Of all the things Harry thought he’d see today, Draco Malfoy with his hand up a Thestral’s arse was not one of them.
All the same, the situation couldn’t be denied. Harry was standing right here at the edge of a field and in front of him was Draco Malfoy.
With his hand up a Thestral’s arse.
“What are you doing?” he blurted out before he could think about the wisdom of drawing attention to his presence.
Draco glanced up, and a flicker of surprise passed over his features before he schooled them back to neutrality. He did not look pants-wetttingly embarrassed, which is how Harry was sure he would look if their positions were reversed and he’d been the one caught with his hand up a Thestral’s arse.
“I’ve got my hand up this Thesral’s arse,” said Draco slowly and carefully, as if the fact that he was almost shoulder deep inside the thing might be a detail Harry had somehow overlooked.
Harry blinked. He had thought that coming to investigate the breeding zoo for magical animals that was located on the edge of the village where his new house was situated would be an interesting and relaxing way to spend the day. That was when he’d thought it would contain 100% less Draco Malfoy than it actually did.
At least the visit was proving interesting.
“Why?” he said, after he’d spent long enough gawping that Draco had turned away and started rummaging around inside the Thestral again in what Harry considered to be a rather disturbing way.
“To find out if it’s pregnant.”
“Oh.” Harry gave this some thought and then said, "If you're trying to find out if it's pregnant shouldn't you be sticking your hand um... somewhere else?"
Draco gave a long suffering sigh and a look that suggested Harry was lucky he was deigning to answer such mundane questions.
"Do you honestly think, Potter, that I've gone to the trouble of sticking my hand in here without first checking it's the right place?" He wriggled his hand a little and scrunched his nose up in a expression of displeasure. "The easiest way to feel the uterus is through the rectal wall, hence the hand up the arse. Actually there are several ways to tell if a Thestral’s pregnant, but none of them are more effective than sticking your hand in and finding out.”
“Oh.” Harry supposed that was the best explanation he was going to get and tried to think of something relevant to say. “Is it?”
“Pregnant?” Draco frowned, adjusted his angle and rummaged some more. “Hard to tell. Maybe.”
He pulled his hand out and started washing it in a nearby bucket of water as the Thestral trotted away. Harry wondered distractedly why he wasn’t just using his wand to vanish away the horrible mess, but in the end decided it was probably for exactly the same reason that most witches and wizards still took showers. It was hard to feel fully clean when there was no water involved.
Draco did however take out his wand and vanish the dirty water afterwards, taking a moment to refill the bucket with fresh before he clicked his tongue and a new Thestral came trotting over.
“What was the point of washing if you’re just going to ah… to…” He floundered.
“Stick my hand back up a Thestral’s arse?” Draco supplied, as he did exactly that.
“Yeah.” Harry wasn’t sure why he was the one who had turned an unpleasant crimson colour. Draco was the one with his had in the less than savoury place.
“Cross contamination, Potter. Surely even you can work that one out.” There was less malice in his voice than there might have been and a moment later his face lit up with a smile that made Harry’s heart jump into his throat.
“She’s pregnant,” he said softly, flexing his arm slightly to feel a new angle. “About three months I’d say.”
“Oh.” Harry felt something else might be expected of him. “Great.” He knew he didn’t exactly sound enthusiastic, but then he wasn’t really enthusiastic about a baby Thestral. They weren’t exactly cute. In fact, he’d only wandered over to their field out of the sort of curiosity he suspected compelled certain people to go and watch horror films that they knew would scare the pants off them. Really, he didn’t want to see Thestrals at all. He was only still here because… well because the sight of Draco with his hand up at Thestral’s arse was not the sort of sight you could just walk away from.
“So why are you doing this?”
Draco grunted as he probed inside the Thestral a little deeper.
“It's the sort of job you give to the least experienced member of the team,” he said, shrugging one shoulder, “No one really wants to stick their hand up an arse do they?”
Harry supposed he was right.
“Does it hurt?” he asked
“Who? Me or the Thestral?”
Draco smirked in a way Harry felt was highly unfair, considering the situation. ”Does it hurt when someone sticks their fingers up your arse?”
”Um, well,” Harry could feel his cheeks heating rapidly and wished he’d never brought the whole thing up. Probably it would have been a lot better had he just ignored the fact that Draco had his hand in a Thestral’s arse and moved on with his life. “That's a finger not a whole arm,” he pointed out somewhat lamely.
Draco’s smirk grew wider. ”The Thestral’s bigger than you.”
Harry really did blush then, even as a rather horrific thought crossed his mind. ”Are you saying...?” he blurted out, stopping only when he realised the ridiculousness of what he was about to say.
