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There's You

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I've told a million lies, but now I tell a single truth:
there's you in everything I do.

Imagine Dragons, “I Bet My Life”

---

The potion splashed across Draco’s face, neck, and hands. He inhaled sharply, and choked on the smell of sweet rotting flowers and grave dirt. The crowded street had fallen into a deathly hush around him.

Then the pain seared through his flesh with red-hot claws. He screamed, back arching, body twisting. His skin bubbled, and burst with blood and thick yellow-green pus. Ashwinder eggs were exploding and igniting every inch of his skin.

He was vaguely aware of collapsing to the ground, of a high-pitched keening from his mouth. The unnatural silence that had clamped down on Diagon Alley imploded, and people were panicking.

Somebody shouted his name, “MALFOY!”

Hands grabbed his shoulder, and pain was a thousand needlepoints stabbing his body. His shriek tore at his throat; blood and saliva and sweet-salty pus flooded his mouth.

The man was swearing profusely. Draco’s eyeballs were swollen and throbbing, a darkness stealing over his vision. Familiar green eyes behind black-framed glasses appeared, and just as quickly winked out of sight. He felt the squeezed, breathless press of Apparition, and slipped away from consciousness.

---

Draco had thought he had learned all there was to know about pain during the war.

The manic pain of the Cruciatus Curse; white-hot knives slicing his skin in the same spot over and over until he thought he might lose his mind.

The dull pain of casual bullying; the blows Aunt Bellatrix and the other Death Eaters’ would rain down on his body.

The wrenching pain of fear; living in terror of the Dark Lord, fearful for his family’s lives, not knowing if he truly wanted the Dark Lord to prevail.

After the war, there was the cold, shameful pain of unlearning his prejudices. It was the shattering of self, and scrambling on glass-strewn ground to pick up the pieces.

It turned out there was more Draco could learn about pain.

His bones ached and twisted and tore through his body. His blood was Acromantula venom, singing with anguish. His skin melted from the intense heat that crackled around him.

He was pain.

Somewhere, in the blind, murky haze of his suffering, the thought I’m going to die was a crystal-clear pinpoint. He focused on that. I’m going to die.

Lucius Malfoy had often warned his only son, “You cannot be too happy.” He had meant that Malfoys always had something better to strive for.

As a child, Draco had taken it to mean, “Be too happy and unhappiness will swiftly follow”; the disappointment of boredom with a new toy always lasted longer than the delight in receiving one. So he had grown up taking care to be dissatisfied with everything and everyone.

That was the primary reason for his loathing of Harry Potter. Why should scar-faced, half-blooded Potty have it better than Draco, heir to a long line of respected purebloods? Why was he able to laugh and smile like that even when the entire wizarding world turned against him?

Draco never could understand it, and he knew now how jealous he had been. How he wanted to tear Potter down just once and see him miserable …

The joke was on Draco in the end though, wasn’t it? He was on the wrong side of the war, and the first few post-war years had been a roiling cauldron of abject misery. Highlights included a year in Azkaban, being pelted by Doxy eggs during his trial, and that awkward meeting where he had gotten his wand back from Potter.

There was certain logic to his current torment. He had been contented enough, working at Ollivander’s, meeting Blaise and Theo on his days off. It was too close to happy, and hence grief must follow. It made sense.

Pain was a burning, suffocating blanket. But somehow, a hole appeared in the weave of that blanket, and Draco dived with relief towards that hole.

Light was a cooling balm all over him, waves and waves of icy comfort. He scrabbled at his face, and tore away the blanket; he drew a deep breath of air that rattled his lungs.

The pain was receding so rapidly Draco wept with joy. He floated in cool whiteness pulsing with gold-yellow light, and lost himself. I’m not going to die.

---

It was the awareness of a presence that woke Draco. In the few seconds before full waking, he realised that he was in St Mungo’s – the scent of potion and healing magic was strong in the air – and that he was no longer in pain.

He opened his eyes to see Harry Potter peering at him from behind a door.

“Oh, you’re awake,” Potter said, blinking at him.

Neither of them was prepared for the way Draco lunged at him. Draco fell out of his bed gracelessly, his legs tangled in blankets and his elbows cracking against the floor painfully. But he was hardly aware of that.

He only knew the searing heat that shook him at the sight of Potter, and the overwhelming desire to touch him, to hold him in his arms, to press his lips against his, to keep him from the world. He was desperately drawn to Potter.

“Shit!” Potter pushed the door open and rushed in. “Malfoy, you okay?”

When Potter touched his arm, a deep well of wanting opened up in his chest, and it was all he could do to stop himself from yanking Potter in close. Instead, he allowed himself to be helped up into the bed, his arms shaking from the effort of controlling himself.

“You okay?” Potter repeated, peering at Draco’s face closely.

Draco’s breath caught in his throat at the warmth of Potter’s concern. His eyes trailed down to Potter’s pink lips and square bristly jaw, and his own lips trembled with longing, his heart pounding in his chest.

Draco refused to look Potter in the eye. After a long moment of tensed silence, Potter muttered something about fetching a Healer, and left the room.

Draco unravelled in relief.

What was that?

He touched his face and body frantically. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with him. So why did he react so viscerally to Potter’s presence? Because it was Potter’s presence that roused him. Draco licked his dry lips, and swallowed hard, trying hard not to think about how Potter’s touch had sent his heart racing.

What was that?

Footsteps clacked outside the room, and Draco looked up expectantly. Unfortunately, Potter accompanied the Healer, and the same disconcerting, obsessive want-want-want heated Draco’s skin. Potter’s messy black hair, Potter’s leaf-green eyes, Potter’s narrow angular body – it was all Draco could see.

“Good afternoon, Mr Malfoy,” the Healer said. “I’m Healer Mitra.”

“Out – I want him – out,” Draco hissed, jerking his head at a bewildered Potter.

The Healer took one look at Draco’s face, and said to Potter, “You should wait outside, Mr Potter. I need to speak to my patient in private.”

It seemed Potter was about to protest, but Healer Mitra’s forbidding face did not allow arguments. Potter left, shooting Draco a disgusted glare. Draco’s heart twisted. He nearly shouted out for Potter to stay, and clenched his jaw tightly.

“What happened to me?” Draco gasped when the door closed behind Potter.

“There is no gentler way to put this – Mr Malfoy, you are now a Veela,” Healer Mitra said.

Draco stared at him. Nothing before his eyes made sense. Not the handsome, dark-skinned Healer in luridly green robes, not the sunlit cheerful room he was in, not the poster of a phoenix that repeatedly burst in flames and rose from the ashes.

A flash of pity crossed Healer Mitra’s face, and that shook Draco from his reverie. Not even in his grave should Draco Malfoy be pitied. He drew himself together with difficulty.

“What does that mean? How is that possible?” he asked, pleased that his voice did not shake.

“Your assailant threw a modified Angel’s Trumpet Draught onto you. You know what it does? Yes. When imbibed, it leads to a painful but swift death. The one thrown at you was modified to be effective upon contact on skin. When Mr Potter brought you to St Mungo’s, much of your skin and bones had been dissolved. In effect, your body was destroyed.”

Healer Mitra had a brisk, professional manner, his words detached and clinical. Draco’s mind provided the remembered agony and deserved shrieking.

“Thank Merlin you have a strong will, and because you clung to life, we were able to construct a new body for you – with Mr Potter’s help.”

“What does Potter have to do with this?” Draco snapped, his heart jumping at the mention of the other man.

“Well, he knew you had Veela ancestry. The potion we used –” At this point, Healer Mitra shifted uncomfortably, but apparently decided Draco deserved full disclosure and plugged on, “ – the potion we used is based on the one You-Know-Who used to create a rudimentary body for himself.

“We needed an ingredient that strongly defined who you are, but your body was too contaminated at that point, and it would be too late to reach your parents in France. Mr Potter remembered that you had Veela blood, so we used Veela hair successfully to create your new body. The result is that you are now more Veela than wizard.”

Two years after the war and five months into Draco’s new job, he’d had to serve a Muggle-born child and his Muggle parents. The Ministry staff that had accompanied them had stood near Draco, watching him with narrowed eyes, daring him to curse the Muggles.

It was Draco’s first time in contact with Muggles, and he had found them no different from any proud but overwhelmed parents of a precocious child. His own mother had often worn the same “That’s wonderful, dear” expression the Muggle woman had.

And when the Muggle-born child had touched the correct wand and a warm light glowed from his hand, his joy and certainty had been the same Draco felt when he first got his wand.

That day marked the start of the dissolving of Draco’s hard, twisted surety of Muggles and Muggleborns being scum and dirt and beasts. It had been so much easier pretending to be rid of prejudices than honestly trying to.

Now, hearing about his rebirth as a Veela, he experienced the same unravelling of his mind, the floor-disappearing feeling of self-assurance cracking.

He licked his lips.

“Veela,” he repeated in a tight, flat voice.

“Yes,” Healer Mitra said. “Being Veela, of course, comes with various advantages and disadvantages. I have several books you can read, and if you would like to speak to an actual Veela, I can help arrange it for you.”

“This is irreversible?” Draco felt oddly detached from his voice, as if his mind had retreated to a vast roaring place far away and he was an eavesdropper.

“Yes, I’m sorry,” Healer Mitra did look contrite, thick black eyebrows furrowed. “It was the only way to save you.”

“To bring me back as a Veela,” Draco said.

To remove all pride he could have had in his pureblood wizard status. To reduce him to a state no better than a vampire or a hag. Draco inhaled deeply, squeezing his eyes shut briefly.

In his distant state, his awareness of Potter’s presence was made all the more obvious. He could sense the other man just outside the room, pacing impatiently. Draco wanted to call him in. Draco wanted to run his hand through his mop of hair, to gaze into those green eyes.

He snapped his mind to Healer Mitra with supreme effort.

“Why do I react to Potter like that?” he asked baldly.

This question broke Healer Mitra’s professional veneer. “W-Well … Veelas are famous for obsessive love. Once a Veela – a female Veela usually, we’ve never had a male Veela until you – yes, well, once a Veela decides on a lover, she – and he, it seems – loves eternally. The most famous case being the Veela Ravijojla, who was blood sister to the Serbian king Marko. Interesting story there, have you heard it? No? Well, they – “

“Loves eternally?” Draco interrupted with disbelief.

“I don’t really know much about it,” Healer Mitra admitted. “It isn’t within my area of expertise. I really could arrange for a meeting with a Veela for you. There are a few in England.”

“Are you saying I’m reacting to Potter that way because I’m in love with him?” Draco asked.

The Healer was clearly wishing he were somewhere else far, far away. “It seems so, Mr Malfoy.”

“… No.”

Draco recoiled from Healer Mitra violently, shaking his head, raising his hands to clutch his head. “Nonononono – this is – no! Impossible – this cannot be happening – NO!

He was pushing himself out of bed, away from the alarmed Healer, away from the door behind which he knew Potter waited, away from this nightmare. He fell onto the floor, and scrambled onto his feet, looking wildly for an escape. The window!

“Mr Malfoy! Mr Malfoy, please calm down!”

Draco had ripped aside the curtains, and was trying to undo the catch. The sound of the bustling street of Muggles below was muffled by the warding spells.

“Mr Malfoy – Oh, Mr Potter! He – “

Draco spun around, wide-eyed, and there he was, Potter, his wand drawn. He was so close Draco could smell him. He was the cut-grass scent of the Quidditch pitch, the musk of sweat, and the warmth of freshly brewed tea.

“Malfoy? Malfoy! What – “

Draco had rid himself of these feelings for Potter years ago. He refused – absolutely refused – to be dragged into them again. It was futile wanting a man who would never give him a single thought, and Draco had had enough of futility and non-choices.

He screeched, tearing at the window catch with his bird talons, half-aware of the large scaly wings that burst from his shoulders. He caught sight of his oversized bird head and steel-grey beak and Potter’s disembodied frowning face reflected in the window.

Then: “Petrificus totalus!” and Draco fell forwards, smashed his head against the windowsill, and slid into darkness.

---

“Come on, Malfoy, talk to me,” Potter leaned forwards, and Draco growled.

