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It’s pissing rain and yet Diagon Alley is full to the brim as if Hogwarts letters had just gone out instead of it being the tail-end of November. Draco flips up his hood and clutches his cloak tightly around him as he pushes through the crowd, but the myriad of spells lined in the fabric can’t keep the wind off his face or his fringe from sticking to his forehead. It’s a dreary, awful, horrible day. And it’s only half-eight.

He makes it to Knockturn, finally. The sign leading to the narrow passageway is half off its hinge and pointed straight to the ground. No one’s bothered to fix it in weeks, and by now it’s a moot point. His mother’s thin-lipped frown at breakfast springs to mind. He really ought to find a reason to stop breakfasting at the manor. He has the perfect excuse—he has a business to run, potions to brew, customers to please…all of that nonsense. Draco, of course, knows that none of that would work on his headstrong mother, and it’s half the reason she frowns at him so. The other half…well, he doesn’t like to think of that.

A glimpse of red catches his eye before he can make his way into his own shop. He stops and stares at the fiery X crossing his neighbour’s door. The Crinklebottoms’ antique shop has been a fixture on Knockturn since the first day his father let Draco accompany him to the alley. No more, apparently.

His stomach tightens. He pushes through the door to his shop. The bell jingles cheerfully. Mocking him.

Millicent sits behind the counter, head propped up on one hand, idly flipping through the Daily Prophet, a cup of steaming hot tea at her elbow. She looks all too content on such a horrid day.

"I should sack you," Draco says. She greets him with a half-hearted wave.

"Then who would make you tea?" she says. She pushes the tea towards him, and after shedding his cloak and hanging it by the door, Draco takes the cup, grumbling something resembling "Thanks" though Millicent ignores it, as always.

The cup warms his hands and heat seeps into his clammy skin. He thinks the tea might make his morning somewhat more tolerable, until he catches a glimpse of the article Millicent paused on and sees Potter’s grinning mug staring back at him.

POTTER'S ALLEY! BOY WHO LIVED REVITALISES SHAMEFUL BLIGHT ON DIAGON, KNOCKTURN NO MORE!

The serpent inside Draco, who’s sat coiled low in his belly ever since he learned Harry Potter had been buying up all the buildings on Knockturn, strikes out and Draco’s teacup shatters in his tightening fist.

Millicent looks up, eyebrows raised. "I’m not making you another."

"Stupid Potter. Utter wanker. I hate him, I hate him, I hate him!"

Millicent idly withdraws her wand and Vanishes Draco’s mess, before digging out the healing cream she keeps under the counter.

This isn’t Draco’s first shattered cup.

"Give me your hand," she says, though she takes it before he can comply and rests it on the countertop, palm up.

"I don’t see how you can be so calm," he says, then hisses as she works the cream into his skin, the light burn stinging as it heals. "You’re going to be out of a job soon."

"Promises, promises."

"Not because I’ve sacked you—"

"You’d never sack me."

"Yes, yes, but if I don’t have a shop any longer, there won’t be a job from which to sack you."

Millicent blinks at him. "What are you on about?"

"Potter!" Draco snatches his hand from her grasp. She was mostly finished anyway, but that isn’t the point. She clearly needs all her focus to grasp the absolute devastation Potter’s wreaking on Draco’s life. "He’s bought our building. All of the buildings."

"I spotted that. What with the naming ceremony today and all."

"That’s another thing! Potter's Alley! Who needs a whole alleyway named after themselves? Only Harry bleeding Potter. He’s probably going to shut us all down. Have daily 'Happy Harry Potter!' parades up and down the alley while all of his sycophants throw money at his feet and kiss his robes."

Millicent frowns. "He’s not like that."

"Just because you like to munch on Gryffindor bush—"

"Jealous?" Millicent interrupts.

"Eww, no," Draco huffs. "All I’m saying is, you’ve clearly been brainwashed."

"With all the pussy licking?" Her lips spread in a disturbing grin, and when Draco shudders, she laughs. "You brought it up."

"All I am saying is," Draco pitches his voice louder than her laughter, "Harry Potter will never allow me to keep my shop on his precious alley. So you should start looking for another job."

Millicent pats him on the shoulder; Draco feels the condescension dripping off her touch. "One, I only work here part-time, and you only pay me half of the time, so I think I’ll survive. And two, Harry Potter is not going to kick you out of your shop. Didn’t he owl a new lease over last week? Haven’t you signed it yet?"

"Blaise has it. You think I’d blindly sign anything Potter gives me? For all I know it’s littered with clauses in order to evict me."

"'Must not be a giant arsehole'?" Millicent snorts. "Worse comes to worse, you lose the shop, marry Daphne’s little sister and pop out the Malfoy heir your mum is so desperate for, then you’ll regain access to the Malfoy money, and you can open a new shop, far away from Potter's Alley. I’ll even come back and work for you. You’ll have to give me a raise though." Millicent grins, and though it’s less disturbing this time, Draco still has to stifle the urge to hex her. But she’s right—she mostly works for free and he can’t afford to lose her help.

Until Potter kicks him out on his arse, that is, and Draco has no choice but to do exactly as Millicent says.

"Over my dead body," Draco mutters.

He’s decided. Draco Malfoy, once Master of the Elder Wand and Boy who stood in Voldemort’s presence without shitting his pants, does not give up without a fight.

He spins, stomps over to the door, and grabs his cloak.

"Where’re you going? We've just opened."

"Blaise’s. Potter’s messed with the wrong Slytherin."

Millicent waves him off. For once she has to decency to stifle her laugh.

 

~

 

When Hermione's soft 'ahem' announces her arrival, Harry's arse is in the air, his head in the Floo. He holds up a finger to her and then shouts to his solicitor in parting, "It's bollocks! It's not what we'd asked for. We gave them loads of other ideas. Better ideas! I want that name changed yesterday. Er, thank you." He pulls his head from the green flames and turns to his friend. "Potter's Bloody Alley. Can you believe it?"

Hermione shrugs. "It is still the Ministry's place to choose a name, Harry."

He stands with a grunt and dusts off his jeans. Merlin, he needs to invest in a plush rug or he's going to do irreparable damage to his knees.

"My solicitor and I—" Harry stops at Hermione's aggrieved eye-rolling. He huffs and continues, "My solicitor and I gave them a list of twenty excellent names, every single one of them better than…" He runs a hand through his hair. "I don't even want to say it again. Bollocks, please sit down, Hermione. I'm sorry. I'm a crap host."

She gives him a softly crooked smile that suggests his disarray is endearingly amusing rather than offensive. She takes a seat in one of the study's arm chairs, and Harry falls into a slouch on the sofa.

"Are you all right?"

Harry breathes a laugh. "I'm fine. Just questioning my sanity."

"Not that of your solicitor?"

He ignores the jibe. "How many Galleons do you think it would take to get that name changed?"

"On the day of the unveiling? Incalculable. What are you doing home, by the way? Aren't you supposed to be… ribbon-cutting or something?"

Harry pulls a face. "I'd rather belch slugs, thank you very much."

Hermione sighs. "You're a hero, Harry, and they want a hero's name up there."

"Surely it's time to let that go, though. I mean, it's been… well, a really long time."

"Since the war? Nearly six years. But here's the thing. You will never not be the saviour of the Wizarding world." She continues despite his groaning. "You will never not be the Chosen One."

He sighs. "So you're saying I shouldn't fight the name."

She shrugs. "I think you could expend a lot of energy looking like a bit of an arse."

Harry's got the beginnings of a stomach ache. He studies Hermione's placid yet alert expression, scratching an itchy spot on his jaw. "You think I was mad to spend my money on this."

"Well, I wouldn't say mad, I—"

"—think I should have forced Ginny to take the alimony deal."

"There's no forcing her to do anything, but really, does she think being a Quidditch star will last forever? I say, if you were willing to—"

Harry waves his hand. "She'd never have taken it. And she's the one who told me to 'do something good' with it. This is really all her fault."

Hermione sighs, and Harry watches her gaze traverse the room, lighting on boxes he's yet to unpack, though it's been ten months since they separated and he moved back to Grimmauld Place. He doesn't exactly need what all's in the boxes. The house is already stocked with anything he could possibly want, and he's unpacked the things that matter. He just never saw any point in hurrying with the rest. Still, he knows it probably looks bad. He's used to it, after all. He hardly sees the clutter anymore.

Hermione turns her attention back on him, and now she's got that look.

"Merlin…" he breathes.

"Harry, it's been nearly a year—"

"Ten months," he corrects.

"I know you're not still in love with her, but—"

"Hermione, we were over well before the divorce. You know that. It's not anything to do with her. I just…" He scrubs at his hair again. It's been particularly unruly today, what with it pissing it down outside.

"I'm just worried about you. That's all."

Harry smiles ruefully at her. "I know. Thank you. But there's no need. I'm lazy, not depressed."

She smiles back at him. He can see she's not sure if she buys his crap.

"Tell me, though, how are you?" he asks.

At this, she has to suppress beaming. She tucks some hair behind her ear and refuses to meet his gaze. "Oh fine. I'm fine, Harry." When she does look up, the smile that breaks over her features is startling in its loveliness.

"Hermione, you're blushing."

"Oh, shut it."

Harry laughs. "It's that good?"

"I'm well. I love my job. What's not to be happy about?"

Harry's about to give her a really resounding hard time about her glittering love life when his Floo blazes green once more, and Luna Lovegood's head pops in. "Harry? I have those financial statements we spoke about. Oh, hello, Hermione! So good to see you! How is your Asphodel flourishing now that I've de-Nargled it?"

"Oh! Er, great! Thank you, Luna."

"It's my pleasure. Any time, really. Though you should remain Nargle-free until Spring."

When Harry kneels before the Floo again, Hermione stands to leave. "I'll just be…"

"Oh, okay. Er, hold on a tic, Hermione, if you will, I just…"

"And this is the estimated cost of the renovation for next month, and that's if we take the deal with Cattermole Construction rather than Magical Makeovers, Inc., which I think is the wisest course of action, since Cattermole does better work under the full moon and we're to have two of them, you know."

While Luna talks, Harry turns the financial statement sideways, thinking perhaps the new perspective will help make sudden sense of what appears to be Gobbledegook.

"So, about the trip," Hermione is saying.

"Oh yes! Two weeks. I'm all packed. As you can see," he jokes.

Hermione doesn't laugh. "Yes, well, I wanted to ask you if Millie could, er, bring a friend."

Harry turns the parchment completely upside down and frowns at it. "Er, sure. Yeah, absolutely fine. The lodge is set up for loads of wizarding space." He tilts his head at the document instead.

"Brilliant!" Hermione says. "I'll just be going then! Goodbye, Luna at Law."

"Goodbye, Hermione." Luna smiles. Then once the door closes behind Hermione, "I do love how she says that."

Harry doesn't have the heart to point out the sarcasm. Plus, he's too busy trying to decipher a simple financial statement and realising he hasn't planned for his friends' annual ski trip in the least.

 

~

 

The cheerful bell marks Draco’s return to his shop as it had mockingly marked his exit. He’s been gone almost two hours, but most of that was spent in the Alley itself. Blaise’s firm sits only four blocks down the alley proper, but the juncture of Diagon and Knockturn—soon to be Potter’s—is now the temporary home to a short, squat platform. Once Draco managed to squeeze by, he saw the tall podium at its centre and several dozen officials levitating clear, flat umbrellas to keep the Minister and his guests dry for the length of the renaming ceremony.

Draco might have taken his time making his way through the cramped crowd. He might have let his eyes wander over the assembled guests huddled on said platform. Well, it was force of habit, really. The disappointment he felt when he was unable to find a rat’s nest of black hair or Potter’s annoying grin among those guests was also, perfectly natural, and Draco is forced to admit, for the best. He broke Potter’s nose once; he has a taste for it now and would probably be spending the rest of his day in Ministry lockup had Potter been anywhere near Draco’s reach.

So out of the two hours he’d left his shop in Millicent’s adequate care, he spent a mere fifteen minutes in Blaise’s office.

"The lease." Blaise unceremoniously pushed the parchment across his desk. "Sign it."

No offer of tea. No banal pleasantries. Just a self-inking quill and a blank line right above Harry Potter’s chicken scratched signature.

"But how do I know this isn’t a ploy? He must be up to something! Plotting something to kick me out—"

"Yes. He’s sent over a standard lease agreement, nearly identical to your previous one, with the devious notion that you won’t sign it, and in three weeks, when your current lease expires, he’ll be able evict you, cackling madly all the while. So why don’t you thwart his nefarious plan and sign right now?"

"You mock me."

"Spotted that, did you?"

"You just don’t know—Potter is—"

"As much as I’d love to be subjected to the same rant you’ve been repeating since Hogwarts, I do have other clients to attend to—paying clients."

Draco spit fire all the way back to his shop. Never mind that he’s kept Blaise in hangover cures for the past three years, and that one time, when Blaise had a bit of a scare and thought he might have contracted Dragon Mumps from a one-off thanks to the spots all over his dick, who stayed up all night brewing him healing salve?

"Never again!" Draco announces as he tears off his cloak and shoves it on a hook by the door.

Millicent barely looks up from her magazine. "And just what evil plan did you two scheme up?"

Draco glares at her, but it’s rather ineffectual as her focus is back on AutoWitch: Celebrating Witch on Witch Culture rather than on him. "You don’t seem interested."

Millicent shoots him a look and flips her magazine closed. "Oh, come on now."

"Well." Draco huffs. He unwraps his scarf and makes a big show of putting it on the hook next to his cloak. "Hetoldmetosignthelease."

"Hm? I didn’t quite catch that."

"I said, he told me to sign the bloody lease." He slams the foul thing on top of the Prophet next to Millicent’s tea.

She flips to the back page and shakes her head. "And yet, wonder of wonders, you haven’t."

"He’s useless! He could not guarantee that Potter would not under any circumstances be able to evict me."

"Like…if you didn’t pay your rent. Probably a clause in there about that."

Draco flushes. "Potter could very well abuse it! Could claim he never got my payment, that the owl flitted off with the rent. And before you know it, I’m out the Galleons and out on my arse."

Millicent sighs. "I realise this won’t penetrate your thick skull, but Harry wouldn’t do that."

"Ha! As if you know."

"I know more than you."

"Impossible."

"Hmm…" Millicent suddenly smiles and a particular look comes over face. The smile unnerves Draco, but the look—Draco knows that look. It’s rather common among his former housemates. She’s plotting something. Draco just can’t be certain whether she’s plotting for his benefit or not.

"What is it? Spit it out, woman."

"You’re coming on holiday with us to America."

Draco recoils in horror. "Potter’s trip to America? With all of his minions? Are you mad?"

"Oh, Draco, don’t you see, it’s perfect." She slithers behind him, slides her hands to his shoulders and squeezes. Draco would protest, but well, Millicent always gave the best massages in Slytherin. And he has been rather tense.

"Maybe he is plotting something. Perhaps I haven’t been taking you seriously enough." She digs her thumbs into his shoulder blades and he barely manages to hold in a yelp.

"You haven’t been," he grumbles.

"And what better way to find out what he’s thinking than by getting close to him, nosing about? Potter’s not exactly the sharpest wand in the box, as you know."

"True," Draco agrees, exhaling deeply.

"And you can charm him. If he wants you gone, well, what better way to cut him off at the knees than to be nice to him."

"Nice?" Draco asks, or tries to as Millicent gives a particularly hard squeeze to his neck and it comes out more as a whine if anything.

"We both know you can be very charming."

Millicent is right about this, of course.