There was a pause whilst Draco’s face creased into a puzzled frown and Harry felt his stomach sink as he waited for the penny to drop.
“Merlin, Potter! Don't be disgusting!” Draco face had creased into a look of abject horror, though at least horror was one up from anger. “What do you take me for? Some kind of weird, kinky pervert? This is not in anyway a sexual experience for anyone concerned.”
Harry pouted defensively. “You're the one who compared it to my arse,” he complained, and then realised that this was not entirely what he'd meant to say.
”Who said I have sexual thoughts about your arse, Potter? Maybe I was referring to a medical examination.”
Harry felt slightly ill at the thought. He also knew he was still bright red and felt it best not to say anything else. Draco seemed to sense his discomfort for he grinned suddenly and Harry’s heart decided it would be much more at home in his throat. Draco had the sort of grin that should probably be illegal. It was joyful and wicked and suggested that the owner was thinking terribly deviant thoughts that may or may not involve their companion. Harry wondered briefly if Draco had grinned like that at school and then realised that actually he'd never seen Draco grin in such a genuine way at school.
“So, why are you here Potter?” Draco said, when he’d changed Thestrals and enough time had passed that Harry was beginning to realise they were standing in awkward silence.
“I live over there, in the village.”
“Yes, I wanted to get away, you know. Fed up of the staring. I just wanted to be left alone for once. Get away from all the people who think they know me.”
“Oh. That’s… unfortunate.”
“I live in the village too.”
“So?” Harry failed to see the relevance of this to his situation, even if it was something of a surprise.
“Well, I know you.”
“You’re not exactly my biggest fan, Malfoy,” he pointed out.
Draco shrugged the shoulder that wasn’t occupied with the Thestral’s arse and resumed his rummaging.
“What are you doing here anyway? I mean apart from…”
“The Thestral thing?” Draco’s eyes gleamed with what might actually have been amusement. “My service to the community apparently.”
“Oh.” Harry had heard about this, though most of those who had been handed community service had served it doing menial cleaning or filing jobs in the Ministry. How the hell had Draco ended up out here?
“I asked to be transferred out here. You’re not the only one who hates being stared at. All anyone ever sees when they look at me is this.”
His arm was out and suddenly Harry found himself looking at the fading scar where the Dark Mark had once been through a rather unpleasant layer of slime. He recoiled and Draco gave him a pointed look, before he plunged his arm back into the bucket of water.
“Honestly, Malfoy, I really did not need to see the insides of a Thestral smeared all over your arm, thank you. And surely people have got over that by now?”
“You’d be surprised.”
“But it was half a lifetime ago!”
“A third actually.”
“A third, Potter. Basic maths. We’re 27 now and we were nearly 18 back then. It’s a third of our lifetimes.”
“I’m still 26.”
“Whatever, it’s still not half.”
Harry found himself smiling. Draco stuck his hand up another arse.
“How did you imagine your life would turn out, Potter?”
“How do you mean?”
“I mean, when the War ended, what did you think you’d do with your life?”
“Oh, I don’t know, I guess I thought I’d be married to Ginny, with a child on the way. How about you?”
There was a shrug again, Draco became very interested in the feet of the Thestral he was manhandling. “I thought I was going to Azkaban, Potter. I was hardly planning for a future.”
“Why on earth would you have been sent to Azkaban?”
Draco gave him a baleful look, and Harry snapped his mouth shut. There was a long pause, during which Draco seemed to forget exactly what he was doing judging by the stillness of his hand.
“Thank you, by the way.”
Harry had been distractedly staring at a nearby tree, trying to think of a way out of this awkward conversation. He jerked and turned his eyes back to Draco’s face.
“You’re the reason I’m not in Azkaban.”
Harry felt things were getting a bit heavy for what was supposed to be a relaxing day out and attempted a change of subject.
“That was a long time ago. Did you decide to work with animals straight away or is this a recent thing?”
Draco let out a laugh that was very nearly a snort. “No, I thought the same as you.” He chewed his lips thoughtfully for a second, then seemed to come back to himself, for the gleam of amusement returned and he resumed his rummaging. “Not Ginny, obviously. Some other woman though, someone my parents approved of.”
“Things didn’t work out the way you planned?”
“When do they ever?”
“Why aren’t you married?”
The rummaging stopped. Then there was a shocked burst of laughter. “You’re gay?”
“Why is that funny?”
Draco sobered up. “It’s not, not really. It’s just…”
“I suppose it is funny really. The Great Harry Potter can’t even find a boyfriend. I’m destined to be gay and lonely forever.”
“Maybe we can do something about that?”