With a sigh, Potter retreated behind the glowing yellow line Draco had conjured between them. Draco took steady, shallow breaths, focusing on the air entering and leaving his lungs. Theo, who was sitting in the chair next to him, watched them with bemusement.

Draco had insisted on having one of his friends present during the interview, because he knew he would rather die under the Cruciatus Curse than have one of them see him throw himself at Potter. He had also insisted Potter stayed a minimum of three meters away. He had wanted ten meters, but Healer Mitra’s office wasn’t big.

Despite all that, he was aware of Potter. His skin prickled when Potter drew near, and his stomach tightened in a not-unpleasant manner. He felt too warm, and his skin too tight. His new body was like a set of new robes that had yet to fit him properly.

“How am I going to find your attacker if you won’t talk to me?” Potter snapped. “Trust me, Malfoy, I am not enjoying this situation either. Bloody talk to me, will you?”

The best thing Healer Mitra had done so far was to refuse to tell Potter why Draco seemed so unnaturally opposed to his presence. The Healer had muttered, “That is a matter Mr Malfoy must tell you himself,” before hastily excusing himself. It certainly riled Potter up.

Draco watched with satisfaction as Potter paced and muttered curses beneath his breath. Recognising his schoolyard jealousy of Potter was vastly different relinquishing it. There was something exciting about getting under Potter’s skin, and watching him squirm.

Draco envisioned pushing Potter against a wall, kissing that soft, broad mouth, shoving his thigh between his legs, and watching him squirm.

“Malfoy!” Potter said sharply, green eyes flashing warningly. “Talk!”

Draco gritted his teeth. Those bloody fucking stupid Healers and their fucking stupid potions and fucking stupid Veela hairs.

“Draco,” Theo poked him in the arm. “You really should talk. Potter is an Auror trying to help you.”

“I know,” Draco muttered, frowning at Theo.

It was Potter’s fault really. How could Potter have known there was Veela ancestry in the Malfoy bloodline? Merlin, Draco hadn’t known himself, and when he had written to his parents, they had said those were only rumours. Of course, the Malfoys would bury and deny any knowledge of non-purebloods in the family. At least they hadn’t disowned him yet.

All Potter’s fault he had turned into a Veela, no longer a wizard even if his wand still worked. Generations of Malfoys must be turning over in their crypts. How his enemies would crow to see a Death Eater turned into nothing better than a beast.

With the whole world set against him, there was no way in Armand Malfoy’s name was he going to let anyone – besides Healer Mitra, who seemed to have the integrity to keep it to himself – know Draco Malfoy was in love with Harry Potter.

Love was a temporary affliction; everyone knew that. This was merely a residual delusion from the newness of his Veela body, and once he was used to being a Veela, he would get over it. He had managed to do it all those years ago, and he could do it again. He was not about to let Potter ruin his life all over again, five years after the war.

In the meantime, Draco only had to restrain from wanting to ravage Potter. Fuck.

“Well, are you going to talk to me?” Potter demanded, glasses sliding down his nose.

“I’d rather suck your cock,” Draco replied.

The stunned silence was broken by Theo’s attempt at smothering his chuckle with a cough. Merlin’s beard. The words had slipped out, traitorous as Veritaserum. Draco hoped fervently that his embarrassment had not broken through his calm façade. Potter stared at him, mouth open, for a moment before closing it with a clack of teeth.

For some reason, those words had pushed Potter from irritated and frustrated to seething with fury.

“Fine,” Potter said loudly, kicking his chair aside; Draco winced when the chair crashed into a bookshelf. “Fine, I don’t have to deal with your fucking shit! So much for saving your life a third time, eh, Malfoy? Should have left you on the street to be finished off!”

“Draco!” Theo hissed, poking him again.

Draco knew he had to say something anyway. Seeing Potter angry with him made his heart ache terribly.

“Calm the fuck down, and ask me your questions,” Draco snapped.

“No,” Potter shook his head. “You didn’t want my help, so fine, I’m washing my hands of this case. You can talk to the next Auror.”

He turned to go, and desperately, Draco said, “You owe me.”

Rationally, he knew he should let Potter go. Out of sight, out of mind, and this ridiculous Veela infatuation would disappear. Irrationally, the thought of not seeing Potter again was a terror as potent as the Dark Lord breathing down his neck. Draco was in a wretched state of confusion.

Potter turned around slowly, his face set in that hard, clenched-jaw look that meant Draco had pushed him close to breaking point. His words were slow and hissing, “What did you say?”

There was nothing for it but to forge on. “You are the one who told the Healers I had Veela ancestry. You’re the reason I’m stuck like this!”

Beside him, Theo groaned. Draco ignored him, keeping his eyes on Potter’s rigid, tensed form.

“You are a fucking asshole,” Potter snarled. “You’d rather be dead then?”

Well, no, but I’d rather not feel like a giggly schoolboy in front of you all the time.

“How did you know anyway?” Draco asked instead.

“What?” Potter had walked over to pick up the chair, and Draco kept his eyes determinedly away from Potter’s arse.

“How did you know I have Veela ancestry?”

“Oh,” Potter seemed calmer now.

Of course he would. Draco had reminded him of his responsibility, and like the noble Saviour of the Wizarding World he was, he always fulfilled his responsibility, no matter the sacrifice. Bloody stupid Gryffindor.

“Well, in third year, I stayed at the Leaky Cauldron for a bit, and I’d go to Florean Fortescue’s every day. You know, the ice cream parlour?”

Draco nodded. Yes, he knew Florean Fortescue, the kindly man who had always given Draco extra chocolate chips as a child. Fortescue, who was murdered by Death Eaters for refusing to give the Dark Lord the knowledge he wanted.

“Yeah, well, he would help me with my History of Magic homework. He knew a lot about medieval witches and wizards, about the witch-burnings and everything.”

It dawned on Draco that Potter was stalling. Potter ran a hand through his impossibly messy hair, green eyes on the chair in front of him.

“He told me that a lot of interbreeding went on in those days. Wizards were mostly living in isolation then, and there weren’t many fully magical villages. Wizards would take up with giants, Veelas, vampires, and other beings.

“And … and he mentioned that quite a number of pureblood families have non-wizard ancestors, which strengthened the magic in the blood actually. He said it was kind of a joke how ‘families like the Malfoys would trumpet blood purity when they had Veela blood in their veins.’”

Potter shot a look at Draco’s face, almost worriedly.

“I asked him more about it, and he said your Veela ancestry is very diluted, coming from before the Norman Conquest. But anyway, I remembered, and it saved your life.”

Potter had remembered this little throwaway comment Fortescue had made about Draco. Draco’s heart leapt, and he had to remind himself that no, it doesn’t mean a thing, and even if it does, it doesn’t matter because I’m not in love with Harry Potter.

“Now that I’ve answered your question, will you answer my questions?” Potter asked.

He was back to Auror mode, eyes cool and professional, standing tall and straight. So Draco had only imagined Potter being embarrassed about telling him how he remembered little things about Draco. He sighed.

“All right.”

“Good,” Potter said, and turned the chair around.

He straddled the chair, resting his arms and chin on the back of the chair. Sweet Salazar, does he have to do that? Stupid show-offing Gryffindor! Draco didn’t pause to wonder what he thought Potter was showing off exactly.

“Well?” Draco asked with so much aggression, Theo glanced at him in surprise.

“What do you remember from that day? Did you manage to see your attacker?”

“I was walking one moment, and in pain in the next. No, I didn’t see my attacker. All I caught was a flash of … black robes, I think.” I was much too busy watching you. Oh yes, Potter, don’t you know? Whenever I spot you in the vicinity, I have the insatiable desire to stalk you.

“Yeah, all I saw was black robes too,” Potter was frowning. “He had a hood up. From the size of your attacker, I assume it’s a man … or a very large woman. It’s so hard to tell with robes.”

Potter was wearing the clean-cut navy-blue robes of the Aurors. Draco wished Potter was instead wearing the Muggle clothes he had seen him in at Diagon Alley that day. His lean arm muscles had looked very satisfying in that faded blue T-shirt. Oh, bloody hell.

“Imagine if every criminal walked around with a calling card – how useful that would be,” Draco said.

Potter rolled his eyes. “Well, at least he left traces of that Angel’s Trumpet Draught he used. We’ve sent it to the Investigation Department, and they should come back with an analysis by the end of the week. That should give us clues.”

Draco nodded. He was used to death threats by now, but to have somebody use the Angel’s Trumpet on him … whoever it was hated him almost as much as he hated himself.

Brewing the Angel’s Trumpet Draught was as dangerous as drinking the potion itself. It involved harvesting the flowers of the Angel’s Trumpet plant, every part of which was highly dangerous. Inhaling the fumes of the flowers would lead to a slow, painful death. The potion-maker had to be careful in every single step, and the process took six months.

“While we are tracking down your attacker, you will be given Auror protection,” Potter said.

“No,” Draco said immediately. It’s going to be him, isn’t it? Oh, for fuck’s sake!

Potter narrowed his eyes. “Like I said, Malfoy, I hate this situation as much as you do, but unfortunately, I was the Auror present during the attack, and I’m given the lead on this case.

“Somebody wants you dead badly enough to endanger an entire street of people. It’s a wonder the Angel’s Trumpet hit nobody else. Cooperate with us, and the sooner we solve this case, the sooner we can go back to our lives.”

“What life? My life as a wizard is over, remember? I’m a Veela now,” Draco said sarcastically, gesturing to his body.

Potter’s eyes followed the movement of Draco’s hand. Was that a hint of appreciation Draco saw? Impossible; there weren’t any aesthetically pleasing changes to his appearance. He still had that sharp-featured, pointy-chinned face that he had to admit resembled a ferret’s. His hair was still white-blond, and his eyes the same fog-grey as his father’s.

The only difference was how people responded to him.

During his week at St Mungo’s, he had noticed quite a number witches and one or two wizards give him a meaningful once-over as he passed. Some of them had approached him with glazed eyes, too blinded by his Veela appeal to realise that he was Draco Malfoy.

Healer Mitra had said Veela attraction worked on people already inclined to be attracted to him. When you were born a Veela with perfect features and a sculpted body, you were attractive to everybody. Being turned into a Veela meant attracting people who liked the look of sneaky ferrets.

Draco sighed. He was going to attract attention whether he wanted to or not. Well, at least this might help him get laid more easily. His eyes flicked to Potter to see him gaze back steadily and intently. Draco flushed. Those fucking eyes.

“You didn’t tell anybody, did you?” Draco blurted, grabbing at anything to distract him from his treacherous thoughts. “That I’m a Veela now?”

“I had to tell my boss, Robards, and Ron, who’s my partner and together with me on this case. Don’t worry,” Potter added hastily, seeing the horror-struck look on Draco’s face, “cases are confidential, and we don’t discuss it out of the office. Although Hermione probably knows by now,” he shrugged sheepishly. “She knows better than to spread it around, though.”

“She’d better not,” Draco said huffily.

Draco wanted to give himself up to a Hungarian Horntail, and wipe his shit life from existence. Weasel and Granger knew now. How humiliating for Draco and subsequently satisfying for his former enemies to know how low he had sunk. Being under Potty and Weasel’s protection would mean spending time with them, and Granger too, no doubt.

Spend time with the three people who had seen the worst and most pathetic side of Draco Malfoy. It was just bloody brilliant.

“Don’t worry,” Potter repeated, a forbidding cold look on his face. “We wouldn’t want it to be known that pureblood wizard Draco Malfoy is now a pureblood Veela, would we?”

“No, we wouldn’t,” Draco said grimly. Because it will only give those who hate me more Doxy eggs to pelt me with.

“We have to make living arrangements as well,” Potter said brusquely. “You will be living with me. Don’t bother protesting. The wards around my house are strong, and I will be able to protect you best on home ground. Robards has already given the go-ahead, so don’t think you can appeal to the higher-ups.”

Living with Potter. Draco stared at him, enraptured by the images of laughing over candle-lit dinners with Potter, casually touching him as they passed in hallways, snuggling on couches under thick blankets. Fuck. My. Life.

“I will come to fetch you tomorrow afternoon. Healer Mitra said you are well enough to be discharged,” Potter said, surging to his feet.

