in the pot on the mantelshelf, help yourself.”

“Thanks, Tom.”

Harry walked over to the fireplace, deciding not to call attention to the fact that Malfoy stayed right on his heels. He hadn’t really thought about it before, the reception that Malfoy got from the world outside of Hogwarts. But now that he was, Harry could remember more than a few times when he’d seen some of the other students picking on the Slytherin. Harry hadn’t paid much attention at the time, had chalked it up as the usual rivalry between Slytherins and the other houses. There was also the slightly mean side of him that thought Malfoy deserved it, after all the bullying things he had done to others. But after seeing McGonagall so wary to let Malfoy out of the castle, and Ollivander’s reaction to seeing Malfoy, and now Tom, Harry wondered how he hadn’t seen it before.

Malfoy had changed since the war, even though evidence of it still occasionally surprised Harry; it was the only way he would be able to spend a Saturday afternoon with him without wanting to hex his face off. But so many others still thought of Malfoy as the son of Death Eaters; as a Death Eater himself. Harry wondered what Malfoy really thought about it all, under the calm blank mask he wore almost daily.

He grabbed the pot of floo powder and knelt down in front of the fireplace. He threw a handful into the flames, crossing his fingers that they turned green. He groaned when they turned firmly red instead; McGonagall’s floo was locked.

“Bugger.”

“What do we do now?” Malfoy asked behind him.

“Not much we can do, except get a room for the night.”

Harry could feel Malfoy fidgeting, and he raised his head to look at him. “What’s the problem?”

Malfoy worked his jaw for a moment, looking over towards the bar. “I don’t think Tom’s going to be all that receptive to me staying here. Besides,” he added, wincing a little. “I can’t afford it; my vault has been frozen.”

Harry felt a strange feeling in his stomach, and it took him a moment to work out that it was pity. It couldn’t have been easy for Malfoy to admit to something like that. “I’ll deal with Tom,” he said, getting back up to his feet. “And I’ll sort out the bill, too.” Malfoy looked at him strangely. Harry rolled his eyes. “You can owe me, if that makes you feel any better.”

“Walking back to the bar, he caught Tom’s attention. “It seems we’ve been locked out for the night,” he said with a light smile. “Any chance of a room being available?”

--

Tom looked at Harry warily, then his gaze flicked to Malfoy standing behind him, and his eyes narrowed. “There's one room left for you, Mr Potter. But I'm afraid that we're all full up for the other... ah, gentleman.”

Harry resisted the temptation to get angry and start ranting to Tom about what the right thing to do would be. Instead, he calmly took out his money pouch. “Then it looks like we'll just have to share.”

Tom looked baffled for a moment. “Really? You'll share with him?”

“Certainly,” replied Harry.

Tom's face drew itself back into a scowl. “There's only one bed. Very small.”

“Then one of us will have to sleep on the floor. Oh, and we’ll be wanting dinner for two sent up, the Shepherd’s Pie and some pumpkin juice, please. Now, how much will that be?”

Tom reluctantly collected the money from Harry, and pointed them towards the staircase at the back. Harry gave his most gracious smile and set off upstairs, with Malfoy following.

“I'm impressed, Potter,” he said snidely, once they were out of hearing range from the main bar. “That was oddly cunning for a Gryffindor.”

Harry glanced at him. “Was that an odd kind of a compliment, Malfoy?” He mocked. “Anyway, the Sorting Hat nearly put me in Slytherin.”

Malfoy's elegant eyebrows shot up. “Then why has it taken you over seven years to show any kind of aptitude for subtlety?”

“Ah, I knew the compliment had to be a fluke. Back to the insults, now,” Harry said airily, grinning at him. Malfoy's expression was strangely contorted. Harry almost thought he was suppressing a smile.

“I believe this is our room,” Malfoy said abruptly, as they approached a door marked with a large '16'.

