Chapter One: The first time, Malfoy thanked him.
Harry awoke from a dream where he’d died. He inhaled deeply through his nose and, closing his eyes again, let out the scream in a rush of breath instead of a shout. It was late, or early depending on the perspective, and he didn’t want to wake anyone up. He knew that he could, of course. He knew that he could throw off all the blankets, bolt from his bed and crawl into Ron’s or Dean’s, mould himself to their bodies until they opened their arms and gathered him in to hold until the panic subsided enough to sleep again. He knew this because it was a regular occurrence the other way round.
Once, Ron stood over him, looking overlarge in his too-small pyjamas, hands shaking at his sides, chest heaving as he struggled to pull in enough air, and he didn’t let his face crumple, didn’t let a single tear fall until Harry had pulled back the covers and opened his arms. Ron whispered, ‘Fred,’ and pressed his face into Harry’s neck, and Harry just let him cry. He smoothed his hands down Ron’s back and kissed Ron’s sweaty hair and murmured soft, comforting things that never really would have worked except it was nighttime and Ron needed to hear them so badly.
Once, Harry couldn’t sleep, and he heard Dean thrashing about in his bed across the room.
(They’d made a pact, the three of them, after two weeks of exhaustion and furtive glances in the morning, that they wouldn’t put Imperturbable Charms on their bed-curtains at night anymore. They needed to be able to hear each other. They couldn’t help each other if they couldn’t hear.)
Harry slipped from his bed and opened the curtains to find Dean with one hand stuffed into his mouth and the other hand wrapped around his cock, barely half-hard. Dean dropped both hands, let them fall to his sides on the bed, and panted, as Harry carefully nudged him over to drop down on the bed next to him. ‘I thought I could…’ Dean whispered, staring up at the canopy. ‘But it doesn’t...it won’t--’ His voice broke, and he couldn’t continue.
‘I know,’ Harry replied. He did, he knew. It had happened to him too a few times, with Ginny and alone. ‘I think we think we don’t deserve it.’
Dean turned his head away, exhaling sharply. ‘Maybe we don’t,’ he said. He reached down and carefully tucked himself back into his pyjama pants. ‘Maybe there’s a lot of things we don’t deserve.’
Harry reached across and grasped Dean by the chin until he was looking at Harry in the eyes. ‘Don’t talk like that,’ he said urgently. Then, he crowded close until Dean was nestled into the cradle of Harry’s arms. Dean wrapped his arms around Harry’s back and pressed his nose into the hollow of Harry’s throat. Harry could feel Dean’s cock pressed against his own, a warm, solid weight, and hours later, when Harry woke up, Dean was hard and unconsciously rolling his hips against Harry’s body. ‘Maybe you just needed a good night’s sleep,’ Harry murmured into Dean’s hair.
So Harry knew he could just get up and go over to Ron’s bed, climb in and let himself fall apart in his best friend’s arms. He knew that he could slip into Dean’s bed and shake apart in Dean’s careful, considerate hands. But neither option felt right. He hadn’t had a nightmare. He’d had a dream -- a dream of something that had really happened. He had died. He had died less than five months ago. He had died, and he was still alive.
Harry felt himself smile as the panic melted away. He counted his fingers and toes. He skimmed his hands along his bare chest, drew a circle around his left nipple and shivered as the sensation traveled to his cock. He followed it with his hand and stroked the length of himself with a sure grip. And after he spilled hot and sticky over his hand with a barely muffled cry, he took a deep breath in and released it slowly. He did it again, twice, three times, trying to give himself over to the peace of sleep again.
His eyes had fluttered closed finally when he heard the door to their bedroom open and swiftly shut. Harry came immediately out of bed with wand in hand. He pushed himself through the curtains and reached under the bed for his Invisibility Cloak..
Ron was still asleep, but Dean poked his head out of the curtains, worry writ large on his face.
‘I’ve got it,’ Harry said, in a low voice, before he put up the hood and disappeared from view. He didn’t have to look behind him to know that Dean would be in Ron’s bed when Harry inevitably returned to their bedroom.
He saw the flap of robes as someone disappeared down the stairs at the end of the corridor, and Harry hurried to follow after the intruder. His heart pounded in his chest, the adrenaline familiar and welcome after the sluggish peace of his orgasm. He could almost feel his magic crackling and thrumming under his skin, like a living thing, ready to do whatever he wanted it to do.
