“It’s not like you can wave a wand and Accio a boyfriend,” Draco says to Pansy.
Pansy inspects her dark blue nails lazily. “I've never had any trouble.”
“Ha bloody ha.” Draco stares at the small cup of coffee sitting in front of him. It's too cold to drink now.
“But seriously, darling, you could at least make an effort. You don't even try.”
Draco raises an elegant eyebrow at her. “What am I meant to do to attract these mythical men, then? It's not as though there's an excess of gay wizards.”
“That is no excuse for shutting yourself in Wiltshire with your chickens.”
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping chickens.”
“There is when that's all you do. Look, just go Muggle. There you'll just be a posh blond. Everyone loves those.”
“That doesn't tell me how I'm going to meet these Muggle men.”
“Go to clubs. If that's too much for you, go to a fucking coffee shop. Just,” she waves a hand vaguely, “Crawl out of your little hole.”
Draco crosses his arms. “I am not in a hole.”
Now it's Pansy's turn to raise an eyebrow. “I beg to differ. I'm sure it's a very pleasant hole, even if it's full of chickens, but it's not going to find you a boyfriend.”
“What if I don't want a boyfriend?”
“Do you even hear yourself, Draco? A moment ago you were complaining about your lack of a love life. And stop pouting.”
Draco carefully rearranges his features into an expression that is decidedly not a pout.
“Not much better,” Pansy says. “But listen. We'll go to a gay club. I'll fend off the weird ones for you, help you find an attractive Muggle to fuck, and in return you'll come to Blaise’s mother's wedding with me.”
Draco groans. Blaise’s mother, whilst undoubtedly beautiful, is possibly the dullest woman on the planet. In an attempt to avoid a degree of boredom which could possibly be fatal, Draco and Pansy have been invited by Blaise to her last four weddings.
“I still don't see why you're so intent on going.”
“Because I need to get back into society. You know I do. It's practically my hunting ground.”
“But I don't. That's why I didn't care when people stopped inviting us.”
“Come on, Draco. Do it for the sake of hot Muggles in leather trousers.”
After another ten minutes, at the end of which he is really feeling very disgruntled, he stops bouncing up and down on his toes, turns into the sharp wind and huddles his head down into his coat.
Whereupon the cliché happens. Of course it does. Whenever you walk down the street without looking, you are of course bound to go crashing into your former-arch-enemy/bane-of-one’s-life/saviour-of-oneself-and-one’s-whole-family. It’s more than a little embarrassing.
Potter doesn’t seem to realise it’s Draco at first. He stumbles backwards, goes bright red, and starts apologising.
Then he looks up, and stops.
“Malfoy?” he says in astonishment.
Draco sighs. “Indeed, Potter. Very sorry for bumping into you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I ought to be getting on.” He gives a curt nod, and attempts to stride on without having to face Potter any longer. But of course he has no such luck.
Reluctantly, he stops, and slowly turns back round. “Yes, Potter?”
He looks rather as though he doesn’t quite know what to say. “Um, nothing. Just, er, wondering what you’re doing round here.”
Draco bristles slightly. “It’s a free world, Potter. Don’t worry, I’m not intending to massacre any Muggles tonight, if that’s what worries you.” He’d even bothered to write to Potter after the war, apologising for his involvement, and thanking him for speaking at his and his mother’s trial. He’s not under any delusions that this is what saved them from Azkaban, unlike his father. It grates a little that Potter’s opinion of him still seems to be the same.
“No!” he cries, a little too vehemently. Draco arches an eyebrow. “I was just surprised, is all. I mean, it’s a Muggle street.” He shrugs. “And I never expected to see you on one of those. And especially not in Soho.”
“I was, as a matter of fact, waiting for Pansy. You may remember her, but probably without any fondness. Not that I see why it is of any interest to you.”
“Oh, are you two still together?”
Draco shoots him an even more puzzled look. “Still implies that we were in the first place.”
“Oh. Sorry. I just thought, at Hogwarts…” Potter trails off awkwardly.