Tom hadn’t been lying; the bed was very small. It wasn’t quite a single, but Harry doubted that the two of them could both sleep there without any awkwardness. The room was clean though, and warm, a fire already blazing merrily in the grate. Harry looked towards the bathroom hopefully; still feeling the cold from earlier, he was almost desperate to stand under a boiling hot shower. He looked at Malfoy, and his heart sunk a little. His lips were still slightly blue from the cold, the end of his nose a bright pink. He sighed to himself.

“You can have the first shower. I’ll see about getting some more blankets from the house elves.”

Malfoy looked at him almost gratefully and fairly ran into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him quickly. Harry shrugged off his cloak and dropped it on the bed, reaching for the bell that would summon an elf to their room. He rang it twice and then set it back down, pulling the lone chair closer to the fire while he waited.

“Potter?”

Harry looked up, and had to bite back a gasp. Malfoy was peeking around the edge of the bathroom door, a pile of fabric in his one visible hand. His blond hair was ruffled, and he wore nothing except a white towel wrapped carelessly around his waist. Harry had seen many boys more than half naked during his time sharing a dorm room, but he had never seen anyone who looked like that.

Saliva flooded his mouth and he looked down at the floor, shocked at himself.

“When the service elf arrives, could you have them clean our clothes, too?”

“What will you wear to sleep?” Harry was cringingly aware of how high his voice had just gone.

Malfoy shrugged. The towel at his waist shifted precariously. “I’ve kept my undershirt and boxers, I can clean them well enough myself.”

“O—Okay,” Harry managed to get out, and he got a faceful of Malfoy’s clothes as they were thrown at him. The door slammed shut again, and the next moment Harry could hear the water starting up.

Harry blinked at the closed door. Well, that had been unexpected. Not that he would find the sight of a near naked boy arresting; he’d figured that much out about himself a while ago. He’d just never thought that Malfoy would be someone to get such a reaction out of him.

Harry sighed. The night was looking to be even more complicated than he’d thought.

--

Harry woke up to weak sunlight peeking through the curtains and a very heavy blanket pressed up snugly along the length of his side. He shifted slightly, trying to get more comfortable, and the blanket half on top of him moved. Harry froze, coming awake as suddenly as if someone had blown a fog horn in his ear, because it wasn’t a blanket he was basically cuddling with, it was Malfoy.

After each of them had showered the night before, they’d both tucked in to the steaming hot dinner the elves had brought for them. Outside the window the rest of London was cold and dark, and going to sleep and leaving talking about what they were going to do to the morning had seemed like the best plan. They’d struggled awkwardly for a while over who would sleep in the bed. Malfoy had refused to let Harry kip on the floor with a load of blankets - something to do with Harry having been the one paying for the room and, “the one thing Malfoys have is proper manners, Potter.” - but had made enough fuss about the floor being too hard for his back, that eventually Harry had told him to shut up and join him on the bed.

More awkward arranging had ensued, before they’d both managed to turn away from each other, backs pressed lightly against each other. It probably should have felt even more awkward than it had, but Harry was used to sleeping close to someone else from all the cramped rooms in the Burrow, and besides he’d been tired and cold and too busy thinking about the problems with his wand to really work himself up over the fact that he was sharing a bed with Malfoy.

They must have both rolled over at some point during the night, because now Harry was laying on his back. Malfoy had turned to face him, and now his head was tucked just under Harry’s chin, blond hair catching in the stubble of his neck. Harry’s arm had somehow wound up underneath Malfoy, hand curled lightly over his shoulder. Malfoy’s arm was slung carelessly over Harry’s chest, fingers gripping loosely into his t shirt by his ribs. One of his legs had slid over Harry’s, foot nestled comfortably between his calves, knee resting on Harry’s thigh. Resting very close to where Harry’s early morning erection was now straining against his boxer shorts, oh, fuck.

Harry tried to breathe evenly, thoughts rushing through his head. It was okay, it was normal, all boys get morning wood. It was natural that Harry would be wishing for a little friction, that he’d be hoping for that knee to slide upwards just one more inch and put some pressure right where it was needed. It was a normal bodily response to waking up entangled with another warm body, that was all, and the fact that it was Malfoy’s body was just a coincidence. All Harry had to do was carefully slide out from under him and make his way into the bathroom, where he’d be able to take care of this.