He reached the common room and sucked in a quiet breath when he saw Malfoy sitting before the half-dead fire. He watched as Malfoy stoked it, patiently and non-magically, until it was roaring merrily again.
‘Malfoy,’ another voice hissed in the darkness.
Malfoy turned, as if expecting it, and Harry quickly stepped further into the room, just as a Gryffindor seventh year Harry knew by face, if not name, came into the room as well.
The firelight shone bright against Malfoy’s pale hair, enough that it caught Harry’s attention again, as Malfoy rose up from his crouch, but only enough to get on his knees.
‘If you’re looking for forgiveness,’ the other boy -- Sloper, Jack Sloper, Harry recalled -- said, as he slithered over to the big red armchair that Harry liked to sit in and draped his legs over the arm, ‘you aren’t going to find it here.’
‘I know,’ Malfoy replied.
‘But you’re welcome, of course, to try earning it.'
Malfoy placed his hands on the ground and crawled from his place before the fire to the big red armchair that Harry always sat in, and Hermione and Ron sat in the other two, or sometimes one when they shared a seat, and it was their space. Malfoy crawled over to it, and Jack leaned forward a little, reaching out a hand and placing it atop Malfoy’s head. He threaded his fingers through the pale strands and pulled tightly, drawing a pained hiss from Malfoy.
'I'm so-sorry,' Malfoy stammered, as Jack pulled his head back further. 'I'm so sorry I failed you, my Lord.'
Harry’s blood ran cold, then immediately hot with a fury he hadn’t felt in years.
'You are so very weak--what the fuck?’
Harry had ripped the Cloak from his body, revealing himself, and thrust his wand into Jack’s throat. ‘Stay away from him,’ Harry all but growled, nearly crawling on top of him, as he crowded Jack back against the chair.
‘Potter,’ Malfoy said, but Harry barely registered it. ‘Potter, it’s all right.’
‘In what fucking universe is this all right?’ Harry asked, incredulous, even as he dug his wand more pointedly into Jack’s throat. ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’
Malfoy stepped up behind Harry and reached around to put his hand on Harry’s wand arm. ‘Potter, please, stop this. It’s...it’s okay, it’s fine, really. I, er, I asked him to, to do this for me. We agreed and he invited me...I asked him to do it.’
Harry whirled on Malfoy, shoving him backward. ‘You asked for this? You asked to fucking playact some...what, some...some,’ Harry tripped over his words. His thoughts raced in his head, he couldn’t settle on one thing. He couldn’t even comprehend what was happening, what he’d seen, what...was he dreaming still? Had he not woken up? ‘What are you even doing?’
Malfoy opened his mouth to answer and shut it again. He looked away ashamed.
Jack got up from the chair and stepped forward, hands outstretched and telegraphing his movements carefully. 'It’s nothing, Harry, really. Malfoy just...sometimes he needs--'
'--how would you know what he needs?' Harry interrupted. He furrowed his brow then, considering. Why did it always feel like he couldn't think straight when it came to Malfoy?
'I don't know, Harry,' Jack said quietly. 'He asked me to do it, and I wanted to help.'
Harry turned back to Malfoy, who still wouldn’t look at him. ‘You asked for this?’ he repeated, incredulous.
‘Sloper, get out of here,’ Malfoy then said in a low voice. ‘Please.’
The “please” caught Harry more off guard than he wanted to admit, and he watched Malfoy carefully, not even bothering to see if Jack complied with Malfoy’s request. ‘You wanted me to see this,’ Harry said, accusing. ‘You opened the door to our room because you wanted me to follow you, to see this. Why?’
Malfoy let himself fall gracelessly to the couch, eyes still very much fixed on the floor at Harry’s feet. ‘Do I have to have a reason?’ he asked, his tone strange suddenly.
‘Malfoy.’ Harry stepped closer and reached out before he even thought about it, the need to touch, the need to make contact so ingrained in him by now with his friends that it seemed natural even with an enemy. His fingers slipped beneath Malfoy’s pointy chin, tipped his face upward until Malfoy’s gaze was forced on him.
Malfoy’s lips twisted slowly into a smirk, and Harry wanted to let go of him, but he couldn’t seem to communicate that to his own hand. ‘There’s something I want from you,’ he said.
Harry’s eyes narrowed. ‘Of course there is.’
