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When I start thinking about Ron and Hermione's next visit, it's a lost cause. I don't want to say it, but the alternative is always worse. "Stop. This isn't working."

There's a pop, and his mouth is gone. I catch the gleam of saliva stretching from the tip of my cock to his lips. It snaps. The air feels cold on my wet skin. He's still kneeling in front of me, brown eyes meeting mine. He looks concerned; they always do. "Hard day, Harry?"

"Just too much to drink," I say. It's a familiar excuse.

My cock is rapidly losing what little interest it had had in the proceedings. Oh, it felt nice. It always feels nice. They're always eager to make me happy; Dennis is no different. If I'm honest, he's worse than most: he reminds me too much of Colin, all mousy brown hair and hero-worship. I'm trying to get away from the war, not wallow in it. I half-wonder now if he's even gay, or if this is something he feels he owes me. I know better than to try-- my God, he works for the Prophet-- but I've never quite given up, and Dennis is safe.

"I've got a sobriety potion in the kitchen," he says, his hand brushing against my thigh.

I force a smile-- I'm good with those, too. "They never seem to work right for me." I manage another smile. "Not your fault, truly." One of the few honest things I've said tonight.

He's sitting back on his heels, now. His voice is filled with hope. "Another time? You can Floo or owl anytime, Harry."

"Of course, Dennis." Another lie. "I've got a big assignment coming up"-- and another-- "so it might not happen too soon." It won't happen at all. If we tried again, he'd know.

He leans forward and kisses me; I kiss back. I promised to let him fuck me. Instead, I'm bailing out in the midst of a blowjob. I can't stop thinking of whether it's better to let Kreacher cook or attempt a fry up. Even now, I'm thinking of the reproachful expression Hermione will wear if I let Kreacher do the cooking, and the disappointed look Ron will give me if I don't.

I grab my pants and trousers before he thinks to offer his Floo. After all, if I'm too pissed to get it up, I ought to be too pissed to Apparate without splinching myself. No fear, I've got an excuse prepared for that, too.

I've had a lot of practise.

I leave his flat for the hallway, hurry down the stairs, and to the nearest alleyway before Apparating home. This will be the last time.


Work is worst. Along with the usual complement of hero-worshippers, there are the resentful. I went through Auror training just like everyone else, but the fact that they let me in without NEWTs means I end up with just a few more dull assignments. Ron did the same, but he's been spared both the worship and condescension.

Ron's the only one there I feel like I could talk to, and even then… we don't talk about Ginny. I know he wonders why it didn't work. Hell, I wish it had, sometimes. I could trust her; she'd talk to me, not worship me. But the limited interest I can manage with someone like Dennis-- I couldn't get that far with her. It was doomed from the start.

To read the Prophet, she broke my heart and ruined me for other women. Just last week, they had another set of articles on it. If they got wind of the whole thing—well, which would interest them more: that I'm gay, or that I can't get it up? They've got three years out of Ginny; they'd be on those for the rest of my life.

I pick the ones I know will keep their mouths shut. Then I see that look in their eyes, and I want to be anywhere else. I can't get away from the hero-worship no matter what I do.


"You'll never believe this, Potter, but I'm on the pull, not planning for world domination."

I hunch lower over my (sadly flat) pint of lager, trying to disappear into the corner. It's Muggle London, for God's sake; I'm supposed to be anonymous here. I'm too busy trying to hide to comprehend the rest. It's the nagging familiarity of the contemptuous drawl that grabs me. "Malfoy?" I look up. It's him: white-blond hair, pointy everything, sneer and all. "I thought you were in Azkaban." I clamp my lips closed immediately after, as if to render the words unsaid.

His eyes narrow; his sneer becomes more pronounced. "I'm out for good behaviour. Say it louder, why don't you?"

"Look, sorry. I wasn't thinking."

His lip curls. "Some things never change."

"Stubble it, Malfoy. I said I was sorry."

He scowls. "Why are you here? It's bad enough that I've got this--" he waves his arm. I can see the silver gleam in his sleeve: a tracking bracelet. "I don't need to deal with your incompetent tracking skills as well."

I shake my head, denying it before I think. I regret it immediately; it would have been easier than the truth. But, no--he'd probably ask his parole officer. "I didn't know you'd be here. If I had, d'you think I'd have said what I did?"

"With you, who knows, Potter?" His sneer disappears as he purses his lips. "If you're not here for me, then…" A look of unholy glee crosses his face, and my heart sinks. "The Saviour's on the pull. In a gay pub in Muggle London, no less." He laughs. "Why bother? You could get no end of people willing to suck your cock on Diagon Alley."

I tell myself again that Malfoy mentioning my presence to his parole officer would be worse. "Yeah, let it all out, Malfoy. Then think about the fact that if you tell anyone I'm here, they'll know you're here as well."

