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A Convenient Impracticality

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Harry and Draco broke up the day before they completed their Auror training.

Although Harry felt a bit strange calling it a break up. Was it even possible to break up with someone he was never actually dating? But they’d been sleeping together for nearly their entire Auror training so it felt to Harry that the end of their relationship (although, could he still call it a relationship?) should have some sort of label. Some sort of official way of saying that it was over.

Shouldn’t it?

Harry had no idea.

Honestly, he was probably far too drunk to be thinking about this right now. And really, he had no idea why he was thinking about it at all. Why he felt like it even mattered one way or the other. It wasn’t like there’d been feelings involved, or romance, or any of that nonsense. Hell, most of the time they hadn’t even managed conversations. Mostly there had just been a lot of orgasms, which was exactly what he’d wanted. Auror training had barely left Harry with enough free time to do laundry or fire off the occasional cleaning charm around his house, never mind the sort of time and energy he’d need for dating. And since he and Draco were already on the same hectic schedule, and they were two reasonably attractive young men, and both of them were single and would likely stay that way for the foreseeable future due to their workload, it made perfect sense to get what they needed from each other. That was all there was to it. Neither of them had been anything even close to in love. They met up, they got naked, they fucked, and that was that.

It’d worked out beautifully.

But now, for all that it hadn’t meant anything, when Harry looked across the crowded pub and saw Draco laughing with a group of other newly-promoted trainees, a tight twinge of something wistful and possessive curled through his chest.

He looked away and took another swallow of his pint. Even if he didn’t care for Draco in that way, they’d still spent the better part of the last year in bed with each other. It was only natural that Harry had developed some measure of fondness for him, right? It was okay to miss him a little. Or maybe he just missed the sex? That was certainly understandable. It’d been good sex. Really, really good sex. The best sex Harry’d ever had. Well, the only sex Harry’d ever had, to be fair. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t tell it was above average. It was like cake, wasn’t it? He didn’t have to be some sort of, of cake expert to recognize when one was fantastic. Cake was cake, and some of it was really good, and when you took a bite of it, you just knew.

Sex with Draco had been like that, sort of.

Except now, shit, now—

“I really want cake,” Harry said glumly, staring into the bottom of his pint glass. He really should have compared sex with Draco to something less likely to give him drunken cravings. Quidditch, maybe? Oh, or chocolate.

No, wait, fuck. Not chocolate, because now Harry wanted chocolate cake.

“Oh,” Ron sighed from the seat beside him. “Now I do, too. I wonder if Mum would make some for us?”

“Probably not,” Hermione said from just beside him. “It’s nearly one in the morning.” She sounded very practical and startlingly sober, especially compared to the way Harry’s thoughts had begun to ramble and they way Ron’s words had gone soft and blurry around the edges. But Hermione was their Designated Disapparator and had been sipping ginger beers all evening, which, in Harry’s opinion, weren’t nearly as good without the rum in them. Hermione was a good friend and Harry appreciated her sacrifice.

“I bet she would,” Ron said stubbornly. “She loves me. She’d make me cake if I asked her to.”

“Not at one in the morning,” Hermione said, folding her arms over her chest. She leaned back in her chair and raised her eyebrows at him. “But go on, Ron, owl her. I’ll have a good laugh when she sends you a Howler right back for waking her up at this hour.”

Ron wrinkled his nose at that, but didn’t argue. He turned to Harry. “D’you reckon Kreacher would make us a cake?”

“Probably, if I told him to,” Harry said, considering. Then he shook his head and frowned a little. “But we’d probably have to wake him up, and then you wouldn’t want to eat anything he made. He made me a casserole last week, and there was a pair of shoelaces baked into the middle of it.”

Ron blinked muzzily at him. “On purpose.”

“I’m pretty sure,” Harry said with a shrug. He supposed Ron meant it as a question even if he didn’t get the intonation quite right. “I think he does it to get back at me. Can’t disobey directly because, you know,” He flapped one hand in a loose gesture, “House-elves. The shoelaces casserole happened after I scrubbed the kitchen floor before he could do it.” Harry couldn’t get rid of Kreacher, Grimmauld Place was his home even moreso than it was Harry’s, but at the same time Harry didn’t feel comfortable being waited on hand and foot. He’d started out trying to take care of his own chores, and somewhere along the line it’d evolved into an unofficial War of Housework, and Kreacher acted out if Harry got too far ahead of him. “And anyhow you know how cranky he gets when we wake him up at odd hours. We probably can’t trust him with a cake.” He stared off into space for a moment. “I bet I could make one, though. It can’t be that hard.” Hagrid had managed to make Harry a birthday cake that one year, hadn’t he? And he didn’t even have a proper kitchen in his hut to make it in. Unless he’d gone down to the Hogwarts kitchens and done it there. Harry pictured Hagrid towering over a throng of bustling house-elves, leaning down over a house-elf-height counter and carefully piping ‘Happy Birthday Harry’ in cheerful green icing. He burst out giggling, then sobered as he remembered how good and chocolatey that cake had been. He nodded once to himself and announced, “I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna make a cake.”

“Oh my god,” Hermione muttered into her ginger beer, but Ron’s eyes lit up and he nodded eagerly.

“I’ll help,” he offered. He clumsily pawed at Harry’s arm and said very earnestly, “Harry, I’m gonna help you.”

“Oh my god,” Hermione said again, this time with feeling. She picked up her ginger beer, sighed, and put it back down.

Harry was still nodding. “And if it turns out poorly, we can get Hagrid to make us a cake.”

Ron was nodding along with him. “Hagrid would do it, too.”

“Oh for the love of—I’m not taking you to Hogwarts,” Hermione said.

“It’s all right,” Harry said and gave Ron’s arm a comforting pat. “Our cake will be fine. Hagrid’s just, y’know. A back-up plan.” Also, Harry hadn’t been for a visit in too long. Now that he’d have more time after his promotion, he really should make time to go out there for a visit one Saturday. At least for tea. He drained the rest of his pint and stood up, wobbling a little when the room tilted around him. “Be right back. I need the toilet and then I’ll be ready to go.” He hated the way Apparition made him feel as if he were being forced through a small tube, stretched out and sharply compressed at the same time; it felt about a million times worse if he tried to do it with a full bladder.

He made his slow and careful way across the crowded pub, and then down the narrow little hallway at the back. He pushed into the men’s room, the bright light briefly disorienting after the pleasant dimness of the pub’s main room. He did his business and washed his hands and was about to leave when the door opened and Draco walked in.

Startled, Harry jumped back clear of the door swinging inward, then laughed at himself. Draco smirked a little, amused.

“All right there, Potter?” he asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry said. He made to push past Draco to the door, and Draco caught him gently by the elbow, and Harry paused, looking at him. They were standing very close.

There was a long, frozen moment where Harry thought, Oh. He’s going to kiss me now. And then Draco leaned in and did just that. Well, all right, then. Harry kissed him back, because with Draco’s mouth moving warm and insistent over his own, he didn’t feel like he had a choice about it. Kissing Draco reminded Harry vaguely of Imperio, wonderful enough that the rest of the world went a little blurry around the edges, warm in a way that made Harry want to sink deep into it and never come back up again. It felt captivating and compelling and a little bit dangerous, and even though it’d been happening for the better part of the last year, the thrill of it had never quite worn off.

“Mm,” he said against Draco’s mouth before pulling away, and Draco ducked his head and nipped at Harry’s neck. “What’re we doing?”

“We’re alone in here. Might as well,” Draco replied. He gave up on kissing and pressed his face into the crook of Harry’s neck, inhaled unsteadily, and nudged their hips together until Harry could feel him half-hard against his thigh.

And, oh. Okay. That was very much okay.

“But we agreed,” Harry said even as he pushed Draco up against the wall. He kissed Draco again, hard and quick. “We agreed we’d quit once we were promoted.”

“Not promoted yet,” Draco pointed out, deftly unbuttoning Harry’s trousers. “Ceremony’s not til tomorrow afternoon.”

And Draco was right. It wasn’t, so that meant technically they were still trainees and their arrangement was still on.

“You,” said Harry as he attacked the buttons on Draco’s trousers, yanked them open and tugged them down, “are a bloody genius.”

Draco snickered. “Right, because you keep me around for my brains.”

“I keep you around for your cock,” Harry said, dropping to his knees.

Draco started to say something else, but Harry opened his mouth and swallowed him as deep as he could and Draco ended up saying nothing but ‘yes’ and ‘Harry’ and ‘ohmygod’ for the next five minutes straight. Harry could tell when Draco was getting close. His breath hitched and his fingers tightened in Harry’s hair, and then he was gasping out a half-strangled groan and coming in long pulses over Harry’s tongue while Harry licked and swallowed and sucked gently until he finished.

Sighing, Draco untangled his fingers from Harry’s hair as he slumped back against the wall, breathing hard, and Harry pressed a trail of open-mouthed kisses to the crease between hip and leg, nuzzling the soft skin there and breathing deep. If this was the last time he got to be this close to these tender, intimate parts of Draco, he wanted to remember every detail.

Eventually Draco recovered himself enough to tug Harry to his feet, then turned him around and pushed him up against the wall, steadying him when Harry stumbled. He knelt down in front of Harry, very carefully placing his knees on the toes of Harry’s shoes.

“What the hell,” Harry muttered, trying to push him off, but Draco clung to his hips and put more weight onto his knees to keep himself in place.

“Stop that,” Draco scolded. “You may care little enough about the state of your jeans that you’re willing to kneel on this awful floor, but these are my good trousers and I’m not dirtying them up.”

“But you’re making my toes go numb,” Harry complained, trying vainly to tug one foot free. “It’s distracting.” He didn’t want to be distracted; he wanted to enjoy every second of this.

Draco arched an eyebrow at him. “I can assure you that you’re not going to care much about the state of your toes in a few seconds,” he said haughtily.

Harry frowned and flicked Draco’s ear.

Draco frowned back at him, his hands loosely curled around Harry’s hips. “What was that, Potter? Because I could have sworn it sounded like, Thank you, Draco, but you don’t need to return the favor. I don’t much feel like having a blowjob tonight.”

“I’m sorry, Draco, I’d really like to have a blowjob, please,” Harry said quickly. “Also your hair looks especially nice today and is that a new shirt? It really brings out your eyes.”

Draco put on a stern expression. “Trying to sweet-talk me?” he asked.

Harry nodded. “I really want your mouth on my cock.”

“Well, when you ask me so nicely,” Draco said dryly, then licked his lips and mouthed gently at the head of Harry’s cock.

And, oh, maybe it had been a mistake doing Draco first. When Draco went second, his eagerness and anticipation of getting his own orgasm made him rush. And that was more than fine by Harry, who liked it hard and fast and maybe a little rough like Draco got sometimes when he was especially overeager. But when Draco’d already got his, he tended to go slow, took his time. Built Harry’s pleasure bit by careful bit, until Harry was sweating and shaking, unbearably hard, could hardly think straight, could barely breathe.

Draco took him in slowly, sucking firmly and backing off a little before sliding down another half an inch. By the time he’d taken Harry all the way down, Harry was breathing hard, one hand pressed to Draco’s shoulder, the other hand clapped over his own mouth as Draco pulled nearly all the way off, sucking firmly as he went, flicked his tongue over the tip of Harry’s cock, then slid back down, over and over, punctuating his rhythm every three or four times by taking Harry as deep as he could and swallowing hard.

A few minutes into it, the doorknob turned and the door started to open, and Draco lashed out with his wand and cast a strong Colloportus without lifting his mouth from Harry’s cock. The door slammed shut the bare inch it’d opened with a startlingly loud bang! and Draco’s steady rhythm didn’t even falter. Harry’s eyes rolled back and he thumped his head against the tile wall. Draco’s breath huffed around him in a soft rush as he laughed, pulled off and mouthed along the side of Harry’s cock, murmuring into his skin, “Liked that, did you?”

“Oh my god yes,” Harry sighed. “You beautiful bastard.”

Draco laughed again and took him back in, returning easily to his earlier rhythm. One hand slid up Harry’s thigh to cup his balls and fondle them gently, and Harry let out a shaky moan before he clapped his hand back over his mouth. Whoever had tried to get in might still be lingering in the hallway, and the idea of someone standing right on the other side of the door made everything feel sharper, more urgent. Draco sped up little by little, licking firmer, sucking harder. Harry tapped frantically at Draco’s shoulder as his orgasm loomed suddenly before him. Draco took him all the way down and sucked hard, and Harry let himself fall, everything around him fuzzing out in a burst of staticky pleasure, narrowing down to the hot wet suction of Draco’s mouth.

He was still trembling faintly with small aftershocks of pleasure when Draco pulled off and licked his lips again, made certain he caught Harry’s eyes before he visibly swallowed.

“Oh,” Harry sighed, clumsily petting Draco’s hair. “That was really good.”

“Of course it was,” Draco said, standing up. He was smirking faintly as he helped Harry to do up his trousers again while Harry continued to slump against the wall like a useless lump, and it occurred to Harry then that Draco was far less drunk than he was. “Not a bad ending to our arrangement, hm?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, giving him a broad smile. “That was nice.”

“So,” Draco said, tucking his hands into his pockets. “I suppose that’s that, then.”

“Not quite,” Harry told him, cutting off the next thing he tried to say. “C’mere, you.”

He pushed off the wall and tugged Draco forward, tipped his head up and kissed him almost chastely, a warm and lingering press of lips. He felt Draco melt against him, the way he always did when Harry kissed him gentle like this. His hands slid up Harry’s chest and over his shoulders to loosely cup the back of his head, fingers scratching lightly through the hair at the nape of Harry’s neck.

“Now,” he said as he drew back and let go of Draco. “That’s that.”

Draco was smiling, something soft and warm and Harry must really be drunk, because Draco looked almost affectionate as he said, “Well, Potter. It’s been fun.”

“It certainly has,” Harry agreed.

He turned to the door, unspelled and opened it, and disappeared through. Harry heard a murmured Confundus! and then the door fell shut.

The same wistful part of Harry that wanted to call the end of their ‘relationship’ a ‘break up’ also wished that their last time had been in a bedroom, with an actual bed and all the time in the world to say a proper goodbye. But it’d been difficult enough to sneak Draco in and out of Grimmauld Place with Ron and Hermione living there; then Seamus and Dean had needed a place to stay while they searched for a flat of their own, and the sneaking became a little more of a challenge; and now that Hogwarts had finished classes for the year, Ginny and Luna had moved in as well, and sneaking Draco in and out was pretty much impossible. Most of the time Harry didn’t mind having so many flatmates—he’d just be rattling around inside Grimmauld Place by himself otherwise—but all the extra people meant that he couldn’t see a way to have Draco over without being found out. And Harry had flat-out refused when Draco suggested sneaking him into the Manor. So for the last month they’d been catching time together whenever and wherever they could: mostly in public toilets, a few times in closets and storerooms, and once, quite memorably, in the showers at work.

He sighed to himself and washed his hands, flicked water from his fingertips and gave them a perfunctory wipe against the thighs of his trousers, and left the toilet. He was being ridiculous. Drunk and ridiculous and, okay, maybe a little bit afraid of being lonely, especially when all the people he lived with were paired off into couples. Between his hectic schedule and all the sex he’d been having with Draco, he hadn’t really had the chance to feel alone. But now…?

Harry rolled his eyes at himself in the mirror and put it firmly from his mind. Tonight was about celebrating and he didn’t want to end it moping and maudlin.

When he returned to the table, he found that Pansy Parkinson had taken his seat and was deep in conversation with Hermione. Harry sighed a bit to himself. A number of strange friendships and relationships had blossomed between the different houses post-war when all the returning students in Harry’s year had been put into their own 8th year dorm. Neville and Hannah Abbott were still dating even a year after they’d left school, as were Terry Boot and Daphne Greengrass, and Michael Corner and Susan Bones. Ron had been delighted to discover that he and Theodore Nott were fairly evenly matched at Wizard’s Chess, and they still met up for a game together every now and then, and Neville Longbottom had connected with Millicent Bulstrode over their mutual passion for Herbology and they still exchanged letters each week like clockwork. Harry and Draco hadn’t had much to do with each other back during their final year of school, but they’d done their best to set aside their differences and put the past behind them. By the end of the year they’d become friendly acquaintances, enough that they were able to hold a civil conversation when they ended up in the same classes for their Auror training or when their increasingly intermingling social circles pushed them into each other’s space outside of work.

But Hermione and Pansy, bloody hell. Hermione and Pansy had spent the first half of the year circling each other like angry cats, and then suddenly they were the best of friends. Hermione had never explained what had transpired between them, and honestly the pair of them were sort of terrifying together, and Harry tended to not put himself in their notice if he could help it.

Ron didn’t seem to have any problem with it, but Harry rather suspected that had something to do with the amount of cleavage Pansy usually had on display.

“Potter,” Pansy say, half-turning in her chair. She tapped one long red fingernail against the rim of her glass. She made no move to give him his seat back.

“Parkinson,” Harry muttered. He looked around for an empty chair he could steal, and caught sight of Draco across the pub. Draco smirked at him before looking away, and Harry turned back to his own table before remembering he still needed a chair.

Pansy snorted. Harry glared at her. She remained unfazed, but Harry supposed that was fair enough; she’d been close friends with Draco Malfoy practically all her life, and Harry’s glares weren’t anywhere near as good as Draco’s. Harry looked across the pub again, but Draco had his back to him. He was standing directly under a lamp, and the golden light made his hair practically glow, like some sort of, of. Well. Some sort of something that glowed prettily in golden light.

“Right,” Hermione said. Her chair scraped the floor in a sudden clatter that rose briefly above the bustling sounds of the busy pub. “Pans, excuse me a moment. I’m going to take the pair of them home and then I’ll be back.”

“What?” Harry said, finally turning around.

“Come on, Harry,” Hermione said, taking him by the elbow. “Let’s get you home.”

“Oh, but I…” He half-turned for another look over his shoulder but caught himself in time. Right. He and Draco had already said their goodbyes. And anyhow, they were going to see each other tomorrow afternoon at the promotion ceremony.

“Cake, Harry. Cake,” Ron said decisively. He stood up and led the way out of the pub, and Hermione pushed Harry along behind him.

Oh, right. Cake.

Harry followed Ron outside, and Hermione looped her arm firmly around his.

“Ready, Harry?” she asked.

Harry took a deep breath and nodded, squeezing his eyes shut tight as Hermione Side-Alonged him back to Grimmauld Place. She steadied him when they reappeared, keeping her hold on him until the room stopped tilting.

“Thanks, Hermione,” Harry said. He started to lean in close to kiss her on the cheek, then remembered the last place his mouth had been and gave her a hug instead. “You’re wonderful.” He sighed a little and leaned heavier against her. Her hair always smelled so good.

She patted his back tolerantly until he let her go. “You’re very welcome,” she said, then added, “Step back, now. I’ll have Ron here in just a moment,” before she Disapparated with a soft bang.

Harry obediently backed away to the doorway, leaving the center of the sitting room clear for Hermione and Ron’s landing. He wasn’t entirely sure what would happen if someone tried to Apparate into a space that was already occupied by someone else, but Harry had the feeling it’d be messy and probably involve a trip to St Mungo’s. He didn’t think they had cake at St Mungo’s.

True to her word, Hermione only kept Harry waiting for a few seconds before she reappeared with Ron in tow. Ron leaned in close and murmured something in her ear that made her swat him away, but she was smiling as she did it and then she went up on her toes to kiss him. Harry looked away.

Another soft bang told him that Hermione had gone again, and then Ron was crowding him out of the doorway and down the stairs to the kitchen.

“You do realize,” Harry said as they reached the bottom, Harry a little faster than Ron on account of having missed the last step, but he was holding tight to the banister so he managed to keep his feet, “that this is probably a very bad idea.”

Ron shrugged. “Kreacher won’t let us burn the house down, probably.”

“I wasn’t even thinking of that,” Harry said, pausing in the middle of the room. “But now I am.”

“It’ll be fine,” Ron assured him. He already had the cupboards open and was rummaging around inside them. “Probably.”

“See, the fact that you keep saying ‘probably’ isn’t all that reassuring.”

“Keeping all my hoops covered,” Ron said. He pulled down a mixing bowl and set it aside on the counter. “Get your arse over here, you’re the only one of us who’s any good in the kitchen.”

Which was accurate enough but maybe not entirely true. Ron was entirely helpless in the kitchen, not because of a lack of talent but because he’d never bothered making any attempt to learn. Instead, he subsisted solely on leftover takeaway and the heaps of food Molly packed up for him to take back with him every time he visited the Burrow, and Ron managed to find time to visit the Burrow at least twice per week. Harry didn’t tease him about it because most of the time Ron was good enough to share with Harry.

Harry did all right on his own, but he was still no Molly Weasley. He had breakfast down, but breakfast was easy. The rest of it could be a little hit and miss, so Harry mostly let Kreacher handle dinners.

“All right,” Harry said. God, he was probably entirely too drunk to be attempting this. “I’m doing it. But if I burn down my house, I’m blaming you…”

- - - - -

Harry didn’t burn down his house. He set several alarm spells to ensure that he wouldn’t, the second of which went off in his ear as he was carefully removing the cake pan from the oven and startled him so badly that he dropped it. The pan upended onto the open oven door and while Harry stood there blinking stupidly at it, Ron, pragmatic as ever, scooped the crumbled remains back into the pan and they stood together right there at the counter and ate most of it just like that. It was good and very chocolatey even without the icing, but Harry couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d missed an ingredient.

It wasn’t the best cake Harry’d ever eaten, but it was more than good enough to satisfy a drunken craving, so he called it a success.

By the time he and Ron finished eating, rinsed out the pan and cleaned up the crumbs from around and inside the oven, Harry was starting to sober up a little bit. He felt pleasantly tipsy and a little sleepy, and after bidding Ron a good night and left him heating up a kettle for tea as he settled back down at the kitchen table to wait for Hermione to return, Harry went upstairs to his room.

He shut his door after himself and kicked off his shoes, nudging them neatly side-by-side against the skirting boards beside his wardrobe. Harry started to unbutton his shirt but halfway through he caught sight of his bedsheets lying twisted and rumpled over his bed, and even though it’d been nearly two months since the last time he’d had Draco over, it struck him hard that he was never going to have Draco here again. The tight wistful-possessive feeling twisted through his chest again as it sunk in that what they’d had was over, really over.

Strange that he should miss it, when he’d never meant it to be more than easy sex. Honestly, it’d started off as sort of an accident, where they’d been arguing and then it just sort of… happened. Harry had been in the papers again one morning in late September, a full-page spread brimming with unfounded speculation about his love life. He’d been in a foul mood ever since he’d seen it, made worse by several of the other trainees ribbing him over it, even though Ron had done his best to make them stop. By the time they all trooped into the locker room at the end of the day, Harry was more than ready to be done with all of it. He lingered in his shower cubicle, eyes closed and steaming hot water pounding onto his back, until everyone else had left.

Or, he’d assumed everyone else had left. When he stepped out, towel clutched around his waist, he found Draco fussing with his hair in front of one of the mirrors. Ignoring him, Harry stomped over to his locker and got his clothes out, dropped his towel and quickly pulled them on.

“So, Potter,” Draco said, and mercifully he’d waited until Harry had got himself dressed again before he’d started talking. This was what passed for being friendly acquaintances with Draco Malfoy: he waited until Harry was no longer naked before he started acting like an arsehole. “Busy night planned?”