"And I know it’ll be just awful for you to be nice to him, but…it’s for your shop, Draco. Isn’t it worth it, if it’s for your shop?" She releases her grip of his shoulders and slaps him on the back. It stuns him for a moment, but as he rolls his shoulders, he realises he does feel more relaxed, more at ease…

He glances down, spots Potter’s smug ugly face on the Prophet, but this time the urge to strangle him isn’t quite as strong. Maybe Millicent is right after all. He can do this. He can be charming.

Even if he has to vomit daily, Draco Malfoy can charm the pants off stupid Harry Potter.

 

~

 

Harry stamps snow from his boots and hands the Portkey to a valet.

"It's bigger, innit?" Ron asks next to him, staring up at the three floors of the lodge.

"I think they've added on since we were here last. Or you've shrunk."

"Oi!" Ron shoves him. "'Shrunk.' Let's get inside, yeah? I'm freezing." He blows on his hands for effect.

There's a quip on Harry's lips about Ron always having relied on Hermione's warming charms, but he bites it back. Not that Ron has any hard feelings about the split anymore, but it still feels in poor taste. Even if Ron's warming charms are pretty useless.

"Right," Harry says. "But what about the others? Shouldn't we wait?"

"They can hardly miss it," Ron points out. "Come on, I need one of those… what do you call them? Those steamy things with the peppermint?"

"Vexing Veela Vapours!" they say at the same time.

"Yeah, that!"

"Merlin, your nose! It's bright red, Ron. Did you take Charms or was that somebody Polyjuiced as you so you could skive off?"

"I know, right?"

Harry claps him on the back, and they make their way up the drive to the large double doors.

Ron sighs. "It's great to be back here."

Harry agrees. While the wind is biting, and Harry can feel the tips of his ears beginning to smart, there's something so clean about the air here. The sun is setting, and tangerine splashes the very heights of the mountains, leaving the wide, forested bases in deep shadow. The lodge itself rises at the end of the town lane, all honeyed wood and gleaming glass, the light from a roaring fire in the hearth and almost as many floating candles as Hogwarts' Great Hall inviting them into the cosy lobby. Warmth envelopes them instantly as they walk through the doors.

"Oh, thank Merlin," Ron groans.

"How are you going to survive the slopes if you barely got up the drive?"

Ron shrugs. "Alcohol?"

"Merlin help us all then."

They make their way to the front desk as a wizard with an acoustic guitar, foot propped on the river rock hearth strums out a Weird Sisters ballad. Harry breathes in the smell of cinnamon and woodsmoke.

"Name?" the front desk wizard asks.

"Oh, er, Potter?"

Harry breathes a sigh of relief when, once again, the staff here doesn't bat an eye. It's one of the reasons he loves going on holiday in America so much. He can leave even himself behind.

"And how many in your party?"

Harry looks at Ron. He counts on his fingers. "Hermione and Millicent, of course."

"Neville, Pansy, Seamus…" Ron adds.

"Merlin, I know there are more of them. Some mate of Millicent's, I think. Who else?"

"Er, Luna, naturally… Dean, right? Oh, here they are! We can just count heads. Hey, Neville!"

Ron waves, and Harry turns from the desk, smiling, as Ron dutifully counts.

"Let's see there's everybody we thought of already, plus, oh yeah, Zabini. And there are the Patil twins and—"

"Malfoy," Harry says. Though his throat has gone dry, his lips parched, and all he can do is stand there and blink.

"Oh. I guess that's Millicent's 'mate' then, yeah?" Ron muses.

Harry's lips move soundlessly. Draco Malfoy stamps his boots on the welcome mat, uncoiling a long, grey scarf from around his slender neck. His hair, dotted with melting snowflakes, throws off the light from a hundred candles.

"Harry."

"What?"

"I said, I guess we'll need a couple of extra rooms. Since I forgot Zabini and the twins, and there's also Malfoy." Ron rolls his eyes, as though Draco Malfoy is, of course, a git but tolerable.

"Er, yeah. Extra rooms. Right."

"The twins will want to share, I'm guessing, and maybe Zabini and Malfoy together? …Harry?"

"Why wouldn't she tell me he was coming?"

Malfoy peers up at the vaulted ceilings and then turns to Parkinson when she elbows him to whisper something.

"Why wouldn't who tell you?"

"Hermione, of course."

"Mate." Ron slaps a hand down on Harry's shoulder hard enough to jolt him. "I'm the wrong person to ask."

"Oh. Sorry."

"S'all right. Let's just get these rooms sorted out."

Malfoy starts to remove his charcoal wool coat when his gaze lifts, finds Harry, and stops. Harry is, he realises, blatantly staring. But it's weird. It's like he can't stop. It's been eons since he's seen Draco Malfoy, though he's remained perfectly aware of his existence, of course. His appearance here is just so unexpected, and… Harry blinks and watches Malfoy's brows dip in a familiar frown that's not yet a sneer but could turn any moment.

Harry quickly looks away. "Yes, the rooms, of course." He turns to the desk, and they proceed to reserve the entire third floor of the east wing.

But all the while Harry imagines he can feel Malfoy scowling at his back. Why, why, why would Hermione not tell him Malfoy would be here? This is supposed to be relaxing. It's supposed to be just friends.

And yet Parkinson's here. Zabini's here. They're both friends of Harry's friends, of course, so that's different. Millicent being Hermione's girlfriend is no excuse for bringing Malfoy of all people. Not that Harry would go out of his way to exclude the prat, but… Well, Hermione just should have told him, that's all.

And blast, Malfoy's eyes are making his back itch. He can feel them right between his shoulder blades.

But when Harry turns to glare in his direction, Malfoy's not looking at him at all. He's observing some polished wood sculpture of what appears to be a moose with great interest. Harry shrugs his shoulders, trying to quell the lingering sensation along his spine.

"Do you have them sorted or what?" he asks Ron.

"No need to snap at me. He's getting the keys now. Merlin, you need a stiff drink, Harry. Or, oh! The hot springs. They've still got those, right? Bloody hell, I'm ready to dive in. After dinner, of course. I'm starving!"

Harry can't help but smile at him. Sometimes Ron's still a second year, back to devour the delights of Hogwarts. "Yeah, I'm hungry, too. Let's get everyone their room keys and then go eat, I reckon."

Harry takes half the keys and Ron the others. Harry hurries through passing them out but saves Hermione's for last.

"Hi, Harry! How was your Portke—what?"

Harry has taken Hermione by the elbow and pulls her a little ways off from the others, who meander toward the lifts and the stairs.

"You could have warned me."

"About what?"

"Him." Harry nods toward Malfoy who seems to be dawdling over by the hearth and admiring a piece of Western art.

"Who, Malfoy? He doesn't require a warning, Harry. I thought it only proper to invite him, actually."

"You invited him. I thought it was Millie."

"Oh, yes. It was. It was both of us. He's not really all that bad a bloke. Not anymore."

"Well, yes, I understand all that, it's just…" Harry runs a hand through his hair. "Does he even know what skiing is?"

Hermione's lips twitch with mirth. "That is quite the mental image, now isn't it?"

He can't help but visualise it once she says that – Draco Malfoy, angry as a wet Kneazle with two left skis, string of expletives on his lips – and… well, it's sort of lovely. "It is," he allows, a small rather evil grin tugging at his lips. Which makes Hermione laugh. Which, in turn, makes Harry struggle not to.

"Will you give his being here a chance then?"

"I don't suppose I really have a choice now, do I?"

"Not especially."

Harry sighs. "It's fine. Really. I guess I'm just arsed from such a long string of Portkeys."

"Yes, you're quite a troll after these trips."

"Thanks a lot."

Hermione smiles at him. "What are friends for?"

"Something else, I think."

Hermione grabs him in a quick hug. "Okay, give me my key so we can go get changed. Dinner in the dining room in half an hour?"

"Sounds good."

"I'll reserve us a big table then." She gives Harry's arm a squeeze and then joins a waiting Millicent over by the lifts.

Harry watches Hermione's lips brush her girlfriend's cheek, then the arm that sneaks around her waist as they step onto the lift and Hermione's peel of laughter echoes through the lobby.

Harry finds himself smiling after her when a throat clears behind him.

Unfortunately, Harry is still smiling somewhat when he turns to find Malfoy standing there.

"Potter."

Harry coughs, eradicating the silly grin. "Oh, er, Malfoy."

They stand there a moment, and Harry wonders if Malfoy has asked him a question he didn't hear and is possibly waiting for an answer that won't ever be forthcoming. But then Malfoy just nods and says again, "Potter," and Harry's at a loss as to what to say in return. I'm glad you came? No, that's a load of bollocks. I really hope you can't ski worth a fuck? More truthful, certainly.

But it's Malfoy who saves him in an even weirder way than Harry would have ever expected.

He sticks out his hand. And a very odd smile twists his lips. "I just wanted to thank you for…" He appears to have to force the unruly words out of his mouth, "…having me."

Harry stares down at his pale hand, perfectly manicured. He obviously waits a beat too long, because Malfoy starts to withdraw it. All Harry can think is how disappointed Hermione will be with him and so, yes, maybe it's a bit startling… the velocity and force he uses to strike out, grab Malfoy's departing hand, and shake it. Malfoy certainly seems stunned by it, if the round widening of his eyes is any indication.

Harry feels heat build up his neck and into his cheeks. "It's no trouble," he manages. He pumps Malfoy's lax hand until he feels Malfoy's fingers tighten belatedly around his palm.

"Thank you," Malfoy says. It's a bit less forced-sounding than before.

"You're, uh… you're welcome. You're a friend of Millicent's, so…" Harry winces, because it sounds rude even to his own ears, but Malfoy seems to take it in stride.

"Indeed," he says.

And it feels like they've been shaking hands for, what, about a year? Harry pulls his away and runs it through his hair. "Uh… so… I'll see you at dinner then?" He winces once more, because now he hasn't been rude enough. Merlin's balls. He does need that drink.

Yet Malfoy's lips turn up in what simply has to be a smile, though it's the last thing Harry expected to see. "I look forward to it," Malfoy says, incomprehensibly. Though his eyes have begun to water slightly, and he's blinking sporadically, and for just a moment, his smile creeps into something more like a sneer before he appears to correct it.

"Right…" Harry says. "Okay."

Malfoy nods at him. "Right then."

Harry blinks. He can feel a confused frown tensing his brows. "Well, I'll…" He jerks his thumb toward the stairs.

"Yes. Good idea," Malfoy grits out. His top lip twitches once, twice, and then settles.

Good idea? Seriously?

Harry briefly wonders if Malfoy is already drunk. Perhaps a little lubrication is all Malfoy has needed to turn into something resembling a cordial person.

But no. Ignoring his lips entirely and looking into Malfoy's eyes, there's undeniably resistance there – hard, flinty flecks of gunmetal grey staring back at Harry in defiance even as his mouth compresses into a smile.

Good God, Draco Malfoy is trying to be nice to him. And it's hard. Harry has no idea what's motivating this behaviour, but now that he's realising Malfoy is indeed making this attempt, well… it's both boggling and fascinating. Rather like watching a mid-air Quidditch collision.

"Huh," Harry accidentally snorts aloud.

Malfoy's composure slips slightly, and he frowns. Harry clears his throat, starts to say something else, then abandons it and turns to head to his room.

"See you at dinner then, Potter," Malfoy calls after him, and the 'P' is rather prickishly enunciated, as is standard for Malfoy, but when Harry turns, it's to find him smiling that disturbing grin again.

Harry doesn't quite know what possesses him, but… Well, he waves.

He doesn't wait to see how Malfoy reacts, just making his way to the stairs, even as Malfoy charts his own path to the lifts and steps on. Harry trudges up the three flights, only to arrive at his floor with an unfortunate bit of timing as Malfoy's lift doors open right then as well. They share an awkward nod, and then Harry walks to his room, fumbling his key out.

From the corner of his eye, he watches Malfoy looking at room numbers until he's more than halfway down the hall. Well, at least he's a good distance away. When Malfoy looks up and catches his eye, his lips tremble into a curl again. It's actually a touch entertaining – watching him do that. It's quite funny, really, that Malfoy has decided to try to be polite to Harry and yet is so balls at it. This could actually become interesting in a good way, now that Harry thinks of it. He came here to relax, have fun with his friends, and ski. Maybe Malfoy's being here won't be such a deterrent to that if he spends his time pretending to be friendly. Harry's a Gryffindor; he's never skirted around Malfoy before, and he's not going to start now just because Malfoy's being all strange and nice. Especially not when Harry's realising the potential comedic value.

The vision of the prat decked out in Muggle ski gear and swearing pervades Harry's thoughts once again, and he feels a childishly wicked smile threatening. Just as Malfoy gets his key in his door and opens it, Harry gives a shout down the hall.

"Hey, Malfoy!"

Malfoy starts. "Wha—Yes?"

"Do you ski?"

Malfoy frowns. "What?"

Harry smiles. "Never mind."

Malfoy tilts his head in confusion as Harry pushes inside his own room and shuts the door on his baffled face. Harry can't help a small snort of laughter. Maybe he is all right with Malfoy being here after all.

 

~

 

Draco throws himself onto the nearest bed, face first, and sighs. Loudly. "Just AK me now."

When there’s no response from the other occupant of the room, Draco peeks out from his pillow and spies Blaise admiring himself in the mirror. In the time it took Draco to make his way upstairs, Blaise has already unpacked, showered, and is in the process of dressing for dinner. Though Draco suspects if Blaise could get away with it, he’d arrive naked, or at least shirtless. Blaise takes every opportunity to show off.

He actually goes to a Muggle place called a ‘gym’. Lifts ‘weights’. Draco has never heard of anything so barbaric.

Draco flips to his back, punches his pillow, and shoves it under his neck. "You should have seen how Potter shook my hand; thought he was going to take my arm off. It was awful. How am I going to survive a week of this? His stupid smile and unshaven jaw—has he never heard of Dilapidus? ‘Do you ski?’" He flings his arms out with a thud. "What kind of question is that? He’s impossible—Oh, put your heterosexual abs away and pay attention, why don’t you!"

Blaise smirks, though he takes another long lingering look in the mirror, brushing a palm over his muscled torso before he selects a deep maroon button-up from his wardrobe and slips it over his shoulders. Draco can admit, at least in the safety of his own head, that Blaise is handsome, and there’ve been more than a few occasions where Draco has wished Blaise swung his way, at least a little. Maybe then Draco could get laid once in awhile. But on these occasions, Draco consoles himself with the fact that the sex would be rubbish. Draco doubts Blaise could stop looking at himself in the mirror long enough to get him off.

"At the very least, you could give me a little sympathy." Draco sniffs.

"You don’t ski. What are you even doing here, Draco? How were you invited?"

Draco frowns and his cheeks flash with heat. He never told Blaise "the plan". ‘Be nice to Potter’ sounds rather ridiculous when said out loud. So unless Millicent let it slip, Blaise hadn’t even known that Draco was to join the holiday group until he showed up at their first Portkey with Millicent and Granger in tow. And Blaise had been too busy flirting with Lovegood to pay Draco any mind.

Blaise turns and Draco shifts uncomfortably under his scrutinizing gaze. "This is about your shop, isn’t it? Millicent got you on and…" A gleaming smile. "You’re going to seduce Potter, aren’t you?"

"W-what?" Draco needs his wand so he can Vanish the wax out of his ears, because certainly Blaise didn’t just say…

"An extreme option, but not a terrible one. Newly divorced, he’s lonely, not bad on the eyes—"

"He’s completely horrid on the eyes!"

"—I’d pull him if I had your proclivities."

"Which wouldn’t matter since he doesn’t have my proclivities, lonely or not—" Draco sputters, though that isn’t what he meant to say; it certainly doesn’t matter what proclivities Potter has, or if he’s ‘lonely’ since seducing Potter is not on the agenda. Draco scrunches up his face. What an absolutely revolting idea. Draco can’t even imagine trying to kiss— "Gah, no," he says aloud, shaking his head to shatter the image before it can take shape.