He tensed his body, readying himself to pull smoothly away, but then Malfoy moved. Only a little, just a small shifting in his sleep, but the feel of breath on his neck and a thumb rubbing over his nipple had Harry groaning before he could even think to silence it. Malfoy stilled, and Harry could almost feel him waking up, cataloguing their position. Then the thumb on his chest moved again, rolling deliberately over his nipple, and Harry whimpered through clenched teeth. He wondered if he was about to get punched.

The knee resting on his thigh moved away a fraction of an inch, and Harry braced himself, but then it shifted higher, pressing lightly against his balls. Harry couldn’t help it, his hips thrusting up into the pressure against his will, and he almost gasped aloud when Malfoy’s leg moved even closer and he felt an answering hardness pushing into his hip.

The tension snapped, and they moved together, each reaching for the other to them themselves closer. Harry’s hand landed on Malfoy’s bare thigh, fingers sliding up under the leg of his boxers, digging into skin and pulling him closer. Malfoy’s arm clenched tighter around Harry’s chest, forcing Harry to turn into him. Their legs shuffled around until their hips aligned, and Harry muffled his moan into Malfoy’s neck when their clothed erections bumped against one another. Malfoy’s hand slipped down to Harry’s waist at the same time as Harry tightened his grip on Malfoy’s upper thigh, and they rocked into each other. Low moans and grunts sounded out into the otherwise quiet of the room as they worked together to get themselves off, breaths turning into sharp pants as they neared completion.

Harry came first, spilling hot and sticky into his boxers, and through the haze of his orgasm he heard Malfoy moan at the feeling, his hips jerking hard into Harry’s. Another half dozen uncoordinated thrusts and then Malfoy was breathing a choked sound into Harry’s collarbone, and Harry felt the wet heat of his release as it soaked into the hem of his t shirt.

They both stilled, Harry’s face still tucked into the crook of Malfoy’s neck, feeling Malfoy’s breath hot against him. Then Malfoy moved quickly, shoving himself roughly away and off of the bed. Harry hardly had time to blink before the bathroom door was slamming shut, and he fell onto his back with a huge sigh. He stared up at the mottled ceiling and waited for his heartbeat to slow back down to normal. The mess in his shorts was cooling rapidly, and he grimaced. He reached out to the bedside table and grabbed his glasses and his wand, cleaning himself up with a quick spell and a wince. The bathroom door opened and Harry sat up warily.

“We should get back to school,” Malfoy said, pointedly not looking at Harry. “McGonagall will be wondering where we are.”

So, Malfoy had decided to ignore the elephant in the room. Harry nodded to himself; he could absolutely do that too.

“Right,” he said, and got off the bed to get dressed.

--

Harry sat in the common room, twirling his wand idly between his fingers. The room was deserted, the fire burning low in the grate, but Harry couldn’t sleep. He was too busy having a revelation.

His wand was working perfectly, and had been for a week now.

It had taken a while, months in fact. After that awkward morning in their room at The Leaky, Harry and Malfoy had come back to Hogwarts and proceeded to cheerfully ignore each other for an entire fortnight. Hermione had watched them both worriedly, asking tentatively if they’d had some sort of fight. Even Ron had asked what was going on, finding it strange that Malfoy had stopped following them everywhere as he had been until that point. Harry hadn’t told them what had happened. It wasn’t because he was worried about what they might think, because they already knew - spending so much time cooped up in that small, smelly tent had led to quite a few revelatory conversations. No, Harry hadn’t said anything because he wasn’t sure that it was a thing he had anything to say about It was one, short, fumble early in the morning, and Harry wasn’t even sure he’d know how to explain it. They hadn’t even so much as kissed, how big of a thing could it be?