“Fuck off,” Harry muttered, gathering up his things and stuffing them into his bag.

Draco only smirked at him. “Really, I’m impressed—”

“Oh, don’t you start, too,” Harry snapped at him. “You know better. I know you know better.” He crammed his bag into his locker and slammed it shut. He turned to leave.

“But I’m just so curious,” Draco went on, following him out the door. “How on earth have you got so much spare time to get up to all that mischief? I mean, my goodness. Over a dozen people have come forward claiming to have—”

“I haven’t got time, you arse, you know I don’t. We’re on the same training schedule and I’ve barely even got time to sleep, much less get up to whatever lies they’re putting around about my love life,” Harry told him, walking faster.

“So secretive,” Draco said. “Well, fine. If you don’t want to tell me about your adventures…”

Harry ground his teeth together. He reached the lift and jabbed the call button. The doors slid open right away, and the relief he felt at not being stuck with Draco in the hallway as they waited for a car to arrive evaporated when Draco stepped into the lift with him and Harry realized that he was now stuck inside a very small space with him instead. He hit the button for the Atrium, then mashed it several more time in quick succession in the vain hope that it’d make the lift move faster.

It didn’t.

“Although,” Draco went on, and Harry sighed and counted himself lucky he’d got even a minute’s reprieve. Though, knowing Draco, it was only because Draco wanted a moment to choose which direction to take this stupid conversation. “I have to say I’m a little bit hurt that you didn’t. I thought we were getting to be friends.”

“We’re not friends.”

Draco waved a dismissive hand. “Well. Be that as it may. You can’t tell me you’re friends with all those men and women with whom you’ve—”

Harry heaved a sigh. “There were no men and women, you know there weren’t.”

“I’m not sure that I do,” Draco said, examining his fingernails with casual affectation. “The Prophet is a reputable source of information regarding current events and I’m sure the editors would never ever publish lies in the interest of selling papers.”

“I suppose you’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?” Harry muttered.

“I mean,” Draco went on as if Harry hadn’t spoken. “We all know that the Prophet is a paragon of journalistic virtue.”

Harry sighed and shoved him in the vain hope that he’d maybe shut up.

He didn’t.

“And credibility in journalism is so very important, especially in this day and age when society’s most public figures go running about with all sorts of—”

Harry shoved him again and Draco shoved back and then their faces were suddenly very close together, and Harry froze. Draco blinked, and licked his lips, and didn’t move away. His gaze darted down to Harry’s mouth. And before he’d fully thought about what he was doing, Harry leaned in and pressed his mouth against Draco’s, and it was quite good to his surprise, Draco’s lips were soft and warm, his cheek smooth and soft where the tip of Harry’s nose nudged up against it, and—

He jerked back suddenly, because he was kissing Draco sodding Malfoy, what the bloody hell was he doing? “Sorry, sorry, I—”

Draco cut him off by jerking him in by the front of his shirt and kissing him again, hard and fast. And that was even better. Draco nipped at his lower lip and Harry opened up to him, let Draco push his tongue insistently against Harry’s, and Harry’s knees went a little bit weak. Draco lashed out with a fist and slammed the emergency stop button, and the lift jerked to a halt with a sudden jolt that sent Harry stumbling against the wall. He reached out and yanked Draco up against him and kept kissing him, pushed one thigh in between Draco’s and found him wonderfully, temptingly hard.

I did that, Harry thought dizzily to himself, That’s for me.

Draco groaned and rocked his hips against Harry, kissed him harder and deeper and slipped his hands around to cup Harry’s arse to urge him closer.

And Harry thought to himself, fuck it, and Apparated Draco straight to his bedroom.

He’d had the vague idea they’d keep kissing, and then there would be horizontal-ness and his bed and less clothing and more orgasms. Only, once they were actually there, Draco pulled away from him in surprise—quite understandably so, Harry had just Side-Alonged him without so much as a by-your-leave—and then they were standing there awkwardly, staring, and Harry found that he found he really had no idea what he should do next. And, strangely enough, Draco didn’t seem like he quite knew either. They stared uncertainly at each other for a long moment, then Harry shoved a hand through his damp hair.

“Erm. So.”

“So,” Draco echoed.

“I’ve got no idea what I’m doing, sorry,” Harry blurted out, because he might as well get that out there. It’d become readily apparent soon enough. “I’ve never done this before.”

“I haven’t either,” Draco said, then, “Wait. Do you mean you’ve never snogged someone in a lift and then Apparated them into your bedroom? Or that you’ve never…”

“Erm,” Harry said. He’d meant that he had no idea what he was doing here with his ex-nemesis-turned-friendly-acquaintance-turned-potential-sex-partner, but… “I guess, both?” He watched Draco curiously. “Wait. Which did you agree to?”

Draco shrugged, his gaze darting away. “Both, I suppose.”

“Oh,” Harry said. He wouldn’t have guessed that Draco was a virgin. All sorts of rumors had circulated Hogwarts about what went on in Slytherin. And Draco was, well. Draco was Draco, and Harry had eyes that worked. Harry would’ve guessed Draco would’ve been fending off suitors left and right.

“Right,” Draco said, then hesitated. “And... you want to do this?” He gestured vaguely.

“Very much so,” Harry said, and tried a smile. “I’m not in the habit of Apparating men into my bedroom for no reason.”

But that made Draco frown. “No, I mean. Are you sure you want to do this with me?” he asked. He watched Harry intently, his brows drawn together like Harry was a puzzle he was slowly working through. “I mean, we’ve never been…”

Harry nodded, swallowing hard. “I know. But I’m sure.”

“All right,” Draco said. “Only…” He frowned a bit. “I always assumed you’d want to wait for the right person. You’ve always struck me as the sort who’d want it to, I don’t know, mean something.”

“No,” Harry said. “It’s fine. Or, it will be, when it happens. This won’t change that. When I meet the right person, it’s going to be special because of them, not because of what I have or haven’t done before they came along. Anyone else I’ve been with before them won’t have anything to do with it.” He laughed a little and swept a hand through his hair, ruffling it up. “And honestly, when I do meet the right person, I’ll feel better about it if I’ve got some idea of what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Draco nodded slowly, his tight expression easing a little. “All right,” he said again, paused and licked his bottom lip. “So that’s all this is, then? A bit of fun before you settle down?”

The quick peek of Draco’s tongue swiping over his lower lip drew Harry’s eyes and now he couldn’t look away from Draco’s mouth. He wanted very much to get back to the kissing but didn’t quite know how to make that happen. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and back again. “Well, yeah. I mean, why not? It’s not like we’ve really got time for dating right now. And I…” He paused, swallowed, and looked Draco right in the eye. “I want this.”

“I want this too,” Draco admitted, looking more honest and vulnerable than Harry had ever seen him before. He blinked suddenly, and smirked, looking instantly more like his usual self. “I’m not going to resist the opportunity to go to bed with the Chosen One. According to the Prophet, it promises to be quite the experience.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Shut up,” he said, shoving at Draco.

“Make me,” Draco taunted, laughing.

“All right, then,” Harry said and tackled him to the mattress and kissed him hard, because ‘make me’ was probably as close to an invitation as Draco would give him.

And, oh, this was good. This was really good, pinning Draco to the bed and kissing him. Draco’s hands slid down Harry’s back and groped at his arse, and Harry got one of his hands up Draco’s shirt and spread his palm over the smooth warm skin of his side. Draco wriggled beneath him, and then their hips lined up and a sudden shock of embarrassment swept through Harry at the thought that Draco could feel how hard he was. And then it registered that he could feel Draco just as hard against himself, and that was okay if they were both hard, no reason to be embarrassed at all in that case.

“Merlin,” Draco breathed, rolling his hips against Harry’s, and Harry groaned and tucked his face against Draco’s neck, mouthing at the curve where his neck became his shoulder. His cheek pressed against Draco’s neck and he could feel his pulse thudding hard.

“Yeah,” Harry mumbled, and pushed his hand between them so he could cup his palm against Draco’s erection. Draco rutted up against the press of his hand and Harry rubbed at him firmly, loving the broken little whimpers and moans he found he could coax out of Draco with nothing more than a bit of pressure on his cock.

Draco kissed at Harry’s temple, the closest bit of him he could reach. “Wait, wait a moment. We need to—Fuck, Potter. We’re both wearing too much.”

And that sounded like a brilliant idea. “That’s why you’re here, you know. For your brains,” Harry said, sitting back enough to strip off his shirt.

Draco snorted as he fumbled with the fly of his trousers. “Yes, Potter, I’m sure that’s why you’ve brought me here.”

Harry kept his eyes on Draco as he shucked off the rest of his clothes. One day, possibly one day very, very soon, he thought he’d like to take his time and look, because bloody hell Draco was fit. But right now it felt far more important to touch instead.

“How are we doing this?” Harry asked. He reached out and slid his hand up Draco’s thigh, and Draco shivered, his legs falling open.

“Do you have lube?” Draco asked, which didn’t exactly answer the question, but Harry obligingly fetched the bottle from his bedside table and pressed it into Draco’s hand. “Turn over,” he said as he popped the cap.

Harry hesitated, the thought of Draco inside of him suddenly overwhelming and a little scary. “I, er, I don’t know if I want to do that.”

Draco looked up at him. “Oh. Well. We don’t have to… I mean, I won’t go in if you don’t want me to. But maybe I could just, you know, against you?” He was blushing faintly as he said it.

The thought of Draco rutting against him, everything slippery and wet, sounded much more appealing, and Harry found himself nodding. “Yeah, okay. That sounds.” He took a breath and turned over, because if he looked at Draco for any longer he was going to kiss him and kissing was very nice and all but Harry was ready for things to move along. “Okay.”

“Up on your knees?” Draco said from behind him, and Harry heard him set the bottle back on the bedside table, followed by the slick sound of his hand moving over his cock.

He pushed himself up on his hands and knees, feeling more and more urgent with each small, wet sound he heard from behind him. He wanted, he needed, but he gritted his teeth and refused to beg for it.

“All right,” Draco said. “I’m just going to…”

He gently touched his fingers against the edge Harry’s hip, and Harry held his breath. And then Draco moved in closer behind him, and the slippery tip of his cock nudged up against Harry’s backside, and Harry flinched.

“Sorry,” he said, and reached back to catch Draco by the wrist when he went to move away. “Unexpected, is all.”

Draco snorted. “How on earth was that unexpected? I told you I was doing it.”

Harry laughed a little, and it came out high and a little bit nervous, and Draco laughed with him, sounding relieved, like he felt better to know Harry was nervous too. And just like that, the tension broke and Harry’s nerves settled. “C’mon,” he said, tugging Draco’s hand back to his hip. “I’m ready this time.”

And this time when Draco pressed up against him, he didn’t jump at the contact. He felt Draco reach between them and adjust himself, and then Draco gave an experimental thrust and his cock slid smoothly against Harry’s arse, and Harry couldn’t help but gasp.

“Is this…?”

“Good,” Harry said quickly. “It’s good.”

It got even better when Draco reached around and wrapped his slippery hand around Harry’s cock, tightening his fingers into a fist, and stroked him a few times before he held still and let Harry fuck into his hand. Draco snugged up close behind him, his chest warm against Harry’s back, his other hand sliding off Harry’s hip to press possessively over his belly. He let Harry set the pace, following along with Harry’s motion, rolling his hips in time with Harry’s thrusts.

Harry’s mind blanked out at that point, everything else falling away until his world narrowed down to the feel of Draco’s hand on his cock and Draco’s cock sliding against his arse. He gasped, crying out as Draco suddenly took over, thrusting against him faster and faster until his hips stuttered and he said, just once, “Oh,” and then he came.

And it was the feel of Draco’s come trickling down his thighs that pushed Harry over. He barely had time to think distantly to himself, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to do laundry tonight,’ before his own orgasm hit and he came all over his sheets.

Draco slid away from him, breathing hard, and Harry flopped over onto his back next to him and stared up at the ceiling, trying to slow his pounding heart and heaving lungs as he thought dizzily to himself, I just had sex with Draco Malfoy! and then immediately after that, Holy fuck that was good! And then it belatedly registered that he was lying in the wet spot of his own come and he shoved Draco to make room for him on the dry side of the bed, and then Draco shoved him back, and then their wrestling turned to kissing and they snogged until they were both hard again and then they had sex a second time and it was even better than the first.

And it kept right on getting better from there as they became more comfortable with each other and learned what they each liked best and how to give the other what he liked best as well. And afterward, Draco never stayed and Harry never asked him to. Never wanted him to. They interacted in their Auror classes when they had to, conversations carefully kept to course material and occasionally Quidditch, talked to each other sometimes on the rare occasions they had the time and energy for socializing and their friends happened to drag them to the same event. Once they’d bumped into each other while doing their shopping in Diagon and spent a whole five minutes voluntarily making polite small talk while they waited in line. But yeah, beyond that? It’d just been sex.

And that was fine. They’d both got exactly what they wanted out of the arrangement. It’d worked. Harry’d been more than content.

But now, climbing into bed alone, that small and wistful part of Harry couldn’t help wishing that he had Draco here beside him.

“You’re being ridiculous,” he told himself, and pulled the blankets over himself, and turned out the lights, and was asleep in minutes.

- - - - -

Harry didn’t get the chance to exchange more than a brief hello with Draco amid all the whirlwind chaos of their promotion ceremony. And after that, after being assigned to different Senior Aurors with different caseloads and different schedules, Harry and Draco’s paths rarely crossed in the Ministry. Their paths crossed slightly more often outside the Ministry—their social circles were hopelessly intermingled by this point—but it never went beyond a casual conversation here, a game of pick-up Quidditch there. Nothing else happened between them, they were never alone together, and by the time July rolled around, Harry had stopped missing the feel of Draco’s body against his own.

Unfortunately, he’d moved on to missing the feel of having someone’s body against him in general, and a sharp and bitter loneliness had sprouted and grown until it felt like it was eating at him from the inside out.

It’d been six weeks since the last time he’d hooked up with Draco, and that whole thing had only come about because he hadn’t been able to date. But now that he was a Junior Auror, he finally had the time and energy to find a partner for real. Something fluttered warm and excited in the pit of Harry’s belly when he thought about it. He was settled into his job and his schedule left him with enough free time that he felt like he could give a partner the time and attention he or she would deserve from him. It’d be nice to find someone, a man or woman who’d fall in love with him and want to share his life. He lived with three other couples who were very much in love, and sometimes it was a little hard to watch. Sometimes it got a little lonely being the odd man out.

Maybe it was time to do something about that.

“I was thinking maybe I’d start dating,” Harry announced one bright and lazy afternoon in mid-July.

Ron put down his Quidditch magazine. Hermione looked up from her book. They exchanged a laden glance with each other.

Harry frowned at them. “What?”

“Nothing,” Ron said. “Nothing at all.”

“Who exactly have you got in mind?” Hermione asked, not anywhere near as casual as she probably meant it.

Harry stared at Ron suspiciously for a moment longer, then turned to Hermione. “I don’t quite know. I was thinking maybe that witch who works in at the coffee stand in the Atrium? She seems nice. She always smiles at me. I think she’d say yes?”

Ron and Hermione exchanged another look, this one even heavier with meaning than the first.

“Okay, what?” Harry snapped. It annoyed him when Ron and Hermione did their whole speaking-in-significant-stares thing.

“Nothing,” Ron said again. “I just thought you’d finally… Never mind. Nothing at all. I’m glad for you, mate. Let me know what she says.”

Harry wasn’t about to let them get off that easily, but Ginny came thundering down the stairs just then, shouting about how the Kestrals' Keeper had just been traded to the Cannons, and then Harry didn’t have the chance to get a word in edgewise with how she and Ron were shouting at each other, and then he forgot all about it.

- - - - -

Harry asked out the coffee stand witch the following Monday, and, to his relief, she did in fact say yes. Her name was Marguerite, and she was quite pretty, with smooth skin and curly dark hair. They had their first date on Friday evening and Harry found that her smile was even lovelier from across a table than it had been from across the Atrium. She was smart and sweet, and when Harry made a small joke at her expense near the end of the night, she reacted like he’d just slapped her across the face. Harry stumbled his way through apologies, trying to explain that all of his friends did that sort of thing to each other and it’d just slipped out, and really if he was poking a bit of fun at her it only meant that he was comfortable with her and liked her a lot, but he was very sorry and didn’t mean to upset her and promised not to do it again. And Marguerite forced a smile and said it was fine, really, don’t worry about it, she’d overreacted, everything was fine. But things weren’t fine. Things were stilted and awkward for the rest of the evening and Harry felt like he’d been a giant arsehole.

The following Monday when Harry arrived for work, Marguerite didn’t smile at him from across the Atrium, and Harry never made any attempt to arrange a second date.

- - - - -

Harry had another date about two weeks later, this time with a wizard named Kenneth, a friend of a friend of a friend whom he’d met a few times in passing over the summer. Kenneth had the sort of bright and magnetic personality that made Harry feel like they’d known each other for ages. He didn’t seem overawed by Harry’s fame, didn’t treat Harry as anything other as normal. Harry was just debating to himself whether it would be too forward to invite Kenneth to come home with him after they finished dinner, when Kenneth suddenly mentioned how nice it must be for Ron, to be able to ride his best friend’s coattails to greatness without the need for effort of his own. Harry excused himself to use the toilet and went straight home.

Then he had a date with a witch named Maria, who spent the evening railing against their current political system and how it was rotten through and through and ought to be razed to the ground and rebuilt from scratch. Harry got the impression she thought he was somehow responsible for making this happen and was displeased with him that he hadn’t managed it by now.

Then there was Emily, who hated Quidditch, followed by Elizabeth, who spent a solid twenty minutes talking about her cat in a way that reminded Harry uncomfortably of Mrs Figg, followed by Mark, who wanted to take Harry home to meet his mother at the end of the evening to make sure she approved of Harry for a second date.

“Are you sure you’re not looking for excuses?” Hermione had asked him at that point, and Ron nodded along beside her. “Perhaps you’re not giving them a fair chance.”

And then there’d been Rachel. Harry had asked her to dinner, and Rachel had suggested a trendy restaurant down on Diagon. They were mobbed by half a dozen reporters in the middle of their meal and it turned out that Rachel had called them there herself. When Harry stood up and walked out on her then and there, she’d burst into (very impressive but still extremely fake) tears for the reporters’ benefit.

He Apparated straight home and Ron and Hermione didn’t say one single blessed word about not giving her a fair chance; they were far too busy being outraged on his behalf.

“I give up,” Harry sighed, flopping backwards onto the sofa. He was trying not to think of what might appear in tomorrow’s edition of the Prophet. He couldn’t even imagine what Rachel might’ve said about him after he left, but he had a feeling it hadn’t painted him in a good light. He stretched, shifting over until his head ended up propped on Ron’s thigh, and Ron rolled his eyes and gave Harry’s forehead a conciliatory pat. He was much nicer than Hermione, who huffed and hit Harry’s feet with her book until he removed them from her lap.

“Oh, don’t worry so much about it,” Ginny said, leaning over the back of the sofa to ruffle his hair. “You’ve just had bad luck at it, that’s all. You’ll find someone.”

“I’ll never find anyone,” Harry said, dragging a throw pillow over his face. “I am going to die alone.” It was now September and Harry had been going on dates for almost two months. The furthest he’d got with any of them was with Maria, who’d left him with both a goodnight kiss and a lingering sense of misplaced guilt over the current state of Wizarding politics.

“So dramatic,” Ginny said. She yanked the pillow away so Harry could see her roll her eyes. “And if that’s what’s got you worried, why not let someone else find someone for you?”

Harry sat up and blinked at her. “Like who?”

“Like me,” Ginny said, grinning. “I’m a professional Quidditch player, you know. And that means I know lots of other Quidditch players. In fact, our Assistant Coach is single. She’s a few years older than you and quite pretty. Fantastic thighs. Lots of time spent on a broomstick, you know.” She winked at him.

“Oh,” Harry said. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea. If nothing else, they’d at least be able to talk about Quidditch. “Sure, I’ll give it a try.”

- - - - -

They did, in fact, talk about Quidditch. Caryn was bright and funny and enthusiastic and Harry liked her right off, and they had a really fantastic conversation about how the different teams in the League were expected to do in the upcoming season. They talked about Quidditch on their second date, too, despite several of Harry’s attempts to steer the conversation in other directions. For their third date, he refused to let her change the conversation back to Quidditch. And at the end of that date, she told him that she thought he was a wonderful guy, but she didn’t feel like they had all that much in common.

Harry thanked her for a nice evening, shook her hand, and put her in touch with Oliver Wood.

Last he’d heard from Ginny, they’d hit it off spectacularly.

- - - - -

Harry saw Draco the following weekend when Ron and Ginny rounded up as many people as they could and trooped over to Hogwarts to watch the first match of the season. Slytherin was expected to win, but Hufflepuff wasn’t making it easy on them. Ron and Seamus had smuggled in bottles of butterbeer and passed them around once the game started, and everyone drank and laughed and watched the match and Harry felt the loneliness abate some. He felt light and warm and happy, and he adored his friends so much.

Draco had ended up in the seat directly behind Harry, and Hufflepuff had just scored to bring their score up to 40 against Slytherin’s 60 when Harry felt a bony knee press against his back.

“You know,” Draco said, leaning down and putting his mouth very close to Harry’s ear, “the locker rooms are entirely deserted right now.”

He leaned back and Harry turned around to face him. “Yeah?”

Draco nodded seriously, then leaned in close again and murmured, “Yeah. What say you, once more for old time’s sake?”

“Yeah,” said Harry. “Okay.” He drained the last of his butterbeer and tucked the bottle under his seat before he stood up.

Draco was right; the locker room was deserted. They fucked quickly and made it back up into the stands just in time to see the Slytherin Seeker catch the Snitch.

- - - - -

Word had got around at the Quidditch match that Ginny’d set Harry up on a date, and soon after that, not only did the rest of his friends hasten to get in on it, but it became something of an unofficial competition to see who could set Harry up on the best date.

So far, they were all losing spectacularly.

Luna set Harry up with an older wizard who’d spent the entire date talking about the mating habits of hinkypunks. Which, when Luna did that sort of thing, Harry found it sweet and charming. When Cole did it, Harry found it overly-intense and a little bit intimidating. Especially at the end of the night when Cole informed him that Harry was infested with bissle-flips which were, apparently, drawn to those suffering from acute sexual frustration. He followed up that diagnosis with an offer to help him get rid of them. Harry told Cole he had a headache and went home early.

Acute sexual frustration, his arse. He’d just fucked Malfoy not three days prior.

After Cole, Harry went out on a date with Tavares, who worked with Millicent. Tavares, it turned out, had been misinformed that he was agreeing to a date, and the evening ended in confusion and embarrassment when Harry tried to kiss him and Tavares informed Harry that he wasn’t gay.

Then Dean set Harry up with Sheila, who thought Harry was very nice but said she was moving to Canada next month and didn’t want to carry on a long-distance relationship with a man she’d just met. Next, Dean set Harry up on a date with James, with whom Harry had a very nice evening, shared a very nice goodnight kiss, and who then never called him back. After James came Francis, a friend of a friend of Hannah Abbott, who shouted at the waitress during dinner and made her cry. Harry apologized to the waitress, and walked out on his date then and there, and poor Hannah was mortified when he later told her what’d happened.