“No, Potter. Merlin, no. As you so astutely point out, this is Soho. The fact that I choose to be here may afford some clue as to why.”
Potter goes bright red, which pleases Draco inordinately. “Oh. Right.”
“Well, pleasant as this… chat has been, I assume you have places to be, and I am, quite frankly, bloody freezing. Very pleasant to see you again.” He tries to keep as much sarcasm as possible out of his voice.
“Of course,” Potter says, going even redder still. “It was nice to see you too, Malfoy.” And he turns sharply on his heel and walks briskly away.
“Hello, Pans. Would you like some tea?”
Pansy sighs, and comes to sit in the chair opposite Draco.
“And before you start yelling,” Draco adds, “I waited outside that club for a good fifteen minutes, but since you didn’t turn up I thought I might as well leave.”
“You mean you didn’t even go in? I thought at least you might have gone and had a drink before you decided to go and sit at home drinking Lapsang.”
“I’ll have you know this is Oolong. And a rather good one too, actually.”
“For fuck’s sake, Draco, I really am trying to help you. And you don’t even go and have the most remote kind of interesting encounter.”
“Well, I did have a sort of encounter. I bumped into a dear old school friend of ours.”
Pansy sits up a little in her seat in curiosity. “Indeed? Who would that be, outside a Muggle gay club?”
“None other than our most noble Saviour.”
Pansy gapes for a moment, and then starts laughing. “I shouldn’t be surprised. He always looked faintly terrified of the Weasley girl when they were meant to be together. What did he say to you?”
Draco frowns a little. “Not much. It was a little surreal, though - he seemed to want to have some kind of conversation.”
Pansy just laughs harder. “Oh well, at least it wasn’t an entirely wasted evening.”
“You do realise I’m not going to that wedding with you, don’t you?”
She stands up, and smirks. “Yes, you are, darling. And you know you will.”
He glares at her as she saunters back over to the fireplace. “No, I won’t. Don’t think you can manipulate me.”
The last thing he sees as she disappears in the flames is her smile that verges on shark-like.
The reception is as lavish as one would expect it to be for the wedding of a prominent socialite to a wealthy American. The American in question is vulgar in the extreme, the type of man who wears loud checked suits and can be appallingly bigoted and then say, ‘Of course, some of my best friends are Muggle-born’. Blaise gives him eight months. Pansy is, of course, in her element, and doesn’t seem to need Draco, so he stands on the edges of groups, sips champagne, and waits until it will not be too impolite to leave. He follows Pansy’s progress around the reception with half an eye. She can charm when she wants to, he knows, and he wonders just how many invitations to events she will have finagled by the end, when his eyes come to rest on a figure who it shouldn’t be surprising to see here, but he nonetheless hadn’t expected. He excuses himself from the small group he is standing with, and makes his way over to where he can see Blaise attempting to sort out the evening’s musicians.
“Blaise,” he asks wearily, “How in the world did you get Harry Potter to come to this?”
He turns away from the recalcitrant pianist he is talking to, and shoots Draco a grin.
“One must do all one can to mend the wounds of war.”
“That’s not an answer, and you know it,” Draco protests. “I don’t think you exchanged so much as two words with him throughout Hogwarts.”
Blaise shrugs elegantly. "He and his friends are the new political force. And therefore also in society." He waved a hand vaguely. "You know what mother’s like about society."
Draco sighed. Lycaste took a love of high society to the point of obsession. "That doesn’t explain how you got him to come."
"It’s really quite simple. What you do is send someone an invitation."
"You know, I really hate it when you get snarky."
Blaise smirks. "Of course you do. Snarky is your job."
Draco rolls his eyes, and turns away. If Potter’s here, that’s a decent excuse for needing more champagne. He’s just finished his fourth glass of the day when, of course, Potter decides to approach him.
Merlin knows why.
Potter seems to look marginally less scruffy than usual, though his hair still seems to be completely untouched. He doesn’t even seem to have made an effort with it.
"Hello, Malfoy," he says calmly.
Draco nods stiffly. This conversation is not going to last a moment longer than is absolutely necessary. Without, of course, being so undignified as to be rude.