‘Oh, it’s nothing all that bad, Potter.’ Malfoy tilted his head slightly, leaning into Harry’s hand, and Harry moved with it too, cupping Malfoy’s jaw with more intent. ‘I think you might actually enjoy it,’ Malfoy added, barely above a whisper.
Harry took his hand away, let it fall to his side where it immediately clenched into a fist. ‘What do you want?’
Malfoy’s eyes followed Harry’s hand, but then he looked up again, and his expression had changed once more. ‘I want you to--’ he broke off, and when he didn’t speak for a very long moment, Harry nearly turned and left. But then, he continued, in a very small voice, ‘will you use Imperius on me?’
‘What?’ Harry took an involuntary step backward, clutching his wand hard and tightening the fist of his other hand. ‘Why would you-- why would I ever-- no, Malfoy, fuck! Why would you even want that?’
‘I want to know what it feels like.’ Malfoy looked evenly at Harry, and his voice didn’t waver, as he continued, ‘and I want you to make me feel that way.’
Harry opened his mouth to protest again. Briefly and even a little hysterically, he thought that Malfoy already knew what Imperius felt like because Barty Crouch Jr. had put them all under it in Defence class fourth year. But then, instead, Harry said, ‘You know how it feels, Malfoy. You’ve used it yourself.’
‘No, I--’ Malfoy said quickly, and rose from his lounge on the couch. He took a step forward towards Harry, even as Harry stepped back again. ‘I know how it feels to...to take--’ He cut off again and looked away.
And Harry thought that he might possibly have understood what Malfoy was trying to say. Because Harry knew, too, how it felt to have that kind of power over another person. He knew how it felt to take away another person’s will, how to bend that will to his own desires. He knew how, even though he had used it solely in service of fighting against the truly Dark forces in the world, had used it only because it was absolutely necessary, sick to his very guts it had made him feel to take away something so precious as free will.
‘You never…’ Harry trailed off.
‘No,’ Malfoy answered. ‘I...I used it, but I never...the Dark Lord, he never...not on me.’
At the mention of Voldemort, Harry flashed hot again, eyes narrowing. He stepped back to take a seat on his chair, but he stopped just short because it wasn’t his chair anymore. Malfoy’d corrupted it with whatever sick game he’d been playing, and wasn’t this all probably just some sick, twisted game he had no business getting himself tied up with playing. Harry was done with games. He was done with all the pettiness and the silliness. He had so many other things, so many bigger things that needed his attention.
‘Did you really think,’ Harry asked, ‘that I would just come down here and watch whatever the hell that was you were doing and that I’d want any part of it?’
‘You do it for everyone else!’ Malfoy thundered.
A thick, uncomfortable silence fell over the room, as Harry dropped into the chair anyway. All he could hear was the crackling of the fire and Malfoy’s heavy breathing.
‘I don’t understand?’ It came out as a question, after such a long moment, but Harry didn’t care because he wanted the answer anyway.
‘You...I see you, Potter. Everyday, I see you. You do it for everyone else in this entire fucking castle.’ Malfoy’s tone was soft again, despite the vehemence of his words, and he kept his eyes on the floor. ‘You look them in the eyes, you take them by the hands, you kiss them, you fuck them, you help them, you hold them, you…’
And Harry knew, with stunning clarity, what Malfoy meant. What Malfoy meant and what he wanted. ‘Oh,’ he breathed.
Then, Malfoy dropped to his knees, dropped his hands to the floor, and crawled the small space between them to rest, just as he had with Jack in the chair, at Harry’s feet. Harry raised his hand and looked at it for a moment, just a moment to really, really look at it. His nail-beds were a mess, and he had calluses and scars, and his hands would never, ever be beautiful, he realised. His hands would never be beautiful, but they were workable hands, serviceable hands that did so much and were capable of so much more. ‘I need you,’ Malfoy said, and Harry looked down at him.
He slid his hand into the pale strands of Malfoy’s hair. ‘I’m not going to…’ Harry trailed off, swallowed hard against the lump in his throat, and tried again. ‘I can’t do what you want me to do. Not...not yet, anyway. Because you have to...Malfoy, you have to mean it.’
Malfoy’s eyes fluttered closed as Harry gently raked his fingertips over Malfoy’s scalp. ‘But you think you could?’ he asked, more a breath than a question.
Malfoy must have felt it somehow because he sighed again and leaned into Harry’s touch as he said, ‘Thank you.’