Then came Penelope, whom he’d briefly met a time or two through Theo Nott. Nothing was wrong with Penelope, but nothing about her felt especially right, either. And in any case, she didn’t seem especially interested in seeing him again. They parted ways on friendly terms.

By this point it was nearly the end of October and Harry was beginning to feel quite discouraged.

“Leave it to me, Harry,” Seamus assured him. “I’ve got someone you’ll love.”

Michael was tall, dark, and handsome. He had a winning smile and a firm handshake and Harry thought the date was going well, at first. There was easy conversation which quickly became flirting, and then—

“You’re back early,” Hermione said when Harry came storming through the Floo.

“Date didn’t go well,” he muttered, flinging himself into the armchair. God, he needed a drink. He flicked his wand and Summoned a bottle of pumpkin ale from where several of them sat on the end table, kept under a Cooling Charm.

Hermione looked doubtful. “Did you give him a fair chance? You were only gone for twenty minutes.”

Harry sighed as he popped the cap off his bottle and then took a swig. “He pretended to drop his fork and then tried to give me a blowjob under the table.”

Hermione’s mouth dropped open. “What? No!”

“Yes,” Harry said. “Unfortunately yes. There wasn’t even a tablecloth to hide what he was doing.”

“I stand corrected,” Hermione said. “It’s for the best that you dropped his sorry arse. No one needs an exhibitionist in their lives.”

“Exactly,” Harry said, nodding emphatically. Public sex was only fun if there was the risk of getting caught, not the certainty.

“Oh, Harry,” Ron said, walking into the room. “You’re back early.”

“Michael doesn’t deserve our Harry,” Hermione said right away. “And Seamus is no longer allowed to pick Harry’s dates.”

Ron shrugged and settled onto the sofa beside Hermione. “I thought you were off your rocker for letting him pick out a date for you in the first place.”

“His taste’s not that bad,” Harry said. “He’s dating Dean.” He sighed and slouched down in his chair so he could kick at Ron’s ankles. “Ron, why don’t you set me up with someone? I trust you to pick out someone good.”

“Sorry, mate,” Ron said, shifting his legs out of range of Harry’s, and batted away the bottle cap Harry flicked at his head. “You already know everyone I know.”

“Actually,” Hermione spoke up. “I think I’ve got someone in mind.”

“Oh yeah?” Harry asked. He sat up a little straighter. “Who?”

Hermione hummed. “Let me see if he’s interested,” she said. She had that look on her face that meant the gears in her brain were whirring right along.

“Hermione,” Harry said. “Who is it?”

Hermione raised her eyebrows at him. “Harry. Do you trust me?”

“Well, yes—”

“Then let me arrange this for you, okay?”

Well. Hermione knew him better than almost anyone else in the world. If Harry couldn’t trust her, then who could he trust?

“Okay,” he said reluctantly. “But I’ll have you know that I’m agreeing to a blind date under protest.”

“Duly noted,” Hermione said with a nod. “Excuse me now, will you? I’ve got plans with Pansy this evening.”

Harry turned to Ron after Hermione had vanished into the Floo. “Do you have any idea who she’s got in mind?”

Ron shrugged. “Hermione’s mind is a very intimidating place.”

“That’s for sure,” Harry said, and then Ron asked whether he’d want to go out for a pint and Harry agreed, and it didn’t occur to him until much later that evening that Ron had never actually answered his question.

- - - - -

Harry showed up for his date at precisely six o’clock on Friday evening. And even though he was right on time, when he gave his name, he was informed that his date had already arrived and been seated.

The restaurant was much nicer than any of the places he’d chosen on his own when he’d set up his own dates, with high ceilings and plush carpeting and sparkling crystal chandeliers. All the waitstaff wore immaculately pressed black robes, and a piano played softly in the background. He’d dressed up a little, wearing his good jeans and a cable knit jumper and a set of forest green robes left open down the front, added at the last minute because he remembered Ginny saying they made his eyes look nice, but he still felt uncomfortably underdressed.

The maitre d’ led Harry across the main dining room, up a narrow aisle between rows of small tables draped in crisp white cloths and occupied by well-dressed witches and wizards eating posh food from fine china plates and sipping wine from fine crystal glasses. Harry spotted a familiar head of blond hair and had barely enough time for the thought, ‘Oh, Draco’s here too,’ to form before he figured out exactly which table the maitre d’ was leading him to. He had no idea what Hermione had been thinking, setting him up with Draco Malfoy, but she and Harry were certainly going to have words about it when he got home tonight.

“Hermione set this up,” Harry said in lieu of a hello. “I had no idea I was meeting you here.”

Draco looked up at him and frowned. “Pansy,” he grumbled. “It was Pansy for me.”

“I can’t believe they did this,” Harry sighed, dropping limply into the chair across from Draco.

Draco sighed and rubbed a hand over his forehead. “I can’t believe that you can’t believe they’d do this,” he said. “They’re both horrible. You knew that already.”

“Hermione’s not horrible,” Harry said. Because she wasn’t, mostly. At least when compared to Pansy. “Pansy’s the horrible one. Hermione’s just convinced she’s always right.”

“So’s Pans,” Draco sighed again. “That’ll be Granger’s influence, you know. She’s become downright insufferable since those two joined forces.”

“Well, history hasn’t proven Hermione wrong too often,” Harry said. He idly flipped open the wine list.

“Except here,” Draco said.

“Exactly,” Harry said, flipping the wine list closed again. He mostly had no idea what he was looking at, anyhow. The sort of wine he and Ron drank came in a box. “We tried it already. It didn’t work.”

Draco hummed. “Well, to be fair, it didn’t exactly not work.”

“But it didn’t go anywhere, either,” Harry said, because it hadn’t. He’d grown to like Draco well enough, but the only spark of desire he’d felt for him had been purely physical. “If we were going to fall for each other, wouldn’t it have happened while we were…” He paused, glanced around, and lowered his voice, “...fucking? I mean, don’t get me wrong, the sex was great. But nothing developed beyond that.”

Draco hummed again. “Are you suggesting we tell them that we can’t date each other because we’d already spent close to a year in a secret ex-nemeses-with-benefits arrangement?”

“No, god no,” Harry said, cracking a smile. “Can you imagine what they’d say?”

“We’d never hear the end of it,” Draco agreed, nodding. “The questions they’d ask.”

“There’d be an interrogation, and they’d only try harder to set us up. They’d be convinced they’re right, that we’ve got chemistry or some rubbish. So what do we do? Just go home tonight and tell them it didn’t work?” Harry pulled a face before he’d even finished talking. “No, they’d try to convince us that we didn’t give it enough of a chance.”

Honestly, Harry,” Draco said in a perfect imitation of Hermione, and Harry snorted. “But… perhaps we should give it a chance.”

Harry blinked at him. “What? Are you really suggesting we date?”

“Don’t be absurd,” Draco scoffed. “We just agreed that it didn’t go anywhere. But what if we pretended to date for a while, then engineered a break-up?”

Harry laughed, then stopped when Draco didn’t laugh with him. “Are you serious?”

“Absolutely.”

“But…” Harry began. “No, you can’t… Draco, it’s a ridiculous idea. It just doesn’t make sense. What would we have to gain from faking a relationship?”

“Well, Pansy will become absolutely insufferable if she thinks she’s right, but she’d also stop trying to inflict me upon every hapless single bloke she comes across. Quite frankly, I could use a break,” Draco said. “Wouldn’t you like the same?”

“Oh,” Harry said. His friends had been getting rather insistent with their matchmaking lately. Honestly, a reprieve from it sounded pretty good to him. If nothing else, it’d give his friends some time to round up some more people with whom to set him up. Maybe some of them would be not-horrible, next time. “Yeah, okay, I’ll give you that. So if I agreed to this, how long would we be pretending to date?”

Draco hummed thoughtfully for a moment. “Until Christmastime, I think would be best.”

“You want to pretend to date me for two months?” Harry asked. He’d imagined it’d be a couple of weeks at most.

“Two months is a perfectly reasonable length of time,” Draco insisted. “Long enough for it to become serious, but not so long that we’d be expected to be heartbroken about it ending.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Harry said slowly, trying to imagine pretending to date Draco for that long. “And anyhow, the holidays are a stressful time, maybe the pressure of our first Christmas as a couple would push us to the breaking point.”

“I was thinking more that the holidays are a stressful time so our friends will hopefully be too busy with their own lives to nag us overmuch about it.”

“Oh,” said Harry, nodding. “That too. Well, we’re going to have a very amicable break-up. Maybe they won’t worry overmuch about us if they can see we’re fine.”

The look Draco gave him said that he didn’t believe that for a single second.

“I know,” Harry sighed. “We should be so lucky.” He flipped open the wine list again, then looked around the room. Shouldn’t their waiter have come over by now?

As if summoned by the mere thought of it, a waiter appeared beside their table in a swish of black robes, greeted them briskly and asked to take their drink orders.

“Yes, I believe we’ll have a bottle of wine,” Draco said, plucked the list from Harry’s hands, perused it for an instant, then asked Harry, “Is a red all right with you?”

Harry shrugged. “Yeah, sure.”

“Any preferences?” Draco asked, glancing back down at the list.

Harry shrugged again. “Not really. All red wine tastes the same to me.”

Draco looked pained, then turned to the waiter and rattled off something that sounded like French to Harry. “For our second date,” he said after the waiter vanished, “I’m going to arrange for us to attend a wine tasting.”

Harry didn’t exactly think that’d be his thing, but there’d be wine so he could probably tolerate it. Besides, relationships were about give and take, weren’t they? “Yeah, okay. I’m free this weekend, just let me know when.”

“Perfect,” Draco said.

They sat in silence for a minute until their waiter reappeared, uncorked the bottle of wine and poured them each a glass. They placed their orders and the waiter vanished again.

“So,” Draco said. “We're doing this?”

Harry laughed a little. “Yeah, sure. I guess we are.”

“Well,” said Draco, raising his glass and holding it out. “To our relationship?”

Harry gave him a grin and picked up his own glass. “To us having a very long and happy two months together.”

“Two months and one week,” Draco corrected.

They tapped their glasses together, a clear and musical note ringing out between them. They drank. It tasted like red wine, but Harry supposed that it must be a nice one because Draco’s face did an approving sort of thing as he swallowed. Then Harry thought of Draco swallowing in other contexts and had to look away for a moment.

“So. Why are we going to break up?” Harry asked, setting his glass down. “It might not be a bad idea to start angling toward it from the beginning. You know, laying the groundwork to make it believable.”

Draco shrugged and set down his own glass. “Well, what big, irreconcilable differences have we got that we can work with?”

Harry shrugged back. “The distance, maybe? If you won’t move to London, I’m sure as hell not moving to Wiltshire and living with your parents.”

Draco shook his head. “No, I’m planning to move to London next spring, anyhow. And Wiltshire isn’t that far by Floo, we wouldn't break up over that. What about marriage. I want to get married.”

“Shit, so do I,” Harry sighed. “Kids? I want a houseful of them.”

“I hated being an only child. I’d like to have three.”

“That’s a good number,” Harry said. “I was thinking maybe four? But three would be nice, too.” They frowned at each other for a long moment, then Harry suggested, “Which of us would carry them?”

“I figured we’d take turns,” Draco said. “Oh, best have four, then. Make it even, two each.” He sighed. “Would you let me name our firstborn after a constellation?”

“Depends which one, but okay.”

“And would you be all right with a long engagement?”

“Sure.”

“And a traditional Wizarding wedding? With a bonding spell?”

“Fine by me.”

“I won’t live in a house full of Gryffindors with my new husband, you realize.”

“They’ll be gone by then, I’m sure, if we’re going to have a long engagement,” said Harry. “And anyhow, I think we’re looking too far ahead. I don’t think any of this would become a serious issue in just two months.”

“Right, right,” Draco said. “I suppose I got a bit carried away with it. Still, there must be something we disagree on.”

“Yeah, I’m sure there is,” Harry said. He took a large drink from his wine glass. “You know, this would be so much easier if you were still an arsehole.”

“If I were still an arsehole, no one would be trying to set you up with me,” Draco pointed out. “Can’t we just tell them we didn’t get on and leave it at that?”

“Do you think they’d accept that without specific examples?”

“We could tell them we’re sexually incompatible? That’s a sensitive topic—”

“Which would only make them more determined to get details, first off,” Harry pointed out. “And second off, ha. That’s so blatantly untrue I don’t think I could say it with a straight face.”

“Well,” said Draco. “I’ve been told I snore.”

Harry burst out laughing. “Wouldn’t bother me. Seamus snores like a bloody freight train. Honestly, after so many years of that, I have a hard time sleeping when it’s too quiet.” He shrugged. “Well, I hog all the blankets.”

“I’m always too hot when I sleep. You’d be welcome to them.”

Harry sighed. “Ugh. Stop being so bloody perfect for me.”

Draco rolled his eyes and stretched out his legs under the table to nudge his feet up against Harry’s. “Well, we’re going to be spending quite a lot of time together. I’m sure something will come up.”

“Yeah,” Harry said. “I suppose you’re right. We’ll be driving each other spare in no time, I’m sure.” He frowned a little. “This is going to be strange, isn’t it, spending all that time together.”

“Hm?”

“Us…” He gestured vaguely between them. “You know. I’m pretty sure this is the longest conversation we’ve ever had,” Harry pointed out, then grinned and couldn’t resist adding, “Usually we don’t do much talking.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Another thing,” he said, toying with the edge of his serviette. “I don’t think we should resume our previous arrangement while we’re meant to be dating.”

“Oh,” Harry said, surprised and more than a little disappointed. He’d honestly assumed they’d pick up where they left off, and he hadn’t quite realized how much he’d been looking forward to it until Draco said he didn’t want to. “Okay. Well. If you change your mind about it, let me know. I’d, erm. I’d like that.”

“I’d like that too, to be perfectly honest,” Draco said. “But you’ve made an excellent point: we hardly talked to each other before. And to convincingly fake a relationship, we should probably get to know each other. And I’m not sure that we will, otherwise.” He gave Harry a smile. “You’re quite distracting, you know.”

“Well I try my best,” Harry said dryly, then sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“I’m always right,” Draco said.

“Modest, too.”

“Of course.”

Their dinner arrived just then, and the conversation turned to work as they ate, and the evening sped by. They shared a panna cotta for dessert, and Draco insisted on paying, and then they walked each other outside and hesitated on the empty street.

“Do you want to come home with me?” Harry asked.

Draco put on an exaggeratedly scandalized expression. “What kind of man do you think I am, Harry Potter? Do you think I’m easy?”

Harry laughed. “Good god, no. No, Draco, I’d never accuse you of being easy.”

Draco shoved him, and Harry laughed again.

“You arse,” he said. “You know I didn’t mean it like that. You said you didn’t want to, and I won’t press you about it. I just meant, you know, come back to mine for a cup of coffee or something. Someone’ll probably be up, we could show them how well we’re getting along.”

“Some other night,” Draco said. “We don’t want to start off too strong too fast.”

“Yeah, okay,” Harry said. “You know, I had a really good time tonight.”

“I did as well,” Draco said. “This farce might even be fun.”

“Yeah,” said Harry. “I think it will. So, owl me the details and I’ll see you on Saturday?”

“Sure, I’ll see you on Saturday,” Draco echoed. He put out his hand, and Harry shook it, and then they both Disapparated.

“How was it?” Ron asked when Harry walked into the room.

Harry shrugged. “Not terrible,” he said, hanging up his jacket by the door. “Draco’s arranging for us to go to a wine tasting on Saturday.”

Hermione looked incredibly smug.

And Harry had to turn away to hide his smile.

- - - - -

Saturday, to Harry’s mild surprise, turned out to be quite enjoyable, and not just because he ended up pleasantly tipsy by the end of it. Harry hadn’t been sure he’d enjoy himself. When Draco’d said wine tasting, Harry had imagined a group of men and women in stylish clothes standing around a well-appointed room, sipping from wine glasses and saying all sorts of intelligent things about what they were tasting, saying things like I detect a subtle note of blackcurrants and this one’s got an undertone of burnt oak and a whole lot of other things Harry was pretty sure weren’t actually involved in winemaking before elegantly spitting their mouthfuls out again.

Instead, to Harry’s surprise, it took place in more of an informal classroom setting, where participants sat at several large, round tables and a tall witch with dark skin and natural hair tied back with a colorful scarf explained the winemaking process and gave a brief overview about the different types of grapes and the regions where they were grown and then spoke more specifically about each of the six wines they tried. She was very bright and knowledgeable, and Harry had forgot how much he enjoyed learning new things without the pressure of homework or an exam looming at the end of it.

Also, there was no spitting involved, which pleased Harry because he’d always preferred to swallow, and the portions were so small that even by the end of the tasting Harry wasn’t quite drunk enough to crack that joke to Draco. He wanted to, but wasn’t quite sure where they stood with each other in that regard.

When the witch running the class finished talking about the last wine, she invited everyone to stay and mingle and enjoy the rest of the bottles left over from the tasting. The trio of witches who’d shared their table wandered off to speak more in depth with the instructor about grape-growing regions in Germany, and Harry and Draco were soon left alone. Harry cleaned out his glass with a quick spell and snagged a nearly-empty bottle of the wine he’d liked best with a lazy Accio. The label was hard to read, done in an elaborately curling script and all in French, but he’d remembered the little cartoonish centaurs prancing around the borders of the label.

“Well?” Draco asked, holding out his glass for Harry to fill him up as well, and Harry poured him a generous serving. “What did you think?”

“Fun,” Harry said, pouring his own glass, but it turned out he’d misjudged the amount and there was only a little wine left in the bottle, barely enough for a couple of swallows. “And I learned a lot. Maybe I’ll even pick the wine for our next dinner date.”

“I’m not sure I’d go that far,” Draco said, reaching over. He plucked the mostly-empty glass from Harry’s hand and pushed his own full glass across the table, and Harry smiled at him. Draco propped his elbow on the table and leaned in, all suave confidence as he went on, “But I’d be more than happy to help continue your education. Say, on Thursday, eight o’clock, at Le Coq Bleu? I can make us reservations.”

“That was smooth, Malfoy, very smooth,” Harry said, laughing a little, and impressed despite himself how easily Draco had invited him out on a third date. He tapped the curve of his wine glass against the rim of Draco’s and Draco gave him a smug look. “Yeah, okay. I’ve got an early shift that day, so eight o’clock’s fine.”

“Wonderful,” Draco said. He lifted the glass to his lips and polished off the swallow of wine, and stood up. “Excuse me a moment, I’m going to see if I can find if there’s any more of that sauvignon blanc.”

“Was that the one with the swimming mermaid on the label or the one with the laughing mice?” Harry asked a minute later when Draco returned with a full glass.

“The laughing mice, for fuck’s sake, Potter. The mermaid one was a merlot. Which is red. And as you can see,” He flicked his fingernail against his glass, “the sauvignon blanc is not.”

“Well how was I supposed to know that?” Harry asked, struggling to not laugh and spoil his act. He enjoyed more than he should when Draco got all flustered and exasperated with him.

“Because we just sat through a class about it?” Draco pointed out. “Or how about the fact it says it’s not red right in the name? You do realize that blanc means…” He trailed off and narrowed his eyes at Harry.

Harry had hoped to hold on to his straight face for a little longer, just to see if Draco would keep going, but he couldn’t keep the smile off his face.

Draco huffed. “You arsehole,” he said. “Should’ve known you’re doing it on purpose.”

“Sorry,” Harry said, not sounding even close to apologetic. “But your pronunciation goes all fussy when you go off about something.” He tried to mimic the way Draco had said the name of the wine and mangled it horribly.

“My pronunciation is not fussy,” Draco sniffed. “It’s correct.” He slid a look at Harry as he took a sip from his glass. “I do speak French, you know.”

That gave Harry pause. “Wait, you do?”

“Mmhm. Fluently.” Draco took another sip. “As well as passable Italian.”

“All the lost opportunities,” Harry sighed. He idly traced a finger along the rim of his glass.

“That won’t work, you know,” Draco said, nudging his hand away. “These are cheap glass, not crystal. And what lost opportunities?”

“For dirty talk,” Harry said, and then realized he maybe shouldn’t’ve said that. They’d been getting along pretty well and he was a little afraid that bringing up their old arrangement might make things awkward, especially since Draco had been the one to not want to continue with it.

But Draco only laughed. “Why Potter,” he said, his voice warm and teasing. “I had no idea you were such a Francophile.”

“Neither did I, apparently,” Harry said, relaxing again. “And anyhow, it’s not just the French. I bet the Italian would be fun too, even if you say it’s only passable.” He felt a nervous little thrill start up in the bottom of his stomach, and it caught him by surprise. He’d poked a bit of fun at Draco dozens of times before and never reacted like this. But something about bantering with him about sex when they weren’t actually having any made it feel illicit. Almost forbidden. And Harry’d always got something of a kick out of skirting the rules.

“I suppose passable would’ve been enough to get by with,” Draco said, still smiling. “It’s not as if you’d have known what I was saying, in any case.” His smile widened and turned sharply amused. “I could tell you anything.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “I’m sure you could recite your shopping list and still make it sound sexy.”

“Careful, Potter,” Draco warned lowly, leaning closer. He had one knee hooked over the other, and the toe of his shoe nudged against Harry’s shin. “That sounds rather like a challenge.” He flexed his ankle gently, rubbing lightly at Harry’s leg through the heavy denim of his trousers.

And, oh. This didn’t feel quite like teasing anymore. This felt like flirting. A brief flash of panic zipped through Harry and made it hard to breathe for a moment. He and Draco had never really flirted, not even when they’d been fucking twice a week. They’d bickered some, poked a bit of fun at each other in what’d passed for foreplay between them. It’d never been like this.

But this was fun. Harry was surprised by how much he was enjoying it, even if it wasn’t going to go anywhere. Shame he hadn’t worked this out back when it could’ve gone somewhere. Missed opportunities indeed.

“That’s not saying much.” Harry recovered himself a bit and forced a smirk. “Malfoy, I could recite my shopping list at you, and you’d take it as a challenge.”

Draco moved his foot away and uncrossed his legs, picked up his wine glass and took a sip. “Very true,” he said. “But that’s what makes us so much fun, don’t you think?”

“Keeps things exciting, I’ll give you that,” Harry agreed, resisting the urge to move closer to Draco. He’d missed the small point of contact from the instant Draco had moved away and very much wanted it back.

You’re being ridiculous, he told himself sternly.

Except… maybe not quite so ridiculous when he stopped and thought about it. After all, most of his previous interactions with Draco had involved quite a lot of touching. It would make sense that he’d have a bit of trouble transitioning from that to… well. To whatever this was. Friends, maybe? They’d be spending a lot of time together over the next couple of months, and even if they weren’t quite friends yet, there was a good chance they could get there by the time they faked their break up. Harry thought he’d rather like to end up with a friendship at the end of it.

With that in mind, he turned the conversation away from anything at all to do with sex. They talked a little more about work and how the rest of their week had gone as they finished their glasses, and by that time most of the other class participants had dispersed and the witch who’d run it was going around the room and Vanishing empty bottles and collecting empty glasses into a basket.

“Well,” Draco said, standing. “Shall we?”

They were both a little too tipsy to Apparate safely, so they agreed on a walk while they sobered up. They pulled on coats and scarves, and Draco took a few minutes to arrange his carefully around his neck and then tuck the ends into his coat before he led the way outside.