Now he looks genuinely amused. "Potter, they know where I am at all times. That's what this stupid bracelet means, as you ought to know. What are they possibly going to say about me that's worse than what's already been said? I. Don't. Care."

"You don't give a fuck if they say ‘Draco Malfoy takes it up the arse'?"

He rolls his eyes, finally flopping down in the seat across from me. He waves his right hand dismissively. "So, it's you, then. Of course. Potter, you could get off on eating babies and they'd deliver them to your doorstep."

I shift in my seat. "No."

"Is it Granger or Weasley" -- he enunciates both names-- " that you're keeping it from?" He leans forward. "Or are you still with… Girl Weasley?"

"I'm not. Just-- please."

"Whatever, Potter." He shrugs. "Not like there's any incentive to pass it on anyway."

I feel a wash of relief. It doesn't last long. This is Malfoy; I can't trust him. Speaking of which, this is Draco Malfoy and we're sitting in a Muggle pub. "Why are you even here?"

"I answered that already." He looks at me a moment, then rolls his eyes before continuing. "Does it occur to you that I want to be somewhere where these"-- he shoves up his sleeve, showing me his bracelet and the greying Dark Mark-- "are just an ugly tattoo and a piece of jewellery?" He snorts. "No. Of course not. I'm Draco Malfoy, so I clearly must have an ulterior motive."

It's tempting to believe him. I have no reason not to. I don't, anyway.

Malfoy watches me for a minute and then shrugs again, pushing back from the table. "No point in me staying here, either." He gestures around the pub. "I've got better odds with the barman, and he's straight." He rises, turns away. He looks over his shoulder at me. "Oh, and Potter? As for taking it up the arse: I don't."

He's gone, then, and lost in the crowd.

Malfoy must have changed to be out of Azkaban, but, from where I'm sitting, he's no different than he ever was. I have a flash of some of my visions of his frightened face during the war; it's not too hard to ward the memory off with this recent discussion. He's still got that overweening arrogance. If I can ignore the personality, he looks good. Still pointy, still blond. He's bulkier than I remember. I wish he weren't here.

There's movement, a shift of people, and I can see him again. He's laughing; whoever he's talking to is smiling. They're standing too close. He reaches out, places a hand against the other man's forearm. Malfoy's acting for all the world like he's actually going to shag a Muggle.

It's more than I can do. I'm here to avoid the hero-worship, to preserve my last shred of privacy. I grew up with Muggles. I ought to be comfortable here. I'm not. I'm years out of date on the Muggle world. What would I even talk about?


Malfoy is there most times I am over the next few weeks. I'm watching him-- the way he laughs, the men he leaves with. He'll sometimes talk to them after; it's easy, relaxed. It's never been that way for me. I'm getting tired of pretending to myself that I don't wonder. Even if I do, it doesn't matter: he doesn't talk to me. Sometimes, I think I feel him watching me.

It takes about a month before he stops at my table again. It's late in the evening; I'm on my fifth drink. I don't know how many he's had. It's enough to render his gestures expansive and remove some of the sharp edges from his voice.

"Y'know, Potter, a bloke might think you were here to spy on him after all," he says.

I roll my eyes. "How d'you reckon that, Malfoy?"

He waves his arm in my direction, almost knocking over his drink. He clutches at it with both hands, saving it. "Never pulling, just sitting in that corner drinking."

He's not wrong; I protest anyway. "And you know what I'm doing when you're not here, how?"

He shrugs. "Asked the barman."

The best way to combat embarrassment is to strike back. "Sounds like you're the one spying."

He wags his finger back and forth. "You're always watching me, Potter. Always were." He grins. If he weren't swaying in his seat, it would be insidious. "Either you're spying or you fancy me."

There are any number of arguments I could use: I watch him because he's familiar, because it's so fucking easy for him. I could even claim I'm not watching at all. For once, I'm tired of lying. Anyway, Malfoy's drunk; he won't remember. I stare down at the table, clench my fist. "Maybe I do. Fancy you." I look up to find him smirking. I'm unsurprised.

"Thought so." He flings his arms wide. This time, his drink spills across the table. "Oops." He darts a glance at me. He's reaching for his breast pocket. He'll use his wand, he'll be dragged in to explain it. I grab mine instead: notice-me-not, a quick cleaning spell, and it's away. He nods at me, continuing as if none of it had happened. "After all, why wouldn't you fancy me?"

"Why indeed?" I murmur.

"So, how about it?"

"What?" I can't have heard him correctly.

"How about we go back to yours and I shag you?" He states the question slowly. "C'mon Potter. I knew you were slow--"

"That's your version of a chat up line?"

His face is a wash of confusion. "Why not? S'what you want. I'll live." He smirks again. "Scared, Potter?"