"Good reception, isn’t it?"
"I suppose. They’re all much the same though, when you think about it."
"Wedding receptions. Enough champagne, the right kind of music, a," - Draco gestures around him - "Marquee thing, or whatever it is."
Potter looks amused. "Maybe. But it’s a nice change from the last one I went to. That was slightly spoilt by the arrival of some Death Eaters."
Draco freezes. He supposes it shouldn’t be surprising that Potter would make some kind of jab like that. Though this seems an unusually snide way to do it. Quite unlike Potter’s Gryffindor style. "I think I have apologised to you before for my involvement in the war," he eventually says, "But I shall do so again if you feel it is necessary."
The smile slides off Potter’s face. "What?" he says. "That isn’t what I meant. It was a joke."
Looking back at Potter, his expression seems surprisingly intent and genuine to Draco. “Oh,” he says quietly. “I'm sorry, Potter. Look, I should probably go, anyway.”
His face falls a little. “No, I'm sorry. Look, I am genuinely trying to get on well with you now. So at least, please, come and get a drink with me.”
“Why would you want me to have a drink with you, Potter?” Draco asks frostily.
Potter looks a little baffled. “I said, because I'm trying to get on well with you. I thought I’d use this chance to come and at least say hello to you. Anyway, please don't call me Potter. It makes me feel twelve again.”
Draco stifles a small laugh. “All right then, Harry,” he replies, letting just a little bite of sarcasm creep into his tone.
Potter - Harry - beams at him nonetheless. “A drink then? They have all these strange colours of liqueur. I don’t know whether to be curious or faintly terrified by them.”
Draco doesn’t really know how to deal with this strangely friendly version of his school rival, and he looks sceptically at him, but Harry’s nervous enthusiasm refuses to be quelled. In the end, Draco just shrugs, and follows Harry towards the bar section of the marquee.
Potter, who has proved to be a surprisingly good conversationalist, and who inexplicably shows no signs of caring about Draco’s past.
And who has been plying him with multi-coloured drinks for the past several hours. Yes, that’s definitely why he’s still here, he decides. Alcohol has inhibited his faculties somewhat, and he has not been thinking rationally about what to do. That must also why Potter’s company has become so oddly appealing.
“I’ve never tried a blue one,” Harry says, a speculative look coming over his face. “Also, do you know what happens when you mix them together?”
Draco frowns slightly, “They taste even worse?” he suggests.
Harry giggles. “No, I mean the colours. Do they mix like, you know, paint or something, or go all weird and icky. And anyway, they don’t taste that bad. I quite like the sort of fruity ones.”
“The Sambuca is possible the worst thing I’ve ever tasted.”
“Oh. I thought it wasn’t bad. Do you not like aniseed?”
Draco shudders slightly. “Not in alcohol.”
Harry shrugs, and turns back to the bartender. “Can I have one of those red ones, and one of the weird blue ones, please?”
The bartender gives him a strange look, but complies, and Harry carefully picks up one of the shot glasses, and begins to pour it into his larger glass with the utmost concentration. Draco moves his stool closer to Harry, and picks up the other glass. Together, they pour in the two, and Harry puts his head on one side in consideration, before dipping it into the glass to stir it.
The stare at the result in silence.
“It’s a bit disappointing, isn’t it?” Draco says at last
The mixture is only a slightly paler shade of blue. Harry sighs. “It is rather. Bit... anticlimactic.”
Draco sits back in his chair and looks at Harry. “How drunk are you now?” he asks curiously.
Harry shrugs. “Not very. Why?”
“I was wondering whether you were drunk enough yet to tell me the truth about why you’re trying to talk to me.”
Harry frowns. “I’ve already told you.”
“What, that you want to be nice and get on well? Oh yes, let’s all be friends, and make the world a bright and wonderful place.” Draco turns his face back to the bar, refusing to look at Harry.
“No, seriously.” His face seems suddenly tired. “Look, I know we’ve never been friends-”
Draco cuts him off. “That’s an understatement of truly gargantuan proportions, Potter.”