Diagon Alley was quiet for a Saturday evening, with only a handful of witches and wizards strolling along the cobblestone street. A chilly breeze ruffled Harry’s hair, and he turned up his collar and shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat, and his fingers closed on a handful of loose coins and a crumpled paper. He pulled out the paper to look at it and found a receipt from last March from the Tesco just down the street, for a loaf of bread, two bags of Doritos, and spaghetti hoops. Harry remembered neither buying nor eating any of it, which meant he’d either been very drunk when he did it, or Ron had borrowed Harry’s coat when he’d gone out on a late-night food run on his own. Both were equally likely. Harry shoved the receipt back into his pocket, and did his best to suppress a shiver as another gust of wind washed over him.

“Really, Potter. You’re such a Muggle sometimes,” Draco chided.

Before Harry could say a word, Draco whipped out his wand and poked Harry right in the nose with it as he cast a Warming Charm. The sudden rush of magic made Harry’s nose tingle, and he sneezed twice in quick succession.

“You bastard,” he said, rubbing at his nose. “You did that on purpose.”

“Might’ve,” Draco said, tucking his wand back up his sleeve. “But you feel better now, don’t you?”

The Warming Charm had spread and wrapped snugly around him, as toasty-warm as sitting near a fireplace, as comfortable as Harry’s favorite old Weasley jumper.

“I’ll never admit it,” Harry said, turning to walk up the street, walking slow until Draco fell into step beside him.

“You haven’t undone the charm,” Draco pointed out, sounding more than a little smug. “That’s more than answer enough for me.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry muttered and elbowed him, and Draco elbowed him back. “You know…” he began.

Draco looked over at him just then as they came to the next intersection and stepped out of the shadows the row of buildings cast across the pavement, and for a moment Harry was so distracted by the way the setting sun made Draco’s hair glow rosegold that he nearly missed Draco asking, “I know what?”

Harry’s mouth had gone dry. He swallowed and shook his head. “Nothing. Never mind. I…” He smiled a little sheepishly and flattened a hand over his hair. “Sorry. Lost my train of thought.”

Draco laughed at him, and they crossed the street and passed back into shadow, and Draco’s hair returned to its usual pale gilt, and Harry finally looked away. His fingers had curled up in his pockets to keep from reaching out and touching, crumpling up the receipt into a tight ball. He opened his hand and fidgeted with it, then mashed it down into the corner of his pocket.

Maybe this whole becoming-friends-with-Draco would be more difficult than Harry had originally thought.

No. It wouldn’t. It’d be okay. Before, when they’d had their arrangement, Harry had learned to separate Draco into two parts. There was the distantly polite version of Draco that Harry saw in class and spoke with in public. And there was the warmer version of Draco, who still held Harry at arms length, but who also smiled more, laughed more, who teased him and touched him and whom Harry was allowed (and encouraged!) to touch right back. It’d been difficult at first to keep the two versions of Draco apart from each other, and over the first few weeks Harry’d had to stop himself more than once from reaching out at the wrong moments.

But eventually he’d settled into it, and this would be no different.

“Hey,” Draco said, catching Harry’s attention. He nodded at a small cafe tucked between a stationery shop and an apothecary. “Fancy a cup of coffee to help us sober up?”

That sounded wonderful, and Harry had a quick flash of wrapping his hands around piping hot porcelain and the soothing way sips of sweet, frothy steamed milk would warm him all the way down to his belly. That’d be a nice way to end their evening, he thought

“Yeah, sounds good,” Harry said, and Draco gave him a smile and opened the door.

- - - - -

They went out on a few more dates over the next couple of weeks. Draco made reservations and they had a very nice dinner at the restaurant he suggested, and got coffee together again, sitting tucked at a tiny table in the back corner of that cafe on Diagon and wasting an entire afternoon talking about nothing in particular, and then one day when the weather turned unexpectedly warm for early November, they went for a long walk around Hyde Park and Harry listened to Draco pass vicious judgment on Muggle fashion that had Harry in gales of laughter.

It wasn’t until Harry took Draco to a Quidditch game that it occurred to him to wonder why he and Draco were bothering to go on what felt an awful lot like actual dates for all that they were just pretend, when really it would have been easier for them to tell their friends they were going out and then simply whiled away their afternoons or evenings individually. But then Puddlemere scored against Portree and the crowd went wild and Harry forgot all about it until after the match.

“Because we’re getting to know each other, Potter,” Draco said, slow and exasperated, when Harry brought it up to him later as they were saying their goodbyes for the evening. “That is the point of dating, you know. To get to know the other person.”

“Okay, yes,” Harry said, nodding. “Except for the part where we’re not actually dating.”

“No,” Draco sighed, sounding even more exasperated. “We’re not. But all of our friends think we are.”

“Yes, I’ve got that,” Harry said. “That was the whole point of this.” He paused, and Draco stared at him, and Harry sighed and continued, “In case you haven’t noticed, our friends aren’t here right now.”

“No, not right now,” Draco agreed. “But what do you think would happen if they finally see us together and we don’t seem any more comfortable than we were before we started dating? We’d give ourselves away. So we need to actually get to know each other, and we might as well do things that are interesting while that happens.”

And it sort of made sense when Draco put it like that, except for the fact that… “Doing interesting things while getting to know each other is exactly what dating is, you do realize,” Harry pointed out.

“That is the definition of it, yes,” Draco said.

Harry waited for any sign that Draco realized at all how bloody ridiculous this whole thing sounded. But it never came, so he said, “So… let me see if I understand what you’re telling me. Our fake relationship involves going on real dates so that we can get to know each other well enough that our friends are reasonably convinced we’ve been actual-dating this whole time, except we’re not, but we’re very convincing about it because of all the dates we’ve actually been on.”

Draco huffed and folded his arms tightly over his chest. “Well it sounds stupid when you put it like that.”

“No, I’m pretty sure it sounded stupid when you explained it, too,” Harry said.

“It makes perfect sense,” Draco insisted. “And anyhow, it’s whatever we say it is. We know our dates aren’t real, so they’re not. I don’t see why you’re getting so worked up over this.”

Truthfully, Harry didn’t either, because when had arguing about anything with Draco Malfoy ever been anything other than a massive waste of time? He sighed and shoved at his hair even though it flopped right back over his forehead the moment he dropped his hand. “Fine. Whatever you say.”

Draco smiled and patted his cheek, and Harry rolled his eyes at how obviously pleased Draco was to have won the disagreement, even though Harry had very obviously let him win and that so didn’t count as a real victory. “Knowing when to stop arguing with your better half is a very important skill,” he told Harry. “You’re going to make someone very happy someday.”

“I wish,” Harry muttered, swatting his hand away. “You know, it’s a little bit sad that my not-dates with you have gone about a thousand times better than any of my real ones with other people did.”

“It’s a sign,” Draco said sagely, nodding a little to himself. “A sign that I am so much better than everyone else. I am the best, and I’m so glad you finally realized.”

Harry laughed and shoved lightly at him. “Yeah, okay. Clearly that’s what it is.”

“Twice in a row!” Draco crowed, smiling bright enough to practically outshine the sun. “I had no idea you could be so agreeable, Potter!”

“I’m plenty agreeable,” Harry protested. “I’ve agreed with you about plenty of things before.”

“Yes, but let’s be honest, many of the things you’ve been agreeable about in the past have included suggestions like: Shall we swap blowjobs? or Fancy a quick fuck? or my personal favorite, Bend over, Potter, I’d like to see whether I can make you come from just my tongue in your arse.” Draco folded his arms over his chest and raised his eyebrows, challenging Harry to disagree.

Which Harry couldn’t, because who on earth would say no to having Draco’s tongue in their arse. And even though Draco had been right about it, Harry rather thought he’d come out ahead on that one. He flushed a little at the memory. “Are you calling me easy, Malfoy?”

Draco gave him a long look that Harry couldn’t describe as anything other than a leer. “Are you saying you’re not?”

“Only for you,” Harry said, then felt his face flush warmer when he heard exactly how that sounded. “I mean, because you’re the only person I’ve ever been with, not because I still want—I mean, not that I don’t want, because of course you’re… Oh, fuck. This isn’t coming out properly. I’m going to shut my mouth now.”

“It’s all right,” Draco said, smothering his laughter under a tone of heavy sympathy. He gave Harry’s shoulder a little pat. “I know I’m irresistible. I have that effect on people. It’s an incredible burden but I’ve learned to live with it.”

“You’re an arsehole,” Harry told him, trying his best not to smile. That’d only encourage Draco.

“That too,” Draco agreed, and then his smile edged into a smirk. “See? I gave you that one. Look how generous I am.”

Harry laughed despite himself. “Yeah, yeah. Okay. You’re the most wonderful fake-boyfriend I’ve ever had.”

“So, speaking of what a wonderful fake-boyfriend I am,” Draco said. “I was thinking that we’ve been out on enough individual dates that maybe it’s time we show our friends how happy we are together.”

“Come over this Friday,” Harry said. “All those terrible freeloaders who live in my house are getting Thai and watching terrible horror movies. I think Neville and Hannah are joining us too, and that pretty much covers all my friends. Then we can do all your friends at the next pub night Pansy organizes.” He thought it’d be easier to take them on one group at a time rather than intermingled or, god forbid, all at once.

“Horror movies?” Draco echoed.

“Er, yeah. Movies are… Well, television’s this Muggle thing—”

“I know what it is,” Draco broke in. “But horror movies? Halloween was almost two weeks ago.”

Harry sighed. “Yeah, I know. Dean and I thought it’d be fun to show everyone, you know, seasonally appropriate and all. But then Seamus and Ron got sort of hooked? So it’s sort of become a Friday night thing.”

Draco nodded. “Well, all right. That sounds like the perfect opportunity to convince them our relationship is progressing nicely. And the movie should provide a convenient distraction should it go poorly.”

“Wonderful,” Harry said faintly, frowning a little as he tried to imagine how it’d go. Movie nights tended to be somewhat rowdy, and he couldn’t quite picture how Draco would fit into all of that. Plus, this would be the first time they had to play pretend-couple around people who actually knew them. Fake dates in public were one thing, because those were in front of strangers, but this time they’d be pretending in front of Harry’s closest friends in the world. He was afraid they’d take one look at the two of them together and instantly know it wasn’t real, and then Harry would have to explain it all, and quite frankly the whole thing was fairly ridiculous when he stopped and thought about it for more than two seconds. Oh god, the look on Hermione’s face as he tried to stumble his way through an explanation that sounded halfway reasonable. And oh god the things Ginny would say. She’d laugh herself sick and then never let him hear the end of it. And Ron—

“It’ll be fine, Potter,” Draco said, and the spiral of Harry’s thoughts screeched to an abrupt halt.

“What?”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Do you remember the Yule Ball in fourth year?”

“What? Er, yes?”

“Do you remember when you had to dance in front of everyone with Patil?”

Remember it? Harry felt a flash of embarrassment and panic just thinking about it. “Yes?”

“You had that same look on your face just now,” Draco said. “So I’m telling you, it’ll be fine.” He paused and broke out in a grin. “In fact, it’s rather exciting, isn’t it? This is our first trial we’ll have to overcome as a couple.”

“Oh my god,” Harry muttered. He hadn’t thought of it quite like that, as a test he’d have to pass.

Draco flung an arm around his shoulders. “No, no. This is a truly momentous occasion—”

“Malfoy,” Harry said, trying to shrug him off, but Draco held on tighter.

“This is our debut together. Our first official outing. Our chance to shine. We’ll convince them all how sickeningly in love with each other we are.”

“Malfoy…”

Draco gave him a little shake. “No, no, no, they need to see. We have to show them how deliriously happy we are together.” He held on tighter when Harry tried to pry him off, and grandly proclaimed, “Because we are, Harry Potter, we are so happy and we shouldn’t hide our love away for any longer.”

“Okay, enough!” Harry said, laughing and pushing him away, and this time Draco let it happen.

Draco’s big stupid grin dialled back to something small and pleased. “Feel better?”

And yes, actually. Harry found that he did. “Yes, you loon,” he said, giving Draco another gentle push, and Draco let himself be rocked before swaying back to bump his shoulder against Harry’s. “You’re right. It’ll be fine.” And it would. They’d been on dates. They knew each other better now. It wasn’t like he’d have to fake much of anything, or keep a bunch of lies straight.

“So agreeable,” Draco said, and Harry huffed. “What time on Friday should I arrive? And should I bring anything?”

“Nothing but your pretty face,” Harry said dryly, and laughed when Draco preened. “We usually meet up around six for dinner, and then watch the movie right after.”

Draco nodded. “I’ll see you then.”

“I’ll look forward to it,” Harry told him, and a low flutter of warmth in the pit of his belly made him stop and think about it. He would look forward to it. He enjoyed spending time with Draco. And he really had nothing to worry about, did he? Everything really would be fine.

- - - - -

The doorbell echoed through the house at five til on Friday evening. That had to be Draco; anyone else would’ve let themselves in without ringing the bell. Draco could do that as well, Harry set the wards to allow him entrance a long time ago, but he was probably being cautious, Harry figured. As far as everyone else knew, this was the first time Harry had invited Draco round to Grimmauld Place.

“I got it!” he shouted, pounding down the stairs. He jumped the last two and got a running start so he could slide the last stretch of polished hardwood on his socked feet.

Sure enough, when Harry levered himself up onto the troll’s foot umbrella stand and peeked through the transom window, he found himself looking down on a head of very blond hair.

“What’s all this?” Harry asked when he opened the door to Draco standing on his doorstep with an armload of flowers and chocolate and wine. “I told you that you didn’t need to bring anything.”

Draco scowled and flushed as delicately pink as the stalks of gladiolus blossoms he held in the crook of one elbow. “I’ve been invited to your home for dinner,” he said, his voice startlingly formal. “It’s only polite to bring gifts for the hosts.”

“Why? Are you nervous about this?” Harry asked, lowering his voice.

“No, absolutely not. I’m just trying to be polite,” he said stiffly as Harry took a step back to let him in.

Harry snorted and nudged at Draco, trying to get him to loosen up a little. “They’ve all met you, Malfoy. They know better by now.”

Draco scowled at him again and shoved the flowers into his hands. “Make yourself useful and put those in some water, you ungrateful lout.” He began to unbutton his coat.

Harry thought about telling Draco to relax, but that wouldn’t help matters any if he was already this waspish. He sighed and went into the formal dining room to find a vase. Hermione was in there already, setting the table.

“Oh, those are lovely,” Hermione said. “Draco brought them for you?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, plopping them down on the table before he went rooting around in the buffet for something to put them in. He came up with a blue glass vase.

“Here, Granger,” Draco said, stepping into the room. He’d taken off his coat to reveal a blue cable knit jumper that did exceedingly nice things for his complexion. He came closer and shoved the wine and chocolates at Hermione. “Thank you for having me over, these are for you,” he continued like he was reciting from a book.

“Thank you, Draco,” she said, accepting them and putting them down on the table where they were immediately set upon by Ron, who’d managed to materialize and lay his hands on the chocolates barely a second after they’d been set down. “But you don’t have to do this with me.”

“Oh,” Draco said, shuffling aside as Ron pried the lid off the box. The look he gave Ron was sidelong and deeply unimpressed.

“We've known each other for years,” she said, reaching over and giving Draco's arm a friendly pat. “So you can drop the formalities with me.”

“All right,” he said, nodding a little to himself. “You’re right,” he told her, and glanced sideways at Harry as if daring him to remark on the fact that Draco Malfoy had just admitted Hermione Granger was correct. “It’s not as if we’re all strangers here.”

“If the formalities are what made you show up here with chocolates,” Ron said, his mouth half-full, “you’re more than welcome to keep ‘em up with me.”

“Trying to steal my man, Ron?” Harry asked, as he filled up the vase with an Aguamenti. He set the vase in the middle of the table and arranged the stalks into something resembling symmetry.

“I’m just saying,” Ron said, popping another chocolate into his mouth. “You’ve got a good thing going if he’s bringing you chocolate. Hermione never buys me chocolate.”

“You’re going to ruin your appetite,” Hermione told him.

“Will not,” Ron said, but he put the lid back on the box anyhow. “We’re having Thai. I don’t think it’s possible to ruin my appetite for Thai.”

That was probably true. Harry had seen Ron devour one of Molly’s Sunday dinners over at the Burrow, and then come home afterward and work his way through a whole container of Thai takeaway. Other people could always make room for ice cream and other desserts; Ron Weasley could always make room for red curry or spicy beef.

And speaking of Thai food, before Hermione could say anything else about Ron or his appetite, the front door banged open and Harry heard Neville and Hannah chattering to each other, plastic bags rustling in the background.

“Food’s here!” Ron said cheerfully, then stuck his head into the hallway and bellowed up the stairs, “OI! FOOD’S HERE!”

Moments later, several sets of feet thundered overhead and then pounded down the stairs. Ginny burst into the room, followed closely by Seamus and Dean.

“Did you make sure to get—?” she began to Neville, and broke off when she caught sight of Draco. “Oh, Malfoy!” She grinned at him. “I’m glad to see you. Here I was, thinking that Harry’d made the whole thing up just to get us off his back.”

Harry inhaled and choked on his own spit. Draco walloped him on the back, which didn’t help Harry at all, and why did people think that hitting helped someone to stop coughing? He pushed Draco away and tried to stop coughing before Draco could hit him again.

“Which is a shame,” Ginny went on, talking loudly over the sounds of Harry choking. “Because I think I’ve found someone you’d really hit it off with. Another Quidditch player, Harry.”

“No,” Harry said, his voice coming out croaky. He cleared his throat. “I’m quite happy with Draco, thanks.”

“I don’t blame him,” Dean said, squeezing by Ron and Hermione to help Hannah begin unloading foil containers of takeaway and arrange them on the table. “Malfoy’s fit as any Quidditch player.”

“Nice legs,” said Ginny.

“Nice arse,” Dean corrected.

“I’m right here,” said Draco, turning pink.

“I feel like maybe I ought to be jealous,” Seamus said, then made a show of leaning back to ogle Draco’s backside. “But I’m really not.”

He winked at Malfoy, and Harry, who’d only just stopped coughing, launched into a fresh fit to cover up his laughter when Draco looked over Dean’s back at him and gave him a perfect expression of did-that-just-happen? Luna swept into the room just then, having descended the stairs at a much more reasonable pace, and without a word she crossed the room and hugged Draco tightly, her hands stroking up and down his back, the crown of her head tucked just beneath his chin, and Harry lost it all over again and the expression of startled confusion Draco shot him. He held his arms stiffly out from his sides, as if unsure whether to hug her back. He eventually settled for awkwardly patting her shoulder until she let him go.

Which she did, eventually. She gave him a smile, then stole a spring roll and wandered out of the room.

“What,” Draco said helplessly.

And, yeah. This was going to be a lot more fun than Harry’d thought. He smiled at Draco.

“Don’t worry,” he said quietly. “There’s a good chance they’re all just messing with you.” He paused considering. “Except Luna. I’m not sure what that was, but I think it’s a good thing?”

“Definitely a good thing,” Ginny said, then gave a triumphant little ah-ha! as she unearthed the spicy cashew chicken from one of the bags.

Luna swept back into the room with a handful of spoons and forks, and made her way around the table, placing them by the different containers, and everyone sat down. Serving was a messy, rambunctious affair, as it always was. Harry took pity on Draco, who looked a little overwhelmed at all the shouting and grabbing and the threats, good god, the threats. Ginny and Ron both took their Thai food very seriously and Ron was apparently still holding a grudge from the last time they’d ordered takeaway and Ginny had stolen the last spring roll right out from under his nose.

“Here,” Harry murmured, taking Draco’s plate and leaning into the fray to serve him up a bit of everything. He pointedly ignored the smug looks Hermione was sending him from down the table, probably thinking how sweet it was that Harry was taking care of his boyfriend.

“Thanks,” Draco said as Harry set the plate down in front of him.

Harry waited for him to follow up with some crack about him being such a gentleman, or about their relationship, but it never came. In fact, the ridiculous arsehole Harry had been fake-dating for three weeks now had vanished entirely, replaced by the Draco whom Harry had come to know since the end of the War. He remained mostly quiet through the meal, coolly polite when spoken to, or breaking in with a pointed barb here and there at Harry’s expense. But other than that, he lingered at the edges of the conversation as he polished off everything on his plate in small, neat bites.

At first, Harry wondered whether he was nervous. This was sort of an intimate setting, having dinner at Harry’s house with all of his housemates. But as Hermione had pointed out to Draco, they’d all been around each other plenty of times before. He knew these people, had gone to school with them and grown up with them. There was no reason for him to be acting any different…

….except, no. He wasn’t acting any different for them. He’d only started acting different when he was around Harry.

“What?” Draco whispered, nudging his knee against Harry’s.

Harry blinked, startled from his thoughts. “What?”

“You’re staring at me.”

“Oh,” Harry said, quickly looking down at his plate. “Sorry, lost in thought for a moment.”

Draco smirked at him. “Unfamiliar territory?”

Harry flashed him a little smile, and how strange that Draco smirking and making smart comments at his expense had become a comforting routine. “Shut up,” he said, and all right, that wasn’t the best come-back Harry had ever made.

Draco smirked harder at him and, to Harry’s baffled disappointment, let it go.

Frowning, Harry returned his attention to the conversation, where Seamus was shouting, “Boris Karloff!” over and over, and oh good. The negotiations for what they would watch tonight had begun. Harry didn’t much care, so he leaned back in his chair and watched the debate unfold.

Ron was pressing for one about a girl who could turn into a cat, which Hermione instantly vetoed, and then Ron and Seamus vetoed another one about a circus of vampires, claiming they needed to be extremely drunk before they tackled that one. Neville was pushing for one about murderous plants from space, but was outvoted by everyone except Hannah, and everyone unanimously agreed to skip the one about a giant snake terrorizing Cornwall. Eventually they settled on something called The Deadly Bees, which, bless the creative talents behind that title, was exactly what it sounded like.

Draco had watched the shouting and bickering with some amount of baffled amusement, and when the group eventually came to a consensus, he leaned close to Harry and murmured, “This happens every Friday?”

Harry nodded. “Yeah, mostly. Ginny’s usually a lot louder, though.”

Ginny punched him in the shoulder as she passed by on her way to help Hermione bring drinks up from the kitchen, and Harry waited until she’d gone out of sight before he winced and rubbed at his arm, and mostly ignored the way Draco snickered at him. Harry gave him a halfhearted glare. If he kept on hanging around, it’d only be a matter of time before Ginny started whacking him too. Ginny had no qualms about defending herself from insults and teasing with her fists, and Harry thought that Draco’s smart mouth would be making a bold reappearance once he got a bit more comfortable. At least, he hoped so.

“C’mon,” Harry said, starting for the kitchen as Hannah and Neville set about packing up the leftovers while Luna and Dean started clearing away the dirty dishes. “You can make yourself useful and help me carry up butterbeers.”

Down in the kitchen, Hermione loaded them up with bottles and they all trooped upstairs to where Harry had turned the formal parlor into a comfortable living room, appointed with big squashy sofas and a large tv set up against the wall opposite the Floo. He set his armload of bottles onto the coffee table and laid a Cooling Charm over them, kept one for himself, and flopped down in his usual spot on the far sofa. He jumped a little when Draco settled down practically on top of him, so they were pressed together along their thighs and shoulders. Draco made a small sound of irritation, then nudged at Harry’s arm until he lifted it up, confused, and Draco slipped in right underneath it.