It hadn’t taken long for Hermione to lose her temper with him, though, after the fourth time he’d tried to Evanesco the water from their goblet and ended up vanishing the entire desk, including all of her Transfiguration notes. She’d waited until the rest of the class had filed out of the room and then turned on him, cheeks red with frustration and a scowl on her face. She’d told Harry in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t heed the advice Ollivander had given him and get himself in balance with Malfoy soon, she wouldn’t let him see her revision notes when it came time for their exams. Harry had taken her threat seriously; there was no way he’d manage to pass well enough to get into the Auror program without her help, and they both knew it.

Harry had tracked Malfoy down outside the Great Hall, asking for them to meet up in the Defence classroom after dinner, to talk. Malfoy’s cheeks had turned a delicate pink, but he’d nodded once, and then walked away as quickly as he could without it looking like he was running. Harry hadn’t laughed; he’d been too busy copying him in the other direction.

Their meeting had been uncomfortable for all of about five minutes, until suddenly it wasn’t.

“So, we should talk, I guess,” Harry had mumbled, waving his wand airily in explanation. “Get to know each other a bit better.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” Malfoy had agreed, and then they’d both stood in the middle of the room looking anywhere but at each other.

It was awkward, because Harry couldn’t look at Malfoy without remembering the feel of his pale skin beneath his fingertips, couldn’t be in the same room without remembering the sound of Malfoy’s harsh pants against his chest, the hardness of his cock pressing insistently against his own. He got half hard again just thinking about it.

And then their eyes had caught and the tension snapped like a rubber band, slamming them together with the force of it. Harry had backed Malfoy up against the wall, one hand fisted in the collar of his shirt, the other already pulling at the waistband of Malfoy’s trousers. It took them no time at all to get their hands down each other’s pants, knuckles bumping as they fumbled with buttons and zips. Harry had gasped aloud as Malfoy’s fingers closed around him, feeling breath on his lips as his own hand found Malfoy. They were so close, pressed against each other from the tips of their toes to their chests, mouths so close they were sharing the same breath as they worked. Malfoy came first this time, forehead landing on Harry’s shoulder with a long groan. His fingers tightened convulsively around Harry, and he bit his lip hard enough to draw blood as he spilled his release.

And then it became awkward again, as they separated far enough away from each other to clean themselves up, once again avoiding eye contact. Harry’s tergeo came out far too strong and he yelped. Malfoy had to repeat his cleaning spell twice. Apparently, two mutual orgasms hadn’t made much of a difference to their predicament.

“Same time again tomorrow?” Malfoy has asked, a blush staining his cheeks and still not looking at Harry.

“Sure,” Harry had squeaked, ready to agree to anything if it meant getting him out of that room faster.

Nothing had changed the next day or the next. Each time they met up, they would stand awkwardly in the classroom not talking, until one of them would break and drag the other closer, all fumbling fingers and harsh pants. It kept on happening, the same thing every time. Until one day, it was different.

Harry had been late arriving, having been stopped by Hermione and quizzed about their progress. He’d barely got through the door before Malfoy was on him, shoving him back against the wall and making quick work of opening his trousers. And then he was down on his knees in front of him, and Harry’s cock was enveloped in shocking wet heat, and he’d come so hard he actually saw stars. Afterwards, once he had returned the favour, he’d slumped down onto the floor next to Malfoy, the knowledge that, on his very first attempt at a blowjob he’d made Malfoy come so hard that his legs had given out, singing in his veins.

“I’ve never done that before,” he’d said, forgetting that talking still wasn’t a thing they did.

“Me neither,” Malfoy replied, laughing a little and pulling himself up to sit against the wall. “What did you think?”

“It was brilliant,” Harry said, and they’d both laughed, heads resting against each other as they caught their breath. Malfoy's laugh was an odd thing to hear. He'd gone through seven years of knowing him and never really heard it without some kind of sneer. Laughing together felt so refreshing, and to Harry it always seemed that in those moments he could see the carefree people they might have been, underneath the hardened shells they were forced into.

After that, blowjobs had been added to their daily repertoire, along with handjobs and the occasional frottage that left them hot and sticky, pants and trousers around their ankles. And with those things came the occasional chat in the afterglow, still breathless and sated, words coming easier than they ever had before.