With that abrupt dismissal, Potter left the office. Draco turned to Theo with an affronted look.

“Well, that was fucking rude,” Draco said.

Theo looked sympathetic. Draco felt a surge of affection for his friend. He and Theodore Nott had never been close at Hogwarts; he had Crabbe and Goyle, and Theo was a bit of a loner. It was unexpected, but very welcome, when he had started turning up at Draco’s weekly drinking session with Blaise.

Theo worked at Flourish & Blotts, and dropped by often to have lunch with Draco. Draco admitted they didn’t have much in common, but Theo was sensible and moderate in a way the people around him had never been.

“Draco, mate, you have the best luck in the world,” Theo said with a short laugh, patting him on the shoulder.

Draco grimaced, and echoed glumly, “Best luck in the world.”

Now to keep his thoughts away from Potter’s fine, firm arse.

---

Potter’s house was exactly like Draco could have imagined, and more.

The front door of 12 Grimmauld Place opened to a long, brightly lit hallway with a large sun-drenched room to the left. There was no wall between the hallway and the room, only elegant wooden pillars. The lush, red carpet ran down the hallway and up stairs leading to upper floors.

The furniture was as Draco had expected: worn, cushy, and mismatching. The room to the left, which Potter called the living room, wasn’t messy, but had a lived-in look with newspapers, tissue boxes, and crisp packets strewn about. The drapes were drawn back, revealing an ordinary overcast day, which meant Potter had spelled the room to look cheerily sunlit.

He led the way past a troll-leg umbrella stand, and down the hallway and narrow staircase into the kitchen.

The kitchen was thoroughly unexpected. It was a large, rectangular room, with a fireplace at one end, lit by numerous gas lamps. An enormous wooden table that looked like it hadn’t been moved in centuries held court in the middle of the room. Racks of spice bottles and gleaming knives and ladles covered one wall. A shelf on another wall held thick cookbooks; one was pressed open on a counter, its pages coloured by food stains.

Draco had expected Potter to be hopeless in the kitchen like most young adults their age. Besides, he had a house elf. But from the way Potter moved around the room, flicking his wand at a teakettle, it was clear the kitchen was Potter’s domain.

“A cup of tea before I show you to your room?” Potter asked.

Draco shrugged, setting down his trunk with a flick of his wand and hating himself for liking the warm, welcoming feel of the house so far.

“Right,” Potter said, sitting down at the table. “I figure we should set some ground rules first.”

“I keep to my room and the kitchen, and out of the way when you have friends over. I’m quite fastidious about cleanliness so don’t worry,” Draco said, avoiding looking at Potter by studying the spice wall.

“You’re welcome to do that if you want,” Potter sounded exasperated. “You have free reign over the whole house – just stay out of my room. Wouldn’t put it past you to snoop.”

“Right, because I’m interested in what you do in the bedroom,” Draco remarked sarcastically.

“Prick,” Potter muttered. “I’m opening my house up to you here, you might be a little more appreciative.”

Draco was. With every beat of his heart, he was made more aware of how much he owed Potter, how Potter had saved his life again, and how little he deserved any of it. He was simply unable to express it in an appropriate manner that did not involve declaring his undying love.

Merlin’s ball sack. And he had thought his obsession with Potter during Hogwarts was bad.

The teakettle trilled, and Potter prepared the tea in silence. The loudest thing between them was the occasional clink of the cups being set on saucers as they drank their tea. Draco was staring at the stained table top.

“Ron and Hermione will be coming over in a bit. Ron and I have to run over some standard procedures with you, arrange the schedule for who’s guarding you during work and all … They’re staying for dinner. Would you like to join us?” Potter sounded excruciatingly awkward, as if he could not imagine anything worse.

Draco’s skin prickled with embarrassment.

“No, thank you,” he said carefully. “I will prepare my own dinner after. Oh, yes, how much do you want me to give you for the time I’ll be here?”

“No need for that,” Potter said airily.

Draco’s head snapped up, and he fixed Potter with a glare. “I would rather not owe you anymore, thanks.”

Potter was startled. “Look, it’s all right. I expect you’ll be gone by the end of the week, anyway. Once we have the ingredients list, we can track down the buyers. There can’t be many people buying Angel’s Trumpet.”

“More tea?” he added, reaching for Draco’s cup.

Their fingers brushed, and tingly warmth shot through Draco’s hand. He jerked his hand away, glaring more viciously at Potter.

“No, thank you. I would like to go to my room now,” he said through clenched teeth.

Potter was frowning heavily, obviously unable to make out the reason for Draco’s overt belligerence. In the end, he decided to respond with similar hostility.

“I thought you had become less of a prat, but I guess not,” Potter snapped, kicking his chair back as he rose to his feet. “Come on, ferret face.”

As Potter led him up to the second floor, the silence between them crackled with antagonism. It was like a purple-black thunderhead looming in the distance. Draco wanted so badly to reach out for Potter’s hand and beg for forgiveness, that his desire was a physical ache in his chest.

Draco’s room for the next week was right across the hallway from Potter’s own. His civil “Thank you” was received with a glare, and Potter went stomping back down the stairs.

Draco closed the door, and leaned against it. He closed his eyes, and took deep calming breaths, trying to will away the tugging at his heart. Eventually his pounding heart slowed down, and his overheated skin cooled. Merlin, if this was what living with Potter was going to be like, Draco hoped his assassin would reach him before the week was over.

He sank down to the floor, resting his forehead against his knees.

If he was being utterly honest with himself, he had wanted Potter long before this entire Veela business. He had wanted Potter before he even realised he was gay. He had been jealous of him, and he had hated him, and he had never stopped wanting him so badly, and had hated him some more because he couldn’t have him.

Draco pressed his palms against his eyes until red hotness bloomed across his eyelids. Saint Potter and his bloody stupid saviour complex.

It was damn unfair how Draco could moon for Potter like centaurs on a full moon night, while Potter swanned around, perfectly unaware of Draco’s existence. Not to mention the fact that Potter had a girlfriend, that redheaded tart Weasley.

There was nothing more wretched than being in love with a person who could never endeavour to care for you in the slightest.

Heaving a sigh from deep in his chest, Draco forced himself to think about Weasley and Granger instead. Tonight would be the first time he had seen them since the Battle of Hogwarts. Unlike Potter, they hadn’t attended the Death Eater trials.

Tonight would probably be his one and only chance to do what he had been meaning to do for the past few years. He mustn’t mess this up.

---

“Good evening, Malfoy the Amazing Bouncing Ferret,” Weasley greeted him affably when he entered the kitchen.

Draco gritted his teeth. Walking into the kitchen was nearly as hard as walking into the courtroom for his trial had been.

“Good evening,” he said, nodding politely to Weasley and Granger.

Potter sat at the head of the table, eyeing him. Weasley was sitting to his left, happily munching on a plate of biscuits. Granger set down her cup of tea, and smiled blandly at Draco. Now or nothing, get on with it, you git.

Draco took a deep breath, and said, “I would like to say something if you would give me the chance.”

He had their full attention now. Potter’s gaze piercing and suspicious. Weasley looking blandly curious. Granger’s slightly narrowed eyes and annoyingly aware expression.

“Weasley, I apologise for everything I had said about you and your family. My words were uncalled for, and I was a rotten arsehole for saying them. No, I was a fuckwit. I am also deeply sorry for the things that were done to you – and Granger – during the war at the manor. I hope you can forgive me, but I understand if you cannot.” Oh, and I also did let Greyback into Hogwarts, and he almost killed your oldest brother. Not to mention the brother killed during the war by the people I was supporting.

Weasley gawped at him, looking so familiarly gormless Draco was tempted to snip out an insult. Then he gave Draco a surprising grin.

“Malfoy calling himself a rotten arsehole and a fuckwit – and apologising. This is almost as good as the day you were turned into a ferret,” he chuckled. “Malfoy, the past is past. If I had continued to hold our Hogwarts days against you, I would not have agreed to take on your case, no matter how many biscuits Harry tried to bribe me with.”

Draco exhaled the breath he had not realised he was holding. “You – You forgive me then?”

Weasley shrugged. “More like it doesn’t matter anymore. It has been five years. I don’t need extra bullshit in my life, mate. I’d rather forget it.”

“R-Right then,” Draco said, shaken by how easy it had been.

Potter was staring at him so hard, Draco’s skin bruised under his gaze. It was bloody difficult to avoid looking at him. Draco turned to Granger, who was looking at him expectantly.

“Granger, I am very sorry for the things I’ve called you. You are a brilliant witch, the cleverest in our year, and you are more talented than the rest of us put together. You are a better witch than I could ever be – and –” Draco stopped abruptly because he wasn’t a wizard anymore, was he, and he had no right turning this apology into a pity party.

Granger looked at him with sympathy, an embarrassingly soft look that he did not want or deserve.

“We were there, you know,” she said. “We saw how you didn’t give Harry up. You were just as much as a scared child as the rest of us, and you dealt with it the way you had been raised to. After the childhood you had … it is infinitely more difficult to change yourself than to stick to what you know … You are forgiven, Malfoy.”

Draco stared at her, floored. She was trying to absolve him of his crimes. She was putting down his terrible and cruel choices to upbringing and circumstance. He wanted to tell her that she was wrong and that he was simply a terrible person, but his jaw locked. He didn’t want to ruin her nice little fairy tale. She looked back at him, gaze steady and calm.

“Besides,” Weasley chimed in around a mouthful of biscuit, “we learned from Luna how you had begged for her forgiveness.”

Draco flushed. Lovegood visited Ollivander’s often, and when she had appeared during his shift one afternoon, he had blurted out his apology. It was embarrassingly inelegant and almost incoherent. The girl had merely peered at him with solemn silvery eyes, and said, “If my forgiveness will remove the Wrackspurts from your mind, you have it, Draco.”

“I did not beg,” he snapped; he still had no idea whether the strange dreamy girl had forgiven him or not.

“She tells us you are learning wandcraft from Ollivander’s now,” Granger said, pulling out a chair next to her.

“Er – yes,” Draco said, looking uncertainly at the chair until she nodded at it encouragingly.

He sat down next to her, feeling extraordinarily grateful. As Granger asked him about his work, he told her willingly about the wandlore he was learning. She probably already knew all about the historical use of a favourite pet’s hair for a wand core, but she listened obligingly. Weasley chipped in with a story about an uncle with a wand core he had insisted was troll nose hair.

All this while, Potter stared intensely at Draco. The feel of his eyes crawled over Draco’s skin, as tangible as Potter’s fingers on him. Draco clenched his fists, and was about to tell him to stop it when Potter blurted, “What about me?”

They turned to him in surprise. To Draco’s delight, Potter turned bright red, and nervously pushed his glasses up his nose. He looked so deliciously adorable; Draco wanted to drop kisses all over that reddened face.

“What about you?” he asked coolly.

“Don’t I get an apology?” Potter asked, those forest-green eyes fixed determinedly on his. “You haven’t thanked me for saving you all those times either!”

Irritation rushed through Draco. Apologise to Potter? Thank him? Draco had been raised to speak eloquently on all topics as a proper gentleman, but apologising and thanking Potter was beyond his abilities. He could not even begin to think about it.

Potter expected him to say it? What a complete, blundering idiot.

“I’m sorry, and thank you,” Draco said as coldly as he could muster.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Granger grimace. Weasley looked very awkward, and determinedly munched on biscuits.

“Would that suffice?” Draco continued.

“No!” Potter leaned forwards, and his muscles under his T-shirt bulged very nicely.

“Come on, where are all those nice words you had for Ron and Hermione?” Potter demanded. “Don’t you have anything else to say to me?”

“No, I don’t have anything else I want to say to you,” Draco replied. But if you would like me to show you how sorry and thankful I am for you, Potter, we should take this to the bedroom.

Before Potter could say anything else, Draco turned to Weasley and began talking to him about the case. Weasley acquiesced with relief.

“An Auror will be guarding you every day,” he said. “It’ll probably be either Harry or me. We don’t have any other open cases at the moment. It’s a good thing you’re not so much of a git these days.”

