Harry couldn't remember why he thought it was a good idea to drive across the country with Draco. The tension in the car was palpable as Draco glared out the window. It didn't matter that they were surrounded for miles by fields- Draco wouldn't look at him.
They had been driving for hours, and his silence made Harry's stomach churn the way it used to before big swim meets. Nervous, like no matter how hard he swam, he would end up drowning, the final lap just fingertips out of reach. He hated that feeling.
Draco remained silent even as Harry suddenly pulled the car over.
"Seriously?" Harry asked. He hadn't thought out what he wanted to say to him just yet, and instead said the first thing that came to mind. At this, Draco turned his head to stare at him.
“Seriously what, Potter?” he asked, a bored expression on his face. Harry knew that look; it was the way Draco looked all four years of high school when they were the star swimmers for rival districts. Draco exuded arrogance with his lofty chin, glazed eyes, and slight frown as they emerged from the locker rooms. It was the same look he wore when they ran into each other in college.
“I heard you were coming here,” Draco had said idly.
“We’re swimming for the same team now, Malfoy. You can stop being a dick,” Harry had retorted. Draco had stared at him for a moment before laughing. Harry remembered how it sounded different; it wasn’t the laugh that he heard when Draco made mean comments about him in high school. And as Draco shrugged and extended his hand, Harry realized that his laughter sounded friendly.
Harry learned during those first few months of college that Draco wore his cold exterior when he interacted with new people. He used it when he was around their coach or when he was about to give a presentation in class: when he had something to prove, Draco’s warmth left his face, though Harry knew what laid beneath the surface.
The car shook as an eighteen-wheeler drove past them, breaking Harry’s reverie. Draco’s expression was so different from the night before, when his face was a lopsided grin and his breath smelled of beer and barbecue. His face was sweaty, as he had heartily danced to bad country music. When Harry and Draco stumbled into their hotel room, Draco had hugged him, his lips brushing against his neck. Harry still felt warm when he thought of the feel of Draco’s fingertips on his back, how it had felt to wake up next to him, to hear him whisper in his ear, “I’m glad I’m here with you.”
"You're gonna give me the silent treatment all day?" Harry asked, craving just a glimpse of Draco’s smile again.
Draco rolled his eyes. "I'm tired. I've been stuck with you for four days; forgive me for not wanting to be in your company right now."
"That's not what you said last night," Harry shot back. His heart was racing, and he knew the reasons, though he dared not acknowledge them.
"I was trashed last night. So were you," Draco mumbled, looking out the window again.
The knot in Harry's stomach twisted tighter, and he felt his chest ache the way it did when he was underwater and almost out of air. He just wanted to breach the surface, and--
"You're a fucking liar," he blurted out.
Draco's brows creased, and Harry could tell he was clenching his teeth. Suddenly, the car felt too small, and he felt scared of Draco, but it felt like the kind of scared when he was on his last lap and he thought that maybe he was in the lead.
Am I close? , he thought.
But then Draco only ran his hand through his hair, pulling at it in frustration.
"Just drive, Potter. I'm tired of looking at cornfields," he said, crossing his arms.
Harry turned the car on again in resignation, and they drove. And as they crossed the state line into Nebraska, Draco held up a bag of chips.
"You want some?" he asked. His tone was lazy, but Harry saw it for what it was.
Smiling, he held out his hand.
The Rocky Mountains looked formidable in the distance, the flat plains providing a clear view of what was to come. Draco sat behind the wheel, slumped lazily in his seat. The sun’s rays reflected off Draco’s watch into Harry’s eyes.
“Can you take that thing off?” Harry asked, covering his eyes with his hands.
“This thing is the vintage Rolex my father gave me at graduation. It’s worth more than this car, so it stays on my wrist,” Draco explained. He took off his sunglasses and tossed them to Harry.
“Ralph Lauren?” Harry said incredulously as he examined them. “Don’t you own anything cheap?”
“My flip-flops are Walmart exclusives,” Draco quipped, his hair falling over his forehead as he bopped his head to the song on the radio. Harry liked seeing this more relaxed version of Draco, though his rumpled t-shirt was probably still brand-name.
When he was 17, Harry would never have thought that he would be content to sit in a car for days on end with Draco Malfoy. Throughout high school, their every interaction was marred by anger, sprung from mutual enmity. Their friction was so sharp that it would occasionally spark into full-fledged fires. Words would pass between them on their way out of meets. Once or twice, these words turned to fists, and their coaches would have to pull them apart. It didn’t help that Draco came from a rich town, while Harry’s town was markedly poorer. Draco’s constant digs at the impoverished state of Harry’s school made his blood boil with indignation. Luckily, it fueled his desire to beat him in every meet. And when they went to the same college- Harry on generous scholarships and loans, Draco on his parents’ dime- Draco still struggled to swim faster than Harry.
Their college was far from home, and since underclassmen were not allowed to bring cars, they were stuck on campus together. Harry quickly realized that although Draco seemed popular, he struggled to make new friends, while Harry got along with others easily. Harry saw how the people in his dorm viewed Draco: aloof and awkward in his tendency to boast and show off. Perhaps Draco grew up thinking that people would like you better if you bragged, but nobody at college cared if Draco’s family was well-connected. Instead, they were impressed with Harry’s ability to make grilled cheese using aluminum foil and an iron. Draco was out of his element, though he’d never admit it.
Despite their differences, Harry realized by the end of their first month of school that he was fond of Draco. He had gotten used to meeting him at the elevators before they walked together to the dining hall for breakfast. Draco always waited for him to eat dinner, and they often sat in the library together to do homework. They had spent many nights stumbling to their dorms, drunk and giggling, before Draco ordered pizza for both of them. Draco never seemed to have hangovers, but he was always there with a trashcan and potato chips for Harry the next day.
This was not to say that their bitterness had dissipated completely. Draco’s passive aggressive words still stung Harry from time to time. When Harry did better than him during practice, or when he overheard Harry trying to include him in social plans, Draco’s eyes narrowed, his hard walls rising yet again.
“I don’t need you to protect me,” Draco had ranted at Harry once.
“I’m not-” Harry protested.
“I’m perfectly fine being alone. I don’t need your pity.”
Harry wanted to laugh. He had never felt bad for Draco, the boy who had everything.
“I invite you because I like you, you asshole. You’re my friend.”
As Harry spoke, Draco’s clenched jaw relaxed, and his eyes gazed at Harry in confusion. A beat later, Draco smirked.
“Do you always call your friends ‘asshole’?” he pondered.
“It’s a term of affection, ” Harry said cheerfully as he opened his textbooks. “So, are you going to help me study for this exam or what?”
By the end of their first year of college, they were inseparable. Harry wondered if their friendship was just the result of being stuck in a new place together. As he packed his bags to return to their hometown, guilt stirred in his stomach. His childhood best friend, Ron Weasley, hated Draco and his family with a passion. Generations of bad blood had dug trenches between them. Ron and Draco’s great-grandfathers had been business partners until Malfoy locked Weasley out of an investment. Ron’s family was left struggling to recoup their losses, while the Malfoys’ wealth grew.
Harry had told Ron that he was friends with Draco over the phone.
“If you wanna be friends with him, I’m not gonna stop you. And you’re probably right- it’s not like Draco’s the one who ripped my great-grandfather off and stole his money. Just don’t expect me to want to hang out with him, just because you love Malfoy so much now,” Ron had said, his voice distant over the telephone.
Although Ron had given Harry his blessing, Harry still tried to keep Draco from showing up to his 19th birthday party. Harry had imagined Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s face as Draco walked through the door, and he couldn’t bear to put them through any more trouble. Since he and Ron became friends, they had been like his surrogate parents. His aunt and uncle had never once given him birthday or Christmas presents, but Ron’s parents treated him like their own. They were the ones who drove him to and from practice, who cheered him on at every meet. Mrs. Weasley cried when she helped him visit colleges, and Ron’s whole family helped Harry move into his dorm. He feared that he would be disowned from the only family he had ever truly known, and the image of having to spend holidays with his aunt and uncle was forefront in his mind as he did his best to convince Draco that his birthday was not worth celebrating.
“I don’t understand. Why can’t we hang out on your birthday?” Draco had asked. They were trudging up the sand back to Draco’s car, their surfboards tucked under their arms.
“It’s nothing big. I’m just hanging out with Ron ,” Harry said.
“So, let’s hang out after. I was going to plan something.”
“I can’t… it’s kind of an all-night thing,” Harry mumbled, his voice wavering just enough to let Draco know that he was hiding something.
“You can say that I’m not invited. It’s fine,” Draco said, his face turned away.
“Look, it’s not that I don’t want you there. It’s only my birthday, it’s not a big deal.”
Draco strapped their surfboards onto the roof of his Range Rover before looking at Harry.
“It is to me,” he said.
Harry had wanted to ask him “Why?” He wanted to ask him why he planned something, why they were friends in the first place. Harry watched as Draco climbed into the driver’s seat and turned over the ignition. The sudden noise from the radio startled Harry, and he realized that he had been staring at Draco.
Draco’s jaw was clenched as he gripped the steering wheel. When he turned to look at Harry, his eyes looked like they always had before they went to college: intimidatingly cold.
“Don’t you have work soon? We should get going,” Draco said, his voice quieter than Harry had anticipated. Harry thought it sounded sad. They sat in silence as the radio blared, and he wanted to smile as he saw how hard Draco was trying to pretend like he didn’t care. Feeling a surge of affection for his friend, Harry made his decision as Draco approached his aunt and uncle’s house.
“You should come tomorrow night. It’s at Ron’s, I’ll text you the address.”
“Don’t worry, Potter, we’ll party some other-”
“I’ll talk to them, it’s my birthday so I can invite-”
“I don’t think I want to hang out with Weasleys.”
“I want you to be there.”
Harry’s voice was resolute, and at this, Draco looked at him.
“Okay. Fine,” Draco sighed, a small smile playing at his lips. He rolled his eyes as if he hadn’t been the one who was insistent on being there for Harry’s birthday.
“Good. You can meet Ginny,” Harry smiled, opening the passenger door.
“Who’s Ginny?” Draco asked.
Harry didn’t know how he had ended up with Ron’s sister, Ginny, but as the summer after their first year of college progressed, he had found himself spending more and more time with her. Going running through the park together, nights alone in the Weasleys’ kitchen. They kissed for the first time on a warm evening in May, Ginny’s white dress stark against her freckled shoulders. Harry knew he liked her as a person, and the fact that she liked him too made it feel easy. Ron didn’t seem too disturbed by it. Being with Ginny felt like putting on sweatpants: Comfortable.
And, Harry admitted after two months together: Routine.
Harry didn’t know why he wanted Draco to meet Ginny so badly. He liked to imagine what Draco’s face would look like when he saw Ginny holding his hand. He wanted to know what Draco would say when he saw him kiss her. He wanted Draco to say, “Good for you.”
As Harry kissed Ginny on his 19th birthday, he opened his eyes to see Draco standing in the doorway of the Weasleys’ kitchen. And as he pulled away from Ginny, he realized that he was staring at Draco, looking for his reaction. He realized he wanted Draco to get angry, to be possessive and step between them.
“Happy birthday, Potter,” Draco had said in an uncharacteristic mumble as Harry walked towards him. He politely approached Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and thanked them for their hospitality, and Harry remembered feeling relief that things went well and shame that he thought it would go so horribly. He remembered how the comfort of Ginny’s wide smile, her familiar smell, her rough hands and kind eyes suddenly felt stifling.
It was Draco he wanted to kiss on his birthday, but instead, he kissed Ginny. And as he found himself standing at the door, all he wanted was to run after him.