"You wish." I snap out the response without thinking about it. It always worked, that dare. It's working now. Malfoy won't remember this conversation, much less anything about the evening. I think of the other men, the easy way he laughs with them. I want to know what that's like.

We settle up--or, rather, I handle the settling up while he handles the swaying. My heart's beating fast as we walk out and head away from the lights and from the people. We duck into an alley. I'm about to grab his arm and Apparate us both when he grabs me instead and pushes me hard against a building. He leans into me, his breath alcoholic on my face. One of his hands lets go, lifts up to lace itself in my hair and pull my lips hard against his.

His tongue forces its way into my mouth, dragging over my hard palate, thrusting in and out until I could choke on it.

I can feel his cock pressing hard against my hip.

I'm burning where his body touches mine. Dear God, but I want this to work this time.

He pulls back, biting hard on my lower lip. I gasp. His hands are moving, ripping open my shirt then grappling with my belt. "Not… here," I manage, between pants.

"Yes," he says. "Turn around." He's unsteady on his feet; it wouldn't take much to resist him.

He's got the trousers open now, and he's pushing them down around my thighs. My pants follow soon after. He's opening his own trousers now, pushing them down. Now one of his hands is fisting my cock, the other pinching one nipple. "Turn around, Potter."

It's dark. It's deserted. It's public; anyone could walk past. My heart is racing. I turn around, pressing my forearms against the wall. The rough brick scrapes against them.

"Good." His hand had released my cock when I turned; now it's back. Two fingers press against my lips. "Suck." I open my mouth, pull them in. It's not long before he pulls them out again, and I feel them, both at once, pressing against my arsehole.

I jerk forward. "Malfoy, I can't--"

"You can," he says, and pushes in.

It hurts, agony twisting its way up my spine. I'm dizzy, nauseated. I can't think of anything beyond what I feel: the burn in my arse, the scrape of the wall against my arms, his hand tight on my cock. The plea forces its way through my lips: "More."

The fingers pull out fast. Now something wide and blunt is pressing in. It's slick, but the pain feels like I want to split in half.

It's wonderful.

"Do it," I say, clenching my teeth and bracing myself.

He shoves in, balls deep. It's shocking. My whole body rocks forward, my arms scraping against the wall. I'm nearly sobbing. He gives me no time to adjust before he's moving. I can barely remain upright. I close my teeth tight on my lower lip. One of his arms wraps around my waist, holding me steady against him. The other snakes lower, hand fisting around my cock again. It's still dry, it's still rough--and I realise in a shock of clarity that I'm fully hard. He's thrusting now, pulling on my cock in tandem.

Things go grey, momentarily black. It's never been like this before. He shoves again with a final grunt, grinding back and forth as his cock spurts inside me.

He bites at the join between my neck and shoulder.

I stare down at his hand, still wrapped around my cock, at the wall: they're both spattered with my come.

His arms are loosening, he's pulling away. I force myself upright, grab his wrist. With my free hand, I reach for my wand in my breast pocket and Apparate us.

We both stumble. "What--?" he says.

I turn to look: he's as dazed as I feel. "Come to bed," I say. My lip throbs. I run my tongue against it, tasting blood. I bit through. I'll need to heal it all.


Malfoy's still staring at me. I grab his wrist again. "It's my bedroom, Malfoy. Come to bed."


I'm not sure what wakes me. These days, almost anything will. Moody might be dead, but "Constant Vigilance" is the byword of Auror training. My eyes open. Malfoy's sitting on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands. He's already dressed.

"Fuck," he says quietly. His hands rub down, fall to his lap. He turns his face up to the ceiling. I lie still and watch. "Fucking fuck."

He turns a little toward me, and I close my eyes to slits. One of his hands reaches for me; he pulls it back. "Merlin, Potter. The fuck was I--?" He rises from the bed, moves away.

There's the near-silent creak of hinges, the click of my door. He's leaving.

For a moment, I'm bereft. It doesn't last long. Where would I want this to go, anyway? Better to be grateful that it wasn't the usual disaster, heal my wounds, and be bloody ecstatic Malfoy doesn't think it means anything.


The fact that I feel nervous of going round the pub again is the reason I do it. I'm not going to run in fear.

He doesn't come.

Three weeks later, and I can still say the same thing. It's not that I'm looking. I don't care that he isn't there. And maybe I'll try one of the Muggles. If I've learnt anything from Malfoy, it's that sometimes it can work.

So maybe I will try one of the Muggles. One of these days. I nurse my pint of lager. But not today.


Fourth week-- I'm not counting-- and I'm crossing the Atrium at the Ministry. As usual, I can't bear to look at the statue; war heroes, they call it, and I'm front and centre. It's bloody humiliating. I look straight at the lift doors; it'll be better when I get to the Auror department. I catch sight of white-blond hair just to my left and freeze. It's him; it has to be. "Malfoy," I say. I'm proud of the evenness of my voice.