Oh. Okay, then. Harry dropped his arm hesitantly around Draco, and Draco immediately snuggled into his side.

“Aww,” Ginny cooed. “Look at how cute you two are.”

Harry snagged a throw pillow and flung it at her. “Shut up.” He glanced down at Draco and, to his surprise, found that Draco was blushing, the faintest hint of a blush spreading across the apples of his cheeks. “Sorry,” he said quietly. “My friends are all horrible.”

Draco shrugged, and for a moment Harry thought Draco was trying to get him to remove his arm, but when Harry shifted to give him space to leave, Draco settled himself more firmly against his side, so Harry left his arm draped over Draco’s shoulders.

“It’s all right,” Draco said. “I have met them all before, you know. Also, my friends are horrible too, and by ‘friends’ I actually just mean ‘Pansy.’ Who, admittedly, is only one person, but she’s so horrible she makes up for it. Regardless, the point remains: I’m used to it.”

Everyone else joined them a few minutes later and settled into their usual spots: Hannah and Neville curled together in the oversized armchair, Dean and Seamus joined Harry on his sofa while Ron and Hermione took the other, and Luna sat by them with her feet tucked up beneath her on the cushion and Ginny on the floor in front of her because Luna liked to weave Ginny’s hair into elaborate loops and braids as she watched anything on television.

Hermione flicked her wand at the television and the movie started. The opening scene showed a couple of policemen discussing a death threat from a beekeeper, calling him a nutter before they disregarded the threat entirely.

“Bit like the Ministry, yeah?” Ron commented, rolling his eyes, and Harry sighed, because here they went.

Sure enough, that one comment quickly devolved into a scathing commentary about the current state of Wizarding politics that lasted well through the next scene. Thanks to his evening out with Maria, Harry even had some excellent points to bring up.

Draco patted Harry’s leg as he nodded, agreeing with a point he made, and then left it there, fingers curled softly around the top of his knee. And little by little it slipped until by three scenes in, his palm was pressed to the curve of Harry’s inner thigh. Draco’s eyes never wavered from the screen, and he didn’t seem at all aware of where his hand had moved to. And maybe it was wrong of Harry, but he let it happen, and for a while he let himself pretend that this was real because it felt so nice. Everyone else was paired off into couples and usually he sat here by himself and tried to ignore the ache of how much he wished he could have someone by his side. That ache had grown sharper and deeper with each failed date Harry went on, and he hated it. His friends were happy and he wanted to be happy for them, and lately he’d begun to feel jealous when he saw them together and happy and in love.

Harry’s pleasure at having Draco tucked warm and snug against him suddenly soured, because as nice as this felt, it wasn’t real. He shifted in his seat, stretching his legs out in front of him and crossing his ankles, and Draco removed his hand.

Then Seamus pulled Harry away from his thoughts by hollering, “Doris, you saucy minx!” at the woman on the television screen, and Draco laughed, shaking against Harry with the force of it as Hannah added, “I don’t blame Doris, I’d go up to the farm and help him out around the house anytime,” which Harry found about twice as funny as he should have just because it came from Hannah Abbott who looked so innocent most of the time until she broke out with something awful like that, and then from there the discussion devolved into a series of increasingly terrible euphemisms that, as usual, continued through the end of the movie.

“Well,” said Draco as the credits rolled. “That was certainly interesting.”

“Not what you expected?” Harry asked. He still had his arm over Draco’s shoulder and Draco’s hand had returned to his knee.

“Not quite,” Draco said. “I expected more watching and less… shouting.”

“That was nothing,” Ron said with a laugh. “You should’ve seen us the night we got drunk and did dramatic readings from Gadding with Ghouls. There was so much shouting.”

Draco laughed a little, and Harry smiled at him. “I’m sorry I missed that,” Draco said.

“We could have a repeat performance. There are more books in the series,” Ginny said. “I’ve got autographed copies of all of them.”

“We’ve all got autographed copies, Gin,” Dean said, rolling his eyes.

“Not me,” said Seamus. “I chucked mine right in the bin as soon as class finished for the year.”

“I set mine on fire,” Draco said, nodding. “It was tremendously satisfying.”

“Tossed ‘em into the lake,” Neville said, then winced. “The Giant Squid threw them right back at me.”

Hannah laughed and pinched him. “He did no such thing, you liar!”

“My hand to Merlin, he did!” Neville insisted, catching her hand before she could pinch him again. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say he could read and knew straight off what utter twaddle they were.”

“We could do another evening,” Ron said. “I could be convinced to skip movie night one Friday for it. But not next Friday because I pulled late shift.”

“The only question,” Seamus said, “is do we read Holidays with Hags or Voyages with Vampires next?” and beside him Dean pulled a face and muttered, “The man certainly liked his alliteration.”

“Neither,” said Draco. He drained the last swallow of his butterbeer and set the empty bottle aside. “We read Magical Me. He goes on for an entire chapter about how he gets his hair so shiny.”

“Took that chapter to heart, did you?” Harry teased, and when Draco gave him a bland look, Harry swallowed and said, “I mean. You’ve got nice hair?”

Draco sniffed. “Entirely a coincidence. I’d never take fashion advice from a man whose favorite color is lilac.”

“But he does have his own line of hair-care potions,” Hermione pointed out.

“Which he probably stole the formulas of,” Harry pointed out, and Hermione conceded the point with a wave of her hand.

“Irrelevant,” Draco said, then repeated, “Lilac.”

“What’ve you got against lilac?” Harry asked.

Draco shrugged. “I look ghastly in it. So did he, frankly. His complexion is much better suited to jewel tones.” He stretched, shrugging off Harry’s arm. “Anyhow. I’m afraid I’ve got an appointment tomorrow so I really should be off.”

“Oh,” Harry said, standing up a second after Draco did. “All right. Floo’s just there, if you want.” He gestured across the room.

“Thanks,” Draco said.

Harry walked Draco over to the Floo, quietly panicking about what to say. Normally he and Draco just shoved at each other and said they’d see each other next time, but that didn’t strike Harry as and especially couple-y way to say goodbye.

“I, erm. I didn’t say thank you for the flowers earlier,” Harry said quietly, because he hadn’t and he probably should have. He could feel his friends watching him. “So, thank you. They’re really quite nice.”

“Oh,” said Draco. He seemed a little surprised Harry had brought that up. “Well. I’m glad you like them.” He glanced past Harry’s shoulder to the rest of the room. “They’re watching us, you know.”

Harry sighed a little. “I figured they would be.”

Draco nodded to himself, head lowered, then looked up at Harry with a startlingly affectionate smile, and before Harry had time to process what was happening, Draco leaned in and kissed him once, very chastely. The warm press of lips lasted barely a second, and then Draco was pulling back and Harry caught himself swaying closer, chasing after it. He stopped himself before he thought the motion became too noticeable and took a hasty step back, rubbing a hand through his hair.

“So. Erm.” He had the sinking feeling that he was blushing, and from the way Draco was watching him, fond and exasperated and amused, he guessed it was probably more noticeable than he’d like that he’d tried to prolong the kiss. The stretch of spine just between his shoulder blades itched with the weight of everyone watching, and he hoped it hadn’t been as apparent from across the room.

“Right,” Draco said. He glanced past Harry again, and edged closer to the Floo. “I’ll see you for lunch tomorrow?”

“Of course,” Harry said, and watched as Draco scooped up a handful of Floo powder and vanished in a swirl of green flame.

Harry took a moment to steel himself before he turned back to his friends, and found that with Draco gone they were no longer bothering to pretend not to watch.

“Oh my god,” he sighed, returning to his spot on the sofa and flopping down into it. His face still felt very warm.

“Well,” said Ron after a long stretch of silence. “That was certainly enlightening.”

“I’ll say,” Seamus added. “For a second there I thought you were actually—”

Harry put his hands over his face and groaned loud enough to cut him off. He emphatically did not want to hear what Seamus assumed would happen next, especially not after all the terrible comments he’d just finished making about poor saucy Doris.

“Oh, leave off him,” Hannah scolded. “Harry, you and Draco are very sweet together.”

“And that’s never a word I thought I’d apply to Draco Malfoy,” Neville added.

Harry groaned louder and Ginny hit him with a pillow. He snagged it after it bounced off his face and nearly threw it back at her, but Luna had done her hair up in elaborate loops and curls and Charmed the paper labels from empty butterbeer bottles into strings of tiny paper flowers and woven them throughout and Harry didn’t want to mess up all that hard work. He settled for making an ugly face at her, and she laughed at him.

“No, really,” Neville said. “I’m surprised. I mean, I’d heard you started dating him but… The two of you seem really good together. That’s all.”

“Thanks,” Harry mumbled. “I, erm. He’s pretty great.” He felt he should say more than that, but fuck it. He’d never liked talking about his feelings. All the blushing and fumbling for words he was doing probably did more to convince his friends than anything else he could possibly say.

He guessed it was a good sign that Hermione shot him a smug look, and Harry rolled his eyes in return. She was probably giving herself a mental pat on the back for setting him up so successfully.

Well. He and Draco were going to break up in a little over a month. He’d let her enjoy it for now, and afterward maybe he’d get her to pick out someone new for him because honestly? Spending time with Draco was pretty great. Harry thought he might like to date someone like that for real.

- - - - -

The following Friday, they went through it again with Draco’s friends. Of course Draco had waited until Friday morning to spring it on him, so at least Harry only had the work day to worry about it instead of the whole week.

“Relax, Potter,” Draco said dryly when they met up at the end of the day. “Last week went fine with your friends, and this will go fine with mine.” He huffed a bit. “Plus, I’m fairly certain that Granger’s putting in an appearance.”

That made Harry feel a little better, even though he fully acknowledged how ridiculous he was being. Draco’s stiff and stilted behavior at the beginning of the evening when he’d come to Grimmauld Place last Friday suddenly became a lot more understandable to Harry. Because sure, he knew all of the people who’d be there tonight, but the thought of going out there and convincing them all he was happily dating Draco Malfoy made his nerves jangle alarmingly.

But if Hermione would be there too, well. That’d make two people who’d help him out if he got into trouble, and Harry felt a little better for it.

“Should I bring anything?” Harry asked as he shrugged out of his heavy Auror robes and draped them carefully over the back of his chair, then put on his coat and began to button it up.

“We’re going to a pub,” Draco said, rolling his eyes. “What on earth do you feel you need to bring?”

Harry shrugged, biting down on a smile as he said, very casually, “Oh, I don’t know. You felt it was necessary to bring bribes for my friends, I was just wondering if I ought to do the same for yours.”

Draco shoved him and Harry laughed.

“I mean,” he went on. “It worked rather well, didn’t it? I’m pretty sure after you break up with me, you’ll be able to date Ron.”

Draco shoved him again, harder.

“Why on earth do I put up with you?”

“My pretty face?” Harry suggested brightly. “My charming personality?” He paused and waggled his eyebrows. “I’ve heard I’m pretty fantastic in bed.”

“Oh good Merlin,” Draco said and slammed out into the hall, which, hey. Wasn’t a disagreement.

Harry took his time locking up, then caught up to Draco by the lifts. “So who’s all going to be there tonight?”

Draco shrugged. “Pans, for sure. Blaise and Theo. Millie’s bringing Anthony Goldstein, did you know they were dating now?”

“Oh, I didn’t even know he was back. Wasn’t he out of the country for a while?”

“Amsterdam,” Draco said, nodding. “Studying advanced Arithmancy. Don’t ask him about it, though.”

“Why, is it boring?” Harry asked. Arithmancy sounded boring, that’s why he hadn’t taken it in school.

“No, on the contrary; it’s fascinating,” Draco said. The lift arrived and they stepped inside, and Harry pressed the button to take them to the Atrium. “He’s quite knowledgeable and some of the more esoteric theories regarding ancient numerology in… Never mind. You don’t care. But he’s got an agreement with Millie: no work conversations on pub night. She’s got an internship at St Mungo’s, I’m not sure if you’re aware?”

“I knew she was doing something with Healing,” Harry said. He’d overheard her complaining to Hannah and Hermione one night about how dreadful she looked in lime green. Apparently she intended to start a petition for new uniforms and had gone to Hermione for pointers on organizing her campaign.

“Mm. She’s studying infectious diseases, and she’ll go on about it nearly as much as Goldstein and his Arithmancy. I find her course of study significantly less fascinating than I do his, but once one of them starts talking about work, all bets are off with the other.” He rolled his eyes ceilingward. “Merlin help me if I ever have to hear a single word more about—No. I refuse to even speak the name aloud.” He shuddered.

And anything that could make Draco Malfoy shudder like that wasn’t anything Harry wanted to know anything about in any amount of detail. He’d once watched Draco quickly and efficiently disembowel a bat to get at its spleen in Potions class while simultaneously discussing about his plans for lunch out in Hogsmeade the following weekend. “Well let’s not talk about it, then,” he said firmly, and changed the subject. “Where are we going tonight, anyhow?”

The lift arrived at the Atrium with a final lurch and the doors sprang open. “The Golden Snidget,” Draco said as they stepped out.

Fine by Harry. He rather liked that one, plus that was where Ginny always tried to get them to go when they went out so maybe he’d run into her tonight, too.

Together, they made their way across the Atrium and through a broad doorway at the end of the long row of fireplaces. Harry and Draco waited their turn through the short queue, then stepped into the red circle marked out on the floor and Apparated to Diagon Alley.

From there it was just a short walk to the Golden Snidget, but the weather had taken a turn and Harry shivered. By the time it’d occurred to him to do a Warming Charm, they’d already arrived. Draco opened the door and held it politely while Harry ducked eagerly into the warmth of the pub, sighing with pleasure to be out of the cold.

This early in the evening, business was still a little slow, and the pub was only half-full. Another hour or so and it’d be packed nearly wall-to-wall and roaring with laughter and shouted conversation. Already, Harry felt a little bit of his worry melting away. This was a pub night just like any other. He’d have a couple of pints, make a little bit of conversation, and it’d be fine. Worst come to worst, Hermione would be here later on and he could talk to her.

Draco’s friends had taken over three tables in the back corner of the pub. Millicent and Anthony sat at one with Blaise and… was that Susan Bones? Harry’d had no idea they were dating, either. Theo and Goyle sat at the second with Luna, and Harry relaxed a little more to see her here tonight. That meant Ginny would probably be along in a bit. Pansy sat at the third table all by herself.

Harry and Draco stopped by the bar for drinks before they made their way over. There was a brief scuffle over who would pay, and Draco won with extremely poor grace, all smug and gloating like he’d done something actually impressive rather than just getting his handful of Sickles to the bartender before Harry had. Harry gave him a glare and said, “Fine, but coffee’s on me tomorrow,” and Draco laughed and said, “Yeah, good luck with that,” because he was a total arsehole who’d made it some sort of personal mission to make things as difficult as possible on Harry. They weren’t dating for real, and even if they were Harry would still expect to pay for his fair share of their dates.

But he’d deal with that when it happened. Harry took a deep breath and turned for the corner, and jumped when he felt Draco’s hand touch the small of his back. Draco gave him a strange look and Harry shook his head, and Draco put his hand there again to gently guide him, and oh. Harry had managed to forget that this would be a thing. That in front of people they’d have to act like a couple and acting like a couple meant touching. It wasn’t that he minded the touching. Really, it was more the opposite. Draco touching him made Harry think of other times he’d been touched by Draco, and how much he’d enjoyed it at the time, and then his mind would fixate on how no one was touching him like that anymore, and from there it was just a short jump to thinking about how Draco had touched him quite a lot before, and then he couldn’t help but notice how Draco was right here and then somehow he always got caught up in these thoroughly ridiculous fantasies of how Draco might do it again, and honestly it was pretty awful because Harry only ended up frustrated and lonely at the end of it.

Well. It would only be for a few hours tonight. He’d get through it.

He did his best to ignore the way Draco’s hand lingered at the small of his back as they greeted everyone. Harry drew out the small talk as long as he could, chatting with Blaise about his plans for Christmas and then with Luna about Ginny’s latest game until, finally, he had no choice but to turn and greet—

“Hello, Parkinson,” Harry said, fingers tightening around his pint so that his fingerprints showed starkly white through the glass.

“Hello, Potter,” Pansy said with a sharp smile. “Come on over, I’ve saved you a seat.” She patted the chair beside her.

Harry gave Draco a helpless look, and Pansy cackled, actually bloody cackled like the witch she was. Draco gave Harry a shove forward, heedless of the way it made his ale slop over the rim of his glass and splash onto the floor. Harry glared at him but went and sat down before Draco could shove him a second time.

“Hi, Pans,” Draco said, leaning in to kiss her cheek before he took his own seat.

She gave him a flat look. “Hi, Dray,” she said.

Draco pulled a face. “Ugh. Truce?”

“Truce,” Pansy said. “Draco.”

“Pansy.”

They nodded to each other.

Harry didn’t understand their friendship at all.

He must have been giving Draco an odd look, because Draco slipped an arm over his shoulder and leaned in close to murmur in his ear, “You could try to look a little glad to be here.”

Harry gave Draco the soppiest smile he could manage and kissed his cheek as he reached beneath the table and pinched Draco’s thigh. Hard. And he was immensely satisfied when Draco flinched and hung onto his own smile through what looked like sheer force of will.

“Well,” Pansy said. She lifted her glass and took a sip, and her lipstick left a crescent-moon smudge of ruby-red on the rim. She looked from Draco to Harry and back again. “Aren’t we just the picture of domestic bliss?”

“We’d have to be living together to be domestic, wouldn’t we?” Draco pointed out.

Pansy flapped a hand. “Details, darling. And quite frankly, I’m certain it’s only a matter of time, isn’t it?”

“Pansy,” Draco said. “Kindly shut your fucking mouth.”

“I’m just saying,” Pansy went on innocently. “This has been building up for quite a while, hasn’t it?”

“It has not and if you say another bloody word I’ll—”

“Did you know,” Pansy said to Harry, talking smoothly over Draco, “that back at Hogwarts he used to talk about you all the time?”

Pansy.”

“We were all so sick of hearing about it. It was always Potter this and Potter that.”

Harry, who’d been drinking his pint and watching the exchange with some amusement, grinned and looked at Draco. “Did you really?”

“I hated you back then,” Draco said sullenly. “You were my most loathed arch-enemy. Of course I talked about you all the time because I was plotting ways to make your life miserable.”

Harry snickered and slipped his arm around Draco’s back, couldn’t resist splaying his hand wide around the curve of Draco’s ribs, warm and solid beneath his palm. “I appreciate the effort,” he said as seriously as he could manage.

Draco glared at him and leaned back suddenly to catch Harry’s arm painfully against the back of the chair. “Don’t patronize me.”

“I’m not!” Harry insisted, tugging his arm out from behind Draco and putting his hand on Draco’s thigh instead. “It was a nice distraction from the madman bent on my destruction. I appreciated it very much. The badges were especially sweet. I still can’t believe you charmed all of those yourself. Must’ve taken you hours.”

“It took him days,” Pansy corrected.

“So sweet,” Harry cooed, and laughed when Draco shoved his hand off his thigh. “Such dedication, such patience.”

“But that was nothing compared to—”

“Pansy, don’t you dare!” Draco said, and oh, Harry definitely wanted to hear this because Draco sounded alarmed.

Pansy didn’t let him down. “Do you remember the Dementor costume he talked poor Goyle into wearing with him in third year?”

“Yeah?” Harry said, clapping a hand over Draco’s mouth when Draco tried to interrupt again.

Draco bit him. Harry stuck his finger up Draco’s nose in retaliation.

Pansy blinked. “I feel like I just got an uncomfortably close look at what sex between the two of you must be like.”

“It most certainly—” Draco began, and Harry stuck his fingers into Draco’s mouth, and for an instant he seriously thought Draco was going to punch him. Frankly, Harry just counted himself lucky Draco hadn’t bitten him a second time.

“The costume, Parkinson!” he said.

“Pansy—” Draco tried again.

“He sewed it himself!” Pansy crowed.

Harry looked at Draco. “Did you really?” he asked, delighted at the wonderful mental image with which his mind was now supplying him: tiny little Draco sitting in the Slytherin common room, laboring over an enormous pile of black fabric with a needle and thread. His brow had probably furrowed in concentration the same way it did in Potions class when he chopped ingredients.

“Oh yes,” Pansy went on, and Draco evidently resigned himself to the fact that he couldn’t stop this from happening and slouched down in his seat. “Only he had no idea how to sew. So he begged a first year girl to give him lessons.”

“I bribed a first year girl into giving me some amount of instruction. I wrote her Potions essay for her,” Draco muttered. “She got an O on it, too.”

Harry laughed and kissed the side of Draco’s head, ignoring the way his stomach flipped at the feel of warm smooth skin beneath his lips. “I’d have expected nothing less than perfection from your bribery-cheating.”

“Too right,” Draco said sullenly.

“Of course it probably helped that you were a writing an assignment for a student two years below you,” Harry went on. “I’m pretty sure even I could have got an O on that. Ow, ow, hey!” he yelped and pushed at Draco when Draco reached over and mashed his knuckles hard against Harry’s thigh.

“You know what, Potter?” Pansy said from safely across the table. “I think I quite like you.”

Harry grinned at her, rubbing his leg a little. “The feeling’s mutual, Parkinson.”

“This,” said Draco, glancing back and forth between the two of them, “is the worst day of my life.”

“Cheer up, darling,” Pansy said, smirking at him a little. “Oh, and be a dear and fetch me another drink?” She waggled her empty tumbler at him, ice cubes clinking sharply against the glass.

“Fine,” Draco said, taking her glass and standing. “But only because it’s an excuse to get away from you for a few minutes, you awful cow.”

Harry drained the last third of his pint in several long gulps, then held the glass out. “Another pint for me as well, if you don’t mind?” he asked.

Draco clenched his jaw. “Of course, sweetheart. Anything for you,” he ground out, snatched Harry’s empty pint glass from his hand, and stalked off across the bar.

Pansy watched him walk away, making no attempt to hide the fact that she was leering at his arse. Harry couldn’t find it in himself to blame her; it was a very nice arse. He only realized that he was ogling it too when he caught her smirking at him. Harry just shrugged, because what the hell, he had an excuse to ogle all he liked for the next while, he might as well take advantage of it. Pansy’s smirk grew.

“Well,” she said, drawing out the word. “I’m certainly glad to see that my matchmaking has paid off.”

“Meddling,” Harry corrected, taking another peek over his shoulder at Draco and was glad he did. Draco was leaning forward on the bar and it made his back arch just-so. Harry’d fucked him in that very position more times than he could count. It was one of his favorites.

“Matchmaking,” Pansy insisted. “It’s only called meddling if it turns out poorly.”

“There’s the chance it might. We’ve only been together for about a month.” And, oh. It really had been a month. A little longer than, actually. For a moment, Harry couldn’t believe that his time with Draco was half-over. Just five weeks left.

“No,” Pansy said. “I see the way you two look at each other.”

“I don’t look at him like anything,” Harry protested, because he didn’t.

Pansy gave him a flat look. “Please. You look at him like you’re ready to tear his clothes off right here and now.”