"I’ve seen the way he looks at me sometimes," Blaise continues, as if he isn’t aware of the wretched thing he’s suggesting. "At the very least, he’s curious."

"You think everyone wants a turn in bed with you."

"Because they do," Blaise says, without even a wink or a curl of his lip. Cocky bastard. Draco pushes himself to his feet as Blaise returns to the mirror to finish primping, no doubt.

Draco straightens his clothes and announces,"I’m going to dinner." Leaving the room should hopefully put an end to this disturbing conversation.

"Don’t you need to freshen up for your future boyfriend?" Blaise smirks at him through the mirror. Draco does his best to suppress his shudder, shoots Blaise two fingers, and shuts the door on Blaise’s raucous laughter.

 

Millicent finds Draco loitering outside the lodge’s restaurant. "You’re late," she hisses as she grabs him by the arm and pulls him past the hostess station into the restaurant proper. Her breath smells of peppermint and alcohol. Draco wishes he’d thought of sneaking to the bar for a drink before he arrived. "Do you know how hard it is to save a seat next to Potter?"

Of course, Draco thinks sourly. Everyone wants to dine next to the Golden Boy. "No one asked you to do that," he grumbles.

"Remind me why you’re here?"

"But I’ve already been nice to him today!"

"What, for a whole five minutes in reception?"

Draco opens his mouth, but there’s no time left to complain as they’ve arrived at a large oblong table stretched along the back wall of the restaurant. And Potter's sat there, bright-eyed and grinning. And to Potter’s right, an empty chair. Where Draco’s expected to sit.

"There you are," Granger greets jovially. "Saved you a seat."

Above Potter’s head, a pair of antlers hang. Draco wonders if he might have a more enjoyable evening impaled on them.

But it doesn’t turn out that bad, at least during the drinks and appetizer portion of the evening. One, there’s alcohol, and the lodge’s speciality drink, despite its silly name, is soothing, minty, and bubbly all at once. And two, Potter might be on his left, but he ends up being fairly easy to ignore thanks to the person on Draco’s right. Longbottom, though still annoyingly Gryffindor-ish, can at least hold a conversation relevant to Draco’s interests, and gives Draco a tip for swapping Faerie Lace Leaf for Dragonwing Root to make his headache cure brew stronger and more cost-effective.

It’s all going swimmingly (or at least tolerably) until Longbottom asks, "Do you have a shop in town?"

"Yes, it’s right on Knock—or, I guess I should say Potter’s Alley now." Draco suppresses the desire to groan, but Potter does it for him.

"Please don’t call it that."

"What?" Draco says. "Potter’s Alley?"

And Draco discovers it is quite amusing to see Potter’s face screw up as if his forehead’s attacking his nose.

"Gah. It’s a horrible name. Rubbish. Utter rubbish. It’s…"

"Wretched?" Draco supplies.

"Draco—" Millicent scolds, but Draco smiles at her.

"What? I’m agreeing. It’s nice to agree."

Potter’s clearly had one too many of those Vexing Veela Vapours himself because he claps Draco on the shoulder, all casual and friendly. And then, worse yet, Potter squeezes him.

"Wretched is right. I hate the name. Bloody awful."

Blaise’s voice pipes up unhelpfully in Draco’s head. You’re going to seduce Potter, aren’t you?

Suddenly Potter’s anguish isn’t very much fun. Draco’s stomach fluctuates between warm and queasy until Potter finally removes his hand and returns to his dinner.

"If not to have the alley named in your honour, why did you snatch up every building on Knockturn?" Draco asks. He tries to keep the tightness from his voice, and, failing that, pushes his smile all the brighter instead. "Just a lark? Thought it’d be a kick?"

"I guess. It seemed like a good idea, and I had some extra money and… well, I wanted to do something good with it, yeah? I got lost on Knockturn, second time I went to Diagon Alley, and it was just…" Potter looks at Draco as if he’s just now noticing with whom he’s talking. "You were there as a kid. It was a scary place, right? So we’re going to renovate it, make it a bit cheerier. Safer."

"Re-renovate?"

"Yeah." Potter rambles on, but the thud of Draco’s heartbeat drowns him out, and all Draco can see is his lone shop on a bustling alley full of potential customers who’ll never reach him thanks to the giant flashing spelled sign "Closed for Renovations" that will last weeks on end until Draco can no longer afford his rent.

Merlin…. It hits Draco like Stupefy straight to his chest.

He has discovered Potter’s dastardly plan.

Draco feels a bit peculiar now that he knows the truth, but a stillness comes over him as he watches Potter’s lips move without hearing a sound. He’d almost respect Potter—it is a cunning plan, worthy of a Slytherin—if Potter wasn’t such an utter twat.

Well played, sir. Well played.

Potter blinks. "What did you say?"

"Ow!" A pointed boot from across the table jabs at his shin. Draco recognizes that boot. He glares at Millicent. She shrugs, says, "Sorry," not bothering to hide the fact she’s anything but, and elbows her girlfriend.

"Oh, yes—" Granger coughs. "I’ve been meaning to ask you. Well, that is. Er…goodness…sorry, frog in my throat." She wipes her mouth and gives Draco a shaky little smile.

Blaise saunters by, stops to lean on Granger’s chair, and her relief is palpable.

"Lovegood and I are headed to the bar. Anyone want to join?"

Granger declines, but her smile turns silly. Millicent scowls.

"Probably going to turn in early," Potter says. There’s a subtle glow about him, though, a certain way he thrives under Blaise’s attention. Maybe Blaise is right after all; maybe Potter does want a turn in his bed.

The thought rankles more than he’d like, but Draco never did enjoy being wrong.

"Be fresh for the slopes in the morning?"

"Exactly."

Blaise departs, but he can’t be gone quick enough for Draco’s fancy. He snaps at Granger. "What was it you wanted to ask me?"

"Oh…" Granger blinks twice. "Sorry—um, have you ever skied here before?"

"That’s what you’ve been meaning to ask?"

Granger’s cheeks flush pink. "Yes."

"No, I haven’t. I’ve not skied ever, actually."

"Oh, well, someone should teach you, then!" Granger nods. "It’s quite fun but can be a little tricky at first."

Draco is about to dismiss her, but Millicent pipes up with, "Potter can do it."

"What?" Potter balks. It’s almost comical. He looks at Draco for help, but Draco leans back and watches Potter flop on dry land. "Malfoy wouldn’t want me—I mean, you wouldn’t, right? Not me."

Draco smiles. "Lovely of you to offer, Potter. I accept. Shall we meet in the lobby after breakfast?"

The fact that Potter is now turning down Blaise so he can be fresh for Draco is oddly satisfying as well. True, it means having to spend the better part of the day with Potter, an inconvenience Draco does not relish, but…just look at what he’s gleaned over dinner? After a day, Draco will know enough to thwart Potter’s plans and crush him, once and for all. And most likely ski circles around him while he’s doing it.

After all, how hard can sliding down a mound of snow be?

 

~

 

Harry doesn't sleep well. This is despite it being the most comfortable bed he's ever lain on. Maybe it was too many triple V's. Maybe it was too few.

Or maybe it was his traitor friend volunteering him to teach Malfoy to ski.

Maybe it was bloody Malfoy agreeing to it.

Hell, he'd only wanted to have a little fun at Malfoy's expense last night, squeezing his shoulder like that, being pleasant and watching him squirm.

Hermione wasn't supposed to turn the tables on him. Now he's on the hook to spend at least part of the day with Draco Malfoy, when all he wanted was to hit Witch's Run and let the speed and wind and powder lift all of his tension away.

Malfoy means more tension, not less.

Harry takes breakfast in his room, dresses, and then heads down to the lobby. Ron, Neville, Pansy, Blaise, and Luna are there already, and he gets a hearty welcome which he returns somewhat lukewarm.

"Hey, we're starting with Levicorpus Loop. You coming, Harry?" Ron asks.

Harry gives him a regretful smile. "I'll, uh, need to catch up with you a little later. I've got…" He casts his gaze around the lobby, but there's no sign of Malfoy yet. "… other plans."

"Oh. All right. See you later then." Ron claps him on the back.

"Bye, Harry!"

"See you!"

"Have fun!"

The group waves at him and departs into brilliant sunshine. Harry sighs.

Fifteen minutes later, when Malfoy still hasn't showed, Harry isn't sure whether to feel relieved or concerned. He considers Floo-calling his room. But it's not as though he was in any way looking forward to this anyway, so…

"Fuck it."

Harry heads outside and starts the short walk to the equipment rental area. And just breathing in the clean mountain air and feeling the not-quite warmth of the sun on his face whisks away all thoughts of Draco Malfoy. Well, except for one. Harry has to admit, even as much as he was dreading having to spend more than a few minutes with the arse, it might have been extraordinarily entertaining to watch him try to ski.

But that no longer matters, and now he can catch up with Ron and take a run at Levicorpus Loop and then maybe Hippogriff's Hoof Pass, then end the day on Witch's Run and have the kind of fun time he'd pictured before they ever touched their first Portkey. Back when he had no idea Malfoy would even be here.

He's smiling as he rounds the bend and the equipment rental shop comes into sight – and with it, one Draco Malfoy, swearing and trying to shove his boot into a ski the wrong way. Harry has a moment of feeling his spirits plummet at the sight of him. But then…

"Bloody stupid… Are these troll boots? Have you rented me boots designed for trolls, you charlatan, you— Potter, there you are."

"Malfoy." Harry can't help a small smile as he witnesses Malfoy trying to transform his boot rage into a 'pleased to see you' expression.

"I've just been enjoying some preliminary instruction on these contraptions you call skis. Since, of course, you overslept and were not here to show me yourself."

Harry frowns. "I didn't over—"

"Never fear, though. I've got it, and your absence has meant no harm to my education, Potter. Now, let's get a move on, shall we?"

"Right," Harry sighs, deciding to pick his battles where Malfoy is concerned and not get into a row about how Malfoy left him waiting in the lobby for no one.

Harry picks out his skis and poles a bit absent-mindedly, as it's far more interesting watching Malfoy trying to put his skis on backward and then trying not to Crucio the poor attendant for his own mistake.

By the time Harry's in his own skis, his goggles perched on his forehead and poles stuck in the snow while he adjusts his gloves, Malfoy is some semblance of vertical, though he gives the impression of one easily toppled.

"Ready?" Harry asks.

"Quite."

"Great. Well, first of all, there's moving about on a relatively flat surface. You'll want to—"

"Potter, I'm not an infant. I've been walking around for nearly as many years as I've been alive. I think I can manage."

Harry shrugs. "Have it your way, Malfoy. Follow me."

Harry proceeds to slide in the direction of the lifts, leaving Draco to hopefully be wise enough to mimic his movements. A couple expletives later, Harry glances behind to see Malfoy attempting to lift his feet and walk as he normally would. Harry shakes his head and lets him. It's no surprise that Malfoy's unteachable, of course. Harry just wonders how long he'll last before he cracks.

"So," Harry calls behind. "I thought we'd start on the—"

"Right, Potter. Well, since you were late, I've taken it upon myself to choose this moderately difficult hill before us. I think that should do nicely and provide enough challenge to make this somewhat interesting for me, don't you?"

Harry glances around and ascertains that Malfoy has (unbeknownst to Malfoy) chosen the bunny slope. Harry briefly considers pointing this out, merely in order to see the prat attempt a truly moderately difficult run. But Harry doesn't actually want to kill him, so… "Great. Yeah, I think this one's a good choice, Malfoy." He smirks.

"Excellent," Malfoy says agreeably. But when Harry makes for the lifts, Malfoy calls out after him. "What are you doing?"

Harry turns to him. "I'm taking the lift."

Malfoy makes a face. "Oh, rubbish. We don't need that! I mean, the top's just there." He points with a pole. "Surely you can manage on your own two legs, right Potter?"

Harry observes him for a moment. There are just so many ways he could play this. He has half a mind to just get on the lift himself, bypass the bunny slope, and head on up to Witch's Run, leaving Malfoy to his own insufficient devices.

But there's something perhaps more mischievous lurking in his heart as well and that's the desire to actually see Malfoy fail with his own eyes. Merlin, some teacher he is. But it's too tempting, especially with Malfoy being at once insulting and snobbish while still sounding almost polite about it.

"Fine. Sure," Harry says. "Then he gestures with his pole. After you, Malfoy."

Malfoy lifts his chin, walks about three feet (looking for all intents and purposes like a flamingo in clown shoes) so that he's next to Harry where the slope begins to incline, and then proceeds to keeping walking without going anywhere at all.

"It's good to get the exercise, you see," Malfoy says. "More than brandishing a wand requires. At least that's what some people contend. Myself, though, I rather feel that if you're duelling properly, you— Potter. You're not walking."

Harry grins at him. "No."

"But I'm walking."

"Yes."

"Well, how come I'm not going anywhere? What the…?" He looks down at his skis as he walks in place. "What's wrong with these things? They're faulty. Potter, they've rented me faulty equipment! I knew it. I knew that smarmy, no good—"

"Malfoy."

"What?"

"You can't walk up a slope like that when you're wearing skis. Here. Watch." He turns, cuts his skis into the snow, and starts making his way up the hill. "You have to go at it sideways. See?" Harry stops a few feet up the hill and watches Malfoy blink in the sparkling sun. It's a bit hard not to smile at the gobsmacked expression on his face.

"My skis aren't hexed?"

"No, just try it."

Malfoy frowns but follows Harry's lead and slowly inches his way up the hill until he's reached Harry's modest elevation. "Huh," he says.

"So? Shall we continue?"

Malfoy looks up to the top of the slope, squinting. He stares down at his skis for a few moments. He swallows and looks at Harry. "A lift, you say?"

And now Harry truly can't help it; he laughs.

It takes some manoeuvering, but they manage to get Malfoy in position for the lift just in time for it to take him out at the knees.

"Ooof! Bloody fuck—I mean… What a quaint bit of magic."

"Yeah, they used to lend people brooms actually, but not only are there a fair number of wizarding folk who never mastered broom travel enough to make that an altogether safe option, it really is a lot more difficult to fly with skis on than you might guess. I had some less than optimal landings myself."

Malfoy turns his head and looks at him. "Did you?" As though he's surprised Harry would admit to his flaws. Harry wonders if all these years Malfoy had thought he was the insolent arse out of sheer projection.

"Sure. Plus, I mean, Hermione was a bloody nightmare."

At this, Malfoy snorts, and for a split second Harry fears an offensive remark. But a glance at his profile shows what appears to be genuine, uncruel amusement.

Harry lets himself relax some again. He tilts his face toward the bright wash of sun. "It was a relief when they built the lifts. No more wizards and witches depositing themselves up fir trees and such. Not to mention, this is the traditional Muggle way, although they use electricity, of course."

Harry glances at Malfoy's face to see him quell a sneer of distaste. "Fascinating."

Malfoy shifts in the seat, and their skis clatter together. Quite suddenly, Harry becomes aware of their close proximity. Malfoy's thigh rests alongside his own, slightly warm through their trousers. Their shoulders brush amiably. And along with the fresh, green scent of spruce and pine, Harry catches a whiff of rosemary and something that could be nightshade if his nose and Herbology training aren't deceiving him. Harry wonders if it's something Malfoy brews himself. It's rather interesting. Harry takes a lungful of air. And maybe Star Grass, too…

"Potter?"

"Yeah?"

"Isn't this…? Aren't we meant to… do something rather soon here?"

"Oh! Right, yes! Erm, okay. When I say, just let your skis connect with the ground. No, try to keep them parallel. No, parallel."