“About what? Being gay?” Harry blinked in confusion, wondering for one brief, insane moment if Draco was going to suggest some sort of potion to cure his ‘gayness’. He’d heard some Muggles believed it was just a disease, but he’d never heard anyone in the magical community express that belief. Surely Draco didn't think it was something that needed to be cured?
“This one’s pregnant too,” Draco announced at random, then pulled his arm out and starting the washing procedure all over again. “I meant about the lonely part, actually, Potter. Believe it or not I know how you feel.”
“I guess this is a pretty lonely place to live. I only came here for some peace and quiet.”
“Well, there’s certainly a lot of that, but what I meant was,” he paused to take a deep breath, “I’m gay too.”
“Oh.” Harry blinked and then said, “Oh,” again in a much louder voice.
Draco emptied his bucket, refilled it and then began washing all over again. Harry wondered if he was so distracted by the conversation that he’d forgotten to do the whole sticking his hand up a Thestral’s arse in between.
He tried to lighten the mood. “Well, at least now I know I’m not the only gay in the village.”
“Never mind; it’s a Muggle joke.”
Draco gave him a look that suggested Harry was lucky Draco wasn’t carting him off to St Mungo’s to have his head examined and turned back to the bucket.
“My parents weren’t happy when they found out,” he continued, scrubbing at his nails with a brush that he’d conjured, “That’s another reason I came here, to get away from them and their incessant disappointment.”
A Thestral wandered over and attempted to put its nose into Draco’s washing water. He gave it a friendly push, and grinned.
“This is why I work with animals, Potter. They don’t care whether you’re gay or even if you were a bit of an idiot as a teenager. They like you all the same.”
“You were more than a bit of an idiot, Malfoy.” Harry paused, and then added, “Though you seem to have improved since.”
“I’ve had a lot of practise.” He straightened up, dried his hands on a conjured towel and rolled his sleeve back down to his elbow. Apparently he’d finished with the Thestrals for now. Harry could see them all watching warily from a distance, except for the one who tried to stick its head in the bucket again. Draco glanced at it and waved his wand, filling it with fresh water that the Thestral immediately plunged its face into.
“It’s true that this is the first time you've ever said a civil word to me,” Harry mused, watching the Thestral as it drank greedily.
There was a pause, and Harry looked up to find Draco regarding him with an odd look in his eyes. ”I could say the same about you,” he said defiantly, “And actually I seem to recall saying several civil words to you when I first introduced myself. You were the one who rebuffed me.”
Harry bristled at the memory and felt the need to defend himself. ”Yes, because you introduced yourself by insulting the first friend I ever had.”
Draco arched an elegant eyebrow, apparently deciding to ignore Harry’s bristliness. ”The first? Surely not?”
”Yes, the very first,” said Harry with such finality that Draco snapped his mouth shut. He frowned for a second and then his face softened.
“All right, but I've changed since then.”
Harry felt his own stance soften at those words. ”I think we both have.”
To his surprise Draco sniggered, breaking the oddly melancholy air that seemed to have settled over them both. ”Yes, your hair seems to have improved for one thing.”
Harry surprised himself by laughing and ran a hand though his mop of black hair, which immediately disproved Draco’s statement by sticking up at several odd angles. Draco watched the gesture and then glanced away, gazing thoughtfully across the field. There was silence, during which Draco watched the Thestrals and Harry watched Draco. Eventually he seemed to come to some sort of decision and turned back to Harry, pale grey eyes meeting Harry’s own.
“Look,” he said, “We lived in close proximately for six years and apparently never said a civil word to each other. We seem to be doing better this time, so I think we should do this properly, don’t you?”
Harry gave a jerk of his head that might have been a nod. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to nod; it was more that he wasn’t sure what response Draco was expecting. He hoped it was a nod. He hoped Draco realised that he was happy to go along with whatever he was planning.
It seemed he did.
Draco stuck out his hand, which was happily not the one that had been in any arses.
“Hello, my name’s Draco Malfoy. I’d quite like to settle down and find someone who knows about my past and accepts me for who I am now. I’d also like to train to be a magizoologist because I like animals.”
“Hello, I’m Harry Potter. I’m a trained Auror.” He searched around for some appropriate words. Draco had been startlingly open in his introduction and Harry felt he needed to return the favour. “I’d like to meet someone who loves me for being me, not someone who hero worships me.”
Draco smiled. A genuine, heart-breaking smile. He released Harry’s hand and turned to look out over the field, the soft afternoon sun glinting off his hair and making his eyes shine with a warmth that Harry had never thought possible.
“You know what, Harry?” he said quietly, “I have a feeling we’re both going to find what we’re looking for.”