The grin he flashed Draco told him he was half-kidding. Draco nodded.

“I hear Veelas are fierce warriors. Draco will be perfectly fine in a fight. You probably have more to protect yourself from Draco than from this attacker,” Granger said teasingly. “Should I be worried?”

She and Draco realised at the same time she had called him by his first name.

“You don’t mind, do you?” she said to him. “It’s just Luna has always called you Draco, and it feels strange calling you Malfoy again.”

“I don’t mind,” he said softly.

“Don’t worry, ‘Mione, I am no more attracted to a big ugly vulture than to a bouncing ferret,” Weasley snorted. “Although Harry might be a different story.”

The silence that greeted his words yawned like a dark pit filled with knives. Draco refused to think what those words might mean, or how Potter was staring at Weasley with horror, or how Granger was grimacing again. The pit was filled with poison-tipped knives, and he could only get sliced to bits.

He rose from his chair, and announced, “Thank you for discussing the plans with me. I will leave you to your dinner then.”

“Oh, have you eaten?” Weasley looked puzzled.

“No.”

“Eat with us,” Weasley urged. “Harry is cooking, and he’s almost as good a cook as Mum.”

“No, I – “

“Sit down,” Potter snapped, rising from his seat. “You’re eating with us, Malfoy.”

Draco was determined not to, especially after Potter had made it clear this afternoon he had not wanted Draco there. But then Granger looked at Draco with her most tenacious expression, and he knew there was no point trying to persuade her otherwise.

Somehow, he found himself back in his seat, listening to Granger talk about her work as Potter walked around in the background, an appallingly stained apron tied around his waist. Despite Draco’s efforts in learning about Granger’s work for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, the sight of Potter in jeans distracted him.

The jeans were form-fitting, hugging Potter’s butt perfectly. As Potter waved a wand at a pot or leaned forward to chop up an ingredient, Draco’s eyes followed him.

Soon the smell of cooking filled the air, and Weasley was nagging at Potter to hurry because he was ravenous. Draco realised he was hungry too. The lunch he had at St Mungo’s seemed bland and poor in comparison to the stir-fried chicken, fluffy chives-and-chorizo omelette, roast buttered potatoes, and fresh peas and carrots Potter served up.

Potter was smiling at the blatant amazement on Draco’s face until Draco saw him remembering he did not want Draco there. Potter turned away. Draco swallowed the mouthful of suddenly tasteless omelette, and looked down at his plate.

“Good, isn’t it?” Weasley said happily, spearing chicken on his fork.

“Where did you get the recipe for the sauce?” Granger asked.

“Uh – well, it’s a modification of Molly’s …”

Draco ate quickly. He had to escape from this warm, happy space where he did not belong before his heart broke a little bit more from Potter’s rejection. The trio chattered inanely about work and the Burrow and the other Weasleys. He had almost tuned them out when the conversation turned back to Draco’s Veela status in that natural and abrupt way conversations sometimes did.

“It was really good luck how you remembered Draco has Veela blood, Harry,” Granger was saying.

Potter coughed, choking on a piece of potato. “Er – yeah.”

His eyes darted to Draco, and then away, leaving Draco with mingled confusion and nervousness.

“How did you know the Healers were experimenting with Voldemort’s rudimentary body potion though?” Granger asked. “I can’t imagine that being general knowledge.”

“Yeah, they were quite reluctant to talk about it. Something about it being highly experimental and unstable,” Potter shrugged.

“That’s good to know,” Draco interjected, unable to help himself.

“Well, you’re alive, aren’t you?” Potter raised his eyebrows at him. “Which you haven’t thanked me for yet.”

Ignoring that last muttered remark, Granger asked, “So what are the two main ingredients used in the potion?”

“Healer Mitra said Veela hair was used,” Draco said. “He didn’t say anything about another main ingredient.”

Granger frowned. “Strange. From what we understand about the potion Voldemort used, there was unicorn blood, which anchored his soul to this world, and Nagini’s venom. Being a Horcrux was enough for the venom to serve as a basis for his physical body. In your case, the Veela hair is used to create your new body. Something else must be used to hold your soul to this life.”

“Healer Mitra didn’t mention anything else,” Draco frowned as well.

He made a mental note to inquire at the next medical check-up.

“Did he tell you, Harry?” Granger asked.

Potter shrugged, scooping a spoonful of peas into his mouth. Not surprising; what would he care about Draco’s soul? Potter must think it a filthy, stained thing, as bad as that horrid apron of his.

Granger’s frown deepened. “Harry – “

“More potatoes, Hermione?” Potter thrust the bowl at her. “Have it while it’s still warm.”

“Ah – okay, thanks,” she said, taking a small potato.

“Harry, your potatoes are the best,” Weasley groaned, helping himself to two more. “Don’t tell Mum.”

The other two laughed, and with that, the conversation delved into memorable meals at the Burrow. Draco listened quietly, trying not to flinch whenever Potter glanced his way. Granger, however, took the effort to include him in the conversation.

He was catching a glimpse of what it would have been like to be friends with the Golden Trio. To be privy to the jokes that lit up Potter’s face all the way over at the Gryffindor table. To be close enough for their elbows to brush at the dinner table.

Draco caught himself. Contentment? Happiness? The last time he thought that, he had ended up a Veela. Make another mistake, and he would no doubt end up dead. The sound of chairs against tiles dragged him from his thoughts. The others were rising to their feet, a very satisfying dessert of chocolate pudding tucked away.

“Good-bye, Draco,” Granger said when she and Weasley were leaving. “I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of each other for the next week.”

“Yes,” he hesitated before adding, “Thank you.”

For a long moment, she gazed at him. Then to Draco’s astonishment, and that of the other two men, she stepped forwards and hugged him. Hermione was warm and soft, and smelled of ink and paper. Draco thought he would break apart with shame and regret that he could have been so abusive to this woman.

“Most of us have managed to leave the war in the past,” she said softly into his ear. “Yes, it still hurts, but we’ve managed to leave it behind. You need to let it go too, Draco.”

She pulled back, smirked at the look on Draco’s face, and pulled her gobsmacked boyfriend towards the fireplace. Potter glanced between Draco and Hermione, looking as stupefied as Draco.

“Hermione is my girlfriend, Malfoy!” Weasley yelled out before sucked away from the Floo.

“Bye, Harry! I’ll talk to you soon,” Hermione said, which caused Potter to blanch.

The kitchen was quiet after they left. Potter began to clear up the dishes.

“I thought you had a house-elf,” Draco said, scraping leftovers onto a plate.

“I sent him to the Burrow and to Andromeda’s. They need him more than I do.”

“Of course,” Draco muttered.

They were alone, and there was nobody else to distract Draco from Potter.

He had found out more about Potter in the past two hours than he had from his past five years of newspaper scouring and opportunistic stalking.

He had not known how fastidious Potter was with his cooking, almost too anxious that his friends should be honest with their opinions of his skills.

He had not known how Potter loathed wasting food, and would level you with a frown if you didn’t finish what was on your plate.

He had not known that Potter’s favourite food group was grains, and that he hated the smell of bacon, which was absurd.

“I shouldn’t have forced you,” Potter muttered after they had stacked all the plates and he had Scourgified them.

Draco turned to him, bemused.

“I shouldn’t have forced you to apologise or to thank me if you didn’t want to,” Potter clarified, not looking up at him; he waved his wand again and sent the dishes into the cupboards.

Was this Potter’s way of apologising? What in Merlin’s beard was he apologising for? He had all the right to demand it of Draco. Draco would have given it to him too, if he weren’t so inadequate at it.

“It’s not … It’s not that I don’t want to,” Draco said. “I don’t know how to.”

Potter’s brows furrowed. “You can just say it?”

“No, I can’t. Potter, what you’ve done for me is greater than anything I can repay. Words are not enough.”

Potter’s eyes were steady on his. They were standing across the table from each other, but they might as well be mere centimetres apart. There was an indescribable expression on Potter’s face that caused Draco’s breath to stick in his throat. His gaze was molten on Draco’s skin.

Draco’s eyes dropped, and settled on Potter’s lips. Why had he not noticed before how the bottom lip was just that little bit fuller than the top lip? He imagined catching it gently between his teeth and sucking on it.

His eyes were still on those lips when they moved, and Potter was speaking.

“Why are you so stuck on the idea of repaying? Have you ever thought maybe I do things out of my own selfishness?”

Draco fervently hoped he had not been caught staring at Potter’s lips, and looked away from his face. His alarm had made him sound more scornful than he had meant. “You? Selfish? Saint Potty?”

“Why do you keep doing that?” Potter threw his hands up. “The moment I think we can have a decent conversation, you revert back to nastiness and I want to throttle you.”

“Perhaps because I am a nasty git. Goodnight, Potter. Thank you for dinner. I apologise for imposing.”

With that, Draco spun on his heel, and escaped into the safety of his dark, empty room.

---

Over the next few days, Draco’s life with Potter settled into a strangely comfortable rhythm. They would have breakfast together in the morning with careful conversation. After that first night, Potter avoided personal topics, and stuck to polite questions about how Draco liked his food and Ollivander’s.

Draco would go to work, and Potter would settle behind the counter after checking the wards around the shop. To start off his workday, Draco usually read the Daily Prophet with a cup of tea. He would pore over the Potter stories, which was very awkward to do when the subject was right next to him.

On the second morning, Draco skipped right past the main pages to the entertainment section; he did not wanted to be caught reading Potter news. He was halfway through the gossip column (by Rita Skeeter, of course) before he realised it was about Potter.

“What are you reading?” Potter leaned in; Draco caught a whiff of aftershave and soap, and felt the ghost of heat from Potter’s proximity on his back.

“Nothing,” Draco tried to turn the page, but Potter snaked his arm around Draco, and pressed the page down.

Draco tensed. He was acutely aware of Potter’s arm around him, and wished he could lean back and put his head on Potter’s shoulder to better catch his delicious scent.

The article read: “A certain redheaded Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies was spotted at Mulligan’s this weekend. The fiery little witch danced and canoodled the night away with an up-and-coming handsome Seeker from the Appleby Arrows. Note, dear readers, that the Seeker was definitely not the Saviour of the Wizarding World and the Boy Who Lived Twice.

“This reporter wonders if the Boy Who Lived Twice will live through this humiliation and betrayal. Doesn’t our strapping, handsome Saviour deserve a happy ending? Or is he tragically doomed to be betrayed by the women around him (refer to this reporter’s article for the 1994 Triwizard Tournament on our young hero’s failed relationship with an enchanting, talented young Muggle-born)?”

Potter made a dissatisfied noise when he finished the article, and stepped away, much to Draco’s relief and disappointment.

“Rita Skeeter is a shit excuse for a reporter,” Draco said, glancing at Potter.

“I know she is,” Potter waved a hand airily. “I wish she would stop writing about Ginny though. Merlin knows Skeeter wrote enough about her when we were dating. It’s bloody unfair that she should hound her even after we broke up.”

“You and the Weasley girl broke up?” Draco asked, hope warming his chest.

“Yeah. Skeeter will have a field day with that,” Potter snorted.

Draco wanted very badly to ask why they broke up, but they were on a no-personal-questions basis, and really, what was the point in knowing? A single Potter was still unavailable because he was straight.

Draco turned back to the newspaper. He read the first paragraph of the next article four times before he realised Potter was speaking.

“Sorry, what?”

Potter was staring down at Draco’s hands on the worktop, looking distinctly awkward. “What about you and Parkinson? Do you still see each other?”

Here was a chance to come out to him. He could so easily say, “No, we were never seeing each other. It’s impossible since I’m gay.” But it felt too deeply personal. Telling him “I’m gay” could very well lead to “I’m gay, and I have been desperately in love with you since we were children. Now will you let me kiss you?”

Instead, Draco said, “She moved to France after the war. I see her whenever she’s back in London.”

“Oh,” Potter moved back a little. “It must be difficult having a long-distance relationship.”

Draco shrugged and made a non-committal sound. Ollivander came in at the point, and began talking to Draco about a new model of wand he was experimenting with. Potter retreated to the background, and thankfully, the conversation was left behind.