"I'm trying!"

"Malfoy, don't let them cross like that. Now, hurry, because you're going to need to—"

"Fucking hell!"

The momentum of the lift gently pushes them forward, yet where Harry's skis are straight (and he's done this dozens of times), Malfoy's are far from it, both crossed and angled down. Harry reaches out and grabs him before he can plant his pointy face in the snow.

"Don't flail, all right. Just relax. I've got you."

Harry nearly takes a pole in the eye for his trouble, dodging by an inch, but within a few moments, Malfoy seems to realise he's got both skis on snow, that Harry has his upper arm and his waist, and that he's not going to die. They glide to a stop, Malfoy panting.

"You all right?"

Malfoy, his face red, clears his throat. "Yes, of course I am." Harry is close enough to watch his pulse beating rapidly in the hollow of his throat before Malfoy jerks out of Harry's hands. "I'm perfectly fine. It just took me by surprise, that's all."

"It does that," Harry allows, scratching his head. He'd thought Malfoy flailing on skis would be funny, but that was honestly more harrowing. And being that he doesn't want to risk eye or other injury himself, Harry decides to take this teaching-Malfoy-to-ski thing a bit more seriously.

"Let's do this then," Malfoy declares, situating his goggles over his eyes.

"Wait wait wait!" Harry grabs his arm. "Before you show the hill who's boss, let's maybe… I don't know, master the flat parts."

Malfoy looks partly exasperated and partly relieved, Harry thinks. "Fine, Potter."

"Good. Okay, so… Turn your feet like this, so that your skis are straight. Right. That's right, Malfoy. Okay, now don't pick your feet up but just…" Harry shows him how to slide one foot in front of the other.

"Like this?"

"Yes, precisely. So let's slide from here to there and then back. What do you say?"

"I say, when is lunch?"

"Lunch is when you can ski, Malfoy."

Malfoy rolls his eyes, but Harry thinks he sees the corner of his lips twitch. "Very well, let's do this barmy sliding thing then."

"Good, okay, here we go. Slide, slide, slide, slide, that's it, slide, slide, slide…"

"How long have you been doing this?" Malfoy asks.

"What, skiing?"

"Yeah."

Harry has to think about it. In the silence, their skis slice through the fresh snow together in rhythm. "Four… wait, five years. Well, this is my fifth year."

"Really? So, you finished with the war, grabbed a Portkey, and then slapped on a pair of skis?"

Harry smiles. "Not exactly. Oh, look out." Harry grabs Malfoy's elbow before he slides right into a small witch.

"Merlin," Malfoy scoffs. "They ought not to let children attempt this, don't you think? And look, there are so many of them."

Harry shakes his head, stifling the grin that wants to come. "Yes. Parenting today." Belatedly, he realises he's still gently holding Malfoy's arm and releases it. "Let's turn now and slide back that way."

"Right."

"Like this." Harry shows him how to get turned around, and Malfoy follows suit.

They begin sliding once more, and Malfoy prompts him, "So you were saying."

"Oh, about the skiing. Right. Well, I went back to Hogwarts after the war."

Malfoy clears his throat. "Yes, of course. I saw something about that in the Prophet, I think."

Harry glances at the stony set of his jaw and wonders for the first time if Malfoy had wanted to go back, too. Harry had always assumed, since he hadn't returned, that it simply wasn't a place he ever wanted to see again. Malfoy had spoken of the school with disdain more often than not, after all. Not to mention the deterioration of his status at that time. But now that he's really thinking about it, Harry feels foolish for brushing off his disappearance so easily. Maybe Malfoy would have wanted to go back. Maybe he'd felt he couldn't, even though he was acquitted at the trials.

Maybe he'd wanted to but had been too afraid to try.

"Potter?"

"Oh yeah. Well, our first trip out here was the next year. That's when I learned to ski myself."

"And you were brilliant straight away, I suppose."

Harry snorts. "Oh, fuck no." When he glances over now, the hard angle of Malfoy's jaw has relaxed, and he's actually smiling a little.

"How terrible were you then?"

"Hmm, well, let me think on the proper metaphor. Your right ski is turning out a bit there. And watch that pole. Good, slide, slide—"

"The metaphor, Potter."

Harry remembers that first uneasy run. "I think Giant Squid on skates sums it up well."

Malfoy snorts.

"Yes, well, we'll see how funny you find it after you've given it a go. Come on."

"What, now?"

"Now. Come on. Okay, face the slope. That's right."

Harry proceeds to give Malfoy the ins and outs of skiing downhill: don't flail with your poles; if you're losing it, just throw them aside and plant your hands on your thighs; don't look down; look where you're going; no, we're not going to learn to turn yet, etc.

He gets to the snowplough, and Malfoy's eyes have seemed to glaze over a bit.

"Look, it's not all that hard. If you want to stop, just angle the fronts of your skis toward each other."

"But that's what you said not to do getting off the lift, Potter."

"Right, but that was different."

Malfoy frowns at him suspiciously. "This isn't simply how you've decided to off me, is it?"

Harry laughs. "Er, no. "

"You're sure."

"Quite. Now, come on, Malfoy. Just point your skis down the hill—"

"Don't look at the ground."

"Right. And snowplough when you want to stop. Okay?"

"Yeah. All right." Malfoy still looks worried. But then he rolls his shoulders and exhales hard. "Right then." He shoves off and starts down the hill.

Harry follows, coming up beside him.

"Oh Merlin. Too fast. Fucking shit, Potter!"

"It's all right. You're doing fine. It's not too fast. You're doing good."

"I'm not! Oh fuck, I'm not! I'm out of control! Oh bloody god!" His poles start to wheel in fright. His legs start to stiffen.

"Snowplough," Harry says.

"What?"

"Turn your skis in a little. Bend your knees again. You're okay."

"Fuck, fuck, fuck!" Malfoy warbles. But he follows Harry's advice, and in the next moment they're coming to a somewhat shaky stop at the bottom of the hill.

"You did it!" Harry tells him.

"Bloody hell, I did?"

Harry laughs. "Yeah, Malfoy. You skied."

Malfoy looks at him, stunned, but then a slow, bright smile steals over his face. "I bloody well skied!" He laughs.

Harry smiles. "Congratulations."

Malfoy exhales hugely, as though he's been holding his breath this entire time. He's trembling slightly. "Fuck," he laughs.

Watching him, Harry feels his own heart pounding against his ribcage, the soft, cold breeze on his prickling cheeks. His own smile fades a touch. Not because he's not enjoying himself. But because he is. He's enjoying himself. With Malfoy. And Malfoy… he smiles tremulously at Harry once more, and there's a light in his eyes that Harry's never seen lit there. It's almost… He looks nearly…

Harry clears his throat. "Right. Well, that was a good first run."

Malfoy stands up tall and smirks now. "Of course it was, Potter. I never doubted myself for a moment. That's the trick, you know."

Harry shakes his head. "Whatever, Malfoy. Let's catch another lift and try it again."

"What, just that? I thought we'd be turning now."

"Let's just stick to this for now. Don't worry, you'll be turning before the end of the day."

"Bloody well right I will." Malfoy lifts his haughty nose.

The second time getting on the lift goes more smoothly. Malfoy only yelps once before he recovers. He sighs, swinging his skis a bit. "So, where is everyone else?"

"Ah, they're on a run called Levicorpus Loop."

"We should do that one next, Potter."

Harry snorts. "Hardly."

Malfoy waves a hand. "Tomorrow, then."

Harry's not sure how he feels about Malfoy volunteering Harry to instruct him again. He's not sure why Malfoy would want him to. Unless he's… having fun? A look at his profile gives Harry a glimpse of a small, soft smile. It doesn't seem put on. Not like the others he's been foisting onto his face for whatever ridiculous reason he's surmised in order to be fake-nice to Harry. This expression looks relaxed. It looks real. As crazy as that seems.

"So, that's where Millie and Granger are then?" Malfoy asks.

"Oh, you know, I didn't see them this morning. I'm not sure where they are."

Malfoy snorts. "Still in bed then probably."

Harry studies him for signs of disapproval but only finds a fond smirk. "So… you're okay with… that whole thing?"

Malfoy shoots him an affronted frown. "Are you not? I'd think you'd be happy for your friend, Potter, landing a catch like Millicent. She's smart, funny, interesting… she'll kick anyone's arse who looks at Granger wrong. I'd think you'd support—"

"Whoa whoa whoa, I do!" Harry says.

Malfoy looks him up and down. "You do?"

"Of course, I do. They're bloody great together."

Malfoy nods and seems to accept that Harry's telling him the truth. "Indeed," he says, casting his gaze back out over the trees glistening in the winter sun.

The top of the slope is coming up, so Harry prompts Malfoy to get his skis under control again. This time, there's only one scary moment when Harry thinks he's about to take a pole to the groin before Malfoy finds ground with it instead and flounders to a stop.

There are some children in front of them afraid to go, and rather than try to instruct Malfoy over their crying, Harry decides to wait them out and instead searches for something else to talk about. Something to fill the now somewhat awkward silence. "So," he says. "She works at your shop with you, right? Millicent?"

Malfoy immediately stiffens beside him. A little boy has just screamed that he'd rather eat bubotuber pus than be made to ski, so that could certainly explain it. But Malfoy's tone goes a touch icy as well. "Yes. She does. Why?"

"No reason," Harry hastens to say. "And how's it doing? Your shop."

Impossibly, Malfoy stiffens further. The child's wailing really is quite distracting. Perhaps it's starting to give Malfoy his own set of cold feet.

"Malfoy?"

"It's quite fine, Potter."

Finally, the child's mother Levitates him above the snow and skis down herself as he floats, still screaming, beside her. Twin girls are next, and they're clinging to each other. Harry decides to wait for them, too, especially with Malfoy looking a bit green about it himself.

Suddenly Malfoy asks, "So you're going to renovate Potter's Alley then, hm?"

"What? Oh Merlin, that. Bloody hell, Malfoy, can’t you just call it The Alley from now on? I promise I'll know which one you mean. Now, we'll go after these two, so remember to keep your poles in front of you. Keep your knees slightly bent."

"When will you start this renovation?"

"I guess I hadn't really thought about it. Remember to keep your skis straight. You have a tendency to turn the right one out."

"So… in a couple of weeks? A month? A few months, what?"

"I just said I hadn't thought about it. What's the big rush, Malfoy?"

The girls get up their nerve and shove off together.

"Now, be sure to remember to turn your skis in if you want to stop. Don't panic if you're going faster than you'd like. Just remember to—"

"I've got it." Malfoy nearly shouts.

"I'm just reminding you so that you don't—"

"I said, I've got it!"

Harry feels his hackles start to rise as Malfoy's impatience seems to escalate to something more like contempt. "You've done one bloody run, Malfoy. I'm only here to help you, you know. It's not as though you're ready to turn pro, for fuck's sake. So, look straight ahead, keep your knees bent and—"

"Salazar, Potter, you're not the boss of me!" Malfoy suddenly shouts. "You can't control bloody everything. You don't own me. You can't just come in and take it all away. I've got the sliding and the poles and the straight feet, and, for now, I've still got my bloody shop. Let's just get this the fuck over with."

Harry's taken aback by Malfoy's vitriol and his little nonsensical speech. Blood pumps faster though his veins along with the seething fury that used to consume him in the old days whenever Malfoy turned into a prick. Which was always. "Have it your way, Malfoy! Ski down the 'moderately difficult' hill and fall flat on your pompous arse. See if I give a fuck, you tosser."

"Fuck off, Potter!" Malfoy tosses back over his shoulder before he pushes off hard with his poles and sends himself angrily down the bunny slope.

And it starts to go to hell almost immediately.

"Wait, Malfoy, shit—" Harry gets out, but it ends in a wince when Malfoy suddenly tilts right, his left pole and ski coming dangerously off the ground.

Harry cups his hands around his mouth and shouts, "Snowplough!" at him for all the good it will do. Malfoy likely can't hear him and probably wouldn't take Harry's advice now if someone paid him. The stupid, stubborn, incomprehensible wanker.

Malfoy's pole wheels in circles in the air before he overcorrects, his left ski plunging into the snow, which sends him abruptly flying forward through the air.

"Fuck!" Harry gasps, belatedly shoving off himself and bending low over his bent legs to try to get up enough speed to reach Malfoy quickly. Harry watches him land with a thud and then slide almost the entire rest of the way down the hill on his front, his skis a mangled X dragging through the snow behind him to finally bring him to a rough, juddering stop.

"Malfoy, son of a—God, are you all right?" Harry skids to a halt beside his prone and motionless body, detaching himself from his skis quickly and pulling his wand. "Malfoy, are you injured? Is anything broken?"

Harry reaches out, but Malfoy growls, "Don't you touch me." With that, at least, he rolls over, though he bites back what was sure to be a groan.

"Let me at least help you get your skis off."

"I've got it!" Malfoy barks. Harry can see that he's trembling as he reaches down to unfasten himself from his skis.

"You should see a Healer, Malfoy. Fuck, I shouldn't have goaded you. I'm… Shit, I'm sorry, okay?"

"Like hell you are, Potter." Once his skis are off, Malfoy rolls to his side and leverages himself sitting. He looks up at Harry with hurt rage burning in his eyes. "Put that in your Pensieve and enjoy it." He grunts and slowly gets to his feet. "I don't know why I even came here. It won't change anything. You're Harry Bloody Potter. I'm Draco Fucking Malfoy." He dusts the snow from his front, and Harry is struck with the level of dignity he's able to bring to it. "Nothing ever changes," he says again.

Harry has no idea what he's on about – what bloody any of this has been about— but just by instinct, he reaches out to help Malfoy get steady on his feet. Malfoy wrenches his arm away violently. "Leave me alone."

And with that, he abandons his skis sticking out of the bunny slope and limps away from Harry, leaving him speechless and confused, his heart racing with adrenaline and the cold Colorado sun beating down on his head.

 

~

 

When the knock on his door comes, Draco’s halfway through a bottle of vodka. Room service, he’s discovered, is a wonderful thing. He hasn’t even bothered to take off his ski trousers, though the top’s unbuttoned and scrunched around his waist. He’s sprawled over the small sofa, the remnants of dinner spread out before him, with something called 'television' mumbling at him from the wall. Muggles watch it all the time, or so the front desk clerk told him when Draco called to inquire about the strange black screen in his room. Draco doesn’t see the attraction. He can barely hear the people on the screen speak and so far, all they’ve done is lounge around drinking coffee. If Draco wanted to watch Muggles drink coffee, he’d go to one of those Starpucks thingies. Or a tea shop. Though he’s not certain it would be more interesting to watch people drink tea.

But it’s better than his mind racing. It’s better than his cheeks flaring with heat as random moments from the day flip through his mind like a Pensieve gone wild: snow in his mouth as he tumbled down the hill; Potter’s skis sifting through white powder, graceful and swift; the angry cut of his lips; his laugh, delighted, surprisingly warm; the heat of him, the firm hard line of his body, his breath in Draco’s ear, and his fingers clamped so tight; the moment Draco’s heart roared in triumph at the bottom of the slope, and Potter stood there, smelling like honeysuckle at sunset. And he smiled, just a little.

But it was enough. Enough to let Draco forget so many things.

See if I give a fuck, you tosser.

"You’re a fool," Draco tells his glass of vodka.

That’s when the knock comes and yanks him from his alcohol-telly induced fog. Draco sits straight up, heart thumping madly, and spills vodka all over his lap.

"Fuck!"

Another knock, more insistent than the last. "Hold on—bugger." He finds his wand in the mess of the coffee table, Vanishes the wet spot, then tries to pat down his hair. He’s certain it’s atrocious, but it’s not as if Potter has any room to talk.