He spins, staggers before regaining his balance: very familiar. His tongue darts out, licks his lower lip. I watch it. He clears his throat. "Potter."

The lift doors open. I gesture at them. He hurries in and I follow. I hit the second floor. "Which do you need?" I ask without looking at him.

His voice is toneless. "Second." His indrawn breath echoes in the confined space. "I'm here for my parole officer."

I nod, still without looking at him, and move back to the corner.

"Mind your fingers and toes!" a disembodied voice chirps, and the lift doors snap shut.

I lean against the wall. He moves fast, stepping in front of me and jabbing the emergency stop. I stare at him. "Malfoy, what the hell?"

He's licking his lips again. "Look, Potter… I wanted to say… I mean…"

I shake my head, roll my eyes. "I don't want to be late."

He nods jerkily. "I'm sorry," he says in a rush. "I was drunk. I know that's no excuse. But I'm not usually…" He winces. "I'm not usually like that. I didn't mean to hurt you. If you haven't complained, well, I'd appreciate it if you didn't. Not that you'd have any reason--" he shakes his head. "No. This is coming out wrong. I'm sorry, Potter."

I'm at a loss. The only time I've ever enjoyed sex and he's apologising? Has he run completely mad? "I didn't mind, Malfoy."

"Potter, I saw you. You were scraped, bruised. I probably gave you internal injuries. You can't possibly…" His voice trails off; he draws in a deep breath.

I can feel the heat rising in my cheeks. "You're exaggerating."

Now he's glaring at me. I'm actually pleased to see it; it suits him better than the self-flagellation. "So you're not reporting me, then?"

I let out my breath in an explosive puff. "I liked it, okay?"

His eyes narrow. He's quiet. Then: "You liked it." He just blinks a few times. Then, slowly, his lips curl up into a smirk. I can't say I missed that expression; maybe the self-flagellation had its good points. "So…" The drawl is back, too. "The Saviour likes it rough. No wonder you don't want anything in the Prophet."


He holds up a hand. "I didn't say I'd tell them, did I?" He certainly did his best to imply it. "No," he says slowly, "I have a better idea. Have dinner with me."

"What? When?" So much for convincing myself I don't care.

He shrugs. "Whenever you're free."

Of course he lives the life of the idle rich, even when on parole. I should have known. It ought to bring me back to some semblance of sanity. It doesn't. "Is this a date?"

"If you like." He's still smirking. "If you don't, we can just get drunk and shag again."

"I thought you said it wasn't usually ‘like that.'"

His lips purse. "It's not. But if it's what you like…" He steps forward and I press back against the wall. He leans toward me, nipping at my lower lip before grabbing my chin between his thumb and forefinger and forcing his tongue between my lips. I shiver.

It's awhile before he pulls back. I can still taste him. "Thursday," I say. I can hardly hear myself over the sound of my heart.

"I'll meet you at the pub at eight. We can go from there."

We still haven't settled whether this is a date or shagging. I don't care.

He steps back, hits the button. The lift restarts with a jerk.

Two days. And his kiss is enough to get me hard.


It's easy, then. We go by Muggle pubs and restaurants. We've not got much to talk about, but it hardly matters: we're always off quickly back to mine to shag. He'll pinch me, bite me, scratch me, take me dry: anything I ask for. He never asks me anything but, "Do you like this?"

I always do.

It feels so normal, if I don't think about it too much: getting off regularly. I'd like it if I didn't have a lingering sense that it's wrong, getting off on pain. It's something that people with issues do, evil people… like Malfoy. He's wrong, too, obviously. He's getting off on hurting me, and that's far worse than liking it a little rough. Besides, it's not as if I crave whips or switches or anything. Really, I'm doing him a favour, giving him an outlet for his aggressive tendencies.

It's just shagging, anyway; not any sort of relationship.

I see him three or four times a week, depending on how many shit surveillance missions I'm stuck with. (Perils of being a new Auror.) At the weekend, I'll catch a pint with Ron, sometimes play a game of Quidditch. Sometimes Hermione will have me over for Sunday dinner--"To give Kreacher a rest, honestly, Harry." I never quite have the heart to tell her she and Ron are dreadful cooks. I've a hunch that Ron knows, anyway. I see him from time to time when I stop by after to visit Mrs. Weasley. If they insist I take some meat and potatoes with me--"You're far too skinny, Harry"--I don't fight too hard.

It's been two months.

Ron asks me to meet him at the Leaky before the next Quidditch game. It's odd. I half-reckon he'll either be telling me that he and Hermione are engaged, or that she's pregnant.

My first sight of him makes that even more likely. He's sitting at a table, lacing and unlacing his fingers, biting at his lower lip. I sit down across from him. He darts a quick glance at me. I prepare for effusive congratulations.

He clears his throat. "So, here's the thing, Harry. I invited Malfoy this time."