“I know,” Harry replies dryly, “But that doesn’t mean I am obliged to dislike you forever more.”
Draco turns back to him. “And so you’re just going to befriend the little Death Eater? In order to do what, precisely? Redeem him? Because I hope I needn’t point out how fucking patronising that is.”
“I’m not trying to save you, for fuck’s sake. God knows I’ve had enough of saving people.”
“Then what are you trying to do?”
“Is it so hard to believe that I might just want to try to be friend?”
Harry is silent for a moment, his eyes fixed on Draco. “I think there’s more to you than what you were forced to do during the war. I just feel like maybe I shouldn’t have treated you the way I did all through Hogwarts.”
“Well, you can’t take all the blame for that. I wasn’t exactly a paragon of virtue. And anyway, why are you so keen to believe I’m not the evil git you’ve believed I was for the last seven years?”
“Because I saw you lower your wand. You couldn’t kill Dumbledore, and you wouldn’t tell them it was me when we got caught at the Manor.”
Draco feels himself tense up immediately at the memory of that night. “How do you know about Dumbledore,” he says, his voice almost a whisper, but he will not let it shake.
“I was there,” Harry said simply. “Dumbledore put me under Petrificus Totalus so I couldn’t interfere.”
“Oh.” Draco finds that, for once, he has no response to make. “All those things prove is that I’m a fucking coward.”
“There is nothing wrong with being afraid to do what is wrong.”
“Wrong. Wrong. You and your idealised notions of good and evil.”
“I think my perspective’s changed a bit. It’s hard to live with yourself when you’ve been thinking that the black and white of right and wrong, good and evil, are defined by whether you cast an Unforgivable or not, and then you cast one yourself. There are only greys now.”
“Potter, I hope you know that that is a both clichéd and horrendous metaphor,” Draco says, attempting to relax a little.
Harry grins, timidly yet unrepentantly. “No Potter, please? And yes, I know, but it’s still true. Unfortunately nobody else seems to see it much. Which is why I want to give you another chance. Because no-one else will.”
“I don’t need your pity, Harry,” Draco says softly.
“It’s not pity,” he insists. “So look. Why don’t we start again? Forget about all those years of aggression, and try to get on well.” He holds out a hand, and gives a broad smile that cannot quite hide his nervousness. As if he thinks that Draco could find some way of rejecting this stupid man, this man who is the only reason he is free today. “I’m Harry,” he finishes.
Draco stares at him. The seconds stretch out. “I’m not sure we can forget about those years,” he says, and his heart thuds as Harry’s face seems to fall. “But we can move on from them, at least.” He reaches out and shakes Harry’s hand. “And this is far too serious a conversation to be having when one has had as much champagne as I have.”
Harry holds onto his hand for just a little too long. “Yes, it probably is. And I should really be getting home. So how about we meet for drinks sometime next week?”
Draco finds himself smiling. “I’d like that,” he says. “Maybe the Leaky has more of the multi-coloured drinks.”
“What do you with all your time?” Harry asks him one evening.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you don’t work or anything. Do you just sit around all day?”
“When you put it like that it sounds so ineffectual,” Draco grumbles. “But I suppose, at a basic level, that is what it seems like.”
“Don’t you get bored?”
“I have plenty of things to occupy me. I read. I do Potions research for my own amusement. I look after the chickens.”
“Chickens?” says Harry incredulously, but Draco shakes his head.
“Never mind about the chickens.”
He gives Draco a very dubious look, but Harry leaves it. “What sort of Potions research?” he asks instead.
“I’m trying to develop a range of calming, sleeping, and pain relief Potions that can be used in conjunction and for a long time with minimal side effects.” He sighs. “Too many people came out of the war with problems that went beyond physical wounds, you know. My mother included.”
Harry’s mouth falls open a bit. “That’s… that’s incredible, Draco. I know a lot of people are still having panic attacks, or being unable to sleep.” His face is grave, and utterly intent. “But your mother? Is she ok? She saved my life, you know,” he adds.