A muffled voice calls his name and the knock sounds again. Draco forces a breath, closes his eyes, and steadies himself.

Potter’s not on the other side of that door. It’s mad to even think it.

Draco opens his eyes, walks to the door, and pulls the knob. A snappish, "What?" flies from his lips before he registers who it is.

His shoulders deflate. "Oh. Granger."

"Hi," she says brightly. Her cheeks are wind-swept red like she’s fresh off the mountain, but she’s dressed in slouchy denim and a snowflake covered jumper. "Can I come in?"

She steps past Draco through the door, leaving him no room to refuse. "All right."

Her gaze falls on the bizarre state of his room. Half-empty dishes scattered on the coffee table, cushions on the sofa in disarray. "Oh you two," she murmurs. Draco crosses his arms.

"Yes, Blaise isn’t very tidy." Draco coughs. "Er. There’s vodka. If you want a drink." His mother did teach him manners, even for unwelcome guests.

"Oh, no thanks. Vodka gives me a headache. Though I suppose you’d have a cure for that, wouldn’t you?"

Draco spreads his hands. "Not on me."

"Of course," she says. "Right." She straightens one of the cushions and settles on the sofa. Clearly not planning a quick visit then.

"What are you doing here?"

"I didn’t see you at dinner. And Millie and I wanted to ask if you’d join us at the hot spring."

Draco snorts. "I’m sure."

She pats the seat next to her, like he’s expected to sit. Like they’re suddenly mates, having a chat, a laugh. Yes, he and Granger have gotten past the rubbish from school, and yes, he’s been out with her and Millicent on more than one occasion, but still…he wouldn’t call them friends.

He ambles over, rights his glass and refills it before flopping into the arm chair cheated to her left. She frowns, though whether it’s at his choice of seat or beverage, he can’t be certain. He doesn’t know her that well, yet. And quite frankly, at the moment, he doesn’t give a bloody fuck.

"You can drop the pretense about this hot thing—"

"Hot springs—"

"—I know why you’re actually here."

"Oh? Why I am actually here?" Her open, honest gaze reminds him of a Mind Healer he saw shortly after the war, a complete imbecile who did nothing but stare and ask ridiculously vague questions while his Quick Quotes Quill recorded Draco’s every word. Annoyance flares fast, but swiftly settles into a dim buzz, like an itch he can’t manage to scratch. He takes a healthy swallow of his glass, drains it by half, and sets it carelessly down.

"Potter sent you."

"No, he didn’t."

"Of course he did! What kind of sad wanker do you take me for? Wanted you to smooth things over, make sure I was all right, but too much of a bleeding coward to show his face. Well, I’m perfectly fine. Saw the Healer on site. No Skele-Gro needed, just a few bumps and bruises and I’m on a lovely pain potion, thank you very much, and I’ll be sending him a bill since it’s his bloody fault."

"I don’t think Healers charge—"

"They do in America! Bloody backwards country."

"Harry really didn’t send me." She tries to touch his arm, but he reaches for his glass instead.

"I don’t want to talk about him."

Her lip twitches up, but settles quickly. "All right."

Another two swallows, and his glass is empty. He eyes Granger over the rim. She stares back, expectantly.

"Well you must know what happened, or you’d ask why I’d potentially need Skele-Gro," Draco huffs.

She tucks a stray curl behind her ear. For the first time since he’s known her, she seems nervous. "I did speak with Harry."

"No need to be coy about it. As if you lot weren’t laughing about it all the way down Leviosa Loop."

"Do you mean Levicorpus Loop? Right—not the point, sorry." Granger leans forward. " I saw him at dinner, and he wasn’t laughing. He didn’t tell me much. And well, he looked a bit torn up, to be honest."

Is it wrong that Draco gains some measure of satisfaction from the admission? That his ears perk up and the dying embers of the worst-plan-ever give off a last gasp of heat, and he thinks maybe, just maybe, all’s not lost?

You're Harry Bloody Potter. I'm Draco Fucking Malfoy. Nothing ever changes.

"But he didn’t send you?"

Granger shakes her head. Draco sags in his chair. He fiddles with his empty glass. He thinks about filling it again.

"But I know he’d want to know that you’re—"

"Merlin, can we not talk about Potter?" Draco fists a hand in his hair. "I’m sick of him—just stop bringing him up."

"Of course." Granger’s lips curl up and she mimes zipping them shut.

"Thank you." Draco takes a deep breath. He sets his glass down, only now realising how perilously close he'd come to shattering it in his hand.

"Honestly," Granger says with a tentative lilt. Something about it sets Draco’s teeth on edge. "I really did come to ask if you’d come to the hot springs with us—Millie and me, in a bit. It’ll just be us, if you’re worried about Har—a crowd."

"Just you and Millicent?" Draco’s more than a little sceptical.

"Yes. Everyone else is going to The Bucking Banshee for line dancing night." She shrugs. "It’s become a tradition, but Millie hates it, so we always skip it."

"Line dancing?" Must be another ridiculous Muggle thing, like watching other people drink coffee for entertainment.

"I’ll explain later." She waves her hand. "Will you come? They really are quite restorative and this one’s on a magic fault line that gives it far more unique properties than most. It’s really quite fascinating—" She looks as though she’s gearing up a lecture but blushes and stops short. "I can go into details at another time, if you’d like. But there’s nothing like it in Europe, and you’ve come all this way…"

Draco gets the impression that Granger is going to stay perched on his sofa until he agrees that it seems easier to acquiesce, so he finds himself nodding. "Fine, fine. Just—no lectures about magical fault lines. We are on holiday."

"Oh, wonderful!" She looks truly delighted and rather like she wants to give him a hug but mercifully just claps her hands together and rises from the sofa. "We’ll meet you there? In a half hour or so?"

"Brilliant," Draco says. He gives her a grudging smile as he walks her to the door and wonders how quickly he’ll be able to excuse himself and return to his room.

For more television. And vodka.

Brilliant.

 

The hot spring is set down a hill away from the lodge, along a pebbled path that slowly gives way to an outcropping of boulders and jagged stone reaching up to the clear night sky. Draco breathes in a lungful of crisp Colorado air and lets his robe fall open as he walks. The lodge’s robes are spelled cosy and warm, so much so that he isn’t bothered by the chill against his bare skin.

Or maybe that’s just the vodka.

Either way the steam wafting over the water beckons him. It’s dark, the only light coming from small orbs hovering around the edge that cast a dim haze around them and the moonlight above, but still the spring seems deserted. Draco assumes he’s the first to arrive until he sees the water ripple against stone at his feet. A contented sigh parts the steamy air just so, and there’s Potter, relaxed against the far end, his arms flung out over the sides, face tilted towards the half moon.

Potter. Here. Naturally he is.

Draco’s going to bloody murder Hermione Granger.

He should quietly back away before he’s detected, but his gaze falls to the water gently lapping at Potter’s bare chest and the sparse dark hair he can just barely see below the water’s edge.

"Malfoy?" Potter squints in the darkness and scoots closer. Belatedly, Draco realises he’s staring. He coughs and tears his eyes upwards to Potter’s.

"Let me guess. Granger invited you here."

"Millie," Potter says. His lips quirk up. "Should have known. She never misses line dancing night."

Of course. Draco can’t believe he fell for Granger’s charade. Millicent must be rubbing off on her. Twats, the both of them.

"I’ll just leave you to it, then."

"No—wait. Malfoy."

Draco stands awkwardly. He feels Potter’s eyes on him and fights the urge to clutch his robe closed like a scared little first year.

"What?"

"I’m sorry. About today."

"Yes, well." Draco frowns. His skin itches, and bizarrely, he hears Granger’s voice in his head. You should apologise too, Draco. His frown deepens. "You should be. You’re a horrible teacher."

Potter laughs. It’s self-deprecating, but warm. It should be irritating, but Draco feels his heart lighten despite himself.

"Probably wasn’t the best idea Hermione’s ever had."

"Quite."

"Look, I’ll leave if you want. You really should get in. Does wonders for sore muscles, which I imagine, you probably—well, I’d imagine it would help you." He starts to stand and suddenly his full chest is exposed, water running rivets down his muscles, over the dusky peaks of his nipples and that tantalizing thatch of black hair comes into view, leading down…

"Salazar, sit back down, will you? I’ll get in, so just—sit." He doesn’t mean for it to come out as forcefully as it does, but mercifully Potter can follow instructions, and he slinks back under the water. "I’m certain we can manage not to off each other if we both just sit. Quietly."

Draco takes off his robe. He feels Potter’s gaze all too keenly. His skin flushes hot and he’s suddenly aware that his swimmers are a hair on the too-tight side, but there’s nothing to be done for it now. The moment Draco steps into the water, he can feel its magic working through him, the steam caressing his skin, the water gently lapping, soothing and hot. He sinks in gratefully, choosing a spot to sit a respectful distance away from Potter, and closes his eyes. Everything’s nearly perfect.

Except he can still feel Potter staring at him.

But when Draco slits his eyes over and peeks, Potter’s face is tilted upwards as when Draco arrived. Arms stretched out. If Draco did the same, they’d be touching. Not that he would actually touch Potter. Not like Potter with his easy shoulder clasps that he just whips out whenever he wants to, regardless of the fact that Draco doesn’t enjoy being touched by him, not in the least little bit.

And what is so fascinating about the night sky, anyhow? It’s just stars and inky blackness and a half moon hanging low over the mountain. Nothing special, whatsoever.

Draco harrumphs."Are you just going to ignore me?"

Potter slides his gaze over. "I thought you wanted to sit quietly."

"I changed my mind. One is allowed to do that, are they not?"

A flash of amusement passes over Potter’s eyes. "Yeah. I suppose so. What do you want to talk about?"

Draco frowns. Potter’s given him an opening. He could press for more details about Potter’s Alley, but what did that get him before? A bruised body and a face full of snow. And Potter likely cackling all the while.

He looked a bit torn up, to be honest.

"Why didn’t you bother to check on me after watching me hurl to my possible death? Instead you sent Granger."

"I didn’t send her."

"Fine, you didn’t send her. Why didn’t you? Weren’t you worried at all?"

Potter suddenly sits up straighter, and the water ripples out from the disturbance of his body, the gentle wave lapping at Draco’s chest. "God, of course I was worried, Malfoy. But you’re the one who stormed off. It’s not like I left you out in the snow to rot."

"Ha. Only because I was able to walk on my own."

"That’s not fair."

"You’re going to lecture me about fairness?"

It’s too much. The steam. This ridiculous conversation. Draco stands because he can’t bear to sit any longer. He needs the cold air. He needs to clear his head. But Potter’s suddenly standing right there next to him, a hand clasped around Draco’s wrist, like he’s afraid Draco will flee before he’s had his say. His touch burns, hotter than any hot spring could be, but Draco doesn’t shake him off. It keeps him in the present moment. Keeps his focus on the frustration in Potter’s eyes. The familiar anger. Draco’s blood pumps with it.

"You’re the one who picked a fight with me, Malfoy!" Potter says. "If you want to ‘talk’ about something, why don’t we talk about whatever that was up on the mountain? Why did you get so bloody pissed off? You come on holiday, twist yourself up in knots to be nice to me, then go completely mental without any warning. What the hell is all that about?"

Draco gapes. "I know you’re an imbecile, Potter, but even you can’t be that bloody stupid."

"Apparently I am!"

"Finally, something we agree on!"

"For fuck's sake, Malfoy, just tell me."

"I’m trying to save my shop!"

Draco breathes out hard. The confession lifts a weight off his chest and for a moment, he feels free, finally. It’s all out there now. No way to twist things around or take it back. It’s a surprising relief.

Until Potter’s expression comes into focus; he looks truly flummoxed as if he has no idea. As if they haven’t been in on this game together all the while.

He drops his hold on Draco’s arm. "What?"

"I said, I’m trying to save my shop."

"I heard you, I just—" Potter shakes his head. "What does that have to do with me?"

"You own the building, Potter. You’re my new landlord. And I’m not exactly your most favourite person in the world, am I? You can’t possibly be happy to have the Malfoy name marring your precious Potter’s Alley. What does it have to do with you—how thick do you think I am?"

"Did you think…oh Merlin, you thought I was going to mess with you? What, if you didn’t blow smoke up my arse?"

"Don’t act like it’s a mental idea!"

"But it is!"

"Bollocks! What about those surprise renovations of which you just happen to be scarce on the details? That you oh so conveniently know nothing about?"

"The renovations? They're not—"

"You know my shop is barely staying afloat as it is—"

"How would I—"

"—And if I have to close for these ‘renovations’, business will come to a grinding halt. No, Perfect Potter couldn’t unlawfully toss me out on my arse, but this is legal, isn’t it? On the up and up—"

"Malfoy, listen to—"

"—Starve me out until I can’t pay the lease any longer, and I’m forced to crawl back to Mother, and court Astoria Greengrass in hopes that she’ll overlook the fact that I’m bent and I’ll never truly love her as she might deserve, but what does that matter when there’s an heir to produce and an estate to protect, and won’t you just be giddy with the fact that you did this to me? You’ll have your perfect new wife and your perfect children and I’ll be—what are you—Potter!"

Potter’s grasped Draco’s face, and Draco has the fleeting thought of just how green Potter’s eyes are without his glasses to hide them, when Potter angles in and kisses him mute.

His kiss is hard, demanding, but swift and already over before the feel of his lips can truly register, but Draco is struck by it like a flash of lightning throughout his body. Goosebumps prickle the backs of his arms. He wants to pinch himself. He wants to pinch himself hard, because he must have fallen asleep; he must be drowning in the water of the spring.

Draco blinks. The world’s gone fuzzy, but Potter stands before him in full living color, all hard angles and floppy damp hair, and the smile that comes to his lips sends Draco’s heart thundering in his chest.

"Finally figured out a way to shut you up." He wraps one hand around the back of Draco’s neck and curls his fingers into the sparse hair there, like it belongs there. Like he belongs there.

"Listen to me. I’m not tossing you out. I want your shop on my alley. How else am I to keep an eye on you?" His lips quirk up, then break into another smile. Draco’s chest flutters. "I’m just joking—that last bit. Taking the piss. Malfoy—I meant the other part, the part about you staying. Are you listening to me? Say something."

"Merlin, just…shut it." It’s all Draco can manage before he grabs Potter’s waist and kisses him back.

 

~

 

Malfoy is kissing him

Malfoy is kissing him.

Harry registers the hands at his waist, the eager tongue pressing into his mouth, and bloody hell, who the fuck cares what they were talking about now?

"Mmm," Harry groans, and he hauls Malfoy in hard against him, angling his head to kiss him deeper, letting his hands roam up Malfoy's sides, around his back, pulling him in tight and feeling the rush of breath on his own lips as Malfoy gasps.

Malfoy.

Harry's kissing Malfoy.

Talk about mental. But Merlin, mental in the best possible way. Malfoy's wet chest against his own, all this hot, pale skin under his hands… And Malfoy's letting Harry touch him. Harry really reckoned there'd be a wand in his ribs by now, but Malfoy's lifting his arms, wrapping them around Harry's neck… he grasps Harry's hair and moans into his mouth, changing the fit of the kiss and pressing himself as hard to Harry's body as Harry is pulling him in.

Bloody hell…

And Harry's hard. Merlin, he's so hard. He's hard, and his cock is pressed against Malfoy's hip. When he’d kissed Malfoy in the first place, he’d never dreamt of this. He hadn’t even been thinking. Malfoy had just been going on and on, and then he’d said he was bent, and everything else had turned into a buzz in Harry’s head, and suddenly Malfoy’s lips were right there, and Harry had wanted to stop his yammering, but…

Now they’re kissing. Really kissing. And Harry wants to. He unreservedly wants to. Not to shut Malfoy up but because… Merlin, he’s thirsty for it. For all of it.