Weasley had said he and Potter would take shifts watching after Draco, but Draco had only seen him for one afternoon the entire week. It was mostly Potter.

It was simultaneously easier and more difficult to spend so much time with Potter. It was easier because Draco gradually grew used to the instinctive way his Veela body reacted to Potter, and learned to control his urges even when they battered at his self-restraint with the strength of a giant.

It was more difficult because he learned more about Potter, and every single little bit made him love him even more. Even sticking to general topics didn’t help anymore. Draco could love the way Potter described the weather, and learned how his favourite season was autumn because it set the trees on fire with red and orange leaves.

The Veela Healer Mitra had arranged to meet him hadn’t helped matters. She was an aristocratically beautiful woman with long curly black hair and large limpid pale blue eyes. She took one look at him, and burst into laughter.

“Well, this is unfortunate. The first male Veela we’ve had in centuries, and you’re gay.”

Draco was relieved Potter had left them alone in Healer Mitra’s office for the meeting. He glared with irritation at the Veela. Healer Mitra had avoided all questions about the ingredients used for his rudimentary body potion – something about trade secrets – and it had left Draco in a very bad mood.

“And you’ve already met your Heart’s Desire,” the Veela continued.

“What?”

The Veela jerked her head towards the door, where Potter was waiting outside of, and a conspiratorial smile spread over her face.

“It’ll go away, right?” Draco asked desperately.

“Oh, no,” the Veela looked surprised that he should even ask. “We Veelas, we love deeply and truly. If we are lucky, we meet our Heart’s Desire in our lifetime. We are able to live without them, of course, but once we meet them, we must have them. It is a similar concept to soulmates, except of course, soulmates aren’t real – all our souls are whole to begin with – and Heart’s Desires are very much real.”

She looked proud to have something wizardkind was incapable of.

“But what if our Heart’s Desire doesn’t desire us in return?” Draco’s heart was sinking rapidly.

“It is very rare that that happens,” the Veela said with all the supreme confidence of a beautiful, charming woman. “But when it does, well … it doesn’t end well.

“You have heard of Ravijojla? Yes. When her king would not have her, she had to settle for being his sister. It is a painful existence, being unable to claim your Heart’s Desire. She eventually killed herself; the pain of seeing him with another was too much to bear.”

“But love is a choice,” Draco protested futilely. “People choose to walk away from relationships all the time!”

The pitying look the Veela gave him told him that he was a Veela now, and Veelas could not choose their Heart’s Desires. Besides, he knew he had made the choice to love Potter long before this disaster happened.

Draco loved Potter so much he though his heart might bleed from it. He only hoped it did not bleed out in the way he looked or talked to him. Thank Merlin, Salazar, and the great wizards and witches that Potter was so thick, because Draco’s friends certainly saw it in him.

During lunch one day, Theo looked at him with a knowing expression that sent dread twisting in Draco’s guts.

“You’re in love with him,” Theo said the moment Potter left the table to fetch them condiments.

Draco choked on his sip of steaming hot tea. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and glared at his friend.

“I most certainly am not,” he hissed, looking around nervously for Potter.

Theo considered him, his lips twisted in amusement. “Well, well, Draco. Who would have thought?”

“Shut up,” Draco whispered, seeing Potter return with salt and vinegar.

Theo merely smirked and sat back as Potter sat back down.

“Something happen?” Potter asked curiously, looking from Draco to Theo.

“No,” Draco said shortly. “Anyway, you were telling us about the report from the Investigation Department.”

“Ah, yes,” Potter sprinkled his chips in salt; he liked his food far too salty.

Since Potter could not leave his side, he had taken to having lunch with Theo and Draco. Theo had stopped by every day this week, which was fairly unusual. He was probably morbidly fascinated – as Blaise was when he heard the news – by Draco Malfoy being watched over by his former rival.

If they received any strange looks – Harry Potter with a known Death Eater and a Death Eater sympathizer – the three of them no longer noticed them.

“The main ingredient is, of course, Angel’s Trumpet. The potion-maker managed to make it poisonous on contact with skin by using the juice of the fruit as the solvent. He must have been planning this for months, considering the amount of Angel’s Trumpet he would have needed.”

“That should make your job easier. He must have left a trail,” Draco said.

Potter shook his head, grimacing. “Unfortunately, no. There is only one registered seller of Angel’s Trumpet in England, and he has not sold any in the past year. Your attacker must have bought it from the black market or from a seller outside of the United Kingdom. We are trying to track down a seller on the black market, and coordinating with the French Magical Law Enforcement. France has a number of registered sellers.”

“So this case wouldn’t be solved by tomorrow then?” Draco asked.

“Sorry, no,” Potter looked chagrined; probably remembering he had promised it would be over within the week. “I thought at first this was a straightforward case. I mean, you are a former Death Eater and – well – and you must have received a number of death threats before, yeah?”

Draco nodded. “Nearly every day for the first year, then a few every month for the next two. I receive one or two every three months now, like a present I had forgotten I had bought for myself.”

Potter did not look amused at his quip. “Yeah, well, this attack on your life is a very deliberate, very well-planned one. It isn’t a casual opportunistic attack. Ron and I think we need to start looking at these death threats. See if any of them have decided to take it beyond letters.”

“All right.”

“People need to let the past go,” Theo said with a frown. “We have already paid for our mistakes. Draco, especially.”

Draco looked at his friend in surprise, and smiled with affection. “Thank you, Theo.”

“All people see when they look at us is Slytherin,” Theo continued. “They wouldn’t give us a chance no matter what, just because of what a couple of insane Slytherins chose to do. They have damned us forever.”

Theo spoke without heat, but there was intensity behind his words that told Draco his friend meant every word. Draco had not known Theo had felt so strongly about the pall of being Slytherin.

“Yes, it isn’t fair,” Potter agreed, looking at Draco. “Especially since most of you have changed.”

Draco stared down at his sandwich, twisting his napkin in his fingers. He wanted to glare Potter down. What was he going on about? Did he think just because they had managed to spend the past few days together without killing each other that they were friends now? Draco hadn’t changed; he was as much as a tainted, snivelling little coward as he was five years ago.

His heart was beating quick and loud. He would be stupid not to notice that Potter was looking at him more and more these days, his gaze lingering on Draco’s face, hands and body. His eyes were soft and warm with emotions Draco dared not consider. It was impossible that Potter could – no, impossible.

Draco picked up his sandwich, and continued eating, ignoring with fatalistic determination Potter’s gaze.

---

When Draco was closing up the shop that evening, Potter was particularly jittery. Draco decided to ignore him.

“Dra – Malfoy,” Potter said.

He was going to call him by his given name! The terror that stole through Draco’s limbs was icy-cold. If Potter did, if Potter called him Draco … He refused to think what he might have done.

“Yes?” he said, relieved that his voice had not trembled.

“I was thinking … I don’t particularly feel like cooking tonight. I’m thinking of heading over to visit my godson.”

“Oh,” Draco said, turning to him, mildly disappointed. “All right then. I’ll pick something up on my way back. It’ll be Weasley tonight, then?”

“What?” Potter looked up from his hands, eyes wide with confusion. “No, no, he has a date with Hermione tonight. I’m still on duty.”

“Oh. So who will be guarding me tonight?”

“Me,” Potter said, now frowning. “Wait, do you not want to come with me?”

“Go with you? Where to?” Draco was nonplussed.

“To see Teddy! Andromeda’s,” Potter said. “Your aunt Andromeda.”

“I know how Andromeda Tonks is related to me, Potter,” Draco said wryly. “You want me to go with you?”

“Yeah.”

Potter was inordinately nervous. Draco was tempted to agree to go simply to see why. He was thrilled at the idea of Potter wanting him to meet his godson, to meet family. However, he was completely unprepared to meet Andromeda Tonks, and hated to go to her without the apology he should have composed earlier.

“Come on, don’t turn me down,” Potter said before Draco could shake his head.

“I might have agreed, you know,” Draco informed primly, moving behind the counter to tidy up the records.

Potter raised his eyebrows. “You sure?”

He leaned on the counter, resting his elbows on the counter top. “Come on, Malfoy. ‘Dromeda said you are welcome to join us for supper. She would like to meet you in person. You are her nephew.”

Potter was rather too close. Draco pretended not to notice how pretty those green eyes were, how he would like to slide those glasses down to get a better look at those eyes. He wrenched his thoughts to dinner at Andromeda’s.

“No, I’m sure she would rather not have me,” he said. “My mother had, after all, completely cut her off, and the Second War did not made a difference.”

“Draco.”

Draco’s heart leapt in his chest, disbelief and delight warring for dominance over his mind. Warmth suffused him. He felt tenderness unlike any other from the sound of his name from Potter’s lips.

“Draco, the Second War made all the difference,” Potter continued as if using Draco’s first name meant nothing to him. “‘Dromeda has no family left except for Teddy. Won’t you meet her? She really would like to meet you.”

Potter looked at him beseechingly, lips pursed. How could Draco deny his Heart’s Desire? He couldn’t.

“All right,” he said, looking down at his hands pressed tightly together.

“Brilliant!” Potter was beaming at him; Draco could feel it but would not look up to see for himself. “Shall we go now then? If you are done closing up.”

Draco nodded. Potter fetched their cloaks from behind the door. After Draco muttered the spell sequence that locked the shop, he turned to face Potter. The other man smiled, draping Draco’s cloak on his shoulders for him. When he fastened the catch, his hand brushed the underside of Draco’s chin, sending a jolt through Draco’s body. Draco’s breath caught in his throat, and he kept very still, a mingling of terror and ecstasy in his chest.

For a moment, Potter’s eyes lingered on Draco’s face, that soft smile still on the edges of his mouth. Draco wanted to lean and kiss that smile into full existence. He felt warm under Potter’s gaze, wanted and safe and magical because he had Harry Potter’s full attention.

A loud bang further down the street caused both of them to jump. Potter looked away, a ruddiness spreading over his cheeks. Draco nervously scratched his left forearm.

“Take my arm,” Potter said, proffering his right arm. “I’ll Side-Along you.”

“Right,” Draco said, gingerly putting his hand in the crook of Potter’s elbow.

Even through the robes, Draco could feel the heat of Potter’s skin. Potter made a sound of exasperation.

“Hold on tighter,” he said, grabbing Draco’s hand and pulling him closer. “Wouldn’t want to lose you on the way there.”

Draco stumbled, utterly shocked by the crippling desire that rippled through him at Potter’s touch. His arm was pressed up against Potter, who had turned his head towards him. They were nearly the same height, Draco being one or two centimetres taller, and Potter was standing so close Draco could feel the touch of Potter’s breath on his lips.

“Draco,” Potter said in a half-strangled voice.

That was nearly his undoing. Draco leaned in closer. He could see Potter’s wide eyes, the gold flecks amongst the green. Potter smelled of sweat and dust and that faint mellow soap he used. His soft lips were slightly parted, and he was breathing heavily, almost panting in anticipation.

Then another loud bang echoed down the street, and Draco yanked himself away from Potter, his heart in his mouth. He was shaking and panting as if he had run the entire length of Diagon Alley. He praised that utterly inept shopkeeper for stopping him from making a mistake nearly as bad as his birth.

Potter stared at him, looking cheated and bereft. Fucking hell. Potter had wanted to kiss him. Draco must have unwittingly used that infamous Veela attraction. But it meant Potter had inclined to be attracted to Draco in the first place. No, that was impossible; Potter was straight. He had girlfriends.

Also, Potter hated him … didn’t he? They had been getting along so well lately … but didn’t they say there was a thin line between hate and love? Draco’s dastardly Veela attraction must have confused him. Potter would never – could never – want to kiss Draco Malfoy. If he knew Draco was using his Veela powers, that old enmity might return. The thought of Potter hating him again nearly made him cry out in despair.

When he had regained his composure, Draco straightened up and said to the silent, impassive man, “We should go. I wouldn’t want to keep my aunt waiting.”

Potter nodded once. Draco clutched Potter’s upper arm firmly. He could not decipher the dark-haired man’s closed-off expression. He must have realised what had happened, and he must hate Draco for it.

As the dark, squeezed feeling of Apparition took over, Draco wondered if Potter could hate him as much as he hated himself. He rather doubted it was possible.