I close my eyes and shake my head to clear it. I can't have heard him right. "Why?"

He frowns. "Well, it's the thing to do, isn't it? You've been dating him for months. I thought you'd mention it eventually… but Hermione said you thought I'd be angry, what with it being Malfoy, and"--he swallows before rushing on--"Ginny and Bill and all." He presses his lips tight. "And, yeah, I wish you'd found someone else, but he must have some good qualities. So." He shakes his head. "You could have told me, mate."

I'm still struggling to make sense of it. "Did he tell you?" Malfoy hasn't any right to go telling people. That wasn't the deal: he gets to carry out his twisted little desires on me, and he keeps his big mouth shut about it.

Ron stares. "He didn't have to. Everyone at work knows, mate. He's on parole; he's got that tracking bracelet. They were bound to ask him about it when he ended up at yours a bunch of times." He shrugs. "It wasn't a big deal, but it's clearly a long-term thing for you. And I reckoned: best way to show you it wasn't a problem was just to invite him."

I could weep. "What did he say?"

"Said yes. Asked if he could bring a friend, actually. I said okay." He makes a face. "I might've given the impression you asked me to ask him. I mean, he must have wondered."

I just nod. I can't tell Ron it's not that kind of relationship--not without telling Ron what kind of relationship it is. And Ron's too bloody proud of himself for being so accepting. I can't owl Malfoy to tell him to stay away; I don't have enough time, and what would I tell Ron if it worked? There's nothing else for it: I give Ron a broad smile. I can still manage them. Ron smiles back, clearly relieved.

Malfoy's coming; he's bringing a friend. Who will it be: Parkinson? Zabini? I never much cared what we did outside of bed; I resent the fact I have to care now. The one thing I'm certain of is that this afternoon is going to be hell.


Goyle; Malfoy's brought Goyle. I haven't even seen him since Hogwarts, when we were flying away from the Fiendfyre. If I'd stopped to think about it, I'd have assumed he was still in Azkaban. Patently, he's not. He's wearing another of those wide silver tracking bracelets, flashing another Dark Mark.

It's all wrong. I'm an Auror; so is Ron. I'm part of the fucking statue of war heroes in the Ministry. Neville and Ginny led a fucking rebellion against the Death Eaters at Hogwarts. Hermione was tortured in Malfoy's house, for God's sake.

Yet here they are, Malfoy and Goyle, very much from the wrong side of the war. Everyone's trying hard-- for my sake, I know. Because they're trying, so am I. I may be a damned good liar, but I have no fucking idea how to play at being Malfoy's boyfriend. Hermione keeps whispering questions about Malfoy-- what he likes, what he does. I've no fucking clue.

The only thing I have got going is that my past relationships were such miserable failures that no one knows how a successful one ought to look.

I smile and sit down next to Malfoy. He shoots me a suspicious look before glancing over at Goyle. Hermione's talking to him. I can't imagine a less-likely pair.

"So," I say, "how are you?"

He rolls his eyes. "About the same as last night, Potter. Don't strain yourself here."

"I thought you'd bring Parkinson. Or Zabini."

He narrows his eyes, lifts his chin. "Goyle needs it more."

I'd always thought that Malfoy saw Crabbe and Goyle as lackeys. I remembered again that Malfoy had, against all odds, risked his life to save Goyle. "Well," I say, "Hermione will have him converted to the house-elf cause before you know it."

"He'll never join that."

More people are arriving. They'll be breaking out the brooms soon. "So, listen. Usually Ginny and I play Seeker, but if you want--"

He cuts me off with a headshake. "I don't fly anymore, Potter." He tosses his head in Goyle's direction. "He'll play Beater if you'll have him. He's even promised to do his level best not to break any bones."

I'm still lost. "You don't fly? Malfoy--"

"I don't, all right?"

I frown. "Why did you come?"

"You wanted me to." He lifts a brow. "Didn't you, Potter?" Of course he knows it was all Ron's idea. Well, good. It saves me the trouble of finding a way to tell him. "So, go off and be heroic, Potter. Trounce the Weaselette." He waves his hand in the direction of the pitch.

If I had felt guilty, that would have killed it. "Do you have to be so nasty?"

"I do. Doesn't seem to me you particularly care for ‘nice,' Potter, so don't knock it."

I climb down out of the stands and walk toward Ron. "Where's Malfoy?" he asks.

"He doesn't play anymore. He says."

Ron shrugs, but he gives me a sharp look. It's something I should have known, I'm sure. "Well, it solves the Seeker problem. Can't say I'm not a bit disappointed, though. I was looking forward to you beating him. Then again, he'd probably whinge about it for weeks. Wouldn't want to put you through that, mate."

Malfoy would have whinged back at Hogwarts. Now-- I don't know what he'd do. I wish Malfoy would play. He wouldn't hold back. He never does.