Harry drops a hand, takes the chance, and grabs Malfoy's arse. Malfoy stumbles, the water slipping around them, and then suddenly Harry's cock is pressed right to Malfoy's. And he's hard, too. Malfoy's cock is granite hard against Harry, and it's brilliant.

"Fuck," Harry growls against Malfoy's lips when he grinds himself against Harry, arms clutching hard to Harry's body. Harry squeezes the perfect bum in his hand and his heart leaps when Malfoy gasps. God, when Malfoy smiles. "Fuck," Harry says again, and then he's striking once more, kissing Malfoy hard and hungry and letting his hands learn this irrational and infuriating person in his arms better than a thousand conversations between them could accomplish.

It's going so well, or so Harry thinks, when Malfoy breaks the kiss sharply.

"Whu—?" Harry begins.

"Shh! What was that?"

Harry listens. But his ears are ringing from the adrenaline, and Malfoy is still pressed up against him so that Harry's erection is throbbing, and it really does make it difficult to give any sort of shit about whatever innocuous forest squirrel Malfoy is paranoid about.

"Malf—"

Malfoy slaps his hand over Harry's mouth then. Immediately incensed by it, Harry frowns over his fingers.

But Malfoy's still busy listening to squirrels. Suddenly his eyes go wide. And Harry finally hears it, too.

"People," Malfoy hisses and then springs away from Harry like a wet gazelle. He's out of the spring and wrapping his robe around himself, leaving Harry standing in the middle of the water like a fool.

"Yes, very restorative," Malfoy says loudly. "Night, Potter!"

Harry gawps at him for a second, but then Malfoy darts down the path back toward the hotel just as a group enters the clearing, laughing, talking, and discarding their robes.

"Hello," Harry says politely but then doesn't wait for a response. It's no one they know after all. Just some American witches down to the spring for a soak.

Harry scrambles out of the water, pulse racing. He throws his robe on and sets off down the path after Malfoy, wincing at the way his stiff cock makes it awkward.

"Malfoy!" Harry hisses when he catches sight of his retreating arse.

Malfoy turns. "Did they see you?"

Harry catches up to him. "Well, yes, I'm not invisible."

"You know what I mean, Potter."

"They weren't even part of our group. Relax."

Malfoy looks around, ascertains their renewed state of aloneness, and then stuns Harry rather pleasantly by jumping him again.

"Mmm," Harry enthuses as Malfoy kisses him, arms coming back around Harry urgently.

Harry slips his hands inside Malfoy's warm robe and tugs him close.

Bloody hell, who knew kissing Draco Malfoy would feel like this? Well, Harry has known for a good while that he's not exactly straight. But he's not precisely gay either. Well, he didn't think he was, but fucking hell this… This right here with Malfoy defies description.

"God, I want you," Harry finds himself panting in Malfoy's flushed face.

And Malfoy's been so bloody weird this whole trip, Harry half expects the wand again. Or for him to tear off in a huff. But Malfoy, ever unpredictable, drops his heavy gaze to Harry's lips and whispers, "Where?"

Harry smiles.

 

They discuss it all the way back to the lodge – in between bouts of kissing behind particularly girthful trees and then again once behind the lodge itself, because they figured going in a back way was better.

Harry's room seems the wisest choice. Malfoy's rooming with Blaise after all, and though Malfoy assures him that Blaise didn’t even return to sleep last night, it still doesn't at all seem like a safe place for a secret shag.

So they quit snogging long enough to cinch their robes tight around their waists and nonchalantly take the back stairs to the third floor.

Malfoy's arse going up the stairs, too, is rather… inspirational. Harry had noticed Malfoy's arse before, of course, but Malfoy had been, himself, too much of a giant arse in a bad way for Harry to let himself fixate on the actual arse that fills out his trousers so nicely. Now, he crowds behind Malfoy and slips his hand onto it, because he thinks he can rest assured Malfoy won't hex him for it. At least not tonight. Harry's not thinking so much about tomorrow yet.

Malfoy turns an aroused smirk his way. "Do I look like the kind of tart you can manhandle in a stairwell, Potter?"

"I don't know, maybe."

Malfoy shoots him a real smile as they open the third floor door.

But as soon as the dick-jolting expression crosses Malfoy's face, it's gone again. "So, yes, I suppose I should have known the dining room would have a dress code and so should you have, Potter. It serves us both right, them throwing us out. Separately."

"What?"

Malfoy's answer is to give him a shove, and Harry's about to launch into a new diatribe about Malfoy's particularly frustrating brand of insanity, when he sees what turned Malfoy suddenly incomprehensible in the first place.

Ron's at Harry's door, pounding away. "Harry! Harry? Are you in? I really need to talk."

"Uh, Ron?"

"Harry! I've been looking all over for you. Hey, Malfoy." He turns his attention back to Harry without a flicker of interest as to why he and Malfoy happened to appear in the hall together dressed in terrycloth robes. Thank Merlin. "Can I come in for a bit?"

Harry spares Malfoy a surreptitious glance. There's nothing to be done for it, though. "Er, yeah. Sure, of course." Harry finds his room key in the deep pocket of his robe and casts another look at Malfoy, who's now at his own door and fumbling around for his key. Their gazes meet briefly, but then Malfoy steps into his room, and Harry sighs, pushing disappointedly into his own.

"Drink?" Harry offers.

"I don't know. I might not want to be fuzzy."

Well, that's perhaps a good sign, Harry thinks. And then he feels guilty for wanting his friend gone. But bloody hell!

Bloody bleeding hell.

"I'm just going to throw some trousers on," Harry says.

"Yeah, mate. Sure. I can wait."

"And I guess I'll have to," Harry says beneath his breath as he grabs some clothes from his suitcase and heads to the bathroom with them.

Once he's dressed and has used the loo, he takes a deep breath and comes back into the room to find Ron sunken into the sofa and worrying his bottom lip with his teeth. Harry feels a pang of real concern.

"Hey, you okay?"

"Me? Oh yeah. I just… Well, I think… I think I'm really, maybe… into someone."

"You don't say."

Harry thinks he might really need a drink for this himself, when Ron excitedly starts telling him how hot Pansy Parkinson is now.

Harry sits in an armchair and listens to his friend's glowing monologue about her glossy black hair, which goes on for about eight minutes. When the knock comes at the door, Harry jumps, his heart pounding hard at his sternum.

"Just a minute!" he calls but then practically sprints to the door, hauling it open. "Hey," he breathes when it does, indeed, turn out to be Malfoy.

"Hey. Er, is he…?"

"Yes. Yeah." Harry coughs. He looks Malfoy up and down. He's dressed again, too, and now wears some dark trousers and a light grey button up. He's also holding a bucket full of ice.

Malfoy notices him looking apparently. "Would you… like some ice?" he asks.

Harry scratches his head, looks back at Ron on his little sofa, back at Malfoy. God, looking so shaggable it's crazy. "Er, not right now." Harry clears his throat. "Maybe later?" he tries meaningfully. "Like, ten minutes? I think I could go for some ice then probably."

"Right," Malfoy nods. He lifts the bucket. "I'll just… keep this cold. Or, uh, get a new bucket if it melts. They have a lot."

"Yes."

"Good."

"Okay then."

Malfoy starts to wander back down the hall in the direction of his own room.

Ron calls out to Harry, "What did he want?"

"Oh, just… a bit obsessed with the ice machine, I think."

"Huh," says Ron and then nods like it's not particularly barmy. Of course, this is the chap whose dad owns boxes and boxes of plugs.

Harry starts to shut the door, but Ron holds up a hand, "Wait! Get him back here."

"W-why?" Harry's hands have begun to sweat.

"Parkinson!" Ron hisses enthusiastically. "I can ask him about my chances. Go get him, Harry! Please?"

"Er, sure." Harry pokes his head back out the door to find Malfoy juggling his ice bucket and room key. "Malfoy?"

Malfoy looks up quickly. "Yes, Potter?"

"Could you, er, come back down here?"

Malfoy's eyes go a little wide with alarm. "To your room? Now? With Weasley in it?"

"Uh, yeah. If you could."

Malfoy now looks extraordinarily suspicious, but he sets his ice bucket down at his door and makes his way back down the hall toward Harry. When he's close enough, he whispers urgently to Harry, "Potter, I do NOT fancy some kind of three—!"

"Shut it. Come here." Harry pulls him inside by the elbow.

"Malfoy! Brilliant!" Ron exclaims. To which Malfoy responds with the wide eyes of someone about to be Imperiused into doing something revolting.

"Hello," he says carefully, and Harry would laugh if he had any idea how he was actually going to get rid of Ron while simultaneously keeping Malfoy with the former none the wiser.

"Look," Ron says, "I really appreciate this."

Malfoy shoots Harry a please-help-me expression quickly followed by horrified betrayal. Harry shakes his head shortly and wills Ron to get on with it.

"It's this, see. I think I'm into your friend. Parkinson."

The exhale that then leaves Malfoy's body is like deflating a zeppelin. "Oh. Oh, well, bloody hell."

"I'd just… well, I'd really appreciate…" Ron gulps. "Do you think… am I her type at all?"

Malfoy smiles brilliantly, relief painted bright over all his features. "Fuck yes. I mean," he laughs, "tall, freckles, bumbling – straight up her street. Definitely."

"Er, okay."

"No, really. And blue eyes. Loves them. Can't get enough of them. You're absolutely golden."

"Oh." At this, Ron brightens. "Really? You think I have a chance?"

Malfoy's eyes glitter with purpose. He spares Harry a side glance and then grabs Ron's arm, prompting him to rise. "You have the best chance of anybody here, Weasley. I'm telling you. But you have to act quickly, you know."

"I do?"

"Oh yes. Pansy likes foreign men. I wouldn't be surprised if she was down in the bar right now trying to pull one."

"Shit."

"Yes. But Weasley," Malfoy is now tugging him toward the door. "She'd prefer you. I know it."

"She would?"

"Almost certainly. But time is of the essence."

"Yeah?"

"Quite."

They're at the door now, and Harry – though a bit stunned by this exchange, by Malfoy's quick brilliance and Ron's acquiescence and, apparently, his own luck – gains the presence of mind to open the door for Malfoy, who slowly walks Ron through it and into the hall.

"The bar, you say?"

"Yes, and if not there possibly her room. 309. And if not there, I hear there are some magical hot springs that are beyond lovely." At this he shoots Harry a look that makes Harry's cock rear up inside his pants.

Harry gulps, and Malfoy smiles crookedly before turning his attention back to Ron.

"This could work," Ron says wonderingly. "Right? Harry? Do you think?"

Harry really has no idea at this point, but he squeezes Ron’s shoulder and gives him an enthusiastic smile. "Definitely!" Merlin, he just hopes he’s not sending Ron to his doom for a chance to have sex with Malfoy.

"Okay!" Ron looks between the two of them. "Okay!" He starts half-jogging, half-galloping down the hall. "Excellent," he says. Then, "Malfoy, your ice."

Malfoy turns to Harry. "Yes, but I… I believe I've left my… spare bucket?"

"Yes, in my room here," Harry says.

"Great!"

Harry grabs him by the elbow, yanks him back inside, and slams the door.

They're on each other immediately, Malfoy running his hands up under Harry's t-shirt, smoothing up his stomach and chest and then ripping the shirt off over his head. Harry works on Malfoy's buttons, kissing him rough and walking him back toward the bed. They stop for Malfoy to toe off his shoes. Harry pushes the shirt off and starts on Malfoy's belt, his trousers. Malfoy leans in, kisses Harry's neck, his collar bones. Harry's eyes flutter closed. "Merlin, that's…" He gulps.

"Good?" Malfoy asks into his skin, his hands busy with getting Harry's jeans undone and then shoving down the back and onto Harry's bare arse. Harry moans in response. Malfoy grips the globes of his arse, and Harry thinks he feels him smile before he mouths his way across Harry's chest, and with that, Harry's panting, his cock so hard it’s already leaking. He shoves Malfoy's trousers down, and they pool at his feet.

"Bed," Harry gets out, his voice hoarse.

Malfoy sits his arse on the edge and pulls off trousers and socks while Harry strips the rest of the way. Malfoy's eyes travel his body. They flare with want, and Harry's cock aches from it.

Malfoy wants him.

Malfoy's looking at Harry's body, gaze lingering on his cock. He's bent, and he's here, and he wants Harry.

Malfoy slips his pants off, discards them over the side of the bed, and then scoots back to lie in its centre as Harry follows as though drawn. He crawls up over him, and Malfoy lays his head on Harry's pillow, his hair bright and gold in the low light.

And then Malfoy's reaching for him, pulling him down by the nape of his neck, and they're kissing again. Harry feels Malfoy's legs part. He settles between, and they both groan at the first touch of their cocks together.

Harry doesn't think. He just moves, thrusting his hips and rubbing his cock alongside Malfoy's. He's leaking enough now that the way is a little slick. Malfoy wraps his legs around Harry and undulates beneath him, his gasping breaths driving Harry's arousal higher.

Harry doesn't even know what he's doing when he takes Malfoy's wrist and raises it, pinning it against the pillow over his head. But Malfoy sighs, a slippery little smile curving his lips, and together they rock, Malfoy's free hand stroking up Harry's chest, slipping under his arm to anchor behind his shoulder, his fingers gripping hard.

They're so close. Harry would be bewildered by it – that he's lying on top of Draco Malfoy naked – but he's pretty sure he's going to come soon, and that burgeoning feeling rising up in him obliterates anything else. As Harry looks down at Malfoy panting beneath him, Harry feels his balls tighten. His hand slides up and grips Malfoy's, tight, on the pillow.

"Potter," Malfoy whispers.

Harry drops his face against Malfoy's neck, hips quick and hungry. "Malfoy, Jesus," he grits out and then comes. Almost immediately the whip of his thrust loosens, and he rolls his hips as he comes on Malfoy's cock, across his stomach, the perfection of it like a spell cascading through his body, racing through his veins.

Malfoy's hand moves to cup his head, and they kiss, slower now, deep and wet.

Their lips don't part as Malfoy urges him off and then rolls Harry onto his back. Malfoy straddles Harry's hips, realigning their cocks. He takes both of Harry's wrists and raises them over his head. He breaks the kiss to stare down at Harry while he starts to thrust, rubbing himself off on Harry with rippling force. Harry watches him come, the way he arches his throat and closes his eyes. The way he whimpers and a small smile hovers on his mouth. And then with the last of it, how he opens his eyes again and looks down at Harry, his hair falling over his face, and that blissful smile turns wicked.

Harry feels the surge of want give him strength, and he flips Malfoy back over onto his back, kissing him until neither one of them can breathe.

 

It's maybe only ten minutes later that they're dressing once more. Harry's not sure what else to do. He feels fairly certain asking Malfoy to stay the night would be so not on, even if it's to get off again. The silence between them after Harry rolled off Malfoy's body and their panting turned to normal breath felt oppressive. Or at the very least awkward. Harry wasn't sure how to fill it or if he even should.

"Thirsty?" he'd asked.

And Malfoy's answer was, "I've got water in my room."

That had seemed pretty definitive.

So now they're dressing.

Harry looks up to watch Malfoy here and there. It seems impossible that he's just been naked with Malfoy, that he made him come. After all the barmy shit of the last day – the last decade – to end up here, like this... Harry finishes tugging his t-shirt on, and when Malfoy is dressed, they stand there for a moment just looking at each other.

"Well," Malfoy says. Then a beat later, he walks toward the door, and Harry follows.

Something in Harry revolts at letting Malfoy walk out, though. It all feels unfinished to him, yet he doesn't know why exactly.