Woken up by this seemingly sudden development, Harry had reviewed his year-long friendship with Draco while he laid in bed that night. The content feeling in his stomach when they studied together in the library, the comfort he felt when they sat on his dorm room floor after parties, the unusual dislike of people who showed romantic interest in Draco, the anger that flared in his chest when he heard people talking about him, the pride he felt when Draco did well during a meet, the way his eyes were drawn to the lines of Draco’s muscles. Harry had always told himself that he was observing Draco’s form while he swam. He nearly smacked himself in the head as he realized how blissfully oblivious he had been.
After his birthday party, Harry thought there might be a wall between them. Locking eyes with Draco from across the Weasleys’ kitchen, his lips a breath away from Ginny’s, had set off a wildfire in him that spread wider until nothing was left but smoke and ash, and Harry felt like he was suffocating from being Draco’s friend but nothing more.
He broke up with Ginny before he moved back to college. She didn’t cry much, which he appreciated, but she did hug him close as they said goodbye. They were sitting in her backyard, her bare feet digging into the grass, and Harry remembered her quiet voice when she asked him if he loved Draco.
“What?” he had whispered, a guilty expression on his face. His hands became sweaty as he realized that, although he had managed to remain unaware of his own feelings, perhaps others were not so obtuse.
“Harry,” Ginny murmured timidly. “I know. I hear the way you talk about him. How you look at him when you think no one’s looking. If you hadn’t been my boyfriend, I’d think it was really sweet.”
“We’re just friends, Gin,” he mumbled.
“Exactly,” Ginny replied, smiling sadly at him. “ “ We were just friends.”
“But we didn’t work out.”
“Harry,” Ginny said, turning towards Harry, “ Exactly.”
Draco never mentioned Harry’s birthday party again, and when Harry told him that he had broken up with Ginny, Draco only snorted.
“You finally realized it was like kissing Ron?” Draco retorted as he typed on his laptop.
“It wasn’t like kissing Ron,” Harry replied, defensively.
Draco turned around to face Harry and perked an eyebrow skeptically.
“Okay, fine. It was kind of like dating Ron. It was comfortable,” Harry admitted.
“Some people say that’s a good thing,” Draco countered, turning back towards his computer screen.
“It was comfortable, but not in a good way."
“What would ‘comfortable-in-a-good-way’ be like?” Draco asked. The clicking of his keyboard ceased as his hands went still.
Harry paused to think about his words.
“Like it is with you ,” he thought. But instead, he said, “Like a rollercoaster you’ve been on already. Like surfing.”
Harry’s time in college was an education in espionage, where he learned to hide his true feelings and thoughts behind a mask. For every friendly punch and jab, every averted gaze, Harry burrowed his heart deeper within him, until days could pass without a single thought that went beyond friendship.
He loved Draco, implicitly, the way he barely noticed his heap of laundry on the floor or the stack of papers on his desk, because they seemed to have always been there. Perhaps he had always loved him. The when and the how didn’t seem to matter much, now that it was in each bone of his body and every breath that he took.
He realized as he stared at Draco from the passenger seat that his love was more like sunlight streaming in through a window, making all the pictures on the wall fade over time. It was stronger and more relentless than it seemed.
Growing up, Harry had learned to keep his emotions in carefully sealed boxes and cover them with biting comments and cool indifference, though once in awhile, they burst forth in a parade of sloppy words. Perhaps their night in Kansas City was just his fantasy seeping out into his consciousness. But as he remembered the rise and fall of Draco’s chest as he slept beside him, Harry knew it was real: Draco’s hand on the small of his back, the way his lips brushed his neck as he laughed and murmured, how they fell asleep tangled together, the other bed left empty.
Draco’s voice whispering, “I’m glad I’m here with you. ”
It was real, and though Draco denied it, the memories were Harry’s now. And as they drove through Kansas into Colorado, the memory of Harry’s accusations and Draco’s avoidance still fresh in their minds, he thought, “I had last night, at least .”
“Have you ever been to Colorado?” Draco inquired. The mountains loomed ever closer now.
“Not until today, no,” Harry replied, glancing out the window. He turned to look out the back of the car. The stark difference gave him a thrill. “I haven’t really been anywhere too far from home ‘til now.”
“I’ve been to Aspen a few times,” Draco said, “I hated skiing though. Too cold.”
“But you’d jump into the Atlantic on New Year’s Day?” Harry chuckled, remembering Draco’s pale figure as he ran into the ocean. “It’s for charity. We Malfoys are rich, but we’re also quite philanthropic,” Draco had informed him.
“The ocean is different,” he explained, “It feels…”
“It feels like home,” Harry said.
“Exactly,” Draco nodded, a contented smile spreading across his face.
“We should run into the Pacific together,” Harry suggested, turning in his seat to face him. He imagined them parking their car, leaving their cheap flip-flops behind on the sand, along with their rumpled t-shirts and ripped shorts. Harry felt himself holding his breath as he thought of grabbing Draco’s hand as they dove under.
Draco glanced over, and Harry felt his face go warm. Draco’s smile grew even larger, his eyebrows raised high.
“We should,” he replied. And he turned the radio to a classic rock station, and Harry smiled to himself as he listened to some guy sing about sunshine and love. He closed his eyes and thought about Draco’s smile and imagined what it would look like when they got to California. Ignoring the stirring in the bottom of his stomach, he opened his eyes.
Draco hummed along to the song, his head bopping to the beat.
“I’ll be with you when the stars start falling,” he sang absentmindedly.
Harry recognized the song as one that Draco played often. He had thought it was strange that Draco liked classic rock. It seemed rough around the edges, while everything about Draco felt seemed neat and composed. The years had trained Harry’s eyes, however, and he saw the cracks in the surface, the edges that caught on things. He had felt the heat in Draco’s voice when he argued with his father. He had seen Draco’s words in his journals, the ones that Draco shared with him in their third year when he confessed that he had always dreamed of becoming a writer. Draco was only neat and composed if you didn’t care to look closer.
“I’ve been waiting so long to be where I’m going…”
Banging on an invisible drum kit, Harry joined him.
“In the sunshine of your love,” they sang, their voices together sounding strange, but beautiful.
They stopped for the night at a discount motel in a Colorado mountain town, their room containing a single bed. Harry placed his backpack on the floor. Desperate for a distraction, he pulled the curtain back. Their window overlooked the parking lot and an office complex.
“Colorado’s really something, huh?” Harry joked. He turned around to find Draco sitting on the bed. Draco looked away quickly, his long leg bouncing. Harry’s heart began to race as he realized that Draco might be just as nervous.
“You wanna get a shower?” Harry asked. He paced beside the bed, debating on whether to sit down or not. Draco looked at him sharply.
“You can go first,” Harry clarified, “If you want.”
“Oh. Yeah, okay. Sure,” Draco nodded. He leapt up from the bed and rummaged through his luggage before disappearing into the bathroom. As the door closed, Harry let out a long exhale. He hadn’t realized he was holding his breath.
He cleaned his glasses with the edge of his shirt a few times before taking them off. The room was blurry before him as he rubbed his eyes.
“Get a grip,” he muttered. “It’s just Draco.”
He flopped down on the bed horizontally, his feet hanging off the side. He let out a long groan as he stretched his arms and legs as far as they could go. Exhausted from traveling, he let his eyes close.
“Your turn,” Draco said, and Harry shot up. Slightly dizzy from sitting up too quickly, he closed his eyes. When he opened them, he saw Draco standing in front of the television, a towel slung low on his hips. As he flipped from channel to channel, beads of water rolled down his back. Harry’s mouth fell open, and he was only vaguely aware that he was staring.
“Harry,” Draco called.
Thinking intently of the different formulas he learned about in his statistics class, Harry stood up.
“Yeah?” he replied, walking numbly to his luggage on the floor.
“Are you okay?” Draco asked. “You look high.”
Harry barked out a laugh.
“Not high. Just tired,” he answered.
“We can go to bed after you shower,” Draco replied, turning towards him.
“Yeah. Good idea,” Harry said nervously.
As he walked to the bathroom, he thought he saw Draco smile out of the corner of his eye. He turned the shower as cold as he could stand it and emerged ten minutes later, shivering.
“You’re shaking. Are you training for the Polar Plunge, Potter?” Draco asked. He was already in bed. He had turned the bed down, and the heavy comforter was discarded on the floor. His legs stuck out from underneath the sheets, which only covered his lap. Harry wondered if he was still naked. It was impossible to tell from where he was standing.
“You must’ve used all the hot water,” Harry lied. He hurriedly put his boxers on and started to pick up a t-shirt. He usually slept shirtless, but the thought of his bare skin brushing against Draco felt dangerous. Thrilling, maybe.
“Like going on a rollercoaster you’ve already been on,” he had told Draco, all those years ago.
He let the t-shirt fall from his hands.
He slid under the sheets and felt his chest rise and fall rapidly. Willing himself to take slower breaths, he picked up his book from the bedside table. He tried to look calm as he flipped absentmindedly through the pages. Harry felt his mouth go dry, the book suddenly feeling awkward in his hands. He placed it on his stomach and took his glasses off.
“Can I turn this light off?” Draco asked, glancing at Harry out the corner of his eye. Maybe it was wishful thinking, but Draco seemed nervous. Harry remembered the psychology course he had taken to fulfill some college requirement.
“Projection,” Harry thought.
“Go for it. I should sleep too,” he replied, placing his book on the bedside table.
“‘Night, Harry,” Draco murmured. He gave Harry a slight smile, and in that split second, Harry wondered what would happen if they kissed. What would Draco do if he leaned his head just inches closer? Harry wondered what Draco’s shoulder would feel like under his lips, what his mouth tasted like. If Harry touched him, would goosebumps cover Draco’s arms? Would they find their way around Harry?
Draco reached up and hit the light switch. In complete darkness, the din of the air conditioner unit filled the room. They lay side by side, and just as Harry was about to move, Draco turned away, his back to Harry. Harry had wanted to reach out the way he did when swimming the final lap, his fingertips achingly close. Squeezing his eyes shut, he turned the other way. They fell asleep like that, with their backs to each other, the middle of the bed like a vast canyon between them.
The next morning, he woke to find Draco’s arm sprawled across his chest, his breath warm against his neck.
“Unconscious desires,” Harry reasoned, his mind flashing back to that psychology course again. Had he imagined Draco’s smile, as he stood in front of the television? He was half-tempted to lay there a bit longer, to close his eyes and imagine that Draco meant to hold him like that. But remembering Draco’s silence during their drive through Kansas, he carefully lifted Draco’s arm and nudged him to the other side of the bed.
“Harry?” Draco voiced, his eyes half-open.
“Sorry,” Harry whispered, turning over onto his stomach. Draco rolled onto his side to face Harry.
“Morning,” he said, a lazy grin on his face.
“You’re happy today,” Harry pointed out.
“I slept well,” he replied.
“Good,” Harry grinned, “Because you’re driving.”
“Good,” Draco yawned, his arms stretching out towards Harry, so close that he could feel Draco’s fingers by his hair. Smirking, Draco added, “I’m the better driver, anyway.”
Harry laughed and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, okay,” he mumbled, shoving Draco’s shoulder in jest and ignoring the feel of his bare skin.
“I mean, you’d probably still be somewhere in West Virginia without me,” Draco continued dramatically, “You’re lucky I’m here!”
Harry smiled and put on his glasses. Draco’s content smile came into focus.
“Yeah,” Harry replied, quietly, “I am.”
Draco’s smile froze on his face for a second before he sat up.
“C’mon, man, we should get going soon,” he said, his voice sounding loud and a bit too bright.
They reached Utah late that afternoon. The mountains of Colorado gave way to the flat tops of the canyons. One website Harry found when planning the trip described the area as “breathtakingly beautiful and totally inhospitable.” Looking out at the cliffs around him, the red earth blending with the sunset, he had to agree.
Harry smiled as he saw Draco struggling to set up the tent.
“Are you going to just stand there and mock me, or are you going to help me?” Draco asked, dryly. When he looked at Harry though, there was only warmth in his eyes. Harry crouched down next to him.