Instead, he's sitting in the stands watching, and I can feel his burning focus. It's distracting; I keep losing track of what I'm doing. Ginny's alternating between mocking me for my inattention and flying circles around me. She's halfway across the pitch before I even realise she's gone.

"Come on, Potter!" I hear the shout clearly enough as I take off after her. "I always knew it was nothing but your sheer bloody luck."

The Snitch zags off across the pitch diagonally, and Ginny pulls up. It's closer to me, now. I angle off to the left and lean low against the handle, wringing every last bit of speed out of my broom. And there it is: gold wings, the flutter against my glove.

I float down to the ground, waving it aloft. Ginny gives me a rueful grin, and the rest are there, too, with their good-natured ribbing about how we ought to let them get a little playtime in, for Merlin's sake.

But I'm looking for Malfoy.

He's standing at the edge of the group, arms crossed over his chest, an ironic twist to his mouth. And I think, "Why the fuck not?" I wave at Ron and Ginny before making my way toward him.

"Hi," I say.

"She nearly had you."

"Yeah, I know. Look--"

"You want a reward?" He moves toward me, laces his fingers in my hair, and crushes his mouth against mine. His teeth score my bottom lip, scrape hard against my tongue. I feel the wings of the Snitch digging into my fingers; I must be clenching my fists.

I must look a right fool. When he finally pulls back, I stumble.

I can't look at him. I glance at my friends' faces. They look happy; Ron actually looks smug.

I look back at Malfoy; he's smirking. He reaches out his hand, laces his fingers through mine. I jerk against his grip, and it tightens. He keeps tight hold as we talk to my friends. We Apparate to the pub, after. I'm half-used to being in Muggle pubs with Malfoy; being in a Wizarding one with him is wrong. His hand finally looses mine, only to slide beneath the table and clamp on my leg just above the knee.

"Not here," I hiss.

He lifts an eyebrow, and his grip tightens.

I'm getting hard, just sitting here.

No one else must agree; Hermione's trying to engage him in conversation. Malfoy seems to be doing his awkward best to be pleasant in return. That's even more alien than the environment.

He takes my hand again when we finally leave. Out in the street, I turn to face him and Apparate us both into my bedroom. I cast a quick lubrication spell and step back, reaching to the neck of my robes. "Just-- hard and fast tonight. Please." I turn my back on him.

Just as suddenly, my robes are gone. His hands are at my shoulders, pulling down the shirt beneath to trap my wrists in front of me. I jerk to free them--what the hell?--and his hands reach around to unhook my trousers, shoving them and the pants beneath them down around my knees. Now I hear a whispered word and see his robes flying through the air to neatly fold themselves on the chair in the corner.

He jerks me over to face the tall mirror on the wall. He presses up against my back, angling his head over my shoulder until we're cheek to cheek.

"You know, Harry," he says, the words burning against my ear, "I spent quite a lot of time torturing people. It's why I have this bracelet." He raises it above my shoulder; I can see its reflection clearly. "If you're under the impression I get off on it"-- he slides his hands up my chest, pinches my nipples hard--"you're wrong. I fucking hate it." He bites hard at the juncture of my neck and shoulder. My cock juts up and I moan. He moves his left hand down to grip my cock, his right between us, pressing against my arse. It won't take long to get me ready. It never does. "So what you might want to ask yourself, Harry, is why I'm doing this." He presses in, two fingers at once. Other than the scant lubrication from my earlier spell, I'm dry. I'm breathing hard now, but my cock is harder still. He squeezes it tight, releases it. He slides his hand up to pinch the tip between thumb and forefinger and I whimper.

He pushes his fingers into me hard; my mouth falls open on a silent scream. He stills. "Why do you think I'm doing this, Harry?"

I can see his eyes in the mirror. "I don't know."

He pulls out his finger, presses two together and works them in. "Try."

I bite my lower lip. "Because you-- you don't like torturing other people-- but you-- like hurting me."

He jerks out his fingers and aligns his cock. "First time? Maybe. Now? No." He pushes it home. It burns. My back arches. This time, there's nothing silent about the scream.

I take a deep breath, closing my eyes. "Fuck. Please, Malfoy."

"No. Open your eyes. This time, you're going to fucking watch me doing this to you, every moment of it."

My eyes snap open. He's watching me in the mirror. He starts thrusting. I grunt at every movement.

"Please… God… please." It's a constant refrain. He squeezes hard at the base of my cock and I'm coming, one spurt after another. And then I hear him cry out in turn, feel the pulsing inside me.


"So, why?" I ask warily. We're lying in bed together now, Malfoy flopped over me. His left arm is draped over my chest, showing both the greyed tattoo and tracking bracelet. I know it's deliberate. I just have no clue why he does it-- probably an ego thing-- rubbing my face in the fact that I'm being fucked by a former Death Eater. I guess he never grows up.