Or maybe… Maybe he really does.

Nothing ever changes.

Malfoy's hand is on the knob when Harry says, probably too loudly, "Hey."

Malfoy turns, an eyebrow up. "Yeah?"

Harry stands there for a minute, and then somehow he spits out, "How would you like to go skiing with me again tomorrow?"

At first Malfoy just blinks. Then he barks a laugh. "Are you serious, Potter?"

Harry steps in close. His heart is galloping like a racehorse. "Yeah, Malfoy. I'm serious. We're at a ski resort. I'd like to ski. Come with me."

There. That was matter-of-fact enough.

Malfoy looks him up and down. That wicked little light comes into his eyes. Harry spares him a conspiratorial smile.

"Sure, Potter," Malfoy says, lips twitching.

Harry doesn't let himself think then. He just crowds Malfoy back against the door and delights in the gasp before he opens Malfoy's lips with his own and delves in with his tongue.

Malfoy whimpers into his mouth, sliding a little ways down the door, mussing his pretty hair.

Harry releases him, watching his eyes go dark. Malfoy gives another small whine, probably completely involuntary. He reaches behind himself and paws for the doorknob.

He gulps. "Goodnight, Potter."

"Goodnight, Malfoy."

Harry stands back to let Malfoy open the door and step out into the hall. He closes the door gently after Malfoy's exit, slowly leaning his forehead against it and letting his breath out on a shaky sigh.

 

~

 

He and Potter are on the lift, headed for the top of the mountain for the first time. Draco knows it’s a bad idea, but he can’t help but look down at the miniature skiers, darting in and around white mounds of snow that dot more than half of the slope below. Most of the skiers seem content to avoid them, cutting their skis around the moguls with a grace and ease that Draco’s only experienced on a broom before. Another tackles a bump head on, though, and ends up face planting in the next. A frisson of nerves scatters through Draco; Potter must sense it, because he squeezes Draco’s knee. It’s only so much comfort.

"We’re not going down that way, just relax," he says. Draco musters a smile, though it doesn’t feel convincing in the least. It’s only his fourth day on the mountain—and Draco doubts the first one really counts. But Potter assured him, he was ready to graduate from the beginner slopes. "You can handle this," he’d said after lunch, and once more before they got on the lift. "Trust me."

Trust. It’s something new, and though it goes against every one of Draco’s Slytherin-honed instincts, he finds himself inexplicably doing just that. Trusting Potter. That he won’t go back on his word. That he’ll be there to catch Draco if he falls.

The blow job in the wee hours of the morning that Draco suspected Potter had done to butter him up for this little adventure, well—that’s new too. An image of Potter between Draco’s thighs, dragging his fingers through spent come and making Draco’s stomach flutter—pretending he’d never bloody given head before and looking as if he’d like to do it again, immediately—that’s stayed with Draco all day long. As he snuck back to his room minutes before Blaise returned, as he stepped under the shower spray and a slid his hands over his body, but felt the memory of Potter’s touch instead until he gave in and wanked off—Potter’s green eyes, looking at him, warmly, mischievously, chuffed with delight—these visions have been with him all the way through.

But it’s just sex. It can’t be anything more than that. Potter’s just bloody good in bed and it’s been ages since Draco’s had a proper shag. "You’re Malfoy. He’s Potter," Draco had told himself in the mirror before pulling on his ski gear. That will never change.

"Stop worrying." Potter squeezes his knee again and draws Draco’s attention ahead. The lift dumps them out shortly thereafter, and in this, at least, Draco mostly manages with grace, though Potter always keeps a hand free, Draco’s noticed. To steady him, if needed, Draco assumes. He’s appreciative and irritated by it all at once.

Draco follows him over to the far left where clusters of fir trees mark the boundary of the slope they just flew over. "Potter, if this is a trick—"

"If it is…?"

Draco can feel an epic-level fit coming on, but he quells it with a deep breath. "Let’s just say, my prick is off-limits to you tonight."

Potter laughs. It’s a delightful sound, and for a moment, Draco forgets to be irritated with him. Potter shifts closer and leans to whisper in Draco’s ear. "What about your arse?"

Arousal jolts through him in a surprising burst. Only Potter can turn him on even when he’s a Quaffle full of nerves.

"Don’t worry. I wouldn’t risk it," Potter says. And he winks before his eyes disappear beneath tinted goggles. There’s something about those goggles that make Draco feel safe to give Potter a long look, even though that safety is an illusion and Potter can see just as well with them on as off. But he’s wearing snug deep blue trousers—must be charmed with long-lasting warmth as Draco has no idea how Potter could fit the proper amount of layers beneath them. And as Draco’s gaze lingers on Potter’s arse, he really doesn’t much care.

Potter smiles as if he knows exactly what Draco’s thinking, then points one of his poles to an opening in the trees just a few feet down the run. "See that gap? We’re going there. I wanna show you something. All right?"

"As long as there aren’t any of these…mogul thingies."

"Promise." He cocks his head, gives Draco a great big beaming smile. Draco’s stomach flutters again. "Ready?"

As I’ll ever be. Draco pulls down his own goggles and adjusts his poles, then nods. And with that they’re off.

The slope is steep; Draco’s overtaken by a frightening speed he wasn’t expecting, but at the last second, he breaks and manages to swerve toward the gap just behind Potter. Potter never needs to know how close he came to tipping over.

Thankfully the grade of the incline evens out. The path narrows, only wide enough for three at most, and Potter slows to let Draco ski up to his side.

"No one ever comes here—they think it’s boring. But I think it’s… well, brilliant. Isn’t it?" he says.

Cold bites his nose, but Draco feels inexplicably warm. He follows Potter’s gaze above. The sun winks down at them through the foliage. The noise from the rest of the skiers falls away and it’s easy to pretend here, that it’s just the two of them. Alone. Their own private snowy forest.

"Is this what you wanted to show me?"

"Yes…and, well something else. It’s coming up in a bit. When the path splits, go to the right and we’ll stop."

They ski in companionable silence. The gentle serpentine path descends just enough to keep them at a lazy but steady clip. It’s quiet, peaceful. And very easy to understand why Potter treasures this hidden passage. Draco focuses on the snow-covered trees guiding their way to stave off peeks at Potter’s profile, though when he slips up, the easy smile on Potter’s lips holds Draco’s gaze longer than he intends.

"Just there," Potter points. Startled from staring, Draco yanks his attention back to the path. He leans to the right and dutifully snowploughs while Potter shoots ahead and slices a half-turn into the snow to stop, spraying powdery snow over his skis.

"Show off," Draco huffs.

Potter waves him off with a grin. "You’ll be doing all the flashy moves soon enough. Now come on."

The path empties into a large opening, at least half as wide as the bunny slope. The centre holds a terrifying drop, stretched as wide as the trees will allow and cut deep into the mountain. An incline follows, just as steep, as if someone randomly cut out a perfect triangle, here in the middle of nowhere.

Draco furrows his brows. "This is what you wanted to show me?"

"Uh huh. Basilisk’s Bite."

"Why do they call it that?"

"Because it’s more fun to ski it with your eyes closed."

"People actually ski down that?"

"Or maybe because it’s as frightening as running headlong into a Basilisk’s mouth?"

"Potter—"

"Or perhaps because it’s petrifying?"

Draco snorts. "You’re not half as witty as you think you are."

"Maybe." Potter gives him a brilliant smile. "But we’re skiing it."

"You can’t be serious."

Draco waits for the punch line, for the other shoe to drop, for Potter to say, "Just taking the piss, Malfoy. You should see your face!" Or some such rubbish. Potter does have a terrible sense of humour at the best of times. But Potter just stares at him. Smiling. Beaming. Like this is the best bloody idea he’s had since offing the Dark Lord.

"Potter. You’re mad."

"Scared, Malfoy?"

"Yes! What reasonable person wouldn’t be? You have to be barking if you actually think I’m going to—"

"It’s easy, Malfoy. And it does all the work for you. Just go straight, don’t break, don’t slow, and you’ll shoot right up the other side. I’ll show you. I’ll go first."

"Potter!"

Potter shoves his goggles to his forehead and slides up along side. The next thing Draco knows, Potter’s easing his poles out of his hands and planting them in the snow. Then Potter’s pushing up Draco’s own goggles, the soft tips of his gloves brushing against Draco’s face.

"Do you trust me?"

Draco swallows thickly. He stares into Potter’s brilliant green eyes and gives a shaky nod. His pulse is thrumming hard, like the moment Potter kissed him for the first time, and he knows, somehow, he’s already agreed to this. He knows somehow, though he might complain heartily, he’d follow Potter off a cliff if he asked.

"If you start to fall, if you get scared and slow down and can’t make it up, I’ll levitate you to the other side, all right?"

"And you won’t tell anyone, either."

Potter breaks into a smile. "No, I won’t tell anyone, either."

Draco gives a rough nod. Potter lets him go. Draco replaces his goggles and grabs his poles.

"You’re mad," he murmurs. Though whether he’s talking to Potter or just himself is anyone’s guess. It’s apt for both of them.

"I’ll go first. Show you how easy it is, all right?"

Draco can’t speak, so he nods again.

It’s over before Draco can even start to process it. Potter pushes off, disappears over the rim and in less than a breath, shoots up the opposite side with a great big "Whoop!" He turns, skidding to a stop and waves one pole over his head.

"That was wicked!" he shouts. Draco can barely hear him over his thundering heartbeat.

"Wicked," Draco parrots. "Looks fun," he mutters. It’s only a partial lie. He can see setting up camp alongside this rift with Pansy, sipping on vodka or whisky to keep warm, and laughing at all the sad wankers looking for a thrill and falling on their faces in the dip. That is the only way this could be fun.

"Your turn!" Potter calls out. Draco’s stomach flips and flops like a fish out of water. His heart hammers hard and he has the desperate idea that maybe there’s a way he could Apparate to the other side without Potter being any wiser.

Do you trust me? Draco closes his eyes and sees Potter between his legs, resting his head on Draco’s thigh, dragging his fingers across Draco’s stomach, his lips in a quiet smile. Trust me, he says.

Draco takes a steadying breath, lines up his skis, and before he can talk himself out of this ridiculous, dangerous thing, he leaps.

 

They start like they always do, ripping and pulling on each other’s clothes as soon as Potter’s hotel room door snicks shut. Draco’s still soaring from his trip down and up Basilisk’s Bite, heart thumping wild and out of control, but not from fear any longer. From pure adrenaline. From pure bloody joy. So it doesn’t take long for Potter to bring him right to the edge after he pushes Draco onto his bed and takes Draco’s cock into his mouth. Draco curls his fingers into the mattress and rolls his hips until his body rears up tight.

And then… nothing.

All that pressure dissipates in an instant. Draco cracks his eyes open. Potter’s sitting up now, on his knees between Draco’s thighs, a wicked gleam in his eyes. And fuck if that doesn’t make Draco’s cock throb all by itself.

"I don’t want you to come yet."

"Fuck you," Draco manages, though it comes out shaky, lacking any real heat. And Potter licks his lips with it. The bastard.

He flattens himself out, hovering, and dips just low enough to give Draco a kiss. Tasting himself on Potter’s lips prompts an unheeded groan, and Draco plunges his tongue into Potter’s mouth, drawing him deeper. But Potter only allows a moment of this; he retreats, slow and easy, darting his tongue out for a quick lick on his way.

"Turn over," he rasps. A jolt of arousal makes Draco want to wrap his legs around Potter’s hips and rub against his thigh, his cock, until they’re both covered in a sticky white mess, but Potter breathes this simple request and Draco’s helpless but to obey.

Draco rolls over onto his stomach. Immediately Potter’s lips fall to his neck. He licks a slippery path down, pausing to scrape his teeth over Draco’s shoulder blade, pausing to kiss the small of Draco’s back. He flicks his tongue where the swell of Draco’s arse begins, catching on the very top of Draco’s cleft. Draco shudders, presses his face into the pillow, and does his best not to present his arse like a kneazle in heat. But Salazar how he wants. How he wants.

"I want to fuck you, " Potter whispers into his skin. "I want inside you. Is that all right?"

Draco pulses with heat; his whole body trembles. "Fucking, yes."

Potter licks him open. Draco’s face burns against the pillow but he spreads his legs wider—he can’t help himself. He feels Potter’s breath against the most intimate part of himself, feels Potter’s tongue flicking around the rim, darting inside, exploring at his leisure. Draco doesn’t notice he’s rutting against the bed until Potter squeezes his hips still.

"Malfoy. Don’t come."

Draco wants to curse him, but can only manage an unintelligible groan. He does his best to stay still, but pleasure sparks all through his insides. With a whispered spell, magic crackles in the air, then Potter eases a slick finger into him. Potter goes slow, working him open. His mouth hovers close, lips brushing Draco’s cheek, his tongue flicking along the rim again—it all blurs together until Draco’s bucking back hard and whining Potter's name.

When Potter pulls away, Draco flops against the bed, breathing hard and wound up tight, and an inch away from begging. Potter’s palm smoothes along his back, and just that simple touch makes Draco quiver. "God, Malfoy…" he breathes. And then suddenly, finally, Potter’s pressing inside, all of him. He’s hard, slick, and throbbing in time with Draco’s rapid heartbeat. Draco arches his back, draws Potter in until he slots into place, until Draco’s stretched and full with him. Potter pants against his skin and kisses the back of his neck and whispers Draco’s name like a blessing.

Potter fucks him slow. Potter fucks him easy. Potter fucks him until Draco is shaking again, until need prickles at the corners of his eyes. Potter hauls him up on his knees and buries his face in the crook of Draco’s neck and their bodies slide together with sweat and heat. Potter’s thrusting, thrusting, thrusting and Draco’s lost in his rhythm, drunk with him. He winds an arm around Draco, curls his fingers around Draco’s cock and whispers three little words—

"Come for me."

Draco’s orgasm rips through him like Fiendfyre, and he falls apart, safe in Potter’s arms.

 

~

 

Harry wakes slowly to the brightness of morning sun leaking in under the drapes. He inhales and rolls to his side, not quite ready to sit up and throw off the warm blankets. He's not even ready to open his eyes. He vaguely wonders how late it might be and if he'll miss the kitchen serving breakfast. But then again, he vaguely doesn't give a shit. The bed still smells of sex and of Malfoy's skin, and Harry doesn't want to leave it just yet.

But when a delicate wheezy snore greets his ears in the next moment, Harry cracks an eye open. There, sprawled next to him under the covers, lies Malfoy. Harry opens both eyes and lifts his head to see him better. Malfoy's lips are parted, and he lies on his back, not a crinkle to his brow. He looks so… innocent. But also debauched. Harry realises he's smiling and tries to stop. But then he realises Malfoy's dead to the world and can't see him anyway and so allows his smile to grow.

Gently, Harry reaches out and lifts a strand of hair off his forehead, easing it away from Malfoy's face. Malfoy's nose twitches, he snorts, but otherwise, he doesn't move or wake. Harry props himself on his elbow and watches the prat breathe.

Mother of Merlin, what they did last night… Harry's cock, already half hard, swells further at the memory – of how that soft little pucker felt against Harry's tongue, opening for him, how he tasted, how he shook when Harry would flick just so. How his legs parted for the press of Harry's cock inside him. How Draco moved with him, how it felt when he came, and how it pulled Harry's orgasm from the depths of him as though Draco had picked up his wand and Summoned it.

Draco.

"Smmfll," Malfoy mutters now. He licks and smacks his pink lips, and Harry wonders if maybe he would consent to skip breakfast with him and do other things with that mouth of his. Harry's cock jumps at the thought.

When Malfoy's eyes crack open and then blink at Harry for a moment, Harry smiles.