“I do know,” says Draco. “That’s why you testified for us at the trials. But she’s mostly all right. She has chronic sleeping problems, though, and you can’t take most Sleeping Potions for very long, or they become addictive.”
“Do you think I could possibly come and visit her sometime?” Harry says tentatively.
“Of course,” Draco replies. “She’s living in the old Dower House in the Manor grounds at the moment. She says she can’t stand to be in the Manor any more. Not after…” he trails off, but Harry just nods. “You could come for tea sometime.”
“I’d like that.” He smiles. “So are you living on your own in the Manor? Isn’t it a bit lonely?”
Draco shrugs. “A bit. But I don’t mind. And the house elves keep me company.”
“And the chickens?” Harry suggests, and dodges Draco’s kick under the table.
As they make their way along the path leading round the side of the Manor, Harry starts to look around with actual interest. He asks Draco about the gardens, enquiring about the age of the trees lining the avenue and the upkeep of the lawns behind them. Draco is in the middle of an involved explanation of the importance of soil acidity regulation, when a harassed-looking white peacock suddenly darts rapidly out from the line of trees and across the path. It stops, and glares at the two men with one beady pink eye, before starting to edge towards Harry.
Draco sighs. “I advise you not to go near it. While my father was inordinately fond of these birds, he did not exactly train them to be good with people.”
Harry grins. “Come on, Draco, it’s just a peacock.” He crouches down to look more closely at the bird, who is now only a few feet away from him. “He’s rather handsome, isn’t he?”
“Indeed. Until he pecks you.”
The bird continues to approach Harry, and Draco is sure he is going to be in a really rather bad situation imminently, when a squawk sounds from the tree-line. Harry stands up rapidly, and he and Draco watch a small white hen race across the path towards the peacock, who immediately starts to hurry away. The two birds rush through the trees on the other side of the avenue, and are soon lost in the bushes.
“Er, Draco?” Harry says quietly. “What the hell was that?”
“That was none other than Aunt Elizabeth.”
Harry raises a sceptical eyebrow. “Aunt Elizabeth?”
“Yes. The hen.”
“All right, I’ve given up asking about the chickens at this point, but why is she called Aunt Elizabeth, and how is she managing to chase peacocks?”
“She is called Aunt Elizabeth because she bears an unfortunate resemblance, both in temperament, and also something curious about the shape of the head, to an aunt of Pansy’s.”
“I shudder to think,” Harry says.
“She is somewhat horrifying, yes. And that personality provides the answer to your other question, in fact.”
“She chases chickens because Pansy's aunt chases chickens?”
Draco pokes Harry's shoulder gently. “Stop being deliberately obtuse. She shares the same pathological need to control everything around her.”
“And this frustration is taken out on the peacocks? I must say I rather pity them.”
“I wouldn't. They're arrogant bastards. Plus I am inclined to believe that they are the most useless creatures ever to exist.”
“About as useful as a marzipan dildo.”
Draco chokes slightly, and Harry pats him lightly on the back with a grin. “A marzipan dildo? Where on earth did that one come from?”
He shrugs. “I heard Hermione say it once. I think she got it from some Muggle programme.”
Draco takes a moment to consider the image of straight-laced Hermione Granger, seemingly an advertisement for everything prim and proper, ever uttering the word dildo. It doesn't quite seem to fit, and especially not in conjunction with something as… creative as marzipan. He turns to Harry with an inquisitive glance, but merely gets a raised eyebrow in return. Perhaps there is more to Granger than meets the eye.
“I said I wouldn’t ask any more, but I find myself unable to resist,” Harry says. “Why do you have a chicken?”
“I have many chickens, I’ll have you know,” Draco replies with mock severity. “I wouldn’t leave Aunt Elizabeth on her own.”
“I do beg your pardon. And is there any particular reason for your keeping these multiple chickens?”
Draco lifts his chin slightly. “They are an investment.”
Harry frowns. “In what way?”
“They lay eggs, which I can sell.”
“And do you?”
“They haven’t really got into the swing of the laying part as such.”