“Put that rod through here. I think it was just going the wrong direction,” Harry explained. Within the next two minutes, Harry stood up, the tent rising with him.
“You make it look so easy,” Draco sighed, shaking his head, “I can’t built tents for shit.”
“My aunt and uncle always made me do that kind of stuff when we went camping,” Harry explained.
“By any chance, did they make you build fires too?” Draco motioned towards the pile of firewood in the back of their station wagon. They had stopped at a camping supply store in the nearest town.
“Didn’t you ever go camping, Malfoy?” he asked, incredulously.
“My mother is averse to it. ‘Why make yourself suffer?’ she says. Our version of camping is going to our mountain cabin, which is basically a mansion in the woods,” Draco bragged.
“Don’t worry. I’m pretty good at building fires,” Harry laughed.
He set up three logs in a triangular shape, leaving a space between them. He lit up a piece of paper and threw it between the logs. With another piece of cardboard, he began fanning the flames until the fire grew. He looked up to find Draco staring at him through the flames, the reflections glowing bright in his grey eyes. He was looking at Harry in a way that made his stomach drop. His grey eyes looked wild, then, and Harry wanted Draco to take him down.
Am I close? Harry wondered.
“Well, that’s that,” he said nervously as he dusted his hands.
Draco blinked and looked out across the canyons. “I wanna lie down,” he murmured before adding, more clearly, “To look at the stars.”
“Oh! Right. Yeah, ‘course,” Harry replied, his voice sounding too loud in the silence of the canyons. Draco peered up at him from his sleeping bag, his brows furrowed. But then, he smiled and patted the sleeping bag next to his.
“C’mon. With the front flap open, we have the perfect view,” he exclaimed.
They laid in silence, their shoulders touching as they gazed up at the stars.
“I can never see the stars back at home,” Harry said.
“You don’t go outside at night?” Draco asked in mock condescension.
“No, asshole. Too much light pollution. We can’t all live on ten-acre lots in the middle of nowhere,” he pointed out.
“Fair point,” Draco replied.
“Can I ask you something?” Draco said, a few minutes later.
“Yeah?” Harry turned to look at him. Draco was still staring straight up at the sky, his hands behind his head.
“Are you scared, Potter?” Draco sounded hesitant.
“About what’s gonna happen when we get back?”
Harry was planning on moving out of his aunt and uncle’s house when he returned home. He didn’t have a particular career in mind, but he reasoned that until he figured it out, he’d piece together a few odd jobs.
“I try not to think too much about it. I prefer just winging it,” he answered, shrugging.
“That must be nice. My whole life’s been planned out for me,” Draco muttered.
“It doesn’t have to be though. You still have a choice for some things,” Harry countered.
“Yeah, like what?”
“Working for your dad.”
“I have to, Potter!” Harry could sense Draco’s agitation rising, but he continued anyway. There was a fire inside of Draco that laid flush against the surface, and Harry ached to feel it. He wanted to see it consume the smoke and ash that filled his own heart. So he pushed back Draco’s anger with his own, his words a lit match hovering above gasoline.
“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do!” Harry urged.
“What if it’s actually what I want?” Draco shouted as he sat up.
“You know what I would do, Harry?” Draco had mumbled after a night of drinking. They had been sitting on his apartment’s couch, eating cheap pizza. “I would write. I’ve always wanted to write. And I’m not bad at it either.”
He let Harry read his writing once, during their third year of school. Harry had sat on Draco’s bed, pages of poems in his hands. Draco wore a nervous expression while he paced nervously around the room. The lines of poetry were like drum beats, a silent song that he held inside. Draco’s words were sharp, like his edges, but vulnerable in a way that he rarely showed to others, except, perhaps, to Harry.
“Those aren’t my best ones. I mean, I haven’t really written my best one yet, so-”
“Draco, these are really good,” Harry had interrupted. “ Really , really good.”
And if Harry had forgotten that he loved Draco, the moment Draco smiled, his rarely-used glasses slightly askew on his face, served as a reminder.
The embers from the bonfire were slowly burning out, and the canyons suddenly felt cold. Draco sat with his arms hugging his legs, his face no longer turned up to look at the stars.
“You’ll never know unless you try,” Harry said gently, sitting up.
“That’s not how it works,” Draco replied, coolly.
At that moment, Harry yearned for the easy warmth that he felt when they were just staring at the sky. He wanted Draco’s shoulder against his; he wanted to hear the sound of his breathing, to see the rise and fall of his chest. He wanted to fall asleep, only to wake up with Draco wrapped around him. He wanted to see Draco’s lazy smile as he drove along empty highways, as he danced to bad country music in Kansas City. He wanted him free and happy just as much as he wanted him when he was silent and cold. He wanted Draco, and the closer he thought he was, the further it felt.
“It could work,” Harry said quietly.
“It could fail,” Draco mumbled, “And I would lose everything then.”
“You wouldn’t,” Harry replied. Their eyes locked briefly before Draco laid down again.
“It’s not something I want to risk,” he whispered, his forearm draped over his eyes.
Harry wanted to tell him that he was scared too, but Draco interrupted him.
“Can we just… can we just drop it for now? I don’t want to talk about anything anymore,” he asked, his voice pleading.
“Yeah,” Harry acquiesced, burrowing deeper into his sleeping bag.
He was on the edge of sleep when he heard Draco whispering, his eyes still open to the sky.
The radio had turned to static hours ago, and Draco and Harry sat in silence once again. However, it was different from the tension of their drive through the Great Plains. The silence between them felt like a meditative calm. Harry stared out the window into the nothingness of the desert around him, and he felt more acutely aware of his breath, his heartbeat.
Though he knew objectively that plenty of people cared for him, Harry often felt like he was alone in the world. He sometimes wondered what it would be like to disappear. Each mile brought them closer to their destination, though Harry wondered what it would be like to be suspended in time and place, to just exist in the moment. If he didn’t move, would he cease to exist? He often wondered what his existence was worth anyway. Some days he felt so crushed by the realization that he had no idea what his parents’ voices sounded like. They had been murdered when they were 21. They likely had never seen this ageless desert. One day, he would join them, and everyone he knew would be gone too. He felt so small when faced with the enormity of the earth around him. How many millions of years had this desert existed? And how many millions more would it stand long after he was gone? The desert was both comfort and terror.
“You okay?” Draco asked, his voice hoarse from lack of use, ”You look kinda upset.”
“Yeah, I’m just in my head right now,” Harry replied, glancing at him, “This place is incredible.”
“Makes you feel like the rest of the world doesn’t even exist,” Draco remarked.
“The Loneliest Road,” Harry murmured, as they traveled along the highway, desert all around them as far as the eye could see. They hadn’t passed another human being for hours. Harry wasn’t sure if Draco’s presence made his loneliness more pronounced, or if it eased it, but he didn’t feel like that was anything new. He’d felt that ache for years now.The growing melancholy within him made him grateful for Draco’s presence, so he welcomed the ache.
“It certainly is,” Draco replied from the driver’s seat. He shifted uncomfortably, the heat causing his hair to stick to his forehead despite the blast of the air conditioner.
“Imagine traveling this by horse,” Harry wondered, thinking about the Pony Express riders carrying their messages before the dawn of the train.
“I bet people died trying,” Draco mused.
At this, Harry imagined himself riding horseback along the barren road. He imagined Draco’s smile, all gums and slightly crooked teeth, his hair slicked back with Pacific water, and he knew: He’d travel as long as he’d need to if it meant he’d see that face. If it meant that Draco would hear the message he’d been carrying for so long. Maybe he didn’t have to travel the road alone anymore.
“Pioneers,” Harry replied, “Traveling where few had gone before, just for the sake of exploration.”
“Well, we can’t really call ourselves pioneers, then. This trip’s been done by plenty of people by now, I bet,” Draco reasoned.
Harry looked out the window. He remembered when they chose their route.
“We can stop in Chicago and then pick up Route 66 from there,” Draco had concluded. He and Harry were huddled around his laptop.
“Or, we can go through D.C. and then out through West Virginia. See the Appalachian Mountains before going south to Kansas City,” Harry countered.
“It sounds like a lot of rural nothingness.”
“Or magnificent landscapes.”
“It sounds like being stuck in a car for days on end with nothing to look at but you and a bunch of fields,” Draco drawled.
“You say it like it’s a bad thing,” Harry shot back. “Besides, the Loneliest Road is more extreme. Less people do that route, so at least we can say that we did it.”
Draco looked at Harry skeptically. “It’s so like you to want to do something just because it’s more extreme.”
“C’mon, Draco. Maybe not for you, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me,” Harry said, his eyes shifting to his hands. He thought of the money he had saved up from all his odd jobs through the years.
Draco stared at the computer screen as if silently debating within himself. He glanced at Harry and shrugged.
“Okay. The Loneliest Road it is,” he said.
“Really?” Harry sat up straight, his eyebrows raised.
“Yeah. This might be our one chance, right?” Draco replied, a small smile appearing on his face. “You’re okay being stuck with me for so long?”
Harry stared at the computer screen. “I’m okay with it… if you are,” he answered, his voice quiet.
“Yeah. I am,” Draco murmured, staring at Harry.
Harry turned to face Draco. They had been traveling for almost a week. Harry felt grateful to be able to spend so much time alone with Draco, to see him when he fell asleep and when he woke up, to see him before he became Draco Malfoy and when he was just his best friend. The world awaited them at home, but for now, it was just the two of them, lost in time and place along the Loneliest Road.
This might be our one chance, right? Draco’s words echoed in Harry’s mind. Harry didn’t want to feel lonely anymore.
“We’re exploring though, aren’t we?” Harry asked, his voice shaking just slightly.
Draco became still, and his mouth set into a thin line.
“Jesus Christ, Harry,” he muttered as he pulled over to the side of the road.
“What are you doing?” Harry asked, his voice coming out higher than expected. Draco got out of the car and began pacing. The desert heat was visible as it rose off the road.
Harry climbed out of the car. “Why’d you stop?”
“You can’t say shit like that,” Draco shouted, his hands in his already-messy hair.
“Shit like what?” Harry asked, though he knew the answer. Draco stared at him, and Harry was shocked to see not anger, but pain. It was the same face he saw when Draco chose to give up his writing classes, when he talked about joining his father’s company. When Draco, underneath millions of stars, had talked about losing it all, the embers from the bonfire cooling into darkness.
“You know what I mean,” Draco said quietly.
“About exploration?” Harry questioned, stepping closer, despite the heat, despite already knowing the answer. Draco nodded, almost imperceptibly. Harry noticed that Draco was staring at his lips, and he edged even closer.
“Why not?” Harry whispered. He could feel sweat dripping down his forehead now. He felt like the heat might take him alive.
“It’s… I....” Draco tried, and Harry saw the sweat dripping down his neck, settling into the slight dip at the base of his throat, and it was too much.
“What, Draco?” he urged, quietly. He found himself drawing nearer to him. They were so close.
“We’re friends,” Draco whispered, “We’re just friends.”
Harry felt his chest ache and he couldn’t stop his head from shaking.
“I don’t want that,” he announced, his voice trembling but sure, “I don’t want that anymore.”
He saw Draco’s eyes dilate slightly, despite the blinding sun, the heat, the running car, and suddenly, he felt Draco’s hands grab his shoulders, and he was pressed up against him, Draco’s lips on his.
Harry felt he was at the edge of the earth, his very existence slipping away from him as the desert threatened to swallow him whole. But Draco’s kiss was a tether, and Harry grasped hold of it, his hands desperately holding on. He kissed Draco back, their tongues brushing against each other’s, and Harry pulled him even closer. He imagined himself, and the big night sky for miles all around them, and Draco hovering above him, taking his place amongst his namesake stars.
"This is real,” Harry thought as he kissed Draco, and Draco kissed him, again and again and again.
They reached the campsite in Nevada that night. This time, Draco was able to build the tent on his own. Standing proudly beside it, Draco bowed as Harry applauded.