---

Andromeda Tonks was truly glad to meet him, Draco was surprised to discover. When he tried to apologise clumsily for all the horrors she had suffered under the Death Eaters and futilely for the husband, daughter and son-in-law she had lost, she had merely held his hands, and said, “It wasn’t your fault, Draco.”

Draco refused to cry, especially with Potter watching them, but when Andromeda embraced him, the tears came out anyway. He was angry and embarrassed, and excused himself to the toilet. When he returned, Andromeda and Potter pretended they hadn’t noticed his reddened eyes and nose.

Teddy Lupin was a charming, boisterous five-year-old who changed hair colour every ten minutes. That night, he seemed enamoured with Draco’s white-blonde hair and pale grey eyes. It was startling to turn and see a miniature version of himself looking at him. Potter seemed pleased Teddy was taking to Draco so well, as was Andromeda.

During the dinner, Andromeda regaled them with stories of her childhood adventures with Draco’s mother. Bellatrix wasn’t mentioned once. It seemed Andromeda and Narcissa had grown up quite close even if they disagreed widely on key matters. Draco listened wistfully, wondering what it might have been like if Narcissa was more like Andromeda. Would I have been less of a prick? Would Potter have agreed to be my friend in first year?

Once a while, Teddy would cut in with stories of his own about the Muggle kindergarten he was attending. He spoke expressively with his hands, and his face would transform into the people he was talking about. It was unnerving to see a wrinkled old-woman’s face on a five-year-old to say the least.

At the end of the supper, Andromeda and Teddy eked out a promise from Draco to visit again next week. He was in such a good mood that when they arrived back at Grimmauld Place and Potter suggested they have a drink, he agreed cheerfully.

It was only once he was in the living room, comfortably ensconced at one end of an old sofa, that he remembered the near-kiss this evening. Being alone with Potter under the influence of alcohol was a very bad idea. He should have jumped to his feet and escaped to his room. At that moment, Potter walked back into the room wearing those Muggle clothes and smiling cheerfully.

Draco sat, hopelessly entrapped by that smile.

“Here you go,” Potter handed him a glass of blood-red wine. “Elf-made wine. Made by Kreacher himself. Apparently, it’s a Black family special.”

“Thank you,” Draco was careful not to touch Potter as he accepted his drink.

Potter plopped himself down next to him, sprawling with his legs stretched out. Draco sank further into the cushions. Potter took a sip of his wine, and gave a hum of appreciation. Draco sipped as well. The wine was delicious, slipping down his throat lush as velvet.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Potter grinned him over the wine glass. “I told you ‘Dromeda would welcome you. And Teddy loves you!”

Draco flushed. Potter looked so bloody attractive with that silly lop-sided grin. He was a very good-looking bloke, with those vividly green eyes, that jaw, those broad shoulders, and narrow waist – precisely the way Draco liked his men. Potter was all the more attractive with his utter lack of awareness of his own looks.

Draco took a second, longer sip of wine. “Thank Merlin for a five-year-old’s approval.”

He flashed a grin at Potter. The other man snorted, and nudged Draco’s foot with his foot. His bare foot. The mere touch heated up Draco’s skin. Draco swallowed his gasp, and moved his feet away. Potter looked disappointed.

Draco drank more wine, pretending not to see Potter’s expression. Merlin, who knew Potter’s sexuality is so fluid? Still, that doesn’t mean he’d be willing to fuck you, Malfoy, get your head out of the gutter. He’s only ever dated girls.

“It must have been difficult to convince Teddy to stop transforming constantly in kindergarten,” Draco said to distract himself from Potter’s Potterishness.

“Yeah,” Potter snorted. “He wants so badly to impress his new friends and he forgets sometimes that they’re Muggles. Once, he transformed in front of a friend and the friend’s mother. That was disastrous. The mother panicked and had to be given a Calming Draught and Obliviated. Turned out the friend had seen Teddy’s trick before and loved it. We told Teddy he can’t transform in front of Muggles anymore or we would have to take him out of kindergarten – Ministry orders and all that. Teddy was so upset …”

It was clear remembering the incident had made Potter upset as well. Impulsively, Draco reached out and patted him on the arm. He snatched his hand back before the touch truly registered. Still the touch tingled on the skin of his palm. He would never be used to the way Potter made him feel.

Potter looked up at him from his wineglass, and smiled. It was a slow, bashful smile that made Draco want to squish his face between his hands and drag him in for a kiss.

“In any case, I do my best to make sure Teddy has a far better childhood than I ever had.”

“What was your childhood like?” Draco asked, running his finger along the wineglass rim.

Potter’s gaze was dark and heavy. The silence that fell was thick and portentous. Draco dared not look away, even when his heart thrummed in his throat and made it hard to breathe.

When Potter finally dipped his eyes down and took a draught from his glass, the tension in the air dissipated. There was a feeling of a significant decision being made.

“I was raised by Muggles, you know,” Potter said, looking straight at Draco.

Draco nodded. When he had first known he would be going to school with Harry Potter and that he was the interesting-looking skinny boy from Madam Malkin’s, he had found out everything he could about the boy. Nothing much was known about his early childhood beyond him being raised by Muggles, something Draco had once regarded as indicative of the boy’s poor decision in rejecting Draco’s friendship.

“Yeah, well, my aunt and uncle weren’t … they weren’t nice,” Potter said reluctantly.

“You don’t have to answer my question,” Draco said. “It’s far too personal.”

“No, I want to tell you,” Potter’s eyes were intense.

What happened to no personal questions? Draco looked at Potter’s face – honest, open, hopeful – and knew he would not be able to walk away from this conversation. Especially since he wanted to know more about Harry Potter. He wanted to know everything about him. He loved him so much, he could swallow him whole, and that still would not be close enough to Harry for Draco.

“All right,” Draco said softly. “Tell me.”

And Harry told him. He told him of sleeping in a spider-infested cupboard under the stairs. He told him of miserable birthdays with nothing better than hand-me-down clothes to mark the occasion. He told him of being locked up and denied food simply for being Harry, and how the smell of cooking bacon was torture.

As he talked, Draco refilled their glasses with the Refilling Charm. Gradually, they found themselves gravitating towards each other in the middle of the sofa, eyes darkened, and sated with very good wine. Draco had turned towards Harry, his face pressed against his arm on the top of the sofa. Harry was gazing at him, his words so soft at points Draco had to lean in closer to hear.

Harry’s eyes were gentle and warm and hazy. This was an intimacy like Draco had never felt before: leaning in close enough to smell the rich wine on Harry’s breath as he talked to Draco openly, with no barriers. Happiness was a warm, butter-golden glow in his chest, heavy and lazy in his limbs.

Draco hadn’t realised Harry had stopped speaking until Harry reached up to run a finger down Draco’s jaw. Draco shivered under his light touch. For once, he welcomed the heat thrumming through his blood. For once, he gave in, pliant to the longing ignited by Harry’s touch.

“Thank you,” Draco said. “For telling me.”

Harry gave a low, rumbling laugh. “Well, I figured the only way I can get you to open up to me is if I open up first.”

Draco smiled, catching Harry’s hand and pulling it away from his face. “Oh? Do you want to know more about me?”

“Do I want to?” Harry raised his eyebrows with mock incredulity. “Draco, I don’t think I can want anything more.”

Draco squeezed Harry’s fingers, giddy delight sparking at the liberties he was taking he had not thought possible. “What do you want to know then?”

Harry rested his head against Draco’s stretched-out arm, his face millimetres away from Draco’s. “Everything.”

So Draco told him about growing up in the Manor, where it seemed to be cold all the time. His parents had made sure he never wanted for anything, and because he was an only child, they had arranged frequent play dates with Crabbe, Goyle and Pansy.

His mother would go for tea at the manors of other ladies, and more often than not would bring Draco along, despite her friends’ disapproval of having a sticky child underfoot.

His father had been his teacher before Hogwarts, and exacted strict expectations. His father had often said he wanted great things from Draco because he knew he had the capability to achieve them. His father had been his hero, the man who had an answer for everything.

When he finished speaking, Draco looked at Harry, realising towards the end that this father he was speaking so glowingly of was, after all, a Death Eater. A murderer who had fled the country rather than deal with the aftermath of their wrong choices. He pulled back a little, waiting for condemnation, holding his breath, suspending hope.

Harry leaned forward, closing the gap. His forehead pressed against his, their noses brushing. Harry’s hand cupped his cheek, thumb stroking his cheekbone. It was a lightning bolt of disbelief, an unravelling of fear. The gentle touch reached into Draco’s chest, touched something deep within him, and wrenched at his heart.

“They really love you,” Harry said quietly.

“Yes,” Draco whispered.

“That’s wonderful,” Harry said, and that was that.

After a moment of silence during which Harry’s hand moved down to Draco’s neck, Draco said, “But they – “

“They served their time,” Harry interrupted, hand moving back to Draco’s face in a very distracting manner. “For all their flaws and crimes, they are still your parents. They love you deeply, and you love them. Right?”

“Right,” Draco whispered, unable to say anything else around the lump in his throat.

“Neville told us about how you apologised to him too, you know,” Harry said, thumb on Draco’s bottom lip. “You have been apologising to everybody you meet for the past five years. I’ve heard from my friends.”

Draco shuddered under Harry’s careful touch, desire pulling his stomach into knots. He ached terribly with the temptation, wanting nothing more than to lean in, to press his lips against Harry’s, and see what fireworks might fly. Instead he grabbed Harry’s hand, and held it. Harry frowned a little in disappointment.

“I don’t apologise to everybody I meet,” Draco informed him.

“No, you don’t,” Harry said, and they both knew he meant Draco hadn’t apologised to him.

“It’s all right,” Harry added before Draco could speak. “I have done horrible things to you as well. We’re even.”

“No, we’re not,” Draco entwined his fingers with Harry’s.

Harry laughed, his laughter rumbling through Draco as well. “I guess not. Too much has happened between us.”

They did nothing but stare at each other for a few long moments. Somewhere, Draco registered that this was wrong. He should never have allowed himself to drink with Potter, and to drink so much. But now it was too late.

Alcohol had ignited the heady rush of possibility and hope, like Felix Felicis in every mouthful of wine. He was so comfortable and so happy that he could no sooner turn off the Veela charm that was working on Potter than figure out how he turned it on in the first place.

“You’re amazing, you know,” Harry said, his breath warm and moist against Draco’s lips. “I thought it was suspicious at first, how you went around apologising to people. I thought it was a ploy on your part to get your Malfoy name out of the dirt, but you never tried to approach me or Ron and Hermione. And you never asked favours from those who accepted your apology. You just kept your head down and worked at Ollivander’s. Luna told us about how you paid for the wand of that Muggle-born girl whose parents couldn’t afford it. You call me Saint Potter, but you are the saintly one, aren’t you?”

“Have you been stalking me, Harry?” Draco laughed, a secret thrill coiling in his belly at the idea of Harry keeping track of him as much as he had ravenously devoured all Potter news. “And please do not insult me by calling me a saint.”

“Right, we cannot have your good Slytherin name tarnished,” Harry chuckled. “I like the sound of my name on your lips.”

“What, Harry?” Draco said teasingly. “Harry, Harry, Harry, Har-“

Harry’s lips pressed against his. He had pulled his hand out of Draco’s grasp, and placed it on Draco’s chin. Their eyes remained open and staring. It was excruciatingly embarrassing to be so close to someone, but somehow, Draco could not bring himself to close his eyes.

Harry’s lips were soft and warm and tasted of elf-made wine. After the brief touch, they pulled away, eyes still locked onto each other. Then Harry looked down, an embarrassed tinge to his cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” he blurted. “I know you’re together with Parkinson. I really shouldn’t have kissed you. You were so close, and you smelled so good, and you were saying my name – “

“Harry, I’m not together with Pansy. We’re simply really good friends. We’ve never been together because – because I’m gay.”

Harry’s head snapped up, his eyes wide. “You lied to me?”

“No. I just omitted certain details,” Draco said sheepishly. “I didn’t want you to feel weird around me.”