“And so therefore they are an investment in precisely what way?” There is a hint of a smirk growing on Harry’s face.
“Look, it wasn’t my idea!” Draco says, somewhat indignantly. “It was Greg’s. He needed a place to keep the chickens, and I have all this space.”
“And what do you get in return for your generous offer of all this space?”
“A share of the profits. When there start being some,” Draco adds. “Anyway, I find I’ve become rather fond of them.”
“I’m sure you have,” Harry says with a laugh.
“Shut up. Now come on, Mother hates people being late.”
“Is she always like that now?” Harry says at last.
“Pretty much. She just seems so tired. I don’t really understand it, to be honest. All through the war, and through the trials even, she was so strong, so alive. And now she is always so listless. Maybe it’s because my Father’s not here.”
“Maybe she kept going because she had to fight. And now there’s nothing left to fight for.”
“Maybe,” Draco agrees. “I keep hoping that finding a Potion that will help her more will solve it, but every time I see her I fear more that it won’t be enough.”
Harry hesitates. “Do you think I could see what you’ve been doing with the Potions?”
“Of course,” Draco says. “Come up to the Manor and I’ll show you. I can probably dig out a drink of some kind.”
“Will it be a strange colour?”
Draco smiles. “I make no promises.”
Harry seems uneasy as Draco leads him down into what used to be the dungeons. He has turned one of the larger rooms into a full Potions laboratory, because unpleasant as underground occasionally may be, it is a more stable atmosphere for volatile Potions. Fewer unwanted draughts, less change in air temperature.
He leafs through his notes, showing Harry the progress he’s made, and the ways he’s found to modify ingredient proportions without affecting the end effect. Harry seems fairly impressed, and grows more and more animated as Draco continues.
“Why don’t you do something with these, Draco?” he says excitedly. “Talk to St Mungo’s, maybe. I’m sure they’d be glad to help, and I expect they’d find the Potions very helpful when you’ve finished with them.”
Draco shrugs. “I suppose. Though I don’t think they’d want to help me. Not everyone thinks so well of me as you do.”
Harry’s face gains the strangest expression. “That doesn’t mean they’ll refuse to see how good this stuff is.”
“You can’t know they won’t.” Draco doesn’t think he can face another rejection, another automatic dismissal or sneer, of the kind that he gets every time he so much as enters a shop. But Harry doesn’t know about this, and Draco wouldn’t tell him, even though Harry looks as though he might start berating Draco for his lack of self-confidence at any moment. And then Draco suddenly wonders since when had this man’s approval meant so much to him - to the point that he can’t bring himself to tell him to exactly what extent the other people seem to look down on him. This strange.... friendship, of sorts, has moved so fast, so much more rapidly than Draco knows how to deal with, and he finds himself unable to meet Harry’s eyes any more.
He turns away, and starts returning his notes to their neat little folders in silence.
“Draco…” Harry starts, but Draco refuses to look back at him.
“Don’t,” he says quietly.
He can hear Harry’s exasperated, tired sigh, and his own breath catches in his throat. He means too much to Draco now, and somehow he hasn’t ever realised. Fuck, he thinks, and allows himself a moment to breath deeply and try to clear his head, before he turns back to Harry and smiles as brightly as he can. “How about a drink? Or maybe more tea?”
Harry looks faintly surprised by the sudden change of subject, but smiles awkwardly. “Much as I hate to say it, tea sounds like a good idea,” he replies.
They end up sitting side by side on the sofa in the blue drawing room, sipping tea slowly, as the conversation moves slowly, becoming more and more stilted. Eventually Harry puts his cup down on the floor, and sighs. He looks at Draco, who has finished his tea, but is still cradling his cup in both hands, and there’s something in his eyes that Draco can’t understand.
“Look, Draco,” he says slowly. “I don’t know what it is, but I obviously said-”
“No, I’m sorry,” Draco interrupts, relieved to finally have a way of maybe dealing with this. “You were trying to help, and it seemed like I was just dismissing you.”