“You’ve become a camping expert,” Harry joked.
“I’m a fast learner,” Draco retorted as he walked slowly towards Harry. Harry thought Draco almost looked nervous as he bit his lip. Suddenly, he felt breathless.
“Really?” Harry asked, tilting his head up as he stepped closer. Draco’s hands had found their way to his hips, and his eyes looked like they did when he was sitting by the fire the night before. Their lips brushed.
“Yeah,” Draco whispered, before he kissed Harry in earnest.
Despite all the times that Harry had thought about kissing him, had wondered what his bottom lip would feel like under the scrape of his teeth, if Draco would mind his stubble, where he would put his hands, what his mouth tasted like- No, despite all of Harry’s reveries, he still found himself completely shocked when Draco actually kissed him. Granted, they had only had about ten kisses so far, according to Harry’s count, but each time was like the first.
Harry opened his eyes and saw that Draco’s had fallen closed, his hair brushing against his lashes. The stars were just coming out, the sky a wash of purples and pinks. He closed his eyes again and pulled Draco closer, his mouth opening up to him. And his mind drifted back to that travel website’s words--
“Breathtakingly beautiful .”
Draco’s hands grasped at the buttons on Harry’s shirt as they kissed. Frenzied, Harry pulled away.
“Tent?” he mumbled, all articulate response gone. “Wanna lay down?”
“Yeah,” Draco replied. They both took a step back, their chests heaving. Draco pulled his shirt off and dropped it to the ground. Harry’s fingers slowly undid the buttons on his shirt, and he shivered as the cool night air hit his skin. He undid his belt and pushed his pants down before stepping out of them. He looked up to see that Draco was already in his underwear. His arms were covered in goosebumps.
Harry approached Draco and wrapped his arms around him. He laid his face against his chest, his lips brushing against his skin. He felt Draco’s hand along his back, his other hand entwined in his hair.
“You’re cold,” Draco murmured.
“I’m happy,” Harry whispered. Draco took hold of Harry’s hand and ducked his head to enter the tent.
Harry laid his bare body down on the floor of their tent and stared at Draco’s body, white in the moonlight. As Draco brushed his lips from Harry’s forehead, to his mouth, his jawline, and neck, only to rest upon his heart, he bit back the words he longed to say. Instead, he told him that he was beautiful. And when Draco continued his descent, stopping right below Harry’s waist in hesitation, Harry nodded and heard himself whisper, “Please.”
Harry stared up at the stars through half-lidded eyes as Draco wrapped his lips around Harry’s cock, and his voice sounded foreign to him as he whispered encouragements.
“Like cheering for him at a swim meet,” Harry thought. And although he knew exactly who was with him, the truth sank in. “This is real,” Harry realized, and before he knew it, he was tugging Draco up towards him. He didn’t want to come yet.
“But-” Draco murmured against Harry’s mouth.
“Not yet,” Harry replied, pushing Draco onto his back. He had never done this before, but, like Draco, he was a quick learner and an even-better improvisor. He settled between Draco’s legs and licked his shaft slowly.
“Harry,” Draco moaned, and Harry felt more blood rush to his cock. How many times had he heard Draco say his name, and yet, it was like hearing it for the first time.
“Hm?” Harry looked up at Draco from his place between his legs.
“I want to…”
Harry let his tongue swirl around the tip. He wanted to hear Draco say the words that he had only ever imagined him saying. He took more of Draco into his mouth, feeling him hit the back of his throat.
“I want you,” Draco mumbled, tugging at Harry’s arms. Harry slid up beside him.
“Have you ever?” he asked, their noses touching. He wondered if this would be new for the both of them.
“No...Not like this.” Draco answered, “Have you?”
Harry shook his head. He found himself tracing the contours of Draco’s face, something he had wanted to do for a while.
“Do you want to?” Harry asked. Draco always did say that Harry was the more fearless one out of the two of them, and Harry supposed it was true. For a moment, Harry wondered if they should go slower and try other things. But he had always been the type to dive in rather than wade slowly out to deeper waters. They both were.
“Only if you want,” Draco replied, and Harry swore he saw a blush spread across his face. Kissing his cheek, his nose, and finally his lips, he nodded.
“I do,” Harry murmured.
“How do you want me?” Draco asked, his fingers making small circles against the small of Harry’s back.
Harry’s eyes fell shut as he kissed Draco again, and he felt a jolt as their cocks brushed against each other. His imagination had painted Draco against the night sky, his own lanky legs wrapped around Draco’s waist, their foreheads touching as Harry arched up to meet him.
“I want you inside me,” Harry whispered, his voice sounding ragged in anticipation. Draco’s breath hitched. “I mean, unless, you want that. Then, I can-”
“No. I want what you want,” Draco said, his lips brushing against Harry’s. He sat up and began rummaging through his bag.
“But, we don’t have any lube,” Harry voiced his realization aloud.
Draco sat on his heels and turned towards him, a small bottle in his hands.
“When did you-?” Harry wondered.
“At the last rest stop,” Draco replied, a mischievous grin lighting up his face. Harry propped himself up on his elbows.
“And what if nothing happened?” Harry asked, his eyebrow raised. His skin felt hot knowing that Draco had thought about him while they stopped in the old rest step in the quaint western town.
“Well, I’d try again tomorrow,” Draco joked as he settled back down beside Harry.
“Or right now,” Harry replied, as Draco’s hands rubbed the sides of his torso.
“Right now,” Draco repeated, his voice shaking as Harry began to slide his fist over his cock.
“Lube,” he murmured. Draco obediently poured the lube on Harry’s hand.
“Fuck,” he sighed, his mouth falling open. “Wait, Harry, stop-”
Harry froze. “Are you okay?”
“Let me take care of you.”
Harry swallowed and nodded, as Draco proceeded to pour lube over his fingers. Sliding down so that his face was even with Harry’s cock, he looked up at Harry.
“Okay?” he asked, his voice slightly shaking. Harry knew he was probably nervous, but it only made his heart swell even more.
“Yeah. Go for it,” Harry nodded, his voice a poor attempt at sounding casual. Draco began to trace the small circle with his index finger, his face the picture of determined concentration. Harry’s hands grasped the sleeping bags below him as he gasped. His eyes flew open as Draco dipped the tip of his thumb. He saw stars.
“Oh my god,” he moaned. Draco peered up, his jaw slack, sweat shining on his forehead.
“Good?” Harry heard an edge to his voice that he had never heard before, and it made him feel dizzy. He nodded, his hips urging Draco on. He slipped one finger in, slowly until it was completely inside of him. Harry felt full, but still, he wanted more.
“Don’t stop,” he begged. And one became two, moving not at all but then, slowly. In and out, and Harry could feel it- he knew that it was Draco’s doing, he could see the one edge of Draco’s mouth turning up in a satisfied smile. He could hear his ragged breathing, his voice which sounded foreign as it begged for more.
“You,” he heard, “Inside. Fuck.”
And Draco understood. Years of camaraderie, of swimming side by side, of sharing dorms, had taught him how to read Harry. And, after putting on a condom, he got to his knees and positioned himself at Harry’s entrance, and Harry knew it was cliche, but he had never seen such a beautiful sight. Not the Canyons, not the purple-fogged Appalachians, not the navy of the Atlantic. Just Draco.
He closed his eyes and let his legs wrap around him, and when he thought he’d feel Draco entering him, he felt Draco’s lips on his again. He felt Draco’s hand as it held the back of Harry’s neck.
“Me and you. Okay?” Draco breathed.
Harry nodded. “Me and you.”
He entered him slowly, and Harry felt like he was going to split in half. Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes only to find Draco staring at him, his teeth gritted and his eyes dark. As they locked with Harry’s, they softened.
“You okay?” he asked, his jaw still clenched. He reached up to touch Harry’s face. Kissing his palm, Harry felt himself relax.
“Yeah. Slowly. Go slowly,” he replied.
Draco began to push his hips forward, and Harry moved his hands to grab onto Draco’s arms.
“Okay, I’m in,” Draco whispered. And despite their positions, and the galaxies in the sky, the way the fire made Draco’s eyes look wild, the tender kisses they had exchanged, Harry began to laugh.
“You make it sound like...” Harry breathed, “... we’re spies.”
And as he laughed, he felt the tension dissipate, and he could feel Draco’s every movement inside of him. His laugh turned into a moan.
“Oh,” Harry said, his eyes fluttering closed.
Smiling, Draco began to move. “Spies?” he echoed, his hips rolling slowly.
“Yeah,” Harry gasped, “S-s-spies.”
Draco laughed, his movements more fluid now as he grasped firmly onto Harry’s hips. Focusing his eyes on Harry once more, he ran a hand down his chest.
“Holy shit, Harry,’ he whimpered, his hips moving steadily now as Harry’s legs wrapped around him. He continued to move as he dropped onto his elbows. His stomach brushed against Harry’s cock as he leaned forward, and Harry moaned. Every nerve ending seemed to be lit on fire, and he threw his head back, his mouth lolling open.
“Is that good?” Draco asked, his lips against Harry’s forehead. Harry could only nod as he ran his hands along Draco’s stomach. Harry reached for his own leaking cock.
“I want to see you,” Harry panted as he pushed Draco back. Draco sat on his heels and grabbed Harry’s hips.
Harry had never seen Draco come before, but he knew he was close. He could tell from the way his hips crashed into him more frantically. He could feel Draco’s cock grow even larger inside of him.
“Harry-” Draco moaned. Harry pulled him even deeper as he pumped himself in and out of him. And Harry knew that he was close, and he no longer felt like he was drowning, sinking further and further from his goal. He felt fearless.
Draco’s body collapsed on top of him. He reached for his swollen cock only to find Draco’s hand already there, urging him to join him, and he came undone.
They had fallen asleep that night, their legs entangled as they shared one sleeping bag. When they awoke, Draco kept his arm wrapped around Harry instead of pulling away. When Harry nudged his face with his nose, afraid to kiss him, Draco brushed Harry’s hair off his forehead.
“You’re adorable in the morning. You know that, right?” Draco mumbled. They could’ve stayed in the tent all day, if it weren’t for the rising temperature and their strict driving itinerary.
They made it to Northern California later that afternoon. The beach looked melancholy as fog rolled in off the ocean. It was a far cry from the sunny warmth of the desert. Harry wondered if he had stolen all the sunshine and hoarded it within himself.
“You ready?” Draco asked. He stood beside him in his boxers, his clothes discarded on the sand. Harry’s teeth chattered, and he shivered in his sweater.
“Oh, c’mon Harry. ‘We should run into the Pacific together’, remember?” he smiled, jumping up and down to keep his body warm.
Harry took in Draco’s toothy grin, his lanky limbs twitching in anticipation. He stripped his shirt off, kicking his shorts to the sand. Grabbing Draco’s hand, he glanced over.
“Me and you,” he said quietly. He pulled Draco closer and kissed him gently.
“Me and you,” Draco replied, his gray eyes soft as he looked at Harry.
They ran towards the dark gray water, not stopping until they were shoulders-deep. Draco let out a whoop, his face turned towards the clouds.
“This is amazing!” he gasped.
Harry reached out for Draco’s other hand and pulled him closer as they tread water. Reaching up for Draco’s face, he noticed beads of water clinging to his lashes, the water’s reflection in his grey eyes.
“This is amazing,” Draco repeated in a whisper.
And Harry felt a swell in his chest, like he would gladly let the waves sweep him under if it meant he could stay with Draco, just like this. He leaned in for a kiss, only for his lips to meet Draco’s chattering teeth, and laughing, he kissed him again.
“I love you,” Harry murmured against his lips. He pulled back to look at Draco’s face. Draco’s eyes turned stormy, his lips set together.
“I think I’ve loved you forever,” Harry told him, his voice shaking with the cold.
“Harry, I-” Draco began before they dove below a passing wave. Surfacing, he brushed hair off Harry’s forehead.