“Feel weird – I’ve been feeling wretched for being attracted to a straight guy with a girlfriend!” Harry exclaimed.

“Attracted?” Draco could hardly say the word.

“Come on,” Harry rolled his eyes, leaning in again to grab Draco by his shoulders. “Haven’t I been so obvious? Hermione certainly said so.”

Draco smiled so widely he thought his cheeks would crack. “You should have said something.”

Harry shifted so he was stretched out on the sofa, legs dangling over the end. Draco settled down on top of him, his ear pressed against Harry’s heart, his legs tangled with Harry’s. An arm was wrapped around Draco tightly.

“I tried to kiss you this evening, didn’t I?” Harry murmured into Draco’s hair.

Draco laughed, scooting up so his face was level with Harry’s. He gazed down at him, and didn’t think he could fit any more love in his heart for this face, for this man. Gently, he kissed Harry.

The second kiss was even better than the first. This time, their eyes were closed. Harry’s lips moved against his, dry and slightly chapped. They opened their mouths, and their tongues slid against each other.

Kissing Harry was holding a roiling ocean in his hands. It was exciting and unbelievable and infinitely frightening. When they parted, Draco nuzzled his nose against Harry’s cheek, and kissed the corner of his jaw like he had always wanted to.

Harry wrapped both arms around Draco. Draco nestled his head against Harry’s neck, and, feeling warm and satisfied and loved, he fell asleep in Harry Potter’s arms.

---

Draco was kissing Harry, his fingers entangled in his messy, black hair. It felt unreal; there were soft, hazy edges to everything. He nipped at the fuller bottom lip like he had always wanted, his skin chafing against Harry’s bristles. Harry groaned into his mouth, hands on Draco’s arse, pressing him tightly against him.

They were tangled limbs and desire and heat. Draco could feel Harry’s hardness pressing against his hip, and sucked harder on Harry’s bottom lip.

Draco,” Harry moaned, placing a hand on the back of Draco’s head.

That drove Draco from half-asleep to complete wakefulness. He was lying on top of Harry on the sofa, one of Harry’s arms draped over him, the other trailing on the ground. Their hips were aligned, morning hard-ons pressed against each other. His lips were pressed against Harry’s neck.

He pushed himself up on an elbow to see Harry looking at him from under heavy-lidded eyes, half-dazed with lust and sleepiness. Draco swore, disentangling himself from Harry in a hurry and falling back onto the carpeted floor.

He had plunged from a dream and into the nightmare that was his reality.

“Draco?” Harry raised himself onto his elbows, his erection straining against the zip of his jeans.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” Draco was muttering, rubbing his hands over his face and feeling utterly wretched because his mouth tasted foul, and he had fucking seduced Harry fucking Potter.

“Draco? What’s wrong?” Harry crouched by him, reaching out a hand.

“Don’t touch me!” Draco all but screamed, flinging himself backwards. “This is wrong, wrong, wrong. I shouldn’t have – No, oh, Merlin, what the fuck did I do? Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

“All right, all right,” Harry held up his hands, eyes wide with concern. “Draco, will you calm down? What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?” Draco stared at him.

Harry – Potter – no, it was pointless trying to think of him as Potter anymore. He was Harry, and for a single night, Draco had dared believe Harry had been his Harry.

Harry stared back, a hint of fear in his eyes. Draco’s heart wrenched in his chest. He couldn’t have Harry scared of him, scared of falling prey to this damned Veela charm. Draco scrambled to his feet.

Harry stood with him, his hands still reaching out. “Please tell me what’s wrong, Draco. Last night was – last night was good, wasn’t it? You liked it. You – You kissed me.”

Draco flinched, feeling each word as a physical slap. How strong was his Veela charm that Potter should still be attracted to him? He clenched his fists, fingernails digging into his palms.

Draco had kissed him. He could hardly resist, with his Heart’s Desire right in front of him. Since he had reawakened as a Veela, Draco could think of nothing else but Harry. He had taken advantage of Harry, taken advantage of his kindness and proximity and bisexuality.

But – but Harry had kissed him first, hadn’t he? Rage – hot and charging like a bull – swept through Draco. If Harry had not fucking kissed him, Draco would not have caved. Draco would have maintained his control, and resisted kissing this man he so dearly wanted. Fucking Harry Potter, all his fucking fault.

You kissed me,” Draco spat out. “I would never have – I wouldn’t have made a mistake if you hadn’t kissed me. I never fucking wanted – I – I never wanted to do this to you.”

Draco had been unforgivably despicable. Typical that the only way he could have the man he loved was if Draco tricked him into his bed.

Harry jerked back as if Draco had punched him. The colour bled out of his face.

“I – I thought you wanted it as much as I did,” Harry whispered. “I’m sorry. I should have … I shouldn’t have forced you again. You – You should never be forced to do something you don’t want to do.”

But I did, Harry! I wanted it so badly; you cannot even begin to imagine. I fucking want it so badly that I will only screw it up. Draco wanted to scream at him. But he drew himself up with as much dignity as he could muster.

“I think it’s best if we stay away from each other.”

“Yes,” Harry looked miserable, his hands dropped to his side. “I’ll – I’ll floo Ron. Have him take over.”

Draco wouldn’t look at him. He knew that if he did, his self-control would splinter, and he would wrap his arms around Harry and beg to be touched. So Draco didn’t look at him, and silence broke whatever intimacy they had shared last night into jagged, painful pieces.

---

If Draco had thought a week with Harry was tough to handle, two weeks without him was complete and utter misery. Draco had moved into Weasley and Hermione’s flat. He flat-out refused to live with Harry any longer until he could trust himself to control his Veela powers.

Hermione had looked uncertain, and would have said something if Weasley hadn’t shook his head and muttered something to her about letting them sort it out themselves. Draco hadn’t thought he would ever be grateful for Weasley.

Now instead of Harry, it was Weasley who skulked in the background of Ollivander’s. Unfortunately, unlike Harry who was content with reading magazines or reading reports in the background, Weasley was prone to talking too loudly about inane subjects and sticking his long nose in conversations with customers.

Theo had looked surprised at the change in Auror. He had commented, “Trouble in paradise, Draco?” and wriggled his eyebrows. Draco had given him a hard, black glare, and Theo had shut up. He got on surprisingly well with Weasley.

The more Draco spent time with Weasley, the more he saw why Harry would value his friendship so much. Weasley was gregarious and friendly and laid-back, rather like an overlarge, over-eager dog. He had a big heart, if a rather insecure disposition, and he had truly forgiven Draco despite their bad history. Draco was ashamed to have judged Weasley on the money he hadn’t had.

Of course, appreciating Weasley’s company only made him think of Harry and of how much Draco missed him. He wanted to eat with Harry and to make fun of his poor manners, even if he knew now it was a result of his wretched childhood. He wanted to read the papers with Harry, and to discuss the more interesting articles. He wanted to reach over, casually touch Harry’s shoulder to ask him if he wanted some tea simply to have an excuse to touch him.

Draco had completely underestimated Weasley’s intuitiveness. On the fourteenth day without Harry, Weasley rested his chin on the counter, and abruptly said, “Why are you and Harry still fighting?”

Draco stiffened. “We are not fighting.”

“Well, yeah, you haven’t exactly talked enough for it to be considered fighting,” Weasley wrinkled his nose. “Nah, you two gits are just enjoying making yourselves miserable, aren’t you?”

“I beg to differ,” Draco said coldly. “I am not miserable. I am perfectly fine.”

Weasley shot him a withering look he could only have learned from Hermione. “Come off it, Malfoy. I have been spending every minute of the past two weeks with you. I even know how loudly you piss now.” He grimaced. “Not that I needed to know that, mind you. Come on. Why are you and Harry still fighting? You owe me that much. Hermione and I haven’t –” he smirked at this point, “well, you know, in two weeks.”

Draco wrinkled his nose. “I did not need to know that. Harry and I are not fighting, Weasley. Leave it.”

“Could have fooled me,” Weasley snorted. “From what I hear from ‘Mione, Harry is being a bigger sop than you are, groaning and moaning all over the place about what an arse he is, and how he’s an complete fucking prick for forcing you into kissing him.”

Draco knew his interest was obvious because Weasley grinned triumphantly. Draco coughed, and returned to his book. He was currently trying to study the uses of aspen wood. Ollivander had hinted that he might take Draco on his next wood-harvesting trip, which Draco would have been more excited about if he wasn’t so miserable about Harry.

“Come on, Malfoy. You do want to know why Harry is so miserable, don’t you?”

Draco shrugged.

“Berk,” Weasley rolled his eyes. “Have you managed to find out what the second ingredient in your rudimentary body potion is yet? The bit that supposed to anchor your soul to this world?”

Draco frowned at him, unsure what this had to do with Harry. “No. Healer Mitra wouldn’t tell me, which is very unethical of him. I have a right to know, as a patient.”

“You should ask Harry,” Weasley was giving him a meaningful look.

“Harry? Harry contributed something to the potion to anchor my soul?” Draco was lost.

“Yep,” Weasley said cheerfully. “And he feels awful about it. Apparently, that Healer of yours told him it might have something to do with how you’re always making moony eyes at Harry all the time. Oh, come on, you do. The way you two look at each other – it’s like the rest of us might as well fuck off.

“Anyway, Harry thinks he forced you to attach yourself to him, so he feels really bad about it. Even though I told him it’s for the best, really, since he has been pining for you for the past two years.”

Weasley saw the amazement on Draco’s face, and rolled his eyes again. “Bloody thick, the two of you.”

Weasley’s words were the light that poured over him when he had been in wretched pain from the Angel’s Trumpet. Draco thought he could have kissed Weasley. Some of his intention must have showed on his face, because Weasley suddenly looked nervous and stepped back.

Happiness was a blazing bonfire in his chest. Draco had not realised how cold he had felt until he knew true warmth. Harry had been pining for him. Harry had been watching him. Harry had wanted him as much as he did, and he had thought Draco was being forced. It wasn’t all Veela attraction.

It was all Draco could do not to Apparate to Harry’s side right now. He wanted to run to him, to hold him, to tell him just how much he loved him and always would, to buy him a new apron and throw that filthy one away.

He would have to go about this carefully. If he buggered this … Draco shook his head, not wanting to face that possibility. He looked at Weasley with affection, wanting to thank him somehow but found words utterly inadequate as usual.

“Weasley, what about you take the night off with Hermione?” he asked.

Weasley’s eyes lit up. “Right! I’ll floo Harry then – “

“No,” Draco interrupted, knowing he needed more time to plan this reconciliation. “No, it’s fine. Look, it’s been two weeks, and the attacker hasn’t done anything. He probably gave up on killing me. Veelas are extraordinarily difficult to kill after all, and I’m hardly foolish enough to walk around alone now. I’ll just head over to Theo’s, and stay there for the night.”

“No,” Weasley frowned. “Harry will kill me if I leave you alone.”

“I’ll talk to Harry tomorrow. I need tonight to … to think about this,” Draco said. “I won’t leave Theo’s house, I promise. You can set the wards there and everything. Harry can’t possibly blame you if you got me talking to him again, can he?”

Weasley was half-convinced. Draco raised his eyebrows at him, and smiled pleasantly. Weasley nodded thoughtfully.

“All right,” he said at last. “You swear you wouldn’t leave the house?”

Draco rolled his eyes. “I swear by Merlin’s beard.”

“All right then!” Weasley’s eyes twinkled with good cheer and the certainty of a man having sex tonight. “I’ll floo ‘Mione then!”

He ambled off to the fireplace in the back room. Draco rested his chin on his palm, closed his eyes, and began to prepare the words he would use to finally apologise to Harry.

---

“Thanks for agreeing, Theo,” Draco said when Weasley finally left the flat, beaming and whistling.

“It’s not a problem at all,” his friend said with a smile. “Fancy a drink?”

“Sure.”

Theo walked to the kitchen, leaving Draco in the short, dingy hallway. Draco had known that Theo was not making much money as a shopkeeper at Flourish & Blotts, but he had not known how little it truly was.

Like the Malfoys, Theo’s inheritance had been seized for war reparations. Unlike the Malfoys, who were independently wealthy and owned properties all over Europe, Theo, whose elderly father died in Azkaban, had little to nothing left.