And that lined up pretty well with what Harry had been thinking, so maybe he did look at Draco like that? Oh god, did he look at Draco like that? Why hadn’t Draco said anything about it? Had Draco noticed? Maybe he hadn’t noticed and that’s why he hadn’t said.

“Well,” Harry managed, wishing very much that he still had a pint because he’d love a distraction right about now. “He’s got a nice arse?”

Pansy snorted. “All right, I’ll let you off with that.” She shrugged one shoulder. “But only because it’s true.”

Harry gave her a weak smile and resisted the urge to look over his shoulder again. Where the bloody hell was Draco? Talking to Pansy had been so much easier when he could gang up with her and make fun of him. Plus, Draco got all flustered and irritated, and that was always a nice bonus.

“Potter,” Pansy said, and the sincere intensity of her tone had Harry looking up at her in surprise. “If you tell this to Draco, I’ll deny everything. But I’m glad you’ve given him a chance. Draco’s my best friend, and I want to see him happy. You do that, you know. He’s happy with you in a way I’ve never seen before.”

Oh. Harry blinked a little, processing. He guessed he and Draco must be doing a good job pretending. He hadn’t thought they were presenting themselves as a terribly convincing couple, what with all the bickering and Harry sticking his fingers in most of the orifices on Draco’s face, but apparently they were doing something right.

“I like him,” Harry said, a little surprised by his own honesty. “I wasn’t sure I would, but I do.”

Pansy nodded. “Good, very good.” She looked off to the side and smiled, and Harry looked over to see Draco approach their table.

“Here you go, you horrid woman,” he said, setting down a tumbler in front of her.

“So,” Pansy said as Draco handed Harry a fresh pint, and waited until he took a sip before she continued, “Potter here was just expounding upon the virtues of your arse.”

Harry choked on his pint.

“It’s all right, Potter,” Draco said loftily. “I don’t blame you. It’s a very nice arse, after all.”

Harry continued to choke, and Draco went on,

“And I’m well aware of your feelings toward it so I’ve no idea why you’re being so dramatic right now.” He lifted his eyebrows significantly, and that didn’t help Harry any because now Harry was thinking of all the time he’d spent getting well-acquainted with Draco’s backside and how much he’d enjoyed it and, yeah, maybe he should quit drinking now.

“I’m not being dramatic,” Harry said, coughing a little. “And, really? You're calling me dramatic? Isn’t that a bit pot and kettle?”

Draco raised his eyebrows. Harry stared him down. Across the table from them, Pansy propped her chin up on her hands and settled into her chair, evidently enjoying the show.

“All right,” said Hermione, dropping into the last empty chair at the table. “You’ve got that look on your face. What’d I miss?”

“Nothing much,” Pansy said. “Potter and Draco bickering like a couple of overgrown children, Potter waxing rhapsodic over Draco’s arse.”

“Ah,” Hermione said, nodding. “The usual, then.”

“I did not wax rhapsodic!” Harry protested. “And Pansy was the one who brought up Draco’s arse in the first place. And I don’t talk about his arse, anyhow!”

“I wouldn’t blame you. It’s a very nice arse,” Hermione said, not even bothering to hide her smile.

“Please,” said Draco dryly. “Let’s all discuss my arse a little louder. I’m not certain the bartender could hear about it from all the way over there.”

“She’s not your type, darling,” Pansy said. “I don’t see why you’d care whether she knows about your arse.”

Harry craned his neck a bit to see over the crowd and get a glimpse of the girl behind the bar. “Ginger?” he asked.

Draco gave him a flat look. “Female.”

“Oh,” said Harry, blinking. He was personally attracted to people regardless of gender, and sort of went along on the assumption that everyone else was bisexual unless they explicitly told him otherwise. “So, you’re…?”

“Only interested in men,” Draco said. “Very much only interested in men.”

“Oh good Merlin,” Pansy said. “Has this really not come up yet? Draco’s as gay as a maypole. I flash a little cleavage and he practically swoons like the heroine of a trashy Victorian-themed romance novel seeing her first throbbing manhood.”

“Throbbing member,” Hermione corrected. “It’s always member in those sorts of books. Not always throbbing, though. Sometimes turgid. Sometimes rigid. Once I saw unyielding, which frankly just sounds uncomfortable.”

“I like the sound of manhood better,” Pansy said, taking an inelegant slurp of her drink. “Sounds all…” She clenched her fist and gestured with it. “Powerful.”

“But member’s classy,” Harry put in. “Though I personally like velvet-wrapped steel. Not very accurate, if you ask me, but it sounds nice.”

“Oh for the love of—” Draco cut himself off and flung his hands up in the air. “How on earth do you even know that?” He sounded scandalized, and Harry rolled his eyes. Hermione read romances; Harry’d borrowed a couple here and there. He wasn’t ashamed. In fact, he’d rather enjoyed that series of vampire-themed ones.

Pansy gave Draco a long, speculative look. “How on earth do you manage to have a shag with that attitude?”

“Well generally there’s quite a bit less talking,” Harry put in.

Draco slanted him a glare. “Really? Because I distinctly remember rather a lot of talking when you—” He broke off with a sudden horrified look, and Harry, who had a pretty good idea of which occasion exactly Draco was referring to, felt himself blush hotly.

Hermione had to cover her face with her hands, she was laughing so hard.

“I mean…” Draco belatedly said.

“So dramatic,” Pansy commented. “The look on your face, good Merlin.”

“Well not all of us prefer to advertise our bedroom business outside the bedroom,” Draco said primly, struggling to regain some measure of decorum, and frankly Harry was impressed Draco could say that with a straight face, given just how often their bedroom business had taken place in various semi-public locales.

“Please, you go to pieces whenever someone so much as mentions sex. You are ridiculously dramatic about it.”

“I do not go to pieces!”

Hermione had to put her head down on the table.

“You get the vapors,” Pansy continued with vicious glee. “I practically have to break out the smelling salts.”

“I have never in my life—You horrible woman, I am not dramatic!”

“I’m going to buy you a fainting couch for Christmas,” she said decisively. “Hermione, would you like to go in on it with me?”

“I honestly can’t tell whether you’re joking,” Hermione said, putting her head back up.

“I’m not,” said Pansy. “I’ve got just the thing in mind, too. Tufted velvet, royal blue with mahogany trim, Queen Anne’s legs. He’ll look downright ravishing when he lolls on it like the swooning damsel he is at heart.”

“If you buy me a fainting couch, so help me I will set it on fire,” Draco said.

“Fine,” Pansy told him. “We’ll compromise. I’ll buy you a chaise longue. You can use it for swooning and sitting.” She slid a sly glance at Harry, smirking. “Among other things, I suppose.”

Draco scowled. “Why am I friends with you?”

Pansy shrugged. “I’m not sure, actually. Force of habit?”

Mercifully, Pansy seemed to decide that she’d tormented Draco enough for one evening and turned to Hermione, and the pair of them were quickly sucked deep into a conversation about Ministry politics, which Harry had less than zero interest in, but listened to idly for a bit for lack of anything better to talk about since Draco was still sulking. Then Ginny came in and, after greeting Luna, pulled up a chair and squeezed in beside Harry and they talked about Quidditch. Draco eventually joined in on their conversation, and partway through he draped his hand over the back of Harry’s chair and leaned in close, and Harry couldn’t help leaning against him a little and the rest of the evening from there on out was quite enjoyable.

Eventually Ginny wandered off, and Hermione and Pansy excused themselves to the toilet, and by then it was quite late.

“I’m going to make my escape while Pans is otherwise occupied,” Draco said, standing, and Harry stood with him. “Or else she’ll insist on accompanying me home, and then she'll get into Father’s collection of fine scotches and then I’ll have to hear about it the next morning.” Draco rolled his eyes a little at that.

Harry lingered by his side as Draco went to his other friends and made his goodbyes for the evening, a small bubble of excitement swelling larger and more insistent the longer it went on. Finally, Draco finished up and turned to him.

“Goodnight, Potter. I’ll owl tomorrow?” he said.

“Yeah,” Harry said, unable to look away from Draco’s mouth. “Sounds good.”

And then he was tipping his chin up just that slightest fraction so that when Draco leaned in, their lips met perfectly. Blaise wolf-whistled, the arsehole, and Greg clapped loudly. Draco flipped them both off without looking away from Harry.

“Goodnight,” he said again.

“Night,” Harry echoed as Draco stepped back and turned for the door.

Harry watched Draco walk away, and it felt like the hardest thing he’d ever done in his life to keep from chasing after him.

“Oh,” he said softly to himself as the implications fully sunk in. Because before when it’d just been sex, he’d watched Draco’s arse as he’d walked away. This time, he’d been watching Draco.

“You like him, don’t you?” Hermione said from beside him, and Harry had been so preoccupied with his thoughts that he hadn’t noticed her approach.

He sighed. “Yeah,” he said. “I do.”

And that was exactly the problem.

For a moment, Harry was tempted to pour out everything to Hermione. He’d always been attracted to Draco, he had no problem admitting that. And it made sense to him that being around Draco would rekindle some of that attraction. He’d acknowledged that from the beginning. Accepted it. Had even gone so far as to embrace it a little, flirting a bit with Draco and bringing up their recent past because, honestly, he liked making Draco acknowledge what they’d done, even if they weren’t doing it anymore.

But this? This was new. This was new and extremely problematic. Because even when they’d been fucking, Harry hadn’t actually liked Draco. Which wasn’t to say that he’d disliked him, because he certainly hadn’t done that. He just hadn’t much cared one way or the other. They’d never really taken the time to talk to each other, and Harry’d been perfectly fine with that. He hadn’t wanted anything more than what they had.

It’d been fine.

And now? This was very much no longer fine.

Cool fingers pressed to his wrist and Harry startled.

“Harry?” Hermione asked, looking up at him in concern.

He forced a smile. “Sorry, lost in thought. And, you know, nothing good ever comes from that.”

She rolled her eyes, her exasperation mostly put-on. “How much have you had to drink?”

More than he should have had, because he couldn’t stop thinking about Draco. “Not that much, but I still probably shouldn’t be Apparating.” He couldn’t help glancing up toward the door, but Draco had already gone out of sight.

“Ready to call it a night, then?” Hermione asked, offering her arm.

“Yeah,” Harry said, linking his arm through hers and letting her take him home.

- - - - -

“Is everything all right with you and Draco?” Ron asked Harry one sunny Saturday morning at the beginning of December.

“Yeah,” Harry said distractedly, turning over the bacon he had sizzling in a pan. The grease popped and spat, stinging his thumb. Harry stuck it into his mouth to suck it clean and finished flipping the bacon. “Why?” He wiped his hand against the thigh of his jeans.

“Well,” Ron said, and seemed to be working up to something. “It’s just that you never seem to be alone with him.”

Harry frowned. “We’re alone all the time,” Harry said. “I’m meeting him at that little coffee place on Diagon in about an hour, actually.”

“Yeah, and that’s in public,” Ron said. “Not exactly the sort of alone most couples want to be…” He raised his eyebrows significantly.

Even then, it took Harry a few seconds to work out what exactly Ron was implying. “Oh! Oh, you mean alone, alone. Well, erm. We… are taking that part of the relationship slow.”

“Okay,” Ron said, nodding. “Okay. Well, I just wanted to make sure you knew we wouldn’t mind if you wanted to bring him round more often, or spend the night or what have you.”

“Oh,” said Harry.

“I know some of us haven’t got the best history with Malfoy, but you know everyone’s put the past behind them,” Ron went on. “I didn’t want you to think you’d be making anyone uncomfortable by having him over.”

“Yeah, I know,” Harry said. “Hermione and Pansy are BFFs now. I didn’t think that anyone’d have anything against Malfoy.”

“Right,” Ron said. “And no one would be surprised by it, or anything. You and Malfoy have been giving each other looks when the other isn’t watching for a while now. We all figured it was only a matter of time.”

“Oh,” Harry said again, and felt his cheeks going warm. He sort of wanted to ask how long ‘a while’ was, but was also sort of afraid to know the answer.

“Okay,” said Ron. “I just wanted to be sure. I mean,” He paused and looked away. “I was just concerned. Taking it slow is fine, but when you were with Gin you were always…” He flapped a hand vaguely, coughed once, and said, “Alone.”

“Right,” Harry said, fidgeting with the spatula in his hands. He knew Ron meant well, but this was a conversation he wanted to stop having as quickly as possible. “Thanks. I appreciate your concern. But, you know, every couple moves at their own pace, and. We’ll, you know. Get there when we get there.”

Mercifully, Ron let it drop and Harry returned his attention to the bacon until a few minutes later when Hermione came down the stairs.

“So, Harry—” she began in that falsely-cheerful tone that meant she was about to bull her way through an incredibly awkward conversation.

“I already took care of it, Hermione,” Ron cut her off loudly, and oh god, they’d been discussing this behind his back.

Sometimes Harry loved living with his friends; sometimes Harry couldn’t wait for them to all move the fuck out of his house. Ron gave him a sympathetic grimace, and Harry sighed and crammed a slice of bacon into his mouth. Hermione opened her mouth to keep going, and Ron shook his head, and then the two of them proceeded to have a complicated conversation that consisted entirely of raised eyebrows and significant staring. Harry ignored them and turned back to his pan.

Ron helped out by making the toast, and Hermione made them all tea, and by the time Harry finished up with the scrambled eggs, Seamus and Dean had joined them in the kitchen as well. Harry glanced at the doorway, wondering what was keeping Luna and Ginny, and right on cue, Luna swept into the room, barefoot even though the tile floor of the kitchen was always chilly this time of year. She had her long hair pulled back into a neat plait, and cheerful red flowers woven through it.

“Oh, good. You’ve made breakfast,” she said as she got down a plate and began to heap a large serving of scrambled eggs onto it. “Ginny’s not feeling well this morning, I think getting something in her stomach will help her feel better.”

Ron snickered. “I told her that last Fizzing Fireball was a bad idea.”

“Fizzing Fireballs are always a bad idea,” Seamus moaned, laying his head down on the table. Beside him, Dean rubbed his back sympathetically while looking highly put-upon. He’d been Designated Disapparator last night, and Seamus always drank more on nights he knew Dean would take care of him the next day.

“Really?” asked Harry innocently to Ron, ignoring Seamus. “And here I was, blaming the half a dozen Screwdrivers she’d had before that. Silly me.”

Seamus moaned again. “Stop talking about alcohol.”

By this time, Luna had loaded up the plate with generous portions of everything. She paused by Harry and tucked a loose curl of hair behind her ear. “Are you going to see Draco later?”

“Yeah, why?”

She reached farther back and plucked loose a flower and offered it to him. “It’s nice to surprise our loved ones with little things. You should take this to him.”

“Oh, erm…” Harry hesitated, then reached out and took the flower. Why not? Draco had brought him flowers, turnabout was only fair play, wasn’t it? “Thanks, Luna.”

Luna nodded to him and left the kitchen, and Harry cast a few preservation and protection charms on the flower before he tucked it into his pocket. Hermione was looking smug again, and Harry gave her ponytail a sharp tug as he passed by her to take his seat at the table.

After a leisurely breakfast, Harry still had some time to kill before he was to meet up with Draco, so he thought he’d take care of some of the chores he’d been neglecting during the week. But when he went to gather up his dirty laundry, he found it all clean and folded and very pointedly left in a basket at the foot of his bed. Harry scowled at it. Looked like Kreacher had scored another point in their ongoing War of Housework. He’d probably done it while Harry was busy with breakfast, the sneaky little shit. Still scowling, Harry gathered up stacks of tee-shirts and neatly bundled pairs of socks and stuffed them away in the drawers of his bureau, taking what small comfort he could from the fact that in order to make his point, Kreacher hadn’t been able to put anything away.

- - - - -

“I think they’re onto us,” Harry told Draco later that afternoon when he joined him at their usual corner table in the coffee shop.

Draco blinked at him. “What? How?” His eyes narrowed. “What’ve you done, Potter?”

“Nothing!” Harry protested. “It’s because we’re never alone together.”

“Like they’d even notice if we were,” Draco said, rolling his eyes. “We spent an awful lot of time alone together during training and none of them realized.”

“Well now they’re paying attention,” Harry pointed out, stealing Draco’s cup and taking a sip. “Ron asked me if something was wrong with the relationship. And I told him we were taking things slow, but we’ve been together for a month now, I’m not sure how much longer that excuse’ll hold up.”

Draco made a small sound of irritation and stole his cup back. “So, we’ll spend a few nights together here and there. I don’t see why you’re so concerned.”

“I’m not,” Harry said. “It’s just that. Well. We’ve never spent the night together before.”

The look Draco gave him was pure disbelief. “Are you hearing yourself right now?”

“Well,” Harry said with a shrug. “I’ve been told you snore.”

“Right,” said Draco, rolling his eyes. “I’m sure that’s why you’re concerned. Well don’t worry, Potter. Your virtue’s perfectly safe with me.”

“Yeah, only because you’ve already taken it over a year ago.”

“And I’ve been doing an excellent job of keeping it safe ever since, wouldn’t you say?” Draco said, taking a sip of his latte. He licked a smudge of foam from his upper lip as he set his cup back on the table.

Harry had to wrench his gaze away from Draco’s mouth. “I guess that’s one way of looking at it.”

Draco huffed and rolled his eyes again. “Relax, Potter. It’ll be fine.”

“Yeah, I guess it will,” Harry said, eyeing the cup and wondering whether he could get away with stealing another sip before Draco forced him to go order his own.

Then Draco leaned into his space, his knee nudging up against Harry’s, and Harry moved away from him, then stood up so it looked like he hadn’t.

“I’m going to order. Do you, er, want anything else?” he asked, shoving his hands into his pockets and coming across the flower as Draco shook his head no. “Oh, hey. This is for you.”

He held it out, and Draco stared at him like he’d lost his mind entirely, and Harry sort of wished he hadn’t taken Luna’s advice because while it had all seemed quite practical in his kitchen earlier this morning, here and now it just felt awkward. Then Draco reached out and took the flower, his fingertips warm from touching his cup as they brushed against Harry’s. Harry shoved his hand back into his pocket.

“Thank you,” Draco said uncertainly.

“You’re welcome,” Harry told him, and fled to the counter for some much-needed distance.

“I’m fairly certain I already know the answer to this,” Draco said a few minutes later when Harry returned to the table with a latte carefully balanced in his hands, “but being the fool that I am, I’m going to ask you anyhow.”

Harry set his cup gently down on the table. “Okay?”

“Are you aware what an aster means when presented to someone?”

Harry glanced at the flower in Draco’s hands. “Honestly? Until you just said it, I didn’t even know it was an aster.” He’d just seen it and thought, flower.

“Right.” Draco nodded a bit to himself and looked down at the aster.

“So… what’s it mean?” Harry asked. “If you asked me if I knew, I’m assuming you know.”

Draco shrugged. “Patience, mostly. And good luck, and love.”

Those were sort of nice, and Harry guessed two of the three could apply. Patience because this whole charade was still ongoing, and a little good luck never hurt anyone.

“What about the ones you gave me?” Harry asked. “Did those mean something?”

Draco scowled at him. “Of course they did. Gladiolus is the flower of August birthdays—”

“But I was born in July,” Harry said, frowning.

“And you’re a Leo, which means gladiolus,” Draco went on, talking over him, and then huffed, “They represent strength of character,” which would’ve been quite a nice compliment if he hadn’t grumbled it like an insult.

“Oh,” said Harry. “That’s all?”

“That’s all,” Draco said, looking away, and when he looked back his brows furrowed together and he was frowning. “Why? Did you want it to mean something else?”

“No,” Harry said. “But, strength of character isn’t all that romantic, is it? And if we’re supposed to be dating…”

“It means I respect you, Potter. Frankly I can’t think of much else that’s more romantic than that.”

Harry thought that over. “I guess so,” he said eventually.

The conversation moved along to other topics, and then Draco said he was meeting Pansy for dinner and had to be off, and Harry looked up and found to his surprise that twilight had already fallen.

“Shit, yeah, I promised Ron I’d take care of the shopping on my way home,” Harry said, standing.

They walked out together, and Draco knocked his shoulder into Harry’s before they parted ways, Draco heading up Diagon to wherever he’d agreed to meet up with Pansy and Harry around the side of the coffee shop to a quiet place from which to Apparate.

And it wasn’t until later that evening that Harry stopped to really think about it, and got what Draco had been trying to say. Harry had never thought of respect as particularly romantic. People certainly never brought it up when they talked about romance. But respect in a relationship was sort of like the foundation of a house, wasn’t it? No one really thought to talk about it so long as it was there and working properly.

Draco thought Harry was a strong person. He respected Harry, and treated him as an equal and, come to think of it, that was probably a large part of the reason they’d got on so well in bed. They’d approached each other as equals, and for all that they bickered they also respected each other deep down, and everything had sort of fallen into place from there.

Harry paused with one arm through the sleeve of his pajamas, then shrugged and shoved his other arm in and pulled the shirt over his head, and filed this away as something to think about later when he was looking for a real partner.

And the tiny part of him that pointed out that Draco was everything Harry wanted to look for?

Well. Harry did his best to ignore it, because Draco might right here beside him, but he was so far out of Harry’s reach that it might as well be miles.

- - - - -

Draco never pushed Harry about spending the night together, and the following week Harry finally blurted out, “Come home with me tonight?” for no other reason than he was desperate to no longer have it hanging over his head like some sort of sword of bloody Damocles.

It was all a bit anticlimactic, though, when all that happened after was Draco shrugging and saying, “All right.”

Conveniently, some of their friends had planned another pub night that Saturday, and Harry and Draco went, and drank, and Draco kept putting his arm around Harry’s waist or his hand on Harry’s knee, and each time it happened Harry quietly died a little bit inside and tried his hardest not to show it, and drank more in an effort to distract himself.

At the end of the evening, Ron Side-Alonged them back to Grimmauld Place one at a time, and Draco pulled a satchel from his pocket and unshrunk it with a tap of his wand.

“Well?” he said expectantly.

“Oh, er, right,” Harry said as it dawned on him that Draco, despite having spent quite a lot of time in his room, had no idea how to find it in the house. He’d always Apparated straight in and out until Dean and Seamus had taken over Regulus’ old room and Seamus had an awful habit of treating the upper floor like a shared dorm room. Harry had stopped expecting to have any measure of privacy within the first week, but that was okay because he sometimes left his door cracked open to hear Seamus snoring across the hall. He slept better that way.

But now he’d made very, very sure that Dean and Seamus were aware he’d be having a guest tonight. Not that he’d be caught doing anything embarrassing with Draco, but Harry didn’t much fancy dealing with the fallout of Seamus startling Draco, because Draco had the unfortunate habit of throwing hexes when someone caught him by surprise.

Personally, Harry thought Draco was just a vicious little shit looking for excuses to hex other people because he’d gone through Auror training, hadn’t he? Harry had witnessed another trainee detonate a Blasting Curse about six inches from Draco’s left ear during training and Draco hadn’t even flinched, just turned slowly and deliberately and then hexed the everloving snot out of the trainee who’d done it. Harry was hard-pressed to think of another witch or wizard who had anywhere near the same level of impeccable control as Draco had.