“I love you too,” he confessed, his eyes turning bright again. He laughed. “I can’t believe this.”
Harry had read in one of his travel brochures that California was called the Golden State, and as he saw Draco smile once more, he thought he understood why.
Draco’s forehead fell against Harry’s shoulder blade, his knuckles white as they grasped the headboard of their San Francisco hotel room.
“I’m close,” Harry breathed, his black hair matted to his forehead with sweat. Draco’s hand reached around Harry’s hips to grab hold of his cock. Harry rose to his knees, his back flush against Draco’s chest.
“Come with me,” Draco whispered, his mouth against Harry’s neck as he thrust his hips up and in. .
Tension seized their bodies as Draco grabbed Harry, pulling him closer to him. Harry’s head fell backwards against Draco’s chest, his mouth open as he panted.
“Jesus Christ,” Harry sighed, rolling onto the bed below him. Draco grabbed tissues from the nightstand and wiped the come off the sheets.
“You got a little-” Draco mumbled, wiping at Harry’s thigh.
“Thanks man,” Harry replied lazily.
“‘Thanks man’,” Draco smiled as he mimicked Harry. He balled the tissue up and threw it in the trashcan.
“What? You want me to say, ‘Thank you for wiping come off my leg, my darling?’” Harry had moved underneath the sheet and was holding it up for Draco to join him.
“Shut up, you,” Draco replied, sliding in close next to Harry. He laid on his side, his arm propping his head up. “We still talk like we’re friends. Do you notice that?”
Harry furrowed his brow. “I mean.. we are still friends.”
"We’re more than that now,” Draco mumbled, looking down.
Harry pulled Draco closer and kissed his forehead. “Just because we’re… you know-”
“Fucking. We’re fucking, Potter,” Draco stated plainly, rolling his eyes. Harry blushed.
“Just because we’re fucking doesn’t mean that we’re not still friends. Maybe we’re not just friends, but you’re still my best friend,” Harry’s hand ran absentmindedly along Draco’s spine as he explained.
“I’m your best friend? What about Ron?” Draco asked, yawning as he rolled onto his back.
“He’s my best friend in a different way.”
“You wouldn’t fuck Ron, right?” Draco said, his smile appearing frozen on his face.
Harry grimaced. “No. And thank you,” he kissed Draco, “for making whatever semblance of a boner I had just shrivel up.”
“Sorry babe. I can help you get it back, if you want,” he grinned, draping his leg over Harry.
“Babe?” Harry laughed, his cheeks turning red.
“Of all the things we’ve done together over the past twenty-four hours, you’re embarrassed because I called you ‘babe?’”
“I’m not embarrassed,” Harry claimed defensively. “You can call me that. Call me whatever you’d like.”
Draco stared at Harry quietly before kissing him. His hands held Harry’s arms against the bed, and, free to roam, his lips explored every inch of Harry’s face. His lips against Harry’s, he opened his eyes.
“Can I call you ‘mine’?’” Draco asked, his voice low in Harry’s ear. Harry moved his head to the side as Draco’s lips trailed down his neck.
“Call me whatever you want,” Harry breathed. “Just don’t stop.”
“We’re more than just friends,” Draco stated, his mouth venturing down Harry’s chest. He looked up at Harry, his eyes possessive.
“Is this more than just fucking?” Harry asked, picking his head up to lock eyes with the blonde.
Draco nodded as he traced a line down Harry’s stomach with his tongue.
“Yes,” he murmured. “It’s more than that.”
Harry liked holding Draco’s hand. The feel of it as it brushed against his leg while they walked, the occasional caress of his thumb against the back of his hand. He liked the way Draco squeezed his hand so tightly he thought it would break, his eyes wide in panic as they walked halfway across the Golden Gate Bridge before turning around. He was familiar with Draco’s hands, having seen them glide through water at practice, the sight of them typing furiously against his laptop’s keyboard while they wrote papers in college. They were long and agile, moving expressively through the air whenever Draco became emotional about something.
They were smooth and subtle as they slid in and out of Harry, hard and strong as they gripped at his hips. Being familiar with Draco’s hands was nothing like knowing how they felt against and inside Harry’s body.
Harry glanced down to see Draco’s hand resting easily on his knee. Draco sat back in the uncomfortable chair of the baseball stadium, his eyes attentively focused on home plate. Aside from swimming, they were both fanatical about baseball, although they rooted for rival teams. Their last-minute decision to see a baseball game in San Francisco paid off: they managed to get cheap tickets in the outfield. Harry only wished he had brought a baseball mitt, as foul balls landed in their section every inning.
“Heads up!” a man warned, and Harry looked up to see a baseball flying straight at them. He instinctively shot his hand out in front of Draco and flinched as the ball made contact with his palm. He looked at Draco as people began to cheer.
“I could’ve caught that,” Draco smirked.
“Ah, but then what would I have done instead to impress you?” Harry asked, a coy smile on his face. He presented the ball to Draco. “For you, my love,” he said dramatically.
Draco smiled, his cheeks turning a faint pink.
“How sweet, Potter. Nothing I do for you will ever compare,” he quipped.
Harry kissed him quickly on the cheek. “I’m sure you’ll think of something,” he replied.
The crowd around them was suddenly on their feet, their hands in the air. Harry looked down to see people launching t-shirts into the crowds. The woman next to Draco leapt into the air and caught a t-shirt, letting out a cheer of victory. Harry waved his arms up and down in an attempt to get a t-shirt, but after a minute, the baseball players ran back onto the field. Sitting back down, he looked at Draco and shrugged.
“I never win those things,” Harry sighed sheepishly.
Draco raised an eyebrow and looked briefly at the woman next to him.
“Excuse me,” he said, his tone polite as he flashed his brightest smile.
“What are you doing?” Harry whispered, nudging him with his elbow.
Draco ignored Harry and turned towards the woman. Harry watched as she looked at Draco in confusion. He saw as her brows relaxed and a smile bloomed on her face. He tried to listen to their conversation, but the music in the ballpark was too loud. She tilted her head to the side and looked at Harry before turning back to Draco. She winked at Draco before they both started laughing together, as if they had known each other for years.
“Really? You don’t mind?” Draco asked, his voice loud over the music.
She shook her head and handed the t-shirt to Draco, waving it away nonchalantly.
Draco turned to Harry and handed him the t-shirt. “I got you something,” Draco whispered to Harry mischievously.
“What’d you tell her?” Harry replied, astounded as he held the shirt out in front of him.
“The truth. She thinks it’s quite sweet that we’re so in love and that I want so badly to impress you,” Draco sighed.
“Shut up, asshole,” Harry laughed, elbowing Draco again.
“It’s the truth though!” Draco replied, his arm resting around Harry’s shoulders.
Harry looked up at Draco and smiled. “Yeah, I know,” he said, his heart beating faster.
The next day, they walked through art galleries and museums. Draco laughed silently until he was pink in the face as Harry joked about the absurd pieces of art on display. Their competitive nature flared as they raced each other up the steep streets. Harry promised himself that he would never forget Draco’s face, his mouth smiling and open as he gasped for breath. He wondered if anyone else had ever seen Draco clutch at his stomach as he leaned against a wall, his mouth open as he laughed so hard.
Harry had never been happier, and he wondered if this was Draco’s happiest time too.
Their journey along the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles continued the next morning. Draco and Harry prided themselves on being hardened citizens of the cold and snowy Northeast, and so they drove with the windows down, the chilly ocean breeze whipping through their hair. The winding roads forced them to drive slowly, though neither of them minded much.
As they drove through the Central Coast, the wind became warmer, the sun brighter. They stopped in Big Sur, and Harry longed to sink his feet into the purple sands. They walked hand in hand towards the ocean before Harry took his camera out.
“Draco, wait. Look here,” he instructed. Surprised, Draco grinned at the camera before turning back towards the ocean.
“Breathtakingly beautiful,” Harry murmured. Draco shook his head in awe.
“It is, isn’t it? The beaches back home are a travesty compared to this,” he replied. They sat down next to each other, their toes digging into the sand.
“It’s weird to think about home,” Harry said. His hand twitched in Draco’s hand. They only had three more days before they would return their rental car at the airport and fly back east.
Draco looked out at the ocean, frowning. He pulled his hand away from Harry and stood up.
“I don’t really want to think about home,” he answered. “C’mon. Let’s go for a walk.”
They reached their Los Angeles hotel that night. They laid on the bed in silence, too tired to move.
“Harry?” Draco asked hesitantly.
“What’s up?” Harry mumbled, his voice muffled as his hands rubbed his face.
“Can we just not talk about the future? Before we fly back home, can we just… enjoy the present? Take each day as it comes?”
Draco’s voice sounded thick. Harry knew without looking that his eyebrows were probably furrowed and that his hands were gesturing nervously. He thought about their time together since that moment in the desert. It seemed like a lifetime ago, though it had only been a few days. He felt his chest tighten when he thought of their trip ending: Draco dropping him off at his aunt and uncle’s before heading back to his mother and father. He thought of the weather turning colder, of Draco working long days at his father’s office. His memories from the past weekend seemed like photographs already fading in his mind.
He wondered how it would be when they returned home. Would Draco become consumed by his work, just like his father, and his father’s father before him? Would he want to be with Harry, who was unemployed and had neither a career path nor a family name? Would Draco tell his parents about their relationship? Would Harry suddenly start bringing Draco to the Weasley’s for dinner? Would Draco hold his hand like he did while they walked through San Francisco? When they weren’t confined to the same car for hours on end, would he remember that he had options beyond Harry?
Would he want Harry then?
“Yeah. Sure,” Harry mumbled. He turned on his side to face Draco. He wanted to tell him that he had seen him and known him better than maybe anyone else did. He knew what Draco’s face looked like when he looked at the stars, awestruck and child-like. He knew what his smile looked like when he dove under cold Pacific water. He wanted to tell him that there was no need to be afraid.
“You can use the bathroom first,” he said instead. Draco moved closer to Harry, his eyes downcast.
“I love you,” Draco said, his thumb brushing Harry’s cheek. He kissed his forehead, his nose resting against Harry’s.
“Yeah. I know,” Harry whispered. His face felt hot suddenly as he stared blankly at Draco’s shirt. He wanted to forget the conversation ever happened. He wanted to keep Draco smiling, to make him laugh again, to take pictures like tourists, build bonfires and fill up gas tanks. His chest felt tight.
Harry kissed Draco then, his eyes squeezed shut. He ran his hands through Draco’s hair, the blonde strands contrasting against his tanned skin. Draco moaned against his mouth as he pulled Harry on top of him. Harry kissed his neck, knowing that he was leaving marks but he didn’t care anymore.
Standing up from the bed, Harry ripped his shirt off and pushed his pants down. Draco sat up in the bed, and Harry looked away when he saw his eyes, shining with tears.
He pushed Draco on the bed and kissed him.
“Please,” Harry whispered. “Draco… please.”
Draco blinked. Reaching up for Harry, he brushed Harry’s hair off his forehead. “Okay,” he said. He sat up and took off his clothes before laying back down on the bed. He reached his hand out for Harry. “Okay,” he repeated.
Harry slid down the bed and took Draco’s cock deep into his mouth. Draco lifted his head up, his frowning mouth opening. He dropped his hand to the side.
“Harry,” Draco whispered, his hands weaving through his hair. Harry worked Draco’s cock with his tongue, his hands pinning Draco’s hips down to the bed. When Draco was close, he sat up and grabbed the jar of lube from his bag. His hands slippery with lube, he took Draco in his hand before sliding himself down. Every rushed movement seemed exact.
He kept his eyes closed as he rode Draco, his mind focused on every sensation of that moment as if he was afraid it might be their last. He felt Draco’s hand wrapped around his cock, his other hand grasping him closer with each rise and fall of his body. Draco’s voice in his ear kept saying I love you, but Harry just bit his lip, wordless as he moved atop Draco. Draco screamed his name, though Harry thought it sounded more like a sob.