Draco stepped into the living room, a dark, shuttered room that smelled of old socks and damp clothes. He flicked his wand, lighting the lamps. He sat down gingerly in one of the two dusty armchairs huddled around a small, filthy fireplace. Theo was clearly a poor housekeeper.

His friend entered then, and Draco jumped, feeling guilty for thinking poorly of his friend. He accepted the proffered Wizard’s Brew with a smile.

“How was work today?” he asked.

Theo shrugged, leaning back in his armchair and raising a cloud of dust, which both of them ignored.

“The usual,” he said, taking a swig from his bottle.

They made desultory conversation about the weather, and the latest Quidditch matches. Draco would rather go into his room, and sleep the time away until he could see Harry again. Theo was not boring exactly; he simply wasn’t an inspiring conversationalist. Harry, on the other hand, Draco could never run of things to talk to about.

Draco took a sip from his bottle. The beer tasted absolutely foul. It was thin, and smelled like kneazle piss. But with Theo watching him, he dared not make a comment for fear of hurting his friend, and took another drink. He barely managed to keep the grimace from his face.

“Pathetic state, isn’t this?” Theo said, gesturing around his room vaguely.

Draco couldn’t lie. “Yeah. I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Theo had a shockingly acerbic laugh. “I’m better off than the others, aren’t I? At least I’m not like Parkinson, chased out of the country. Or like poor Goyle, imprisoned in Azkaban for saying the wrong things during his trial. What an idiot.”

Draco winced. Goyle was a matter he could not think about without regret. Why did that lumbering sod have to bring up the Room of Requirement and the Fiendfyre?

“We’re all suffering for being sorted into the wrong house,” Theo continued. “It wasn’t even our fault, was it? It was the way we were raised, and of course, that stupid Hat would not see anything beyond that.”

“It wasn’t always bad to be Slytherin,” Draco interjected, feeling a wave of dizziness wash through him.

Merlin, he was more tired than he had expected. He wondered when it would be appropriate to excuse himself to bed. However, it seemed that Theo was only getting into stride ranting about the injustice of discrimination against Slytherins.

It was unfair, but Draco didn’t see how whinging about it could change it. Whenever Blaise and Theo went on about it, Draco usually shut up and concentrated on drinking.

“It’s bad now,” Theo said aggressively. “Thanks to fucking Voldemort, and you fucking Death Eaters.”

Draco straightened up, staring at Theo in disbelief. His friend had never referred directly to his past as a Death Eater before. The tattoo on his left forearm flared up in response. Another wave of dizziness rushed through him, now accompanied by a lightning bolt of pain to his abdomen.

Draco groaned, clutching his stomach. “Theo, I don’t feel so well.”

Theo stared at him with glittering eyes black as pitch. “No, you shouldn’t.”

The realisation almost eclipsed the pain that shook his core. “You poisoned me.”

“Yes.” There was a triumphant sneer on his face. “Trying to kill you with the most potent poison known to wizardkind only saw you transform into a Veela. I had thought I was being clever. Attack you in broad daylight and nobody can trace it back to me. But no matter.”

Draco screamed when white-hot claws of agony slashed through his chest. He fell out of his chair and face-first into the filthy, smelly rug. He curled up, clutching his abdomen. His mind was wrapped in the dizziness of pain and horror. He tried to reach for his wand in his robes pocket.

Theo bent over, and neatly plucked it out of his grasp. He knelt next to Draco’s head, and forced Draco’s head up by yanking on his hair. Spit landed on Draco’s face, warm and wet.

“Killing a Veela won’t get me a life sentence in Azkaban. I can deal with a few months there.”

Draco could not answer him. He felt his consciousness slipping away. Pain twisted in his intestines. Pain pounded on his head like a troll hammer. Was this how he was going to die? Poisoned by a man he had thought was his friend? Not having the chance to tell Harry how much he loved him?

Harry. The thought of losing Harry hurt more than the pain radiating through him. Somehow, Draco managed to uncurl himself, causing Theo to jerk back in shock.

Fuck you,” Draco snarled, launching himself at his erstwhile friend, curling his hands around that thin, spindly neck.

Theo thrashed, kicking Draco soundly in the stomach. It was too close to the epicentre of Draco’s torture. He screamed once more when he was thrown backwards. He landed on the floor, dragging the armchair down with him.

Theo threw himself onto Draco, hissing and spitting curses. Draco caught words of virulent hatred and rage as the other man rained blows down on his face and torso. Between the poison coursing through his veins and Theo’s abuse, there was little Draco could do but to hold his hands up to his face.

Draco was never going to see Harry again. The knowledge thrummed through him, hot and certain, and Draco thought his heart would shatter under Theo’s next punch. He had so stupid, trying to be noble like Harry, resisting the way the man had practically thrown himself at him. He should have taken the chance when he had it.

Now, he would never have another chance again.

There was a distant shout. Everything was becoming distant at this point – Theo, the room, Draco’s own body. But that shout was familiar.

“DRACO!” Harry was yelling.

Draco blinked. Harry had somehow appeared in the doorway, and Theo was rearing up, pointing a wand at Harry and snarling the beginning of a spell.

Draco wasn’t aware he had transformed until he was already leaping at Theo, bird claws slashing downwards. There were black scaly wings all around them. Theo’s eyes were wide with terror, his face white and thin. Draco thrust his head forwards, and his bird’s beak pierced Theo’s chest.

The man gurgled, blood bubbling from his lips. Draco threw him down onto the ground, bloodied strips of skin and hair hanging from his claws. Theo stared up at him, his mouth half-open, one eyeball sliced open and bleeding. Draco stood above him, the monster Theo had created and the death Theo had summoned for himself.

Then: “Draco?”

Draco spun around. His Heart’s Desire stood before him, wand lowered, face ashen with horror.

“Draco, are you all right?” Harry asked.

Draco shuddered. Even the sound of Harry’s voice was magic to him, stirring the longing in his chest. With a squawk – something he would always regret, and which Harry would not let him forget – he threw himself at Harry.

Stupefy!” Harry shouted.

Draco fell over in a clumsy tangle of wings and claws, and was lost to the world.

---

When Draco woke up, it was to the highly satisfying scene of Harry tucked up against his body. Harry’s head was on his chest, and when he bent his head, he could smell the citrusy shampoo his love used.

Harry’s head jerked up, knocking into Draco’s chin.

“Ow!” both of them exclaimed at the same time.

“Draco, you’re awake!” Harry exclaimed immediately, and a beatific smile lit up his face.

“Yes,” Draco said softly, reaching out to cup Harry’s face. “You stupefied me.”

Harry flushed, his skin turning hot under Draco’s fingers. “I’m sorry. It’s just – you killed – blood – and I’m – I’m really sorry.”

The reminder that Draco had killed Theo caused him to sit up. He was back in the ward where he had found out he was now a Veela, albeit with a bigger bed and Harry lying next to him. The room was hushed and darkened, the night sky grey and heavy outside.

Draco rubbed his eyes. He was no longer in pain, but felt sore all over.

“What happened?”

Harry had sit up with him. He gingerly placed his arm around Draco, and when Draco did not protest, he held him more firmly.

“I have been tracking down Angel’s Trumpet sellers the black market for the past two weeks. Many of them have been selling to a particular person but in very small quantities. It indicated that your attacker doesn’t really have a large disposable income. He had to budget and plan for a long time. He was always heavily disguised, of course.

“And one day, he slipped up. He probably didn’t even notice. He told a particular seller he had learned how to brew the potion out of a book. There aren’t many books with that particular potion recipe. In fact, the only one selling it in London is Flourish & Blotts. And when I went to ask about it today, they couldn’t find it. Theo pretended not to have heard of it, but he was too … too uninterested I suppose.

“I asked around, and found out he had been at work at the time you were attacked. However, another Auror caught a small time criminal for illegal use of Polyjuice Potion recently, and it turned out he had been given the potion in exchange for doing a shift at Flourish & Blotts. He didn’t know who the man was, but the dots are easily connected.”

They were silent for a long time after. Harry rubbed Draco’s back comfortingly. Draco lay back down, exhausted by the story. Harry lay back down with him, face to face. He held onto Draco’s hands, rubbing his thumbs over his.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said into the silence.

“Me too.”

Draco stared at Harry for a long time, devouring the sight of that beloved face. He had thought he would never see this face again. To be granted this second chance … Draco shuddered. No, he couldn’t be too happy. Unhappiness would only follow.

“Why did you freak out?” Harry asked. “In the beginning?”

“I didn’t want you to be attracted to me only because of my Veela charm,” Draco replied honestly.

Harry gave a strangled laugh. “Draco, I had always been attracted to you, even when you were a right little git in school.”

Draco’s heart was fit to burst. “Really?”

“Yeah … and … and I’m so relieved you feel the same way,” Harry was flushing. “The potion – I used a strand of my hair. I thought I … I could anchor your soul to me, to this world, so you wouldn’t – wouldn’t die. I didn’t understand the implications until Healer Mitra explained afterwards. By then it was too late … still, I couldn’t have allowed you to die.”

Harry looked ashamed and just a bit horrified by his actions. Draco’s heart twisted in his chest. He couldn’t help but melt into an adoring, lovesick sod.

“Don’t be foolish. I would have been drawn to you before this whole mess.”

The smile Harry gave him nudged him deep in his chest, dislodging something cold and dark with jagged edges and replacing it with feather-light kindness and summer warmth.

Draco reached out, and ran his thumb along Harry’s jaw. Harry shuddered. Draco leaned in, and pressed his lips against Harry’s jaw. Harry placed a hand on the back of Draco’s head, and tilted his head back gently.

There was a question in his eyes. Can I? Draco answered by removing Harry’s glasses and pressing his lips against Harry’s.

The kiss was slow and warm and gentle, both of them scared of breaking this delicate balance. After a while, Draco pulled away, tucking his head under Harry’s chin, his heart pounding in his ears.

“I’m scared,” he said.

“Of what?” Harry asked, his hands on Draco’s chest.

“Of the unhappiness that will follow.”

“Why do you think there will be unhappiness?” Harry sounded amused.

Draco looked up, meeting Harry’s laughing, open eyes. “Because I love you so much. Because you make me so happy. And if I’m too happy …”

“I never figured you for a pessimist,” Harry murmured, trailing a hand up to cup Draco’s face.

“I’m not,” Draco said. “I’m a realist.”

“That’s what all the pessimists say,” Harry teased and kissed him again.

This time, the kiss was rougher and more desperate. Harry seemed eager to devour him. Their lips mashed together, tongues slipping and sliding. Harry’s hands dragged him in close until they were pressed up chest to chest.

Harry was all hard angles and flat planes. Draco’s hands glided down his back, and stole under the T-shirt he was wearing. When his hand touched bare skin, Harry gasped, and thrust his hips against Draco’s. His erection nudged Draco’s thigh.

“I’m serious,” Draco said when they pulled apart again.

“Don’t you think it’s time for you to be happy again?” Harry asked, his hand on Draco’s hip. “Don’t you think you have said enough apologies for a life time?”

Draco gazed at him steadily, trying to ignore the stirring in his groin, the delicious pooling of heat between his legs. His hand stole up to tangle in Harry’s hair, his body craving the touch even as he fought it.

“Do you think I have?”

“Yes,” Harry said. “I love you so fucking much I would always want you to be happy.”

Draco had once thought he could not love Harry more. He was wrong. He could. His love was heat and desperation and desire and longing and want. His love was too much salt and the smell of eggs in the morning and the melting of biscuit crumbs on his tongue. His love stared at him with serious green eyes sprinkled with gold dust, indentations on his nose where his glasses sat.

Draco’s eyes raked over that messy mop, the once-broken crooked nose, the flat, wide mouth.

He smiled, and watched the responding joy spread over Harry’s face. He leaned in, grabbing the bulge in Harry’s jeans, and relished the sound of Harry’s gasp and the fluttering of eyelids and the sight of Harry’s self-control cracking.

“I know what I’d like to do to be happy. Time for me to thank you properly, Potter,” Draco said with a smirk, and kissed him.