Harry’s expression lifts a little, and he gives a small smile. “I should have left it. It’s none of my business. But… I do want you to know, I said it because I do actually care about you.” His voice catches, just a little, and Draco meets his eyes and thinks he might just know what that unreachable thing in Harry’s eyes might be.
Because now he’s leaning in, just a little, and Draco does too, and their lips brush each other, just lightly, then again. The position’s awkward, with them sitting like this, but Draco can’t bring himself to care because Harry’s eyes have shut, and his mouth is coming open, his hands are coming up to lie on Draco’s waist, and it is all the things he has never allowed himself to even dare to consider.
Harry brings one hand up to rest on Draco’s neck, and before he knows it, he has dropped his teacup to wrap his own arms round Harry. The cup falls from his lap to the carpeted floor as Harry gently pulls Draco towards him and down, so his legs come up until he is lying flat against Harry. And then, oh, the friction, the press of another body, the warmth even through layers of clothing, is wonderful. Draco pulls back slightly and shakily whispers, “Bedroom?”
Harry nods, and Draco climbs off him awkwardly. He leads him upstairs, to his room, and opens the door quietly. They both stand there in silence for a moment, until Harry quickly pushes the door shut, and pulls Draco into another kiss, this time more frantic, more searching, full of tongues tracing mouths and hands running through hair. Draco drags him towards the large bed, and they collapse onto it. Fingers are grasping at clothes now, and Harry’s hands shake just a little as he unbuttons Draco’s shirt, running blunt fingers down over his nipples and making him shiver. Soon enough the clothes are gone, and once again everything is a haze of heavy breathing and faint moans, as hands are placed there, and there, and please God there. Before Draco knows it, it’s over, and they lie there tangled together and slightly sticky. Eventually Draco gives a long sigh, and turns to look at Harry, who smiles lazily back.
“Do you want something to eat?” he asks, and Harry’s face breaks into a proper grin.
“Sure. It’s later than I realised,” he adds, looking out of the window at the darkened sky. Draco gives a hum of agreement as he casts a quick Cleaning Charm over them both, and starts to pull his clothes back on.
In the kitchen, Draco manages to find some bread and soup that his mother had given him solicitously the day before. They sit down at the long wooden table to eat, and Harry appears to do so contentedly for some while, until he says: “You know, I expected you to still have house elves.”
Draco gives an awkward laugh. “No, not any more. The Ministry confiscated them all after the trials, anyway. I think they’re at Hogwarts.”
Harry’s expression flickers a little, and he sighs. “You always seem so bitter when you refer to those trials.”
Draco lifts an eyebrow. “I’m not sure I can help it. They only acquitted me and Mother because of your testimony, not because they thought any better of us.”
“Are you so convinced of the hatred of the world that you can’t see anything except it?”
“Of course not,” Draco replies angrily. “Don’t be absurd. But I do see what you don’t, which is that most people still think of me as an evil little shit.” He shrugs. “Maybe they should, but it doesn’t make it any easier to bear.”
Harry’s face contorts. “You know what your real problem is? You can’t believe that you are anything but that person, you refuse to believe in your own potential. It’s pure cowardice, Draco.”
Draco grips his water glass tightly. “You think so, Potter? You try being sneered at, and snubbed, and sometimes insulted every time you try to so much as buy a new pair shoes.”
“Poor little Draco,” Harry sneers. “Have a little confidence. Because you know what you’re doing to yourself? You’re refusing to let other people see you differently, and you because you still see yourself as that slimy little Death Eater, you’re staying that way. I thought you were changing, but all I see are backwards steps.” He throws up his hands. “You won’t even take your Potions ideas, things that you’ve done that are actually good, to St Mungo’s. You say you want to change, to be redeemed, but you won’t even give yourself a chance.”
Looking at him, Draco sees a furious intensity in his eyes, and can find no words to respond to it. Harry’s voice drops to almost a hiss. “And you know what that makes you? A coward, who is every bit as bad as people think you are. So grow some fucking balls, Draco, and actually do something for once.”
Draco finds himself shaking a little as he pushes his chair out and stands up. “I think we’re done here,” he says icily. “Would you like me to show you to the Floo in the main hall.”