Their time in Los Angeles passed in a blur. The sprawling regions of the city presented themselves to the pair in the form of celebrity sightings, the best food Harry and Draco had ever tasted, museums and Hollywood backlot tours, and panoramic views of the night sky. They took pictures together in front of all the landmarks, but their smiles felt forced: their eyes stayed big and still as they trained their lips to turn upwards. At night, they laid in bed. Sometimes, they fumbled in the dark, their limbs feeling gangly under the hotel sheet. The relentless sunshine and heat and all the beautiful people made Harry miss San Francisco, and as he stared at the sky from Griffiths Observatory, he realized that nothing could compare to the sky in the deserts.
Really, he just missed Draco.
The closer they got to their departure date, the farther Harry felt from him, despite their shared hotel room and spending nearly every moment of the day together. They said barely anything as they rode bikes through Santa Monica. As they visited the Getty Museum, Harry thought about the way their hands grasped each other’s in the art galleries of San Francisco, and he suddenly felt too shy to make jokes about the art. He felt like the air was seeping out of his lungs, and the more he kept trying to come up for air, the further down the waves pushed him. He was drowning without Draco.
Harry had felt his eyes prickle as they returned their rental car that Friday morning, and he hated that Draco, who was walking a few strides ahead of him, didn’t notice. On the plane ride back east, he felt the time slipping away faster and faster as he struggled to catch up. Draco asleep at his side, he grabbed his hand. The other man stirred and let his head rest on Harry’s shoulder.
Harry kept his eyes squeezed shut to keep from crying and laid a kiss on Draco’s forehead.
“I love you,” he whispered. “I love you so fucking much, you fucking idiot.”
He felt Draco’s hand tense, and his heart beat faster as he realized that he was no longer asleep. Draco lifted his head and nudged Harry’s cheek with his nose. His eyes still closed, he felt Draco kiss him softly.
“I know,” Draco mumbled, “I know.”
Harry looked at him. “You know, but-”
“Potter, I can’t-”
“Don’t. Just shut up. Just stop.”
“Harry-” Draco’s voice cracked.
“No,” Harry said flatly.
“It’s not because I don’t-”
“That doesn’t make it okay.”
“I never said it was okay.”
“But you’re still doing this.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“You always have a choice.”
“Maybe I do. Maybe I don’t.”
“Maybe you’re a fucking coward.”
Draco sighed and looked out the window, and Harry realized that they were no longer whispering. The lady across the aisle was staring at them as if watching a soap opera, and Harry shot her a narrow-eyed glance. He looked down to see that they were still holding hands, but when he tried to move his hand, Draco held on even tighter.
“Let go of me,” Harry hissed, ripping his hand out of Draco’s grasp.
“I’m sorry,” Draco whispered, looking down at his lap.
“Me too,” Harry muttered, and he rubbed his eyes. He didn’t open them until they landed.
They gathered their luggage without looking at each other. The weather in New Jersey mirrored the sunshine of Los Angeles but with extra humidity, and they were both covered in sweat within minutes.
“I hate it here,” Harry grumbled.
“Me too,” Draco replied, his eyes focused on a still-burning cigarette on the sidewalk. He stepped on it, his toes snuffing the flame.
Harry counted the cash in his hands silently before shoving it into the back of his desk drawer. He was glad that Ron told him about the catering job; he would need the extra money if he was to pay for the December heating bill.
He winced as he stretched his arms across his body. Working as a bar back paid decently enough, but the sheer physicality of it left him sore and exhausted. He tried to cajole his hair into something presentable, but he gave up after five minutes. He had barely managed to put on his black trousers and white button-up before Ron pulled up to his house.
Ron drove a beat up Ford Accord, but it was more than Harry could say—he only had a bike to get him to and from work. When Harry had returned from his trip, he went to Ron’s house. Ron didn’t press him to talk about the trip, but the next day, Harry informed him that it had ended badly.
“Being stuck with him was that bad? ” Ron had asked.
“No,” Harry had murmured. “It was perfect. That’s the problem.”
Ron glanced sharply at Harry then, but a moment later, he nodded. Smiling sympathetically, he shrugged.
“Sorry, dude. That’s rough,” he offered. “Wanna play some ball? ”
Harry was grateful that Ron didn’t say, “I told you so.” Although Harry had trusted Draco, he could see why Ron’s family distrusted the Malfoys. He had always hoped that Draco was better than that, but as he thought of Draco moving on with his life and pretending that their trip never happened, Harry felt foolish.
In the month following their trip, Harry moved into a house with a few people he met through Craigslist. Unlike Draco, he had no career trajectory. He had thought of trying to join the police force. His uncle was a cop, his grandparents had been cops. He always thought he would end up being a cop. But after he returned from his trip, malaise made every move feel difficult.
Instead, he started working at a bar. He knew he was just coasting, but something about not making any decisions felt safe to him.
“So, where’s this place again?” Harry asked, putting his hands in front of the air vents. Snow coated the ground, and it was so cold that he could see his breath.
“Like 30 minutes from here. It’s some rich person’s house—they’re throwing a holiday party,” Ron explained, turning the heat up to the highest level possible.
A half hour later, Harry felt his mouth go dry as Ron parked in front of a familiar house.
“No,” he muttered.
“What’s up?” Ron asked.
“This is Draco’s house. Ron, I can’t-“
“Want me to tell my manager that you got sick?” Ron offered.
Harry thought of his drawer full of cash. He could just turn the heat off and wear sweaters and mittens for the rest of the month.
Or you could suck it up and make money , Harry thought.
“No, I’ll be alright,” he decided.
“I’ll try to work the rooms where that dickhead is, okay?” Ron grinned.
Harry hadn’t heard from Draco since that afternoon that he grabbed his luggage from the trunk of his Range Rover. Draco had stepped out of the car and stood in front of Harry, his eyes obscured by his dark sunglasses.
“Well, this was an adventure,” Harry had shrugged, his voice quiet as he looked glumly past Draco’s shoulder.
“I’ll see you around.” Harry turned away quickly.
Harry stopped by his front door. He squeezed his eyes shut and willed himself to remain expressionless.
“I…” Draco stammered. “I want you to know…. I…. “
Harry unlocked the door to his house.
"I have to go,” Harry announced. He had nowhere to be, but he couldn’t stand there any longer.
It was the last time he had seen Draco. At times, he thought that maybe he was forgetting what his face looked like when he woke up, what his laugh sounded like. Harry only let himself think of Draco when he was alone in the dark of night. The way the water clung to his lashes, how his voice sounded as he sang along to the radio. He never could forget those things, even if he tried.
Ron and Harry walked up the long driveway and rang the doorbell. The last time Harry had been there was for Draco’s birthday earlier that year. They had both gotten drunk, and Harry had woken up in Draco’s bed, a trashcan on the floor below him and a glass of water on the bedside table. Draco had fallen asleep on the floor.
Realizing he was holding his breath, Harry exhaled quickly as a figure approached the door. He recognized that it was Draco’s mother.
“Good, you’re here- Oh, hi Harry,” Mrs. Malfoy greeted, a look of confusion on her face.
“Hey, Mrs. Malfoy,” Harry smiled sheepishly. “We’re with the caterers.”
“Of course. Follow me,” she replied, gesturing for them to enter.
“Draco’s still upstairs, want me to get him?” she asked.
Harry shook his head. “No. I’m here working, so…”
“Oh, right. Yes, of course!” she breathed, her voice echoing in the foyer. Her heels clicked against the marble floors as she led them to the kitchen.
After they had set up the chafing dishes and platters in the Malfoys’ opulent dining room, they took their places. Ron had reasoned that Harry should pass hors d’oeuvres and then the buffet table, while Ron tended bar, as that would minimize any potentially lengthy interactions with Draco. Harry had just hoisted a tray of food into his arms when he heard a familiar voice.
“I was wondering when I’d see you again,” Draco said as he leaned against the kitchen counter.
Harry gripped the tray tightly. All of the feelings which had lain dormant throughout the autumn months were now bubbling to the surface, though anger was the one which broke first.
“You could’ve called,” he muttered, his voice shaking.
“I could’ve,” Draco replied quietly.
Harry could smell Draco’s cologne and, from the corner of his eye, he noticed that Draco wore a waistcoat and tie. He missed his rumpled t-shirt and flip flops, though the sight of him made his stomach flutter nonetheless. Harry noticed that Draco’s suit was grey, like his eyes, and he remembered the grey ocean off the coast of San Francisco, how Draco’s lips tasted like salt water when he kissed him between murmurings of I love yous.
He shook his head and began walking towards the dining room.
“I should’ve,” Draco said, louder this time. “I should’ve called. Harry, I’m-”
Harry squeezed his eyes shut and noticed that his heart was racing.
“I’m working, Draco,” he stated as he walked away quickly. He schooled his features into a pleasant smile as he wove through the crowds. Grateful for Ron’s ability to plan ahead in tense situations, he steered clear of Draco, although he could still see him as he struggled to make small talk with various partygoers.
He felt grateful to get away when he returned to the kitchen. He moved instinctively around the kitchen as he poured himself a glass of water. He pulled out a chair at the kitchen island and ran his hand across the smooth granite countertop. Resting his head in his hands, he let his eyes drift shut. Being around Draco like this made him feel so tired.
He heard someone sit down next to him. He kept his eyes closed and made no motion to acknowledge their presence.
Harry opened his eyes, feeling both relieved and disappointed to see Ron beside him.
“What’s up?” Harry greeted.
“Want me to put out the coffee and tea, and then we both can pass out desserts?” Ron asked.
But Ron didn’t move.
“He told me to tell you that he’s sorry,” Ron said quietly.
Harry snorted. “Yeah? What else did he say?”
“I told him to fuck off before he could say anything else,” Ron chuckled.
“Thanks man,” Harry replied. He took his glasses off and rubbed his face. “I can’t wait to get out of here.”
“He really got to you that bad, huh?”
Harry thought of the nights he spent in his apartment, looking at the picture he took of Draco on the beach in Big Sur. Even with his eyes closed, he still remembered Draco’s eyes when he told him that he loved him, still felt Draco’s hands on his hips. Harry still loved Draco, and he hated him for it.
“Yep,” Harry answered, a sad smile on his face.
“Maybe you should talk to him,” Ron mumbled.
Harry glanced at him sharply.
“It’s just that, you’ve been off since you came back. I know you’re sad about it, and he looked pretty sad all night too. I don’t know, maybe if you just deal with it instead of avoiding-”
“Avoiding each other was your idea!”
“Yeah, you’re welcome. That was just to help you out. Next time, I won’t be such a good friend,” Ron answered sarcastically.
“Shut up, Ron,” Harry muttered goodnaturedly.
“Look,” Ron said, more gently. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. I just worry about you, okay?”
Harry looked at Ron’s earnest face and knew that he was right. Even though he was still mourning what could have been, he missed what actually was: his friendship with Draco. Silence wasn’t helping either of them; maybe Draco was drowning just as badly as Harry.
Harry stared at his glass of water on the counter.
“I can’t, Ron,” he mumbled.
Ron took a sip of Harry’s water. “Okay,” he replied.
“It’s too much. I can’t.”
Ron set the now-empty glass of water on the table and turned towards Harry, his eyebrows raised.
“You know, he said he loved me? He said he loved me but he couldn’t…” Harry explained. “He said he couldn’t do… I don’t know. Couldn’t be with me, I guess. It’s fucked up, what he did to me.”
Ron winced and got another glass of water. “So, do you love him?”
“I-” Harry stopped. “I did.”
“But not anymore?”
Harry stood up and let out a long exhale. “Don’t we have dessert to serve?”Ron grinned. He set the glass in the sink and grabbed a tray of miniature chocolate mousses.
“Let’s get this over with,” he said, pushing a tray of miniature cheesecakes towards Harry.