He raises his head and his eyes meet mine; they're groggy. "Why what?"

"Why do you do it, then, if you don't enjoy it?" What's his story going to be this time?

He blinks and then sighs. He swallows loudly. I'm expecting high melodrama when he speaks, but the tone is flat. "You enjoy it. I do it because it makes you happy."

I laugh.

He pulls back and sits up. "Whatever you want to believe." His eyes are cold; it makes me miss the warmth of his body even more.

I reach out after him. "Look, sorry, Malfoy. You surprised me, that's all. Come back to bed."

He's on the edge of the bed, and now he's standing. He moves over to the chair in the corner and grabs up the neat stack of clothing. He starts to dress.

"Don't be like that." I can't believe he's throwing a bloody temper tantrum. Well, I can: he's always been spoilt.

He turns around, holding his shirt in his hands in front of his bare chest. "Like what?" The tonelessness is gone now; his voice is vicious and biting. "What the fuck is this to you? No-- what the fuck am I to you? You don't want your friends to know about me. Well, I reckon that didn't work. You don't want to think about it either. Weasley came to see me at work. Do you know where that is? No. Fuck it. Of course you fucking don't, because you don't bloody care about anything to do with me outside bed."

What a drama queen. It's just sex, and Malfoy knows it. What's got him started on this I've no idea. "As if you care? Really, Malfoy."

"Apparently I do. I came to the Quidditch game because Weasley thinks we're dating. Would you have preferred I told him you like it when I fuck you dry, but, other than that, you hardly care whether I live or die?"

I sit up, leaning back against the pillows and pulling the bedding up to my chest. "I didn't know that Ron would invite you. And I do appreciate that you tried to make it look like--"

"Your problem, Harry, is not that you like being hurt during sex. It's that you're fucking unwilling to let anyone get close. You'll allow your friends in only so far. When it comes down to it, you'd rather lie to them-- or have me do it, Merlin forbid you dirty your own hands-- than let them think you have a relationship entirely about sex." He throws his shirt on the floor. "As for me, well, I can hit you, fuck you, tie you down. I half-expect you'll beg me to cast the Cruciatus curse any day now. I won't, if you're wondering. We've been doing this for months. Any sort of emotional closeness? Oh no, not for Harry Potter. For a big fucking hero, you're the biggest fucking coward I've met in my life." He stops, shakes his head. He stares down at his shirt on the floor, then leans down to snatch it up. He shoves his arms into the sleeves. Without bothering to button it, he shoves his feet into his shoes and walks out the door, slamming it behind him.

I'm left staring at the door incredulously. What the fuck--? It takes a few minutes to get my brain working again. He's just like the others. He wants something from me. That's why I swore off wizards: everyone wants something. I thought he was different-- God knows why. As for the rest of it, it's a complete pack of lies. Oh, sure. I'd not wanted Ron and Hermione to know about Malfoy, but why would I? It was Malfoy. If it had been someone else, I'd have told them. As for Malfoy-- it's sex-- best damned sex I've ever had, but that's all it is. If he's got some delusion of having the Saviour of the Wizarding World on his arm, plastered all over the Prophet-- well, of course he has. That's Malfoy to a T-- scheming, ambitious. He was bound to let it slip eventually, and I'm a fool not to have seen it.

Very likely, he'll come crawling back. And I… I know what I want now. I don't need him to give it to me. If I want it, I can get it from Muggles this time. I don't know why I didn't do that before.

I'll pick one up at the pub-- right in front of Malfoy's pointy nose. I'll show him I don't need him.


It's a perfect plan. Except Malfoy doesn't come to the pub. Someone stops by my table and I think, maybe... but no. I want to see Malfoy's face when he realises that his plotting was for nothing. If he hears about it second-hand--and he will, the barman's a friend of his-- it'll ruin it.

I go to the pub every night for a week. I have to beg Ron to cover a couple of my shifts to do it. If he winks both times and asks if I've got a hot date with Malfoy, well, he doesn't need to know the details. It's no good, though: Malfoy never shows.

I'm left with lager when I'd rather be drinking Firewhisky, and a whole lot of empty evenings.


It's damned quick after that when I break down and ask Williams for a look at Malfoy's file. He leers at me. Ron wasn't lying about the office knowing. I'm not sure if it's better or worse than the usual ribbing I get over the damned statue in the Atrium. At the very least, I'm grateful I don't need to make up a story to catch a glimpse.

They were concerned about the Muggle pubs at first. They questioned some of the men he left with, obliviated them after. After several had described him as a considerate lover-- I flip past. It's not right for me to be reading that. I'm mentioned, too, but thankfully without details. I find out where he works-- volunteers at St. Mungo's, Spell Damage. It's a condition of his parole. I spend a scant instant feeling smug about it-- he ought to know how people suffered-- and then feel guilty instead. I remember seeing him during the war. I remember all too clearly what he said to me before he left.