Harry learned that Malfoy wanted to be an Auror too, although he was doubtful that the program would let him in. And it wasn't just that he liked the idea, but it also seemed like his best chance to regain some respect in the Wizarding world. He learned that Malfoy had once had a huge crush on Blaise Zabini, until he’d found out how unrelentingly straight he was. He liked the colour green, not because of his House colours, but because it reminded him of the gardens at the Manor that he played in as a child. He loved chocolate but hated chocolate flavoured things. He was a bit of a neat freak about his clothes, but his room was always a mess.

In turn, Harry had told Malfoy about his cupboard at the Dursleys, how he wanted to be an Auror, wasn’t sure if it was really for him, but couldn’t think of anything else that he wanted to do as much. He liked the colour red, not because of Gryffindor but because it had always seemed so vibrant to him, full of life. He liked Treacle Tart, wasn’t all that fond of chocolate, and would probably be late for everything if Hermione didn’t nag him about setting his alarm clock.

Just little things, nothing important enough to change the balance in their relationship, as they should have been talking about, but it was something. It was a start. Harry still hadn’t told either Ron or Hermione, because he didn’t think there was anything to tell. They hadn’t yet sorted out the problem with their wands, and they still hadn’t had a proper conversation, and whatever they were doing instead wasn’t a big enough thing to tell his friends about. People told their friends when they were in new relationships, when they were serious about something, they didn’t tell them about the things they got up to with someone else purely to avoid talking to them, did they? But then last week had happened, and Harry didn’t understand what it meant.

It had started out the same as always. After mutually deciding to forego the awkward standing around part after the first couple of weeks, they’d set up a kind of routine between them. Whoever had managed to arrive in the classroom first would be the one to take the lead, would push the other against the closest available surface and decide what they would be doing that evening. Harry secretly preferred it when Malfoy turned up first; he loved the feel of Malfoy’s lips around him, the skillful way his tongue would slide against the underside of his cock. Malfoy liked giving head, had said as much after the second time he’d sucked Harry’s brains out through his dick. Harry liked it too, but he was always just a bit hesitant about going first. Their conversations afterwards always went on a bit longer those times, too, as they both took their time coming down from the high of truly excellent orgasms.

Harry had been first through the door that evening, and as soon as Malfoy had walked in, Harry had pushed him against the desk, legs tangling together as their hips aligned. A quick fumble at their waistbands and then their bare cocks were sliding together, Harry pressing forward to feel the warmth of Malfoy’s skin against his own, hand coming up to lift their shirts out of the way, needing more skin on skin contact. They were always so close like this, bodies moulded together from the chest down, noses brushing against cheekbones, breaths ghosting over each other’s lips as they both worked towards completion.

Harry didn’t know why he’d done it, because he hadn’t been thinking. All he knew was that he’d needed to be closer, needed to feel more of Malfoy as he rode the knife edge of being so close and yet not quite enough. The feel of Malfoy’s lips against his had sparks exploding behind his eyelids, and the way Malfoy had moaned and his hand had cupped the back of Harry’s neck to pull him in deeper had Hary coming harder than he had in his life.

The kiss had carried on even after they were both finished, deep, probing sweeps of their tongues turning into soft nips of teeth and carefully placed lips. They’d cleaned themselves up still connected, laughing breathlessly into each other’s mouths as they righted their clothing, and then, with a last, soft press of lips, Malfoy had murmured, “See you tomorrow, Harry,” and slipped out of the room.

After that, things had been different between them. They stopped ignoring each other in the halls and in classes. More than once, Harry had found himself looking, as usual, towards the Slytherin table as he sat down for meals, and smiling when he caught Draco’s eye. They’d even started talking before having sex, settling down on one of the tables and chatting about their day, laughing about the prank some Third years had pulled on Filch, leaving him washing out pickled newts’ eyes from Mrs Norris’s fur. Their fingers would tangle together between them as they talked, until eventually they ran out of things to say, and then one of them would start the night off with a kiss.