They made their way through the groups of party guests. Harry noticed Draco standing by himself in a corner, a glass of whisky in his hands. Draco’s fingers grasped his glass tightly, and his smile never reached his dark eyes. Guilt washed over Harry as he realized that Draco didn’t look happy. He knew that Draco only revealed his true self to a select few, and he wondered if he had anyone to talk to the past few months. He wondered if he had stopped writing, if he was good at his job, or if he beat himself up for not living up to his family’s expectations.
His legs felt slower as he moved through the room, the tray of cheesecakes feeling heavy in his arms. He wondered if Draco was planning to run into the Atlantic on New Year’s Day for charity, if he ever let his hair get mussed up anymore or if he always kept it combed neatly to the side. He wondered if he listened to the radio as he drove to work, if he had bought any new records lately. Harry wondered if Draco had bought him a Christmas present, as he usually did, or if he just assumed that they wouldn’t see each other.
Harry wondered where it went wrong.
When the last cheesecake was taken, Harry returned to the kitchen. He set the tray on the counter and stretched his arms overhead.
“I guess you’re leaving soon?”
Harry lowered his arms quickly. He turned and saw Draco standing in the doorway.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“Okay,” Draco said quietly.
Harry’s brow furrowed. “Okay?”
Draco stared at his glass of whisky. “I don’t know what to say.”
“There’s a lot you could say,” Harry retorted bitterly, as he fought the conflicted feelings that surged through his chest.
“There’s too much to say right now is what I mean,” Draco said, putting his glass on the counter. He approached Harry. “There’s so much I need to tell you.”
Harry felt his heart race as Draco stepped closer. It would be so easy to kiss now and talk later. Draco’s lips parted slightly, and Harry felt the hairs on his arms rise as he shivered. He closed his eyes as he remembered their last time together, and suddenly, his chest ached.
He stepped away, his back hitting the refrigerator behind him. “I can’t do this,” he said..
Draco looked away. His jaw clenched as he nodded. “I understand,” he mumbled.
“I have one more tray left. I gotta get back to work,” Harry said, his voice frantic as he picked up the last tray of miniature fruit tarts.
“Let me drive you home,” Draco offered.
“You’ve been drinking,” Harry replied, standing still.
“I just took the glass because some bigwig offered it to me. It’s really expensive apparently. Turns out, I don’t like whiskey that much,” Draco explained, embarrassed.
Harry glanced down at the tray of desserts. “I don’t know.”
“Please,” Draco murmured.
Harry looked at Draco. His gray eyes stared back, open and vulnerable, and Harry wondered if anyone else had ever seen his eyes like that before. He wondered if anyone else had seen Draco smile the way he did when they raced up the streets of San Francisco. He hoped that he wasn’t the last person, but seeing Draco’s weary eyes told him that he was.
“Let me tell Ron,” he answered.
He found Ron passing out the last of the miniature chocolate mousses.
“I’ve got another ride home,” Harry whispered. Ron tilted his head and grinned.
“Cool,” Ron replied.
Harry blinked. “Cool?”
“Yeah. I was thinking about going out after this anyway,” Ron shrugged.
“You don’t think it’s a bad idea?” Harry winced.
Ron took the tray of miniature fruit tarts from Harry. “No. You’ve been miserable ever since you got back. And, clearly, Malfoy’s a fucking mess too-”
“He’s not a mess, he’s just-” Harry started. He stopped when he remembered the dark circles under Draco’s eyes, the way his fingers nervously grasped the glass, his fake smile as he tried to small talk.
“Harry. Quit dancing around the subject, and just go,” Ron ordered, a fond smile on his face.
“Thanks,” Harry replied. “I’ll call you tomorr-”
“Not listening! Go!” Ron chided. He walked towards a group of guests, and Harry heard him exclaim, “Fruit tarts, sir?”
He smiled and turned back towards the kitchen. When he was a few steps away, his stomach turned in knots. For the first time in months, he’d be alone with Draco again. If he were being honest with himself, he knew that he was partly to blame for their separation. As much as they fought before, Harry never fought back when Draco began to pull away. When Draco tried to talk to him in his driveway that August afternoon, he had shut the door on him. He had held his phone in his hands, but never pressed “Send.” He had known how to reach Draco, but he never tried. He told himself that Draco was doing fine without him. That his time with Harry was just some experiment, some inevitable but meaningless end product of being stuck together for a few weeks.
Deep down, he knew that he was wrong. But his pride- the same stubborn pride that pushed him to work tirelessly through all those years of swim practice until he was good enough to go to college on scholarship, that same stubborn pride that pushed him to work seven days a week so that he could move out of his aunt and uncle’s house- kept him from breaking first. He needed Draco, but he was afraid to admit it. Harry had years of experience in pretending that he didn’t love Draco. Going through the motions felt safe and familiar.
It was deadening too, but Harry ignored that as he pushed himself to work longer hours in hopes that he would be too exhausted to think about Draco when he got to bed. His efforts to forget Draco were only half-successful, like a sleeping pill that wore off after four hours.
Harry found Draco sitting at his kitchen table, his keys jingling in his hands.
“Ready?” Draco asked, jumping up when he saw Harry. His lips tugged into a smile as he noticed Draco’s nervousness.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Harry replied. He zipped his coat and buried his hands in his pockets.
Draco’s Range Rover still smelled like leather and cologne, and its scent bought back memories of days spent surfing, of trips back and forth to college together. He leaned back comfortably in the plush seats.
“I don’t live with my aunt and uncle anymore,” he told Draco, as they drove down the residential street.
“Oh? Where do you live?” Draco asked.
“A little further into town. I share a house with a few other people.”
“Nice. Are they cool?”
“Yeah, they’re alright. We keep to ourselves, mostly.”
Harry frantically tried to think of something else to say as their small-talk descended into silence. He almost reached out to fiddle with the radio, but he changed his mind. Draco was particular about the kind of music he listened to while driving, and Harry felt out of place in the car, despite all the drives they had taken together.
“Do you do catering full-time then?” Draco asked. His hands gripped the steering wheel as he stared straight ahead.
“I usually just work at the bar. Ron hooked me up with this gig for some extra money,” Harry replied. “How about you? What’ve you been up to?”
“I’ve been working a lot,” Draco said. “I have a few accounts. Nothing major yet.”
“Do you like it?”
“My job? Yeah, I suppose. It’s wealth management. It’s not the most exciting, but I’m not bad at it.”
“I can’t even imagine being that rich that I could pay someone else to manage my money,” Harry remarked, thinking about his drafty room.
“It’s more than just rich people. Average people need retirement accounts too. You should open one now, while you’re young,” Draco explained, glancing at Harry.
“Yeah, with what money? The cash I make from passing out hor d’oeuvres to rich people like you?” Harry laughed, though he felt the bitterness rise like bile in his throat.
“There’s nothing wrong with making money,” Draco said quietly.
“I never said there was,” Harry replied, defensively.
“But you’re not exactly proud of me and my career, are you?” Draco said, coolly.
Harry’s jaw clenched. He rubbed his face in frustration. “Only because you’re better than that! You can do more-”
“And what if I don’t want to do more? What if this is it for me?”
“What? Making rich people even richer? What about what you really want? What about writing, or traveling, or going back to school?”
“Newsflash, Potter! You need money to do those things!”
“You were miserable when you used to talk about this job! You never wanted this-”
“Wrong! I never wanted to be told what to do- I wanted a decision that was mine to make!”
“And this is your decision?” Harry asked, looking at Draco, whose face was flushed in anger.
“Yeah, Harry, it is. Is my decision good enough for you?” he asked, his voice quiet again.
“What do you mean by that?” Harry knitted his brows in confusion.
Draco sighed. He ran a hand through his hair, though it barely moved for all the hair product keeping it in place.
“Nothing,” he mumbled. “So, what bar do you-”
“No, tell me. What do you mean by that?” Harry insisted. His heart raced as adrenaline began to pump through his blood. It had been so long since he had felt this energy between them. There was so much beneath the surface, and as they drew closer and closer to Harry’s apartment, Harry felt like their time was running short. He felt that kind of rush that came when he was on his last lap.
Am I close? he thought, as he looked at Draco again. Worry filled Draco’s eyes, as he shook his head.
“I wish this never happened,” Draco murmured.
“What are you talking about?” Harry whispered, though the sinking feeling in his stomach told him the answer.
“This. Us. Whatever this is.”
Harry quickly turned his head to look out the window. He closed his eyes before his vision could get blurry. His chest felt tight, and he desperately wanted to get out of the car.
“Oh,” Harry replied. It was all he trusted himself to say.
“Do you know what it’s like to disappoint everyone you love?” Draco asked quietly as he stopped at a red light. Harry looked at him then. The back of Draco’s head rested against the seat, and he looked despondent as he stared blankly ahead.
“You’re not a disappointment,” Harry murmured, forgetting his own pain as he looked at his best friend in front of him.
“Yeah, but I disappointed you, right? I broke your heart,” Draco replied, his voice cracking. Harry wanted to reach out and hold his hand, but he didn’t know his place. He kept his hands in his pockets instead.
“And I knew I would,” Draco continued. “Because I knew that when we got back, it’d be different. I wouldn’t be the person you want me to be. You loved me in California, but would you love me back home? Would you love me if I started working for my dad? You always pushed me to be a writer, and I know why you do, but it’s just another expectation I’m supposed to meet. I’m never gonna be right for you.”
Harry’s jaw dropped as he listened to Draco. He wanted to tell Draco how he had loved him for years, how he still loved him. How he would keep loving him. He wanted to say all of this, but he wasn’t sure how to make sure that Draco knew he meant it.
“That’s not true,” he said, instead. “I don’t expect you to be anything except for whatever makes you happy.”
Draco turned his head and smiled sadly. “I’m still not happy. Just my luck.”
“Were you happy with me?” Harry asked slowly.
Draco pursed his lips as his eyes shone. “It was the best time of my life,” he quavered, blinking quickly. He rubbed his face roughly before clearing his throat. He sat up straighter as he gripped the steering wheel.
“Am I even going in the right direction?” he asked, barking out a laugh.
“Draco…” He wanted to see Draco’s smile reach his eyes and feel his chest rise and fall as he breathed. He wanted to hold him until their sadness went away. He was so tired.
“I don’t know this part of town that well, and I’d rather not get lost in the middle of the night.”
Harry reached out his hand before resting it in his lap again. He knew what he wanted to do, but he wasn’t sure if that was what Draco needed.
“Just turn right at the light,” Harry said gently. Draco nodded tersely. They sat in silence as Draco pulled up to Harry’s house.
“Thanks for the ride,” Harry said. His hand lingered on the door handle. Months could go by before he saw him again, and he wasn’t ready for that just yet.
“Harry,” Draco said, grabbing Harry’s hand. “I’m sorry. I fucked it up, and it’s my fault. I never wanted to... I just wasn’t ready, and I shouldn’t have, but I did anyway, because I love you. You have to know that I do. But I’m no good for you-”
Harry felt his face grow hot in anger, and he grabbed Draco’s arm.
“Will you shut up with that? You’re no good for me because you choose not to be! You were everything I ever wanted. I just wanted you. I didn’t care what you do for a living- I just wanted you,” Harry shouted. He ran a hand through his hair in exasperation. “Fuck, Draco....I still do.”
“I’m sorry,” Draco whispered, his eyes downcast.
Harry’s chest ached as he stared at Draco. He felt like the closer they swam to each other, the further they were. He reached over the center console and pulled Draco closer.
“I’m sorry,” Draco kept repeating.
“Shh,” Harry mumbled, his hands grasping at Draco. He inhaled a gulp of air, feeling like he could finally breathe again with Draco in his arms. He felt Draco’s lips against his neck, his hands running through his hair. Suddenly, they were nose to nose, and Harry wanted so badly to kiss him, to taste him again.