He already knows.

I close the file and take it back to Williams. Malfoy isn't entirely wrong-- if I weren't so damned secretive, I'd just have owned up and asked Ron.

And I think that he might be right about the rest of it.

I ask Ron if he'll join me for a pint after work. Even though we go after Quidditch, it seems odd being in a Wizarding pub. I throw back a shot of Firewhisky before I can ask, and, by then, Ron's asked a question of his own.

"So, mate, how's it going with Malfoy?"

I wince.

He leans forward, brow knit. "I told him if he hurt you--"

I can't help laughing at that. I shake my head. "I did something stupid. I said something stupid. Well, both, really."

Ron clears his throat, leans back in his seat, and starts toying at his drink. "Ah. Well, then. Sorry to hear that, mate."

"He said, well…" I spin my empty glass against the tabletop. "He said I don't let anyone get close. I told him…" I'm flushing now. "I told him it wasn't important. He told me it was to him. And he left."

Ron's mouth has fallen open. I stare at it a second then meet his eyes. His mouth clamps closed.

"What?" I say.

Ron sighs heavily. "I hate to say it, mate, but he's got a point. You never even said you were queer-- not that you needed to," he adds hurriedly, "but Hermione and me, we're your friends. Then you never said word one about Malfoy…" His lips twist. "Look, I get that you don't want your private life on display"— he waves his hands back and forth in front of his chest-- "and who does, really? But you know we're not going to drag you into the Prophet. We'd like to know what's going on with you. I'd like to."

I tap at my glass, and it's refilled. I need to think, but there's something I can say. "I haven't been the best of friends, have I?"

Ron shakes his head. "S'not that, Harry. Me and Hermione, we rely on you. But you-- you can rely on us." He reaches out, grips my shoulder. "I know it wasn't the smartest thing I ever did, running off and leaving you and Hermione behind. And, you know, I'm still sorry about it. But I'm not leaving again, either of you. Trust me."

I smile at him, lift up my drink-- then I set it down. "I need to talk to him," I say.



Ron shoots me a wary look. "Just because he was right about that doesn't mean he was right about everything else he said. He never did know when to shut up."

I laugh again. Oh, if only. I give Ron a smile. It's an inadequate effort on my part, I know. "Oh, no. For once, he's dead on."

I almost talk myself out of doing it, next day. He hasn't sought me out; he's avoided any place I might be. I can't be certain that he wants to hear this from me; I can't be certain that he wants to hear anything from me.

But, as he said, I'm supposed to be a hero. I'm supposed to be brave. That I'm tired of people harping on both doesn't give me licence to be coward.

It's noon; I'm on my own lunch. I check the St. Mungo's canteen. He's in the corner at a table by himself, staring down at his plate with his patented "I don't give a fuck" expression. And I think of what he said in the pub about wanting to be somewhere that people didn't understand his Dark Mark and tracking bracelet.

I walk to his table and sit down. He glances up at me and freezes.

"So," I say, licking my lips. My mouth is dry. "I've realised you were right about pretty much everything."

I want him to make a joke of it, say that I should know by now he's always right. He doesn't. "Have you?" His voice is cold; I can't read any welcome in it. I don't know whether Malfoy is the best or worst person for me to attempt to get close to, but I'm going to try anyway.

"It may be hopeless-- in fact, it probably is." I give him a weak smile. "But it matters. You matter. And if…" I trail off. I still can't read him.

"And so this is an offer to-- what?" he says into the silence.

I lick my lips again. Still dry; they'll crack any moment, I think irrelevantly. "To-- whatever you want."

"And if I want you to lean across this table and kiss me, full in the knowledge it'll get you plastered on the front page of the Prophet? You willing to do that?" He's angry.

"Shit, Malfoy--" His anger's vanishing behind that cold mask again. And, well, fuck it. If it's what he wants, I will. I half-rise, sit my palm carefully to the side of his tray, and lean to touch my lips to his. There's a clank--he's dropped his fork, I think--and his hands are lacing in my hair, pulling me forward hard, almost overbalancing me. I hope that I don't end planted face first in his lunch, but he pulls hard on my hair and nips at my lower lip and I'm nowhere but here, in the heat of his mouth and my own building arousal.

He lets go, and I stagger a little before calling back to my seat. He's flushed, pink high in his cheeks. "All right."

"We could go out to dinner," I offer. "Tonight, if you're free."

He nods slowly.

"And I'll tell you-- what I'm doing. What I'm thinking."

"It may not work, you know," he says.

"I know, but, Malfoy-- Draco, I mean-- this matters too much not to try."

I settle back in my seat, watch as he picks up knife and fork. There are beginnings and endings. This feels like a beginning.