Except tonight. Tonight, they hadn’t run out of things to say, and it was only once they’d separated with a last, lingering kiss at the door and Harry locked it behind them, that he realised his wand was working perfectly, that it had been working perfectly for a while. Ever since their first kiss, in fact.

And it didn’t make sense, because they hadn’t got to know one another any better, unless the newfound knowledge that Draco didn’t like pumpkin juice had been the answer. All that had happened was that they’d added kissing to the mix of things they did together, and it hadn’t felt any different, any more special, in any way other than that it was kissing, some very nice, toe-curlingly good, kissing. In fact, kissing was all that had even happened tonight.

Harry sighed, looking at his wand as it twirled between his fingers.

--

He barely noticed when Hermione came to sit in the armchair next to him. In the brief glance he took, her face seemed to be filled with a mixture of concern and exasperation. Frankly, it was far too common a look for her, and one that was most often directed at him or Ron. Not wanting to have the conversation he knew was coming, he turned back to the fire, staring into the dying flames.

“What is it this time, Harry?” Hermione asked. “You’re moping. Again.”

He scowled at her half heartedly. “I’m not moping. Anyway, where’s Ron?”

“With Dean and Seamus. Their conversation was boring, so I just left. Now then, tell me what happened.”

“Who says anything happened?”

She just raised her eyebrows. “You come back, when I know you’ve been meeting with Draco, and now you’re sulking. Correlation may not imply causation, but in this case I rather think it does,” she added with a wry smile.

“Nothing happened,” Harry replied. “That’s what’s odd. And, just… Malfoy.”

“Surely you’ve got to the point of calling him Draco by now. You’ve been meeting him, to try to get to know him more, for quite a while now.”

“Well,” Harry began. “I suppose I do normally. And that’s kind of what’s weird, what with everything else.” He unconsciously rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “Explain.”

“We, well, we’ve been sort of, you know, messing around a bit.”

And of all the things to say next, Hermione just sighed. “You poor oblivious little thing.”

Harry’s head finally lifted. “What?”

“Never mind. Just carry on. What happened today?”

Harry took a deep breath. “It’s not just today, though that was what put me off. At first it was just physical, you know? And then we started actually talking to each other afterwards. But last week, we ended up kissing.”

“You mean you never had before?”

“No. We’d done other stuff, of course, but never kissed. And at the time it didn’t even feel odd. It’s only looking back that it seems like… like, I don’t know, it almost meant something. And I’ve just realised that my wand’s actually been working again, ever since that day.”

“Wait, your wand’s been working? You tell me all this, and neglect to mention the most important part?” Hermione seemed very excited. “This is great, Harry!”

“Yes, having a working wand is really good, but that’s not the point.” Harry sighed. “The question is, why did it start working after we kissed?”

Hermione has returned to her exasperated expression. “Come on, isn’t it obvious? All the magic wanted, all along, has been an acknowledgement of your connection. That kiss seems to have satisfied it.”

“But why didn’t it respond before, then?”

“That kiss was far more than just a kiss, Harry,” Hermione said.

“But why?” Harry cried in frustration. “Honestly, you’re talking like Dumbledore. And it didn’t even feel like anything at the time.”

“Maybe that’s part of it, then. If it had felt odd, or out of place, that would show that you haven’t actually connected at all through this. If it felt usual, well,” Hermione smiled, “It’s like you’re behaving like the old married couple the wands want you to be.”

Harry leaned back in his chair. “That’s sort of worrying in itself, Hermione. This thing, whatever it is we’ve been doing, was never meant to be emotional.”

“That doesn’t mean that it isn’t. Anyway, you still haven’t told me exactly what happened tonight.”

“Nothing!” Harry cried, sitting up sharply. “That’s the problem. We didn’t do anything. We just sat, and talked, and kissed a bit. It’s not meant to be like that. It was always meant to be just a physical thing. Not words, or emotions.”

Hermione groaned. “Harry, it obviously is.”