“Harry,” Draco breathed, their lips close. Harry opened his eyes to see Draco staring expectantly at him as he waited for his consent. He brushed his thumb across Draco’s tear-stained cheek. How many nights had he spent dreaming about seeing Draco up close again? How many times did he step out into the back alley of the bar and wondered where Draco was? And now, here he was, gazing up at him with open eyes.
“I can’t,” Harry said, moving towards the passenger door. Draco nodded, deflated. “Draco, it’s not that I don’t want this. I want this, so badly. I have missed you every day since we got back. I’ve wanted you-”
He looked away when his voice cracked, and he blinked to feel hot tears roll down his face.
“It’s okay,” Draco replied. He reached out as if he was going to wipe Harry’s face, but dropped his arm quickly.
“I need time,” Harry said, wiping his face with his coat sleeve.
“Time,” Draco nodded.
“We can hang out. I mean, we should hang out. We’ve always been friends.”
Draco gave a bittersweet grin. “Best friends, right?”
Harry chuckled as he wiped his fogged glasses. “Yeah, something like that.”
“Well, let me know your schedule. I work 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, so whenever you want,” Draco explained. He sat up as he spoke, and Harry recognized that Draco was trying to sound confident. It made him want to cry.
“Yeah. I’ll call,” Harry said. He smiled weakly. “Goodnight, Draco.”
“Goodnight,” Draco answered.
Harry’s legs shook as he walked up the steps to his house. He turned back to look at Draco, who gave a small wave. Harry waved back and unlocked his front door.
“The floors are crooked,” Harry thought, as he clung to the walls. He stumbled down the hallway, the taste of tequila still on his tongue. He knew it had been a mistake to do shots with his co-workers that night, but it was the holidays, and he was feeling festive.
As he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror, one look at his eyes told him that he actually was feeling like shit, but he was good at lying to himself.
A week had passed since Draco had driven him home, and he still hadn’t called him.
“He hasn’t called you yet, either,” Harry chided himself as he stared at his phone. “Don’t do it, Harry.”
The girl sitting next to him on the couch gave him an odd look and walked away.
“I love him, but does he love me?” Harry called out after her. The girl looked at him before turning to her friends. Harry saw them laughing.
“I can hear you, you know!” he shouted. He turned his attention back to his phone.
“But he loves you, Harry. He told you so himself,” Harry mumbled. With a start, he realized that it was 1 AM. He looked around the house and realized that it was far too cold and he was far too drunk to get home safely.
He looked around at the other people in the room and noticed that he didn’t know anyone. He had tagged along with his co-workers for a night out. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he realized that they must have left him there.
“Excuse me,” Harry asked after he managed to get up from the couch. “Could you tell me what town we’re in?”
“We’re in Freehold,” a girl drinking from a red cup said.
“Freehold?” Harry shouted. He was thirty minutes from home, at least. He wondered if he should call a cab but then remembered that he had no cash.
“You alright, man?” a guy in a flannel shirt and Santa hat asked.
“I gotta get home,” Harry mumbled, shaking his head. He walked out onto the porch. The street was covered in snow.
He stared at his phone for another minute before making a decision.
A half-hour later, Harry spotted a Range Rover pull up slowly to the house. He walked slowly to it, the snow soaking his feet.
Draco sat at the driver’s seat, wearing a heavy parka, jeans, and an irritated but bemused expression.
“I can’t believe I’m here,” Draco muttered.
“I can’t believe you are either! It’s a fucking Christmas miracle!” Harry exclaimed, his cheeks red from the cold.
“C’mon. Let’s get you home,” Draco replied. He smiled at Harry then, and Harry thought he detected some affection.
“Can I turn on the radio?” Harry asked, his eyes bright.
“Go ahead, babe,” Draco replied quietly, his focus on the road.
“I like when you call me babe,” Harry smiled, his head lolling to the side.
“I thought you were embarrassed by that.”
“You can call me baby, you can call me anytime, but you got to call,” Harry warbled. .
“Are you serenading me with Tracy Chapman?” Draco laughed.
“I’m serious, Draco. You should’ve called me earlier.” Harry reached out to touch Draco’s face.
“You said you’d call me,” Draco replied. Harry knew him well enough to notice that the confident tone of his voice had faltered slightly.
“I did, didn’t I?” Harry grinned slyly.
Draco glanced at Harry before rolling his eyes. “Go to sleep, Harry,” he ordered, goodnaturedly.
Harry blinked slowly and took advantage of the fact that he was drunk to stare unabashedly at Draco.
“You’re the most hottest guy I’ve ever slept with. The only guy, actually,” he mumbled.
Draco shook his head and laughed. “You really know how to make a man feel special.
“You are special,” Harry mused.
“Go to sleep, Harry,” he replied, gently squeezing Harry’s hand.
The next thing he knew, Draco was helping Harry get out of the car. Harry slung his arm around Draco’s shoulders, and they slowly walked towards the front door.
“Come inside,” Harry murmured.
Draco’s eyes flashed before he shook his head.
“I should go,” Draco said, looking away. The streetlights reflected in his eyes, and Harry moved closer to him.
“C’mon. Just for a little,” Harry rested his forehead against Draco’s shoulder.
“Nothing will happen. I promise. We’ll just hang out!” Harry pleaded.
Draco looked at Harry and bit his lip. Shaking his head, he clicked the lock button on his key ring.
“Just for a little,” he conceded.
Locking the door behind him, Harry toed off his wet shoes. Draco did the same.
“Want to see my record collection?” Harry asked, grabbing Draco’s hand.
Draco bit back a smile. “Smooth, Potter,” he retorted.
“I’m serious, Draco! I got some good ones since last time,” Harry giggled. They tip-toed up the stairs to Harry’s room. Harry felt the smile on his face grow wider. Having Draco over felt like old times.
He opened the door to his room, and Draco walked in. He took his coat off and laid it across the back of his chair.
“It smells like you,” Draco mumbled as he looked around for a place to sit. Suddenly, Harry’s arms felt awkward at his sides, and any semblance of old times disappeared. It felt good to have Draco here with him, but so much had changed since the last time they were alone together in a room.
Harry kicked his dirty laundry pile under his bed. “I hope that’s a good thing,” he replied.
“It is,” Draco murmured.
Harry froze, his mouth feeling dry. “I should drink some water. Do you need the bathroom?”
“You can go first,” Draco offered. He walked over to Harry’s bookshelf and began to peruse the titles.
Once inside the bathroom, he took two ibuprofen and drank a glass of water before splashing water on his face. His head was spinning.
When he returned to his room, Harry heard the Beatles singing quietly from his record player. “Here, There, and Everywhere” played quietly in the background. He looked at Draco and fought the urge to sing to him.
“Is this okay?” Draco asked nervously. He was sitting on Harry’s twin bed, his back against the headboard. He was wearing a pair of Harry’s sweatpants.
“Revolver. Good choice,” Harry replied, knowing that he didn’t answer Draco’s actual question. He stood awkwardly by the bed before deciding to sit next to Draco. He sat close enough that he could feel the heat from Draco’s body. Exhaustion seeped into his body as he imagined having to fight against his feelings one moment more.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call until tonight,” Harry said decisively.
“Why’d you wait?” Draco wondered.
“I was still a little mad at you,” Harry admitted. Draco looked down wistfully. “I’m not really mad though. I just… I’m more scared, I think.”
Draco turned to look at Harry, his face still as he listened.
“I’m just scared. I took a lot of risks this year. And it didn’t work out. I got hurt,” Harry said quietly.
“Harry, you don’t have to talk about this now,” Draco said lightly.
“I want to.”
“But you’re drunk.”
“I mean what I say.”
“Will you remember any of this tomorrow?” Draco asked, concern darkening his eyes.
“I will,” Harry promised. He leaned his head against Draco’s shoulder.
“I should sleep on the floor,” Draco said, sitting up. Harry’s torso slid down so his head hit the pillow.
“No,” he mumbled. “Just stay here. Stay with me.”
“Are you sure?” Draco’s eyes searched Harry’s face. Harry nodded.
“I have so much I want to tell you,” Harry yawned, his eyes growing heavy.
“You can tell me tomorrow,” Draco replied, his voice gentle. Harry’s heart swelled as Draco’s voice washed over him.
“I love you, Dra-”
“Harry, I don’t think-”
“No, please. I want to talk,” Harry protested. Draco sighed before he nodded.
“I thought you wouldn’t want me when we came back from California. I loved you like I would lose you. And I did, right? I did,” Harry shrugged.
“But it didn’t change anything. I still love you. I love you when you wake up, and your breath smells. And when you’re pissy at me for being forgetful. And when you smile, and your eyes crinkle, right there-” Harry mumbled, as he pointed to the spot next to Draco’s eye.
“I love you, when you’re writing, or when you’re not- I don’t care. I love you even when you’re not here, when you make me so fucking angry, because I can’t stop loving you, and I don’t think you love me how I love you, but I can’t stop- Even then, I love you. I hate it, Draco. I hate it,” Harry rambled, and he was shocked to feel tears in his eyes.
He felt Draco’s arms wrap around him as his shoulders began to shake. “I hate feeling this way,” he cried, his nose stuffy.
“I’m here, Harry. I’m right here,” Draco murmured, his arms tight around Harry.
“I’m so drunk,” Harry mumbled, hiccuping.
“I know,” Draco said, laughing gently.
“I mean it though,” Harry said seriously, before blowing his nose loudly.
Draco’s eyes turned misty, even as he laughed. “I know.”
Warm breath tickled Harry’s face the next morning, and he blinked his eyes open. Draco’s arm was draped across his chest, their legs intertwined. Warmth blossomed in Harry’s chest as he remembered the night before.
Grateful that he had stopped drinking when he had, he thought back to what he had said. As he remembered every word, he felt like a weight had been lifted. He turned his head to kiss Draco’s forehead.
“Hm?” Draco stirred. His eyes squinted in the morning sunshine as he smiled. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m alright. Glad I took the Advil.” Harry grinned in relief. “And how are you feeling?”
Draco stared at Harry with the same expression he wore when they held hands in the Pacific. “I’m good,” he replied, smiling softly.
Harry turned on his side and brushed Draco’s hair off his forehead. He nudged his cheek with his nose.
“I thought you needed time,” Draco said cautiously.
Harry locked eyes with Draco. “I had time. Too much time,” he answered. “What I really need is you.”
“Really?” Draco breathed, a smile hinting at his lips.
“Were you not listening last night?” Harry joked, pushing Draco’s shoulder lightly. Draco rolled his eyes.
“I was listening, you big cry-baby,” he teased.
“You said you weren’t sure if I love you like you love me. Now, you listen to me,” he intoned as he pulled Harry closer. He held Harry’s face in his hands, his thumb brushing against Harry’s cheek.
“I love you, Harry James Potter. No matter how hard I tried to deny it, I have loved you since we were seventeen. I have loved you and your big dumb hands, and your stupid hair, and your better swim records, and that rusty bike you insist on taking everywhere. I love you when you don’t call me for a week even when you said you would. I love you even when you call me piss-drunk at 2 AM to pick you up in the freezing snow, because I’m just glad you finally called.”
Harry looked up at Draco’s face. His grey eyes had the same open and vulnerable quality they had that night they stood in the Malfoys’ kitchen. A rift had stood between them then, but as Harry felt Draco’s hands on his face, he smiled. The same Draco he kissed under the desert sun was here with him, huddled under a blanket in his drafty rented room. It was his Draco. He’d know him anywhere.
“So,” Harry bit his lip. “You love me. And I love you. Can we stop being not-together, and just be together?”
Draco kissed his cheek, and Harry would have thought it was chaste if not for his hand sliding down his hip.
“It’s me and you,” Draco murmured, his nose bumping into Harry’s.
“Me and you,” Harry whispered. Their lips reunited as he kissed him slowly, and when he opened his eyes, he saw that Draco’s smile had reached his eyes.