"Hey."

One side of Malfoy's mouth lifts in a lazy return smile. "Hey."

Harry slips his hand under the covers and onto Malfoy's chest. "You're warm. I think it's supposed to be extra cold today."

"Mmm…" Malfoy stretches, and Harry takes the opportunity to run his fingers over a pert nipple.

Malfoy gasps and then hums his approval. "Potter, I have to get back to the room before—" Suddenly, Malfoy lifts his head. "It's light. Why is it light?"

Before Harry can answer, Malfoy throws back the covers, and chill morning air rushes over Harry's skin. It's not quite enough to quell the hard-on he's sporting, but it goes back to being only half ready.

"He might already know, you know," Harry says, turning on his other side to watch a very pleasurably naked Malfoy run around and gather up his articles of clothing from hither and yon. It's particularly enjoyable to watch his arse as he shuffles over and grabs his pants off the bathroom doorknob where they'd flown the night before.

"He doesn't know anything, and we're going to keep it that way, Potter."

A small shard of something sharp digs into Harry's chest at that. Nothing major, mind. Just enough to deflate his cock a bit more.

Harry sighs, frowning now at Malfoy hopping on one foot to pull his trousers on. Next, the zip sticks, and he swears at it.

"Would it be so horrible?" Harry asks.

Malfoy looks up at him briefly and then looks like he's just going to go on dressing when he does a double take, eyes going dark and hooded as he takes in Harry's naked lounging. "It…" Malfoy begins and then swallows.

Harry's back to smiling. Just a little.

"Yes!" Malfoy finally gets out and then fights the zip into place. "What the bloody hell did you do with my shirt?"

Harry shrugs. "I think I might have ripped it."

"What else is new? You know, Potter, I've had to get very good at mending charms very quickly on this trip."

"Are you complaining?"

"My shirts are generally silk, Potter. From speciality shops in small Italian wizarding communities you'll have never even heard of. And as my own shop is currently doing little more than break even, I can't exactly afford to purchase any new ones, so I need to care for the ones I still have."

Harry slips off the bed as Malfoy picks up sofa cushions to search. Harry walks up behind him and pulls him back against his body. He kisses his neck. "Just go without it," he murmurs.

Malfoy whimpers, then turns in his arms and kisses him roughly, hungrily. Harry groans into his mouth. But before Harry can drag him back to bed, Malfoy breaks the kiss and slithers from his embrace.

"I've got to go. Fuck, there it is." He swipes his shirt from under an ottoman and hurriedly pulls it on.

"You know, tonight's our last night here."

Malfoy's faced away from him, buttoning his shirt. "Yes, I know."

Harry suddenly feels extraordinarily naked. He crosses his arms over his chest, but that only serves to make his lower half feel more exposed. "So, tonight… Maybe we could…"

"Yeah. I mean, why not, right? Pansy wants me to go shopping with her in town today, but… Well, tonight I'm… open." Malfoy glances back at him, his gaze casting quickly down Harry's body before he makes for the door, the back of his neck blushing.

Harry's heart pounds, seeing it. He knows what that flushed skin tastes like while he's inside him. "So," Harry says. "I'll see you then?"

Malfoy stops with his hand on the knob. He turns quickly and strides up to Harry. He grabs Harry and kisses him deep, his hands running over Harry's body, up his neck, into his hair. "Yes, you bastard," Malfoy sighs. Then, "Merlin, put some pants on," before he strides just as quickly away and out the door.

Harry huffs a laugh and then goes to do as requested and find some pants.

 

Harry's had a good day of skiing followed by a long, hot shower, so by the time he's waiting for the lift to arrive on the third floor, he's starved for dinner. "Bloody hell," he hisses when a minute goes by and the hand's still at two.

Harry abandons his wait at the lift and decides to take the stairs instead. He's nearly to the bottom when he hears a familiar voice just around the corner in the lobby. He smiles. It's only been a few hours since Harry's seen him, but in just days, Draco Malfoy has made it so that a few hours is long enough. Harry's about to step out and see if they can get seats together at a table when Blaise Zabini's voice answers in return.

"Who are you trying to fool, Draco? I saw you coming out of Potter's room this morning."

"Yes, well—"

"So, you decided to seduce him after all. It's good to see you haven't lost all your Slytherin, I suppose. Let's just hope it's enough to keep your shop open, yes?" The amusement in Blaise's voice is plain.

Harry swallows, pressing back into the wall, his heart racing.

"Oh, you think you're so clever." Malfoy's voice drops, and Harry has to strain to hear him still. "I didn't seduce him, if you must know all the sordid details. It just happened. After we talked about my shop, which yes, will be fine, no thanks to you, but the two things have nothing whatsoever to do with one another."

The cold knot of dread that had begun to clog Harry's chest loosens. It feels safe to breathe out again. Not that he'd feared Malfoy had seduced him. He may be a conniving, fearful little git, but even he could not have kept up an act that long and that convincingly. Even when his life was on the line sixth year, he was not the best of liars.

Harry takes a deep breath and remembers last night… the way Malfoy shivered in his arms as he came, how it felt to hear, "Potter, Potter, Potter," chanted like that. Like that moment was everything.

"Mmm," Blaise hums. "Well, it's good to see you getting a shag, Draco. You'd got entirely too pinched for your own good. I believe your complexion's improved as well. Tell me, will you be getting a flat together on Diagon? Should I buy new dress robes for the wedding? You know I love an excuse for new dress robes."

"Shut it," Malfoy hisses. "Bloody hell, Blaise. It's nothing like that." There's a pause while Draco breathes a shaky sigh, and Harry holds his breath. "It's nothing, all right? It's just sex. And it's only here. We're all going back home tomorrow morning, and…"

He can't stand it any longer. Harry has to see his face right now. If he can see Draco's face, he'll know. But when he leans out a hair, all Harry can see is the back of Draco's shiny head.

"It's only a good bit of shagging," Malfoy says, in the same disdainfully amused tone Harry remembers from school. "It ends tonight."

Harry's stomach turns. He presses back against the wall once more and closes his eyes, his jaw clenching as he grinds his teeth. "Stupid bloody bastard."

"Harry!" Hermione's voice suddenly comes from up the stairs. Harry opens his eyes to see her descending with Millicent. "So you took the stairs, too. I think the lift's broken. It's stuck on the second floor."

"That or someone's shagging on it," Millicent supplies.

"You've got a filthy mind," Hermione tells her with a smile that grates on Harry's last nerve.

"I'm shagging Malfoy," he spits out. It even sounds hostile to his own ears, and he doesn't care.

Hermione breaks into a huge smile, though. "What?"

"Me. Malfoy. Shagging. You mind?"

"Oh, Harry, no of course not! Oh Harry!"

"Right, see? See, this is how it works when you don't assume shit all the time." Harry realises he's shouting at exactly the wrong people. And bloody hell, he's too fucking angry and fed up to stop himself now. He's a Gryffindor, by god.

"Excuse me," he says to his friend and her smirking lover. Then he whirls on the person who actually deserves it.

Harry stalks into the lobby and taps Malfoy on his bony shoulder.

Malfoy turns. "Potter, I—"

"I don't want it to end tonight."

"Wh—?"

"I heard what you said. Obviously. And I'm here to tell you that I don't bloody want it to end tonight. Do you?"

"I—"

"Because I don't think you do either, Draco. I think you're doing that thing you do where you think you know everything already when really you know nothing. Aren't you?"

"Merlin, Potter, not here," Draco hisses, his cheeks pinking as he ducks his head and peers around the busy lobby that has, unfortunately, come to a halt to listen to their row.

Draco takes Harry's elbow to draw him away, but Harry wrenches free. "Are you ashamed of me?"

"What?"

"See, I'm not making assumptions. I'm asking. I'm standing here and asking you. Are you ashamed that we've been shagging?"

Draco flinches. "No."

"Really? Because you're sure acting like it."

Draco leans in then, his jaw and eyes hard. "Just because I don't want to have a shouting match about it in the bloody lobby of this hotel does not mean that I'm ashamed, Potter!"

"What does hiding it from your friend mean then?"

"Excuse me? You hid it, too! I wasn't alone in this, sneaking around the hotel like a thief all by myself. And we weren't hiding it. We just weren't shouting about it in the lobby!"

Harry swallows. He takes a deep breath, the flush reaching up his throat and onto his face making him slightly dizzy. Draco's right after all. About this anyway. Harry decides to tell him so. "You're right."

Draco's eyebrows go up to such a degree that Harry can't help but smile.

"Drink it in, Draco."

Draco blinks at him.

Harry sighs. "You know, if you bothered to ask, you'd know that I want to keep shagging once we're home."

Draco's face flames, but in his eyes Harry sees hope. "Are you certain I can't persuade you to have this conversation elsewhere, you complete dick?"

"So I said shag." Harry looks around at the stunned lobby full of people. "That's right, I said shag. I'm shagging him and I like it. Who here isn't shagging somebody else who's also here, hmm?"

Like magic, the lift dings at that moment, and who else makes a timely exit but Pansy Parkinson with her blouse buttoned wrong so that her bra shows and Ron, his hair sticking straight up and the goofiest glazed expression on his face that Harry has ever had the misfortune to see.

"See?" Harry gestures. Then he points around the room. "Gyffindor/Slytherin, Gryffindor/Slytherin, and okay," he points at Luna practically dripping off Blaise's cut torso, "Ravenclaw/Slytherin, but you get the idea." Harry turns his attention to the room again. "Would anybody here care if I kiss this idiot?"

Harry doesn't miss Hermione clasping her hands up to her face and bouncing.

"Bleeding hell, Potter, I'm not an idiot just because I didn't know what this was! How the fuck am I supposed to know anyway?"

"Bloody well ask, you git!"

Draco plants his hands on his hips and leans in to shout in Harry's face, "Oh and if I'd asked you, you'd just happily say—"

"That I think I could fall in love with you? Yeah, Malfoy, I would!"

"Well, so could I, plonker!"

"So could you what?"

"Fall in love with your stupid Gryffindor arse!"

Harry stops short. He parts his lips, but he finds no words to speak.

To his shock, Draco leans around him and addresses the room. "Everybody here all right with that?"

Harry looks over to see a still-dazed Ron shrug. Millicent wraps her arm around Hermione's shoulders and looks rather proud of herself, and Blaise Zabini lifts his teacup in a toast.

Harry looks back at Draco, a tremulous smile playing about his lips. He steps in close to him. When Draco stands his ground and doesn't back away, Harry cups his face with one hand, his waist with the other.

"Potter…" Draco starts, softly now.

"It's Harry. All right?" He brushes his thumb over Draco's cheekbone. "So, can we agree that neither of us wants this to end tonight?"

Draco's gaze falls to his lips. "Yes, Potter."

"Harry."

"Shut up." Draco leans in and kisses him.

 

~

 

The sun's dipped below the peaks, and all the valley lies in shadow as they walk down the path toward the spring.

"You know, we have a tradition," Harry says. "No swimmers on the last night."

"You… you're joking. But… all of you?"

"Yep."

"No."

"You're right. No."

"Wait, you were taking the piss?"

"I was, yeah."

Draco shoves him. "Fucker."

Harry laughs. "Would you have done it?"

"Starkers in front of your friends?"

"They're your friends, too, now."

Draco swallows and looks away to watch the ground where he's walking. He doesn't think he can bear letting Potter see what that means to him just yet. "Either way, fuck no." He smiles when Potter – Harry – laughs again.

They make their way toward the welcoming steam and the sound of laughter and talk that filters through the trees.

"Hey, there they are!" Finnigan calls, standing and waving.

"You know, I think they can see us, too, Seamus," Thomas says, tilting a beer bottle to his lips.

Finnigan splashes him.

"Hey everyone," Harry says, shedding his robe.

The others shift and make room for them to sit together, and once Harry slides in, Draco ditches his robe on top of Harry's and joins him.

"Bloody god…" he sighs.

"As good as you remembered?" Harry asks. He slips his arm out along the rocks behind Draco's back.

Draco is grateful the heat from the water disguises his blush.

"Beer?" Weasley asks, holding one out to him.

"Oh, no thank you," Draco says.

"Harry?"

"I'm good." Harry's looking at Draco when he says it, and Draco flashes on the hotel room just an hour before.

Harry thrusting on top of him. "Good?"

Draco's legs thrown over Harry's shoulders. "Merlin.. So good…"

Draco shakes himself out of the fantasy as Granger pipes up. "I'll take one, Ron."

Weasley smiles at her, reaching across the spring with the bottle, and Granger gives him small grin in return as she takes it before relaxing back against Millicent once more.

Draco looks around through the steam. Granger and Millie, Longbottom, Finnigan, Thomas, the Patil twins, Lovegood of course with Blaise, then Pansy and Weasley rounding it out. It's a motley assortment, really. Not one Draco ever would have expected. Certainly not one he'd ever have thought he’d be a part of. Potter's thumb suddenly rests against Draco's shoulder and starts to brush this way and that. Draco takes a deep breath, the magic from the spring sliding around his body as surely as the water itself. He sighs.

"I don't want to go back," Lovegood breathes. "Do we have to?"

"Well, I don't know about you," Padma says, "but I've got parchment to mark. Ancient Runes doesn't teach itself."

"I've got Quidditch practice," Weasley says.

"Oh, hey," Finnigan says. "Dean, tell them about getting the, what did you call it?"

"I got a loan to rent studio space in Muggle London," Thomas says. "I'm going to teach art classes."

"Oh, fantastic," Granger enthuses. She takes a pull on her beer and then hands it to Millie.

"Draco, what will you be doing?" Blaise asks, a sly smile hovering about his stupidly perfect lips. "You going to sign that lease Potter gave you?"

"Piss off," Draco says. But when Blaise lifts a brow, "I think Potter and I can work something out."

That earns him some salacious laughter from around the spring, and he slips a hand onto Harry's thigh beneath the water. Potter inhales next to him and then clears his throat.

Parvati asks Longbottom what he's doing next, and a conversation starts between him, Padma, and Granger, the three that have gone back to Hogwarts to teach.

Draco leans his head back, humming a little as Harry's thumb exerts a bit more pressure on the tight muscle between his neck and shoulder. He listens to the talk, the abrupt laugh here and there. He remembers the way the Great Hall used to fill with this sound, more often from the other three tables than from his own. He remembers believing they were all naïve and stupid, being that happy, thinking they had so much because they had one another's friendship.

He remembers believing no such thing.

The water laps at his body, its magic leaving an invisible healing mark, and as Draco blinks lazily up at the darkening sky, a meteor goes shooting by overhead, flaring white-gold before extinguishing over the trees. Harry's hand shifts and cups his shoulder, pulling him ever so slightly closer into his warm body. Draco slides his own hand down to Harry's knee. He turns his head, dropping it softly onto Harry's damp shoulder.

This is it. It's not what his mother wants for him. It's not anything he thought he'd try to have. But here it is anyway.

Draco breathes in the steam, and it's not a decision to take it. To try. He breathes in the scent of Harry's neck, and it's no decision at all.

Millicent toasts the mountain, and Draco opens his eyes to see her lifting her beer. Ron follows her and toasts Pansy's glossy hair.

"Oh Merlin, give me one of those," Draco says, holding out his hand for a bottle. Ron passes him one, and Draco twists the top off, raising his arm. He looks at Harry and gives him his best shit-eating grin.

"Don't you dare—" Harry whispers.

"To Potter's Alley!" Draco shouts; the rest chorus after him, drowning out Harry's groan.

"You'll pay for that."

Draco takes a drink and murmurs, "Good." He takes in Harry's glittering eyes, tilts his head, and leans up for a kiss.

Harry obliges readily, smiles against Draco's lips, then kisses him again.

 

END