Harry led the way up the stairs, keeping firm hold of the banister because he was drunk enough that he’d gone a bit unsteady on his feet. The second floor, shared by Ron and Hermione, was dark and quiet, but the third floor was dimly lit by warm lamplight spilling from the nearly-closed door of Ginny and Luna’s bedroom. Music played softly, high tinkling notes and crooning vocals that didn’t form any words Harry could decipher, so Luna was home. The uppermost floor was also dark—Dean and Seamus were planning to stay out a little longer—and Harry switched on the lights with a wave of his wand and pushed open the door to his bedroom.

Draco followed him inside and closed the door after himself, then took off his shoes and left them sitting neatly beside Harry’s. He dropped his satchel on the chair and opened it, pulling out pajamas and a small toiletry bag, and a warm sort of fondness fluttered in the bottom of Harry’s chest at how Draco didn’t bother to look around, and his easy familiarity in Harry’s private space.

“I’ll just be a minute,” Draco said, tucking his things under his arm and going back out into the hall.

A moment later, Harry heard the door to the bathroom click shut. Hurrying, he stripped off his clothes and tossed them in the general direction of the basket, then pulled on his pajamas, and could go no further until Draco came out of the bathroom. Harry plopped down onto the edge of the bed and awkwardly listened to the sound of the sink turning on and off, then on, then off again. He heard Draco pee, and the toilet flush. The pipes clanked softly, muffled in the walls, and then the door clicked open again and Draco returned.

“Done?” Harry asked, already standing up even as Draco said yes. Draco looked softer, somehow, in his blue and grey plaid pajamas, his hair slightly mussed from pulling his shirt over his head, his feet bare against the dark wood floor. He looked more approachable like this, and Harry wanted so badly to touch him.

Instead, Harry turned and fled the room.

In the bathroom, Harry used the toilet and then took his time brushing his teeth and washing his face and avoided looking in the mirror, because he always looked strange in the mirror when he was drunk and it unnerved him a little. The pipes had quieted by the time he slipped back into the bedroom, and oh, it was a good thing he’d taken the extra time to collect himself in the bathroom because he was entirely unprepared for the sight of Draco tucked into Harry’s bed, his hair glowing gold in the light of the bedside lamp, the covers drawn up demurely to his chest as he lay propped up on several large, fluffy pillows that Harry was sure Draco had brought with him. He had a book open in front of him and a pair of gold wire-framed reading glasses perched on the end of his nose. It was a strangely domestic image, and for an instant Harry wanted so badly for this to be his life that he couldn’t breathe.

“Close the door, Potter, you’re letting in a draft,” he snapped without looking away from the page.

Harry turned quickly and shut the door, took a deep breath, and approached the bed. Draco kept his eyes on the book, and that made it easy for Harry to lift the covers and slip underneath them, and oh. Draco had done a Warming Charm on the bedsheets and Harry sighed with pleasure, going a little boneless as the warmth soaked into his skin in just the faintest tingle of magic. He fidgeted a little to get his socks peeled off, and sighed again as he rubbed his cold toes against the mattress.

“Warm bedding when it’s cold is one of life’s greatest pleasures,” Draco said. “Don’t tell me you’ve been denying yourself all these years.”

“Okay,” sighed Harry, warm and still a little drunk and so, so comfortable. “I won’t tell you.” His eyes had grown heavy and fallen shut of their own accord.

Beside him, Draco snorted but didn’t comment. Harry heard a page turn, the edge of the page swishing crisply over the sheet. He turned onto his side, putting his back to Draco and the glow of the lamp, and burrowed deeper into the blankets until he was tucked in up to his nose.

He’d been worried this might be awkward, lying in bed with the bloke he wasn’t allowed to fuck anymore. That he’d lie awake listening to Draco breathe and go quietly mad from suppressing the urge to close the space between them, to feel the warmth of Draco’s body against his own.

But this was nice, this wasn’t awkward at all, and that was Harry’s last thought before he dropped easily into a deep and dreamless sleep.

- - - - -

The following morning, however, more than made up for it.

Harry came awake slowly, lingering in that warm and hazy place that comes on the tail-end of a rapidly fading dream, where his brain had only just been accepting all manner of fantastical and absurd things, and so accepted waking up with Draco’s body intimately tangled with his own as totally normal. Draco had his arm flung over Harry and his face tucked into the crook of Harry’s neck, his breath coming in warm huffs against his collar. And it made sense to tighten his arms around Draco, cuddle him a little closer, and press a warm kiss to the top of his head.

Draco’s hair tickled his nose, and then Draco mumbled sleepily into Harry’s neck and wriggled closer, flinging one leg over Harry’s and, oh. That was Draco’s cock. That was Draco’s very hard cock pressed right up against Harry’s hip, and Harry’s cock throbbed in response. And Harry had just kissed him, and now they were—

Before he could panic any further, Draco grumbled something unintelligible and turned his face into Harry’s chest and mouthed at the hollow at the base of his throat and rocked his hips, grinding against Harry.

He should wake Draco up, but if he woke Draco up then Draco would be embarrassed and things would be awkward, but if he let it go on longer then it would be worse, wouldn’t it? And also Harry really really liked what was happening.

“Draco,” Harry said, taking Draco by the shoulder and pushing at him. “Draco wake up.”

Draco responded by biting Harry’s collarbone. “M’awake, you arse,” he grumbled.

“Oh, you…” Harry trailed off as Draco tugged on him, pulling him onto his side so they were facing each other. Their hips lined up for a moment and Harry shivered as the hard ridge of Draco’s erection dragged over his own.

“C’mon,” Draco sighed, tangling his fingers in Harry’s hair and tugging him into place.

Harry obligingly kissed his way up the side of his neck until he reached the hinge of Draco’s jaw. He sucked at the little indent right below his ear and listened to Draco gasp, felt him shudder with pleasure against Harry. He breathed deep, the warm smell of skin and soap, laced with a faded edge of worn-off cologne, and a sudden burst of longing detonated in the depths of Harry’s chest. He sucked again before kissing at Draco’s jaw, then ducked his head and nosed at Draco’s cheek to get him to put his head up for a proper kiss. Draco murmured something that might’ve been Harry’s name and then their lips met, Draco’s mouth so soft and pliant, fitting perfectly against Harry’s for a moment before it fell open. Harry licked into Draco’s mouth and got about two seconds of warmth and sleep-sour breath and the slick side of Draco’s tongue against his own, and then Draco jerked back.

“Wait, wait,” Draco panted, shoved one hand under his pillow and groped around. He came up with his wand and jabbed Harry in the face with it.

“Ow, what the fuck,” Harry gasped as the spell burst on his tongue, leaving all the soft tissues of his mouth tingling sharply in an almost overwhelming rush of spearmint.

“Sorry,” Draco said before doing the same spell on himself and jamming his wand back under his pillow. “Now I can kiss you.”

“I didn’t mind—” Harry started.

“Well I do,” Draco said, then kissed him hard, and Harry found kissing him back to be a much better use of his time than arguing.

Because Draco was kissing him and Harry was sure that nothing in his entire life had ever felt this good, kissing Draco Malfoy while still warm and a little muzzy from sleep and oh god, Harry could’ve had a whole year of this, even though it wouldn’t have meant to him then what it did now. Draco’s mouth against his own was insistent and possessive as they kissed, and alarm bells began to ring in the back of Harry’s mind. This was such a bad idea. This was a tremendously bad idea. They shouldn’t be doing this, they’d agreed at the beginning of their fake relationship that sex wouldn’t be part of it. And it felt disingenuous, somehow, to be kissing Draco now that Harry had feelings for him, because Draco didn’t know that. As far as Draco knew, this was just kissing. And if they had sex, he’d think that it’d just be sex when to Harry, it was so much more. And he couldn’t, he couldn’t do this.

Harry broke the kiss, and turned his head away when Draco tried to recapture his mouth. “Malfoy, hey,” he said, and broke off in a soft grunt as Draco bit at his throat and then sucked hard. God, that almost certainly left a mark. “Hey,” he said again. “Wait, I thought you, I thought we…”

“Stop thinking about it,” Draco said, and kissed him again.

He slid one hand down Harry’s stomach and pressed his palm firmly over the hard ridge of Harry’s cock and gave it a little squeeze, and Harry’s brain promptly shorted out. He wriggled around enough to get his pajama bottoms tugged down enough because he wanted Draco’s hand on his cock without a layer of flannel in between them, and Draco kindly obliged him by helping. Harry couldn’t hold back a groan as Draco’s fingers closed around him and stroked.

“Like that, do you,” Draco murmured against his mouth.

“Yeah,” Harry breathed, and let himself get lost in it for another few tugs before he pushed at Draco’s pajama bottoms and got them down his thighs.

Getting his hand on Draco’s cock again felt like coming home, the hard length nearly as familiar in his hand as his own, hot and a little damp against his palm. Draco whimpered when Harry took his hand away and broke the kiss just long enough to lick his hand. He took Draco’s cock in his fist again and rubbed his thumb over the head before giving it a little squeeze.

Draco exhaled shakily and his mouth went slack against Harry’s as he lost focus. Harry kept working him relentlessly in long, firm strokes, and barely a minute later Draco’s hand stuttered and stalled against Harry’s cock. And that was fine, Harry didn’t mind at all. Less distraction as he watched Draco. He’d squeezed his eyes shut tight, his brows drawn together, lips pink and wet from kissing and slightly parted as he let loose these wonderfully needy little gasps. Every so often he’d remember himself and give Harry’s cock a stroke or two, and Harry would sigh and kiss the corner of Draco’s mouth.

It didn’t take much longer for Draco to reach his climax. His breathing hitched and he pressed closer to Harry, and then he was coming, hips jerking, cock throbbing as he spilled slick and warm over Harry’s fist.

“You,” Draco sighed, mouthing drowsily at the tender underside of Harry’s chin, “are entirely too good at that.”

“Well, I do try,” Harry said. He began to withdraw his hand from beneath the covers, already pushing himself up on his elbow and looking around for something to wipe himself clean with.

Draco stopped him, taking his hand in his own and wiping as much of his come off onto his own fingers as he was able. Harry assumed Draco was trying to clean him up, but then Draco pushed his dirty hand back down under the blankets and gave Harry a wicked smirk.

“Oh,” Harry groaned as Draco’s slippery hand closed around his cock. “You filthy bastard.”

“You love it,” Draco murmured against his neck.

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry agreed. He’d have agreed to anything at this point.

“Mm,” Draco hummed, and gave his neck a sharp bite. “On your back, now.”

Harry obediently rolled onto his back, and Draco shuffled around under the blankets until he was kneeling between Harry’s thighs. He took his hand off Harry’s cock and Harry let out an embarrassing whine at the loss.

“Shh, I’ll get back to it,” Draco said, using his other hand to yank at Harry’s pajamas.

Harry helped him out, kicking free of them as Draco pulled, and then Draco scooted closer between Harry’s legs and went right back to stroking his cock. The sides of his thighs pressed against the sides of Harry’s arse, his flannel pajamas impossibly soft. Draco leaned down and pressed a kiss to Harry’s stomach and pushed one of his legs up.

“Give me a hand?” he asked.

Harry obediently hooked his hand behind his knees and pulled them up, spreading himself open, stomach jumping because he knew what was coming next. Sure enough, Draco sucked a finger into his mouth, cheeks hollowing as he sucked, getting it nice and wet. Harry exhaled a shaky breath and watched as Draco drew the finger back out with a wet pop and reached down between Harry’s legs.

The first touch of Draco’s finger made Harry’s hips jerk, and he breathed deep and even as Draco pushed inside, slow and steady. It burned, being forced open like this even with a single finger. Harry hadn’t had anything inside him since the last time Draco had touched him like this. He liked it well enough, but it didn’t really do much for him when he did it to himself, so he never bothered.

“Do you want another?” Draco asked, crooking his finger and rubbing over Harry’s prostate.

Harry had to take another breath and force his brain to focus before he could answer. “No, this is good. I’m… god, this is really good, just like this.”

Draco curled his finger and brushed a kiss against the side of Harry’s knee. “Let me know if you change your mind.”

Harry’s laugh came out as more of a breathless huff. “Not gonna last long enough for that.”

“Go on, then,” Draco said and kissed Harry’s knee again. “I’ve got you.”

And Harry did. He stopped thinking and lost himself in the feel of Draco’s hand on his cock, Draco’s finger stroking inside him, the warm press of Draco’s knees on either side of his hips. Harry rolled his head to the side, and the tip of his nose brushed against the cool pillowcase of Draco’s pillow, and it smelled like him. He felt himself begin to go tight, his balls drawing up, his body clenching around Draco, and all of a sudden his release was looming ahead of him, eager and inevitable all at once.

The way it was building, Harry expected his orgasm to be a violent, explosive sort of thing, an overwhelming rush of pleasure that blasted through him like a bolt of lightning. Instead, it built and built, higher and tighter, but then instead of a sudden drop, it felt more like a gentle nudge over the edge, a small sweet step from nearly there to oh god yes.

Harry curled in on himself as it washed over him, his fingers tightening around the backs of his knees, and Draco stroked him through it as he came in long pulses over his own stomach. Draco let him go as Harry sagged back against the bed, his legs slipping out of his grasp and flopping open around Draco. Everything felt slow and warm, and Harry couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt this wonderful as Draco clambered half-over him to get at his wand, and leaned in to steal a quick kiss before he set about cleaning them both up.

The chilly tingle of Cleaning Charms sweeping over his skin yanked Harry abruptly back to reality. Because, oh god, he’d just had sex with Draco. Avoiding Draco’s eyes, Harry shuffled back and sat up, untangled himself from the rumpled bedsheets and slipped off the bed. He snatched up his pajama bottoms and yanked them back on as quickly as he could.

“Potter?” Draco asked. He sounded unsure, like he thought Harry might be upset with him. It unsettled Harry even more than he already was, because Draco Malfoy never sounded unsure about anything.

“This can’t happen again,” Harry said. His chest hurt. His stomach felt like it’d tied itself in a knot. The warm afterglow of his orgasm had vanished entirely, leaving a sick ache in its place, the last remaining haze of sweet lassitude souring to lethargy. He shoved a hand through his hair. “We shouldn’t have.”

“Oh,” said Draco softly, his voice barely loud enough to carry over the rustle of sheets as he sat up. “I’m sorry, I thought you wanted…”

“I did,” Harry said quickly, because he very much had wanted it. “But when we started this, you said you didn’t want sex to be part of it. I should have respected that.”

Harry turned to go, and then stumbled forward as a pillow slammed into the back of his head. He spun round, just in time for Draco to swing at him a second time and catch him square across the face.

“That’s for being an idiot,” Draco spat. “As if you could make me do a single bloody thing I didn’t want to do.”

Harry wrenched the pillow from Draco’s hand and hit him so hard with it he knocked him sideways, and yeah, it was much more satisfying from this end. Draco caught himself with a hand against the mattress, and Harry tossed the pillow onto the other side of the bed before Draco could steal it back.

“Yeah, well, you’re an idiot too, then. We’re both idiots, happy? It was nobody’s fault, and it won’t happen again,” Harry said and turned away, grabbed his jeans from last night off the floor and a clean pair of pants and jumper from his dresser. “I’m going to shower.”

With the bathroom door between him and the rest of the world, Harry let out a long, juddering sigh and slumped against the counter. His reflection in the mirror showed him pink-cheeked with his hair even more of a wreck than usual. Draco had left a livid lovebite on his neck.

“Ugh,” said Harry, rolling his eyes at himself.

He thumped his bundle of clothing down on the vanity and turned away to start the shower, and by the time he finished stripping down, the water had warmed up enough for him to step in. At least, he thought to himself dourly as he reached for the soap, that wistful wish he’d made all those months ago when they’d called it quits had come true: Harry’d got to have one last time with Draco in a proper bed.

And then he did his best to put Draco entirely from his mind as he washed, taking his time to soap all the bits he tended to skip, scrubbing behind his ears and between his toes, and washing his hair twice. When he couldn’t linger any longer (and frankly he was a little afraid of what Ginny might do to him if he used up all the hot water again) he got out and toweled himself roughly dry before he brushed his teeth and washed his face and got dressed.

Unable to put it off any longer, Harry tapped the mirror with his wand to unfog it and set about Healing his lovebite. And after a couple of tries at trying to fix it, Harry finally admitted that he was pants at Healing Spells and ventured back into the bedroom.

“Erm, do you think you could…?” he asked, gesturing at his neck. He could feel himself blushing again.

Draco came closer and gently tipped Harry’s chin back to get a better look at it. “I certainly got you good,” he murmured. “Are you sure you don’t want to leave it? I mean, if you wanted to convince your friends that we’re.” He cleared his throat. “You know.”

“God, no,” Harry said. “It wouldn’t be worth the teasing I’d have to put up with.

Draco smiled a little at that, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Fair enough,” he said, then tapped his wand against Harry’s throat and murmured a spell. “There,” he said, brushing his thumb against the spot where the lovebite had been. “All gone.”

Harry took a step back and Draco’s hand fell away. “Thanks.” Then, because he had to know, “Hey, Malfoy. Are we all right?”

Draco frowned at him. “Why wouldn’t we be?”

“I don’t know,” Harry said, scuffing his socked foot along the seam between two of the floorboards. “I just wanted to make sure what happened this morning wouldn’t make things weird.”

“Really?” Draco asked. He flicked Harry’s ear. “After everything we’ve done to each other, you’re afraid a couple of handjobs will make things awkward?”

He had a point, and Harry felt a bit silly for even bringing it up. But he’d had to be sure he hadn’t messed up his… well, he felt strange calling it a friendship. But keeping Draco in his life however he could felt important to him, and if what’d happened this morning had messed that up in any way, Harry wanted to start repairing the damage as soon as he could. They only had a few more weeks where they were forced to be around each other.

“I guess you’re right,” he said.

“Of course I’m right,” Draco sniffed, then smiled at him and added, “I’m so pleased you’ve mastered agreeing with me so readily.”

Harry gave a weak laugh. “Best fake-boyfriend ever,” he offered.

“You certainly are,” Draco said. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like a shower too.”

“All right,” Harry said. “I’ll be downstairs when you’re done.”

Due to waking up later than usual, and then his shenanigans with Draco followed up by a long shower, Harry reached the kitchen much later than he normally did. He wasn’t even halfway down the stairs to the basement when the warm smells of baking told him that Kreacher’d got one up on him today. On the one hand, Harry hated to lose. On the other, Kreacher had made crepes and despite himself, Harry loved Kreacher’s crepes. Ginny and Ron and Hermione were already down there, Hermione working diligently at the daily crossword while Ron and Ginny bickered over god-knew-what.

“Saved you some strawberry, mate,” Ron said, nudging a plate set on the table beside him. “Ginny tried to eat it but I fended her off. Made her eat the ones with chocolate and banana instead, her life is so hard.”

“You’re a true friend,” Harry said, pouring himself some tea as Ginny kicked Ron beneath the table. “There’s a reason me and Gin didn’t work out, you know. At Hogwarts she always used to steal the bacon off my plate.” He sighed, heavy and put-upon. “I just couldn’t face that for the rest of my life.”

Ginny threw a strawberry at him, and it bounced off his glasses and plopped neatly into the fluffy dollop of whipped cream on top of his crepes. It left a red smudge on his glasses and Hermione cleaned it with a murmured Scourgify! from across the table.

“Also,” Harry went on quickly when Ginny cocked back her arm with another strawberry in hand and gave him a threatening look, “Ginny is far too good for me, and more radiant than a thousand suns, with lips like rose petals and very nice hair that does that pretty wavy-flippy thing at the end when it’s short, and, erm, eyes that… don’t need glasses because they’re not shit like mine, and—hey, Gin! Stop, I was saying nice things about you!” The second strawberry bounced off Harry’s chin and rolled away under the cabinet.

“And being an arse about it!” Ginny said, throwing a third strawberry, but Ron snatched it out of the air and stuffed it into his mouth.

“Merlin, you’re like children,” Draco said, coming down into the kitchen, and Harry’s heart skipped a beat.

“Well clearly I’ve got a type,” Harry said, and Draco rolled his eyes.

“Come sit by me,” Hermione said, not looking up from her crossword. “I’m behaving like an adult.”

“I’m very glad to hear that at least one of you is,” Draco said with a pointed look at where Ginny was trying to steal a strawberry off Ron’s plate and Ron was doing his best to fend her off with a fork without actually stabbing her with it.

Harry focused on his breakfast for a slow count of five, then very casually let himself look at Draco as Draco stood at the counter to serve himself crepes and tea. He wore robes today, his hair still a little damp from his shower, neatly parted on the left and swept to the side. His feet were bare and very pale against the dark tile floor. Harry looked away as Draco finished serving himself and rounded the table to sit by Hermione. Harry glanced up at him out of habit as he approached, because they always exchanged chaste kisses in front of any audience, and then froze when he realized what he was waiting for. But Draco only hesitated an instant before giving him a kiss as he passed by.

After all they’d done earlier this morning, a barely-there brush of lips shouldn’t have been enough to make Harry blush, but there it was. He looked down at his plate as his throat went tight, pleasure and yearning twisting together into something prickly and uncomfortable that settled like a stone in the bottom of his lungs. Draco sitting at the other end of the table, leaning a little into Hermione’s space to look at her crossword, felt so far away he might as well have been across an ocean. Harry had grown used to Draco sitting beside him, his knee nudging up against Harry’s, his hand on Harry’s leg or his arm over Harry’s shoulders.

He sighed.

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

“What?” Harry looked up and tried to arrange his face into some sort of expression that didn’t scream pining and half-in-love. He wasn’t sure he was successful, but he shrugged. “Just tired.”

“Ah,” Ginny said, smirking at him. “Didn’t get much sleep last night?”

Harry froze and his eyes darted to Draco. Draco just glanced up from the paper and smirked at him, then reached out and tapped part of the crossword grid.

“Thirteen down’s ‘eye of newt,’” he offered, and Hermione gave him a tremendously annoyed look.

“I hadn’t got there yet.”

Draco shrugged and sipped his tea. “And twenty-six across is ‘parsnips,’”

“Playing with fire there, mate,” Ron advised. “There’s a reason she’s sitting over there and we’re all down here.”

Ginny swatted at him. “Shut up,” she said. “I want to see her try to stab him with her biro.”

“No stabbing in my kitchen, please,” Harry said, taking a sip of his tea. “Kreacher will be unbearable if he has to clean that up.”

“Then perhaps you ought to tell your boyfriend to quit spoiling my crossword,” Hermione said.

“Blagging,” Draco said. “Thirty-two across.”

Hermione slammed her pen down. “I have punched you before and so help me I’ll punch you again.”

Draco mimed locking his lips.

“Don’t worry,” Ginny called from safely down the table. “She’s only mad about that one because she didn’t know it.”

“She never knows the Quidditch ones,” Ron added.

Harry sighed. Apparently everyone had a death wish today.

But Hermione only grumbled to herself, “I’ll hex the lot of you,” and picked up her pen again.

Draco slid his plate down the table and then scooted down the bench until he was sitting beside Harry, close enough that their elbows brushed. Harry leaned briefly against him, and Draco gave him a smile.

“It is horrifying how cute the two of you are,” Ginny said.

“What can I say,” Harry shrugged and looped his arm around Draco’s neck, reeling him in to smack a kiss against the side of his head.

Draco shoved him off, and Harry grinned at him. Draco rolled his eyes and returned his attention to his breakfast.

This wouldn’t be so bad, Harry thought. It’d be nice if this were his life. He watched Draco for a moment longer, until he felt his smile start to slip. And then he looked away.