Harry stands too, and just stares at Draco, as though he can’t believe what he’s hearing. Then something in his eyes shifts, and he turns away quickly. “I’ll find my own way,” he says.
The door bangs shut behind him, and Draco sits and stares at the blank wall.
Draco makes his way back to his armchair, and collapses into it with his letter.
Draco, (it reads)
I have no idea what to say now, except that I’m incredibly sorry for what I said yesterday, though I know that’s not good enough. Would you come to the Leaky Cauldron at six tonight? I feel I should apologise properly in person.
It feels stilted and awkward, and Draco can’t help a bitter little smile floating over his face. He sort of knew, somewhere, that Harry didn’t mean everything he had said in that rant, or at least not to the high degree that he had expressed it. And he had hoped that that feeling was not just his vain wishes.
With a sigh, he hauls himself to his feet, and goes out to feed the chickens.
When Harry finally looks up, and his eyes meet Draco’s, neither of them can find anything to say for a moment. The intensity of that gaze, the silence, the tension, mean it’s all Draco can do to pull out the empty chair and sit when Harry finally speaks.
“I thought you might not come.” He glances back down at his drink, and his fingernails begin to tap again.
“I do admit I considered it,” Draco replies, making a vain attempt to keep his tone light.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Index, middle, ring, little finger. “I… I have no idea what to say,” Harry says frankly. “Except I’m sorry. A hundred times.”
Draco folds his own hands on top of the table. “I know. I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t.” He feels Harry’s gaze on him again, but keeps his own on the table.
“I know an explanation doesn’t really cut it, but I’d like to try,” Harry continues.
And Draco doesn’t know if he wants to shout at him that it wouldn’t make a difference, or tell him that he doesn’t need to give one because it’s already forgiven, but his throat is dry, and he can’t say anything. As he tries to summon the words, he feels Harry place one warm hand over his own two, clasped and twisted together. His eyes shoot up, and all he can do is nod.
Harry sighs. “I don’t really know how to describe it. I think,” he pauses, “I think under it all, I was just afraid. I was afraid that I had gone in too deep, and I was afraid that you weren’t what I wanted you to be. Which is unbearably selfish, but I can’t think what else to say. I think I panicked, because you… you suddenly meant so much, and I didn’t know how to deal with that. And I didn’t know how to fit it into my view of how the world should be.” He laughs dryly. “And now I’m talking in clichés. I shouldn’t have said those things. I can hardly believe I let them pass my lips. But they did, and now all I can offer you are clichés and meaningless platitudes.”
Draco searches for the right words. “They aren’t meaningless when you mean them. And I know you do.” He smiles, and though it feels forced, he can’t do more.
“The worst thing is,” Harry says, “Is that on some level I do think those things. And I’m sorry for that, too. I shouldn’t try to tell you what you should do, especially when I can see it’s obviously hard for you.”
Draco shrugs. “I’m probably still too vain. I don’t like people disliking me.”
“No,” Harry says with a frown. “It’s hard for everyone. And I don’t think you’re vain. I don’t think you’re any of the things I said last night, and I really am s-”
“It’s all right. You can stop apologising,” Draco cuts him off. “And now…” he tails off. “Now, all I can suggest is that we go on. More like the way things were going before.”
The grin on Harry’s face spreads slowly, hesitantly, but it is radiant. “How has Aunt Elizabeth been?” he asks tentatively.
“Much the same as usual. She seems to be winning in her territory fight with the peacocks.”
“I would expect no less of her.”
Draco pauses. “Would you care to come and visit her?”
“Now?” says Harry, tentatively. His eyes look hopeful again.
Draco smiles slightly. “If you like.”
“Well, I suppose it depends on whether you have coloured liqueurs. The drinks here,” he taps his glass, “Are a little disappointing. Not very colourful.”
“I may just happen to have a few lurking in a cupboard.”
Harry smiles softly at him again, and stands up. “Shall we?” he says.
Draco can’t help himself smiling back. “All right.”
And suddenly, the world looks like it might be all right after all.