He turned back to her, glaring for a moment. Then he sighed heavily and leaned back again. “I suppose I know that. I just… I don’t really want to know it.”

“Why not? What’s the problem? This is good, Harry. It means you can sort out your magic, and you can have the life you want.”

“I never thought that it would ever be someone like Draco. He was a Death Eater, for god’s sake. He was horrible to me for years.”

Hermione smiled wearily. “It feels strange now, hearing somebody swear by god. But don’t you see, the whole point is that he’s changed. I think what’s been stopping your acknowledging the connection between you all this time is just that you couldn’t see it. Until you were forced to almost admit that you loved him anyway.”

“Wait, who said anything about love?" Harry protested. "I only said that I liked him.”

“Oh, god. You are so oblivious sometimes. Work it out yourself. It really ought to be obvious. You were obsessed with him for years, even before he was a good person.”

“That was because I hated him.”

“Was it really, though? Or was it just because he fascinated you?”

“I—” Harry stopped. Had all this really been coming since that long ago?

Hermione had her fondly exasperated look back as she stood up. “Just think. Then you should probably talk to Draco. I’m going to bed.” And she briskly set off towards her room.

Harry sat back in his chair. Love. Was that really what was going on with Draco? Could he really have been so oblivious that he hadn’t even realised those feelings creeping up on him? Harry had always thought that love was about fireworks and falling head over heels, not this slow build up and quiet slip into feelings. It had all happened so easily, so naturally, that Harry hadn’t stopped to wonder what he felt about it all. But then, maybe Hermione had been right, and the explosions had happened long ago. Maybe what Harry had felt for Draco hadn’t been hate at all.

Harry had no idea what to do now. Even worse, he had no clue what Draco wanted to do. He sighed and put his head in his hands. Great, now they were back to having to talk again. Because that had gone so well the first time.

--

When Harry entered the Defence classroom, Draco was already waiting for him, leaning back against the desk with a small smile on his face. Now that he was thinking about it, it was strange how not strange it felt to walk up to the Slytherin and plant a quick kiss hello on his lips, to let his hand slide down and tangle their fingers together. Harry rolled his eyes at himself; he really had been oblivious.

“I have a confession to make,” Draco said, lifting a hand to Harry’s hair, pulling on it gently.

Harry’s stomach tightened; was he about to be dumped, just hours after realising they’d become a couple?

“Can I see your wand for a moment?” Draco held his hand out, waiting.

“Sure,” Harry replied. He stepped back a little and dug it out, handing it over reluctantly. It felt like their first interaction outside the Gryffindor common room all over again. A symbolic bookending of their relationship.

Draco held his own hawthorn wand out and cast a simple engorgio at the closest chair. A second later, the chair wriggled and grew to a size that would comfortably fit Hagrid. There were no sparks or bangs, the chair didn’t grow immensely; the spell worked just as it should have.

“It works,” Harry sad quietly.

Draco nodded. “It has for a while. I just didn’t want to tell you.”

“Why not?” Harry was confused; surely this is what Draco wanted; his wand finally working again so that he could get rid of Harry.

“Because I was enjoying myself,” Draco said simply. “If I told you, you’d think that would mean we should stop.” He looked down at the floor, his cheeks turning pink. “I know that this has been just sex for you, but then when you kissed me—”

“Wait, what?” Harry interrupted. Did Draco mean what Harry thought he meant? “It wasn’t just sex for me. I mean, I thought it was, at first. But I guess I’m just not the sort of person who can do that.”

“I can,” Draco said, and Harry’s heart sank again. “But not with you.” Draco pointed Harry’s holly wand at the chair, whispered “Reducto,” and the chair calmly returned to its usual size. He nodded. “Yep, we’re definitely in balance now.”

Harry reached out, and gently plucked both wands from Draco’s fist, quietly amazed at how different that action felt now.

“So, not just sex then?”

Draco shook his head, a slight smile playing on his lips. “No.”

“And, you don’t want to stop?”

“No. Do you?”

Harry looked down at the wands that had given them so much trouble and smiled.

“Never.”

FIN.