- - - - -

“We need to figure out our plan for a break up,” Harry said as he and Draco climbed into bed together. Draco had taken to staying the night on Fridays and Saturdays, which was partially to keep up their charade of a relationship, and partially because they spent the whole weekend together anyway and this was just convenient.

“Mm,” Draco said, leaning over to turn on his bedside lamp as Harry extinguished the main lights. He picked up his book and his glasses but didn’t put them on yet. “That’s right, that’s coming up quite soon, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Harry said. Honestly, he was feeling a little torn about it. On the one hand, he wouldn’t get to spend nearly as much time with Draco and they certainly wouldn’t be sharing a bed anymore. On the other hand, he would no longer be spending so much time with Draco, nor would he be sharing a bed with him, and if those things stopped happening, it’d probably do good things for his emotional well-being. This awful yearning and unrequited-whatever couldn’t be healthy for him long-term. Mostly it just ached constantly and Harry wanted it to stop.

Because this whole attracted-to-Draco thing was starting to get seriously out of hand. Harry was starting to lose whole stretches of time to fantasizing about their fake relationship becoming real. How maybe he’d get hurt on a raid and Draco would rush to his bedside at St Mungo’s and hold Harry’s hand and confess his undying love and then Harry would make a miraculous recovery and the pair of them would live happily ever after. Or when they staged their break-up, neither of them would be able to go through with it, and they’d look at each other with shining eyes and they’d know it was real. Or Draco would be taken hostage on a mission, and Harry would go in after him, and together they’d fight their way to freedom, and then Draco would be so overcome by Harry’s daring and impressed by his wandskills that he’d fall into Harry’s arms and—

Harry sighed and dismissed that particular fantasy. Draco Malfoy had never been impressed by a single thing Harry had ever done, and probably never would be. Harry couldn’t even bring himself to fantasize about it, because honestly he sort of loved that about Draco. Best stick to the one where he got injured and Draco came to him at St Mungo’s. That one had a better chance of actually coming true.

“Potter?” Draco asked, jabbing him sharply in the arm with the corner of his book.

“Ow, stop,” Harry scolded, because that’d actually hurt. He swatted at Draco and Draco hit him with the book again.

“It’s rude to start a conversation and then trail off in the middle of it,” Draco said.

“Yeah? Well it’s also rude to hit people with books but I don’t see that stopping you,” Harry muttered.

Draco hit him with the book again. “I’m keeping you focused.”

“You’re being an arse,” Harry said, making a grab for the book. He only got his fingers whapped for his troubles.

Harry scowled at him and Draco rolled his eyes.

“Worst fake-boyfriend ever,” Harry said. “I’ll be glad to see the back of you.”

Draco gave him a leer. “Don’t lie, Potter. You’ve always enjoyed seeing my backside.”

“Ugh, that was horrible.” Harry could feel his cheeks warming.

“But true,” Draco said smugly.

“Yeah, okay. I like looking at your arse, happy?” Harry said as sarcastically as he could manage. Flirting had grown more and more difficult lately. It still gave him a bit of a thrill, but sometimes when he said things like this, he’d begun to hear an edge of naked longing behind his words. He was so afraid of Draco being able to hear it too.

“Delighted.” Draco set his book aside and dropped his glasses on top of it, and Harry breathed a little easier. He liked Draco in glasses more than he probably should. “Now. You wanted to discuss our impending break up?”

No, Harry very much did not want to discuss it. But Harry needed to. “Yeah. When we’d talked about it before, we’d figured a reason to split up would work itself out along the way.”

“Mm,” Draco said, nodding. “And one hasn’t.”

It was right on the tip of Harry’s tongue to suggest, Then maybe we shouldn’t, maybe we could stay together and give it a real try. But he couldn’t make himself say that out loud. “Yeah, exactly. So we’re going to need to make one up.”

Draco was quiet for a long moment, his long fingers picking at a snag in the duvet, and Harry had to look away. His body shivered with the sense-memory of having those fingers on him and in him.

“Cold?” Draco asked, and before Harry could reply he’d taken his wand from beneath his pillow and cast another Warming Charm.

“Ugh,” Harry groaned as a fresh wave of warmth swept over him, seeping into his skin. He could feel his body going lax. “Shouldn’t’ve done that if you wanted a proper conversation out of me.”

“Then go to sleep,” Draco said, reaching for his book and his glasses again. “We’ll work out the rest of it in the morning.”

“Yeah, okay,” Harry mumbled. He snagged his glasses off his face and tossed them on his bedside table, then turned over on his side and curled up.

He heard the sheets rustle as Draco got comfortable, then the warm weight of his hand on Harry’s head, fingers carding gently through his hair for a moment. Harry couldn’t help pushing into the touch, and Draco snorted.

“You’re like a dog,” he said. “It’s sort of pathetic.”

But his voice was warm and affectionate, and his fingers were rubbing over that spot just behind Harry’s ear that felt so good, so Harry let it go. “Say whatever you want about me so long as you keep doing that,” he mumbled, turning his face into his pillow to give Draco better access to his hair.

Draco’s hand left, and then Harry heard a page turn, and then Draco’s hand came back and kept rubbing. Harry sighed.

He probably shouldn’t let this happen. But what the hell, it felt good, and it wasn’t hurting anyone except himself. He’d enjoy it tonight, take these few minutes before he fell asleep to pretend that this was something he could have. And tomorrow, they’d figure out how to bring it all to an end.

- - - - -

When Harry awoke the next morning, it was one of those strange mornings where it felt like no time had passed between closing his eyes and opening them again, the whole night shrinking down until it was small enough to fit into the space of a single blink. At some point, he and Draco had moved together again. One of Harry’s feet was tucked snugly between Draco’s calves, and Draco had flung an arm over Harry’s chest and pushed his nose into the space between Harry’s shoulder and the bed. Harry’s fingers were curled around the hem of Draco’s shirt.

Harry lay still, kept his breathing deep and even, listened to Draco make the most ridiculous little snuffling breaths against his shoulder. He’d lied about the snoring, as far as Harry could tell, but there was the snuffling and sometimes he hummed a little on each exhale, and Harry sort of loved it. He’d never ever admit this to Draco, but he thought it was pretty cute.

He breathed in, held it for a few seconds, and let it out slow. There were a lot of things he loved about Draco, and he worried about how soon all of those things might add up until he was just in love with Draco himself. The thought of being in love alone terrified him.

It was for the best that this charade would soon be over. Honestly, Harry had no idea why he’d gone along with it in the first place. Looking back, the whole thing felt like the flimsiest excuse ever for him getting to spend time with Draco. Faking a relationship so his friends would stop setting him up with people? All Harry would have had to do was tell them firmly that he wanted to take a break from dating. They’d have poked a little fun at him for it, sure, but they would have backed right off. Maybe a part of him had known even back then that he’d felt something more for Draco than he was admitting to himself. Maybe the little seed of affection had been there all along, and just hadn’t been able to sprout until Harry had come to know Draco’s mind as well as his body.

Harry looked down at Draco sleeping against him. He’d miss this. He could admit that to himself. He’d definitely miss this.

Sighing a little, Harry carefully brushed a lock of Draco’s hair aside and then ghosted the lightest kiss against the top of his head. Two weeks was both too much and too little time left.

Moving slow and careful, Harry disentangled himself from Draco and slid out of bed. Draco mumbled something to himself and rolled into the warm spot Harry had just vacated and shoved his face into Harry’s pillow with a contented little hum. Harry smiled at him, his heart warm and panging, then tiptoed across the room to gather up his clothes for the day. He scooped yesterday’s trousers off the floor and draped them over his arm, then picked up the jumper he’d worn the day before and tossed it on top of his bureau so Draco wouldn’t bitch at him for it. Ridiculous, in Harry’s opinion, since this was Harry’s room in Harry’s house and Draco wasn’t even his for-real boyfriend, but sometimes it was far easier to go along with things than to deal with the fallout. He took a clean shirt and pants and a fresh jumper from his drawers, then slipped out of his room, closing the door gently behind him.

Draco still wasn’t up by the time Harry had finished showering, so he went downstairs to the kitchen to start breakfast. This was his favorite time of day, early enough that the daylight still felt fresh and new. He liked the way it slanted in through the ground-level windows of the kitchen and splashed across the tiles, and everything was quiet and calm. It reminded him a little of early mornings at the Dursley’s, when he slipped into the kitchen to start breakfast while the rest of the family was still getting dressed and ready. Except when the rest of the household came down for breakfast now, they’d greet him with smiles, sometimes hugs or the occasional kiss (usually from Ron, surprisingly enough, the only straight man in the house, but he always got really excited on the mornings when Harry made flapjacks) and then breakfast was a loud affair that reminded Harry of mornings at Hogwarts, like he’d taken a little piece of what’d made the castle feel like home and brought it with him to Grimmauld Place.

Plus, he seeing people enjoy the food he’d made gave him a deep and steady sense of pleasure. One of these days he really ought to learn to cook more than just breakfast.

Harry descended the stairs and stepped into the kitchen just in time to see Kreacher taking pans out of the cupboard.

“I’ve got it from here, thanks, Kreacher,” Harry said, plucking the heavy cast iron pan from Kreacher’s hand.

Kreacher stepped back, looked at the pan, looked at Harry, and said, “If Master Harry does not want Kreacher to make breakfast, then Kreacher will busy himself with Master Harry’s laundry. He has not done it in two weeks and must be nearly out of socks.”

“Wait, no—!” Harry started, but it was too late; Kreacher had already vanished with a sharp crack. “Damn,” he said. Well. Harry hoped Draco was already awake. And, truthfully, Harry really was almost out of socks.

He sighed and chalked this one up as a draw and let it go. He had enough on his mind this morning without competing with Kreacher over daily chores. Like working out what to make for breakfast. And also how to bring his fake relationship to a very real end.

Well, that could just be Draco’s problem. This had all been his stupid idea to begin with. Let him figure out how to get them out of it. Harry lit the flame beneath the pan a little too aggressively and fire licked up over the sides of the pan. Sighing, he closed his eyes and tried to force himself calm, adjusted the heat and then got out bacon and started the first batch cooking before he got out the ingredients for flapjacks. At least someone would be kissing him this morning.

He’d just finished getting all the ingredients mixed together and about half the bacon cooked when the stairs creaked, and Harry glanced over his shoulder expecting to see Ron or Hermione. Instead, Draco came shuffling in, dressed but with his hair still sleep-rumpled.

“That’s my jumper,” Harry said.

“I’m aware, thanks,” Draco mumbled, heading straight for the kettle.

Harry stared at him, and when Draco didn’t seem inclined to elaborate, prodded, “You’re wearing it.”

Draco shrugged. “Smells like you,” he said.

“Smells like me?”

“Mm,” Draco said, bumping his hip against Harry, crowding him out of the way until he could open the drawer and get a teaspoon. “I like it.”

“You like it?”

Draco banged the drawer shut. “Is there an echo in here?”

“No, but…” Harry said, glancing around to see whether someone else had come downstairs without Harry noticing. They were alone down in the kitchen, no one else within earshot. Harry could understand Draco having taken Harry’s jumper for the sake of appearances, but the explanation didn’t make sense without an audience to fool. “Sorry. I’m confused.”

“Is that supposed to be novel information?” Draco asked as he filled up the kettle and lit the burner beneath it with a flick of his wand, then turned to the cabinet to get a mug. “Do you want tea?”

“Malfoy,” Harry said. “There’s no one here.”

Draco stuck his wand in his back pocket and stretched up to get down two mugs. “What am I saying, of course you’ll want tea. You’re useless before your first cuppa. Though I suppose I can’t say too much about it since I am as well. Kettle, cauldron and all that.”

Malfoy,” Harry said sharply, because, no, they were going to talk about this. “You just told me you’re wearing my jumper because you like how it smells. I’m not letting this go.”

Draco turned and leaned back against the counter. “All right,” he said, looking resentful as hell, and why would he be looking so resentful unless he didn’t want to talk about this, and the only reason Harry could think of for Draco to not want to talk about this was if he had something he felt he wanted to hide. And there was only one thing, as impossible as it seemed, that Harry thought Draco would want to hide in this circumstance.

“What did you mean by that?” Harry asked. His heart was pounding. Did Draco want him for real? Had he got himself just as swept up in this as Harry had?

But of course Draco had never made anything easy for Harry, and why would he start now. Instead of answering, he looked away and jerked one shoulder in half a shrug.

Harry watched him for a long moment, but Draco continued to stare stubbornly at the kettle. And as the seconds ticked past, it became apparent that if Harry wanted this conversation to go anywhere useful, he’d have to start it off himself.

“Because I think I’d like it if you meant it, erm, like that,” he said softly.

Draco’s head snapped around to look at him, his eyes widening. But he still didn’t stay anything.

Gathering his nerve, Harry took a step closer to him. “Because you wearing my jumper because you like how it smells, well, that’s an awfully boyfriend-y thing to do. And I,” He paused, swallowed. “I think I’d like it if you meant it like that.”

“And if I did mean it like that,” Draco said after a moment. “What would you do?”

Encouraged, Harry closed the distance between them, reached out and slipped his hands beneath the hem of the jumper, settling his palms against Draco’s hips. Harry moved slowly, and Draco didn’t make any move to stop him. “Well. I’d probably tell you that I like seeing you in my jumper. That I…” He took a breath. “That I like looking at you and seeing that you’re mine.”

“Yes, well,” Draco said, turning a little pink. “That seems like the sort of thing that would appeal to your caveman brain.”

“Fuck off, you like my caveman brain,” Harry said.

Draco shrugged and still wouldn’t look at him. “I suppose I do.” He shrugged again. “I suppose I might like other bits of you as well.”

“What bits of me?” Harry asked. “And if you say my cock, I’m going to hit you.”

“I don’t have to say your cock, because you’ve just said it for me,” Draco said. He turned to the cabinets and got down the box of tea. “I like this bit of you.” He waved one hand up and down at Harry.

Harry looked down at himself but couldn’t see anything obvious that Draco might’ve been indicating. “What?”

“That,” Draco said, flapping his hand again. Then grudgingly elaborated, “All of you.”

Harry stared at him for a long moment, during which Draco steadily turned pinker until he was blushing from the tips of his ears all the way down to his throat.

“Jesus Christ,” Harry said finally. “Are you always going to be this bloody difficult? I mean, is this what I can expect from you?”

Draco shrugged and looked away, chin set mulishly. “Probably.”

“Right,” said Harry. He turned back to the stove and transferred the cooked bacon from the pan to the plate, then laid new strips in to start sizzling. That’d give him a few minutes. “Come here, you arsehole.”

“Fuck off,” Draco muttered, but came over and let Harry push him up against the counter beside the stove.

“You know,” said Harry, leaning in so close that the tip of his nose brushed against Draco’s. “This works out really great.”

“Yeah?” Draco breathed.

“Yeah,” Harry echoed. “I couldn’t come up with any reason we’d break up. Now I don’t have to.”

“You’re counting the last two months as our relationship?”

Harry slid his hands around Draco’s waist and then down, tucking his fingers neatly into Draco’s back pockets and using his grasp to tug him close until their hips lined up. “Absolutely,” Harry said. “Those were the best dates I’ve ever been on.”

“Good,” Draco said, and finally, finally, closed the last inch between them and kissed Harry.

The bacon in the pan ended up burning, but Draco’s wand was in his back pocket with Harry’s hand, so he used it to Vanish the mess and the smoke and turn off the flame. He tucked the wand back into Draco’s pocket, followed it up with his hand so he could give Draco’s arse a squeeze, and then devoted his full attention to thoroughly reacquainting himself with Draco’s mouth.

The stairs creaked but Harry couldn’t quite bring himself to stop kissing Draco. The footsteps paused in the doorway, and then Harry heard a distinctly Hermione-ish huff from behind him.

“Oh thank god,” she said. “It’s about time.”

Harry flipped her off without looking, and then her words belatedly sunk in.

“Wait,” he said, reluctantly taking a step away from Draco. “What do you mean, it’s about time?”

Hermione and Draco exchanged a look, then Hermione shook her head and shrugged at him and turned away to make herself a mug of tea.

“Hermione, did you—Malfoy. Did she know?” Harry demanded, and Draco shot a plaintive look at Hermione who cackled and vanished up the stairs. Actually cackled. She really needed to stop spending so much time with Pansy. Speaking of… “She knew, didn’t she? And Pansy knew. You told Pansy?” Draco had made him sit through a whole pub night with Pansy Parkinson and pretend to be his boyfriend when all the while Pansy knew?

Draco’s guilty look intensified. “I… might’ve… possibly…” He mumbled something too low for Harry to catch.

“What?”

“I missed you, all right?” he huffed, folding his arms over his chest and looking away. “And I thought it would stop after our arrangement came to an end, and then I might’ve made the mistake of mentioning it to that shrieking harpy I call a best friend, and then…” He waved vaguely between himself and Harry. “The opportunity presented itself, so I took it.”

It said something significant to Harry that he’d learned how to read between the lines well enough to follow the ridiculous leaps of logic that Draco’s mind made.

“So,” said Harry. “Let me get this straight. You figured out you missed me and wanted to have a relationship with me, so you got Pansy to get Hermione to set us up, then suggested to me we carry on a fake relationship which involved real dates, so that you could try to make me fall in love with you for real somewhere along the line of pretending to have feelings for each other.”

Draco shrugged, still not looking at him. “Basically.”

“I was wrong before. When I said that it was stupid we were going on dates to get to know each other to convincingly pretend to have a relationship? That wasn’t stupid at all. Because this is stupidest thing I have ever heard in my entire life, and I’ll remind you that I sat through an entire year of Defense with Lockhart. Draco, why the fuck didn’t you just ask me out on a date yourself?”

Draco huffed again. “You said it yourself on our first date. We fucked for a whole year and you didn’t seem interested in anything beyond that. I just thought, maybe, if sex was off the table and I gave you the chance to get to know me better…” He sighed and his shoulders slumped a little. “I thought maybe something would happen.”

And, yeah, that was true. During training, he’d been so exhausted that sex was about all he’d been able to handle, and it hadn’t even crossed his mind that he might like to get to know Draco outside the bedroom. He sighed. “I’m an idiot.”

“Well I have it on good authority that I’m one as well, so that makes us perfect for each other.”

Draco sounded so resentful that Harry couldn’t help but laugh, and then laugh harder when Draco’s scowl darkened.

“Yeah, probably,” he said. “C’mere, you.”

Draco finally looked back at him, and Harry caught his mouth in a kiss, lost himself in it for a few long seconds before something more important occurred to him.

“So,” Harry said, running his hands up and down Draco’s back in long, slow strokes. “Now that we’re for-real dating, can we have sex again?”

Draco rolled his eyes and leaned in to steal another kiss. “Figures that’s where your dirty mind would go. Honestly, Potter.”

“Hey,” Harry protested. “I got used to spending a certain amount of time in bed with a rather fantastic bloke. And since we called it off I’ve had sex once. So, yeah, that’s where my mind went.”

“Oh, you…” Draco frowned. “I’m the once?”

“You were there for it, weren’t you?”

“I just assumed…” Draco trailed off, his frown deepening. “I heard about all the dates you went on. I assumed at least one of them would have, well. You know.”

“No,” Harry said. “There’s only been you.”

A slow smirk curled at the corners of Draco’s mouth. “Well. I have to admit that I rather like the fact that I’m the only one who’s had you like that.”

“And you dared give me shit about my caveman brain.”

“See? Just another way we’re perfect for each other. Now, what say you we make up for lost time, hm?” He slid his hand down to cup Harry’s half-hard cock through his trousers and gave it a little grope.

“No, no,” Harry said, dancing away and batting at Draco’s hands. “Stop that, I’ve already got breakfast going and if I don’t finish it, I’ll have a riot on my hands.”

“You’ve got a house-elf, haven’t you? Let him finish it.”

“And give him the satisfaction?” Harry said, looking around to make sure that Kreacher wasn’t within earshot. “Never. I’m ahead this month, anyhow, and I’d like to keep my lead. We can wait a little bit. We’ll finish up breakfast and spend the rest of the day in bed.”

“I suppose,” Draco said. “But only because you’ve made bacon.”

Draco mostly got in the way and he kept stealing pieces of bacon and kept trying to distract Harry with kisses while he was trying to work, but he also made Harry a cup of tea so he supposed it worked out all right. Plus, he really did enjoy the kissing. Hermione came back down and settled at the end of the table with her crossword, and Harry served her up a plate as soon as he finished cooking, and Draco made up two more and brought them over to the table, and he and Harry sat down.

They’d barely started eating when Ron came in.

“Flapjacks!” he said reverentially. He made a slight detour to where Harry was sitting to give him a big smacking kiss against the side of his head. “I love you.”

Harry snickered. “Yeah, yeah.”

“Trying to steal my man, Weasley?” Draco drawled.

“Hardly,” Ron said with his mouth full. He hadn’t even bothered to put the first one onto his plate before taking a bite. “He leaves his socks on the floor. Drives me batty.” He gestured grandly with his half-eaten flapjack. “He’s all yours, Malfoy.”

“So pleased to know that I’ve got your blessing,” Draco said dryly and snagged a piece of bacon off Harry’s plate despite the fact that he still had two slices on his own, and also despite the fact that he’d been swiping pieces from the serving plate for the last twenty minutes.

“Speaking of blessings,” Harry said, swiping a slice of bacon back from Draco. “It’s not official until Molly approves. Want to get that out of the way tomorrow afternoon?”

Ron froze, second flapjack halfway to his mouth. He’d progressed to using a fork, now, and very slowly set it down. “You’re bringing him to lunch at the Burrow?”

“Er, yeah?”

Ron watched him for a long moment, then smiled. “Oh. You’ve finally got your shit together, then. Good for you.”

“Wait, what?” Harry blinked. “You knew…?”

“Of course I knew. Hermione told me straightaway after Pansy owled her about this one’s stupid plan,” Ron said, jerking his thumb at Draco. “Glad it worked out, by the way. Congratulations. Ginny thought you’d never get it together.”

“Wait,” Harry said. “Ginny knew too?”

“Yeah,” Ron said, looking a little sheepish now. “She got it out of me, you know how quick she is with a Bat Bogey Hex.”

“Great,” Harry said. “So if Ginny knew, then I’m assuming Luna knew.”

“And Seamus,” Hermione piped up from down the table. “He overheard Ginny and Luna.”

“And if Seamus knows then everybody else does, too,” Harry grumbled. “Really, was there anyone who didn’t know we were faking it?”

Ron shrugged, then got up for seconds.

“They’re terrible,” Harry said. “All my friends are terrible.” God, he just knew that none of them would ever let him hear the end of this. They'd all be unbearable about it.

“That’s all right,” Draco said, then glanced down the table to where Hermione was absorbed in her crossword. He leaned close and murmured in Harry’s ear, “Want to show them how deliriously happy and in love we are, and then fake a break up to make them all suffer?”

Harry leaned back to look at him. “Really?”

Draco grinned. “Really.”

“Malfoy,” Harry said reverentially. “You are perfect for me.” And he kissed him hard.

Valentine’s Day, he thought. They’d do it on Valentine’s. It was about two months off, the stress of their first Valentine’s as a couple might reasonably push them to their breaking point. It would be perfect.

All he had to do before then was convince everyone how happy and in love he was. And that, Harry was sure, wouldn't be at all hard to do.